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The making of the Kargil disaster II

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By Nasim Zehra

The next morning, 12 hours after the top military command had briefed him on Op KP, the prime minister summoned key cabinet members to the PM House. Sharif chaired the meeting, which was attended by Sartaj Aziz, Gen. (r) Majeed Malik, Minister for Religious Affairs Raja Zafarul Haq, Minister for Information Mushahid Hussain and the defense secretary. The defence secretary registered his concerns, warning that escalation would be inevitable and the “Indians would not take it lying down.”

 

 

Gen Iftikhar complained that, without consulting anyone or taking any one in confidence, a “few paper tigers” had started the Kargil adventure. The foreign minister also reported that his ministry was getting panic calls from their missions abroad. Aziz complained that his ministry had no clue about this operation. Malik protested that he was Minister for Kashmir Affairs and he was shocked that he had not been taken into confidence. After hearing these outpourings, the prime minister contacted the army chief.

 

The army chief arrived at the PM House within an hour. There were only three people present at the time of this crucial moment of the Kargil crisis: the PM, the defence secretary, and the army chief. The PM asked Musharraf, “Did you cross the LoC?” Musharraf responded, “Yes, sir, I did.” “And on whose authority?” queried the prime minister. The army chief was quick to respond, “On my own responsibility and if you now order, sir, I will order the troops’ withdrawal.”

 

Nawaz Sharif turned to his defence secretary and said, “Did you see? He has accepted his responsibility!” Sharif, perhaps visualising himself as the ‘liberator’ of Kashmir, added, “Since the army is part of the government, from today onwards we will support the army.” After this rather brief meeting, the army was to get the complete support of the country’s leadership.

 

The public message at this stage from all stakeholders, in Islamabad, Rawalpindi and abroad, was identical: the international community must rein in India. The same day, the prime minister said Pakistan was committed to dialogue with India. On May 19, the COAS Gen Pervez Musharraf said Indian violations of the LoC would be taken seriously. On May 20, in Baku, at the Council of Ministers Conference, the Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Siddiq Kanju, asked the world community to help resolve Kashmir. On May 21, Pakistan’s newly-appointed ambassador to France, Shahryar Khan, assured his hosts that Pakistan was involved in “serious talks” with India.

 

Meanwhile, on the policy front, the prime minister, aided by his key advisers, made important decisions. After the May 17 meeting, at an informal huddle between the prime minister and his trusted men, Shahbaz Sharif, Gen Iftikhar and Chaudhry Nisar, the decision was taken to support the army. The three said that Nawaz Sharif should institutionalise the issue and bring it to the DCC. Several formal meetings were subsequently held. The informal consultations with his trusted men also continued. On May 23, a highlevel meeting was held between the prime minister, the COAS and the CGS to discuss Kargil.

 

In fact, once the cover blew from Op KP, the government sought regular military updates from the Kargil clique. The Kargil planners, too, were keen for a political buying to Op KP. The GHQ organised briefings for the president, senators and parliamentarians, which included special prayer sessions for the success of the operation. At one of the prayer sessions at the ISI headquarters, led by the CGS Gen. Aziz, the Minister for the Interior Chaudhary Shujaat Hussain was also present.

 

Stunned at Hotel Scheherazade

The prime minister sought an assessment of the situation from his senior diplomatic team before the Defense Committee of the Cabinet (DCC) meeting scheduled for the end of May. Accordingly, Foreign Minister Sartaj Aziz convened a high-level meeting at the Foreign Office, formerly the grand hotel Scheherazade, to discuss the military and diplomatic developments. The participants of the May 23 meeting included senior Pakistan Muslim League leader Raja Zafarul Haq, Minister for Petroleum Chaudhry Nisar, Secretary Defence Lt. Gen. Iftikhar Ali Khan, Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Siddiq Kanju, Foreign Secretary Shamshad Ahmad Khan, Additional Secretary Prime Minister’s Secretariat Tariq Fatemi, Additional Secretary UN Riaz Mohammad Khan, COAS Gen Pervez Musharraf, CGS Lt. Gen Aziz, DirectorGeneral ISI Lt. Gen Ziauddin, Commander 10 Corps Lt. Gen Mahmud, deputy Vice Chief of Air Staff Air Marshal Aliuddin, and Vice Chief of Naval Staff Vice Admiral Abdul Aziz Mirza.

