Myth of South Waziristan Broken: Gen. Kayani


ISLAMABAD: Sitting under a portrait of Quaid-i-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah, with a huge blazing red calligraphy on his left and an impressive piece of framed Chinese embroidery on his right, recalling the deaths at the Parade Lane of four young sons of his officers who were Hufaz-e-Quran, COAS General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani emerged as the first Army chief to resort to speak to the Americans and their Western allies in words and images that they cannot fail to understand.

One of the last few senior generals to have undertaken military training in the US until the Pressler Amendment was slapped on Pakistan, the US and its allies are now not only listening but also understanding as the COAS uses the symbols of American legendary golfer Tiger Woods on his power point display and comparing full bases at a baseball game to some of the war situations on the Pak-Afghan border.

In a meeting at the GHQ, with analysts and retired senior generals, some under whose command he had served, the COAS opened up his mind and heart to dwell on the dangers facing Pakistan militarily, and the region, and ways and means that the military leadership thinks are the solutions to ensure that at the end of the war, Pakistan does not find itself in the ‘wrong corner of the room’. The interaction continued for nearly three hours.

Speaking on and off therecord, the COAS shared with the participants the presentation that he had made at Nato headquarters in Brussels, where generals from 45 countries heard him, and which many Western military analysts told The News, was a “make and break” presentation, which got the Western military leadership not only ‘educated’, but confess amongst themselves “all” that they were doing “wrong” inside Afghanistan.

One of the direct results of this Brussels presentation, which even the Foreign Office agrees, resulted in the final push which made India coming reluctantly to the negotiating table. The COAS had convinced Nato and others why it was important for him to have his eastern border peaceful.

The proudest moment for any Pakistani was to hear and readily believe that the ‘myth’ of South Waziristan had been broken and the military operations before that in Swat and Malakand in the words of the Army chief, “We did it with no help from the United States. Daily I would receive calls if we needed any help and we replied we needed nothing”.

He was very clear about what was best for Pakistan in these days of turmoil. “Partnership (with the US) does not mean you desire and I start doing it,” said the COAS. He said with the US military aid still in the pipeline, “In many cases I have eaten into my reserves.” While acknowledging he said there has to be a balance for a military budget and one for development as well.

The fear was, said Kayani, even if his military had accepted 5%, it would have been blown up to 50%. The COAS earlier had met General Stanley A McChrystal, Commander International Security Assistance Force, Afghanistan, at a time when everyone in the region was still waiting for the US to explain in detail the policies that will take them up to the time that they are ready to leave the region.

“I told McChrystal that the acid test of a policy is that options should increase,” he said, adding that he believed that the only way to measure success inside Afghanistan was to gauge the public support and not the number of people you kill.

“Today, this is McCrystal’s policy inside Afghanistan, where they talk of a political process and reconciliation. Finally, there is realisation today,” added the chief. Looking at the US Afghan strategy, Kayani says he has clearly told the US that raising an Afghan Army in the stipulated time is not possible, and weaning away of the Taliban will only happen if the US is seen willing inside Afghanistan.

“This has not happened and the perception has not been formed. Only when you win over 70%, you are really winning,” he added. He also does not shy away from telling his US visitors that the bulk of Nato supplies are still going through Pakistan and they will continue to do so, and threats of looking for alternative routes do not impress him.

South Waziristan “We had a history of mismanaged operations in South Waziristan and there was a myth that no-one has ever come here and controlled the area. If we had turned back, we would have destroyed the credibility of the military”.

The victory in South Waziristan, the chief said, was because of motivation of the troops, changed tactics of engaging the adversaries from the dangerous ridges of mountains instead of the customary land routes which also resulted in fewer casualties.

Swat operation The COAS said there was no example in history of what the Pakistan military accomplished in the Swat operation and which successfully changed the public opinion. It was the largest heliborne operation.

“So when we send foreign defence chiefs to Swat, we have a story to tell. When I accompanied Admiral Mike Mullen and showed him how we had done the operation, including showing him the gorges there, his response was, “I will send General McChrystal to see this”.

The last visitor was US National Security Advisor James Jones, who heard for himself from educated locals how unpopular the Americans were.

India-centric

Kayani says he did not mince his words when he told Nato that he was India-centric and there was logic behind this. There was no way he could relax on his eastern border to concentrate fully on the west.

“We have unresolved issues, a history of conflict and now the Cold Start doctrine. Help us resolve these issues. We want peaceful co-existence with India. India has the capability and intentions can change overnight,” Kayani had told his audience in Brussels.

Nato is also realising why it is important for Pakistan to help train the Afghan Army because Pakistan could strategically simply not tolerate an Afghan Army trained by the Indians and having an Indian mindset.

