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JUNE 5-11 2011

A Failure to Communicate






JUNE 5-11 2011

Cover Story 22 A Failure To Communicate The communication gap between the civil and military leadership may spell disaster 32 The Art Of War An SSG veteran warns the top brass that unless it gets its tactics right, its strategy is bound to fail

Context 38 Talking Heads As usual, everyone has an opinion

Feature 42 Looking To The Heavens Maybe someday Pakistan will be a nation of stargazers


Travel 44 Model Behaviour A search for mother nature’s perfect pose yields great results

Positive Pakistani


48 Standing Tall Zuhara Bibi’s tiny hands help build her village’s economy

Up North And Personal 52 Where The Heart Is Once you get used to mountain-dwelling, anything else pales in comparison

Regulars 6 People & Parties: Out and about with Pakistan’s beautiful people 18 Questionnaire: Amir Adnan on happiness 50 Reviews: What’s new in film 54 Ten Things I Hate About: Relocating to a new city


Editor: Zarrar Khuhro. Sub-Editors: Batool Zehra, Hamna Zubair Creative Team: Amna Iqbal, Jamal Khurshid, Essa Malik, Anam Haleem, Tariq W Alvi, S Asif Ali, Samad Siddiqui, Mohsin Alam, Sukayna Sadik Publisher: Bilal A Lakhani. Executive Editor: Muhammad Ziauddin. Editor: Kamal Siddiqi. For feedback and submissions: 4


Urban Culture was launched in Lahore

Mahnam, Anam and Rafia

Mr and Mrs Hammad

az Ali Sher, Sher l Uppa

6 JUNE 5-11 2011


Nazish, Samee

Arjumand, Amna, Saad


Sarah Waqar, Asma Mumtaz

MAY 29-JUNE 4 2011


Arfah, Zeid and Deena

Mr and Mrs Raza Rahman

Zain Aziz




oezza and Mom

Rana Farooq, M JUNE 5-11 2011

Raza Rahman, Hadiqa and Bunty

MAY 29-JUNE 4 2011


Sonya Batla’s Monsoon lawn collection was launched in Karachi and Islamabad

Ayaan, Rukaiya Pomme


Aijaz Aslam with Zulfi


10 JUNE 5-11 2011


Mr and Mrs Ab Samad

Maheen Khan with Tehmina Khaled and Sonya Batla


Kiran Aman

MAY 29-JUNE 4 2011


La Atelier launched in Islamabad

Sabeen and Sarah, Sadia, Mariam

Shahmeen and Zahra Raza

Sarah and Zaina


Faiza with a fr

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Sabeen and Ta

Ambreen and Nina with guests

MAY 29-JUNE 4 2011


Veet’s Celebration of beauty was held in Karachi

Feeha Jamshed Mahirah and

Ayesha Khan


Frieha and Ta

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Rizwanullah and Faiza Ansari


Aminah Sheikh

MAY 29-JUNE 4 2011


Sanam Agha

Rukaiya Adamjee

Saba Ansari and Kokab


Sunita Marshal


Shamaeel JUNE 5-11 2011

Zaheer Abbas

MAY 29-JUNE 4 2011

“The greatest possession a man can have is somebody’s trust” Designer Amir Adnan on consistent women, bedtime stories and being blank. What is your idea of perfect happiness?

If you were to die and come back as a person or a thing, what would it be?

Being able to do what you want, when you want.

I wouldn’t want to come back… why would I want to come back?

What is your greatest fear?

What is your most treasured possession?

Not being able to do what you want.

The greatest possession a man can have is somebody’s trust.

What is the trait you most deplore in yourself?

What do you regard as the lowest depth of misery?

I talk too much.

Living in doubt.

What is the trait you most deplore in others?

If you didn’t do your current job, what would you choose to do?

I don’t like control freaks.

I’d be an educationist.

What is your greatest extravagance?

Who is your hero of fiction?

Buying pets.

Hatim Tai.

What is your current state of mind?

Who are your heroes in real life?


Seema Aziz, the founder of Care Foundation.

What do you consider the most overrated virtue?

What is your greatest regret?

The ability to judge.

Not being able to write down the tales that I tell my children every night.

What do you most dislike about your appearance? Too many to count: crooked nose, puffy eyes, etc.

What do you fear most, lizards or cockroaches? Both.

What is the quality you most like in a man? The ability to own up to his flaws and the willingness to

What’s your favourite quote?


“Iss se bach jayen tu phir dekhen ge”.

What is the quality you most like in a woman?

What kind of super powers would you like to have?

Consistency, which is rare.


Which words or phrases do you most overuse?

If you had a time machine, where would you go?

“Theek hai!”

5,000 years back, to Mohenjodaro

When and where were you happiest?

What’s the one thing you wish someone would invent?

Sliding out of a dark water pool in Wild Wadi, Dubai.

The ability to erase memory.

If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be?

If you were stranded on a desert island, what would you take with you?

Be more decisive.

A tasbih.

What do you consider your greatest achievement?

If they made a movie on your life, who would you want to play your role?

The trust that I’ve gained from my family and friends.

Tom Hanks. a

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a failure to communica BY QUATRINA HOSAIN

Can Pakistan win this war? The answer to that may depend entirely on how effectively its civil and military leadership can integrate intelligence – if they can bear to share information with each other at all.

JUNE 5-11 2011


Even as Pakistan finds itself in the midst of a conflagration that has killed at least 30,000 civilians and more than 5,000 soldiers and law enforcement officials, Pakistanis are still questioning whether it is our war on or not. Given that we are not sure if it is our war to begin with, it should come as no surprise that we are not sure who the enemy really is either. The enemy is within the gates, not easily identifiable and growing increasingly capable of carrying out audacious and wellplanned attacks. The latest was the 16-hour siege of the naval air base PNS Mehran in Karachi, similar in style and execution to the attack on the Pakistan Army’s General Head Quarters in 2009. The vulnerability of Pakistan’s armed forces has never been brought as sharply into focus. The 48 hours of silence after Osama bin Laden’s killing in Abbotabad by the CIA and US Seals, from both the civilian and military authorities were deafening. Then came the recriminations, the parliamentary resolutions and the thundering and moaning on the airwaves about intelligence failures. But no substantive action was taken. “We have no focal point,” says former foreign minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi. “We have had no foreign minister in five months and the PM is occupied with other matters. The world cannot wait for you. They need action and reactions.” It took the attack on PNS Mehran and murmurs about the safety — or lack thereof — of Pakistan’s nuclear installations to finally wake up the prime minister, and the Defence Committee of the Cabinet ordered law enforcement agencies to take all necessary action to combat domestic terrorism. So once again, we are going to rush into military action without taking the critical steps of gathering intelligence, analysing the data and proceeding with a coherent multi-pronged strategy. The PPP government’s inevitably short-sighted and kneejerk reactions are unlikely to establish any sense of direction. “The position of the government is compromised,” says PML-N legislator and spokesman Ahsan Iqbal. “Because they sought US and UK assistance with the NRO (National Reconciliation Ordinance), they have to follow their policies. We need indigenous solutions presented by a government that has the trust of the people.” But an informed policy needs a strong foundation. The biggest loophole in prosecuting the war in Pakistan is the complete lack of a national security agenda, a key element of which is integrating intelligence information effectively. “Within the national security framework, intelligence is crucial,” says former national security adviser General (retd) Mehmood Ali Durrani. “If you JUNE 5-11 2011

COVER STORY don’t have proper intelligence, other actions cannot take place.”

Qureshi. “The interior minister seems preoccupied with other

The concept of integrating intelligence efforts, he says, has been

matters and is not focused on this issue.”

missing for years. “We need this now in a complex world where

“Nacta should be activated,” says PPP leader Qamar Zaman

national security needs to involve defence, foreign affairs, fi-

Kaira. But he maintains the role of Nacta was in terms of com-

nance and internal security.”

bating terrorism and developing policy, not just coordinating in-

And Pakistan has a gaping void when it comes to coordinat-

telligence. Whatever the rationale, the government in the midst

ing intelligence amongst different agencies. Pakistan’s largest

of fighting a major war is without a national security adviser, a

intelligence gathering network is the Inter-Services Intelligence

foreign minister or a system like Nacta.

