Book Review: The Boats of Cherbourg

From Dr Hamid Hussain

Book Review – The Boats of Cherbourg by Abraham Rabinovich

Hamid Hussain

The Boats of Cherbourg: The Navy That Stole Its Own Boats and Revolutionized Naval Warfare by [Abraham Rabinovich]

A well respected Israeli military historian Abraham Rabinovich’ s book is a fascinating account of a little known chapter of naval history.  Israeli air force and armored corps were ruling the roost as these two services played key role in June 1967 stunning victory against three Arab armies.  Israeli navy was relegated to the back seat as no one saw any meaningful role for this service.  The lion’s share of defense budget was allocated to air force and army.  Israeli navy needed a cheaper option to fulfill its operational role. Continue reading “Book Review: The Boats of Cherbourg”

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Book Review: The Battle for Pakistan

From our regular contributor, Dr Hamid Hussain.

Book Review – The Battle for Pakistan by Shuja Nawaz

Hamid Hussain

 Shuja Nawaz’s new book The Battle for Pakistan is a timely release of a work that reviews Pakistan’s security challenges and U.S. Pakistan relations. A new unpredictable era of U.S.-Pakistan relations is around the corner in view of recent U.S.-Taliban agreement and uncertain future of Afghanistan.

There are not many analysts and scholars of the region with access to both Pakistani and American sources. Shuja is uniquely equipped for such a project as he has access to Pakistani army high command as well as Pentagon and State Department sources.  Book covers U.S.-Pakistan relations, working of Pakistan army high command and fraught civil-military relations in Pakistan.

 Shuja gives a comprehensive view of expectations and disappointments of Pakistan and United States.  The dilemma of this un-equal and transactional relationship is that each side fail to understand the interests of the other party and ends up blaming its own failures on the duplicity of the other party.  This has been a predicted cycle over the last seventy years.

 Shuja gives insight into power struggle among senior officers of Pakistan army.  The first round was when General Pervez Musharraf was forced to give up his uniform and his confidant and successor General Ashfaq Pervez Kayani worked to bring his own team.  He superseded and removed from important positions officers considered close to Musharraf.  Kayani brought his own team of senior officers and then eased Musharraf’s ouster in 2008 to enjoy two three years tenures as the master game-keeper of the reserve.  

 Several segments of the book deal with civil-military relations. Shuja provides details of many episodes of serious friction.  Army is the dominant force and civil-military relations are seriously imbalanced.  Mutual distrust, antipathy and outright disdain for each other ensures repeated cycles of crisis.  Each side has become expert in self-goal seriously damaging country’s reputation.  Army high command has not been able to work with two major political parties; Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) and Pakistan Muslim League – Nawaz (PML-N).  This forced them to put their chips on the third option. Current Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf (PTI) government headed by Prime Minister Imran Khan is actively supported by army high command.  Army high command and PTI repeatedly claim that they are on the ‘same page’, however, army is taking lead in tackling different problems faced by the country.  Army nominated and supported serving and retired military personnel, bureaucrats and politicians have found place in all corridors of power.  The seeds of distrust are thus sowed, and friction will inevitably increase between army and new political force of PTI. 

 Shuja also provides details about increasing role of Saudi Arabia and United Arab Emirates (UAE) in Pakistan’s internal affairs.  In many cases, United States used Saudi Arabia and UAE to manage delicate domestic political matters of Pakistan. Pakistan is increasingly dependent on Saudi and UAE largesse due to difficult economic state. Crown Prince Muhammad Bin Salman (MBS) has developed close personal relation with President Donald Trump and Washington uses this connection to manage some areas of Pakistan policy.

 Book is a must read for everyone interested in U.S.-Pakistan relations and the region.  In Pakistan, the book launch became unintended casualty of controversy over Chief of Army Staff (COAS) General Qamar Javed Bajwa’s three years extension of service.  Book’s South Asian edition was published in India in August 2019.  When Pakistan enacted trade ban with India, book could not be delivered to Pakistan.  A Pakistani publisher released the book and Shuja travelled to Pakistan for book launch ceremonies in several cities.  Pakistan Supreme Court took the case of extension of COAS shaking the army brass.  They asked Shuja to delay the book launch as it could generate criticism of the army although book presents Pakistan army point of view on various issues. Shuja refused to cancel book launch and army directly pressurized event organizers to cancel the events.  More copies were sold in Pakistan due to silly acts of the brass. 

