Wednesday, 26 September 2012

President’s address to the UNGA

Courtesy:- Mohammad Jamil

President Asif Ali Zardari, during his address to the United Nations General Assembly, strongly condemned the blasphemous video that set off violent riots across the Muslim world, and called on the international community to ‘criminalise such acts’ as they tend to jeopardize the world peace.
“I want to express the strongest condemnation for the acts of incitement of hate against the faith of 1.5 billion Muslims of the world and our beloved Prophet Mohammad (PBUH),” he told the UN General Assembly. He demanded of the international community that such material be banned worldwide. He also declared that his country had suffered enough in its fight against extremist terror and should not be asked to do more. “No country and no people have suffered more in the epic struggle against terrorism than Pakistan. To those who say we have not done enough, I say in all humility: Please do not insult the memory of our dead, and the pain of our living. Do not ask of my people what no one has ever asked of any other peoples.”

India, Pakistan and CBMs

Courtesy:- Muhammad Zeeshan Hayat

India and Pakistan the two major countries of South Asia shares history, culture and 1,800 miles long border but never enjoyed stable and healthy relations because of deeply rooted enmity which mainly emanates from ideological and religious differences which is fueled by a number of unresolved issues like Kashmir, Siachen, Sir Creek and water issue, etc.

Sunday, 23 September 2012

Indo-Pak peace process

Courtesy:- Dr Raja Muhammad Khan

Peace between India and Pakistan is the prerequisite for achieving stability and economic development in South Asia. In the past efforts were made at bilateral and multilateral levels to normalize the relationship between these key South Asian neighbours. Nevertheless, these attempts were limited to economic interactions, leaving aside the core political issues, which have always been the cause of instability in their bilateral relationship. The strategic culture of animosity, the sense of insecurity and mistrust, and the divergent geopolitical interests of the great powers have kept hostage the peace process between India and Pakistan. 

In the past, attempts of economic integration have not been effective in bringing both countries closer. The history of regional associations is testimony to the fact that without achieving political understanding, an environment of trust cannot be generated. The critical nature of therelationship between India and Pakistan needs particular attention at the bilateral, regional and global level. Whereas, the severity of tensions between both rivals could bring the world to the brink of nuclear disaster, the resolution of core issue; indeed, the cause of conflict between India and Pakistan would bring the region to the new heights of peace and prosperity. 

The adoption of a people-centric approach is the recipe needed for addressing the core issues of conflict between India and Pakistan. Such an approach would bring economic prosperity in South Asia, thus alleviating the worst poverty, currently rampant in the region. In order to improve the bilateralrelationship between India and Pakistan, composite dialogue process started in 1997. Unfortunately, there remained inconsistency in this process mainly owing to sporadic incidents on both sides and lack of trust between both countries

Nevertheless, despite nuisances, there have been negotiations and peace talks between officials and at ministerial level to shed away the environment of distrust between key neighbours of South Asia. These talks even continued during the extreme tensions between both countries. In the same connectivity, on September 7-8, 2012, a meeting was held between Pakistani Foreign Minister Ms Hina Rabbani Khar and Indian External Affairs Minister, Mr S.M Krishna in Islamabad. Indeed, this visit of Indian External Affairs Minister was reciprocal to Pakistani FM visit to New Delhi on July 27, 2011 and as part of continuation of the peace process between these two South Asian countries. Two aspects were agreed upon during this meeting; the liberalization of visa regime and revival of the joint commission.

Agreement on liberalized visa would facilitate many on either side, particularly the members of divided families, business community, people-to-people contact, old citizens and among the academic circle. The joint commission however, will look into the new avenues of cooperation between India and Pakistan, apart from the eight issues, already part of foreign secretary level talks. Continuation of peace process between Pakistan and India is a welcoming step. Indeed, under the changed international environment, where globalization is the order of the day, immediate neighbours like India and Pakistan cannot afford strained relationship for an indefinite period. Therefore, negotiation and peaceful resolution of the core bilateral issues between these South Asian neighbours is the only way forward. 

Besides foreign ministers level talks, the 7th round of the Indo-Pak talks on Commercial and Economic Cooperation was held from 20-21 September, 2012 in Islamabad. Commerce Secretaries of both countries led the talks on behalf of their respective countries. During the meeting, three agreements were signed to facilitate bilateral trade between India and Pakistan. The first agreement includes cooperation and mutual assistance in custom matters, whereas the second will help redressing the trade grievances. Third pact is about conforming standards; the Bureau of Indian Standards and the Pakistan Standards and Quality Control Authority (PSQCA). 

