June 22, 2015


Filed under: Uncategorized — sharafs @ 6:45 am


There is still time for the PPP leadership to huddle, contemplate and review events of the past few days. It will be a test of the senior party leadership in asserting themselves and redeeming the party for what it is not worth. Given the nature of hierarchy it is doubtful anyone will show the mettle for dissent. Yet as patriotic Pakistanis, it is the moral obligation of every PPP leader to prevent their party from becoming an exploitable tool at the hands of individual whims. A divide along ideology and political pragmatics could be the only salvation. Given the attrition of past seven years, the latest could turn out to be the ‘unkindest cut of all’. How can PPP afford to sleep with the enemy? In other words, become part of Pakistan’s internal security challenges.

To expect the party to indict itself in Sindh despite its massive mismanagement and corruption is foolhardy. Yet there is ample space between now and fait accompli that can redeem the party. If reconciliation is a possibility, the federal government and military have a role to play. As the protective layers around crimes erode, much will stand exposed as also PPP’s moral dilemma. The party has to come out clean. As a desperate measure, Zardari led PPP with its allies could impose enough pressure to halt the Karachi operations in tracks. But then Ex-President Zardari would have played his ultimate card and put Pakistan on an implosion course. This was predictable and hence the inevitability of what may, or may not come to pass.

Way back, I had commented that, “National security policy, or counter terrorism policy or whatever is being drafted with subjective experiences shall elude the national consensus. It will open cracks and wounds that shall take ages to heal. The weakness demonstrated by the state in acting against militancy has emboldened militants and Pan-Islamist in Pakistan. In some ways, some politicians are the soft face of militants”, (T’error Policy Nation January 25, 2014). A twenty point National Action Plan was never a substitute to a National Security Policy. Over the course of one year, it has opened cracks that shall widen by each day. Today it is Karachi; tomorrow it will be South Punjab. Model Town still begs justice. The buck will not stop here. PPP must avoid becoming the soft face of violence.

Such a clash was brewing for a long time and the readers were repeatedly alerted that criminals of all descriptions, sectarianism and militants were coalescing for a common objective. To wrest control of Karachi, PPP in its last government had embarked on a dangerous sojourn into the underworld. Perhaps the motivations to do so also find linkages with target killing of Khalid Shahinshah, a principal witness to murder of Benazir Bhutto, Uzair Baloch and trails of ill-gotten money. Now with Ranger led operations in full swing, pugmarks lead to Bilawal House. Besieged, Zardari minced no words when he challenged the armed forces of Pakistan for a showdown. Get off my turf or I will let loose mayhem all over the country. But is this threat credible?

Surely, beyond the political clout of PPP, this threat is bolstered by the capabilities of regressive internal and external support. Zardari wants a carte blanche for unchecked abuse of power for personal and political purposes. He reckons that land mafias, criminal gangs, extortionists, thugs, smugglers and militants of diverse typologies will swell his rank and file. He is keen to enlist the support of MQM to pose a credible challenge to the security establishment. A common threat could make them strange but dangerous bedfellows. Will a party once brandishing the ‘Sword of Allah’ fall in line with the hyenas.

As if the unsaid diatribe in simple moralistic and legalistic terms of absolute good and absolute evil between the rulers, opposition and armed forces did not refract the intensity and objectiveness of counter terrorism operations, the threat by Mr. Zardari has drawn a Rubicon. Cross it and I will stall the entire operation as ill-conceived, misdirected, anti-democratic and anti-PPP. Already, the Sindh Government has followed with directions to Rangers to limit their operations. It appears that with ample evidence already gathered, the security establishment supported by the federal government will ignore these directives and continue to nibble beyond this politically franchised underworld to ultimately expose the real culprits. This means stepping on Zardari’s toes.

Destabilising Pakistan through internal dynamics was always the logical alternative to a nuclear deterrence against external threat. As written earlier, the imaginary line west of Quetta-Karachi is eyed by international actors to cut Pakistan to size. India with support of international actors is already threatening Pakistan of a 1971 like situation in Balochistan. A chaotic and bloody Karachi along with embedded violence let lose in Sindh could provide enough motivation to Pakistan’s detractors to push for more gains. This is the card that Zardari is using to threaten Pakistan Army.