 Shuja Nawaz.  The Battle for Pakistan: The Bitter US Friendship and a Tough Neighborhood (Karachi: Liberty Publishing), 2020

 Hamid Hussain

May 2020

[email protected]

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Afghanistan, Next Round

From Dr Hamid Hussain

Some questions and then more questions came my way about recent events in Afghanistan. My two cents put together in the piece.

Afghanistan – Next Round Afghan Style

Hamid Hussain

“However tall the mountain is, there is a road to the top of it”.   Afghan Proverb

United States and Taliban signed an agreement in February 2020.  The agreement was to pave the way for withdrawal of US troops and integration of Taliban in Afghan political system. The next step was exchange of 5000 Taliban and 1000 Afghan government prisoners.  This also proved to be the first hurdle.  Afghan President Ashraf Ghani insisted on linking prisoner release with cease fire.  Taliban rejected it and under US pressure, Ghani released few hundred Taliban prisoners.

In the deal with US, Taliban agreed not to threaten “security of US and its allies’.  Taliban defined only Europeans as ‘US allies.  Off course they don’t consider Afghan government as US ally therefore they continued to attack government forces. On the start of the Muslim holy months of Ramazan, Ghani asked again for a ceasefire.  Taliban representative in his response called this call ‘illogical’.  Organization of Islamic Countries (OIC) also called for a ceasefire during negotiations between Taliban and Afghan government.  Taliban are not likely to agree to this.  They see attacks on Afghan security forces as a lever to extract more concessions. Taliban also want to calibrate its military operations to keep momentum of its cadres.  If they agree to a prolonged ceasefire and few months later need military operations, they may face difficulties in re-activating its own cadres.

Current violence in uneven geographically.  Violence has decreased in Taliban controlled areas in south and east and large cities.  In Taliban controlled areas, night raids by Afghan forces and air strikes by US forces and attacks by Taliban on government posts and convoys, Improvised Explosive Device (IED) attacks and target killings was the main engine of violence.  Afghan forces have stopped operations in Taliban controlled areas resulting in marked reduction of violence.  In government controlled large cities, Taliban were attacking government and civilian targets.  They have markedly reduced these attacks that resulted in reduction of violence in large cities. In some parts of eastern Afghanistan, Daesh was responsible for most attacks.  An unlikely alliance of US, Afghan forces, Taliban and local militias confronted Daesh from all sides eliminating most pockets of Daesh that contributed to marked reduction of violence. In all these areas, with reduction of violence, general public feels somewhat secure with economic activity picking up in towns and rural areas. Continue reading “Afghanistan, Next Round”

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Nicknames in the British Indian Army