Relevant ministries of both countries would frame procedures to implement these agreements through a mechanism. Both sides agreed to sign anotheragreement between Export Inspection Council of India and Pakistan Standards and Quality Control Authority (PSQCA). Indian side offered 100 locomotives to Pakistan Railways and assistance in setting up the coal, hydro and gas power plants. As indicated in the joint statement, the “roadmap drawn in the earlier ministerial meetings for liberalized and preferential trade regimes would be scrupulously adhered to.”

Following the foreign minister level meeting, Pakistani FM Ms Hinna Rabbani Khar said that: “We are willing to forge ahead with a different future which is people-centric, which is development-centric, which is centric to the common citizens of India and Pakistan, which is committed to creating stakeholders in the economic interests and the future of the two countries.” In the joint statement issued after the meeting, it is said that, that both ministers have reviewed the status of bilateral relations and agreed to hold talks and meetings on all other issues. These issues include; counter-terrorism (including progress on the Mumbai trial) and narcotics control; humanitarian issues; commercial and economic cooperation; Wullar Barrage / Tulbul Navigation Project; Sir Creek; Siachen; peace and security including CBMs; Jammu and Kashmir and the promotion of friendly exchanges. Salient of the meeting was that, the real causes of the confrontation between India and Pakistan were not discussed, except left for the passing reference of the joint statement. Both sides also agreed to enhance cross-LoC travel and cross-LoC trade as confidence building measure between the twocountries.

The worries for the realists are that; perhaps, these meetings are addressing the peripheral issues of less significance, and making promises only on the core issues, which need immediate attention. There is a need to understand that the peace process has been derailed many a time owing to non-resolution of the core issues between India and Pakistan. Over the years, the non-resolution of the core issues, gave way to many other issues, now attaining their own significance. What is the warranty that promotion of trade and commerce and liberal visa regime would pave the way for the solution the core issue, while maintaining the peace process on track? 

Tuesday, 18 September 2012

Importance of special economic zones

Courtesy:- S RAHMAN

Now when we see the assent accorded to the parliament-adopted Special Economic Zones Bill 2012, by President Asif Zardari who signed the Bill during a special ceremony held at the Presidency on September 10 last, we are reminded of the advanced economic initiatives undertaken by the Islamabad regime with the objective of realising the higher economic goals with international co-operation. 

People, who are well aware of the special economic zones project, opine that it is a major step towards enhancing business competitiveness in the country as it would help in reducing the cost of doing business and in also minimising the cost of production. The countries that have been able to enhance business competitiveness have made tremendous economic strides in the present-day international market. Being competitive is now number one priority of advanced economies. Pakistan is doing its best and taking all practicable and speedy measures to achieve this target and create a niche for itself in the world economy. Even during the recent Pakistan tour of Indian Foreign Minister, S M Krishna, visa regime was softened for many categories of citizens with greater facilities of multiple visas being decided for business community. 

Putin’s visit in context

Courtesy:- Tanvir Ahmad Khan 

Furthermore, Pakistan’s efforts since the mid-1990s to reassure Moscow that it was not an implacable ideological foe were beginning to carry conviction. With inter-governmental consultations in Islamabad, the stage has been set for President Putin’s historic visit in early October.
No less significantly, high-level contacts between military leaders of the two countries are under way. It is time to map the promising landscape in which bilateral and larger strategic considerations are converging. Given the troubled past, it is a new beginning where building blocks for long-term cooperation can come alike from bilateral benefits and from sharing a new perspective on changing regional and pan-Asian equations.

Monday, 17 September 2012

Managing economy

Courtesy:- M A MALIK

Economic management of an economy is the most arduous assignment - owing to the socio-economic complexities and the linkages of the economy with the outside world - that the modern governments have to handle. Development of economic, commercial and trade policies by the government, monetary policy choreographed by the central banks, and budgets are the tools that are employed for economic management. 

Judge SPLGO realistically

Courtesy:- S Rahman

Lot of unjustified hue and cry about Sindh Peoples Local Government Ordinance (SPLGO) 2012 is being heard these days without anyone trying in earnest to evaluate the Ordinance on the yardstick of ground realities.

Of course, the problem is that we talk much of ground realities but in fact, we turn totally shallow while confronted with any special situation. Take, for example, SPLGO 2012. For most of the time, it is being interpreted by some wiseacres in the light of misconceptions that owe their existence to the own ‘wisdom’. The main theory that is now being propounded with exceptional naiveté is that the SPLGO is a device being used to keep certain political parties or politicians away from the system of local self-government.

