return
Homeless in homeland
IDPs are reluctant to return despite the govennment-sponsored repatriation.
Their concern is security
By Mushtaq Yusufzai
Around three million people from the three troubled districts of Malakand -- Dir Lower, Swat and Buner -- were displaced in April when the government began massive military operation against Maulana Fazlullah-led Taliban. People returning to their homes complained of large scale dislocation and destruction to their properties caused by the operation which, they question, has not yet killed any senior aide of Fazlullah.

This will be history
Leading the first relief convoy into Swat -- an eye witness account
By Iqbal Shaheen
Three weeks into operation Rah-e-Rast, the intensive battle finally moved to the provincial metropolis Mingora itself. While the military was busy flushing out the holed up miscreants, we the staff at Provincial Relief Commissionerate (PRC) had our fingers crossed and were looking forward to an opportunity to reach out to the starving people of this once lovely town. Based on unconfirmed reports trickling in, we had gathered that there were about 50000 people trapped in the region who were almost near starvation since there were no shops, no money, no electricity, no water and no food. If food rations did not reach there in time it was feared they would simply perish.

Barring borders
Britain is changing, and this time the far-right seems to be gaining popularity
By Dr Arif Azad
Like the rest of the world, Britain has relapsed into deep recession. Last year when I was here, I could hear the drumbeat of coming recession. Now you can feel it with businesses closing and economic belt tightening. As opposed to last year I have been taken aback by political pulse of Britain. In this space I intend to touch upon hot-button policy and social issues being debated here.

Taal Matol
Solar cure
By Shoaib Hashmi
We'd been anticipating it for months, because all over the world they were touting it as the longest complete solar eclipse for two centuries. So we dished out the old binoculars and dark glasses with the old atlas and pegged ourselves down for a good viewing. All day the whole country was overcast so badly we couldn't see our hands before our eyes.

interview
"Intelligence agencies are well-equipped to tackle subversive politics"
By Aoun Sahi
The News on Sunday: What is the role of intelligence agencies in a democratic polity?
Brigadier (retd) Imtiaz Ahmed: It is a simple rule of intelligence craftsmanship to draw a distinct line between politics and subversive politics. So as intelligence operatives, our ultimate success and skill lies in very effective and deep penetration into target areas, collection of lead(s), collation, evaluation and evolving the central plan and then the dissemination actions to appropriate intelligence echelons for execution, indeed the intelligence Head concerned thus uses his discretion to keep the government in picture at an appropriate level and he also remains subordinate in some areas of execution for the approval of the government.

RIPPLE EFFECT
Life in Dubai, rules for the Taliban
By Omar R Quraishi
The sanitised picture that one gets of life in countries like China (how many editorials critical of Beijing did we read in the Pakistani print media?) the UAE or Iran via most of the Pakistani print and electronic media is quite different from what life can be in these countries. Of course, I haven't lived extensively at all in any of these countries, however, what is being said about life these days in Dubai is something that will probably be attested to by many people.

 

 

Homeless in homeland

IDPs are reluctant to return despite the govennment-sponsored repatriation.

Their concern is security

By Mushtaq Yusufzai

Around three million people from the three troubled districts of Malakand -- Dir Lower, Swat and Buner -- were displaced in April when the government began massive military operation against Maulana Fazlullah-led Taliban. People returning to their homes complained of large scale dislocation and destruction to their properties caused by the operation which, they question, has not yet killed any senior aide of Fazlullah.

Emergency Response Unit (ERU) quotes a figure of around 1.9million people who have so far returned to their homes in Swat and Buner. But those from Upper Swat and Buner were reluctant to go back arguing that the Taliban commanders are still in control of the area where they patrol the streets regularly.

The residents of Buner argue that the Taliban are still present in the upper parts of Buner despite security forces' claims. Here, the operation was launched on April 28 after taken over by the Swati Taliban led by Maulana Mohammad Alam alias Maulana Khalil.

The terrified residents from villages like Malak Pur, Bushaney, Dokada, Mulla Banda, Poland etc in the Pir Baba tehsil in Buner straightaway refused to return as, according to them, the Taliban militants, detain villagers for fleeing their homes and getting relief goods from the government.

