Articles Regarding Pakistan

The revolt of the masses: 22 November, 2017 "Daily Times"

Emile Durkheim’s concept of anomie finds resonance in the present state of lawlessness and disorderliness prevalent in Pakistani society. We as a nation and society are in the throes of an anomie wherein the state and the society are equally culpable of a lack of moral direction for individuals. Despite democratic pretensions of a modern state the true democratic ethos and communitarian spirit is absent in our present society. Along with continual upward GDP growth and the claims of alleviating poverty and inequality in our society is also growing with Gini Coefficient touching 0.41.

Inequality fuels horizontal as well as vertical polarisation in the society leading towards social angst amongst the deprived segments of society. With 39 percent of the population below the poverty line and an unemployment rate of 5.9 percent, the rage of the dispossessed is becoming the new normal in the socio-economic milieu of Pakistan.

The revolt of the masses in Pakistan can be understood with reference to Michel Foucalt’s theory of power and knowledge. The theory excoriates the state and society’s attempts to use power to manipulate knowledge about the powerless segments of the society. The masses as per Foucalt, rise up in revolt against a social structure that does not provide legitimate space for their socio-economic advancement.

The amelioration of the public weal and the politico-economic inclusiveness is the main raison d’être of any socio-political structure. If the structure does not accommodate the public interests and the state also abdicates its basic responsibilities then a classic state of anomie takes hold of that socio-political structure. Pakistan exhibits the classic signs of that malady. A disconnect between the elite interests and the masses is getting glaringly obvious through a general lawlessness and propensity to flout rules wherever and whenever possible by whomsoever.

A soft state, an apathetic elite, and an enraged populace compounds the problems of a developing nation confronted with such existential crises like religious militancy, terrorism, water shortage, population explosion, environmental degradation, energy shortfall, and economic meltdown.

The finite and dwindling resources of the state are not keeping pace with the speed with which more mouths to feed are being added continually. Even if any other problem did not exist the runaway population was sufficient to drown us in the absence of sustainable natural resources, confronting the state with a Malthusian spectre of food insecurity.

In the absence of a political system responsive to the public needs, the people have by default sought comfort in the lap of religion. Due to the demise of communism and the non-responsiveness of capitalism the religious parties have caught the public imagination. The rabidly fanatic religious fringe every now and then ratchets up religious tensions on any excuse to remain relevant to national politics. The current siege of the Capital by a religious group is a case in point. The rise of religion as a political force in the absence of a viable political ideology responsive to the needs of the people has emerged as a phenomenon that threatens democratic stability

When the barriers to physical and economic security appear inseparable due to state incapacity and disenchantment then a state of frustration and alienation grips the public imagination leading towards defiance of all symbols of the state’s authority. That defiance gets a shot in the arm when the state elite forms a modus vivendi with the criminal enterprises to keep the state enervated and the cartels strong.

A state that can neither collect taxes nor ensure their proper utilisation is in fact instigating a revolt of the masses. The world over a local government system empowers people locally to collect taxes, control finances, manage police, and plan development activities. Alas, not in our neck of the woods where an avaricious mafia refuses to part with power and pelf at the cost of the poor masses.

When the masses contact the government anywhere in this ‘anocracy’ their belief in the government further erodes fuelling anger and defiance. When at every step the poor have to buy public goods like security, health, education, justice, and basic civic amenities their frustration boils over in a display of road rage, flouting of traffic rules, and vandalism of civic infrastructure.

The people tired of a state of anomie resort to flagrant flouting of rules taking voluntary leave of civic sense. By creating a seething mass of angry and undisciplined people the ruling elite and the rich create their islands of affluence through gated communities. A sizable portion of their wealth is parked abroad as an insurance against a state meltdown and disorder in the country. Little do they realise the virulence and strength of the raging currents of public disorder and anger swirling around their islands of affluence.

New direction of Pak-Iran relations: 21 November, 2017 "The Nation"

Chief of the Army Staff General Qamar Javed Bajwa’s recent visit to Iran is a portent of a positive turn of direction in Pakistan-Iran relations. It was the first visit to Iran by a Pakistani COAS in more than two decades. Pervez Musharraf’s visits to Iran in December, 1999 and June, 2000, when I was serving as the Pakistan ambassador to Iran, were more in his capacity as the Chief Executive rather than as COAS. The latter visit to attend the ECO summit was not even a bilateral visit. General Bajwa’s visit to Tehran took place in the backdrop of the growing realization by the leaders and policy makers of the two countries that their security and economic well-being were interlinked. The evolution of the global and regional security environment is also pushing the two countries closer to each other. Further, Pakistan and Iran can benefit enormously from mutual cooperation in economic, commercial, and security fields. Besides bilateral cooperation, the Economic Cooperation Organization with its headquarters in Tehran offers attractive opportunities for regional cooperation to Pakistan, Iran, and the other eight member states of the organization. Thus, COAS’s visit to Tehran took place at a propitious time to take advantage of the vast opportunities beckoning the two countries towards mutually beneficial cooperation in various fields.

There is no denying the fact that Pakistan-Iran relations received a serious setback in 1990’s because of the wide and deep-seated policy differences between them concerning Afghanistan. They virtually fought a proxy war in Afghanistan with Iran extending support to the Northern Alliance and Pakistan backing the Taliban. The gulf of mistrust created by the clash of their Afghanistan policies weakened Pakistan-Iran friendship and cooperation in different fields. The climate of mutual mistrust and the state of limited cooperation has remained unchanged despite some feeble attempts now and then to strengthen Pakistan-Iran relations. The U-turn in its pro-Taliban policy, forced on Pakistan by the US in the aftermath of 9/11, provided an opportunity to Islamabad and Tehran to overcome the mutual mistrust and set a new and positive direction for their relationship. However, the gulf of mistrust was too wide and the American pressure on Pakistan too great to allow them to take full advantage of that opportunity.

The history of the Pakistan-Iran gas pipeline project is sufficient to drive home this point. Pakistan is deficient in the domestic supply of natural gas whereas Iran, which has the second largest gas reserves in the world and is in search of markets for its gas, is in a position to meet Pakistan’s rapidly growing requirements for the import of gas. The project, therefore, is in the best interests of both the countries, especially Pakistan which through its implementation can have easy access to cheap and secure supply of gas. But the American sanctions against Iran and pressure on Pakistan have prevented Islamabad and Tehran from completing the project and making it operational. Whereas Iran has laid down the pipeline almost up to the Pakistan-Iran border, Islamabad so far has failed to fulfill its responsibilities under the project. As a result, the project, which can give a boost to Pakistan-Iran friendship besides providing us with the much-needed gas, remains an unrealized dream. Hopefully, the implementation of the CPEC will open the way for the successful completion of the Pakistan-Iran gas pipeline project. Pakistan, in the immediate future, can lay down a gas pipeline linking the proposed LNG plant at Gwadar with the country’s main gas pipeline network as part of CPEC projects underway in the country. Later at an appropriate time, this pipeline can be quickly extended to link up with the pipeline coming from Iran.

This is just one example of the heavy price that Pakistan has paid and continues to pay for compliance with the unreasonable US demands. The security cooperation between Pakistan and Iran has suffered even more because of the impact of strategic divergence between them. Pakistan, despite some occasional problems, has remained aligned with the US, at least for some limited purposes, even in the post-Cold War era in contrast with the intense animosity between the US and Iran which has been subjected to the most onerous sanctions by Washington. This factor brought defense cooperation between Pakistan and Iran virtually to a standstill in a marked departure from the close cooperation between them in earlier days, especially during the time of the Shah when both Pakistan and Iran were part of the Western bloc led by the US. In addition, it allowed terrorist and criminal elements to operate across the Pakistan-Iran border. Iran has complained from time to time about the terrorist activities in Iran of Jaish al-Adl which is allegedly based in Pakistani Balochistan. There are reports which claim that some non-regional and regional intelligence agencies have been funding this terrorist outfit.

India is fully aware of the importance of Pakistan’s friendship with Iran for the former’s security and economic well-being. In view of its hostile designs against Pakistan, New Delhi has taken full advantage of the alienation between Pakistan and Iran to strengthen its political, economic, and security links with Iran and create misunderstandings between Islamabad and Tehran. India has achieved considerable success in these efforts to the detriment of Pakistan and Pakistan-Iran friendship. The arrest of Indian RAW agent Kulbhushan Jadhav, a serving officer of the Indian navy, on charges of involvement in terrorist activities in

Pakistan, while being based in Iran, is just one example of how India has exploited the vacuum created by Pakistan-Iran differences to its advantage.

General Qamar Javed Bajwa’s visit to Tehran shows that Pakistan’s military establishment is cognizant of the dangers inherent in the continued alienation between Pakistan and Iran for Pakistan’s security and economic well-being. Both Iran and Pakistan need to recognize that it is in their enlightened self-interest to engage in mutually beneficial cooperation in economic, defense, security, and cultural fields. It is encouraging that as a result of General Bajwa’s meetings with the Iranian political and military leadership, the two sides have agreed to cooperate with each other in combating terrorism and cross-border criminal activities, and in promoting bilateral defense and security cooperation. It also makes sense for them to deal with contentious issues such as Afghanistan on the basis of mutual understanding and accommodation of each other’s point of view with the aim of finding common ground on which they can cooperate. National reconciliation and a freely concluded political settlement among the various Afghan parties, withdrawal of foreign forces, and non-interference in Afghanistan’s internal affairs should be the guiding principles for durable peace and stability in that country.

The visit by the Pakistani COAS was a good beginning to put the relationship between Pakistan and Iran on a sound footing, especially because of the critically important role that the military establishment in Pakistan plays in security and strategically important foreign policy issues such as Afghanistan, India, and relations with the US. Pakistan’s political leadership should now build up on the understandings arrived at during the visit to expand areas of cooperation so as to cover political, economic, commercial, and cultural fields in addition to defense and security. We should also involve and integrate Iran in the implementation of the CPEC projects. The possibility of extending Pakistan-Iran gas pipeline to China once it becomes operational should be given serious consideration. Finally, Islamabad should avoid taking sides on disputes between Iran and Saudi Arabia and instead should try to promote understanding between them.

Can Pakistan escape a dry future?: 18 November, 2017 "The Nation"

In the age of Panama Papers, Paradise Leaks, and Pakistan’s endemic political circus, many important subjects are being lost in the dust of breaking news and sensational views. Water, which sustains Pakistan’s agro-based economy, has been in the headlines in a section of the media in recent weeks but did not receive the attention it deserved.

First it was WAPDA chairman Lt. Gen (Retd) Muzamil Hussain who told National Assembly’s Public Accounts Committee (PAC) in July that every year Pakistan wastes water worth 25 billion rupees. About four months later, officials from Indus River System Authority disclosed at the Senate Forum for Policy Research on November 2 that water dumped into the Arabian Sea each year is actually worth 21 billion dollars. These shocking numbers lack details and may remain questionable until more data is shared.

However, what remains beyond the realm of doubt is the scale of water wastage, which is unacceptably high, given Pakistan’s dangerously low water storage capacity. Indus River System Authority (IRSA) data suggests the country can store only up to 30 days’ worth of water, against India’s capacity to store water enough for its 320 days’ needs. Pakistan has one of the world’s highest rates of water use, but its per capita water availability has drastically reduced from 5,300 cubic meters (CUM) in 1947 to less than 1,000 CUM in 2016. It touched the ‘water stress line’ in 1990 before crossing the ‘water scarcity line’ in 2005. Pakistan Council of Research in Water Resources warned in a report released earlier this year that the country would approach the ‘absolute scarcity’ level of water by 2025.

IRSA says Pakistan needs three Mangla-sized dams to conserve the amount of water it loses in the sea each year. But there is scant hope for completion of such massive reservoirs anytime soon given lack of government interest in improving and expanding the hydraulic infrastructure. The projects so far undertaken are facing long delays and massive cost overruns. The government is showing little urgency to speed up work on the dam projects, such as Diamer-Bhasha, Bunji, Dasu, Pattan and Thakot.

Like the decision-makers, the indifference towards water challenge is also visible in the parliament, political discourse and even the media. Few seem to care about the doomsday scenario of Pakistan running out of time in the race to shore up the yawning gap in its water storage and use. With its current storage capacity, Pakistan may find it almost impossible to increase its food production and feed its exploding population in the future. The water crisis will worsen with the unfolding issue of climate change, imperilling its food security even more. Scientists warn that South Asia will be one of the regions worst hit by changes in weather patterns.

IRSA says Pakistan needs three Mangla-sized dams to conserve the amount of water it loses in the sea each year. But there is scant hope for completion of such massive reservoirs anytime soon

World Meteorological Organisation says 2017 is most likely to be one of the three hottest years on record with many high-impact events, including catastrophic hurricanes and floods, debilitating heat waves and droughts. WMO says exceptional heat affected parts of southwest Asia in late May. On May 28, temperatures reached 54.0oC in Turbat, Balochistan, and also exceeded 50oC in Iran and Oman. Pakistan Meteorological Department has already declared 2017 as the hottest year in the country’s history.

In other parts of South Asia, rains and flash floods left 1,200 people dead, uprooted more than 41 million, destroyed close to half a million homes and standing crops on millions of acres in India, Bangladesh and Nepal during this past monsoon season. Flash floods washed away an estimated one million tons of rice in Bangladesh, dealing a significant blow to its economy. UN officials say the massive toll is worst in years.

