Monthly Archives: April 2012

How America Went Rogue: What We All Need to Know About Our Government’s Shadow Wars

Editor’s Note:Tom Englehart, in his article “Details of Secret Pact Emerge:Troops stuck in Afghanistan till 2024 LINK:  Details of Secret Pact Emerge: Troops stuck in Afghanistan till 2024 had stated over a year ago, what the US-Afghan partnership ” revealed” now. I quoted him in my article “Why is US targeting Pakistan?” published by Asia Times.LINK: http://www.atimes.com/atimes/South_Asia/MJ07Df04.html

Reagan’s shadow government was a disaster, but it was a pygmy compared with Obama’s.

By Juan Cole

Covert operations are nothing new in American history, but it could be argued that during the past decade they have moved from being a relatively minor arrow in the national security quiver to being the cutting edge of American power. Drone strikes, electronic surveillance and stealth engagements by military units such as the Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC), as well as dependence on private corporations, mercenary armies and terrorist groups, are now arguably more common as tools of US foreign policy than conventional warfare or diplomacy. But these tools lend themselves to rogue operations that create peril for the United States when they blow back on us. And they often make the United States deeply unpopular.

Shadow power has even become an issue in the presidential campaign. Newt Gingrich advocates ramped-up “covert operations” inside Iran. President Obama replied to Mitt Romney’s charge that he is an “appeaser” by suggesting that his critics “ask bin Laden” about that.

Obama often speaks of the “tide of war receding,” but that phrase refers only to conventional war. In Afghanistan, where the administration hopes to roll up conventional fighting by the end of 2013, it is making plans for long-term operations by special forces through units such as JSOC. It is unclear what legal framework will be constructed for their activities, other than a wink and a nod from President Hamid Karzai.

Although the Iraqis managed to compel the withdrawal of US troops by the end of last year, Washington is nevertheless seeking to remain influential through shadow power. The US embassy in Baghdad has 16,000 employees, most of them civilian contractors. They include 2,000 diplomats and several hundred intelligence operatives. By contrast, the entire US Foreign Service corps comprises fewer than 14,000. The Obama administration has decided to slash the number of contractors, planning for an embassy force of “only” 8,000. This monument to shadow power clearly is not intended merely to represent US interests in Iraq but rather to shape that country and to serve as a command center for the eastern reaches of the greater Middle East. The US shadow warriors will, for instance, attempt to block “the influence of Iran,” according to the Washington Post. Since Iraq’s Shiite political parties, which dominate Parliament and the cabinet, are often close to Iran, that charge would inescapably involve meddling in internal Iraqi politics.

Nor can we be sure that the CIA will engage only in espionage or influence-peddling in Iraq. The American shadow government routinely kidnaps people it considers dangerous and has sent them to black sites for torture, often by third-party governments to keep American hands clean. As usual with the shadow government, private corporations have been enlisted to help in these “rendition” programs, which are pursued outside the framework of national and international law and in defiance of the sensibilities of our allies. How the United States might behave in Iraq can be extrapolated from its recent behavior in other allied countries. In November 2009 an Italian court convicted in absentia twenty-three people, most of them CIA field officers who had kidnapped an alleged Al Qaeda recruiter, Abu Omar, on a Milan street in the middle of the day and sent him to Hosni Mubarak’s Egypt for “interrogation.” Obama has explicitly continued this practice as a “counterterrorism tool,” though he says torture has been halted. Iraq is likely to continue to be an arena of such veiled struggles.

The Obama administration’s severe unilateral sanctions on Iran and attempts to cut that country off from the world banking system have a shadow power aspect. Aimed at crippling Iran’s oil exports, they are making it difficult for Iran to import staples like wheat. Although Washington denies carrying out covert operations in Iran, the US government and allies like Israel are suspected of doing just that. According to anonymous US intelligence officials and military sources interviewed by The New Yorker’s Seymour Hersh, the United States has trained members of the MEK (Mojahedin-e Khalq, or People’s Jihadis), based in Iraq at Camp Ashraf, to spy on Iran and carry out covert operations there, just as Saddam Hussein had done, though any American support for the organization would directly contradict the State Department listing of it as a terrorist organization. The MEK is suspected of carrying out a string of assassinations against Iranian nuclear scientists, but US intelligence leaks say Israel’s Mossad, not the CIA, is the accomplice. Indeed, the difficulty of disentangling Washington’s shadow power from that of its junior partners can be seen in the leak by US intelligence complaining that Mossad agents had impersonated CIA field officers in recruiting members of the Jundullah terrorist group in Iranian Baluchistan for covert operations against Iran. Jundullah, a Sunni group, has repeatedly bombed Shiite mosques in Zahedan and elsewhere in the country’s southeast. Needless to say, the kind of overt and covert pressure Obama is putting on Iran could easily, even if inadvertently, spark a war.

The recent release of more than 5 million e-mails hacked from the server of the private intelligence firm Stratfor shows that it did more than analysis. It engaged in surveillance and intelligence activities on behalf of corporate sponsors. Dow Chemical, for example, hired Stratfor to monitor a protest group agitating on the issue of the catastrophic 1984 gas leak in Bhopal, India, which killed at least 3,500. WikiLeaks maintains that Stratfor exemplifies the “revolving door” between private intelligence firms and the US government agencies that share information with them.

The increasingly frequent use of civilian “security contractors” — essentially mercenaries — should be a sore point for Americans. The tens of thousands of mercenaries deployed in Iraq were crucial to the US occupation of that country, but they also demonstrate the severe drawbacks of using shadow warriors. Ignorance about local attitudes, arrogance and lack of coordination with the US military and with local police and military led to fiascoes such as the 2007 shootings at Baghdad’s Nisour Square, where Blackwater employees killed seventeen Iraqis. The Iraqi government ultimately expelled Blackwater, even before it did the same with the US military, which had brought the contractors into their country.

* * *

The bad feelings toward the United States generated by hired guns can also be seen in the infamous Raymond Davis incident in Lahore, Pakistan. On January 27, 2011, Davis, a CIA contractor, was waiting at a traffic light when two Pakistanis pulled up next to him on a motorcycle. Davis, who later alleged that one of them had a gun, became alarmed and shot the men. The driver survived the initial volley and tried to run away, but Davis shot him twice in the back. Instead of fleeing the scene, he spent time searching and then photographing the bodies and calling the US consulate for an extraction team. Undercover CIA field officers raced toward the site of the shooting in a consulate SUV, hoping to keep Davis out of the hands of Pakistani authorities, who were approaching, sirens blaring. In its haste, the extraction team killed a motorcyclist and failed in its mission. Davis was taken into custody. His cellphone yielded the identities of some forty-five members of his covert network in Pakistan, who were also arrested.

The incident provoked rolling street demonstrations and enraged Pakistanis, who are convinced that the country is crawling with such agents. Davis was jailed and charged with double homicide, and only released months later, when a Persian Gulf oil monarchy allegedly paid millions on behalf of the United States to the families (in Islamic law, families of a murder victim may pardon the murderer on payment of a satisfactory sum). It was a public relations debacle for Washington, of course, but the salient fact is that a US public servant shot two Pakistanis (likely not terrorists) in cold blood, one of them in the back.

American drone strikes on individuals and groups in the tribal belt of northwestern Pakistan, as well as in Yemen, also typify Washington’s global shadow wars. The United States has 7,000 unmanned aerial vehicles, which it has deployed in strikes in six countries. Both the CIA and the US military operate the drones. Rather than being adjuncts to conventional war, drone strikes are mostly carried out in places where no war has been declared and no Status of Forces Agreement has been signed. They operate outside the framework of the Constitution, with no due process or habeas corpus, recalling premodern practices of the English monarchy, such as declaring people outlaws, issuing bills of attainder against individuals who offend the crown and trying them in secret Star Chamber proceedings.

Despite President Obama’s denials, the Britain-based Bureau of Investigative Journalism has found that not only are civilians routinely killed by US drone strikes in northern Pakistan; often people rushing to the scene of a strike to help the wounded are killed by a second launch. The BIJ estimates that the United States has killed on the order of 3,000 people in 319 drone strikes, some 600 of them civilian bystanders and 174 of those, children. Some 84 percent of all such strikes were launched after Obama came to office.

Moreover, the drone operations are classified. When asked about strikes, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton refuses to confirm or deny that they have occurred. The drones cannot be openly debated in Congress or covered in any detail by the US media. Therefore, they cannot be the subject of a national political debate, except in the abstract. The Congressional intelligence committees are briefed on the program, but it is unlikely that any serious checks and balances can operate in so secret and murky a realm, and the committees’ leaders have complained about the inadequacy of the information they are given. No hearing could be called about them, since the drone strikes cannot be publicly confirmed. Classified operations create gods, above the law.

* * *

The WikiLeaks State Department cables reveal that Pakistani Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani and former Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh secretly authorized US drone strikes, pledging to take the blame from their angry publics. But a private conversation with a single leader, repeatedly denied thereafter in public, is hardly a treaty. The only international legal doctrine (recognized in the United Nations charter) invoked to justify drone strikes is the right of the United States to defend itself from attack. But it cannot be demonstrated that any drone strike victims had attacked, or were in a position to attack, the United States. Other proposed legal justifications also falter.

The doctrine of “hot pursuit” does not apply in Yemen or Somalia, and often does not apply in Pakistan, either. The only due process afforded those killed from the air is an intelligence assessment, possibly based on dubious sources and not reviewed by a judge. Those targeted are typically alleged to belong to Al Qaeda, the Taliban or some kindred group, and apparently thought to fall under the mandate of the September 14, 2001, Congressional Authorization for the Use of Military Force by the president against those behind the September 11 attacks and those who harbored them. The AUMF could probably legitimately be applied to Ayman al-Zawahiri’s Al Qaeda faction, which still plots against the United States. But a new generation of Muslim militants has arisen, far too young to be implicated in 9/11 and who may have rethought that disastrous strategy.

Increasingly, moreover, “Al Qaeda” is a vague term somewhat arbitrarily applied by Washington to regional groups involved in local fundamentalist politics, as with the Partisans of Sharia, the Yemeni militants who have taken over the city of Zinjibar, or expatriate Arab supporters in Pakistan of the Haqqani network of Pashtun fighters — former allies of the United States in their struggle against the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan. How long will the AUMF be deployed in the Muslim world to authorize cowboy tactics from the skies? There is no consistency, no application of the rule of law. Guilt by association and absence of due process are the hallmarks of shadow government. In September the Obama administration used a drone to kill a US citizen in Yemen, Anwar al-Awlaki. But since the Supreme Court had already ruled, in Hamdan v. Rumsfeld (2006), that the AUMF could not authorize military tribunals for Guantánamo detainees that sidestepped civil due process — and since the subsequent Military Commissions Act of 2006 allows such tribunals only for aliens — it is hard to see how Awlaki’s right to a trial could be summarily abrogated. Two weeks after he was killed, his 16-year-old son, also a US citizen and less obviously a menace to the superpower, was also killed by a drone.