Badshah, a resident of Buner, is living with his 18-member family at the camp established for Buner IDPs at the Government Degree College Katlang building in rural Mardan. He told TNS that he would rather die at the camp than go back, until and unless the Taliban are pushed back by the security forces. The camp organisers had given them a deadline of three days to return. Khan says that if forced, instead of returning he will live somewhere outside the camp.

Badshah Khan also claims that over four dozen villagers were detained by the Taliban upon their return in Poland village. After weeks of hardships at the camps the Taliban made them stand in the scorching heat for hours, reprimandeing them for fleeing their homes and receiving relief items. These people were allowed to return home only after they promised to burn the relief goods they brought with them provided by the government and the NGOs.

He also informs that the Taliban have established roadside checkpoints and take into custody the activists of the Awami National Party (ANP) and Pakistan People's Party (PPP).

Another resident of Poland village, Yar Zamin told TNS that majority of the residents, who had just returned home, left their villages the very next day when dozens of armed Taliban blew away a newly-constructed house of journalist, Rahman Bunaire. "They came around 2 o'clock in the morning and asked the family members of Rahman Bunaire to vacate the house as they had decided to blow it up and punish the journalist for opposing the Taliban."

Yawar says the security forces have not even arrived in this village and a few other towns along Swat and Shangle. "We are not going back because the problem that forced us out still exists. People's trust will be restored once the security forces take a decisive action and clean the area of Taliban." He fears that if he goes back he will be forced to leave again if the military decides to attack the Taliban here.

According to the residents, writ of the government disappears after sunset. The government had restored power supply to lower towns and villages of Buner district that enabled most of the residents to return their homes. Nominal business activity has started in the two commercial centers of the district, Daggar and Suwari. Nothing, however, has changed in the areas still occupied by the Taliban.

The government also stopped supply of fuel, food items and medicines to the troubled upper area of the region. Some of the families who were willing to return to their homes complained of the shortage of basic items in their villages. Also, there ere are no health facilities in majority of the towns where health workers, despite warning by the government, haven't returned to their jobs.

All police stations are reportedly closed and the paramilitary Frontier Constabulary (FC) personnel have long abandoned their checkpoints. The villagers complain, and righfully so, that they have already suffered a huge loss of the wheat crop this year. The latest blow was their inability to cultivate maize crop due to the situation.

"We would not wait for another moment once we are assured that peace has been restored in true sense," remarked Muzzamil Khan, a resident of Balo Khan Village near the shrine of revered saint, Pir Baba.

 

This will be history

Leading the first relief convoy into Swat -- an eye witness account

By Iqbal Shaheen

Three weeks into operation Rah-e-Rast, the intensive battle finally moved to the provincial metropolis Mingora itself. While the military was busy flushing out the holed up miscreants, we the staff at Provincial Relief Commissionerate (PRC) had our fingers crossed and were looking forward to an opportunity to reach out to the starving people of this once lovely town. Based on unconfirmed reports trickling in, we had gathered that there were about 50000 people trapped in the region who were almost near starvation since there were no shops, no money, no electricity, no water and no food. If food rations did not reach there in time it was feared they would simply perish.

A God-sent opportunity came our way when army gave green light on May 30 to prepare a convey of 19 vehicles with essential rations for Mingora. The convoy was to be led by the volunteers under my command through a very hostile area. It left at about 3pm and reached Batkhela at about 8pm. DCO Malakand Arshad was present on the ground and he received everybody and helped us move onwards towards our destination. From there on it was the area of Frontier Constabulary, the Frontier Corps and Pak Army.

As the convoy moved in the night in almost pitch darkness we realised the unprecedented dangers we were exposed to. On top of that, security personnel in every check post took us to be suicide bombers. When the rifles were pointed in our direction and bolted we realised we were in a war zone. The huge craters on the roads, broken electric lines spread all over and the intermittent sound of gunfire accentuated the already tense atmosphere.

