Whistleblowing; after the event

Published: July 3, 2014
The writer is a columnist, a former major of the Pakistan Army and served as press secretary to Benazir Bhutto

The writer is a columnist, a former major of the Pakistan Army and served as press secretary to Benazir Bhutto kamran.shafi@tribune.com.pk

The Oxford Dictionary describes a whistle-blower as: “A person who informs on a person or organisation regarded as engaging in an unlawful or immoral activity”. Whistleblowers are, almost as a rule, people who are still serving the organisations they blow the whistle on. However, because we are a unique people as I have often argued, virtually ALL our whistleblowers are those who have retired, having milked their organisations of all the goodies on offer at the time of their retirement.

According to this newspaper of record of June 30, 2014: “Former army spokesperson Major General (retd) Athar Abbas has disclosed that the army was on the brink of launching a military offensive in North Waziristan three years ago, but given then army chief General Kayani’s reluctance, they were unable to.”

In an interview with the BBC, former director-general of the Inter Services Public Relations (ISPR) Abbas said that the military leadership had given the go-ahead for an operation in North Waziristan in 2010 and preparations for it were made for one year, but it was pulled back at the last minute due to General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani’s indecisiveness.

“It had been decided in principle that preparations for the operation would take place between 2010 and 2011, and that it would be launched in 2011 to rid North Waziristan of extremists once and for all,” Abbas said. When asked whether the reason behind his reluctance to give the final approval for the operation was due to his own weaknesses, Abbas agreed, saying ‘yes’.

Before Abbas, another retired lieutenant general namely Shahid Aziz, who retired from the post of chief of general staff after having done a stint as DG Analysis at the ISI during the time that the disastrous Kargil operation was planned and executed, came out with severe criticism of the operation, putting the entire blame on a clique of four Generals headed by none other than our Commando, and not even a smidgen of it on himself! This is dishonesty of the worst kind — if, as DG Analysis, he did not know, why did he not know?

But back to NW. On January 11, 2011, Pakistan Today carried a statement by the DG ISPR, yes Athar Abbas: “Ruling out a military operation in North Waziristan, ISPR DG on Monday said the Pakistan Army could not currently open another front as the security forces were in the process of consolidating their current gains.”

“Whenever any operation is launched, a state devises a strategy after assessing the dangers involved. Now we are in the phase of consolidating the control in the troubled areas after successful operations there and cannot afford to open up another front at this stage,” Abbas said’. So, the question arises as to why the NW operation in 2011 was delayed? An institutional decision by the army high command keeping the situation on the ground in view or Kayani’s ‘weakness’?

Indeed, none of these generals have told us if they themselves even penned a dissenting note to their superiors at the TIME that they were seeing a disaster in the making: indeed, a catastrophe that both Kargil and North Waziristan presented to this poor country and its hapless people over time. Let me add here and now that the generals were not the only ones to blame for delays: that opinion forming civilians, too, muddied the waters, so to say.

Who indeed, is surprised at the so-called revelations? Certainly not people like I who have written reams since 10 years now on delayed actions from Malakand to Dir to Swat to Buner to Fata; or to name just one more due to paucity of space, my friend Dr Mohammad Taqi, who wrote in his, “The Slanted Truth”, in the Daily Times on June 17, 2010: “The Taliban are neither down nor out …

“On June 5, 2010, two articles appeared in the Pakistani press. The one in this paper titled “North Waziristan, the Punjabi Taliban and the Durand Line”, by Mr Naeem Tahir and the second, “N. Waziristan: the final frontier”, published in another daily by Ms Sherry Rehman, an MNA. The resemblance between these two articles is striking. Had it been Urdu or Persian poetry, one would have been tempted to call this tawarud, i.e., two poets expressing, coincidentally, the same ideas in very similar words without prior knowledge of each other’s thought or work.

“Upon a cursory read, both pieces might come across as opinions by liberal writers who are concerned about the curse of Talibanisation afflicting Pakistan and are trying to float an indigenous plan to fight it. A slightly deeper look, however, would reveal that, clad in a liberal cloak, the authors may be peddling the Pakistani security establishment’s view, i.e., that despite the clear and present danger that the Taliban and al Qaeda portend, we are not able to do much about it, especially in North Waziristan.

