Articles Regarding Pakistan

Kashmiris are faced with confusion: 15 May, 2018 "Daily Times"

There is a confusion on the ownership of the Kashmir case. If one reads the UN package on Kashmir, Constitution of Azad Kashmir and article 257 of the Constitution of Pakistan, there is hardly any confusion. The jurisprudence of Kashmir case is either misunderstood or we misdirect ourselves. India and Pakistan may have agreed in June 1997 joint statement to disturb its core status and add Kashmir into eight outstanding issues, according to United Nations Kashmir continues to remain as “the greatest and gravest single issues in international affairs”.

Those who do not want to hear about UN Resolutions and regard it as history, can’t be dignified as Kashmir experts. They are hurting the Kashmir case and contributing to Indian strategy to wear away from the agreed merits of a UN supervised vote. UN has defined the Kashmir case and put in place an operational regime. It recognises that Kashmir have rights, integrity, security and self-determination. There has to be a free, secure, and impartial plebiscite.

According to Pakistani proposal we should have had a Plebiscite in the spring of 1948, that is in 3 months by March, April and May 1948 or according to British proposal, a Plebiscite should have been held from May 1948 to October 1948. The dispute is not on the principle of self-determination but on the procedure and process. Principle of equality of people and self-determination has been agreed by India and Pakistan and endorsed by the UN Security Council. Therefore history and dates are the Kashmir case.

There is a disagreement on the ownership of the case, when it comes to Government of Azad Kashmir. In fact Government of Azad Kashmir and the Government of Pakistan have entered into a partnership in Act 1974, to provide “for the better Government and administration…until such time as the status of Jammu and Kashmir is determined, through a free and fair plebiscite under the auspices of the United Nations as envisaged in the UNCIP Resolutions”. This partnership is according to the outsourced duties and responsibilities accepted under UNCIP Resolution. Therefore, the litmus test of discharging or failing to discharge the duties are the UNCIP resolutions. Government of Azad Kashmir has established her first contact with chairman of UNCIP on 8 July 1948. It seems to be the only formal contact ever since.

Those who do not want to hear about UN Resolutions and regard it as history, can’t be as dignified as Kashmir experts. They are hurting the Kashmir case and contributing to the Indian strategy to bring the issue away from the agreed merits of a UN supervised vote

Agreements made at the United Nations carry a support of 193 countries. The ultimate ownership is of all member nations of the UN to see that the principle of ‘equality of people’ and ‘self-determination’ are respected. India wants to distance from the UN jurisprudence on Kashmir. It has been making efforts to engage Pakistan in bilateral discussions, in order to enjoy a sense of dominance by virtue of its size and seemingly a successful diplomacy.

India is in favour of pushing and supporting Track II diplomacy. She finds it easy to monitor and discipline its contours. There is no harm in a Track II engagement. Its first disadvantage is that it is non transparent and carried in stealth. It could be helpful if it is used to advance the agreed UN mechanism on Kashmir.

Track II engagement on Kashmir should not be allowed to hurt the agreed UN mechanism on Kashmir. It should be used to streamline the existing impediments in the process and should be used to carry forward the democratic process of a UN supervised vote. It suits India to keep international community away and out of Kashmir equation. In the current situation it has helped India to gather valuable intelligence and gain time, in hiding her repression and violation of human rights in Kashmir.

A soldier's tryst with martyrdom: 15 May, 2018 "The Nation"

Colonel Sohail Abid Raja, our little soldier boy was commissioned in First Sindh Regiment (Fakhar-e-Sindh). We called him Raja and so he was; the Raja of Hearts. Ever eager to dash on the word go, he was energetic, self-activated and a dare-devil. After every assignment, he returned with a smile, extreme humility and rearing to go again. His appetite for adventure and competition was insatiable. His energy levels were unfathomable. His communication skills were extra ordinary. Remaining in touch with his senior and subordinate camaraderie, problem solving and reaching out to those in difficulty were his amazing fortes. He had sensitiveness in heart that boosted his willpower to walk on the edges. His demeanor from a humanist to a tenacious soldier was amazing. At one moment teary and red eyed over the shahdat of a fellow soldier and the very next, a stern look with a smile meaning tough business. I saw him grow in personality with a firm belief that he had a role to play for his country. This vision statement was often reflected in what he wrote. His sense of predestination was strengthened by the fibers of his convictions, strong beliefs, fasting, thajjud and spirituality. He was also an avid reader, writer and a poet. He had a desire of ‘do or die’ for Pakistan reflected in his prophetic poetry.

The humanist in him was very robust. Time and again, he had vowed to the Hazara community that he would get to the masterminds of their massacres.

It is important for people to know what goes through the mind of professional soldiers from training to combat. As General Douglas McArthur explained, “a professional soldier must lie in wait all his life for a moment that may never come, yet be ready when it does even to the peril of his life”. Raja grasped that the moment was his; his tryst with destiny.

Soldiering is an experience punctuated with strong emotive factors, camaraderie, and sense of belonging to a strongly bonded group. Training, dormitory living and bonding forge a collective exclusive identity to create a spirit de corps. This hardens soldiers to foray ‘where eagles dare’.

Soldiers spend most of their lives away from families and neighborhoods. In operational situations, families learn to endure fear; yet wait for coffins. This strange form of exclusivity from the outside forges an inclusive sociology within. Enlisted in teens, they forego a part of the carefree youth to integrate into an organisation that demands the highest code of honour. A ‘do or die’ approach in soldiering is crucial towards an efficient fighting machine. It warrants guts with ability to think critically with composure, and like an artist evolve a canvas of a battlefield till mission accomplished. Reason and logic remain crucial to positive initiative. Therefore, soldiers are trained to divert the flow of adrenaline in blood to positive energy.

Boosting Pak-Afghan trade: 09 May, 2018 "Daily Times"

Pakistan has formally reopened the Ghulam Khan crossing point — a major trade route with its landlocked neighbour, Afghanistan, after nearly four years. Pakistan’s Prime Minister (PM) Shahid Khaqan Abbasi travelled to Waziristan on April 30 for the inauguration ceremony of the newly constructed terminal.

It is one of the eighteen border crossing points between the two countries that connects Pakistan’s North Waziristan tribal region with North-Eastern Khost Province of Afghanistan. It is also the third-largest official crossing point on the nearly 2,600-kilometer, mostly porous frontier between the two countries.

The route serves as the shortest one from Karachi to Kabul, reducing the total distance by more than 400 kilometres, as compared to Torkham.

The re-opening of the Ghulam Khan trade route has been a long-standing demand at Centre for Research and Security Studies’ (CRSS) meetings, where Pak-Afghan delegates have highlighted the issue to concerned authorities on numerous occasions. Mozamil Shinwari, Advisor to Afghan CEO Dr Abdullah Abdullah, and former Deputy Minister for Trade and Commerce also stressed on the need for operationalising the Ghulam Khan point due to its economic viability, while speaking at a Pak-Afghan Youth Dialogue organised by CRSS in Islamabad in September 2017.

Trade will benefit both countries, ensuring regional stability and sustainable peace

With the trade route opened, officials and the business community on both sides have welcomed the resumption of trade through the crossing, hoping the move will ease political tensions and increase bilateral trade.

Afghan and Pakistani traders have long urged their respective governments to delink economics from politics to promote mutual trust. Pakistani Military officials have pronounced that the Waziristan region has been almost completely secured; rehabilitation as well as reconstruction activities are currently under way. Authorities had closed the remote Ghulam Khan border crossing in North Waziristan in 2014, after launching a major army-led counter-militancy offensive in the tribal belt, once condemned as the breeding ground for international terrorism.