We stopped at Barikot and spent the night under the open sky. It was rather cold and we slept like logs though in hindsight I recall we went without lunch and dinner.

The next morning we started our jouney again. Passing through Mingora was torturous. An eerie silence pervaded everywhere. It seemed there was not a single soul in this once thriving city of more than a million, however at times a child watching from behind the door or a man peeking from the top of a roof were the only signs of life. It was agonising to watch an odd individual waving for food. The orchards were full of ripe peaches; the wheat was ready for the harvest but the hospitable occupants of once-a-tourist-paradise were missing.

The convoy loaded with 200 tons of food lumbered on through the silent roads of this haunted town. Swat River with blue green gushing waters, despite having been a witness to all the mayhem brought back memories of the town's previous idyllic environs. The sound of the artillery gunfire would remind us again of the prevailing situation.

Finally at 630am we reached the warehouse at Saidu Sharif and were welcomed by a smiling DCO Swat. The smart and well dressed labourers, unlike than the ones we are normally used to seeing, started off-loading the first ration supply load in the month. The concerned DCO stayed with the group leader of convoy till off-loading was completed by 1pm. He seemed to be a man loving his job despite being in the midst of all kinds of dangers and challenges. I met a couple of army officers and men. Being a former military serviceman myself I was impressed to see their professionalism and conduct.

On our way back, a trail of human misery was moving on the road and it was extremely painful to see their suffering. Old people, young children, pregnant women and sick; some carrying boxes and some with cattle or whatever else they could salvage. Almost everybody we interviewed had been without food for one or two days. Tears rolled down our eyes watching their pathetic condition. Perhaps it would be a good idea to set up a transit-camp facility in the area for these people. It may also be used in future as families begin to return.

We picked about a thousand IDPs en route; I asked one fellow where you have to go? He looked at me in the eyes and said: "Where ever you take me". I looked away because my eyes could not bear it. Another old man, an illiterate, had a letter in his hand. I glanced at the hand-written note which seemed to have been scribbled in a hurry, it read: "Baba you have not come for a couple of days…our daughter is hurt with bullet wound and we have been told to leave…and we are leaving the letter with mobile number, please call us." Unstoppable tears were flowing down his handsome face as he told me that he had been trying for days and the mobile was not answering.

Each one had his or her own story to tell. To them, their heavenly abode with their lifelong belongings was a thing of the past and now they were homeless in their own homeland. It was in stark contrast to the time when these wonderful hosts used to welcome us warmly by saying "Kabhe ao na Swat".

The writer is a member (Logistics) Emergency Response Unit at Provincial Relief Commissionerate, NWFP.

Email:[email protected] 


Barring borders

Britain is changing, and this time the far-right seems to be gaining popularity

By Dr Arif Azad

Like the rest of the world, Britain has relapsed into deep recession. Last year when I was here, I could hear the drumbeat of coming recession. Now you can feel it with businesses closing and economic belt tightening. As opposed to last year I have been taken aback by political pulse of Britain. In this space I intend to touch upon hot-button policy and social issues being debated here.

I shall begin with my political journey that began from Heathrow airport. On arriving here after a lapse of a year I was struck by the boards displaying UK Border Agency everywhere on the airport. Have you heard of it before? I haven't. My recollection tells me it used to be the department of immigration where people travelling to Britain were processed to see whether they are eligible to enter the country or not. Innocent enough exercise, one would imagine. Despite its innocent-sounding title, it was still accused of operating discriminatory practices or applying stringent test to non-whites by anti-racist and anti-discrimination campaigners.

Now those innocent days of low-key immigration control have gone and kids gloves are off for all to see. Now we have a full-blooded UK Border Agency instead. This radical and grandstanding makeover has not come out of the blue though. Far-right and border control freaks represented in other right-of-centre parties have brought matters to this stage.

For more than a decade ago, there has been a concentrated campaign to control inflow of foreigners into Britain. This anti-immigrant charge has been led by right-wing tabloid, closely aided by British nationalist party and large section of the conservative party. The overall thrust of this message is to paint those coming into the country as welfare cheats, scroungers and bogus refugees. The subliminal message is that British border controls are lax, resulting in influx of hordes of aliens who are potentially destructive to the British way of life.

