INSIGHT AND FORESIGHT

November 27, 2014

RAHEEL SHARIF’S PARADIGM

Filed under: Uncategorized — sharafs @ 5:31 am

Raheel

Post 9/11, there was a strong view in Pakistan’s younger defence establishment to affect a paradigm shift and rid Pakistan of all militant outfits. The need for fast track economic development was the key to Pakistan’s progress. Much that Pakistan tried to do was lost within the international paradigm and a mind-set within Pakistan’s senior military general staff. Pakistan’s efforts met a major setback with orchestration of an attack on the Indian Parliament. It was a ‘hide and seek’ of the good, the bad and ugly juxtaposing already existing complications on the war on terror.
What followed was a proxy war within Pakistan. Many terrorist outfits were created with handlers outside. While international and military diplomacy ran into familiar stalemate punctuated with reciprocal violence, the scenes inside Pakistan became bloodier. For ten long years, it was a free for all exercise to attain multiple objectives of taming, irritating and putting Pakistan in bad focus. Incidents inside Afghanistan found linkages in Pakistan’s tribal areas. Army’s reluctance to take on Haqqani Group actively and through engagement assumed the notion of assets. Yet the group with its basis in North Waziristan and proliferation of anti-Pakistan groups around it did little to secure Pakistan’s interests. The military stationed in terrorist effected areas remained sitting ducks with terrorist outfits enjoying luxury of choosing the time and place of engagements.
The reactive checkmating policy of General (Retired) Kayani the last of generals that reflected the old mind-set allowed the pot to boil. All initiatives were ceded at the cost of internal security and economic recession. Reintroduction of democracy through a cantankerous reconciliation and dubious elections made matters worse. With no control over foreign and defence policies, the NRO democracies became parasitic and resorted to massive corruption and economic attrition at the hands of Hitman. The entire structure of a social contract between the state and the people collapsed.
More than a decade later, the generation of young general staff had come of age. The makings of the paradigm shift have fallen on the shoulders of General Raheel Sharif the COAS of Pakistan Army who in 2002 was a young brigadier.
While the government mulled and continues to stutter on a viable counter terrorism policy, the armed forces initiated punitive precision strikes against militant targets with immediate results. Soon military formations began joint operations against all terrorist outfits in North Waziristan. But this was not done without winning the hearts and minds of the local tribal leaders. Over one million people with military efficiency were displaced to settled areas. The pace and effectiveness of these operations forced international observers to concede that effects in Afghanistan were positive.
Washington Post commented, “Although it could take months or years to fully assess its effectiveness, U.S. officials say the operation has boosted their confidence in Pakistan’s commitment to combating terrorist groups operating within its borders.” Lt. Gen. Joseph Anderson, a senior commander of U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan, told reporters that the Haqqani network is now “fractured.” He went on to comment, “That’s based pretty much on the Pakistan ops in North Waziristan this entire summer-fall…That has very much disrupted their efforts here and has caused them to be less effective in terms of their ability to pull off an attack here in Kabul.”
But such admissions are not without a reason. First, Pakistan’s new Army Chief is indeed working on a paradigm shift. During a reception at Pakistan’s embassy in Washington, he declared that Pakistan will be rid of the last traces of terrorism and that Da’esh will never be allowed to set foot in Pakistan and Afghanistan. In one swipe he has explicitly stated Pakistan’s interests and responsibility in the internal security of both countries. Hereon, Pakistan and Afghanistan will be on a friendly course. The policy in due course will reap huge socio-economic benefits.
Pakistan Army is only for Pakistan’s interests. Earlier, he had forcefully rejected the idea of stationing Pakistani troops in KSA or providing manpower for its military objectives. He has asserted his commitment to the conflict by visiting the home of every soldier sacrificed in the conflict and boosted the war fighting morale. He regularly visits sub units in the conflict zones and mixes with his men and empathised with the Afghan President.
Secondly, Hamid Karzai an irritant in relations is now replaced by President Ashraf Ghani. General Raheel Sharif has already struck a positive cord with him and trust building measures that were once a distant illusion are morphing into a reality. The depth and extent of this mutual understanding is reflected in General Raheel’s visit to Afghanistan and President Ashraf Ghani’s reciprocal priority visit to Rawalpindi. President Ghani has also signed the long awaited agreement with USA on stationing over 9,000 US troops after the retrograde. Ghani’s commitment to re-evaluate arms purchase with India puts Pakistan in a comfort zone. U.S. Ambassador to Pakistan, Richard G. Olson observed this rapprochement by commenting that “Both sides are aware of this historical moment and are taking steps to seize this moment.” Pakistan and Afghanistan are two brotherly countries.
It appears that General Raheel’s visit to Capitol Hill was a pleasant surprise to many in the State Department. Indeed they were less sceptical but not reassured. From a quiet and measured Kayani, a plain speaking, well intentioned and clear minded individual who means well for his country and international sensitivities is not what they had expected. There is no doubt that after a hiatus of 10 years, these relations are off to a new high trajectory. As the relations grow, they will impact positively on Pakistan’s security and dire energy needs. Perhaps after Ayub Khan’s visit to USA, this one is the most hyped and prolific in US Pakistan relations. During the visit, General Raheel also clarified the context of Indian violations across the boundary in Kashmir as an impediment to his efforts on counter terrorism, something Pakistan failed to convince the world in 2002 when India mobilised its forces on Pakistan’s western borders. He also held out an olive branch to India to jointly combat terrorism.
But there remain back stabbers. During his visit, Pervez Rasheed the Information Minister accused Imran Khan of outsourcing his movement to terrorist organisations while the National Security Advisor Sartaj Aziz made a damaging comment on Pakistan’s interest in Haqqani network. Both statements impacted negatively on the army’s counter terrorism effort. The government resolve to deal with urban terrorism that shall become ‘the final battle’ is still questionable.
Brigadier (Retired) Samson Simon Sharaf is a political economist and a television anchorperson. Email and twitter: samson.sharaf@gmail.com                                                                     
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November 15, 2014