 

The briefing was given by Gen Aziz. Aziz said we did this to interdict the Siachen road, thereby forcing India to solve the Kashmir issue. Most of the civilian participants realised the scale of Op KP for the first time. They asked probing questions regarding the objectives of the operation. The army chief was asked about the objectives of Op KP and Pakistan military’s ability to retain the territory occupied across the LoC. The confident army chief’s response was, “We can defend every inch of our own territory and we are firmly entrenched in the positions we are holding in Kargil.”

 

There were many critics of the operation. For example, many questions came from Majeed Malik, who had himself commanded this area as a corps commander and, earlier on, as division commander. He said that, if Pakistan had to interdict this road, it could have been done from lower heights instead of taking our troops to the Kargil peaks, where the weather would be their worst enemy. Malik pointed especially to the difficulty of maintaining supply lines for the troops. The worried elderly Raja Zafarul Haq nearly reprimanded the Kargil planners for not taking others in the government into confidence if their objective were to highlight the Kashmir issue. All future action must now follow proper consultation, he emphasised.

 

The consensus among senior navy and air force officers was that opening of new fronts by India could not be ruled out. They asked why they had not been consulted earlier since any defence plan in case of Indian retaliation had to be an integrated armed forces defense plan. Criticism kept piling up. The deputy air chief also wondered, “After all, what will we achieve from all this?” CGS Aziz’s response was that, by applying pressure on the main supply artery NH1, India would be forced to the negotiating table on Kashmir.

 

Senior Foreign Office officials in the meeting warned that this operation would be indefensible on global forums. Additional Secretary UN Riaz Mohammad Khan categorically stated, “If it comes to the UNSC [UN Security Council], our position will be undercut.” The Chinese along with other UNSC members would simply ask Pakistan to respect the LoC and vacate the areas occupied across the LoC in Indian Occupied Kashmir, he told those gathered. Foreign Secretary Shamshad Ahmad expressed concern regarding the possible expansion of the conflict and told the participants, “I cannot guarantee that India will not attack on the international borders.” The foreign secretary cautioned the army against repeating the miscalculation made prior to the 1965 Operation Gibraltar, when the key military and civilian officials had guaranteed that India would not retaliate across the international border. The confident army chief dispelled these concerns and maintained, “We can defend every inch of our territory.” Discussions bordered on being polemical rather than strategic. One of the generals asserted, “Whatever we may say here, our animosity with India is eternal.”

 

Those diplomats with an institutional memory of Kashmir questioned if the Op KP-related discussion could actually help to highlight Kashmir at the UN. Seasoned diplomat Riaz Mohammad Khan pointedly said, “If it is brought to the UN, our position will be undermined.” There had already been discussion within the international community about undermining the sanctity of the LoC. In 1965 and in 1971, when the Kashmir case was taken to the UNSC for discussion, the decision on both occasions was on the ceasefire and not on the Kashmir issue. In the case of Kargil too, had the matter been taken to the UNSC, it would have called for withdrawal and led to the further strengthening of the LoC. The army insisted that the line was fuzzy and in some places the Mujahideen were also involved in the fighting. When asked by one of the foreign office officials how the Mujahideen could fight so valiantly against the wellequipped Indian army, the army spokesperson Rashid Qureshi said, “Because the Indians from the plains are not acclimatised and they die!”