Bucking under ceaseless anti-immigrant propaganda, Labour government has finally given in to this discourse and put in place a nicely-worded UK Border Agency to appease far-right and right-of-centre critics of immigration .In an effort to further appease them, UK Border Agency makes a great play of being tough on immigrants and travellers. This is unambiguously written all over the place, with travelling public to expect more delays. This was my first politicised observation on arriving back after a year. In UK Border Agency I discerned capitulation to far-right.

History tells us that far-right hardly stops at the signs of appeasement. Rather, it construes this to be the weakness of the government. All across Europe, far right has taken a mile when offered an inch by liberal political establishment. This has resulted in far-right popularity and success at the polls. No where is this more manifest than Britain where far-right racist party British National Party has won a couple of seats at the European election -- an event pregnant with implications for ethnic minorities living in Britain. The 'racialisation' of British politics is apparent in the first sign of UK Border Agency. Welcome to New Britain ushered in by new Labour.

The other big issue still rumbling on is of media ethics and how certain newspapers have gone out of the way to gather scoops. This debate was triggered by the Guardian's uncovering of an email sent by a junior reporter to the News of the World (NOW) chief reporter Neville Thurlbeck, containing transcripts of voice messages hacked from telephone conversation. This led to a detailed examination of how NOW hired an investigator to hack into telephone conversation of the royal family. These taped conversation formed the basis of what NOW claimed was 'exclusives'. It has now emerged that NOW has been operating this practice for quite some time.

This practice came to light a couple of years ago when NOW royal editor, Clive Goodman was jailed along with the private investigator Glen Mulcaire for their involvement in the phone hacking scandal. The story did not end there though. NOW is alleged to have paid the jailed editor and private investigator enormous sum to remain tight-lipped on the whole affair after their release from prison. This was hardly the isolated event; more stories of such malpractices accumulated as the investigation unfolded.

On such story concerned Gordon Taylor, chief executive of the professional football association, whose phone was hacked by NOW. The exposure resulted in out-of-court settlement. The phone hacking scandal not only raised issues about media ethics but its shadow also fell upon the political world. The spin-off storm also involved Andy Coulson, the director of communication for the conservative party of Great Britain.

The fact that this practice flourished at the newspaper when Andy Coulson was its editor was grist to the mill of political parties. There was instant call for Andy's resignation. David Cameron, the Conservative Party leader stood by Andy and refused to oblige his critics. Last week Andy Couslson was called before the House of Commons culture and media committee to shed light on the murky doings at the NOW under his watch. He told the committee that though a lot of bad things had happened under his watch, he was not aware of all of things going on under his nose. The House of Commons committee raised up no wiser after all the staff of NOW batted off the investigation. Though the effort of getting the paper in the dock has failed, vigorous debate over media ethics has gone underway.

Dr Arif Azad is a policy analyst.

[email protected]

 

Taal Matol

Solar cure

By Shoaib Hashmi

We'd been anticipating it for months, because all over the world they were touting it as the longest complete solar eclipse for two centuries. So we dished out the old binoculars and dark glasses with the old atlas and pegged ourselves down for a good viewing. All day the whole country was overcast so badly we couldn't see our hands before our eyes.

 It was the same all across India and China along the path where the total eclipse was to be seen. People had gathered in their thousands at the town of Taregna inEastern India supposedly the best place to see it and everywhere it was the same story with clouds obscuring the sun. In many places it was a different matter as the superstition was that the Eclipse could cure lameness. In many places people brought their children with congenital deficiencies due to which they could not walk, and buried them in the sand up to their necks. Of course there is no evidence of an actual cure.

 Oddly enough there are superstitions all over pertaining to an eclipse. A lady of my acquaintance had a peculiar little fold in one of her lips, which she said had come about as she was stitching something when an eclipse occurred and this was the mark of the thread she had in her mouth. There are other superstitions mostly pertaining to pregnancy and childbirth associated with it. Mostly this kept people indoors with windows shut and curtains drawn.