THE THAR APARTHIED

Though indigenous to the land Sindhis call them Tharis. One because they are poor and starved. Secondly because they are Non Muslims

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Two successive years of drought and famine highlight the state of neglect and callousness of the government towards the people of Thar. It is the 9th largest subtropical desert located between River Sutlej and Indus in the North West in Pakistan, Gujarat, Haryana and Rajasthan in India and Great Rann of Kutch. It cradles hundreds of civilizations ranging from 10,000 years (last ice age) to 1,900 BC (Mohenjo-daro). Like civilizations yet undiscovered, the people ironically lie buried in the sands of time. Pakistan’s economic and industrial future depends on this region.

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The Indian side due to developed irrigation and communication infrastructure is fairly developed. India developed series of dams and head works up to Faridkot. Indira Gandhi Twin Canals have brought an agriculture revolution. Jodhpur is a cultural hub and international tourist attraction. Development and industry in Gujarat and Ahmadabad places the region in the fastest growing economies of India. Archeological activities in India are at a higher ante than Pakistan. In a recent survey and dredging, the farthest limits of the desert have been discovered on the northwestern coast of India in the Gulf of Khambhat (Cambay) Arabian Sea. Carbon dating of artifacts estimates the civilization at more than 9,000 years coinciding with the last ice age. Khambat was once a flourishing civilization and part of Thar submerged more than 100 meters at sea by geological changes.

On the Pakistan side the canal network of Indus Basin water distribution system is restricted to developments in South Punjab and Upper Sindh. Every year flood waters amounting to many Tarbela and Mangla dam reservoirs rather than being canalized to the Nara depression are wasted in water logging and Arabian Sea. The desert comprises Choolistan in South Punjab and upper Sindh, the Nara Massif from Mirpur Mathelo to Badin and thereafter the Thar up to Nagarparker. For defensive reasons, some parts of the harsh and difficult desert with dunes ranging from 50-150 meters have been left undeveloped forming a natural barrier between India and Pakistan (Nara Gap). My exploration of the area in from 1992-2005 suggests that with the technological advances, the area hardly remains a barrier to military movements. Black top roads exist on the Indian side right up to the check posts. Exploration activities are selective. The lack of planning, government resolve and societal frictions are the obstacles. Feudal elitism is the biggest hindrance to empowering these people.

Pakistan’s major gas and oil fields are located in this massif comprising Kadanwari, Qadirpur, Sawan and Badin. Thar provides the major share of Pakistan’s existing oil and gas supplies dispelling the notion of Sui being Pakistan’s energy center. Nara Canal flowing out from Sukkur Barrage has extended the green belt to Mirpur, Badin, Tando Adam Khan, Thatta, Hantangu, Sorah and Tando Allahyar. The land holdings are feudal in nature employing bonded labour or driving hapless further into the harsh desert. The fruits of development have not trickled down.

