Articles Regarding Pakistan

Contrived confrontations: 25 May, 2019 "The Nation"

The emerging geopolitical and geostrategic environments in the Greater Middle East Region (GMER) and the South-Central Asian Region (SCAR) portend severe turmoil, instability and war as the US-Israel-India Combine moves to impose its unchallenged hegemony in the GMER-SCAR Complex. Iran in the GMER and Pakistan in the SCAR are clearly its main areas of interest. In the GMER it will be the US-Israel Combine operating with India in support (Chahbahaar Port, an obvious Trojan Horse), while in the SCAR it will essentially be Israel in support (a la Balakot) of the US-India Combine. 

Post Arab Spring, the GMER reeks of war, mass migrations, death and destruction. Palestine, Syria, Iraq, Libya, Yemen, Afghanistan etc are living proofs of this unprecedented pogrom of the Muslims. The Arabs (GCC) themselves have been frightened into aligning with the US-Israel Combine (the “failed” Warsaw Summit) to finance a war which will ostensibly pre-empt, defang and defeat a potentially missile toting nuclear Iran. A “toothless” Iran is thus to be compelled to accept Israel’s (and much to the Arab’s chagrin, not their) hegemony in the GMER. 

President Trump’s two-pronged strategy will seek to ensure Israel’s hegemony in the GMER and win the 2020 elections by defanging and defeating Iran. Ideally, he will want to coerce it into submission through its current gun boat diplomacy; failing which he will isolate and choke it economically through crippling sanctions, naval and air blockades and bludgeon it through relentless carpet-bombing runs by B-52s and massive air, land and sea-based missile/cruise missile salvos and drone attacks. Without boots on ground the impact of all these aerial assaults will be limited. Putting insufficient numbers on ground will be self-defeating, engendering a quagmire worse than the Afghan one. Thus, two ongoing wars might threaten his re-election bid. In the time available before the 2020 elections he cannot possibly stagger the two, that is first egress from Afghanistan and then tackle Iran. Thus, it is most unlikely that he will put boots on Iranian territory but would rather destroy Iran’s military, nuclear and missile facilities/capacities through relentless aerial attacks. Through war and economic sanctions, he expects to cause a popular uprising in a weakened Iran and precipitate a regime change!

The Iranians will opt for an indirect approach. They are likely to expand the asymmetric war to Israel, Syria (Golan Heights), Lebanon, Palestine, Yemen, the Arab states and the Persian Gulf Region, enlarging the theater of war and dissipating US’ military effort. Shiite uprisings in its support across the GMER, especially in Eastern KSA, Bahrain, Kuwait, Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan etc will cause massive regional destabilization. Mass movements of Shiites from within the GMER and beyond to join the “Jihad in Iran against the Great Satan” will complicate an already complex situation even further. Arab oil terminals, pipelines, ports, refineries, oil tankers, shipping lanes, the Hormuz Straits chokepoint, et al will be attacked. The GMER will erupt in flames and the world’s oil supply will be disrupted. The US may initiate the war however, the Iranians will decide when to end it. The EU, Russia, China and the Muslim World will end up as impotent observers offering nothing beyond inane platitudes! 

Next stop, Pakistan. The US-Israel-India Combine’s collective interests clash directly with Pakistan’s. First, its nuclear and missile programs need to be capped, rolled back and eventually eliminated. Second, once defanged, it has to be made subservient to India’s unquestioned regional leadership and hegemony. Third, Pakistan needs to be so destabilized that CPEC-BRI projects are totally disrupted, disorganized and if possible scuttled for good. Destroying the CPEC-BRI meets both the US and India’s vital interests; it will disrupt China’s challenge to the US’ pre-eminence as the sole global economic power and simultaneously meet Indian interests of forcing an economically weakened Pakistan to implode.

