First, everyone, a round of applause for Nawaz Sharif for saying so clearly, and so courageously, that India and Pakistan should withdraw their armies from Siachen in what is the most perilous, futile, and yes, stupidest stand-off in the whole wide world. As he said, one in which the battle was principally against the unbelievably harsh weather; the penetrating, unbearable, biting, killing cold; and such high altitudes at which even breathing is tortuous.
Predictably, the Ghairat Brigades have jumped right down his throat just as they did when he advocated peace and amity between Pakistan and India at the South Asian Free Media Association’s (SAFMA) convention in Lahore in August last year. I might add that, because it talks sense, SAFMA is the pet hate of the ‘Ghairat’ Brigade’s (aka the Deep State) propagandists, its guiding lights such as Zaid ‘Ghazwa-i-Hind’ Hamid asking for its members to be lynched by the judiciary, no less. I ask you.
Let us accept that it is a cruel State, and one without an ounce of human feeling, that would expose its fine young men to the kind of trials that India and Pakistan have exposed theirs to for 20 years now. And this despite the deleterious effect seen on many of those soldiers who were lucky enough to get out of that horrible experience alive. From toes and feet and fingers and hands lost to frostbite, to psychological problems that disrupt their professional and family lives, veterans live the never-ending nightmare of Siachen day in and day out.
It is a criminally irresponsible State that would spend the kind of monies needed for equipping and maintaining thousands of soldiers in the environment found at the glacier instead of using the funds for the uplift of their teeming poor. It is estimated that India spends one million a day for its adventure in Siachen, and while actual figures for Pakistan are not available they could not be far behind India’s.
However these are matters that can be put right by, say, withdrawing from Siachen. What we haven’t even discussed yet is the damage to the environment that human beings and their detritus can do to the area which is the main source of water, critical principally to Pakistan. This damage is more long-lasting and was also referred to by Mr Sharif when he advocated withdrawal. Well, much kudos to him with the fervent prayer that the governments of India and Pakistan have the good sense to immediately open talks on all outstanding issues, Siachen particularly.
However, while we do know that there are hidebound bureaucrats and baboos, both civilian and military on both sides who will pull objections to any talks of peace out of their hats, it is time that the elected governments take the initiative and do the right thing. I might add that whilst many might think that COAS Kayani’s call for an understanding on Siachen is over-stepping his authority, I personally welcome what he said. Is this a sign that the army brass is also now thinking with an open mind? I sincerely hope so.
And now a little on my recent article in this paper on the army’s proposed FM 96 (‘Monkey business’ April 18, 2011). Of 52 comments, 33 are supportive of my stand, 15 against, and 4 neither here nor there. Some of the 15 against read just like the usual defence of the Deep State with details that would not be available to lay readers, and obviously contrived bad spellings to make one believe that they are genuine. How many times must one say to these propagandists: ‘Been there done that’?!
Anyway, for those who want to equate FM 96 with the American forces radio let me quote from the website of the American Forces Radio and Television Service:
(Quote): Purpose/Mission: AFRTS is the American Forces Radio and Television Service, also known as the Armed Forces Radio and Television Service. It is part of the Department of Defense, and is headquartered at Fort George Meade Maryland. The AFRTS mission is to communicate Department of Defense policies, priorities, programs, goals and initiatives. AFRTS provides stateside radio and television programming, “a touch of home,” to US service men and women, DoD civilians, and their families serving outside the continental United States.
Vision: The AFRTS vision is to provide multi-channel broadcast quality radio and television services and expanded internal information products to all DoD members and their families stationed overseas, on contingency operations, and onboard Navy ships around the world.
Heritage: Since 1942, when the War Department formally created the Armed Forces Radio Service, thousands of people in the US entertainment industry and the Department of Defense have been associated with AFRTS. They represent the “AFRTS family”…all sharing a relentless dedication to support the morale of US troops overseas. Their legacy is honoured and remembered here.
Wherever our service women and men and their families have been stationed overseas over the years, AFRTS has been there to ease their burden and, if only for a brief moment, bring them home. (Unquote).
Now what is not clear or ambiguous in the Purpose/Mission and Vision of the AFRTS? As is stated clearly, this service is principally meant for US troops and DoD personnel posted abroad! It does not have any news content save what is produced by other stateside media and which is re-run on AFRTS channels. There are no editorial rights, no politics.
I have myself been an aficionado of the AFRTS radio service when I was in Japan in the late 70s, which broadcast only music and news to do directly with service personnel. How I recall the disc jockey Wolfman Jack with his gravelly voice and the great music he played!
Not only is there no comparison with what AFRTS is and what FM-96 hopes to be, we must compare the track record of the American forces brass and our own. Not once has there been a military coup d’état in the United States. Go figure. And kill FM-96 now, if not sooner.
Published in The Express Tribune, April 20th, 2012.
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