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The area despite being Pakistan’s energy power house remains the poorest with lack of water, health facilities, child nourishment, sanitation, agriculture, education and stable job opportunities. Apart from inherent social discrimination overseen by an unjust social system, the people at rock bottom are non-Muslims; comprising Kohlis, Bheels, Schedule Caste Hindus and some Jains. Jains by definition not Hindus were at the receiving end at Nagarparkar when Babri Masjid was destroyed by Hindu zealots in India. These people are driven into inhospitable socio-economic conditions and quarantine by the Sindhi feudalism, high class Hindus and absence of human resource development. The trend of forced conversions, abductions, private jails, exodus to India and rise of religious intolerance has further squeezed space. They cocoon in isolated Goths (hutments) around water wells maintaining their identity and culture. Over time, these wells become the hotbed of water borne parasitic diseases and arsenic poisoning. The government of Sindh has yet to install a single arsenic removal water treatment plant in a region that has the world’s highest levels of contamination. Neglected people live in desert ghettos and pre-historic time warp.  But these indigenous people of pre historic times have survived for over 10,000 years.  Their folklore and Rigvedas (Hindu religious scripts) reminds them of their glorious past and perhaps a civilization that pre dates any other. Their future is written in Gold.

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A great river called Sarasvati once debouched into this area from the mountains in the North. Rivers Sutlej and Yumuna were its tributaries. Biblical archeologist relate to it Pishon with huge treasures of gold and gems. Geology, earth quakes and tsunamis changed the course of Rivers. Sutlej slipped and joined Indus. Yumuna and perhaps Sarasvati joined Ganges. The river dried out. What remains is the Ghaggar River bed on both sides of India and Pakistan. In Pakistan, this dried bed assumed the names of Hakra near Bahawalnagar and Fort Abbas, Reini Nullah near Khairpur and Nara Canal in Sindh. During my expedition in the area in 2005, when we crisscrossed over 1,700 KMs, we saw the prehistoric dry river beds intact. Salty oasis in the area ooze out water trapped from the sea through tsunamis/earth quakes. These geological changes resulted in ridgelines like Aravalli Range in India, line of pinnacles near Sorah-Khairpur and the Allahwala Bund in Karachi. Archeologists estimate that a massive civilization is buried under the dunes of Nara Desert and that Harrapa and Mohenjo-daro are its mere outposts. Also buried lie baffling reservoirs of hydrocarbon, fresh water and precocious minerals.

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Thar Desert holds world’s second largest reservoirs of lignite coal. The lignite can alone produce petrol, diesel, LPG, natural gas, fertilizer, petrochemicals and irrigation water for next the century. Crude oil, copper, gold and gas are besides this. Why has Pakistan not exploited this immense mineral and archeological resource?

The feudal and elitist mindset does not wish this to happen. Prosperity means liberation for the poor. Being low castes, political elites do not consider them worth two pence. They are called THARIS and not Sindhi.

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

http://nation.com.pk/columns/15-Nov-2014/the-thar-apartheid

November 10, 2014

Exploitation in Name of Religion

Filed under: Uncategorized — sharafs @ 6:54 am

Kot Radha

It appears that motivations to devolve the subject of Religious Minorities in Pakistan are now falling in place. Christians in Punjab and Hindus in Sindh are been subjected to worst direct and indirect harassment of all times. In this gory game, minority leaders selected have no option but to play second fiddle to party leaders due to the inherent defects in implementing Article 226 of the Constitution being violated for selection rather than election (By secret ballot)  

Pakistan is a country of contrasting styles and conflicting levels. The super and nouvelle rich drive imported limousines, live in posh custom built localities, dine and shop world class, and maintain dollar and euro accounts in local banks. Devaluation of rupee makes them richer. In contrast, each year a crowd of women gathers in Karachi and Rawalpindi at free food distribution points. Death through stampedes is a regular tragedy. Recently a raptured oil pipeline interested the poor who gathered with buckets. Luckily there was is no inferno like Nigeria. Pakistan is a country that thrives on luxury for a few; but represents hunger and starvation for many. Public sector and human development programmes are a gold mine for few. Tragedies make them richer.

Extreme poverty and wealth coexist in Pakistan’s volatile socio-economic environments. Long ago when Jinnah’s dream died and Bhutto’s socialism proved a farce, mainstream political parties dispensed with intellectuals and social activists as the conscience. They were replaced with corrupt bigwigs, electable, mafioso, thugs and extortionists who could gather both votes and revenues for the parties they represent. State franchised violence and crime continued to intensify. Within the deprived sectors of Pakistan that comprise more than 80% people, misrule of law is the long arm. Societal reaction if ever will be fierce.

In urban Sindh, criminals backed by political parties kill, extort and dispense street justice at will. Nobody is safe unless they have subdued to the dictates of these criminal gangs.

