Articles Regarding Pakistan

Fifth Generation Warfare in Pakistan: 19 March, 2018 "Daily Times"

Warfare has evolved far beyond the first generation; when it was all about set pieces of lines and columns of armed soldiers. Today, this favourite past time of mankind is waged by frustrated non-state warriors, directing their rage against visible symbols of oppression and opulence, drawing visceral as well as vicarious pleasure out of their violence. Third generation warfare, which was waged between industrial age armies over land and resources was replaced by fourth generation warfare, waged by non-state actors and asymmetric warriors employing terrorism as a tool to achieve their political objectives. Fifth generation warfare is an interesting development, where non-state warriors fight nation states out of sheer frustration without clear political objectives. According to a US Army Major Shannon Beebe this kind of warfare would be motivated by frustration than any other material or ideological objective. US Marine Corps Lt Colonel Stanton writes in Marine Corps Gazette that the fifth generation warfare is most likely to be prosecuted in “enclaves of deprivation” where the vortex of violence threatens peace and order.

Some of the areas mapped by these prophets of fifth generation warfare for future conflicts include Africa, South Asia, and the Middle East. Al-Qaeda, the Islamic State (IS), and other ideological warriors provide the ideological anchors for the impromptu violence by these fifth generation warriors. Poverty, economic deprivation, and political injustices breed fifth generation warriors, whose hatred emanates out of a feeling of hopelessness and envy of the more affluent segments of humanity. The islands of affluence surrounded by a sea of destitution will not remain secure in their sanitized sanctums, enjoying a life of luxury and order. The frustration of the poor, hungry, and desperate masses will soon spill over into these bastions of stability, a reality more obvious today than before in the shape of illegal immigration, crime, and violence by the denizens of deprived states. According to a UN Human Development Report, 1.8 percent of the global population owns 86 percent of the overall global wealth.As per the 2013 Oxfam International Report, the richest one percent own 48 percent of the global wealth. The world is divided iniquitously into two groups. The first group comprises countries like the United States, Japan, Germany, the United Kingdom, France, Australia and Canada, which have13 percent of the world population and are appropriating 45 percent of the world’s income, based on Purchasing Power Parity, while the second group that comprises 42 percent of the world population, including countries like India, Indonesia, and even China only possess nine percent.

While the world is a bigger template, the same income inequalities prevail within nations as well. The same spectre of relative deprivation with attendant risks stalks countries like Pakistan, where the global and the local risks coalesce into a lethal cocktail of social, economic, and political deprivations fuelling intra-state conflicts. The characteristics of fifth generation warfare would be the sudden and inexplicable eruption of violence against the visible symbols of state strength such as law enforcing agencies, communication infrastructure, public offices, banking sources, and even the richer segments private property. Fifth generation warfare emanates out of frustration, due to deep seated feelings of political and economic deprivation. The catalyst to violence could be foreign invasions, state oppression, and political injustices. The rise of the local claimants to spiritual and temporal power challenging state writ through repudiation of the state’s political order like Mullah Fazlullah in the past is an example of such catalysts. When a state fails to establish order through effective governance, and also fails to provide economic justice, fifth generation warfare is foisted upon it by the deprived classes.

Pakistan is already in the throes of this phenomenon, internally generated and externally abetted. Like the resource curse of countries like Angola and Congo, Pakistan’s geographical location is a curse. Instead of yielding economic dividends it has caused constant meddling by global powers in its internal affairs. Faced with such constant supply of war fuel, the soft state model of governance by an illiberal democracy is a sure recipe of chaos and disorder. When democratic traditions do not seep into institutions like the legislature, executive, and judiciary the electoral democracy degenerates into a plutocracy where people get marginalized. Without inclusive and pluralistic governance with real political power devolved down to the local government level, the democratic project yields nothing but politics of patronage and pelf in the service of a predatory elite. The enclaves of poverty and deprivation soon develop into cesspools of violent resistance against the perceived symbols of state oppression. Foreign elements fish freely in these turbid waters in pursuit of their strategic objectives, while the state continually withers away.

Like the resource curse of countries like Angola and Congo, Pakistan’s geographical location is a curse. Instead of yielding economic dividends it has caused constant meddling by global powers in its internal affairs

While CPEC and other regional alliances may offer a ray of hope,the fifth generation wars imposed upon Pakistan by forces inimical to the above cannot be won through the present lackadaisical approach. This war can only be won through a steely national resolve, yoking military as well as civil components of the national security strategy. The national security strategy of Pakistan must accord equal importance to military and non-military components, with the military component targeting visible threats through kinetic means and the non-military component targeting the underlying causes of frustration and violence through non-kinetic means. National Action Plan (NAP), which was a precipitate charter of Pakistan’s anti-terrorism resolve has not been followed with the needed urgency and resolve. A holistic policy should address the underlying causes of violence rather than pruning the leaves and leaving roots untouched. It is time the state understood that the causes of violence could only be removed through improvement in human security.

In order to counter fifth generation threats, one must identify them first. The threats not only emanate from religious extremism, but also from political and economic deprivation amongst the ethnic communities in Balochistan, Gilgit-Baltistan, and even in Sindh and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. The lack of development, poor access to health and education, and joblessness are generating frustrations that boil over into violent state defiance. The MQM, under Altaf Hussain and the Baloch Liberation Front (BLF) under Allah Nazar Baloch were both culpable of violence rooted in this politico-economic deprivation. The state thus has to gird its lions to address the economic and political injustices of all deprived communities through genuine political reforms that empower people at the local level. Infrastructural developments in communications, water supply,health, and education with focus on poverty alleviation should be the key planks of our national security strategy. Zero tolerance for extremism and exploitation of people in the name of religion or ethnic particularism should be another key plank of the strategy. Reform of antediluvian madrassah syllabi and their registration along with control of funding should be another bull that the state has to take by the horns.

It is time the state called the bluff of the clerics exploiting the faith of gullible people to further their personal agendas. The state needs to wrest back the control of the mosques from the clerics. If in Turkey, Malaysia, and UAE the mosques and Friday sermons could be regulated, why can’t the same be done here? If we do not address the root causes and keep baulking from genuine reforms, there is no hope. The fires of the fifth generation war lit by our internal contradictions and external vulnerabilities can only be doused through a bold and multi-dimensional national security strategy, according due weightage to military and non-military components sans which our CPEC dream willremain just a dream.

Ant forest and low-carbon lifestyles: 19 March, 2018 "The Nation"

There is unique science of sustainability and its interlinked organs. It cannot be some sort of moral sacrifice or either the political dilemma or a philanthropical cause. Indeed it has to be a design challenge which currently our nation is undergoing. In the prevalent situation I believe we need to address this challenge by benchmarking the successful sustainable projects being executed and have positive socioeconomic impacts.

Thus, I conducted a case analysis inspired by the Chinese government’s efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions; Hanghou-based financial technology player Ant Financial Services Group introduced an innovative program called ‘Ant Forest’ on Alipay in August 2016.

Combining elements of the Internet, finance, and low-carbon lifestyles in a video game format, Ant Forest encourages users to take part in low-carbon activities like walking, paying for bills online, and taking public transport, to create virtual ‘green energy’. By accumulating this green energy, users can grow virtual trees. These online trees then get planted in real life in the desert through the support of Ant Financial and its partners.

This serves the dual purpose of promoting greener habits while protecting the environment. Bai Xue, senior researcher with Ant Financial, says the scheme is very popular with online users. “Currently, 230 million people are actively participating in Ant Forest on their mobile phones. Technology, which can be used to mobilize the public, makes public welfare activities easier. If everyone is involved, we can easily popularize a low- carbon lifestyle.”

How exactly does Ant Forest turn virtual trees into real ones? Ant Financial cooperates with environmental NGOs like the Society of Entrepreneurs and Ecology (SEE), and the China Green Foundation. We’ll (continue to) use technology to do more.’ This environmentally-friendly scheme has also inspired many mobile payment users, 60% of whom are under 20 years of age, to be healthier and conscious of their carbon footprint. A user reports, “I used to weigh 140 kilograms. Because I’ve been walking every day, I now weigh 100 kilograms. I’ve planted four trees with all the energy I gathered in my online Ant Forest account. Every time felt like giving up, the idea of planting a tree pushed me forward.”

Within China, Ant Forest has been responsible for planting a total of 10.25 million trees, which has directly reduced carbon dioxide emissions by 1.22 million tons. Ant Financial’s environmentally-friendly scheme is also in line with Chinese agricultural and forestry officials, who plan on promoting tree-planting and forest cover in the five-year- period starting from 2016. According to a UN report, China is also on track to increase forest coverage up to 23% of total land area within the next three years.

Having a glance at idea of Ant Forest, let’s get into more detail how this was germinated. In actual the above discussed sustainable project is a byproduct of the business, operations which contribute to society with an inclusive approach to financial services, giving anyone, anywhere, equal opportunities for financial investment i.e. Ant Financial.

In a survey conducted while designing a case analysis for Ant Financial I ask most people in China to name a location they associate with ‘finance’ and they may say ‘London’, ‘New York’, ‘Singapore’, ‘Hong Kong’, or ‘Shanghai’. All of these are modern cities with highly developed financial services industries. Historically in China, financial services have been readily available to wealthy urban residents, while poorer rural residents have difficulty in accessing these services. There is less motivation for banks and other financial institutions to offer services in rural areas.

Reforming foreign exchange regime: 07 March, 2018 "Business Recorder"

It would be difficult to find another law that could rival the pervasive effect on the economy of Pakistan as did the Protection of Economic Reforms Act 1992. It was an unprecedented law, giving an over-riding effect to its provisions over all other laws. It is not uncommon in legislative practice to use exclusivity clause for a given or some provisions of a law but quite unusual to have such an over-riding effect across the board. The objectives stated in the preamble included (a) promoting a liberal environment for investment and savings; (b) reforms undertaken and are under way for this purpose; and (c) giving legal protection to these reforms to create confidence about establishment and continuity of liberal economic environment. 

The law defined ‘economic reforms’ as economic policies and programmes, laws and regulations announced, promulgated or implemented by the government on and after the seventh day of November, 1990, relating to privatisation of public sector enterprises, and nationalised banks, promotion of savings and investments, introduction of, fiscal incentives for industrialization and deregulation of investment, banking, finance, exchange and payments systems and holding and transfer of currencies. 

The most far-reaching provisions of the law were given in Section-4 & 5. First, we consider Section-4, which says: All citizens of Pakistan resident in Pakistan or outside Pakistan and all other persons shall be entitled and free to bring, hold, sell, transfer and takeout foreign exchange within or out of Pakistan in any form and shall not be required to make a foreign currency declaration at any stage nor shall anyone be questioned in regard to the same. Second, on the other hand, Section-5(1) says: All citizens of Pakistan resident in Pakistan or outside Pakistan who hold foreign currency accounts in Pakistan, and all other persons who hold such accounts, shall continue to enjoy immunity against any enquiry from the Income Tax Department or any other taxation authority as to the source of financing of the foreign currency accounts. 