Zardari’s mantra of reconciliation is a façade. Do not forget his swearing ceremonies and denials. His political logic is multi-tiered and conceited. Despite being the beneficiary, he never pursued the investigations of Benazir’s murder to exonerate doubts about himself and his friends. He tried through the ill-conceived memogate to convince Americans on the logic of civil supremacy over the military. He ignored that this was never possible without capacity building; something he never attempted. Instead he concentrated on building gangs in Karachi to reclaim the turf from MQM and ‘if need be’ confront the law enforcement agencies. Immediately after the Abbottabad Raid, he published an article in Washington Post taking satisfaction ‘that our early assistance in identifying an al-Qaeda courier ultimately led to this day’ exposing unsaid vulnerabilities and rumours. During his five years of all-powerful tenure, Pakistan remained rudderless and leaderless. He never made any effort to put Pakistan’s economy on track. Now he has chosen Pakistan’s most vulnerable element to ride himself out of trouble.

But questions linger. What was the intention to fast forward a crisis? Is he pre-empting a governor’s rule in Sindh. Is he creating a situation for demanding a similar rule in Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa? Or is he anticipating a landmark verdict by the Judicial Commission on elections 2013 that shall result in a new electoral exercise. Most, to get even with the establishment, has he made the ‘decision fatale’ and threatened to sleep with the enemy?

Would any sane Pakistani do this?

Brigadier (Retired) Samson Simon Sharaf is a political economist and a television anchorperson.

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Filed under: Uncategorized — sharafs @ 6:13 am

 National Power

“National power rises from a relatively stable foundation of geography, through different gradations of instability to its peak in the fleeting elements of national character and morale. Hans Joachim Morgenthau

Pakistan is a country of contrasts and paradoxes. It appears at the top or rock bottom of various indices indicating the idiosyncratic nature of the collect. Few flashes of brilliance are punctuated with pathetic lows and a yawning national disconnect; a nuclear state with a begging bowl and lowest of low human development indices. A lethal brew of self-serving politicians, absence of an informed political discourse, moral bankruptcy and corruption put the security of citizens at risk. Yet resilient working classes sustain themselves despite a politically franchised black economy that sucks more blood from stones than revenue departments. Missing is a vision backed by an imaginative and workable national framework based on Pakistan’s short, mid and long term architecture of National Power. The absence of balanced national interests makes the lofty objectives of the constitution a jargon.

The reasons for this low lie in a constitution subjected to unchecked abuse. Had the organs of the state implemented the first three parts of this document, Pakistan’s road map to a credible self-respecting country would have already peaked. Realities reflect hollowness of national purpose and proliferation of whims. Countries with a compact set of indices enjoy more respect in comity of nations and show consistency in growth. These nations are resistant to threats, and exercise leverages towards attaining national objectives. Constant incremental development raises the bar consistent with international competition bringing happiness and wellbeing to people.

It is high time that Pakistan’s policy makers and analysts learn that National Power is a continuously aggregated sum of the potential of a country overlapped by natural and social determinants on a timeline. The two are connected by knowledge, resolve and hard work. The geography is permanent; the power is dynamic spurred by national character and morale. Power is latent and needs effective governments to convert into implementable policy tools. These elements can be divided into natural and social determinants.


Geographically, Pakistan shares borders with India, China, Afghanistan and Iran. It connects West, South and Central Asias, has four climates, a very steep gradient, world’s highest mountains, steep rivers, alluvial plains, deserts, plateaus and a long coastline from Thatta to the mouth of Arabian Gulf. At a glance it translates into an enviable geo strategic location and natural barriers for security. Pakistan has exploited this determinant in great power rivalry only. National growth is missing. No dams, no hydro-power, no ports, no communication infrastructure and no modern agriculture.

Demographics are an important determinant though not an assurance of strength. The correct balance in diversity and skills of the population is significant. 60% of Pakistan’s population is unskilled, uneducated and unemployed youth. The limited resource of skilled manpower is fast shrinking. Education and technical development is incompatible. Crime and militancy provide ripe grounds for disillusioned. Unplanned urbanization and slums grow. The educated and skilled manpower serves West and Middle East with distinctions. Brain drain is a constant. Within Pakistan, this resource is unutilized. This resource is crucial if Pakistan’s geography is to be realized into a juggernaut. Failure means ripping the nation’s seams.

