Articles Regarding Pakistan

Regional maritime cooperation: 25 July, 2017 "The Nation"

The Indian Ocean Naval Symposium, simply speaking, is a maritime forum set up for the express purpose of enhancing collaboration in terms of collective security between states whose shores, inclusive of permanently held territories, are washed by the Indian Ocean as well as those which have a visible stake in its future. I wouldn’t be at all surprised though if most of the readers find this terminology (IONS) unfamiliar, as it doesn’t feature much in the news. This is possibly about to change as Pakistan’s involvement becomes increasingly prominent. Ever since the inaugural symposium was successfully hosted by the Indian Navy in 2008 on the vital theme of ‘Contemporary Trans-national Challenges – International Maritime Connectivities’, IONS has been providing a much-needed forum for naval professionals, specifically naval chiefs, of all member states from the South Asian, West Asian (Middle East), East African, South East Asian and Australian littorals, to directly interact with each other in a bid to enhance maritime cooperation and generate better mutual understanding. The involvement in this forum of the top tier of naval leadership of the Indian Ocean littoral states enables cooperative solutions to be found to the common maritime problems that plague the region.

Since its inaugural session in 2008, the Indian Ocean Naval Symposium has been organised four more times at two yearly intervals, in UAE, South Africa, Australia and Bangladesh respectively. The beauty of the enterprise is that all member countries are treated at par, regardless of the size of their navies or their international clout. The IONS chair is thus rotated every two years, with its selection being arrived at through consensus. In fact, the host countries for the next two symposiums along with tentative dates are decided upon at each IONS meeting. During IONS ’14 for instance, Bangladesh and Iran were confirmed as hosts for the 2016 and 2018 symposiums respectively.

In every IONS, a day or two is reserved for what is termed as a ‘Conclave of the Chiefs-of Navy’, which furnishes an ideal platform for the Heads of the Navy to directly communicate with each other, leading to better understanding, consensual decision-making and its effective implementation.

The agenda for each IONS is drawn up through exhaustive deliberations during the preceding year at a preparatory workshop. Another significant activity is at times combined with the main preparatory objective, like the working group meeting on ‘Info Sharing and Interoperability’, as was done in September 2015 at Karachi. In addition, certain other activities are also been regularly planned and conducted, like Open Essay Competitions, a technical seminar, Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Relief (HADR), Anti-piracy Conceptual and Operational workshops. Realising the necessity for propagating the aims and achievements of the Indian Ocean Naval Symposium, the IONS website (ions.gov.in/) and the first edition of the IONS newsletter was launched in 2012, followed by three further editions of the magazine.

As far as Pakistan’s involvement in IONS is concerned, the most notable feature has been the presence of its Naval Chief at the 2014 edition of the symposium at Perth, during which he also participated in the conclave of Chiefs of Navy. This enabled Pakistan to become an effective part of a vital maritime activity in which most navies of littoral states were already actively participating. Ever since Pakistan was accorded observer status, various symposiums and workshops were being attended either by mid-ranking naval officers or by Pakistan’s respective Defence Attaches at various venues. Pakistan Navy also took part in two Open Essay Competitions, in one of which a retired naval officer serving as DS (Research) at the PN War College attained the second position. As soon as Pakistan achieved full membership status at the IONS meeting in 2014, in which the Naval Chief also participated, Pakistan Navy was selected to host the preparatory workshop planned for the following year. This workshop, along with the IONS Working Group meeting on Information Sharing and Interoperability, was organised in mid-September 2015 in a professional manner, with delegates from as many as 16 member states including observer and observer applicant countries participating. This preparatory workshop acts as a useful prelude for laying the groundwork for the forthcoming symposium. IONS 2016, held at Dhaka in January, showcased the Bangladesh Navy’s competence and hospitality. It was the good fortune of this scribe to be present on the occasion, having been invited by the Bangladesh Naval Chief to moderate the session on ‘Maritime Cooperation and Collaboration’.

Now that IONS 2017 is again ‘round the corner, the preparatory workshop has been tentatively scheduled in September this year in South Africa. Pakistan, which holds the chair for the IONS Working Group on Information Sharing and Interoperability, will again be hosting the said meeting in the last week of July, during which all ten of its member countries are expected to participate. Realising that info sharing and interoperability are prerequisites for collaboration and engagement at the field level, this working group will focus its efforts on the ways and means of achieving improvements in the field.

Since its inception, IONS has become a robust interactive forum for generating greater mutual understanding to the ultimate benefit of the region and for brainstorming solutions to maritime issues of common interest. The theme of the 2010 symposium ‘Togetherness for the Reinforcement of Maritime Security in the Indian Region’ best epitomises the philosophy and the spirit of the forum. Extra-regional countries like UK and France have also become full members by virtue of a clause that allows states with permanently held territory within the Indian Ocean region to do so. Countries like China and Japan, likewise, hold full observer status, while European ones like Russia, Spain and Italy have applied for similar status, making use of a clause enabling a Navy with significant strategic interests to be so entitled. IONS, it should be understood, is not merely a forum for exchange of views but provides a much needed platform for Naval Chiefs and other naval officers representing as many as 28 countries to fraternise with each other on a professional and social level.

IONS presumably took its cue from the Western Pacific Naval Symposium (an initiative of the United States), which held its first meeting in 1988. Incidentally, Pakistan also obtained Observer Status of this forum (WPNS) in April of 2015. In the formative years of the IONS, Pakistan was needlessly swimming against the tide by non-participation, or at best limited participation, till the historic 2014 IONS breakthrough by its Naval Chief, which broke the logjam and enabled the country to become a part of the mainstream discourse. Pakistan’s active participation, with the hosting of the preparatory workshop and a working group meeting in September of 2015 and the forthcoming working group meeting on Information and Interoperability in July this year will hopefully prove to be beneficial for the country as well as add to the vitality of this dynamic forum.

Nuanced discourse on CPEC: 25 July, 2017 "The Nation"

The zeitgeist of the present age is globalisation which has shrunk the world into a small village via the onslaught of means of information and technology. The phenomenon of globalisation, unleashed in the post-cold war era, has holistically changed the matrix of world politics. Where it has significantly impacted states in their social and political spheres, there it has phenomenally influenced states’ interaction with one another in economic spheres. Given that, in the globalised world and a free market, the more a state is economically well-connected, the more efficiently it can cope with vicissitudes of globalisation.

Isolation is no more an option for any state in an era dictated by globalisation. Knowing the price of economic isolation, which is almost akin to suicide in the present globalised world, not only states individually but, also collectively, in the shape of regions through formation of economic corridors, have been striving hard to create multiple avenues for their economic ventures in order to effectively catch up with the spirit of globalisation.

Like in the rest of the world, where states, either in their individual capacity or collectively in the shape of a region, have been striving to catch up with globalisation through multifarious economic ventures, South Asia, a region pitted against frail economies, political downfall, social and religious cleavages and the resultant inherent discords among various states, has been witnessing one such economic venture which is, though, bilateral in nature, will impact the whole region.

Yes, the venture is China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), which is one of the projects of China’s 13 five-year development plans that will help her connect with Central Asia, Middle East and Europe. CPEC, which is a $61 billion project stewarded by China and will last from 2015 to 2030, is being touted as a game changer for Pakistan’s economy, which we (the authors) support, because of the huge development it is bringing in its lap through a plethora of projects. Yet there is a cynical approach prevalent among some sectors, which once used to be important pillars of Pakistan’s economy, as the government has not been completely clear about its plans vis-à-vis CPEC; as a result, a sense of disillusionment among some sectors is gaining momentum with respect to true nature of the CPEC. There is a dire need to approach this project in a more nuanced way so that the grievances of those having a major stake in Pakistani’s economy can be catered to.

To impress upon the readers a nuanced understanding of CPEC, here is an illustration. Under CPEC, Chinese state-owned companies are, and will be, allowed to develop Special Economic Zones (SEZs) in Pakistan. What will be the nature, scope and working of the SEZs? We don’t know. How will they impact the Pakistani industry and agriculture? How will Pakistani industrialists and agriculturalists be able to compete with Chinese state-owned companies? Won’t it have unimaginably dangerous effects for the local business class of Pakistan? The answers to these questions, we believe, might not subscribe to the ongoing political discourse about CPEC which is very rosy in nature.

No rocket science is needed to comprehend the grievances of the local business community. For example, China is a bigger economy and has the latest technological tools to enhance their productivity to better excel in the market. Pakistani business class is, on the contrary, facing so many problems, ranging from shortage of power to waves of political instability. If a product costs China 20 rupees, thus setting a market price, for instance, 28 rupees for that product in Pakistan; however, the same product is being made by a Pakistani company in 30 rupees. How will it be able for any Pakistani businessman to compete in the market?

Policy makers at the helm in CPEC are cold-shouldering business owners by being indifferent to their concerns, expressed Ijaz Khokhar, Central Chairman Pakistan Readymade Garments Manufacturers and Exporters Association (PRGMEA). If objectively studied, a popular narrative has been rearing its ugly head in the unfolding of CPEC discourse in Pakistan in which any one coming up with a counter-narrative to the rosy picture of CPEC is cornered in the mainstream media and is branded as a traitor who is against Pakistan making its way through this venture to economic development.

Prudence dictates listening to what our own business class is feeling, observing and expecting to come out of CPEC. How can the state protect its interests in the face of large and powerful Chinese companies? How will Pakistani companies market themselves when they don’t have the facilities to capitalise on this opportunity?

Overall, the government in Pakistan has a bad tendency of papering over the cracks in policy making. There is nothing bad if someone has some reservations regarding the CPEC. CPEC is not a holy cow, or a divine thing. Every Pakistani has a right to question and to know what the government is doing or intends to do. We pay taxes and have a democratically elected government. Our representatives are answerable to us; hence, it is urged, on behalf of concerned citizens’ lot, to policy makers at the helm to make CPEC as inclusive as possible by sharing terms and agreements signed with China.

Moreover, as students of politics, our advocacy for a more inclusive approach towards CPEC on part of Pakistan is not solely to make CPEC win-win in its nature, but also is aimed at bringing into the spotlight an interplay of politics and economics in the aftermath of actualisation of CPEC. There is no gainsaying the fact that politics and economics deeply influence each other in reciprocal ways. Any blind economic venture with China on part of Pakistan without taking into confidence its citizens’ lot, might turn out to be a short-changed transaction, and because of social backlash it will invoke among citizens. We need not reject CPEC, but we must have a selectively protectionist approach because China is an economic giant and we are politically a fragile democracy.

Cooperation is the only rule to survive in the age of globalisation, but blind economic cooperation on the part of any state without taking into confidence its citizens’ trust, who bear its brunt directly, will not ultimately lead to long lasting desired outcome of economic cooperation.


China’s strength: Economy or military?: 22 July, 2017 "The Nation"

Sara Bongiorni, a business journalist in Baton Rouge Louisiana, made an unusual New Year’s resolution in January 2005. She and her family decided to boycott all the things which would carry the label, Made-in-China. They resolved to avoid Chinese goods such as birthday candles, lamps, toys, and shoes. This one innocuous decision turned the family’s daily life upside down. After one year, they realised boycotting the Chinese products was impossible and ended the boycott. Her book, “A Year Without Made-in-China”, which is the chronicles of her one-year experiences, explains how deep Chinese economy has integrated into the global economy. Another key inference from this book is how dependent American economy has become on the Chinese economy that when an American citizen tried to find out replacement of Chinese tennis shoes, she had to search it for two to three weeks. And after the exhausting search, she located Made-in-Italy sneakers worth $70, which were way more expensive than ordinary Chinese tennis shoes and cost only $15.

America is too dependent on Chinese economy to severe the Sino-US ties. In 2016, the bilateral trade ties reached the volume of $519 billion, making them each other’s largest trading partner. Over the past decade, Chinese goods and services for America increased by 98 and 134 percent respectively. They are an integral component of daily life in America and bind the families to the global economy. These statistics and the chronicles of a modern American family, One-Year without Made-in-China, are a window to the extent of Chinese influence in the lives of ordinary citizens. This is not just an example of economic interdependence but of Chinese influence as well. The global economic influence of China has three main dimensions: hope, international relations and social and economic alternatives. Economy is the vital component of the Chinese worldview. For Chinese political elites, economy comes first. A country which has managed to create such a level of economic dependency doesn’t need hard power to bring down its rival.

It is not the case with the US only. Economic dependence on China has created such a trap for the other countries, which is hard to escape. India, which has been vying for regional and global influence with China, is also trapped in a catch-22 due to this factor. China has provided the world with social and economic alternatives. More than that, it has given the peoples hope. The country is hungry for success and eager for adaptation. Change and adjustments to the changes are the two most important ingredients of its domestic and international policies. Combined together, it becomes recipe of its unconventional success.

Before the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) was discarded, the US enjoyed a greater degree of influence there. But now that TPP is discarded, they are looking up to China only because of economic opportunities and incentives. Philippine parted ways with the US and Prime Minister of Singapore, Lee Hsien Loong questioned the US credibility, “How does anybody (in the region) can believe in the US anymore?” Australia, Japan and South Korea are also worried over being treated as “not even close to allies.” Other than leaders, the investors, government officials and trade experts are stunned at the US indifference. Eminent columnist of New York Times, Thomas L. Friedman quoted senior Hong Kong officials in his article saying, “After America stopped TPP, everyone is now looking to China.” Carrie Lam, the new chief executive of Hong Kong said that countries like Australia are reaching out to Hong Kong for forging deeper trade ties after America has pulled TPP down. She said, “It’s a pity that Americans are leaving but this will give our country the opportunity to lead.”

All these developments suggest that economy is not only a means to growth and development but to influence also. Not military but economy is the key to Chinese influence.

Most often, it is claimed that China’s future behaviour is uncertain and it may follow the trajectory of an aggressive power. This thinking stirs doubts and nurtures uncertainty about China’s use of hard power. Especially, skirmishes in the South China Sea lead many to believe that Beijing is flexing its military muscles. Interesting it is that the US which is no geographical proximity with the Southeast Asia and has no territorial disputes to settle with China keeps its military forward deployed in the region. More interesting it is that Beijing doesn’t claim its territory lost to Russia in the Qing Dynasty but asserts its sovereignty in the tiny islands scattered in the sea. The islands are considered as a part of national identity which the Chinese Socialist leaders wished to conserve after the Red Revolution. It is more of defensive in nature than offensive. No country stands challenging its sovereignty in its immediate neighbourhood. The concern arises only when it asserts its jurisdiction in other countries, which China has none so far. So the use of military might not only go against common sense but the Chinese rationale of success and development also.

Muslim Converts: 1 — Dr Tim Winter: 21 July, 2017 "Daily Times"

Dr. Tim Winter, or Shaykh Abdal Hakim Murad, is one of Europe's most prominent Muslim scholars and an English convert to Islam. Winter studied at Oxford University, Cambridge University, Al-Azhar University in Cairo, and the University of London and is currently a professor at Cambridge University and dean of Cambridge Muslim College, which opened in 2009. I have known him for several years and my research team interviewed him in Cambridge for my projecton Islam in Europe, Journey into Europe.

A native of London,  Winter converted to Islam in the late 1970s, at the age of 19, when he was an undergraduate student at Cambridge. He noted that at the time many English people conceived of Islam as "something you'd encounter when you were serving with the colonial office or as a missionary, but otherwise it was not there on the English radar at all, for good or for ill." He also noted, "There were quite a lot of people also coming into Islam at that time. There's perhaps 100,000 converts in the U.K. at the moment."

Winter became a Muslim after exploring some of the world's great faiths and what he described as "the usual kind of teenage late-night soul searching." He entered Cambridge as a "freelance monotheist," searching for the right spiritual path.

Following his undergraduate career,  Winter went on to live in the Middle East for seven years to learn more about his newfound faith. Upon returning to Britain, Winter began his multifaceted career working with the British Muslim community, first "on the preaching circuit" in English mosques, then by beginning his own film production company, which produces lectures for "Islamic TV stations here and some other features as well."

The role models Winter looked up to in his life and career included prominent early English Muslim converts such as Lord Stanley, who in 1869 became the first Muslim member of the House of Lords, and Abdullah Quilliam, who founded England's first mosque in Liverpool in 1889.

Discussing British identity, Winter argued that there had been a "post-imperial unraveling" of British identity. Winter said that income inequality particularly was an increasing problem in British society: "One percent of the British population owned more assets than the poorest 55 percent of the British population."

Such uncertainty is creating a space for the rightwing in Europe.  While Europe's identity is actually being eroded by globalization, Hollywood, and McDonalds, he explained, people have focused on the visibly different Muslims. This is alarming because Europe has a "dark side," and has historically been less tolerant than other societies: "The Middle East was historically much more tolerant than traditional Europe."

 

The British Muslim community is a success story in many ways. The mosques are packed everywhere, which must mean we’re doing something right

Winter noted that the number of converts has increased in the United Kingdom-remarkably, even as "public attitudes toward Islam have hardened." As dean of the Cambridge Muslim College, Winter works to ensure that top graduates are fully engaged with British society and are able to "relate religion to the modern world" and bridge "Islamic traditionalism and Western postmodernity." Students are taught British classic literature beginning with Beowulf and including the works of Chaucer and Shakespeare. Interfaith engagement is also a major pillar of the work of the College and students make an annual visit to the Vatican where they meet the Pope and stay in a monastery.

Speaking of the challenges facing the Muslim community, Winter said, "The mosques are full, but the message in the mosques is not always ideal.... there's a sense of disconnect, a hiatus, between the discourse of the leadership and what the masses actually need."

Winter was also concerned about the manner in which the British state has interacted with and antagonized the Muslim community, and how this has influenced Muslims' interactions with the state, religious scholarship, and wider society. He is particularly worried about British Muslim youth, who he said "feel misrepresented, disenfranchised, bullied, alienated from many of the things that the state is doing."

Still, Winter said, "The British Muslim community is a success story in many ways. The mosques are packed everywhere, which must mean we're doing something right. The community's growing very fast, establishing itself economically, creating an increasingly positive relationship with existing state and non-governmental agencies within society."

As a convert from the Anglican Church, Winter said one striking difference between the faith traditions he has noticed is the striking contrast between the pomp and circumstance of the Church and the simplicity of Islam. As a Muslim, he greatly values the faith's adherence to "A pure monotheism which allows me to revere all the founders of the monotheistic faiths: Islam is inclusive, and uncompromising; pure prophecy."

When asked how relations between Muslims and non-Muslims can be improved, Winter said that Muslims need to stand up for themselves and look to the core values of Islam and in doing so they can help Europe. "We're already an indispensable part of what makes Europe work," he said."If we can move that forward so that we become the great harbingers of ethics and compassion and neighborliness, in an increasingly atomized and self-oriented, materialistic Europe, then I think we'll have justified our presence here."

Winter also urged "Muslim communities.... to engage more with the political process to try and reduce the danger of further British military adventures in the Middle East which usually result in instability and a growth in extremist recruitment."

Joining G-20 by 2030: 19 July, 2017 "Express Tribune"

Pakistan is likely to become the world's 20th largest economy by 2030, outpacing Thailand, Autrailia, Malaysia, Poland, South Africa and Netherlands. This has been predicted by the international management cosultancy Pricewaterhousecopers (PWC) it its report titled 'The world in 2050'. The finance minister in his budget speech 2017-18 underscored the "need to re-dobule our efforts to join the top 20 global economies even earlier than already predicted 2030." The PWC lists Nigeria, Vietnam and Pakistan as fast-movers over the next 35 years but with the caveat that the "projection should be seen as indicating the potential for growth, rather than a gurrentee that this potential will be realised." more....

Can Pakistan and Aghanistan develop a rational relationship?: 19 July, 2017 "Express Tribune"

Pakistan's greatest foreign policy challenge is to normalise relations with afghanistan. Although Pakistan has years of experience in dealing with our western neighbour, regrettably our policy towards it lacks clarity and is heavily security biased. Ever since Aghan jihad and right up to now Pakistan's policy towards Afghanistan has been India-centric. This distortion has led us to support various militant groups of Afghanistan and thereby damaging our relations both with Kabul and Washington. A stage has now reached that if not corrected, it could invite increased hospitality for the US and Afghanistan, and provide India political support to continue taking a hardline towards us. more...

Pakistan at 70: 15 July, 2017 "Daily Times"

Shamima Khatoon was 18-years-old at the time of partition. Her father-in-law was the President of the All-India Muslim League in Delhi. When the closely-knit, extended family decided to migrate to Pakistan, they flew into the new country by air and settled in Sargodha. However, having left a capital city, the family soon decided to move to the capital of the new country. In Karachi, they were warmly welcomed by Yusuf Haroon.

Shamima Khatoon had gotten engaged to one of her first cousins at the time of partition. At that time, women in her family used to observe strict purdah. Although her father had wanted her to get an education, Shamima's father-in-law disapproved of the notion. In keeping with the times and societal norms, Shamima's father-in-law threatened to break the engagement if she went to school. Hence, her father arranged for her education at home. He taught her mathematics on his own, whilst a widow was hired to teach her Urdu at home.

In Delhi, Shamima Khatoon's family had seven houses at the time of partition. One member from each household had stayed back to send belongings left behind in Delhi to Pakistan later. Amongst those staying behind was Shamima Khatoon's husband, who eventually migrated to Pakistan after sending over family possessions. The family had migrated to Pakistan only with a few suitcases.

Shamima Khatoon recalls that her husband was educated at Aligarh University. He was quite close to General Zia-ul Haq, since he was a member of Zia's Sharia Court. "He had participated actively in the Pakistan Movement and later played a significant role as a member of the judiciary," she says. Her father-in-law, Shuja-ul Haq, was the President of the Muslim League and had also contributed greatly to the Pakistan Movement. Going further back in time, Shamima says one of her ancestors had been a subedar during British Raj and he was awarded a sword in recognition of his services.

Human crisis in Kashmir: 15 July, 2017 "Pakistan Observer"

High Scale disturbance in Indian occupied Kashmir in the aftermath of martyrdom of popular Burhan Wani in July 2016 together with the fast paced development of CPEC and Pakistan's economic revival have paniked India. Besides stepping up human right abuses in IOK and terrorism in Pakistan through its proxics, Narendra Modi, Ajit Doval and Rajnath Singh openly thretened to detach balchistan, Gilgit-Baldistan and Azad Kashmir from Pakistan. India resorted to series of false flag operations in IOK to give an impression that Pakistan is supporting insurgency in Kashmir. To give strength to India allegation, Afghanistan was tutored to sing the same song of cross border terrorism. more...

US ditched Pakistan again: 15 July, 2017 "Pakistan Observer

History teaches us a lesson that the US always ditched Pakistan. They have done it again. To appease Indian Prime Minister Mr. Modi, USA has designated Hizbul Mujahideen chief Syed Salah -ud-din, they freedom fighter for Kashmiri people, s Specially Designated Global Terrorist. Since 9/11 attacks in 2001, Syed Salah-ud-din is the only Kashmiri freedom fighter to make to that infamous list. It is in continuation to the prolouge of US President Donald trump where at an "Islamic" summit in Riyadh he earmarked India as a victim of terror and completely ignored Pakistan, its "front line state" a mojor non-NATO ally, despite ranking fourth in the Global Terrerism Index of most effective states. more...

Pakistan at 70: 14 July, 2017 "Daily Times"

Shamima Khatoon was 18-years-old at the time of partition. Her father-in-law was the President of the All-India Muslim League in Delhi. When the closely-knit, extended family decided to migrate to Pakistan, they flew into the new country by air and settled in Sargodha. However, having left a capital city, the family soon decided to move to the capital of the new country. In Karachi, they were warmly welcomed by Yusuf Haroon.

Shamima Khatoon had gotten engaged to one of her first cousins at the time of partition. At that time, women in her family used to observe strict purdah. Although her father had wanted her to get an education, Shamima's father-in-law disapproved of the notion. In keeping with the times and societal norms, Shamima's father-in-law threatened to break the engagement if she went to school. Hence, her father arranged for her education at home. He taught her mathematics on his own, whilst a widow was hired to teach her Urdu at home.

In Delhi, Shamima Khatoon's family had seven houses at the time of partition. One member from each household had stayed back to send belongings left behind in Delhi to Pakistan later. Amongst those staying behind was Shamima Khatoon's husband, who eventually migrated to Pakistan after sending over family possessions. The family had migrated to Pakistan only with a few suitcases.

Shamima Khatoon recalls that her husband was educated at Aligarh University. He was quite close to General Zia-ul Haq, since he was a member of Zia's Sharia Court. "He had participated actively in the Pakistan Movement and later played a significant role as a member of the judiciary," she says. Her father-in-law, Shuja-ul Haq, was the President of the Muslim League and had also contributed greatly to the Pakistan Movement. Going further back in time, Shamima says one of her ancestors had been a subedar during British Raj and he was awarded a sword in recognition of his services.

India's age of extremism: 14 July, 2017 "Express Tribune"

Earlier this week India's flag carrier introduced a change that has come to symbolise the world's most populous democracy descent into the extremes paradigm. Flyers abroad Air India will no longer have the option of enjoying a non-vegetarian meal. The change that Air India customers will be experiencing is part of an aggressive compaign across India against beef products and, unfortunately by extension, users of beef products spearheaded by the ultra-nationalist Rashtriya Swayaamsevak Sangh. The RSS, a group once banned by the British Indian Government, and thrice banned by the new Delhi, has many claims to infamy, often being sitted as the Prime instigater of communal tensions across India. more...

Tensions in the region: 14 July, 2017 "Express Tribune"

Tensions are escalationg between India and China over the construction of road by china at tri-junction with bhutan. At the unmarked border in the remote tri-junction, they are as many as 3,000 troops developed by both nation. The standoff between the two most populous countries is the longest since the 1962 war. But this time the situation seems to be quite grim. Both regional rivals claims that they are more resourceful and skilled than they used to be 55 years ago.

The Donglang region is important for both China and India. Located in Tibet's Yadong County, it is a disputed area between Bhutan and China. The region has a strategic significance as it provides India a link to its north eastern states, more...

Pakistan at 70: 13 July, 2017 "Daily Times"

Ijaz Hussain Khan, a veteran Pakistani cricketer, shares his memories about the city of Jalandhar, sporting activities in British India and his family's recollection of days leading up to Independence and migration to Pakistan.

Khan says Jalandhar used to be referred to as doaaba because of its location between Sutlej and Beas rivers. The water supplied to the city was extremely sweet, he says." Jalandhar had a population of less than a lakh comprising both Muslims and Hindus; and life was calm and peaceful," he says, "There were areas where Hindus and Muslimshad lived side by side over multiple generations. They respected each other.All this changed in 1947 as riots broke out in the city."

However, he recalls, the neighbourhood where his family was living remained unaffected. "My elders stayed in Jalandhar for some days even after the partition," he says.

Khan says real troubles started with the arrival of Hindu migrants from areas now included in Pakistan. "There were Hindu families arriving in the city carrying mutilated bodies of their relatives. This raised communal temperatures in the city. Hindu residents sought revenge from Muslims," he says. It was amid this chaos that Khan's elders were advised by their Hindu neighbours to leave. "They said the city was no longer safe for Muslims," he says.

Discussing the sporting scene in Jalandhar, Khan says the city was known for its cricket competitions. Among Muslims in Jalandhar, Pathan families dominated the fields of cricket and hockey. Prominent Indian and later-day Pakistani cricketers Muhammad Nisar,Haroon Khan, and Javaid Burkihad come from Jalandhar, he says.

"Muhammad Nisar rose to become one of the world's fastest bowlers of his time. Nazir Ali and Wazir Ali were both brothers. Ali brothers, Dr. Jahangir and Jilani Khan represented Jalandhar in the All India Cricket Team in 1936. Six of the 11 players in the All India Cricket Team in 1932 and 1936 were from Jalandhar. Hockey team also had many players from Jalandhar who went on to compete in the Olympics.

"When Pakistan became an independent country, and various sports teams were formed in universities, boys of Jalandhar dominated the scene. Government College's cricket team consisted of six players from Jalandhar," Khan says.

Khan recalls that his grandmother's brother, Muhammad Mehmood Khan, had been among the pioneers of club cricket in Lahore. "He was calledbaba-e-cricket," he says.

Though there were many clubs in the city, Khan says Crescent club and a club formed by NawabMamdot were the most famous of them all. "MehmoodKhan remained the captain of theMamdot cricket club for 17 years before Partition," he adds.

Lahore Gymkhana was known for its sporting events. "The clubhad been reserved only for the British. Muslims were not allowed to become a member. Ayub Karamat was the first Muslim to become a member of the Gymkhana," he says, adding that his uncle also later became a member of the club. In 1932, his uncle went to England with the cricket team and stayed there for the next seven years. "He returned after having completed his PhD studies," he says.

Khan's uncle had started playing cricket at Islamia College. "Not many Muslims used to be educated back then. When my uncle went to London with the team, the King of England was very enthusiastic to find out that he was the only graduate degree-holder in the team. He shook hands with him twice," he says.

Khan says he had learnt from his uncle that he was nine-years-old at the time of partition. "My uncle said that the train on which our family arrived at Lahore had a Hindu driver. He kept the speed of the train very low. It took us three hours to cover a 50-mile distance from Jalandhar to Amritsar," he says.

Khan says the driver stopped the train at Amritsar. "When Muslim guards asked him to restart the train and resume the journey, he refused citing orders from the station master. Some Muslim guards later managed to get in touch with the station master at Lahore who was a Muslim. They told him about the driver's refusal to resume the journey," he says.

The station master in Lahore warned his counterpart in Amritsar that trains carrying Hindu migrants to India would not be allowed to leave Lahore station, if the train stopped at Amritsar was not asked to resume journey. "The strategy worked and the driver resumed journey," Khan says, "When our train crossed Wagha border, the train at Lahore station was then allowed to resume its journey towards Amristar."

Khan dispels the notion that communal attacks at partition were one-sided. Hindu, Sikh and Muslim communities all had blood on their hands, he says. "In Lahore, Sikhs were attacked by Muslims. There were so many deaths that Jawaharlal Nehru had to intervene," he says.

Khan went on to play cricket for Pakistan Railways. Later, he joined the Gymkhana team for a year. He also got selectedfor the Government College and Punjab University teams. Eventually, he became a member of the National Cricket Team.

Taking concrete steps for Kashmir: 13 July, 2017 "Daily Times"

Farooq Dar was walking along the road on his way home when Indian military personnel surrounded him and later tied him up to the front of a military jeep. He was used as a human shield for the whole day as military convoy went from village to village.

Javiad Ahmad Ahanger, a young boy ready to start college, was sleeping at his home. It was the August of 1990 and the armed conflict in Srinagar was at its peak. The Indian Army had been looking for one Javiad Ahmed Bhatt, shouting his name in the streets at night. Javiad Ahanger, hearing the army shouting panicked and jumped out the window and hasn’t been seen since then. The ordeal of his mother, Parveena Ahangar, has been well documented since. Parveena later started an NGO called Association of Parents of Disappeared Persons (APDP) in Indian Administered Kashmir to raise awareness about the missing people in Indian Administered Kashmir. The NGO estimates the number of missing people to be at least 8-10000.

Firstly, any solution to the Kashmir conflict mandates a de-militarisation of the region along with an elimination of heavy-handed tactics adopted by the Indian state in Indian Jammu and Kashmir (IJK). Secondly, Pakistan can set an example and strengthen its negotiation position by addressing the grievances of the people of Kashmir area controlled by Pakistan (AJK).

The negotiation process has to be broadly inclusive and mediated by a morally authoritative and disinterested neutral third party. Kashmir consists of various ethnic, linguistic and religious groups. While Muslims are certainly the majority, it would be wrong to exclude other groups such as Hindu Pandits, Sikh community and the Tibetans. Likewise, various political organisations have formed to represent segments of Kashmiri society. They all have to be invited to the negotiating table. One of the reasons that Oslo peace accords failed, is because they failed to bring Hamas to the negotiation table. Therefore, the Oslo peace accords had a handicap in the process to begin with. Likewise, the success of the Good Friday agreement is in part because all parties were invited to the negotiation table.

Talks between India and Pakistan have failed partly because of the absence of a neutral thirty party mediator. The third-party mediator between the Palestinians and Israelis was the United States. However, the US supported Israel. Therefore, it was not able to hold Israel to the accords. This is illustrated by its failure to check Israeli settlement building in the Occupied Palestinian territories. The recent peace process mediated between the Colombian government and FARC rebels was mediated by the Vatican — spearheaded by the Pope and the Cuban government. Both command moral authority and were seen as neutral by the parties involved. Therefore, negotiations have been successful.

In Kashmir, no natural mediator comes to mind. China has a territorial stake. Russia is historically seen as an Indian ally while the US is always an interested party. Therefore, negotiations need to take place possibly in secret with a mutually agreed third party mediator.

However, before we can even consider the framework for negotiations India needs to demilitarise Kashmir valley and accept the Kashmiris as legitimate political actors. Indian controlled Kashmir is a heavily militarised zone. There are 700,000 military personnel deployed, that is one soldier for every 18 Kashmiri residents. Kashmiris have to negotiate through hundreds of check posts and their lives are even harder during curfews.

 

The fact that the people of AJK still have no representation in Pakistan’s Parliament is a constant cause of agitation among the residents of the region

When Kashmiris protest militarisation of their land, it is the military that heeds them a brutal reply. For example, in the clashes that erupted in July 2016, at least 80 civilians were killed. Furthermore, the Indian military’s incessant use of pellet-firing shotguns has blinded hundreds of civilians last year. Therefore, de-militarisation of Kashmir is a pre-requisite to bring parties from IJK on to the negotiation table.

Pakistan on the other hand, must play a positive role such as taking further steps to empower people and institutions in AJK. The fact that the people of AJK still have no representation in Pakistan’s parliament even after almost seven decades is a constant cause of agitation among the residents of the region. The idea is that Pakistan should show the people of AJK and Gilgit-Baltistan a road map for full democratic representation to show to the world. Doing that would also mean it must be a fair player in helping India demilitarise IJK.

I have laid out the details of what a reconciliatory framework would look like which needs to be adopted to reach a permanent solution to the Kashmir conflict. The framework would be a broadly inclusive dialogue process that brings all concerned parties to the table. For any such framework to succeed, the importance of the presence of a neutral and disinterested mediator is also highlighted.

