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3

While people question govts in a democracy, in India the govt questions anyone questioning unaccountable govt actions. And supporters think that while India was a democracy under UPA, under Modi it has become some kind of Hindu Empire and questioning the king means "off with their heads" sort of thing. For some reason, Ritesh Dwivedy confused private individuals, not elected to public positions nor employed by public funds, as those accountable to him for their personal views and actions. And then sulked and asked again when no one thought him important enough to consider seriously. Entertaining as it is, he clearly seems to be disoriented as to who his rights as a citizen entitle him to answers from, so trying to help him find his way in the muddle this alleged democracy is becoming.

Clarifying some problems he appears to be facing. All quotes from one or the other article linked above unless explicitly mentioned.

Aadhaar is a unique indigenous innovation that empowers every Indian by providing them with a secure and verifiable identity.

This statement is completely unsubstantiated and likely at the root of all the confusion. He has been informed a lot of glorious things about Aadhaar. They are not necessarily true. Verification is an important skill in today's times when the government routinely lies to people in order to get them to believe, like Ritesh Dwivedy, whatever they wish people to believe.

Aadhaar is going to be the backbone of India becoming a developed country, and is receiving global acclaim from entities like Bill Gates, The Economist, the World Bank, Raoul Pal, and others.

These guys? Why wouldn't foreign power cartels appreciate the tool that hands them power over India on a platter? Big data is big power and leaky big data is big control without accountability for opportunists. Who needs terrorists when you have hackers and crucial data of the entire country is in a form the government has little ability to secure? Is this government supposed to serve their interests or those of citizens? Of course the other two pillars of this servitude by this government are demonetisation and promotion of cashless transactions in a country they forgot to get fully on the internet first. That is how dumb this government is. If such a database were empowerment, why is it being forced on third world countries?

One whiff of WannaCry and RBI has all ATMs shut down. On the other hand, it is the country with all these people praising us (without US doing it themselves) created the ransomware originally. To get a better perspective, they have actually done an attack on a nuclear facility in Iran with Stuxnet. Our idea of security is "don't enter random numbers for Aadhaar or we will consider it hacking" - a freaking bank did a replay attack on the Aadhaar database while "testing" their setup and neither are replay attacks prevented after that, nor the known "violators" refused access to Aadhaar - we are fucking out of our league on competence. It is like praising a 5 year old for writing all his secrets in his "private" diary in its hiding place behind the park bench. Except the 5 year old is writing down the security codes for getting into their home. Oh wait Indian homes don't have security alarms and such. Oops sorry.

Think of it like this. If Aadhaar is this easy to misuse, it will be misused and it is being misused and so far people have just got away with it while those who exposed flaws got arrested.

How many more years do you want India to remain a ‘developing’ nation?

Forever. I hope India never stops developing. How many years do you want India to be a banana republic wannabe pleasing foreign powers at the cost of citizens?

Why are you silent on all the benefits we are seeing as a result of Aadhaar?

For the same reason I'd be silent if my 5 year old came home happily telling me about her new best friend. A grown man acting in a shady manner, whom she thinks is absolutely fantastic. There are problems that are visible to one with experience on the subject. Just because all my daughter knows about the nice man in the park is that he gives candy doesn't mean it is a good thing.

Waise, why are you silent on the countless problemswe are seeing as a result of Aadhaar?

Why are you misleading the Indian public about Aadhaar through fear-mongering and sensationalism?

Why are you misleading the Indian public about Aadhaar through false assurances and "bagon mein bahar hai"?

Why are you willing to give biometrics to foreign govts and corporations, but not to your own govt?

Because our government is proved to be incompetent with data security. There isn't a single other biometric database that can be queried for identity by any Tom, Dick and Harry - because it is an idiot idea to begin with, with too high error rates to be efficient at what it claims to do and too poor security to protect citizens from the risks such a database presents. Nor is anyone in this circus apparently interested or aware that citizens have rights in a democracy and you can't just say "Idea, let me make the whole country do whatever I wish AND foot the economic and security costs of my whims without question". BJP was right on Aadhaar when UPA was in power. Today BJP has sold the country out a hundred times more than UPA even planned (though no guarantees, it is the same creeps even now. Only the sarkari gullibles have changed) Incidentally, I haven't given my biometrics to foreign governments and corporations, and most Indians have not.  Also foreign governments and companies have limited use of my biometrics, unlike the Aadhaar, which is being forcibly attached to absolutely every important transaction a person can do from hospitalizations to bank accounts, property to crop insurance. Misuse or denial has the power to literally finish the ability of a person to access own funds, communicate, live in own home or even survive if medical needs. No foreign government has been stupid enough to enslave own or other citizens this badly. Yet.

