The nightingale’s torment…


Post by takhalus
Rahman Baba was a famous 17th century Pashtun poet and sufi, nicknamed the nightingale of Peshawar. A symbol of Pashtun culture and poetry, his contribution to Pashtun culture was acknowledged by the provincial government which constructed a mazar near Peshawar city in his honour.

Writer William Dalrymple wrote about the mystic nature of Rahman Baba in this article back in 2004:

Last autumn I visited a Sufi shrine just outside Peshawar in the North West Frontier province of Pakistan. Rahman Baba was a 17th-century mystic poet, and his tomb has for centuries been a place where musicians and poets have gathered. A friend who lived nearby in the 1980s advised me to go on a Thursday night when great crowds of Pathans would sing mystical love songs to their saint by the light of the moon.
“What can we do?” he replied. “We pray that right will overpower wrong. But our way is pacifist. We love. We never fight. When these Arabs come here I don’t know what to do.”

I asked the guardian of the shrine what had happened to the musicians.

“My family have been singing here for generations,” he told me. “But now these Arab madrasa students come here and create trouble. They tell us that what we do is wrong. Sometimes arguments break out – even fist fights and brawls.

“Before the Afghan war there was nothing like this. It only began when Reagan and the Saudis starting sending jihadis to Peshawar. Before that the Pushtuns here loved Sufism. Now trouble happens more and more frequently.”

A prophetic comment, as yesterday morning the shrine was bombed by militants, according to the dailytimes

Locals said the administration had also been warned before the attack to stop women from visiting the shrine.

While he would not have recognised the explosives used, Rahman Baba would have recognised this attempt by the masters of religiosity to destroy his philosophy. After all.. he was targetted by the mullahs of his time..he wrote

“I couldn’t find peace in my search for him. It became unlawful for me to be careless in my religion.”

…and sadly so it had again…rest in peace, Rahman Baba.

P.S the systematic targetting of Pashtun culture in NWFP and FATA is something which I shall be writing about another time.


Myths about radio jamming

The Taliban are thought to be operating weak mobile transmitters. A mobile transmitter that can be carried on a bicycle or motorcycle will have to be very weak. It will need to run off of batteries and also have a low antenna (low antennas limit transmission range since the signal is more likely to be blocked by obstacles such as trees, hills, houses, and buildings). So realistically, the Taliban’s mobile transmitters will be limited to below 1kW almost definitely and most likely below 500W (especially for the bicycle version). It simply cannot compete with a large, stationary transmitter with a dedicated diesel generator acting as a power supply. A small radio station can easily output 100kW of effective power (a term for the combination of the true transmitter power and the gain from the antenna), and its very tall antenna will make sure that signal reaches just about every receiver in the area without being blocked. Army equipment, which is not artificially limited by government regulations, can easily surpass this.

Some common claims about the “impossibility” of jamming the Swati Taliban’s radio station and why they are incorrect

1. The Taliban are using mobile transmitters so they can’t be tracked, let alone jammed effectively.
This is a basic misunderstanding of how jamming works. When you jam a signal, you do not do anything to the transmitter itself. There is no high power beam that you shine on the transmitter that somehow makes it stop. Instead, radio jamming works by sending a competing signal to the receivers you are interested in (in this case, home radios). The stronger signal will win and the other signal will be silenced. FM radio, in particular, is very easy to jam due to something called the capture effect. FM radio receivers used in homes and cars are designed to eliminate noise and interference by locking onto the strongest signal available and suppressing weaker signals. This allows a clear, static free broadcast even when neighboring radio stations accidentally overlap on the same frequency (or nearby frequencies). An AM radio, on the other hand, does not distinguish noise and interference from the true signal, so you end up with static or even several voices talking over each other.

As a consequence, jamming an AM source requires lots of power and the resulting reception will be unintelligible because you have to completely drown out the competing signal with a uniformly loud tone (otherwise you could hear the original signal during the quiet moments). However, jamming an FM signal requires only marginally more power than what your opponent is delivering and you can deliver a coherent signal such as an alternative broadcast or even silence.

