Sunday, December 20, 2015

Modeling ISIS chances in your country..

This is just a random thought. I just wondered if more capable people may comment on this:

Can we construct a simple model using only 2 variables (yes, many other variable are relevant; the whole point is, can we still make a good guess based on just these two):

1. Strength of affiliation of Muslim population with Sunni classcial shariah (determined by polling results?)
2. Strength of state security institutions (determines by ??)

This model to predict whether a serious ISIS threat is coming to country X in the near future.

e.g. Malaysian Muslims are very strongly in favor of classical Sunni Shariah. But Malaysia is also a strong state, with effective institutions of law enforcement, intelligence, internal security, what have you. So, maybe not a serious ISIS threat. In the short term.

Azeri Muslims do not have a very strong Shariahist affiliation. Also pretty strong state security institutions. So low threat.

Pakistan has strong shariah affiliation in the population, and areas where the state is very weak (and security institutions are compromised by infiltrators?), so a serious threat.

Bangladesh has moderately strong shariah affiliation, moderately weak security institutions. High risk or moderate risk?

Iran has no Sunnis to speak of, and strong institutions. So very low risk..

Egypt has strong shariah affiliation, and areas where the state is weak, so high risk?

Saudi Arabia has VERY strong shariah affiliation, but also strong security institutions. So risk is still lower than Egypt?

And so on.

Are there some other "two variable models" that do better?

Just a random thought (and yes, I put no numbers out there, so hardly a mathematical model. But can it be one??)

Saturday, December 19, 2015

Roger Scruton on the Postmodern Turn

Even if we do not have a very deep connection with Scruton's own loyalties and ideals, this essay has some excellent insights. Excerpts:
"..And reflecting on this I noticed certain peculiar and recurring features of all the literature that I have mentioned. First it is literature directed at an enemy. All of it is devoted to describing the ruses and machinations that maintain the existing order in being, and also to describing that order as oppressive, machine-like, and in some deep sense alien. Secondly, the nonsense, although it cannot be deciphered intellectually, in terms of the true and the false or the valid and the invalid, can be easily deciphered politically. It is directed nonsense, and it is directed at the enemy. It is not just the existence of the enemy that is under attack. The assault is aimed primarily at the language through which the enemy lays claim to the world, the language that we know as rational argument and the pursuit of truth. 'The love of truth,' declared Jacques Lacan, 'is the love of this weakness whose veil we have lifted; it is the love of what truth hides, which is called castration.'[6] The love of truth, therefore, has no independent validity, being merely a disguise worn by the weaker party. There is no real commodity at issue save power: the enemy shoots out words, and so do we. And victory is brought by the magic wand, the square root of minus one which, waved in the face of the enemy, reveals that he has no balls.

Friday, December 18, 2015

Saudi TV Host and Islamic Militant

Watch this and note that the Saudi host has no logical argument against the articulate Jihadi sitting in front of him. Once you accept the basic Wahabi ideology (which is really just classical Sunni Islam taken to its logical conclusions without compromise of any sort), it is very hard to see why the militant is wrong and the host is right.

Indian Islamist Zakir Naik is by no means unique in thinking grave worship is wrong. You do not have to be a wahabi to think that. But they do take it to its logical conclusion.
Logic is the enemy. Seriously.

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

A Story from 1971

The following story was narrated by a dear friend and he didnt want to use the captain's name. I felt it should be preserved, even if without names. So here is my friend's verbatim account, with names and punjabi curses redacted:

I met a retired army officer (let's call him captain X) while stationed in a small town in Punjab in the 1990s. People said he had been traumatized by 1971 and it had changed his life, but he didnt like to talk about it. As we became better acquainted, I asked him about that period. At first he wouldn't talk about it, but one day after chatting about many things, he agreed to tell me his story:

The retired captain was a young army officer in early 1971 when he was informed that he was being posted to East Pakistan. His father was a retired (senior) army officer and a coursemate of General Z, who was a two-star general in Dhaka. He called General Z and mentioned that his son was coming over and to "take care of him". General Z said "I will do more than that for you old friend, I will put him on my staff, he will be totally safe".

