Articles Regarding Pakistan

India-Pakistan water dispute: 22 September, 2017 "The Nation"

The two-day secretary-level talks between India and Pakistan, under the auspices of the World Bank, on the issues of Kishenganga and Ratle hydro-electric power plants within the framework of Indus Water Treaty, ended without producing any result. However, the World Bank, which is a signatory to the water sharing treaty between the two countries, has assured its continued assistance in resolving the issue peacefully.


Pakistan and India had been involved in intractable discussions to resolve the dispute regarding construction of two hydro electric power plants namely Kishenganga and Ralte being built by the latter in violation of the provisions of the Indus Water Treaty. This issue arose last year too, when Pakistan requested the World Bank to establish a court of Arbitration to resolve the differences between the two countries. India simultaneously requested the World Bank for the appointment of a neutral expert.


The World Bank initially agreed to set up both the Arbitration Court and the appointment of the neutral expert. However in response to the Indian objection on two parallel processes not being legally tenable, the World Bank decided to announce a ‘pause’ and asked both the parties to resolve the issue through bilateral avenues. Giving reasons for this action, the President of the Bank, in a letter written to finance ministers of both the countries, said “We are announcing this pause to protect the Indus Water Treaty and to help India and Pakistan to consider alternative approaches to resolving conflicting interests under the treaty and its application to two hydro electric power plants. This is an opportunity for the two countries to begin to resolve the issue in an amicable manner and in line with the spirit of the treaty rather than pursuing concurrent processes that could make the treaty unworkable over time. I would hope that the two countries will come to an agreement by the end of January.”


The position taken by the World Bank regrettably was akin to what India had argued. The Indian government welcomed the ‘pause’ announced by the World Bank. A spokesman of the Indian Ministry of External Affairs said “By temporarily halting both processes, World Bank has confirmed that pursuing two concurrent processes can render the treaty unworkable over time. India remains fully conscious of her international obligations and is ready to engage in further consulting on the matter of resolving current differences regarding the two projects”


This action of World Bank was tantamount to shirking the responsibility as a guarantor of the accord charged with the responsibility to ensure that both parties stuck to the provisions of the accord and, in case of failure of the two sides to sort out their differences, appoint a court of Arbitration. The arbitration was even more necessary in view of the threats by Modi government to control the flow of water of the western rivers into Pakistan.


Therefore, reacting to the World Bank decision, the Finance Minister in his letter to the President of the World Bank rightly maintained that under the Treaty no party could ‘pause’ performance of the obligations under the Treaty and the position taken by the Bank would only prevent Pakistan from approaching a competent forum and having its grievances addressed.


As these exchanges were in progress, the Indian government tasked the inter-ministerial to enhance storage of western rivers waters, which was a very alarming development. Under the circumstances, the avoidance by the World Bank to take a position in line with its obligations under the Treaty amounted to almost giving up on its own brokered agreement. The hope expressed by the World Bank, that both sides would be able to resolve their differences, represented lack of understanding of the prevailing situation.


India was actually trying to build pressure on Pakistan to back off from the position taken by her on the Kashmir issue, particularly in regards to current uprising in the valley. It was not a technical issue. India had been threatening to review the Indus Water Treaty in the backdrop of Uri attack which it blamed on Pakistan. In an atmosphere loaded with tensions between the two countries, expecting them to show goodwill in resolving the issue was hoping against hope. The World Bank had a role to play as per the Treaty and it failed that role this time.


Under the Indus Water Treaty, the waters of the Eastern rivers Sutlej, Beas, and Ravi had been allocated to India and the Western rivers Indus, Jhelum and Chenab to Pakistan except for certain uses allowed to India including power generation. According to reliable sources, India was contemplating to launch more hydropower projects with a cumulative power generating capacity of 32,000 MW on the rivers allocated to Pakistan and consequently attain the capability of regulating the water flows to Pakistan, especially reducing water flow in the river Chenab which irrigates most of the land in Punjab. Such a situation could lead to serious consequences and may even threaten peace and security in the region in the event of armed conflict over the issue between the two countries.


It is pertinent to point out that the case of Kishanganga has already been considered by the Permanent Court of Arbitration at Hague, which while recognizing the Indian right to build the Dam, did address Pakistan’s concerns about India keeping the level of reservoirs below the Dead Storage Level. The Court also recognized the concept of environmental flows in rivers to ensure that the power generating projects were operated in an environmentally sustainable manner. The Award announced on 20 December 2013 specified that 9m3/s of natural flow of water must be maintained in Kishanganga river at all times to maintain environment downstream. However, India was not even abiding by the award of the Permanent Arbitration Commission.


Pakistan was not asking for something beyond the treaty obligations of the World Bank. The World Bank needs to revisit its decision and set up a court of arbitration as requested by Pakistan, because there is no hope of resolving of this issue through bilateral arrangement as suggested by previous Indian behavior and it ultimately has to be referred for arbitration.


Pakistan is seeking redress of its grievances over non-adherence to the already announced decision of the Arbitration Court on the issue and stands justified in asking the World Bank to again constitute a Court of Arbitration to look into the matter. The credibility of the World Bank as guarantor of the Indus Water Treaty is also at stake.

Pakistani women police in Cairns: 20 September, 2017 "Daily Times"

Cairns — This beautiful resort town in north-eastern Australia on the Pacific Ocean is currently hosting a unique gathering of over 500 female police officers — drawn from 63 nations. They converged here to participate in the 17th International Women and Law Enforcement Conference (IWLEC) that got underway Monday morning with a beautiful spectacle; a Parade of Nations. As the clock struck 8, dozens of national flags went up in the air and delegations from across the Asia-Pacific region — all dressed in their respective national uniforms — made a beeline to follow their flag-bearer through the quiet streets of Cairns. Bemused locals as well as tourists looked on as the foreign female officers marched past.

The marchers included about a dozen Pakistani women police officers of different cadres, dressed in their police and para-military fatigues. After meandering through the streets for about two kilometres the spectacular parade culminated at the grand Cairns Convention Centre, the venue of the conference.

During the various sessions in the last two days, local guest speakers, including senior police officials, picked on themes such as women role in peace and security in an international context, benefits of gender responsive policing, gender imbalance, social and political discrimination within the institution, response to offence against women, mainstreaming of women voices against excesses through effective women policing.

The inaugural ceremony was an amazing display of humour, serious talk, human and animal rights and a bit of inspirational music — all rolled into one strong message i.e. empowered women can do wonders if given opportunity.

Equal opportunity is what also seems to drive the present day Australia; women make some 40 percent of the Australian Federal Police (AFP) force too. Women presence is visible wherever you go. One indicator for this recognition was the annual awards for best officers; the dominant majority went to women officers in a grand ceremony accompanying the official dinner.

The fight for indiscriminate treatment at societal and institutional level remains a continuous struggle, as underlined by Margaret Shorter, President of the International Association of Police.

We must continue our conscious efforts to promote female participation in all spheres of governance, she underlined. She said such global gatherings offered a great opportunity for sharing experiences and could help women officers in playing a critical role in community safety in difficult times.

In a display of passion and professionalism, Christine Anno, the famed Australian pop singer and actress, enthused the 1000 plus gathering with her passionate , “My island home, surrounded by sea.”

On the other hand, Terry Irwin, the patron of the conference and wife of the great Australian crocodile hunter Steve Irwin, using the example of a US jail inmate survey to draw an analogy between animal rights protection and need for safeguarding human life.

“100 per cent of inmates in a US jail had first committed a crime against animals before doing so against a human beings,” Ms Irvin said while underscoring the need to sensitize human beings for protecting animals.

Another resounding message came from Debb Platz, President of Australsian Council of Women and Policing; absence of women perpetuates their absence, so women must try to be as present as possible and make their presence purposeful wherever they are. Change also requires courageous decisions and actions without care for fear or favour, argued Ms Platz.

With women police officers from the entire Asia Pacific region, the gathering here, much of the focus is on how the delegates can benefit from one another’s experiences, particularly to deal with issues arising out of the war against terrorism and the emergence of new terror franchises such as DAESH. Discussions on community policing and protecting women’s rights in the new security environment are also part of the four-day conference.

On Tuesday, keynote speakers pointed out the shortcomings of the present day policing, which they said rested on a deeply entrenched system that is driven more by a reactive approach instead of specific, informed responses. This system needs to change if gender-sensitive policing were the ultimate goal.

One of the sessions also dealt with the role of women in the Pakistani police and the society at large as well as the social, institutional and political impediments in their way. Pakistani speakers including Ms Gulmina Bilal, tried to explain the difficult socio-political context that women wade through while living and working in Pakistan.

CPEC’s realities: 20 September, 2017 "Daily Times"

Reality always bites. First reality is that on ground Pakistan is in position to receive multiple gains if it let CPEC effects trickle down to grass root level establishing backhand linkages with local industry so as to transform Pakistan from consumer-based economy to export-oriented economy.

Second reality is that China has not imposed CPEC rather it has been welcomed warmly by Pakistan government looking into its own interests and economic value.

Since 2013 till date, everywhere voices are running amok what CPEC promises as a fate-changer for common man and local businesses is just eyewash. Some claim that China launched CPEC for its own personal benefits rending little incentives to Pakistan. Perception also goes rampant that Chinese companies have purchased thousand acre lands on very low prices and Pakistanis will have meager share in jobs being generated through CPEC related projects.

This buzz appears to be part of sceptic hypothesis that disappear when it comes to talk on documented and pragmatic terms. So far despite brewing qualms, all is set to finalize blanket incentives schemes equally beneficial for both local and Chinese businessmen in all stipulated nine Special Economic Zones (SEZs) under the umbrella of China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC).

 

Seeking inspiration from 2013 incentive policy and Gawadar free zone industrial policy, Initial contours of SEZs reveal that, contrary to speculations, Chinese and Pakistani businesses will be given level playing field to purchase land 

To keep CPEC project transparent and corruption free, National Accountability Bureau (NAB) and Beijing have entered into an agreement. A combined investigation team (CIT) will facilitate quality of work. In another step to prevent any financial irregularity, Pakistan government is not using its accounts for monetary transactions regarding CPEC under specific modality of funds management.

Initial contours of SEZs, seeking inspiration from 2013 incentive policy and Gwadar free zone industrial policy, reveal that contrary to speculations, Chinese and Pakistani businessmen will be given level playing field to purchase land in SEZs. Mode of mechanism, in major cases, will be cantered on joint venture, public private partnership, private or public. It is highly likely that SEZs will set equal employability formula between Chinese and Pakistanis. Already employment proportion may be seen in two infrastructure projects. KKH phase II and Sukkar-Multan section engage 70 percent Pakistani and 30 percent Chinese workers, as per official data of CPEC.

Zones plan never differentiate between Pakistani investors and Chinese investors in dishing out tax breaks, exception to sale tax, excise tax, custom duties, financial arrangements, concessional utilities like electricity, gas and water, educational and health facilities, capacity buildings for skill enhancements, special course and training for skilled and semi skilled workers. SEZs will cater both low-end and high end products keeping in view targeted items to prevent market saturation. Provinces, AJK, Gilgit-Biltistan and Fata will have SEZs each. Federal government will host two SEZs. They will be in Rashakai (KP), Dhabeji (Sindh), Bostan (Balochistan), District Sheikhupura (Punjab), Port Qasim Karachi and Islamabad (Federal Govt).

How CPEC myth is debunked can be weighed up easily in exploring various cases. One of them is when asked to Muhammad Ali Mian, president of Pakistan Plastic Manufacturer Association president and member of Punjab Industrial Policy says that CPEC’ SEZs will benefit if thrust is given to foster high-tech industry relating to IT, agriculture, chemical, auto, textile and livestock and so on. He welcomed gesture of equal employment formula. When asked he claims “I personally witnessed that Gwadar port has low number of Pakistani and high number of Chinese manpower working there. But he declined to prove it through documented and other substantial evidence.

CPEC Project Director Hassan Daud Butt eloquently illustrates that none Chinese company has purchased any land in CPEC related projects. Rebuffing visa free facility to Chinese, he asserts that incentive plan never discuss such concession. Pakistan government has never granted any concession to Chinese companies for import of goods for CPEC projects that may take a heavy toll on interests of local manufacturers. Majority of CPEC projects relating to power and management sector are being executed by big number of Pakistani engineers and workers. If dive into details to explore windfalls for Pakistani people, it appears that Pakistani industrialists and entrepreneurs enjoy similar incentivised package under the Finance Act 2016 granted to Chinese investors and companies in Gwadar free zone.

Under CPEC, Gwadar known as most backward area in Pakistan, has now its own first state of art emergency hospital to provide best medical facilities to local population free of cost. Gwadar port city also features now an advanced primary school where enrolment swells from 150 to 300 pupils in short span of time. MOU is soon to be signed for development of first Gwadar University. Resolving the long-standing drinking problem, water supply system and fresh water treatment plant are being materialized.

Besides offering Chinese language courses and various technical program to help Pakistan man force to be competitive for CPEC initiatives, Technical Education and Vocational Training Authority (TEVTA) gears up to establish Pakistan’s first University of Technical and Vocational Education (UTVE) in Punjab in collaboration with Tianjin University of Technology and Education (TUTE).

TEVTA will help Pakistani youth to increase their employability chances in thousands of CPEC related projects and even in international market.

CPEC has potential to generate around 0.1 million jobs for locals. Another benefit people are going to relish is the making of health corridor under which joint examination board (JEB) to be set up allowing Pakistan students (who got MBBS degree from China) to start practice in Pakistan without going through the process of National Examination Board (NEB).

KP government has also established CPEC job cell to accommodate local manpower. KP technology park promises employment to more than 10,400 IT graduates yearly. To support the CPEC investments and technological developments KP plans to sponsor 300 IT graduates at the leading Electronic Manufacturing Services firms in China.

In order to develop CPEC knowledge corridor, recently a consortium of top five Pakistani business schools has been formed. It aims to cater demands of CPEC’ market and businesses conducting advanced researches for capacity building and ensure students consumptions as per requirement. With approximately $ 62 billion initiative, real estate sector that lost its steam due to new taxes and capital flight to Dubai market is back to business.

Beside Balochistan government, private builders and developers across Pakistan have launched many housing schemes As a result, land prices have seen a three time surge. Searches for Gwadar property on online property sides have escalated.

Sustaining economic growth: 20 September, 2017 "The Nation"

The federal government had completed four years couple of months back with an excellent record of better economic performance. Different indicators are showing marked improvement more or less and for sustaining the record economic growth so achieved. It had come up with quite realistic, doable and achievable targets for the financial year 2017-18, last year of its stipulated five years constitutional tenure.


It is a well-known fact that economy of Pakistan remains under constant review of some international financial institutions and organizations as well as donor agencies including International Monetary Fund (IMF), World Bank, Asia Development Bank, and rating agencies like Moody’s.


All these multi-national financial institutions in their periodic reviews of Pakistan’s economy appreciate rapidly forwarding moving economy. However, at the same time, they also point out shortcomings and weak points which are duly taken notice by the senior officials concerned in Islamabad and try to take corrective measures at the earliest as much as possible. Clearly, the federal government works out the budget strategy initially and then fixes targets for achievement during ensuing the financial year 2017-18, which is already in its third month, with the sole objective of sustaining the pace of progress and economic growth while accelerating developmental activities in different sectors across the country.


The economic policies and budgeting strategy have put the increase in real Gross Domestic Product (GDP) growth at 6 percent, investment to GDP 17 percent, inflation below 6 percent, budget deficit at 4.1 percent of GDP, tax to GDP ratio at 13.7 percent. Revenues of Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) have been targeted to increase by 14 percent. However, the federal expenditures will grow by 11 percent. Non-tax receipts of the federal government have been targeted to increase by 7 percent and current expenditure also known as non-development expenses will be kept under tight control. Development budget (Public Sector Development Development Programme) has been placed at the highest ever level of Rs 1001 billion. Foreign exchange reserves level will be ensured to be enough to cover imports for a minimum period of four months. The government intends to keep net public debt to GDP ratio below 60 percent of GDP and to keep continuing targeted social interventions.


How is the economic growth going to sustain and even go beyond? The answer lies in the following explanation; economic growth target for the ongoing financial year is 6 percent against 5.7 percent for the last fiscal year 2016-17. The government will be making concerted efforts for achieving the bit higher target for economic growth and at the same time also enhance its efforts to increase revenue generation appreciably. It is worth mentioning here that this will be for the first time in more than two decades that Pakistan will be achieving 5 percent growth rate and that too without any external aid or inflows related to anti-terror war. Achievement of 7 percent economic growth rate, which Pakistan had achieved during the last decade, was mainly due to foreign aid flows more than anything else.


Budget deficit target has been fixed at 3.8 percent of GDP against 4.1 percent of GDP for the financial year 2016-17. The federal budget mainly comprises development and non-development expenditures under various heads and is financed through tax collection, both direct and indirect, by the FBR. Higher tax collection means the gap between the income and expenses of the federal government will be on the lower side. But in case the FBR is unable to achieve targeted revenue collection then, apparently, to bridge the gap, the federal government will perforce resort to levying new taxes.


Here are some straight figures of the federal budget 2017-18 for which efforts are already underway by all concerned to achieve the set targets to the maximum extent possible to keep the fiscal deficit on the lower side. The total outlay of the federal budget is Rs 5103.8 billion which is 4.3 percent higher than the budget estimates of last financial year. Resource availability estimates have been placed at Rs 4713.7 billion which shows some improvement against Rs 4442 billion of last fiscal. Net revenue receipts are estimated at Rs 2926 billion. The provincial share in federal taxes has been put at Rs 2384.2 billion, 11.6 percent higher than last fiscal. Net capital receipts estimate Rs 552.5 billion, showing an increase of 21.8 percent. External receipts have been estimated at Rs 837. 8 billion. Overall expenditure during current fiscal estimated at 5103.8 billion. The shares of current (non-development) and development expenditure in total budgetary outlay is 73.7 percent and 26.3 percent respectively. The expenditure on General Public Services estimates placed at Rs 2553.6 billion which is as much as 67. 8 percent of the current spending and the development expenditure outside the PSDP has been put at Rs 152 .2 billion.


The overall size of the Public Sector Development Programme (PSDP) of the federal government for the new financial year is Rs 2113 billion. The break-up of this highly placed PSDP is federal PSDP Rs 1001 billion and for funding of the Annual Development Programmes (ADPs) of the provinces Rs 112 billion. Further breakdown of the PSDP includes: federal ministries/ divisions Rs 377.9 billion, Autonomous and Semi-Autonomous Corporations, Rs 380.6 billion, for Prime Minister’s Special Development Goals (SDGs) Achievement Programme Rs 30 billion, Special Federal Development Programme Rs 40 billion, Energy for All Rs 12.5 billion, Clean Drinking Water for All Rs 12.5 billion, Earthquake Reconstruction and Rehabilitation Authority (ERRA) Rs 7.5 billion, Special Provision for Competition of China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) projects Rs 5 billion, Relief and Rehabilitation of Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) Rs 45 billion, Security Enhancement Rs 45 billion, Prime Minister’s Initiatives Rs 20 billion and Gas Infrastructure Development Cess Rs 25 billion.


Pakistan’s foreign exchange reserves evolve around 20 billion dollars or so, and efforts are underway to increase the level to at least 25 billion dollars at least. The trade deficit is another major source of concern for the federal government as exports are not going up by much-desired level and contrary to the declining trend in exports, country’s imports keep on going up and up. Foreign exchange reserves go up and down with more imports and lesser exports. Needless to mention here that declining trend in the exports continues to be a major source of concern for the federal government. Though, determined efforts are being made by all concerned to initially stem the declining trend and then boost the exports to at least around 25 billion dollars and hopefully even more than the current level of 20 billion dollars.


The then Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif in January 2017 had announced a hefty package of Rs 180 billion for boosting country’s exports by overcoming hitches and obstacle. Though there are reports of some sectors showing signs of improvement regarding exports the pace is much slower. The exports need to be boosted at much faster speed against present rather dismal pace. Imports, on the other hand, should better be kept restricted to mainly required raw material, machinery, etc. for the manufacturing sectors and import of luxury items and goods should be minimized to the maximum possible. Import of unproductive products and commodities should primarily be scrutinized periodically and dropped as much as possible particularly; goods that are produced and manufactured locally should not be allowed to be imported.


Reduced level of imports and improved and increased exports will go a long way in bringing the trade deficit down and putting the balance in favor of Pakistan as much as possible. The targets, which the federal government has fixed for the financial year 2017-18, are quite realistic, doable and achievable as these are based on the economic growth achievements of the last four years. The financial year is in its third month only and all fairness it is too early to start offering negative comments and questioning achievability of the set targets which are aimed at achieving higher, sustainable and inclusive growth besides generating additional employment opportunities and increasing investment in both human and physical infrastructures. All these afore-mentioned realistic targets are quite appreciable and commendable as everyone wants to see Pakistan making progress and development and ushering in an era of prosperity by leaps and bounds for the people across the country without any discrimination or biases as such.

Rohingyas’ right to exist: 20 September, 2017 "The Nation"

At the moment, there is considerable uncertainty about the exact origin and ethnicity of Rohingyas in the world. Some people trace their ancestry to Arab explorers in this region. But most people believe them to be the ethnic Bengalis. Sadly, just like their past, one cannot precisely predicts about the future of this most persecuted ethnic minority. There is uncertainty whether or not Rohingyas would be able to survive as a ‘text-book ethnic cleansing’ against them is currently under way in Myanmar. There are many stateless nations in the world. But quite unfortunately, stateless Rohingyas are the only people who are being denied their right to exist on the planet earth.


The plight of Rohingyas is simply unprecedented in the world. No municipal or international law determines their rights, or otherwise defines their status on this planet. So they are being treated as if they are some extraterrestrial beings from an alien planet. No country in the world is willing to own these people. No country is even inclined to voluntarily offer them temporary shelter or refuge. No one in the world seriously intends to rescue them. And no world agency is interested in preserving these ‘endangered species’.


Burmese security forces are forcefully expelling Rohingyas from the Myanmar. On the other hand, some South East Asian countries, namely Bangladesh, are asking them to go back to Myanmar. So a game of human ping-pong is being played in the region. Now India has also decided to come down heavily on some 40,000 Rohingya immigrants inside the country. It is seeking to deport these refugees. However, one just wonders how can the term deportation be used vis-à-vis stateless people like Rohingyas. In fact, India can’t send back these refugees to any country as the entire world has already disowned them. Indeed this Indian move will further aggravate the current Rohingya crisis in the region.


Giving rise to world’s fastest growing refugee crisis, more than 400,000 Rohingya Muslims have fled from Myanmar to Bangladesh over the last three weeks. International mass media and observers have been denied access to the conflict-hit areas in Rakhine state. But this instant massive exodus is sufficient to ascertain the nature and magnitude of Rohingya persecution inside Myanmar. It just shows how brutally the Burmese security forces are killing and perishing Rohingyas in the Rakhine state. These people are leaving their homes despite knowing the fact they would not be welcomed anywhere in the world. A recent analysis of satellite imagery from the Myanmar, conducted by Human Rights Watch, shows that more than 200 hundred Rohingya villages have been burnt in the Rakhine state. Similarly, Rohingyas are being beheaded and burnt alive by the Buddhist monk militias and Burmese security forces as part of their systematic ethnic cleansing against them.


Despite living in Myanmar for generations, Rohingya people were denaturalized by the Burmese government through an arbitrary citizenship law in 1982. Thus they were instantly reduced to stateless entities. Later, they were also disenfranchised. Their freedom of movement inside the Myanmar was severely restricted. They were deprived an access to education, employment and health services. They were barred from marrying and rearing children without permission. Nevertheless, Rohingyas have been one of the most peaceful nations in the world. They never strongly protested or agitated against their persecution in the country. They never launched any political or civil right movement. Similarly, there has also been no significant Rohingya separatist movement in Myanmar. At the moment, they are demanding nothing beyond a right to live or exist.


Each nation has the right to exist in the same manner an individual has the right to live. Presently, there are many stateless nations in the world like Kurds, Tamils, Kashmiris, and Quebecs etc. However, these nations are only being denied a right to statehood i.e. a right to have an independent sovereign state. Unlike Rohingyas, they are by no means deprived of their right to exist as a nation in the world. Regretfully, Rohingyas are the stateless nation which is facing a serious existential challenge in the face of one of the worst kinds of ethnic cleansing in the history of mankind. There are many world agencies which are actively endeavouring to protect and preserve the wildlife in the world. Ironically, no world body is seriously trying to preserve the ‘habitat’ of the endangered Rohingyas.


While the persecution against Rohingyas continues unabated in Myanmar, the international community looks reluctant to do anything for these unfortunate people beyond requesting Myanmar government to voluntarily end its policy of ethnic cleansing against Rohingya community. In the recently-concluded meeting in Kazakhstan, the 57-member OIC also expressed “serious concern about systematic brutal acts committed by the armed forces against Rohingya in Myanmar”. As usual, ‘the collective voice of the Muslim World’, couldn’t take any concrete measure to protect the beleaguered Muslims in the world. So it has once again showed that it is merely a toothless and dysfunctional entity. It is also really regrettable that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is the only leader in the Muslim World who looks really concerned about Rohingyas’ woes in Myanmar and elsewhere in the world.


The current Rohingya crisis warrants some concrete measures and actions at international level. UNSC is an important international watchdog which is supposed to pro-actively intervene to put an end to this crisis. Chapter VII of the UN Charter empowers UNSC to take coercive actions against an aggressor state to preserve international peace and security. Therefore, this world body can impose economic and trade sanctions on Myanmar to make the incumbent Burmese regime abandon its nefarious plan of ethnic cleansing against Rohingyas. It can also deploy peace keeping troops to protect Rohingya community in the troubled Rakhine state.


The worst humanitarian crisis is just looming in Bangladesh as hundreds of thousands of unattended Rohingya refugees are living under miserable conditions there. They are currently staying in the makeshift camps without proper shelter, food, clean drinking water and sanitation. Heavy rainfall has just added to their miseries. Therefore, the world aid agencies should make some prompt arrangements to rescue and relieve these helpless people. These refugees should certainly not be left at the mercy of Bangladesh which can’t adequately handle such a massive influx of people.


At this stage, the international community and world’s major powers must also seriously consider the option of making some crucial arrangements to preserve the stateless Rohingya community, which is currently scattered in many South Asian countries, in Northern Rakhine state in Myanmar. For this purpose, essentially in line with East Timor or South Sudan, a semi-independent or independent sovereign state for Rohingya population can be formed in the northern part of Myanmar’s Rakhine state. Indeed East Timor and South Sudan are the pragmatic models, conceived and evolved by the international community, to protect a minority community from a persecution or exploitation by the majority in a single state. Noticeably, the atrocities and persecution against Rohingyas in Myanmar have outpaced the persecution against minority population in the aforementioned countries. Therefore, Rohingyas’s right to exist as a nation must be acknowledged and respected. Now there should also be some serious endeavours to preserve these ‘endangered species’ in their ‘natural habitat’ in Myanmar.

Carving a new export strategy: 20 September, 2017 "The Nation"

Pakistan’s trade deficit has never been larger. Posting a growth of nearly 138%, period on period, this gap is now looking un-sustainable, especially in wake of country’s dwindling exports. The main component of our exports, Textiles, has been declining at a double-digit rate for most part of the year and other than services almost all sectors – rent seeking aside – appear to be uncompetitive when compared on respective global prevailing-price scale. Given domestic factors – growing energy needs coupled with crippling energy prices (in comparison to our regional & international competition) – and external realities – firming global oil and commodity prices – Pakistan’s import bill, if unchecked, is likely to climb even higher. Despite all notions from Islamabad that the government has enough reserves in the kitty to meet the deficit obligations, the reality is that the trend of trade and trade deficits do matter. As Islamabad’s 2017-18 budget indicated such increased trade deficits almost always affect home industry and ultimately add to more hardships for ordinary Pakistanis; especially for those who subsist below the poverty line. Unless the soon approaching election mode (next year) deliberately drives the decision makers to continued economic-policy imprudence, the choices with such a high trade deficit are very limited with all roads leading to measures that will cut any existing food, fuel and power subsidies and add to more impulsive cum coercive taxation drives. If imports are indeed curtailed then as government’s revenues from imports dwindle it will look other avenues to tax, in-turn adding to the existing competitiveness issues in home manufacturing.


