Articles Regarding Pakistan

Many concerns but Afghanistan first: 19 July, 2021 "The Nation"

Unlike a set of instructions contained in a document or a book, the foreign policy of a country is an ever-changing phenomenon of sorts. Following certain broad guidelines provided by forefathers or the government of a given time, the foreign policy of a nation consists of a series of action-reaction paradigms with the main objective of projecting and promoting its national interest.

A cursory look at the present challenges faced by Pakistan’s foreign policy might not portray a pleasing sight for the government. With Afghanistan posing all sorts of challenges, an adamant RSS driven India, the ever-elusive United States, the diminishing support from the West driven United Nations, a pre-occupied P-5, a rasping OIC and above all, Jammu and Kashmir on thin ice, a solitary Pakistan finds it very hard to muster support on its own matters of vital interest. One wonders how far Islamabad could stretch its reliance on China and for how long?

The traditional support from ‘friends in need’ such as Saudi Arabia and UAE is rapidly waning. The ‘friends indeed’ such as China, Turkey and recently discovered Malaysia are not enough to win 12 mandatory votes for Pakistan in FATF and bring it out of the grey list. On the list of close friends, Iran is perhaps the biggest loss that Pakistan has gradually suffered over the years. The divided Arab world is too busy sorting out their own issues and addressing internal and external challenges to offer any support. Investment in Sri Lanka is a step in the right direction.

In Central Asia and CIS countries, the emotionally attached Azerbaijan is the only friend Pakistan has but that too because of Islamabad’s unflinching support on the Nagorno Karabakh issue. Here also, frictions like the $220 million credit lines have started to surface. Tajikistan, Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan are in focus these days as these three states surround Afghanistan along with Iran, Pakistan and China. Comparable with the Iran-Pakistan gas pipeline, the fate of CASA and TAPI is also not known. Similarly, one does not see any real ‘friend’ either in the European Union, Pacific, Caribbean, or in Africa and South America. The US needs to take some substantial steps in favour of Pakistan to be termed as a friend. Russia’s neutral stand on what is happing in South Asia seems to be Pakistan’s best bet particularly in the context of the Afghan conflict. 

Indeed, Pakistan is living in an increasingly challenging and complex neighbourhood. The not-so-responsible withdrawal of foreign troops from Afghanistan has necessitated a shift in priorities. Numerous uneasy questions are looming large before Islamabad when it comes to the ongoing extremely messy situation in Afghanistan. Will Kabul be ruled by the Taliban, or would a broad-based government somehow be made possible by a stroke of miracle or with the active support of someone based in Moscow or Beijing? In the earnest need to cover its sense of marginalisation, what if India finds itself amenable to the new government in Kabul? What will the fallout effects be of shunning the door to the fresh arrivals from Afghanistan? 

The list continues. How far would Islamabad succeed in keeping itself aloof from the wrath of a possible bloody civil war in Afghanistan? Would the not-so-happy elements particularly in Balochistan comply as and when certain rules of the game are agreed upon? How long will Islamabad be able to sustain the pressure of saying ‘absolutely not’? After receiving a straightforward ‘no’ to its request for a ‘responsible withdrawal’ and a somewhat indifferent response from Washington on the future of the Pak-US relations, where should Islamabad put the eggs that were hitherto placed in America’s basket? What if both the eastern and western borders become active at the same time? Shouldn’t an invitation be extended to the newly elected President of Iran to visit Islamabad in order to share views on the Afghan conflict? 

The collective challenge of undertaking the task of addressing the Afghan conflict in a comprehensive but amicable manner seems to be more of a necessity than desire. Listening to opposing views almost always aides in solving certain parts of the problem. To begin with, the emotional recklessness of previous policies needs to be avoided. Secondly, the decision-making process may be fairly conducted in order to employ a coordinated, multilateral approach to share the economic cum military burden and minimise losses. Thirdly, pursuing security and economic stability of Pakistan must be the paramount consideration while extending any material assistance.

Fourthly, additional contingency plans may be afoot as there are no guarantees on the fulfillment of the understandings reached with non-state actors. Fifthly, crisis management may be the only item on the agenda for the time being, as structural causes of the conflict can be dealt with at a later stage. Given the fluid nature of the conflict, some space might have already been provided for quick changes in the strategy. Last but not least, given the involved sensitivities and sensibilities, there may be only one spokesperson, preferably the Foreign Secretary of Pakistan, for announcing the government’s policy contours regarding Afghanistan. There is no space for throwing caution to the wind. Any wrong turn taken now could have far reaching effects for the country. 

