Articles Regarding Pakistan

A considerate foreign policy: 18 January, 2018 "The News"

The US president’s latest ‘lies and deceit’ tweet has quite expectedly become the foremost topic of discussion among Pakistanis. As is apparent from the highly undiplomatic wording of the message, Trump tried, as harshly as possible, to slam Pakistan within the space limit of a single tweet.

The tweet generated a chorus of criticism and outburst in Pakistan. Many leaders were in fact quite sharp in their response to the tweet. “We have already told the US that we will not do more, so Trump’s ‘no more’ does not hold any importance,” said Foreign Minister Khawaja Asif in an interview. A little after this the US ambassador was summoned by the Foreign Office to lodge a protest. The developments which followed clearly showed a heightening of the stand-off between the US and Pakistan. The Pak-US relations which have been the mainstay of anti-terrorism efforts are stumbling down to reach their lowest ebb. Until sanity prevails and cooperation takes lead, further setbacks and frustrations cannot be ruled out.

These developments along with many others such as skirmishes at the Indo-Pak border, India’s alleged role in supporting anti-Pakistan elements in Afghanistan, Afghanistan’s worsening security situation, crippling economic sanctions on Iran and not to mention the country’s domestic governance crisis, carry drastic implications for the security and safety of the region. However, as an immediate consequence, holding on to a geo-economical approach and exploiting vast economic potential that the country’s geography and market have to offer is becoming increasingly challenging for Pakistan.

Currently, Pakistan is an important partner in China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) since the exclusive China-Pakistan Economic Corridor is a part of it. However, as China and Pakistan’s friendship is transitioning into a renewed phase of interdependence and interconnectivity, for Pakistan, this transition is expected to bring several difficulties owing to geostrategic tensions, political upheavals and miscalculations. Moreover, India’s unwelcoming attitude towards CPEC is already well-known. All these reasons invariably cast, in their own terms, a debilitating impact on the continuing momentum and paradigms of regional economic development.

On an international level, the emerging market trade – from Asia and Africa to Latin America – is rising to an unprecedented level and countries are getting more connected. Quite understandably, and with astute pragmatism, they are taking advantage of their geographical proximity. This expansion of regional markets in areas of services and consumptions in Asia, Africa and Latin America are rapidly shaping the contours of international political economy.

But regional connectivity in Pakistan’s neighbourhood is threatened by traditional and non-traditional security threats, mutual mistrust, memories of a hostile past and a lack of political will. At the domestic level, the situation of Pakistan’s economy is feeble. From the country’s declining share in global manufacturing exports to its low levels of saving and investment and a lack of human capital development, all present a grim picture of the economy. Since a country’s foreign relations are a manifestation of its domestic strength and capabilities, our deteriorating economic situation has severely hampered geo-economic activities.

Pakistan’s desire to normalise its relations with Afghanistan has led to it seeking an increased role for China so as to add a stabilising factor. Recently China, Pakistan and Afghanistan’s foreign ministers concluded a trilateral dialogue to discuss issues which included countering terrorism to develop the region. China and Pakistan also discussed the possibility and prospects of making Afghanistan a part of CPEC. Though the inclusion of Afghanistan in CPEC would be a good step but it will come at a cost. Afghanistan is a conflict-prone country and managing geo-economic dimensions of the relation would be a complicated task.

But surely the US is not the sole anchor of global economy. If the whole of EU is considered a single state then based on many economic parameters, it supplants the US. China is also closely narrowing the gap between economies but increased regionalisation of the global economy does not mean that Pakistan has the luxury to sever its economic ties with America. Pakistan’s economy needs a rejuvenation that requires reforms and restructuring which cannot be possible without the assistance of US’s financial system and technology. Moreover, in a world of distributed globalisation it is advisable to Pakistan to seek positive interdependence and exploit whatever comparative advantages it has vis-à-vis the US.

Indeed, Pakistan remains one of the pivotal states of the world but that’s only because of the significance attached to its geostrategic location. Until Pakistan succeeds in boosting a considerable level of economic competitiveness, overwhelming reliance on geostrategic dimensions will merely culminate in a self-defeating exercise. Therefore, amidst all this it is essential that Pakistan avoids applying militaristic strategies, especially ones that require counteracting. Contemporary geo-economics does not just prefer any state, it is favourable towards states that are more integrated and connected. Pakistan can rightly leverage its position only if it is more connected. Only through the power of connectivity and interdependence can we ensure peace, security and prosperity of our people.

It’s too easy for Pakistanis to get influenced by the changing headlines of our country’s external affairs. But instead of wasting energy on emotional outbursts, Pakistanis should rather focus on a more respectful way of aggressively pushing their leaders towards reforming political and economic institutions so as to make them more representative, responsive and effective.

Pakistan must pursue a foreign policy which more than anything else protects and projects its national economic objectives. A model for such a foreign policy is already there, the one envisioned by the country’s founding father Muhammad Ali Jinnah, for him, Pakistan’s, “Foreign policy is one of friendliness and goodwill towards all the nations of the world.” It is so principled and purposeful that the country’s leadership, civil and military alike, must stick to it while undertaking the daunting task of formulating a foreign and defence policymaking framework.

Nuclear deterrence in South Asia: 18 January, 2018 "Daily Times"

The deterrence equilibrium in South Asia serves as an assurance for peace and stability in the region. The strategic significance of nuclear weapons in the South Asian security equation is undeniable because these weapons reduce the chances of war and conflict between the belligerent states. In the South Asian security paradigm, nuclear deterrence is viewed as more stable than conventional deterrence.

Such as since the introduction of nuclear weapons, Pakistan has effectively deterred India’s aggression on various occasions. Therefore, nuclear deterrence between India and Pakistan plays a vital role in maintaining strategic stability in South Asia.

Since the inception of the nuclear age, the credible deterrence posture is defined as one which can enable a state to survive a preemptive first strike by its opponent but still retain sufficient nuclear weapons and delivery systems to deliver a second strike that can cause unacceptable level of damage to the opponent.

Deterrence is a dynamic concept based on multiple inter-linked features including nuclear technology, doctrinal postures and international nuclear regimes

Consequently, deterrence is a dynamic concept based on multiple inter-linked features including nuclear technology, doctrinal postures and international nuclear regimes. Change in the nuclear postures, sophisticated missile capabilities, shift in state’s nuclear policy, shifting security environment and access to nuclear related material, technology and infrastructure are the key features that can affect the deterrence posture and nature.

Apparently, nuclear doctrines of South Asian nuclear states are based on minimum credible deterrence. But Since 2003, statements by India’s nuclear strategists and officials have indicated that India is shifting its nuclear doctrine of ‘No First Use’ to ‘First-Use’.

For instance, India’s former National Security Advisor, Shivshankar Menon articulated in his book that ‘India might find it useful to strike first against an adversary poised to launch or that declared it would use its weapons’, this statement was a clear reference to Pakistan. However, India’s vague nuclear strategy and hints of doctrinal shift are neither new nor surprising for Pakistan. For India’s nuclear history is full with such contradictory statement but such contradictory assertions are posing serious challenge to nuclear deterrence.

In contrast, Pakistan’s nuclear doctrine is Indian centric and aim’s to deter India’s aggression. Therefore in response to India’s shifting nuclear strategy and growing capabilities, Pakistan’s NCA has endorsed a ‘Full Spectrum Deterrence’. What is meant by full-spectrum?