Taken together, these two provisions have engendered a host of distortions in the forex regime of Pakistan. The law brought an open-ended liberalization of the forex market, which previously was one of the most regulated markets in the country. In any developing country, the forex market was one whose business and conduct was heavily guarded by central banks from speculators, smugglers and money remitters (hundi, hawala). In fact, at the time we had not even reached the stage to allow current account convertibility (making rupee convertible into any foreign currency for the purpose of trade in goods and services), whereas the law implicitly made the capital account convertible, and that too outside the jurisdiction of the central bank. 

Let us now discuss the wrongs introduced by the law in the forex regime in the country. A plain reading of the text betrays an abhorrence toward regulation of economic activities irrespective of their type, motive, origin and purpose. Even in the most developed countries, travellers are required to make a declaration regarding cash being carried across the borders. In developing countries, where there is an acute shortage of foreign exchange, it was quite a shocker to allow complete freedom of owning, holding, selling, buying foreign exchange and taking in and out of the country without any limit. This freedom tantamount to allowing residents also to own forex and do whatever they wanted with such forex holdings. It was but natural that the law encouraged residents to convert their rupee savings in dollars to hedge against devaluation and hence a process of dollarization – a term never heard of before – was triggered. This was like creating an environment where the country no longer faces a forex constraint. In fact, it goes even beyond, for it prevents other agencies to inquire into the affairs of the holders of the forex in or outside the FCAs. 

Unfortunately, this was the time when the forex regime was highly restricted, and prior to this law, a standing scheme of allowing foreign currency accounts (FCAs) was in vogue, essentially to facilitate non-residents and to help generate some forex also. The said scheme was such that banks would surrender their deposits to SBP, which would guarantee future availability on demand, absorbing the devaluation risk in the process. The new law allowed residents to open an FCA with vast unfettered freedom as noted above. The ensuing wave of dollarization made the FCAs the most cherished investment in the country. In 1998, these deposits stood at a staggering level of $ 11 billion (while our reserves were only a fraction of this level), overwhelmingly accrued since after the law was enacted. 

The nuclear tests conducted in May 1998 created panic among the economic managers and they ended up freezing these consecrated deposits, leaving in its wake a legacy that continues to haunt this country. Curiously, the provisions of the law that had provided numerous assurances against such an eventuality were of no use. Section-10 of the law says: All financial obligations incurred, including those under any instrument, or any financial and contractual commitment made by or on behalf of the government shall continue to remain in force, and shall not be altered to the disadvantage of the beneficiaries. But this was not helpful. 

Let us also explain how the law amounted to implicitly allowing capital account convertibility. The FCAs were open for both residents and non-residents, and deposits in the accounts could be made both from inward remittance as well as from local sources. This clearly meant that a resident having local rupee funds can convert them into dollars, e.g., and then remit them abroad. This is what happens under capital account convertibility. A proliferation of money changers made it easy for residents to purchase forex from the market whenever they so desire. Before the freezing debacle, it was an amusing sight that in the well reputed foreign banks, which spearheaded the dollarization process, reps of money changers were readily available within their premises to provide the forex which was then deposited in the FCAs. With such a flagrant distortion in the forex regime, no rocket science was needed to predict that the process would end in disaster. 

Trudeau and the Sikh question: 07 March, 2018 "The Nation"

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s visit to India was deliberately scuttled by Indian establishment through a well-orchestrated diplomatic and info-ops campaign. Despite his best efforts to show respect for Indian culture and open display of ‘clowning’ through a dress parade involving entire first family, Khalistan and Sikh haters in India were not ready to budge an inch.

India is not ready to digest a reality that Sikh diaspora in North America and Europe has made its mark through hard work and political activism of two generations, no wonder the community occupies very important place in Canadian polity and economy.

In dealing with Sikhs, Indian government is even ignoring the diplomatic norms as evident from recent visit of Canadian PM Justin Trudeau. He was not greeted (or hugged by Modi) at airport. Modi didn’t even bother sending out a welcoming tweet. Indian media also adopted a snubbing posture.

While glancing through a piece by Barkha Dutt in Washington Post, titled ‘Trudeau’s India trip is a total disaster, and he has only himself to Blame’, I was shocked by the arrogance and non-diplomatic approach adopted by India.

Barkha Dutt questioned, “how did Trudeau, the world’s favorite liberal mascot - a feminist man, with movie-star good looks, a 50 percent female cabinet and a political lexicon that has replaced “mankind” with “peoplekind” (making millions swoon) - end up looking silly, diminished and desperate on his trip to India this week? Trudeau’s eight-day India expedition has been an absolute fiasco”. Other flimsy, chiffon and childish questions raised by the Indian media included; what is Trudeau doing in India for so long? Doesn’t he have a country to run?

Sunny Hundal argued in Independent on 25 Feb that Indian concern is more than just about Canada. What really worries the Indian government is the prospect of Sikhs in Britain, Canada and the US getting into positions of power and challenging the abuse of Sikh civil rights in India. The Indian government mentions the revival of Sikh militancy in India too, but it is highly exaggerated. Among Indian elites there is palpable concern that Western foreign policy towards India will increasingly be shaped by Sikhs willing to challenge its interests. Hence the alarmist talk about Sikh separatism.

Indian Newspaper ‘The Hindu’ highlighted that the red flags had gone up long before Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau arrived for an eight-day state visit to India. New Delhi had asked delegation to exclude Canadian Sikh ministers suspected of sympathizing with extremist Sikh groups, but Ottawa refused to exclude them. Indian government wanted Mr. Trudeau to meet Punjab CM Amarinder Singh as the latter had been denied a trip to Canada in 2016, Mr. Trudeau’s office did not confirm a meeting with him. India expressed dejection over appearance of Jaspal Atwal (accused of being a terrorist as per Indian definition) in reception of Mr. Trudeau.

The Business Standard talked of controversies about his Trudeau Government’s dalliance with Canadian NRI groups that are antithetical to India’s territorial integrity.

Indian establishment dealing with Sikh activism has witnessed significant alteration. On the one hand, active Sikhs entities working for Sikhs cause (like Mr Jaggi etc) are targeted through brutal police methods to make them an example for others, whereas, on the other hand, Indian deep state has been killing local Hindu leaders in Punjab through professional criminals to blame Sikh youth for the crime.

With half a million Sikhs in Britain, Canada and the US each and a fact that Canadians elected 20 Sikh MPs in 2015, the highest number ever, Indian vexation with Sikh community is increasing with time. Sikh community in Canada was able to grab seats for four Sikh cabinet ministers including Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan, adding on Indian anxiety is the rise of unofficial leader of the opposition party NDP, Mr Jagmeet Singh. Two Sikh MPs were elected last year in the British Parliament, who have embraced Sikh issues with exhilaration and mirth. Although American Sikhs are a relatively small community, their voice has been heard in international forums. Flamboyant and articulate activists like Dr Amarjit Singh of TV84 and Sikhs for Justice (SFJ) advocate Mr Gurpatwant Singh Pannu are some of these leading figures. It’s merely a matter of time before American Sikhs become politically prominent too.

It is widely acknowledged that Indian elites (Hindus) have palpable concern that Western foreign policy towards India will increasingly be shaped by Sikhs willing to challenge its interests. In recent weeks, over a hundred Sikh gurdwaras in the West have explicitly banned Indian officials on government business, claiming internal interference and citing the arrest of British citizen Jagtar Singh Johal.

Sunny Hundal in The Gulf Today stated reasons for anxiety in Indian deep state as, “Indian elite sees any demand by Sikhs for justice over the anti-Sikh pogroms in 1984 as a sign of separatism. Last year Ontario’s state parliament passed a motion describing the events of 1984 as “genocide” against Sikhs. The Indian media, which largely prefers the term “riots” (as a way to continue the pretense that both Sikhs and Hindus were to blame), cited the motion as proof that Sikh separatism was growing in Canada”.

Times of India cried on 23 Feb, “representatives of Sikh organizations including heads of Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak committee (SGPC), Delhi Sikh Gurdwara Managing Committee (DSGMC), Damdami Taksal and jathedars of five Sikh takhts, attended inauguration of a gurdwara built in the memory of former Damdami Taksal Chief Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale at his native Rode village in Moga district on 22 Feb . Gurdwara Sant Khalsa has been built by Damdami Taksal at the behest of its chief Harman Singh Dhumma at Bhindranwale’s birthplace in Rode. Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak committee president Gobind Singh Longowal said successive Union governments had been trying to suppress Sikhs”.

With Khalistan 2020 campaign kicking up in North America, Europe and Australia; nervousness in the South Block is clearly visible. Sunny Hundal hits the bull’s-eye by stating that Sikhs call for a Khalistan not because they want to live in a theocracy but because they want a state where their Sikh brethren are treated equally and with dignity. They want a state that will protect Sikhs, not cover up thousands of extrajudicial killings. Instead India is going in the opposite direction: the rise of the Hindu nationalist Hindutva movement has minorities more concerned about their safety than ever before.

The takeaways from Indian diplomatic faux pas could be summarized as :

India will become increasingly hegemonic and nasty, as her international clout grows in international arena.

Indian policy in international relations will be guided by a misplaced notion of insecurity; where Indian domestic vows and demand for freedom and respect by minority groups within India would affect bilateral relations with countries hosting Indian NRIs from minority communities.

India will be ready to diplomatically embarrass dignitaries for her domestic insecurities, even if India is at fault; this nasty policy of pressure tactics cab be at best called rudeness, incivility and impertinence.

Barkha Dutt’s article in Washington Post ended with a snooty advice “So next time you come to India, Prime Minister Trudeau, do try and leave the terrorists-and wedding kurtas-at home”. I will leave it to the judgment of worthy readers, if they can smell the arrogance and non-diplomatic language used by Indian establishment and their cohorts in the media.

Kashmir Matters: 07 March, 2018 "Daily Times"

On 5 February 2018, a remarkable event was held at the Presidency, Islamabad to commemorate Kashmir Solidarity Day. The chief guest of the event was His Excellency President of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan, Mr Mamnoon Hussain and was organised by SASSI University, Islamabad. The event was attended by HE the President of Azad Jammu and Kashmir Sardar Masood Khan, Convener All Parties Hurriyet Conference (APHC) Ghulam Muhammad Safi, Chairman of the Parliamentary Special Committee on Kashmir Maulana Fazal ur Rehman (JUI-F), Minister for Defence Khurram Dastagir Khan (PML-N), Shafqat Mehmood (PTI), Chairperson Peace and Culture Wing APHC Mrs. Mishal Malik and Senator Rehman Malik (PPP). SASSI University did a tremendous job by disseminating the Indian atrocities against innocent Kashmiri people using Twitter hashtag #KashmirMatters.

