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.”

Previous Post (Part III)

18:00 Hours

26 Oct 2012

CIA Headquarters

Langley, USA

Bill Cosby, CIA’s South Asia specialist was still going over his notes when a disheveled CIA chief Richard Cobain walked in to the meeting room. He slumped into a chair closest to the door and just lay their with his eyes closed. After a while he opened his eyes and said in a tired voice, ” What are we dealing with here ? Any idea who did this ?”

” 4 different groups, 2 each based in Pakistan and Afghanistan have claimed responsibility for the attack till now. To soon to confirm anything” Cosby replied

“I don’t care whats being shown on TV. Who really did it ?”

“There are so many players in this game that it’s almost impossible to point out the culprit without any good piece of evidence.”

Richard replied in exasperated tone of voice, ” For Christ’s sake, I have to brief the president within 2 hours over this incident. What am I supposed to tell him ? Do you want me to report that even after spending billions of dollars on gizmos, spooks and buying loyalties, we don’t have any information on who very nearly killed the president of our nuclear armed ally ? “

Sergey Page, a senior analyst replied tentatively, “Actually we do have something that might prove interesting, but we are still missing some pieces of the puzzle. We have evidence of some kind of alliance between PML(N) led by Wasim Akhtar , General Asgar and the Chinese. A large number of PML(N) men have recently received weapons and training from people who we believe work for Pakistani army. We are not exactly sure how this bombing incident will help Wasim Akhtar, but weakening of PPP can pave the way for General Asgar to become even more powerful. But, the thing that’s really worrying me is involvement of Chinese “

“What do you mean? “

” Chinese have been secretly propping up General Asgar as their man in Pakistan for quite some time now. After Beg started cooperating with us against Taliban and Al Qaida terrorists, only way he could survive in Pakistan was with our help. Also, our attacks on their strongholds in Af-Pak region forced many terrorists to move to safer places, most prominent being muslim majority Chinese province Xinjiang. Recent resurgence of “civil unrest” in Xinjiang is indirectly due to our improved intelligence and tactics in Af-Pak”.
Page paused for breath and then continued, ” For Chinese, somebody they can control will be a much better asset than the current regime headed by Beg. He was supposed to step down from post of army chief last year and hand over the reigns to Asgar, but he pulled a fast one by getting himself a 3 years extension. Now, Asgar has no chance of becoming army chief unless something drastic happens. “

“Drastic like assassination of Naqvis?” Cobain half-inquired under his breath.

Page replied, “Possibly yes. General Asgar is a very resourceful and ambitious man. We suspect that he stuck a deal with Chinese according to which he’ll use their influence to gain power in exchange for crackdown on supporters of Uighur separatists in Af-Pak and possibly needling India. His dependence on Chinese must have increased even more after Beg’s newest extension.
We had no choice except to help Beg prolong his tenure. We really need his cooperation in our war against terror and only man senior enough to take his place, Asgar was on our list of suspected terrorist sympathisers in Pakistani defence forces that we handed over to Musharraf after 9/11. His links with Chinese and radical Islamists make him very unreliable and detrimental to our interests in the region. In fact, we have proof of his involvement with some militant Islamist groups that we are fighting. Some telephone intercepts suggest that these groups have been attacking PPP cadre on his instructions. “

” Do you have any concrete evidence to prove involvement of Asgar and Chinese in this ?” Richard asked sharply.

Page was unruffled, ” Not yet sir. We do have bits and pieces of evidence that points to some kind of alliance between Asgar, Wasim and Chinese. But nothing that’ll prove their involvement with this bombing.”

“Great ! Less than 90 minutes before my conference with President, Joint Chief of staff and other biggies start and I have nothing to put on table except wild theories.” A frustrated Richards addressed to no one in particular. ” Well, gentlemen. . From now on, presentation of some solid evidence to back up any theory will be highly appreciated. Thanks for your time.”

