19 December 2014

Caught in the act

Dec 16, 2014

The demand for scrapping AFSPA is ill conceived. What is required is to ensure that human rights violations are not allowed to occur and, if they happen, they are dealt with in an exemplary manner.

The Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act (AFSPA) has become a very controversial issue. It gives special powers to the armed forces to deal with insurgency and low-intensity conflicts generated from across our national borders. Separatists and their co-travellers have been carrying out a relentless campaign against it and so have human rights activists. Politicians, with an eye on their vote banks, also toe the same line. It is unfortunate that a speeding car going past an Army checkpost had to be fired upon, resulting in the deaths of three young boys at Badgam, Jammu and Kashmir. This incident has to be viewed in the correct context. 

There had been a red alert in the state against terrorist activities during the ongoing state Assembly elections. Intelligence had been circulated that terrorists travelling in cars may carry out suicide attacks. Army checkposts had been alerted about this. The corps commander acted rightly in visiting the family of the young boys to condole. At this stage to state that action against soldiers will be taken will have an adverse effect on soldiers facing an unseen enemy round the clock, in very difficult circumstances. Such accidents take place both in war and peace.

There was a provision for martial law in the British era when the civil administration could be superseded and taken over by the military. This happened in 1857, and during the Jallianwala Bagh massacre. The last time the British imposed martial law in India was during the Hur rebellion of 1942 in Sindh. In Pakistan this provision has continued and there have been several instances of martial law. AFSPA is a substitute for martial law without undermining the authority of the civil administration. 

The chief minister of the state heads the joint command group conducting operations in areas where AFSPA operates. It has an enabling provision for the military to function in an effective manner for national security. The Army does not have the powers of search and arrest. This act gives it the authority to do so. There is no requirement for a magistrate to hand out approval for arrest and search. Without this authorisation it is well nigh impossible for the Army to conduct counter-insurgency operations. After the Jallianwala Bagh massacre, the British introduced the four principles of necessity, minimum force, impartiality and good faith to guide the actions of troops acting in aid to civil authority.

 Minimum force is related to the type of opposition being faced by the troops in this role. It is interesting that whereas Pakistan in Baluchistan and Waziristan and the US in Vietnam used artillery and air power, we in India have never used air power or artillery in dealing with insurgency, whether in the Northeast or in Kashmir. We have also been using psychological initiatives to win the hearts and minds of the people. In this we were particularly successful in bringing back the alienated insurgents of Assam to the mainstream. In the monogram for study prepared at the National War College in the US, the counter-insurgency operations conducted in Assam have been described as a success story of the century.

Such a long nightmare

Written by Praveen Swami 
December 19, 2014 

The warlord’s story goes to the heart of who the Pakistani Taliban’s leadership are.

For the most part, the language we have used to describe the massacre of 132 school children in Peshawar has consisted of cliché: the perpetrators were evil, cowardly, animals. This language of righteous rage tells us next to nothing about the perpetrators and why they acted as they did. The Taliban’s justification of the carnage may be self-serving, but it also tells us that their acts had context. It is important to understand this context, because the ideals that drove the perpetrators are inexorably shaping Pakistan’s destiny, no matter what the outcome of the war between the state and the Taliban might be.

The story dates back to the late-1970s, to when military despot Muhammad Zia-ul-Haq, flush with Saudi cash and United States arms, launched his great jihad against the Soviet Union in Afghanistan. The jihad saw the recruitment of thousands of young men from Pakistan’s northwest. The recruits were mainly young men with some elementary secular or seminary education, and ambitions far greater than the roles traditional tribal society had assigned them.

Following 9/11, the Islamic utopia these men had sought to build in Afghanistan imploded, and they returned home. In 2004, the US pushed military ruler General Pervez Musharraf into action against Arab, Chechen and Uzbek jihadists operating from Pakistan’s South Waziristan Agency, with the help of local warlords who had fled Afghanistan after 9/11. The offensive proved disastrous. Facing rebellion from within his force, Musharraf sold the US the idea that he could co-opt the jihadist leadership using his intelligence services.

In April 2004, key warlord Nek Muhammad Wazir agreed to stop support to foreign jihadists. In a video recorded in the spring of 2004, Nek Muhammad garlanded Lieutenant General Safdar Husain, head of Pakistan’s XI corps. “The most important thing”, he said, “is that we are Pakistani soldiers, too. The tribal people are Pakistan’s atomic bomb. When India attacks Pakistan, you will see the tribals defending 14,000 kilometres of the border.” Days later, though, the Shakai agreement unravelled. Nek Muhammad refused to hand over foreign jihadists. He began assassinating traditional tribal leaders who competed with him for power.

Despite billions in aid, US unable to get Pakistan to confront militants

Dec 19, 2014

Pakistani men walk past a shoe and blood inside the school, attacked by Taliban gunmen in Peshawar, Pakistan
Since 2001 the United States has tried virtually every strategy available to persuade Pakistan's army to take the threat of militancy more seriously, but 12 years and $28 billion in aid later, all the American approaches are widely viewed as having failed.

First, the Bush administration heaped praise on former Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf, agreed to reimburse the Pakistani army for anti-Taliban military operations and launched drone strikes that killed al Qaeda leaders and militants wanted by the Pakistani government.

Adopting a more confrontational stance, the Obama administration unilaterally carried out the raid that killed Osama bin Laden, vastly increased aid to Pakistan’s weak civilian institutions and, at times, cut off aid to the Pakistani military.

Yet the militants continue to operate, ever more brazenly, as illustrated by Tuesday's harrowing attack on a school in Peshawar, in which 132 students were killed by a faction of the Pakistan Taliban. And with the United States increasingly focused on other crises, Washington's options for bringing about change in an increasingly unstable Pakistan are dwindling fast.

"There is great ‘Pakistan fatigue’ in Washington," said Cameron Munter, who served as the American ambassador to Pakistan from 2010 to 2012. “Not only have the last dozen years been very difficult, but other challenges - from Syria to Ukraine to Iran, to name a few - demand our attention."

Although Tuesday’s attack sparked widespread condemnation, current and former US officials expressed cynicism that the bloodshed would cause Pakistan's military to change its view of militants.

Munter and other officials said the United States has been unable to break a powerful, army-backed narrative in Pakistan that militant attacks are the result of America’s war on terror. Foreign powers, not Pakistan, are responsible for growing militancy in Pakistan, according to the narrative. And Pakistan is not responsible for the problem and unable to stop it.

That narrative played out immediately when Pakistan’s army chief, General Raheel Sharif, flew to Afghanistan within 24 hours of the attack to meet Afghan leaders. They said they had information that the school attack was directed by militants hiding inside Afghanistan.

"We are hoping that we will see strong action from the Afghan side in the coming days," said Pakistani army spokesman Major General Asim Saleem Bajwa.

Strategic assets no longer maintainable

Written by Ayesha Siddiqa
December 19, 2014

There is a possibility that in the days to come, it could all turn into a farce in which military apologists blame politicians, politicians blame each other.

Some might have wanted to become engineers, doctors or sportspersons. Yet others would have dreamt of travelling around the globe in 80 days. But all the dreams and desires of 132 children were brutally interrupted on Tuesday in Peshawar, Pakistan when a group of seven Taliban attacked an army-run school. A nation is in mourning, but its leaders still have to answer if they are ready to fight both terrorism and the radicalism that gives birth to such violence.

For many, this is indeed Pakistan’s 9/11. Notwithstanding the Taliban’s attack on schools and both hard and soft targets in the past, the terrorists seem to have crossed a line with this attack. The prime minister called an all-party conference and the army chief took a flight to Kabul to demand the extradition of the chief of the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), Mullah Fazlullah. Interestingly, the responsibility for the attack was claimed by the wing of the TTP that has joined the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) in the recent past.
But a more important question is whether those who want to draw attention away from the Taliban will succeed in distracting the government and society at large. In a television programme after the incident, former military dictator Pervez Musharraf pointed at India as the main culprit behind the attack. Indeed, he talked about launching a counter-offensive. One of his main supporters in the media, a television anchor reputed for his close association with military intelligence agencies, suggested banning India’s overhead flights. Not surprisingly, the Lashkar-e-Toiba’s Hafiz Saeed made a similar claim. It could possibly be days before others, like the retired general Hamid Gul, also come out of the woods and begin to sermonise about the main threat being external. There may be an internal division within the armed forces regarding what is considered a bigger threat — the internal or external — but there is almost a consensus on India being the key enemy.


18 December 2014

As a lower riparian country, Delhi has often taken up the issue of launching the first unit of the run-of-river hydropower plant with Beijing, which has repeatedly assured India that no such project is on the cards

It took some 16 days of talk in Lima, Peru, for the international delegates to approve a framework for setting national pledges to be submitted to the conference in Paris next year. Environmental groups say that the deal was a bad compromise, as divisions between rich and poor countries over how to fulfil carbon-emission pledges persist. This is very ominous for the planet in 2015.

As the new year approaches, let us take a look at some other issues related to climate change and water in the subcontinent and beyond, particularly on the Tibetan plateau.

A few days agoXinhua spoke of the ‘domino effect on water supply’, after a comprehensive study into China’s glacial ice shows an average a 244 sq km of glaciers disappearing every year; the news agency added: “China’s glaciers have retreated by 18 per cent over the past half century”. The Chinese glaciologists “warn of ‘chain effects’ that could have an impact on water supplies in the country’s western regions” …and India, one should add.

The figures come from the survey of China’s glaciers conducted by the Chinese Academy of Sciences, which found that, “China had 48,571 glaciers in its western provinces, including Xinjiang, the Tibetan region as well as Qinghai, Sichuan and Gansu provinces (also part of the Tibetan plateau).” This is not encouraging news. Despite a shortage of water in the long-term, China nevertheless continues to dam rivers originating from the third pole (as Tibet is known in environmental parlance).

In November, the Indian Press reverberated with anxiety on the launching of the first unit of the run-of-river hydropower plant at Zangmu on the Yarlung Tsangpo, (which becomes the Siang and later the Brahmaputra). Xinhua announced: “Tibet’s largest hydropower station became partly operational, harnessing the rich water resources of the Yarlung Zangbo (Tsangpo) River to develop the electricity-strapped region.”


19 December 2014

Major interlocutors like the US, the EU, Russia and China have to be candidly told that India will not countenance continuing Pakistan-sponsored terrorism and will respond strongly, as it recently did

In our public discourse on terrorism from territory under Pakistan’s control, there has predictably been a tendency to hold the military establishment as being solely responsible for the rise of terrorist outfits in Pakistan, as though the country’s political establishment and parties are devoid of any responsibility for the burgeoning of radical Islamic militant groups in the country. It is no secret that the Deobandi-oriented Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam headed by Maulana Fazlur Rehman has backed the Taliban in Afghanistan and the Harkat-ul-Mujahideen in Jammu & Kashmir and the Jaish-e-Mohammed, responsible for the hijacking of IC 814 and the December 2001 attack on our Parliament.

