Comments

I am taking a more front & center role on this weblog proceeding forward. Moderate/inspection of comments will become stricter. I suspect some of you will be banned because you post worthless comments. Also, I am seriously thinking about installing a plugin that caps word-length on comments.

Since this weblog gets about 10 times more traffic than it did a few years ago, it seems the right time to tighten the screws a bit.

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Beltway Bandits (Lobbyists and Middle East Policy), Dr Hamid Hussain

From Dr Hamid Hussain.

Last few years I have been working on horizontal and vertical spread of conflict in the Middle East.  This is first of the series looking at each player.  This one was the outcome of my own trips to Washington every few months to get some feel of beltway currents. I have no specific insight but want to provide some glimpses of the issues facing the region.

Hamid

Beltway Battles 

Hamid Hussain

“I have had lobbyists, and I have had some very good ones.  They could do anything.”  Donald Trump

In United States, domestic and foreign entities engage in lobbying at federal and state levels to promote their interests.  In the last few years, many Arab countries have increased their lobbying efforts in Washington to promote their interests.  In 2017, open conflict between Qatar on one side and Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates (UAE), Egypt and Bahrain on the other has spilled over into international arenas. In Washington, these efforts are multi-faceted including marshalling support of large businesses, think tanks, universities, legislators and public policy influencers.  

The meteoric rise of a 30-year-old previously unknown royal family member to the dizzying height and sidelining of the old hands of Royal family in Saudi Arabia changed power dynamics inside the kingdom. This resulted in some competition even in Washington.  Crown Prince and interior minister Prince Muhammad Bin Nayef hired a lobbying firm run by a Trump campaign advisor Robert Stryk.  The firm was paid $5.4 million to make inroads into new administration.  However, in June 2017 when Muhammad Bin Nayef was removed from his positions and Muhammad bin Salman (MBS) elevated as Crown Prince, the deal ended.  MBS alienated many royal family members but for international image, he used others.  Old hand and once a long-time ambassador to Washington Prince Bandar Bin Sultan quickly changed his direction and lined up behind MBS.  During MBS visit to United States, Bandar was at hand to bring in his old contacts.  Bandar’s daughter Princess Reema provided the soft and feminine face for the new regime on international circuit defending royal family in Washington and Davos.  Full brother and close confidant of MBS Prince Khalid Bin Salman was appointed ambassador to Washington.  Saudi embassy chose an American raised and educated Saudi-American Fatima Baeshen as its spokeswoman.  She had previously worked at a pro Saudi think tank Arabia Foundation run by a former banker Ali Shihabi.  (Bloomberg Businessweek, 26 April 2018, https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2018-04-26/saudi-arabia-reboots-its-washington-lobbying-blitz) Continue reading “Beltway Bandits (Lobbyists and Middle East Policy), Dr Hamid Hussain”

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Mehdi Hasan’s hypocrisies

British hypocrite

Update: Since this post is receiving many-fold more visitors than this blog normally receives in the whole day, here is the TL;DR for those who are too dim to read, or too lazy to do so: Hasan should not engage in guilt-by-association against others when the tactics are so easily turned against himself. That is all.

End update

As I am trying to withdraw from Twitter food-fights I did not want to comment on this on that medium. But, since I have a platform of this weblog, I did think it would appropriate to point out a peculiar sort of behavior by Mehdi Hasan, a relatively prominent commentator in the UK who is becoming more well known in the USA.

A few days ago I saw Hasan criticizing Rand Paul on Twitter for the fact that his father was involved in a controversy around racist newsletters in the 1990s. I thought it was strange for Hasan to imply that the guilt of the father should echo down through the generations, The main issue I have with this sort of behavior is that Hasan himself was saying that homosexuals were pedophiles and non-Muslims lived like animals down into the 2000s, far more recently than the Ron Paul Newsletters. Hasan has disavowed these views, and my own view is that unless otherwise shown one can probably accept that he’s changed his positions (he has, for example, denounced the traditional Islamic punishment of death for apostasy in the last decade).

Hasan should probably more careful than most in holding someone’s past against them, let alone the transgressions of someone’s father (no matter the context). The grace that he is given, he should give to others.

His behavior indicates to me that he believes he is prominent and powerful enough that no one will point out the hypocrisy of his behavior in asking forgiveness of his own past while holding the past of the parents of ideological opponents against them.

But the main reason I’m posting now is that today I saw something again where Hasan attempted to play guilt-by-association: this time against Tulsi Gabbard. In particular, he criticized her for appearing on Tucker Carlson’s show, which is bad because Carlson is a bad person (a racist according to Hasan). Of course, some of us are aware that Hasan has a long-time grievance against Gabbard for being Islamophobic. It wasn’t a coincidence that he criticized her.

My problem is that Hasan works for Al Jazeera, which owned by the government of Qatar. Qatar is a repressive, reactionary, and racist state. I say this from personal experience having visited. Of course, I myself had fun in Qatar, because I stayed at a nice hotel, and drank wine and dined at Nobu. But we all know the lives that the Asian and African work-force live to maintain the techno-reactionary utopia (of course Western people are treated well in Qatar).

