Stories about Army

I want to be a sipahi

To enjoy power is human. Political leaders enjoy power while fooling the public enough to get them to vote for them; a cleric enjoys this power while issuing fatwas; a jirga-head enjoys this power while awarding punishment to a criminal according to his law; a police inspector enjoys this power as he orders riot police to engage protesters; a teenager enjoys this power while driving his car at 160 kilometres per hour while a poor labourer enjoys this power as he beats his wife. As a researcher I conduct field surveys across Pakistan and recommend policies to decision makers for better development outcomes. ...

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When desperation knocks

Delivering flood relief is half the job. The other half should be the restoration of human dignity. Flood victims look hopefully at each relief truck that passes by willing to run for miles until it stops. The people have genuine grievances too. They want to know when they will find their 7-year-old child who went missing 3 weeks ago. They want to know why their NIC reads that they have been born 5 years ago due to a typing error and thus are deprived from  getting rations in lines that demand to see identification. They want to have clean ...

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All Kayani’s men: Who is the real enemy?

Pakistan was born in horrendous bloodshed between Hindus, Sikhs and Muslims; and within two months of its birth, fighting had broken out with India over the fate of the Muslim-majority state of Kashmir. This fighting has continued on and off ever since. Two out of Pakistan’s three wars with India have been fought over Kashmir, as have several smaller campaigns. These include the bitter, 25-year-long struggle for the Siachen Glacier (possibly the most strategically pointless fight in the entire history of human conflict) initiated by India in 1984. The vast majority of Pakistani soldiers have served in Kashmir at ...

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Will the political elite please stand up?

While the world’s rich dole out money to help Pakistan’s flood victims, our own rich political elite have refuse to budge. By now we should have seen members of the ruling elite buying tents, building shelters and providing gallons of clean drinking water to the homeless millions. But in every flooded district of the country, all you will find are Pakistani civilians and military volunteers – not politicians. This is a lesson for the Pakistani nation. Compare the generous response to a nation wide campaign in Saudi Arabia to raise funds for the victims of floods to the reaction of the Pakistani elite: What ...

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All Kayani’s men: The faith to fight

Of course, the Army has always gone into battle with the cry of Allahu Akbar (God is Great) – just as the old German army carried Gott mit Uns (God with Us) on its helmets and standards; but according to a moderate Islamist officer, Colonel (retd) Abdul Qayyum, You shouldn’t use bits of Islam to raise military discipline, morale and so on. I’m sorry to say that this is the way it has always been used in the Pakistani army. It is our equivalent of rum – the generals use it to get their men to launch suicidal attacks. But ...

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Dollars for death: Should the US compensate civilian deaths?

Sometime ago reports were published in the Washington Post and The New York Times, and even in the Pakistani media, which said that CIA is using new, smaller missiles and advanced surveillance techniques to minimise civilian casualties in its targeted killings of suspected insurgents in Pakistan’s tribal areas. According to reports, US officials do acknowledge a number of civilian casualties caused by the CIA’s drone strikes. Although there is persistent debate on the exact number of such casualties, one thing is indisputable – the militants targeted by drones are said to be “suspected.” How does one define a “suspected” militant? According to me a ...

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No ‘good’ or ‘bad’ Taliban

Militancy has not only changed the lives of countless people in territories east of the Durand Line, but also made several drone and suicide attacks, Taliban and Blackwater, household terms across the country. The Pakistani version of Taliban has also gone under a metamorphosis. What started as local Taliban or neo Taliban were then called fasadis and now terrorists. Following the US’s mulling over withdrawal from Afghanistan, they came to be classified into good and bad. The ‘good’ Taliban in Afghanistan are those ready to enter into talks with the US-led coalition and those who do not attacks Pakistani targets. Also, ...

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Child soldiers and the rehab challenge

Pakistan is a land of very diversified and emotional people, whose emotionalism ranges at high levels in all directions. Whether it is a cricket match or an invasion on a Muslim land, our emotions have acted as our guides rather than our intellect. This is what the Taliban exploit to gather public attention. They manipulate ‘religious emotions’ and create a spin in the public. It does not end here. One of the horrific practices the Taliban have adopted is to manipulate children from the age group of 14 – 20. They are trained to be suicide bombers. It is ...

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Punjabi Taliban: I pretend, therefore they don’t exist

It may seem an outlandish tale today when I say that just a few years ago we lived in a Pakistan that afforded the existence of many militant organizations. Some of them were of a more generic outfit, customized and tailored by the Pakistan Army to fight a proxy war, a policy which was revealed to be flawed only few decades later. Yet others had more specific agendas, sponsored and aided and often accepted within the mainstream polity. These included those who would hunt down and kill anyone of a different faction at will. I said that today it seems like an ...

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