It was when the Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam was an ally of Benazir Bhutto in 1994 that her Government’s assistance to the Taliban, organised by her Interior Minister General Naseerullah Babar, gathered momentum. The Jamaat-e-Islami, a perennial Inter-Services Intelligence favourite since the days of General Zia, backs the Hizbul Mujahideen in Jammu & Kashmir.

It is in this context that one has to objectively analyse the role of Mr Nawaz Sharif in the promotion of terrorism across Pakistan’s borders with India and Afghanistan. Moreover, one should never forget that while the Sharif family may have lived in Punjab (initially in Amritsar and thereafter in Lahore and Raiwind) their roots are really in Kashmir, as Mian Mohammad Sharif (Mr Nawaz’s father) hailed from Anantnag and his mother from Pulwama. Mr Sharif has a far more hard line position on Jammu & Kashmir than many other politicians. Despite the obvious futility of seeking international mediation and a UN role in Jammu & Kashmir, Mr Sharif is obsessed with creating conditions to keep international attention focused on Jammu & Kashmir, even if this involves promoting terrorist violence throughout India.

Search for an Ataturk

Ashraf Jehangir Kazi
19 Dec 2014

FORTUNATE is the country that has professionally ‘thinking’ generals but unfortunate is the country that has politically ‘thinking’ generals. In Pakistan, battles have largely been planned and fought by ‘unthinking’ generals, and our politics and policies have been largely shaped by politically thinking generals. The result is where we are.

Some observers might, with a bit of irony, suggest this is the ‘genius’ of Punjab at work which ‘outsiders’, including Pakistanis, cannot fathom. Non-Punjabis, without a trace of irony, might assert that however large a proportion of Pakistan the Punjab may be, it can never ever equal Pakistan; and if politics and policymaking proceed on the assumption that Pakistan is effectively Greater Punjab, that would be a blow to the possibility of developing a genuine Pakistani nationhood that no adversary of Pakistan could strike.

This is how we lost East Pakistan — which was the majority, more Pakistani, more educated and more progressive than West Pakistan, including Punjab. This is how much of Balochistan has become almost irretrievably alienated. To this wound salt is added by the portrayal of the situation in Balochistan as a case of Indian interference, and not an issue of the denial of entitlements, rights and justice to the Baloch people. This is how Fata, much of KP, interior Sindh, huge swathes of Karachi and even southern Punjab are also excluded today from the practice and working of Jinnah’s concept of Pakistan. If he had foreseen today’s Pakistan would he have sacrificed himself for a cause destined to be betrayed?

The statement that the military is the ‘only binding force’ in Pakistan has resonance domestically only in Punjab, and externally in the US. Despite all its pretended disapproval of Gen Sisi of Egypt, the US supports him and the Egyptian military as ‘the only force’ that can bind Egypt to US strategies in the region. Pakistani generals have not been an exception. US regional strategies require strategic compliance and conformity from regional military ‘binding forces’. The same, unfortunately, may be in store for Afghanistan. Those regional regimes that do not conform are targeted by US strategic planners for regime change.

In none of the minority provinces and areas of Pakistan does the idea of the military being the sole national binding force have any resonance. Moreover, as stated, in no circumstance can political sentiment in Punjab substitute for the political sentiment of Pakistan. Unless, of course, one is indifferent to the progressive erosion of the foundations of the country!

This irresponsibility defined the attitudes of mainstream politicians, bureaucrats, business elites, religious custodians, the media, and not least, the military of West Pakistan towards Jinnah’s united Pakistan. Did the tragic consequences teach us anything? The answer is provided by the fate of the Hamoodur Rahman Commission report. It is also provided by the similar fate of the Abbottabad Commission report 40 years later. Amidst all the howling of political jackals not a single sustained demand for the release of the report! This is the measure of our leaders’ sincerity.

Make in India makes sense, Dr Rajan; countries cannot be run by economic theory alone

By Sanjeev Nayyar

RBI Governor Raghuram Rajan. Image courtesy PIB

The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) Governor Raghuram Rajan recently said the following: “There is a danger when we discuss ‘Make in India’ of assuming it means a focus on manufacturing, an attempt to follow the export-led growth path that China followed. I am...cautioning against picking a particular sector such as manufacturing for encouragement, simply because it has worked well for China. India is different, and developing at a different time, and we should be agnostic about what will work.”

Excerpts from a Business Standard (BS) editorial of 15 December have this to say: “Make in India sounds too close to import substitution and old-style industrial policy for comfort. Further, it has been reported that the prime minister himself has asked secretaries to the government to appraise imports on a quarterly basis and work out how to reduce them.”

These words have raised doubts on the Prime Minister’s Make in India (MII) campaign. Using examples, this article throws light on what MII actually means.

One, according to this Mint report, India imported $31 billion worth of electronic items in 2013-14, including $10.9 billion of mobile phones. This could rise to $296 billion by 2020 – which could surpass even our oil import bill. This is simply unsustainable, unless a part of the import demand is met by domestic production.

MII means that this equipment should also be made in India. After all why, should India’s telecom backbone be made in China? “Now, it has been reported that the National Security Council (NSC) has specifically warned that imports from China, which are over half of imports in the relevant category of telecom equipment, pose significant national security hazards.”

As and when a domestic manufacturer achieves scale, it can begin to export. If Bharti Airtel had built a plant to manufacture telecom products and equipment to cater to its domestic needs, it could have sourced some of it for their Africa operations from India. Here MII combines catering to domestic and export markets.

