Thursday, June 30, 2011

PNS Mehran Naval base attack - Time to reverse the policies or another nail in the coffin?

A fire truck is parked near a damaged aircraft

Abbottabad attack was some way justifiable for Pakistani army. After all, in normal situations not many countries in the world dare to attack a US aircraft even if it crossed the borders. In the case of Abbottabad US with its full stealth technology may be able to reach the city without making any traces in Pakistani radars (or all the Pakistani radars are facing east?), or simply Pakistani army allowed it, or simply they were unable stop it. As US drones regularly hitting targets inside Pakistan there is nothing new in that. It is another matter that Pakistani army may not be able to sell these arguments to the people or people may find it too hard to digest.

But in the case of PNS Mehran naval base attack things are different. This is one of the premier naval stations in the nation and also hosts US supplied PC-3 Orion aircrafts - the core group of Pakistan’s early warning system. 

According to the reports, insurgents scaled the rear wall to enter the base, then exploited a blind spot between the security cameras and moved (some reports indicate that they were able to travel 1.5km inside the facility) to the area where Orion aircrafts are parked. During the 16 hour long attack insurgents were able to destroy two Orion aircrafts (equipped with Hawkeye 2000 AEW system), another helicopter and at least 10 Pakistani officers. It is believed that four terrorists were killed and two managed to escape.

An armed military official cordons off the entrance
This is not the first time insurgents are targeting Pakistani institutions, earlier they attacked air force bases, busses carrying servicemen, visiting Sri Lankan cricket team, at least five offices of ISI, Army’s national Head Quarters in Rawalpindi - which killed 16 and lasted for at least 24 hours etc. Apart from this; numerous bomb blasts are rocking various Pakistani cities and the situation is worse in Af-Pak border - a place where Pakistani establishments have virtually no control apart from the geographical maps.

These insurgent activities raise many questions about the future of Pakistan as a working country. Already its economy is on the bottom - which for many decades after independence clocked more growth rate than her eastern neighbour, resources are flowing to strengthen its army - which is more concentrated in eastern border than on the places where it needs to be, chronic power shortages are crippling industry and people alike, civilian establishment- which for its part publishing statement after statements which seldom results in actions, growing terrorist activities - yet the authorities aren’t interested in cracking down India centric terror groups. 

There is no doubt that today or tomorrow US will exit from Afghanistan with or without making it stable - after all Afghanistan has no border with US but Pakistan has. The growing insurgency in Afghanistan may or may not offer a strategic depth for Pakistan but it will certainly keep the border provinces out of government’s control. Once after the exit, US may be more sensitive to the safety of Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal and the growing insurgency in the country.

Contrary to Pakistani wishes, China may not be able to replace US completely in Pakistan equation. They have their own priorities, limitations and there is no doubt that a safe Pakistan will better serve Chinese interests too. They may help in developing natural resources and funding other projects but will not be interested in running Pakistani economy and may not be able to spend/grant that much amount of money to Pakistan as US does.

Pakistani army commandos drive through the main gate
As far as India threat is concerned - which Pakistani establishment used to play when all other doors are closed, a war with Pakistan will be the last option in New Delhi's priority list. India will not be interested in a full scale war with Pakistan, it is the last thing Indian industry and her delicate economy can afford. The situation in other neighbouring countries like Iran or Tajikistan will remain more or less the same as far as Pakistan is concerned.

It’s the time for Pakistani establishment to think about themselves. A bomb planted in street can’t recognize whom to kill and whom not - no matter even if it is a common man or a general in uniform. So if the military establishment is not ready to take the insurgency head on, it will not take much time to change the country from a working anarchy to full chaos.

According to a recent New York Times report "There is no evidence that any nuclear weapons were kept in the base’s arsenal, though they are believed to be stored in large numbers about 15 miles away." The words just 15 miles away requires special attention here, this raises questions about the safety of Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal. If terrorists can attack and able to hold on for atleast 16 hours in a premier Pakistani naval facility, apart from destroying some of the priced assets of Pakistani Navy, then the attack on a nuclear installation is not a remote possibility.