Meanwhile most of us were concerned with more mundane matters. A very large bench of the Supreme Court has gone and summoned former president Parvez Musharraf to appear before the court and explain his actions in declaring a State of Emergency back in 2007 and sacking many of the courts judges. Actually no; they have asked him either to come himself, or send a lawyer to come and explain his actions.

To most of us it seems a long time ago, the President has since resigned and most of the actions taken then no longer apply. But the former president is said to be consulting his lawyers and insisting he will reply. In case you are not interested in such large matters, there is the case of the PML-Q member of parliament who was accused of stealing another lady's credit card and going shopping with it. She first denied it, but then her party insisted and she has resigned from her seat in Parliament. The police is being accused of messing up the investigation but as the lady has resigned I suppose the case is closed!

 

interview

"Intelligence agencies are well-equipped to tackle subversive politics"

By Aoun Sahi

Brigadier (retired) Imtiaz Ahmed is a significant character in our recent political history. By way of introduction, in his own words, “I spent fifteen continuous years in prime intelligence agencies of Pakistan at top slots. I started my career in intelligence service as the provincial chief of ISI when I was lieutenant colonel. Having served three and half years in this capacity, I was made incharge of internal security of Pakistan in ISI. I performed my duties in this capacity for 11 years under three DGs Major General Riaz Muhammad, Lt-General Akhtar Abdur Rehman and Lt-General (retired) Hameed Gul. During Nawaz Sharif’s first tenure as PM I was made director of IB.”

He is still considered very close to Sharifs. Little wonder that during the course of the interview he counted Nawaz Sharif as a “patriotic leaders” and one who has risen from the land.

He made waves recently with a story that appeared in the press about how he saved Pakistani nuclear assets with the help of a young woman in Karachi, an incident which he likes to recall as the most glorious point of his intelligence career. But many somehow tends to associate his name more with Operation Midnight Jackals – an operation put in effect to remove the elected government of Benazir Bhutto. In this interview, Brig Imtiaz categorically absolved himself of any wrongdoing in the incident which he refuses to call an ‘operation’ and considered it as only a trivial event.

The retired brigadier put the blame of many historical blunders on the “troika”, a term he used in a different sense than it is generally understood in Pakistan; the centres of power for him are the president, the army chief and the chief of ISI.

He was in Lahore recently and TNS got a chance to catch up with him for an interview. Excerpts follow. 

The News on Sunday: What is the role of intelligence agencies in a democratic polity?

Brigadier (retd) Imtiaz Ahmed: It is a simple rule of intelligence craftsmanship to draw a distinct line between politics and subversive politics. So as intelligence operatives, our ultimate success and skill lies in very effective and deep penetration into target areas, collection of lead(s), collation, evaluation and evolving the central plan and then the dissemination actions to appropriate intelligence echelons for execution, indeed the intelligence Head concerned thus uses his discretion to keep the government in picture at an appropriate level and he also remains subordinate in some areas of execution for the approval of the government.

TNS: What do you mean by subversive politics?

IA: Subversive politics means the political activities of politicians which are in conflict with overall national security; when there are strong indications available to show that there is direct or indirect involvement/instigation or motivation of forces inimical to the national interest. Overtones of such political activities transcend into areas which threaten the internal stability of the country.

There is a very long list of events in our political history which fall within the domain of subversive politics and the prime intelligence agency had certainly played its role to come in their way. Because the intelligence agencies have the resources and skills to tackle the subversive politics.

TNS: Agreed that they do have the resources to get information but once they have it, do they pass it on or do they decide to act on that information too?

IA: Of course, we can't play the role of a mere post office. We have to carefully go through that information and then derive conclusions which we share with the government.

TNS: Once they have drawn certain conclusions regarding national interest, in our context, does the power of decision reside with establishment in general or with the elected government if it's in place?

IA: I think in our context it resides with the establishment and government as well, if considered necessary.

TNS: Do you not think it is because of such activities that intelligence agencies are blamed to form a state within state?

