Monday, July 24, 2006

Dissecting 'The Musharraf Letter'

A few days ago a group of retired generals (including two former ISI chiefs), sitting and former parliamentarians and academics wrote a letter to General Musharraf.

A similar letter was also sent to Shaukat Aziz and copies were forwarded to former prime ministers Benazir Bhutto and Nawaz Sharif, as well as to the leaders of all political parties represented in parliament.

The letter asked for the following:

  • Disengagement of military from political power
  • A separation between the offices of President and Army Chief.
  • As the 2007 elections ‘would not be credible without neutral and impartial caretaker governments, both at the centre and in the provinces’, a genuine empowerment of the Chief Election Commissioner and the Election Commission of Pakistan was a prerequisite for the holding of transparent elections. For this purpose, it is necessary for the district administrations to be placed under the control of the CEC during the 2007 polls.
  • All the political parties of the country learn from their past mistakes and commit themselves to strengthening democratic institutions and traditions so as to ensure the rule of law and good governance at all levels.
  • All the political parties exercise restraint and respond positively to any offer of dialogue to make free and fair elections possible. As a sustained dialogue between the leadership of principal institutions and organisations was a vital prerequisite to ensure a peaceful, orderly transition to complete and authentic democracy.”
  • All power groups refrain from taking extremist positions and hurling threats and charges against each other.
  • Pakistan to be a decentralized federal state, by the granting of genuine political, financial and administrative autonomy to the provinces.

Now the question that occurred to me (and to most people I would imagine) is: Why did these gentlemen, many of whom were or have been close associates of Musharraf, take this rather drastic and very public step?

After giving it some thought I came to the conclusion that it was because these people are genuinely convinced that the current mood in Islamabad is to rig the 2007 elections on lines similar to what took place in 2002.

What these people, I believe, seriously fear is that the rigging of the 2007 elections will backfire and set off a protest movement that will quickly get out of the control of the democratic forces and pass into the hands of organized extremists. And woe betide Pakistan then.

As a thought-provoking op-ed in
The News (which your Blogger recommends as a 'must' read) points out today:

Given the Talibanisation of tribal areas, and extension of Taliban’s influence in the adjoining settled districts, continuing military operation and insurgency in the Baloch areas, deepening alienation of Sindhis, sustenance of jihadi and sectarian outfits, overall exclusion and sufferings of the general masses and increasing isolation of and resentment against the military rule, Pakistan presents a volcanic situation that can potentially burst out in many directions and at numerous levels. In most essential terms, the country closely fits the bill of a failing state, if not a failed state already. Despite joining the war against terrorism, the menace of terrorism is still so powerful that the security institutions have failed to stem their nefarious designs not only within the country, but also on both international fronts, i. e., on our borders with Afghanistan and India.


Now the problem is that most of Musharraf’s current list of ‘loyal’ supporters (Ch. Shujaat, Shaukat Aziz et al) have much to lose if the 2007 elections are genuinely transparent. They will therefore vociferously insist, for the sake of their own political survival, that he hang on to his uniform and engineer the elections their way.

I believe it was simply to counter these ‘heroes’ of PML (Q) that this group of people decided to write the letter to Musharraf, as well as, perhaps open it for public discussion.


Here is an American news take on the letter:

The latest shot came from a prestigious grouping of retired generals, diplomats, academics and ex-intelligence chiefs who had told Musharraf that it was time to disengage the military in politics.

Democracy will only be authentic, their letter said, when there is a "real separation" of powers.

Musharraf might be forgiven for seeming too preoccupied to bother with democracy. These days it seems there's trouble everywhere he turns.

He's stationed 70,000 Pakistani soldiers in the restive tribal belt, but that hasn't stopped militants loyal to the Taliban and Osama bin Laden from taking control of four of its seven districts.

They've imposed their rigid brand of Sharia Law: holding public executions, forcing men to grow beards, and openly recruiting soldiers to fight U.S. troops next door in Afghanistan, where suicide attacks and roadside bombs have become an almost daily occurrence

An additional 40,000 or so Pakistani troops are tied down in western Baluchistan, fighting a separate rebellion by ethnic Baluch tribesmen.

Then there's archrival India to the east, still bristling after a terrorist attack on the Mumbai rail network that killed more than 200.

If that isn't enough, Pakistan's stock market has crashed, monsoons have flooded major cities, and power shortages have thousands rioting on the streets of southern Karachi.

"I predict tremendous instability in the coming year," one Western diplomat said. "And there will be more violence."

Sunday, July 23, 2006

I Keep on Wondering...

Some days ago I was listening to a discussion between some elderly Pakistanis, many of whom have held senior position in the country’s affairs – they included a Pathan, a Sindhi, a Baloch, and several Punjabis, thus covering a reasonably broad spectrum of views.

The Pathan expressed disquiet at the absence of concern shown by the country at large at the deaths of hundred of civilians in Waziristan and Balochistan. The Sindhi ventured that the same had been the case when Karachi had been burning in the mid-90s and Sindh in the mid-80s. Then a Punjabi, looking thoughtful for a moment, said that this was so because ‘Pakistan is a country but still not a nation’; in other words we are only concerned about our own neighbourhood patches and are not really bothered about difficulties that beset Pakistanis elsewhere.

One might add that this is an awful state of affairs for all Pakistanis, if we all really thought hard about it the reality is there for all to see.

Therefore your Blogger feels it incumbent to buck the trend and hopes to encourage others to do the same. Please remember, that whatever occurring in any part of Pakistan today carries the distinct possibility of a nasty ‘blowback’ at some future date.

To me the insurgency Balochistan and the religious tumult in Waziristan are major issues that will have a considerable bearing on our future as a nation state - no matter what line Musharraf and his minions wish to feed us.

Let us look at Balochistan once again.

In recent days the print, radio and television media have been engulfed with scenes of hundreds of Bugti tribesmen laying down their weapons.

After months of news suppression, as the latest edition of the Friday Times noted:

‘Finally, the government is opening up in Balochistan. Only, the objective seems to be to push government-friendly stories.’
The journalist filing the Friday Times story (no link) on Balochistan also reported the following:

Having filed a story about the surrender of 600 Bugti tribesmen on July 15, a journalist from a private news channel who was taken to Dera Buti said the total number of people gathered there to surrender arms was less than 50. But he reported the surrender of 600 tribesmen which is the number the media managers wanted pushed out’.

And now after over a year of barefaced denials one reads on the
BBC website:

The Pakistani Air Force chief has acknowledged that fighter jets have been used in Balochistan province against tribal rebels and militants.

Air Chief Tanwir Mahmood Ahmed told a news conference that the air force would continue to be used whenever and wherever the government desired.