An oldie from Dr Hamid Hussain

Nicknames
Hamid Hussain
 
In British army, officers were sometimes given nick names.  This tradition continued in British Indian army when Indians were commissioned as officers.  The trend continued in present day Indian, Pakistani and Bangladeshi armies with addition of some native touch.  Some nick names were simply abbreviations of original names.  Lieutenant General B. M. Kaul (5/6 Rajputana Rifles) was nick named ‘Biji’.  His first name was Brij Mohan which was abbreviated to ‘Biji’. Brigadier H. D. Bilimoria was nicknamed ‘Russi’ while some friends called him ‘Billi’ and Major General Iftikhar Khan (7 and 3 Cavalry) was nick named ‘Ifti’.  Some modified abbreviations of original names were also used.  Lieutenant General Altaf Qadir (4/12 Frontier Force Regiment) was called ‘Toffy’ probably transformation of his first name Altaf while Lieutenant General Habibullah Khan Khattak (Baloch Regiment and 1 Bihar Regiment) was called ‘Beebo’.
Many Indian officers had long names that were difficult to pronounce therefore they were given Christian nick names by their fellow officers as it was easy to pronounce.  Field Marshal Kodandera Madappa Cariappa (1/7 Rajput Regiment)) was nick named ‘Kipper’, General Kodendera Sumaya Thimayya (4/19 Hyderabad Regiment) was called ‘Timmy’, Field Marshal Jemi Hormusji Framji Manekshaw (4/12 Frontier Force Regiment & 2/8 Gorkha Rifles) was called ‘Sam’, Lieutenant General Atiq ur Rahman (4/12 Frontier Force Regiment) was called ‘Turk’, Major General Yusuf Khan (7 Light Cavalry) was called ‘Joe’ and Major General A. A. Rudra (28 Punjabis) was nick named ‘Jick’.
Some nick names originated as a complement of a quality of the officer or some weak point.  Others got weird nick names for different reasons.  Lieutenant General Amir Abdullah Khan Niazi (1/14 Punjab Regiment) won his Military Cross (MC) in the killing fields of Burma, pinned by Viceroy Lord Wavell.  He fought well and his superior British officers were impressed and nick named him ‘Tiger’.  He was known in the army as Tiger Niazi.  When he landed in East Pakistan in 1971, he announced that ‘Tiger Niazi’ has arrived.  A Bengali commander Kadar Siddiqi (a non-commissioned officer of 2 East Bengal Regiment) quipped that “there are no tigers in Mianwali (referring to Niazi’s birth place).  Here you are among tigers”.  Kadar fought against Pakistan army and earned for himself the nick name of ‘Tiger’ and later popularly known as ‘Tiger Siddiqi’.

Continue reading “Nicknames in the British Indian Army”

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Book Review: Blood Over Different Shades of Green: East Pakistan 1971 History Revisited

Book Review

Hamid Hussain

 Ikram Sehgal & Dr. Bettina Robotka.  Blood Over Different Shades of Green: East Pakistan 1971 History Revisited (Karachi: Oxford University Press, 2019)

 This book is history of the last chapter of united Pakistan in 1971.  Ikram Sehgal is in a unique position to write about the separation of eastern wing of Pakistan and emergence of independent Bangladesh. His father was Punjabi and mother Bengali.  He had personal relations with Bengali and non-Bengali senior political and military leaders.  He understands the passions involved on both sides.  In addition, he was a young army officer and served in both theaters of war in 1971.  He had a front row seat to the final act of the tragedy, and he gives his side of the story candidly. 

 First few chapters give details of social, political and economic differences between two wings.  It then highlights events that gradually widened the gulf and then details about final days of united Pakistan and emergence of independent Bangladesh.  Ikram also narrates his personal experience in 1971 war and many brushes with angel of death. 

 This book highlights for the first time, the role of 1965 India-Pakistan war in almost complete alienation of Bengali public. At psychological level, separation was complete after the war as almost all Bengalis were shocked to see that West Pakistan risked fifty five percent of its Bengali population surrounded by India on three sides and with very meagre resources to defend itself against India for few hundred thousand Kashmiris.

 Civilian and military leadership dominated by West Pakistanis never understood Bengali view point.  The defense doctrine of ‘defense of east Pakistan from west Pakistan’ was never seriously evaluated in the broader context of national security. If one region of the country arrogate itself the title of ‘heart of the country’ and relegate another region as less important ‘periphery’, it is bound to have serious reservation from the entity relegated as periphery.  This was the reason that this doctrine was viewed as absurd from Bengali point of view.

 In discussing Pakistani 18 Infantry Division operations in western desert, authors raise the question of why Jacobabad airfield was not activated regardless of whether GHQ asked for it or not?  Air Commodore ® Sajjad Haider has provided the answer in his memoirs Flight of The Falcon.  Air Chief Air Marshal Rahim Khan visited army headquarter on 04 December 1971 and was informed by Chief of General Staff (CGS) Lieutenant General Gul Hassan about the attack of 18 Division in south-west towards Indian city of Jaisalmer.  Air Chief protested and informed him that closest Pakistan Air Force (PAF) bases of Sargodha and Karachi were over 300 miles away.  He also explained that Jacobabad airfield could not be activated due to paucity of resources and even if decided PAF needed ten days to activate the airfield.  He also informed CGS that Indian Air Force had three air bases in that area that could play havoc with the advancing Pakistani troops without air cover.  Army went ahead with the operation despite Air Chief warning and hence the disaster. 