Tell you what, you do some homework and hardwork and expose some of that data you are comparing Aadhaar to, then we will have some grounds for an actual comparison, yes? Good part is, those guys won't even arrest you, you'll actually earn bug bounties. So not even risky like fighting Aadhaar under a totalitarian state.

Why are you opposed to using technology to benefit the nation?

Next you will say any and all technology is benefit only. Like the govt spamming me daily is benefit to the country, etc. Technology isn't inherently good or bad. I am opposed to insecure technology being used to generate big data for power cartels at the cost of citizens. Benefiting the government and benefiting the nation are not necessarily the same thing. Just like dissent is a right and opposing the government is not anti-national. A government is a temporary entity that changes every five years. My nationality doesn't change every five years. Get your civics right and a lot of these government peddling issues will get sorted.

Why speak half-truths and ignore the lakhs of people who are getting benefits for the first time because of Aadhaar?

Next you will say babies are being conceived because of Aadhaar only. In a country this size, people are constantly becoming eligible for something or the other. It isn't because of Aadhaar. Aadhaar makes you eligible for zero benefits. It is simply the dog in the manger inserted by the government that PREVENTS otherwise eligible people from getting benefits because the government chooses to deprive them unless they surrender their privacy for it. Think about it. It is actually an imposed indignity. I will forcibly take your fingerprints if you want the pension you spent your entire career working towards. This is helplessness. Not benefit.

Cleaning up the PDS system - for example - requires cleaning up the PDS system. It doesn't take fingerprints to know whether someone is eligible for PDS. But authentication issues sure have deprived loads of people whom you are ignoring while pointing fingers in an increasingly crazed manner.

And this is me talking because you irritated enough people that they pesterd me to reply, but the information is from the government. Most people who got Aadhaar already had documents to provide proof of address and identity for it.

 

And so on. Not bothering to read or reply further. Because personal attacks are not arguments and this is plenty to entertain those who wanted to see you get a reply. Just because you make an assumption doesn't mean it is true. Nor are you relevant enough to the larger picture to take seriously.

Return with data, technical arguments, fact based information that isn't just "But why don't you ignore all the ghastly stuff and just meditate on all the pretty?" or consider this post the answer for anything you write on the subject till eternity.

3

The government of India doesn't seem to be interested in getting security vulnerabilities fixed. A CS engineer, Bhavyanshu Parasher, has been spending his time understanding the current security standards deployed by the government of India in most of its data-critical apps and websites. Last year, in September, he disclosed a security flaw in Prime Minster Narendra Modi's web API that exposed user identifiable information like e-mail addresses and also that there was no proper authentication check for API endpoints. During that disclosure, he faced challenges because it was difficult for him to get in touch with concerned authorities. He mentioned on his blog that e-mail address mentioned on Google's Play Store were not working. We had to contact @buzzindelhi (the handle used by BJP's Arvind Gupta on Twitter) to help him get in touch with the concerned authorities.

"The e-mail address provided on Google's Play Store returned a response stating “The email account that you tried to reach is over quota”. Had to get in touch with authorities via Twitter."

Now, the same thing is happening again. He wants to disclose vulnerabilities in two major applications deployed by the Government of India but he is struggling to get in touch with the concerned authorities. He has published a post on his blog about it though he has not mentioned the specifics of the vulnerabilities yet, as he is hoping the government will patch them before he discloses them. However, this may be rendered moot, as our searches showed that at least one of the vulnerabilities has already been publicly disclosed, but not by Bhavyanshu. That security flaw is in an unpatched version of server software and there is a CVE assigned to it. Fix has been rolled out but developers are not aware of any of this. But then why wouldn't it be so? UIDAI website still uses SSLv2 and SHA1 encoding in a world where SSLv2 has been phased out for over a decade now, and even free SSL certificates like the one used on this site come with SHA2 encoding because SHA1 isn't considered secure. You can go to the UIDAI website and check this for yourself in your browser details for the SSL certificate.

