Panetta’s Hubris

Pakistan must be grateful to US Defence Secretary Leon Panetta for articulating a clear, unambiguous US line of action in regard to Pakistan’s perceived inability to proceed against groups that the US sees as dangerous to its forces operating inside Afghanistan and which are supposedly based in the tribal areas.

Now is the time for Pakistan to place its cards on the table and challenge the wholly unsubstantiated assertions of a frustrated man. If the Pakistani establishment rushes to do damage control or launches another “determined” campaign of appeasement, the US bullying is only expected to grow in intensity and ferocity. That is the lesson of history.

The fact that the defence secretary chose to deliver his warning to Pakistan from Delhi and Kabul is significant. That was intended to reinforce his tough message to the rulers of Pakistan. Panetta said the US is running out of patience with Pakistan. In the ongoing war on terror, has the US ever displayed patience, shown any deference to Pakistan’s interests or respect for its sovereignty?

Whether it is the incessant drone campaign that has killed hundreds of innocent people, including women and children, limited ground incursions inside Pakistani territory, a raid deep inside Pakistani territory to eliminate Osama bin Laden and making a mockery of the notion of Pakistan’s sovereignty, the US has never vacillated in its resolve to do whatever it considers best for its own interests. So where has it exercised patience? Let us examine the claim that some militants who are inflicting pain and misery on the coalition forces in Kabul are operating from “sanctuaries” located in the tribal area on Pakistani-Afghan border.

One may ask: on how many occasions in the past ten years have the US forces or their Afghan counterparts been able to intercept, confront, capture or kill those who intrude into Afghanistan, travel more than a hundred miles inside Afghan territory, carry out operations and then safely return to their hideouts in the tribal areas, again traversing a distance of more than a hundred miles?

This failure seems more enigmatic, considering that the coalition forces number 130,000 and are assisted by the more than 160,000-strong Afghan army in addition to more than 50,000 of “contractors” serving as security forces. The Afghan police force is also operating in the area and its strength has gone up to more than 140,000.

Also consider that these forces are equipped with the most sophisticated weapons and they function with the help of a vast surveillance network, radars and a comprehensive human intelligence apparatus.

And there is another dimension to this bizarre theory of sanctuaries. If the sanctuaries do exist, as the defence secretary claims, how and why have the hundreds of US drone strikes missed such targets for a whole decade? When mosques, houses, markets, vehicles, schools, weddings and funeral processions could be targeted and hit with such accuracy, how could the terrorists’ hideouts and sanctuaries be spared? Hitting sanctuaries should have been a top priority for the CIA drone campaign managers. This exposes the absurd rationale of the whole fragile theory that is woven around wholly baseless assumptions.

But this is repeated ad nauseam because Islamabad has never been able to confront its American interlocutors with facts and ground realities. If one were to assume, even for the sake of an argument, that some resistance in the few Afghan provinces that border Pakistan would have some connectivity with militants operating from the tribal area of Pakistan, then how would one explain the growing resistance in areas that have no border with the tribal area or with Pakistan?

On June 9, there was a deadly attack on French soldiers in Kapisa province, which neither has a border with Pakistan nor has any substantial Pakhtun population. And who are targeting the coalition forces on a daily basis in such regions as Qundus (bordering with Tajikistan), Herat (bordering with Iran), Jozjan (bordering with Turkmenistan) and such areas as Sare Pul, Ghazni, Lugar and Wardak which have no border with Pakistan.

Panetta, who is now calling the shots as far as the war theatres of Afghanistan and Iraq are concerned, must be under considerable pressure to deliver an emphatic victory at least in some sector of Afghanistan. He has some results to show, however. The night raids initiated by Stanley McChrystal and David Petraeus have caused tremendous losses to the resistance, although many of the casualties were innocent Afghans. The local militias formed in some regions have also inflicted heavy losses on the resistance.

But the fighting, despite such losses, has not diminished. The most worrying thing for the Pentagon bosses is the rate of desertion in the Afghan National Army which is going up. Secondly, the many supporters and sympathisers of the resistance within the government establishment are causing a headache to the coalition forces which see their scheme for Afghanistan unravelling in the face of more defections and more “conversions.” These are formidable challenges which cannot be managed by throwing money at people.

Pakistan must be able to see the emerging mayhem in Afghanistan which a residual force of 25,000 US troops after 2014 will not be able to contain or handle. The Doha peace process is as good as dead. In any case, Mullah Umar has now decided to discontinue any future parleys with the US, having realised according to some reports that these are gimmicks aimed at creating a rift in the ranks of the resistance. To an extent the team that is based in Doha has lost its relevance for the leadership of the resistance.

