From Dr Hamid Hussain. As usual, he gives sensible advice, but it is not going to be heeded. On this issue, I think Major Amin is right, there will be a civil war, Pakistan will take sides, PTM will not be reconciled and will instead be further demonized, things will not get better. I also hope I am wrong. (Omar Ali)
Dr Hamid Hussain’s post follows:
One can only highlight signposts of a complex issue. Following is one such exercise.
Pakistan’s Afghan Conundrum
“On earth, it’s hard and heaven is far away”. Afghan proverb.
Afghanistan is going through another transition with many uncertainties causing hope and fear. Pakistan has a long history of involvement in Afghan affairs. President Donald Trump tweeted on 08 October 2020 that all American troops will be home from Afghanistan by Christmas. This surprised everyone in Washington and Pentagon, State Department and Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) officials were scratching their heads and contemplating how one single tweet has undermined the bargaining position of United States. This also sent shock waves in General Head Quarters (GHQ) of Pakistan army. Prime Minister Imran Khan government is not even pretending to have any role in Afghan affairs and has handed the Afghan file to the army. Imran Khan wrote an op-ed piece for Washington Post pleading Americans not to leave Afghanistan in haste for Pakistan fears it will face all the negative fallout.
There will be review of Afghan policy with the arrival of new administration in Washington in January 2021. However, domestic issues will suck all the oxygen and it is not likely that new administration will be able to spend significant economic, military and political capital on a side show in Afghanistan. President Trump is now the wild card before President elect Joe Biden takes oath on 20 January 2021. He can order complete withdrawal of American troops by the end of the year that can make any course correction for new administration very difficult. Pakistan’s hope is that new administration keeps current level of forces and economic lifeline to Afghan government until meaningful progress is made on intra-negotiations front. Continue reading Afghan Conundrum II
The following are two posts (originally written many years ago) from the Pakistani military historian and analys Agha Humayun Amin. It is interesting to y see that nothing has changed since 2002 (the article is from 2002 and the interview is from early 2001, before the fall of the taliban). Anyway, whether you agree or disagree with his analysis, you will always get interesting nuggets of information from Major Amin… The first post is a newspaper article he wrote. the second is a very detailed interview he conducted with General Naseerullah Babar, an outstanding military officer who served as Zulfi Bhutto’s Governor in NWFP, then as Benazir Bhutto’s interior minister and played a role in the Karachi operation against MQM as well as in the setting up of the Taliban (as IGFC he was also involved in setting up the first Pakistani-sponsored insurgency in Afghanistan way back in 1973). He was an eyewitness to many important events and whatever you may think of his views, his interview is an extremely important historical document..
Essence of the Matter A.H Amin August 21 2002 Daily Nation , Lahore www.nation.com.pk While analysis of todays Pakistani politics is outwardly subtle and convincing , serious historical analysis remains the weak point. What is lacking is the long view , the inability to penetrate through appearances, the motivation to write with an ulterior motivation to please or to secure personal business objectives, and worse of all, to criticise simply because a writer has acquired the reputation of a cynic and his writings are read simply because his cynicism provides a catharsis for many! This does not mean that all is well or all military or civil rulers are well meaning reluctant coup makers !
This article is an attempt to capture the crux of the whole issue in a few paragraphs! An ambitious but certainly not impossible endeavour! First of all the basis of modern Indo Pak politics was initially a type of liberal set of beliefs based on faith in British parliamentary system and liberalism mixed with the philosophy of self rule. The British introduced Western democracy in India with a view to afford a vent to the Indians desire for participation and sense of involvement ! The urban professional classes picked it up as a means for self realisation or self advancement ! The feudals picked it up as a means of continuing their unfair advantage or position of influence in the Indian society. The middle classes ran after government jobs as a means of self advancement and economic benefit. The Indian soldiers served in the army as mercenaries motivated by economic benefits and in part propelled by espirit de corps. The politicians came into conflict with the British not because all of them were heroes or martyrs but because it was a struggle for power! The civil servants and mercenary pre 1947 Indo Pak soldiers collaborated with the British because it improved their prospects of self advancement ! The pre 1947 Indian Army , the father of the post 1947 Indian and Pakistan Army had nothing to do with Indo Pak political struggle at least in what they voluntarily or deliberately did less a platoon of Garhwal Rifles which refused to open fire on Muslims demonstrating in Peshawar in 1930 ! After all who was shooting down Indo Pak civilians like partridges in Wana , Razmak ,Sindh and Jallianwalla Bagh other than the British Kings Indian Army ! Four brigades in tribal areas , two brigades in Sindh in the Hur Rebellion! The Indian or Muslim civil servant, soldier and policeman till 14th August (and some to date) were collaborators of the Western power which ruled India till the transfer of power!