No one is pure and lives on an island. The United States itself has blood on its hands, and all Americans who are citizens of this democracy have some share of that. I don’t begrudge progressive journalists who work for Al Jazeera English. A job is a job today in journalism, and Al Jazeera is a big organization with diverse views. But, the fact is that within Al Jazeera its non-English arm often trades in racism and religious bigotry, and the ultimate ownership is in the hands of an autocratic monarchy.

To me, this means that employees of Al Jazeera English should show a bit of humility and acceptance of moral complexity when it comes to complicity and associations. As it is, quite often they are among the most woke and self-righteous exemplars of the opinion journalism class. Tucker Carlson and Fox News are perhaps nasty and racist in Hasan’s view, but Al Jazeera is sponsored by an incredibly classist and reactionary government. Should the latter negate our acceptance of Hasan’s assertions that he is a progressive person?

Hasan’s problem with Rand Paul is clearly with the views of Rand Paul. His problem with Tulsi Gabbard is that he believes she is Islamophobic. He should focus on these issues, instead of attempting guilt-by-association, because he and many other self-righteous pompous journalists live in gossamer glass houses.

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Does Trump Have a Strategy in Afghanistan? What is it?

This is an old post from Major Amin (from 2017) The article is by Dr D Souza (originally in “Eurasian Review”) and Major Amin’s own comments are in bolded black font.. Now that the Afghanistan exit strategy is in full flow, how does this stand up?

Trump’s ‘New’ Afghanistan Strategy And India-US Strategic Partnership – Analysis

Donald Trump’s strategy for Afghanistan and South Asia announced on 21 August, was intended to highlight the novelty and surprise elements of a roadmap that purportedly sought little short of the decimation of terrorism. For all that, the ‘new’ strategy, its overheated semantics and studious ambiguity notwithstanding, in reality is but a continuation of the American trial and error method that has kept insurgent aspirations of a victory alive these 16 years since the US intervened in Afghanistan.
THIS IS A VERY MISCONCEIVED ASSERTION BY MS D SOUZA. THE NEW TRUMP STRATEGY IS TANGIBLE , PRECISE , WELL ARTICULATED , WELL SPELT OUT AND NOT SEMANTICS.
FIRST TRUMP STRATEGY HAS FOR THE FIRST TIME SPELT OUT THAT USA IN AFGHANISTAN IS DEALING NOT WITH NON STATE ACTORS BUT WITH A STATE PROXY I.E AFGHAN TALIBAN PROXIES OF THE PAKISTANI STATE.
 
THIS IS A RADICAL DEPARTURE FROM ABSOLUTE LACK OF MORAL COURAGE OR STRATEGIC RESOLUTION AS EXHIBITED BY BOTH PRESIDENTS BUSH AND OBAMA. 
 
THIS CHANGES THE US OBJECTIVES FROM PUNY THIRD RATE SNUFF SELLERS LIKE BAITULLAH MEHSUD BEING KILLED BY US DRONES TO STRATEGIC TARGETS WHICH ARE STATES AND NOT NON STATE ACTORS.
THE TRUMP STRATEGY AS PUBLICLY RELEASED DID NOT PRECISELY STATE THAT PAKISTAN WAS THE “MAIN ENEMY” BUT ITS CLASSIFIED PORTIONS AS PER HIGHLY PLACED SOURCES STATE THAT PAKISTANI STATE WAS CLEARLY SPECIFIED AS WHAT CARLOTTA GALL COINED ” THE MAIN ENEMY”.
After spending much blood and treasure, has the US learnt from its mistakes? Is the present strategy a break with the past? Or is it a mere continuation of a policy with no defined objectives and outcomes? India must consider carefully its desired terms of engagement for any serious partnership with the US in Afghanistan. Ahead of US Defense Secretary James Mattis’ visit to New Delhi on 25 September, New Delhi needs to use the opportunity to tell Washington of the shortcomings of the present Afghan policy.
THE ASSERTION BY MS D SOUZA THAT THE USA HAS SPENT MUCH BLOOD IS ALSO SEMANTICS AND NOT BASED ON HARD FACTS. AFGHANISTAN WAS OCCUPIED WITH ONLY ONE CIA CIVILIAN KILLED BECAUSE OF HIS OWN RASHNESS AND US CASUALTIES IN 7 YEARS OF PRESIDENT BUSH DID NOT EXCEED 394 . 1400 US SOLDIERS WERE LOST BECAUSE OF SHEER AMATEUR BEHAVIOUR OF PRESIDENT OBAMA WITH ARM CHAIR STRATEGISTS LIKE REIDEL AND OTHERS DURING THE SURGE WHICH WAS APOLOGY OF ANYTHING THAT CAN BE CALLED STRATEGY.