(ISI) whose primary function is to deal with external threats to

The system itself is flawed in many respects, dependent on in-

the country. Maintaining internal stability is theoretically the

dividuals to function adequately. According to Qureshi, when he

purview of the civilian agency known as the Intelligence Bureau

was the foreign minister, there was no institutionalised system

(IB). However, there are several other intelligence agencies op-

of sharing information or intelligence and he did not routinely

erating in the country, including Military Intelligence (MI) the

get intelligence briefs. “At times, I had to take the initiative

Federal Investigation Agency (FIA), and provincial intelligence

myself to get input and engage with the ISI. I personally had a

departments known as the Special Branch of the Central Intel-

good relationship with them and they were very cooperative. But

ligence Department. (see ‘The Agencies’)

there was no institutionalised mechanism.”

“Every intelligence agency has a specific purpose,” says Durrani. And each agency jealously guards its turf.

This virtually ensures that key information required to formulate policy is going to be ignored. A large amount of data is gener-

Durrani held the critical position of national security ad-

ated every day, says former IB chief Masood Sharif Khattak. “Data

viser (NSA) for only seven months, during which time he says

is focused into points of interest and this is filtered and devel-

he sought to build up the level of the IB to the same as the ISI.

oped into leads,” he explains. The military, he says, has mecha-

Reporting directly to Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani, Durrani

nisms set in place but this is missing in the civilian administra-

soon ran into bureaucratic hurdles with one minister even ques-

tion. “There is nothing in the prime minister’s secretariat to deal

tioning if Durrani was trying to create a ‘super ministry’. It’s not

with all the reports coming in and no assessment is done. The

just the agencies who have turf wars.

final picture should be presented to the boss but it doesn’t always

“There is something we call an intelligence cycle — collection,

happen. Systems need to be created.”

collation, interpretation and dissemination,” says General Dur-

According to former president General Pervez Musharraf,

rani. Former intelligence officials say every intelligence agency

when he was president and army chief, all intelligence coordina-

follows this cycle. But the inherent flaw is that without central-

tion was handled by the Director General of the ISI. “The heads of

ising the information either in raw data form or at the interpre-

the ISI, IB and MI would meet once a week, led by the DG ISI. A

tation stage, key information is either not communicated up the

fully developed factsheet with intelligence developed from con-

chain of command or someone fails to connect the dots.

firmed information would be provided to me,” he says.

“We work in tight compartments and information is analysed

The system worked, says Musharraf. “I would even call up the

before it can be presented as intelligence,” says a senior army of-

heads of the ISI, IB and MI and call them in for meetings. The di-

ficial. He agrees that a centralised system is required, pointing

rection was clear from the top and there was unity of command.”

out that the National Counter Terrorism Authority (Nacta) was

But that worked when Gen. Musharraf wielded absolute power

envisioned with this goal in mind. “Having someone like Gen-

– the system was dependent on one man.

eral Durrani as national security adviser is also a workable solution,” the senior official says.

Masood Sharif Khattak agrees there was uniformity of command in the Musharraf years but there is a tendency by military

“Agencies work in vertical silos,” says Ahsan Iqbal. He argues

rulers to treat civilian agencies with less respect. The military

for the need to coordinate data at the low, mid and senior levels

agrees there is a divide between the military intelligence appa-

for effectiveness.

ratus and their civilian counterparts. Intelligence gathering has

But the lackadaisical attitude of the government towards this

to be at the thana level, Khattak says. But the police needs to be

critical function can be gauged by the fact that the well-respected

handled better. “Political whims result in the appointment of

Tariq Pervez who was appointed as the first Chairman of Nacta

IGPs. There is no merit or professionalism.”

resigned within the year and the organisation never got off

The military agrees this is a problem. “We have to depoliticise

the ground. “Nacta exists only on paper,” says Shah Mehmood

the police,” says a military official. The army, he says is trained

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to deal with insurgents and countering terrorism in cities and towns is best handled by local law enforcement. There seems to be a general consensus that Pakistan needs a national security adviser, Nacta or an organisation like Homeland Security. But just creating the office on paper will not be enough. The first Nacta chairman did not have any staff or resources to do his job. Durrani says his office was never properly established with the right mix of people. “The leadership didn’t understand this. They did not have the vision,” he says. There are however differences of opinion on the constitution of an organisation such as Nacta. Musharraf argues that the sys-

“Nacta exists only on paper,” says Shah Mehmood Qureshi. “The interior minister seems preoccupied with other matters and is not focused on this issue.”

tem is ingrained and creating a supra-intelligence agency may be counterproductive. Ahsan Iqbal suggests that any such organisation should be a sub-committee of the Defence Committee of the Cabinet with a permanent secretariat. He points out there are no rules or framework for intelligence agencies at all. But there are mixed opinions on civilian oversight of intelligence operations. While politicians believe civilian oversight is a must, much of that seems to be predicated on the fact that intelligence agencies have been drawn into spying on opposition politicians over the years and playing an unsavoury role in the political landscape. And the military is downright reluctant when it comes to civilian oversight. “Intelligence is secretive by nature. Our legislators have to be backed up by think tanks and given briefings. We cannot afford to have our assets compromised,” says a senior military official, pointing out that details of the incamera session of Parliament in the wake of the bin Laden killing were being broadcast on national television even as the session was in progress. Musharraf is even blunter. “Theoretically it is a good idea to have parliamentary oversight. But intelligence agencies lack confidence in Parliament. Confidentiality is not maintained and this is a problem.” With or without civilian oversight, it is clear that the government needs to act fast on the intelligence front if it is going to tackle terrorism effectively. The military seems to be comfortable working with a civilian head of any such supra agency — such as Nacta — that reports to the prime minister. But it has a rigid mindset and the bureaucracy is just as set in its ways. So the ball is now in the court of the political leadership to create not just an effective equivalent of a national security agency, that combines the efforts of the country’s myriad intelligence agencies, but also to staff it with people who can wargame unconventional strategies, offer solutions and work on breaking new ground in combating terrorism. Without it, we may find that this failure to communicate may lead to a failure of the state itself .

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THE AGENCIES There are at least a dozen intelligence agencies and federal investigation units operating in Pakistan. Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) Mandated to coordinate intelligence services and conduct counter-espionage, Pakistan’s most powerful spy network technically comes under the government’s ministry of defense headed by federal minister Ahmed Mukhtar. However, the ISI Director General Lieutenant General Shuja Pasha is widely believed to report directly to Chief of Army Staff General Ashfaq Pervez Kayani only. Military Intelligence (MI) The Directorate for Military Intelligence is mainly concerned with identifying threats and anti-state agents working to sabotage the armed forces. This intelligence agency

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theoretically reports to the Ministry of Defense, but is in fact answerable only to the Army chief. Air Intelligence, Army intelligence and Naval intelligence are all branches of the MI Intelligence Bureau (IB) This civilian intelligence agency comes under the Ministry of Interior’s direct control. Its mandate is limited to gathering intelligence and identifying internal threats to the country. It liaisons with the Pakistan police force and passes on critical security-related information to civilian law enforcers. Directorate of Customs Intelligence and Investigation, Inland Revenue This is the Federal Board of Revenue’s intelligence wing, it gathers information on evasion of customs, federal excise duties, sales tax and smuggling of contraband

Financial Monitoring Unit Also known as the Financial Intelligence Unit, this body assists domestic law enforcement agencies and regulators in detection and prevention of threats emanating from money laundering and terrorist financing activities. It comes under the Ministry of Finance and is headed by a director general. Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) The Federal Investigation Agency comes under the jurisdiction of the Ministry of Interior. It deals with counter terrorism, anti-corruption, human smuggling and copyright infringement operations. Crime Investigation Department (CID) This is a specialised unit of the provincial police departments that investigates high profile terrorism and criminal cases.

