Monday, May 21, 2012

Curse of Balochistan

The Balochs have weathered the worst human rights abuses, like denial of water and food, denial of medicine, persecution, and brutal crackdowns by successive governments. They are segregated by the provinces with larger population, who gladly take the natural treasures like the gas from Balochistan, but deny the Balochs their very own treasures, God bestowed upon them. However, the ordinary Balochs remain blissfully oblivious of the curse that never allowed them to develop awareness to realize that they have been taken advantage of for last several centuries.   

Consider; your richest neighbors living the largest house owning the poorest of poor as their servants cum slaves. At the first sight they shoot at any neighbor who dares to pass by their yard. When displeased, they exile their servants. They make their slaves walk on hot coals to prove their innocence. They hold hostages in their makeshift jails. They assassinate people in their neighborhood to establish their dominance and instill fear. They mow down their own juveniles for suspecting them to be neighbor’s spies. Fearing their servants may develop independent thinking; Nawabs don’t allow them to receive even the primary education. They maintain strangle over their servants by concocting terrifying stories about their neighbors, so they don’t develop meaningful friendships with their neighbors. Just to spite their neighbors, they blowup their own gas mains. But most interestingly, when the price is right, they sell their own. If you think we went over the characteristics of a Los Angeles Gang, or New Jersey Italian Mafia, you are mistaken. These are common traits of Balochi Nawabs.  
Webster Dictionary describes Nawab as: “a provincial governor of the Mogul empire in India, or a person of great wealth or prominence.” But if you would see one in his element, you may take him for nobility from the dark ages. You can count a Nawab to be a male, so never fret over the protocol of addressing a female Nawab/Sardar. Their followers literally live and die at their whims. While Nawabs send their offspring to prestigious institutions like Oxford, their followers live in destitute and abstract poverty and never get to see a school.  
On 1 May 1972, the day the martial law was lifted; Sardar Ataullah Mengal was made the first chief minister of the Balochistan. He pushed through many meaningful initiatives, like setting up Balochistan's first university, medical college, board of secondary education, and the first industrial city in Hub. After the dissolution of the ‘One Unit’, the employees in the federating provinces were supposed to return to their province of origin. Since most of the police officers were from Punjab or were Punjabis, Sardar Mengal moved a resolution in the Balochistan Assembly to do away with the domicile category and suggested that those who had spent several generations in the province should be treated as locals. At that time the Punjabis were welcome in Balochistan, because of their expertise. Strangely, now they are killed by the Balochs for their expertise. Perhaps, a case of hypocrisy?  
During time, the Nawabs developed serious differences with each other, resulting in Sardar Mengal going into exile in the United Kingdom. This is when he patronized Soviet and Afghan intelligence agencies. 
An Oxford-educated eccentric man, Nawab Akbar Khan Bugti also known as the ‘Gas Man’ owned thousands strong and heavily armed private militia; allegedly also heavily involved in terrorist activities, gross human rights violations, and mafia like activities like kidnappings, extortion and murders. Bugti had little to no regard for life. He boasted of committing his first murder at an impressionable age of twelve. To avenge his son’s murder he had several men assassinated from the Kalpar tribe.  
On February 14, 1973, Nawab Bugti single handedly brought down Sardar Mengal’s government and convinced the then Pakistani Prime Minister, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto to send in the military to crackdown on his rival clans. In exchange for informing the Federal government about the London Plan, Nawab Bugti conspired with Bhutto to become the governor of Balochistan. Mengal and other Nawabs, like Ghaus Bux Bizenjo and Nawab Khair Bakhsh Marri were arrested and thrown in jail for conspiring and receiving arms shipment from Iraq to dismember Pakistan. Bhutto used the air force to suppress the insurgency in Balochistan. Ironically, in 1979, it was the Army General Zia-ul-Haq who released the Nawabs.  
On August 26, 2006, Bugti died in a cave collapse. Apparently the location of his hideout was compromised by embittered Marris who never forgot how Nawab Bugti stabbed them in the back in early 1970s. Bugti went through several cycles of running insurgencies to blackmail the government, only to end the insurgencies in return for heading the same government. His tribesmen remember him with mixed emotions. Some 10,000 Bugti tribesmen whom he exiled to Punjab after a bloody crackdown remember him not so kindly. Similarly families of thousands who simply perished in Bugti’s private jails and those who were forced to walk on the red hot coals to prove their innocence still harbor extreme hate and contempt, not only for Bugti, but for the whole Nawabi system.  
Another Nawab, also a nationalist, separatist and a Marxist, Nawab Khair Baksh Marri also colluded with the Soviet and Afghan intelligence against Pakistan. Soon after the Communist invaded Afghanistan, Nawab Marri migrated to Kabul. In 1990, the then Chief Minister Mir Jamali of Balochistan tried to bring Nawab Marri and his men back from Afghanistan, which became yet another dispute with the government. His son, Balach Marri organized and headed an internationally recognized terrorist organization, the ‘Balochistan Liberation Army’ (BLA). This fascist/terrorist organization targets civilians, foreign nationals, military personnel, civilian infrastructure, markets and most specifically ethnic Punjabis. 
Both Mengals and Marris provided KGB and KHAD intelligence against the activities of the CIA and the ISI that were supporting the Afghan Mujahideen against the Soviet. In return for their services the Nawabs received financial and logistics support from the Communists. Americans never forgot Nawabs’ alliance and support for its archenemy, the Soviet Union. That is why Americans were least bothered when in 2006, Ataullah Mengal’s son, Sardar Akhtar Mengal was thrown in jail by General Musharraf. Recently, his grandson Noordin Mengal (a British passport holder) was deported by the Americans, after designating him ‘inadmissible’. 
However, unlike their Nawabs and Sardars, the ordinary Balochs are good hearted people known for pride, bravery, and loyalty. Sadly, for generations, most of them have lived lives of only a step higher than bonded slaves. Their legendry loyalty to their Nawabs/Sardars has kept them oblivious of fact that God has created all humans equally. Just like their Nawab’s offspring they also have every right to receive at least basic education, own property, speak freely, treated as equals to Nawabs, and most importantly, demand for their emancipation from hundreds of years of virtual slavery.   
Regrettably, even in this day and age of mass information, an overwhelming majority of ordinary Balochs remain illiterate, deeply impoverished, and enslaved to their Nawabs’ whims. Not that the government has done their share of lifting these destitute souls out of dark depths of illiteracy, hopelessness, and poverty, the Nawabs haven’t fared any better either. At one or other time, literally every major Balochi Nawab/Sardar family had been at the helms of government that they dutifully demonize now. While their personal wealth grew even larger during the heydays of their rule, their tribesmen remain illiterate and dirt-poor. And still, if you ask the ordinary Balochs, who are they; not of their fault, they will tell you, they are soldiers of their Nawab first, they are a Mengal or a Bugti or a Marri second, then they are Balochs, and lastly the Muslims. This is what the centuries of curse of Nawabs have turned the ordinary Balochs into, walking-talking virtual-slaves who consider giving the ultimate sacrifice for their Nawabs, the most coveted honor. 

