Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Bhutto Hereticizes the Ahmedis

I saw this facebook comment from Ammar Qureshi, referring to the days leading up to the 2nd amendment to the Pakistani constitution (which declared Ahmedis to be non-Muslims).

The question was, did Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto, the prime minister of Pakistan and a vaguely leftist politician, but also a Paknationalist who dreamed of leading the Ummah, put this issue to the National Assembly because he wanted/intended this amendment to be passed (for political gain? for foreign policy objectives? to make himself Salahuddin?)?
 OR did he hope to defuse the issue but ended up having to get it passed against his own inclinations because of public pressure on this issue? (there was a nationwide agitation launched by Islamist parties on this issue, using Ahmedis as a wedge issue to regain their position in Pakistani politics).

I thought this comment should be preserved in a blog post, and other people can add their observations and opinions if they wish.

"My father as SSP Sargodha and later as DIG Quetta attended many law and order related meetings presided by Bhutto when anti-Ahmedi agitation was at its peak. He also accompanied Mirza Nasir to National Assembly as a security incharge for his presentation to the assembly. He attended meetings in which he remembered that Bhutto was not intially interested in declaring them non-Muslims and challenged Kausar Niazi and other members of PPP. However, Niazi told him that the foreign Muslims countries do not consider them Muslims so we have to take a decision as the agitation in streets had become a big issue for his government. ZAB was advised by his party members that he should take the matter to assembly in order to relieve the pressure on the streets. His party members in the meeting also flattered him that any decision he will take in this regard would be acceptable to the people. Bhutto since he enjoyed majority in the assembly thought that he would be able to get a grip on the issue to his liking if he takes the matter to National Assembly. However, his stength in the assembly became a big liability for him. Pressure on the streets subsided after the matter was taken to Assembly. However, now the pressure was on MNAs etc to declare them non-muslims. Initially it was assumed that PPP has majority in assembly so they can take any decision which ZAB likes. However, when MNAs came under pressure from their constituency on this subject, they told ZAB that they will become unpopular if they go against popular mood. Despite majority, Bhutto had to bow before the public pressure exerted on MNAs and declared Ahmedis non-Muslims as he realised that he will lose popularity due to this issue. "

.. my father attended the in-camera briefing in which Mirza Nasir explained his religion to the Assembly members. In fact there was no one sitting in the visitors gallery except my father and his team of police officials meant for security of Mirza Nasir. Mirza Nasir made presentation to the assembly and in his address explained the main tenets of his religion. However, the problem arose in the Q & A session. What proved to be the last question was asked by Kausar Niazi. He asked him as to what is the position of the Qadianis regarding those people who did not believe in the Qadiani's belief regarding final prophet. Instead of being diplomatic to save his community, Mirza Nasir was very blunt and said that he considers them outside the pale of religion but consider them part of Millat ( community). All hell broke lose when he said this members of the assembly stood up and shouted Kafir Kafir in the Assembly. My father had to jump to the stage with his police escort to save Mirza Nasir- otherwise he would have been lynched by MNAs there in the assembly My father encircled Mirza Nasir and protected him for 20 minutes. He waited for 20 minutes but the uproar in the assembly did not die down so he sent a messenger to Kausar Niazi and asked him as to how long should he wait for the uproar to die down so that Mirza Nasir can resume his speech. Kausar Niazi said that there is no need to wait and he could take him. My father took him to a safe place and spent the whole day in that rest house with Mirza Nasir and at night took him in the car through unknown roads to Rabwah as there were reports coming on wireless that on all known routes to Rabwah there were security threats. On the way back, my father spoke with Mirza Nasir and told him that he should have been diplomatic and tried to save his community. However, Mirza Nasir was under the delusion that Ahmedis had voted for PPP and Bhutto had given him the assurance that he will go through the motions but not declare them non-Muslims. My father found Mirza Nasir's reply quite strange if not delusional given what had happened few hours before and how could be sure that his community would not be declared non-Muslims. Even if ZAB had promised him something, he should have known that ZAB is a populist politician and will be guided, like any leader in a democracy, by the popular mood. When my father dropped Mirza Nasir safely at his Rabwah residence, he wrote in the log book that police gave him to sign- that SSP Police saved his life twice in one day- once in the National Assembly when he would have been lynched by the MNAs and second time when he took him through unknown route to Rabwah.