IA: This is a baseless allegation which tantamount to ignoring the real insight of the intelligence dynamics, their parameters and their handicaps. You must understand first of all that intelligence agencies do not have any legal power to arrest or detain any person. Secondly, no intelligence agency has the power to monitor the telephone of any person even if he is strongly suspected of involvement in anti-state activity, without the permission of the chief executive of the country.

It is painful for me to say that particularly in the last over one decade the two prime intelligence agencies have been grossly pushed into the ugly game by the un-constitutional rulers to entrench themselves unlawfully into power. I am one man who does condemn whole heartedly and tried to avoid personal involvement in such unfair ply as far as possible within my means.

TNS: If so, how do you explain your role in Operation Midnight Jackal?

IA: The use of word operation for this small incident is a highly trumpeted drama. In this incident my involvement revolved round the blind trust and one sided loyalty that I accorded to my two seniormost superiors General Aslam Beg and Hameed Gul. I was called by Aslam Beg the then COAS and told that the policies of this government regarding nuclear programme, Afghan Policy and interference in the matters of army were creating problems for the country and sought my help in the matter. These two gentlemen, Beg and Gul, were the controlling figures of Midnight Jackal while federal defence secretary Ijlal Haider Zaidi was assisting them. Hamid Gul was serving as corps commander Multan at the time but he used to visit Rawalpindi every week without GHQ permission. There he used to see Ijlal Haider Zaidi regularly while Major Amir and I were also asked to often meet.

Malik Mumtaz, a grade 17 officer of military engineering service and a friend of Major Amir was the central villain of this incident. After this incident, he landed in India with the help of RAW and from there in London. During the second government of PPP he came back. He should have been convicted under the Army Act. Instead he was elevated to grade 18 and posted in FIA and later he interrogated me and blamed me for distributing millions of rupees among journalists. I want to tell you that during my 15 years long intelligence career, I have never given money to any journalist except one and that was only Rs5,000 and that too was sanctioned by DG ISI; at that time I was not allowed to give more than Rs500 without prior permission of DG ISI. I was also charged with corruption and mainly because when I was director IB, one day Rs15 million were transferred to its account and by the evening same day I used this sum. During investigation FIA people asked about this amount but I refused to tell them the truth because I used this money to safeguard the national interest of Pakistan. Later I also refused to disclose details about this amount in lower court. But in the High Court I did give the details to an honourable judge (Mr Rashid Aziz) in camera and he released me from the case.

TNS: Why did you not disclose names of Aslam Beg and Hameed Gul?

IA: Hameed Gul had requested me to not to disclose his army chief's name during inquiry or it would give a bad name to the institution of army. I faced a charge of high treason carrying death sentence but never disclosed their names just for the sanctity of the institution. I admit that I met two MNAs Rasheed Bhatti and Malik Arif Awan in Malik Mumtaz's house maximum for 45 minutes and of course we did not discuss everything good about the government. But I never gave them a penny. On the other hand Naseerullah Baber and Masood Sharif managed to gather a lot of MNAs in Nawaz Sharif Stadium from where they were carried to Chaklala Air Base and finally flown to Swat in C130 aircraft. It is on the record that Masood Sharif spent hundreds of millions rupees from IB funds on these MNAs (irrefutable documentary evidence is still available on record of IB), but no case was made against him.

TNS: So intelligence agencies have unlimited powers?

IA: I do not mean this. Look ever since the independence of Pakistan, the charter of intelligence agencies has not been clearly and exhaustibly defined, nor does it have the approval of the parliament. The primary reason is that every successive government wants to retain the institution of intelligence as its exclusive property and use them as a weapon or shield for their own interests. You will be surprised to know that there is only one page charter of ISI while a half page one of IB. This means there are no defined working parameters of these organisations. If an organisation does not have its charter how can you stop it from making a state within state.

I am of the view that charters of intelligence agencies should be changed periodically according to the changing national and international conditions.

TNS: You have mentioned that the agencies get involved on the insistence of politicians. What about their role in propping up Mian Nawaz Sharif as a leader. What is your opinion about Nawaz Sharif as a leader?