UIDAI ssl fail
UIDAI SSL fail

Bhavyanshu sent emails on March 24 and then again on April 4, but he hasn't received any response. This time @buzzindelhi isn't showing much enthusiasm in getting the vulnerabilities fixed either. In response he just directed him to the public Twitter handle of Akhilesh Mishra (Director, myGov). Hardly an acceptable process for initiating discussion about security breaches!

https://twitter.com/buzzindelhi/status/714658965703958528

One would expect Mr. Mishra to contact Bhavyanshu immediately, but the truth is that even he isn't interested.There is, as yet, no reply from him.

It is cases like these which make the whole concept of Digital India look ugly. There are no dedicated e-mail addresses for security response teams. Official e-mail addresses don't work and the apps are poor on security. It is a goldmine for unethical hackers and a complete deterrent for ethical hackers who would like to help the government fix security leaks. There is no way for the researchers to get in touch with the concerned authorities. A concept like Digital India, without guaranteed user data security and user privacy, should not be promoted by the Government of India as it puts many people at risk.

Considering the complete lack of interest in securing the vulnerabilities, we cannot provide too many details. However, people looking to exploit government data would already have found these and would be using them by now. This isn't exactly rocket science. What data is vulnerable? Let us just say that I have seen e-mail addresses, Aadhaar numbers (where provided) and street addresses and can confidently say that a malicious hacker could write a script that replicates the data for all profiles. And before you think that such things are not done, just today, Madhu Menon posted a link to the hacked and leaked Turkish citizenship database.

A similar database of MyGov.in users could prove devastating to BJP, given that their supporters are disproportionately more likely to have signed up. And while Bhavyanshu stresses that he would not do it, it isn't outside the realm of belief that more malicious hackers not just could, but definitely would. And there seems to be no way to prevent this short of raising a public stink, because a government that claims to be interested in a Digital India does not seem to have the foggiest on digital security and the need to have developer teams rapidly rolling out fixes in the event vulnerabilities are found.

"Seems like the government doesn't have dedicated security team for projects that need immediate attention to security flaws. Instead, people who wish to disclose vulnerabilities have to rely on Twitter handles to get in touch with them. I am doing a lot of volunteer work like this because I like the concept of Digital India but I don't want it without data security and privacy. I have written a web app that will help eliminate this communication gap between researchers and authorities but whom to contact? Who are the concerned authorities after all? Don't give me another Twitter handle!" , Bhavyanshu told me when asked about the current status of vulnerability disclosure. He also pointed us to privacy policy of MyGov and why people should push government for better data security.

The page for MyGov.in on HackerOne - a bug bounty program by security leaders of top internet companies like Facebook, Microsoft and Google (that rewards hackers for finding and reporting vulnerabilities so that they can be fixed) says it all "There are no known guidelines for reporting potential security vulnerabilities to this organization." Even the fact that the app has no known process for reporting vulnerabilities is an immediate flag. It tells hackers that there is no one keeping an eye on it or worried about security. The most beginning programmer puts a working address on Google Play for contacting the developer. Yet, the official application of the largest democracy in the world fails to do it.

Contrast this with the Hack The Pentagon challenge that is actively rewarding hackers to break in and expose security vulnerabilities so that they can be fixed. This is the country where, a few days ago, our Prime Minister gave a speech at the nuclear summit on April Fool's Day explaining the need to fight terrorists using 21st century technology with modern technology.

Yet, his government seems supremely unconcerned about unauthorized access to confidential information. As the UK just saw, in a country that uses technology extensively, a security breach can be used as an attack vector, when hackers hack into the water supply and change the composition of chemicals put into the tap water. A more famous example to recall could be the Stuxnet worm that damaged Iran's nuclear facilities. Yep. Code resulting in real time damage to equipment. We have, in the past seen that banks too can be hacked. We have seen that election equipment can be rigged. What will it take for us to wake up before our money, our vote, our voice and even our physical location is compromised?

It is completely insane to push for a Digital India and inaugurate three websites a month without having the requisite push to secure the data that will now be vulnerable to theft, or facilities to access. If Digital India must be, then it must be preceded by a culture of taking technology seriously or the whole country will inevitably suffer.

MyGov privacy policy claims to protect user identifiable information. Below are the excerpts from their policy page.