Ambiguities and Novelty

President Donald J. Trump addresses the nation on the South Asia strategy during a press conference at Conmy Hall on Fort Myer, Virginia, Aug. 21, 2017. (Photo Credit: DOD photo by Sgt. Amber Smith)
President Donald J. Trump addresses the nation on the South Asia strategy during a press conference at Conmy Hall on Fort Myer, Virginia, Aug. 21, 2017. (Photo Credit: DOD photo by Sgt. Amber Smith)
After all the opposition for the war in Afghanistan he unleashed over the years via social media, especially in his election campaign, when push came to shove, Donald Trump’s strategy for Afghanistan and South Asia, elaborated on 21 August 2017 chose the least bad option, the one which would have the least resistance and would provide room for maneuver to match the domestic needs and geopolitical interests. Despite tall claims of having studied Afghanistan in great detail and from every conceivable angle, Trump strategy’s on Afghanistan is neither new nor comprehensive.
New Delhi needs to remain cautious before embracing this ambiguous strategy. Among its many ambiguities, three are especially worth considering:

Kinetic vs Non-kinetic

First, the strategy, apparently scripted by the US military, is not about nation building but kinetic operations, search and destroy by another name. Getting a free hand on the ground with no micro-management from Washington is a victory of sorts for the US generals in Afghanistan.  Still, much confusion abounds as to whether the strategy is counter-insurgency, counter-terrorism plus, or an overt reliance on the use of military force. Moving away from the earlier time-based approach to one based on conditions is certainly appropriate. In this, Trump has addressed the error of his predecessor, Barack Obama, who in December 2009 had announced troop surge and exit at the same time. This only worked to insurgent advantage, allowing an approach of ‘waiting out the enemy’.
KINETIC IS THE ONLY THING IN A LAND OF COLD BLOODED ASSASINS WHO WERE PACIFIED BY MONGOLS , MUGHALS AND PERSIANS WITH MASSIVE MASSACRES.THIS IS A SCENARIO WHERE VULGARLY PUT NO ONE ACKNOWLEDGES YOU AS THEIR FATHER TILL YOU LAY THEIR MOTHER. KINETIC IS THE ONLY SOLUTION AND DID WORK UNDER GENGHIS KHAN , TAMERLANE AND BABAR.THE HINDU RAJPUT MUGHAL GOVERNOR OF KABUL CARRIED ONLY A WALKING STICK ! BECAUSE THE MUGHALS UNDER BABAR HAD SORTED OUT AFGHANISTAN.
Yet there is no indication whether the intent is to convert Afghanistan into a new South Korea, where US troops are indefinitely based, or something else. A conditions-based approach is preferable to the mistaken announcement of a time schedule, but there is nothing to indicate what will be done to address those conditions that are fueling extremism and violence. Further, the apparent decoupling of kinetic and non-kinetic elements of the strategy, the military and civilian components, will limit the gains achieved through kinetic operations. Claiming that all of this will be something more than smoke and mirrors is guaranteed, Trump proclaimed, by the application of will.  Unlike Obama, he implied, this time the US will fight to win. To point out the sheer profligacy of such a pronouncement seems almost a waste of effort.
MAKING SWEEPING JUDGEMENTS AND DISMISSING A PRESIDENT WHO HAS A STRATEGY WHICH HAS BEEN SPELT OUT IS NOT GOOD JOURNALISM AND THAT TOO FROM AN AUTHOR WHO HAS NOT REALLY VISITED THE ACTUAL BATTLE FIELDS OF AFGHAN WAR.

Role of Regional powers

Second, Trump has not identified any benchmarks and targets for actions. This keeps the expectation bar low but also does not address the basic component of metrics.  Neither has he expressed in any clear terms expected steps to be taken by Afghanistan, Pakistan, India, or even the US itself. Most importantly, the role of other major regional powers such as Russia, China, Iran, UAE, and Saudi Arabia remains undefined. Afghanistan’s tragedy lies in the fact that its internal contradictions have been exploited by external powers. Without a regional strategy, the external powers will continue along this path, notably neighbouring Pakistan.
PRESIDENT TRUMPS STRATEGY CLEARLY IDENTIFIES PAKISTAN AS THE CULPRIT AND THE WHOLE STRATEGY IS BASED ON THIS DEMISE. THIS HAS CREATED JITTERS IN PAKISTAN AND THE PAKISTANI ARMY CHIEF AND HIS ISI HAVE BEEN DOING A LOT OF RUNNING AROUND.

Safe haven

Third, every US president is aware of Pakistan’s role and interests in supporting the terrorist groups in Afghanistan. It is perhaps the first time that a US president has stated this publicly, but it is not as though the reality has not hitherto figured into planning. Nevertheless, there it was: ‘Pakistan often gives safe haven to agents of chaos, violence, and terror,’ Trump stated unambiguously. Unspecified was just what coercive instruments could be brought to play to change Pakistan’s behaviour.
Trump’s critique of Pakistan is in line with New Delhi and Kabul’s position on the external support and sanctuary provided to the insurgent and terrorist groups that are the source of Afghanistan’s instability. That Pakistan has been a mendacious ally in the US-led war on terror, sheltering terror groups like the Taliban and the Haqqani network, and using them as strategic assets in Afghanistan, despite the aid of more than US $33 billion being given to Pakistan in the last decade and half for the counter-terrorism cooperation.
HAQQANI NETWORK IS A MINOR PLAYER IN TERMS OF NUMBERS OF US SOLDIERS KILLED. THE MAIN ACTOR IN NUMBER OF US SOLDIERS KILLED IS THE QUETTA SHURA OR THE MULLA OMAR GROUP BASED IN PAKISTANI BALOCHISTAN.