So what can be done about Pakistan’s trade deficit? No surprises: the answer is two tiered: short term and long term. While vision, strategy and a long-term perspective in trade are absolutely essential one cannot afford to take one’s eye off the current issues. The problems with our exports are now and therefore also need to be fixed ‘now - merely devising distant fixes to current issues will just not help, because international markets once lost are extremely difficult and at times impossible to gain back. Meaning, we shouldn’t be going down trying to put Murphy’s law to test: Tomorrow, if there are no export markets there will be no problems left to solve! Today’s reality is that Pakistan’s exports are rapidly declining and this fact is not just limited to its textile exports, which form nearly two thirds of total exports, but also applies to the non-textile exports, which have registered a year-on-year decline of more than 6%.


This development becomes further worrisome when one dissects the declining trend especially in the main sector: textiles. A deep dive analysis tells us that when we compare the period July-December 2016, with the same period in 2015, it is our value added textile sector that is losing heavily while the basic commodity exports (of raw cotton) have on the contrary gained marginal ground – not a very desirable outcome by any stretch of imagination. What it essentially means is that Pakistan’s manufacturing is fast losing its competitiveness, factories are closing down and a large number of jobs are being lost – Textiles by nature and especially exports are known for being labor intensive. For anyone to believe that this decrease in any way represents a regional or global trend will be living in a fool’s paradise: During the above-mentioned period in review, Bangladesh, Vietnam and Myanmar actually registered significant increases in their respective textile made-ups exports and also textile made-ups per se - in the context of overall global textile trade - increased by nearly 2.40% during the same period. Further, over the last 7 years both India and Bangladesh grew their textile exports by 107 percent, whereas, Pakistan only a meager 7 percent. Needless to say the problem is at home and not somewhere else. With pressure on foreign exchange outflows likely to increase in the coming months – external debt repayments, firming up oil prices, rising imports and fast increasing corporate profit/dividend repatriation, the first thing that the government needs to do is to ensure that the textile package announced by it earlier in the year should get implemented without any further delay as its initial phase’s tenure in effect expired on June 30 2017 – refunds from the period are still pending. In fact it now needs to revisit solutions by engaging the stakeholders afresh to carve out moves based on real time issues, as they stand today. The government has to realize that the main issue that confronts our manufacturing is that of competitiveness (a difference of anywhere between 10% to 15% with regional competitors) and there are only three quick-fix solutions: a) devalue currency by as much or b) to see to it that the support-package practically covers this differential or c) a mix of a & b. The writer recommends the following: around 5% gradual currency devaluation (by December 2017 - $ at112); extending the applicability of announced rebates to June 30, 2018, and thereafter linking them to a firm’s retention of dollar-based export sales instead of linking to10% growth in sales (a dollar denomination will in any case mean a minimum 5% incremental increase in rupee exports); all rebates to be directly payable upon receipt of payment by the central bank into exporters’ accounts; and in addition to immediately abolish all line-loss surcharges being unfairly charged to the industry in its power bills.


As for the long term measures, a shift in the overall export strategy will be required in the following elements: a) Product diversification; b) Destination diversification; c) Skills development and education, which are primarily government’s responsibilities. Improving the quality, value, and competitiveness of Pakistani exports will require major investments in skill training and education. Significantly, Asia’s new export behemoths, China, India and Bangladesh, have equipped their populations (in both genders) with the skills and schooling that produce modern, high-valued-added exports; and last but not least) managing CPEC (China Pakistan Economic Corridor) prudently – Chinese investments for example in Vietnam have helped build its exports but have played an exact opposite role in other countries!) emphasize on increasing ease of doing business and effectively reducing cost of doing business in Pakistan. Arguably, planning for such endeavors will not be easy, as these involve some tough decision making at a time when the world is witnessing a renewed wave of protectionism. The good news though is that the future of global trade remains bright. While duly recognizing the fears of growing protectionism in developed economies, in their latest reports most global financial institutions, including the IMF and more importantly the WTO, remain confident that this phenomenon of growing protectionism will pass soon. They expect the global economy to grow by 3.4 percent and the world trade to grow by as much as 3.1 percent in 2017, far better than in 2016. The concern though is that since some long-term structural and fundamental problems to free and fair global trade still remain unresolved, the coming years are going to present some fresh and daunting challenges for smaller developing countries (such as Pakistan) striving to expand their global market share while preserving their home manufacturing and protecting their domestic markets from being flooded with dumped goods from large industrial economies. During this period we here in Pakistan will not only need to be fearful of such dangers, but also our overall trade strategy will require some quick thinking and deft handling!

Pax Sinica: 19 September, 2017 "The Nation"

With the rise of America in the 1960s, the military power and economic strength of the United States was labeled as “Pax Americana” – signifying the American peace order. Conversely, Chinese averse to be tagging themselves with heavy titles explaining their political, military or economic strength. “Pax Sinica” has never been used. Chinese scholars also avoided the terminology. Probably they did not want to terrify the world and they might have learned from the experience of Pax Americana.


Trump’s inward attempt created a vacuum for the Asia-Pacific powers overwhelmingly dominated by China to capture the opportunity. America is tightening up its exclusiveness, while China has been going through inclusiveness, going more global, and integrating regionally. This contrast is defining and outlining the American and Chinese approaches in the Asia-Pacific.


Japanese perceived order was in peril – Pax Nipponica lasted too short and quickly replaced by Pax Sinica, addressing the loopholes of both Pax Americana and Pax Nipponica. The ten-ASEAN nations also could not seize the opportunity vacated by Pax Nipponica despite their ascendancy to a great multilateral economic empire. China has been threading carefully, making more noise for America and Japan and also for other Asia-Pacific countries such as ASEAN, South Korea and India


China has gone global. It is opening up. Its economy is globally integrating the nations. Its plans are inclusive - going beyond narrow inward-looking strategies. It is adopting multiculturalism and changing home rules gradually as its multinational companies are doing international business in all most every country. In 2014, out of 500 largest global multinational companies, 95 were Chinese with a combined capital of US$ 5.8 trillion. Out of ten largest public enterprises, five were Chinese state-led enterprises including the Industrial and Commercial Bank of China (ICBC).


The present Pax Sinica also differed from China’s historical ascendency. The resurgence of the Silk Road ascendancy of President Xi Jinping contrasts with China’s ancient past. It is not supposedly identified with a single country unlike Pax Americana and Pax Nipponica, signifying a particular nation’s strength. Chinese are not creating a dividing-line between themselves and the rest of the Asians. Pax Sinica also means -Asian century. They are combining for a win-win for all. Pax Sinica is also not Chinese supremacy. It is an Asian supremacy and ascendancy.


The emerging “Sino centrism” is also combined with “Asianism” for which Japanese were washout miserably during World Wars I and II as the purpose was subjugation and not “Asian Oneness”. Chinese are great statecrafts. They would not repeat their own imperial past, neither the footprints of the Japanese, nor the imperialist maneuverings of the Americans.


Chinese would even learn from the corporate eclipse of Japanese companies and the bubble burst economy, and would prefer to share the profit among nations through trillion of dollars investment in infrastructure under the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). The process is only started when China just made half progress of US$ 11 trillion.

The contrast between Pax Nipponica and Pax Sinica is quite revealing. Japan remained isolated for six years (1945-1951), whereas China remained isolated for twenty-one years (1949-1971). Japan returned to “full correction” as prescribed by the United States. China chose its own course of action along with challenges and risks. It did change its economic course but strictly adhered to its political socialism.


Pax Nipponica as a challenger to Pax Americana faded away by the late 1980s because of the bubble-based economy syndrome. Pax Nipponica also became inevitable as there was no competition in Asia in the 1950s and 1960s. The West sympathetically tolerated Japan as a victim nation and let them to recover from their wounds. Pax Sinica, however, came out of severe competition offered by East Asian miraculous economies as well as the West.


The foundation-stone of the Chinese economy is not bubble-based. Rather it is asolid. The intellectual discourse of Pax Sinica is even greater than Pax Nipponica. China has very large and an ancient intellectual base such as Confucianism and Taoism. Japan, Korea, and all East Asian countries cannot deny such an intellectual ascendency of Chinese intellectualism and cultural traditions, which they also adopted on their lands. China appears to be teacher for mostof East Asian nations. The influence goes even beyond. Pax Nipponica and Pax Americana do not have that surplus and premium of civilization, which Pax Sinica enjoys from ancient times.


Thus, China is not creating a new ecstasy but combining the old order and its ancient traditions with new innovations and technologies given in a free market-based economy. The Sinocentric trade and treaties system has been evolving once again in the broader framework of the BRI. The Sinocentric order is thus unavoidable, certain, and inescapable in the 21st century.

Peace in Afghanistan seems a distant dream for Afghans: 15 September, 2017 "Daily Times"

“Kabul-Islamabad can’t afford to live in hostility no matter if both have one thousand differences,” are the words uttered by a seasoned Afghan journalist, Hikmat Safi, back in July 2013 soon after I entered Kabul — a densely populated city with constant security checkpoints and concentration of international and Afghan security forces.

The unfriendly ties forced this writer to explain his personal account regarding culture, life and troubled politics of Afghanistan after working over a year in Kabul. Though in the last couple of months, both estranged neighbours have been trying to mend their fraught relations with exchange of high level delegations between the two countries. The Pakistan-Afghanistan standoff has for sure prompted the common man on the street to ponder as to who would benefit if both the countries remain at loggerheads.

Islamabad and Kabul cannot afford to live in hostility because of their reliance on each other on a wide range of areas. The backdrop is of bloody clashes at Torkham and Chaman borders in June last year, and the latest in May this year, left dozens of soldiers and civilians dead and wounded on both sides. Ironically, both nations didn’t notice any third party calling for de-escalation of tension amid sporadic trading of fire at Chaman and Torkham border regions, which should be an eye-opener for both the governments that any third force tends to benefit from their tense ties.

Back in July 2013, the thorny journalism profession ultimately took me to Afghanistan — a country I long desired to visit. Though personally hailing from the South Waziristan tribal region, I visited Kabul at a time when clashes and mayhem were ruthlessly haunting the border belt. South Waziristan was once regarded a dangerous place on earth — and as the birthplace of the Taliban whose excruciating rule saw millions of people migrate to safer places of the country.

I worked in Afghanistan for over a year after I got an offer to join a Kabul based Pajhwok Afghan News — a trilingual wire service. To give myself sometime to understand Afghan politics, my assignment at Pajhwok News has made my work experience more variegated, giving me valuable insights into regional politics, the security environment, and issues touching the lives of millions of people.

Afghan leaders’ verbal diatribes against Pakistan in the wake of almost every bomb blast there gave birth to anti-Pakistan sentiments among common Afghans; though every third Afghan I spoke to lived or is still living in Pakistan. In this state of affairs, Islamabad needs hectic diplomatic efforts to reverse the tide of anti-Pakistan sentiment at government level as well as the public level. 

Based in Kabul, I closely monitored the security situation back in the tribal belt, and the region as well. My focus has been the conflict, which left thousands of children orphans; women widowed and snatched homes; rich tribal culture destroyed along with the hopes of millions.

In July 2013, I entered Afghanistan via the-then loosely manned Torkham border. It was more than a daunting challenge to work in war-battered Afghanistan — and even more so when you have Pakistani nationality — but the conflict back home has already contributed to my experience. I observed parts of Afghanistan and the tribal region of Pakistan were robbed of their beautiful culture and peace when terror forced its way there.

For a Pakistani journalist, working in Afghanistan is a risky job because a sort of intelligence war there wreaked havoc with the lives of those who have somehow say in Afghan or regional politics, but the tribal people have seen the worst. One thing I experienced during my tumultuous one year stay in Kabul was that Afghans would continue to suffer with no peace in sight because the countries involved lacked seriousness to ensure peace in the landlocked country.

For many Afghans I spoke to, pushing the Taliban out spurred optimism that their country would get a stable government, a proper system, and unprecedented peace. But their hope is marred by surging violence perpetrated by influential figures amid rampant corruption that continues to haunt them for decades now. Common Afghans initially believed that the country’s elite, jihadi commanders, political stalwarts and tribal warlords would leave no stone unturned to lay strong foundations of a new and stable Afghanistan, and heal the deep wounds of Afghan society in the backdrop of US onslaught of Afghanistan.

 

One thing I experienced during my tumultuous one year stay in Kabul was that Afghans would continue to suffer with no peace in sight because the countries involved lacked seriousness to ensure peace in the landlocked country

But, to the contrary, Afghanistan’s institutions could not be strengthened and political fragmentation of the country continues undisturbed. A sort-of intelligence war continues to play havoc with the peace of Afghanistan and tends to expand with no imminent end.

Indubitably, it was really a rich experience for me to know about the changing traits of Afghan politics. I used to wake up almost every morning to write about breaking news such as drone strikes, Improvised Explosive Device (IED) blasts, kidnappings and clashes.

It was always painful for me to write on casualties suffered by children while playing on the dusty grounds of Afghanistan. The persistent risks of explosions and attacks snatched the opportunity of natural growing-up experience from the youngsters of the country. If one of the neighbours experience violence and instability, it has direct impact on all its neighbours. The interests of Afghanistan and Pakistan are interlinked for countless reasons.

In Kabul, I direly felt that Islamabad should activate its diplomacy to improve its battered image among common Afghans, whose leaderships blame Pakistan for almost every incident. Time is ripe for intelligentsia, politicians and leaders from both the countries to workout modalities and other parameters on a long-term basis to co-exist because civilians tend to suffer on both sides if the tide of animosity is not reversed.

In Search of a Messiah: 15 September, 2017 "Daily Times"

According to the author, “Technically this book is my memoir. In essence it is a record of my perceptions of those consequential events that shaped the history of Pakistan.” He admits that since individual perceptions can vastly vary, he does not expect everyone’s complete agreement with his thoughts and arguments presented in the book. Yet he says, “No conclusion is wholly devoid of truth as no interpretation mirrors the whole truth. The book is open to divergent views”.

According to initial reviews, the author’s characteristic approach makes the story intriguing as it presents a “human-side” of Pakistan to readers abroad. While reviewers agreed that his arguments might not align with popular sentiments, he does build his case on solid reasoning.

The opening chapter of General Askari’s book sums up the political developments of the first ten years of Pakistan. When politicians were as free as their counterparts in India and had a similar opportunity to shape the destiny of Pakistan. During this period, there was no evidence to predict any military interference in politics in future. After the martyrdom of Prime Minister Liaquat Ali Khan, however, the succeeding politicians failed to deliver miserably. Thus, Pakistan had a very poor start to its political journey.

 

The book gives an opportunity to the ordinary American to understand basic facts in context of Pakistan-India relations, the lasting peace in the region, and geopolitical realities that demand a fresh outlook by the reigning powers

The following chapters then dwell on military rulers, their individual and collective blunders, and the events leading to the tragedy of the 1971 bifurcation of Pakistan, the judicial murder of civilian Prime Minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, and the fragmentation of Pakistani society amidst the religious prostitution that continues till date. The more recent history, Musharraf onwards, covers intimate details of how we reached the present sorry state of affairs where dynastic politics, oligarchy and kleptocracy have become the order of the day.

Despite all the shortcomings, the author does not seem to lose hope. A free judiciary, fearless media and a politically growing parliament are silver linings, which could potentially put Pakistan on the path that leads out of the jungle. A chapter also deals with terrorism, and another with the essentials of leadership and governance. The last chapter deals with civil-military relations and Pakistan Army, which should help a civilian reader in gaining a better understanding of the country’s military.

In view of its American readers, the book presents a picture of Pakistan that could never be perceptible in the heaps of nebulous concepts, misinformation, negative propaganda that surrounds Pakistan and its various institutions The book gives an opportunity to an ordinary American to understand basic facts in context of Pakistan-India relations, the lasting peace in the region, and geopolitical realities that demand a fresh outlook by the reigning powers.

The style reflects military training — there is no doublespeak and no grey areas. Sometime the judgment could be termed as abrupt but it is uniformly so for the soldiers and civilians alike. The theme remains compulsorily — Pakistan and its unfortunate poor people.

To quote the author, “The civilian and the military dictators have left the nation of Pakistan badly raped, traumatized and humiliated. Now only a Messiah can resuscitate her. Unfortunately, among the thousands in the arena there is not one political doctor who seems equal to the task.”

The author’s passion about the nation’s Quaid, Muhammad Ali Jinnah, is obvious and bordering on emotionalism. He traces the political history of Pakistan and the suspect growth of its institutions like judiciary, bureaucracy and police. He thinks that it is the quality of justice alone that defines the comparative status of nations, the first and the third world. The author also emphatically advocates that it is not only the judiciary but the entire judicial system that needs to be freed from the executive. He has very high hopes from the emerging media in Pakistan, which is as free as any in the world.

The chapter on ‘the friends and foes’ discusses the role of various powers in the context of regional security. He dares to express opinions, which might not be very palatable to non-Pakistani readers. The opinion is, however, as said earlier built on assumptions that cannot be cursorily dismissed as flimsy — they are food for thought.

In his religious views, he can be called a fundamentalist liberal. He thinks the Islam at the time of the Prophet (pbuh) and his four righteous successors answers all the questions as it was based on equality and justice. It was an Islam that allowed equal rights to everyone living in an Islamic country without distinction of caste, creed or colour. The founder of the nation, Jinnah, was also clear on his concept of democracy as given out by the Holy Prophet (pbuh), equal rights and justice for all the citizens. A theocratic government was never a part of Jinnah’s dreams for Pakistan. That is the interpretation the religious parties are forcing down the throats of common Pakistanis.

Whatever its merit, the book is bound to generate discussion. The author is conscious of popular perceptions that have taken roots in the absence of counter-narratives. Therefore, he thinks, “we can agree to disagree” but “It is our duty to record the truth. We owe it to our future generations”.

The Afghanistan snare: 15 September, 2017 "Daily Times"

In 1979, Pak-Afghan relations strengthened Pak-US relations by waging a conflict against the invading Soviet forces in Afghanistan. However, in 2017, Pak-Afghan relations are wearying Pak-US relations, when the US itself is embroiled in the Afghanistan quagmire.

Lately, what nudged Pakistan back into the Afghanistan snare was the attack of the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) on the Army Public School (APS) in Peshawar in December 2014. The TTP had taken refuge in Afghanistan and was attacking soft targets in Pakistan. Pakistan took two main steps. First, the country asked Kabul earnestly to take action against the TTP. This is where the bargaining position of the Kabul government improved. Second, the then COAS General Raheel Sharif visited Kabul in February 2015 carrying along the Afghan Taliban’s message for the President Ashraf Ghani that they were ready for reconciliation (or at least talks for reconciliation) with his government. This is where, though under duress, Pakistan exposed itself. It was established that Pakistan had links with the Afghan Taliban; Pakistan could persuade the Afghan Taliban to reconciliation (or even negotiations) with the Kabul government; and Pakistan’s COAS could become an emissary for messaging between the Afghan Taliban and the Kabul government. Nevertheless, this is how the famous Murree Peace Process started in 2015.

 

By masquerading themselves as genuine, the representatives of the Afghan Taliban committed a grave act of injustice to all participants, observers and the host of the Murree talks

On July 7, 2015, the first round of the Murree talks, described as the 2+2+1 was successfully held. Among the attendees were the representatives of the warring parties (the High Peace Council of the Afghan government led by the Deputy Foreign Minister Hekmat Khalil Karzai, and the representatives of the Taliban led by Mullah Abbas Durrani), the representatives of observers (the US and China) and the representatives of the host and broker (Pakistan). The objective was to facilitate an Afghan-led and Afghan-owned peace and reconciliation process. The mode adopted was to forge confidence-building measures (CBM) to evoke mutual trust, reduction of violence, and ending the Afghan conflict. The Afghan Taliban came with certain conditions (such as the complete departure of foreign troops from the Afghan soil, lifting of the UN sanctions on their leaders and releasing Taliban prisoners from Afghan jails), but the counter-offer made to them was also enticing. It was the possibility of the inclusion of the Afghan Taliban in a broad-based Kabul government, which was ready to offer governorships of certain eastern and southern provinces to them. The Murree talks were appreciated by Taliban Chief Mullah Omar in his annual Eid message and he used the word ‘legitimate’. In response, Afghan President Ghani welcomed the appreciation and said that the talks were the only way to end the Afghan conflict.

Interestingly, on July 29, 2015, the Kabul government announced that Mullah Omar had died on April 23, 2013, from tuberculosis, in Pakistan. The news was shocking for Beijing and Washington and embarrassing for Islamabad. The apparent message was that Pakistan deliberately deceived Kabul, Beijing and Washington. The underlying assumption to this assertion was that Pakistan knew about the death of Mullah Omar but kept it undisclosed owing to certain reasons. The whole Murree peace process got sabotaged, because the representatives of the Afghan Taliban who were speaking at the behest of Mullah Omar were neither sent nor led by Mullah Omar.

In principle, by masquerading themselves as genuine, the representatives of the Afghan Taliban did a grave act of injustice to all participants, observers and the host of the Murree talks. On the other hand, Pakistan claimed that, at the official level, it had no idea about Mullah Omar’s death. This point led to the other assumption. That is, Pakistan’s intelligence agencies and the army did not know about the Afghan Taliban, the message of whom was delivered to Afghan President Ghani personally by the then COAS General Raheel Sharif.

In other words, if Pakistan was not in the loop, the country’s leadership was not justified in facilitating the Murree talks. In either case of assumptions, the credibility of Pakistan hit rock-bottom. It seemed apparent that no revival of Murree talks would take place and the issue of Afghanistan would be left to Afghanistan itself.

The policy speech delivered by US President Donald Trump on August 21 this year indicated that the US government believed in the first assumption, overlooking the fact that General Raheel Sharif retired in November 2016 without fulfilling his pledge of bringing to justice those who facilitated the attack on Army Public School (APS) Peshawar.

In Afghanistan, one of the major impediments in the way of the Afghan Taliban to wield power is the Afghan Constitution. In 2013-14, through the Doha office of the Taliban in Qatar, the US asked the Taliban to participate in the 2014 Presidential elections and join the ensuing Kabul government. The Taliban were devoid of any electoral or democratic experience and they might be afraid of rejection through the electoral process. Resultantly, the Taliban refused to participate in the elections, besides declaring it un-Islamic.

The next Presidential elections will take place in July 2018, and democracy will get entrenched in Afghanistan further and the space for the Taliban will further shrink. This is the concern which might have prompted the Afghan Taliban to increase attacks on Kabul to crumble it. The Taliban have been looking for a bypass to have a say in Kabul to revive their pre-2001 monopoly on Afghanistan.

This does not seem possible, given the fact that; first, Pakistan may not host any more talks for peace in Afghanistan; second, the Afghan Taliban cannot participate in any kind of elections to earn positions in the Kabul government. Third, US President Trump has announced his policy to deal with the Afghan insurgency by sending more forces; and fourth, the next Presidential elections in Afghanistan are approaching.

In short, a decisive battle is about to take place in Afghanistan especially in its eastern and western parts, but whether or not Pakistan will be a party to it is unclear.

Paradigm shift in foreign policy?: 15 September, 2017 "Daily Times"

In a press conference held in Islamabad on September 7, Pakistan’s Foreign Minister Khawaja Asif stated that, “a new paradigm would emerge keeping in view our relations and conditions after making necessary adjustments.” Earlier, a three-day envoys conference submitted recommendations suggesting changes in foreign policy which will be placed before the National Security Committee and then will be submitted to the parliament for debate and approval.

The Foreign Minister in his press conference made it clear that in the new foreign policy paradigm, there will be no compromise on securing Pakistan’s interests; that the country will not be made a scapegoat of the failures of big powers to deal with the menace of terrorism and all possible efforts will be made to deal with the ‘image problem’ of Pakistan as “we have to correct how the world perceives us. There is a wide gulf between how we look at our sacrifices in the fight against terrorism and the way world sees it.”

Following the press conference of Foreign Minister which coincided with the proclamation of 43 page BRICS (Brazil, Russian, India, China and South Africa) declaration after the holding of BRICS summit held in the Chinese city of Xiamen on September 5 one may ask: Will there be a paradigm shift in Pakistan’s Foreign Policy? What are the interests of Pakistan which Foreign Minister in his press conference vehemently called to protect in the revamped foreign policy? What are the gaps in Pakistan’s Foreign Policy and how the country can deal with its ‘image problem’?

Certainly Pakistan is at the crossroads or what is called as a devil and a deep blue sea situation. Paradigm shift in foreign policy will not just take place because of the holding of envoy’s conference and its recommendation but it requires a qualitative change in the approach and policy of those who are perceived to be at the helm of affairs. Decades of erosion in foreign policy formulation and execution cannot be undone in a short span of time and would require substantial political will and determination first to put the house in order and second to possess enough courage and wisdom in dealing with issues which seem to have deepened Pakistan’s predicament.

Paradigm shift in foreign policy depends on four major decisions which Pakistan’s civil-military leadership must take before it is too late. First, Pakistan will continue to face external pressures and threats unless the country is economically vibrant and politically stable. Particularly, unless the economy of Pakistan is on a strong footing with gigantic exports and adequate foreign exchange reserves, the country will continue to be dependent on external borrowings and aid. A policy of self-reliance by relying on the resources of the country instead of import driven economy, external borrowings and aid will certainly turn around the fate of Pakistan and enable it to gain a respectable position at the international arena.

 

Decades of erosion in foreign policy formulation and execution cannot be undone in a short span of time, and would require substantial political will and determination; first to put the house in order, and second, to possess enough courage and wisdom in dealing with issues which seem to have deepened Pakistan’s predicament

Political stability along with good governance, rule of law and proper justice system will certainly help eradicate extremism, intolerance, militancy, violence and terrorism. No country can proceed for a dynamic foreign policy unless its domestic fault lines like social and economic backwardness, unemployment, illiteracy and irresponsible behavior of political parties on critical issues are properly dealt with.

Second, the issues which are used to isolate Pakistan in the region and in the world must be prudently addressed. If there exists a perception dubbing Pakistan as a hub of extremism and terrorism and the existence of ‘safe havens’ of terrorist groups involved in the acts of terrorism outside its borders, efforts should he made to dispel such impressions and perceptions. Pakistan’s predicament is despite claiming that it has given enormous sacrifices to deal with the menace of terrorism and more than 80,000 people have been killed since 9/11 till today in various acts of violence and terrorism, in that case why such claims are not taken seriously at the international level? Why the state authorities have not taken effective measures to eliminate the networks of banned terrorist organisations and outfits which have been mentioned in BRICS declaration? Why the National Action Plan (NAP) has failed to deweaponise the society as the display and use of weapons by non-state groups continue to challenge the writ of the state? What is required is to change the culture of Pakistan which in the last four decades is heavily influenced by extremism, intolerance, radicalisation of youths, terrorism, corruption and nepotism. Third, paradigm shift in foreign policy also requires viable policy oriented think tanks and centers involved in giving their inputs to foreign office on issues which are critical to the country’s external relations. Unfortunately, lack of professionalism seem to have permeated in those institutions which are responsible for doing serious brainstorming and discourse on foreign policy matters and their limitations tend to create a huge gap in policy formulation and implementation. Politicisation of state institutions and non-professional handling of affairs ultimately jeopardise a country’s vital interests and makes it vulnerable to external pressures and interference.

Finally, paradigm shift in Pakistan’s foreign policy can only take place when the foreign policy is proactive and not reactive in nature. Unfortunately, a major dilemma which tends to question the credibility of foreign policy matters is the lack of proper planning, vision, consistency and perseverance on the part of those who are central to the decision-making process. Proactive foreign policy is only possible when the country’s leadership is mindful of seeking political and economic stability and rid the country from the menace of extremism, violence and terrorism. These are the issues which have an adverse impact at the international level thus forming a negative image of Pakistan.

Pakistan may have its geo-political and geo-strategic significance; is a nuclear weapon state and is ranked 6th in global population but such qualifications make no sense if the country is ranked 147 out of 188 countries in Human Development Index; has low per capita income; low quality of life of people; dwindling exports huge trade gap and low foreign exchange reserves. That is the moment of truth for Pakistan and the challenge of a paradigm shift in its foreign policy.

Water scarcity; A threat: 15 September, 2017 "The Nation"

Water sustains and regulates life. Almost all the terrestrial processes require water for their successful completion. Pakistan is the world’s fourth largest consumer of water, while it stands first globally, when it comes to the water use per unit GDP. Almost all the surface water supplies of the country are used for agricultural and power generation purposes.


