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Archive for July, 2004

Peace Breaks Out In South Asia?

There seems to be a genuine thaw in the relationship between India and Pakistan, a far cry from the early days of 2002 when there was eyeball-to-eyeball military confrontation with a likelihood of use of nuclear weapons. The latest event of note was Gen Pervez Musharraf’s meeting with the visiting Indian Foreign Minister Natwar Singh, who was in Islamabad to attend the SAARC Ministers Conference. Despite a discordant note when the Pakistani President asked for a reasonable time-frame for the peace talks in the face of the Indians not wanting the talks to be time-constrained, there seems to be a grudging but definite mutual building of trust.


More Bang For The Buck

Rhetoric is no substitute for facts, to get carried away by it is to invite disaster, particularly in the area of defence and national security. Unfortunately we have become so good at presentations and the images/perceptions they create that we are quite divorced from ground reality. Our spectacular achievements in non-conventional weapons notwithstanding, commensurate achievement in indigenisation in conventional weapons and equipment is lacking. Of particular concern is why caliber 7.62 mm has not already been brought down to 5.56 mm or even lower (4.7 mm) for the basic weapon of the soldier. The firepower and logistics thereof difference being almost double, what stopped us from going for the changeover more than a decade ago? What was the motivation for POF to keep producing the very much obsolete Heckler and Koch Rifle G3? If our basic infantryman is not equipped to deal on equal terms with the enemy, who are we fooling?


One Risk Too Many?

Pervez Musharraf is used to taking risks, risks are what has got him this far in the first place. Nothing risked, nothing gained! No doubt about Musharraf’s courage, there is irrefutable evidence about his flirting with danger constantly, during training. Some take risks instinctively, I like to think that the President (and Army Chief) takes calculated risks, set-piece gambles measured to succeed. Pakistan’s circumstances and his own interests have tended to dovetail in risk-taking e.g. the 180 degree turn after 9/11 saw us safely to the right side of the “war against terrorism”, it established Musharraf in the eyes of the western world. Like every human being, he is fallible, e.g. the ill-advised “Referendum” in mid-2002 was a disaster that brought the President down from the pedestal we had put him on, this despite the fact that he was genuinely popular at that time.


Holding (NAB) Accountable

The Chinese say that “a journey of a thousand miles starts with the first step”. Institutionalizing accountability in Pakistan through the establishment of the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) will be Pervez Musharraf’s lasting legacy. A few glaring missteps aside, Lt Gen Muhammad Amjad, the man who was the first head of NAB had his heart in the right place, was exceedingly lucky in the crucial first year to have Maj Gen (Retd) Inayatullah Khan Niazi as his No 2, incidentally both from Lawrence College, Ghoragali. Even though NAB initially wrongly prioritized going after bank defaulters as opposed to outright corruption per se i.e. targetting businessmen rather than politicians and bureaucrats, NAB has done a remarkable job in prosecuting the white-collar corrupt in a country where the corrupt never got prosecuted.


Three Blind Mice

Given that things go according to “plan”, Pakistan will be blessed with three different PMs in three months after Zafarullah Khan Jamali’s resignation in June. Ch Shujaat Hussain is slated to be PM for July and most of August, by end of August Shaukat Aziz should have taken over i.e. if there is no slip between the cup and the lip. This must be a record even for Pakistan where a proliferation of PMs took office on a revolving-door basis in the 50s. The rumour mills working overtime predicting the imminent departure of Jamali were proven wrong about the supposed PM-in-waiting, Humayun Akhtar. He was used as the proverbial red herring, an elaborate deception plan to camouflage Pervez Musharraf’s first (and perhaps only) choice, Shaukat Aziz.
Ch Shujaat Hussain must not get comfortable with the PM’s chair and trappings thereof, those who selected him as the cover for Shaukat may not take too kindly to any inclination of holding onto the PM’s job. In the army we used to fire two rounds at the beginning of firing practice as “barrel warmers”, there were always some who hit anything but the target, those rounds were known as “butt warmers”. Chaudhry Sahib is a “butt warmer” for the PM’s seat in all senses of the word.