While Afghanistan shares a common religion, race, history, ethnicity and geography with Pakistan, bilateral relations have always been strained. These troubled relations have prompted Afghans to look for alternate routes and they have turned their attention to the India-funded Iranian port of Chabahar for transit trade, bypassing Pakistan. Despite this, the Pakistani ports of Karachi and Gwadar are still the most economical routes for Afghan transit trade. This has been confirmed by business leaders in both countries.

Pak-Afghan trade volume, despite having a potential of $5 billion, has fallen from $2.5 billion to $1.4 billion lately. Additionally, recent figures are showing a rise in Afghanistan’s trade with Iran (both transit and bilateral) and a corresponding decline in business with Pakistan, due to disturbing political ties accruing since long.

India-Pakistan: Settling the blame game: 09 May, 2018 "The Nation"

“The life of the people living along the ceasefire line has been crippled by incessant shelling and firing. Not a single day goes by when there are no casualties in one or the other sector.” 

Despite the adherence to the 2003 cease fire agreement by both India and Pakistan the Line of Control has witnessed worse artillery exchange and friction since the Hindu Nationalist leader Narendra Modi took charge in 2014. The year 2017 is marked as a year of worst artillery exchange leading to massive civilian loss. The LOC is a 450-mile-long military control line which was demarcated in July 1972, slicing the disputed princely state of Kashmir into Indian Occupied Kashmir and Azad Jammu Kashmir. The first Confidence Building Measure agreed between the two states to administer and monitor the matters pertaining to LoC came to be known as ‘Ceasefire agreement’.

The cease fire agreement signed on November 26, 2003 was a first successful CBM after the military stand of 2001-2002. The agreement was a step to restore a sense of security to the communities and security forces living along each side of LoC and to avoid chances of escalation between the two new nuclear powers.

The statistics issued by the foreign office of Pakistan and India speaks of the tit for tat dilemma where both sides respond belligerently to the violation by the other. The year 2018 is marked by a total of 335 ceasefire violations by India. Whereas India blames Pakistan for a total of 633 violations in the months of January and February. The unavailability of credible data on LOC violations has turned LOC more into a rolling stone between the military of Pakistan and India, where both sides indulge in blame game, but who is to be blamed in actual? Secondly, what should be the appropriate strategy to save the civilian population from the blind military exchange between the two borders. As according to the residents it is they who are paying the price of enmity between India and Pakistan either by sacrificing the lives of their loved ones or staying apart from their blood relations.

The ferocious exchange at LoC is not only the question mark on the credibility of 2003 cease fire agreement but also the UN efforts to resolve the conflict peacefully. The gross human violations as a result of this ferocious exchange or strategic miscalculation makes it more a subject of humanitarian law and international responsibility. Unrest at LoC not only poses a grave threat to human security but is directly threatening regional stability.As Kashmir is a nuclear flashpoint between the two neighboring rivals, such violations and tensions make it difficult for matters to de-escalate especially in crisis situations.

Violence along the LoC does not occur in vacuum rather it reflects the general state of relations and the change in political mindset between India and Pakistan. For example, since the war hawkish regime of Modi which took charge in 2014, the political landscape changed for worse, as India is now found frequently using heavy weapons i.e. automatic weapons and heavy mortars on the LoC. Prime Minister Narendra Modi has a long history of committing heinous crimes against humanity specifically Muslims. Here the paradox of normalcy arises, when local mobilisation compatible with a government’s rhetoric of normalization through liberal democracy clashes with the state’s preference for a political status-quo. Hence what needs to be addressed is the structural basis of failure which arises from the tensions between normalcy and the underlying political status-quo.

Unfortunately, the international relations today are driven more by strategic gains and interest which results in putting human rights and the right of self-determination movements at back burner. A prime example of this is US inclination towards its Indian counterpart, owing to its status as a rising economic power. It is the change in strategic and economic dimensions of the 21st century which encourages US to take India on board by strengthening strategic and economic alliances with them. This discriminatory attitude will keep the tensions alive between the two nuclear powers. Owing to India’s economic clout and significance in the world today, even the Trump administration has turned a blind eye to the human rights violations in Indian Occupied Kashmir where Indian military force is openly atrocities against unarmed civilians of Kashmir valley

Both the states have resorted to a military solution for longest time. Both the governments and their top command authority have failed to assess the causes of violations and develop a proper framework for border management.It can be stated that the border tensions are a militaristic manifestation of a bigger problem in implementation of bilateral agreements and UN resolutions in true letter and spirit. Unfortunately, India and Pakistan has yet not agreed on a cease fire agreement in writing with the usual internationally recognized provisions. Moreover, the sanctity of old agreements has fallen at the back foot in the post-nuclear era. Although India is economically and militarily more stable. However, this economic and military lift encourages India to stretch its power hold by using brute force to quash popular display of political defiance in Kashmir, without being held accountable.

Indian dismissiveness in resolving Kashmir issue is evident from its forceful efforts to maintain political status-quo in the Kashmir region by denying access to United Nations Military Observer Group in India and Pakistan. Unlike India, Pakistan has welcomed the UN role and resolutions in finding a peaceful solution to the dispute. But it is New Delhi that is reluctant and believes that Kashmir is a bilateral issue with Islamabad. Keeping in view the aggressive policies of India, India’s campaign to distort Pakistan’s image globally by referring it to as a state sponsor of terrorism, Pakistan has made its stance clear that it won’t compromise any blow to its strategic interest and sovereignty. Moreover, Pakistan on its part has made it clear that a dialogue with India without Kashmir on the agenda is out of question.

No humanitarian organization or group can justify the illegitimate use of force employed by the Indian occupying forces against the unarmed Kashmiris. It is high time that the international community should come forward to break a stalemate between India and Pakistan and to bring them on dialogue table to decide in the collective good of the regions stability and prosperity. Moreover, both Pakistan and India need to summon the political will to safeguard and implement ceasefire agreement both in written and practical, without getting indulged into blame game. On the contrary if both sides remain at logger heads and the international community accepts the widening of the political, security and economic gaps between the two then regional security will remain a pipe dream.

The curious case of Shakil Afridi: 05 May, 2018 "Daily Times"

According to media reports, Pakistani prison authorities have moved Shakil Afridi — the jailed doctor believed to have helped the CIA hunt down Osama bin Laden — to Adiala Jail in Rawalpindi. Media sources quoted his attorney, who was speculating that the transfer could be a prelude to his release.

The continued imprisonment of Dr Shakil Afridi has long been a source of tension between Pakistan and the US, which cut military aid over accusations that Pakistan continues to shelter Taliban militants fighting US and Afghan soldiers in Afghanistan.

Afridi’s lawyer, Qamar Nadeem, confirmed the transfer of his client but said he was not sure of his location. Judicial officials could not be reached, nor could embassy officials for the US, which has for years called on Pakistan to release Afridi.

The doctor was accused of treason after word spread that he had helped the CIA collect genetic samples of the bin Laden family, paving the way for the 2011 US Navy SEAL raid in Abbottabad.

Arrested days after the U.S. operation, which Pakistan called a violation of its sovereignty, he was charged with aiding terrorists and sentenced to 23 years in jail for abetting terrorism. That conviction was overturned in 2013, but he is still serving time for other terrorism-related convictions, his lawyer said. He also faced a murder trial related to the death of a patient more than a decade ago. However, the lawyer said Afridi’s latest sentence was reduced to seven years in a clemency action, and he had served about that amount of time already.

On its website, Radio Sputnik, a Russian media outlet, claimed in a story titled “Source: the doctor who handed over ‘Bin Laden’ planned to escape from prison”. Quoting sources, the news outlet stated that Pakistan’s premier spy agency, Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) had received a tip that the US was planning a rescue operation similar to the one carried out to eliminate Bin Laden or assist the doctor to escape.