 There is a minor error regarding U.S. base in Pakistan.  It is mentioned that U-2 surveillance flights operated from Badaber Air Station near Peshawar.  Badaber was only a listening post and not an airfield.  It was an electronic listening facility run by National Security Agency (NSA) and project was code named ‘Operation Sandbag’.  Peshawar and Lahore airfields were used for U-2 surveillance flights.  There were no permanent stationing of U-2 planes in Pakistan.  Detachment 10-10 based at Incirlik, Turkey flew missions from Pakistan.  U-2 pilot and some ground personnel were flown in a C-130 plane to Pakistan a day before the flight.  A standby pilot brought U-2 from Incirlik to Lahore or Peshawar.  In four years, there were only twenty four U-2 overflights.  Out of these twenty four, ten originated from Pakistan; five from Lahore and five from Peshawar.  (I have written a detailed piece about these missions titled Eye in the Sky).  

 This book adds to the literature of 1971 Indian-Pakistan war and independence of Bangladesh by a first-hand witness.  Book is a must read for everyone interested in history of Pakistan and Bangladesh.

 Hamid Hussain

[email protected]

28 December 2019

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Eye in the Sky. Pakistan and Cold War Aerial Reconnaissance

From Dr Hamid Hussain. 

In my recent book review, I mentioned about one of my old piece about U-2 surveillance flights from Pakistan; published in September 2010 issue of Defence Journal.  Many asked for the piece and I‘m sending to my list.  Some of you may have already seen it.  It was written almost ten years ago.  It is quite long as I covered many areas.   Read it if you have interest in that chapter of cold war and lot of free time on hand.

Regards,

Hamid Hussain

[email protected]

Eye in the Sky – United States, Pakistan and Reconnaissance during Cold War

Hamid Hussain

Being a friend of the United States is like living on the banks of a great river.  The soil is wonderfully fertile, but every four or eight years the river changes course, and you may find yourself alone in a desert’.  Pakistan’s army chief and President General Muhammad Zia ul Haq to CIA director William Casey, 1983 (1)

 United States and Soviet Union were engaged in a worldwide competition for dominance after the Second World War.  Intelligence gathering was an important part of this power struggle between the two super powers.  In the pre-satellite era, high altitude reconnaissance by special aircraft and signal interception were key components of intelligence gathering.  In 1950s and 60s, these operations were conducted from United States as well as from bases all around the globe.

A variety of equipment was used to gather intelligence including static electronic monitoring facilities on the borders of Soviet Union, high altitude reconnaissance aircraft such as U-2 and RB-57 to collect electronic (ELINT), signals (SIGINT), photos (PHOTOINT), telemetry (TELEINT) and air sampling for detection of radiation emanating from nuclear test sites.  Several agencies including Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), Strategic Air Command (SAC) of United States Air Force (USAF), United States Air Force Security Service (USAFSS), United States Army Special Security (USASS) and National Security Agency (NSA) were involved in these wide ranging intelligence activities.

Main focus of these operations was monitoring of missile and nuclear test sites, location of bombers, missile sites and radars and eavesdropping on Soviet communication system.  The general agreement between United States and Pakistan was that in return for Pakistan’s cooperation in such activities, United States would modernize Pakistani armed forces.  Pakistani part of the deal included provision of facilities for U.S. intelligence gathering operations as well as cooperation in some aspects of the operation.  Both parties entered into these agreements looking at their own interests.  United States saw Pakistan as a window through which to peep into Soviet Union’s backyard and Pakistan saw this cooperation as a shortest possible way of modernizing its armed forces. Continue reading “Eye in the Sky. Pakistan and Cold War Aerial Reconnaissance”

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The Role of the Ahmediyya Movement in Kashmir

From Dr Hamid Hussain

20 December 2019

I wrote a piece about recent changes in Kashmir.  While working on the background, I stumbled on an interesting chapter of Kashmir & Pakistan history that I have never seen in any mainstream publication.  I decided to dig a more deeper to understand it better.  Following is the outcome of that exercise.  I thought it was important for those interested in the history of the region.  Enjoy.

