Tuesday, December 22, 2015

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Taliban launches offensive, regains control of key points in biggest Afghan province

British military deployed to Afghanistan: Why Sangin matters

The Union flag was officially brought down in Afghanistan last year, but to this day the involvement of British intervention in the region remains a point of heated controversy.
Troops lowered the flag at Camp Bastion in October, ending combat operations in the country after 13 years.
Despite the Ministry of Defence's (MoD) position in refusing to comment on any operations involving the SAS, it has been reported that British troops have been deployed to Afghanistan to help local forces fighting to recover a key town after it fell back under Taliban control.
A British soldier carries a carefully folded Union Flag under his arm as the last British boots leave Camp Bastion, Helmand Province, AfghanistanA British soldier carries a carefully folded Union Flag under his arm as the last British boots leave Camp Bastion, Helmand Province, Afghanistan  Photo: PAIt appears their role was to back American special forces and the Afghan National Army as they try to retake Sangin, in Helmand province, from the resurgent Taliban. There are also elements of Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant on the ground.
The British military suffered its heaviest losses in Sangin during its deployment in Helmand. The area had been handed from 40 Commando Royal Marines to the US Marine Corps, ending a four-year UK presence that cost 106 British lives.
In total there have been 456 British forces personnel or MoD civilians killed while serving in Afghanistan since the start of operations in October 2001.
Many of those were victims of Improvised Explosive Devices (IED), the weapon of choice for the Taliban for much of the conflict, while others met their fate in so-called "green on blue" attacks as the people they were helping and mentoring turned on them.
British army afghanistan withdrawal camp bastionThe Union flag was officially brought down in Afghanistan last year  Photo: MoDThe US, which has suffered more than 2,000 deaths, endured one of the deadliest attacks on foreign forces in Afghanistan this year when a Taliban attack near Bagram killed six US soldiers.
Among its many problems Afghanistan was struggling against poverty and corruption in its quest for stability, which has brought education to millions of children in schools and colleges all over the country. A fierce Taliban onslaught was not completely successful in stopping the education of young girls.
When British troops pulled out of Afghanistan, the nation's new president Ashraf Ghani said the Afghan people would remember that the UK stood "shoulder-to-shoulder" with them.
He acknowledged that the armed forces had paid a "very high price" for bringing "stability" and said driving out al-Qaeda had been in Britain's "national interest".
David Cameron added there was no prospect of the UK going back to fight in Afghanistan.
The MoD states there are now a small number of UK personnel who are deployed to Camp Shorabak in Helmand province as part of a larger Nato team which is advising the Afghan National Army.
British troops in Helmand, AfghanistanA file photograph of British troops in Helmand, Afghanistan  Photo: Heathcliff O'MalleySome 12,000 foreign soldiers are deployed as part of the Nato-led Resolute Support international coalition, which is meant to underpin Afghanistan's own security forces.
The conflict began with US-led air strikes on Afghanistan on October 7 2001, with the first official deployment of British forces the following month when Royal Marines helped secure Bagram airfield.
Several thousand more troops followed but the human cost remained relatively low until Britain sent a task force to Helmand in spring 2006.
By the time the British military death toll in Iraq reached 100 in January 2006, there had only been five fatalities in Afghanistan.
Three months later the then defence secretary, John Reid, said he would be "perfectly happy" if UK troops left Helmand three years later "without firing a shot".
Instead, a redoubtable insurgency drew the military into some of the fiercest fighting British forces had experienced since the Second World War.
Despite the large-scale losses over the years, military chiefs and politicians have remained insistent that they have achieved the aims they set out more than a decade ago.
Mr Cameron came under fire in 2013 for saying the campaign was "mission accomplished" for British troops and they could come home with their heads held high.
In February, the then Defence Secretary Philip Hammond said the success of the Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF) – which he said was leading 97 per cent of operations – was a "significant achievement".
He also described April's presidential elections as an "important step on Afghanistan's path to normalisation".
Afghan security forces on patrol in HelmandAfghan security forces on patrol in Helmand  Photo: EPAThere are still critics who are concerned that the work of British troops, and the losses sustained, may be undone if Afghan security forces cannot retain control of the country.
The legacy of the conflict is also set to continue for years to come, with calls for Mr Cameron to establish a full inquiry into the UK's military campaign in Afghanistan, especially given the scale of deaths compared to the Iraq war, where there were 179 UK military fatalities.