Each CID unit is headed by the provincial Inspector General of Police. Many urban centres also have a separate specialised unit apart from the CID that operates directly under the command of the Capital City Police Officer. Anti Narcotics Force (ANF) The Anti Narcotics Force comes under the Ministry of Defence and is headed by a senior military officer. Its main concern is drug trafficking, eradication of drug supply and trafficking and organising rehabilitation programmes. Airport Security Force (ASF) This is the first line of defence at airports throughout Pakistan and is handled by the Ministry of Defence.

COORDINATING INTELLIGENCE The United States – greater centralisation after 9/11 To counter what was seen as a massive intelligence failure in the US after 9/11, the Office of the The Director of National Intelligence (DNI) was created in 2004. The DNI is now the leader of the United State’s large intelligence community. Before the office of the DNI was created, the intelligence community was led by the Director of Central Intelligence (DCI), who was also the Director of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). The CIA is now coordinated by the DNI, which reports directly to the President. The agencies he coordinates are: The Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), Department of Defense (DOD) Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA), National Security Agency (NSA), National Geospatial Intelligence Agency, National Reconnaissance Office (NRO), Air Force Intelligence, Marine Corps

Intelligence, Army Intelligence, Naval Intelligence, Department of State, Department of Energy (DOE), Department of Treasury, United States Coast Guard, Department of Homeland Security and The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA). The DNI also oversees the National Counterterrorism Center (NCTC), which is staffed by terrorism experts from the CIA, FBI, and the Pentagon; the Privacy and Civil Liberties Board; and the National Counter Proliferation Center. The United Kingdom – ministerial oversight The UK has three intelligence and security services, collectively known as the Agencies – the Secret Intelligence Service (better known as MI6), Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ) and the Security Service, sometimes known as MI5. The agencies operate under the immediate control of their respective heads who are personally responsible to ministers. However, the Prime Minister has overall responsibility for intelligence and security matters

and is supported in that capacity by the Secretary of the Cabinet. The Home Secretary is responsible for the Security Service; the Foreign Secretary for MI6 and GCHQ, and the Secretary of State for Defence for the DIS. There is also a Ministerial Committee on the Intelligence Services (CIS), whose Terms of Reference are: “to keep under review policy on the security and intelligence services”. The Prime Minister is its chairman and the other members are the Deputy Prime Minister, Home, Defence and Foreign Secretaries and the Chancellor of the Exchequer. Part of the Cabinet Office, the Joint Intelligence Committee (JIC), advises the government on priorities for intelligence gathering and for assessing its results. The JIC provides regular intelligence assessments on issues of national interests, like security, defence and foreign affairs. Intelligence reporting from the Agencies is also used to support field operations by the Armed Forces and by law enforcement agencies. Relationships between the Agencies and those who use their intelligence are close and

as transparent as possible. India – Executive control In India, the National Security Council (NSC) looks into the country’s strategic concerns. The NSC comprises the Strategic Policy Group, the National Security Advisory Board and a Secretariat represented by the Joint Intelligence Committee (JIC). It is the JIC that is responsible for analysing intelligence data from India’s main intelligence units: the Intelligence Bureau, the Research and Analysis Wing (commonly known as RAW), and the Directorates of Military, Naval and Air Intelligence. The JIC has its own Secretariat that works under the Cabinet Secretariat, and critics of the system say that because of this, the JIC is mostly not answerable to the Cabinet. The Intelligence Bureau is responsible for internal intelligence, and RAW is responsible for external intelligence. In contrast to the British method of sharing intelligence, the structure and operations of RAW are said to be kept largely secret from Parliament, and the agency operates directly under the Prime Minister.

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the art of war

Brigadier (retd) Javed Hussain, a veteran of the Special Services Group and the armoured corp, warns the top brass that unless it gets its tactics right, its strategy is bound to fail.


In your experience, how much planning would have gone into the attack on the PNS Mehran? Any attack is basically a battle between the attackers’ plan and the defenders’ plan. Before any operation, there has to be adequate intelligence to infiltrate the base and destroy assigned targets. That can only be done if the team has adequate information about that area. Now PNS Mehran is a vulnerable area (VA), and inside it are vulnerable points (VPs) like the hangars in which the Orion aircraft are parked, and the hangars where the helicopters were parked, along with other aircraft. The other VP is the PAF airstrip where the C-130s were parked. The planner would need to know everything about the base, including the perimeter defence (number of searchlights etc), and the number of perimeter defenders. Second, they need to know the internal defence of the base and third, whether the targets are actually in the base at the time of the attack. All this requires updated real-time intelligence. The attackers cannot overwhelm the defenders unless they know all there is to know about the defenders. If you know your enemy you will win. Given what we saw in this attack, do you think the attackers were on a suicide mission, or was this a conventional guerrilla/commando raid? They accomplished their primary mission within 2 hours. At that point they could have gotten away, but I believe they were under an oath to fight to the death, as in a classic fedayeen mission. When people say there were only four or five attackers, I think they are correct. Had there been more, they would have divided JUNE 5-11 2011

“If you know the enemy and know yourself you need not fear the results of a thousand battles.” — Sun Tzu

into two teams, with one team going for the Orions while the second team waited. Once the Orions were destroyed, the second team would rush in, destroy the C-130s and exfiltrate, but since they were four, they went straight for the Orions, which

Even less well trained attackers would have succeeded, as they were not up against commandoes initially, but base defenders. That’s why commando ops most often succeed, because of the mismatch between skills.

were clearly their primary targets. They then opted to fight to the death, marking this clearly as a fedayeen mission. A regular special operations (spec ops) team would rarely be assigned suicide missions. It’s another thing if they get cornered and have to fight till the last, but a fedayeen mission being assigned to regular special forces is rare, if not entirely unheard of. Given what we saw, were these attackers trained to a level that they could take on the SSG? Training-wise they were at least as good, and they were assisted greatly by the sheer lack of security. The real test would have been if the security had been up to par, but they were certainly superior to the defenders in training, skill, and most of all, motivation. A valiant officer like Yasser Abbas of the rapid reaction force charged into battle, but how many others would have? Apparently, the defenders were not trained in these contingencies and thus they were ambushed and pinned down by the enemy. The attackers were waiting when the Naval commandoes came and managed to kill some of them as well. Even less well trained attackers would have succeeded, as they were not up against commandoes initially, but base defenders. That’s why commando ops most often succeed — because of the mismatch between skills. Would it be possible to know the layout and capabilities of the base so well without inside information? That cannot be ruled out, because from experience I know that there are soldiers who, when they go back to their villages, come under the influence of the village mullahs’ sermons, and are then motivated to help the Jihadis. This kind of thinking now exists in the rank and file in all three services. They are ripe for recruitment, and the Jihadis know this. Is it even possible to purge the ranks of people with a pro-Jihadi mindset? There has to be a major campaign launched by all the commanders, starting from the top, with directives issued all the way down the line. The corps commanders, company commanders, brigade commanders etc must be on board and willing to acknowledge and deal with the problem. Here is where the intelligence agencies will play a crucial role. The way it has to be done is that intelligence officials join as fresh recruits and attempt to penetrate the networks. Then they can identify who the Jihadi elements or sympathetic elements are so they

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COVER STORY can be dealt with, or even lead to the ringleaders. We have seen repeated cases highlighting the problem of radicalisation in the armed forces, why hasn’t such a purge been carried out? The top brass seems to simply refuse to accept the reality that the mili-

We penetrated Sargodha thrice, and each times we employed new tactics. Once we paradropped in the vicinity of the base, went through the main gate in air force uniforms and commandeered air force vehicles that were coming towards the gate after removing the drivers. The security was so lax that they let us in after only seeing our uniforms.

