interview
Poverty is also a defence issue
By Saeed Ur Rehman
The News on Sunday: When and how did you plan what eventually became Crossed Swords?
Shuja Nawaz: I first thought of writing a historical study of our armed forces in 1971 when I was working as a war correspondent for the PTV. Then, while I was completing my MA in Journalism from Columbia University, I started collecting documents that I would need to consult and analyse for writing this book. In the US, I consulted the National Archives. At that time, I showed my preliminary work to Ayesha Jalal who suggested that I explore the British Public Records Office too. Consulting the British records helped me understand the British perspective on Pakistan's military capabilities and heritage. Later on, I talked to General Aslam Beg and he allowed me to consult the army libraries. When my brother Asif Nawaz became a general, I stopped consulting the official records. By 1999, I had eighteen boxes of papers and books which I transported everywhere I was working. I seriously started writing in 2005 and then wrote six days a week. Eventually, I had about one thousand pages. The thickness of the volume was daunting for the publisher and the reader so I had to reduce it to its present status.

History of our Insecurity
Crossed Swords:
Pakistan, its Army, and the Wars within.
Shuja Nawaz.
Oxford University Press.
2008.
Pages: 655
Price: Rs. 695
By Sarwat Ali
One wonders whether one is better informed or wiser about the ubiquitous institution that has spread its tentacles in all areas of the country after going through Shuja Nawaz's voluminous effort of more than six hundred pages on the Pakistan Army.

A word about letters
By Kazy Javed
Shakespeare of Sindh
Two recent events have reminded me of Shamsul Ulema Mirza Qaleech Baig who was once described by The Times of India as the Shakespeare of Sindh in the early days of the last century.
One of the two events is a short but well-written book on the life and literary achievements of Mirza Qaleech Baig that has been published by the Pakistan Academy of Letters. I got this book a few weeks ago, thumbed through it and shelved it. However I got an opportunity to go through it past week and learnt many things about the great scholar.

 

interview
Poverty is also a defence issue

The News on Sunday: When and how did you plan what eventually became Crossed Swords?

Shuja Nawaz: I first thought of writing a historical study of our armed forces in 1971 when I was working as a war correspondent for the PTV. Then, while I was completing my MA in Journalism from Columbia University, I started collecting documents that I would need to consult and analyse for writing this book. In the US, I consulted the National Archives. At that time, I showed my preliminary work to Ayesha Jalal who suggested that I explore the British Public Records Office too. Consulting the British records helped me understand the British perspective on Pakistan's military capabilities and heritage. Later on, I talked to General Aslam Beg and he allowed me to consult the army libraries. When my brother Asif Nawaz became a general, I stopped consulting the official records. By 1999, I had eighteen boxes of papers and books which I transported everywhere I was working. I seriously started writing in 2005 and then wrote six days a week. Eventually, I had about one thousand pages. The thickness of the volume was daunting for the publisher and the reader so I had to reduce it to its present status.

TNS: In your book, you talk about Musharraf as a liberal autocrat. What was the reason for this oxymoron?

SN: Musharraf had come in with a lot of promise but eventually, like Ayub Khan, he became an autocrat. He also surrounded himself with sycophants and cronies so he was not getting the best advice but, ultimately, the responsibility falls on the person who acts on ill advice instead of those who offer it. Later on, he started creating reality for himself and others. If you read his book In the Line of Fire, you will see many fabrications including the lie that Armitage threatened to bomb Pakistan back to the Stone Age.

TNS:  What do you think about Musharraf's book?

SN: The voice and tone of the book is definitely Musharraf's but it is a sloppily written and edited book.

TNS: In your book, you have argued that civilians should be given the chance to make mistakes. Can you elaborate on that?

SN: No military can provide solutions to political problems. Look at the FATA and NWFP now. Our military cannot solve this problem. Even armed insurgencies are political problems. Therefore we should allow civilians to make decisions at all levels. The military should just implement the decisions taken by civilians and stop meddling in the political sphere.