Saturday, October 01, 2011

It’s the Economy Stupid

By Adnan Gill

No one can ever blame Pakistani media for suffering from ‘Attention Deficit Disorder’, rather it often suffers from ‘Obsessive Compulsive Disorder’. Admittingly, most of their obsessions are not devoid of a good reason; nevertheless, every now and then it does indulge in mass-hysteria. An imminent American attack(s) on the Pakistani soil is the latest example of such hysteria. If you were to pick a Pakistani paper or observe its electronic-media, you would be deluded in believing whole world is holding its breath over the “Pakistani-American War”.

Hysteria aside, the odds of Iraqi modeled or even Libyan modeled American invasion are slim to none. For the curious minds, America will not invade for the following reasons: it cannot afford an invasion for three reasons: 1) Scarcity of funds. 2) Little to no public appetite for another military conflict. 3) Global recession.

American public debt is already tipping the scales around $14.7 trillion, which is almost as its GDP ($15.2 trillion). American Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimates the costs of both Afghan and Iraq Wars will be $2.4 trillion, or around one-sixth of the total American debt. Growth of American economy (approx. 1.4% GDP) is dismal at the best. Add the Libyan war costs and ever-rising oil prices, and you get a perfect recipe for a prolonged economical recession. Meaning, America is simply out of cash to start any new wars.

Unlike third-world despots, who couldn’t care less for the public opinion, American presidents still care and abide by the popular public sentiments. Currently, American public is no mood to support new wars. In a recent Washington Post/ABC poll, over 70% of Americans said they want President Obama to withdraw troops from Afghanistan. It’s not only American populace that are suffering from the war-fatigue, even the rank-and-file of the American military, most of whom are on their third or fourth tour of duty are increasingly voicing their frustrations with the longest war in the American history. According to a The Military Times survey, “Less than 50% of U.S. troops believe Afghanistan war is winnable.” If American military personnel are losing the will to fight the Taliban, then only a most foolish military commander would dare to push its men in a new Af-Pak quagmire.

In this age and time, no one nation can afford to wage a war unilaterally. Only coalitions have been able sustain full fledge wars. Even the closet American allies, Canada and UK have openly expressed their desire to pull out of both NATO led wars, Afghan and Libyan wars. Well over 80% of Canadians want their troops to be brought home, at the earliest. Even back in 2006, Bloomberg reported, in just 5 years, the financial cost to the UK of the Afghan war was more than £4.55 billion ($9 billion). Experts believe UK’s ailing economy can no longer sustain the Afghan war, not to talk of a new war with Pakistan.

