War for dummies

Published: October 1, 2013
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The writer is Editor, National Security Affairs at Capital TV and a visiting fellow at SDPI

The writer is Editor, National Security Affairs at Capital TV and a visiting fellow at SDPI

Let me try and explain again for those who just can’t seem to get it. 1) The current war that Pakistan finds itself in is a product not just of external developments (the US-led, UN-mandated attack on the Taliban in Afghanistan) but also of two other, very important factors, both indigenous to us: a policy that sub-let the country’s security to non-state actors and a state policy to ensure all Pakistanis became ‘good’ Muslims.

Corollary 1: this war’s enabling environment preceded America’s arrival in West and South Asia. Corollary 2: it will not end with America’s departure.

2) The two policies of Islamisation and sub-letting security meant that we were allowing and encouraging groups and individuals, even if unwittingly, to develop supra-state agendas. And while these policies emerged independently of each other, in the long run it was inevitable for them to complement each other, the extremism begotten of one informing the millenarianism of the other.

Corollary 1: all state theorists are agreed that the dilution of state writ is the beginning of the unravelling of a state. Corollary 2: the religio-political groups began by sacralising the state and when the state tried to check their supra-state activities, they started to attack the state’s interests.

3) Pakistan did not get into a US war. It was obliged, as a member of the United Nations, to abide by the legal regime on terrorism, which also mandated the use of force under Chapter VII of the UN Charter. No power, including China, vetoed that war.

Corollary: the war in Afghanistan, led by the US, has/had a completely different legal basis than the US invasion of Iraq which, to wit, remains a legally untenable war.

4) The UN-mandated action in Afghanistan gave India the opportunity to isolate Pakistan on the issue of terrorism. The problem for Pakistan was not just to save a situation gone bad in Afghanistan but also to avoid a strategically impossible situation on the eastern front. [NB: the debate on whether we exercised the options well is a separate one.]

5) The legal basis of the war is conveniently avoided in the debates in Pakistan. Most people tend to conflate the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. Of course, there are those who also reject the UN but that is an absurd position in a world where the UN is a reality despite its weaknesses, which also find expression in International Law. The same people, however, will want the state to invoke the UN on the question of violation of sovereignty and the Kashmir dispute.

6) The US-led invasion of Afghanistan created a situation for Pakistan: it drove al Qaeda and Taliban fighters into Pakistan’s tribal areas, a natural sanctuary for them not just for reasons of geography but also because of the environment the state had created over three decades ago when these areas were used as sanctuaries and launching pads for the ‘mujahideen’.

7) The local tribes began giving sanctuaries to al Qaeda fighters and the Afghan Taliban. The war created an insurgency economy. The local social dynamics, which had been undergoing change since the first commanders had made their appearance during the war against the Soviet Union, saw new individuals emerging as powerful warlords and dictating terms. Their objective was to keep the state at bay and support elements that were wanted by the world.

8) It is a myth that Pakistan sent the army into the tribal areas for the first time. For details on military deployment, read my article, “More on talks with the TTP” (May 29).

9) The war was not started by the army. The state had to ensure that its territory is not used against another state. The supra-state mindset of extremist groups and their sympathisers does not accept that.

10) The effort to establish the writ of the state, any state worth its name, is not someone else’s war. While the presence of foreign forces in Afghanistan has acted as a catalyst, it did not create the extremist mindset that challenges the state today. That has been our doing.

11) The US drone campaign is a problem at various levels and I have discussed it many times in this space. But to argue that the Pakistani Taliban and their affiliates are attacking Pakistan only because of US drone strikes is at best naive, at worst, pure dissembling. It also begs the question of why the TTP stresses these strikes when most of those taken out have been top al Qaeda leaders. Reason: the TTP and its affiliates are closely linked to al Qaeda and have lost many heavy lifters in these strikes. Does Pakistan support al Qaeda?

Now to some finer points. If we accept the state as the organising principle, then we have to establish certain parameters. One cannot, like Ansar Abbasi, say that we accept the state’s framework and then turn around and also support supra-state activities by certain individuals because doing so is, according to their understanding, in line with Islam; or worse, that such activities are to be condoned because the state is not Islamic enough.

Second, as I have pointed out repeatedly, the statement that we should talk to terrorists because we have never talked to them before is an outright lie. Nor are fighting and talking necessarily mutually exclusive. Even if the state is talking, that does not — and it should not — preclude it from ensuring its writ. Capturing the perpetrators of recent terrorist attacks is a case in point.