tary is faced with a serious internal threat. They think these people are an exception and a small exception at best. They are wrong. In conversations with serving military officials, and looking at some of the rhetoric in the right wing press and from right wing commentators, fingers are being pointed at India etc, but if as you say this was a one-way fedayeen mission, does that not point towards jihadi elements? There is no doubt that hostile intelligence agencies are operating in Pakistan, but what’s being overlooked by everyone is that we’re all talking too big. We talk of policies and strategies, instead of effective tactics and implementation. In the Mehran base attack the buck ultimately stops at the Naval chief, but the man on the spot was the commander of the base. High policy and strategy is no concern of his. He knows that his country is in a state of war with an internal enemy and therefore he is not concerned by whether his base is threatened by RAW, the CIA or Jihadis. His concern must be to secure the base. In order to do that he has to develop an effective security plan. Unfortunately as far as I know, that was simply not done. How would it be done? After the 1965 war, the air force chief Nur Khan decided to strengthen security at all air bases and asked the SSG to test the base security. We carried out separate operations against bases in Sargodha, Badin, Peshawar, Mauripur base the PAF Faisal base. We penetrated Sargodha thrice, and each times we employed new tactics. Once we paradropped in the vicinity of the base, went through the main gate in air force uniforms and commandeered air force vehicles that were coming towards the gate after removing the drivers. The security was so lax that they let us in after only seeing our uniforms. We already knew where all the VAs were, from the fuel dumps to hangars to even the pilots’ restrooms, so we went straight for our targets. The air force learned a lot from these exercises. The Mehran base commander, should have done the same, knowing that he was faced with a ruthless, highly trained, highly motivated enemy — far more motivated in fact than your own troops, because how many of those would undertake a fedayeen mission? You have to consider all the possibilities, then plan and resource your plans. Here the attackers’ plan succeeded and the defenders’ failed. It doesn’t matter if the handlers are in

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Waziristan, New Delhi, Tel Aviv or Washington, what matters is winning the battle between the minds of the attacking elements and the defending elements. Given the state of the Mehran base, how vulnerable are our other bases to similar attacks?

These people need to pause and think small. Strategy must come later because in the face of tactics, strategy submits.

In the GHQ attack, they were defeated apparently by tribals from Waziristan, and it can happen again. The Chaklala base is also vulnerable. The way it works — and this was probably the case with Mehran — is that they have a number of people deployed for security, and they feel secure because they have 50 people at the gate. But what is the caliber of those people? Are they physically and mentally fit? If they are not — and in 99 per cent of cases they are not — then there is a problem, causing a total mismatch which means the attackers will always win. We have seen over 100 attacks on military and LEA installations in the past 7 years and each time the attackers have succeeded. They have to employ the thieves to make these places thief-proof. These people need to pause and think small. Strategy must come later because in the face of tactics, strategy submits. When it is clear that the military is a major target, why haven’t these issues been addressed? Just read the statement made by the Naval chief that there was no security lapse and that the attackers were well trained and equipped with ‘sophisticated’ weapons… like AK-47s, hand grenades and wire-cutters! These are the kind of minds we have directing this war. In the GHQ attack, the Military Intelligence directorate itself was occupied by the terrorists, but in a clear miscalculation, they decided not to blow up the building and instead use the hostages as bargaining tools. That gave the SSG time to go in and take them out. It’s not that the militants are so strong or skilled but that our own adaptive capabilities are weak. How many of these failures are due to an unwillingness to coordinate and due to turf wars between the agencies? In Mehran, there were were two groups of VPs in the base: the air force and the navy. The attackers entered from the air force side and went straight for the Naval VPs, so where was the air force? There was no coordination even within the base! We have countless agencies, but we need a body to coordinate their activities. For example, special branch warned GHQ of a possible attack six months before the strike, but they were ignored and written off as alarmists. A controlling and coordinating body needs to be set up under someone who must get daily reports, even if it’s an NTR (nothing to report), because if something happens he must be held accountable. The ISI itself should have suggested it, but the ISI thinks it is the mother of all agencies, and it doesn’t need a father. A

35 JUNE 5-11 2011


MAPS FOR LOST TERRORISTS Google Earth isn’t just used to navigate an unfamiliar part of the city — since at least 2007 there have been concerns about the use of its detailed imagery by terrorists. In 2005, officials at the Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation called on the company to censor images of the plant, warning that they could be used by terrorists. According to Wikileaks, since 2006, the Chinese government has been urging the US to “take action to get Google to reduce the resolution of the Google Earth images of China’s military, nuclear, space, energy and other sensitive government agency installations in order to deprive terrorists of potentially dangerous information”. It was also concerned about the ability of users to freely annotate specific locations on Google Earth imagery, which would provide information about important Chinese agencies and sensitive installations. In late 2005, after seeing its bases on Google Earth, the Thai military wanted Google to censor not just important state buildings but also tourist attractions. Similarly, Mosnews reported that Russian generals raised the alarm over Google Earth in 2005, saying “terrorists will see all that they need to carry out an attack in any part of the world.” Security fears were also raised in South Korea where the Ministry of Defence said, “The satellite photos of Cheong Wa Dae and military bases released on the website ‘Google Earth’ might violate domestic security laws.” In 2007, Khaled Jaabari of Palestine’s al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade, admitted that the group was checking its own maps against Google Earth to identify vulnerabilities for rocket strikes in Israel. In early 2007, Google Earth images of British bases were found in the homes of insurgents in Iraq, with longitude and latitude coordinates written on the back. Reports that insurgents were buying CDs of Google Earth imagery in the markets of Basra, so as to better target their RPGs inside UK bases prompted pressure from the US and UK military. Subsequently, the most up-to-date Digital Globe imagery from Iraq was removed from Google Earth. Since 2007, there have been no new imagery updates for Iraq and Afghanistan in Google Earth. India’s President Abdul Kalam was one of the first to express concern over pictures of sensitive locations on Google Earth. After the Mumbai attack, police claimed that terrorists familiarised themselves with the target using satellite images with reports that Faheem Ahmed Ansari, a suspected militant, said he was shown maps of Indian locations on Google Earth by members of Lashkar-e-Taiba.

36 JUNE 5-11 2011


Conversations with serving armed forces personnel provide insights “It has to be the Indians, I tell you,” he said. “Look at the details of this attack: the target inside the base was a technology specifically designed to counter the Indian forces.”This is the view inside most military circles — the argument I heard most often when I visited Islamabad this month, arriving on the same night as the PNS Mehran Base attack. My conversations with military officials centered around terrorism, and these discussions brought to light the concept of Fourth Generation Warfare (4GW). A research paper at the National Defense University focusing on 4GW contends that Pakistan is facing a war on a front most of us can’t even analyse correctly. According to the paper, war theorists all over the world say that warfare has entered into a new phase where “an evolved form of insurgency uses all available networks — political, economic, social and military — to convince the enemy’s decision makers that their strategic goals are either unachievable or too costly for the perceived benefit.” It characterises 4GW as a scenario where the distinction between war and peace is blurred so that war becomes non-linear, possibly to the point of having no definable battlefields or fronts. Though military circles say they understand this and are preparing for it, they feel that winning 4GW requires an integrated approach and that unity is missing in Pakistan. With the increase in urban centre attacks on the military, there is a growing need for the civilian leadership to understand the changing dynamics of warfare and come forward to develop a national security policy. The military circles in Islamabad believe that there is a need to revisit the counter-terrorism strategy but they complain that political circles lack the initiative and do not want to take responsibility in case something goes wrong. Uniformed personnel in our country are frustrated with what they see as the failure of the civilian leadership to formulate a strategic response. Moreover, they believe that political rifts between the elected leadership are so wide that it is delaying consensus on how to respond to the threat Pakistan faces today. An instance that a military friend quoted was the absence of the Defence Minister from the Defence Cabinet Committee meeting on 25th May 2011. Another example of the parliament’s lack of interest can be seen in the government’s inability to make the

National Counter-terrorism Authority (NACTA) — which has been waiting approval since 2009 — functional. Nevertheless, in the minds of citizens, terrorist attacks raise concerns primarily about military strengths, not the political leadership. Many in the military agree that the military needs to revisit its security policies but strongly feel that it is not possible to achieve success in counter-terrorism without support from the civilian setup. An official complained that the military is blamed for failing to stop attacks, but the security apparatus of the civilian government is not also blamed . If the ISI and MI failed, they ask, what about the police, special branch and intelligence bureau? The military feels that non state violent actors (NSVAs) do exist on Pakistani soil and are being manipulated by enemy forces to achieve strategic goals. These enemy forces are neither individuals nor groups but ‘countries’ that are capitalising on internal conflict keeping alive the NSVAs. According to them strengthening security on military bases alone is not the solution. NSVAs will continue to be exploited until the political leadership takes the initiative to wipe out the enabling environment and external threat will continue to translate into internal threats that we see today. According to the research paper mentioned earlier, the proponents of counter-terrorism strategies in the face of fourth generation warfare feel that providing economic prosperity is the foremost way of eradicating this brand of war. To effectively fight the current war on terror, decision-makers in Pakistan need non-military means: we need to understand that terrorism is simply a tactic, not an enemy in itself, and so requires a counter-tactic, instead of a strategy to physically kill the terrorists. So how do we defeat these terrorists? The research paper highlights that ideology is the strongest element of 4G warriors’ power instead of military power, so their most powerful weapon of indoctrination can only be defeated through education and awareness in the region. Military officials feel that success will only come if the nation has a political leadership that strengthens the socio-economic conditions of people in the affected areas, sincerely works on raising literacy levels and activates its own security apparatus. On the other hand, there is a need for the military to acknowledge its own lapses and errors, and also recognise that the enemy may well be within its own ranks. Simply playing the blame game will only result in failure on all fronts.