By contrast, the United States and its allies are sanguine about a figure like the Libyan Abdel Hakim Belhadj, now in charge of security in Tripoli, who fought in Afghanistan against the Soviet Union and was later held in US black sites. Released, he emerged as a rebel leader in Libya last year. The circumstantial case against him would easily allow a US drone strike on him even now under the current rules, but he was rehabilitated because of his enmity toward Muammar el-Qaddafi.

* * *

Among the greatest dangers to American citizens from Washington’s shadow power is “blowback,” the common term for a covert operation that boomerangs on its initiator. Arguably, the Reagan administration marked a turning point in the history of US infatuation with shadow power. Reagan strong-armed King Fahd of Saudi Arabia into providing funds to the right-wing Contras in Nicaragua, and the president developed his own resources for the Contras by illegally selling weapons to Iran (despite its being on the terrorist watch list and ineligible for such sales). Washington also joined Fahd in giving billions of dollars of arms and aid to the fundamentalist mujahedeen in Afghanistan (“freedom fighters,” Reagan called them, “the equivalent of America’s founding fathers”), where Arab volunteers ultimately coalesced into Al Qaeda. They later used the tradecraft they had absorbed from CIA-trained Afghan colleagues to stage operations in the Middle East against US allies and to carry out the 9/11 attacks. Two allied groups that received massive aid from the Reagan administration became among the deadliest US enemies in Afghanistan after 2002: the Haqqani network and the Hizb-i-Islami. Blowback goes hand in hand with covert operations.

The use of mercenaries and black units by the US government undermines discipline, lawfulness and a strong and consistent chain of command. Regular armies can be deployed and then demobilized, but Al Qaeda-like networks, once created, cannot be rolled up so easily, and they often turn against former allies. Black intelligence and military operations with virtually no public oversight can easily go rogue.

Reagan’s shadow government was a disaster, but it was a pygmy compared with Obama’s. Americans will have to be prepared for much more blowback to come if we go on like this — not to mention further erosion of civil liberties at home, as the shadow government reaches back toward us from abroad. (Electronic surveillance without a warrant and the militarization of our police forces are cases in point.) Moreover, the practices associated with the shadow government, because of the rage they provoke, deepen mistrust of Washington and reduce the international cooperation that the United States, like all countries, needs. The shadow government masquerades as a way to keep the United States strong, but if it is not rolled back, it could fatally weaken American diplomacy.


Juan Cole is the Richard P. Mitchell Professor of History and the director of the Center for South Asian Studies at the University of Michigan. His latest book, Engaging the Muslim World, is available in a revised paperback edition from Palgrave Macmillan. He runs the Informed Comment website.

NOTE:This is a cross post from AlterNet.com

 

The Myth of Siachien :An extreme case of Oro-politics

This is a Pakpotpourri Exc;usive

Jawad Raza Khan

A service Wednesday for 138 Pakistani soldiers and civilians buried in an avalanche.

THE GROUND ZERO is under deep discussion since 139 officers and men of Pakistan Army have gone under more than a Km long and 80 feet high snow rock in Giari Sector on Siachien Glacier. Only a miracle can save anyone out of them but interestingly in the dynamics of media politics, Anti nationalists/ paid journalists who are having an affair with US and India and their hegemonic designs, who are criticizing Pakistan whole-heartedly without any break and whoindeed are the greatest supporter of Amman Ki Asha are now taking a swift and a smart maneuver to misguide Pakistan yet another time. Unfortunately this time the issue is too hot to handle, sensitive and complex “The Siachien Glacier”. These sold out pseudo intellectuals are now demanding unilateralwithdrawal of Pakistani forces from Siachien Glacier, confirming their exclusive working on an exclusive agenda. Global strategies are designed and executed when ripe properly and that is the reason now for Pakistani masses to educate themselves on this issue on war footing; otherwise we will again be faltering(Courtesy 46 million US dollars to Pakistani media).

The Recap

America has always won a distinction in killing humans and environment, while setting examples leading to conflicts. Just to qualify the statement, the era of nuclear regimes was triggered by US after World War II with destruction of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Here again, the glacier conflict between India and Pakistanwas set off by US. For quantifying evidence we need to knock the doors of history with a little awareness about the term of Oro-Politics.

In modern usage Oro-Politics denotes the use and abuse of mountaineering sports for political and military purposes. The first Oro-political event was an ascentof Nanda Devi (Indo-China border) by joint Indo-US expeditions in the 1960s, basically to plant devices to monitor Chinese nuclear activity. Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) in cooperation with the Indian Intelligence Bureau (IB) planned a climb of the peak to place a nuclear-powered telemetry relay listening on the summit of Nanda Devi. The device was designed to intercept telemetry signals from Chinese missile test launches in Xinjiang Province. Unfortunately for them,a massive snowstorm during the initial climb hit the expedition and the device was lost in an avalanche and, as so far known, has never been found. As a result of this activity, the Sanctuary was closed to climbing by foreign expeditions during much of the 1960s, and was not re-opened until 1974. This was the kick startof Oro-Politicism in the dominions of Indo-Pak conflict in mountains.

After having learnt the art of Oro-Politics from US by deploying their assets against China with them, the Indian think tank turned their attention towards the main foe “Pakistan”. Operation Meghdoot was then launched against Pakistan in 1984 which resulted in control of India on major chunk of Pakistan’s Siachien Glacier. The possession of Siachien Glacier can only be proved by referring it to the mountaineering history and records of Pakistani Tourism Departmentduring 70s and 80s. During this period, several mountaineering expeditions applied to Pakistan to climb high peaks in the Siachen area. These expeditions arrived on the glacier with a permit obtained from the Government of Pakistan. For instance Teram Kangri I (7,465 m/24,491 ft) and Teram Kangri II (7,406 m/24,298 ft) were climbed in 1975 by a Japanese expedition led by H. Katayama, which approached through Pakistan via the Bilafond La Pakistani side of the line.

Just to add into, in 90s sports activity was shown in Arunachal Pradesh India, for ascent of Nyegyi Kangsang (7047 m) and the attempt on the nearby peakKangto (7090 m), area was again located near India-China border. These were as much sporting activities as visible demonstrations of de facto control of Indiaover terrain claimed by China. Yet another hit on Chinese claim, unsporting indeed, it was revealed later on that actual summit of Nyegyi Kangsang was not even reached, terribly against the norms of Mountaineering sports.

After putting the record straight and enlightening you with an extremely dangerous game of politics in mountains played by rivals of China and Pakistan, one need to understand the deeper strategy connected to all this.

Gaining foot hold on Siachien, can be safely termed as first phase of war designs launched by US-India-Israel Nexus. It is basically killing two sparrows with one arrow China and Pakistan using poor Indian soldiers as fuel (The Arrow). For every two days one Indian soldiers dies and India is spending five times more than Pakistan for maintaining troops on the Glacier.

The First Phase can also be termed as positioning of forces before the main to come (in case). What all the nexus is endeavouring to neutralize is Kashmir issue in case of Pakistan, while ensuring encirclement of China by cutting Pakistan from Karakorum Highway. In addition to this, while maintaining terrain superiority they will also be able to deny any space to China in Indian Ocean through Arabian Sea (The Gawader Port).

Political aims can only be achieved when you have a perception supportive launching pad to sell it to the world. In this case US and India are far ahead of their respective counter parts especially Pakistan. With ingress of US and India in Pakistan’s media industry (SAFMA), Pakistan’s intellectual engine seems to have lost its orientation completely. On the other hand the main stream media is busy is disseminating themes injurious to Pakistan’s sovereignty, while keepingaudience confused, ignorant and disorientated for times to come.  The recent hue and cry in shape of articles like “Bring our Boys Back” are fueled to ensurehealth of political interests of enemies of Pakistan and can no way help Pakistan to exist with grace and honour. Here it is imperative to highlight that soldiers are trained and born to die let them fight it out we should be proud of them as they are safeguarding their own political and strategic interests.

The Black sheep’s must be spotted and dealt with effectively to ensure interests of Pakistan and its friend China with velocity and precision. I appeal the media managers of Pakistan (one not sold out) to take stalk of the circumstances before it’s too late. May Allah guide all of us in this crunch situation!

 

 

The writer is based in Islamabad.

Nawaz Sharif’s Corruption highlighted in Raymond Baker’s book on Dirty Money

Raymond Baker in his book Capitalism’s Achilles HeelDirty Money and How to Renew the Free-Market System tried to understand the dynamics of how dirty money works.

Corruption and criminality run from the top down, with the political class constantly looting the national treasury and distorting economic policy for personal gain. Bank loans are granted largely on the basis of status and connections. The rich stash much of their money abroad in those willing western coffers, while exhibiting little inclination to repay their rupee borrowings. Pakistan’s recent history has been dominated by two families—the Bhuttos and the Sharifs—both merely tolerated by the military, the real power in the country. When it comes to economic destruction, there’s not a lot of difference among the three.