Two, the programme of blending ethanol with fuel has failed to take off. MII means allowing oil marketing companies (OMCs) to set up 100 percent ethanol plants (these plants can make ethanol directly from cane). This way farmers can sell cane directly to the OMCs, and would be paid promptly, saving the country dollars.

India’s tech opportunity: Transforming work, empowering people

byNoshir Kaka, Anu Madgavkar, James Manyika, Jacques Bughin, and Pradeep Parameswaran
December 2014 

Executive SummaryPDF–688KB 
Full ReportPDF–4MB 

Millions of Indians hope for a better future, with well-paying jobs and a decent standard of living. To meet these aspirations, the country needs broad-based economic growth and more effective public services. Technology can play an important role in enabling the growth India needs. The spread of digital technologies, as well as advances in energy and genomics, can raise the productivity of business and agriculture, redefine how services such as healthcare and education are delivered, and contribute to higher living standards for millions of Indians by raising education levels and improving healthcare outcomes.

Empowering technologies in India

McKinsey’s Noshir Kaka and Anu Madgavkar discuss how India could transform its economy by employing 12 technologies.
A dozen empowering technologies

A new McKinsey Global Institute (MGI) report identifies a dozen technologies, ranging from the mobile Internet to cloud computing to advanced genomics, which could have a combined economic impact of $550 billion to $1 trillion a year in 2025. The selection of the 12 technologies for India was based on a similar process established by MGI’s earlier work on disruptive technologies.1 For India, we used additional criteria to identify the technologies that would have a direct impact on the country’s economic and social challenges in the coming decade. As a result, we include technologies such as electronic payments, which are well established in other parts of the world but not well developed in India. By 2025, however, electronic payments could help 300 million Indians join the country’s financial system.

We group the 12 technologies into three areas: digitizing life and work, smart physical systems, and energy technologies: 
digitizing life and work—the mobile Internet, the cloud, the automation of knowledge work, digital payments, and verifiable digital identity 
smart physical systems—the Internet of Things, intelligent transportation and distribution systems, advanced geographic information systems (GIS), and next-generation genomics 
energy—unconventional oil and gas (horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing), renewable energy, and advanced energy storage 

Each of these technologies has the potential for rapid adoption in India between now and 2025 (exhibit).


Potential adoption of 12 empowering technologies in India 

Afghan Taliban can't claim moral high ground while killing civilians at home

18 December 2014 

AGE: anti-government elements; PGF: pro-government forces. (Source.)

In reaction to the despicable killing of over 100 school children in Pakistan whose only 'crime' was attending an army school at a time when the army was battling the Pakistani Taliban (TTP), the Afghan Taliban expressed 'sorrow over the tragedy and grief for the families of the victims.' The killing of innocent civilians, it said, is against Islamic principles. The Afghan Taliban has 'always condemned the killing of innocent people and children.'

This is of course true. Afghan Taliban leader Mullah Omar has made it a frequent practice in his Eid Statements to proclaim the group does not kill civilians. But, as I have pointed out previously, the Afghan Taliban's definition of 'civilian' diverges from that accepted under international humanitarian law agreed upon by a majority of the civilized world, including Muslim states.

The Afghan Taliban continues this narrative because it needs to portray itself as an insurgency fighting foreign invaders and only really targeting those who deserve it. That the list of 'those who deserve it' is getting increasingly long is illustrated by another recent Taliban statement (by the same Zabiullah Mujahed who voiced the Taliban's rejection of what happened in Pakistan) about an 11 December 2014 suicide attack at a French cultural centre inside a school. The attack occurred during a production that was considered un-Islamic because it dealt with the trauma of – wait for it – suicide attacks:

Taking the opportunity, the Islamic Emirate warns all the (so called) media sources, and organizations working under the name of civil society, those who publish/show, organize demonstrations, meetings contrary to Islamic values, and spread anti-Islamic music, obscene acts and immorality in the community, and try to mislead the youth, that our Mujahideen will no longer tolerate this, and will uproot such activities through conducting similar actions, till the core of immorality is destroyed.

The real reasons why the Pakistani Taliban murdered more than 100 schoolchildren

December 16, 2014

Victims of the Pakistani Taliban's attack on the Army Public School and Degree College in Peshawar(Khan Raziq/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)

On Tuesday morning, Pakistani Taliban attacked the Army Public School and Degree College in Peshawar, Pakistan. At least 145 people were killed, more than 100 of whom were children. Survivors described Taliban gunmen walking from one child to the next and shooting them. While the Pakistani Taliban has targeted children in the past, and has a long record of killing civilians, this attack — by many counts, the worst in Pakistan's history — was far more extreme than anything they have done before.

It is difficult not to wonder: why? Why did the group launch this unprecedented attack, and why did it choose to murder over 100 children in a single day?

There is no single explanation. But, beyond the obvious barbarity of the perpetrators, three factors seem to have driven the act. First, there is the Taliban's own explanation, that this was revenge for the military targeting their own families — though it seems unlikely that this is the real reason. Second, and much more plausibly, the group may have wanted to show that it was still viable, despite recent heavy losses against the Pakistani military. But there is also a third and potentially crucial factor: a power struggle within the Pakistani Taliban itself.

The Pakistani Taliban says this was revenge, but there's more to it

A spokesperson for the Pakistani Taliban, which goes by the name Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan, or TTP, claimed that the operation was carried out as revenge for army operations that had targeted the families of Taliban fighters. "Because the government is targeting our families and females," he said, "we want them to feel the pain."

