January 03, 2009

Plight of women in Swat

By Khurshid Khan
Wednesday, December 31, 2008

THE current situation in Swat is such that any sign of peace in the valley has been washed away. The people are living through the most miserable phase of its history. No doubt, the valley has witnessed invasions, turbulence and chaos from the time of Alexander’s invasion in 327 BC to the formation of Swat state in 1917.

However, at least in living memory the present chaos engendered by militancy has no parallel. It has adversely affected the physical and cultural environment, the economy, tourism, trade, governance and social life in the valley.

Unfortunately, in all this, women have been the worst sufferers. The militants’ obscurant version of Islam begins and ends with womenfolk. According to their belief, women are the source of all sins. A cleric while delivering the Friday sermon in Marghazar village was heard telling his flock, “My fellow Muslims, listen! The prices of daily commodities are rising because women abandon their homes and loiter about in the markets.”

In fact, the Fazlullah-led militants have announced a complete ban on female education from Jan 15, 2008 on FM radio. Some days ago, they announced that no government or private educational institution would be allowed to enrol girls and that all schools and colleges should stop educating them by Jan 15. Schools found violating this ban would be blown up. Taliban spokesman Muslim Khan somewhat modified the announcement saying that schools would remain closed until an Islamic curriculum was devised for imparting education to girls.

Parents and students have lost hope of schools reopening in this volatile atmosphere. The militants have usually been seen to follow up on their words and, despite the army’s presence, there have been no signs of the restoration of peace and harmony.

The militants have bombed or torched more than 100 girls’ schools and colleges to forcibly stop 80,000 girls from going to school in the district. There were 10 high schools, four higher secondary schools and four degree-awarding colleges and a network of primary schools across the district for girls and women, besides a postgraduate institution for young men and women to study at the master’s level.

Against the culture of keeping womenfolk away from development, the rulers of Swat state (1917-1969) encouraged female literacy, the first step on the way to progress, by establishing girls’ schools and colleges. The valley had the highest female literacy rate as compared to neighbouring districts.

After the fall of the Taliban in Afghanistan, their repressive activities started getting support in the Pakhtun areas of Pakistan along the Durand Line. Swat is among the more recent victims of Talibanisation. The secular nature of Swati society is slowly and gradually leaning towards extremism.

The clergy first started speaking against girls’ and women’s education through unauthorised FM radios and at public gatherings. But as they got more emboldened, they attempted to stall female education — and eliminate the presence of girls and women in the market — through fiercer means including bomb blasts. Many schools have been destroyed in this way.

Then they turned their wrath on women doctors and the female nursing staff in hospitals warning them to observe strict purdah, confine themselves only to wards for women and not to attend calls on their cellphones. The medical superintendent of a group of hospitals complied with the order and circulated a notice to the entire female staff telling them to do as they had been told. Women patients and visitors were also advised to conform to Taliban instructions.

Militants also ordered the segregation of students at the Saidu Medical College, telling the principal to keep away women students from research labs after a certain time. Meanwhile, another college refused to take in women because of the continuous threats of the militants from 2007 onwards. Militants regularly monitor hospitals and colleges. In fact, working women and those attending school or college, or going to the doctor or in the marketplace are given a bad character by the militants.

Indiscriminate mortar shelling has hit houses and killed and injured civilians. In these, the toll for women casualties has been higher since they are more often at home, while unannounced road obstructions or curfews have made sudden medical emergencies, especially among pregnant women, difficult to be attended to. As a consequence women have lost their newborns as they have not been able to make it to the hospital in time. Besides, with their men also casualties of militancy, many of them are losing breadwinners in the family.

The threatened closure of educational institutions has proved to be the last nail in the coffin. The mindset of the militants — who routinely resort to the violation of fundamental rights in order to accomplish their goal — is clear and their misused and illegal authority has led them to establish a state within a state. Swat is not a no-man’s-land and is very much an integral part of the country. By tradition its inhabitants are not religious bigots. In fact, society in Swat is more civilised and accommodating of opinions than the rest of the Pakhtun belt. Islamabad should understand that and break its silence to take assertive action against the militants if it does not want Talibanisation to engulf the area and paralyse the entire structure of society.

Where are all the international and national human rights organisations and women rights groups? They must raise a collective voice against this victimisation of Swati women and girls. It is also time for the media to take drastic steps to highlight the current lot of Swati women whose repressive treatment should also serve as a wake-up call for women parliamentarians to take an active part in rescuing them from the spread of a venomous culture.




I have received many questions in response to my article on the capture of Kilinochchi, the so-called administrative capital of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), by the Sri Lankan Army on January 2,2008. I will attempt to answer some of the questions:

Q.What will be the next move of the Sri Lankan Army (SLA)?

