October 28, 2013

Ally Not Friend

Filed under: Uncategorized — sharafs @ 6:32 am


Nothing describes the roller coaster ride better than the term captioned above. Though Pakistan has remained a strategic ally of USA for over 60 years, the peaks and valleys this relationship encountered continues to mandate a searchable, rather contentious and sometimes mutually or singularly destructive strategic relationship. In lump sum having sometimes fermented cooperation through overt and covert agreements and at others voluntarily hurt each other with mutual suspicion, the two are reminiscent of an estranged couple not willing to divorce. Pakistan-US relationship is a high energy samba, where the couple have taken mutual or one sided breaks to get yet again into the wild frenzy like frogs, snakes and spiders in copulation but yet at each other’s throat. Hence continues the negotiations on a strategic dialogue despite a very long strategic relationship and oft advantage or disadvantage.

Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif took his eagerly awaited and much trumpeted trip to the Promised Land after having been ignored two months earlier. His work was built on a faulty premise and assumption that civil control over military would reap rewards during his negotiations with Americans. Little did he realise that despite a diplomatic snub, his over zealousness was not only putting him but also his country in a cobweb from which extrication will be difficult. He and his half cooked team worked in splendid isolation with no discourse within the parliament on a grandiose pilgrimage to the land of promise.

In the backdrop, India agreed to negotiate disputes with China. There were direct and implied implications of terrorism exported from Pakistan as an international concern. China succeeded in getting three terrorist organisations with links in Pakistan on the banned list while India heated the line of control to forestall any infiltrations. Russia with a smile on its face after Syria sent an olive leaf to which Pakistan has yet to respond notwithstanding a new defence arrangement with India. 

The themes of the visit to USA were tediously planned by the Joseph Goebbels and fly by night reformers of the government. Pakistan was to bravely accept the responsibility of clearing its internal instability to address international concerns. Policies of the past were the ‘explanation of the cause’ and ‘civil supremacy over the military’ the solution. Hence the entourage that accompanied the Prime Minister had no high profile defence or intelligence dignitary and no foreign or defence minister. The time chosen by the big brother synchronised with the transitory nature of the chain of commands in the armed forces.

To talk of promoting a strategic dialogue built around a security relationship in the absence of experts was a preposition doomed to nowhere. Civil and military establishment were ignored. It reflected the inherent propensity on part of the prime minister to clash with institutions. In the run up to the Obama meeting, statements were carefully placed to meet the ends-means relationship as also assure the people back home that the prime minister was preparing for tough talks. Despite the mantra of energy, drones, Afia and Afridi, the one point agenda of the visit seemed the readiness by civilians to put a submission hold over the military led establishment. Though negotiations for peace remain a sellable slogan for domestic consumption; the real intentions appear to launch the next crescendo of military operations according to a given plan with no corollary economic policies. Wars are four, not single dimensional.

Perhaps the message from the White House is wrapped in incompetence and misunderstood zeal. US Press statement by the Americans were carefully crafted as were the leaks. President Obama was articulate in his choice of words. Yet the nature and drift of talks were compromised by the Pakistani Prime Minister during his press conference reading from notes. His position as a minion in the high profile meeting had more to do with his personality disorders than the nature of tough talks. This negative demeanour reinforced the perception that rather than a meaningful dialogue in assisting Pakistan in its most difficult challenges, President Obama had handed over a long list of dos and don’ts to a country that cannot take its daily meals without the big brother’s approval. This is a foreign policy capitulation that Pakistan will endure for a long time.

It appears that historic predispositions, faulty advice and confrontationist attitude have lured the present government into a wider fault-line and instability. Eradication of terrorism with a lesser priority for socio-economic development means that Pakistan validates US accusations against Pakistan. In schoolboy parlance, there is no leave or goodies till the homework is done and checked.

Despite international isolation, domestic waves and frequency of militancy continue to grow amid a chant of negotiating peace with an invisible and perpetually morphing threat. Analysts and opinion makers harbingered on an opportunity are widening the cracks to pot holes. An environment is being shaped for a final entrenchment.