These are grim and painful developments. As well as confronting the US position with the help of solid evidence and facts Pakistan must also take a more robust part in initiating a serious dialogue between the US and the resistance, exploring the solid basis that exists for working togather: no Al-Qaeda in future Afghanistan and no use of Afghan soil against any other country. As Pakistan undertakes this stupendous task it would learn very soon that common ground has existed between the position of the US and the resistance that has not been tapped into for many years.

But the success of such an effort would depend on whether the US is willing and prepared to withdraw all its soldiers, trainers, advisers within a stipulated period of time. Insurgency with all its attendant consequences will not end unless the US agrees to a complete pull-out of its forces of all types. Would the US listen?

Article by: Rustam Shah Mohmand, a former interior secretary and ambassador.

The Decisive Element

My daughter quoted from Goethe

“I have come to the frightening conclusion that I am the decisive element. It is my personal approach that creates the climate. It is my daily mood that makes the weather. I possess tremendous power to make life miserable or joyous. I can be a tool of torture or an instrument of inspiration, I can humiliate or humor, hurt or heal. In all situations, it is my response that decides whether a crisis is escalated or de-escalated, and a person is humanized or de-humanized. If we treat people as they are, we make them worse. If we treat people as they ought to be, we help them become what they are capable of becoming.”

I wrote :
Very true. It is everyone’s own perception, thinking and practice that makes or ruins life, but majority blames others for there deeds.

Dr Afridi and FCR

By spying for the US Shakeel Afridi has betrayed his nation and his country and shamed his family. His conduct cannot be justified in any way because he did not do it for ideological reasons, only for dollars. This is indeed very shameful.

Afridi’s first and foremost crime was the betrayal of his professional commitment to the Pakistani people. It is true that welfare projects are carried out by international organisations. However, such activities were already doubtful in minds of ordinary people. Even before Shakeel Afrid’s action, an anti-polio campaign in Fata and Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa was very difficult.

Thanks to what he did, it has now become impossible. There is a long list of individuals who are responsible for the fact that needy females, senior citizens and children do not have access to the health and welfare services offered by the international community. Now Afridi’s name is on top of the list of such individuals.

Afridi’s failure to display integrity and honesty in a matter concerned with national security and honour is something which cannot be forgiven. If he had received information that he could not handle, he should have informed his own government.

Instead he decided to share the information with the CIA and tried to keep the national security institutions unaware of this. Needless to say there are contradictions and failures related to our own security institutions. However, the weaknesses and failings of our system cannot be an excuse for treason.

However, the question arises: why is something done by a common man is considered an act of treason, but not if the guilty person is someone like Gen Pervez Musharraf, Mirza Aslam Baig, Asad Durrani, Hameed Gul, Mehmood Ali Durrani? Why aren’t they charged with treason as well? Although this is an unfortunate feature of Pakistani, Afridi’s crime cannot be justified in any way.

Pakistan and India have signed agreements to inform each other of military movement near the borders. They share such information with each other. But if an Indian or Pakistani citizen tries to act as a spy and conveys information to the other country regarding such movement, he is guilty of an act of treason. Dr Ghulam Nabi Fai was sentenced on the charge of working for the ISI, though the ISI and the CIA have signed agreements to share intelligence.

As far as family members and friends of Shakeel Afridi are concerned, it must be a depressing time for them. Afridi did everything with the full understanding of the sensitivity of the issue.

Because of Afridi’s being declared a hero by the US public and Congress, he is deemed guilty of espionage in the eyes of the common man in Pakistan. The US Congress has praised his efforts and now the Americans are crossing every limit to protect him. This again proves that he worked for the CIA. If Shakee Afridi remains alive, the US will take him away soon. There is a reason why the Afridi affair is a matter of ego for the United States: he is one of the thousands of CIA agents who are working in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

All such agents work with the assurance that in times of trouble the US will protect them. So for the preservation of CIA agents’ confidence in the US government, the Americans can do everything imaginable to secure Afridi’s freedom.

At present Afridi is nothing but a bargaining chip between the Pakistani and US establishments. In the past we have seen the US getting its way in all such cases. Pakistani officials, after being paid, prefer to surrender. This time again bargaining will result in the freedom of Shakeel Afridi, which seems more important for the US at this point of time than even the reopening of Nato supply rout.

Afridi is just another Raymond Davis. His indictment under FCR laws, instead of the common laws of the country, shows that government left a loophole to enable his freedom. Under the FCR the official who punishes a criminal has the authority to revoke the punishment.

Afridi has committed a very shameful act. This act defamed not only his family and friends, but also Pakhtuns and the tribal areas. However, there is a positive side to the Afridi affair.

It has turned the attention of the Pakistani and international media and human right organisations around the world to the barbaric FCR. This may result in national and international realisation as to that how this law is used against the tribesmen.

It would be a discovery for people in Pakistan and around the world that ten million people are living under a regime where no court exists. A mere nominee of the governor of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa may punish any person or tribe and no court could hear an appeal against them.

In the tribal areas all those punishments are authorised by the president of Pakistan, as the governor is responsible to the president, and political agent is a mere nominee of the governor. The same political agent enjoys the authority of judiciary and administration.

Moreover, he is also fully authorised to decide financial matters. He may impose tax at any rate on any item he chooses, and may reward anyone with any amount by drawing money from the public fund. Dr Shakeel Afridi is sentenced by the assistant political agent, but for the common people this authority is used by low-rank Tehsildars.

For the last many years the PPP and the ANP are presenting themselves as champions of human rights who introduced reforms in FCR laws. But this case shows the degree of the supposed reforms, because an appeal is still directed to not to a court of law but to another administrative officer, the commissioner of Peshawar.

Instead of abolishing or introducing reforms in the spirit of the Constitution of Pakistan, the Anti-Terrorism Act is now linked to the FCR and now security agencies and forces could detain any individual from any area of Pakistan, and punish him or her under the FCR.

I know of many individuals who were arrested from Peshawar and Rawalpindi and were punished under the FCR. So this is democracy and this is the real face of the self-assumed torch-barriers and protectors of human rights in Pakistan, the ANP and the PPP. But despite all this, human rights violations under the framework of the FCR will not be discussed by the media and parliament.

By: Saleem Safi

I am Me

I’ve gone through hell & kept walking. I know my weaknesses.

It took me a long time to believe that. I’ve felt my unworthiness.

And no one needs to convince me of that anymore. I’ve seen my ugliness.

I know perfection isn’t what it’s cracked up to be. I’ve got scars & I rock them.

I am ME…
I thought I was lost & alone, but now I realize that I was always with me…!!

How They Rob Us of Power

Four culprits: (1) organised theft of electricity; (2) organised theft of furnace oil, cables and transformers; (3) defaulting federal and provincial governments; (4) defaulting private sector consumers.

All put together the racket amounts to Rs100 crore a day every day of the year – and it is in the interest of many powerful forces for the racket to continue.

Transmission and distribution (T&D) losses, the euphemism for power theft, is 9.1 percent in Faisalabad, 12.8 percent in Lahore, 31.2 percent in Peshawar and 38.5 percent in Karachi.

The same in China is 6 percent and in the more corrupt Philippines it is 11 percent. Every one percent loss in Pakistan’s case amounts to a wholesome Rs3 billion.

Karachiites steal the most and Faisalabadis steal the least. Collectively, we steal Rs50 billion worth of electricity per year ever year.

Heading a distribution company is one of the most lucrative of postings. Guess what Maulana Fazal-ur-Rehman asked for as the price to rejoin the Parliamentary Committee for National Defence? Answer: The Maulana’s nominee to head the Peshawar Electric Supply Company (PESCO) – a post that otherwise commands a premium of tens of crores.

According to a recent report by Nepra, just three government-owned electricity companies stole some Rs26 billion worth of furnace oil.

Additionally, every major city in the country has stockpiles of stolen cables and transformers – stolen from government entities – for sale at hefty discounts.

Next; federal ministries and their subsidiary entities owe a colossal Rs120 billion in terms of unpaid electricity bills.

The government of Sindh owes an additional Rs50 billion, the government of Balochistan Rs18 billion, the government of Punjab Rs19 billion, AJK Rs15 billion and KP Rs16 billion – for a total of Rs118 billion.

Private sector consumers also owe Rs127 billion and the biggest of these defaulters are either relatives of powerful politicians or friends of influential bureaucrats.

Lo and behold, if the federal government pays up all its outstanding electricity bills there will be no loadshedding for a period of four months.

If all the provincial governments pay up for the electricity they have used up there will be no loadshedding for an additional four months.

The government of Pakistan insists that it subsidises the power sector to the tune of Rs360 billion or more a year.

Yes, the government is subsidising theft, pilferage and plunder. We all know that power corrupts, but we need electricity.

Farrukh Saleem
The writer is a columnist based in Islamabad. Email: farrukh