A.One of the reasons for the continuing success of the SLA during the last two years has been its ability to deny to the LTTE an opportunity for an offensive action. It has consistently forced the LTTE to fight a defensive battle in one piece of territory after another-----whether in the East or the North. Succession of defensive battles with no opportunity for taking the offensive anywhere saps the morale. That moment has not yet come for the LTTE, but it could and it will if the SLA manages to continue to deny to the LTTE an opportunity for an offensive action. From the reports coming out of the North, one gets an impression that the SLA is not giving itself a pause after its success at Kilinochchi. It is pressing its offensive against the LTTE and has started moving towards Mulaithivu, which has now become the principal target of the bombings by the Sri Lankan Air Force (SLAF). The objective of the SLA is to keep the LTTE bleeding and not to allow it to re-group itself.

Q.In the past against the Indian Peace-Keeping Force (IPKF) as well as the SLA subsequently, the LTTE had repeatedly bounced back from seemingly hopeless situations and recovered lost territory. Will it be able to do it again?
A.The LTTE's morale and motivation remain strong, but strong morale and motivation alone cannot win battles in the absence of resources----human and material resources. In respect of both, the law of diminishing returns has already set in for the LTTE. One cannot totally rule out the kind of spectacular come-backs the LTTE had staged in the 1990s, but the objective conditions in the post-9/11 world are different from those in the pre-9/11 world. There was a certain amount of acceptance of the legitimacy of terrorism/insurgency for achieving a political objective if left with no other option pre-9/11. Hence, the LTTE had a free run of the world collecting funds and clandestinely procuring materials. One of the consequences of the 9/11 terrorist strikes in the US is the acceptance by the international community that terrorism is an absolute evil and cannot be accepted whatever be the reason for it. The LTTE today is a terrorist organisation in the eyes of the international community. It no longer has a free run. Its source of funds and equipment are being choked off one after the other. Before 9/11, another important source of replenishment of arms and ammunition for the LTTE was the capture from the SLA. In defensive battles this also dries up. The ground realities today are much more strongly against the LTTE than they were pre-9/11. It will be a miracle if it is able to repeat its pre-/9/11 comebacks, but one should not act on the assumption that it will not be able to stage a come-back.It particularly can if the SLA, in over-confidence or over-exuberance, creates serious tactical or strategic mistakes.

Q.But even in the post-9/11 world, Al Qaeda and pro-Al Qaeda forces in Iraq and the Taliban in Afghanistan staged a come-back?

A. Yes, they did due to two reasons----- the availability of sanctuaries and assistance for the pro-Al Qaeda forces from Iran and Syria and the similar availability for the Taliban from the Pakistani Army and the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI). The LTTE is a banned terrorist organisation in India and its leader Prabakaran is a wanted assassin in India wanted for the assassination of Rajiv Gandhi. Hence, the LTTE may not be able to get sanctuaries and assistance from elements in Tamil Nadu. It has to fight with its back to the sea with no possibility of escape beyond the sea.

Q. But even under the IPKF the LTTE managed to stage a come-back despite being denied sanctuaries and assistance in Indian territory?

A.As I have already mentioned, the pre-9/11 objective conditions were different from the post-9/11. Moreover, the IPKF did not indulge in a ruthless application of India's air power against the LTTE. If it had done so, as the SLAF has been doing now, the LTTE might not have been able to stage a come-back.

Q. Does it mean, the cause of the Sri Lankan Tamils has become hopeless?

A. Their cause was not hopeless till 2003. It enjoyed a lot of international support. Prabakaran made it hopeless by a series of errors of judgement and tactical and strategic blunders. He continues to live in a make-believe world of his own, nursing an illusion that the international opinion might once again change in favour of the Tamils. Yes, it might, but only if Prabakaran is removed from the leadership of the LTTE along with his close associates. As I have been saying and writing for the last two years, he has become a liability for the Tamil cause and should be removed by the Tamils themselves or by his associates in the LTTE leadership who realise the damage he has caused to the Tamil cause.

Q. How will the end of Prabakaran come?

A. Either in an air strike by the SLAF or through suicide or through one of his own men turning against him. I would not be surprised if one of these days the SLAF manages to kill him as it managed to kill Tamilselvan, his political adviser, in 2006. As I wrote in the past, he has to be lucky every time,but the SLAF has to be lucky only once.

Q. What are the chances of he and his cadres taking shelter in India?

A. The Governments of India and Tamil Nadu will not allow it.However, one has to be alert to the possibility that the Maoists (Naxalites) in the tribal belt of central India who have some territorial control in the jungles might help him and give him shelter in return for the assistance which the LTTE had allegedly given them in the past. If he manages to reach the Maoists controlled territory, the ability of our security forces to get at him may be limited. In the case of the LTTE cadres, some of them might succeed to come over to India as refugees. This would call for stricter vetting of the refugee flow in order to identigy and arrest such elements.