Pakistan - CDA urges SC to make poor Christian homeless

Pakistan is made for all its citizens, irrespective to their religion and its government responsibility to provide shelter to every citizen. But Capital Development Authority (CDA) has requested the Supreme Court of Pakistan (SC) to allow CDA to take action along with other Government Departments, against the Christians dwellers in the capital and the residents may be returned to their native areas. This is very unfortunate that Christian parliamentarian and clergy are still silent in the country.
Christian dwellers had found their living place around the seasonal drainage (Nalaas) of Islamabad for more than three decades. They are constantly living under threat though serving in CDA and their women and children are serving the well-to-do families in the capital. Most of them work as laborer, housekeepers, street cleaner but the authorities has not provided them housing facilities. Their children are starving and families choose to sell themselves into slavery for survival, illustrated that humanity has left the nation of Pakistan.
Living across the seasonal drainages (Nalaas) and mostly affected by the flood every year in the rainy season but no disaster recovery plan or infrastructure has been put in place to enhance their safety and security. Victims lost most of their possessions every year which washed away with their homes or irretrievably ruined by water surge. But they again manage their livings. Many of them have been drowned during the raining season and died, left their children helpless. These people are living without no proper drainage system, no pure water facility, no regular electricity and gas facility provided by CDA.
Earlier Islamabad High Court (IHC) has ordered to demolish the slums of Islamabad. In the recent report submitted to the apex court CDA has not only declared the influx as a threat to the numerical superiority of Muslims in the capital city but bashes slum residents as land grabbing migrants who, presumably, do not contribute to the development of this country. The word “ugly” manifest repeatedly in the report as a description of the slums: They “look like ugly villages” in the beautiful city of Islamabad. They’re “ugly slums which present bad picture even (more) than ancient slums of neighboring city of Rawalpindi” Dawn reported. This is totally inhuman behavior adopted towards the Christian resident and against ethnic norms.
The most unsettling element of the report is the implication that the religion of the slum-residents makes them more problematic than usual. The CDA report states: It is necessary to identify the fact that most of the katchi abadis are under the occupation of the Christian community who are shifted from Narowal, Sheikhupura, Sialkot, Kasur, Sahiwal and Faisalabad and occupied the Government land so badly as if It has been allotted to them and it seems this pace of occupation of land may affect the Muslim majority of the capital. This statement offers a glimpse into the minds of those who are part of the slum eradication drive.
The CDA has no plan to shift or provide alternate land and financial compensation to the dwellers and wanted them to send back to their native areas. Evocation is violation of human rights of the poor. This clearly shows the mindset of the present government that divides Pakistanis on religion lines. The constitution guarantees the right to shelter to every citizen and no one should be removed from Islamabad on the basis of religion. Asim Sajjad, President Awami Watin Party (AWP) said that he was shocked to see the report CDA has submitted to the SC to justify its actions against the Christians dwellers of the capital. Religious minorities should not be targeted on the basis of their religion. “Either no one checks such hooplas in the CDA or it has a policy to remove Christians from the city, he added. Falak Sher resident of H 9 colony said that his family is displaced from Mehrabadi like many others after the religious animosity gripped the slum after the cleric accused a young Christian girl, Rimsha of burning Quran. They settled down in H 9 but the CDA has planned to displace them again just because of their faith.
The ruling party Pakistan Muslim League (PML-N) is evidently considered against the Christians in the country. Most of the inhuman retort, like burning Christian couple, burning Christian colonies after accusing any Christian had been in Punjab during its rule. Death plenty punishment was being added in blasphemy law by the God father of Nawaz Sharif, (Gen Zia ul Haq). PML-N leader was reportedly behind the burning of the hundreds of the Christens’ houses including two churches in Joseph Colony, Lahore in March, 2013. Now during the rule of the said party the civic agency plans to demolish 41 slums in different sectors of the capital and few of them are Christian populated. Earlier CDA informed the SC that katchi abadis will be demolished in four phases but no time frame was given to execute the plan.
Under phase I, the slums to be knocked down are: Street 17 of Sector I-10/1, Sector H-11/2 Kashmir Highway, Roshan Colony Sector I-12, Christian Colony Sector G-6/1-4, Dhobi Ghat G-6/2, Sector F-8/1 Nazimuddin Road, Green Belt H-12 and I-12 behind NUST, Muzaffar Colony H-11/4, Musharraf Colony G-8/4, Muhallah Dori Bagh, Miskeen Colony G-8/4, Shopper Colony G-7 Markaz, Sector H-9 and Bari Imam Katchi Abadi.
Likewise, 11 katchi abadis will be removed under phase II. They are: Chak Shahzad (PIA), Chak Shahzad Pona Faqiran, Dhoke Pathan Chamber Road Abadi, Dhoke Pathan (Sahila), Khanna Pull, New Shkrial katchi abadi, Shams Colony Bhangra Road, Rawat, Sumbal at Korak Town, Junejo Colony, Mohriyan and NIH Colony. Five similar colonies are slated to be demolished under phase III. They are: Bheka Syedan F-11, Sectors G-12, F-12, E-12 behind Khushian Wali Sarkar and I-11/2 Bakra and Surain. In phase IV, the slums to be removed are located at Sectors G-7/1, G-7/2 (66 quarters), G-7/3-2 (48 quarters), F-6/2, F-7/4 France Colony, Hansa Colony G-8/1, Essa Nagri I-9/1 and Muslim Colony, Bari Imam.
Unfortunately Christian parliamentarians do not bother to speak in the favor of Christians instead presenting “all well” reports. In 15 katchi abadis dwellers are Christians in the capital city and it is fear that if CDA takes action against these slum areas around 150,000 people will be on the roads. The action will displace the Christian community during the freezing cold season.
- See more at: http://www.christiansinpakistan.com/cda-urges-sc-to-make-poor-christian-homeless/#sthash.OgIFmP60.dpuf

Pakistan: Few and many -- Predatory society, complicit state

 By Umair Javed

MANY people in Pakistan, seething at Donald Trump’s proposal to ban Muslims from entering the US, are rightly upset. In the same vein, those few who point out similar discriminatory practices against the Ahmadi community right here in Pakistan are also rightly upset. When the few were bold enough to make their grievance public, the state apparatus surprisingly took action. They proceeded to remove a hate-filled sticker in a commercial establishment and arrested the person who’d put it up.