1. "MyGov do not sell or share any personally identifiable information volunteered on this site to any third party (public/private). Any information provided on MyGov will be protected from loss, misuse, unauthorized access or disclosure, alteration, or destruction. MyGov gather certain information about the User, such as Internet protocol (IP) address, domain name, browser type, operating system, the date and time of the visit and the pages visited. MyGov make no attempt to link these addresses with the identity of individuals visiting our site unless an attempt to damage MyGov has been detected."
(https://mygov.in/simple-page/terms-conditions/)

2. "Please note that MyGov do not share any personally identifiable information volunteered on this site with any third party (public/private). Any information provided to this website will be protected from loss, misuse, unauthorized access, disclosure, alteration, or destruction."
(https://mygov.in/mygov-faq/)

Turns out that like many other things, this privacy policy is a jumla as well.

58

The Baloch are sitting ducks. With the sea on one side, and Iran, Afghanistan and Pakistan, they literally have nowhere to go. The world watches in horror as a steady trickle of deaths flows through the news on a daily basis. I call it “The Baloch Black” in my mind – the season’s color, except the season doesn’t end. No one seems inclined to take risks with safety or popularity for these people – no matter what they sufer.

Pakistan holds a unique record in the world. A six decade old country with killing sprees – state sponsored killing sprees in four different places. Bangladesh, Kashmir, Afghanistan and Balochistan. In each instance, there is documented involvement of the country’s armed forces acting in collaboration with various militia – be them the Razakars, the various Kashmiri militants, the Taliban or in the case of Balochistan, the local militia. And we are not looking at torture videos from FATA, etc, because I don’t know what slot to put them in. Let’s call them extracurricular.

This, on an average amounts to one genocide every fifteen years, so to say. Not counting the boundary skirmishes with Afghanistan and India including out and out wars, not counting the terrorist training infrastructures, not counting indoctrination for conducting human rights abuse, not counting possible large scale radiation poisoning of the region, not counting sabotage of US+NATO interests and lives after explicit agreements of cooperation.

I see here a worldwide conspiracy of silence. The US in particular. The idea seems to be to not say anything that makes Pakistan unhappy unless absolutely needed. This idea is also backfiring, because career terrorists can simply change employers to remain perfectly safe, and they can take up new job opportunities once the market in Afghanistan opens on US exit. There has been no US comment on the kill and dump policy against Balochistan, there has been nothing on the massive JuD rallys with a few journalists raising alarm. Pakistan is an ally and that is that, except for selective condemnation. The rest is the gift of impunity in return for goodwill.

It is easy to say that Pakistan is a nuclear power, but that applies only to the Kashmiri Pandits. They were driven out of Kashmir, but the actual people dead by all accounts is less than a thousand. But for the other three genocides, Pakistan’s nuclear bombs cannot be called an excuse. The United States, for its own interests in the region “cultivated” Pakistan, making the Pakistani Army disproportionately powerful. Did they not have an ethical responsibility to monitor how that power was used? Wouldn’t today’s war on terror and its immense losses in life and money be prevented? Where is the accountability?

Today, the carte blanche that the world gave Pakistan has resulted in an Army/ISI state within a state. They have dragged the country into surprise wars with India, they have butchered people in their own and in neighbouring countries. The government is helpless to prevent anything they do. US itself is now helpless and expects the government to put their Frankenstein’s monster in the box again. The Pakistani on the street is living in an increasingly deprived and difficult situation, children are deprived of education and health, but the Army’s budget knows no bounds. By Pakistani Prime Minister Gilani’s own confession, in the aftermath of the killing of Osama Bin Laden, the Army stood thoroughly discredited on a moral and defensive perspective, yet their salaries were doubled as the country lived on in staggering insecurity and anger.

News reports speak of the Pakistan Army supporting the Taliban in anticipation of the US exit from Afghanistan. The astonishing part is that the strategic analysts are still peddling this as news – something that any ten year old in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Balochistan and possibly India too could have told them on the first day of the war. The pretense goes on, the drama goes on. In the meanwhile, there are people paying hideous costs. 2.3% of Afghanistan’s total population is DISABLED. The Baloch black – as I call it – just unrelenting doom and gloom in the news, continues.

Today, Balochistan is fighting desperately for independence as the world continues to watch. They have no alternative if they must live. Most Pakistanis insist that the real problem is the human rights abuse and not independence. But there is no question of human rights in Balochistan. Human rights are for humans, and there seems to be no indication that the Army/ISI think that Baloch are humans as they are kidnapped, killed, assassinated, murdered .

