09
March
February 2015(EDITION 8, Volume 51)
 
Asif Jehangir Raja
This February is different from the one this nation moved into, the last year, or even the years before. The chill breeze and prolonged spells of pleasant drizzle may persist but circumstances are not the same – environments are changed and ....Read full article
 
Rasul Bakhsh Rais
December 16, 2014 will be remembered as the blackest days in Pakistan’s history, both for the tragedy of East Pakistan, and, for the massacre of our children that the Taliban terrorists committed at the Army Public School in Peshawar....Read full article
 
Dr. Amineh Hoti
There is a famous Urdu saying “Har Firon ke liye aik Moosa hota hai” meaning by ‘for every problem, there is a solution’. This is also mentioned by Allah in the Qur’aan. It is for us, “the people of thought” or the “Ahl-e-Aql”, as God repeatedly calls us, to use our intellect (aql) to work out those solutions....Read full article
 
Naila Inayat
“It has been eight years and I am still seeking justice for my husband’s killing,” says Hameeda Begum.Her husband Abdul Majeed Khan was one of the 68 Pakistanis and Indians who ....Read full article
 
Brian Cloughley
The war in Afghanistan wasn’t only “America’s war”, and although it may have been inconvenient for Mr. Obama to mention it – a total of 49 countries contributed troops to the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF)....Read full article
 
Mudassar Jehangir
It didn’t happen overnight. Rather it took the cellular industry of Pakistan to work tirelessly for more than 15 years for gathering 140 million mobile subscribers in the country.In all these years, telecom industry of Pakistan witnessed a flood of Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) along with building ....Read full article
 
Lt Col Abid Latif
“The snake which cannot cast its skin has to die as well the minds which are preventing from changing their opinion.” (Nietzsche) Human society is governed by only one constant that is never-ending and ever spiralling: ‘the change’....Read full article
 
Ahmed Quraishi
India had two excellent opportunities over the past seven months to show the world that Kashmir has finally entered the Indian fold after seven decades of resistance.The first opportunity came in May when the world watched New Delhi bask in the glory of one of the largest electoral voting exercises in terms of population. ....Read full article
 
Dr. Zafar Mahmood
Like prices of other commodities, the price of crude oil experiences wide price swings in times of shortage or oversupply. Unlike many other commodities, the crude oil price cycle may extend over several years responding to changes in global demand and supply....Read full article
 
Jennifer McKay
We never thought of cricket as a deadly game. At times aggressive may be, particularly the way the Australians play the game. But deadly? No. At least, not until the tragic accident that claimed the life of 25 year-old Australian batsman....Read full article
 
Komal Dilshad
The ICC Cricket World Cup 2015 will be jointly held in Australia and New Zealand from February 14 to March 29, 2015.The first match of the tournament will be played between New Zealand and Sri Lanka on February 14 in Christchurch....Read full article
 
Lt Col Dr. Arshad Farid Khan
he role of good and healthy diet in the maintenance of health and fitness cannot be undermined and with more awareness the role of healthy diet is being recognized with more seriousness. The maintenance of optimal weight and fitness ....Read full article

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Maria Khalid
Minimalism is the trend of today as many designers now choose to transform spaces into a simple house with luxury amalgamated throughout, having totally new functions and practicality. Let’s take a look on ever....Read full article
 
Hermaine Khan
They say the best thing is to look natural, but it takes makeup to look natural. I believe God has made everyone unique and beautiful in their own way and makeup should not be used to hide yourself, but to enhance what you already have....Read full article
 
Kokab Khawaja
Fry the vegetables in butter, add water mixed with chicken, cook uncovered until tender • Add cheese and mix well • Mix all the crumble ingredients in a bowl • Place the vegetables in a glass dish • Sprinkle crumble over the vegetables....Read full article
 
Schezre Syed
In my last article on this subject, we brushed upon the journey of the video games while talking about how they can have a positive impact on a player. We discussed the journey of this infotainment technology, how it has made its way into the palm....Read full article
 
Tahir Mehmood
Peoples and population can become unmanageable. Military appears as a sole binding force; a kind of centre of gravity – can be exclusively targeted – bad mouthing, if victory is for the militaries, so is the defeat. Nukes – great power and great potential....Read full article
 
Asif Jehangir Raja
Q. The video of your brave action of halting a driver-less heavy truck at the Salt Range area on the Motorway on Jan 3, 2015 went viral on web. Please share the details of the incident with us. My wife, two sons and I were on the Motorway, enroute to Lahore from Islamabad....Read full article
 
Shazma Khan
Pakistan is among the few countries where, even in the 21st century, patients of polio can be found. It was alarming to notice that as high as 262 cases of polio were recorded during 2014 as compared to 93 and 58 cases respectively in 2013 and 2012....Read full article
 
Sultan Makhdoom
A few years back I was in the UAE to attend an international seminar. During the seminar, I met an Indian IT magazine editor, Ajit Solankar, who had come from Mumbai to attend the same seminar for his journal. Since both of us were staying in the same hotel....Read full article
23
February

This February is different from the one this nation moved into, the last year, or even the years before. The chill breeze and prolonged spells of pleasant drizzle may persist but circumstances are not the same – environments are changed and so is the resolve of the people to face the challenges. Major problem, however, remains the same – Terrorism – but action plan to root out this menace is much geared up this year. Armed Forces never had any doubts about mala-fide intentions of these beasts and always handled them with the iron hand, but now whole nation is also united on one agenda – ‘No space for the terrorists’. General Raheel Sharif, COAS, while chairing Corps Commanders’ Conference at GHQ on January 1, 2015 emphasized the need for a meaningful strategy against the terrorists and said, “The entire nation is looking towards political and military leadership of the country to take bold and meaningful decisions leading to stern action against terrorists and their sympathizers.” The country and the whole world now watch these terrorists on the run and their sympathizers finding no words to further their agenda. Alongside Pakistan Army that is carrying out operations against these extremists, civil society is also active in raising awareness among public against this menace. This however doesn’t stop here. The battle against terrorism may continue in the times to come in different forms, military action being the initial phase. Different segments of the society, from an ordinary person to the executive, will have to make some contribution in this war. May it be the re-settlement of Temporary Displaced Persons (TDPs) or the education of children across the entire length and breadth of the country, may it be creation of jobs to reduce unemployment or it is the provision of basic facilities to the citizens, or may it be the provision of speedy justice to the victims of terrorism and the execution of the culprits, all of us will consistently have to do much for a longer period to ultimately root out extremism, that breeds terrorism, from Pakistan. This is a struggle that few individuals or one institution cannot carry on alone, but a struggle that all pillars of the state as well as complete society need to own. The future of a Pakistan sans militancy, sectarian violence and extremism will depend much on each one of us – actions by each individual and each institution matter in such like situations. For example, while the areas are being cleared of terrorists after successful military operations, a smooth transfer of control to the civil administration is of paramount importance. Therefore, all institutions must step ahead and contribute for the swift rehabilitation in the affected areas and bring life back to normalcy. It is time that we move forward beyond words; take practical steps and render tangible support to the ongoing successful military operation. All of us have to rise above ourselves, our egos, and have to think what is best for Pakistan. We need to hold the ground that has been taken back after much sacrifice – and move to the Next – a peaceful Pakistan.

17
February

Written By: Kokab Khawaja

Vegetable Crumble

Ingredients

1 kg diced vegetables (carrots, cabbage, cauliflower, mushrooms, etc.)

1 tablespoon butter

½ cup grated cheese

1 cup hot water and 2 chicken cubes

For Crumble

2 tablespoon butter

1 cup bread crumbs

½ cup chopped mixed nuts

Salt and pepper to taste

Method

Fry the vegetables in butter, add water mixed with chicken, cook uncovered until tender • Add cheese and mix well • Mix all the crumble ingredients in a bowl • Place the vegetables in a glass dish • Sprinkle crumble over the vegetables • Bake at 180 oC for few minutes in a pre-heated oven until crumble turns golden brown • Serve hot

Chicken with Almonds

500g chicken breasts cut into fingers

2 egg whites

½ cup almonds (skinned)

1 cup oil

1 cup mushrooms

1 tablespoon ginger garlic paste

2 tomatoes

2 tablespoon cornflour

1 spring onion

Seasoning as required

Method

• Marinate the chicken fingers in whites and salt • Heat one cup oil, fry ½ cup almonds and remove from heat and keep aside • In the same oil, fry the chicken and remove from heat • Take ¼ cup oil from similar oil and fry one tablespoon of ginger garlic paste • Add one cup of tinned sliced mushrooms and 2 tomato’s wedges • Add fried chicken fingers (golden brown) • Add two tablespoons of soya sauce, salt to taste and two levelled tablespoons of cornflour mixed with little water • Add a cup of green onions (1” cut into 1”) • Garnish with sliced fried almonds before serving.

17
February

Written By: Hermaine Khan

They say the best thing is to look natural, but it takes makeup to look natural. I believe God has made everyone unique and beautiful in their own way and makeup should not be used to hide yourself, but to enhance what you already have. I love the confidence that makeup gives a girl, the shine in her eyes, the natural blush on her cheeks and a smile that radiates confidence. It gives me immense pleasure to see my clients smile when they look at themselves.

For a makeup artist, a face is as serious a business as is an aircraft to a pilot. My journey in makeup started in the year 2011 when I decided to pack my bags and moved to Los Angeles. I became part of a city where everyone had a dream. I joined ‘LA Makeup Academy’ and that’s when my life started to develop, I started to grow, I began to learn. Learning fills us with light and positivity and I am fortunate to have clients and loved ones who fill me with even more light each day. In this article, i would be telling you about ‘Banana Homemade Hair Mask’ and few tips to take care of your hair. Banana Homemade Hair Mask

Ingredients:

• Two overripe bananas

• A tablespoon of coconut oil

• A table spoon of olive oil

• A table spoon of honey

Method:

• Blend two ripe bananas very smoothly until there are absolutely no chunks or weeny banana pieces. You must be having time to spare for the fine blending.

• Add the honey, coconut and olive oil to your delicious mixture and blend again.

• Slather the smoothie into your scalp and lengths of your hair and let it settle and sink into your scalp for at least five minutes.

• Rinse thoroughly well with warm water. Take your time to comb through, removing any pieces (especially if you didn't blend until there was no room for small chunks)

• You can do a final rinse with some good conditioner

Nutrifying Egg Hair Mask Benefits:

• Protein. Nourishes the hair roots for hair growth.

• Fatty Acids. Gives your hair a natural glossy shine.

• Potassium. For healing dry damaged hair.

• Vitamin A. Prevents hair breakage.

• Vitamin D. Prevents hair loss and balding.

• Vitamin B12. For hair growth.

Keep your hair healthy

• Look for hair products containing glycerine as it infuses moisture into every hair kind, which in turn, reduces dandruff. Dandruff and hair loss may also be caused by zinc deficiency so a number of shampoos also contain zinc.

• Losing 50 to 100 strands of hair is considered pretty normal but once you start losing more, its time to be very gentle with your hair as it may turn into bald spots. Along with taking other measures, do not comb your hair while wet.

• When you wash hair, use lukewarm or cold water as hot water may damage hair tips and hair may get dry and de-shaped.

• Blow drying the hair and straightening with flat iron are sometimes required but can be reserved for special occasions and working days. If subjected to frequent heating and dying, the proteins are weakened making hair look brittle and fragile.

• Proper intake of water increases cell turnover thus making the hair softer and comparatively healthier.

• Hair follicles can be kept active with a hair massage for a few minutes daily as it promotes circulation in your scalp.

• Rubbing green tea into the hair helps with hair growth while preventing hair loss as the tea has anti-oxidants in it. Brew two green tea bags into a cup of water. Once the tea cools down slightly, apply it to your hair. Leave it for an hour, then rinse thoroughly.

• Very coarse and brittle hair may require hot oil treatments, since the heat activates the oil and locks it into hair strands.

• High levels of stress may result in hair fall. Meditation can restore the hormonal balance while exercise and sports also help reducing stress and also help in reducing hair fall.

• Your daily diet must have the balance of certain vitamins and minerals as these also help the hair to have what is required to be healthy, shiny and fresh-looking.

• Healthy sleeping routine regulates hair growth as the blood flows evenly throughout the scalp.

The writer is a make up specialist based in Islamabad.
17
February

Written By: Schezre Syed

In my last article on this subject, we brushed upon the journey of the video games while talking about how they can have a positive impact on a player. We discussed the journey of this infotainment technology, how it has made its way into the palm of our hand, and we also surmised that the benefits belong to the smart consumer (who understands that excess of everything is bad). In this article, I will focus on few other dimensions of this interesting theme.

In order to reach a stage where one can play to their heart's content and (possibly) not face any repercussions, one probably has to be qualified enough to earn the freedom. It is a spot that has to be earned after years of discipline, formal education and practical learning. As they say, the rules must be learned if one is to break them like an artist. Luckily, Video Gaming is an enterprise that has been attracting such artists. The gaming industry is run by dreamers. What is a video game if not a dream projected as reality on a virtual space? It is a platform where the real and surreal collide and merge in such an artistic fashion that the result is pure magic. These artists are always striving to realise their visions, only to move onto a bigger dream as soon as one is actualized. This cross-disciplinary field is shape shifting its applications, seeping into so many sectors that one may ask the oft repeated question: is art imitating life or is life beginning to mirror this art form?

Artificial Intelligence (AI) is being used in the video game soon after its inception. It enables virtual creatures (non-player characters/NPCs) to display human-like intelligence and graphics to respond and react to each of players manoeuvre. But that is just the basic application of the AI in gaming. As the developers venture to capture complex settings of the real world situations, they also seem to make reality more functional for the product; a seemingly baffling statement, but it is not really. Artificial Intelligence is not only restricted to the light aspect of gaming, but it is replicating potentially dangerous or difficult real-life situations, allowing concerned audiences to explore, learn and adapt to those settings while maintaining control and a safe distance.

Life and death situations punctuate gaming sequences more often than not (for the on-screen characters). But nowhere do they take as serious a turn as they do in certain kinds of games that are anything but. Already the dynamics involved in gaming are being employed by some healthcare professionals to simulate surgeries and other hardcore situations where doctors would be required to make quick critical decisions (some levels get ludicrous enough to ask for brain surgeries in moving vehicles – talk about pressure). Armed forces are turning towards the same technology to attain surprisingly close to life experiences while eliminating any threat to life. From make-shift airplane controls, to navigating through routes, at insignificant costs, these games are becoming increasingly popular agents in reshaping training methods and the classroom is well on its way to being dramatically changed by this cross-disciplinary field (read: feat) of technology.

Consoles like the Nintendo WII added a new dimension to the gaming world by enabling players to use their bodies as joysticks. But the developers are tirelessly pushing boundaries and introducing wackier gears that can do much more. From the realm of the virtual, we are entering the zone of the real. Robotics is coming into play with creations such as the powered exoskeletons. These are technological suits that a person can wear and perform super human feats with the enhanced endurance and strength they offer. In the coming decades such inventions may go on to change mobility for people with physical disabilities. Currently, a few prototypes are being used and tested for military purposes. The soldier of tomorrow may just be giving the Marvel Comics super-heroes a run for their money.