In response, the many took to the streets to ‘protect’ their right to discriminate. They’ve now decided to escalate matters by asking the state to distinguish ‘real’ believers from ‘fake’ ones using ID cards (and maybe down the line, they’ll force them to wear hats and badges). They’ve put up a few hundred more stickers and many new banners asking for everyone to discriminate against a particular community. The many say it’s an obligation. This difference in numbers between the few and the many is one of the principle ideological chasms this country struggles with on a regular basis.

Before proceeding any further, let’s be clear about a few basic things: societal bigotry aside, the Pakistani state and its guiding legal structure perpetuate and enshrine discriminatory politics of the kind witnessed in Lahore recently. One can argue endlessly about which way this particular causality runs historically (ie did societal bigotry reflect itself in the legal framework, or did the state’s eagerness to discriminate end up entrenching bigotry in society), but that would be futile. If today is taken as our starting point, both, social actors and the state entrusted to manage affairs on their behalf, are mostly on the same page when it comes to discriminating against a particular community. Whether it’s through the Bhutto-led Second Amendment, the heinous provisions inserted by Zia, and then subsequent governments, or through the everyday practices of religious groups, businessmen, and over-eager clerics and their followers.

Societal bigotry aside, the Pakistani state and its guiding legal structure perpetuate and enshrine discriminatory politics.

The second thing we need to be clear about is that while in our post-APS setting there may exist a tenuous consensus against militant actors, there’s little to no societal consensus on moderation, or on a new definition of tolerance, citizenship, and coexistence. Religion is still considered a public affair, and is thus still used by many as a basis for stratifying society into pure, half-breeds, and mongrels. Although the state has flexed its muscles occasionally under the National Action Plan, the relative freedom accorded to actors like Maulana Abdul Aziz, or those shopkeepers who’ve decided to step up their hate speech campaign in Lahore shows that curbing physical violence is on the agenda, while the soil and fertiliser that allows physical violence to thrive is a distant second or third.

This brings us to the question of what can be done to protect the fundamental, completely human rights of members of the Ahmadi community from a predatory society and a passively complicit state. At the point of logical culmination, for any successful reform to take place, the question has to move away from the Muslim vs non-Muslim dichotomy, and towards a conception of equal citizenship based on shared geographic or national affiliation.

Here’s the problem though — unlike other communities persecuted for religious reasons (the Shias in particular, but also Christians and Hindus), neither the numbers nor social acceptance is on the side of a progressive reform movement that champions anti-discrimination. The Ahmadi community is avowedly apolitical — rightly so for security reasons — and thus cannot function alone as an interest group at the local or national level. Compounding the problem is a society where a sizeable majority ascribes to a discriminatory (if not violent) position, and responds harshly to any attempts by other social actors to assert a different view.

Given a complete inability to initiate mass social action, the only way forward is for the state to feel emboldened enough to take a lead in weeding out violence, discrimination, and hate speech. Theoretically, the state has the organisational apparatus to carry out this task. It has the reach, resources, and has shown in the past that it can take difficult decisions (though of a different nature and magnitude). Practically speaking, mainstream political parties need to arrive at a consensus on the urgency with which this needs to be done. All differences to one side, there needs to be a public declaration by party leaders that no one will utilise any push for an anti-discrimination campaign to garner cheap votes and whip-up right-wing sentiment for short-term gains.

Finally, progressive forces — outnumbered and under-resourced as they are — would have to ensure those that control the state and its accompanying bureaucratic apparatus remain emboldened to undertake this extremely difficult venture.

There is no doubt as to how impossible this appears as a task. For instance, one small action by the state — taking down a hateful sticker in a city plastered with hate — has led to a reaction that will in all likelihood induce paralysis towards other discriminatory instances.

Yet, if momentum is not built, voices are not raised, encouragement is not provided, our self-congratulatory narrative on the ‘consensus’ will remain exactly what it is — hollow and procedural. More than Zarb-i-Azb, more than Lal Masjid, more than our nationalist reaction to terrorism in the wake of Peshawar, history will take the treatment handed out to particular communities — and our response — as the true litmus test in the fight against extremism and intolerance.


Pakistan - Imran Khan’s remarks

IN a set of regrettable remarks, the PTI chief Imran Khan has threatened owners of the lands that surround his university project with forcible seizure of their properties if they don’t consent to sell their lands at the price being offered to them.

Apparently, the PTI chief wishes to build a stadium for Namal University in Mianwali on land that is adjacent to the campus; but the farmers who own the land have been refusing to sell it at the rates that are being offered to them.

Although Mr Khan may not have the means to act on his warning, even to talk of forcible seizure is reprehensible to say the least.

Also read: Imran ‘makes jibe’ at land owners

He threatened to invoke Section 4 of the Land Acquisition Act once his party came into power, which he seems to believe is inevitable.

Though his party’s steep losses in the recent LG polls would appear to belie his belief at this point, given that politics is a game of fluctuating fortunes, the PTI could do much better in the next general elections.

This is one reason why a more mature attitude befitting a leader of a major political party should have been in evidence.

Instead, his remarks were disappointing and revealed a dictatorial mindset, which can hardly prove a boon for Pakistan’s democracy.

True, there are others in the political pantheon that may also harbour what can be called a feudal mindset. Pakistan has seen several such politicians whose arrogance and determination to persecute those with differing views have proved to be costly mistakes.

