Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Pakistan and GHQ's commitment to fight terrorists..

Some people express doubts about the Pakistan army's commitment to eradicating all Islamist terrorist groups. (and there can be no doubt that it IS the Pakistani army that makes such decisions in Pakistan. ..PMLN, PPP, ANP may be in "power" here or there, but security and foreign affairs are ultimately run by the army and if they are not on board, no strategy can possibly work). Others point to the thousands of soldiers killed in the line of duty and insist that the security forces are doing all they can and criticism is just "playing into the hands of our enemies".

Is there a way to tell who is right?

Suppose you have no inside information. Just from public sources, can you tell if they are doing all they can? I believe you can. And just off the top of my head, lets look at a couple of things we can use as metrics:

Monday, October 24, 2016

More "Collateral Damage" in Quetta General Durrani

At least 50 young people (mostly police recruits, a few guards) have been killed in another terrible terrorist atrocity in Quetta. A police training college was attacked (not for the first time) by terrorists on a road that has seen literally dozens of attacks and has a checkpoint every few hundred yards . The chief law enforcement officer in Balochistan (the head of the paramilitary Frontier Corps) has blamed the Lashkar e Jhangvi al Alami (the worldwide army of Jhangvi, an anti-Shia group) for this attack. This group is supposedly a splinter of the larger (and until recently, semi-legal) Lashkar e Jhangvi, who are themselves the "militant wing" (implausible deniability) of the even larger (and even more legal) ASWJ (supposedly banned, but recently invited to meet the interior minister, who reportedly assured their chief that he was "a man of Islam and therefore a supporter of Islamic parties"), and so it goes.

General Mohammed Akbar Khan

Down memory lane with the life of PA-1 MG Muhammad Akbar Khan

Major General Muhammad Akbar Khan
Hamid Hussain

Major General Muhammad Akbar Khan (1897-1993) was the senior most Muslim officer at the time of independence in 1947.  He was the son of Risaldar Major Fazal Dad Khan (1847-1943).  Fazal Dad was a Minhas Rajput from Chakwal area.  His family’s fortune was linked with Sikh durbar.  After the demise of Sikh rule and emergence of British Raj, family recovered some of the lost fortunes under British patronage.  Fazal Dad served with 12th Cavalry and after a long service granted the title of Khan Bahadur.  He was granted a large amount of land by the British and had three estates in Montgomery (Sahiwal), Chakwal and Lyallpur (Faisalabad).  He established a horse stud farm on one of his estate.  Fazal Dad had cordial relations with senior British army and civilian officers.  Commander-in-Chief Field Marshall Lord Birdwood, Archibald Wavell (later Viceroy) and Sir Bertrand Glancy (later Punjab governor) had close relationship with Fazal Dad.  Fazal Dad married four times.  Six sons of Fazal Dad Khan joined Indian army and all were polo players.  

Film: Royal Indian Army Service Corps in World War 2

Rare Footage
Hamid Hussain

This ten minutes clip of Second World War captures an important chapter of Indian army.  War stories are usually focused on combat soldiers and support services though vital usually don’t get much attention.  However, we all know that if supply corps does not send food in time, a hungry soldier cannot survive even a day or without the help of an orderly of medical corps a minor bleeding wound can end the life of a soldier. 

This clip provides a window to the role of Royal Indian Army Service Corps (RIASC) contingent in Western theatre in Second World War.  Film caught the day to day functioning of animal transport and also tradition of presentation of ‘nazar’ to King. There are three interesting people in the clip. Major Akbar Khan, Risaldar Major Muhammad Ashraf Khan and narrator Z. A. Bukhari. Z.A. Bukhari was from my hometown of Peshawar and his as well as his brother Ahmad Shah Bukhari’s role in early history of Indian broadcasting requires a separate detailed piece.

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Musharraf's Coup. October 1999

In view of increasing friction between civil and military leaders in Pakistan (again), may be a good time to reminisce about the anniversary of 1999 coup.  This piece was written in 2012.  I’m no wiser in 2016.  Enjoy.