The US-India-Israel Combine is well aware that trying to defeat Pakistan militarily would be unacceptably costly in military, economic, political and diplomatic terms. A war against it will undoubtedly encroach upon nuclear thresholds right at the outset. The victory, if any at all, would be extremely pyrrhic in nature. Indian ambitions of regional and extra-regional dominance will be dealt a comprehensive and fatal blow. A chastened, weakened and humiliated India (Balakot!) would be of scant use to the US in countering China. So, an indirect approach has been adopted. An “economic blitzkrieg” was launched against Pakistan through the IFIs and domestic economic hitmen like its corrupt political leadership in power in the last decade or so. The latter destroyed Pakistan’s economy and its viability through sheer incompetence, rank bad governance, deliberate mismanagement and rampant, ruthless corruption, piling up unmanageable foreign and domestic loans/debts, ruining its state enterprises, stifling real growth and even choking the financial support to its vital strategic organizations; all the while enriching themselves shamelessly. This deliberately contrived weakened economic position has left Pakistan at the mercy of the major world powers through regimes like the FATF and IFIs, etc. Simultaneously, this “economic blitzkrieg” was reinforced by a hybrid war which had devastating political, diplomatic, informational, military (Pulwama, Balakot) and terrorism dimensions. Pakistan weathered this storm brilliantly however the “economic blitzkrieg” continues; an IMF bailout is reportedly linked to a satisfactory report from the FATF whose Asian Pacific Group has India as a co-Chairman!  Although Pakistan is apparently at an economic precipice yet it has the capacity, the will and the resilience to overcome this challenge. It has risen from the ashes, phoenix like, earlier as well!

So, slowly but surely the stage is being set to neutralize the remaining two major, ostensibly audacious, Muslim states in the GMER-SCAR Complex. Both, Iran and Pakistan, have been brought to economic stagnation and ruin through sanctions and domestic and international economic hitmen. They are to be militarily subdued too. The US-Israel-India Combine will most probably deal with them piecemeal, first Iran, then Pakistan! However, both Iran and Pakistan will retaliate; will meet the challenges with their customary resilience, will, grit and determination. They are unlikely to roll over and die. The US-Israel-India Combine must not contrive confrontations which it cannot control or bring to credible, favorable and sensible closures!   

Are the Chinese safe in Pakistan?: 25 May, 2019 "Daily Times"

In the wake of the terror attack on the PC Hotel in Gwadar, the Chinese media and commercial circles seem concerned regarding the state of security in Balochistan which is witnessing the firth wave of Baloch insurgency. Though the Chinese government and the state media showed restraint in terms of adherence to bilateral cordiality and consolidation of China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), certain social and corporate community did raise eyebrows over this second attack within short period near the Gwadar Port- which has, over the years, cataracted huge Chinese investment, workforce and policy attention. The other day, a report on the said incident by South China Morning Post- in which this author was quoted- reflected the growing strategic and commercial concerns of the Chinese companies. Indeed, the underlying assertion pertained to the idea of the involvement of Chinese military in terms of security and governance of the CPEC (projects). This author, since the formal launch of CPEC in 2015, has conceptually and empirically argued against the (in)formal invitation and/or intervention of any foreign military or related organization(s) in the affairs of the state of Pakistan. Such a move will not only compromise state sovereignty in unimaginable terms but would also destabilize Pakistan ethnically, culturally and economically. However, the Chinese companies and strategic elite’s concerns about security in Pakistan need a proper empirically care. The following, thus, tends to address the commonly posed questions in the media, corporate and (semi) official circles: Are the Chinese companies and workforce working on CPEC) really threatened in Pakistan which is termed friendly by their government? How is the general security situation in Pakistan and in what ways can it impact CPEC and the BRI in particular and the China-Pakistan relations, in general?

To begin with, China-Pakistan relations have, over the decades, achieved ‘a factor of durability’ What this means in strategic and military term is that both the countries amicably resolved potential areas of conflict generation i.e. broader management, and, importantly, consolidated bilateral relations since the mid-1960s. Consequently, since 2015, China-Pakistan relations have taken a new turn where geoeconomics is predicated on geopolitics in terms of formalization of China-Pakistan Economic Corridor that has by now attracted more than60 billion dollars economic engagement. With unprecedented advancement in bilateral economic relations, the two countries have started witnessing enhancement in people-to-people contact, industrial and institutional exchanges. For instance, more than 28,000Pakistani students are enrolled at Chinese colleges and universities and the number is increasing exponentially. Moreover, inter-universities liaison is getting prioritized. In addition, quite a number of Pakistani universities and research institutes have signed the Memorandums of Understanding (MoU) with their Chinese counterparts. Similarly, the number of Pakistani merchants and traders, who visit China frequently, is going up. In the same way, the number of Chinese nationals, majority of whom works on CPEC related projects, witnessed unprecedented growth. A considerable section of the Chinese workforce is engaged in Gwadar where major projects in infrastructure and energy are underway. The Pakistani authorities, being aware of restive security situation particularly in Balochistan and generally in rest of the country, establish a security regime to safeguard the Chinese manpower from mostly internal threats.