Friday, 14 September 2012

Freedom comes with responsibility

Courtesy:- Malik Muhammad Ashraf

Dr Robert Maynard Hutchison, the former vice-chancellor of Chicago University, headed the Hutchison Commission formed in the US in 1942 to make recommendations on the freedom of expression and media’s obligations towards society. It was in the backdrop of growing calls by the US public for government intervention to check the indiscretions of the media and attempts by it to avoid incisive government regulation. He remarked once, “Freedom comes with responsibility.”

The report of the Commission submitted in 1947 is regarded as the Magna Carta of the modern concept of freedom of expression and media’s responsibilities towards society. It unequivocally emphasised the need for media to provide an accurate, truthful and comprehensive account of events; act as a forum for exchange of comment and criticism; present and clarify the goals and values of society, and make sure that it projects a representative picture of the constituent groups of society. The report also reiterated the fact that society and public have a right to expect high standards of performance and as such, intervention can be justified to secure the public good. Ethical and professional codes of conduct for the media drawn up by UNESCO, International Federation of Journalists, Media associations, Press Councils in the countries where self-regulatory arrangement is in place and the code of ethics that forms the part of Press Council Ordinance in Pakistan invariably espouse the principles of the Social Responsibility theory propounded by the Hutchison Commission.

Pakistan Navy’s shelling of Dwarka

Courtesy:- Khalid Khokhar

Since partition of the sub-continent in 1947, Pakistan and India have fought four armed conflicts, in 1947, 1965, 1971 (which led to the establishment of Bangladesh, formerly East Pakistan) and the 1999 Kargil clash.

In 1965, India and Pakistan fought their second of three major wars from the issues arising from the control of Kashmir. This un-declared war broke out on August 15, 1965 and lasted until a UN-brokered cease-fire on September 22, 1965.

The war was inconclusive, costing the two sides a combined 7,000 human casualties but gaining them little.

Wednesday, 12 September 2012

Some welcome progress

Courtesy:- I.A Rehman

THE latest round of India-Pakistan ministerial-level parleys reminds one of the element of niggardliness in the subcontinent’s culture that has given currency to quite a few sayings about the reluctant offerings of goat milk.
Given the state of relations between the two subcontinental neighbours, their foreign ministers did try to make the best of the ritual. Mr Krishna’s observations were laced with honeyed homilies and Ms Khar generously used the term ‘centric’ combined with various modifiers, perhaps to dispel the impression that the thinking of Pakistan’s top authorities is India-centric.

Liberalizing visa regime

Courtesy:- A Rashid

Liberalization of visa regime between India and Pakistan in spite of the atmosphere of secrecy which has drawn an iron curtain in the relations of two countries, is a revolutionary development, by all counts.
We have been trying all kinds of belligerent means to solve our problems with India for decades. When, at the end of the day, the reality dawns that only peaceful exercise is likely to lend positive results, we started harping on the litany of solution of Kashmir and other major problems. 

Tuesday, 11 September 2012

Flight from reality

Courtesy:- Dr Maleeha Lodhi
September 11, 2012

The two greatest threats to the country’s democratic consolidation come from a floundering economy and deepening voter cynicism that the coming election can bring any improvement in national conditions. Although the economic danger is of a different order and far more consequential, stagnant politics can also undermine the country’s democracy. Leaders of the ruling coalition however, seem less interested in addressing these risks than in casting an activist judiciary as the destabilising force.

The judiciary has undoubtedly been in hyperactive mode. At times it has been injudicious in using its newfound power to launch into areas arguably beyond its domain. Despite this, it has often stepped into a vacuum created by weaknesses in the formal structures of executive accountability and by a lack of governance. Its main thrust however has been in trying to anchor Pakistan’s democracy in the rule of law and ensure that holders of power play by the rules – aspects absent in past democratic experiments.

For the ruling party, its thinly-veiled attempts to portray the judiciary as a roadblock to governance has become a way to deflect public focus away from its own performance deficit. These efforts have also diverted attention from two factors integral to any functional democracy: a robust economy and public confidence in the political process. Today, the first is in the emergency ward and the latter at its door. The ruling party can hardly disclaim its share of responsibility for this.

The economic facts are well established. The PPP-led government has earned the dubious distinction of presiding over the longest consecutive period of consistently low economic growth and falling foreign and domestic investment. It is the first government to have double-digit inflation throughout its tenure. Foreign debt and domestic borrowing have also reached record levels in the last four years. The government has done little to arrest the country’s diminishing capacity to meet external liabilities or reduce deficit financing, despite the inflationary pressures created by fiscal indiscipline – the most important source of economic hardship testing people’s endurance.

