May 27, 2011


Filed under: Uncategorized — sharafs @ 3:57 pm

When Narasimha Rao, the Indian National Congress Prime Minister called for snap elections in 1996, it was time for Pakistan to brace itself for the events particularly if BJP came to power. BJP had posed serious challenges to the INC coalition on charges of corruption and was poised to electioneer on issues that were most endearing to the philosophy of BHARAT VERSHA.   Pre election opinion polls indicated that BJP was most likely to emerge as the single largest party. The most challenging question for Pakistan’s security planners was; would BJP follow its rhetoric of nuclear testing if it came to power?

As destiny would have it, I was the only officer in the General Staff with sound academic credentials in Nuclear Proliferation and Strategy. Though the study was simultaneously being carried out by many concerned branches, the ultimate responsibility of carrying out the final analysis for the General Staff in GHQ fell on my shoulders. Destiny placed me in the footsteps of a great Pakistani diplomat, Mr. S M Burke, who had been most instrumental in procuring Pakistan’s first nuclear reactor from Canada.

To carry out an accurate study, it was time for an in depth appraisal of known Indian nuclear capabilities and development. The first step in the study was to pin point the deficiencies in India’s technical nuclear capabilities and what were they most likely to do to address them. Within a week, my team had read through and sifted extremely important findings about the Indian Nuclear and Space Development Program.

  1. We knew that the explosion in 1974 was a conventional 1950 design and needed to be fine tuned for confirmation and miniaturisation.
  2. We knew that based on decay rates, India needed further data not only to confirm its previous testing but also calculate the life of the war heads.
  3. We knew that though India was already refining plutonium, the fissile material had never been tested in an explosion and the subsequent data crucial to war head designs.
  4. We knew that the war head designs had to be compact so as to be placed in the tips of the delivery systems. Boosted weapons and miniaturisation were therefore a necessity.
  5. We understood that the quest for Bharat Versha would be incomplete without India boasting thermo nuclear devices.

Simultaneously, through the recently introduced internet, we got a special connection and hooked on to a satellite that transmitted pictures of Pokhran with a 48 hours delay. Initially there was no activity but by February 1998, we began noticing track marks and considerable activity. We estimated three months before India could resume nuclear testing.

At the same time we continued receiving inputs from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, diplomatic chatter and the intelligence agencies of Pakistan. These bits and pieces were accurately fitting into our knowledge base and the photography. By mid February, the analysis was ready and subjected to an in house discussion in the General Staff Branch after which it was put before the COAS, General Jehanghir Karamat. The preparations in Pakistan began.

Due to India’s limited capability in enriching uranium and processing plutonium, we had reached the conclusion that India will conduct the following explosions.

  1. A repeat of 1974 design for confirmation.
  2. A boosted weapon system based on a plutonium design.
  3. A two stage thermo nuclear testing with the first stage based on a conventional design or a boosted weapon to produce the heat necessary for a nuclear fusion.
  4. We were of the opinion that cognisant of depleting fissile material stockpiles, India would not carry out more than three tests but at the same time test warhead designs without the fissile material.

I was on a physical workout on 12Th May 1998 when Director General Military Operations Major General Tauqir Zia called me to inform that India had carried out some nuclear explosions. Glued to the ZEE News, we saw the breaking news. There was no surprise and we worked for the next 48 hours. These 48 hours in the planning room were the best I had amongst senior officers. There was indeed urgency but no air of typical military seniority. We were all one, taking turns and handing out refreshments to each other irrespective of our ranks.

In days to come, the accuracy of our study was vindicated. The graphs of our monitoring stations indicated three major bangs, the last one flattening out. The first was a fission reaction of considerable yield. The second indicated a smaller yield confirming it was plutonium based boosted weapon. But the flattening out of the third explosion indicated that the second phase of the thermo nuclear device had fizzled out.

For my team, it was a moment of extreme satisfaction, pride and humility.  Based on research, conclusions drawn through empiricism and important intelligence gathering, we had ensured that Pakistan was not caught napping. We had given enough lead time to our scientists to prepare and conduct a series of nuclear testing as a credible and befitting response. All this would never have been possible without the confidence that senior officers reposed in us and the guidance of Dr. Zafar Iqbal Cheema, the Chairman of the Department of Defence and Strategic Studies, Qaid e Azam University Islamabad.

With technical issues left to our scientists, engineers and logisticians, it was now time to carry out an in depth appraisal of the international reaction and budgetary consequences for Pakistan. It was also time to lay the foundations of a Nuclear Policy and Doctrine that would ensure a durable peace in the region and foresee a negotiated settlement of all disputes with India.

