7 May 2014

Military Assault on Pakistan Media

By Karamatullah K Ghori

Published: 07th May 2014 


The more things seemingly change in Pakistan the more they remain the same. Anyone doubting the veracity of this dictum need only look at the unfolding saga of the attempted murder of ace television anchor Hamid Mir on April 19, and the train of events since been triggered in its wake.

Pakistan’s chequered history has long been held hostage by its “deep state”, comprising a deep-seated oligarchy of feudal lords, generals and power-hungry bureaucrats. Under the frequent military rule—which spans, to date, half of its sovereign life—the “deep state” acted up front with impunity and without any accountability. It laid down ground rules that had to be obeyed in totality without question or demur.

Even when they weren’t stalking the land, up front, as rulers and overlords, the power brokers of the deep state made sure that the lines drawn by them—the so-called “red lines”—weren’t crossed, either by the civilian rulers or by those hanging on to their coat-tails. Anyone with the temerity to cross them did so at their own peril and perished in the process.

Who could have known this cardinal rule of political life in Pakistan better than incumbent prime minister Nawaz Sharif? He made the error of challenging the deep state and its pampered, puffed-up, denizens in his two previous stints in power and lost on both occasions. His nemeses in the deep state may have thought he’d learned his lesson and wouldn’t dare disturb the unwritten equation of power-peddling in his third crack at the rampart. But Nawaz apparently didn’t take any heed from his two previous Waterloos, a capital crime in the eyes of those ruling the roost in Pakistan.

It isn’t Nawaz alone who miscalculated; many others did, too, including pundits following the graph of Pakistani politics and the realm’s power distribution. They thought ground realities had changed, drastically perhaps, in the years since Nawaz was booted out of power by the last Bonaparte, General Pervez Musharraf, at the cusp of the century. Pundits and politicians, alike, overestimated the power of the news media which has come into its elements in the past one decade and thought it had become a power to contend with and also challenge the high and the mighty at their game.

Battles for Zoji-La and Namka Chhu

Issue Net Edition | Date : 05 May , 2014

A non-combatant who witnessed and filmed the first flight to Leh & Battles For Zoji-La and Namka Chhu.

“…the fall of Leh will be a strategic blow to India. It has to be saved at all cost….. I will be on that flight in your cock-pit. So let’s go.” Major General K S Thimayya, DSO, 23 May, 1948.

“An eye witness to two stunning Himalayan Battles fought at either end of the range… had savored the joy of victory at Zoji La ……. And the sadness of withdrawal at Se La, from poor preparedness …” W M (Bill) Aitken, 2009.

“ … very special thanks are due to Serbjeet Singh for his kind permission to reproduce the spectacular panorama of the Namka Chhu Valley and Thagla ridge which he was still painting, perched on a hill over-looking the Battle-field, when the Chinese launched their attack on 20 October, 1962.” Major General D K Palit, Vr C, 1991. 

It was in 1978, when waiting to catch the attention of the Director General Military Operations in his office, that I noticed a card-board object lying on a table by the window. On a closer look subsequently, that cratered card-board was in fact a paper-mache, three dimensional model of the Namka Chhu Valley. It was a stunning replica of the terrain over which 7 Infantry Brigade had sited its defenses and engaged the PLA troops in October 1962. The master crafts man was, Serbjeet Singh!

I had known the name but not the Man, leave alone his stupendous deeds and fame. A graduate in History (First Division) from Forman College, Lahore but his life’s calling lay elsewhere; the Himalayas were his load-stone, not just their physical attraction but rather the philosophical introspection they inspire among human beings at different levels and how they shape the lives and cultures of those who dwell in and around them. Above all, Serbjeet Singh (SS) perhaps even understood the geo-strategic significance of the Himalayas as India’s Northern frontier. For, how else can one explain the presence of a twenty four year old film-maker-cum-artist (Charcoal, water colour and Oils), participating of his free volition in the First Flight to Leh (24 May, 1948), and witness the Battles at Zoji La (01 November, 1948), watch the history-making exploits of the Stuart Tanks of 7 Cavalry beyond Zoji La and all other engagements culminating with the capture of Kargil, on 23 November, 1948!! And all of it filmed, sketched, painted and recorded in text too, in his personal diaries.

From times immemorial but especially beginning with Napoleon’s era, professional artists have been commissioned to paint battles and in particular scenes related to acts of valour (Victoria Cross) which are honored and prized to this day. All such art was a re-creation removed in time and space, even by Continents, but based on recorded history and supplemented at times by interviews with eye witnesses. But here was SS who was impelled solely by the inner urgings and the Faith of an artist (Dharma), not the money motive and certainly not ego. Perhaps SS may have assumed that his actions symbolized the “shoulder-to-shoulder” presence of the entire Nation with the front-line soldier? And in the same vane I salute SS, as the expression of gratitude to him on behalf of India’s Armed Forces as a whole, for recording on Film and through paintings the History of war in J&K in 1948-49.

The history of my narrative (in essence a compilation of nuggets of Military History), had its beginnings on the lawns of the Civil Lines Club, Jullander, on a balmy winters evening in February, 1948. SS was screening his 16 mm film on “Life In The Himalayas”, especially for Dr Gopi Chand Bhargava, the Chief Minister of the then Punjab State. Within minutes of commencement, “in strode a tall man who was received by the Chief Minister. That gentleman was Major General K S Thimayya, DSO, GOC Jullander Area.”* Evidently the General was so impressed by the film that he decided to encourage SS to document the combat actions of India’s fledgling Army in J&K, with the offer to SS and his younger brother thus, “If you boys are prepared to make a film on the war in Kashmir, I will send a signal to the GOC-in-C Western Command to help you. Come to my office tomorrow, in the Cantonment.” @

Uncertain future for India's security structure, says ex-DGMO

05 May 2014

"Indigenisation of weapons will not happen unless there are suitable economic measures," said Lt-Gen V R Raghavan (retd), formerly Director-General of the Indian Army.