Pakistan development update: 18 November, 2017 "Business Recorder"

The World Bank launched its Pakistan Development Update last week, which is a twice-a-year publication shedding light on the state of the country’s economy and its future prospects. 

In these times when the state of Pakistan’s economy is a subject of widespread public and economic gurus, the World Bank Update, perceived to be neutral and based on credible data and analysis, is of interest to all. 

Presented below are some of the highlights on the subjects which are of main concern: 

1) The GDP growth rate is projected to increase modestly to 5.5 percent this fiscal year and 5.8 percent in 2018-19, “provided macro economics risks are managed.” 

A GDP growth of 5.5 percent this year and a possibility of 5.8 percent next year is a great achievement when benchmarked with leading emerging markets. 

The challenge to the economic managers of the state is that this trend of growth continue overriding the vested tangents and political hype on account of the coming national elections. 

2) “Growth in remittances will remain subdued as Gulf nations make gradual economic recovery. Remittances from the region were 62 percent of all inflows in 2016/17.” 

Pakistan’s dependence of 62 percent of all foreign exchange inflows is a serious issue. This means poor foreign direct investments (FDI) and very poor exports, as both are the real inflow drivers. 

Looming political and economic uncertainty in the Gulf region threatens remittances. So much dependence on remittances is a mistake. 

3) “Only 12.3 percent of small firms in Pakistan use foreign inputs or supplies in their products, compared to a global average of 55 percent. 

“This is mainly on account of the fact that the products of small firms In Pakistan are largely for local consumption where price has preference over quality. This becomes more challenging when Pakistan’s products have to compete with Chinese products. The Free Trade regime between the two countries is largely in favour of China.” 

4) “Non-tax reserves rose 23 percent to Rs 967 billion. During 2016-17 provincial non-tax revenue collection fell 15 percent in contrast to a growth of 23 percent last year. Fiscal slippages are expected to continue through elections cycle which will widen the fiscal deficit during 2017-18 compared to 5.8 percent in this fiscal year.” 

“During the tenure of the present regime the fiscal deficit was well managed at 5.8 percent. The forthcoming election will see it slipping out. The signs are already there. Much of public money is reported to be doled out to the members of the assemblies in the guise of public works in their constituency, which has become a usual phenomenon in the past years. 

“It is now an open secret that the elections of the legislatures is significantly funded out of public money, which ensures return of the majority of the same personalities in the assemblies.” 

5) “A weaker rupee would help improve external accounts. Moderate rise in inflation and manageable growth in debt financing is expected. 

“The government over years is resisting to devalue rupee and has managed to align it around Rs105 to a US dollar whenever it bounce up due to free-market dynamics. How far the government can manage it is questionable. What is important is that rupee parity should be governed by economic dynamics rather than ego or vested interests. 

“Debt financing is lately the main cause of concern and a issue much escalated by political parties and economic experts of the country.” The World Bank update has termed it manageable. 

6) “Acceleration will be driven by consumption on the demand side while growth is likely to come from service and industry sectors on the supply side. 

“China’s and India’s economic jump-start was driven by the growing middle class with demand for better lives for themselves and their families. This demand had its impact on the consumer and service industry which propelled the other segments of economy. 

“This phenomena is beginning to show its impact in Pakistan. Pakistan has one of the world’s largest growing middle class and is a potential for the economic growth of Pakistan. 

“According to global rankings, Pakistan has come up as one of the leading nations in retail and service industries. This segment remains much out of the ambit of our documented and regulated economy and is largely driven by market dynamics of supply and demand.” 

7) “From 2005 to 2016, Pakistan’s exports grew 27.3 percent, compared to 276 percent in Bangladesh and 166 percent in India. Trade-to-GDP ratio has remained low at 28.1 percent. 

“Pakistan’s decline in exports is a source of great concern, but it is not surprising. Pakistan’s competitiveness in global markets is systematically declining over years. Pakistan’s ranking in ease and cost of doing business is sliding down each year. 

“Unless this issue is addressed there is no chance for increase in the exports of Pakistan 

8) “Collection from direct and indirect taxes grew from by 12.7 and 5.1 percent. On average 17 percent of direct taxes were collected as withholding tax over the last three years. 

“Tax collection in Pakistan remains low. Due to lack of will and political expediency many of the taxable segments have managed to remain out of the tax net. 

9) “Tariffs are almost twice as high as the world average. Pakistan’s simple average tariff rate was 13.6 percent in 2014, compared to South Asia’s average of 11.7 percent. 

“This status is further deteriorated on account of the recent levy of regulatory duty on many items, which mainly affects the foreign investors in Pakistan.” 

10) “Inflation, after remaining moderate in 2016-17, is expected to rise steadily in FY18 and FY19. The increase will be driven by higher domestic demand and global oil prices. 

“The management of inflation in the country over the last years has been reasonable, but the electricity costs remains one of the highest in the world and unaffordable by the industry and the public.” 

11) “To maintain continuity of tax reforms, a detailed review of the tax policy is needed. A fully automated and able tax administration is also imperative.” 

It is imperative for all political parties, in the best interest of the people, that they isolate economy of the country from politics. The nation’s economy is good for all the people of Pakistan, irrespective of political affiliations. The Charter of Economy among all political parties is desirable and in the greater public interest. 

Power Productivity & Pakistan: 16 November, 2017 "The Nation"

The Indus Waters Treaty is a water-distribution treaty between India and Pakistan, brokered by the World Bank. The treaty was signed in Karachi on September 19, 1960 by Prime Minister of India Jawaharlal Nehru and President of Pakistan Ayub Khan. According to this agreement, control over the three “eastern” rivers the Beas, the Ravi and the Sutlej was given to India, while control over the three “western” rivers the Indus, the Chenab and the Jhelum to Pakistan. More controversial, however, were the provisions on how the waters were to be shared. Since Pakistan’s rivers flow through India first, the treaty allowed India to use them for irrigation, transport and power generation, while laying down precise regulations for Indian building projects along the way. The treaty was a result of Pakistani fear that, since the Source Rivers of the Indus basin were in India, it could potentially create droughts and famines in Pakistan, especially at times of war.

Since the ratification of the treaty in 1960, India and Pakistan have not engaged in any water wars. Most disagreements and disputes have been settled via legal procedures, provided for within the framework of the treaty. As per the provisions in the treaty, India can use only 20% of the total water carried by the Indus river.

The International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (IBRD) is an international financial institution that offers loans to middle-income developing countries. From the rivers flowing in India, India got nearly 33 million acre feet (MAF) from eastern rivers whereas Pakistan got nearly 125 MAF from western rivers. However India can use the western river waters for irrigation up to 701,000 acres with new water storage capacity not exceeding 1.25 MAF and use the rivers for run of river hydro power generation with storage not exceeding 1.6 MAF and nominal flood storage capacity of 0.75 MAF. These water allocations made to the J&K state of India are meagre to meet its irrigation water requirements whereas the treaty permitted enough water to irrigate 80% of the cultivated lands in the Indus river basin of Pakistan. The storage capacity permitted by the treaty for hydro power generation is less than the total annual silt that would accumulate in the reservoirs if the total hydro potential of the state was to be exploited fully. Pakistan is also losing additional benefits by not permitting moderate water storage in upstream J&K state whose water would be ultimately released to the Pakistan for its use.

CM Punjab Mr. Shahbaz Sharif clearly is fully devoted for the development of new multipurpose water reservoirs with massive storage for impounding multiyear inflows such as 4,500 MW Diamer-Bhasha Dam, 3,600 MW Kalabagh Dam, 600 MW Akhori Dam, Dasu Dam, Bunji Dam, Thakot dam, Patan dam, etc projects with huge population resettlement. Pakistan had a total installed power generation capacity of almost 25 GW in 2017, whereas demand for electricity is increasing at an average annual rate of eight per cent. And according to World Energy Statistics 2011, published by IEA, Pakistan’s per capita electricity consumption is one-sixth of the World Average. World average per capita electricity consumption is 2730 kWh compared to Pakistan’s per capita electricity consumption of 451 kWh. They have forecast that total electricity demand of the country will be 49,078 MW in 2025. Now the average demand is 22,000 MW and the shortfall is between 5,000 and 6,000 MW. Pakistan have almost exhausted their gas reserves. Imported oil’s price hikes affect the budget and its constant supply cannot be guaranteed. More than 1000 new power Plants were proposed by government including natural gas plants, coal plants, hydroelectricity plants, wind power plants and also nuclear power plants. With 25% of these plants were expected to run in this year.

During the last five years India has built many dams including Jharkand Dam, Kishanganga hydroelectric plant, and so many others. I am disappointed to mention that in last many years no any government could develop a new big dam to fulfil demands of country - although Pakistan is constructing the Neelum–Jhelum Hydropower Plant downstream of the Kishanganga. The Kishanganga Hydroelectric Plant operates in a similar sense as the Neelum–Jhelum Hydropower Plant, using a dam to divert the Kishanganga (Neelum) River to a power station before it is discharged into Wular Lake which is fed by the Jhelum River. The Kishanganga Project will divert a portion of the Neelum River from Pakistan which will reduce power generation at the Neelum–Jhelum Hydropower Plant.

In 2010, Pakistan appealed to the Hague’s Permanent Court of Arbitration , complaining that the Kishanganga Hydroelectric Plant violates the Indus River Treaty by increasing the catchment of the Jhelum River and depriving Pakistan of its water rights. After Pakistan’s application was first rejected, the court asked India late September to stop constructing any permanent works that would inhibit restoration of the river. The International Court of Arbitration gave its “final award” on 20 December 2013, wherein it allowed India to go ahead with the construction of the Kishanganga dam in Jammu & Kashmir over which Pakistan had raised objections. According to the standards of ISO Pakistan is willing to be the part of those countries which have valuable export goods but due to unsettlement of water and diversified flow of rivers that cannot mature the dream of Pakistan to get radiant. That’s why the over population of Pakistan is hording all the resources and delaying the level to be Asian Tiger in the sense of promoting and exporting the goods for international markets.

In Pakistan Faisalabad known as an industrial city and is popular by its best export ratio and promotion of super goods and supply by this city. The chief executive FESCO Mr. Mujahid Islam Billah has done remarkable services towards good work for the public interest. Fluctuation of electricity is a major issue in Pakistan. Even it irritates the ordinary man. And if somebody has invested a huge capital for industrialisation he needs nonstop power supply but during storms, the electric power feeders do not work properly. Even their tansformers do not supply the electric supply accordingly. So all schedules turn turtle and demanding productivity does not give proper results. During his tenure he searched the suffered areas of his region and maintained them accordingly within limited time. As a chief of FESCO he has given remarkable industrial electric nonstop power services with his team to make the dream come true of Chief Minister Punjab as an exportable Pakistan. It is possible only with the concerted efforts of serious minded people who really want to see Pakistan progress depending upon on his resources. For this cause the big political.

South Asia — the Pak-US tango: 16 November, 2017 "Daily Times"

By virtue of being a superpower, the US has its interests spread around the world. Certainly, there remains not a single area that the latter has not set its sights on in order to expand influence while safeguarding its concerns. At the end of the Second World War, the US broadened its focus from Europe to Southeast Asia and then, finally, to the Middle East. The most significant reason for this was the Cold War. But then came the eventual collapse of communism, bringing with it the fall of the Berlin Wall and the disintegration of the Soviet Union. Which meant that Washington was free to turn its attention to yet another region: namely, South Asia.

During the bi-polar order of the Cold War years — the American spotlight here in this neck of the woods was based primarily on short-term goals. Such as the alliance with Pakistan during the 1950s and 1960s against the ‘commies’. But of course, as we all know, as soon as the latter were defeated and the Soviets left Afghanistan — the Americans withdrew their embrace without so much as a by-your-leave.

The 9/11 terror attacks saw Pakistan welcomed back into the fold, once more. This time we were needed to defeat terrorism. Today, the US officially declares us a frontline ally in the global war on terror. The reality, however, is far less glamorous. Washington still doesn’t quite play fair; viewing the bilateral relationship as if it were transactional and where it always gets to pocket the change. And there are at present no signs of this changing any time soon. President Donald Trump, after all, has already more or less indicated that the US is not leaving Afghanistan. In addition, the American courtship of India to counter a rising China shows no signs of letting up.

During his recent visit to Pakistan, US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson stressed the importance of this country both in the South Asian context and in the fight against terrorism. For once, we were not gushing; choosing instead to express our concerns over regional developments. Thus did we argue that the expanded role of India in neighbouring Afghanistan will do anything but restore peace and security to this region. We were also unhappy about the economic and military assistance, including promised drone technology, that Washington was redirecting New Delhi’s way. Sadly, all this is happening at a time when the Indo-Pak relationship is rapidly deteriorating.

Mr Trump is mistaken if he expects this brinkmanship — this scape-goating of Pakistan — to work in his favour. It cannot go on indefinitely. At some point real leadership will be required

Thus the US needs to rethink its new South Asia policy. For if it does not, the risk is that the ongoing friction between the US and Pakistan will have no chance of abating; with the trust deficit on both sides taking a hard hit. Yet this is easier said than done given that the Americans are putting the blame for regional instability firmly at our door; stressing that the terrorist safe-havens within Pakistan’s borders are being used to export militancy to both Kabul and New Delhi. Indeed, this was the premise for Trump’s new vision for the region, in which he has pinned all responsibility on this country to secure the Afghan quagmire.

