The Line of Control

On Monday, Chief of Army Staff Gen. Ashfaq Kayani visited Siachen Glacier, the world’s highest battlefield. It was his second publicized visit to the line of control since assuming leadership of Pakistan’s army.


Both visits occurred after controversial statements from President Asif Ali Zardari regarding the Kashmir conflict.  On both occasions, Gen. Kayani asserted the existence of a “national consensus” in Pakistan on Kashmir.

The national consensus on Kashmir Gen. Kayani refers to can be seen as a euphemism for the military-intelligence establishment’s viewpoint.  But this also converges with a broad spectrum of public opinion in Pakistan.

There is strong public support in Pakistan for a just resolution to the 61 year conflict over the disputed region.  Pakistanis share historic, cultural, and blood linkages with the people of Kashmir, particularly with those in the currently restive valley.

Strategically, water, road, and trade linkages with Kashmir are essential to Pakistan’s future.  Their importance will increase radically in the coming decades when climate change and resource scarcity are expected to hit South Asia hard. Kashmir is the source of all of the region’s major waterways.

In recent years, Pakistanis have demonstrated their ability to be pragmatic and flexible regarding the Kashmir dispute.  But their concessions were not reciprocated by the Indians, who never fail to miss an opportunity to resolve the conflict.

India has had the luxury to defer final status discussions — only until recently.  Kashmir has gained little traction as an international issue.  But this is of little concern to the Muslim Kashmiris.  In their massive rallies — protesters number in the hundreds of thousands — they have made their voice clear.  They have asked for azaadi or freedom.   While some protesters have called for independence, others have called for a union with Pakistan.  Regardless, their desire to be free of India is clear.  Meanwhile, the rise of Hindu chauvinism in India has moved India’s center to the right and pushed Indians further away from compromise with Muslim Kashmiris.  Last month, a leading right wing Times of India columnist called for the permanent settling of Indian troops in Kashmir, tilting the demographic balance.  Conversely, many leading Indian commentators have called for letting the Kashmir valley go.  This is the cost of taking Musharraf for granted.


That, combined with what is seen as the strategic encirclement of Pakistan, has made Pakistanis realize that former President Pervez Musharraf made one concession too many in respect to core security issues.  His compromises, in the eyes of the Pakistani public, have yielded little of permanent value.  Whatever benefits they produced are quickly vanishing after his departure.

Neither the Pakistani public nor its security establishment will accept compromise on Kashmir in a context of weakness.  Gen. Kayani has spoken of “peace through strength.”


In this context, U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Richard Boucher’s calls for the “reform” of Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence will hit a brick wall.  The civilian government is, in effect, being thrown at this wall, i.e. the army, and will bear the direct consequences of such action.  This is something Zardari must consider out of both self and national interest.

Moreover, the idea of reform presupposes the existence of ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ in this realm.  Intelligence agencies by nature operate in an amoral universe.  They are tasked with doing the government’s dirty work clandestinely and non-conventionally.  Their sole task is to serve the national interest, unconstrained not by conventional bounds but simply by capability and risk.  Criticizing one agency on moral grounds makes little sense — they all play the same game by the same (lack of) rules.  There is not a conflict of morals, but of interests.  These can only be dealt with by clandestine competition or dialogue and compromise at a conventional level.  The latter is the more prudent path.

The first target of ISI “reform” would seemingly be the organization’s director general, Lt. Gen. Nadeem Taj.  Indeed, some in Washington are pressing for civilian control of the ISI.  This is a recipe for disaster.  Zardari’s earlier attempt to bring the ISI under civilian control failed.  After another attempt, he’ll find himself sitting out on the pavement outside of the presidential palace.  Zardari lacks the legitimacy and power with which to assert himself over the military.  While the Pakistani public supports the cessation of the ISI’s political role, there is no support for tying the organization’s hands in other matters.  If pressed by Zardari, Gen. Kayani would be forced to enter the political realm, against his will, because of civilian excess.  Zardari should be wiser and focus on his self-proclaimed mandate of roti (bread), kapra (clothing), and makan (a home).

And so, Gen. Kayani is delineating the parameters of acceptable discourse on Kashmir, and at a broader level, Pakistan’s national security issues. Gen. Kayani has given the civilians free reign over non-security matters.  He has, however, drawn a line in the sand.  The civilians cannot pass the line of control into his own domain.  Given Zardari’s consolidation of power and the absence of checks and balances upon him, a foolish press against the military would compel that institution to intervene, making his presidency the shortest in Pakistan’s history.