Strategic Partnership in Afghanistan

The sudden recognition by Trump of New Delhi’s concerns needs to be received with caution in view of the role he wishes to assign New Delhi as a strategic ally andfurther develop thestrategic partnership with India. The proof lies in the pudding. Even as Pakistan considers cozying up to China as its safety-valve, the strategy has been welcomed in Kabul and New Delhi.  In spite of Trump’s awkward mentioning first of India’s substantial trade benefits from good relations with the US – before  elaborating on his expectations from New Delhi ‘to do more’ – New Delhi has welcomed the strategy. It is seen as a nod to the importance of India’s economic and development assistance thus far and an acknowledgement that without India’s soft power, things could be much worse.

Counter terrorism cooperation

Though mentioning the fact that at least 20 US-designated foreign terrorist organisations are active in Afghanistan and Pakistan — the highest concentration in any region anywhere in the world, Trump’s strategy appears geared towards targeting al-Qaeda and the ISIS. If the US is still looking for apolitical settlement with the Taliban, New Delhi will have to make sure that this is done by the Afghan government through an open, inclusive, and accountable process.
Moreover, New Delhi needs to tell Washington that the targeting of terrorists groups cannot be selective and must include groups that are detrimental to India’s security interests, as well.  Any robust counter-terrorism cooperation with the US will need to address issues of funding, training, and support provided to these groups.

Non-kinetic Approach

India has pledged more than US$3 billion for various civilian capacity building, infrastructure and development projects in Afghanistan.  This has brought it significant good will among the Afghans. By avoiding a narrow security dominated approach, India is seen as a neutral partner and not a party to the conflict. It is prudent, then, for New Delhi to stay clear of involvement in the kinetic side of the equation, while simultaneously urging the US to play a more meaningful non-kinetic role in institution building and reform.
This goes against the Trump administration’s stated goal of avoiding nation-building, yet any military strategy divorced from building strong institutions of governance and service delivery is unlikely to translate kinetic gains into tangible political outcomes. A mere addition of over 3,000 troops to Afghanistan, where they will bolster the approximately 11,000 American forces already there will not make much impact unless there is a clarity of the mission, rules of engagement and outcome, in addition to building effective and responsive governance institutions.
There is serious possibility that the US is looking to India to perform the non-kinetic component while the US engages in what certain figures feel it does best, kinetics.  This would be a thankless position for New Delhi to be in which could entail burden-sharing and risk strategic distortion as concerns its interests.
ALL INDIAN AID WILL GO INTO DUST IF THEIR IS NO KINETIC ENERGY IN THE AFGHAN SCENARIO.

Long drawn out war

Likewise, the role of private contractors in the push to outsource the war; the continued dependence upon warlords, power-brokers and militias for support of counter-insurgency operations; the use of air power as a surrogate for actual engagement, together with inadequate human intelligence (HUMINT) resulting in collateral damage and increase in civilian casualties, all need to be clarified. The potential for New Delhi to be caught in the blowback from Washington’s ill-considered approaches must be considered.
Skeptics are already highlighting that by lumping its Afghan with its South Asia (India and Pakistan) strategy, the Trump administration runs the danger of not only intensifying the India-Pakistan competition but also intensifying regional competition as Pakistan seeks succour from the likes of China, Russia, and Iran. The dangers of such competition, notwithstanding, Pakistan will need to compete with India on the development and reconstruction of Afghanistan which will accrue good will from the Afghans. At the moment, the popular sentiment for Pakistan remains very low.
A weak and unstable Afghanistan has been a primary objective of its predatory neighbours.  Leaving to the side the reality that countries like Pakistan are not simply going to give up this quest, regardless of US positions or threats, there is the fundamental necessity for any American strategy that has any hope of success to work towards building a strong and stable Afghan state that will make the subversive campaigns of these neighbours and their proxies difficult.