One of the most important conclusions of our study was that the post nuclear Pakistan had to be more responsible. The message went unnoticed by the political establishment.  General Jehanghir Karamat had proposed a Committee of Defence and National Security (CDNS) as the single competent forum to pull Pakistan out of its political and economic crises. Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif saw it as an affront to the political establishment and a precursor to praetorianism. Being a gentleman that he was, General Karamat resigned and with him the vision of a peaceful, self reliant and strong Pakistan.

With the new COAS, Pakistan soon changed course and the coterie plunged Pakistan into its deepest crises one after the other. I wonder if it would ever be possible to put back the clock.

Brigadier Samson Simon Sharaf is a retired officer of Pakistan Army and a Political Economist.



May 21, 2011

RISING PAKISTAN: A NEW NARRATIVE (The First Line of Defence in a Long War)

Filed under: Uncategorized — sharafs @ 12:31 pm

The Kakul news buster is relegated to distant memories of many? Some who see nothing positive coming through a corrupt and conceited dispensation; some happy for the knock it gave to the maligned Ghairat Brigade, a term used for anyone who argues against unilateral US intervention in Pakistan’s affairs. Much that I wrote in ‘Pakistan’s Long War has begun’( fortnight ago has proven correct as also vindicated by the latest spate of Wikileaks. Unfortunately, the priority of the media was to debate sensationalism rather than conduct an informed and sane discourse on the events and how Pakistan should brace itself for the future.

In reality nothing has gone unnoticed by affected parties. The media would soon relish an opportunity of sensationalism never witnessed before, while USA equipped with a trove of information will become a bigger bully. The Presidency will smile away while the ISI and Military are pushed back. Meanwhile the non state actors have begun to strike with vengeance. If true, the appointment of Saif al-Adel as the new Al Qaeda leader will rekindle Saudi-Iranian rivalry on Pakistan’s battle fields. All this will come to pass in an environment where the State is not in control.

In the dirty and cantankerous wargame of intelligence agencies, deceitful verbal demarches revealed only by Wikileaks, proves that the Government and Military General Staff has run out of ideas and lacks vision to seize the initiative crucial to a conflict. To rub salt to injury, they also lack ideas in totality. Pakistan, as in the past appears best prepared to oversee its own attrition.

The much hyped Joint Session of the Parliament proved one of the many jokes played with the nation through a media sullying on Breaking News devoid of intellectualism. The quick Kerry visit ensured in the interim, that the nation does not galvanise over national security, and rather sow suspicions and doubts. His sprint to the Army house even before he had seen the President and Prime Minister ensured that he projected sufficient compliancy to make high politics smoother. On return, according to a renowned Pakistani journalist, he announced that he had managed to cajole Pakistan’s Military and Intelligence leadership into commitments for concise, accurate and verifiable military actions.  It meant that the Joint Resolution was a still birth whilst ensuring that all domestic ire will be deflected towards the Military and ISI to the fulfilment of US objectives. As written by me in ‘US War of Attrition’ ( in April 2009, “In the background and away from the eyes of observers, the dirty game of intelligence and counter intelligence operations will continue with ferocity and mutual betrayal. Politicians ready to sell their mothers will be engaged and mutual erosion of the state of Pakistan will continue”.

Even though the nation has been continuously fed lies, the unending façade has made everything readable and transparent. Had the policy planners war-gamed the entire scenario since 2001 half as accurately as my articles, Pakistan could well have been on the road to prosperity and a valued commodity on the international scene. The ways the country and its affairs have been run ever since are conspicuous by the absence of the aspirations of the people and development. With such negativity and plummeting socio-economic conditions, conflict is inevitable. However, common man well aware of the conceit continues to hold back in hope of a just universal franchise to bring a change.

So, what is the way forward?

The Myth of Tied Trade and Aid

I belong to the same school as Dr. Ishrat, Dr. Ashfaq and Yusaf Nazar that considers US aid to Pakistan as dispensable. Blessed with skilled labour, efficient white collar force and abundance of resources, Pakistan’s economy is capable of bouncing back within a year, particularly when the agriculture sector and overseas work force are capable of giving that jump start for the first two years. Pakistan’s economists and social scientists must prepare a detailed and comprehensive study to analyse the effects if US and IMF aid and loans are cut off? In 1998 Pakistan absorbed the shock and despite all mismanagement, the signs of growth were positive by 2000. Remember, in the past Pakistan lived through 13 years of sanctions with inflation and consumer price index in check.