The signs that the flailing economy is in the danger zone are unmistakable. Not only have four successive years of low growth left per capita incomes stagnant, aggravated poverty and worsened unemployment they have also robbed the economy of the means to absorb two million people entering the job market every year. The intersection between rising joblessness and the demographics of a youth bulge exposes the country to the heightened risk of social unrest.

The fiscal deficit has hit its highest level since 2008 fuelled by heavy spending on energy subsidies and financial support to loss-making public utilities. The equivalent of $16 billion has been spent this way over the past four years, but without resolving the energy crisis. This alone is enough to sink the economy.

To finance the widening budget deficit the government has borrowed excessively from the State Bank and commercial banks instead of mobilising tax resources and making meaningful expenditure cuts. This has pushed prices up further among other deleterious effects on the economy.

Government leaders have routinely blamed the country’s economic woes on financial problems inherited from the previous government and the 2010 floods. But it cannot shift responsibility for its incoherent, patchwork management, failure to come up with a recovery plan and for the perilous state that public finances are now in. Four and a half years later, predecessors can hardly serve as a perpetual alibi. Governments after all are expected to take charge and meet challenges, not blame others and play victim all the time.

This disingenuous approach has pushed the country to the edge of an inescapable financial crisis. With no remedial measures in sight and elections around the corner, the most immediate threat to economic stability is posed by the rapid weakening of the external account, as a result of the widening balance of payments deficit. This is depleting the country’s foreign exchange reserves at a time when the capital account is deteriorating as net inflows taper off. As a consequence, a foreign exchange liquidity crunch looms.

The present $10 billion in reserves are set to dwindle further by the first part of next year when more repayments are due on the $8 billion loan from the IMF contracted in 2008. Between now and next June, the end of the present fiscal year, about $2.5 billion has to be paid to the Fund and a similar amount on other debt servicing. With other sources of external financing unavailable, the growing trade and current account gap, that includes these debt repayments, can only be financed by further drawing down reserves. These will resultantly plunge to a level barely enough to cover a month’s worth of imports.

A point of extreme vulnerability can be reached in the first quarter of 2013 when, unless external resources are raised from somewhere, the country will face financial insolvency and the breakdown of market confidence. This will put national stability in jeopardy with dire consequences for the country’s future.

If the government has been singularly unsuccessful in averting the economic slide it has also failed to move the politics – by inspiring confidence that the political process is responsive to public needs. Instead public faith in political institutions has continued to decline. If the low voter turnout of 44 percent in the last election – lowest in the region – wasn’t enough of a warning signal of public disillusionment with politics-as-usual, opinion polls since have recorded even higher levels of voter disenchantment. A survey by the Pew research centre earlier this year showed that 87 percent of people polled thought the country was headed in the wrong direction with 54 percent pessimistic about the future.

These bleak findings acquire a more serious nature when juxtaposed with opinion polls, which measured the approval ratings for political institutions. The Pew survey found low ratings for them when compared say to the media and judiciary. A Gallup Pakistan poll in 2009 found only 39 percent people viewed political parties favourably. In perhaps the most telling indicator of voter disillusionment or apathy, another Gallup survey in March 2012 found that 75 percent of respondents in a nationally representative sample felt their vote would make no difference to decisions about the country’s grave problems. Only 18 percent believed in the efficacy of their vote.

Overall these surveys confirm rising public estrangement – also indicated by anecdotal evidence – from the way politics works and what it delivers. If more people start seeing politics as simply a vehicle by which a privileged political class protects its interests at the expense of the public interest and choose not to engage in the process this will seriously undermine democracy.

Parties and individuals who win political office by a minority vote resting on a low turnout – as increasingly is the case – end up with weak representative credentials. This has implications for both the credibility and effectiveness of the representative system. Of course traditional parties with their client list networks of supporters may still be able to garner enough votes to win elections. But securing a feeble mandate in an environment of public mistrust and cynicism neither translates into real authority nor empowers a fledgling democracy.

Voter alienation in fact endangers democratic consolidation. If disaffected citizens don’t show up to vote and elected leaders become less representative of their constituencies this erodes a foundation of democracy – how adequately and fairly the system reflects the people it represents.

From this perspective the warning signs of declining public trust in political institutions should be of concern to the country’s political leaders just as the grim economic indicators merit their urgent attention. The danger of an economic breakdown and a meltdown of people’s faith in the electoral/political process both spell trouble in different ways for democratic stability.