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Sahibzada Yaqub Khan

The following are three notes about Major General Sahibzada Yaqub Khan, who passed away January 25th after a long and very eventful life. First and foremost is an article about him that was written a few years ago by Dr Hamid Hussain, a well known, extremely erudite and highly respected chronicler of the British Indian army and its successor armies. The second is from Major Aghan Humayun Amin whose knowledge of military history in general and the history of the Pakistani army in particular, is second to none, and who is not shy of making his opinion known in sometimes salty and direct language. The last one is from Abbas Raza, who runs the famous and who has written a very personal obituary about a man he clearly greatly admires.

Before we get to any of these notes, let me put out there some questions of my own. Anyone who has answers to these, please let us know in the comments section; you will do a service to history :)

My questions are about his actions in March 1971. Unfortunately now that he has passed away without giving his own account of those days, we need someone else to step in with the details.

Sahibzada Yaqub Khan was the martial law administrator in East Pakistan as well as commander Eastern Command. His command had already prepared contingency plans for military action as early as November or December 1971 (“operation Blitz”). In February 1971 Admiral SM Ahsan (Governor East Pakistan) took a stand against the Yahya Khan regime's actions (Sheikh Mujib had just won a majority in the National assembly, but his becoming Prime Minister was forestalled by Yahya's decision to delay the national assembly session using various excuses) and Ahsan objected to this policy, then resigned and left Dhaka (in early March). All this is well documented in official records and personal accounts. Later on it became general knowledge that General Yaqub had been similarly courageous and far-sighted and had resigned rather than carry out the poliicy being sent down by GHQ. Once this was mentioned in one or two books, it was re-quoted in other books and by now it is "common knowledge". But if you look closer, matters are a bit more muddled. It is not clear at what stage  and to what extent he made his opposition known, and no resignation is clearly mentioned. All we know is that he left Dhaka around 5-7 March (as far as I know, no one claims he had resigned before he left Dhaka) and went to Karachi; what happened when he got there? I have heard from junior officers (obviously not direct participants in high level meetings) that Yahya Khan was very angry with Yaqub for "having left his post without permission" and there are claims that General Yaqub was in danger of being court-martialed for desertion. According to Major Amin, he was questioned in the transit camp in Karachi and was then demoted to major General. Where was he posted then? Had he resigned? or was he forcibly retired? A formal inquiry was supposedly held against him for leaving his post, but its contents have never been revealed either (and may no longer be traceable). I am sure that as a highly intelligent person, he very likely opposed the army action being contemplated then by the high command, but the point is, the details of his opposition and actions remain unknown.

Friday, January 22, 2016

More "collateral damage" in Bacha Khan University

Taliban terrorists attacked Bacha Khan university in Charsadda in Northwest Pakistan 2 days ago and killed at least 22 students and faculty. The same group that claimed responsibility for a horrendous school massacre in December 2014 has claimed responsibility for this one.  The attack should not come as too big a surprise, since Umar Mansoor, the "Khalifa" of the Taliban group that claimed the first attack had vowed after that attack to attack more schools and universities. You can see his statement in the video below.

After the last attack, the Pakistani army claimed it had killed those involved in planning and facilitating the attack and stopped talking about Umar Mansoor until he showed up a few months later to claim some new attack. Even then, he would be in the news for a day or two and then disappear from the radar. He is now back in the news. In a few days, he will again disappear from it.
So it goes.

Meanwhile, Pakistan's incredibly efficient and competent "Inter-Services Public Relations" (ISPR) department (headed by a three star general, probably the only military PR department in the world, perhaps the only one in history, to be led by a three star general; we may not produce Guderians and Rommels, but we do produce Bajwas, Mashallah) was on air within minutes to make sure we all understood how:
A. The army had reacted extremely competently to the attack and the attackers had been killed in short order (this claim has some credibility; our mid-level officers and soldiers are indeed competent, brave and aggressive and deserve some credit. They are certainly more competent than their Indian counterparts and in Pakistan, that may be all that matters. The university's security staff and the police may or may not deserve some credit as well, but we will likely never know, since Police-ISPR and Chowkidar-ISPR are not as well funded as the army's ISPR).

B. The attackers came from Afghanistan and may have had foreign backing (hint hint cough RAW cough cough), so dear contrymen, we are off the hook. WE didnt do it and neither did OUR proxies.

C. The army chief is flying around as we speak, raising morale, calling the Afghan president for a chat and generally doing stuff (and need we say, the civilians have no clue).

But what this ISPR effort (and the concurrent appearance of multiple military proxies on TV channels, all claiming that India was behind this attack) really tells us is that the game remains the same. Even as we were being told that we are the victims of cross-border terrorism and that this was intolerable and no state could allow its neighbors to harbor terrorists who come across the border and kill innocents, OUR terrorists (the good Taliban) proudly claimed responsibility for killing another group of innocent civilians in Kabul. And of course, this comes just weeks after another party of "good terrorists" had attacked an Indian airbase in Pathankot, and of course we need not go back all the way to another group of "good terrorists" who shot up civilians in Mumbai train stations and hotels several years ago.
And so it goes.