Given the scale of China-Pakistan relations and the level of engagement vis-à-vis CPEC, the sides ought to be able to deal with any irritant wisely and meaningfully for economic growth and development in Pakistan is the key to realize regional peace and prosperity

Though two Chinese nationals were killed by their kidnapers in Balochistan in 2017, one got killed in Karachi in 2018 and one in Islamabad this year?which the Pakistani government is probing as per law? the overall safely of the working Chinese have been duly ensured by the government of Pakistan. Importantly, the abovementioned cases, reportedly, were not related to CPEC but social and economic dealings.

Moreover, lately there have been reports of some Chinese nationals having been involved in financial theft, i.e. ATM skimming fraud in Karachi and Islamabad-whose cases are being invested by the country’s law enforcement; some are also held up by the FIA on account of their reported involvement in ‘human trafficking’. The Chinese and Pakistani authorities seem to be on the same page on the social issue of the so called ‘Chinese marriages’ with Pakistani women who mostly hail from socioeconomically marginalized communities, both Muslims and non-Muslims.

Nevertheless, the Chinese, residing and/or working in Pakistan, have, overall, demonstrated goodwill and good conduct. At the moment, majority of Pakistani perceive them friendly from a friendly country. Nevertheless, given the state of security situation in parts of Pakistan post 9/11, public safely remains a big challenge for the state of Pakistan which losses its police and military men to terrorism on almost a regular basis though with reduction in number of terror attacks.

In order to improve the collective security within its territory, Pakistani authorities would have to tackle this monster of terrorism on multiple levels. Strategically, the country needs to engage with its neighbors meaningfully. Here, China can play a role by encouraging regional cooperation and peace. Indeed, the trilateral Afghan peace process is a step in the right direction. Moreover, China-Iran-Pakistan trilateral engagement carries the potential to devise a collective response to anti-peace elements in the South Asian region. Importantly, China may also convince India in a manner that reduces strategic uncertainty.

Politically, Pakistani government should strive to negotiate with the locally active extremist and insurgent groups. Ideologically, there is a growing need to conceive and implement a pluralist narrative to ideationally counter the hate mongers in our society. Above all, China and Pakistan would have to play a central role by reinforcing the importance of peace and stability locally, nationally and (trans) regionally. The former must understand the precarious security situation Pakistan is facing where it lost more than 30,000 thousand civilians and security personnel in the past seventeen years. The latter must revisit its policies that might have provided an enabling environment to anti-humanity forces. The latter though have been militarily neutralized by the law enforcement institutions of Pakistan, certain militant and separatist organizations such as Jamat-ul-Ahrar (JA) and the BRA still poses a challenge. The JA may activate its sleeping cells in major urban areas of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP), Karachi and Quetta. The JA and similar organizations are always in search of soft targets to pressure Pakistani state and the society.

Lastly, the civil and military law enforcing institutions are staying vigilant to protect the Chinese workforce and logistics in the country. The Chinese (CPEC) workers and non-CPEC citizens in general should also refrain from unnecessary commuting and interfering in social life of the natives. Importantly, the CPEC labor and executives need to cooperate with the Pakistani authorities with respect to security related rules and regulations- which are formulated for their safety. Lastly, given the scale of China-Pakistan relations and the level of engagement vis-à-vis CPEC, the sides ought to be able to deal with any irritant wisely and meaningfully for economic growth and development in Pakistan is the key to realize regional peace and prosperity.

India’s dream to reach Central Asia remains hazy: 25 May, 2019 "Daily Times"

Since the end of the cold war, India is struggling to reach Central Asia via a land route, still preferring to stick to the days of geopolitics rather than displaying flexibility to embrace the ongoing philosophy of geoeconomics. On the one hand India wants to draw huge investment and trade benefits connected with the Central Asian States (CARs), by using the shortest and much cheaper land route passing through Pakistan, on the other hand it wants to continue tensions with Pakistan over the state of Jammu and Kashmir. In this context, rather than starting a dialogue with Pakistan to end the tension by resolving the Kashmir dispute and joining the CPEC, India is bent upon crushing the freedom struggle in Jammu and Kashmir by the use of brutal force and constructing a much longer, costly, and time consuming route through the sea, Chahbahar port of Iran, then by road to Afghanistan and to CARs.