This framework must be preceded by two steps. First being the demilitarisation of Kashmir by India. And second being the democratisation of people and political institutions in IJK by India and in AJK and GB by Pakistan.

Who is Bullying Bhutan, China or India?: 13 July, 2017 "Pakistan Today"

On 26th June 2017, The Times of India posted a video on YouTube claiming to show Chinese and Indian troops jostling and shoving each other on what The Times commentator said is "Indian Land" on the "Indian Side" of the sikkim border. He accused China of "Aggression" and the Chinese troops of being "extremely aggressive".

A few days later, it emerged that the dispute had nothing to do with Indian land. The China-India confrontation was taking place on the China-Bhutan border. Yet chinese and Indian media quickly roused patriotic fervour and railed against each other.

Chinese media said India would be "kicked out" , "taught a bitter lesson" and "suffer greater losses than in 1962." One chinese editorial mocked India's claimed to be defending Bhutan and accused India of treating Bhutan as a "Vassal State" and forcing it to support India. more...

The Indo-Israeli bonhomie: 13 July, 2017 "The News"

Since the contemparary international system is largely anarchic, it is not astonishing to watch two oppressive and ultra-right wing governments overt embracing each other despite thier gross human rights violations in Kashmir and Palestine.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi has become the first premier of his country to pay a three-day visit to Israel, an opprensive state that has colonised and suppressed the Palestinians since 1948. Though India and Israel have lately increased thier cooperations in the fields of agriculture and information technology, it is the burgeoning military and intelligence coordination between both the countries that made Modi revisit India's foreig policy by embracing Israel at the cost of the long-suffering Palestanians. more...

Madar-i-Millat laid to rest: 12 July, 2017 "Dawn"

AMIDST scenes marked with feeling of devotion, solemnity and reverence, Madar-i-Millat Mohtarma Miss Fatima Jinnah was laid to rest alongside the Quaid-i-Azam's Mazar at 12-35 p.m. on Monday.

A record crowed of hundreds of thousand of grief-stricken citizens -- young and old, high and low -- accompanied the funeral procession along the four-mile long route from the Polo Ground to the Mazar to pay thier last homage to the memory of the great lady.

In the grave, 120 feet from the Quaid-i-Azam's Mazar and near the graves of Shaheed-i-Millat Liaquat Ali Khan and Sardar Abdur Rab Nishtar, Madar-i-Millat's body was lowered and the last rites were performed in the presence of two Central Ministers [Foreign Minister Syed Sharifuddin Pirzada and Minister of Agriculture and works A.H.M.S Doha], the C-in-C, Navy, Rear Admiral S.M Ahsan, Military Secretaries to the President and Governors of West and East Pakistan. more...

Why Kashmir celebrates Pakistan's Victory: 12 July, 2017 "Daily Times"

Pakistan won an international Cricket championship against India by 181 runs — a considerably huge margin. Indians were obviously hurt and more so because they felt their team had not given their best. However, there was joy and jubilation over Pakistan’s triumph in Indian-held Kashmir. Alternatively, this joy among Kashmiris was also read as excitement over India’s defeat.

In a valley which hosts a large segment of the Indian army, where guns are always ready to strike protesting Kashmiris, and where the Indian state can resort to any tactic to undermine the Kashmiris’ struggle for independence, celebrating Pakistan’s victory is not a small step. It does not only speak about the bravery of the Kashmiris, it also highlights their disdain for India and its policy towards Kashmir. Kashmiris also wrap the coffins of their martyrs in Pakistani flags.

 Over the last one year since the martyrdom of Burhan Wani, a new insurgency has broken out in Kashmir which the state has brutally oppressed by using rape, pellet wounds, custodial torture, curfews and ruthless gunfire against protesting crowds.

Kashmir is not just a territorial dispute between India and Pakistan. It is an ideological tussle that will never cease to inflame emotions unless the Indian government takes into consideration the will of the Kashmiri people. 

The 1989 insurgency broke out in the wake of rigged elections. To date, Kashmir has only had governments that represent Delhi’s interests more than the interest of the Kashmiris.  The current spate of violence by the Kashmiris is also a backlash from rigged elections. The writing on the wall is simple to understand, though.

The BJP government has been ruling India with an anti-Muslim mind-set. Cases of Muslims lynched over eating beef and the crass treatment meted out to minorities who observe their separate faiths has exposed India’s false claims to secularism.

Sane voices in India have been warning the government of losing Kashmir if the valley is not allowed to follow a path of its own choosing. People in Kashmir want to see an end to the deployment of the army in their state which has virtually stripped Kashmiris from their rights to free movement and speech. 

A slight aberration — depending on what that means to a given officer — by a commoner could either lead to torture, blindness or even death. Congress leader Sonia Gandhi has recently criticised India’s flawed approach towards Kashmir. Even Mehbooba Mufti, CM Kashmir, has criticized BJP for pursuing the wrong strategy to quell the insurgency.

Kuldip Nayar, a veteran Indian writer, has openly said that Kashmir is slipping from India’s hands. However, the people’s open aggression against the state shows that Kashmir has already slipped from India’s hands and what India is merely holding onto is just a piece of land.

 

In a valley which hosts a large segment of the Indian Army, where guns are always ready to strike protesting Kashmiris, and where the Indian state can resort to any tactic to undermine
the Kashmiris’ struggle for independence — celebrating Pakistan’s victory is not a small step

Whether India accepts it or not, the reality is that the current struggle for independence in Kashmir is not simply sponsored by Pakistan. The youth of Kashmir has taken up the fight for freedom. Not that there is no interference from non-state actors in Kashmir, in the larger scheme of things, Kashmir’s struggle is more indigenous and less reliant on outside sources. The question then arises — how does this new development exonerate Pakistan of its responsibility to support Kashmir?

Looking into the enthusiasm of the Kashmiri people for their association with Pakistan, the responsibility gets bigger and places the onus on Pakistan to intensify its diplomatic efforts to realign international opinion in favour of the Kashmiri people.

Lately, Pakistan’s response to the Kashmir issue has been lukewarm. The parliamentarians who were asked to rally international support were found ill prepared to carry out this task. However, with the initiation of CPEC — which is bound to change the dynamics of this region — the Kashmir issue can be resolved. Pakistan should seek China and Russia’s involvement in the Kashmir issue just as they are involved in solving the Afghan conundrum.

Though there is a difference between Afghanistan and Kashmir, and China or Russia’s interest in Afghanistan emanates from the presence of the US in the region, they must, for the sake of peace and stability, stop Kashmir from bleeding. Pakistan too must play a more robust role in seeing this happen.

Where do we stand at 70?: 12 July, 2017 "Express Tribune"

As Pakistan turns 70, if finds itself politicaly half drowned in Panama leaks. Confrontation between the PML-N and the PTI is soaring by the day and the polity remains sharply divided over issues. It seems as though political leadership is locked in an existential battle. The JIT's damning report exposes the bank ruptecy of the ruling political class. The economic picture is no brighter with rupee recently taken a sharp fall to cater to the growing deficit in the external account.

What's more worrying is that the economy fundamentally remains dependant on foreign tranfusion. And our mandarins give the assurance of CPEC as though it is the panacea for all our economic and financial ills. This is not the belittle the contribution it can make in strengtning our economy provided it is implemented. more...

At a crossroads: 12 July, 2017 "The News"

Pakistan's tenuous relations with the US took a turn for the worse last year when Congress refused the package to largely fund the purchase of eight F-16 aircraft for the Pakistan Air Force. Pakistan Abandoned the purchase and preferred to look for other options.

This punitive measure by the US was in addition to withholding hundreds of millions in the Coalition Support Fund due to be reimbursed to compensat expenses incurred by Pakistan in the fight against terror. more...

 

Population Planning 2020: 11 July, 2017 "Express Tribune"

Once the national census results are released, we'll know how many people live in the country. By 2050 the population will rise substantially from whatever figure is currently stands at. If "demography is destiny," what does the future hold for us? Will we become an overpopulated, poverty stricken, ignorant and bigoted nation, clingling to its medieval traditions, or modern , educated and progressive?

The choice is in our hands -- or rather, in the hands of our policy makers. Just before the Panamagate scandal, this nation was, according to financial experts, on the threshold of an economic upswing, draining IMF loans over and the worst finally behind us. Greater provincial autonomy with the 18th amendment introduced new strategies and plans, including for social sector development and population planning. more...

Gunfight at Himalayan ‘chicken neck’: 07 July, 2017 "Daily Times"

Accusing China of ‘instigating’ the recent military stand-off in the high Himalayas Indian Defence Minister Arun Jaitley has bragged that India today was very different from what it was in 1962.

Next, Indian Army Chief General Bipin Rawat in the same context boasted that India could take on a “two-and-a-half front war”, possibly referring to China, Pakistan and Kashmiri freedom struggle.

China’s alleged instigation: Beijing is building a road in a ‘disputed’ territory claimed by Bhutan.

In October 1962 the world’s largest boundary dispute involving more than 120,000 square miles of territory led to a war in high Himalayas. Within no time Chinese troops cleared all Indian posts on what was their side of the Line of Actual Control (LAC).

On November 20, 1962 China declared a unilateral cease-fire and withdrawal to 20 kilometres behind what China described as LAC. During the course of the conflict two Indian divisions were completely routed.

This Sino-Indian border had remained hot until 1993 when India in order to focus more on its economy and on Pakistan conceded the Chinese designated LAC signing an agreement under which about 16 or so alignments on the boundary-line were to be settled through negotiations. In effect, the two countries promised not to seek to impose or enforce their versions of the boundary except at the negotiating table.

So, China and the world at large were taken aback when just a week before Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to the US last month, the Indian troops violating the 1993 border agreement tried to forcibly stop the construction of a road within the Chinese territory, thus seemingly provoking Beijing to retaliate militarily.

India today, indeed, is not what it was in 1962. But China too is not what it was then. So, militarily India even today is not in a position to force China to agree to New Delhi’s version of LAC.

Moreover, India needs China’s vote to enter the Nuclear Suppliers Groups (NSG) as well as to get a permanent seat on the UN Security Council. Bilaterally, China is now India’s largest trading partner in goods. India is also a member of Shanghai Cooperation Council (SCO) and sits with China in an alliance called BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa). It is also the second largest contributor to the China-led Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) and is a member of New Development Bank (NDB) floated by BRICS.

But perhaps India continues to suffer from its self-perceived threat of a non-existent Chinese encirclement strategy. India perhaps sees an endorsement of its encirclement concerns in China’s One Belt One Road (OBOR) Initiative as well as in the Chinese built Pakistani port of Gwadar, overlooking the Indian occasion which is an essential part of Pakistan-China Economic Corridor (CPEC) project. That is perhaps why it is opposed to the CPEC and the main reason why it boycotted the OBOR inaugural in Mid-May in Beijing.

 

Analysing the comparative hard and soft power strengths of the two — the Chinese national media has concluded that India cannot afford a showdown with Beijing on border issues

So, perhaps before leaving for the US PM Modi had wanted to send a message to President Trump reassuring him of India’s willingness to take on China as Washington’s proxy in return for the hardware and other material and moral support required to pin China down in a wasteful combat so that it does not challenge the US global hegemony and at the same time also helps save India from Chinese encirclement threat. Therefore,  the deliberate provocation.

Modi’s immediate dash to Israel following his return from the US even at the cost of losing Iran (no more in the good books of US administration) also seems like a desperate attempt by India to win over the US across the political spectrum — both the ruling Republicans and the out of power Democrats — to ensure guaranteed help in encircling China to neutralise its OBOR initiative and snuff out the CPEC project.

Iran has reacted promptly by talking about human rights’ violations in Indian Occupied Kashmir for the first time in many years. The fate of Indian funded Iranian Chabahar sea port also appears in jeopardy.

The fact of the matter is both China and India are too big to be encircled, no matter how you go about trying to do it.

China has very rightly accused India of using Bhutan as a “cover- up” for the “illegal entry” into Doklam area that belongs to China.

When Indian soldiers went in to halt road building work the PLA destroyed Indian bunkers. Talks between commanders in the area haven’t helped ease the tension.

A spokesperson for the Chinese Foreign Ministry, Geng Shuang has asked India to pull back the soldiers adding “China will take all necessary measures to safeguard its territorial sovereignty,” he warned.

Beijing has accused Indian soldiers of crossing from the north eastern state of Sikkim into its Tibetan territory to stop the road building and said it controls the territory under an 1890 accord made with Britain.

The serious nature of the current crisis, if not carefully handled by both sides, could lead to a major confrontation in the Himalayas. As many as 3,000 troops are said to have been deployed by each side in a “virtually eyeball-to-eyeball confrontation”.

The tri-junction in the Sikkim sector is also of strategic significance for New Delhi. The area is not far from the narrow strip of land called the “chicken neck” which connects the Northeast to the rest of India. This narrow strip is the lifeline for the region and the Indian Army in the Northeast gets its suppliers through this region. In case of a border war, China can quickly cut off the main supply route to the Northeast and ensure that Indian Army’s supplies are stopped. So this does impinge greatly on New Delhi’s own security considerations.

Official Chinese media has demanded that this time the Indian side should be taught the rules of the game and that it should be made to realise that there is a price to pay for such provocations.

Analysing the comparative hard and soft power strengths of the two the Chinese national media has concluded that India cannot afford a showdown with China on border issues, citing data such as India’s economic output, which is one-quarter of China’s, and its annual defence budget, which is just one-third of China’s.

Why political parties don’t care about FATA and Balochistan: 05 July, 2017 "Daily Times"

During the past two weeks, Pakistan witnessed a terrorist attack in Quetta, devastating twin bombings in Parachinar and the tragic oil tanker inferno in Bahawalpur. The way the government, media and mainstream political parties reacted to these incidents spoke volumes about the nature of the Pakistani federation.

Their response to the terrorist attacks in Quetta and Parachinar was muted compared with the Bahawalpur tragedy. No senior government official or political party figure visited either Quetta or Parachinar following the attacks.

In contrast, in the wake of the ghastly oil tanker inferno in Bahawalpur, the prime minister cut short his trip to London and rushed back to Bahawalpur to visit the injured and condole with the victims’ families.

These events have once again revealed the ‘step-motherly treatment’ that FATA and Balochistan receive in Pakistan. More importantly, it has shed light on the traditional apathy of Pakistan’s mainstream parties towards the plight of the people of Balochistan and FATA.

The PML-N, in particular, faces long-standing accusations of catering only to its voter base in Punjab.

The indifferent behaviour of these parties is explained by Pakistan’s majoritarian federal design, which institutionalizes the dominance of Pakistan’s core ethnic group — the Punjabis. The province of Punjab dominates Pakistan’s premier decision-making body ie Parliament and core federal institutions i.e. the bureaucracy and the military.

For now, let’s consider the case of Parliament. The distribution of seats on the basis of population in the National Assembly means the province of Punjab has more seats than all other three provinces combined. Senate, where all provinces have equal representation, was supposed to be the “majority-constraining” institution.

However, lesser powers especially with regards to money bills, fewer votes in joint settings and the indirect method of elections mean the Senate has not been very effective in protecting the interests of smaller provinces.

A weaker senate combined with the fact that Punjab possesses the majority of seats in the NA means that any political party seeking to come to power in Pakistan has to be mindful of the Punjab vote bank.

 

Pakistan’s current federal design makes Balochistan and FATA the least-rewarding political constituencies and thus offers little or no incentive to political parties to care about these regions

As long as Punjab’s voters are happy, a political party can easily afford to ignore other provinces especially Balochistan and FATA. With no provincial legislature, FATA fares the worst of all federating units.

To cut it short, Pakistan’s current federal design makes Balochistan and FATA the least-rewarding political constituencies and thus offers little or no incentive to political parties to care about these regions.

The 18th amendment partially undid the majoritarian character of the Pakistani federation by devolving powers to the provinces and reinvigorating the role of the Council of Common interests (CCI). Owing to resistance from Punjab-based parties, the amendment, however, could not address the concerns of smaller provinces regarding powers of the Senate and the creation of new provinces — the two principal instruments for constraining majoritarianism at the federal level.

Moreover, the return of the pro-centralization PML-N to power, the reluctance of political parties to devolve powers to local governments, and the poor capacity of provinces has meant that even the changes introduced by the 18th amendment have not been a great success.

All this implies that control of, and representation in the Centre continues to have high political value and significance. The challenge is to somehow make parties ruling at the Centre take peripheral regions equally seriously.

The most effective way to achieve this is to alter the institutional rules of the game that political parties follow. Political parties are vote-maximising actors who respond to the incentives presented by the institutional environment in which they operate. These institutional rules need to be modified so that political parties see higher returns and rewards on their political investment in smaller regions.

In this regard, the creation of a pluri-national and more inclusive federation which combines territorial self-rule with consociational government at the centre and re-organises provinces along ethno-national lines, is the best way forward.

Since the 18th amendment has already introduced territorial self-rule, it is high time for ensuring some consociational power-sharing mechanisms at the Centre. This can be done by giving the Senate co-equal powers with the NA in both financial and non-financial matters including money bills, high-level executive appointments, ratification of treaties and other matters affecting the whole federation.

Most importantly, the current indirect elections should be replaced by direct elections of senators by the people of each province through a system of proportional representation. This, combined with enhancing the powers of the Senate would incentivise political parties to care equally about smaller provinces, which will in turn induce more political competition in smaller provinces.

Lastly, boundaries of existing provinces should be re-organised along ethno-national lines and FATA should be either merged with KP or declared a full-pledged independent province in par with other provinces.

Our foreign Policy Challanges: 05 July, 2017 "Express Tribune"

The latest visit of Prime Minister Narendra Modi to the US has been lauded as a great success by both the Indian and Western press. A lot of preparatory work had gone into the trip and, considering the type of relationship shared by the two countries and the congruence of their interests, this was exepted. As regard what was mentioned in the communique and at the news conference about Pakistan is worrisome to say the least.

Over the years, there have been several ups and downs in our relationship with the US but Pakistan's civil and military establishment knew how to react and protect our national interests. One hopes this time too we will manage, but Trump's unpredictibility and tight embrace of the two countries poses a serious challange for Pakistan's foriegn policy. more...

Demographic dividend: 05 July, 2017 "Pakistan Today"

As the world continues to pivot towards digital concepts and tools to solve complex problems - critical governance, public administration and policy issues - more often than not, big data is one such concept that can help in evidence based decision making on a government level. It can become the panacea for all governance woes. Currently the data is being collected from various governmental sources, through NGOs, and from social media but the practice of collecting data is pretty nescent - the entire world's digital data is collecting is just past few years. The current set of data includes demograhpics, psychographics and sociographics etc. However, the data velocity, data volume and data diversity continue to increase. That is why most of the governments are still trying to figure out a way to use the data in effective manner. Pakistan is one such country.

Pakistan is one of the most populous countries in the world, with 2000 million people. Whilst the country faced a number of chalenges - in past because of political instabilty, corruption and red-tapism - there is a small window of opportunity now growing. more...

70 years of US-Pakistan relations: 04 July, 2017 "The Nation"

In 1948, the Quaid-e-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah wrote to President Truman the first message to America from Pakistan for our Independence Day. Speaking of our two nations, he wrote that that the “common desire for order, justice and peace, and their equal wish to contribute to uplift suffering humanity are the best proof, which I hope will lead to the intimate and confident collaboration of our two countries in all matters for our mutual interests.” For over 70 years, America and Pakistan have built a relationship based on these mutual interests, including democracy, stability and security, and economic development in Pakistan and the region.

Our embassy in Islamabad is one of the largest and most modern of our missions worldwide. Its size reflects the many ways in which we cooperate and shows our long-term commitment to ensuring our relationship benefits both of our peoples. Every day, my team works with Pakistani colleagues to promote trade, human development, disease control, economic prosperity, energy efficiency, agricultural production, law enforcement training, educational and professional exchanges, and defence cooperation. America has invested in, supported, and expanded this relationship for reasons of our national interest – as has Pakistan – but the results are mutually beneficial, as they must be in any healthy relationship. We seek a secure, resilient, prosperous, and democratic Pakistan that can contribute those attributes to South Asia.


Our security partnership with Pakistan has been a pillar in the relationship since Pakistan’s formation. Together we promote strategic stability, combat terrorism, and work to help Afghanistan establish a viable peace and reconciliation process. Since 2001, the United States has provided about 629 billion rupees in security assistance grants to Pakistan. These grants have strengthened Pakistan’s counterinsurgency and counterterrorism capabilities, helped support Pakistan’s participation in international peacekeeping operations and maritime task forces, provided equipment and infrastructure, and reinforced our long-term military-to-military relationship. In 2016, Pakistan was also the largest recipient worldwide of US “International Military, Education and Training” grants for the professional development of the Pakistani military.


Pakistan’s military personnel and civilian population have sacrificed and suffered too much at the hands of terrorists. Pakistan’s security operations have reduced the ability of certain militants to use Pakistani territory to conduct cross-border attacks. This is a justifiable source of pride and relief for Pakistanis, and we admire your successes. However, we remain concerned that the Afghan Taliban, and specifically Haqqani militants, continue to violate Pakistan’s sovereignty by using Pakistani soil to plan attacks in Afghanistan, including on our forces and presence there. No state enjoys true sovereignty if its monopoly over arms and force is compromised by armed, non-state actors operating on its soil.


Security and stability start with social resilience; therefore, we focus strongly on supporting Pakistan’s own strategy for economic growth and development. Our 70 years of relations has been marked by strong partnership with the people and government of Pakistan in this regard. Together, we used American grants to help establish key institutions such as the Institute for Business Administration, the Lahore University for Management Sciences, and the Indus Basin Project, as well as build key infrastructure such as the Mangla and Tarbela dams.


Since 2009, we have committed over 524 billion rupees in assistance to advance Pakistan’s development goals: Energy, economic growth, agriculture, education, and health. Our assistance also supports Pakistan’s most vulnerable populations, including women, minorities, and temporarily displaced people. It enables Pakistan’s law enforcement agencies to fight terrorism, meet community policing needs, expand access to justice, maintain law and order, and extend the writ of the state into under-governed areas.


Since 2011, nearly 33 million Pakistanis have benefitted from USAID’s efforts to add more than 2,800 megawatts to the national grid. In December 2016, we signed an agreement to provide over 8.5 billion rupees for the construction of the Kurram Tangi dam in North Waziristan. This partnership will result in the irrigation of more than 16,000 acres of agricultural land and production of 18 megawatts of electricity, enough to benefit 100,000 Pakistanis. Last year, America and the Government of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa completed the 7.5 billion rupee Gomal Zam irrigation project. It will irrigate 191,000 acres in Tank and Dera Ismail Khan Districts and increase business, trade, and jobs for 30,000 households.


Economic development is good for both Pakistan and America. Two-way trade between Pakistan and America amounted to more than 576 billion rupees in 2015; Pakistan exports more to the United States than to any other country. In return, America has consistently ranked among the top sources of foreign direct investment in Pakistan. Small businesses and entrepreneurship can be catalysts for growth in Pakistan as they are in America. Our embassy supports entrepreneurship groups and incubators, including the WECREATE Centre, which helps Pakistani women develop and operate businesses. We want to see continued growth in our bilateral trade and ever more positive trends in Pakistan’s investment climate. Private sector ties create lasting connections between the people of our two nations. What is good for Pakistani prosperity and resilience is good for us, too.


The American people invest more in our Fulbright exchange programme in Pakistan annually than anywhere else in the world, enabling Pakistani students to gain the skills needed to advance their careers and build a prosperous and fulfilling future for themselves and Pakistan. While in America, a Pakistani student is an informal ambassador of Pakistan, no doubt changing perceptions and helping Americans re-examine some of their own assumptions. When they return, we know Pakistani exchange students share their experiences. This deepening of two-way understanding has intangible but invaluable benefits for our overall relationship. There is an active network of 22,000 Pakistani alumni of American exchanges and English-language programmes throughout the country. They work together to contribute to their communities and serve as informal ambassadors of the flourishing Pakistani-American relationship. The highly successful community of Americans of Pakistani origin also contribute to our relationship. We are very proud of prominent Americans of Pakistani origin, including Federal Court Judge Abid Riaz Qureshi and NASA avionics engineer Hibah Rahmani.


Although our bilateral relationship has faced challenges at times in our history, American and Pakistani shared interests have shaped an enduring relationship over seven decades. In an August 14, 1947 message to Governor General Mohammed Ali Jinnah, President Truman congratulated Pakistan on its “emergence among the family of nations” and pledged firm friendship and good will, saying, “The American people anticipate a long history of close and cordial relations with your country. We rejoice with you in the prospect for rapid progress toward the advancement of the welfare of the people of Pakistan.”


In over thirty years as a diplomat, I have learned that the most enduring ties between countries are those made at the people-to-people level. The future depends not just on our leaders, or on our soldiers and diplomats. It depends on our people, and whether this relationship can be shown to benefit their mutual prosperity, stability and security. America is as committed to the relationship with Pakistan and its people today as when Pakistan was born, and will be for many years to come.


Indo-US strategic embrace: 04 July, 2017 "The Nation"

The picture said it all. There was Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi clinging to US President Donald Trump in an embrace as a gesture of appreciation and eagerness for US strategic support to India. Meanwhile, President Trump appeared to relish the prospect of Indo-US strategic partnership serving US national interests. The roots of the Indo-US strategic embrace can be traced to the US decision to counter China’s rapidly growing power and influence in South Asia and the Indian Ocean region by building up India as a counterweight in the post-Cold War era. With this object in mind, the US under President Bush issued a declaration in 2005 of its intent to help build up India as a major power of the 21st century. The process of developing a strategic partnership, however, was not limited to Republican administrations. In fact, it started in earnest under President Clinton, a Democrat, soon after the end of the Cold War in recognition of the importance of the rapidly growing Indian economy, its position as the largest democracy in the world, and its expected role to check the expansion of China’s power and influence in Asia. The process has continued apace in the subsequent years so that now India is categorised by the US as “a Major Defence Partner” entitled to defence cooperation with the US at a level commensurate with that of its closest allies and partners.


The joint statement issued on June 26 after Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s meeting with President Trump in the White House expressed the resolve of the leaders of the two countries to “expand and deepen” their strategic partnership and advance common objectives. It pointed out that these objectives included “combatting terrorist threats, promoting stability across the Indo-Pacific region (read countering China’s growing power and influence), increasing free and fair trade, and strengthening energy linkages.” The joint statement welcomed further Indian contributions to promote Afghanistan’s democracy, stability, prosperity, and security. President Trump and PM Modi also committed to continue close consultations and cooperation in support of Afghanistan’s future.


On the issue of terrorism, the joint statement expressed the determination of the two sides to combat this global scourge and root out terrorist safe havens in every part of the world. India appreciated the US designation of Syed Salahuddin, the Hizbbul Mujahideen leader, as a Specially Designated Global Terrorist. The joint statement further mentioned the commitment of the two leaders to strengthen cooperation against terrorist threats from groups including Al-Qaeda, ISIS, Jaish-e-Mohammad, Lashkar-e-Tayyiba, D-Company, and their affiliates. In a pointed reference to Pakistan, the two leaders called on it “to ensure that its territory is not used to launch terrorist attacks on other countries. They further called on Pakistan to expeditiously bring to justice the perpetrators of the 26/11 Mumbai, Pathankot, and other cross-border terrorist attacks perpetrated by Pakistan-based groups.” This must have been music to the ears of the Indian side. There was no mention whatsoever of the direct involvement of the Indian government and RAW in terrorist activities in Pakistan as conclusively shown by the arrest of Kulbhushan Jadhav, a RAW agent and a serving officer of the Indian navy, in Pakistani Balochistan in April last year on charges of organising acts of terrorism. India has also been behind terrorism in Pakistan by supporting the TTP as a proxy.


As could be expected, the Pakistan Foreign Office expressed it disappointment over the Indo-US joint statement by terming it “unhelpful” in achieving the objective of strategic stability and durable peace in the South Asian region. It also alleged that the joint statement had failed to “address key sources of tension and instability in the region” and had aggravated an already tense situation. Apparently, the Foreign Office was particularly concerned over the Indo-US joint statement’s strong language on terrorist attacks that India alleges originated from Pakistan, the US not raising the issues of human rights violations in the Indian occupied Kashmir and the Indian sponsored terrorist activities in Pakistan, the US sale of high-tech military hardware to India which undermines strategic stability in South Asia, and the recognition of India’s role in Afghanistan.


The Pakistan Foreign Office’s concerns werewell-founded. While the joint statement accepted without any question the Indian allegations of terrorist activities by non-state actors from Pakistan, it totally ignored the incontrovertible evidence of the direct involvement of the Indian government in sponsoring and supporting terrorism in Pakistan. The US claims to be the champion of human rights but it conveniently ignored Indian brutalities perpetrated to suppress the legitimate freedom struggle of the people of Kashmir in IOK, especially since the martyrdom of Burhan Wani last year during Modi’s visit to Washington, DC. Considering that India’s continued military occupation of IOK is in violation of the UN Security Council resolutions, the people of Kashmir are morally and legally justified to wage their liberation struggle to persuade India to come to the negotiating table for a peaceful settlement of this issue. With reference to the designation of Salahuddin as a global terrorist, the Pakistan Foreign Office was right in stressing that “any attempt to equate the peaceful indigenous Kashmiri struggle with terrorism, and to designate individuals supporting the right to self-determination as terrorists is unacceptable.”


Washington has tried to explain its position on various issues related to India and Pakistan by stressing that it does not view its relations with these two countries as a zero-sum game. However, its explanations lack credibility as pointed out earlier. Further, it is quite clear from the statements originating from the US that it attaches much higher priority and importance to its relations with India than to those with Pakistan. According to a recent statement by a senior White House official, the US would like to “deepen” its strategic partnership with India while it was also interested in “continuing cooperation with Pakistan.” As if to remove any ambiguity, the official further stressed that the priorities and the nature of relationship with the two countries were different. Unfortunately, Pakistan’s political leadership, military establishment, and Foreign Office have so far failed to grasp this reality adequately.


There is a definite convergence of the strategic interests of the US and India in the post-Cold War era in a marked contrast with the situation during the Cold War when often their relationship suffered from the divergence of national interests. The past two decades, therefore, have witnessed an inexorable trend towards the growth and development of the Indo-US strategic partnership. This trend will be one of the distinguishing features of the global security environment in the 21st century. As pointed out by me in my book, “Pakistan and a World in Disorder—-A Grand Strategy for the Twenty-First Century”, published recently by Palgrave Macmillan from New York, power rather than principles increasingly would be the arbiter of strategic issues of war and peace in the current century.


In the face of these harsh realities, Pakistan needs to take steps to safeguard its own national interests in the anarchic world of the current century by building up its economic and military strength, strengthening political stability within the country, adopting policies of austerity and self-reliance, lessening its economic and military dependence on the US while maintaining friendly relations and cooperation with it, building up its strategic partnership with China as symbolised by CPEC, and following a low-risk and non-adventurist foreign policy especially in our dealings with India and Afghanistan. Friendship and mutually beneficial cooperation with Afghanistan and Iran are indispensable conditions for Pakistan’s security and economic well-being.

Thank you CIA: 04 July, 2017 "The Nation"

As Raymond Davis’ book raised a storm in Pakistani media, I was contemplating its timing and proliferation through a PDF version. A lot has been said about it by intellectuals, politicians and media gurus resorting to mudslinging and accusations; the target appeared to be Pak Army, ISI and even the judiciary with a veiled reference to political leadership.


Instead of repeating the barbershop gossip in the book, I thought of analysing the role of CIA in fomenting chaos in targeted states. Before the analysis, a brief mention about two other books, Rogue State: A Guide to the World’s Only Superpower by William Blum and Confessions of an Economic Hit-man by John Perkins. These two books were also written by CIA insiders, openly acknowledging the role played by US agencies in creating strategic chaos, political assassinations of leaders in the developing world and how CIA destroyed the economy of targeted states through ruthless imposition of American agenda. Should these books be taken as gospels truths, and US and CIA be taken to ICJ for war crimes?


Why the US has always gotten away with these leaks and books in the past is due to her ability to shape international perceptions is due to a colossus of opinion makers on CIA’s pay roll who have developed a vast network of surrogates in almost every nook and corner of the globe. The only challenge to US chaotic doctrine came from Russian Federation and China as these powers understand the extent and reach of the non-kinetic war machine operated by CIA. President Putin’s first major undertaking to rid Russia of these CIA surrogates was to dismantle their network at home. His strategic counter offensive at international level was through a sophisticated media campaign exposing CIA’s dirty game. More recently, Russians were able to dent US elections and create a wedge in US polity and democratic system.


Coming back to CIA’s latest attempt at creating chaos within Pakistan; what have they tried to achieve, through contractor Raymond Davis’s book? The objectives seem to be simple:-


That the Pakistani politico-military leadership be discredited, by driving a wedge between people of Pakistan and the Pakistan Army and developing a perception that Pakistani leadership can be easily pressurised and coerced.


The timing of the launch of the book, especially its PDF version, indicates the urge to draw maximum from already divided polity and chaos in the rank and file of Pakistan.


Even our village parrots know that Raymond Davis was not a contractor but CIA’s station chief in Pakistan, who was instrumental in expanding black operations in Pakistan through Blackwater, thanks to the liberal visa regime followed by Hussain Haqqani and company.


Why I am thanking CIA for this book is due to five major reasons and factors:


If the release of Raymond Davis came about through a legal disposition and understanding between two states (US and Pakistan); and it was a favour doled out to CIA, why make the whole issue controversial?


CIA is not the only agency with state and international secrets, what if other states start leaking those secret files and stories exposing CIA’s heinous war crimes and sinister campaigns against sovereign states?


Can US diplomats and CIA be trusted by other states for any dealings, open or secret, and why should other states support America to pursue her national interests?


What happened to CIA’s black operations in Pakistan after the departure of Raymond Davis; wasn’t Blackwater dismantled brick by brick in Pakistan?


CIA has also exposed her hollowness by targeting allies like Pakistan, who conducted open and secret diplomacy to help US in common and shared strategy to defeat terrorism in the region; can Indians and other US allies trust the CIA anymore?