37 JUNE 5-11 2011

CONTEXT The attack on PNS Mehran got everyone talking ... whether any questions were answered is another matter.

talking head BY HAMNA ZUBAIR

Following what was said in the media immediately after the attack on PNS Mehran was exhausting if you were looking for a consistent account of the operation. The morning after the attack, the English daily

were heard reassessing their positions. At such a time, when

Dawn reported that six attackers had entered PNS Mehran and

he had been on the right track all along. “After 9/11, a new war

said that four had been killed and two had fled, The Express Tribune

was started to reshape the Middle East ...” Hamid railed. “The US

said the same; The News differed and said there were only four at-

and Nato are looking for a new supply route to Afghanistan, an

tackers and all of them had been killed, and Pakistan Today claimed

alternate supply route within Pakistan. Just like they have done

that 10-15 militants had stormed the base. Of course, the matter

in Libya, they want to take over the Gwadar port in Pakistan.

was further confused a few days later when the FIR filed by navy

That is why it is critical for them to incapacitate the Pakistan

personnel said there could have been as many as 10-12 attackers.

Navy ... In the 21st century, whoever controls the Indian Ocean

Speculations about who was behind the attack were equally nu-

will control the whole world.”

said the attack was part of a greater Western conspiracy, there can be no doubt that more than a few people watching felt that

merous with as many as ten possible backers mentioned in half

Similar views were repeated in the Urdu press, with Ikram

as many sources — the TTP, Jaish e Mohammad, Baloch Separat-

Sehgal writing in Jang, “The US supported us when they need-

ists, RAW, the CIA, and ‘elements within the armed forces’ were

ed a buffer against communism, but after that, didn’t consider

just some of the names being bandied about.

us important enough to do anything but pay lip service to us...

But what has been most interesting about coverage of the at-

America has never stuck by its policies regarding Pakistan.” In

tack on PNS Mehran is the range of opinion it has generated in

another publication on the same day, Sehgal pointed a finger at

a short span of time, more so than the May 2 raid on Osama Bin

Indian Intelligence agency RAW, as well. The Daily Express, in its

Laden’s compound in Abbottabad. Most news sources and media

editorial the day after the attacks, pointed a finger at elements

persons stayed firmly in their usual corners — with government-

within the country that could be responsible, even saying that

bashing taking a backseat to military-bashing, for the most part

“terrorists have infiltrated the media, too.”

– except when it came to talking about the commandoes, navy

During this time, while the nation was either obsessed with

officers, firemen and security personnel who lost their lives in

self-flagellation or was busy pointing at ‘external’ elements, for-

the attack. The morning of the operation, readers of The News

eign reactions were equally interesting. While the foreign press

were greeted by the headline “Four terrorists mocked govern-

came down hard on Pakistan, Western political leadership soft-

ment might for 16 hours.” An editorial in the same paper mocked

ened its stance. UK Prime Minister David Cameron and US Pres-

the establishment’s attempts to secure peace, but praised lower-

ident Obama solemnly pledged that Pakistan was not alone in

level officers for giving their lives for their country. In contrast,

the fight against terrorism, and veteran policymakers like Henry

Dawn’s editorial after the attacks was more tempered, stating

Kissinger said, “We should stop beating up on Pakistan.” Even

that we needed to “face facts once and for all and stop living in

Indian Defence Minister AK Antony’s response was measured,

denial ... It is unfortunate, but not surprising given the stagger-

as he said “Our services are taking all precautions and are ready

ingly delusional outlook of many in this country, that the deadly

around the clock ... but at the same time we don’t want to over-

assault on the PNS Mehran airbase in Karachi has engendered a


plethora of conspiracy theories even before the matter has been fully investigated.”


Zaid Hamid appeared on Mehr Bokhari’s show on Dunya TV and

It was then left to the foreign press to question the safety of Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal, and much was made of the massive

Indeed, conspiracy theories were the order of the day, and

security lapse at PNS Mehran. An article in the Associated Press

there was no better place to air them than the television. The dif-

by Chris Brummitt said, “A serious breach of the security perim-

ference being that after this attack, which specifically targeted

eter could lead to calls for a unilateral American move to secure

strategic military assets with cold-blooded precision, even those

the Muslim world’s only nuclear weapons ... while that is un-

who usually dismissed conspiracy theories were shaken, and

likely, a scenario that includes more attacks on Pakistani security

JUNE 5-11 2011


installations, possibly nuclear ones, is not.” Similarly, articles in The Guardian and The Los Angeles Times talked of how the raid had embarrassed the Pakistani Army. With all this sombre talk dominating the airwaves and the newspapers, one felt that only a look at the blogosphere could help lighten the debate. Pakistani bloggers didn’t disappoint, with KalaKawa announcing: “I will now present a list of excuses that would have flown better than the one actually used by the PAF ... like this — The PAF is acutely aware of the shortage of electricity in our nation. As part of the energy conservation movement we have decided to keep all radars off between 9 pm and 9 am. A replacement plan has been devised though. The Ruet-e-Hilal Committee has been hired all year long now to keep an eye on any intruding vehicles.” The folks at Cafe Pyala threw in their own observations, pointing out that a ‘Colonel Sahib’ once informed them that the guards posted outside PAF Masroor Base “are not soldiers, just chowkidars ... somebody has just given them some uniforms.” The




circulated after the attacks, however, mostly had to do with a certain sci-fi trilogy starring a short man with an abysmally loose grasp on sentence



haps the best we can hope for, then, is that the force be with us all.A

JUNE 5-11 2011


looking to the heavens ‘We are all in the gutter, but some of us are staring at the stars’ - Oscar Wilde BY SALMAN HAMEED

siasts from KSS had their telescopes setup at Government High School Number 1, in Phool Nagar, 50 km south of Lahore. Falakayati Melas continued through 2009 and 2010 in Okara,

“We are all in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars.” – Oscar Wilde

Jehlum, Shahdara, Swabi and Lahore. At some places 500 people

It is an understatement to say that Pakistan is going through a

tite for wonder was on full display here, suicide bombings also con-

tough time. Scores of civilians have died, and continue to die, in

tinued throughout Pakistan during this time. Lahore, Rawalpin-

spates of suicide bombings. Many of the recent terrorism suspects

di, Mian Channu, Peshawar, Dera Ismail Khan. The total number

in the world have had links to the lawless areas between Afghani-

of people dead in these attacks, unfortunately, outnumbers those

stan and Pakistan. And now, with the killing of Osama Bin Laden

who were looking through telescopes at these Falakayati melas.

showed up to look at Jupiter, at other places, 1500! While the appe-

in Abbottabad, the world’s accusatory fingers are squarely pointed at Pakistan.

But the universe goes on.

But this is also a time when – of all things – amateur astronomy

One of the architects of the Falikyati Melas is Umair Asim. A

is blooming in Pakistan. An increasing number of young, educated

senior vice principal at a school, he has spent his lifesavings on a

Pakistanis are looking at the heavens, not necessarily to seek help,

telescope and an observatory at the rooftop of his house in Lahore.

but to appreciate the grandeur of the universe.

