INSIGHT AND FORESIGHT

August 31, 2013

SYRIAN BLUES

Syria
The crises in Syria are a continuation of the engineered springs and autumns of the Arab world. It is now the indisputable focal point of international rivalries, strategic posturing, schisms within different schools of Islamic thought, and a conflict of traditional Bedouin politics, Persian influence and byzantine intrigues. These crises also reflect the rivalries that existed between the various caliphates of Islam that ran parallel and counter to each other. Syria is a melting pot of rivalries, fratricidal wars, non-state actors and a reality that ‘Arab Muslims are still competing for their versions of identity thereby allowing foreign powers to operate in a vacuum they create’.

Syria’s fault is that it is a long time Russian ally, allows Iran to exercise its influence, supports Hamas and Hezbollah and threatens Israel in multiple ways. For a long time it has remained a tolerant society where Muslim, Christians and Jews go freely to places of common worship, a bastion of Abrahamic heritage and a fusion of diverse cultures. Syria also has a well-developed chemical weapons programme as dissuasion to Israel’s nuclear capability. It is not a signatory to Chemical Weapon’s Convention.

The situation is complex and dangerous in that an escalation could lead to dangerous and uncontrollable spill overs. Robert Frisk writing for Independent said, ‘If Barack Obama decides to attack the Syrian regime, he has ensured – for the very first time in history – that the United States will be on the same side as al-Qaeda… All for one and one for all should be the battle cry if the West goes to war against Assad’s Syrian regime’. An Arab commentator sums up the complexity commenting:

“Iran is backing Assad. Gulf States are against Assad! Assad is against Muslim Brotherhood and Obama are against General Sissi. But Gulf States are pro Sissi! Which means they are against Muslim Brotherhood. Iran is pro Hamas but Hamas is backing Muslim Brotherhood! Obama is backing Muslim Brotherhood yet Hamas is against US! Gulf States are pro US. But Turkey is with Gulf States against Assad; yet Turkey is pro Muslim Brotherhood against General Sissi! And General Sissi is being backed by the Gulf States. Welcome to Middle East!”

Ever since the demise of the once great but later very sick Ottoman Empire, West Asia/Middle East never found its equilibrium. Creation of Israel, Nassir’s coup against Farook, overthrow of Mossadaq Regime in Iran by West, Suez Canal Crisis, Arab-Israel Wars, Iran-Iraq war, the two US led Iraq invasions and Arab Springs are all ripples of reinventing an Arab House divided within itself.

In order to sustain their monarchies within this vacuum, these once very poor but now dirty rich Arab Kingdoms use their petro dollars and influence of western masters to play dirty intrigues through sectarianism and militancy. These signatures reverberate as far away as Indonesia, Philippines, Malaysia, Chechnya, China, Afghanistan and Pakistan. The principal state actors that support these groups with support of the West are Saudi Arabia and Gulf States. They spread their tentacles during the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, co-opted pliant regimes seeking legitimacy (Pakistan) and thrown the entire region into instability. These countries have poor human right records, impose draconian laws, deprive women of rights and use imported manpower of the third world like bonded labour. Their economic success is managed by western multinationals and corporations. The political economy in the region has been played in a manner that their downfall would create international economic crises. Hence the west forced by its own industrial and economic complexes is compelled to sustain these regimes. It is also this preservation instinct that inhibits democracy in Egypt, Pluralism in Syria, Iraq and Lebanon and denial of space to Shia Muslims in the entire Arab Peninsula. Iran with Syria are perceived as the major enemy.

After the engineering in Iraq, Libya and Egypt, the West considers Syria as the major hurdle to their designs of placing Israel as the policeman of the region. Iran with its influence over Shia Muslims, Lebanon, Syria, Iraq and Hezbollah would be next. Within this game plan, the Arab monarchies see an opportunity to retain their control through autocratic rule. The current model for stability in the region is divisive. A house divided within is what suits western economies and democracies.