Pages 82-85 of the book cover the section on Nawaz Sharif: While Benazir Bhutto hated the generals for executing her father, Nawaz Sharif early on figured out that they held the real power in Pakistan. His father had established a foundry in 1939 and, together with six brothers, had struggled for years only to see their business nationalized by Ali Bhutto’s regime in 1972. This sealed decades of enmity between the Bhuttos and the Sharifs. Following the military coup and General Zia’s assumption of power, the business—Ittefaq—was returned to family hands in 1980.Nawaz Sharif became a director and cultivated relations with senior military officers. This led to his appointment as finance minister of Punjab and then election as chief minister of this most populous province in 1985. During the 1980s and early 1990s, given Sharif ’s political control of Punjab and eventual prime ministership of the country, Ittefaq Industries grew from its original single foundry into 30 businesses producing steel, sugar, paper, and textiles, with combined revenues of $400 million, making it one of the biggest private conglomerates in the nation. As in many other countries, when you control the political realm, you can get anything you want in the economic realm.
With Lahore, the capital of Punjab, serving as the seat of the family’s power, one of the first things Sharif did upon becoming prime minister in 1990 was build his long-dreamed-of superhighway from there to the capital,Islamabad. Estimated to cost 8.5 billion rupees, the project went through two biddings. Daewoo of Korea, strengthening its proposals with midnight meetings, was the highest bidder both times, so obviously it won the contract and delivered the job at well over 20 billion rupees.
A new highway needs new cars. Sharif authorized importation of 50,000 vehicles duty free, reportedly costing the government $700 million in lost customs duties. Banks were forced to make loans for vehicle purchases to would-be taxi cab drivers upon receipt of a 10 percent deposit.Borrowers got their “Nawaz Sharif cabs,” and some 60 percent of them promptly defaultedThis left the banks with $500 million or so in unpaid loans. Vehicle dealers reportedly made a killing and expressed their appreciation in expected ways. Under Sharif, unpaid bank loans and massive tax evasion remained the favorite ways to get rich. Upon his loss of power the usurping government published a list of 322 of the largest loan defaulters, representing almost $3 billion out of $4 billion owed to banks. Sharif and his family were tagged for $60 million. The Ittefaq Group went bankrupt in 1993 when Sharif lost his premiership the first time. By then only three units in the group were operational, and loan defaults of the remaining companies totaled some 5.7 billion rupees, more than $100 million.
Like Bhutto, offshore companies have been linked to Sharif, three in the British Virgin Islands by the names of Nescoll, Nielson, and Shamrock and another in the Channel Islands known as Chandron Jersey Pvt. Ltd. Some of these entities allegedly were used to facilitate purchase of four rather grand flats on Park Lane in London, at various times occupied by Sharif family members. Reportedly, payment transfers were made to Banque Paribas en Suisse, which then instructed Sharif ’s offshore companies Nescoll and Nielson to purchase the four luxury suites.
In her second term, Benazir Bhutto had Pakistan’s Federal Investigating Agency begin a probe into the financial affairs of Nawaz Sharif and his family. The probe was headed by Rehman Malik, deputy director general of the agency. Malik had fortified his reputation earlier by aiding in the arrest of Ramzi Yousef, mastermind of the 1993 World Trade Center bombing. During Sharif ’s second term, the draft report of the investigation was suppressed, Malik was jailed for a year, and later reportedly survived an assassination attempt, after which he fled to London. The Malik report, five years in the making, was released in 1998, with explosive revelations:
The records, including government documents, signed affidavits from Pakistani officials, bank files and property records, detail deals that Mr. Malik says benefited Mr. Sharif, his family and his political associates:

  • At least $160 million pocketed from a contract to build a highway from Lahore, his home town, to Islamabad, the nation’s capital.
  • At least $140 million in unsecured loans from Pakistan’s state banks.
  • More than $60 million generated from government rebates on sugar exported by millscontrolled by Mr. Sharif and his business associates.
  • At least $58 million skimmed from inflated prices paid for imported wheat from the United States and Canada. In the wheat deal, Mr. Sharif ’s government paid prices far above market value to a private company owned by a close associate of his in Washington, the records show. Falsely inflated invoices for the wheat generated tens of millions of dollars in cash.

The report went on to state that “The extent and magnitude of this corruption is so staggering that it has put the very integrity of the country at stake.” In an interview, Malik added: “No other leader of Pakistan has taken that much money from the banks. There is no rule of law in Pakistan. It doesn’t exist.
What brought Sharif down in his second term was his attempt to acquire virtually dictatorial powers. In 1997 he rammed a bill through his compliant parliament requiring legislators to vote as their party leaders directed. In 1998 he introduced a bill to impose Sharia law (Muslim religious law) across Pakistan, with himself empowered to issue unilateral directives in the name of Islam. In 1999 he sought to sideline the army by replacing Chief of Staff Pervez Musharraf with a more pliable crony. He forgot the lessons he had learned in the 1980s: The army controls Pakistan and politicians are a nuisance. As Musharraf was returning from Sri Lanka, Sharif tried to sack him in midair and deny the Pakistan International Airways flight with 200 civilians on board landing rights in Karachi. Musharraf radioed from the aircraft through Dubai to his commander in Karachi, ordering him to seize the airport control tower, accomplished as the plane descended almost out of fuel. Musharraf turned the tables and completed his coup, and Sharif was jailed.
But Sharif had little to fear. This, after all, is Pakistan. Musharraf needed to consolidate his power with the generals, and Sharif knew details about the corruption of most of the brass. Obviously, it is better to tread lightly around the edges of your peer group’s own thievery. So Musharraf had Sharif probed, tried, convicted, and sentenced to life in prison, but then in 2000 exiled him to Saudi Arabia.Twenty-two containers of carpets and furniture followed, and, of course, his foreign accounts remained mostly intact. Ensconced in a glittering palace in Jeddah, he is described as looking “corpulent” amidst “opulent” surroundings. Reportedly, he and Benazir Bhutto even have an occasional telephone conversation, perhaps together lamenting how unfair life has become.

Honoring the Veteran

Editor’s Note:Author of this is unknown. It was forwarded to me by a veteran. A retired Squadron Leader of the Pak Air Force. It bought a lump to my throat. Unfortunately, we in our country have forgotten to award respect where respect is due. There is a lesson to be learnt here. Are we willing to learn it? 

Posted by Moderator of the Blog

This is decency, full circle.I put my carry-on in the luggage compartment and sat down in my assigned seat. It was going to be a long flight.

‘I’m glad I have a good book to read and perhaps I will get a short nap,’
I thought.

Just before take-off, a line of soldiers came down the aisle and filled all
the vacant seats, totally surrounding me.

I decided to start a conversation. ‘Where are you headed?’ I asked the
soldier seated nearest to me.
‘Petawawa. We’ll be there for two weeks for special training, and then
we’re being deployed to Afghanistan’.

After flying for about an hour, an announcement was made that sack lunches
were available for five dollars….

It would be several hours before we reached the east, and I quickly decided a lunch would help pass the time….

As I reached for my wallet, I overheard soldier ask his buddy if he planned to buy lunch.
‘No, that seems like a lot of money for just a sack lunch. Probably
wouldn’t be worth five bucks. I’ll wait till we get to base ‘.  His friend
agreed.
I looked around at the other soldiers. None were buying lunch. I walked to the back of the plane and handed the flight attendant a fifty dollar bill.
‘Take a lunch to all those soldiers.’

She grabbed my arms and squeezed tightly.
Her eyes wet with tears, she thanked me. ‘My son was a soldier in Iraq ;
it’s almost like you are doing it for him.’

Picking up ten sacks, she headed up the aisle to where the soldiers were
seated.

She stopped at my seat and asked, ‘Which do you like best – beef or
chicken?’

‘Chicken,’ I replied, wondering why she asked.

She turned and went to the front of plane, returning a minute later with a dinner plate from first class. ‘This is yours with thanks…’

After we finished eating, I went again to the back of the plane, heading
for the rest room. A man stopped me.

‘I saw what you did. I want to be part of it. Here, take this.’ He handed
me twenty-five dollars.
Soon after I returned to my seat, I saw the Aircraft Pilot coming down the aisle, looking at the aisle numbers as he walked, I hoped he was not
looking for me, but noticed he was looking at the numbers only on my side of the plane.

When he got to my row he stopped, smiled, held out his hand, an said, ‘I want to shake your hand.’
Quickly unfastening my seat belt I stood and took the Captain’s hand. With a booming voice he said, ‘I was a soldier and I was a military pilot….
Once, someone bought me a lunch. It was an act of kindness I never forgot.’

I was embarrassed when applause was heard from all of the passengers.
Later I walked to the front of the plane so I could stretch my legs. A man who was seated about six rows in front of me reached out his hand, wanting to shake mine. He left another twenty-five dollars in my palm.

When we landed I gathered my belongings and started to deplane. Waiting just inside the airplane door was a man who stopped me, put something in my shirt pocket, turned, and walked away without saying a word.

Another twenty-five dollars!

Upon entering the terminal, I saw the soldiers gathering for their trip to
the base. I walked over to them and handed them seventy-five dollars.

‘It will take you some time to reach the base. It will be about time for a
sandwich. God Bless You.’

Ten young men left that flight feeling the love and respect of their fellow
travelers. As I walked briskly to my car, I whispered a prayer for their
safe return. These soldiers were giving their all for our country. I could
only give them a couple of meals.
It seemed so little…

A veteran is someone who, at one point in his life, wrote a blank check
made payable to his country for an amount of ‘up to and including my life.’

That is Honor, and there are way too many people who no longer understand it.

 

Social Media:A Mirror…or Lynching Pad?

Editor’s Note;Social Media has come up as a strong medium of communication. Yes,it has it’s good & bad points. Explored by Ali Shah,a banker based in Karachi.

This is a Pakpotpourri Exclusive

By:Ali Rehman

The growth in popularity of social media is indeed very welcome.  We have all witnessed various examples of nations chiseling their fate, individual voices becoming screams of the masses, a small town story becoming a national issue, all because of the social media (twitter/facebook).  Many a success can be attributed today to these channels of communication, starting from drives for funds, to blood donation, to updating of real time news, to more serious stands, where pressure have been built on issues like the internet censorship or the Domestic Violence Bill.  All in all, it provides a platform for anyone to voice their opinions, comment or give analysis on anything and everything.

While the positives of social media have been briefly touched upon, it, by far, is utilized more for commenting on the current affairs, happenings in and around us.  Hardly any event is missed out, initially – the announcement, during – the running commentary, and after – the analysis of who, what, where, when, why and how was good, bad, could have been better, and the likes.  In a similar fashion, politics, the ever constant political events, Human Rights activities/stands, anchors, journalists, and other public figures are always under discussion and many politicians, human rights activists take it head on from all sorts of people.

While it is appreciated and understood that it is next to impossible for them to reply to each and every comment, it is not the frequency which is under discussion here, rather, the quality of the reply.  On one hand, we have individuals like Mr. and Mrs. Hussain Haqqani, Faisal Subzwari, Maryam Nawaz Sharif, Rehman Malik, Jahangir Tareen, Fawad Chaudhry and other public figures like Naseem Zehra, Shahzeb Khanzada, etc., who would take time out as and when they can and respond or comment in the politest of manners, objective being to get their respective points across, which may be in agreement or disagreement of the original observation.  On the other, we have individuals many politicians, public figures who simply lack the tolerance, needed while belonging to the level they rightly or wrongly belong to.  It is this observation which brings us to the gist of this paper.