Previous Post (Part II)

12:15 Hours

26 Oct 2012

Secret army safe house

Karachi, Pakistan

Lt. Zia knocked nervously on the closed door and waited for permission to enter. He had strict instructions to leave the occupants of the room in complete privacy, but owing to urgency of situation he felt he had no other option other than to comply with what the caller on phone asked for. Door was unlocked by General Asgar who inquired in a level voice the nature of business. Lt. Zia just told him name of the caller and handed over the phone. General Asgar put the phone to his ear and ambled up to the sofa on which he was sitting earlier.
His ear was blasted by the frantic voice of Wasim Akhtar who seemed to be scared out of his wits.
“What the hell just happened General ? Bombing of Naqvi’s rally !! I tell you General, we are all screwed.”

General Asgar asked mildly, “What are you talking about Wasim ? “

“PPP rally in National stadium was bombed ! Switch on the TV for god sake. Naqvi is seriously injured and his son blown to pieces. Where are you hiding General ? Why the hell you did this ? Didn’t you think of the consequences ?” Wasim shrieked.

Voice of General Asgar suddenly took on a hard edge, “What makes you think that I’m behind this attack, Wasim ? It’s a very serious allegation that you are making “

Surprised by the change in tone of General’s voice Akhtar could only manage to stammer “But, but… what, err who could have done this ? “

“How am I supposed to know this ? Do I look like an oracle ? Keep watching TV for any updates”

“But everybody will accuse me only. PPP workers are already baying for our blood. What the hell am I supposed to do now ?“ Akhtar’s whining voice made General Asgar wince. Maintaining his composure, he replied in a cool voice, “Whoever did this will soon take responsibility. Your name will not be dragged in to this. “

“But what about those crazy Sindhis ? They’ve already made up their minds that I’m behind this ! Their leaders have already started mobilising supporters to avenge this bombing. “

“I believe that your men are well trained and suitably armed to defend themselves against any such stupid attacks. You yourself are guarded well enough” General Asgar smiled to himself.

“But you are missing the consequences. Even though Mushtaq was not a candidate, elections can be postponed indefinitely due to his death. All the efforts that we had put in too discredit Naqvi and Gilani will be neutralised by the sympathy wave. “

“You don’t need to worry about that either. You have my support and only you’ll win these elections. When was the last time free and fair elections were held in Pakistan anyway? “ General Asgar laughed loudly at his own joke.

“Are you really sure about this General ? Remember our fortunes are tied to each other. If I go down you go down too”

“ I realise that very well Mian Wasim. Both of us will certainly get what we both need. Just relax and stop worrying about it. I want you to do one thing for your own sake. Organise a press conference as soon as possible and announce your shock and sorrow at this tremendous loss to nation. Just don’t overdo the sympathy bit and go out publicly. Wait for someone to take responsibility for the attack. Do you understand me ?”

Wasim Akhtar replied like an obedient school boy to his teacher, “ Yes General. I understand perfectly well.”

General Asgar put down the phone and smiled at the only other occupant of the room, General Mao Hu of People Liberation Army, China. “ You might have guessed it by now, it was future PM of Pakistan asking his trusty general for advice in face of what he thinks is a colossal crisis”

General Hu replied, “Of course. It was only logical that he did. I assume that you were able to calm him down. Everything going according to plans ?”

“As always. Would you mind if I turn up the volume on TV ? I think that they are broadcasting what I’ve been waiting for.”

They both turned their attention to TV screen on which the news channel was playing voice recording of a man who claimed to be member of a new Paksitani Islamic organisation, Al Mujahideen committed to cleanse Muslim nations of corruption and immorality. He claimed full responsibility of the attack on PPP rally and blamed Naqvis of bringing shame to whole Islamic world by their corrupt ways and allegiance to kafir USA. Within minutes of broadcast of this recording, another channel played a recording made by Haqqani’s eldest son who claimed that he had personally planned this attack to avenge the death of his father due to intelligence provided by Paki govt. Soon, all the channels were full of self-styled experts debating and analysing this new development and “who-really-dunnit” began in earnest.

General Asgar turned down the volume and remarked, “ These TV channels remind me of a circus that I once visited as a child. . Shall we resume discussing our plans ? “