The Civil Transition in Afghanistan: The Metrics of Crisis?

DEC 16, 2014 

It is natural to focus on the security problems of Transition in Afghanistan, and the challenges of forming an effective government with Ashraf Ghani and Abdullah Abdullah. As the combined reporting of the World Bank, IMF, and SIGAR indicate, however, Afghanistan may face equally serious challenges in coping with cuts in military spending, aid, capital flight, and the inability of its government to be effective in raising revenues and controlling expenditures.

The Burke Chair at CSIS is issuing a new report entitledThe Civil Transition in Afghanistan: The Metrics of Crisis? That report is available on the CSIS web site athttp://csis.org/files/publication/141217_Afghan_Civil_Transition.pdf. This report focuses on the near term problems that Afghanistan faces in terms of governance, corruption, funding its budget, economic growth and development, and coping with a return to something approaching a narco-economy.

The report presents a wide range of metrics to help illustrate and bond Afghanistan’s problems. Unlike many reports on aid, it does not make assumptions about the longer term or focus on what might happen in five to 10 years if Afghanistan took decisive action to change the way in which its government functions or could ignore its internal divisions and an ongoing war.

This focus does not necessarily mean that Afghanistan cannot cope with a transition away from massive outside military spending, and rising levels of violence in the near term. The range of metrics presented in this report, however, do warn that outside civil aid is likely to play a critical role in Afghan stability through at least 2018, and that the main need for aid may be to fund government operations – including security, limit increases in poverty, and maintain stability rather than development.

Afghanistan does not need ambitious plans to create an economy in a future where its internal stresses and an ongoing war have somehow mysteriously ended. It needs a hard, pragmatic focus on the present by both its government and outside aid donors, as well as international organizations.

U.S. May Get Dragged Into Pakistan’s New War

DEC 16, 2014
The massacre Tuesday at a school in Peshawar, Pakistan, is likely to set off a new round of fighting between the country’s army and the Taliban. But the attack may also push President Barack Obama to renew the counter-terrorism partnership with Pakistan that has deteriorated since the U.S. killing of Osama bin Laden in 2011. 

The latest U.S. intelligence assessment on Tuesday, according to counter-terrorism officials in Washington, is not pretty. It predicts more Taliban attacks in response to the Pakistani military’s expected retaliation for the murder of at least 130 students at the school for the children of army officers.

A spokesman for the Pakistani Taliban, Muhammad Khorasani, said Tuesday that the attack on the school itself was in response to the campaign launched this summer by Pakistan’s military against the Taliban in the provinces that border Afghanistan. He also grimly warned that the carnage at the school was "just the trailer," implying that a cycle of massacres may just be beginning.

This expected new wave of terror comes as the U.S. is already shifting military resources from Southwest Asia to the Middle East, as the U.S. military is preparing to end the war in Afghanistan. Add to this the increased frustration from Washington with Pakistan’s military intelligence agency for its continued support for a network of former officers that help direct and coordinate activities for the Afghanistan Taliban.

Yet the new crisis in Peshawar may change that dynamic, presenting an opportunity for the U.S. to re-engage in Pakistan’s own war on terror, according to current and former U.S. officials. 

In separate visits to Washington in recent weeks, Pakistani Army chief General Raheel Sharif and Defense Minister Khawaja Asif touted their military’s recent offensives against militants in northwest Pakistan as key to their request for continued U.S. military assistance, even as Western forces withdraw from Afghanistan. On Tuesday, the spokesman for Pakistan’s military tweeted, “This ghastly act of cowardice of killing innocents clearly indicate they are not only enemies of Pak but enemies of humanity.” 

Billions of dollars in U.S. aid to Pakistan’s military since 2002 has come in the form of Coalition Support Funds, to reimburse Pakistan for aiding the fight in Afghanistan, and from fees paid in exchange for use of Pakistan’s territory to transit goods in and out of Afghanistan. But with the NATO withdrawal from Afghanistan near complete, there is no coalition to support and no need to transit goods, leaving the Pakistanis desperate to make the case for continued aid.

After Peshawar School Attack, China Pledges Deeper Anti-Terror Co-op With Pakistan

December 18, 2014.

Chief of Army Staff, General Raheel Sharif being shown different weapons and equipment recovered from terrorists during his visit in Miranshah Bazar on July 07, 2014.

Now is the time for China and Pakistan to step up joints efforts to eliminate terrorist strongholds in the region. 

On December 16, 141 people (including 132 children) were killed in a brutal attack on a school in Peshawar, Pakistan. The world reacted in horror and shock. Already, discussion is turning toward preventing future terrorist attacks – and Pakistan’s “all weather friend,” China, could contribute in a major way.

China reacted swiftly to new of the Peshawar attack. Chinese President Xi Jinping and Premier Li Keqiang both expressed their condolences to their Pakistani counterparts. In a statement, Foreign Ministry spokesperson Qin Gang said China was “deeply shocked and saddened” by the attack and condemned the attack “in the strongest terms.” He added that China “will stand firmly with the Pakistani government and people in their unremitting efforts to fight against terrorism and safeguard stability of the country and security of the people.”

In Wednesday’s press conference, Qin expanded on those points. He stressed that China and Pakistan support each other’s efforts at counter-terrorism. “Counter-terrorism and law-enforcement cooperation makes up an important part of China-Pakistan cooperation,” Qin said. “China will stand firmly behind Pakistan in its campaign against terrorism. We will further deepen our cooperation with the Pakistani side in this area.”

