Close Encounters

Have you ever felt to be on the edge of life and death? Have you ever had a near death experience? It’s rare but it can happen.  On Thursday the 2nd of February I went out for my morning constitutional – a combination of walk and jog. It was slightly nippy and not very cold. By all accounts it was a good day for an exercise but I found it extremely difficult to move on the mild gradient in front of my house. I was out completely out of sorts and had to stop at least a couple of times twice or thrice, bending on my knees to catch my breath. It was too much of an effort. I was struggling and finding it very difficult to continue. After dragging myself for perhaps a kilometer or more I gave up. As I turned back and saw two policemen riding on a motorcycle. Should I stop them and seek their help? Before I could make up my mind they had already driven past me. I needed to get back home quickly. As labored my way back, I could experience it. Life was slowly ebbing out of me. Slowly I began to recite the kailma. There was no extraordinary sensation. No pain. No hallucinations. No out of body feeling. The morning was calm and fresh and there was a mild haze as I struggled up the stairs to our apartment floor. I have only a faint recollection of what happened after that. I probably removed my jacket, lay down on my bed and covered myself with the blanket and then I passed out. When I regained consciousness I found my wife gently shaking me and asking me if I needed breakfast. She told me later that I was sweating profusely and was very cold. After I had got ready my son took for an emergency medical check-up to a cousin, who is a doctor in the local hospital. The cardiologist found enough evidence of an Antioventricular or AV block. Next stop was the ER of the Armed Forces Institute of Cardiology. The diagnosis was confirmed after a 24 hour holter monitor test. “There are no two opinions about it; you need a pacemaker” was the verdict of the electro-physician.

In layman’s terms the kind of malfunction my heart has been experiencing means a deficiency of electricity supply causing an irregular heartbeat. The pacemaker kicks in to regularize the heartbeat. A personal UPS of sorts. Technically an AV block is one in which the conduction between the atria and ventricles of the heart is impaired. Under normal conditions, the sinatorial node (SA node) in the atria sets the pace for the heart, and these impulses travel down to the ventricles. In an AV block, this message does not reach the ventricles or is impaired along the way. The ventricles of the heart have their own pacing mechanisms, which can maintain a lowered heart rate in the absence of SA stimulation.

The causes of an AV block can be varied and may include ischaemia, infarction, fibrosis or drugs, and the blocks may be complete or may only impair the signalling between the SA and AV nodes. Certain AV blocks can also be found as normal variants, such as in athletes or children, and are benign. The causes in my case can be any or a combination of these. I lead a disciplined life. I exercise regularly that includes occasional swimming and hiking and I eat moderately. I don’t smoke or drink but I’ve my vulnerabilities. I have a family history for heart disease. My father had a bypass surgery and had a defribulator implanted inside his body. My mother has a stent to widen one of her blood vessels. I had a minor electric circuit problem described as a Right Branch Bundle Block. In my forties I had suffered syncopic attacks and would pass out. At the age of 49, ten years ago after a series of fainting spells I underwent investigations and was taken to the operation theater for insertion of a pacemaker but at the last moment the doctor decided against it. I was a borderline case. Next year I was in the US and showed my papers to a Pakistani cardiologist. I was advised to keep my electrolyte level in check by drinking lots of gatorade, a drink popular among athletes. Many years thereafter limopani (lemonade) was the regular drink for me until this episode happened I was totally unprepared for it.

Through a surgical procedure a pocket has been created under my left shoulder blade and a permanent pacemaker or PPM has been placed next to my heart. Electric cables have been extended to the ventricles to solve the problem of conduction. The operation didn’t take more than two hours. I was under local anesthesia so that I could hear the doctors talk as they went through the motions. It was alarming to hear them say that the batteries of the temporary pacemaker weren’t working and they needed new ones or that the doctor was still searching for the sweet spot as he tried to insert the electric cables in my ventricles. After a week the dressing was removed from the stitches but it still hurts and it will take a few months before the PPM becomes a part of my body.  The batteries have a shelf life of 9 to 13 years. Hopefully they will last longer.

My life would certainly need some changes now. I’m not sure when I’ll be able to resume swimming or jogging. I definitely need to cut out stress. What is there to stress about at this point in life? Nothing from the worldly point of view, I guess.  Everything is pretty much as I wanted. The children are married and leading their own lives. I have a stable career in the University. I can continue if I want. The house that my wife and I had been planning for some time will be ready inshaAllah this year.  There is so much to thank Allah for. He gave me a good life. I hope He will grant me with good health, good humor and abundant courage to face life’s challenges and die a contented man. Ameen!