Captain X arrived and joined Generaz Zs staff in Dhaka. His main job was to manage General Z's various appointments and to arrange an endless series of lunches and dinners for the senior officers at Dhaka garrison. In the course of these duties, he became very familiar with the catering staff at Dhaka Intercontinental hotel. Life was easy and pleasant until December 1971, when bombing began in earnest and the war finally reached Dhaka. On the 16th of December, Eastern command surrendered to the Indian army and like everyone else in the Pakistani army, young captain X was depressed, sad and angry; but like everyone else, he gave up his side arm and became a POW. Initially the Indians were very disciplined and well behaved and the young officers were simply put under guard in their own officers mess. The General meanwhile had shifted to the Intercontinental hotel.

1971: From East Pakistan to Bangladesh

This excellent article was written in 2002 by the redoubtable Dr Hamid Hussain. Still relevant.

Demons of December —
Road from East Pakistan to Bangladesh

Columnist Hamid Hussain makes an excellent analysis of events leading to 1971.


Great blunders are often made, like large ropes, of a multitude of fibres. 
Victor Hugo’s Les Miserable

December is the anniversary month of the independence of Bangladesh and break up of Pakistan. The memories of that critical period of the history of the two countries are very painful for everyone who was affected in one way or the other. There has been very little attempt to dispassionately and critically analyze various aspects of that period. Most of the writings have been limited to accusations and counter-accusations and mud slinging. In the absence of a serious government or academic inquiry, most of the facts have been clouded in only opinionated rhetoric. Some have picked up on one person and blamed him for the whole disaster. Others have tried to defend their favourite and passed the buck to someone else. Various individuals have played an important role during that critical time period and everybody had their share in the outcome. Most of the discussion has been limited to the last act of the play, which was played in 1971, ignoring the whole historical context. At the end stage of a crisis when the powerful currents of history are in full swing, as one commentator has correctly pointed that an individual cannot alter the movement of historical forces, which are far stronger than any individual actor.1

Peshawar: Massacre of the Innocents.

This post was originally posted last year the day after the massacre. What parts are now irrelevant and what remain unchanged? judge for yourself.

 ہے زلزلہ زمیں کو گہن میں ہے آفتاب / بارش ہے خون کی چشم فلک اشکبار ہے 
 ہے عنقریب پھونکے سرافیل صور کو / بس حکم کبریا کا فقط انتظار ہے

The Earth is shaking, the sun eclipsed, the sky is raining blood
The time is nigh when Israfeel will blow his trumpet (to end the world). 
All that is awaited is a signal from God... (Mir Anis)

I saw a pair of big black boots coming towards me, this guy was probably hunting for students hiding beneath the benches.
My body was shivering. I saw death so close and I will never forget the black boots approaching me – I felt as though it was death that was approaching me.
I folded my tie and pushed it into my mouth so that I wouldn’t scream. The man with big boots kept on looking for students and pumping bullets into their bodies. I lay as still as I could and closed my eyes, waiting to get shot again.
When I crawled to the next room, it was horrible. I saw the dead body of our office assistant on fire.
She was sitting on the chair with blood dripping from her body as she burned.
(a surviving student's account)

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Trial by Trump: Testing Times for the Republican Party

