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BOOK REVIEW: “Asia - Search for Security and Cooperation” Book-II

PUBLISHED IN PAKISTAN OBSERVER JUNE 17, 2007

Arguably, major shifts in both perception & priorities can be attributed to significant upheavals in the global and political dynamics, arising, partially from the vestiges of the Cold War, threatened exclusivity of the nuclear club(to the dismay of 5) and absolutely from actions of 9/11.

The emergence of the Asian continent as a globally predominant security concern merits the exploration of its complex, long drawn out regional conflicts while identifying the security/cooperative challenges, the neglect of which will jeopardize global stability given the fragility of a nuclear setting on hostile territory.

And this is what ‘Asia-Search for Security & Cooperation’ aims to do.

Maj. General (R) Jamshed Ayaz Khan is an authority on matters pertaining to regional and International affairs being the head of Institute of Regional Studies(Islamabad) and his second book ‘Asia-Search for Security & Cooperation’ is, in fact, a compilation …

BOOK REVIEW: Frontline Pakistan: The Struggle With Militant Islam (2007)

Author: Zahid Hussain

PUBLISHED IN THE POST JUNE 14, 2007

Reviewed by: Afrah Jamal

Frontline Pakistan: the struggle with militant Islam goes for the jugular with an insiders look at a deformed culture borne of a dated ideology, fueled by vested interest and driven by intolerance; and a nation’s complicity.

Not surprisingly, the legitimacy granted jihadists by ISI-CIA ran out soon, as did the sympathy for their jihadist actions formally perceived as heroic. Once used to counter the threat of communism, the rapid shift in their objectives that placed Pakistan’s national interest on a collision course with its security rendered them an anachronism.

This led to a parting of ways with the ISI; consequently, the deadliness of operations and depth of penetration in society seen in the context of 9/11 forever breached the line between liberators and terrorists.

Veteran journalist Zahid Hussain, Pakistani correspondent for the "Times of London", "The Wall Street Journal", …

VIEW: Alibi

PUBLISHED IN MUSLIM WORLD TODAY(calif.) SEP 12, 2008

“Thou shalt not be a victim. Thou shalt not be a perpetrator. Above all, thou shalt not be a bystander”
Holocaust Museum, Washington, DC

Somewhere in the remote region of Baluchistan, a few women are killed and buried, and not necessarily in that order. Their exact number is debatable and the manner of death is still under investigation. If the unofficial version is to be believed, they were buried alive on the whim of the elders, with perhaps just a little backing from some influential quarters. This chilling murder involves antiquated customs which unfortunately, have never gone out of style.

To the bewilderment of the civilized world, this incident goes unnoticed for nearly two months. When the Parliaments Upper House finally asks why, Senator Israrullah Zehri, dismissively shrugs it off as ‘Tradition’ – one of the most powerful and disturbing words in tribal culture. He is not alone for Acting Chairman Senate Jan Muhammad Jamali…

VIEW: Swat Deal: Profitable Merger or Hostile Takeover?

PUBLISHED IN THE POST AS Swat deal: a hostile takeover? SEP 22, 2008

When a house came under rocket attack in Peshawar cantonment on 19th May, the incident went without serious comment because after all, these acts are commonplace enough in 2008. What made it significant for me was that the very house had once been my home. That would be the year when Soviets had all but withdrawn from Afghanistan and the only close call then had been an airspace incursion from the Afghan side of the border. But, what happened in the confrontation between the fearless Afghan pilot and military officials present that day is no where as alarming as what happened 19 years later with the fearsome pro-Taliban and the State officials elected today.

A peace treaty in war torn Swat has a nice ring to it. Does a pacification strategy towards militancy mean that a country which stood up to Communism capitulated to Fascism? Not so, say government officials who hasten to draw a distinction between peace loving mi…

BOOK REVIEW: Reagan Diaries

Reviewed By: Afrah Jamal
PUBLISHED IN THE POST / OCT 13, 2007

Much has been written about the man who ushered in the end of the Cold War and survived the fallout of Iran-Contra scandal. And now it appears, as much has been written by the man himself in diaries he kept during his 8 year tenure as President of the United States. Presidential diaries are rare. Publicizing one is unprecedented.