India’s double game: 19 July, 2021 "The Nation"

The relations between Afghanistan and India can be traced back to 1950 when a treaty of friendship was signed between the two counties. India recognised the Soviet backed Afghan governments in the 1980s. During the civil war, India supported the Northern Alliance against the Taliban and after their fall, it supported the governments of Karzai and Ashraf Ghani. India’s entire Afghan policy is determined by its desire to confront Pakistan with a two front war using Afghanistan as a pressure point. 

Already, India is fueling terrorism in Pakistan. Its intelligence agencies were managing 87 terrorist camps against Pakistan–66 in Afghanistan and 21 in India. It spent $1 million to merge the TTP and four other terrorist organisations under the supervision of RAW. On February 29, 2020, the Taliban and Trump administration signed the withdrawal agreement of US’ troops by May 1, 2021. However, Biden’s administration decided to complete the pullout by September 2021. India never wanted a peace deal with the Taliban and the US because it will be taken as victory for Pakistan. 

As the US’ troops withdraw and vacate the Bagram airbase, Taliban territory is rapidly expanding from district to district. They now control crossings all along the Afghan border and with their final assault on Kabul, they now control 85 percent of the country. In view of these gains, India vacated its consulate at Kandahar, Jalalabad and Herat and fled in the darkness of the night. India has historically been good at playing a double game and it has resorted to this again because it is losing its influence and control of Afghanistan. According to the Indian media, External Affairs Minister Jaishankar held meetings with the Taliban in Doha twice in three weeks. Pakistan’s National Security Advisor termed these meetings to be ‘a matter of shame’ after having supported operations against the Taliban for a long time. He further questioned why the same level of talks had not been held with Pakistan or the Kashmiri Mujahideen groups. 

Earlier, during a joint EU-Indian press statement on Afghanistan, India had confirmed that it will not support a Taliban government in Kabul. At the same time, they are trying to engage them for talks while. In fact, India is even the provider of tones of ammunition to be used against the Taliban by the government through the infamous Indian C-130 cargo airplanes. After failing to get a positive response from the Taliban in Doha, Jaishankar visited Iran and Russia in a desperate bid to develop some understanding with them. 

India has invested $3 billion in projects in Afghanistan to please the government and use its soil against Pakistan simultaneously. A pro-Pakistan government in Afghanistan is against the Indian interest as then, Indian proxies will not be allowed to use Afghan land gainst Pakistan. Now, India is looking to increase its investment in the Islamic State (IS) as well. In 2014, Ajit Doval visited Iraq to create an understanding and working relationship with the ISIS. An attack on a Sikh Gurdwara in Kabul claimed by IS exposed the involvement of an Indian national from Kerala. RAW is sending Muslim youth from India to fight against the Taliban. The Sri Lankan attackers were indoctrinated and trained in Tamil Nadu, India. 

India is sabotaging the peace process in Afghanistan and is trying to incite another civil war. Pakistan has invested heavily in Afghanistan heavily by building the second largest 200 bedded Jinnah hospital in Kabul, a kidney center in Jalalabad and a 100 bedded hospital at Logar. Providing scholarships to thousands of Afghans students and issuing over 4000 visas to Afghan nationals on daily basis are just two more ways in which Pakistan helps. Even China has welcomed the Doha peace agreement after which the Taliban guaranteed the safety of Chinese workers in Afghanistan and invited China to invest in the reconstruction of Afghanistan. 

Former Afghan President Karzai said, “China can play the role of a guarantor of the peace process after the US exit from Afghanistan”. Pakistan played an important role in pushing the Taliban to sign the Doha agreement and now India is playing the role of a spoiler. The international community must check and prevent India from destabilizing Afghanistan. 

Kashmir: The world’s most forgotten conflict: 19 July, 2021 "The Nation"

The people of Kashmir are making an earnest appeal to humanity at large, and the world powers in particular, to pay heed to the long-standing wishes and aspirations of the Kashmiri people as they observe 90th anniversary of the Martyrs Day of July 13, 1931. It was on this tragic day that the foreign occupying Dogra troops shot dead 22 Kashmiris, in cold blood, in front of Srinagar Central Jail. The day is forever scarred in the collective minds of the Kashmiri people as the day when the freedom movement was greeted with bullets. Since that ominous day, Kashmiris have organised peaceful protests, seminars and conferences throughout the world. They believe that their suffering has not ended despite the end of the despotic Dogra dynasty rule.