Who are these public figures, the anchors, the politicians? Are they from another planet? Is it not us who criticize every single word uttered by them? We complain about various statements by these individuals which may reflect on ethnic inclinations.  An old adage, “a chain is as strong as the weakest link” can be quoted aptly here.  We are all links.  We have an issue with “liberals”, “Mullahs”, “Leftists” and “Rightists” and what not.  We, as common people, need to stop and reflect.  Are we not as guilty, even more, for committing the “crimes” we have issues with, if committed by others.

More often than not we are blaming our politicians, public figures, “liberal fascists”, etc. on communicating and advocating divides, supremacies, inferiorities, based on ethnic backgrounds, east versus west, religious versus modern and what not, while the common man falls prey.  Each one of us should stop and ask if this is true.  This is mentioned after observing communication from many across the country, including a larger number of commoners.  We, as a nation have stopped believing in a balanced approach to anything and everything.  Speaking in terms of politics, those against MQM believe everything and everyone belonging to or associated with it is evil.  While those, who are a part of it believe in all members being heaven-sent.  Same is true for PPP and the various PML’s and other parties.  Those loving Imran Khan are crazy about him and those who don’t, can’t stand to hear him speak no matter what sort of sense he may be making.  Speaking in terms of ethnicities, during routine communication, hatred is felt based on one being Sindhi, Punjabi, Urdu Speaking, Balochi or Pakhtoon.  We have stopped respecting individuals, humanity, in general.  Shezreh Mirza is often targeted because she is Zulfiqar Mirza’s daughter.  Dr. Awab Alvi is referred to by Sharmila Farooqui as son of Dr. Arif Alvi, Chief Secretary General, PTI while only an individual act which probably has nothing to do with his father, is under discussion.  Ejaz ul Haq continues to take hate because of Zia ul Haq.  Bilawal Bhutto is often a recipient of derogatory statements in the capacity of being the son of President Asif Ali Zardari.  All the communication referred to here is by commoners.  And it is mentioned here that many statements/words fall far beyond the level of decency.  Abuses of various sorts by commoners as well as certain publically known figures can often be witnessed on twitter.  Why is it difficult to understand and believe that “perfection” is not a human trait.

Point to ponder: If we ourselves cannot stand each other and are extreme in our communication, how can we complain about Dr. Mirza’s speeches against Urdu speaking or what President Zardari says about Judiciary or PML N, or the communication by CM Shahbaz Sharif of PML N on PPP or Waseem Akhter and the famous episode outside the Parliament for PML N.  We all wish to be treated with kindness yet we wish not to treat anyone else with the same kindness.  We, more often than not, give our true selves away and do not even realize it.  Is it not then that we are often governed by our likes only?

Dear readers, this paper is based on observing normal routine communication between people.  We need to assume responsibility and practice tolerance.  We have adopted a habit of knowing it all and knowing best.  We believe in on the spot trial and punishment.  As the time is passing, distances between people based on religion, political affiliation, sect, etc., are increasing and it is indeed concerning.  We have all become masters of stereotyping and generalizing.

There are many issues around us.  Of both major and minor significance.  However, it is felt that every single issue is major when fought individually. We have come together and become one, historically, in times of natural calamities when the masses crossed over all ethnic and religious boundaries.  The wonders we did and the achievements are innumerable.  The strongest message herein is to not point fingers towards others.  The situation we face today is more or less a consummation of our individual failures, as small as they may be.  I am sure that I may not be cared for because I may not have cared, I may be disrespected because I may have been disrespectful. We need to learn to co-exist and enjoy the differences.  The different inclinations, lifestyles should add to our experience rather than becoming reasons for distancing.  The biggest of the enemies is within us! We defeat that enemy and we conquer the world.  It is quite acceptable to raise objection or to disagree, but let us try and continue to be respectful as we do so.  Lastly, if we are given an opportunity to be heard or to interact, it is our right as well as our responsibility to utilize that space positively, give feedback, complain, discuss, but let’s not abuse and be disrespectful to each other.

Parh Parh Alam Fazal Hoya
Kadi apnay Aap Noo Parya Hee Nai
Jaa Jaa Warda Mandar, Maseedan
Kadi man Apnay Wich Waria Hee Nai
Aiwain Roz Shetan Naal Larda
Kadi nafs Apnay Naal Lariya Hee Nai

      • Bhullay Shah

The new intellectuals

An interesting post from The Dawn. In this age of “experts” an expert is an expert on economics,politics, home grown terrorism, external threat & commode seat quality.Nothing is beyond his comprehension and area of comments. There is an idiom: Empty vessels make the most noise! I think they had these half-wits in mind!

The new intellectuals

IT seems impossible to imagine a society, even such as ours, without intellectuals. They have existed from time immemorial, in every society, at different layers of the social strata interacting with, and frequently changing, the course of history, and of the future.

Intellectuals, in the past, have spoken, written, thought, proselytised and made different kinds of interventions in social processes. They are often considered to be the moral keepers of nations and societies, those who give direction, hope, those who explain and unravel issues which others fail to comprehend.

Intellectuals are a core component of society and are located at numerous steps of the social spectrum, many of them faceless, unknown. Allahrakha or Bala, sitting on their charpai near Mandi Bahauddin in the presence of locals explaining their notions of life and its meanings, are intellectuals, just as much as Shaukat Ali, sitting on the banks of a river with a group of friends under a moonlit sky discussing and explaining how the wheels of time move. But public intellectuals are those who require a public and a forum or public sphere.

In the West, at least, many of those who are considered public intellectuals and have thought and written about such issues are considered to be critics who offer ‘counter-discourses’ to their “merely professional routines creating social capital and cultural power”. Many of them, at least in the West, and especially those who are also academics, trace their lineage according to scholars, to “a tradition of rhetorical political inquiry, the domain of Socrates and Cicero, precursors to contemporary public forms and forums of democracy”.

As public intellectuals — as opposed to those who hold opinion in private or small circles — such individuals are called upon “to make public pronouncements on issues that ostensibly lie outside the purview of the academy”, as some academics have argued. Hence, they are public intellectuals, not simply lecturers and teachers. While there are scores of intellectuals who are formally outside the academy as well, one would argue that in the tradition of the modern West (and even East), at some time or the other, most have been located in academia, howsoever defined. Not so in Pakistan.

Pakistan’s new public intellectuals are television talk-show hosts, so-called analysts and journalists. These individuals have both an eager public listening to their observations, analysis and insights every day, often many times a day, and they have the extremely powerful medium of television, which has become the new public sphere. Most of these individuals are interpreters of our maladies, they give direction, propose solutions and sanction what is moral and what is not and determine codes of ethics. They do exactly what public intellectuals do.

Of course, a more radical interpretation of the public intellectual is based on Gramsci’s notion of the ‘organic intellectual’, who not only interprets the world, but actively changes it.

Here again, in this manner, the Pakistani intellectual no longer exists, since the organ itself has shrivelled and died. The presence of only variants of mainstream politics — with the exception of the radical religious right — precludes any notion of a Gramscian intellectual. Whether one calls the leaders of radical religious groups ‘intellectuals’, or ulema, or politicians, or something worse is worthy of intellectual debate.

Barring a few notable and exemplary exceptions, whether from the right or the non-right (it is impossible to call the other the left or even liberal), the spectacle of Pakistani intellectuals holding forth on complicated moral and ethical issues of consciousness, is just that — a spectacle.

These new intellectuals hold immense power and sway over a receptive audience, who are certainly by no means mere empty repositories of what is handed to them, yet are still unthinkingly and unimaginatively receptive to ideas and themes, and are fed opinions which are at best not thought through, if not highly biased and prejudiced. The level, quality and standard of discourse, for all that it is worth and for all that it contributes, cannot be considered to be intellectual. Perhaps it is not even meant to be.

This is obviously not the fault of those who are given or like many who appropriate the mantle of the intellectual but has far deeper systemic and intellectual roots. The state of the social sciences and humanities in Pakistan, the state of academia more generally, all of which are so critical to the formation of intellectuals, is self-evident.

Intellectuals emerge through an understanding of history, philosophy, theory and much more. Also, public spaces where those who have such skills can raise them interacting with others, creates an intellectual forum. Even if one had the sort of intellectuals who emerge from such academic traditions and disciplines — and Pakistan has very few — the absence of public forums aggravates matters.

With the op-ed pages of newspapers, or now television, the only forum for public debate, where retired bureaucrats, foreign secretaries or generals and journalists espouse opinions largely about contemporary politics or US-Pakistan relations, clearly an intellectual space doesn’t exist.

Again, this is not the fault of producers or editors or even those who do write and speak, but shows the absence of those who ought to. Many of those who could have emerged as intellectuals, have chosen a far easier, less troubling or challenging and far more lucrative existence, choosing to become consultants or joining ‘think tanks’, always distancing themselves from any ‘oppositional consciousness’.

The absence of academics, scholars and intellectuals, offers a partial explanation to why Pakistan is the way it is. The quality of those who actually are Pakistan’s new intellectuals helps complete that explanation.

The writer is a political economist.