Tribal leaders have claimed that in the past few months civilians have been targeted by the air force.

But the government had always rejected such claims in the past.

This begs the question: What and who should we believe?


Last Thursday Musharraf himself came on television and this is how
Dawn reported his take on Balochistan:

The president paid glowing tribute to security and intelligence agencies for establishing peace to carry out development works in the province.

He criticised the media for ‘misrepresenting the facts’. “But the bottom line is that the writ of the state will have to be established in Balochistan, Wana, etc. And I assure you that soon there will be peace in that province,” he promised.

The president said that for 40 years three Baloch sardars, who were opposed to development and perpetrating atrocities on their tribes, had been pampered unjustifiably in the name of political settlement, “but no more”.

He insisted that the operation against the ‘rebellious’ sardars was being conducted by the Levies and Frontier Constabulary and not by the army, though some 1,000 armymen were assisting the security forces.

He said all the Bugti commanders had surrendered and the so-called Nawab Akbar Bugti was on the run, adding that of the total 77 sardars in Balochistan only three — Bugti, Marri and Mengal — were opposing the government.

Gen Musharraf said over 16,000 sub-tribes of Bugti — Rahejas, Kalpars, Masouri — had returned to Dera Bugti after years of repression by sardars led by Nawab Bugti. “But I would not call him a Nawab as he is on the run”.
First Bugti was ‘a pygmy’ and now he is a ‘non-Nawab’ – these sneering asides indicate that Musharraf seems to be engaged in some sort of playground grudge match.

Anyway here is the counter version as reported in today’s
Daily Times :

Talking to Daily Times from an undisclosed location on a satellite phone, Wadera Alam Khan said that Loop and Far Loop localities of Dera Bugti had come under severe bombardment from two jet aircraft and four cobra helicopters for two consecutive days. The government, he said, was targeting “innocent civilians and obliterating their houses”.“

If the government is correct in its claims that all loyalists of Nawab Akbar Khan Bugti have given up arms and sided with the government, then why are the residences of poor tribesmen still being targeted with sophisticated and modern US weapons?” he asked.

Khan refuted official claims that Nawab Akbar Bugti had been deserted by his commanders and loyalists. “This is a false claim made in the midst of utter frustration. The Nawab still enjoys the full support of his tribesmen. Those whom the government contends have left him and joined the official team comprise completely unknown waderas.

They are so unpopular that even the local people do not know them,” he said. Khan said there was no truth to official statements that Nawab Bugti had taken refuge in Kahan, the hometown of Nawab Khair Baksh Marri. He said the government had made similar false claims in past by saying that the Nawab had fled his hideout and taken refuge in Iran and Afghanistan.

What the reality is, is anybody’s guess.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Cadging $ 25 Million

In recent times there has been much concern in the US about the wave of anti-Americanism which has swept the Muslim world.

One method of countering this ‘menace’, the sages in Washington DC decided, was to broadcast television programmes presenting a softer and more benign image of the US.

And so about six months ago Voice of America (VOA) began telecasting a 30-minute TV programme "Beyond the Headlines" (Khabron se Aage) on GEO television with the intention of persuading young, urban Pakistanis that most Americans were nice people - i.e. not all of them were raving nutters like Bush jr, Rumsfeld and Cheney.

Now, journalist circles suggest, all this fascinated a well known newspaper editor from Lahore. Insisting that he could come up with a better and more subtle way of Pak-USA communication, he approached the US State Department with his own eighty-page proposal.

And what was his pitch?

That he set up a television channel which would purely broadcast a US/Western-orientated viewpoint to counter the increasing extremism found in Pakistan.

And the setting-up cost? Just a cool $ 25 million.

Apparently, so far the US State Department has remained mum and it looks like the proposal will die a quiet death. However, as seen from the editor’s perspective, there was no harm at all in trying to scrounge a completely cost-free TV channel for himself.


Perhaps it's time I submitted my own proposal:

Yo, State Department readers!
I know there are one or two of you out there (or at least that is what my website tracker tells me).

So how about funding this Blogger as well? Okay, I’ll promise not to rubbish Condi in future. Here is my email address: EverHopeful@GreedyPakistani.Com

A Good Man under Siege?

Ever since the former chairman of SECP, Dr Tariq Hassan, presented a ‘white paper’ to the National Assembly Standing Committee on Finance about the stock market March 2005 crash - saying that top government functionaries were interfering in SECP affairs and were involved in market manipulation – he has become a target on the government’s notorious ‘hit list’.

(See previous Blog:
Shortcut & Co. Facing Serious Sleaze Allegations)


To make matters worse for Dr Tariq Hassan, the Head Chowkidar has taken it upon himself to protect his ‘loyal’ functionaries. As
The News reported today:
President Musharraf said in an interview that he held Dr Hassan “personally responsible for the March 2005 crash and that it was his (Dr Hassan’s) responsibility to prevent such things from happening.”

President Musharraf said that the PM was not involved in any form of corruption involving the Karachi Stock Exchange. Despite this clean chit from the president, the Prime Minister spent time with members of the ruling party in Islamabad behind closed doors explaining his role, or lack of it, in the Tariq Hassan affair.

And today
Daily Times reveals that Tariq Hassan is now being hounded by the Secret agency personnel for his ‘sins’.
Intelligence agents are bugging the phone calls and monitoring the movement of Dr Tariq Hassan, former chairman of the Securities and Exchange Commission of Pakistan (SECP), Daily Times has learnt.

A senior official told Daily Times Islamabad police had been told to deploy plainclothes officers around Dr Hassan’s residence. The intelligence operation began after President Musharraf appeared on television blaming Dr Hassan for the stock market crash of March 2005, the official said.

The monitoring was tightened after Dr Hassan’s resignation from the office of commissioner and member of the SECP this week. His incoming and outgoing calls are being bugged.” The official said that the government had started an inquiry into Dr Hassan’s alleged involvement in the stock market crash and would later frame a charge sheet against him.

We are now also told not to expect the US forensic team to find the real causes behind the March 2005 crash. Apparently the Government wishes the Americans to aim for Tariq Hassan and at the same time prevent them from prying too deeply into the real causes of the stock market crash. As
Dawn tells us:
A source privy to the forensic investigations said that the first briefing the US forensic investigators had received was on how the former SECP chief had failed to avert the crisis, instead of Badla financing (carry-over transaction) or brokers and their suspected activities.

“The US team now knows more about Dr Hassan than (about) the powerful brokers nominated in the task force’s report on the market crash,” he said.

The sources said that the SECP was also trying to restrict the US investigators’ sphere of operations in the commission’s head office.