He is one of the leading amateur astronomers in Pakistan. He re-

Lahore has seen its share of terrorism in recent years. More than

cently captured a close-up of some of the Moon’s craters, and this

3,000 lives were lost in these attacks in 2009 alone. But 2009 also

image was picked up as the Lunar Photo of the Day (LPOD) for April

marked the rise of popular astronomy in the cultural capital of

27, 2011 – the first ever from Pakistan. One of the craters in the im-

Pakistan. The Khwarizmi Science Society (KSS), based in Lahore,

age, Maupertius, is 44 km in diameter. The entire city of Lahore

organised its first Falakayati Mela (Astronomy Festival) at Punjab

can comfortably fit in there.

University in January 2009. The Mela invited children and adults

Umair and other astronomers from Lahore are not alone. There

alike to look at the sky with the help of a telescope. The turnout was

are a number of amateur astronomers in Karachi. They delight

spectacular: over 500 people showed up to view the majestic rings of

when power goes out in the city of lights – which seems to happen

Saturn, as well as a close-up of craters on the Moon.

more than it should. Just this past year, Karachi Astronomy Society

The KSS was not content to open up the universe only to those

(KAS) organised an all-night astronomy session at Badro-Jabel – a

living in big cities. They brought their telescopes to public schools

dark site, located about 300 km from Karachi. This was an unprec-

in small towns in Punjab too. Just a week after the infamous attack

edented gathering of Pakistani astronomers, with some joining in

on the Sri Lankan cricket team in Lahore, young astronomy enthu-

from as far as Lahore. Multiple telescopes were present; the star

42 MAY 29-J 29-JUNE -JJ UNE UN UN NE E 4 20 2 2011 0 1111

Continued page 38

amongst them was an 18-inch Dobsonian telescope, perhaps the

other stars, gas clouds being consumed by hungry black holes, and

largest of its kind in Pakistan. Its owner, Khalid Marwat, has not

strange galaxies formed “only” a few million years after the Big

only been generous in sharing the telescope, but also in imparting


lessons about the night sky.

Pakistan, at the time, was under the dictatorship of General Zia-

For one night, a small part of a Pakistani desert had eyes that

ul-Haq. The history of US, Pakistan, and Afghanistan was in the

could see and appreciate the beauty of the Orion nebula – a gas

process of being intertwined in ways that few imagined at the time.

cloud that is forming new stars. This nebula is located about

Oblivious to the political realities, a few of us formed an astronomi-

1500 light years away and is lit by the light of baby stars.

cal society by the name of Amastropak – The Amateurs Astronomi-

It wasn’t in the Orion nebula, but our own Sun was

cal Society of Pakistan. In the late 1980s, a few small telescopes in

also born in a stellar nursery such as this, a few

Karachi would regularly scan the skies and bring the rings of Saturn

billion years ago! For a moment, however brief, the news of terrorism seemed to fade away in this cosmic context.

into focus. I left for the US and received my PhD in astronomy in August 2001. My thesis explored the causes for the triggering of star formation in

I have my own affinity with

galaxies millions of light years away. But closer to home, the next

the bright night sky of Kara-

ten years would see a dramatic increase in terrorism in Pakistan.

chi. I was first smitten by

Even the shrines of Sufis would not be spared the carnage.

astronomy in the early

But at the same time we have also seen a growing interest in as-

1980’s, when Paki-

tronomy in Pakistan. The cause may not be easy to explain, but evi-

stan Television

dence is there for all to see. Can we build on this interest and have

(PTV) aired

a program that promises small and easy-to-use telescopes all across Pakistan? “Yes to telescopes, no to guns!” Can we make astronomy our national obsession – like cricket or mangoes? Instead of being Osama Bin Laden’s hideout, can Pakistan one day be known as the nation of stargazers, that crazy country where almost everyone has seen the rings of Saturn? a Salman Hameed is assistant professor of Integrated Science & Humanities and director of the Center for the Study of Science

the first epi-

in Muslim Societies (SSiMS) at Hampshire College, Massa-

sode of Carl Sagan’s Cosmos.


chusetts, USA.


tive on life and the universe was never the same. The Karachi night sky did not show many stars, but this encouraged me to imagine planets around

MAY M MA AY AY 2 29-J 29 29-JUNE 9-- UN 9 UNE NE N E 4 20 2011 0 11




A nature photographer chases his true love from one state to next — with some surprising results. BY TAIMUR ALI AHMED

I’m a nature photographer — so you might be a little surprised when I tell you that I too work with a model. She is called Mother Nature, but that name doesn’t do her justice, given her everchanging moods and looks. Most of the time, she is hardly maternal … And, as I realised during my most recent trip to Texas, it would be better if I likened her to a celebrity. The way she struts around, walk-


like I was stalking a celebrity. ‘I’m spending all this time and effort on the off chance some interesting sight will show itself,” I said to myself. Of course, there are no guarantees when it comes to photographing the Über Model. It could be raining, cloudy, the area could just not be interesting or impossible to capture with a lens … there are a million reasons why no worthwhile pictures might be taken, despite the long journey and the time spent camping out in the wilderness.

ing all over you as if you’re her slave, is more akin to the behav-

After driving all day, I was getting close to my destination but

iour of a supermodel … in fact, Mother Nature, I hereby christen

had not seen the slightest glimpse of her. The camera lay next to

you ‘Über Model!’

me in the front seat, the number of pictures taken — zero. I decided

Just setting up an appointment with her can be a challenge. I

to rest my eyes and stopped by the side of the road. The sun was set-

live in Chicago and honestly — no disrespect to the citizens of the

ting on a day spent in a futile chase. I told myself to be patient. She

great state of Illinois - there isn’t much here for outdoorsy types.

had done this to me before. She liked to make me wait, and liked

The area is flat, and in winter, it’s stark and grey. So to meet the

to play these little games. Just when you thought she was not go-

Über Model, I had to travel all the way to Texas (I chose Texas be-

ing to show up, you’d turn a corner in the road and there she would

cause I was able to get really cheap tickets … and also because it has

be. But this area of Texas was relatively flat; there were no corners

diverse terrain and eco-systems). But even after I landed in Hous-

to peek around. I closed my eyes and decided to take a quick nap.

ton, I had to travel another 11 hours for our rendezvous at Big Bend

Imagine my surprise, then, when I opened my eyes and there

National Park, an area where she is known to sometimes make an

she was! She was wearing a fiery red chiffon number and was


walking across the horizon with her arms up and a trail of crim-

As I drove the endless straight roads across the great state (al-

son flowing behind her. I put my camera to my eye and for the

most 1,000 kilometres, from Houston to Big Bend), I really felt

next fifteen minutes clicked away at the beautiful sunset. But

JUNE 5-11 2011

just taking a picture of a sunset from the side of the road doesn’t make for an interesting shoot. I needed a prop. On the other side of the Interstate was an old abandoned windmill, which would add some foreground interest. I had to reach it before she disappeared. Without a second thought, I ran across, just in time for the colours of the sunset to reach their peak. By this time, I was sweating and panting, trying to keep up with her. The camera’s memory card was filling up fast. I worked quickly before my temperamental model decided to call it a day. Over the next couple of days, I realised that Texas is one of the Über Model’s favourite haunts. She enthralled me every day, from the very first ray of sunlight to the star-filled sky at night. But it

I wondered, can one die from too many mosquito bites? I saw the headlines in tomorrow’s paper: 'Photographer dies chasing Über Model.'