For Pakistani audience, some food for thought:


If all books written by a white man or woman are to be taken as the Gospel’s Truth, why not discuss all other books like Confessions of a Diplomatic Hit-man and the Rouge State and take CIA and US leadership to ICJ for war crimes?


Statecraft in the 21st century cannot be executed through twitter blitz and barbershop gossip in the media, it requires deep insight of drivers, movers and shakers of domestic and international system and cool calculations of the nuances of the chaos doctrine.


Pakistan and her neighbourhood is infested with chaos generators and hostile agencies’ surrogates; can we afford accentuated chaos, just because an ex-CIA station chief is spilling selective beans?


The realignment of international players in South Central Asia and the greater Middle East, especially the growing potential of Pakistan as the zipper of civilizations and a conduit of energy and commerce through expanding ties with China and the Russian federation, is not being easily digested by the larger west; be ready for more leaks and books by the likes of ex-CIA station chief aka contractor Raymond Davis.


The Pakistani leadership and army have always worked for Pakistan, our soldiers and officers along with their brothers and sisters from LEAs have sacrificed a lot for Pakistan, one book with dubious credentials should not be able to create divisions in our ranks.


I have drawn a small list of dos and don’ts for diplomats, political leaders and military in Pakistan, for dealing with CIA or American diplomats:


Anything and everything that you say, deal with or converse can be used against you and Pakistan, so be very careful.


Develop redundancy in diplomacy to avoid blackmail and chaos at a later stage.


Don’t help or go out of the way to support US diplomats or CIA operations in Pakistan; follow the Putin formula, Pakistan’s interests are supreme and should never be allowed to be played with even if your intention is good.


If CIA can repeatedly use old data and records and time these to create dissention and chaos in Pakistan, shouldn’t Pakistani diplomats and intelligence agencies develop a counter strategy; why we are so defensive, prepare your files and leaks and let the ball roll. If favours by the Pakistani government and intelligence agencies doled out to US diplomats and CIA can become an albatross in our necks, get rid of this albatross for good.


Last and most important; game and governance are two different things, try developing a deep insight into the difference; trust in Pakistan.

China and Trump’s Indo-Pak meddling: 30 June, 2017 "Daily Times"

Pakistan has termed as “completely unjustified” the US move to declare Syed Salahuddin, chief of the Hizbul Mujahideen, a Specially Designated Global Terrorist.

India on its part said, “It does vindicate India’s longest-standing position that cross-border terrorism is behind disturbance created in Kashmir since last year.”

The US, however, seems to have done what it did to placate India without actually doing anything meaningfully substantial with regard to the on-going freedom struggle inside the Indian Occupied Kashmir (IOK)

Salahuddin’s services for the struggle over the last three decades notwithstanding he is not as relevant to the struggle today as he was until about 2014.

Today the face of the struggle is the martyred Hizbul Mujahideen Commander Burhan ud din Wani. It is in his name that the stone-throwing youth of IOK have up the ante in the IOK. And you cannot deny a martyr anything worldly by designating him as a global terrorist. And there is no cross-border element in this totally indigenous freedom struggle that is being waged by the unarmed IOK youth.

The warming up of relations between India and the US since 2005 seems to have been dictated, in the case Washington, by the US desire to use India to halt the advancing China from challenging American global hegemony while in the case of India, by New Delhi’s desire to use the super power to deny the people of IOK the freedom they are seeking from the Indian yolk and also help it expand its foot-hold in Afghanistan.

 

India would be left holding the empty sack in Afghanistan if Pakistan were to simply abandon the Afghan Taliban for good — which is what needs to be done urgently

Since the two seem to be driven by different motivations for getting cosier the possibility of either of the two succeeding in their respective objectives appears to be open to question.

Several commonalities do exist between the United States and India and provide a seemingly genuine platform for cooperation between the two. Both are democracies, both are against global terrorism and the economies of both are driven by the market, though in differing degrees.

And according to a policy paper titled “Transforming India from a balancing to leading power”, released by the Atlantic Council, a US think tank, ahead of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s US visit this week, the two countries also see eye to eye on their approach towards Beijing so far.

“Both nations realize the need to ensure that Beijing behaves in accordance with the rules of the liberal, postwar institutional order that the US helped build. As current and potential naval powers, the two countries must have unfettered access to international sea-lanes that Beijing intends to constrict.

“This leads to a broader, mutually beneficial reason for a coordinated policy towards China, a nation ostensibly not averse to flaunting a boosted militarism that could be dangerous to the security of both the US and India in the foreseeable future.

“It is vital for American interests in Asia to have India as an economic and strategic ally. However, for this relationship to work, President Trump will have to demonstrate his commitment to building a positive environment within which the Indian-American relationship can flourish”.

“It is likely that the Indian policy making elite and body politic will expect President Trump to continue along the same path as his predecessors, and expect him to honour existing bilateral agreements.

“Furthermore, India would want the continuation of the recently signed nuclear agreements as well as the US India Defence Technology and Trade Initiative, which the White House may review in the near future.”

On the other hand, according to the same policy paper President Trump has advocated several policies that could harm Indian interests and potentially negatively affect the trajectory of US-India ties.

“To begin with, restrictions on work and education visas could antagonise India, with US-bound engineers set to suffer.

“Trump has also emphasised the need to bring processes back to the US that could cost Indian export of services heavily.

“With Indo-American trade already stagnating over the past few years, Trump’s policies give no room for this trade to grow in the future. This will be a worrying factor for India.

“Environmental policy is another potential area of disagreement between the two countries. India has been a champion for renewable energy and has also shown a commitment to combating climate change, as is evident in its position on the Paris Agreement.

“India has long appealed for the Kashmir issue to be solved bilaterally without international interference. Yet, in his statements, Trump has offered to mediate on the Kashmir dispute between India and Pakistan; New Delhi may not appreciate such involvement.

“Indian policy makers will be wary of Trump’s policies towards Pakistan, and any decisions taken by the administration would go a long way toward determining the warmth of US-India relations.

“India would also want cooperation with the US on regional issues such as the Afghanistan conflict.

“Spillover from the destabilisation in Afghanistan threatens to affect Indian security, which should be considered by the Trump administration before taking action in the country.”

Describing India as a “key piece in the jigsaw” for the US, the policy paper points out that during Barack Obama’s tenure, in order to woo India, he promised to support India’s bid for a UN Security Council seat, but did not put it to any practical action and asks will Trump take substantial steps to facilitate India’s UNSC bid? It is hard to tell.

According to Yu Ning of Global Times (Being a pawn for US containment strategy a trap for India) in an era when emerging countries have been playing an increasingly important role in global affairs, if India, an important participant in two non-Western organisations — the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation and BRICS — can firmly stand together with China in striving for more discourse power, it will be helpful for New Delhi to realise its big power ambitions. Moreover, India would be left with holding the empty sack in Afghanistan if Pakistan simply abandons the Afghan Taliban for good, which is what needs to be done urgently as Islamabad’s previous experience of living with a Taliban ruled Kabul was not all that happy.

China as international peace broker: 30 June, 2017 "Daily Times"

In an unprecedented move, the Chinese government has proposed to mediate between Pakistan and Afghanistan in a bid to defuse escalating tensions between the two countries.

During his visit to Islamabad and Kabul last week, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi underlined the need to improve bilateral ties — an essential prerequisite for developing a coordinated counter-terrorism strategy between Pakistan and Afghanistan and to bringing peace to the region.

This follows from the informal discussions held between Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and Afghan President Ashraf Ghani at the recent Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) Summit in Kazakhstan.

Speaking to the press in Islamabad, the Chinese Foreign Minister added that Afghanistan, Pakistan and China will revive discussions through the Quadrilateral Coordination Group comprising Afghanistan, Pakistan, the United States and China to create a conducive environment for talks between the Afghan government and the Taliban. Formed in January of last year, the Quadrilateral Coordination Group was set up with the objective of achieving peace in Afghanistan.

These steps highlight China’s emerging role as a broker for peace and stability in a region riven by intractable conflicts. Earlier this year, China offered to help in resolving a diplomatic row between Bangladesh and Myanmar. Additionally, China has expressed an interest in acting as a mediator between Pakistan and India over the longstanding Kashmir dispute.

Notably, China also has expressed interest in quelling conflagrations beyond its immediate sphere of influence. For instance, in March this year, China offered to host talks between Saudi Arabia and Iran.

With both countries convulsed by terrorist violence, the relationship between Pakistan and Afghanistan remains fraught with challenges. Deteriorating relations between Pakistan and Afghanistan struck a new low when Pakistan closed the 2,600 km Pak-Afghan border in February this year after an attack on the sacred Sehwan Sharif shrine in Sindh which killed over a hundred people.

This deadly attack came after a series of assaults by militants, many of which are believed to have emanated from militant bases in Afghanistan.

Though the border was recently reopened, this temporary closure adversely impacted diplomatic relations and resulted in sharp economic losses for both countries.

Afghanistan too has been the victim of militant assaults: in May, Kabul was rocked by a suicide attack which killed over 65 people. Demonstrations in the wake of this attack added pressure to the country’s fragile political order.

As relations between the countries continue to worsen, the resolve to craft a political solution takes on greater urgency. Last week, Pakistan’s Permanent Representative to the UN Dr Maleeha Lodhi articulated concern over Taliban “safe havens” within Afghanistan.

 

As China’s expanding role in international diplomacy proves regional economic integration not only results in greater prosperity and social development — but can also help engender peace

During a tense debate with her Afghan counterpart, she informed the Security Council that continued reliance on military operations without an accompanying political strategy would unleash further violence.

At this critical time, China is well-placed to act as a stabilising force in a region plagued by volatility. China remains heavily invested in both countries: in Pakistan its diverse investments range from large scale construction projects to telecommunications.  In Afghanistan, China has brought in unparalleled foreign investment with a 30-year license to develop the Mes Aynak copper mine for over $3billion.

China has also initiated key infrastructure projects in both countries: China’s development of and 40-year lease over Pakistan’s Gwadar port represents a vital gateway to the Arabian Sea, which can provide China and Central Asia access to the Persian Gulf and Middle Eastern markets.

China’s development of Afghanistan’s railway network, linking the two countries via Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan is also set to have a transformative impact on trade in the region.

These projects form part of China’s ambitious One Belt One Road Initiative which aims to create trade networks across Asia, linking the continent to African and European markets.

As China’s expanding role in international diplomacy proves, regional economic integration not only results in greater prosperity and social development but can also help engender peace.

At the Security Council last week, Ambassador Lodhi held out hope for a resolution between Pakistan and Afghanistan claiming, “We are confident that, whatever our differences in the past, in the end, the deep bonds of religion, culture, history and geography between Pakistan and Afghanistan will assert themselves and produce an era of peaceful and mutually beneficial cooperation between our nations.”  A trusted partner of both countries, China could act as the catalyst in making this a reality.

Pakistan at 70: 23 June, 2017 "Daily Times"

BushraWaheed was born on September 7th, 1930 in Ludhiana, British India. During the partition of the subcontinent Ms.Waheed and her family migrated from Delhi to Karachi via train. In her second interview with the OHP Lahore team, Ms. Waheed recalled the morale and hopes of people during the initial years of Partition. Migrants faced a plethora of hardships, the largest of which were lack of sufficient accommodations and lack of food. Ms. Waheedremembered that it was the norm for 10 people to be living together in 1 room. Yet despite the gruesome conditions, the migrants were so grateful that they had succeeded in creating their own country that they made light of their circumstances, saying that they would sleep in the cupboard and put the kids in the drawers. Additionally, the hospitality that Pakistanis are famous for was present even in such trying circumstances, with everyone sharing food, regardless of how much or how little they had, and all without complaint. One of the saddest things that Ms. Waheedrecollected was how people had to adapt their burial customs as well: due to a lack of cloth available for shrouds, the dead were wrapped in banana leaves before they were buried.

However, it was not only the poor migrants who faced such difficulties. The initial governmental offices of Pakistan were also set up in ways utilising everything at their disposal to make up for the lack of appropriate resources. Ms. Waheedmentioned that civil servants used to sit on cardboard boxes in makeshift offices, because there were no chairs available. They would also use their ingenuity when faced with a scarcity of office supplies, in many instances using thorns in place of paperclips.

It is a testament to the will of the newly born Pakistani nation and its people that despite being faced with such hard times that would have felled lesser nations, the people never lost hope. There was always present an air of gratitude that they had a country to call their own, built on such inspirational and idealistic grounds. There was optimism that this country would become something that they could be proud of, that would live up to the dreams and hopes of the founders.

When friends fall apart: 23 June, 2017 "The Nation"

The Saudi-Qatar confrontation may seem not just an inter-Arab dispute, but an inter-Gulf one, perhaps because the hidden third party in the dispute, Iran, is a Gulf power, if not an Arab one. Another reason that the dispute looms larger than the Arab world is because it involves two Muslim countries, and offers up the possibility of the Muslim-on-Muslim violence unseen since the Iran-Iraq War. This makes it qualitatively different from the kind of other violence Muslims are suffering, whether in Kashmir, Palestine, Myanmar or Syria.

The last provides one motive for the confrontation: Qatar’s ability to sell its vast reserves of natural gas to Europe depends on pipelines through Syria. In the new world oil order shaping up, Qatar and Iran, as producers of natural gas, will compete with Saudi Arabia, as the world’s leading producer of traditional crude oil. Qatar sells its gas either in tankers carrying liquefied natural gas (LNG), or through pipelines. Pipelines running through Syria’s war-torn landscape are how Qatar means to sell its gas to Europe.

This is the point at which Pakistan enters the picture, because it has a contract to import Qatari LNG. There is also the factor that Qatar has received a large number of Pakistani workers. Indeed, with Qatar hosting the 2022 football World Cup, it provides a more prosperous environment for overseas workers than Saudi Arabia, which is also a major recipient of Pakistani labour, but which has also seen a recent spate of business failures which have left Pakistani labourers unpaid and stranded. Saudi Arabia is also tied closely to Pakistan by hydrocarbons, and has made sure than Pakistan has kept afloat at times of financial crisis, both by crude oil support and massive deposits with the State Bank of Pakistan to shore up its foreign exchange reserves.

Thus while it would seem that Pakistan should join the Saudi moves against Qatar, especially since they were being backed by the other countries where Pakistani labour was heavily employed, the UAE, Kuwait and Bahrain, there are also solid reasons for Pakistan to stay out. Of the three strongest Muslim countries, Pakistan is not taking sides, Egypt has supported Saudi Arabia, while Turkey has supported Qatar.

There is clearly something murky going on. Qatar and Saudi Arabia are both Wahabi, but by placing itself on the side of Iran, Qatar has also placed itself against Saudi Arabia not just politically, but also religiously. It is an indication that religion does not weigh that much upon either Qatar or Iran that they have accepted each other as allies, to the extent that Iran has offered Qatar the replacement of the routes for food and water that passed through Saudi Arabia, and which it has closed.

Interestingly, both Saudi Arabia and Qatar are US allies. True, both are also against the sort of change represented by the Arab Spring, but both are virtually embodiments of the kind of regime that they tried to replace: Monarchical, oil-rich and being so far under US influence as to have their regimes underwritten by the USA. Qatar is home to the Al Udeid Air Base, one of the largest US bases in the world and the place from which US Central Command ran the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and currently runs the campaign against the Islamic State. The base became more important to US war planners in 2003, when the Saudis demanded the withdrawal of American military personnel.

Saudi Arabian defence cooperation continued, however, to the extent that, on US President Donald Trump’s recent visit, it signed agreements worth $110 billion immediately and $350 billion over the next 10 years, enough to lift US defence companies stocks. Qatar then virtually replied, with a $12 billion deal to buy 36 F15 fighters. Saudi Arabia already has 232 F15s, with a further 84 on order. Qatar will induct them for the first time, but this is part of the refurbishment of its air force, which has also ordered 18 Rafale fighters from France.

It might also be noted that President Trump’s visit was virtually an affirmation of Saudi Arabia’s position in the region as its most reliable ally. Saudi Arabia saw this as an opportunity to crack down on all dissent, which included making Qatar align its foreign policy with it, especially in the case of Iran. On the other hand, the USA prioritises the fight against IS, which is not helped by the confrontation.

At the same time, Saudi Arabia is already stretched militarily, and cannot really afford another entanglement on its borders. It is already committed in Yemen, a war which is being supervised by Defence Minister and new Crown Prince Muhammad bin Salman. In fact, his direct succession, skipping ex-Crown Prince Muhammad bin Naif, is supposed to be one of the motives for the confrontation. It is true that the new Crown Prince is seen by the USA as ‘their man’, for not only was he educated there, but he was also on display there on a visit in March, the high point of which was his meeting with President Trump. If there is any involvement of the succession issue, then Saudi Arabia can be expected to treat it as an existential issue. Nothing is more important to the dynasty than the succession.

Another issue which has not been highlighted is how Qatar is supposed to support Hamas, and the Ikhwanul Muslimeen, of which Hamas is merely the Palestinian version. Hamas is anathema to Israel, and the Ikhwan to Egypt, where the current Sisi regime only took over after ousting the Ikhwan President. Saudi Arabia looks askance at the Ikhwan’s unfavourable view of dictators, and its emphasis on elections. Saudi Arabia looks askance at Iran not just because it is Shia, but because it conducts regular elections and thus sets a ‘bad example.’ It is worth noting that the whole dispute is based on the Saudi acceptance of the Israeli view of terrorism, on which is based the US view. Hamas’ opposition to Mohammad bin Salman only stokes Saudi Arabia’s ire against Qatar.

Pakistan tried a rather forlorn attempt at peacemaking, with Mian Nawaz Sharif’s visit to Saudi Arabia, but while he himself has a special relationship with Saudi Arabia, where he spent his exile after he was ousted from power, he also has one with Qatar, where a Qatari prince, Hamad bin Jasim El Thani, had written to the Supreme Court to say that he had had dealing with the late Mian Sharif, Mian Nawaz’s father, which had explained the Mayfair flats passing into the possession of Mian Nawaz’s sons. The Joint Investigation Team is now contemplating going to Qatar, after the prince had declined to come to Pakistan to appear before the JIT. It is worth differentiating here that while Pakistan’s government has a very strong interest in taking sides with Qatar, Pakistan’s state would have more reason to take the Saudi side. It will be a national-interest decision in the end, just as much as Saudi Arabia and Qatar are themselves making.

The US does it yet again: 23 June, 2017 "The Nation"

Two very ominous developments have taken place this week. Reportedly the US, has decided to send 4000 more troops to Afghanistan and though not formally announced yet, the media reports suggest that the Trump administration is poised to harden its approach towards Pakistan and the likely options in this regard are expanding US drone strikes within Pakistan, redirecting or withholding some aid to Pakistan and eventually downgrading Pakistan’s status as a major non-NATO ally.

What these developments imply is that prospects of peace in Afghanistan will remain elusive for an indefinite period because the induction of more troops instead of pulling out of Afghanistan as decided by the Obama administration, would surely intensify the already volatile situation in Afghanistan. The Taliban have all along remained firm in their demand of complete US and NATO pull-out before they could even think in terms of reconciliation within Afghanistan. They will surely feel further offended and might bring more ferocity in their armed struggle against the Afghan government and the US forces. The continuation of armed conflict in Afghanistan will surely have negative fallout on Pakistan as far as peace and the fight against terrorism are concerned. Downgrading relations with Pakistan and withholding aid to Pakistan can be construed as a punishment for doing their bidding in the war against terrorism. US has been doing this to Pakistan ever since the latter opted to be its ally in the early fifties, throughout the cold war and in the aftermath Afghan war. The Trump administration has done it yet again.

In my columns on Pak-US relations I have invariably contended that our relationship with our so-called ally has always been of a tactical nature contrary to its description as a strategic partnership which our successive governments have been trying to sell to the unsuspecting people of Pakistan. It was only in the backdrop of killing of Mullah Mansoor in a drone attack on Pakistan soil that Sartaj Aziz, Advisor to the Prime Minister on Foreign Affairs, for the first time, admitted that the US was a selfish friend which invariably curried favour with Pakistan when its self-interest pressed it and left it in the lurch after having its interests served. I suppose in his admission of the fragility of the relationship and it serving only US interests, the advisor had been very moderate in defining the nature of the ties between the two countries. The true characterisation of Pak-US relations is that the US has used Pakistan as a pawn on the chessboard of its global and regional policies and self-defined strategic interests, putting its security at peril and undermining its strategic interests; quintessential of an inexcusable betrayal.

I have also maintained that US was never going to leave Pakistan. In one of my columns last July I had said “ I am not a clairvoyant but considering the ominous developments around us, my prognosis about the future of our region is that the US, contrary to its claims of leaving Afghanistan is going to stay there forever to foment instability in that country as well as Pakistan. Encouraging greater Indian role in Afghanistan is surely designed to achieve that objective. There are visible moves to isolate Pakistan in the region. US and India have forged a clandestine alliance to sabotage CPEC, as instability in the region could help US in scuttling Chinese plans to re-invent the silk route and to implement CPEC. A weaker and unstable Pakistan also suits India with regards to its desire to establish its hegemony in the region. These developments surely mark the beginning of yet another great game in our region.”

The US, it seems, is deliberately fomenting instability in the region to achieve its strategic objectives like it has done in the Middle East and other parts of the world to redraw the world map in conformity with its own contrived world view. It is using both Afghanistan and India for the purpose, who have their own reasons to be part of the US power-game in the region, remaining oblivious to the long term consequences for them as well as the entire region.

India is willingly supporting the US anti-China policy in the South China Sea and the Indian Ocean. The civil nuclear deal with India by US and its allies like UK and France, support for UNSC seat for India, designating India as major defence partner and the likely production of F-16 and F-18 fighter planes in India as proposed by their manufacturers and cleared by the Pentagon, are the rewards for India for doing the US’ bidding in the region. These measures also not only put India at an advantageous position vis-a-vis Pakistan but also encourage her to adopt a hostile posture towards her. The US tilt and support for India also fits well into the Indian designs to establish its hegemony in the region. That also explains US indifference to the tragedy unfolding in Kashmir, continued acts of aggression along LOC and Indian sponsored acts of terrorism in Pakistan.

The dilemma is that we cannot risk a military response to such indiscretions. However the most regrettable thing is that we have remained criminally oblivious to the developments happening in the region, and have failed to recalibrate our foreign policy in the light of the emerging realities. We need a serious rethinking about our relations with the US and recalibrate them as normal relations between the two states, rather than act as a pawn to serve the US interests. It has harmed us in the past and will continue to do so.

Pakistan now needs to focus more on its relations with the regional states because its security and economic interest are inextricably linked with this region. The policy of building regional linkages and connectivity being pursued by the present government is a very pragmatic and visionary initiative. The improvement of relations with Russia, strengthening of ties with the Central Asian states and joining the SCO are very positive developments which will act as an effective counter-weight to the debilitating effects of the US-India-Afghanistan collusion.

Notwithstanding the existence of a hostile environment around us, Pakistan must not lose its focus on encouraging and supporting the process of reconciliation in Afghanistan and also to lower the level of animosity with India and eventually a negotiated settlement of the Kashmir dispute. We need a well calculated and visionary approach in this regard.

More than anything else, greater emphasis needs to be given to orchestrating political stability in the country, strengthening democracy and democratic institutions, building a strong economic edifice and an impregnable defence. These are the elements which determine the worth of a nation at the global level and its ability to use its soft power for managing international relations. In other words we need to first put our own house in order. That indeed is a big challenge for our political leaders and political parties.

Team Pakistan: 22 June, 2017 "The Nation"

Oh jubilation! Pakistan came up from the bottom to win the coveted ICC Champions Trophy. It was done through a change in mindset, determination, great technical and tactical application, outstanding captaincy and lots of luck. For the Indians, the humiliation came as an unbelievable shock proving the adage that ‘pride comes before a fall’. I must however admit that the Indian team showed great sportsmanship and dignity in defeat and Virat Kohli absorbed the debacle with outstanding maturity, lavishing praise upon his traditional rivals. I cannot, but say well done Virat, you are a true sportsman.

On the Pakistani side, Sarfraz the skipper was humility personified. Never for a moment did he take credit for the win, but said that the victory was “by the Grace of Allah” and great teamwork by his players. His down to earth rustic style prompted one British sports commentator to say that it was wonderful to see the skipper celebrating the victory with his conservatively attired wife and son.

The win has opened up a great window of opportunity for Pakistan Cricket Board to aggressively push through their case for revival of international cricket on our home ground. To this end, they already have the support of some great cricketing legends including Sir Vivian Richards. The first step towards bringing international cricket back, should be the holding of all PSL matches in Pakistan.

The ICC Champion’s Trophy has spawned many real life stories effectively destroying the malicious myth that Pakistan is not a land of opportunity. Fakhar Zaman and Hassan Ali hail from modest backgrounds, but are gifted with enormous talent. Fakhar comes from Katlang (Mardan) and is a college dropout simply because of his passion for cricket. Gujranwala can be proud to call Hassan Ali its son. I watched in rapt admiration as his parents spoke to television channels from their simple home. One shot showed his mother sitting on a ‘peerhi’ in a rustic kitchen preparing a welcome dessert for her son.

While we celebrate the excellent performance of our cricketers, we must not forget our abysmal performance in field hockey, where we have plummeted from being world champions to a team that now needs to qualify in order to play a world event. Everyone involved with this game has his own story to justify what is happening – the players say that what they receive is an embarrassing pittance as compared to what their sporting colleagues get in cricket. The management complains of funds and regional organisations whine about politics. Here is a situation that is so riddled with disease that it requires massive surgical restructuring.

There is excitement amongst the football community on reports that a group of international celebrities led by none other than Ronaldinho are visiting Pakistan. Here is another window that must be exploited to pump life into a sport that has never found its rightful place, in spite of the fact that we can produce world class footballers. Regretfully enough, those in charge of this particular sport are too involved in internal politics to do anything constructive.

Golf is a sport that can be said to be as celebrated worldwide as cricket. We are fortunate to have developed some international level golf courses with allied facilities than can host PGA level tournaments. To that end it is time that the Pakistan Golf Federation puts its act together and seriously thinks about an international golf extravaganza in (let us say) Islamabad.

There are many amongst my acquaintances that consider our ICC Championship victory as a motivational turning point for sports in Pakistan. While I wish this were true, we will not be able to accomplish much, unless we take harsh and ruthless steps to root out egotistic and corrupt officials and politics from our sports. Our cricket results have proved once and for all that given the correct structure, we can outplay any team in any sport, anywhere in the world.

Shifting trade priorities: 22 June, 2017 "The News"

Foriegn trade is an excellent barometer to analyse the economic development of any country. The same is the case for Pakistan. At the time of Independence, the territory which came under Pakistan was mostly use for agricultural purposes. As a result, Pakistan's economy was primarily of an agrarian nature, with a limited industrial component.

Pakistan was primarily relying on imports for manufactured goods. The country's early leadership focused on industrialization to reduce poverty levels and achieve economic growth. The contribution to the GDP from agriculture reduced from 48 percent to 22 percent between 1960 and 2011. The contribution to the GDP from industrial sectre increased from 14 percent to 26 percent during the same period. more...

Campaign against CPEC: 20 June, 2017 "The Nation"

There is little doubt that the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) is a landmark event in the history of Pakistan-China friendship rooted in the convergence of the strategic interests of the two countries. The CPEC plan involves over 60 billion dollars of Chinese investment in the various sectors of the Pakistan economy by 2025. But it may lead to a much higher level of Chinese investment in Pakistan in the longer time frame work according to the proposals being considered by the two countries. CPEC besides providing the much needed resources for accelerating Pakistan’s economic growth would also provide to north-western China a shorter and much more economical route for maritime trade with the rest of the world than what has been available so far. Above all, it would strengthen Pakistan-China strategic partnership which serves the best interests of the two countries. The importance of this partnership for Pakistan’s security can hardly be over-emphasised considering the enduring threat posed to it by India. As for China, its trade route to Gwadar through Pakistan would enable it to bypass attempts by the US and India to block the expansion of China’s influence and power in South Asia and the Indian Ocean region.

It would not be surprising, therefore, for India and the US to use all the resources at their disposal to launch a concerted propaganda campaign to discredit CPEC in the eyes of the people of Pakistan and among its influential circles. This is precisely what is happening right now. Rumour mills are working overtime through media and otherwise to create all sorts of doubts among the Pakistani people about the real intentions of China and effects of CPEC on Pakistan. A ridiculous rumour that is being bandied about is that through CPEC China would acquire a controlling influence in Pakistan turning it into a Chinese colony. There couldn’t be anything more preposterous than this charge which has no basis in reality. CPEC has been voluntarily agreed between two sovereign nations and is designed to serve their best strategic and economic interests. Its projects would bring badly needed investment in Pakistan in such sectors as energy, which has been facing a huge power shortfall, transport, communications, agriculture and industry. Many of those making the above mentioned outlandish accusation because of their well-known Western leanings would have been quite happy to support the plan if it were US or some other Western country offering to invest on such a vast scale in Pakistan.

Another charge against CPEC is that the Chinese investment under it is being obtained at too high a cost. On the face of it, the charge again appears to be baseless. It would be reasonable to assume that the government of Pakistan and its officials took all the relevant factors into account in the negotiating the terms and conditions of the planned Chinese investment in Pakistan under CPEC. Nevertheless, some commentators keep on referring to alleged negative consequences of Chinese investments in Sri Lanka and Venezuela to substantiate their criticism of CPEC. The charges of those alleged negative consequences are probably debatable. If the local authorities mess up their affairs, the blame for it cannot be placed at the doorstep of the Chinese. At the same time it is incumbent upon our government to come out with a detailed exposition of the terms and conditions of the Chinese investments under the various CPEC projects to satisfy the sceptics amongst us that they are in our best economic interests. Transparency should be the order of the day in such matters of national importance.

The foregoing point also underlines the imperative of efficient management of our economy by our economic managers. We need to remember that foreign investment, whether from China or anywhere else, while welcome, is not a substitute for our own efforts to put our economy on an even keel and to accelerate our economic growth. It is primarily our responsibility to raise our national saving and investment rates to quicken the pace of economic development. Other things remaining the same, it is the national investment rate which determines the economic growth rate. The higher the national investment rate, the higher would be the economy’s growth rate. Right now our national performance both in savings and investment areas is miserably poor. Our national saving and investment rates are likely to be about 13% and 15.8% of GDP respectively in 2016-17 according to the Economic Survey of Pakistan. By way of comparison, India’s national saving and investment rates are over 30% of GDP while China’s corresponding rates are around 50% of GDP. Chinese investment in Pakistan is most welcome on the right terms and conditions. But our policy makers must not be oblivious of our own responsibilities in improving our economic performance. It would be counterproductive if the promise of Chinese investment leads us to slacken in the discharge of our own responsibility to promote economic development in the country.

Besides propagating various accusations against CPEC, India can also be expected to take steps for increasing external pressure on Pakistan to divert the attention of our authorities from the massive task of accelerating economic development and the efficient execution of the various projects under CPEC. Indo-Afghan coordinated pressure on Pakistan is an obvious indicator of India’s evil designs against Pakistan. Another target of India’s nefarious intentions would be Pakistan-Iran friendship which generally has been a source of great support and strength to Pakistan in critical moments of its history. Needless to say that we should take all possible steps to preserve and strengthen our friendship with Iran and to resolve amicably our problems with Afghanistan so as to promote the peace process in that country and strengthen Pakistan-Afghanistan cooperation in various fields.

New Delhi would not desist even from sponsoring acts of terrorism in Pakistan to frustrate the successful execution of CPEC projects as shown by the arrest of Kulbhushan Jadhav, the Indian spy who was arrested in Balochistan in March last year on charges of involvement in terrorism and espionage in Pakistan on behalf of RAW. In addition, India would not miss any opportunity to destabilise Pakistan politically both for preventing the successful implementation of CPEC and to weaken Pakistan for the fulfillment of its hegemonic designs in South Asia. It is a source of great disappointment that at this critical moment in our history when we should be united in facing the daunting internal and external challenges, we give the impression of a house divided because of the short-sighted and self-serving policies of some of our politicians. It is high time we focused on the really pressing internal and external issues facing the country instead of wasting our energies on frivolous matters of little concern to the security and economic well-being of the nation.

Our politicians especially need to show some maturity in dealing with national issues. The daily spectacle of unseemly fights and quarrels among the politicians in TV talk shows and press conferences to score personal points does not show them in good light besides having a demoralising effect on the nation as a whole. Similarly the different institutions of the state need to show circumspection in their conduct and in offering comments on important issues of national interest. Our civilian and military leadership must avoid any step, which has the effect of derailing or weakening the democratic process in the country, as it would aggravate political instability and indirectly support the machinations of our arch enemy, India.

Beware of Daesh in Pakistan: 19 June, 2017 "Daily Times"

The Pakistani state and society are at war for over forty years. This asymmetrical warfare has seen many actors since the late 1970s. First, it was the backlash on Pakistan’s policies in Afghanistan and bombs started to go off in trains and buses killing people. This trend converted into the high pitched battles that two sects in Pakistan fought apparently with ideological and financial assistance from two ‘brotherly’ Islamic nations.

The trends of sectarianism got upped from domestic objectives to transnational and global designs, and Al-Qaeda was born in Peshawar. Yes, this was Peshawar where it happened as those were different days and terrorists of today were holy warriors then. Instead of taking a very sharp u-turn, the state should have rather tried rehabilitating a maximum number of these militarised individuals but the political hastes of a dictator made tremendous social wastes.

 

The terrorists’ ideology of a promised future operates more successfully in societies where the state-citizen connectivity is weak

Locally and internationally financed, a mix of sectarian and Al-Qaeda militancy later provided crucial support to the emergence of Taliban. A huge number of Pakistani Muslims would probably still believe that the emergence of Taliban was because of the popular support of the local populations, and as if this was the reemergence of their faith, but cold facts point toward the global oil and pipeline politics of the day that needed a relative stable Afghanistan for a couple of huge and ambitions energy projects.