Participating in an interaction on "Agenda for India-2014: Strategic aspirations and security preparations" at ORF-Chennai on March 23, Gen Raghavan expressed a pessimistic view regarding a post-poll government bringing about changes in the army. He said that not much has changed over the past 15 years and a lot of opportunities were lost during the last ten years of the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) Government of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. 

Pointing out that there was mismanagement of the national security structure, Gen Raghavan was vociferous that Defence Minister A K Antony did not live up to the demands and expectations. He added that not much of a change would come about with a new government at the Centre, and hoped that the parliamentary elections would usher in a strong government with a comfortable parliamentary arithmetic would emerge.

Gen Raghavan said that modernisation of the military does not essentially mean using modern weapons. Instead, it involved modern thinking, and breaking away from a system to which the bureaucrats are locked into, thus resisting change. He said the nation thus may not have the capacity to handle a war. 

Gen Raghavan said that future wars would not be fought in the way it was fought earlier. Hence, developing modern ammunitions and tanks may end up being pointless, he said. With more modern weapons, there would also be more scandals in the country, he cautioned. 

On the strategic front, Gen Raghavan said that even if India does go to war with China, it would be 'left high and dry' even by our closest ally Russia. India has only two things left in this regard, to avert a possible war situation or yield to the superiority of China. 

Energy pool and 'growth revolution'

Expressing, at the outset, an uncertain future for India's security structure in 2014, the former DGMO said it would be a foolhardy exercise to speculate on the same. He gave a global perspective of the security scenario and where India stands in it. He touched upon various global scenarios and detailed the various aspects where India is dependent on other countries. 

The Oman Gas Pipeline: India’s Underwater Energy Supply Chain

5 May 2014
Vijay Sakhuja
Director (Research), Indian Council of World Affairs (ICWA), New Delhi

Energy hungry India has invested enormous political and diplomatic capital in gas pipelines such as the Iran-Pakistan-India IPI and the Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India (TAPI) pipelines, from Iran and Turkmenistan. However, these projects have been mired in problems of insecurity and cost. Plans to build the IPI have been shelved and the TAPI is still on the drawing board. Similarly, in 2003, a pipeline project to transport gas from Iran to India was explored but did not fructify due to high construction and transportation costs. The focus has shifted to the Oman-India Pipeline (OIP) which would run below the sea across the Arabian Sea. Iran is now being included in the pipeline network and there are plans to build an energy corridor to link Turkmenistan. The underwater supply route is expected to eliminate potential vulnerabilities arising from attacks or hijacking of pipelines by subversive elements in Pakistan and Afghanistan, and to ensure uninterrupted supply of gas to India.

The OIP project was first mooted in 1999. The two sides signed an agreement for the supply of 56.6 million cubic meters (MCM) of natural gas through the 1,130 kilometer undersea pipeline across the Arabian Sea to be built at a cost of $5 billion. The seabed survey had revealed that the initial route of the pipeline would be via complex and rugged seabed terrain and that there were ‘faulted up thrusts’ enroute which would pose difficulties in the smooth and level laying of the pipeline. A new route was explored which was marginally shorter, but the technological capacity – including the lack of ships to lay pipes at 3500 meter depths, and pipeline repair systems – for deep sea pipe laying was unavailable then.

Siachen was accepted as Indian Territory in 1949!

Issue Net Edition | Date : 30 Apr , 2014

The Boss of Pakistan says: “It’s time to resolve the Siachen issue”, but what General Kayani forgets is that the Siachen issue was ‘solved’ long ago, in fact, in July 1949.

I reproduced here an article that I published 7 years ago on the subject.

…the resolution of August 1948 “had conceded the legality of Kashmir’s accession to India and as such no man’s land, if any, should be controlled by India during the period of ceasefire and truce. This meant that the onus of proof to convince the commission of any factual position, on the date of ceasefire, in any disputed territory, rested with Pakistan.

Where wild roses bloom

Once upon a time, a small Yarkandi village stood guarding the entrance of a mighty glacier of the Karakoram range. It was a meeting place for Balti traders to barter their goods with Central Asian merchants.

One day the Yarkandis decided to visit their southern neighbours; they descended from the glacier, but before returning north, they could not resist taking away a beautiful Balti girl. The offense could not remain unpunished; the Yarkandi village had to pay for its crime.

The Baltis contacted a local cleric, who gave them a taweez (amulet) to be placed on summit of the Bilafond-la pass. The villagers were told to strictly follow the priest’s instructions and come back via Nubra valley. However, the Baltis performed only the first part of the ritual. After leaving the taweez on the pass, they did not use the Nubra track to return. Legend says that a terrible storm destroyed the Yarkandi village; only a few stones and wild roses remained.

The priest later explained why the roses did not disappear; his instructions had not been fully followed. Result: Wild roses could still grow in the area. This glacier is known as the Siachen (‘Sia’ is rose, ‘chen’ is place)-the place where roses bloom. This is one of the many myths around the area. But there are also political myths anchored to the 72 km long glacier.

One such legend is that Pakistani troops are occupying the glacier. If you regularly read the Pakistani press, you are informed that Islamabad is ready to “withdraw its troops from the glacier” if New Delhi accepts to reciprocate. According to Islamabad, “demilitarisation” is the solution. General Pervez Musharraf has even declared that he finds the issue “actually troublesome for both sides and it is an unnecessary irritant which can be resolved”. But the point is that Pakistan does not occupy the glacier and never did (though it did try in 1983-84). Later in 1984, India took full control of the area as well as most of the peaks of the Saltoro range.

Violence in Assam Has Pan-India Implications

The recent violence in Assam’s Bodoland has implications for all of India.
May 06, 2014

Assam’s fragile peace could be unraveling as its ethnic fault lines resurfaced again last week, claiming over thirty lives within the Muslim community. According to unconfirmed reports, over fifty people are still missing. The attack came just a week after parliamentary elections were held in the region, on April 24. The violence was attributed to the large-scale polarization of voters along ethnic and religious lines .

The incident took place in Bodoland, a northern area of Assam where the Bodo tribes lives. The Bodo are an indigenous people and one of the oldest tribes within the state. Over the years, the area also came to be occupied by non-Bodo communities from different parts of the country and even Bangladesh. Many Bangladeshis immigrated there both before and after the partition in 1947.

