Tag Archive for 'Army'

The “Indian coup build-up” report

The Indian Express this morning carried a bombshell of a story about two key military units moving unexpectedly towards Delhi on the night of 16 January. The report says the government had not been informed of the midnight deployment. The story by the newspaper’s editor Shekhar Gupta and two senior reporters, Ritu Sarin and Pranab Dhal Samanta, was splashed across the entire front page:

This is a story you would tell with extreme care and caution. But it so starkly characterises the current state of top-level politico-military relations that it is a folly to keep it under wraps, as the entire establishment has tried to do for a full 11 weeks now.

It has also taken this team of The Indian Express reporters that long to establish the story and the dramatic developments during, say, about 18 very difficult hours on January 16-17 earlier this year.

While many, including the spokesmen for the defence establishment, say it was much ado about nothing (see box), it is a story of a most unusual night when Raisina Hill was spooked as never before in peace time.

Essentially, late on the night of January 16 (the day Army Chief General V K Singh approached the Supreme Court on his date of birth issue), central intelligence agencies reported an unexpected (and non-notified) movement by a key military unit, from the mechanised infantry based in Hisar (Haryana) as a part of the 33rd Armoured Division (which is a part of 1 Corps, a strike formation based in Mathura and commanded by Lt Gen. A K Singh) in the direction of the capital, 150 km away.

Any suspicion was still considered much too implausible, but lookouts were alerted as a routine step. This was part of a protocol put in place in June 1984 when some mutineers from Sikh units had moved towards the capital in the wake of Operation Bluestar.

Read full story here

Coup report baseless: Defence minister

Defence Minister AK Antony has said that the Indian Express report was “absolutely baseless”.  The Prime Minister told reporters on the sidelines of a function at Rashtrapati Bhavan, ”These are alarmist reports. They should not be taken at face value.”

In The Hindu:

Meanwhile, retired army officers and civil servants have disputed a central premise of the news report—that the Army should have informed the MoD about its exercise in the NCR. Lt Gen Satish Nambiar (Retd.), a former Director General Military Operations, insisted no such protocols were followed in his time and Ajay Prasad, who retired as Defence Secretary in 2004, said he was not aware of this requirement.

 

What does Pakistan want?

Steve Coll in The New Yorker:

In late February, I travelled to Pakistan and met with a number of military officers there, including several senior ones. They explained how they saw, from their side, the rise and collapse of the strategic dialogue with Washington.

It is a story laced with the generals’ resentments, geopolitical calculations, fears, and aspirations. Listening to them after absorbing the recent months of Pakistan ennui and Pakistan bashing in Washington was like watching one of those movies where a single narrative is told and retold selectively, from irreconcilable points of view.

Some of the basics of the Pakistan Army’s arguments about the Afghan war and the struggle against Al Qaeda-influenced terrorist groups are contained in a twelve-page document called “Ten Years Since 9/11: Our Collective Experience (Pakistan’s Experience).” The document, labelled “Secret,” is below; it has not previously been published.

Despite its classification, the essay is perhaps best understood as part of a Pakistani strategic communications or lobbying campaign. (Presumably, the sources that provided the document to me were undertaking an act in that campaign.) This particular text was a basis for briefings that General Ashfaq Kayani, the powerful Army chief, provided to NATO leaders at closed meetings last September, around the tenth anniversary of the 2001 attacks. It updates a case Pakistani generals have been making in meetings with their counterparts for years: that the casualties, economic disruption, and radicalization Pakistan has suffered from because of spillover from the American military campaign in Afghanistan are deeply underappreciated. The essay declares that Pakistan’s total casualties—dead and wounded—since 2001 in the “fight against terrorism” number about forty thousand. More:

The Pakistani conundrum

B. Raman at South Asia Analysis Group:

After having fairly successfully defied the Army over the so-called Memogate affair, the elected Pakistani Executive headed by President Asif Ali Zardari has now chosen to defy the judiciary on the question of its refusal to write to the Swiss Government requesting it to re-open the investigation into some Swiss bank accounts allegedly belonging to Zardari and the late Benazir Bhutto.

2. The directive to write to the Swiss Government came from the Supreme Court headed by Chief Justice Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhury. The Executive could have easily written to the Swiss Government and avoided a confrontation with the judiciary. It was very unlikely that the Swiss Government would have re-opened the investigation. Once the Executive wrote this letter, there would have been no more grounds for the court to proceed against Prime Minister Yousef Raza Gilani on a charge of contempt of court.

3. Instead of choosing this easier option, the Executive has chosen the more difficult and complex option of refusing to write to the Swiss Government on the ground that Zardari as the President enjoyed immunity from investigation and prosecution.