For the past six years, through sponsored seminars and workshops backed by a vitriolic and tabloid media, there is an attempt at dubbing Civil-Military Relations in Pakistan as the mother of all evils. Though I agree that the higher direction of state management must always come from the Prime Minister who represents the Parliament, it is also incumbent on civilians to leave no blank spaces for instruments of statecraft to exploit. Pakistan’s prime issue is not Civil-Military Relations but the dysfunctionalism right at the top. When a country cannot enunciate its National Interests on a time continuum directly related to National Power; with well-defined and articulated roles for each instrument of statecraft, what else could you expect other than adhocism during the Prime Minister’s visit to USA. The eagerness of the Prime Minster to undo the wrongs done in the past is a dangerous assertion. Confrontation with the defence establishment will add a new element to Pakistan’s instability. 

At the same time, Pakistanis need to comprehend and realise that the economic down turn is manipulated and not endemic. The national power of Pakistan in its aggregate is way beyond a rapidly devaluing currency, dwindling exchequer and diminishing energy resources. Pakistan’s worth is much more than the few billions it receives in tranches with strings. Pakistanis also need to beware that any further instability will lead to more bloodshed and disunity.

It is now the duty of the Pakistani intelligentsia and media to steer the debate in the right direction. Dysfunctionalism within the state and opportunist constitutionalism should be the top priorities for awareness that Pakistan lacks a narrative of higher direction and elucidation of its national interests. Once this is put right, the longevity of civil-military relations will automatically fall in its slot.

The writer is a retired officer of Pakistan Army and a political economist. Email:


October 23, 2013

Ami Jee! You live on

Ester Naziran Sharaf

Today is the 30th death anniversary of Ami Jee, whose struggle and vision is reflected in the children she left behind.

In 1960, Ester Naziran Sharaf at 35 lost her husband Lal Din Sharaf Sargodhavi with the eldest child not yet completed high school.  Today I see her standing next to Abba Jee’s casket with my younger sister in her lap, gazing into his face as if to say, ‘why have you abandoned me’? I also see the Mundiya Sialkotia with a mole on his cheek lying in peace with his characteristic smile saying, ‘You were the woman behind me. You will do it’.

As days of grief and sorrow faded into a relentless struggle for her children, the tears gave way to a charade of sparkling stars that would make any parent proud. My mother did it by grooming architects, soldiers, management experts, lawyers and inventors. My only regret is that she passed away early, without witnessing the laurels that would adorn her children. She never lived long enough to see what her grandkids would become.

But then she has been with us all these years in our hearts and minds, and always a solace in defining moments. She taught us to be persevering in life, humble in success and honest in failure. She imbued in us a fighting spirit that became synonymous with the Sharaf Clan.

It was at this time and day in 1983 that I got the fateful message. A Captain in School of Infantry and Tactics, I was near Pishin with my officer students on a tactical exercise without troops. My syndicate had been chosen for a visit by General Zia ul Haq, the then COAS. With adrenaline running high, I was waiting for his appearance. Then Lt Colonel Sher Afsar our Chief Instructor came over and asked me to rush to Quetta. In Quetta I learnt that Ami Jee was no more. Getting out of Quetta in those days was difficult. We flew to Karachi and were besides her body the next morning.

There she was with the world around her. People of Lahore Cantt loved her and they were all there; rich, poor, Muslims, Christians and thousands of admirers we never knew. Her funeral service in St. Joseph’s church was over crowded. Father Nathaniel, the Belgian Parish priest sobbed through his homily. He said that when he saw the young widow with 8 children he anticipated a tough life for her, but this lady of substance beat all odds to become the most accomplished family in the parish. Then he broke into tears and so did the entire congregation.

The experience of life with a mother through its private moments cannot be shared but yet can be reflected through how we behave in life. We all brothers and sisters and our children have been blessed by these traits. We have spread all over the world and by God’s Grace the third generation has moved much beyond we could think 53-30 years ago.

This is not only our own but every Pakistani’s little success story.


My Mother a Rose
By Sue Horley

A rose so rare,
one of it’s kind, 
love and beauty a mother,
A rose without thorns,
not a petal was torn,
a perfect rose stood straight and tall,
my mother was the most precious of all.
A rose that survived the worst kind of weather and yet the most delicate ever,
a rose with a fragrance,
there could be know other,
you see this rose is my Mother.
A rose is picked and put to dry,
the beauty is still there,
it never dies.