Perhaps, appreciating this, and also as a consequence of being censured routinely by a society more informed about its rights than it was previously, many politicians have seen the wisdom in being moderate in their approach, at least in their interactions with the public.

It is hoped that Mr Khan, too, will see the wisdom in adopting a less belligerent tone.

He must revise his opinion if he thinks that private ventures are automatically synonymous with the public good, and that putting pressure to achieve what he believes is a noble goal is justified.

It is about time he understood both sides of the picture and refrained from pushing a personal agenda. In any case, Mr Khan needs to realise that his remarks were hardly those that one associates with national leaders of stature and that the land and people of Pakistan are not there to serve his private interests.


Pakistan - Gas crisis - PML-N misled the nation

If the misery brought on by the severe weather was not enough, citizens of the country and those in Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa in particular are now in the grip of a massive gas shortage, probably the likes of which we have never seen. People are out on the streets protesting as they have no gas to cook, bathe or keep themselves warm. Growth has plummeted and unemployment has soared due to the closure of industries being run on natural gas. There seems no end to the sufferings of citizens in the near future as the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) government has failed to fulfil the promises it made during its election campaign in 2013. The PML-N misled the nation with hollow slogans that it would overcome the energy crisis. Such a claim joins the heap of fake promises made by the PML-N before coming into power. It adds to the list of failures of the incumbent government in tackling various challenges faced by the countrymen.

At a time when the Minister for Petroleum and Natural Resources Khaqan Abbasi is required to rectify the problem, he has just been presenting lame excuses to save his skin. Instead of focusing on better planning and finding new and affordable sources of gas supply, including the option of importing gas from neighbouring countries, the government has been slow and ill prepared as it has always been. It only responds when a crisis spins out of control. The problem of gas shortage has not been created overnight. Besides, any person with some common sense understands that a gap in supply and demand increases with the passage of time. It is the responsibility of the government to ensure that the demands of an increasing population are met with proper measures. What has the PML-N government done to avert the gas crisis during its almost three years tenure? An obvious reason for its failure is that the government has an incompetent team that cannot foresee a troubling situation and take necessary measures to ward off such crises. These elements sitting at the helm of affairs are increasing the troubles of the masses instead of bringing any relief. It is the mandate of the Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Resources to take measures on a war footing to provide relief to citizens who are becoming a victim of the government’s lethargic attitude and poor policies in tackling challenges. The situation is really grave and the government needs to plan actions on how to address the problem within the shortest possible time. 



The Senate meeting today as Committee of the Whole to finalize report on speedy and inexpensive justice unanimously decided on measures to address the issue of missing persons as well to initiate a broad conversation with religious scholars and stake holders on how to prevent the misuse the blasphemy law.
The decisions were taken in the meeting today which took up the draft report as well as over thirty proposals submitted separately by Senators Farhatullah Babar of PPP, Syed Muzaffar Hussain Shah of PML-F and Azam Swati of PTI.
Chairman Raza Rabbani presided over the meeting that was attended by some 25 senators representing various political parties.
Senator Farhatullah Babar made eight proposals ranging from legislation to a bring the state agencies under the ambit of the law, preventing misuse of blasphemy law, streamlining the exercise of suo moto powers, revisiting the procedure of appointment of judges, doing away with the appointment of ad-hoc judges, re-examination of policing laws in the provinces and institution of web based scheme for filing FIRs.
Senator Farhatullah Babar said that missing persons was one section of the society which could not access any justice, “no matter how expensive and how slow” it may be. He said that the need for legislation had been voiced in the SC during hearing in cases as well as recommended in the report of the Commission on Enforced Disappearance. He said that sometime the human rights of committee of the senate had given a set of recommendations including draft legislation to rein in the agencies and asked for its implementation.
The Committee decided to ask the government for progress on the 2013 report of the human rights committee. It also decided to make a special sub-chapter on missing persons in its final report. It proposed that constitutionalism and human rights be taught as compulsory subjects in security institutions to sensitize them.
Senator Farhatullah Babar said that the blasphemy law had been grossly misused against minorities and vulnerable sections of society and proposed appropriate legislation to prevent this misuse. He also referred to the SC verdict of October 7, 2015 and said that this could form the basis for action by parliament. A number of senators including opposition leader Chaudhry Aitzaz and NP President Hasil Bizenjo also supported the suggestion. The committee decided to broaden the conversation on blasphemy law in the light of the recent SC verdict and seek opinion of religious scholars and other stake holders on preventing misuse of the law.
Farhatullah Babar also proposed improvements in the exercise of suo motu powers. To ensure transparency, initiation of suo moto cases should be on an order by the chief justice in consultation with senior puisne judge together with a provision for appeal which should lie with another bench of the apex court.
The committee decided to recommend amendments in the SC rules to provide for appeal in suo moto cases. Chairman Raza Rabbani proposed that the power to initiate suo moto cases should vest in the CJP and not necessarily in ‘consultation with senior puisne judge’, to which the Committee agreed.
On his proposal for re-examination of policing laws in the provinces to enable a politically independent police force the committee observed that police was a provincial subject. However, it also decided to make recommendations to the provinces to re-examine their respective police laws to determine whether these enabled or hindered the development of a politically independent police force.
Consideration of proposals for developing web based system for filing of FIRs and action to prevent false and frivolous complaints were deferred.