Institution building and reform

This can be achieved by institution building and reforms in the security, political, economic, and governance sectors. The Trump administration has refrained from making clear long term commitments. The time to do so is now.
In the security sector, there remains a need for better training, equipment, vetting, and policing capabilities, as well as an increase in Afghan airpower capability. The latter element alone, if inadequate, seems all but to guarantee that the gains achieved through kinetic operations will be simply lost.
In the political sector, in addition to revamping the indigenous institutions for peace and reconciliation such as the High Peace Council, reconciled and reintegrated fighters will need opportunities for employment and acceptability as they transition back into society. More importantly, as Afghanistan heads to another round of presidential and much delayed parliamentary elections in 2019 and 2018, respectively, systems, procedures, and logistics need to be put in place to avoid the messy elections outcomes of previous years. These have seriously impacted the credibility and functioning of the Afghan government. Greater decentralisation will help popular participation on the margins. The limits of an overly centralised form of governance of last decade and half are evident.
A legitimate government that delivers to the people the basic services is essential to any hope of victory, however defined. A clean, responsive and accountable governance system under the rule of law is essential to build the trust of the populace and deprive the insurgents of their support. If this seems so much pie-in-the-sky, then there hardly seems any point in being involved. Just what the announced US strategy is to contribute to such an end-state is puzzling.

Prospects for India-U.S. partnership in Afghanistan

If India and U.S. intend to work together in denying these groups and their sponsors any space in Afghanistan, the first step will be to chalk out a comprehensive and long term plan along with the Afghan government to build a strong and stable Afghanistan that will be an antidote to these forces at play and predatory neighbours. The Strategic Partnership Agreement signed by New Delhi with Kabul in October 2011, provides a good template. As US adopts a kinetic approach towards Afghanistan, New Delhi will have to spell the conditions for any cooperation to take this strategic partnership ahead.
For New Delhi to partner with US development and aid agencies, such as USAID, there is a need for integrated planning to provide market access for the products produced, accompanied by skill-based training for small and medium enterprises for income generation and boosting domestic production. Continuing instability has enabled neighbouring countries to pour in cheap goods, thus, stunting Afghanistan’s indigenous economic revival and growth.
New Delhi will have to tread carefully in the shifting sands inside Afghanistan and the region. Rather than rushing into the American embrace, New Delhi’s primary objective must be to fulfill its obligations as Kabul’s strategic partner. Trump has sought an honourable and enduring outcome, the contours of which remain unknown. Ahead of US Defense Secretary James Mattis’ visit to New Delhi on 25 September, which will be followed by secretary of state Rex Tillerson’s visit, New Delhi needs to use the opportunity to tell Washington of the shortcomings of the present Afghan policy. The Afghans have long looked to a friendly India to play this role of a serious interlocutor. India should step up to the plate commensurate with its rising power status and aspirations.
NEW DELHI WILL REMAIN A MINOR PLAYER IN THE AFGHAN WAR. IT DOES NOT HAVE THE GEOPOLITICAL MUSCLE TO RESTRUCTURE AFGHANISTAN. WHERE NEW DELHI CAN MATTER IS IN CAPACITY BUILDING OF AFGHAN STATE BOTH POLITICAL MILITARY AND ECONOMIC AND IN PRESSURISING PAKISTAN.THE GEOPOLITICAL PART OF RESTRUCTURING IS WHITE MANS BURDEN AND THE USA HAS TO ACCEPT THIS FACT.
AFGHANISTAN IS A US STRATEGIC OPPORTUNITY TO DESTABILISE CHINA AND RUSSIA AND KEEP AN EYE ON PAKISTAN AND IRAN AND NOT A CALAMITY AS PESSIMISTS VIEW IT.

Continue reading “Does Trump Have a Strategy in Afghanistan? What is it?”

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Direct Participants Remember the 1977 Zia Coup

From Major Amin. These are snippets of conversation that he has sent. The participants include several retired officers who were direct participants or observers of Zia’s coup in 1977. Their memories are worth a look, even if the post is disjointed and some words probably need context not known to an outsider..

Major Amin: my father was CC Engrs 4 Corps and on 4 July 1977 iqbal khan gathered all officers and congratulated them that an agreement had been reached

I interviewed brig imtiaz warraich —-

You were Commander 111 Brigade in 1977. Please describe in detail all that you saw, and all the actions connected with Zia’s military takeover on 5th July 1977?

Brig Warraich: 111 Brigade is located in West Ridge Rawalpindi and was under command Headquarter 10 Corps. Lieutenant General F.A Chishti was the Corps Commander. This operation took place on the night of July 5, 1977 resulting into the imposition of martial law.General Mohammad Zia ul Haq the then COAS became the Chief Martial Law Administrator. Normally a question is asked as to how early were you as Commander 111 Brigade taken into confidence. My answer is only a few hours prior to the commencement of the operation on night July 5, 1977.

I recall that about fifteen days earlier I had requested for one month leave to prepare for my war course. Initially the leave was sanctioned but after three to four days I was recalled. In retrospect, gives an impression that at higher level this contingency might have been considered much earlier. I also recall that two three days prior to this operation Zia remarked that negotiations between the government and PNA are reaching a dead end and the situation is likely to worsen .I spontaneously remarked “Sir, if they are given some more time Sihala Parleys might see some tangible results”.On my uncalled for remarks the Chief of Army Staff (COAS) was startled and uneasy. Later I learnt that due to an element of uncertainty a major general was called and the impending operation was not changed. It appeared that the new incumbent was either not considered exuberant enough for the task in hand or due to shortage of time status quo was accepted.