Eventually, the demographic marginalization of Bodos led to rebellion and violence against non-Bodo settlers and the demand for a separate state in the 1980s and 1990s. The insurgency under the aegis of the Bodo Liberation Tigers (BLT) culminated in the Bodo accord in 2003 that gave the indigenous ethnic group the Bodo Territorial Council (BTC) — an autonomous political body comprising four districts,where they can exercise exclusive control, thereby denying other communities any stake in the governance of Bodoland.

This led to resentment among non-Bodo groups. The Bodo constitute only 26 percent of the population of the area but exercise full political control. A majority of settlers in the Bodoland are Muslims but they are not illegal migrants; they have settled in the area over many decades and have become part of the area. The BTC has recognized the political aspirations of the indigenous tribe while ignoring the interests of the non-tribal population who comprise 74 percent of the population.

Pacing India-China Relations

Paper No. 5696 Dated 05-May-2014

By Bhaskar Roy

Howsoever little, the forward movement on the border issue in the over all India-China relations may be appreciated.

The recent visit of Gen. Qi Jianguo Deputy Chief of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) to India (Apr 22-24), an Indian naval ship taking part in the PLA navy’s fleet review in Qingdao, Joint Working Group (JWG) bilateral meeting in Beijing, all add to positives in this relationship. Both sides have agreed to enhance military-to-military relationship to forge closer ties, and expand cooperation in various fields. This has particular relevance to the border issue especially transgressions along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) by troops of the other side.

Last year’s PLA’s incursion into the Indian side of the LAC in Depsang in the western sector, (pitching tents for three weeks) could have ruined an otherwise painfully and patiently constructed understanding between the two sides. At that point Chinese Premier Li Keqiang’s maiden visit to India was also threatened. The matter was resolved at the political level, with India seeming to concede more. Anyway the situation was saved. Under the new border defence agreement more mechanisms are being put in place to avoid Depsang like situations in the future.

Chinese President Xi Jinping is scheduled to visit India in the second half of the year, probably in September or October. By that time a new government would be in position in New Delhi. With change of governments in India, foreign policy does not undergo radical changes. In the last five years, however, there have been certain positions in the Indian foreign policy that demonstrated “obsequiousness” to the nation’s detriment.

Premier Li Keqiang’s visit last year did not yield much results. Of course, it was an exploratory visit to South Asia. In India, Li explored opportunities for Chinese business. From India Li went to Pakistan where he reassured Islamabad of China’s commitment and “all weather” friendship, underlining Beijing’s steadfast support to Islamabad’s defence and nuclear priorities.

President Xi Jinping will be coming to India in a somewhat different set of circumstances. Internal challenges in China are rising, and the problem with Uighur Islamic separatists/terrorists have become more acute in the last one year. Suicides and attempted suicides by Tibetan monks, nuns and lay people demonstrating against Chinese rule and demanding the return of the Dalai Lama to Tibet have put the Chinese authorities on the back foot. Beyond these are external challenges especially rising opposition to its aggressive behavior on the eastern sea board on territorial claims.

Demographic invasion of India from the North East

Issue Vol 22.2 Apr-Jun 2007 | Date : 04 May , 2014

Six decades of ‘Indian effort’, still Seven Sisters have not been fully integrated with the main landmass. Thousands of crores of money has been pumped into the North East. In fact our Central Govt is indirectly financing the underground governing bodies who de facto continue to rule the roost. The problem has been further accentuated by uncontrolled illegal migration from Bangladesh, the situation in the ‘Gateway to the North East’, the ‘Siliguri Corridor’, where insurgency is brewing and is likely to become a major security concern for our country.

Kamtapuri movement is making steady progress in carving out yet another autonomous state by amalgamating six districts of North Bengal viz, Darjeeling, Jalpaiguri, Cooch Behar Maldah, South Dinajpur and North Dinajpur.

As per 2001 census the population of India is approximately 1.02 billion, almost three-fold increase in population of 1947. The three-fold increase is attributable to, inadequacy and inconsistency of India’s family planning programme, (bureaucracy had to tow the line of their political masters) illiteracy, religious disbeliefs, backwardness of the people, underprivileged condition of women in India, poor health facility and so on. But no one bothered to mention that one of the reasons is presence of over 26 million Bangladeshi illegal migrants in India.

At the time of partition, in East Pakistan (now Bangladesh) the Hindu population was 25.6 percent. It got reduced to 14 percent in 1991 and today it has come down to abysmal 7 percent.

Bangladesh has the highest density of population in the world, the density of its population is 982 persons per/sq km. North Eastern States on the other hand are sparsely populated with average density of little over 215 persons per sq km. Principle of void theory in law of nature has taken its course. In addition not so good economic conditions in Bangladesh have forced people to embrace more lucrative options. This is not only true for this region, Mexican influx into south western United States of America is most recent phenomenon. Large-scale demographic movement continues to take place in the NE, resulting in demographic imbalance in states. In the state of Tripura imbalance has resulted in “demographic inversion”. After the partition, till 1971, there was a massive population influx caused by political, communal and economic reasons, which created serious ethnicity problems in these states. At the time of partition, in East Pakistan (now Bangladesh) the Hindu population was 25.6 percent. It got reduced to 14 percent in 1991 and today it has come down to abysmal 7 percent.

