Saturday, 29 November 2014

Disappearances and extra judicial killings of Sindhi nationalists continues with impunity

Disappearances and extra judicial killings of Sindhi nationalists continues with impunity
A Statement by the Asian Human Rights Commission   November 29, 2014  
Disappearances and extra judicial killings in the Sindh Province continues
unabated; in many cases disappearances have occurred following arrest
by the police and at times by plain clothed persons, presumably from
intelligence agencies; thereafter being taken into custody, most often
tortured and ultimately their bodies are found dumped on the streets.

In the Sindh Province, the security forces have made secular and
nationalist forces and activists their main target, in order to keep
them in illegal detention centres, torture them and thereafter are
extra judicially executed in an effort to eliminate any evidence of
the disappearances. During the year 2014, more than 100 activists from
nationalist groups particularly from the group ‘Jeay Sindh Muttahida
Mahaz’ (JSMM), a banned organisation, have been arrested and are
missing. On the other hand all the banned Muslim militant groups have
made the Sindh Province their safe haven and hiding place. Accusations
are levelled by the nationalist groups that security forces are
targeting nationalist forces to provide a space for religious militant
groups and the Taliban, similar to what took place in the Baluchistan
Province - where today as a result, the sectarian and militant groups
are operating freely and every year they are involved in killing more
than 1,000 persons in such sectarian violence.
In Sindh, the Jeay Sindh Muttahida Mahaz (JSMM) is the worst victim of
the intelligence agencies in this regard. Although the members of the
Jeay Sindh Qaumi Mahaz (JSQM), one of the major Sindhi nationalist
parties, Jeay Sindh Tehrik (JST) and other parties have been facing no
different situation, it’s worse for JSMM because they, unlike the
other parties, openly support an armed movement for the freedom of

On 15th August 2014, Mr. Asif Panhwar was arrested in a police raid at
his friend’s house in Nasim Nagar, Hyderabad, in the Sindh Province
and since then he has been missing. After 100 days of his
disappearance his bullet riddled and torture marked body was found on
the 25th of November this year. Asif Panhwar was a local leader of a
banned secular nationalist organisation, the ‘Jeay Sindh Muttahida
Mahaz’ (JSMM). Following his arrest and disappearance his brother
filed a petition in the Sindh High Court for his recovery. As is the
usual practice, the Sindh High Court did nothing, despite the appeals
by his brother that Asif Panhwar might be killed in detention by the
security agencies.
In another such incident on 15th October 2014, Paryal Shah, an
activist of the JSMM was abducted by the Pakistan security agencies
and since then he has been missing. His mutilated body was later found
on 7th November 2014 with clearly visible marks of torture. His body
was dumped near the city of Rahim Yar Khan in the Punjab Province
where military is operating torture cells in their Cantonment area.
Shah hosted the Baloch long march last year for the recovery of Baloch
missing persons. Victim’s brother, Zamin Shah was also killed by the
armed forces in fake encounter.
The bullet ridden body of Mr. Abdul Waheed Lashari, 37 years old, was
found after his disappearance after 15 days after being arrested in
the first week of November 2014 while he was travelling in a passenger
bus. Mr. Lashari was affiliated with the Jeay Sindh Qaumi Mahaz (JSQM)
Arisar group.
On 25th November 2014, a third-year student of Mehran University of
Engineering and Technology, in the Sindh Province went missing from
the Sindh University Housing Society, Jamshoro. Mr. Kamlesh Kumar was
standing at a photocopy shop when two police mobile vans and a car
approached them and dragged him in a police van. His only alleged
crime was that he belongs to the Hindu community and he was
participating in the protests against the persecution of religious
minority groups. He was not affiliated with any political group. The
family searched for Kamlesh at the police stations in Jamshoro and
Hyderabad and to no avail.
Many such activists who stand up against the kidnapping of Hindu
victims often go missing in the Sindh Province. The Chairman of Sindh
Human Rights Organization (SHRO), Fayaz Shaikh was abducted from the
city of Karachi. He has been organizing demonstrations on behalf of
several Hindu girls who have been kidnapped in Pakistan. He has been
abducted by unknown persons on 24th November 2014. His disappearance
came on the eve of yet another demonstration he was supposed to
organize under the auspices of the Sindh Human Rights Organization on
behalf of the nine Hindu girls kidnapped by the Islamic seminaries in
the Sindh Province. This is ironic since he was a leading voice who
began a campaign to approach the United Nations Secretary General, Ban
Ki-Moon, to take notice of the enforced disappearances of young Sindh
activists and to call for an end to all such kidnappings and
abductions of minorities and human rights activists there.
Another activist Mr. Rohel Laghari, 22 years old also belonging to the
JSMM was abducted on the 1st April 2014 from Hyderabad and his
whereabouts too are to date unknown.
Mr. Sarvech Pirzado who was yet another activist belonging to the
group JSMM and an employee of a private medical company was abducted
from the impress market in Karachi on 12th September 2014 by plain
clothed persons and was later hurled into a four wheel type jeep. His
family has filed a petition before the Sindh High Court for his
recovery but as in all the other instances, to date no decision has
been taken by the Court.
On October 11, the bullet riddled body of an activist of JSMM, Mr.
Shakeel Konhari, was found dumped near the Malir Military Cantonment,
Karachi. He was arrested from his house by the unknown persons.

The Asian Human Rights Commission urges the Government of Pakistan to
stop the persecution of the Sindhi nationalists and halt once and for
all these illegal and unconstitutional methods of enforced
disappearances and extra judicial killings in Pakistan. If the law
enforcement agencies have the evidences against the suspects and if
there are criminal charges against them the government must bring them
before the civil courts of law and tried.

The AHRC also urges the government to immediately ratify the
International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from
Enforced Disappearance and implement its provisions in law, policy and
practice, and in particular include a new and separate crime of
enforced disappearances in the penal code, as the government has
already pledged before the United Nations visiting team, the working
group of enforced and involuntary disappearances in 2012.

# # #
About AHRC:The Asian Human Rights Commission is a regional
non-governmental organisation that monitors human rights in Asia,
documents violations and advocates for justice and institutional
reform to ensure the protection and promotion of these rights. The
Hong Kong-based group was founded in 1984.

