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19:30 Hours
27 Oct 2012
Karachi Garrison

General Asgar was pacing his office waiting impatiently for his telephone to ring. General Beg’s reaction to the bombings and riots had taken him completely by surprise. As soon as he came to know of it he tried contacting General Hu but was told by his aide that Hu was in a meeting with senior leaders of the Party and could not be excused. Asgar could do nothing but wait for Hu to contact him and that made him mad.
Presently the phone rang and Asgar rushed towards the table to pick it up. Smooth voice of General Hu came in on the line, “ Good evening General. I understand that there’ve been some unexpected events ?”

“Why else would I feel the need to contact you General Hu, if everything was alright ?” Asgar asked angiriy.

Hu ignored the jab and continued in the same voice, “ Well, Beg’s action were not really unexpected after what happened to Naqvis and the unfortunate blasts and riots in your country today. ”.

“Nothing is really unexpected once it has happened. Now what am I supposed to do ? I don’t even know who is behind these blasts.“

“If you leave out Islamic terrorists, who do you think can possibly benefit from this ? “

“ Beg himself ! But is it really possible ? Serving Army chief orchestrating bombings and riots to get the chair !“

Hu replied, “ We don’t know if he did it or not. But think of the consequences if somehow it’s proved as the truth.”

“ Even if he really did this and we manage to prove it as such, it will not amount to anything. Americans will not withdraw their support and Beg will continue his rule” Asgar lamented.

“ Not if you snatch it from him”.

Asgar nearly jumped out of his chair, “ A coup ! That too against an serving Amy general! Are you in your senses ? Do you really think that Americans will let their poodle go down so easily ?“

Hu replied in a soothing voice, “ I know very well what I’m talking about General. If Americans are backing Beg, you have all the might and goodwill of Chinese republic behind you. You realise that China is an all weather ally of Pakistan unlike US , even your public knows this truth.”

“What will you gain from this ? “

“ Come on General ! We both have common goals and interests that we’ve discussed so many times. It’s just that we need to find a somewhat different way to get you at the top post . ”

“It’ll not be so easy General Hu, as you might be thinking. There are a million things that could go wrong. General Beg is no fool. I’m sure that he must have planned for any such attempted coups. Grabbing power from him could turn in to a bloody and long affair. And whats going to stop Americans from coming to his aid ?”

Hu replied in a reproaching voice, “ You seem to forget your Chinese allies too easily, General. Whatever you need of us, you just need to ask.”

“I’m worried about American intervention because of the nukes. They’ll do anything to stop me from gaining their control. You know the history. “

“You need not worry about that General. Didn’t I just say that you just have to ask.”

“What ? Are you a djinn (genie) or something ? Genei Hu ?” Asgar laughed nervously.

“ May be.” Hu replied mysteriously. “ You are really worried about being nuke nude, aren’t you ? “

“Of course yes.”

“In that case, how about we supplying you a minimum of six nuclear missiles within two days of your request ? Painted in your Pakistani colours, all ready to parade around or even launch at your enemies as you see fit . Beg needs approval from his American masters even to see the Paki nuke assets. But you’ll have your own, completely independent ready to launch nuclear tipped missiles. Even if Americans disable all the nukes and missiles that your country already has, you still have something to scare your enemies. You’ll get more weapons later according to your requirements.“

Asgar stammered, “ Yes..yes..That’ll be really great. But what about the Indians ? How do we keep them from any mischief ?”

“ Indians wouldn’t be able to interfere in anyway with our plans. If needed, we’ll keep them occupied. You just have to act fast before anybody has the chance to react. ”

“I understand. You just take care of the nuke business and keep an eye on India . I can easily handle Beg myself. After I seize the power, nobody will have any option but to respect my authority. “ Asgar felt some of his old confidence returning.

“Very well then. I’ll be seeing you in person real soon. Goodbye and good luck.”

Part VII

19:00 Hours
27 Oct 2012
PM House
New Delhi, India

Six big blasts in four cities within a span of 4 hours !” Indian PM was incredulous, ”What the hell is happening in Pakistan ?“

“Bomb blasts are least of their worries right now. More Pakistani civilians have died in riots that broke out after the blasts than the blasts themselves. More are dying even as we speak. “ Angad replied.