Bank Accounts for Afghan Refugees

Sher Khan (not his real name) is an Afghan, who was born in Pakistan and has known no other country. He is in his late twenties and already has three children. These children are technically Afghans but like their father have never known any other country but Pakistan – the adopted homeland of their grandparents. Sher Khan is an honest and hardworking man and performs his job as a watchman with vigilance and rare commitment. I have found him to be thoroughly dependable and better than those holding genuine Pakistani CNICs. I want to keep him for the long term and would like to deposit his pay check directly into his bank account on a monthly basis. The online payment is hassle free and can save me a lot of botheration. I can’t do it because banks have very strict instructions about not opening accounts for aliens without proper documentation. Sher is registered with NADRA as a refugee and has an alien card. The card expired last year and the renewal is pending because Government is yet to decide how long they would be letting Afghans stay in Pakistan. As per instructions received by the local banks, an Afghan residing in Pakistan should have an Afghan passport and work visa to open an account. Even this is problematic because the account holder has to frequently get the visa renewed to let his account remain valid. A bank account is a good way of keeping track of a monetary trail and brings the grey economy into the fold of the mainstream. Not allowing the Afghans to open a bank account is to encourage them to make financial transactions outside the tax net. This by extension denies the authorities to check the money trail and prevent it being used in any illicit activity. In my opinion the approach of excluding the Afghans from opening bank accounts is extremely counterproductive. They should be allowed to open bank accounts and be made part of the normal economic activity. Most Afghan refugees, like most Pakistanis are honest, hardworking and decent people. They should be integrated and not segregated. Most of us are apprehensive about the perceived harsh immigration policies that become part of the Donald Trump Presidency. The why should we be adopting patently bad policies to marginalize and antagonize Afghan refugees. These people have been in Pakistan for a number of generations now and therefore we must be careful in crafting our Afghan refugee policies. Better sense and prudence should be our leitmotif.

In Search of Khawaja Wasiuddin

A few days back I received this message from my childhood friend Mujataba, now in Bangladesh: “Hey Tughral I want some information about late Lt Gen Khawaja Wasiuddin. He was a corps commander in the Pakistan Army in 1968 and was a colonel commandant of the Corps of Artillery in 1969.”

Mujtaba and I had spent our childhood together in Peshawar when our parents  both air force officers were posted in Peshawar. After the 1971 War, Mujtaba’s family was repatriated to Bangladesh. I had remembered Mujtaba as a nice young boy and was most happy to reconnect with him via linkedin. The message took me by surprise because I was invited to deliver a motivational talk to the recruits of Artillery Centre in Attock formerly Campbellpur. I then did what anybody would do in the digital age. Isearched about Gen Wasiuddin on the Internet. A blog titled Khawaja Wasiuddin Diplomat and Soldier provided me the following salient about Wasi Sahaab:

KHWAJA WASIUDDIN, second son of Khwaja Shahabuddin and Begum Farhat Bano, was born in Ahsan Manzil, Dhaka, on 20th March 1921. He had his early schooling at the Muslim Government High School, and in the year 1932, when he was only eleven years old, he was sent to the Prince of Wales Royal Indian Military College (R. I. M. C.), in Dehra Dun. Six years later, in 1938, he joined the Indian Military Academy Dehra Dun, and was commissioned as an officer in the Indian Army in 1940. He chose to be a Gunner, and was the first Indian Muslim to join the Royal Indian Artillery. He was posted with the 24th Mountain Regiment and served in various parts of Northern India, including Waziristan.

During the Second World War he saw active service in Burma, and when the Japanese Forces came into Burma and the British started retreating, Wasi, along with his fellow soldiers had to swim across the Sitang River to escape being caught by the Japanese. Later, when he was stationed in Imphal he met with an accident when the jeep he was driving up hill, overturned, and he broke his pelvis bones. He was moved to a hospital and, after recovery, sometime in 1945, he was appointed President of the Inter Services Selection Board in Bangalore with the acting rank of Lieut. Colonel. At the end of the war he re-joined his regiment, reverting to the rank of a Major and was posted at various stations. At the time of the partition of the Indian Sub-Continent in 1947, he opted to serve in Pakistan.