Read this Statement online
Asian Human Rights Commission
Asian Legal Resource Centre
Unit 1 & 2, floor 12,
Hopeful Factory Centre
10-16 Wo Shing Street, FOTAN,
New Territories. HONG KONG

Friday, 28 November 2014

SAARC Kathmandu Declaration 2014

SAARC  Kathmandu Declaration 2014

“Deeper Integration for Peace and Prosperity”
 The President of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan His Excellency Mohammad Ashraf  Ghani; the Prime Minister of the People’s Republic of Bangladesh Her Excellency Sheikh Hasina; the Prime Minister of the Kingdom of Bhutan His Excellency Tshering Tobgay; the Prime Minister of the Republic of India His Excellency Narendra Modi; the President of the Republic of the Maldives His Excellency Abdulla Yameen Abdul Gayoom; the Prime Minister of Nepal Right Honourable Sushil Koirala; the Prime Minister of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan His Excellency Muhammad Nawaz Sharif; and the President of the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka His Excellency Mahinda Rajapaksa;

Having met at the Eighteenth Summit meeting of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) held in Kathmandu, Nepal on November 26-27, 2014;
Reaffirming their commitment to the principles and objectives of SAARC for ensuring the welfare and quality of life of the peoples of South Asia;
 Recognizing that after nearly thirty years of its existence, it is time to reinvigorate SAARC’s regional cooperation and revitalize SAARC as an effective vehicle to fulfill the developmental aspirations of the peoples of South Asia;
 Determined to deepen regional integration for peace and prosperity by promoting mutual trust, amity, understanding, cooperation and partnership;

 Declared as follows:
 Regional cooperation
1.    The Heads of State or Government expressed their strong determination to deepen regional integration for peace, stability and prosperity in South Asia by intensifying cooperation, inter alia, in trade, investment, finance, energy, security, infrastructure, connectivity and culture; and implementing projects, programmes and activities in a prioritized, result-oriented and time-bound manner.

South Asian Economic Union (SAEU)
2.    The Leaders renewed their commitment to achieve South Asian Economic Union (SAEU) in a phased and planned manner through a Free Trade Area, a Customs Union, a Common Market, and a Common Economic and Monetary Union.

3.    The Leaders acknowledged that SAARC Member States, particularly the Least Developed and Landlocked Member States, face structural constraints and challenges that result in their weak productive capacity affecting their competitiveness in external trade due to, among others, high trade and transit cost. They committed to enhance support to the Least Developed and Landlocked Member States in their development efforts, with a view to ensuring equitable benefits of free trade arrangements. In this context, they agreed to effectively implement the existing preferential facilities under SAFTA and SATIS.
SAFTA and Trade Facilitation
4.    Directed SAFTA Ministerial Council and SAFTA Committee of Experts to accelerate free trade in goods and services in the region putting into operation simplified and transparent rules of origin; implementation of trade facilitation measures; harmonization of standards relating to Technical Barriers to Trade (TBT) and sanitary and phyto-sanitary measures; harmonized, streamlined and simplified customs procedures; elimination of non-tariff and para-tariff barriers; and smooth and efficient transit and transport facilities.  They also called for early operationalization of SATIS by finalizing the schedule of commitments.

5.    They called for timely and comprehensive reforms of the global economic and financial architecture to make it inclusive and responsive to the needs of Least Developed, Land-locked, and Small Island Developing States (SIDS).
6.    They reaffirmed that SIDS would require special attention in view of their unique circumstances and particular vulnerabilities in realization of sustainable development.
SAARC Development Fund
7.    They agreed to strengthen the Social Window of the SAARC Development Fund (SDF) and operationalize its Economic Window and Infrastructure Window at the earliest for effective implementation of regional and sub-regional projects. In that context, they stressed on expeditious development of projects under SDF addressing the livelihood issues of the peoples of the region. They agreed to expand the Governing Board of SDF by including a representative of the National Focal Point of the Member States.
8.    The Heads of State or Government welcomed the significant progress towards finalization of the SAARC Motor Vehicles Agreement and SAARC Regional Railways Agreement and agreed to hold a Meeting of the Transport Ministers within three months in order to finalize the Agreements for approval.  They renewed their commitment to substantially enhance regional connectivity in a seamless manner through building and upgrading roads, railways, waterways infrastructure, energy grids, communications and air links to ensure smooth cross-border flow of goods, services, capital, technology and people. The leaders emphasized the need for linking  South Asia with contiguous regions, including Central Asia, and beyond by all modes of connectivity and directed relevant authorities to initiate national, regional and sub regional measures and necessary arrangements.
9.    The Leaders directed the relevant SAARC bodies and mechanisms to identify regional and sub-regional projects in the area of power generation, transmission and power trade, including hydropower, natural gas, solar, wind and bio-fuel, and implement them with high priority with a view to meeting the increasing demand for power in the region.  The Leaders welcomed the signing of the SAARC Framework Agreement for Energy Cooperation (Electricity).
Poverty Alleviation
10. The Leaders reiterated their strong commitment to free South Asia from poverty and directed the Ministerial and Secretary-level mechanisms on poverty alleviation to review the progress and revisit the SAARC Plan of Action and its effective implementation, also taking into account the Post-2015 Development Agenda.