A Constitutional Gap:  National Security through Elements of National Power

As I wrote in, ‘Challenges to Pakistan’s Nuclear Stability’ in Nation, the limbo lacks the political credibility to handle a nuclear deterrence regime. Private armies, illegal immigrant terrorists, USA and NATO all violate Pakistan’s territorial integrity with impunity. There is undeniably a constitutional gap in Pakistan’s security management. The military oversees the strategic aspects while social and economic security aspects are relegated to the Babus. There is no infusion of the public aspirations in the security paradigm of the state. Much that Pakistan tries to safe guard on the strategic front is lost tamely just because the elements within the paradigm of national power are not synchronised. Pakistan’s Policy Planners and Researchers must sit together and formulate a new National Security Policy that truly reflects and implements the aspirations for a progressive, self reliant, credible and peaceful Pakistan.

Role of Parliament, Media and Researchers

Oblivious of the larger canvas, the Parliament and media of Pakistan are talking tactical matters. Let aside identify, they have not dilated on the irritants and concords in Pakistan-US relations. There is no debate on how to handle relations with USA in future or what should be Pakistan’s role and contribution to this conflict; most importantly the diverse strains of militancy and Al Qaeda. The Parliamentarians, establishment, media and opinion makers of Pakistan have to find snap and correct answers to these questions in days.

Handling US Contractor Recruitments

Of late hundreds of soldiers and officers particularly from the Special Services Group have joined private US contractors. The Ministry of Defence must recall all these individuals, scrutinise their activities and formulate a policy subject to Military Law that ensures that these retired personnel do not work against the interests of Pakistan.   


Handling of Remittances from Abroad

From 2000-2006, Pakistan’s banking system was deluged with remittances that the Central bank failed to handle, something I analysed in my series of articles ‘Pakistan’s Economic Hitmen’. This resulted in a windfall of trillions of rupees that added to inflation, consumerism, defaults and bubbles. Pakistan’s economic revival plans must ensure sound policies to tap this huge national resource of expatriates for national development that is productive, sustainable and growth oriented.

Regulation of NATO-ISAF and Afghanistan Traffic

Like the contractors of India in World War II, a class of dirty rich suppliers and contractors is growing in Pakistan; courtesy supply chains for NATO-ISAF. Most of this traffic is unregulated, dubious and highly corruptive. Over 22,000 containers have disappeared purportedly hundreds with sizable military arsenals that can be both used by militants and US agents to pre position hardware for Cold Start Type Operations. The government should immediately call a national security conference over this issue and adopt a policy duly ratified by the Parliament on the following lines: –

  1. All container traffic should be shifted to Pakistan railways. The cost of fencing and security of the railway system should be met by NATO-ISAF. This will also save the road network of Pakistan from further deterioration.
  2. Custom Clearance at the ports of entry should be detailed, intrusive and all containers must be scanned by thermal imagers.
  3. The railway should operate this container traffic with a high speed battery system while the Ministry of Interior should ensure all safety measures.
  4. Pakistan Customs must verify containers at the port of exit.
  5. All containers must be tagged with GPS and satellite tracking to ensure they reach their destinations. This tagging should be a joint and shared activity of the Ministry of Interior, Railways, Customs, NATO-ISAF and Afghanistan.

A new Social Contract

As reflected by Election Commission itself and the complexities of the NRO, the present political dispensation is a farce lacking representative credibility. Following the Supreme Court orders on revision of electoral rolls, the country must immediately proceed towards snap elections that are free, fair and efficiently managed.

Last but not the least, Instability in Pakistan is an important plank of shaping of environments by USA in the region. Notwithstanding veracity, the timed release of Wikileaks has to be viewed with circumspection. Another rumour calls on the ISI chief to resign under US pressure. Why must USA be interested in his removal if he is compliant to their policies? Or are we witnessing a last battle at an individual level by a patriotic Pakistani?

May 12, 2011


Filed under: Uncategorized — sharafs @ 4:39 am

Published in NATION Pakistan on 25 December 2010

The message being sent to Pakistan in the post Wikileaks scenario is ominous and bereft of diplomatic dignity. “We will continue to insist to Pakistani leaders that terrorist safe havens within their borders must be dealt with,” said President Obama. Retired Gen. Jack Keane, put it more bluntly: “Don’t just put a finger in their chest, put a fist in their chest.” As predicated in my columns, USA is expanding the drone war into Pakistan while our national leaders continue to put a façade of protest in the backdrop of tacit compliance.