Peshawar’s truth seekers

It would take the hardest heart to not be moved by Fazal Khan last week. Mr Khan was protesting against officials federal and provincial, a year to the day of the APS massacre. To his credit, Imran Khan invited the grieving parent to the podium.
But while we hail the gesture itself, it may be best to focus on what it was supposed to achieve in the first place: lending the man a hearing. What cruelty that a parent’s sobs be drowned out by the bells and whistles marking his child’s death. That soul-crushing December, Mr Khan’s son, Sahibzada Umer, lost his life. He was 14-years-old.
Yet, all his father wanted a year later, he said, was justice. Mr Khan had no time for sombre ceremonies — he called it all a “drama”. And as a man with nothing left to lose, Mr Khan demanded answers from all: Prime Minister Sharif to PTI head Imran Khan, provincial speaker Asad Qaiser to police chief Nasir Durrani.
And not a soul can blame him — a year since 16/12, we are so little wiser. And those who have been broken most — parents of the victims — only want the truth.
Today, we’re as lost as we were that winter morning: we don’t know whether the six attackers were “all foreign” — an assortment of Arabs and Chechens and Afghans — or, as we’re now told, local as local can be: Pashto-speakers from Peshawar and Khyber and Mohmand Agencies.
Nor do we know how many there were. On the same morning, reports tell us, 10 other suicide bombers were nabbed by intelligence agencies, though public knowledge is largely limited to the six men inside.
We don’t even know the exact identities of our killers; the very reason the parents plead they want to see their faces and hear them confess. In the immediate aftermath, we were told it was the Tawheed al-Jihad group, an obscure if not unheard-of outfit.
Finally, Fazlullah claimed responsibility in a video address, blood dripping from his jaws. But we’re told the real mastermind was Umar Mansoor, whom the press revealed in bursts of bizarre factoids: a “kindly” father of three, and fond of volleyball (was the aim to humanise this gargoyle?).
And subsequent sackings don’t give us cause for confidence either. Yes, a school full of students is the softest of soft targets, and 19 threats, on average, are reported in Peshawar each day. But there was advance warning; the Taliban had threatened the Army Public Schools as far back as April. Heads haven’t rolled; no admin from the civilian or military spheres have been (publicly) sent home. The right questions aren’t being asked.
Which is why the judicial inquiry is a public need — Peshawar’s parents must be given the truth.
Inquiries aside, it’s time to act on what we do know. We now know that the killers planned the attack in Afghanistan. We also know that the rapid response hemmed the attackers in — with heroes like Naik Muhammad Altaf throwing himself before gunfire — and stopped the slaughter of hundreds more. And we know the state’s performance in the year since: half-measures in ways half-hearted.
Yes, the Taliban have been battered: it’s no exaggeration that Pakistan had once ceded much of Waziristan to wild animals. And on the basis of improving security indicators (should we take that as a measuring cast), General Sharif is on track to becoming the most successful chief in recent memory.
But there is a difference between taking back territory and clearing the swamp. For the first part, we needed the Zarb-e-Azb blitz. For the second, we needed everything else: a civilian project that would cut the cancer out.
That would mean making the police worthy of our first line of defence in urban centres; it would mean clamping down on those that preach hate in our madrassas; it would mean nudging Nacta awake; it would mean extending our school curriculum beyond the lore of Ghazna; it would mean striking at the sectarian zombies in southern Punjab; it would mean depriving Abdul Aziz of his liberty, not his cellular service.
And it would mean bringing Kabul in from the cold: of what little information we have, one thing is clear — the masterminds are still at large. Fazlullah and Mansoor are in Afghanistan, and it is only in a stable, secure Afghanistan that Pakistan will find a partner in.
Without the above, we’re left with a gardening metaphor from another paper’s editorial: “that this surge is akin to mowing the lawn, only to watch the grass grow back again”.
But before all else, to tear out the roots we must first look inward. We have succeeded in ‘other-ising’ the fight: aliens in Swat, demon tattoos in Peshawar, a shower of RAW funding and Mossad shekels. Yet the enemy is of us and among us.
The tragedy is not our ignorance. The tragedy is, deep down, we know this already. We know, once the haze of conspiracy fades, who the enemy is and what their names are. And we are too fearful to say them.
May we have op-eds as clear-eyed as Mr Feisal Naqvi’s: “In the last one year, how much have we been told about Fazlullah and the TTP? The answer: not very much. Nobody discusses the fact that Fazlullah has been leading a revolt against the state since 2002,” he wrote. “Nobody discusses the fact that the state of Pakistan once handed over Swat to ‘Fazlullah and his father-in-law.”
Mr Naqvi brought in the Voldemort rule: “‘Fear of a name only increases fear of the thing itself.’ And if there is any one thing that we owe to the memory of the 144 martyrs, it is to have the courage to name and shame their killers.”
No doubt there is a yawning chasm between Fazal Khan’s grief and the will of the state: it can only start by naming the murderers, by answering the right questions via inquiry, and by turning the National Action Plan inwards at last.
Until that day, we may only read the words on banners across the country this December, and feel our eyes burn in shame: Hamara khoon bhi shaamil hai taraeen gullistan mein/ Humein bhi yaad kar lena chaman mein jab bahaar aaye.

