Skip to main content

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 in the aftermath is equally significant; whether it is to question the wisdom of blocking the main artery of Karachi for an entire day or the folly of not congregating in a reasonably secure location in view of a credible threat. So far, these issues have been sidestepped in favor of some bizarre conspiracy theories.

Ironically enough, the International opinion seems to side with Ms. Bhutto’s decision to lead a rally in such a manner; the following post by Paula Newberg argues that “Even under explicit threats, no politician returning from eight years of exile would agree to helicopter to a rally. The people, after all, are what make politics real -- they are the engine that fuels any possibility that Pakistan might one day achieve a representative democracy. So Bhutto shunned the government's offer of a helicopter and by most accounts, the bulletproof cabin that was to remove her threats, and her adoring supporters.”

That would be one way of looking at it.

However, considering that not one but four suicide squads had already ‘shown their hand’ so to speak, this argument abruptly becomes invalid. Ms. Bhutto also claims to have received names of 3 ringleaders and telephone numbers before her arrival to Karachi but according to a report in the ‘Guardian Unlimited’, this information was forwarded to the President on the eve of her return and not before.

Then there is the theory that darkness cloaked the bomber implying that a human bomb can be contained. “As the sun set, we saw that the street lights had been closed. Our security guards were having a difficulty in identifying suicide bombers....because we couldn't see.” The top leadership escaped virtually unscathed despite the darkness, and traumatized though they must be from the proximity of this attack, they need to consider that barring perhaps a thermal signature technology, detection or deterrence of this primitive but lethal threat is not a perfect science - not yet.

Allegations also link this attack to the supporters of someone (Zia-ul-Haq), who himself fell a victim to an assassination 18 years ago and shadowy military organizations. With this logic, does it also follow that these mysterious forces were behind the Tarbela Ghazi ‘fratricide’ of 12 September 2007, where 20 elite SSG officers were killed and 44 injured? Or the twin bombings near the military headquarters in the garrison town of Rawalpindi, which left 25 dead and 68, injured? What about the 28 other bombings that have occurred all over Pakistan this year alone?

If the 19 October Karachi bombings were an attack against democracy then how would we classify attacks on Pakistan’s Interior Minister Aftab Sherpao, President Musharaaf, Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz and the Pakistani security forces? At a time when Pakistan is trying to dissociate itself from extremist elements, baseless allegations involving government officials in terrorist activities are not only unpardonable but also extremely irresponsible. They signify this states connivance or ineffectiveness; either perception could be fatal for our sovereignty.

The recently targeted party graciously considers a reevaluation of their campaign strategy but the governments proposal of moving rallies to the outskirts of the city or secured areas has met with resistance in some quarters and led to accusations of a “grand rigging plan" by others. Reckless disregard of the new realities can spell an early death for the fledgling democratic movement the world seems to be banking on with a possible replay of this tragedy. The nation demands that in the midst of an asymmetric conflict such as this, terror must now be factored in each politician’s itinerary. Its awareness is already ingrained within every civilians mind.

Images Courtesy of: http://publicmb.files.wordpress.com/2007/10/trafic-plan-18-oct-07-in-karachi1.JPG

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

BOOK REVIEW: Pakistan: Beyond The ‘Crisis State’ / Author: Maleeha Lodhi

Thanks to Liberty Books for the review copy

Published in Daily Times / Saturday, June 18, 2011

Reviewed by Afrah Jamal

Published under the title: 17 Reasons to Hope

“History will be what we make it. If we go on as we are, history will have its revenge and retribution”— from the movie, ‘Good Night, & Good Luck’

A region known for most “terrorist sightings”, a place feared for harbouring medieval mindsets next to progressive thinkers and a nation shunned for having an affinity for nuclear toys. By turns a cautionary tale, an indispensable ally and an international pariah, Pakistan does not fit into any mould — for long. But its name crops up whenever things go awry.

Pakistan: Beyond the ‘Crisis State’ is a compilation of articles put together by Maleeha Lodhi that countermands the grim prognosis. When Ms Lodhi, who has served as Pakistan’s ambassador to the US and UK, acknowledges that “resilience has been part of Pakistan’s story from its inception, obscured by the single issue lens…

BOOK REVIEW: Women and the Weight Loss Tamasha

Thanks to Liberty Books for the review copy

Published in Daily Times / Saturday, February 26, 2011
Under the Title: A Play-book for Losers
Reviewed By: Afrah Jamal
Author: Rujuta Diwekar

Master: “You are free to eat.”

Po: “Am I?”

Master: “Are you?” —
Dialogue from Kung Fu Panda (2008)

Po, the Kung Fu Panda, doubted his mentor/master much like readers will doubt a nutritionist guru when she hands over an exclusive pass to eat and, yet, maintain a strategic advantage in the fight against fat.

They need not.

A thriving industry feeds off of ignorance about weight-related issues. And when health and happiness become collateral damage in the mad dash for the finish line, it is time to alter the game plan.