“Any idea who did this? Were all blasts planned by a single group” ? PM asked even though he knew the answer he’d get.

Angad shrugged, “ We are still analysing our intelligence reports. There are numerous suspects, but whoever did this, executed it really well. Unlike the attack on Paki President, no one has taken the responsibility for these attacks yet. “

“ I just hope that these guys have enough sense not to blame us for this.” DM remarked warily.

“ That’s a feeling we both share.” PM murmured and lapsed into a moody silence.

“We’ve already issued an official statement condemning the bombings. But I have serious doubts whether it’ll make any difference to these idiots. They’ll blame everybody except themselves for all their troubles.” DM continued. “I’d like to put our forces on border on heightened state of alert, but I ‘m sure that it’ll be taken as a sign of aggression.”

“Only border ? I’d like to put all our security agencies on high alert. I’m willing to bet you anything that some Islamist nuts have already started planning terrorist strikes against us”. HM spoke to the nodding agreement of Angad.

“We can put state police and other internal security organisations on high alert without any problem but doing it on the international border is a different matter. Doing so will not only increase the tensions but also bring international pressure on us. Pakis have always exploited anti-Hindu, anti-India cards to divert attention from real issues since long and any such action on our part will surely provide them with an excuse to cause some mischief.”

“ Would you rather have similar terrorist attacks in our cities than take necessary actions to avoid them lest in offends Pakis ? ” HM asked testily.

“Our forces in J&K; are always on high alert and BSF is guarding rest of IB in western sector fairly well. In current situation, maximum we can do is to increase size and frequency of patrols without making it public. Anything beyond this will be seen as unprovoked aggression on our part. Mobilisation of army in current situation is out of question. ” DM retorted.

This exchange was broken by buzzing of the intercom. Angad put the phone to his ear and without saying a word turned on the large LCD TV in room. All eyes in the room were turned to the news channel on which serving Pakistani Army Chief General Beg was reading his speech. He spoke of the recent bombings and subsequent riots and their effect on already precarious security situation in Pakistan. He went on to announce imposition of martial law, postponing of election pending better security conditions and his appointment as the country’s military ruler until such conditions are achieved. War against Islamic terrorism was to continue without any change as per the requirements of his allies. He finished the speech asking for help from the international community in Pakistan’s hour of need.

“Well, that changes something I guess. At least he had the fig leaf of a civilian regime before this. ” PM was first to break the silence.

“He didn’t mention anything about mobilisation of army or reshuffling of top posts. I can’t find anything in his speech that’ll specifically change anything for us in near future.” DM observed.

“What about our peace talks ? We can’t be seen negotiating for peace with a military dictator. “ PM asked in a worried voice.

DM rolled his eyes and was about to say something when he was interrupted by HM, “ You are still serious about that “peace talk” thing ?

PM replied in a surprised fashion, “ Why not ? Do we have a choice ?”

“ We can worry about “peace talks” later. Right now, we have a situation at hand that needs our immediate attention.” HM responded. “What do you think of it Angad ? “

“ One of many things that’s worrying me is reaction of General Asgar. I don’t think he’ll take it easily. Beg didn’t mention anything about him and we don’t know what he is going to do. Unless Beg has offered him something substantial, he will not take it lying down. Specially when he has backing of Chinese. “

“What’s the worse that could come of it ?”

“ An attempted coup followed by a bloody civil war is one thing that comes to the mind. ” DM replied glumly.

“ You mean Asgar trying to overthrow Beg ? But this is madness !” PM exclaimed.

“Well, we discussed something like that in our last meeting.”

DM looked towards HM before replying “ Seems like we’ll have to put our forces on maximum alert now. No point in taking chances when Chinese and Pakis are involved. “

“What is your opinion Angad ? “ PM looked towards NSA chief hopefully.

“ I agree with Defence Minister. Not only Army, even Air Force, Navy and Coast Guard should be put on high alert . It’d be foolish to just guard IB after Mumbai attack.”