The Battle for Pakistan's Schools

In the year that's passed since the Pakistani Taliban murdered 134 children at a military-run school in Peshawar, the army has successfully driven many of their fighters across the border into Afghanistan. To win its wider battle against radicalism, however, Pakistan will need not only to protect its schools but also to reform them.
The sorry state of public schools in Pakistan has encouraged a great proliferation of religious madrassas -- estimated to number anywhere from 18,000 to 33,000 and to graduate at least 200,000 students a year. These schools vary widely in quality and ideology, from mud-walled classrooms where children learn little but a few verses from the Koran to the sophisticated Al Huda schools for women that Tashfeen Malik attended before taking part in the San Bernardino shooting, to outright jihadi factories funded by militant groups. Under the "national action plan" formulated after the Peshawar massacre, authorities were supposed to map all madrassas, audit their accounts and regulate any foreign funding. But progress has been slow.
In any case, it isn't enough just to know where the madrassas are and who's financing them. Police need greater authority to investigate schools suspected of instilling violent ideologies or providing material support to jihadi groups. Thus far, madrassas affiliated with "good" militants -- the ones focused on combating India and Afghanistan, rather than the Pakistani state -- appear to have escaped such scrutiny. Efforts to introduce more secular subjects into the curricula at religious schools have been worthwhile, though they're unlikely to help students learn religious tolerance.
More important than trying to impose reform on the madrassas is for Pakistan to provide children with good public-school alternatives. As of 2013, more than half of public schools in the country lacked electricity and 42 percent had no working toilets. As many as 25 million children may be out of school altogether. Combined, the national and provincial governments spend only about 2.5 percent of gross domestic product on education. That share, among the lowest in the world, should be raised closer to 4 percent to pay for more schools and better-trained teachers. Businesses and nongovernmental organizations, some of them foreign-funded, have made worthyattempts to sponsor affordable charter-like schools, or to "adopt" individual public schools. But the problem is too big for the private sector to solve.
The hard work of cleansing school curricula of bias, sectarianism and the glorification of violence will have to be done by the Pakistanis themselves. Provinces control their own curricula, but it's still possible to establish national standards for teaching history and religion. Despite the resistance that can always be expected from religious parties, moderate voices in favor of religious tolerance and curriculum reform are greater in number in Pakistan. And they, too, can base their case on Islamic principles.
All this will require buy-in from Pakistan's powerful military. If schools are ever to be adequately funded, the army will have to accept a smaller share of the national budget. If students are to imbibe a less violent worldview, textbooks will have to downplay confrontation with India, which is often used to justify the army's central role in society. And if the jihadi pipeline is to be closed, all radical madrassas will have to be shut down, including those run by the army's onetime militant allies. Otherwise the war against radicals that Pakistan declared a year ago will never end.

Pakistan’s Conflict Zone Migrants

Pakistan’s army is building an arsenal of ”tiny” nuclear weapons—and it’s going to backfire

By C. Christine Fair 

Pakistan has the fastest growing nuclear arsenal and, within the next five to ten years, it is likely to double that of India, and exceed those of France, the United Kingdom, and China. Only the arsenals of the United States and Russia will be larger.

In recent years, Pakistan has boasted of developing “tactical nuclear weapons” to protect itself against potential offensive actions by India. In fact, Pakistan is the only country currently boasting of makingincreasingly tiny nuclear weapons (link in Urdu).

Pakistanis overwhelmingly support their army and its various misadventures. And the pursuit of tactical weapons is no exception. However, there is every reason why Pakistanis should be resisting—not welcoming—this development. The most readily identifiable reason is that, in the event of conflict between the two South Asian countries, this kind of weaponization will likely result in tens of thousands of dead Pakistanis, rather than Indians. And things will only go downhill from there.

In late 1999, Pakistan’s general Pervez Musharraf (who took power of Pakistan through a military coup in Oct. 1999 and remained in power until 2008), along with a tight cabal of fellow military officials began a limited incursion into the Kargil-Dras area of Indian-administered Jammu and Kashmir. While planning for this began in the fall of 1998, by the time Pakistani troops were discovered there in May of 1999 Pakistani forces had taken territory that was several miles into India-administered Kashmir.

Because the Pakistanis had the tactical advantage of occupying the ridge line, India took heavy losses in recovering the area from the invaders. The so-called Kargil War was the first conventional conflict between India and Pakistan since the two conducted nuclear tests in May 1998. International observers were wary that the conflict would escalate either in territory or aims, with the potential for nuclear exchange.

Fearing such escalation, then Pakistani prime minister Nawaz Sharif sought support from China and the United States. Both were adamant that Pakistan respect the line of control, which separated the portions of Jammu-Kashmir administered by India and Pakistan.

Under international pressure and branded an irresponsible state, Pakistan withdrew its forces from Kashmir. It initially claimed that the intruders were mujahedeen—but this was later found to be pure fiction. While Pakistan was isolated internationally, the international community widely applauded India’s restraint. The Kargil War provided the United States with the opportunity to reorient its relations away from Pakistan towards India, while at the same time, demonstrated to India that the United States would not reflexively side with Pakistan.

In retrospect, the Kargil war catalyzed the deepening security cooperation between the United States and India. It also galvanized a serious rethink in India about its domestic security apparatus, intelligence agencies’ capabilities, and overall military doctrine.