Q. What would happen to the arms and ammunition and the planes at the disposal of the LTTE?

A. They might try to cache them in the jungles in the Northern Province or bring some of them to India and give them to the Maoists for possible use or safe custody. We have to be alert enough to prevent this.

Q.If the SLA ultimately manages to defeat the LTTE, will it be peace in Sri Lanka?

A.Most probably not. It might be the end of classical insurgency, but it will not be the end of terrorism till the aspiratiions of the Tamils are addressed without weakening the unity of Sri Lanka.

Q. India has been accused of double standards---taking a strong line against terrorism as seen after Mumbai, but at the same time critical of the strong measures taken by the SL Government?

A.There are no double standards. We take a strong line against the ISI-sponsored Pakistani terrorists, who have no business to be in our territory. We follow a no-holds-barred policy towards them to eradicate them. Our policy towards our own people----separatists, ideological terrorists or jihadi terrorists--- is more nuanced. Our policy towards them is graduated with a mix of political and the law and order components. We have never hesitated to talk to them. We look upon indigenous movements not as a conflict between one community and another, but as a conflict between the Government and aggrieved elements in a community. Some of the strongest supporters of the human rights of the aggrieved communities have come from the majority Hindu community. In Sri Lanka, there are no foreign terrorists operating. All the insurgents and terrorists are their own people. The counter-terrorism strategy of the Mahinda Rajapakse Government lacks the kind of sophistication and nuances we have. It treats the Sri Lankan Tamils as if they are foreigners while paying lip service to their being citizens with equal rights. This has made the conflict in Sri Lanka not only between the Government and aggrieved sections of the Tamils, but also between the majority Sinhalese and the minority Tamil communities. How many Sinhalese moulders of public opinion have come forward to support the human rights of the Tamils? How many of them have criticised the use of the Air Force against the civilian Tamil population? Even if the SLA is able to defeat the LTTE, it will take years for the SL society to heal the divide between the Sinhalese and the Tamils caused by the policies of the Rajapakse Government and the intemperate pronouncements of Lt.Gen. Sarath Fonseka, the Commander of the SLA. (4-1-09)

(The writer is Additional Secretary (retd), Cabinet Secretariat, Govt. of India, New Delhi, and, presently, Director, Institute For Topical Strudues, Chennai. E-mail: seventyone2@gmail.com )

December 30, 2008

EDITORIAL: Sato's nuclear request



Former Prime Minister Eisaku Sato (1901-1975), who set Japan's three non-nuclear principles and was awarded the 1974 Nobel Peace Prize, was actually a tough negotiator who sought a U.S. nuclear attack against China in the event of an outbreak of war between Japan and China, according to Foreign Ministry documents that were declassified on Monday.

A month before Sato became prime minister in November 1964, China jolted the world by conducting its first nuclear test while Tokyo was hosting that year's Summer Olympics. Japan's shock was profound.

It was previously revealed that Sato hinted at Japan's readiness to arm itself with nuclear weapons when he met with U.S. Ambassador Edwin O. Reischauer immediately upon taking office. He said to the effect: "If the other side (China) has nuclear weapons, we should have them, too. That's common sense."

But during his visit to the United States one month later in January 1965, Sato denied Japan's nuclear ambitions. "Japan is unequivocally opposed to the possession and use of nuclear weapons," he asserted, according to the newly declassified documents.

"Should a war break out (between Japan and China), we expect the United States to immediately launch a retaliatory nuclear strike (against China)," he said.

In short, Sato sought protection under the U.S. nuclear umbrella, and Washington agreed to comply.

The public was not informed of any of this. The horrors of the atomic bombings on Hiroshima and Nagasaki were still fresh in the nation's collective memory at the time, and the government presumably decided the public was not yet ready to deal with this sort of thing.

But China's nuclear armament was a real threat, and the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) had yet to come into being. From the declassified documents, we can imagine how these circumstances must have compelled Sato to take upon himself the role of a tough diplomatic negotiator who would drive a hard bargain with Washington.

More than four decades have since passed. How is Japan handling the nuke issue now?

India and Pakistan have gone nuclear, and the NPT regime itself is now shaky at best. For the Japanese people, North Korea's nuclear test in 2006 was as terrifying as the 1964 Chinese test. The United Nations adopts nuclear disarmament resolutions every year at the Japanese government's initiative, but when the United States inked a nuclear accord with India that effectively acknowledges the latter as a nuclear power, Japan had no choice but to recognize this agreement.

On the other hand, former U.S. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger and other prominent nuclear deterrence theorists called for "a world free of nuclear weapons" last year. This means nuclear proliferation has come to be recognized as a real threat to the world.

