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Showing posts from January, 2010

BOOK REVIEW: THE GENESIS OF SOUTH ASIAN NUCLEAR DETERRANCE - PAKISTAN'S PERSPECTIVE

PUBLISHED IN Daily Times 30 Jan 2010
Author: Naeem Salik
REVIEWED BY Afrah Jamal
Published under the Title: NUCLEAR PAKISTAN – SETTING THE RECORD STRAIGHT - AGAIN

Going Nuclear is a lifestyle choice. For the original 5, it was a vital symbol of power. For Pakistan, it is a necessary evil. With 3 nuclear powers in the region, Pakistan is the only one that gives the world sleepless nights. As their least favourite (aspiring) club member, Pakistan is used to being eyed with suspicion and treated with disdain. Naeem Salik believes that current debates on Pakistan’s nuclear stance are speculative at best and slanderous at worst. But since studies from Pakistan are rare, it is not always easy to counteract the negative propaganda and/or hysterical fear mongering. As world leaders eye Pakistan with increasing wariness, it would be useful to hear out the man once in-charge of the conception & development of a nuclear command & control system along with ‘contours’ of Pakistan’s nucle…

BOOK REVIEW: Milestones in a Political Journey

Thanks to Dost Publications for the review copy

PUBLISHED IN DAILY TIMES / 23 JAN 2010

Author: M Asghar Khan
Reviewed by: Afrah Jamal
Published under the title: Snapshots of History

The title is misleading. Unless the definition of milestones has changed — the events depicted here are the very antithesis of milestones. Maelstroms would have been a more apt description. When things went south during Asghar Khan’s political struggle, which they did a lot while operating under the destructive influence of dictatorship in the absence of political capital, a free press and/or leverage, speech making and letter writing were the two options left to peace-loving activists. The writer used them extensively. And this is what this misleadingly titled book is all about — Asghar Khan’s thoughts expressed via a collection of letters, speeches, statements and articles spanning four decades. Like many memoirs, documents and books of that era, there is the obligatory parade of dictators and despots — Yah…

BOOK REVIEW: FLIGHT OF THE FALCON Story of a Fighter Pilot by S. Sajad Haider

PUBLISHED In Daily Times / 16 Jan 2010 & the PROBE & Posted in CHOWK

Sajad Haider’s (SJ) name made headlines, both in war and peace. The former remains his legacy, faithfully revisited every September. The latter became a fleeting moment in history, which no one talks about. This story would be incomplete without either - its shock and awe value – lessened, considerably. But when Haider’s debut novel - Flight of the Falcon, sets out to demolish myths of Indo-Pak wars 1965 & 1971, several other fine illusions became collateral damage in the process.

His legendary exploits during battle, notwithstanding, Haider’s fall from grace was swift. A recurring role in controversies (domestic and international) plagued his professional career. Refusal to conform caused its premature end. Out of these extraordinary, if unorthodox life experiences, is born a story that flaunts the unwritten code of silence typically held sacrosanct.

Haider saw action in both wars as commander of a fig…

VIEW: GOING DUTCH (2008)

Published in THE POST May 18, 2008

What does Cadbury have to do with 12 sketches and a 17 minute film? Nothing, really. Cadbury is neither Dutch nor Danish. But by now most Pakistanis - if not all - have probably received a text message stating otherwise. And thus begins a boycott campaign of all things Dutch or Danish. The self righteous lot, in their overzealousness, would acquiesce willingly. Yet, few who have received an email or sms that proclaimed the success of this boycott and lobbied for its continuity - or witnessed the demonstrations meant to convey outrage against both Denmark and the Netherlands for their alleged laxity in safeguarding certain religions’ sanctity - will stop to reflect on the virtues of pushing a hostile policy intended to coerce but neglecting to convince. Fewer still will bother to dig deeper and corroborate details of such episodes.