The gathering was attended by a number of ambassadors, diplomats and military attaches from around the globe and was a symbolic representation from all political parties of Pakistan that intended to project a strong message to India while unveiling atrocities committed by the Indian Security Forces in Indian Occupied Kashmir.

The Indian government seems pretty much desperate and worried about the ongoing Kashmiri independence movement led by indigenous Kashmiri people. Out of their sheer anxiety, the Indian army and other security forces have been using brutal tactics to inflict fear in the hearts and minds of Kashmiri people. Last year, on 9 April 2017, Indian Army Major Leetul Gogoi reflected the true mindset of Indian Army, when he tied an unarmed and innocent Kashmiri Muslim — 27-years old Farooq Ahmed Dar — to the bonnet of his jeep. Maj Gogoi used Dar as a human shield to ward-off the Kashmiri protestors who were chanting slogans in favour of independence. It is very much astonishing that instead of a trial leading to court-martial — Maj Gogoi was appreciated by Indian Army Chief Gen. Bipin Rawat.

India is continuously resorting to false flag operations in Kashmir while pinning the Kashmiri freedom fighters to those brutal and violent acts. Last year, a Kashmiri Muslim and officer of Indian Army Lt Ummer Fayaz aged 22 was abducted, viciously tortured and murdered in cold blood by Indian Army. Nevertheless, the incident was pinned on Kashmiri Muslim freedom fighters by the army and Indian media. Lt Fayaz was among the expendable and disposable Kashmiri Muslims whom the Republic of India killed to justify the illegitimate presence of Indian Army in Jammu and Kashmir. The killing of Lt Ummer Fayaz raised many questions on the credibility of the Indian Army.

The world has to open its eyes to the Indian state-sponsored and administered terrorism. No human being is safe in India except the extremist and fundamentalist Hindus who share Hindutva ideology as a binding bond among them. Indian Sikhs must rise against Hindu India for their legitimate rights since it is a matter of time that another Operation Blue Star might be executed while again targeting innocent Sikhs in an endeavour by the benign Indian government to rid Mother India of those sub-humans.

For how longer will the Indian government continue to pursue its policies of undeclared segregation and racism on the basis of religion, especially in Kashmir? A 21-year-old Kashmiri Muslim Burhan Muzaffar Wani broke all the lies and deceptions of the Indian government and its claims of pluralism and being the largest democracy in the world. Burhan Wani used social media to uncover the atrocities of Indian security forces and for broadcasting the truth — Burhan and his elder brother Khalid Wani were murdered by the Indian army. Khalid was tortured to death in April 2105 while Burhan was targeted on 8 July 2016.

Jihad is no longer ‘US interest’: 06 March, 2018 "The Nation"

It is always a great read when you see your foreign minister telling off the US saying that Pakistan will not follow American interests and only pursue its own. It is only when you start reading other things elsewhere that you start thinking what the former and latter are.

So what exactly are the US interests in Pakistan?

Considering that it is not 1982 the US interest is no longer to wage jihad in Afghanistan to drive off the Soviet forces. As it happens the US interest in 2018 is the exact opposite.

Yes, we can fill opinion pages, consume air time and rehash official statements, underlining how the US funded those very mujahideen that it now wants out, but the argument at best illustrates passable knowledge of high school South Asian history, or International Relations 101, and does not in any way whatsoever have anything meaningful to contribute in the world we currently live in.

For, those that are actually surprised, nay shocked, by a state not having the same policy for a region after over three decades are either used to rigid evangelic doctrines in the garb of policies, or have a similarly fixated comprehension of the term ‘interests’.

So let’s all give out a collective bellow of shock at this turnaround in thinking at White House drawing board, and get it done with once and for all. Because next we will have to juxtapose our own deep state’s interests in Pakistan.

So what exactly are the deep state’s interests in Pakistan?

They are to use jihadist proxies to gain control over Afghanistan and Kashmir. In the former, the deep state wants to ram in a radical Islamist government that wouldn’t be wooed by New Delhi, and in the latter it wants to militantly take over what it believes is its right.

Funnily enough, these were the exact same interests for the Pakistani in 1982. And indeed in 1962 – or 1952 – or as long back as you want to go back in time.

Even when the ‘first Pakistani’ Mohammed bin Qasim arrived in the Indian subcontinent and slaughtered the indigenous people in the 7th century, the ‘first Pakistan’s’ interest too happened to seize control over the region through jihad.

Little wonder that he has occupied such prominent space in Pakistani school curricula, which helps not only create those willing to wage that very jihad, but also significantly more – but equally important – those buying and selling it ideologically.

Therefore, as of 2018, it is Pakistan’s interests to continue to back jihad and jihadists as foreign policy and security tools, with the illusion that it would help Islamabad ‘control’ Kabul and somehow liberate Kashmir as well.

Jihad, the idea that actually has kept the Pakistani state hostage throughout the current century, is actually continued to be believed in as a policy that would liberate Kashmiris. And this is not just an idea perpetuated by fringe terror groups – this is the military establishment’s official policy that is in turn embraced and propagated by the state.

Therefore, Pakistan’s interests entail keeping the jihadist groups active, or at the very least relevant – which is why there’s a full-throttle mainstreaming of them going on right now – domestically, so that they can be ready to explode whenever, and wherever, required.

Hence, if over 70,000 people dying and complete devastation of economy hadn’t thoroughly conveyed this, perhaps it should be spelled out in words as well: the interests of the Pakistani state are not the interests of Pakistan and definitely not in the interests of Pakistanis.

This gives some context to the foreign minister’s words saying that Pakistan will not follow American interests but pursue its own. For, while Uncle Sam is no saint crying out for the Pakistanis, apparently it’s in ‘US interests’ to implement policies that would make Pakistan a less volatile place.

Stewarding Pakistan’s demographic dividend: 06 March, 2018 "Daily Times"

At present, the youth constitute the majority of this country’s population. According to rough estimates, more than 60 percent of Pakistan’s current population is home to youth lot. This demographic dividend brings Pakistan knocking at the door of opportunity and risk simultaneously. If the potential of the youth is tapped properly, it could begin to rotate the clogged wheel of Pakistan’s development — be it social, political or economic; otherwise, this youth, if it is not directed in a positive direction, is nothing less than a ticking time bomb. Any effort on the part of the government or private sector should be acknowledged and be brought into the spotlight so that it can create positive vibes and can inspire people across Pakistan to make such inspiring endeavours.

One such endeavour, which hasn’t received much attention, was made this past weekend at Lahore University of Management Sciences (LUMS) by a young Pakistani entrepreneur and LUMS alumnus, Ali Sohail, through his social media platform ‘I Am Tomorrow-Lahore’. In the event, female leaders cutting through the conservative milieu of Pakistan and bringing laurels to Pakistan in different walks of life had been invited to share their stories of unflinching commitment in pursuit of their goals so they could inspire other young people through their life experiences.

On the one hand, where the event was aimed at impressing upon the youth that passion, if it was pursued with full commitment, could translate itself into something incredible and could not only make their lives better but could have a wide ranging positive impact. On the other hand, issues faced by girls and women in our society were also brought into the spotlight as each participant shed light on different dimensions of issues faced by women in Pakistan through their personal stories. At many points during the discussion sessions, the point was strongly emphasized that the gender roles advocated by our society needed to be reviewed and Pakistan direly needed a more gender inclusive society.

If the potential of the youth is tapped properly, it could rotate the clogged wheel of Pakistan’s development — be it social, political or economic; otherwise, this youth is nothing less than a ticking time bomb

Among all the sessions, one session conducted in the form of TED talks’ style by Tamara Robeer was the most inspiring. Tamara, who is a photographer by profession and had come from the Netherlands to attend the event, talked about how to regain control of your life when the world took it away from you. She grabbed the attention of the audience when she narrated a story from her school life, about an incident when a teacher had discouraged her from participating in class discussions. According to the teacher, her level of participation discouraged the other students from taking part in discussions. This shut up call impacted her later in life negatively in the most profound ways and, as per her, for a longer time, she could not raise her voice for herself as she thought that speaking for oneself was tantamount to stopping the growth of others. Her message was to connect to oneself and get control of one’s life in one’s hands instead of giving it to others.

In one of my conversations with Tamara during the break session, she shared a very interesting point about to how to be at one’s best and that was: Connect ‘I’ with ‘I’. As per her conversation, sometimes in life, because of negative emotions like anger, fear, pessimism, hatred, sadness, disappointment, failure or hopelessness — people lose control of themselves and give their ‘I’ in the hands of others; as a result, they get depressed and demotivated. On the outside, as per her, they might seem happy but, on the inside, they feel empty. According to her, true existence comes in following your heart instead of doing what you think society wants you to do.

The significance of an event like ‘I Am Tomorrow-Lahore’ can hardly be overlooked. Its aim to inspire the young lot to chase something bigger in their lives despite all the odds facing them in their eyes through the introduction of exemplary female icons is not only directing Pakistan’s demographic dividend in the positive direction, but is also planting the seeds for a more gender inclusive society in Pakistan.

Most importantly, it has been doing an incredible job by helping millennials in Pakistan understand the concept of ‘I’ and how tomorrow can belong to them if they own themselves; in other words, if they follow their passions. This is a worldwide dilemma which the youth across the globe are facing. Because of technological bombardment complemented by so much information flow carrying in its lap a lot of entrepreneurial opportunities, the millennial lot has this one distinct feature of their own, which is to achieve their self-visualized goals in their own way; however, somewhere in chasing their dreams, they are inhibited by themes and ideas pervasive in society. In Pakistan, talk to any student about their aims and you will come across a living evidence of this dilemma, as every student has been carrying two worlds inside him or her; one is the world of her his or her passions and other is the world thrust upon them by popular themes.

Emerging geoeconomics under CPEC: 21 February, 2018 "The Nation"

Against widely held perception about the possible China-Pakistan economic cooperation versus the Japan-India cooperation, not confrontation but convergence is on the way to transform the views among these nations to extend economic relationship in promoting prosperity and reducing poverty in Asia. It would be a civilisational intercourse among these ancient nations to act together and ease mutual differences. The feeling of “Asian Oneness” would totally convert the geo-strategic and geo-economics of the vast Asian continent.

Yes together India and Japan have been countering the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) but it is not overwhelming effort for obvious reasons. In one or the other way, they have stakes in the BRI and they are not opposing with tooth and nail and they are keep opening their options to joining the project at some later stage appropriate to them.

Japan wants transparency, openness, international standards, and values to be observed strictly in the BRI and until now Japan has been over all satisfied with Chinese assurances and pledges. Japan would likely to join the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) and the Silk Road Fund (SRF) soon. India is one the pioneer members of AIIB and Chinese offer of the Bangladesh-China-India-Myanmar (BCIM) economic corridor to connect South Asia with China’s BRI, although the work on this corridor is slow but not impossible. India has to open its doors to connectivity, which it simply cannot slam the corridor against ground realities emerging in the world especially in Asia. It is likely that India would accommodate the BRI.