Once more, Pakistan didn’t take kindly to this berating. Foreign Minister Khawaja Asif was blunt when he said that the country could no longer afford to fight someone else’s war. For time and again has Pakistan told Washington that the Afghan Taliban are not under its sphere of influence. Meaning that it is grossly unfair to expect Islamabad to drag them kicking and screaming to the negotiating table; regardless of whether or not almost half of Afghanistan is under their control. Yet the US appears not the least bit bothered when it comes to ground realities. Far easier to keep issuing threats to Pakistan to do more or else face the music.

Reading the tea leaves: 13 November, 2017 "The Nation"

Recently a conference was organized at the Urban institute in Washington Dc. The topic was Pakistan’s growing middle class. In a fascinating discussion spanning 90 minutes, the panelists shared some very interesting data with the audience. By 2030, 66% of the Pakistani population will constitute the middle class.

Ten years ago, TTP came into being after formally declaring war on the state of Pakistan. Ten years on the battle against TTP is close to being won but the war against extremism rages on. The last decade saw unbelievable blood spilled both of our security personnel as well as our citizenry. There will still be more.

Ten years ago a judicial movement was launched which ended up greatly weakening the military ruler of the time eventually leading to his resignation a year later. Since that time the senior judiciary has flexed its muscles and sent home two sitting Prime Ministers.

This country’s growing urban middle class, empowered judiciary and military whose current and future leadership for the next two decades will have bled and fought in a vicious war on home soil will hold the keys to what is to unfold in the coming years.

Our growing middle class may be conservative, right of center ideologically and as a result much reviled by our mostly former communist leaning commentariat, but global history suggests that collectively this middle class will increasingly start demanding better service delivery and governance. Many in this middle class like this country’s elite will continue to wish to evade taxes, especially amongst the traders but unlike the elite with safety nests abroad, this bloc will simultaneously aspire for better schools, hospitals, public transport and air to breathe in, here at home. With an existential water crisis looming, a solution for water will be forced upon by this bloc as it’s the cities which will first start to feel the pinch. This middle class may or may not lead to a better democratic dispensation in terms of liberalism and pluralism as that will depend on the quality of the new leadership that comes forth but what it will certainly do is start to dwarf and clash with the traditional power base of our ruling dynasties. Biradri politics, ethnic politics, myopic politics of patronage will rapidly start to lose its efficacy as the sheer numbers of this new bloc starts gaining meaning. Census results will be disputed, delimitations delayed, gerrymandering intensified, politics of divisions heightened but the grip of the dynastic oligarchies will continue to lessen and lessen.

Which brings us to the second part, an empowered judiciary. This factor alone has been and will be the biggest catalyst for change. Many still see them through the prism of the outdated civ-mil paradigm. Whether it’s the Bhutto hanging or the multiple PCO’s most have been unable to move beyond a stale narrative. 2007 changed things. Questions are being asked of people in power and people in power are being held to account while in power. This is unprecedented. Are these questions being asked across the board or treatment being meted out equally to all? Not yet. But the culture of the rule of law is on the rise and very soon there will be no holy cows. Other institutions captured by the ruling elite will start asserting autonomy more and more and once that reaches critical mass the edifice of power of the current system will come crashing down.

For the sacrifices leaden armed forces, the last ten years was a rite of passage that has fundamentally changed the military. This is a battle hardened, state rebuilding military that has lost so many of its best and brightest. Today’s rank and file much like their fellow Pakistanis wants a better future. Above all they don’t want the tremendous sacrifices of their comrades and loved ones to be in vain. They will want to see a strong and prosperous nation emerging which is not weighed down by oligarchs and mafias. Seeking power will not be the goal rather good governance and thriving of the state will. Whether any military should be desiring such things will be irrelevant as the dynamic of this military having shed so much blood will drive this.

These three factors and trends suggest bad news for the current system. Politics as usual will become unsustainable. The politics of entitled dynasties and the open plunder of state resources will no longer be possible. Imran Khan’s PTI is just the first of many new political forces that will emerge. PTI may have many of the same old faces but its about the way things will have to be done rather than the face doing it. If the PPP or PMLN manage to read the tea leaves and adapt accordingly they could be leading these changes as well. Institutions will start to matter more rather than individuals and families. This transition away from the status quo way of doing things to a more accountable and institutionalized governing structure will be messy, chaotic and take time. There will be hiccups and setbacks, given the power and resources amassed by the status quo in the last four decades. No messiah will emerge and fix things overnight. Nor will there be complete harmony between a non-monolithic middle class, the military and our judiciary. On the contrary there will be tremendous ongoing friction as we move towards the new equilibrium. However the dynamics of events and factors will get Pakistan there. Rule of law will gain strength, merit will gain credence, local governments will become stronger, service delivery will show marked improvement and the economy will grow robustly. It’s a matter of when not if with only black swan events potentially delaying this.

We have been through a very long dark painful night and aren’t completely out yet but things are starting to look bright. The darkest night for the status quo on the other hand is just getting started.

Missing — women in national security: 13 November, 2017 "Daily Times"

The words of distinguished feminist international relations theorist, Ann Tickner, in 1998, “International relations is a man’s world, a world of power and conflict in which warfare is a privileged activity”; is convincing even today. Majority of experts in Pakistan do not look at warfare issues with the gender lens. A small number of highly placed Pakistani women in politics and civil service feel demoted if asked to look at a certain issue with gender standpoint until and unless there is any compulsion. This is in conformity with the popular worldwide assumption about the irrelevance of the complex roles of women in the theatre of International Relations.

The cautious women and conventional academia in Pakistan, remains largely unmoved by the UN Security Council’s land mark resolution 1325 in year 2000, and subsequent resolutions that continue to underscore the centrality of women in the realm of security. The country cannot afford to remain refractory to this alarming state of the affairs. Different public universities should come together in strategising how academia and the defence industry plan to better harness women’s skills and utilise the insights of those experts, who understand the indigenous contexts, on engendered leadership in national security. Investing in nurturing a multiple and multilevel narrativisation on national security is worth doing.

Empowerment of women is one of the elements of power in national security. What is the position of women and those too powerless women, mothers who lose their children, widows and orphan daughters within such definitions and discourse about the national security? Should women be active contributors or passive users of the national security? Such queries have been residing in my mind for as long as my homeland has endured the war on terrorism. These questions have consistently troubled many hearts like mine that have wept non-stop, since the militant’s attack on the Army Public School, Peshawar, on December 16, 2014. Nearly twenty million Pakistanis, that day, simultaneously realised that lightest coffins are heaviest to lift.

Owing to a combination of errors in civil military relationship, power equations and transformative changes in global power balance, the society in Pakistan has not only become violent towards women but also sexual, ethnic and religious minorities. The terror torn context has become too shallow and is existing with an accentuated intolerance. Difference rather than diversity is decipherable. A National Counter Terrorism Authority (NACTA) was set up in 2008 and is mandated to devise a counter-terrorism strategy in Pakistan. It has recently sent a draft strategy of national narrative to the government for approval in order to deal with extremist ideologies. Reportedly, 18-month long stakeholders’ consultations produced the draft. Such consultations must always be vast and the methods must ensure directness, inclusion of grass roots organisations and evident community participation; if the aim is to deliver a gender responsive and rights based strategy.

National Defence University regularly organises annual 5-week intensive workshops with legislators, civil society representatives, civil servants and military officials

The security and equality of women is imperative in the security of the state itself. Introducing and integrating gender diversity, in making decisions, leads to better results. The non-inclusion of women in general and those from masses in particular in the portrait of the brass tacks of power, undermine our national security that is already experiencing destabilisation due to the religious divide, sectarianism, extremism and terrorism. The duty bearers may embark on a conscious effort to realise the relevance of engendering their respective sphere or at least animatedly work on regulation of the perception about the absence of the voices and views of women in the security space.

After more than 26 years of mostly learning experiences with emptiness of funds-dependent and funds-driven interventions, that too often create, speculation (no matter how undue it may be), I believe that the national narrative/s on national security must be fully understood and owned by the country’s public sector organisations. The visible participation of those women, who are direct right holders in security spectrum (and not those who are merely primary recipients international funds), in national security policy, decisions making should be established as a standard practice as there are definite benefits and dividends in it.

National Defence University (NDU) regularly organises annual 5-week intensive workshops with legislators, civil society representatives, civil servants and senior military officials to dispel myths and build harmony on national security. The NDU could take a lead role by establishing a think tank that can engage with women and other marginalised groups of Pakistani citizens on different dimensions of national security. This must happen with speed, right intentions and visionary leadership otherwise the catastrophe to be caused by the radicalisation of academia, emotionally disturbed population due to traumas of death, disability and displacement caused by insecurities and escalating militarisation within women, is writing on the wall.

According to SATP, the largest website on terrorism and low intensity warfare in South Asia, our country coped with 62586 (33794 terrorists/insurgents, 21947 civilians and 6845 armed forces personnel) casualties between 2003 till November 5th, 2017 due to terrorism. Pakistani women like women elsewhere have the potential to enrich humanitarian assistance, ripen peace talks and toughen peacekeepers’ endeavors. The recognition of this veiled power of women and the gender-alert peace management by the pertinent organisations would be a game changer in the security landscape of the country.

It's UPR time again: 11 November, 2017 "Daily Times"

Pakistan’s Universal Periodic Review (UPR) is scheduled to take place on November 13. UN member states will get together in Geneva to review the country’s human rights record and make recommendations for improvement.

We have recently seen Pakistan make tall promises about its ‘deep commitment’ to human rights and engagement with UN human rights mechanisms, especially around elections for the Human Rights’ Council.

But how seriously does Pakistan really take these commitments? One way to make this assessment is to see how Pakistan has engaged with the UPR process in previous cycles, including to what extent it has implemented recommendations it accepted at that time.

First a quick note about the UPR process, a key mechanism of the UN Human Rights Council.

The UN General Assembly (UNGA) had established the Human Rights Council in 2006 to replace the then existing Human Rights Commission, seen as a politically selective institution in its treatment of individual states. By contrast, the Human Rights Council was tasked by the UNGA to undertake a UPR of ‘the fulfillment by each state of its human rights obligations and commitments in a manner which ensures universality of coverage and equal treatment with respect to all states’.

Since 2006, all 193 UN Member States have had their UPRs, and have participated in creating a unique mechanism in which UN Member States can make recommendations to fellow States on how to improve their human rights performance.

During its second UPR in 2012, Pakistan received 167 recommendations – of which it rejected seven, ‘noted’ 34, and accepted 126.

The seven recommendations rejected by Pakistan related to some of the most serious human rights violations in the country. The country strongly opposed calls to stop the ongoing security operation aimed at silencing dissent in Balochistan. It denied any State repression in the province – a denial that persists despite the Supreme Court acknowledging evidence that the security agencies are responsible for perpetrating extrajudicial killings and enforced disappearances, including that of journalists, political activists and human rights defenders.

Other recommendations rejected by Pakistan included adopting an official moratorium on the death penalty with a view to abolishing capital punishment in law and practice, repealing blasphemy laws, and reconsidering laws that criminalise adultery and non-marital consensual sex.

The Government’s outright rejection of these recommendations constitutes a serious disregard of Pakistan’s obligations under international human rights law, including the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), and ignores long-standing pleas by international and national human rights organisations.

It is equally telling that a majority of the recommendations that Pakistan did accept refer to vague commitments that lack a sense of urgency, and are not necessarily action-based. These recommendations, for example, urge Pakistan to ‘continue its efforts’ to protect women and children; combat social inequality, poverty, and terrorism; and strengthen democratic institutions.

Pakistan did, however, make a number of concrete commitments as well.

One set of recommendations it accepted relates to criminalising enforced disappearances, bringing perpetrators to justice, and strengthening the Commission of Inquiry on Enforced Disappearances (CoIoED).

During its second UPR in 2012, Pakistan received  167 recommendations — of which it rejected seven, ‘noted’ 34, and accepted 126

In the four years since Pakistan’s last UPR, the authorities have not taken any steps to fulfill these commitments: enforced disappearance is still not recognised as a distinct and autonomous criminal offence; the CoIoED remains largely ineffective, failing to register criminal complaints against alleged perpetrators; and not a single person has been convicted of offences arising from cases of enforced disappearance. Instead, Pakistan has passed laws that seek effectively to ‘legalise’ enforced disappearances and provide blanket immunity to those responsible.

Another set of recommendations accepted by Pakistan relates to preventing the misuse of blasphemy laws, and amending these laws to make them consistent with Pakistan’s obligations under the ICCPR.

Reforms, however, appear nowhere on the Government’s agenda, which continues to deny the abuse of the blasphemy laws, ignoring the dozens of people killed with impunity after blasphemy allegations, and countless others who have lost precious years of their lives in detention – often in solitary confinement – on fabricated blasphemy charges. In more than 90 per cent of the cases, courts go on to eventually acquit the accused, but not before they have had their reputations destroyed and their lives deeply disrupted – injustices made possible by the discriminatory, vague, and poorly drafted blasphemy laws.

In fact, in its 2015 mid-term assessment of the implementation of 67 recommendations accepted by Pakistan, the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) found that 38 recommendations – a large majority -were not implemented at all, 29 recommendations were only partially implemented, and not a single recommendation was implemented in full.

When faced with difficult questions about its human rights record, Pakistan has in the past resorted to denial, misrepresentation of the truth, or attacks on NGOs and human rights activists for ‘making up’ allegations to ‘defame Pakistan’.

