Soldier of misfortune

By Khaled Ahmed

In the process of supporting a revisionist Army trying to survive, Pakistan as a state was damaged beyond repair

The Asghar Khan case was and is against ex-Army Chief General (Retd) Aslam Beg, not against late President Ghulam Ishaq Khan, even though the affidavits from Beg and General (Retd) Asad Durrani might imply that President Ghulam Ishaq, as the supreme commander, was at the root of the matter. As Younus Habib, the banker who carried out the ‘operation’ has made clear, it was Aslam Beg who was the mastermind; and the president was brought in later when a meeting was arranged at Balochistan House.

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ISI has taken over GHQ – By Najam Sethi

The army was constitutionally mandated to be an arm of the Pakistan state with elected civilians in control of the executive. But it has seized the commanding heights and subordinated the other organs of the state to its own unaccountable purposes.

In recent times, however, something even more sinister has been happening. This is the creeping growth of the ISI from a small arms-length intelligence directorate or department of the military (Inter Services Intelligence Directorate) in the initial decades of independent Pakistan to an omnipotent and invisible “deep state within the state” that now controls both military strategy and civilian policy.

General Pervez Musharraf’s unprecedented appointment of General Ashfaq Kayani, a former DG-ISI, as COAS was the first step in this direction. The second was General Kayani’s own decision to routinely rotate senior and serving ISI officers to positions of command and control in the army and vice-versa, coupled with his insistence on handpicking the DGISI and extending his service. Together, these decisions reflect a harsh new reality. The ISI has walked into GHQ and seized command and control of the armed forces.

This is a deeply troubling development because it violates the established norm-policy of all militaries in democratic societies – intelligence services must consciously be kept at arms length from GHQ because “field commanders must not get contaminated” or tainted by cloak and dagger operations in grey zones. That is why COAS Gen Zia ul Haq kicked Gen Akhtar Abdul Rehman, DGISI, upstairs to CJOSC rather than give him troops to command. That is why COAS Gen Asif Nawaz sidelined DGISI Gen Asad Durrani as IG Training and Evaluation. That is why COAS Gen Waheed Kakar prematurely retired Gen Durrani from service for playing politics in GHQ and then recommended Gen Jehangir Karamat as his successor rather than his close confidante and former DGISI Gen Javed Ashraf Qazi. Indeed, that is why the CIA, RAW, MI6, KGB, MOSSAD etc remain under full civilian operations and control even though soldiers may be seconded to them or head them occasionally.

The ISI’s meteoric rise in the 1980s is well documented. It became the official conduit for tens of billions of dollars of arms and slush funds from the US and Saudi Arabia to the Mujahideen against the Soviets in Afghanistan. Three serving generals of the time were billed as “the richest and most powerful generals in the world” by Time magazine in 1986. Two of them, Gen Akhtar Abdul Rehman and Gen Hameed Gul were in turn DGs-ISI while the third, General Fazle Haq, was the Peshawar gatekeeper to Afghanistan.

Three Prime Ministers have fallen victim to the ISI. PM Junejo ran afoul of DGs ISI Gen Hameed Gul and Gen Akhtar Abdul Rehman over the Ojhri Camp disaster. Benazir Bhutto was undermined by DGs ISI Gen Gul and General Asad Durrani. And Nawaz Sharif by DG ISI Gen Javed Ashraf Qazi and COAS Gen Waheed Kakar. Indeed, Mr Sharif might have survived in 1999 if Gen Musharraf had not earlier cunningly moved Gen Mohammad Aziz from the ISI to GHQ as CGS because it was the latter who nudged Corps Commander Pindi Gen Mahmood Ahmed to execute the coup in the absence of Gen Musharraf.

The ISI’s creeping coup – ISI officers returning to command positions in the army – against GHQ is fraught with problems. It has eroded the credibility and capacity of both the current DG ISI and COAS within the military and civil society. The ISI’s spectacular failures (BB’s assassination, Mumbai, Raymond Davis case, missing persons, Memogate, Mehrangate, Abbotabad, Saleem Shehzad, Get-Zardari, etc) can all be laid at GHQ’s door just as the ISI’s anti-terrorist policy failures are responsible for the loss of over 3000 soldiers to the Pakistan Taliban and the terrorist attacks on GHQ and Mehran Navy Base. The fact that both the COAS and DG ISI have taken extensions in service has also undermined their credibility far and wide.

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Forced conversion of Hindus in Pakistan jolts US out of slumber

By Chidanand Rajghatta

WASHINGTON: Pakistan’s state-endorsed discrimination, and in some cases extermination, of its minorities has finally caught the eye of Washington lawmakers. Coming on the heels of support in Congress for a Baloch homeland in the face of Islamabad’s depredations in the region, a US Congressman has zeroed in on the abduction and forced religious conversion of Hindus in the country highlighted by the case of Rinkel Kumari.

In a sharply-worded letter to Pakistan’s President Asif Ali Zardari, Congressman Brad Sherman urged him to take action to ensure the return of Rinkel Kumari to her family, pursuant to reports that she had been abducted with the help of a Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) lawmaker. In a case that has been widely reported in the liberal Pakistani media, Rinkel, who was abducted on February 24, was forced to marry one Naveed Shah and convert to Islam.

She was subsequently produced before a civil judge twice, but she was reportedly coerced into claiming that she had converted on her own will, even as her family was denied access to her in kangaroo court proceedings that revealed in video clips to be led by a frenzied mob of zealots, including armed followers of the Pakistani lawmaker. According to Pakistani civil liberties activists in Washington DC, Rinkel was allegedly threatened while in police custody that if she did not change her statement, she and her family would be killed.

”Rinkel Kumari’s case is just one case of abduction and forced religious conversion in Pakistan,” Congressman Sherman said in the letter to Zardari, citing the Asian Human Rights commission figure of 20-25 kidnappings and forced conversions of Hindu girls in Sindh every month. ”I urge you to take all necessary steps to bring an end to this practice and other harassment of Hindus in Pakistan.”

The Rinkel Kumari case was brought to the attention of US lawmakers not by Hindu activists but by the Sindhi American Political Action Committee (SAPAC), a lobby group that, like the Baloch groups, is increasingly asserting the secular and syncretic identity of Pakistan’s Sindhi community in the face of growing Islamization in the country. Sapac activists are telling US lawmakers that state sponsored discrimination against minority groups in Pakistan is rampant and is causing Hindus to migrate out of Pakistan in droves.

Hindus, who constituted more than 15 per cent of Pakistan’s population soon after Partition, have now dwindled to less than two per cent, mostly in some districts of Sindh. There have been several reports in recent months of Hindu families seeking to migrate to India in the face of growing radical Islamization of Pakistan, including abduction and forcible conversions, but it is the first time that Washington, which literally slept over Pakistan’s genocide of Bengalis in 1970-71, is paying attention to the issue.

US interest in the Rinkel Kumari case comes close on the heels of sudden support in Congress for Baloch self-determination, an effort led by California lawmaker Dana Rohrabacher. That effort has rattled Islamabad to the extent that it has told American interlocutors that Pakistan-US ties will be deeply affected if Washington interfered in Balochistan, even though the Obama administration has clarified that support for an independent Balochistan is confined to the Hill, where lawmakers are free to introduce any legislation they deem appropriate. That in turn resulted in Sherry Rehman, Pakistan’s ambassador to the U.S.,, writing to House Speaker John Boehner, expressing deep concern over Congressional action on Balochistan.

Courtesy: TOI