FYI: Zardari’s visit to Britain — described in the Pakistani press as a “summoning” — resulted in the indefinite postponement of his scheduled visit to China, which is seen as Pakistan’s staunchest ally.  Pakistani rightists and even those in the center believe that Zardari’s closest advisors are trying to push Pakistan away from China.  Interestingly, Gen. Kayani will embark on a 5-day visit of China next week.  The smoking man speaks.

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Two Suicide Blasts Hit Lahore; Warning to Incoming Government?

Terrorists have struck Lahore again in two separate attacks, killing at least 23 individuals. The first attack hit the local office of the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA), a civilian law enforcement agency under the Ministry of Interior that does extensive counterterrorism work. The blast was perhaps a warning message to the incoming civilian government. The blast shattered the windows of the eight foot building and damaged a gas pipeline nearby.

The second occurred near an office building in the posh Model Town area. The victims include a woman and three children. A GEO News correspondent reports that behind the office building is the home of an army officer, a possible target. Another GEO News correspondent claims the blast occurred near the local home of People’s Party Co-Chairman Asif Zardari and Lahore Mayor Amir Mahmood.  

Today’s attacks are the latest sign that Lahore is increasingly on the terrorists’ radar. Lahore has witnessed far less violence than other cities, including Karachi and Peshawar, in recent years. However, the ratio is now reversing this year. A suicide bomber targeted police at a lawyers’ movement rally on Janaury 10. And last week, militants attacked the city’s Naval College. Militants would like to demonstrate the reach of their network and that they can hit the so-called Punjabi establishment at home.

An angry crowd of protesters amassed near the FIA building, protesting against Pervez Musharraf as well as the terrorists.

Lahore’s hospitals are requesting donations of blood.

UPDATE: 2:07PM (New York) – There are indications both attacks were focused on the FIA.  There are rumors that the  local FIA office was visited frequently by foreign intelligence agencies.  A report on Aaj Television claims that the second attack could have been intended for an intelligence agency safe house nearby where suspected terrorists were being held.  This would indicate inside cooperation.  Also, both locations housed American-trained FIA units investigating the Naval College blast.

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Scotland Yard Says Head Injury Killed Benazir Bhutto

The team from Scotland Yard investigating the assassination of Benazir Bhutto released their final report today. Its two major conclusions: head trauma caused by the bomb blast killed Benazir Bhutto and the suicide bomber and the gunman were the same person.

The report states:

“Ms Bhutto’s only apparent injury was a major trauma to the right side of the head. The UK experts all exclude this injury being an entry or exit wound as a result of gunshot.”

“…the UK Home Office pathologist…is unable categorically to exclude the possibility of there being a gunshot wound to the upper trunk or neck. However…the available evidence suggests that there was no gunshot injury….Dr Cary excludes the possibility of a bullet to the neck or upper trunk as being a relevant factor in the actual cause of death, when set against the nature and extent of her head injury.”

Dr. Nathaniel Cary, the UK Home Office pathologist, is quoted as stating:

“the only tenable cause for the rapidly fatal head injury in this case is that it occurred as the result of impact due to the effects of the bomb-blast.”

“in my opinion Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto died as a result of a severe head injury sustained as a consequence of the bomb-blast and due to head impact somewhere in the escape hatch of the vehicle.”

“All the available evidence points toward the person who fired shots and the person who detonated the explosives being one and the same person.”

The report’s conclusions are unlikely to satisfy a considerable number of Pakistanis, and in particular, People’s Party leaders and supporters who strongly believe an assassin’s blow took Bhutto’s life.

Rehman Malik, Benazir Bhutto’s security chief, stated on GEO TV that Scotland Yard had a “limited mandate” and did not produce “a conclusive report.” He seemed unprepared to deal with the report’s technical aspects, admitting that he did not read it in full, though he argued among the remaining questions is that of who financed the plot. Sherry Rehman, a senior PPP spokesperson, also did not read the entire report but maintained the party’s position that Bhutto died from an assassin’s blow.

If the People’s Party continues in its rejection of the report’s findings, it will find difficulty gaining international and institutional credence if it cannot rebut them on a technical basis. Its call for a Hariri-like UN investigation has gone ignored and there is little will among the major global powers to concede to one.  Should the People’s Party come to power after the coming elections, it can perhaps obtain a rival third-party report.  Otherwise, Bhutto’s assassination will remain a passively contested issue.

The Scotland Yard report can be seen as a victory for the Musharraf government, which has contended that head trauma associated with the blast, not an assassin’s blow, killed Bhutto. It will, however, not temper the skepticism of most Pakistanis toward the claims made by Musharraf and Britain, one of his Western benefactors.