Prior to the Iraqi and Syrian wars, the non-state violence was less organised and lethal, but the convergence of the hyper-radicals in these countries not only created an organised comradery of the militants, but also brought new ideas of the gory violence these people perpetrated against combatants and non-combatants alike. This new harbinger of militant threat is Daesh that essentially grew in Iraqi and Syrian voids of political governance that broke down as a result of wars there. Extremist obscurantism grows when states and societies do not counter the emergence of violent and misdirected religious and political falsehoods that attract particularly the youth in the name of making a change that would get them the promised glory. Daesh deploys the same tactics and the appeal toward the Muslim youth across many nations of the world, including Pakistan.

Although the political and administrative executive have repeatedly rejected the reports of Daesh’s presence in Pakistan, the group raises its venomous head every now and then. The Pakistani law enforcement agencies have been fighting the terrorist group in the urban, semi-urban and rural backgrounds across the country, and have scored commendable successes. But the real challenge, and accomplishment would be to constantly refuse letting the group claim any ideological and geographical foothold in Pakistan. This is a war that barrels and bullets cannot win alone; brain will. For reference’s sake, let us not forget what Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) did to people in Swat once they had a foothold.

The terrorists’ ideology of a promised future operates more successfully in societies where the state-citizen connectivity is weak. This relationship becomes turbulent when the state does not deliver on what the citizenship otherwise promises to people. Inside the sphere of mistrust, the radicals constantly throw the catch phrases to attract popular support, particularly among the youth. Disenchanted by a mix of political, social and individual reactions, the youth are more susceptible to ideologies of violence and extremism. That is exactly what has happened in Pakistan for truly a long period of time now, but that must be checked diligently to prevent Pakistan from slipping into four more decades of violent turbulence.

With a critical consciousness, the Pakistani society must respond toward the fallacy of what the Daesh promises. People, particularly youth need to understand that violence can never be a journey or a destination. The state and civil society must collaborate against a challenge that is emergent, and poses clear danger to a Pakistan that is slowly becoming good news for its citizens and the world. The political establishment has to deliver on governance. The military establishment has to ensure security. And the ‘people’s establishment’ must ensure that the Daesh’s ideologies are successfully rejected whatever the packaging is. Extremism, political or religious, is a fallacy. It is a problem, and not a solution.

Pakistan’s entry into SCO: 19 June, 2017 "The Nation"

On 9 June, 2017, Pakistan was granted membership to the Shanghai Cooperation Organization. Pakistan had been its observer since 2005. The organisation decided to grant Pakistan status of a full member its 2015 Summit held in Ufa Russia. SCO is a powerful Eurasian body.

Shanghai Cooperation Organisation is the forerunner of the 1996 organisation Shahghi-5, comprising members China, Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan. It was renamed in 2001 after the inclusion of Uzbekistan. The primary objective of the organisation was to enhance trade among member countries by connectivity and regional cooperation, to protect political integrity of the member countries and promoted security, economic and trade cooperation between them and to promote regional connectivity. The organisation has expanded its domain from regional trade and included cooperation on counterterrorism.

The presence of two big regional economic powers i.e. China and Russia makes this organisation effective. The charter of this organisation clearly states the main goals and tasks of SCO are, “to strengthen mutual trust, friendship and good neighborliness between the member States; to consolidate multidisciplinary cooperation in the maintenance and strengthening of peace, security and stability in the region and promotion of a new democratic, fair and rational political and economic international order; to jointly counteract terrorism, separatism and extremism in all their manifestations.” China has already taken a big initiative in the form of the One Belt One Road project, through which it intends to connect regions of Asia, Africa, Middle East and Central Asia by building highways, railways and sea routes. Pakistan China Economic corridor is also one of the parts of this vision.

EU’s precursor the European Economic Community (EEC) was also formed as a trade union of various countries of Europe. With the passage of time, its domain was enhanced from trade to a kind of loose confederating system having its own parliament, currency, visa free policy and other incentives for its member countries. Though dented with UK’s decision to depart from the union, the EU is still a great influencing factor in the world affairs and has strong economic standing in the world economy.

Shanghai Cooperation Organization is also a window of opportunity for the countries of this region. Countries like Pakistan, India and Afghanistan can work together from the platform of this organisation. Pakistan and India have been granted status of full members during the recent Summit whereas Afghanistan is having status of an observer in the organisation. Central Asia is an oil and gas rich region. The road connectivity and regional trade can change the trade ratio in the region. Central Asian countries are landlocked, Pakistan would be an opportunity for them to access the Sea ports and use this route for trade. Stability in Afghanistan is also a key for the economic uplift of this region. Pakistan has always been ardent advocate of Afghanistan’s stability. Hopefully, this regional connectivity and having a shared decision of countering terrorism would help in bridging ties among countries of this region. On the sidelines of the Summit, Afghanistan and Pakistan agreed to restore quadrilateral talks. China and USA are also part of this Quadrilateral Coordination Group. There is urgent need to resume these talks and give peace a chance for bringing an end to the lingering conflict in Afghanistan.

This is an ideal and opportune time for the countries of South Asia. India should also realise that we need to have a way for a secure and prosperous future for coming generations. It should stop its tirades against Pakistan. It should also stop sowing hostility in the region.

Mr. Nawaz Sharif has rightly reiterated his commitment to peaceful coexistence in the summit. He clearly spelled out his vision in SCO Summit saying “As leaders, we should leave a legacy of peace and amity for our future generations, not a toxic harvest of conflict and animosity. Instead of talking about counterweights and contaminants, let us create shared spaces for all.” Undoubtedly, time is changing vey fast and, presently, economic tilt is in favour of Asia. Countries like Pakistan and India should take advantage of this.

The Astana Summit is historic for Pakistan and will have long term repercussions in the region. Prime Minister has rightly mentioned in his speech that “the SCO had been transformed into true transcontinental organisation. The SCO played the role of sheet anchor for regional progress and prosperity in view of the global changes.” As a torchbearer of peace in the region, Mr. Sharif congratulated first India for becoming full members of SCO but the hawkish remarks of Mr. Modi in his speech showed that the policy makers in India are not in a mood to normalise relations with Pakistan. Pakistan is pursuing its policy of peaceful coexistence and non interference. Sooner or later, Indian leaders would also realise that the panacea for all ills is in dialogue and having good neighborly relations in the region.

SCO is an economic bloc representing half of humanity as the total population of its member countries is half of the world population. The total GDP of the organisation accounts for one quarter of the world GDP. Shanghai Cooperation Organisation is a big opportunity and Pakistan has joined it at a right time. Pakistan is expanding its influence in the region and inviting other countries to join the march of development. We hope that at some time in future, countries of South Asia also realise the importance of regional connectivity and economic prosperity.

The ‘roadmap’: 16 June, 2017 "Business Recorder"

For years, we have been doing everything in our power to erode the state in every way. The rich and powerful have habitually used the state to obtain easy riches. Learning from them, state functionaries—civil service, army and the judiciary—developed perks, plots and protocol as a means of joining the elite—What reforms mean, Nadeem Ul Haque 
For the 2018 elections, political parties should start unveiling their manifestos with a view to making Pakistan a true egalitarian state. For proper democratic dispensation that ensures mass participation it is imperative to debate all-out reforms in all areas with the aim to move towards the cherished goal of self-reliance and welfare state. It is not possible to make Pakistan a welfare state unless we undertake structural reforms in the prevailing politico-economic system that favours the elites at the expense of the less-privileged segments of society. 
The outmoded justice system needs major changes to ensure that rights and obligations are discharged within the four corners of law. The fair and just tax system is at the core of social democracy. Funds contributed by taxpayers should be expended for meeting state expenses and providing social justice to all citizens. The existing inequalities in income and wealth need to be minimized. 
In this article, we are presenting a roadmap that can help in achieving the much-desired goal of autarky leading to a welfare state. This can be a starting point for public debate till the time all political parties reach a consensus and adopt it as Consensus Election Manifesto 2018 for a Prosperous Pakistan, no matter which party wins the election. This will be a great step towards national cohesion and for extending social security to all citizens. 
The main cause of our prevalent pathetic socio-politico-economic conditions is perpetual, unchallenged, un-resisted existence of inefficient and corrupt institutions that are adding to the miseries of masses. Created and paid for the welfare of people, these are working for self-aggrandisement. 
The self-serving policies of successive governments have made Pakistan a state-in-perpetual-crisis. Inflicted with self-created conflicts and problems, we should move towards resolving these, quickly and decisively. This requires fundamental reforms in all areas—not badly-designed plans or half-heated efforts. For reaping the fruits of our undeniable geo-strategic, business competitive position in the region and China-Pak Economic Corridor (CPEC), it is essential to change the basic structures of all vital state institutions to deliver and sustain as a vibrant society. Reform or perish is our challenge, and we must stand up to avoid the latter. 
The juxtaposition of economic policymaking and political reforms is necessary. The agenda for reform and survival should entail a comprehensive, well-integrated and unified plan that alone can assure its success. 
Reform in one sector ignoring the ills in the other, resorting to improving something at the cost of leaving aside the one interlinked, will not yield desired results. The case of tax reform divorced from elimination of black economy is the point in focus. The main cause of fiscal deficit is allowing an unprecedented size of underground economy to flourish and perpetual existence of incompetent and inefficient tax machinery. Therefore, reforms in tax administration without routing the causes of parallel economy and vice versa are not going to improve tax-to-GDP ratio. 
The failure of democracy in Pakistan, among many other factors, is attributable to lack of democratic values within political parties—they are dominated by individuals who openly defy laws and avoid transparency in their affairs. It is sad to note that political parties, despite criticism from everyone, are not ready to introduce democracy within their ranks. Unless these parties reform themselves by introducing fundamental changes in their working, there is dim hope for meaningful (sustainable) democracy in Pakistan. In all established democracies, political parties regularly hold elections, publish their audited accounts, file tax returns, disclose details of expenses and names of donors—all these elements are conspicuous by their absence in our political culture. Political parties in Pakistan are also required to meet these standards but the regulators, Election Commission of Pakistan, Securities & Exchange Commission of Pakistan and Federal Board of Revenue have miserably failed to enforce the laws and regulations. 
The following points may be considered by all political parties to evolve a National Election Manifesto with the commitment to masses that no matter which one wins, these would be implemented: 
1. The first and foremost priority should be reforms in the justice system along with changes in administrative/governance apparatuses to eliminate the causes of litigation. No society can achieve progress unless it ensures dispensation of justice to all, irrespective of position in society. 
2. Second most area of attention should be revamping of education system with the aim to end ignorance. Our problem is not only illiteracy but also ignorance. Even the so-called literates demonstrate lack of civic sense. Focal point of education should be creating a society that is tolerant, disciplined, courteous and knowledgeable—capable of making innovations and technological advances. 
3. Ensuring efficacy and accountability of all institutions. 
4. Direct elections of Senate and giving it powers to vote on Money Bill. 
5. Live telecast of the national and provincial assemblies and Senate proceedings. 
6. Decentralisation of political, administrative and financial responsibility to local governments. 
7. Education, health, housing, local policing, and all civil amenities should be provided through elected representatives of the local governments that should have powers to raise taxes for these purposes. 
8. Digitization, transparency and accountability in the governments at all levels to enable citizens to understand and participate fully in the process of national integration. 
9. Reforms in civil services, fair deal for employees with effective accountability. 
10. Elimination of terrorism, sectarianism, bigotry, intolerance and violence through enforcement of law and by taking concrete measures to ensure social development of society based on higher values of life and humanity. 
11. Strict laws and their effective implementation to curb terrorist financing, money laundering, plundering of national wealth, political write-off of loans and leakages in revenue collections. 
12. Devising long-term and short-term strategies to break the shackles of debt-trap, making Pakistan a self-reliant economy and ensuring social security and economic justice for all citizens. 
13. Reform and strengthening of management of public finances. Transparent public sector spending coupled with efficient performance. 
14. Determination and political will to control wasteful, non-developmental and defence expenditure. 
15. Reform of technical, institutional and organizational dimensions of public finance. 
16. Good governance and corruption free government structures. 
17. Federal government should only collect income tax and customs duty. Harmonised sales tax on goods and services should be in the provincial domain. All federal, provincial and local taxes should be collected through one agency (National Tax Authority) which should also disburse pension to all citizens and other social security payments. 
18. A reduction in excessive marginal tax rates making them compatible with other tax jurisdictions of the world, especially in Asia.  
19. A substantial reduction in corporate rate of tax. 
20. Elimination of onerous tax and other regulations for corporate sector that are the main stumbling blocks for domestic and foreign investments. Simplification of tax laws and procedures. 
Democratisation of society requires respect for rule of law in practice by the elected representatives. They flout it and promote cronyism that is anti-thesis of democracy. Elections alone cannot ensure democratization of society. These are a means to achieve representation of the people in governance which is totally ignored by those in power. The absence of peoples’ rule under civil regimes is as conspicuous as under military dictators. As our rulers are doing everything contrary to democracy in the name of political reforms, in the same manner they are resorting to anti-people economic policies making Pakistan heavily dependent on internal and external loans instead of striving for self-reliance by taxing the rich for the benefit of the poor. The rising tide of poverty is the direct result of these policies. 
Politicians need to act responsibly in all spheres—whether in power or in opposition. Their role is pivotal for effective working of institutions of the State. Being role models, it is imperative for them to show others by their conduct the supremacy of rule of law. If they indulge in corruption and malpractices, the entire system becomes discredited. Capturing power is the main goal of every party and there is nothing wrong about it. But once in power, favouring the near and dear and/or amassing wealth through abuse of office is what destroys democracy. While in power, they should demonstrate by their actions that they are custodians of public money and are bound to work for public welfare and not personal gains. There prevails nepotism within parties. There is no respect for merit. Presently, almost all political parties are dominated and controlled either by a single person or a handful of individuals with workers showing complete loyalty to their “chief” rather than to the party’s manifesto/programme. Obviously, in return, they expect personal favours from the “chief” when the party gets power. 
There is formidable resistance from politicians against establishment of an independent accountability authority in Pakistan as they know that such a body would expose their corruption and end their control over the State. The way forward is that political parties should be forced to keep proper accounts, get them audited by reputed firms and file tax returns. Once this is made mandatory under the law, they would have no option but to take into their folds only those people who are capable of honestly discharging their tax obligations. The process of filtration within the parties is the most necessary step towards a democratic culture in the true sense of the words. 

Revolution in Pakistan? Think again: 16 June, 2017 "Daily Times"

In Pakistan there have been calls for a revolution, especially in the last few years. We saw Dharnas, Arab Springs, and now an international corruption scandal from Panama that threatens to undo it all here at home.  Fear not, Pakistan is very much immune to any such revolution.

Firstly let’s be clear, a Coup D’état is not a revolution, it is merely one set of Elites replacing another. Revolution means a complete shake up of the socio-political structure of a society like in France during the 1790’s or Russia in the early 1900’s. Both abolished centuries old monarchies. France replaced it with Democracy and Russia with Communism. In Pakistan much to the dismay of pundits, opposition leaders, and hawkish commentators such an event is unlikely to occur.

If you study history you will see that such a phenomenal event always requires mass mobilisation. Pakistanis are too diverse to mobilise on a mass scale. It is highly doubtful that Ayatullah Khomeini could have successfully led the Iranian Revolution if ninety percent of the population wasn’t Shia. We are too divided on ethnic, religious, political even provincial lines to launch such a movement on the scale required. We lack a single unifying cause, a national leader to rally behind, or an ideology to galvanize us for a revolution.

Frustration and anger of the masses can be a powerful catalyst to unite and mobilize despite demographical divisions. We saw that in the Arab Spring uprisings and the ongoing South Korean protests over corruption, led to the sacking of their prime minister. In Pakistan however there is no indication that the masses are upset enough to take to the streets on a large scale. The PTI sit-in of 2014 definitely came close but the engine behind that movement was the PTI political machinery. They spent a lot of time, energy and resources to motivate the masses to come out. It was not a typical mass movement, if it was it wouldn’t have stopped at the behest of PTI leadership that to 500 feet from parliament. Corruption just doesn’t shock us as much as it should. Maybe we have become immune over the years or maybe we believe in the biblical caution that “let he who is without sin cast the first stone.”

 

Frustration and anger can be powerful catalysts for uniting and mobilising the masses despite their divisions

Another crucial factor is our capital Islamabad. It’s barely half a century old with a small passive population to show for it. Historically speaking, most notable revolutions climaxed in their respective capitals like Paris, Tehran, Cairo, Moscow, Beijing, and Tripoli. Notice how these cities are all old historic capitals hundreds of years old. They are also their country’s most populated cities. Citizens of such cities are deeply rooted, numerous and relatively easier to mobilise creating a higher chance of an uprising. Combine that with the fact the palaces and parliaments are around the corner you get the perfect ingredients required for a revolution. If Karachi were still Pakistan’s capital the probability of a revolution would be much higher, especially since the city has five times the population of Islamabad. However in the current set up storming the Bastille would require immense effort and resources. An example, just the sound system bill for PTI’s sit-in was allegedly more than two million dollars.

The above forecast is not gloomy it’s actually advantageous. Revolutions often come with great social costs. The French revolution was followed by a decade of bloodshed called the ‘reign of terror’. Arab Spring revolutions have left nations like Libya in total disarray. The Iranian revolution created an ultra conservative religious autarchy. For Pakistan having a low probability for revolution is beneficial in the long run. We are a developing democracy with no tyrant that needs disposing. We don’t need to resort to extreme solutions like revolution.

Jinnah’s advice was “Let us mobilise all our resources in a systematic and organised way and tackle the grave issues that confront us.” After years of coups and chaotic civilian rule we need political stability to grow. If given that we can continue to improve our institutions and economy and solve critical problems like load shedding and terrorism. Our political parties can spend less time fighting and more time working. In a stable Pakistan the quality of life can improve. Our citizenry can be empowered. Our national image can be elevated. Diversity can be celebrated. Steadily people can transcend over divisions and begin to see themselves as Pakistani brothers and sisters in a united Pakistan that it was always intended to be. We just need stability not revolution.

Degeneration at alarming levels: 15 June, 2017 "The Nation"

Whereas we were witnessing a very apparent slide in the rule of law, morality and general lack of trust at all levels - individual, institutional, national and international - but some of the recent developments in our beloved country are so alarming that any discerning mind cannot escape the impact of harsh and ominous writings on the wall. At the regional level also, the continued distrust among neighbours seems to further increase rather than shrink.

One was horrified to learn that an elected member of an assembly along with his supporters captured a control mechanism of a canal and forcibly opened the gates to divert the flow of water in their desired direction. The muted, rather ‘no reaction’, by the sitting government was rather appalling. Then we heard of people under the patronage of certain political leaders attacked grid stations, destroying public assets under the garb of a protest against load shedding. The level of intellect of the mob can be evaluated by observing that they were destroying the same that they were demanding. And surely we all heard of the dignitary who, when caught up in a traffic jam, could think of nothing else but unleashing his guards on poor hapless commutators who were otherwise victims of the same logjam.

Raise the level and watch with amazement and disgust, what institutions are doing to each other, with no umpires and only a few sane voices suggesting calm and rapprochement. Politics is being played on the carcasses of dying systems and the media is actively taking sides, further opening the oozing wounds rather than applying a healing balm. And this time no institution seems to be strong enough or willing even to put in a word of advice. Free for all, incessant bloody infighting, spreading in all directions, with apparently no grand objectives but petty selfish interests, individual or institutional.

Look at the borders, East, Northwest or Southwest, enemies growling and spitting hateful allegations, friends not very satisfied, people who banked on you (Kashmiris) feeling abandoned. And, the enemy is not only active along borders but operating right into the heartland of our beloved land, if Kalbhushan and Ehsanullah Ehsan’s revelations are of any consequence. Every second day there are reports of arson in important factories, undermining the economy, as if piling up of unprecedented debt was not enough to break our back.

If whatever narrated above, as a birdseye view, is exaggerated towards gloom, then we can take a sigh of relief and reject all this as a figment of the imagination. But if the picture painted is nearly correct, then my dear fellow countrymen (and of course countrywomen), we are in some serious trouble, and this time there seems to be no self-correction or external nudging to put us back on track.

So are we doomed to be condemned by forces of nature as a useless and spineless nation with no goodness left that is worthy of sparing us this time? Is the situation hopeless?

All those who never give up (I humbly count myself one of those) and always see the brighter side, now will have to rise and get counted. Writing, making sermons and drawing room discussions will pay no more. If we really want good things to happen and course of the future corrected, we need to act. Nothing happens automatically; it is not even nature’s promise. We need to organise ourselves and either put our weight with some good ongoing political movement or create a new one with some specific objectives and not merely grabbing of power. But power will have to be acquired through public mobilisation and politically correct procedures. Provision of justice, education, merit and health facilities should be the basic slogan with a detailed manifesto laying down how each of these will be provided in this overpopulated and chaotic Country. Hardcore economists and foreign policy experts will have to work overtime in cooperative groups to steer us clear of the present muck. Armed Forces will have to be ready for further sacrifices as we pass through some destabilizing times.

Whatever remedies experts of sociology, politics and strategy proffer, one thing is crystal clear: immediate course correction is needed. It is already very late.

The fly in the SCO soup: 15 June, 2017 "The Nation"

Pakistan’s ascension as a member of SCO is a reason to celebrate. The regional alliance is made on order for us. Pakistan’s inclusion will boost the collective security of member countries and also help us eliminate the terrorist threat for good. There’s one big fly in the SCO soup though, admitted as member the same day as Pakistan. Will the Shanghai spirit be able to pull it out of the soup? Will India be able to dry its wings in the multipolar sun and fly high with the rest of us?

More worrisome than India’s thorny relations with fellow members Pakistan and China is the trajectory of the Modi government that is taking the ‘world’s largest democracy’ straight to the lap of Uncle Sam. What about the US-India nexus in Afghanistan and their joint hybrid war against CPEC? What about LEMOA and other foundational agreements with the US that undermine the very purpose of SCO? Besides, can Eurasian connectivity be built upon the dead bodies of innocent men, women and children of Kashmir?

Some friends are hopeful that the SCO would have a sane influence on Modi’s India. They point at the astute leadership of the regional alliance and the sensible charter of the organization they lead. President Putin and President Xi have emerged as visionary world leaders and, according to these optimistic friends, we can count on them to pull India back from the edge of the cliff and make it see the benefits of regional cooperation and their win-win plans. Other friends insist that India won’t see the light as long as Modi rules the roost.

I have no doubts about the superb leadership qualities of both President Putin and President Xi and the sincerity of their positive vision for the future of our world. If India jumps aboard the SCO-ship whole-heartedly, it would facilitate the stabilization of the region and be a shot in the arm for inter-connectivity and Eurasian integration. People of India stand to benefit tremendously from the multipolar motif of win-win cooperation. The question is: Does Modi care about all that?

Being a die-hard optimist myself, I’d like to hope that inclusion in SCO would spur India to become a responsible member of the emergent multipolar bloc and get down from its high-horse of Hindutva hegemony. I’d like to hope that India would stop auditioning for the role of a Mini-Me hegemon for Uncle Sam and embrace its neighbors as equal partners in the multipolar spirit. But this hope is outweighed by apprehensions about Modi’s India that are too big to ignore.

The Modi government not only refused to participate in the recent Belt & Road summit in Beijing, it is actively subverting projects launched under the initiative; not only in Pakistan to its west, but also in Bangladesh and Myanmar to its east, Nepal in its North and Sri Lanka in its South. It preferred to team up with unipolar Japan to announce parallel infrastructure projects of its own. It is aligned with the US and its puppet government in Afghanistan, the arch-spoilers of peace in the SCO neighborhood. And unfortunately, the problem goes much deeper than these symptoms.

Clearly, Modi’s decisions on these and several other counts that militate against the momentum of regional cooperation are not arbitrary or taken in isolation. They reflect the geo-political orientation of the Modi government and its Hindutva underpinnings. Let’s not mistake it: Modi’s India is driven by dreams of regional hegemony not win-win cooperation. The chauvinistic Hindu nationalism unleashed by him would settle for nothing less.

Actually, the Modi government’s vision for India and its place in the world is a perfect fit for the divisive and violent unipolar worldview. Its Hindutva policies are fanning extremism and intolerance not only across the length and breadth of India but also in the neighborhood. The brutality of repression in Kashmir under Modi is unprecedented, making the peaceful resolution of the dispute more difficult.

Egged on by the US, Modi’s India would like to position itself as a counterweight to China rather than its partner. It is inclined to please Uncle Sam for a place on the imperial table rather than join its neighbors to build collective security for the region. According to the Hindutva ideology, South Asian countries are to be absorbed back into one big Mother India one day in any case, and until that happens, we are all expected to accept our place as vassals of India not its equal partners.

While the SCO aims to contain chaos and instability through regional cooperation on counter-terrorism and security, Modi’s India is actively involved in spreading chaos and instability in the region in partnership with the global badmash. While the multipolar plans of regional connectivity and trade depend on a peaceful neighborhood, the rabid notions of Hindu supremacy and hegemony harbored by the Modi regime can only make the region more volatile. His corporate backers are obviously more interested in dollars than regional harmony.

So, it’s not as simple as President Putin and President Xi convincing Modi to change some of his policies. Of course, India could always decide to distance itself from the US and support Moscow’s initiative on Afghanistan. It could join the Belt & Road Initiative and build the Bangladesh-China-India-Myanmar corridor. Under the SCO umbrella, it could work with Pakistan to bring peace to Kashmir. But this calls for a fundamental reorientation, a new vision for India and its place in the world. And that is too much to expect from the Modi government.

Even if the Modi-Trump meeting in Washington scheduled for later this month doesn’t bring Modi the dividends he is hoping for, he would take his disappointments in his stride and continue to play the useful idiot to Uncle Sam. He has sunk too deep into his hubris to change his tune. Modi’s India would erode cohesion within the SCO like it did in the case of BRICS. Though I’m a die-hard optimist, I tend to agree with my friends who say that India won’t see the light until Modi rules the roost.

The Price of CPEC: 14 June, 2017 "The Nation"

The CPEC is precious whether it amounts US$ 46 or US$ 62 billion. It is the largest project between Pakistan and China and the biggest ever taken in human history between two sovereign States and these sovereign countries are Pakistan and China.

The sacrifices of Chinese nationals in Pakistan are not a new phenomenon. In building the word’s eighth wonder, the Karakoram Highway (KKH), many brave Chinese workers laid down their lives. The Yadgar Cemetery located on the Gilgit River, ten miles from Gilgit, hosts at least, 140 graves of Chinese workers. Deaths from both sides were even over 5,000 but the work never stopped and continued till its completion and inauguration in 1986 for public traffic. The buried are the heroes of the KKH and the real architects of Pakistan-China relations.

The length of the KKH is around 1,300 km, which means that at least 4 workers laid down their lives for every kilometer of road construction average. Even this price was paid for the symbolic and historic friendship between the two people. Lofty and un-accessible mountains and harsh weather conditions of the Himalaya could not prevent them to crave out the KKH. Both people could complete any miracle.

The CPEC is not a challenge for them. The CPEC miracle is an easy job. The price of the CPEC is much more compared to the KKH and both sides are committed. They have finances and sturdy will. Terrorism and threats could not stop them building connectivity from Kashgar to Gwadar. This is the vision of President Xi Jinping and he has no doubts about it. He envisions a global connectivity and the revival of the ancient Silk Road by staring first from Pakistan to connect Xinjiang with Gwadar. Both countries are ready to embrace natural and man-made casualties to complete the dream of connectivity.

The first causality on the CPEC has taken place. It is highly unfortunate that two Chinese teachers engaged in the teaching of Mandarin language and themselves learning Urdu language in Quetta have been abducted on 24 May and on 6 June news broke out that they were killed by IS affiliates. The story broke by Amaq news agency, an affiliate of the IS. The story is yet not confirmed by Pakistani or Chinese authorities. This looks the same old tactics of the Al-Qaeda and Taliban, kidnaping and beheading captives in Afghanistan and tribal areas in Pakistan.

The situation is alarming and grave. A recent report from the Pentagon also predicts that China will expand its military reach and it could construct military bases in Pakistan to protect Chinese nationals. Pakistan and China do not roll back on CPEC projects and their commitments and pledges on it. They could take all possible measures to protect Chinese nationals working on CPEC projects.

The military launched an operation on caves complex in Mastung in Quetta to get released these captives by the beginning of June. At least 25 of terrorists were killed by Pakistan army. The captives were not Baloch insurgents and separatists. They are IS affiliates, whose task is to create law and order from Kashgar to Gwadar to threaten CPEC projects.

Indian and Afghan intelligence agencies are mainly engaged in these activities as IS has gained strength in Afghanistan to gain a foot-print for its terrorist acts. India has its increased presence in Afghanistan. In this region, their target is the CPEC and Xinjiang separation from China. Pakistan is a strong pillar on China’s western border to guarantee its stability.

The centrifugal forces launched efforts within Pakistan to target China and its goals of commitment of the CPEC. To Beijing-based Global Times, terrorist are trying to get publicity or ransom for their cause by abducting Chinese nationals on Pakistan’s soil. They are trying to establish a foot-print in Balochistan, home to CPEC projects such as Gwadar Deep Sea Port, Gwadar International Airport and roads connecting to Kashgar. Pakistan army is launching the Operation Radul Fasad to target IS terrorists and their affiliates.

While commenting on the news about the two Chinese nationals’ abduction in Quetta, Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokesperson, Hua Chunying, told a news briefing that the incident would not have any impact on the security of projects being constructed under the CPEC. This is the old same resolve when the Karakorum was built. Both countries are committed to tackle the CPEC terrorist challenges in all manifestations.

It’s also time to see if a new connection has been set up between IS and RAW and NDS for CPEC sabotaging activities. The Iranian involvement also cannot be ruled out. A recent report by Renmin University’s Chongyang Institute for Financial Studies and Caijing magazine after a two-week field trip to CPEC sites including Gwadar port and the Bin Qasim coal-fired plant had referred to India’s so-called role in trying to destabilize the CPEC.

India’s support to separatist forces in Balochistan, its diplomatic offensive against Islamabad and involvement in Chabahar port of Iran are factors that could impact the development of the CPEC, the report warned. The Government and its law enforcement authorities should look into these threatening developments by the saboteur of CPEC. Prior to this abduction, a number of incidents took place involving RAW and NIDS.

Pakistan's role in the Mideast crisis: 14 June, 2017 "Express Tribune"

The decision by Saudia Arabia and its allies to boycott Qatar was in the making for some time, although it was not expected to be that harsh. There is a strong feeling that it was the trump factor that emboldened Saudi Arabia to take the tough stand.

While on the one hand President Trump continues to support the policy of isolating Qatar and on the other, wants to play the role of a mediator. Perhaps, President Trump was initially unaware, until reminded by his staff Qatar is home to Centom, US biggest millitary base in the region with 8,000 troops stationed there. Not surprising that US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson took the opposite position that sanctions against Qatar be ease as it is causing unintended huminitarian consequences and hindering military action in the region and affecting the fight against the Islamic State. more...

Pakistan in Shanghai Club: 13 June, 2017 "The Nation"

The Shanghai Cooperation Organisation grew out of the “Shanghai Five,” which was founded in 1996. The SCO was founded with an aim to strengthen relations among member states and promote cooperation in political affairs, economics and trade. The group, which was founded in 2001 in Shanghai comprises China, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan as full members. Afghanistan, Belarus, India, Iran, Mongolia and Pakistan have an observer status. In a short period of time, the SCO has already begun to emerge as an important regional and international player and many compare its prospect and strength as of European Union and some term it as counterweight to NATO. Pakistan, which has been an observer at the SCO since 2005, applied for a permanent membership in 2010.

Recently held from 8-9 June, 2017 the SCO summit was important for Pakistan as it was formally admitted into the group. Beside Pakistan, India also became member of SCO and being now members of SCO, both Pakistan and India are expected to mend their ties and uphold the spirit of the SCO. In 2015 SCO summit held in Ufa Russia, the group had formally adopted a resolution which started the procedure to admit India and Pakistan into the SCO. Both the countries signed a Memorandum of Obligations to join the organisation and now with the enclosure of Pakistan and India as members, SCO will become a regional organisation with the largest reporting involving the biggest population.

With India and Pakistan becoming permanent members there is much hearsay as to how both countries will mould their future relations, particularly Indian behaviour which is mostly hostile towards Pakistan. Pakistan is looking forward for efforts in endorsing security, economic and trade cooperation among member states besides cooperating in efforts to address the challenge of terrorism. It is imperative to mention that SCO’s major emphasis is on enhancing regional cooperation along with handling the peril of terrorism and increasing militancy in region and ensuring regional security. Surely this can be achieved effectively with coordinated efforts among member states and inclusion of Pakistan as associate depicts that SCO countries equally realize the Pakistan’s efforts in curbing militancy.

As an observer Pakistan proved to be a responsible state and fulfilled desired objectives to be granted membership. Becoming part of the largest geographical block, definitely will upset those who want to isolate Pakistan in regional and international politics. India, too became member of SCO alongside Pakistan is expected to create troubles as traditional rival. As Sushma Suraj, Indian Minister for External Affairs stated before the summit on rumours of expected Nawaz Modi meeting that “talks and terror cannot go together.” This depicts Indian frustrations on Pakistan’s growing regional influence and stubbornness on not solving year’s old disputes between both countries. Likewise continued hostile remarks by Indian Army Chief and frosty relations between two countries after the Pathankot and Kulbhushan Yadav episode highlight India’s adamant behaviour and lingering resentment. There are apprehensions that both countries will end up with the kind of role they used to have in SAARC summits and hostility will always prevail. But with India as a giant state in SAARC, the case of SCO is pretty different as, China which is a dominant power in SCO and Russia equally trying to gain back its strength and hold authority in regional politics, chances of uni-centred power are less. India’s membership was strongly pushed by Russia while Pakistan’s entry into the grouping was backed by China. It is expected that with its growing influence in region SCO will represent over 40% of humanity and nearly 20% of the global GDP. Though India skipped OBOR summit held in China in May, 2017 portraying it as a China-Pakistan grouping to undermine India’s sovereignty and claimed India was not taken into confidence while implementing OBOR flagship projects in South Asia. By way of SCO membership in hand now, India must act as responsible state and stop threating and making false accusations on Pakistan and move forward for regional peace. Surely, not forgetting Kashmir which awaits for its future to be decided. SCO is going to be an economic forerunner if countries play their productive role and leave behind bequest of cooperation not conflict.