Ester Naziran Sharaf


October 19, 2013

Pakistan and Crescent



This year’s Noble Peace prize was the most hotly debated and speculated event.  Top contenders in MalalaYousafzai of Pakistan, Edward Snowden  and Russia’s Vladimir Putin reflected a disapproval of US policies and helped consensus for Organisation for Prevention of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) to spare USA the blushes. Inasmuch as the award reflects neutrality, the list of top contenders explains unison in combatting diverse strains of religiously inspired transcending floating threats. In final analysis, OPCW award reflects the struggle of each who did not win. The fact that OPCW moved quickly to dismantle the Syrian Chemical capabilities also means that the Americans blinked in the backdrop of strong EU disapproval and Russian threat to Saudi Arabia, the major exporter of fighters to Syria. The award is symbolic in that President Bush’s doctrine of global domination has reached its nadir and that President Obama has the responsibility of defining new objectives and policy options for the next decade based on engagement rather than confrontation. Most, the award has exposed international duplicity on democracy and terrorism.

Under the shadow of the Syrian Crisis, one possible outcome of this event is the way how the world will transform from unipolarity to a multipolar world shaped by USA, South America, EU, Russia, China and the APEC Arc. The Muslim world divided within, lacks the potential to play an assertive role in this transformation. If it unites, it may become a very strong power centre within the multi polarity.  The instability from Libya to Pakistan and Afghanistan is inter linked and no more an internal issue of any country. Considering the oil crisis of 1973, this division provides opportunities to bigger powers to keep the house divided.

Insofar as delivering democracy to the world is concerned, Arab Springs have radicalised and polarised Muslims. Conflict zones within the Ummah have become floating minefields. Transcending militant organisations with multi-state linkages exercise more leverage in Libya, Egypt, Syria, Iraq, Yemen, Afghanistan and Pakistan. Morsi’s democratically elected government had to pay for not supporting US-KSA led policies in the Middle East. Prospects of an Al Qaeda led regime change in Syria that were imminent are now dim. A complete US led military withdrawal from Afghanistan appears doubtful.

2013 Mini Muslim world is reminiscent of the end of WW II, divided between East and West. There is a Cold War within. The Ummah led by Saudi and Iranian camps is positioning itself to derive maximum geo political leverage through sponsoring weaker states and non-state actors. Turkey, a secular Muslim State is caught between the European rock and the deep sea. The Syrian Crisis indicates that despite being a trusted US ally, Saudi Arabia cannot always rule the roost. This irrelevance in Syria warrants a reappraisal of Saudi policy on proxies lest the winds of a real spring blow across the deserts to its Eastern boundaries.

Iran in contrast, after years of diplomatic isolation has managed to create a diplomatic space.  Syrian Crisis and Hassan Rouhani’s nuclear diplomacy set a platform for engagement that shall extend to Afghanistan and Palestine. As frigid relations with USA thaw, the resistance to Pak-Iran Gas pipeline will also melt away. A paradigm shift in West Asian politics is slowly taking place and till such time the issue of Syria is not settled, its negative ripples will continue to appear in Pakistan.

My hypothesis that Pakistan’s internal terrorism has international linkages continues to pass testability. Profiling of terrorism indicates external linkages and hence the futility of a negotiated settlement without addressing the international sponsors. It had been written that as dates of US led withdrawal from Afghanistan get closer, the trajectories of violence in the region will move to more bloodshed and emergence of warlordism. Hamid Karzai of Afghanistan is doing just that. He appears desperate to wrest control of TTP inasmuch as Pakistan exercises leverage over Afghan Taliban. The recent visits of an ANP delegation to Afghanistan and Maulana Fazal ur Rehman’s meeting with Hamid Karzai reinforce this policy.