The Hindus were better organised politically since the Indian National Congress was dominated by a strong Hindu professional and business class while the Muslims were condemned to be politically more backward since because of peculiar historical reasons Mr Jinnah had no choice but to accept the Muslim feudals who dominated Muslim politics! Mr Jinnah was forced to ally with the Unionists in Punjab and the Sindhi landlords in future against the advice of Punjabi Muslim urban leaders like Dr Iqbal because it was a strategic compulsion. Thus from August 1947 India inherited a strong political culture while The Muslim League was destroyed just a few years after Mr Jinnah’s death by the feudals who had joined it out of fear of land reforms and because of being in debt to Hindu money lenders! Here again economics played a major role ! It has been estimated that in pre 1947 Punjab and Sindh money lending was the most important occupation after agriculture and that while the net revenue of Irrigation Department of Punjab was 267 Lakh Rupees that of money lenders was 500 Lakh Rupees! In 1911 out of a total of 803,560 money lenders in India some 25 % or 193,890 lived in Punjab alone! Thus while the total population of pre 1947 Punjab was one eleventh of India ,it had some one fourth of India’s money lenders! All this ensured that the feudal elements jumped on the Muslim League band wagon not out of genuine motivation but because of economic compulsion!
Now the post 1947 era; While post 1947 Indian Congress leaders like Nehru and Patel chided the Indian Army for their un-nationalistic role in British rule and reduced their basic salary Pakistan was condemned to be ruled by a civil military clique within eleven years of independence! Men who had collaborated with the British before 1947 became Pakistan’s rulers within seven years of Independence! Officials of Indian Audit and Accounts Service like Ghulam Mohammad and Mohammad Ali! Feudals like Kalabagh who before 1947 were faithful servants of a man no higher than the British Deputy Commissioner of Mianwali! Compare the fact that while Nehru abolished Cantonment Boards within no time after independence even today a Pakistani civilian living in a plot of land bought by paying through his nose in a cantonment area lives within perpetual awe of the cantonment boards simply because no Pakistani statesman had the courage or the vision to reduce the military or civil bureucrats to size! Continue reading Pakistan and Military Rule (and a long interview with General Babar)
Ahmed Rashid acquired fame and became darling of the west when his book on Taliban was published in 2000 or so.Descent into Chaos is another bestseller as far as publishing statistics is concerned.It is a tragedy that the West,guardian of the present worlds intellectual property projects what suits its political and social interests and stifles what it finds “ politically unacceptable”.Seen in this background what Ahmed Rashid writes is acceptable to the west.Possibly because what he says fits hand in glove with western perceptions about how to shape the future.
My two cents of Afghan peace process. It is based on my own limited perspective informed by regular travels to the region and interaction with many including Pakistanis, Afghans, Americans, Indians etc. Many have been kind to candidly share their views and not ‘official’ narrative as well as hopes and aspirations of common people in streets and bazaars that they shared with me.
Making Peace with Broken Pieces – Afghan Peace Process
“There is nothing further here for a warrior. We drive bargains; old men’s work. Young men make wars and the virtues of war are the virtues of young men; courage and hope for the future. Then old men make the peace. The vices of peace are the vices of old men; mistrust and caution. It must be so”. Prince Feisal (Sir Alec Guinness) to T. E. Lawrence (Peter O’Toole) in Lawrence of Arabia.
In the last few months, a new window opened in the seventeen years old war in Afghanistan. There was breakthrough with first serious efforts of direct negotiations between United States (U.S.) and main militant group Taliban. It was President Donald Trump’s announcement of withdrawal of American troops from Afghanistan that got the ball rolling. He made this decision without consulting any other government agency. Pentagon, intelligence community and State Department view rapid withdrawal as a recipe for disaster. Trump appointed former U.S. envoy to Afghanistan and an Afghan-American Zalmay Khalilzad nick named Zal to spearhead this effort. Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Qatar worked as intermediaries and a bridge between Taliban, Pakistan and Americans.