2. The radios can’t be jammed because they constantly switch frequencies.

Frequency switching is a defense against jamming only when the receivers are also programmed to switch frequencies. By switching between dozens of frequencies every second, it becomes very difficult to jam because you have to send a strong jamming signal for each of those frequencies. This multiplies your cost (in terms of equipment and power) by as many frequencies as your opponent is using. However, home and car radios are not programmed to switch frequencies in conjunction with other devices. If the Taliban transmitted on 50 different frequencies the broadcast would be unintelligible to a home listener because they would only receive 1/50 of the data. FM works by transmitting on one primary frequency called the carrier and a very small neighborhood of frequencies around it, which contains the actual sound information. When you tune your radio to 88.1, that is actually locking the receiver into the 88.1MHz frequency range plus or minus 100kHz for the sound data. If the Taliban switched from 88.1MHz to 96.3MHz, your radio would go silent until you also switched.

The Taliban may be using advanced frequency hopping for their own strategic communications — there are commercially available walkie-talkies that do this — but they could not possibly be using that technology to broadcast their programs to the public because regular FM radios do not support it.

3. The military can’t jam the FM radio without also jamming their own radio communications, in effect harming more than helping.

This suggestion is just silly. While FM can be broadcast on any frequency, consumer radios are only designed to receive FM transmissions in a certain range of frequencies — typically from around 85MHz to 110MHz (though in most regions the range is smaller). The military uses frequencies outside this band to avoid interference to and from civilian FM transmissions. The entire FM radio range could be jammed with absolutely no effect on military communications — or indeed, cell phones, television reception, wireless networks, or anything else. Frequencies are distinct and broadcasting or jamming one range of frequencies doesn’t impact other ranges.

As you can see, jamming a weak transmitter is almost trivial, whether it’s mobile or not, and no matter where it’s located in your target region. You will never be able to jam it 100% since it will always dominate a small area around it, but you can quite limit that area of dominance to a tiny area that makes it insignificant and prevents your opponent from achieving their information goals.

Another technique that could be used by the army which would be more direct is simply using a direction finder and then physically finding and shutting down the transmitters. An FM broadcast is a notoriously easy signal to track because it makes absolutely no effort to hide itself (such as by employing frequency hopping as noted above), unlike military communications. Free plans for building an FM signal locator can be found with a quick google search. The army even has a special type of missile called an anti-radiation missile that has such direction finding hardware built in. From Wikipedia

“An anti-radiation missile (ARM) is a missile which is designed to detect and home in on an enemy radio emission source. Typically these are designed for use against an enemy radar, although jammers and even radios used for communication can also be targeted in this manner.”

ARM missiles are expensive so this would not be an effective use of resources. However, in principle, the army could use basic direction finding equipment to track the signal from a helicopter, fly near the location, visually spot the transmitter, and disable it with a machine gun.

A brief overview of radio broadcasting Continue reading

Swat: local issue?

This episode of Kal Tak about the agreement with TNSM is essential watching to understand why no secular parties will ever be able to challenge the combination of religious parties (who ostensibly are opposed to the Taliban, yeah right!), right-wing media, and the Taliban.

The host Javed Chauhdry talks at length about this being a local issue, transitioning directly from the abolition of the princely state of Swat to the TNSM movement (Javed Chaudhry doesn’t mention PATA regulation directly, all he says is that the people of Swat were not used to “English” laws and couldn’t adjust, and then the TNSM movement started). Rahat Hussain, the JUI-F senator, pretty much follows the same line, emphasizing that this is a local movement.

Then Muslim Khan, TNSM spokesman, calls in and contradicts everything Javed Chaudhry and Rahat Hussain said by explicitly saying that their movement is not just for Swat, not just for Pakistan, but for the whole world.

Marvi Memon (PML-Q MNA) starts talking and makes two points: 1. Pakistan already follows Shariah because of clause in the constitution about no laws in Pakistan going against Islam, and 2) even if Shariah was to be brought to the rest of Pakistan, there are “thousands” of ways to establish it. Rahat Hussain immediately debunks these arguments by saying that there is theory (constitution) and practice (penal code) and that having that clause in the constitution does not mean that Pakistani law is, in practice, Shariah. No one can say anything to oppose that. Infuriatingly, after making this unassailable argument for Shariah in the whole country, Rahat Hussain immediately transitions into talking about the issue being local to Swat.