Hamid Karzai with whatever allies he may find appears to be turning against Pakistan. The recent surge in terrorism in Pakistan is a reflection of these battle lines from Nanga Parbat to Sukkur, Dera Ismail Khan to Peshawar and simultaneous attacks in the four provincial capitals. Earlier this month, US forces interdicted an Afghan Government convoy escorting Latif Mehsud, the second in command of TTP and captured him for plotting of a bomb attack on Time’s Square.  In another related event, Afghan Taliban attacked TTP’s Fazal Ullah’s hideout in Kunar, Afghanistan. A day after the governor of Logar Province Arsala Jamal was killed in Afghanistan; Pakistan lost its Provincial Law Minister Israr Ullah Gandapur in Dera Ismail Khan in an apparent quid pro quo.

Contours of a new battle line are emerging and political parties in Pakistan eager for peace need to beware. They need to realise that they are hanging on a precipice with unsure footholds. They lack the wherewithal of working through this maze by relying on a single interlocutor.

Pakistan Tehreek e Insaf despite its nonviolent stance, having lost three legislatures to violence has to tread with caution and circumspection. Political romanticism and idealism must make way for well informed and imaginative pragmatism over issues of militancy. Its leadership has to take an international view of the dynamics and place itself at an enviable position where it matters. Khyber Pakhtunkhwa as an island of security, prosperity and social reforms in a melting Pakistan must remain its top agenda.

Pakistan’s tough grind will continue and exasperate if Pakistan does not make a full blown effort at differentiating friends from foes, friends disguised as enemies, spoilers, plethora of self-styled revisionists and fly by night reformers. As new battle lines emerge, so does an effort by these so called intellectuals in reinventing nationalism and formulating conflicting narratives to further subvert the nation? There is no room for a Turkish, Egyptian or a Saudi Model. If Pakistan reasserts itself, it has the potential of becoming a viable actor within this equilibrium.

The writer is a retired officer of Pakistan Army and a political economist. Email:



October 12, 2013


Note her damaged face

Malala Yousafzai touches the heart and soul of every progressive Pakistani. She symbolises millions of unseen scavengers reduced to nothingness and living with the dream of a progressive, egalitarian and resilient Pakistan. Still a teenager, she reflects a sea of emotions shared by hundreds of millions that hope is not forlorn; that temperate quality of willpower and simplicity of innocence can work wonders. When stars bow out to the rising sun, Malala is a dewdrop nestled on the jaded green, defying the blinding light and encapsulating the ball of fire in colours of refraction. Like a rainbow that tides hope, Malala brings the tidings that violence is not only fought back with guns but also love.


Her defiance is ever more significant. She hails from a remote, violence ridden area of Pakistan where the ugly face of militants ruled the roost through bloodshed and anarchic justice. Rather than be traumatised by the central death square of Mingora close to her house; where human heads hung with traffic poles; where the stench of decaying human organs was nauseating; or suffer the indignity of living in make shift camps; she registered her disapproval and defiance by becoming the legendary Gul Mukai. Malala conquered fear and opened a battle front where thinkers had been denied space and where national leaders had feared to dare.


But Malala has detractors. In the frontline are militants who have vowed to kill her at first opportunity. Then there are those for whom an egalitarian Pakistan was never a dream. These men of limited vision with a pipedream see Malala as a challenge to their cognitive construct of what Pakistan ought to be. Malala is seen as an exploitable commodity at the hands of Yahood, Hinood, Zionists, anti-Islamic forces and ultimately a Dajjal. They portray her as the one eyed anti-Christ; and one who must be sent to dungeons. Malala is a daemon who must be fought lock, stock and barrel in every dimension to rid Pakistan of its biggest security challenge.


Such insinuations are not new and will prove to be a fire through which the gold must shine. Despite her celebrity status, Malala and her admirers will have to pass through this fire to redeem the country of the ills that besiege it.


Qaid E Azam Muhhamad Ali Jinnah lived and died fighting these religion exploiting minimalists. Yet, in the interim, they managed to bury the legacy of the founding father with similar slogans abetted by military dictators and opportunist politicians. Right up to the 20th amendment, they have managed to manipulate political parties to supress fundamental human rights in varying descriptions.  They demonised men like Faiz Ahmad Faiz, Dr. M D Taseer (who buried Aleem Ud Din Ghazi), Mian Iftikhar ud Din, Benazir Bhutto, Shahbaz Bhatti, Salman Taseer and Shahbaz Taseer. They have passed judgements on millions of Pakistanis since 1949; who either died at the hands of violence or left Pakistan for good. The ferocity of fear they instil is such that Pakistanis have refrained from celebrating and commemorating its only Noble laureate Dr. Abdul Salam. The narrative these minimalists propagate is an insult to Pakistan movement led by Qaid E Azam Mhammad Ali Jinnah. As Malala factor becomes viral and a cause for national celebrations, it defies their raison d’etre. They will retaliate.  But like Malala, who braved all dangers, the good moments in Pakistan however far and few must be enjoyed with vigour and prolonged with relentless fervour.