Regards,

Hamid

Ahmadis and Kashmir

Hamid Hussain

“Independence of Kashmir can only be achieved by Kashmiris.  Outsiders can only help in two ways; with financial support and by advocating their cause.  Kashmiris should forget that outsiders will fight their war.  Such outside help will not be useful; in fact, it will have opposite effect on the struggle for independence. If control of the struggle is in the hands of outsiders, it is possible that they will sell Kashmiris for their own interests.  It is in the interest of Kashmiris that they should get advice as well as financial help from outsiders but never ask them to come and fight their war in Kashmir.  In this case they will lose control.  Long term sacrifice and not temporary emotional outburst will serve their cause and long term sacrifice can only be done by Kashmiris”.  Head of Jama’at Ahmadiyya, Mirza Bashir Uddin Mahmud, 27 September 1931

Jama’at Ahmadiyya is a sect founded by Mirza Ghulam Ahmad (1835-1908).  In early twentieth century, it was a small community with disciples mainly from Punjab; the birthplace of the founder.  There was much hostility against the group in view of doctrinal differences especially when Mirza claimed to be Messiah and prophet.  Agitation of orthodox clerics over decades finally culminated in an unprecedented act where Pakistan’s parliament declared the sect non-Muslim in 1974.  This started a wave of persecution forcing many Ahmadis to leave the country and find refuge all over the world.  General hostility including outright abuse against the group is at such an abnormal state that it is impossible to have any kind of meaningful discourse about the role of Ahmadis in Kashmir as well as independence movement of Pakistan.  This part of the history disappeared from almost all historical works in Pakistan.

Kashmir was a Muslim majority princely state ruled by a Hindu Dogra ruler.  Kashmiri Muslims were economically poor and politically powerless. Muslims of neighboring Punjab, many with Kashmiri heritage were concerned about the plight of Kashmiri Muslims.  In 1911, they established All India Kashmiri Muslim Conference (AIKMC) in Lahore.  This organization remained only on paper with no connection with Kashmiri Muslims and no program.  In the summer of 1931, simmering discontent in Kashmir resulted in riots.  On 25 July 1931, leading Muslims mainly from Punjab gathered at Simla and established All India Kashmir Committee (AIKC).  The list of attendees of this meeting included literary and intellectual powerhouse Sir Muhammad Iqbal, head of Ahmadiyya community Mirza Bashir Uddin Mahmud Ahmad, leading Punjabi politician Sir Mian Fazal Hussain, Nawab of Maler Kotla Sir Muhammad Zulfiqar Ali Khan, Nawab of Kanj Pura Ibrahim Ali Khan, leading cleric of Delhi’s Barelvi community Khawaja Hassan Nizami and a former teacher of the leading orthodox Sunni seminary Darul-Uloom Deoband Maulvi Mirak Shah.  Fazal Hussain wanted Iqbal to head the organization but on recommendation of Iqbal, Mirza Mahmud was unanimously chosen as president of AIKC.  Muslims of different walks of life were members of AIKC including politicians affiliated with different parties, lawyers, educationalists, landed aristocracy, clerics from different schools of thoughts, journalists and businessmen.  At no other time, such a consensus developed among diverse Muslim population of India. Continue reading “The Role of the Ahmediyya Movement in Kashmir”

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The “Same Page” saga..

Original article by Gen Asad Durrani. Comments in red by Dr Hamid Hussain. Additional comments in blue by Major Amin.

LG Asad Durrani views and my two cents in red.