For example, in response to concerns about the abuses related to the enforcement of blasphemy laws, Pakistan has claimed, ‘no one has been punished’ under the blasphemy laws, and that the blasphemy laws are non-discriminatory – assertions that are demonstrably false.

Similarly, when questioned about impunity for serious human rights violations like enforced disappearances, the Government has claimed that it ‘takes action against perpetrators’. Yet, the fact remains that the Government is unable to name a single perpetrator of enforced disappearance brought to justice in Pakistan.

As Pakistan’s third UPR approaches, the National Commission of Human Rights (NCHR), UN human rights mechanisms, and over a dozen national and international human rights organisations, including the International Commission of Jurists (ICJ), are all in agreement that the human rights situation in the country has in many ways deteriorated since the last UPR.

This time around it won’t be so easy for the Pakistan delegation to get away with half-truths and doublespeak at the UN on Monday.

Global dynamics of CPEC: 11 November, 2017 "Business Recorder"

Of all the countries, India has the singular distinction of voicing concerns about the China Pakistan Economic Corridor and has been vocal since CPEC’s very inception. The reason cited by India is that CPEC passes through disputed territory, Gilgit-Baltistan (GB). 

China and Pakistan have rejected this assumption of India while the rest of the countries as well as the United Nations have ignored this plea of India as superfluous. 

Lately, the US raised some objections on CPEC on the assumption that some part of the project runs through the internationally disputed territory of Kashmir. 

The fact remains that no part of CPEC runs through Indian-occupied Kashmir or Pakistan-administered Kashmir. How far is the US concerned about it is questionable. Realistically, it is more of a diplomatic move as the US had never raised any objections since CPEC’s inception. The US truly recognizes that prosperity in the region will wipe out terrorism. The US has itself been providing funds to Pakistan for the purpose. 

This distortion, bracketing GB with Kashmir, is unacceptable because Kashmir is internationally recognized as disputed territory and the UN itself recognizes it as a dispute to be resolved by allowing the population to exercise their right of self-determination through a plebiscite - which has been denied to-date. GB has none of these strings attached to it. 

It sounds out of place that while the global community and the UN have failed to provide relief to the miseries and suffering of the people of Kashmir for seven decades, there are some voices against the people of GB the right to prosperity, better education, healthcare and well-being. This attitude is against humanity. Those who want to block the well-being of the people are incapable of finding solution to a recognized dispute. These voices would do well if, instead, they concentrated on resolving the dispute and help bring these unfortunate people into the mainstream of social integration, rather than attempting to block them. 

The CPEC has come to stay and has progressed too far to be derailed. The stakes of China and Pakistan are high and too much has been invested in time and money. 

It is understandable that CPEC, going from one end of Pakistan to another, much of it in the proximity of India’s long border with Pakistan, is unnerving India. This is perceived by India as a blockade to their land entry into Afghanistan and Iran. Further, Gwadar port’s existence on the Persian Gulf, with a clear view of the Indian Ocean, limits the supremacy of India in that area of growing importance. 

The CPEC is of strategic importance to China and Pakistan, and above that it is of economic value to Pakistan in particular and South-East Asia in general. The CPEC comes under China’s One Belt One Road vision for the prosperity, connectivity and globalization of trade, culture and social integration of the people of the world. 

At the One Belt One Road mega opening in May 2017 in Beijing, participated by global political and business leaders from all corners of the world, President Xi of China invited all countries to be part of this mission. Numerous countries from west to east and south to north have pledged their support to the vision and be part of this global initiative of integration and globalization of trade and businesses. 

For Pakistan, on the economic front, the CPEC means better connectivity through road networks and better accessibility to markets and people who so far are denied economic and social progress, healthcare, education and civic amenities and facilities. For Pakistan, it means enhancement of its power generation and transmission capacity, oil and gas production, the capacity to meet its growing energy needs through new power plants. It means enhancement of its water storage resources and capacity through construction of dams and water reservoirs to support the agricultural growth of Pakistan. 

Over 20 Special Economic Zones being established under CPEC, and they are meant to spur the growth of industry to provide employment and skills to the people. The upgrading of rail and rapid urban transportation are meant to provide decent and time effective mobility to the people. 

The CPEC is largely perceived to be China-centric and Pakistan-centric. It is true to the extent that a large part of development is under this regime for the reason that the Eximp Bank of China has pledged over $45 billion under project financing to kick-start the economic activities in Pakistan. 

But all the infrastructure being developed in Pakistan under the CPEC is paid for by the government of Pakistan and is the asset of Pakistan and is available to all local and foreign investors to benefit from. 

The CPEC is a catalyst for all investors. After an initial limbo and apprehensions, many of the foreign investors have recognized its potential and are once again looking at Pakistan with interest as a market. 

The CPEC is an opportunity for Pakistan and the countries in its proximity and all must look at it with an open mind and welcome it with a warm heart. 

Indo-US-Afghan nexus and Pakistan: 03 November, 2017 "Daily Times"

Addressing a gathering at the Vivekananda International Foundation in New Delhi on October 25, Afghan President Ashraf Ghani ruled out his country’s participation in China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) unless Kabul is given access to Wagah crossing on the Indo-Pak border for its trade with New Delhi. He threatened to block Pakistan’s access to Central Asia if his country’s demand for a land entry via Pakistan for trade with India is not granted. Earlier, the Afghan President lauded Donald Trump’s new policy on South Asia as a ‘game changer’ and welcomed India’s new role in Afghanistan.

The possibility of Indo-US-Afghan nexus is not superficial but real as American tilt towards India and Afghanistan is not a new phenomenon. Since quite long, particularly after Trump’s election as president, growing Indo-US-Afghan understanding on dealing with what they perceive terrorist safe havens in the tribal areas of Pakistan tends to raise serious concerns in Islamabad.

Indo-US nexus is also talked about in terms of growing defence cooperation and dealing with China and Pakistan. But, if US-Indo-Afghan nexus is in offing, it would mean three major implications for Pakistan. First, deepening of strategic pressure on Pakistan as its two major neighbours and a global superpower will coordinate their policies to further limit time, space and options for Islamabad.

After concluding his week-long visit to Europe, Middle East and South Asia, US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson made it clear that, “Pakistan is a key partner for the stability of the region. We have a long history of positive partnership with Pakistan, but Pakistan should do more to eradicate militants and terrorists operating within its country.”

Indo-US-Afghan nexus would further deepen Pakistan’s dependence on China and to lesser extent on Russia for meeting its defence needs. In an interview to Arab News on October 9, Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi made it clear that his country will diversify the sources of its defence needs instead of remaining dependent on the United States by seeking Chinese, Russian and European sources of defence equipment.

It is yet to be seen how far and to what extent the military establishment of Pakistan can distance itself from the United States. Since early 1950s till the recent past, military to military relations between Pakistan and the US remained on a strong footing as Islamabad, albeit phases of rupture, remained a major recipient of American military aid and training.

The Afghan allegations against Pakistan continue unabated despite the goodwill which was created as a result of the visit of Chief of Army Staff to Kabul last month and the recent four-tier talks among Afghanistan, China, Pakistan and the United States in Oman

Furthermore, it is not only the matter of Pak-US defence cooperation since the day of alliances till the post-9/11 Pakistan’s tilt towards American led war on terror, the interests of civilian elites including bureaucracy and politicians also clicked with Washington as America provided them ‘safe haven’ in the form of good quality of life and better opportunities for them and their children. And it is not only the United States which promises a ‘safe haven’ to the elites of Pakistan, but it is the entire West which provides the elites of Pakistan, like many of the counterparts in the third world countries, opportunities for a better present and future life.

In view of the ground realities, it is rightly asked by those who question the rationale of periodic assertions by Pakistani political, bureaucratic and military circles about their defiance with the US the contradiction in theory and practice of their so-called anti-US and anti-West rhetoric. Third, age-old American influence in Pakistan means that the US has access to the individuals and institutions involved in formulating and designing what the Prime Minister, Foreign Minister and Chief of Army Staff assert a policy of not acquiescing to American pressure of ‘doing more’ to eradicate ‘safe havens’ of alleged terrorist networks in Pakistan.

In a hard hitting speech which he delivered in the Senate of Pakistan in a briefing session on October 26, Foreign Minister Khawaja Asif made it clear that, “we have not succumbed to the threat made by Trump from Fort Myer. We stood tall and will keep the posture before any power of the world. We are ready to help them, but will not become their proxy.”

One can appreciate what the Foreign Minister stated in his Senate briefing about Pakistan not becoming proxy of the US and his severe criticism on the past regimes who used to hand over suspects to the United States for dollars, but how far the present regime of Pakistan, no matter how defiant it is, can restore respect, sovereignty and integrity is yet to be seen.

In view of strategic consensus which exists between India, United States and Afghanistan on the alleged existence of ‘safe havens’ of terrorist networks in Pakistan, and Islamabad’s denial of American-Indian and Afghan allegations, there is a remote possibility of any transformation in the existing standoff between Pakistan on the one hand and Washington-New Delhi and Kabul on the other.

Surprisingly, the Afghan allegations against Pakistan continue unabated despite the goodwill which was created as a result of the visit of Chief of Army Staff to Kabul last month and the recent holding of four tier talks among Afghanistan, China, Pakistan and the United States in Muscat, Oman. Kabul’s hard line stance on Pakistan has become more visible after Tillerson’s visit to Afghanistan and the holding of talks between the Afghan President Ashraf Ghani and Indian Prime Minister Narandra Modi. It means that the pressure on Pakistan by the three countries that want Islamabad to follow their line of action on Afghanistan and regional security concerns particularly on terrorism is deepening.

For Pakistan, it is like a devil and a deep blue like situation: sandwiched between unfriendly India and Afghanistan and unabated American pressure to weed out what it calls the infrastructure of terrorist and militant groups, the only viable option is to put its own house in order by focusing of human and social development; eradication of corruption, nepotism, extremism, intolerance, radicalisation, militancy, violence and terrorism from society. Good governance, effective justice system and the rule of law will also go a long way in pulling Pakistan out of multiple crisis like economic, political and the crisis situation as far as the Indo-US-Afghan nexus is concerned.

Economic profile of Pakistan: 03 November, 2017 "The Nation"

There is no dearth of people around who are hell bent to denigrate the economic performance of the country, orchestrated by the PML (N) government over the last four years for reasons of their own which invariably are divorced from the contextual relevance and rationale. The view being propagated is that the foreign trade deficit, rising fiscal deficit and huge debt, owing to excessive borrowing by the government, are surely going to send the economy into a nosedive. They are relentlessly trying to rub in the view that the country was on the brink of economic disaster. Some western media reports have also created hype about Pakistan’s inability to service the accumulating debt.

While the proponents of the doomsday scenario mention the existence of these problems they fail to elicit the reasons that have led to the obtaining situation which they assume can scuttle whatever progress has been made. They also hesitate to acknowledge the likely off-setting and multiplier effect of the projects on which this borrowed money has been invested, on the future health and strength of the economy.

The reality is that the government has embarked on a massive programme of infrastructure development in the country which is considered to be the major propellant of economic growth, especially under CPEC that necessitated obtaining of loans contributing to the quantum of debts as well other development projects which were absolutely essential to put the economy on the upward curve. The National Highway Authority reportedly initiated projects worth Rs.1400 billion during the last four years, including some under the CPEC and others for the improvement and building of connecting network of roads throughout the country. Some of these project were initiated on BOT bases, some through private-public cooperation and some through CPEC necessitating loans from the Chinese Banks on the lowest possible interest rate of 1.6% which compared to the interest rates charged by other international lending agencies is much favourable.

Pakistan despite the financial constraints also had to divert huge funds to the war on terror. The economy reportedly also suffered a loss of Rs.120 billion due its involvement in the fight against terrorism. The narrow base of tax revenue is also one of the major factors necessitating borrowing for development needs. In fact, Pakistan is one of the countries with the lowest rates of tax collection in the world. It has long been troubled by the tax problem, which is one of the main reasons behind its fiscal deficit.

But despite the foregoing constraints and debilitating factors, there is no denying the fact that the PML (N) government has been able to winch the economy out of the quagmire it was stuck into when it was saddled with the responsibility to run the affairs of the country in 2013. It is a recorded fact that the country was facing the prospect of defaulting on IMF loans and had to seek another loan from it to rectify the situation. It is an irrefutable reality that among other success stories regarding the inherited challenge the revival of the economy though prudent economic management has been the most appreciated and endorsed achievements of the government which saw the GDP growth rate rising to 5.3% (highest in the last ten years) in 2017 from a dismally low rate of 3% in 2013. The budgetary deficit which stood at 8.8% in 2013, was brought down to 4.4% though it has gone slightly beyond 5% recently. The international lending and rating agencies have repeatedly acknowledged and endorsed this economic revival. IMF attributed this success to consumer confidence and fiscal reforms. Not only that it has also predicted GDP growth rate of 5.5% and 5.8% during 2018 and 2019 respectively. The Asian Development Bank (ADB) though recently pointed out Pakistan’s economic vulnerability to fiscal and external problems but maintained optimistic growth forecast for Pakistan’s economy. As late as 30th October 2017 the standard and poor Global rating agency maintained the short-term and long-term sovereign credit rating of ‘B’ for Pakistan which is likely to help it to materialize its plan to generate much needed dollar inflow of 2-3$ billion which it plans to raise through Sukuk and Eurobond within the next two to three weeks in order to overcome the fiscal difficulties.

