Articles Regarding Pakistan

Rejoice! Fazlullah is dead: 29 June, 2018 "The Nation"

At a seminar in Washington D.C. last week, Lisa Curtis, a deputy assistant to U.S. President Donald Trump and senior director for South and Central Asia at the National Security Council said, “we have asked for Pakistan’s assistance in facilitating a peace process and we have sought to understand Pakistan’s own core security concerns and ensure that its interests are taken into account in any peace process.” Exactly a week after she made this statement, a U.S. drone strike targeted and successfully killed TTP chief Mullah Fazllulah in Afghanistan’s Kunar province.

A day before Eid, Afghan President Ashraf Ghani confirmed the death of Fazlullah in a telephone call to COAS General Qamar Bajwa and PM Nasirul Mulk. Many in Pakistan are rejoicing at the news of his death and for good reason. He was the monster responsible for planning the December 16, 2014 massacre at the Peshawar Army Public School. Fazlullah was also responsible for countless other acts of terrorism, including the attack on Malala Yousafzai and her schoolmates, the burning of schools, and a number of beheadings. Fazlullah was a coldblooded terrorist who wanted to impose his interpretation of the Sharia law in Pakistan. In Swat, he was called “Mullah Radio” or “Mullah FM” because of his hateful sermons, broadcast over the radio.

Fazlullah escaped capture by the Pakistani military in 2009, when he fled Swat for Afghanistan. In 2013, he was appointed the leader of the TTP following the death of Hakeemullah Mehsud, who was also killed in a US drone strike.

Pakistani officials have long claimed that the TTP leadership takes refuge in Afghanistan and has safe havens there, from which they plan and carry out terrorist attacks. The killing of Fazlullah in the Kunar province vindicates that claim. For many years now, Pakistani officials have pleaded with Afghan and American officials to take action against the TTP in Afghanistan, until now, the US largely ignored their requests, fearing TTP retaliation against US troops, leading to growing mistrust.

The US hopes that this action will win them favor in Pakistan and will convince Pakistan to do Washington’s bidding in Afghanistan. In the past, Pakistan has been called upon to help negotiate a peaceful resolution to the now two decade old war between the US and Afghan Taliban. More than once, Pakistan has been burnt both by Afghanistan and the United States, accused of double-dealing, and used as a scapegoat for their own failures in the country.

This is not the first time a US drone strike has taken out a TTP leader, in fact since 2004, there have been seven prominent TTP leaders that have been killed by the Americans. Each time, Pakistan begged, relentlessly for action, based on credible intelligence. The Americans have always acted when it has suited them and have always asked for something in return. This transactional relationship between Pakistan and the United States has existed since the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan and continues to play out the same way to this day.

In Pakistan, pundits and commentators have rejoiced at Mullah Fazlullah’s death and are calling it a new beginning in relations with Afghanistan and the US. But they forget that we have been through this circus before, many times. Each time it is Pakistan that ends up suffering far greater than any other party involved.

In Afghanistan, the government has announced a ceasefire with the Taliban and is working tirelessly to ensure that it results in a lasting peace. There is no doubt that Pakistan supports this renewed effort by both the Afghan government and the Taliban. But we must limit our involvement. This is not a matter for Pakistan. It is the sole responsibility of the Afghan government and the US to negotiate a political settlement. In the past, Pakistan has directly involved itself in negotiations on the behest of the Americans, and each time, the Americans and the Afghans have pulled out of their commitments, leaving Pakistan embarrassed, and eventually blaming Pakistan for their failure to peacefully bring an end to the long war in Afghanistan.

Pakistan must remain neutral and be wary of any attempts by the Americans or Afghans to pull them in directly into their negotiations. The day the Afghan government and the Taliban announced extending the ceasefire beyond the Eid holidays, ISIS carried out a car bombing, killing at least 26 Afghans. Pakistan must remain vigilant to make certain that as the negotiations go forward in Afghanistan that no extremist elements are able to cross over into Pakistani territory. The fact of the matter is that terrorism poses a great threat to both countries. For the sake of sustainable peace, Afghanistan and the United States must learn to deal with their own problems in Afghanistan without involving Pakistan. And Pakistan should remain committed to providing advice and assistance as long as it does not force them to directly get involved.