In a country where politicians obliquely take-on terrorists; where judges are afraid of passing judgements; where witnesses are either killed or forced into submission; and where the system classifies crime as the good, bad and ugly; Malala has risen to become an internationally recognised icon and spokesperson of Pakistan. Critics who label her father as over ambitious and one selling his daughter to the West for few moments of glory ignore the instinct that every parent wishes his dreams fulfilled through his children. That Mr. Zia ud Din Yousafzai has groomed his daughter for a dream shared by Pakistanis is no crime. As a retort, the nation owes its gratitude to this father for a daughter who has become the humane face of her motherland. While Malala shares the limelight, we must acknowledge the parents who sired and mentored such an indomitable daughter to become an internationally acclaimed image of Pakistan.


There are also speculations that Malala is a manufactured commodity elevated at an opportune time to subdue Pakistan into submission. These detractors must know that Malala’s injury was real. A part of her skull was blown away. The doctors in the neurosurgical department in the Swat hospital testify that she needed specialised medical care for rehabilitation. They suspected irreparable nerve damage. Fauzia Kasuri and Neelam Toru with many others were right there when she was shifted to CMH Peshawar. The squint in her eye and signs of facial palsy on the left side testify that she survived an assassin’s bullets. Though Malala will continue to carry the scars of injury, this face is also the pride of every Pakistani.


Malala’s iconic resistance and elevation provides Pakistanis a moment of introspection. In a society torn by ideological conflicts and political contradictions, her non-violent resistance to forces of tyranny prove that the temperate quality of willpower outstrips violence. If Pakistan has to revert to the dreams of its founding fathers, then it is the responsibility of every citizen to emulate Malala and make sure they matter. On the matrix of national psychology, Malala provides the needed high point to make Pakistan a credible, self-reliant and a proud country in peace at home and abroad. One lesson that must not be lost is ‘to overcome anger with love’.


Malala is Pakistan and the nation must seize the moment.


The writer is a retired officer of Pakistan Army and a political economist. Email:



Note her damaged face

October 7, 2013


cartoon-pakistan-army-concerned-about-india-and-not-talibanTerrorism in Pakistan cannot be brought to an abrupt end through violent means. Most explanations about the strains and motivations of militancy though true are not universally applicable. Just like politics makes strange bedfellows, umbrella militant organisation will ally with any group or country prepared to challenge their enemy. This includes nation states, romantic revolutionaries, donor organisations, criminals, sectarian killers, ethno nationalists and extortionists. They will remain in concord as long as their interests converge. Any divergence of immediate interests is unlikely. A full military action will forge stronger bonds. A single pronged military strategy will worsen the issue by catapulting to other regions.

An efficient terrorist organisation like TTP also needs an economy with logistic chain management. These lines are both interior and exterior. In most cases, the remittance lines converge on Pakistan’s so called friends and allies. They either have vested interests or are suspicious of Pakistan’s double play. Drying up logistics needs a concerted domestic and international effort; possible but improbable.

Few realise that the mainstay of TTP is an ideology based on a divine reward. The brain washing of its foot sloggers is effective. They consider themselves as Fedayeen who brave risks and suicides to attain the next level of heavenly perfection. Brainwashing as a counter strategy will need considerable time, effort and a complementary narrative that does not exist. This narrative revolves around the deconstruction of the deconstruct narrative followed by reconstruction of Jinnah’s Pakistan. The looming danger to personal safety is so real and credible that politicians are hesitant to explain this dream. Where is the ideology that will defeat the militant ideology?