Just imagine a takeover of a nuclear facility by terrorist organizations - they may not be able to launch a full bomb to a neighbouring or remote country. But certainly their hand will reach to the fuse of some of the killer weapons human beings ever developed. Do we really need any Chernobyl (accidental explosions) or Hiroshima (target bombing)?

Time is not too late; still they can deviate from the path which leads to total chaos and alter their future, but it requires a strong political will to carry out deep reforms. Reforms have to be started from the educational system - putting a blind eye towards a modern educational system will not lead the nation anywhere. The second one is to recognize what India really means to them - Partition and wars are part of the history, it should not come in the way of future. If Pakistani establishment is not able to solve the Kashmir problem then leave it for the time being, let the status-quo go on, if both nations are not able to find a solution for Sir-creek then leave it - let the status-quo go on. But there are many other fields where we can cooperate; for example trade, power etc. There are more things to trade than weapons, more things to study than military doctrines and certainly more ways to live than die as a suicide bomber.

Still she is the most powerful Islamic country. But the question is, will Pakistan try to become a working democracy country like India, Turkey and become a ray of hope or will it become another Somalia? Future is in the hands of current Pakistani military establishment and her civilian government. Mogadishu is not so far...


Photo Courtesy : Yahoo, OnePakistan

Hatf IX – A warm start for Nuclear Proliferation?


Short range missiles are used to target - neighbouring countries, advancing enemy columns, military formations etc. The same thing is applicable for Pakistan's new short range missile - Hatf IX NASR too, which, according to Pakistan's claims, successfully test fired on April 19, 2011.

What make this missile interesting is its nuclear delivery capability and short range. With a range as low as 60km; this surface to surface, multi tube ballistic missile can cover a distance equivalent to that of a bus in one hour (if it is travelling at a speed of 60kph).

Because of its short range it can only target neighbouring countries and cities close to its border, apart from the advancing conventional enemy formations. And who are these neighbours of Pakistan? - Afghanistan, Iran, India, China and Tajikistan.  The question of who is the target is irrelevant to a person who knows (/lives) something about the geopolitics of South Asia.

The main problem with this missile is its nuclear delivery capability over a short range. Hatf IX NASR can carry, low yield (less than one kiloton) nuclear war heads. This is believed to be Pakistan’s answer for India's ‘Cold Start’ war doctrine. If this shadow boxing is limited to doctrinal level then it was ok, but unfortunately this may not be the case.

Hatf IX is a multi tube ballistic missile which can be launched form a Transporter Erector Launcher (TEL), which can in turn carry two missiles at a time. For effective use at the time of war, this missile has to be in the battle field. Even in the absence of war, this missile can’t be far from Pakistan’s eastern border, as it is designed for a quick answer to India's Cold Start limited war doctrine.

This may act as an effective deterrent against a limited war as Pakistan says and likes; but in the battle field situation, who will determine when to fire? What will happen if officers in the battlefield overruled Military Head Quarters and fired the missiles with nuclear war head? Just imagine a PNS Meharan style coordinated terrorist attack (lasted for more than 10 hours and the insurgents were able to destroy two PC3-Orion aircraft) in the army bases were the Hatf IX NASR is deployed.  Won’t they get more than enough time to launch the rocket?  And nobody can guarantee that they will target only the institutions in Pakistan.
Moreover even if it is launched by Pakistani regulars, the results will not be good. Border cities in India are heavily populated and the after effects of nuclear pollution are severe, as the range is small this will affect Pakistan also.

These types of missiles will definitely lead to the miniaturization of atomic bombs which in turn not only increase the risk  but also help in its proliferation; just imagine the situation, where the terrorist are playing with miniaturized atom bombs as they are doing now with Kalashnikov rifles. Today desperate Gaddafi may not be able to launch a coordinate attack against NATO’s fighter formations, but tomorrow NATO may be welcomed by sub kiloton Plutonium bombs.

At this point it is good for the both nations (India and Pakistan) to concentrate on talks, even if it didn’t produce any results, at least it may establish a contact between them. For Pakistan, it is better to invest these huge amounts in infrastructure development, education, other necessities and go against domestic terrorists which killed more Pakistanis than all the wars with India combined.


Photo Courtesy: Inter Service Public Relations (Pakistan Government)

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Overvaluing Outcomes - Will the end justify the means?