Together India and Japan have no concrete alternatives to offer the physical infrastructural development and road connectivity in Asia, Africa, and Europe and also there could not be alternative economic corridors as such. India and Japan are not themselves physically connected with each other. They have to connect the vast Asian continent before they are connected with each other. Asian infrastructure is lacking modern technology and innovation with the exception of few countries and trillion of dollars are required to boost the existing infrastructure.

If India lacks funds, Japan is highly indebted economy in the world and also in Asia, carrying a substantial debt roughly 233% of GDP on its shoulders. Japan currently has such a high level of debt that it is doubtful that the country can ever repay the full amount, hoping that it will not turn into an “Asian Greece”. The country is not in a position to take a bold step for offering infrastructural developments like that of China.

For Abenomics, BRI even opens a big road to development. There are many statements of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on the subject and his intention of joining the BRI. The Delhi-Mumbai Industrial Corridor (DMIC) is an old project prior to the launched of the BRI and the US$ 10 billion Mumbai-Ahmadabad Shinkansen (Bullet train) project is later invention. These projects are not countering the BRI. India and Japan can collaborate but the BRI is too big to be countered by them and that is why they are keep opening the options to join the BRI at some point sooner or later.

Japan is not opposing the CPEC. Japanese officials appreciate the idea of CPEC to modernise Pakistan’s economy and to speedily develop industrial zones. Mitsubishi corporation has taken keen interest in CPEC projects. At Davos, Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi met with Japanese business delegations who were interested in to do more business and investment in Pakistan. The Japan External Trade Organization (JETRO) and the Japan Bank for International Cooperation (JBIC) were among them.

Japanese Foreign Minister, Taro Kono, during his January visit to Pakistan conveyed his country’s interest in the CPEC and when he visited Beijing recently and told Chinese Foreign Minister, Wang Yi, about Japan’s intention in joining the BRI. Not only the Pakistan-Japan ties are back on the track recently, the China-Japan ties have also been flourishing and there is optimism is on the BRI.

Japan is upset of Trump’s decision to withdraw from Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) last January. The new option is the BRI. So more things were bridged and views were converged on BRI and CPEC between Pakistan, Japan, and China.

If India continues with its style of opposition of the CPEC, it would just be isolated in the region because except India, no other country is opposing the BRI or CPEC. Even the Indian Occupied Kashmir wants to be the part of the CPEC. Japan wants to revive ties with China and would soon become an integral part of the AIIB, SRF, BRI, and CPEC to alleviate Japanese economy and to rebuild strong ties with China and take part in infrastructural development in Asia.

Iran-India deal on Chabahar port: 21 February, 2018 "Daily Times"

Iran took another strategically significant decision this weekend when Iranian President Hassan Rouhani visited India.The two countries signed as many as nine agreements including Tehran leasing to New Delhi operational control of part of the Iranian east coast port of Chabahar for eighteen months as reported in the media. The Shahid Beheshti port, which counts as phase-I of the Chabahar port, is not too far away from Gwadar and creates a new transit route between India and Afghanistan. India will also gain access to Central Asian markets bypassing Pakistan.

The top leadership of Iran and India in their meeting vowed to further expand their economic ties, and they announced the construction of the Chabahar-Zahedan rail link that would boost regional connectivity and energy trade in the region. The other agreements include avoidance of double taxation and prevention of tax evasion, extradition, easing visa rules for diplomats, cooperation in health and agricultural sectors.

India is already routing a consignment of 1.1 million tonnes of wheat to Afghanistan through the Chabahar port. The $85 million port project, just 90 km from the China-supported Gwadar port in Pakistan, is significant as it gives a transit route between India, Iran and Afghanistan while bypassing Pakistan.

President Rouhani and PM Modi also agreed to further intensify and diversify the existing high-level engagement through frequent and wider range of bilateral exchanges at all levels. They also stressed that terrorism cannot and should not be associated with any religion, nationality or ethnic group. They urged an immediate end to all support and sanctuaries enjoyed by terrorist groups and individuals and were of the view that states that aid, abet and directly or indirectly support terrorism should be condemned.

It is remarkable that even after comprehensive strategic and defence pacts with Israel, India has still managed to gain the Iranian’s trust. While it is true that every country should have positive relation with its neighbours, this economic cooperation between Delhi and Tehran is more than business as usual.

Both Modi and Rouhani urged an immediate end to all support and sanctuaries enjoyed by terrorist groups and were of the view that states that aid, abet and directly or indirectly support terrorism should be condemned

The strategic consequences of port-sharing with India would be larger in extent than what is being considered. The question that immediately pops up here is if Iran will ignore the Israel-India nexus just for economic benefits without taking into consideration that it would be strengthening an alliance between two extremely anti-Muslim states. Would it really be wise for Iran to give India access to Afghanistan and through it to the Central Asian Muslim states where it could also be strategically manoeuvred by Israel?

Amazingly, the US has adopted what seems like a softer stance towards all three countries. This clearly shows the emergence of a new strategic bloc in the region. Since August, the US has been accusing Pakistan of supporting banned outfits. Despite Pakistan’s military action against the identified miscreants, the US remains unsatisfied. The US unfulfilled satisfaction has increased manifolds after Pakistan and China has entered into the CPEC that boost the flow of huge investments for the infrastructural development from silk route to Gwadar. Having swift analysis of the US statements on the CPEC and OBOR, one can easily presume the American fears as if their interests are being compromised in the region. So they have to look for alternates besides pursuing other partners in the region who can give easy access to Afghanistan and Central Asia.

Ming’s dynasty: Lesson for Pakistan: 15 February, 2018 "The Nation"

Of all the civilizations of premodern times, none appeared more advanced, none felt more superior, than that of china. Its considerable population, 100-130 million compared with Europe’s 50-55 million in the fifteenth century; it’s remarkable culture; it’s exceedingly fertile and irrigated plains, linked by a splendid canal system since the eleventh century and its unified hierarchic administration run by a well-educated Confucian bureaucracy had given a coherence and sophistication to Chinese society which was the envy of foreign visitors. To avert the fall of the great Ming dynasty (1368-1644), Chinese emperor in the early ages was filled with the notion of rooting up the bureaucratic corruption, to which the earlier Yuan dynasty had fallen prey. Officials accused of taking hefty bribes had their skin stripped off before execution and fastened with the mannequins found in the scarecrow temples to serve as a precedent and warning to others. In worst scenarios the entire clans were inflicted with death punishment. However like other empires, this one had to collapse under the burden of its bureaucratic corruption and was later thrown away by the invading Manchu armies.

Chinese president Xi Jinping rule is no more different to Ming’s dynasty. Since holding the office back in 2012, he has embarked to undertake an array of exceptional initiative, amongst the most prominent and applauded is the anti-corruption campaigns. Xi being an avid student of imperial history is well conversant with the old dynastic cycle involving the “mandate of heaven” — The Chinese philosophical concept under which emperor’s divine right to rule — was certainly vanished, all thanks to corruption, inequity and ineptitude. In spite of this awareness, it’s interesting to ponder how China’s contemporary anti- corruption framework imitates the Ming’s touring corruption inspector’s system. It was clearly stated in a recent research paper published, by the group of academics at Beijing Normal University that the country is following the footsteps of its predecessors- old imperial system in discipline and inspection regime, but its subject to the same flaws, as in past. The Chinese tradition of strong family ties, prevailing since the time immemorial hasn’t until lost its value, where it’s still considered deplorable to let down your family, clan and friends than to breach the law in Ming’s era, the corruption inspectors, abiding the said principles laid down under the constraints of Confucian morality exercising ultimate powers without effective supervision, thus many inspectors had fallen prey to corruption. Another flaw to bring down the empire was the lack of independence found within the imperial anti-corruption system and inspectors were used by the emperor as a tool to rule the plebeians and courtier. In present china, this certainly applies, as Xi’s anti-corruption drive had thrown out all the senior officials, who were members of the powerful political rival group, but his act cannot be disregarded to root out corruption, however he is of a view that his rule might be under threat and may create political instability, when no one left to rule after clean sweep.

To the contrary, In Pakistan’s distorted political structure with failing state apparatus and futile anti-corruption laws; we have unfortunately failed to include the definition of corruption. The explanation of the term corruption was not found in the legislative framework, prior to the promulgation of the Ehtesab ordinance 1997. In addition, the Ehtesab ordinance and later superseded by National Accountability ordinance 1999 in explaining corruption and corrupt practices, through six characteristics by the former, and then through 12 characteristics by the latter.

Until 1997, our supreme lawmakers in the comfort of parliament had only focused on anti-corruption laws targeting government servants; it includes people employed by the state, such as every officer of the bureaucracy, the police and a court of justice or tax official or land, but not the people’s representative. The constituent assembly adopted the first anti-corruption legislation under the Prevention of Corruption Act 1947; its enactment was constrained to public servants and in force but lacks in defining corruption than criminal misconduct. Moreover, there is a list of laws to curb the corruption menace, which are no different to its predecessors, such as the ombudsman’s laws and provincial anti-corruption laws, including Discipline and Accountability Act 2006, Punjab Employees Efficiency, and the Sindh Prevention of Bribery and Corruption Act 1950. The application of Provincial anti-corruption laws has the limitation upon the government officer employed by the provincial governments and doesn’t apply to hold senior officials of a province accountable, either during or after their office tenure and so does the Wafaqi Muhtasib’s law are suffering from a same deficit. In addition, the provincial anti-corruption establishment has failed to work within its defined parameters. Under the creation of Federal Investigative Agency Act 1974, The Federal Investigative Agency has a section dealing with the corruption offences relating to the federal government; however this law enforcement agency is swayed by the political interferences. The institutions- the offices of ombudsman, FIA and provincial anti-corruption establishment are impotent to investigate the corruption against certain state institutions established by dedicated laws, such as the army, medical or legal practitioner

The aforementioned institutions have failed to define corruption and it’s in rare practice that any institutions may proceed against members of their body, thus resulting in zero conviction, which makes the institutional laws futile. The trouble within this state is the multiplicity of anti-corruption laws, which are obsolete and prevent a certain class of people or institutions to fall within their ambit, as a result they enjoy an implied immunity.

Furthermore, our legislatures must ponder and acquaint with the significance of whistle-blowing laws which ensures to a public servant or any other private employee of zero retaliation from the employer on exposing instances of corruption. This measure will help to strengthen the lost trust and would give courage to government servants to reveal the tales of corruption and fraud without any fright of being subject to the state persecution. In addition, the anti-corruption laws enacted by the lawmakers in their self-interest and providing safe heaven to some institutions is no more less than a criminal approach. Then, the anti-corruption institutions are not equipped with the autonomous powers, all thanks to our legislatures, who have failed to empower them. Thus, both the state and its institution have become the victims of political interferences, which have barred transparent investigations. The key to success lies with the legislature, if we are determined to root out the corruption.