In November 1945 he married his cousin, Zafar Bano, daughter of Khwaja Nazimuddin, and had two children – Safi and Umbereen. Unfortunately, this union lasted for about ten years and they parted company. Later, he married Waheeda, daughter of Mir Karim Bakhsh and Begum Umtool Hafeez. They had four children – Lena, Adnan, Shahab and Omer.

He rose to the rank of Lieutenant General in the Pakistan Army, having held various senior appointments including that of Director of Artillery and Corps Commander, Multan.

At the time of the breakup of Pakistan and creation of Bangladesh, he opted to serve in Bangladesh, where, his seniority, vast experience and reputation were gainfully utilized in the Diplomatic service of the country. He served as Bangladesh Ambassador in Kuwait and France and later, as his country’s representative to the United Nations in New York.

Khwaja Wasiuddin was an all-round sportsman and an excellent swimmer having been a member of the swimming team of R. I. M. C. Later, he took up golf and was responsible for organizing the laying down of the Golf courses in Lahore and Rawalpindi.

He was happily leading a life of retirement with his family in Dhaka; playing golf, mixing socially and swimming with his grandchildren when, on the night of 22nd September 1992, while attending a dinner party, along with his wife, at the home of a friend of theirs, he was called upon by the Lord Almighty to return to his eternal heavenly home, to rest therein, in peace!

Condolence messages on the passing away of Khwaja Wasiuddin, courtesy of Major Khwaja Safi Wasiuddin:

‘Your father was in fact a member of our family, because he commanded this great unit in 1952-53. Indeed it is a very big loss to you and our regiment also.’  Commanding Officer, The First Light Air Defence Regiment.

‘We have lost a great gunner. We the Gunners are proud of his glorious past and splendid achievements. His name will always be remembered as a professional gunner in the history of Pakistan Artillery.’  Commandant Artillery Centre, Attock.

‘He was a renowned gunner and all gunners are rightly proud of his valuable contribution towards the sound foundation of the arm after partition.’ – Brigadier, Headquarters 12 Corps.

‘We in Artillery 15 Division are specially sad to learn this news, as the late General was the first Commander Artillery 15 division.’ Headquarters Artillery 15 Division.

‘Your father had spent a glorious career in the Army and earned great admiration from his subordinates, seniors and colleagues. I remember that I had invited him to attend the Artillery Reunion in Attock in 1988 when I was Director General Artillery. His prompt acceptance and subsequent attendance along with Mrs. Wasiuddin was indeed a matter of great pride for us.’ Major General A. K. M. Khalil-ur-Rahman (Retd.)

Source: [Khwaja Sayeed Shahabuddin]

Armed with this knowledge I asked my young conducting officer who had called me on the telephone to tie up the details about my visit to check up about Gen Wasiuddin before I reached Attock. So when I reached my destination I very eagerly asked the major if he had been able to dig up any information about Khawaja Wasiuddin. I was told that there was nothing in the records about a Colonel Commandant by the name of Gen Wasiuddin. A little disappointed I went into the officers’ mess in the Artillery Centre for a cup of tea and there lo and behold was hanging the portrait of a dapper Colonel Wasiuddin, Centre Commandant 1953-54.

The motivation talk to the recruits went very well. I spoke from the heart to 4000 recruits assembled in Hameedi stadium, who roared in approval and shouted slogans that warmed the cockles of my heart. In keeping with the spirit of times they took selfies with me after the talk and gave me their email addresses so that I could send them their photographs. What a change from our times, when the soldier was illiterate and had to be taught the cardinal directions in Urdu before an elementary lecture in map reading. The soldier of the 21st century uses GPS and owns not only a smartphone but also has a laptop. Almost all of them were on the Facebook.

Later on over a cup of coffee in the Commandant’s office, I once again broached the subject of Khawaja Wasiuddin and pointed towards the commandants’ board, which carried his name but wait a second, wasn’t there something amiss. There were only two stars in front of his name and one of the star had been rubbed out. There should have been three stars because Khawaja Wasiuddin retired as a lieutenant general. The commandant had no idea about the history of Khawaja Wasiuddin and didn’t have a clue why there was only one legible star in front of him. I was most intrigued and asked the brigadier about the likely story behind the enigma. I’ll certainly check up and let you know Sir, replied the brigadier and on that note I departed from the Artillery Centre.