Wouldn’t you know it, Donald Trump has finally done said something that everyoneexcept his few million supporters – finds morally reprehensible, unhinged, un-American, deeply bigoted, fascistic, contrary to our values, against everything we stand for, &c, as well as disqualifying, racist and unconstitutional. His dramatic call to keep Muslims from entering the United States undermines national security, puts our soldiers and diplomats in danger, alienates the Muslim communities we need to work with to defeat terrorists, and plays into the hands of ISIS. All this is apt and accurate as far as it goes, and it is good to see quite a bit of it coming from Republicans who have been complicit in enabling their party’s slide past the rightmost fringe of reality. However, this is a moment far more profound than a few tweets or statements can address. For the Republican Party, it is a test of character. Is the party of Lincoln still willing to accept Donald Trump as its Presidential nominee if he prevails through the primary process? Republican leaders and Presidential candidates have repeatedly been asked the question, and have either answered in the affirmative (Ryan and McConnell) or simply scurried away (e.g., Priebus and Cruz). But the question will not go away. If Trump is indeed a fascist, as the quickly developing consensus from Stephanopoulos to Krauthammer seems to indicate, is the Republican Party willing to own him, and therefore become the first major fascist party in American history? It is an issue of character over politics. The Party has only two choices at this point: Either disown Trump based on his views now and save the Party, or let him go on and risk the f-label. The “strategy” seems to be to let him go on for now and hope that he will disappear of his own accord. That is probably a vain hope, and the consequence of this denial may well be an infinitely worse situation in a few months, with brickbats flying at the Republican convention in Cleveland, plus incalculable damage to the Party’s image. However, disowning Trump now will almost certainly result in the Republicans losing the 2016 Presidential election. Most likely, a jilted Trump will run as an independent and siphon away the most energized part of the Republican voter base. Or he may sulk off in a huff, leaving behind millions of furious supporters who will not vote in 2016 out of anger. Both scenarios spell disaster for the Republicans, but which path will they take?

In spite of my utter lack of faith in the character of the modern Republican Party, I believe they that will eventually cut Trump off – perhaps sooner rather than later. If it isn’t his latest remark about excluding Muslims, it will be his next remark that will be even more outrageous. And if anyone thinks that Trump has reached the limit of his outrageousness now, I have a tall tower at 725 5th Ave, New York, NY to sell you! The pressure on Reince Priebus and co. from the media and other Republicans running in 2016 will grow so much that they will be forced to dissociate the Party from Trump – with the aforementioned consequences. If Trump does run an independent campaign, he will lose, as will the Republican nominee, and Hillary Rodham Clinton will return in triumph to the White House. The only scenario in which Trump could actually win is if other Farooks and Tashfeens decide to perpetrate fresh horrors against innocent people. Then all bets are off. Perhaps that’s what Trump is counting on.

It is good to remember that the Democratic Party too faced a similar moment once on an even more important issue – equal rights for African-Americans. When President Lyndon Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act of 1964 ending Jim Crow laws in the South, he famously – though perhaps apocryphally – said that this would cause the Democratic Party to lose the South for a generation. But Johnson did not let this political calculation keep him from doing what was right. In 2015, as Democrats still remain locked out of political power in the South because of that fateful choice in 1964, one may ask if it was the right one. All decent people – and history – would answer with a famous quote from another recent Republican icon, “Ya betcha!”

Let’s see if the Republican Party meets its test of character.

East Pakistan to Bangladesh, some comments

An op-ed from Brigadier Samson Sharaf published in "The Nation", with some comments from regular contributor Dr Hamid Hussain. Well worth a read

(The comments in red italics are from Dr Hussain. Samson Sharaf's op-ed is Pakstudies-lite/Jinnah-Institutish, so it is mostly of interest if you are curious about how a Pakistani army officer who is not totally nuts or Islamist works this out )

REVISTING 1906-1971
Samson Simon Sharaf


As West Pakistan nears the end of its 44th year of separation from the East, suffice to comment that lessons if any were ignored by the elastic conscience and political opportunism of leaders. The people absolved themselves by viewing it a fait accompli by unrepresentative ruling elites. In military terms there was no debriefing and therefore lessons not learnt are being repeated. Losing more than half the population never result in introspection. Despite this political culture and insensitivity, what remains of Pakistan holds together due to geographical contiguity that did not exist in case of East Pakistan. Pakistan’s corrupt political and socio-economic systems continue to overrule the aspirations of the people whose majority is either too lethargic or disconnected from nationhood to exercise the power of ballot. The realization and national urge for a closure and way forward thereof is missing. The style of politics adopted by politicians of the west has worsened by time. The fact that Pakistan has survived owes much to its small cadre of hardy people, geopolitics and armed forces.

Here is the debate. If from 1906 till 1947, the east and west were part of the same struggle in which the east provided the platform, intellectual inputs and direction, why they parted ways after the battle was won? In West Pakistan, this question became a taboo for far too long, while the separatist (if we call Awami Leaguers so) in Bangladesh that comprised only 24% of the electorate chose a violet route. For West, the question that this tragedy set aside the idea of a united Pakistan rots in the trash of inventive history.