Threats to security in South Asian region: 29 June, 2018 "The Nation"

The security situation in the South Asian region remains precarious in the backdrop of the dynamics of the global politics, particularly the efforts of the United States of America and its western allies to contain China with Indian support and connivance and the attempt by the latter to take advantage of the permeating situation to persist with persecution of the people of Kashmir with impunity. The nexus between India and US therefore poses a great threat to the security of the region. Yet another threat to peace in the region emanates from continued conflict in Afghanistan.

For well over a year the Indian security forces have continued to violate the ceasefire agreement of 2003. Reportedly during 2017 the Indian forces committed 1900 violations of ceasefire which claimed 254 lives including civilians and Army personnel. Since January 2018, 150 incidents of firing along the LOC have been reported causing a number of civilian casualties. The continued violation of the ceasefire agreement is a calculated attempt to achieve two objectives. One is in the context of Indo-Pak relations premised on the conflict in Kashmir and the other is related to India-US nexus against China.

Keeping the LOC hot is meant to divert the attention of the world from the Indian atrocities and the excessive use of force by her security forces in occupied Kashmir and also to portray the freedom struggle as terrorism which sells easily in the permeating international environment. The Indian government has invariably claimed after its own triggered clashes along the ceasefire line that those killed on its side of the line were the terrorists trying to infiltrate the IHK to carry out acts of terrorism. Unfortunately the US has been endorsing the Indian claims and putting pressure on Pakistan instead of getting the Kashmir issue resolved in conformity with the UN regulations. Its staunch allies in the western world also toe the same line, notwithstanding the fact that the international human rights organizations like Amnesty International have documented all the human rights violations by the Indian security forces.

Looking the other way by US and its allies in regards to the situation in Kashmir is actually a reward to India for serving their strategic and commercial interests in the region. While they keep putting pressure on Pakistan regarding incidents of terrorism in India influenced by the Indian propaganda, they keep enigmatic silence on the Indian sponsored terrorism in Pakistan and its covert support to insurgency in Balochistan, notwithstanding the fact that Pakistan has provided dossiers containing irrefutable evidence of Indian involvement to the US leaders and Secretary General of the United Nations.

The US is trying to prop up India as a regional super power and a counter weight to the burgeoning Chinese influence in the region and beyond. USA and India are on one page to thwart CPEC which they perceive as a threat to their interests. The signing of a nuclear deal with India by US and subsequently by UK and France in complete disregard to the NPT clauses and manoeuvering of NSG waiver for her is also a reward for India for doing the US bidding in the region, which incidentally also serves the Indian designs to establish its hegemony in the region.

It is perhaps pertinent to point out that in the backdrop of the announcement of new policy on Afghanistan and South Asia by Trump US has adopted a hostile posture against Pakistan, the Indians have also upped the ante against her. Inebriated by its military might and the support of US and its western allies, India has become a warlike state not realizing the dreadful consequences of this kind of posturing against Pakistan as well as China who are not only her neighbours but also nuclear powers.

Growing tensions in the region and continued instability would equally hurt the Indians. History is a witness to the fact that all warlike states ultimately destroyed themselves. The Indians must realize that its own security and economic progress was inextricably linked to peace and security in the region and having tension free relations with its neighbours. It is therefore in her own interest to revisit her policies towards its neighbours, make sincere efforts to resolve the mutual disputes including Kashmir and refrain from attempts to establish its hegemony in the region.

The US also needs to consider the consequences of its policies in the region. By destabilizing the region it would also be hurting its own long term strategic interests. Pakistan has been a US ally since early fifties and in spite of US betrayals has played a very significant role in the war against terror as a front line state. Putting Pakistan under pressure, the way the Trump administration has chosen to do is against the norms regarding conduct of interstate relations, particularly with an ally state which has suffered the most as a frontline state in the war against terror.

The US has all along been blaming Pakistan of double dealing without understanding the ground realities and the complexity of the situation which requires serious engagement between Pakistan and her. The new policy on Afghanistan and South Asia announced by President Trump is a perfect recipe to consign the region to perennial instability.

The US is terribly wrong in choosing the path of continued military confrontation in Afghanistan and punishing Pakistan for its own failures. Peace in Afghanistan and elimination of the phenomenon of terrorism from the region are only possible through meaningful cooperation between US and Pakistan duly supported by the regional countries like Russia, China and Iran who along with Pakistan are the biggest stakeholders in the regional peace.

