एक्सपर्ट एनालिसिस:पाकिस्तान जिस तरह खालिस्तानी समूहों को पनाह दे रहा है, उससे लगता है करतारपुर कॉरिडोर कहीं खालिस्तान कॉरिडोर न बन जाए

वॉशिंगटन, अमेरिका5 दिन पहलेलेखक: क्रिस्टीन फेयर

तारीख 9 नवंबर 2019, जब गुरु नानकदेव जी की 550वीं जयंती से 3 दिन पहले करतारपुर कॉरिडोर का उद्घाटन हुआ, तो सिखों में खुशी की लहर दौड़ गई कि अब वे पाकिस्तान स्थित करतारपुर साहिब जाकर माथा टेक सकेंगे। बंटवारे के दौरान भारत और पाकिस्तान के बीच बंटे सिखों के 2 प्रमुख धर्मस्थलों- भारत में रावी नदी के तट पर बसे डेरा बाबा साहिब और पाकिस्तान के शकरगढ़ में स्थित श्री करतारपुर साहिब को इस कॉरिडोर ने फिर से जोड़ दिया, लेकिन भारत की सुरक्षा स्थिति पर नजर रखने वाले एक्सपर्ट्स को चिंता है कि ये कॉरिडोर कहीं ‘खालिस्तान कॉरिडोर’ में तब्दील न हो जाए। उनकी चिंता बहुद हद तक जायज भी है।

पंजाब में 1992 में हुए विवादित चुनावों के बाद खालिस्तान का हिंसापूर्ण आंदोलन लगभग खत्म हो गया था, लेकिन पिछले एक दशक से इस हिंसक आंदोलन और इसके सबसे प्रमुख आतंकवादी नेता जरनैल सिंह भिंडरावाले के राजनीतिक अस्तित्व को फिर से जिंदा करने के प्रयास किए जा रहे हैं। भारत में भले ही खालिस्तान के लिए मुखर समर्थन ना हो, लेकिन कनाडा, ब्रिटेन और दूसरे पश्चिमी देशों में रह रहे सिख डायस्पोरा और बाकी जाट सिख समुदायों में इस हिंसक और क्रूर आंदोलन का समर्थन जारी है।

भिंडरावाले की तस्वीर वाली टी-शर्ट, खालिस्तानी साहित्य और अन्य सामान सिख धर्म के सबसे पवित्र स्थल श्री हरमिंदर साहिब एवं भारत के विभिन्न गुरुद्वारे के आसपास के बाजारों में बेचे जा रहे हैं। भारत के कई गुरुद्वारों में सिखों के ऐतिहासिक शहीदों के साथ भिंडरावाले की तस्वीरों को भी शामिल किया गया है। भारत के लिए सबसे चिंता की बात ये है कि हाल के सालों में कई खालिस्तानी हमले हुए हैं, जिन्हें सुरक्षाबलों ने रोका है।

मैंने और मेरे सहयोगियों ने जो रिसर्च किया है उसमें सामने आया है कि हाल के वर्षों में भारत में दर्जनों खालिस्तानी हमले हुए हैं। ये घटनाएं एक जनवरी 2009 और 25 जनवरी 2019 के बीच हुई हैं।भारत-पाकिस्तान के सुरक्षा हालातों पर नजर रखने वाले एक्सपर्ट और स्कॉलर सबसे ज्यादा चिंतित पाकिस्तानी अधिकारियों के सार्वजनिक बयानों को लेकर हैं। जिनमें उन्होंने कहा है कि ‘करतारपुर कॉरिडोर’ पाकिस्तानी सेना प्रमुख जनरल कमर जावेद बाजवा के दिमाग की उपज है।

पाकिस्तान में 1991 के बाद से कई बार केंद्रीय मंत्री रहे राजनेता शेख राशिद ने चुटकी लेते हुए एक बयान में कहा, ‘भारत करतारपुर कॉरिडोर को हमेशा जनरल बाजवा के दिए गए गहरे घाव के रूप में याद रखेगा। जनरल बाजवा ने करतारपुर कॉरिडोर खोलकर भारत पर जोरदार प्रहार किया है।’

भारत के लिए चिंता की एक और बड़ी बात ये है कि पाकिस्तानी खुफिया एजेंसी ISI ने प्रवासी सिखों यानी सिख डायस्पोरा के बीच खालिस्तान के लिए समर्थन जुटाया है। ISI हमेशा से ही भारत विरोधी कश्मीरी अलगाववादी समूहों का साथ देती रही है। अनेक सबूतों के अनुसार इस्लामी आतंकवादी समूह लश्कर-ए-तैयबा और पाकिस्तान में रहने वाले खालिस्तानी कार्यकर्ताओं के बीच सहयोग और साठगांठ जारी है।

पाकिस्तान लंबे समय से खालिस्तानी समूहों को मजबूत कर रहा है और पनाह भी दे रहा है। इन खालिस्तानी समूहों के साथ मिलकर पाकिस्तान के साजिश रचने का उद्देश्य भी साफ है। पाकिस्तान पर लश्कर और दूसरे इस्लामी आतंकवादी समूहों का इस्तेमाल करने की वजह से अंतरराष्ट्रीय दबाव भी बनाया जाता रहा है। अब बदले हुए सुरक्षा हालात में पाकिस्तान के लिए खालिस्तानी समूह बेहद अहम हो गए हैं। हो सकता है पाकिस्तान जिन समूहों का लंबे समय से विकास कर रहा है, उनका इस्तेमाल अब शुरू कर दे।

This piece published in the Dainik Bhaskr on 10 September. Note that this was the article originally plagiarized by a dubious joker, as I detail here: https://shortbustoparadise.wordpress.com/2021/08/05/should-i-be-flattered-or-irked-that-my-hindi-article-was-plagiarised-by-a-hindi-language-journalist/.

The Unwinnable War

A much redacted/trimmed version of this article appeared in The Daily Beast on August 17, 2021. This piece has a more expansive discussion of China and the Jaish-e-Mohammad attack on the Indian parliament. It also has a more expansive discussion of the shortcomings of SNTV in producing stable, legitimate political outcomes.

The indelible images of the fall of Saigon featured American helicopters departing from the roof of the US Embassy overflowing with Vietnamese seeking an escape from an uncertain and terrifying future. In 1975, some 125,000 Vietnamese refugees found refuge in the United States as a result of a US-sponsored evacuation program in the wake of the war. The images of the fall of Kabul are darker: Americans occupying the airport in Kabul, focusing upon evacuating their own while terrified Afghans cling to the departing C-17 aircraft. To disperse the crowds of Afghans on the runway, the US army flew attack helicopters lower over their heads. As of August 13, the United States evacuated 1,200 Afghans although that number is likely to rise to 3,500 in coming weeks.

Virtually every American news channel has been focusing upon the fate of the hundreds of thousands of Afghans who risked their lives every day to support the US military and civilian mission. This addition to countless more who worked with NATO and other wester embassies and multi-lateral organizations such as the United Nations. Everyone knows that the Taliban has a list of the so-called collaborators, and they are being hunted down and killed along with their families. However, many Americans are in a conundrum. They hear the figures recited: 2,448 US service members killed through April 2021; an estimated 3,846 contractors for whom there is no official count; another 1,444 other allied service members killed; 444 aid workers murdered; 72 journalists20,660 US soldiers have been injured in action; all at an estimated price tag of 2.3–6.5 trillion. What they are less likely to hear are these figures: at least 111,000 Afghan civilians have been killed or injured since 2009 alone, when the United Nations began systematically recording civilian casualties. The Taliban killed so many members of the Afghan National Defense and Security forces in 2016, the American and Afghan governments decide to maintain their death and casualty figures a secret for fear of further eviscerating their morale. President Ghani said that 45,000 Afghan security forces were killed between the time he took office in 2014 and January 2009. Prior to the last two weeks, US officials estimated that about 30–40 were being killed each day. Obviously, the tolls of the injured are many fold this figure. While the war’s price tag looms large, vast majority of those “allocations” returned to the United States economy as much of the civilian and military activities were farmed out to US contractors with massive amounts of corruption, much of which has been committed by US entities and persons.

Rightly so, many Americans are asking whether massive loss of life treasure was worth it. What if I told you that this war, as the Americans fought it, was winnable in the first place and that we lost this war on the installment plan? Here are perhaps three of the American blunders that ensured this defeat.

Pakistan Was Always the Problem….and it still is

The biggest American blunder was going to war with the one country dedicated to undermining American objectives at every turn even while raking in tens of billions of dollars in the fictive guise of supporting them: Pakistan. Pakistan’s perfidy was evident from the earliest days of the war and it continues now, helping its assets — the Taliban — squeeze the democratic life from Afghanistan wherever and however it can.

On 7 October 2001, the United States entered Afghanistan from Tajikistan under the aegis of “Operation Enduring Freedom” with a small force of special operators. Their goal was to shore up the Northern Alliance after their leader, a murderous warlord known as Ahmad Shah Massoud, was grievously injured in the first suicide attack Afghanistan had ever experienced on 9 September 2001. No American pundit anticipated that the Taliban would fall so quickly. Many Afghan Taliban and their clients anticipated that the United States, furious at the Taliban for harboring Osama Bin Laden in the wake of the 9/11 terror attacks, would succeed and defected pre-emptively in hopes on being on the winning side. As the Northern Alliance took Kabul, the dedicated Taliban who aimed to fight another day headed south and took refuge in Pakistan’s tribal areas.

Meanwhile in November 2001 in Kunduz, the Americans granted Pakistan permission to conduct numerous sorties over two days in what is known as the Kunduz airlift or, according to US military personnel on the ground “Operation Evil Airlift.” Pakistani army officers and intelligence advisors who were working with the Taliban and fighting alongside them were trapped in Kunduz following Northern Alliance advances bolstered with US special forces. The United States permitted the Pakistanis to airlift this menagerie of despicables back to Pakistan using US-supplied transport aircraft. Special operators who witnessed this firsthand and with whom I’ve discussed this operation claim that the number of sorties was much larger than was reported. They believe there were dozens of sorties. While the Americans insisted it was supposed to be a limited evacuation of Pakistani military and intelligence operatives, uncountable Taliban and al Qaeda fighters were also ferried out of Kuduz by Pakistan’s “Evil Airlift.” That probably should’ve have been a good signal of what the Pakistanis would do as the conflict progressed. But Pakistan was just warming up.

On October 8, 2001, President Musharraf appointed a close advisor and Taliban sympathizer Lieutenant-General Ali Muhammad Jan Aurakzai to the Peshawar-based XI Crops. Aurakzai, with ostensible ties to the Tribal Agency of Orakzai, would lead the Pakistani forces deployed on the Afghan border to support the Americans who in December 2001 searching for Osama Bin Laden in Afghanistan’s Tora Bora cave complex. According to all-source intelligence reports, Bin Laden was in Tora Bora for several days in mid-December. Aurakzai’s forces were supposed to be playing the “anvil” to America’s “hammer,” by catching and/or killing al Qaeda and Taliban fighters escaping into Pakistani territory. That effort was short-lived.

On 13 December 2001, Jaish-e-Mohammad launched a suicide attack on India’s parliament in New Delhi. Due in large measure to the incompetence of the attackers, they killed nine and injured 18. The Jaish-e-Mohammad was a creation of the Pakistani state and its notorious intelligence agency, the ISI, and was a loyal proxy force of the same. Jaish-e-Mohammad, under the leadership of Masood Azhar, was loyal to the Pakistani hands that fed it even though part of the organization defected and regrouped under various names. It is extremely unlikely that the organization would have conducted such an outrageous attack with such tremendous strategic importance without the explicit go ahead of the Pakistani state. Had the attackers not bungled the assault, countless more would have died. India mobilized for war along the border with Pakistan in what was the largest mobilization since the 1971 war. They would remain in place until October of the following year after provincial elections were held in Kashmir.

The Indian army is a large, bulky, non-agile force. Pakistani generals “could see that India was shifting divisions from as far away as Calcutta, in the east, to the western frontier with Pakistan; it looked like the largest military mobilization in Indian history.” Pakistan’s khaki brass informed the Bush administration that it must swing its forces to the Indian border. Subsequently, Pakistan dispatched more than seventy thousand troops and their equipment — two full corps, or four divisions — to the Indian border. Pakistan left mostly Frontier Corps along the Afghan border. Not coincidentally, the Frontier Corps was precisely the organization that had previously trained the Taliban and myriad other militias that Pakistan trained and dispatched back into Afghanistan since 1974. Despite protests from American diplomats, Musharraf did not waiver. Even though the so-called ratlines or trails which wound through the mountainous border between Pakistan and Afghanistan are overdetermined by geography and geology and well-known to Aurakzai, they were conveniently unguarded Under General Aurakzai’s watch, Taliban and al Qaeda operatives “slipped” into Pakistan’s tribal areas. Aurakzai. There is a general consensus that by the end of December 2001, bin Laden escaped Tora Bora and fled to Pakistan where he was eventually killed by US special forces in May 2011 in a garish safe house in Abbottabad, a casual one-mile stroll from Pakistan’s Military Academy, its equivalent to the US West Point Military Academy

It’s hard not to draw connections between the Jaish-e-Mohammad attack and the Bin Laden escape. All of these years, I’ve wondered if the very point of the attack was to provide an excuse for Pakistani forces to leave the border unguarded as their proxies made their way back home to roost. This is all the more plausible because Jaish-e-Mohammad and the Taliban were joined at the hips, share Deobandi “theological” leaning and goose step to the tune of the ISI’s kazoo.

Oddly, despite Bin Laden’s escape with at least Pakistani passive if not active facilitation, the United States congratulated itself for its swift defeat of the Taliban. In fact, the Americans had only routed them. Safe again in their Pakistani sanctuaries, the Pakistan state silently helped their allies regroup and prepare for what would be their reinvigorated offensive in 2005 which would persist until Kabul fell this week. The United States was largely indifferent to the Taliban for many years in large measure because the George W. Bush administration was overly focused upon its Iraqi misadventure and because it narrowly focused upon al Qaeda. For all intents and purposes, al Qaeda had evacuated Afghanistan and sought out various safe houses in Pakistan. However, Washington was generally pleased with Pakistan’s cooperation in the fight against al Qaeda because Pakistan regularly coughed up “Al Qaeda Number Threes” conveniently timed for the visits of Bush administration officials. Maybe Pakistan was helping to catch so many al Qaeda terrorists precisely because there were so many to catch in Pakistan?