If USA is adamant in pushing its own interests in Afghanistan and remains insensitive to Pakistan’s security, ethnic and other social concerns, Pakistan is well within its right to pursue its own ends of policy. After all it was these objectives that formed the basis of Pakistan’s cooperation with the US in the war against USSR and allowed free access to Afghans for over two decades. More than 70% population of Afghanistan is ethnically, linguistically and culturally linked to Pakistan. Despite the Durand Line, the ethnic Pashtuns and Gujjars have been flowing to and fro for centuries. The Powindas, as we call them, have rights to grazing meadows, encampments and movements as if it was their own country.  Cognitively they are as much Pakistani as those living on this side of the divide. A deliberate effort is now being made to label this cross border movement as sanctuaries and lump the blame for failures on Pakistan.

Pakistan’s objectives have been consistent and USA was aware of these sensitivities once it embarked on its Shock and Awe in Afghanistan. To expect Pakistan to forego these historic, cultural, family and religious linkages to the chagrin of its public sentiments and long term interests is tantamount to asking Pakistan’s surrender.

Agreed, that within the big power play, small countries enjoy little freedom of action, but as the war of non state actors expands, the lesson is clear; it is possible to resist and defy super powers with a cause that has public appeal.  Non State Actors like Al Qaeda, Taliban and the Wikileaks have proved so and Nation states backed by its people must do so as well.

On the systemic spectrum of national power, these idiosyncratic notions of leadership, national character, morale and ability to seize fleeting opportunities is what all successful nations of the world have capitalised on. Many have reinvented themselves in crises. Vietnam, Sri Lanka, China, Germany, the Balkans, Iran, Venezuela and the people of Afghanistan poignantly demonstrate what national will and character can accomplish.  Amongst these, countries have achieved indigenous self reliance while challenging the international equilibrium through prolonged struggles based on inherent motivations, dignity and self respect.

USA too went through this phase during the American Civil War but forgot the sociology of a conflict when it shifted its national purpose and strategy to the use of Long Arm for global dominance. As more economic centres to balance the US Global Dominance will emerge, the competition will stiffen and tensions heighten. Hence before this multilayered balance of power stabilises, USA seeks to permanently entrench itself in the region to reap resource benefits and dominate the underbelly of Russia and China. In the bargain, it also establishes a strategic presence in the Islamic Heartland that it perceives as a future threat much beyond the non state actors.

In this quest to seize the global resources of the future, US in the short and medium term will not hesitate to use its Long Arm through fanning, prolonging and expanding conflicts in the zones of strategic importance. The entire arc from West to Central Asia is one such zone of conflict in which USA factorises Israel and India to act as two important citadels on the flanks.  Pakistan and Afghanistan are in the eye of this storm.

This entire zone lacks democratic credentials. Most of the countries in the region are Muslim with dictatorships and kingdoms supported by USA. The publicly acclaimed US slogan of bringing democracy is a farce to say the least. It supports dictators and divisive religious policies to cement its presence in the region to the extent of interventions at the micro levels. USA calls all the shots.

First in line are the dictators and kings who need a US umbrella for their survival and reciprocate the services by allowing their sovereignty to be nibbled. The Saudis will not hesitate to request USA to bomb Iran to pulp or choose to look the other way if Israel does so. Egyptians and Jordanians will look the other way when Israel kills and maims Palestinians or constructs illegal housings.

Then there are countries vacillating between dictatorships and sham democracies with weak institutions, dependant on US/Arab support for economic and political survival. These countries are also exposed to the strings of International Financial Institutions whose controls lie in Washington and represent another dimension of non state interventionism. Pakistanis will permit micro management of its affairs and look the other way when US drones kill more innocent than Al Qaeda. Afghans will play sides and stack away millions of dollars just in case they have to make the run once they are ousted.

Third are the sea of emotions of deprivation, political marginalisation, betrayal, strong feelings of ethno-religious identity and surviving on the fringe. Their political leaders in power do not represent their feelings. These are the neglected lot whose emotions overflow the brim; who can act violently to preserve their national identity whilst some could fall victims to the extremist agenda. These are the downtrodden that hold the key to the fleeting opportunities of national character and morale.

It is time to admit that the resistance to US occupation in Afghanistan is as much indigenous as it was during the British Afghan Wars and the Soviet Invasion. It is not led by the Taliban alone but also comprises politically and ethnically diverse groups such as Younis Khalis, Gulbadin Hikmatyar and Haqqanis. As the resistance increases, in Kanduz and northern Afghanistan, it also indicates that despite a decade, the fire of Afghan pride is conflagrating. If USA does not resort to engagement methods other than the long war, it assures that it will meet its biggest defeats at the hand of rag tags for the second time after Viet Nam.

It is high time the US Policy Makers realise; once bitten, twice shy.