As the sole self-proclaimed custodians of ‘Ideology of Pakistan’ created by a dictator, West Pakistanis cannot eclipse historical facts. After the partition of Bengal and Muslim Majority self-rule, the idea of separation came predominantly from the Muslims of East Bengal. Muhammadan Education Conference of the Aligarh modernity school changed to All India Muslim League at Dacca in 1906. The first convener was Nawab Sir Khawaja Salimullah of Dacca who mentored two stalwarts; A. K. Fazlul Haq who wrote the first Creed of the League and Choudhury Khaliquzzaman.

The thesis of separation mostly advocated by Bengali leaders with the obvious experience of history was ignored till Allama Iqbal as President of Punjab Muslim League reflected the concept in his famous Allahabad address. Though he met the Bengali leaders many times, his address referred only to India’s North West Muslim provinces and ignored East Bengal. The reason was that the league was seeking autonomy within the Indian Union and Punjabi/UP leaders resigned Bengali leaders to fight their own struggle. The fact that Pakistan’s inventive history credits Allama Iqbal more than the founders of this idea is an historical distortion. These frustrations are reflected in the many twists and turns Bengali leaders they took thereafter, and recorded in many dissenting notes and speeches of A. K. Fazlul Haq, the Sher-e-Bangla. Knowing that North West that comprised NWFP and Punjab was dominated by Unionists and Congress sympathizers (Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan), Bengalis continued to provide the impetus for a Muslim Identity. At that point of time, Old Balochistan and the State of Khairpur in Sindh were out of contention. Punjab centrism with a shadow of the UP lobby caused irreparable damage to the federation of Pakistan; yet these are the unfortunate lines on which the West Pakistani narrative was built. (There is a historical context to the discussion. In later part of nineteenth and early part of the twentieth century, several important Muslim leaders advocated division of India on the basis of separate Muslim identity. The prejudice against Bengali Muslims was so prevalent and widespread, that nobody cared about them and did not consider them as part of Indian Muslim community. In fifty years, about 15 such schemes were proposed but not even a single one mentioned Bengal or Bengali Muslims. Sir Muhammad Iqbal who proposed the idea of Pakistan in his famous Allahabad address in 1930 did not include Bengali Muslims in his scheme. Chaudhry Rehmat Ali who coined the word ' Pakistan ' for his new country did not bother to fit the majority population of future Pakistan in his name. Generally speaking, Muslims of northern India considered themselves superior and more pure blood and despised Bengali Muslims, which they seem to equate more with Hindus rather than accepting them as brothers in faith. The Bengali leader, Fazlul Haq who presented the Pakistan Resolution in 1940 was forced to resign from Muslim League in September 1941. The Muslim League leadership never trusted Hussain Shaheed Suharwardy, who was the elected Chief Minister of United Bengal . He was not given a seat at Working Committee of All India Muslim League.)

A. K. Fazlul Haq, the Chief Minister of Bengal and Choudhury Khaliquzzaman with reluctant support from Sikandar Hayat Khan of Punjab (a Unionist whose buck stopped short of separation) managed to push through the Lahore Resolution on 24 March 1940. The final interpretation of the Resolution was left to a committee that ignored the question of States within a Union. Obviously, it was to keep Sikandar quiet. After the impromptu Cabinet Mission Plan that Congress rejected, the League pushed for a single Pakistan with two wings. This partition of India was pursued in haste to the chagrin of Bengali leaders, leaving many questions of autonomy under federalism unaddressed. The result was that within the first few years of independence, intransience on part of the west accounted for wiping away support of the League in East Pakistan. As early as 1954, the East was vying for greater autonomy within the federation. Once the 1956 constitution ignored the questions of federation, the separatist movement was a question of time.