Afghanistan: Looking For Quick Solutions

May 5, 2014

Most Afghans blame the Pakistanis for any successes the Taliban have. There is some truth to this as it is no secret that ISI (the Pakistani CIA) created the Taliban in the early 1990s and Pakistan has been supporting Islamic terrorism since the late 1970s. In the last few years more evidence of this Pakistani perfidy has come to light. For example, officially Pakistan still denies that they sheltered Osama bin Laden, but it’s no secret that Pakistan still tolerates sanctuaries for all manner of Islamic terrorists who operate inside Afghanistan. One of the biggest complaints Afghans have against the Americans is that the Americans are not more forceful in persuading Pakistan to shut down these sanctuaries. Pakistan insists it is innocent and the civilian government in Pakistan will, at most, admit that it cannot control its own military, which is most responsible for providing support to Islamic terrorists. The sad fact is that this is all self-inflicted. Over three decades of government sponsored propaganda supporting Islamic terrorists has left a lot of Pakistanis still willing to accept excuses for all the terrorist violence. Many Taliban insist that they are not terrorists but simply “angry brothers” of fellow Pakistanis and trying to make Pakistan a better place. A growing number of Pakistanis see the flaws in this approach, but the Islamic terrorists and their supporters are still able to threaten critics with violence and that keeps many anti-terrorism Pakistanis quiet. 

In Afghanistan the increased popular (and often violent) opposition to the Taliban and Islamic terrorists in general has forced the Taliban to depend more on bases and support from Pakistan. The Afghan Taliban are particularly dependent on the Islamic terrorist sanctuary in North Waziristan, where many of the bombs used in Afghanistan are made and many of the suicide bombers are trained. The Afghan security forces have responded by increasing efforts to block Taliban efforts to get bombs, weapons and Islamic terrorists into Afghanistan. 

The Pakistani and Afghan Taliban have become a lot closer in the last few years because both groups are encountering more opposition, heavier losses and more problems raising money. Both groups have lots of factions that don’t agree with each other and despite all that is threatening them, the factions, especially in Pakistan, will still fight each other. Despite all these troubles there are still a lot of broke, uneducated and aimless young men willing to join up. That often ends up in an early death, but along the way these guys get a little respect (as a byproduct of fear) and, for a short while, the feeling that they are someone important. 

The Message Behind Raheel Sharif Raking up Kashmir

In a speech on the occasion of Martyrs Day, the Pakistan Army chief, Gen Raheel Sharif, parroted a nearly seven decade old, and by now tired and worn out cliché that Kashmir was Pakistan’s ‘jugular vein’ and demanded a resolution to the issue in accordance with the UN Security Council resolutions and ‘aspirations of the Kashmiri people’, adding for good measure that there can be no ‘durable peace’ in the region if the Kashmir issue is not resolved, presumably according to Islamabad's wishes.

Coming as it does in the midst of India’s General Election, Gen Sharif’s speech was bound to raise hackles in India and it was quite natural for the main political parties to close ranks and attack these remarks. The reaction in India was a lot stronger this time as compared to what happened just a couple of months back when Pakistan's Prime Minister, Nawaz Sharif, had said the same thing in his address to the UN General Assembly. Although there is neither anything new nor anything novel in what Raheel Sharif or for that matter Nawaz Sharif have said on Kashmir, this sort of statement is offensive to the Indian ears. More importantly, India cannot and should not remain blasé about the signals that are coming out of both Islamabad and Rawalpindi because, if nothing else, Pakistan’s position has once again significantly regressed from the ‘out of the box’ thinking during the Musharraf years. In other words, the Kashmir solution that was being worked out on the back channel is now history.

The rhetoric of ‘jugular vein’ is in itself quite empty and illogical: if Pakistan could survive for seven decades without what it imagines to be its ‘jugular vein’, then Kashmir clearly is not its jugular vein. That aside, the timing and the occasion of the reference to Kashmir by Gen Raheel Sharif is important in terms of the message that is being sent. The speech has been made in the backdrop of rising tensions between the civilian government and the military over the trial of the former military dictator Gen Pervez Musharraf, the government’s efforts to normalise relations with India by pushing ahead on the trade front, and the differences between the government and the Army on the issue of talks with the Taliban. Adding to the tensions is the stand-off between the army and Pakistan's largest media network, Jang/Geo Group, after the botched assassination attempt on journalist Hamid Mir which has been blamed on the ISI. With the government caught in a bind on this issue, Gen Sharif’s speech was the army asserting itself and drawing red-lines for the civilian government on Kashmir, media freedom and Taliban talks.

Iran and Saudi Arabia: Pakistan's balancing act

C. Raja Mohan
05 May 2014

Amid growing Saudi concerns about the shifting Middle East balance of power in favour of Iran, Pakistan is walking the tight rope between Riyadh, a close ally, and Tehran, an important neighbour.

Last week, the Pakistan army chief, General Raheel Sharif was a special guest at the largest military exercises ever conducted by Saudi Arabia that were widely seen as a show of political resolve against Iran.

This week, the Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif is heading to Tehran to reassure Iran that Islamabad will not act as Saudi Arabia's proxy in the Syrian civil war.

In the Middle East, Syria has become one of the major theatres for Saudi-Iran rivalry for regional primacy. Tehran is supporting the regime of Bashar al Assad while Saudis are backing Sunni militant groups trying to oust him from Damascus.

In the last few months, there has been mounting speculation that Saudi Arabia is pressing the Pakistan army to recruit and train volunteers to fight against the Syrian regime. Riyadh's recent gift of $1.5 billion to Pakistan was seen as a reward for Islamabad's willingness to provide military teeth to the Saudi strategy in Syria.

It is no secret that Nawaz Sharif owes big to Saudi Arabia. When Gen Pervez Musharraf ousted Sharif from power and locked him up, it was Riyadh that bailed him out and gave him shelter in Jeddah. The Saudi financial carrot followed a series of high level visits by the Saudi Crown Prince and foreign minister to Pakistan.

The House of Saud was deeply distrustful of Asif Ali Zardari who was seen as close to Iran. One of the last political acts of Zardari to was to travel to the Iran border in March 2013 and inaugurate the construction of a natural gas pipeline between the two nations.

One of the first acts of Sharif since he took charge last year was to signal that Pakistan was no longer interested in the project. It was widely assumed that Sharif was acting under American and Saudi pressure. Since then Sharif has backtracked a bit and said Islamabad would not abandon the project. During his visit to Iran, Tehran is likely to demand clear answers from Sharif.

There have also been growing military tensions on the Pak-Iran border as Sunni militant groups based in Pakistan target Iranian security forces. The sectarian dimension to the Saudi-Iran rivalry, in addition, feeds the tensions between the Shia and the Sunni in Pakistan. The last few years have seen frequent attacks on the Shia minority in Pakistan by Sunni extremists.