Crucially, India learned from this conflict that limited war is indeed possible under the nuclear umbrella. In Oct. 2000, air commodore Jasjit Singh, who retired as the director of operations of India’s air force and headed India’s Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses until 2001, laid out the lineaments of an India’s limited war doctrine. However, no apparent effort was made to make this a viable military concept immediately and India persisted with its defensive posture. In late Dec. 2001, Pakistani terrorists from the Pakistan-backed military group Jaish-e-Mohammad attacked India’s parliament in New Delhi.

In response, India’s government began the largest military mobilizationsince the 1971 war, which resulted in the liberation of Bangladesh, then East Pakistan. Just as the crisis was subsiding, another group of Pakistani terrorists, Lashkar-e-Taiba, attacked the wives and children of Indian military personnel in Kaluchak, Kashmir. India again seemed poised to take military action but ultimately backed down. The crisis was officially defused after India held elections in Kashmir later that fall. Pakistan concluded that its nuclear arsenal had successfully deterred India from attacking.

As Walter Ladwig has written, analysts identified several problems with India’s posture during that crisis. First, the Indian army took a long time to mobilize which gave Pakistan time to internationalize the conflict and to bring international pressure to bare upon India. Second, the mobilization of India’s strike corps had no element of surprise. Even Pakistan’s modest surveillance capabilities could easily detect their movements, and given their “lumbering composition,” could quickly discern their destination. Third, according to Ladwig, India’s holding corps’ were forward deployed to the border but lacked offensive power and could only conduct limited offensive tasks.

In response to these collective inadequacies, and the prospects of enduring threats from Pakistan, the Indian defense community began formalizing what came to be known as “Cold Start.” Ladwig, who wrote the first comprehensive account, claims that the doctrine aimed to pivot India away from its traditional defensive posture, and towards a more offensive one. It involved developing eight division-sized “integrated battle groups” that combined infantry, artillery, and armor which would be prepared to launch into Pakistani territory on short notice along several axes of advance.

These groups would also be closely integrated with support from the navy and air force. With this force posture, India could quickly mobilize these battle groups and seize limited Pakistani territory before the international community could raise objections.

India could then use this seized territory to force Pakistan into accepting the status quo in Kashmir. While Indians insist that this doctrine never existed, other analysts discount Indian demurrals and note slow—but steady—progress in developing these offensive capabilities. Irrespective of India’s protestations, Pakistanis take “Cold Start” to be a matter of Quranic fact.

Worried that its primary tools of using terrorism fortified by the specter of nuclear war, and fearing that India would be able to force acquiescence, Pakistan concluded that it could vitiate “Cold Start” by developing tactical nuclear weapons. As Pakistan’s former ambassador the United States and current ambassador to the United Nations,Maleeha Lodhi, explained, the basis of Pakistan’s fascination with tactical nuclear weapons is “to counterbalance India’s move to bring conventional military offensives to a tactical level.’’

Pakistani military and civilians often boast of their fast growing arsenal of the world’s smallest nuclear weapons and routinely update the world on the progress of the short-range missile, the Nasr, that would deliver this ever-shrinking payload.

Why should ordinary Pakistanis care?

While Pakistanis overwhelmingly applaud their army’s continued efforts to harass India in pursuit of Kashmir—a territory that Pakistanwas never entitled to but fought three wars to acquire by force—there are numerous reasons why Pakistanis should be more sanguine, or evenalarmed by Pakistan’s development of tactical nuclear weapons.

The first reality that should discomfit ordinary Pakistanis is that there is really no such thing as a “tactical nuclear weapon.” Even the smallest so-called tactical nuclear weapon will have strategic consequences. (Simply calling them “battlefield nuclear weapons” does not obviate this serious problem.) If Pakistan should use such weapons on India, there is virtually no chance that India will be left responding alone. The international community will most certainly rally around India. The response to Pakistan breaking a nuclear taboo that formed after the Americans used atomic bombs on Japan will most certainly be swift and devastating.

Second, as Shashank Joshi, a war studies researcher at the University of Oxford, has argued, these weapons do not have the military benefits that Pakistan’s military boasts, yet they exacerbate the enormous command and control challenges, including the possibility that nefarious elements may pilfer them once they are forward deployed. For one thing, tactical nuclear weapons do not have significant battlefield effects on enemy targets. For another, it is not evident that these weapons are in fact capable of deterring an Indian incursion into Pakistan.

Third, while Naeem Salik, a former director for arms control at Pakistan’s Strategic Plans Directorate, has said that Pakistan has shifted away from merely doctrinal thinking towards “actual nuclear war fighting,” such thinking is hardly viable for the simple reason of faulty math.

Even if, for the sake of argument, one assumes that Pakistan deploys its one hundred odd weapons of 15 to 30 kilotons at India’s major cities, it is unlikely that Pakistan would be able to deploy all of these weapons to conduct a “splendid first strike,” by which Indian capabilities are completely destroyed.

Moreover, it takes considerably fewer weapons of similar magnitude to utterly destroy Pakistan. Pakistan has thoughtfully concentrated all but three corps in central the Punjab region, which is also its most populous province and the country’s industrial and agricultural center. In short, Pakistan will cease to be a viable political entity while India, though grievously hurt, will survive as a state. Even if Pakistan obtains a functioning triad and retains launch capabilities from submarines, they will be launched in defense of a state that, simply put, no longer exists.

