Monthly Coupon

Monday, November 28, 2022

Why Pakistan Army blames the 1971 debacle on the politicians?


The outgoing Pakistan Chief of Army Staff (COAS), General Qamar Javed Bajwa in one of the several farewells meetups categorically said “1971 was not a military, but a political failure. Our army fought courageously in East Pakistan (now Bangladesh).”
He lamented that those fallen martyrs of the Pakistan Army were never honoured and people have forgotten them and politicians never mention their sacrifice.
He made a desperate attempt to “correct” the narrative of 1971 and stated facts regarding the debacle, and said the number of [Pakistan] soldiers fighting [in eastern war theatre] was not 92,000 but 34,000 while the others were in different government departments.
Quoting his speech he said, “Against these heavy odds, our army fought bravely and gave exemplary sacrifices which were acknowledged by Indian Army chief Field Marshal Manekshaw.”
By ‘against these heavy odds’, General Bajwa meant that 34,000 Pakistani soldiers were confronted by an Indian Army of 250,000 soldiers and 200,000 members of the Mukti Bahini.
Such mind-blogging narratives of Bajwa have also shaken the political and military historians in Pakistan.
Shouldn’t you feel that Gen Bajwa needs to update his knowledge of the political history leading to the liberation war in 1971 and the humiliating defeat of the marauding Pakistan armed forces in the eastern war theatre?
The brutal birth of Bangladesh experienced the genocide of three million, rape as a weapon of war of tens of thousands of women, and brutal murder of thousands of intellectuals committed by the occupation Pakistan military and their henchmen recruited to kill, torture, rape and of course loot to frustrate the war of independence.
When the dreadful ‘Operation Searchlight’ was launched at midnight on 25th March 1971 in Dhaka and later spread to the rest of the country, the Pakistan military perpetrated the genocidal campaign under the military dictator General Yahya Khan.
Apologetic General Shaheb was a school student in 1971. But while in the military academy and later when he was climbing the ladders of his career in Rawalpindi GHQ. he must have read the Justice Hamidoor Rahman Commission Report regarding the debacle in 1971.
He need not read any documents or books published in Bangladesh on the 1971 war. It is believed that he must have come across scores of books penned by senior military officers of Pakistan, as well as by Indians who were on the battleground.
Does any of the documents and books claim that it was a failure of the politicians? In the helms of affairs were senior military hawks in Rawalpindi GHQ along with the civil bureaucrats in Islamabad.
Pakistan was sans political government since 1958 and continued till 1972. A political government took charge after an election in 1977 under a fresh constitution.
Pakistan lived under military rule since 1958 when General Ayub Khan led a bloodless coup and became the self-styled President of the country. He abrogated the 1956 historic constitution and accused many senior and junior ministers of the United Front mostly from East Bengal (now Bangladesh) of corruption and were tried in kangaroo military courts.
The 1970 elections, incidentally were held under a Martial Law regime, which arbitrarily denied the handover of political power to an elected majoritarian party Awami League.
Therefore the outgoing Pakistan COAS blaming the debacle on the shoulders of politicians was from his fairytale dream.
The military hawks in Rawalpindi were the mastermind of the crackdown and was cleared from the headquarters of the Chief Martial Law Administrator (CMLA), according to Major General Khadim Hussain Raja’s book ‘A Stranger In My Own Country’.
The book describes that during January and early February 1971, military dictator General Yahya had visualised the possibility of a military crackdown accompanied by the suspension of all political activity.
The top commanders in Dhaka had the opinion that it would be sheer ‘lunacy’ to attempt the operation at that time.
On 27 February 1971, Gen Raja gave formal orders to brigade commanders to be prepared for Operation Blitz into action.
Soon both Lieutenant General Yaqub Khan and Admiral S.M. Ahsan were denied access to President Yahya when he arrived in Dhaka for a series of parleys, primarily with Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman.
The two top brasses Admiral S.M. Ahsan, Governor of East Pakistan and Lieutenant General Yaqub Khan, Commander of the Eastern Command in Dhaka were unceremoniously removed by Rawalpindi GHQ for dilly-dally in executing the crackdown.
The duo instead appealed to President Yahya to forget about the “military solution” to the political impasse and hold dialogue with Sheikh Mujib, chief of Awami League to discuss the Six-Point, which was found scribed in the ‘Strategy, Diplomacy, Humanity: Life and Work of Sahabzada Yaqub’ as a threat to security and sovereignty of Pakistan.
He states that “I am convinced there is no military solution, which can make sense in the present situation. I am consequently unable to accept the responsibility for implementing a mission namely, a military solution, that would mean civil war and large-scale killings of unarmed civilians and would achieve no sane aim. It would have disastrous consequences,” Sahabzada Yaqub concluded.
The military hawks, according to Brigadier A. R. Siddiqi’s book ‘East Pakistan the Endgame’ understands that in March, the Rawalpindi was growing impatient for the delay of the crackdown.
The military dictator angry with General Yakub replaced him and appointed Lieutenant General Tikka Khan, who was known as the “Butcher of Balochistan”. The message of the replacement was loud and clear.
In midst of the dialogue, the infamous Operation Searchlight was launched. Several historians explain that military hawks kept in mind the dreadful operation and the parley was a ploy.
The plan for Operation Searchlight was quickly adopted by Yahya Khan and implemented when he was still in Dhaka. How can Bajwa attribute the humiliating defeat to a “political failure”?