TNS: You have studied our military history. What are your observations on the ongoing crisis in the tribal areas now?

SN: I recently had a meeting with twenty three tribal leaders there. Their demands are totally different from those of the militants. The tribal elders desire three things: irrigation, education and health.

TNS: Usually our media focuses on education and health. What is the situation with irrigation?

SN: It is a dry region, in some ways similar to Palestine. If it has a proper irrigation system, the area is quite suitable for growing olive trees and date palms. The tribal elders also want processing plants so that they can package their own products and provide jobs to the local community. We should also remember there is a large Pakhtun diaspora, roughly 40 millions, in the world. They also want a politically developed tribal region where their investments are secure within a modernised infrastructure. At the moment, a lot of criminals are donning the black turbans of the Taliban and trying to impose their understanding of sharia and local traditions on everybody. Ironically, by blowing up the girls' schools, the local Taliban are alienating the local civilians who desire education for their female population. It is the responsibility of the state to provide security and justice to the civilians and it is failing in this basic function. At the moment, the Taliban are providing speedy justice and there is an element of seduction of speed there.

TNS: What are the problems you think the government or the army should tackle more urgently the militancy in the tribal areas or the performance of the economy?

SN: I think inflation and food scarcity should be declared as national security threats and the politicians and the army should deal with these issues more urgently than the militants in the FATA. Our economy is buckling after the exogenous shocks it has received. It is an emergency situation. The middle and lower classes are in a very tense situation. There is even a possibility of an urban revolution as a reaction to the increase in the prices of everyday commodities. Poverty is a security issue.

TNS: What do you think is the solution to the problems of Pakistan?

SN: I am an optimist. I think the government should provide what I call an enabling environment. Our people are hardworking and very intelligent. Look at how they perform when they go somewhere where they have an enabling environment. We should provide all those structures here and then see our people perform.

TNS: What are you working on these days?

SN: I am working on several different projects: the demographics of the army, the possibility of peace in South Asia, and security and reform in the Middle East.

TNS: What is your opinion on the disappearances of Pakistani citizens?

SN: I think our state should respect its legal system and never bypass the laws. It is wrong to hand over people to another country. It is also not legal to arrest citizens and keep them incommunicado and without access to a free and fair trial.

TNS: What is your daily schedule like? How do you work as a writer?

SN: I am an early riser. I wake up around 5 or 6 AM and then start working. After working for a couple of hours, I try to go to the gym. I wish I could go there daily but I only manage to reach there two or three times a week. Then I have some speaking engagements. I work for Al-Jazeera International, The Huffington Post, and also maintain my own blog at shujanawaz.com.

 

 

History of our Insecurity

Crossed Swords:
Pakistan, its Army, and the Wars within.
Shuja Nawaz.
Oxford University Press.
2008.
Pages: 655
Price: Rs. 695

One wonders whether one is better informed or wiser about the ubiquitous institution that has spread its tentacles in all areas of the country after going through Shuja Nawaz's voluminous effort of more than six hundred pages on the Pakistan Army.

It is strange but true that despite being a closed society for so long much of the top secrets do become public knowledge. When sensitive information is declassified or erudite scholars write about it, precious little is new or groundbreaking and so it seemed in reading this book. Who would be more qualified than Shuja Nawaz to write about the army as his entire family and wife's family has served in the armed forces with his brother rising to head the force before dying suddenly. This raised many an eyebrow and gave the impetus to Shuja Nawaz to go in probe of an unnatural death, against the giant backdrop of politics within the institution and its role in the running the country. 

In the beginning the interest in the Pakistan Army was limited to its military aspects only but gradually after two decades of its rule it aroused enough curiosity to become the focus of academic attention. Stephen Cohen wrote about it, then it was time for local researchers to look into its innards and it was left to Abdullah Malik. Recent publications like the one written by Ayesha Saddiqa had hit the stalls that examined the army not only as a fighting machine but as having an overarching interest in maintaining and expanding its economic stakes in the country.