The SECP chairman, Mr Raziur Rehman, refused to share any information about the number of officials involved in the probe or the team’s composition.

The idea, it appears, is to heap all the blame on Tariq Hassan, who now seems destined to play the role of the scapegoat for the whole debacle. Meanwhile, it will be business as usual at the Karachi Stock Exchange and the shady billionaire brokers and the badla providers will undoubtedly continue with their destructive practices.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Praising Military Regimes

At times I get somewhat allergic to unsolicited advice given by Pakistanis who have left the country for better pastures abroad.

Most of these people are enjoying all the freedoms that come with living in democracies, nevertheless some of them insist on advocating a continuation of the dictatorial rule in Pakistan; perhaps the worst of these are retired international bureaucrats from the Bretton Woods institutions residing comfortably in suburbs near their city of former employment, Washington DC.

The faceless bureaucrats of World Bank and the IMF, who followed instructions from the U.S. Treasury Department, are indeed responsible for making a complete botch of developing world economies. Their mindless obsession with sweeping free market reforms is directly responsible for destroying the livelihood of millions of the poorest citizens of the world.

If you don’t believe me then please Google and look up what 2001 Nobel Prize winner Joseph Stiglitz, a former chief economist at the World Bank, has to say. Stiglitz resigned his job after becoming completely disillusioned with the incompetence and irresponsible practices indulged at the IMF and the World Bank.

And please don’t think that all the people who get into these Bretton Woods institutions get there purely on merit; like the United Nations favouritism and cronyism goes a long way. Many of the Pakistanis working at the World Bank are believed to have got there because of Moin Qureshi. (In the late 80s there was ‘some chatter in the international banking world of a Qureshi-created Pakistani ‘mafia’ at the World Bank).


So with the World Bank high on my personal list of odium, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that my bête noire of the day happens to be an ex-World Banker by the name of Shahid Javed Burki, who took it upon himself to write a rejoinder to The Economist’s political survey on Pakistan.

See my previous Blogs:
The Economist : Pakistan Desperately Needs Democracy
The Economist: Problem in Pakistan is Musharraf

Here are some excerpts from Shahid Javed Burki’s op-ed piece
Is Pakistan in a mess?

Burki wrote:

Let me begin with the state of politics. That the military has intervened four times in Pakistan’s nearly 60 years of existence is a fact of history. The first time the military ventured into politics was in October 1958. It came in because of both conviction as well as personal ambition. At that time most observers of the Pakistani scene recognised that the politicians had created a big mess — they had practised putrid politics. They had struggled for almost 10 years before giving the country a constitution, they continued to play “palace politics” even after the constitution was promulgated.

Wrong, the military was involved in politics soon after the pushy Ayub Khan took over as the C-in-C.

For instance in October 1954 when Prime Minister Bogra returned to Pakistan from Washington he was, according to newspapers, ‘met by the largest crowd since those that had greeted the popular Liaquat Ali Khan’. But then, as the British High Commissioner informed the UK Foreign Office, Bogra ‘was hustled into a car by a couple of Pakistani generals and taken straight to the governor-general’s house’.

The autocratic governor-general, with Ayub Khan at his side, then dismissed the National (Constituent) Assembly, declared a ban on public meetings and imposed press censorship.
Shortly afterwards he announced a new government which effectively handed over real authority to just two men: Major-General Iskander Mirza, the interior minister and General Ayub Khan, the new defence minister.

Burki lashes out at the politicians of the 1950s, whom he accuses of practicing ‘putrid politics’. On taking a closer look at the late 1950s when prime ministers came and went like bowling pins, one soon discovers that the political chaos was largely orchestrated by Iskander Mirza and Ayub Khan’s backroom shenanigans. These two did not want anyone to threaten their grip on power. With the press already in shackles the uninformed public of the new country could only blame the figures squabbling on the political stage, quite unaware of the puppeteers manipulating the strings from behind and creating the ‘putrid’ scene for their own personal benefit.
Extolling the virtues of military rule Burki then writes:
While this is not the space to write a paean to the performance of the first military government,Ayub Khan’s 11 years in office still represent a golden era in Pakistan’s history.

While Mr Burki will find more space one day to write paeans to Ayub Khan, it should not be forgotten the plagues of corruption and nepotism were given birth by the self-inflated Field Marshal. Since then these twin cankers of national destruction have spread, spread and spread.

And one should not forget the substantial economic disparities between the East and West wings that were created during this so-called 'golden era' of Ayub Khan, which would then lead to rebelion in East Pakistan and the birth of Bangladesh.

It should also be remembered that it was this fatuous ‘Field marshal’ who recklessly embarked on the ‘65 war with India, in the childish belief that ‘one Muslim soldier was equivalent to ten Hindu ones’. This was a war that destroyed Pakistan’s bid for prosperity seemingly for good. (Being an economist, it might do Mr Burki some good to re-examine the 1965 war and its economic after-effects).

Then eulogizing Musharraf, Burki writes:

I continue to maintain — as I have done on a number of occasions in these columns — that of the four military men who have gone on to become president, General Pervez Musharraf is the only one who does not seem to have been propelled by personal ambition. He didn’t carry out the coup that placed him in power; it was done on his behalf by a group of senior generals who were not prepared to accept the manner in which the prime minister sought to change the military leader.

A dose of cold hard reality would insist that an operational plan for the coup was already in place - after all that is how any army operates – in the event Nawaz Sharif opted to sack Musharraf. I am sure if Musharraf had been present in Pakistan he would have led the coup personally. And a nervous Nawaz Sharif, who was already anticipating a military takeover (and had privately complained to the US President seeking his help), then tried to pre-empt the coup by sacking Musharraf while he was mid-air between Sri Lanka and Pakistan.

So Burki by purposefully splitting hairs lauds Musharraf for not being ‘propelled by personal ambition’ just because he was not in place to carry out the coup himself. Obviously, if Musharraf had been present in Pakistan he would have led the coup that helped him retain his job. The fact of the matter is that he wasn’t physically present in Pakistan, so his subordinate generals simply carried out his set of instructions in his absence.

Coincidently I was at lunch yesterday where a senior and well known ex-federal bureaucrat was holding forth to the assembled company in a manner common to most retired officials. Then out of the blue he began quoting Burki’s eulogy to Musharraf, especially the bit about him not being a ‘propelled by personal ambition’ – obviously this statement seems to have got other people’s goat as well.

When I asked the ex-bureaucrat why he thought Burki had praised military regimes and Musharraf in particular, the former bureaucrat snappily replied, ‘He was a caretaker minister a number of years ago, and right now he appears to be looking for a job with the current military regime’.

