Wednesday, June 24, 2009



"The Obama Administration's policy of showering Pakistan with money and arms and ammunition even in the absence of proof of sincerity and conviction and even in the absence of progress on the ground is once again creating a worrisome impression in the Pakistani leaders that to continue to benefit from US support and largesse all they have to do is to create an illusion of motion without actual movement.That is what they are doing. That is what Pervez Musharraf did when he was the President. The two Waziristans came under the effective control of Al Qaeda, the Taliban and their associates and the Neo Taliban of Afghanistan, operating from sanctuaries in Balochistan, staged its spectacular come-back in Afghanistan when he was the President and was the beneficiary of billions of dollars given by the Bush Administration. What promises he made to the Bush Administration to reform and modernise the madrasas and prevent their misuse for jihad! How much money he took from the US for madrasa reforms! What happened to those reforms? That is exactly what Zardari, Gilani and Kayani are doing now. Creating an illusion of motion without actual movement, while extracting billions of dollars from the US. The Pakistani leadership---political and military--- has developed into a fine art the extraction of money from the US by exploiting the presence of Al Qaeda and the Taliban in their territory. If the Taliban ultimately succeeds in further strengthening and expanding its control in Pakistan, the US will have to share a major portion of the responsibility for failing to make Pakistan act effectively instead of merely seeming to do so. "

2. So I wrote in my article of May 22,2009, titled "Pak Army's Taliban Hunt: Seeming Motion Without Movement" available at

3. Responsible people in Pakistan have started doubting the claims of the Pakistan Army about the progress being made by it in its operations against the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP). Even its claims of having killed over 1500 members of the Pakistani Taliban in the Swat Valley of the North-West Frontier Province are now being doubted because the Pakistan Army has not produced any evidence in support of its claims. Had the Army really killed so many members of the Taliban, there should have been mass graves in that area. The Army has not been able to produce the dead bodies of those killed---nor has it been able to indicate where the hundreds of dead bodies of the killed Taliban were buried.Not one of the important leaders has been killed or captured.

4. For the first time, a responsible member of Pakistan's strategic analysts community----- Zafar Hilaly, a retired officer of the Pakistan Foreign Service--- has reflected in an article published by the "News" of June 24,2009, the nagging skepticism about the reliability of the claims of the Army. A copy of his article is annexed. (24-6-09)
( The writer is Additional Secretary (retd), Cabinet Secretariat, Govt. of India, New Delhi, and, presently, Director, Institute For TopicalStudies, Chennai. E-mail: )



Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Zafar Hilaly

The army is fast acquiring a credibility problem with its claims of dead, injured and captured Taliban. At first there were mere mutterings,sotto voce suspicions, that not all is as claimed. These doubts are increasing; the chorus of suspicion is more voluble and before they acquire the dimensions of a scream the Army had better attend to it.

The pleasant and able and composed DG, ISPR in fact alluded to these suspicions on June 22 when he said that the army had not wanted to show pictures of the dead lest the public become upset but, presumably, in response to public demand, he showed 54 pictures of dead Taliban. All of whom appeared very much as one would expect those killed in battle. I doubt if anyone was upset by those images. Actually,for Pakistanis fed on a rich diet of Taliban videos showing gory executions of soldiers, with the sound on, they were rather tame. In fact most watching probably relished seeing their tormentors dead.

Noticeably, there were no photos of injured Taliban and only a desultory few of those claimed to have been captured have ever been shown on TV. In contrast the Taliban paraded their victims, allowed interviews and generally made a great show about their capture and their own prowess. Of course, it was done with the aim of terrorising the populace just as for the army to show their captives in all poses would hopefully also terrorise the enemy.

Some Taliban practices may be worth adopting because photos of a mere 54 dead while claiming that the actual number is 2000 do not wash. Especially as not a single one of the first tier leaders has been killed, wounded or captured and rumours are circulating that the Taliban leadership have been evacuated away from the danger zone, along with Al Qaeda leaders to Yemen, Somalia and Afghanistan and would return in due course.

Pakistanis are a suspicious lot when it comes to evaluating official claims, perhaps because they tend to deceive even when it is easier to tell the truth; or because they have learnt from experience that "official speak" is invariably wrong or comes with a spin; or because the claims are so fatuous as to defy credulity. For example, after every air strike the number of dead militants ranges from six to 14 militants,seldom more. All of them are supposed to be insurgents, rarely civilians, presumably because, unlike the Americans, we have very discriminating "Taliban seeking" missiles. Considering the difficult terrain and the risk to be incurred by the usually "reliable" sources reaching the site of the bombing it is remarkable how quickly the numbers of dead and injured are counted, processed and reported in the press the next day. Whoever does such an efficient job should be asked to lead our flaying attempts to cope with the IDPs problem.

It was also revealing that the BBC correspondent who was taken on a tour of the battle zone, he termed it "bandit country," said that while he was shown a half dozen or so of "captured Taliban" he saw none of the 2000 dead nor any graves or other signs of death. Instead BBC viewers last night got to see what the Taliban had allowed him to film which was the hanging corpse of a beheaded soldier and another who had been killed, with boastful Taliban standing nearby. Clearly there is something wrong with the optics of this war as far as Pakistan isconcerned.

Of much greater concern was a news report carried in Dawn of 23 June entitled "Efforts on for patch- up between Darra Taliban, Adezai lashkar," which states that "Some "invisible" forces( normally a euphemism for we know who) are out to narrow the differences and broker an understanding between the Darra Adam Khel-based Taliban and leaders of the Qaumi Lashkar of Adezai on the outskirts of the provincial capital – the Taliban conditions included that their men would freely move in parts of Peshawar and would take action against those found involved in 'un-Islamic' activities and the Lashkar would not object to their actions. Secondly, the Taliban want the lashkar not to create hurdles while they recruit new members. Another condition of the Taliban is that the lashkar will not support security forces in case of any clash between the Taliban and law enforcing agencies."

Apparently two rounds of negotiations have already been held and members of the "Tableeghii Jamaat were active to broker an understanding between the two sides". When the local police chief was asked about these negotiations he denied all knowledge of them.Both are probably telling the truth. The left hand in Pakistan often does not know what the right hand is doing. Or the left side of the mouth,in the case of the Interior Minister, who claimed that Fazlullah had been "trapped," does not have a clue what the right side, which denied he had made any such statement, is saying.

Such reports, if true, damage the sincerity of the army's efforts and rob its actions and claims of credibility. It is difficult to believe that even while the army is engaged in fighting and dying in Swat another arm of government is negotiating deals with the same blood thirsty foe of murderers, kidnappers and drug peddlars. The report further negates the claim of the Tableeghi Jamaat that it is a purely religious organisation rather than one with a political agenda, as many have long suspected. (I recall being summoned to the Yemeni Foreign Office in 1988 and being asked why the Tableeqi Jamaat chose Yemen to spread the word of Islam. In the words of the Yemeni official: "Excellency,this is our religion, we gave it to you, please don't try and teach us the proper Islam. Ask them to go somewhere else. Or do they have some other agenda.")

Mr Zardari has written a column in the Washington Post emphasising that democracy and democracy alone is the panacea for Pakistan's problems. Unfortunately many of his countrymen are not so certain. Pakistanis are as sceptical about democracy as they are about dictatorship. Both have failed to deliver. Both speak with forked tongues. Similarly, Mr Zardari has claimed that he will fight terrorism to the bitter end. "Fight" should be the operative word and not "negotiate" deals of the sort being hustled in Peshawar.
The writer is a former ambassador. Email: