Thursday, July 3, 2008

Goodbye, Peshawar?


Peshawar -- literally 'High Fort' in Persian -- now stands encircled. Haji Mangal Bagh Afridi controls most of what is west of Peshawar. Dara Adam Khel, a mere 35 kilometres south of Peshawar, is controlled by Baitullah Mehsud's loyalists. Charsadda and Shabqadar, both less than 30 kilometres north of Peshawar, are controlled by Commander Umar Khalid, TTP's (Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan) leader in Mohmand agency. Two weeks ago, Javed Aziz Khan of The News reported that Sheikhan, Sarband, Regi and Nasir Bagh were under Mangal Bagh's absolute control while Mathra, Michni, Daudzai and Khazana were under Umar Khalid's control.

What is the real plan? Is the 'High Fort' being surrounded with the intent of an assault? After all, Pakistan army's XI Corp -- some 60,000 soldiers -- commanded by the brave Lieutenant-General Masood Aslam is headquartered in Peshawar (in 1971, Masood Aslam was wounded fighting in Chumb-Jaurian sector. He has served in Siachen and has been the recipient of Sitara-i-Jurat for his extraordinary service and bravery). Peshawar also has the Bala Hisar Fort, the Frontier Corps' headquarters, where Major-General Mohammad Alam Khattak (Tamgha-i-Basalat) is the commander. Peshawar has the 7th Infantry Division, the Golden Arrow Division, Pakistan's "oldest and the most battle-hardened division".

Peshawar also has the Central Police Office. Malik Naveed Khan is in command but has neither human capital nor much else. The Sarband Police Station, which is right next to Khyber agency, according to Javed Aziz Khan, has a total of six bullet-proof jackets and not a single armoured personnel carrier (APC). The Matani Police Station has one APC but that is almost always at the workshop. Is Peshawar under siege? Athar Minallah, my dear friend, insists that there are Taliban in Bradford and in Birmingham. Question: What really prevents Bradford from falling into Taliban's hands? It is not the 10the Battalion West Yorkshire Regiment; it is the civilian administrative apparatus. Cripple that civilian administrative machinery and Bradford Taliban will take over the City Hall, Bradford Cathedral and also the National Media Museum. And, in absence of an effective civilian administrative setup, almost all residents of Bradford will rush towards the Taliban for protection as well as for the dispensation of justice.

South Waziristan now belongs to Baitullah Mehsud. Hafiz Gul Bahadur is the Taliban supreme commander in North Waziristan. Maulvi Faqir Mohammad controls Bajaur. Mangal Bagh and Haji Namdar reign over Khyber. Commander Umar Khalid is the boss in Mohmand. That's some 20,000 sq-km of physical Pakistan terrain. Is this terrorism or is it an insurgency? Should the state of Pakistan devise a counter-terrorism or a counter-insurgency strategy?

To be certain, violence is the common denominator in terrorism and insurgency. But, rarely will terrorists attempt to actually control physical terrain. In essence, what the state of Pakistan faces is not terrorism but an active insurgency.

A retired army brigadier, as knowledgeable in FATA as anyone I know, insists that the roots of this insurgency can actually be traced back to 1997. In 1999, this brigadier, with his FATA insurgency fact-file under his arm, had walked up to the DG-ISI but no one was ready to pay much heed. Then came 9/11 and that pushed the Talibanisation of NWFP some two years behind.

How do we get out of it? It is obvious that jirgas are meaningless and so are peace agreements. The best suggestion that I have heard so far is as follows: give the militants every sort of indemnity that they ask for. Forgive each and every one of their past crimes. Accept a hundred other conditions put up by the militants. All in exchange for just one. And, that condition is that no one -- absolutely no one -- will be allowed to run a parallel administration.

Where is the government going wrong? Well, the government blinks while the Taliban -- the government's ex-proxies -- freely exhibit their muscle (for instance, they enter Peshawar at will and take from Peshawar whatever they want). Remember, tribal loyalties belong to whoever has the muscle. Act now or sayonara Peshawar. AdiĆ³s Peshawar. Au revoir Peshawar. Mach's gut Peshawar. Aloha Peshawar. Arrivederci Peshawar. Zai jian Peshawar. Just what language do our decision makers understand?

A Conspiracy to Talibanise Karachi


3rd July 2008

A marathon emergency meeting of the Central Co-ordination Committee of Muttahida Quami Movement (MQM) was held in London in which the Members of Karachi Central Co-ordination Committee, Karachi Tanzimi Committee present in London and Members of the International Secretariat participated. The Members expressed their deep concerns over settling the Jihadi extremists from all over the country in Karachi through deliberate and sustained emigrational process and their escalating anti-peace and nefarious activities. In a statement released after the meeting, the Members of the Co-ordination Committee said that the province of Sindh is the land of “Sufis” and peace-loving people who believe in religious tolerance, sectarian harmony, brotherhood and unity while a conspiracy of Talibanising Karachi by settling the Jihadi extremists in Karachi is being hatched. The statement said that the settlement of Jihadi extremists is being carried out under the patronage on certain elements of the agencies of the Establishment. They further elaborated that these elements are not only illegally occupying lands in different localities of Karachi but also resorting to loot and plunder, robberies, theft, kidnapping for ransom and extortion. The statement further said that while committing above mentioned crimes they are also writing slogans on the walls inciting sectarian hatred and intimidation that manifests their future ulterior motives. The statement cited a few glaring examples of those slogans openly chalked on the walls of the flats, houses and parks situated at Asma Gardens in Housing Scheme 33, Gulshan View Apartments, Noman Arcade and its nearby flats and parks stated: “If you wish to live in Karachi then you have to say Jeay Taliban”, “If you wish to live in Karachi then you have to live like Talibans”, “if you wish to live in Karachi then you have to live like Jihadis”, If you wish to live in Karachi then you have to say yes to Baitullah Mehsud” and with profound and deep regrets we have to cite this horrible slogans written by these religious extremists elements that says: “Khomeini Dog, Khomeini Infidel and those who do not acknowledge are also infidels”.
The Members of the Central Co-ordination Committee said that people of Karachi are extremely concerned over this dangerous and crucial situation and said that they have no conflicts with the elements belonging to different religious extremists groups. The statement further said if these elements are facing problems in their own areas then we can establish shelter and camps for their refuge in Karachi and would also provide them help and basic amenities but the people of Sindh and Karachi will never permit to illegally occupy the land of Karachi, the capital of Sindh province and destroy its peace. The statement said that they ask the peaceful people of Sindh including Karachi to remain beware, keep their eyes open and keep unity in their rank and file and make each and single person aware of the conspiracy of Talibanisation of Sindh particularly Karachi. The Members of the Central Co-ordination Committee demanded of the Government to take stern action against the elements illegally occupying lands in Karachi, committing loot and plunder, robberies, extortion and kidnapping for ransom and the extremists elements Talibanising Karachi and other contemptuous elements.