It is these dangers that the ruling coalition should be addressing rather than seeing a plot in every setback. A government reaching the end of its five-year term but still crying conspiracy is either delusional or believes that people can be easily duped.

Zardari reverting Pakistan to Quaid’s vision

Courtesy:- Wajid Shamsul Hasan
September 11, 2012

This year too — as has been in the past many — Founder of Pakistan Quaid-i-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah’s death anniversary falls at a time when the country he established to be a moderate, liberal, progressive and secular democratic state stands at a critical juncture. He wanted Pakistan to be an egalitarian society based on the foundations of Islamic social justice and welfare of the people irrespective of their caste, creed or gender.

Mr Jinnah’s ideological vision as enshrined in Pakistan’s raison d’être envisaged by him to serve as a role model for other Muslim countries is being challenged by obscurantist forces that had opposed the establishment of a separate Muslim homeland. These retrogressive forces have found powerful bed-mates in those elements that believe in the sustenance of status quo and are opposed to empowerment of people.

President Asif Ali Zardari who has completed successfully four years of his presidency in the most difficult times, deserves to be given credit for his painstaking efforts to revert the country back to Mr Jinnah, PPP’s founder Zulfikar Ali Bhutto and martyred leader Benazir Bhutto’s vision of democracy, empowerment of the people and social justice in the country.

The Quaid had spelled out categorically that Pakistan would to be a state in which all its citizens were to be equal. In his address to Pakistan’s mother parliament (Aug 11, 1947) he had declared clearly with no caveats: “You are free; you are free to go to your temples, you are free to go to your mosques or to any other place of worship in this State of Pakistan. You may belong to any religion or caste or creed that has nothing to do with the business of the State.”

The Pakistan resolution of 1940 had committed itself to maximum provincial autonomy to its federating units — a promise that was shred to pieces by the conglomerate of civil, judicial and Praetorian bureaucracy in cahoots with the forces of status quo — only to be redeemed by Zulfikar Ali Bhutto in his Constitution of 1973. However, the country was reverted back to square one by military dictator General Ziaul Haq and after him those of his uniformed kin through extra-constitutional interventions with the backing of judiciary.

President Zardari has successfully brought the country to back to Quaid and Bhuttos commitment with the 18th Amendment in the Constitution by resolving the issue of provincial autonomy that had led to India’s partition, break up of Pakistan in 1971 and ushering in of fissiparous forces threatening country’s territorial integrity and its very existence.

The Constitution of Pakistan — as of today — guarantees fundamental rights and equality to all its citizens. It also guarantees for interfaith harmony among all religions and sects. Despite retrogressive clauses added in the Constitution by General Zia in the name of religion for their abuse for perpetuating his illegal rule, the present government is following the footsteps of martyred Benazir Bhutto to eliminate abuse of such laws.

Bhutto was able to make Zia — introduced laws more moderate but those changes were reversed by the government of Nawaz Sharif later on.

President Zardari’s government is now being credited internationally for softening up such laws and defanging them since those laws were used for terrorising minorities. Had it been any other government Rimsha Masih would not have got her release. Under most intimidating environment when Pakistan’s most popular leader Benazir, her stalwarts like Salman Taseer and Shahbaz Bhatti were done to death by religious terrorists, handling of Rimsha Masih’s case is the best homage to the Quaid.

Democracy was a passion for the Quaid. So were the supremacy of the Parliament as the sole arbiter of power and an elected government as its executive hand. The fact that the elected government is almost completing its tenure unlike previous ever, is an astounding achievement of President Zardari and yet another tribute to legacy of the Quaid, the Bhuttos and the people of Pakistan who have stood by him notwithstanding insurmountable problems.

Quaid wanted Pakistan’s foreign policy to aim at peaceful and honourable co-existence within and abroad. President Zardari has been exceptionally successful at that. He has been steering the country out of morass of inherited chaos, retrieving its lost image and respect in the comity of nations. His government’s spearheading of war on terror is for protecting and preserving Quaid’s Pakistan from slipping into the hands of the blood thirsty heirs of religious extremists who had opposed Quaid and establishment of Pakistan.

Quaid wanted friendship with all — including India — with respect and honour. Zardari government is on its way to achieving it. Our relations with United Kingdom are “excellent” and “matchless”, so are our ties with China “higher than Himalayas and deeper than seven seas”. We have achieved much ingress into EU and its markets. We are back in Commonwealth and playing a positive role. With our Muslim brothers we have no dispute. We want peace and stability in Afghanistan and Afghan-specific resolution of all its problems. With US we are back to building bridges.

