Start A War

Posted by sepoy on November 05, 2009 · 1 min read

I have a new piece up at The Review, Start A War. We expected something, something better than before. We expected something more.


xoxo | November 05, 2009

I just read your article.Great analysis.I have also read your piece in the Nation. Very well written and informative. I wish that people like you who are real experts write more on Pakistan than the multitude of experts on CNN, PBS and FOX opining on the issue. I look forward to more of your articles.

Asif | November 05, 2009

Very informative piece about History of Baluchistan and current scenario in Pakistan

Yes man | November 05, 2009

when you say the federal govt i think: Punjab with certain elements of sindh and kashmiri factions vs the rest of the provinces.

YS_1 | November 06, 2009

Waziristan was necessary as a counter-insurgency. I don't think the war will/should be extended into Balochistan. If the Waziristan militants are crushed then the counter-insurgency against Islamist types will be over. Then, in relation to the TTP types and their fellow travellers, the fight will switch to counter-terrorism. That doesn't/won't involve the army. That'll be intelligence/police. Look at how they killed out the Swat Taliban support base Operation Clean Up style over the last four months after securing Swat. I also think that the Centre/Provinces problem will get resolved over time as more election cycles are gone through. As an example look at the nineties, where the only antagonism province wise, was with a sub-section of a province, i.e, Karachi; and that too a festering sore left by the last military regime of Zia Ul Haq. If you haven't noticed, every military regime, after its end, leaves behind some part of the country in internal revolt and an army operation ensues, which results in either defeat for the forces, or some sort combination of killing killers and a subconsciously understood political negotiation with the surviving political (moderate?) faction. Ayub Khan/Yahya Khan: East Pakistan Zia-ul-Haq: Urban Sindh Pervez Musharraf: F.A.T.A and Gas producing Balochistan

YS_1 | November 06, 2009

I think the next "war" if you want to call it, will be extra-judicial killing by police/intelligence operatives in Punjab, NWFP, and reconquered South Waziristan. Here is 5 Rupees Blog quoting Owen Bennett Jones: The battle-lines between the Sunni sectarian groups and the government were now drawn and throughout 1999 there were thirty-six extra judicial killings of activists from the SSP [Sipah-e-Sahaba Pakistan] and Lashkar-e-Jhangvi. The police were told that anyone who managed to kill Basra [Riaz Basra, head of LeJ] would be given a 5 million-rupee reward. Lets not kid ourselves; if Pakistanis do this, well, its only be par for the Pakistani course. And it will end them the way it shaved down the militants of the MQM and the pre-9/11 Sipah-e-Sahaba.

Qalandar | November 06, 2009

Sepoy, this is an excellent piece. In particular, I can only commend the lucidity of the following excerpts: "What is clear, however, is that the army campaign ... forced some three million civilians to flee." Three. MILLION. I have previously (on CM) drawn the analogy with the Great Lakes crises, and this sort of figure simply makes that comparison a lot more plausible. And, not to downplay any group's suffering, but three million in a relatively (by sub-continental standards) sparsely populated area is an even larger number than it seems. & "The true crisis facing Pakistan is not the Taliban: it is the rupture between the federal state and its constituent parts, and Islamabad's refusal to accede to the legitimate needs and demands of its citizens in places like Swat and Baluchistan. It is a rupture, indeed, that is written into the very fabric of the state, and the reason why Bangladesh seceded from West Pakistan in 1971, after it was denied political legitimacy by the military regime and then brutalised by an oppressive army operation aimed at quashing any opposition." Aside: a quibble: did you write the byline or is that from The National?