Agriculture, the backbone of Pakistan economy, which contributes 19.8 percent to GDP and provides employment to 42.3 % of the country’s workforce, chiefly relies on water. The water requirements of a large portion of the county’s agricultural land are fulfilled by Indus river system. The rest of the cultivated land is either rain fed, irrigated through tube wells or rodkohi system. According to agricultural statistics of Pakistan, the total irrigated area of Pakistan is 18.63 million hectares. About 77 percent of the total irrigated area belongs to Punjab, 11 percent to Sindh, 5 percent to KP and 6 percent to Baluchistan.


Among the emerging threats to the country, the most alarming is that of water scarcity. According to IMF, Pakistan is the third most water-stressed country in the world. It has crossed the water stress and scarcity lines in 1990 and 2005, respectively. Currently, the country’s per capita annual water availability stands at 1017 cubic meter which was about 1282 cubic meter in 2002. With the present pace, the gap between demand and supply will reach 83 MAF by 2025 (IMF). The Indus basin aquifer, which is the country’s largest source of agriculture water, is ranked as the world’s second most overstressed aquifer among the list of 37 largest aquifers analyzed by NASA between 2003 and 2013.


It is not only affecting agriculture but also the other sectors including power and industry. The drastic changes in the country’s hydel power, which is 30 percent of the total production, can exacerbate the situation of complicated power shortfall. The agriculture sector, which consumes 12 percent of the national power, can further be troubled by this shortfall.


Among the major reasons, which contribute to the growing water scarcity in Pakistan, is the lack of sufficient storage structures. According to a study, the country needs one major dam during each 10 years for the effective control of recurring floods and conservation of water. Unfortunately, In Pakistan, no major dam has been constructed since 1970s. Kalabagh dam, which is the need of the hour, still lies in controversy. The current annual flow through the country is 169 MAF, for which the installed capacity of major reservoirs (Tarbela and Mangla) is only 18.5 MAF. Not only the capacity, but the storage duration of 30 days is also problematic against the international standard of 120 days.


Of the other reasons contributing to water scarcity, siltation is of prime importance. The country’s major reservoirs have lost about 25% of their capacity due to heavy sedimentation. This reduction in capacity has further reinforced the wastage of water.


In recent past, climate change has gained pace which has predominantly affected Himalayan glaciers and hence, the level of water in Indus river system. It has drastically changed the rainfall pattern, which is resulting in floods and wastage of water.


Groundwater pumping is another reason which adds insult to the injury. According to Planning and Development Division, the annual groundwater pumping through the countywide 954320 tube wells is 50.21 MAF. On the contrary, annual recharge to the groundwater in Pakistan is 40-45 MAF. This discharge-recharge difference is continuously destabilizing and lowering the water table down. Our country lacks the basic framework to regulate and manage groundwater and therefore, the water table is lowering at the rate of 1-10 feet per annum without any resistance.


Due to the rapidly growing population, forests are being cut down faster and arable land is converting into urbanized land and pavements. These factors decrease soil infiltration and result in increased runoff which leaves the soil eroded and a large quantity of water is lost to floods. After the conclusion of Indus Water Treaty in 1960, India has several times violated the provisions of the treaty by initiating projects like; Wullar barrage, Kishanganga and Baghlihar dam. These projects have not only affected the water availability for agriculture but have also interfered with the power production of Pakistan. It has been reported that Kishanganga project will decrease the power production of the under construction Neelam-Jehlam hydro power project by 9 percent.


In Pakistan, majority of canals, leading water to the fields, are either unlined or poorly lined. Therefore, a large quantity of irrigation water is seeped through the bottom and banks of canals before being conveyed to the fields. The farmers in Pakistan mostly apply old and conventional irrigation methods which not only results in water wastage but also in increased growth of weeds and pests. Unlike drip and sprinkle irrigation, conventional methods over irrigate the field and decrease the application efficiency, as most of the water is lost to deep percolation, evaporation, overtopping and seepage. The field application efficiencies of different irrigation methods are: surface (60%), drip (90%) and sprinkle (75%).


It has been estimated that about 75 percent of the annual rainwater is lost to floods during the three months of monsoon rains. There are very less structures in our country to store this water. Certain structures like check dams and canal diversions can be used to save this water and increase recharge to the groundwater. Moreover, using the practice of rainwater harvesting, this water can be used later. Canal water is greatly underpriced in Pakistan and the government is recovering only one-fourth of the maintenance and operation costs from the public (IMF). Tempted by the low price of water, farmers usually over irrigate their fields. Moreover, farmers are unaware of the damages they are doing to their fields and nation through overuse of water.


The cropping system of Pakistan mostly consists of crops that have high water requirements like sugarcane, rice, maize, vegetables and beans. These crops are very sensitive to water shortage, and therefore frequently irrigated which further worsens the situation. The government must turn an attentive eye to the issue at an urgent basis because, according to PCRWR, the country may run dry by 2025. An extensive water conservation network is the need of the hour to ensure efficient and sustainable use of water. Any delay in this regard will push the country towards a catastrophe like Sana’a where the water table is 1200 meter deep.

Making BRICS out of straw: 15 September, 2017 "The Nation"

That the BRICS declaration is being regarded in Pakistan as anything more than a furtherance of US President Donald Trump’s recent remarks about Pakistan providing safe havens to militants fighting the USA in Afghanistan, is because China is one of the members of BRICS, and has indicated that it will not support Pakistan in whatever it does. The reason for such a declaration is the ‘I’ in BRICS: India, which has managed a diplomatic triumph over Pakistan by this move.


However, one of the most damaging aspects for Pakistan is that BRICS contains the alternates to USA that Pakistan was seeking, especially Russia and China. Pakistan has been seeking to build relations with other BRICS members, what with ‘B’ (Brazil) having been visited by the previous COAS, Gen Raheel Sharif, and ‘S’ (South Africa) having sent a contingent to the March 23rd parade this year. All the states which Pakistan had hoped would back its narrative against the USA have thus backed the USA. And why shouldn’t they? Especially when a fellow BRICS member, India, is constantly drumming into their heads that Pakistan is backing terrorists.


Pakistan has long predicated its foreign policy on friendship with the USA. China is also an important friendship, and it became even more important after President Trump not only castigated Pakistan, but invoked India as its main ally, in Afghanistan. With the US making open the Pakistani establishment’s backing of militant groups, it was left no option but to scramble for allies elsewhere. Those allies were not just China, but also Russia. Now even those allies have apparently decided to follow the USA.


One of the reasons why China has decided to opt for this is included in the list of organisations that the BRICS mentions Pakistan as harbouring: Islamic Movement of Turkestan. Pakistan may well be more exercised by the mention of such organisations as the Jaish-e-Muhammad and the Lashkar Taiba, but China is deeply concerned about the Turkestan organization, because it upsets its plans for Xinjiang, which is the capital of Chinese Turkestan. Incidentally, the Pakistani establishment is deeply invested in the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) which links Pakistan to Xinjiang. Pakistan seems to have been brushing under the carpet the fact that CPEC allows Pakistan to be used as part of the struggle by the Chinese establishment to absorb Xinjiang into the Chinese mainstream.


BRICS countries all have their individual reasons to wish to avoid a quarrel with the USA. More significant, none has the motive to take Pakistan’s side against the USA. That the USA might be right is not important, but it might mean that it has come around to a view of the situation that they share. It is also to be noted that the only two BRICS countries which do not have nuclear weapons, Brazil and South Africa, actually gave them up voluntarily about a quarter-century ago, when India and Pakistan were still in a race, with Pakistan not yet having declared its weapon. Brazil’s military coups preceded and paralleled Ayub Khan’s in 1958, which adds a weird significance to General Raheel’s visit.


The BRICS declaration’s criticism of Pakistan allowed it to show that it agrees with the USA on a particular point. Brazil and South Africa are respectively the most powerful states in their continents, with South America being the first stage for US interests and where it formulated the Monroe Doctrine, while Africa is where it has formed its latest Command. China has the most serious problem with the USA, because of its clash with Japan over the Spratly Islands, as well as because of North Korea’s nuclear test; but India has grown close enough to it that it may be considered to voice US interests where the USA is not present. When that task means bashing Pakistan, Modi’s India will not avoid it.


Actually, the BRICS declaration should be seen by Pakistan as the second drop of a deluge. The first was Donald Trump’s Afghan policy remarks, which apparently declared open season on the Pakistani establishment’s support of militant organisations. The BRICS Summit Declaration implied that it was all right for multilateral forums to express a view about this support. The next step, for which Pakistan should be prepared, is that India will push through declarations at other multilateral forums, this time at those where Pakistan is a member. Though Pakistan may well be able to stop India by the simple means of preventing a consensus, the knowledge of Pakistani isolation at such forums as the SCO, NAM and the Commonwealth would become well-known in diplomatic circles. It has been China so far which has prevented Jaish-e-Muhammad founder Maulana Masood Azhar from being placed on the UN list of terrorists. Maulana Masood is not so much a mujahideen leader as much an asset for the agencies for the Kashmir movement.


It is the Kashmir movement which is behind these moves. India seeks a free hand in Kashmir, where it wants to apply even harsher methods in suppressing the liberation struggle being waged there. More particularly, it wants that struggle to be described as terrorism. Pakistan has tried to resist this, with less than signal success. One reason for its failure has been its unwillingness to differ with the USA publicly on this, and its cooperation in the War on Terror. Since 9/11, all parties have been in office, including the military, and the only outcome of the support provided by all parties (including the military, including the Tehrik-e-Insaf which rules the crucial KP) has been the USA drawing closer to India.


One of the contingencies that might have made Pakistan’s switch to China nonsensical, once it moved away from India, has occurred: China and India find themselves on the same page. This has made Pakistan face some very stark choices. For example, if it wants to carry on with the US alliance, it will have to implement its agenda, the centerpiece of which will be to mend fences with India on India’s terms. That will involve ending support for the Kashmir freedom struggle, perhaps by calling it ‘terrorism’.


The policy of calling some third power against India has been shown by the BRICS Summit declaration not to work. One way out would be to accept that the aspirations of the Pakistani people cannot be fulfilled. The other is to stop looking at the USA, China, or any other power to help fulfil them. The only option left seems appealing to the Muslim world as a whole. Not the governments, which are as mired as Pakistan’s in the current set of within-box solutions, but the peoples. It is too often said that the peoples do not care, but it is too often forgotten that most Muslim peoples have their voices suppressed by dictatorial governments. The governments have a soft spot for India, which may be expected to increase now that the USA looks favourably upon India. A diplomacy designed to make Pakistani aspirations those of all Muslims would work better than the present one of trying to appease one power after another.

No flowers for the Rohingyas: 15 September, 2017 "The Nation"

Social media in recent years has proven that hate speech can be amplified multi-fold, and the case is no different in Myanmar, with the Rohingya Muslim community under fire. The case of the beleaguered people has been analysed a lot in the news and there have been many calls for local and global leaders to help them, however, the social aspect of the problem needs to be tackled. What is happening to this community has been seen on social media in lighter shades in Pakistan, with Ahmadis, Shias, and many other minorities being abused or ridiculed, though the scale of the hate and violence in Myanmar is shocking. More than 310,000 people have fled to Bangladesh in recent weeks, with more trapped on the border, amid reports of the burning of villages and extrajudicial killings.


Panzagar operates from a small downtown apartment in Yangon and is the new and fastest growing movement in Mayanmar to battle hate speech. Panzagar is a civil society organisation dedicated to countering the tide of online venom with flower power or, more accurately, flower speech. In 2013, Nay Phone Latt founded Panzagar, which means “flower speech”, in response to the rise of anti-Muslim sentiment that has spread across the nation in the past five year, to literally put flowers in people’s mouths.


Sometimes referred to as the land of tech and temples, Myanmar has seen enormous growth in Internet penetration, mobile-phone adoption and social-media usage in the past few years. Facebook has been one of the most effective ways of spreading hate with a large number of xenophobic Buddhist Facebook accounts created under pseudonyms. The comments that have been directed against the Burmese Muslim community show an extreme level of disregard for human dignity. One comment on Facebook reads, “We should kill every Muslim. No Muslims should be in Myanmar.”


90 per cent of Myanmar’s population follows Theravada Buddhism. Monkhood is deeply revered here, and beyond reproach. After 2011, many monks started to believe Myanmar’s Buddhist identity was under threat. These views are widely accepted, creating a mentality of victimhood and besiegement in the Buddhist community. Monks claim the country is at risk from “Islamisation”, echoing the attitudes of many other Buddhist nationalist leaders. Despite the absence of evidence there was widespread paranoia that the minority Muslim Rohingya population in the west of the country was, and is, attempting to carve out a separate state for themselves, and that Muslim population growth is outstripping that of Buddhists. This type of nationalism has not just devastated the Muslim community but put a dent in the reverence and respect that was reserved for the monks of Burma nationally and internationally. This is not new, this type of religiously motivated fascism is underway in India, and has a spectre in Pakistan too. The political leadership in Myanmar, in India, in Pakistan, and even in the US, is part of the problem and conforms and conflates public opinion.


A major question then, when it comes to the Internet, is what does this sudden opening up of the Internet mean for a national community like Myanmar’s that has been oppressed for decades? People get to switch from an environment of oppression to the open and chaotic online experience. The availability of absolutely free speech and the option of anonymity have caused a dramatic rise in hate speech on Facebook, where old ethnic and religious tensions are pouring forth. Because there was no political space to sort out these issues before the end of the rule of the military junta in 2011, these problems have suddenly erupted in physical and online violence. Here is a country that has been fed the news by the state for years. They haven’t been exposed to real, critical news. According to Clare Lyons of the BBC’s international charity Media Action in Myanmar “there’s so much negative portrayal of different ethnicities. And for Muslims there’s pretty much no portrayal unless it’s around the political issues.” Internet hate speech has a limited reach in rural areas where most of the violence has already erupted, but that is expected to change dramatically as access to the Internet is growing by leaps and bounds.


While the Panzagar Flower Speech campaign is a great example of Burmese reacting against hate speech and everything must be done to support such movements on social media, but hate is easier than love. And thus, freedom should have limitations if your freedom harms others. What should not be said in public to a person, should not be allowed on the internet either.


The founder of Panzagar, Nay Phone Latt, spent four years in jail for his online activism under the rule of the military. He knows that regulation of speech needs to come from the people and not from the government, and that is true for most cases. A society that cannot respect human life in public spheres like social media, cannot produce leaders who will. Laws that put Latt behind bars still exist, so the power of free speech that has been given to the people can be taken back.


And this points to a very difficult social problem. Society will not change, if political leaders do not guide the change. Leaders wont encourage change if they don’t have popular backing. Though many would love for State Councillor Aung San Suu Kyi’s mouth to be stuffed (very kindly) with flowers for the Rohingyas, she is a dud. The solution will come from building national tolerance to generate popular demand for people to demand legislation that give these Muslims citizenships. Social media can be a tool for this, but those who hold flowers may not be able to survive those who hold guns.

Shuttle diplomacy by foreign minister: 15 September, 2017 "The Nation"

After the announcement of new US policy on Afghanistan and South Asia, which envisaged a military solution of the problems in that conflict-ridden country and also indicated tough measures against Pakistan in case it did not end the alleged support for terrorist outfits, it had become imperative for Pakistan to firm up appropriate responses to the emerging situation and to safeguard its strategic interests in the region. The huddle between the civilian and military leadership unanimously took exception to the US stance – rightly so – reiterating its commitment to finding Afghan-led and Afghan-owned solution to the war in Afghanistan and rejecting the military strategy unfurled by the US. It also categorically rejected US allegations about harbouring of terrorists by Pakistan, recounting the sacrifices that the country had rendered in this regard and the indiscriminate action taken against the terrorist organizations. The COAS also took a resolute and pragmatic stand on the issue saying that now instead of Pakistan doing more it was the turn of the international community to do more. The leadership also felt the need for change in the foreign policy in conformity with the changed geo-political realities that dictated more focus on cooperation with the regional countries.


Pakistan has long held the view that war in Afghanistan could only be terminated through negotiations and the regional countries which had much bigger stake in stability in Afghanistan, were in a better position to play a decisive role in this regard. That view was dictated by the ground realities in Afghanistan and the failure of the US and NATO forces to subdue the Taliban insurgency even after sixteen years, which had forced the Obama administration to put in place a plan for drawdown of US troops in Afghanistan and eventual exit from that country after finding a negotiated solution. The reversal of that policy by Trump and opting for a military solution is surely fraught with great dangers for peace and stability in the region as the continuation of fighting in Afghanistan like in the past would also have a negative fall-out effect on the neighbouring countries, particularly Pakistan.


It was probably in the backdrop of the foregoing developments and the position firmed up by Pakistan that the foreign minister has embarked on visits to regional countries to win their support for its stance on the new situation. The results of this shuttle diplomacy so far have been very encouraging. China, which some suspected had changed its stance viv-a-viz Pakistan on the issue of terrorism as reflected in the BRICS declaration, came out with a firm commitment to stand by Pakistan quelling the fears expressed by those circles. Iran has also extended unqualified support to Pakistan in regards to resolving the conflict in Afghanistan. Turkey as usual has expressed solidarity with Pakistan on the issue and given the commitment to work with Pakistan in finding an amicable solution to the conflict in Afghanistan. All the countries also rejected the new US approach in Afghanistan, duly acknowledging the contribution made by Pakistan in the war against terrorism. It may be recalled that soon after the announcement of the new policy by President Trump, China and Russia had immediately expressed their disapproval for the war strategy which they thought would not help in resolving the conflict. These developments also constitute adequate snub for those who have been talking loudly about Pakistan’s isolation in the region.


In the meanwhile Prime Minister Abbassi has said that the contemplated punitive measures and sanctions against Pakistan by the US would prove counter-productive. His confidence stems from the fact that Pakistan presently was in a much better position than during the previous stand-offs between the two countries. It enjoyed the best ever relations with China, much improved ties with Russia and had also become member of the SCO. The initiation of CPEC was yet another big factor in boosting the confidence of the Pakistan government. In case of any harsh measures by the USA it could have the luxury of falling back on its time-tested friend China, support of big powers in the region like Russia and the central Asian states which were also desirous of using Gawadar Port and being part of the CPEC. When the foreign minister now embarks on a visit to USA, which had been deferred, he would be in a much more comfortable position to neutralize the pressure tactics likely to be employed by the USA and impressing upon the US administration the desirability of revisiting its Afghan Policy. Pakistan now is surely in a much better position to re-calibrate its relations with the USA and strongly present its case to the world community on the issue of terrorism.


In my columns I have invariably maintained that the US policy in Afghanistan has been a complete failure and it was insanity on the part of the Trump administration to re-opt for a military solution. The only way to finding an amicable solution and an honourable exit from Afghanistan for the US is possible through negotiations supported and nudged by the regional countries in which Pakistan has a pivotal role to play. No matter how powerful a country is, it cannot change the geographical realities.


If the US is really sincere in ending conflict in Afghanistan it will have to show real and honest commitment to that cause by recognizing the geo-political realities that demand a greater role for the regional countries in untangling the Afghan conundrum. Perhaps there was a greater need now to revive the Quadrilateral Initiative coinciding with gradual withdrawal of US forces because the Taliban are not going to negotiate unless the US withdraws from Afghanistan; a position that they have taken right from the beginning. Another mistake made by USA in this regard is the role that it contemplates to assign to India. That perhaps would prove to be the biggest irritant for the Taliban as well as Pakistan. Taliban regard India as an enemy as it has been siding with the Northern Alliance in their fight against Taliban. For Pakistan, the Indian involvement in Afghanistan is unacceptable as it is perceived inimical to her strategic interests in the region.

Counter extremism across the board: 12 September, 2017 "Daily Times"

A strange game is on in the region we live in. Not only intra-region players are over actively engaged in the futuristic negotiations to finalise the roadmap for their geo-political collaboration, the US also reinterpreting its recently announced most controversial foreign policy for South Asia. The new approach and methodology directly hit Pakistan despite uncountable and unmatchable sacrifices during the last four decades in particular.

President Trump’s statement has endorsed Pakistan’s general perception about the US that it never proved to be a sincere and loyal friend but a master.

Unexpectedly, Pakistan has taken the new US stance very seriously though the reaction was lame initially. The distrustful statements by the US government have done irreparable loss to the Pak-US ties that were spread over almost 70 years. After slapping once again, the US is trying to console the situation while Pakistan is more interested to find solace elsewhere. Seemingly, Pakistan has said no to ‘more slavery’, and is now looking for some strategic collaboration around its neighbourhood.

Pakistan is on a consultative process with the neighbours China, Iran and Turkey while talks with Russia on the future collaboration are in the offing. The insiders say it would be done sooner.

Pakistan’s foreign minister Khawaja Asif has successfully completed deliberations with Chinese counterpart Wang Yi in Beijing on the weekend. In a joint press conference, both countries have agreed to politically engage Afghanistan for peace in the region. Pakistan also reiterated its strong support to one-China policy on its core issues of Taiwan, Tibet, Xinjiang and South China Sea. The East Turkestan Islamic Movement (ETIM) is not only a threat to China but also to Pakistan.

The favourable statement of the Chinese Foreign Minister was that China stands with Pakistan in the changing regional and global scenario. The Chinese FM also said that China supports Pakistan in safeguarding its national sovereignty and dignity, and that the international community should recognise Pakistan’s efforts to eliminate terrorism.

 

The countries concerned should understand that financing and supporting jihadis was once the US’ strategy. It will take joint efforts and shared resources to counter the jihadi ideology

Wang’s comments in support of Pakistan come days after the BRICS summit declaration in which China — along with Brazil, Russia, India, and South Africa — had named militant groups allegedly based in Pakistan as a regional security concern and called for their patrons to be held to account.

Undoubtedly, Pakistan is on to a terrorism cleansing process and hunting terrorists in the tribal belts. Yet, it needs to have a swift series of firm actions against those living in the cities, and operating with different names and pursuing dangerous agendas. How many were the mosques turned ‘Lal Masjid’ in Islamabad after the actual Lal Masjid operation in President Gen Pervez Musharraf regime. The citizens of Islamabad are well aware of it, hope the law enforcing agencies know them too.

Surely, the right steps might have been taken then, and necessary vigilance and monitoring might be on now to limit them and their activities. The concrete results are not visible even in the federal capital that is fast becoming the hub of religious extremist groups. It seems that the residents of Islamabad believe that they are sitting on a ticking bomb, and the responsible agencies and institutions are having leisure lunch at the Margallah Hills of Islamabad.

Strangely, a cleric running a ‘madrassa’ in Islamabad is reaching out to the suburban and rural areas for taking oaths on the holy book Quran for his Tehreek-e-Haram mandated to ‘liberate’ Khana Ka’aba (the House of Allah), what to talk about wiping off the banned outfits.

On a firm and strong stance of Turkey, former Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar quite reluctantly took action against one of the components of the grown up and deep rooted Gülen movement in Pakistan by the followers of the Turkish preacher Muhammed Fethullah Gülen who is being hosted by the US for the last 19 years. In a way, the US is also housing and hosting a mastermind of the military coup that twice took place in Turkey in the recent years.

Pakistan government cancelled 413 visas of the Pak-Turk School Teachers across the country. It is said that several hundred Gülen movement supporting business are working in Pakistan. Pakistan government provided pieces of land to Pak-Turk Schools in different cities on subsidised prices on the pre-text that these schools would provide contemporary education to local children on nominal fees.

Abandoning the banned outfits is not that easy. This menace cannot be eliminated by announcing the new US foreign policy or condemning Pakistan for not doing enough. Not even the BRICS declaration would serve the objective. The concerned countries need to understand the reality that the jihadis were financed and supported by the US strategy, and it would take joint efforts, resources and time to get rid of their ideology.

Meanwhile, Pakistan also needs to genuinely address the situation. No one can believe that Pakistan lacks information and resources. Maybe the country is a little over-occupied in other helm of internal and external affairs. But, Pakistan’s will is evident to eliminate extremism from the country.

The tug of war for the vested interest in the region shall not go insane or intense. China, Turkey and Russia do understand the situation and support Pakistan. Iran would do so after the negotiations held yesterday (Monday). President Donald Trump needs to understand that changing partner in the region would serve no miraculous output. Rethink you policy once again, and support Pakistan for an across the board action against extremists.

Post-BRICS declaration Pakistan: 11 September, 2017 "The Nation"

The recent BRICS Summit of five emerging economies - Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa - in Xiamen, China, stirred quite a debate in Pakistan and India. Unlike previous BRICS summits in the organisation’s 10-year life, which hardly anyone noticed in our land, focused on domestic wrangling and airing politicians’ dirty laundry, this caught much attention in both Rawalpindi and Islamabad.


The uproar was on two clauses in the 43-page declaration - Clauses 47 and 48. Here:


Clause 47: We strongly condemn terrorist attacks resulting in death to innocent Afghan nationals. There is a need for immediate cessation of violence. We reaffirm our support to the people of Afghanistan in their efforts to achieve “Afghan-led and Afghan-owned” peace and national reconciliation, to the on-going international efforts, including the Moscow Format of consultations on Afghanistan and “Heart of Asia-Istanbul Process”, as well as multimodal connectivity projects to promote peace and stability, to the fight against terrorism and drug-threat, and to the national reconstruction efforts by Afghanistan. We support the efforts of the Afghan National Defence and Security Forces in fighting terrorist organisations.


Clause 48: We, in this regard, express concern on the security situation in the region and violence caused by the Taliban, ISIL/Daish, Al-Qaida and its affiliates including Eastern Turkistan Islamic Movement, Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, the Haqqani Network, Lashkar-e-Taiba, Jaish-e-Mohammad, TTP and Hizb-ut-Tahrir.”


The media in both Pakistan and India highlighted clauses 47 and 48 very differently. The Chinese media wanted to know from independent analysts like me how to see this in perspective. Here are three questions I received and my replies:


Question 1: What do you think of clauses 47 and 48 from the perspective of Pakistan? What influence will it have on the high-level China-Pakistan relationship?


Wali: Clause 47 deals with Afghanistan specifically. Violence and deaths in Afghanistan, usually attributed to Rawalpindi-supported Afghan Taliban, which Pakistan denies, have been singled out as the most significant issue. The BRICS declaration is clearly supporting the Afghan national defence and security forces. This is a big message to all perpetrators that violence needs to stop and global community would not accept it any more.


Another significance is that BRICS’ call is going beyond the recently restarted Quadrilateral Coordination Group (QCG) process (after SCO communiqué in June in Astana Summit), which includes China, US, Afghanistan and Pakistan, and bringing in India in the ambit through Heart of Asia-Istanbul Process framework. Pakistan’s security establishment may be uneasy on expanding the ambit to Heart of Asia-Istanbul Process.


BRICS countries, particularly China, need a peaceful and stable Afghanistan to link it with Belt and Road Initiative. Exactly a year ago, on 8 September, first cargo train from China arrived in Afghanistan’s Hairatan port in northern Balkh province.


Back in 2016 I wrote: it’s time for Pakistan to engage with neighbours on an economic front as their and our interests overlap in trade. My own prediction is that whether some stakeholders like it or not, it’s only a matter of time that our ties with neighbours are going to get better – whether we choose to, or we are made to – under global or Chinese compulsion. Once rivalries are put behind, the region will abound with massive economic opportunity.’


The China and global push I mentioned then, is now visible.


Pakistan’s civil and military leadership is trying to be on the page regarding Afghanistan but it may take time for their divergent perspectives to converge on one point. In the meantime, Chinese leadership will continue to exert pressure.


Clause 48 is quite serious - both in terms of timing and venue.


At the last BRICS summit in Goa, India, China refused to allow use of wording such as cross-border terrorism in the BRICS declaration. China is also putting a technical hold until 2 November on UNSC resolution naming JeM and its chief Azhar Masood as global terrorists. More recently, when US President Trump announced his new Afghanistan policy last month and blamed Pakistan for harbouring terrorists on its soil, China came to Pakistan’s defence.


China has been privately pushing Pakistan to mend its ways, apparently for a year or so, implying that keeping technical hold on UNSC resolution may not be possible much longer. Although in its public stance, China is still defending the Pakistan case. When after the BRICS declaration, China’s foreign ministry spokesperson was asked if BRICS declaration of naming JeM would be carried to UNSC resolution as well, the question was dodged.


China has played its cards very well. It didn’t declare HQN, JeM, LeT or their ilk in BRICS Goa declaration on Indian soil so China is not seen bending under Indian pressure. It also didn’t support Trump’s call so it’s not seen lending support to the US, whose supremacy China is challenging both in economy and world influence. It chose a Chinese city Xiamen, the BRICS venue, to make a declaration on how China wants to fix the regional troubles.


Before President Xi Jinping went with full speed at BRICS in Xiamen, he made sure that China’s border standoff with India at Doklam pass was resolved amicably. Xi is eyeing the next meeting of of the Communist Party for a second five-year term as President. The 19th National Congress is due on 18 October where major leadership reshuffle is expected.


The inclusion of TTP among terror groups is to give Pakistan some face-saving as the victim of TTP violence is Pakistan’s civilian population and security forces.


Question 2: Has Pakistan made any protest to BRICS countries, including China on causes 47, 48?


Wali: What I know so far is that Defence Minister Khurram Dastgir-Khan has rejected the BRICS declaration. After appearing before National Assembly Standing Committee on Defence, Khan denied Pakistan had safe terror havens. Khan’s statement was unnecessary as BRICS declaration did not mention either Pakistan or terrorist safe havens.


On the contrary, Foreign Minister Khawaja Asif in a Geo TV program said that Pakistan has to make a clean break from its past - which is an admission that it did support terror groups.


Asif said that he doesn’t get why people are surprised over the BRICS terrorist list. ‘These organisations are also banned in Pakistan. During Eidul Azha, specific instructions were issued by Ministry of Interior that no animal hides should be given to these banned organisations.’


Apparently this mixed messaging is to appease both the doves and hawks among the stakeholders - or perhaps to confuse the masses.


Question 3: What impact will it have on the flagship project of China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) and Belt & Road (BRI) cooperation?


Wali: CPEC and BRI projects will remain unaffected. China’s civil and military leadership is in constant touch with their Pakistan counterparts.


I imagine that China would have consulted Pakistani leadership at the highest level before going ahead with the BRICS declaration as it’s in China’s DNA to act very cautiously.


China has also included both India and Pakistan as full members in SCO because it’s the regional peace and prosperity that China is aiming at from both SCO and BRICS platforms.


Evaluating our foreign policy: 11 September, 2017 "The Nation"

Padelford and Lincoln define foreign policy as: “the key element in the process by which a state translates its broadly conceived goals and interests into concrete course of action to attain these objectives and preserve interests”. Thus, Foreign policy is a set of rules that guides the realization of one state’s goals in the international system. These goals are characterized by national interest. So, it is the national interest that derives the foreign policy of a country. In other words, foreign policy is the maximization of national interest at global level. In order to analyse foreign policy of a country we need a critical evaluation of her national interests and objectives. This article endeavours to evaluate Pakistan’s foreign policy with particular reference to USA.


There are many factors that determine foreign policy of a country. It is impossible to evaluate each one of them in a brief article. However, most important and critical one is the rationality that guides the behaviour of states in the formulation, implementation and realization of foreign policy objectives. However, a retrospective look reveals that Pakistan has failed to rationally materialize her foreign policy objectives. In Pakistan, a reactive, short-term, and emotional decision making has overtaken the arena of a proactive, long-term, and rational foreign policy making. For example, Pakistan’s relations with its immediate neighbours, excluding only China, have been strained in the recent past. In addition to that, recent US bashing of Pakistan’s role against war on terror is a manifestation of foreign policy failure of the country. Had our diplomats and foreign office been rationally and proactively played their due role, the US’ Asia strategy would have had different dimensions.


When all this had happened, a consensus was developed in Pakistan against the American accusations. The country had a befitting response rejecting all the unrealistic US allegations. The Foreign Minister of Pakistan has expressed his intentions for a “paradigm shift” in foreign policy of the country. Is it a realistic position which Pakistan is going to adopt? Is the confrontation with US in the best national interest of Pakistan?


Obviously, the answer is no. The confrontation would only aggravate the prevailing complex regional problems. First, the actors are different but the script of criticism is the same as we have heard time and again. It is Pakistan’s diplomatic failure that it couldn’t propagate her view of the Afghan war in the US, let alone at global level. Had Pakistan properly addressed the US concerns and propagated its own narrative of war, the outcome would have totally different.


Second, Pakistan and USA are decade long allies. Adopting a policy of confrontation would not benefit any one of them. For US, it would exacerbate the Afghan problem. And for Pakistan, it would create a vacuum for its enemy to fill. Third, in case of a collision, a game changer project that Pakistan is enthusiastically working upon (CPEC), would be under severe threat. In that scenario, Pakistan’s economic survival will be at stake. Then it will be in no position to achieve its foreign policy objectives. Fourth, no other country will fill the vacuum created by USA in Pakistan’s strategic chess board. So, the policy of confrontation is neither in Pakistan’s national interest nor rational.


As far as the resolution is concerned, negotiations are the best possible solution to resolve this impasse. First, USA should not blame Pakistan for her policy failures in the Afghan war. Instead, she must acknowledge Pakistan’s efforts against war on terror. The US led war on terror has incurred unbelievable collateral damage and a bad name to Pakistan. However, Pakistan has sacrificed thousands of soldiers, men, women and children to get rid of this menace. Pakistan is the only country which has overcome the monster of terrorism in such a short span of time. US must acknowledge and respect these time tested efforts of Pakistan. Also, United States must address Pakistan’s grievances on her new South Asia strategy. A constructive diplomatic engagement would serve the purpose. Second, US should not get her opinion hijacked by anti-Pakistan lobby. The former should realistically evaluate Pakistan’s role as her ally. Lastly, with the Russian resurgence in Afghanistan, US should be cognizant that Pakistan’s support is an imperative for her victory in afghan war. The unfolding regional changes in Afghanistan demand a convergence of US interests with Pakistan. So, US should correspondingly adopt her foreign policy goals.


First, Russian resurgence in the region has forced United States to re-evaluate her Afghanistan policy. This has forced US to prolong her military presence in Afghanistan. Because, US withdrawal from Afghanistan would mean handing it over to Russia. Second, Indo-china strategic competition in the region has opened up new avenues for realignments. Therefore, a convergence of interests has bonded Pakistan, China and resurgent Russia in a triangle on the one hand and US, India, and Japan on the other. While addressing a news conference on the conclusion of a three-day envoys’ conference in Islamabad on 7th Sep., the Foreign Minister Khawaja Asif said that “unprecedented geopolitical changes are taking place in the world.” He further said, “We have to quickly adjust our direction. We need to review these situations” and suggested a “paradigm shift” in foreign policy of Pakistan. In these circumstances how Pakistan should redesign and readjust her foreign policy?


First, Pakistan should engage in a constructive dialogue with USA. So that both the countries can address each other’s grievances in order to minimize any possibility of confrontation. Second, Pakistan should skilfully construct and propagate her narrative of war against terror. It can be made possible only by activating diplomatic means of the country. A changed global opinion, in favour of Pakistan, would serve in the best national interest of the country. Third, Pakistan should not rely on any one of the super powers. Instead, given geostrategic importance, Pakistan should adopt a holistic, proactive and long-term foreign policy. In this regard two prong strategy may be adopted. One is, friendly relations with immediate neighbours. Particularly, in this domain, Pakistan must endeavour to get Afghanistan on its side. Second, Pakistan should also consult with the countries that have unanimity of views with Pakistan on the Afghan war. These include Russia, China, Iran, and Turkey. Pakistan should manage their perception regarding Pakistan’s role in the region with special reference to war on terror. Yesterday, Foreign Minister of Pakistan held a bilateral dialogue with his Chinese counterpart. Both discussed post-Trump regional and global issues. They had unanimity of views regarding the prevailing strategic environment in the region. It is a right step in the right direction, more need to follow. Fourth, Pakistan should simultaneously concentrate on both domestic and foreign policies. Foreign policy goals must not shift the country’s focus away from domestic policies. A consensus in political, economic, and social realm is need of the hour.


In order to conclude, a changing geostrategic environment has provided Pakistan with an opportunity to re-evaluate and reformulate her foreign policy. As described earlier, regional and global realignments suggest a holistic, proactive, and long-term foreign policy. This is the way forward to maximize Pakistan’s national interest at global level.

Population census 2017: 05 September, 2017 "Business Recorder"

The massive undertaking of the Population Census has finally been completed after a big gap of nineteen years. Thanks are due to the Pakistan Bureau of Statistics, to the hundreds of thousands of enumerators and army personnel who performed the task diligently and without any delays. In particular, the Census Commissioner must be recognized for having managed the process well. 

Given the big gap between the two censuses of 1998 and 2017 respectively there was inevitably some uncertainty about the size and distribution of Pakistan’s population. There were bound to be some surprises. During the intervening years the country had witnessed relatively slow economic growth, interspersed with a few years of fast growth. Different regions of the country had shown substantial variation in performance. This was bound to be reflected in the pattern of increase and movement of the people within the country. 

The summary provisional results have just been released. There are, in fact, many surprises in the estimates, some of which are discussed below. It would, however, have been appropriate if detailed explanatory notes had been presented along with the results. 

Issues 

The first basic question relates to the census methodology. There are two approaches to census enumeration. The first is the de-jure approach in which persons are counted at their usual place of residence. The second is the de-facto approach, in which persons are counted where they are found on the census date. 

The 1998 Census applied both the approaches simultaneously during enumeration. However, the data was tabulated and published on de-jure basis for comparability with the previous censuses. 

The Census Commissioner has indicated that the results of the 2017 Census are based on application of the de-facto approach. This could create a serious problem in analysis of trends since 1998. The provisional results may need to be modified by reverting to the de-jure approach to estimation, as was done in the 1998 Census. 

The second question relates to the definition of ‘urban area’. The approach adopted is based on the list of urban areas notified by the Provincial Governments. As such the areas covered by metropolitan corporations, municipal corporations, municipal committees, town committees and cantonments are treated as urban. This is consistent with the definition of urban areas used in the 1998 population census. However, it may have led to some understatement of the size of urban population. 

Beyond the above definitions and approaches, the explanatory notes to the 2017 Census estimates should clarify the definitions of ‘household’ and, ‘place of usual residence’. Also given the large number of refugees, where they are located in the Census is of some importance. Apparently, Afghan refugees and other aliens have been counted in the census process and allocated on the basis of their location at the time of enumeration. It is not clear, however, as to how Temporarily Displaced Persons (TDPs) have been treated. Perhaps in this case the de-jure approach ought to have been adopted. Also, there is a case for separately presenting the number of refugees and TDPs by province. 

The final issue relates to the role of different governments in the undertaking of a census. According to the Constitution of Pakistan, census is part of the Federal Legislative List – Part-II. As such, decisions regarding the census have to be taken by the Council of Common Interests (CCI), which has been the case. The question is the extent to which Provincial Governments should actually have been involved in the conduct of the census. The explanatory note should also clarify in some detail the role that was actually played by these governments. The CCI will also have to formulate a policy of resolving dissent on the estimates from any province, Fata or the Islamabad Capital territory. 

Some of the major findings from the 2017 Population Census are described below. 

Population 

The provisional results indicate that the population of Pakistan has reached 207.8 million. Agencies like the UNFPA and the World Bank had estimated the population at 193 million in 2016. The Annual Plan for 2017-18, prepared by the Planning Commission, had projected the population at 198.4 million, almost 9.4 million less than the new census estimate. Interestingly, the only agency which predicted a population above 200 million in 2016 was the CIA of the US. 

Pakistan has been ranked as the sixth largest country in terms of population. Brazil, with a population of 211.2 million, is just ahead of Pakistan. The gap is small at 3.4 million. With a higher growth rate, Pakistan could catch up in the next few years. We are doing well in at least one ranking. 

The higher population implies that Pakistan is now an even more ‘water stressed’ country. Also, there is a danger of the forest area of the country being depleted at an even faster rate. The expansion of urban areas could also reduce the availability of prime agricultural land for cultivation of crops at the periphery of cities, especially in Punjab. 

Rate of population growth 

The most common prior estimate of the population growth rate of Pakistan was 2.1 percent per annum. The latest Annual Plan assumed an even lower growth rate of 1.9 percent. The growth rate revealed for the period, 1998 to 2017, is significantly higher at 2.4 percent. This is perhaps one of the most worrisome outcomes of the census. It has fallen only marginally by 0.2 percentage points in relation to the last inter-censal growth rate from 1981 to 1998. 

The growth rate is also significantly higher than the underlying natural growth rate revealed by the various Demographic Surveys in Pakistan. Perhaps one of the reasons is that the number of refugees and aliens in Pakistan was understated earlier. If their number has increased by say 3 million between 1998 and 2017, especially with the exodus from Afghanistan after 2001, then this alone raises the growth rate by more than 0.1 percentage point. Also, there is the possibility of some overstatement by groups of respondents who know that public resources, government employment, political representation, etc., are largely distributed on the basis of population. 

A comparison of the population growth rate with other South Asian and/or Muslim countries reveals the magnitude of the problem. Bangladesh, India and Nepal have a substantially lower growth rate at close to 1.4 percent, while Sri Lanka has an even smaller growth rate of only 0.7 percent, between 1998 and 2016. Large Muslim countries also have lower growth rates, ranging from 1.3 percent in the case of Indonesia to 1.9 percent in Egypt. 

The central and most fundamental message is that Pakistan has failed to arrest the pace of population growth. We are not far from the ‘Malthusian population trap’ according to which the rate of population growth eventually outpaces the rate of increase in food production. Between 1981 and 1998, food production per capita grew by 1.6 percent per annum. In the latest inter-census period, it has fallen to below 0.9 percent per annum. It is not surprising that nutrition levels have fallen in the lower quintiles of the population. 

Another way of highlighting the problem of the population explosion in Pakistan is that if the present rate of growth continues, the population will nearly double to 400 million by 2050. Our children could grow up to find themselves in a world of shortages and large megacities characterized by excessive pollution and congestion. Needless to say, population control must now rank as one of the most important objectives of our policies and programmes. 

The next article will focus on the results of the census regarding the sex ratio, share of urban population, growth of Provinces and cities and the trend in household size. The implications of these magnitudes will be highlighted. 

Making QCG work: 05 September, 2017 "The Nation"

Pakistan was given the first taste of Trump’s Afghan policy with a cut of $255 million from the promised military aid of $1.1 billion. According to the State Department notification to the US Congress, $255 million would be put into an escrow account that Pakistan could only access once results begin to show that terrorism in Afghanistan no more carries Pakistan’s footprints. In equal measures a meeting was held, last week, between the US ambassador to Pakistan, David Hale and Pakistan’s National Security Advisor, Lt. General (r) Nasir Janjua. Hale told Janjua that Trump’s policy regarding Afghanistan had been misinterpreted and that it had both the military and political solution to the Afghan crisis. Hale further informed that the US was considering reviving the Quadretieral Coordination Group (QCG) that comprises Pakistan, China, Afghanistan and the US. According to the NSA official statement, the US was also considering restoring the `six-plus-one process` on Afghanistan. This process involved the US, Russia, China, India, Pakistan and Iran and the seventh one being Afghanistan. The revival of these groups according to Hale will give Pakistan a lead role in the resolution of Afghan crisis.

At the heart of the US-Pakistan troubled relations is the issue of trust deficit that has never been overcome. Pakistan felt “deeply hurt” when the Trump administration insisted that the Afghan war is getting messier because of Pakistan’s support for the Afghan Taliban. In the context of Pakistan’s effort to eliminate terrorists in different military operation, the blame seems out of context. Pakistan is desirous that the US appreciates its seriousness about fighting terrorism. The allegation that Pakistan is still in control of the good terrorists leaves a bad taste in the mouth of Pakistani generals who had seen their soldiers, almost 6,000, fallen to terror related activities. The Pakistan Army Public School incident did not happen because the terrorists were hungry of Pakistanis blood. It happened in revenge of the Pakistan army’s initiative to cleanse its house of the rogue elements. The Taliban that the Pakistanis are accused of harbouring, over the years, have grown strong because of their ties with the outer world especially the Arabs, leaving little leverage with Pakistan to influence them. In fact, the Taliban are in contact with China and Russia alike. Their contact with Iran is also not hidden. Therefore in the regional context, Pakistan is not the only country holding sway over the Taliban, there are, as many entities pulling at the group’s reign. In this paradigm where the entire region is engaged in the Afghan theatre, accusing only Pakistan of the US failure is not a right approach.

Notwithstanding the suspension of a part of military assistance to Pakistan, the decision to revive peace process sounds hopeful. However, for the peace process to succeed it should have a clear mandate with a full political backing.

The problem is that ever since the formation of the QCG, in January 2016, the group has been dormant most of the time. The objective of the group was to bring the Taliban to the negotiation table. Unfortunately, the group members had no synchronisation of purpose among themselves. Pakistan had been expected to play a larger than life role, with a perception held both by the Afghan government and the US that the Taliban would act docile on Pakistan’s instruction. Pakistan may not have that kind of influence on the Taliban. In the case of China, the Taliban wanted it to serve as a mediator between them and the US and the Afghan government, but the presence of the US raises barriers for China to assert forcefully. China has backed out since. Another streak of division within the group was about suspicion over Pakistan’s dubious role in dealing with the Taliban.

Before the QCG is made operative to kick start a new peace process in Afghanistan, it is important that vision about Afghanistan’s future is crafted with all the regional stakeholders taken in the loop. The Trump policy has not discussed what role Russia, China, and Iran should play to help end the war. Giving India the leeway to contribute in the infrastructure development has only added to Pakistan’s anxiety because India’s presence at both the eastern and the western border would stretch Pakistan’s military resources. This could potentially result in the formation of alternative measures to keep safe.

Afghanistan is a hard country surrounded by ambitious neighbours and internally weakened by the warlords that the foreign missions had failed to sort out. Places, where the Taliban are in power, are the one where the warlords are resented. The elimination of warlords, who are wolves to the country require an inward looking decision-making process that includes the traditional apparatus of governance. So far the rented democracy run by handpicked Afghan leader enjoy no public support. Trump’s policy makers may have issued a warning to the Afghan government to deliver; it would not necessarily translate into action unless a set-up rooted in the Afghan political culture is designed.

In this complicated political and geostrategic situation it becomes easier for the militants to exploit the vacuum left by the unproductive authority in Kabul and the US that for the last 16 years is still groping to find the right solution to the Afghan crisis.

Job growth and employability under CPEC: 28 August, 2017 "Daily Times"

The China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) has provided ample opportunities to take benefit of economic activities which are taking place across Pakistan. Apart from many avenues and opportunities, Pakistan can benefit from its abundant supply of cheap labour, which is a competitive advantage of the country. This can help Pakistan to reduce its current unemployment rate (which is officially at 5.9 percent). Thirty three (33) out of forty eight (48) Asian countries are performing well based on employment indicators. If we consider forecasted the values of the unemployment rate for the upcoming quarters, as well as the next few quarters of 2018, a rise is forecasted of 0.20 percentage points. Thus, the expected forecasted unemployment rate will increase from 5.9 percent to 6.1 percent. It will further deteriorate the employment ranking of Pakistan from the 33rd to the 43rd position in Asia (with calculations based on existing unemployment rates in Asia). This scenario shows that unemployment in Pakistan is becoming more severe. Each year a large number of students are graduating from higher education institutions: resulting in extensive competition for a limited number of jobs, thereafter leading to high unemployment.

There is a dearth of scientific studies that statistically show how CPEC can contribute towards reducing unemployment and boosting job growth via different channels. However; there is consensus among the researchers and government officials that CPEC can increase employment opportunities and give a boost to the overall economic growth rate of the country. Individual researchers have estimated that potential job creation under different CPEC projects varies from 2,000,000 jobs under special economic zones (SEZs) to 7,000,000 direct jobs under all projects CPEC (CPEC-CoE).

In spite of challenges and lack of preparedness, the Corridor still has a lot of untapped potential, and can contribute to the economy of Pakistan, including job opportunities. However; how do we extract the benefits of CPEC in order to boost employment opportunities and accelerate economic growth in the country? This is a question of central importance. If this question is properly investigated and answered in feasible policy framework, it can help reducing unemployment significantly.

Unfortunately, there is no public or private organization in Pakistan that can create an ideal equilibrium between industry - where jobs are created - and universities - which majorly provide supply of (at times, skilled) labour to the industry. This deficiency causes a specific form of unemployment where graduates do not find jobs because their skills and competence do not matched with the industry requirements. In order to overcome the problem of unemployment and to maximize benefits from CPEC in terms of jobs creation, initially an in-depth discussion (in different rounds) with panel experts such as government representatives of CPEC cell, official representative of economic zones, industry experts (who are involved under various CPEC projects), economists having good knowledge of CPEC and local business community members (representative of chamber of commerce) and vice chancellors of general, engineering and medical universities is of the utmost importance. This discussion can be helpful to identify what kind of labour supply is required to get optimize all possible employment opportunities under all the CPEC projects. Their opinions can also be helpful for the VCs to mould existing academic programs or introduce new programs - or short, specialized diplomas - and courses to fill the industry-academia knowledge gap.

 

Unfortunately, there is no public or private organisation in Pakistan that can create an ideal equilibrium between industry — where jobs are created — and universities — which majorly provide supply of (at times, skilled) labour to the industry

This is the easiest and shortest route to obtain the expert opinion of the panel members to set directions and to train and educate our graduates according to demands of the market and of the employee’s functional environment; otherwise we may lose a big opportunity. In long run, the government can (and should) establish an institution to effectively communicate market demand for graduates with specialized technical skills to educational institutes, including technical colleges and vocational institutes. This exercise may be beneficial to increase employability of Pakistani graduates in various projects taking place under the auspices of CPEC.

Kashmir after Indo-US strategic ties: 28 August, 2017 "Daily Times"

The line of demarcation between neoconservatives and neoliberals in the United States is thinner than some people realise. In terms of interventionist politics and foreign policy; support for the ramifications of globalisation, some of which are the corporatisation of agriculture and structural adjustment programmes in the developing world; and being harbingers of peace through preemptive strikes, the two have much in common.

Subsequent to the disintegration of the Soviet Union in 1989-1990, India lost its powerful ally. India’s relations with the US reeked of distrust and paranoia at that time. This worsened when senior officials in the first Clinton administration questioned the legality of the status of Kashmir as apart of the Indian Union. The non-proliferation agenda of the US in South Asia actively undermined India’s proliferation strategy in the early and mid-1990s.

 

US strategic ties with New Delhi were further consolidated in the wake of 11 September 2001, when the links between militant, insurgent groups and Pakistan’s military and militia forces were underscored

Washington’s agenda was propelled by the fear that South Asia had burgeoning potential for a nuclear war in the future (see “Prepared Statement by John H. Kelly, assistant secretary for Near Eastern and South Asian Affairs before Sub-committee on Asian and Pacific Affairs, House Foreign Affairs Committee”). Pakistan’s policy of abetting insurgents in Kashmir and Afghanistan led to its political insularity and seemingly legitimised India’s proactive approach. The US adopted the policy of persuading both India and Pakistan to actively participate in the non-proliferation regime by agreeing to comply with the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) and to an interim cap on fissile-material production (“Interview with Strobe Talbott,” The Hindu, 14January 2000).

Washington’s political volte face became apparent when it explicitly demanded that Islamabad withdraw from occupied Indian positions and maintain the legitimacy of the Line of Control (LoC) in Kashmir. It was implicit in this demand that it saw Pakistan as the egregious aggressor. In his construction of Pakistan and Afghanistan, President Trump has reduced the two countries to safe havens for terrorists. Although Trump would have us believe that his government has no intention of telling Afghans how to run their country, military aid, in any way, shape, or form, always comes with strings attached.

India took recourse to limited conventional war under nuclear conditions, prior to President Clinton’s March 2000 visit to New Delhi. At this point in time, proliferation was relegated to the background in Indo-US relations.

The Kashmir issue further receded to the background during the Bush administration. The neo-conservatism that the administration zeroed in, on India as a country, in the Asia-Pacific region would offset China’s burgeoning economy, which I see as an attempt to reconstruct the cold-war paradigm (‘US-South Asia Relations under Bush’ 2001). President Trump’s avowed support for further building ties with India in order to enhance its economic and military dominance in the Indo-Pacific region gives the Modi government and its ultra right-wing Hindutva agenda a pat on the back.

US strategic ties with New Delhi were further consolidated in the wake of 11 September 2001, when the links between militant, insurgent groups and Pakistan’s military and militia forces were underscored. As one of the consequences of the decision of the Bush administration to eliminate Al-Qaeda and its supporters in Afghanistan, Pakistan’s General Pervez Musharraf found himself with no option but to sever ties with the Taliban. Following this drastically changed policy decision to withdraw political and military support from the Al-Qaeda and the Taliban, Islamabad found itself unable to draw a clear line of distinction between ‘terrorists’ in Afghanistan and ‘freedom fighters’ in Kashmir. Islamabad’s quandary proved New Delhi’s Trump card.

New Delhi’s strategy was validated by US military operations in Afghanistan, and the deployment of US forces in and around Pakistan to restrain Pakistani aggression. India was assured by the US that it would stall any attempt by Pakistan to extend the Kashmir dispute beyond local borders, which might disrupt its operations against the Al-Qaeda and the Taliban. Also, deployment of the US military in Pakistani air bases strengthened New Delhi’s confidence that Islamabad would hesitate to initiate nuclear weapons use. The result of India’s policy of coercive diplomacy was that the Musharraf regime was pressured by the US to take strict military action against the mercenary and militant groups that were bolstering the insurgency in Kashmir (PBS interview with US Under-secretary of State, Richard Armitage, 30 August 2002).

Regardless of the possibility of nuclear restraint in South Asia, a resolution of the Kashmir dispute and insistence on accountability for human rights violations through transitional justice mechanisms would put a monkey wrench in the drive in both countries to beef up their nuclear arsenals. It would also dampen the belligerence of an interventionist American foreign policy.

Pakistan Census 2017 and right questions to ask: 28 August, 2017 "Daily Times"

The provisional results for Pakistan’s sixth population census, carried out in 2017,are out! Some significant takeouts from the Census are that Pakistan’s men are more than women; that there are 105 men to 100 women. Moreover, Sindh is the most urbanised province having 50.02 percent urban population. This census is very important for Pakistan: its results will impact the provinces’ financial share in the National Finance Commission award and in provincial job quotas. It will be responsible for redrawing battle lines or, in simple words,redistricting electoral constituencies for upcoming general elections of Pakistan. Census 2017 results are already generating heated debates. They are likely to remain doing so for a long time to come.

Census data is government-collected data. Notwithstanding right of logical debates, there is a difference between veracity of numbers suggesting 1 in 5 women advocating use of a particular fairness cream for miraculous results, and government census numbers for population increase over past 19 years. We have every right to roll our eyes over fairness cream statistics, but the attention and emotion is quite different when we question that Pakistan’s population ballooned 57 percent from last 1998 census. The difference is that the later claim

does not come from a private company but a formal government. Statistics gets its name from the discussions of state, called ‘statisticum collegium’ in Latin. The aim has been to better measure the population to better serve it. That is why we need governments conducting surveys and generating numbers, drawing trends and making policies based on them. But we need to move beyond blindly accepting or rejecting any statistics, or even their offered analyses and official interpretations. We all need to learn the skill to spot bad numbers.

Numbers can make us wary and skeptical, but one should always be able to differentiate between reliable and unreliable numbers. This is all about swimming in huge pool of big data. Large statistics look formidable and impressive, and most of the world’s population is in equal awe and fear of numbers. Scientists and policy makers throw averages and other numerical quantifiers at us, because we cannot deconstruct them so we blindly accept them. This happens due to quantification bias:which is the natural human preference of measurable over immeasurable. But the fact is that numbers can lie, and more often, they do. The climate change debate is a clear example of manipulation of numbers by people denying objectively measurable physical data. Now how can a simpleton understand if the census, or any big data results for that matter, are true or not?

 

Numbers can make us wary and skeptical, but one should always be able to differentiate between reliable and unreliable numbers. Large statistics look formidable and impressive, but the fact is that numbers can lie, and more often, they do

Remember! Data is not important, facts are important. They convey realities. For example, data tells us that number of men is more than women; a fact is that around 1.2 million female foetuses were aborted between 2000 and 2014, and that the man to women ratio of 1.05 for that period is a genuine statistic. Is this numerical proof that Pakistan’s strong preference for sons is a fact?

In order to understand the census, or any big data findings, we need to ask a few fundamental questions. The list can be longer but some basics need to be always there. First question should be “How was the data collected”?