Islamabad may be considering releasing Dr Shakil Afridi. He has served his seven year term and might be eligible for release

Readers may recall that soon after the elimination of Osama bin Laden, US media sources had carried a story that Dr Shakil Afridi, on the CIA’s instructions, had set up a fake vaccination agency to obtain DNA samples to confirm the presence of the Al-Qaeda leader in Abbottabad.

The doctor was arrested at the end of May 2011 and tried in court. The then head of the Pentagon, Leon Panetta and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton openly recognized Afridi’s merit in eliminating bin Laden. The operation carried out by Americans in Pakistan without the knowledge of Pakistani security authorities received sharp criticism from Islamabad and seriously aggravated bilateral relations. Later on, at the verdict of the Pakistani court, Afridi was sent to prison. Additionally, the Pakistani authorities specified that the doctor was suspected of having links with the leader of the terrorist organisation Lashkar-i-Islam (which changed its name to “Jaish al-Islam”) Mangal Bagh.

President Donald Trump had promised to get Shakil Afridi released and had demanded the same of Pakistan. However, Islamabad refused to succumb to US pressure. Reportedly, when the ISI got wind of US’ plans to whisk Dr Afridi away, they thwarted that plot.

The case has suddenly entered the limelight again. While some retired defence personnel, discussing the issue on the media, have demanded that Pakistan enhance its vigilance lest US Navy SEALs attempt another adventure. Others believe that feeling the pressure of US sanctions, Islamabad may be considering releasing Dr Shakil Afridi. He has served his seven year term any way and might be eligible for release.

Dr Shakil Afridi was a major asset for the US, because he not only facilitated the assassination of Osama bin Laden, but enabled the CIA to collect computer hard discs from the his residence. According to CIA reports published in US media, 70,000 files were obtained out of which 4, 700 have been declassified and published in the media. Most of the images pertain to computer drawings while there is one that provides guidance on how to receive a green card. Another is a cover photo of the American author, Gabriel Weymann, written in 2006 on “Terror on the Internet”. There is also a cover photo of a book dedicated to Charles Darwin.

In addition, there are photographs of a number of devices which augment firearms, as well as images of ancient Arabic coins, advertising of various companies — including American ones. Judging by the publication, bin Laden kept photos of mosques on his computer, one of which is titled ‘radical Pakistani’. These discoveries are certainly strange and though provoking.

A negotiated settlement to Kashmir: 26 April, 2018 "Daily Times"

The Kashmir issue doesn’t revolve around the unfinished agenda of partition alone, but a consistent struggle for the inalienable right to self-determination. Throughout history, Kashmir has been rocked by the conquests of the Mughals, Sikhs and Dogras. The area has remained embroiled in conflict since India was partitioned.

Pakistan has pledged its political, diplomatic and moral support to the Kashmiris’ right to self-determination — which is guaranteed by numerous UN resolutions. However, we have done all of this while respecting the spirit of peaceful settlement and negotiations with India under various agreements; most of all the Simla agreement of 1972.Furthermore, Pakistan has also accepted the Hurriyat conference constitution of July 31, 1993 by accepting that ‘Exercise of right to self-determination shall also include the right to independence’. The constitution also accepts the negotiated settlement of the dispute amongst India, Pakistan and people of Kashmir under the aspirations of the masses, but not within the frame work of the constitution of India. Article 257 of the constitution of Pakistan impliedly guarantees something equal to freedom by pledging that “when people of a state decide to accede to Pakistan, the relationship between Pakistan and the state shall be determined in accordance with the wishes of the people of that state”.

Notwithstanding the rhetoric of Kashmir being an integral part of India, it is not included in the definition of the Indian state under Article 152 of Indian constitution and chapter two of the constitution relating to states. These do not apply to the state of Kashmir, which is governed by its own constitution. Even the state’s governor and judges of the high court are appointed under the constitution. Different articles of the Indian constitution are extended to the state through executive orders, not by parliament.

This article itself is ‘temporary’ in nature and derives its strength from the instrument of accession by the ruler solicited by his letter dated October 26, 1947. Irrespective of the legality, legitimacy, propriety and morality of the instrument of accession, it was accepted by the governor general of India on October 27 1947. He had unequivocally stated that, “…consistent with their policy that, in case of any state where the issue of accession has been the subject of dispute, the question of accession should be decided in accordance with the wishes of the people of the state, it is my government’s wish that, as soon as the law and order have been restored in Kashmir and soil cleared of the invader, the question of state’s accession should be settled by a reference to the people…”

India is committed under article 51 of its constitution to “…foster respect for international law and treaty obligations in the dealings of organised people with one another and encourage settlement of international disputes by arbitration”

India is committed under article 51 of its constitution to “…foster respect for international law and treaty obligations in the dealings of organised people with one another and encourage settlement of international disputes by arbitration”, besides “making law for the whole or any part of the territory of India for implementing any treaty , agreement or convention with any other country or countries or any decision made at any international conference, association or other body”, under article 253 of its constitution. So, is Pakistan obliged under article 40 of its constitution “to promote international peace and security, foster goodwill and friendly relations among all nations and encourage the settlement of international disputes by peaceful means”.

Given this politico-legal position, the only way only out is tripartite negotiations. UN Commission on India and Pakistan (UNCIP)has endorsed this while explaining in its resolutions that, “The Commission is not committed to rejection of a peaceful solution, which might be agreed upon by the two governments, provided that such a solution reflects the will of the people”.

The coinciding statements of generals commanding Indian and Pakistani forces a few days ago, who have the perception of the ground realities must keep on reverberating that, “the time is not far when they will be convinced that neither the forces nor the militants will be able to achieve the goal. Together, we have to find a way for peace and we will be successful in that” (Gen Rawat). His counterpart General Bajwa of Pakistan retorted that, “It is our sincere belief that the route to peaceful resolution of Pakistan — India disputes, including the core issue of Kashmir, is through comprehensive and meaningful dialogue…”

Perhaps these generals can take the lead from a part of Pervez Musharaf’s four point formula, “Identify the geographic regions of Kashmir that need resolution.” This region is unambiguously identifiable, it is the valley of Kashmir and its peripheries of Chinab and Pirpanjal”. Let us hope that sense prevails.

Need for better Australia-Pakistan ties: 26 April, 2018 "Daily Times"

‘CHOGM chance to push India as counter to China in the Pacific’, was the headline of an opinion piece published in The Australian — one of the most read newspapers in Australia — on 18 April 2018. This headline suggested the duality of the current policy shift within Australia, which is warming up to New Delhi and getting more and more sceptical of Beijing. On the other hand, there is also recent chatter of a possible US-Japan-India-Australia quadrilateral counterweight to China, suggesting why China-Australia ties could feel the further strain in the future.

Even though Pakistan does not come into the equation, at least for now, the current policy tilt within Canberra can become a bone of contention for fruitful Australia-Pakistan ties in the future. This is purely because Pakistan’s supposedly strongest ally — China — is somewhat currently despised, whereas its arch-rival India is seen as a potential partner in Australia. Hence, Australia, at some point in future, might turn out to be a difficult balancing act for Pakistan. But amidst shifting geostrategic alliances, Australia is still one of the most important international partners for Pakistan.

As Margaret Adamson — the Australian High Commissioner in Islamabad — recently pointed out at the 70-year celebration of Aus-Pak ties that there exists a close connection between both the countries. This ‘close connection’ is mainly due to several reasons and initiatives.