What is your idea about results? How are you evaluating the results? Are you more interested in result and process followed to get it; or just as the old proverb says ‘End justifies the means’?

If recent trends are to be believed, there is an alarming tendency to reward results and overlook the way he/she taken to achieve it. If some projects are showing success/ a company is posting regular growth are we less concerned about the way they are achieve these results? If a medicine shows successful results for some years, will we make it as a priority to investigate, whether the company followed rigorous testing and evaluation process? 

This is not limited to an individual; sometimes the system also works in coordination by looking in to the procedure word by word and overlooks the actual intention of the procedures and policies. There are times when people look in to the policies and follow it word by word, without considering the intention of the policies. Policies are often in place to help the people associated with it. But many times system will read the policies verbally and make it sure that individual will not get any benefit. Sometimes policy can be flawed too – only satisfying the cosmetic needs of the individual but leaving the emergency needs. 

That’s why you may get a vehicle loan instantaneously but for starting a business it may never come. You may be able to get an exemption, a leave from attending something by submitting some certificates, but may not be able to get an exemption for a genuine reason. Malthus law can be modified for this purpose, if there is a possibility for anything to go wrong, the system will make sure that it will go wrong when it required the most.

There is an interesting study related to overlooking the process and concentrating on results by Bazerman and Tenbrunsel appearing in HBR’s April edition.

“Many managers are guilty of rewarding results rather than high quality decisions. An employee may make a poor decision that turns out well and be rewarded for it or a good decision that turns out poorly and be punished. Rewarding unethical decisions because they have good outcomes is a recipe for disaster over the long term.

The Harvard psychologist Fiery Cushman and his colleagues tell the story of two quick-tempered brothers, Jon and Matt, neither of whom has a criminal record. A man insults their family Jon wants to kill the guy: he pulls out and fires a gun but misses, and the target is unharmed. Matt wants only to scare the man but accidently shoots and kills him. In United States and in many other countries, Matt can expect a far more serious penalty than Jon. It is clear that laws often punish bad outcomes more aggressively than bad intentions.

Bezerman's research with Francesca Gino and Don Moore, Of Carnegie Mellon University, highlights people's inclination to judge actions on the basis of whether harm follows rather than on their actual ethicality. We followed following stories to two groups of participants.

Both stories begin: "A pharmaceutical researcher defines a clear protocol for determining whether or not to include clinical patients as data points in a study. He is running short of time to collect sufficient data points for his study with in an important budgetary cycle in his firm."

Story A continues: "As the deadline approaches, he notices that for subjects were withdrawn from the analysis due to technicalities. He believes that the data in fact are appropriate to use, and when he adds that data points, the results move from not quite statistically significant to significant. He adds these data points, and soon the drug goes to market. The drug is later withdrawn from the market after it kills six patients and injures hundreds of others."

Story B continues: "He believes that the product is safe and effective. As the deadline approaches, he notices that if he had four more data points for how subjects are likely to behave the analysis would be significant. He makes up these data points, and soon the drug goes to the market. This drug is a profitable and effective drug, and years later show no significant side effects."

After participants read one or the other story, we asked them, "How unethical do you view the researcher to be?" Those who read the story A were much more critical of the researcher than were those who read story B, and felt that he should be punished more harshly. Yes, as we see it, the researcher's behavior was more unethical in story B than in story A. And that is how other study participants saw it when we removed the last sentence - the outcome - from each story.

Managers can make the same kind of judgment mistake, overlooking unethical behaviors when outcomes are good and unconsciously helping to undermine the ethicality of their organizations. They should beware this bias; examine the behaviors that drive good outcomes, and reward quality decisions, not just results.”

©This article contains a section from the article ‘Ethical Breakdowns’ by Max H. Bazerman, Ann E. Tenbrunsel; Harvard Business Review, South Asia - April 2011 issue. This section is republished here after getting the permissions from HBR Team.
#Max H. Bazerman is the Jesse Isidor Straus Professor of Business Administration at Harvard Business School.
#Ann E. Tenbrunsel is the Rex and Alice A. Martin Professor of Business Ethics and the Research Director of the Institute for Ethical Business Worldwide at the University of Notre Dame.