Third, we are in this for the long haul. There are no easy and final solutions. This fact must be drilled into naive minds. Also, while the state has been conducting military operations, it hasn’t done too well on the counter-terrorism front.

Fourth, it’s time we focused on the funding to these groups, especially the charities, domestic and foreign, that siphon off money for insurgency. One of the most important CT measures is for the state to control resources. This is a neglected front.

Finally, formulate whatever strategy you might, it mustn’t do two things: it must not signal weakness and it must not lose the gains. The current mood threatens to do both.

Those who still don’t get it don’t need facts and logic; they need lobotomy. Unfortunately, that’s a large population of this country.

Published in The Express Tribune, October 2nd, 2013.

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Reader Comments (45)

  • Ahmed Khan
    Oct 1, 2013 - 11:15PM

    Good article in presenting the clear picture. However, a simple fact remains and that is that while we DO want the Taliban and other militants to disappear, we CANNOT achieve it through military means. We have tried it for 10 years and that is the argument of Imran Khan. We have tried military option. We have to negotiate. There will be give and take and give will be more unfortunately, but if we want that our country does not become Syria, Libya or Iraq, we must make the tough choices of living with the enemy.

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  • Nadir
    Oct 1, 2013 - 11:38PM

    There is no explaining or elaborating. Sadly, we will have to wait for more people to get butchered before even the most warped and misinformed individuals turn the corner.

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  • sabi
    Oct 1, 2013 - 11:44PM

    In 1973 there were no mujaheddin no Taliban and no Alqaida yet we had a new constitution that would not only deprive minorities of their basic rights but would lay foundation for state to persecute minorities.Who was behind that discriminatory laws.We must not forget that constant factor while evaluating chemistry of the whole mess.Its good to look at variables but by ignoring constant factors we can never solve the equation.It was the religious clergy then and its the religious clergy now a way more crook and much powerful than the rest.It has thousand faces.Parasites!

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  • TKhan
    Oct 1, 2013 - 11:45PM

    One of the key points that you bring forward here is that the Taliban and their affiliates are closely linked to Al Quaeda. It is also true about the Taliban in Afghanistan. There is a strong probability that both ‘versions’ of Taliban will be used by Al Quaeda as soon as the Americans start quitting Afghanistan.Their strategy is religiously motivated and their goals are well known.
    As for the writ of the Pakistani state, it is already too late. There would be no consensus on how to deal with the Taliban and neither the Army nor the politicians will clearly condemn them for different but obvious reasons.

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  • sabi
    Oct 1, 2013 - 11:46PM

    In 1973 there were no mujaheddin no Taliban and no Alqaida yet we had a new constitution that would not only deprive minorities of their basic rights but would lay foundation for state to persecute minorities.Who was behind that discriminatory laws.We must not forget that constant factor while evaluating chemistry of the whole mess.Its good to look at variables but by ignoring constant factors we can never solve the equation.It was the religious clergy then and its the religious clergy now a way more crook and much powerful than the rest.It has thousand faces.Parasites!Recommend

  • Arun
    Oct 1, 2013 - 11:59PM

    @Ahmed Khan,

    Wish to disagree with the logic you’ve provided sir, though most of it is spot on. In the past, the military operation was not full scale across the board & areas operated on were not secured post cleansing. One of the reasons being that few amongst the outlaws were considered ‘assets’ by the forces.

    ET, I wonder why none of my comments ever get posted, inspite of them being to the point & precise. Prove me wrong this time please.

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  • Cat
    Oct 2, 2013 - 12:24AM

    I like lists. And Nehari.

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  • South Indian
    Oct 2, 2013 - 12:41AM

    4) The UN-mandated action in Afghanistan gave India the opportunity to isolate Pakistan on the issue of terrorism.
    .
    Would urge you to reconsider this one. The above solely came about due to Pakistan’s duplicitous actions. If Pakistan did partner with the US on the WoT over the past decade, I can imagine no greater friend than the US of A. But the fact that it ultimately gained the realization that precipated unilateral action on OBL speaks volumes about the ill strategy of Pakistan all around.