The facts not only suggest that Australia will be important for Pakistan in future, but also depict a need for further consolidation of bilateral ties

First, Australia, one of the first countries to recognise Pakistan as an independent state establishing its diplomatic mission in 1948, enjoys strong political, security, development and democratic cooperation with Pakistan. In terms of democratic cooperation, Australia’s interest in a democratic Pakistan was expressed when Bob Carr — the then Minister of Foreign Affairs — published an open letter in The Express Tribune in 2013, soon after Pakistan’s elections and the democratic transition took place. Carr congratulated Pakistani people ‘for defeating terrorism and standing up for democracy’, hence showing why a democratic Pakistan was, and is, important for Australia.

Second, Australia’s Overseas Development Assistance (ODA) to Pakistan stands at $47 million for the year 2017-2018, making it the sixth largest donor to Pakistan.

Third, thousands of Pakistani students visit Australia on student visas every year. Additionally, many Pakistani academics are teaching in Australian universities, hence contributing towards the country’s education sector.

Fourth, a major initiative, in partnership and funding of the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT), will allow the Better Cotton Initiative (BCI) to train around 200,000 Pakistani farmers to adopt better crop production and labour practices while improving the social and economic benefits that flow back to them.

Towards achieving education goals in Pakistan: 26 April, 2018 "Daily Times"

According to Accountability in Education 2017-18 report, approximately 264 million children and youth are out of schools around the world. This is a failure that we must tackle together because education is a shared responsibility and progress is only sustainable through common efforts.

This is essential to meet the ambitions of the Sustainable Development Goal on education (SDG 4), part of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. Governments, schools and teachers have a frontline role to play here, hand in hand with students and parents.

Growing populations gaining access to education, along with evidence of underachievement in learning, have brought into focus the persistent deficiencies in provision and quality. These, combined with tight education budgets and increased emphasis on value for money worldwide, have countries searching for solutions. Increased accountability often tops the list.

Accountability can be a virtue, describing the quality of being answerable and reliable. In the above-mentioned report, it is defined as a type of mechanism. On legal, political, social or moral grounds, governments and other education actors are obliged to report on the fulfilment of their responsibilities. As per Accountability in Education 2017-18 Report, Pakistan is in the list of 33 countries which cannot even meet education financing benchmark.

It may not be possible for the government to implement a uniform education system in the country right now, but a uniform curriculum can certainly be introduced

In Pakistan, the auditor general’s office reported to the Public Accounts Committee of the National Assembly that US$ 7.5 million of Basic Education Community Schools programme funding had been illegally diverted, as a ministerial inquiry committee established. The project director transferred the amount to a private account instead of a prescribed bank. The National Database and Registration Authority also detected over 2,000 fake teacher employee identity cards and auditors tracked 349 ‘ghost’ schools.

Pakistan has monitored the attendance of over 210,000 education staff in 26,200 schools using biometrics: fingerprints and photos, coupled with Global Positioning System coordinates. As of February 2017, 40,000 absent teachers and 6,000 absconders (employed but long absent) have been disciplined. In Pakistan, teachers report on daily attendance by text messages. The forum of nine low and middle-income countries committed to achieving SDG 4 accounts for more than half the world’s population. Yet, Bangladesh, China, India, Nigeria and Pakistan do not report on global indicator 4.1.1 at any education level yet (early primary, end of primary or end of lower secondary).

The America-first era: 19 April, 2018 "The News"

The man in the White House is in the midst of a political storm. Donald Trump chooses his team members on one day and sacks them the next. At one point, he insisted on withdrawing troops from Syria, but eventually decided to change his tack without an endgame and a future strategy when he carried out airstrikes in the country.

There is no plan of action that can explain what the US president means by his emphasis on ‘America first’. The FBI’s decision to raid the office of Trump’s personal lawyer – who is widely viewed as the president’s middleman in New York – and the findings gleaned from other ongoing investigations have revealed that the aggressive posture is only a diversion tactic.

An aggressive foreign policy towards powers like China in the America-first era is creating new and unnecessary tensions and shaping the basis for a new economic war that aims to block China’s emergence as an economic superpower, surpassing the US. Can Trump deliver on this promise to his voters? Can China’s rise as an economic superpower be prevented in any way? Not entirely.

For countries like Pakistan, the America-first era reflects a brazen disregard for their interests, considerations and viewpoints. It also depicts how the US is practising a solo-flight, one-sided imposition of policy prescriptions that are furthered by threats – of isolation, if not sanctions. A section of former Pakistani diplomats are already speaking about a new nexus among India, Israel and the US that is targeting Islamabad. This form of alignment will not allow America to achieve its desired goals in Kabul. For years, not much has been achieved, even though a pro-Delhi government has been in power in Afghanistan. This is a failed approach that is tampering with human lives and financial resources, and adding to the war fatigue.

Pakistani and American scholars and former diplomats gathered in Washington for a two day-conference, titled ‘Pakistan beyond seventy: the long view’, on April 16 and April 17. The event was jointly organised by LUMS and the John Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS). Although Washington and Islamabad may not have such a strong relationship during these challenging times, interactions among academia and diplomats have underscored the need for both countries to develop a relationship that doesn’t just pertain to the Afghan crisis.

In Pakistan, we often blame ourselves for the trust deficit created between Islamabad and Washington. Former US diplomats tend to blame Trump for adopting a strategy that neither serves America’s interests nor challenges the fundamental assumption that Pakistan is dependent on the US aid and financial help.

Dr Shirin Tahir-Kheli, an American political scientist, recently questioned the idea that America has leverage over Pakistan. She suggested that while countries like Pakistan could be influenced and persuaded, they could not be leveraged. Former ambassador Robin Raphel, who recently served as coordinator of non-military assistance to Pakistan, said that USAID spending money on advertising their development programmes was nothing more than a waste of money – a realisation that senior US diplomats at the US Embassy in Islamabad ought to have as well.

There are some former diplomats and academics who are seeking a tougher stance on Pakistan as they assume that it will yield results. But Ambassador Boucher, among others, suggested at the conference that Pakistan’s interests in the region must also be taken into account and China should be involved in the Afghan peace question. The poor handling of the post-9/11 situation with regard to Pakistan by the then assistant secretary of state Richard Armitage also came under criticism and was viewed as extremely insensitive. This is how states are now carrying out their foreign policies and building alliances.

At the policy level, the Pentagon and US State Department fail to realise that Pakistan isn’t dependent on financial aid and weapons supply from Washington and a tougher position will only push Islamabad towards China. Survival drives carried out by states offer new modes of thought and exploration and a series of alternatives. In the post-cold war era, it is no longer a matter of belonging to one camp or the other.

Growing economies and emerging powers tend to strengthen their relationship on the basis of diversity that is not centric to one country or power. If the past provides any form of guidance, Pakistan needs to keep its options open. The White House knows that Pakistan is not shutting its doors for Washington. It is a choice that America has made under Trump and his choices do not last long and could be reserved. A wave of uncertainty marks his presidency.

Before the US mid-terms elections, a tougher line against a few countries – including China, Iran, Syria and Pakistan – cannot be ruled out by the White House. Politics is essentially about domestic political interests and most surveys suggest the strong likelihood of Democrats making a comeback in Congress.

‘America first’ was a slogan that surfaced during the electoral campaign. It was a populous agenda and the people who formulated it are no longer part of Trump’s team. Not much is left on the president’s plate that can be used to entice American voters. It is going to be exceedingly difficult to assess the achievements of tariff imposition on China. Instead, the reaction from Beijing is more likely to hurt America’s industrial sector.

It was interesting to hear former top American diplomats espouse a positive approach towards Pakistan and express a firm belief in the country’s role as an economic engine that can prevent economic miseries, deficits, dependence and debt.