However side-lining India’s behaviour, Pakistan understands its relations with China and Russia. Pakistan is pursuing CPEC projects which are a part of the Chinese initiative of OBOR, and with other nations showing interest in being a part of CPEC and OBOR, Pakistan’s pivotal role in SCO’s in future cannot be ruled out. SCO will facilitate Pakistan in highlighting its role for regional economic and security cooperation. With Russia and other Central Asian republics, Pakistan shares historical and cultural associations, apart from robust economic and strategic balance. Therefore despite efforts by rivals to push Pakistan towards isolation cannot succeed as this organisation knows the crucial role played by Pakistan in restoring regional peace and stability by tackling extremism. If all the member states work together they can surely bring change in region by efforts to restore peace and can have their say on international forums more commendably. For SCO to succeed and keep the ball rolling every player has to step forward to make this club not only prolific on the economic front but other areas of mutual interest also.

India’s CPEC paranoia: 13 June, 2017 "The Nation"

China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) is the flagship project of China’s grand Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). CPEC has received applause globally and is also seen as a foot towards peace and stability in South Asia, the region that is always on the streamline because of India and Pakistan rivalry since 1947. India has come out as the only major opposition to CPEC and it also did not attend the Belt and Road conference in May. India’s hostility towards CPEC also stems from its suspiciousness towards BRI, as it can lead to more Chinese influence in the region and also in the global arena. India worries that through CPEC and BRI, China will intrude on India’s power in areas like Bhutan, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Maldives, and the East Africa Coast countries. Indians are also wary of the fact that China’s grand strategy with further strengthen china’s maritime gains also known as the String of Pearls.

India’s apprehensions towards CPEC are widely known and they are mainly worried that Pakistan’s economy will grow and become more stable, which India cannot tolerate as India does not wants to see a prosperous Pakistan and they are also influencing terrorism in Pakistan which is further proved by the capture of RAW agent Kulbhushan Yadav. India also points finger at CPEC because it passes through Kashmir and Gilgit-Baltistan. However, India sees China’s initiative as a geopolitical competition and is using the Kashmir issue as a lame excuse to go up against the project. Additionally, India is against infrastructure development in Pakistan and also in Azad Jammu and Kashmir and Gilgit-Baltistan. It is against their interest to see the region developing and progressing thus the opposition.

India’s anxiety is mainly rooted in a territorial dispute as it maintains that the corridor will run through Pakistan’s Kashmir region. Such an attitude is both unfortunate and petty. Keeping aside the fact that CPEC is a bilateral matter, the project, if executed in a clear and lucid manner, and keeping the goals and ambitions of all players in mind, has the potential to transform the economy of the region. The corridor is a small cog in a larger plan which focuses on connectivity. Not to mention the far encompassing benefits for the entire region. CPEC provides Pakistan the opportunity to become a central trade and commercial hub not just for China, but for the Central Asian Republics, Russia, Afghanistan and Iran as well. Moreover, it provides China, access to warm waters to spread its trade volume exponentially. This does not bode well with policy-makers in India, who have a two point agenda; to constrain Pakistan by any means possible, and to challenge the rise of China as the regional leader.

CPEC is not just a project that is limited to Pakistan; it would prove to be a game changer for the entire region. It is imperative that all the stakeholders implement the project with transparency and do not let the project be marred by corruption and other issues. If India does not want to be part of the project, Pakistan and China should not keep inviting them in the project as it is already being implemented successfully without India. India’s paranoia is increasing with the efficient and effective implementation of CPEC. India’s attitude towards CPEC and BRI is a hindrance towards the stability and development of the region and if India does not want to be part of these projects, at least it should not try to sabotage the flourishing future of the region.


International obligations and Fata’s governance: 08 June, 2017 "Daily Times"

Pakistan ratified the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) in 2010. The ICCPR entitles individuals for a fair trial, including the presumption of innocence, and safeguards from arbitrary detention and torture. The covenant makes states parties responsible for taking legislative, administrative and other appropriate measures to prevent human rights violations.

Pakistan submitted its ‘initial report’ to the committee under ICCPR in October 2015. In November 2016, the committee asked many questions regarding the human rights situation in Pakistan and adopted a ‘list of issues’. The committee will now examine Pakistan’s responses on the implementation of ICCPR in the country in July 2017.

In the very first paragraph of the ‘list of issues’, the UN Human Rights committee asked the government of Pakistan to provide information on the measures taken to ensure the direct application of the ICCPR in federal and provincial areas including FATA. The committee inquired into the measures taken by the government of Pakistan to ensure the jurisdiction of the highest courts to the entire country, including FATA. Before this, Pakistan in its initial report has claimed that upon ratification the ICCPR in 2010 by the government, it became applicable to the whole of Pakistan including FATA, and all the rights ‘embodied’ in the ICCPR and other international human rights instrument ratified by Pakistan are part of the substantive law of the country.

We should recall that in 2011, the military was called into Federally Administered Tribal Area (FATA) and Provincially Administered Tribal Area (PATA) when terrorists challenged the ‘writ of the state’ and took arms against the innocent civilians. Numerous powers of trial and detention were conferred on the military on 27th June 2011, when the president promulgated the Actions in Aid of Civil Power Regulations 2011 (AACPR), with retrospective effect from February 2008.

The AACPR legalised extended and indefinite detentions, gave the armed forces sweeping powers for search without warrant, seizure of property, and ‘interment’ for an indefinite time. Under the law, the armed forces can warn the civilians to ‘vacate’ an area. Unlike regular criminal law, AACPR makes the statements of suspects recorded by the security personnel ‘admissible’ and sufficient for the ‘conviction’ of terrorism suspects.

Under the regulations, internment centres were established to serve as ‘detention centers’ for the arrested terrorism suspects. The law provides an Oversight Board, comprising of four members, to review the cases of the persons interned for not more than 120 days, look into the conditions of the Internment Centre and to take cognisance of any complaint regarding ‘any torture or ill or degrading treatment’. But no one knows how the Oversight Board is functioning, how many cases of detainees have been reviewed and in how many cases of torture it has initiated any proceedings. It was conveyed to most of the petitioners in their habeas corpus writ petitions, filed in Peshawar High Court, against the enforced disappearance of their family members that the ‘missing persons’ have been kept in the Internment Centres established under the AACPR.

 

Military courts have the retrospective power to try terrorism suspects, including those held under Action in Aid of Civil Power Regulations of 2011 at internment centres across FATA

 After the Army Public School incident in December 2014, military courts were established through the introduction of the 21st amendment in the constitution. These courts received retrospective power to try all those civilian terrorism suspects arrested previously and kept in the internment centres under the AACPR. It was alleged by the petitioners challenging the convictions orders of the military courts in the Supreme Court that those convicted were earlier subjected to ‘enforced disappearance’ and kept in unacknowledged detentions in the Internment Centres.

These are just some of the reasons why the AACPR is considered a ‘black law’ by human rights organisations and its provisions have been challenged before the Supreme Court for violating fundamental rights enumerated in the constitution. Various UN bodies too have expressed serious concern about the regulations.

In its concluding observations on Pakistan, the UN Committee against Torture, also called upon Pakistan to “repeal or amend the AACPR in order to abolish the military’s power to establish internment centres in FATA and PATA and ensure that no one is held in secret or incommunicado detention anywhere in the territory of the state party as detaining individuals in such conditions constitutes, per se, a violation of the convention.”

It is clear, therefore, that laws like AACPR have no place in a democratic society that values human rights and the rule of law.

On March 16, the government introduced two bills in the National Assembly in order to ‘mainstream’ FATA. One was the Tribal Areas Rewaj Act 2017 and second was the Thirtieth Constitutional Amendment Bills, seeking the extension of Peshawar High Court and Supreme Court of Pakistan jurisdiction to FATA. Interestingly, AACPR, which was earlier on the top of the list in the already extended laws, has not been mentioned in the 144 laws that the government wants to extend to FATA along with the Rewaj Act.

In July, when Pakistan’s implementation of the ICCPR will be examined by the UN Human Rights Committee, the compatibility of AACPR with Pakistan’s international human rights obligations will certainly come under discussion. Now is a good opportunity for the government to repeal AACPR to end the tyrannical regulations imposed in FATA.

Unshackling Kashmir: 08 June, 2017 "The Nation"

Kashmir, the most probable of all global nuclear flashpoints, continues to fester as a bleeding wound on the comatose conscience of the world. The inhuman and criminal Indian Army crackdown against the ongoing indigenous “intifada” in Indian Held Kashmir (IHK) and the blistering volatility astride the LoC/Working Boundary (WB) portend critical instability and conflict in the region and beyond.

The paradox is alarming; although the Kashmir issue threatens a possible nuclear winter in one of the world’s most populous and sensitive regions, the international community seems callously oblivious to and deliberately incognisant of the inherent dangers and their global ramifications.

It needs to wake up and take note!

The international community appears to be dealing with the Kashmir issue in the same manner as it did with the Palestine issue – a deliberate diminution of a global problem down to the level of an inert non-issue. It was gradually denigrated in importance from a global flashpoint to one restricted to the Islamic world, then limited to the Arab world only, further toned down to a regional ME issue, then to a PLO-Israel bilateral predicament till now it has been degraded to only an issue of terrorism between Hamas and Israel – and made very manageable!

The same methodology is being applied to the Kashmir issue. It acquired global proportions in 1948 when the UNSC passed a resolution for resolving it through a free plebiscite. Thereafter, despite the 1948, 1965 and 1971 wars the UNSC showed little inclination to resolve it. The Kashmir issue came to the fore again in 1972 when the infamous Simla Agreement was signed. In one fell swoop it was degraded from sensitive global dimensions to a mere bilateral tiff between India and Pakistan. Later on it was further reduced to one of the many points of a dysfunctional “composite dialogue”. The Indians are now trying to further denigrate it to a simple case of trans-LOC terrorism by Pakistan and want to discuss nothing but this with it!

Kashmir, however, cannot be similarly reduced to “manageable proportions”. Unlike Palestine, Kashmir is now the world’s foremost nuclear flashpoint and unlike the Arab world’s attitude towards Palestine, Pakistan’s commitment to Kashmir is profound and unshakeable.

The Simla Agreement provides a bilateral conflict resolution platform. However, all Indian Governments since and particularly the current Modi Government has contemptuously violated it in letter and spirit. PM Modi has shown scant interest to discuss Kashmir bilaterally much less on any other forum. Then why should Pakistan feel unilaterally beholden to an agreement that has not been implemented by the other side ever since? Pakistan must seek a diplomatic way out of the Simla Agreement. Failing which, it should unilaterally renounce it for having persistently failed its primary raison d’etre – the practical resolution of the Kashmir issue on a bilateral basis.

Pakistan must rescue and unshackle the Kashmir issue from the forced apathy of the UNSC, the studied indifference of the major powers of the world, the arrogant denial of its existence by India and from the debilitating shackles of the defunct Simla Agreement. The stranglehold of the Indian Army’s brutal presence and crackdown in IHK must also be broken, post haste. The UN has failed singularly to make any progress on the issue for the last sixty nine years; the Simla Agreement for the last forty five years. Pakistan and Kashmir cannot wait timelessly for India to discuss the issue bilaterally, at its pleasure. Therefore, the situation demands that Pakistan must wrest the initiative and forcefully internationalise the Kashmir issue. India has given us the opportunity by taking the Kulbushan Yadav case to the ICJ. We must take it there and much further beyond.

The Simla Agreement has been overtaken by the evolving regional environment too and is now totally redundant. The US (Afghanistan), Russia (Afghanistan, SCO) and China (Afghanistan, SCO, OBOR, CPEC) have made their respective ingresses into the wider region initiating massive reorientations and realignments therein. The cross currents of their conflicting national interests are further compounding an already complicated regional strategic environment. And it is in this multidimensional and complex milieu we find the two trigger happy sub-continental nuclear powers sitting eyeball to eyeball without any mutually acceptable conflict resolution methodology between them. Any explosive situation in IHK or astride the LoC/WB might potentially acquire nuclear dimensions. These major powers in the region now have a role to play; the UN and bilateralism have both been resounding failures thus far.

It therefore becomes imperative for the UNSC-led international community to get seriously re-involved in resolving the Kashmir issue. It could take the form of a P5+1 type mission (a la Iran’s nuclear program). As a first step it must intercede to stop the brutalisation of the IHK society and its people at the hands of the Indian armed forces. A fact finding mission by the UNSC/P5+1 must be sent to IHK immediately. It must also seek a repeal of the draconian and inhuman laws that give the Indian LEAs unprecedented and totalitarian powers to ruthlessly pound the Kashmiris with. Furthermore, it must get oversight of the LOC/WB by getting India to grant members of the UNMOGIP access to it. The LOC/WB could thus become pacified again and a ceasefire agreement worked out. The UNSC/P5+1 led international community must also forestall a wider conflict from ensuing that may acquire nuclear dimensions. The OBOR/CPEC can and will become the gateways of economic prosperity for the peoples of the sub-continent. The UNSC/P5+1 led international community must make that a reality by helping resolve Kashmir and all other issues between Pakistan and India. It could even have the Simla Agreement implemented under its oversight or failing which manage its timely termination. Most importantly, the UN led international community must enforce the relevant UN Resolution on Kashmir.

A just resolution of the Kashmir issue is inevitable. It will unshackle the destinies of all peoples of the subcontinent. A nervous world however continues to view this issue and the indigenous “intifada” in IHK with an ominous sense of anticipation and foreboding.


CPEC going global: 03 June, 2017 "Business Recorder"

It is reported that the Asian Development Bank, under its programme “Scoping of Economic Corridor Development in Pakistan”, aims to identify potential economic corridors to enhance trade, regional connectivity, growth, and job creation through evidence-based mapping. 

“The ADB is conducting a study on the potential economic development along the corridor for which ADB would select node cities,” Farzana Noshab, senior economics officer ADB, said while giving a detailed presentation at the headquarters of Board of Investment (BoI). The study shall cover the area/city/location and match it with its economic potential, i.e., market niche so that investment and economic activity is generated on the potential. Under focus is CPEC, Pakistan Economic Corridors Programme (PECP), and Central Asia Regional Economic Cooperation (CAREC) as the economic corridors immensely impacting the economy of Pakistan. 

Asian Development Bank has been a strong partner in the development of Pakistan in the Energy sector, infrastructure and social sector through its technical support and soft term financing. Lately, it has pledged to support Peshawar Mass Transit Mega project. This is one strategic and tested partner Pakistan must work with extensively. 

The UK after Brexit and the EU shaken from the “US first policy” are looking for new markets and business alignments to fill in the gap and sustain their economies. The most promising candidate for the CPEC is the UK. After Britons voted in favour of Brexit this past summer, the UK sees the need to bring its investments into the non-EU projects, and the CPEC could become this very platform for investments. 

UK Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs Boris Johnson echoed his country’s interest in the CPEC during his most recent visit to Pakistan. Johnson even described the CPEC as “a wonder project” and expressed his desire for the UK companies to participate in various projects of it. 

“I am very excited about the CPEC idea. And I would like the UK firms to participate in the construction of this fabulous venture,” Johnson said while addressing the students and faculty of the Government College University in Lahore. “But this should be part of an even more ambitious vision that would revive the ancient Silk Route and see the rebirth of trading caravans connecting East and West.” Boris Johnson urged UK businesspeople to invest in Pakistan. 

Johnson also said that Karachi should be Asia’s “biggest trading entrepot” alongside Singapore and Shanghai. The British Secretary of State also pledged that his country will “play a part” in helping Pakistan achieve closer economic integration. 

He praised Islamabad for making a huge progress in recent years, noting that national security in Pakistan has improved while democracy has been strengthened. Those are the two key points to attracting investors, as they serve as an indication of stability in the country. So his words may be interpreted as a direct invitation to British firms to invest in various sectors of Pakistan’s economy and become part of the CPEC. All of this has a positive effect and a number of UK businesses are visiting Pakistan these days. 

France too is interested in the CPEC. Ambassador Fenet stated that his country is keen to further strengthen bilateral trade and economic relations between the two nations. Praising the CPEC for creating many business and investment opportunities, Fenet said that France is taking a huge interest in the South Asia country. In a message that was backed by the French Embassy’s Head of Economic Department, Philippe Fouet, Fenet also said that his country has what Pakistan needs to boost its economy – the advanced technology and expertise. 

German companies are keen to join China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) to further improve trade relations, said Ina Lepel, German Ambassador to Pakistan in her recent address at Federation of Pakistan Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FPCCI). Germany is the second largest partner in trade with Pakistan in Europe and will do whatever possible to improve these ties, she added. The ambassador said there is a lot of potential for enhanced cooperation. 

The Swiss Embassy in Islamabad and the Swiss Consulate in Karachi, in collaboration with Swiss Business Council Pakistan, recently organized events in Islamabad and Karachi to mobilize the interest of the Foreign Investors, notably, the European investors to invest in the CPEC. The events were participated by diplomats, business chambers, media and government functionaries. The next event on the subject of the CPEC will be organized in Switzerland in early July 2017. 

Russia too is looking forward to investing in the CPEC. It is learnt that Russian companies investments in energy, coal mining and metal industry of Pakistan may reach $5 billion over the next five years. 

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani has expressed his country’s desire to become a part of the China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) during his meeting with Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif on the sidelines of 71th UNGA session. The Iranian president lauded Islamabad’s vision for translating the CPEC into a strong reality and pointed out that connectivity projects were recognised by both countries as vital to the progress of the region. “The two leaders reiterated the complementarity between Gwadar and Chabahar sea ports that could boost regional trade exponentially in the decades ahead,” he said. 

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has urged Turkish businessmen to invest in the CPEC, arguing that the CPEC is a game changer for the region. He stated this while addressing the Pakistan-Turkey Roundtable Investment Conference recently. 

Afghanistan’s Ambassador to Pakistan Dr Omer Zakhilwal said Kabul absolutely supports the China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) and wants to become a part of the project. “The CPEC was a great project that was equally relevant to Afghanistan like Pakistan, and anything that will be good for Pakistan will be good for the entire region.” The Afghan envoy asserted that the people of Afghanistan are “thirsty for development” and wants to see their homeland prosper. “I think the CPEC is not limited to Pakistan; it is for the entire region particularly Central Asia,” the envoy maintained. 

In the recent bilateral meetings held with the President of Turkmenistan in Islamabad, the indications are that Turkmenistan will become part of the CPEC project. Its decision will encourage other Central Asia states to be part of the corridor. Moreover, Pakistan and Belarus recently signed a roadmap for bilateral cooperation and decided to establish special economic zones. The two countries also plan on conducting a study for exploring the possibilities of participating infrastructure projects within the framework of China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC). 

With the interest and goodwill of all these countries from Europe, Russia, Central Asia and our neighbouring countries we have a great chance to work on them and position their footprints in Pakistan as stakeholders in the CPEC in real terms. This could turn out to be a great investment mix and dispel the apprehensions of CPEC being an all-China affair. We must take on board other countries, notably, Japan and South Korea with a view to achieving the global mix insofar as CPEC is concerned. (The writer is former President, Overseas Investors Chamber of Commerce and Industry) 

Validity of Kulbhoshan’s case: 03 June, 2017 "Daily Times"

Indian secret service Research and Analysis Wing (RAW)’s senior operative Commander Kulbhoshan Jadhav has been sentenced to death by a Field General Court Martial of Pakistan Army on charges of spying for India and running a terror network. The International Court of Justice (ICJ) has stayed the sentence till its hearing is completed.

Indian media is sanguine that it will be able to get Commander Jadhav acquitted at the ICJ. The question that arises is whether Pakistan has a case against the RAW terror monger?

 

The argument that the Pakistan counsel was incompetent before the ICJ does not hold. The services of the same legal expert had been acquired by Manmohan Singh’s administration to represent India successfully at Court back in 2004

Prima facie Pakistan has a strong case but the weak link in the chain is the civilian dispensation at Islamabad. For ten months after Commander Jadhav was nabbed by Pakistani sleuths from Balochistan, the government remained mum while the Pakistan Army kept the issue alive. During his address to the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) in September 2016, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif had a grand opportunity to expose Indian machinations in Balochistan and unveil the master spy and terrorist Commander Jadhav at the UNGA podium but he kept mum.

Mr.Sartaj Aziz, Advisor on Foreign Affairs to the Prime Minister, told a full Senate chamber of Pakistan Parliament in December 2016: "The dossier on Indian spy Kulbhoshan Jadhav contained mere statements. It did not have any conclusive evidence." Indian media has flaunted this quote in the face of every Pakistan participant in Indian TV talk shows on the Jadhav case.

During a recent seminar at GHQ on May 18, Pakistan Army Chief General Bajwa lamented that it was the Army that had to make arrangements for acquiring legal counsel to represent Pakistan during the hearing of the case at the ICJ. There are rumours that when Commander Kulbhoshan Jadhav was apprehended, the Prime Minister advised the Army Chief to let him go. Reportedly, the Army did not relent.

Pakistan’s foreign office spokesperson Nafees Zakaria stated, while talking to a local TV channel: "Jadhav continues to provide crucial intelligence with regard to recent terrorist attacks in Pakistan." However, Zakaria did not elaborate on the details of the intelligence being provided by Jadhav. He was not expected to since it would be premature to reveal such crucial information, especially when Commander  Jadhav continues to sing like a canary.

Meanwhile, Pakistan’s attorney general Ashtar Ausaf informed Pakistani media that Pakistan had enough evidence to prove that Jadhav was a "spy". Ausaf said Pakistan has information on Jadhav that could not be disclosed due to security reasons.

"The evidence would only be presented before the ICJ once it resumes the hearing," he said. Ausaf said the ICJ’s ‘procedural order’ of May 18 was neither Pakistan’s defeat nor India’s success and emphasized that when the case re-starts, "Pakistan would be on solid ground to win".

Responding to a question regarding the constitution of a new legal team, Ausaf said that there were no plans to change the team. However, he said it would be "expanded".

When asked why he did not represent Pakistan at the May 15 hearing at the ICJ, Ausaf claimed that he "knew prior to the judgment that the ICJ is going to announce the provisional order".

Pakistan has been crying hoarse regarding Indian involvement in the insurgency in Balochistan and its nefarious attempts to sabotage the China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) but its pleas of anguish have fallen on deaf ears. In the shape of Commander Kulbhoshan Jadhav, for the first time Pakistan has concrete evidence of Indian intervention in Pakistan. It has the wherewithal to expose India at the world forum. Kulbhoshan’s espionage and terror network extended to Balochistan, Afghanistan and Karachi. His recruits were plotting terror attacks, some of which were successful in wreaking havoc and causing massive loss of lives.

India has been visibly rattled by the incarceration of Jadhav and is bending backwards to have him released before he spilled the beans on India’s odious agenda to destabilize Pakistan. Fortunately for Pakistan, Jadhav has already pinpointed key points from his terror network, whose local operatives have been rounded up where RAW was recruiting, training and arming insurgents and terrorists. Equipped with this evidence, Pakistan needs to get its act together. Firstly, the government must be fully on board to pursue the case at ICJ, secondly it must beef up its legal team and ensure that they are armed with all the evidence. The bickering that Barrister Khawar Qureshi, who represented Pakistan at The Hague on May 18, was incompetent does not hold water. The services of the same legal expert had been acquired by Dr. Manmohan Singh’s government in 2004 to represent India successfully at the ICJ. What is sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander.

The legend of Bhindranwale: 03 June, 2017 "The Nation"

June 6, 1984, is historic from the view of the Khalistan movement when one of its leading figures was martyred by Indian security forces in the battle for Akal Takht. Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale’s legend has not only lived on but has now become a source of strength for Sikh community across the globe, including India.

Bhindranwale was a flamboyant leader who dedicated his life for Sikh freedom. He called for Sikh community to return to roots of Sikhism, fighting against the consumption of liquor, drugs and laxness in religious practices, such as the cutting of hair by Sikh youth.  Launching the Dharam Yudh Morcha in August 1982, Bhindranwale aimed at the fulfillment of a list of demands based on the Anandpur Sahib Resolution. Thousands of people joined the movement in the hopes of acquiring a larger share of irrigation water and the return of Chandigarh to Punjab.

Operation Blue Star, with heavy support of armour and artillary was launched in Jun 1984 to eliminate Bhindranwale and his valiant soldiers including former Sikh Maj Gen Shabeg Singh. Bhinranwale was martyred by the Indian Army on June 6, creating ripples across India and paving way for permanent fissures between the Sikh and Hindu community.

From grandeur of Sikh rule in the subcontinent to bitter memories of Operation Blue Star and desecration of Akal Takht in 1984 (which resulted into a mutiny in Indian Military), Khalistan has remained a dream for the Sikhs of India as well as their strong Diaspora around the entire globe.

In Canada, US,UK, Europe, South East Asia and Australia, Khalistan 2020 is becoming a major movement. The Sikh Federation UK had already presented their manifesto with three major objectives :

• Independent inquiry into the actions of the UK government in the lead up to and after the June and November 1984 Sikh genocide.

• Call for the UK government to recognise the events of June and November 1984 as a Sikh genocide

• Call for the UK government to recognise and support the application for self-determination to the Sikhs for an Independent Khalistan.

A US and Canada based organisation, Sikhs for Justice (SFJ) under the  Gurpatwant Singh Pannu, has been lobbying for an independent  Khalistan, and for the RSS to be declared a terrorist organisation.

Dr Amarjit Singh of Such O Such programme of TV 84 is a Sikh TV personality based in the US. He has been regularly airing the cause of Khalistan and strongly believes that Indian intelligence is involved in state-sponsored terrorism in Kashmir and Indian Punjab. He quoted Sikh sources within Indian Punjab that there was unanimity of the view that Dinanagar and Pathankot were false flag operations conducted by Indian intelligence agencies to drive a wedge between the Kashmiri and Sikh communities.

Indian security establishment is finding it difficult to stem the tide of insurgencies in Kashmir, Khalistan and Naxal dominated areas. An international referendum by the Sikh diaspora in 2020 could trigger a wave of independence movements across India and jolt the very foundation of the Indian Union.

As reported by Times Colonist in the Canadian press on 18 April, Canadian Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan’s visit to his native India in April ran into controversy after one of the country’s political leaders accused him of being a Sikh nationalist. Amarinder Singh, the CM of Indian Punjab where Sajjan was born, made the explosive accusation in an interview on Indian TV in advance of Sajjan’s trip. In the interview, Singh expressed anger over not being allowed to speak at political rallies in Canada last year before calling Sajjan and the other Sikh members of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s cabinet “Khalistanis”.

“I’m not going to meet him,” Singh said. “There are five ministers who are Khalistanis and I am not interested in meeting any Khalistanis.”

Hindustan Times on May17, talked of India-Canada relations taking another hit as a retired senior ex CRPF officer Tejinder Singh Dhillon, was denied entry at Vancouver airport, partly because immigration authorities deemed him to have served a government that engages in “Terrorism, systematic or gross human rights violations, or genocide”.

Sikh24.com, reported on 14 February, 2017, about a large gathering at Sri Fatehgarh Sahib to mark the 68th birth anniversary of Bhindranwale. Sikh masses arrived from all over Punjab, including from United States, Canada, England and Germany.  Sikh youth arrived in jeeps, motorcycles, buses wearing kesri dastars and holding nishan sahibs. During the commemoration programs, the All India Sikh Students Federation conducted a campaign to get signature in support of petition moved in International Court of Justice in Hague (Netherlands) seeking a referendum on SYL-Canal issue of Punjab. The campaign witnessed a robust response as more than 35,000 Punjab citizens signed the petition.

Sikhs have also been demanding the repeal of an ambiguous clause in the Indian constitution of 1949 – Article 25(2)(b) which states that, “Reference to Hindus shall be construed as including a reference to persons professing the Sikh, Jaina or Buddhist religion, and the reference to Hindu religious institutions shall be construed accordingly.” This clause, according to the Sikh community, has denied them their identity as a separate religious community.

Why Pakistan has not discussed the issue of Khalistan when Modi openly talks of Balochistan and Gilgit-Baltistan, this needs some insight. Unfortunately, there is little debate in the Pakistani media on issues related to India’s internal politics, especially the conflicts within the Indian Union.

Taking a leaf from my previous article in 2013 on the Sikh struggle; two trends are clearly visible, Sikh frustration within Indian polity and Sikh diaspora becoming more proactive. The promulgation of Sikh Congressional Caucus in the US in 2014 is viewed by India as part of Khalistan movement. The Times of India then observed that , “The Indian effort to sensitise US lawmakers to New Delhi’s concerns began even before the launch of the caucus, but much to the Indian embassy’s surprise and dismay, pro-Khalistani Sikhs succeeded in getting the caucus off the ground. In the process, they are said to have sidelined mainstream nationalist Sikhs.”

Since his death, Bhindranwale has remained a controversial figure in Indian history. While the Sikhs’ highest temporal authority Akal Takht describe him a great martyr of the Sikh Nation, who made supreme sacrifice for the sake of faith, the Indian government views him as an extremist.”

With fertile lands and an enterprising community, Khalistan could become an independent and thriving state in the region and could also act as a bridge between Pakistan, India and the prospective state of Jammu and Kashmir.

From CPEC to OBOR: 02 June, 2017 "The Nation"

On May 12, 2017, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif along with heads of 27 states reached Beijing to attend the World Forum on One Belt One Road Initiative. China is implementing its vision of leading global trade and the underlying argument is prosperity through connectivity and cooperation. The OBOR initiative, as the name indicates, is still in the phases of being rolled out. The only “well begun, half done” story that the Chinese Government could speak of in favor of OBOR was the preliminary success of CPEC in Pakistan. It is an ambitious stance, but one with considerable credibility. CPEC is a display of commitment by President Jinping. That is why presence of Pakistan was so critical to the success of OBOR forum. However, it would be more than prudent to differentiate between the goals and prospects of CPEC and OBOR separately.

To begin with, it is clear that CPEC is a significant part of initiating OBOR. From a broader perspective, OBOR is China’s grand Geo-Political strategy to transform the World Order as we know it OBOR, ambitious project that seeks to connect the People’s Republic of China with countries of Europe, Asia and Africa through land and sea routes. The primary objective is to capture a larger share of global trade and commerce. Secondary objective is to flood Chinese exports in the newly developed land and sea routes. The third is maintaining a means to acquire cheap oil and gas back and forth as and when required by the expanding giant of an economy that is China. There are 6 routes in all that are to be coordinated simultaneously as follows:

1.            China–Pakistan Corridor, running from South-Western China to Pakistan

2.            China–Mongolia–Russia Corridor, running from Northern China to Eastern Russia

3.            China–Central Asia–West Asia Corridor, running from Western China to Turkey

4.            China–Indochina Peninsula Corridor, running from Southern China to Singapore

5.            New Eurasian Land Bridge, running from Western China to Western Russia

6.            Maritime Silk Road, running from the Chinese Coast over Singapore to the Mediterranean.

All these make up the OBOR initiative in its entirety. It is evident from the above that CPEC is the flagship project and one small portion of the gigantic enterprise that is OBOR. In total, over 60 countries will be directly connected to China, becoming reliant on its goods and services. In exchange of this reliance, China will be willing to offer development in infrastructure, trade, commerce and mutual benefits through exchange. After being formally unveiled by Xi Jinping in October, 2013, OBOR is being praised by economic experts in China unanimously. Gwadar has taken center stage in the CPEC portion of OBOR as it touches the Maritime as well as the Land Silk Route. The distance that Chinese exports have to travel before reaching warm waters has been reduced by over 12 thousand kilometers. China seeks to attain the same competitive edge through all other 5 routes that are under development. All this is happening when China’s economy began to slow down after a double digit growth in GDP over the last ten momentous years. From a point of view of National and Organizational theory, after reaching a particular point in development and maturity curve, the graph either goes down or reenergizes itself through innovation and clever restructuring. OBOR is that very readjustment and modernization.

CPEC and OBOR complement each other not just for the sake of trade and commerce but also in socio-political aspects. Pakistan is a long-standing ally with a common border. The Pakistan army is heavily engaged in fighting off militant organizations that allegedly have contacts with hostile neighbor India. From a realist perspective, it would only be a matter of time before the fire of terrorism spreads from Pakistani borders to Muslim majority areas in China. India being a direct economic competitor in the region would surely benefit from disruption in Chinese development and progress. CPEC has political objectives as well as economic. A developed and stable Pakistan would be a bastion against spread of violence and militant organizations. It would not be a difficult task to fan anarchy in a Communist state that discourages all sorts of religious beliefs. Pakistan with a strong Government would make sure that external interference in the region is kept under check, whether coming from American controlled Afghanistan or Indian guided covert operations. On the other hand, industrial and commercial success in Pakistan has been hampered by insufficient infrastructure and power shortage. CPEC would eliminate these two complications thereby giving the Pakistan economy the boost it has needed for decades. It would mark as a shift in diplomatic and economic independence, out of the clutches of Washington based organizations like World Bank and IMF.

Another influential aspect of OBOR is the presence of Putin at the Forum and the absence of Donald Trump. The politics of isolation and protectionism is taking over significant Western countries. Britain decided to part ways with the European Union and the United States is putting America first and calling NATO to be out-dated. Donald Trump’s campaign of building walls instead of bridges has given an involuntary nudge to OBOR. Finally, the United States has lost the advantage that kept it in the lead. For the past 60 years, the Americans actively supported open, fair and free trade. World Trade Organization, IMF and the World Bank championed the cause of fair capitalism. It was advocated that the free market and fair competition can fix the evils of economic disparity. The relevant policies put countries like the United Kingdom and the United States as world leaders. As of 2017, these two countries have decided to look inwards instead of outwards. China has aptly taken advantage of the situation. President Jiping is now the champion of global trade and mutual cooperation. OBOR is the spearhead of China’s vision to take over as the world leader. Asia has gained what Western countries have lost in the past few years.

Hand in hand with the success of CPEC is the promotion for OBOR. It is not surprising that the worth of projects under CPEC has been enhanced from 42 Billion Dollars to 54 Billion. For Pakistan, this is the time to form strong bonds and fulfill the commitments made as per the MoUs signed with the Chinese diplomats. The Chinese Government and its vision of expansion are too grand to be interrupted by trivial administrative and domestic complications. There is a lot to gain for both China and Pakistan. CPEC is the largest investment that Pakistan has ever attracted since independence and OBOR is the largest trade and diplomatic expansion project that the Chinese people have ever sponsored.