In case of Pakistan’s census we know that Pakistan Bureau of statistics (PBS) was responsible for the exercise. PBS has collected data manually while using Optical Character Recognition (OCR) technology for conversion in machine readable date. OCR is not extremely accurate and the data was thus also double-checked manually by the data operators before conversion to machine readable format. Manual collection means that at many occasions the data was orally collected and filled into forms by the teams. This methodology can create bias in data. How was this bias accounted for? And how much of the data been affected by it needs to be questioned?

The second question that needs to be asked is “how is the data being communicated?”

They say devil is in the details, and it usually is. We have been presented the larger trends like Sindh is more urbanised, or Islamabad’s rate of urbanisation has stalled. This is selective communication of the census data by the media. It is not very wise to draw conclusions from this alone. The axes are everything; once you change the scale, you can change the story.

Lastly, in the list of non-exhaustive questions to spot bad numbers is “Where do I see myself in this data”. This is a very interesting aspect of data. This shows that the data is representative and is not skewed or missed certain segment of the population, that is, you.It may not be applicable readily to your immediate self, but you should be able to relate to the data. If you are an above 30, married female, try finding out how many of the females like you filled in the specific form. You may be able to see a trend that you can relate to.

Whether it is census data or any other big data, being a layman shouldn’t stop anyone from differentiating between good and bad data. Training one’s self by verifying the evidence behind big claims is the key. Evidence-based thinking is not only required in assessing big data, but for evaluating every aspect of life.

Donald Trump's desperate surge: 28 August, 2017 "Daily Times"

curity Forces have 370,000 troops and police. Between 2015 and 2016, 19 Americans were killed in action.

After the imperialist aggression in 2001, there has been a harrowing devastation of the already traumatised Afghanistan masses. The US puppet regime cannot expand its writ much beyond Kabul and the Taliban keep attacking but cannot return to power. Al-Qaeda still lurks in the shadows. The Islamic State is gaining ground in some regions. All kinds of power brokers jockey for their share of the lucrative opium trade that continues to reach record levels, in this stalemate. The imperialists have been looking for an exit strategy for at least a decade.

 

A specially appointed congressional committee on Afghanistan has reported that the proportion of the country under government control had fallen during the 12 months from 72 percent to 57 percent, and 6,785 Afghan troops were killed with another 11,777 wounded

PJ Crowley, a former US Assistant Secretary of State, commented on Trump’s speech and said, “The Afghan war is not going to end any time soon, certainly not in his first term. He needs to tell the American people that US and NATO forces will still be in Afghanistan in 2021. Both Mullah Omar, the Taliban’s leader at the time of the 11 September 2001 attacks, and Bin Laden died (the al-Qaeda leader killed by the US) on Pakistani soil. That is not a coincidence. There is no prospect of success in Afghanistan without dealing with Pakistan’s duplicity.”

Donald Trump could only muster a hollow warning against Pakistan. In the past, withholding US aid has had little effect on the country’s deep state. American administrations have been accusing Pakistan for years of ‘running with the hare and hunting with the hounds’. US imperialism’s criminal launching of CIA’s largest covert operation in connivance with the Saudi and Pakistan’s spy agencies to destroy the 1978 Saur revolution in Afghanistan comes back to haunt them. Their Frankenstein monsters created in the name of Islam are striking back with a vengeance.

Pakistan’s spooks are not only aware of this intrinsic weakness of the US but are conscious of their relevance in this conflict’s resolution, if any. They are not going to heed Trump’s shallow warnings with their embrace of Chinese patronage. Nor will they give up their policy of ‘strategic depth’ particularly when everybody else is preying in the territory that is perceived by them as Pakistan’s domain. The largest investor in Afghanistan with stakes in oil, gas, copper and other projects is China. Hence it is a principal participant in the conflict, but has avoided getting directly involved in Afghanistan’s internecine war. However, China’s swift rebuttal against Trump’s remarks on Pakistan shows the former will try its best to fight any threat to its One Belt One Road project in the region with a massive investment of 900 billion dollars. But troubles of the western imperialists are intensifying. The Economist wrote, “Perhaps most worryingly, Iran and Russia, always on the lookout for opportunities to undermine Western interests, are now working together to fund, arm and shelter the Taliban.”

Indian bourgeois has its hegemonic designs on Afghanistan. Saudi monarchy and other Gulf and Arab states nurture their proxies. One wonders how many great games the tormented people of Afghanistan can endure. All these stakeholders operate with their proxies comprising of the so-called non-state actors that are bestial terrorist mafias ravaging the region.

To achieve peace and prosperity, youth and toilers shall have to rise and take their destinies in their own hands. The victimised classes will indubitably rebel and enter the arena of mass revolt. Only through a revolutionary victory can peace and emancipation be guaranteed.

CPEC and the Chinese interests in Pakistan: 28 August, 2017 "Daily Times"

Though an industrial giant, Chinese interest in Pakistan’s varied hinterland and agricultural produce draws on her need to feed a population of 1.37 billion. The USA with population of 321 million, has six times more arable land than China. In 2012, China surpassed USA to become world’s largest importer of agricultural products. Despite achieving high per acre yield, only 15 percent of China’s land area can be cultivated. China’s limited space for farming has been a problem throughout its history, leading to chronic food shortage and famine. While the production efficiency of farmland has grown over time due to modern agricultural technologies and genetically engineered crops, it is still insufficient to meet the demands of burgeoning Chinese population.

 

China’s aspirations of fulfilling its food needs utilising Pakistani land should prompt Pakistani authorities to do their homework, so they can also benefit from this opportunity. Some of the basic steps include registration and preservation of top Pakistani produce varieties of cereals and fruits such as rice, mangoes and dates at international forums

The China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) unveiled in 2013,is frequently referred to in Pakistan as a potential economic game changer. Now expected to have an outlay of $62 billion, the Chinese money will be mostly spent to improve transport links and energy cooperation between China and Pakistan.

However, with more details becoming public, CPEC has a large agriculture aspect with Chinese expected to invest in seeds, fertilisers, supply chain, livestock and agri-business chain. Large tracts of land will be leased out to Chinese firms for developing advanced planting and breeding bases.

Pakistan’s agriculture main issues are low per acre yield, soil erosion, water logging, subsistence farming, large post-harvest losses and low value addition with lack of innovation.

Now is a definite opportunity for Pakistan to learn from Chinese agribusiness technology, capacity and skills. With concentrated poverty (56 percent) in rural areas, Pakistan needs to achieve agriculture driven economic growth as nearly 40 percent of the country’s population lives in poverty. Over 75 per cent of people living in poverty depend on agriculture for their livelihoods all over the world. To ensure inclusive growth that contributes to poverty alleviation, agribusiness can serve as the main key as growth in agriculture is two to four times more powerful at reducing poverty than growth in other sectors.

Unlike subsistence farming to which the poor subscribe and live from hand to mouth, agribusiness involves collective agriculture activities including supply of agricultural inputs, production and their distribution to final consumers at a commercial level.

How Chinese involvement in agriculture will benefit the poor and help reduce poverty and would not further exacerbate inequality is yet to be seen. Of course, Chinese will look for large tracts of land where commercial farming activities can be undertaken. In Pakistan, the landholding is extremely unequal with 61 per cent of the total private holdings are under five acres and ownership of 50 acres and above are only two per cent. Majority of the landholdings, 94 per cent are in the category of less than 25 acres while only six per cent of the holdings are in the category of 25 acres and above. In Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP), majority of ownership holds in category of under 5 acres, but Sindh and Balochistan have the majority ownership holds in category of five to under 25 acres.

The government and the people of Pakistan, and not the Chinese, will have to think and devise a mechanism to ensure that equity and distribution concerns of the poor are addressed. CPEC agriculture divided will also have to be leveraged, as it will help create income opportunities for the deprived and the marginalised segments of the society.

Some in Pakistan may not be happy to see the Chinese in agriculture sector and having big tracts of land — but Pakistan is not the only country where Chinese enjoy this kind of ownership. In New Zealand, the world’s largest dairy producer, China has become the third largest dairy producer by purchasing dairy farms through its conglomerate Shanghai Pengxin Group since 2011. However, the fact is publicly known and the government has set a criterion for purchase of agriculture land by foreigners — making sure that the country’s interests are protected.

China’s aspirations of fulfilling its food needs utilising Pakistani land should prompt Pakistani authorities to do their homework, so they can also benefit from this opportunity. Some of the basic steps include registration and preservation of top Pakistani produce varieties of cereals and fruits such as rice, mangoes and dates at international forums. Also, the government should open up details of the total CPEC plan including its agriculture outlay for public debate and to involve agribusiness food chain stakeholders. Making it fully transparent, not through hiding and fear but through deep and loud thinking to set up the regulatory framework for foreign investors that the country should to be taken forward.

Pakistan’s Response to Trump: 28 August, 2017 "The Nation"

1950s, Pakistan joined the Cold War against the Soviets. In 1990 when the Soviets retreated from Afghanistan, America denied power sharing to the Mujahideen, and induced civil war. Both Benazir and Nawaz Sharif treated Afghanistan as a back-burning issue and purged ISI to cut-off contacts with the Afghan freedom fighters, thus leaving space for India to establish its roots there. Musharraf took the worst decision of the time to join the American war on Afghanistan, pushing Taliban towards Iran, Russia and China. Thus, for us there is no love lost in Afghanistan and there is a trust deficit, which must be corrected.

Two; Trump’s signs of insanity and the jingoism of his generals, such as Mad Dog Mattis, present a very serious unpredictable threat to Pakistan. Pakistan has been warned of dire consequences if it fails to meet the demands of eliminating terror from its soil. The punitive actions could be in the form of drone attacks, air strikes or the use of dirty bombs on suspected terror hide-outs inside Pakistan. Our armed forces have to be fully prepared not only to defeat such aggression, but also to respond with punishing blows at targets inside Afghanistan.

Three; the situation demands robust political and diplomatic initiatives to reach understanding with Iran and Russia for developing meaningful contact with the Taliban, who are the real arbiters of peace and have resolved “to make Afghanistan the graveyard of American forces.” They are prepared to talk only on one condition that, “the occupation forces, one and all, must leave Afghanistan to create space for peace talks.” There is no other way to peace, which Pakistan could follow. Pakistan, Iran, Russia and China, together could play the pivotal role in this regard.

Four. The Americans have been trying to build-up India as their proxy in the South Asian region, as the dominating force from Afghanistan to Bangladesh. For this purpose USA allowed India to establish a large spy network in Afghanistan, mainly focusing on Pakistan and in 2005, entered into Strategic Partnership with India, with declared objective to contain and curb rising Muslim extremism and the increasing Chinese economic and military influence in the region. And now it has entered into Strategic Defense Partnership, to provide India with high tech weapon and equipment, for maintaining India’s military domination in the region. This is a serious emerging security threat to which our armed forces are cognizant of, and are prepared to accelerate efforts to maintain balance, with full support from the government, and friends like China.

Five. Trump’s Strategy for Afghanistan is purported to create conditions for turning Afghanistan into Daeshtan, that would destabilise all the countries in the region including Central Asia, Russia, China, Pakistan and Iran. It is estimated that by holding-on to Afghanistan till end 2018, America would succeed in its sinister design. Literally speaking there is no insanity in Trump’s design, in not leaving Afghanistan. His troops are staging in Afghanistan to achieve the purpose of destabilising the target countries, with means other than fighting a full-fledged war, which is a clear example of a hybrid war strategy. What answer do we have to this madness?

The complex situation developing in Afghanistan demands that Pakistan must develop a meaningful system of study and evaluation of threat to national security and evolve strategies to meet the challenges. The adhocism, personalised decision making and relying on the so called NSC, which is more of a crisis management team, is taking us no where. The new team at the helm of affairs is the hope. They are engaged in deliberate consultations to evolve appropriate response to the impending threat. From “Friends Not Masters” to “Trust–Not Aid,” a period of six decades, should be good enough now for us to take the right decision. This is a good sign of a reasoned exercise of sovereignty by the parliament from decades of a petty rentier state of the United States of America. Thank you Mr. Donald Trump for providing that opportunity.

China and Russia now are with us. Iran has rejected Trumps policy of “pressuring the regional countries” on the issue of war in Afghanistan. Now, we must reach-out to Iran, to complete the “Eastern Front,” to provide the much needed strategic depth of security, against foreign ingress and intrigues.

The void in Trump’s Afghanistan strategy: 26 August, 2017 "Daily Times"

After US President Trump announced his strategy for Afghanistan on Monday,much has been written about the eventuality of a negotiated settlement, the Afghan Taleban and Pakistan's role in the mix. Afghanistan's internal political situation has received much less attention.Trump has explicitly rules out to "export democracy to faraway countries", as if democracy was a western-owned commodity. This is not good, as this situationis one 'colour' in the Rubik's Cube of conflicts in the country, without setting it straight the whole set would not be sorted.

Afghan institutions often only function superficially. Meanwhile, decision-making happens in a parallel system of kitchen cabinet-like circles and ethno-political dealings. Meritocratic principles that could lead to good governance, if they become the rule, fall on the wayside more often than not. Good results are mainly achieved against the system, or circumventing or short-cutting it, and through individuals inside it who dare to go against its pre-democratic workings.

The National Unity Government(NUG) with its president and its 'chief executive', a position not existing in the constitution, is the outcome of that very institutional weakness.Government-controlled bodies technically unable but, more importantly, politically unwilling to curb manipulation allowedthat the 2014 presidential electionwas botched. The two main contenders simply could not agree on who won; attempt by the UN to sort this out got stuck in the mess. (This was not too much different from the 2009 presidential and 2010 parliamentary elections and, therefore, predictable.) Then US Secretary of State John Kerry had to come in to invent the NUG, only to be derided today by the same Afghan politicians who made his intervention necessary. Strangely enough, even the Chief Executive does not insist any longer on a decision whether his position would be turned into that of a permanent prime minister, as stipulated in the 2014 NUG agreement.

Ever since, the NUG remained more busy with itself, quarrelling over influential and lucrative positions, than with the problems of a country, in which - after all the investments of the past 16 years - thirty per cent of the people continue to live under the poverty line and another thirty per cent not much above it. (These percentages are growing.) They include millions of refugees who have, many voluntarily, but often less so, returned from Pakistan and Iran. They are still waiting for being reintegrated into their society, languishing in makeshift settlements and scraping though with occasional day jobs in a market that is full of unemployed people. As one observer put it, in the context of Afghanistan's migration policies: "There are world-class policy papers, but close to zero implementation."

This is only the tip of the iceberg of Afghanistan's institutions weaknesses. The entire political system is out of sync, and thereare gaping holes. With the exception of the Attorney General's office, the judiciary is all but independent. Electoral oversight bodies have new members, but remain unreformed. The cabinet is often side-lined.The independent commission tasked to watch the constitution's correct implementation is bogged down in internal conflict.

Parliament has lost its full legitimacy; it should have been elected latest by June 2015. No one believes that the date set now, July 2018, is realistic, but no one says so publicly. One of the biggest oddities is the (unwritten) ban of political parties to form groups in it, thus denying the body of any political structure. Parties, although officially allowed to function and participate in elections, also cannot present lists of candidates to voters. This has virtually made each MP his or her own party, open tomanipulation and bribery. It has also undercut its own legitimacy by its often destructive attitude vis-à-vis cabinet ministers and urgent legislative projects.

 

Trump’s contradictory position vis-à-vis ‘state building’ and his failure to mention the need for a strong, independent civil society and the defence of human rights and democracy in Afghanistan is highly problematic

All this has eroded constitutional checks-and-balances, and next to nothing has been done to fill them. The elites continue their selfish politicking, but rarely have time to addressthe deepening the social gap. On top, there is the return of the frightening ethnicisation of the political struggle, by all sides. This goes hand in hand with using the threat of violence as a political means. Crime is on the rise, and much of it enjoys political protection.

No doubt, there is some progress. Former US ambassador to Kabul Ron Neumann, one of the most perceptive Afghanistan watchers, recently wrote in The Atlantic that there were three things which had impressed him during his last trip to the country: "the reform of military leadership, civil service improvements, and anti-corruption efforts". He added that "none of the changes are complete" and"all could be lost or reversed", and he warned that particularly the forthcoming elections "may undercut them". This is because the rules of coalition building necessitate, from the point of view of candidates, to involve those "entrenched political elites" (Neumann) that anti-corruption reform are supposed to remove from the system based on legal procedures.

Electing a parliament  - and helping to this in a way that produces an accepted outcome -, for example, might sound like a luxury for a country torn apart by war. Particularly as there are many people in the West who stick to the semi-racist belief that Muslim-dominated country are 'not fit for democracy' anyway. After everything that transpired, I would not be surprised it that was also the opinion among White House advisors.

In this context, Trump's contradictory position vis-à-vis "state building"and his failure to mention the need for a strong, independent civil society and the defence of human and democratic in Afghanistan are highly problematic. A country as ethnically, religiously, politically and socially diverse as Afghanistan needs reliable institutions to manage and alleviate a set conflicts that consists of much more than the Taleban insurgency, Daesh's terror and the harmfully bad Afghan-Pakistanirelations. To ignore this fact bodes disaster for Afghanistan's future.

The Trump Doctrine: 26 August, 2017 "The Nation"

On an instability trajectory, Pakistan has passed the nadir without commotion. The jar did not break. There were many desiring an instability that could lead to international intervention to humble the armed forces seen as impediment to democratic institution building and holding its own to safeguard regional interests. The combined diatribes suggesting such punishments through Pakistan hate groups comprising Lisa Curtis, Christine Fair and Hussain Haqqani may have had an effect on Capitol Hill but none in Pakistan. Following President Trump’s unpunctuated slurs at Pakistan, Zalmay Khalilzad came up with a unique idea of designating Pakistan’s top generals as terrorists. As a pseudo expert in the region, having destroyed Afghanistan and Iraq, he wants to pluck out Pakistan. The social science of the stupid has no limits.

Soon after the Presidential speech, US secretary of State and their envoy to Pakistan were on a damage control mission. They understood that the rationale and logic of Trumps speech was hallow and disconnected. But one aspect was clear. Despite a sixty year love-hate relationship, USA has overtly given up Pakistan as a long term ally and prefers India. This is so because Pakistan’s security perspectives do not coincide with US strategic designs. Pakistan has no option but to exercise its choices for its own good. For the USA, Pakistan must play the minion in what Dr. Walter Russell Mead in 2010 called the Long War. Hello India, welcome to the graveyard of Afghanistan. As events develop, strategic defiance will place your country in an inextricable corner. You will have enemies all around.

Even then the threat to Pakistan’s integrity was imminent, but somehow the country waded through the crises with classic counter-terrorism in Waziristan, Khyber and elsewhere. But US is still not satisfied. It wants to kill the thought and feels that the Military Family (a word from   Anatol Lieven) must be neutralised. Though Pakistan’s long war continues, US victory in Afghanistan is evasive. USA needs a scapegoat.

This fall guy is Pakistan that organised and trained the Afghan Resistance to ultimately trigger the disintegration of USSR. In doing so, USA is accepting that Pakistan is a giant killer. So it needs face saving by pulverising some parts of Pakistan with its standoff military might. It stands to reason that if ‘shock and awe’ failed in Afghanistan, what success would remote controlled standoff destruction bring? Obviously anarchy has been the common denominator in Vietnam, Iraq, Ukraine, Syria and Afghanistan. If Pakistani rulers and non-kinetic dynamics have failed, USA could provide a flashpoint for conflagration. Will Pakistan be next?

Pakistan’s internal political crises underlined by massive corruption and bad governance far outweigh threats from terrorism that are already in mop-up. Prime Minister was disqualified by the apex court followed by a peaceful transition. The GT road rally by Mian Nawaz Sharif failed to kick start a street agitation to create internal chaos. There are divisions within the ruling party over this disruptive methodology. Mian Nawaz Sharif failed to go down a martyr and create crises of governance. The military resisted any political intervention. The international community cannot be provoked. But there is a compromised segment compromising corrupt politicians, self-styled US apologists and outright traitors who endorse US gobbledygook. They all want Pakistan’s security establishment smitten for a system that is corrupt to core and self-gratifying. Zalmay and Hussain Haqqani are the points-men of this ugly core. This is the method to madness.

In the meanwhile, the law enforcement agencies have cleared new hideouts in Rajgal Valley, an extension of Tora Bora in Afghanistan and base of ISIS militants facilitated by Afghanistan and India. All this is bad news for the prophets of doom and strategic soothsayers. An opportunity to punish Pakistan using standoff technologies of Shock, Awe, Daisy Cutters and MOAB could not be shaped. The resilient Pakistani nation continues to live and fight. Pakistan remains a country that defies despite four decades of attrition. In fact it got stronger with the Supreme Court of Pakistan becoming more assertive. With President Trump’s speech, the merry go round begins a new lap.

As an expert on Pakistan and author of ‘Pakistan: A Hard Country’, Anatol Lieven must have carefully watched and analysed the events of the past year to comment ‘Battered, but Still Afloat’ a tribute to Pakistan in which he commented, “I have always been struck by the contrast between the dramatic and often violent character of Pakistan’s public life and the relative resilience and stability of Pakistani society. This resilience is the central reason why crises that would have sunk other states have left Pakistan battered, but still afloat. It is striking that several Arab states that once looked much richer and stronger than Pakistan have collapsed completely, whereas Pakistan, in its own messy and infuriating way, continues to trundle along. And if Pakistan could survive the combination of US pressure and Islamist insurgency of the past decade, and defeat that insurgency, then there are good grounds to be confident that Pakistan will go on surviving for quite a long time to come.” He attributes this Pakistani skill to extended family, the center of which is the armed forces that comes from middle and poor classes. They are ethnically well represented and most heterogeneous organisation of the country and the culture permeates to all extended families.

Let us evaluate the years that Pakistan survived sanctions after the end of Afghan War in 1989, till 9/11. Pakistan comfortably waded these 13 years defying all economic projections. Pakistan’s parallel economy, also called the unregulated sector, held the country together at the lowest strata of its seams. The 13-year nuclear sanctions on Pakistan served to stimulate home led growth, exports and import substitution. Pakistan’s low middle class entrepreneurs, the cultural aspect of barter trade and very strong strains of philanthropy by the middle and rich classes ensures that everyone survives as a Family.

In the obtaining environments, it is important where and when Pakistan will draw the Rubicon against an offensive US strategy. Will Pakistan be prepared to take a few blows to the chin? My view is yes, it will like Salala, Dir and Chitral. Will it shoot down some drones as a token of defiance? My guess, it just may. Will it be prepared to take a few hits on its command centers? I feel this act would be a miscalculation. USA would have opened a new front in the Devil’s Triangle of Middle East, Ukraine and Afghanistan. If that happens, Afghanistan and Pakistan would explode and everything around implode. North Korea would become a distant memory.

As a super power, USA may think it has a right to bully. But it would be a different game when national self-esteem, honour and integrity are challenged. According to Hans Joachim Morgenthau, herein lie the incalculable elements of national character and morale.

Trump's skewed policy in South Asia: 24 August, 2017 "Daily Times"

Trump once again bomb shelled Pakistan over false allegations of sheltering "agents of chaos". Trump's high-handed attitude towards Pakistan, ignores the sacrifices and loss borne by Pakistan and Pakistanis alike.It also reiterates two things. Firstly, that the US like ever is attacking Pakistan verbally by reiterating its policy of "do more". Secondly, Trump is promoting India's interest in the region. Trump's pro-India and anti-Pakistan policy surfaced even before he was elected as President.

Trump's skewed statementsare fueling more anger and nurturing anti-US slogans in Pakistan, rather than resolving the core issues faced by Pakistan for more than a decade. Pakistan itself has been the biggest prey to terrorists which began when it embroiled itself in a war against terrorism after the attack on the twin towers on 9/11. Pakistan, then the frontline ally of America in the war against terrorism became a victim in the war it was fighting.

The cost endured by Pakistan through the war on terror is incalculable. Many of the uncontrolled suicide attacks and terrorist activities have been harnessed to a large extent. The whole nation is fighting this war with courage and unified strength and will continue its efforts in the global war against terrorism.

It appears that the US has lost its battle and it has failed badly in restoring peace and stability in Afghanistan. Instead of holding its own army and failed policies accountable, it is blaming Pakistan. The inconclusive war in Afghanistan for the last 16 years has put America to shame. Moreover, the economic loss and killing of thousands of US troops in Afghanistan is not easy to justify at home.

Besides, justifying a 16-year long war in Afghanistan, Trump is paving the way for the deployment of more troops in Afghanistan and encouraging India's involvement in Afghanistan - calling India "the largest democracy" and a "key security partner of the US". Trump has marked the presence of India in Afghanistan as both legal and imperative.

 

Pakistan is firm in its stand of peaceful resolution of all conflicts and committed to work with the international community to achieve the common goal to overthrow extremism till its end

Trump's aggressive policy towards Pakistan might be seen as an effort to change the balance of power in South Asia giving importance to India over Pakistan and other regional countries like China, Iran and Russia.

In a way, it's an attempt to downplay the role of Pakistan and other regional countries. It would not be wrong to term Trump's statement a repetition of old rhetoric of "do more" and pro-India policy as anti-CPEC policy.

India seems busy in its utmost efforts to disturb the mega investment plan between China and Pakistan. Doubting the anti-CPEC element in Trump's rough and tough talk, China's Foreign Office blatantly rejected Trump's accusation for Pakistan safeguarding the houses of terrorists. China urged the world to recognize the role of Pakistan in war against terrorism.

By putting all blame on Pakistan and advocating the role of India in Afghanistan shows Trump's irresponsible attitude in terms of Indo-Pak hostile relations. Instead of convening the role of a mediator in resolving the Kashmir issue, Trump is adding fuel to the fire. India and Pakistan both are nuclear states. Though they do not owe the same status to the world as USSR and US had during Cold War era, the presence of the atomic bomb has made their position more sensitive and any irresponsible attitude can trigger a world-wide nuclear conflict.

In a nutshell, the US needs to review its policy in South Asia promoting peace and stability. Festering conflicts is not in anyone's interest. It's no longer pre-Westphalia era when there was no international system. Pakistan is an independent and sovereign state and hegemonic Indian designs cannot materialize since Pakistan is a nuclear state. Pakistan is firm in its stand of peaceful resolution of all conflicts and committed to work with the international community to achieve the common goal to overthrow extremism till its end.

Trump’s outburst: 24 August, 2017 "Daily Times"

President Donald Trump's recent statement on Pakistan depicts the huge failure and deep flaws in the US policy towards Afghanistan since 9/11. America has gained nothing out of cash spending and taking body bags of its soldiers buried with anguish and pain in American graveyards. According to one estimate, as of October 18th, 2016, there have been 2,386 US military deaths in the war in Afghanistan.

War causalities continue after Trump assumed the Presidency. He is upset. He did not start the war but inherited from previous Republican and Democrat administrations. There is no debate and difference between these administrations dealing with Afghanistan. These administrations remained itchy with Pakistan as they perceived that the country is not proliferation American interests inside Afghanistan to win its war. How can Pakistan assist Americans to win a war inside Afghanistan?

But they have a perpetual faith in their policy that Pakistan is responsible for their failure inside Afghanistan. There is no end to the American blame-games on Pakistan. Sometimes they were Al-Qaeda groups, the Taliban terrorists, and the Haqqani Network operators. American blame-game did not move an inch away from the Haqqani Network in many years.

Pakistani government categorically refuses to have any Haqqani Network operated inside Pakistan's territory. The internal security situation inside Pakistan has improved considerably in the past four years, indicating ruthless military operation against all terrorist groups.

The United States has failed to achieve the same results inside Afghanistan and finds it convenient to throw the failure of its policy on Pakistan.

Trump is actually demonstrating American frustration while comparing the situation with neighboring Pakistan. America possesses sophisticated intelligence technology and from inside Afghanistan it can easily apprehend if Pakistan is breeding terrorist groups on its border areas with Afghanistan. America could bring the same to the Congress and the UN Security Council for action but the fact remains that the whole episode is American failure inside Afghanistan.

Trump is confused whether to leave Afghanistan or to bring more troops and money into the war-ravaged country - the same old useless exercises. The number of troops does not matter. It is the policy that matters. He wants to find a way out and the convenient one is to blame Pakistan.

Pakistan needs to be extra vigilant of Trump's frustration. His policy might affect the ongoing military policy in collaboration with the civilian administration. His Afghan fall out should not fall on Pakistan. Pakistan Foreign Office and GHQ readily and effectively respond to his statement and possible repercussions on Pakistan's security.