General Asad Durrani, ex-chief of the ISI and proud "intellectual soldier" said it best; the deaths of hundreds of innocent students in Pakistan are the collateral damage of our successful strategy of "winning" in Afghanistan. Great nations have to be willing to make small sacrifices. And what are a few lies between friends?

Watch at 9 minute mark onwards. Please do. You will not regret it.

 What more can one say?
There are, literally, no words.

But the people are beginning to lose their patience.

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Pakistan and India 2016. To talk or not to talk?

Terrorists attacked an Indian Air Force base in Pathankot in a New Year strike that threatens to derail yet another attempt (this time on Prime Minister Modi’s initiative) at improving relations.

Some of the terrorists' fellow operatives in Pakistan have been identified in the media (as expected, they are university graduates unhappy at the Picketty-inequality they see around them), take a look:
Embedded image permalinkEmbedded image permalink
Embedded image permalink

Myra Macdonald has summed up the strategic situation around this attack very well in this excellent piece and it should be read in its entirety as background for this post. As the piece makes clear, the situation is not too optimistic and it may well be that it will get worse. On the other hand, Pakistan has not gone into its habitual denial mode and may even take some action against some of the terrorist networks involved. But some action may not be the same as enough action and enough action may not even be possible for the current regime in Pakistan. The question then arises, why should India bother to continue any talks with Pakistan? Since I remain in favor of such talks (albeit at mid-level and with clear and specific aims), I get a lot of heat on social media from Indians (as well as some Pakistanis) on this topic. I will try to explain some of my reasoning by trying to re-enact the sequence in which a pro-talks position can seem reasonable (at least for now), and as usual, I will have to start quite far back:

Sunday, December 20, 2015

Modeling ISIS chances in your country..

This is just a random thought. I just wondered if more capable people may comment on this:

Can we construct a simple model using only 2 variables (yes, many other variable are relevant; the whole point is, can we still make a good guess based on just these two):

1. Strength of affiliation of Muslim population with Sunni classcial shariah (determined by polling results?)
2. Strength of state security institutions (determines by ??)

This model to predict whether a serious ISIS threat is coming to country X in the near future.

e.g. Malaysian Muslims are very strongly in favor of classical Sunni Shariah. But Malaysia is also a strong state, with effective institutions of law enforcement, intelligence, internal security, what have you. So, maybe not a serious ISIS threat. In the short term.

Azeri Muslims do not have a very strong Shariahist affiliation. Also pretty strong state security institutions. So low threat.

Pakistan has strong shariah affiliation in the population, and areas where the state is very weak (and security institutions are compromised by infiltrators?), so a serious threat.

Bangladesh has moderately strong shariah affiliation, moderately weak security institutions. High risk or moderate risk?

Iran has no Sunnis to speak of, and strong institutions. So very low risk..

Egypt has strong shariah affiliation, and areas where the state is weak, so high risk?

Saudi Arabia has VERY strong shariah affiliation, but also strong security institutions. So risk is still lower than Egypt?

And so on.

Are there some other "two variable models" that do better?

Just a random thought (and yes, I put no numbers out there, so hardly a mathematical model. But can it be one??)

Saturday, December 19, 2015

Roger Scruton on the Postmodern Turn

Even if we do not have a very deep connection with Scruton's own loyalties and ideals, this essay has some excellent insights. Excerpts:
"..And reflecting on this I noticed certain peculiar and recurring features of all the literature that I have mentioned. First it is literature directed at an enemy. All of it is devoted to describing the ruses and machinations that maintain the existing order in being, and also to describing that order as oppressive, machine-like, and in some deep sense alien. Secondly, the nonsense, although it cannot be deciphered intellectually, in terms of the true and the false or the valid and the invalid, can be easily deciphered politically. It is directed nonsense, and it is directed at the enemy. It is not just the existence of the enemy that is under attack. The assault is aimed primarily at the language through which the enemy lays claim to the world, the language that we know as rational argument and the pursuit of truth. 'The love of truth,' declared Jacques Lacan, 'is the love of this weakness whose veil we have lifted; it is the love of what truth hides, which is called castration.'[6] The love of truth, therefore, has no independent validity, being merely a disguise worn by the weaker party. There is no real commodity at issue save power: the enemy shoots out words, and so do we. And victory is brought by the magic wand, the square root of minus one which, waved in the face of the enemy, reveals that he has no balls.