Admittedly there are difficulties in managing the economy due to the factors pointed out by the critics but remedies are also at hand to fix them and keep the economy on track. These problems can be addressed gradually through development to ensure financial sustainability. It is however a temporary phenomenon. The things will surely start falling in place when all the infrastructure development projects including motor ways, road networks and the CPEC corridor as a whole become operational. It is likely to generate economic activity of colossal proportions which helped by its multiplier effect would unfurl an era of unimaginable economic prosperity.

Economists believe that the prospects of progress and prosperity are much brighter in the future and the implementation of CPEC would add another 2-3% to the GDP growth rate. The resources generated by this mega-economic initiative would not only be more than enough to address the confronting challenges but also for the future development needs of the country which eventually might lead to the culmination of the dependence of the country on foreign loans for its development projects and fixing fiscal difficulties. The CPEC has also led to increase in the direct foreign investment in the country. According to the state bank of Pakistan the foreign direct investment in Pakistan increased by 56% year-on-year in the July-September period of which the major chunk of 65% came from China.

Another major factor that is going to play a pivotal role in lifting Pakistan’s economy is the availability of energy for the industrial development of the country which has been severely hampered due to the energy crisis that the government inherited. These shortages cost Rs.14 billion to Pakistan’s economy in 2015 equivalent to 7 per cent of the GDP. The energy projects under CPEC which will come on stream by the end of next year are likely to add nearly11000 MW electricity to the national grid. The average energy short fall of Pakistan is 4000 MW, so with the completion of energy projects under CPEC the country would not only overcome the energy crisis but would also have enough power available for future development. This would surely impart impetus to industrial development leading to improvement in the employment situation as well as expanding the tax base.

As is evident from the foregoing facts, the economic situation of the country is not as dismal as the detractors of the government and other vested interests would like to portray it. The country is certainly poised to attain a higher economic plank in the future and the problems currently at hand would gradually become extinct.

While the proponents of the doomsday scenario mention the existence of these problems they fail to elicit the reasons that have led to the obtaining situation which they assume can scuttle whatever progress has been made.

A séance with Jinnah’s spirit: 02 November, 2017 "Daily Times"

I was captivated to know of a document archived in British Library, London, which is a record of a special séance with the spirit of Quaid-e-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah held at 6 pm on March 13, 1955 — eight years after creation of Pakistan and seven years after Quaid’s death. The special séance, where a spiritualist makes a contact with the spirit of a dead, was arranged for by a government officer, Muhammad Ibrahim, who was overtly anxious about the crisis that plagued Pakistan in 1955. He had hired a spiritualist for this session. The document is a handwritten report, which provides for some interesting details that this column can’t afford. God knows how this document reached British Library as a part of ‘Quaid-e-Azam Papers’.

The officer accompanied spiritualist in the séance so he could feed the questions he was most concerned about once the contact with Jinnah’s spirit is secured. After salutations and formal inquiries about Jinnah’s well being, the officer asked, “Sir, as a creator and father of Pakistan, won’t you guide the destiny of the nation now?” Jinnah’s spirit responded: “It’s not for me to guide Pakistan’s destiny anymore, even though I often see flashes of evil pictures about Pakistan.” Much worried, the officer then asked, “Don’t you think there’s a peaceful and prosperous future for Pakistan?” As if untouched, the spirit responded, “I don’t think so. Prosperity of a country depends on the selflessness of people who control its destiny. None at all is eager to be selfless there.”

In the end, the spirit made the most potent declaration, “It’s easier to acquire a country, but extremely difficult to retain it. That’s in a nutshell the present position of Pakistan to gain which rivers of blood flowed.” I am no expert to certify or refute the reality of séance with the spirit of the dead and credibility of information secured through this medium. What I find conspicuously true about this spiritual testimony is how truly it reflected the crisis of our state in 1955, when the country was still without its first constitution, power players among politicians and civil and military bureaucracy squabbling, and smaller provinces weary of a centralised state. Just sixteen years later, this prophetic warning unfortunately proved to be true when we lost eastern wing of the country.

Democracy would have taken root and delivered peace and stability in the country after initial teething problems, had there been no political intrusion and adventurism from the military generals and it was left to the politicians to deal with constitutional and governance challenges

Regrettably, even to this day, those at the helm are still far from being selfless for the sake of peace and prosperity of the nation that its founder had dreamed so dearly. Factional interests and desire for domination among most important institutions such as military establishment, judiciary and the popularly elected executive is so fierce and obvious that it’s not just locals but foreign powers too know of it fully well. Ideally and as the constitution of the country demands, the elected representatives and the civilian executive must reign supreme when it comes to leading and governing the country. However, for paucity of democratic values and character among the politicians and their general inability to rise beyond venal political ambitions was hardly of any help to democracy and civilian supremacy.

Nevertheless, in all probability, democracy would have taken the root and delivered peace and stability in the country after teething problems and stumbling, had there been no political intrusion and adventurism from the military generals and had it been left to the politicians to deal with constitutional and governance challenges. Sadly, every single time the military coup removed the civilian regimes, the judiciary was on the side of military dictators. And it happened with such a frequency ie almost after every other decade, that the corps d’elite of military and judiciary have taken upon themselves to intervene in routine government matters such as foreign policy, economy, and transfer postings of the government officers.

Else, for instance, what can justify in any democratic country that a military dictator tried for a high treason case is allowed to fly out of country on the most flimsy ground of back-pain? Or in which civilised country an order from the prime minister office is out rightly ‘rejected’ by major general so contemptibly over social media? Or what logic could justify executive interventions from higher courts in transfer postings of government officers? In what country regulating bodies such as PEMRA are rendered almost useless by courts liberally issuing stay-orders over routine regulatory actions against violations by TV channels and anchorpersons? As Quaid’s spirit declared, the state institutions and their leadership which undoubtedly control the destiny of this nation could have turned Quaid’s dream into a reality only if they had a sense of selflessness in terms of power sharing, privileges, resources and publicity. The testimony from séance with Quaid’s spirit painfully holds true to this day.

Impacts of climate change: 02 November, 2017 "Daily Times"

Climate Change is a multi-disciplinary area interlinked with many other fields, like food and agriculture, health, economy, water issues, disaster management and gender perspective. The role of women in climate change cannot be undermined due to their greater risks of susceptibility to climate change disasters. Pakistan is among top ten countries most affected by climate change, thus making its females more vulnerable to climate change risks. According to Pakistan Bureau of Statistics, the percentage of females in Pakistan is 48.76 percent as compared to 51 percent of men according to census 2017. This means that females comprises almost half population of Pakistan and equally prone to climate change disasters. Under the undocumented economy of Pakistan, many women in rural areas are associated with agricultural and livestock work, providing their families’ livelihood. The floods and droughts caused by climate change demolish crops, negatively impacting the livelihood of women.

The 2010-14 floods in Pakistan caused monetary losses of over 18 millions dollars, affected 38.12 million people, damaged 3.45 houses and destroyed 10.63 millions acre crops. The damages to crops and livestock also creates food security in the country, affecting the health of women in form of malnutrition during pregnancy and after childbirth. The women in Northern areas are dependent upon wood from forests in winter for cooking purposes and keeping them warm because many Northern areas lack facilities like gas and renewable energy resources. Thus, increasing deforestation that is main cause of global warming and climate change.

Climate Change is creating water shortage in our already water-restrained country, creating additional burden on rural women of Pakistan who fetch water from far off areas for domestic use. In the patriarchal society, financial problems due to climate change disasters lead to tensions in families and increase domestic violence against women. Similarly in rural areas, women are considered responsible for bringing up their children and domestic chores. There are many health issues caused by climate change in Pakistan like respiratory and eye infections due to smog. Not too long ago, heatwave in Karachi took lives of almost 2000 people. The diseases like malaria and dengue are temperature and rain sensitive and may increase due to climate change. The hot temperature is a condition for breeding and survival of dengue mosquito that is currently a major challenge in the province of Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. The women in Pakistan who are charged with the responsibility of taking care of ill family members are further over-burdened due to these health issues caused by climate change.

Pakistan has a significant representation of women parliamentarians from disaster prone areas. Women parliamentarians can play an active role in mobilising local women for disaster preparedness

All sustainable development goals are directly or indirectly related to goal 13 that is climate action. The goal number 5 called ‘gender equality’ also have a very important role in achieving targets of goal 13 ‘climate action’. First it’s very important to realise at all levels that women are at greater risks of climate change impacts. Pakistan is a signatory to Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women. The need to improve women’s participation in negotiations was also recognised by Conference of Parties 7 held in Marrakech. The Paris agreement somewhat reflects the importance of gender equality: the preamble talks about gender equality and empowerment of women. Adaptation and capacity building articles in Paris agreement include that action must be gender-responsive; and implementation of the decision is meant to take into account gender balance. So the needs of women vulnerable to climate change should be catered to under international commitments as well.

The government of Pakistan has taken various initiatives at policy level to include gender perspective separately like Climate Change Policy 2012, National Sanitation Policy 2006. There is a separate cell called Gender Child Cell working under National Disaster Management Authority. But there should be more practical steps to include the women in mainstream decision-making process. Pakistan is a country having significant representation of women parliamentarians from disaster prone areas. The female parliamentarians can play an active role to mobilise local women for disaster preparedness. There should be a specific funding in every project on climate change, allocated from gender perspective. A significant representation of women in all decision-making bodies of climate change at governmental and non -governmental level is also needed. Women must be included in delegations representing Pakistan at International forums on climate change as well.

Was Plato thinking today’s Pakistan?: 01 November, 2017 "The Nation"

When you can’t understand why people behave in a particular manner, the most natural thing to do is to convince yourself that people do not know what they are doing. At the same time, democracy in Pakistan is becoming increasingly dysfunctional by each passing day. Plato’s great worry about representative government was that leaders and ultimately citizens would “live from day to day, indulging in the pleasure of the moment.” He was right, at least in case of Pakistan, where we find democracies overspending with complete disregard to the long-term sustainability of the economy. The focus is either to pocket resources through non-transparent undertakings or indulges in fanciful projects to gain cheap popularity. Or to merely give colleagues what they perhaps want in the short run in shape of perks and enhanced entitlements – the abject rise in the packages of the Pakistani lawmakers and its bureaucracy since 2008 is unprecedented anywhere in the world. On top of that, lobbyists, decision-makers and others with vested interests have by now made a science of gaming the system to produce private benefits. Today on a net currency conversion basis, the aggregate wage level of an average Pakistani parliamentarian and a government servant is the highest in South Asia and significantly higher than even their counterparts in China. The great irony being that the lower paid executive is doling out $50 billion to a recipient executive, which is not only richer (in individual capacity) but also supports a far more opulent lifestyle!

Plato’s other concern with democracy stemmed from his philosophy that the ruler or leader should not draw strength from the institutions under him but that the institutions should draw strength from his higher moral and intellectual ability - and the people from his impartial benevolence, in many ways quite similar to the teachings and hierarchy in Islam. He believed that at some point the dependence on power yielding institutions turns these very institutions into predators, which then indulge in promoting self-interest and fighting counterproductive turf wars. Anyone, outside their fold (generally the public) becomes the victim. Fast-forward this to today’s Pakistan, and you find his prophecy coming true to the hilt. The so-called four pillars of state or the power centers fight for their respective domain and overtime have framed self-centric laws whereby assuming the status of untouchables. If you are a member of any of these four clubs you are okay, otherwise you are left with no rights, protection nor recourse. The stairway to power exclusively goes through these corridors marking a clear divide between the power elites and the common man. For example, PTI (Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf), which started as an idealist party soon realized that to attain power it had to join the club and which it did.

Now, this would have been acceptable if only this self-serving lot would have somewhat been delivering. This they have not been doing. But the real trouble is that as a discipline, meritocracy and nationhood in Pakistan disintegrate as the political and top brass leaders behave even more irresponsibly. Add to this list the news media as well when irresponsibility is the subject. In fact, the term meritocracy itself has become grayed in Pakistan where people mistrust the competence and intent of the very civil servant who is charged with the responsibility to hold the system together and dispense fair governance.

It should have been evident that meritocracy – a system in which the most talented and capable are put in leading positions – is better than plutocracy, gerontocracy or aristocracy and perhaps, even the rule of the majority, democracy. But the paradox of the current political crisis is rooted in the fact that the Pakistani elites today are being blamed for the very reasons in which they should be taking pride: their ability to hold the rule of law, fair play, their resistance to public pressure to do the right thing and their lifestyle mobility. They are seen more like the mercenary elite rather than the meritocratic elite.

Plato has probably not been forgotten as even the modern day rational thinking often draws upon his philosophies. It was in 1942 that the famous management guru, Joseph Schumpeter, published his only bestseller, ”Capitalism, Socialism, and Democracy.” The book was popular for a good reason. It was a tour de force of economics, history, and sociology. Though it coined memorable and innovative phrases such as “creative destruction,” it was essentially a book with a lot of gloom and doom. “Can capitalism survive?” he asked and then answered himself in a way that says it all, “No, I do not think it can, as ultimately the decay caused by democracy and populism will corrupt it and bring it down.” However, unlike in the time of Plato, today’s popular leaders aren’t interested in overtly taking over national assets, but instead, they tend to usurp power through the institutions they control or represent. The political leaders promise to save the people but in reality marginalize them by taking away the very civil liberties and rights in the same place from where the common man draws his strength– Parliament. Plato argued that democratic norms and principles, in theory, should liberalize people but it does not always happen this way in the real world. He must have been speaking for many liberals when he argued that being a loser in a meritocratic society is not as painful as being a loser in an openly unjust society. In his conception, the fairness of the game reconciles people with failure, because otherwise, they can revolt. Today, at home, where people’s patience is fast running out, it looks as if the great philosopher got it spot on!