Lt Gen Khalid Kidwai pointed out that Full Spectrum Deterrence policy guides the development of nuclear capability, which brings every Indian target into Pakistan’s striking range. Consequently, Pakistan is developing a “full spectrum of nuclear weapons in all three categories — strategic, operational and tactical, with full range coverage of the large Indian land mass and its outlying territories” including Nicobar and Andaman Islands. For developments of the command by India at these Islands will severely undermine the deterrence and regional strategic stability.

After the introduction of ‘India’s Cold Start Doctrine’ and in response to growing conventional forces asymmetry, Pakistan has increased its reliance on nuclear weapons. Though, India tries to formulate alternative strategies around nuclear deterrence to achieve its regional and global strategic ambitions. However, Pakistan has countered the Indian technological and missile developments with calculated responses to uphold deterrence and strategic stability in the region.

Such as, successful test of Multiple Independent Re-entry Targetable Vehicle (MIRV), Ababeel is a reliable measure against Indian Ballistic Missile Defence (BMD) system. Additionally, India’s testing of Agni IV and Agni V in year 2017 has demonstrated that the development of low yield Nasar is a stabilising addition to the prevailing deterrence equation. However, in the shifting regional security environment, arms race, vertical proliferation, war mongering mindset of political elites and absence of arms control regime is viewed as unavoidable challenge to deterrence equilibrium at tactical level as well as strategic level.

India’s growing conventional and military capabilities, shifting nuclear strategy and aggressive policies have the potential to disturb the regional peace and stability but India is not willing to pay any heed to emerging challenges of deterrence. Therefore, Pakistan has adequately prepared itself to address the challenges of Indian aggression by maintaining credible nuclear deterrence and conventional defence. Pakistan’s counter measures such as development of Nasr and Ababeel has thwarted India’s Cold Start Doctrine and Ballistic Missile Defence System because facing the instability and aggression is not an option.

To conclude, it is imperative for Pakistan to modernise its nuclear weapons to deter India from taking any offense against Pakistan. Accordingly, any compromise on its nuclear weapon advancement and modernisation can be dangerous for regional stability and its own national security.

 

US’s double standards and Pakistan: 18 January, 2018 "Daily Times"

The uneasy Pak-US ties since Donald Trump’s new Afghan policy suffered a new year set back when on Monday Trump accused Islamabad of lying. This is really not the first time Pakistan has been accused or blamed. In his first tweet of the year on January 3rd, Trump threatened to cut aid to Pakistan for purportedly deceiving the US and offering ‘little help’ in its efforts against terror in Afghanistan. He also stated that the US has ‘foolishly given Pakistan more than 33 billion dollars in aid over last 15 years.

Notwithstanding, Islamabad and Washington walked a diplomatic tight rope for a couple of months which might put the relationship to a collision course but misconceptions merit clarifications.

There is an ineluctable need for the Twitter-obsessed US president to recall that the US funds allocated to Pakistan,  an impressive bit, goes to the Coalition Support Fund (CSF), which is the reimbursement for costs incurred by Pakistan for participating in the US-led ‘global war on terror’ and supporting US operations in Afghanistan.

Likewise, Pakistan has also sustained unbearable human and financial losses in the said war and has always desired sustainable peace and peace talks in Afghanistan for an avowed ‘enduring freedom’ of the people of Afghanistan.

The escalated war of words followed by the latest stresses in the bilateral relationship between the two countries has not come as a surprise. Since August, the US has been trying to put Islamabad under squeeze on the ‘Haqqanis’ and the alleged safe havens for the ‘agents of chaos’.

Now the very question that arises here is that as Trump pledged to change the nature of relationship between the US and Pakistan, what would be that probable course of change? One hardly requires a crystal ball to extrapolate it, for Islamabad would be pressed harder with cuts in the financial aids leading to sanctions or embargoes.

This is the height of incongruity on the part of the US, where once there were initiatives such as the Kerry-Lugar civilian-focused aid and endeavours to spur regional trade and productivity primarily because of Pakistan’s durable role in the US led ‘war on terror’, now there is slight more than wrangling over bills and military equipment.

Trump and his administration must acknowledge the sacrifices Pakistan has made so far and should also stop acting like a deranged headmaster disciplining his students, for this is certainly not the proper diplomatic way to deal with the allies

Moreover, Trump administration this time wants India to perform major duties on its behalf. For instance, the ‘greater’ Indian role defined in Trump’s Afghan policy has been translated into a ‘leading global power and stronger strategic and defence partner’ to the US in the National Security Strategy Trump administration avowed last month. This could encourage India to boast its military might because of the acknowledgment incentive from a super power.

Again this is no less than an irony that the US demands a more robust defence and strategic partnership from a nation notorious for its atrocities and abuse of human rights chiefly in Kashmir valley. Likewise, the US is also aware of the fact that welcoming India as a ‘leading global power’ is an assured recipe for Pakistan-India proxy wars in region in general and on Afghan soil in particular.

Nevertheless, there is also no denying the fact that amidst Pakistan, the civil-military dynamics has largely and clearly affected the trajectory of Pak-US relations and steered it in the direction of being wholly security based. A part of blame must surely lie with the civilians and the present PML-N in particular.

Trump and his administration must acknowledge the sacrifices Pakistan has made so far and should also stop bullying like a head master disciplining his students, for this is certainly not the diplomatic way to deal with the allies. The US needs to admit the fact that without Pakistan’s support, peace could never be achieved in the region.

And this time to earn Pakistan’s support the US ought to put a halt on the dual standards it is pursuing in the region. Thus, seeking greater Indian while turning a blind eye to the decades long Kashmir issue, cross border and the state sponsored terrorism by India will certainly not fetch regional security that US often harps on about.

To conclude, it is only Pakistan-US cooperation in fighting terrorism that served the US national security interests as well as the larger interests of the international community.

Propaganda on CPEC’s debts: 11 January, 2018 "The Nation"

Serious propaganda has been launched against the financing mechanism of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) that the debt related to CPEC would inject additional burden on Pakistan’s finances in the years to come. These concerns are expressed by the non-government elements. The government, on the other hand, unfortunately has not effectively countered them.

Launched some 32 months ago, CPEC is project of high national importance to Pakistan. The project is the part of Chinese Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) of building six economic corridors around the world and CPEC is considered as pioneer and flagship project of the BRI.

When the project was launched, there were 51 agreements signed and they were mostly related to energy and infrastructure projects and some related to institutional arrangements.

As for the package of US$ 46 billion is concerned, US$ 35 billion were earmarked for energy generation and US$ 11 billion for infrastructure development. With new projects added with the insistence of provinces, the package is now gone beyond US$ 63 billion, which is around 21 percent of the total GDP of Pakistan.

Under the first phase, which is called the Early Harvest Program (EHP) many projects are completed by now and the remaining will be completed by the end of this year. As the EHP targeted energy production, by November 2017, Pakistan has overcome electricity shortage and has been producing surplus energy. By the end of this year, 11,000 MW will be added to the national grid.