Peace in Afghanistan is not possible without involvement of Pakistan and the latter cannot be coerced to succumb to the unreasonable and unrealistic US demands. The military and civilian leadership of Pakistan has rightly taken a very firm stand on the emerging situation by saying that the rhetoric of ‘do more’ was not acceptable any more.

It is however encouraging to note that Afghanistan and Pakistan after a prolonged ambience of mistrust are again talking to rebuild bonhomie and cooperate with each in fighting terrorism and the US has also stepped up strikes against TTP operatives based in Afghanistan. The killing of TTP leader Fazlullah in a drone attack in Afghanistan indicates that the US and Afghanistan have at last recognized the need for hitting the TTP operatives and leadership based on the Afghan soil who have been planning and executing terrorist attacks within Pakistan. It is imperative to continue pursuing that strategy. However the US and Afghan government will have to do more to prevent attacks on Pakistan security personnel involved in fencing the Pak-Afghan border and building fortresses and watch-posts which have resulted in some casualties during the last two weeks. Fighting terrorism, promoting reconciliation in Afghanistan and peace in the region requires sincere and determined cooperation between the three.

Will China’s SCO fix Asia’s problems?: 27 June, 2018 "Daily Times"

The Central and South Asian region has been labelled the most fragile region in the world, presenting similar patterns of limited cooperation and weak regional integration. In this context, the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) aims to promulgate the idea of economic and security cooperation leading to new incentives for regional solidarity.

It is evident from the changing rules of the international community that most states today are driven more by geo-economics, rather than geopolitics, as was the case in the past. In this changing world order, economic considerations play a dominant role in the decision and policy making process within most countries. The rationale to support the idea of the SCO as a model of economic integration and regional cooperation comes from the belief that economic security and political stability are the outcomes of economic development. This has encouraged states like China to initiate programs to promote economic development, not only within their own country, but in the entire Asian market.

The second useful element incorporated in the SCO agenda is cross-border cooperation among member states. This concept has gained momentum after the inclusion of Pakistan and India as its members in 2017. The addition of these two warring nations has led to the prospect of the SCO functioning as a platform for conflict resolution. This multilateral forum enables states to set aside their bilateral issues, and instead focus on problems that affect the region as a whole. It is regional stability, which protects states from extra-regional powers, and will facilitate the development of regional infrastructure. Cross-border cooperation can also help strengthen military alliances between different states, in order to fight common threats like terrorism together.

The main focus of the SCO at present is to draft a framework to bring about stability in Afghanistan. As almost every state’s interest is driven by their desire for strategic and economic superiority, many countries have been looking at Afghan territory as an untapped market. China and Russia in particular have developed a mutual consensus for the promotion of peace and economic prosperity in Afghanistan, mostly as a way to promote their own agenda in South Asia. Like them, several other SCO member states also have designs for Afghanistan. Hence, it is imperative that using the SCO platform, all relevant states develop a joint plan of action to address the problems facing Afghanistan, as the success of this forum will ultimately depend on how different political factions cooperate with one another, as well as whether they can formulate a diplomatic course of action, with the express understanding of all parties involved.

A major challenge that faces the SCO is to devise a plan to bridge the many differences between Pakistan and India. The emergence of India as a rising economic hegemon in the region, with the support of the US government, has further complicated the situation. The only solution left for the SCO is to offer them incentives that no other nation or international organisation can match. China’s recent initiative to invite all SCO member states to join the ‘Belt and Road Initiative’ (BRI) was designed to do exactly that. However, the Indians have raised some objections over BRI, particularly pertaining to the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), and these need to be resolved before further progress can be made on the matter.

The SCO has made some progress in improving the relations between Pakistan and India. The announcement that both countries would be participating in joint military drills for the first time in their history was a positive first step. Joint military exercises help in enhancing border security.However, keeping in view the regional setting, and the delay in proceedings of other regional organisations, like the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC), it is imperative that all agreements being made at the SCO are implemented within a specific time period, and do not deprive relatively weak nations to be dominated by the ones in power.

The SCO has made some progress in improving relations between Pakistan and India. The announcement that both countries would be participating in joint-military drills for the first time in their history was a positive first step, as this could result in enhanced border security

The other factor that can contribute in the effective implementation of the SCO agenda is by embarking on the path of multilateral partnerships on common grounds of economic development, security, regional stability and humanitarian cooperation. This approach would enable states to set aside their differences for a while and focus on issues of mutual concern.