The Coup of 19th December 1971

The month of December brings painful memories. In 1971, we lost half our country and thousands of soldiers after having fought a long civil war and a full-fledged invasion by India went into captivity. The trauma was severe and the hurt was felt most acutely at all levels. A small but significant event of those days is now largely forgotten. After the War, a group of officers in 6 Armoured Division, decided to force the military junta to relinquish power and succeeded in doing so.

Those involved in this initiative to push out the ruling clique included the colonel staff of the armoured division, Colonel Agha Javed Iqbal, the commanding officer of the Signal Battalion, Lieutenant Colonel Khurshid, the commander 9 Armoured Brigade, Brigadier Iqbal Mehdi Shah, the commanding officer 9 FF, commander Corps Artillery Brigadier F.B. Ali and Colonel Aleem Afridi, Artillery. The short story is that after the ceasefire, there was a telephonic conversation between Colonel Javed Iqbal and the Chief of the General Staff, Lieutenant General Gul Hasan Khan about the sentiments of the officers about the existing military leadership and their role in the defeat of the country. To make known their ideas, Brigadier F. B. Ali, Colonel Javed Iqbal and Colonel Aleem Afridi drafted a letter asking President Yahya to resign and hand over power or else the troops of 6 Armoured Division would march on Rawalpindi and force him out. Major General M. I. Karim, the Bengali GOC was asked to sign the letter that set out the officers’ demands. Colonel Javed Iqbal and Colonel Aleem Afridi flew to Rawalpindi and delivered the letter to the CGS, who conveyed the contents to President Yahya. The threat worked.

There is a background to these events. The junior officers clearly thought that injury was being added to the insult by Yahya’s indecision to step down. In his address to the nation that  on the 18th of December General Yahya had given no such indication and had announced that he was going to promulgate a new constitution. The officers thought that Yahya’s continued presence at the helm of affairs was neither good for the country nor for the Army. Something had to be done quickly. F.B. Ali I tried to persuade the GOC Maj. Gen. M.I. Karim, to send a message to the government about their demands. Understandably, he was hesitant to do so initially. On 9 December, F.B. Ali claims he took over the command from Gen Karim. There was no resistance, Karim had already made up his mind to opt for Bangladesh.

It was then decided that Cols. Aleem Afridi and Javed Iqbal would fly to Rawalpindi with a clear message for Yahya Khan to announce by 8 p.m. that evening that he would be handing over power to the elected representatives of the people and that all his generals responsible for the defeat would also be quitting. In case such an announcement was not made by the given time, he would be responsible for his own actions. The two officers met with Gen. Gul Hassan, Chief of the General Staff, that afternoon and asked him to convey this message to Yahya Khan. Gul Hassan went to Gen. Hamid, the Chief of Staff, who said he would arrange for a meeting with the President at 7 p.m. Gen. Hamid called several army commanders to see if they could help to restore the situation but all of them were reluctant to do anything. There was some news that some SSG troops would be sent to arrest the putsch makers but nothing of that sort happened. With no other option in sight Yahya Khan made the announcement on the appointed time to hand over power to the elected representatives of the people.

The rest as they say is history. A civilian government was swept into power immediately. That night Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto made a broadcast to the nation in which he announced the retirement of all the generals in Yahya Khan’s clique, saying that he was doing this “in accordance with the sentiments of the Armed Forces and the younger officers.” He also made Lt. Gen. Gul Hassan the Army chief, and confirmed Rahim Khan as the Air Force chief. This change in the military high command was only temporary because both the army and air force chief were subsequently relieved unceremoniously. Also the young officers, who had risked their careers, their liberty, their families, and their lives were the ultimate losers. All of them Lt. Col. Muhammad Khurshid, Col. Aleem Afridi, Col. Javed Iqbal, Brig. Iqbal Mehdi Shah and Brig F.B. Ali were summarily retired. Some of them including Ali served long jail terms. F.B. Ali at least is unrepentant and feels that all his suffering were a risk worth taking for the good of his country. Ali now lives in Canada.