If security deteriorates in Pakistan in coming days and months, the Donald Trump administration must be held responsible. In another befitting response, Pakistan should not accept any military aid from the Pentagon now onwards.

The United States also must learn and understand that in the past sixteen years it has been supporting a particular faction of Afghan society, which is the main reason for its failure.

 

Trump wants to find a way out and the convenient one is to blame Pakistan

Why does not it change its policy and embrace all Afghan groups instead of Ghani, Abdullah, and Karzai? They could not bring peace in Afghanistan. Pakistan is not in that policy. Americans need to assemble their failure instead of blaming Pakistan.

Pakistan is a fast emerging 'as the 'tiger economy'. The country is no longer living on the American aid like the 1980s and 1990s. Even the syndrome of the 9/11 has been fainted away from its soil.

America needs to reset its relations with Pakistan. The old relationship and logic would no longer determine its ties with Pakistan. The vitality of Pakistan strength has risen higher day by day in South Asia, Central Asia, Middle East, and China.

Kabul is no longer a headache for Islamabad. It is an irritant for Washington and the Trump administration can act on Afghanistan freely and independently without consulting or fearing any threat from Islamabad. Pakistan is engaged on its democratic path and building infrastructure with China.

Trump's statement made Pakistan upset and disappointed, as it was equivalent to issuing a direct threat. The US president must also understand that his policy statement would not stabilise Afghanistan. He has blown out more chaos and has failed to bring peace in Afghanistan.

Afghanistan in Isolation: 24 August, 2017 "Daily Times"

President Trump has finished his comprehensive review of ‘Afghanistan and South Asia’ policy and delivered his findings in a speech. Like his predecessors he has failed to address the fundamental problem and the very phrase ‘Afghanistan and South Asia’ demonstrates a myopic obsession with a lost war to the detriment of an entire region. US strategy in Afghanistan must be ancillary to a comprehensive South Asia policy rather than its sole focus.

During his speech, President Trump said ‘someday, after an effective military effort, perhaps it will be possible to have a political settlement that includes elements of the Taliban in Afghanistan.’ But if a political settlement is predicated on the success of a military effort than the US might as well quit now because its relationship with the Afghan National Army (ANA) is dysfunctional and the cost of fighting an insurgency is too high.

It is true that there are many diligent Afghan soldiers. But there is a total trust deficit between the ANA and US military. During my 2012 deployment fears of Taliban infiltration were so high that ANA cell phones were often confiscated in the lead-up to an operation and coalition soldiers were warned not to be ‘too trusting’ of them. At my first base in Helmand province there was an overnight guard post with the sole mission of protecting Marines from the section of the base belonging to the ANA. At night, we slept peaceably knowing there were sand-filled HESCO barriers, barbed wire, and two Marines with an M249 machine gun between us and our trusted partners. Later I moved to Tarin Kowt and as talks of a drawdown ensued some expressed concerns that containers designed to resist mortars might benefit the Taliban when the ANA inevitably fled.

Indeed, worries about insider attacks proved valid and on August 30, 2012 an ANA soldier killed three Australians at a patrol base in Uruzgan province. This is a good example of the immense cost of an insurgency and comparative advantage the Taliban have in Afghanistan. It did not matter that the Australian soldiers were better trained or had the advantage of air-support and encrypted radios. All of that was for naught against a Taliban sympathizer who shot the defenceless Australians at close-range and then escaped. What followed was a massive manhunt in which I played the very small role of helping to cordon off a road. But there were dozens of missions despite there being only one fleeing Taliban fighter. This is the exponential power of an insurgency. Eventually the suspect was arrested inside Pakistan which is a fitting end to the story because this is where the US strategy really begins to unravel.

 

The US has excluded Iran from the dialogue entirely, chosen to ignore conflicts in Kashmir and Balochistan, viewed Pakistan more as a useful enemy than an equal partner with independent interests, and portrayed the Taliban as a foreign element altogether

You cannot choose your neighbours much less someone else’s. Yet for most of the war the US has excluded Iran from the dialogue entirely, chosen to ignore the conflicts in Kashmir and Balochistan, viewed Pakistan more as a useful enemy than an equal partner with independent interests, and portrayed the Taliban as a foreign element altogether. Trump’s answer to this conundrum was to give a backhanded acknowledgement of Pakistan’s contributions during his speech, scapegoat it for the region’s terrorism, and then prod at Islamabad’s deepest insecurities by prioritizing a strategic relationship with India. This is likely not what General Bajwa meant when he said he wanted recognition from the US. A heightened role for India in Afghanistan might be productive if the US were willing to also admit that the conflicts in Kashmir and Balochistan are real and need to be resolved. Meanwhile Iran was missing altogether from the speech even though it has a vested interest in keeping ISIS out of Afghanistan.

So, the US war in Afghanistan continues unchanged. Perhaps US troops will temporarily enjoy more resources and less restrictive rules of engagement. Maybe India will increase its already robust investment in the country. And it’s even possible that Pakistan will take a harder line against the Haqqani Network. This may initially produce some gains but ultimately the Taliban will adapt and absent any leadership from the US the regional tensions that prevent a political solution to Afghanistan will remain unresolved. In all likelihood ‘Afghanistan speeches’ will be a centrepiece of US presidencies for years to come.

Producing Pakistan: ‘just say it’s beautiful’: 24 August, 2017 "Daily Times"

On a recent trip to Deosai Plain in Skardu, my British friend, Franklin Gin and I, briefly stopped over at Sadpara lake, Skardu. We stepped out of the car, took a look at the lake and jokingly said to each other, ‘it’s a dam and it’s a lake. Not much to see. Let’s go’. As we were walking away a Geo News correspondent accosted us, and wanted to get my friend’s impressions about the place for their Independence Day transmissions. The dialogue took place as follows:

Geo News: What do you think of this place?

Franklin: Well, it is a dam that has created...

Geo News: No, no, just say it’s beautiful.

Franklin: OK. It is beautiful.

Geo News: Thank you very much.

The above exchange is representative of how the middle class oriented information brokers want to produce Pakistan — foreigners agree that the lakes of Northern Pakistan are beautiful, as are the mountains and its fair skinned people. There is little room for contemplation on how and why the lake is there, and what might be its history or its economic or environmental costs and benefits. In every officially sanctioned and media promoted image of Pakistan, Northern Pakistan always takes a prominent place, as do a smattering of sufi shrines down country, and a few exotic looking shots of camels and colourful dresses of the denizens of Cholistan. Pakistan is increasingly being produced, and in fact, almost has to be produced in the international visual grammar of globalised depoliticised, and somewhat racialised and orientalised esthetics. Millions of visuals, and stories they represent, across the vast human and natural landscape of Pakistan are occluded by the a few trite images, sanctioned and promoted by the popular media and the state. Those images promote a unidimensional view of the country: of breathtaking, mostly mountainous landscapes, sufi shrines, colourful trucks, and odd desert forts here and there.

 

Pakistan is increasingly being produced and, in fact, it has to be produced in an international visual grammar of globalised, depoliticised, and somewhat, racialised and orientalised esthetics

The fact that in dominant Pakistani imaginary, Sadpara is beautiful and Manchar is not, Lahore fort is iconic and Ranikot fort is not, Kanghi palm is ornamental and date palms of Khairpur are just desi khajoor, is consonant with the stories that Pakistanis tell about themselves, and about each other. A housing society in Lahore, for example, advertises itself as a place where it is ‘almost like living abroad’ — thank God not Pakistan. Pashtuns are beautiful and brave, other Pakistanis by implication less so. Baloch are quite brave too, but a little shaky in their loyalty to Pakistan. Sindhis have a rich culture, but have too many Hindus living amongst them — and they are dark. Kashmiris are beautiful too, but a little cowardly. Baltis and Gilgitis — they are Agha Khanis and make good waiters. Punjabis? They are, ahem, just Pakistanis, though in the view of others overbearingly imperious, devious and sadly, dark skinned. All of these stories and images are not separate from the challenges of deepest injustices in Pakistani society along ethnic, gender and class lines. The disappearances of the Baloch youth in Balochistan, to the general indifference of the Pakistani society, is one such manifestation, as is the exclusion of poor Bengalis, Pashtuns (for being suspected Afghans or Talibans), Hindus, Christians, women and trans-sexuals to name a few, from the Pakistani polity.

The seventieth Independence Day celebrations were a manifestation of the narrow bandwidth being imposed upon the national discourse. Watching the glorification of the armed forces, you would be forgiven to think that Pakistan was created by the armed forces, and not by a Gujarati lawyer politician. Unless the Pakistani polity is able to expand the space for alternate stories told through words, images and action, it is bound to be rent asunder by the forces of the Islamist ‘ideology of Pakistan’ brigade, militarist national interest, xenophobic, but pathetic posturing of the identity politics constituency, and the neo-liberal globalist fantasies of the, so called liberals, thrown in there for good measure.

Is Sadpara lake beautiful? It depends. Is Bahria town beautiful? Is a petrol station beautiful? They can be beautiful, if you want to live in Bahria Town, or are low on petrol. Every square inch of this planet is beautiful. It is us humans who have the singular capacity to turn this beautiful planet ugly, just as we also have the capacity to create somethings, well—sublime. To find the beauty in the utter physical and human diversity of this world, we have to draw upon a wider lexicon than the global image making machine would allow. We also have to draw upon a wider trope of ideas than ossified ethic, religious, gender or national identity regimes would allow. We need to allow Franklin to talk about the dam, the lake and what Sadpara says to him.

The Trump threat: 24 August, 2017 "The Nation"

Pakistan has always been unlucky as far as friendship with the US is concerned. Each time, the US uses Pakistan and later abandons it without any guilt or remorse.

The history of President Donald Trump’s statements are a clear indication of his upsetting attitude towards Pakistan. Long before the presidency race, Trump had worrisome sentiments about Pakistan, suggesting to pull-back on aid stating, “They are not friends of ours, (There are) plenty of other terrorists in Pakistan, we know that.” He also called Pakistan “a vital problem, because they have a thing called nuclear weapons”. Similarly, in an interview, President Trump favoured keeping 10,000 troops in Afghanistan to contain Pakistan and keep an eye on it up close. In several other interviews, he kept on mentioning the unusual concern over Pakistan’s nuclear weapons and their safety.

Furthermore, President Trump also believes that Pakistan is providing safe havens to the Taliban and other terrorist organisations. Back in 2012, Trump tweeted, “When will Pakistan apologise to us for providing a safe sanctuary to Osama Bin Laden for 6 years”. Ironically, even now as the President of the United States, he is fed the same lies by the Pentagon. The ground reality is very different than the rhetoric which the Trump administration is selling to its public and the world. These allegations do not prove the support of terrorists by Pakistan and we must not give in to any pressure and accept something we are not guilty of.

History shows that Pakistan has always lent a hand, right from providing Badhbair airbase to USA during the Cold War to fight against the Soviet army in Afghanistan and to fight the War on Terror post-9/11. This practical support was in line with the ethos of friendship and in the greater interests of global peace and security. However, the unwavering support in all international security matters was never taken in the same spirit; rather, Pakistan was left alone in the hour of need.

Ever since the first Afghan war, Pakistan threw all its available resources including its infrastructure behind the US forces but they still took advantage of the hospitality extended by former President General Musharraf. The US expanded the CIA network in Pakistan against the norms of friendship. The trust of Pakistan was betrayed however, when the US unilaterally used drones to presumably destroy hideouts of terrorists in Pakistan. The drone attacks caused collateral damage in terms of killing innocent people. These drone attacks thus caused ripples amongst the people of Pakistan, as it was considered to be a threat to its sovereignty. This in turn, influenced the minds of innocent people who opted to join terrorist organisations to take revenge for the loved ones they had lost.

Interestingly, we were great friends when Pakistan was assisting two war ventures undertaken by the US. There was no ‘do more’ demand, rather, both FBI and CIA were praising Pakistan at all levels. However, with the failure of the US strategy in Afghanistan, successive US administrations started asking Pakistan to ‘do more’ to cover up their own failures in the South Asian region.

I remember 5-hour long meetings with Mr Mohammad Hanif Atmar, the Interior Minister of Afghanistan at the time, to create a strategy for AF-Pak cooperation to share intelligence on terrorists. We (the two interior ministers) signed an agreement to fight terrorism with a common strategy and a commitment to open immigration posts on the Pak-Afghan border. Mr Muller had flown all the way from the US to sign as witness. Unfortunately, later, this agreement was not honoured by Afghanistan and President Karzai eventually scraped it. President Donald Trump however, must know that Afghanistan does not want to work with Pakistan, as Mr Ashraf Ghani wants to side with his new puppet-master, PM Modi of India.

It is very unfortunate to see that President Trump has chosen this moment, when there is political polarisation in Pakistan and the Pakistan Army is fighting its heart and soul against the terrorists. Moreover, the Indian inimical statements on CPEC are no more a secret. PM Modi has become aggressive against China and has deliberately increased its forces on the Chinese boarder. This move got the Indians a touch of response by China when nearly 50 Indian soldier lost their lives for violating the border. The latest threats by President Trump are clearly driven by the US-Indian nexus serving its own cause.

I believe that the threat of Donald Trump on South Asia is three-pronged; it is a threat to Pakistan, Iran and China at the same time (without their names being mentioned). The chest-thumping against Pakistan will automatically bring more suffering to Afghanistan, as threats to Pakistan will further deteriorate the security situation in Afghanistan.

Pakistan does have a right to ask President Trump as to who converted Afghanistan into a war zone. The Afghan-Pak border is a war zone because of the US allowing disgruntled criminals including Osama bin Laden and Yousaf Ramzi to become monsters. Where is the fault of Pakistan? Despite making countless sacrifices, are we to blame for deciding to be your ally during the time of war?

How can President Trump forget that CIA created the infamous Haqqani network along with Abu Sayyaf groups? All these groups reside in Afghanistan and Afghanistan is not under the control of Pakistan but under the Afghan government and US military. It is strange to ask Pakistan to do more when administratively and militarily, the area which is harbouring terrorism is under your control. Mr President do not put the blame of the failures of the Afghan Government in cooperating with Pakistan to stop the flow of terrorists from Pak-Afghan border. We are not a nation to be thrown under the bus for sacrificing our soldiers and innocent people in fighting someone else’s war. We are not just facing the repercussions of the war against terror but also the incompetency of our neighbour Afghanistan, which has caused us a great deal of loss by not cooperating with us in securing the porous border.

President Trump, please see the historical facts of how Pakistan has made sacrifices during this war on terror which was basically your war, which we fought with our blood. Please rethink and do not commit the mistake which was committed by President Bush and Obama in Iraq and Syria.

President Trump, buy peace for South Asia, as selling war would otherwise engulf thewhole world. Your recent policy statement vis-à-vis Afghanistan and Pakistan would further fuel the already prevalent hatred against the US. You can control your drones and planes but you will not be able to control mind-sets and radicalisation, which may erupt from this region like the expansion of Daesh worldwide.

Mr President, come with an open heart and let us take forward your wish to create a common strategy against the common enemy. Let the people of Pakistan utter your name with positivity, to be remembered as a peace lover, and not as a supporter of wars and threats. It’s a tested truth that winning peace is way harder than winning a war. At this moment, it is for you to decide what is it that you want to win; peace or war?

Handling ‘paradoxical’ Pakistan: 24 August, 2017 "The Nation"

The US appears to be caught in a paradox of its own in the Afghanistan Pakistan Region (APR). Its Afghan campaign is tottering and has been literally fought to a standstill by the Tehrik-e-Taliban Afghanistan (TTA). Its military has lost its strategic direction and orientation. It seems clueless of the ways and means to arrive at the desired end state, which appears lost in the maze of extremely tentative policy formulation and chronic indecision at government and military levels. The US military is itself calling it a “stalemate” – euphemism for a stunning lack of success or even defeat.

The US’ paradox is compounded by the indecision over further entrusting the Afghan campaign to the formidable US military or outsourcing it to Eric Prince’s contractors/mercenaries. A new low for the US military!

It is in this Afghan muddle that the US now seeks a face saving outcome. It seems obsessed with making “paradoxical” Pakistan the fall guy for all its own inadequacies in policy formulation and maintaining strategic direction. It has also not demonstrated the determination, the operational and tactical acumen essential to comprehensively defeat the terrorists. On the one hand it appreciates Pakistan’s sacrifices and outstanding successes against the terrorists while on the other it unfairly punishes it for doing so “selectively”. Are the US and Afghan forces in Afghanistan not equally culpable?

However, this lack of decisive leadership at the US government and military levels is allowing regional players like Russia, China and Iran time and space to make ingresses and alter the dynamics of the operational environment in the APR – much to the detriment of US interests. Russia and Iran are engaging, arming and encouraging the TTA to fight the IS thus reducing the quantum of threats to themselves, twofold. Iran also gets to at least secure its eastern flank as it comes under new pressures from the US Government. China is extremely apprehensive of Indian (RAW-NDS nexus) threats to its investments in the region and especially to OBOR/CPEC. It may feel constrained to react with force at some point in the foreseeable future. Pakistan continues to be wary of Indian presence in Afghanistan and its nefarious Chanakyan designs against it.

The US, however, is fixated upon the TTA’s supposed “safe havens” in Pakistan. Fixations make for biased and faulty appraisals of the situation and lead to poor decision making, even poorer operational strategies and massive defeats on the battlefield. The US military’s decision making processes in the APR, in this case, suffer from this malady. Assuming that these supposed “safe havens” are wiped out by Pakistan, will it guarantee success to the US in Afghanistan? Is this the real centre of gravity of the hydra-headed terrorism menace in the APR? Will destroying these so-called “safe havens” have a domino effect and in itself cause the collapse of the entire terrorism portfolio in the APR including Al-Qaeda, IS, TTP, Jamaat ul Ahraar, IMU, ETIM etc as well?

A realistic and comprehensive review of the operational environment in the APR is in order. The US Government must demonstrate clarity of thought at the strategic level and unambiguously redefine the desired end state of Operation Resolute Support. In particular, Afghanistan and Pakistan (still a major Non-NATO ally, till last reports came in) must have no doubts in what would constitute a successful end to the Afghan Campaign for the US – if it is actually seeking one!

Thereafter it must clearly lay down the methodologies, the ways, through which it wants to go about achieving its campaign objectives. Will the US want to continue engaging the ANSF (at perhaps slightly heightened levels with additional 5000 soldiers/trainers?) and still expect it to win the Afghan Campaign for it? Or will it want to go in for a regional solution to the issue by co-opting Pakistan, Iran, CARs, Russia and China etc (SCO-?) and deliver a fatal blow to regional-global terrorism through combined operations? Including India will be self-defeating as it will create unnecessary friction and irritations with more than one participant. It will be a deal breaker. A well thought out decision or otherwise at this juncture could mean success or failure in the regional-global war on terror. The US should either come up with a clear decision, a viable modus operandi and a practical solution – at the regional or bilateral (with Pakistan) levels – or maintain its largely solo flight!

Thereafter the US must unambiguously enunciate the means it wants to use to achieve its redefined end-state; if it wants Pakistan to be a “means” to achieving its strategic objectives then will coercing Pakistan into the battle help defeat the TTA or will co-opting it be a better option? Or is it easily doable without Pakistan on board? The US needs to make a well-informed and well-thought out decision here. It could decide the fate of its Afghan Campaign. To make Pakistan a willing participant in the battle, the US must restore the bilateral relationship to its earlier status, stop all forms of coercion and resume the military and economic aid (including the outstanding CSF payments) programs. It must also create the right operational environment in the APR. That means, foremost, the neutralisation of the anti-Pakistan India factor in Afghanistan for good. Second, the NDS-RAW nexus that continues to launch terrorist groups and proxies into Balochistan and FATA must be broken forthwith. Furthermore, the TTP, Jamaat-ur-Ahraar, IS etc must be neutralised as a preliminary step to any further joint/combined operational or other considerations.

Pakistan Armed Forces’ Operation Zarb-e-Azb and the ongoing Operation Radd-ul-Fassad have been unqualified, pristine and classic successes. The US military must study them, draw relevant lessons and conduct joint training with the Pakistanis. It must decide too, whether it wants a regional solution (combined operations with SCO or part thereof), a bilateral solution (with Pakistan) or if it would like to maintain the status quo. The future of the regional-global war on terror and the APR might hinge on this one fateful decision.

Why we owe much to our martyrs!: 24 August, 2017 "The Nation"

Terrorism spares none, whether one is in uniform or in civilian attire. After the vulnerability of civilians comes the susceptibility of the uniform force not meant for fighting wars but for maintaining law and order. This is how the police become the prime target of terrorists especially in the urban cities of Pakistan, as has been witnessed recently.

The police are ready to lay down their lives in the line of duty, but the other side of the fact is that precious lives are lost. Precious in the sense that an experienced police officer has to surrender his life without offering any resistance to a suicide bomber. The physical body of a police officer is not structured to resist the force of a blast. That is it. An anti-blast outfit is insufficient, especially in protecting the head, and it cannot be worn all the time. This is how the counter-terrorism challenge has taken over Pakistan, devouring the lives of many brilliant police officers of the Police Service of Pakistan. Just to name a few; Safwat Ghayur, Fayyaz Ahmed Sumbal, Ahmad Mobin and Zahid Gondal.

Such a loss is poignant and distressing for the loved ones: Children who will never feel the warmth of their father’s hug again, mothers who will mourn and agonise every coming day, and wives who will sit across empty dinner tables for the rest of their lives. Those who have left us for their heavenly abodes are heroes by every standard. In fact, every citizen owes them immeasurably and irreconcilably, for they sacrificed their today for our tomorrow. They had selected a perilous path, mindful of the consequences. Although martyrdom has its own reward, but even as a mundane measure, the martyrs are superior to us on many accounts.

First, they sacrifice their lives, the supreme and ultimate sacrifice one can possibly make. Life is beautiful, as known to us was known to them, despite all its adversities. Like us, the leftovers, they also knew the importance of self-preservation ingrained in human beings, thereby inviting all human activities from education to marriage. Overcoming this instinct, and perhaps desire, is an arduous task of unparalleled proportion. Continuing to exposing oneself to danger to protect the lives of citizens to discharge one’s official responsibilities cannot be paid in terms of medals, which are just a token of tribute to one’s sacrifice. The sacrifice demands more than medals.

Second, they are found perennially optimistic in the face of any imminent or palpable danger. They do not succumb to despair regardless of the hardest of challenges. Instead, they keep the flame of hope flickering and the ideas of life glowing. Both optimism and hope reinforce their motivation and augment their valour. They defeat fear every day, they leave their homes for the office and their offices for a field duty. They understand that they may not come back, but they persist with going and doing what needs to be done. They are not ready to submit themselves to any disillusionment about life and distrust about the future. They believe in getting going until they are no more around. They keep us alive and exultant by both their presence and absence.

Third, they set the bar high for others. They establish inspirational examples of gallantry and heroism for their successors, juniors and staff. They inspire their followers with their remarkable deeds and stories of their lives. The blood of valiant heroes infuses mettle and grit and, above all, dignity and pride into the police service. There are many unsung heroes who have adorned the police service with grace unfounded before. The juniors and staff fear if they could also ever be up to the standard of sacrifice.

Fourth, they believe firmly in the nobility of their cause – to maintain law and order. They cultivate a belief in the superiority of their aim – to serve the citizens, come what may. They are neither wavered nor confused. They are sensible and decisive. It is the unflinching faith and the exactness of their cause that keep their spirit alive even when the chips are down, and even when they know that their salaries (and recompense to their families after martyrdom) are not worth their sacrifice. They do not harbour any doubt nor any scepticism vis-à-vis the clarity of their purpose and the sublimity of their goal: Do your job.

Fifth, they rise above familial constraints. They prefer their job’s calling to their conjugal responsibilities. Love for family is natural and profound; it determines one’s choices of life and the way one transacts the outer world. However, the martyrs muffle the call of inner voices and brave the challenges of the outer world. Every day, they leave their elderly parents and innocent toddlers behind with a heavy heart, knowing the dangers embedded in their duties and waiting outside their homes.

Sixth, they militate against the odds. They believe that protecting the lives of others is more uplifting than shielding one’s own life. They are charged with the spirit of sacrifice and are mindful of the gravity of the situation. They possess strong nerves and their ability to face the danger is far greater than any other individual.

Seventh, they justify their raison d’etre. They believe that their lives are tied to a purpose, which is higher than themselves. They are a superior being because that are imbued with a desire for helping others; they are equipped with ideals of altruism, empathy and compassion. Their lives are directed by values and verbalised by principles, rather than it being driven aimlessly chasing whims and wishes. Their noble rationalism strengthens their spirit of sacrifice, which they never abate.

It is high time that everyone respected the police martyrs as immensely as they can, by standing by the families of the departed and by remembering them too often. Showing apathy to their families is tantamount to disregarding the sacrifices of the martyrs. It is heart-wrenching to find when those who have laid down their lives in the line of duty are reported by media as killed. They are martyrs, and every citizens of Pakistan must show them respect through their words and actions. Let us learn to show respect to police martyrs!

The graveyard of wrong policies: 24 August, 2017 "The Nation"

The Taliban has written an open letter to the US President Donald Trump asking him to leave aside the war mongering congressmen and warlords in Afghanistan and instead sit with the Taliban and work out a solution to the war that the US has failed to make even a sense of after 16 long years. The Taliban, in a negotiating tone, has called the National Unity Government (NUG) a bunch of corrupt people and the Afghans the real harbinger of peace. From what the letter reveals, one may understand that the Taliban are not willing to hold peace deal with the government. They are aware that the real power resides with the US and that the NUG is just a shadow of many powers vying for influence in Afghanistan.

Presently the Afghan government is surviving on foreign funds, foreign aids, and external grants. The presence of the IMF is just another way of subscribing to the international community for more financial assistance. According to the latest figures unveiled by the World Bank, Afghanistan has two million jobless people. Every year 400,000 aspiring youth enter the job market. There are not enough jobs. All the talks about infrastructural development by the Indians and other countries are not lending enough vibrancy to the Afghan economy because the private sector is not developing. Private sector’s growth depends entirely on the business environment sans violence, unpredictability and malfunctioning institutions. This is where the international community, especially Pakistan, stands factually correct when it says that Afghanistan has to take ownership of its policies. The Afghan-led and Afghan-owned solution requires getting in touch with the realities. It also requires trespassing greed, personal aggrandisement and rising above ethnic division. While weighing different options to handle the Afghan war, the US is also mulling to hire a private army to handle Afghanistan imbroglio, which means pulling out all the US soldiers. So far the Afghan government has not objected to this option, which would be a recipe for more crisis in the country. If the Taliban could defeat the US, the 5,000 Blackwater officers would be easier to delude.

The US has been looking at the Afghan problem from a wrong position, and therefore the blame for most of the unrest in Afghanistan is laid on Pakistan. Many US delegates have visited Pakistan in recent months, General Joseph Voted, Commander United States Central Command has already paid three visits to Pakistan as Commander, former US vice President John McCain was also in Pakistan and on his returned to the US had drawn up his own policy to solve the Afghan issue. The underlying message every delegate brought to Pakistan had been laced with the advice that our soil should not be used against Afghanistan. Pakistan’s effort against terrorism, though appreciated, has failed to reimburse the trust deficit both the countries had developed over the years, especially when the war on terrorism was in full swing after 9/11. Pakistan was accused of giving the Taliban tactical and strategic support to defeat the US-led NATO forces in spite of all their technology and advanced war tactics. Another major element that had led to the division between the US and Pakistan was the formation of the Hamid Karzai government heavily composed of the Northern Alliance. Musharraf had been on record insisting on bringing in the sane minds from Taliban in the Karzai government if a long-term solution to the Afghan problem was required. But the composition and disposition of the Karzai government exuded anti-Pakistan vibes resulting in a more stringent policy on Pakistan. India’s leading role may not be a problem, but giving India a larger than life role in Afghanistan that could become detrimental for Pakistan is something that does not go well even with the region. China has been in support of Pakistan in this matter. In spite of all its haggling India had not bee able to get Masood Azhar declared international terrorist by the Security Council. China had vetoed the attempt on every occasion. India has been trying to establish Pakistan a country that produces and exports terrorism. This narrative does not only draw India and the US closer, but it also lends India a bulwark to persist with its atrocious policies of inflicting inhuman treatment on the people of Kashmir.

