Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Lal Masjid: The Stages of Escalation

I see three stages of escalation in the fight between the Pakistan Army and the Islamists. I have listed them below:

Stage 1: The Army's excesses against the Mullahs are met by targetted assasinations of Army officials (in and out of uniform). This amounts to effectively declaring the Army men as kafirs. The Islamists will also conduct a highly focussed assasination campaign against those specific groups within the Army that conduct "anti-jihadi" operations. At this point, the men of "Musharraf's Army" will be at war with the Islamists.

Stage 2: "Musharraf's Army" will respond to such assasinations by using their seniority in the ranks to order the rest of the army to conduct high intensity attacks on islamist sympathisers. The deliberate slaughter of women and children through artillery and heavy calibre weapons by the Pakistani Army will break the unwritten rule of combat in the Indian Subcontinent - "family members are not to be targetted". The Islamist response will be to target family members of Pakistani Army officials. At this point the Pakistan Army as an institution will be at war with the Jihadi groups as not will the Jihadis have declared the Army men as kafirs, they will have declared the relatives of the Armymen as war booty.

Stage 3: The Pakistan Army will bring the entire force of its organisation against the Islamists. The Islamist organisation built for assymetric warfare will take the hit and buckle - but it will not break. Frustrated Pakistan Army units will unleash a reign of terror where they will walk the streets of Pakistan killing anyone they don't like. In a bid to undermine the Pakistan Army's enthusiasm for bloodshed, the Islamists will attempt to loosen the Pakistan Army's grip on nuclear weapons. Quite rightly, the Islamists will assume that whoever controls the bomb in Pakistan will call the shots.

I feel we are currently between stage 1 and 2.

If the reports from NWFP and FATA are anything to go by, the US and the Pakistanis have joined hands in launching artillery barrages on villages suspected of supporting the Islamists. This indicates the onset of stage 2.

I do not see any controls in place inside Pakistan to prevent the slide into stage 3.

Monday, September 17, 2007

ORF Pakistan Update: New Generals on the Block

ORF's Wilson John has a new article on likely contenders for COAS.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Lal Masjid: The Tarbela Ghazi Incident.

As you have heard from Sri. Raman , the Zarrar Company officers were murdered in their own mess at Tarbela Ghazi by a fellow SSG officer.

The Zarrar company and the SOTF are Musharraf's problem solving force.

The Tarbela Ghazi complex is one of the SSG's largest training facilities. It has traditionally been home to a number of conflict resolution and political stabilisation forces. In the late 90s when sectarian violence in Karachi boiled over, snipers trained at the Tarbela complex were seeded into Karachi and they killed a number of sectarian terrorists and brought the situation under control. Their actions created the incentives needed to bring ISI engineered armed groups back to the negotiating table.

The murder of 19 SSG officers will ensure that the Zarrar company is largely leaderless. Also the fact that they were killed in a suicide attack by one of their own officers means that the fallen officer simply cannot be replaced and the Zarrar company can no longer be effective in conflict resolution.

In a phone conversation with friends, I had mentioned that a revolt was brewing within the SSG.
In the incident at Tarbela Ghazi we are seeing the first deadly spark of this revolt.

Yes, this is only the beginning.

Thursday, September 06, 2007

Atomic Energy: Health Safety and Environmental Security

There is a suggestion doing rounds that if this nuclear deal actually goes through, India could emerge as a major centre for nuclear material and technology production. A vision that is being paraded around is that of India playing the same role in nuclear trade that South Korea plays in the semiconductor trade. This is a pleasing vision, certainly one that is in line with the energy self-reliance goals set by generations of nationalist thinkers.

There is however a few key issues that must in my opinion recieve greater scrutiny.

Firstly, handling of nuclear materials, especially nuclear fuels poses a significant health risk to personnel at site. Currently the DAE has certain protocols that have evolved to deal with exposure of its workers. However, it is important to note that given the DAE's program was quite small. It is unclear if such procedures will necessarily be stable if there are hundreds of reactors at work. The problems facing us at this end are compounded by the fact that a number of the breeder reactors will require the development and handling of highly radioactive and chemically hazardous fuels and materials. This means that a safety regime that is currently working at the DAE will have to be heavily evolved to keep the workforce safe. Additionally, the AERB, DAE's surveillance arm will have be considerably beefed up if it is to be effective in managing hundreds of reactors, especially ones that may be run by private operators.

Secondly, the DAE has successfully managed waste from its programs. However due to the limited size of the program, this has been a relatively easy affair (relative that is ... to actually developing the technology). Most of the waste management technology is small scale, and it will require scaling up if long-term environmental costs are to be minimised. The DAE has shown considerable foresight by choosing a fuel cycle that greatly reduces the number of long-lived by-products, but storing the intermediaries and any highly radioactive substances produced in the fuel cycle requires a considerable expansion in the current waste management infrastructure.