While President Bush insisted that Musharraf was a loyal ally (pro tip: he wasn’t), the remaining sentient observers grasped Pakistan’s unending perfidious support to the Taliban, the Haqqani Network, and other groups operating against American forces and their. In 2009, in an effort to stem the losses, the Obama administration was strong-armed by his generals to launch the so-called surge. The surge could never have worked for two reasons. First, the numbers were fictional. If we took Field Manual 3–24 on counterinsurgency seriously (and I did not), you would need about 450,000–500,000 troops in Afghanistan. We never had more than 140,000. Second, the surge misdiagnosed the problem: we were losing because of Pakistan. As the American and allied presence in Afghanistan increased, Pakistan became ever-more central. Even though Iran had been extremely helpful to the US and international efforts early on in Afghanistan and even though Iran continued to offer assistance to Washington first Afghanistan and then in Iraq for more than a year, the Bush administration rebuffed Iran and denounced it as part of an Axis of Evil. With Pakistan being central to sustaining the war in Afghanistan, the United States could not find a way of punishing Pakistan for murdering Americans and their allies despite being an ostensible ally.

No matter what Pakistan did, American officials found reasons to excuse Pakistan rather than treat it like the enemy it clearly was. Many believed that there was some magical combination of allurements that could transform Pakistan from the regional menace was and is, into a state that is at peace with itself and its neighbors. President Trump, despite his numerous other outrages, at least understood was Pakistan was and cut off the aid. But even Trump could not bring himself to do what needed to be done: apply every possible sanction against the Pakistani military, intelligence, and political personalities for which we have intelligence (and we slews of it) of supporting the Taliban and other Islamist terrorist groups which have long been the workhorse of Pakistani foreign policy.

Corruption: We built It

Second, only to our failures to properly handle the problem of Pakistan which had been waging jihad in Pakistan since 1974 (not a typo), the second major blunder was corruption. For those Americans who care enough to know that we have spent at least $2.3 trillion in Afghanistan, very few know that because the United States relied upon a complex ecosystem of defense contractors, belt-way banditry, and aid contractors as much as 80 to 90% of outlays actually returned to the US economy. Of the 10–20 percent of the contracts that remained in the country, the United States rarely cared about the efficacy of the initiative. While corruption is rife within Afghanistan’s government, the Special Inspector General for Afghan Reconstruction repeatedly identifies bewildering corruption by American firms and individuals working in Afghanistan. In many cases, American firms even defrauded Afghans. A military member of the International Security Assistance Force, speaking about this under-discussed matter, explained to Carlotta Gall, “Without being too dramatic, American contractors are contributing to fueling the insurgency.”

It’s a story that Americans don’t want to hear: that we contributed to the massive corruption in Afghanistan. In some cases, it happened because USAID didn’t know how to allocate all the money it was expected to allocate and relied upon enormous institutional contractors and a complicated series of sub-contractors, all of whom took their overhead fees for the privilege of being a booking agency. USAID was drinking from a firehose and oddly didn’t seem bothered by the fact that it was effectively transferring US taxpayers’ money into the bank accounts of institutional contractors who enriched themselves in the process. By the time the leftovers reached Afghan implementing partners, there was neither interest nor ability to monitor those activities. Much of the funds were stolen or spent on poorly executed projects. This is why Asri Suhrke, for example, strenuously argued that less aid is actually more. She argued that fewer, smaller projects executed with less corruption would produce better results. But this was a fast-moving gravy train and everyone wanted to take a ride. The money just kept pouring in and the corruption kept growing. The US knew that corruption was losing Afghan hearts and minds. Afghans quickly became came to resent public displays of generosity when they understood that most of the money went into the pockets of US firms or dodgy Afghans who had little intention of aiding ordinary people. They also understood that the corruption was giving the Taliban grist for their mill of decrying the legitimacy of the Afghan government.

Proponents of the surge steadfastly ignored Pakistan experts and indeed General Stanley McChrystal didn’t even bother having a single competent Pakistan authority on his assessment team that produced the absurd proposal. Unsurprisingly, the surge made the United States more dependent upon Pakistan for ground lines of control (GLOCs) than ever before while doing little to develop genuine alternatives. The Northern Distribution Route could never carry more than 20% of the logistical demands and Russia insisted that it not be used for lethal goods. Given that this route was needed to resupply a war, Russia effectively rendered this route inutile. And even though the United States was perfectly capable of working with Pakistan — despite a well-known history of horizontal and vertical nuclear proliferation and decades of supporting terrorism — Washington could not palate the idea of finding ways of using Iran’s ports and safe road and rail network to supply the US-led NATO effort in the country.

General Stanley McChrystal, in his leaked interim commander’s report, also encouraged the United States to do something about the industrial-strength corruption in Afghanistan. But this was too hard and instead, everyone focused upon his surge idea. To win in Afghanistan — by any metric of winning — the international community had to foster better business practices amongst themselves and amongst their Afghan partners.

However, there is a darker side of the corruption fostered by the US government: it wanted to use corruption as a means of control. It secretly paid Afghans working in the government a secret, and often illegal, the second salary so that those officials would be the eyes and ears of the US government inside the palace. It could use such emoluments to induce desired behavior among compliant Afghans. And when that relationship soured, as it so often did, the United States could denounce that person for being a corrupt, bride-taking ne’er-do-well who traded his country in for personal gain.

The Myth of the Legitimate Leader

If the corruption aided the Taliban’s return to power, so did the failure of Afghanistan’s political system to produce a so-called legitimate leader. Biden officials have been busy the last two weeks castigating Afghan political leaders for “failing to come together” in aid of their country. It’s a nice narrative if, in fact, this was the fault of dodgy Afghan leaders. Unfortunately, the United States and its partners foisted upon Afghanistan a political system that would always be characterized by fragmentation and illegitimacy. How? The Afghan constitution itself was never appropriate for the country. US officials use to quip that we “gave the Iraqis the constitution that Afghanistan got, and we gave the Afghans the constitution that Iraq needed.” Part of the problem was that the United States wanted an Afghan government that would rubber-stamp its objectives. The easiest way of achieving this was to have a strong man as president. The Americans thought that Karzai was going to be their man in Kabul. To make sure that he was, they put several of his staffers on those afore-noted illegal salaries.

In 2003, President Karzai banned political parties. The United States went along with this because, in fact, the United States did not want an effective Afghan parliament to get in the way of its big ideas. Political parties function to aggregate interests as a bloc. If there are no political parties, Afghan politicians would have to form coalitions repeatedly. This was one way of keeping the parliament from getting in the way of the United States. Parties are now allowed to function, however, they are very week institutionally and individuals have little incentive to affiliate with any party. Efforts by civil society actors and NGOs to strengthen parties were hobbled by Karzai who strongly opposed them.

The next internationally-backed recipe for illegitimacy was the way in which Afghan elections are carried out. Elections for national and sub-national elections are not held on the same day. This means that each election is an opportunity for fraud, malfeasance in the election rolls, counterfeit ballots, and a raft of election-stealing techniques that the Afghans perfected often with American and international complicity. Elections for the lowest level of elected positions specified in Afghanistan’s constitution never even happened. So Afghans were not governed by elected officials at the provincial level. Instead, they were governed by strong men appointed by the President.

Then there was the electoral method itself that as much as anything ensured that no leader would have genuine legitimacy: the Single Non-Transferrable Vote or SNTV as the elections aficionados call it. Afghanistan is one of four countries that use this shambolic method of ascertaining the will of the people. That alone should have given the masterminds behind this scheme pause if they wanted to produce legitimate and stable electoral outcomes. Per this system, voters cast a single vote for individual persons unconstrained by any party structure. Even when parties have been allowed to function, multiple persons from the same weak party can contest the same seat. To an American accustomed to a two-party system and generally, only two candidates from which to choose, this may not seem obviously heinous. However, if anyone were to look at an Afghan ballot, there are often hundreds of persons contesting a single seat. This means that no candidate must secure a majority; rather, he or she need only get more votes than anyone else. And parties, such as they are, can win a majority in a legislative body with a small fraction of the overall votes.

Thomas Johnson provides a good example of the dysfunction of this system. He notes in his analysis of elections in 2014 that there were 664 candidates who competed for the 33 seats in Afghanistan’s lower house of parliament (Wolesi Jirga) allocated for Kabul province. A total of 486,111 valid ballots were cast. The chairman of the People’s Islamic Unity Party of Afghanistan and former Vice President and the Minister of Planning in the interim government of Afghanistan, Muhammad Mohaqiq, secured the largest number of votes. Here’s the catch: he only secured 3.6% of the vote! How is it possible that he could legitimately claim to represent the will of Kabul province? Johnson calculated that that 21 of the 33 candidates elected to the Wolesi Jirga from Kabul were elected with less than 1% of the total vote in their district. How can this system produce legitimate and stable electoral outcomes? It can’t. And this was why it was adopted in the first place?

Now What?

Last night, during his address to the nation, President Biden doubled down on this criminal retreat that abandoned our Afghan partners to fend for themselves. Callously, he reiterated the same canards: that we couldn’t stay forever, that the Afghans need to fight for themselves, that Afghans need to find unity amidst diversity, and other nauseating bromides meant to serve as a salve on a nation’s heavy conscious. Know this. All of this is a lie. We never gave the Afghans a fighting chance.

PS: If you’d like to do something to help Afghans, consider the options listed here: https://twitter.com/CChristineFair/status/1428003177912324102

1. Sign this letter from Scholars at Risk urging Secretary Blinken to undertake a select set of clear, doable tasks to offer a modicum of security to Afghan scholars, researchers, and public intellectuals whose lives are now in great peril.

2. Donate to the organization of your choice raising funds to get SIVs here, find them homes, and provide basic home furnishings. These are the orgs to which I have donated so that you know I’m putting my money where my mouth and fingers are: https://help.rescue.org/donate/afghanistan?ms=fb_ppc_fy21_afghanistan_20210712&initialms=fb_ppc_fy21_20210712&fbclid=IwAR3D03CoODm1ws0EgKNl2WnHj_lHJ32ydcCZp6-Sj0TsPemg5AFCx3gnRuI and https://www.facebook.com/donate/887738608492266/10158417116015003/

3. Many of us with day jobs are writing op-eds or media for which we are paid, I’m donating ALL proceeds I receive to help Afghans. Obviously, if you’re a struggling writer, you can’t help others if you can’t help yourself. But most doing this have day jobs. This is pocket money for us. But with the average OpEd fee, you can help a dozen Afghans. Do I sound preachy? Yes. I won’t apologize.

4. If you’re offering your “hot takes” because you have something to say, be cognizant that many who read your well-intentioned hot takes on “empire” or whatever, fall on those of us who have worked in Afghanistan as offensive&triggering. Remember that many of our students have served in various capacity whether in the United States, Europe, Australia, India and of course Afghanistan and beyond. Do you want to make them think you’re a heartless ass with your ill-informed and posturing “hot takes”? Do you want your colleagues to think you’re a heartless ass with no actual experiences or understanding to underpin your “hot takes.”

5. Don’t just recirculate the tired wisdom of the grand white men of strategic grand strategery WHO GOT US INTO THIS MESS. Instead, LISTEN to the Afghans on Afghan twitter. Even if they write in Dari or Pashtu, Google translate does a fair job. LISTEN MORE to them.

6. Don’t recycle/ legitimize Pakistani talking points that: The Taliban freed Afghans; Pakistan is the REAL victim here; that this was US imperialism when the most enduring imperialists have been the Pakistanis. They’ve been trying to subjugate Afghanistan since the late 50s.

7. Finally, if you are a US citizen reach out to your congressional representation. If you are American, you find your 2 senators and house rep here: https://www.usa.gov/elected-officials. If you are not a US citizen and your soldiers or civilians worked alongside Afghans, reach out to your parliamentary reps. We may not get the outcome we desire, but we don’t have to it here bitching when we CAN take steps.

America’s Leadership Has Presented False Choices in Afghanistan

Note that an edited, and much-abbreviated version of this appeared in Foreign Policy on 16 August 2021. This extended piece has more details.

U.S. President Biden has abandoned the Afghans to fend for themselves against the Taliban. By following a course of policy established by his ignominious predecessor, President Donald J. Trump, Biden has defiantly asserted that he does not regret his decision to withdraw American troops from Afghanistan even after provincial capitals are falling like dominos to the Taliban and even as Kabul itself expected to fall within weeks. The United States begged the Taliban for assurances that they will not attack the US Embassy as the United States callously scrambles to evacuate US personnel, leaving our long-standing Afghan partners to fend for themselves as the Taliban hunt them down and their families. American officials are busy offering sanctimonious repines that justify America’s exeunt from the country. They have announced to American and international audiences that the time has come for the Afghan national security forces to seize the reins of their nation’s defense; that Afghan leaders must unite and fight for their country; that the United States has done enough. This is rank nonsense and President Biden knows it. The United States did not do enough and even enabled the current onslaught.

What makes this current situation more unforgivable is that Biden did not come to this situation unaware. Unlike President George H. W. Bush, who genuinely was befuddled by the region and historically ignorant, the Obama administration in which Biden served benefited from a raft of experts including the former CIA analyst Bruce Reidell and long-time South Asia watcher Peter Lavoy, who was the National Intelligence Officer for South Asia, among numerous others.  Prior to the 2008 election, there were numerous assessments about the war in Afghanistan and the myriad ways in which Pakistan was undermining US efforts there. Obama’s incoming team, led by Bruce Reidell, spear-headed the so-called assessment of assessments and offered refreshingly blunt insight into the perfidy of Pakistan in aiding and abetting the Taliban and undermining US efforts, despite benefitting handsomely from American emoluments.  Despite this benefit of wisdom and knowledge, Biden continued several courses of policy that has led to the current sanguinary crisis for Afghanistan’s citizenry.

It’s Pakistan: Stupid

President Biden, like the earlier president he served, knows that Pakistan is the major force behind the Taliban. Without Pakistan’s unstinting support for the Taliban, this group would be a nuisance rather than an effective fighting force. The United States, far from doing enough to assist Afghanistan, has steadfastly refused to do the one thing that it could have and, indeed should have, done long ago: apply a raft of targeted sanctions against those in Pakistan’s deep state which have continued to provide every possible amenity to the Taliban, and other brutal Islamist militant organizations, despite receiving billions in American overt assistance 2001. 

It’s hard to imagine a country more perfidious than Pakistan. Despite claiming that Osama Bin Laden was not in Pakistan for over a decade, he was found hiding in plain sight in garish if spartan safehouse in Abbottabad, a leisurely stroll from Pakistan’s premier military academy in Kakul (the equivalent to the US West Point). Mullah Omar, the cycloptic founder of the Taliban movement, likely died in a Pakistani hospital. Pakistan’s ties to the Jalaluddin Haqqani Network have been known and enduring. During the last twenty years, Pakistan has continued to recruit, train, and mission numerous other Islamist terrorist groups operating in India and Afghanistan. It has feted terrorist leaders as national heroes. . Pakistan even requested the United Nations to permit the leader of the Lashkar-e-Tayyaba, Hafez Saeed (an UNSC-designated terrorist), to access their frozen accounts for basic expenses. Pakistan was directly responsible for the death of American soldiers and civilians in Afghanistan, along with our NATO and non-NATO allies, and most importantly our Afghan partners and their families.