I guess it must be tough to be a superannuated has-been in the wilderness of surburban District Columbia.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Celebrating Dunces

With Iraq caught in throes of possible disintegration it is time to look at what some notable dunces once forecasted:


“The greatest thing to come out of [invading Iraq] for the world economy ... would be $20 a barrel for oil.” Rupert Murdoch, chairman of News Corporation (which owns Fox News), February 2003

“Oil Touches Record $78 on Mideast Conflict.” Headline on, July 14, 2006


“My fellow citizens, not only can we win the war in Iraq, we are winning the war in Iraq.” President Bush, Dec. 18, 2005

“I think I would answer that by telling you I don’t think we’re losing.” Gen. Peter Schoomaker, the Army chief of staff, when asked whether we’re winning in Iraq, July 14, 2006


“Regime change in Iraq would bring about a number of benefits for the region. ...Extremists in the region would have to rethink their strategy of jihad. Moderates throughout the region would take heart, and our ability to advance the Israeli-Palestinian peace process would be enhanced.” Vice President Dick Cheney, Aug. 26, 2002

“Bush — The world is coming unglued before his eyes. His naïve dreams are a Wilsonian disaster.” Newsweek Conventional Wisdom Watch, July 24, 2006 edition


“Peacekeeping requirements in Iraq might be much lower than historical experience in the Balkans suggests. There’s been none of the record in Iraq of ethnic militias fighting one another that produced so much bloodshed and permanent scars in Bosnia.” Paul Wolfowitz, deputy secretary of defense and now president of the World Bank, Feb. 27, 2003

West Baghdad is no stranger to bombings and killings, but in the past few days all restraint has vanished in an orgy of ‘ethnic cleansing.’ Shia gunmen are seeking to drive out the once-dominant Sunni minority and the Sunnis are forming neighborhood posses to retaliate. Mosques are being attacked. Scores of innocent civilians have been killed, their bodies left lying in the streets.” The Times of London, July 14, 2006

(Courtesy: Paul Krugman, NYT columnist)


Right now large sections of the Middle East are exploding before our very eyes. Would that have been the case if the US not launched its pre-emptive war against Iraq?

And now following the US’s disastrous example Israel’s has opted to do the same in Lebanon


Seeing as we are on the topic of dunces, I wonder how many of you are aware of George W. Bush’s recent utterances which were caught on a live microphone. On this occasion he happened to be talking to his acolyte Tony Blair at the latest G8 meeting in St. Petersburg, Russia.

The most 'enlightened' comment was Bush's solution to settling the current violence in Lebanon:

Bush: You see, the ... thing is what they need to do is to get Syria, to get Hizbollah to stop doing this shit and it's over.

Other revealing moments include Bush greeting the UK prime minister with the words "Yo Blair!" and calling Bashir Assad, the Syrian dictator, "Bashad".

(You can read the full transcript at this Sky News blogsite )

Sunday, July 16, 2006

What Exactly is Going On?

News reports and a conversation or two with journalists reveal that in the past two or so days virtually anyone with the surname Bugti in the main urban centres who can read or write (and thereby having the potential to contradict the official viewpoint) has been picked by ‘anonymous’ officials.

That is the heavy-handed approach that Mush and his boys have chosen to adopt.

Once these guys go into action they have a propensity to let slip their true intentions by inadvertent acts of usual incompetence.

How did they do this?

Well by blockading the Press for instance.
Online News reports: “Quetta Press club has also been besieged” by security forces.


A War Hero Lacerates Mush and his PML supporters

Pakistan still has a few upright men left, and one of them is the hero of the 1965 air war - Air Marshal Nur Khan – a man widely respected not only for his integrity but also for his sharp intelligence and outstanding management abilities.

On Saturday he was interviewed by the Lahore daily The Nation. While he harshly criticizes the current so-called leaders of Punjab (and Islamabad) it must be noted that the Air Marshal is a Punjabi-speaker himself and therefore can hardly be accused of provincial bias.


Nur Khan for early end to army rule

Former Air Chief, Air Marshal (Retd) Nur Khan Friday demanded an immediate end to Musharraf rule while asking the Punjab’s political leadership to steer the country out of present political quagmire by withdrawing support to the military ruler.

In an interview here with The Nation, the former Air Chief and Ex-PIA boss castigated the leadership of PML-Q for supporting the military rule of President Musharraf as he talked about the political problems being faced by the country.

Khan said the President of ruling party, Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain and his cousin Pervez Ellahi, the Chief Minister of Punjab, were equally responsible for the grave political crisis confronting the country, as they were all out to support a military ruler who has proven to be the weakest administrator Pakistan has ever seen.

He added that he had no love for the PML-Q leadership as it had indulged in practices contrary to the teachings of country’s founder, Quaid-e-Azam, Muhammad Ali Jinnah.

He said Punjab and especially Lahore could steer the nation out of the present political quagmire, as the provincial capital was the intellectual and cultural hub of this country and whatever happened here mattered the most.

He cautioned if Punjab failed to lead the country in these difficult times it would be blamed for the disaster that would be the natural outcome of flawed policies being pursued by the incumbent rulers.

He said the sense of deprivation among the small provinces is getting stronger with each passing day and things have worsened due to the military operations in Balochistan and tribal belt of Waziristan.

He added that the people there have already started saying that the Punjab’s army was carrying out atrocities against them.

He said Punjab ought to belie this impression and do what was the need of hour. He added that unless and until Punjab played its due role in the national progress people would continue to talk about the false notions like the alleged plans for “Greater Punjab” etc.

He said the current ruling elite of Punjab had an old desire of forging ties of love with Indian Punjab and that’s the main reason behind the current exchange of visits across the border.

He said if the Chaudhry brothers could receive the Indians in Lahore how could they object to the visits by Pushtun leaders like Asfandyar Wali Khan to New Delhi.

He said the seven-year rule of President Musharraf has given nothing to the nation adding that the country would have been much better off had the General done whatever he had announced to do at the onset of his rule.

Former Air Chief said it seems that the present regime has learnt nothing from the mistakes made by the past military governments.

Moreover, he said it had an inactive political arm in the form of PML-Q adding that the Musharraf regime was only supported by Chaudhry brothers for their own interests whereas the common people have no more confidence in its governance.

He said the credibility of President Musharraf is the same as that of US President George W Bush and British Prime Minister Tony Blair. He added that all the three leaders have done little for their country in terms of progress and development.

He said today law and order situation is at its lowest ebb and right from Gilgit to Gwadar a deep sense of insecurity prevails among the people.