CPEC: Calling the shots: 02 June, 2017 "Express Tribune"

Since 2013, when the idea of China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) was first concieved till date, naysayers have directed quite a bit of critisism at this mammoth set of landmark project. By the time Beijing hosted the "Belt and Road Forum" much of that criticism began to implode, leaving behing the trail of far-fetched fears. more...

Indo-Pak economic reset: 30 May, 2017 "Daily Times"

Pakistan and India have been at odds with each other for the last 70 years. Both states have fought wars and faced crises that could have escalated into wars. Characterised by the Ex-President of United States, Bill Clinton, as the ‘most dangerous place on earth’, the South Asian region still awaits lasting peace. People of the Sub-continent have constantly been paying up for their respective national security needs but the states have yet to ensure security. Rather, the region is entangled in a security dilemma.

Several attempts have been made to bring peace to the region but none has come to fruition. Both states have extremely divergent claims that seem not to be reconcilable too easily, but efforts have continued from intra-state activists as well as the international community towards this end. Meanwhile, both states have also been using bilateral diplomatic channels to settle their disputes. The only good thing practiced in the past was the continuation of the dialogue process. Sadly, this practice has now been obsolete and most efforts for negotiations stand relinquished due to India’s policy of halting negotiations if and when anything happens against its will. Negotiations are known as the best tool for settlement of disputes between states. One can observe that even the deadliest conflicts and wars have usually ended through negotiations.

Keeping this in view, if one tries to examine the prospects for India-Pakistan dispute settlement, it is observable that India has always refrained from negotiating with Pakistan on the pretext of so-called acts of terrorism in India. Indian policy to suspend bilateral dialogues with Pakistan, without producing a solid proof regarding Pakistan’s involvement in acts of terrorism is the product of increasing extremism in Indian policy circles. While India has always been talking about nurturing of extremism in Pakistan and has pointed fingers at non-state actors in Pakistan, it has never taken care of its own policies that are a manifestation of extremist attitude of Indian state. Promoting anti-Pakistan sentiments in Indian public has become a state policy, which is very alarming for peaceful settlement of outstanding disputes between the two countries. It is observable that anti-Pakistan sentiments have been enshrined in hearts and minds of Indian public, media, and political parties. Pakistan-bashing has become a tool for Indian electronic media to attract audience, while Indian political parties use anti-Pakistan manifestos for their electoral campaigns. Some of the recent instances that manifest Indian state’s inability or unwillingness to control such extremist attitudes are the cancellation of Pakistani students’ tour in India; stone-pelting training of Hindu groups to respond to Kashmiri stone-pelters; and threats to Pakistani celebrities regarding performances in India. Another incident that shows the extent of radicalisation of Indian policy circles vis-à-vis Pakistan is former Indian Foreign Secretary Kanwal Sibal’s suggestion that Pakistani soldiers be kidnapped and used to bargain Kulbhushan Jadhav’s release. Indian officials are unable to even understand their international obligations. Yet another manifestation of extremism in Indian policy makers at the highest level is the most recent commendation reward given by Indian Army Chief Bipin Rawat to an Indian Major who had tied a Kashmiri boy in front of his military jeep while driving the vehicle in a Kashmiri neighbourhood.

 

While India has always talked of Pakistan nurturing extremism and has pointed fingers at its support of non-state actors — it has never tackled its own extremist policies

It seems that anti-Pakistan sentiments are being deliberately supported as a state policy. Although Indian policymakers have been aiming at isolating Pakistan, it is foreseeable that projecting such kind of extremist attitude in one’s own public would contribute only to self-alienation. Since neighbours cannot be changed, it would be wise to develop cordial relations with those at your door-step, rather than radicalising your own public in hatred and violence. Indian policymakers must recognise the reality of Pakistan as a prudent state that cannot be undermined through acquisition of weapons or coercive diplomacy. Promoting so much hatred can neither defeat Pakistan nor boost economic development in India. Such an attitude towards Pakistan will prove to be self-defeating for India in its surge for great power status. Moreover, it may also raise questions on the efficacy of Indian establishment to defend its state against the so-claimed Pakistan-sponsored acts of terrorism. History has proved that despite having better resources at its disposal, Indians have never been successful in subordinating Pakistan, and after the nuclearisation of South Asia such efforts will only prove to be self-destructive. This is an era of economic cooperation and development for Asian nations where mutual cooperation will be a better choice. Pakistan has manifested its positive attitude by inviting India to be part of China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) which shall prove to be a road to prosperity in the region. Therefore, it will be a wise choice for Indian policy makers to adopt a policy of ‘Act North-West’ and open ways for engagement with Pakistan rather than estrangement.

Deweaponising the common man: 30 May, 2017 "The Nation"

The other day, I went out to buy a DVD from a nearby store. As it happened, I reached there before the shop had opened. I thought to wait a while until it opened so that I would not have to come back. After ten minutes, the owner showed up. He took off his helmet and outerwear that he had probably worn to save his shirt from coming in contact with dust, opened the shop and proceeded to take out his pistol from the holster that he had worn round his back and put it into the drawer. It was a slightly scary thing to watch executed with such a sense of normalcy by that shop owner.

Most of the people in our country keep weapons with them; in their cars, houses, shops and offices. They have a very fine statement that they use to justify keeping the weapon that it is for their own safety and self-defense. My family including both paternal and maternal sides has never kept a single lethal weapon. Do we not need weapons for our defense?

Actually, keeping a weapon has become a part of culture in our society. We take junky-like pride in showing them off. In our society, most of our strength and manhood is not justified until we keep a weapon.

What if two people are both carrying weapons in the name of self-defense and they engage in a fight with each other - who becomes the defender and who the aggressor? What purpose does this label of self-defense accomplish then? It needs to be understood that weapons lead to more aggression, giving it an acceptable place in your life and mindset, and provides you a way to exercise that perceived power and dominance.

Considering the situation of the country we reside in, it is somewhat justified keeping armed guards with you (especially for public personalities), but that is vastly different from the ones who keep weapons under their shirts. If we talk to that shopkeeper, he would have his own explanation for keeping weapons: so that he is not being looted by thieves or robbers, and is capable of attacking them back in case of danger. Agreed, that is a concern. But we cannot cloak this destructive, fear-inducing epidemic of weaponising the common men as self-defense and personal protection. The consequences do not even stop there; just suppose the shopkeeper comes into a fight with any of the customers, it becomes disastrous for both of them because the customer would also try to save himself by inviting those who have weapons to join the fray, escalating small disputes into violence and breeding never-ending enmity.

Ideally, the whole country needs to be deweaponised, which is also one of the objectives of the Radd-Ul-Fassad operation. Once the objective is achieved, it would render obsolete our justification of keeping weapons to fight with another person - when the potential attacker also does not have one. If every single individual is deweaponised and the state enforces a strict ban on laymen forbidding the possession of automatic weapons, access would diminish for robbers and thieves as well, who would find it increasingly difficult and eventually impossible to purchase weapons and get them licensed.

Since our security agencies are involved in carrying out the operation in different areas of the country, there is a dire need to nip this evil in the bud once and for all. Competent and capable young professionals need to be included in panels of security operations and legislation for the purpose of developing insight into the mindsets of our society, providing analysis and personality profiling on weaponised citizens and reporting back with constructive solutions to eliminate this aggressive mentality starting at the grass root level, one step ahead of what our security agencies are already doing. It should be done in educational institutes too, as I remember from my school and college days that some students would keep a pistol in their bags while coming to college.

In another similar situation, I was once in a market and witnessed a bike rider opening fire on the driver of the car who accidently hit him. It terrified all those who were around. What if that gunfire had hit a pedestrian? When society as a whole has lost even the most basic levels of patience and tolerance, such people really need to be deweaponised for the purpose of diminishing unnecessary anxiety, threat, violence and fear in our collective minds.

Learning about friends: 26 May, 2017 "The Nation"

Prime Minister Mian Nawaz Sharif has been to China before, and has not just visited Saudi Arabia, but spent his exile there, but never before have his visits meant meeting such powerful people. For once, both were multilateral visits. In China, he was attending the One Belt One Road Summit, in Saudi Arabia the ‘Islamic NATO’. Hardly had he met Russian President Vladimir Putin in Beijing that he shared the room with US President Donald Trump in Riyadh. True, he could not meet President Putin alone, or President Trump even in company.

Thus, neither exercise proved much of a triumph. President Trump did not grant him a meeting on the sidelines of the summit, while the sideline meeting with President Putin was not one-on-one. The absence of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi from both summits prevented a sideline meeting, and though he was not invited to the summit in Saudi Arabia, he had been to the one in Beijing, and had snubbed it by not attending.

That summit was the one at which Mian Nawaz had said that geopolitics should come after economics. However, the Indian absence showed that it still placed geopolitics ahead, while the second summit was about geopolitics. One target for India had been the name of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor. Matters had gone to the extent that if China had changed the name, India might well have attended the Summit. India has a problem with the CPEC passing through disputed territory, as its Chinese end is in the Federally Administered Northern Areas, now Gilgit-Baltistan. Because India still desires to cling to Held Kashmir, It is willing to forgo the benefits that would accrue to it from being part of the One Belt One Road system.

China has an interest in developing the neighbourhood, and for the first time in a long time, has the money to do it. That might help explain why it wants, among other things, corporate farming rights in Pakistan. China may have tamed its population growth with a draconian one-child policy, but it has not cured it. It is searching for ways to feed that population, including getting hold of land outside China. Though any land it might obtain in Pakistan would be a new departure for this country, China has already acquired land abroad, mostly in Africa.

China would like its oldest ally in the region to do that. However, Pakistan has its own view of the relationship, and would like its position as a very old ally to mean exemption. Another dimension is that Pakistan itself has a burgeoning population, which it will be hard-pressed to feed, and faces a water shortage which is expected to grow as global warming occurs. While China needs food from wherever it can get it, it might not make sense for Pakistan to export food in the usual way, let alone give China land to grow food for itself.

Perhaps one of the sweeteners being offered for this is the $50 billion to be invested in the Indus Cascade, expected to develop 40,000 MW of hydroelectricity along the Indus, and in addition to the $46 billion also to be invested for the CPEC. China is able to throw around this sort of money mainly because it has it, as a result of the huge surpluses it has run up in trade with the USA. The Indus Cascade investment is going to substitute for (and expand on) the oil- and coal-based projects for the CPEC that have been cancelled for not being sufficiently feasible. The whole One Belt One Road scheme is meant to showcase China’s arrival on the world stage.

The opportunity to meet President Trump has been passed over, allegedly because the summit itself was too crowded. There seems to have been less enthusiasm on the US side for the meeting than the Russian side in Beijing. Even in Beijing, it is significant that President Putin did not meet Mian Nawaz one-on-one, but only in the presence of the host President Xi Jinping. It seems almost as if Putin wanted to offend India as little as possible, and may not have met him, had it not been for the flare-up along the LoC, combined with the Jhadav crisis, that threatened the peace.

That pattern of not offending India continued in Riyadh, when Mian Nawaz was not called on to address the Summit, but had to hear President Trump tell it that India was a victim of terrorism, while omitting any mention of Pakistan. That was shorthand for India’s claim that the font of terrorism in the region was Pakistan, and that the liberation struggle in Kashmir was actually the result of Pakistani incitement and was a form of terrorism. Mian Nawaz not being allowed to speak prevented him from agitating the Kashmir issue, and raising the issue of state terrorism, and the ongoing agitation in Kashmir, which is something India would like a lid kept on. And there was no meeting with Trump.

Even though Mian Nawaz was away, only flying in for a weekend and a meeting of the National Economic Council between summits, the relationship with India remained at the fore. There was the International Court of Justice ruling staying the execution of convicted spy Kulbhushan Jhadav, as well as the detention and beating up of two Pakistani Kabul embassy staffers by Afghan intelligence.

The experiences should have brought home to Mian Nawaz the difficulty of relying on either China or the USA. The USA, especially after the civilian nuclear accord with India, has eagerly courted India as its policeman in the region. Though the Pakistani establishment is relying on the relationship with China, should not be surprised if the price becomes the sort of subjection to China that India seeks. While India is definitely fazed by the Chinese crossing of the Indus for the first time, and in such a big way, is the Pakistani establishment willing to pay the price of making friends with India whenever it obeys the economic imperatives that the One Belt One Road represents.

It cannot turn to the Islamic world, at least not as it stands at present. Not when the Islamic Summit also has the US President attending. It should be clear that if the USA promotes an Islamic NATO, Indian interests will be protected. Pakistan may well be a member, it may even have a retired general its commander, but if the body is directed against Iran, then that will be a problem. A situation has arisen that Pakistan finds that whichever way it turns, it finds an Indian hand in the way. It has found that both the world’s superpowers, Russia and the USA, prefer India at its cost. It has also found that in its drive to contain Iran, even Saudi Arabia is willing to let India push its agenda at the cost of Pakistan. The Summits might prove blessings in disguise if the right lessons are drawn. However, it is not at all likely that they will be, leaving Pakistan to keep on paying for the shortcomings of its establishment.


Operation Rad ul Fasad: 26 May, 2017 "The Nation"

What do the physicians do when the cancer metastasizes in the body? They try every bit of the skill to rid the body of the insidious prowler inside. For any remedy to work in such situations internal resilience of the body plays its supportive role more than any other factor. The good cells have to kill the bad cells to stem their killing tide. Is our new fangled “Rad ul Fasad” preparing the nation to take on the depredations of terrorists and criminals aided and abetted by external and internal sponsors? Was National Action Plan not the first attempt at strengthening the national sinews for such an undertaking? It certainly was and was expected to douse the fires of extremism through administrative, legal, educational, and economic reforms. Despite impressive figures of madressahs registered, militants eliminated, and terrorism attempts foiled can anyone claim that the root causes of “fasad” or the mischief have been addressed?

The answer to above would be a big no if one considers the implacable rise in the incidence of religiously incited violence ala blasphemy killings by frenzied mobs. What could therefore cure us of this “fasad” unleashed upon us through our deeply ingrained prejudices and sectarian biases? Our 21 point National Action Plan lies adrift without a sustained will to root out the causes and enablers of terrorism. Welching out of our anti terror commitments and displaying pusillanimity where courage was required we have desultorily lurched from crisis to crisis instead of following a coherent strategy to eliminate terrorism. The physical violence visited upon people and the state institutions has been begotten out of soft state mentality that baulks at countering the criminals in religious raiment. The typical bullies on the block i.e the religious mountebanks, sectarian charlatans, and their political patrons have spawned a culture of violence against the vulnerable segments of the society like minorities, intellectuals and conscientious dissenters.

Johan Galtung defines cultural violence as an aspect of the culture that can be employed to legitimize direct or structural violence against vulnerable communities. While direct violence is self evident the structural violence is “the impairment of the basic human needs’ through an iniquitous social system. The way we are treating our minorities and dissenters like Mashal, is a sad testament to our propensity towards structural violence. The bigger question then rises about the nature and scope of the current Army led and police, para military and intelligence supported operation aimed at taking out terrorist cells, and crime hatcheries throughout the length and breadth of the country. The focus is on busting terror networks and crime syndicates by attacking sleeper cells of terrorists and their enablers along with active terrorists. With Army in the lead role as the most puissant state institution to fight militancy some questions about the strategy and approach towards fighting terrorism emerge.

What is the overall objective and strategy? Can a pathology be countered through a military operation alone? With a military weaned on the Clausewitzean notions of “Grand Strategy”, “Centers of Gravity”, “Shwerpunkt” (focus of effort), and “Balance”, fighting an amorphous threat thriving on epistemic violence is a difficult undertaking, unless the nation stands up marshalling all resources in operation. Army is groomed on Clausewitzean concept of Trinitarian warfare based on three elements i.e army, people, and the government. In conventional warfare it therefore knows where to concentrate the “Schwerpunkt” against an army, people, or government based center of gravity. In a non Trinitarian war however, where non state actors instead of states are the main combatants the Clausewitzean notions of strategy become irrelevant. According to eminent military scholar Martin Van Creveld the answers about the nature of non state actors, their motivations, their strategy, and relationship between them and society attain primacy in such warfare.

Our national response has remained lacking in direction and resolve while tackling the above questions. For example we do know the roots of the epistemic violence emanating from our antediluvian madressahs and medieval age textbooks, hostage to either sectarian or politicized Islam. Who for instance is attacking that epistemic violence while Army leads the charge along with other law enforcement and intelligence agencies in the current Rad ul Fasad operation? The buckets of blood being shed by our gallant soldiers and intelligence operatives are evident through concrete statistics. In a short span of a little over two months the Army led operation has accounted for 108 hardened terrorists in 15 major operations. A total of 4535 intelligence based operations (IBOs) have been launched apprehending 4510 militants including 1859 unregistered Afghans. Weapon caches comprising 4083 weapons and 622191 ammunition pieces were seized in a country wide deweaponization and explosive control campaign.

“Rad ul Fasad” is a great idea that needs public support and state resolve. As opposed to Zarb e Azb, that essentially was a counter insurgency operation, Rad ul Fasad is a counter terrorism operation. By its nature it has to be multi dimensional and holistic. It should not remain confined to nabbing terrorists and capturing weapons and explosives alone. For a comprehensive victory over this scourge we need to attack the narrative that nourishes the monster. The epistemic violence visited daily upon young impressionable minds through madressahs, websites sub standard educational institutions, and unenlightened religious scholars is nurturing brainwashed individuals with a solipsistic viewpoint ,only one provocative call away from violence. Rad ul Fasad will truly deliver when it attacks intolerance, bigotry, ignorance, and sectarianism concurrently with the kinetic operations being launched by law enforcing apparatus of the state.

With fifteen martyrdoms since the start of the operation, the Army has blazed another altruistic trail in the service of the nation. National consensus, public support, and the political sincerity are de rigueur for success of the operation. Beset with external threats on two fronts a house divided would offer easy picking for the terrorists and their external sponsors. Any individual or political entity that sows the seeds of dissension and mars the national consensus against countering extremism and terrorism at this juncture should be shown no mercy. Soft states have never prevailed over non state actors and Pakistan would be no exception. No quarters should be given neither to any militant engaged in terrorism nor to any cleric engaged in hate peddling. Rule of law, pluralism, and zero tolerance for hate narrative should be the foundation sans which Rad ul Fasad will meet the fate of several temporary palliatives that we have been administering to fight the cancer of militancy.

Jadhav case: An absolute disaster?: 25 May, 2017 "The Nation"

The International Court of Justice (ICJ) issued an interim ruling directing Pakistan not to execute Kulbhushan Sudhir Jadav until the world court reaches a final decision in the case of India vs Pakistan (Jadhav case). The order has much wider ramifications than merely a stay on the execution proceedings. These implications, it appears, are neither appreciated by the Pakistan government nor by its advisors.

Anyone who was caught by surprise at ICJ’s interim verdict was either living in a fool’s paradise, or had absolutely no idea how things work at the International Court of Justice. It was a forgone conclusion after the mess that Pakistan’s legal and foreign affairs team had created. The whole strategy of how to deal with this matter was flawed and lacked the dexterity required in such complicated matters.

First, and this is most important to understand. The International Court of Justice does not have a mandatory jurisdiction. Its jurisdiction is optional. That is, the ICJ cannot force a country to appear before itself. It is for the State to accept jurisdiction in a particular matter. Pakistan could have simply chosen not to appear before the ICJ, and this would have been the best legal strategy. Instead, what we saw is an unprecedented haste in which Pakistan not only decided to appear before the court, but also set up a legal team, the competence of which is questioned by many. By simply not appearing before ICJ, Pakistan could have refused to accept ICJ’s jurisdiction, and avoided this humiliation. Unfortunately, this point, it appears, was neither understood nor appreciated.

Secondly, under the rules of International Court of Justice, Pakistan had a right to request that a Pakistani legal professional be appointed as an ad-hoc judge of ICJ, to hear the Jadhav case. Again, the incompetence of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and the legal team, was such that it failed to make this request to the world court. The reason behind such a major blunder beats any international law expert, especially since there was a judge from India who was sitting on the panel.

Thirdly, any lawyer who has even rudimentary understanding of international law, and comprehends the workings of the International Court of Justice, would have advised the government of Pakistan that once the matter is before ICJ, there is no way in the world that it will not pass an order staying the execution. India had clearly satisfied all the prerequisites for a stay order. It had established a prima facie jurisdiction of ICJ, had clearly articulated the plausibility of its case, the real and imminent risk of irreparable harm was well established, there was an obvious link between rights claimed on merits and the provisional measures. The most professional course of action for Pakistan would have been to give an undertaking that it will not execute Jadhav until the matter is finally heard and decided by ICJ. This would have saved Pakistan embarrassment, as well as avoided the ancillary comments and observations of ICJ which will prove to be highly detrimental to Pakistan in future.

The judgement of ICJ has wider implications for Pakistan than merely stopping the execution of Jadhav. For example, the Court has determined that it has a prima facie jurisdiction to hear this matter. While this determination is not final and will be re-examined when the full case is heard, the current determination goes a long way to show the inclination of the court. In addition, in his declaration appended to the order, Judge Bhandari of India has made an observation that by not allowing consular access to Jadhav for India, Pakistan has violated the human rights of the accused. This is indeed very damning observation at this stage for the state of Pakistan.

There need not be any mincing of words. Pakistan was brutally defeated in the International Court of Justice. This was a clear loss both on the diplomatic as well as the legal front. The government of Pakistan was grossly unprepared for this manoeuvre by India. Interestingly, it appears that Pakistan’s legal team did not understand the underlying issue behind the whole proceedings. It was not about staying the execution. The likelihood of execution of Jadhav is remote since such an extreme action by the state of Pakistan would be catastrophic and perhaps result in breakdown of diplomatic relations between Pakistan and India. The actual issue at hand is that of consular access. The government of Pakistan, and its legal team, failed to interpret its obligations under the Vienna Convention on Consular relations. The team also erred in as much as it failed to predict that based on its past decisions, ICJ will certainly rule in favour of allowing consular access to India.

One wonders if those behind this faux paus will be brought to task. Of course, if history is any testament, no one will be held accountable. The nation is likely to blame India for pulling a fast one, and ICJ for being biased. The positive aspect of this saga is that Pakistan still has a chance to redeem itself since the proceedings before ICJ are ongoing. Perhaps, if the state learns from its mistakes, it can secure a victory in the main case. For a defeat of this nature is not limited to Jadhav only. The observations of ICJ in a final decision can have disastrous consequences for Pakistan on many other international legal and diplomatic forums.

Aspects of nation building: 25 May, 2017 "The Nation"

In last week’s article, I wrote about symbols of national identity, because it was my home country Norway’s national day on 17 May and because we still have a King and Queen in Norway, yes, who both just had their 80th birthday party. It is an outdated institution, yet, it does have some important symbolic functions even in our time in a highly developed democracy like that of Norway. Besides, the institution is only continuing as long as the people want to have it, and as long as the royals want to continue in their jobs. As long as the politicians, the voters, too, want to keep the institution and consider it relevant, it will exist. In some ways, I believe it may be more difficult for a president to play the unifying role as head of state that a royal family can do, if they do their work well. In any case, nations do need unifying personalities to build a country’s identity.

Few countries have had the unique privilege of having had a head of state like Nelson Mandela was in South Africa. He became a superb president after the end of apartheid, after he had served 27 years of imprisonment by the rulers of yesteryears. As president, he chose not to seek revenge but unity and reconciliation, beginning the healing process and becoming a symbol to people at home and all over the world.

Today is Africa Day, formerly known as African Freedom Day and African Liberation Day. It is celebrated to commemorate the establishment of the Organization of African Union (OAU) on 25 May 1963; now known as the African Union (AU). It is celebrated in Pakistan’s capital with a large reception hosted by the dean of the African diplomatic corps and all the African envoys.

It gives me pleasure to extend my congratulations and draw attention to one of Africa’s greatest men, Nelson Mandela – but there are a number of other great African leaders, writers and thinkers, men and women. After Nelson Mandela had retired, he said in an interview that he never in his life ever thought he would become head of his beloved land. It was indeed beyond reality to think it possible, until time changed. His stubborn persistence, and that of thousands upon thousands of others, bore fruits, and the evil system of apartheid ended – as that of direct colonialism had ended earlier in most parts of the world. The difficult task of nation building could begin in the young states.

Nelson Mandela became a symbol almost beyond that of a human being, yes, certainly beyond a mere politician. He became a royal, well, they, too are just human beings. His wife Graca Machel, said in an interview that we should also know Nelson Mandela wasn’t faultless either, something those who lived around him daily knew well, she said. That didn’t make him lesser, maybe just greater.

While working in Kenya in the 1990s, I met a Pakistani woman who had gone to South Africa and had the privilege of meeting Nelson Mandela. She told me that she thought Nelson Mandela appeared to be quite an ordinary man and indeed at the same time, an extraordinary man. We could all admire him, yet, somehow also identify with. His symbolic role based on moral strength made us humble and gave us strength to play our roles in our everyday lives.

Leaders on the Sub-continent, indeed Mahatma Gandhi and Quaid-e-Azam Ali Jinnah, had similar qualities and their legacy, too, lives beyond their lifetime and concrete achievements. In Pakistan, Allama Iqbal, the poet and political philosopher defined much of the country’s foundation. He is often referred to as the ‘spiritual father of Pakistan’, with extraordinary literature in Urdu and Persian.

A few days ago, I had the opportunity to listen to a contemporary Pakistani politician, well, he is retired now and getting on in age, notably Wazir Ahmed Jogezei from Balochistan, a former speaker of parliament and federal minister of education and other portfolios. He spoke about the importance of language as a unifying factor in nation building, with cultural aspects attached to the one or two main languages in a country. He spoke about the importance of character-building and values; they are foundations for the way we behave, the choices we make and the ways we live our lives, and they decisions we make in unknown situations.

Above, I mentioned Allama Iqbal. He will always remain important for Pakistan and the region, as are William Shakespeare for UK, Johann Wlfgang von Goethe, Friedrich Schiller and others for Germany, Leo Tolstoy for Russia, Henrik Ibsen and Knut Hamsun for Norway, and so on. Yes, there are women, too, not as well known, though; in future, the list will perhaps include more women than men among the great writers, those who define and describe our time, for us today and for those who will read about the immediate and distant past.

At the event where Wazir Ahmed spoke, there was a doctor from Lahore in the audience, Ashraf Ali Khan, who drew attention to Mohsin Hamid, one of Pakistan’s greatest contemporary writers, whom he had met just a few days earlier at a literary event in the country’s cultural capital. Mohsin Hamid discusses the complicated issues pertaining to Pakistan and the world today, trying to sort them out for himself and the rest of us, such as terrorism, loyalty, relationships, business principles, how to be decent and make a living, how to a a good Pakistani, or rather, how to be a good human being either we live in Lahore, London, New York or any other place – and today, how immigration and travelling, physically or mentally, make us a bit of many things, and thus maybe even better than if we were just one grounded person in one village and one land. Besides, we aren’t so different anyway, wherever we come from and what we call home.

Somebody said recently, but I have forgotten who it was, that ‘home is where your heart is’. Added should be that we may have several places that we call home. I don’t think Mohsin Hamid is a different person in any of the at least three cities he considers home – yet, when he is in Pakistan, he is certainly at home here. And if I am in Norway, Pakistan, or East Africa, where I also lived for more than a decade, I feel at home in all those places, and I can engage in people’s lives and issues in each place. True, I can tell lessons from the other places, so we can learn from each other, yes, rich people can learn from poor and less educated people too.

In conclusion today, having pondered a bit more on issues related to ‘nation building’, with lessons from several continents and persons, let me suggest that what is most important is always the moral values we carry with us, and pick up on the way; below it all, the charter that our parents, teachers, peers and others helped shaping in us. A good person is a good person in any land on any continent, in any village, work place and family. A good person may belong to one or the other religion, sometimes still searching for the gift of faith; but it would be his or her charter that made her great – and through individual, group and collective efforts institutions and countries would be built and become great. Pakistan, a young state and nation to be built, has all of what is needed, indeed the decency of kind and strong people. I am always impressed by how good poor people are to each other and to me. When they get more involved, they will help the leaders build a good nation for all. That is the goal and direction in nation building, that the land and life must be good for all.


Realistic targets: 22 May, 2017 "The Nation"

Budget fever has gripped the federal and provincial capitals earlier than normal. The federal budget for the financial year 2017-18, last of the present ruling party, is going to be presented in the National Assembly on May 26, instead in first or second week of June as has been the long old tradition, due to fast approaching holy month of fasting.

Accordingly, brisk preparations are being made, budgetary proposals formulated, considered and approved and targets are being set for economic growth, fiscal deficit, balance of payments, foreign reserves etc.

It is good to note that the federal government while fixing targets and deciding on its priorities and considering measures to provide relief to various segments of the society is keeping the public informed to the maximum possible so that the people have some ideas before hand as to what they are going to get or loose in the upcoming federal budget.

The federal cabinet in its special meeting last week, meeting under chairmanship of Prime Minister Mian Muhammad Nawaz Sharif, has reviewed overall prevailing economic situation, considered and approved the Budget Strategy Paper2017-20 and set the targets for achieving for financial year 2017-18.

Most importantly, economic growth target for the next fiscal has been fixed at 6 per cent as against 5.7 per cent for the outgoing financial year. This 5.7 per cent growth rate may not be achieved and the pace of increase in national output is expected to remain around 5.4 per cent. The government would be making concerted efforts for achieving the target for economic growth and at the same time enhance the efforts to increase revenue generation.

It is pertinent to mention here that this will be for the first time, after more than two decades, that Pakistan will be achieving a 5 per cent growth rate without any external aid or war related inflows. Achievement of 7 per cent economic growth rate, official sources maintained on being contacted, that Pakistan had achieved during the last decade was the result of foreign aid flows more than anything else.

Likewise, budget deficit target has been fixed at 3.8 per cent of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) against revised target of 4.1 per cent of GDP for fiscal year 2017. The budget deficit which stood at somewhat higher at 8.2 per cent of the GDP in FY 2013 when the present took over reigns of power had been brought down to 4.66 per cent in FY 2016. The federal fiscal deficit will be brought down to 4 per cent of the GDP by June 2020, according to the new definition of the Fiscal Responsibility and Debt Limitations Act.

The total outlay of the new federal budget may be in the range of Rs 4.6 trillion to Rs 4.8 trillion against outlay of 4.385 trillion for the current financial year.

The federal budget mainly comprises development and non-development expenditures under various heads and is financed through tax collection , both direct and indirect ones, by the Federal Bureau of Revenue. Higher the tax collection means gap between the income and expenditure to be on the lower side but if the tax collection is less than what was initially projected then there is every possibility of either next axles and levies be imposed or adjustments be in the existing tax structure in the Finance Bill.

Against this year’s target of Rs 3.621 trillion tax collection, the FBR has been given higher tax collection target of Rs 4.00 trillion for the next financial year.

For financing the Public Sector Development Programme (PSDP) which reflects the federal government priorities on the development side.

For PSDP 2017-18, an allocation of Rs 700 billion has been proposed and another Rs 150 billion will be for rehabilitation of war affected areas and the Prime Minister’s Special Programmes. The PSDP size may be revised somewhat upward prior to the announcement of the federal budget and at the important forum of the National Economic Council (NEC) which will be meeting in net =few days to approve the budget and development programme as the prime minister is reported to be keen to have PSDP size in four figures around Rs 1000 billion.

More imports as compared to the country’s exports and thus trade deficit remains a big problem for the economic team of the prime minister. Country’s exports have come to around 20 billion dollars during last couple of years from 25 billion dollars and the continued downward trend is signaling alarm bells for all concerned in the corridors of power.

The prime minister sometime back had announced Rs 150 billion export package for stemming the declining trend and increasing exports. But it seems that there is something very wrong in the utilization of the export package though the same was duly hailed by the exporters. This needs to be probed as to why the export package has not been able to produce desired results and ensure appreciable increase in the country’s exports.

While declining exports trend is quite worrisome, one may ask the exporters what they are doing to shoulder their onerous responsibility of taking the country’s exports to new heights? This is also to ask, what our foreign missions are doing in this regard?

While approving the Budget Strategy Paper, the special meeting of the federal cabinet somehow did not fix target for exports though it dilated on curtailing imports by adopting new measures in the upcoming budget to curb unnecessary imports which are adversely affecting Pakistan’s external sector. In order to bring down imports reasonably low to improve the trade balance, the federal government may increase customs duties rates and also expand the list of luxury items and accordingly increasing duties on these items.

Besides declining trends, slowing down of remittances by millions of Pakistanis working in foreign countries around the world is also a matter of great concern. It is a matter of deep thinking as why the remittances are going down while more and more Pakistanis are going abroad every day and month in different parts of the country.

Pakistan’s foreign missions, whose performance in most cases leaves much to be desired unfortunately, should be directed to hold periodic meetings with Overseas Pakistanis, ascertain their problems and motivate them to use formal channels of remitting their income to their families back home and ensure facilitating them in this regard to the maximum extent possible. Our foreign missions can play an important role provided they are pulled up and told in very plain words either to deliver or comeback home. It seems that our foreign missions mostly have no regular contacts with the Overseas Pakistanis somehow.

The focus of the federal budget for financial year 2017-18, as desired by the prime minister, will be on achieving higher, sustainable and inclusive growth besides generating additional employment opportunities and increasing investments in both human and physical infrastructures. All this is quite appreciable and encouraging as everyone wants to see Pakistan making progress and development by leaps and bounds.

Needless to emphatically point out that the targets on economic front or otherwise should be kept quite realistic and doables. These realistic targets may look on the low side somewhat but at the end of the financial year, the people can swallow bitter pill if somehow these are not achieved due to various factors. But highly exaggerated targets, for political and other purposes, are obviously not achievable and thus obviously cause lot of disappointment and negative image of the government in the minds of the people. So, it is always good to remain on the ground, take stock of everything and fix the targets in quite realistic manner.