New Strategic Realities in South Asia

One theme that became part of the strategic narrative being churned out by the American think tanks after the Mumbai attacks in 2008 was that the in the future, if a terrorist attack on India emanated from Pakistani territory, the US will not intervene and would let India do whatever it felt necessary to do. It meant that India could resort to all options like going for surgical strikes against militant training grounds or camps, allegedly deep inside Pakistani territory, animating the much flaunted Cold Start or the Proactive Doctrine or even resort to a nuclear first strike. This was the recurrent message being communicated to Pakistan at official and unofficial level. It sounded very grave and very clear. Pakistan had to do more to rein in Jihadi groups that have their support. The Pakistani response that it wasn’t state policy to sponsor any terrorist group would fall on deaf ears. Scholars of repute discussed the fragility of strategic stability in times of crisis and the various twists and turns in the Kargil conflict, 2001-2002 standoff and Mumbai 2008 and how the US intervened to deescalate and defuse these crises. The US, it was emphasized was no longer interested in getting involved in a firefight, if South Asia plunged once again in another cataclysmic situation leading precipitously up the escalation ladder.  The two countries could give up the notion of outsourcing deescalation to the US. The incessant barrage of this talk was more for Pakistani consumption than the Indian. The Indians were actually being given a green signal to feel free to do what they felt like doing to teach Pakistan a lesson, if it did not behave or did not keep its Jihadi organisations under control.

Officially India subscribes to a nuclear No First Strike Policy (NFS) but it has created loopholes to carry out a nuclear first strike e.g. in a 2003 update, it was stated that it can go for the nuclear First Use (FU) option, in case of an chemical or biological attack. Before the BJP released their 2014 election manifesto, it was made known that the party leadership under Narindera Modi was considering giving up on the NFU option was seriously considered during the BJP election campaign in 2014. More recently the Indian defence minister Manohar Parrikar has talked of giving up on the NFS option altogether. These are all indications that the extreme right wing party in power is itching to use the nuclear option in case it felt there was a dire need to do so.

Now let’s see what happened after a string of terrorist incidents that happened over the last one year i.e. Gurdaspur (2015) and Pathankot and Uri (2016). Whereas, the first two incidents got only a muted response, after the attack on a Brigade Headquarters in Uri in which a dozen soldiers were killed, the response was stronger. As usual the Indian media went into a frenzy. The government had to respond. It was an attack too many, second against a heavily guarded military target. The Indian forces seemed unable to stop the infiltration from across the heavily guarded, wired and mined Line of Control (LOC) and unable to stop the militants from penetrating inside military installations under several layers of security. So what happened? The Indian Army claimed that they had launched surgical strikes. This ludicrous claim could not be substantiated by any credible proof.  Skirmishes were reported at various points along the LOC but nothing serious. Soldiers were killed on both sides but than nothing serious happened. No loss of territory was reported. In fact an Indian soldier was reported to have been captured. Artillery shelling created problems for the civilians, who had to pull out to safer places. Fishermen were apprehended for allegedly poaching inside Indian territorial waters.  Very recently an Indian submarine was found lurking in Pakistani waters that the Pakistan Navy says it sent scurrying back to safety. Diplomats were expelled in a tit for tat manner for activities not commensurate of their status. Repeated demarches were issued by the Pakistan foreign office to the Indian high commissioner and his deputy for aggressive behavior on the LOC. The matter was raised in the UN. Ban Ki-Moon, the retiring UN secretary general offered to mediate between Pakistan and India but as usual there was no resonance from the Indian side. The US state department spokesperson cautioned restraint but there were no offers to arbitrate.

For the moment US policies are undergoing a paradigm shift. Trump, the President elect has made it known that he would concentrate on domestic policies. His election promise is to rebuild America and create more jobs. He has expressed his desire to leave NATO. The foreign threat he visualizes is from the Islamic state and here he would like to collaborate with Russia. He hasn’t outlined a clear cut policy about South Asia. Obama’s eight years in office indicates a fatigue from overseas wars. The US watched helplessly as Russia annexed Crimea and it took a secondary role in Syria as compared to the dominant one by Russia.

In the short term, these crises in South Asia did not climb up the escalation ladder in the traditional manner as neither the Cold Start Doctrine was executed nor was the nuclear option was resorted to. Deterrence held. The full spectrum deterrence policy was validated for now. Although the matter was raised at international forums, deescalation was not outsourced per se. Indians were held back because they could not afford to engage in war with Pakistan. This would have set back their ambitions to become an economic power. The world in general wasn’t interested in the petty squabbling in the South Asian subcontinent and the US in particular was trying to recover from the election results and trying to form new foreign policy options.