Rather than accepting the blinding truth that Pakistan was not a friend much less an ally, the United States remained convinced that Pakistan was too dangerous to sanction, too dangerous to punish, too dangerous to hold to account. For decades, Americans have wrung their hands about the Pakistan problem. They rehearsed the fears that Pakistan may collapse, provide nuclear weapons to terrorists, provoke an escalatory war with India that could result in the deliberate or accidental use of nuclear weapons all the while coddling Pakistan, while aiding and abetting the further development of its nuclear arsenal and militant assets which Pakistan uses to coerce the international community.

In 2009, instead of taking coercive measures against the single most important state to the revivification of the Taliban, the United States launched the so-called surge which resulted in a massive expansion of troops as well as defense contractors (aka “mercenaries”) as well as government and non-government civilians that comprised the so-called “civilian surge.” Without developing viable ground-lines of resupply independent of Pakistan, this surge created an even deeper dependence upon Pakistan at a time when the United States was losing the war precisely because of Pakistan.

Part of the problem was the American failure to understand the perduring nature of Pakistan’s quest to render Afghanistan a vassal of Rawalpindi, the real capital of Pakistan.  Americans thought that Pakistan was only responding to India’s presence in the country and, as a result, the United States at times pressured India not to antagonize the Pakistanis in hopes of mollifying the khaki clique in Rawalpindi.  Another myth, which Pakistan itself fosters, is that Pakistan did not begin its forays in Afghan affairs during the Soviet Invasion and at American prompting and funding. In fact, Pakistan had been using Islamist organizations like the Jamaat-e-Islami to influence Afghan affairs since the 1950s. AT the time, Pakistan had legitimate concerns: Afghanistan rejected the legitimacy of the Pakistani state that emerged from Britain’s decolonization of the Raj in 1947; sought to disencumber itself from the 19th century treaty which demarcated the Durand Line as the border between the two states; nursed Pashtun nationalism; and even invaded Pakistan in Balochistan and in several Tribal Agencies in the 1950s. Moreover, Afghanistan supported violent insurgencies in Balochistan for decades.  

Pakistan found the opportunity to retaliate violently in 1973 when President Daoud ousted his cousin, King Zahir Shah, and began an aggressive suite of modernizing reforms under Soviet tutelage and encouragement. Afghanistan’s regressive clergy and associated Islamists resisted Daoud’s efforts to mainstream Afghanistan and Daoud responded to the obdurate Islamists brutally. As Islamists fled into Pakistan, Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto established an ISI (Pakistan’s formidable internal and external intelligence agency) cell in 1974 tasked with rendering them into effective militia groups for undertaking operations in Afghanistan.  Pakistan’s third military dictator, General Zia ul Haq continued with this policy after he ousted Bhutto in a coup, which resulted in the latter’s death.  General Arif, who served as President Zia’s Chief of Army Staff and who was familiar with Bhutto’ stratagem observed that “Of her own free will, Pakistan adopted the… option to protect her national interest and to uphold a vital principle” by providing “covert assistance to the Mujahidin.”  Abdul Sattar, who served as Pakistan’s Foreign Minister between 1999 and 2002, similarly opined that because “the Mujahidin would be fighting also for Pakistan’s own security and independence,” Pakistan “continued to support the Afghan resistance…providing it modest assistance out of its own meager resources.” Long before the Russians crossed the Amu Darya on Christmas Day 1979, the ISI, working with the Frontier Corp consolidated more than fifty resistance groups into the seven major so-called mujahedeen groups which would later fight the Soviet forces.

Failing to understand the enduring nature of Pakistan’s quest to render Afghanistan subservient to its interests, Americans consistently found expedient reasons to excuse Pakistani malfeasance. Without experiencing significant costs for its persistent efforts to squash Afghanistan’s emergence as a viable and independent state, Pakistan will continue along these efforts. For this reason, long ago, the Americans and the international community needed to impose sanctions upon Pakistani individuals and institutions, just as it did in Iran.

“The US Has Spent More in Afghanistan Than It Did To Rebuild Post-War Europe”

Another popular repine among Americans that despite spending more in Afghanistan than it did during the reconstruction of Europe after the Second World War and yet, none of those gains are irreversible.  This has certainly encouraged American bitterness about its commitments to what has been the longest war in American history. However, this understanding too is flawed. First and foremost, the United States and its partners were adamant about building a sprawling Afghan state, despite the lack of human and economic resources to sustain this effort. Under the Soviet Union, Afghanistan was a rentier state nearly completely dependent upon Soviet Aid.  However, the government that the United States build was much larger than that built by the Soviets; however, the Afghan state is capable of paying even fewer of its bills.  Currently, about 80 percent of the Afghan budget is paid for by the United States with little prospects of improvement. One of the lessons of the departure from the Soviet Union was precisely this: the dependence upon Soviet aid. When the Soviet Union could no longer provide that aid, the Afghan government collapsed.

 While government capacity across all of the ministries is low, lack of capacity in the Ministries of Defense which oversees the military forces and the Ministries of Interior, which oversees the police, are perilous. This author has followed US and international efforts to build effective Afghan fighting military and police institutions for much of the last twenty years.  While some will prefer to take refuge in the claims that these inadequacies are due to Afghan shortcomings, this too is unfair. From the beginning, the United States and NATO partners struggled to develop efficacious training programs much of which were executed through contracting firms under the ostensible guidance of American, German or other partner militaries. Training concepts and doctrines changed often as different parts of the recruiting and training mission came under different contractors and national oversight.  The United States consistently sought shortcuts such as opting to train “Afghan local police,” whom Afghans more accurately called militias. Unlike training Afghan police, which was more resource intensive and provided by contractors, training of these militias was less so  but still dependent upon contractors. Americans, risibly, tried to justify equipping militias by applying Afghan names to these militias, such as arbaki, which implied these latest efforts were rooted in Afghan historical practices rather than a quick and dirty effort to make a reliable and accountable police force on the quick.

The United States was adamant that the Afghan military use American weapons rather than Russian weapons, which tend to be easier and far more cost effective to use, maintain and resupply.  Chronic illiteracy and innumeracy plagued these efforts. In contrast, the Soviet Union trained thousands of civilian and military personnel either in the Soviet Union or other Eastern European countries. Ironically, many of our most effective Afghan partners were those who had been trained by the Soviets. As American fighting forces withdrew from ground operations, Americans continued to supply air support and other important missions such as casualty evacuation. If the American and NATO failings are evident in training the Afghan police and army, the failures to build a competent and capable Afghan Air Force is even more so.

The United States insisted upon the security architecture for the country but has been retrenching from its willingness to pay for this architecture. Even though it was widely understood that the efficacy of Afghanistan national defense and security forces was the key to preventing the onslaught currently witnessed, the United States has actually diminished is support for the same. Since 2014, Washington provided about 75% of the $5 billion to $6 billion per year which was needed to fund the Afghanistan national defense and security forces while the remainder of the tab was picked up US partner nations and some modicum from the Afghan government. However, for FY2021, the US Congress appropriated $3 billion for Afghan’s fighting forces, the lowest amount since FY2008. This diminution of US support came even while Afghan President Ashraf Ghani has said clearly that his government cannot support its army for even six months without American financial aid.

While much of the American expenditures pertained to defense, the United States has ostensibly invested in other sectors of Afghan governance. As of June 30, 2021, the United States has spent about $144.98 billion in funds for reconstruction and related activities in Afghanistan since FY 2002, including: $88.61 billion for security (including $4.60 billion for counternarcotics initiatives); $36.29 billion for governance and development (including $4.37 billion for counternarcotics initiatives);  $4.18 billion for humanitarian aid; and $15.91 billion for agency operations. While these numbers are staggering much of US investment did not stay in Afghanistan. Because of the heavily reliance upon a complex ecosystem of defense contractors, belt-way banditry and aid contractors, between 80 and 90% of outlays actually returned to the US economy. Of the 10-20 percent of the contracts that remained in the country, the United States rarely cared about the efficacy of the initiative. While corruption is rife in Afghanistan, the Special Inspector General for Afghan Reconstruction repeatedly identifies bewildering corruption in the US system.  The organizations culpable of this corruption strangely yet are allowed to continued receiving US contracts.

The Shambolic Peace Process

Perhaps the third most egregious ensemble of things that the United States did to the Afghan government was strong-arm it into “peace talks” with the Taliban. More than anyone, the Afghan government understood that the Taliban and their handlers in Rawalpindi could not be trusted to honor their commitments, such as they were.  The spectacle of the “peace talks” was important to President Trump and later President Biden as they were essentially a process of negotiated American defeat which would create a fiction of power transition that would cover what would otherwise be depicted as an ignominious American defeat. Those familiar with the process understood that there was genuinely nothing to discuss: the Afghan government is committed to constitutional rule of law including elections, howsoever problematic while the Afghan Taliban was committed to overturning the constitution and it opposed elections as non-Islamic. This was a convenient position to hold as the Taliban could never win significant elections if they did contest them. As the sham peace talks faltered, in March 2020, the Trump administration threated to withhold $2 billion in assistance if the Afghan government didn’t return to the negotiation table.  Equally, appalling, the United States forced the Ghani government to release more than 5,000 hardened Taliban prisoners at the Taliban’s request in recompense for the hundreds of government officials taken captive by the Taliban. Many of those individuals have been leading the current offensive against Afghanistan’s provincial capitals.  The United States also pressurized President Ghani to post-pone or even cancel the 2019 presidential elections in a bid to mollify the demands of the Taliban that the government must be dissolved as a condition of peace and replaced with an interim government in which the Taliban had a stake.  Ghani refused rightly. There was no consensus on what Afghanistan’s future governance system would look like. Even now the Taliban claim that they will relent from their military onslaught if Ghani is removed. Given the American desire to have a more orderly descent to disorder, I would not be surprised if the Americans are currently pressing Ghani to do so instead of pressing Pakistan to call of their hyenas.

Worse yet, the Taliban used the spectacle of the peace process as a recuperative retreat to revivify and emplace their forces while stashing weapons as the awaited the US withdraw and the concomitant opportunity to sequentially assault a garland of Aghan provincial capitals as they prepare for the final assault on Kabul.

Where Do We Go From Here?

The US government has done too little too late to save Afghanistan from an entirely preventable fate.  Many Americans view the events of the last few weeks as a fait accomplis and rationalizing this catastrophe by claiming that the Taliban no longer pose a threat to US interests or those of our friends or allies. Nothing could be further from the truth. The worst has yet to begin. To consolidate their hold on Afghanistan, the Taliban will continue with a blood bath of revenge killing targeting those who have served the country in the national security and defense forces; civilian bureaucrats and politicians who oppose the Taliban; those who worked with the United States, NATO, multilateral organizations and civil society organizations. The fate that awaits Afghanistan’s women and girls is too horrendous to contemplate. The United States has not prioritized providing visas for the tens of thousands of Afghans who worked with the United States who are entitled to Special Immigrant Visas (SIVs). This dereliction of duty of care is staggering. More than 300,000 Afghan civilians have worked to support the US mission over the last two decades. However, a mere, 16,000 Afghan SIVs have been issued since 2014. At present, there are more than 18,000 applications in the pipeline in addition to countless thousands of Afghans who are ineligible for an SIV who are in dire need of protection owing to their association with Americans.

It is never too late to sanction Pakistan. While such coercive measures to impose costs upon Rawalpindi for its relentless support of the Taliban’s killing machinery should’ve been undertaken early in the war effort, such measures are still useful both for punitive reasons but also to curb ongoing support. If the Americans couldn’t muster the   intestinal or other fortitude to sanction Pakistan when its proxies were murdering us, how will it do so when they are primarily murdering Afghans.

Second, the United States should reconsider its hasty withdraw of military forces. There were only a few thousand in place and this figure was sustainable. (Compare the US commitment to Israel or South Korea, by way of contrast.) Without US assets on the ground, drone strikes cannot be effective, even if the bases are found from which to fly sorties outside of Afghanistan or Pakistan.  The United States needs to stay involved in Afghanistan, providing air strikes. It is not too late to pound the Taliban forces.

Third, the United States government must at once stop its efforts to undermine the Ghani government. He is all we have. Instead of treating his government as an obstacle, his government should be seen as a critical partner in staving off the Taliban.

Finally, it does not matter if no credible democracy recognizes a Taliban government forged through the barrel of Pakistan-supplied guns. Threats of withholding aid to a Taliban government are absurd for two reasons. First, the Taliban has what it needs: support from China and Pakistan. China is the largest foreign investor in Afghanistan. But it requires stability to get its investments out of Afghanistan’s soil and into Chinese and other global markets. The Chinese have never had a problem with the Taliban and they still don’t. The Chinese had signed a memo with the Taliban in the weeks preceding 9/11 under which they agreed to provide economic and technical assistance, among other contacts dating back to at least 1998. The only ones who will suffer any such refusals to provide assistance with be the ordinary Afghans, who have already suffered enough.

The United States walked out of Afghanistan in 1990 and made Pakistan the custodian of Afghanistan’s future. We saw the outcome of this horrible decision. However, ever unable or unwilling to internalize the lessons of the past, the United States is yet again handing the Afghans over to Pakistan. When the Taliban once again transform Afghanistan into a a base of operations for a raft of modern Islamist terrorist organizations operating in and beyond the region, Washington will only have itself to blame.

PS: If you’d like to do something to help Afghans, consider the options listed here: https://twitter.com/CChristineFair/status/1428003177912324102

1. Sign this letter from Scholars at Risk urging Secretary Blinken to undertake a select set of clear, doable tasks to offer a modicum of security to Afghan scholars, researchers, and public intellectuals whose lives are now in great peril.

2. Donate to the organization of your choice raising funds to get SIVs here, find them homes, and provide basic home furnishings. These are the orgs to which I have donated so that you know I’m putting my money where my mouth and fingers are: https://help.rescue.org/donate/afghanistan?ms=fb_ppc_fy21_afghanistan_20210712&initialms=fb_ppc_fy21_20210712&fbclid=IwAR3D03CoODm1ws0EgKNl2WnHj_lHJ32ydcCZp6-Sj0TsPemg5AFCx3gnRuI and https://www.facebook.com/donate/887738608492266/10158417116015003/


3. Many of us with day jobs are writing op-eds or media for which we are paid, I’m donating ALL proceeds I receive to help Afghans. Obviously, if you’re a struggling writer, you can’t help others if you can’t help yourself. But most doing this have day jobs. This is pocket money for us. But with the average OpEd fee, you can help a dozen Afghans. Do I sound preachy? Yes. I won’t apologize.