A good portion of the gaming developers seem to be obsessed with emulating true to life experiences. In order to achieve that they are trying to involve more senses. From the visual, we are being introduced to the sense of touch. Remote controls shall remain ever-popular and vibrations in controls are not new either. However, with the use of haptic feedback, virtual reality can literally be in your hands (for instance) with a device known as Dexmo. With spider-like legs and unattractive rings, it may look like some home-made hi-tech torture device for the hands, but it’s a highly sophisticated piece of technology that allows the player to feel virtual objects. It operates completely in tandem with the visuals on-screen, braking and locking its own body when an object is approached. This jamming of the device creates pressure on the hand which gives the sensation of something real being touched. Certain companies have developed similar motion-sensing technology without the need of wearing any accessory. The virtual world is changing at a speed of light. The day a gizmo is released, another is already on its way to making it old-news. The frontiers developers are probing are mind-boggling. Once a particular upgrade is launched it steps just a little towards the right, a little to the left and flows into different fields and this fluid quality of video games is increasingly opening up newer vistas.

The present itself sounds futuristic enough to be something out of a sci-fi film, while the land of tomorrow is brimming with boundless possibilities. The line segregating reality and pseudo-reality is dwindling, and this world of the dreamer seems to be careening towards a future where the difference between the two may as well cease to exist. Scientists are already theorizing that aliens may just be Artificial Intelligent life forms and this human world of ours might be nothing more than a simulation; a 3D image coded onto a flat surface (much like The Simms, with us simply playing self-aware beings) – a potentially frightening thought, but not an implausible one. H.G. Wells, Martin Goodman (et al.) may have been onto something, and video games clearly have a lot to share with us.

The writer is an art graduate, art curator and visual artist who focuses on understanding the impact of pop-culture on society.
17
February

Written By: Jennifer McKay

We never thought of cricket as a deadly game. At times aggressive may be, particularly the way the Australians play the game. But deadly? No. At least, not until the tragic accident that claimed the life of 25 year-old Australian batsman, Phillip Hughes, when a bouncer struck him on the neck during a Sheffield Shield match at the Sydney Cricket Ground on 25 November 2014. He died in hospital two days later, surrounded by family and friends. The death of this vibrant and talented young man touched the hearts of cricket fans across the world. The outpouring of grief and the show of international solidarity with his family, friends, and team members, was truly heartwarming and unprecedented for a sportsman. So was the sympathy and concern for 22 year-old Sean Abbott, who bowled the fatal ball.

Cricket fans across the world seemed to feel that they knew Phil. His sporting talent, cheery personality and persistence to regain form and his place in the Test team, made him a popular figure in the cricket world. People knew Phil’s face, his cricket stats, and how hard he was working to get back into the Australian test team after some shaky form. That he never forgot his family and where he came from – the sleepy country town of Macksville on the northern New South Wales coast – endeared him to his fellow Australians, and reminded us that there is no place like home amongst the family who have always loved us through good times and bad. To Australians, he just seemed like the quintessential ‘good Aussie bloke’.

‘Putout your bats’, a simple tribute started by Sydney man Paul Taylor, who posted a photo on Twitter of his cricket bat and cap which he’d placed outside the front door of his home as a mark of respect to Hughes, quickly went viral on Twitter and was picked up and re-tweeted by cricket fans around Australia and overseas. Within hours, bats were appearing outside doors and fences of homes, offices, sports grounds, and sometimes in the oddest and most remote places. Facebook too was inundated with postings with tributes, condolences and photos of cricket bats outside doors. At the opening session of the Pakistan vs. New Zealand cricket test in Sharjah, both teams lined up bats and caps along the fence in a touching tribute to honour Phil. The ‘putout our bats’ phenomena truly reflected the power of social media and how it can be used for bringing people together in a positive way.

Sports clubs – not just cricket – marked his passing in some way. Many players wore black armbands, or the number 408 – Hughes’s test player number – or 63, Phil Hughes’s score when he was struck. Scoreboards at sports stadia flashed his photo and tributes and, at the start of the first test against India at Adelaide Oval, instead of a minute’s silence, the crowd stood for 63 seconds of applause. English rock star and cricket fan, Elton John, dedicated a song “Don’t Let the Sun Go Down on Me” at a concert in Germany to an audience that probably didn’t quite get it about cricket but a global audience of cricket fans will now always be reminded of Phil Hughes when they hear this song. Phil Hughes’s death, too young in life, was a brief uniting moment across so many countries, a time of a mutual sense of loss. It reminds me that sport is a great unifier of people from all walks of life and across nations.

So why did the death of this young man touch so many of us when the world around us is full of tragedy every day. We don’t mark the loss of the countless numbers of undoubtedly good people who die tragically, with such emotional outpourings or with funerals attended by the Prime Minister and other political leaders. So, why did we feel this way about Phil?

In Australia, like Pakistan, cricket is a national sport. All across both countries, the sight of children playing cricket in any available space is such a common one. In Australia, we played it almost from the time we could walk. We played in the backyard, the street, the park or at the beach. I remember fondly the carefree fun of childhood growing up in my hometown on the coast of tropical North Queensland and playing cricket with my brother, cousins and our friends. The beach was definitely the favourite place for us all – we could run around barefooted, with lots of space and less likelihood of hitting a ball through someone’s window, a ‘crime’ which would always result in a loss of pocket money from our parents. We learned a lot in those young days – though we didn’t know it then – about playing as a team building, coordination, character-building and leadership, all attributes that sport can teach us and are useful for later life. These happy memories of childhood cricket are typical of so many Australians and contributed strongly to our lasting love of cricket. I know this is a bond we share with Pakistanis.

Australians living here in Pakistan were deeply touched by the number of Pakistanis who so kindly offered their condolences. Some of us pondered on how in this country where we have lost thousands of soldiers and civilians to terrorist attacks, other than their family and friends, there is rarely anything more than a passing mention in the media and people don’t seem to give it a second thought. An exception to this was the attack on the Peshawar Army Public School on December 16, 2014, a black day for the country and one of the few incidences that truly shocked the population into openly mourning. How could it not?

Does this mean we are oblivious to the suffering of others here? I don’t think so. I believe it is more likely that the scale and true horror of tragedies in Pakistan is so great and so frequent that we are too often in a state of denial and fear, trying to shut from our minds that it could happen to us. Without seeing the faces of the victims or a 'backstory' about their lives, people don’t seem to be able to so openly empathise. But that doesn't mean there is a lack of caring – people are still saddened and traumatised at such suffering, but process their feelings more inwardly. Perhaps Phil’s incident was the ‘one-in-a-million nature of the incident’ that shook us – a reminder that our lives can change in a flash while doing something that is so ‘normal’. In a media press conference, Australian team doctor Peter Brukner said, "I think in this instance, this was a freakish accident because it was an injury to the neck that caused haemorrhage in the brain." He went on to explain, "The condition is incredibly rare. It's called vertebral artery dissection leading to subarachnoid haemorrhage, and only 100 cases have ever been reported. There has been only one case reported as a result of a cricket ball.” Dr. Tony Grabs, the head of trauma surgery at St Vincent’s Hospital, where Hughes was treated, described the injury as “catastrophic.” "We haven't seen this at this hospital, this type of injury, so it is very rare and very freakish."

The incident sparked a debate about whether a different type of helmet might have prevented this tragedy. Maybe! But a helmet that covers the neck more fully would restrict movement and would most likely not be practical. However, designers are always working on new designs for sports equipment so perhaps some new groundbreaking design will appear on the market in the future. Australian cricket captain Michael Clarke, a close friend and mentor to Phil Hughes whom he called his ‘little brother’, was almost inconsolable in his grief in those early days. Clarke stayed by Hughes’s hospital bed in those last hours, comforting the family and saying his goodbyes. His public statement was hard to watch as he fought back the tears and struggled for composure. Who said men don’t cry? It is surely one of the most human emotions. We saw many of team members also breaking down and trying to console each other.

Many people were deeply concerned about the impact of this tragic incident on the life and career of Sean Abbott. Friends and team mates, and the public too, rallied around to support him. In a truly touching display of compassion, Megan Hughes, Phil's sister, sat with Abbott at the hospital and comforted and counselled him, assuring him that nobody thought it was his fault and that the family supported him and wished him well. Sean Abbott has shown courage in the face of his grief and anguish, attending Phil Hughes’s funeral alongside his team mates, the family, and friends. There were those in the cricket world who thought Abbott might never play again but he returned to the field sooner than expected. He has not spoken publicly about his feelings and we can only hope he is able to come to terms with this and know that it was not his fault.

The one person who may have truly understood what Sean Abbott has been going through, was John Anderson, a former Deputy Prime Minister of Australia. When Anderson was a schoolboy, he was home from boarding school for the holidays and enjoying a game of backyard cricket with his father, when tragedy struck. A ball he hit struck his little sister Jane on the back of her neck as she sat playing with her pet cat. Sadly, Jane died as a result of this tragic accident. Their father, overcome with grief, sent John back to boarding school before the funeral and never spoke of what happened again. The psychological impact on this young boy must have been devastating.

John Anderson has rarely spoken of this sad time in his life though he referred to the incident in Faith and Duty, his authorised biography, saying that it drew him closer to his faith. Anderson overcame the trauma of that awful day, studied and worked hard, and went on to become the Deputy Prime Minister of Australia, respected as an honourable and decent man. In a touching example of human kindness, he reached out to the devastated Abbott, offering to help him come to terms with what happened.

Gradually, life in the cricket world has returned to normal. The postponed First Test of the Australia vs. India series, previously scheduled for the Sydney Cricket Ground, was held in Adelaide. It opened with tributes for Phil Hughes, 63 seconds of applause, and David Warner was the first player to reach the now almost legendary number of 63 before going on to score centuries in both innings. He raised his bat to the sky for his mate Phil. And on 9 December, despite fears that he would have trouble returning to cricket or fast bowling, Sean Abbott bowled his first bouncer at a Sheffield Shield match for New South Wales against Queensland, ending the match with a career best of 6-14. He received a standing ovation from the crowd as he left the field, applauding his courage in facing up to his trauma. Cricket was back to normal and everyone was able to move on a little. For his family though, life will never be normal again.

In his beautiful and moving eulogy at Phil Hughes’s funeral, an event attended by several thousand locals and dignitaries including the Prime Minister, Michael Clarke said, “He always wanted to bring people together and he always wanted to celebrate his love for the game and its people. Is this what we call the spirit of cricket? From the little girl in Karachi holding a candlelight tribute to masters of the game like Tendulkar, Warne and Lara showing their grief to the world, the spirit that binds us all together. We feel it in the thrill of a cover drive. Or the taking of a screamer at gully, whether by a 12-year-old boy in Worcester or by Brendon McCullum in Dubai. It is in the brilliant hundred and five-wicket haul, just as significant to the players in a Western Suburbs club game as it is in a Test match."

Fighting back his tears, Clarke went on to say, "The bonds that lead to cricketers from around the world putting their bats out, that saw people who didn’t even know Phillip lay flowers at the gates of Lord’s and that brought every cricketing nation on earth to make its own heartfelt tribute. The bonds that saw players, old and new, rush to his bedside. From wherever they heard the news to say their prayers and farewells. This is what makes our game the greatest game in the world. Phillip’s spirit, which is now part of our game forever, will act as a custodian of the sport we all love. We must listen to it. We must cherish it. We must learn from it. We must dig in and get through to tea. And we must play on. So rest in peace my little brother. I’ll see you out in the middle.”

Although they will diminish in time, for now the tributes and sentimental moments continue to flow. Pakistan and New Zealand, with the support of the series sponsors, Haier, dedicated the trophy for their T20 matches, in memory of Phillip Hughes. In comments to AFP, Pakistan's T20 captain Shahid Afridi said, “Hughes died very young and his tragic death has left everyone shocked. We are thankful to the sponsors who have decided to dedicate the trophy in memory of Hughes as a mark of respect.”

The trophy was presented to the Australian High Commissioner, Peter Heyward, in Islamabad on 10 January. Mr Heyward tweeted, “Great gesture to dedicate Haier Pakistan NZ test cup in memory of Philip Hughes, presented by Shahid & Javed Afridi.” A memorial plaque to Phil Hughes has been unveiled at the Sydney Cricket Ground, the scene of the incident. The first day of Fourth Test against India, played at the SCG, was an emotional occasion and when David Warner again hit the magic 63 runs, in another tearful salute to his friend Hughes, he fell to the ground and kissed the pitch, before going on to reach yet another century. Although there were concerns that the Australian Test Team might not play well in the Australia vs India series due to the emotional upheaval, they played their hearts out, beating India in the first and second matches, drew the third and fourth, to take the series 2-0. What better way to honour their fallen friend?

Everything we do in life has its risk. In the end, it is not up to us when it is our time to go. Even the safest of pastimes can present an unforeseeable hazard that can result in tragedy and our life can change forever. Phillip Hughes died, doing what he loved – playing cricket. He lived his short life to the fullest, loved his family and friends, and made a lasting impact on the lives of sports fans around the world. He will be remembered as a great cricketer, who played his sport with passion and commitment, a very good human being who loved his family and friends, and as an inspiration to children who love sport. It is a fine legacy. So, rest in peace Phil. You will forever be ‘63 Not Out’ to cricket fans across the world.

The writer is Australian Disaster Management and Civil-Military Relations Consultant, based in Islamabad where she consults for Government and UN agencies. She has also worked with ERRA and NDMA. This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
17
February

The role of good and healthy diet in the maintenance of health and fitness cannot be undermined and with more awareness the role of healthy diet is being recognized with more seriousness. The maintenance of optimal weight and fitness lies between the balance of two pillars – (1) Calories intake, and (2) Calories consumed.

A healthy diet consists of consuming a variety of foods from all these five food groups:

• Dairy

• Fruits

• Vegetables

• Proteins

• Grains

Correct times of meals and hydration is just as important as what you eat. Eating small, frequent meals is preferred to skipping meals or consuming large meals. With the busy schedules and multiple demands, a healthy wholesome meal cooked in a proper way is the most satisfying and enjoyable thing.

Some of the ingredients of healthy diet are:-

• Carbohydrates. (50-65%) Whole grains, legumes, non processed rice and cereals.

• Proteins. (15-25%) Thin lean cut meat, fish, chicken.

• Fats. (25-35%) Out of this 30% should be saturated fats like desi ghee, dairy butter and 70% poly unsaturated fats like olive oil, sunflower oil etc.

• Energy Requirements. There are various complicated formulas and methods written in nutrition books for the calculation of exact caloric requirement. For a rough estimate, following formula can be used:-

Moderately Active - Weight in pounds x 15.25 = Total calories/day requirement (Daily activity + upto 3 km walk)

Very Active - Weight in pounds x 16.5 = Total calories/day requirement (Sports + upto 4 km walk)

• Water Requirement. The maintenance of an optimum hydration is very important for good health. A good estimate of how much water one needs to drink a day is to know the daily caloric requirement e.g., if daily caloric requirement is 2000 calories, one needs to drink 2000 ml of water in a day (8 glasses as 1 glass = 250 ml). An important point to be kept in mind is that the requirement of water is not just met by drinking water but the water content of various foods be also kept in mind.

Be watchful

There are few misconceptions about the food and nutrition, especially in the educated class which must be clarified:-

• Anything which grows from soil is called Organic Food: A food item which is free from synthetic fertilizers, and no spray of pesticides and chemicals has been done and is grown with supply of clean water, free from all types of industrial chemicals actually falls in the category of organic food.