Ironically, a typical gung hoe American political party, the Republicans tied their own hands from financing any new conflicts. Their Political strategy of downsizing the government and national debt has boxed it into opposing any significant military adventurism. Republican obsession with funding cuts was highlighted when its leader Eric Cantor said they would tie hurricane and earthquake Disaster Aid to spending cuts. By all accounts, the odds of appropriating funding for a war by a party obsessed with playing the financial card and that too in the middle election season are far and few.

However, despite all the odds against the war, like apprehensive public mood and tough American economy, doesn’t mean President Obama would not be tempted to order limited scope shoot-and-scoot military strikes well inside the Pakistani territory. America will attack Pakistani interests in the same manner that it had been doing for a while.

Smack within the rough presidential election year, President Obama who is suffering from the all time low approval ratings is in a desperate need of bunch of rapid victories, like the Osama-bin-Laden killing to prove his mantel as of a resolute Commander-in-Chief. What better way for President Obama to earn quick political mileage than bunch of small military victories via drone attacks and/or special operations strikes on Pakistani interests?

Unlike, Pakistani hysteria of imminent American invasion, one would be hard pressed to find a single person in the US who thinks America is about to attack Pakistan. Why not? Because it’s the economy stupid!

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Enough with Pakistan Bashing

By Adnan Gill

Osama bin Laden’s death has opened hell’s gates on Pakistan. One would be hard pressed to find an American commentator who missed the Bash Pakistan Bandwagon. Their most prevailing argument revolves around, we give Pakistan billions of dollars every year and look how they repaid us? They cheated on us by sheltering world’s most wanted terrorist.

To begin with, President Obama said, “it's important to note that our counterterrorism cooperation with Pakistan helped lead us to bin Laden and the compound where he was hiding.” Did President lie about Pakistani cooperation or do the Pakistan Bashers suffer from selective amnesia?

Yes, it’s true Pakistan is an American Foreign Aid recipient, it’s true Osama was caught hiding in Pakistan, but would it be prudent to ignore the larger picture of how much Pakistanis had been helping America? Absolutely not. Well it’s high time to place things in its right perspective.

According to the US Census Bureau, between 2001-08, Pakistan received an average of $.768 billion per year, or a total of $3.841 billion in economic and military aid from the US. While Pakistan claims, the War on Terror has cost it $35 billion, or about $4 billion per year. It might be worth noting that during the same time US gave India $.988 billion, Egypt $8.530 billion, Israel $13.030 billion and Afghanistan $20.801 billion in Economic and Military Aid. Can the same critics point the last time any of these allies delivered anything worth mentioning to the US for the billions upon billions of dollars they received?

Let’s rewind couple of decades back when the Free-World lead by an American-Pakistani coalition drove the last nail in Soviet Union’s coffin; resulting in the fall of the Berlin Wall. Was it the Israel (largest US military aid recipient) that pushed Soviets over the cliff? No, it was the Pakistan.

During the first Gulf-War who sent its troops against Saddam? Was it India? No. It was Pakistan.

Who was the part of peace keeping force in Bosnia? Was it India or Israel? None. But it was Pakistan.

Who pulled the American troops out of raging battle in Somalia? Were they Afghans or Egyptians? Try again. It was the Pakistani Army.

Who saved the American allies in the deep jungles of Africa? Yup, Pakistanis did.

Who trained American Special Forces in high altitude warfare; Afghans, Indians or Israelis? Only Pakistanis did.

Let’s take a gander over what Pakistan had been doing since the 9/11. Since the day one Pakistan literally handed over Navy and Air Force bases (like Omara, Pansi, Shamsi and Jacobabad) to the US, exclusive air corridors, and land transit right to the coalition, ISAF.

It wasn’t the Afghans, British, Egyptians, Indians, Israelis or the Saudis who had consistently captured and handed over some of world’s most wanted terrorists. It is the Pakistanis who had come through time and again. To name the few Pakistan handed over to the US: Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, Abu Zubaydah and Abu Faraj al-Libi.

Between 9/11 and 2009, Pakistan lost 78 military officers and 2,273 soldiers to the War on Terror, additionally they killed or captured 17,742 militants. During the same time ISAF lost about 1,500 personnel. By any measurement Pakistani military has lost more men during the war than rest of the coalition members combined.

Between 2004-11, at least 2,290 Pakistanis died from 234 American Drone strikes. According to the Brookings Institution, for every militant killed through drone strikes "10 or so [Pakistani] civilians" are killed. Can the critics name a single other sovereign nation with a proven capability to shoot down drones who has allowed such deadly attacks?