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  • go65
    Oct 2, 2013 - 12:47AM

    ETBLOGS1987

    @sabi” “In 1973 there were no mujaheddin no Taliban and no Alqaida yet we had a new constitution that would not only deprive minorities of their basic rights but would lay foundation for state to persecute minorities.Who was behind that discriminatory laws.We must not forget that constant factor while evaluating chemistry of the whole mess.Its good to look at variables but by ignoring constant factors we can never solve the equation.It was the religious clergy then and its the religious clergy now”

    How true. But why stop at 1973 and not go to 1971 – specifically 1971 March? There is one more constant and that is the army leadership. Together the clergy and the army allowed the Friday khutbas to become a place for hate mongering against kafirs. First it was against kafir Hindus and by association India. Then it was the kafir atheists i.e. USSR and now the definition of kafir for many includes Shias also. These hate speeches which generated strategic assets to needle Idia without much expense have not stopped and the associated extremism also creates support for TTP. Without actually stopping these hate speeches, you cannot reduce support for TTP among common people. Recommend

  • bashir
    Oct 2, 2013 - 1:39AM

    After going through the entire article, I could not determine as to what exactly are you proposing in terms of ‘specific measures’ to be taken on the ground?.

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  • Arub
    Oct 2, 2013 - 1:48AM

    Very articulate and meaningful article! Please translate this in Urdu and publish in Urdu news papers so it may make sense to some dumb headed so called intellectuals of this country! Recommend

  • fus
    Oct 2, 2013 - 1:53AM

    Good article. Few points for the people who are blindly pushing for talks, we are not in war situtation since last 10 years, we need to and for that whole nation would have to support the Army without confusion. People like Khan Sahab are playing second fiddle to TTP and religious organizations that have confused the nation on this topic for so long. It sounds childish when people says the cause of TTP actions is drone. The problem is we are made to feel guilty when we try to control the menace of religious extremism. For example. Laal Masjid, when govt was not taking action, we were complaining why they are not taking action, and when they did after a long negotitation we started shouting against the government. Laal masjid adminsitration had commited a crime and should have been punished but we made it a contentious issue. Similarly Pakistan Amry is not willing to go all out against TTP until this nation accept them as menace. Gove them a go ahead, be willing to willing to accept the loses as you would in any war and once you haveupper tyen negotiate. Otherwise new rule in Pakistan would, kill one you be killer, kill 10 you are a terrorist and kill 100 inncoent people and we will negotiate to decide if you should be considered a killer, terrorist or a true muslim.

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  • Pakistani Ostrich
    Oct 2, 2013 - 1:57AM

    Excellent article, precise and to the point. Usually, i tend to disagree with Ejaz Haider. However, in this article, he has hit the nail on its head.
    P.S. One of the rare article by Ejaz Haider where he hasn’t quoted a book or a famous personality. :). A must bookmark.:)Recommend

  • Anjaan
    Oct 2, 2013 - 3:53AM

    The article is admission of two vary basic facts, by the strategically knowledgeable author :

    1. The US-Pakistan strategic relations is undergoing a slow motion change. The Americans are deliberately allowing Pakistan enough time to adjust to this new reality, as too drastic a change would be beyond Pakistan to handle.

    2. Pakistan is in for a long haul in its war with terrorism, and it might be a lonely journey this time.Recommend

  • TJ
    Oct 2, 2013 - 4:26AM

    excellent article. Sadly, those who need to undertsand it the most have built huge ignorant walls. dont even know if i should blame them or the society. in pakistan, everyone over simplifies and idealizes situations. moreover, half the facts are conspiracies, if not all! whatever can be achieved asap and there is a usual hatred for political parties except IK. this is extremely sad ( and absurd) because in the end, we will suffer the most.

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  • Pakistani Ostrich
    Oct 2, 2013 - 5:29AM

    @TJ
    “. is a usual hatred for political parties except IK. this is extremely sad ( and absurd) because in the end, we will suffer the most…”
    Please don’t say anything bad about IK. Remember, he won us the world cup all by himself! :D

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  • White Russian
    Oct 2, 2013 - 6:04AM

    Bravo Ejaz! It is a pity that self-evident things are to be explained again and again, and everyone pretends not being convinced. A permanant pedagogic nation we are, thanks to likes of imran khans and munawar hassans. It is like three years old asking his mother about his new born sibling “mama, from where did little baby came?”, and mama has to embarrasingly invent stories like “baby was grown on tree”. Tragic part is that three year old grows to ghabroo adult and yet refuses to throw away grown-on-tree story.

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  • MilesToGo
    Oct 2, 2013 - 6:12AM

    by this logic Kashmiri freedom fighters could be called terrorist too…same goes for bengali freedom fighters…

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  • Amit
    Oct 2, 2013 - 6:31AM

    Could someone please tell me what is there to negotiate with terrorists ?? Its not like India vs Pakistan where are are issues like Kashmir or Siachen. I am at a loss to understand what is the give the give and take here with these barbarians ?