Zardari’s most outstanding achievement — which Quaid would have liked to see — is the gradual shift in the relationship between India and Pakistan on the basis of trust and profound commitment towards resolution of issues that had kept the two neighbours at loggerheads. The opening of trade, relaxation in visas, mutual exchanges, sincere deliberations and the so far achievements are credit to the leadership of the two countries.

Like a statesman President Zardari has been successful in underscoring the fact that permanent decisions cannot be subservient to incident — related outbursts of temporary emotions — a cardinal principle in the life of the Quaid who never allowed emotions to play havoc with his decisions and policies.

Thursday, 6 September 2012

The Gayari disaster - A victory amid devastation

Courtesy:- Najeeb Amer Gul

It was spring night on 6th of April, and business as usual in Siachen. As the full moon appeared on horizon, the vast snowy floor of Siachen sparkled brighter than a classic daylight in the plains. As the calm and peaceful night progressed, the chill got agonizingly harsh for the soldiers. Dressed in warm attire, especially designed for high altitudes, the sentries that stood in open felt their bones frozen. Those tucked in sleeping bags inside their bunkers were also restless and twitchy; a tiny hole in their bunkers would offset the heat of oil stoves that burnt all night. As the night grew deeper, all sectors were passing on hourly report of “All OK” to the headquarters. It was business as usual at Siachen.