Both Pakistan and China have suffered major terrorist attacks this year, with the horrific attack on a military-run school in Peshawar being just the latest example of violence targeting civilians. Earlier this year, an attack on Jinnah International Airport in Karachi left 18 civilians dead. In China, meanwhile, knife-wielding assailants at a Kunming railway station killed 29 people and injured over 140 in March. In May, a car bomb attack on a market in Urumqi (the capital of Xinjiang) killed 31 and injured almost 100. With each high-profile terrorist attack, pressure has grown on both Beijing and Islamabad to do more to ensure the safety of their citizens.

Accordingly, after these attacks it’s become common for China and Pakistan pledge to increase their counter-terrorism cooperation. They did so after the Urumqi bombing and China repeated the promise this week in its response to the Peshawar tragedy, as noted above. For China, such cooperation is particularly crucial as terrorist groups targeting China, such as the Turkistan Islamic Party (TIP), are known to be based in Pakistan.

Peshawar School Tragedy: Unconscionable Brutality

December 17, 2014

The Pakistani Taliban carried out their most brutal attack against a civilian target in years. 

Today, Pakistan is a nation united in mourning after facing one of the most brutal terrorist attacks in its recent history. On Tuesday, a group of Taliban gunmen stormed a high school in Peshawar, initiating a killing spree that claimed at least 141 lives. Nearly all of the victims were students of varying ages — in addition to 132 students, nine teachers and staff members were among the victims. The attackers took no hostages and instead sought to kill indiscriminately, according to most eyewitness reports. Following a nearly nine-hour siege, Pakistani police officials were able to subdue all seven attackers, but tragedy had already unfurled.

Unsurprisingly, the attacks drew almost instant national and global condemnation. Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif traveled to Peshawar almost immediately, and called for an emergency meeting between all political parties in the city for Wednesday. Pakistan’s Chief of Army Staff Raheel Sharif, the man in charge of the military campaign against Islamic militants in the country’s tribal areas, also traveled to Peshawar. Tellingly, the two men did not travel together. Peshawar authorities declared three days of mourning in the wake of the attack. Across Pakistan, hundreds gathered for vigils from Karachi to Quetta to Islamabad. The Pakistani foreign ministry issued a statement reiterating the government’s commitment to fighting the Taliban, noting that “these terrorists are enemies of Pakistan, enemies of Islam and enemies of humanity.”

The attack temporarily put a halt to Pakistan’s domestic political turbulence. Imran Khan, the leader of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf party, called his supporters to refrain from attending a planned nationwide protest following the Peshawar attack. Khan’s planned protest was aimed at pressuring the Pakistani government to investigate allegations that Nawaz Sharif and the Pakistan Muslim League (PML-N) party won the 2013 general elections by illegitimate means.

The Taliban’s campaign against both educators and students received some prominence over a year ago, when Malala Yousafzai, the youngest ever Nobel Peace Prize Laureate, was attacked by gunmen for daring to go to school. Yousafzai, who received her Nobel Peace Prize just last week, noted that she was “heartbroken by this senseless and coldblooded act of terror.” “Innocent children in their school have no place in horror such as this,” Yousafzai remarked in a statement. “I, along with millions of others around the world, mourn these children, my brothers and sisters — but we will never be defeated.”

Global reactions have been similarly emotional. Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi called on all of India’s schools to observe two minutes of silence on Wednesday ”as a mark of solidarity.” British Prime Minister David Cameron called the attack “deeply shocking,” noting that it was “horrifying that children are being killed simply for going to school.” “A house of learning turned into a house of unspeakable horror,” said U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry. The Chinese foreign ministry issued a statement: “We are deeply shocked and saddened by the incident, and most strongly condemn on the terrorist attack.”

The Taliban and other related Islamic militant groups have long targeted government-run schools in Pakistan. Hundreds of smaller scale attacks have taken place in schools in the country’s volatile Kybher Pakhtunkhwa region. Additionally, the Taliban and other groups have targeted school buses. For the Taliban, these schools represent un-Islamic government authority. In the specific case of the Peshawar attack, another important factor was at play. The school in question lies on the edge of a military residential area and served Pakistani military families. One ostensible objective the attackers may have had was to shake Pakistani servicemen’s faith in the government’s ability to protect their children.

Macabre Irony – Peshawar massacre

17 Dec , 2014

In the wildest of macabre irony to the ‘good’ and ‘bad’ Taliban theory that Pakistan successfully sold to the US, comes the ghastliest of terrorist attack at the Army Public School, Peshawar snuffing out some 132 young lives and injuring over 200 children and staff. If Jeff M Smith writing in Washington Times of 23 April 2011 said, “Pakistan is playing a double game… The ISI supports Islamist militants…Pakistan believes it needs a pliant, anti-Indian regime in Afghanistan and – as it has for decades – Pakistan is using Islamist militants as an extension of its foreign policy”, BBC Documentary ‘Secret Pakistan’ provided further proof of Pakistan’s ISI training, advising and directing the Taliban. Nawaz Sharif may lament in Peshawar and pronounce that guilty may be punished but not without reason the editorial by Najam Sethi in Friday Times, March 16-22, 2012 (Vol XXIV, No. 65) surmised, “The ISI has walked into GHQ and seized command and control of the armed forces”.