The cartoon controversy returned in 2008 – helped on by the aptly titled film ‘Fitna’- similarly denounced for its unflat…

BOOK REVIEW: CHARLIE WILSON’S WAR – The Extraordinary Story of The Largest Covert Operation in History

PUBLISHED in THE POST FEB 09, 2008


Before details of the largest and most elaborate covert operation surfaced in 2003, men in suits were thought to be in charge in the real world while lone rangers saved the day in Hollywood. The new version of the Afghan freedom fighters struggle against the Russian occupation is one which author George Cirle believed “neither the United States government, nor the forces of Islam will want to be known”. This former producer of the CBS show ‘60 Minutes’, while covering the Afghan angle in the 1980’s, crossed paths with a maverick Congressman and went on to pursue what could have been the biggest expose of its time. His findings made the greatest story instead; one with all the makings of an epic.

While the second coming of Afghan Mujahideen is neither romantic nor pleasant, back in the day however, a Texas Congressman’s personal crusade against Reds found expression in the Afghan Holy War and an unlikely partnership gave birth to the modern jihad of t…

VIEW: PAF - Both Sides of the COIN

Published In HILAL (Military Mag) Jan 2010

As gleaming multi-role fighters taxi down the runway, their occupants are ready for the looming battle yet, the war they are now about to embark on is unlike anything their predecessors have experienced. If taking on an enemy with a (non-existent) airpower capability and a pervasive hold over Pakistani territory is PAF’s latest mission; seamlessly transitioning from defenders of the skies to defenders of the soil – is its biggest challenge. As a conventionally armed air force adds another dimension of counterinsurgency (COIN) to its formidable list of specialities, the reshuffled priorities have revealed zero collateral damage as a guiding principal, and an intensive inter-services planning with PAK Army high command as a mandatory element of its COIN operations.

While an impressive armada of conventional weaponry is on standby for the long term threat, a more immediate danger puts PAF’s COIN capability to the test. And as the PAF carries on a…

VIEW: The Persian Inquisition

Published in THE POST SEP 29, 2007


“It should never be thought that merely to listen to ideas we deplore in any way implies our endorsement of those ideas, or the weakness of our resolve to resist those ideas or our naiveté about the very real dangers inherent in such ideas”; Lee C. Bollinger, President Columbia University pointed out, as he launched into a 19 minute invective against Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad; the speaker for World Leaders Forum, held at Columbia University on 24 September 2007; thus sparking the controversy that Ahmadinejad had been expected to ferment. While these words illustrated the sentiments of the university administration, they were merely a sample of the brutal character assassination that followed soon after.

Lee Bollinger may have been just a professor and the University’s President, as he put it but his diatribe lacked the finesse expected of an academics or the decorum exhibited by Americans on global platforms. He did, however, attack like…

VIEW: The Prince and the P***

PUBLISHED 30 Jan 2009 Muslim World Today(California)

‘Our little friend Paki’:

A four-letter word in this innocent sounding dialogue between Harry and his handheld camera hit an already frayed, overtly sensitive nerve of the Pak-British community in general and some Pakistanis in particular. Had we watched Prince Harry’s infamous video in Pakistan, without the accompanying howl of anger, would we still have noticed anything amiss? Maybe. May be not. The fuss over this sound byte was the first intimation for many Pakistanis that Paki was a racial slur, not a nickname used when convenient, not a prefix to be tacked to all things Pakistani and definitely not a term of endearment for their compatriots. And this revelation came as a surprise to folks who pleaded guilty to using the term often, both in earnest and in jest, with foreigners and without. Its usage is more common that one would think.

The same argument does not exempt foreigners apparently, which is why the case against Harry…

BOOK REVIEW: Three Presidents and an Aide - Life, Power and Politics

Published in Daily Times / 9 Jan 2010
Author: Ambassador Arshad Sami Khan SJ
Reviewed by: Afrah Jamal

MY DEAR COUNTRYMEN - three ‘nation altering words’ followed by some standard lines that come from an equally standard speech typically associated with the beginning or ending of a takeover. In Pakistan anyway. It is an increasingly familiar pattern, an unfortunate legacy and a well acted performance from otherwise green actors – that every generation gets to experience, analyze, dread and crib over for the remainder of their lives. It is also one that they seldom understand fully, can never challenge and forever speculate about. The camera eventually pans away from the triumphant or vanquished knight in fatigues! – the haze of mystery surrounding the men who wielded a nation’s fate in their hands oh so casually, remains.

What happened next – is always more interesting than scripted moments of history.

As an Aide-de-Camp (ADC), Arshad Sami Khan was perfectly positioned with an all acce…