 

At the conclusion of the meeting, the three ministers — Sartaj Aziz, Majeed Malik and Raja Zafarul Haq — held a postmortem of the DCC meeting in Sartaj Aziz’s office. There prevailed a feeling among these experienced men that the operation was likely to cause serious military and diplomatic problems. Yet, sudden withdrawal, leading to high casualties, was not an option. Indeed, with the army already claiming it a success, who would bell the cat of asking the Kargil clique to withdraw? Nevertheless, Zafarul Haq believed the deficiencies in Op KP had to be addressed. The planners would interpret recommendations regarding the operation as a signal to continue. The civilian government may be held responsible in case Op KP failed. What followed could also be an army takeover.

 

The three senior ministers then shared their concerns and conclusions with the prime minister, who agreed with them on the need to take the navy and air force on board in all future discussions on Op KP.

 

Whose war is it anyway?

Around this time, Pakistan’s Military Intelligence (MI) also got active. Its Director-General, Major Gen Ehsanul Haq, invited the military attachés of Western countries to GHQ for a briefing on Op KP. The DG MI and the DGMO conducted the briefing followed by a question-and-answer session. The defence attachés left the briefing with the understanding that these senior Pakistani military officials had acknowledged that Pakistani troops were involved and it was not a Mujahideen operation. The Western military attachés, including the American and the British, reported back to their embassies and subsequently to their headquarters that fighting was actually taking place on the Indian side of the LoC. Publicly, however, Islamabad still maintained that only the Mujahideen were involved. The media, based on Western embassy backgrounders, reported that the DG MI had acknowledged that there were Pakistani troops across in the Indian side of the LoC. Interestingly at this time, Islamabad’s own diplomats, stationed even at the headquarters, were groping in the dark for information about the reported flareup along the LoC.

 

After the MI briefing, the US military attaché in the embassy informed his ambassador William Milam that fighting was going on on the Indian side of LoC. The American information until then was that it was a group of Mujahideen. The military attaché had attended the briefing at the GHQ given by the DG MI and the DGMO. Following the briefing, the attaches snooped around for more information. The military attaché met his counterpart while the political attaché met with retired military officers. With confirmation that Pakistani troops had crossed the LoC, the “really excited US diplomats” told Washington about it. The US State Department responded by issuing its first statement, calling upon Pakistan to withdraw its troops.

 

This statement prompted the Additional Secretary of the Foreign Office Tariq Altaf to call in Ambassador Milam and ask why Washington had accused Pakistan of fighting across the LoC. The US ambassador informed him that it was the Pakistan Army itself who had given them this information. Upon hearing Milam’s response, it seemed that “Altaf had been kicked and his face fell”, according to US ambassador Milam himself.

 

Following the AltafMilam exchange, Foreign Minister Aziz called the DG MI and complained about the faux pas he had committed. The MI chief said he had been misquoted. Nevertheless, the stories of the defense attaché regarding Pakistani troop presence remained in circulation.

 

Clueless cabinet

Towards the end of May, the prime minister decided to take his cabinet into confidence on Op Kp. He convened a cabinet meeting at which the DirectorGeneral ISI Lt. General Ziauddin Butt was to present a briefing. Foreign Secretary Shamshad Ahmad and Defence Secretary Iftikhar were also present. Although in his private meetings with the prime minister the DG ISI was critical about Op KP, at this cabinet meeting he presented broad details of the operation. He talked of the freedom fighters and held that the operation was progressing satisfactorily. The intelligence chief, however, opted to not share his own assessment of the operation. Similarly, the foreign secretary, who had expressed some reservations about Op KP at earlier meetings, at this cabinet meeting opted to pick no holes. He gave no hint of the operation being a potential source of any diplomatic disadvantage for Pakistan, and, instead, indicated that some benefit could be derived from it.

 

A barrage of hard questions followed Butt’s briefing. The majority present, however, was pleased with the progress reported on Op KP. The Minister for Water and Power Gohar Ayub praised the army for doing a “great job” and advocated support for the operation. Minister of Culture, Sports, Tourism and Youth Affairs Sheikh Rashid Ahmad also praised the army, while the minister for religious affairs said, “The time is now ripe for jihad.” There were also critics of Op KP. These included Minister for Communications Raja Nadir Pervez and Minister for Health Makhdoom Javed Hashmi.