Regards,

Hamid 

The Same Page Saga

Lt Gen ® Asad Durrani

The Chief of Army Staff in Pakistan is not just another head of service, nor is he, strictly speaking, a “chief of staff”; the designation that the late Prime Minister Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto believed would deny the man on the horseback the clout to take over the Country. His assumption went ruefully wrong when Zia-ul-Haq, his handpicked COAS, not only putsched but also hanged him. In ‘Pakistan Adrift’, an account of my journey through the corridors of power, I have tried to assess the military’s role in the Country’s polity and an army chief’s special status in the power matrix – in which he often played the ultimate arbiter. For people like me therefore the commotion over the present incumbent’s service extension in the last week of November came as no surprise. The following chronicle however is not about any technicalities of the issue at hand, but about the algorithm of this game of thrones. Continue reading “The “Same Page” saga..”

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The Ram Mandir Verdict in India. From Dr Hamid Hussain

From Dr Hamid Hussain. Dr Hamid is what might be described as a “secular” or “liberal” Muslim. These are his personal thoughts on the Ram Mandir judgement.

11 November 2019

 Someone had sent me excerpts of Spinoza’s God a day before the Indian supreme court verdict.  I was pondering over those words when I was asked about my comments.  Following was the result and all credit goes to Spinoza.

“If you are desirous of obtaining a great name, of becoming the founder of a sect or establishment, be completely mad; but be sure that your madness corresponds with the turn and temper of your age.  Have in your madness reason enough to guide your extravagances, and to not forget to be excessively opinionated and obstinate.  It is certainly possible that you may get hanged; but if you escape hanging, you will have altars erected to you”.   Voltaire (1698-1778)

 Regards,

Hamid

 Babri Mosque Verdict

Hamid Hussain

 “The toughest kind of forgiveness is self-forgiveness and the road that leads to it is a lonely one but is also where mad meets the divine”.  (1) 

On November 09, 2019, Indian Supreme Court announced its judgment about the long standing dispute between Hindus and Muslims about a religious site in Ayodhya. Muslims claim that a mosque has been at this place since sixteenth century.  Hindus claim that it was built on the site of a Hindu temple.  The place has been locked since 1949 for fear of threat to public order.  On 06 December 1992, a Hindu mob demolished the mosque resulting in riots that resulted in death of over 2000 people.  After a three decades court battle, court awarded the site to Hindus to build a temple explaining that the sixteenth century mosque was built on the ruins of a Hindu temple. Continue reading “The Ram Mandir Verdict in India. From Dr Hamid Hussain”

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The Shias of Kashmir

From our regular contributor, Dr Hamid Hussain. 

In my last piece about Kashmir, I briefly mentioned Shia factor in Kashmir in current context and Ahmadi factor in historical context.  Many otherwise well informed individuals admitted that they had little idea about these.  Others with more direct interaction with Kashmir issue asked questions and this is in response to these exchanges.  Enjoy if you are bored of black and white narratives on the subject and interested in ‘fifty shades of grey’.

Hamid

Shia of Kashmir

Hamid Hussain

Shia of Kashmir has a unique history.  There were two groups of Shias who migrated to Kashmir from present day Iran and Iraq in fifteenth and sixteenth centuries.  One group escaped persecution and other were missionaries.  Some artisan classes also joined these groups.   Local conversion due to efforts of missionaries increased Shia numbers.  In Gilgit-Baltistan area with geographic links to Badakhshan province of Afghanistan and Tajikistan, Ismaili missionaries were successful in small pockets while mainstream Ath’na Asha’ari (followers of twelve Imams) missionaries were successful in areas that are now part of Indian Controlled Kashmir (ICK).  Separation of Gilgit-Baltistan from Pakistan Controlled Kashmir (PCK) which is ethnically and linguistically different from Kashmiris left no significant Shia population in PCK.

In ICK, there are about one million Shia out of a total Muslim population of 8.5 million.  Shia are geographically and politically separated in ICK.  Sparsely populated Ladakh which is now separated from Jammu & Kashmir (J&K) as Union territory has equal numbers of Buddhists and Muslims.  In Kargil area, ninety percent of Muslim population is Shia numbering about 125’000.  There are small numbers of Sunnis in Drass area.  Remainder Shia population is concentrated in the Valley. Continue reading “The Shias of Kashmir”

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