Archive for May, 2011
On the evening of 15 Feb 1973, my unit 44 Punjab (now 4 Sindh) pulled out from Nabisar where we were concentrated for training close to our Forward Defended Localities (FDLs) in the southern desert and entrained pell mell the next morning at Mirpurkhas for Sibi enroute to Quetta. We were told that we had to cope with a sudden “internal security” situation arising in Balochistan. At Ibad Railway Station, a few kilometers short of Jacobabad, our troops special ran full speed into a stationary goods train parked on the parallel line. Sabotage? With four dead and over a dozen or so badly injured, we limped into Sibi late on 17 Feb.
At about 9:45 pm on Thursday June 17, 2004, a guided missile killed tribal militant and Al-Qaeda supporter Nek Mohammad in his hideout in village Dhok only 4 kms from Wana, a long way away from Shakai and Baghar, the two places where major military operation had been launched by the Armed Forces a few days earlier to flush out foreign militants. Virtually unknown till a few months ago, Islamic militant Nek Mohammad gained notoriety (or fame, depending on your point of view) by resisting troops engaged in hunting Al-Qaeda and Taliban suspects in South Waziristan adjacent to the borders with Afghanistan.
Armies usually change their character to keep pace with weapons development. To quote late Brig ZA Khan from his book “Weapons and Tactics”, “Changes in the methods of warfare occur when a better method of using an existing weapon is evolved or a new weapon is introduced”, unquote. In the 20th century the IT revolution has changed this into a three-way equation. Whereas good military knowledge is a must for the upper military hierarchy, knowledge per se about a whole number of disciplines is always must for soldiers of the modern Armed Forces. To quote Sun Tzu in “The Art of War”, “War is a matter of vital importance to the State: the province of life or death; the road to survival or ruin. It is mandatory that it be thoroughly studied”. There is a vast difference between the Army that went into battle on the 6th of September 1965 and the Army of today. Today’s professional soldier is far more educated, the challenge lies in keeping him professional.
Most of the country’s image problems stems from the inability of the governments in power to take timely action. When the Mian Nawaz Sharif regime enacted the Anti-Terrorism Act 1997 it acquired enough powers to deal with terrorism per se. Notwithstanding all the laws in our statute books, the political will for serious implementation was non-existent till a few months before 9/11, and that too by a subsequent non-political regime. What is still mind-boggling is that the banned religious entities simply changed their name and carried on business as usual, this obviously cut into the credibility of the country’s commitment to root out militancy in religious organizations.
The business community says (i.e. if you discount the CVT misstep which led to stock brokers going on a rampage breaking things) the Federal Budget is a good investor-friendly initiative. Nothing innovative about it, mostly an adjustment of statistics giving to each audience what that particular audience wants to hear, viz (1) a populist commitment to the masses for alleviating their miseries and (2) for the benefit of the world at large and (particularly) international aid agencies, maintaining a high economic growth rate by not splurging on the social sector. Good in macro-economics there is no perceptible change for the better in the “misery index” (micro-economics) of the masses despite the Finance Minister’s (FM’s) insistence that the population below the poverty line has reduced by 4.2% overall, the common man’s buying power continues to be eroded by the rise in the price of essentials. The data from which the 4.2% poverty reduction figure was arrived at is a matter of doubt and controversy.