 

The most vocal critic, however, was the secretary of defence. The retired general spoke for about 20 minutes, warning that Op KP would either end in all-out war or a total military disaster for Pakistan. … Implying that the army command had launched Op KP without clearance from the government, the defence secretary emphasised that the army was not an independent body and had to take orders from the government. He was also critical of placing jihad as the central element in Pakistan’s defence structure. He wondered, “Why have we after 52 years realised the importance of jihad?” The defence secretary’s brother, Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan, also raised hard questions. The thrust of Nisar’s remarks was that based on his information, Pakistan was heading for a military disaster in Kargil-Drass. “Who had ordered the operation?” the minister rhetorically asked the military presenters. Nevertheless, Nisar’s caution was against an operation already underway.

 

Some altercation among powerful men ensued. Reacting to the defence secretary’s presentation, the visibly distraught Gohar Ayub asked why the defence secretary was opposing the plan of the army chief. Sheikh Rashid also queried why the defence secretary was revealing “secrets.” … The prime minister called the meeting to an end. He was now facing a divided house within and mounting pressures from the outside. The Kargil planners, meanwhile, saw no reason to pay heed to any concerns expressed in the cabinet meeting.

(Courtesy: dawn.com)

Concluded

 


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Opinion

Why EVMs must go

The Kashmir Monitor

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By G. Sampath

The recent Assembly elections — the last major polling exercise before the 2019 Lok Sabha polls — were not devoid of Electronic Voting Machine (EVM) malfunctions.

Though the discourse at present makes no distinction between a ‘malfunction’ (which suggests a technical defect) and ‘tampering’ (manipulation aimed at fraud), there were several reports of misbehaving EVMs. Alarmingly, in Madhya Pradesh alone, the number of votes polled did not match the number of votes counted in 204 out of the 230 constituencies. The Election Commission’s (EC) explanation is that the votes counted is the actual number of votes polled — a circular logic that precludes cross-verification.

 

A discrepancy of even one vote between votes polled and votes counted is unacceptable. This is not an unreasonably high standard but one followed by democracies worldwide. It might therefore be helpful to briefly look beyond the question that has hijacked the EVM debate — of how easy or tough it is to hack these machines — and consider the first principles of a free and fair election.

The reason a nation chooses to be a democracy is that it gives moral legitimacy to the government. The fount of this legitimacy is the people’s will. The people’s will is expressed through the vote, anonymously (the principle of secret ballot). Not only must this vote be recorded correctly and counted correctly, it must also be seen to be recorded correctly and counted correctly. The recording and counting process must be accessible to, and verifiable by, the public. So transparency, verifiability, and secrecy are the three pillars of a free and fair election.

Regardless of whether one is for or against EVMs, there is no getting away from the fact that any polling method must pass these three tests to claim legitimacy. Paper ballots obviously do. The voter can visually confirm that her selection has been registered, the voting happens in secret, and the counting happens in front of her representative’s eyes.

EVMs, however, fail on all three, as established by a definitive judgment of the German constitutional court in 2009. The court’s ruling forced the country to scrap EVMs and return to paper ballot. Other technologically advanced nations such as the Netherlands and Ireland have also abandoned EVMs.

If we take the first two criteria, EVMs are neither transparent nor verifiable. Neither can the voter see her vote being recorded, nor can it be verified later whether the vote was recorded correctly. What is verifiable is the total number of votes cast, not the choice expressed in each vote. An electronic display of the voter’s selection may not be the same as the vote stored electronically in the machine’s memory. This gap was why the Voter Verifiable Paper Audit Trail (VVPAT) was introduced.

But VVPATs solve only one-half of the EVMs’ transparency/verifiability problem: the voting part. The counting part remains an opaque operation. If anyone suspects a counting error, there is no recourse, for an electronic recount is, by definition, absurd. Some believe the VVPATs can solve this problem too, through statistics.