May 8, 2011


Filed under: Uncategorized — sharafs @ 6:02 am

(1/5 was not Pakistan’s Day)

For Pakistanis, this is not time to feel embarrassed and to hang heads in shame over the simplicity and quickness of the operation that killed Osama Bin Laden. It is rather, a time for a long overdue bugle cry that Pakistan is at War. 1/5 was not Pakistan’s Day inasmuch as 9/11 exposed the vulnerabilities in USA’s homeland security.

Writing in Nation in December 2009, I had assessed the next eighteen months and beyond as crucial for Pakistan and reiterated it in my article ‘Pakistan Must Reassert Itself’ on 20 February. I had written, ‘the next 18 months and beyond will test Pakistan to the verge”.

Between the 14th and 17th months we have witnessed the Raymond Davis Case, a drone attack on a peaceful jirga, a fully fledged conventional multi directional night attack on a border outpost in Dir, a border skirmish at Anghoor Adda and now the operation to kill Osama Bin laden.

Writing earlier in Nation in November 2010, ‘Pakistan a Rudderless State’ I had cautioned the security planners of Pakistan to beware of Cold Start Type operations from across the Durand Line. I had also written about the heavily fortified US and ISAF citadels in Afghanistan that would be used as pivots of such operations against Pakistan. No one in Pakistan’s security establishment and the media took notice of the warnings.

2009-2010 had been remarkable years of Pakistan’s fight against militancy. During this time, joint intelligence operations led by Pakistani had resulted in elimination of numerous prized targets both from TTP and Al Qaida. The efficiency of information gathering was such that many high value targets deemed missing believed killed had been brought back into focus and neutralised, some amongst them US nationals. But by mid 2010, this cooperation began to wane due to the direct influx of CIA agents into Pakistan. This influx was not part of the working agreements between ISI and CIA. Pakistan’s security establishment felt that they were being stabbed in the back.

Counter security efforts on part of Pakistan indentified hundreds of locations in Pakistan in which US agents had located inside Pakistan covertly. Some of these locations were heavily fortified and the activities inside them were always dubious. After much rallying, Pakistan was able to force the closure of some of these locations but not all. Meanwhile, the network of CIA’s local informers was spreading, a reason why CIA forced budgetary reallocations for its operations in Pakistan. With huge funds to play around, CIA could now buy off anyone including Al Qaida agents whose data Pakistan had shared with USA. They put tags on many such targets and monitored all their movements and places of visit. Consequently, what they have been able to track with their superior technical resources and heavy monetary disbursements is a trail of redoubts within Pakistan where militants have contacts and hiding places. Then came the Raymond Davis shooting and some issues became public.

There is definitely a trove of very important information that USA has extracted from shared sources and double crossing. One such is the hideout of Osama Bin Laden, his courier trails and much more. The biggest vulnerability that Pakistan faces is that some of its own assets within this Al Qaida trail may have been exposed, or double crossed and could be used to blackmail Pakistan into coercion.

With all this information coming from electronic chatter, media and social websites, I was able to piece a MOST DANGEROUS HYPOTHESES that predicted covert sting and intelligence and overt JSOC operations inside Pakistan that subsequently became the theme of my articles on the subject. Having been vindicated, this does not end here.

I have followed the information about the Kakul raid on a real timeline with startling conclusions.

According to information available on twitter and TV Channels, the explosion and helicopter crash were successively reported before mid night on 1 May 2011.

The call to President Zardari came well past midnight implying that it was made much after the operation had been completed. I am also sure that Zardari was told by President Obama to ask PAF not to interfere in the flight path of the US aircrafts.

Concurrently, by the time Pakistan Air Force scrambled, the US troops were well outside Pakistan’s air space.

As an operational planner, I am wary of the fact that Pakistan’s surveillance system on the Western Front did not respond. The systems are deployed in layers in multiple redundancies to ensure that some elements of information do manage to beep through. The electronic systems are reinforced with human resources wherein even a section commander in a border post is trained to immediately report a violation/activity in real time. Why such a credible system was forced into passivity should be the subject of an inquiry and a story of the future. Surprisingly, much credible chatter emanated when the US helicopters made the exit.

I am also aware of the safety layers in US military procedures and purely on technical grounds feel that this operation was carried out by at least four or even more helicopters including transport versions, with credible fool proof backups all along. Simply put, the operation had a sizable operational and logistical trail.

Already information is available that the operation had ground, intelligence and pathfinder support from US assets very close to the target area.

Does this also imply that there was some sort of complicity by Pakistan to facilitate such an operation? Does this mean that US helicopters did not enter Pakistan’s air space on the day of the raid and were pre positioned for such an operation? However, what can be concluded with accuracy is that CIA agents have penetrated every nook and corner of Pakistan under the eyes of Pakistan’s counter intelligence, a fact that will be vindicated in the near future.