YS_1 | November 06, 2009

About Sepoy's article; I am sorry, but I believe at a certain point war is called for. And when the TNSM broke the Nizam-e-Adl Regulation agreement back in April 2009; it was implicit that attacking them meant eventually going after South Waziristan. The broken treaty justified the use of full power against the militants in Swat, and their spiritual leaders in Waziristan. There are times when you need to forget the wonderful liberal ideas you are taught at school. I disagree with your pacifism in this case. And my sympathy is not exactly brimming for the Swati's who revolted for "Sharia" in 1994, 1998 and again in 2007. They were the ideological idiots who bought this down on the head of all the Pakistani militants. If the population suffered collectively; well now the TNSM men are turning up as corpses around the neighbouroods they use to terrorise. Success is not pretty; but unlike failure it leaves your lungs breathing.

omar ali | November 08, 2009

I just wrote this comment on and it has some tangential connection to this piece. (the comment was in response to the asia times story that the US is going to get out and is asking the Pak army to help them get a face saving deal with the taliban): Here is my theory of the day (why not?): The Pakistani army high command is about to make another one of their periodic strategic miscalculations. These miscalculations usually arise when senior generals feed psyops to pet journalists, then read them in the paper the next day and start getting excited and then meet over dinner to discuss the latest breaking news and cannot believe how EVERYTHING is proceeding as they predicted. The US may or may not be about to “cut and run”, but irrespective of that, the days of “pre-eminent Pakistani interests in afghanistan” are not coming back (though its clear that GHQ believes they are; Ejaz Haider had a piece about this in the latest Friday Times in which he manages to write the following sentence: let it be said that modalities aside they need to sit down and work out a joint strategy that underwrites and accepts Pakistan's pre-eminent role in Afghanistan and Islamabad's security concerns….). The news from Aabpara is that the ISI's brilliant strategy has been vindicated. The US is about to pull out (the next midterm elections are said to have a crucial role in all this) and needs the ISI to help them avoid a humiliating takeoff from the embassy roof. More money is on its way. India will be pressurised to compromise on Kashmir, money will flow into GHQ, China will “invest in mega projects”, good jihadis will blow up Indian railway stations and bad jihadis will die of small pox. all will be well. I am afraid I find the whole picture overly optimistic. I dont think Obama is leaving in 12 months. I dont think the US can make a deal with the good taliban even if it wants to. I dont think India is going to give up anything substantive. And I dont think the war against the bad taliban will end anytime soon. The army will continue to enjoy a pre-eminent position in Pakistani politics for a while and will keep getting paid by the US for various operations, but there is no pot of gold (vast mineral reserves, pipelines, Chinese bearing insanely expensive gifts) at the end of the rainbow. Its going to be more of the same….

AIG | November 09, 2009

Let us applaud the resiliency of the British colonial apparatus. Big bureaucracy and big military has kept Pakistan alive over the past half century. The "playbook" is effective

omar ali | November 09, 2009

But the karma of the soldier sahibs is not infinite. At some point, we have to rebuild the decaying structure.....

YS_1 | November 10, 2009

we have to rebuild the decaying structure An apt statement. How are our neighbours to the East maintaining their structure?

Qalandar | November 10, 2009

Re: "Big bureaucracy and big military has kept Pakistan alive over the past half century. The “playbook” is effective..." Something has certainly been kept alive; but the question is what has been kept alive, who is it benefiting, and if the it's all been worth it? (The questions are not Pakistan-specific, one might pose them in a number of different contexts). It's a bit circular to say that the "big bureaucracy and big military" structure that seems to exist primarily to benefit a status quo where "big bureaucracy and big military" are two pillars, is some kind of achievement -- a bit like saying that Dev Anand's continuing achievement is to produce and direct films he stars in.

omar ali | November 10, 2009

Stop picking on Dev Anand. Obviously, GHQ has helped GHQ stay in power. But GHQ is not the karma of the Raj, its a mutation (the British Indian army was remarkably non-political). What I meant by karma of the raj was the whole apparatus of thanedars and AC and DC and whatnot that actually runs the country (to whatever extent its run by anyone). GHQ actually uses the same apparatus (and constantly undermines and abuses it, one reason its gotten weaker with time). Contrary to what some foreign observers seem to believe, the army is NOT the most effective institution in the country. in fact, it is remarkably clueless about the details of administration. It USES the decaying remains of British Raj to rule the country. The army took over WAPDA (the electricity monopoly) and made a hash of it. They set up their own airline and made a hash of it. They get appointed to various high positions (and make a hash of it more often than not) but the nuts and bolts are still the remnants of the Raj...