He asked the Punjab’s ruling elite to withdraw what he said their ‘unblinking support’ to Musharraf regime. He added that he was not against Pervez Musharraf, Chaudhry Shujaat or Pervez Ellahi, saying personally they would be good people but whatever he said was in the broad national interests.

He said what worried him the most was the fact that the political system might completely collapse and that would have catastrophic repercussions for the country.

He said any such development would have a negative impact on army as well adding that it was high time that the military withdrew itself from politics and went back to the barracks.

He said only by restoring genuine democratic order, Pakistan could be put back on the path of progress and development. The real democracy, he added would come to this country when it has independent judiciary and election commission followed by concrete measures to improve the law and order situation.

He said our goal must be to raise the living standards of the people adding if we overtook India in this regard we would be far better off as compared to Indian people.

However, he added that we needed a strong political resolve instead of indulging in useless arms race with India. He lamented that in a futile exercise, huge amount from national exchequer was being spent on the purchase of fighter planes and other military hardware.

He said the government should focus on improving economy rather than overspending on country’s defence. He cited the examples of South Korea and Singapore, the two strong nations which achieved distinct global standing only by dint of their economic prowess.

He said unfortunately, every military ruler, be it Ayub, Yahya, Ziaul Haq or Musharraf, made serious mistake of involving army in politics.

He said the lack of acumen on their part also confronted the nation with repeated crises such as Indo-Pak war of 1965, East Pakistan debacle and Kargil fiasco etc.

He went on to assert that it was the follies of the military rulers that led the country to the war more than once adding that the Indians were wrongly blamed for the wars of 65 and 71 etc.

He said the problem did not lie with the soldiers in Pakistan army who were always willing to lay down their lives for the motherland but it was the top military cadre that needed to put itself in order.

Ex-Air Chief recalled that late Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto got a chance to rectify the irreparable loss of country’s dismemberment by blocking the future military coups as he was in a strong position but even he failed to publish Humood-ur-Rehman Commission report let alone the implementation upon its recommendations.
He said the same happened with Kargil as the Prime Minister and Army started blaming each other instead of setting up a judicial inquiry.

He was of the view that the East Pakistan debacle would not have occurred if General Yahya had delegated powers to Sheikh Mujeebur Rehman.

He added that Mujeeb and Bhutto would have sorted out the things and reached some agreement but unfortunately, the advice given by him in this regard to the then military rulers fell on deaf ears.He said one major flaw with our army chiefs was their tendency to hold on to power for unnecessarily long periods. He added that none of them had left the power corridors in a year or two by holding free, fair and impartial elections.

Nur Khan also came down heavily on the government for its failed foreign policy. He added that owing to these faulty policies Pakistan has got nothing despite giving several concessions to India and a U-turn on Kashmir.

He said India is still asking Pakistan to dismantle the so-called terror network whereas the United States is also demanding for more in war on terror. All this, he added, is being said despite a key role played by Pakistan in global war against terrorism.

He said full credit went to Pakistani nation that had shown resilience despite weak rulers and they had done a lot for the economic betterment of this country.

Talking about the PIA performance, he said the recent Fokker crash had raised many questions in this regard adding if it were the fault on the part of airlines’ administration the present PIA boss should resign from his office.

He said that PIA had a full-fledged maintenance body in the form of Civil Aviation Authority but still its performance is poor which is a matter of grave concern.

He asked for impartial inquiry into the Multan air crash as delay in the probe and punishment to the real culprits would bring bad name to the national flag carrier.

He said only by teamwork PIA could be taken to the heights again adding that the newly born carriers like Emirates had proven that well coordinated efforts and hard work could yield the desired results.

Khan observed that one major reason of the decline of state institutions was the fact that the heads of these bodies have got only one concern and that was how to please the President or the Prime Minister and they were least concerned about the improvement of their organizations.

He said the serious problems confronting the country could be overcome only by spreading education. He added an educated society would be strong enough to halt the military take over in future and avert marshal law.


Lebanon Ablaze

The ongoing devastation of Lebanon is …
(I’m trying to grope for a suitable word here – shocking and horrific have sadly become a bit prosaic when applied to recent Israeli actions)
...beyond belief.

Over 100 civilians have died so far and toll continues to rise with the passing of each day.

Robert Fisk, the UK Independent’s correspondent has been living in Lebanon since the 1970s, here is how he describes the massacre that took place in the village of Marwaheen:

All the civilians killed by the Israelis had been ordered to abandon their homes in the border village by the Israelis themselves a few hours earlier. Leave, they were told by loudspeaker; and leave they did, 20 of them in a convoy of civilian cars. That's when the Israeli jets arrived to bomb them, killing 20 Lebanese, at least nine of them children. The local fire brigade could not put out the fires as they all burned alive in the inferno. Another "terrorist" target had been eliminated.
A splendid ‘terrorist target!

The Hizbollah have not been caught napping. Apparently there missiles have been targeting Israel's top-secret military air traffic control centre in Miron. According to Fisk:
Codenamed "Apollo", Israeli military scientists work deep inside mountain caves and bunkers at Miron, guarded by watchtowers, guard-dogs and barbed wire, watching all air traffic moving in and out of Beirut, Damascus, Amman and other Arab cities. The mountain is surmounted by clusters of antennae which Hizbollah quickly identified as a military tracking centre. Before they fired rockets at Haifa, they therefore sent a cluster of missiles towards Miron. The caves are untouchable but the targeting of such a secret location by Hizbollah deeply shocked Israel's military planners. The "centre of world terror" - or whatever they imagine Lebanon to be - could not only breach their frontier and capture their soldiers but attack the nerve-centre of the Israeli northern military command.
Then came the successful attack on the gunboat:
Once the Hetz-class boats appeared, Hizbollah positioned a missile crew on the coast of west Beirut not far from Jnah, a crew trained over many weeks for just such an attack. It took less than 30 seconds for the Iranian-made missile to leave Beirut and hit the vessel square amidships, setting it on fire and killing the sailors.Ironically, the Israelis themselves had invited journalists on an "embedded" trip with their navy only hours earlier - they were allowed to film the ships' guns firing on Lebanon - and the moment Hizbollah hit the warship on Friday, Hizbollah's television station, Al-Manar, began showing the "embedded" film. It was a slick piece of propaganda.
In parting Fisk notes a piece of savage irony:
The Israelis were yesterday trumpeting the fact that the missile was made in Iran as proof of Iran's involvement in the Lebanon war. This was odd reasoning. Since almost all the missiles used to kill the civilians of Lebanon over the past four days were made in Seattle, Duluth and Miami in the United States, their use already suggests to millions of Lebanese that America is behind the bombardment of their country.