40 JUNE 5-11 2011


By this time, I was sweating and panting, trying to keep up with her. The camera’s memory card was filling up fast. I worked quickly before my temperamental model decided to call it a day.

had been a difficult trip. On the last leg of my journey, I stopped at Padre Island, which is world-famous for birding. There, I found a group of pelicans resting on the marsh at the edge of a lake. Enroute to these pelicans another prize awaited — a long-necked crane. The sun was setting, (the lighting is always best during sunset and sunrise and nature photographers must constantly be on the run during these moments), which also meant I had to act quickly. As I made my way towards my sensitive prey, the marsh turned out to be wetter than I had imagined. There was no other route but through the marsh given what little time I had, so I somehow managed to make it to the other side, but was completely covered in slime from the waist down by the time I got across. The crane had long since flown away, but I managed to crawl on my hands and knees close enough to the pelicans to take some pictures. I tried to get closer but only managed to scare them off. But they didn’t bother flying very far and came to rest on the lake, floating merrily as I chased them along the shore. Behind them the sun was setting, a deep orange. It made for a great shot. When the sun disappeared and it became too dark to take pictures, I realised that from the waist down I smelled like fecal matter and probably looked like it too. Worse, the mud was less mud and more a dark layer of giant mosquitoes sucking my blood (I was wearing shorts). I jumped into the lake, washed off my legs frantically and walked out to see my legs completely swollen, red and itching like mad, and I wondered, can one die from too many mosquito bites? I saw the headlines in tomorrow’s paper: 'Photographer dies chasing Über Model.' Sitting at the airport, I looked back at the days I had been out shooting. I had fallen in love with her again, my muse, the reason why I became a photographer. A superstar; she was always on the move and was hard to meet, she doesn’t keep or make appointments and you never know what her mood will be when she does show up. She’ll walk off the set when she pleases. Sometimes at home, sometimes on the road, when you least expect it, she’ll appear. When this happens, I find myself scrambling, chasing her, as she strikes poses. But each encounter has a vibe, a look. Her mood is never hidden and she has it all; the full range of emotions, expressed on a scale and with a grandeur that is unparalleled.a

46 JUNE 5-11 2011


standing tall

With a little help from her family, Zuhara Bibi has managed to successfully add to both her family’s and her village’s wellbeing. BY EFTIQAR HAIDER

If you ever asked to meet the proprietress of this tiny shop six kilometres from Kot Mithan in Basti Khuda Baksh, you would be astounded by the massive difficulties she has overcome to make it to where she is today.

years. Regardless of this, she has been running a shop for many

Standing just 2.5 feet tall, Zuhara Bibi has managed to add to

shop, which youngsters love. She also sells some basic food items

her village’s economy and well-being by relying on her will – and a little help from her equally persistent grandmother.


years in her village, which was recently devastated by floods. “She works very hard. She opens the shop up very early and sits until dusk,” reveals 80-year-old Abdul Ghafoor, a resident of Basti Khuda Baksh. She sells sweets, candies and biscuits in her like ghee, tea, salt and sugar, beads and washing powder. While millions across the country have struggled to grapple

Born with a defect that meant her growth was stunted, from

with the reality of the floods that hit in July last year, Zuhara Bibi

a distance anyone could mistake her for a child, despite her 26

is poised and perfectly sure of herself. She never wants to become

JUNE 5-11 2011

“I can knit that in four to five days,” Zuhara Bibi says shyly, pointing to a finished wool-top. “I can sell this for about Rs250 a piece ... in my case, no one was willing to teach me how to knit or weave. They thought that because of my disability, it would be pointless. However, my grandmother disagreed with that line of thinking. She was very adamant that I learn how to knit.”

a liability, and never wants to be dependent on anyone. She loves being part of solutions, rather than problems. Because of the small size of the village, Zuhara Bibi doesn’t have to deal with a steady flow of customers – and in the lull between tending to one buyer and the next, she has enough time to devote herself to her other interest – knitting. She knits sweaters, cushions, and woolen tea-cosies used to cover pots. “I can knit that in four to five days,” she says shyly, pointing to a finished wool-top. “I can sell this for about Rs250 a piece.” When asked how she learnt to knit, Zuhara Bibi says that it is natural for all the women in the area to know how to knit and weave. ““In my case, no one was willing to teach me how to knit or weave … they thought that because of my disability, it would be pointless. However, my grandmother disagreed with that line of thinking. She was very adamant that I learn how to knit. She now lives in a nearby city, in Dera Ghazi Khan. Zuhara Bibi’s father also helped her become independent, by investing around Rs40,000 into her business. Even though she is a businesswoman, Zuhara Bibi understands the difficulties of local residents. She regularly extends products to her customers on credit, saying “You cannot ignore borrowers. It is part of business. But I can differentiate between people who are chronic borrowers, habitual borrowers, and the people who take things from me on credit out of sheer need. I avoid habitual borrowers though, because they never pay you back.” Zuhara Bibi says the floods wreaked havoc on the lives of her friends and family, and also affected her business. “The floods were terrible. The water, when it collected, was twice my height ... The losses it caused to our livelihood and property were unthinkable. Still I feel, life during the floods was difficult, but it is more difficult now even though the waters have receded.” This is because the losses caused by the floods have reduced her customers’ buying power. “Also, after the floods an NGO began to distribute dry food in my village. This meant that people no longer came to me for food … it snatched away my routine customers for a while.” Zuhara Bibi would love to travel more, especially to visit her grandmother, but finds herself unable to do so. “It has been two years now since I last saw my grandmother. I really want to see her again, but there is no one here to take me there. Although I can afford the bus fare, you know I cannot travel on my own. There needs to be someone to escort me to Dera Ghazi Khan but everybody is always busy … I wish I could fly!” she says. Zuhara Bibi has a broad face and a wide forehead, but tiny hands. It is remarkable that she has been able to sustain herself, supplement her family’s income and add to the village’s economy, with all the hardship she faces. She was never a helpless victim to life’s circumstances, or the floods in 2010 — and people in the village continue to appreciate her determination.a

49 JUNE 5-11 2011


featured review of the week

book funny face BY AMMARA KHAN

Literature today is the result of much experimentation and there’s nothing more enticing than reading a unique work. Unfortunately, not all experiments are successful. To say Tina Fey’s comedy memoir Bossypants is one such failed attempt is to risk being too generous. The 277-page book at times feels like an elongated punch line. If you are already a Tina Fey fan, you will probably like this book. But if you are familiar with great humour writers, or if your knowledge of comedy as a genre is not limited to the popular TV-comedy then this is not the book for you. The story generally follows her life, her junior high school issues which are typically related to her looks, self-image and sexual matters, her average jobs in the beginning of her career, to her achievements in show business (mostly consisting of behind-thescenes stories of “Saturday Night Live” and “30 Rock”). Something between a memoir and a supposedly humorous take on life, the narrative mode of Bossypants appears more like a hotchpotch of biographical revelations, poorly written essay-like prose, and a meandering commentary imposed upon the writer’s own personal experience. But the most annoying thing about Bossypants is the overuse of one-liners, with the result that you never feel like you are reading a book but rather going through the painful process of listening to a hastily-drafted comedy sketch. Fey seemingly wants to portray herself as ‘deep’ but ironically the book is all about face-value; you don’t find a hint of depth under the trivial subject matter of Bossypants. Those who expect this book to be a feminist guide to life are gravely mistaken. This is not some kind of feminist manifesto for the average working women at any stretch of imagination. Fey is a representative of the liberalhumanist school of thought who believes that the end goals of the struggle for women’s rights are the right to vote and equal employ-

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feminist manifesto Fey never shies away from using the vulnerable position of women for comic purpose

The title of the book is quite suggestive in this regard — it implies that Fey is a woman who has successfully managed to make her way to the top through her willingingness to embrace the prevalent male-oriented hierarchical structure.

ment opportunities. In fact, she never shies away from using the vulnerable position of women for comic purpose. The title of the book is quite suggestive in this regard — it shows a woman who has successfully managed to make her way to the top and is willing to embrace the prevalent male-oriented hierarchical structure to stay in her bossypants. Fey portrays herself as an eccentric talented woman, a supernerd, half-Greek young girl who used to fancy Caucasian men and doesn’t believe in using the unending range of cosmetics available today ... but she does not shy away from handing out her own version of essential beauty tips for women. The abundance of parody, exaggeration, and superficiality in the book create the impression of an elusive author who is afraid of saying anything truthful and thus ends up with a part-whimsical and part-conceited narrative. a

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UP NORTH AND PERSONAL Home is a rainbow.


In sickness and health — once you get used to mountain-dwelling, anything else pales in comparison.