First published in The News Times, November 28, 2022
Saleem Samad, is an independent journalist, media rights defender, recipient of Ashoka Fellowship and Hellman-Hammett Award. He could be reached at <>; Twitter @saleemsamad

Sunday, November 20, 2022

Why Pakistan Is Upset With The Taliban?


Maryam Marof Arwin, founder of Afghanistan Women and Children Strengthen Welfare Organisation in a Twitter post lament: Afghanistan has been made a cage for Afghan women and girls.

This tweet tells a million words, which depicts the state of Afghanistan after a 16-month rule by the barbarian Taliban, who has pushed the nation into the 7th-century medieval era.

Last week, Pakistan’s envoy in his deliberation made a damning assessment of Taliban’s rule at the so-called “Moscow Format of Consultations” by key regional countries mostly neighbours held on 16 November hosted by Russia.

In an unusual move, the envoy from Islamabad tells despite assurances from Kabul, the rights of women and girls have regressed.

The assessment shared by Ambassador Muhammad Sadiq, Pakistan’s special envoy on Afghanistan, said the interim government has done little to form an inclusive government, protect the rights of women and eradicate dreaded terrorist networks.

The fourth meeting of the Moscow Format since 2017 was held with participation from Russia, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan, Iran, Pakistan, China, Turkmenistan, India, Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan at the level of Special Representatives or Envoys on Afghanistan.

Meanwhile, the portal Khaama Press News Agency of Afghanistan blasted the Moscow Format and argued that the meeting was ‘incomplete’ without Taliban representatives.

It is understood that Kremlin is frustrated and decided not to invite Taliban representative to Moscow for the consultation.

Russia’s displeasure was caused by negative progress made toward an inclusive Afghan government reflecting the interests of all the ethnic and political forces of the country, as promised by the Taliban’s end.

The joint statement released at the end of the consultation of the Moscow Format on Afghanistan called the Taliban a “new reality,” and stressed the formation of an “inclusive government”, respecting the interests of all major “ethnopolitical” forces.

Ambassador Sadiq in his address took an unusually harsh attitude against the Taliban regime.

In the last meeting in Moscow last year laid down broad principles to govern practical engagement with the Interim Afghan government based on i) promoting inclusivity; ii) respecting fundamental human rights including rights of women; iii) countering terrorism; and iv) sustained support to the Afghan people, including the provision of humanitarian and economic support.

The Moscow Format hoped that as friends and neighbours of Afghanistan, stood up for the Afghans. The consultation advances desired goals by bringing together the regional countries in a process of meaningful dialogue and engagement on Afghanistan.

Sadiq said the progress barometer signalled some of the worst fears, including a rapidly deteriorating security situation in Afghanistan, the mass exodus of refugees and a prolonged period of instability and violence did not materialise, the interim Afghan government had also not made the kind of progress that the international community consistently urged the interim Afghan government to promote greater political inclusivity.