11. They recognized the potential of cooperatives in achieving inclusive, broad-based and sustainable economic growth and development, and called for sharing of experiences, expertise and best practices in this sector.
Post-2015 Development Goals
12. The Leaders recognized that the Post-2015 Development Agenda, following its adoption at the UN, would present opportunities to compliment national and regional efforts on sustainable development. They directed to initiate an Inter-Governmental process to appropriately contextualize the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) at the regional level.
Agriculture and Food Security
13. The Heads of State or Government agreed to increase investment, promote research and development, facilitate technical cooperation and apply innovative, appropriate and reliable technologies in the agriculture sector for enhancing productivity to ensure food and nutritional security in the region. They also underscored the importance of promoting sustainable agriculture. The Leaders directed to eliminate the threshold criteria from the SAARC Food Bank Agreement so as to enable the Member States to avail food grains, during both emergency and normal time food difficulty. The Leaders urged for early ratification of the SAARC Seed Bank Agreement and directed to constitute the Seed Bank Board, pending completion of ratification by all Member States. The Leaders also directed the relevant SAARC bodies to finalize the establishment of Regional Vaccine Bank and Regional Livestock Gene Bank.
14. They directed the relevant bodies/mechanisms for effective implementation of SAARC Agreement on Rapid Response to Natural Disasters, SAARC Convention on Cooperation on Environment and Thimphu Statement on Climate Change, including taking into account the existential threats posed by climate change to some SAARC Member States. They welcomed the decision to establish the SAARC Environment and Disaster Management Centre. The Leaders underlined the urgency for the global community to arrive at a Protocol, another legal instrument, or an agreed outcome with legal force applicable to all by the end of 2015, based on the principles of Common but Differentiated Responsibility (CBDR), Respective Capabilities and Equity under the UNFCCC.
Blue Economy
15. They recognized the manifold contributions of ocean-based Blue Economy in the SAARC Region and the need for collaboration and partnership in this area.
16. The Leaders recognized the importance of achieving universal health coverage (UHC), improving health regulatory systems, preparedness for emerging and remerging diseases, and the challenges posed by anti-microbial resistance and non-communicable diseases. They endorsed the Male’ Resolution on Regional Health Issues adopted at the Fourth Meeting of the SAARC Health Ministers. They urged to continue the remarkable progress by SAARC countries in the last decade in response to AIDS with the aim to end AIDS epidemic in the region by 2030. They also directed to complete all necessary processes for upgrading the SAARC TB Reference Laboratory at SAARC TB and HIV/AIDS Centre (STAC), Kathmandu to Supra-national Reference Laboratory with necessary funding from SDF.
17. The Heads of State or Government expressed their resolve to eliminating illiteracy from the region in line with the global goal of education for all and ensuring quality education in all institutions by reforming curricula, teaching methods and evaluation systems adequately supported by physical, technical and other facilities. The leaders agreed to promote regional cooperation in the field of vocational education and training. They directed their Education Ministers to develop a Regional Strategy for Enhancing the Quality of Education in order to raise the standards of South Asian educational institutions in order to better serve the youth in the region. The Leaders welcomed the progress with regard to the South Asian University.
18. They emphasized the need for adopting appropriate national policies and programmes for utilizing the youth force and their skills for economic and social development, especially through the creation of productive self-employment opportunities. The Leaders welcomed the declaration of July 15 as the World Youth Skills Day at the 69th Session of the UN General Assembly and agreed to commemorate, as appropriate, the said event by SAARC.
Women and Children
19. They directed the relevant authorities to take effective measures for preventing the trafficking in women and children and their exploitation.
Social Protection
20. The Leaders acknowledged the special needs of the elderly, women, children, differently-abled persons, unemployed persons, and persons working at hazardous sites and agreed to develop and strengthen social protection for them and to share best practices in this regard.
21. They also agreed to collaborate and cooperate on safe, orderly and responsible management of labour migration from South Asia to ensure safety, security and wellbeing of their migrant workers in the destination countries outside the region.
Science and Technology
22. The Leaders agreed to develop capacity of the Member States to apply space technology for socio-economic development and the welfare of the peoples through experience sharing among themselves. In this context, they welcomed the offer of India to develop and launch a satellite dedicated to SAARC Countries.
23. The Leaders directed for collaboration and engagement among public authorities and private stakeholders in the Member States to lower telephone tariff rates for facilitating greater contacts among the people of the region and called for rationalization of the tariff structures.
24. The Leaders expressed their resolve for making South Asia an attractive common tourist destination in a sustainable manner. They directed relevant bodies to effectively implement SAARC Action Plan on Tourism (2006) particularly through initiating appropriate public-private collaboration. They also called for effective and full implementation of their existing decision to charge nationals of SAARC Member States fees for entry into archaeological and heritage sites as applicable to their own nationals.
25. They directed to effectively implement the SAARC Agenda for Culture and agreed to take measures to preserve and restitute the South Asian cultural property and create a SAARC heritage list together with the operational guidelines.   They declared the year 2016 as the SAARC Year of Cultural Heritage and tasked the relevant bodies to develop an action plan for its success.  They also agreed to develop a cultural trail linking major Buddhist historical sites in the region. The Leaders further agreed to facilitate access of persons visiting prominent and holy sites of Islam, Hinduism, Christianity and all other major religions in South Asia.
26. The Leaders, recognizing the reach and influence of media, urged both public and private media to share responsibility in the efforts towards promoting understanding and cohesiveness of the SAARC Member States and their peoples.
Combating Terrorism and trans-national Crimes
27. The Leaders unequivocally condemned terrorism and violent extremism in all its forms and manifestations and underlined the need for effective cooperation among the Member States to combat them. They directed respective authorities to ensure full and effective implementation of the SAARC Regional Convention on Suppression of Terrorism and its Additional Protocol, including through enacting necessary legislations at the national level to root out terrorism. They reiterated their call for an early conclusion of a UN Comprehensive Convention on International Terrorism. They agreed to take effective measures to combat illicit trafficking of narcotics and psychotropic substances, arms smuggling, money laundering, counterfeit currency and other transnational crimes. They also agreed to establish a cyber crime monitoring desk.
28. They reiterated their strong commitment to ensure good governance for sustainable development by promoting accountability, transparency, the rule of law and people’s participation at all levels of governance.

29. The Leaders, while expressing satisfaction over steady progress in democratization in South Asia, committed to further promote and institutionalize peace, stability, democracy and development as the common aspirations of the peoples of South Asia. In this context, they agreed on the need for cooperation and collaboration within SAARC on issues of common interest and concern to Member States.
Strengthening SAARC processes
30. The Heads of State or Government acknowledged the need to enhance the visibility and stature of SAARC in international fora by, inter alia, forging common positions on issues of mutual interest and seeking group recognition in various multilateral institutions.
31. The Leaders directed all SAARC bodies, including the Council of Ministers, sectoral Ministerial, other bodies and institutions to develop outcome-oriented policies, programmes, projects, and activities.  The Leaders directed rationalization of the work of the SAARC mechanisms, which could  be reviewed inter-governmentally every three years by a regular session of the Standing Committee with a view to evaluate performance, achievements and constraints.

32. The Leaders agreed to enhance the role of the Secretariat, commensurate with the objectives of SAARC, its areas of cooperation as well as the decisions and agreements reached in the past. They committed to enhance the institutional capacity of the SAARC Secretariat, in keeping with emerging realities, to enable it to fulfill the responsibilities entrusted to it, in an effective and efficient manner.

33. The Leaders expressed satisfaction on the decision to rationalize the number and activities of SAARC Regional Centers through their selective closure and merger.  They reiterated their resolve to make the remaining SAARC Regional Centres and specialized institutions efficient, effective and result-oriented and directed these institutions to initiate programmes and projects that produce tangible outcomes.

34. They agreed to hold henceforth the meetings of the SAARC Summit every two years or earlier, if necessary, the Council of Ministers once a year, the Standing Committee at least once a year, and the Programming Committee at least twice a year. They also agreed to make the Programming Committee a Charter body of SAARC.
SAARC Observers
35. They welcomed the participation of Observers from Australia, the People’s Republic of China, the Islamic Republic of Iran, Japan, the Republic of Korea, Mauritius, the Union of Myanmar, the United States of America, and the European Union at the Summit. In furtherance of earlier decisions on establishing dialogue partnership with States outside the region, the Leaders appreciated the Study undertaken by the SAARC Secretariat to review and analyze the engagement with the existing Observers to establish dialogue partnership. The Leaders directed the Programming Committee to engage the SAARC Observers into productive, demand-driven and objective project based cooperation in priority areas as identified by the Member States.
Nineteenth Summit
36. The Leaders welcomed the offer of the Government of Islamic Republic of Pakistan to host the Nineteenth Summit of SAARC.