Negotiations between Taliban and Unites States is only one dimension of a complex conflict. Taliban’s strategy is simple in its execution. It used its committed cadre of fighters and support structure in Pakistan to escalate violence to a level to achieve two goals. First to sow enough fear and uncertainty among Afghans that will undermine the efficiency and to some extent legitimacy of the government. Another objective is to convince fellow Afghans that without giving them a share in power and economic pie, Afghans will never see peace. Initially, behind the scene, questions were raised by Americans whether Taliban are a unified entity to work with. Taliban responded by announcing a three days ceasefire during Eid festival. There were no attacks all over the country proving their point that they have a firm command and control system and all fighters follow the leadership. When United States announced troop withdrawal plan, Taliban thought that by directly negotiating they will get the credit and fulfill one of their objectives of forcing foreign troop withdrawal. This will help them to carve out a much larger share in power after American withdrawal. Another factor was intense pressure on Taliban from Pakistan and Arab countries. Agreeing to direct negotiations with Americans, Taliban placated both parties and if no agreement is reached, they can claim that they entered in negotiations with good faith and put the blame of failure at American doorstep. From U.S. point of view, there is a narrow window of about six months. Domestic troubles of President Trump will take a sharp turn with completion of special prosecutor Robert Mueller’s work. In addition, presidential campaign will start in the fall of 2019 and these two factors will suck all the oxygen in White House. Like many other foreign policy issues, Afghanistan will also recede in the background. Continue reading Afghan Peace Process
Major Amin sent in an old article of his from 2013 (posted below). I think Indian and Pakistan CAN make peace, but not yet… Anyway, you can read Major Amin’s more pessimistic take here..
Can India and Pakistan make Peace – Agha.H.Amin , Major (r)
The recent sudden angelic desire on part of the Pakistani establishment to make peace with India has nothing to do with any major shift in Pakistan’s foreign policy written in the Pakistani military headquarters popularly known as the GHQ.
The Pakistani apparent shift is merely a tactical response to extreme confrontation with the US over perceived US view that Pakistan is playing a double game in Afghanistan.
This is similar to Musharrafs flirtation with India from 2000 to 2007 which in reality was a gambit to prevent a two front war with Afghanistan occupied by the USA and a hostile India in the east.
The real picture of true intentions of the Pakistani military will emerge when the US withdraws from Afghanistan.
This will be the time when the Russians ,Iranians and Indians will have no choice but to support the Northern Alliance against Pakistan sponsored Taliban who regard all Shias, Ismailis,Non Pashtuns,moderate Pashtuns as infidels who deserve to be massacred.
The Pakistani politicians are a compromised manipulated lot who are under firm control of the Pakistani military thanks to the politicians own massive financial corruption. They will do what the Pakistani generals tell them whether it is the PPP, PML or any new party like Imran Khans Tehrik i Insaaf.
Pakistan will remain the same state run by an army rather than a state with an army.The Pakistani generals will control Pakistan’s politics and foreign policy and Pakistan India relations will remain a mix of an uneasy and an unpredictable peace.
Following was in response to several questions regarding Pakistan’s regional challenges and current policies.
Kabuki Dance – Pakistan’s Balancing Act
Pakistan’s challenging regional environment has taken some new turns and new government of Prime Minister Imran Khan is trying to cope up with these challenges. Government’s major advantage is that it has no clash with the dominant army. In many areas of foreign policy, it has ceded significant ground to the army.
Pakistan is in a difficult spot on three issues. First is rapid pace of negotiations between Taliban and Americans with projected quick withdrawal of American troops, second is isolation of Iran and third is potential entanglement in intra-Arab rivalry with United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Saudi Arabia on one and Qatar on the other side. Pakistan is facing these regional challenges in the background of internal political instability and very serious economic downward trend. Part of political instability and associated economic meltdown is due to self-inflicted wounds. Departing from the normal process of check and balance, judiciary and army played an active role in tuning up the system that will have its own set of consequences. It has widened the political gulf and added new fissures.
Regional challenges of Pakistan are directly linked with American policies. We are living in a Trumpian world that has sowed a lot of confusion on all fronts. Every country and non-state player is adjusting positions at such a rapid speed that it is hard to make sense of every move. Pakistan is also caught in this Trumpian world on several fronts.