Incidentally, Rawalpindi funded, trained and abetted the Taliban fighters. Earlier, to oust the Soviet invader of Afghanistan in the 70s channelled American weapons, funds and sanctuaries to the Mujahideen including Al Qaeda brainchild Osama Bin Laden.

The proliferation of military-grade weapons and violent terrorism have spilled over to Pakistan. Rawalpindi is feeling the pinch in their shoes of the threats of violence and civil war in the regions along the borders with Afghanistan.

The Taliban fighters returned to power in August 2021 and deliberately ignored all the commitments made separately in Doha as well as in Moscow.

Despite assurance from the interim Kabul government, the rights of women and girls also appeared to have regressed, not progressed, according to the Pakistani envoy. He added that the footprint of terrorist organisations in Afghanistan had yet to be fully eradicated.

The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) claims that opium cultivation in Afghanistan has increased by 32% over the previous year.

Opium cultivation has caused a larger drug problem in Afghanistan. It has invited a nexus of the international network of the opium trade and money laundering.

Not to anybody’s surprise, the terror network protects the drug lords to collect funding to augment the outfit’s clandestine operations from the opium trade.

Well, the Taliban regime for their survival in the face of global economic sanctions benefitted from the opium trade.

With the lack of progress, Pakistan observed that the critical support needed by Afghanistan to deal with the humanitarian and economic crises and other challenges has faltered.

Apparently, Afghanistan remains cut off from the international banking system and faces serious liquidity challenges. Billions of Afghan assets are frozen, thus deprived of being gainfully used for the benefit of the people of Afghanistan.

The opium trade has threatened the neighbouring countries Pakistan, Iran, Tajikistan and Turkmenistan vulnerable to combating and controlling the overland drug trafficking worth $1.8 – $2.7 billion in 2021.

On the other hand, the Moscow Format of consultation appealed for help to millions of Afghans, who were in desperate need of urgent humanitarian support, including food, medicine and essential life supplies.

To conclude the stakeholder of peacebuilding in volatile Afghanistan was a collective failure of the international community to stand by the people of Afghanistan – the international commitments to provide humanitarian support to Afghanistan remain largely unfulfilled.

First published in The News Times, November 20, 2022

Saleem Samad, is an independent journalist, media rights defender, recipient of Ashoka Fellowship and Hellman-Hammett Award. He could be reached at <>; Twitter @saleemsamad