By August 1947, differences between leaders of East Bengal and those from UP and Punjab widened. There was serious dissent in East Pakistani leaders over adoption of Urdu as the national language, Objective Resolution and non-federal constitution of 1956. Bengali leaders were particularly sensitive about relegation of religious minorities that comprised more than 15% population of East Pakistan. These were mostly Dalit who under the leadership of Jogendra Nath Mandal (Pakistan’s first law minister) had thrown their lot with Pakistan. Though after partition, Muslim League managed to form the first government; by 1954 it was edged to insignificance by United Front, Communist Party and the Awami League. The United Front ruled the province till imposition of Martial Law in 1958. (Things as they stood at the time of emergence of Pakistan in 1947: In 1947, when the new state of Pakistan emerged, there was a very unique and difficult dilemma facing the new nation. More than 1000 miles of hostile territory of India separated the two wings. East Pakistan contained more than half of the population but only one-sixth of the land. In Eastern wing, population was more homogenous ethnically and linguistically while Western wing had five clearly diverse groups (Punjabis, Sindhis, Baluch, Pushtuns and newly immigrated Muslims from India called Muhajirs). In eastern wing, the non-Muslim population was 23% while in western wing only 3 . Peasant proprietors dominated agriculture sector in Bengal compared to large feudal estates in West Pakistan . Bengalis were the most politically conscious group of Pakistan . In addition, there was a long tradition of strong leftist presence in Bengal . Literacy rate was 30% in East compared to 20% in West Pakistan . In 1950, East Bengal Provincial legislature passed a landmark bill called East Bengal State Land Acquisition and Tenancy Act of 1950. This law abolished the permanent settlement, which ended the Zamindari system that supported the landed elite. The land holding was limited to 100 Bighas (about 33 acres) which affected both Hindu and Muslim landlords. In my view this little known single piece of legislation was a crucial factor which would impact the future course of relationship between the two wings. This law rang the alarm bells in West Pakistani ruling elite, which was dominated by the landed aristocracy.)

Because leaders in West Pakistan looked at Hindus within the construct of India, Bengali leaders and prime ministers were viewed with suspicion. Due to this divergent stance East Pakistani leaders were perceived less patriotic. The conspiracy theory of the west that Hindu presence diluted the Ideology of Pakistan in the East was accepted without logic and reason. It also downgraded the famous speech of Qaid e Azam Muhaammad Ali Jinnah on 11 August 1947 on political inclusivism. While these fissures widened and League’s support in East Pakistan waned, the Governor-General of Pakistan dismissed A. K. Fazlul Haq from public office on charges of inciting secession. Later, Ayub Khan banned him from politics. Ever since, this suppression of the east and the progressive left has marred genuine political reforms in Pakistan. No lessons have ever been learnt. (Every dissent is viewed through a self righteous lens. The Punjabi Governor of East Pakistan, Sir Firoz Khan Noon described the Bengali voice of dissent as a conspiracy of 'clever politicians and disruptionists from within the Muslim community and caste Hindus and communists from Calcutta as well as from outside Pakistan '. This was in 1950s and look at the statements about Baluchs today. Read the following sentences written in Intelligence Bureau (IB) report dated July 1961 about the feelings of Bengali population: 'The people in this province will not be satisfied unless the Constitution ensures them in reality equal and effective participation in the management of the affairs of the country, equal share of development resources and, in particular, full control over the administration of this province. The intelligentsia would also like to see a directive principle in the Constitution to increase speedily East Pakistan's share in the defense services as well as equal representation of East Pakistanis in the central service’. A mid-level police official of IB was more farsighted than the rulers of the country.)