Abductions, forcible conversions, selling, reselling and sometimes disposing off Hindu girls are a new emerging crime in Sindh. This has led to exodus of Hindus. The entire racket is managed by a PPP arm-twister Mian Abdul Khaliq Mithu, a Sajjada Nasheen (caretaker) of the Bharchundi Shareef dargah of Deherki. Human rights activists within PPP have been humbled and Asif Ali Zardari and Supreme Court directly challenged. The gang making a mockery of law operates with impunity. Name a Hindu girl abducted or forcibly converted and Mithu’s involvement is a foregone conclusion. The entire notion of exploiting religious sentiments is reinforced by open display of fire arms and threat.

Famine in Nara and Thar deserts of Sindh is a neglected tragedy. Despite massive flooding each year, water is not channelized to these areas for permanent relief. High cost standalone water purification schemes with poor results are initiated in return for kickbacks. Similarly, the Sindh government plays games with the huge lignite reserves in Thar, because introduction of technology will untie the stranglehold of political and feudal mafias over the people of the region. The people who suffer or stand to gain comprise extremely poor Hindus treated as fodder.

In rural Sindh, the entire fabric of civilian governance has collapsed. The writ of law if any is maintained by arm twisters. Politically recruited police operates in tandem. Democracy and adult franchise is a farce. Bonded labour, private jails, extra judicial killings and exploitation of common man are the norms.

Punjab does not lag behind. Behind the crimes against non-Muslims are vested interests of politically franchised groups.

In 2009, despite early warnings by intelligence agencies of an imminent attack on Christians in Gojra, a frenzied mob led by a banned militant outfit burnt a Christian Village at Korian and Gojra. Nine persons were reduced to ashes. Police remained a bystander. The PMLN provincial government and PPP led Federal government locked horns for a few days. The mastermind of the incident was a local bigwig and property tycoon Qadeer Awan. A half cooked FIR was registered, compensations exchanged many a hands subsequently exhorted by police through counter FIR. The incident is forgotten.  Awan returned as a PMLN MPA in elections 2013. What followed under 18th amendment was to illogically resign minorities as a provincial subject.

In 2011, charges of blasphemy were trumped were raised by Ifan Qadri against 25 Christians of Gujranwala. A local cleric was used to present burnt pages of the Holy Quran and posters. A Christian colony was attacked. During joint investigations, the accusers confessed having fabricated the evidence. No charges of blasphemy were pressed against the local mafia.

In 2012, the Punjab Government through fabricated records used Lahore Development Authority to bulldoze Gosha e Aman, a Christian facility to grab high value real estate. They destroyed Holy Bibles and Alter of the Chapel. Despite protests nothing has happened.

In St. Joseph’s Colony Lahore two addicts traded abuses over petty transactions. Next day a frenzied mob burnt the entire colony to ashes. A lower court sentenced the Christian to death while perpetuators of crime went scot free. The issue is the prime land encroached by a steel market mafia backed by local political bigwigs. The men behind the scheme returned as MNA and MPAs.

Most recently, a Christian couple in Kot Radha Kishen working at a brick kiln as bonded labour was kept in illegal confinement and tortured.  Five days later, a religious frenzy was orchestrated. A mob led by the kiln owner lynched and threw the couple into the inferno. The police watched the whole episode as a bystander and later registered a half-hearted First Investigation Report with legal loopholes. The entire episode is being branded as a case of blasphemy to camouflage a motive. Christians in the area are big land owners and must be evicted.

Though more incidents can be quoted, the argument in this analysis is being limited to an explanation that repeated incidents of mob justice and lawlessness in the two main provinces of Pakistan have direct linkages with the political interests of the two biggest political. In the electoral politics, co-option of local bigwigs is indispensable to gaining victory. For PMLN and PPP, stranglehold on Punjab and Sindh are crucial for political survival.

Sometimes realistic assessments carry a tinge of cruelty because of obvious logic. Once again we are witnessing a charade of talk shows, visits to Kot Radha Kishen and Clarkeabad by signatories, compensations, arrests and investigations. As the dust settles, the incident will be forgotten, compensations extorted, and Christian spirit of forgiveness exploitated. Behind the scene ugly deals will normalise the situation for yet another eruption elsewhere. Minority leaders of ruling parties for the sake of tickets and kickbacks will play minions. The pyre will continue to smoulder and periodically burst into flames.

Meanwhile any political party that takes the initiative to politically mainstream non-Muslims from their slumber will challenge this status quo.

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

http://nation.com.pk/columns/08-Nov-2014/in-the-name-of-religion#disqus_thread

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