4. If you’re offering your “hot takes” because you have something to say, be cognizant that many who read your well-intentioned hot takes on “empire” or whatever, fall on those of us who have worked in Afghanistan as offensive&triggering. Remember that many of our students have served in various capacity whether in the United States, Europe, Australia, India and of course Afghanistan and beyond. Do you want to make them think you’re a heartless ass with your ill-informed and posturing “hot takes”? Do you want your colleagues to think you’re a heartless ass with no actual experiences or understanding to underpin your “hot takes.”

5. Don’t just recirculate the tired wisdom of the grand white men of strategic grand strategery WHO GOT US INTO THIS MESS. Instead, LISTEN to the Afghans on Afghan twitter. Even if they write in Dari or Pashtu, Google translate does a fair job. LISTEN MORE to them.

6. Don’t recycle/ legitimize Pakistani talking points that: The Taliban freed Afghans; Pakistan is the REAL victim here; that this was US imperialism when the most enduring imperialists have been the Pakistanis. They’ve been trying to subjugate Afghanistan since the late 50s.

7. Finally, if you are a US citizen reach out to your congressional representation. If you are American, you find your 2 senators and house rep here: https://www.usa.gov/elected-officials. If you are not a US citizen and your soldiers or civilians worked alongside Afghans, reach out to your parliamentary reps. We may not get the outcome we desire, but we don’t have to it here bitching when we CAN take steps.

Should I be flattered or irked that my HINDI article was plagiarised…by a HINDI-language journalist?

Jitendra
Photo of Jitendra Bhardwaj, available at https://spiderimg.amarujala.com/assets/images/2021/07/23/jitendra-bhardwaj_1627028623.jpeg.

Spoiler Alert: I’m Furious

I’ve recently resolved that I wanted to make a concerted effort to communicate the findings of my research into political and military affairs of South Asia in the languages of persons who are most affected by the things I study. I have spent years working in Hindi, Urdu and Punjabi and thus I have begun to submit work in those languages to vernacular press.

A colleague of mine at the Gateway House passed on my piece to Amar Ujala, a Hindi newspaper to see if they would be interested in running. I would have been happy to modify it as needed.

While they did not publish the piece, one of their “journalists” named Jitendra Bhardwaj (pictured below) lifted it, added additional material to it, then claimed it as his own. I wrote to Mr. Bhardwaj on Facebook, tagging our mutual friends, and asked that he rectify this ethical violation by adding me as a co-author. This was actually a generous request given that I should have been the FIRST author given that most of the prose and intellectual capital in this “article” was mine. Of course, this hubristic individual demurred and even tried to bully me by insisting that I am in error in accusing him of unethical content. He explained that to avoid any controversy, he’s asked that it be pulled. (See the screenshot of this exchange.) Why would he prefer that it be pulled rather than give due credit?

In this post, I demonstrate how he stole my work. This is an object lesson to anyone I catch doing it.

Screenshot of our exchange on Facebook:

What is Plagiarism

According to Oxford University, plagiarism entails:

“presenting someone else’s work or ideas as your own, with or without their consent, by incorporating it into your work without full acknowledgement. All published and unpublished material, whether in manuscript, printed or electronic form, is covered under this definition. Plagiarism may be intentional or reckless, or unintentional. Under the regulations for examinations, intentional or reckless plagiarism is a disciplinary offence.”

In this essay, I demonstrate how Mr. Bhardwaj not only stole he essence of the work (as he has no previous history of writing on this issue), but he also reworded my words without attribution and, in places, even used my exact wording, also without attribution. He does quote me on occasion, but this is not a sufficient acknowledgement of my work and indeed it gives the illusion that he interviewed me, which is a further ethical violation.

Here’s the Analysis that Proves He Plagiarized My Work.

In his opening paragraph, he writes:

“साउथ एशियन पॉलिटिकल एंड मिलिट्री अफेयर की अमेरिकी विशेषज्ञ सी. क्रिस्टीन फैर का कहना है कि पाकिस्तान द्वारा खालिस्तानी समूह तैयार किए जा रहे हैं।“

Here he attributes to me my own work but uses the verb ” कहना,” (which means “says”) which implies that he interviewed me. He does this in the first paragraph.

He then goes on to use my language making only one insignificant change.

In his article:

“विभिन्न पाकिस्तानी अधिकारियों के हवाले से ऐसी खबरें आती रही हैं कि ‘करतारपुर कॉरिडोर’ पाकिस्तानी सेना प्रमुख जनरल कमर जावेद बाजवा के दिमाग की उपज है।”

This is virtually identical to what I wrote:

“विभिन्न पाकिस्तानी अधिकारियों ने कहा है कि “करतारपुर कॉरिडोर” पाकिस्तान सेना प्रमुख जनरल कमर जावेद बाजवा के दिमाग की उपज है।”

In his article, this appears:

“लंबे समय तक राजनेता रहे शेख राशिद, जिन्होंने 1991 से कई संघीय मंत्री पद संभाले हैं और अब रेल मंत्री हैं, ने चुटकी लेते हुए कहा था कि भारत ‘करतारपुर कॉरिडोर’ को सर्वदा जनरल बाजवा द्वारा दिए गए गहरे घाव के रूप में याद रखेगा।“

I wrote:

“लंबे समय तक राजनेता रहे शेख राशिद, जिन्होंने 1991 से कई संघीय मंत्री पद संभाले हैं और अब एक रेल मंत्री हैं, ने चुटकी ली, “भारत करतारपुर कॉरिडोर को सर्वदा जनरल बाजवा द्वारा दिए गए गेहरे घाव के रूप में याद रखेगा। जनरल बाजवा ने करतापुर कॉरिडोर खोलके भारत पे एक जोरदार प्रहार किया है।

He then gives the impression that we spoke. He writes:

“बतौर सी. क्रिस्टीन फैर, भारत की आंतरिक सुरक्षा स्थिति के विद्वानों और विश्लेषकों की भी यही चिंता है कि क्या ‘करतारपुर कॉरिडोर’ हकीकत में खालिस्तान कॉरिडोर तो नहीं बन जाएगा। ऐसी चिंताएं निराधार नहीं हैं।”

But in fact, he has simply plagiarized from another part of my essay in which I write:

“लेकिन भारत की आंतरिक सुरक्षा स्थिति के विद्वानों और विश्लेषकों को चिंता है कि “करतारपुर कॉरिडोर” हक़ीक़त में “खालिस्तान कॉरिडोर” बन जाएगा। ये चिंताएं निराधार नहीं हैं|”

 Again, he implies that he spoke to me and that I merely augmented his knowledge rather than my writing being the sole source of the same:

“एनआईए द्वारा पंजाब में पन्नू की कई संपत्तियां जब्त की गई हैं। साउथ एशियन पॉलिटिकल एंड मिलिट्री अफेयर की अमेरिकी विशेषज्ञ सी. क्रिस्टीन फैर के अनुसार, करतारपुर साहिब को सिखों द्वारा उच्च सम्मान में रखा जाता है, क्योंकि यह उस स्थान पर बनाया गया है जहां गुरुनानक ने पहले सिख समुदाय की स्थापना की थी। सिख संगत इस बात को लेकर खुश है कि वह पाकिस्तान में इस पवित्र स्थान पर माथा टेकने के लिए जा सकेंगे। भारत की आंतरिक सुरक्षा स्थिति के विद्वानों और विश्लेषकों को चिंता है कि ‘करतारपुर कॉरिडोर’ हकीकत में खालिस्तान कॉरिडोर बन जाएगा।”

In fact, he has simply plagiarized this entire section from my essay, omitting some details:

“करतारपुर कॉरिडोर का उद्घाटन सिखों के पहले गुरु, नानक की 550वीं जयंती के तीन दिन पूर्व 9 नवंबर, 2019 को किया गया था।  विशेष अनुमति प्राप्त सिख तीर्थयात्री, सिखों के दो प्रमुख धार्मिक स्थल – भारत में रावी नदी के तट पर सिख धर्म का सबसे पवित्र स्थल, डेरा बाबा साहिब और पाकिस्तान के शकरगढ़ में स्थित श्री करतापुर साहिब के बीच की 9 किमी (5.6 मील) की दूरी तय कर सकेंगे। गुरुद्वारा श्री करतारपुर साहिब को सिखों द्वारा उच्च सम्मान में रखा जाता है क्योंकि यह उस स्थान पर बनाया गया है जहां गुरु नानक ने पहले सिख समुदाय की स्थापना की थी |

बड़ी संख्या में सिख इस बात को लेकर खुश हैं की वे पाकिस्तान में इस पवित्र स्थान पर मथा टेकने के लिए सफ़र कर सकेंगे| लेकिन भारत की आंतरिक सुरक्षा स्थिति के विद्वानों और विश्लेषकों को चिंता है कि “करतारपुर कॉरिडोर” हक़ीक़त में “खालिस्तान कॉरिडोर” बन जाएगा। ये चिंताएं निराधार नहीं हैं|”

Again, he cites my name to further the illusion that we spoke:

सी. क्रिस्टीन फैर के मुताबिक, पंजाब में 1992 के विवादित चुनावों के बाद खालिस्तान की हिंसापूर्ण इंसर्जेन्सी लगभग समाप्त हो गई थी। पिछले एक दशक से इस हिंसक आंदोलन और उसके सबसे प्रमुख (आतंकवादी) नेता, जरनैल सिंह भिंडरावाले के राजनीतिक अस्तित्व को भारत में पुनर्जीवित किया गया है। यूनाइटेड किंगडम, अमेरिका, कनाडा के सिख डायस्पोरा और अन्य जाट सिख समुदायों का उत्साह इसके क्रूर आतंकवाद के लिए जारी है। भिंडरावाले की तस्वीर वाली टी-शर्ट, पोस्टर और अन्य सामान सिख धर्म के सबसे पवित्र मंदिर श्रीहरमंदिर साहिब एवं भारत के विभिन्न गुरुद्वारों के आसपास के बाजारों में बेचा जा रहा है। कई गुरुद्वारों में सिखों के एतिहासिक शहीदों की तस्वीर में भिंडरावाले को जोड़ा हुआ है। हालांकि, सबसे चिंताजनक बात यह है कि हाल के वर्षों में भारत में दर्जनों खालिस्तानी हमले हुए हैं। ये घटनाएं जनवरी 2009 और 25 जनवरी 2019 के बीच हुई हैं। लालक़िला पर उपद्रव के बाद अब पन्नू संसद सत्र के दौरान किसानों को उसका रहा है।”

In fact, he has simply plagiarized my own words again. He has made negligible revisions to my words. This is what I wrote; however I provided a chart that summarized the results of data my colleagues and I collected and analyzed.

“पंजाब में 1992 के विवादित चुनावों के बाद खालिस्तान की हिंसापूर्ण इंसर्जेन्सी लगभाग समाप्त हो गई थी लेकिन पिछले एक दशक से इस हिंसक आंदोलन और उसके सबसे प्रमुख (आतंकवादी) नेता, जरनैल सिंह भिंडरावाले के राजनीतिक अस्तित्व को भारत में पुनर्जीवित किया गया है। यूनाइटेड किंगडम, अमेरिका, कनाडा के सिख डायस्पोरा और अन्य जाट सिख समुदायों का उत्साह इसके क्रूर आतंकवाद के लिए जारी है।  भिंडरांवाले की तस्वीर वाली टी-शर्ट, पोस्टर और अन्य सामान सिख धर्म के सबसे पवित्र मंदिर श्री हरमंदिर साहिब एवं भारत के विभिन्न गुरुद्वारों के आसपास के बाजारों में  बेचा जा रहा है। कई गुरुद्वारों में सिखों के ऐतिहासिक शहीदों की तस्वीर में  भिंडरावाले  को जोड़ा हुआ है। हालांकि, सबसे चिंताजनक बात यह है कि हाल के वर्षों में भारत में दर्जनों खालिस्तानी हमले हुए हैं और कई और जिन्हें सुरक्षा बलों ने बाधित किया है। (नीचे चार्ट देखें)।“

Here again, he plagiarizes my prose with impunity and without shame. In some cases, he changes the wording but in many more cases he just ripped me off. Whereas, I provided a link to the article which formed the basis of my assessment, he does not. Here is what appeared in his article:

“पाकिस्तानी अधिकारियों ने कहा है कि ‘करतारपुर कॉरिडोर’ पाकिस्तान सेना प्रमुख जनरल कमर जावेद बाजवा के दिमाग की रणनीति का एक हिस्सा है। दरअसल, जनरल बाजवा ने करतापुर कॉरिडोर खोल कर भारत पर एक जोरदार प्रहार किया है। पाकिस्तानी सेना भारत के साथ अपने संबंधों को बहाल करने के लिए तब तक कोई कदम नहीं उठाएगी, जब तक कि इस तरह के प्रयास उसके रणनीतिक उद्देश्यों को आगे नहीं बढ़ाते। चिंता का दूसरा कारण यह है कि ‘इंटर-सर्विसेज इंटेलिजेंस निदेशालय (आईएसआई, पाकिस्तान की खुफिया एजेंसी) ने सिख प्रवासी (यानी डायस्पोरा) के बीच खालिस्तान के लिए समर्थन जुटाया है, जो अकसर भारत विरोधी कश्मीरी समूहों के साथ होता है। यहीं से पाकिस्तान ने एक अन्य जंग भी छेड़ रखी है। यह जंग ड्रग्स को लेकर लड़ी जा रही है।”

This is what I wrote in the article that was sent to his paper:

“इसके अलावा, विद्वान और विश्लेषक पाकिस्तानी अधिकारियों के स्पष्ट स्वीकारोक्ति के बारे में चिंतित हैं, जिसमें विभिन्न पाकिस्तानी अधिकारियों ने कहा है कि “करतारपुर कॉरिडोर” पाकिस्तान सेना प्रमुख जनरल कमर जावेद बाजवा के दिमाग की उपज है।  लंबे समय तक राजनेता रहे शेख राशिद, जिन्होंने 1991 से कई संघीय मंत्री पद संभाले हैं और अब एक रेल मंत्री हैं, ने चुटकी ली, “भारत करतारपुर कॉरिडोर को सर्वदा जनरल बाजवा द्वारा दिए गए गेहरे घाव के रूप में याद रखेगा। जनरल बाजवा ने करतापुर कॉरिडोर खोलके भारत पे एक जोरदार प्रहार किया है।“ पाकिस्तानी सेना भारत के साथ अपने संबंधों को बहाल करने के लिए तब तक कोई कदम नहीं उठाएगी ज आंतरिक ब तक कि इस तरह के प्रयास उसके रणनीतिक उद्देश्यों को आगे नहीं बढ़ाते।

चिंता का एक और कारण यह है कि “इंटर-सर्विसेज इंटेलिजेंस निदेशालय (आई.एस.आई., पाकिस्तान की खुफिया एजेंसी) ने सिख प्रवासी (यानी” डायस्पोरा “) के बीच खालिस्तान के लिए समर्थन जुटाया है, जो अक्सर भारत विरोधी कश्मीरी समूहों के साथ होता है।

                इस से मज़ीद, पाकिस्तान एक और तरह की जंग छेड़ रहा है और यह जंग ड्रग्स के खिलाफ लड़ी जा रही है.”