The men of steel

Courtesy:-  Samson Simon Sharaf

The early birds had not yet begun to chirp. The church bells were ringing at the Catholic Cathedral, Lawrence Road, Lahore, and the voice of the Muezzin echoing through the speakers of Al-Shams Mosque next door. It was the early morning of September 6, 1965. Suddenly, there was an interruption in the mosque public address system. India had attacked and Pakistan was at war! We boarders of St. Anthony’s were the first group of Lahoris to be wide awake as India crossed into Pakistan; their destination; a victory gala at Gymkhana the same evening with champagne and whisky. The party never came to pass and the Indian invasion was halted and rolled back by the blood of martyrs that soiled Pakistan. This is how I kept describing the war in 1965 in my articles as a 12-year old child. Heroism, valour and calls beyond the call of duty were what moulded our young minds to become combaters in Pakistan’s armed forces.  But as we grew, trained, read and learnt, romanticism gave way to the philosophy of war as an extension of state policy. We could now research and write commentaries on the conduct and lessons thereof. But one point always stood out. The Pakistani nation gave an excellent account of itself to the last sinew. It fought the war in its own dimension whilst rubbing shoulders with its brave shoulders and some inept generals. As time passed and we grew in years many childhood fantasies were eclipsed both by the loftiness of human spirit and fallibility of a human mind. The Indian secondary attack at Lahore was halted effectively by Pakistani protective detachments and the main defences at the BRB Canal. The linear form of defence on a water obstacle made Indian outflanking manoeuvres impossible. Despite petering out, this offensive manoeuvre against Lahore was also meant to tie and protect the flanks of Indian major operations in the Sialkot Sector. The secondary attack on Lahore was followed by an Indian diversionary attack in the Jassar Sector, where hastily deployed protective detachments of Pakistan Army were positioned on either side of the river. The quickness and intensity of the Indian offensive with brigade strength unnerved the Pakistani commanders, who blew up the bridge and immediately shifted the bias of the entire defence from the Chowinda Corridor to Jassar. Sialkot now lay open to unchecked invasion. On September 7, the Indians launched their major offensive astride Maharajke, Charwa and Chobara (Chowinda Corridor), a void left open by the shifting of troops to Jassar Sector. In the early morning September 8, Captain Niazi (later Lieutenant General) and Major Mahmud (later Brigadier) flew successively in the area to report a long column of Indian armoured vehicles and infantry moving astride axis Gadgor-Charwa-Chobara-Phillarauh. What remained between the Indians and Sialkot was 13 FF and a squadron of 25 Cavalry on the move. Local commanders called for air support from the PAF. Soon a flight of four F-86 Sabres led by Flight Lieutenant Cecil Chaudhry was over the area wreaking hell over the advancing Indian formations. Once this flight landed back in Lahore, it hardly had any fuel left in the tanks. Indian offensive had been halted and delayed for two hours by the PAF, air observers and artillery, while 13 FF held on stubbornly wherever it could against a force over 60 times its size. Once the Indians resumed the advance, they mistook a C Squadron of 25 Cavalry with 14 tanks moving in an extended formation as an armoured division. The Indian commanders fearing a Pakistani armoured division halted and went into retreat. This squadron engaged the Indian tanks frontally. Incidentally, the remaining 25 Cavalry moving back to Chowinda hit the Indians from the flanks of Gadgor. A fierce battle ensued for the next seven days and came to be called the biggest battle of tanks. Allah, air force, armour, artillery and army aviation had saved the days of September 8-16 for Pakistan. The Indians were rolled back to Chobara. Brigadier Mahmud, a military historian, writes: “The spirit of 25 Cavalry is hard to capture.  But I watched it, sensed it and emotionally shared with those who fought so gallantly, bravely and doggedly on the ground.  I think the annals of military history have no parallel to it.  I record this for posterity to remember.” The Indians had massed three Infantry Divisions, and more than an armoured division to secure a firm base by September 8. Beyond that, they had been mauled. By September 17, they could only make limited penetrations to a maximum depth of 10 miles at Butur Dogran Di and were desperate for air support and reinforcements. Pakistani armoured units, including 11 Cavalry, fought bravely to halt this juggernaut. Indian offensive formations petered out and lost the heart to fight. The morale was low and Pakistan could have taken the battle into the Indian territory had they counter-attacked, followed by a counter-offensive. A fleeting advantage gained by troops in the battlefield was surrendered to the unprofessionalism of the general staff through delay for four days, followed by acceptance of the ceasefire. But Sialkot was not an exception!In the same stride, excellent field manoeuvres by Pakistani armoured and infantry units at Khem Karan also became victims to indecisive minds. Lieutenant General Altaf Qadir, the nominated force commander, had negative observations about GOC 1 Armoured Division Nasir Ahmed Khan. Yet, Altaf was moved to Ankara and Nasir given the dishonour to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. This is in brief the story of the war that was preceded by the Kashmir war of 1965. It appears that the Pakistani rulers had decided to settle all issues with India in 1965. The Rann of Kutch conflict between India and Pakistan in April-May 1965 was a precursor to September 1965. Following a series of diplomatic failures, India had occupied Pakistani areas surrounding Biar Bhet. Pakistan reacted with a surgical and quick coup de grâce confronted by little or no resistance. The facile victory emboldened Pakistan’s policy planners to transit to war, as a continuum of its policy towards India. Lamentably, they ignored the reality that international, the US and Centcom pressure would never allow them to have their way. Operation Grand Slam in Kashmir was preceded by the launching of the Gibraltar Force in the Valley of Kashmir. It was based on the premise that the actions of Gibraltar Force will ignite a general rebellion in the Indian Held Kashmir (IHK); that the international reaction will be favourable; and that the war will not spill to the eastern border with India. All three assumptions proved wrong! Launched on September 1, 1965, Major General Akhtar Malik envisaged the capture of Akhnoor Bridge by the third. It was a mission that could be accomplished.  Yet, Major General Yahya Khan was pre-positioned to take over on September 2, 1965. This self-imposed delay of 24 hours ensured that Akhnoor could not be captured. A strong inference is that General Ayub Khan, either himself or under pressure from the Centcom, chose to peter out the operation. What implies is that Pakistan has always had very little leverage in chalking out its own destiny; something glaring in all its wars and major policy interests.  Yet, whenever it has attempted to break free, it has succumbed to international pressures and forced to retreat back. Unless and until Pakistan harnesses its full home-grown national power potential, it will be impossible to follow a home-grown policy. It is also noteworthy that Pakistan has always chosen a hostile international environment to make a conscientious decision to transit to war as an ‘instrument of policy’. Modern wars in a closely connected and interdependent world cannot be fought in isolation and without allies. Pakistan in 1965, 1971 and Kargil had to pay a heavy price for such miscalculations. Sadly, all such events have taken place under military regimes that preferred narrow operational strategy over a cohesive national policy. The spirit of the Pakistani field soldier, airman and seaman cannot be eclipsed. These are citizen combaters, who have repeatedly given an excellent account in battle and sacrificed their lives so that we may live. The spirit behind these soldiers has always been the nation that fully backs them in conflict. It is this seamless sea of emotions, identity and cohesiveness that binds Pakistanis together despite all odds. It is the fourth indomitable dimension of strategy we tend to forget so often during a conflict and yet that never lets the country down. The conduct and execution of war are two different disciplines. In 1965, the field formations of Pakistan Army gave an excellent account of themselves in the battlefield. Unfortunately, the conduct of war by the general staff and some generals lacked the mettle to match the tenacious ‘Men of Steel’. They gave in too easily to fallibility and pressures they were trained to resist.