The role of the army could be understood in the structural problems that Pakistan found itself embroiled with, the given reality of the times and compelling international circumstances. Because of the two world wars the British Indian Army had bloated and the number of Muslims, particularly at the commissioned level were far in excess to its proportion. It became one of the many underlying reasons for Patel's throwing his weight between Congress's acceptance of the partition plan. The greater percentage of that proportion came from Punjab and the Frontier provinces of the country and when the armed forces share was allocated to Pakistan it was more than what the country could support. The Army probably looked for opportunities to justify its oversize and it did not have to go very far because the arbitrary partition of land, the mass migration of population and the unresolved issues like Kashmir strengthened its position. The inherent insecurity of the new country, the fear that partition being undone by circumstances and weight of the myriad problems kept feeding into the necessity of beefing up security and strengthening the forces. Its overgrown size also lend to international expectation of playing a bigger role in international politics in the bipolar world when Pakistan tipped its balance in favour of the Americans.

The book is as much a history of the army as it is of the country and gives a fair indication of how the fortune of both have fluctuated and swung inversely. The entire six hundred pages being exhaustive, almost a blow by blow account are actually the political history of the country. The sprint of the home run to independence left no time for many of the important issues to be thrashed out like the relationship of the religion with the state, the relationship of the centre with the provinces and the relationship of the government with the governed. Instead all were rolled into slogans and shouted till the hoarseness made it apparent that these slogans of patriotism and religion were not good enough to substitute thoroughly worked out solutions. The last recourse of the state, the armed forces was called it up very early on as Pakistan stewing in its own broth of trials and errors was not permitted by the international situation to arrive at a workable solution. The oscillation and wavering was cut short by a political system forged under coercion.

All this had foretold the growing involvement of the forces in running the affairs of the country, either directly or indirectly. The direct interventions have been noticed, criticised and condemned but the indirect ones, where the politic system was manipulated did not draw the same level of attention and went unscathed.

Belonging to an army family, Shuja Nawaz had seen its character change. From a pre-colonial force with young and dedicated officer class not fully trained to take on the task of running a national army, it became a national army with a better trained officer corps and soldiers. It now draws its recruits from a broader section of the population especially the growing urban sections of the population. It has remained a volunteer army, its soldiers and junior officers have from time to time have shown their abilities on the battlefields, while the leadership of the army had led the forces and the country down repeatedly.

According to Shuja Nawaz,. due to lack of national cohesion and the location of the country, Pakistan should maintain a strong defense establishment. There were many other ways of achieving security without making the army so large and burdensome that it dwarfed and stifled economic development. The command structure of the army should be changed by eliminating the all powerful position of the Chief of the Army Staff and dividing power among the regional commanders while making the Chairman, Joint Chief Staff the principal military advisor to the government of Pakistan.

Though the army is better trained, but not to fight low intensity guerrilla warfare. Under American pressure it moved front and centre in the fight against terrorism on the border and inside the country, a role for which it was not properly trained nor equipped.

Pakistan's defense lies in a smaller, highly mobile and powerful military, relying on a nuclear and conventional weapon system and a capability of delivering a damaging riposte. But an even better defense lies in creating a powerful, pluralistic polity residing in a strong economy, built on a society that values education and the welfare of the population. A pack of good intentions indeed.

Shuja Nawaz has worked as a journalist for The New York Times, the World Health Organization, Division Chief of the International Monetary Fund and Director of  International Atomic Energy Agency. He has also been the Editor of Finance and Development, a multilingual quarterly of the IMF and World Bank.

 

 

A word about letters
By Kazy Javed

Shakespeare of Sindh

Two recent events have reminded me of Shamsul Ulema Mirza Qaleech Baig who was once described by The Times of India as the Shakespeare of Sindh in the early days of the last century.