Deconstruction of the Idea of Pakistan began much before 1947. The religious right after the 1857 Mutiny opposed the movement of progressive Muslims that later became All India Muslim League. The right with Mohan Das Gandhi as its leader led the Khilafat movement while the League opposed it. League was seen as a product of modernity and an agent of the British Raj. Jinnah was projected as a pork eating drunkard, a stigma attached to every progressive Pakistani even today. The battle lines of what afflicts Pakistan were drawn over 150 years ago. Some elements of religious orthodoxy always considered Islamist modernists as infidels. Realities have not changed.

Pakistan became a possibility after two major events. First, the Congress rejected the Cabinet Mission Plan leaving no option within an Indian Union for majority Muslim rule. Secondly, in Lahore Resolution, the League ceded its high moral ground of representing Muslim minorities in Hindu dominated areas in favour of Muslim majority rule. This has had enduring scars on the political economy of the country and a volatile situation in Karachi now intrinsically linked to the situation in FATA. Battle lines are already drawn in this theatre.

Unfortunately, the Pakistan that Qaid e Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah pursued vanquished with his mysterious death. The religious right that opposed the creation of Pakistan swiftly moved into the void to occupy the ideological space. Military coups with religion providing political legitimacy speeded this deconstruction. Pakistan’s role as a bulwark against communism and the mock Jihad in Afghanistan strengthened militants into a formidable private army. This indoctrination was filliped by hard-core Islamists from world over promptly provided sanctuaries in Pakistan for legitimacy. It raised the levels of sectarian/ religious intolerance and violence.

Arabs with rich inflow of petro dollars wrested leadership of these groups. The war against godless USSR was won. Post USSR withdrawal, these Arab fugitives when faced with isolation in the West and Middle East devised plans of their own. Middle Eastern countries kept them busy lest they threaten them. The non-proliferationists needed them for their own justification. These militant groups needed a theatre to vomit their vigour. For Pakistan, Afghanistan and Kashmir were spaces wide open to keep the issue at bay. Within a piped vision, Pakistan moved into the trap with hands full; a dagger in one and a nuclear button in the other. Western and hostile intelligence agencies penetrated and used them from the Balkans to Chechnya. Within the minions, Pakistan became an exercise in handling non state actors. Pakistan became a delusion within its own pipe dream.

9/11 changed the paradigm. Under international pressure, Pakistan was forced to halt activities in Kashmir. The war of hate perpetuated through indiscriminate bombings in Afghanistan, daisy cutters, use of depleted uranium bunker busters provided the opportune propaganda to identify an enemy and declare war. A war against the Zionist Neo Con America provided the most attractive war slogan. USA was more than ready to add fuel to fire. USA’s drone strikes in FATA provided the needed emotional backlash to kill the infidel and its ally. Pakistan led by General Pervez Musharraf took a hasty U turn and joined the enemy ranks. Seen as a conjoined twin of Pentagon, Pakistan Army was now the enemy. The monster Pakistan helped midwife moved inwards to the womb the bore it. Rand’s thesis of ‘Ugly Instability’ changed to ‘Descent into Chaos’. Pakistan became a threat to itself. Nuclear Pakistan’s stability became a global concern. Back home, with extremism having penetrated every sinew of society, an unstable and corrupt political system with a constant overhang of internal insecurity precluded a befitting counter strategy. The deconstruction of Jinnah’s Pakistan was complete. Any credible leader daring to challenge the script would be made an example.

By opening negotiations with Afghan Taliban in 1996, Benazir Bhutto made a sincere effort at deconstructing this pipe dream. In a meeting in 1996, she told the scribe that Pakistan would remain hostage to international actors till such time Afghan Taliban were not moderated. She nearly did it the night she was sacked in November. She pursued this dream when Mullah Omar agreed to hand over Osama bin Laden to a neutral Muslim country. She came back in 2007 with an invigorated elixir to be assassinated.

Perhaps, during his exodus General Pervez Musharraf meditated his mistakes. He came back voluntarily to make his contrition and amends. He is most likely to rot in jails.

The third person who has affirmatively moved towards the destruction of this Deconstruct is Imran Khan. He was side lined during the highly contentious elections. With majority of Pakistanis on his side, I pray that Divine Providence and luck favour him. There is no alternative because all other leaders share a piece of the pipe called dream.

The writer is a retired officer of Pakistan Army and a political economist. Email:

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