Within the Arab Crescent, there are three countries with doubtful chemical weapon facilities. Israel has signed and not ratified the chemical weapons convention. It also has an undeclared nuclear strike capability and remains the most protected western ally in the region. Egypt and Syria have not signed the treaty. Syria has a known chemical weapons programme built with the assistance of USSR and German, French and British pharmaceutical companies. Iraq had the tacit approval of USA to develop and use chemical weapons against Iran, a time that Syria used to build its weapons. Notwithstanding historical complicity, a selective case is now being made to punish Syria.

US domination of global affairs has gone beyond a point of restoring equilibrium after the Cold War. If the crises persist or escalate, the world will move into a new phase of rivalry. President Obama’s Red Line on use of Chemical Weapons in Syria has been crossed. It is yet to be determined who did it? Was it the Syrian Government? Was it an element within the army who acted at their own? Or were it the non-state actors under foreign influence edged on to shape an environment for US air strikes. Someone has called President Obama’s Bluff and the world and United Nations need to investigate and move cautiously before another intervention takes place.

The lessons of Spanish-American War, Zimmerman Telegram, Berlin airlift, Gulf of Tonkin, Grenada, Panama, Yugoslavia, Iraqi War crimes in Kuwait, Sexed up Iraq dossiers and Osama’s complicity with Afghan Taliban should not be lost on the US Congress.

Already, Britain has been forced to consider non-military options through its Parliament pending the UN investigation. It is to be seen if US decides to go solo or is restrained from its punitive strikes by Congress in the interim.

A regime change in Syria 2013 on the heels of Serbia, Iraq, Libya and Egypt will create a new wave of anarchy with a revulsion against autocratic monarchies and USA through populist sentiment the strongest dimension of strategy. Iran will be the obvious beneficiary but so would the benefits spread to South and Central Asia. In the larger scheme of things, it is more important to contain the sources of proxies that transcend international borders than decimate a dictatorship in Syria that exercises a healthy pluralism in the Islamic World.

The writer is a retired officer of Pakistan Army and a political economist. Email: samson.sharaf@gmail.com

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August 24, 2013

THE POLITICAL-MILITARY CONTEXT

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Pakistan’s policy making over the past 65 years is influenced by Pakistan’s security concerns emanating from a hostile neighbourhood. There are many reasons why security perspectives eclipsed socio-economic considerations thereby holding the country hostage to elites. Amongst them is lack of credible second tier political leadership post 1949, linkages between the residual political elites, bureaucracy and military high command and facilitation of a corporatocracy during the decade of progress. This elitist and exclusive culture deprived space for the evolution of a broad based popular and sustainable political order. A coterie of few held the entire nation hostage.

In the past five years the question of civilian supremacy over military attracted the liberal circles. Unfortunately, pot shots by illiterate commentators and a trending media relegated the entire discourse to acrimonious debates riding airwaves. Memogate is an example in which a peevish effort to garner US support to checkmate the army became public.

A realistic, balanced and mature approach to civil-military relations holds far more promise for the military corporate culture, exclusivism and professionalism than over indulgence in matters that are not its fortes. This is what all developed countries have achieved. South Korea, Thailand, Indonesia, Turkey, Chile, Argentina and Mexico have grown to become world’s top economies after militaries have been successfully confined to their professional duties. This was not a result of one overawing the other; but because all parties had agreed to a common national agenda.  

Rather than the civil-military context, it is the political-military relationship that is vulnerable to this encroachment. Consequently, both have suffered. It is time that the military cedes space for a broad based national security that hedges Pakistan from all forms of threats that include military, economic, cultural, globalisation, transnationalism, political economy and non-state actors that include militants, parallel systems that challenge writ of the state, NGOs, banks, media, hostile intelligence, separatists, sub nationalists and fifth columnists (in other words military definition of sub conventional threats). Pakistan’s repeated economic capitulation and susceptibility to hidden forms of coercion and subversion have had far worse effects than wars with India.

It is also important to understand that all political-military concords emanate from the national policy which is a product of its national power reflecting its calculable (tangible) and incalculable (Intangible like national character and morale) potential. Like a rainbow, the spectrum of this policy is well spread and diverse. Military in tandem with others is just one instrument of policy to achieve multiple objectives. In this agglomeration, the military enjoys its space on the horizontal spread and below the narrowing pinnacle of vertical national control. Hence the entire military system, military strategy and its operations remain subservient to political directives enunciating policy. National policy and national security policy thereof fall in the domain of political control while the operational strategy and service doctrines remain the fortes of the armed forces.