Friday, July 14, 2006

Musharraf & 'National Confidentiality'

In an interview with Business Plus Channel aired last night Musharraf said a great many things (as per usual) but what struck me was his use of a uniquely new concept, which he referred to as ‘national confidentiality’.

This is what Business Plus Channel’s sister newspaper the
Daily Times had to say:

Sounding a note of warning, he said issues relating to Kargil were extremely confidential and of paramount national importance, and these should not be publicised in the way in which the former prime minister [Nawaz Sharif] was doing so consistently.

“I would advise him to talk economically on this issue because it is an issue of great national confidentiality,” he said.

Okay, since the onset of dictatorial power in Pakistan in the 1950s we, the uniformless civilians, have become accustomed to two commonly used words:
  • ‘National Interest’ – which we can broadly translate as something specifically in the interest of the government of the day (this applies to both civilian and military regimes).
  • ‘National Security’, are two words which encompass a whole host of Khaki matters, stretching from our nuclear hardware to more prosaic things like the military purchase of paper clips under our completely unscrutinisable Defence budget.
Having said that, your Blogger now wishes come to some sort understanding of this new term.


As Musharraf openly linked ‘national confidentiality’ to Kargil, let us briefly attempt to re-examine the Kargil conflict from a distantly neutral perspective – so here is what
Wikipedia says about it (with links to its sources and footnotes):
According to India's then army chief Ved Prakash Malik, the infiltration was code named "Operation Badr",[8] and much of the background planning, including construction of logistical supply routes, had been undertaken much earlier. On more than one occasion, the army had given past Pakistani leaders (namely Zia ul Haq and Benazir Bhutto) similar proposals for an infiltration in the Kargil region in the 1980s and 1990s. However the plans had been shelved for fear of drawing the nations into all-out war.[9] [10]

Some analysts believe that the blueprint of attack was reactivated when Pervez Musharraf was appointed chief of army staff in October 1998. In a recent disclosure made by Nawaz Sharif, the then Prime Minister of Pakistan, he states that he was unaware of the preparation of the intrusion, and it was an urgent phone call from Atal Bihari Vajpayee, his counterpart in India, that informed him about the situation.[11] Sharif has attributed the plan on Musharraf and "just two or three of his cronies".[11]
According to Hassan Abbas (in his book - Pakistan's Drift Into Extremism: Allah, the Army, and America's War on Terror) the Kargil operation was planned and managed by the Army led by General Musharraf who led a “Gang of Four [generals]” and quotes Pakistan High Commissioner to UK, Maleeha Lodhi as saying: “Even corps commanders and other service chiefs were excluded from the decision-making process.”

It is most likely that Musharraf and his generals, knowing that Nawaz Sharif wasn’t the brightest bulb on the planet, led the then prime minister down the garden path without letting him what really was in store.

Once the Pakistani forces commanded the heights of Kargil the Indians took heavy losses in futile frontal ground assaults. Logic dictated that the only way to deal with the Pakistani forces was for the Indian Military to blockade their supply route. Such a move would have involved the Indian troops crossing the LOC as well as initiating aerial attacks on Pakistan soil – in other words all out war with Pakistan.

Wikipedia then informs us:

Meanwhile, the Indian Navy also readied itself for an attempted blockade of Pakistani ports to cut off supply routes. Later, the-then Prime Minister of Pakistan Nawaz Sharif disclosed that Pakistan was left with just six days of fuel to sustain itself if a full-fledged war had broken out. As Pakistan found itself entwined in a prickly position, the army had covertly planned a nuclear strike on India, the news of which alarmed U.S. President Bill Clinton, resulting in a stern warning to Nawaz Sharif.[13]
Now here is a pertinent quote from US journalist Mary Anne Weaver’s book Pakistan: In the Shadow of Jihad and Afghanistan (Author - Mary Anne Weaver) regarding General Zinni who, then as the head of US Central Command, had been rushed to Pakistan by the Clinton Administration to arrange a ceasefire during the clash at Kargil. Zinni told the author:
…‘the danger of the situation was not fully appreciated, even in Washington. But certainly was on the ground. I think one of the reasons that Musharraf and Nawaz Sharif were glad to see me come was that they had really scared themselves to death’.


When the Kargil conflict is fully documented by future historians I am certain that they will lay the blame for the debacle squarely at Musharraf’s doorstep. Obviously the previous army chiefs who had rejected the plan as being potentially calamitous lacked Musharraf’s action-oriented commando mindset.

Having delved a bit into the Kargil conflict it becomes easier to understand Musharraf's extreme reticence in allowing anyone to re-hash the finer details of the fiasco.

So there you have it, ‘National Confidentiality’ in a nutshell.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

A Gutsier Newspaper?

For a number of years I have come to have little regard for the daily ‘Dawn’. Under editors such as Ahmed Ali Khan, Saleem Asmi and Tahir Mirza the newspaper seemed to have been living on its past glories and lacked the willpower to confront any military regime or civilian ‘dictatorship’ that came in its way.

In May 2006 the octogenarian Tahir Mirza made way for the 46 year-old Abbas Nasir. The Karachi-born Nasir previously held the position of Executive Editor for the Asia and the Pacific Region with the BBC World Service at London. Prior to joining BBC in 1994 he worked in Pakistan with publications such as Dawn, The Muslim and The Herald.

Having routinely derided ‘Dawn’ as the toothless of old grandmother of Pakistani newspapers, suddenly I am beginning to sense a change.

Here are two items from today’s edition for starters. And if Abbas Nasir and his newspaper keeps it up, more will surely follow.


Item 1

In recent times, in the local press, we have been fed fictitious gunk about Balochistan originating from Islamabad.

Remember for months we heard the same line parroted by regime appointees such as Sheikh Rashid and Aftab Sherpao, subsequently from ISPR’s Major general Shaukat Sultan and finally from the Head Chowkidar himself; the line being: There is no military action underway in Balochistan.

What these blatant liars actually meant was: Yes, we are using Cobra gunships and F-16s to bomb the hell out of a bunch of Pakistani civilians in Balochistan but as we are your superiors it is none of your bloody business what we get up to.

Today Dawn published the first of a series of reports on Balochistan. This first report basically sums up what Musharraf and his Khakis are doing to the ordinary tribesmen and where the loyalties of those tribesmen lie.

Here is a core excerpt:
When pride stands in the way of tears

DEH KHALIAN (District Jafarabad): Fifty-something Fateh Ali says he is too proud a Baloch to cry over the death of a child in public. Yet he struggles to hold back his tears as he recalls how his young daughter was killed when army helicopter gunships strafed the suburbs of Dera Bugti one chilly night last December in an operation that was ostensibly meant to target militants engaged in anti-state guerilla warfare.