In a recently held Senate Armed Services Committee hearing regarding Washington’s Afghanistan policy, the National Intelligence Director, Dan Coats, said that, in case the US allowed India a deeper role in Kabul, (such as letting India send its army in Kabul), to protect its interest in the region Pakistan could forget about the Afghan-led and Afghan-owned philosophy. It is in the US interest to keep India from taking a tough posturing against Pakistan in Kabul. It is amazing that after having spent billions in Afghanistan, the country has no financial structure in place to sustain rising economic demands. Most police pertaining business and investments are made in silos. In the case of persisting ignorance of the international community, which is focusing only on bringing in more army to Afghanistan or more war advisers, terrorism would remain a pestering wound.

The region is fast changing with the ‘One Belt One Road,’ initiative. Let Afghanistan become part of this changing dynamics, and engaged in economic activities rather than in war mongering. Afghanistan’s solution lies in talking to the Afghans that includes all the stakeholders even the Taliban and the ordinary citizens who are looking at the US strategy to send more troops as another mistake that would only extend miseries in Afghanistan.

Pakistan’s youth challenge: 21 August, 2017 "Daily Times"

This year's Population Reference Bureau (PRB) datasheet projects global youth population - ages 15 to 24 - at 1.4 billion in 2050. The current figure is 1.2 billion.

The datasheet shows that global adolescent fertility rate - among ages 15 to 19 - is 50 births per 1,000 women but the regional disparity is stark as most of these are taking place in less-developed countries. Compared to only 16 births per 1,000 adolescents in developed countries, the rate in less-developed countries is 54 per 1,000.

In its Vision 2025, the Government of Pakistan has vowed to 'channelise and streamline the energies of Pakistan's youth population and realise their immense economic potential'. The vision notes in particular the need for development of a knowledge-based industry that fosters innovation and entrepreneurship among the youth.

While Vision 2025 focuses primarily on our youth's economic promise -and this is consistent with the national resolve to capitalise on Pakistan's demographic dividend - Pakistan's 61 million young citizens can also be key enablers of wider socio-economic development outcomes.

Pakistan is among countries with the largest youth populations in the world. Youth comprise around 60% of the country's population, meaning three out of every five Pakistanis fall in the youth category.

Promotion of entrepreneurship among the youth seems almost a natural choice, partly due to the lack of employment opportunities and partly because of the culture of family-run businesses - particularly in clothing, food and retail sectors where the charge of a business is transferred from one generation to the next and so on.

 

Empowering young minds with a well rounded, contemporary and balanced education along with the instruction of moral values and religious tolerance will be the best possible investment on them

Meanwhile, Pakistani youth are facing multiple problems and if these aren't properly addressed, the country runs the risk of converting this valuable human resource into a burden. The main and foremost problem is related to the prevalent education system in the country. Currently, there are multiple systems running side-by-side. There are government-run institutes, private institutes catering to different socio-economic strata and religious seminaries or madrassas.

From the above overview, it is obvious that Pakistani youth is ready to play its role in all spheres of life. However a comprehensive response to tap this resource demands a holistic response.

The first and the foremost ingredient of such a response will be related to the education sector. Empowering the young minds with a well rounded, contemporary and balanced education along with the instruction of moral values and religious tolerance will be the best possible investment on them. Education of women also needs to be given equal focus and priority. Educated youth can then be relied upon to spread knowledge at primary and secondary educational level by introducing compulsory teaching tenure for university students in far-flung areas of the country that have poor literacy rates.

To inculcate leadership skills in the youth, model united nation competitions could be introduced at schools, colleges and universities. Establishing and strengthening youth parliaments at divisional and provincial levels will also be beneficial for the purpose.

Keeping in view the greater exposure of today's young generation to electronic media and the Internet, one can expect their young fertile minds to be more capable of coming up with innovative ideas. Proper guidance may still be required to channelise these ideas into the right direction.

The development of organisations like small- and medium- enterprise development forums with involvement of various chambers of commerce can prove helpful. Consortiums can also be formed with the help of established businesses in this regard.

In conclusion, the energies of young population needs to be channelised keeping in mind Pakistan's national goals and policies. Human resource management techniques need to be applied prudently. Misguided and direction-less young population can worsen the situation of socio-economic development indicators in the country. The young minds of Pakistan are a reservoir of energy, talent and capabilities. If regulated properly they can assist in development of the country. In view of the scale and complexity of Pakistan's youth challenge and the need for urgency, it is essential that government and non-governmental stakeholders work together, dovetailing their specific contributions within a shared and clearly articulated framework of priorities and action, and ensuring that the most is made of limited resources by avoiding overlap and maximising synergy. The lack of easily available data on government, donor and NGO efforts on youth is a telling sign that coordination must improve substantially if we are to collectively invest where and when young people most need our support.

Trump’s Afghanistan strategy: 21 August, 2017 "Daily Times"

Donald Trump’s much-awaited strategy for Afghanistan and the South Asian region, which was reviewed for a final decision at Camp David on Friday and said to be announced ‘shortly’, is as unpredictable as his language. While keeping in view the absolute nature of US administration and the constraints of neoliberalism, this so-called first post-modern US president is unlikely coming with a deconstructive mind to the past ill-coordinated US policies regarding Afghanistan and the region, completely refraining from the culture of trading in chaos and disabilities in the third world.

Among other policy considerations on the South Asian region, the Trump Administration is also considering an awful idea of contracting out the war in Afghanistan. It’s after 16 years of US involvement in the process of state-institutions-building and the war against terrorism in Afghanistan, that a mercenary proposal, which reportedly involves 5,500 private military contractors and 90 aircraft, appears as a considerable private sector input to arrangements in US new Afghan strategy to break, accordingly, the stalemate in this war-torn country through a financially cheaper mechanism.

 

A policy shift towards bringing a regional political and diplomatic consensus on protecting Afghanistan’s sovereignty is the only durable solution to the country’s many problems

If the Trump administration agrees to ratify the proposal, it could bear unanticipated outcomes for Afghanistan and the region. The regional players, who have developed stakes in the region through the prolonging of bloodshed in Afghanistan and were always unwilling to accept Afghanistan as an independent state, would get a ground to discursively and politically diminish Afghans’ war for their survival as Blackwater’s war for profit. The Jihadi apparatus in Pakistan can easily exploit such a situation for its own nefarious designs in our strategically key region.

In the case of privatisation of American security partnership with Afghanistan, the public representation of it could badly weaken Afghans’ morale in their struggle for survival.

Most importantly, the privatisation of security could strengthen divisions within Afghan society over the question of Afghanistan’s strategic and security partnership with the international community, especially the future status and legitimacy of the Bilateral Security Agreement (BSA) between Afghanistan and the United States, and subsequently, it could disrupt the ongoing process of the intra-Afghan reconciliation and functioning of the present national-unity government in Afghanistan.

It’s worth mentioning that legal status of the private military firms (PMFs) is the most important issue which the academic studies have focused all over the world. There is also no agency or legislative oversight in the way there might be on traditional militaries. Other than its shareholders, there are no real checks and balances on a PMF.

Surely, if a private resolution was preferred by the US administration to its Afghan problem, the first question would be raised on its legality and its relation to the Bilateral Security Agreement.

In this regard, Hamid Karzai, former Afghan president and presently one of the most influential public figures, seems started publicly opposing the dual nature of US policies, their apologetic approach to Pakistan’s interference in Afghanistan and the alleged abuses in US-led NATO operations in the country.

While opposing the outsourcing of war in Afghanistan to the private security firms, Karzai termed the proposal a ‘blatant violation of Afghan sovereignty and constitution, that will be prolonging and intensifying the bloodshed in Afghanistan’. “On the contrary, the US government should end the violence against the Afghan people and seek peace. I call upon Afghan government to oppose and denounce this anti-Afghanistan project”, emphasized Karzai in his tweets. Even though the state nationalism, nonviolence and democratic ideologies are the dominant trends in today’s Afghan society, the situation is bad in terms of the lack of an influential political front — one of the most serious weaknesses of the state system in Afghanistan.

If the Trump administration really seeks to break the stalemate, it should collaborate with the Afghans in strengthening the parliamentary system, political mobilisation and democratic culture in the country. Otherwise, the war in Afghanistan could face a dead end as the war in Iraq. Hence, the privatisation of security must not be an option.

The history of the Afghan War (the so-called Jihad) is replete with evidences showing how US and Pakistan cultivated Afghan religious groups as their proxies aimed at collapsing the state institutions and infrastructure in Afghanistan. To set the record straight, Pakistan’s interference in Afghanistan through training and recruiting Afghan Jihadi groups started during the Bhutto era, not with or after the arrival of the Soviet troops to the Western border.

In the Post-Cold War context, the US-led neo-liberal security politics has used it as a norm to fail a state, to create a vacuum over there and to fill it with private militias, militants, corporations and NGOs. Afghanistan of 1990s is, however, one of the worst and first victims of that policy.

Pakistan’s flawed Afghan policy has played a big destructive role. Truth be told, Pakistan’s security establishment has never disconnected itself from its 40 years old coercive policy of controlling Afghanistan with proxies. In the post 9/11 context, the United States have time and again threatened Pakistan with enormous pressure tactics including cutting-off aids and imposing sanctions but they have so far failed in changing the minds of Pakistani policymakers regarding Afghanistan. A policy shift towards bringing a regional political and diplomatic consensus on protecting Afghanistan’s sovereignty and guaranteeing it internationally against the violations is the only answer to the world’s Afghan question.

To conclude, If the international community genuinely feels an unstable Afghanistan is a threat to the global peace, there is a political solution to it. The state in Afghanistan is now a hard reality, and the world should help it getting harder in terms of economy and democratisation.

Makers of Pakistan: 19 August, 2017 "The News"

Who killed Zia?: 19 August, 2017 "Daily Times"

Even 29 years after the death of General Ziaul Haq, there is little clarity as to who was behind the incident that claimed his life. General Ziaul Haq had perished along with 30 other people when the C-130 Hercules aircraft he was flying in crashed on August 17, 1988 at Basti Lal Kamal. The casualty list besides the then President, included then Chairman Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee General Akhter Abdur Rehman, US Ambassador to Pakistan Arnold Raphel, one Lieutenant General, three Major Generals, five Brigadiers including Brigadier General Herbert M. Wassom, the head of the US military aid mission to Pakistan and numerous service personnel.

 

The list of possible perpetrators comprises a wide array of international actors who had good reasons to want Zia dead. It includes Indians, Russians, Iranians and — perhaps most intriguingly — Mossad, the Israeli intelligence agency

Two separate inquiries were conducted, one by Pakistan Air Force (PAF), which concluded that possible foul play had caused the crash of the ill fated aircraft while the Washington investigators determined the crash was the result of mechanical malfunction, noting that a number of C-130s had experienced similar problems, especially with hydraulics in the craft's tail assembly. Then-US Secretary of State George Shultz ordered the FBI not to probe the crash, even though two Americans had died.

Despite the fact that General Ziaul Haq's son, Ejazul Haq and General Akhter Abdur Rahman's son, Humayun Akhter have been members of the National Assembly and federal ministers, they have failed to pursue the inquiry for finding the offenders responsible for their father's demise.

Hence nearly three decades later, the mystery of who killed Ziaul Haq remains unsolved. There have been numerous conspiracy theories because General Ziaul Haq's totalitarian regime ushered an era of fundamentalism, barbarity in doling out harsh punitive measures in the name of Islam, like public flogging, chopping of arms and stoning to death. Zia's Hudood Ordnance has been instrumental in locking up thousands of women for adultery after they accused men of raping them without producing four Muslim witnesses as required under strict Sharia law. Similarly, religious minorities like Hindus and Christians have been lynched or incarcerated for 'insulting Islam' under the 'blasphemy' laws that were hardened under Zia's rule. Punjab Governor Salman Taseer was gunned down 23 years later for recommending revisiting of the controversial blasphemy laws.

Many analysts blame Ziaul Haq's rule of 11 years for proliferating jihad and extremism. Ziaul Haq was initially shunned internationally for toppling the democratically elected government of Zulfikar Ali Bhutto in 1977 and sending him to the gallows on a trumped up charge but the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in 1979 gave his authoritarian regime much needed adrenalin.

US State Department reached out to Ziaul Haq, who became complicit in training, arming and launching volunteers from Afghanistan, Pakistan and a number of other Islamic countries to wage jihad against the Soviets in Afghanistan. By 1988, the Soviets had been routed from Afghanistan but Pakistan continues to suffer from the aftermath of jihadist spirit imbibed in Pakistani youth, which has wreaked havoc in the shape of extremism and terrorism.

Coming back to the earlier issue of naming Ziaul Haq's killer, a number of proponents have been named. In light of the Latin phrase 'Cui Bono' meaning who gains from the crime, the family of Zulfikar Bhutto is prominent. Benazir Bhutto, who became the Prime Minister after Ziaul Haq's demise, called his crash 'an act of God'.

The list of possible perpetrators comprises a wide array of international suspects, who had good reasons to want Zia dead, including the Indians, the Russians, the Iranians and - perhaps most intriguingly -Mossad, the Israeli foreign intelligence agency. Some analysts believe since Ziaul Haq had outlived his utility for the US and was becoming a liability, he may have been bumped off by CIA. The then US Ambassador and Military Attaché were also killed in the crash because they had traveled separately to Bahawalpur and were invited at the last moment by Ziaul Haq to fly with him on the presidential aircraft.

Russians are a possibility because of Zia's role in supporting the Afghan Mujahedeen in routing the Soviets. The Indians fit the bill because of his purported support to Sikh separatists.

The Iranians were considered probable culprits because Ziaul Haq had given a freehand to Sunni extremists to target Shias. Allama Ariful Hussaini, who was a companion of Imam Khomeini during the latter's exile in Iraq, was brutally assassinated in Lahore. Iranians and Pakistan's Shia community were seething with anger at his elimination and held Zia responsible for the murder.

A shocking revelation is attributed to then-US Ambassador to India John Gunther Dean, who pointed the finger at Mossad, the Israeli intelligence agency. Dean proposed that Israel feared Zia was developing a nuclear bomb and the possibility that he would share it with other Muslim nations or enemies of Israel. Zia had called his nuclear project an 'Islamic bomb'.

Sikkim border face-off: 17 August, 2017 "Daily Times"

Staying unmoved on issue of Sikkim border tension between China and India, Pakistan has put a cold water on the proposal of Chinese think tank that third country's army could enter Kashmir at Pakistan's request, in response to the 'Indian logic' that on the request of Bhotan, the Indian Army entered into China-Bhotan disputed area and stopped the Chinese military from constructing the road in Doklam area.

Under volatile situation, when expectations pop up envisaging Pakistan's favourable gesture to embrace the suggestion so that China may sensitise international community about escalated gravity of matter, Pakistan's military and civil establishment opt to be silent. 
Even symbolically Pakistan has not hinted at a slightest warning to its arch rival India.

Putting aside China's interest, Islamabad administration is not in a mood to cash in opportunity to hype up Kashmir problem, known as living flashpoint in South Asia that led to a war between Pakistan and India in 1948 and is still a cause of brewing confrontation between the two countries.

Rare proposal came when Chinese analyst, a research fellow at The Charhar Institute and director of the Center for Indian Studies at China West Normal University, floated his opinion on July 9 in a publication believed to be vocal on the Chinese government.

 

Putting aside China’s interest, Islamabad administration is not in a mood to cash in opportunity to hype up Kashmir problem, known as living flashpoint in South Asia that led to a war between Pakistan and India in 1948 and is still a cause of brewing confrontation between the two countries

Pakistan's top think tanks also go unwelcome to the offer. Ahmed Rashid, director, China-Pakistan Study Centre (CPSC), Institute of Strategic Studies Islamabad (ISSI) underlined the need to refrain from the provocation urging to address the situation diplomatically. "Technically proposal stands invalid and unpractical as Pakistan and China have not signed any military and diplomatic accord to activate armed intervention by entering army into any area on the request," he asserted.

Responding to a query, Mr Ahmed Rashid opined that third party intervention will complicate the burning issue instead of de-escalation.

He characterised proposal highly counter-productive saying Pakistan had made political, moral and diplomatic struggle to spotlight Kashmir dispute internationally and it would never let any issue to jeopardise Kashmir freedom movement.

Seeking anonymity, senior officials in army and intelligence agencies also showed indifference over the Sikkim standoff saying Pakistan better avoid indulging into the affairs. "We are not the party to the conflict. It is a bilateral issue between India and China and let them iron it out." an official said. Though offer to invite China in Kashmir, he said, was floated by Chinese' analyst but even it had been laid down by Chinese government, and Pakistan should have resisted.

Pakistan has always rejected such proposals despite close relations with the friendly countries. Islamabad administration turned down Saudi Arabia's request for tangible armed military intervention in Yemen's operation decisive storm in April 2015.

It was a direct request from King Salman bin Abdul-Aziz Al Saud seeking Pakistan's troops against Zaydi Shiite Houthi rebels in Yemen. Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif presented the issue to the Pakistani parliament, which decide unanimously against the country's involvement in the crisis. If a similar situation emerges whereby Pakistan has to ask China to send its forces in Kashmir, matter will be sent to the Chinse parliament that will likely disallow it.

Chinese official in foreign affairs ministry on the condition of anonymity claimed that in order to weigh up the response and build opinion, sometimes such proposals are released, adding that official stance is yet to be framed over the matter and so far it is a just an unofficial motion. He objected Bhutanese government's prompt request to India that escalated tension saying instead of taking up matter diplomatically, it reacted on military ground for nothing.

Ch. AbidRaza, senior member, National Assembly Standing Committee on Kashmir Affairs and GilgitBaltistan opined that Indian-held Kashmir situation had not reached to the point of no return or a blind allay provoking Pakistan to request China to enter its forces to liberate the region from the atrocity of India.

Senator MushahidUllah Khan was of the view that Sikkim border unrest and Kashmir occupation had taken center stage. "India is habitual of entering army into disputed areas many times in past. In October 1947 with conspiracy of Dogra Raj, Indian army entered into held-Kashmir. Later it did the same in 1971 leading to dismemberment of East Pakistan, now known as Bangladesh," he added. However, he held a view that Pakistan was a responsible country that knew how to respect UN charters and international boundaries.

He called upon both India and China to resolve the border tension using diplomatic means as the region could not bear the brunt of war and any military skirmish.

Need of a resolute engagement within Asia: 17 August, 2017 "Daily Times"

Proceeding with its foreign policy objectives of seeking protection, promotion and advancement in national interests in the external domain; Pakistan makes endeavours to engage with other countries. Our relations with neighbours and particularly the Big Three - US, Russia and China - are quite evident due to our frequent engagements. While glancing at the Central Asian States, though we are engaged through multilateral forums such as ECO, OIC and SCO; yet, bilateral collaboration potentials of Pakistan and Central Asian States remain partially tapped. Contrarily, India has grounded its strong bases and structures in these states and pursuing its interests quite vigorously.

Looking at these states as a whole, it can be stated that their interrelations keep transiting in a fragile equation of moderate and good on political, economic and ethnic grounds. Likewise, their foreign relations range from alliances to the policies of neutrality with the US, Russia and China in line with their interests and influences of the Big Three. Moreover besides their native languages, Russian being the second official language leaves great impact and becomes barrier for legacies of the British ex colonies.

First of all Tajikistan; it is a growing economy with reservoirs of aluminium and cotton. Though, Pakistan and Tajikistan leaderships have been conducting meetings on annual or biannual basis, yet the potentials are not being optimally benefitted. Our bilateral trade volume rests on $70 million as compared to India's $80 million. Progress on long talked CASA-1000 has remained lukewarm; thus a 13-65km of Wakhan Corridor has emphatically turned into 1000 miles barrier.

 

Notwithstanding the language barriers, we may have to put in extra efforts to improve people-to-people contacts and direct public or private sector investments to get into the Central Asian markets as being followed by the Indian and other nations’ businessmen

Cultural and educational exchanges are rare perhaps due to nonexistence of direct air link and ground connectivity. On the other hand, Tajik people are fond of watching Indian movies.

The US maintains its presence at Ayne Base (north of Dushanbe), India at Farkhore Base (south of Dushanbe) and Russia stays with its motorized Brigade in place to further their defence and economic cooperation. China, Turkey, US and India are bringing heavy investments by providing IT, construction and defence related equipment to Tajikistan.

The electricity, gold, cotton and uranium enriched Kyrgyzstan favours close relations with the members of Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS), particularly Kazakhstan and Russia. The Pakistan-Kyrgyz trade volume remains on the lowest ebb i.e. ranging between $1-2 million, but India has $49 million. In the recent past, Prime Minister-level meetings have been conducted to boost bilateral trade and engagements but implementation remains a sore point. Non-existent direct air link results in minimal cultural exchanges and lowering opportunities. Kyrgyzstan is experiencing a dramatic increase in trade with the People's Republic of China, its southern neighbour.

Our neglects have resulted in Kyrgyz leaderships largely supporting Indian stand on Kashmir. India and the US are effectively engaged in bilateral defence cooperation with Kyrgyzstan. Indian-Kyrgyz media exchanges are quite often, thus the Kyrgyz have predominant fascination of the Indian culture.

Kazakhstan, a dominant nation of Central Asia, is economically generating 60 percent of the region's GDP; primarily through its oil and gas industry and vast mineral resources. It pursues a multi-vector foreign policy, seeking equally good relations with its two big neighbours - Russia and China - as well as with the US and the rest of the western world.

The Pakistan-Kazakhstan trade volume is around $35 million far low than the Indian $995 million. Although we have established an elaborate diplomatic setup in Kazakhstan for high or low level bilateral engagements for trade, economic, scientific, technological and cultural cooperation, yet the progress remains very slow.

Contrarily, India-Kazakhstan engagements such as developing joint economic and military-industrial projects and establishing a partnership between the defence industries have gone way forward.

The natural gas-rich Uzbekistan has been predicted by a survey of Global Bank of Hong Kong and Shanghai Banking Corporation (HSBC) to be one of the fastest-growing economies of the world (top 26) in future decades. It has fourth largest gold deposits, tenth largest copper deposits and twelfth largest uranium deposits in the world. It maintains friendly relations with all the countries except experiencing few dips in the relations with Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan on ethnic and geographical grounds. Our bilateral trade volume is around $40 million - low as compared to our needs against India's $230 million.

 

The Pak-Turkmen trade volume lies around $25 million against India's $42 million. Areas of investment remain trade, energy, agriculture, livestock, science, technology, education, health, sports, tourism and defence

One of the major challenges between Pakistan and Uzbekistan was the direct link, which was resolved when direct flights started their operations from Tashkent to Lahore since April 2016.

Pakistan has signed MoUs during high level exchanges in the fields of export of engineering goods, medical equipment, sports goods, and textile fabrics while Uzbekistan has agreed to export cotton fibre, silk, minerals, fertilizers, cables, construction material, transmission lines, transformers, consumer electronics, mobile phones and building materials along with agriculture machinery, chemicals and aircraft. Uzbekistan has been an active supporter of the US efforts against worldwide terrorism in Afghanistan.

Lastly, Turkmenistan possesses the world's fourth largest reserves of natural gas resources, but economic prospects of the country in the near future are discouraging because of widespread internal poverty and burden of foreign debt. It bases its foreign relations on permanent neutrality, thus preventing it from participating in multinational defence organizations, but allows military assistance. However, it maintains good relations with other nations. In addition to supplying gas to Russia, China and Iran; Ashgabat has taken concrete measures to accelerate the progress in construction of the Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India pipeline (TAPI). Unfortunately, the security situation in Afghanistan is impeding the completion of TAPI project.

The Pak-Turkmen trade volume lies around $25 million against India's $42 million. Areas of investment remain trade, energy, agriculture, livestock, science, technology, education, health, sports, tourism and defence. Factors of lack of direct cargo links, safe and direct land routes, knowledge of Pakistani products, and visa facilitation hamper expansion of trade with Turkmenistan. High level leadership meetings have affirmed to adjoin the ports of Turkmenbasy (Caspian Sea) and Gwadar (Indian Ocean) to shape domestic and international trade corridors.

The Government of Pakistan and leaderships of Central Asian States are reasonably cautious of improving bilateral relations amongst each other. However, the language barrier and issues of direct ground and air links are hindering it badly. Notwithstanding these barriers, we may have to put in extra efforts to improve people-to-people contacts and direct public or private sector investments to get into the Central Asian markets as being followed by the Indian and other nations' businessmen. Our embassies abroad also need to be appropriately resourced and equipped to look after civil and defence related engagements. Media exchanges and cultural festivities such as fashion shows, musical nights, airing of own movies and dramas duly dubbed in local languages can bring us closer. Bilateral expatriate community bases and residencies need to be enhanced by offering education and sports programmes and events. At the end, despite security and connectivity challenges due to instable Afghanistan, we will have to exhibit more dedication and commitment to meet the requirements of national interests.

An unsung hero: 17 August, 2017 "The Nation"

General Akhtar Abdul Rahman, the architect of the Afghan war against the Soviet Union, is one of the true heroes of this land, who defeated a world super power in the Afghan jihad. He gave a spark to and ignited the lifeless intelligence agency of Pakistan and made it one of the finest and dynamic in the world. Through his tireless and tacit efforts, ISI played an important part in the destruction of the Soviet Union. With his foresight, commitment and dedication, he increased the power and effect of the ISI as an intelligence agency. He was a background player and executed his plans from behind the curtain.

General Akhtar Abdul Rahman joined the Indian army in 1945 and was commissioned in 1946. Akhtar was a very junior artillery officer at the time of the partition of India and the birth of Pakistan. He witnessed the unspeakable horrors of the partition and was dismayed by the brutalities committed by Hindus and Sikhs against Muslims during partition. The whole traumatic episode left a deep mark inside him and it was never forgotten nor forgiven by him. After this, for the rest of his life, he considered India as a relentless enemy both for his country and his religion. He fought in three wars (1948, 1965, and 1971).

In 1979, General Akhtar was offered the position of Director General Inter Services Intelligence. He headed the intelligence agency and built it as a very effective military institution which impacted both national and international affairs. Within the span of seven years alongside his loyal team, he gave life to ISI and made it one of the most vibrant and effective institution. He conceived and crafted the plans to deal with the Soviet Union through the Afghan Mujahedeen and covert guerrilla fighters from Pakistan.

In the wake of the Soviet invasion in Afghanistan, there were apprehensions that they might attack Pakistan too, so there were many potential threats to the security of Pakistan at that time. After the initial years of Soviet invasion in Afghanistan, the military leadership under General Zia decided to fight against the Soviets, even before the American assistance initiated through CIA. At that time, US President Jimmy Carter was entangled in internal dilemmas and threats which emerged after the hostage crisis in Iran, so no considerable assistance was provided. In the beginning Gen Akhtar was alone in considering that he can force the Soviet forces out of Afghanistan, he was way too optimistic. He was of the view that Pakistan should support the Jihad covertly.

America followed the “wait and see” approach as it believed that Soviet troops would take over Afghanistan in few weeks. They did not offer any support as they thought of Afghanistan as a lost case; why throw good money and provoke the Soviets by supporting the Mujahedeen. Once they witnessed the slaughter of Soviet troops at the hands of Afghan Mujahedeen, they changed their plan and injected the money. It should be very clear that when USA sensed the victory in Afghanistan at the hands of Mujahedeen, they initiated aid and assistance. When Reagan came in the White House, he announced an aid package for Pakistan, which Gen Zia accepted. Although the covert operations by ISI were funded by CIA, Pakistan became a frontline state and Afghanistan a battleground. In making Afghanistan a “graveyard of a super power”, ISI in general and General Akhtar played a central role and made the Soviet pull-out inevitable.

When Gen Akhtar took the command of ISI as DG, he started each and every task from the scratch. It was a very major task to provide assistance to Afghan Mujahedeen at every front. But there was no such strategy and plan to deal with all the emerging scenes, never dealt with by the Pak forces before. Gen Akhtar was solely responsible for devising and executing plans and organising massive covert military operations against the Soviets. He established training centres and many army officials were made responsible to train the Afghan Mujahedeen, equipping them with warfare strategies and necessity skills so that they would be able to defend their homeland against the Soviet invasion.

Gen Akhtar established a very close relation with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Pakistan, and with the State Department, especially the branch that interacted constantly with the CIA. The nine years of training, guidance and military assistance to guerrilla fighters in Afghanistan by ISI demolished the base of the Soviets and claimed around 13000 lives of soviet troops. The world stood in surprise and shock as less-trained, less-equipped and sometimes illiterate guerrilla fighters defeated the well-trained and highly equipped army of thousands.