Do policymakers in Islamabad realise this? What opportunities does the country offer? With less than one percent of the population paying taxes in not just Pakistan, no country can either meet its economic and security needs or fund infrastructural development and pay off debt.

When pushed to the corner through faulty choices or the follies of others, a country that has to feed 200 million people must act with a sense of urgency – a trait that our leadership lacks. There won’t be a great leap forward if the leadership doesn’t learn from its old policies that haven’t worked. The America-first era comes as an opportunity for countries like Pakistan to look inward and achieve all that has been delayed.

The impending energy crisis: 16 April, 2018 "Daily Times"

The above quote embodies a raw truth that drives economies and societies in this post-industrial era. An era where nothing functions without electricity. Fossil fuels like oil, coal and gas plus renewables like solar, wind, biogases, and hydel energy form part of our national energy mix that fuels our power generation. Along with nuclear power plants, the above feature as the main power generating sources for the country. Cheap electric power is the veritable engine of economic growth of any country, and it is dependent on the right mix of power generation sources with primary reliance on indigenous resources. Expensive electricity jacks up the input costs of most of our industrial products, rendering our exports uncompetitive in the international market; a fact poignantly obvious by our plummeting exports and dwindling industrial imprint.

Countries like Bangladesh, Nepal, and Sri Lanka have overtaken us in export volume and industrial productivity. The above has been made possible due to bad planning, a cloyingly high tax regime, and lack of exploitation of indigenous resources for power generation.

The lemming like suicidal tendency of an overpopulated and water scarce country in the throes of economic insolvency is inscrutable indeed, when one views the ever increasing poverty and declining human development indicators. A water abundant country at independence having over 5000 cubic meters per capita of water is now a water stressed country with less than 1000 cubic meters per capita. Pakistan, which depends on gas for 50 percent of its power generation has not been able to significantly add to its depleting natural gas resources; whose current reserve replacement ratio is less than 26 percent. The country’s gas supply-demand has reached two billion cubic feet per day, with no significant additions to the national natural gas infrastructure despite the issuance of 96 gas exploration licenses and 90 finds over the last three years. The reduction in the gas volumes by five percent per annum shall reduce our gas availability to three billion cubic feet per day by the year 2022. Unfortunately this gas is being filled by costly imported LNG, which as a consequence of rising oil prices, is going to prove exorbitantly costly in the future. To bridge the power gap, the only sensible initiative by the present government, in addition to hydel dams in collaboration with the Chinese companies, has been the initiation of coal fired power projects based on indigenous Thar coal.

The country’s gas supply-demand has reached 2 billion cubic feet per day, with no significant additions to the national natural gas infrastructure despite the issuance of 96 gas exploration licenses and 90 finds over the last three years

An indication of costly power generation is given by a study conducted by the American Council for the Renewable Energy (ACORE) according to which the costs of LNG, coal, nuclear, wind, natural gas, and hydropower are 12-14, 5-6, 9.5, 6, 6, and 2 cents per KwH respectively. Despite being blessed with a proven hydel potential of 41,722 megawatts, Pakistan has exploited only 6,595 megawatts so far. In case of wind power, Pakistan has been blessed with a wind corridor with a 50,000 megawatt potential, out of which less than 2.5percent has been exploited so far. As per the latest reports, the percentage share of the thermal power generation has gone up to 67 percent in the national energy mix. The RLNG lobby obviously managed to convince the policy makers to elbow out solar and wind energy to the margins, albeit temporarily as the country cannot go against the international energy trends where solar, wind, and hydropower are gaining ground due to environmental and economic reasons. Our anachronistic policy making, which still encourages costly LNG power generation in addition to keeping alive unproductive and costly public sector ‘Generation Companies’, (GENCOs) makes no sense.

The real reason we are not building big dams and promoting wind and solar energy do not reside in the realm of economic logic but political expediencies. It is time we overcame political bulwarks in the way of large hydel projects like Kalabagh Dam. Such pointless games are imperilling our food and energy security. The country will definitely face a water and energy shortage in the future unless we build both small and big dams for irrigation as well as power generation. It is time those who understood hydrology, economy, and environment took the lead role in policy formulation to mitigate the risk of the impending water and energy crisis. A fallacy that has been peddled by vested interests also needs to be exposed. This fallacy pertains to the need and relevance of big dams. Visionless particularists with narrow political interests and limited technical knowledge speak day in and day out about the irrelevance of big dams due to large potential for small dams all over the country. Little do these visionless bigots understand that small dams could never replace big dams, whose power generation and irrigation potential could never be rivalled by any number of small dams.

The country badly needs dams and an efficient irrigation infrastructure capable of limiting seepage losses, in view of impending water shortages in the near future. If India can make 43000 dams, in this very neighbourhood, what stops us from emulating them? Unfortunately it seems we only want to match our Eastern neighbour when it comes to missiles and other weapons. Pakistan needs to initiate the required planning measures urgently. There is an emergent need to define a national energy vision for the next 5 to ten years. A ‘National Energy Mix’ needs to be planned in the light of economic and environmental imperatives relying on cleaner, cheaper and indigenously available resources. The share of costly thermal power should be minimized in the new national energy mix, with a lion’s share going to hydropower, solar, wind, and indigenous coal based power sources. A national power resources and infrastructure development authority should be created, recentralising WAPDA’s powers, unhindered by pressure from the World Bank and IMF.

The reconstituted WAPDA invested with the powers to develop electricity evacuation grid and big dams should take the lead role in this national endeavour. WAPDA’s project development and electricity grid development capability as the lead role player should act as a strategic enabler for the public-private partnerships in the power sector, in addition to purely private investments. The privatisation of DISCOs should be put on hold for the next ten years and WAPDA empowered again to oversee their operation.

Pakistan needs to rethink its avenues: 16 April, 2018 "Daily Times"

One has no reason to complain against life, which is a tale of reality one confronts every day-a replay of numerous colours and shades, pointing to events, happenings, beginnings and the ends, a ‘Complex whole’ of thought processes, folkways, mores, values and attitudes, norms, institutions, societies and cultures with their diversity but cooperation in understanding the ups and downs of life and respect for difference of opinions. This is what is often implied by the right path for a way forward.

In its folds, life holds dreams, love, respect and happiness to be shared. For stability, life expects cooperation, positive values and tasteful behaviours.

Violation of human rights anywhere is not acceptable. Justice demands that state terrorism must be condemned. It is incumbent upon the international community as a collective force to condemn the brutalities that have reached an unprecedented level.

Killing fields and global dominance go together. Kashmir accounts for over 240,000 killed since 1946. The western controlled media remains unconcerned about massacre and loss of human lives. The war boils down to constant Indian violence from Afghanistan and ruthless use of force against Kashmiris. All such elements and factors aim at putting Pakistan under pressure and in a state of tension. And think of millions killed in the name of western values? Europe and the USA shut their doors to those seeking refuge. The analysts are thus to conclude that the epicentre of terrorism is neither the Pak-Afghan Border nor the Middle East. It is deeply embedded in the United States’ quest for global dominance. The fact, however, is that without solving the issue of Kashmir the UN’s de-colonisation agenda remains incomplete, which is based on security council resolutions that pledge the right of self-determination to the Kashmiri people.

Those who wish to see Pakistan as a ‘failed state’ will never succeed in their nefarious designs. As long we are strong in our resolve to correct wrongs, no one can dare harm our national and international interests

Pakistan and Afghanistan both seem to have recently realised that the war need not be won; rather it can only be ended. And if that is the course of action both countries choose to adopt then negotiating with the Taliban is a must. To get the Taliban real interest in a dialogue is however not that easy. Bombing them was rather a strange approach to bring the Taliban to the negotiating table. Afghanistan has recently witnessed its own version of the Army Public School (APS) attack. Appropriate Strategy would be needed to bring the Taliban to the negotiation forum with sincere desire to get positive results in the right direction without any problems in the implementation of policies which have been thought of well in advance. Both countries need to be ready to deal with all possible challenges to build new relationship of trust and commitment to peace.