In remembrance of 1965 War

Courtesy:- Shamsa Ishfaq

The Pakistani nation will be celebrating 47th Defence Day of Pakistan on 6th September with enthusiasm. The defence day marked the September 1965 War and the valiant defence put up by the armed forces against Indian aggression. It was during 1965 War with India when Pakistan armed forces and its people proved that it’s not the size that matters but the courage and devotion to duty and cause.

Forty-seven years back on September 6, Indian army crossed the Wagah border and moved towards Lahore, despite assurances at international forums that it would not cross international borders. This attack touched off the second Indo-Pakistan war. It was the moment when Pakistan Armed Forces and the people of Pakistan stood united in defence of the country and presented exemplary display of chivalry, courage and gallantry against their enemy. In the war of 1965 especially our brave and fearless Armed Forces exhibited exemplary discipline and spirit of sacrifice in defending their homeland making their nation proud.

Commemorating the best moment

Courtesy:- Malik M Ashraf

Pakistan and India have fought four wars since independence. Three of them over Kashmir; an unfinished agenda of the partition. The 1965 war between the two countries was arguably the best moment in our national history from two perspectives. One was the universally acknowledged valour and determination with which our armed forces fought the four times bigger enemy and thwarted its nefarious design to capture Lahore and other cities of Pakistan and the other was an unprecedented and impregnable national unity with which the nation backed the war effort. 

Safeguarding minorities rights

Courtesy:- Asmaar Bilal Mushtaq Sheikh 

It is good to note that the minorities in general and members of Hindu community in particular have been assured at the highest level of the President of Pakistan that they would be provided full protection and their constitutional rights safeguarded. According to the reports in the media, President Asif Ali Zardari reiterated the government’s firm commitment in this regard while receiving the report of the Parliamentary Committee he had set up last month to visit various districts of Sindh, meet members of the Hindu committee and present a report about their grievances to him. The Committee Chairman Senator Maula Bux Chandio along with other members presented the report to the President in Karachi.

Zardari’s political wisdom

Courtesy:- Munir Ahmed Khan 

Being a man of vision, he has bravely faced all the challenges that came his way and fought his political rivals with such a sagacity, deep insight, broad vision and unwavering resolve that even his opponents are forced to admit that he is the true successor of Shaheed Zulfikar Ali Bhutto and the best politician of Pakistan. The most effective weapon through which he has conquered his political opponents during the last four years is his politics of reconciliation. Of course, he is none other than the President of Pakistan and the Co-Chairperson of Pakistan Peoples Party – Asif Ali Zardari.

Tuesday, 4 September 2012

Credit goes to Zardari

Courtesy:- M A MALIK

On September 4, 2012 President Asif Ali Zardari is completing four years of his five-year mandated term as head of the state, which is a fairly long period to conduct an appraisal of his achievements both as head of the state and as co-chairman of the ruling PPP. An objective evaluation in this regard would necessitate a scrutinising glance at them in relation to the challenges that the country was confronted with when he and his party were saddled with the responsibility to steer it out of the troubled waters. 

Flawed Afghan road map

Courtesy:- Dr Maleeha Lodhi

Plans are underway to convene a ministerial-level meeting of ‘Core Group’ countries – Pakistan, US and Afghanistan – on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly session in New York later this month.

Other than reiterate previous declarations this trilateral meeting will do little to advance prospects of finding a negotiated end to the long running war in Afghanistan. For this to happen, the present US emphasis on a tactical military campaign has to decisively shift to a political strategy that can establish a meaningful peace process. But there is little sign of this given the dynamics of the American presidential election, only two months away now.

Misuse of the blasphemy law

Courtesy:-  Hafiz Muhammad Tahir Mahmood Ashrafi

Blasphemy is an extremely sensitive subject. No Muslim of even the weakest faith can condone the defiling of the sacred name of the Holy Prophet (pbuh) or the Holy Quran. But blasphemy is an issue that does require extreme care in its handling.
The case of Rimsha, a minor Christian girl suffering from Down’s syndrome accused of blasphemy, should be a watershed for the country’s blasphemy laws. The fact that Rimsha’s entire neighbourhood has fled their homes fearing a backlash from the local Muslims needs investigation. Khalid Jadoon Chishti, who eyewitnesses told the local police had added pages of the Holy Quran to a bag containing the burnt material, should be thoroughly probed as well.