“ Very well then. Do whatever is necessary, but take every precaution to keep things under control. I don’t want a possible nuclear war due to any misunderstanding. ”

DM allowed himself a smile, “ Don’t worry, sir. We’ll issue a press statement and send a dossier to assure everybody of our benign intentions.”

Part VI

10:00 Hours

27 Oct 2012

Central Market

Karachi, Pakistan

Mohammed Shafiq was in a bad mood when he stopped his car in front of his 25 years old eatery in Central Market, one of the busiest in Karachi. He came to the city when he was barely 13 years old after running away from his home in Multan. He did various jobs for 11 years and somehow scraped up enough money to start his own shop in Central Market. Over the years he managed to establish a reputation of serving good food at affordable prices. Most of his customers were local shopkeepers and their employees who bought their breakfast and lunch from him daily.

His daily commute of 20 minutes to his shop today took him 3 hours due to almost curfew like security measures in place. Although Pakistanis were used to terrorist attacks and subsequent tightening up of the security that invariably followed such attacks, measures adopted today were extreme by even Paki standards. Every occupant of every vehicle was told to disembark and then body-searched in addition to metal-detector and dog sniffer checks This delay had cost him earnings he made every morning that amounted to almost half of his daily income everyday. He barked at Shahid, 18 years old helper who was dozing in front of the shop , to get the keys and open the shutters while he searched for a place to park his car. Delay of 3 hours meant that most of the already scarce parking spaces were already full and he had to park his car at a considerable distance from his usual place near the shop. Cursing everybody in general for his troubles he took out a cigarette and started walking towards his shop. His unpleasant mood was slightly softened at the sight of a few regulars starting to assemble in anticipation of an early lunch or a late breakfast.

Shafiq’s attention was diverted by sound of a pickup truck being rashly driven that passed him by with only inches to spare. He swore loudly cursing the driver and his relatives to hell and worse. His rant was suddenly interrupted by the sight of that truck suddenly changing it’s direction towards the small crowd in front of his shop. Before his horrified eyes the truck ran over 3 people and stopped after hitting the wall of his shop. He shouted at the people around for help and starting running towards the scene of accident. He was still 20 meters away when the truck exploded with a loud bang and caught fire. Shafiq along with many other people was thrown back many meters by the force of the blast wounded grievously. Fire from the truck soon reached the LPG cylinders in the eatery which exploded further spreading the fire. Eight fire brigade trucks took 4 hours to extinguish the blaze which turned more than half of the Karachi’s most crowded markets into ashes, killed 37 people and wounded many more.

(Part V)

HM was first, “ With billions of dollars that they have at their disposal, what stops the Chinese from just buying off the locals in Balochistan and POK and prevent all this bloodshed and delay ? “

“ If Chinese have billions of dollars, US can print trillions even at the cost of damage to it’s economy that such an action might bring. In case of POK, Chinese have displaced people from dozens of mountainous villages where land suitable for farming and rearing cattle is at a premium and constructed their colonies and roads. The people who have lost their lands have nowhere to go and make a living outside POK as they don’t have full rights as other Pakistanis. Even those who haven’t lost their lands directly have suffered due to pollution, land-slides, flooding among other side-effects brought upon by indiscriminate Chinese activity in a fragile eco-system.

As for Balochistan, things could’ve been much better if Pakistani army officers were kept out of the compensation process. Balochis alleged that army siphoned off a lions share of the money that was given by the Chinese and they were left with nothing. When Chinese attempted to talk directly, Pakis brought in their H & D (Honour and Dignity) issue in to play and also screwed up everything by picking up needless fights. Same thing happened in POK too.”

PM asked the next question, “ Is Chinese presence in Balochistan and POK in anyway related to attack on PPP rally? “

“I only have a theory sir.” Anagad replied hesitatingly.

“Let us hear it.”