In Pakistan, for far too long, the ineffectiveness of the Defence Committee of the Cabinet (DCC) and inability of politicians to enunciate a National Security Policy left a wide vacant space that the military occupied under exigency. In any case, the committee of national defence and security (CDNS), national security council or DCC cannot function effectively without an enabling and productive mechanism. Conversely, the civilians and politicians cannot fill this void till such time they build their capacities through education, inputs from research and academic institutions, study of military sociology and evolution of a common strategic language. Qaid e Azam University and Institute of Strategic Studies were steps in this direction but are since diluted with the rise of military led National Defence University and Institute of Peace Studies (NUST). Till such time civilians do not assume effective control of institutions related to the highest level of national security, a proper transition and balance in civil-military relations and political-military control will never be possible.

So far the lynchpin of Pakistan’s national policy has been security against external threats. Over the past ten years, the diverse shades of internal threats have emerged. Armed forces and law enforcement agencies are not organised to fight this diversity. The entire policy spectrum needs to be geared towards thwarting these threats. National Security Policy does not cater for military threats alone but also economic security, governance and socio-economic emancipation of people. This means a paradigm shift from a militarily strong to a credible, economically prosperous, internally cohesive Pakistan with a defensive nuclear and conventional deterrence. This also means that within the ambit of its duties in Aid of Civil Power military employment does not mean intervention.

Geography with its relatively stable platform forms the base of this paradigm shift supported by a sustainable, value added export oriented growth and documentation. Pakistan through its own resources has the capability to jump start its economy through agriculture, energy production and employment of armed forces in national development.

Pakistan’s research in this challenging area lacks incisiveness. Papers produced by military institutions are corporate in nature due to obvious deficiencies in geography, economics, sociology and ethnology. Various commentators, some political parties and the Senate Committees have tried to define or evade the subject differently in bits and pieces.  The most explicit enunciation of what is to be done comes from a policy paper written by the author for the manifesto of Pakistan Tehreek e Insaf that states:

“National Security Policy comprises a comprehensive set of national policies and new structures that will address the interconnected challenges to deploy and integrate all elements of national power to create a sustainable environment of broad spectrum security. The welfare of people will be a force multiplier at the heart to synergise the people and seize the endless possibilities offered by a world in which only the economically strong and intellectually innovative nations will emerge as the most secure, prosperous and respected”.

If this is indeed the challenge, the reinvention of a National Security Council will once again be a wolf in new cloths. It is tantamount to not holding the bull by the horns. ‘Neither here nor there’ without a well enunciated policy will lead nowhere.

The writer is Secretary Defence, Pakistan Tehreek e Insaf and a political economist. Email/twitter: samson.sharaf@gmail.com

 

August 17, 2013

INDECISION IN CONFLICT

Filed under: Uncategorized — sharafs @ 6:34 am
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Nothing illustrates better, the level of training and morale of law enforcements agencies than the heist by a single deranged individual holding two AK 47 carbines. He held the Islamabad police at bay in a high security zone, for over five hours till an unarmed civilian grabbed him, providing LEAs a window albeit with excessive use of force. Worst, it reflects the initiative and quality of leadership of LEAs, caught between an intrusive judiciary, undecided government and an ambivalent policy. When combatant lead a charge at the peril of their lives and safety of families, they need backing from the entire nation. If not, the much needed adrenaline will never rush the body to conquer fear and indecision.  

Militants in Pakistan are striking targets of their choice with alacrity and getting away unchallenged. As US Retrograde from Afghanistan seems imminent, the internal conflict seems to be moving to lower and more violent trajectories. Since May 11, there have been over 60 terrorist attacks leaving 450 dead and over 600 wounded. Attacks on intelligence headquarters in Sukkur, targeting tourists, Parachinar, Jail Beak in Dera Ismail Khan and successive attacks on Police in Balochistan are as bad as it could get. Internal security, mainly a civilian responsibility has hit its nadir inasmuch as the morale of the LEAs under constant criticism, reprisals and scrutiny.