Yet, the Japanese people seem to be growing less concerned, not more. The six-party talks for ending North Korea's nuclear program are stalling over the verification issue, but Japan's approach to this situation is not as hot a subject of public interest as the abduction issue.

On the contrary, even some politicians are now voicing arguments in favor of Japan's nuclear armament that are tenuous at best.

Three years after his U.S. trip, Sato announced his three non-nuclear principles in his speech before the Diet, having concluded that possessing nuclear weapons would neither contribute to the national security nor benefit the Japan-U.S. security alliance. He also took into account the fact that public opinion at the time was overwhelmingly anti-nuclear.

Times have changed, and the world is more complex. Today, we need to debate and deal with the nuclear issue more objectively and realistically than in Sato's time.

It is foolish to discuss this issue on an emotional level. Sato's remarks in the declassified documents remind us of the responsibility of politicians.

--The Asahi Shimbun, Dec. 24(IHT/Asahi: December 26,2008)

New Afghan strategy will compound U.S. problem

Japan Times Online
Monday, Dec. 29, 2008


Even before U.S. President-elect Barack Obama has been sworn in, the contours of his new strategy on Afghanistan have become known: A "surge" of U.S. forces, not to militarily rout the Taliban but to strike a political deal with the enemy from a position of strength.

Put simply, the United States intends to pursue in Afghanistan what it has done in Iraq, where it used a surge largely as a show of force to buy off Sunni tribal leaders and other local chieftains.

Linking Afghanistan, Pakistan and India together in the same security equation, Obama has made known a dual strategy of outwitting the Taliban while ensuring Indo-Pakistan peace, even if it means the Pakistan-based masterminds of the recent 67-hour Mumbai terrorist attacks are not brought to justice.

This strategy is likely to make things more difficult for Indian security, both by reinforcing U.S. dependence on the Pakistani military (more than three-quarters of all NATO supplies for the war in landlocked Afghanistan are transported through Pakistan) and by seeking to co-opt the Taliban behind the cover of a surge of U.S. forces.

In keeping with Obama's pledge during the presidential election campaign to send more American combat brigades to Afghanistan, Adm. Michael Mullen, the Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman, has announced a near-doubling of U.S. troops there by summer. There already are about 33,000 U.S. troops and 35,000 allied forces in Afghanistan.

At issue, however, is not the number of forces (the Soviets couldn't tame Afghanistan even with more than 100,000 troops), but the strategy. Obama has expressed confidence in the new Centcom commander, Gen. David Petraeus, who is openly looking for ways to win over local commanders and warlords — the mainstay of the Taliban. Petraeus wants to explore truces and alliances with local tribal chieftains and guerrilla leaders to take them off the battlefield.

That is precisely what Petraeus did as the U.S. military commander in Iraq during the surge, and it is a strategy whose extension to Afghanistan has the full backing of Robert Gates, staying on as defense secretary under Obama. The "surge first, then negotiate" plan is to build up security in Afghan cities with new U.S. troop arrivals before initiating talks with the Taliban.

For the talks to be successful, the U.S. intends to squeeze the Taliban first, including by taking another page from its experiment in Iraq (where more than 100,000 Sunni gunmen have been pressed into government service) and setting up lightly trained local militias in every provincial district in Afghanistan. The move turns a blind eye to the danger that such militias could become a law unto themselves, terrorizing local populations.

If a resurgent Taliban is now on the offensive, with 2008 proving to be the deadliest year for U.S. forces, it is primarily because of two reasons: the sustenance the Taliban still draws from Pakistan; and a growing Pashtun backlash against the seven-year-old presence of foreign forces on Afghan soil.

A U.S. surge will not intimidate local Taliban commanders and tribal chieftains to negotiate peace deals, especially when some countries with forces in Afghanistan are exhibiting war fatigue and a desire to pull out troops. If anything, the pressure would be on the Obama administration to show quick results at a time when Afghan popular support for the war is ebbing.

Indeed, it will be naive to expect an Iraq-style surge-and-bribe experiment to work in Afghanistan, whose mountainous terrain, myriad and splintered tribes, patterns of shifting tribal and ethnic loyalties, special status as the global hub of poppy trade and a history of internecine civil conflict set it apart from any other Muslim country. In such a land with a long tradition of humbling foreign armies, payoffs won't buy peace. Yet Petraeus wants to devise a 21st-century version of a divide-and-conquer imperial strategy.

If there is any certainty, it is that the Petraeus plan will help the already- entrenched Taliban sharpen its claws. However, to help justify "surge and bribe," a specious distinction is being drawn between al-Qaida and the Taliban to portray the former as evil and the latter as a different force with whom a compromise ought to be pursued.