A related goal in both contexts is surveillance over likely breaches in the health safety regime or detection of illegal dumping of wastes. Presently, due to the small size of the DAE's operations, maintaining such surveillance has been easy. Also as the DAE is a monolith and directly responsible to the PMO, people who break the law can be disciplined very strictly using laws related to the preservation of national security. Such a harsh regime internally has ensured a very strong deterrent to unsafe practices with hazardous materials. Any private companies that will participate in the generation of nuclear power, will not be bound by the DAE's harsh internal laws. In order to ensure that any private players entering the nuclear technology and power market in India play by the same high standards that the DAE has set - a series of extremely harsh laws will have to be put in place to deal with potential offenders. A relatively simple measure that could at least in theory ward off unsavory actors (and possibly prevent a repeat of the Bhopal tragedy) would be the requirement that the private party place a sizable "safety deposit" in the care of the RBI for "unanticipated environmental and safety costs". The size of the deposit could be adjusted to match the operators projected needs and quite possibly such deposits could in principle be matched by government contributions to create a super-fund to deal with environmental and health safety issues.

It is a known fact that radiation can cause cancer. As things stand today, over 80% of all cancer related research in India, is funded by the DAE. Also the DAE manages and funds almost 100% of radiation based cancer treatment activity in India. The DAE is directly responsible for the development of all radiation dosimetry technology currently in use in India. It is very much in the DAE's interest to do this as these issues affect its highly trained workforce. The attitude at the DAE on these issues has always reflected the sense of maturity originally conveyed in Dr. Bhabha's holistic vision of a nuclear India. In the nuclear powered future of India, cancer related surveillance and treatment options will have to expand to keep with the rise in the cumulative dose to radiation workers. In order to ensure that treatment options use resources efficiently, a larger regime of cancer related R&D will have be created. Come to think of it, I do not think that manufacturers of other products that cause cancer - like cigarettes or bidis - do anywhere near as much to cure it! Its time these guys pitch in some money and work with the DAE to create a safer and healthier future for India. I think India's pharma sector will certainly want to be a part of this too, so there is serious potential for economic growth here.

While all this pastes a somewhat cautiously optimistic picture, I note with considerable sadness however that a majority of environmental groups in India are ... well... what I politely call "provocations". Their sole purpose appears to be to generate bad-press about the DAE (India in general). Their hostile intentions are as plain as their sources of funding. Clearly they do not care about the health and safety of Indian people. In support of this argument, I point out to you the way in which the narmada andolan was deliberately hijacked and twisted to become a pulpit for some people. Every effort was made by so called environmental groups to frustrate a negotiated settlement between the Gujurat Government and various tribal groups. The NBA activists were happier to see the tribals get screwed by the dam, and they seemed to get off on the fact that the tribals were suicidally depressed. Rather then help the tribals negotiate a reasonable settlement with the government of Gujurat, the NBA chose to oppose the dam itself and then attempted to create a tribal army that if need be would carry out an armed struggle against the "Hindu Right Wing Facist Modi" government. This is the mockery that passes for environmental activism in India. It is time to get some new blood in there - people that actually care about India - not just about a blank check from from some foreign power. The GoI has carefully slanted the educational syllabus (through organisations like the NCERT) to increase awareness of environmental and health related issues. This initiative needs to be met by aware people taking to an informed sense of environmental activism at the private level. It is time that some more nationally responsible evironmental groups took centre stage in the struggle to protect India's interests.

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Lal Masjid: Bomb attacks in Rawalpindi

It appears that ISI and Signals Intelligence personnel have been targetted in suicide bombings.

A bus carrying ISI personnel was targetted in a suicide attack and then almost simultaneously, another suicide attack was carried out on Army personnel in the Royal Artillery Bazaar area. This area is home among other things to a signal intelligence center. It is unclear if any Signals intelligence personnel were killed in the RA Bazaar blast.

I suspect that someone is targetting Musharraf loyalists in the intelligence agency, sure with a bomb it is difficult to ensure that only loyalists are killed but then... people who do things like this seldom worry about collateral damage. Another way of looking at it is, the Jihadis just blow them, Musharraf automatically does the job of filling the next bus with loyalists - ultimately anyone who rides a bus to work in the ISI is a loyalist. The old Vietnam adage... if it runs.. its VC.. and that includes those buffaloes.

Collateral damage is not without its value for the Islamists, even when the average Pakistan army fellow or his dimunitive colleague in the administrative services dies, the result is the same - it tells everyone that even Rawalpindi, the home of the Great and Good GHQ is not safe and the Islamists can kill anyone - anywhere at will.

This systematically robs the Pakistan Army of the only right it has left - the right to kill people at a time and place of its own choosing. Remember the Pakistan Army has no moral authority left - Musharraf sacrificed that when he killed Maulana Abdul Rasheed Ghazi.