On the home front, Pakistan needs courage and initiative. Pakistan will have to deal with individuals and group that are actively inciting violence and physically challenging the writ of the state. Those leading a defiant protest and churning out hate speeches/material must not be treated leniently anymore. The law must be applied evenly and applied to the greatest most offenders first.

Country’s general elections are just around the corner. Responsibility of the interim government will be to establish an environment and system to allow free and fair elections. The caretaker set up has to be unbiased and tasked only with conducting the election in a timely manner and ensuring that the day-to-day functions of the government continue during the transition. The caretaker set up is not to be allowed to affect any change into the government setup since that is not its task / job. To see that interim set up is non-political and neutral in its role, all government institutions should stay away and make sure that no effort is made to influence the working of the interim set up. The Pakistan nation needs to get out of internal and external factors leading to crises and chaos. It is time to demonstrate that all our institutions are on one page, the same page. Unity is strength. National interests are above personal interests.

As a student of management and public policy, I firmly believe in strengthening public institutions to enhance their ability and capacity to effectively address public causes and contribute to achieving national objectives. In this context we need to provide full support to those fully determined to provide leadership to clean up the mess and appreciate those who offer sacrifices, wherever and whenever needed, to ensure that our ideological and geographical frontiers remained secure. No internal and external conspiracies can succeed as long we have a collective resolve to stay confident in our abilities to meet all emerging challenges confronting us as a nation. We have the capacity to convert challenges into opportunities and convert weaknesses into strengths. No moves to isolate Pakistan have worked, nor will the enemy efforts in this context ever succeed.

We are a nuclear power with status and stature in the comity of nations. Those who wish to see Pakistan as a ‘failed state’ will never succeed in their nefarious designs. As long we are strong in our resolve to correct wrongs, no one can dare to harm our national and international interests. Pakistan has support of countries who are working for peace and development and connectivity and ultimate good of the region and the world at large. Friends of Pakistan cooperate in efforts to fortifying for a better future in an environment free of tensions.

Diversity and unity go together. Understanding diversity means working together for a collective objective, making use of people with varied background, skills and upbringing in cultural context. It requires harnessing human resources through best of coordinating and organisational skills. Complex national and international organisations are working successfully to achieve common interests. It is a fine approach to peace and harmony as well as productivity and achievement. We can use the value of diversity to resolve many of our local and regional issues. It is a tool that I think can also help sort out issues of extremism and overcoming hate and prejudices.

If we rethink there are avenues open to guide us to solve problems. Pakistan is not an exception. We can do things but by learning from our mistakes and the will to go for achievement orientation. Pakistan is rich in human resources as well as natural resources. All that we need is to excel and make best use of resources.

China factor in Afghan peace: 16 April, 2018 "The Nation"

The Chinese Vice Foreign Minister, Li Baodong, speaking at Tashkent Peace Conference on Afghanistan, extended China’s support to the inclusive political reconciliation process in Afghanistan. He said China saw Afghanistan as an important partner under its Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) project.

Although limited in the past, the Chinese interest in Afghanistan is now growing. Security and economics are major drivers for the increasing Chinese involvement in Afghanistan. China wants a stable Afghanistan with no potential threat to Chinese internal security and investments in the region. It wants to eradicate the basic support and infrastructure for carrying out militancy and extremism through development projects in the war-torn country. Unlike the United States, China does not support a military solution for the Afghan problem. Due to this approach, it has earned the trust of the Afghan government as well as the Afghan Taliban. It is therefore, in an ideal position to play a role in bringing peace in Afghanistan.

Afghanistan has also approached China in the recent past as it hopes to get development funds from China. Afghanistan also believes that China can help in convincing Pakistan to influence and pressurise the Taliban to negotiate with the Afghan government.

For stabilising Afghanistan, closer cooperation between Pakistan and Afghanistan is necessary. China wants Pakistan and Afghanistan to cooperate to bring stability in Afghanistan. Chinese diplomatic efforts in this regard may be one of the factors behind the recent bilateral efforts for improvement in Pak-Afghan bilateral relations. China hosted the 1st China-Afghanistan-Pakistan Foreign Ministers’ Dialogue in December 2017 to help Pakistan and Afghanistan remove mistrust between them. The two neighboring countries agreed to operationalise Afghanistan Pakistan Action Plan for Peace and Solidarity (APAPPS) after Pakistani Prime Minister’s recent one-day visit to Afghanistan. The APAPPS is a joint action plan for working in areas of counter-terrorism and reduction of violence, peace and reconciliation, refugees’ repatriation and joint economic development. It was first discussed during Foreign Secretary Tehmina Janjua’s talks on her visit to Afghanistanin February this year.

The idea of a political settlement between the Taliban and the Afghan government is gaining further support from several quarters. China is on the forefront in voicing this idea. Both China and Pakistan have conveyed to the Afghan government and other stakeholders that a military solution is not a viable option after a stalemate in 17 years long war. The Afghan President Ghani has taken the right step forward and offered Taliban legitimacy and invited them to participate in negotiations with the government. The recent Tashkent Peace Conference on Afghanistan in which representatives from 25 countries, the European Union and the UN and NATO participated, also termed political settlement a key to the peace and prosperity of Afghanistan in its declaration.

Taliban have refused to talk to the Afghan government in past. They have not yet responded to President Ghani’s offer of talks. Taliban term the Afghan government illegitimate. Talking to the government would be equal to legitimizing its rule. Instead, they want direct talks with the US.

Some tangible actions and assurances from the US may boost the peace efforts. The US, however, has not shown any indication to reduce its military presence in Afghanistan, nor an interest in talking to the Taliban directly. One reason for its preference for the military approach is its desire not to leave Afghanistan as a defeated power. Such a perception would be disastrous for America’s prestige internationally and negatively affect its ability to influence events in future.

E-governance for a better Pakistan: 12 April, 2018 "Daily Times"

Digital governance or digitisation of public sector by using technology to provide government services online is now one of the standard tools of statecraft even in the developing countries. There are some good reasons to believe that digital governance can and has resulted in better service delivery. In addition to improving governance through greater transparency and accountability of government functionaries, digitisation helps governments to ensure the efficient and effective provision of services at a fraction of the costs incurred by providing the same services through traditional means.

Besides being an extremely cost-effective method of service delivery, it is also extremely client friendly. It is a paradigm shift; instead of a stakeholder coming to a government office, the state provides its services at his/her doorsteps, a click away whether living in a city or in rural areas. Although providing these very services online is ipso facto, no guarantee of their improved quality, yet being interactive and accessible to millions of people online, digitisation has its own corrective mechanism to ensure improvement. Slackness of any government agency in providing quality services will immediately become topic of discussion on print, electronic and social media, forcing the political elite to take remedial measures to save their own skins.

If the state develops proper information highways and portals, it saves the amount to be spent on brick and mortar structures to physically provide the same services besides reducing the burden on public highways. Why should citizens commute by public or private transport to the government offices to seek information if the same service can be made available online? Additionally, an open, participatory and trustworthy public sector also helps in improving socioeconomic inclusiveness which is essential for long-term sustainable growth.