Our agencies need to remain extra vigilant till 2014

Asif Haroon Raja

The US considers it its birthright to lord over the whole world and expects others to accept its ascendency because it is the sole super power and economically and militarily the strongest nation on the earth. However, despite its unchallenged supremacy, it is also a reality that the US remains fearful of Israel and Jewish lobby within USA. The President of USA reputed as the strongest man of the world remains subservient to the wishes of Israel. He can show eyes to anyone less Israel since the Jews help him in getting elected. Economy, Federal Reserve, banks, business, media, think tanks and most corporations in USA are controlled by the American Jews. Jewish influence is so pervasive that the US leadership has to perforce adopt dual-faced foreign policy to protect and defend offensive and illegal acts of Israel and admonish the victims of Israeli aggression. Its unjust and hypocritical approach particularly towards Palestinian dispute has earned the US a very bad name among the Muslim world.
Of late India seems to be competing with Israel in terms of influence over Washington. Indian lobby in USA has become an effective body to prevail upon the decision makers in Washington and implant India-made perceptions. Deep-rooted equation between the two strategic partners can be judged from the behavior of US leaders towards India. When India gets disturbed on any count, the US gets equally disturbed. Whenever India encounters difficulties, the US rushes to its aid and rescues it. When India makes a wish whether legal or legal, it is promptly fulfilled even if the desired item has international repercussions. If India wants to harm or let down any of its neighbor, Washington extends all out support to its evil program. All American officials including the president visiting India ensure that they do not utter a word which may cause heartburn to Indian leadership. They behave obsequiously and humbly and to gladden their hosts they make it a point to hurl an unpleasant remark against Pakistan or subscribe to India’s allegation against its archrival. Announcement of $10 million award money for capture of Jamaat-ud Dawa chief Hafiz Saeed and $3 million for Hafiz Rahman Makki by a US official visiting India is a case in point. Anti-Pakistan statements help a great deal in keeping India in good humor and in expediting inking of lucrative defence and economic deals.
Their behavior is quite the opposite when they visit Islamabad. Here they behave as viceroys visiting a colony. They remain officious, haughty and demanding. Instead of listening to genuine complaints of Pakistani leaders, they put them on the back foot at the very outset by leveling frivolous allegations or showing displeasure over lack of progress made and ask them to do more to deserve next consignment of US aid. They feel offended if on few occasions our leaders pick up courage to meekly utter a muffled protest that the desired demand impinges upon Pakistan’s security.
It has been a normal practice of Indian leaders to blame Pakistan for any act of terror taking place in India. In almost all cases, it was proven by Indian agencies that Hindu extremists were involved, or the act was engineered by RAW to scandalize Pakistan. This chronic habit of blame game without ascertaining facts was adopted by the West during the ongoing war on terror. Any act of terror taking place anywhere in the world is habitually assumed to have a Pakistani connection. This was purposely done to declare Pakistan as the most dangerous place in the world. Any homegrown terrorist caught in act of terror or a suspect planning to commit an act of terror in USA or any western country would be conveniently linked with FATA. The incident would be blown up and a story woven that the culprit had visited one of the tribal agencies sometime in the past to receive training from Taliban. This was done to project FATA has the most dangerous place within Pakistan. Shooting incident by one Mohamad Maher in France is the most recent example of biased attitudes. His connection was traced to TTP in North Waziristan claiming that he had visited that place sometime back and received training.
This propaganda has been going for years despite the fact that 147000 Pak security forces are relentlessly fighting the militant forces in all seven tribal agencies as well as settled regions of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa since 2003 and both sides have sustained heavy fatalities. Unlike Pak Army which has achieved laudable successes and has an upper edge over foreign paid terrorists, Afghanistan which was declared as the hub centre of extremism and terrorism in September 2001 is hardly commented upon since 152000 strong ISAF has performed poorly in containing Taliban led insurgency and in sheer frustration has now decided to give it up as a bad job and quit by 2014. India has hardly done anything to combat terrorism except to grieve and blame Pakistan for all acts of terror taking place in India. In fact Indo-US-Israeli nexus has fueled terrorism for their selfish interests rather than curbing terrorism. Afghanistan and Pakistan have suffered immensely on account of their clandestine operations and use of force.
Dyncorps was used by USA to develop a parallel network of security and intelligence personnel within Pakistan. Inter-Risk Security Company headed by Captain retired Syed Ali Zaidi was opened in Islamabad in 2008 to provide arms and equipment to Blackwater. In February 2009 it was reported that over 70 American military advisers and technical specialists were secretly working in Pakistan to help the Pak Army battle al-Qaeda and Taliban in FATA. They advised how to go about conducting operations against militants. Joint Special Operations Centres (JSOC) were also established in Peshawar, Kohat, Karachi and Quetta.
$1.5 billion annual Kerry Lugar aid bill (KLB) apparently meant to bolster economy of Pakistan was in actuality designed to fund NGOs, and facilitate entry of CIA under cover contractors and US Special Forces operatives to speed up its efforts to disable Pakistan’s nuclear program.  Funds for expansion of the US Embassy in Islamabad were catered for in the KLB. Massive expansion of the Embassy was undertaken in 2010 so as to house additional force of Marines. Nine storey building including five storied basements were in the design to cater for 15000 Marine forces.  Initially it was reported that up to 1000 Marines had got inducted – thanks to all out efforts made by Hussein Haqqani and Rahman Malik, but now unconfirmed reports indicate that the figure may be much higher. China had expressed its serious concerns over the expansion plan and warned Pakistan of the US sinister designs.
In 2011, the US pressed Pakistan to allow posting of security liaison officers (SLO) at every Corps HQ to allow the US to facilitate effective intelligence sharing mechanism and also to launch covert as well as overt operations to hunt al-Qaeda fugitives in Pakistan. The Army rejected the demand and kept resisting strongly worded warnings during several high-profile visits of American senior military and civil officials. When the pressure became insurmountable, the establishment half-heartedly agreed to allow an SLO in Quetta only but not within the premises of 12 Corps HQ, and that too on need basis. This proposal also fizzled out since it was assessed that the SLOs in all probability would be CIA undercover agents.
Series of American interferences in 2011 impelled Pakistan’s security apparatus to take effective measures to roll back US intrusions and safeguard our strategic assets. Although the US and British military trainers as well as CIA’s contractors and undercover agents involved in covert war were sent back, it is still not known whether the Marines have been extradited. Likewise, several CIA cells have been busted and local CIA agents like Dr Afridi have been nabbed but there may be many unidentified agents still working for CIA. Current status of CIA network duly complemented by RAW and Mossad agents is not known. Our agencies need to remain extra vigilant till the complete withdrawal of ISAF and five intelligence agencies from Afghanistan.
While efforts must continue to cleanse Pakistan of the presence of undesirable foreign elements at the earliest, reopening of NATO supply and that too for non-lethal items must be made conditional to termination of drone war. At no cost the Kashmir cause and minimum nuclear deterrence should be compromised. Grant of MFN status to India should be made conditional to resolution of Kashmir dispute and stoppage of construction of illegal dams over Indus, Chenab and Jhelum Rivers and link canals to divert water from these rivers. Indo-US efforts to make Pakistan a compliant state must be resisted with full force.
The writer is a retired Brig and a freelance defence analyst

The Siachen Tragedy-Apr 2012

A posting by Editor of Media Point Blog.Please also read how weather has hampered the search for any survivors: http://www.couriermail.com.au/ipad/weather-hampers-avalanche-search/story-fn6ck55c-1226322399144

This photo released by Inter Services Public Relations on Sunday shows the avalanche site in Siachen. Diplomats on Monday said China would most certainly send some form of financial and technical assistance to help rescue work.

 

The PRIDE of Pakistan Six Northern Light Infantry Regiment (NLI)which was on duty of our protection on the world’s highest battle ground and operating in temperatures as low as 150 degrees centigrade. A battalion headquarters size Pakistani post working since last 20 years in Gyari sector of Siachen came under avalanche 80 feet deep and almost a km by km in size .We all pray for them .   

Six Northern Light Infantry Regiment (NLI) – Unit History

 

            The history of the Northern Light Infantry Regiment dates back to 1889 when a “Levy Force” was raised by Colonel Algenon Durand which was re-organized as “Gilgit Scouts” in August 1913 by Major JC Bridges 5th Gorkha Rifiles.

Later on “Northern Scouts” was raised in October 1949 by taking it’s manpower from Gilgit Scouts and the first Commandant was Lieutenant Colonel (later Major General) Muhammad Rafi Khan.   Due to operational requirement, the Corps of Northern Scouts was bifurcated on 1st July 1964 and a separated Corps by the name of “Karakurm Scouts” was raised with it’s HQ at Skardu whose first Commandant was Major Sardar Muhammad Hussain Shaikh. “Northern Light Infantry” was raised by complete re-organized of Gilgit, Northern and Karakuram Scouts in Northern Areas on 1 November 1975.

6 Northern Light Infantry Regiment was converted into Northern Light Infantry Battalion on 1 November 1975 from 104 Wing of Karakuram Scouts.  This conversion took place at Skardu with a local name of “SIKKIS”.  The unit has rich history of valour. The unit participated in 1965 and 1971 wars as Karakuram Scouts from Olding Sector Skardu.  It had a stay of two years at Siachen Glacier, four tenures of Azad Kashmir including two tenures of Sher Gali at Lipa Sector, Over and above the other areas of FCNA.

Honour and Awards          Unit has earned following honours and awards:-

a.     Sitara-i-Jurat             –           4   (3 Officers and 1 Junior Commissioned Officer)

b.     Tamgha-i-Jurat         –           4   (Soldiers)

c.     Tamgha-i-Basalat    –           6    (4 Officers and 1 Junior Commissioned Officer and 1 Soldier)

 

RELATED ARTICLES AND INFORMATION

(Please Read to Know so you may feel how your ignorance and  silence kill others)

 

  • Siachen  Battle field  an Environment Issue — By  Hamid Waheed


     A battalion headquarters size Pakistani post working since last 20 years in Gyari sector of Siachen came under avalanche 80 feet deep and almost a km by km in size raising obvious question why now?  It is not just 135 Pakistani soldiers who lost life but will also affect their families and more importantly, same can happen tomorrow to anyone in the region.   Glaciers are ancient rivers of compressed snow that creep through the landscape, shaping the planet’s surface. They are the earth’s largest freshwater reservoirs, collectively covering an area the size of South America. Most of the world’s glaciers are located around the poles. In the non-polar region, the Himalaya Mountains are the origin of many glaciers and important rivers of Asia. The range offers a variety of glaciers. It includes Siachen, Baltoro, Biafo, Nubra and Hispur Glaciers. But the most important is the Siachen Glacier, which is the largest glacier outside the polar regions. The Siachen Glacier is located in the eastern Karakoram range in the Himalaya Mountains at about 35°3’N 77°0’E, at an altitude of 15,000 feet, on the Line of Control between India and Pakistan. A portion of it is being controlled each by India and Pakistan. 70 km (43 mi) long, it is the longest glacier in the Karakorams. The glaciers are the main and the biggest source of fresh water in South Asia, particularly India and Pakistan. Therefore they are a lifeline for hundreds of millions of people of the area whose food security is dependent on Himalayan waters.
The Siachen Glacier’s melting ice is the main source of the Nubra River in Indian controlled Ladakh, which drains into the Shyok River. The Shyok in turn joins the Indus River. Thus the glacier is a major source of the Indus waters. The Indus Basin is the 12th largest basin in the world, ensuring food replenishment to millions of people. The geographic layout of the area is such that it slopes towards the south and southwest. Therefore speedy melting of the Siachen Glacier increases the chances of flooding the Indus Basin and causing destructive snow avalanches on both sides of Saltoro Ridge. If this happens, most of the routes used by world mountaineering expeditions, particularly originating or passing through Pakistan, would become unsafe.