He then continues to plagiarize my work on the Punjab’s drug addiction:

“साल 2015 में अखिल भारतीय आयुर्विज्ञान संस्थान ने एक अध्ययन प्रकाशित किया था। इसमें कहा गया कि पंजाब में क़रीब दो करोड़ अस्सी लाख लोग ड्रग्स के आदी हैं। अनेक सबूतों के अनुसार इस्लामिक आतंकवादी समूह लश्कर-ए-तैयबा (एलईटी) और पाकिस्तान में रहने वाले खालिस्तानी कार्यकर्ताओं में सहयोग और सांठ-गांठ जारी है। वहां पर खालिस्तानी कार्यकर्ता (गोपाल सिंह चावला) करतारपुर कॉरिडोर की कार्रवाई में अहम सदस्य रहा था। सी. क्रिस्टीन फैर कहती हैं, पाकिस्तान इन खालिस्तानी समूहों के साथ साजिश करने की तैयारी कर रहा है। दशकों से जिन खालिस्तानी समूहों का पाकिस्तान विकास कर रहा था, अब वह बेहद अहम हो गया है। खासतौर से भारत सरकार को ‘करतारपुर कॉरिडोर’ के संदर्भ में गहराई से सोचना होगा।“

This is what I wrote. Note that again, he has simply stolen my verbiage with a few notable differences. Whereas, I provide a link to the source upon which my claim is based, he doesn’t:

2015 में, अखिल भारतीय आयुर्विज्ञान संस्थान ने एक अध्ययन प्रकाशित किया जिसमें कहा गया कि पंजाब में 28 मिलियन लोग आदी हैं। अनेक सबूतों के अनुसार इस्लामिक आतंकवादी समूह लश्कर-ए-तैयबा (एल. ई. टी.) और पाकिस्तान में रहने वाले खालिस्तानी कार्यकर्ताओ में सहयोग और साँठ गाँठ जारी है | इसके अलावा, कई पाकिस्तान में रहने वाले खालिस्तानी कार्यकर्ता (गोपाल सिंह चावला) करतारपुर कॉरिडोर की कार्रवाइओं में अहम सदस्य थे

                पाकिस्तान इन खालिस्तानी समूहों के साथ साजिश बनाने का अभिरोचन  सरल है: लश्कर और दीगर इस्लामी समूहों के इस्तेमाल करने का कारण, पाकिस्तान के ऊपर  लगातार अंतर्रराष्ट्रीय दबाव लगाया जाता है| इसलिए, दशकों से जिन खालिस्तानी समूहों को पाकिस्तान विकास कर रहा था, अब वे बेहद अहम हो गया है|”  

My QuestionS FOR the Editors of Amar Ujala

So what exactly is his contribution to this article? And if my words were worthy of being stolen by him in such measure, why didn’t he simply propose that we co-author the piece and thank me instead of stealing my work?  Surely, his editor saw his piece and knew the similarities to the one I submitted including extended verbiage often with little or not modification. This is straight up plagiarism and I’m sure he’s a dude and because he thought he wouldn’t be caught. Also, what kind of a lousy Hindi journalist STEALS the verbiage of a person who is writing Hindi as a non-native writer?

Here is my analytical piece Which my colleague sent to his paper

खालिस्तान की वापसी?

सी. क्रिस्टीन फ़ैर

            करतारपुर कॉरिडोर का उद्घाटन सिखों के पहले गुरु, गुरु नानक की 550वीं जयंती के तीन दिन पूर्व 9 नवंबर, 2019 को किया गया था।  विशेष अनुमति प्राप्त सिख तीर्थयात्री, सिखों के दो प्रमुख धार्मिक स्थल – भारत में रावी नदी के तट पर सिख धर्म का सबसे पवित्र स्थल, डेरा बाबा साहिब और पाकिस्तान के शकरगढ़ में स्थित श्री करतापुर साहिब के बीच की 9 किमी (5.6 मील) की दूरी तय कर सकेंगे। गुरुद्वारा श्री करतारपुर साहिब को सिखों द्वारा उच्च सम्मान में रखा जाता है क्योंकि यह उस स्थान पर बनाया गया है जहां गुरु नानक ने पहले सिख समुदाय की स्थापना की थी।

            बड़ी संख्या में सिख इस बात को लेकर खुश हैं की वे पाकिस्तान में इस पवित्र स्थान पर मथा टेकने के लिए सफ़र कर सकेंगे| लेकिन भारत की आंतरिक सुरक्षा स्थिति के विद्वानों और विश्लेषकों को चिंता है कि “करतारपुर कॉरिडोर” हक़ीक़त में “खालिस्तान कॉरिडोर” बन जाएगा। ये चिंताएं निराधार नहीं हैं| 

            पंजाब में 1992 के विवादित चुनावों के बाद खालिस्तान की हिंसापूर्ण इंसर्जेन्सी लगभाग समाप्त हो गई थी लेकिन पिछले एक दशक से इस हिंसक आंदोलन और उसके सबसे प्रमुख (आतंकवादी) नेता, जरनैल सिंह भिंडरावाले के राजनीतिक अस्तित्व को भारत में पुनर्जीवित किया गया है। यूनाइटेड किंगडम, अमेरिका, कनाडा के सिख डायस्पोरा और अन्य जाट सिख समुदायों का उत्साह इसके क्रूर आतंकवाद के लिए जारी है।  भिंडरांवाले की तस्वीर वाली टी-शर्ट, पोस्टर और अन्य सामान सिख धर्म के सबसे पवित्र मंदिर श्री हरमंदिर साहिब एवं भारत के विभिन्न गुरुद्वारों के आसपास के बाजारों में  बेचा जा रहा है। कई गुरुद्वारों में सिखों के ऐतिहासिक शहीदों की तस्वीर में  भिंडरावाले  को जोड़ा हुआ है। हालांकि, सबसे चिंताजनक बात यह है कि हाल के वर्षों में भारत में दर्जनों खालिस्तानी हमले हुए हैं और कई और जिन्हें सुरक्षा बलों ने बाधित किया है। (नीचे चार्ट देखें)।

लेख-चित्र १: जनवरी 2009 और 25 जनवरी 2019 के बीच प्रति वर्ष पुष्टि की गई घटनाएं (संदिग्धों को छोड़कर)

            इसके अलावा, विद्वान और विश्लेषक पाकिस्तानी अधिकारियों के स्पष्ट स्वीकारोक्ति के बारे में चिंतित हैं, जिसमें विभिन्न पाकिस्तानी अधिकारियों ने कहा है कि “करतारपुर कॉरिडोर” पाकिस्तान सेना प्रमुख जनरल कमर जावेद बाजवा के दिमाग की उपज है।  लंबे समय तक राजनेता रहे शेख राशिद, जिन्होंने 1991 से कई संघीय मंत्री पद संभाले हैं और अब एक रेल मंत्री हैं, ने चुटकी ली, “भारत करतारपुर कॉरिडोर को सर्वदा जनरल बाजवा द्वारा दिए गए गेहरे घाव के रूप में याद रखेगा। जनरल बाजवा ने करतापुर कॉरिडोर खोलके भारत पे एक जोरदार प्रहार किया है।“ पाकिस्तानी सेना भारत के साथ अपने संबंधों को बहाल करने के लिए तब तक कोई कदम नहीं उठाएगी जब तक कि इस तरह के प्रयास उसके रणनीतिक उद्देश्यों को आगे नहीं बढ़ाते।

            चिंता का एक और कारण यह है कि “इंटर-सर्विसेज इंटेलिजेंस निदेशालय (आई.एस.आई., पाकिस्तान की खुफिया एजेंसी) ने सिख प्रवासी (यानी” डायस्पोरा “) के बीच खालिस्तान के लिए समर्थन जुटाया है, जो अक्सर भारत विरोधी कश्मीरी समूहों के साथ होता है।

            इस से मज़ीद, पाकिस्तान एक और तरह की जंग छेड़ रहा है और यह जंग ड्रग्स के खिलाफ लड़ी जा रही है. 2015 में, अखिल भारतीय आयुर्विज्ञान संस्थान ने एक अध्ययन प्रकाशित किया जिसमें कहा गया कि पंजाब में 28 मिलियन लोग आदी हैं। अनेक सबूतों के अनुसार इस्लामिक आतंकवादी समूह लश्कर-ए-तैयबा (एल. ई. टी.) और पाकिस्तान में रहने वाले खालिस्तानी कार्यकर्ताओ में सहयोग और साँठ गाँठ जारी है | इसके अलावा, कई पाकिस्तान में रहने वाले खालिस्तानी कार्यकर्ता (गोपाल सिंह चावला) करतारपुर कॉरिडोर की कार्रवाइओं में अहम सदस्य थे

            पाकिस्तान इन खालिस्तानी समूहों के साथ साजिश बनाने का अभिरोचन  सरल है: लश्कर और दीगर इस्लामी समूहों के इस्तेमाल करने का कारण, पाकिस्तान के ऊपर  लगातार अंतर्रराष्ट्रीय दबाव लगाया जाता है| इसलिए, दशकों से जिन खालिस्तानी समूहों को पाकिस्तान विकास कर रहा था, अब वे बेहद अहम हो गया है|  

WRITING ON THE WALL

How Afghanistan was lost on an Installment Plan

By CHRISTINE FAIR | August 2021

On 7 October 2001, the United States entered Afghanistan under the aegis of “Operation Enduring Freedom.” The invading party was a small group of special operators entering Afghanistan from Tajikistan. Their goal was to shore up the Northern Alliance after their leader, a murderous warlord known as Ahmad Shah Massoud, was grievously injured in the first suicide attack Afghanistan had ever experienced on 9 September 2001. The Americans did not expect that the Taliban would fall quickly, but they did. Nor were the Americans able to deter the Northern Alliance from storming Kabul, which they did. And, in these fateful weeks, the United States ensured its eventual defeat in a war that would stretch out for nearly twenty years and which would become the longest war in America’s history.

In the early weeks after the 9/11 terrorist attacks on the United States, then Pakistan President Musharraf was forced to reckon with the reality that Pakistan would have to break with its long-time proxy the Taliban, even if it was temporary. In exchange for his cooperation, Musharraf had three early expectations from Washington. First and foremost, he wanted the Americans to prevent the Northern Alliance from taking Kabul. As an analyst at RAND, I had a ground-floor view of American decision-making in Afghanistan and the shocking ignorance about Afghanistan among American policy-makers. Few understood that from Pakistan’s point of view, the Northern Alliance was an Indian proxy just as the Taliban were a proxy of Pakistan. In fact, Ahmad Shah Massoud did not die in Afghanistan; rather, he died in an Indian field hospital in Tajikistan.

Second, President Musharraf wanted some American efforts to resolve the so-called “Kashmir Dispute,” from which the US government had long washed its hands. Secretary of State Collin Powell gave some life to this expectation but this expectation too was smashed on the rocks of reality.

Third, Musharraf wanted to ensure the safety of Pakistan’s “strategic assets.” While Washington never acted against Pakistan’s program as it did against Iran’s program and even while Washington never did anything to punish Pakistan for AQ Khan’s illicit nuclear arms bazaar, it did force Pakistan to reconsider its strategic requirements as the United States tumbled ahead with the bomb-friendly so-called Indo-US Civilian Nuclear Agreement and equally important agreements on satellite launch and other space programs. These agreements were intended to bolster India’s strategic assets as Washington believed that a rising India would be able to assist in the management of China’s pugnacious rise in the region and the international system.

But Washington also failed to understand the perturbing nature of Pakistan’s interests in Afghanistan, and it ignored very early signals that Musharraf had in fact done a U-turn on its U-turn on the Taliban. In fact, Pakistan’s duplicity could be evident as early as December 2001 when Jaish-e-Mohammad executed — thankfully ineffectively — a suicide attack on India’s parliament building. India mobilized for war with the full encouragement of the US Ambassador in Delhi, Robert Blackwell. Blackwell was a political appointee who was close to US President George W. Bush. While Blackwell was nudging the Indians towards war, the US Ambassador to Pakistan Wendy Chamberlain was doing her level best to keep the Pakistanis engaged on the western border where Pakistan was supposed to be the anvil to the US hammer in Afghanistan. As the Americans, with their Northern Alliance allies pushed the Taliban and their al-Qaeda associates south, they fled to Pakistan’s tribal Areas. Nonetheless, as India mobilized the largest force deployment since the 1971 war, Pakistani forces reoriented from the west to the east. The standoff remained for months. A second peak of this crisis occurred in May 2001 when terrorists associated with the Lashkar-e-Tayyaba slaughtered the wives and children of Indian army personnel at Kaluchek. Again, both countries teetered on the brink of war.

Meanwhile, on the Afghan-Pakistan border, the Pakistanis did little to stop the Taliban and al-Qaeda from ensconcing themselves in Pakistan’s Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA). Many Americans familiar with Pakistan and Afghanistan at the time (including this author) believed that Lt. General Ali Jan Aurakzai, the extremely important XI Corp Commander, in fact aided and abetted the fleeing Taliban. This was entirely within the performance envelope of the Pakistan army. Many American special operators witnessed first-hand the audacious “Kunduz Airlift” during which Pakistan made dozens of C-17 sorties to rescue their Taliban associates and their ISI trainers.

By 2005, the United States and its NATO allies were under the delusion that major combat operations had ended. As political officer with the United Nations in Kabul in 2007, I also saw firsthand the shocking discussions among NATO military leaders during which they actually debated whether or not Afghanistan was undergoing an insurgency. Many of the absurd questions and policy approaches that the US stumbled into in Iraq were now tripping them in Afghanistan. To anyone with at least two neurons firing, it was obvious that the Taliban were on the offensive after enjoying a recuperative spell in Pakistan.

To this observer, it seemed apparent that this effort would fail as early as 2005. The reason for this was simple: the United States had been so focused upon al Qaeda that the Taliban were a secondary — if not tertiary — concern. And Pakistan delivered on al Qaeda. Whenever a US official travelled to Pakistan, there was always a freshly caught “al Qaeda #3” on offer. However, once Afghanistan was largely free of al Qaeda — because it had shifted to Pakistan — the US and NATO began focusing upon nation building and defeating the Taliban. However, this required a substantially larger deployment footprint in Afghanistan. This “deployment footprint” not only included American and NATO soldiers, it also included an ever-expanding armada of defencse contractors (more commonly known as “mercenaries”) as well as civilian aid workers, who in turn were protected by the said mercenaries. With American enmity with Iran never seriously in abeyance, the only means of supplying this ever-expanding circus of war fighters, war profiteers and do-gooders was through the ground lines of control in Pakistan. These included air routes for very sensitive items but generally all of the logical supply went through Pakistan.