US policy is in disarray with no coordination between different government agencies. President Trump is using single point agents without full institutional support behind these efforts. In many cases, some power centers of Washington are diametrically opposed to President’s efforts. It is probably right time for withdrawal of American troops from both Syria and Afghanistan. Trump may have realized what Christopher Fettweis wrote in 2008 in his book Losing Hurts Twice as Bad that “bringing peace to every corner of the globe, even those whose stability we have wrecked through our own incompetence, is not necessarily in the strategic interest of the United States”. However, the method in which it is being done has confused both allies and foes. American intelligence agencies are publicly disagreeing with Trump that is unprecedented. In late January 2019, in a hearing at Senate Intelligence Committee, Director of National Intelligence and heads of Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), National Security Agency (NSA) and Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) contradicted Trump on security issues. They told the committee that Iran was still abiding by the nuclear deal. Trump had pulled out of the deal stating that Tehran had broken the deal. Furious Trump sent his twitter tirade saying that ‘the intelligence people seem to be extremely passive and naïve when it comes to the dangers of Iran. They are wrong’. Continue reading Kabuki Dance – Pakistan’s Balancing Act
Brigadier Simon Saraf wrote a piece on the Afghanistan “peace” process that reflects the Paknationalist viewpoint. Major Amin has added his comments to it. (Major Amin’s comments are bolded). Major Amin is a military history aficionado who has decades of on the ground experience in Afghanistan.
Taliban and USA are in constant negotiations over withdrawal of US forces from Afghanistan. A draft pact addressing mutual sensitivities is concluded. The two parties facilitated by Pakistan will again meet towards end February to build a roadmap on the skeletal agreement.
APPEARANCES ARE DECEIVING— US HAS NO STRATEGY AND ITS ACTIONS ARE ACTIONS OF A LAME DESPERATE PRESIDENT BESIEGED BY SCANDALS AND A MINORITY IN CONGRESS–THIS MAKES HIM MORE DESPERATE THAN THE MOST UNDERFED TALIBAN–MR TRUMP WANTS TO NEGOTIATE A US WITHDRAWAL WHICH WOULD BE COMPLETED BY THE TIME ELECTIONS ARE ON THE TOP AND HE MAY WIN THE ELECTIONS—AFGHANISTAN AND PAKISTAN CAN GO TO HELL—A.H AMIN
The best solutions must consider lessons learnt from the Soviet withdrawal in 1989, leaving power in hands of proxies and ignoring a broad based representative government. A representative government for Afghanistan does not mean democracy. Besides the people, it also means co-opting various warring groups, warlords and educated elites. Links with drug mafia and gun running are intrinsic. So unless these groups are satisfied, they have many supporters to make them disruptive.
BROAD BASED REPRESENTATIVE GOVERNMENT WAS NEVER THE LESSON IN SOVIET AFGHAN WAR— PAKISTAN HAD ITS STOOGES–LOWEST RUNG MULLAHS LIKE HAQQANI WHO AS PER HIS ISI HANDLER COL QASIM ABBAS STANK SO MUCH THAT THEN MAJOR QASIM MADE HIM SIT IN THE OPEN BACK BODY OF HIS VEHICLE–THERE WAS NO BROAD BASE IN SOVIET AFGHAN WAR AND NO BROAD BASE NOW–ONLY STOOGES-PAKISTANI STOOGES OR IRANIAN STOOGES OR AMERICAN STOOGES OR RUSSIAN STOOGES OR INDIAN STOOGES—A.H AMIN
USA, the Afghan resistance, Taliban and Pakistan have been here before as a resistance to Soviet occupation and then a broad based alliance approved by Pakistan and USA.
Return of warlords gave meteoric rise to Taliban. They over ran most Mujahedeen groups led by warlords and fought fierce battles with Al Qaeda.
AL QAEDA NEVER EXISTED — FOUGHT AFGHAN WAR AS LOGISTICS ADVISOR OF A SIDE –NEVER SAW AL QAEDA–BASED IN AFGHANISTAN SINCE 2001–NEVER SAW AL QAEDA—DAESH IS ALSO A FICTIONAL ENTITY THAT THE PAKISTANI STATE INVENTS WHEN IT GUNS DOWN INNOCENTS LIKE AT SAHIWALContinue reading The Last Hurdle to Afghan Peace