The Rawalpindi attacks occuring as they are - on the footsteps of GHQ - deprive the Pakistani Army of the apparently exclusive right to commit murder on Pakistani soil.

I have no doubt that the attack itself was carried out by Jihadis eager to avenge the Pakistan Army's innumerable insults to Islam, but the very fact that such an attack should should succeed points to the involvement of people inside the Pakistani intelligence community itself. At the very least someone ensured that the attempt itself would remain invisible to the very people tasked with seeing something like this coming.

My dear readers, I feel we are seeing the beginnings of a fairly serious bout of infighting in the Pakistani intelligence community. I suspect that a number of these feuds have been brewing for a while now, and Musharraf has been able to paper over differences here or even leverage them and continue smooth functioning. However with the slow and deliberate erosion of his power - the factions are going at each others' throat and the result is the precipitous decline in public security we are now seeing in Rawalpindi.

I note with some interest how Western newspapers are rushing to cover the event. One could infer so many things from that.

Sunday, September 02, 2007

Lal Masjid: The British begin to distance themselves from Musharraf

The negotiations with Benazir are stalled yet again. The British are slowly learning their irrelevance to events in Pakistan. The pretence of being relevant is becoming ever harder. So out of spite, the British have stuck at General Musharraf. In an article in the Times British anger pokes out:

Britain had privately been pressing America to tell Musharraf it had to stop. In October 2003 MI6 uncovered Pakistani nuclear material on a boat heading for Libya. But the consensus in Washington was that saving Pakistan’s vulnerable (and valuable) president mattered more than prosecuting the guilty. A senior British Foreign Office source explained: “He would come up with his own framework for survival and we would help him get through it, as long as the dirty deals were wound up. It was a compromise struck in the world of realpolitik.”

All sorts of allegations are leveled against President Musharraf himself and against those close to him.

The truth was that Musharraf had been reducing Khan’s role in the nuclear enterprise and had pushed him into official retirement. The nuclear programme and trading were – and are – completely under the military government’s control. And proliferation did not stop.

And then we have these allegations

General Khalid Mahmud Arif, formerly in charge of the nuclear programme and still an influen-tial figure in military circles, said: “Once we skulked around. Now we have a new generation of men and the technology. We have labs and the industry to rival the West.”
He said Pakistan was producing super-strength maraging (low carbon) steel which is primarily used for making centrifuges with which Pakistan enriched uranium to weapons grade. It was also making high-frequency inverters which regulate power to the centrifuges.
“They used to come from the UK and now we are selling them ourselves,” he said. “Maraging steel too – once we struggled but now, finally, we are manufacturing it at the People’s Steel Mill and exporting it. It is better than you can get outside.”

And then there are these wonderful lines

Musharraf has consistently hidden bad news from his American backers. Two particularly worrying incidents were recently disclosed by sources close to those involved. In 2001, Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), Pakistan’s powerful intelligence agency, had proof that Osama Bin Laden had received in person two retired Pakistani nuclear scientists at his secret HQ in Afghanistan. Both had become Islamist radicals in retirement. According to the son of one of them, Bin Laden told them he had succeeded in acquiring highly enriched uranium from the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan and he wanted their help to turn it into a bomb. Amazed, they explained that while they could help with the science of fissile materials, they were not weapons designers. Soon afterwards, a secret army audit discovered evidence that 40 canisters of highly enriched uranium (HEU), the feedstuff for a nuclear bomb, were missing from the Kahuta enrichment labs outside Islamabad after A Q Khan retired. Dr Muhammad Shafiq ur-Rehman, an insider who is the son of one of Khan’s former key aides, revealed: “They could only account for 80 out of a supposed 120 canisters.” The ISI reasoned that some of the drums had probably gone to North Korea, and some to Iran and probably Libya, according to a former ISI officer. Enough highly enriched uranium remained at large to fuel 1,000 dirty bombs or a sizable nuclear device. All it would take for a doomsday scenario is 100lb of HEU – a mass the size of a sugar bag as the material is heavier than lead – to get into the hands of terrorists with the right expertise. Split into two loads to prevent accidental fission, it could be machined into semi-spheres, loaded into a cannon-style device, and driven in the back of a van to a western target.

This is the first time - deliberate incompetence by Musharraf - is being linked to a WMD attack on "Western" soil. This is a complete shift from the traditional propaganda line, which stated that Musharraf was the only thing that is standing between the West and a Jihadi nuclear bomb.

This is the first time Musharraf is being accused publicly by a reputable western newspaper of being duplicitous on the issues of Jihadi WMD access.

I watch with some amusement as the number of americans visiting Gen. Haq grows with each passing day... but at what point will we see a similar admission of irrelevance from the Americans.