Skip to main content

OP-ED: Grim Reapers & the Peace 'Corpse'


Published in Daily Times / 10 Nov 2013 Sunday Ed

The death of an important Taliban figure is a cause célèbre at drone central. Here, not so much. Here, we prefer to sit around the fireside and wallow. That in turn pushes drone morality, sovereignty violation, the untimely demise of the peace talk genie, and terrorism US ‘shtyle’ to the top of the agenda while the smiling face of a dead Mehsud looks on.

The US-made spanner, which upset the Waziristan bound applecart, was unexpected. Or was it? An incident took place in Afghanistan prior to the appearance of that Predator. Killing Hakeemullah Mehsud — a man with a double bounty over his head (in dollars and Pak rupees) — comes on the heels of Latif Mehsud’s capture in Afghanistan in early October 2013. The Tehreek-e-Taliban’s (TTP’s) right hand man, allegedly caught canoodling with KHAD/NDS and picked up by our mutual friends, may hold the key.

Rumour has it that Mehsud was being cultivated as an Afghan asset to get even with Pakistani agencies. There is no love lost between KHAD/NDS (National Directorate of Security) and ISI or Karzai and Nawaz, notwithstanding all this talk of ‘Muslim brotherhood’. The Pak-sponsored science project (the original Taliban) foisted on them, reportedly haunts Afghans to this day. If Mehsud had been turned, then the so-called truce was automatically void. No one likes a spy.

What would be the reaction of the state when Mehsud’s allegedly unholy alliance came to the fore, assuming that it did as a result of shared ‘intel’? Pakistan could not have wanted an Afghan stooge in their carefully cultivated peace mix. Wasn’t it in their joint interest then to have him taken out of the equation? In a way, Hakeemullah Mehsud’s demise was well timed. And in an ideal world no one would blame them for neutralising duplicitous heads who have the blood of Pakistani/Afghani/American citizens on their hands.

Mehsud granted an interview to BBC days after his henchman’s run-in with the Americans. The transcript is illuminating.

The TTP continues to keep jihad against infidels, and by association Pakistani men, women and children as the centrepiece, even after the US withdrawal. The most telling part, however, is their precondition for a ceasefire, which is an end to drone wars. Mehsud also threw in support for future conflicts with other enemies as a bonus in what could be an attempt to bait an India-obsessed army. For someone who kept insisting that the media will not be used to convey terms, conditions or used for proxy negotiations, there were plenty strewn about.

With his trusty deputy in US custody, did the TTP leader realise he was on his way to becoming a statistic? Latif may have sung since he is in Bagram, and given up Mehsud’s location. But the Taliban leadership is never stationary. This could be when Mehsud Sr saw the proverbial writing on the cave wall and decided to vie for the precious immunity pin by dangling the same old lie knowing Pakistani’s kindly (read gullible) nature. The sense of complacency that followed perhaps helped pinpoint his whereabouts.

In the past, treaties have been mere stalling tactics giving TTP time to regroup, order more ammo, recap on their training and wait out the winter. This time, as ‘talks about talks’ were underway, the body count on the Pakistani side kept mounting but not once did anyone question the purely one-sided arrangement. The idea that the November 1 attack could turn out to be part of a covert strategy, which felt that slicing the head to make the writhing TTP more amenable to talks, could effectively drown out the howls of political/media pundits. And such surgical strikes take a leaf out of the Taliban’s own playbook: don’t let talk of peace get in the way of war.

Such ideas are rarely aired in toxic environments. Not when Imran Khan’s charged appeal to stop NATO supply and Chaudhry Nisar’s outraged press conference to question the sinister timing of said attack, and maybe let slip that this is not our war, take the lead.

The last time NATO supply routes became news was after the Salala incident where 24 Pakistani soldiers came in the line of (US) fire. This time it is to protest the slaying of a terrorist. Somewhere, our fallen are turning in their graves.

The US-Pakistan alliance frosts over yet again; the US ambassador has been served with a demarche while the state continues to maintain plausible deniability over possible intelligence sharing ops that ensure the success of such strikes. It would be naïve to think that the terror network will remain in disarray or the leadership void be left empty for long. The TTP scale may not register degraded capability but this might count as a psychological victory in some circles. Unfortunately, this could also trigger the dreaded revenge cycle.

The ‘Most Wanted’ holed up in Pakistan and safe havens dotted across the countryside threaten the integrity of a sovereign state far more than any drone ever could. Stacking a viable peace strategy with the right proportions of carrot and stick and less emotional leaders at the helm might yield a more durable framework. The TTP will always be suspicious of any overtures, as long as the drones stay overhead, but they have yet to earn the state’s trust. Or its sympathy.

Image 1 Link

Image 2 Link

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: 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…

BOOK REVIEW: Quiet Diplomacy: Memoirs of an Ambassador of Pakistan / Author: Jamsheed Marker

PUBLISHED IN Daily Times /February 06, 2010

REVIEWED BY: Afrah Jamal

Jamsheed Marker belongs to an exceptional cadre of Foreign Service officers entrusted to keep things on an even keel on the diplomatic stage. Providence chose him to fill the void brought on by a sudden influx of newly independent nations and the subsequent need to expand diplomatic service during the 1960s. A stellar career in fostering global diplomacy as the longest serving ambassador has earned him a special place in history.

This veteran Pakistani diplomat has a striking resume. With ten posts and nine accreditations, his name appears in the Guinness Book of World Records for being the only person to have served as ambassador to more countries than anyone. He took his curtain call when Pakistan declared him Ambassador at Large in 2004, and has been on the faculty at Eckerd College, St Petersburg — Florida as Diplomat-in-Residence. He ended his tenure with a wry observation, ‘the batting card on the scorecard to M…

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 …

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…