On the fateful night at about 11:30 P.M, Chief of Staff 10 Corps personally came and conveyed the orders to me. There was a danger of civil war situation emerging, therefore, army had decided to intervene and take the higher political leadership both of Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) and the Pakistan National Alliance (PNA) into custody. Names of eleven leaders from PPP mostly Federal Ministers and nine senior leaders from PNA were identified who were to be brought to Officers Mess, Headquarters 10 Corps Chaklala.

Within half an hour on receipt of the orders I held my orders group (O Group).On night July 5, 1977 I had six infantry battalions under command, four of my own and two ex 23 Division Jhelum, which were already there on Internal Security Duties in Rawalpindi. The principal task that we were required to perform was to constitute about twenty parties each headed by an officer with six other ranks, each to escort one VIP/Leaders from their residences to Chaklala. Guard Battalion 6 Baluch at PM House was to remain in location without any task. There were many other duties for which units were earmarked but these were not of great consequence.

We discovered that most of the ministers were living in Islamabad. Officers and men who had gone to escort them found it very difficult to locate their residences. Luckily within the stipulated time we were able to bring all the leaders of both parties to Chaklala.I may point out that all junior officers and men were given explicit orders to remain very respectful and courteous to the senior politicians and ministers, hence, no untoward incident took place.

When the task was accomplished by 0330 hours and all leaders had assembled in Headquarters 10 Corps, the army chief General Zia spoke to the ex Prime Minister on telephone that he had imposed Martial Law in the country therefore,Prime Minister would be escorted to Murree at seven O’clock in the morning. I may point out that during the whole operation no officer or troops entered the PM House and no disturbance was caused.

When I recall the events I find that when the morning came bigger people took over the charge and we once again were absorbed in our humble daily routine. During the subsequent years as we observed that a grand political manipulation commenced. Self- aggrandisement efforts to acquire most powerful jobs became the order of the day on part of most senior generals, some eminent politicians and technocrats. National interest as usual took the rear seat and was of secondary importance.

Zahid Zaman Brig: I am following the very interesting discussion about the imposition of martial law. I was acting gso1 16 div since Jan 1977 and involved in Balochistan operations. On April 26 we were ordered to move to Karachi where a local ML had been imposed. I moved with a small party from Temple Dera now Dera Murad Jamali reaching Karachi early morning 28 April.  Through a court order,these MLs were lifted in May 77. The GOC Late Lt Gen SM Abassi was called to GHQ we moved to Quetta in early June. On morning 5th July I was told that a Top Secret document has arrived to be collected by an officer from the signal centre and it was done. The document was the agreement likely between the govt and PNA. While still studying and reading the agreement,I was told to personally go and receive a flash signal. I got it, and it was the order imposing martial law. The rest, as they say, is history. 

Major Shahid Rahman: Zahid Zaman, Sir,  it was decided much earlier by the then COAS, Gen Zia, that he wanted to remove Bhutto. The Late Maj Gen Abdullah Malik, who had been our Bde Comd in East Pakistan, and was CGS in 1977, used to live close to my place in Islamabad after retirement. I had also joined the company he had raised with  Brig Mian Mahmud in the 1980s. 

He used to tell us, that from April, 1977 onwards in every meeting the Chief would be ridiculing  PM Bhutto, and making gestures to see how many of his generals are of the same mindset as himself. 

If I remember correctly, he told me, a meeting in April, 1977 in GHQ was the defining moment, when the Chief indicated, ‘we should be ready ‘..

We still don’t know,  what really happened which made Gen Zia  make a Uturn on Bhutto…

[11:24, 7/18/2019] Zahid Zaman Brig: I agree with. In May77, there was a naval cadets passing out parade in their academy. Gen Tikka Khan,who was the defence minister was to be the chief guest. The GOC asked me if I had been invited and gave an affirmative to that. He told me to accompany him along with my wife. I had been allowed to bring my wife to Karachi. We were to leave early as the GOC said the bridge connecting the mainland will be removed after 0800 hrs. In the evening while discussing the days happenings,Gen Abassi said let us skip the passing out and let Gen Tikka take his last salute. This was a clear indication to me of things to come. Any way once ML in Karachi was lifted, the GOC asked me to make list of all files and hand them over to HQ 5 Corps. . the GOC asked me to make list of all files and hand them over to HQ 5 Corps. He said after that I could leave for Quetta while he will go to GHQ Pindi. He said the chief has tasked him to prepare plan for holding elections under army supervision. Later after imposition of Martial Law throughout the country,Gen Abassi told me ,told me it was not for election but ML that he was called to plan.

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They’ll protest more the more they are wrong


A friend seny me the above clip. Some comments:

* The affect, style, and mannerism is very familiar to me. It reminds me of Muslim and Christian Creationist public speakers, who exhibit an air and manner of incredible confidence to audiences who want what they have on offer. Validation. Confirmation.

* The citations of the scholarly literature indicate that the theories of are based on some provisional work…but notice the shift from provisionality to refutation and vindication in the presentation. Just because it is in peer-reviewed journals does not mean it is true.