‘The Reagan diaries’ are an abridged version of records Ronald Reagan kept from 1981-1989 which also served as reference material for his autobiography. Other than 6 pages redacted for National security reasons and some on Nancy Reagan’s request, these diaries are an edifying dramatization of Reagan’s presidential duties, private commitments, personal thoughts and high profile State visits. Edited by Douglas Brinkley, contributing editor Vogue and in-house historian CBS News, these posthumously published diaries are important on several levels and while they by no means ‘give away everything’, the…

VIEW: Rallies are like Russian Roulette (2007)

PUBLISHED IN THE POST JUN 07, 2007

As early warning signs of potential unrest preceded the proposed Karachi rallies of 12th May 2007, the consequences of a newly acquired affliction with the rally-syndrome became glaringly obvious on 12th May 2007. Granted that the mayhem witnessed in Karachi or the tragic conclusion of a rally in Charsadda is more of an exception than the norm, given the post 9/11 scenario, the old adage of safety in numbers no longer applies. Besides, the inconvenience faced by the people makes the concept irksome while its management makes the process dated. Notwithstanding the constitutional right of citizens to hold demonstrations or address congregations, places like Islamabad end up being sealed, Karachi is left in an appalling political mess and NWFP has to deal with the tragedy of Charsadda.

Polls will find that people like us are not in favor of rallies; and judging from the way they can end up, it is fairly easy to see why. There is an inherent flaw in the …

VIEW: NATO BOOTS - A LETTER

PRINTED IN THE POST SEP 21, 2008

One of the mandates of our recently elected government was to annihilate Taliban sanctuaries; allowing NATO boots on the ground was also somewhere down the agenda.

It has not escaped notice that the ‘Boots’ have come on the heels of the new presidency. Their presence, confirms that Washington has given the green light to a controversial new strategy their media has been hinting at for months. A strategy that promises more action within Pakistani territory and a planned surge in Afghanistan makes their intentions perfectly clear. The war on terror has taken a crucial turn and there will be more where that came from. And though Pakistani leadership has been slow to react, statements from Pakistan’s military brass indicate that they not happy with this arrangement.

The Pak-Afghan border has been declared a new frontline by Washington, proving that perhaps authorisation or approval is no longer considered central to the partnership. While the new governmen…

VIEW: ‘Press—Amendment’

PUBLISHED IN THE POST AS FREEDOM OF THE PRESS JULY 03, 2007

Free press is multi -dimensional; it anchors democracy in the civilized world, preserves the semblance of democratic systems elsewhere, and could serve as an independent reformer of society; therefore, its longevity is desirable and a well governed, better regulated setup critical.

Now that the impressive credentials of a free press have been established, we can move on to its fate in our society.

Where we stand today regarding the state of journalism manifests itself in the form of events that, from a distance, indicate widening fissures in press freedom land. Pakistan’s ranking in terms of press freedom comes at a dismal 157 in 2006 down from 119 in 2002 ; a questionnaire considering actions taken against journalists and media outlets censored, seized or ransacked provides the press freedom index. The events of 2007 suggest that we may be headed further South in press freedom land.

While the track record of this government…

VIEW: The Enemy of my Enemy? (2008)

PUBLISHED IN THE POST JAN 24, 2008?

The good news; terrorists are on the run in Swat.

The bad news?

See the good news
.

Does achieving the military objective signal an end of terrorism? Or just imply a break in a long winded terror campaign.

The latter seems more probable, considering 2 suicide attacks which were only 3 days apart in Swat and Lahore in the first 10 days of 2008 and terror that struck Karachi 5 days afterwards.