Many critics raised serious concerns about the CPEC loans burden on the finances of Pakistan as how to pay back loans and liabilities. This perception mainly comes from anti-CPEC elements, Indian, and European critics. It is a systematic propaganda to flop the CPEC and to make a dent on the Sino-Pakistani all-weather friendship. It must be understood that CPEC is a cushion to upgrade and transform Pakistan’s economy. CPEC is a grand project of prosperity and not an economic burden on Pakistan’s finances. When the economy is further expanded, debts will be further relaxed.

Out of US$ 46 billion, US$ 35 billion was allocated for energy production. This financial arrangement was based upon the on-going energy policy that we adopted in the 1990s for the Private Power Producers (IPPs) when 19 private producers (local as well as international) invested to generate electricity. The National Electric Regulatory Authority (NEPRA) adjusts power traffic with power investors to purchase electricity. This arrangement is not loans but investment. The same is adopted for CPEC energy projects. The government of Pakistan does not have to pay back US$ 35 billion to the Chinese government as loans but it is the liability of the Chinese firms to do so and pay back loans to the Chinese banks.

The remaining US$ 11 billion were concessional loans. The interest rate does not go beyond 2 percent, which means that for US$ 11 billion, Pakistan will not pay more than US$ 250 million. The long term repayment system was adopted and Pakistan has to pay back in 25 years after the completion of the projects. The EHP projects will be completed in 2018 and the repayment will be paid by 2043 on US$ 11 billion with 2 percent interest per annum. How this could be a burden on Pakistan’s fiancés and debts? Is this arrangement is offered by other donors including the World Bank and IMF?

Moreover, prudent utilisation of CPEC loans will lead to achieve high growth. Government planned debt burden to 60 percent to the GDP during 2017 and further 50 percent to the GDP in the next 15 years (2032). Pakistan borrowed some commercial loans and credit from the China Development Bank (CDB), Industrial and Commercial Bank of China (ICBC), and Asia Infrastructure Bank (AIIB) with interest rate ranging from .75 percent to 3 percent.

Pakistan still facing war on terror and during this period neither in the 1990s nor after the 9/11 any country came to assist Pakistan economically and invested here. In 2015, China came to help Pakistan to transform its economy. Today Pakistan does not face electricity shortage. In the past four years, 1800 km motorway was built. More jobs were generated. Pakistan’s trade with China increased to US$ 20 billion. Pakistan’s FDI increased to US$ 2.4 billion with China investing the half amount. A true picture of the CPEC repayments should be explained to critics and fabricated remarks should be avoided.

After 7 years Pakistan will be 25th largest economy and emerging as truly Asian Tiger economy if consistent policy is pursued vis-à-vis CPEC. Pakistanis pay great gratitude to China for building their economy in the 21st century. In short, CPEC is the backbone of Pakistan’s economy and Pakistanis are determined that the Indus River miracle will take place like the Yellow River miracle, Han River miracle, and Japanese miracle.

It’s a war: 11 January, 2018 "Daily Times"

The over 16-year war in Afghanistan has involved Pakistan, the US and Afghanistan and is still continuing. When will it end? Lord Palmerston of Great Britain put it beautifully, “In international relations, there are no permanent friends or permanent enemies, only permanent interests.”

The current tussle between Pakistan and the United States is a similar story. Decades of the devastating but incessant fiasco of the US in Afghanistan tells us about the hard yards put into it by the Americans who are fighting the war on terror. The recent policies of Donald Trump along with his first tweet of the new year made it clear that his direction of attacks will target Pakistan. Blaming Pakistan for supporting or acting against the Haqqani Network and Afghan Taliban, and putting the entire debacle of failure on her is not a new story. Khawaja Asif, gave a rebuttal through an interview to Asia Society in the US by clearing the facts and answering a question relating to the Haqqani Network, “Don’t blame us for the Haqqanis! These were your (America’s) darlings just twenty or thirty years back. They were being dined and wined in the White House”.

Despite having one of the largest and strongest armies of the world, the US has failed to defeat the non-state actors in Afghanistan. This is due reason to question what the US is doing there.

While in Afghanistan, the US has different interests to pursue. A narrative exists that the primary purpose and above all the presence of US forces in Afghanistan is neither to stabilise nor destabilise Afghanistan but to elongate the so-called war on terror to achieve some roughly defined aims.

These purposes include, firstly, keeping an eye on China’s ever increasing economic might which keeps on signifying a pivotal shift in the equilibrium of global power. China remains a threat to the US because the American’s are aware that a dominant economic power can any time, become a leading military power. American’s themselves were the world’s largest economy before they became a military superpower.

Despite the narrative it pushes, the US is not in Afghanistan to stabilise or destabilise the Afghan government, it has different interests to pursue. The real purpose of US troops in Afghanistan is to prolong the so-called war on terror

Secondly, one of the many benefits of a considerable American presence in Afghanistan is its surveillance of Afghanistan’s neighbours. With the so-called trivial aim of keeping the Taliban and Haqqani network out of action, the US tried to influence the events happening in Pakistan and Iran. The crash of an American stealth drone 140 miles inside Iranian territory, launched from Afghanistan back in late 2011 is a clear example of its interference in matters of the other sovereign states.

Gholamali Khoshroo, Iranian Ambassador, in a letter to UN officials about the recent civil risings in Iran, a few days back protested that Washington was intervening ‘in a grotesque way in Iran’s internal affairs’. He said the Trump’s ‘absurd tweets’ have reinvigorated disruptions.

Similarly, the US presence in Afghanistan, helps them to keep an eye on the internal affairs of Pakistan. It’s a well-known fact that the US has always either directly or behind the scenes, effected the events in Pakistan. The influence put in by the American government to release Raymond Davis, a CIA agent, caught by the police for murdering two innocent Pakistani citizens is yet another self-speaking example.

If Washington was really interested in destroying the Taliban, they could have done it ate first sight when Pakistan was one of the closest ally of Pakistan, but they deliberately didn’t as the Taliban’s presence in Afghanistan and Central Asia, in general has always suited Pentagon’s stratagem. How? Taliban continued to expand in Afghanistan and the situation deteriorated to the extent that ISIS also put its foot on the Afghan soil.

With the strategic aim of generally destabilising the Central Asian regions such as Tajikistan, Uzbekistan and other alike countries, USA particularly damaged the Afghanistan to a point of no return. Most important matter over here is, for America, destabilisation of Central Asia possessed a considerable threat to Russia and China’s national security.

With this all, one can clearly judge what the US is doing in Afghanistan. Blaming Pakistan is neither justified nor the solution, it’s a war.

Underlying causes of Afghan debacle: 11 January, 2018 "Daily Times"

Originally there were four parties involved in the Afghan conflict. It is these three parties which are mainly responsible for the conflict in the Af-Pak region. First is the former Soviet Union, which invaded Afghanistan in 1979.Second are Pakistan’s security agencies which nurtured the so-called Mujahideen. Third is Saudi Arabia, which generously funded the jihadists to promote Wahabbi ideology. And finally, the West, which funded, provided weapons and gave international legitimacy to the Afghan ‘freedom fighters’ because they were fighting communism. Saudi Arabia and the Gulf’s other petro-monarchies took the West’s side because the former Soviet Union and Central Asian states produce more energy and consume less. Thus, the Soviet-led bloc was a net exporter of energy while the Western capitalist bloc was a net importer.