Friday, December 18, 2015

Saudi TV Host and Islamic Militant

Watch this and note that the Saudi host has no logical argument against the articulate Jihadi sitting in front of him. Once you accept the basic Wahabi ideology (which is really just classical Sunni Islam taken to its logical conclusions without compromise of any sort), it is very hard to see why the militant is wrong and the host is right.

Indian Islamist Zakir Naik is by no means unique in thinking grave worship is wrong. You do not have to be a wahabi to think that. But they do take it to its logical conclusion.
Logic is the enemy. Seriously.

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

A Story from 1971

The following story was narrated by a dear friend and he didnt want to use the captain's name. I felt it should be preserved, even if without names. So here is my friend's verbatim account, with names and punjabi curses redacted:

I met a retired army officer (let's call him captain X) while stationed in a small town in Punjab in the 1990s. People said he had been traumatized by 1971 and it had changed his life, but he didnt like to talk about it. As we became better acquainted, I asked him about that period. At first he wouldn't talk about it, but one day after chatting about many things, he agreed to tell me his story:

The retired captain was a young army officer in early 1971 when he was informed that he was being posted to East Pakistan. His father was a retired (senior) army officer and a coursemate of General Z, who was a two-star general in Dhaka. He called General Z and mentioned that his son was coming over and to "take care of him". General Z said "I will do more than that for you old friend, I will put him on my staff, he will be totally safe".

Captain X arrived and joined Generaz Zs staff in Dhaka. His main job was to manage General Z's various appointments and to arrange an endless series of lunches and dinners for the senior officers at Dhaka garrison. In the course of these duties, he became very familiar with the catering staff at Dhaka Intercontinental hotel. Life was easy and pleasant until December 1971, when bombing began in earnest and the war finally reached Dhaka. On the 16th of December, Eastern command surrendered to the Indian army and like everyone else in the Pakistani army, young captain X was depressed, sad and angry; but like everyone else, he gave up his side arm and became a POW. Initially the Indians were very disciplined and well behaved and the young officers were simply put under guard in their own officers mess. The General meanwhile had shifted to the Intercontinental hotel.

1971: From East Pakistan to Bangladesh

This excellent article was written in 2002 by the redoubtable Dr Hamid Hussain. Still relevant.

Demons of December —
Road from East Pakistan to Bangladesh

Columnist Hamid Hussain makes an excellent analysis of events leading to 1971.


Great blunders are often made, like large ropes, of a multitude of fibres. 
Victor Hugo’s Les Miserable

December is the anniversary month of the independence of Bangladesh and break up of Pakistan. The memories of that critical period of the history of the two countries are very painful for everyone who was affected in one way or the other. There has been very little attempt to dispassionately and critically analyze various aspects of that period. Most of the writings have been limited to accusations and counter-accusations and mud slinging. In the absence of a serious government or academic inquiry, most of the facts have been clouded in only opinionated rhetoric. Some have picked up on one person and blamed him for the whole disaster. Others have tried to defend their favourite and passed the buck to someone else. Various individuals have played an important role during that critical time period and everybody had their share in the outcome. Most of the discussion has been limited to the last act of the play, which was played in 1971, ignoring the whole historical context. At the end stage of a crisis when the powerful currents of history are in full swing, as one commentator has correctly pointed that an individual cannot alter the movement of historical forces, which are far stronger than any individual actor.1

Peshawar: Massacre of the Innocents.

This post was originally posted last year the day after the massacre. What parts are now irrelevant and what remain unchanged? judge for yourself.

 ہے زلزلہ زمیں کو گہن میں ہے آفتاب / بارش ہے خون کی چشم فلک اشکبار ہے 
 ہے عنقریب پھونکے سرافیل صور کو / بس حکم کبریا کا فقط انتظار ہے

The Earth is shaking, the sun eclipsed, the sky is raining blood
The time is nigh when Israfeel will blow his trumpet (to end the world). 
All that is awaited is a signal from God... (Mir Anis)

I saw a pair of big black boots coming towards me, this guy was probably hunting for students hiding beneath the benches.
My body was shivering. I saw death so close and I will never forget the black boots approaching me – I felt as though it was death that was approaching me.
I folded my tie and pushed it into my mouth so that I wouldn’t scream. The man with big boots kept on looking for students and pumping bullets into their bodies. I lay as still as I could and closed my eyes, waiting to get shot again.
When I crawled to the next room, it was horrible. I saw the dead body of our office assistant on fire.
She was sitting on the chair with blood dripping from her body as she burned.
(a surviving student's account)