• Food Faddism: These are idiosyncratic diets and eating patterns promoted by companies and quacks which promote short term weight loss, usually with no concern for long term health maintenance. These are quite popular in public and are commonly known with the name of G.M diet, Atkin diet, Detox diet, Grape fruit diet etc. The best way is to eat in moderation and loose weight slowly.

• Super Foods: Most people have the belief that some items are very good for health and well being, and are conserved in large amounts like raw milk, soya, vit E, multivitamins, mineral supplements, energy drinks etc. It should be kept in mind that just like medicines these food items help only in case of any nutritional deficiency. But these must be taken in moderation and over consumption is harmful just like over dose of drugs.

• Being Obese is not being Healthy: People have to be educated that obesity itself is a chronic disease affecting the whole body just like diabetes and hypertension and reduces the average life expectancy.

• Despite all the negative notions about fast food and processed foods, most of the people are using them and the average life expectancy throughout the world has increased: This belief is based on the total lack of the knowledge of the definition of health which states that “Health is a complete state of physical, mental and social well-being including the absence of disease and infirmity.” So it is clear that actually diseased life expectancy has increased due to use of better medicines and surgical techniques. How many individuals one can find around who are above 50 years of age and not using medicines?

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17
February

Visit of Pakistan Cricket Team To CMH Peshawar

Paksitan Cricket Team visited CMH on January 17, 2015, to show solidartiy with injured students of APS Peshawar. The team spent some time with the students and later visited the families of Shuhada of APS and offered fatiha.

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17
February

Written By: Shazma Khan

Pakistan is among the few countries where, even in the 21st century, patients of polio can be found. It was alarming to notice that as high as 262 cases of polio were recorded during 2014 as compared to 93 and 58 cases respectively in 2013 and 2012. In the recent past, World Health Organization (WHO) imposed travel sanctions against Pakistan on the plea of its failure to completely eradicate polio from Pakistan. Objectively evaluating the issue in pure technical terms, it is evident that the WHO and UNICEF are the technical leaders for planning, capacity building, social mobilization and communication since the launch of programme in 1994. It’s them and the independent monitors commissioned by them who monitor, evaluate and report upon the implementation of polio campaigns conducted by the government. Didn’t we know that their reports mostly agreed with the government notified data? They have reportedly been in agreement with the reports of the government regarding persistent high coverage of polio vaccine spanning between 90-95% or even higher. And then in abrupt manners we came to know that Pakistan was failing in its fight against the polio to the extent that warranted travel embargo.

It’s apparent that the WHO and UNICEF also share some responsibility and Pakistan alone cannot be held responsible. Interestingly, Cameron and Syria are the two other countries on which travel restrictions have been imposed. The number of polio cases in these countries is far below some other countries which have been exempted from similar restriction by WHO. This in itself creates doubts about the objectives and procedure of slapping restrictions.

The staff working on polio eradication attribute the increase in polio cases to the worsening law and order situation, violence against polio workers and the imposition of ban by Taliban on polio vaccination in North and South Waziristan. Due to the similar reason, hundreds and thousands of children were deprived of polio vaccinations. The Taliban actions have been more violent since July 2012 after the revelation of information about the involvement of an NGO, ‘Save the Children’ and Dr. Shakeel Afridi in running a fake Polio campaign in Abbottabad, that helped in establishing the identity of Osama bin Laden.

However, an analysis of the polio campaign data from May to November 2012 shows that the incident of Dr. Shakeel though greatly damaged the polio programme in the country is not the only reason of failure of polio campaign. Rather, it was the closure of a very successful ‘Ulama Project’ being run by National Research and Development Foundation (NRDF) that seriously affected the polio program and its public image in November 2012. The official data shows that the organization successfully brought down the number of refusal families in FATA and KPK to 13,984. Since its closure, a mammoth increase has been observed in the numbers of families refusing to vaccinate their children against the crippling disease all over Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and FATA. In a recently held campaign, the number of refusal families only in Peshawar has reached to 19,000. To compensate for its deliberate act of sidelining ‘Ulama’, the UNICEF management has hired the services of over 900 community mobilization and communication staff but any improvement in the situation is yet to be seen.

This also shows a failure of communication strategy both in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and FATA and warrants urgent attention on the part of government to save the programme from a total failure and arrest the damage that has already been done to the country and cause of children. Much has been written about the stories of corruption and inflated salaries in the polio programme for past several years. Many of these stories allege that the highly paid staff of polio programme are least interested to end polio from the country as this will put their job at stake. Many health experts also consider the polio programme as a tool to malign the country, put restrictions on it and destabilize it in the long run. To bring things back on track, the government needs to re-evaluate the entire polio programme, put an end to the rampant corruption in the polio programme and purge it from dubious characters. Immediate steps are also required for enhancing local ownership, accountability and oversight of the polio programme. The government also needs to run the entire programme on its own, assign clear cut responsibilities and areas to different well-reputed and experienced organizations for generating competition.

Pakistan Army has done a massive effort in bringing polio campaign back on its feet ever since it was asked by government to facilitate this project. There is mark improvement in the figure of children who have been administrated polio drops during a year or so and hopefully number of polio cases will start to reduce in future.

The intelligence agencies also need to keep a vigilant eye on the staffers of polio and other similar programmes as there have been frequent rumours of using such programmes for spying purposes in the past. They also need to investigate that how some of the senior staff of polio programme amassed huge fortunes in a short span of time. A fair scrutiny of such issues will not only expose the corrupt elements in the polio programme but will also greatly rebuild its lost credibility.

Build Me a Son...

Build me a son, O Lord, who will be strong enough to know when he is weak; and brave enough to face himself when he is afraid; one who will be pround and unbending in honest defeat and humble and gentle in victory. Build me a son whose wishes will not take the place of deeds; a son who will know Thee -- and that to know himself is the foundation stone of knowledge.

Lead him, I pray, not in the path of ease and comfort, but under the stress and spur of difficulties and challenge. Here let him learn to stand up in the storm; here let him learn compassion for those who fail.

Build me a son whose heart will be clear, whose goal will be high, a son who will master himself before he seeks to master other men, one who will reach into the future, yet never forget the past.

And after all these things are his, add, I pray, enough of a sense of humor, so that he may always be serious, yet never take himself too seriously. Give him humility, so that he may always remember the simplicity of true greatness, the open mind of true wisdom, and the meekness of true strength.

Then I, his father, will dare to whisper, "I have not lived in vain!"

(General Douglas MacArthur)

The writer is a journalist based in Peshawar.
17
February

Mr Athar Yad Ali is a brave citizen who, in a daring action on January 3, 2015, managed to stop a driver-less 22 wheeler truck, whose brakes had failed at Salt Range, Motorway. His action prevented men and material losses and speaks volumes about his courage and sense of responsibility as a citizen.

Interview By: Asif Jehangir Raja

Q. The video of your brave action of halting a driver-less heavy truck at the Salt Range area on the Motorway on Jan 3, 2015 went viral on web. Please share the details of the incident with us.

My wife, two sons and I were on the Motorway, enroute to Lahore from Islamabad, when we noticed an unmanned 22 wheeler truck making its way down the road in an abnormal manner. After observing it for some time in the back view mirror, it became evident that the brakes of the truck had failed. Moreover, we also noticed that the truck was without driver meaning that the driver had probably jumped off after noticing the brake failure. The Salt Range is one of the most dangerous portions for any kind of traffic, especially the heavy vehicles, on the Motorway. An unmanned truck could cause man and material losses and to the vehicles commuting on the Motorway. My children were making a video of the truck. After hoping for the truck to come to a halt which wasn’t happening, I noticed a slope coming which could cause a lot of damage and then within a spilt-second I decided that I had to stop it before it was too late.

Q. In the video, your children and family is heard advising you not to attempt any such adventure. What prompted you to take such a decision despite opposition?

My children were making a video of the truck. However after seeing that the truck just wasn’t stopping and there was a slope ahead, I decided to be more than a mere spectator and took charge of the situation. So I got off from my car and mounted on the truck. If the truck wasn't stopped it could have led to a disastrous situation. I didn't want to leave this to chance and took my chance; and all praise to Allah, it paid off.

Q. How did you manage to stop the truck on a slope whose brakes had failed?

It was essentially a very basic Physics law that I applied to stop the truck. After jumping behind the steering wheel, I kept swerving the truck into the divider and used the tyres fixed on the roadside wall to break the momentum which slowed its speed. I continued doing so for about 2 kilometers and eventually the truck came to a halt.

Q. Were you fearful at any moment of your brave action? What were your feelings while you were undergoing this action?

Honestly, it was the use of cool logic under pressure. Once you take the decision to put yourself in a seemingly dangerous situation, you have to eliminate all fears and replace them with logic; that is the only way to come out of it unscathed.

Q. Did you attempt any brave action of similar nature in your life previously?

Yes, on several occasions.

Q. How does your family feel now?

Besides being relieved that nothing happened to me, they are proud of me.

Q. You have attained height of fame after this incident. What are your feelings?

I didn't intend for the fame to come to me. It was a split second decision that I took to prevent the terrible accident and something that I thought might help others.

Honestly, I am not a hero. I only hope that any Pakistani who could be involved in a similar situation would surely act to help. I just hope that people take this as an inspiration and should help our fellow countrymen and the nation. All praise to Allah, the Almighty.

Q. What is your message for the readers of Hilal?

To always put the needs of others before yours for the greater goal of peace, prosperity and unity of the country. We are all citizens of this great country that we live in and we need to work for peace and harmony. Remember our deeds are accounted for, good and bad. So every chance one gets, should increase the good.

Pakistan is passing through challenging times and terrorism has hit us hard. As member of the civil society, we all shall remain vigilant, and upon watching any suspicious terrorist activity, must inform the concerned authorities and also make all efforts to stop such individuals from barbaric acts.

Long Live Pakistan!

 

17
February

Admiral Dr. Marsetio, Chief of the Indonesian Navy, called on Admiral Muhammad Zakaullah, Chief of Naval Staff at NHQ. Both the dignitaries discussed various avenues of cooperation between navies of the two countries.

A smartly turned out contingent of Pakistan Navy presenting the Guard of Honour to the dignitary, Brigadier General Qasem Fadeel Nahar Tanashat, Commander Royal Jordanian Naval Forces at Naval Headquarters, Islamabad.

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17
February

Written By: Dr. Zafar Mahmood

Like prices of other commodities, the price of crude oil experiences wide price swings in times of shortage or oversupply. Unlike many other commodities, the crude oil price cycle may extend over several years responding to changes in global demand and supply. Global oil prices have fallen sharply over the past seven months, leading to significant revenue shortfalls in many oil exporting nations. On the other hand, consumers in oil importing countries, including Pakistan, are now paying less.

Between 2010 and mid-2014, world oil prices remained fairly stable at around $115 a barrel. Among the reasons attributed to this trend was the higher consumption pattern by major oil importing nations like China and India. Also, the geopolitical tensions in nations like Iraq and Libya too kept the prices high. As oil producing nations could not keep up with the world demand, as a result the prices rose. But since June 2014 prices have more than halved. Brent crude oil has now dipped below $50 a barrel for the first time since May 2009. US crude, which is lighter and sweeter, has also fallen below $50 a barrel.

The reasons for plummeting oil prices are twofold – weak demand in many countries of Asia and Europe due to weak economic growth, coupled with surging US oil production due to shale gas and oil. Shale is a natural gas found in shale formations – a type of rock in the earth's crust. It is being considered as the new source of natural gas as other sources are fast depleting. US is at the forefront of exploring and producing shale gas. It accounted for 39% of its natural gas production in 2012.

Added to this is the fact that the oil cartel OPEC is determined not to cut production as a way to prop up prices. OPEC members are losing large export earnings but do not want to cut their production at this stage. They are increasingly using their accumulated future generations’ fund to bridge the current account and fiscal deficits.

Russia is one of the world's largest oil producers. Its economy heavily depends on energy revenues, with oil and gas accounts for about 70% of export earnings. Russia is expected to lose about $2 billion in revenues for every dollar fall in the oil price. Consequently, its economy is likely to shrink by at least 0.7% in 2015 if oil prices do not recover. Russian Government has predicted that its economy will sink into recession. Despite this, Russia has confirmed it will not cut production to shore up oil prices. This is because with a cut in oil production, Russia expects that its importing countries will increase their production, which means a loss of its niche markets.

Saudi Arabia, the world's largest oil exporter and OPEC's most influential member, could support global oil prices by cutting back its own production, but there is little sign it wants to do this. Two reasons: first, to try to instill some discipline among OPEC members and second to put pressure on USA's promising shale oil and gas industry, as OPEC now recognizes the challenge of US production. Although Saudi Arabia needs oil prices to be around $85 in the longer term to balance its budget, it has large reserve fund of about $700 bn, so it can bear lower prices for some time. Like Russia, OPEC believes that lower prices would force some higher cost producers to shut down their production so that it can pick market share in the longer run. OPEC has also learned from its history. In the 1980s, OPEC cut its production significantly in order to boost prices, but it had little effect, although it badly affected the member countries’ economies. So this time OPEC is cautious and has shown unwillingness to cut its production level.

The growth of oil production in North America, particularly in USA, has been staggering. US oil production levels were at their highest levels in almost 30 years. It has been this growth in US energy production, where gas and oil is extracted from shale formations using hydraulic fracturing that has been one of the main drivers of lower oil prices. Despite many US shale oil companies have far higher costs, $60 to $70, than conventional rivals; many of them need to carry on pumping to generate sufficient revenues to pay off debts and other costs. With Europe's weakening economies currently characterized by low inflation and weak growth, any benefits of lower oil prices would be welcomed by stressed governments. China, which is set to become the largest net importer of oil, should gain from falling prices. However, lower oil prices won't fully offset the far wider effects of a slowing economy.

Japan imports nearly all of the oil it uses. But lower prices are a mixed blessing as high energy prices had helped to push inflation higher, which has been a key part of Japanese government’s growth strategy to combat deflation. A 10% fall in oil prices should lead to a 0.1% increase in economic output, some experts predict. In general, consumers benefit through lower energy prices, but eventually, low oil prices do erode the conditions that brought them about. Pakistan’s imports of petroleum and its products account for about 33 percent of its total imports. Falling oil prices are expected to ease its current account deficit, which will strengthen Pak Rupee. With low oil price, industrial production cost will go down hence our exports may become internationally competitive. At the same time, revenue from petroleum-related levies will fall because Pakistan imposes ad valorem taxes instead of specific duties. To recover falling tax revenue, government has announced to impose additional 5% sales tax on petroleum products. Lower oil prices are helping government to contain inflation rate. Current inflation rate is 4.3% (December 2014), which is likely to further go down; both consumers and government are cheering. Pakistan’s projected recoverable shale gas is estimated at 105 trillion cubic feet of recoverable gas and 9.1 billion barrels of shale oil reserves. However, its production costs in Pakistan will be considerably high due to the advanced technological requirements and relatively unknown terrain. Pakistan needs a policy to attract technology for its exploration.