The fate of Kashmiris changed for the worse, as it has been replaced by tyrannies of successive Indian regimes with various garbs of democracy. However, the tyranny in Kashmir under the Hindutva nationalists has reached a new and unprecedented level of inhumanity. No one will be allowed to venture out on July 13 to commemorate the event and pay tribute to the heroes of Kashmiri history. The global Kashmiri diaspora will observe the solemn Day to reaffirm their resolve to continue their struggle for self-determination, and to pay homage to over 100,000 innocent men, women and children who have and continue to sacrifice their lives for freedom of their beloved land over the 90 years since that fateful day.

The people of Kashmir clearly have little faith in or respect for the so-called Indian democracy, and India hasn’t the slightest idea how to earn it. Kashmir is back to square one, killings, chaos, confusion, turmoil, uncertainty and dark nights. There is suffering and darkness everywhere.

At the same time, the studied unconcern by the world powers has given a sense of total impunity to the Indian army in Kashmir. It has also created the impression that the international community is invidiously selective about the application of the principles of human rights and democratic values. So much for the heart and possibly even more so the soul of the world powers.

The pro-freedom leadership, including Syed Ali Geelani and Mirwaiz Umer Farooq were detained and are not able to go out of their houses for 11 years and 2 years respectively. Mohammad Yasin Malik, Shabir Ahmed Shah, Musarat Alam and other political leaders are languishing in various jails where they are being subjected to torture, isolation and healthcare deprivation and unhygienic crowded conditions. They are facing the added fear of Covid-19 which is raging among jail staff and security forces. Modi regime’s goal is to totally decapitate the political leadership of Kashmir and it can trample any norms of decency and human rights.

Nevertheless, the people of Kashmir have sent a loud and clear message to the world community that the Kashmir issue is not about governance or economic packages or financial incentives as proclaimed by Narendra Modi India when he abrogated Article 370 and 35 A on August 5, 2019. They want the world to know that the youth of Kashmir are dying on the streets, not asking for jobs and roads. What is their actual demand? It is the demand of the people’s right to self-determination. As the slogan that has now become talk of the town declares, “We want Aazadi and nothing else but Aazadi.”

Meanwhile the U.S., the sole superpower in the world which must bear the responsibility for setting the moral tone through disciplined and rightful leadership, sits back and does nothing. Such a behaviour poorly disguises the financial incentives that have opened India up to USD $500 billion in American investment during the coming five years.

Lack of concern about the matter is reflected in the U.S. State Department’s Human Rights Report which has not and does not keep official records on killings by Indian forces in Kashmir occurring under the Armed Forces Special Protection Act (AFSPA). They don’t track them. Yet its own website, while alluding to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, declares so glibly, “We see it as fundamental to our own interests to support a just peace around the world, one in which individuals, and not just nations, are granted the fundamental rights that they deserve.”

President Biden so eloquently said on February 4, 2021, “We must start with diplomacy rooted in America’s most cherished democratic values: defending freedom, championing opportunity, upholding universal rights, respecting the rule of law, and treating every person with dignity.” According to Secretary of State, Antony J. Blinken, “President Biden is committed to a foreign policy that unites our democratic values with our diplomatic leadership, and one that is centered on the defense of democracy and the protection of human rights.”

Then by remaining silent, the U.S. is in fact declaring, that Kashmiris have no fundamental rights and do not deserve them. Otherwise, how can you explain it to a Kashmiri when President Biden says, “The United States must lead not just with the example of power, but the power of our example.” President Biden may take a leaf from President Obama who said on July 10, 2009 at L’Aquila, Italy, “We don’t want stronger nations bullying weaker nations. On the other hand, where you have nations that are oppressing their people, isn’t there an international responsibility to intervene?

The world powers need to know that the situation in Kashmir in 2021 is totally different from the past. It is a youth driven mass movement with social media savvy. They are educated and enthusiastic to achieve their birth right. The right to decide that was pledged to them by India, Pakistan and the world community.

The desire for self-determination is the one very big element India should be concerned about, yet continues to pretend to the world that it does not exist. However long India refuses to acknowledge it, the decades-old movement in Kashmir will not simply die out. The world powers, including the United States should persuade India to take the following steps: include the genuine leadership of the people of Jammu & Kashmir in all future negotiations with India and Pakistan. To have an immediate and complete cessation of military and paramilitary action by Indian forces against the people of Jammu & Kashmir, to dismantle immediately all bunkers, watch towers and barricades set up by the Indian military and paramilitary forces in towns and villages, to release unconditionally all those imprisoned in connection with resistance to the Indian occupation, to repeal the draconian laws, including Jammu Kashmir Armed Forces Special Powers Act and to restore the right of peaceful association, assembly and demonstration to the people of the State of Jammu and Kashmir.