“We expect men to be wrong about the most important changes through which they live.”     Harold Lasswel


Count Down – October 12, 1999

Hamid Hussain

"After this operation, it's going to be either a Court Martial or Martial Law!"  Assistant Chief of  Air Staff (Operations) Air Commodore Abid Rao after attending a briefing at X Corps Headquarters about Kargil operation, May 1999 (1)  

On October 12, 1999, Pakistan army moved to remove Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s government when he announced pre mature retirement of Chief of Army Staff (COAS) General Pervez Mussharraf.  Different versions of events were later provided by active participants as well as bystanders.  Later, many also gave a revisionist account of the events.  This article will review the back ground of differences between Nawaz Sharif and Mussharraf that led to fateful decisions of these two key players and events of October 12.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Review: What is Islam, by Shahab Ahmed

Shahab Ahmed tells us up front that he is not going to answer the question "what is Islam?". And of course, he does not really do so, but the title (misleadingly) suggests that he will, and in the course of the book, he comes perilously close to trying (and failing) to do so without outright saying he is going to do it. In short, Shahab himself seems confused about what he is trying to achieve here. The book is a description of some (but certainly not all) aspects of Islamic culture as it developed and expanded, especially AFTER the initial Arab phase of empire building. And it is a long argument with various seen and unseen opponents who want to define Islam as some ONE thing. In the course of this argument, Shahab wants to show that Islam was very varied, but he also wants to show that it is not infinitely varied. In the course of an overly long book, he manages to show that Islamicate societies (a term he does not really approve of) had a very wide variety of beliefs and practices, though they also remained anchored within a certain tradition and in continuous argument with particular foundational texts. All of this may be a surprise to extreme puritanical Islamists AND to more or less ignorant anti-Islamists, but should be no surprise at all to anyone else. Why wouldn't there be a lot of variety? Anyway, if you happen to spend your life arguing with people who have a very monochromatic view of Islam, then you can keep this book handy in order to prove otherwise. It is good for that.

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

A Tale of Two Professors

Tale of Two Professors
Hamid Hussain

“The tragedy is not that things are broken. The tragedy is that things are not mended again.”  Alan Paton; Cry, the Beloved Country 

Monday, July 18, 2016

The Decline (and Attempted Rise) of the Sunnis in the Middle East

Israeli scholar Martin Kramer has written an interesting essay about the decline (and attempted rise) of  the Sunni Islamic position and aspirations in the middle east (excerpts at the end of this post). The first (and longer) section of the essay is well worth reading because it (to quote comrade Hamid Dabashi) "jolts our historical imagination and suddenly places it on the right, though deeply repressed, axis". Almost for the first time in a popular Western essay (though not at all the first time in an Islamist essay), Kramer looks at the last 100 years of Middle Eastern history in a way that almost every Islamist will recognize in some form, i.e. as a story of the decline and fall of Sunni Islamic power and then of attempts to restore that power. The Ottoman Sultanate was a decrepit and declining power for centuries before it fell, but even in 1914 it was a power that could field armies that could fight (sometimes with great tenacity and surprising success) in conventional warfare against the dominant European powers of the age. This was certainly not true of any other Muslim power (or for that matter, any non-European power not named Japan) at that time and had not been true for over a hundred years. Within the Sunni Islamic universe, it was a symbol of Islamic civilizations continued presence at the table of world history.

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Mangal Pandey. Truth and Fiction

Mangal Panday – Film, Fiction & Facts
Hamid Hussain
Mangal Panday – The Rising is a big budget Indian film and good research has been done about the history of this incident. Generally, a lot of cinematic license is used in most historical films but Mangal Panday has kept core historical facts intact. As expected, a lot of additional fictional material has been added to make it interesting. Films are essentially about entertainment and not substitutes for history books. There is quite a large body of written material available on the events of 1857. Colonial literature, post independence nationalist literature and leftist writers provide different interpretations of the events of 1857 uprising. I’ll limit myself only to the historical context.

Monday, July 11, 2016

British "other ranks" in the Indian army

From Dr Hamid Hussain

July 10, 2016
A query from someone whose great grand-father served in 54th Foot as private and spent a long time in India sent me on another journey of military archeology. There is not much known about life of British Other Ranks (BORs) in India and I tried to shed some light on the subject.
Dear Sir;
 It was an interesting journey of military archeology.  It started with 54th Foot but opened another door.  I have written a lot about Raj army and done work on Indian and British officers but never thought about British Other Ranks (BORs). This was new area and I tried to incorporate this subject in the story of 54th.
 Our chap William Lewis may have seen some important events during his stay in India.  He may have been with the regiment when it was rushed to Ludhiana in 1872 during major trouble caused by kooka sect of Sikhs and may be witness to one of the last case of blowing from guns.  He may have also seen the terrible deaths in the regiment from cholera epidemics.  Most importantly, he may be participant in the last parade of the regiment as 54th probably in Cherat when it said goodbye to its old colors in 1881 when 54th Foot was linked with 39th Foot to become Dorsetshire Regiment.  I hope the following piece will give some satisfaction to your friend with family connection to 54th Foot.
 Warm Regards,
The Flamers – 54th Regiment of Foot
Hamid Hussain