The situation may change in the coming years. The China-Russia diad is emerging as the new power pole in the new world order as role of the US as an influential power broker in the South Asian power politics diminishes. This does not mean, however, that new regional powers would be interested in intervening in Pak-India problems. These can only be resolved by the two countries themselves. Understandably, this can only be possible if India shows a willingness to discuss Kashmir and other outstanding issues. For Pakistan it is incumbent to improve its economy and law and order situation to be taken seriously internationally. One hopes that with the materializing of CPEC Pakistan may just be on the road to stability. If somehow India can be convinced that i has economic fruits to share from this regional connectivity, the bait would be taken


Is there an Eastern and Western Strategic Thought?

It is very difficult to categorize eastern and western thought. Firstly it is not possible to confine the matter of strategy to a particular geographical location or a certain time period. It follows, therefore that no specific entity can be classified as quintessentially Eastern or Western e.g. Chankya, a master of subterfuge from the Indian subcontinent and Sun Tzu an oracle of oriental strategy may not exactly match in their thinking. On the contrary the Chankyan thought process exemplified in his Mauryan period book Arthshatara quite corresponds to what was propagated by the Italian master of statecraft Niccolò Machiavelli in his Renaissance period book The Prince. Both Chankya and Machiavelli proposed that the ruler should employ cunning, trickery, deviousness and intrigue to keep the citizens under check and to defeat the enemies of the state. There is of course a millennium separating the two royal advisors, who qualify as eminent grise or grey eminence to their respective kings.

Historically each region of the world has produced its own crop of strategic scholars, who produced their own signature theories on strategy and warfare. Ancient Greeks, the Macedonians, the Romans, the Egyptians, the Indians, the Persians, the Arabs, the Mongols, the Central Asians, the Moghuls, the Chinese, the Japanese, the Russians, the Scandinavians, the German, the French and the British have all added their own brand of thoughts on waging war and pursuing diplomacy during various periods of history. The Mongol and his horse was the best fighting machine of time. There were no long logistical trains to retard his movement. The Germans unleashed the power of their panzers and aircraft under the overarching doctrine of blitzkrieg to pulverize the enemy and cause a strategic paralysis. The Americans used shock and awe to similar effects during the Gulf War. All three used speed and mobility to good effect to win wars. Of course the use of firepower grew exponentially with the advance in technology.

This goes to prove that not one single strain of strategic thought was produced in isolation. There were influences particularly from the immediate neighbourhood or the preceding time periods that shaped doctrines and strategies of the dominant powers. Some land mark books on strategy that have now become part of the strategic lore and influenced thought processes of soldiers and statesmen belonging to both the East and the West. Vom Kriege written by the Austrian strategist Clausewitz and the Art of Warfare by the Chinese sage Sun Tzu has influenced many budding strategists. The corpus of literature on strategy keeps growing.

The introduction of the printing press in what the Europeans call the middle ages, led to the wider diffusion of knowledge. More recently the information age and the introduction of the Internet has made it well nigh impossible to produce a pure train of thought that can be termed as eastern or western in content and outlook. During the industrial period the strategic thought became the preserve of the imperial powers and they imposed their thought processes on the countries that found themselves under their tutelage. In recent years the curriculum taught in modern staff colleges and war colleges have tended to propagate separate different kinds of thoughts on warfare and strategy. During the Cold War the Eastern thought process was followed by the Warsaw Pact countries and taught in the Frunze Academy, while the Western thought was followed by NATO countries and countries  that were in the western camp including Pakistan. Here the point to note is that East and West during the Cold War both were European powers. The North Americans can be counted as Europeans because they essentially hail from that stock. Asymmetric warfare in recent warfare in recent times has made a new corpus of thought process that is based on strategy of terror. The age of cyber warfare has produced another strain of strategy that is followed by the dominant digital powers. Cyber strategies of the US, Russia and China have their own distinct favours. Militant organizations like the Al Qaeda and the so-called Islamic State (IS) use the Internet to good effect in recruiting, fundraising and proselytising and have developed their own brand of cyber strategy.    