UN Secretary General Antonio Gutevres recently voiced hope that having India and Pakistan cooperate on a new multilateral forum could develop the possibility for informal negotiations to resolve border disputes. With increased chances for economic partnerships, as well as the prospect of joint military exercises under the umbrella of the SCO, can theoretically lead to regional stability. Let us hope that these countries can set aside their differences and come together to make the SCO a success, ensuring a bright future for the entire region.

In faith lies strength: 27 June, 2018 "Daily Times"

There are many sources from which living beings derive their power. Those without vigour are among the living dead. The physical side for both man, animal and vegetation is well covered with food and health that in turn nourishes the body enabling survival and the continuity of species. Then there are other things. For humans for example, words of encouragement, a pat on the back, a meaningful nod or even a smile of appreciation may lift the spirits and have a motivating effect. Furthermore, pursuit of knowledge is another avenue which boosts strength as it removes the darkness of ignorance, giving greater control over the ‘self’ for a more promising life. In short, where there is energy there is life but the truth is that the fountainhead of pure and uninterrupted power is a small five-letter word, faith.

The religious construe it as tenets of the ideologies they profess. Thus, belief in one God and a prophet or prophets and holy books are the fundamentals of the three major monotheist schools of thought. These are Islam, Christianity and Judaism, meticulously observed by their respective members as an integral part of their faith. Similarly, Mahayana Buddhism, Hinduism, Confucianism, Taoism and Shintoism are some examples of polytheist sets of ideas. Majority of the people, born in a particular sect tend to observe its principles with full fervour, sincerely believing in its veracity while some find other faiths more appealing and thus become converts. There are some, however, who may be happy as atheists and that is their choice.

Trust, confidence, conviction, optimism and hope are other concepts related to faith, the value of which can never be under-estimated. This implies that mere physical prowess is not important to achieve one’s ambitions. Something more is required. Something which is metaphysical in nature. It cannot be seen or touched but exists in one’s heart and mind and exercises tremendous control over whatever one thinks, does or intends to do. So when we take a flight for example, we trust the abilities of the pilot to transport us safely to our destination. That is faith. We would never fly if we didn’t trust the person tasked with operating the aeroplane. Similarly, on falling ill one feels confident of full recovery in taking prescribed medicines. That is faith in the medical system. Where an innocent is implicated in a crime, it is faith in himself and the judiciary which gets him justice. When trapped in a crisis, where respite is nowhere to be found, a small flicker of hope proves helpful in overcoming it.

Even the animal kingdom, believed to be governed by such adages as ‘survival of the fittest’ or ‘might is right’, is not oblivious of the value of faith which seems to be playing a pivotal role in the pursuit of food and self-defence. In their relationship with the human world, even though they cannot speak, animals submit themselves to people who care and love, displaying complete confidence in them. When a stranger approaches, these animals seek refuge in their arms just like human babies find solace in the lap of their mothers. One may refer to this occurrence as ‘basic instinct’, but could this be just another manifestation of faith?

If Quaid-e-Azam’s motto ‘unity, faith and discipline’ is not followed it is because of faithless rulers and their blind followers

There exists a highly advanced system of communication and faith in all species as elaborated at length by Yuval Noah Harari in his extraordinary book, Spanies: A Brief History of Humankind.

Besides having faith in the capabilities of others, I firmly believe that one also needs to profess strong faith in one’s self. This is a building block that is integral to invoking confidence. A person who can place reliance on his convictions, abilities and efforts would definitely be propelled towards achieving his goals. Instead of depending on others to lead us out of our quagmires, it is always more appropriate to look inside our own souls for consolation and guidance. If animals can instinctively sometimes convert volatile situations in their favour, why cannot humans do the same? What prevents us from utilising their inert potential to invest in transforming high levels of demoralisation to high levels of inspiration? Is it the absence of faith?

Lack of faith in a system one lives in and holds as just and fair, or set of beliefs one professes, and more significantly in one’s inner ‘self’, invariably causes anxiety. Once a person loses confidence, complacency and insensitivity set in. When this happens anyone can become incapacitated and be deprived of clear thinking which may result in absolute submission or as we say, flowing with the tide (status quo) or result in total anarchy. Obviously, in such situations one cannot expect a person to make sensible decisions and view his actions, logically.