Two months have proved that the much talked pre electoral negotiated settlement was a delusionary bubble. It seems the COAS has failed to sell his counter terrorism strategy to the federal and provincial governments. The situation is exasperated by the impending change of command in the armed forces. This Civil-Military disconnect provides militants with windows of endless opportunities. While the military and LEAs have 10 years of combat experience, the political simplifications and delusions bemoan a deficit in conflict management converting this experience into battle fatigue.

The jailbreak in D I Khan is a sorry example of this multi-dimensional failure. ISI and Military Intelligence insist that they provided accurate advance information but the local and provincial administrations failed to pre-empt or fight out the threat that lasted less than 30 minutes (not 3 hours reported by media). The local administration on conditions of anonymity insists that the threat level was beyond them to handle. They allege that the provincial government was insensitive to requisitioning military in advance. The military retorts that it had carried out all contingency planning but was never requisitioned. They deny that Chief Minister had at any stage of the incidence launched any complain to the Corps Commander about non-cooperation by military. The provincial government alleges that the military despite repeated requests failed to react. The statement of a provincial minister summed up the lack of preparedness and knowledge of ground realities at 5 AM claiming that the attackers had been beaten back.

As written in Defining Frontiers (Nation, August 3, 2013), no provincial government can perform its role in counter terrorism till convinced that ground realities substantially differ from its simplification of a so called US imposed WOT. Political ownership of the conflict is essential to conflict management ranging from negotiations to use of force. To call militants as reactionaries is a fallacy. These are well trained, logistically supported and organised groups that plan to the last detail. Operation Rah-e-Rast by Pakistan Army in Swat resulted in a trove of information on computers, pen drives, CDs and laptops corroborated by similar data collected from other parts of Pakistan. The terrorists had built a data base of law enforcement agencies, armed forces, civil administration and politicians, their families and locations etc. Their sleepers were operating as household servants, cab drivers, shop keepers and government employees. Consequently, abductions, target killings and assassinations to coerce functionaries were expected. Individuals of law enforcement agencies and their families are under constant threat. Why must they fight if they are not backed by strong political leadership? Till such time the pyramid is not complete, the people of Pakistan will continue to be hostage to events.

According to one study, there are over 68 militant organisations. Approximately half of them have some level of contacts with political parties. They also have external linkages and funding. Over 20 foreign intelligence agencies maintain links with these organisations. Proliferation of foreign funded NGOs and their surreptitious activities complicate internal insecurity. Missing containers, missing persons, prepositioning of military hardware, creation of a fifth column across the entire spectrum (Military, Social, Economic, Political and Media), operations other than war (described as sub conventional threats) economic manipulation and pressure exerted by India are all part of this destabilisation. This disruptive narrative with militancy as its lynchpin can only be countered without a realistic political roadmap.

In the absence of synergy, military operations against militants are futile. Spate of incidences post 11 May highlight the disastrous effects of this disconnect and a lesson learnt at our peril.  This ambivalence will continue to adversely affect the morale of the military and law enforcement agencies resulting in psychological scars.  

Is the federal government reluctant to bring the military and political parties on board; or is it fire-walling the issue; or is it waiting for the tenure of the present COAS to expire, and then have a free hand? If true, these options give a poor and uneducated account of their knowledge in military sociology and its robust corporate and inclusive culture.  Whatever? The limbo is emboldening militants. This leads to the conclusion that none of the parties in power have a policy narrative of how peace will be negotiated with militants, leaving hapless citizens and law enforcement agencies at the mercy of terrorism. Islamabad is a case in point.

This indecision, expediency and lack of management capacity are a bad omen for a post-exit Pakistan. My seven successive articles in Nation have spelled out the dangers inherent to Pakistan and pillars of state including media need to take them seriously. As opined in Doha Initiative (Nation June 22, 2013), the most dangerous variant could be reversing fronts of AFPAK like switching North Pole. As winter approaches and conflict in Afghanistan hibernates in frigid weather, lawlessness in Balochistan and Karachi could peak to engage Pakistan’s law enforcement agencies on yet another internal front. Unfortunately, this is happening earlier than appreciated. Time and tide do not wait.