The term strategic culture is a legacy of the Cold War and gained currency during the time period. Many western thinkers began to seriously investigate and analyse how the Soviets would behave in a situation where the use of nuclear weapons could become inevitable. A number of factors are considered to determine the strategic culture of a country. These include inter alia aspects such as history, geography, sociology and culture. This method of finding out strategic behaviour of hostile states was picked up by strategic thinkers all over the world. Studying strategic culture of potential enemies has become a favourite pastime of many scholars dabbling in strategy.  In the South Asian subcontinent Indian and Pakistani scholars use various angles to examine of the behaviour of a country e.g. the Indian reaction after the recent attack on the Brigade Headquarter in Uri can be studied in detail of how the Indian leadership behave in a certain situation e.g. they threatened to isolate Pakistan internationally, scrap the Indus Water Treaty and conduct so-called surgical strikes, to name a few measures that they took. They of course did not launch their much vaunted Cold Start or the Proactive strategy after the Uri attack. This episode can provide a very good gauge to determine their strategic behaviour.    

My Uncle the Intrepid Letter Writer

My uncle Muhammad Masood was the gentlest of souls. He was the kind of person who won’t even hurt a fly. They just don’t make any more like him. He belonged to the old school and had the other worldly charm. He expired yesterday at the ripe old age of 92. He will be forever missed. I met him infrequently but each time I did, I was amazed and moved by his humility and gentle kindness. He belonged to that rare breed of men, who are self-effacing and modest to the fault. He would always insist that he had nothing to boast about but whenever you had an occasion to sit and talk with him, he’d narrate stories that would make you feel proud of him.

As a young person he was exposed to the freedom struggle of India. He was studying engineering in the famous Aligarh University and his heart was more in politics than in studies. He developed a penchant of writing letters to all the important politicians in India and this included both Hindus and Muslims. A habit that he continued after Pakistan became independent. As a student he wrote to almost all important leaders of undivided India. Once he famously wrote a letter to the Quaid-i-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah and asked him his opinion about films. Jinnah Sahib graciously responded to his young admirer in a typewritten letter. He had signed off the letter with his stylish and elegant signatures – M.A. Jinnah. Jinnah Sahib appreciated young Masood’s interest in films and said that in his opinion Muslims should join the film industry. Mr. Jinnah was an open minded man and had once toyed with the idea of playing a role in a Shakespeare play as a young man, while studying in England.

Masood Mamoon was kind enough to give Mr. Jinnah’s letter on films to me. In an age of strife and intolerance, when anything to do with entertainment is frowned upon, I thought it would be a national service to share the letter with a larger audience. I wrote a small story with the letter and it was published in the Express Tribune by a journalist nephew who works for the paper. Masood Mamoon had a treasure trove of letters with him. He regretted having misplaced some, while some had been stolen but he still had many that were his closest possession.

He once narrated how he had met Jinnah Sahib, when he had come to address the students in Aligarh. Masood Mamoon had taken the opportunity to ask a question from the great leader. The next time he was among a body of students that had gone to greet Mr. Jinnah at the railway station. Coming face to face with his hero he awkwardly asked Mr. Jinnah in halting English if he remembered him. The quick witted Jinnah Sahib, replied how could he ever forget the handsome young man like him? That was the best compliment he could ever receive and it really made his day. After partition his father a doctor in the Army Medical Corps opted for Pakistan and left him behind to complete his education. Masood Mamoon remembers Pundit Jawaharlal Nehru, the first prime minister of India visiting Aligarh and telling the students that he knew that they had formed the vanguard of Mr. Jinnah’s movement for Pakistan but henceforth he’d like them to work for an independent India now. Masood Mamoon completed his education and came to Pakistan. His movement to Pakistan is another story. Somebody had fed the secret police some false information and he had to surreptitiously make good his escape.

In Pakistan he worked initially for the Military Engineering Service. He had tales to narrate about Kakul, Kalat and Turbat. He later ran his own business as a pharmacist in Quetta. He shifted from Quetta to Karachi many years ago and mostly led a retired life. He remained an active community member and was a doting patriarch, who took care of his family as his eldest son a merchant mariner was mostly away. He wrote letters in long hand to politicians, friends and relatives. Some took the trouble of replying to him. Others ignored him. None was as courteous as Jinnah Sahib. He read voraciously and made good conversation. He spoke softly in chaste Urdu. Towards the end of his life his hearing became so bad that could hardly hear anything but this was no barrier in maintaining family links. He would regularly call up my mother although he could barely hear her. The best thing about him was that he made you feel special and important. He was a very affectionate person.

Masood Mammon may Allah bless you with the choicest place in heaven.