It suited the economic interests of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries to maintain and strengthen a supplier-consumer relationship with the Western capitalist bloc. Now, the BRICS countries are equally hungry for Middle Eastern energy, but this is a recent development. During the Cold War, an alliance with the Western countries suited the economic interests of the Gulf countries.

Why did Pakistan choose to join this unholy alliance against the Soviets during the cold war? In order to understand this, we need to take a cursory look at the history of our country. During British colonial rule, Pakistan’s leadership had a patron-client relationship with the British colonialists.

The Indian leadership also used to have that relationship with the imperialists. But in the case of Pakistan, there was an additional aggravating factor involved: the numerical weakness of the Muslims of India and Pakistan and their consequent dependence on the British imperialists against the permanent numerical majority of the Hindus.

It’s not that the Hindu leaders were not afflicted by the colonial mentality, but in the case of Pakistani leaders, the myth of Western invincibility and infallibility was cherished even more. That’s why Pakistan’s first PM, Liaquat Ali Khan declined the request of a state visit from the former Soviet Union and went on a state visit to Washington instead.

It wasn’t just the colonial mentality of Pakistan’s leaders but certain geopolitical considerations also played into their thinking for forming a strategic alliance with the Western bloc. Immediately after independence, India annexed the Muslim majority state of Kashmir.

When the interviewer asked Zbigniew Brzezinski if he regretted having supported and armed future terrorists, he replied “What is most important to the history of the world? The Taliban or the collapse of the Soviet empire?

Then in the 1950s, India took advantage of the Kashmiri territory (the riverheads of Pakistani rivers are located in Kashmir) and diverted the waters of Pakistani rivers to irrigate India’s western provinces. Bahawalpur turned barren overnight and the agricultural economy of nascent Pakistan suffered a tremendous blow.

With the involvement of the World Bank and the Tennessee Valley Authority of the US, Pakistan and India signed the Indus Waters Treaty in 1960, which allocated exclusive rights for the use of three eastern rivers to India; and some rights, such as the right to build hydroelectric projects, over the western Pakistani rivers, Jhelum and Chenab, as well.

All these incidents and Pakistan’s relative weakness vis-à-vis India made it even more dependent on Western military and developmental aid. That’s why it joined the Western-led anti-communist SEATO and CENTO alliances in the region during the 1950s. So much so that when the U2 plane incident occurred in 1960, Pakistan’s then President Ayub Khan openly acknowledged that the spy plane flew from a US airbase in Peshawar.

When Pakistan forged such a close alliance with Washington, it became impossible for it to stay neutral when the former Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan in 1979. Regarding the motives of the parties involved, the Americans wanted to take revenge for their defeat at the hands of communists in Vietnam, the Gulf countries had close economic ties with the Western bloc and Pakistan was dependent on Western military aid, hence it didn’t have a choice but to toe Washington’s policy in Afghanistan. In the end, Afghanistan proved to be a ‘bear trap’ and the former Soviet Union was eventually defeated and subsequently it collapsed in December 1991. It did not collapse because of the Afghan war but the latter was an important factor contributing to the dissolution of the Soviet Union.

In the 1998 interview with Counter Punch Magazine, the National Security Adviser to President Jimmy Carter, Zbigniew Brzezinski, confessed that the President signed the directive for secret aid to the Afghan ‘Mujahideen’ in July 1979 while the Soviet Army invaded Afghanistan in December 1979.

When the interviewer asked Zbigniew Brzezinski if he regretted having supported and armed future terrorists, he replied “What is most important to the history of the world? The Taliban or the collapse of the Soviet empire? Some stirred-up Muslims or the liberation of Central Europe and the end of the Cold War?” Despite his crass insensitivity, one must give credit to Zbigniew Brzezinski. At least he had the courage to speak the unembellished truth. Bear in mind, however, that the aforementioned interview was recorded in 1998. After the 9/11 terror attack, no Western policymaker can now dare to be as blunt and forthright as Brzezinski.

Finally, the Soviet-Afghan Jihad was a proxy war for all the belligerents involved, except for Afghanistan and Pakistan. After the signing of the Geneva Accords in 1988 when the Soviet Union began the process of withdrawing its troops from Afghanistan, Pakistan was left alone to fend for itself with some ‘strategic liabilities,’ including millions of destitute Afghan refugees in dire need of food, shelter and employment.

All of the Af-Pak region was now awash with Kalashnikovs, hand grenades, rocket launchers, land mines, battle-hardened militants, heroin and the Takfiri jihadist ideology, which still manifests itself in the form of frequent terror attacks and an unrelenting Taliban insurgency in the region 38 years after the conflict.

China past present and future: 09 January, 2018 "The Nation"

Gary Locke, the United States ambassador to China once said, “China’s history is marked by thousands of years of world-changing innovations: from the compass and gunpowder to acupuncture and the printing press. No one should be surprised that China has re-emerged as an economic superpower”. It is not the size of China’s population of 1.38 Billion nor the 9.6 million square kilometers of land that make China a remarkable nation, but its dedication, commitment and success in today’s world. In the past, China has gone through a wide range of circumstances including foreign invasions, dynasty wars and violent revolutions. But the progress made by the Chinese people in the present and the estimated socio-economic projections for the future are worthy of notice. The question being asked is, if China is a potential superpower or already a superpower?

From a historical perspective, China’s history can be divided into three parts. The history of ancient China from 5000 BC to 221 BC, the second phase being the history of Imperial China consisting of multiple emperors from 221BC to 1912 and last being the establishment of the Republic of China in 1912 leading to People’s Republic of China in 1949, which survives to-date. The first settlements appeared around 5000 BC near the Yellow River. Earliest written records can be found as early as 1500 BC. With thousands of years of history, China is one of the oldest civilizations. The end of the ancient period was marked by fierce battles between people of different clans leading to the downfall of the Zhou dynasty and the beginning of a unified China under the Qin Dynasty. This was the second phase marking a critical milestone of visualizing one China. Qin Shi Huang became the first emperor of a unified China in the year 221 BC. After the fall of Qin dynasty, there was a period of turmoil of over 800 years. China once again fell into upheavals and violence. The time of the Tang dynasty, followed by the rule of ten kingdoms and Song dynasty were interrupted by the Mongol invasions in 1271. Kublai Khan established a ruthless rule with the Yuan dynasty that survived until 1368. Subsequent years saw increasing interference but alongside diffusion of Western socio-political views. As a result of Sun-yat Sen’s efforts, the republic of China was established in 1912 with the Xinhai revolution paving the way for a refined social awakening

Around this time a man by the name of Mao Zedong got exposed to Marxism in 1929 while studying in the famous Peking University. He not only founded the Communist party but actively pursued an uprising against the ruling elite of the country. Mao was the answer to a nation that had begun to realize its potential. It is not a surprise that Mao led the Red Army against the Nationalists. This campaign was briefly interrupted by the Sino-Japanese War. On Japan’s defeat, the civil war resumed but this time, the Communist Red army emerged stronger than ever. The Nationalists were defeated and retreated to Taiwan. In the following years, Mao Zedong executed around 1 to 2 million landlords and overall casualties estimated to be over 8 million people including women and children. In 1957, Mao Zedong initiated his “Great Leap Forward” which was a ground-breaking strategy to turn an agrarian economy into an industrial one. These two pronged methodology, even with violence, propagated a class struggle and at the same time urged the people of China to take up smelters instead of harvests. Mao’s visions of economic transformation lead to the death of an estimated 70 Million in the post-war scenario. This was due to persecution or forced labor and movement of peasants to work in Government setup factories. This was the turning point in the history of China which was to be but the cost had been paid in blood.