Brigadier (Retired) Samson Simon Sharaf is a political economist and a television anchorperson. Email: samson.sharaf@gmail.com

http://www.nation.com.pk/pakistan-news-newspaper-daily-english-online/columns/17-Aug-2013/indecision-in-conflict

 

August 10, 2013

GASHERBRUM 1: THE KILLER MOUNTAIN OF 2013

SW Face

Gashebrum1

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Czech Mountaineering Federation head, Zdenek Hruby, has died while climbing Gasherbrum I, a 8,068-metre (26,469-foot) peak in Pakistan’s Karakoram range, the Czech Mountaineering Federation said on its website on Saturday.

Gasherbrum I, also known as Hidden Peak, is the world’s eleventh highest peak.

I talked to the President of Pakistan Alpine Club who was not clear if the expedition had deviated from its original route. However a report from Prague says that Hruby, 57, and his long-time climbing partner Marek Holecek, 38, were attempting the first ascent of the south-west face of the mountain. This is usually a restricted route due to the close proximity of Camp 1 and 2 to the Conway Saddle, the beginning of Saltoro Range.

I with a Swiss French expedition in 1982 and earlier a Pak-US expedition had already climbed this route marked in a Red circle.

What appears probable is that this expedition had initially taken the traditional North East Route (also followed by the Three Spanish and a Polish Climber Artur Hajzer who died on the same mountain a month ago), traversed the ice face of Seracs and Avalanche basin to climb onto the South West Ridge. If they were indeed doing this, it was a very daring a dangerous move.

A closer look at the mountain in the second picture illustrates what could have happened. From the Camp IV on North East Face they decided to traverse to South West and follow the ridgeline of sharp pinnacles to the summit marked in RED. The Yellow line shows the route taken by me with the Yellow Circle in Bottom Right where I fell hundreds of feet. This is very unstable ice and a little lapse of concentration can cause a fall.

I pray for the departed souls and join their families in grief on this Killer Mountain.

Le Capitaine Samson Simone Sharaf

COUNTERING TERRORISM

Filed under: Uncategorized — sharafs @ 4:09 am
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There are only two ways of ending the wave of militancy in Pakistan. Either these non state actors are defeated militarily with the full backing of the political parties and people, or the political parties accord them legitimacy and cede them space in the political system. The second option leaves the people and the state at the mercy of violence and drags Pakistan to a stone age. It means that the Tehreek e TTP has won. 

Militants in Pakistan are striking targets of their choice with alacrity and remarkable accuracy getting away unchallenged. As the dates of US Retrograde from Afghanistan get closer, the conflict seems to be moving to lower but more violence trajectories. Unlike the Afghan Taliban showing flexibility towards negotiations, the militants in Pakistan are jacking their impetus with dare devil operations. Since May 11, there have been over 60 terrorist attacks leaving 450 dead and over 600 wounded. Attacks on intelligence headquarters in Sukkur, targeting tourists, Parachinar, Jail Beak in Dera Ismail Khan and successive attacks on Police in Balochistan are as bad as it could get. Internal security, mainly the responsibility of the government, civil administration, police and civil armed forces has hit its nadir in Pakistan,. The breakdown is evident from the fact that as soon as downpours inundated areas, armed forces had to be requisitioned for Relief in Aid of Civil Power.

The much talked pre electoral political initiative to engage militants in a negotiated settlement was a delusionary bubble. It also appears that the COAS has failed to sell his counter terrorism strategy to the federal government and provincial governments creating a Civil-Military disconnect with windows of endless opportunities for militants to strike. The situation is exasperated by the approaching change of command in the Joint Services and Army. It appears that the political and military establishments have diverse perspectives on terrorism. While the military has 10 years of combat experience, the politicians are victims of their own simplifications and delusions.