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Supreme Head of ISI operations in Kashmir, Dr Shabir Choudhry

Supreme Head of ISI operations in Kashmir
Dr Shabir Choudhry          28 November 2014

Private life and public life

I agree citizens should have a personal life or a private life. However, in Asian societies of South Asia the line between a private life and a public life is imprecise. What people do in a private life ultimately has an impact on a society and lives of other citizens. For example, if a man drinks at home and regularly beats his wife at home or abuse his children, can his acts be ignored as personal matter?

Furthermore, if that man has a public life, and he behaves as explained above, can people disregard his acts because it was carried out at home and it was to do with his family? If an ordinary man is standing at a street corner and drinking whisky, people will generally ignore it as a personal matter. However, if a politician is doing the same thing he will not be ignored.

Although people in a public life are also entitled to a private life, but society have certain expectations from those who chose to play some role in affairs of the society. In this regard, anyone who is a public figure, or who endeavours to play some role in a society and wants to influence views of people or how people behave has to be careful what he does. His life is personal only as long as what he does at home must not affect lives of other citizens.

Kashmiri nationalists
Some Kashmiri nationalists are a strange breed. They claim that the entire State of Jammu and Kashmir is occupied, which means both India and Pakistan are occupiers. However, when one occupier – India does something wrong they will cry out by hurling all kinds of allegations and use of foul language; but when the other occupier -Pakistan does something wrong, either most nationalists will remain quiet, or make absurd efforts to justify similar kind of act. Anyone who dares to criticise wrong acts of Pakistan, or question their merits, these nationalists will turn their guns against that person. They behave as it is their sacred duty to defend wrong acts of Pakistan; and as if they are the first line of defence of Pakistan.

Either these Kashmiri nationalists do not know fundamentals of nationalism, or their services are hired by secret agencies of Pakistan; and they twist facts or ignore them to attack the Indian role and protect the Pakistani position under one pretext or the other. I have no problem if people attack India. Indians can decide if they want to defend them or remain quiet. It is not my duty to protect India; however, as a student of history, I feel it is my duty to put things in perspective and correct historical facts deliberately distorted by Pakistan (India) and their proxies.

As a matter of policy, I don’t talk about female members of any politician or anyone in public life. However, when that person has chosen to become a political activist then, like others, I also have right to ask questions and criticise merits of his/her role.

Amanullah Khan, for life Supreme Head of JKLF, apparently advocates an independent 
Jammu and Kashmir; however, many Kashmir watchers think he fooled people in name of independent Kashmir, and in reality; he subtly defended and protected the Pakistani agenda on Kashmir. More than once he acknowledged working with the ISI, Pakistani secret agency; and of course, they always help and support him whenever he is in trouble.

Whenever anyone criticise him or try to weaken him politically, a system is activated to support Amanullah Khan and malign those who challenge him as traitors and Indian agents, even ISI agents. When his son in law, Sajajd Lone contested elections for the Indian Parliament, people part of that system said Amanullah Khan has nothing to do with this. This is a personal matter of Sajjad Lone.

Here distinction has to be made. I believe people of Jammu and Kashmir forcibly divided should take part in elections for the Assemblies in Srinagar, Muzaffarabad and Gilgit, as that will help them to get their message across to the people. Also elections are held for the local issues and not to determine future of the State of Jammu and Kashmir.

Sajjad Lone contested for the Indian Parliament, based in New Delhi, and that is different to contesting an election for the Srinagar Assembly to resolve local issues. When one is contesting for the Indian Parliament, then practically that person is declaring that I am an Indian. I want to be part of the Indian system; and benefit from what that system offers to me. It is no longer an election to resolve the local issues.

Amanullah Khan’s daughter, Asma Khan Lone, is like my daughter. She is an educated and a daughter of wise parents. Her mother, who I regard as an elder sister is very decent human being. Asma is a political activist and a columnist. She has every right to play an active role in public life; and she has come out in public to support BJP in these elections. This decision of Asma has many ramifications; and it could turn out to be the turning point in the Kashmiri politics, especially on the Indian side of the divide.

I had a phone call from an old friend who wanted to discuss Asma’s decision to ‘promote BJP’s agenda in the Kashmiri elections’. I wasn’t feeling too well so I tried to avoid the discussion, but I was not successful. He said your niece has come out in support of BJP in elections. I asked him to elaborate this. He said you regard Asma Khan Lone as your daughter and a niece; she is supporting BJP in Kashmir. What have you got to say about this?

Due to ill health and problems with the internet connections at home, up till that point, I did not know about this news. I was also stunned. He said, ‘The system that protected Amanullah Khan and his politics throughout his life is, once again, activated, and this time they are saying it is a personal matter. Be honest, and tell me if this is a personal matter?’

I said I can’t comment until I read the news. But if she has come out to support BJP, then it is sad, but it is her decision. He said, ‘The system is still protecting the man who was, at one time, Supreme Head of ISI operations in Kashmir; and all those who are associated with him are also protected.’

He paused for a moment and said, ‘You have twice visited Pakistan this year, and despite all the criticism on Pakistan and ISI you have come back safely. I note there is some change in your style and presentation after you have come back, perhaps you have also become part of the system’. Before I could say anything he put the phone down.

I want to conclude by saying that I am not part of any system. I am a Kashmiri nationalist, and have always promoted and protected interests of people of Jammu and Kashmir. With regard to Asma Khan Lone’s decision to promote BJP’s election agenda in Kashmir, to me it is no different to an agenda of those who promote agenda of PPP and N League in Azad Kashmir.

What we got to look at is that people of Jammu and Kashmir, technically have three options or three positions to take: support Jammu and Kashmir’s accession to India, support accession to Pakistan or support united and independent Jammu and Kashmir. If those who want to accede to Pakistan are deemed as patriots, then why Asma should be considered otherwise for supporting India, because both countries are occupiers. It is her choice and the UN Resolutions give her this right, and protect her position on this.

Furthermore, despite this support she will remain a daughter of Jammu and Kashmir, and will have one vote whenever future of Jammu and Kashmir is decided.
Writer is a political analyst, TV anchor and author of many books and booklets. Also he is Director Institute of Kashmir Affairs.