Friday, November 18, 2022

China ‘Belting’ Pakistan on The Road to A Debt Trap


The political debacle of the ambitious Gwadar International Port built by the Chinese is yet to be fully operational. It was discovered that the challenges were unbearable and the threat perception has increased manifold in the restive Balochistan province in Pakistan.
The security threat challenged by Baloch separatists and armed nationalists demanding an independent Balochistan has caused a ripple of fear for the future of the Gwadar Port and China’s ambitious connectivity with Central Asia into the Arabian Sea.
The ‘all-weather friends’ China and Pakistan signed a precursor deal to develop the Karachi coastline at the cost of $3.5 billion – another would be a debt trap.
China’s strategic shift from Gwadar to Karachi has prompted Pakistan’s ousted Prime Minister Imran Khan to dub the “jackpot” project “a revolution” in his Tweet to develop Karachi’s coast.
Chinese policy puts strategy over investment and ignores profits. The Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) leadership has shifted from high-risk lending to hedging its bets.
The ancient silk-road was envisioned as a megaproject – Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) by China’s powerful President Xi Jinping.
However, the project seems to have hit a speed bump after reaching Gwadar and is losing its steam.
Meanwhile, China is extremely concerned about the safety and security of its personnel engaged in the construction of China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) projects, including the Karakoram Highway linking with Gwadar.
China defending its lending practices, said they were “sincere and unselfish”, and insisted it only lent to countries that could repay.
Patterns of Chinese investments in South Asia – Bangladesh, Nepal, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka – all of which are part of BRI, depict Chinese propensity to control the domestic markets and the natural resources of the South Asian nations.
Many countries where China has offered ambitious BRI proposals could not contemplate where and when they were going to fall into a debt trap.
Some countries admitted that they have fallen into a debt trap and the mega infrastructure is being colonized, like the $306.7m Hambantota International Port in Sri Lanka built by China in 2010.
In 2016, a 70 per cent stake of the port was leased to China Merchants Port Holdings Company Limited (CM Port) for 99 years for $1.12bn. The lease was questioned during the street revolution which toppled the Rajapaksa brothers. The cash-starved Sri Lanka now wants the port back.
Pakistan is one of them. They know where the trap is. The Sunni Muslim majority nation knows they are sliding into China’s debt trap. Despite the debt trap, a strong pro-Chinese lobby with Pakistan elites and military in Rawalpindi promotes Chinese megaprojects, while the politicians have to swallow the Chinese red pills.
Pakistan is China’s gateway to Central Asia and the Middle East. CPEC’s transportation corridor will create a low-cost network of roads, railways and other infrastructure and substantially increase trade capacity between southwest China with Europe, the Middle East and North African countries.
The $62bn Gwadar project links with the persecuted Uyghur Muslims in East Turkistan (now Xinjiang Province) of China and is being built through disputed territory in Gilgit-Baltistan, Pakistan-administered Kashmir, and militant-infested Balochistan.
Well, the BRI flagship project in Pakistan fails to address the participation of the fiercely independent Baloch people, which has scaled up armed insurrections in Balochistan.
Historically, Balochistan was a princely state and once an independent nation under British Raj. Before the British colonialists quit India, signed its independence months before Pakistan’s independence in August 1947. Muslim League overzealous leaders invaded Balochistan in March 1948 with full knowledge of Mohammad Ali Jinnah, founder of Pakistan.
Gwadar has been leased to China for 43 years and the prospect of the Chinese navy converting the port into a strategic naval base will invite greater security issues.
China which they do not hide its grand plan to expand its maritime presence in the Arabian Sea and the Gulf of Oman – a major strategic global oil trade route.
The United States and its allies in the Gulf reckon China’s hegemony in the Gulf has been deemed a security issue of the oil route.
America thinks the presence of the Chinese navy will provide military backup to Iran’s naval patrol in the Persian Gulf, from yet another Chinese-built Chabahar port in Iran, not far from Gwadar.
Earlier, Communist China for decades propagated on its state radio that the United States, Japan, Britain, and European countries are economic imperialists, warmongers and backed autocratic regimes in third-world countries.
Several think tanks argue that China has become an economic giant and a new superpower – the neo-economic imperialist or another “East India Company”.
A British popular tabloid newspaper The Sun claims that China is “colonizing” smaller countries by lending them massive amounts of money, which they can never repay.
Developing countries from Pakistan to Djibouti, Maldives to Fiji, all owe huge amounts to China. Countries around the world owe huge sums to China and have fallen into a debt trap.
Some political scientists are calling it “debt-trap diplomacy” or “debt colonialism” offering enticing loans to countries unable to repay, and then demanding concessions when they default.
Alarm bells are ringing for Pakistan’s public debt is piling up, while a new narrative taking shape in the West that the BRI is creating a debt trap for developing economies, many are quick to link Pakistan’s ballooning debt to loans incurred under the CPEC.
Pakistan will have to pay back $100 billion to China by 2024 of the total investment of $18.5 billion, which China has invested on account of bank loans in 19 early harvest projects, under CPEC.
Nevertheless, Pakistan elites and media hype boast CPEC has the potential for a dramatic impact on Pakistan’s economy, but this transformation would come at a heavy price of making Pakistan a colony of China. Piling up loans from China is a big gamble for Pakistan’s economy, writes Abdul Khaliq, a debt analyst.
As China makes inroads into Pakistan, the government has given sweeping tax exemptions to Chinese companies, a situation which is creating a damaging and discriminatory playing field against Pakistani business entrepreneurs virtually abolishing the remaining locally owned manufacturing sector in the country.
In fact, Pakistan heavily relies on CPEC and has put all its eggs in one basket. Piling up loans from China and building too many hopes in the CPEC may be a big gamble for Pakistan’s economy.