In recent years, Pakistan in general and its Punjab province, in particular, have made significant progress in digitisation their respective public sectors. However, keeping in view its importance as an integrated part of public service delivery mechanism, there is a need to increase the scope, improve quality and expand its outreach. The following are some of the issues which need careful attention.

digitisation of public sector is a monumental task needing a vision backed by total commitment at the political and executive levels

Firstly, digitisation of public sector is a monumental task needing a vision backed by total commitment at the political and executive levels. Need for this political commitment becomes even more crucial when we consider the uncertainties involved in the entire process namely timely availability of requisite resources, particularly of specialised human resource, project execution delays, rapidity of technical change making technology redundant in few years and the changing priorities of the changing political regimes. Add the typical turf wars among various government institutions which create difficulties in pooling of information and its sharing among public and private-the two main pillars of big data.

If there is resolve at the highest level for the digital transformation of the country, even rudimentary legal framework and institutional structure can work wonders; if not, even the best of the above would not deliver. In this connection, bureaucracy can play a very crucial role by helping the elected representatives in the formulation of a long-term vision supported by a comprehensive legal regulatory framework which is in sync with the globally accepted best practices.

Some of the fields requiring clear-cut policy formulation and legislative enactment are accessibility protocols for stakeholders, data protection, E-Commerce Frameworks, Public-Private Partnership Agreements etc. This framework must be approved by competent forums known for their institutional legitimacy and offering confidence to the stakeholders for their long-term continuity irrespective of periodic regime changes.

The Choice: 12 April, 2018 "The Nation"

Pakistan has a sordid history of corrupt politicians and power hungry military dictators, but never before in its seven decade plus existence has the country been threatened by its own political elite to a point that jeopardizes its very existence. This week’s piece is a wakeup call to those, who continue to hold our political leadership in high esteem. These individuals naively consider themselves beneficiaries of good governance, while in actual fact they lack the wisdom and courage to see the truth.

The nation faced its first reality check during the Kargil Crisis, when our Prime Minister hurriedly answered a United States’ summons to come to Washington minus the military leadership. We then witnessed, what can only be termed as ‘a political defeat snatched from the jaws of a military victory’. I am aware of the possibility that by making this statement I am exposing myself to criticism from many quarters, but I have done so in the light of extensive discussions with individuals connected with the crisis. It was during one of these exchanges that someone from across the sea accused Pakistan of being the aggressor in Kargil in gross violation of the Simla Agreement. My response was as straight forward as could be under the circumstances, “How could we be categorized as precipitators of war and violators of the Simla Document, when this agreement had already been torn to shreds by Indian military excursions in Siachin in the nineteen eighties. I added that we had simply paid the enemy back in its own coinage.” There was utter silence as my words sank in. On return from the US, the PM ordered a complete withdrawal from Kargil, leaving the army no option, but to obey and mourn their fallen warriors.

Mr. Nawaz Sharif’s return to power was highlighted by adopting a soft attitude towards unprovoked line of control violations. This approach was hallmarked by an enigmatic silence as Indian troops killed innocent civilians in Pakistani territory – a silence compounded by the sudden flying visit of the religiously militant Indian PM to the Sharif Estate at Jaati Umra near Lahore on the occasion of a wedding.

Even when Kulbashan Yadav, a serving Indian Navy officer on deputation to RAW, was apprehended by own counter intelligence and confessed his country’s involvement in fomenting militancy and terrorist activity in Balochistan, our Head of Executive kept quiet. The eruption of the ‘Dawn Leaks’ case lent more fuel to a ‘horrifying’ notion already germinating in the minds of discerning citizens – a notion that questioned patriotism and failure to maintain national interest. ‘The Dawn Leaks’ scandal became breaking news, when a media cell functioning very close to the PM was reported to have leaked the contents of a classified meeting, wherein the Pakistan Army leadership was warned by the government to act against militants or face international isolation. The warning carried a déjà vu effect echoing the narrative that formed the core of India’s exterior maneuver against Pakistan.

When the Panama Scandal turned the world upside down, media began reporting a substantial Sharif Family investment in the Indian Steel Industry, followed by news that an Indian industrialist Mr. Jindal had paid a ‘spy thriller like call’ on Nawaz Sharif at Murree. As public criticism mounted, the former PM’s daughter justified the visit as a social call by an old family friend. Private media channels however saw much more behind the visit, terming it as efforts to get Kulbashan Yadav ‘off the hook’. With national opinion divided for and against Nawaz Sharif, a Supreme Court bench disqualified the PM from holding political or public office. The court also formed a JIT, the findings of which would become the basis for NAB to initiate a trial of the accused.

There can be no second opinion that a country’s security is inexorably linked to its economic and financial viability. As the ‘Panama Case’ progressed, we began reading about how corruption and self-interest had dragged Pakistan’s economy to almost irretrievable depths. Our treasury was near empty and the debt burden had increased to unbelievable figures. It was apparent that we had been lied to by the man responsible to keep the country financially healthy, but who happened to be a close relative of Mr. Nawaz Sharif.

It was perhaps divine mercy that our two strongest institutions stood firm and steady. One decided to clean up the mess, while the other ensured that our ideological and geographical borders remained secure. Perhaps our creator wanted us to see and understand the truth before the time came for us to make a choice. Did we want to continue with those, who had been tried and found wanting or did we want a change heralding the first step towards recovering our lost dreams.

Islam’s contribution to Europe IV: 24 March, 2018 "Daily Times"

The fundamental concept of the “mind/body problem” in Western philosophy associated with René Descartes—dealing with the relationship between perception and objects, mind and matter, soul and body, and “how meaning, rationality, and conscious experience are related to a physical world”— can be traced back to the eleventh-century scholar Avicenna. Avicenna was the Latin name of Ibn Sina, who “foreshadowed Francis Bacon and René Descartes by half a millennium when he claimed” that “the universality of our ideas is the result of the activity of the mind itself.” This principle was also quoted by Averroes and the scholastics of the medieval universities of Europe, especially the German scholar and saint Albertus Magnus, the teacher of Thomas Aquinas.

The similarity of Avicenna’s thinking to that of Descartes—widely regarded as the father of modern philosophy—who posited the primacy of the intellect in his famous dictum cogito ergo sum, or “I think, therefore I am,” has been noted and explored by many scholars. Avicenna argued that if a man were to have no perception of the external world or his own physical body, “He will not doubt that he affirms the existence of his self.”Descartes also wrote of the nature of the self, of what could be known with certainty, the soul, and God. Like Avicenna, he “distinguishes between the intellect and the brain.”

If the West acknowledges its debt to Islam, perhaps it will treat Muslims with respect, and not as unwelcome guests

The concept of representation, according to which what a person perceives is only representative of external phenomena, has a similar lineage and was “of vital importance for philosophical psychology as it has developed from Descartes onward.”Martin Heidegger and Michel Foucault hailed Descartes as initiating the “age of representation” and modernity itself. The concept of “representation” “seems to have its origin in the Latin translation of the works of Avicenna,” who was “the initiator of this representational theory of cognition.”

Miguel de Cervantes and Daniel Defoe

Don Quixote and Robinson Crusoe—routinely cited as among the greatest novels of all time, for example by the Guardian in 2003—bear the mark of Islamic culture. Miguel de Cervantes opens Don Quixote (1605–15) by disclosing, with tongue in cheek, that it is a manuscript written by an Arab called Cide Hamete Benengeli (Sir Hamid Aubergine) and that his book is a translation into Spanish of the original Arabic. Don Quixote “is born of ideas latent in extinct, condemned texts, whether Arabic or chivalric,” the critic Edward Rothstein wrote in the New York Times.