Pakistani Spy Agency Trying to Muzzle Pakistan’s Press

May 5, 2014
Muzzling Pakistan’s Media
Hasan Zaidi
New York Times

Karachi, Pakistan — Pakistan’s media is in upheaval these days. But it’s not because of the stuttering “talks” between the government and militant groups, who have publicly vowed to target journalists.

The current upheaval began with the attempted assassination in Karachi on April 19 of Hamid Mir, arguably Pakistan’s most recognizable talk show host and journalist. Mr. Mir survived despite taking six bullets. The real furor came not in reaction to the attack but to Mr. Mir’s employer — Geo Television — which broadcast Mr. Mir’s distressed brother’s statement accusing the country’s premier spy agency, Inter-Services Intelligence, of being behind the attempted murder.

Most Pakistanis were stunned by these blunt accusations. Even with stronger proof, charges against the I.S.I. or serving military officers are unheard of in a country that has spent half of its existence under military rule and where the intelligence services still exert a powerful and often-intimidating influence.

There have been allegations of military complicity in the targeting of journalists before — most notably in the killings of Hayatullah Khan in 2006, Syed Saleem Shahzad in 2011 and Abdul Razzak Baloch in 2013 — but the difference this time was that the accusations were being made by family members of a man who had survived and could corroborate them.

The military’s spokesperson, while sympathizing with the Mir family’s distress, termed the allegations “emotional” and Geo’s conduct in continuing to air them, “irresponsible.” But far more remarkable was the conduct of some of Geo’s competitors. Attempting to be more loyal than the king, they jumped into the fray, criticizing Geo for its “lack of editorial control” and “flouting of journalistic ethics” in allowing the accusations to be broadcast.

In normal circumstances, Pakistan’s boisterous TV channels are loath to even mention competitors’ names. But efforts to curry favor with the military combined with commercial interests and petty personal issues between owners — Geo News is three times as popular as its closest competitor and attracts up to 70 percent of advertising revenue on news channels — seem to have trumped all previous restraint.

The vitriolic attacks on Geo and its parent company, the Jang Group, have increased with each passing day. One competitor devoted all its talk shows and 20 minutes of every hourly news bulletin for several days to Geo’s faults. Despite the veneer of discussing journalistic ethics, the underlying message was that accusations against a military agency were unacceptable.

Pakistan: Shooting The Messengers – Analysis

May 5th, 2014

By Shujaat Bukhari

Within a span of three weeks from March 28 to April 19, Pakistan’s two prominent journalists Raza Rumi and Hamid Mir escaped murderous assaults. The assassination bids show how hazardous the situation is for media persons in a country that has been facing the challenge to its very existence for over a decade now.

Raza, a seasoned journalist and anchor, had a close brush with death when his car came under attack in Lahore. He did survive but his 25-year-old driver Mustafa was not so lucky and embraced death. Hamid Mir, popular anchor for influential Geo TV who shot into prominence after interviewing Al Qaeda founder Osama Bin Laden, was shot at by gunmen when he was on way to his Karachi studio on April 19.

Both these incidents shook the media setup in Pakistan which has emerged as a vibrant voice in the recent past in leading the struggle for democracy in the country. It was in fact the media that shaped a strong opinion about military rule and culminated in ouster of Parvez Musharraf in 2007.

Notwithstanding the fact that it was Musharraf who opened the large window for media in Pakistan, the same institution turned tables on him when he took on the judiciary.

With the growing urge for breathing in the air of democracy, the media proved to be the catalyst in the change that Pakistan witnessed after 2007.

However, the same media became the target of not only the non-state actors who have been on prowl in Pakistan, but the agencies as well. According to a latest report, 34 journalists were killed after 2007 in various attacks. The needle of suspicion is on extremist militant outfits and certain state owned organs. The reason for these attacks may be simple— the Pakistani society was not used to this kind of freedom and to take on the powerful was something alien to the taste of those who have ruled the country by default.

While the media in Pakistan was passing through a difficult phase to recoup with the looming threat to its members from both the sides, it was expected that the civil society and also those who have faith in democracy would put their heads together to save this institution from a deep sense of demoralization. However, the situation not only turned ugly with certain media houses at loggerheads but it also divided the society on the lines of full view public support to Pakistani Army and the powerful intelligence agency ISI.

Since Geo TV had blamed the ISI for the attack on Hamid Mir, both the Army and ISI took umbrage to the serious allegation and even moved to competent authority for banning the TV channel. This did not end there only but people in large numbers came on streets in support of Army, just like a political party in any other free and democratic country. Posters featuring Pakistan Army Chief General Raheel Sharief and the traders associations eulogizing the support to Army and ISI were something that attracted the attention of foreign press as well.

Notwithstanding the fact that Army has always been at the centre of power in Pakistan for most part of its existence, this renewed trend of people coming in its support not only undermined the political set up of the country has but also indicated how other institutions of democracy were at the receiving end.

Sharif And The Pakistan Taliban: Peace Talks Loss Is Washington’s Gain – Analysis

May 5th, 2014
By Zachary J. Rose

It appears as though the latest attempt at reconciliation between the government of Pakistan and the Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (Pakistan Taliban, or TTP) may be falling apart without any new breakthroughs. However, given the strategic dimensions involved, one has to wonder if any stakeholders were holding out any real hope of a peaceful resolution in the first place.

For several months, the government of Pakistan has apparently been attempting to end its conflict with the TTP, a militant insurgent network with ties to Al Qaeda and the Afghan Taliban. The TTP, which formed in 2007 and operates primarily in the northwestern regions on the afpak border, is fighting to impose strict Sharia law across Pakistan, and as such it rejects the country’s current constitution, which it believes fails to adequately enshrine Islamic law. Peace talks and reconciliation with the TTP were major campaign promises of Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif prior to his election victory last summer.

Despite government efforts, peace talks have failed to gain any momentum, with both sides continuing to engage in military actions against the other. Brutal executions and military strikes have often left the talks stalled or officially suspended.