The killing of Brahmadagh Bugti’s sister and niece in Karachi has been understood and condemned for the chilling expansion of the war against the Baloch that it is. Yet what difference does that make? What does it mean that people understand what is happening, if it cannot result in any change what so ever? There is NO ONE in Pakistan that can prevent the Army/ISI from doing what they want. The Court has not succeeded in bringing about justice for the numerous crimes against the Baloch stagnating and accumulating.

In a post Fukushima world jittery about radiation, the Baloch are living with alleged significant contamination of their area with no recourse to even measuring for confirmation and identification of risk areas. There is no monitoring, there is no information on if and how much radioactive contamination exists. Last year, American soldiers who served in Afghanistan had radiation levels in their urine. They have been attributed to tactical nukes by commentators, and denied as inexplicable by the official speakers. What if they are from the contamination of the area they worked in? It is close to the area of Balochistan that has been contaminated.

There is no information about the real situation except for photos of deformities and descriptions of illness that can match radiation exposure, but there is no way of knowing without tests being allowed, and Pakistan doesn’t allow independent access to the region for such work. Pakistan had even refused humanitarian assistance access to this area after the flood claiming that they would do it themselves. So the Baloch people are tired of asking for help, but have no other option open to them other than asking for help. No matter how many walls of silence they bounce off. Some of the walls are you and I. They are fighting a heavily unequal war for survival. Militarily, politically and even on health and humanitarian terms. Where is our own humanity in this story?

There literally is no way out for them unless something is done specifically to bring them relief and solutions, and the ethical responsibility for this assistance lies on the world and particularly the US that stood complicit in Pakistan Army’s use of weapons supplied by them on civilians. Even more, because the US is doing precisely the kind of rescues worldwide, for ages that it is refusing Balochistan – a victim of torturers armed by them. The Leahy Law prohibits U.S. military assistance to foreign military units that violate human rights with impunity. It doesn’t get more impunity than this, it doesn’t get more blatantly human rights abuse than this, and it doesn’t get more studiedly ignored than this. So, in calling Pakistan a partner, arming their Army, funding them and refusing to exert any preventative influence on their human rights abuses is blatantly flaunting its own laws. It is a question for Americans why have a law like that if it will not be followed?

What needs to be done is a matter of strategy and the Baloch people should be consulted. It also needs to be a practical and sustainable solution. It doesn’t make sense to only separate into independence a sparsely populated region sharing a border with a country that overflows every national border they have to commit human rights abuses. They would do the same thing in Balochistan that they are planning in Afghanistan – install proxies, subjugate people again. It is their default mode. There needs to be a comprehensive political regional solution – a sustainable one that ensures that boundaries that allow the Baloch safety are established.

An article by Arundhati Roy that I respect highly. Originally published in theOutlook Magazine. Republishing here so that more people read it. Also a kind of public apology for writing criticism of her that did not acknowledge her excellent work. It was in the specific context of two of her articles, but got quoted by a few people as blanket criticism of her, which was definitely not my intention. I realize that my intention does not matter if its impact is off the mark. Putting this article up here is also a statement of respect. I am not, nor am ever likely to be “anti-Arundhati”.

Publishing this article in five parts, on request of readers who find pages difficult to access on mobile phones.

Part 1 || Part 2 || Part 3 || Part 4 || Part 5

The low, flat-topped hills of south Orissa have been home to the Dongria Kondh long before there was a country called India or a state called Orissa. The hills watched over the Kondh. The Kondh watched over the hills and worshipped them as living deities. Now these hills have been sold for the bauxite they contain. For the Kondh it’s as though god has been sold. They ask how much god would go for if the god were Ram or Allah or Jesus Christ?

Perhaps the Kondh are supposed to be grateful that their Niyamgiri hill, home to their Niyam Raja, God of Universal Law, has been sold to a company with a name like Vedanta (the branch of Hindu philosophy that teaches the Ultimate Nature of Knowledge). It’s one of the biggest mining corporations in the world and is owned by Anil Aggarwal, the Indian billionaire who lives in London in a mansion that once belonged to the Shah of Iran. Vedanta is only one of the many multinational corporations closing in on Orissa.