Friday, 21 November 2014

A shameless action replay, D Asghar

A shameless action replay, D Asghar

The countdown has begun. The idiot box is busy drumming up the usual nonsense that people were subjected to a few months back in August. This time it is being labelled the “decisive battle”. The last day of this month is supposed to alter the course of our history. As if we have not had a colourful history to begin with. Imran Khan and his remaining followers are still unable to quit the delusionary state they seem to be in.

The ‘umpire’ has left the pavilion for Yankeeville even as these lines are being penned. Conventional wisdom dictates that the paymasters would like the umpire to concentrate on the mission that it has finally focused on. If my cricketing terms serve me right, we are looking towards another innings that one can safely call an action replay. The sagacious ‘cousin’, who left the angry middle-aged politico, made a whirlwind trip around the world in 30 days and has decided to make a comeback just in time. 

Self-proclaimed pundits and make-believe experts on the idiot box have started pontificating on these developments like Armageddon is round the corner. Who needs entertainment when there is theatre like this in the world? The idiot box has the age old excuse that the public demands and wants to see all of this nonsense nonstop. As far as the public is concerned, the less we say about it, the better off we are. The public is sick and tired of the ongoing tussle between the macho Khan and the seemingly meek and mellow Prime Minister (PM) Sharif. 

The change mantra that started in October 2011 has changed one thing for sure: the sense and sensibilities of the people. The culture of loud and derogatory language, the antagonism and the short-term political decisions of both the ruling party and their political nemesis will certainly go down in the history books of this sorry nation. The super statesman, Maulana Azad, held very critical views about our founding father and the people who surrounded him. If the people that we hold so high in our esteem were lost and rudderless, according to Maulana Azad, then imagine what the jokers on the political stage today would have been termed by the late Maulana. 

The talking heads bring the jokers on the box to opine over what is going to transpire on November 30, as if the poor country’s existence is in danger. This is called the power of the media and the conditioning of brains. I often wonder how young and sometimes educated people become victims of extremist brainwashing and end up becoming jihadists. One need look no further when the educated and enlightened are seen giving justifications on the idiot box about the pent up rage of the people and their passionate rationale for attacking the state. These are people who are exposed to daily rhetoric and believe that only a superman with a colourful scarf around his neck can save them from evil. Mind you, most of these people go to premier learning institutions in the country and have access to the world in the palm of their hands with the latest gadgets. When people mortgage their ability to think independently or, for that matter, part with their critical thinking skills, the imaginary world and its delusions become gospel. 

The pressing question being raised is how many people will be able to come to the federal capital on the day. One has to ask: what difference does it make? Assuming there is a crowd of a million people that day, then what? The other naive question being raised is: what will the umpire do at that point? Is the crowd of a million going to decide what the constitution of the country will be for the remaining population of this country? If a gathering of well prepared hoodlums on August 14 was not able to dent the basic resolve of constitutional supremacy, will it be compromised this time around, just because Khan has vowed it? Then there is the thunderous allegation levelled by Khan that this “corrupt” government is using the national exchequer to buy journalists. These are known as lifafa (envelope) journalists because they accept bribes, presumably in envelopes. It is high time that whatever professional unions and organisations exist representing journalists take Khan to task in a court of law and have him present his ‘evidence’ in front of a competent judge. 

To Khan, from this non-journalist: apparently you are counting on tigers and tigresses who wear designer clothes, classy sunglasses and speak in accented English to bring a revolution. I am sorry Khan but they are too invested in the status quo that you so abhor. Perhaps when Hameed Gul dragged you into the muck of politics, he forgot to give you a very basic lesson: politics and cricket are two totally different games. It takes decades to build and cultivate your relationships and bonds in this game. Even if the umpire makes your dreams come true, your opponents are not going to vanish because they have spent perhaps twice as much time as you in this field. There is perhaps twice the amount of people behind them as well. You may dismiss them as ‘subjects’ or ‘lackeys’ but, from their perspective, they would rather deal with someone who has been tested than an emotional upstart. On November 30, expect no major breakthrough from any quarters.

The writer is a Pakistani-American mortgage banker. He can be reached at He tweets at

China commits £45. 6 billion for economic corridor with Pakistan

China commits £45. 6 billion for economic corridor with Pakistan
 The Chinese government and banks will finance Chinese companies to build $45.6 billion worth of energy and infrastructure projects in Pakistan over the next six years, according to new details of the deal seen by Reuters on Friday. 

The Chinese companies will be able to operate the projects as profit-making entities, according to the deal signed by Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif during a visit to China earlier this month. At the time, officials provided few details of the projects or the financing for the deal, dubbed as the China-Pak Economic Corridor (CPEC).
The deal further cements ties between Pakistan and China at a time when Pakistan is nervous about waning US support as troops pull out of Afghanistan.
Pakistan and China, both nuclear-armed nations, consider each other close friends. Their ties are underpinned by common wariness of India and a desire to hedge against US influence in South Asia.
Documents seen by Reuters show that China has promised to invest around $33.8 billion in various energy projects and $11.8 billion in infrastructure projects. 

Two members of Pakistan’s Planning Commission, the focal ministry for the CPEC, and a senior official at the Ministry of Water and Power shared the details of the projects.
The deal says the Chinese government and banks, including China Development Bank, and the Industrial and Commercial Bank of China Ltd (ICBC), one of China’s ‘Big Four’ state-owned commercial banks, will loan funds to Chinese companies, who will invest in the projects as commercial ventures.

“Pakistan will not be taking on any more debt through these projects,” said Minister for Water and Power Khawaja Asif.
Major Chinese companies investing in Pakistan’s energy sector will include China’s Three Gorges Corp, which built the world’s biggest hydro power scheme, and China Power International Development Ltd. 

Nawaz signed more than 20 agreements during his trip to China earlier this month, including $622 million for projects related to the deepwater, strategically important Gwadar port, which China is developing. The port is close to the Strait of Hormuz, a key oil shipping lane. It could open up an energy and trade corridor from the Gulf across Pakistan to western China that could be used by the Chinese Navy - potentially upsetting rival India.

Pakistan sees the latest round of Chinese investments as key to its efforts to solve power shortages that have crippled its economy. Blackouts lasting more than half a day in some areas have sparked violent protests and undermined an economy already beset by high unemployment, widespread poverty, crime and sectarian and insurgent violence.
Under the CPEC agreement, $15.5 billion worth of coal, wind, solar and hydro energy projects will come online by 2017 and add 10,400 MW of energy to the national grid, officials said.
An additional 6,120 MW will be added to the national grid at a cost of $18.2 billion by 2021. “In total we will add 16,000 MW of electricity through coal, wind, solar and hydel plants in the next seven years and reduce power shortage by 4,000 to 7,000 MW,” said Asif. 