In conclusion, India and the United States should listen to one of India’s prominent journalists, Vir Sanghvi who wrote in Hindustan Times, “If you (India) believe in democracy, then giving Kashmiris the right to self-determination is the correct thing to do.”

Indian military procurements: a scandalous affair: 19 July, 2021 "Daily Times"

India, the world’s largest democracy and a non-NPT nuclear weapons’ state, is plagued with scandals for military procurements. Despite stringent and painstaking bureaucratic processes for the approvals of defence procurements, India has perhaps the most numbers of scandals of corruptions when it comes to buying arms and equipment.

The most famous corruption scandal in Indian military procurements remains that of Swedish Bofors guns during the 1980s. As the narrative goes, Indian military acquired some 410 field howitzer guns of 155 mm calibre from a Swedish firm Bofors AB for USD 1.4 billion. While the selection of the equipment was not questioned, nor the contract package, but it was revealed much later that millions of dollars were paid by the Swedish company to Indian politicians to secure the contract. This bombshell news was actually broken by the Swedish radio on April 16, 1987. The news was immediately reported in Indian media and had an extremely adverse impact on Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi, who in fact lost the general elections held in November 1989. Interestingly, Janta Dal leader VP Singh who was Gandhi’s Defence Minister when the Bofors scandal broke the ground and had resigned, became India’s Prime Minister in the aftermath of disastrous results for Indian National Congress (INC).

Another Indian military acquisition deal which came to light due to allegations of bribery by the international vendor relates to Thales’ Scorpene-class submarines. The alleged amount was USD 175 million in a total contract deal of USD 3.0 billion, which was made through a middleman. The agreement included transfer of technology also, and according to some reports the amount of the deal was USD 6.0 billion. However, after nearly eight years of litigation process, Indian Courts dismissed the allegations due to weak prosecution.

Quoting Captain GR Gopinath that “dealing with Indian defence is beset with horrendous bureaucratic delays and lack of clarity in policies.” Gopinath supports his assertions by referring to Phil Shaw of Lockheed Martin India, “Lockheed has completed more than 40 billion dollars’ worth of programmes globally, without problems, but is struggling in India and is finding it a challenge,” primarily due to indecision and intra-services infighting for the resources in the procurements of arms and ammunitions.

Deba R. Mohanty, in his article published in April 2012, has summed up the issues related to problems of military procurements in India. Mohanty, without mixing words, has written that two aspects that would haunt India are: “corruption in defence deals and deteriorating civil-military relations in India.” While this article is focused on the corruption in defence procurements in India, therefore only aspects related to the subject of interests are being mentioned. Interestingly, Mohanty has further categorised the shortcomings leading to gross irregularities into arms procurement process that ultimately leads to scandals. Later on such scandals may or may not be proved but have serious politico-moral and legal implications. Some of Mohanty’s categorizations are: “- corruption, delays in procurement, non-transparency and non-accountability, over-lapping institutional mechanisms, civil-military relations and ill-planned spending leading to lopsided military modernisation.”

The latest in the sequence are the allegations of corruption and wrong-doings in the much trumpeted acquisition of 36 state of the art French-made Rafale fighter aircraft. Due to the failure of LCA Tejas’ programme, Indian Air Force (IAF) had been studying for years, various Medium Multi-Role Combat Aircraft (MMRCA), in its quest for at least 126 platforms so as to replace its aging fleet of Soviets-built Migs and Sukhoi series. However, typical to India’s working: indecision and inordinate delays led to delayed arrivals of Rafale to beef up IAF capabilities. In fact, India’s opposition leader Rahul Gandhi had been calling for an exhaustive investigation into Rafale deal worth 7.8 billion Euros signed in 2016. Recently, “A French judge has been appointed to lead a “highly sensitive” judicial investigation into alleged “corruption and favouritism” in the Rs 59,000 crore Rafale fighter jet deal with India.” INC has once again demanded that PM Modi should immediately form a Joint Parliamentary Committee (JPC) to investigate into Rafale deal. Gandhi is of the view that Modi-government has overpriced Rafale to earn financial benefits from the middlemen.

Not all the defence procurement deals done by India could be mentioned in this article, however, most of the deals in the past over three decades went into exhaustive investigative process. Defence procurement scandals and failure of LCA Tejas’ programme adversely affected IAF capability and morale of the personnel. The same could be felt during and post Pulwama and Balakot events in February 2019. The calls to investigate into Rafale scandal would also have serious effects on the morale of IAF personnel.