While the West dominated the events after 1947, there was no effort or narrative to counter the political humiliation and alienation caused to leaders of the East. It was only a matter of time that the inevitable happened. Free and fair elections under a military dictator in 1970 exposed the hidden cracks. No single party emerged as a symbol of federation. Awami League (a breakaway faction of Muslim League) in the East led by Shiekh Mujeeb ur Rehman and Pakistan People’s Party led by Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto in the West emerged as two irreconcilable belligerents. Imprisoned Sheikh Mujeeb ur Rehman was flexible and insisted autonomy but not division. Bhutto’s politics were exclusive and inflexible. Exploiting the ignorance on part of the military regime and lack of communications amongst Pakistani politicians, India inserted its narrative into the void. Armed forces fell into the trap and became the fall guy. (The last sentence is a bit disingenuous. Army was in full control of the country from 1958 right up to the day of surrender in 1971. If there was a trap, it was weaved meticulously by army leadership. Just as a backgrounder of the saga to highlight how domestic and international factors coalesced in the context of East Pakistan. A complex set of factors including domestic, personal and class interests, regional and international interests came into play which impacted the nascent democratic process of the new nation. The Muslim League leadership in East Pakistan consisted of landed elite and cosmopolitans from Calcutta . Later, vernacular leadership (Fazlul Haq and Maulana Abdul Hameed Bhashani) based on support from rural masses came to limelight. 1954 provincial elections were a watershed in the history of Pakistan . The United Front (consisting of Fazlul Haq's Krishak Sramik Party and Suharwardy's Awami League) swept the elections. United Front won 223 of the 237 Muslim seats and had many allies among the 72 non-Muslim elected members. Muslim League was wiped out of the East Bengal during this election. West Pakistani ruling elite's apprehensions about the new Bengali leadership were re-enforced by the international politics and Pakistan 's attempts to join U.S. sponsored military pacts against the Communism. When the defense treaty with United States was announced in February 1954, there was a general protest in East Bengal . Several demonstrations were held and newly elected assembly members signed a protest statement. This signature proved to be the death sentence of the provincial assembly. The ruling group in Karachi (Governor General Ghulam Muhammad, C-in-C General Ayub Khan and Defence Secretary Sikander Mirza) saw this situation as a grave threat to their vision for the country and future relationship with US, which would be a foundation stone of this policy. They concluded that to show to Washington that Pakistan was a serious ally and in full control of its house, East Pakistan 's political process had to be checked. On May 19, 1954 , the mutual defense agreement was signed in Karachi between US and Pakistan and eleven days later, Governor General dismissed East Bengal Provincial Assembly on the flimsy charge that Fazlul Haq had uttered separatist words to Indian media. One day before the dismissal of the assembly, Pakistani Prime Minister while confiding with the US Charge, told him that Governor rule was planned for East Pakistan to route the communists. He revealed that the matter was not even discussed with the cabinet or Chief Ministers as information may be leaked to Peking and Moscow via Fazlul Haq. The plan was not for a short- term scuttling of the political process but a long-term as General Ayub Khan confided with US ambassador that, 'it would be necessary to keep military rule in effect in East Pakistan for a considerable length of time'. Remember this he was saying in 1954, four years before the 1958 coup. Pakistani decision makers always feel more at home with foreigners rather than with their fellow countrymen. Those who want a good dose should read Wiki Leaks cables of Pakistani civil and military leaders.

To my knowledge, no one has looked at the contribution of defense policy towards Bengali alienation. Pakistan adopted the most preposterous defense concept and publicly announced it stating that ‘the defense of East Pakistan lay in West Pakistan. All defense resources were concentrated in West Pakistan calling it the heartland. Bengalis surrounded on three sides by hostile India were told that in case of war, West Pakistan will try to conquer as much Indian territory on western border and India allowed to walk over East Pakistan. Then at negotiation table Pakistan would be able to extract concessions and get East Pakistani land back. I don’t know whether many Pakistani know the facts that for the first few years after independence, Pakistan allotted a grand total of two infantry battalions (8/12 FFR and 2/8 Punjab Regiment) for the defense of whole East Pakistan. It was not until 1950 that two infantry brigades were provided for East Pakistan. No armored regiment was thought worthy to be sent there. Pakistan Air Force stationed its sole permanent fighter jet squadron in East Pakistan in 1962. In military matters, it is normal to allocate resources depending on threat perception. However, citizens of a part of the country cannot be simply told that they are dispensable. One cannot call one region heart and soul of the country worth defending while another region as periphery and not worth defending. Even if military policy dictates such a course then two elements are essential; first the ‘periphery’ population’s representatives are involved in decision making process and second armed forces should have adequate representation from the ‘periphery’ population. This reassures them that they are equal citizens and following an agreed policy which may have some risks involved for their lands. In my view 1965 war convinced even otherwise patriotic Bengalis that their future was not with united Pakistan. They saw that country’s leadership had embarked on a major conflict with a larger India for few lakh Kashmiris and endangered the survival of half of the country’s Bengali population. To add insult to injury no one had the courtesy even to ask for Bengali opinion as they were not in the decision making process. Bengalis had no interest in Pakistan’s major quarrel with India over Kashmir.