Large amounts of natural resources are essential for security, an industrial base, export of raw and finished materials, trade led foreign policy and political influence. The mineral rich Tethyan belt extends from Taftan through Waziristan to Chitral and Swat. Mere physical possession of natural resources is not a source of power unless the country has the political will and technical prowess to maintain control and harness its dispositions. Pakistan’s vast reserves of gold, copper, antimony, uranium, coal, lignite, hydrocarbon, precious and semi-precious minerals are meaningless if in control of outside actors. The energy, minerals, gemstones, irrigation, water and land based communication infrastructure is nowhere. Agriculture is neglected.


Sound economic capacity bridges between natural and social determinants of power and overall modernization of institutions, education, social mobility and instrumentalism. Strong domestic economies produce non-military power that impacts the international arena. Leading industrial nations exercise power without a bullet through their impact on international agreements and international financial institutions. A country tied to outside trade, aid and strings remains pliant, weak and poor. Pakistan has the potential to become the world’s fastest growing economy within three years if its natural determinants are harnessed by a creative economic policy.

The political system of Pakistan has psychological fallouts. Do the constitution and system of government deliver? Is the system inclusive? Do political institutions have the capacity and will to gel the natural determinants. Do they have the vision to see their country progress from year to year? Does the leadership have the potential to keep its citizens in a high state of morale and optimum performance?  Are they instrumental in creation and control of a national construct? A paragraph in the preamble of constitution states, “So that the people of Pakistan may prosper and attain their rightful and honored place amongst the nations of the world and make their full contribution towards international peace and progress and happiness of humanity”? The failing can be summed in the system’s contextual inability to create a framework for its realizable systemic potential on a continuum based on its strengths, weaknesses and force multipliers.

National will and morale imply zeal that citizens properly led manifest in the pursuit of internal or external objectives. This is a force multiplier and synergy for growth of social capital. Education, skill development, national development, employment and state of happiness integrate diversity towards a common objective. Unfortunately, this is a rare commodity in Pakistan.

Military in a modern nation remains just another instrument to meet ends of national policy, primarily the defence of its geography and national interests drawn from national power. It performs in tandem and not isolation of other instruments of policy. In peacetime it also has a constitutional role to use its diverse ability in national development. In Pakistan, in absence of a comprehensive national framework, it is frequently sucked into every sphere of national activity. This is a bad omen for a nonfunctional democracy.

I have been writing on this subject for two decades. Each day is a new low convincing me of the inevitability of a national narrative and framework. Someone has to take the lead in framing this narrative. Unfortunately, Pakistan is like a cricket team whose captain has no game plan, whose bowlers spray the ball, whose batsmen are in awe and whose fielders yawn.

Brigadier (Retired) Samson Simon Sharaf is a political economist and a television anchorperson.

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Filed under: Uncategorized — sharafs @ 6:07 am


This week’s headlines in Pakistan will be remembered for wrong reasons. The nature of breaking the news has eclipsed realities. Local body elections in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KPK), inauguration of a yet to complete metro bus project in Rawalpindi-Islamabad, India’s aggressive tirades, the defence establishments frustration with the slow pace of operations against militancy in Karachi and finance ministers insistence that despite negative indicators, Pakistan is on way to sustainable progress are a few headlines. Whatever the truth, each reflects the lack of capacity and institutional building in our political parties. It also indicates that whatever remains is under seige.

The local government elections in KPK registered a defining moment in Pakistan’s chequered history of local self-government. It transfers powers to local representatives down to village level. Over 30% of development funds will be controlled by the civil society. This is a paradigm shift and like all things original threaten status quo. In due course it will be subjected to criticism, delays, organisational frictions and absence of an enabling mechanism. The mechanics of reorganising the existing administrative structure to the new organogram will prove to be a testing ground of KPK Government’s ability to deliver. The system for the first time in Pakistan’s democratic history departs from the Legislative Act of 1935 where Viceroy’s control at every tier of governance was mandatory. Other provinces and vested interests have not followed suite, do not like it and try discrediting it.

The manner in which these elections were conducted leaves no room for scapegoats. Both the KPK government and Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) must share blame for mismanagement of a landmark event and making it contentious.

KPK government had done little homework on the execution of the project. An appraisal of likely hindrances and counter-plans was missing. Had the provincial chief minister, concerned ministries and civil administration deliberated on the brass-tacks during in-house discussions, their coordination with ECP would have been better. The entire exercise at a paradigm shift warranted was marred by the absence of a matching willpower. The political and civil administration never switched gears. A right and noble intention of Imran Khan the philanthropist was made to look wicked.