In fact, I used to marvel at this well-oiled profit machine. Any genuine insurgent with an iota of sense could have made US and NATO operations impossible simply by positioning themselves at the two crossing points in the Khyber Pass and Chaman. The vast majority of the trucks were carrying fuel. The Taliban needed only to explode the first truck in the convoy and the last. However, that happened rarely as mostly the truckers did it themselves as an insurance fraud. In fact, very little pilferage occurred either on the Pakistani side. As many of us noted, the amount of pilferage and destruction was kept to a minimum: just enough to keep the Pashtun trucking mafia satisfied and below the threshold which would force the Americans to shift to air supply.

Why was this? Because the Taliban were never an insurgent group. They were and are a wholly owned subsidiary of Pakistan. This war in Afghanistan has been greatly beneficial to Pakistan. Not only did Pakistan receive copious subsidies to support the war in Afghanistan, it was never penalized for continuing to undermine it.

In 2009, when the so-called COINistas coerced President Barack Obama to implement the so-called surge, this author was one of the few who opposed the surge. I did so not because I am a peacenik; rather because I understood that the reason why we needed the surge was the extensive sanctuaries that the Taliban had in Pakistan as well as every possible amenity the proxy outfit required. To defeat the Taliban, the United States had to develop a coercive policy that imposed serious punishment for continued support of the Taliban rather than a policy of unending blandishment and perquisites. The surge would only increase the dependence upon Pakistan. And, as this author predicted, the surge failed to achieve anything but modest gains which were reversed as soon as the soldiers left.

How could a few thousand foreign troops achieve what nearly 400,000 could not?

As the Americans are “severing and sauntering” their way out of Afghanistan, Afghans see the writing on the wall. While talking heads seem surprised that the Taliban never fulfill any of their problems, the Afghans understand that they never would. The reason is simple: the Taliban think they had already won.

This piece was originally published in South Asia on 5 August 2021.

Prime Minister Modi’s Demonetization Policy Exacerbated Violence in Kashmir

 C. Christine FairDigvijay Ghotane and Parina Patel

There have been many reported links between protesters pelting stones at security forces in Kashmir and the Pakistani Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), with Indian intelligence reports that stone-pelters were paid money by the ISI, and often went on to become militants. This was an important motivation behind the demonetisation of currency notes by the Indian government in 2016. However, this raises the question: has demonetisation really curbed stone-pelting?

On 9 April 2017, Major Gogoi, an Indian Army officer with the 53 Rashtriya Rifles, stationed in Srinagar, garnered accolades at home and criticism abroad when he bound a young Muslim Kashmir man, Farooq Ahmed Dar, to his jeep to shield his forces from stone-pelting protestors. According to Gogoi, he received a distress call from an Indo-Tibetan Police (ITBP) team alerting him that some 1,200 persons had surrounded the ITBP personnel as well as polling staff in the Utligam polling station (40 km from Srinagar) during the violence-marred by polls for the Lok Sabha. The incident again cast a dubious light upon India’s handling of the terrorism and insurgency plaguing the Union Territory (then a State) and gave its state and non-state foes alike fodder for their anti-India information operations.

Stone pelting has become an iconographic means to protest the Indian government in Kashmir since 2008.[1] While scholars and activists often characterise stone-throwing as a form of non-violent protest,[2] the tactic has killed and injured many civilians as well as security forces in Kashmir.[3] One popular explanation for the increasing stone-throwing tactic by Kashmiri youth has been financial support from Pakistan’s notorious intelligence agency, the Inter-Services Intelligence directorate (ISI). In 2016, after the death of a young and popular militant leader, Burhan Wani, Indian intelligence claimed that Pakistan was paying Kashmiri youth Rs. 500 to throw stones as part of the Rs. 100 crore ($13.6 million) that the organisation expended in the past year to fuel violence in Jammu and Kashmir.[4] In 2017, captured stone-pelters confessed that the ISI paid them some Rs. 5,000 to 7,000 ($68-$95) per month in addition to clothes to throw stones at security forces.[5] Moreover, the Indian Army asserted that “83% of all youth who become militants start with throwing stones for Rs. 500 and therefore needed to be stopped.”[6]

Motivated in considerable measure by these narratives about Pakistani-sponsored violence in Kashmir, on 8 November 2016, the Indian government rendered 86% of the nation’s currency valueless overnight in what was known as demonetisation.[7] The government defended this move on several grounds including a desire to nudge the country towards greater digitisation, to enervate the black market, and to disable Pakistan-supported violence. The government oddly claimed success in the latter objective despite robust evidence against it: 2018 was in fact the deadliest year in a decade.[8]

Even more puzzling is that many Indians, who otherwise denounce the policy, believe that it curbed violence in Kashmir despite evidence to the contrary. A nationally-representative survey of 2,100 respondents found that more than 70% believed that demonetisation “played an important role in curbing terrorism as it has dealt a huge blow to the funding of terror in states like Jammu & Kashmir as well as left-wing extremist violence across several states’ even while the same survey evinced respondent doubts that the policy achieved its other objectives.[9]

There is very little room for doubt that Pakistan sponsors various kinds of violence in Kashmir and elsewhere in India, and it is most likely true that some stone-throwers are compensated. But it is unlikely that all do so because of Pakistani remuneration or that these payments are their only or primary motivation.[10] While the truth lies somewhere between India’s maximalist claims of Pakistani culpability and Pakistan’s blanket claims of innocence, Kashmiris are caught in the middle.

To assess Delhi’s assertion that demonetisation curbed stone-throwing in Kashmir, we assembled a novel district-level dataset of daily stone-pelting events between 1 August 2013 and 31 December 2017, along with other explanatory variables that may account for stone-pelting, such as: opportunity costs, weather factors, whether the day is Friday or whether the day occurs during Ramazan, whether the district is rural or urban, and whether the district is comprised mostly of Muslims or non-Muslims.

Because of the enduring nature of this conflict, we limited our scope of inquiry to 1 August 2013 through 31 December 2017. Expanding this timeline would necessitate controlling for major events in India and Pakistan bilateral relations as well as significant developments in relations between J&K and the central government. We also sought to limit our scope of inquiry to one year after demonetisation because we presume that Pakistan—sooner rather than later—developed counter-measures to thwart the demonetisation policy even though we are dubious about India’s claims on the salience of this factor.

Since our extensive efforts to find extant data – which included filing multiple Right to Information requests – foundered, per force, we assembled a novel dataset of stone-pelting events for this study using three different sources including: data from the Armed Conflict Location and Event Data (ACLED) which included 603 stone-pelting incidents over 532 observations; the South Asian Terrorism Portal (SATP) included 357 stone-pelting incidents spanning 239 observations; as well as a manual search of four Kashmir-based, English-language dailies (i.e. Daily ExcelsiorGreater KashmirKashmir Observer and Kashmir Times) for stone-pelting occurrences, which yielded 126 observations of stone-pelting. Note that we ensured that no event was double counted. Our final dataset contained 797 observations of stone-throwing from August 1, 2013 until December 31, 2017 which we depict timewise in Figure 1 and district-wise in Figure 2.

Figure 1: Trends in Stone-pelting Source: In-house tabulation of data
Figure 1: Trends in Stone-pelting
Source: In-house tabulation of data
ChristineFair_Picture 2
Figure 2. Stone-pelting Incidents by District
Source: In-house tabulation of data

While one may be tempted to simply analyse the trend lines in Figure 1 and look at the quantum of stone-pelting events before and after the policy of demonetisation, such an exercise would not be adequate. After all, increases or decreases in stone pelting could be caused by unusual weather trends (temperature and precipitation), the occurrence of Ramazan, features of the districts (urban/rural, population composition), economic opportunity costs imposed by stone pelting and possible subsequent arrest, or a combination of some or all of these variables. Thus, to accurately discern the impact of this policy upon stone-pelting we must also control for other factors that likely influence the occurrence of stone pelting. The best methodology for this is regression analyses wherein our dependent variable is the occurrence of stone pelting on a given day in a given district and our control variables include whether or not the data on stone pelting falls before or after demonetisation as well as district averages for the aforenoted controls. We also ran similar models wherein we controlled for the killing of Burhan Wani on 8 July 2016 which catalysed considerable unrest.[11]

Additionally, because we could not estimate the binary variables for demonetisation and Wani’s death simultaneously, we estimated the same model (Equation 3) using three different time periods to disentangle the effects of demonetisation policy and Wani’s death. The first period is before Wani’s killing (1 August 2013 until 8 July 2016). The second period is after his death but before demonetisation was enacted (9 July 2016 until 9 November 2016). The third period is after the demonetisation policy was enacted (10 November 2016 to 31 December 2017).[12]

In none of these models do we find any empirical support for the Indian government’s claim that demonetisation reduced stone-pelting; rather, we found that stone-pelting increased after demonetisation even after controlling for other confounding factors such as temperature, precipitation, economic opportunity costs, and demographics of the district among other variables.  Stone pelting also increased after Wani’s demise, all other variables held constant. We also found that stone-pelting was most common in urban, more densely populated, Muslim-dominant districts; on Fridays and during Ramazan; and on warmer days, all else constant. This is generally consistent with expectations about target density and the roles of Friday prayer and possibly Ramazan in both decreasing the organisational cost of mobilisation but also the opportunity costs of doing so.

The most illuminating variable is our proxy for economic opportunity costs of stone-pelting (the price of onions). The Indian government justified demonetisation by the assertion that Pakistan instigated unrest by paying stone-throwers daily and monthly sums as well as clothes and other in-kind goods. Prior to Wani’s killing, people seemed sensitive to opportunity costs. If the Pakistanis were inundating the region with significant amounts of cash, we should not expect to observe this sensitivity. After Wani’s death and prior to the onset of demonetisation, opportunity costs correlate with stone-pelting consistent with the possibility that people are so enraged that they simply do not care about the economic repercussions of protesting.

As noted above, we also ran regressions having divided the sample into the three periods. In the third period, corresponding to the post-demonetisation period which lasted 13 months, we find no relationship between opportunity costs and stone-pelting with other variables accounting for the observed variation in stone pelting. In this period, if the government’s claims about Pakistani support were valid on a large scale, we should have seen a negative correlation between onion prices and stone-pelting because the large notes purportedly supplied by Pakistan were now useless.

Understanding the real impact of demonetisation upon stone pelting is important for several reasons. Indians who believe this narrative that all disturbances in the troubled state are an artifact of Pakistani manipulation necessarily view Kashmiri discontent as illegitimate despite the various sources of data that attest to sustained grievances among Kashmiri Muslims, particularly in the valley.[13] The official discourse depicts Kashmiris as “misguided youth” who are “guided by remote control from across the border” and “working under a well-thought-out long-term plan of Pakistan to create a situation where people would not participate in any election in the future.”[14] Prime Minister Modi himself, while addressing an audience in Srinagar in November 2019, has described the stone pelters as “misguided youths who are under the influence of false propaganda from a foreign power” and elaborated that “every stone or weapon picked up by the youth of this state is only meant to destabilise their own state.”[15]

Such characterisations render the stone-pelters the primary obstacle to development and democratisation in the state rather than state failures and as such there is no concomitant moral requisite to engage Kashmiris on the sources of their disaffection.  Consequently, this characterisation of the stone pelters and their motivations shrinks any political space throughout India to consider their grievances within any constitutional or political framework.

This piece was published on June 22, 2021 by Gateway House India.

References:

[1] Parthasarathy, Malini. 2010. “Understanding Kashmir’s Stone-pelters.” The Hindu, August 4. https://www.thehindu.com/opinion/lead/Understanding-Kashmirs-stone-pelters/article16120870.ece.

[2] Pressman, Jeremy. “Throwing stones in social science: Non-violence, unarmed violence, and the first intifada.” Cooperation and Conflict 52, no. 4(2017): 519-536. doi.org/10.1177/0010836717701967.

[3] There are no comprehensive and/or reliable estimates available. In 2018, the Union Minister of State for Home Hansraj Ahir informed the upper house (Rajya Sabha) that between 2015-2017, there were 4,799 stone-pelting incidents in which 17 protestors and two security personnel were killed. However, this report doesn’t indicate whether the protestors were killed by the stone-pelting or by the security forces themselves (Rajya Sabha, Government of India, Ministry of Home Affairs. “Unstarred Question No-556.” Answered on February 7, 2018. https://rajyasabha.nic.in/rsnew/Questions/QResult.aspx; “4,799 stone- pelting incidents in J-K in 2015-17; 19 killed.” 2018. Financial Express,   February 7. https://www.financialexpress.com/india-news/4799-stone-pelting-incidents-in-j-k-in-2015-17-19-killed/1056631/.

[4] Bhalla, Abhishek. 2016. “Pakistan funded terrorism in Jammu and Kashmir.” India Today, July 15. https://www.indiatoday.in/mail-today/story/pakistan-funds-terror-jammu-and-kashmir-isi-hafiz-saeed-329312-2016-07-15.

[5] Pathak, Sushant and Jamshed Adil Khan. 2017.“Stone-pelters on Hire in Kashmir.” India Today, March 29. https://www.indiatoday.in/india/story/jammu-and-kashmir-stone-pelters-hizbul-mujahideen-burhan-wani-968402-2017-03-29.

[6]“‘Stone-pelters today, terrorists tomorrow’: Army’s grim message to J-K.” 2019. Hindustan Times, August 2. https://www.hindustantimes.com/india-news/stone-pelters-of-today-terrorists-of-tomorrow-army-s-message-to-j-k-moms/story-GIIaco5YGjqx7Tus9rllEL.html.

[7] Doshi, Vidhi. 2016.“Cash for queues: people paid to stand in line amid India’s bank note crisis.” The Guardian, November 27. https://www.theguardian.com/world/2016/nov/28/india-bank-lines-controversy-cash-for-queuing.

[8] Slater, Joanna and Ishfaq Naseem. 2018. “2018 is the deadliest year in a decade in Kashmir.” The Washington Post, December 23. https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/asia_pacific/2018-is-the-deadliest-year-in-a-decade-in-kashmir-next-year-could-be-worse/2018/12/22/493ff2e4-03bb-11e9-958c-0a601226ff6b_story.html.

[9] Das, Prajanma. 2019.“De-mon-niversary: 70% Indians think demonetisation helped control terror, says study.” Edex Live, November 8. https://www.edexlive.com/news/2019/nov/08/demonetization-anniversary-digital-india-jk-terror-fund-8982.html.

[10] Ganie, Mohd Tahir. “‘All I got is stones in my hand’: youth-led stone pelting protests in Indian-administered Kashmir.” Social Movement Studies 20, no. 1 (2021): 115-123.

[11] For more details see C. Christine Fair, Digvijay Ghotane & Parina Patel (2021) Did India’s demonetization policy curb stone-pelting in Indian-administered Kashmir, Small Wars & Insurgencies, published online May 25, 2021. https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/09592318.2021.1915678.