Reaction of Pakistan’s Defence Forces to the raid was slow in coming. Complicity at the cost of such a disgrace appears a bad bargain and unrealistic. The Army and Air Force cannot absolve themselves. The reaction of ISI that will never become public is perhaps that of betrayal by USA. Many of its intelligence assets that it had shared with CIA have now double crossed and as Shaukat Qadir says made Al Qaida richer.

My analysis leads me to conclude that some levels of selective complicity existed, and it is this that combined with pre positioning of US assets inside Pakistan.

Foreign aircrafts have operated in Pakistan with impunity during the earthquake in 2005, floods, training missions etc. It is nigh possible that these flights were also used to dump hardware at secret locations that could subsequently become pivots for such operations. Troops for such operations could move into Pakistan under the garb of training, diplomatic staff and travellers coming to Pakistan from USA/ Europe, and local recruitments. Remember that some US soldiers as reported by the media spoke fluent urdu in a Pakistani accent.

Then there is also the much hyped issue of CIA contractors in Pakistan. Many of them have since returned but not before completing the ground work for an effective CIA presence in Pakistan all through the Long War.

The retired CGS of GHQ, Lt. Gen (R) Shahid Aziz had once claimed that he himself had reported evidence of US amphibious landing on the Balochistan Coast with the trails leading to interior Balochistan. If these landings indeed took place, where did these forces ultimately go; or where did they dump and move their cargo?

There is also the case of over 22,000 missing containers. Even if a mere hundred of them carried military hardware and knocked down helicopters, where has all the cargo gone and has anyone noticed it. The theory gets credence from a fact that in one of the ambushes, a container had a complete disassembled Blackhawk helicopter of the type used in Kakul.

My hypothesis is that from 2010 onwards, USA had built up a considerable covert military presence in Pakistan facilitated through visas bypassing the standing operating procedures, indiscriminate entry of containers into Pakistan, holding back of scanning equipment to scan these containers and bribes offered by the container operators from Karachi to the Afghan Border. Even the NLC was foxed into this in the name of business. As a military professional, I know that you do not need huge radioactive machines to scan these containers. A good thermal imaging device abundant in Pakistan can do the trick.

It is these reasons that put the Government of Pakistan and the Defence establishment at odds, something like a reverse replay of Kargil. While President Zardari like ever will use the occasion to push the army and ISI back, shore up new alliances to hedge his government, the security establishment may fight back in the name of national Interest. If this happens, it will set a confrontational environment with re alignment of strange bedfellows. As Pakistan will be destabilised further, Obama’s war in Afghanistan would be over and the Long War in Pakistan begun.

The writer is a retired brigadier and a political economist. Email:


Filed under: Uncategorized — sharafs @ 6:01 am

It appears that after over a decade of writing on the Afghan Conflict, I have run out of ideas. During the course of my active involvement and as an analyst, much that was predicted has come to pass; and much that could have been accomplished in high politics has been denied or deliberately squandered. Lamentably, a nation with abundance in talent, resources and mismanagement still waits for a Godot to steer the vessel home. During the past ten years the clock has turned full circle and the country is back to square one. Eight years to say the least are a decade of failing statecraft. Pakistan is still being asked the same questions that it was, as a prelude to the unstinted support. The fissures between Pakistan and its overbearing ally USA are widening as the situation gets from bad to worse.

While the political establishment continues to make discredited statements over issues it has no control on, the military at least in public, for the first time appears to have locked horns through the ISI-CIA tangle. The military oft acclaimed the custodian of all frontiers is left badly exposed by the Panetta, State Department and Mullen tirades over its overall management of the. The statement of GOC 7 Division in favour of the accuracy of drone attacks is fodder for critics who maintain that these attacks manifest a behind the door agreement that has the military as one of the major actors.

The country lacks political credibility towards governance and has willingly plummeted into an economic quagmire. Despite major national crises, the squabbling politicians have displayed no purpose, sensitivity and ability to address issues over which they enjoy full control. Playing second fiddle to the inflexible foreign policy, they are content to keep the masses misinformed through unimaginative and purposeless soap operas. Lacking self belief and solid commitments, they are unwilling to cut themselves off from that umbilical chord that sustains them through the NRO while plummeting the country into darkness each day.

Away from the high dramas of Islamabad, the resilience of Pakistanis is visible. Field commanders, young officers and soldiers continue to wade through the explosive minefields of FATA at an unprecedented heavy cost, a sacrifice gone unnoticed by the international community and Pakistani leaders. Despite indiscriminate drone attacks, the suffering people of FATA continue to swear allegiance to Pakistan. Pakistan Tehreek e Insaf’s Dharna in Peshawar was an indicator of this resolve attended by people of all shades that included tribesmen, Baloch, retired government servants, common men of all descriptions, Hindus, Sikhs and Christians.