On March 1 the TTP agreed to a month-long ceasefire, during which time the peace talks could – it was hoped – make some real progress. Prime Minister Sharif is under a great deal of political pressure to end the fighting, which has resulted in thousands of deaths over the years. Despite their primary goal of overthrowing the Pakistani government and spreading Sharia law through jihad, the TTP has come forward with a few short-term, more realistic demands such as the release of several hundred prisoners, who the group claims to be non-combatants.

Earlier talks produced a ceasefire extension until April 10, but more recently, the TTP has announced that the combat freeze will not be renewed past this date. Both sides have asserted that the talks will continue despite resumed hostilities, though it is unlikely that any serious discussion will take place. Far more likely is that the peace process will regress to its familiar form: paused or cancelled every few weeks in the wake of some new attack.

It is still unclear what might have ever resulted from these talks. After all, the TTP’s ultimate objectives are completely unacceptable to Pakistan. Even if the TTP were to give up its goal of imposing Sharia law across the country, they would at the very least demand a full withdrawal of Pakistani forces from TTP-controlled tribal territory. Prime Minister Sharif could not accept these conditions – nor could the United States, which has shown no willingness to decrease its military footprint in the region.

CIA Is Dismantling Its Bases and Deactivating Its Paramilitary Units in Afghanistan

May 5, 2014
CIA Falls Back in Afghanistan
Kimberly Dozier
The Daily Beast

KABUL, Afghanistan—The CIA is dismantling its frontline Afghan counterterrorist forces in south and east Afghanistan, leaving a security vacuum that U.S. commanders fear the Taliban and al Qaeda will fill—and leaving the Pakistan border open to a possible deluge of fighters and weapons.

“The CIA has started to end the contracts of some of those militias who were working for them,” said Aimal Faizi, spokesman for outgoing Afghan President Hamid Karzai, a longtime critic of the CIA’s Afghan operatives. “Some of them were in very important locations, so we deployed our troops there.”

U.S. and Afghan military commanders tell The Daily Beast that Afghan forces are stretched too thin to replace many of those departing CIA paramilitaries. Thousands more CIA-trained operatives are about to get the boot ahead of what already promises to be a bloody summer fighting season. That could mean spectacular attacks against U.S. and Afghan targets just as the White House is weighing its long-term commitment to Afghanistan. And it could give the now-small al Qaeda movement inside the country more freedom to grow and eventually hatch new plots more than a decade after the invasion meant to wipe out the perpetrators of the Sept. 11th attacks.

Senior U.S. officials said the slow dismantling of the CIA’s forces has also alarmed U.S. lawmakers, who had assumed those forces would remain in the fight against al Qaeda and the Taliban after U.S. troops withdrew.

But CIA officials told lawmakers this past week that with U.S. troops slowly closing bases across the country, the intelligence agency’s footprint also has to shrink. The CIA doesn’t want to face another high-risk situation like Benghazi, Libya, where militants attacked both the U.S. diplomatic outpost and the CIA base. The U.S. ambassador, one of his staff and two CIA employees were killed in that strike.

The Obama administration had wanted to leave up to 10,000 U.S. troops in the country after the December 2014 withdrawal deadline. But the current Afghan president has refused to sign a long-term security agreement, and the Afghan presidential election seems headed for a runoff, meaning it could be months before a new Afghan president takes charge.

So U.S. forces here are rapidly closing outposts, preparing to withdraw to six “enduring” bases that could remain if a security deal goes through before early fall. While the CIA is not affected by the security agreement, it relies on the U.S. military for protection and logistical support—especially at its far-flung bases in south and east Afghanistan. Just months ago, the talk in administration circles was that these paramilitaries would be significantly expanded in the near future. Now, it appears, the opposite is taking place.


May 4, 2014

“We welcome Chinese participation, and we welcome quite frankly the growth of China as a military power in the Pacific. There is nothing wrong with that.”

Admiral Harry Harris, Commander of the U.S. Pacific Fleet, made that statement recently when discussing the acceptance by China’s People’s Liberation Army-Navy (PLA-N) of an invitation to take part in RIMPAC, the world’s largest international maritime exercise. RIMPAC will take place in June off the coast of Hawaii, and for the first time in its 23 previous iterations, will include PLA-N forces. As a matter of fact, this will also mark the first time any Chinese forces have ever taken part in a large, U.S. military-led naval exercise, anywhere.

For some, the fact that the number two U.S. admiral in the Pacific theater — his immediate boss is ADM Sam Locklear, commander of all U.S. forces in the Pacific Command area of operations — would make a statement that “we welcome” the growth of China as a military power lacks credulity, or is grossly Pollyannaish, or worse. I disagree. There is more to gain by engaging with the Chinese where we have shared or common interests, than there is by continuing to treat and view their rise in almost exclusively negative terms, or by thinking the United States can contain that rise in some way through isolation.

First, hearkening back to the omnipresent importance of the narrative, our words absolutely matter, but what matters most is that the deeds match thewords. The lack of that alignment is precisely what does us in (impacts our reputation, our credibility, our cachet, etc.) with unintended strategic communication missteps in examples like “the pivot”, the Syria red line, and a host of other examples that Wikileaks and Snowden have made public. Furthermore, when we look to the west, as President Obama’s recent trip shows, our audience is not only — nor at times even primarily — China. Foreign audiences are still studying and weighing our words with painstaking effort; and words without synchronized action eventually mean about as much as campaign promises. Ultimately, we must be able to account for not only the intention of the words, images, and deeds, but perhaps even more importantly, how they will be perceived, interpreted, and then translated by our multiple audiences. Thus, we need to find the fundamental and harmonic frequencies — those that resonate best and most deeply — and then zero in on transmitting them in an unrelenting fashion. As George Bernard Shaw once said, “The single biggest problem with communication is the illusion that it has taken place.”