At present, the EC’s VVPAT auditing is restricted to one randomly chosen polling booth per constituency. In a recent essay, K. Ashok Vardhan Shetty, a former IAS officer, demonstrates that this sample size will fail to detect faulty EVMs 98-99% of the time. He also shows that VVPATs can be an effective deterrent to fraud only on the condition that the detection of even one faulty EVM in a constituency must entail the VVPAT hand-counting of all the EVMs in that constituency. Without this proviso, VVPATs would merely provide the sheen of integrity without its substance.

The third criterion is secrecy. Here too, EVMs disappoint. With the paper ballot, the EC could mix ballot papers from different booths before counting, so that voting preferences could not be connected to a given locality. But with EVMs, we are back to booth-wise counting, which allows one to discern voting patterns and renders marginalised communities vulnerable to pressure. Totaliser machines can remedy this, but the EC has shown no intent to adopt them.

So, on all three counts — transparency, verifiability and secrecy — EVMs are flawed. VVPATs are not the answer either, given the sheer magnitude of the logistical challenges. The recent track record of EVMs indicates that the number of malfunctions in a national election will be high. For that very reason, the EC is unlikely to adopt a policy of hand-counting all EVMs in constituencies where faulty machines are reported, as this might entail hand-counting on a scale that defeats the very purpose of EVMs. And yet, this is a principle without which the use of VVPATs is meaningless.

Despite these issues, EVMs continue to enjoy the confidence of the EC, which insists that Indian EVMs, unlike the Western ones, are tamper-proof. But this is a matter of trust. Even if the software has been burnt into the microchip, neither the EC nor the voter knows for sure what software is running in a particular EVM. One has to simply trust the manufacturer and the EC. But as the German court observed, the precondition of this trust is the verifiability of election events, whereas in the case of EVMs, “the calculation of the election result is based on a calculation act which cannot be examined from outside”.

While it is true that the results come quicker and the process is cheaper with EVMs as compared to paper ballot, both these considerations are undeniably secondary to the integrity of the election. Another argument made in favour of the EVM is that it eliminates malpractices such as booth-capturing and ballot-box stuffing. In the age of the smartphone, however, the opportunity costs of ballot-box-stuffing and the risk of exposure are prohibitively high. In contrast, tampering with code could accomplish rigging on a scale unimaginable for booth-capturers. Moreover, it is nearly impossible to detect EVM-tampering. As a result, suspicions of tampering in the tallying of votes — as opposed to malfunction in registering the votes, which alone is detectable — are destined to remain in the realm of speculation. The absence of proven fraud might save the EVM for now, but its survival comes at a dangerous cost — the corrosion of people’s faith in the electoral process.

Yet there doesn’t have to be incontrovertible evidence of EVM-tampering for a nation to return to paper ballot. Suspicion is enough, and there is enough of it already. As the German court put it, “The democratic legitimacy of the election demands that the election events be controllable so that… unjustified suspicion can be refuted.” The phrase “unjustified suspicion” is pertinent. The EC has always maintained that suspicions against EVMs are unjustified. Clearly, the solution is not to dismiss EVM-sceptics as ignorant technophobes. Rather, the EC is obliged to provide the people of India a polling process capable of refuting unjustified suspicion, as this is a basic requirement for democratic legitimacy, not an optional accessory.

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Opinion

Doctor to serve the Humanity but ……….

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By Sheikh Umar Ahmad

Doctors profession is regarded as a noble profession world over and is given due dignity and honor in global community for their selfless service to humankind.Every educated person aims to become a doctor in order to serve humanity in best and better of their capacities, but as it is, everybody can’t become a doctor and there are other professions as well to serve the humanity in general. Among all other professions, the medicine is regarded as one of the coveted both in terms of requirement of its service as well in terms of monetary benefits. This profession is only among existing ones that cater to global community involvement as well as service dissemination. Every person has expectations from doctors to deliver in close coordination anytime, rather 24*7 when the need arises without any internal or external excuses, including personal ones. There is a deeper dissatisfaction & grudges when any person from medicine community refuses any other person of consultation when it is time for them to serve. If they are unable to deliver to society with utmost satisfaction, then their purpose of serving the society through this profession only does not hold any merit. A similar kind of episode some days before than happened at state’s premier maternity hospital, so called as Lal Ded has shaken the whole Kashmiriyat that is otherwise known world over for their hospitality and generous behavior but some doctors who in literal sense are there to grab the greater public shearing and for their mere monetary benefits, have deceived and decimated the expectations of one of economically, socially and educationally backward section of our society who yet hold equal weightage at the measures table when it comes to Kashmir diversity and harmonious ethnicity.