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  • Ejaaz
    Oct 2, 2013 - 7:02AM

    This assumes that the people of Pakistan see themselves and their state as nationalistic and opposed to the supra national Islamic Ummah of Al Qaeda. I think that assumption is incorrect. The majority of us are now more in tune with the Islamic Khilafaat than with a national constitution. So it is merely a matter of time when the present corrupt leadership of Pakistan is swept away and people more in tune with the Taliban and Al Qaeda assume power. The war that the author is writing about has already been lost. They don’t need a lobotomy. It is we who need to take the blinkers off and see reality on the ground.

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  • Dr Shahid Iqbal
    Oct 2, 2013 - 7:19AM

    If South Korea can rebuilt itself after a devastating war and turn itself into a high tech powerhouse we cannot blame the Afghanistan war which ended nearly 20 years ago for our ills. Our problems come our inner souls. We need to question the basics of everything we accept without question. This will be very painful but we need to do this to repair our broken society.

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  • M Usman shoukat
    Oct 2, 2013 - 9:10AM

    Nice thought through article. Its punishment the way we exploit concept of jihad.Recommend

  • khan765
    Oct 2, 2013 - 9:19AM

    @Ahmed Khan:

    No point in talking to criminals. There is a difference between TTP vs the Taliban in Afghanistan. TTP is full of criminals and Imran Khan is totally wrong in this case.

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  • Akhundzada
    Oct 2, 2013 - 9:26AM

    Excellent article in the sense that it attempts and provides an insight into terrorism phenomena that has benighted, devastated and ruined the country to the extent that our worst enemy could have merely wished for. I do subscribe to the notion that indigenous factor has more to do in nurturing this monster which has now raised its ugly head with a vengeance. It is now posing not a mythical but a real existential threat as militancy and integrity of Pakistan are mutually exclusive.

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  • habibb
    Oct 2, 2013 - 9:28AM

    @Pakistani Ostrich:

    Imran is a great person no doubt but please he was not only one who won the worldcup for us. Javed, Wasim, Inzi, Aqib,Moin all had tremendous input and without whom Imran could have done nothing. IK needs to realize his stance Is wrong and should learn from his mistakes and not be stubborn about it.

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  • Usman Aziz
    Oct 2, 2013 - 11:01AM

    A true picture that most of us make blurredand earn fame in media and among the insane ignorant people who have nothing to do with Islam and its ideology. thanks again for an eye opner for blind nation

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  • Anticorruption
    Oct 2, 2013 - 11:32AM

    Excellent article. Challenge to PTI: can you come up with a point by point rebuttal?

    The following two points are especially pertinant:

    “The war was not started by the army. The state had to ensure that its territory is not used against another state. The supra-state mindset of extremist groups and their sympathisers does not accept that.”

    and

    “10) The effort to establish the writ of the state, any state worth its name, is not someone else’s war.”

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  • Bilal
    Oct 2, 2013 - 12:06PM

    @Ahmed Khan:
    as Arun said they were not full fledged operations, just targeted operations in few Parts of FATA where Army succeed as well, and the most known example of Army’s successful operation is Swat operation.

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  • Khalid Hyder
    Oct 2, 2013 - 12:15PM

    A good analysis. But the writer has completely ignored the conspiracy theories regarding a foreign hand in creating instability in Pakistan. The western world is not comfortable with Pakistan being a nuclear power. The US and India are conniving to destabilize Pakistan so that the international community can have an excuse to intervene (They tried it in Syria but luckily Putin held them off. Unfortunately we do not have that advantage) This war will continue until Pakistan decides to hand over its nukes, or else starts behaving like North Korea.

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  • Feroz
    Oct 2, 2013 - 12:36PM

    This is one article by the author that is close to the truth and he must be congratulated for removing the blinkers that were hobbling him. Honestly a country that has landed itself into serious trouble due to faulty policies practiced over decades, needs course correction to survive. Only if I acknowledge my mistakes will I be able to take steps that promise a better tomorrow.
    Pakistan simply does not have the time to dilly dally — another terror plot sponsored from its territory could have the World coming down hard on it, with intent, unity and purpose.

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  • Something Clever
    Oct 2, 2013 - 1:05PM

    @Ahmed Khan:
    Wow. A person doesn’t get much more defeatist than that. You’re saying “lets surrender and get it over with” while clearly not knowing or understanding the actual result of that. They’ll never been satisfied by a little. They want the whole. That comes from their very own mouths.