If the flat-topped hills are destroyed, the forests that clothe them will be destroyed too. So will the rivers and streams that flow out of them and irrigate the plains below. So will the Dongria Kondh. So will the hundreds of thousands of tribal people who live in the forested heart of India, and whose homeland is similarly under attack.

In our smoky, crowded cities, some people say, “So what? Someone has to pay the price of progress.” Some even say, “Let’s face it, these are people whose time has come. Look at any developed country, Europe, the US, Australia—they all have a ‘past’.” Indeed they do. So why shouldn’t “we”?

In keeping with this line of thought, the government has announced Operation Green Hunt, a war purportedly against the “Maoist” rebels headquartered in the jungles of central India. Of course, the Maoists are by no means the only ones rebelling. There is a whole spectrum of struggles all over the country that people are engaged in—the landless, the Dalits, the homeless, workers, peasants, weavers. They’re pitted against a juggernaut of injustices, including policies that allow a wholesale corporate takeover of people’s land and resources. However, it is the Maoists who the government has singled out as being the biggest threat. Two years ago, when things were nowhere near as bad as they are now, the prime minister described the Maoists as the “single-largest internal security threat” to the country. This will probably go down as the most popular and often-repeated thing he ever said. For some reason, the comment he made on January 6, 2009, at a meeting of state chief ministers, when he described the Maoists as having only “modest capabilities” doesn’t seem to have had the same raw appeal. He revealed his government’s real concern on June 18, 2009, when he told Parliament: “If left-wing extremism continues to flourish in parts which have natural resources of minerals, the climate for investment would certainly be affected.”

Who are the Maoists? They are members of the banned Communist Party of India (Maoist)—CPI (Maoist)—one of the several descendants of the Communist Party of India (Marxist-Leninist), which led the 1969 Naxalite uprising and was subsequently liquidated by the Indian government. The Maoists believe that the innate, structural inequality of Indian society can only be redressed by the violent overthrow of the Indian State. In its earlier avatars as the Maoist Communist Centre (MCC) in Jharkhand and Bihar, and the People’s War Group (PWG) in Andhra Pradesh, the Maoists had tremendous popular support. (When the ban on them was briefly lifted in 2004, one-and-a-half million people attended their rally in Warangal.) But eventually their intercession in Andhra Pradesh ended badly. They left a violent legacy that turned some of their staunchest supporters into harsh critics. After a paroxysm of killing and counter-killing by the Andhra police as well as the Maoists, the PWG was decimated. Those who managed to survive fled Andhra Pradesh into neighbouring Chhattisgarh. There, deep in the heart of the forest, they joined colleagues who had already been working there for decades.

Not many ‘outsiders’ have any first-hand experience of the real nature of the Maoist movement in the forest. A recent interview with one of its top leaders, Comrade Ganapathy, in Open magazine didn’t do much to change the minds of those who view the Maoists as a party with an unforgiving, totalitarian vision, which countenances no dissent whatsoever. Comrade Ganapathy said nothing that would persuade people that, were the Maoists ever to come to power, they would be equipped to properly address the almost insane diversity of India’s caste-ridden society. His casual approval of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) of Sri Lanka was enough to send a shiver down even the most sympathetic of spines, not just because of the brutal ways in which the LTTE chose to wage its war, but also because of the cataclysmic tragedy that has befallen the Tamil people of Sri Lanka, who it claimed to represent, and for whom it surely must take some responsibility.

A few days ago, a news report by the BBC caught my eye. It said the Red Cross reported some 800,000 people as disabled by the ongoing war in Afghanistan. It struck me as odd, since I didn’t think Afghanistan was such a large country. So I saved the link to check up and found time today.

The previous post is the result of that. In brief, it states Afghanistan’s population – 34,385,068 as of latest figures. That would mean that about 1 in every 43 people is disabled by the war or 2.3% of the entire Afghan population. Seeing as how the disabilities wouldn’t be uniform, it means that areas with greater conflict have even more disabled people than this.

It seemed unbelievable, so I asked for help from other journalists to confirm the Red Cross number. Got about ten replies. All of them confirmed it. The Red Cross doesn’t fake such information. It is correct.

It is amazing that no one has thought of the implications of this. Either from a humanitarian perspective, or even strategic. How does NATO expect Afghanistan to defend itself after their exit with such large numbers of disabled people – a majority of whom, I assume would be men? And this is without the illnesses, deaths and what nots completing the picture.