“This will take care of a growing demand for power by a growing economy,” he said.
The CPEC deal also includes $5.9 billion for road projects and $3.7 billion for railway projects, all to be developed by 2017. A $44 million optical fibre cable between China and Pakistan is due to be built. 

Thursday, 20 November 2014

Ghosts and gains of North Waziristan, Wajahat S Khan

Ghosts and gains of North Waziristan, Wajahat S Khan  
November  18, 2014 
MIR ALI: 313 Brigade Headquarters, North Waziristan: This cantonment dates back to 1895; every army, including the British, that came here was not welcome outside the fort, which hasn’t changed much since: single storey buildings with imperial insignia merged with the Islamic slogans of the Pakistani military sit across barren lawns; this is not like a city’s well-kept cantonment, with manicured gardens that the army is proud of; this is a forward area base where the grass is left patchy because sniper and rocket attacks still occur. It’s around 30 degrees, Celsius. There is no humidity.

The base throbs with uniforms of regular infantry battalions; yet, it is the human heart of a ghost town. Outside, Mir Ali has changed. North Waziristan has been taken, but at a cost: The entire city of Mir Ali has been depopulated through what Major General Zafarullah Khan Khattak, the General Officer Commanding of the 7th Infantry Division and the man in charge of Operation Zarb-e-Azb (“Strike of the Prophet’s Sword”), calls “an organised exodus”.

Earlier in the summer, when the operation was launched, weeks of air strikes, ground attacks and penetrating local militant networks with human and signals intelligence were not enough. Nor were the “strangulation operations” that had kicked off before the official campaign was launched on the 30th of June. ‘NWA’ was a different challenge from Swat, assessed the brass. The local population was “entrenched in a decade-long economy of terror” that made them “invested in the anarchy” that was North Waziristan, says General Khattak.

Since then, some 700,000 civilians have been displaced. Around 1,800 terrorists have been killed or captured. Around 200 tons of IEDs and ordnance have been found, “enough for the militants to keep on conducting five IED attacks per day, at a rate of three casualties per attack, for 14 and half years, anywhere in Pakistan or the region”, says the general. As for sheer firepower, the GOC assesses that “there were enough arms and ammunition in the area to raise an entire infantry brigade.”

To date, the army has lost 45 men in the campaign and sustained 155 casualties. Three would be killed on the same night that this correspondent was in North Waziristan, over the last weekend, when Operation Zarb-e-Azb would be completing its 138th day. Naturally, standing on the perimeters of the base, the junior officers are watchful.

“That’s Shahbaz Top. We still take rockets and sniper fire from there,” says Brigadier Azhar Abbasi of the 313 Brigade, sipping tea while wearing his armour, his radio set crackling, looking over the bombed out town, pointing to a peak. “They’re not civilised, the Tangos [army code for Taliban], but they are bloody good shooters. I’ve lost three men from shots that came from over 1,100 yards. All head shots, two of them in the nose. Dragunovs are their weapon of choice...Excellent weapons. But terrible men.”

Driving through Mir Ali: In the armored SUV, the general’s American M4 carbine keeps hitting my knee; we are going over dirt, debris, and rubble, mostly; his Gold Leaf cigarettes sit in a leather holder with a plastic lighter that rattles against the hissing communication equipment; there are no markings on his vehicle, no fancy stars to adorn his rank, in case there are snipers still around to target him. Unlike most men his rank, General Khattak’s baton-holder, stuck on the dash, is empty. Instead, he’s carrying a Turkish 9mm Sarsilmaz semi-automatic in a shoulder holster with two extra magazines. Ceremony takes a back seat in Mir Ali.

In the 10-minute drive through the bazaar, there’s not much but rows upon rows of houses and shops flattened by air strikes and artillery; signs of close quarter combat remain; bullet holes and craters on both sides of the two lane main street of the town are the last indications of activity; handmade shop signs, some burnt out, are reminders of the trade that once thrived here - hardware stores, butcher shops, tailors - but the general says that this was only part of the commercial proceedings.

“There was an ‘IED Bazaar’ where you could buy anything from a suicide-bomb jacket with 50 kilos of explosives to a VBIED [vehicle-borne improvised explosive device, or car bomb],” says Khattak. “You could, from a good dealer, even pick the type of colour you wanted for the vehicle that was to be your 2,000 pound car bomb”.

There is a gas station on the main road that has the Shell corporate logo rocketed through; a UAE driver’s licence belonging to a man - Subeskar Gul - is on the ground among empty cans of energy drinks and shattered glass. Maybe he was getting gas when the fighting started? Maybe he was fighting?

The security officer, Lt. Colonel Jawad Bajwa of the 54 Baloch Regiment, sorts it out: “They gave us quite a fire-fight here,” he says. “They took over the cashier’s office and pounded rockets at us from there. It took most of the night to take care of them. They’re tough, the Ubzeks. And they ran this city, with a lot of local support.”

“The Uzbeks had an interesting strategy of inculcating fear,” continues the colonel. “They lived and hunted in pairs. Two of them would ride into town on motorbikes and clear out a corner by not saying anything, just glaring. They didn’t show their faces. They didn’t hold funerals for their dead. They didn’t even put flowers or markings during the burial. Their graves remained unknown and hidden. As if they just would vanish into immortality.”

The Torture Cell: Like any other Pashtun house in the Af-Pak border regions, this one has a dried mud and thatched roof structure, where the gate is the strongest part of the building, as Pashtuns are a fiercely private people; an open courtyard leads to a 20 by 10 feet room, with a 15 foot ceiling, but once inside, there are few signs of local culture: a flag of Iraq hangs; jihadist literature, in Russian, Turkish, Uzbek, Turkmen and Arabic, captured by the army, is lined up neatly in one corner, including a booklet with what resemble ISIS [Islamic State in Iraq and Syria] markings; there is a notebook with a handmade doodle of terror: an ISIS flag adorned by a chilling announcement in a Farsi variant: “Blood Avenges Blood” and “Death for America”, complete with an AK-47, a scimitar and a helicopter, all dripping blood.

A made-in-USA military jacket hangs on the wall, next to empty pistol holsters; out of place are a stash of Bollywood audio cassette tapes, thrown together with tapes of Quranic recitations; the jihadist house also has a bunch of recovered photographs, of fighters posing with their weapons, Photoshopped upon images of lush gardens and pastures, to represent heaven, or perhaps home; but there are signs of disturbance, too: some burnt CDs; which are claimed as destroyed evidence; a laminated list of instructions from the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan on rejecting use of media, including personal computers, cell phones, and MP4 players, due to them increasing “moral mischief”.