As a matter of fact glaciers have been retreating worldwide since the end of the Little Ice Age (around 1850), but in recent decades glaciers have begun melting at rates that cannot be explained by historical trends. Since the early 1960s, mountain glaciers worldwide have experienced an estimated net loss of over 4,000 cubic kilometres of water. However, among the legendary peaks of K2 and Nanga Parbat, glaciers with a penthouse view of the world are rather growing. It is the Siachen Glacier only which is melting and that too on the eastern side of the Saltoro Ridge (presently occupied by the Indian army), the retreat of which has been observed as about 110 meters a year. It is the fastest melting rate of any glacier in the world. Reports also indicate that a large lake has formed in the middle of the Siachen Glacier presently occupied by the Indian army.

It seems very strange that the glacier is defrosting fast on one side and at the same time growing on the other side. It really raises a question why global warming is not affecting the Himalayan glaciers uniformly? Is it global warming or something different that is causing rapid melting, thereby shrinking the glacier? In the recent past, expert reports suggested another probable cause: the erection of artificial infrastructure and human activity in the area as it has been an active battlefield for the last two decades or so. The surfacing of a lake at a location which is the centre of military activity of the Indian army further strengthens such speculations. It indicates one more thing that glaciers on the western side bear thin infrastructure and human activity. In any case, global warming has less to do with deicing of the Siachen Glacier. It is also evident from a statement of the Indian environment minister who admitted that there was no scientific proof to support the idea that the melting of the Himalayan glaciers was being caused by global warming. A report in the August 10, 2009 issue of Current Science journal of India said that the “Siachen Glacier has not been affected by the rise in global temperatures.” Jammu University scientists have also claimed that the “Himalayan glaciers, including the world’s highest battlefield Siachen, are melting not because of global warming.” The prevailing evidence therefore points towards extraordinary activity of the Indian army, the infrastructure being established and huge explosive storages on the eastern side of the Saltoro Ridge.

The effects of thawing of glaciers and particularly Siachen Glacier, being the largest in the region, are going to be devastating. However, there exists little awareness among the world community regarding the causes of this phenomenon. After clarifications of scientific experts and Indian officials themselves, it leaves not even an iota of doubt that the rapid shrinkage of the Siachen Glacier is due to chemical and explosive storage and cutting of glacial ice by the Indian army and not by global warming.

The de-icing of glaciers is not only hazardous for the food security of the region, particularly for the Indus Basin area, it is equally disadvantageous to the world’s mountaineering expeditions that commence their journey from this area. The area contains the highest peaks of the world like K2 and Nanga Parbat and remains attractive to world hikers. Ensuring a pollution-free and safe environment is the joint responsibility of all. It must be appreciated that war-specific developments are a death sentence for Himalayan glaciers. Blaming only global warming for rapid defrosting is a false impression being created deliberately by India with a view to covering up the serious and catastrophic environmental crime its army is committing. It is therefore a moral obligation of the world community and United Nations to take notice of the Indian army’s activities in Siachen and ensure that the Himalayan glaciers are not disturbed. Their deterioration would not only be detrimental to food safety, it would also be catastrophic to global environmental efforts. The global environment and human right experts and activists  may realize one day that they have stains of this blood on their ignorance and not putting enough pressure on Pakistan and India to demilitarize the GLACIER

 

 

  • Military Activity Driving Rapid Glacier Melting

Zofeen Ebrahim interviews ARSHAD ABBASI, advocate of the demilitarisation of the largest Himalayan glacier*




KARACHI, Dec 15, 2009 (IPS/TerraViva) – For the past several years, water expert Arshad H. Abbasi has been calling attention to the environmental degradation of the Siachen Glacier, one of the Himalayan glaciers and the largest in the world outside of the polar regions.

Situated on the strategic tri-junction of India, China and Pakistan, the glacier is considered a climate regulator and an “ecological source” for South Asia, says Abbasi.

Dubbed the world’s highest battleground, at 21,000 feet above sea level, the 77-kilometre-long glacier has been melting rapidly due to military presence in the region. Since 1984, India and Pakistan have been laying claim to the ice mass, where fighting between the two states has been going on intermittently since April 1984.

Troops on both sides have played irrevocable havoc with the region’s biodiversity, ecology and hydrology, says Abbasi, former director of the Planning Commission of Pakistan and now advisor to the Sustainable Development Policy Institute, a policy-oriented, research institute based in Islamabad.

Experts say human-induced climate change has contributed significantly to alarming changes in climate patterns that, among others, are affecting the rate at which glaciers melt, triggering a wave of natural disasters such as increased incidence of earthquakes, volcanic eruptions and tsunamis.

According to estimates, about 200 tonnes of carbon dioxide are released into the atmosphere daily due to burning of fuel for the sustenance of the troops and transportation of war material by land and air. Both India and Pakistan spend a million dollars a day to maintain their troops at Siachen — an enormous amount that, experts say, can go a long way to fight poverty and hunger that beset both countries.

Three percent of the casualties between the two forces fighting over the glacier are due to hostile fighting; the rest are attributed to the altitude, weather and avalanches.

Calling the Siachen conflict a war between the glacier and humans, not one between India and Pakistan, Abbasi says the 97 percent casualties point to that, because a majority of soldiers sustain frostbite and injuries caused by accidents arising from snowstorms and other natural causes, and very rarely from crossfire.

In an interview with IPS, Abbasi explains why the only war worth fighting is protecting the glacier and preserving the fragile ecology of the glacial ice, which may not be there for too long for the two sides to continue fighting over.

Q: How and when did you begin calling for the demilitarisation of the Siachen Glacier?

A: It began when I received the first satellite imagery (of the Himalayan glaciers) and compared it with the status of the glacial mass in 1978. The most significant ice-mass loser was Siachen. I shared the images with the director-general of the Meteorological Department, who told me that the glacier was overburdened by the armies of both countries (India and Pakistan).

Q: Why is the melting of Siachen catastrophic for the South Asian region?

A: In the last 25 years, the glacier has been reduced to 35 percent and is retreating three dimensionally, thinning vertically at an alarming rate, as well as retreating horizontally, at approximately more than 100 metres per year.

The melting of Siachen and other glaciers due to this (India-Pakistan) conflict is already causing variance in the frequency and intensity of extreme weather events, but its worst impact on global sea level rise remains under-estimated and understudied. Rising sea level is the most serious threat to the populations living on and along the coast.

Q: Is it unprecedented compared to other glaciers in the Himalayas?

A: Yes, the recession is unprecedented when you compare it to other neighbouring Himalayan glaciers like Bara Shigri, Gangotri and Chhota Shigri.

Q: Can you cite the factors that have contributed to the accelerated melting of the Siachen glacier?

A: Permanent base camps on the glacier, cantonments in its vicinity, hourly helicopter flights to retrieve wounded or sick soldiers and dropping off supplies, dumping military garbage and human waste, laying of 120-km-long oil pipeline for heating igloos, keeping rifles warm over kerosene stoves, melting the snow for machine guns by keeping them in boiling water, construction of bunkers by cutting and melting glacial ice millions of years old by sprinkling chemicals and (using) mechanical methods; and using glaciers as roads to reach the last base camps – Kamar and Indra – (these are) causing severe environmental degradation to the glacier.

Q: What to your mind is the solution to the pillaging of the Siachen Glacier?

A: Urgent demilitarisation by negotiating an honourable withdrawal and ban on mountaineering and other development activities near glacier regions. This would be the greatest relief for the Siachen and other Himalayan glaciers as direct human interference will come to a halt. The daily, rather hourly, aviation activities will be over. The glaciers would again grow or at least remain stable.

Q: The idea of a Siachen science park and a peace zone has been floated for years. What is your take on it?

A: I only support the idea of preservation of glaciers but not that of a science park. In Antarctica, since the last many decades, scientists conducting research from different nations have so far failed to develop any technique to preserve glaciers. On the other hand, their presence has made the continent vulnerable and (the glacier) is melting at an accelerated rate.

Q: You were present at the three-day Track-II Dialogue on Conflict Resolution and Peace Building (held in Bangkok on Oct. 7 to 9) between the two adversaries in Bangkok. Was there anything significant discussed there that gave you hope?

A: In the Pak-India track II dialogue, demilitarisation of the Siachen glacier was discussed. Major Gen Dipankar Banerjee, who served in Siachen, is taking a keen interest to convince Indian policymakers to save this glacier from melting. Other experts on both sides also held similar views. Preserving the Siachen and other Himalayan glaciers, they said, was in the best interest of both countries and the world at large.

It is time civil society, independent researchers and media, from both sides began pressing their respective governments to save and preserve the glaciers, especially the Siachen. I would also urge both sides to get an independent audit of the glacial ice-balance to compare what it was back, say, in 1984, with (what it is) now to get an idea of the damage caused (by military presence at Siachen).

(*This story appears in the IPS TerraViva online daily published for the U.N. Conference on Climate Change in Copenhagen.)

(END)

http://ipsnews.net/news.asp?idnews=49689

 

  • Zee News:

Siachen glacier melting fast due to military activity: study

Last Updated: Saturday, December 30, 2006, 00:00

Islamabad, Dec 30: Siachen glacier has been melting alarmingly more due to military activity of India and Pakistan than global warming, a new study has said.

Siachen glacier was rapidly melting because of the ongoing military activity at the highest flashpoint of the world, according to the study conducted by Arshad H Abbasi, a consultant for the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF).

“Siachen is weeping, tomorrow the world will cry,” the excerpts of the study, pubished in the local daily The News, say.

Siachen is the longest glacier in the non-polar regions from where the Nubara river originates and is a source of the Indus river in Pakistan which caters to 75 per cent of its irrigational requirements.

Another study conducted by Pakistan’s Ministry of Water and Power confirmed the decline of cold temperatures in Siachen. Pakistan Meteorological Department on November 25 last year informed the government that the Himalayan glaciers, particularly Siachen, have been receding for the last 30 years, with losses accelerating to alarming levels in the past decade.

“We are very much concerned over the development, but human activity with regard to the Siachen war could not be stopped until and unless the peoples of the two countries exert pressure upon their respective governments to stop the war,” it quoted an official as saying.

The studies reportedly pointed out that during the last two decades, the melting of Siachen glacier has now been bracketed amongst the fastest in the world. Its retreat is evident from the snout (base of the glacier) and through the continuous thinning of ice along its entire length. Siachen, along with several other major tributary glaciers, reduced their volume by 35 per cent during the last twenty years and retreating at the rate of 110 metres per year.