The jailbreak in D I Khan is a glaring example of failure in threat perception and disconnect. There are three different versions of the incidence given out by the provincial government, local administration and the military. ISI and Military Intelligence insist that they provided accurate advance information but the local and provincial administrations failed to neither pre-empt nor fight out the threat lasting not more than 30 minutes (not 3 hours reported by media). The local administration on conditions of anonymity insists that the threat level was beyond them to handle but the provincial government was insensitive and refused to requisition military in advance. The military retorts that it had carried out all contingency planning but was never requisitioned. They deny that Chief Minister had at any stage of the incidence launched any complain to the Corps Commander about non-cooperation by military. They also claim they helped recover over 40 escaped inmates. The provincial government alleges that the military despite repeated requests failed to react. The statement of a provincial minister summed up the pathetic state of preparedness and knowledge of ground realities at 5 AM claiming that the attackers had been beaten back.

As written in Defining Frontiers (Nation, August 3, 2013), the KPK government cannot perform its role in counter terrorism till convinced that ground realities substantially differ from its simplification of a so called US imposed WOT. Political ownership of the conflict is essential to its management through negotiations and use of force. Till such time, all stake holders are on board, such incidents will continue to happen.

Militants cannot be simplified as reactionaries. They are well trained, equipped and organised groups who choose and plan to the last detail. Operation Rah-e-Rast by Pakistan Army in Swat resulted in a trove of information on computers, pen drives, CDs and laptops corroborated by similar data collected from other parts of Pakistan. The terrorists had built a data base of law enforcement agencies, armed forces, civil administration and politicians, their families and locations etc. Their sleepers were operating as household servants, cab drivers, shop keepers and government employees. Consequently, abductions, target killings and assassinations to coerce functionaries were expected. Individuals of law enforcement agencies and their families are under threat. Why must they fight if they are not backed by strong political leadership?

According to one study, there are over 68 militant organisations. Approximately half of them have some level of contacts with political parties. They also have external linkages and sources of funding. There are also over 20 foreign intelligence agencies that maintain links with these organisations. Proliferation of foreign funded NGOs and their surreptitious activities add to the internal insecurity. Missing containers, missing persons, prepositioning of military hardware, creation of a fifth column across the entire spectrum (Military, Social, Economic, Political and Media), operations other than war (described as sub conventional threats) and economic manipulation are all part of this destabilisation. This destabilising narrative with militancy as its lynchpin cannot be countered without a political roadmap.

In the absence of such cohesion and synergy, military operations against militants are severely hampered. Spate of incidences post 11 May highlight the disastrous effects of this disconnect and what lack of homework/preparedness/capacity building by federal and provincial governments can do. This ambivalence will continue to adversely affect the morale of the military and law enforcement agencies and hence Pakistan’s fight against militancy.

Is the federal government reluctant to bring the military and political parties on board; or is it fire-walling the issue; or is it waiting for the tenure of the present COAS to expire, appoint a new Chief and then have a free hand? If true, this wait out option gives a very poor and uneducated account of their knowledge in military sociology with its very strong corporate and inclusive culture.  Whatever? The limbo is emboldening militants. This leads to the conclusion that none of the parties have a policy narrative of how peace will be negotiated with militants, leaving hapless citizens and law enforcement agencies at the mercy of terrorism.

On the eve of US led exit from Afghanistan, this indecision, expediency and lack of capacity augers badly for a post-exit Pakistan. My seven successive articles in Nation have spelled out the dangers inherent to Pakistan. As opined in Doha Initiative (Nation June 22, 2013), the most dangerous variant could be reversing fronts of AFPAK like switching North Pole. As winter approaches and conflict in Afghanistan hibernates in frigid weather, lawlessness in Balochistan and Karachi could peak to engage Pakistan’s law enforcement agencies on yet another internal front. Unfortunately, this is happening earlier than appreciated. Time and tide do not wait.

Brigadier (Retired) Samson Simon Sharaf is a political economist and a television anchorperson. Email: samson.sharaf@gmail.com

August 7, 2013

POPE FRANCIS RAMAZAN MESSAGE TO MUSLIMS THROUGHOUT THE WORLD.

Filed under: Uncategorized — sharafs @ 5:40 am

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“To Muslims throughout the World:

It gives me great pleasure to greet you as you celebrate ‘Id al-Fitr, so concluding the month of Ramadan, dedicated mainly to fasting, prayer and almsgiving.