[Full text of report]

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On Emergency’s Last Day, Musharraf Issues Some Decrees

Emergency rule will likely end tomorrow and so Pervez Musharraf has been busy utilizing his soon-to-be-gone self-given powers to amend the constitution by decree.

Last night, he issued an ordinance formally institutionalizing the National Command Authority (NCA)– established in February 2000. The ten-member body “exercise[s] complete command and control over all nuclear and space related technologies, systems and matters.”

The president chairs the NCA with the prime minister as vice chairman. Its remaining members are the foreign, defense, and interior ministers; chiefs of the army, naval, air force staff; the chairman of the joint chiefs of staff committee; and the director general of the Strategic Plans Division, who also serves as secretary general of the group.

Musharraf will also issue five other ordinances, one of which will reportedly satiate Benazir Bhutto (and indirectly Nawaz Sharif) by lifting the bar on a third prime ministerial term.

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BB Strikes Back: Press Conference Coverage

In the footer of the previous post, “The Massacre at Karsaz Bridge: Analysis of the Bhutto Blast (Part 1),” I posted real-time updates of Benazir Bhutto’s press conference at Bilawal House this afternoon Pakistan Standard Time. The press conference was long and my summary ended up becoming lengthy, deserving a separate post. It is below.

UPDATE: 7:43 AM - Press conference will be starting late. Extra-stringent security measures being taken slowing down entrance of journalists into Bhutto home.

UPDATE: 7:55 AM – Former Interior Minister and Bhutto loyalist Retd. Gen. Naseerullah Babar rejected any connections of Baitullah Mehsud to the Bhutto blasts. He said Mehsud’s men could not have carried out the attacks as they lack the language skills and ability to mix in Karachi. Above all, Mehsud had in recent days denied threatening attacks against Benazir upon her return to Pakistan (which we noted in our previous post). Babar rejects the grenade attack claim by the government, instead stating that a timed/triggered device was used.

UPDATE: 8:04 AM - Benazir Bhutto’s press conference has begun. She’s presently reading a statement.

UPDATE: 8:08 AM - The press conference is a logistical mess. Seems like it was in the veranda. One Pakistani channel only has video and another only has audio. Bhutto has proposed splitting up the conference, enabling her to deal separately with photographers, Pakistani journalists, and foreign journalists.

UPDATE: 8:12 AM - The sound system at the press conference does not work or does not exist. It will resume when a working one is set up.

UPDATE: 8:24 AM - Bhutto is now speaking in English. She says [paraphrased]:

  • Didn’t want the top PPP leadership in the truck with her. Knew there would be an attack and didn’t want the entire leadership taken out.
  • Originally, her party’s MNAs were not going to be in the truck, but that decision was reversed.
  • She and her camp noticed that the street lights were shut off at sunset on Shahar-e Faisal.
  • She doesn’t blame the government. Tried to get in touch with National Security Adviser, Tariq Aziz, but was unsuccessful.
  • Her security advisers were having trouble identifying suicide bombers and assassins within the crowd. Claims that if the street lights were on, her guards would have been able to identify the suicide bombers.
  • Sherry Rehman tried to text message members of the press, noting the security challenges.
  • Her security team started scanning the crowds with floodlights. Her security guards arrested one man with a pistol. Thirteen minutes before the first bomb blast, her media cell received a call from the PPP camp at Nursery (area of Karachi) stating they found a man with a suicide belt, handed him over to the police, but were not satisfied with their response.
  • Bhutto says she personally witnessed Arif Khan, the ARY cameraman, as he lost his life.

UPDATE: 8:25 AM - Benazir says:

  • Initial reaction to the first blast was that it was firecrackers.
  • Blast occurred as Abida Hussain was suggesting to her that they should mention their program for bringing representative government to the Tribal Areas to counter extremism.
  • The truck stopped for some reason after the second blast.
  • Shots were fired toward the truck, likely at the tires, and this was either immediately before the suicide bombings or afterwards. [In other words, the lone bomber theory espoused by the Interior Ministry is bogus in her opinion. Bhutto later suggests there is more than one suicide bomber, and the comments above perhaps suggest that there were accomplices in the area issuing fire].

UPDATE: 8:27 AM - Benazir continues:

  • The suicide bomber (second , if there were more than one) was directly thwarted by her volunteer guards. He managed to get close but he hit the front of the truck, while Benazir and her political secretary were in the back. Could have been worse.

UPDATE: 8:30 AM - Now she’s describing the heroics of other PPP politicians.