‘Nutritionist to the stars’ Rujuta makes this lonely trek to the promised land a joyful experience where food is not the enemy, and learning the art of making better judgment calls is on the menu. Since she labels the struggle with weight loss a tamasha (spectacle) at the very outset, r…

BOOK REVIEW: Hira Mandi / Author: Claudine Le Tourneur Dlson

Published in Daily Times Saturday, February 11, 2012

Reproduced on Claudine Le Tourneur Dlson's Website

Translated from French by Priyanka Jhijaria

Reviewed by Afrah Jamal

A programme about Hira Mandi did the internet rounds a couple of years ago. It claimed, among other things, that the sons of the ‘dancers’ reportedly end up as lawyers, doctors, artists — a few join politics and some even reach the military. These outrageous statistics may be one of the reasons the documentary was banned from the mainstream media. That and its primary premise — the plight of the fallen women — would prompt the conservatives to howl with dismay before scurrying off to bury any evidence in the backyard along with other bodies.


Claudine Le Tourneur d’Ison embeds such wrenching moments in a bold narrative where its doomed protagonist can hail the brave new world and its genteel patrons from an extraordinary vantage point. The expedition to the underworld with the unfortunate progeny and the hapless…

OPED: The Great Exodus

Published, Global Affairs Feb 2017

The MIG 21 parked in the Pakistan Air Force Museum Karachi is not exactly a war trophy – it belongs to an Afghan defector who flew by one day and landed at Peshawar air base sometime in 1989 / 1990. He was seeking refuge in Pakistan. There had been others before him. Three decades later, young Afghans are still seeking greener pastures – and making headlines because among them is a trailblazing female pilot who had made her nation proud but preferred to stay behind in the United States while on a training tour.

Pakistan has been doubling as Afghan nationals’ second home for over three and a half decades – hosting some 1.5 registered and 1 million unregistered. It ranks amongst the top three largest refugee communities in the world. The stream of defectors, asylum seekers, migrants and refugees kept flowing while the Reds retreated, Taliban invaded and all through the American occupation.

That surge has been unexpectedly quelled.

There’s a migr…

BOOK REVIEW: Outclass Teams: Secrets of Building High-Performance, Result-Oriented Teams / Author: Qaiser Abbas

Thanks to Possibilities Publications for the review copy

Published by Daily Times / Saturday, February 25, 2012

Reviewed by Afrah Jamal

Runaway Teams beware. Qaiser Abbas is an organisational psychologist, author of books like the Tik Tok Dollar and the upcoming Leadership Insights — and one canny facilitator who introduced Pakistan to the concept of ‘Management by Adventure’, or as he likes to call it, MBA. His mission of rescuing wayward teams from doom makes him dash in and out of companies on a regular basis. Prompted by the success of such expeditions, he proceeds to refine these insights for a book on team-building and a lecture on group dynamics.

As someone who specialised in using experiential learning methodology in outdoor training, Abbas swears by well-structured one-day team-building programmes over time spent bonding over social activities. His recent book takes an in-depth look at this phenomenon to determine the value of team-building, show the expertise needed to ensure…

KARACHI DIARIES: MASTERCHEF Comes to Pakistan

Published in Economic Affairs / May 2014 P-20

Last year ‘MasterChef Australia’ S04 contestant came to town. Amina Elshafei, described as an ‘unassuming young lady from Sydney’, had been brought in by the Australian High Commissioner’s office and spread the joy of fusion cooking as part of her good-will mission. Around the same time unconfirmed rumors that MasterChef was headed to Pakistan were floating around. By April 2014, the rumors had officially been laid to rest.


‘MasterChef Pakistan’ is set to go on air by 3rd May 2014. The press conference in AVARI (Karachi) threw together an elegant presentation topped off by a divine hi-tea. The MasterChef franchise is already a household favorite, and makes everyone a judge of culinary prowess, and the lead authority on cuisine. Sidra Iqbal, the host for the evening, had also noted this amusing trend, listing Pakistani food as the ultimate source of drama.


His Excellency, the Australian High Commissioner to Pakistan, Peter Heyworth while …

VIEW: The Man Who Made A Desert Bloom

Published inDaily Times / Saturday, January 01, 2011

By Afrah Jamal

“O Lord! We have crash-landed!” was Hafeez Khan’s first reaction when his aircraft touched down in what appeared to him the middle of nowhere. The plane was one that could land on unprepared surfaces, which is just as well since there was nothing remotely resembling a proper airstrip at that time in Abu Dhabi. Awaiting him was a king with a dream, a desert starved for greenery, and a dusty blueprint of a future that appeared far-fetched.

Today, three things strike first time visitors to the beautiful city of Al Ain — tree lined avenues, roundabouts and the absence of tall buildings. Al Ain, which is the other city in the state of Abu Dhabi, in the past bore an unfortunate resemblance to a gigantic sandbox.

It was not that long ago and Abu Dhabi state had just struck it rich with black gold. But no one could mistake any part of the Trucial state of the 1960s for the ‘garden city of the Gulf’. Khan may have felt that he …