IA: In my view Nawaz Sharif is one the few patriotic leaders of this country. As they put it rather crudely, he is one person who has risen from this land. He will never go against the national interest of this country and he is somewhat stubborn on certain issues. Look at how he decided to go for nuclear explosions in 1998 despite getting a call from US president Clinton.

It must be kept in mind that 31 years of our independent history have gone under dictatorship. I consider politicians, establishment and bureaucracy responsible for this dark era. Politicians instead of deriving their political strength from the power of the people find a shortcut to take support of the establishment. The establishment is required to close their doors on them in allegiance of constitution. Ironically, particularly since after the Bahawalpur crash, establishment and political collaboration has been strongly motivated to subjectivity. I would also hold bureaucracy responsible to play their gimmicks cleverly, cautiously and behind the curtain.

TNS: Have you heard about Nawaz Sharif's off-the-record statement where he is reported to have said that after the 1993 blasts in Bombay, he got a call from DG ISI congratulating him on the successful operation. Both Nawaz Sharif and president Ishaq Khan did not have a clue about that.

IA: I don't think any such phone was ever made nor did Nawaz Sharif ever make a statement on the issue.

TNS: All these incidents only affirm that establishment is the real power in Pakistan and they try to run the affairs of country according to its wishes?

IA: I strongly disagree with you. If you look back you will find that only some powerful individuals are responsible in many cases. If a DG ISI uses his power for his personal agenda, you cannot blame the whole institution. If he put his plans in front of the whole hierarchy of ISI and they give him a nod, only then you can blame the institution. I know that even the other corps commanders were not informed about the activities and plans of Aslam Beg and Hameed Gul.

TNS: Isn't it playing safe by putting the blame on certain personalities?

IA: I was in charge of internal security of ISI and whenever there was a case of subversive politics, I was never involved personally; rather the whole institution is involved. Like when my field officer sends me information that some politician is involved in subversive politics, I do send him instructions to follow him and gather information. My officer also briefs me on the situation daily or periodically and finally we find proofs of involvement of that politician in such activity. It always used to be team work. But when some individuals are involved personally you cannot blame the whole institution. For example when IJI was formed, even ISI incharge of Islamabad region was not informed. Only Hameed Gul and Brigadier Imtiaz were informed about this activity. The final decision about the formation of IJI was taken in ISI mess in Islamabad but not a single ISI official knew what was going on between me and Hameed Gul.

TNS: You mean some individuals become even more powerful than the institution. How do other people in the institution react when they come to know about activity of such individuals?

IA: Some accept their activities while other keep silent. But in army it is the orders of superiors which finally prevail. For example, I was very much against the release of Ghulam Mustafa Khar after the Khar conspiracy case but I was overruled. The conspiracy was hatched by an Indian senior RAW official posted in Indian High Commission in London in collaboration with Mustafa Khar, who was in self-exile in London. They made a joint plan to eliminate the entire army high command through an act of terrorism during corps commander conference in Rawalpindi. A few junior level army officers were also involved in the plan. Fortunately, we had from the initial stage, penetrated in this game plan and failed this terrorist conspiracy. The army officers were all convicted, but Khar was released because the troika of power (Gulam Ishaq Khan, General Aslam Beg and Hameed Gul) jointly decided to release him. He was given financial assistance with a mandate to scuttle the political myth of Nawaz Sharif in Punjab and also erode the voting strength of PPP.

TNS: What are your views about the Jihadi organisations? They are believed to be the civilian face of Pakistan army.

IA: I strongly oppose them. We never had emotional attachment with these organisations; we did have low level involvement with these organisations and that was only meant to train them and launch them in Afghanistan during Afghan war. Ever since, none from intelligence agencies can dare having direct or indirect contact with them.

At that time we had no other option available as USSR was also posing a threat to Pakistan. To attain the strategic depth in the region we did need a friendly government in Afghanistan. We were not the only ones who supported these people, in fact at that time they were heroes of both US and Europe and they were giving them huge funds. I think that foreign agencies are also involved in defaming establishment as an institution in Pakistan. They put blame on Pakistani establishment for making Taliban which was all decided between the then civilian government and the United States.