The cities debate- the smaller may be smarter: 01 November, 2017 "Daily Times"

Human population continues to concentrate into cities, which currently occupy less than two percent of planetary land, yet generate seventy percent of the world’s economy. Urban dots on the globe continue to grow, especially in the South, where it is predicted that 45 of the world’s 50 mega cities will appear by the year 2050. It is predicted that by 2050, the populations of Mumbai, Delhi and Dhaka will come in at a staggering 40 million each. This rapid urbanisation has put systems of governance to the test everywhere, including in advanced countries. City governments and service providers are struggling to accommodate more and more people while keeping their feet on the ground. This situation has prompted the United Nations (UN) to select ‘Innovative Governance, Open Cities’ as a theme for 2017 World Cities Day, which was observed on 31 October.

World Cities Day has generated quite a stir among supporters of the urban cause who foresee big cities displacing their parent nations from federal governance in half a century. It is predicted that cities will be able to make their own internal policies and even establish their own foreign relations. The debate also goes on as to how other nations can replicate the Chinese experience, which has taken great strides in reducing poverty within a very short period. This achievement was mostly concentrated in Chinese cities. Urbanists also discuss and appreciate the power of urbanisation to act as a quick fix for long term development issues by using tools such as innovation, technology, mixed land use, density without suburbs, green spaces, safe transport, pluralistic societies and quality of life.

However in Pakistan, these issues are ignored in spite of the fact that it is one of the fastest urbanising nations in South Asia. Recent census figures show that 20 percent of Pakistan’s population now resides in 10 cities. According to the census, the rate of population growth in cities has been twice that of the overall demographic change in the country. These big cities are getting congested instead of the desired agglomeration effect of demographic and spatial change. According to World Bank research done in 2011, every 1 percent increase in urbanisation brings a 2.7 percent increase in GDP per capita. However, according to Micheal Kugelman the ‘messy and hidden’ nature of urbanisation restricts the economic dividend of high rates of urbanisation in Pakistan. As a result, cities like Karachi and Lahore grow disproportionately.

City governments are the weakest link in the Pakistani governance chain. This crisis is visible everywhere, especially in Karachi, where the housing gap widens by 90,000 units per year due to government policies, bureaucratic inefficiency and lack of municipal resources

City governments are the weakest link in the Pakistani governance chain. This crisis is visible everywhere, especially in Karachi, where the housing gap widens by 90,000 units per year due to government policies, bureaucratic inefficiency and lack of municipal resources. Only half of the total requirement of 1000 million gallons of water per day is supplied. Only 40 percent of the 20,000 tons of solid waste produced in Karachi reaches it’s landfill sites. This governance crisis has given birth to an even bigger class of urban poor, the ‘slum dogs’ who huddle in sub-human dwellings in under serviced graveyards. This poverty brings with it other risks like disease and crime. As per The Economist’s EIU Livability Ranking, Karachi shares the sixth worth position with Algiers. This was a survey of 140 cities assessing stability, culture and environmental indicators. During Karachi’s worst period, about 55 percent of Sindh’s crimes took place in Karachi.

To meet these governance challenges, more and more funds are funnelled into big cities at the cost of worsening situations in small cities and towns. This worsens inter regional disparities and economic opportunities. In Pakistan, 25 percent of Sindh’s development budget goes to Karachi. Lahore consumes 60 percent of Punjab’s annual development funds. This disproportionate investment in big cities and the perceived economic opportunities in big cities invites more people to these big cities. And the vicious cycle continues. It is estimated that by 2050, Karachi will by 30 times bigger than what it was in 1951. Meanwhile, Sindh’s second smallest city will be five times smaller at that point in time. Pakistan has adopted the ‘New Urban Agenda’ in 2016, however a commitment to develop inclusive, resilient, pluralistic, sustainable and compact urban spaces remains to be seen.

Meanwhile, our neighbor India has started focusing on smart villages and towns through it’s 100 smart cities program. Under this program, rural areas are being integrated with small and medium sized cities and towns by developing physical and technological infrastructure. In this way, they hope to save the cost of transformation of yet-to-be-developed infrastructure and achieve the objective of shared prosperity by investing in inclusive urban design. As Greg Foster, the Vice President of Habitat for Humanity’s Africa and Middle East puts it, “Small cities have more land, are less developed and are usually supported by one large business or a number of smaller ones. This means they can support their population and, with a little investment, could offer the best hope for reducing migration to the megacities, providing well-planned and sustainable communities, while boosting economic development”. Besides that, small cities do not need costly transport and transit facilities for mobility of masses and can bring enormous cost savings on health due to cleaner natural environment.

The potential of small cities in Pakistan is great. There are currently around 51 cities with a population between 100,000 and 500,000, according to the World Population Review, 2016. There is a need to collect data on small cities and identify the potential factors, which can make them attractive for government and private sector investment. The robust data in combination of innovative technologies will be instrumental in shaping more open and participatory governance models and equitable service delivery mechanisms at the level of small cities, towns and even villages. Rest should be left to the empowered local governments to choose a menu of its own among the policy choices and develop their niche in economy. The policy choices range from establishing industrial and high-tech agriculture, developing University Towns, improving physical and virtual infrastructure; and achieving high density through compact urban development.

AfPak in the eye of storm: 28 October, 2017 "The Nation"

The latest round of the so called Great Game which has started recently, like the previous ones played in 19th and 20th centuries, has brought new troubles for South Asia in general and for Afghan/Pashtuns in particular. The first round of the Great Game is supposed to have started between the British and Russian empires in 1830 when Britishers decided to connect Bukhara ( now part of Uzbekistan) with British India by road. The Tzarist Russia that regarded Central Asia to be its natural zone of influence wasn’t amused at this strategic British initiative. The ensuing conflict between the two great empires of that era resulted in division of Afghanistan. Afghanistan was turned into a buffer zone to prevent a physical clash between the two big powers. The first and second Anglo-Afghan wars ( 1842 and 1878) erupted when Britishers tried to physically occupy Afghanistan. In 1917 the Bolshevik Revolution turned Russian empire into Soviet Union leading to a severe tussle between the communist block and the capitalist west which was first led by UK and later by US. In 1980 at the peak of Cold War the two blocks fought a devastating war in Afghanistan when the Soviet armed forces entered Afghanistan to support the leftist government in Kabul. Afghan/Pashtuns had to face death and destruction on a very large scale during the war which continued for almost a decade. In 1990s after the collapse of the erstwhile Soviet Union and emergence of independent republics in Central Asia there was a hope for end of the Great Game. But as the recent developments have demonstrated that was not to be. 

The eastward expansion of NATO has resulted in the beginning of a new Cold War between Russia and the West in Europe. US has revived its policy of imposing sanctions against its rivals ( like Russia and Iran) that used to be part of its strategy against socialist states. The rise of China as a great power which is skillfully filling the vacuum created by economic decline of the West is yet another important factor for the beginning of the new Great Game. Emerging powers united in BRICS are not only creating new international financial institutions to compete with IMF and the World Bank but they are also challenging the Western dominated old political order in the world. India, Japan and Australia for their own reasons and interests have teamed up with US. Like Middle East, East Europe and South China Sea, AfPak is also one of the potential flash points in the new Great Game. The strong and declared US opposition to the Chinese vision of BR ( Belt & Road) in general and to CPEC in particular underlines the significance of AfPak in the new Great Game. But the problem is that the fires of religious extremism and militancy ignited by previous Great Game have yet to be overcome in the AfPak.

Western colonial powers had the richest experience in using religious and ethnic cards for dividing and weakening the national liberation movements in  Asia and Africa. Apart from creating military blocks like SEATO and CENTO, revival of Jihad was part of Anglo-American strategy to contain and defeat communism. The war in Afghanistan in 1980s vindicated the wisdom of western strategists. After the collapse of the Soviet Union the jihadists have turned to strong anti west rhetoric but the west is too experienced in using the communal and sectarian cards to be outsmarted by them. The  scary thing is that the modern jihadist project has strong roots in AfPak. Pakistan has been successfully and effectively used by western powers as a bastion of Jihad in Afghanistan. Alqaida which was basically of Arab origin gravitated to AfPak and OBL took his last stand in Pakistan. A similar trend can be seen in the so called IS although the local version of the terrorist network doesn’t seem to be fully controlled from the Middle East and appears to be shaped mostly by local dynamics. 

Be that as it may the fact of the matter is that the jihadist project that flourished in Pakistan during General Zia led military dictatorship has persisted in Pakistan and has adopted different new and dangerous forms. It has radicalized both the state and the society. Despite rhetorical claims by successive governments the non registered and unreformed religious seminaries keep on producing brain washed young men attracted by jihadist industry. The strong backlash from religious extremists has defeated every effort at taking hate material out of curricula and reforming laws with great potential of misuse against religious minorities. Weaponized religious decrees used both by state and non state actors have unfortunately become part and parcel of of political battles. But worst of all is Project Taliban that is the mother of religious militancy in AfPak. The statement by recently released north American hostages that they were kept for years in Pakistan by the Haqqani network speaks volumes about the bankruptcy of Pakistan’s Afghan policy. The fact that Taliban sanctuaries have survived Zarb-e-Azb, NAP and Radul Fassad exposes the hollow nature of the state policies against extremism and terrorism. As a consequence the sovereignty of the nuclear state is regularly violated by foreign terrorists as well as drones. 

But the game of religious militancy seems to have reached a dead end. The US led West that had midwifed the Jihad against communism has turned against it due to the growing loss of life of US troops in Afghanistan. Pakistani media tends to exaggerate reports about “ Russian flirtation “ with Taliban. The strong language used by the communique of the recent BRICS Summit against Taliban reveals the opposition of China and Russia to the outfit. One can fully understand their concerns as Taliban ultimately threaten Central Asia that includes Xinjiang. It’s time for AfPak to raise to the occasion and team up against extremism/terrorism. AfPak  can turn the challenge into an opportunity by getting into the fast lane of economic development. AfPak has to put its act together before friends and foes act in unison to root out religious militancy. Map of the region was redrawn in the previous rounds of the Great Game. If lessons are not learnt history tends to repeat itself.

Friends,not masters: 28 October, 2017 "Daily Times"

Foreign Minister Khawaja Asif’s speech in the Senate the other day on what had transpired in the official interactions during US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson’s short visit to Pakistan must have sounded like music to those of us who love to hate the US.

At the same time those of us who earnestly believe in civilian supremacy too would have been equally delighted to see that in a welcome change for the first time in many decades the interaction was led by the civilian leadership of the country with the state machinery — civil and military bureaucracy — providing the needed backup.

Notwithstanding the across the board positive domestic reaction to the way the interaction had played out as per our foreign minister’s version, the trust deficit that had marred the relations between Pakistan and the US since at least 2005 when the latter had started accusing Pakistan of playing a double game seems not to have diminished an iota with Tillerson handing over to Pakistan a most wanted list of 75 terrorists including the Haqqani chief Sirajuddin Haqqani with Pakistan countering with its own list of 100 most wanted which it expects the US to hunt and handover to Islamabad.

It is not possible to disagree with FM Asif when he accuses our former Army Chiefs — Zia and Musharraf — of leading the country into wars that were certainly not ours. In the aftermath of these wars the country has been suffering massive losses in terms of men, material and money.

And his argument that having lost the war in Afghanistan the US generals were making a scapegoat out of Pakistan sounds logical and therefore his suggestion to the US to let its politicians frame the Afghan policy in future rather than its generals seems timely.

It is perhaps the Indians more than the US generals that want Washington to keep the pressure on Pakistan in return for New Delhi playing the proxy in America’s competition/ confrontation with China. But this competition/confrontation is neither ideological nor is it over territory but purely a socio-economic clash. And both the US and India in their own respective economic interests would not want to see a total annihilation of China as a market.

All three economies — the US, China and India — are intertwined. They need each other to improve their respective levels of prosperity.

Without perhaps meaning to undermine Pakistan’s national interests China would certainly like to continue to make Pakistan see the positive side of getting both India and Afghanistan to join its One Belt One Road, initiative through the CPEC. In the past as well China has been openly advising Pakistan to mend its fences with India

By the same token China would not want to lose any of its markets, especially, the regional markets that include India, Afghanistan, and Central Asia etc. for any reason, least of all for the sake of its friendship with Pakistan which both countries describe as higher than the mountains, deeper than the oceans, stronger than steel, dearer than eyesight, sweeter than honey and so on. Without perhaps meaning to undermine Pakistan’s national interests China would certainly like to continue to make Pakistan see the positive side of getting both India and Afghanistan to join its One Belt One Road, initiative through the CPEC. In the past as well China has been openly advising Pakistan to mend its fences with India.

Therefore, it would be in the socio-economic and political as well as security interests of Pakistan itself to allow both Afghanistan and India to trade with each other through land route via Pakistan. Once the commerce of these two hostile countries merge into CPEC, they would themselves in their own economic interests ensure that the land route is not misused by anyone to create security problems for the transit country.