* Civilization comes from India is the conclusion. The above speaker is sophisticated and intelligent, but the ultimate rub is the same as Indocentric fabulists of the past.

In the past few years, genetic evidence on human differences has become more obvious. The reaction, in the West, is to declare even more strongly that no differences exist, or even could exist. Westerners and Indians are probably very similar, at least the activist sorts that consider these sorts of issues. In the near future, a substantial amount of ancient DNA will be published in India which will resolve current questions to all those approaching it with an open mind. But the ideologues will become even more strident and marshal greater and greater numbers of irrelevant citations.

They believe because it is absurd.

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Chuang-tzu or Zhuangzi, it’s a laughing matter [review]

[ cross-posted at Zenpundit — Zhuangzi, a light-hearted philosopher dancing to his own laughter, illuminated by CC Tsai ]
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Zhuangzi: The Way of Nature
translated by Brian Bruya, illustrated by CC Tsai
Princeton University Press, 2019
US $ 22.95

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You may be acquainted with the yin-yang symbol — or as it’s more properly called, the Tai-chih or Taiji — but here’s CC Tsai‘s version, with dragon:

That’s the style of CC Tsai‘s illustrations, which — rather than Brian Bruya‘s translations — are the featured aspect of this version of the Zhuangzi: it also encapsulates the essence of Zhuangzi‘s thought.

Here’s the comic book version of a very comic work of profound, non-invasive philosophy.

**

Zhuangzi is a Taoist, one who would allow the arising and fading away of things in their natural order, with as little thought-commentyary, let alone intervention, as piossible — given the human tendency to go round and round in circles even while sitting still — Laozi‘s Tao Te Ching is the simple and direct exposition of this way of approaching and appreciating life, while Zhuangzi presents the same appreciation in the formm of quizzical tales and (naturally, absent) morals..

Ah. Thus the seagull, Laozi tells Confucius, who came to discuss benevolence and righteousness, doesn’t get white by soaping yup and washing itself, nor does the crow get black by dipping itself in ink: benevolence, similarly, is not a matter of soap and water — it simply arises where it arises.

You get the feeling Laozi wouldn’t mind having left it at the seagulls doing what they do, and likewise with the crows — but Confucius dropped by and asked about benevolence and righteousness, and Laozi responded as was only benevolent and polite..

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My favorite story in all of Chuang Tzu / Zhuangzi is the story of Lord Wen-hui’s cook Ting, who taught him the natural way of things while cutting up an ox. In Burton Watson‘s translation:

Cook Ting was cutting up an ox for Lord Wen-hui. At every touch of his hand, every heave of his shoulder, every move of his feet, every thrust of his knee – zip! zoop! He slithered the knife along with a zing, and all was in perfect rhythm, as though he were performing the dance of the Mulberry Grove or keeping time to the Ching-shou music.

“Ah, this is marvelous!” said Lord Wen-hui. “Imagine skill reaching such heights!”

Cook Ting laid down his knife and replied, “What I care about is the Way, which goes beyond skill. When I first began cutting up oxen, all I could see was the ox itself. After three years I no longer saw the whole ox. And now – now I go at it by spirit and don’t look with my eyes. Perception and understanding have come to a stop and spirit moves where it wants. I go along with the natural makeup, strike in the big hollows, guide the knife through the big openings, and follow things as they are. So I never touch the smallest ligament or tendon, much less a main joint.

“A good cook changes his knife once a year-because he cuts. A mediocre cook changes his knife once a month-because he hacks. I’ve had this knife of mine for nineteen years and I’ve cut up thousands of oxen with it, and yet the blade is as good as though it had just come from the grindstone. There are spaces between the joints, and the blade of the knife has really no thickness. If you insert what has no thickness into such spaces, then there’s plenty of room – more than enough for the blade to play about it. That’s why after nineteen years the blade of my knife is still as good as when it first came from the grindstone.

“However, whenever I come to a complicated place, I size up the difficulties, tell myself to watch out and be careful, keep my eyes on what I’m doing, work very slowly, and move the knife with the greatest subtlety, until – flop! the whole thing comes apart like a clod of earth crumbling to the ground. I stand there holding the knife and look all around me, completely satisfied and reluctant to move on, and then I wipe off the knife and put it away.”

“Excellent!” said Lord Wen-hui. “I have heard the words of Cook Ting and learned how to care for life!”

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That’s a long-ish quote, but its rollicking good humor will have carried you through it, and I wanted to give you a sense of the Zhuangzi as I have known and loved it — to taste it in comparison with CC Tsai‘s vision / version of the same tale, as represented in a couple of frames from his telling:

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So now we have Burton Watson‘s “the blade of the knife has really no thickness. If you insert what has no thickness into such spaces, then there’s plenty of room” and Brian Bruya‘s “my knife glides in and out between the bone joints, moving as it pleases: the cow suffers no pain and, in the end, doesn’t even know it’s dead.”