It is a tradition by now that, on this occasion, the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue sends you a message of good wishes, together with a proposed theme for common reflection. This year, the first of my Pontificate, I have decided to sign this traditional message myself and to send it to you, dear friends, as an expression of esteem and friendship for all Muslims, especially those who are religious leaders.

As you all know, when the Cardinals elected me as Bishop of Rome and Universal Pastor of the Catholic Church, I chose the name of “Francis”, a very famous saint who loved God and every human being deeply, to the point of being called “universal brother”. He loved, helped and served the needy, the sick and the poor; he also cared greatly for creation.

I am aware that family and social dimensions enjoy a particular prominence for Muslims during this period, and it is worth noting that there are certain parallels in each of these areas with Christian faith and practice.

This year, the theme on which I would like to reflect with you and with all who will read this message is one that concerns both Muslims and Christians: Promoting Mutual Respect through Education.
This year’s theme is intended to underline the importance of education in the way we understand each other, built upon the foundation of mutual respect. “Respect” means an attitude of kindness towards people for whom we have consideration and esteem. “Mutual” means that this is not a one-way process, but something shared by both sides.

What we are called to respect in each person is first of all his life, his physical integrity, his dignity and the rights deriving from that dignity, his reputation, his property, his ethnic and cultural identity, his ideas and his political choices. We are therefore called to think, speak and write respectfully of the other, not only in his presence, but always and everywhere, avoiding unfair criticism or defamation. Families, schools, religious teaching and all forms of media have a role to play in achieving this goal.

Turning to mutual respect in interreligious relations, especially between Christians and Muslims, we are called to respect the religion of the other, its teachings, its symbols, its values. Particular respect is due to religious leaders and to places of worship. How painful are attacks on one or other of these!

It is clear that, when we show respect for the religion of our neighbours or when we offer them our good wishes on the occasion of a religious celebration, we simply seek to share their joy, without making reference to the content of their religious convictions.
Regarding the education of Muslim and Christian youth, we have to bring up our young people to think and speak respectfully of other religions and their followers, and to avoid ridiculing or denigrating their convictions and practices.

We all know that mutual respect is fundamental in any human relationship, especially among people who profess religious belief. In this way, sincere and lasting friendship can grow.

When I received the Diplomatic Corps accredited to the Holy See on 22 March 2013, I said: “It is not possible to establish true links with God, while ignoring other people. Hence it is important to intensify dialogue among the various religions, and I am thinking particularly of dialogue with Islam. At the Mass marking the beginning of my ministry, I greatly appreciated the presence of so many civil and religious leaders from the Islamic world.” With these words, I wished to emphasize once more the great importance of dialogue and cooperation among believers, in particular Christians and Muslims, and the need for it to be enhanced.

With these sentiments, I reiterate my hope that all Christians and Muslims may be true promoters of mutual respect and friendship, in particular through education.

Finally, I send you my prayerful good wishes, that your lives may glorify the Almighty and give joy to those around you. Happy Feast to you all!

From the Vatican, 10 July 2013”

Together with our Holy Father, I wish all my Muslim Brothers and Sisters Eid Mubarik.

August 2, 2013

DEFINING FRONTIERS

images (2)The epitome of dysfunctionalism by Pakistan could not have been more preceding and during the much anticipated visit of US Secretary of State John Kerry to Pakistan. It ended with the familiar notes of elimination of militant havens in Pakistan, continuation of drone strikes and resumption of a strategic dialogue.  Pakistani officials retorted with the apologist’s rant of taking action against militants on own terms, cessation of drone strikes and the need to open US markets for bilateral trade. With a US exit from the region round the corner, and a lapse of 11 years of military cooperation in a US led war; a ‘yet to negotiate’ strategic dialogue is a baffling preposition. What were they doing all these years?

John Kerry gave a positive spin to an otherwise divergent relationship by saying that “The Pakistan-US relationship is not defined by the threats we face and is not just about counter-terrorism,” adding that the US was concerned with Pakistan’s economic revival. How the economy was manipulated to melt has been an old theme in these columns.