UPDATE: 8:31 AM - Benazir says:

  • She and other PPP leaders owe their lives to those who strengthened their cordon around the truck after the first blast.
  • The second blast was so strong that it put a dent in the hefty armored truck. Could have been much, much worse without that cordon.
  • At least 50 of her security guards have died.
  • “This was a dastardly and cowardly attack…the first in the history of Pakistan…of multiple suicide attacks on a political leader.”
  • Says suicide attacks are against Islam. Innocents men, a young woman and child died.
  • Says three security guards sitting on the edge of her truck also died.
  • Street was littered with dead bodies and glass.
  • Police bravely did their duty.
  • Adds, “These armed militants want to destroy Pakistan…want to damage Islam…want to destroy the political, socio-economic hopes of Pakistan through a democratic order.”
  • Salutes heroes and parents of these brave children. Wishes to thank all the party workers and supporters of democracy.

UPDATES: 8:47 AM - Bhutto continues:

  • “What does the attack last night signify? The attack was more than the unity and integrity of Pakistan. The attack was not an attack on an individual. It wasn’t an attack on me. The attack was on what I represent. It was an attack on democracy. It was an attack on the very unity and integrity of Pakistan — because the PPP is a federal party that cuts across Pakistan’s economic, ethnic, provincial and religious divides. It was an attack on Pakistan’s progress. The unity of Pakistan depends on democratic order. It’s an attack on the Pakistani people’s empowerment. It wasn’t an attack on just one political leader. It was on all political leaders in the Pakistan — whether they’re in the ARD or not.
  • The message they’re trying to send: “All those who believe in democracy that you can’t do a campaign, that if you do a campaign we’ll kill you, don’t go out, don’t express your fundamental rights of political expression.”
  • It was attack of a militant minority that thrived under a military dictatorship in the 70s and 80s, like Al-Badr of 70s and “thugs” from the Zia era.
  • Or militants of the present era who wish to kill and maim innocent people.
  • Militants are saying that peace-loving people are not safe together; the only safe people are the militants because no one attacks them.
  • They’re a minority that wants to hijack the destiny of the nation. This is a battle for democracy. We wish it to be peaceful. We wish it to be political.
  • Negotiations with Musharraf were begun to avoid bloodshed.
  • Willing to risk our lives and liberty to save Pakistan and democracy from militant takeover — not willing to give up the country to them. The militants are killing our armed forces in tribal areas of Pakistan. They want to dissipate energy of this great nation. I and my colleagues want to save Pakistan, and saving Pakistan requires saving democracy. We can make our people the guardians of democracy to guard this great land of ours.
  • We will not stop our campaign. We will not stop our struggle — despite the heavy loss we incurred yesterday. This is the land that gave us birth. This land to which we’ll return.
  • We do not want Pakistan to disintegrate into little fiefdoms run by warlords, issuing their fatwas. We appeal to all the citizens of Pakistan, to all those who are true Muslims to look into their hearts and not support violence, but instead support peace, political change, and democracy.
  • “The attack last night was a message sent by the enemies of democracy, the enemies of Pakistan, the enemies of political parties of the country, and the enemy of Islam.”
  • The attacks were an attempt to blackmail us and all workers for human rights. Not just the political parties, but also civil groups. These militants are against a value system – the value system of pluralism and equal rights, gender equality and empowerment.
  • I have no problem with those who have a different view than mine. I have a problem with those who take up weapons to force others into submission. The people of Pakistan will not be forced into submission.
  • Dictatorship fuels extremism. These cowards attacked a woman, unarmed men and kids accompanying me.
  • I let it known to the perpetrators of the crime that the PPP will not be deterred.
  • It is imperative for us to save Pakistan — to save Pakistan through democracy, to save the fundamental rights of our people.
  • The PPP will offer janazah (funeral) prayers for all those who lost their lives on October 21.
  • Those who called me include Musharraf, Karzai, Advani from India, Nawaz Sharif, Altaf Hussain, Asfandyar Wali (leader of ANP), Ghulam Mustafa Jatoi, several high commissioners and embassies. [Note who wasn't mentioned. Shaukat Aziz and the Chaudhry Cousins.]