“ Pakistanis have been going slow on Gwadar port route due to US pressure on Beg and the civilian government.US has been sponsoring psy-ops for quite some time against the project by questioning whether anybody except the army and it’s stooges will gain anything out of this, covertly of course. Beg regime was already under enormous domestic and international pressure due to corruption charges and this whisper campaign forced him to tow the US line. Work on route in Balochistan was halted many times citing environment clearances, land ownership issues and so on much to the annoyance of Chinese.

Although it seems kind of far fetched, one of the quickest ways to get the work completed as soon as possible is to have their own puppet in control instead of a US controlled one. For Chinese, there is nobody better than General Asgar for this job. They’ve been propping him up for quite some time now as a counter to US influence. They planned to use him to push their agenda after Beg stepped down, but Beg’s 3 year extension put a spanner to their plans. Chinese wouldn’t let their investment go down the drain and will do anything within their ability to retain their influence and activate that route. They don’t see it as an option but a vital necessity. They’ll do anything to weaken Beg and install their own man. This near fatal attack on Naqvi is a big blow to the public moral and image of army. Something that General Asgar and Chinese really want.”

“Why don’t Chinese try buying off Beg instead of playing such dangerous games? “ Home minister inquired.

“ Well, I don’t think that they didn’t try that. We know for a fact that 2 senior PLA generals visited Beg many times over that last 2 years, ostensibly for the same purpose you mentioned and also to pressurise him to stop training and infiltration of ethnic Uighur militants into XinJiang. But Beg knows too well that he and PPP government can’t last a day without US support.
As for Uighur militant issue is concerned, he is powerless to oblige China without messing up US plans. It’s not like reign of Musharraf when Pakis were able to use terrorists for their own means even when pretending to fight them in exchange of money and military aid. Americans have wisened up to the duplicity and perfidy of Pakis and have kept everything on a tight leash. They want to get out of Af-Pak as soon as possible and allowing Chinese controlled Asgar to rule Pakistan will make a graceful exit impossible for them.”

“So it seems like US and China are fighting a proxy war , each one using Pakistanis as pawns. “, PM said with a wry smile.
“ But not without serious consequences for us.” Defence minister interjected. “A US-China battle ground in our nuclear armed neighbour is a nightmare. But I don’t think any one of the two will be foolish enough to destabilise the country, it being in tatters as it already is.”

“ Agreed. I don’t think that either US or China will enter into direct conflict with each other. But their cat-and mouse games are sure to cause serious unrest. It could even result in a civil war. I don’t
want to even think about that.” DM said with a shudder.

PM asked Angad, “ Why Asgar has not tried to initiate a coup against Beg till now ? Or Beg tried to defang Asgar ?“

“ It sure seems like a quick fix, but both are serving army men and any such move by either of the two will surely cause division within army ranks and a very likely civil war. With nukes in picture, nobody knows the consequences. Even without nukes, it’s a lose-lose condition for both, unless something unexpected happens, “ Angad replied

“Unexpected like ?”

Angad paused for a moment before speaking, “ Like Beg willingly hands over the reigns to Asgar in exchange for a guaranteed safe exit and large sum of money. Or Asgar dies, in that case there is nobody senior enough in Paki army hierarchy that Chinese control to challenge Beg. But Asgar has good contacts with many Islamist terrorist organisations and most worryingly with army wing in charge of the nukes from his pre-9/11 days.

Beg can also postpone the elections , impose martial law and cut the wings of Asgar by arrest or other means. On the other hand, if Beg dies, power is still in hands of civilian government and they can demote or dismiss Asgar. But I seriously doubt that Asgar and his Chinese allies will let it happen.”

“So, what does it mean for us ?”

“In case of a civil war, anything from terrorist strikes to a full blown war to deflect the attention. Threat of a nuclear attack blamed a rogue commander or terrorists is very likely. Chinese will surely
try to take advantage of the situation. “

“ A stable Pakistan is in our interests after all !” DM remarked bitterly.

“I dare say it’s not. If we play our cards right, we can use the instability in Pakistan to cut down China to it’s size as well as rid ourselves of the shackles of terrorism and nuclear blackmail that
these two threaten us with.” Angad responded eagerly to a approving nod from the army chief, General Zoravar Singh.