Pak-Nato ratio

It is not easy for any commander to count his dead when the killing fields are still alive. But Kayani told Nato how Pakistan in 2009, lost 2,273 soldiers with another 6,512 being wounded.

“Pakistan as one nation lost 2,273 soldiers while US/Nato in the same period lost 1,582. We have 10,000 troops on UN missions,” recalled the COAS. Pakistan has contributed 147,000 troops to its “silent surge” while 43 nations in Afghanistan have sent a mere 100,000.

Pakistan mans 82 posts at the Pak-Afghan border while the coalition and Afghan Army have only 112. “Pakistan’s operations have decreased cross border movements, there is control of areas, squeezing of spaces, and continuous flow of logistic flow,” pointed the COAS. For a man of “few words” when he was DG ISI, today Kayani is saying a lot more. All of which has to be heard loud and clear by the people of Pakistan.

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India sidelined at London Conference on Afghanistan


NEW DELHI: Finding the US not overly helpful on arming it with drones and drone technology, Pakistan has now made overtures to the Turkish army

During his recent visit to Islamabad, US defence secretary Robert Gates promised the gift of 12 drones for surveillance. But the 12 RQ-7 Shadow drones cannot send in Reaper or Hellfire missiles which would make them truly lethal and would have provoked an immediate outcry from India. However, experts believe this is dangerous stuff anyway, and it will not take much for Pakistan to reverse engineer them or tailor them for needs other than spying on the Taliban, in other words, to target India.

Needless to add, Pakistan was less than overwhelmed by the offer. Therefore, Indian sources said, Pakistan is now approaching their its friends in the Turkish army for this technology. The Turks were given drones, both attack and surveillance ones, by the Israelis as they battle the Kurds. Whether they are persuaded to part with these for the Pakistanis is another matter, and likely to involve a lot of pre-emptive Indian diplomacy.

India is finding less and less to be positive about in the Pakistan-Afghanistan theatre.

Apart from gifting surveillance drones to Pakistan, the US may be winking at a more robust reconciliation policy with the Taliban in Afghanistan. This will include a greater Pakistani role in the mediation process, which means the ISI will be able to give them greater say in what kind of Taliban gets to be in power in Kabul. This, Indian officials argue, will happen despite US and British “oversight” on Pakistani efforts.

“Their knowledge is pretty flawed, and they remain beholden to the ISI. This is likely to influence their decisions,” said sources. The Pakistani presence in the negotiations comes despite Afghan evidence that attacks like the one in Kabul last week was done by the ISI-friendly Haqqani network.

The reconciliation programme has acquired urgency in the backdrop of President Barack Obama’s withdrawal strategy for 2011. This is of greater concern to India, because it could put a huge question on India’s own participation and future in Afghanistan. Ahead of the London conference on Afghanistan starting on Thursday, foreign minister S M Krishna will try and get a sense from other leaders about the US-led western presence in Afghanistan.

A glimpse of how things may turn out was given by US general David Petraeus when he said, “The concept of reconciliation, of talks between senior Afghan officials and senior Taliban or other insurgent leaders, perhaps involving some Pakistani officials as well, is another possibility.”

Gen Stanley McCrystal, in an interview to Financial Times, said he hoped increased troop levels would weaken the Taliban enough for its leaders to accept a peace deal.

India is increasingly coming round to accepting the reality that some sort of a peace deal could be made. In recent statements, Indian officials have admitted the possibility that people who renounce violence and the Taliban as well as disarm, could be accommodated into Afghanistan’s establishment.

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Kashmiris, Nagas and Sikhs demand end to Indian Imperialism


On the occasion of India’s Republic Day, a powerful joint appeal Tuesday to the international community by key Kashmiri, Naga and Sikh leaders has highlighted the fundamental conflicts and contradictions at the heart of the Indian state, as well as the unwavering intent of their nations to secure freedom in accordance with their right to self-determination as enshrined in international law.

They issued a call to the international community to play a constructive role in dismantling India’s unlawful hold on their territories, which has been maintained purely by military means at the cost of hundreds of thousands of innocent lives since 1947, and to restore fundamental freedoms, democracy and the rule of law in the most volatile region of the world. The leaders included Syed Ali Shah Gilani, Chair of the All Parties Hurriyat Conference in Kashmir, Naga leader Th. Muivah, General Secretary of the NSCN-IM and Kanwarpal Singh of Dal Khalsa in Punjab.

Their message was endorsed by leading organisations based in the respective Diaspora communities which held demonstrations outside the Indian High Commission in London and elsewhere to once again publicly reject the Indian constitution as being applicable to their territories.

Rubbishing India’s claims to be a democratic, secular, peaceable state which complies with its international obligations, they pointed to the reality of a belligerent, militaristic state which oppresses the minorities and nations under its control, which has become a serial violator of international law and human rights.