“Great blunders are often made, like large ropes, of a multitude of fibers.” Victor Hugo's Les Miserable

Monday, December 7, 2015

Book Review: The Last Warlord

Book Review – The Last Warlord
By Dr Hamid Hussain

 The Last Warlord by Brian Glyn Williams is the life story of Abdul Rashid Dostum; a former Afghan warlord and current First Vice President of Afghanistan. Dostum is an excellent case study specimen for any researcher who wants to understand the sanguine history of Afghanistan of the last three decades. No actor has performed so many roles even in movies which Dostum has done in real life. A plumber, oil and gas rig worker, wrestler, meteoric rise from a petty local militia commander to a general commanding a Corps, warlord, deputy defense minister, presidential candidate, chief of staff to President of Afghanistan and now First Vice President of Afghanistan.

 Brian’s work gives a friendly account of Dostum’s life and author admits that ‘he might be able to help Dostum get his story out’. Many exaggerated stories about the venality of Dostum are given a thorough scrubbing. The final story which emerges presents Dostum as a moderate secular leader who is trying to get fair share for his ethnic Uzbek community in Afghanistan. This is only partly true and there are hundred shades of grey.

Dostum started his career as oil and gas worker and later joined Afghan army. He was affiliated with the Parcham (Banner) faction of Afghan Communists. He served with 444 Commando unit. In 1970s and 80s, Dostum fought against rebels (Mujahedeen) as local militia commander. He was a successful commander and soon his command rapidly expanded from a battalion (kandak) to a division (53rd Division) and finally a Corps (7th Corps). He led his tough Uzbek fighters called Jowzjani Militia (called Gilamjam or carpet thieves by adversaries) from the front in battlefields all over Afghanistan. Dostum was sent to every front when fighting got tough and he proved to be an able commander in countless battles. He was known for frontal assaults that resulted in heavy casualties and in the long run caused war weariness among his fellow Uzbeks.

Sunday, December 6, 2015

San Bernadino Terror Attack

First published at

On December 2nd 2015 Syed Farooq Malik, a young American of Pakistani origin (born in Illinois) was attending his workplace holiday party in San Bernadino. He left the party early (it is not clear if there was an argument of some sort before he left) and then returned with his wife, Pakistani-American Tashfeen Malik, and the couple opened fire on his coworkers and left after 4 minutes.  14 people were killed, 21 injured. It has since emerged that the couple had 2 assault rifles, thousands of rounds of ammo and several pipe bombs. They had also rented a Ford Expedition SUV a few days before the attack and used it for the attack as well as in the subsequent chase and confrontation with the police. Though they managed to escape the scene of the crime, they were eventually shot dead after an exchange of fire with the police. They had left their 6 month old baby girl with her grandmother on the morning of the attack. Sometime after the shooting, Tashfeen Malik also reportedly posted a “pledge of allegiance to ISIS” on her facebook page. 

It has since emerged that Farooq Malik had a "normally religious" upbringing but had become “more religious” in the last two years. According to his (estranged) dad, he was obsessed with Israel and “shared the ideology of ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi”.  And it seems that his wife was brought up in far more Islamist fashion than he was.  Her father is a Pakistani who works in Saudi Arabia and supposedly became “more religious” there. She lived in both Pakistan and Saudi Arabia and was a full-time niqabi when she attended Bahauddin Zakariya University’s pharmacy department.  After marriage, she did not show her face even to her father-in-law and her brother-in-law and stayed in seclusion in her California apartment. She did not attend the baby shower thrown by her husband’s coworkers  (the same people the couple later went to shoot) and it is very likely that she was more “radical” than her husband.  It seems likely that the two of them decided to kill people because they wanted to strike a blow for their version of Islam, but the actual choice of target (i.e. where a group of people  would be murdered) may still have involved some “workplace grievance” (though no convincing grievance has yet been revealed).