“My girl had just had her evening meal when she was hit by shrapnel from one of the many bombs dropped by the army helicopters that hovered over our mud-brick huts near Haft Wali for hours that night. The troops who took part in the operation must have known full well that they were attacking a civilian settlement unable to return fire,” he says, clenching his fists in helpless anger. “I wish I had the means to take revenge.”

Ali now lives with hundred-odd Bugti tribesmen on desolate farmland irrigated by the Pat Feeder canal, lined with eucalyptus and acacia trees, in Jafarabad.

With womenfolk confined to an improvised thatched hut, the men, with long-barreled rifles slung over their shoulders, lazily take turns to graze whatever cattle they are left with.

“The army helicopters destroyed our standing wheat crops. They also destroyed the grain stored from last year’s crop.

We fled the area in such haste that we left behind the bodies of our near and dear ones unburied. Our children are not going to school anymore and young, able-bodied members of our tribe, who were previously employed, are constantly harried by law-enforcement agencies,” says Ali Nawaz.

Showing remarkable courage in the face of adversity, these displaced tribesmen say they still look up to Nawab Akbar Bugti with unimpaired loyalty.

Asked how they would have felt if the Nawab had mended fences with the establishment through negotiations and they would not have been dislodged from their ancestral towns, they give incensed looks and a curt reply: “No, the Nawab is a fighter.

“Like us, he is also suffering. And we will go back to Dera Bugti only when he returns to his house. We will win our war,” says Nawaz with the resolution of an armed warrior, although, by his own admission, his only worldly possession is a worn-out sheepskin water-container, known as the “khalli” in the vernacular.

It is unclear how many Bugti displaced people (DPs) actually poured into neighbouring cities and towns following the outbreak of hostilities between the warring tribesmen and the law-enforcement agencies in the early summer of last year.

The Dera Bugti Nazim, Kazim Bugti, puts the number of DPs at over a hundred thousand. His assertions about the involvement of army helicopters in Dera Bugti military operations lend credence to the claims of the DPs. The accusation is stoutly denied by the government, however.

And by the way, I don’t completely buy the Islamabdi spin about numerous Bugtis laying down their weapons and cursing Akbar Bugti. I suspect most of it is largely a PR arranged exercise with the express purpose of trying to downgrade and weaken Akbar Bugti in the eyes of the Baloch who now commonly regard him as their unalloyed national hero.


Item 2

As all of us ought to know there are a large number of people missing in Pakistan. Kidnapping is a crime punishable by death in Pakistan, but as the prime suspects in these cases are none other than our own intelligence agencies the law becomes the customary ass - and has to take a necessary step backwards.

Having saidthat, however, recently some brave relatives of a few of these ‘missing’ citizens ventured to approach the Sindh High Court under the ancient and sanctified law of habeus corpus.

The High Court proceeded on logic and requested the Ministry of Defence to ascertain if the intelligence agencies were holding any of these ‘missing’ people.

On Tuesday Lt. Col. Khalid Iqbal Sahoo, Assistant Judge Advocate General of the Pakistan Army admitted before the court that the
Ministry of Defence has no operational control over the ISI or the MI.
The defence ministry official submitted that the task of locating and recovering missing persons did not fall within their purview and they did not have the mandate for the ground-check in such cases.

However, the court was assured that as and when any information regarding the whereabouts of the detainees came into their knowledge, it would be submitted before the court.

In reply to this sheepish admission Dawn took the ISI to task in an editorial todayl.
ISI’s pervasive role
THE court proceedings in the case of missing persons should focus the nation’s attention on the invisible but pervasive entity that the Inter-Services Intelligence is. On Tuesday, the Assistant Judge Advocate-General of the Pakistan Army told the Sindh High Court that the defence ministry could only pass on the court’s order to the ISI and the Military Intelligence because it had no operational control over the two agencies. Whether the ISI is or is not involved in the case of the missing persons is for the court to determine, for any opinion on this may amount to contempt of court, but a comment on the ISI and the role it has arrogated to itself would be in order and indeed is called for. Every country has intelligence agencies whose duty it is to collect intelligence of interest to the government from a security point of view. This job includes intelligence and counter-espionage, the latter concentrating on the enemy’s spying and subversive activities within the country. But under no circumstances does the latter part of the duties involve hounding the regime’s political enemies and running torture chambers. While the latter phenomenon is the scourge of all dictatorships, men like Saddam Hussein or Hafez al-Assad would not allow their intelligence operatives to interfere with foreign policy. But in Pakistan the ISI has over-stepped all limits.

During the weak political governments (1988-1999), the ISI refused to give up the position and privileges it had acquired during the Zia regime and pursued its own policy in Afghanistan. This had disastrous consequences. It had access to unlimited financial resources and it perpetuated the military’s alliance with religious parties forged by Ziaul Haq. An example of the misuse of funds was the Mehran Bank money used by the ISI to create the Islami Jamhoori Ittehad, an anti-PPP alliance. Even though Gen Mirza Aslam Beg, the then army chief, went public with this scam, it is a measure of the ISI’s hold over the state apparatus that the National Accountability Bureau has not found the Mehran Bank case fit enough for a probe. Until the ISI is reined in and its activities are made strictly professional, its conduct will continue to militate against the growth of democratic institutions in Pakistan.


It does appear that Dawn is becoming a gutsy newspaper, for that credit has to be given to Abbas Nasir.

Now I just hope he copes well with the official pressure that will be brought to bear on him.

Only time will tell…

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

PIA Crash: A Much Avoidable Tragedy

Yesterday yet another tragedy struck Pakistan when a PIA plane crashed minutes after taking off from Multan airport killing forty-five people.

Many believe this disaster could have been avoided if PIA had stopped using its ancient fleet of Fokker F-27 Friendships.


The first prototype of the Fokker F27 Friendship made its maiden flight on 24 November 1955. Production soon got underway and the first commercially-made plane entered service with Aer Lingus in November 1958. Less than two years later, in 1960 PIA obtained its first of the five F-27s it had ordered for its fleet.

After producing a record number of F-27 (786 in total) Fokker halted production of this aircraft in 1986. Unable to repeat the success of the F-27, 1996 Fokker NV, the Dutch aviation company went bankrupt.

The halt in production of the F-27 followed by bankruptcy of Fokker ten years greatly impacted on the availability of spare parts of this now obsolete aircraft.


Officials have already discounted the possibility of sabotage. All current speculation revolves around the possibility of a technical failure.

The control tower at Multan airport lost contact with the plane approximately two minutes after takeoff. Local witnesses reported the plane plummeting down, with a fire visible on its left side.