The steep fall in crude prices is de facto, a fiscal stimulus. It is likely to boost growth and employment. Consequently, unemployment and poverty will fall. However, fall in earnings of oil exporting countries, especially in the Arabian Gulf region, is likely to reduce inflow of FDI to Pakistan. Default in loans given to shale gas developers in USA could affect the global banking industry which in turn could cause imbalances, and hence a fall in capital inflow from these sources to Pakistan.

All in all, the biggest fall in oil prices since the 2008 global recession is shifting wealth and power from oil producing states to oil importing states. Surging U.S. and other Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) shale supply, weakening Asian and European demand and a stronger dollar has pushed oil to a five-and-half-year low, with a price below $40 a barrel not out of sight.

Even as cheaper fuel stimulates the global economy, it could aggravate political tension by squeezing government revenue and social benefits. Pakistan government is quick enough to announce 5 percent additional sales tax on petroleum to account for the falling revenue on this account. Political tensions in some of the oil exporting countries may increase if the fall in oil prices persists.

Pakistan needs to carefully manage falling oil imports bill. With lower oil prices if demand goes up proportionately then import bill will not go down. Pakistan’s domestic crude oil production may fall if marginal producers become uncompetitive. Thus, government needs to make all efforts not only to stabilize the currency but properly manage demand and domestic production, too.

The writer is a Professor of Economics at School of Social Sciences and Humanities at NUST, Islamabad. This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
17
February

To attract people to join and participate in winter sports, World Snow Day was observed for the first time at ski slope of PAF Base Kalabagh. A large number of students who participated were provided free training and necessary ski equipment to compete in the event.

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17
February

Written By: Sultan Makhdoom

A few years back I was in the UAE to attend an international seminar. During the seminar, I met an Indian IT magazine editor, Ajit Solankar, who had come from Mumbai to attend the same seminar for his journal. Since both of us were staying in the same hotel as the accommodation for the participants was provided by the organizing hosts of the seminar, I and Ajit Solankar, became quite close to each other. We started frequenting in the hotel lobby and also going out to market for shopping etc. During all these free moments, Ajit, very proudly and very passionately, continued to update me about the achievements that India was making in the field of IT. He told me that with immense advancement in this field, India has minimized the use of human resources for daily routine matters. Ajit was much proud upon the arrival of computerized telephonic conversation applications that his company launched all over India which had made things very easy for the callers, seeking different information from different organizations. “We feed all the relevant information into the application and give different dialing option to the callers to retrieve the required information. “See! This development alone is not only saving a lot of time of people who had to visit these offices for the required information but it has also reduced the workload on the office workers while the concept of having telephone operators is almost vanishing”, Ajit informed me with eyes seeking for a certain admiration. Though, by that time I had become so sick of his ‘IT achievements’ by India as during these moments, I wanted to have some other topics for discussion, after being too tired of having IT discussion throughout the day in the seminar, yet, I very generously admired this ‘achievements of Indian IT sector’.

On the last day of the week-long seminar, Ajit came to me, outside the auditorium. He was looking very disturbed and in a state of panic. He asked me if I could lend him my mobile phone as he was in an emergency to make a call. I could see his mobile set in his hand and became little doubtful. I wondered why he was asking me to lend him my phone while his phone was already with him and I could see his phone being in order as it was powered on. With this, I got a bit suspicious and sort of hesitant in handing over my personal mobile phone to an Indian. As I am always very cautious while dealing with Indians, I, in a blink of an eye developed a hunch as if Ajit was going to use my phone to make some dubious call to put me in some trouble. Perhaps Ajit realized my hesitation, too. He told me that he had lost his passport and wanted to seek his Embassy’s help but he was running out of credit in his mobile phone to make this call. He assured me that he would be making the call right in front of me so I need not to worry. I felt a bit embarrassed after Ajit’s straightaway anticipation of my thoughts and thus without any further time, I very politely handed him over my mobile handset. Ajit dialed a number from my phone and then kept pressing different digits and was later glued to phone without talking. He did this exercise a couple of times and then, in a very agitated state of mind, he returned me my phone and said, “This shit is happening to me for the last 40 minutes or so and that is how I have lost all my credit in my phone and now I don’t want to waste yours. I will go myself now all the way to my Embassy.” I asked him that what was wrong with the Embassy phone. He told me that soon after he found out that he had lost his passport, he called back his organization in India and his head office advised him to immediately contact the Indian Embassy in the host country and to seek their help. For the purpose, his head office gave him the phone numbers of the Indian Embassy. He said he was calling on the Indian Embassy’s phone number but there was a haul of options being given by the auto phone answering machine that included the options of choosing the language for conversation to the nature of information required etc., and in the end the auto answering app was telling him to wait as his call was being transferred to the concerned section but there was no response and in the process, he lost all his available balance in the phone and then he had decided to physically approach the embassy, without wasting further time and without wasting any phone credit, too.

“These IT walas bhee naa,” (these IT companies are too much!) Ajit said in the end. When Ajit was narrating this entire episode, I was thinking of asking Ajit that how he was feeling with this situation that aroused out of technical advancement in IT but I kept quite as I was fully aware of the nature of his emergency. However, upon this, I straightaway got the Pakistani Embassy’s number from the internet and called to check how Pakistani Embassy would react if I get into a similar trouble. I found that Pakistan Embassy telephonic setup was not ‘high tech like that of Indians’. It was very desi and orthodox type as the call was received by a telephone operator and I was asked whom I needed to talk to and upon my request, my call was transferred manually to Consular, Consular Affairs office and I had a little chat with him. I left the hotel lobby for a nearby ice cream parlour of Haagen-Dazs, wondering was Ajit’s Embassy, with great IT advancement, more helpful to assistance seekers or was it mine, with old and orthodox setup?

However just last month, I was reminded of the Ajit episode by an advertisement released by the Government of Pakistan. The advertisement was about Pakistan Government’s introduction of an emergency phone helpline for general public to report any incident of terror or any suspected activity in this regard to seek immediate help from the government. For a moment, I thought that since such a service is being introduced in the era of 2015, it must have been established in some very hi-fi technical manner, using technical advancement that our neighbours are too proud of. So I checked it out but found it to be very simple like the one that I experienced at Pakistan Embassy in the UAE, a few years back, after the Ajit episode. It was very simple, yet effective but there was no glamorous automated voice of a female as an app and the process was just simple.

At this point I imagined that the way Ajit Solankar briefed me about the high pace of IT developments taking place in India and the way he was feeling proud of automated telephonic conversation system, replacing the orthodox setups, India must be in highly advanced stages by today. I imagined that If Indian government forms an official telephone helpline for its citizens across India; it could never be less than as it goes below here:

Thank you very much for calling at Government of India’s emergency helpline for citizens. We appreciate your confidence in your government and its rescue agencies. Our maximum response time to your emergency is ten minutes and it is less than any other similar to ours across the world. Such emergency services are not provided free of cost anywhere in the world but the government of India has arranged it free of cost. However, your call will be charged @ Rs. 10 plus government taxes as these charges would get to government’s funds for running these emergency services. Pay your taxes honestly to enable government of India to serve you honestly.

For further information in language of your choice:

For Punjabi, please press 1

For Marathi, please press 2

For Gujarati, please press 3

For Madrasi, please press 4

For Rajasthani, please press 5

For Asamiya, please press 6

For Bengali, please press 7

For Sanskrit, please press 8

For English, please press 9

And,

For Hindi, please press 0

We are sorry for not being able to offer you further language options as the option service is only available in single digit.

Now next,

Your help will assist us helping you accordingly so if you think the suspect, you presently feel threatened from, is:

A Bodo insurgent of Bodoland, please press 1

For Naxal insurgent of Chattishgarh, please press 2

For ULFA insurgent of Assam, please press 3

For Sikh Freedom Fighter of Khalistan, please press 4

For a Manipur insurgent, please press 5

For a Mizoram insurgent, please press 6

For a Nagalim insurgent of Nagaland, please press 7

For a Tripuri insurgent of Tripura, please press 8

For a fundamentalist militant of Shiv Sena, please press 9

For an extremist from Sangh Parivar, including those from RSS, BJP, VHP etc., please press 0

We are sorry for not being able to give you further options in this category due to single digit service limitations.

Next is description of threat.

Description is very vital. Your description of threatening weapon would help us immensely in sending rescue teams accordingly. So if you see that the suspect is going to use:

A dagger or knife, please press 1

For a sword, trishul or Axe, please press 2

For manual, small arm weapon, please press 3

For semi-automatic weapon, please press 4

For fully automatic weapon, please press 5

For highly sophisticated weapon, please press 6

For a hand-grenade, please press 7

For RDX-based explosive material, please press 8

For plastic bomb or related explosive, please press 9

For petrol bomb or acid, please press 0

We have, by now, reached the limits of our response time. We expect that by now, either you or the suspect has achieved the goal. In that case, why to waste government’s resources? After all these resources are being maintained to help citizens like you so no fun in wasting these vital assets after something has already been done and we cannot undo it. However, if you still need some assistance, please contact your nearest police station. Please do remember that in this moment of crisis, when you needed your government to remain comprehensively engaged with you and stand with you, your government came exactly up to your expectations and remained thoroughly engaged with you through this phone service.

Thank you very much for calling and reposing your confidence in Modi Sarkar. Bye, Bye.

After this conclusion, I got the answer that remained unanswered at UAE after the Ajit episode and I can now say that in comparison to such a technical advancement, orthodox and even obsolete phone service or helpline is however much better. I came with the conclusion that some areas in our lives even today very strongly need personalized human attention and not the automated one.

Ah! One thing I forgot to mention here. While dear Ajit had gone to his embassy, I started checking out from the hotel. While I was finalizing the things at the Front Office, someone from the hotel’s House Keeping staff approached me and said “Sir, I am sorry to bother you but I guess you left this passport of yours in the room.” I thanked her, took the passport and handed it over to the Front Office Manager and said, “Mr. Manager, this passport is not mine; this belongs to Mr. Ajit Solankar. I don’t know how it reached my room. Maybe he forgot it there when he came for a cup of coffee to my room last night. He has gone to his embassy. He will be back soon. Please hand it over to him with my compliments. Please do inform him that his lost passport has been found. You cannot call him on his mobile phone because he is unable to receive the call due to no credit in his phone account. But please do not try to reach him via his embassy phone network because in that case you will not be able to reach him at least today. Better send someone to him.”

I never heard from Ajit again till date, though, upon enquiring from the hotel when I was at departure lounge of the airport, it was told that Mr. Ajit was approached by hotel management and his passport was handed over to him by the time I was checking in for my flight.

16
February

Written By: Naila Inayat

“It has been eight years and I am still seeking justice for my husband’s killing,” says Hameeda Begum.

Her husband Abdul Majeed Khan was one of the 68 Pakistanis and Indians who were killed exactly eight years ago in the blasts in Samjhauta Express near Panipat on February 18, 2007. But Hameeda, like several other relatives of the victims, is still awaiting justice. “The government has forgotten us, no one talks about the terrorism that took away the father of my children. I spoke to Abdul when he was at Delhi station. He was excited about returning home and ‘meeting the kids but he never returned,” says Hameeda. Samjhauta Express or the Friendship Express, a weekly oldest train service between Delhi and Lahore was attacked at midnight and two carriages were set off after the train had passed Diwana station near the Indian city of Panipat. 68 people were killed, of which it was reported that 50 were Pakistani, while several were injured.

Today, as the families of the Samjhauta Express victims wait to see the perpetrators of the heinous incident brought to justice, in the last few years there hasn’t been any progress on the investigation of the case by the Indian Government. “Although, Samjhauta Express terrorist attack happened more than two years before Mumbai attack, it is very disappointing that India has not shared findings of Samjhauta Express terrorist attack investigations despite assurances at the highest level,” said Foreign Office spokesperson Tasneem Aslam at a press briefing last month.

Previously, in November 2008 it was reported that Indian officials suspected the attacks were linked to Lieutenant Colonel Prasad Shrikant Purohit, an Indian Army officer and member of Hindu nationalist group ‘Abhinav Bharat’. Purohit himself claimed that he had "infiltrated" the Abhinav Bharat and he was only doing his job. The Indian Government has always been critical of Pakistan for not doing enough against the alleged collaborators of 26/11. The recent case in argument was Zaki-ur-Rehman Lakhvi’s bail from federal capital-based Anti-Terrorism Court (ATC). The ATC had granted bail to Lakhvi in Mumbai attacks case but the law enforcement agencies detained him in another case. Meanwhile, the question arises how the mastermind of Samjhauta Express, Swami Aseemanand, was granted bail in last August by the Punjab and Haryana High Court? Aseemanand had pointed to the involvement of the Indian military officers and some organizations linked to major political parties being part of the attack.

Yet, no uproar from the Indian media. According to the Indian National Investigation Agency (NIA), the continued attacks on temples across the country led Swami Aseemanand to promote “Bomb ka Badla", which led to the bombing of Samjhauta Express. The probe into the conspiracy of the explosion brought out a deadly plot that was inspired by "quite upset" attitude of Aseemanand with the terror strikes on temples like Akshardham in Gujarat, Raghunath Mandir in Jammu and Sankat Mochan Temple in Varanasi. This, according to the NIA charge sheet, built up deep vengeance against the minority community in the hearts and minds of Swami Aseemanand. Product of Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), he is now accused number one in the Samjhauta train blasts; accused number three in a bombing at Hyderabad’s Mecca Masjid that killed 11 people in May 2007; and accused number six in a blast at the dargah in Ajmer, Rajasthan, that killed three people, in October 2007. He is also named, but not yet charged, in two attacks in Malegaon, Maharashtra, in September 2006 and September 2008, that together took lives of 37 people.

India which complains that the trial against Lakhvi has intentionally been dragged over six years but with eight years passed by the case against Aseemanand is not going anywhere either. There has been no breakthrough in the Samjhauta case until now. And under the current BJP government led by Narendra Modi who has been an activist for the Hindu right-wing paramilitary RSS for his entire political career, the chances for a better equation blur. He remains committed to his ideology of Hindutva which says that India should be an exclusive Hindu nation state in which minorities are treated as second-class citizens or worse. The recent heat taken by the BJP-government over the issue of forced conversions is an example in itself and ideological manifestation of the new government. The challenge will always remain for Modi as Prime Minister of a secular state to focus areas that can boost confidence in bilateral ties with Pakistan. Not failing Pakistan at Samjhauta can well be the beginning.

The writer is a journalist based in Lahore. Twitter: @nailainayat
16
February
A Delegation of Ambassadors from Afghanistan, Netherlands, France, South Korea, Australia, Argentina, US, Germany, KSA, Turkey, UAE and UK along with representatives from UNDP, UNHCR, UN mission and WFP visited North Waziristan Agency. The delegation accompained by Lt Gen (Retd) Abdul Qadir Baloch, Minister of SAFRON, Sartaj Aziz, Advisor to PM, and Lt Gen Hidayat ur Rehman, Commander Peshawar Corps, was briefed and taken around the area. Later, the delegation visited CMH Peshawar to show solidarity with the bereaved families and injured students of APS Peshawar attack.
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16
February

Written By: Tahir Mehmood

At War?

Yes!

United?

Say so, think so, believe so – strive for!

Happy?

Don’t know the meanings!

Powerful?

Yes! Power, potential and danger are interchangeable.

What? 

Peoples, population, faith, military – all are power. Nukes; a great power potential.