Which is why reports of successful operations in Swat meant to foster long term stability, at least in that particular region, fail to raise hopes about the short term security in the rest of Pakistan. Especially when certain cities have once again been placed on high alert after intelligence indicated the entry of more potential bombers. The January 17, 2008 attack on Peshawar demonstrates the accuracy of this intelligence without altering our growing susceptibility to terror.

Interior Minister Hamid Nawaz wants citizens to cooperate with police and law enfor…

BOOK REVIEW: TWICE AS GOOD - CONDOLEEZZA RICE AND HER PATH TO POWER

PUBLISHED IN THE POST SEP 13, 2007


Though this biography has been penned by a ‘brother’ and bears the stamp of approval from Condoleezza Rice herself, it neither endorses her politics, nor excuses divisive policies. It instead assembles particular facets of her life to identify the glimmer of a luminary in the racial obscurity of the South and outline her decisive path to power. In seeking to present a ‘honorable and fair’ portrayal of Dr. Rice, NEWS WEEK CHIEF OF CORRESSPONDENTS, Marcus Mabry abstains from airbrushing any imperfections revealed behind the ‘practically perfect’ public demeanor and instead allows them to clarify the enigma we know as Condoleezza Rice: who made history on two counts: first, as a person of color and second, as a female U.S Secretary of State. Marcus Mabry sallied forth to peace together the origins of her enduring relationship with success through in-depth interviews with Rice while her friends, family, colleagues and unnamed sources contributed to his fi…

VIEW: Aftermath: Damned if you do, Damned if you don’t

PUBLISHED IN THE POST JULY 18, 2007 AS OPERATION SILENCE - THE AFTERMATH


No crystal ball was needed to predict that violent or peaceful, the end would come for the anti-State movement initiated from the Islamabad mosque. It was also very apparent that all the patience in the world or negotiations for that matter will not prevent many from affixing the label of ‘Brute’ on the State.

Barely had the operation ended the critique began. The fact that such negotiations could have lasted for 51 days without any positive outcome, like the Waco Texas incident of 1993, suddenly became inconsequential; as did the rescue of some 1350 people. The collateral damage however brought the clerical group on the streets. It was between the gun and the gallows for the identified militants in any case. The State will argue that it proceeded with extreme caution and much has been said about their delaying tactics but suddenly, and not surprisingly, the fortitude of 6 months has become an ineffective trump c…

VIEW: Pandora II

PUBLISHED IN THE POST AUG 04, 2007

The last thing I expected on 27 July 2007 was to be blindsided with, what appeared to be a reenactment of events witnessed earlier in the month in Pakistan’s Capitol. The place was the same and so were some of the key players. The Islamabad mosque reopened for Friday prayers amid adequate security measures but its abrupt descent into chaos proved how naïve we all were to think that former anarchists had been tamed or their belligerent mood mellowed with time. The security gates could only check for fissile material and not the threat posed by the former students, ex-detainees and sympathizers associated with the Mosque and seminary.

Like a rerun of a bad film, the radicals demanded that the surviving rebel Maulana conduct Friday prayers and the denial of this demand rapidly led to civil unrest once more. Labeled simply as activists, they are in reality ‘activated’, a legacy of the two brothers. The police, possibly afraid of provoking further disturba…

VIEW: Conspiracy Theory

PUBLISHED IN THE POST JAN 05, 2007


Insinuations – by politicians and media pundits, are making global rounds.