They said Indian armed forces chief Deepak Kapoor’s recent public comments about bringing both China and Pakistan to their knees within 96 hours of a war betrays the dangerous and aggressive mindset of the Indian establishment which has already conducted undeclared wars on the Naga, Sikh, Kashmiri and other nations using brutal means, systematically violating basic human rights, as routinely pointed out by the world’s leading human rights organisations such as Human Rights Watch and Amnesty international.
Pending India’s compliance with the international standards the Naga, Kashmiri and Sikh leadership urged the international community to robustly dismiss India’s pretensions to a permanent seat at the UN Security Council.

“It would be the height of folly indeed to reward a serial violator of basic international norms by giving it the means to frustrate the one international body that can hold it to account,” they observed.

They pledged to work together, along with their friends in the region and beyond, in order to promote a peaceful transition from the current unjust framework of Indian colonialism to a new order in South Asia where freedom, peace and security and justice would prevail.

The withdrawal of Indian forces from these occupied territories would be a pre-requisite for that transformation. Instead of indulging itself in Republic Day posturing, India would do better to reflect on the crimes it has committed and its own inherent contradictions.
Threatening its neighbours and inhumanly oppressing minorities may have become the raison d’etre for ‘Hindutva,’ but these policies offend the very notion of religion and will surely ultimately prove suicidal for the Indian state.

It demanded ejecting India from all the UN’s humanitarian bodies until it improves its appalling record of mistreating its religious minorities. In August 2009, the United States Commission for International Religious Freedoms put India on its ‘watch list’ of states that fail to protect such groups.

In the UK, Muhammad Ghalib, Chair of the All Party Kashmir Co-ordination Committee, Amrik Singh Sahota , President of the Council of Khalistan, and the Naga Support Centre all pledged to continue their campaign to enlist international support for the peaceable implementation of their national rights.

Lord Nazir Ahmed, Chair of ‘Parliamentarians for National Self-Determination’, the cross party group at the Westminster parliament which promotes national self-determination, endorsed these demands. Having been recently denied a visa to visit India specifically because of his support for these causes, he castigated the ongoing oppression of these freedom loving nations and urged the international community to hold India to account for its crimes. Reflecting on India’s refusal to grant him a visa, he noted the move was consistent with India’s attempts to conceal its record by denying human rights groups, UN officials and independent observers access to conflict zones.

He remarked that all this was futile with the true picture is becoming ever more apparent to the global community which will be forced to act sooner or later.

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Pakistan Blocks Agenda At UN Disarmament Conference


GENEVA: Arms negotiators failed to start talks on Tuesday on cutting nuclear weapons when Pakistan blocked the adoption of the 2010 agenda for the UN-sponsored Conference on Disarmament.The conference, the world’s sole multinational negotiating forum for disarmament, spent much of 2009 stuck on procedural wrangles raised by Pakistan after breaking a 12-year deadlock to agree a programme of work.

The impasse on Tuesday suggested 2010 would be another year of halting progress.Pakistan, which tested a nuclear weapon in 1998, is wary of the proposed focus in the programme on limiting the production of fissile material, which would put it at a disadvantage against longer-standing nuclear powers such as India.

It therefore has an interest in delaying the start of substantive talks, diplomats say, “Even in the darkest days the agenda was adopted, because everything can be discussed under the agenda,” said one veteran official, unable to recall a similar delay in the past. Adoption of the agenda at the start of the annual session is normally a formality, but Pakistan Ambassador Zamir Akram took the floor to call for the agenda to be broadened to cover two other issues.

Akram said the 65-member forum should consider conventional arms control at the regional and sub-regional level, in line with a United Nations General Assembly resolution sponsored by Pakistan and passed last year.The conference should also negotiate a global regime on all aspects of missiles, he said.
“It is not our intention to create an obstacle but it’s also not our intention to create a situation which is oblivious to what is happening around us,” Akram said.
The move forced the conference president, Bangladesh ambassador Abdul Hannan, to adjourn the meeting for consultations to find a consensus. He said he hoped to resume on Jan. 21 with a renewed discussion of the agenda.

Sergei Ordzhonikidze, the former Russian diplomat who heads the UN in Geneva and is secretary of the conference, said failure to adopt the agenda would be a move backwards, arguing that it was flexible enough to include all topics of concern.But Akram said Pakistan did not want to work with a programme that was “frozen in time”.
Reaching a consensus is likely to prove difficult, as India rejected a discussion of regional conventional arms control, arguing that the conference should focus on global issues.Diplomats said Pakistan’s attempt to include regional arms control appeared directed at its bigger and better-armed neighbour.
The UN General Assembly also called on the conference last December to agree a 2010 work programme including immediate negotiations to ban the production of fissile material, in a resolution sponsored by Canada.

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