How to tackle a hostile US Congress?: 15 February, 2018 "Daily Times"

Apart from the current uneasy relations between Pakistan and the US, there are broader issues at play in the US to harm Pakistan’s territorial integrity. India in this regard seems to be closely working with the successive US governments and its members of Congress to influence them in its favour.

In this context, India is struggling to exploit the prevailing geopolitical environment. Being a close defence partner of the US in the post-cold war and post-9/11 era, it feels that by exploiting the US interests linked with India, it can gain the US support in pursuing its anti-Pakistan agenda as well. In this game, India seems to be succeeding in getting the support of some US congress members, although not of the US government as yet.

Recently, two anti-Pakistan US members of Congress, Dana Rohrabacher and Brad Sherman, spoke against Pakistan during a meeting of the US House of Representatives. Sherman talked about the human rights violations in Sindh, while Rohrabacher claimed that the Muhajir community in Karachi is facing persecution, similar to that faced by the people of East Pakistan before it emerged as Bangladesh. He also asked for the support of the US to the Baloch’s and Sindhi’s, who are alleged to be persecuted mainly by the Pakistan Armed Forces and the ISI. He also criticised that the control of the government is with the Punjabis and Pashtuns.

That members of the US Congress are discussing an independent Balochistan and human rights violations in Sindh is a dangerous development which must be addressed

Earlier also, in February 2012, Republican congressman Dana Rohrabacher had introduced a resolution, calling for an independent state for the Baloch people. The resolution said, “the people of Balochistan have the right to self-determination and their own sovereign country, and they should be afforded the opportunity to choose their status among the community of nations”. These congressmen words appear to be Indian fed, as these propaganda themes were extensively aired by India in 1971 before attacking East Pakistan.

In the first year of Modi’s government, Indian administration had announced its decision to provide shelter to the secessionist Baloch leaders. It was stated that India wanted the Baloch leaders to apply for asylum formally, which would be granted in a matter of a few weeks. This move was meant to create misperceptions in the minds of the US and other world leaders that the majority of the Baloch people wanted to separate from Pakistan. Although such steps by India amount to interfering in Pakistan’s internal matters, Modi would still pursue this policy to harm Pakistan. However, in this context, Modi is grossly misguided if he thinks that India under his premiership can really repeat the situation of the then East Pakistan, in Balochistan or Sindh.

However, it was encouraging to note that the Obama administration had flatly refused to go along with Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s stand on Balochistan.

The then state department’s spokesperson, John Kirby, had said,“the US respects the unity and territorial integrity of Pakistan, and we do not support independence for Balochistan”. But in a bid to establish India’s hegemony in South Asia by harming Pakistan, Modi administration will continue to negatively influence the US members of Congress on Balochistan by feeding them biased intelligence about the province to ultimately pressurise the US government to support India’s stance on Balochistan. In this context, India appears to be building considerable influence over some of the critical US members of Congress.

The alarming state of education: 07 February, 2018 "Daily Times"

An education system based on the progressive values and ideals has an intrinsic potential to create better of citizens’ lives in terms of socio-economic conditions. It is an instrumental tool that harvests thoughts, broadens minds, and enriches critical, analytical and logical thinking.

Unfortunately, our prevailing education system is not up-to-date with changing global trends. It has been undergoing surgical inspection since last many decades. We are unable even to diagnose exhaustive syndrome and see where exactly the problem lies. In other ways, perhaps, we deliberately undermine education system to let the nation remain ignorant or illiterate.

The influential section of our society takes necessary perks, privileges, and immunities, for the illiterates are easy to be hoodwinked.

Today, bleak educational picture hovers over the society. Literacy rate has stagnated at 58 percent. More than 22.2 million children are out of school. Drop out ratio instead of declining is rising. According to Pakistan Education Statistics, enrollment rate of secondary level education during 2013-13 was 66 percent and now it has reduced to 63 percent.

Literacy rate has stagnated at 58 percent. More than 22.2 million children are out of school. Instead of declining the drop out ratio is rising. According to Pakistan Education Statistics, in 2013 the enrollment rate of secondary level education was 66 percent and now it has reduced to 63 percent

Making tall claims and promises is an old custom of our so-called political parties. On the other hand, breaking those promises is another acrimonious reality that we have been witnessing since decades.

Amidst all of this, the people are being robbed of their basic needs such as education, health and social protection.

Federal as well as provincial governments made tall claims in their manifestos in 2013 such as declaring education as a national emergency; uniform system of education, increased resource will be allocated for education sector ensuring proper and timely utilization of funds to reach the UNESCO target of 4 percent of GDP by 2018 etc. Only 2.49 percent of GDP has been earmarked in 2017-18 in comparison with 2.09 during FY 2012-13 as education expenditure.

India betrayed: 07 February, 2018 "The Nation"

Elias Davidsson’s book “The Betrayal of India: Revisiting the 26/11 Evidence” has raised a storm in India. Davidsson has developed his argument with detailed research and authenticated resources. Indian version of Mumbai attacks lies bare and exposed like a peeled banana.

Davidsson has concluded that Indian state’s investigation of the attacks was a big eye wash to bamboozle the state narrative and cheat Indian and international audience, just to blame Pakistan. The author blames Indian establishment and their US partners and writes, “It is highly plausible, that major institutional actors in India, the United States and possibly Israel, were complicit in conceiving, planning, directing and executing the attacks of 26/11; evidence of a deceptive investigation is even stronger”.

26/11 or Mumbai attacks in November 2008 were projected as India’s 9/11,with an objective to tell US and international community that India was a victim of Pakistani State terrorism and the world needed to ostracize Pakistan. The Indian media went into frenzy, bewildering and confounding Indian, and, to some extent, Pakistani audience, some of Pakistani channels and media houses deliberately supported Indian version and strengthened Indian case. Repeated doses of Mumbai attack mantra has created intellectual dementia in Pakistan, where no strong narrative was developed to rebut Indian claims, almost accepting it like a fait accompli and grim reality.

Elias Davidsson has rebutted the Indian narrative and proved with authenticity that Indian version was totally concocted, based on deceit and outright lies, and that it was promulgated through a well thought out disinformation campaign ensconced in hyperbole. The book is based on incisive and critical analysis of the official narrative of 26/11 and the author has endeavored to go through court documents and testimonies of dozens of important witnesses and their linkages with media outbursts parroted by Indian media

Daviddson has drawn some major conclusions:

Indian courts ignored prime evidence and failed to reach at viable conclusions, doing injustice to the whole case. Powerful institutions in India and the US were the main beneficiaries of this mass-murder conducted by Indian prime Intelligence Agency, RAW and her surrogates.

There was a deliberate and tacit consensus within mainstream media, RAW, judiciary, political elite, police and investigating agencies to cover up the true facts on 26/11,it amounted to protection of the real criminals. The author exclaims, “I could discover no hint of a desire among the aforementioned parties to establish the truth on these deadly events.”

In a review on the book, published in the Global Research, Professor Graeme McQueen has carried out an in-depth analysis of Davidsson’s narrative, his conclusions raised some important questions and are being reproduced here:

Immediate finger pointing of the perpetrator is typical modus operandi in false flag operations. When officials claim to know the identity of a perpetrator prior to any serious investigation, this suggests that a false narrative is being initiated and that strenuous efforts will soon be made to implant it in the mind of a population. Lee Harvey Oswald was identified by officials as the killer of President John F. Kennedy and as a lone wolf with no associates–on the afternoon of the assassination day, long before an investigation and even before he had been charged with the crime. In the Mumbai case the PM of India implied, while the attack was still in progress, that the perpetrators were from a terrorist group supported by Pakistan.

Key witnesses were not called to testify. Witnesses who said they saw the terrorists commit violence, or spoke to them, or were in the same room with them, were ignored by the court. Contradictions and miracles were not sorted out; one victim was apparently resurrected from the dead when his testimony was essential to the blaming of Pakistan. A second victim died in two different places, while a third died in three places.

The number of terrorists who committed the deeds changed repeatedly, as did the number of terrorists who survived. Crime scenes were violated, with bodies hauled off before they could be examined. Claims that the terrorists were armed with AK-47s were common, yet forensic study of the attack at the Cama Hospital failed to turn up a single AK-47 bullet.

Of the “hundreds of witnesses processed by the court” in relation to the attacks at the Café Leopold, Taj Mahal Palace Hotel, Oberoi-Trident Hotel or Nariman House, “not a single one testified to having observed any of the eight accused kill anyone” .

Indian authorities declined to order autopsies on the dead at the targeted Jewish center in Nariman House. The dead, five out of six of whom were Israeli citizens , were instead whisked back to Israel by a Jewish organization based in Israel, allegedly for religious reasons .

The surviving alleged terrorist had no public trial. One lawyer who agreed to defend the accused was removed by the court and another was assassinated. Mysterious malfunctioning of the majority of CCTV cameras on the days in question ; but only a very small percentage of the claimed footage was ever released and it suffers from serious defects–two conflicting time-stamps and signs of editing .

Why no one from the Indian commando battalion of 800 soldiers rushed to battle ‘eight terrorists’ was allowed to testify in court? The suspect, after being convicted and sentenced to death, was presumably executed, but the hanging was done secretly in jail and his body, like the bodies of the other dead “terrorists,” was buried in a secret place.

The FBI showed great interest, it actually had a man on the scene during the attacks and sent an entire team directly after the event. It was given direct access to the arrested suspect and to his recorded confession (before he even had a lawyer), as well as to eyewitnesses. The NYPD also sent a team after the conclusion of the event, as did Scotland Yard and Israeli police.

I have jotted down some thoughts for Pakistan:

-What are the dangers of False Flag operations in highly nuclearized zone, should Pakistan take India to ICJ for blaming her for an indigenous false flag operation conducted by RAW and western intelligence or ask for a UNSC resolution, does the international community cover false flag operations?

-What role should have been played by Pakistani media during Mumbai attacks, and what role should be played in future to safeguard against false flag operations by Indian establishment on Indian soil or anywhere in South Asia? Should they become party to Indian narrative, have we calculated the cost of Mumbai attacks incurred by Pakistan due to the tarnished reputation of people of Pakistan and the Pakistani state?

I recommend, the case on ‘Mumbai attacks’ be taken to Supreme Court of Pakistan and all those media hoses who colluded with Indian surrogates to build a case against Pakistan be asked to justify their stance. If Davidsson’s book has proved that the Mumbai attack on 26/11 was a false flag with Indian, American, British and Israeli intelligence collaborating to malign Pakistan, who was their front organization in Pakistan, that needs to be probed and taken to task.