Their refusal to admit a women in labor pain and then her parturition at a roadside, has shackled the immediate conscience of whole educated lot of Kashmir who now think that there should be a humanity course for every doctor before only he is allowed to practice medicine. A doctor in true essence should be ready to work in any society, with any person, and to serve any other person in need irrespective of his caste, creed, colour, religion, sect and above all ethnicity. If a doctor is unable to work in any multi-cultural society, he loses his position in the eyes of society to be called as a doctor. This person dashes the hopes of weaker section of society as they think that such persons can never pay attention towards them being economically and culturally senile. The death of a newborn on the roadside at Srinagar area speak volumes about those gross irregularities that still exist in best of our essential & emergency services. This should not have been the case and nothing such things happen in world over but are common in Kashmir only and there is a greater need to overhaul the whole system so to debug these bogus and nefarious elements in society that tarnish the whole image.

 

There should have been a commission in place to look at those gross malicious activities thatdiscord the whole organisational setup. Now as we know, the enquiry will be put in place and at the end what will be seen, nothing but the ball will be put in the court of victim by falsifying & negating the whole episode. The little one has gone now and no one on earth can bring him back. This episode brings this message forth, that doctor being the representative guardian of life our earth, protect lives every day in every part of world and there is a greater sense of satisfaction and this dealing makes the person feel happy internally & eternally for this greatest benefit to mankind. But for us, it is high time now, that we repent of our past sins and relook at our duties to disseminate it properly at every time it is required. Every person will be suitably rewarded for his good deeds and kind gestures that he has done on humanity and doctors are none as exception.

They are the best representatives of selfless service and moral attitude, and kind reflection of ultimate hope. State administration in Kashmir at the helm of affairs need to reaffirm their responsibilities and duties, so that utmost discipline is maintained in hospitals both from public & doctors end. If public outrages over anything that may be the reflection and agony of intermix of pain and grief. It is the responsibility of doctors on duty to deal with those situations quite humbly and morally, so that the professionals deliver their duties in its true essence and totally error free. There should be limited biasness in dealing with culturally and economically down-centric groups of society. We need to be first ambassadors of humanity before guardians of life through practising medicine to protect the lives of people. We need to safeguard the hopes and expectations of our ethnic groups before we deliver our best to save the lives.

These episodes nevertheless should be repeated in the times to come, else this profession will loseits dignity and honor world over for not withstanding with the requirements of and fulfilling the criteria of being a doctor humanely. There are doctors who treat animals even, this never mean that we need to make an animal human first to be treated by a human doctor as animals are animals, rather we need to be real doctors to understand the physiology of animals before only we can treat them. This is the only message I can conclude with… ! Hence a change is imperative.

(The author is Doctoral Research Scholar, currently working as DST INSPIRE Fellow at CSIR Indian Institute of Integrative Medicine Jammu)

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Opinion

The angry Pakistani

The Kashmir Monitor

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By Arifa Noor

IT takes an outsider to point out the anger within us. Last week, a former US ambassador to Pakistan, Cameron Munter, spoke at an event, arguing that our anger prevents us from telling the good story about Pakistan to the world.

It reminded me of an interaction that took place nearly 20 years ago. Back in 2000, a soft-spoken Indian professor from Delhi had asked why the Pakistani people were always so pessimistic about their country — present and future — despite the fact that till the 1990s, Pakistan had always enjoyed better social and economic indicators (including a higher growth rate) than India. It was a question I had no answer to. The hostile questions about Kargil and military rule were easier to answer during that trip to India than this gentle insight and a sense of bewilderment about our state of being.