The Pakistan army consists of 500,000 active duty troops and another 500,000 on reserve. If Pakistan truly wanted to capture the Haqqani Network they would be able to drag them out of their caves by their beards within a few days…

The obvious fact that he didn’t need to elaborate was that the military had taken control of the country called Pakistan, what with its institutionalized radicalization and continuing state policy of terrorism. That Pakistan (read the military) has been supporting Al Qaeda, Taliban, Haqqani network is well acknowledged by Western scholars as well as officials – including US-NATO officials posted in Afghanistan. As for the terrorist attack on Army Public School, Peshawar media reports that the innocent school children were lined up and shot in the head and chest – as if the Taliban wanted to prove they were as barbaric as the ISIS. But then the Pakistani army has been as barbaric, if not more, while the West and China have looked the other way, one example on the social media being:

Akin to the Taliban, Pakistan has also been playing the game of good and bad Haqqanis. Michael Hughes, Geopolitical journalist had written as far back as 06 July, 2010, “Pakistan’s army chief General Ashfaq Kayani asserted his forces were too bogged down fighting the Pakistani Taliban elsewhere in South Waziristan, Orakzai Agency and various districts across the NWFP. I contacted an Afghan intelligence analyst and he assessed General Kayani’s claim with one single word: rubbish.

The Pakistan army consists of 500,000 active duty troops and another 500,000 on reserve. If Pakistan truly wanted to capture the Haqqani Network they would be able to drag them out of their caves by their beards within a few days…..In a movement that should have floored US policymakers, Kayani was brazen enough to try and inveigle Afghanistan to strike a power-sharing arrangement with the Haqqanis. And Kayani, apparently the spokesperson for the Haqqani group, said they’d be willing to split from and denounce Al Qaeda, which is President Obama’s primary rationale for the war. However, there is a higher probability of General Kayani converting to Hinduism than there is of the Haqqani Network ever being decoupled from Al Qaeda.”

New blood-soaked benchmark

Dec 18 2014

A soldier guards a house blown up by the army in the Waziristan operation.

IT was an attack so horrifying, so shocking and numbing that the mind struggles to comprehend it. Helpless schoolchildren hunted down methodically and relentlessly by militants determined to kill as many as quickly as possible.

As a country looked on in shock yesterday, the death count seemed to increase by the minute. First a few bodies, dead schoolchildren in bloodied uniforms, then more bodies, and then more and more until the number became so large that even tracking it seemed obscene.

Peshawar has suffered before, massively. But nothing compares to the horror of what took place yesterday in Army Public School, Warsak Road. The militants found the one target in which all the fears of Pakistan could coalesce: young children in school, vulnerable, helpless and whose deaths will strike a collective psychological blow that the country will take a long time to recover from, if ever.

In the immediate aftermath of the carnage, the focus must be the grieving families of the dead, the injured survivors and the hundreds of other innocent children who witnessed scenes that will haunt them forever.

Even in a society where violence is depressingly endemic and militant attacks all too common, the sheer scale of yesterday’s attack demands an extraordinary effort by every tier of the state — and society — to help the victims in every way possible.

For the survivors, the state can help ensure the best medical treatment, for both physical and psychological wounds, and rehabilitation. All too often, after the initial shock wears off and the TV cameras move on, the level of care and attention given to survivors drops precipitously. That must not be the case this time.

Pakistan must live in PeshawarReem Wasay

December 18, 2014 

Reuters“The militants did not enter to take hostages and negotiate with power brokers; they came to strike a fatal blow to the last remaining vestiges of humanity left in Pakistan.” Picture shows women mourning the death of their 15-year-old relative Mohammed Ali Khan, 15, a student who was killed in the Taliban attack in Peshawar on December 16.

Time and again, the country has moved on and forgotten about the dead. But not this time

For the last decade or so, Pakistanis seemed to have lost the ability to be easily moved by news of tragedy and misfortune — so frequent have been the numbers of dead, injured and displaced. However, what transpired on Tuesday, December 16, in Peshawar has shaken this country more than any earthquake, attack or battle ever could. The massacre of 132 children, who must have thought they were safe in the impenetrability of their school, by Taliban militants, has left a gaping wound that continues to splutter the rancid blood of our collective failure to protect the most vulnerable among us.

Storming the Army Public School (APS) and Degree College premises in a hail of gunfire and explosives-laden suicide vests, the militants did not enter to take hostages and negotiate with power brokers and members of the government; they came to kill and strike a fatal blow to the last remaining vestiges of humanity left in this Pakistan, and they succeeded. Every passing minute, with the death toll rising and red tickers on television screens changing their statistics, left onlookers gasping for air, parents wailing for their trapped angels, newscasters fighting back tears and Special Services Group (SSG) commandos at the ready wondering how things could have gone so horribly, bloodily wrong.

Brave teachers evacuated panicked students and were pumped full of bullets and the principal was burned alive in front of the children to instil maximum terror. Dressed as paramilitary personnel, the militants duped the children to reveal who among them were from army families; they naively shot up their little hands, thinking they were going to be rescued, but were instead shot between the eyes. Others played dead and cowered under desks and behind chairs only to be dragged out and gunned down. More than a dozen explosives rang out during the eight- hour-long siege — say that to yourself again: eight hours of defenceless children ambushed without the protective cover of a mother or father’s undying love, shielding their darlings from any and all harm. There is no greater human tragedy.

Not a ‘blowback’ attack

Together we can

Written by Beena Sarwar
December 18, 2014 

But with the 2013 elections, at least Pakistan is on the right track. The biggest blow to the terrorists, besides the military operation, would be India and Pakistan uniting against them.