Second Thomas Shoal: The new battleground

Darshana M Baruah
05 May 2014

Last month China prevented two Philippine boats from reaching the Second Thomas Shoal, claiming that Manila was trying to build structures on the reef in an attempt to fortify its claim. In 1999, the Philippine navy ship BRP Sierra Madre - a former U.S. tank landing vessel - ran aground the shoal and has been since stationed there ever since with a handful of Filipino marines to enforce the Philippines' claim to the reef. The shoal lies within Manila's 200 nautical miles Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) but is also claimed by Beijing. The presence of the Sierra Madre and the soldiers aboard is part of Manila's larger strategy in the South China Sea to protect its contested maritime territories.

While the Scarborough Shoal incident drew international attention in 2012, the Second Thomas Shoal is the new flashpoint in the South China Sea (SCS). The region is becoming a maritime hotspot with Beijing engaging in territorial disputes with four ASEAN nations. Beijing claims most of the sea as its territory with Vietnam, the Philippines, Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan also having overlapping claims in the area. China is the largest party and has been engaged in growing provocations, which are being vehemently opposed by the Philippines and Vietnam - who are seeking the presence of external actors to counter Beijing.

China is becoming increasingly assertive in its claims and its recent move to block Philippine boats carrying supplies to their troops stationed in the Second Thomas Shoal is indicative of this trend. Supporting Manila in its protests, Washington said that the blockade is a "provocative move that raises tensions," calling for all parties to maintain status quo. With growing international attention to the region and the U.S. rebalance, the Philippines has been increasingly vocal about its ongoing dispute with China. Meanwhile, China's aggressive and assertive behavior in both the East and South China Sea is hampering Beijing's relationship with its neighbors.

While Beijing's assertiveness in the region is not a new phenomenon, its attempt- if any- to occupy the Second Thomas Shoal will have serious consequences for Asia. As noted, Washington has been increasingly vocal in opposing Chinese actions in the region and is likely to extend its support and influence against Chinese attempts to seize the Second Thomas Shoal. This will also create panic and tension amongst the other claimants to the South China Sea, creating mistrust between governments and a greater potential for confrontations in the waters of the South China Sea.

Obama’s New Ukraine – OpEd

 A Journal of Analysis and News
May 3rd, 2014

“While Russia has been making efforts to de-escalate and resolve the crisis, the Kiev regime has chosen to launch airstrikes on peaceful residential areas, literally destroying the last hope for preserving the Geneva accords.” Dmitry Peskov, Putin’s spokesman

“The crisis in Ukraine is not the result of ‘Russian aggression,’ but of a criminal strategy by the US and its European allies to install a hostile regime on Russia’s borders in Ukraine and, ultimately, dismember Russia itself.” Johannes Stern, NATO boosts military build-up against Russia as protests spread in east Ukraine, World Socialist Web Site

Fighting broke out on Friday in the eastern Ukrainian city of Slavyansk when Kiev’s coup government deployed military helicopters to fire on the city while troops and armored vehicles stormed checkpoints. At the time this article went to press, two helicopters had been shot down killing at least two pilots while one was captured. In an impassioned statement on Russian TV, Kremlin spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, appealed to allies in the EU to do whatever they could to persuade Ukrainian authorities to call off the operation and stop the violence.

“We are calling on the European capitals, the United States of America to give an assessment of the current events and are of course calling on those carrying out airstrikes on residential areas to…immediately end the punitive operation and any violence against its own people…”

So far, there has been no response from Washington although it’s clear that the Obama administration had a hand in organizing the crackdown. Not only were the State Department and CIA directly involved in the putsch that removed democratically-elected president Viktor Yanukovych from office, but Washington has also been implicated in punitive operations directed against ethnic Russian protestors in east Ukraine. Both CIA Director John Brennan and Vice President Joe Biden visited Kiev just hours before two previous crackdowns were ordered by imposter-Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk. As Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov blandly noted, It’s clear that Washington is “calling the shots”.

On Thursday, it looked like violence might be avoided when coup-President Oleksandr Turchynov said that he had lost control of the situation. In an exasperated message to the media, Turchnov said, “It is hard to accept but it’s the truth, but the majority of law enforcers in the east are incapable of performing their duties.”

Putin’s ‘Greater Novorossiya’: The Dismemberment Of Ukraine – Analysis

May 5th, 2014
By Adrian A. Basora and Aleksandr Fisher

On April 17, Vladimir Putin introduced a dangerously expansive new concept into the Ukraine crisis. During his four-hour question and answer session on Russian TV that day he pointedly mentioned “Novorossiya” – a large swath of territory conquered by Imperial Russia during the 18th century from a declining Ottoman Empire. This historic Novorossiya covered roughly a third of what is now Ukraine (including Crimea).

Subsequent comments and actions by Putin and his surrogates have made it clear that the Kremlin’s goal is once again to establish its dominance over the lands once called Novorossiya. Furthermore, it is clear that Putin hopes to push his control well beyond this region’s historic boundaries to include other contiguous provinces with large Russian-speaking populations.

Most commentators and media are still focusing on Putin’s annexation of Crimea and on the threatened Russian takeover of the eastern Ukraine provinces (oblasts) of Donetsk and Luhansk. But the far more ominous reality, both in Moscow’ rhetoric and on the ground, is that Putin has already begun laying the groundwork for removing not only these, but several additional provincesfrom Kiev’s control and bringing them under Russian domination, either by annexation or by creating a nominally independent Federation of Novorossiya.

Unless the U.S. and its European allies take far more decisive countermeasures than they have to date, Putin’s plan[1] will continue to unfold slowly but steadily and, within a matter of months, Ukraine will either be dismembered or brought back into the Russian sphere of influence.

Putin’s convenient and expansive (though historically inaccurate) ‘rediscovery’ of Novorossiya now appears to include the following provinces in addition to Crimea: Donetsk, Luhansk, Kharkiv, Dnepropetrovsk, Zaporizhia, Kherson, Mikolaiv and Odessa. If he can turn this vision into a reality, Moscow would dominate the entire northern littoral of the Black Sea and control a wide band of contiguous territory stretching all the way from Russia’s current western boundaries to the borders of Romania and Moldova (conveniently including the latter’s already self-declared breakaway province of Transdnistria).