The flak that ECP took after 2013 elections should have resulted in a renewed vigour. Its absence was apparent in its ignorance that simplified the process. Its staff had neither grasped nor assimilated the enormity, complications and complexity of the challenges. They never realised they were out to make history in self-governance.  Most they were unfamiliar with the wide canvas of change and neither internalised it nor seemed willing to become part of the change.

The provincial government kept sleeping over the rumours of plans to disrupt and make these elections controversial. These allegations and disruptions will get fiercer. Opposition political parties achieved multiple objectives. First, they discredited Imran Khan and secondly shielded themselves from not replicating this system in other provinces while still clinging to strong political and bureaucratic controls of status quo.

Transfer of powers from District and Tehsil administration involving over thirty subjects is a colossal task riddled with challenges and mal-intent. To ensure that the paradigm shift is affected without further hiccups and least teething problems, Imran Khan the politician cum philanthropist will have to act as a project director to get his team to deliver. This includes healing internal wounds and parrying off sword brandishing opposition.

The Rawalpindi-Islamabad metro project stands inaugurated though incomplete. What is the hurry when there are many more compelling and time sensitive challenges?  The 500 Million dollar project will benefit around 600,000 commuter trips during the day. In contrast IDPs languish as squatters due to lack of funds. People in Karachi due to lack of potable water are at the mercy of hydrant mafia. Punjab, the country’s most dense area of arsenic poisoning lacks proper potable water facilities. Hospitals lack sufficient beds and live saving drugs. The rising circular debt keeps bringing industries to a shutdown. The nation is being forced to survive on fairy tale projects. Unemployment had increases, agriculture rescinded and exports fallen. Why the government is hell-bent on completing Wi-Fi projects in major urban centres when majority of people in rural areas lack minimum basic facilities? Where are the national priorities and who sets them?

Where is the urge and will power? The military fighting the biggest war against terrorism in recorded history is starved of funding. Military operations are being conducted in a void. There is no counter terrorism policy to back the armed forces and law enforcement agencies. Operations in Punjab have yet to begin. Karachi continues to bleed due to an unholy mix of local politics, armed political parties, ethnic and sectarian fault lines and terrorism. Why do the rulers not comprehend that the country is fighting a multi-dimensional war that needs to be won on emergent footing? In all probability, all have coalesced to bleed the army.  But then a nuclear Pakistan needs a strong army to survive. With the army defeated, there will be instability and disintegration. The argument of total civilian supremacy actually means there will be no Pakistan.

The way political parties behave indicates a complete absence of informed thought, debates and intellectual frameworks. Not a single party has so far spoken about the absence of a national counter terrorism policy. All operate on adhocracy and whims. In KPK provincial leaders failed to internalise the vision of its leader. In Karachi some political parties oppose operations because they have stakes in the existing system. Parties equating CPEC with Kalabagh Dam are overly aggressive towards the country. The federal government is Punjab centric. No party has questioned the intentions of the Sindh government in dragging its feet on the lignite coal projects. Where are cash rich indigenous projects?

In this age of riding airwaves and breaking news, the media has to shoulder the biggest responsibility. It has to keep the people informed of the multi-dimensional threats to Pakistan and not ‘Break the News’ in the literal sense. It has to discover and expose those subtle designs and recognise those aggressive pincers that threaten the country. Editorial boards have to work overtime at Threat Perception and work in the best interests of the country and its people. They also have to impose checks on programme contents that spin a yarn beyond its realities.

The urge to be in Breaking News distorts realities; it beaks the news into unrecognisable jargon.

Brigadier (Retired) Samson Simon Sharaf is a political economist and a television anchorperson.

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Filed under: Uncategorized — sharafs @ 5:58 am


The recent photo of the Prime Minister with the military on the right and civilians on left says it all. At the highest level, the civil-military establishment stands divided. Political will to back counterterrorism is lacking.

This is Pakistan’s unending phase of armed conflict against violence sans consensus; avoidable but inevitable; dangerous but deliberate. Confronting this menace are the armed forces (include civil armed forces) taking orders directly from military and civilian law enforcement agencies operating under a political control. Clearly, the two are divergent with different motivations. The people of Pakistan are at the receiving end.

As the rift widens and cracks deepen, futility of a twenty point National Action Plan as substitute for a Comprehensive National Counter Terrorism Policy is evident. The irrelevancy reflects that military and civilian establishment began on different coordinates from the go. Now, they have turned their backs to each other gazing in different directions. The political stratagems have moved beyond the edge while the military looks reluctantly towards the abyss. Both PMLN and PPP know that in international matrix, a military intervention could lead to irreversible destabilisation. Because the military is a reluctant coup maker, they are emboldened to stretch the military to a breaking point. By a strange notion, this will usher civilian supremacy. In the past Bhutto tried it at the cost of the country and his life. The present men are no Bhutto and ignore lessons of history.