Why interchangeable?

Peoples and population can become unmanageable. Military appears as a sole binding force; a kind of centre of gravity – can be exclusively targeted – bad mouthing, if victory is for the militaries, so is the defeat. Nukes – great power and great potential. But, no one takes eyes off! If one is stable, the demand is to “roll back, cap it”. If unstable, the leaked plans aim at “gaining control and thus ensuring safety”. We are tossed off for stability-instability. Ideas and ideology – a quick and lasting unifying call – now have numerous and new contenders. A kind of poisonous enemy living within!         

Can one draw thicker and easily distinguished lines?

Red is almost permanent. They have a kind of pathological hatred. They find our existence – a blot on their past, threat to the present, and unacceptable for future. They ceaselessly long for annihilation, integration; or, perpetual domination.

Riddle is stability-instability dilemma. Deep waters! Friends; who always threaten to be enemy! I can’t sleep – they don’t take eyes off! Stick and carrot!  Not sure, which is for what?

 The Blue Poison – new contenders of ideology. They take us utterly ‘wrong’. These are naïve, knave, mad, puppets, agents… They have ‘sympathizers’ in all hue and colour. 

The ‘threat’ is like a diamond; many edges and angles, visible but deflective – too easy to bring forward, push back; make unstable…

Oh! Threat is too big, and too much. So, what is around you?

Greed, vanity and fear! Unmanageable freedom; fast rushing to anarchy!

Why not finish eating despite vomiting?

Deadly combination of greed and fear – the desire to look fat – wrongly, being fat is taken as being powerful.

How to swim across?

Shut the mouth, eyes at horizon and not at one foot to you, use all limbs simultaneously – all limbs would be safe or drowned together – and, begin. Smooth transformation is not a luxury but a necessity; never off-balance! 

The deep waters are for the sailors, horses for the riders, battlefields for the warriors, and nations for the leaders!

16
February

Written By: Brian Cloughley

The war in Afghanistan wasn’t only “America’s war”, and although it may have been inconvenient for Mr. Obama to mention it – a total of 49 countries contributed troops to the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) and suffered casualties in proportion to their numbers. Australia, for example, had 41 killed, Canada 158, Denmark 43, France 86 and Britain 453. Debate continues as to the success or otherwise of their mission, and in assessing the possible future security situation in Afghanistan, it is necessary to reflect on what has been achieved in the 13 years of war that cost a total of 3,485 foreign soldiers killed and countless severely wounded.  There is no accurate figure available as to the number of Afghan National Army (ANA) casualties, but ABC News reported in October 2014 that “General John Campbell, the top US and ISAF commander in Afghanistan, told reporters he did not have the precise numbers but estimated that the overall number of Afghan casualties (killed and wounded) was “in the neighbourhood of 7,000 to 9,000 for 2014.” It appears that the total figure of ANA members killed in the past ten years is in the region of 9,000. 

At the end of 2014, it seemed intended that foreign forces in Afghanistan would no longer engage in active operations against militants — until Obama added a few words to his statement about the end of the US “combat mission.”  In an alteration of policy concerning US intentions he said, “We’ll continue to have a limited military presence there because we’ve got to keep training and equipping Afghan Forces, and we’ve got to conduct counterterrorism missions because there are still remnants of al Qaeda there.”  In other words, US forces will continue to initiate combat operations.  Some 5,500 US soldiers will not be under NATO command but will be tasked by US commanders.  They will not be controlled in any way by the government of Afghanistan.

Until 2010 all US special forces in Afghanistan “were not accountable to anyone in the country . . .  whenever there was some problem with the special forces we didn’t know who to go to, it was muddled and unclear who was in charge,” according to Major General Zahir Azimi of the Ministry of Defence in Kabul. A reorganisation was undertaken by General Stanley McChrystal but command arrangements continued to be opaque, with some elements having no subordination to US senior officers in Afghanistan and being tasked directly by an unspecified HQ in Special Forces Command.  Afghan and NATO authorities will continue to have no influence on their operations.

This extension of operational independence is a complicating factor that could well affect the conduct of the Resolute Support mission in Afghanistan which has the objectives of:-

•              Supporting planning, programming and budgeting;

•              Assuring transparency, accountability and oversight;

•              Supporting the adherence to the principles of rule of law and good governance; and

•              Supporting the establishment and sustainment of such processes as force generation, recruiting, training, managing and development of personnel.

According to Resolute Support’s commander, US General John F Campbell, at a ceremony in Kabul on December 28, 2014 to mark the transferral of foreign forces’ responsibilities, “together, we have lifted the Afghan people out of the darkness of despair and given them hope for the future . . .  The road before us remains challenging, but we will triumph.”  He declared that the “insurgents are losing, they are desperate. It is time for the enemy to heed President Ghani’s call, lay down their arms, come to the peace table and help to rebuild the Afghan nation.” On the same day NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg stated that “the mandate of the United Nations Security Council was to help the Afghan authorities provide security across the country and develop new Afghan Forces. This mandate was carried out at great cost, but with great success.” 

The facts that the change of mission ceremony had to be held in secret in the capital city without prior notification to the citizens of Afghanistan and that live broadcast of the event was forbidden, were hardly evidence that security had been provided across the country, or that the insurgents were losing or desperate.  On the contrary it was clear admission that the militants were to be feared because if they had known about the ceremony in the gymnasium of the heavily-guarded ISAF HQ compound, it is probable that they would have attacked it.

The claim that development of “new Afghan Forces” has been successful is open to question. There are differing opinions concerning the effectiveness of security forces, and especially the army about which there have been disquieting reports in recent months.

Important information on the state of the country is provided by the US Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR), Mr. John Sopko, who is as efficient in carrying out his duties as he is unpopular with the Pentagon and the State Department;  but his quarterly report to Congress of October 2014 recorded that “in the security sector, SIGAR was deeply troubled by the decision of the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) to classify the executive summary of the report that assesses the capability of the Afghan National Security Forces. For years, SIGAR has used the ISAF report as a primary metric to show the Congress and the public the effectiveness of the $61.5 billion US investment to build, train, equip, and sustain those forces.” 

The Commander ISAF was General John F Campbell, now responsible for Resolute Support, and Mr. Sopko probably knew that the General insisted on secrecy about the state of the Afghan Army because the facts are unpalatable. According to Mr. Sopko’s report, based on UN-supplied figures, there were 15,968 militant attacks in the nine months to mid-August 2014 — 61 a day — and he quoted analysts as stating that “nearly every district where security has been handed over from ISAF to Afghan Security Forces has seen an increase in attacks,” which was not the message that ISAF wished to be conveyed to the world at large.  

Mr. Sopko also recorded that “attrition continues to be a major challenge for the Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF). Between September 2013 and August 2014, more than 36,000 Afghan National Army (ANA) personnel were dropped from rolls.  Moreover, the ANA continues to suffer serious combat losses.  Between March 2012 and August 2014, more than 2,850 ANA personnel were killed in action and 14,600 were wounded in action.” (In February 2014 the spokesman for the Ministry of Defence, General Zahir Azimi, stated: “We have decided we will not share the number of casualties with the media.”) At the beginning of January, the strength of the Afghan Army was said to be 194,000 but there was no official number published, in spite of the NATO aim of assuring “transparency, accountability and oversight,” and it is more likely that the number was about 180,000. 

In all armies even during the normal peacetime, ‘wastage’ rate is a matter of considerable concern, as recruiting and training are high cost and most demanding of resources. To lose 36,000 in a year from strength of between 180 and 194 thousand is verging on the catastrophe, and even the best-regulated army in the world could not maintain efficiency when suffering such erosion.  In 2013 the British Ministry of Defence stated that “high attrition rates within the ANA continue to represent a risk to the sustainability of the future force. High levels of recruitment mean that this is not enough to endanger overall growth targets, [but] it does cause a drain on skills.”

Before the handover ceremony in December, the outgoing ISAF joint commander, US Lt Gen Joseph Anderson, gave no figures or other details about the ANA but said that “recruiting and retention aren’t matching, and of course don’t forget losses,” although he spoiled his directness by placing the blame for the state of affairs on President Karzai for failing to sign the Status of Forces Agreement.

The new NATO mission includes “establishment and sustainment” of  recruiting and training but it is intriguing that after US expenditure on the Afghan war of 1.2 trillion dollars — which equates to 9 million dollars an hour for 13 years — the NATO mission has to employ the word “establish” in such a context, as it might be imagined that after all this time and expense there might be a functioning system of recruitment together with such integral competence and reliability that sustainment — including retention — would not be the substantial problem that it obviously is.

The problems are not confined to deficiencies in troop numbers and basic training.  There is equal concern about the army’s equipment, especially weapons and their effectiveness. 

After 13 years, the ANA has no functional armoured unit.  As recorded by the US Army newspaper Stars and Stripes in July 2014, “at the 111th Division’s Base, the Afghan National Army’s lone tank battalion has about 44 T-55 and T-62 tanks that are in some kind of working order. About 20 to 25 can actually be started and used at any one time.” It is barely credible that after so many years of a foreign military presence involving vast expenditure there are only 25 (barely) functioning thirty year-old tanks in the Afghan Army. But even were there some modern tanks there would be no guarantee that existing systems could cope with maintenance.  As recorded by Mr. Sopko in July 2014 “although the ANA has received the majority of its MSFVs [Mobile Strike Force Vehicles], the ANA’s ability to independently operate and maintain them has been affected by training and spare parts problems.” The Pentagon’s own “Assessment of US Government  and Coalition Efforts to Develop the Logistics Sustainment Capability of the Afghan National Army” of December 2014 is measured but does not disguise the fact that the capability is extremely limited, noting, for example, that “the ANA does not have a fleet management plan for the repair and return of severely damaged vehicles or the purchase of replacements for vehicles beyond repair” and as a result of “advisor drawdown”, it is probable that “ANA logistics capabilities will not reach full development for sustainable, independent operations.”

In another cameo of ANA defects, Reuters reported in January 2015 that “US Army Major Eric Lightfoot. . . spends most days at this dusty base surrounded by mountains in Laghman Province planning with Afghan Army counterparts how they should use D-30 artillery, heavy weapons that should give the army a hefty advantage over insurgents. Up until a few months ago, though, the Afghans weren't using the 122-mm long-range weapon as intended — to hit targets several kilometres away, too far to be seen by those firing. ‘They've been using it sort of like a tank, for direct fire at enemies they could see,’ said Lightfoot, who has been helping Afghans to use the complex system of spotting and grids needed to hit targets further away. ‘They're getting better. They are having more successes’.” 

The fact that the Afghan Army, after so many years of training by foreign contingents, is incapable of employing artillery in the indirect fire role is a telling commentary on the effectiveness of NATO’s commitment to “develop new Afghan Forces.”

There are no official reports concerning the expertise of Afghan Army soldiers in handling small arms (although I have received anecdotal accounts suggesting that this aspect of military skills is far from satisfactory) but there does not appear to be room for confidence in regard to holdings and accountability of such weapons, of which there are some 465,000.  In July 2014, Mr. Sopko stated that a SIGAR audit “reveals a stunning lack of accountability over combat weapons provided to Afghan Security Forces. It also reveals that the Pentagon continues to send weapons — even though the Afghans have 100,000 more than they need. We’re very concerned that weapons paid for by US taxpayers could wind up in the hands of insurgents and be used to kill Americans and Afghan troops and civilians.” 

It is likely that weapons have been and will continue to be disposed off illegally and provided to militants, warlords or ordinary criminals, consistent with Afghanistan’s status as the fourth most corrupt country in the world.  Retired General John Allen, former Commander of US forces in Afghanistan told a Senate committee that “the existential threat to the long-term viability of modern Afghanistan is corruption,” and Mr. Sopko warned that if “we don’t . . . get serious about corruption right now, we are putting all of the fragile gains that we have achieved in this — our longest war — at risk of failure.” The warnings are stark.

One ray of hope in the region concerns the vastly improved relations between Pakistan and Afghanistan since the election of President Ashraf Ghani. His unlamented predecessor, Hamid Karzai, had been entirely negative concerning Pakistan, with a fixation on the border which he professed to regard as “not acceptable to the Afghans,” which prevented Pakistan from establishing physical barriers in areas in which most terrorist transit took place. Karzai then blamed Pakistan for “not doing enough” to prevent illegal movement across the border, and failed to give priority to moving Afghan forces to the border regions. There was little cooperation from foreign forces in this regard, and although Pakistan Army continued to take casualties in border clashes with militants, it was made clear internationally that in some fashion it was Pakistan’s fault that the border was not being properly secured.

Although Karzai stated that “No government in Afghanistan will accept the Durand Line” as the border, it appears that President Ghani has adopted a more pragmatic view following a visit to Kabul by Pakistan’s Army Chief, General Raheel Sharif, in early November 2014, immediately after the Afghanistan Presidential Election.  This was followed a week later by a visit to Islamabad by President Ghani in which political agreement with Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif set the tone for the practicalities of cooperation as proposed by General Raheel.  President Ghani made it clear that the matter of the Durand Line was no longer a bar to good relations and declared that “Afghanistan wants to bolster security and defence ties with Pakistan including cooperation in training and border management.” This was most welcome, although much more could have been achieved in regard to mutual security had there been similar accord ten years before.

Afghanistan is experiencing enormous problems and in spite of having had a “$61.5 billion US investment to build, train, equip, and sustain [its] forces” the army faces a challenging future, being gravely under-strength, poorly-equipped and without administrative systems capable of ensuring balanced provision, maintenance and resupply of even the most basic equipment.  Given that foreign forces, with strength of 140,000 well-trained and superbly-equipped troops at the height of the “surge” intended to cripple the militants, could not achieve that aim, it does not appear likely that the Afghan Army, entirely on its own, will be able to ensure national security.  The words of former US Army Lieutenant Colonel Daniel L Davis in 2012 are relevant in this comparison.  He wrote that in Afghanistan, “The United States, along with over 40 NATO and other allied nations, possess the most sophisticated, powerful, and technologically advanced military force that has ever hit the field of combat. We have the finest and most well trained soldiers that exist anywhere; we have armoured vehicles of every type, including MIA2 Main Battle Tanks; artillery, mortars, advanced rockets, precision guided missiles, and hand-held rocket launchers; we have a wholly uncontested air force composed of NATO’s most advanced ground attack fighter jets, bombers, AWACS controllers, spy planes, signals-interception aircraft, B1 bombers, attack helicopters, and massive transport jets to ferry our troops and critical supplies where they are needed; we have thousands of unmanned aerial drones both for intelligence collection and missile-launching; we have a helicopter fleet for personnel transport and attack support; we have an enormous constellation of spy satellites; logistics that are as limitless as the combined weight of the industrial world; we have every technological device known to the profession of arms; we are able to intercept virtually every form of insurgent communication to include cell phones, walkie-talkies, satellite phones, email, and even some ability to eavesdrop on otherwise private conversations; a remarkably capable cohort of intelligence analysts that are as educated, well trained and equipped to a degree that used to exist only in science fiction; and our various nations have the economic wherewithal to spend tens of billions of dollars each month to fund it all. And for almost 10 years we have pitted this unbelievable and unprecedented capability against:

                A bunch of dudes in bed sheets and flip-flops.”

And they didn’t beat them.