On the social front, the Communist party launched a Cultural Revolution in 1966. Old practices in terms of religion, education and traditions were simply termed “counter-revolutionary” and were punished with severity by the Central Government. It was ruthless and cruel by all standards but it surely managed to purify and unify the Chinese society. The Cultural Revolution and the Great Leap Forward achieved finality around 1977. After this, under the leadership of Deng Xiaoping, China adopted a path to economic progress and opening up. A report on the 30 year rule of the Communist Party accepted the ineffective practices of the Communist party and paved the way for reforms. Deng initiated special economic zones that were a hybrid between a capitalist run businesses owned by the government. Gradually, benefits of foreign investment were realized by the Communist regime and export/import sectors flourished. By the end of 1980s China became a giant in trade and raised the living standards of millions from abject poverty to a prospering middle class. Today, due to progressive reforms and improvements, China is the fastest growing economy of the world being the world’s top exporter and second largest importer of the world. China is a nuclear armed state with the largest standing army on the planet. A testimony to its accomplishment is the fact that from having a poverty stricken population of 64% in 1978, today the poverty in China stands at a remarkable 10%. China with its trade deals Latin America, Middle East and Africa is a proved superpower. Further, China’s human resource expansion can be gauged from the fact that the decades old one child policy has been abolished in 2015. China knows that the future of expansion and progress lies in dominance in trade and commerce. The Chinese leadership is aiming to expand through their One Belt One Road initiative, making Gwadar a centerpiece. Pakistan is the doorway to progress and expansion for China. The future of China and Pakistan converges onto Gwadar and its prospects. With access to Central Asian and Middle East markets, China has no hurdles in its path to global supremacy in progress, in other words, the dragon has awakened.

A note of apology: 09 January, 2018 "The Nation"

Something deeply personal has been weighing on my mind and heart over the past few days. The Palestinian Authority (PA) leadership recalled its ambassador to Pakistan when said ambassador participated in a massive local solidarity demonstration in response to the unacceptable, renewed imperial-Zionist claims on the question of Jerusalem.

Why did the PA summon its ambassador in such an embarrassing haste? It was deeply troubled by the presence of anti-Indian elements within the demonstration, which angered poor Prime Minister Modi in New Dehli. Hence, in an effort to allay the irritation felt by an irate Modi, the PA sent a powerful message by recalling its ambassador, disciplining him, and issuing a public apology that cries of cowardice, and fits the ongoing pattern of political corruption - to the point of political suicide - so characteristic of the PA.

But this was too scandalous for me. Did the PA forget about the fact that Modi is the first Indian Prime Minister to have visited, and so wholeheartedly embraced, the Israeli settler-colonial state? Not only was it just a symbolic visit by Modi to Tel Aviv, but a billion dollar plus arms deal was procured along with a deepening of geo-strategic and military cooperation between the two countries.

We now have the historic non-aligned India that had defended Palestine and Palestinian rights making a complete u-turn and becoming a full-blown enabler of the murder and dispossession of Palestinians. It bewilders me how the PA did not see the writing on the wall, how this is a very different India - especially since Modi had absolutely no time to visit Palestine and meet with this PA leadership so keen on dancing to the crypto-fascist Indian leader’s every tune, pleasing his every whim, in return for...absolutely nothing, but merely more humiliation.

In the middle of all of the regional developments taking place, where so many ‘moderate Arab regimes’, as well as other nations, have betrayed Palestinian aspirations, have been attempting to weaken and destroy any Palestinian resistance, Pakistan has been one of the few to have stood steadfast in its refusal ever to entertain the idea of recognizing Israel. There were a few weeks, no days, perhaps even as little as hours, where Gen. Musharraf during his rule may have merely suggested the possibility of considering diplomatic relations with Israel. But immediately after word got out, a national wave of outcry was unleashed, and Musharraf had to deny that he ever even suggested such a ridiculous idea, and had to quickly distract the population to some other topic: his cute dog!

Musharraf was very relieved that he could pretend like he never raised this idea. This was the only time of a brief few hours that any Pakistani leader ever uttered this intention of recognizing Israel. Nothing else before and nothing else will be suggested after. No Pakistani leader is interested in being publicly hanged!

Such is the sentiment in Pakistan. If there is one area where the state gets democracy and representation of the public will so right, it is on the question of Palestine. There is absolutely no compromise on its firm recognition of historic Palestine.

And this is why this short commentary of mine is essentially meant to be an apology to one of the most pro-Palestinian countries on the planet. Pakistan has been a society, which has treated me, a Palestinian, as not merely a guest, but as special, heroic personification of the struggle and resistance for which Pakistanis have consistently stood shoulder to shoulder with us. Me and my people’s struggle has always been recognized as a metaphor, as the symbol and embodiment of the larger anti-colonial, anti-oppression narrative that lives in the hearts and souls of Pakistanis craving justice, freedom, and sovereignty.

Since the day I arrived here now nearly a decade ago, Pakistanis faces’ have lit up when I have told them I am Palestinian. Pakistanis both within Pakistan and outside of the country, I have found, are always at the forefront of Palestinian solidarity work and activism. Leila Khalid, the famous Palestinian resistance fighter, once told me that nowhere on earth was she received so enthusiastically as when she visited Pakistan, where women in their hordes would blindly remove their jewelry and hand it over to her in support of the Palestinian struggle.

The feelings that Pakistan and Pakistanis have generated in me these years are so overwhelmingly emotional. That my homeland’s struggle lives tightly tucked in the hearts of every Pakistani has kept me optimistic in dark times, when other countries have been involved in duplicity and outright betrayal of Palestinians.

And this is why I apologize to Pakistan and every single Pakistani for the grotesquely foolish and cowardly act by the PA, done to appease an Indian leader who could care less if the Palestinians disappeared from the face of the earth tomorrow. I want to assert, loud and clear, that this PA action and the thrust of its utterly embarrassing public statement does not represent the sentiment of we Palestinians. We Palestinians remain grateful to Pakistanis’ unwavering commitment to, and solidarity with, our struggle. Corrupt, incompetent, and collaborationist PA leaders will come and go. But Palestinian-Pakistani solidarity and cooperation for justice and liberation will continue unhindered by any impediment in its way.

The time is to recover the buried history of this active solidarity, of a period when Pakistanis went to fight in Palestine alongside Fatah when the latter was a serious resistance organization. That history cannot be erased. No leaders will ever be able to suppress this memory, be they named Modi or whichever PA leader is calling the shots today.

Pak-US economic relations: 08 January, 2018 "Business Recorder"

The economic relations between the US and Pakistan have reached a low point once again. The US President, Donald Trump, has announced in a tweet message that the US will not give aid to Pakistan anymore. This has been further confirmed by official announcements subsequently made by the White House. 

This is not the first time that cessation of aid from the US has taken place. After the 1965 war with India, bilateral assistance from the US ended for some time. Following the Pressler amendment there was little support from the US during the 1990s. Sanctions were imposed by the US following the atomic explosion by Pakistan in 1998. 