Perhaps the military high command is also reflecting on the simplicity of its military plan and the change of commands in its structure. It has bitten more than it could chew. All military plans have limited objectives paving way for other instruments of policy to take effect and ensure victory. In prolonged counter terrorism, limiting incremental objectives assume more importance. The totalitarian notion that the spirit of Zarb e Azb would spread to rest of the country was a simplification. Entrenched political elites never bought the military idea and are hell-bent on undoing battle field success.

I had repeatedly warned that in the absence of a coherent policy, the entire exercise would be counterproductive. As a least measure, government and military should have deliberated in and gone for a pause to resettled IDPs. Concurrently they should have built national consensus for the next phase. But the motivations of each side were different. Military did not want to lose momentum especially when militants from FATA had melted into Karachi, South Punjab and Balochistan. PMLN and PPP were reluctant because it threatened to unsettle their priorities. This divergence provided a haven for hostile agencies.

A unified objective in Pakistan’s war against terrorism does not exist. I remained critical about the absence of a policy with political ownership. PPP and MQM feel irked about the singular focus on Karachi while no action is being taken against militant outfits in Punjab. Yet they are comfortable with the limbo. KPK adjoining FATA has to contend with millions of displaced people. KPK alleges it is not getting the required support from the centre. The process of resettlement of IDPS back to Waziristan has not begun due to absence of funding for resettlement, infrastructure development and compensations. A small group of foreign funded separatists operating in underdeveloped Balochistan has been augmented by concentration of hard-core militants from FATA making the settled Pashtun areas unstable. Proliferation of hostile intelligence agencies add a lethal amalgam, the government seems unwilling to handle. Had the government taken its responsibility to frame a policy to synergise the nation, events would have been different. In Islamabad, the immediate priority was the consolidation of rigged elections and winning strategy for 2018.

The military successes of Zarb e Azb in North Waziristan have run into multiple road blocks in settled areas. The cooperation by the people of Waziristan to voluntarily displace is leading to disillusion and despair. Due to lack of federal support and inability of the civilian administration to take over the cleared areas, this frustration could soon become a source of instability. From a high intensity and swift military operation Zarb e Azb extensions are synonymous to knee jerk actions in Karachi. The state and the media have made no efforts to delink the two. A perception is being framed that large scale military formations will soon come steaming into Karachi. This perception shifts the entire onus on the military and COAS thereby widening the civil-military gulf. Confronting terrorism and militancy in urban areas has entirely different characteristics. Large scale use of force is impossible, identification of targets that swim like fish in water difficult and civil military coordination crucial.  The reality that these operations are civilian led and use of military use is selective and precise is eclipsed.

Recent events highlight this disconnect. Zulfiqar Mirza makes a mockery of law by moving with large contingents of armed guards. Hooded squads of Sindh anti-terrorism police called Zardari Force beat journalists outside the courts. Following a boiling hot provincial apex committee meeting in Karachi, Sindh police swiftly arrested culprits of Safoora massacre purportedly belonging to a militant outfit morphing into Da’esh. To confuse matters and deepen the mystery, Rangers followed arrest of four MQM hitmen for alleged complicity in Safoora shooting. It is a very dangerous development if religious, sectarian and ethnic criminals have forged common grounds for survival.

This means that while the battle is being won on one front, the larger war has run into a barrier. The situation suits and complements hostile intelligence agencies and corrupt political elites. As long as their interests are secure, Pakistan can wait. Who cares?

On a conclusive note, the military is battle fatigued for twelve years. It is in intense combat for over a year. Combat battalions are being rotated for a third time. Military hardware is undergoing wear and tear. Replenishments are far and few. In a few months General Raheel Sharif will be into the retirement year. Then rumours to drive a wedge will be rife with names of his successor. This is the waiting game of political crocodiles.

Evidence of deliberate rigging in Punjab and Sindh the two main obstacles to counter terrorism is mounting. Implications of the verdict of Judicial Commission could swing either way. Meanwhile an incoherent WOT with spates of violence and misery would continue.

Brigadier (Retired) Samson Simon Sharaf is a political economist and a television anchorperson.

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