 

The writer is a France based retired officer of Australian Army and is an expert on South Asian affairs. He is also author of various books, and contributes extensively in international media.

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16
February

US Secretary of State, John Kerry visited GHQ on January 13, 2015. He laid floral wreath at Yadgar-e-Shuhada and later participated in the talks between delegation of both countries.

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16
February

Written By: Ahmed Quraishi

India had two excellent opportunities over the past seven months to show the world that Kashmir has finally entered the Indian fold after seven decades of resistance.

The first opportunity came in May when the world watched New Delhi bask in the glory of one of the largest electoral voting exercises in terms of population. The other opportunity came in November, when the entire state machinery of India – the election commission, the federal government, Indian political parties, media, police, and the military – all shifted national focus to Kashmir elections to elect a pro-Indian legislature (No country in the world recognizes this assembly but it serves a domestic purpose: to show the Indian public that Kashmir is part of the union). These two opportunities came amid growing signs that the new Indian Government is suddenly obsessed with Kashmir to the exclusion of all other important and urgent issues and problems that a large, populous country like India is grappling with. Narendra Modi, the new Prime Minister, made several visits to the occupied territory; where New Delhi deploys more than half a million Indian soldiers to suppress a largely anti-Indian population.

This attention to Kashmir by a newly elected Indian government would have been positive had Modi reached out to Kashmiris and to Pakistan to settle the oldest dispute on the agenda of United Nations Security Council (UNSC). Instead, it is evident now that India’s right-wing Prime Minister is sowing the seeds of a fresh and accelerated conflict in Kashmir, and increasing regional tensions as a result, not lowering them.

Those frequent visits confirmed the suspicion that Modi saw Kashmir as a question of ego. He represented religious extremists and nationalists, and won the election on a paranoid agenda of Pakistan-bashing, and what better way to appease his constituency, win new voters, and fulfil a religious destiny than by conquering Kashmir for good (In contrast, no Pakistani politician or party mentioned India in the run up to the May 2013 elections in Pakistan. Unlike India, voters in Pakistan have shown little interest in India-bashing as an election-rallying cry). Modi appeared to believe he could finally achieve a resounding Indian victory in Kashmir, permanently integrate the occupied territory into India, and give a historic and final snub to Pakistan.

He did what no other Indian Prime Minister could: hold electoral rallies in Srinagar, occupied Kashmir’s capital, amid threats from Kashmiri freedom fighters and activists who are resentful of Indian presence. Most Kashmiris stayed away, so Modi brought in busloads of minority Kashmir Hindus from nearby Jammu to fill the space in Srinagar rallies.

So desperate was Modi for an electoral victory in Kashmir that he even resorted to criticism of Indian military and admitted it has been involved in arbitrary killings. Indian Army is hated and despised in Kashmir for mass graves, torture, sexual harassment and the use of rape as a weapon of war. Indian soldiers have been committing rape with impunity in Kashmir for quarter-century. Many Indian women activists believe that Indian soldiers carried this rape culture back to India, and that this has been a contributing factor in India’s current ‘rape epidemic’.

On Dec 8, 2014, Modi startled his army commanders and soldiers when he appeared to be offering the Indian Army as a sacrificial lamb to win over Kashmiris. He referred to his government putting on trial five Indian soldiers for killing three Kashmiris in 2010. The three were found guilty a month earlier in November. This was the first time since India invaded and occupied Kashmir in 1947 that India had admitted to such a mistake. “This is a wonder of the Modi government,” he told the audience in the Srinagar cricket stadium. “This is the proof of my good intentions before you.” This frenzied focus on Kashmir came with an orchestrated campaign in Indian media predicting a large Kashmiri voter turnout because of Modi’s personal interest in Kashmir elections.

So, how did India’s political investment in the two elections – India’s general election of May 2014 and the Indian-controlled election in Kashmir of November 2014 – pan out?

Put in simple words, both exercises backfired. India’s ruling elite was surprised to see a consistent and admirable Kashmiri refusal to play along even after nearly seven decades of Indian efforts to woo Kashmiris to participate in the Indian political process. Of course, if one scans the Indian media, and the reports written by Indian journalists and reporters, most of these reports adhere to the official Indian line on Kashmir and show little effort on the part of the writers to scrutinize and question the official version.

The Kashmiris almost entirely boycotted India’s general elections in May. Kashmiris inside the Indian-occupied part, in Azad (free) Kashmir, in Pakistan, and in Middle Eastern and Western diasporas echoed the national Kashmiri mood of not recognizing the legitimacy of Indian elections. The international media, which generally ignored the Kashmir issue, paid attention this time. For example, in a April 2014 report filed by Biyojeta Das, the Indian correspondent for Aljazeera English, from “Srinagar, Indian-administered Kashmir,” the headline said brazenly, ‘India elections fail to inspire Kashmiris: Low voter turnout and boycott mar parliamentary elections in India-administered Kashmir.’ Das interviewed 24-year-old Kashmiri cartoonist Mir Suhail, and started her report by quoting him: Four politicians dressed in crisp white khadi tunics and caps hold ballot boxes with the words "vote for me" – but they have only one shadow, a towering gun-toting soldier with a malicious smile.

"This is why Kashmiris don't vote," said Mir Suhail, 24, a political cartoonist, who created the image to sum up the mood of detachment towards the ongoing parliamentary elections in Indian-administered Kashmir. Suhail said his memories are punctuated with gory images of rifles, blood, barbed wire and army boots. "People are in a limbo. Elections don't change anything," he declared, sipping tea along the Jhelum River.

This was Kashmir’s verdict on the May 2014 general elections in India. But what about Kashmir-specific elections of November and December 2014 in which Modi was certain that his personal charm and wardrobe style would totally sway Kashmir for the first time since the Indian occupation of 1947? The election in Indian-occupied Kashmir was a military exercise par excellence, a vote under the barrel of the gun. Thousands of Indian intelligence officers and soldiers were entrusted to making Modi’s push in Kashmir successful. With political and military focus and money, India initially succeeded in forcing voters out in a couple of Kashmir districts. There was euphoria in the Indian media, and inside Modi’s office in New Delhi. Indian anchors came out to say Kashmiris reject Pakistan, that Islamabad’s claim that Kashmiris consider themselves Pakistanis had been proven wrong and that history has been made.

These Indian cries of victory proved premature, however. One or two districts of Kashmir showed high voter turnout in the first day of balloting in November 2014, but the images of voters clamoring to participate in elections organized by Indian Army and intelligence stopped coming after the first day. Social media circulated dozens of pictures from polling stations across the Indian-occupied territory showing empty polling booths and Indian election officers waiting for Kashmiri voters that came sparingly or never showed up.

As in any military-controlled ‘election,’ Modi’s party, the BJP did manage to come out second. But the biggest story was this: Kashmiris refused to give the political parties taking part in the Indian-controlled election mandate to form government. No party secured enough seats to form government, and no coalition was possible.

In the end, within the first week of 2015, India had to dismiss the election and declare Governor’s Rule in Indian-occupied Kashmir. This effectively meant that Kashmir would be ruled from New Delhi, directly by Modi, as the state has always been. India’s ‘Military Election’ in Kashmir exploded in New Delhi’s face, and Modi’s dream of writing a new chapter in Indian history, where he could claim that Kashmiris have finally integrated with India and rejected Pakistan, had been defeated for now. Following India’s latest failure in Kashmir, Indian media tried to put on a brave face. A headline by an Indian news site, firstpost.com, on Dec 23, 2014, read, “J&K results 2014: BJP's Mission 44 failed but Mission Kashmir won.” (The ‘Mission 44’ alluded to Modi’s attempt to win a majority in Kashmir’s Indian-controlled assembly).

Why India Failed

There is a simple answer for the question: why India failed to impress Kashmiris despite committing massive resources in Kashmir elections? India can do tricks to hide the fact that Kashmir is an Indian-occupied territory, and annexed by force, but everything that India tries to do there glaringly reinforces this reality. Take for example Modi’s repeated visits to Kashmir. Every time he came in, supposedly to urge Kashmiris to stop boycotting elections and vote for India, the occupation army would put the state in a lockdown, shut down the internet and cell phone services in most parts of the territory. When Modi addressed secured rallies in Srinagar, every Kashmiri man, woman, and child who dared to come out on the street anywhere in the city would be a suspect in the eyes of Indian occupation soldiers, and would be harshly treated and thoroughly searched before being let go.

Even those few Kashmiris who recognize Indian rule, like the state's last Chief Minister Omar Abdullah, now ridicule India’s actions that prove it is an occupation force. Abdullah made fun of the busloads of BJP supporters that were transported from Hindu-majority to Srinagar in November and December 2014 for Modi’s rallies. "Why not just have the rallies there?" he tweeted.

The writer is a journalist who regularly contributes for print and electronic media. Twitter : @AQpk
16
February

Written By: Lt Col Abid Latif

“The snake which cannot cast its skin has to die as well the minds which are preventing from changing their opinion.” (Nietzsche) Human society is governed by only one constant that is never-ending and ever spiralling: ‘the change’. Alvin Toffler in his book, The Third Wave defined the developmental stages of human beings, as the Agrarian Age, the Industrial Age and the present, the Information Age. The same third wave concept was later given by Samuel P Huntington who linked the concept to the rapid democratization of African, South American and Eastern European countries till early 90s.

There seems to exists a strange triad of things taking a cue from clash of civilization thesis of Huntington: there are three major religions; Islam, Christianity and Judaism which will define the course of history in 21st century. The political Islam, political Christianity and political Judaism, if we may call, are therefore misnomers, as long ago church has been separated from state, the method of governance is open ended in Islam and Judaism. The failure of one political form is not the gain of other. A country is also the interplay of three tangents: the people, the state and the government.

More so, in nation state system a country is defined by its borders which is managed through three techniques: the application of nationalism, the comprehensive Border Management Mechanism and the removal of welfare disparity level of population on both sides of border. If discrepancies in dealing these issues persists then these are bound to enhance in their manifestation and will eventually result in some form of insurgent tendencies. Again this can be controlled by checking the inflow of three vectors: the weapons, manpower and money (Terrorism can also be deoxygenated by curtailing these three). Defining the above mentioned analogy of these triads actually points towards a cardinal fact that the wars in 21st century will be governed, executed and won on the anthropological plane.

The military strategists and the doyens of international relations agree that the fourth thing or the fourth wave to all the already discussed triads will be the culture. The information age and the globalization will diminish the weak or fragile cultures but the prevailing will dominate the world in coming decades.

The new concept of world order given by Henry Kissinger in his recent book is therefore based on something more than the mere military and economic might. Anthropology, the study of human development, customs, culture and beliefs is the next strategic study of the resilient military minds. Fighting terrorism, extremism, obscurantism and fundamentalism through only one line of operations i.e. military is not the right approach to address a complex situation which is to be dealt along different lines; be it economic, sociological, political and ideological etc. The ever evolving concept of defence anthropology is therefore the likely scaffold upon which we can build on. Anthropological plane therefore is not the contrapuntal conundrum, and neither a immiscible concept, it is simple arithmetic of human aspirations manifested in physical forms.

In 21stcentury, warfare is already touching the non-linear curve to the umpteen. The biological vectors, the USA’s climate control programme, the Nano revolutions, the robotics and the miniaturization of computer chips to half the size every eighteen months, will lead us to El Dorado where scientific geeks will be popping vitamins and amino acid pills instead of food. This will probably not happen as every revolution has a counter revolution. The revolutions generally follow the five steps: first it is pronounced, sometimes with a visible leadership and many a times conversely the leadership emerges from the revolution; secondly, immediately the class of society which is the target of revolution tries to launch a counter revolution usually with unpopular means; thirdly, both the trajectories of revolution and counter revolution are formed, fourthly; the modifications of opinion occur in both the camps which may result into accommodation; and lastly; the forward momentum decides that which camp will eventually prevail. Revolution is the class struggle with a combination of politics, money and personalities. Revolution in military affairs, in information technology or high end non-linear concepts is also a class struggle between electronics haves and have nots. There ultimately comes the governing sense of anthropological dictates which, at the end, supercedes all advancement and imposes human nature upon everything else. That is why the Defence Anthropology is needed to study whatever is going on around us.

The advice of anthropologists, sociologists and manpower economists will be binding for the policy makers. Pakistan is today facing the worst form of terrorism rarely encountered by any nation in the known history of human beings. Holocaust, fall of Baghdad, Jallianwala Bagh etc. were all linear cruelties. The answer to Pakistan’s vows cannot only be sought through operational logic. There has to be a triangulation of mere logic, native logic and the operational one. Andre Beaufre was first modern strategist to pointout the same.

Fighting insurgency is not an equation of Law of Diminishing Returns, if it is, then you are not fighting. Disparity in technology is usually advantageous for the stronger side but in case of Pakistan, this disparity is creating a crisis instability between Pakistan Armed Forces and the Taliban and their cahoots. Taliban edges away on the non-linear curve and hoon upon the advantage of submerging in the ethnic and social hues of Pakistani society. If you want to kill the beast, you have to drain the lake first so that the alligator is turned turtle. The lake of forbidden water is the political economy of the terrorist. This can be easily countered, need not to ask Thomas Piketty of “The Capitalist” fame to give a solution. It is simple logic, we have to jump start the local economy of the people who are being made hostage en masse by the fifth columnists. Diffusion of amenities has to take place with a pace which should commensurate the modern era, why leave societies at the mercy of mountain squirrels, conifers and the westerly winds. There is a dilemma, National Security Policy of country deals with hardcore military policy efforts to curtail the menace, it hardly covers the anthropological negative space, the actual hiding place of the terrorist. This dilemma can be addressed by identifying the communal, municipal and legal departments of the state and then lining them like spooks in a wheel. Dilemmas are there to be circumvented, the solution to these are sometimes very simple and straight forward. All the law enforcement and municipal departments have to create a common currency to address the issue, only the intelligence agencies can’t pull the cart any longer.

Pakistan has never addressed this issue under the dictates of sociology and anthropology. The present crisis also revolves around the need to define and then making sacrosanct the borders between Pakistan and its neighbours. Pakistan can follow any model of border management – USA-Mexico, the cohesion one; Russia-Central Asia, the deterrence based; and Indonesia with its neighbour, the cooperation one. Indonesia with hundreds of islands was used to be called as the geographical absurd, but due to excellent border management and mitigation of snags one by one it is enjoying the peripheral buoyancy.

Trans-border illegal movement of people and goods is an international phenomenon. Here at international border it is different; since centuries the nomadic people, pawindas and merchants cross these borders to reach the regions of their destination. A mechanism of border management rather than the barricading or creating walls is required to be initiated immediately. You can fight anything but not the sociology or centuries old anthropology at play, in and around the border. As per Barry Buzan, the regional security complexes are bound to emerge but probably this might not happen in South East Asia and around Indian Ocean as it is already at the conflux of many regions and has implications for Pakistan. Pakistan even being part of different regional organizations has to address its security challenges independently as these are sown, grown and harvested in the sociological plane. Modern wars are surely going to be limited, non-linear and most of time non-kinetic. Low intensity has to reap more on lying low than the squelching of intensity. Whatever is going on at Pakistan-Afghanistan border and inside is driven by non-state actors and proxies. Such actors and state confront each other, whereas initiative most of the time lying with the non-state actors. Three things – the tactics, the technology and the paradigmatic metaphor decides the result of this warfare.