First published in The New York Editorial, 18 November 2022
Saleem Samad, is a South Asia Special Correspondent for the New York Editorial. He is an independent journalist based in Bangladesh. He is a recipient of the Ashoka Fellowship and the Hellman-Hammett Award and is a correspondent of the Reporters Without Borders (@RSF_inter). He could be reached at; Twitter: @saleemsamad

Wednesday, November 16, 2022

Why Has Pakistan Banned Joyland Movie?


The controversial film Joyland received global accolades on film festival circuits for its portrayal of a transgender love affair. The movie has been banned for ‘highly objectionable material’ wasn’t a surprise for Pakistan.

The film is set in Lahore and shot in the Punjabi language revolves around the story of a young married man from a middle-class conservative family who joins an erotic dance theatre and falls in love with a starlet transgender performer. His love story elucidates the desires and secrets which is in contradiction with his patriarchal family.

The critically acclaimed film is Pakistan’s official entry for the category of Best International Feature Film for Oscars 2023.

It got its first premiere at Cannes 2022, where it received a standing ovation from the audience and jury.

Joyland has gained massive appreciation worldwide. The film received top global awards, including the Queer Palm, which is the Cannes Film Festival’s LGBTQ prize.

The movie also came away with rave reviews after it premiered at the Toronto Film Festival and the American Film Institute Festival.

Unfortunately, before the film was released in the theatres, objections were raised by Islamists, who have not seen the film citing controversial content which was deemed un-Islamic, thus unfit for screening in a Sunni Muslim majoritarian Pakistan.

Days before the release of the film, the Pakistan authority ‘uncertified’ the film and blocked it from screening in the country.

Joyland (126 minutes) was slated to be screened in movie theatres across Pakistan this week. But the religious leader forced the federal censor board to reverse its decision and declare the movie “ineligible” for Pakistan.

The Islamic Republic has a notorious history of banning movies in various categories, citing religious reasons and so-called nationalistic reasons.

A Jamaat-e-Islami Senator Mushtaq Ahmad Khan posted a tweet that he was relieved to hear about the ban. “Nothing un-Islamic can happen here [Pakistan],” Ahmad added.

Filmmaker Saim Sadiq’s Joyland received a letter from the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting days ahead of its release which blocks the film to see the light of day.

The devastated filmmaker instead of showing his frustration thanked the “written complaints” from people claiming it features “indecent and immoral” content and reminded that legally, “Joyland is still certified to release in Punjab and Sindh on November 18.”

He argued that the 18th amendment in the Pakistani constitution gives all provinces the autonomy to make their own decision. Yet the ministry suddenly caved under pressure from a few Islamist – and made a “mockery of our federal censor board by rendering their decision irrelevant,” he lamented.

Director of the film Sadiq told Al Jazeera TV network that he was dismayed at the government’s decision. He remarked that this sudden U-turn by the government is unconstitutional and illegal.

Pakistan’s parliament broke ground in 2018 by passing a law to provide legal recognition to transgender persons, some conservative hardliners have lately been campaigning to take those rights away from people.

The recent ban on Oscar contender Joyland after religious backlash is yet another example of Mullah’s intolerance and disrespect for freedom of expression and creative media.

As the visiting scholar and former ambassador, Prof Husain Haqqani says, the mullahs, military, militancy and mosque nexus have unlimited evil power in Pakistan.

Immediately after a copy of the ban notification crept into social media, celebrities have been up in arms, calling for an end to the ban and for the film to be released.

The outcry of support for the film flooded the social media space from mango people, including artists and civil society. Hashtags #ReleaseJoyland and #BanJoyland are trending in social media both in favour and against the film.

If Joyland fails to be screened in Pakistan, the nomination for Oscar Academy Award would be stopped at a roadblock.

In the starring roles in Joyland are Rasti Farooq (Mumtaz), Alina Khan (Biba), Sarwat Gilani (Nucchi), Salmaan Peerzada (Rana Amanullah), Sohail Sameer (Saleem), Sania Saeed (Fayyaz) and Ali Junejo (Haider). The screenplay was written jointly by Maggie Briggs and Saim Sadiq.

First published in The News Times, November 15, 2022

Saleem Samad, is an independent journalist, media rights defender, recipient of Ashoka Fellowship and Hellman-Hammett Award. He could be reached at <>; Twitter @saleemsamad