Pretty remarkable, either way — but that’s in English, and who knows what contortions a translator must make to move from Chinese into English? Watson‘s Chuang-tsu is closer to Lao-tsu, if you compare the statement of principle to its embodiment in an anecdote:

Ursula Le Guin‘s translation of the Tao Te Ching is even more succinct:

The immaterial enters the impenetrable..

No wonder cook Ting’s vorpal blade went snicker-snack, to borrow a phrase from Lewis Carroll‘s poem, Jabberwocky. And come to think of it, Lewis Carroll, aka Charles Lutwidge Dodgson, the Christ Church, Oxford logician, may indeed be the English language’s native equivalent of the Chinese Zhuangzi.

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As I hope I have indicated, Chuang Tzu / Zhuangzi, even in translation, is a writer of enormous charm and insight, and CC Tsai‘s presentation marries the conventions of the comic book with classical Chinese artistry to provide an exemplary introduction to one of the world’s great philosopher-humorists.

Delightful. Warmly recommended.

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Episode 59: Suhag Shukla of the HAF

Another BP Podcast is up. You can listen on LibsyniTunesSpotify,  and Stitcher. Probably the easiest way to keep up the podcast since we don’t have a regular schedule is to subscribe at one of the links above.

You can also support the podcast as a patron. The primary benefit now is that you get the podcasts considerably earlier than everyone else. I am toying with the idea of doing a patron Youtube Livestream chat, if people are interested, in the next few weeks.

Would appreciate more positive reviews!

On this episode, I talked to Suhag Shulka. I appreciate the readers who provided questions since honestly, I didn’t have strong priors. Suhag is a good talker, and I don’t have much personal experience with Hinduism (I’ve never been in a Hindu temple, and the only Hindu religious I’ve seen in real life was at the party of a family friend when I was six and a side room was devoted to prayer and such).

I know that some people have strong opinions on the HAF…my own suspicion after talking to Suhag is that it is in some ways a less political Hindu variant of AIPAC. On the American scene, Hindus are firmly within the Democratic party and the center to Left. This is clear in terms of politicians, but also when you look at survey data as well. But in terms of international affairs, these sorts of alignments are not as clear, and that seems to be where HAF gets in trouble with “social justice” types.

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Why did Bhutto Select Zia as Chief

Because Zia was a world champion at sucking up to him.

An interesting snippet from Major Agha Amin

FROM MY MARCH 2001 INTERVIEW WITH MAJ GEN NUK BABAR SJ AND BAR —-Why did Mr Bhutto select Zia as a coas?

There were a number of reasons and these were discussed with me personally by Mr Bhutto, while in detention at Murree. One was the pretended humility and this disarmed Mr Bhutto into the belief that he would pose no threat to the nascent democracy. Secondly, his performance when he invited Mr Bhutto to the centenary celebrations of 11 cavalry at Kharian. He took pains to ascertain Mr Bhutto’s tailor in Karachi (Hamid Khan) and had a Blue Patrols as Colonel-in-Chief of Armoured Corps. On entering the room, Mr Bhutto found a suitcase on his bed and on inquiry was told that it contained the Blue Patrol. The next day, Mr Bhutto was requested to climb a tank and engage a target. Quite obviously the target was hit. Then was his performance while on deputation in Jordan, where he killed a large number of Palestinians (Black September), Mr Bhutto was led to the belief that if he was so loyal to Jordan, he would be even more loyal to Pakistan. His prime performance came at Multan, where he invited Mr Bhutto as Colonel-in-Chief. After the function, when Mr Bhutto had barely returned to Mr Sadiq Qureshi’s house, when he was informed that General Zia requested to meet him. Mr Bhutto was surprised, having met him in the mess a little earlier. However, he called him into Mr Sadiq Qureshi’s study/library. Gen Zia on entrance went round the Almirah, looking for something and on inquiry he revealed that he was looking for a copy of the Holy Quran. On finding a copy he placed his hand on and addressing Mr Bhutto he said, “You are the saviour of Pakistan and we owe it to you to be totally loyal to you”. Then was the fact that there was little to pick and choose amongst the other aspirants. The only other suitable candidate was General Majeed Malik who was Mr Bhutto’s favourite as a sound professional. Unfortunately was involved in the International Hotel Scandal where he was caught with Mustafa Khar. He was sent as Ambassador to Libya. Finally, of course was the American angle. They had picked Zia as suitable material at Fort Leavenworth, followed his career progress and possibly lobbied in his favour. They made it known to friends months in advance that he would be appointed coas. Zia’s obsequeous behaviour made Mr Bhutto think that he was a non-political man. Pakistani democracy was at an infant stage and could not afford an Army Chief with political ambitions. Then there was not much choice. Gen Sharif was considered politically unreliable since he had been very close to Ayub Khan. Jillani had no command experience and was the head of isi. Akbar Khan had not performed well as a goc 12 Division in Kashmir in 1971 war. Gen Aftab and AB Awan had no command potential and were not suitable.

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From @takhalus
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