But for achieving the set targets much will depend on how much the targets fixed are realistic, achievable and based on ground realities, exports are boosted, imports curtailed and consumption of imported oil products kept considerably low. Merely fixing impressive looking targets is not enough. Everyone from top to bottom has to work really and efficiently hard to ensure these are achieved also.

25 Years of Pak-Uzbek Relations: 22 May, 2017 "The Nation"

A famous proverb “in all the other parts of the world light descend upon earth. From holy Samarkand and Bukhara, it ascends,” reflects the great knowledge and cultural history of the country and the people whose geniuses and intelligence made this region shinning out of the other geographical regions of the world.


Central Asia in general and Uzbekistan in specific is at momentous junction of the prehistoric world and today’s modern civilisations with its own splendor and glamour of history, heritage and traditions. Wealth and ideas from all over the world merged and synergized there, giving academics the opportunity and means of making new breakthroughs. The region, what we now called as Uzbekistan has a history of thousands years of work of great and prolific scholars who had spend their lives working and discovering what today’s modern science, medicine and other fields have taken aspirations from. This region has remained the centre of world’s economic attention because of the great Silk Road, making it the great centre of excellence for travelers from across the world. The great route had also turned into the reason behind spreading new principles, religions, ideologies, arts, crafts, traditions, values, cuisines and technologies. The multicultural architecture of Tashkent, Samarkand, Bukhara and Khiva demonstrate the ancient and varied nature of the country’s historical heritage. One gets loss of words while describing the splendors and grandeurs of these scholars and the amount of impact they had on today’s world felt from Middle East till East Asia that include Imam Bukhari, Imam Tirmzi, Al-Khorezmi, Abu Nasr al-Farabi, Abu Rayan al-Biruni, Abu Ali Ibn Sina, Ulugbek, Alisher Navoi and many others in the development of Modern Civilizations.


The region of what is called as today’s Pakistan has equally been inspired and affected by the cultural, rich traditions, values of the great civilization sprouted in the region from today’s Uzbekistan. Pakistan and Uzbekistan though have 25 years diplomatic relations but they have deep rooted historical roots. These relations gained strength over the years because of the religious and cultural affinity and shared values hence both state worked towards having close cooperation with each other at the international and regional level. Pakistan and Uzbekistan are situated in a region of great geo strategic importance. Cooperation between the two distant neighbors is significant for the political and economic well being of the entire region. Establishment of the relations between Pakistan and Uzbekistan dates back to the time when both states open their first diplomatic missions in each state after Uzbekistan gained independence. Pakistan was one of the first countries to recognize the independence of Uzbekistan.


Both Pakistan and Uzbekistan share similar views on major regional and international issues and collaborate closely on multilateral forums including the United Nations, Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), Economic Cooperation Organization (ECO) and Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO). Various high level visits to each other’s countries on regular basis reflects a strong desire to make substantial head ways in enhancing cooperation and collaboration in various identified fields. Prime Minister of Pakistan, Muhammad Nawaz Sharif was in Uzbekistan and later last year in June while President Mamnoon Hussain visited the country and met the Late President Islam Karimov during the sidelines of SCO Summit of Heads of states. While we have witnessed presence of Deputy Prime Minister of Uzbekistan Mr.Ulugbak Rozukulov during the ECO summit where he has called or enhanced collaboration in agriculture sector. These high level visits to Uzbekistan are reflective of the priority and broader commitment to further strengthen Pakistan’s engagement with the Central Asian regional countries. During these visits it was agreed to enhance trade to 300 million in the next three years. To achieve this target, both sides have reflected strong urge to work together day and night in multi sectors and look out for ways for cooperation.


One of the major challenge between Pakistan and Uzbekistan was the direct link, which was resolved when the direct flights were resumed their operations from Tashkent to Lahore in April this year. After the resumption of the flights, to everyone’s surprise and astonishment, at the very first month, there were more than 2000 visitors from both the countries. This number is growing continuously as there has been strong urge from both sides to enhance partnerships in various fields. In business field and trade cooperation, quite recently KASB group and Uzbek Export Corporation signed agreement to establish Pak-Uzbek Trade House which is meant to introduce the new technologies in the field of agriculture in Pakistan as Pakistan is struggling to enhance the per-acre yield of the cotton in case of use of old technologies and techniques. Uzbekistan being the leading cotton producing economy is having high valued and mechanized agriculture machinery which is better for the farmers in Pakistan and will enhance the yield. The KASB Group at first planed to focus on the cotton and wheat production areas in the regions and has introduced the cotton picking tractors for furthering the yield and quality of the production. There is also a need to establish a joint business council and joint commission to further move forward the processes of business development.


Our trade volume is standing startling around 40 million USD and is obviously not reflecting what we can together achieve despite having potentials for further partnerships. It is a good omen that regular meetings of Pakistan-Uzbekistan Joint Ministerial Commission (JMC) held on regular basis. There is also a need that there should be joint Pakistan-Uzbekistan Business Council. Pakistan can offer export of engineering goods, medical equipment, sports goods, and textile fabrics while Uzbekistan may export of cotton fiber, silk, minerals, fertilizers, cables, construction material, transmission lines, transformers, consumer electronics, mobile phone and building materials along with agriculture machinery, chemicals and aircraft to Pakistan. Currently, both states desired to enhance trade volume to 300 million USD where in Pakistan is importing cotton, yarn, clothes, iron, steel plastic, telecommunications equipment and electric items from Uzbekistan. Hence a need is there to make exports and imports a broad based agenda. There is an agreement of cooperation has also been signed between the national chamber of commerce of both countries. . With emergence of China Pakistan Economic Corridor, both Pakistan and Uzbekistan will be linked through the several projects and this may be done by provide the opportunity to the Uzbek businessmen for the shortest and viable trade routes to the larger markets of the world.


Another interesting step in enhancing relations and understanding between both sides is that Institute of Oriental Studies, Tashkent and University of World Economy and Diplomacy in Uzbekistan has Urdu Departments. One of the important works that faculty and students recently published is the compilation of Urdu-Uzbek dictionary which reflects 4000 words common in both languages. There are also frequent exchange of scholars, who visit different Universities of both states to give lecturers and engage in talks with faculty members and students at each other’s academic and research institutions. There are deep rooted linkages has been established with different institutions of both states. For example, Pakistan Foreign Services Academy and National Defense University provide training to various officials representatives from Uzbekistan on regular basis.


This year, both states are celebrating their 25th years of togetherness and it is high time now reflect back on the achievements over these years and challenges that may require our special attention including trade, development, people to people contacts and others in times ahead. Uzbekistan always stood by Pakistan in its war against terror and recognised not only regionally but internationally also the services and sacrifices made by the Pakistan and people of Pakistan. Both states also can play significant role in promoting peace processes in the region and economic revival with the special focus on the trade and investment.


Overall the region is marred with conflicts and growing threat of terrorism but there is an urge and need identified by the leadership and people of both Pakistan and Uzbekistan that to have indigenous solutions to the entire challenging emerging indigenous problems with more emphasis on enhanced investment on the peaceful future.


More bad choices in Afghanistan: 22 May, 2017 "Daily Times"

President Trump is finally set to address his country's longest running war with a 'new' policy for Afghanistan. With an increase in the number of troops in the mix and a visibly more muscular approach on display, the new US administration is signalling renewed intent to keep their Afghan engagement open-ended. Whether this latest commitment to Afghanistan comes conjoined with at least a modicum of political direction towards reconciliation is still unclear.

Ominously, Washington's point man in the region, Gen McMaster has announced that the same policy would apply to Pakistan - harkening back to Af-Pak days. For many in Pakistan and the region, this rehash of a mini-surge is reminiscent of Obama's policy - dither between engagement and estrangement. Precisely the kind of dithering, some would argue, that has led Afghanistan headlong into an increasingly intractable stalemate.

That the Afghan conflict has stumbled into stagnation is apparent. For a couple of years now, the ground reality in Afghanistan has been locked in an impasse. The Afghan government, Afghan Taliban or Daesh have not been able to alter the status quo to effect long-term change significantly. The US, distracted by conflict in the Middle East and political change in Washington, has invested only enough thought and material to ensure just that - a sub-optimal Afghanistan.

 

As long as Kabul and Washington refuse to tackle terrorists operating from Afghanistan — Pakistan’s policy choices vis-à-vis the Afghan reconciliation process will remain limited

Prospects for reconciliation, dim as they may have been, have gradually dissipated. Despite marginal measures meant to signal a semblance of forward movement, such as Hekmatyar's much-touted re-emergence in Kabul, the hard calculus on reconciliation and peace remains stalled.

Where then does agency for peace lie? After a decade and a half, Afghanistan has built a broad constituency for democratic government, rights and institutional governance. A new generation of Afghans invested in future for themselves. But negotiating this urban reality with the equally cogent grip of a doggedly resistant Afghan Taliban on vast swathes of rural territory represents a singular challenge.

Closer to home, both the resilience of the conflict and its inability to present prospects for an end-game has damaged the bilateral relationship. An Afghan government, mired in internal strife and demonstrating an innate inability to chart a path to peace has found refuge in its bellicosity towards Pakistan. Not so long ago, Kabul and Islamabad seemed to be working towards finding common purpose, but today the cracks in the relationship run deeper and wider than ever before. For Islamabad, the strategic goalpost for Afghanistan remains stability albeit one which ensures at the minimum a working relationship in its immediate west. But ironically, this goalpost - shared by many stakeholders in Afghanistan - remains a bridge too far. Today, the distrust in intentions has morphed into a wider, more visible conflict. Firing on border patrols and villages, forced return of refugees, closure of border crossings and rising rhetoric are but symptoms of a deeper malaise that has set in this relationship. Despite the haze that may cloud the future of Pak-Afghan relations, what is clear is that the longer this conflict continues, the greater its strains on the triggers that dissect this relationship.

Two possibilities to chart a path towards ending this conflict exist. The first involves investing men and material to effect a substantial change in the military calculus of Afghanistan. The second is to realign interests and, perhaps more importantly, expectations within Afghanistan to nurture reconciliation. The employment of MOAB, General Mattis' strip to Afghanistan after the Balkh attack and the announcement of sending additional troops, are clear indicators that Washington seems to be leaning towards the first approach.

But what has not been worked through is the impact of this expected surge. For one, many significant political players in Afghanistan have raised doubts about heightened US military presence in Afghanistan. Renegotiating the Bilateral Security Agreement posits political pitfalls for an already fraying coalition in Kabul. Secondly, a surge would effectively impact the fighting season in 2018, perilously close to the next presidential election the year after. Thirdly, the numbers presently under consideration will only roll back recent gains by the Afghan Taliban and stem further inroads. What is unlikely is that any mini-surge would alter the checkers on the board in the sum total of Afghanistan's military calculus.

As the US approach crystallises in coming months, the directional dichotomy between the US and Afghanistan's immediate neighbours is likely to widen. For Pakistan, and Afghanistan's other neighbours, Daesh and other transnational terror groups remain a regional threat. As a result, the Moscow process has largely focused on the second approach - finding a resolution to the conflict in Afghanistan, one that brings the Afghan government and Taliban to the negotiating table and isolates Daesh early on.

But success in Afghanistan cannot be achieved alone. Today, despite a reduction in troop levels and investment, Washington remains the primary underwriter for the Kabul government. Any initiatives, such as the Moscow process that the United States is not a part of are likely to achieve limited success. Similarly, a Washington-led putsch to alter the military realities of Afghanistan which ignores Eurasian players in the region is unlikely to succeed.

The road to peace lies within Afghanistan. The fact remains that only the government in Kabul can negotiate Afghan peace. But the government is fast losing ground to traditional warlords and insurgents, with Pakistan becoming shorthand for its own failures. As the path to the 2019 Afghan elections nears, political jockeying in Kabul is frustrating any forward movement on reconciliation. As long as Kabul and Washington refuse to address the fundamental contradiction between asking for Islamabad's help in reconciliation and tackling terrorists operating from Afghanistan, Pakistan's policy choices will remain limited.

World Bank update on Pakistan's economy: 22 May, 2017 "Daily Times"

In a recently released development update on Pakistan, the World Bank has summarised the state of Pakistan's economy aptly, wisely and succinctly. The report is slick, well-written, and buttressed by all the right facts, figures and graphs. Even non-economists like me can read it. The report heaps praise on Pakistan's government where it should, and paints a realistic picture of the emerging challenges where it must. However, it ignores the ‘Basheeran’ factor. But first the report. For accuracy, I try to reproduce the report's assertions verbatim.

The report acknowledges that Pakistan's economy continues to grow strongly, emerging as one of the top performers in South Asia. Despite an uncertain global climate, Pakistan's economic growth is expected to accelerate to 5.2% in FY17 from 4.7% in FY16. Services, which comprise 59% of the economy, are expected to grow at a steady 5.6% in FY17.

Similarly, Inflation has remained within a tolerable range. Pakistan's investment-to-GDP ratio is expected to increase slightly in FY17 due to CPEC-related infrastructure projects. CPEC can unleash positive externalities over the short to medium term. Similarly, Pakistan's fiscal position has improved significantly over the past three years as the consolidated fiscal deficit (excluding grants) declined from 8.5% of GDP in FY13 to 4.6% in FY16.

The most remarkable story has been the stellar growth exhibited by Pakistan's equity market, with the benchmark KSE-100 Index growing 45.7% in 2016. This growth has occurred in part due to equity market reforms, including the integration of the country's three stock exchanges and improved governance and risk management.

So the World Bank's update is full of glowing remarks for Pakistan? Not exactly. The report issues numerous warnings that not all is well. Revenue growth is slowing, with the fiscal deficit growing for the first time in three years. Exports continue to fall as imports grow, substantially increasing the current account deficit. Investments rates - already low - fell further in FY16. The energy sector circular debt has resurfaced. There is a possibility that Pakistan may lose its impressive gains achieved over the past four years.

 

As the government nears four years in office, progress on reforms is slowing down. Privatisation efforts have stalled, and FBR performance in tax collection is below target, even after several years of strong performance. In Punjab, the province’s economy has struggled to create enough jobs for its growing young population

Some of the reasons for these emerging challenges are as follows. As the government nears four years in office, progress on reforms is slowing down. Privatisation efforts have stalled, and FBR performance in tax collection is below target, after several years of strong performance. In Punjab, the province's economy has struggled to create enough jobs for its growing young population. Whereas Vietnam, China and other South Asian countries have increased agricultural yields, Pakistan's agricultural sector has lagged behind. Even remittances have fallen by 2.3% in the first nine months of FY17.

To better understand what I have to say, I need to acquaint readers briefly with one of the oldest debates in social sciences: the question of qualitative versus quantitative approach to creating and testing knowledge. Broadly speaking, the qualitative approach is generally inductive in nature, is used to generate theories, and is not generalised to a certain population. The quantitative approach is exhibited in the World Bank's update; numbers are produced which are generalisable to the entire population of Pakistan.

However, at times even one point of data can lead to a new point of view. Take my own case. We were four brothers (one is a Shaheed) and we have six children amongst us. All six are studying in good schools. There is also a sweeperess in our house. She has around eight children and all are happily married. They have produced around 50 grand-children for her and I have calculated that in another 15 years this figure will reach 100. Most will remain illiterate.

My hypothesis is that for every educated child in Pakistan, at least five uneducated children are being produced. I also think that the proportion of the educated in Pakistan is actually falling. This full-throttled population growth will eventually cancel whatever progress we make, degrade environment and lead to a sharp decline in the law and order situation.

China’s new world order: 20 May, 2017 "Business Recorder"

The Belt and Road Forum at Beijing well projected China as the country leading the new world order with the emerging markets rallying behind it and Russia deciding to throw its weight in favour of the new order. The US and the G20 are observing the development with caution and India is opting to stay out of it. The good news is that all of them opted to give China’s vision of globalization a chance to deliver.
China’s leaders pitched it as a new world order at a majestic international conference held in Beijing last Sunday, joined in by Russia at the same pitch. Significant was the closeness between Xi and Putin sending signals to the world that the seat of power is now balanced between Atlantic and Pacific if not moved to Pacific 
The Belt and Road Forum is China’s answer to Davos or the G20, centred around One Belt One Road (OBOR) trade initiative, which takes its inspiration from the ancient Silk Road trading route when goods and technology moved from east to west. History has taken a full round. 
Speaking at the opening ceremony, Chinese president Xi Jinping emphasized OBOR’s international credentials in the face of criticism that the project will be dominated by Beijing. 
“What we hope to create is a big family of harmonious co-existence,” Xi said, adding that all countries were welcome to take part in the project. 
China announced an additional $124 billion in funding for the OBOR initiative, including loans, grants, and $8.7 billion in assistance to developing countries. According to Chinese state media, around $1 trillion has already been invested in OBOR, with another several trillion due to be invested over the next decade. 
Addressing the forum after Xi, Russian president Vladimir Putin appeared to take aim at the US, which is not involved in the OBOR initiative. 
“Protectionism is becoming the new normal,” Putin warned, adding that “the ideas of openness and free trade are increasingly often being rejected by those who until very recently expounded them.” 
Spanning more than 68 countries and encompassing 4.4 billion people and up to 40 percent of the global GDP, China’s One Belt, One Road project is not short on ambition. 
Its boosters tout its massive economic promise and claim it could benefit the entire world and lift millions out of poverty. 
But no one can say for sure what exactly the plan encompasses, and detractors warn it could be an expensive boondoggle at best or a massive expansion of Chinese imperial power at worst. 
The intellectuals argue: “So what is One Belt, One Road?” No one is totally sure. At the most basic level, One Belt, One Road is a collection of interlinking trade deals and infrastructure projects throughout Eurasia and the Pacific, but the definition of what exactly qualifies as an OBOR project, or which countries are even involved in the initiative, is incredibly fuzzy. “It means everything and it means nothing at the same time,” said Christopher Balding, a professor of economics at Beijing University. 
China at this stage is concentrating on building up a global network of infrastructure which facilitates “Ease and Cost of Doing Business,” tempting all nations to derive benefits out of it. In these times of competition and compulsions of cost rationalization and ease of accessibility, OBOR will be irresistible for many countries. 
It also aims to develop the infrastructure and economies of nations which falls along OBOR. 
The major deliverables achieved under OBOR at the forum are: 
1. China signed MoUs with 11 countries and cooperation documents with nine international organizations.

2. China signed economic and trade cooperation agreements with 30 countries.

3. China will scale up financing support for OBOR by contributing an additional $14.5 billion to the Silk Road fund.

4. The China Development Bank and the Export-Import Bank of China (Eximp Bank of China) will set up special lending schemes worth $36.3 billion and around $18.8 billion for the development of infrastructure projects.

5. The National Development and Reform Commission of China will set up a China-Russia regional cooperation development investment fund with a total scale of $14.5 billion and an initial scale of $1.45 billion to promote cooperation between China’s north-east and Russia’s Far East.

6. In the coming five years, China will offer 2,500 short-term research visits to the country for young foreign scientists, train 5000 foreign scientists, engineers and managers and set up 50 joint laboratories.

7. In the coming three years, China will provide assistance worth $8.7 billion to developing countries and international organizations participating in OBOR.

8. In the coming three years China will provide emergency food aid worth $290 million. 

9. In the coming three years China will make an additional contribution of $1 billion in assistance for the South-South Cooperation.

10. In the coming three years China will launch 100 “Happy Home” projects, 100 poverty alleviation projects and 100 health care and rehabilitation projects along OBOR.  The China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) is one important link in OBOR. Having achieved growth in central China, the vision is now to extend it to the outskirt provinces of China. OBOR is one initiative which will make it happen. The next five years of the roll out of OBOR are crucial in steering it against many challenges and odds. (The writer is former President, Oversees Investors Chamber of Commerce and Industry) 

The Sunni allies of Tehran: 20 May, 2017 "The Nation"

It is no secret that Iran has a murky foreign policy – for political analysts, it is almost as difficult as separating wheat from chaff. Recently and increasingly so, accusations are mounting that Iran is expanding its association with the Taliban in Afghanistan. In this regard, three questions need to be answered to clear up the sketchiness that surrounds the relationship between Iran and the Taliban: If indeed the accusations are true, then why the change in Iran’s policy; when did this policy change take place ; and what is the level of support afforded to the Taliban by Iran?


So far, history showcases the implausibility of the two parties colluding on any front. The Taliban’s Sunni-first ideology, its history of persecuting Afghan Shiites, and its attacks on Iranians make the group the unlikeliest of allies for Iran. In the late 1990s, the Taliban’s mediated efforts for an anti-Shiite program almost resulted in an all-out war with Iran. During the Afghan civil war, the Taliban aimed to ‘disinfect’ northern Afghanistan of Afghan, Shiite Hazaras – in the wake of which, thousands of Shiite Hazaras were massacred. In 1998, a small Taliban unit entered the Iranian consulate in Mazari Sharif, Afghanistan’s third largest city, and rounded up and butchered nine Iranian diplomats. Taliban units then moved to take over Bamiyan in Central Afghanistan, the nucleus of the Hazara ethnic group, and continued their slaughtering. Meanwhile, Iran’s Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei even accused Pakistan of assisting the Taliban in capturing Bamiyan, and a force of 70,000 Iranian Revolutionary Guards and Iranian military forces, set up camps along the Iran-Afghanistan border.


Iran then became the main foreign sponsor of the Northern Alliance – the Taliban’s main domestic rival, and went on to implicitly collaborate with the United States in overthrowing the Taliban in 2001.


However, the dynamics took a 180-degree turn post-9/11. Iran ramped up its support to the Taliban, due to many events in Afghanistan, the chief of which was Washington’s erratic policy switch—from Obama’s scheduled cutting down troops in 2014 to the now apparently sealed deal resulting in increased US support. The recent dropping of the “mother-of-all-bombs” is evidence of this. The Trump administration’s turnaround has created the uncertainty in Afghanistan. Uncertainty which may have played a significant role in pushing Iran to hedge its bets vis-à-vis Afghan actors, specifically the Taliban.


With the current logjam period in US-Iranian relations, after the new US administration entered office, Iran’s leaders are apprehensive once again about the United States using Afghanistan as a base from which to launch potentials attack on their country. Thus, in the short term, at least, the Taliban is facilitating Iranian interests through its mutiny against the US-backed government.


Another crucial factor is the rise of the Islamic State (ISIS) in the eastern part of Afghanistan. ISIS, which harbours extreme hostility toward Shiites, has engaged fighters to Iran’s west in Iraq and to its east in Afghanistan. Unlike the Taliban ideology, ISIS’s dogma is transnational and can be used to provoke Iran’s already high-strung Sunni populations. Yet, also unlike the native Taliban, this transnational terrorist group depends upon various yokes of recruiting, caging, and coercing local groups in Afghanistan. The Taliban has grown to become one of ISIS’s primary enemies in Afghanistan, as ISIS competes with the Taliban, and aims to peel away discontented fighters from Taliban ranks. Taliban and ISIS fighters regularly clash. In early May, more than two dozen fighters were left dead after a confrontation in the eastern Nangarhar province.


By providing limited support to the Taliban, Iran is filling two needs with one deed: Creating a shield against ISIS and simultaneously preventing the United States from using Afghanistan as a launching pad against Iran.


The crucial year was of course 2014 because it represents the critical turning point when Iran shifted its stance with the Taliban. In this year, the vast majority of international combat troops withdrew from Afghanistan which was a major setback to the validity of the Afghan government. Iran then moved to officiate its relationship with the Taliban by giving its permission to open an office in its eastern city of Mashhad. Events such as several regional groups, including Al Tawhid Brigade and Ansar ul-Khilafat Wal-Jihad, pledging allegiance to ISIS also pushed Iran and the Taliban closer together.


According to officials quoted in the Wall Street Journal Report in 2015 Iran now runs at least four training camps for Taliban fighters, located in Tehran as well as in Mashhad, the city of Zahedan and the province of Kerman. Moreover, Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps have been arming and training the Taliban.


Media accounts have highlighted the increasing levels of support given to the Taliban, but as of now, it still seems that Iran mainly beholds the Taliban as a useful common adversary against both US led efforts in Afghanistan and the Islamic State. At this point, Iran will continue its marriage of convenience through providing just enough arms and training to the Taliban, which is different from a full-blown investment to change the equation in Afghanistan.


It seems that Iran is of the belief that the Taliban will ultimately play some part in the Afghan government – since enemies of today can become key political actors tomorrow. That being so, there is a benefit to maintaining a limited relationship for some sort of clout down the road.


However, it should be kept in mind that in the course of any drastic moves by either the United States or the Islamic State to modify the dynamics of the country, the Iranian leaders might, once again, have to reappraise their Taliban affinity.  For now, even though Iran’s Shia rulers sit at the opposite end of the religious spectrum from the Taliban’s Sunni fundamentalists, the two have become allies of convenience against common enemies.


OBOR Summit and Pakistan: 20 May, 2017 "The Nation"

China has recently hosted the One Belt-One Road (OBOR) summit in Beijing in which participants from various countries attended the summit. China wants to build a sea and road route network in more than a dozen countries of Asia, Middle East, Europe and Africa. It is approximately 1 trillion dollars of investment. Mr Xi Jingping, President of China has said emphatically that countries are open to join, referring to India. China’s One Belt-One Road initiative will integrate various regions for trade. It would boost global trade. CPEC is also a project under the same vision of the Chinese OBOR initiative. The May 14-15 forum was attended by 29 heads of state and government, besides delegates from around 130 countries.


Prime Minister Mian Muhammad Nawaz Sharif represented Pakistan. Underscoring the importance of OBOR, Mr Sharif stated that OBOR is unfolding across continents, is fostering inclusion, creating tolerance, and promoting acceptance of cultural diversity. He categorically said in his speech that CPEC is an economic undertaking open to all countries in the region. It has no geographical boundaries. It must not be politicised. The Prime Minister called for building a peaceful, connected and caring neighbourhood by shunning mutual differences. “It is time we transcend our differences, resolve conflicts through dialogue and diplomacy, and leave a legacy of peace for future generations,” he further reiterated in his speech.


Pakistan and China also signed six accords of cooperation in diverse fields: The framework of the Silk Road Economic Belt and the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road initiative and agreements on economic and technical cooperation (1.5 billion RMB for Gwadar Airport, among others and 1.1bn RMB for East Bay Expressway). The total worth of the accords is about $500 million. The MoUs add to $57bn already pledged for CPEC. The following deals are among the accords signed by two countries: Two cooperation agreements worth $333m for an airport in Gwadar, the site of a deepwater port that is to provide an outlet to the Arabian Sea from the far western Chinese province of Xinjiang, establishment of the Havelian dry port in Pakistan, agreement on economic and technical cooperation ($160m) for the East Bay Expressway linking Gwadar to Pakistan’s highway network.


During the meeting of the Prime Minister of Pakistan with the Chinese President, the chief ministers of four federating units were also with him. This is a good tradition – the four chief ministers of federating units were also being kept on board on all major negotiations and other developments of bilateral relations between two countries. In a way, it also gives them an opportunity to directly interact with the Chinese leadership with regards to development projects in their respective development programmes. CPEC is a gigantic project and its fruits will be shared with all provinces of Pakistan. CPEC itself enhances the beauty of Pakistan’s federation as its route passes through all federating units. During his meeting with his Chinese counterpart, the Prime Minister mulled over industrial zones under the CPEC project. Under the umbrella of CPEC, China is to develop industrial zones in various areas of Pakistan. On the sidelines, the Pakistani leadership discussed the possible assistance of China in building the Diamer-Bhasha dam.


Projects under China’s vision of OBOR (One Belt-One Road), there would be immense infrastructure development in the countries of its routes. Countries in Asia and Africa would have an opportunity to integrate themselves with the global economy. It would also help in alleviating poverty in these areas especially in Asia and Africa by generating new jobs and creating industrial zones for the people of these areas. It would open new vistas of investments for these countries. The Minister for Planning, Reform and Development, Ahsan Iqbal has recently pointed out that CPEC’s impact on GDP growth would be around 1.5 percent which will create around 1.5 million additional jobs according to some estimates. We need to generate employment for our youth and the need to develop various sectors of our economy and the present government is taking all steps in this regard. The mega projects launched by this government are transparent and are yielding dividends in the form of improvement of the quality of life of the general masses. Infrastructure development is a key indicator of development of a country and this government has not only provided better communication system by constructing road networks in various cities but it has also provided the finest internal communication system for the local commuters in the form of metro bus system. The foreign reserves of Pakistan and the Stock Exchange have touched unprecedented heights in the recent history of Pakistan. All this development, prosperity and progress are basically the vision of Prime Minister, Mian Muhammad Nawaz Sharif.


It is good that the present government is pursuing its development agenda domestically and internationally. Materialisation of CPEC and other power generation projects with China are a manifestation of this government’s commitment to development of Pakistan. Mian Muhammad Nawaz Sharif has always pursued the policy of peaceful coexistence and that’s why he is ready to welcome any country in CPEC. The times are changing rapidly and presently, politics is driven by economics. This realisation should be the ultimate consideration of countries living on this part of the world.


China, with its sincerity, has provided the opportunity to the world to integrate themselves for their development. China’s vision of regional connectivity is for the economic prosperity and well-being of humanity. Hopefully, the countries situated around China’s OBOR vision can grab this economic opportunity and tread the path of global development.


Third American engagement in Afghanistan: 20 May, 2017 "The Nation"

The North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) summit is going to be held on May 24-25, 2017. Apart from other various important security issues, NATO members will discuss Afghanistan’s security situation and most likely President Donald Trump will announce its policy on Afghanistan. According to international media reports, he will likely send five thousand American soldiers in Afghanistan. This will be the third American “military engagement” in Afghanistan since 2001. After the first American engagement in 2001, former President Obama tried to curb Afghan militancy in 2009 by sending more than 30,000 troops. It was called the “second American engagement in Afghanistan”. However, the second “engagement of the US” in Afghanistan could not bring desired results for the US. Currently, scholars are discussing about new surge of American troops and their objectives in Afghanistan. Why is Trump sending five thousand troops in Afghanistan?


It seems that President Trump wants to portray himself as a stronger and aggressive President as compared to his predecessor. Moreover, he also wants to show American public that he is radically different from former President. The NATO drawdown and presence of American non-combating forces was the strategy of former President. However, troops surge in Afghanistan will portray that Trump’s policies are different, which will help him consolidating his white American voter.


Another reason for the American troops surge in Afghanistan is the recent Afghan Taliban’s strategic gains under their summer offence campaign. Fighting has sharply escalated in Afghanistan over the past few weeks with the Afghan Taliban gradually retaking control of some important districts. The Taliban captured a strategic district in the northern province of Kunduz. This comes only five days after the Taliban captured a district in neighbouring Baghlan province seizing a number of government forces’ vehicles and ammunition. Hence, summer offence of Taliban is gradually intensifying. President Trump had pledged his people during election campaign that he would not increase overseas defence expenditures. This change in the policy identifies that may be President Trump’s policy in Afghanistan is buying time for Afghanistan to become a sustainable and strong state so that it could fight itself against Afghan Taliban. This policy has been confirmed by the troops surge or “third US engagement in Afghanistan”. These troops will try to maintain status quo in the country. Moreover, these troops will attempt to control strategic gains of Afghan Taliban. 


Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF) does not have capacity and capability to counter the threat of the Islamic State (IS). In this regard, strategic gains of Afghan Taliban have further complicated the security situation in the country. The security forces of Afghanistan are facing the issue of defections. Afghan Taliban often recruit people within these security forces to launch attacks on military bases. The recent attack in Mizar-e-Sharif is a staunch example of such internal support. Hence, the factor of Islamic State (IS), lack of ANSF capability and internal politics of the US has concluded security experts of Pentagon to enter into a third American engagement in Afghanistan.  


However, it seems clear that if more than 100,000 troops in Afghanistan couldn’t bring peace, how will these five thousand combating troops be effective enough to bring peace in the country? Therefore, Afghanistan’s solution lies in political means. Through political concessions, the reconciliation of Afghanistan can be made possible. In this regard, the world must acknowledge Pakistan’s role in the national reconciliation process of Afghanistan. Pakistan has repeatedly conveyed to the world that Afghan Taliban are political reality and they must be brought into mainstream. International community had neglected the demands of Afghan Taliban. It is suggested that the demands of Taliban should be listened to and examined. Only this step can lead to the political national reconciliation of Afghanistan.

Budget proposals: 19 May, 2017 "Business Recorder"

It is now well-established that there is a direct link between growing poverty in Pakistan and distortion in tax base since 1991, when a major shift was made by introducing presumptive taxes (indirect taxes in the garb of income tax) and VAT-type sales tax. Since 1991, the burden of taxes on the poor has increased by 38 per cent whereas on the rich it stands reduced by 18 per cent. 

The lack of judicious balance between direct and indirect taxes has pushed an overwhelming majority of Pakistanis towards the poverty line. Their number is now more than 60 million. The Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) claims that the share of direct taxes is increased to 40%. It is incorrect. From income tax collection, if presumptive taxes are excluded, its share in total collection will hardly be 25% or even less. It confirms that present taxation system is highly regressive. The international lenders are least pushed about the inequitable character of our tax system, under which the burden of taxes is less on the rich and more on the poor. They are merely interested in getting their money back with interest and rightly so. 

Over the period of time, our tax system has become rotten, oppressive, unjust and target-oriented. There is a dire need for discussing the philosophical framework, principles of equity and justice, which should be the main concern of our tax policy; not simply achieving of targets. Our fiscal managers want to meet budgetary targets through oppressive taxes, shifting incidence on the poorer segments of society and exempting the rich. We must enforce income tax and reduce progressive taxes. Undoubtedly, 17% sales tax (on many items over 35%, e.g., on some petroleum products) has proved inflationary and its impact on business and industry has proved destructive. 

The following amendments are also urgently needed and should be considered in the forthcoming budget: 

Advance Tax 

In Pakistan, under the repealed Income Tax Ordinance, 1979 (until assessment year 1995-1996), three specific characteristics were the hallmarks of advance tax, viz. 

1. Advance tax was paid by the taxpayer on the basis of last declared/assessed/estimated income for that assessment year; 

2. Credit for any advance tax collected for an assessment year was accounted for in that year and not the year of collection; and 3.6% mark-up on the amount retained as advance tax was paid to the taxpayer at the time of assessment thereby compensating his cost of funds or opportunity cost for the period his money remained with the government. 