 

RIPPLE EFFECT

Life in Dubai, rules for the Taliban

By Omar R Quraishi

The sanitised picture that one gets of life in countries like China (how many editorials critical of Beijing did we read in the Pakistani print media?) the UAE or Iran via most of the Pakistani print and electronic media is quite different from what life can be in these countries. Of course, I haven't lived extensively at all in any of these countries, however, what is being said about life these days in Dubai is something that will probably be attested to by many people.

A few months ago, a story in a British newspaper was circulating on the net (it never found its way into even the Pakistani English press) about a British woman who was forced to live in her jeep in a parking lot in Dubai (yes, a jeep, and in a parking lot) where, thanks to the Bengali attendants, she was allowed to park her car without any charge. So how did she ever come to live such a life – and that too in a place like Dubai? The report says that she and her husband were living the good life: they had a great apartment, flashy cars and would entertain their expat friends. This went on till the bubble burst – and it burst badly. The man, the report said, was laid off but the matter did not end there. The flat was taken on a mortgage, like it is in most developed economies, and as soon as the man was laid off, his former employer informed the bank which asked the man to pay the full remain amount or else face a foreclosure on his property.

The man, the report says, had financed their lifestyle on credit and when he lost his job he also lost his ability to repay all those loans. So he defaulted and went to jail. And that was why his wife was forced to live in their jeep which was one thing that they wasn't repossessed. Perhaps in response to the publication of such articles, the Dubai government enacted laws which forbade the press from reporting on the economic crisis.

And now, according to a head-hunting website used by professionals in the Middle East and the Gulf, job opportunities in the region are sharply down compared to the same period last year. According to GulfTalent.com there is also a trend to use recruitment channels which have a lower cost. The website says that its research shows that the percentage of "Dubai-based vacancies advertised on the firm's website constituted only 30 percent of all GCC-based positions advertised in the first half of the year, compared with 43 percent over the same period the previous year". Also, it said, Abu Dhabi's share had gone from up from 14 to 23 percent (anecdotal evidence that Abu Dhabi's economy has not been as badly hit as Dubai's). Advertised jobs in the investment sector in Dubai fell by 48 percent in the first half of 2009 when compared to the same period last year fell by 47 percent for those seeking jobs in administrative positions and by 46 percent for marketing sector.

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According to Al Jazeera, Mullah Omar sent out a book to all his fighters asking them to follow the code of conduct written in it. According to the television network, which says it obtained a copy of the said publication titled 'The Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan Rules for Mujahideen', the objective seems to be to "centralize" operations. The book has 13 chapters and 67 articles and ironically follows a line that is not too dissimilar from that being followed – in theory at least – by NATO and US forces in Afghanistan. For instance, one of the primary directives is to "win the hearts and minds" of the civilian population – something that Western forces often publicly emphasise on doing as well (whether they have actually achieved that is another story).

Other objectives being conveyed to fighters include avoiding civilian casualties and limiting suicide attacks to high value targets and locations. Al Jazeera says that Mullah Omar is quoted as saying in the book that creating a new mujahideen group or battalion is forbidden. It says that if "an irregular battalion" is found and if it is not obeying orders, then it should be disarmed and disbanded. The publication also reportedly has 'rules' for carrying out suicide bombings. It says that suicide attacks "should not be used for lower and useless" targets and that "the utmost effort should be made to avoid civilian casualties". It also says that if the Taliban capture "any official, soldier, contractor or worker of the slave government", these "prisoners cannot be attacked or harmed", adding that any decision to seek a prisoner exchange or release the detainee is to be made by the respective provincial leader. It also says that releasing prisoners in exchange for money is "strictly prohibited". It says that if a "military infidel" is captured, the "decision on whether to kill, release or exchange the hostage is only to be made by the Imam, a reference to Mullah Omar, or deputy Imam".

The writer is Editorial Pages Editor of The News. Email: [email protected]


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