The US President has said that the aid given cumulatively to Pakistan is $33 billion over the last fifteen years. This is not entirely correct. According to the Washington-based Centre for Global Development, almost $22 billion, equivalent to a two-thirds, has been in the nature of security assistance, especially in the form of reimbursements from the Coalition Support Fund (CSF). Only the remaining $11 billion or one-third can be classified as economic assistance or aid. 

From 2001-02 onwards, after 9-11 and Pakistan’s support to the US in the Afghan war, the initial flow of assistance annually approached $2.0 billion. During the Musharraf Government, total assistance received was close to $12 billion. It peaked during the tenure of the PPP Government when $16 billion were received in the five years. This was facilitated by the Kerry Lugar bill whereby the US Congress authorized tripling of economic assistance to Pakistan. 

However, since 2012-13, the level of support has fallen sharply. It is estimated at $5 billion over the last four years. In 2016-17, it declined to less than $ 800 million, with CSF inflow of $650 million. To compensate for this, exports will need to increase more by only 4 percent. Therefore, the process of retreat of the US from assistance to Pakistan had already been under way for some time. 

The important message is that economic and security assistance is the least vital part of the economic relations between Pakistan and the US. The more important links are in trade and the inflow of remittances. The US is the largest export market of Pakistan, with a volume of $ 3.7 billion in 2016-17. This represents 17 percent of the total exports of Pakistan. Further, the US is one of the few countries with which Pakistan has a trade surplus, approaching $ 1.6 billion in 2016-17. 

The flow of remittances is also sizeable from the US. Last year it was $ 2.5 billion, equivalent to 13 percent of total remittances. As from many other countries, there has been a significant decline since 2014-15. 

The other area where the relationship with the US has weakened is in the inflow of foreign direct and portfolio investment to Pakistan. In 2014-15, foreign private investment from the US to Pakistan was relatively high at $823 million, substantially higher than that from China. Thereafter, China has overtaken the US. During the last two years, the inflow from China is $2.3 billion as compared to $ 600 million from the US. This difference is likely to be magnified with peaking of CPEC investments. 

The cessation of US assistance should not have a material impact on Pakistan’s economy as the level had already fallen substantially. The other dimensions of the relationship, especially trade and remittances, are likely to remain largely unaffected. Hopefully, Pakistani expatriate workers in the US may send more to Pakistan to demonstrate their support at this time. 

The Government and the Military have taken the appropriate stance with respect to the US. The demand to ‘do more’ is clearly unacceptable. Pakistan has already paid a very heavy price for the war on terror. We have lost over 70,000 valuable lives and the conservative estimate of the economic cost to the economy since 2001-02 is $125 billion. This is almost four times the combined security and economic assistance received from the US. 

However, we need to be watchful about the possibility of more pressure being put indirectly by the US Administration, especially in the context of the vulnerable external balance of payments position of Pakistan. The IMF Post-Program Monitoring Mission has recently concluded its visit to Pakistan following interaction with the relevant Ministries, especially Finance. 

The Mission is expected to submit its report to the Executive Board of the IMF in early February. The US has a dominant position in the IMF Board. There is the likelihood that the US member may put pressure to be especially harsh on the ‘negative’ developments in Pakistan. This may further impair the perception of the country’s debt repayment capacity. In the absence of a ‘letter of comfort’ from the IMF, multilateral agencies may withhold their concessional assistance to Pakistan. Simultaneously, a negative signal will be conveyed to international commercial banks and mutual funds. This will make it more difficult and raise the cost to Pakistan of floating Euro/Sukuk bonds. 

The assistance pledged by the World Bank and the Asian Development Bank for 2017-18 is $2.3 billion. Already, the flow is beginning to decline. During the first five months only 18 percent of the amount committed has been received. Pakistan may be compelled to search for other financing at a substantially higher cost. 

The worst case scenario is what could happen if Pakistan is left with no option but to approach the IMF for a Program. In 1998, when sanctions were placed by the US on Pakistan, initial contact with the Fund was met by, more or less, impossible prior actions being asked for. These included a steep devaluation, big hike in tax rates and power tariffs and so on. 

The time has come now to move decisively towards greater self-reliance instead of only a ‘holding operation’ with minimum policy action till the next elections. It is imperative that a much stronger trade policy be put in place on a priority basis. The contours of such a policy have already been described article by the author in ‘A Stronger Trade Policy’ carried by this newspaper recently. 

Given the extremely unreasonable posture adopted by the US the people of our country will probably support the attainment of the objective of depending less on the largesse of other countries. It was reassuring to note that the stock market did not react negatively after the US President’s New Year tweet. Instead, it has since gone up by almost 5 percent. Also, the inter-bank rate of the rupee has remained stable. 

There is need for evolving a political consensus on the steps to improve the external balance of payments position and averting a financial crisis. This will be a clear demonstration that Pakistan is now a mature and a sovereign nation. 

Coquihalla in Afghanistan: 06 January, 2018 "The Nation"

‘Highway through Hell’ is a Canadian reality show on hazards and heavy rescue in difficult mountainous terrain, unpredictable winter weather, landslides, avalanches and human error. The show focuses on Coquihalla Highway, also called Coq, where conventional cranes, towers and wreckers can do some but not all the job. Complicated wrecks in confined spaces need a rotator truck that is one in all.

For the past three decades, Afghanistan, located on this geo strategic highway, is America’s Coquihalla wreck that USA is in no hurry to clear. Attempts at bringing stability by Pakistan in 1977, 1996 and 2002 were all dashed. Plucking OBL from Sudan and creating Al Qaida in Afghanistan were never Pakistan’s creations. Yet it can never be denied that Pakistan is the only Rotator that can help change dynamics in Afghanistan to Peace.

US Policy in Afghanistan is a continuation of the Afghan Forward Policy of the British Raj, sewed around Spykman’s Rimland to contain Eurasia (Russia, Central Asia and China) against any ingress towards the West (Indian and Atlantic Ocean). The containment strategy became more aggressive in fear of the Communist Revolution and remains so because of multi layered rivalry. Middle East and Pakistan are two crucial links to this containment.

Therefore, instability in Afghanistan is the only constant and would remain for many reasons. It provides ingress to Russia’s underbelly, keeps China in check, double contains Iran and Pakistan and keeps the unstable Southern Front of Middle East in US Control. In nutshell, this instability is a crucial plank of US policy that stalls development in Central Asia, Iran and Pakistan.

But in this century, terrains are no more a barrier. If the decades-old template of US policy does not change, nothing will. Most likely, a game of images, propaganda, framing perceptions, coercion and limited interventions will ensue to bludgeon through.

President Trump’s Tweet is a New Year gift to Pakistan. It has glared a long-held US contempt that previously had only implied threats to Pakistan. This outright arm twisting and narrows diplomacy provides a window to Pakistan for reassertion. Already, Pakistan is reversing the US term ‘neither friend nor foe’ to ‘neither foe nor friend’.

To do so, Pakistan has inherent potential, regional allies and technology. This combination can lay the foundations of a strategy that circumvents the Rimland. Unlike initiatives of Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto and Benazir Bhutto, whose stability forays in Afghanistan meant death warrants, new initiatives are coming as a cause with complete national consensus and major international backing.