This place has ‘militant hang-out’ written all over it, along with a warning spray-painted on the wall: “The Tahreek [Movement] of Taliban is Alive”, a reminder to those who would eventually see this room, sans the terrorists.

But in another corner is a set of chains, hanging from the ceiling; its purpose was to tie up prisoners, explains an intelligence officer; there is a collection of whips and knives and some surgical tools which are claimed as torturing equipment.

“Almost every household here was infected by the economy of terror,” says Brigadier Azhar Abbasi. “Regular folk here maintained a basement with a torture chamber or a private jail in their house, because they would hold hostages for kidnapper networks in the mainland...A hostage from Karachi or Lahore [Pakistan’s main cities] would end up in the basement of a shopkeeper here,  tucked away from the grip of the law, waiting for his ransom...almost every family depended on abduction, crime, narcotics, gun-running, smuggling or terror economy, directly or indirectly.”

“The ultimate solution will be legal and economic”, adds Abbasi. “But first we need to disinfect and disconnect this place from the profitable mechanisms of terror.”

There is a cache of weapons, too: srms, old and new, sophisticated and small, mostly Russian but even Indian, with homemade IED-manufacturing equipment, have been recovered from all over this compound.

“There is a big gun culture in this region. Every Pashtun man is allowed a weapon in his own domain, even minus a licence” explains General Khattak, himself a Pashtun. “It’s a proud tradition to carry a weapon. But to bury fully greased SMGs [sub-machine guns] in your backyard? That’s not tradition. That’s terrorism.”

Both sides of the torture cell have houses that have been bombed out in an air strike; the remaining effects of a family - a suitcase filled with personal belongings - a woman’s shoes, a child’s toy plane, a lipstick, a vanity, even a science book and a blanket - lies in the rubble.

“The north and south of this hideout were protected by residential compounds of Uzbeks to escape detection,” explains General Khattak. “They would camouflage and protect the horror that was happening here.”

“Do not be mistaken, there was some, but very negligible, collateral damage,” explains Brigadier Abbasi. “But everybody, good and bad, took advantage of the exit routes we allowed. Our intercepts tell us that many Tangos are now in the TDP [temporarily displaced persons] camps in Bannu. Our intel shows us mounds of hair they cut and shaved to fit in with the locals during the movement. There were loopholes, and they took advantage of them...And the locals let them.”

The IED Factory: The ‘front’ of the IED factory is ironic; it’s a medical clinic lying on Mir Ali Bazaar’s main street; a marble plaque claims it was inaugurated by the local political agent in 1956, when this volatile tribal area was relatively peaceful; the outside room facing the street has posters warning against malaria, with a box of mints, once meant for visitors, scattered all over the floor, along with furniture and documents; the place looks like it has been through layers of hurried searches.

A walk through the inner courtyard that is shaded by eucalyptus trees shows signs of a severe gunfight; the main clinic’s walls are pockmarked by bullets and grenade splinters; inside are maps of Pakistan’s provinces, heavy ordnance, a globe of the world, a refrigerator, IED-manufacturing material and guides, lab equipment, a white-board with an IED-making formula in a Cyrillic variant written with a dry-erase marker, wigs for disguise and, of course, suicide-bomb jackets.

“We took this place down,” says Lt. Colonel Jawad Bajwa of the 54 Baloch as  he points to the wall that his troops blew up before storming the compound. The 54 Baloch Regiment has an interesting motto: ‘First to Guard’, given after it became the initial battalion to be the guard of honour at the Quaid’s Mausoleum. But Bajwa’s unit was also the vanguard in the 12-day offensive that saw Mir Ali fall during Zarb-e-Azb in July.

“It took us an afternoon. Here, life’s about aggression versus more aggression, tactics versus superior tactics. In a street to street fight, strategy was beyond us.”

Perhaps it was due to that aggression why Operation Zarb-e-Azb, which was “meant to take key parts of North Waziristan in 90 days, was essentially over by the 52nd day”, says General Khattak.

America, America: Everyone has been talking about a recent Pentagon report that said the Pakistani military hasn’t done enough to take on the militants. The bad press is hovering like a shadow over the officers, in spite of recent gains made by troops using American-made MRAPS - heavy IED-resistant vehicles that the army badly needs - 20 of which have been provided by the US.

“If this is not enough, what is?” asks General Khattak on the drive to the airstrip. 

We drive past Jalal Post, named after a major who held off over a 100 Uzbeks with a platoon of soldiers for almost an entire day, eventually losing his life to an Uzbek sniper in the Battle of Mir Ali, also called Operation Badal 1.

“Our officers-to-men killed ratio is 1:12”, raps the general. “That’s high, maybe the highest for any active in-combat army this century, and we’re very proud of it. 

And with this (he points to the rubble that is Mir Ali all around) I’ve managed to achieve the first tenet of COIN [counterinsurgency] operations: displacing the terrorists. They have no sanctuary. Because 90 percent of North Waziristan is now past tense for them, and under our control.”

There are still gaps, however. Various theories circulate about where the leaders of the Haqqani Network vanished. Some place them in Parachinar and its environs in the northern agency of Kurram. Some send them down to the Pashtun belt of Balochistan, or beyond the border. Some even place them in Rawalpindi and Karachi. Most officers admit that the Haqqani question is ‘above their pay grade’. But Major General Khattak is very clear.

“If push comes to shove, I would even suggest that the Americans put together a team of forensic experts and come over here to see what we’ve done, to the infrastructure of terror and even the Haqqanis,” he says, lighting up a smoke. “Let us stop writing reports from Washington and do some real fact-finding, shall we?”

On the domestic front, Hafiz Gul Bahadur, the local Wazir warlord who, a senior officer admits, “is our own creation, nothing but a thug who became a monster, thanks to us” and his sub-commander, Sadiq Noor, are on the run. Zarb-e-Azb has thus morphed into a ‘hunt-mode’, where entire battalions have been tasked to search and destroy ‘GB’ and his cohorts; Sadiq Noor keeps on crossing over from across the border, but GB is dug in hard somewhere around southwestern North Waziristan.

The Americans, too, are utilising the vacuum and flux. Drones are still targeting the areas where the Pakistan Army has not yet managed to reach. Most  of these are along the Dattakhel axis, running like a hammerhead along the border, along the southwestern and northwestern corner of the agency, which is high terrain and adjacent to the volatile Afghan “P2K” region (Paktia, Paktika and Kunar) and, of course, the treacherous Shawal Valley in the south, where many of the insurgents have escaped, but in small groups, to avoid easy detection.