A few days back, I read a report in USAToday, which spoke of IED attacks in Afghanistan setting a record. There were 9,304 “IED Events” in 2009, 15,225 in 2010 and 16,554 in 2011. “IED Events” is the number of Improvised Explosive Devices cleared or detonated, not a social event. Kind of like the “Nuclear Park” at Jaitapur. We have ways of making things sound acceptable.

Astonishingly, that very same report quoted:

“If insurgencies are about winning the support — or at least the acquiescence — of the local population, this is a concerning trend for the Taliban,” said Seth Jones, an expert on Afghanistan at the RAND Corp., a think tank.

Yeah, right. Like Nadeem F. Paracha had once famously described Imran Khan stopping missiles with his bare chest.

In other words, no matter what happens, people supposedly professionals in thinking are able to see only advantages in it. No wonder the US is winning this war and is all set to exit Afghanistan after the transfer of power as a few other reports from around the same time claim.

In still other news, the Taliban is forcibly collecting Zakat, or tax from residents of northern Jawzjan province. Yeah, they are really desperate.

In other words, this war is in the exact same limbo and circular propaganda in media that it has been for a decade. Unnoticed, the toll on the population is growing. The people already disabled aren’t going to get better. The more this war continues, the more their numbers will rise.

Frankly, this war was lost the day US partnered with Pakistan [READ] and got to micro-managing Afghanistan. They lack understanding of the culture, or any sense of engagement beyond aggression. Three countries at least are paying a massive price. US, Pakistan and Afghanistan itself. Other NATO countries are suffering losses too.

France recently wanted and Nicolas Sarkozy declared out after French soldiers were attacked and killed by Afghan soldiers over some disrespect of the dead bodies of the Taliban by American soldiers Urinating on the dead bodies, to be specific. No, America simply doesn’t understand alien cultures – or try to – or find it necessary to other than psyops. Hillary Clinton not only didn’t see this as any indication that France would pull out, she knew better that they didn’t mean it, and so it was. China, Iran and India are going to have a big mess on their hands once this farce ends, because the stubborn refusal to look at reality has meant this story has devolved to chaos and the Pakistan borders in particular leak terrorism like a sieve and there is going to be an unemployment problem like after the Soviet jihad, and these are the countries that will win that harvest – India in particular.

And the more reality is ignored, the worse the chaos will be. Doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results is insanity. Insanity is harmless if it is limited to the insane, but this macabre dance has too many players, too many lives devastated.

Pakistan in particular is at the verge of devastation and if Pakistan collapses, even winning in Afghanistan will not matter, because the Frankenstein’s monster will consume the entire region, if not the world. While Pakistan’s problems are largely of its own creation, and many of Afghanistan’s problems too, simply calling every problem a nail because you have a hammer is not working.

Like I have pointed out earlier too – when Pakistan’s trolls stop hounding you on the internet with bizarre versions of history, that is a disillusionment that is shaking their very foundations of identity among civilians. And, as the US likes to remind us, Pakistan is a nuclear power, so this collapse is an epic disaster waiting to happen.

A friend who knows such things had once likened terrorists to bed bugs. It is very difficult to get rid of an infestation unless you know exactly what you are doing, you have a plan and you stick with it or you just end up making it worse. I can’t think of a better metaphor for this parody of a war where there have been so many strategies and contradictions – including US eroding its own values and laws – that no one at all knows what exactly is happening and everyone except the Taliban have immobilized themselves through paradoxes of their own creation.

A journalist from Afghanistan had once tweeted – why are we spending so much to fight the guy with the sandals and AK-47? Good question, if anyone paused to think of it. And I think he’s been asking that for a long time.

In the meanwhile, in this maze of strategies, paradoxes, claims, realities, propaganda… there are people who are getting devastated, who rarely make news. News from Afghanistan is no longer about Afghans – hasn’t been for a long time.

There is a desperate need to find creative solutions. To listen to the Afghans instead of telling them. To give them what they need to fight rather than training them to alien standards from scratch. To give them the ownership of their war to do what they will, and support them solidly rather than employ and train them to become inferior shadows of the West and at prices the tax payer back home increasingly can’t afford.

If Obama is listening, he should get someone following what Afghan commentators are saying, what they are suggesting and mine ideas. This Emperor hasn’t had worn clothes for a long time.