The Afghan stalemate: 07 February, 2018 "The News"

Powerful states are averse to admitting their mistakes. President Obama came close, by conceding that the Iraq war was unjust.

He went on to claim that the war in Afghanistan was a just war but it needed to be brought to an end. His famous troops surge in Afghanistan proved ineffective, leading to a stalemate.

President Trump, having spent a lifetime in boardrooms and TV studios, is still unsure about how to conduct America’s longest war. He has nonetheless pursued his predecessor’s policy to pressurise Pakistan to abandon the Afghan Taliban, so as to strengthen the position of the shaky set-up in Kabul. Trump has, however, complicated matters by punishing Pakistan and supporting India’s role in Afghanistan.

Today, more than ever, the Afghan setting hinges on big power calculations. Successive US administrations have stepped up their strategic partnership with India, as a counterpoise to a rising China. In parallel, China has moved to consolidate its ties with Pakistan and Iran. Russia too is making overtures towards increased influence in the region. Governments and observers alike wonder about America’s real intentions in Afghanistan and, by that extension, in Pakistan. And then comes the million dollar question: does the US know what it wants from the landlocked country, which is often described as a graveyard of empires?

The situation on-ground has worsened with extremely violent acts of terrorism carried out in Kabul and Jalalabad towards the end of January. It appears that President Trump’s idea of stepping up war efforts in Afghanistan has had a ricochet effect, with the Taliban, Haqqanis and the Islamic State demonstrating their power by hitting the most vital centres. An annoyed Trump dismissed talks with the Taliban vowing to defeat them by force.

But this presidential bravado has only a few takers in and outside the US, particularly in Afghanistan and Pakistan. A quick rewind to the US-led war in Afghanistan shows us that the Bush administration that led the invasion in the wake of 9/11 were a bunch of hardened warriors out to prove the US’ might. Obama, on the other hand, wanted to cut down on the losses and build a peacetime economy drained by an open-ended war. In comparison, Trump is behaving like a gambler, desperate to win to prove America’s primacy. This has resulted in him appearing to be sprinting while running a marathon race.

Despite some warmongering by Trump and his generals, calls for a negotiated settlement in view of the military stalemate are gathering momentum, even in the US. While Trump threatens Pakistan, and Kabul finds it convenient to hide behind allegations aimed at Islamabad, the need for a serious effort to scale down violence and promote dialogue between the government in Kabul and the Taliban is being felt.

The official meetings between civil, military and intelligence officials in Kabul and Islamabad may not yield results in an atmosphere of real or contrived mistrust. However, serious discussions have taken place notably in two rounds of the Track II meetings, co-sponsored by the Regional Peace Institute, Islamabad and the Royal Danish Defence College. The consolidated report of these talks was released in Islamabad on February 1, in the presence of Afghan, Pakistan and Denmark’s official representatives.

The report conceded that, although war-weariness was on the rise, it was unrealistic to aim for a grand bargain between the Afghan government and the Taliban. The report goes on to raise the possibility of sub-national peace deals as a way to create peace locally. “Local Taliban commanders might be willing to pursue peace, even if the central Taliban leadership is not…However, critics of this approach point to the fact that sub-national deals might risk breaking up Afghanistan into several parts – and will risk splintering the Taliban movement, making a nationwide peace deal with the Taliban impossible.”

The final recommendations of the two conferences in Kabul and Islamabad reaffirmed that the existing strategic stalemate in Afghanistan can lead to negotiations provided both the Afghan government and the Taliban leadership see negotiations as a viable alternative to fighting. Further, negotiations must be held in Afghanistan over: a) cessation of hostilities, for which both sides accept each other as a reality; b) approaching the Taliban with a written peace package that can be offered and negotiated; and c) forming an interim government along with free and transparent elections.

The panel concluded that Pakistan cannot deliver the Taliban to the negotiating table. Pakistan cannot and should not assume a position of leadership in negotiations with the Taliban, but should offer support. It can also start by ‘cleaning up its own house’ by developing and communicating a clear policy on Afghanistan.

Reconciliation between Afghanistan and Pakistan was one of the several sub-themes discussed in both rounds of the Track II dialogue. Among the several recommendations made, the most notable suggestion was regarding the two countries agreeing to a joint border management mechanism. Both Pakistan and Afghanistan should ensure that insurgents do not use their territory to fight the other. Finally, steps should be taken to promote trade, especially by facilitating transit trade that benefits poor people by creating jobs in sectors like transportation storage, etc.

The dialogue brought together well known political and civil society personalities as well as former civil servants, army and police officials as well as media persons from Pakistan, Afghanistan and other countries. Any action on the findings and suggestions depends on the decisions of those in power in governments and the Taliban leaders.

Pakistan’s former foreign secretary and author of books on Afghanistan, Riaz Mohammad Khan, pointed out the persistent contradictions impeding progress on a negotiated settlement. These include Kabul and Washington continuing to describe the Taliban as terrorists while seeking a dialogue for reconciliation. More ironic is Kabul’s desire for the Taliban to surrender and the latter’s disdain for the government in Kabul, hence, seeking negotiations with the US.

Khan is of the view that the “Afghan stalemate and fragmented polity is likely to continue, with the hope of reduction in violence and local accommodation among disparate factions rather than of a grand compromise for peace and reconciliation.” According to him, Pakistan is right in opposing the Afghan war’s extension into its territory. But it too should not allow the Afghan Taliban to carry out their activities from Pakistan.

Pak-America bonhomie under stress: 01 February, 2018 "Daily Times"

Relations between Pakistan and America have suffered spells of discomfort and unease ever since the south Asian country joined the capitalist block.

Early leadership of the country had preferred Washington over Moscow and Pakistan remained part of SEATO (Southeast Asian Treaty Organisation) and CENTO (Central Treaty Organisation); anti-communist alliances.

Islamabad’s historical role in hamstringing the expanding leg of communism in the region remains undisputed. This promoted more closeness between the two countries. After being lethally bitten by her adversary (India) in 1971, Pakistan had realised the need to have dependable friends and regional allies.

Over a period of time, this realisation grew stronger. The latter, nonetheless, continued with USA as ally despite sanctions and restrictions in civil-military aid while country was making endeavours to become nuclear power. Subsequently, the incident of 9/11 further strengthened the bonhomie between the two when al-Qaeda hit the heart of America.

Post-9/11 renewed collaborative commitment between the two countries doesn’t take us to too distant past.

For the last sixteen years, both countries were on the same wavelength to fight the spectre of militancy but the recent gash between the two occurred after USA sensed the evolving regional dynamics and brought about a ‘policy shift’, preferring India over Pakistan. While American grouse is all about Pakistan being insincere in taking decisive punitive action against some Taliban elements who are disturbing peace in Afghanistan, Pakistan has its own potent argument to reject such allegations.

To continue with decades-long friendship with USA, Pakistan put up with much of the flurry of activities of Americans including drone attacks inside her soil. America, to the anxiety of Pakistan, staged some embarrassing incidents right inside Pakistan. The most agonising being the ‘Salala Incident’ took place in November 2011. Pakistani forces were manning Salala check-post along Pak-Afghan border when American flying war machines started pounding the check-post. Over two dozen personnel were martyred including a few officers.

Americans could not cite any plausible justification warranting this brazen attack to happen. Ever since Salala incident the young officers in Pakistan army stand disenchanted towards USA and feel betrayed despite the fact that Pak-military high command’s decision for resumption of collaboration with America. Prior to that, Raymon Davis; American CIA contractor had shot dead two Pakistanis in broad-day light in a busy road in the heart of Lahore on 27 January 2011. Public uproar was genuinely high.

The obsession filled Raymon thought the men behind him were chasing him. Certainly, his shady activities had rendered him to go obsessive. Law of land took its course and soon he was behind the bars. For his immediate release the Diyat provision in law was invoked and the bereaved family was paid the blood money. Raymon turned a free bird after about six weeks’ captivity in Adiyala jail. Pakistani leadership’s magnanimity and flexibility worked well for his release despite scathing domestic criticism.

On 02 May 2011, Americans staged a show of mistrust and betrayal by unilaterally taking action against OBL (Osama bin Laden) inside Pakistan. The slighted Pakistan felt it badly and found herself in untenable situation in the face of domestic criticism. Pakistan has been in close cooperation with Americans in anti-al Qaeda operations ever since 9/11 took place but the breaking point reached after America formally announced it’s ‘policy shift’ in South Asia. This brought India close to America and reduced Pakistan’s importance. Islamabad inched closer to China and the CPEC is now the manifestation of friendship. This is certainly the wedge keeping both countries apart.

American leadership finds fault with Pakistan’s sincerity in going against the militants unsettling Afghanistan where NATO and US soldiers are now badly beleaguered. Americans allege that Pakistan is ‘running with hare and hunting with hounds’ and demanding to hunt down Taliban militants allegedly putting up in Pakistan and are responsible for attacks on NATO and American forces in Afghanistan. Pakistan has time and again made it clear that she (Pakistan) has done enough to weed out the militancy from her soil with huge sacrifices as seen from the palpable lull in the recurrence of terror incidents. Pakistani logic is irrefutable that in Afghanistan there is ‘governance fiasco’. Ethnic tensions, racial frictions, illegal drug business, low morale of Afghan forces coupled with increasing trend of desertions etc are few of the major causes contributing to weak governance encouraging militants to run amok.

While American complaints are all about Pakistan being insincere in taking decisive punitive action against some Taliban elements that are disturbing peace in Afghanistan, Pakistan has its own potent arguments to reject such allegations

Pakistan could contain and check the turbulence in her soil despite abetment to this menace from sovereign countries like India and Afghanistan with American connivance. Rag-tag Taliban militants should not pose a challenge to well-organised NATO and American forces having technological edge with capable soldiery and rich budgetary allocations. Unrest in Afghanistan cannot be addressed merely by putting pressure on Pakistan. On the other hand, Pakistan’s closeness with China is the actual cause of concern for Washington. This has occurred mainly due to Washington’s recent ‘policy shift’ wooing New Delhi to its friendly fold.

Can Pakistan make history?: 01 February, 2018 "The News"

There are two competing visions that are vying for Pakistan. One of these involves spreading chaos and instability in Pakistan, and has been championed by PTI Chairman Imran Khan and his proxies. The other is of a democratic, progressive, inclusive and stable Pakistan, which has been spelled out in the Pakistan Vision 2025 and espoused by Nawaz Sharif. The people of Pakistan have witnessed both visions which have been actively competing with each other over the last four-and-a-half years.

It is important to ask why Imran Khan has opted for the politics of chaos and instability. The reason is simple. After forming the provincial government in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP), the PTI chairman soon realised that governance and development are not his forte and his party can’t compete with the experienced PML-N in terms of delivery of public goods and development. Imran Khan took an easy but unfortunate option: disrupt the system so that the PML-N does not deliver on its development promises. Since 2014, Imran Khan, along with others like Dr Tahirul Qadri, has been trying to create instability. The purpose of this is to not allow the PML-N to implement its manifesto and Vision 2025.