Some of the (modern) Joseph McCarthies don’t want to miss the Pakistan bashing train, because they don't want to appear out of the loop; while others like the Congressman Peter King have deeper political agendas, like expanding their fear-cult following. Regardless of their motivation, voices in the media are chanting unanimously to punish Pakistan. The last time Pakistan was heavily sanctioned, it became a nuclear power and diverted the extremists to Kashmir. This time, Pakistan would likely replace the US with China.

Everyone, including Pakistanis are jubilant over Laden’s killing; however, nearly all feel cornered and insulted over extremely harsh American reaction to its embarrassing security lapse. They retort, were the CIA or FBI in collusion with the Al-Qaeda when the jetliners flew into World Trade towers on the 9/11 or was it also an unintentional security lapse? If American sleuths could be forgiven for failing to prevent the 9/11 attacks, then why there is a mob bent on publicly lynching Pakistan for a similar blunder?

Prudence requires, a well balanced analysis of Pakistan’s intelligence failure, to prevent future security lapses. Undue antagonization and public humiliation of Pakistan, a reliable and time-tested American ally, would most likely result in undesired results.

Source: The News

Food for Thought

by Adnan Gill

As expected, Osama’s death has opened on endless worldwide debates on if, who, when and why killed Osama bin Laden? While the debate is hot, based on circumstantial evidence, one might as well ponder over some questions and theories.

Here is food for thought. Xe/Blackwater executed the Get-Osama operation and not the Navy Seals. Why use Xe? Plausible deniability, in case the operation goes south.

Where’s the proof of Blackwater’s involvement? American government claimed that two Chinook/Sea Knight and two Blackhawk/Seahawks (standard transport air-assets used by the SEALS) took part in the raid. It admitted losing one Seahawk during the operation. However, on a close study of the pictures of the helicopter wreckage, the claim falls flat on its face.

Why did the Americans went through the trouble to burn the wreckage of the crashed helicopter? Obviously, they didn’t want the world to find out the identity of helicopters that took part in the raid. Widely available pictures of the tail section of the crashed helicopter clearly do not match with any model of CH-46/Sea Knight or UH-60Seahawk. Neither helicopters come with split horizontal stabilizer nor do they come with tail-rotor disk. However, the boom (a much smaller and lighter to be of a UH-60), stabilizers and quad tail-rotor configurations match with the modified S-76 helicopters that Blackwater frequently used in Iraq. Contrary to rumors of supposed stealth helicopter (Comanchi or Silent Hawk), the pictures suggest the wreckage to be of a S-76, and certainly not of Blackhawk’s. Hence, Blackwater’s culpability.

One also has to question the need for the Pakistan Army to evacuate the wreckage covered under the tarps? Clearly, they had an interest in covering something more than mere identity of the helicopter wreckage. Like, Blackwater is running wild in Pakistan with the full knowledge and probably tacit consent of the Pakistani military.

Mystery deepens, considering, in less than 24 hours of Osama’s killing the American government announced a rather hasty burial of his body in the Arabian Sea. Earlier, within 12 hours of Laden’s death, President Obama confirmed Osama’s identity, citing, among others, a DNA test. However, the problem remains, there is no scientific method that can positively confirm a DNA test within 24 hours. In reality, a paternity DNA tests take at least 2-3 days and an extended family testing takes 5 weeks to confirm a match. Was it a slip of tongue or did President Obama purposely misstated? Hopefully, time will uncover the mystery.

Everyone seems to be focused on the question, why the American government wouldn’t publicize pictures of Laden’s body and put the mystery to rest? Answers could range from: disbelievers would never be convinced, he isn't killed and in custody for interrogation, or body still in custody for further tests.

Finally, why would Obama go through so much trouble to open Pandora’s Box? Simple answer, to save the American economy from an imminent collapse. Three wars are literally sucking life out of the American economy. It is estimated that in addition to secret funds, currently US is spending over $1 trillion/yr on military through appropriated and discretionary funds. As of March 25, 2011, total American Public Debt Outstanding was $14.26 trillion. Cutting military spending to half alone could amount to 25% reduction of yearly deficit.

Osama’s death will hopefully serve as a closure to the American public, which will allow Obama to windup and initiate American exit from Afghanistan by 2012. Just in time for the next presidential elections!

Shortest line-of-sight distance between Afghan border and Abbottabad is about 120 miles. Meaning it would take close to one hour flight time each way, even if CH-46/Shinook’s would fly from point A to point B at its max cruise speed of 137 ml/hr.

Meaning, Americans were in the Pakistani airspace for at least 2 1/2 hours.