4. Faced with a defiant Executive, a seven-member bench of the court, headed by the Chief Justice, has framed an indictment ( US expression ) or a charge-sheet ( a sub-continental expression inherited from the British) against Gilani on February 13,2012.What this means is that from being a man under investigation as he was till now, he has become an accused in a criminal prosecution, but he is not yet a convict. The question of his resignation from office and arrest would arise only if after the trial, the charge of contempt of court against him is held to have been proved and he is convicted. More:

Pakistan’s General problem

How Pakistan’s Generals turned the country into an international jihadi tourist resort. Mohammad Hanif in Open magazine. Mohammed Hanif is the author of A Case of Exploding Mangoes (2008), his first novel, a satire on the death of General Zia ul Haq

What is the last thing you say to your best general when ordering him into a do-or-die mission? A prayer maybe, if you are religiously inclined. A short lecture, underlining the importance of the mission, if you want to keep it businesslike. Or maybe you’ll wish him good luck accompanied by a clicking of the heels and a final salute.

On the night of 5 July 1977 as Operation Fair Play, meant to topple Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto’s elected government, was about to commence, then Army Chief General Zia ul Haq took aside his right-hand man and Corps Commander of 10th Corps Lieutenant General Faiz Ali Chishti and whispered to him: “Murshid, marwa na daina.” (Guru, don’t get us killed.)

General Zia was indulging in two of his favourite pastimes: spreading his paranoia amongst those around him and sucking up to a junior officer he needed to do his dirty work. General Zia had a talent for that; he could make his juniors feel as if they were indispensable to the running of this world. And he could make his seniors feel like proper gods, as Bhutto found out to his cost.

General Faiz Ali Chishti’s troops didn’t face any resistance that night; not a single shot was fired, and like all military coups in Pakistan, this was also dubbed a ‘bloodless coup’. There was a lot of bloodshed, though, in the following years—in military-managed dungeons, as pro-democracy students were butchered at Thori gate in interior Sindh, hundreds of shoppers were blown up in Karachi’s Bohri Bazar, in Rawalpindi people didn’t even have to leave their houses to get killed as the Army’s ammunition depot blew up raining missiles on a whole city, and finally at Basti Laal Kamal near Bahawalpur, where a plane exploded killing General Zia and most of the Pakistan Army’s high command. General Faiz Ali Chishti had nothing to do with this, of course. General Zia had managed to force his murshid into retirement soon after coming to power. Chishti had started to take that term of endearment—murshid—a bit too seriously and dictators can’t stand anyone who thinks of himself as a kingmaker. More:

 

Pakistan after Osama

Pervez Hoodbhoy in Himal Southasian:

Twenty-five years ago, the Pakistani state pushed Islam on its people as a matter of ideology. Prayers were made compulsory in government departments, punishments were meted out to those civil servants who did not fast during Ramadan, selection for academic posts required that the candidate demonstrate knowledge of Islamic teachings, and jihad was propagated through schoolbooks. Today, government intervention is no longer needed because of the spontaneous groundswell of Islamic zeal that has been the result of the years of grooming. A generation of poisoned minds that holds the external world responsible for all the country’s ills has led the country into collective xenophobia and psychosis. Signs suggest that a fascist religious state may be just around the corner.

A necessary condition for fascism – a sense of victimhood, mass delusions and a disconnection with reality – has now been met. A majority of all Pakistanis believe that 9/11 was a Jewish conspiracy, think the dynamiting of schools and suicide attacks on shrines are the work of Blackwater (the US defence contractor now called Xe), see India’s hand behind Pakistan’s deepening instability and, refuse to accept Pakistan’s responsibility in the Mumbai attacks of November 2008. Many welcomed the murder of Punjab Governor Salman Taseer in January, despite the fact that his only ‘crime’ was to protect a poor peasant Christian woman against charges of blasphemy. Surveys also show that a majority believes that senior army officers do not support the Taliban, and think that peace will return to Pakistan once the US leaves Afghanistan.

Those holding such distorted views of the world greeted the news of bin Laden’s killing with outright disbelief and denial. Pakistan’s capacity for self-deception should not be underestimated. An online survey conducted two days after the operation by a global opinion pollster revealed that a staggering 66 percent of Pakistanis thought the person who was killed by US Navy SEALs was not bin Laden. Participants in satirical TV shows burst into peals of laughter as they poured scorn on America and its claims. The supposed killing of bin Laden was nothing but high drama, said popular TV anchors. General Mirza Aslam Beg, former army chief and the formulator of the notion of ‘strategic depth’ in Afghanistan, fully agreed. He wrote: ‘Osama’s look-alike prisoner from Bagram was picked-up and brought to Abbottabad and killed in cold blood, in front of his family members, who were living there. In fact, Osama had been killed in Afghanistan some time back and his body may still be lying in a mortuary in Afghanistan.’ Beg says it was all a ploy to defame the Pakistan government, the Pakistan armed forces and the ISI.