When your world comes to a sudden and devastating end, there really isn’t anyone capable, no matter how good their intentions are, of making personal decisions for you. As you hit rock bottom — that chasm filled with knives, pain and petrifying confusion — the only person who can find the strength to bounce right back up and sock the world in the jaw … is you!

severe osteoporosis. The specialist says that I can’t stay here anymore, that I have to live somewhere flat, somewhere with people and services close by, in case I need help.” “Then you had better come home so that we can look after you,” she promptly said. “You’ve been managing very well over there on your own but now it’s time you came back.” The matter was cut and dried as far as mum was concerned. I was supposed to sell off the dream first we, then I, had cre-

“What you have to do right now is go straight home, pick

ated and lived for so many years. I was supposed to pack over

up the phone, call an estate agent and put your house on the

20 years of my life in a suitcase, turn my back on Pakistan, on

market,” the medical specialist instructed me in no uncertain

writing, on everything that has been so hard-won, give my

terms. “It is no longer possible for you to live in the mountains.

dogs away or put them to sleep, to go reside with one family

You are only to walk on flat ground which is not possible here.

member or another in the dreary UK until I found a miserable

Move down to Islamabad or somewhere as you definitely can’t

ground floor flat to shrivel up and die in. The enormity of it all

stay up here. Meanwhile, until you find a buyer, no heavy

totally escaped mum: “Your dad and I will help you get settled,

work, no chopping firewood, no sweeping the floor, no heavy

of course, and we do have the National Health Service and you’ll

laundry and absolutely no gardening. Have you got all of this,

need good doctors. You won’t be able to get a job of course, un-


employment is dreadful, but you’ll get government assistance

My mind refused to even think of digesting what I was being told. I left his office, robotically got in a cab, numbly bought supplies in the bazaar, arrived home in an agonised daze of disbelief then sat, surrounded by commiserating dogs, on the

of some kind so you won’t starve. We’ve been wanting you to come home for years and now you’ll have to.” “I’ll think about it, mum,” was all I could say, and think I did over the following stressful months.

doorstep and drifted off to a place that only the bereaved can

Returning to the UK, a country I left in 1983 and to mum’s

comprehend. I had been in this fragmented landscape before.

home which I had left even earlier was not a viable option: if the

Wandered in it for months on end after my husband passed

osteoporosis didn’t put paid to me then the kind of low-grade,

away just over a year previously and, to be honest, I had only

miserably grey existence I anticipated there certainly would. The

now started to make some sense out of my fractured life … and

osteoporosis had been diagnosed after months of back problems

now this.

and even a leg giving way from time to time. The results of the

My mother, psychically tuning in as mothers tend to do,

bone density scan and x-rays were frightening but ... frightening

chose that same evening to telephone and immediately knew,

enough to send me scurrying back down the years to a life that

from my voice, that something was seriously wrong. In telling

was never ‘me’?

her I was telling myself: “Mum, I’ve just been diagnosed with MAY 29-JUNE JUNE 5-11 20113 2011

It was in October that I was awarded my sentence of ‘sell up

the heart is and leave or else’. Treatment began immediately, of course:

ready to tell her that if I had to move then it would only be fur-

medicines, high-calcium diet, specific exercises. I prepared for

ther up the mountain and next to the road!

the mountain winter by buying ready cut firewood, by having

Suddenly it was spring: warm sunshine bathed the garden as

steps with chain railings to hang on to made between the steep

the fruit trees blossomed and I sowed vegetable seeds with the

garden terraces, by investing in boots with heavy duty grips, a

assistance of hired help. Spring flowers put on a breathtaking

large walking stick and hot water bottles to soothe my aching

show and melodic birdsong filled the day from dawn to dusk as

bones. The high-calcium diet was rigorously followed no mat-

I worried, endlessly, about May.

ter how sick of sardines I got. No caffeine meant no tea, coffee, cocoa, chocolate but I soon got used to it and even enjoy it

“It’s May next week,” announced mum. “Have you made an appointment yet?”

now … especially the ‘hard cheese’ part. The exercise bike was

Putting off making the necessary phone call was as nerve-

dusted off and put back in daily use and, in the unavoidable

wracking as finally making it. I decided to kill two birds with

absence of household help, I bought a vacuum cleaner with an

one stone: bone scan at 11:30 am followed by consultation with

array of attachments. All the while struggling with major deci-

the orthopedic specialist at 2:00 pm I didn’t sleep for two full

sions and stalling for time.

nights before the appointment. The drive down to Rawalpindi

At some point I even found a buyer for my home, a buyer who

passed without my registering anything at all and then … into

promised to look after the garden and I put him on hold, prom-

the jaws of the machine I went, wishing that there was some-

ising to let him know ‘soon’.

one, anyone, with me to hold my hand.

I took up Pilates. Putting myself gently through the exercises

I died a thousand deaths lying flat out on the table as the scan-

each morning, before breakfast, out on what passes as the ‘front

ning machine whirred, clicked, whirred again, moved on the back

lawn’ which is cut off from observers by high walls. As I stretched

for a second check. I would rather it went on forever than have

and swayed with interested dogs trying to join in, I lost myself

to stand there while the attached computer spit out my sentence

in mountain views, mountain air, mountain scents…even the

which it eventually did and — miracles do happen — there is a pot

eau d’buffalo wafting in from next door became bearable! Yet I

of gold at the end of the rainbow and I do have a life to live after all!

was always dithering between staying or moving on — weekly

After the nightmarish seven months, the osteoporosis has

prodded by concerned phone calls from mum. Friends offered

gone. It has been replaced by osteopenia, the precursor to os-

advice too but mum was the most persistent.

teoporosis and the specialist hopes that, as long as I stick to

Winter dragged on: water shortages and biting cold made my bones ache along with my heart. “I’ve reached a decision mum,” I told her some time in February when the days were dark and everything seemed to be conspiring against me. “I’ve decided that I won’t make any major decisions until after the next bone scan in May.” I wasn’t yet

treatment, diet and exercise, that too will disappear in another year or so. I don’t have to sell my home. I don’t have to leave the mountains. I can keep my garden, my dogs, the life I love in a country I love and the world is vibrantly beautiful once more. Mum had made me promise to phone her as soon as I knew anything and I did. Thankfully dad answered the phone! a MAY 29-JUNE JUNE 5-11 3 2011


10 things I hate about ...relocating to a new city

1 2 3 4 5

Packing decisions. Just as no self-respecting parent would choose one favourite child, I find it impossible

to decide which books to take from my library. Dostoevsky or Wodehouse? A rock or a hard place?

The feeling of foreignness. There’s a reason why I find

travel ‘experiences’, which usually amounts to buying

a souvenir from a professional hustler in the Amazon, so pointless. I would much rather get to know one place well rather than move around all the time.

The expense. As if paying for a flight wasn’t enough, there’s also bedsheets, cutlery, sofas and a fridge to

splurge on. This doesn’t include the necessities of life like a high-definition, big-screen television.

Friends. Or the absolute lack of them. After many years

of struggling to overcome crippling introvertism, you

finally find a few people you can bear. Then it’s time to suffer through the whole rigmarole again.

The ride there. There are four ways to travel to a new

city: by airplane, bus, rail and road (I’m assuming

ships are no longer used). Since the latter three are

too slow, this means going through the sexual harass-

ment of airport security, monster kiddies howling on the plane and the plastic that is hilariously labelled food.

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6 7 8 9 10


Farewells. There are now as many ways of staying in touch as there are people you want to stay in touch. Why then do goodbyes have to be so drawn out?

Like-minded people. I am moving from Karachi to Islamabad a few days before the football Champions

League final. I’m a huge Barcelona fan as is everyone I know here. Islamabad seems to be packed with Man Utd supporters. It’s enough reason not to move there.

Islamabad. I might as well move to a rural hamlet. A

hamlet filled with people whose egos match only their empty lives.

Opening a hotel. The only useful thing I got out my college education was having friends with spare rooms in

NYC. That’s what my relocating is to my friends. They now have a place to crash if they ever visit my new city.

Family. They’re no longer there to cook for me, take

care of all errands and provide a shoulder to weep on. a

The Express Tribune Magazine - June 5  

The Express Tribune Magazine for June 05th 2011