Imran Khan and his party were trying their best to keep Pakistan in political turmoil while the PML-N government was quietly channelling all its energies and efforts towards implementing its agenda of the 4Es (energy; economy; the elimination of extremism; and education) and the Pakistan Vision 2025.

There is no comparison between the PTI and the PML-N when it comes to the delivery of development initiatives. The biggest achievement of Imran Khan and his government in KP are that they organised the sit-in and lockdown at Islamabad. Despite the best efforts of the PTI and the PAT, the PML-N delivered on every socioeconomic front. In terms of big ticket items, the PML-N successfully addressed the energy, economy and security situation of Pakistan.

Energy shortage was a major crisis in 2013. Today, most parts of the country do not experience power blackouts. Our industries are getting uninterrupted power supply because the PML-N government has added more than 10,000 MW to the national grid. The economy was on the verge of default in 2013. Today, Pakistan has achieved macroeconomic stability and is growing by more than five percent – the highest increase over the last 10 years.

Infrastructural facilities were crumbling in 2013. But over the last four years, the PML-N government has successfully undertaken national-level infrastructural development projects all over the country. It has also turned the dream of CPEC into a reality.

The successful delivery of development is the reason why opposition parties, especially the PTI, are trying their best to disrupt the democratic process in the country. Even independent media outlets like The Economist have confirmed that the PML-N is most likely to win the next elections based on its performance.

The demand for early elections is another manifestation of the PTI’s disruptive politics. The party knows very well that general elections cannot take place until voter lists and delimitation of constituencies are finalised. Therefore, it is impossible to hold general elections before July 2018. So, the demand for early elections is a demand for a long-term caretaker setup that would exceed its constitutional mandate of 90 days.

How can any democrat support this idea? I would urge every Pakistani to ask what the purpose of disrupting the democratic system can be when general elections are only a few months away. If the PML-N government is so ‘unpopular’, why not wait and vote it out in July 2018 elections? Shouldn’t democratic voices in the media confront Imran Khan with these facts?

Never in Pakistan’s history have two successive constitutionally-elected parliaments finished their terms. Can Pakistan make history this time or will it repeat its past mistakes? This is a challenge, not only for the PML-N government but for the state. The complex geopolitical situation in our region and the continuation of CPEC requires that we maintain internal harmony, stability and solidarity in the country. Any disruption at this stage will be detrimental to our security and economic situation.

Pakistan needs democracy. This is a lesson we should have learned a long time ago. In the 1950s, Pakistan had a chance to lay the foundation of a democratic welfare state that was envisioned by Quaid-e-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah. Unfortunately, the 1950s were spent in the tussle between elected political leadership and the unelected civil-military bureaucracies.

In the 1960s, Pakistan had a chance to become an economic power in the region. Due to the non-representative character of Ayub Khan’s regime, it could not sustain high economic growth and conflicts emerged across regional and class lines. During the 1970s, we had a chance to forget our past mistakes and strengthen democracy in Pakistan. The political leadership of the country devised a constitution after a consensus and chalked out a roadmap for our future success: a constitutional parliamentary democracy. But the democratic process was halted due to the military coup of 1977.

In the 1980s, General Zia’s government was the darling of one of the superpowers of the world. During this period, Pakistan could have done what South Korea did: focus on economic development. Instead, we got involved in the geo-strategic war theatre and brought war and drugs to our homeland. In the 1990s, Pakistan was given another chance to not only consolidate democracy but to revive the economy. Under the leadership of Nawaz Sharif, the PML governments in the 1990s introduced economic reforms and initiated mega infrastructural projects to leapfrog the industrialisation process in Pakistan.

But Pervez Musharraf’s military coup brought us back to square one. The policy choices exercised by Musharraf once again pushed us into the geo-strategic war theatre. Because of shortsightedness on the policy horizon, no major energy or infrastructure project was undertaken by Musharraf’s government.

The restoration of the judiciary and the democracy movement was like a light at the end of the tunnel. The elected parliament restored the constitution in its true spirit via the 18th Amendment.

For the first time in Pakistan’s history, an elected government finished its term and transferred power to another elected government. This not only gave our nation hope, but also restored confidence in our democratic institutions. Over the last four years, the PML-N government has successfully addressed the energy, security and economic crises. CPEC has become a source of hope for a prosperous and industrialised Pakistan. We cannot let anyone spoil this golden opportunity by repeating past mistakes.

The old idea that we have failed to get rid of is our attempt to disrupt elected civilian governments. We need to understand that this spurs political instability and halts economic growth. No matter how good our economic policies are, if we cannot provide peace and political stability, they will not yield the desired results. Therefore, it is imperative that we maintain peace, political stability and continuity in our economic policies and avail lost opportunities. The choice is very clear: Pakistan can either make history or fall prey to its own history.

The road to revival: 24 January, 2018 "The News"

The list of emerging economies issued by the World Economic Forum has ranked Pakistan’s economy far above India’s, with the former occupying the 47th position as against the 62nd spot earned by the latter.

In its World Economic Outlook Update, issued on the eve of the WEF’s meeting in Davos, the IMF acknowledged that Pakistan attained a growth rate of 5.3 percent during 2016-17 and predicted that the upward trend is likely to continue during 2018-2019. This economic revival has repeatedly been endorsed by the international lending and rating agencies and is an outcome of the government’s prudent economic management during the last four-and-a-half years.

However, there is no dearth of people around us who are bent upon criticising the economic performance of the country, set in motion by the PML-N government, for reasons that are invariably divorced from contextual relevance and rationales. As per the view that is being propagated, excessive borrowing by the government, the foreign trade deficit, the rising fiscal deficit and debts are going to send the economy into a nosedive. They are relentlessly trying to promote the idea that the country is on the brink of an economic disaster. Some Western media reports have also created hype about Pakistan’s inability to service the accumulating debt.

While the proponents of the doomsday scenario have recognised the existence of these problems, they have failed to elicit the reasons that have led to these challenges – which they believe could scuttle whatever progress has been made so far. They have also hesitated to acknowledge the likely off-setting and the multiplier effect of the projects on the basis of which this borrowed money has been invested on the future health and strength of the economy.

The reality is that the government has embarked on a massive programme of infrastructure development in the country that is considered to be a major driving force for economic growth – especially under CPEC.

The National Highway Authority reportedly initiated projects worth Rs1,400 billion during the last four years, including some under CPEC and others to build a network of roads throughout the country. Some of these projects were initiated on a BOT basis while other were started through private-public cooperation, CPEC loans from the Chinese banks on the lowest possible interest rate of 1.6 percent – which, compared with the interest rates charged by other international lending agencies, is favourable.

Despite its financial constraints, Pakistan also had to divert a large amount of funds to the war on terror. The economy reportedly also suffered losses worth Rs120 billion due its involvement in the fight against terrorism. The narrow base of tax revenues is one of the major factors that necessitated borrowing for development needs. In fact, Pakistan is one of the countries with the lowest rates of tax collection in the world. It has long been troubled by the tax problem, which is one of the main reasons for its fiscal deficit.

Notwithstanding the foregoing constraints and debilitating factors as well as the volatile political situation in the country, there is no denying the fact that the PML-N government has been able to pull the economy out of the quagmire that it was stuck in when th party seized the reins in 2013.

It is a recorded fact that the country was facing the prospect of defaulting on IMF loans and had to seek another loan from the body to rectify the situation. It is an irrefutable fact that among other success stories regarding the inherited challenge, the revival of the economy through prudent economic management has been the most appreciated and endorsed achievements of the government. The country has seen the GDP growth rate rise to 5.3 percent (the highest in the last 10 years) in 2017 from a dismally low rate of three percent in 2013. The budgetary deficit, which stood at 8.8 percent in 2013, was brought down to 4.4 percent – though it has gone slightly beyond 5 percent recently.

There are countless difficulties in managing the economy owing to the factors pointed out by various critics. However, there are many remedies at hand to fix them and keep the economy on track. These problems can be addressed gradually through development to ensure financial sustainability. This is, however, a temporary phenomenon. Everything will fall into place when all the infrastructural development projects, including motorways, road networks and the CPEC projects as a whole become operational. These endeavours are likely to generate economic activity of colossal proportions that, fuelled by its multiplier effect, would result in an era of unimaginable economic prosperity.

Economists believe that the prospects for progress and prosperity are much brighter in the future and the implementation of CPEC would add another two to three percent to the GDP growth rate. The resources generated by this mega-economic initiative will not only be sufficient to address the confronting challenges but will also address the future development needs of the country, which eventually lead to the end of the country’s dependence on foreign loans for its development projects and fiscal woes. CPEC has also led to an increase in the foreign direct investment (FDI) in the country. According to the State Bank of Pakistan, FDI has increased by 56 percent year-on-year in the July-September period. The major chunk of 65 percent has come from China.

Another factor that is going to play a pivotal role in uplifting Pakistan’s economy is the availability of energy for the industrial development of the country, which has been severely hampered owing to the energy crisis that the government inherited. These energy shortages had resulted in losses worth Rs14 billion to Pakistan’s economy in 2015, which is equivalent to seven per cent of the GDP. However, it is encouraging to note that the production of electricity in the country is 16,477MW as against the current demand of 14,017MW. This enabled the government to announce the end of loadshedding.

Under CPEC, power-producing projects, with an accumulated power-generation capacity of 10,640MW, were initiated. All these projects will become operational in 2017-18. Another 6,645MW of the early harvest projects in the energy sector are also on the actively-promoted list. This will provide an impetus for industrial development, improve the employment situation and expand the tax base.

The country’s economic situation is not as dismal as the detractors of the government and those with other vested interests would have us believe. There is a strong likelihood that we will attain a higher economic ranking in the future as our current problems are on their way to becoming extinct.

US - Our neighbor: 24 January, 2018 "The Nation"

The US is here to stay in the SCAR/APR. Its compulsions to do so include occupying the most central position in the region, Afghanistan, thus acquiring unchallengeable strategic reaches into West, South and Central Asia. This position also gives it unprecedented oversight into China’s CPEC/OBOR initiatives as well as into Pakistan and Iran’s nuclear and missile programs, Russia’s and CARs drive towards the Arabian Sea, the planned regional North-South and East West trade routes and oil-gas pipelines networks, the fossil fuel riches of the ME/Iran and the CARs, the mineral wealth of Afghanistan and Pakistan (Balochistan) etc. Afghanistan also provides ideal positions for current and future US military bases, intelligence gathering and communication posts, radar stations, missile bases et al.

These geopolitical, geo-economic and geo-strategic realities make the US’ stay in the region an irrevocable and foregone compulsion for it.