One of the two events is a short but well-written book on the life and literary achievements of Mirza Qaleech Baig that has been published by the Pakistan Academy of Letters. I got this book a few weeks ago, thumbed through it and shelved it. However I got an opportunity to go through it past week and learnt many things about the great scholar.

The second event is the establishment of Mirza Qaleech Baig Chair at Hyderabad's Sindh University which had set up the Shah Abdul Latif Bhitai Chair a few years ago. The new chair was inaugurated by Sindh Minister for Culture and Tourism Sassui Palijo in July. In fact this chair was first proposed in 1954 by a son of Mirza Sahib and Shamsul Ulema UM Daudpota, the then vice-chancellor of the university promised to establish it. Now, after more than half a century the promise has been fulfilled by Mazharul Haq who now heads the Sindh University.

Mirza Qaleech Baig was a wonderful scholar and a born writer. Born to a family known for academic and literary services in 1853 at Hyderabad, he died in 1929.

His achievements during the 76 years of life were amazing. He served as a deputy collector in the Sindh government, fathered eighteen children and penned no less than 460 books.

The long list of his publications includes novels, dramas, books on social, religious, moral and historical subjects as well as a number of translations that he made mostly from English and Persian literature.

He translated many of Shakespeare's plays including Romeo and Juliet, Much Ado about Nothing, King Lear and Hamlet into Sindhi.

He also translated Gogol's famous play Inspector General. All these translations were made during the last decade of the nineteenth century.

Because of his work, Mirza Qaleech Baig is usually ranked as the greatest Sindhi literary personality after Shah Abdul Latif Bhitai. Sheikh Ayaz described him as the only 'respectable' Sindhi scholar.

His pen enriched Sindhi literature enormously and turned his mother tongue, Sindhi, into a modern language of the Indian subcontinent. New  writers and scholars appeared on the scene  after Mirza Sahib's death and further enriched the Sindhi language and letters. This process was, however, weakened in the second half of the twentieth century.

 

Guru of the young

The current dog days have not been able to bring down the graph of enthusiasm for organising literary activities in Lahore. It was therefore an action packed fortnight that saw many literary events taking place.

An important event was a well-arranged and well-attended special meeting of the Halqa Arabab-e-Zauq that was convened to pay tribute to Safdar Mir who was a guru of the young intellectuals in Lahore during the sixties and seventies of the past century. I am one of those who learnt many things from him and I also got the privilege  to be close to him during the last seven or eight year of his life.

The Halqa Arbab-e-Zauq meeting was chaired by Hamid Akhtar Sahib while the speakers on the  occasion included. Professor Razi Abedi,  Altaf Qureshi, Saadat Saeed, Khalid  Ahmad, Mahmood Gilani, Ishfaq  Rasheed and Riaz Chaudhry.

Sheema Majid was not there. She is the one who served Mir Sahib  the best. She collected and compiled many of his articles and newspaper columns after his death and got them published in the form of a book.

Aamir Faraz, Halqa's  secretary, deserves a pat on the back for  providing a fine opportunity to remember the man  who is still greatly admired by many people.

Homage was also paid to Ahmad Nadim Qasmi Sahib on his second death anniversary that falls in July. The Lahore chapter of the Pakistani Academy of Letters arranged a public lecture to mark the occasion.

The lecture  was given by Dr. Asghar Nadim Syed. He talked about the life and literary achievements of the great progressive writer, journalist and editor who played an important role in t he development of Pakistani letters.

 

Behte Phool

Another notable literary event of the past fortnight was an evening with the Karachi based  poet Fatima Hasan. It too was arranged by the local office of the Academy of Letters.

Behte Phool is the title of the collection of poetry  published in 1977, that  brought Fatima Hasan out of obscurity. Now she has three volumes of poetry and two of short stories to her credit besides three  collections of critical essays. She is also known for her active participation in socio-cultural activities.

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