 

 

The US is responsible for bloodbath in Pakistan

By: Asif Haroon Raja

 

Unprovoked attack by NATO helicopters on 26 November on Salala check posts in which 24 officers and men of Pak Army were martyred and 13 received injuries in the backdrop of Raymond Davis episode and 2 May stealth attack in Abbottabad brought Pak-US relations to a head. Deeply hurt Pakistan virtually stopped cooperating with the US in war on terror and decided to revise its terms of engagement with the US, NATO and ISAF. To rub salt on the wounds of Pakistanis, highly biased and misleading NATO inquest carried out by Brig Gen Stephen Clarke wrongfully blamed the offenders and the victims equally. The second probe instead of apportioning blame on the offenders and recommending punishment added insult to injury by concluding that Pak troops had initiated the fire and NATO helicopters fired back in reaction. Based on these cockeyed inquiry reports the US has refused to offer an apology or to punish the perpetrators but insists that NATO supply must be reopened. This is not the first time that the ISAF under the US military has stabbed Pakistan in the back. Between June 2008 and July 2011, US-NATO has struck Pakistani border posts four times in which 18 Pak troops got martyred and 10 sustained injuries. Each time the US felt sorry and promised that it will not happen again but repeated its aggression without any remorse.
Over four months have lapsed and NATO supply has not been resumed but indications are that very soon NATO containers would start plying as heretofore. This time delay was gained on the plea that public sentiments were highly inflamed and new terms of engagement were being framed by the parliamentary committee for national security (PCNS). The PCNS had finalized its recommendations on January 12, 2012 but for unknown reasons these were kept in the pending tray for weeks and was put up to the joint session of the parliament for debate on 24 March. Inexplicable delay gave grist to speculators that the recommendations were put up to Washington for perusal and approval.
Out of the long list of suggestions, the ones which were revised on insistence of the opposition were: 50% of NATO containers to be handled by the railways to reduce load on road infrastructure and only non-lethal items to be transported. The other was that NATO supplies to be linked to ending drone attacks. No serious debate has however been conducted so far and it is presumed that it may take another month to finalize the action plan.  Recent meetings between President Obama and PM Gilani in Seoul, President Zardari and Marc Grossman in Dushanbe, and Gen Dempsey and Gen Allen with Gen Kayani and Gen Wynne have given reasons to believe that the ice has begun to melt.
During their meeting in Seoul, Obama reminded Zardari that Pakistan should respect US security needs. If the US has expectations from Pakistan, the same is true for Pakistan. If one gleans through the track record of both sides, none can disagree that Pakistan leadership has been diligently taking care of US security needs at the cost of annoying its people, but the US has least cared for Pakistan’s security concerns. It has been unilaterally exerting pressure since it was in a position to do so and getting its dictations obeyed. Pentagon and CIA were chiefly responsible for spoiling military-to-military ties because of their hawkish attitude and CIA-RAW alignment. White House, State Department and Congress have remained heavily tilted toward India owing to mutually beneficial strategic, political and economic interests. Pakistan, which staked its security to serve US interests has been distrusted and taken for granted.
Had it not been for heavy dependence on ground and air supplies and continuously deteriorating security situation in Afghanistan, the US by now would have ditched Pakistan and openly adopted a hostile posture. The US leaders have tolerated Pakistan’s defiance with a pinch of salt since they know that the US has lost the war and ISAF troops and heavy baggage cannot be safely extricated without Pakistan’s cooperation. Soviets troops had also safely exited from Afghanistan by February 1989 because of cooperation of Pakistan. Hence, Pakistan will be grudgingly kept in the loop till end 2014 and then punished for its numerous sins about which charge sheet has already been framed. Charges pertaining to cross border terrorism, religious extremism and nuclear proliferation were immaturely accepted by Gen Musharraf to appease USA and India.
Since USA counts on Pakistan that it will help in its disentanglement from quagmire of Afghanistan, it has restrained itself from suspending aid despite pressure from the Congress and Republicans, or imposing sanctions about which a hint was given by Hillary Clinton. In order to make Pakistan do its biddings, the US may hasten up paying the arrears of CSF and agree to pay transit fee for containers. It may also restrain from undertaking 2 May or Salala like aggressive actions, but it will continue with its covert war indirectly if not directly, through allied intelligence agencies. It will remain focused towards its primary objective of denuclearization of Pakistan, particularly when it couldn’t achieve any of the stated objectives in Afghanistan. Disablement of nuclear program will be a bigger prize which will help in casting off negative effects of humiliating retreat from Afghanistan.
The US is principally responsible for the bloodbath and accentuation of socio-politico-economic woes of Pakistan. Without its active connivance, its allies couldn’t have succeeded in inflaming so many regions and wreaking death and destruction at such a wide scale. Normality in relations may be achieved if the US makes up Pakistan’s loss of $70 billion suffered in the US war on terror, compensates 100,000 dead and injured in the war including those who died or got injured by drones, stops drone war, provides civil nuclear technology to overcome energy crisis, apologizes for Salala massacre, declares that it will respect Pakistan’s sovereignty in future and will not meddle in its internal affairs, agrees to treat Pakistan with respect, assures that it will facilitate resolution of Kashmir dispute and promises that it will not let India to takeover security duties once the ISAF departs from Afghanistan.
The US is in no mood to oblige on any of these areas of friction since it is feeling depressed and out of sorts. It somehow considers Pakistan to be partly if not wholly responsible for its failures in achieving its sinister designs. It is displeased with Pak Army and ISI as to why obstacles are being created in its efforts to undermine Pakistan. It is neither reconciling to the fact that it has lost the war in Afghanistan, or over the defiance of Pakistan which had accepted its dictates meekly for a decade. Closure of NATO supply routes has forced the US to utilize six-time expensive northern network and that too for non-lethal items. The US is considering making use of supply routes from China and air supplies from India.
Closure of Shamsi airbase resulted in suspension of drone strikes for sometime but after activating drone bases in Afghanistan and fine tuning ground intelligence, strikes have been resumed since January, although at a reduced scale. Militancy in Orakzai, Kurram and Khyber agencies has increased, several suicide attacks have taken place in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, target killings in Karachi and Balochistan are continuing, exiled Baloch Sardars supported by their patrons are spitting venom and rejecting reconciliation. Such anti-Pakistan activities are not possible without provision of funds to the dissidents. As long as funds are flowing in and weapons are supplied, there will be no letup in such anti-state acts. It is wishful to assume that Pak-US relations will revert to normal after the parliamentary review, when strategic interests of the two are at variance, drone war and covert war by Indo-US-Israeli nexus remain operative and there is no let up in propaganda war.
The writer is a retired Brig. of the Pakistan Army and a political commentator.

Ex-Pakistani Soldier Searches for the Truth of Osama Bin Laden’s Death

By:Brig Shaukat Qadir (R)