“ Interesting”. DM replied, “What are our options ? ”

“ I believe our service chiefs already have a plan that they can explain much better than me “

PM turned to the 3 chiefs who so far had been listening to every word intently and spoke, “ Lets hear it gentlemen.”

All 3 chiefs shared glances with each other and nodded a silent agreement . General Zoravar Singh leaned forward on his chair and began explaining their battle plans to a fully attentive audience.

(Part IV)

19:00 Hours
PM House
New Delhi, India

Meeting between Indian PM, all Chiefs of Army, Navy, Air Force, NSA, and defence minister was already in progress when Home Minister rushed in to the building closely followed by his aide who was stopped at the door by the security guard. “Sorry sir, but we can’t allow your companion in. He’ll have to wait outside in the lobby till the meeting is over. Orders from above”

HM paused for a moment to argue with the guard but then shrugged and went in himself alone to the secure conference room where NSA chief, Angad was debriefing PM and other participants on current situation in Pakistan. Everybody paused for a moment when HM entered. Indian PM signaled him to take seat on the nearest available empty chair and said, “Got held up somewhere Purohit ji? Angad had just started explaining to us the current situation in Pakistan. I believe that you haven’t missed anything that you already didn’t know.” and motioned NSA chief to continue.

“As I was saying, Pakistani politics is currently divided in to numerous camps. But the biggest ones that we need to monitor are the Naqvi-Beg and Asgar-Akhtar alliances. They are being backed up by USA and China respectively. Also there are some minor political groups like MQM, PML (Q), and ANP etc. But their role and influence is comparatively minor. In addition to these mainstream parties, there are numerous jihadi tanzeems (organisations) that we monitor. Some are pro-government, others anti and still many others declare their allegiances on case by case basis. Without any major exceptions, they all sympathise or cooperate with Taliban, Al Qaida and are one of the major support bases for these terrorist organisations.

Beg’s renewed cooperation with US in war against terrorism has been a mixed bag for them. Even though, they’ve suffered lost many senior leaders by means of arrests and even killings, their wide support base and help from closet jihadis in Pak establishment, especially Army ensures that their work continues unhindered. Our intelligence sources suggest that General Asgar has close links with many of these organisations and employs their cadre for his dirty work.

Apart from this, there are two other factors that we can’t afford to miss. First one is Balochistan and second is Pak Occupied Kashmir. Both regions are in serious turmoil directly due to Chinese.

Of the two, it’s POK that concerns us the most as its Indian territory illegally occupied by Pakistan and now being swamped with thousands of Chinese soldiers and workers. In early 2010, Pakistan allowed China to start building a massive network of roads, railway tracks and pipelines through the region connecting the two countries. Chinese hope to safe-guard their energy routes by using this line as it gives them a direct land-route to the Arabian Sea and Gwadar port. This way, they can avoid the longer and potentially less reliable route through Straits of Malacca. They have already started negotiations with Iran, Saudi Arab and some African countries to route their shipments, oil and gas through this port. Pakistanis also hope to benefit from this and have extended their full cooperation. In fact we have intelligence which proves that Chinese have been using at least 2 army and 1 air strip in POK to move in their supplies and as storage dumps.
Satellite pictures show construction of at least 4 permanent colonies where no civilian Pakistani is allowed. Each one of these colonies has one or more heli-pads and heavily armed guards on 24×7 watch. 2 of these colonies and military bases are less than 80 km from Line Of Control and can be used to launch a surprise attack against us within a hour’s notice.

Not only that, there are dozens of terrorist training camps in the vicinity, some of them in direct control of ISI and Paki army. It’s a very dangerous situation for us. Chinese presence in this area means that if we decide to take any action against these terrorist camps in nearby future, Chinese can get in the way. We have reports from multiple sources that Pakistanis have been planning a big terrorist attack in India very soon and I have a gut feeling that Chinese presence in this area will definitely come into play some way or the other.