And this brings us to our own raging war against terrorism that we are fighting within the country since 2014. The highly successful military campaigns of Zarb-i-Azb and Radd-ul-Fassad have literally saved Pakistan in the nick of the time from falling into the hands of the forces that have turned Iraq and Syria into bloody killing fields.

This campaign needs to be further intensified and continued till the last terrorist is eliminated and the extremist mid-set that has infested the masses at large has been eradicated. The overall national psyche has also been radicalized by the various wars we have been fighting over the last 30 years — the first Afghan war of the 1980s, the two low intensity ten-year long wars, one on the side of Taliban against Northern Alliance and the other on the side of Kashmiri freedom fighters against Indian troops in the 1990s and the second Afghan war which is continuing to date since the turn of the century.

It is now time for Pakistan to focus on socio-economic problems confronting the country rather than wasting time on fighting others’ wars and bottling up the country into physical isolation by closing off our borders on neighbours.

Also it is now time for us to do something very tangible about the Afghan refugee problem that has in fact largely hindered all our efforts to smoke out the sleeping cells of terrorists from among the law abiding refugees. One way of getting rid of this problem is to forcibly push the entire mass of some four million Afghan refugees across the Durand Line. But this is neither advisable nor perhaps possible.

But then why can’t the US and UNHCR help us in getting the Afghan government to issue Afghan passports to these refugees? A fail-safe system could be developed for the purpose with an Afghan passport office set up inside a refugee camp under the supervision of UNHCR. And Pakistan government could issue various categories of visas (business, student, work, tourists, medical etc.) on these passports without any charges. This would be a step forward towards starting the process of separating the chaff from the wheat.

Meanwhile, it would be in the fitness of things at this juncture to expedite the process of merging the Federally Administered Tribal Area into the province of Khyber Pukhtunkhwa (KP). This would finally turn overnight all those Pushtuns living since independence as state-less tribal population into Pakistani nationals and set them apart from their ethnic brothers living on the Afghan side of Durand Line.

Xi and 19th CPC congress: 26 October, 2017 "The Nation"

While Pakistanis were busy witnessing political mudslinging and hosting Rex Tillerson in Islamabad; our Iron Brother China was going through a hectic congress of Communist Party of China (CPC) to elect the next set of leaders and laying the future roadmap for next decade in the Great Hall of People at Beijing. With President Xi Jinping becoming the first living leader to be mentioned in the Chinese Communist Party’s charter since Chairman Mao, the 19th CPC is an epoch-making event, which should be analysed and followed by friends and foes of China alike. The communiqué of CPC highlighted that the constitution would incorporate Chinese President’s theory of governance of modern China and called to deepen socialism with Chinese characteristics in responding to contemporary realities and needs.

Before deliberating upon the proceedings and the broader message emanating from the 19th CPC, it may be interesting to mention about how CPC works in a cycle of five years congress and what changes have been brought by President Xi.

With 90 million members, CPC is probably the largest political party in the world. After becoming a member of CPC through a screening system of probation of one year and initial ideological grooming, the sky could be the limit for men and women forming part of this brotherhood. Party committees exist at local and district levels, and a member is elevated on merit and experience to rise into higher echelons.

The journey of president Xi can be an excellent way to analyse how an ordinary member of CPC can rise to prominence in Chinese political system based on merit and hard work.

Xi Jinping rose from the ranks in Chinese coastal provinces and became the party secretary in a small Zhengding county of South Western Hebei province in 1983. Represented the delegates in one of the CPC congresses in 1998 and became the governor of Fujian province in 1999. Rising subsequently he was picked up by the CPC under Hu Jintao as his probable successor when he joined Politburo Standing Committee and Central Secretariat in 2007.He saw a further rise as vice president from 2008 to 2013 and Vice Chairman of the Central Military Commission from 2010 to 2012.

President Xi at present wears multiple hats; other than the office of the President, he is General Secretary of CPC, and Chairman of the all-powerful Central Military Commission and head of many incubation teams called Leading Small Groups (LSGs). Labeled as the most powerful man in the world by leading journals across the globe, President Xi has brought innovation and new spirit into an assertive leadership of the CPC. He has already paved the way for China to take center stage in the world; no wonder the Chinese call him the Paramount leader as well as Uncle Xi.

The concept of Leading Small Groups (LSGs) has existed in Chinese politics however their usage and efficacy depended on the top leadership; President Xi has made it more formal and placed some of the best brains in China to create these powerful incubation centers of ideas. These LSGs comprise the country’s most influential, innovative, and influential leaders and cover almost all aspects, from economics and foreign relations to perception management and strategic initiatives like OBOR and CPEC. Out of the dozen or so LSGs, President Xi has given more attention to the two LSGs dealing with Comprehensive Deepening of Reforms and National Security. This is natural as China consolidates her economic power and exerts her global influence through economic and military diplomacy.

The pyramid of CPC has a broad base and steep slope at the top. The 2000 delegates throw up the Central Committee, comprising 200 plus full members and 170 alternate members as well as 127 representatives of Central Commission for Discipline, this, in turn, morphs into the selected 12 members of Central Military Commission and six members of Secretariat. On top we find the 25 members Politburo peaked by seven members Politburo Standing Committee and the Presidium. The advice of sitting and retired elders is always given due weight in the selection of top leadership.

Xi’s, through a system of neng-shang neng-xia (can go up, can go down), has tried to break the shackles of party elevation based on the index of age and seniority. This system has also introduced fresh blood into the party higher ranks; however upper and lower age limit remains one of the major factors determining party positions in Central Committee upwards to the Politburo Standing Committee. In any case, you cannot be parachuted into top echelons of CPC; one has to go through a rigorous regimen of at least 30 years membership without scandals and scars of corruption.

President Xi, who according to Time magazine joins Mao Zedong and Deng Xiaoping in the pantheon of modern China’s most influential leaders, hailed the progress and international stature of China amongst the comity of nations. He said, “Our party shows strong, firm and vibrant leadership. Our socialist system demonstrates great strength and vitality, the Chinese people and Chinese nation embrace brilliant prospects.”

Chinese trajectory under Chairman Xi is projected to propel China from a developing nation to a Superpower. Domestically the CPC has endorsed his vision of anti-corruption campaign (also considered as the biggest threat to China’s internal polity and cohesion) as well as of economic reform. China would even look at diversifying her mammoth state-owned enterprises while balancing it with people-friendly economic growth and inclusive prosperity.

In the international arena, President Xi has focused on stronger power commensurate with Chinese economic clout, global trade and infrastructure initiatives like OBOR and CPEC connecting large parts of Eurasia and Africa and quest for leadership in innovation and science and technology, where China could become a leading light in research and development at global level.

For Pakistan, a more vibrant and strong China next door is a good omen, contrasted against a bullying and omnipresent west lead by Uncle Sam, who would keep the allies on tenterhooks. Chinese OBOR initiative was highlighted in the 19th CPC as a cornerstone for Chinese global connectivity and shared dreams; with CPEC as the flagship of the concept of OBOR, Pak-China relations are going to grow stronger with every single day. It’s time that Pakistan and China announce a hundred years of strategic partnership, a partnership that is based on mutual respect and aspirations of people of both countries. We would wish president Xi the best of luck in his stewardship of CPC and China with a hope that Pak China friendship would reach new heights.

FATA: merger or new strategic dimension?: 26 October, 2017 "Daily Times"

Compounding the confusion is a trait of ill politics and when wrapped into sentimentality through demagogy it turns really ugly and misleading. Currently, the hapless people of FATA are subjected to such cacophony in the name of their rights and getting justice for them.

Initially, the Frontier Crimes Regulation (FCR) was devised for the North West to the South West frontier regions from which the provinces of British Balochistan and erstwhile NWFP were later niched out. However, FATA was retained by the British under the FCR for strategic purposes. Ironically, the state of Pakistan not only maintained the status quo after independence but further up scaled its strategic status due to the nature of relationship with Afghanistan and the then USSR. The British already had set a precedent of mainstreaming the above mentioned regions by not merging but creating separate administrative entities by abolishing the FCR to expedite the development of the areas.

No doubt the people of FATA suffered enough, particularly when the British turned their land into a strategic black hole. But the question is, why a single obscure option is presented as compensation and solution to the problems currently faced by the people of FATA for all the wrong done to them? But more questionable is the timing and nature of the reforms.

So far the proponents of merger could not explain the contours of the merger ie what would be the status of the region in the province? Apart from the draconian sections of the FCR that is a contravention to fundamental human rights, abysmal backwardness ranging from low human development index, poor or non-existence of infrastructure, health and education facilities and other services place the region on the lowest scale of development index would be developed.

But, keeping in mind the magnitude of backwardness and deprivation of FATA since ages, how can a province which already has its own black corners in terms of poor governance and backwardness e.g Tank, an adjacent district to South Waziristan, Indus Kohistan, Batagram and Chitral be developed?

The state of Swat was one of the most developed areas in terms of infrastructure, education and health but could not maintain any of those characteristics, even its environment after merger with the province as a district in 1969. While keeping in mind our track record and political culture, who can guarantee that special funds earmarked for FATA would not be syphoned to other areas of choice of the chief minister and other cabinet members?

Besides, many of our mainstream intelligentsia assume that FATA will turn into Peshawar, Mardan or Abbottabad after the merger. So far, the merger plan does not elaborate on the question of administrative and legal arrangements. The Rewaj Act in the FATA Reforms Committee’s report hinted that FATA would be placed under PATA, pushing it further into retrogression. That means, it would be a new form of FATA under the PATA.

Moreover, like the security and foreign policy, particularly with the neighbouring states, FATA also remained the exclusive domain of the security establishment and no such attempt is possible without their preference for a certain consideration fitting into their strategic puzzle. As mentioned, FATA and its people are suffering since ages but we never witnessed such push for change in the name of reforms in the past. Are the proposed reforms for the welfare of the FATA people or to change its strategic dimension due to the emerging new security and strategic environment?

The reform agenda was initiated simultaneous to the Zarb-e-Azab which was a like full fledged war. Use of air force and heavy artillery forced the people of FATA, particularly of Waziristan, to run for their life. Resultantly a substantial population of FATA was displaced and forced to live in camps. This provides enough evidence that it was a top down approach with specific objectives.

The self-appointed saviours of FATA presenting themselves as its representatives further make the process dubious. An anchorperson on a private TV channel, whose forefathers migrated from FATA is one example. Unfortunately, he used the channel as a weapon against alternate voices. Two weeks ago he gave a one sided speech for 15 minutes regarding FATA, maligning those who were opposing the merger option as anti reforms and presenting opinions as facts. Ironically, currently some anchorpersons in the electronic media seem more powerful than political leaders and government, particularly when carrying out specific assignments.

One of his arguments was that currently the people of FATA are considered terrorists everywhere in the country. This is not a problem faced only by the people of FATA but people of Swat are also suspected everywhere. There are ubiquitous security check posts on entry into FATA where one can witness long queues of vehicles. Swat is a similar case.

Currently, ‘Action in Aid of Civilian Powers’ is enforced in FATA, which over rules FCR of FATA, as well as in Swat and Malakand Division of PATA. But the ace journalist never questioned why such extraordinary legal measures were not reversed, at least in Swat, after seven years of the military operation. Or should Swat be merged again somewhere for that matter?

Out of 17 members of parliament from FATA, only two MNAs are supporting the merger option. Why are the other 15 MPs silent? If anyone knows about internal situation and power dynamics, silence is not agreement but dissent in FATA. Anybody returning to his village in FATA will never participate in an event or express opinion that can go against the wishes of the powers to be.

Similarly, all the vocal voices in support of merger are those whose forefathers migrated from FATA or others holding only domiciles of FATA but not born or bred there. They were jokingly referred as ‘Coca Cola tribal’ in Peshawar because burger was not so common at that time. The term merger became a fashionable statement for them without knowing or understanding its contours or consequences.

Instead of putting the cart before the horse, it is necessary to resettle the displaced people, expedite the process of compensation for their destroyed properties and carry rehabilitation. It is also imperative to strike down the draconian sections of the FCR to create a conducive political environment to enable the people of FATA to express their view freely without fear of deciding their future in any manner they wish to.

A wake-up call to action: 26 October, 2017 "Business Recorder"

A recently released report by the authoritative Lancet Commission shows how pollution is playing havoc with public health. The report, based on research conducted by some 40 world scientists, found that almost all pollution related deaths – 92 percent — occur in low and middle income rapidly industrializing countries, and can account for up to one in four deaths. In this macabre scene, Pakistan ranks third with 21.9 percent people prematurely losing their lives. 

Pollution disproportionately affects the poor and the marginalized, notes the report, while pointing out that children face the highest risks because small exposures to chemicals in utero or in early childhood can result in lifelong disease, disability, premature death as well as reduced learning and earning potential. A well-known major contributor to shortening life spans is air pollution. The second biggest killer is water and soil contamination, while another large risk factor is workplace exposure to toxins and carcinogens in mining and certain other industries. Compounding that risk is the fact that most workers are unaware of the dangers they are exposed to. The report also points out that the costs of pollution-related death and disease impose high costs on national budgets: equivalent to around 1.3 percent of GDP in low income countries compared to about 0.05 percent in high income ones. 