The blunt fact is that al-Qaida and the Pakistani military-reared organizations like the Taliban, Laskar-e-Taiba and Jaish-e-Muhammad now constitute a difficult-to-separate mix of jihad-spouting soul mates with safe havens in Pakistan. A deal with any one such group will only strengthen the global-jihad syndicate, plus the Pakistani military establishment.

In that light, the surge-and-bribe strategy should be viewed as a shortsighted approach intent on repeating the very mistakes of American policy on Afghanistan and Pakistan over the past three decades that have come to haunt U.S. security and that of the rest of the free world.

If America is to reclaim the global fight against terror, it will need to face up to the lessons from its past policies that gave rise to Frankensteins like Osama bin Laden and Mullah Mohammed Omar and to "the state within the Pakistani state" — the directorate of Inter-Services Intelligence, made powerful in the 1980s as a conduit of covert U.S. aid for anti-Soviet Afghan guerrillas.

The primary lesson is to keep the focus on long-term interests and not be carried away by political expediency. Yet again, Washington is itching to give primacy to near-term considerations.

Even if — in the best-case scenario — the Obama administration managed to bring down violence in Afghanistan by cutting deals, the Taliban would remain intact as a fighting force, with active ties to the Pakistani military. Such a tactical gain would exact serious long-terms costs on regional and international security.

In seeking such short-term success, the Obama team is falling prey to a long-standing U.S. policy weakness: the pursuit of narrow objectives without much regard for regional security or the interests of friends. Why ignore the interests of new strategic partner India, which already is bearing the brunt of the blow-back from past failed U.S. policies in the Afghanistan-Pakistan belt?

Brahma Chellaney, a professor of strategic studies at the privately funded Center for Policy Research in New Delhi, is a regular contributor to The Japan Times.



Gen.David Petraeus, the Commander of the US Central Command, who previously headed the US forces in Iraq, was credited with bringing down the level of violence in Iraq and weakening the capability of Al Qaeda in Iraq by creating a divide between the secular Baathist Arabs of Saddam Hussein's army and local administration and the Wahabi Arabs of Al Qaeda by strengthening various local militias with names such as the Awakening Councils, which had come into existence even before he took over in Iraq.

2. When he was appointed by President George Bush to be the head of the Central Command, which, inter alia, is responsible for the US operations against Al Qaeda and the Taliban in Afghanistan and in the bordering Pashtun areas of Pakistan, he was reported to have set up a brains trust to advise him on a new strategy to be followed against Al Qaeda and the Taliban in the Afghanistan-Pakistan region. While the new strategy is still being worked out, some elements of it are already in the process of being implemented.

3. These include a planned surge in the US forces in Afghanistan in the coming months by inducting another 30,000 troops and the setting up of local militias, which would work on the pattern of the Awakening Councils in Iraq. Many Afghan observers have been expressing doubts whether Petraeus' ideas would work in Afghanistan. The Pashtun society---particularly in Afghanistan--- is different from the Iraqi society. Hatred of non-Muslim foreigners is very strong among the Pashtuns and the hatred of Pashtuns who are perceived as collaborating with non-Muslim foreigners is even stronger. Moreover, the Pashtuns look upon the Arabs of Al Qaeda, now operating from sanctuaries in the North Waziristan area of Pakistan's Federally-Administered Tribal Areas (FATA), as their honoured guests and as their co-religionists, who had helped them in driving out the Soviet troops in the 1980s and who are now helping them in their fight to drive out the Americans and other NATO forces.

4. These observers have been saying that the intensifying violence in Afghanistan and the inability of the US-led forces to control it are due to the sanctuaries available to Al Qaeda and the Afghan Taliban in Pakistani territory and the inability or relcutance of the Pakistan Army to destroy these sanctuaries. While the sanctuaries of Al Qaeda in North Waziristan and of the Taliban in South Waziristan are being repeatedly attacked by the unmanned Predator aircraft of the US intelligence community, those of the Taliban in the Quetta area of Balochistan have largely been left untouched with neither the Pakistan Army nor the American Predator aircraft targeting them. These observers are of the view that unless these sanctuaries are destroyed no amount of surge and local militias will help.

5. The current operations of the Pakistan Army in the Bajaur Agency of the FATA and the Swat Valley of the North-West Frontier Province (NWFP) are mainly targeting the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), which poses a threat to Pakistan and not the Afghan Taliban, headed by the Quetta-based Mulla Mohammad Omar, which the Pakistan Army continues to perceive as its strategic ally. While the Pakistan Army has reduced the scale of its operations in the Bajaur Agency and its presence in South Waziristan, where Baitullah Mehsud, the Amir of the TTP is based, in order to re-deploy the troops thus relieved on the Indian border particularly in Pakistan-Occupied Kashmir (POK), its operations against the Tehrik-e-Nifaz-e-Shariat-e-Mohammadi (TNSM), headed by Maulana Fazlullah, in the Swat Valley have not so far been reduced.