There is a fourth problem that should disquiet Pakistanis perhaps even more than the triggering of the destruction of their country through the deliberate or inadvertent use of their micro-weapons—these tactical nuclear weapons are intended to be used first against Indian troops on Pakistani soil. According to a conference report by the Naval Post School, which hosted Pakistan’s military and diplomatic officials, one Pakistani luminary opined that the “Nasr creates a balancing dynamic that frustrates and makes futile the power-maximizing strategy of India.”

He envisages the Nasr’s shells being used to carry atomic explosives that would annihilate advancing Indian armored thrusts in the southern deserts and blunt Indian advances toward major Pakistani cities, such as Lahore. Retired military general S. F. S. Lodhi, in the April 1999 issue of the Pakistan Defence Journal, laid out four stages of escalation in Pakistan’s use of tactical nuclear weapons which aligns with this view as well.

The consequences of Pakistan nuking itself to keep the Indians out should disturb Pakistanis. According to calculations by Jaganath Sankaran, Pakistan would have to use a 30-kiloton weapon on its own soil, as this is the minimum required to render ineffective fifty percent of an armored unit.

Using Lahore as an example, a 30-kiloton weapon used on the outskirts of the city could kill over 52,000 persons. As Indian troops move closer to Lahore and as the population increases, such a weapon could kill nearly 380,000. Sankaran notes, as an aside, that this would “genuinely destroy a larger battalion or brigade.” Consequently, many more Pakistanis would be likely to die than these horrendous figures suggest.

All of sudden, Pakistan’s tactical nuclear weapons don’t look so fun for any Pakistani who thinks through the math.

Fifth, Pakistanis should be derisive of this new weapon in the national arsenal because it cannot do what the army promises: protect Pakistan from an Indian offensive. Would any Indian military planner take seriously Pakistan’s threat to use nuclear weapons on its own soil when the casualties are so high? Pakistan may have been willing to eat grass to get its nuclear weapons, but is it willing destroy its own center of gravity to maintain its ability to harass India with terrorism over territory to which it never had any legal claim? If the Indians do not take this threat seriously, how is it a deterrent against them? What additional deterrent capability do these weapons afford Pakistan that its strategic assets do not that compensates for the enormous risks they convey?

Finally, if India took Pakistan’s threats seriously, it does not have to invade Pakistan to coerce the country’s leaders to detonate one of these weapons on its own soil. Presumably simply looking adequately likely to cross the international border and threaten a major Punjabi city could provoke a “demonstration detonation.”

I am not encouraging a nuclear Armageddon upon Pakistan; rather expositing the limited utility that these weapons confer upon Pakistan.

Even if Pakistan fully inducts these weapons in its arsenal, it still has an army that can’t win a conventional war against India and nuclear weapons it cannot use. This leaves only an industrial farm of terrorists as the only efficacious tool at its disposal. And given the logic of the above scenario, India and the international community should consider seriously calling Pakistan’s bluff. The only logical Pakistani response to a limited offensive incursion is to accept the fait accompli and acquiesce.
So far, the West has seen Pakistan’s nuclear weapons as a proliferation threat rather than a security threat. The implications of this has largely been appeasement. The United States, worried that Pakistan’s weapons may fall into the hands of non-state actors or that Pakistan will once again reopen its nuclear weapons bazaar to aspirant nuclear powers, perpetually argues for engaging Pakistan diplomatically, militarily, politically, and financially. In essence, Pakistan has effectively blackmailed the United States and the international community for an array of assistance exploiting the collective fears of what may happen should Pakistan collapse.

In recent months, some US White House officials have even argued for a potential nuclear deal to reward Pakistan for making concessions in fissile material production, limiting the development and deployment of its nuclear weapons among other activates to address Washington’s proliferation concerns. Unfortunately, Washington has yet to seriously formulate punishments rather than allurements to achieve these ends, even though Pakistan has shown no interest in making such concessions.

There are reasons why the United States and the international community should begin to see Pakistan’s nuclear weapons as a direct security threat. For one thing, these nuclear weapons have always been intended to allow Pakistan to harass India through the use of militant proxies. Consequently, Pakistan has become an epicenter of Islamist terrorism.

Had Pakistan not had these nuclear capabilities, India could have sorted out Pakistan some time ago. Moreover, the critical time period for Pakistan’s nuclear program was in the late 1970s, when Pakistan was on the threshold of obtaining a crude weapon. (We now know that Pakistan had a crude nuclear weapon by 1984 if not somewhat earlier.) The United States even sanctioned Pakistan in 1979 for advances in its program.

The United States relented in its nonproliferation policy with respect to Pakistan after the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan. Reagan, after getting sanctions waived in 1982, began supporting the so-called mujahedeen produced by Pakistan for use in Afghanistan. (Pakistan actually began its own jihad policy in 1974 on its dime without US assistance.)

Saudi Arabia matched America’s contributions. While al-Qaeda is not truly the direct descendent of the Afghan mujahedeen, there can be little doubt that the structures built to wage this jihad gave birth to the group. Had the United States remained focused on nuclear weapons in Pakistan, and used a different strategy in Afghanistan, a wholly different future could have been realized.

As tensions between the United States and Pakistan deepen, and as Pakistan’s arsenal expands and permits it to target US assets in South, Central, and Southwest Asia, the United States should begin considering Pakistan’s proliferation of nuclear weapons and delivery vehicles as a direct threat to its security, rather than merely a proliferation problem to be managed.