[12] For more details see C. Christine Fair, Digvijay Ghotane & Parina Patel (2021) Did India’s demonetization policy curb stone-pelting in Indian-administered Kashmir, Small Wars & Insurgencies, published online May 25, 2021. https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/09592318.2021.1915678.

[13] International Crisis Group. “Raising the Stakes in Jammu and Kashmir, Report 310.” August 5, 2020. https://www.crisisgroup.org/asia/south-asia/kashmir/310-raising-stakes-jammu-and-kashmir.

[14] Sahay, Mohan. 2017. “Kashmir politics: Not a stone’s throw away.” Economic Times, May 5. https://economictimes.indiatimes.com/blogs/et-commentary/kashmir-politics-not-a-stones-throw-away/

[15] “Modi in Srinagar: Every stone picked by misguided youth hurts Kashmir.” 2019. Business Standard, November 21, 2019. https://www.business-standard.com/article/politics/modi-in-srinagar-every-stone-picked-by-misguided-youth-hurts-kashmir-118051900607_1.html.

‘Raw Deal’ by C. Christine Fair | Translation of Balwant Gargi’s “Kaani Vand” | Issue 36 (Nov, 2020)

Balwant Gargi’s original short story – ‘Kaani Vand’ was written in Punjabi.


Rulia arranged his sons’ weddings for the same day.  The brides-to-be were sisters. The older son would marry the older sister and the younger son would marry the younger one. 

Both families were happy with this relationship. It would save money and strengthen relations four-fold. The brothers would become brothers-in-law and the sisters would become sisters-in-law. Moreover, the wife of the older brother would be both bhabi–the wife of a brother—and saali, a wife’s sister

The older son, Balauri, was simple while his younger brother, Kishauri, was cunning. Only two years separated them: one was 19 and the other 21. However, it appeared as if Kishauri was the elder because everyone did as he ordered.

In the family’s wholesale store, Balauri would clean and weigh the grains while Kishauri collected the customers’ money.   Balauri was tall and lanky, with an unsightly cyst on his left eye, but was very conscientious. Kishauri was very handsome with sharp features, clever in conversation, but was irascible and angered easily.

Kishauri was habituated to his place of privilege, but when it came to their wedding preparations, in every respect the older brother, Balauri, was put first.  Balauri mounted the bridal mare first. The wives of his kinfolk applied kohl to his eyes first. The priest congratulated him first on his nuptials. As the younger brother, Kishauri was forced to countenance the fact that Balauri would be first to undergo the various wedding rituals. 

When the brothers’ marriage procession reached the village Bhuccho Mandi to pick up the brides, there was a single wedding band and one golden umbrella to celebrate their arrival. They would spend the next three days enjoying the hospitality of the brides’ family together. 

After bathing, the elder sister, Dwarki, and the younger, Godavri, were draped in capacious and elaborately embroidered shawls which hindered their ability to walk. The girls’ maternal uncle, per tradition, picked them up and placed them comfortably in their house.  Their girlfriends and the nain–who was the sisters’ attendant, coiffeuse and chaperone throughout the course of wedding rituals–braided their hair, dressed them in silken suits; covered their faces and heads under long veils heavy with embroidery; applied makeup, and draped the delicate chains supporting their cumbrous nose-ornaments across their cheeks and affixed them behind the ears. First Dwarki was seated upon the ritual reed mat and then Godavri. Both brothers were joyous. Later when the wedding procession set out to return to the brothers’ home, the same nain came along to take care of both brides.

Both brothers and their brides were seated in the car. Kishauri pinched the nain’s arm and placed a five rupee note in her palm saying, “Please have the veil removed.”

The nain looked at him askance and quipped, “What’s the hurry? You can’t drink scalding milk until it’s cooled off a bit!”

Kishauri thought to himself that this nain is very clever. He whispered in her ear “You won’t always be here to keep an eye on her. Just show me what she looks like!” Then he put another five rupee note in her hand.

Balauri sat in the front seat of the car gazing out and watching the jand and kicker trees flicker past. He deeply revered the marriage rituals and ceremonies and was even amenable to not seeing his wife’s face until the suhaag raat— the night when they were expected to consummate their marriage. For now, he sat aloof in the car looking out at the jand and kicker trees passing by as they drove on. 

Clutching the ten rupees tightly in her fist, the nain whispered into the ear of Kishauri’s bride that she should peek out from under her veil.  The bride moved her head nervously. The nain said softly “Why are you embarrassed? I am the one asking you to do this.”

Inwardly, Godavri wanted to see her husband but also wanted to maintain the appearance of modesty. As she turned her head and lifted her veil, Kishauri’s jaw dropped in shock. She had a fat nose, small eyes, was as dark as an eggplant, and her cheeks were pockmarked. “This is my wife?” Kishauri asked himself. His heart sank to his ankles. He felt as if his business had gone bankrupt and he was forced to auction off his home to pay his debts. “I have lost everything in a toss of the dice.” His head began to spin.

Balauri, blissfully unaware of his brother’s ruses, was bemused by the simple pleasures of watching the trees glide by.

Kishauri quickly wrestled his emotions under control and grabbed the nain’s feet with his hands in desperation, pleading that she “give me a flash of my sister-in-law’s face.” 

The nain turned her shoulders away to rebuff this wildly inappropriate request. Kishauri took a one-hundred rupee note from his pocket and placed it in her lap. The nain considered the demand briefly, then tucked the note into the purse tied to her skirt.  She  huddled up next to Dwarki in front, and whispered in her ear to ever-so-briefly glance back. Whereupon Dwarki slightly turned her shoulders, lifted her veil, and peered directly in Kishauri’s direction. He glimpsed her round, dark eyes, and searing beauty.  Beneath the nose-ornament, her pinkish lips glimmered. Dwarki quickly beshrouded her face once again with her veil. Kishauri quivered on this brief glimpse of her face. A dark shadow of connivance spread across his forehead as he weighed his options. Suddenly, his nerves settled, likely because he had decided how to fix this predicament.

Both brothers, with their wives in tow, reached their home. All the women and girls of the village gathered to ogle the new brides. The girls sang while the baraat band played very loudly.  Hearing their arrival, the sons’ mother came out of the main gate of the family haveli and began the paani vaarna ceremony, in which she vowed to take upon herself all the problems of her sons and their families. Standing at the main gate with a silver garvi containing water infused with grass, waved it over the heads of the couples, and drank from it. She repeated this seven times as the rituals demanded.

As the two sons stepped across the threshold of their home, the dhols began to beat loudly. The loud band and boisterous singing created pandemonium. Availing of the madness and the fact that no one in his home knew which bride was his, Kishauri forcefully pushed his wife Godavri away towards Balauri, then yanked Dwarki towards himself and announced, “This is my wife!”

The mother sprinkled the water upon the couples as the sons entered the haveli with the switched wives. Everything was lost in the clamorous singing. Balauri wanted to say something to voice resentment of his brother’s bullying, but his mother was already caressing the heads of Kishauri and Dwarki, while Godavri stood next to him with her head and face covered with a long veil. Both brides had identical makeup and were wearing identical embroidered shawls and velvet slippers.  None of the onlookers could have suspected that the wives had been switched. But Balauri knew. He felt as if scissors were stabbing his heart. His eye with the cyst began to twitch. He had no idea how he would endure this indignity. 

Both brothers, with their swapped wives, began the ritual wedding game of kangna khedna. In a large flat bowl, a mixture of milk and water glimmered. The nain was seated nearby and tossed a ring into the basin. Dwarki plunged her hennaed hand into the milky water while Kishauri immersed his manly hand into the same.  Duaarki found the ring and clasped it tightly in her fist. Kishauri hurriedly grabbed her hand and squeezed it, forcing the ring to slip from her grasp.  Both felt a titillating tingling as their hands met beneath the pearly water. With this innocent yet intimate game, their relationship blossomed.

When Balauri’s turn came, the nain again tossed the ring into the milky water. Godavri immediately found the ring and cunningly hid it. Then the simple-minded Balauri thrust his hand into the water searching for the ring.  When Godavri pulled her fist out of the water, Balauri tried to pry it open. Her face flushed red with bashful discomfort and he let go of her hand. From their inability to play this silly game, Balauri concluded that the hand he found belonged to a stranger, not his wife.

That night the brothers’ mother decorated their marital beds in separate rooms on the top floor of the haveli.  Balauri remained outside, quietly sitting on the garden footpath pondering whether, inside that room, his bride was waiting for him.  Finally, he resolved to go inside.

An oil lamp was burning in a niche inside the room, and Godavri was sitting on the floor. When Balauri took her hand, she cowered to one side. From under her veil, he heard her say “Do not touch me.” 

With those words, Godavri made it abundantly obvious that she was not his wife.  Meanwhile, in the other room, his little brother was merrily consummating his marriage with Dwarki, rather than his own wife.

Godavri’s words felt like a hot knitting needle piercing his chest. Balauri felt oddly helpless and could not see clearly through the foggy haze before his eyes. He began to tremble and sob heavy tears.

Balauri left the room and went outside to sit upon the garden footpath once again. He sat on that footpath throughout the night even as celestial constellations migrated across the sky. Hundreds of thoughts crossed his mind. All the injustices he’s suffered throughout his life appeared before him. 

His younger brother had oppressed him throughout his life. When the boys played marbles, Kishauri would always snag the ones with beautiful colors. When they played shells and walnuts, Kishauri would toss the shells into a pit or throw them across the road while keeping all the walnuts for himself. When gathering plums from the trees, Balauri would climb the tree and shake them free. The ripe plums would fall to Kishauri standing below, ready to fill his lap with the choicest plums, while leaving the worm-eaten and unripe ones for Balauri. Balauri tolerated all these outrages because Kishauri was his little brother. Over time, his little brother increasingly got the upper hand in every matter. 

Little by little, Balauri acquiesced to play second fiddle in the household. He was given second place in each and every matter. When their father divvied up sweets, Kishauri always had first dibs on the piles. For all intents and purposes, their parents considered Kishauri to be the head of the household. By acquiescing, Balauri’s sense of self slowly but surely withered. Because of the cyst on his eye, no one in the household ever regarded him as attractive, or even a sentient person with feelings and emotions. 

Balauri spent his entire life with this inferiority complex. But now, after his little brother snatched his bride as if she were yet another pile of sweets, he could suffer no more affronts. He couldn’t even bring himself to speak of this litany of tyrannies much less complain about this most recent indecency with his wife. This was the ultimate assault on his very existence. It was the final debasement which shattered his spirit into myriad scattered shards.

Balauri abruptly stood up from the footpath, descended the stairs, unlocked the main gate, and left the premises.

Dawn was breaking when the mother went upstairs with two covered glasses of milk and found Balauri’s marital bed empty and Godavri sitting on the floor.

The entire household was in turmoil over where Balauri had disappeared.

Two days passed, then five. Balauri had still not returned. His parents asked relatives whether they had received letters; they dispatched a man to visit the in-laws; they even sent telegrams to two or three of his old friends. Finally, they notified the police station. His panic-stricken parents searched high and low but there was no trace of Balauri to be found.

After ten days, a police constable appeared at the door and informed them that a man’s body had been discovered in an abandoned well in Rohi. A goat-herder had smelled a wretched stench emanating from the well. It was Balauri’s corpse.

Neither sister knew which one had become a widow.


About Balwant Gargi: Balwant Gargi (b. 4 December 1916 – d. 22 April 2003) is perhaps most known for his dramas in the Punjabi language as well his theater direction. However, he was also a scholar and prolific novelist and short story writer. In 1962, Gargi was awarded the Sahitya Akademi award, which is the highest Indian literary award, for his play Rang Manch. In 1972, he received the Padma Shri (1972). In 1998 he was bestowed the Sangeet Natak Akademi Award in Punjabi Playwriting in 1998. Gargi is one of the few artists who received both the Sahitya Akademi and Sangeet Natak Akademi awards. In 2017, the Government of India officially released postage stamps to commemorate the birth-centenary of Balwant Gargi (1916-2016). 

About the Translator: C. Christine Fair is an Associate Professor within the School of Foreign Service at Georgetown University.  She studies political and military events of South Asia and travels extensively throughout Asia and the Middle East. Her books include In Their Own Words: Understanding the Lashkar-e-Tayyaba (OUP 2019); Fighting to the End: The Pakistan Army’s Way of War (OUP, 2014); and Cuisines of the Axis of Evil and Other Irritating States (Globe Pequot, 2008).  She has published creative pieces in The BarkThe Dime Show Review, Clementine Unbound, Awakenings, Fifty Word Stories, The Drabble, Sandy River Review, Sonder Midwest, Black Horse Magazine, Furious Gazelle, Hyptertext, Barzakh Magazine and Bluntly Magazine among others. Her visual poetry has appeared in Awakenings, pulpMAG and several forthcoming pieces in Abstract: Contemporary Expressions, The Indianapolis Review, Typehouse Literary Magazine and PCC Inscape MagazineShe causes trouble in multiple languages.

Acknowledgements: The translator is grateful to Galwant Gargi’s son, Manu Gargi, for giving me permission to translate this story as well as for providing thoughts about how his father may have translated this story. I’m also grateful to my long-time friend and collaborator, Gurdit Singh, for being willing to discuss aspects of translating this story. I’m also grateful to my various Punjabi instructors over the years, especially Seema Miglani of the American Institute of Indian Studies program in Chandigarh.

This was originally published by the Bombay Review in November 2020.

Yellow Laddoos — by Balwant Gargi (tr. C. Christine Fair)

Puro was about to leave for the fields when she said to Jangir, “Will you come with me? I’ll give you laddoos to eat.”

Jangir had been playing with a soapnut in the lane. He swept up the soapnut, put it in his pocket and set off with Puro.

Puro was a young jat girl who danced the giddha and who, while playing on the swing, always soared higher than anyone else. She would return from the well with three pitchers of water atop her head. No one dared to even clear their throats inappropriately in front of that strong, tall Puro. Once, en route to a women’s fair, someone feigned a cough to get her attention. She walked right up to him and slapped him hard. She was hardly seventeen years old.

Jangir headed off to the fields with her. A stack of rotis and pot of lassi were balanced upon Puro’s head. She had to go to the fields to deliver lunch to her father and she needed someone to accompany her. Even though Jangir was only ten years old, for Puro and the community, his presence was an adequate safeguard.

A large channel full of flowing water lay ahead as they made their way towards the jowar fields. Jangir stood up and announced, “I’m not going any further.”

Puro pulled the hem of her salwar up and over her knees and said “Grab my neck. I’ve crossed several channels like this.”

Jangir grasped her neck. Puro put her left hand behind her back to support him, managed the stack of rotis and the jug of lassi with her right, and descended into the flowing water. When Jangir slipped and began to dangle, Puro mustered her strength and, with a heave, hoisted him up again. He slumped over her shoulders. The musk of Puro’s wet neck and muscular body reminded Jangir of the scent of jowar leaves.