On May 2, 2011, I was in Islamabad when, in the small hours of the morning, I got a call from a friend, enquiring as to whether I had heard of the military operation in Abbottabad. I hadn’t. I called another friend there, who told me that something was definitely going on: some explosions had been heard in the night and there had been considerable movement of troops since the explosion, but the entire operation appeared very hush-hush.
A couple of hours later, the story broke. We, in Pakistan, followed events with a variety of emotions: shock, dismay, betrayal, shame, disbelief but most of all, a sense of having been let down by our armed forces, our intelligence services, by our allies and especially by the Americans, for the insult they offered us in the accusation that the US couldn’t trust us with the information.
Like many others, I was tracking the news as it unwound and numerous contradictions soon became apparent. Nobody seemed to have the real story of what happened that night. Conspiracy theories emerged from a variety of sources. Nobody in either the US or Pakistan seemed to accept the official versions, although the Pakistani people and the media were still baying for the army’s blood.
But what, I wondered, was the truth?
•••
The story begins in August 2003, in a small village south of Gandamak in the province of Nangarhar, Afghanistan. Osama bin Laden (OBL) had been ailing physically and mentally for more than a year. Ayman Al Zawahiri, Al Qaeda’s number two, had been running the day-to-day affairs, including receiving donations and distributing monies, weapons, and overseeing the drug- and gun-running operations of the organisation.
I have, over the years, made extensive contacts and friends in the Tribal Areas of Pakistan. As far back as 2003, my friends there were divided in their opinions as to whether OBL was still alive. However, even then, those who held the view that he was were insistent that he was ill and had become largely irrelevant to Al Qaeda.
Various options of where OBL should be permanently housed were considered by the hierarchy, all of which were within Pakistan. It was decided that OBL should live a secluded family life, without armed guards to protect him (since they would draw attention to him), in a city not too far from the tribal areas, so as to remain in communication.
Mustafa al-‘Uzayti, a Libyan, better known as Abu Faraj Al Libi, and at that point Al Qaeda’s number three, favoured the location of Mardan, a small cantonment in the heart of the Pashtun-dominated region. Arshad Khan – a Kuwaiti-born Pakistani also known as Abu Ahmed Al Kuwaiti, who maintained good relations with all of Al Qaeda’s senior figures – believed that Mardan was too dangerous a location for OBL to take up permanent residence. Mardan was always under the eye of intelligence agencies because it was known to house some pro-Al Qaeda elements. He suggested Abbottabad as a better option.
Abbottabad is also a military cantonment, but a far larger one than Mardan. It is a small town, nestled in the Orash valley, has a pleasant climate and a picturesque setting. It lies a mere 90 kilometres from Islamabad, and just over 120km from Peshawar.
Al Libi sought OBL’s approval for the move to Mardan, who insisted that a house be constructed on purchased land, not rented, and that it be built according to his requirements. Al Libi would later be captured in Mardan in 2005. Just as Al Kuwaiti had predicted, the town was unsafe for a prolonged stay for an Al Qaeda operative.
While Al Libi was being detained, Arshad Khan and his younger brother, Tariq Khan, who was also a member of Al Qaeda (though not as trusted as his elder brother) purchased three adjacent plots in Bilal Town, a wealthy suburb of Abbottabad, totalling approximately 3,000 square metres, and submitted draft plans for approval to the Abbottabad Development Authority. Liberal bribes were paid, and the appropriate permits were granted within days. Work commenced at breakneck speed.
•••
Many questions have been raised by the western media about the house’s high barbed wire-topped boundary walls and the sheer size of its compound. How, they wondered, could this house fail to draw the attention of intelligence agencies? But this line of inquiry betrays a lack of knowledge of the Pashtun. Even the moderately wealthy prefer a large dwelling and, for such a house it would be unusual not to have a high perimeter wall.
Similar residences abound in Mardan, Charsadda and even the suburbs of Peshawar, although it would be hard to make the case that this was a “grand residence” or a mansion, as it has sometimes been referred to. For sure, it was a large compound, but the rooms inside the dwellings were fairly small in comparison to other Pashtun residences.
The locals describe Arshad as “affable, friendly, easy going, and easy to get along with”. Though nobody saw the male member of the “family” living with the brothers – who was reputedly infirm and was said to be an uncle of the brothers – his veiled wives and children were seen by many, and there was deemed to be nothing remarkable about them. That the children, except Khalid, were not too fluent in Urdu was put down to their Pashtun origin. During all religious and national festivals, home-cooked food was routinely distributed by them to the poor, just as any other upper-middle class Pashtun would do. In other words, there was nothing extraordinary about the whole situation.
People here don’t usually pry into their neighbours’ backgrounds. However, at some point in late 2007, for some reason, Arshad volunteered that he had made some money off some business ventures in Dubai, before returning home and, due to family disputes in Charsadda, his hometown, he had opted to move to Abbottabad. He said that his current occupation was as a “money changer” dealing in foreign currencies in Peshawar, and that he also had some interests in real estate.
This piece of information, willfully surrendered by Arshad, came to the attention of the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) sometime around the end of 2007 or possibly in early 2008, and was passed on to their detachments in Peshawar and Charsadda.
Since these were “low priority enquiries”, everybody took their time. There was nothing the least bit alarming about this since Arshad is a common first name in Urdu. However, the Peshawar detachment of ISI soon reported that they could not find any money changer or affiliate who lived in Abbottabad and bore his name.
In June 2010, it was established that Arshad travelled every month or so to Peshawar for a day or two to buy medical supplies before returning to Abbottabad. By this time, authorities in all major cities had reported that they could find no trace of Arshad the money changer from Abbottabad. Again, this in itself was nothing particularly worrisome, but clearly it piqued someone’s curiosity.
So much so, in fact, that in July 2010, the ISI made a request to the CIA for satellite surveillance of Arshad’s Abbottabad residence.
•••
While it is credible that the CIA discovered Arshad’s identity, what is incredible is why it should have taken them until 2007 to do so. The CIA did know that Arshad (or Al Kuwaiti as he was also known) was a close confidante of Al Libi, who had been captured and handed over to the CIA two years earlier. But how was Al Libi not questioned regarding Al Kuwaiti’s real identity? If he was, is it possible, especially now that we are familiar with the methods of interrogation used at Guantanamo Bay (where he had been taken) that he did not tell them? And to carry this reasoning one step further, if the CIA did finally learn of Arshad’s identity in 2007, why should it take two long years to establish where he was residing; and then, another two years to discover that “he was housing a high-value target, probably OBL”?
On the other hand, if my version is correct, two significant CIA falsehoods are relevant to the story: firstly, that like the ISI, the CIA was really unaware of the intimate relations between Al Libi and Al Kuwaiti despite a number of Al Qaeda leaders in their custody who knew exactly who and where Al Kuwaiti was, and secondly, their insistence that the ISI did not provide the lead that ultimately took them to OBL’s hideout.
And, the questions I raise lend credence to the likelihood that the CIA was, in fact, telling lies and, in all probability, actually began tracking OBL only in 2010, perhaps after receiving the lead provided to them by the ISI.
•••
Khairee, one of OBL’s wives, joined him in Abbottabad in early 2011 after a prolonged absence. She and five of her children had been in custody in Iran since 2003.
In November 2008, Hashmatullah Atharzadeh, a cultural attache at the Iranian Consulate in Peshawar, was kidnapped by the Taliban. After lengthy negotiations, his release was arranged in exchange for Suleman Abu Ghaith, a Kuwaiti preacher and a spokesman for Al Qaeda, who rose to prominence when he announced post-9/11 that there would be further attacks on Americans in the US. His Kuwaiti citizenship was subsequently revoked and, by 2002, he was living in Iran under a kind of loose house arrest.
While Ghaith’s release and exchange made news, the freeing of Khairee and her five children, who were let go at the same time, did not.
Ironically, it is uncertain whether Iranian authorities were even aware of her real identity before March 2010, when another of OBL’s sons made a public appeal for the release of his stepmother and his siblings.
She was, at the time, the eldest of OBL’s wives, and was known to be extremely jealous of Amal, the youngest. She had good reason to be. We know that by this time, OBL was only sleeping with Amal. But why should Khairee choose to brave another hazardous journey to rejoin a husband she had been separated from for many years and no longer had any relationship with?
According to my sources, she applied to Attiya Abdur Rahman for help (who was then Al Qaeda’s chief of operations) after being released by the Iranians in September 2010, but he was so suspicious of her intentions that he had her strip searched and checked for homing devices. Even after that, he kept her incarcerated for months until finally OBL told him to send her to Abbottabad in early 2011.
Or was it the other way round? Did Attiya actually keep Khairee long enough to reassure OBL that she could be trusted? Did the same Shoora that had decided on the need to “retire” OBL also determine that his retirement should be made permanent? Was Khairee being held to reassure OBL while she was being trained in communications? Was there a deliberate “leak” somewhere so as to enable the CIA to track Khairee to OBL’s lair?
From here onwards, there is little dispute about what transpired. Whether a “routine request” from the ISI in July 2010 prompted them to investigate, or their own diligent pursuit of Arshad took so long, or whether Al Qaeda was deliberately leading them to OBL, according to the CIA’s own version, it took from August 2010 until early April 2011 for Pakistanis working for the CIA to follow Arshad and locate his house. After which, through satellite surveillance, they reached their conclusions and “Operation Geronimo” was successfully undertaken.
•••
My narrative of Geronimo and its aftermath basically does not contradict the official US version as to most of the details of the operation. A little after 11pm on the night of May 1, two MH-60 Blackhawk helicopters, accompanied by two Chinooks, took off from Jalalabad in eastern Afghanistan and headed for Abbottabad. The Blackhawks were carrying two assault teams of US Navy Seals numbering 28 (or 24, depending on which newspaper you refer to), 14 in each helicopter; the Chinooks carried another 30 troops as back-up.
According to the CIA’s own version, all they were certain of, even as the raid was launched, was that there was “a high-value target housed in the compound, possibly OBL”. Even after identifying Arshad, according to their own version, it took two years to discover his lair, another two years to discover that he was housing a “high-value” target and another nine months thereafter to confirm that the target was, in fact, very high value and, might even be OBL himself. Even when the operation was launched, the CIA was not certain of the identity of their target.
The official explanation for undertaking such a venture, without sharing it with the Pakistan government or military brass was that “we apprehended a possible leak”.
Viewing this accusation from a historical perspective, it seems to have little validity. Pakistan’s capture and rendering of senior Al Qaeda operatives to the US is almost unparalleled. Starting with Khalid Sheikh Muhammed, another Kuwaiti, believed to be Al Qaeda’s operational chief, in 2003, continuing with Al Libi, Umer Patek and even Younas Al Mauritania in August 2011, well after OBL’s execution, Pakistan has handed over many dozens of senior Al Qaeda operatives and a similar number of junior ones to the US. Nor was there any love lost between OBL and Pakistan.
Moreover, the US administration could not have been blind to the domestic repercussions in Pakistan resulting from such an attack.
The embarrassment that the Pakistani government, but more particularly, that which the army and ISI would suffer, the feeling of humiliation and betrayal that the people of Pakistan would (and did) endure; the surge of anti-Americanism in Pakistan that was guaranteed to follow and, of course, the possible loss of a valuable ally.
•••
The first response was the sound of helicopters flying at around 12.20am on May 2. Both Lt Col Naseem, the commanding officer of the infantry unit, and the OC ISI Det (the officer commanding the intelligence services detachment) assumed that there was only one helicopter and, believing it to be Pakistani, ordered enquiries through their respective channels.
The OC ISI Det, who was also informed of the possibility of the helicopter having landed somewhere, set off to investigate. They came across each other close to the entrance to Bilal Town at about 12.55am, just as they heard a huge explosion.
Alarmed but expecting to be heading for the site of a helicopter crash (one of their own), Naseem called for the fire brigade and the entire party reached the scene at about 1:05am.
This times the event almost exactly: helicopters hovering to drop troops (and going silent thereafter) at about 12.35am and the explosion of the downed Blackhawk, followed by helicopters departing at 12.55am. A grand total of 20 minutes for the whole operation.
By about 1.20am, the officers realised that the helicopter was not a Pakistani one at all and, through their respective channels, conveyed this information to relevant superiors for onward submission.
Closer to 2am, Naseem and the OC ISI Det moved towards the compound. No lights were on, so the officers used torches to light their way. When they approached the compound’s annex, they could see a body lying in the entrance at the door to the bedroom on the right hand side. This was when they realised that the operation had been a “hit”. They also heard voices murmuring in the left-hand bedroom. Since the main door was locked, Naseem stayed there, while the OC ISI Det circled the house to enter it from a door on the left side which also opened into the left-hand bedroom. There he found Maryam, Al Kuwaiti’s wife, and three children huddled together.
In the meantime, Naseem called for reinforcements. The OC ISI Det opened the main door and they both entered the house. The dead body was unarmed and later identified as being that of Tariq Khan. Oddly, he had an AK-47 leaning against the wall next to the door inside his bedroom, whereas he was lying dead outside the room.
Naseem asked the OC Quick Response Force to send a couple of men to guard the annexe, while they moved to the wide-open main door of the house. On entering the house, they heard sounds in the bedroom on the left. They found two bodies, a male and a female, later identified as Arshad and his brother’s wife, Bushra, on the floor. Arshad was also unarmed but had an AK-47 in the bedroom opposite. Two adult females, Khairee and Seeham, and 11 of OBL’s children and grandchildren, ranging in age from 20 years old down to three, as well as Arshad’s four children, were also huddled in a corner.
Khairee, the only one who was fluent in English, asked permission to retrieve some of her clothing. When she was granted that request, she asked that Seeham be allowed to as well.
Going upstairs, Seeham, Khalid’s mother, saw her son’s dead body on the landing and, merely glancing at him, passed by. However, after collecting her belongings, she paused beside her son’s body and said a brief prayer. Seeham spoke only in Arabic, but it was in this moment that she identified her son. Pointing at him, she said, “Khalid bin Laden”. It was only then, at almost 3.00am, that the OC ISI Det learnt the identity of the “high-value” target that had been the objective of the raid.
Note: This is a cross post for The National UAE.
The writer is an ex army officer of Pakistan Army, a political commentator based in Islamabad.