Rogue ISI

Owen Bennett-Jones, writing in February 2008:

It is often said that any support being given to the Taliban is coming from unauthorized Islamist elements in the mid-levels of the ISI. In the past, similar claims were made about support for Kashmiri militants. In reality, though, the backing of the Kashmiri militants was never a freelance operation: the ISI was implementing state policy. The organization is led by senior army officers who are rotated in and out for two- or three-year stints. Not only does this prevent the establishment of an institutionalized “ISI view,” it also means that General Musharraf has been able to fill the upper echelons of the agency with his loyalists. The idea of the ISI being a rogue organization acting in defiance of government policy is now, and always has been, a myth that has provided convenient cover for the Pakistan establishment. If the ISI is supporting the Taliban, it is because General Musharraf has ordered it to do so.

some history

  • In November, A.Z. Hilali, writing in the Frontier Post had a good summary of the numerous problems facing Swat. On the same site, I also read a really interesting history of the princely state of Swat.
  • While searching for some history on the Razakar movement in Hyderabad, I found this blog post that provides a good summary of the history of the Hyderabad princely state:

    Qasim Razvi and his Razakars

    Pakistan was quite interested in the events unfolding in Hyderabad Princely State. Qasim Razvi, a strong proponent of Pro-Pakistan lobby, and his militia, called Razakars, was supported by Pakistan to create unrest in the region.

    The Communist Party of India took arms and created a rebellion of peasants against Nizam Rule and the landlords. It was the first of its kind in India where peasants revolted against landlords (called Zamindars) and kicked them out. The land was seized from the landlords and distributed to the landless. Nizam took the help of Razakars to crackdown on rebellion. The infamous Razakar Movement has results in many deaths. Razakars resorted to robbery, rape, murder and arson. Many people escaped to nearby districts in Maharashtra during this time.

    Annexation of Hyderabad

    Sardar Vallabhai Patel under Nehru Government decided to intervene. The police action, called Operation Polo, was launched on 13th September, 1948. Within four days, Osman Ali Khan, the Nizam, surrendered. So, the people of living in Hyderabad State obtained Independence after one year, on 17th September, 1948.

    What followed next is an extremely sad episode of Hyderabad State. 27,000 Muslims or more were killed as a reaction against Razakar Movement. The worst affected regions were rural areas where Muslims were in minority. The badly affected regions were Osmanabad, Gulbarga, Bidar and Nanded. Many Muslims poured into Hyderabad city to escape from Hindu backlash.

Hezbollah’s shots ring in Bush’s ears

The author argues that President Bush’s trip to the Middle East is taking place at a time when Washington’s Middle Eastern policy is at its lowest ebb. The events in Lebanon are particularly harmful since it was only three years ago that he hailed the “Cedar Revolution” as the kind of political event that the Iraq war was meant to launch. The article quotes Jon Alterman, a Middle East specialist at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, who says, “It’s hard to remember a less auspicious time to pursue Arab-Israeli peacemaking than right now.”

Article: Hezbollah’s shots ring in Bush’s ears
Author: Jim Lobe
Publication: The Asia Times

The Lebanon Crisis (2): Hizbullah’s Victory and its Regional Implications

The authors argue that the victory of Hizbullah and Amal over the Lebanese government will have have a critical impact on the security of Arab regime allied with the U.S and on Israel. The Druze leader, Walid Jumblatt, whose militias are involved in the final stages of a clash with Hezbollah forces in Northern Lebanon is quoted as saying “[…]we are waiting for Hizbullah, Iran, and Syria to determine the rules of the game.” The article also reports on critical reactions to Hizbullah’s takeover by the Saudi government, the Saudi press, and the Egyptian press

Article: The Lebanon Crisis (2): Hizbullah’s Victory and its Regional Implications
Authors: Y. Carmon and B. Chernitsky

How the Arab League might at least put Lebanon on the right track

The editorial board of the Daily Star argues that the task ahead of the Arab League’s mission to Lebanon has actually been made easier by the events of the last week since it is now clear that Hezbollah holds more power in the nation than any other group.

Article:How the Arab League Mission might at least put Lebanon on the right track
Author: The Daily Star Editorial Board
Publication: The Daily Star (Lebanon)