"THE Lebanese prime minister was forced to cry before media because of weak defence capability of his country and no such thing would be allowed to happen with Pakistan." This piece of wisdom comes from Pakistan's air force chief, Air Chief Marshal Tanvir Mehmood Ahmed.

As silly statements go, it takes the prize.

Despite its huge army, Pakistan has shown itself incapable of fighting a war for longer than 15 days. Barely halfway through the 1965 war Pakistan's straw field marshal, Ayub Khan, had had enough. He was desperate for a ceasefire. In 1971Gen Yahya and his generals fought a 17-day war and managed to lose half the country.

In 1999 the architects of Kargil -- as choice a bunch of military geniuses as any produced by the Pakistan army -- thought they were walking in the footsteps of Rommel and Manstein. They soon realized they had bitten off more than they could chew. Desperate for a way out, they urged then Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif to rush to Washington to seek a face-saving withdrawal.

Given these shining military exploits it ill-behoves a Pakistani military man to speak disparagingly about Lebanon when Lebanon -- a country scarcely bigger than Sargodha and Rawalpindi divisions combined -- has shown more guts than we can imagine.

Hezbollah has no F-16s, no anti-aircraft defences to speak of, yet it has fought the might of the Israeli army for four weeks and continues to stand up to it. No Arab army has shown as much grit, none has fought Israel this long. And far from Hezbollah breaking, it is Israel which is getting stuck in South Lebanon.

An air force chief is a responsible person. He should choose his words more carefully. Pakistan has not had the courage or decency to condemn Israel in forthright terms, our government mumbling things no one can understand and adopting a position no one can see. When we can't do the honourable thing, why say things which make us look stupid?

Pakistan has acquired international fame for being a one-phone-call country, a single Colin Powell call after Sep 11 eliciting all the concessions the US wanted, including the use of military bases. Our military government felt no qualms about handing over the Taliban's accredited ambassador to Islamabad, Mullah Zaeef, to the Americans when they attacked Afghanistan.

Zaeef may have been Hitler's ambassador but he was accredited to us and we were sworn under international law to protect him. We didn't. What moral authority do we have to speak about the troubles of another country?

Addressing Arab League foreign ministers in Beirut, the Lebanese Prime Minister Fouad Siniora was overcome by emotion when speaking of Israel's aggression against his country. When was the last time a Pakistani leader was overcome by similar emotion?

We are a country at peace with Afghanistan one day and then, at the crack of a whip from Washington, involved in its destruction the next, glorifying Kashmir's freedom struggle and then overnight dancing to India's tune. India has turned the composite dialogue into a joke and yet by every word and gesture at our command we are trying to please India.

To get an idea of the battle picture in South Lebanon turn not to BBC or CNN, both little better than apologists for the Israeli army. Read the Israeli press, especially Haaretz (www.haaretz.com). More and more Israelis while still in favour of the war are questioning the way it is being conducted. The swift victory they were led to believe in has turned out to be a mirage. The Israeli army has taken heavy casualties and Hezbollah is still raining rockets on northern Israel.

As a sign of how the war is faring, Maj Gen Udi Adam, GOC Northern Command, has been replaced by Maj Gen Moshe Kaplinsky. The security cabinet has decided, after an agonizing debate, to expand the offensive in South Lebanon. Sounds suspiciously like a reinforcing of failure.

Fifteen IDF soldiers were killed on Wednesday, … "in a series of firefights across the front…" as Haaretz reports. "Twentyfive soldiers were wounded in Wednesday's actions, six seriously."

Here's another excerpt: "At around 1:40 P.M., an IDF Merkava tank was struck by an explosive device in the village of Aita al-Shaab in the western sector. The tank's four crew members were killed instantly…The kind of damage sustained by the tank (its turret was blown off) appears to indicate that the vehicle was hit by a large explosive device, but a senior Northern Command officer told Haaretz on Wednesday night that it was more likely that the Merkava had been hit by an anti-tank missile.

"Efforts to extract the tank and four dead crew members took place under heavy fire, and continued late into Wednesday night.

"The day's harshest incident occured at 2:00 P.M. when one or two anti-tank missiles were fired at an IDF force that had occupied a house in Debel. The missile strike left nine soldiers dead, including two who died on their way to the hospital, and 11 wounded, including three seriously…

"Rescue efforts again were severely hampered by intense Hezbollah gunfire."

And then tellingly: "Commanders in the sector said Wednesday night that Hezbollah guerrillas were closely following the movement of Israeli forces. They said the group is analyzing the IDF's firing positions, and doing a good job of pinpointing those locations where the forces are exposed."

This should give a flavour of the fighting. Israel has not faced anything of the kind in its entire history. Regular Arab armies it has beaten black and blue, brought Arab countries to their knees after a few days of fighting. This is different because Israel is being compelled to fight a war whose tactics are being dictated by the enemy -- Hezbollah. Israel can push in as many troops as it likes. It will face more guerrilla attacks.

This looks like the emergence of the Middle East's second Vietnam, the first being Iraq. The Americans thought their occupation of Iraq would be a smooth affair. They now know better. The Israelis thought they would vanquish Hezbollah swiftly. There have been surprises in store for them.

Only the gullible think that the kidnapping of the two Israeli soldiers by Hezbollah is what triggered this war. There is a growing body of evidence to show that Israel had planned this assault for a long time. That it hasn't turned out the way it figured is a different matter.

What we don't know is what the Bush administration is up to. For all we know it could be preparing to bomb Iran. Mind-boggling thought but the war party in Washington is capable of anything.

But enough to drive one to despair is the utter helplessness of the Muslim world. A rabbit wouldn't be more transfixed by the headlights of a car as Arab and Muslim leaders are by the threat of American power. No one is saying they should send their armies in aid of Hezbollah. But at least they can speak out louder than they have so far.

Time was when Zulfikar Ali Bhutto sent Pakistani fighter pilots to Syria during the 1973 Arab-Israeli war ( a mistake I can't imagine Air Chief Marshal Tanvir making in a hurry), something which the Syrians have not forgotten. Now we can't even bring ourselves to say the right words about Lebanon. These are not proud days to be a Pakistani.

Hezbollah has no F-16s but it is running rings around one of the best armies in the world. We can have 500 F-16s in our air force but given the crisis of resolve we face, we will remain a country ready to jump at the sound of a single phone call.


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