But the locals of that area are playing spoil-sport with Paki-Chinese plans. They allege that Chinese activities have destroyed their farms, polluted rivers and uprooted 100s of villages. 3 out of 4 colonies are on the land belonging to the locals and they allege that they were paid insufficient compensation and in many cases, none at all. There have been many reports of protests being held by the affected villagers against the Chinese but Pakistani government has been able to hush it up.

Chinese have responded by kidnapping, torturing and even killing some of the more troublesome protesters. Right now, the region is witnessing serious unrest and almost daily confrontations between the locals and Chinese. High handedness of Chinese in dealing with protesters is starting to look like Soviet actions in Afghanistan. Pakistanis have been turning a blind eye to this, as the affected areas are mostly inhabited by ethnic Shias.

As for Balochistan, people are faring no better there either. By and large, Balochis are moderate muslims but some groups do have links with terrorist groups in Afghanistan. Balochis grievances are that the Punjabi and Sindhi dominated army and government are interested in exploiting natural resources of the region all the while treating them as 3rd rate citizens.
Construction of Gwadar port without any involvement or economic benefit to the locals is the latest and just one of the very long list of grievances that they hold against Pakistani government.Balochis have been fighting a bloody war against Pakistani establishment for a long time. Pakistani army has used everything in it’s arsenal ranging from heavy artillery, air strikes and covert missions to put down the rebellion, but hardy Balochis have kept the resistance alive. But the entry of Chinese in to the theater has changed the situation for worse.

As I explained earlier, Gwadar port is supposed to be an important point in the new energy route for Chinese and they’ve invested billions of dollars in it. Common sense dictates that construction of such a massive port, transport routes, pipeline will result in large scale employment of locals and generation of goodwill for the investors. But Chinese kind of screwed up on this one too by employing Chinese workers and engineers for construction as well as daily operations of the port. Instead of helping locals by creation of employment opportunities, Chinese actions, in the area have in fact caused same repercussions as in PoK.

Skirmishes between the Chinese and Balochis have already started in earnest. One of the latest cause of conflict is the oil-gas pipeline that Chinese are constructing from Gwadar to China through POK. Balochis forced the work on pipeline to be halted when they came to know that it’ll pass through the pastures and native village of leader of one of the most powerful nationalist Baloch leaders, Gaffar Khan of Baloch Nationalist Liberation Front. Negotiations between Chinese and Khan broke down over the compensation being offered by Chinese. Pakistanis intervened in their usual high-handed manner by arresting another senior leader and torturing him in custody.

Enraged Balochis responded by ambushing the army convoys passing through the area and destroying any Chinese construction vehicle and material they could lay their hands upon. Unfortunately, situation was exacerbated when Chinese alleged that two of their unarmed workers died in the attack. A joint Pakistani and Chinese assault force then attacked 3 villages killing atleast 57 people, 21 of them women and destroying numerous houses. Next day, son and pregnant daughter-in-law of Khan went missing while on road to her parent’s house. Their badly burned bodies were found 2 days later around 2 km off the road. Nobody took responsibility, but that incident closed the lid on any possible reconciliation effort.

Since then, a savage fight has been going on between Balochis and Paki-Chinese army with the latter using helicopter gunships and heavy artillery to raze down whole villages. Balochis have suffered high causalities, but they’ve managed to halt all construction work and supply lines to the Gwadar port through most of the area.

This conflict has forced Chinese to look for an alternate route that first follows the coastal highway connecting Gwadar to Karachi, then roughly follow either Indus or General Trunk Highway upto Islamabad and from there to occupied Kashmir. But this alternate route is much closer to the Indo-Pak border and within our easy striking distance. Further, they have already invested billions in mapping and construction of the route through Balochistan. Such drastic change of plans at this time will not only increase the operational cost of the project but also cause unacceptable delay.

For the moment, they are trying their level best to find a way out in Balochistan, but I doubt if Balochis will oblige. They know that even if they manage to quell the rebellion, nothing short of a genoicde and complete ethnic cleansing will ensure safety of their route from sabotage in future.
All these facts are explained in detail with maps in the reports that I’ve placed in frotn of you. You’re welcome to ask any questions.”