Amidst the trauma of an earthquake and unprecedented floods, the proud Pakistanis continue to pick up shreds and piece life together. This year Pakistan expects a bumper crop; thanks to the seed distribution programs and on farm advisories initiated by Imran Khan, his workers and some NGOs in the flood affected areas. The barter system is once again replacing the cash economy as a hedge against the rising double digit inflation. The unregistered and unregulated sector of Pakistan’s economy is coming to life to ensure that Pakistan survives the artificial poverty crises.

The message is loud and clear. Common men will tailor life to survive. Undeterred by the stigmas of bad governance and corruption, life will go on. The societal diversity considered as fault lines by sceptics are proving a strength .Pakistan will refuse to fail. All that the government and the establishment need to do is to back its people through friendly policies.

Eight year into its failures, the US policy in the region has begun to talk peace and withdrawal. Unfortunately, in Naseer Ullah Babar and Imam, Pakistan has lost two very credible individuals who exercised clout with the Afghans. While Babar died a natural death, Imam’s murder was treacherous and leaves many questions unanswered. A few days before his capture, he had confided in me his ability to broker a sustainable peace with Mullah Omar. However, he was weary that like the 1996 Accord of Benazir Bhutto in which he and his mentor Babar were major negotiators, USA may not support it.  If at all, he was killed in cold blood immediately after the Raymond Davis fiasco?

In memory and as a tribute to these two visionaries, Pakistan must relentlessly pursue the same blue print in the best interest of the people of both Pakistan and Afghanistan; a broad based, diverse government in Afghanistan within a federation guaranteed by all affected international actors. As per my study and analysis of the conflict, the peace would start becoming a reality within 100 days.

Pakistan’s political and establishment negotiators also need to understand that Afghan Taliban need to be used as an asset for a universal durable stability in the region. They are also required to dispel the misperception that Pakistan considers them a strategic asset against India and a tool to blackmail the world. The strategic advantages of such a policy far outweigh the misnomer of Strategic Depth in that the objective of all conflicts in DIGNIFIED PEACE.

So is this two prolonged policy of building with people and pursuing credible peace possible?

At the home front, the government has to initiate a Fast Track Socio-Economic Program aimed at stabilisation, jump start to economy and productive GDP (not consumer based but based on ability to produce and consume and a precursor and agitator to exports ie GNP). To make the policy sustainable all issues of the Baloch people will have to be addressed with an out of the box strategy for herein rests the promise of a developed Pakistan. In my studies, Pakistan will experience a socio economic turn round within a year and keep growing.

On the Afghan front, the government, its establishment and USA have to revisit the drawing boards and initiate sustainable and mutually beneficial trust and confidence building measures to bring a viable solution to Afghanistan. Pakistan must demonstrate its ability at tough and persuasive negotiations against drone attacks and ability to rehabilitate all factions that agree to end militancy. Pakistan also needs to develop a rehabilitation program geared towards harnessing this tremendous notion of romanticism towards positive nation building.

Once the two prolonged policy is realised and implementable the government must move to the next step of devolution. Too early a step, will spell disaster for the federation tantamount to moving into the enemies’ trap.

This two prolonged strategy looks too simple. As history proves, all practical and implementable plans are invariably simple. However, this simplicity is belied by the necessity of good governance, tough and objective negotiations and peace as primacy. Within the grey of intentions, perceptions and image theories are valleys full of vested narrow interests and peaks cordoned by sharp cliffs. The difficulty factor is the major challenge to this simplicity. Though the nation is, are our ruling elites willing to eat grass?

Brigadier Samson Simon Sharaf is a retired officer of Pakistan Army and a Political Economist.



Filed under: Uncategorized — sharafs @ 6:00 am

An Absence of a National Narrative

Pakistan makes an intriguing study of paradoxes and contradictions in each sinew of its politic body and in every sense of the word. At one end is its rich history and struggle of a Muslim Identity morphing through the Mohamadan Education Conference to All India Muslim League that distanced itself from the rebellion of 1857 to the Khilafat Movement. Both are now the salient of our invented history in just the opposite sense. The metamorphosis of a small Aligarh Movement to All India Muslim League was fire-balled through compulsions of the political economy; yet we witness each day the idea becoming an anathema to those who rule the street through radicalism. Pakistan was created on democratic principles of a modern nation state; yet the true journey is obscured through surgical procedures carried out by butchers. It has resulted in a false sense of historic greatness responsible for a mindset of vulnerability and denial that breeds confrontation and unidirectional development of national aspirations. Religion wherever expedient, has been selectively used to sustain this narrative. This is the centre piece of the mindset that prowls the country and society.