6. While the Mehsuds and the Ahmedzai Wazirs of South Waziristan, who were in the forefront of the Pakistani invasion of Kashmir in 1947-48 and in 1965, have informally agreed not to take advantage of the thinning out of the Pakistani forces in these areas, the Pakistan Army has not yet been able to reach a similar informal agreement with the TNSM, despite the fact that it is a component of the TTP. Moreover, the Pakistan Army is prepared to face the risk of a temporary dilution of the Pakistani writ in the Bajaur Agency and South Waziristan if the Mehsuds and the Ahmedzai Wazirs do not keep up their informal agreement not to create problems for the Army and the Frontier Corps.

7. It is not prepared to face a similar risk in the Swat Valley, which it sees as important for maintaining its writ in the NWFP. It is concerned over the recent increase in the activities of the Pakistani Taliban in Peshawar and is determined not to allow the TNSM undermine the Government position in the NWFP. The operations against the TNSM in the Swat Valley, which started in November,2007, have been continuing for over a year now without the Army and the Frontier Corps being able to make any headway in neutralising the TNSM. Even long before the Pakistan Army thinned out its presence in the FATA in the wake of the tensions with India after the terrorist attack by the Lashkar-e-Toiba (LET)----acting alone or in association with Al Qaeda--- in Mumbai from November 26 to 29,2008, it was facing difficulty in reinforcing its presence in the Swat Valley.

8. Gen.Ashfaq Pervez Kayani, Pakistan's Chief of the Army Staff (COAS), borrowed some of the Iraqi ideas of Gen.Petraeus even before the latter assumed command of the US Central Command. He set up in some villages of the Swat Valley as well as the FATA people's militias called Lashkars, which were trained and armed to counter the Sunni forces of the TNSM and the Pakistani Taliban. A large number of Shia Pashtuns were recruited by Kayani into these Lashkars and they were given the task of countering the TNSM and the TTP. The Sunnis of the Pakistani Taliban retaliated with vigour against these Lashkars and killed a large number of them.

9.In October, 82 persons were killed and 241 injured when a suicide bomber blew himself up in a grand Jirga held at Khadizai area of the predominantly Shia Alikhel sub-tribe of the Pashtuns. The Jirga was specially convened to form a tribal Lashkar against the Taliban.

10.Thirty-two people were killed and over 120 others injured in a blast just outside a Shia Imambargah called Alamdar in Koocha-e-Risaldar, located behind the historic Qissa Khwani Bazaar, in the Peshawar area on December 5,2008. A vehicle driven by a suicide bomber destroyed a multi-storey hotel, a girls’ school, and dozens of shops selling crockery and plastic-wares.

11.On December 7,2008, the Afghan Islamic Press disseminated a message purported to have been issued by Mulla Omar, which warned the US as follows in response to the reported new strategy of Petraeus without, however, naming him: “Today the world’s economy is facing growing risk from meltdown owing to the belligerent and expansionist policies of US. This has left its negative impact on the globe and it is the collective duty of all to work for a lasting peace in the world. You should understand that no puppet regime will ever stand up to the current resistance movement. Nor you will justify the occupation of the Islamic countries under the so-called slogan of rehabilitation anymore. Deployment of more troops (by the US) would lead to battles everywhere. The current armed clashes will spiral and your current casualties of hundreds will jack up to thousands.The US has imposed the war on the Afghan nation and the followers of the path of Islamic resistance will never abandon their legitimate struggle. The invading forces wrongly contemplate that they will be able to pit the Afghans against the mujahideen under the so-called label of tribal militias. No Afghan will play into the hands of the aliens and fight against his own brothers for worldly pleasure.”

12.On December 13,2008,Pir Samiullah, who had formed one of the Lashkars at the request of the Army, and eight of his followers were killed by the TNSM in Swat . The TNSM members captured over 50 AK-47 rifles with ammunition and two rocket launchers issued to the Lashkar by the Pakistan Army

13.Over 40 persons, many of them Shias, including two policemen and four children, were killed and 20 others injured when a suicide bomber rammed his explosive-laden car into a polling station set up in a school in Shalbandai village, located about six kilometres south of the Buner district headquarters, Daggar, on December 28,2008.The Swat chapter of the TTP has claimed responsibility for the attack.Speaking on the group’s illegal FM radio channel, TTP Swat chapter Deputy Head Maulana Shah Dauran said the bombing was in retaliation for the death of six TTP members gunned down in Shalbandai by a local Lashkar set up by the Army.He warned that the revenge wasn’t yet over and that every person in Shalbandai would be eliminated for killing the Taliban members.