The above should be revived by suitably amending section 147 of the Income Tax Ordinance, 2001. 

Refunds/compensation 

Presently, refunds of billions are stuck. This issue needs a systemic analysis. The refunds should be as expeditiously as demands are collected. The following should be made effective and mandatory through statutory provisions so that no one can exercise discretionary powers: 

* Income and sales tax refunds should be issued without application within 90 days of their becoming due. 

* There should be automatic payment of compensation if any refund is issued after 90 days. 

* The officer responsible for incurring compensation should be made liable to pay the amount from his salary. 

* There should be zero tax regime for exporters to avoid refund accumulation. 

Recovery 
The recovery should be after the decision of the Tribunal and not before that. Banks accounts should not be attached without prior notice to the taxpayer and after seeking approval in writing of Commissioner in the light of reply submitted by the taxpayer. 
Independent Tax Justice System 
In developing economies like Pakistan, one of the biggest problems is a relatively small tax base and the reluctance of ordinary people to file tax returns and thus submit themselves to scrutiny of their affairs by the tax administration. However, once a taxpayer professes faith in the effectiveness of legal remedies against an unjust tax levy or unjust action of the taxation authorities, he would be more likely to be truthful to the taxation authorities, and willing to accept a reasonable levy of tax. 

To a tax collector, an efficient tax judiciary ensures that demands arising out of legitimate tax assessments, which can stand scrutiny of law, are not unnecessarily locked up in litigation. As long as there is a pending litigation in relation to a particular tax levy, there is a natural, and quite understandable, desire on the taxpayer’s part not to pay the disputed amount during pendency of litigation. An efficient tax judiciary resolves disputes quickly, quashes demands which are not legally sustainable, and thus segregates serious tax demands from frivolous tax demands, as also giving finality to legitimate tax demands. This in turn ensures that taxpayers cannot resort to dilatory tactics for paying these genuine and legitimate tax demands which have received judicial approval. An efficient tax judiciary thus helps remove impediments from collection of genuine tax demands by the State, which, once again, results in greater resource mobilization. An effective tax judiciary does not only settle tax dispute between a taxpayer and the State, but it also lays down principles on the basis of such resolved disputes which provide guidance for the future. These decisions, which have precedence value in the sense that same decision has to be taken on materially identical facts, also have normative effect thus helping in correcting the judicial course. This way, an effective tax judiciary also contributes to smooth functioning of the tax machinery. 

To make Tribunal a truly independent forum, it is imperative to: 

1. Replace existing 4-tier appeal system under the tax laws—direct and indirect—with two-tier system. The Customs Tribunal and Appellate Tribunal Inland Revenue should be merged into singular National Tax Tribunal. Like the Services Tribunal this too should work under direct supervision of the Supreme Court. Appeals against its decisions should go directly to the Supreme Court. 
2. After merging Appellate Tribunal Inland Revenue and Customs Tribunal, the new entity should be renamed as National Tax Tribunal. Appeals against the orders of the Tribunal should lie with the Supreme Court alone. Members for Tax Appellate Tribunal should be recruited in the same manner as judges of High Court. The pay, perquisites and salary structure of Chairman, members and staff should be at par with the Judge of a High Court, Sessions Judge and staff of the lower judiciary respectively. 

A wary India: 17 May, 2017 "Business Recorder"

The Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) of China appears to be the most logical corollary of globalization. The two countries that have benefitted the most from globalization — China and India – were, therefore, expected to follow through with separate or joint efforts to take globalization to its next logical stage of actually turning the world into a globalized village by reducing physical distances through infrastructural connectivity. 
The BRI will directly involve 65 countries, 4.4 billion people and 29% of global GDP ($2.1 trillion). It will be backed by the New Silk Road Fund of $40 billion, the China Development Bank’s $900 billion and the bulk of the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank’s (AIIB) $100 billion. It is estimated that over $1 trillion of “government money” will be involved in building the BRI. 
President Xi Jinping hosted the Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation from 14th to 15th May in Beijing. Leaders from 28 countries and the UN Secretary-General attended the forum. Delegates of various social sectors from 110 countries 61 international organizations also participated in related meetings under the framework of this Forum. This Forum featured cooperation and win-win results. Delegates reviewed past achievements and charter the future course to realize an early harvest of the Belt and Road Initiative. The event ushered in a new stage and leave a deep mark in history. 
To understand the logic of BRI one needs only to see how close New Delhi and Islamabad are but it is more expensive to transport containers by land between the two cities than from Mumbai to London by sea, and takes almost the same time. 

The Belt and Road Initiative takes connectivity as its priority, and aims at speed up connectivity of transportation networks by land, sea and air, as well as that between the pipelines, power grids, telecommunication, satellites and internet within Eurasia and with other regions to reduce transaction and people exchange costs, so that products from the inland areas can sell a good price and children from the countryside can have better access to quality education, medical services and internet connection. 
However, India was missing from the May 14-15 BRI Forum in Beijing. At least in the contest of Asia it appeared to have isolated itself for no reason at all. 
India appears to look at the BRI perhaps with a lot of suspicion and seems even to believe that the Initiative held some kind of threat to its security as well as its economic well-being. 
This unhelpful attitude of India is likely to cause the Initiative to yield a lot less than its real potential which would certainly be a tragedy, especially for those developing countries that have been keenly looking forward to benefiting from the Asian Century led by China and India together as the world growth is expected stagnate following the marked slowdown in the growth rates in the US and Europe and the possibility of these countries resorting to protectionism to escape being overwhelmed by the Asian Century. 
The Indian security experts attribute their suspicion of the BRI to what they regard as the ‘utter disregard’ exhibited by China towards ongoing territorial disputes between countries. 
Additionally, the BRI according to Indian security experts also enables China to increase its security footprint in and around India’s neighborhood. Dubious media reports are being quoted in India which mislead the Indian public into believing that China has begun to station its troops in some parts of AJ&K. These dubious media reports also allege that China has also begun joint patrolling with the Pakistan Army. On the maritime front too, Chinese navy is being seen to have increased its footprint in the Indian Ocean. 
Their self-serving suspicions of the BRI seem to have made Indian policymakers to ask irrelevant questions like what the Chinese hope to achieve through the initiative.  One Indian security experts asked: “Is it a geopolitical idea or is it a foreign policy issue? Is it an economic issue or is it a domestic political issue of China? Or is it about the survival of the Communist Party of China? Or is it an organisation where countries can become members and also leave? Nothing is clear.” 
Indian security experts rather illogically contend that the BRI might actually drive terrorism from Xinjiang down south to Pakistan, as it was the easiest outlet for the Uighur extremists. Thus, the CPEC, they needlessly fear, might end terrorism in Xinjiang, but actually help sustain terrorism in India through Pakistan. 
So the concerned Indians believe the BRI was neither “convincingly transparent” nor “sufficiently consultative” as far as India was concerned. 
They also question the safety of the colossal investments made by China in the CPEC in case of a large-scale conflict erupting between India and Pakistan, clearly revealing their hegemonic intentions. 
Highlighting what they call the legal and strategic concerns of the BRI and CPEC they allege that 25% of the total investments in CPEC are reserved for security related issues. All the corridors, ports, fibre optics, communication lines etc. that CPEC includes, have got strong military elements, they further argue. 
Therefore, no country, including India, they believe would be comfortable with the prospect of a foreign military gaining direct and unchecked access within its ‘sovereign territory’, especially as they allege the People’s Liberation Army already has a strong presence in areas such as Sust near Gilgit-Baltistan. 
They believe, these concerns around the CPEC also have a nuclear dimension, which, they warn, might lead India to rethink its military strategy towards Pakistan, which has so far followed a Cold Start doctrine. 
Alleging that ever since CPEC has come into being, Pakistan has deployed Hatf XI (Nasr) missiles very close to Indian borders, they said that the security concerns also spread out into India’s maritime safety, given that Chinese are building, according to these Indian security experts, 16 ports, in India’s maritime neighborhood, which all have the underpinnings of strategic designs. 

And that the very connectivity that the BRI was promoting has been used by China, they allege, as a strategic tool. “Connectivity, thus, is a very powerful weapon and it can work in many directions,” 
The crux of the geopolitical and security concerns India has regarding the project is clearly because of a trust deficit with China. This has been exacerbated by the unwillingness, Indian experts believe, on the part of the two countries to enter into a dialogue to overcome bilateral problems and understand each other’s sensitivities. 
They categorically raised this issue by asking, “Why is China not talking to India? India is the largest country in South and South East Asia with respect to OBOR. India has an infrastructure deficit that China can fix, that would take care of China’s excess manufacturing capacity. But why is China not talking to India? 
That, they believe, raises questions about what are the Chinese intentions. Why aren’t they entering into an engagement?” 
Answering their own self-deceiving questions in this regard, they said the reason for the lack of trust between the two countries was the rivalry between them to become global powers. 
China’s aspiration, they believe, is to become the dominant power in Asia. India, on the other hand, they say, is the most important country in South Asia, and has long considered the region to be its backyard. 
They concede that China’s rise has challenged India’s hegemony within the South Asian region. And China’s increasing economic influence through the BRI would lead to diminish India’s influence in the region. Indian policymakers are clearly wary of this development. 
Another reason, the Indians believe, is the lack of transparency in the manner in which China is pursuing the BRI. In this regard they allege that a number of projects that weren’t originally supposed to be a part of the BRI have now been added to it. 
Furthermore, they allege, India has not been consulted despite the significant role it would play in the success of the project. They argue that this is in large part because of lack of clarity among the Chinese themselves regarding the nature and scope of this mammoth initiative. They ask rather rhetorically than for eliciting an answer, “What is OBOR for? Is it for capacity building? Is it for survival of Communist Party of China? Is it for domestic economics, or geopolitics?” This, they believe, compounds the problem, not just for India, but for every country associated with the project. 
In the opinion of Indian experts the problems arising out of the BRI have not been adequately discussed. While traditional security has been talked about, non-traditional security threats such as environmental issues and poverty alleviation haven’t been properly examined. 
The nature of Chinese political economy, they suspect without reason, will prevent job creation in the countries in which the BRI will operate. They also wrongly critique what they call the ‘coercive nature’ of China’s economic statecraft. And hence, in order to win over India’s trust for the BRI, China would have to take the first step in inviting Indian leaders to talk about their mutual concerns. 

India's illegitimate stance on Kashmir: 17 May, 2017 "Pakistan Today"

People of Indian Occupied Kashmir are being humiliated, tortured, injured and even killed with impunity by the brutal Indian occupying forces. What crime have they committed? Is asking for the promises to be fulfilled a crime? The promise of the right of self-dertermination was made to them by the Indian leadership and the world during the partition of British India. India calls Kashmir its integral part, the claim which is farthest from the truth and her stances negated in the following paragraphs.

The first argument that Indian gives is that Maharaja Hari Singh acceded its state to India in October 1947. I is pertinent to mention that maharaja was no longer in control of his state and had himself fled from the Srinagar to Jammu and for all practical purposes was overthrown by the public of Kashmir. more...

China's new world order: 17 May, 2017 "Dawn"

China recently hosted 29 heads of state and government at the Belt and Road Forun, reinforcing the country's claim to leadership of emerging geopolitical and economic world order. The summit conference that also attracted representatives of more than 40 other countrues and multilateral financial agencies was the clearest exprestion yet of China breaking out of its old foreign policy mould that had restrained it from attempting a global role. more...

Foriegn Varsities in Pakistan: 17 May, 2017 "The News"

During the last two years, I have travelled to Austria, Italy and France to explore the possibility of establishing top class engineering and technology universities in Pakistan. These journeys were to convince the leading varsities in these countries to form consortia of their best universities which could then set up top class educational institutions in Pakistan.

We spend over Rs 100 billion every year to send our children abroad for good foreign education. Why can't all this mony be saved if we can educate our children at foreign universities in our own country? After all schoolchildren prepare for and take their O level and A level examinations from the University of Cambridge without physically travelling to the varsity in the UK. more...

Leadership: The bane of Pakistan: 17 May, 2017 "The Nation"

When Pakistan came into being it was a developing state and the people looked forward to a better tomorrow. Seventy years later it is still a developing state but today the people are frightened of tomorrow and any thought about the country’s future fills them with foreboding.

With its vast human and natural resources Pakistan should have been transformed into a modern industrialised state and its people should have been enjoying a quality of life at least equal to that of the people of the developed states. After all, this was the vision of its founding fathers and its raison d’être as well. Yet, born as a nation, it is struggling to survive as a country, drifting from crisis to crisis.

On the other hand, those nations which stood at the same level as Pakistan, have forged ahead dramatically and have either joined or are poised to join the ranks of developed states. And considering that some of them lack natural resources, their achievement becomes even more spectacular- they converted their population into their greatest resource.

These nations had the most important asset that Pakistan has lacked – quality leadership. Suffice it to say that just because he or she is a politician doesn’t mean that he or she is a good leader too. By the same token, just because he is a general doesn’t mean that he is a good leader too. Had this not been so, the people’s dreams of seeing Pakistan as a developed state should have come true, while the wars that were lost should have been won. Pakistan’s leadership has been its bane.

Leadership is art in motion. It transcends all other things in beauty and is the best gift that can be given to the people.

Great leaders are endowed with thought of the highest quality and the ability to translate it into actions. They give vigour and direction to their nations. They foster economic growth, safeguard sovereignty and independence, promote social justice and improve the quality of life. They start by articulating a vision that inspires the nation, then, develop a plan to achieve it. They create an environment where performance and commitment predominate, not mediocrity, flattery and nepotism, where decisions are based on principles, not expediency, where the focus is on breakthroughs, not cosmetic changes, and where the complex is translated into simple. They earn respect, not demand it: “Titles distinguish the mediocre, embarrass the superior and are disgraced by the inferior” (George Bernard Shaw).

If Pakistan had been blessed by one such leader, its history would have been embellished by stories of success, not tainted by failure. Instead, what it got was leaders steeped in mediocrity whose thoughts and actions were governed by self-interest, who were incapable of high order thinking and lacked the ability to grasp the wider implications of a situation, problem and action.

Therefore, it is hardly surprising that they proved unequal to the responsibilities placed on them and the challenges that confronted them. The result was that the country lost 70 years in time and 114,000 sq kms in space, while the challenges have assumed massive proportions: the insurgency and the use of terror as a weapon that began in Fata has enveloped the whole country, despite Operations Rah-e-Raast (Swat), Rah-e-Nijaat (South Waziristan), Zarb-e-Azb (North Waziristan), and countless smaller operations in the other agencies of Fata, and elsewhere in the country; the implementation of National Action Plan; the country’s population has grown at one of the highest rates in the world, so has the number of people living on the poverty line and below it; so too has illiteracy and the problems that arise from it – ignorance, obscurantism, bigotry, prejudice, provincialism, sectarianism et al; the infrastructure too, having been overtaken by the population, has collapsed. Isn’t it a paradox that such a rich country as Pakistan should have so many poor people living in it? The rulers’ is a squalid tale of greed and corruption. They have thus turned politics in Pakistan into a game of high stakes and in the process, introduced a national culture characterized by incompetence, inefficiency, inertia, sycophancy and corruption.

No wonder then, that Pakistan’s performance in all the Elements of National Power (political, economic, psycho-social, diplomatic and military) has been characterized by failure. Take the political element – in the realm of national strategy the centre of gravity of Pakistan resides in its political system, yet, because of the ineptitude of our captains of politics, the centre of gravity has remained in a state of dislocation, thus causing the political system to remain in a state of imbalance. And this inevitably, has adversely affected the performance of the other elements, in particular, the economics and psycho-social elements.

Take the diplomatic element – it has failed to mobilize the world on the atrocities being committed by India on the people of Indian Held Kashmir – also consider the Iranian threat. Take the military element – it ruled over the country for 33 years during which time, they had a golden opportunity to modernize Pakistan and earn for it an enviable position in the world. Instead, they mutilated the constitution, damaged the institutions of the state in the same way as, their counter parts in politics, blundered the country into two major wars, lost both, destroyed the basis on which Pakistan was founded and put the country back in time and space.

Yet, for all their transgressions they would still have been hailed as heroes if they had won victories on the battlefield. They had the men and material but failed to convert them into a force.

Is there a remedy? Yes. The present political system that throws low caliber people into the legislature and high offices in the executive has been tried, tested and failed. Therefore, the old super structure of the state will have to be demolished and a new Pakistan built on new foundations. This would call for new thinking, new instincts, new approaches and tough decisions. This can only be done by a political system that would allow the finest minds in the country, pre-eminent in their respective fields to be inducted into positions of governance, both at the federal and provincial level. It is only world class thought, translated into superlative actions that can retrieve Pakistan.


Pakistan-EU relations: 17 May, 2017 "The Nation"

There is a difference between the Europeans and the Americans, which has been reinforced by the occurrence of Brexit in Europe and election of Donald Trump as the US President.

For South Asia, there exists a desire in Europe to push for a dialogue between India and Pakistan. Contrary to the US, Europe is seen as reformist power which cannot tolerate a war going out of hand or any sort of economic depression. In Europe, there exists a concert of nations, where states can talk to each other in order to build consensus to maintain equilibrium. Various analysts in Europe consider the current outlook of China as similar to that of Germany before World War I. However, if observed keenly, China in today’s world is able to talk with various countries in different regions with the underlined goal of regional and global stability which is very much what Europe wants. Realistically, China wants this kind of stability for next 20-30 years in order to become a global power, entirely unbothered by the global circumstances.

For Europe, China’s emergence as a global power will bring equilibrium in place which could grant greater powers to weaker global powers like Europe, pushing global powers such as the US, altogether for compromises on global level, shutting down opportunities for committing mistakes such as Iraq and Afghanistan war. It was said that Europeans do complain about the refugees’ crisis but then it must be understood that they are the people who had been suffering before and even now. If the crisis situation in Iraq, Syria and Afghanistan could have been avoided, there had been no such issues of displacement, continuous instability and chaos. Today, Afghanistan is an unresolved quagmire, Iraq is a weak state and Syria is also a consequence of this old Cold War game. So, from a European perspective, China’s rise is not really an issue. This rise might also be helpful for a dialogue between India and Pakistan. Being nuclear powers, issues between both countries are growing intensely. For instance, the European parliament is talking about the Kashmir issue for the last four years as it is an issue about which global powers must talk very directly.

Pakistan does not have any enemies in Europe but the level of diplomacy required to create stronger relationships is missing.

Pakistan must start diplomatic, economic and security maneuvering in the European region. CPEC has brought Pakistan into a whole new light; many are now seeing Pakistan as an emerging economy, new economic power house and spine of Chinese New Silk Route which must be taken on further. Pakistan’s stance on Kashmir has not been listened on the global level as Pakistan has already been in the bad light for terrorism in South Asia and Afghanistan. In reality, Pakistan has been a victim of terrorism and the Afghanistan situation has issues of bad governance, internal chaos, corruption and NATO mismanagement under its fold, which is not Pakistan’s fault entirely.


Prospects of cooperation between Europe and South Asia are bright. Also, the countries in Central and Western Europe want themselves to be a bridge for economic and commercial activities in Western Europe, which widens the scope of such cooperation. The interest for economic cooperation is there but for that, states must be engaged.


Europeans do not see South and East Asia as their sole priority, unlike the US. Europe is more of a limited great power, struggling to establish its influence however, if given a global role; it will be received very positively. After Brexit, EU Commission, France and Germany must look forward to include some Western European countries like Spain and Italy in the European Union to ensure its strength and better future.

China's expanding role in the Middle East: 16 May, 2017 "Pakistan Today"

As OBOR gains grounds, China's non-intervention policy will remain a matter of debate other regions, as a stage for attain ing acknowledgment as a genuine great power. There is also a growing equity stake for China: it imports more than half of its oil from the Gulf, as well as a third of its natural gas. Chinese major energy companies have already established supply anchoragesin the Middle East including in Iraq, and most recently in Abu Dhabi. the Sinopass petrochimical and natural has projects in the region as well as refinery project. more...

Kashmir conundrum: 15 May, 2017 "The Nation"

The recent wave of students’ led protests in the Indian occupied Kashmir, triggered first by ruthless killing of separatist leader, Burhan Wani, which India claimed to be a militant, and lately getting impetus from Indian security forces raid on a college in Pulwama during which at least 50 students were injured, has brought the Kashmir issue again in the limelight. Like the past, the issue has culminated in prompting India to deal with the issue via a heavy-handed approach, that is reflective from curfews and onslaught of pellet guns, painting it before the world that the current uprising has been the brainchild of shenanigans on the part of across the border rival, Pakistan, which India has accused of sponsoring militant groups in Indian Occupied Kashmir. But unlike the past, the recent wave of protests has a peculiar feature; that is, Kashmiris themselves, especially, are now trying to make themselves count in the stakeholders’ matrix of this conflict. Fed up with bearing more than seven decades of India’s hawkish approach towards their concerns, the youth of Indian occupied Kashmir, incensed by political, social, economic and psychological deprivation, have given up the ghost in capping their repressed anger against the state’s atrocities and have decided to stand up for their rights.


This was long overdue. Right after independence, it is an open secret that India, through coercive means, made Maharaja Hari Singh, the then ruler of Kashmir as a princely state, sign the Instrument of Accession with India in the face of a rebellion from Muslims. After acceding to India, India sent its troops to Kashmir to counter the rebellion that had almost captured a portion of Kashmir which they named Azad Kashmir. A ruthless fight ensued between the Indian army and rebel forces that constituted tribal force supported by Pakistan army. The rebel forces were almost fifteen miles away from Srinagar, capital of Indian occupied Kashmir, that India’s then Prime Minister Jawahar Lal Nehru, at the behest of then Governor General Lord Mountbatten, appealed to the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) to consider the fight between Pakistan and India that was ripping apart Kashmir. Playing the role of mediator after bringing halt to the fight, the UNSC passed several resolutions impressing upon both Pakistan and India that the accession of Jammu and Kashmir to India or Pakistan should be decided through the democratic method of a free and impartial plebiscite.


Since the passage of those resolutions, India has been shying away from holding a plebiscite in Jammu and Kashmir. Instead of giving Kashmiris a choice to have right of self-determination, India has, without Kashmiris’ consent, made it an integral part of their constitution via article 370. Since occupying Jammu and Kashmir and having relieved by the UNSC resolution in 1948 against the onslaught of rebel forces that were about to occupy the whole Kashmir, India has been, since then, hell bent upon crushing all kind of dissent in Kashmir, and has been mainstreaming Kashmir through hawkish means in Indian democracy which is reflective from deployment of large contingents of army equipped with Armed Forces (Special Powers) Acts (AFSPA) which are “Acts of the Parliament of India that grant special powers to the Indian Armed Forces.” AFSPA accords huge power, that most of the time go unchecked with respect to its accountability and results in human rights violations, to the Indian army to maintain normalcy in Kashmir.


The use of force helps contain a problem, but it does not cure. This simple logic is beyond India’s policy makers’ conception when it comes to policy making vis-à-vis Indian occupied Kashmir. The identity of a Kashmiri, which has been defined by state’s oppression, can hardly be accommodated in the mainstream Indian identity which India has been trying to do, to no avail, via holding so-called elections. By not aligning herself with political aspirations of population in Kashmir resulting in resentment among Kashmiris, curing the resentment among people reflective through their protests via force and treating the issue as domestic issue though it is an international one as is reflective from Pakistan’s claim over it and existence of Azad Kashmir, India has been sitting on powder keg. If it is not catered to in time, the issue has the prospect of imploding India from within and exploding from without.


Problems are dealt with squarely for their solution. India’s approach towards Kashmir issue shows that the issue has not been dealt with intentionally in its face and depth; that is why India has not been able to bring calm and peace in Jammu and Kashmir even after seventy years. All these years, Kashmiris in Indian Occupied Kashmir have seen themselves being subsumed into the so-called grand Indian democracy through the crack of a whip, and this has given birth to a new Kashmiri identity that is very different from the one that was at the time of India’s occupation of Kashmir in post-partition era. At that point in time, Kashmiri in struggle against India defined his/her identity, more in ideological terms, in terms of being deprived of his/her choice of self-determination via plebiscite, but, today, with frustration oozing out from the denial of choice of self-determination, Kashmiris are incensed at the utter deprivation meted out to them.


The solution to the Kashmir conundrum does not lie in silencing dissent through barrels of pellet guns, rather, considering eclectic nature of the issue, it lies in bringing all the stakeholders to the conflict in consultation with one other for formulation of an agreement that proves a win-win for all.

Pakistan’s Western Front: 15 May, 2017 "The Nation"

The Afghanistan Pakistan Region (APR) continues to evolve throwing up massive geopolitical and geostrategic challenges for the two protagonists and the external powers involved. This has been most noticeable during the transition between the Obama and Trump administrations during which Russia and China (SCO-?) have made perceptible ingresses into the region as has the IS. The CPEC too is emerging as a game changing phenomenon with long term inter - and intraregional ramifications. Peripheral India continues to brew trouble in the APR especially on Pakistan’s western flank.


India’s current strategy against Pakistan is quite obvious and predictable. It has launched a double pincer maneuver to envelop it on both fronts while a dutiful and compliant fifth column from within Pakistan supports its hostile machinations. This harks back to the Indian Army strategy in erstwhile East Pakistan - multidirectional offensives supported by the Mukti Bahini from within.


Pakistan is thus facing an increasingly belligerent India along the LOC/Working Boundary (WB) on its eastern front as well as a deep two pronged exterior maneuver from it on its western front - one prong emanating from Afghanistan and the other from Iran (Kulbushan Yadav!). The Afghan prong comprises of the Afghan Army, certain terrorist groups and proxies. The LOC/WB continues to blow hot while the entire western front (including the Pak-Iran border, Torkham and Chaman) is now getting hotter by the hour. All these efforts are supported by a massive diplomatic offensive and information and psychological warfare operations.


The fifth column comprises mainly of various terrorist groups (both Afghanistan and Pakistan based) and their collaborators who are tangibly involved in carrying out physical attacks against Pakistan, its public and its Armed Forces. In their direct support we have certain media houses, with a degree of monopoly over both the print and electronic media, as a proactive and assertive part of the fifth column too. They are continuously spreading disinformation, vilifying and creating ill will against the Armed Forces and trying to run them down. They resort to spreading fear, despair, despondency, hopelessness, rumours and doubts in the viability of the country and its Armed Forces. They target Pakistan’s national unity, integrity, morale and will to fight and resist Indian hegemony. They end up directly and indirectly reinforcing India’s strategic maneuvers against Pakistan; and those of the Afghans, some western powers and certain hostile intelligence agencies too. Certain political personalities too have a compulsive penchant to appease India and thus consciously bolster the fifth column and the attainment of Indian objectives in the process.


Pakistan has generally been accused by the Indians of using terrorism as a state policy by employing proxies. However, it is the Indians who are actually guilty of doing exactly that. They have maintained proxies in Afghanistan in the shape of IS, (15-20 RAW agents were reportedly killed in the US MOAB attack on IS locations in the Nangarhar Province), TTP (Mullah Fazlullah), Jamaat ul Ahraar (Umar Khalid Khorasani group) and others whom they employ against Pakistan with callous impunity.


India is achieving its foreign policy objectives vis a vis Pakistan through Afghanistan by skillfully exploiting their perceived mutual differences. It has cleverly sustained a state of “no war-no peace” between them. It cannot conceivably bring peace to Afghanistan. Instead, it relentlessly instigates the Afghans and exploits the NDS-RAW nexus to carry the fight to Pakistan. It is singularly incapable of bringing the Afghan Taliban or Haqqani Network around to the negotiations table or bludgeoning them militarily into submission either. Yet it pitilessly exploits the hapless Afghans as dispensable cannon fodder against Pakistan. It relentlessly spites the Afghan nose to spite Pakistan’s face - at no real cost to itself!! The Afghans must refuse to be further taken in by this devious Chanakyan policy!


The US seeks to fight terrorism in all its manifestations however, in Afghanistan it is rather selective in focusing only on terrorist groups of interest to itself. It has conveniently overlooked attacking the TTP and Jamaat ul Ahraar elements operating out of Kunar and Nooristan regions. These groups are patronised, equipped, trained, directed, maintained and launched by the NDS-RAW duo to specifically target Pakistan. The US must recalibrate its Afghan policy and remedy this travesty and inconsistency.


There can be peace and quiet on this part of Pakistan’s western front. It requires a two pronged approach. At the sub regional level Afghanistan and Pakistan must get down to the brass tacks and craft a road to peace in the region. Both countries must use their influence to get the other belligerents onto the negotiations table. Pakistan must help and keep Afghanistan from being exploited by peripheral states for their own nefarious designs. It must fence (and if need be, selectively mine) the Durand Line and have an effective border management system in place. The transit trade must be better controlled, and monitored. The Afghan refugees must be immediately albeit honourably returned to their homeland. In Phase One the Afghan refugees must be moved back to IDP camps within Afghanistan by the UN. In Phase Two they should then be moved to their respective home regions.


At the regional level the US, Pakistan, Iran and Afghanistan along with Russia and China must sit down to devise a comprehensive regional strategy to genuinely attack and eliminate terrorists of all hues and persuasions as well as their respective support systems - regardless of any affiliations or strategic/political considerations. Terrorism in all its manifestations must be targeted under this regional/extra regional plan. Joint plans and operations astride the Durand Line and further within will be inevitable. We need to isolate these groups and then destroy them piecemeal in fluid and massive military strikes. A near simultaneous, focused, ferocious, all encompassing assault on ALL terrorist groups will be key to success!


And the US (and a regional approach) holds this key - to either bring peace and sanity to the APR by destroying the regional base of global terrorism or letting the APR bleed in perpetuity as it pursues its geo-strategic and geopolitical interests in a rather gruesome manner!

The end of AfPak: 13 May, 2017 "The Nation"

When it comes to Afghanistan the narrative has always come from the army or the Americans. We accepted the narrative that USSR was out to reach the warm waters and would invade Pakistan. We declared Afghanistan’s war as war against Islam. We labeled all the terrorists and fighters from across the world as Mujahideen and trained them to fight the USSR army and its supported regime. When the USSR left Afghanistan we allowed USA to disengage from the region and had to face the brunt of war hardened fighters and the influx of Afghan refugees, which changed the Pakistani culture for good. Gun running and drugs entered every corner of Pakistan.


Then came 9/11 and the American invasion of Afghanistan in October. Again we accepted the American narrative and joined the global war on terror with full force. Though India has no common border with Afghanistan it continued to make inroads in the political important role while the US pushed Taliban out from main towns and worked on ending Al-Qaeeda. It allowed India to dominate in the internal affairs of Pakistan calling upon New Delhi to do more in Afghanistan. In the words of Hamid Karzai ‘to do more means to fight extremism and violation of sovereignty from across the Durand Line’, which means the USA itself does not want to end the crisis in Afghanistan. The USA knows very well that India is using the Afghan border to spread terror in Pakistan and to destabilise its tribal areas. Pakistan on the other hand realizes that Indian influence in Afghanistan is growing and is thus sticking to remaining aloof but not taking action against the Haqqani network or Afghan Taliban.


It is the USA’s longest war, i.e. 16 years. The stalemate in Afghanistan continues. The casualties continue to rise on both sides. According to a Pentagon report the Afghan government with the US and NATO support controls 60 percent of Afghanistan while Taliban control 29 percent. A year ago the Afghan government’s share was 70 percent. 807 Afghan troops were killed in first two months of this year. And fighting season is about to begin. Obama administration’s strategy was to support Afghan forces rather than fighting with them and seeking permanent settlement. It introduced the AfPak policy, which was a term widely criticised by Pakistanis especially General Musharraf. Obama was not interested in Afghanistan and may have completely withdrawn the troops had it not been the Pentagon advice against it. The USA wants its share in whatever deals are made in Central Asia and to keep check as China moves out of its sphere.


The Trump administration is planning to revise its Afghan policy. April 13 the USA used ‘mother of all bombs’ to show its resolve to fight terror and send message to other states that the USA means business when it comes to show its power in the changing unipolar world. The new US strategy includes more US troops and changes in what the military calls ‘rules of engagement’ laying out when force can be used. The US could be sending about 3,000 more troops and would seek more NATO troops for Afghanistan in a summit to be held on May 25.


The question Trump administration must look into is whether the Afghan government is capable of delivering or not. It makes tall claims and goes to the extent of even exchange of fire with Pakistani forces on the border, even though it knows the whole move could backfire. Afghan forces are not capable of securing the country. The Taliban are not interested in negotiations as there seems to be little incentive for them considering India would not want its allies in Afghanistan to share power with them. Trump administration has to decide whether to allow India to dictate its policy in Afghanistan or stamp its own authority in ending the stalemate, which has till now cost American taxpayers a lot of money. According to Congressional Research Service, a single soldier cost is $3.9 million per year. That may be astonishing but that is how it is. Now the 3,000 more soldiers the cost is going to be high. Then there is the $23 billion request to boost Afghan security. Trump wants to abandon the Obama policy and this could be the start of a new war game plan wherein American soldiers may continue to be in the land of conflict for years to come but this time they will not just be there but also fight with Afghan forces to end the stalemate.


With ISIS in Afghanistan and Al Qaeda too being there, it may not be possible for the US to eliminate them. This is so because there is no transportation of groups from one place to another. They are all extremists and they like to take the terror name that has more market value. Today ISIS is the biggest name of terror and extremists, whether they are in Europe or Afghanistan are trying to use this label. USA, if it wants to end the war on terror, has to take all terror groups seriously because they are all interlinked or follow the same ideals. It should not support one and threaten another. Hikmatyar was once Prime Minister. Then he was declared a terrorist for many years and now he returns to Kabul with respect and honour.


In coming days the Trump administration will decide what will be the new rules of engagement in Afghanistan in a region which the Pentagon officials say is tricky. As Senator John McCain says ‘If the present status quo prevails, then there’s no end to it.’

ICJ's limited jurisdiction: 13 May, 2017 "Dawn"

India has approved the international courts of Justice seeking to stay the execution of Kulbhushan Jadhav. India has raised its claims before the court under Article 36 of the Vienna Convention on Consular relations, which grants the right of consular access to a foriegn national and the optional protocol to the VCCR, which establishes. more...