Earlier, a US official summarised the bleak prospects of the visit by stating that “They (Pakistan) are working on their own counter-terrorism strategy. We just need to wait and see what they come up with internally and how we can coordinate both in our bilateral relationship and with joint cooperation.” This means that with no counter terrorism policy, the outcome of Pak-US diplomacy was doomed to hang in balance. But if General Kayani’s speech is to be taken as a serious intention, his plans to fight the militancy with political support are in jeopardy.  It appears he is yet to sell his Counter Terrorism Strategy to the Parliament, a wedge that has allowed the militants to seize initiative and operate freely.

Ideally, Kerry’s visit to Pakistan should have been preceded by a presentation to the leaders of the major groups in the Parliament followed by an All Parties Conference and an outline agreement of a Counter Terrorism Policy. Perhaps this was not possible because none of the actors involved in the process are willing to divulge the level and extent of their cooperation with USA. This includes the touchy subject of drone operations and linkages of both sides with militant groups.  Just before and during Kerry’s visit, the US concerns of militants groups were rocked by Sukkur to Nanga Parbat and Parachinar to D I Khan. Faced with successive embarrassments, Pakistani negotiators must have put up a brave face to argue their logic.

The jail break in D I Khan is a serious breach. From the point of view of National Security, it was as embarrassing as Abbottabad, the former by USA and latter, by non-state actors. In both cases, the local authorities were surprised, yet inside complicity cannot be ruled out. This was another dimension of the battle of frontiers tantamount to an act of war, neither militancy nor terrorism. Despite 48 hours advance notice, why preventive reconnaissance, deployments and operations were not conducted are questions the KPK government has to answer.  The IGFC also has responsibility to explain why he could not carry out a coordinated operation with the provincial government to flush out the hideouts of these militants inside the city. Most alarmingly, once faced by advance warning, what actions were taken to neutralise the jail staff majority of who had been shifted from Bannu after the first jail break. How the militants infiltrated security points and barriers, exfiltrated, were not challenged by elite force and LEAs and why they were not knocked out by gunships with night vision capabilities are questions that need to be answered.

Perhaps the biggest disconnect remains between the federal and provincial governments and army reflected in Imran Khan’s frustration in not being given a top secret briefing prior to an all parties conference. As long as various organs of the state continue to work secretively in their own compartments, dysfunctionalism would prevail. This is the same wedge that allows militants to operate freely and delays substantive diplomacy with USA.

Within the treacherous game of this pathetic circus, neither the military, nor the ruling government nor the USA approves the stance taken by Imran Khan on the War on Terror. Yet, none amongst those who matter are prepared to take him into confidence over issues that may modify his views. The government of KPK cannot perform its role of counter terrorism operations till such time it is not convinced that ground realities substantially differ from its simplification of a so called WOT. This cognitive construct inhibits exhibition of a leadership equal to the task.

Finally, the propensity of the judiciary to define new boundaries of jurisdiction in every matter of the state creates its own uncertainties. All political parties are hoarse over the massive rigging conducted by the polling staff. Judiciary has shown no urgency in taking up writ petitions over the right of information and verifications. Election tribunals are ineffective. Advancing dates of presidential elections was controversial and boycotted. Asghar Khan Case that could have decided the fate of some politicians is back to the dust bins. TUQ who started the awareness campaign is humiliated. Fakhru Bhai the Chief Election Commissioner after having done the damage has resigned. The contempt of court case against Imran Khan elevates him as the collective reaction of the entire opposition and millions of people who will not allow another ZAB to happen. Thus in turn, hangs in limbo the performance of the KPK government. The situation fits neatly into the battle of frontiers and the ever widening wedge of instability.

Hence, by the time Secretary Kerry landed back in London and Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif in Saudi Arabia, another dimension had been added to Pakistan’s uncertain politics at a juncture when USA is keen to work out the final modalities of its withdrawal from Afghanistan. The mush anticipated high diplomacy was overshadowed by local actors bent on defining new frontiers.

Brigadier (Retired) Samson Simon Sharaf is a political economist and a television anchorperson. Email: samson.sharaf@gmail.com

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