“Ms Rehman, whose written or spoken word on military strategy and the Pak-Afghan geopolitical situation has hitherto remained hidden from the public eye, makes a foray into both spheres. She starts by dropping some geographical terms like ‘Loya Paktia’ and using quasi-military jargon. She writes: ‘The challenge in NW is that Islamabad does not have the military or civilian capacity to open all fronts at the same time. Despite impressive successes in other tribal agencies, the Pakistani army faces a 50,000-strong critical mass of armed guerrilla combatants in NW. They have learnt to avoid set-piece battles. After army operations in surrounding areas, a hardened assortment has sought sanctuary there.’

“A similar formula is deployed by Mr Tahir, who mentions the Peochar stronghold of Maulvi Fazlullah, along with a narrative of the valley’s capture and the ‘successful operations’ in South Waziristan, etc. He concludes: ‘Action in NW must be undertaken, but the timing must be decided by the government of Pakistan and the armed forces, and it should follow the settlement of these issues.’”

So there we have it, friends, but please now that the operation has started against the murderers and car thieves and robbers and kidnappers for ransom, let us stand behind our armed forces as one. May they do well and may the Almighty watch over them.

Aslam Begism of the Century (1990): “[The] Pakistan Army can now, in a conventional Pakistan-India military conflict, retreat to mainland Afghanistan, regroup and launch a counteroffensive against India.”

Published in The Express Tribune, July 4th, 2014.

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Reader Comments (9)

  • Grammar Nazi
    Jul 3, 2014 - 11:22PM

    “Certainly not people like I who have written reams since 10 years now on delayed actions from Malakand to Dir”

    It should be like me, not like I.

    Are you posted in England or looking for a post in England?


  • Wasif Mumtaz
    Jul 3, 2014 - 11:35PM

    Every person must adopt a leadership role in his/her position. Our foremost identity is citizenship of Pakistan. All those self serving people are devoid of leadership qualities.


  • nrmr44
    Jul 3, 2014 - 11:45PM

    “May they do well …. ”
    They did well enough in creating the problem. Let’s hope they don’t do less well at solving it.
    At least, this time It is only the militants who are being disowned by authority, and not the poor soldiers, as they were at Kargil.
    With the passage of time, perhaps, even the militants may be rehabilitated, and get a bit of recognition for their earlier services. After all, “murderers and car thieves and robbers and kidnappers” are only your common garden variety of criminals, and hardly enemies of the State


  • TooTrue
    Jul 4, 2014 - 2:13AM

    ” Certainly not people like I who have “

    Oh dear the poor major doesn’t know when to use “I” and when “me”.


  • Pakhtun
    Jul 4, 2014 - 4:47AM

    Kamran sahib – you have a right to stand behind Pakistan’s armed forces and I have the right to stand behind Mullah Fazlullah.


  • Rexo
    Jul 4, 2014 - 10:43AM

    Can this guy write any piece without mentioning commando? He is a disgrace to the fraternity and should have the courage to stop writing.


  • Rex Minor
    Jul 4, 2014 - 1:20PM

    Napoean Bonapart once said that he does not want anything other than 100,000 soldiers under his command ! Your former Commando General is seeking refuge in medics quarters, and your present and retired army brass involved in genocide against women and children will face prosecution in civil courts, since they do not have military courts.

    Rex Minor


  • Zeeshan Ahmed
    Jul 7, 2014 - 7:31PM

    Once again, you have chosen to bury your head in the sand and prance around the root cause of this mess. Please stop playing the religious extremism card, we want to hear something of real substance.


  • Assad
    Jul 14, 2014 - 10:40PM

    Kamran Shaffi,

    What is the source of this statement:

    “[The] Pakistan Army can now, in a conventional Pakistan-India military conflict, retreat to mainland Afghanistan, regroup and launch a counteroffensive against India.”

    This has never been stated by anyone in the military including Gen Aslam Beg. Having read the idea of riposte and “strategic depth”, it is far different from what you state here.


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