If all of these provinces are either annexed by Russia or form a nominally independent federation of ‘Greater Novorossiya’, the population of Ukraine would drop from 46 million to 25 million. This would not only subtract nearly 45% of Ukraine’s 2013 population but also roughly two thirds of its GDP, given that the country’s eastern and southern provinces are far more industrialized than those of the center and west.[2]

Why East Asia Alienates Intellectuals

East Asia is arguably the most important part of the world. It is the geographic organizing principle of the global economy. It has an array of strong, consequential nations and treaty allies of the United States. But outside of this or that article or essay about this or that Chinese dissident or the hideous depredations of the North Korean regime, intellectuals and humanists of all stripes tend to write less about East Asia than about other regions. The reasons are several. But in general, we can say that East Asia has comparatively little to offer them.

In fact, East Asia is a rebuke in major respects to the humanist project. It is prosperous and successful, with the latest postmodern infrastructure and technology; yet at a macro political level it is consumed less by universalist ideals than by old-fashioned ethnic nationalism. China, Japan,South Korea, Vietnam, the Philippines and so on are deeply conscious of their own ethnic identities, which carry within them clashing claims of sovereignty in the South and East China Seas, as well as elsewhere. East Asia shows how exclusivist mindsets need not be confined to poor, post-communist populations or poverty-stricken peoples with tribal or sectarian differences. East Asia is a flagrant example that sustained capitalist development need not necessarily lead to universal values.

East Asia has a prominent multilateral institution, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations. But while ASEAN is strengthening, it still does not enjoy the clout or influence of multilateral organizations like NATO or the European Union, with all of their respective problems. The real political dynamic in East Asia is not globalization or multilateral institutions, but rather a massive military buildup and modernization. These are not old-fashioned land armies that are being built and procured, but navies, air forces, missile systems and cyber warfare units complete with submarines, surface warships, fighter jets and so forth. Just as sustained capitalism does not automatically lead to universalist values, neither does it automatically lead to a reduction in armed tension and the possibility of violent conflict.

East Asia teaches that prosperity and postmodern communications technology do not negate a deterministic force like geography, but only make geography more precious and claustrophobic. The signature political battle in East Asia is not about democracy or human rights or even economics, but about territory: which ethnic nation controls what parts of the South and East China Seas. These seas adjacent to the Asian mainland may be rich in oil and natural gas, even as their only geographical features are bare rocks, many of which are not above water during high tide. But when one investigates the ferocity of statements about these claims, one sees that these bare rocks have become abstract symbols of nationhood in a hothouse global media environment. Territory and which group controls it is still of primary importance in this world. In a global media age, the contest for national status is ever present.

Such zero-sum arguments hold no interest for humanists, who seek a higher form of politics in which moral questions are intensely engaged. Yet, it is these arguments that largely define the security environment in East Asia.

Moreover, such disputes do not involve the fate of people. Virtually no one lives on these rocks. And even if a small air and sea war were to break out over them, there would be relatively few civilian casualties. And without civilians, there can be no victims for humanists and others to be concerned about. From time to time, post-Maoist East Asia does have massive humanitarian crises, usually the result of natural -- weather and seismic -- disasters. But because the culprit here is Mother Nature, moral choice does not operate and thus there is little for intellectuals to discuss or debate.


An increasingly authoritarian leader, a return of sectarian violence, and a nation worried for its future.
by Dexter FilkinsAPRIL 28, 2014

Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki is seeking a third term. Many Iraqis fear another civil war, and think that Maliki is to blame. Photograph by Moises Saman.

On Christmas Day last year, Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki appeared on Iraqi television to wish his country’s Christian minority—which has been fleeing by the thousand since the American invasion, in 2003—a happy holiday. Maliki, who is sixty-three, wore a dark-blue suit and a purple tie, and stood almost perfectly still at a lectern flanked by Iraqi flags. His long face conveyed, as it almost always does, a look of utter joylessness. Having spent much of his life hunted by assassins, Maliki gives the impression of a man who learned long ago to ruthlessly suppress his feelings. “He never smiles, he never says thank you, and I’ve never seen him say, ‘I’m sorry,’ ” a longtime associate of Maliki’s told me. For Maliki, the holiday greetings were a pretext. What he really wanted to talk about was protests unfolding in Anbar Province, west of Baghdad. “Thank God, the truth has been revealed,” he said.

When the last American soldiers left Iraq, at the end of 2011, the bloody civil war between the country’s Sunni and Shiite sects had been stifled but not resolved. Now the sectarian violence had returned, with terrifying intensity. For more than a year, thousands of Iraqis, nearly all of them members of the Sunni Arab minority, had been gathering to rail against Maliki’s Shiite-dominated government. Although the protests were mostly peaceful, security forces responded harshly, detaining thousands of Sunni men without charges and, in one encampment, touching off a spasm of violence that left hundreds of civilians dead. Across the Sunni heartland, north and west of Baghdad, the town squares filled with angry crowds, and the rhetoric grew more extreme. In Ramadi, protesters raised black jihadi flags, representing the extremist Al Qaeda offshoot that had dominated the city during the American occupation. “We are a group called Al Qaeda!” a man shouted from a stage in the protesters’ camp. “We will cut off heads and bring justice!” The crowd cheered.

Speaking into the television cameras on Christmas, Maliki ordered the protesters to disband. Largely ignoring his own men’s excesses, he claimed that the protests were dominated by extremists. “This site has become a base for Al Qaeda,” he said, filled with “killers and criminals.” Maliki ended his speech with what for him was a flourish of emotion, lifting a hand from the lectern. “There will be no negotiations while the square is still standing.”

In the protests at Ramadi, a Sunni member of parliament named Ahmed al-Alwani had inflamed the crowds, accusing Maliki of being in league with the Iranian regime, the region’s great Shiite power. “My message is for the snake Iran!” Alwani shouted into a microphone, jabbing his finger into the air. Referring to Maliki and those around him as “Safavids” and “Zoroastrians,” terms that denote Iranian invaders, he said, “Let them listen up and know that those gathered here will return Iraq to its people!”