Likewise, while Pakistan is facilitating the efforts of the US and other regional countries to resolve the Afghan conflict by starting a dialogue with the Taliban, India wants to perpetuate the Afghan conflict by implicitly playing a negative role regarding the talks by misleading the Afghan government and the US, so that it can continue to destabilize Pakistan by using the Afghan soil. In this regard, India is making all efforts to create doubts in the US and Afghan government’s minds regarding Pakistan’s sincerity to bring peace in Afghanistan. In other words, rather than working for building peace in the region, to become an undisputed regional power in South Asia, India is playing Pakistan specific geopolitics. In this context, India is pursuing its anti Pakistan agenda of blaming Pakistan for supporting terrorism in the region, getting it declared as a terrorist state to undermine its nuclear status.

Moreover, to establish its hegemony in South Asia by discouraging China’s major investments in the infrastructure and other development projects in South Asia, India has not only denied to join the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) and China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), being financed and constructed by China, it is also opposing these projects. In this regard, India is also misleading the US on considering these projects of being a strategic advantage to China rather than recognizing these projects as being only the economic oriented aimed at bringing investment and trade benefits to South Asia and beyond.

In its Pakistan enmity, India has even failed to realize that its dream to reach CARs by using a route via Iran and Afghanistan will remain hazy as that route may not get operational for a long time due to the US tensions with Iran after cancellation of the nuclear deal, the related sanctions on Iran to stop export of its oil and gas to zero, and Iran’s brewing tensions with the US and the Gulf states over the Yemen crises

India’s opposition to the CPEC also clearly implies that it wants to impede the CPEC driven economic development of Pakistan. This also indicates that India is determined to undermine Pakistan’s status as a nuclear power and make it a compliant state by courting the US support against Pakistan, if possible, especially by exploiting Pakistan’s prevailing economic situation. In this context, India’s efforts to blame Pakistan for not doing enough against stopping terrorist financing and money laundering, at FATF forum are an indication.

In its Pakistan enmity, India has even failed to realize that its dream to reach CARs by using a route via Iran and Afghanistan will remain hazy as that route may not get operational for a long time due to the US tensions with Iran after cancellation of the nuclear deal, the related sanctions on Iran to stop export of its oil and gas to zero,and Iran’s brewing tensions with the US and the Gulf states over the Yemen crises. In this context, what to speak about speeding up the construction of the Chahbahar port by India, the US is asking it not to import oil from Iran. In other words, to carry on with its anti Pakistan agenda, India is opposing the CPEC by sacrificing huge economic gains of having trade with CARs through Pakistan by resolving the Kashmir dispute and joining this economic corridor.

In the discussed strategic situation in South Asia, it is considered necessary to suggest following. Pakistan should focus on strengthening its economy and it should activate its foreign policy to work for increasing its trade avenues abroad and also to find opportunities to send more man power to earn foreign exchange. Also, apart from depending on the IMF only, Pakistan should concentrate on creating its own funds by broadening the tax base and improving its tax collection system. While Pakistan should immediately start intensive farming in the agriculture sector, it should also focus on its industry to enhance exports through value addition. In the defence field, Pakistan has to be vigilant to foil India’s evil designs of harming it using its military power and the hybrid war strategies.

Apart from the above suggestions, it is also recommended that Pakistan should continue to make efforts for starting a dialogue with India to convince it that the path of dialogue, peace and cooperation is much better than the policy of confrontation. That, both the countries should make long term peace by resolving all issues, especially the Jammu and Kashmir dispute through a sustained dialogue and should mutually cooperate to jointly work for the economic progress and ending the poverty in this region. This would be possible if both countries end tensions for ever by resolving the disputes and India joins the CPEC to reach the CARs and it also enables other South Asian countries to join the CPEC through India so that all can reap the benefits of mutual trade and tourism within South Asia as well by trading with the CARs and the outer world.