Increased ratio of decreasing research in Pakistan: 27 June, 2018 "The Nation"

Research culture is a fundamental part of the education sector all around the world with its capacity to bring innovation and new dimensions ultimately opening realms for new thoughts and work processes every day. Research also has the tendency to ignite a passion to investigate the areas of interest and explore them in detail. In a four-year BS/ B.A(Hons) program, the students are seen searching for summary and shortcuts, but the research section is one part of our educational system that does not allow them to think smart about themselves. With consistent rejections and unending editing, the students ultimately have a pack full of learning experience.

Unfortunately, In Pakistan the research culture, instead of getting critical, is becoming a burden for the students and dejectedly an “extra load” for the supervisors as well. It is a universal fact that research is hard as nails, essentially when dealing with an amateur but at the same time this somewhat magnifies the responsibility of the supervisors. Furthermore, the learners of research are dependent on their supervisors entirely as in Pakistan we have a limited number of PhDs available in public and newly established private sector institutes. There exists a limited amount of faculty within the department amongst which there is a rare possibility that one can find a specialist in the relevant research field. At last, the unavailability of the supervisors adds the cherry on top and students consider themselves being forced into an uninvited problem with no happy ending. Their overwrought and neglected faces seem as if they have made a deal with the devil and cannot retreat.

The flipside of the situation can be seen even drastic than the prior one. There exists a pile of complaints submitted to the Deans and HODs of various departments dealing with negligence played on the part of the students enrolled in graduate and post graduate programs. With the consistent checking of papers and frequently established quizzes as per “HEC criteria of student evaluation”, the supervisors tend not to brag about their passion as an academic researcher and place their scholastics ethics at a side eventually dealing students professionally i.e. according to their ease and emotional availability.

Considering this situation, the question arises that as a country having 57.9% literacy rate by 2018 with its education already suffering its mid-life crisis, do we actually need to blame students for their negligence or the issue straightly ascends to the ill performance of the teachers that are historically acclaimed to be the torch barriers of light?

Relevant to the decreasing research culture in Pakistan is the time limits and the extensions of those time limits. The time limit mentioned in the degree program is sufficient if the supervisors start exactly from the prescribed time given in the semester schedule, but this too is compromised with unexpected strikes and Jalsa’s and at times by those the so-called university events that have swallowed the classroom environment and has made it rather a station to mark your presence. It takes a great deal of time for the supervisors to get back to their daily work routine and to be just, who would like to start up with a pile full of roughly composed grammatically ill documents which are not even formatted on the pattern of MLA and APA research guides.

As the research part is the last knot to the degree and the course work is complete, therefore majority of the students tend to remain home and visit universities only if required. With the absence of the students and at times no access to the students, the supervisor and the researcher both get in a problem. In the course work duration, where the teachers are seen distributing notes and resolving class matters with just a simple face to face interaction, the sudden shift to email correspondence does not mesh with the student psychology. When the text messages, phone calls and even Facebook messages are neglected, the researchers feel abandoned ultimately abandoning their research as a result of it.

In recent years, a lot of university students are seen openly blaming their supervisors for their research delay as it causes a barrier for them in attaining their jobs. With the limited seats available in every sector, it is the utmost desire of the students to finish their degree on time and start earning for better living. Adding to this is also the depression and trauma faced by the parents of the researchers who must submit extra fee for monthly or yearly extensions. Due to such instances, some researchers tend to leave their degree and at times freeze their semesters simply because they cannot afford it.

It is high time that we must understand the importance of research culture in our country and try to encourage it as much as possible. The increased trend of conferences and symposiums within various private and public-sector institutes is commendable, but it can worth appreciating if inspite of the professor, assistant professors or lecturers, we will see more students and budding researchers presenting their papers. The supervisors ought to place the research on the priority list and try their best to boost up the students to complete their research on time, motivating them for further publications and journal reviews. Furthermore, the stake holders of the research culture i.e. HEC , University Board and Deans must consider modifying their rules and regulation for better performance. There must be a half yearly check and balance system on the research students to view their research progress. Also, the research supervisors must be taken in confidence for overcoming their supervision problems. If such subtleties and nuances are resolved than it can benefit the researchers in general and the research culture in particular.