Red, White and Black


On Mistakes
30 August, 2007, 12:14 pm
Filed under: Pakistan, Politics

After another hiatus, I am back to (hopefully) regular blogging and the following series of news items demand some attention.

On August 26, the coalition forces in Afghanistan shelled areas in Pakistan from across the border which left 19 militants dead [#]. I will not contest the question of the reliability of the intelligence, i.e. whether those killed were really militants or not. Instead let me focus on the glaring legal and political issues.

For one, consider this statement right after the attacks were carried out:

The US-led coalition said it received permission from Pakistan to attack across the border on Saturday, but this was denied by the chief military spokesman in Islamabad.

then this, which was released on August 27:

“Everything that we try and do, that our military tries to do there, is done with an effort at close coordination not only with the Afghan government but also with, as appropriate, the government of Pakistan,” Mr Casey said.

and finally this, released on August 28:

A statement issued by the spokesman’s office of the Combined Joint Task Force in Afghanistan on Tuesday said: “It was released earlier that the Pakistan military had granted permission to Afghanistan and coalition forces to engage insurgent mortar positions along the Afghanistan-Pakistan border on Saturday, three of which were reported to be located in Pakistan. Upon further investigation by coalition officials it was discovered that permission was not given by Pakistan and there were no insurgent positions.

So that’s it? It was a mistake? A miscommunication? Now, lets see how many times have we had this sort of mistake happen? At least 3 times, excluding this one, over the past 6-7 months.

This would imply two things:

  1. Either, two of the strongest partners in the coalition are NOT talking to each other – honestly and bluntly.
  2. Or the US does not care an iota about the problems of its strongest backer or the consequences such actions have on his regime and in his country.

Neither one of these is a happy scenario. The underlying problem is this: incidents of this sort just multiply enemies for both the parties. So we have events of this sort taking place:

Taliban militants have released a video of an apparently teenage boy beheading one of 16 paramilitary soldiers kidnapped in South Waziristan.

The 35-minute video, a copy of which was obtained by AFP, entitled “Revenge” first shows the 16 soldiers, all of them in uniform.

Four teenage boys with Kalashnikov assault rifles, daggers and headbands with jihadi slogans are then shown along with one of the soldiers kneeling in front of them.

One boy cuts off the soldier’s head using a knife and holds it up for the camera. The soldier’s body was recovered on August 14 from a nearby town.

The video shows the victim saying just before his death that “security forces should not fight against the Taliban”.

Mind you, four years ago this soldier would not have been beheaded in this brutal way. The soldier came into this particular aread to help fight the US (and yes, Pakistan’s own war too) and this is the reward that he is getting? You might argue that the two incidents are not related. But they are! Its a vicious circle of violence… you kill our people, we will avenge that and kill yours. And what is worse, you are allowing foreigners to come and kill our people. That is how the militant logic in these areas work. So on the one hand, you have the Pakistani government trying to establish its writ in the area and on the other hand, the staunchest ally is trying its damnest to spoil those attempts. This will not work if the “war on terror” is to be won. For the simple logic: it multiplies your enemies and antagonises your ally.

I also have a bone to pick with the Pakistani government over incidents of this sort. Why the mute submissive lifeless reactions to such incidents?! Do we take the question of our sovereignty so lightly? How about a categorical warning that the next time a “mistake”of this sort takes place we shall withdraw from the coalition?! At least, then we will be able to put our own house in order and not worry about the collateral damage senseless US attacks leave us with.

Incidents of this sort are getting too frequent and the quicker the government decides to do something serious about it, the better it would be – else more soldiers will be beheaded by young kids.

Such is the tragedy of war.

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5 Comments so far
Leave a comment

Welcome back!

Comment by BD

Glad to see you back.
A very unfortunate state of affairs, indeed.

“Such is the tragedy of war” in the light of this statement are you suggesting that Pakistan is at war?
Violence has escalated in all parts of the world, and I just read at least two other posts about violence (eshuneutics and Shirazi); no doubt there is a pattern here. The world is on the defensive and is forever ready to hit out. Just this morning I read about the escalation of violent crimes in Turkey and behold, the weapons used there were the ones provided to the new Iraqi army by the Americans! Doesn’t this sound familiar…Soviet occupation of Afghanistan that the USA tried to end!

Comment by I Me My

Thank you I Me My and BD. It’s good to be back and hopefully I would be somewhat regular now.

Regarding your question: I have been wondering about it – is Pakistan at war with itself?

We are definitely fighting in the North-West of the country against Taliban and local militants – so in that sense yes, Pakistan is at war. Also, I think over the past year or two – the society has started to struggle more publicly for its identity. The Lal Masjid incident comes to mind and I refuse to see it as an isolated incident which pertains to a certain group of Islamists – to me it is a reflection of the internal conflict present in contemporary Pakistani society. So while it is a scary (and pessimistic) thought but I believe that Pakistan is war with itself too for its identity and future.

Comment by ayesha

On Lal Masjid…here’s a poem I composed during the standoff that you would appreciate:
Lal Masjid Appeals!

Will you raze me to the ground?

Send shrapnel through my body

in which you reverence found.

Will you taint my sacred soul

gushing rivers of brethren blood

to let insanity take its toll?

Where does that heart reside

That once flowed fulsome faith?

What prompts those tongues

to desecrate a divine domain?

Who so historically myopic

to not let past prevent?

When will you learn

It’s not me you destroy or defend;

It’s but your humanity within

That seeks but self credence.

Comment by iditis

The conditions of the affairs is sad indeed ! At one side our soldiers are killed and our borders bombed and at the other , NY post and Washington post keep cursing Pakistan for being lazy in it’s efforts against terrorism . Such is the hypocricy of the west !!
Let’s hope out gov. shows some bits of sanity and takes some action , at least for it’s own soldiers’ safety’s sake , if not for the country’s interests’.

Comment by salmanlatif




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