The people of Pakistan are repeatedly led to concede that the Security of Pakistan is a paradigm centring India and the cantankerous Hindu Mindset (fitting the religious divide theory) notwithstanding the grief and indignity we cause to the Hindus in Pakistan who have played an outstanding role for the country they chose to live in.  Equally important questions of national security like socio-economic development, education and developmental economics are best left vague and unanswered.

In the past sixty years, the distribution of the annual national budgets empirically alludes to this argument. However, more conspicuous than this unequal distribution of incidental national resources is the glaring absence of a strategy towards development of the social capital and national resource. Given that Pakistan’s security perspectives warrant a strong and efficient defence establishment, what stopped the national planners from making and implementing plans to boost the gross domestic and national products to ensure that equally important, other elements of national power did not suffer at a cost? Had they planned so, the entire burden of foreign debt and defence expenditure would have been dwarfed by growth in a country rich in natural resources, entrepreneurship, skilled labour and business adventurists.

Unfortunately, Pakistan’s economic paradigm was successively built around a Dependency Paradigm through loans, tied aid and trade, and budgetary shortfalls. External and internal borrowing, lopsided taxation measures and unwillingness to expand the tax net were the short term solution to bridging deficits. The past sixty years of budgetary figures empirically support this argument. This has led to a scenario wherein Pakistan a nuclear state though militarily strong is economically dependent and fragile. As a result we compromise national interests for economic sustenance and repeatedly shoot ourselves in the foot. What use is our gold if the country rots?

This massive disconnect and the glaring absence of a broad based National Narrative provides the conducive environments for a select group and coterie to seize and exercise political clout; something I frequently refer to as “The Mindset of 1935: Pakistan’s Achilles Heels” (Nation 10/1/2010).

At the core of this mindset is the defence establishment that took over and evolved a security state through both direct and indirect military interventions. The security perspectives in this threat assessment ignored other elements of national power and relegated them to a bureaucracy that was trained on the Harvard Model. The defence and intelligence establishments also followed suite on the lines of CIA and Pentagon; an explanation why India and Pakistan took different courses in post 1947. Romantic revolutionaries who formed the vanguard of Pakistan movement were replaced by turn coats and fly by night reformers who were more accommodative of this idea. This coterie drew additional strength from the strong US handshake briefly disturbed by the populism of the 70s. As a result all politicians who have ruled Pakistan are insiders who have been groomed at some stage by this coterie.

As a direct consequence, Pakistan’s overall development has been lopsided and unsustainable. The overarching mindset has curtailed the evolution of all other elements of national power. This imbalance has less to do with the uneven distribution and more with total apathy and disregard to indigenous policies of home led growth-consumption and competitive exports. The policy is also sustained through the absence to undertake fast track national development projects (an anathema to the Economics Affairs Division), exploiting the skilled and white collar work force, exploring national resources and technological interfaces.

Pakistan’s budgetary figures evidence this argument. As a result Pakistan looses far more in economic sovereignty than it gains through an efficient war machine and nuclear deterrence. To the contrary, this economic fickleness and dependence makes nuclear nuisance irrelevant as proved by the Drone and Raymond theories. Pakistan is the only nuclear armed country of the world where outside interventions in all forms and manifestations are a daily chore exercised with impunity, where the state provides security to foreign criminals and where the state is ever-ready to take over missions of outside powers.

Within this mindset, political elites have little space left to them; and they choose to play second fiddle. While some of them have been in cahoots with the establishment, the more revolutionary over a period of time have bleached themselves of their true colours and adapted within the system that rewards allegiance through corruptions. They have also developed an elastic conscience to pick and choose what is right for them. This pathetic state of affairs over the past ten years has morphed into a fine tuned political system in which every political party has a stake in power in some nook and corner. The entire state apparatus including the election commission, electoral laws, constitutional amendments and procedures are adapted to sustain the status quo. With so many stake holders, national consensus appears the logical conclusion. In reality it is not so because these stake holders have diverse and often opposing interests and cancel out each other.

With a system such as this in place, it is futile to be talking of national honour and dignity. This establishment has the full backing of the voters who put them in power. Those who cry foul and criticise, neither turn out to cast their vote nor are willing to come out on the streets. Drones and Raymond Davis will continue to happen and Pakistani establishment continue to play to the familiar tune.

The narrative cannot change if this silent majority is not ready to take to the streets and brave suicide bombings, lathi charges and long stays in the dungeons.

Brigadier Samson Simon Sharaf is a retired officer of Pakistan Army and a Political Economist.


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