In Afghanistan, Allied troops were technologically very advanced but never had a paradigmatic metaphor and were also inferior in tactics; that is one of the reasons the order is not restored despite so many years down the road. While fighting the menace of terrorism, Pakistani state has to achieve the ascendency in all three, which can be done when the people are ideologically, socially and culturally invested. Winning hearts and minds should not be unleashed as a campaign rather it should be generic concept of any state’s dispensation toward its people. Joseph S Nye’s ‘Soft Power’ is exactly poised towards the anthropological and cultural manifestations. The strategy to deal the terrorists comprehensively should be based on this new emerging trend. Let prudence be Pakistan’s smart power and operational perserverance, bonhomie, ethnic assimilation, social development be its war stamina for the times to come.

16
February

Written By: Mudassar Jehangir

It didn’t happen overnight. Rather it took the cellular industry of Pakistan to work tirelessly for more than 15 years for gathering 140 million mobile subscribers in the country.

In all these years, telecom industry of Pakistan witnessed a flood of Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) along with building a steady source of revenue for the national exchequer which is among the highest revenue contributors.

According to the financial reports, this growth has been phenomenal in a way that only telecom sector attracted more than $8 billion foreign investment in a decade. Today, total tele-density stands at 77.17% which means for every 100 inhabitant in Pakistan, 77 are using the telecom services. It's a big achievement during last 10 years while looking at the fact that tele-density stood at mere 4.31% in 2002-03.

Not only the investment but the outcome of this investment is also promising. The cellular operators have been contributing billions of rupees every year to the national exchequer. Only in FY2014, the sector contributed a hefty Rs. 243.8 billion showing a growth of 98% over the last year. Prior to 2014, every year, the same industry had been generating over Rs. 125 billion on average. And not to forget that a big chunk of our human resource is getting absorbed in this industry on regular basis.

By any standards, these are highly impressive statistics for a country like Pakistan and there is no second opinion that it should have been the most disciplined industry of the country where most of the work force is highly educated. But unfortunately, below the surface, things are not as bright as they seem to be. The cellular industry is undergoing largest ever clean-up exercise in shape of mobile SIMs re-verification with the help of Biometric Verification System (BVS) under National Action Plan (NAP) that was designed by the government and stake holders after the brutal terrorist attack on Army Public School, Peshawar.

As per recently issued SOPs, all the prepaid mobile phone subscribers of Pakistan have been asked to approach the retailers, franchises or customer service centres of their respective cellular mobile operator (CMO) for getting their mobile SIMs verified. All five CMOs have been given 3 months time for re-verifying 103 million prepaid connections. After April 13th, all un-verified mobile SIMs will be flushed out from the system permanently. Industry sources are of the view that some 30 to 35 million connections will be deactivated forever by the end of this exercise resulting in a loss of Rs. 5 - 8 billion per month for each CMO.

Irony of the fact is that CMOs have also been directed to stop the sale of SIMs through retailers till April 2015. This will create huge pressure on the finances of the companies as 80% of the sales come from retail channels.

Besides, mobile companies are also responsible for conducting the advertising campaign to notify the masses in order to get their SIMs re-verified. Federal Investigation Agency (FIA), Intelligence Bureau (IB) and Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) will carry out joint technical audit of SIM re-verification process. If any unverified SIM is found on a later stage, the respective mobile phone company will be held responsible. While taking into account the rosy side of telecom sector, it would look a devilish task to put the entire burden on someone who is the facilitator in revenue but the coin has the other side as well. The entire mess that is being cleansed today is actually a result of shortsightedness of telecom regulatory body, PTA, and the criminal negligence of the industry itself.

It didn’t happen overnight. For over a decade, all five cellular operators have been fighting for their market share. (In order to become the top cellular operator for subscribers, they have been playing with prices only and nothing else). Unlike developed countries the focus on value added services has been minimal and, of course this is also because of our less educated population that does not understand how their lives can be improved by using the mobile devices in the right way. A number of times, telecom operators have violated the guidelines of Competition Commission of Pakistan (CCP) for marketing their products falsely. Similarly, at number of times PTA was found extremely helpless in regulating the industry. Even the Telecom Act was breached many times but PTA remained a silent spectator for years.

Instead of influencing the sector by using the powers it has been given through Telecom Act, for a number of important matters, it relied on a more conventional model in Pakistan, which is, ‘let the things happen’. This was the leniency or rather a green signal that supervisors at cellular operators pushed their sales teams all across the country to sell the SIMs, by hook or by crook. Every time, there surfaced a case, the law enforcement agencies always found the sales pressure behind this negligence. In 2012, when ‘789 SIM Verification’ process was well enforced, 180,000 pre-active mobile SIMs belonging to a leading operator were recovered from Sargodha only.

And even recently, when biometric verification is the way of selling mobile SIM, police arrested the retailers for activating hundreds of SIMs on the CNICs of villagers who had given their documents to this group for Benazir Income Support Programme (BISP). Members of this group, who are being investigated now, collected the CNICs by announcing some fake BISP scheme through loud speakers. And how can we forget the brutal incident of Army Public School, Peshawar where terrorists used mobile SIMs to communicate after buying them through biometric verification system. This was a clear indication that even a legally sold equipment is as dangerous as an illegally sold chip. Pakistan witnessed three general elections in last 15 years. These were the prime days for violators as voter lists were openly misused for selling mobile SIMs on mass level. May it be the data coming from BISP or any branchless banking activity, opportunists have always found a way to dodge the system.

In all these years, our regulating authority only remained a dummy authority. Apart from issuing some warning letters, it never punished any responsible organization for ignoring Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) and has never been able to put an end to the usage of illegal spectrum in Pakistan which is also destroying the data industry. All state officials of the authority have been busy in collecting the awards from international bodies who recognize the watch dog for doing so much work in terms of exceptionally increasing the cellular subscriber base in Pakistan. I really doubt that they have slightest idea about the cost we, as a nation, pay for the job they did not perform.

The question arises, will this current exercise of re-verifying 103 million prepaid connections result in bringing peace of mind to citizens of Pakistan and Law Enforcement Agencies (LEAs). Experts from different walks of life are of the opinion that this massive exercise will only result in brining down the number of subscribers substantially. Although, biometric verification would be helpful in locating the culprit immediately, but, this won’t stop them. A case study by GSM Association (GSMA) negates the concept of registering SIMs as a part of measures to control the crime. The usage of mobile phones and SIMs by anti-state elements can only be discouraged by implementing SOPs, very strictly. Salient features of SOP include: Raising awareness level among masses, stopping the profitable usage of mobile SIM such as its use in illegal / grey traffic, limiting or licensing the number of points where it is sold, discouraging this undue price war among operators that becomes the core reason for selling SIMs through unfair means.

Afghan mobile SIMs are also a big issue to deal with. It can be dealt with proper arrangements and talks with cellular operators since few of them are in commercial agreements with Afghan cellular companies for providing the roaming services in Pakistan. What is the use of allowing a single person to keep five SIMs at a time? Issues like this need decision at appropriate level with a futuristic approach. Why we are forgetting the role of NADRA and above all PTA? Both of these organizations are paid a good amount of money that comes from the people of Pakistan through telecom industry.

According to a report, cellular industry has so far invested USD 25 million on the provision of around 60,000 BVS devices and PKR 22 billion on previous mandatory verification processes with another significant amount to be spent on this re-verification exercise to enhance the availability of these BVS devices across Pakistan. The role of regulator and security agencies become more important in monitoring the entire process of mobile phones and mobile SIM selling and, of course their usage. After all, it's our country and we have to do our work collectively.

The writer is a senior telecom journalist who contributes for print and online media regularly. He is also Editor-in-Chief of a leading technology magazine. This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
16
February

Written By: Dr. Amineh Hoti

There is a famous Urdu saying “Har Firon ke liye aik Moosa hota hai” meaning by ‘for every problem, there is a solution’. This is also mentioned by Allah in the Qur’aan. It is for us, “the people of thought” or the “Ahl-e-Aql”, as God repeatedly calls us, to use our intellect (aql) to work out those solutions (and I use the word “work” intentionally because it comes with, and not without, effort and labour).

The attack on the students of Army Public School in Peshawar was particularly heartbreaking for me (as it has been for all Pakistanis) because I grew up not very far from this very school. I recall my happy childhood in Peshawar when my parents would take me for long walks in a stroller in the beautiful cantonment with its flower-filled gardens. It saddens me to know that same Peshawar now has become a battleground for the future of Pakistan. Who could be so cruel as to kill the children and take the lives of others, and then their own. I wept once again for my nation. I asked myself, what could we do to prevent such extreme violence and hatred in the future?

When nations are seen to be weak and divided, everyone suffers especially the vulnerable children. The Prophet (PBUH), who loved children, forbade men to do any harm to children and women in war. Yet children are killed through violence in Pakistan, Afghanistan, Syria, Palestine, Gambia, and in so many other parts of today’s turbulent world. This practice is a heavy burden on the conscience of humanity and the guilt will always haunt the perpetrators.

A unanimous voice would decree; let children live – both literally and metaphorically by allowing them to grow in their minds, ideas, and creativity. To explore the heights of knowledge without hunger, pain or loss of family and life! The challenges for Pakistan are no exception. They can be tackled through effective planning, insight, and must be solved with foresight in the light of current world events. Thus in this article, I would suggest few ideas as a solution to the problem. Ilm, Adab aur Insaaniat Courses: Fighting this War with the Tools of Knowledge

The Center for Dialogue and Action (CD&A), which I have the privilege of heading at The Forman Christian College University (FCCU) in Lahore, aims to benefit institutions in the armed forces and civil services by creating opportunities for learning and growth. There is a general lack of understanding and ambiguity in Pakistan in relation to the subject of Pakistan’s diversity, its religions, culture, ethnic history, and gender. If we can open the minds of the young generation to ideas of acceptance and compassion, we can successfully challenge the hatred that engendered this violence in Peshawar.

The foundation of any debate on defining our national identity and ways forward must look to a class on the vision of its founding fathers: Quaid-i-Azam who strove for human rights and justice, Sir Syed who encouraged open mindedness and knowledge, and Allama Muhammad Iqbal who inspired passion for learning and hard work through knowledge of our own rich history. In this context, we must examine the challenges of today’s Pakistan and the opportunities ahead.

Another class focuses on what Islam is about and the early inclusive and tolerant Islamic attitudes towards the others. In yet another session, a study of Andalusia in Spain and Sicily in Italy are essential to see how people can co-exist. I have been to both places over the last few months with the research project “Journey into Europe — Islam, Immigration and Empire” accompanying my father, Professor Akbar S. Ahmed, and his team. The knowledge we gained and the people we met have been an eye-opener and a healer. We need to be aware about a past where we were creative, productive, and tolerant. From these cultures, everyone all over the world benefitted and continues to benefit, until today. The first man who flew was the Andalusian Ibn al Firnas, the astrolabe who gave direction that led to compass invention, and which is a gift to the world from Sicily and so on and so forth. Diversity is one of Pakistan’s key strength. The study of diversity can inspire our youth to become better citizens who respect cultural and religious differences. The study of diversity explores differences and commonalities, and provides tools to equip us to play a positive role in transforming negative attitudes, perceptions, and behaviours. Despite being unique individuals i.e. belonging to different communities, at the end of the day we are all connected through our shared values.

Learning Lessons from the Glory of Andalusia and the Gore of Srebrenica I spent this summer doing fieldwork with ‘Journey into Europe’ (JIE) team in the South of Spain at Andalusia – the jewel in the crown of civilization. It made me realize how important it is to strive for peace, creativity, and open mindedness to overcome a closed and static mindset. At its height, Andalusia was a period when Muslims, Christians and Jews under Islamic rule, lived together producing the knowledge from which the world benefits today (clocks, watches, carpets, shampoo, coffee, algebra, medicine, flight, cleanliness, and so forth). However, when Muslims and Jews were forced to leave Spain in 1492, by the decree of Isabella and Ferdinand, the dark age of the inquisition began when terror and violence reigned for Muslims and other minorities – people’s property and lives were no longer sacred. Muslims were given two harsh choices – convert or leave Spain – those who left had to make a choice harder than death. They had to leave behind all their property and their children!

In European Bosnia, Srebrenica, which I visited with JIE team in summer 2014, Muslim men, women and children were brutally killed 20 years ago. The Bosnian war saw over 200,000 people massacred and more than 70,000 women raped. The stories of the survivors were truly heartbreaking. Khadijah whom I interviewed in the mass graveyard of Srebrenica, lost 50 male family members.

Recently, when I visited National University of Science and Technology (NUST) in Islamabad to teach a class to PhD students on peace building, I was also asked to give a talk to a hall full of army men and women in uniform – the majority of whom were from the Pakistan Army and a small number from nine other countries. My message to these brave soldiers was that they have tremendous strength and resources but the value of strength is when we use it to maintain peace. The war worth fighting was the one to keep the peace and harmony so that our children could grow up in a safe and calm country. Andalusia teaches us that when we live in harmony together through the exploration of knowledge, there is space for growth of that civilization itself as well as for the generations to come like ripples in water, and the effects are far and wide. European enlightenment comes out of Andalusia through the spread of knowledge. Today’s Europe and the West, it has been argued by many scholars, has progressed on the basis of Andalusian civilization – you’ll be surprised at how many things you use today or encounter thinking these are Western marvels, actually originated in Andalusia from Muslim-Christian-Jewish coexistence!

Srebrenica teaches us to be strong, never to be weak, undivided, or unaware – to play the game of survival, but always keep out of troubled waters. Negotiation and wit are far better than rushing into problematic areas like quicksand. Revenge never gets us anywhere. Srebrenica teaches us to walk the rope of life in a balanced way with our neighbours – again negotiating, building relations, building trust, and above all building strength of one’s country, which must always be above one’s personal interests.

Let’s Work to Build Our Nation, Not Just Our Own House The experiences from this journey, my interviews with hundreds of Pakistanis abroad, the backdrop of the current media constantly chipping away at the image of Pakistan, had made me realize how valuable Pakistan is to us Pakistanis – both at home and abroad. At home, Pakistan gives us a place to live how we choose, and abroad it gives us a place of belonging, to which we hope to one day return. Pakistan is home; it is the source of our identity. It is worth the effort to save, to keep, and to work for with all our might and intellect to make Pakistan a good home for us all.

We often think that our house is our home – we keep it tidy, buy beautiful things for it, decorate it, and sometimes dump our rubbish on the streets outside it. However, our focus needs to change. Our country is our home and we must endeavour to beautify its landscape, preserve its natural beauties and not misuse them (the waters that flow from the mountains in Islamabad are polluted with sewage and rubbish as they come down from sector to sector – this can be improved by stopping this, starting with the sectors occupied by the forces); we must not misuse our national funds (what belongs to the state is not our personal fund – every penny misused is taking a bite out of the mouth of a starving person – so many parents with their children have committed suicide because of hunger in Pakistan); and we must work hard (every day, every hour of our lives counts).