Sadly, things in this country are getting from bad to worse. The high density of particulate matter and other air pollutants has been bad enough. Now the mysterious winter smog that last year engulfed large parts of Punjab and Sindh has staged a comeback in Lahore, and may soon be spreading to other areas. So far, the two provincial governments seem to have no clue as to the source of the smog; Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif though has formed a committee of experts to suggest countermeasures. Less visible effects of other sources of pollution remain neglected. Industries continue to dump with impunity toxic effluents into stagnant pools, from where they find their way into the underground aquifers as well as waterways, and through them the food chain. Or they are simply thrown into streams, canals, rivers and lakes from which vast populations draw water for drinking and other household needs. Even the Manchar Lake in Sindh, Asia’s largest freshwater lake, supplying drinking water to adjoining areas and onwards to other cities from Dadu all the way to Karachi has not been spared. It was only after a public outcry that an effort was undertaken to stop release of industrial and sewage waste into it. In short, majority of the population consumes contaminated water leading to all sorts of diseases. No wonder on quality standards, a UNESCO Water Development Report places Pakistan at 80th number among 122 countries. 

Pollution is increasing with increasing industrial activity. The government itself is contributing to the problem with its thoughtless schemes. A case in point is the setting up of coal-fired power plants at a time they are falling out of favour in advanced countries because of the damage they have been causing to global environment. Pakistan with its small carbon footprint may well be within its rights to go in that direction, but it makes no sense to install these projects when the big trend elsewhere is towards cleaner and renewable sources of energy like solar and wind power. Development of newer technologies are making these renewables more and more cheaper and efficient. 

Pollution, we must not forget, is causing climate change, which this country has already been experiencing for the last several years in the form of recurring floods and droughts, and shifting weather patterns. The summers are getting longer, the winter and spring times shorter. These changes in an already water-stressed Pakistan threaten to disrupt agriculture, and consequently its future food security. Unless tackled on an emergency footing, greenhouse gas emissions will further aggravate public health as food and water become scarcer. 

Governments, both at the centre and in the provinces, seem to have no interest in addressing the present pollution-related health issues or to plan for the impending environmental challenges. Trees are known to be the best bet against air pollution. But except for KP where a billion trees plantation campaign is under way, all others remain indifferent to the need of reforestation. In fact, in Sindh the government has allowed wanton destruction of the precious mangrove forests as well as handing of inland forest areas to influential individuals to make way for commercial projects and various housing schemes. The situation in Punjab is not any better. And during the last few days in Islamabad, hundreds of old trees have been cut, and continue to be cut on the pretext of road widening. Before that in Lahore, too, a large number of trees were chopped off for the construction of a signal-free corridor. This has been happening despite the fact that roads in both cities were already wider than those in cities like London and New York. 

Clearly, combating air or ground pollution is the least of governmental priorities. Until recently, even an environment ministry did not exist at the federal level. Likewise, in the provinces environmental departments have been getting little importance. There are environmental tribunals, but with insufficient manpower and resources to try industrial polluters. It has been quite a while when it was decided that smaller industries that cannot make their own arrangements should set up common facilities for the treatment of hazardous effluents, yet they continue to ignore compliance. 

Pakistan’s case for NSG: 20 October, 2017 "The Nation"

The Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), instead of preventing nuclear proliferation, might unfortunately be doing the opposite. It has encouraged non-nuclear states to opt for nuclear weapons programmes due to the violation of the treaty by its proponents. The civil nuclear technology agreement between US and India and the push to have India admitted to the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) are the recent examples of the breach of the treaty.

It is pertinent to point out that for any nuclear state to become a member of NSG, signing of NPT is a basic condition and the decisions in regards to admittance of a new member and change in the guidelines of NSG are taken through consensus. However, the USA, since signing of an agreement with India on the transfer of civil nuclear technology in 2008, has been desperately trying to have India admitted to the NSG and even managed a waiver for her. Emulating USA, France and UK also signed civil nuclear deals with India.

At the time of giving waiver to India, some members of NSG did express concern about India expanding its nuclear arsenal by diverting the fissile materials for production of nuclear weapons. These concerns still persist. Some international agencies have come up with reports recently that India after the NSG waiver has indeed expanded its nuclear arsenal. US senator Markey, in a senate hearing, lamented that after US gave it exemption, India had continued to produce fissile materials for its nuclear programme and increased risk of a nuclear arms race in South Asia, as Pakistan had warned that it would.

Pakistan rightly felt concerned about these developments and ever since the signing of nuclear civil technology deal between US and India, it has been striving hard to convince the US and the international community about its credentials to deserve membership of the group and the adoption of a non-discriminatory approach in regards to giving membership of NSG to the non-NPT states. While US has all along stood for Indian membership of NSG, it has not adopted a similar approach towards Pakistan. However, notwithstanding the efforts of US and its western allies to have India admitted to the prestigious nuclear club, the latter failed to get a nod from the last plenary session of NSG held in Vienna, as a number of countries including China insisted on a criteria based approach in view of the fact that besides India, Pakistan had also applied for the membership of the group. The rejection of the Indian bid in a way was a vindication of Pakistan’s stance on the issue.

NSG seeks to further the objectives of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, through regulatory guidelines in regards to the export of nuclear materials, nuclear reactors, non-nuclear material for reactors, plant and equipment for reprocessing, enrichment and technologies covering these items. The NSG guidelines also govern export of nuclear-related dual use items and technologies which could make a substantial contribution to an un-safeguarded nuclear fuel cycle or nuclear explosive activity. The need for these regulatory guidelines stems from the recognition of the need for international trade and cooperation in the nuclear field for peaceful purposes, as enshrined in the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and NSG guidelines on the subject. The overall aim of these guidelines is to ensure that nuclear exports are carried out with appropriate safeguards, physical protection, and non-proliferation conditions, and other appropriate restraints.

Though Pakistan is not a signatory to NPT, it has all along supported nuclear non-proliferation and abided by the parameters spelt out by it and different international treaties. Therefore, joining the NSG would tantamount to global recognition of those efforts. But the question is, has Pakistan done enough to deserve membership of NSG? For this, one has to look at the measures taken by Pakistan to deserve membership of the group and the criteria laid down by NSG in this regard.

At the third Nuclear Security Summit at Hague in March 2014, the former Prime Minister, Nawaz Sharif made a forceful case for Pakistan’s inclusion in the NSG. He staked his claim for the membership of the group and other international control regimes by declaring that Pakistan had been running a safe and secure civil nuclear programme for the last 40 years and attached highest importance to nuclear security. It had the expertise, manpower and infrastructure to produce civil nuclear energy and has pursued a policy of restraint as well as credible minimum deterrence. Pakistan’s nuclear security regime is supported by five pillars—a strong command and control system, an integrated intelligence system, rigorous regulatory regime and active international cooperation. The security regime covers physical protection, material control and accounting, border controls and radiological emergencies. Pakistan, he said, also has been regularly submitting reports to the UN Security Council 1540 committee on the measures that the country has put in place to exercise control over transfer of sensitive materials and technologies. That is exactly in line with the criteria for admitting new members to the NSG, which stipulates that an aspiring country should have the ability to supply nuclear items covered in the NSG guidelines; should have a proven record of adherence to those guidelines taking necessary actions in that regard; must have enforced legally based domestic export control system; should have complied with obligations under NPT and other treaties; supported international efforts towards non-proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and their delivery vehicles. Pakistan, as is evident surely qualifies for membership of NSG.

Any discriminatory treatment towards Pakistan in regards to membership of NSG is likely to push Pakistan for ‘full nuclear deterrence’ viz-a-viz India which will deal a big blow to the efforts of the international community to promote the cause of non-proliferation. As against this, simultaneous inclusion of Pakistan and India in the NSG will not only establish the principle of non-discrimination but would also add to the strength of NSG in furthering the objectives of nuclear non-proliferation and well controlled export of nuclear materials for promoting international nuclear trade cooperation. Pakistan, being a member of the NSG, would be in a better position to contribute to firming up and refining the regulatory guidelines and safeguarding its interests. It would also allow Pakistan to export nuclear materials to other countries under the gaze of global community in a legitimate manner with all the accompanying economic benefits, as well as reinforcing its credentials as a useful member of the global community.

Adoption of policies subservient to expediencies and vested interests in regards to implementation of NPT and grant of NSG membership would scuttle the efforts to check proliferation of nuclear weapons and other related causes. It is hoped that the members of NSG, US and its allies will keep all the foregoing variables into consideration and give adequate and well deserved attention to the security concerns of Pakistan while deciding the fate of the request of both the countries.

India had continued to produce fissile materials for its nuclear programme and increased risk of a nuclear arms race in South Asia. In contrast, Pakistan has obliged with all obligations under NPT and if any country qualifies for NSG membership, it’s her.

Sindh’s education emergency: 20 October, 2017 "Daily Times"

There is a Chinese proverb that goes something like this: if you’re planning for a year, sow rice; planning for a decade, plant trees; planning for life, educate children.

We all know that education is the fundamental right of every child. The UN provided for this in its Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which was adopted back in 1948; just one year after the birth of Pakistan. This was reaffirmed nearly 20 years later in the UN 1966 International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. Fast-forward some more and there was Pakistan pledging its commitment to the World Declaration on Education for All. Yet despite all this, too many reports indicate that the country is still failing to meet its international obligations on child education.

While certain quarters would claim that things are not as bad as all that, pointing to the number of out-of-school children falling from 24 million to 22.6 million — in reality, this is nothing much to write home about. For it still means that around 44 percent of 5-16 year-olds are not in school. These damning figures are part of the Pakistan Education Statistic (2015-16); which was launched by the National Education Management Information System (NEMIS), a subsidiary of the Ministry of Federal Education and Professional Training. The report, based on qualitative and quantitative surveys as well as concrete and transparent research, lifts the lid on the country’s very real education crisis. And the picture it paints isn’t a pretty one.

My question to the Sindh Education Minister is this: why are three million children out of school on your watch; despite an education budget that has gone up to Rs 202.2 billion from Rs163.12b in the current fiscal year? Why have we not seen even tentative results?

Consider the following: a single teacher running 21 percent of the country’s primary schools; 14 percent of which comprise a single room; 40 percent of public sector primary schools operating without electricity; 28 percent without lavatories; 25 percent without boundary walls; and 29 percent with no access to drinking water. While 7 percent of schools function without any building and 43 percent have unsatisfactory buildings. The report goes on to note that Balochistan has the highest proportion of out-of-school children followed by FATA and, then, Sindh.

Here, my focus, after the above quick summary of the NEMIS factsheet, is to highlight and develop a picture for my readers about the situation in Sindh. The latter has close to three million children out of school, as confirmed by the provincial assembly over the summer. And even those who do make it to the classroom are not guaranteed any kind of quality education. Not when the provincial syllabus leaves much to be desired. The Pakistan Studies text books appear to focus upon religious indoctrination instead of providing an objective critique the country’s history. Moreover, the quality of education at the primary level, particularity in government public schools, is not satisfactory and in rural or remote areas it is utterly dismal. One overriding reason for this is that the powerful feudal lords who find their way to the provincial assembly do not prioritise education for children of the poor.

My question, therefore, is to the Sindh Education Minister Jam Mehtab Hussain Dahar, who had confirmed the staggering number of children in his province who had been denied the right to education, and it is this: having increased the education budget for the current fiscal year to Rs 202.2 billion (up from Rs163.12 billion) — why have we not seen even tentative results? Why there is not a single government school on the outskirts of Sukkur, Hyderabad and other remote areas? And the few that do exist, why are they not operational? And, finally, why are Ghost teachers drawing salaries for doing nothing?

Many education organisations in Sindh have initiated enrolment campaigns for both the government and private school sector. I talked to a few of the people involved and, it seems, they believe they are winning parents over by way of their highly-motivated and well-groomed teams. Yet it is more likely that parents fear the consequences of not registering their children. Nevertheless, the result is the same. But what will it achieve unless and until we rid ourselves of our feudalism?

Pakistan’s Constitution is clear about with whom the buck stops regarding the provision of education. Article 25-A stipulates: “The State shall provide free and compulsory education to all children of the age of five to sixteen years in such manner as may be determined by law.” Yet we are still waiting for this to be enforced. The education crisis is also a social one for Pakistan. For Sindh, this should represent an ever constant state of alarm. To counter the staggering dropout rate of the province’s children — schools need to be invested in; meaning in terms of upgrading and targeted budgetary allocations. Bluntly put, the development of Sindh’s schools must not be at the very real cost of corruption. No government officials or semi-government institution working in the name of education must profit from the (non)delivery of this most fundamental of rights.

And while I do not wish to name any institution in Sindh that doesn’t look beyond gathering donations — I will absolutely call out the practice of discussing education at the grassroots’ level that doesn’t go beyond parlour room chitchat. This is unacceptable. And the burden of responsibility rests with the Sindh government. It remains incumbent upon it to carry out the necessary background checks, while instituting a comprehensive monitoring system to keep an eye on where the education budget is being misspent. Similarly, it is the duty of the provincial authorities to tackle the problems of education at all levels, from inefficient governance, a faulty recruitment system, lack of professional development opportunities, corruption and politicisation of the system to poor material and resources.

To get these three million children into school, a concrete, concentrated and coherent Pakistan-owned, Pakistan-led, Pakistan-driven process of reform is required from the Sindh government; with respected Chief Minister Murad Ali Shah at the helm. To ensure that his province can confidently take its place here in the 21st century must be the top priority of any CM. For not only is education a fundamental right of the child — a well-educated workforce is vital to a productive economy.