In an unprecedented move, students at schools across India observed a two-minute silence on December 17, in solidarity with the victims and survivors of the barbaric attack on an army-run school in Peshawar. Immensely moved, Pakistanis have responded with gratitude for this humane gesture that Prime Minister Narendra Modi had appealed for. There is also gratitude for the hashtag #IndiaWithPakistan on social media.

A Pakistani friend remarks on the “irony that our so-called arch enemy’s sympathy and voice seem more comforting in this time of need then our pious apologists”. The dominant narrative perpetuated in Pakistan traditionally posits India as the enemy. Former army chief General Pervez Musharraf is on record saying he is “proud” of the Kargil operation that he masterminded “in revenge” against India for 1971. The Peshawar attack came on December16, commemorated in Pakistan as a “black day” to mark its army’s surrender to the Indian army in Dhaka in 1971.

Musharraf is the last military dictator to have ruled Pakistan, but even after he stepped down, the military establishment continued to call the shots in Pakistan. This could change with a continuation of the democratic process that will eventually correct the imbalance. Pakistan embarked on the democratic electoral process when an elected government transferred power to the next for the first time in the country’s history.

When Benazir Bhutto was elected to power the first time in 1988, following the death of the previous military dictator General Zia-ul-Haq, she was not allowed to take oath as prime minister until she agreed to keep off three key policy areas — defence, economy and foreign affairs. Over the next decade, a constitutional amendment imposed by Zia, which allowed the president to dismiss parliament, was used to prematurely topple three elected governments — Benazir Bhutto’s, then Nawaz Sharif’s and then Benazir Bhutto’s again. When Sharif was again elected to power, Musharraf overthrew him in 1999 in what journalists like to call a “bloodless military coup” (all coups in Pakistan have been bloodless).

This terror has a name

Written by Khaled Ahmed
December 18, 2014 

The day General Sharif realises Pakistan’s internal dysfunction has been caused by its foreign policy and that only a radical change of this policy can end this dysfunction, he will succeed in ‘normalising’ the state.
On December 16, suicide bombers sent jointly by the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan and al-Qaeda killed 141 people in an Army Public School branch, 131 of them boys aged between 10 and 20. The school caters to 500 sons of army personnel. The killers were dressed in official paramilitary uniform familiar to the people of Peshawar and, according to the survivors, spoke Arabic, signalling an international dimension. But “international” here meant different things to different people. Predictably, Hafiz Saeed of the Jamaat-ud-Dawa (JuD), with a $10 million bounty on his head, declared from Lahore that, once again, “India has done it”. He is so powerful that many clerics joined him, slavishly swearing revenge on India, which had repeated the “fall of Dhaka” in Peshawar on its anniversary date of December 16.

TV channels carried the news that Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi had rung up counterpart Nawaz Sharif to condole with him and condemn the massacre. Indeed, the entire world pitched in to show solidarity with a victim state too psychologically damaged by decades of terrorism to understand what was happening. The BBC noted that Sharif, while condemning the attack, had not named the Taliban. People got on Facebook wondering if Imran Khan, whose government is ruling in Peshawar, would condemn the Taliban by name. Five hours late, Khan came out and condemned the tragic incident. When asked if he would condemn the Taliban, he said the situation was not yet clear.

It was clear enough, though. Taliban spokesman Muhammad Khorasani announced: “The Peshawar school attack was in retaliation for the ongoing Operation Zarb-e-Azb. There were six attackers. They included target-killers and suicide-attackers.”

Commentators on TV channels were too shaken to remember that they had to blame India so that Pakistanis could “stand together as a nation”. They wanted to know if the powerful people — as semi-warlords are known in Pakistan — would condemn the Taliban directly. They noted that Maulana Samiul Haq of Madrassah Haqqaniya in Nowshera, neighbouring Peshawar, had kept mum. Most Taliban leaders were graduates from his seminary, giving validity to Kabul’s charge that the savagery in the Afghan terrorist battlefield was not homegrown, but had come from Pakistan.

An opportunity to outmuscle China in oilLuke Patey

December 18, 2014 

AP“Drawing on sizeable capital from China’s policy banks is one of the biggest advantages of Chinese national oil companies abroad.” Picture shows the Kashagan offshore oilfield in western Kazakhstan.

China’s dominance over India in overseas oil has been on clear display, but there is reason to believe that the competitive landscape may be changing

The race between China and India for global oil resources was over before it started. From Central Asia to Africa, China’s large and powerful national oil companies outmuscled their smaller Indian counterparts.

But the recent plummet in international oil prices, from a peak of $115 per barrel in mid-June to below $70 in early December, presents a rare opportunity to India. If lower oil prices are sustained throughout next year, Indian national oil companies will find the cost of overseas mergers and acquisitions more affordable. They may also discover Chinese competition to be less severe. China’s oil giants have slowed down their international activity of late and become preoccupied with developments at home.


It was not long ago that China’s dominance over India in overseas oil was on clear display. Last year, in oil-rich Kazakhstan, India’s Oil and Natural Gas Corporation Videsh (OVL) was closing in on a coveted stake in the Kashagan project, which contains some of the largest oil discoveries made in the world in the past 40 years. But before it could seal the deal, China National Petroleum Corporation (CNPC) entered the scene and outbid OVL. CNPC came out in front thanks largely to billions in loans from the China Development Bank and the China Export-Import Bank.

Drawing on sizeable capital from China’s policy banks is one of the biggest advantages of Chinese national oil companies abroad. But even without Beijing’s deep pockets, China’s national oil companies have had plenty of cash to spend overseas.