The military establishment often blamed for the pro-US tilt has a 15 years combat experience of cooperating with USA and assimilated all dimensions of the relationship. Even a pro-US regime will find it challenging these initiatives. The cover up of a military defeat in Afghanistan to insulate its core interests will back fire. Even Pentagon, touted as cousin of Pakistan’s armed forces having limited ground combat capability, finds it convenient to blame Pakistan army that has outdone it in such operations. The space in military diplomacy is now very narrow. If Pakistan is sidelined, consequences for USA will be contrary to its goals.

If USA persists and if Pakistan and its allies play it right, the next decade runs risk of tragically reducing Afghanistan to a land locked, inconsequential isolated pocket of instability; not because Pakistan wants it to happen but because USA would shape it so.

The world must understand that, in a primordial and lawless Afghanistan, not much has changed since the ‘Caravan’ of James A Michener. Imposition of West Educated elites, emergence of narrow developed urbanisation and gratification of war lords will not reset the social landscape. Rather, it will fuel more dissent in the society. To gel Afghanistan into a modern federation, Pakistan provides the only family, ethnic, language and cultural link to the majority of Afghan people.

US military interventions in Canada, South America, Middle East, East and Far East were US defeats. It failed in Afghanistan and will be disastrous against Pakistan. In US policy, friends and foes have alternated as convenient children of opportunity. US policy of punishment and sanctions has failed throughout history. Pakistan is no walkover and I wish that Pakistan does not blink.

The liberal economic order with jazzy terms like interdependence, globalisation, free trade and trans-nationalism were just another form of neo imperialism and colonialism. This jargon has also infected a segment of Pakistan’s educated elites who will target the armed forces and political parties. Let the sanctions come and Pakistan will fight back with its potential. Hasn’t Pakistan survived the 13 years sanctions as recent as 9/11? A time will come when Pakistan and China will break the shackles of a militarised and terrorised Rimland. Then the capitalist world will come to realize the full potential of economic liberalism.

Pakistan’s rival India wants to make hay while the sun shines to turn tables on Kashmir, like US-Israel-Saudi nexus has done in Palestine. USA and India are in a game of mutual baiting, knowing well that the relationship is based on deceit. It is nigh possible that the world may one day awake to such a Trump Tweet.

The prime objective of enlisting India and creating AFPAK in the US Long War policy was to make Pakistan go berserk and burn into a bigger war theatre like Middle East. Pakistan’s armed forces and law enforcement agencies fought back and foiled such a scenario. Despite many self-engineered economic crises, Pakistan continued to wade through. Purposefully bad governance failed to tamper the social and ideological unison.

Rather than being grateful to Pakistan for the buffer it provides, Indian right wing finds it impossible to dispel long held historic predispositions of invaders from the north or dreams of a mythical ‘Bharatvarsha’. India ought to learn its lessons from Pakistan’s experience and avoid becoming a pawn in a new great game. India’s growing economic might will become its biggest limitation in subduing Pakistan.

What goes up comes down.

A point has reached where floating threats from terrorism have been strangulated in Pakistan while, narcotics and gun running intrinsically linked to terrorism thrive in Afghanistan.

ISIS is relocating and rebranding in Afghanistan not because of Pakistan but against it.

Pakistan is not a poor under-developed country; rather has been shoved into this bracket by economic hitmen, foreign franchised politicians, pseudo liberals and wrong choices made by the establishment. Now is the time for cost benefit analysis without any military confrontation. Play it cool like the Chinese.

Good governance alone will expand the GDP by 2-3. One year efforts at agriculture will be a jump start of another 3-4 of GDP. A little concentration on energy markets and revival of value added industry will provide an exponential effect. I asses that despite sanction, if Pakistan plays it right, the GDP within three years will cross 8. Pakistan’s Rotator Arm will wriggle out of the debris and help create a paradigm shift in balance of power.

Muslims in Trump’s America: 06 January, 2018 "Daily Times"

It is a difficult time to be a Muslim in America. All polls and figures indicate the   continuing rise in Islamophobic assaults and abuse; 2017 was the worst year ever.

I will give three random and unrelated examples to illustrate the climate.

Raheel Siddiqui, a 20-year-old Pakistani-American Marine recruit, was a top student at Truman High School in Taylor, Michigan, graduating as valedictorian of his senior class. He left college to join the Marines with dreams of serving his nation.

He ended his life a few months later at U.S. Marines boot camp at Parris Island, South Carolina. After being slapped and yelled at by Joseph Felix, a 34-year-old drill sergeant, for complaining of a sore throat, Siddiqui jumped from the third floor of a barracks building and landed on a concrete stairwell, later tragically succumbing to his injuries. The Marines later determined his cause of death was suicide.

The Siddiqui family was devastated by their son’s death, challenging the suicide narrative and portrayal of Raheel as a weak and overwhelmed Marine recruit in multiple media interviews. They have sued the Marine Corps for $100 million for “negligence on multiple levels of command,” citing severe physical and psychological abuse from drill sergeants as the motivating factor behind the recruit’s death.

It is likely that Siddiqui faced the same type of physical and psychological abuse as Lance Corporal Ameer Bourmeche and Rekan Hawez. Bourmeche recounted during Felix’s court-martial trial that Felix forced him to sit in an industrial-grade clothes dryer and renounce Islam, turning on the machine when Bourmeche refused to do so and only releasing him when he renounced his religion out of fear of further harm. Hawez, an Iraqi Kurd recruit, also faced similar threats from Felix and testified that Felix and another drill sergeant placed him in a dryer in a similar manner to Bourmeche.

Felix was sentenced to ten years in prison; the allegations   included vivid descriptions of physical and verbal abuse, occasionally under the influence of alcohol, at Parris Island.

“I am pleased to share that the U.S. Army National Guard has granted Specialist Ali Khawaja, ADAMS Law Enforcement Liason Team, The Religious Accommodation to keep his beard grown, so that he may both be in uniform in service to Our Country and also observe His Faith in service to God”

Another equally heart-breaking death involves Nabra Hassanen, 17, of Reston, Virginia. Awarm, lively, intelligent young woman, who had just completed her sophomore year of high school, Nabra was one of four daughters from a close-knit Egyptian family and regularly attended the mosque during Ramadan for midnight prayers. She and her friends were walking back to the All Dulles Area Muslim Society (ADAMS Center) mosque after eating at a nearby IHOP for the fast in the early hours of June 18, 2017 when a 22-year-old man, Darwin Martinez-Torres, began to argue with them while driving by the mosque. Eventually he drove his car onto the curb and began chasing Hassanen and her friends, finally reaching Hassanen (who had tripped over her abaya) and hitting her with a baseball bat before driving off with her.

Nabra was then assaulted a second time, both physically and sexually, before dying as a result of her injuries. Torres then dumped her body into a pond near his apartment; upon being arrested, he led police to her location. Police ultimately ruled her death to be a tragic end to a road rage conflict. Many members of the local Muslim community remain uncertain of this explanation, citing the likelihood that her death was, in fact, a hate crime. The campaign “Justice for Nabra” has centered on bringing Torres to justice for his crimes. However, her father sadly noted that clarity about the nature of his daughter’s death would never bring her back to life. Many have viewed the deaths of Siddiqui and Hassanen as part of a growing pattern of Islamophobia where harassment of young Muslims leads to abuse and, in the cases of Hassanen and Siddiqui, a tragic demise.