Once they crossed the channel, Jangir fell from Puro’s shoulders as she tried to let him down. Puro’s rolled-up salwar was soaking wet and water was trickling down her naked legs. She pulled her salwar down around her legs and, looking at Jangir, said “You are very heavy!”

Puro was breathing heavily….but it wasn’t the kind of breath as it would have been had she been running. Instead, it was a hot powerful breath like the heat that rises from sands and churns into a tempest. There was ardor in her eyes. She squatted down and rested her weight upon her toes. She grasped Jangir and said “You are very heavy! Someone ought to squeeze your cheeks!”

She pressed Jangir to her chest and gave his cheeks a pinch. He began to cry.

She told him “You deserve to have your cheeks pinched!”

When rosy splotches appeared on his face, Puro blew on them.

Jangir fell quiet and both continued onward.

Abruptly, someone leapt out of the jowar stalks and grabbed Puro’s arms. It was Kaila, the carpenter’s boy, who would get drunk and fight with his father. Jangir was petrified.

Puro told him “Don’t be afraid. I’ll sort this one out.”

The two struggled. Then Kaila yanked her into the jowar stalks. Jangir heard “Let me go! Let me go!” after which Puro’s voice was swallowed by the sounds of jowar stalks snapping and the crushing of leaves. He stood there silent, awed.

After some time, Puro emerged with her chunni disheveled. She said, “The bastard got away.”

She collected the bundle of rotis and the lassi jug whose contents had spilled. She grabbed Jangir and, pressing him close, told him, “Don’t tell anyone, my brother. I’ll give you a laddoo.”

She untied the knot at the end of her chunni and gave him two yellow laddoos. Jangir took them from her and began to eat them very, very slowly. He savored this sweet bribe.

The two of them reached the fields. Puro’s father stopped ploughing and sat down beneath the young peepal tree to eat.

Puro explained, “When we began to cross the irrigation channel, the pot fell and all of the lassi spilled out. Now you have only onions to eat with your roti.”

After delivering lunch to her father, she and Jangir set off for home. The load on Puro’s head was lighter and there was a certain frenetic energy in her step as if she were returning after finishing a weighty task.

As they prepared to cross the channel once more, she again rolled up her salwar above her knees and slung Jangir over her shoulders. She crossed the channel in two bounds and put him down. Jangir, once again, smelled the scent of her wet neck and cotton kurti. It was a strangely sweet and sour odor reminiscent of jowar juice mingled with lassi.

On the way, she lovingly hugged him and reminded him, “Don’t tell anyone, little brother.”

Jangir never told anyone. He held such affection for her in his heart, but also pain because of what Kaila, the carpenter’s scoundrel son, had done to her after dragging her into the jowar stalks.
A year later, Puro married. Her courtyard was filled with the sounds of dholkis and giddha. The groom’s marital party arrived from Dham Kot on camels. Everyone was drinking alcohol and singing bawdy songs. In the early morning, they were married, and Puro prepared to depart for her in-laws’ home.

Jangir was standing in the courtyard. Puro was sitting inside surrounded by her girlfriends. Jangir entered. Puro, whose eyes were adorned with kohl, saw him. She was wearing a silk suit and slippers with sequined stars. Before the wedding, three dots had been tattooed on her chin which became her. On her head, she wore a chunni of heavy lace. Puro declared, “How lovely you came! I wanted to see you. Did you eat any of my wedding sweets?”

She removed two special laddoos made of rice flour that were tucked away in a corner of a basket and handed them to him.

“Take them!”

The unspoken phrase “don’t tell anyone” echoed in her words “take them.”
Puro went to her in-laws. Many years passed.

Jangir passed the fifth grade and was admitted into a good school from which he subsequently completed the tenth grade. He then went to Lahore and began his college studies. Occasionally, when he returned to the village during the summer holidays, Puro too would return to her maternal home to celebrate Teej. Jangir would once again hear her telling him to take the laddoos. He never mentioned that day to anyone. He protected that secret like a soldier honoring his oath.

After finishing his BA, Jangir returned to the village whereupon he learned that Puro had returned to her parents’ home. He was now 19 years of age and Puro was 26. She had two children…a seven-year-old son and a three-year-old daughter.

When he went to Puro’s home to meet her, she was sitting in the courtyard making rotis. Her daughter was sleeping, and her son was sitting in front of her eating a small piece of bread with butter. She told Jangir to eat some bread and drink some lassi. Jangir responded that he had become accustomed to drinking tea during college and had lost his taste for lassi.

After speaking a bit with Puro, he learned that she was heading out to the fields to carry lunch to her father. She was getting her son ready to accompany her.

In the nine years, Puro’s fulsome figure had filled out even more. Her breasts seemed so large in that yellow kurti. Her face was aglow from the crackling stove embers. Time and time again she wiped the sweat from her face with her chunni.

After cooking the rotis, she washed her hands and face. Just as she had that day, she placed the bundle of rotis and the jug of lassi upon her head and headed off towards the fields with her son.

As Jagir watched her leave, she looked just like that very Puro from nine years ago. That same gait. Those same mannerisms. That same quantity of lassi. Suddenly, an idea snapped to his mind. He left their home, bought some laddoos, and set off for the fields. He passed through the hillocks on one side and hurriedly crossed the channel right before Puro did so. Then he hid in the jowar stalks.

He listened very attentively for her. After a short while, he heard the faint sounds of Puro and her son on the other side of the channel. Then from the channel came the sounds of water splashing.

From the jowar stalks, he watched as Puro crossed the channel and let her son down from her shoulders. Her black shalwar was hoisted up above her knees and water was dripping from her exposed legs. She tried to slip her wet salwar down over her legs. Jangir felt oddly titillated watching her struggle to adjust her salwar. Hearing leaves crushing and stalks breaking, his breath became hot. He quickly leapt out of the stalks, crushing them. He lurched in front of Puro. Seeing him, the mother and son trembled in fear.

He grabbed Puro’s arms. She pounced like a lioness “Have you no shame? What kind of a depraved person are you?”

The word “depraved” emboldened him, summoned his courage. Holding her firmly in his grip, he lugged her into the stalks.

Puro’s son was standing right there, utterly terrified. Above the rustling of the leaves, he could hear his mother say “Leave me! Have you no decency?” A muffled scream came from the stalks which disappeared in the soft green leaves. Then came the noise of stalks breaking and leaves crushing. The little boy’s heart began to race.

After some time, Puro emerged and then, on her heels, Jangir, who was tying his turban.

Puro yelled “Go! Get away from here!”

Jangir stepped forward and opened a fold in his turban from which he withdrew two laddoos and gave them to her son. The boy looked towards his mother.

Puro, clutching her son closely, told him, “Eat the laddoos. Don’t tell anyone, my son.”

Jangir crossed the channel and returned to the village.

Puro put the bundle of rotis and the jug of lassi back on her head.

Her son walked along beside her eating the laddoos.

***

About Balwant Gargi: Balwant Gargi (b. 4 December 1916 — d. 22 April 2003) is perhaps most known for his dramas in the Punjabi language as well his theater direction. However, he was also a scholar and prolific novelist and short story writer. In 1962, Gargi was awarded the Sahitya Akademi award, which is the highest Indian literary award, for his play Rang Manch. In 1972, he received the Padma Shri (1972). In 1998 he was bestowed the Sangeet Natak Akademi Award in Punjabi Playwriting in 1998. Gargi is one of the few artists who received both the Sahitya Akademi and Sangeet Natak Akademi awards. In 2017, the Government of India officially released postage stamps to commemorate the birth-centenary of Balwant Gargi (1916–2016). Gargi’s short stories are known for their straightforward language which narrate unpleasant truths about Punjabi rural life.

About the Translator: C. Christine Fair is a professor within the School of Foreign Service at Georgetown University. She studies political and military events of South Asia and travels extensively throughout Asia and the Middle East. Her books include In Their Own Words: Understanding the Lashkar-e-Tayyaba (OUP 2019); Fighting to the End: The Pakistan Army’s Way of War (OUP, 2014); and Cuisines of the Axis of Evil and Other Irritating States (Globe Pequot, 2008). She has published creative pieces in The BarkThe Dime Show Review, Clementine Unbound, Awakenings, Fifty Word Stories, The Drabble, Sandy River Review, Sonder Midwest, Black Horse Magazine, Furious Gazelle, Lunch Ticket, Hyptertext, Barzakh Magazine and Bluntly Magazine among others. Her visual poetry has appeared in Awakenings, pulpMAG and several forthcoming pieces in Abstract: Contemporary Expressions, The Indianapolis Review, Typehouse Literary Magazine and PCC Inscape MagazineShe causes trouble in multiple languages.

Acknowledgments: The translator is grateful to Balwant Gargi’s son, Manu Gargi, for giving me permission to translate this story as well my various Punjabi instructors over the years, especially Seema Miglani of the American Institute of Indian Studies program in Chandigarh.

This translation was published by The Bombay Literary Magazine on May 26, 2021.

The Revenge of Farkhunda

C. Christine Fair


There was nothing notable about the Afghan woman known as Farkhunda Malikzada while she was alive. No one would have read about her in local or international papers. She wasn’t a politician, a grass-roots organizer, or one of few liberal activists demanding more rights for women and children in a country that has steadily marched back in time since the 1970s when women in Kabul sported miniskirts, sipped wine and pursued their professional and personal dreams in a beautiful city surrounded by snow-kissed mountains.

Instead, Farkhunda was a devout Muslim who was disquieted by superstitious accretions she observed in the Islam practiced by most Afghans. She wore a black hejab covering her head and a long black coat which would have been more common in an Arab country than in Afghanistan where women tend to wear the ubiquitous blue burqa.

But, in death, Farkhunda became a stark reminder of American failures to cultivate robust democracy, rule of law and respect for human rights in Afghanistan despite: occupying the country since late 2001; spending more money, in purchasing power parity, on this country of 37 million than it did rebuilding post-World War II Europe; fighting the longest war in American history; and losing thousands of American and allied soldiers, civilians and contractors and more than 157,000 Afghans. Despite the squander of life and treasure, the dark influence of the Taliban endures undaunted.

Few Americans had heard of the Taliban or its reclusive leader, Mullah Mohammad Omar before the terror attack of 11 September 2001. Despite continuous military action by the United States and its NATO allies in the country searching for him, Mullah Omar died in 2013 in Pakistan from complications related to hepatitis. He was likely sixty years old at the time of death. He founded the Afghan Taliban in 1994 as a movement of students who were studying in Deobandi (a South Asian Islamic interpretative tradition) seminaries in Pakistan. In fact, the name “Taliban” means students. There are few confirmed photos of Mullah Omar. The most common image is that from 1993 which depicts his missing right eye. He lost it while fighting the Soviet Union, which had occupied Afghanistan between December 1979 and February 1989. He required this photographic evidence of injury to claim compensation from the Afghan government. At the time, he was an American ally as the United States, along with Saudi Arabia and Pakistan, supported the so-called mujahideen’s effort to oust the Russians from the country.

After founding the Taliban in 1994, the movement swiftly seized control of most of Afghanistan by 1998, with the unstinting financial, military, and political support of Pakistan. By 1998, the world increasingly became aware of the Taliban’s unusual cruelties and crimes against humanity. Men were threatened with death if they did not grow their beards. They were severely punished if they failed to ensure “their women’s” compliance with the Taliban’s strictures. Girls were no longer allowed to study. Women were forbidden from working, which immiserated countless widowed mothers whose menfolk had died in the decades of warfare. When the Taliban adjudged that a woman or girl had violated any of their draconian diktats, the Taliban stoned them to death in soccer stadiums where crowds were encouraged to attend the gruesome spectacle.

Farkhanda is just one victim from among countless others and deserves no more or less pity. Perhaps it was the public nature of her inhuman murder that garnered international attention and prompted many to wonder whether Afghanistan would escape its own past. Perhaps it was just a fluke of timing or the result of particular hue and cry from critical diplomats that made her lynching seem uniquely cruel.

Whatever the reason, we know that on 19 March 2015, the 28-year-old woman had an altercation with a mullah (a Muslim preacher). In Afghanistan and neighboring Pakistan, mullahs rarely have completed the religious education required by curriculum (Dars-e-Nizami) in the seminaries (madrassahs). Thus, all too often they propound local superstitions rather than the prescription and proscription in the Quran. Indeed, few of these uneducated ulema can read the Quran with understanding as it is written in early seventh-century Arabic. According to the woman’s father, Farkhunda quarreled with the mullah over the common-place practice of exploiting unlettered woman by selling them, often expensive, amulets at shrines. Heterodox Islam frowns upon such rituals and some devout Muslims even believe they constitute shirk (apostasy) as they ascribe mystical powers to inert objects and to those who distribute them when Allah alone has such attributes.

During the argument, the mullah falsely accused her of burning a Quran. It was a common but deadly tactic to silence critics. Those who overheard the allegation immediately decided that she must be killed. She was beaten with bats, stomped upon, and driven over by a car after which her body was dragged by a car and then immolated. 

Her real crime? She had the temerity as a woman to challenge superstitious practices propounded by ignorant male clerics. The trial that ensued against the police that failed to protect her as well as the participants in the murderous frenzy was galvanized by domestic and international outrage and sought to protect Afghanistan’s image rather than obtain justice for the atrocity. Her family repined that the true culprits, including the one who ran her over with his car, were never charged.

There are several ironies in this tale of Farkhanda. On the one hand, it was the tenure of the Taliban which empowered these “lumpen mullahs” to deploy the religion they so poorly understood as a weapon to silence detractors, especially women. But Farkhanda was no “Gloria Steinem of the Hindu Kush.” In fact, her interpretation of orthodox Islam was much closer to that of the Taliban than the amulet-hawking mullahs who are often criticized by the very Deobandi clergy which produced the Taliban’s ideology. However, even though her arguments against useless talismans would have pleased Mullah Omar, the temerity of a woman to speak to a mullah, a man, and impugn him would have signed her death warrant.

Mullah Omar’s followers believe that upon arrival in heaven, he would enjoy the endless pleasures of the celestial maidens who have been untouched by man or djinn.

In this piece titled “Farkhanda’s Revenge,” I instead imagine Farkhanda waiting for him at the doorstep of heaven and quarrelling with him just as she did the other mullah. I take solace imagining that brave woman insisting that Mullah Omar justify her heinous slaughter for defending orthodox Islam against its defilers. If she could, this is exactly what she would have done. Maybe this is Farkhanda’s legacy?


Carol Christine Fair is an American artist and scholar. She is professor in the Security Studies Program within the Edmund A. Walsh School of Foreign Service at Georgetown University. Her work is primarily focused on counter-terrorism and South Asian topics.

Text and art copyright 2020 Christine Fair

A version of this essay was published by Vox Populi on December 19, 2020.