Rent-a-country

Over decades, Pakistan has adapted to its changing strategic circumstances by renting itself out to powerful states. Territory and men are part of the services provided. Payment comes not just from the US, but Arab countries as well. For fear of public criticism, the arrangements have been kept hidden. Pakistan’s supposedly vibrant press has chosen to steer off such controversial issues. But post bin-Laden, the clatter of skeletons tumbling out of Pakistan’s strategic closet is forcing some secrets out into the open. More:

The anarchic republic of Pakistan

Ahmed Rashid in The National Interest:

There is perhaps no other political-military elite in the world whose aspirations for great-power regional status, whose desire to overextend and outmatch itself with meager resources, so outstrips reality as that of Pakistan. If it did not have such dire consequences for 170 million Pakistanis and nearly 2 billion people living in South Asia, this magical thinking would be amusing.

This is a country that sadly appears on every failing-state list and still wants to increase its arsenal from around 60 atomic weapons to well over 100 by buying two new nuclear reactors from China. This is a country isolated and friendless in its own region, facing unprecedented homegrown terrorism from extremists its army once trained, yet it pursues a “forward policy” in Afghanistan to ensure a pro-Pakistan government in Kabul as soon as the Americans leave.

For a state whose economy is on the skids and dependent on the IMF for massive bailouts, whose elite refuse to pay taxes, whose army drains an estimated 20 percent of the country’s annual budget, Pakistan continues to insist that peace with India is impossible for decades to come. For a country that was founded as a modern democracy for Muslims and non-Muslims alike and claims to be the bastion of moderate Islam, it has the worst discriminatory laws against minorities in the Muslim world and is being ripped apart through sectarian and extremist violence by radical groups who want to establish a new Islamic emirate in South Asia.

Pakistan’s military-intelligence establishment, or “deep state” as it is called, has lost over 2,300 soldiers battling these terrorists—the majority in the last 15 months after much U.S. cajoling to go after at least the Pakistani (if not the Afghan) Taliban. Despite these losses and considerable low morale in the armed forces, it still follows a pick-and-choose policy toward extremists, refusing to fight those who will confront India on its behalf as well as those Taliban who kill Western and Afghan soldiers in the war next-door. More:

Nepal on edge: Maoist, army row triggers crisis

Updated on Tuesday:  Nepal’s prime minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal has resigned after the president overturned his decision to fire the army chief. The prime minister’s Maoists followers have threatened to take to the streets. More:

Nepal has been thrown into a political crisis as the country’s Prime Minister sacks the army chief and the President asks him to stay in his post. An AP report from Kathmandu on Monday noon:

rookmangud-katawalSecurity forces went on high alert Monday to avert street clashes in Nepal’s capital amid a government power struggle over the prime minister’s attempts to fire the army chief.

The prime minister, from Nepal’s Maoist party, unleashed the crisis Sunday by trying to fire the army chief because of his moves to block the enlistment into the military of former Maoist rebels. The firing sparked mass protests and was later rejected by the country’s president, from the main opposition party.

Nepal’s Maoists fought a bloody, 10-year war against the government before joining the political mainstream in 2006 and winning the most votes during elections last year after the Himalayan country abolished its centuries-old monarchy. However, many of the former Maoist fighters remain restricted to U.N.-monitored barracks under a peace accord. More:

Spectre of a ‘soft coup’: From The Telegraph, Calcutta:

Close on the heels of a spillover of Indian diplomacy in Colombo on the election in Tamil Nadu, a similar challenge is unfolding in Nepal with implications on both sides of the border.

Within hours of sacking Nepal’s army chief General Rukmagat Katuwal today, Prime Minister Prachanda has been forced to commit ideological heresy for the second time in as many days.

Prachanda was to have begun a high-profile visit yesterday to China, the country which was the inspiration for his Maoist insurgency, but the trip has been cancelled with the likelihood of a “soft coup” over the dismissal of the army chief actually ousting the revolutionary Prime Minister from office instead. More:

What next for Nepal after Maoists sack army chief? Click here to read the Reuters report on what could happen next in the young Himalayan republic.

How Islamicised is the Pakistan army?

Myra MacDonald on Reuters Blogs:

While living in Delhi after 9/11, and in particular after India and Pakistan nearly went to war over an attack on the Indian parliament on December 13, 2001, one of the questions that cropped up frequently was about how much the Pakistan army had been permeated by hardline Islamists. In other words, how much sympathy did the army feel for al Qaeda and Taliban militants that then General Pervez Musharraf had pledged to fight?

Several years later, while researching a book on the Siachen war, I had occasion to travel with the Pakistan army and assess the Islamist question up close. My impression was that the Pakistan army was not driven by religious fanaticism. Yes, it exhorted its soldiers to embrace “shaheed”, or martyrdom, in the name of Allah. But it was otherwise remarkably similar to the Indian army.

More:

Change is a February feeling

When the February 18 elections bring a new parliament in Pakistan, civil society will continue to pressure it, says Ejaz Haider in The Indian Express.

Will the February 18 election change Pakistan? Yes and no. Let’s consider the negative first. If change relates to structures of power, the answer is largely a ‘no’. The army will retain its primacy in the system; political parties will not emerge as reformed entities; institutional inefficiencies will remain intact; the poltergeist of political instability will keep haunting the house; and terrorism will continue to threaten the country.

Yet, and this is important, much will also change.

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