 

But since that morning in New Delhi, there have been so many moments when the professor’s question has come back to mind. Countless memories that came spilling out echoed what former ambassador Munter said. Some as clear as the question asked by the Indian professor; some a little less sharp. But each one testifies to our despair, anger or lack of confidence in what is known as Pakistan.

We have been living in an age of anger, decades before Pankaj Mishra wrote about it.

Fast forward from 2000 to the last months of 2007 or the beginning of 2008: a faded memory, I am unsure of the exact month, but it was during the days of that heady yet difficult transition from dictatorship to democracy. Musharraf was fighting for his survival. Benazir Bhutto and the Sharifs were clawing their way back to relevance (followed by the devastating assassination of the former). A lawyers’ movement had caught Pakistan’s imagination. And there were terrorist attacks galore.

In the midst of these trying yet hopeful times, an op-ed had discussed Pakistan as a possible failed state. I was told that the writer had gotten a call from an amused friend in Afghanistan who said that despite all that had happened in and to Afghanistan, no Afghan would ever call his country a ‘failed state’.

We, of course, have used this term so often for the country that many of us believe it is a failed state — despite the term’s problematic origins as one used by Washington to describe countries it ‘disapproved’ of rather than an empirically established concept.

Then there are jumbled up memories of various track II dialogues. Each such seminar or conference is coupled with at least one discussion (on the sidelines) of how the Indians (and more recently the Afghans) present a united stand unlike Pakistanis. There is always a sense of frustration at how we end up helping ‘their’ cause rather than supporting our interest.

Why do we do this, as the professor asked?

Perhaps it stems from our long bouts of dictatorships. Denied their due and rightful say in policymaking has made entire swathes of the populace angry, hostile and critical of the state. They are angry at being left out: it’s an anger that is accompanied by a sense of helplessness at the direction that the country and society have taken. And in recent times, too, there is a sense of outrage because course correction (if there is any in their opinion) has not included their input. Hence, many refuse to believe that there has been any course correction, or criticise it for moving too slowly.

This is why perhaps the anger is most palpable when it comes to foreign policy, especially relations with India, and the radicalism that has engulfed state and society.

Being denied a voice, there is little left to do but express rage at the state, what it has come to stand for and to also conclude that there can be little hope for the future. (Pakistan has not just been at the crossroads ever since I can remember, it has also forever been in danger of being torn apart).

The rage has gotten worse post-2008, for the hope that accompanied the transition then has turned bitter. We thought that the worst was over, that ‘true’ democracy had returned to Pakistan and politicians would now rule — fixing all that had gone wrong. The 10 years of exile and powerlessness had also given the politicos a sheen of competence and maturity. But it was yet another shab gazida sahar (night-bitten dawn).

Ten years later, the anger has grown for it seems that decision making was never transferred. But because the hope this time was greater, so has the rage been too. And perhaps because the urban middle class fought for this transition in greater numbers than before, the disappointment is greater. They are angry for they cannot see the change they had fought for or protested against.

The judiciary turned out to have feet of clay. The military didn’t really share as much as they had promised. And the politicians didn’t deliver the reform or show any inclination for democratic norms once in power. And we continue to rail, against all of them or the one we had placed most hope in, or the one we hated most.

In addition, the rage has turned into hatred of the institution that has disappointed us the most. Indeed, the anger is expressed with malicious glee at times: the Sahiwal incident is a case in point, as was the controversial statement by a former high court judge, Shaukat Aziz Siddiqui, or any terrorist attack which reveals chinks in the armour of the security forces. And, of course, the various JITs revealing the shenanigans of our political ruling class.

It is as if we have no option but to express our rage, so all energy is poured into it.

But expressing outrage, however cathartic it may be, is not a strategy, which is what Cameron Munter was trying to say.

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