Most importantly, we must be positive. Saying Pakistan will survive and making it happen is possible – it is a self fulfilling prophecy – if we want something to happen, it will. If we want it to exist and be prosperous, it will: but we must put in the effort, we must be united (Pathans, Punjabis, Sindhis, Balochis, and many others in Pakistan are part of the rich landscape – they are our strength not weakness but only wish to be heard and wish to be given due acknowledgement, voice and leadership roles) and we must be loyal to Pakistan (above our loyalty to our tribes, political affiliations and ourselves). Our little personal gains are not worth the cost of chipping at our mother nation. Without the nation, there is no house, no dignity, no ownership, no home, and no identity.

The difficulties and harshness of being a musafir (traveller) on my field trip to Europe, interviewing hundreds of people, and listening to the mosaic of voices that talked to me of pain and loss, made me constantly think of the value of my home, Pakistan. I hear so and so leader has so many houses abroad and so much money in this and that Swiss bank. The reality is that no amount of houses abroad or money in banks can replace your dignity of belonging to a country that is your own. God blessed Pakistanis with a miracle against all odds – He gave us one of the biggest nations on earth (Pakistan is the second largest Muslim nation on planet earth – in size we are bigger than UK, Denmark, etc). So let us cherish this land, value it, love it, and work hard to build it up again. I am reminded of Rudyard Kipling’s poem, “If” which my father read to me again and again in my childhood and its strong message of the will to survive against all odds, some lines of which I want to share with you:

If you can keep your head when all about you

Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,

If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,

Or being hated, don’t give way to hating,

If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster

And treat those two impostors just the same;

If you can bear to hear the truth you’ve spoken

Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,

Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken, And stoop and build ’em up with worn-out tools:

If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you,

If all men count with you, but none too much;

If you can fill the unforgiving minute

With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run,

Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it, And—which is more—you’ll be a Man, my son!

“Positive Attitude” is Essential: Counting Our Blessings The first main step to improve our country is challenging the negative propaganda against Pakistan. Our own media must work with us, not against us, to put out ideas that Pakistan is indeed a great country worth fighting for. We must work together to improve it in education, in ideas, and in progress. If we spit out negativity all the time we will do nothing to improve because we will feel it is a lost case. Instead, if we say we are fed up of all the negative headlines on Pakistan and say let me change this, it will change – the positive attitude will uplift people and make them work hard to build the nation.

Adopting a positive attitude, therefore, is absolutely essential. Let us create a ‘self-fulfilling prophecy’, as it is called in Sociology. If I tell a particular child or the children of my nation that they can do it, they will have hope and they will do everything to get to that point of success. If I tell them constantly that you are worthless and you cannot make it, they will subsequently give up hope and will not make it. There is nothing that can prevent the success of our nation, but ourselves. I am confident that we can make this nation great as envisioned by its founding fathers. Let us look, for a moment, at all the stunning things we have to give us hope and reasons to survive and thrive. A Very Rich History. Our country is the cradle of civilization. Though many people outside Pakistan and inside may not fully appreciate or realize this – the oldest civilization in the world is not Ancient Egypt (3000 BC) and Ancient Greece as is taught in many schools around the world. It is our own Mehrgarh (7000 BC) located in present day Balochistan. This is a stunning fact, which gives us, as a collective people, deep roots – we are not a new civilization. Taxila is another example of having one of the most important education centres in the world (people from other parts of the world came to study here just as today they strive to go to Oxford and Cambridge in the UK). A branch of Buddhism, Hinduism, Sikhism, and other religions were born here in present day Pakistan. This land has seen many strong, tolerant, and creative leaders, for example, the great Mughals, the Sufi saints, and so forth. This is the rich historical and cultural inheritance of the people of Pakistan.

The People of Pakistan. With their hospitality and resilience in the face of all troubles, the people of Pakistan are survivors. “Some of the most brilliant people I have met,” a senior European academic I interacted recently told me, “are from Pakistan.” Geographic Bliss. A stunningly beautiful vast land from the north to the south with access to water and the most breathtaking and highest mountains in the world “Mashah-Allah”! In size, we are bigger than most European countries.

Fabulous Weather. Sunny most of the time – the word ‘sad’ is from Seasonally Affected Disorder – indeed while I was in the UK, people moaned about the weather all the time. They would die to have this weather which can make us happy medically. Faith. Lastly, faith is very important and the key anchor – faith in the idea of hope and survival, faith in our nation, and faith in God. I have seen reflections of these in members of the army, civil services, educational experts and in ordinary people for whom the services strive, through the course of their lives, to make a better nation for all.

“You” are a Role Model Peace Builder: Embodying the Messages of Great Leaders The message for us in today’s Pakistan from the Holy Prophet of Islam (PBUH) is to build our own great internal strength – faith is an important component in driving us forward and the message of God is the key to survival – to fight for peace, not war, but to defend ourselves and our national interests with great wit, and the tools of knowledge and wisdom. It is worth reminding ourselves that the Prophet (PBUH) came to Arab society in a very difficult time to challenge Jahilya (violent ignorance) when people killed children and disrespected humanity. He came as a Messenger from God, the Cherisher of Humanity, to remind people of the ideals of justice, humanity and compassion. That is why the title of the leader of the Muslim Army, the Prophet (PBUH), was “Rehmat al Alamin.” The beauty of his character that made his role a success was precisely his great strength of standing firmly for what is right and protecting his ummah firmly within the balance of justice and compassion, while being a leader, a father, a husband, and a general. It is for this reason that we are told repeatedly by the God in the Qur’aan that the best role model for us is the Prophet of Islam. However, we can only really “know” the Prophet (PBUH) if we study his life by reading about him.

The Quaid-i-Azam – our special Baba-e-Quom, is another outstanding role model for us. In the December 2014 issue of the Hilal Magazine, the message of the Quaid was loud and clear – of progress and humanity, of justice and compassion written by Professor Akbar S. Ahmed. In his character, in his manners, in his struggle for Pakistan and its survival, the Quaid is a brilliant star. Being himself an outstanding professional lawyer from a minority community, he fought for the rights of all people, especially the most vulnerable – women and those who were from the minority communities. He fought throughout his life till last breath to give us this nation with the help of God. It is now up to us to make it, to build it, to value it and to protect it.

This land has had many other outstanding leaders – some of whose lives have been forgotten and remain unexplored today but are a treasure for the students and teachers of courses such as ‘ilm, adab aur insaaniat’ to slowly uncover one by one and explore as we are beginning to do so. These examples give us, and our children, hope. They show us how to survive as these great leaders did in the face of all odds and adversity and to make the world we live in a better and more peaceful place. Conclusion

After travelling for months on the research project, across Europe and earlier the Muslim world (on “Journey into Islam” – a book by Prof Akbar S. Ahmed, which was the first part of the four part project, “Journey into Europe”) and hearing the stories of immigrants losing their homes, their countries in wars, the plane I arrive in touches the soil of Pakistan and I am grateful to be back “home”. I say a prayer, a ‘sajdah to Rabbee’ for blessing us with this home – a place better than thousand palaces. I come back enthusiastic and wanting to contribute to building this nation into a beautiful, strong and united country. I pray for all those who have worked towards peace in Pakistan and in the wider region, for the sacrifices they have made, to make a stronger, peaceful world community.

Our progress will start with the building blocks and tools of knowledge and strategy. We will celebrate and be proud of Pakistan just as our neighbour, India, celebrates themselves (you may remember the widespread ads, “Made in India”, “Fabulous India,” etc). We will build on our own knowledge through courses like ‘Ilm, Adab aur Insaaniat,’ by exploring our shared rich heritage (South Asia, Islamic, Andalusian and world debates on Dialogue of Civilizations), which will give us the confidence to propel us forward. We will begin to read up on our own history and polish up our knowledge on the Qur’aan, on the Prophet of Islam, on the Caliphs, on the Quaid-i-Azam and so forth. This will help us understand the balance of justice, rights and respect for others and ourselves and will help us understand the balance of cause and effect. Our minorities must feel a part of, not apart from Pakistan – they must not feel as being on the periphery but included in the centre. Finally, we must acknowledge, value and protect what we have as our strengths.

Drawing inspiration from my father’s great relative, Sir Syed Ahmed Khan; my maternal grandfather the Wali of Swat, Miangul Jahanzeb, who built universities and education centres in Aligarh and Swat where the creators of Pakistan on the one hand, and on the other girls like Malala Yusufzai comes out of a system of education which is local (not Oxford or Cambridge); and my husband, Arsallah Khan’s grandfather, Sir Akbar Khan of Hoti, who is said to have built and collected the largest library in South Asia, I am personally convinced that knowledge, and especially “Peace Building Education”, is the key to strengthening and creating a progressive and successful Pakistan. That is why both my husband and I left Cambridge where I had a permanent job as Director of the first centre on peace studies and chose to come to Pakistan, like so many other Pakistanis who came “home”, to help build our valuable homeland and contribute whatever little we have here with a great deal of passion and enthusiasm.

Finally, all of us should remember the message of the Prophet (PBUH) that scholarship is more important than anything else – it is the bright light of hope and of progress. Indeed, there is a famous saying of the Prophet (PBUH): “The ink of the scholar is more sacred than the blood of the martyr.” I urge you to think hard about this – if God in the Qur’aan gave the highest darja – or status to the martyr why is then the ink of the scholar more sacred than the blood of the martyr? It is because with scholarship comes understanding and with deeper understanding comes respect and with that, steps to peace are possible. Again, I go back to the example of the best general in any army of all time, the Prophet of Islam, who valued the tools of knowledge to fight all forms of jahilya (violent ignorance).

I want to leave you with the thought that “nothing is impossible” for us: we “can” soar to the highest of heights. We only need the will and mental strength to fly high. When I look at the young generations, I think that with their enthusiasm, great heights are certainly possible. For all those who serve Pakistan in their varied ways, remember Allama Iqbal’s words, “Tu Shaheen hai, bassera kar pahaaron kee chattaanon par”!

The author is a PhD Social Anthropology, University of Cambridge. Presently she is Director at Centre for Dialogue and Action.
16
February

Written By: Rasul Bakhsh Rais

December 16, 2014 will be remembered as the blackest days in Pakistan’s history, both for the tragedy of East Pakistan, and, for the massacre of our children that the Taliban terrorists committed at the Army Public School in Peshawar. Tragedies, sorrowful days and setbacks are part of every national history; some end up having more of them than others. No nation state, particularly in a challenging security environment of multiple wars and globalization of terrorism can expect to live in an ideal paradise. Ours is one of the most insecure nation come2region with internal and external states and non-state actors playing dangerous games. Afghanistan is and has been the epicenter of so many ‘great’ and not so great games. The state and security vacuum of Afghanistan for decades and its internal wars and external interventions have gravely impacted on Pakistan’s national security conditions, both internally as well as in relations to other countries. The Taliban terrorism is born out of these conditions and supported by powers and forces with ill intentions of weakening and destabilizing Pakistan.

We should have realized the challenge of Taliban terrorism much earlier, before what happened in Swat, the moment they began to group and raise militia to destabilize the political and social order of FATA. Sadly, there was ambiguity, ambivalence in thinking of some of the religious and mainstream political parties. The religious parties belonging to the same sectarian denomination as the Taliban defended them tooth and nail, in the media and in the public rallies. All such movements either create political fronts of their own or have some tacit alliances. Few religious parties tacitly or out of their own religious and political convictions gave too much of support to them by deflecting criticism on the Taliban and justifying what they were doing to the Pakistani society. They were however not alone. A good number of media persons made sure that those who defended the Taliban and terrorists from Lal Masjid episode to all other ugly incidents were represented in their shows. Nation as a whole was divided and the governments kept vexing eloquence in making distinctions between ‘good’ and ‘bad’ Taliban.

The media at large and the indecision of the then Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal (MMA) and federal government in a crucial phase when this monster was raising its ugly head kept the nation confused, disunited and indifferent when a branch of Taliban had taken over Swat. It was a video of public flogging of a girl that awakened the nation to the danger of extremism and terrorism. The population of Swat paid a heavy price for liberation of their region, and so did the security forces and the nation.

Once again, we see the Pakistani nation standing together against the Taliban terrorism. The ultimate sacrifice of our children has touched every soul in this country and every human in the larger world who values human life and has love for children. What this unity should mean and where we go from here? The national solidarity against terrorism means that government has full support of the nation to take every measure that it deems necessary to end terrorism in the country. Without doing this, stability, prosperity and improving Pakistan’s global image will remain a distant dream. There is no room for wavering in resolve or losing the target, which is ending terrorism from every group nation come3disregarding its motivation or geographic location. As to where we go from here, three things are of crucial importance for Pakistan in this defining moment in our history. First, we must rethink of the national narrative—what kind of Pakistan we want. We have deviated far too long from the vision of our founders, which was a democratic, moderate, liberal, pluralistic Pakistan, integrated with the world community on the basis of mutual interest. In a globalized world, isolation is a curse that our external enemies, terrorists and their ideological warriors wish to impose on us. A country which is secure for every citizen no matter what his ethnicity, faith, or particular religious pursuits are and in which every citizen of Pakistan has an opportunity to grow, prosper and realize his or her dreams. Pakistan must be conceived as a nation state which is pluralistic in its composition and its basis is citizenship – all are equal. Redefining Pakistan is a monumental task which cannot be done in short time but what is important is a resolute determination and its pursuit no matter who governs the country. A modernist vision and a true interpretation about the creation of Pakistan, which undoubtedly was for advancing and protecting the political and economic interests of the Muslims must get the space in our curriculum design for the educational institutions, social and political discourses in the media and must be the mark of every public policy. Without changing narrative about the vision of Pakistan we may not be able to recover the real Pakistan – the Pakistan our founders had imagined and struggled for.

The second important task before the governments, both provincial and federal, is to start reform programme of every institution where public money is spent. State institutions have been on decline for decades. They are not delivering the services and goods that they are intended for. Among them public utilities, development agencies and public entities like Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) must be restructured, reformed, and better off-loaded from the back of the government. Where in the world a public or a serious government that is committed to public interests would allow hundreds of billions of wastage every year for which the public has paid for. More important are reforms of the legal and judicial system that fails to punish the criminals from those robbing public exchequer to murdering our citizens. Laws against hate speech are of immense importance to control sectarianism. Largely, it is collapse of the institutional power of the state in some of these critical areas that has created social conditions for militant minds.

Thirdly, we must educate our children, provide professional skills to our youth and give them hope that Pakistan is the place where they can grow, develop and find opportunity. An atmosphere of hopelessness and lack of educational opportunities pushes young people into the fold of terrorist organizations.

Fourthly, we must be tough with the countries that are providing sanctuaries to the terrorists or those providing funds to the organizations for development or religious education. We have been too soft, too porous and too relaxed about what other countries do inside our society and in our proximate neighbourhood. Peshawar and the Army Public School will not be the same. The lesson of this tragedy is that Pakistan should not be the same. Must it revert back to the founding vision.

Finally, the task of defeating the extremist mindset and terror networks with global links, cannot and shouldn’t be left to one institution. It is a shared national responsibility of the society at large, the state, all state institutions, political parties and the media. The practical meanings of national solidarity against terrorism is that every one of us and every institutions of the state from the Parliament to executive, judicial branch and the social forces play a role in recovering Pakistan from the hold of extremist ideas and defeating every militant force in the country that has taken up arms against the state.

The writer is an eminent defence/political analyst and regularly contributes in print/electronic media. Presently he is on the faculty of LUMS. This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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