UPDATE: 8:48 AM - Benazir says:

  • Before I came to Pakistan it was conveyed to me that several suicide squads had been sent to kill me. The information was received from a brotherly Muslim country [i.e. Afghanistan]. There would be a suicide squad from Taliban, al-Qaeda, the Pakistani Taliban, and finally, one from Karachi. The source also gave the telephone numbers of some of these suicide bombers and their handlers. This information was passed on to the government of Pakistan. She hopes that with so much information the government could have apprehend them, but understands the difficulty.
  • She was advised not to come, but says she also gave her word to the people of Pakistan. She says, in Urdu, that she gave her word to her people and .
  • She wrote to Musharraf that if someone does something to her, she won’t blame the Taliban, Pakistani Taliban, or Al Qaeda, but “those people, that in my opinion, mislead people.”
  • She says that she knows who are the forces of militancy. They are cowards. She has named three people and more in that letter.
  • She appeals to people in the government to continue giving her intelligence.
  • The next attack: She hears the next attack will be consist of placing operatives in the police department near her homes in Clifton and Larkana. Commandos will be sent in the garb of a rival political party [i.e. MQM] and the rival party will be blamed. She shared this information with Musharraf’s government and is confident that they won’t let this attack materialize.
  • Clarifies she is accusing the government, rather she is accusing certain people who “abuse their positions and powers.”
  • Says, “I know the battle to save Pakistan will require a heroic effort and the people will support us to protect our country from a militant threat.”
  • Adds that it is important that all the moderate forces join together. Militancy is not a threat to an individual, but to the unity and integrity of Pakistan, and the image and true message of Islam.

UPDATE: 8:56AM - During Q&A, Benazir says:

  • She won’t mention those three names.
  • States that a journalist told her that a retired military official told him that the MQM would try to assassinate her, but it’s not true. Other political parties are “just red herrings.”
  • “Insha’Allah there won’t be any need to same these names.”

UPDATE: 9:00 AM - Bhutto clarifies:

  • The government itself is not involved, but she thinks certain individuals [within it] are.
  • She adds that empowering the people will defeat terror, but there are major vested interests in terror, e.g. drug money.

UPDATE: 9:02 AM - Q&A continues:

  • Bhutto says, “We think it was a suicide attack.”

UPDATE: 9:05 AM - The evening call to prayer is going on. Press conference taking a short break.

UPDATE: 9:08 AM - Press conference has resumed. Bhutto’s speaking on what she sees as the message of Islam.

UPDATE: 9:11 AM - Q&A continues:

  • Bhutto says, “I will stay here. I will come and go because I lecture here and there and also will visit my children…..There is no importance to my life….Elections must be held. Without elections, violence will worsen. We will have to show courage. We need political solutions to political problems. The use of force is important sometimes, but it is not enough.”

UPDATE: 9:12 AM - Press conference has completed. I will make the notes above more comprehensible.

UPDATE: 3:06 PM - Revision completed.

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Benazir Bhutto on IAEA access to A.Q. Khan

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Nadeem Taj: New ISI Chief

The Pakistan Army has promoted six major generals to lieutenant general today. The most important advancement is that of Nadeem Taj, who is the new head of Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), replacing Ashfaq Kiyani (alt spellings: Ashfaq Kayani and Ashfaq Kiani).

Kiyani is likely to be the next Vice Chief of Army Staff (VCOAS), paving the way for his automatic succession of Pervez Musharraf as Chief of Army Staff (COAS) upon the Pakistani president’s retirement from the army. Other candidates include Tariq Majeed, Muhammad Sabir, and Salahuddin Satti.

These leadership changes are critical for Musharraf as his retirement from the army and vacating the post of COAS makes him severely vulnerable. The COAS has historically been the most powerful position in Pakistan and Musharraf is keen to replace himself with a loyalist.

Pakistan’s current political climate is akin to an armed standoff in which two (or more, perhaps) sides have their guns pointed at one another. Musharraf will drop his weapon as requested by his opponents, but only if he can trust his backup. He wants ensure that he will not be pounced upon (or worse) by his political opponents or those armed on his side (i.e. COAS, VCOAS, DG ISI) after disarming himself. His personal security and influence can remain as long as those in control of the big guns are loyal to him.

Musharraf’s vulnerabilities will increase into October. A key factor in determining the extent to which he will be weakened will be determined not only by the ongoing Supreme Court hearings, but also by the extent to which the People’s Party and Fazlur Rahman’s JUI accomodate Musharraf. Political pragmatists, both Benazir and Fazlur Rahman are somewhat on the fence, are waiting to see if the tide will fully turn against Musharraf or if they can extract significant concessions from him while he’s weak.

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Arif Rafiq, a Washington, DC-based consultant on Middle East and South Asian political and security issues. [About]

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Arif Rafiq regularly appears on the John Batchelor Show Friday nights from 09:30-10:00pm Eastern Time. Tune your dial to 770AM in New York or 630AM in DC. The show appears on affiliates in other cities. Listen live online at WABCRadio.com.
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