About election rigging, the opposition claims that a well known political leaders’ assassination came hours before she was about to uncover a spectacular result manipulation scheme hatched by none other than the government. About the incident itself, the existence of Baitulah Mehsud – a Taliban commander who likes beheading Pakistani soldiers, or the Al-Qaeda, fond of targeting odd interior ministers in mosques or rallies and attacking children’s buses, is disregarded in favour of the notion that none of them could possibly have a hand in the recent assassination. About the post-mortem, they allege that the medical report was cooked up. About the subsequent law and order breakdown, they maintain that no party loyalist could possibly have been involved in arson or looting and the sole beneficiary of the post assassination deterioration of law and order situation was a governme…

BOOK REVIEW: Plan of Attack (2004)

PUBLISHED IN THE POST


The chain of events set in motion by events of 9/11 led USA to War and have been extensively documented by the press; Bob Woodward, a reporter of the Washington Post has been at the helm of this Crusade (not to be confused with ‘the’ Crusades) with his trilogy of ‘Bush At War’, relentless in his pursuit of the truth.

Post ‘State of Denial’, (the authors most recent offering) Woodward had unique access to Presidential views and thus, his 9th book, ‘Plan of Attack’ presents an insider look at the Principals, Presidents and the British Prime Ministers level of involvement and degree of commitment for a War Plan that threatened to alienate the United States from many of its allies and nearly cost Blair his Premiership. All the same, the President made the tough call, followed by a reluctant Powell, optimistic Cheney, steadfast to the end Blair and an ostensibly well prepared military.

‘Plan of Attack’ is the second book of the recent Woodward trilogy. This impressiv…

VIEW: Asymmetric Conflict (2007)

By Afrah Jamal

PUBLISHED IN THE POST OCT 27, 07

It is no longer a toss up between ‘will they?’ or ‘won’t they?’ Not when it comes to terrorist strikes in 2007. Analysts are more likely to have turned, albeit grimly, to pinpointing the ‘where’, ‘when’ and speculate about the ‘who’. The recent bombing in Karachi confirms that ‘where’ is not that difficult to ascertain as it gradually dawns on people that the attack in the early hours of 19 Oct 2007 is merely a snippet of a prolonged terror campaign. Therefore, it is futile to pretend that these are isolated incidents of violence, easily pre-empted or averted.

Foreign Correspondent, Greg Palkot covered Ms. Bhutto’s return for FOX News Channel and made a valid point in his blog - Dispatches from the Terror Front: Can Terrorism Be Tamed in Pakistan? that, “In the terror analysis business, hindsight is always 20/20”. However, concerns of the citizens in the days leading up to 18 October 2007 were worth paying attention to. Their critique i…

VIEW: Dealing with Emergent Threats

PUBLISHED IN THE POST JULY 11, 07

Is the primary threat to a sovereign state still its enemy’s military capability?

Given that the world learnt the fine art of countering, deterring and neutralizing such physical threats and also became adept at threatening each another with weapons neither one can ever use, many will concede the next big challenge for national security is the emergent threat of extremism.

The exact origin of extremism within a State is perhaps difficult to pinpoint and very hard to combat for it resides in the mind of the enemy and can take form anywhere, anytime with devastating consequences.

Which is the reason vigilance now needs to be exercised as much inside the border as at them - vigilance and prompt action. Extremism feeds on the ignorance and frustration of the common man and instills a cold contempt for human life and property. It is a worrying sign in any circumstance. It becomes especially disturbing when its followers threaten to destabilize not just o…

VIEW: Burden of Proof

PUBLISHED IN THE POST DEC 08, 07

Pakistan’s kaleidoscopic political scenario leaves the nation hedging its bets on the possible outcome while an apparent alliance of leading political parties emerges, still holding a possible electoral boycott as a valuable bargaining chip.

Meanwhile a charter of demands devised by the APDM-ARD, may suggest revoking post November 03 2007 actions of the government, which resulted in a re-shuffled judiciary, and the cherry picked caretaker government. The governments consent to the charter will automatically set the ‘heads you win, tails i lose’ clause in motion for the President and allay oppositions’ fear of rigging to an extent. Quite possibly, it may bench the formidable opponent who has been in the game for 8 years and open the door for some of the major players whose democratic declarations are their strongest and perhaps only asset. Either that or a possible poll alliance of key parties would decide to go ahead and contest without seeking furthe…