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  • Nadeem Khan
    Oct 2, 2013 - 1:20PM

    9) The war was not started by the army

    Oh yes it was, and here is what I mean: the two indigenous factors you mention (outsourcing to non-state actors, and islamization) were the direct outcome of decades of military rule, and Pakistan’s resultant morphing into a state where military called all the shots.

    Hence the Army is directly, as well as indirecltly, responsible for today’s war. Had we been a democracy all along, the state would not have the time to try to convert us to ‘good Muslims’ – it would be too busy trying to meet the populations’ need for jobs, schools, hospitals, roads, etc. (however inefficiently). And had we been a democracy all along, the state would not have cultivated the non-state actors you mention – at least not on the scale that it has been done since Zia’s takeover in 1977 to this day.

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  • ss
    Oct 2, 2013 - 2:27PM

    Very good article, brought out some good points and missed some.
    if you translate this in Urdu and let them read and you will see a Fatwa coming out from Sick Heads.

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  • Necramancer
    Oct 2, 2013 - 3:26PM

    3) Pakistan did not get into a US war. It was obliged, as a member of the United Nations, to abide by the legal regime on terrorism, which also mandated the use of force under Chapter VII of the UN Charter. No power, including China, vetoed that war.

    If one permanent member of UN Security council veto the act it is null and void that is what the law is in the UN(I am just pointing out that america is not always right), but I truly support war on terrorism and want these mullahs out of my beloved nation and make my country a welfare state in which we can live peacefully.

    P.S it is not american who have created this mess it is us the People of the land of pure and we have to clean it.

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  • Milestogo
    Oct 2, 2013 - 4:41PM

    Lets not make the same mistake that was made in 1971. Military force is not the solution.

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  • Saz
    Oct 2, 2013 - 7:16PM

    @habibb, he did win it all by himself, he told us that him self in his winning speech.

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  • American
    Oct 2, 2013 - 7:59PM

    @Milestogo: The mistakes in Bangladesh were not made in 1971…they were made from 1947 to 1971. Same mistakes you are making in Baluchistan.

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  • Samson Simon Sharaf
    Oct 2, 2013 - 9:15PM

    Impressive is all I can say.

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  • Average Indian
    Oct 2, 2013 - 9:24PM

    superb article. very insightful. respect.

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  • RR Iyer
    Oct 3, 2013 - 2:04AM

    Mr. Editor:
    I spent a lot of time and effort commenting on this article.
    You did not care to publish it.
    It was probably way too serious for your taste!
    You have done this before. Selective publishing of comments when it pleases you-what are you afraid off?
    Be well!
    I am done with commenting on ET.. franky, tired of it.

    RR Iyer
    New York

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  • NotSoCommon
    Oct 3, 2013 - 2:07AM

    @khan765

    There is absolutely no difference between TTP and Afghan taliban. They are all lunatics killing civilians and military, they both don’t believe in democracy and they both want to set up a religious based theoretical rule. If your argument for Afghan taliban is that they are fighting occupational force, then tell me what was different in Afghanistan before US invasion?

    The problem of Pakistan is there belief in the so called “good” taliban. That is an oxymoron if i ever came across one. How do you expect to fight your enemies if you cant even identify them?!

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  • Sexton Blake
    Oct 3, 2013 - 6:18AM

    Dear Ajaz Haider,
    About the best thing I can say in regard to your article is that it will please Washington, US puppets in the Pakistan Government, and the armchair warriors who want war with the Taliban.
    I cannot say anymore, because ET is not printing serious alternative viewpoints.

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  • Mak
    Oct 3, 2013 - 7:00PM

    Very interesting article and good read for those who have rusty mind. Nothing more can be added. Just an observation that ongoing turmoil is an outcome of very poor handling of post withdrawal of Russian forces from Afghanistan. Had US and its allies not lost interest at that time, the ongoing turmoil wouldn’t have been there at all. People like Ansar Abbasi and host of other is a MIND SET and it’s growing which is worrisome. Who will bell the cat? It warrants collective wisdom of those salient ones who can do a lot. I see very grave times ahead if we don’t mend our ways.

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  • Sexton Blake
    Oct 4, 2013 - 5:55AM

    @RR Iyer:
    Dear RR,
    Please do not give up. ET does it to me also, but Pakistan needs people like you.

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  • RR Iyer
    Oct 4, 2013 - 9:55AM

    @Sexton Blake:
    Appreciate yr support, Mr. Blake.
    They stop me on every alternate message, I guess.
    I probably hit a nerve when I commented on subjects too close to home.
    Best,
    RR Iyer

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