US’ presence, its disillusionment with Pakistan and its nomination of India as a strategic partner for the 21st century, Afghanistan’s instability and India’s and terrorism’s imprint therein, China’s ingress and Russia’s renewed interests in Afghanistan, Iran and Pakistan, India’s juggernaut of spies and terrorists foraying into Pakistan from Afghanistan and Iran, etc are defining the geopolitical landscape of the region. Newer alignments and partnerships are gradually crystallizing, morphing into competing albeit mutually exclusive poles and irreversibly polarizing the region. We have the US-India Combine on one side and the China-Pakistan strategic alliance on the other with Russia, Iran and Turkey (CRIPT) inclined towards the latter. Include the CARs with the latter grouping and we literally have the SCO pitched against the US-India Combine. India within the SCO could play The Trojan Horse for the US and the SCO will have to remain mindful of this possibility. However, these developments must force the SCO out of its slumber to acquire meaningful economic and military dimensions in addition to its political one only. It must expand its sphere of influence up to and beyond the Arabian Sea, reach into Africa and Europe and present options other than the US to the countries of the Greater Middle East Region and Africa. Furthermore, as a declared bloc policy the SCO must totally own, participate in, reinforce and protect the CPEC/OBOR initiatives! Such an amalgamation of political, economic and military power has the potential to move the world towards viable multi-polarity again and bring about a modicum of balance in regional and global affairs.

By virtue of its presence in Afghanistan, the US has virtually become a neighbor of Pakistan; which now shares proximities and borders with not one but two global powers- the US and China. It also finds India, an aspiring regional power on its eastern flank which in partnership with the US in Afghanistan is literally encircling Pakistan and by default the CPEC as well. A naval blockade of Gwadar and the Mekran Coast would complete the dragnet being laid out for it. Any threat to the economically vital CPEC will assume existential dimensions for Pakistan and will attract China’s ire as well.

This complex regional environment is now creating fantastic challenges for Pakistan. It will be up to it now to convert these into opportunities and maneuver itself in to a position whereby it not only safe guards its vital national interests but also furthers its relations with China and the US. It must walk the tightrope skillfully balancing its relations with both. The challenge: it must at the least retain its strategic alliance with China, safely shepherd the CPEC/OBOR projects to fruition and keep the war on terror out of its territory without prejudice to its relationship with the US.

Pakistan must also remember that the war on terror and the APR do not define the total relationship between itself and the US. It is a much broader and multidimensional relationship with a very wide frame of reference. Divergences here must not be allowed to affect the overall relationship disproportionately. Both the US and Pakistan must go into damage control and salvage it. Both need one another.

The CPEC is a vital national interest for Pakistan and it will brook no threat to it. However, to ensure that it becomes irreversible Pakistan must not only gain time for it to reach fruition but must also ensure that in the meantime there are no military ingresses from across the Pak-Afghan border under any pretence whatsoever. This will apply to LOC/WB as well. The CPEC will be protected come what may. The Chinese would also have a stake in securing their massive investments.

The US and Pakistan must avoid a military clash. The US must respect Pakistan’s territorial integrity and accept Pakistan’s offer. Pakistan has asked it to provide actionable intelligence on the “so called safe havens” and that it would take action against them. Furthermore, only coordinated military and intelligence based operations on either side of the Pak-Afghan border can be conducted. No US or any other foreign boots will be allowed on Pakistan territory. If a cross border raid by the US forces is contested by Pakistan and leads to casualties on either side, then its ramifications will put the whole region on fire. If in the process some Chinese nationals (uniformed-?) become casualties then the implications will become even more serious and far reaching. The US will do well to ensure that the Chinese do not get sucked into the conundrum, particularly militarily! Pakistan must also ensure that the war on terror is not restarted on its territory again. The fencing and mining of the Pak-Afghan border must be carried out expeditiously and the anti-terrorists trench in Balochistan must be patrolled and maintained for effectiveness. An effective Border Management System must be enforced and the Afghan Refugees returned home, honorably.

The threats to the CPEC are real and must be neutralized. The China factor will come into play at one time or the other. Pakistan must launch a diplomatic offensive to not only safeguard the CPEC but most importantly to improve relations with the US.

Countering terrorism through education: 24 January, 2018 "Daily Times"

As J. William Fulbright once said, “Education is a slow moving but powerful force”. It means education has the potential to transform an uncivilised society into a civilised one. It also has the potential to deradicalise a radical society. Pakistan is amongst the least literate nations in the world, with a literacy rate of 58.2 percent.

This figure has also been achieved using a very lenient yardstick. In Pakistan, those who can read and write their names are considered literate people. When a national census is conducted, such people are registered as literate. Article 25-A of the constitution of Pakistan obligates the state to provide free and compulsory quality education to children who are 5 to 16 years old.

Though the Government has established some schools across the country, because of lack of resources it could not ensure quality education. Consequently, private schooling emerged as an alternative for those who could afford it. But the majority of Pakistan cannot afford private schooling for their children. For example, there is a stark difference in literacy rate between Islamabad (96 percent) and Kohlu District (28 percent) of Balochistan. 60 percent of Pakistan’s population lives in rural areas and does not have access to quality education.

Such a situation creates a divide between urban society and rural society. Urban society, based on their educational experiences is comparatively liberal in its approach while rural society is more conservative. A majority of the rural populace seeks guidance from the local clergy in their daily affairs. Whereas the clergy in Pakistan declares even co-education an un-Islamic trend and discourages female education parallel to men. Such discriminatory attitudes leave women marginalised in this society. According to government statistics, in the tribal areas of Pakistan, female literacy is only 9.5 percent. Of course, these are only women who can spell their own name — they are not actually educated.

To deter girls from going to school, the Taliban started blowing up schools in different areas. There have been spates of terrorist attacks on girls schools in the areas of Bara, Bajaur Agency, Hangu, Bannu, Peshawar, Quetta and Swat. Malala Yousufzai was shot on a school bus by the Taliban militants of Swat in October, 2012. All these attacks were conducted to deter students from going to school. While terrorists have become much weaker since 2014, the problem of extremism in society has not been addressed. Glorification of terrorists by radical segments of society continues unabated.

Most believe that it is the uneducated youth which join the ranks of terrorist organisations. However, there have been a number of terrorist attacks in which students from some of Pakistan’s best universities have been involved. Sabeen Mahmud (a social worker) in Pakistan was killed by such a university student, who got his inspiration from the Islamic State. The recent case of Naureen Leghari, a student of the Liaquat University of Medical and Health Sciences in Jamshoro, Pakistan who was plotting terrorist attacks on a Church on the eve of Easter, is quite similar. Such students do not belong to the urban class of students, they belong to the rural areas of Pakistan and therefore, are more likely to be inspired by radical ideologies.

It is no just the uneducated who join terrorist organisations. There have been a number of attacks in which students from some of Pakistan’s most prestegious universities have been involved

Such students often study in co-education institutions, but at the same time criticise co-education as un-Islamic. In this precarious situation, Pakistan needs a different strategy to combat terrorism instead of military power. Pakistan army’s operation Radd-ul-Fasad (elimination of discord) started after the attack on the Sehwan Sharif shrine. The Inter Services Public Relations (ISPR) declared it as a continuation of the National Action Plan (NAP).

Healthcare in the US and Pakistan: 24 January, 2018 "Daily Times"

It is interesting to compare the healthcare systems of Pakistan and the USA, since both healthcare systems are not welfare oriented. In 2017, the Prime Minister of Pakistan launched a health insurance scheme which was supposed to provide healthcare coverage to families earning two dollars a day or less. Serious medical conditions and procedures like cancer, accident related trauma, burns, diabetes related complication, infection and bypass surgeries. A family benefiting from this insurance scheme is entitled to an annual treatment costing $2,600. The project’s goal was to provide health insurance to 23 million families in the federal capital, FATA and Punjab.

The common perception is that public sector hospitals in Pakistan provide free medical care to every citizen of the country. If this is the case, then Pakistan is more of a welfare state than the USA, which spends 8.3 percent of its GDP on healthcare compared to Pakistan’s 0.42 percent. In Pakistan around 78 percent of the population pay for healthcare out of its own pocket. The private sector provides three quarters of health services in the country, while the state merely picks up the remaining tab. At present, provincial governments in Pakistan are the leading institutional entity in terms of expenditure on healthcare (mostly on establishment costs such as salaries) and allocation has enhanced post devolution from 4-6 percent to 8-11 percent of the budget out of the development outlay.

In Pakistan around 78 percent of the population pay for healthcare out of its own pocket. The private sector provides three quarters of health services in the country, while the state merely picks up the remaining tab

American healthcare is bankrolled by a complex and uncoordinated amalgam through the federal, state, and local governments supported by private insurance. Yet, there is no consolidated system of health insurance. In stark contrast to Pakistan, the prevailing practice in the USA is insurance coverage for employees managed by their employer with emphasis on government intervention limited to the most vulnerable segments of society such as the elderly, disabled and unemployed.

An intriguing aspect of healthcare in the United States is that almost 17 million people were employed in the health sector or health occupation which means 12 percent of the total US workforce caters to a population of almost 326 million. The population of Pakistan is around 200 million with a significantly smaller number of persons in the health occupation. In Pakistan, electronic or tele-medicine, involving basic geographic information systems (GIS), is spreading as a platform, albeit without any regulatory umbrella. Things are different in the USA being focused on a formal and conservative prescription approach. Basic medical diagnostic tests in Pakistan are not so costly as compared to the USA and health tourism is increasing with Pakistani origin patients coming from the United Kingdom, who find private medical care such as surgery less costly here, and with the added benefit of a shortened waiting list.

If a query is raised that in Pakistan is the healthcare provided to those ordinary citizens, not insured through any organisation whether public or private, adequate and does it ensure the quality of life then the answer would be a resounding no. There persists a marked and perceptible difference in treatment being provided in a private hospital and a public hospital. Technically speaking it may be lack of funding for intestinal staples during surgery, stents for cardiac procedures, repeated usage of dental equipment instead of disposable dental kits, and obsolete diagnostic equipment, which ultimately has an impact on quality of life. The waiting time for surgical intervention in the public sector healthcare environment in the event of elective, non-malignant diseases including hernias, gall bladder and thyroids may extend from six months onwards coupled with no choice in selection of surgeon.

The discernible differences in healthcare cannot be easily scoffed as being attributable to the desire to acquire healthcare in a comfortable or luxurious setting as overcrowded public sector hospitals have compromised standards of hygiene and quality control and full time availability of medical personnel and equipment of one’s choice.

In this sense the citizen of Pakistan appears to be in an enviable position compared to the USA, as every citizen has access to free medical care even if the quality of medical care is not comparable to that in the private sector whose charges are exorbitant.

A considerate foreign policy: 16 January, 2018 "The News"

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Nuclear deterrence in South Asia: 16 January, 2018 "Daily Times"

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


US’s double standards and Pakistan: 16 January, 2018 "Daily Times"

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What goes up comes down.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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