14. In addition to stepping up the attacks on the Lashkars, the TTP has also embarked on a programme of disrupting the movement of supplies to the US-led NATO forces in Afghanistan from the Karachi port.About 150 containers go to Afghanistan from Karachi every day. A majority of these containers crosses the Torkham border in the NWFP into Afghanistan while others take the Chaman route in Balochistan. In addition to this, about 150 to 200 oil tankers transport fuel from Karachi to Afghanistan via Torkham every day.About 100 tankers carry fuel through the Chaman border post.Around 300 vehicles and containers have been burnt in six attacks since December 1. The TTP has projected these attacks as in retaliation for the Predator strikes on the TTP hide-outs in South Waziristan.

15. Concerned over the attacks, US and other NATO officials have reportedly been negotiating with the authorities of Russia, Georgia, Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan for alternate routes to reduce their dependence on the Pakistan route. Not only the TTP, even the religious political parties of Pakistan and Nawaz Sharif's Pakistan Muslim League are opposed to the movement of supplies to the NATO forces in Afghanistan through Pakistani territory.

16. The TTP, which has till now been attacking the trucks and tankers only after they reach Peshawar, has warned that if the Predator strikes do not stop it will start attacking the supplies everywhere in Pakistan. This would include at the Karachi port itself as the supplies are brought by ships. The Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU) and the Islamic Jihad Group (IMG), a splinter group of the IMU, are also likely to attack the supply convoys in Central Asia when the US starts using the alternate routes. (29-12-08)

(The writer is Additional Secretary (retd), Cabinet Secretariat, Govt. of India, New Delhi, and, presently, Director, Institute For Topical Studies, Chennai. E-mail: seventyone2@gmail.com )

Me Mumbaikar

The gruesome battleground in South Mumbai has left us Mumbaikars fed up, scared, angry, willing to lash out, especially at the politicians. We now have an incoherent rant against "the other" or "the system". My heart goes out to the victims and this article in no way downplays the magnitude of the human tragedy. Yet as a lifelong Mumbaikar, I have not been able to shake a feeling that people have deliberately refused to grasp the essence of the problem because it is not conveniently gift wrapped with a bow on it.

Simply put, there is no "other" to blame. Mumbaikars over decades of greed and rapacity, have destroyed rule of law and corrupted the systems which should have protected us. We are the system. We are the reality of Mumbai. We are its pestilence. It is convenient to demand action, to demand results, somehow, anyhow.

Can we believe in a fantasy that a bureaucracy, government and law enforcement apparatus which have never delivered anything meaningful which we have ourselves strangled over the years, can suddenly start delivering results in one narrow sphere of security?

AIDS victims don't die of AIDS. They die because AIDS reduces immunity and invites secondary diseases to feast on the weakened host. An AIDS patient can die from a common cold. Terrorists only descended upon the enfeebled carcass of Mumbai to deliver the coup de grace. They are the opportunistic secondary infection.

Mumbai was always a symbol of opportunity and accomplishment, with the accompanying corruptions of any big city. But what is Mumbai today?

It's a ghettoized city of intolerance where Raj Thackeray can rouse lakhs of people into hatred of an "other", where vegetarians can discriminate openly against the "other" in their buildings, where Muslim enclaves make the "other" uncomfortable in their midst, where a parallel economy and a parallel justice system can thrive.

It is a city of corruption, where the police force has been emasculated, where constables have to take bribes to pay off the cost of their postings, where senior officials operate openly in collusion with industrial houses, where human trafficking and child abuse are openly tolerated in plain sight at traffic signals.

It is a city of decay, where greedy and corrupt builders can destroy every last inch of breathing space, documents can be faked, BMC officials bought off en masse, protesters can be bullied and threatened, restaurant owners can dump their daily trash in any quiet street corner.

It is a city of harassment, where kids on loud motorcycles can whiz about unstopped, where loud pandals and religious displays disturb people way into the night, where poor people live in constant fear of harassment by the police.

It is a city of neglect, where we cannot even point to one bylane free of potholes and garbage, not for technical reasons but because it fuels the perpetual motion machine of contracts and corruption.

It is a city where the local governance become an enemy of the people, grabbing parks, destroying open mangroves, dumping huge toxic waste in plain view of its citizens.

Ask a Mumbaikar from the slums what fun it is to get his kid's birth certificate from the BMC, to get past a police check, to get a lawyer who won't cheat him for common things,to get a judge who won't delay his case indefinitely. A poor "unconnected" person or a single woman would think thrice before walking into a police station to get help and even then would not do it.

Above all Mumbai is a city of temporary convenience and compromise with no core values left to hold on to.