Pakistani postcolonial fiction: voices of resistance: 19 July, 2021 "Daily Times"

Postcolonial literature is the literature of resistance, especially, with reference to the representations of the orient by the west. Postcolonial writers are the indigenous voices as representation of the indigenous, and they are, therefore, the voices of the subalterns, significantly because they are being heard. Pakistani fiction is significant in this context because the voices of resistance come from the Pakistani writers, either residing in the west or who have divided their time between Pakistan and western centers of power. Though, so far, these voices exist only in the third space, yet with the passage of time, the forces of globalization and market have brought such voices at the forefront with a manifold rise in their audience. The writers such as, Mumtaz Shahnawaz, Tallat Abbasi, Zulifkar Ghose, Zaibunissa Hameedullah, Bapsi Sidhwa, Kamila Shamsie, Mohammad Hanif, Mohsin Hamid, and many others, have played a significant part in creating and highlighting such voices of resistance.

The first voice comes from Mumtaz Shahnawaz in one of her characters Zohra, in her socio-political narrative The Heart Divided. Zohra is a most powerful voice against the long-established traditions established by the patriarchal set up in the Indo-Pak subcontinent. Zohra was not ready to follow the norms set for young girls by the social set up specially at a time when nobody could think of challenging the social set up. For Zohra, marrying and bearing children was of secondary matter and serving the country and community and for its independence was of the first priority. Her powerful voice of resistance could not maintain its vigor in the contemporary literature, but was very mildly repeated by Zaibunisa Hameedullah in her writings such as Young Wife and the Bull and the She Devil. This was followed by Talat Abbasi in her short stories titled ‘Bitter Gourd’ and other short stories.

Such voices of resistance again gained momentum and speed in the writings of Bapsi Sidhwa. Zaitoon, in her The Pakistani Bride proved the most powerful voice of resistance when she was forced in a marriage that she could not bear mentally and physically. Same attitude of resistance was witnessed in Sidhwa’s novel An American Bride where Feroza refused to follow the dictates of traditions of the family and followed the dictates of her mind and became the symbol of resistance to the established authority of her community. The similar challenging voice can be heard in the writings of Qaisra Shahraz in The Holy Woman’ and ‘A Pair of Jeans. Zari Bano, is the powerful tale of successful struggle and survival. Zari proved that even in the religious garb, she could fight for change and emerge successful. Her rebellion is echoes a positive voice and achievement of victory.

Zari is not the only voice of resistance, Moth Smoke by Mohsin Hamid asserts this voice of resistance even more powerfully. Mumtaz refuses to give up her creative talent for the emotional services she was supposed to provide at her home and to her husband. She decided to carry on her creative work even at the cost of her family life. A similar assertive voice appears in another text by Mohsin Hamid when the wife of the protagonist refused to carry on her relationship with her husband after finding him involved in improprieties, in the novel ‘How to Get Filthy Rich in Rising Asia’. The same novel portrays ‘pretty Girl’ who followed the dictates of her mind even in a hostile environment.

The post 9/11 narratives by these writers reach the final spaces achieved through voices of resistance. Nadia in ‘Exit West’ makes a global journey but never budges from her chosen way of life and very powerfully announces her decision to Saeed that she would love to live with a woman. Mohammad Hanif also turns to similar pattern of resistance in the characters of women in the Novel Red Birds by portraying three women who would do what they think is best for them, and would not follow the dictates of their husbands. Mother dear succeeds in her passion of fighting and bringing her son back. Lady Flower Body is engaged in the compiling of data and description of people of the war-torn areas and Cath, the wife of the protagonist has been shown with the capability of woman who could survive on her won. Kamila Shamsie’s post 9/11 fiction, Home Fire, voices another type of resistance among the diaspora. Isma proves to be a woman who would deal with the difficulties of life alone as a woman at every cost. Her sister Aneeka utilizes each and every power in herself to achieve her aims and refuses to accept the way of life thrust on her and in her struggles she loses her life.

Theses voices of resistance have flourished day by day and, historically speaking, have become stronger, bolder and challenging with the passage of time. The interaction of Pakistani diaspora with the developed world and its communities, the forces of globalization, the internet revolution, access to information, readily available social media, access to education in universities, and western Feminism have been contributory in raising consciousness among the writers of Pakistani postcolonial fiction and, as a result, it has impacted the overall structures, men and women of Pakistan.