Ibn Tufail’s twelfth-century novel Hayy ibn Yaqdhan is about a man who finds himself on a desert island along with a companion and raises philosophical questions about the relationship between the individual and society, man’s capacity to survive in a “natural state,” religion and inter-faith toleration, and the pursuit of knowledge (English translations were published from a Latin version in 1674 and 1686 and the original Arabic in 1708). The novel bears striking similarities to Daniel Defoe’s Robinson Crusoe (1719), which is commonly regarded as the first novel in the English language. The protagonists of both novels invent their own tools, make their own weapons, a club, construct a storehouse for food, dress in animal skins, and tame and keep animals. While Hayy has horses, birds of prey, and chickens, Crusoe has a dog, parrot, cats, and goats.

Hayy ibn Yaqdhan, which was brought to England from Aleppo in the seventeenth century by Edward Pococke, Oxford’s first chair of Arabic and John Locke’s favorite professor, caused a sensation among European intellectuals and became the third-most translated Arabic text after the Quran and The Arabian Nights. John Locke spoke eagerly of a meeting to discuss Hayy ibn Yaqdhan, which was translated by Pococke’s son. Baruch Spinoza had it translated into Dutch, and it was twice translated into German and was celebrated by Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz. Ibn Tufail’s book “could be considered one of the most important books that heralded the Scientific Revolution.”

Revisiting Minar- i- Pakistan: 24 March, 2018 "The Nation"

Minar-i- Pakistan,  is standing aloft  in the Iqbal Parks across the road from the historic  and majestic Badshahi Masjid and the Fort in the city of Lahore  symbolises  the spirit and struggle launched by the Muslims  under inspiring leadership of Quaid-i-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah for the creation of a separate homeland .

The concept of a separate homeland  for the Muslims was presented by  great thinker and poet  Allama Mohammad Iqbal  in late 1930s’, reduced in black and white  at the historical session of the All India Muslim League at the then Minto Park from March 22 to 24, 1940  and the dream so visualised  was translated into reality within short span  of just seven years . Minar-i-Pakistan has been erected as a memory  as well as tribute  at the same place where the Resolution was presented and adopted on March 23 way back in 1940.

A visit to the Minar-i-Pakistan  any time and day  in the month of March  rekindles the spirit of sacrifice, struggle  and revives  the determination for continuing working hard  and still harder for realising the cherished objectives  for which the Resolution was adopted and a free, sovereign and independent  state of Pakistan  was carved out  the world map  out of nowhere for existence for centuries together with blessings of Almighty Allah.

Only a visit to the Minar-i-Pakistan   clears certain things and ambiguities . Generally, the Resolution adopted on March 23, 1940 is taken  into consideration in the context of Pakistan Day celebrations every year on this historically important date. The clarifications   made in the original Resolution  for removing  the certain misgivings and misconceptions  through the Delhi Resolution some six years later  are somehow little known  and hardly read with the March 23,1940 original resolution.

To duly appreciate and understand the true spirit and objective of March 23 original resolution and April 9, 1946  Delhi Resolution   clarifications should be read together . Both the texts of March 23 Resolution and operative part of April 9 Resolution  are inscribed on the Minar-i-Pakistan  quite prominently which no visitor can ever miss to notice, read and understand and also to make some pledges under the tall Minar-i-Pakistan  as well as a determined and committed Pakistani.

It is imperative that the Pakistan Resolution, also known  as the Lahore Resolution, and of the operative part  containing some  clarifications of the Delhi Resolution are reproduced here  for the benefits and information of everyone  and in particular for the younger generations  whop need to know most  the background of the creation of Pakistan before being swayed away  by some other worldly attractions and so-called Indo-Pakistan friendship slogans which remain far cry in the wilderness.

Indeed March 23 has assumed  a unique significance and importance in the annals of the history  as a red letter day, it was on this day  way back in 1940  that the Muslims of the sub-continent  had formally resolved to struggle and achieve a separate homeland of their own Pakistan. It was also on this day in 1956, Pakistan had got its first Constitution and as such become a republic no more being a domain of the British Crown. The Lahore Resolution , as it is known,  was surely  a semblance of the aspirations of the Muslims of the sub-continent.

Resolved at the Lahore session of

All India Muslim League  held on

22nd-24th March 1940

1.            While  approving and endorsing  the action taken by the Working Committee of the All India Muslim League  as indicated  in their resolutions  dated the 27th of August,  17th and 18th of  September and 22nd of October  1939 and 3rd February 1940 on the constitutional issue, this session of the All India Muslim League  emphatically resolves that the scheme of  federation embodies  in the Government of India Act 1935 is totally unsuited to, and  unworkable in the  peculiar conditions of this country and is  altogether unacceptable to the Muslims  India.

2.            “It further records  its emphatic view  that while the declaration dated the 18th of October 1939 made by the Viceroy on behalf of His Majesty’s Government  in reassuring in so far it declares  that the policy and plan on which the Government of India Act 1935 is based, will be reconsidered in consultation with  the various parties, interests and communities in India. Muslim India  will not be  satisfied unless the whole constitutional plan is reconsidered  denovo and that no revised would be acceptable to the Muslims  unless it is framed with their approval and consent.

3.            “Resolved that it is the considered view of this session of the All India Muslim League  that no constitutional plan would be workable  in this country or acceptable  to Muslims unless it is  designed on the following  basic principle, namely  that geographically contiguous  units are  demarcated into regions  which should  be so constituted , with such territorial  readjustments as may be necessary, that the areas in which the Muslims are numerically in a majority  as in the North Western and Eastern Zones of India, should be grouped to constitute “Independent States” in which the constituent units shall be autonomous  and sovereign.

4.            “That adequate, effective and mandatory  safeguards should be specifically provided in the Constitution for minorities in these units and in these regions for the protection of their religious ,cultural, economic, political , administrative  and other rights and interests in consultation with them; and in other parts of India where the Muslims are in a minority, adequate, effective and mandatory  safeguards shall be specifically  provided in the  Constitution for them and other minorities  for the protection of their religious , cultural, economic, political, administrative and other rights and interests  in consultation with them.

5.            This session further  authorises  the Working Committees  to frame  a scheme of Constitution in accordance with these basic principles, providing for the assumption finally by the respective regions of all powers  such as defence, external affairs, communications, customs and such other matters as may be necessary”.

 As stated above already, the Pakistan Resolution  of March 23, 1940 was further clarified by a resolution  unanimously  passed by the Muslim League Convention  elected M.L.As of the Centre and from the Provinces held under the presidentship of the Quaid-i-Azam at Delhi on April 9,1946.

Among other things, the said Resolution  specified that :

“The zones comprising  Bengal and Assam in the North-East and Punjab, North-West province, Sind and Balochistan in the North-West of India, namely Pakistan Zones, where the Muslims are in a dominant  majority, be constituted  into a sovereign  independent State and that on unequivocal undertaking be given to implement the establishment of Pakistan without delay”.

If both the resolutions in the context of their  operative parts  are read together, many things  would clear up in the minds of the people in respect of creation of an independent, sovereign State of Pakistan.

Construction of Minar-i-Pakistan itself  makes an interesting reading. But the story would be  narrated some other time in all details . It was started started as the Pakistan Day Memorial , Its foundation stone was laid on March 23, 1960  by the   West Pakistan Governor Akhtar Hussain while actual construction  got underway  by mid-1963.

The credit for construction of Minar-i-Pakistan  goes to  contractor Mian Abdul Khaliq and then then Commissioner Lahore and well-known literary figure Mukhtar Masood, who expired a year and more back,  who had got its file recovered from the heaps of filed dumped in the store room of the office of one of the Assistant Commissioner.

The Minar, which was erected under the guidance of the Pakistan Day Memorial Committee and maintained till it was taken over by the Lahore Development Authority in May 1982.

Pakistan Day is celebrated quite enthusiastically every year on March 23 by the people at large as well as the government  as a national holiday.   Remaining details about the architect, material used,  financial contributions and other aspects will be mentioned separately some other time, please.