The euphoria of economic growth justified every short cut and every depredation. Beneath the facade, Mumbai fell apart street by street, tree by tree, victim by victim. Mumbai is not an international city, it is an international joke.

It is easier to take offense or retreat behind cliches, than to sincerely ponder the truth of this statement. The city cannot provide roads, fire service, ambulance service, police safety to its people.

Those who feel it is "part of the charm" to walk past open garbage and people defecating, to drive on wretched roads, to not have any place to take your child to play, to have parks grabbed by local slumlords, are in denial about their hometown. They add to the apathy which keeps it in decline. We try to talk ourselves into believing that the human vibrancy covers up the physical dehumanization.

Each and every one of these acts is perpetrated by a Mumbaikar. Each incident is like an incident of unprotected sex which takes the victim closer to the fatal disease. Each instance of apathy is just like one who cannot be bothered to wear a condom.

A successful crime reduction effort in New York is called "Broken Windows". Consider a building with a few broken windows. If the windows are not repaired, the tendency is for vandals to break a few more windows. Eventually, they may even break into the building.

Small crimes, if not stopped lead to large crimes, hence even a broken window should be pursued and punished by an alert citizenry, equipped police force and effective prosecution system. This indicates of the interconnectedness of things.

Sorry to say, neither protests nor candles nor political resignations can help us. Not even an election. Who will you vote for? Throw out Manmohan and bring in Advani? There is no "One" who will sweep in on a white horse and save us. The world is now too complex and too interconnected for a single Obama or some mythical Kalki to come in and sweep clean with a magic wand. That only happens in films.

Until and unless there is a mass movement of self-realization on the scale of the freedom movement, the city will continue to bleed. A corrupt, weakened and demoralized force is not suddenly going to wake up and become a crack squad. A polity used to the easy days and fat life is not suddenly going to snap into action when it has been unable (despite similar outcries) to even keep the Mithi clear or keep the highway free of potholes.

Let's not glamorize the spirit of Mumbai or the beauty. It is purely money power and film dazzle which keeps this image intact. Neither Mr. Tata with his billions nor Mr. Bachchan with his pistol was there to save us on Wednesday night.

We were saved by lower middle class jawans who on a normal Sunday would not even be allowed to enter the Taj or Oberoi by the security, who cannot even afford a Thums Up at Souk. Do we even deserve these amazing young men to fight and die for us when every public figure and Page 3 celebrity is on air spewing verbal diarrhea about our fear and trauma?

The very same businessmen who pay customs and excise officers to look the other way ten times a day, now want them to be vigilant the eleventh time and catch the arms. We have forgotten the RDX which landed under very noses of Customs in 1993.. The same citizenry which doesn't care if builders illegally encroach approach areas and roadsides, now want to know why fire forces can't do their job. The same contractors, who cheat and embezzle funds meant for equipment for cops, are now furious about the inadequate body armor and .303s. All because "our" Taj and Oberoi are under attack.

Where goes Mumbai, so the rest of the nation. Governance and rule of law are at an all time low. Rights of poor people and middle class urban dwellers are trampled brutally. The backlog of cases and toothless enforcement makes a mockery of the Constitution which has enough teeth in it for many common problems.

We had a window of unprecedented growth where we could have set systems and infrastructure straight. We did not, instead reveling superficially in our new -found easy wealth and sweeping any honest inquiry and intellectual thought process under the carpet.

Today we find that the much-feted titans of industry and finance were drunk on a global binge of easy debt and bogus stock valuations, and that the real growth has not traveled to the people who needed it, that real fundamental nation building value has not been created to the extent it was believed.

Today we need the army to throw out Lashkar from Colaba Causeway, what will we say when Naxalite cadets show up in Chennai? We always say "Me Mumbaikar Aahe". This is us. We are the ones who whittled away like termites at the gates and then threw down a red carpet of blood for terrorists to waltz in and shoot up our town like some drug-crazed teenagers on a weekend spree.

Only a Mumbaikar can truly understand that feeling of enraged impotence at the sight of these animals strolling down our historic downtown redefining forever the Mumbai taunt "Baap ka road hai" We are not to blame for their inhuman choice to perpetrate violence upon innocents. No secularist, no apologist, no CNN reporter, can justify that action. But we are to blame for our failure to protect ourselves and we are to blame for our inability to change the systems that made it possible from a fundamental level. Unless we re-engage our civic society as responsible and honest citizens of our own free will, we cannot expect better from our institutions.

Let's start with the hard, thankless and unglamorous task of fixing the broken windows and potholes. We have a very long way to go before reclaiming our Maximum City from what we have allowed it to become. Only then can we show the lead to the rest of the nation as we have always prided ourselves on doing.

With regards,
And be safe,