While local air crash investigators have recovered the flight data and cockpit voice recorders of the plane, Civil Aviation Authority has indicated that help of foreign experts could be sought to examine the recorders might be sought and it would take at least a month to complete the investigation into the air crash.

Your Blogger has over the years had the unfortunate experience of flying on F-27 on more than several occasions. There was no other option. In Pakistan if one wishes to travel to smaller cities such as Bahawalpur, Gwadar, Rahimyar Khan, Mohenjodaro, etc or catch a last minute flight from Islamabad to Lahore or to Sukkur, at times one had little choice but take the Fokker-27.

A friend who once worked as a senior engineer in PIA once rather sardonically warned me by saying: ‘The Fokkers are well past their crash-by dates”. Not only were spare parts unavailable but he wasn’t impressed by the engineering skills of the newer staff, which he believed were only worsened by the management's attitude to fly planes at all costs; according to him, rushed jobs were rapidly becoming the worrying norm.


So old is PIA’s Fokker fleet?

Here are the facts:

PIA F27 – Reg: AP-BDR - Manufactured in 1959 - bought in 1979 from Brazil
PIA F27 – Reg: AP-BAO - Manufactured in 1963 - bought in 1979 from France
PIA F27 – Reg: AP-BAL - Manufactured in 1964 - bought in 1979 from France
PIA F27 – Reg: AP-BDQ - Manufactured in 1964 - bought in 1989 from Brazil
PIA F27 – Reg: AP-BCZ - Manufactured in 1966 – bought in 1987 from Australia
PIA F27 – Reg: AP-BDB - Manufactured in 1966 – bought in 1988 from Australia
PIA F27 – Reg: AP-BHF - Manufactured in 1982 - bought in 2005 from Sri Lanka

According to news reports the crashed plane had been manufactured in 1964, which would mean that it was either AP-BAL or AP-BDQ.

Interviewed on GEO TV the president of the Pakistan Pilot Captain Khalid Hamza made it clear that he blamed PIA management for taking an inordinately long time to replace these obsolete planes. Hamza’s statement was even carried in
New York Times which quoted him saying :

“We had been complaining for long with the management of Pakistan International Airlines that these planes have outlived their age”
Furthering the debate this morning’s newspapers added further fuel to the fire.

The Nation reported the following:

Details obtained by The Nation revealed that on May 16, 2005, Parliamentary Secretary for Defence Major (r) Tanveer Hussain had raised alarm in the National Assembly over the critical condition of Fokkers and asked the government to ground the entire fleet immediately.

Mr Hussain had also disclosed on the floor of the House that most of the Fokkers have completed more than 200,000 hours flights against their recommended life of 90,000 hours flights.

It is on the record of the National Assembly that instead of taking action on the bewailing of his Parliamentary Secretary, the then Minister of State for Defence Zahid Hamid, now Privatisation and Investment Minister, ardently defended that out of a fleet of 14, eight Fokkers were still fit for flight.

He, however, did not support the idea of his Parliamentary Secretary regarding the ground of the entire fleet of Fokkers.

“Had the government taken the hue and cry of Parliamentary Secretary on Defence, who knew the bitter facts about the health of Fokkers, serious in May last year, the bloody crash of Fokker in Multan on Monday could have been averted,” said an official of National Assembly.

However the The News placed the blame squarely on the Musharraf regime saying that while PIA had realized in 2004 the urgent need to replace the Fokkers, the request for funds for purchase substitute aircrafts went unanswered by the government.
The Pakistan International Airlines had moved a summary way back in 2004, requesting the government to grant funds for the replacement of the Fokkers but little or no attention was paid towards this demand. After a poor response from the government, the PIA authorities persisted with the planes, spending millions of rupees on their repair and maintenance, the sources said.

“The average age of a plane with the Singapore Airlines is five to seven years, while our Fokkers had completed their life span some 20 years back,” the sources said, adding that almost entire PIA fleet had completed its flying hours and needed immediate replacement.

The PIA officials had also tried to pursue the private airlines either to purchase or take on lease these Fokkers so that it could replace them but to no avail. “The private airlines had flatly refused to include these over-aged Fokkers in their fleets,” the sources said.

They said that the PIA had been running into losses for spending huge amount on repair and maintenance of the Fokkers but even then the authorities did not ground them. The sources added the aviation experts had also recommended the grounding of the PIA Fokkers.

And Dawn went on to expose the shortcoming in PIA’s engineering proficiency:

Aviation experts say PIA’s Fokker fleet had already flown far too many hours than what was supposed to be safe.

Sources in the national airline blame a shortage of technical staff for the fleet’s poor maintenance.

“At least 30 senior engineers have left PIA since January this year for better jobs,” they said.An aviation engineer told Dawn that a number of senior aircraft technicians had recently left PIA for a Gulf-based airline.

“The PIA engineering department’s current chief is a retired air force official who does not have any experience of commercial airliners,” he said.
However your Blogger believes the majority of the blame lies with PIA’s senior management. Their first duty is to ensure passenger safety and in my books they were clearly negligent for not grounding these obsolete aircraft ages ago – whether the replacements were there or not.

After PIA, the blame lies clearly with the government. It should not have ignored PIA’s request for funding. As the
Nation editorial thundered:

The tragedy sent a shock wave across the nation and set the people wondering why the ageing fleet of Fokkers had still been in operation, especially when for quite some time there has been talk of replacing it with modern, safer and more comfortable aircraft. Yesterday’s was the sixth crash of the F-27 aircraft since it was inducted into service in the country. The February 2003 accident near Kohat took the lives of Air Chief Marshal Mushaf Ali Mir, Chief of the Air Staff, and 17 other PAF officers.

That all except the Kohat crash, which is supposed to have taken place on account of bad weather, occurred because of engine failure, should have warned the PIA engineering staff about the aircraft’s inherent weakness. A strong feeling developed among experts that Fokker planes had become obsolete and were not entirely safe for travel. This perception gained strength, particularly after the death of Air Chief Marshal Mir and it was proposed to replace them immediately. Somehow, the plan was shelved and it was decided to ground them by the end of 2006, which proves that official circles acknowledged the risk of travel abroad them; otherwise, there was no point in retiring them. However, last year, when some MNAs contended in the Parliament that the planes had flown far more than the recommended flight hours, the Defence Ministry officials maintained that they were fit for flying. It is unfortunate that the fleet has been kept in service at the risk of passengers’ lives for over three years after it was decided to replace them ‘immediately’. It is a great pity that the country has been buying expensive planes for VIP use, while the safety of ordinary passengers should have received the first priority and adequate finances should have been spared for this purpose.