On November 28, 2017, U.S. President Donald Trump retweeted a series of video sposted by Jayda Fransen of Britain First, an avowedly Islamophobic organization that is known for opposing the supposed “Islamisation” of the United Kingdom. The videos supposedly depict Muslims engaging in violent acts in Europe, although one video was later revealed to show a Dutch citizen assaulting another person rather than a “Muslim migrant.” Ms. Fransen, the deputy leader of Britain First, has a long history of Islamophobia, and has been arrested numerous times on assault and hate-related charges. Britain First now had the global spotlight through the 40 million tweet followers of Trump.

But it’s not all gloom and doom for Muslims. There are many stories of Muslims serving successfully in the system. In December, 2017, I received this circular from Rizwan Jaka, a leading figure at the ADAMS Islamic center.

“Salaam, Shalom, PEACE, Sat Sri Akal, Namaste, Religious Freedom & Accommodation in The US Army National Guard for Specialist Ali Khawaja, I am pleased to share that the U.S. Army National Guard has granted Specialist Ali Khawaja, ADAMS Law Enforcement Liason Team, The Religious Accommodation to keep his beard grown, so that he may both be in uniform in service to Our Country and also observe His Faith in service to God. There are Muslim Prayer Spaces/Services on Military Bases around the USA and around the World. There are American Muslim chaplains serving our Nation, as well. There are Several Thousand Muslims Serving Honorably in US Department of Defense and Many American Muslim Civilians & Contractors supporting the US DoD. We appreciate all their service to Our Nation.

Trump’s national security strategy: 02 January, 2018 "The Nation"

US President Trump’s national security strategy is finally out. While it does not contain many surprises, it is still an important document as it gives an authoritative description of the Trump administration’s assessment of threats to US national security and how the US plans to counter them. The strategy claims to be based on “principled realism”, that is, a combination of a realistic view of the world with the principles which characterize the American polity. It recognizes the central role of national power in a competitive world as it tries to promote US national interests while remaining faithful to “American principles” of respect for life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness, accountability of power enshrined in the US constitution establishing a democratic form of government, and the rule of law. It declares, “Our task is to ensure that American military superiority endures, and, in combination with other elements of national power, is ready to protect Americans against sophisticated challenges to national security”.

The document identifies China and Russia as posing a challenge to American power, influence, and interests as they attempt to “erode American security and prosperity”. North Korea and Iran are accused of trying “to destabilize regions, threaten Americans and our allies, brutalize their own people”. In addition, the strategy considers “transnational threat groups, from jihadist terrorists to transnational criminal organizations” as serious threats to the US security. In the face of these perceived threats, the new US national security strategy would focus on four main tasks. Firstly, it would take steps to protect the American people, the homeland, and the American way of life. Among other things, it would “pursue threats to their source so that jihadist terrorists are stopped before they reach American borders”. Secondly, it would promote American prosperity by rejuvenating the US economy and insisting upon fair and reciprocal economic relationships to address trade imbalances. Thirdly, it will aim to preserve peace through strength and ensure that “regions of the world are not dominated by one power”. Fourthly, it would try to advance American influence on the premise that “a world that supports American interests and reflects our values makes America more secure and prosperous”.

What is of special interest from Pakistan’s point of view is the approach that the new US national security strategy recommends for various regions. To start with, the US would “prevent unfavorable shifts in the Indo-Pacific, Europe, and the Middle East”. In the Indo-Pacific region which is of direct interest to Pakistan, the strategy document takes note of the challenge posed by a rapidly rising China and expresses the US resolve to protect its own interests and the interests of its allies and partners such as Japan, South Korea, Australia, the Philippines, and Thailand. In Northeast Asia, America would pursue the goal of denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula and preserve the nuclear no-proliferation regime. In the context of the US policy of containment of China, the Trump administration would continue the existing US policy of expanding its “defense and security cooperation with India, a Major Defense Partner of the United States, and support India’s growing relationships (read power and influence) throughout the region”. The US would also support India’s leadership role in the Indian Ocean security and throughout the broader Indo-Pacific region.

The new strategy takes note of the continued threats to the US “from transnational terrorists and militants operating from within Pakistan. The prospect for an Indo-Pakistani military conflict that could lead to a nuclear exchange remains a key concern requiring consistent diplomatic attention”. Washington would press Pakistan to intensify its counter-terrorism efforts and “take decisive action against militant and terrorist groups operating from its soil”. It would also encourage Pakistan to continue demonstrating that it is a responsible steward of its nuclear assets. As for Afghanistan, the US would support the Afghan government in its fight against “the Taliban, al-Qaeda, ISIS, and other terrorists”. This support would aim to convince the Taliban that they cannot win on the battlefield, thus, paving the way for diplomatic efforts to achieve enduring peace in Afghanistan.

The highlights of the Trump administration’s national security policy given above reaffirm in many ways the essential features of the US policy towards Asia and South Asia that was being pursued by earlier administrations. There would, of course, be a greater emphasis on the build-up of the US military might than was the case during the Obama administration as reflected by the sharply increased US military budget of $700 billion for the fiscal year 2017-18. But the US policy of containment of China would continue as would the US policy of building up India as a counter-weight to China, particularly in South Asia and the Indian Ocean region. As for Pakistan, it would remain under the US pressure for its alleged support to the Taliban and other militant groups operating from its soil for terrorist activities in Afghanistan and India. It is likely that if Islamabad does not fall in line with the US demands, Washington would place increasing restrictions on its development and military assistance to Pakistan. If the situation deteriorates further, the possibility of other punitive actions cannot be ruled out.

US Vice President’s recent statement in Kabul charging that “For too long, Pakistan has provided safe haven to the Taliban and many terrorist organizations, but those days are over” and warning that President Trump “had put Pakistan on notice”, has elicited responses from both the Pakistan Foreign Office and DG ISPR. But this is not enough. The harsh statement by the US Vice President calls for a thorough review of our internal and external policies so as to come out with an agreed course of action after in-depth discussions among all the state institutions concerned.

In the face of the new US national security strategy, it is imperative that we maintain national unity and cohesive functioning of the various state institutions, including civil and military as well as executive, legislature, and judiciary, within their constitutional limits. None of them has the monopoly of wisdom, integrity, or patriotism. No institution can be or should be allowed to assume the role of a state within a state. None should be allowed to transgress its constitutional limits to encroach upon the functions of the others. Unfortunately, some institutions of the state have violated these red lines in the past to generate the current climate of political instability, the last thing that the country needs at this critical moment in its history.

Secondly, our state institutions should focus on a realistic assessment of the current internal and external situation confronting the nation with a view to developing viable policy options for the consideration of the government with the aim to safeguard the country’s security, promote its economic well-being, and protect its cultural identity and values. Emotional responses to complex situations and issues should be avoided. This in the ultimate analysis is the question of governance where unfortunately all our state institutions are lacking and need to improve their performance. Finally, we should squarely face the reality that in the years to come there is going to be an inexorable process of the convergence of the strategic interests of the US and India, which carries serious negative implications for Pakistan’s security and economic prosperity. We cannot simply wish away this trend. Our effort instead should be to take into account this trend adequately in the formulation of our policies in various fields.