Even though he won’t commit on where his forces lie on the matrix of completing the mission, General Khattak has a swagger of confidence: “We’ve reduced their ability to strike. Their tactics have deteriorated and become less complex. We listen to them all the time, on the intercepts. We can hear their pain. And we are enjoying it.”

7th Division Headquarters - Miranshah, North Waziristan:

A year ago, what is now the army’s largest division - almost equivalent to three regular divisions, or around 45,000 men - was but a shade of what it is now. The 7th Infantry Division - the Pakistan Army’s oldest, its ‘Golden Arrow’ - was holed inside the Miranshah Fort for years, since 2003. Outside, peace agreements and under-the-table deals with North Waziristan’s powerful warlords allowed it to move around just once a week, and forced it to tolerate IED, suicide and rocket attacks around the year.

But with Operation Zarb-e-Azb, the army is finally beginning to act like a counter-insurgent military machine.

The proof is displayed in the massive front lawn of the division’s headquarters. A symmetrical display of seized weapons, communication equipment, ordnance, IEDs, intelligence, and even American and other NATO military uniforms is crowned by two vehicles: One is an American-made military Humvee, a khaki Hummer with bullet holes from across the border, complete with Afghan National Army markings and communication equipment, which was used as a “VIP car by the Haqqani Network”, claims General Khattak. The other is a functional, foliage-green pick-up truck with Afghan National Police markings.

Sophisticated flow-charts and bar-graphs shared by the 7th Division show that Zarb-e-Azb has shown remarkable gains: A decreasing trend in the number of terrorist attacks and military/civilian casualties, nationwide, with less than 50 terror-related incidents since the campaign was launched, causing less than 600 casualties and around 150 fatalities, including the attack on the Wagah border earlier this month.

But details about Operation Khyber 1, which is the new and unannounced kinetic build-up in parts of the Khyber tribal agency, are more oblique.

“Khyber 1 is not an afterthought,” defends Khattak, putting his armoured SUV into gear as we begin to head to Miranshah. “Yes, there were unexpected consequences of the flux and reorganisation of militants after Zarb [-e-Azb].”

“This included splintering. Omar Khalid Khorasani [the commander of the Mohmand chapter of the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan] was always ambitious, bickering with Fazlullah [the emir of the TTP] over leadership and control...he went his own way when he reinvigorated Ahrar-ul-Hind [a new militant group that is operating out of Khyber]. This was to carve his own identity, his own brand. Before he gets there, Khyber 1 has been designed to get to him. Simple.”

The Media Centre: Outside, in Miranshah town, the Taliban’s media effort is on full display. Once a small school house, the Taliban made this their ‘Media Center’; a three-room communication enterprise: one room filled with digital recording devices, cameras and computers, where DVDs of training and propaganda videos were processed; the other an archives and audio room with sound mixers and mics; the third, the grandest room, is what a young officer refers to as the ‘Suicide Studio’, where soon-to-be suicide-bombers would record their famous last words; this last room has a lush carpet and velvet cushions, with Taliban’s stark black and white flag in the background; there are even light-stands to complete the terrible last taping of terrorists.

“Don’t be overwhelmed by the religious symbolism,” warns Brigadier Azhar Abbasi. “Beards were a fashion here, too. We’ve found booze, we’ve found hash, we’ve found all sorts of lewd movies on CDs. These guys did not have a one-track mind about jihad.”

Terror, Underground: The ride through Miranshah Bazaar is longer than the one through Mir Ali. The destruction is worse, too. The signature of ordnance from all sorts of platforms and weapons - fighter-bombers, helicopter gunships, field artillery, IEDs, RPGs and small arms - can be detected; there is a pup walking alone; and a thin cat, sipping water from a puddle; but yards upon yards of shops and houses have been bombed out; there are no signs of life.

“Drone-proof, fool-proof and weather-proof” is how General Khattak describes the Taliban’s ‘Underground Headquarters’ as we pull up to a stop: Built as a subterranean labyrinth in the basement of the main mosque in the heart of Miranshah Bazaar, with over 40 rooms connected by zigzagging tunnels, “Tango HQ”, as an intel officer put it, was a secretariat, a command and control centre, a communication hub, a recording studio, a guest house, and even included solitary chambers for conditioning suicide-bombers (tiny, secluded rooms with pictures of heaven depicted on digitally-printed plastic backdrops).

Upstairs, the regular business of prayer was conducted, with worshippers of all ages coming and going from all over Miranshah; downstairs, senior Taliban commanders would enjoy television, internet, air-conditioners, the equivalent of  a canteen, and underground access to various sections of the city.

Now, the army has ‘sanitized’ the area; all the rooms have been stripped empty; lavish Afghan rugs and blankets have been torn apart for intelligence; some remnants, like cell phone batteries and a ‘dandasa’, the herbal stick that locals use to brush their teeth in tradition of the Prophet Mohammad (PBUH) in lieu of toothpaste, are still lying around; a walking cane with electric tape wrapped around it is unattended on the ground; an empty Pepsi bottle and some plastic glasses that would have gone with some Talibans’ last meal are scattered; to underscore the change of guard, the Army Engineers have spray painted a big ‘OK’ outside every door and enclave, indicating that there are no booby traps or IEDs in the labyrinth’s several rooms. It’s cooler here, than upstairs, in the city.

The Man-Eating Bazaar: The kitchen of the underground ‘Tango HQ’, like any kitchen in the world, has cabinets and shelves; but a row of these swings open to reveal a tunnel, through which come both a cool draft and a terrible smell; there is some light, at the end.

“That’s the executive access route to the Adam Khor [Man Eating] Bazaar”, says an intelligence officer. “It’s where the unwanted and the unwelcome were beheaded, and left to rot, decapitated for days...Their bodies were not allowed to be buried, and they used to stink up the bazaar, as a lesson for all and sundry.”

“The smell still hasn’t gone away, even though we cleared the bodies weeks ago.”

Saying farewell on the airstrip, as his overused combat-aviation AH-1 Cobras are being inspected after a post-operation sortie, Major General Khattak keeps up the official narrative: the fight will be long; it will have to be a national effort; it will require all facets of civilian and military thinking to come up with creative solutions.

But then, the Pashtun and the soldier reflect. “Whether it is rethink of the FCR [the Frontier Crimes Regulation that rules the Federally Administered Tribal Areas], or economic solutions, or good governance, we must understand what rules these people. The local code of Cholwashti [locals protecting their own land honourably] has to be brought back. What’s always worked must work again. 

And for those who don’t follow the local custom...We must kill them. We must fight  them to the death.”