Gen Akhtar was on the hit list of KGB and huge prize-money was put on his head, but he fearlessly involved himself in the planning and execution of the jihad, and never bothered about personal threats which emerged against him. Both Pakistan and Afghanistan owe a lot to him, as he fought for the cause of the Ummah. He died in a fatal plane crash on August 17, 1988 near Bahawalpur and was never able to see the dawn of the Afghan Mujahedeen and fall of the Soviet Union.

He had a complex personality, as he never showed his emotions nor ever revealed himself outside his family. As an individual, he was too honest and upright as he always reported what was going on, never overlooking anybody including his own staff. He never encouraged nor was he an admirer of favours and popularity. He was very crucial for the Afghan Jihad and he worked closely with Gen Zia on national and international matters. Based on his competence, integrity, and loyalty Zia developed a great trust and confidence in Gen Akhtar and at last promoted him to the rank of a general.

One year before the Bahawalpur incident, a young Pakistani man met an American journalist carrying photographs of injured Afghan children with General Akhtar Abdul Rehman. The Pakistani asked the journalist the reason for keeping these photographs and he answered that whenever he was disappointed he looked at the photographs of the general and the children, to get courage. Today, US and Western analysts and experts admit that the DG ISI, CJCOSC and right hand of General Zia ul Haq, General Akhtar Abdul Rehman was the man who forced the superpower ‘Soviet Union’ to be torn into pieces. For the first time in history, the mason of a great victory was known by the world after his death.

Strategic review: 17 August, 2017 "The Nation"

Basically, the Trump administration can’t seem to decide whether to go for a troop surge in Afghanistan or to send in the mercenary private security contractors. The talk about withdrawal being an option on the table is sheer deception. Clearly, this much-trumpeted and much-delayed strategic review is aimed at sustaining the military occupation of Afghanistan not ending it. You’d need a revolution in the US for such drastic reorientation, not a strategic review under Trump.

Though he has been painted as an anti-establishment warrior ready to take on the globalist elite, the outsider all eager to clear the deep-state swamp, Trump is no such thing. He’s a wildcard pulled out by Uncle Sam to deal with a world slipping out of his hegemonic hold. Trump’s unpredictability creates the desired confusion and his shamelessness provides the perfect cover to adjust to changing international realities without admitting defeat. Otherwise, Uncle Sam is just as determined to snuff out any challenge to his hegemony under Trump as he was under Obama.

Scandals about Trump’s links to Russia and the hype generated by western mainstream media, around the spurious investigations and through fake news, are distractions aimed at keeping the myth of him being Russia-friendly, and hence being anti-establishment, alive. The tussle between various factions of the establishment is projected as a war between Trump-the-outsider and deep-state insiders. Meanwhile, Uncle Sam pushes ahead with his unchanged plans for world hegemony.

There’s nothing to suggest that Uncle Sam has become any wiser under Trump. Even the most promising signs, Trump’s bonhomie with President Putin and his expression of willingness to cooperate with Russia to resolve the crisis in Syria, are proving to be little more than a smokescreen to continue the US agenda of regime change and balkanisation with new tactics. The US would not leave Syria alone unless it is forced to do that. And the same holds true for Afghanistan.

So let’s not hold our breath waiting for the so-called strategic review to be revealed. It will be yet another blue-print for continuing the military occupation of Afghanistan and controlling its government. If anything, the talk about a surge in US troops based in the country, or sending in mercenaries, indicates that the US is getting ready to up the ante in Afghanistan. They’ve already brought in their proxy terrorists from Daesh to add to the mayhem.

It should be clear by now what the US game plan in Afghanistan really is. It would like to retain its military foothold in the country and use it to not only keep the country destabilised, but also to bring that instability to the neighbouring countries. Quite like what it did in Iraq, it would like to use the lawless territory under its control to spawn and spread terrorism within Afghanistan and to neighbouring countries: Pakistan, Iran, Central Asian states and the Muslim-majority regions of China and Russia.

The trillion-dollar poppy trade that already exists and the trillion-dollar worth of minerals under Afghan soil are all very well but, to my mind, they are more like bonuses of imperialism in this case and the US would have stayed in Afghanistan even without them. After all, a military foothold bang in the middle of Eurasia is just what it needs to destabilise the region through its terrorist proxies and hence disrupt the various processes of regional connectivity and integration unleashed by China and Russia. A puppet government dependent on the occupying forces for its survival comes in handy as well.

Had Uncle Sam wished to change course in Afghanistan, we would have seen some constructive engagement with Afghanistan’s neighbours. The US has refused to get involved in the Russia-China-Pakistan initiative on Afghanistan that envisages regional countries collectively taking up the responsibility of ensuring security and stability in Afghanistan and the region. It would rather partner with India to grind subversive mutual axes.

The so-called strategic review is obviously not going to change the sordid trajectory of US policy in Afghanistan. It is more about redistributing the blood-soaked spoils of war. Downgrade CIA’s Syria assignment but give it a bigger role in Venezuela. Give CIA’s job in Syria to Pentagon but do not add to its role in Afghanistan. Give the conract of keeping Afghanistan in a mess to the mercenaries. And so it goes.

After all, war is big business in the US. The various lobbies that run the US government need to be fed like hungry dogs. Trump must balance the bones he throws to the CIA, the Pentagon and private security contractors. These deep-state linked firms have emerged as a strong lobby in the US, landing billion-dollar contracts. They are supposed to work better because they tend to be more brutal and the US government doesn’t have to bear the brunt of their actions and deaths.

What the Trump administration can’t seem to decide is how to divide the trillion-dollar spoils of war, and that’s pretty much it. The so-called strategic review was never intended to review the objectives of US policy in Afghanistan. There are only two things that could bring about such deeper reflection that could lead to a US withdrawal; a revolution in the US or a concerted effort by Afghanistan’s immediate neighbours aimed at ending the US occupation of the country.

There is a growing realisation among Afghanistan’s immediate neighbours about the nefarious role of the US in Afghanistan and they are helping each other quell the menace emanating from the occupied country through bilateral and multilateral frameworks. It is time for these overlapping forums to give way to a tightly-knit alliance between China, Russia, Pakistan, Iran and the five Central Asian States to work towards a US withdrawal from Afghanistan. They must accept the responsibility of security and peace in the region.

Here’s the point: A withdrawal of US-led forces is a pre-requisite to establish peace in Afghanistan and to bring stability in our neighbourhood. Waiting for a revolution to start in the US is a waste of time. It would come when it comes and we can’t sit on our hands waiting for it to happen. Regional cooperation is the only answer.

A tribute to Dr Ruth Pfau: 16 August, 2017 "Daily Times"

While Pakistani media was busy with the rally in the twin cities and a frustrated Nawaz Sharif was sounding war drums, Pakistan’s female Edhi was quietly breathing her last on a bed in Agha Khan Hospital, Karachi.

Her peaceful departure during the loud hullabaloo of the rally reminded me that Pakistan’s strength resides in the work done by heroes like Edhi and Dr Ruth, who spent their life for humanity and the poor and disenfranchised people of Pakistan, and not in the selfish politicos screaming on top of their voices to prove that they hold our destiny in their hands.

Dr Ruth Katherina Martha Pfau NQA, HPk, HI (born 9 September 1929) was a German-Pakistani nun and a member of the Society of Daughters of the Heart of Mary who devoted the last 50 years of life to fighting leprosy in Pakistan. In 1996, Pakistan was declared by the World Health Organisation to have controlled leprosy, one of the first countries in Asia to achieve this goal. Dr Pfau was born in Leipzig, Germany on 9 September 1929.She had four sisters and one brother. After World War II when the Russians occupied East Germany, she escaped to West Germany along with her family and chose medicine as her future career. In 1949 she studied medicine at Mainz. She was not satisfied with her life. She wanted to do something more: She joined a Catholic order and eventually landed in Pakistan.

In the early days of Pakistan, leprosy was considered a taboo rather than a disease and it was almost impossible to open any treatment centres as lepers were generally ostracised. Four determined people with their own initiative pioneered the work in the slum quarters on McLeod Road Karachi; these included Dr Anne Rochs, Mrs Beatrix Menezes, Sr Bernice Vargas and Sr Mary Doyale. The squalid condition of the Lepers Colony, lack of proper drugs, absence of electricity and water were daunting challenges, but thanks to this small group working for humanity, a small dispensary built by using wooden crates came up.

As per her parent mission’s plan, Dr Ruth was supposed to go to India; however, she landed in Karachi by default in 1960 due to a technical visa problem. She was told to get to Karachi first and then India. In Karachi, she met the Mexican origin sister Bernice Vergas, who was a pharmacist. Sister Vergas invited Ruth to visit the leprosy patient’s colony.

When Dr Roth visited the leprosy patients’ colony, she felt dejected with the situation and took the decision of her life, which would make her the champion of the poor and rejected lepers of Karachi and Pakistan. Having little knowledge about leprosy, she studied leprosy before leaving for India for short courses. Her return from India saw the conversion of the hapless dispensary into a small functioning hospital.

As discussed earlier, leprosy was taboo in Pakistani society, Dr Ruth saw the appalling condition of lepers, people believed leprosy as an evil predicament ordained by God, would leave the patients to Dr Ruth and never visit them. Dr Ruth displayed exemplary care and affection by personal touch and love. She would even make arrangements for the last rites, janaza and burial of abandoned lepers after their death.

Her humanitarian work gradually attracted people of God and some volunteers started becoming part of her team. These included the famous dermatologist, Dr Zarina Fazelbhoy, who till 1997, remained associated with Dr Ruth’s programme and centre. Due to her serious illness, she was unable to continue and expired in February 1999. The small plant planted by Dr Ruth in form of a clinic became a shady tree, an eight story hospital. The programme was expanded to other parts of Pakistan as well.

Dr Pfau would tirelessly travel to far-flung areas of Pakistan for the cause of humanity; managing donations from Germany and Pakistan and expanding the programme at a national level. In 1968, Dr Pfau persuaded the Government of Pakistan to undertake a National Leprosy Control Programme in partnership with MALC (Marie Adelaide Leprosy Centre) and began setting up leprosy-control centres across the country.

Gen Zia appointed her as the President’s advisor on leprosy control, an appointment which she held till 2000. In 1988, in recognition of her services, she was awarded Pakistani citizenship. According to Pfau, her suggestions were taken seriously and the government of Pakistan cooperated with her. In recognition of her work for humanity she was awarded with a number of national and international awards including; the Order of Merit (1969, Germany, Sitara i Quaid i Azam (1969), Hilal-e-Imtiaz, Hilal-i-Pakistan, Ramon Magsaysay Award (2002), the Jinnah Award (2002) and the Doctor of Science (DSc), honoris causa, Aga Khan University, Karachi (2004).


By 1989, Dr Ruth expanded her work to Afghanistan, targeting leprosy patients. Her efforts made it possible for Pakistan to be declared leprosy free in 1996.She immensely contributed to the alleviation of hardships of earthquake and flood affected people of Pakistan and Sindh during 2005 and 2010.

Always identifying herself as a Pakistani, she would proudly wear shalwar kameez and live a very simple life. She always maintained that if she were to be born again, she would want to be born in Pakistan.

A glance at the website of Marie Adelaide Leprosy Centre shows the message of the founder Dr Ruth Pfau, I will conclude the piece with an extract from her angelic message:

“Dear friends,

Another year has passed, a year with much worry and suffering and defiant and determent continuation of our service, a year in which Pakistan and with it Marie Adelaide Leprosy Centre has struggled amidst all law and order problems, refusing to lose hope.

As much as we welcome these developments, one question arises: How should we utilise our remaining facilities, the infrastructure, the knowledge of our professional staff? Seeing all the unmet needs in Pakistan, the services not yet rendered, the shortage of trained and motivated manpower leaves us with the conviction that leprosy control is not the last calling. Especially as leprosy patients are suffering from disabilities which are not cured with simple anti-leprosy medication, and in the same area where they are living, hundreds of other patients are suffering from general disability as well; children, old people, and victims of street accidents. It was only logical to extend our disability service to general disabled people and try to improve their quality of life as well, enabling them to move, to communicate, and to find a meaning in their lives. Thus, “CBR” Community-based Rehabilitation has developed as the second calling of MALC, bringing relief and happiness to hundreds of disabled patients. My message, my prayer and my request of last year has taken concrete shape. May MALC do for the disabled patients what it did for the leprosy patients, change their life from misery to meaning and happiness.”

Not is my name: 12 August, 2017 "Daily Times"

The #NotInMyName protests in New Delhi and other cities of India are snowballing into a massive movement. Carrying placards saying 'Not In My Name', ' No place for Islamophobia' and 'Shed hate not blood', scores of people gathered at Jantar Mantar in Delhi last month, and in at least 20 other cities across India, including Mumbai, to protest the growing vigilantism by citizens and incidents of lynching of Muslims and Dalits. The immediate trigger for the spontaneous protest march was the killing of 15-year-old Junaid Khan by a mob on a train while he was returning home to his Khandawali village in Faridabad.

 

More than 50 Indian nationals, mostly octogenarians — who had been in the forefront of the freedom movement — returned their national awards to protest the rising radicalism, which is gnawing at the roots of India’s unity

The movement prompted Prime Minister Narendra Modi to state that killing in the name of 'gau bhakti' was not acceptable, but ignoring his words, on the same day a mob in Jharkhand beat a man to death on the suspicion that he was carrying cow meat in his vehicle.

The driving force behind the demonstrations is Gurgaon-based filmmaker Saba Dewan who gave out the rallying cry. Although it was originally planned to be held just at Jantar Mantar in the heart of New Delhi, the idea has swept up a great deal of response online - enough to be replicated across several cities, including London, Toronto, and Boston.

Targeting minorities has become a norm in Narendra Modi's BJP government. Modi, who was an active member of the Hindu fanatic group Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) since the age of eight, called upon his Hindutva mentors to support him during the 2014 general elections. After ensuring Modi's success, RSS demanded its pound of flesh and Modi had no option but to place Hindu extremists and his compatriots in RSS on high positions in the government and follow an agenda of targeting Indian minorities, especially Muslims.

India is constitutionally a country which follows secularism and comprises citizens who do not demur in raising their voice against vigilantism and extremism. More than 50 Indian nationals, mostly octogenarians, who had been in the forefront of the freedom movement, returned their national awards to protest the rising radicalism, which is gnawing at the roots of India's unity. This was followed by a group of 1,000 international litterateurs and academics including the renowned scholar Noam Chomsky and numerous other intellectuals, who signed a petition addressed to Narendra Modi to stop extremism and targeting Indian minorities, especially Muslims.

Since fanatic Hindus remain oblivious to the persecution of Indian minorities, sensitive human rights activists have organised the 'Not in my name' movement to question the pattern of the attacks on the minorities in the country and the silence of the government over the killings and cases of lynching of Muslims and Dalits.

If it was heartening for the torch bearers of the human rights activists that several political organisations and forum for protecting the rights of women and democracy came together on one platform to protest fanaticism, the Indian military veterans picking up the cudgel on behalf of the minorities added impetus to the protest.

In addition to 'Not In My Name', the chant, "Nafratkekhilaaf, insaniyat ki awaaz" (Against hatred, we cry out for humanity)", is reverberating across various cities of India and some international capitals. Prakash Ambedkar, leader of the Bharipa Bahujan and grandson of Bhimrao Ramji Ambedkar, popularly known as Baba Saheb, an Indian jurist, economist, politician and social reformer who inspired the Dalit Buddhist Movement and campaigned against social discrimination against Untouchables (Dalits), and supported the rights of women and labour, has joined the movement, providing it additional momentum.

The 114 armed forces veterans, who have written to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, condemning mob attacks by cow vigilantes on Muslims and Dalits, have expressed concerns over "clampdown" on free speech and the "climate of fear". The letter, which was also sent to chief ministers of all states, states that "It saddens us to write this letter, but current events in India have compelled us to register our dismay at the divisiveness that is gripping our country."

"We stand with the 'Not in My Name' campaign that mobilised thousands of citizens across the country to protest against the current climate of fear, intimidation, hate and suspicion," the letter added.

Modi will have to rein in his goons from RSS and progenitors of the Hindutva campaign. The country which won its independence in the name of secularism and whose forefathers like Mahatma Gandhi sacrificed their lives for assuring equal rights for Muslims and other minorities, is now embroiled in persecuting its own trodden masses. Unless India climbs out of the abyss of hate, bigotry and odium, it will never be respected by the world.

A new strategy for Afghanistan: 12 August, 2017 "Pakistan Today"

America is adrift in Afghanistan. President Obama's 'don't lose' strategy has put us on a path to achieving the opposite result. Now, nearly seven months into President Trump's administration, we've had no strategy at all as conditions on the ground have steadily worsed. The thousands of American putting their lives on the line in Afghanistan deserve better from their commander-in-chief.

Adopting a new strategy for achieving america's national security interests in Afghanistan is a decision of a highest importance, one that should be subjected to rigorous scrutiny and debate within our government. But we must face facts: we are losing in Afghanistan and time is of the essence if we intend to turn the tide. more...

The fourth round: 12 August, 2017 "Express Tribune"

Sustaining US operations in Afghanistan without Pakistani ground lines of communication would be very difficult and costly. Other considerations like the criticality of a nuclear armed Pakistan of 200 million remaining stable and also remaining at peace with its neighbours, peaceful internally and thriving economically, argue strongly for US Pakistan cooperation.

If President Trump was to consider these arguments, there is a possibilty that Pakistan could expect soon the revival of another transactional relationship with the US. more...

CPEC and Gwadar: 11 August, 2017 "Express Tribune"

The city of Gwadar that we proudly own today did not belong to us . Our governement bought it from the Sultanate of Oman in 1958. Only if Oman had known the fate of this land earlier, it probably would had never sold it to Pakistan. Now, Pakistan gladely reaps the reward while Oman silently observes.

It would'nt be unfair to credit worth condrick, the man who carried out the survey of the area and realised the worth of the land of Gwadar when Oman had known little about its value and was ready to get rid of it since Oman and Gwadar were geographically detached. Neither was it profitable them. more...

India cut down to size in Doklam: 11 August, 2017 "Daily Times"

India’s posture at Doklam was responded in equal measure by China. In fact, the story holds that India has completely withdrawn its troop leaving behind only 50 soldiers. China’s ire towards India has been for two reasons. Before discussing the reasons, let it be known that the ire was quite fierce than what the Indian government had expected. Perhaps, interfering into the domestic affairs of its weak and under-performing neighbours have become so common with India that it simply did not bother to see who it was throwing the challenge at. One can understand why SAARC has not been seriously pursued. Had there been a dedicated effort to make SAARC perform, the small South Asian States would have shed India’s influence to become a vibrant part of the South Asian economy. Just like Nepal, where India has been interfering in almost everything, Bhutan too has been tainted by the Indian influence. After Doklam, the situation has reversed at least in symbolic terms, and if India keeps to its penchant for showing hedonistic tendencies, another Doklam would simply reduce India to a nonentity. So let there be a lesson learned that India’s power within the region is not expected beyond a certain limit.

India’s intimidation techniques towards Pakistan have also failed to make any mark. Pakistan army has so far given matching response to India on its continuous shelling at the Line of Control (LoC). It is this aggressive, intruding, and discordant prone posturing of India that has started the arms race in South Asia. The United States in its effort to strengthen Indian nuclear and military muscles to counter China is only putting more pressure on Pakistan and China to get equal with India. In region where poverty still reigns and millions of people sleep empty stomach, arm race could only be a super power’s ploy to make this part of the world subservient to its desires.

According to the Chinese government, it had informed the Indians twice before starting the construction work on the India, Bhutan and China border at the Sikkim sector. But India chose to neglect the intimation. And when it did respond, it was to push the Chinese out of the area with a blame that China had intruded into Bhutan’s territory. Apparently, India had come to the rescue of Bhutan. India’s ignorance of the ground realities in the Sikkim area reveals its potential to bully its neighbouring countries especially those that reckon power and influence.

China has so far tolerated India’s defiance at the Sikkim Sector. It seems this leverage may not work for too long. Terming China, a powerful neighbour, the Global Times opined: “The border standoff has stretched out for nearly two months. The world has seen China treasure peace and understands the causes of the issue. During this period, the Chinese public has gradually adapted to the risks and uncertainties their country faces and believes the Chinese government has the authority to solve the crisis through all possible means.”

 

Chinese newspapers have gone as far as comparing the situation at Doklam to that of Indian-held Kashmir. This India-driven analogy could come back to bite New Delhi if Beijing ever decides to come to Pakistan’s rescue against rising Indian atrocities in Kashmir

What India does not realise is that this defiance is bringing it a bad name both at home and abroad. An ordinary Indian is fully aware today that India cannot challenge Chinese power in the region.

Another lesson to be learned from the Doklam impasse is that balancing China by the sheer display of strength, arrogance, and power would be counterproductive for India. China has been following the policy of peace and reconciliation with its neighbours to bring prosperity in the region, towards which China is spending heavily through its One Belt One Road initiative. Instead, ever since China has begun this initiative, India is exploring new avenues to stand out against China in a show of power and influence.

India is playing a similar game in Afghanistan, which has disturbed the equilibrium between Pakistan and Afghanistan. Indian Intrusion into the political affairs of Afghanistan has only weakened the Afghan government’s argument that it wants peace within and outside. Pakistan has long accused India of fomenting unrest in Pakistan through Afghanistan. Terrorists from across Afghan border operate on the back of Indian money.

India’s desire to attain power in the region cannot be achieved by pushing its agenda on the neighbouring countries. Chinese newspapers have gone as far as comparing the situation at Doklam to the Indian Held Kashmir. The analogy created by India could strangle its neck if China ever decides to come to the rescue of Pakistan in the case of India’s rising atrocities in Kashmir.

Doklam is a reminder that India can be cut to size if it tries to outsize the powers surrounding it. The sooner this lesson is learned the better.

Mutually beneficial CPEC: 10 August, 2017 "The Nation"

Trade is mutually beneficial to Pakistan and China. For Pakistan, it is a learning process to develop fast and competitive values to capture global markets and to become global traders. Pakistani businessmen are far behind of China, Korea, and Japan, just to speak of these three Asian dynamic traders. Pakistan accumulates trade-deficits with all these three countries. Before China, Japan used to be the largest trading partner of Pakistan but trade balance remained in favour of Japan since the 1960s. Still, it cannot be said that this was one-sided trade and that Japan denied opportunities and incentives to Pakistani exporters.

Pakistan traders did not capture the Japanese market because of their own fault – a lack of innovation. Now, China presents a large consumer market and it is up to Pakistani traders, exporters, and businessmen to capture the Chinese market along with other competitors. Access into the Chinese market would be as difficult as that of Japan and South Korea for Pakistani traders if they do not learn global competitiveness and develop innovation technologies.

Not only is the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) is target of critics, they leave no stone unturned about the growing relations between Pakistan and China. A report was published in local newspapers that trade between the two countries ‘’runs one way’’. The report presented the picture that trade is not beneficial to Pakistan and the corridor will only promote China’s exports to Pakistan. This is a highly misleading impression and there is aneed to present a correct picture of Pakistan-China trade.

China is Pakistan’s largest trading partner. Mutual trade has crossed the $20 billion mark this year. There are such huge opportunities for Pakistan under the CPEC whether it is industry, agriculture, or the services sector. The recent imports from China consists of primary goods such as construction machinery and power generation equipment to build the essential infrastructure of the CPEC.

The CPEC projects under the Early Harvest Program will be completed next year. Many projects are to be completed this year. This was the first step toward building the infrastructure essential for industry. In the next phase, nine industrial zones will be created in different parts of the country. With this set up, the country’s reliance on imports will decrease and its capacity for exports will be enhanced.

Opportunities for the agricultural sector are huge. China has a large population of 1.3 billion and it has a huge agricultural market, over US$ 1 trillion, for exporters around the world. Demand for agricultural produce is ever increasing in China because of rapid urbanisation. Being a country on China’s border with an agricultural base, Pakistan will receive huge benefits to capture Chinese agricultural market through the fast land route of the CPEC. The United States, Brazil, and Australia dominate China’s agricultural market already. Being a strong agricultural economy, Australia maintains a huge trade surplus vis-à-vis China. Moreover, South Korea and Japan also maintain surplus exports to China.

Pakistan also has to develop its agricultural and industrial base to increase exports to China like these countries. The basic aim of the CPEC connectivity is to build Pakistan agricultural, industrial, and services capacity so that Pakistan not only increases its exports to China but to many other trading partners.

Pakistan’s fisheries and seafood are a highly profitable export to China. The distance is shortened to 10 days instead of 30 days via the Karakoram Highway. In January, Mufeng Biological Technology Cot shipped 7.46 metric tons of seafood, including squid, shrimp, pomfret and bonefish, from Khunjerab to be sold at local markets in Urumqi, Karamy as well as Beijing and Shanghai. China buys over 75 percent of Pakistan’s shrimp products.

Regular shipments started in April this year. It was reported in the media that two tons of shrimps were sold in one hour in Xinjiang. The CPEC land route became a profitable source for poor fishermen in Balochistan and Sindh and a source of national income for Pakistan. Around US$ 276 were added in the national kitty this year of which 75 percent earned from China alone. This is one example and many more would come.

China is an easy and a friendly market for Pakistani exporters and small businessmen. The exporters can double the market in few years from the current US$ 20 billion to US$ 40 billion, making the Chinese market most lucrative for Pakistani businessmen. Purchasing power is increasing in China. Pakistani small and medium size entrepreneurs could capture that market. The CPEC route is rapidly providing that opportunity, which was not available in case of Japan and South Korea, for instance.

CPEC is a capacity-building project. Pakistan would set up as many as 46 industrial zones with nine already prioritised. Over 700,000 million jobs will be created. The unemployed educated and un-skilled youth has greater chance to be engaged in various projects by making youth bulge as an asset for CPEC projects that would ultimately result in a boom for Pakistan’s exports to China.

Solving the Baloch Riddle: 10 August, 2017 "Daily Times"

Balochistan is on the boil again while the paeans to the glory of a new dawn continue to be sung with metronomic regularity by official quarters. The recrudescence of the violence and sectarian killings is a harbinger of a new phase of militancy that somehow refuses to die down despite best efforts of state.

Balochistan remains a restive province testing the limits of federal and provincial governance in an environment vitiated by internal paradoxes and the external meddling. It has become a veritable wicked problem.

According to Rittel and Webber, a wicked problem lacks a clear problem definition and is compounded by a lack of clear perspective by differing stakeholders. Such problems do not have clear solutions and are generally dealt through ‘one shot solutions’ that throw up other problems seeking further solutions. Professor Nancy Roberts of US Naval Post Graduate School mentions three approaches to resolving a wicked problem.

The first approach is the ‘authoritative’ one where a central authority deals with the problem by trying to reduce the complexity of the issue through minimising the interaction to as few stakeholders as possible and imposing a solution through military muscle or bureaucratic fiat. The second approach is ‘competitive’ where differing perspectives are pitted against each other to find the best solution. The third approach is ‘collaborative’ wherein perspectives of all stakeholders are considered and reconciled. This approach by far has proven to be the most puissant one for resolution of a wicked problem provided all stakeholders agree to resolve the problem. Balochistan presents the dilemma of a typical wicked problem where the perspectives of all shareholders keep changing like shifting sands.

 

The state has to be mindful of the slow rise of the rival sectarian militias supported by their external sponsors in the province. Balochistan is a victim of poor governance with the worst human security indices due to the federal government’s indifference to its development needs 

Balochistan is a veritable ‘witches brew’ that is not amenable to simple solutions or authoritative approaches of problem solving. There are internal and external factors that complicate the situation and upon which especially the external ones there is no control by the state. Despite the sincere efforts of the present and the previous Army commander minding the restive pot in Balochistan, terrorism stalks the land externally inspired and internally abetted. There are multiple cleavages and conflicts that wrack the disturbed province.

The first cleavage is between haves and have nots cleverly high jacked by the particularism of the Baloch Sardars who continue to mislead the populace about their rights and obligations. The tribal chieftains in a sparsely populated province especially in rural areas continue to extract heavy rents from the state in return for a carteblanche to rule over the disenfranchised and impoverished Baloch whom they fob off with few crumbs in return for their loyalty in the name of tribal traditions. Second cleavage is between a non delivering state and the people where the jobs, civic amenities and fruits of development are not distributed fairly and justly.

Third cleavage is the constitutional paradox wherein the Prime Minister does not secure as much electoral votes in National Assembly from Balochistan as from other provinces, thereby diluting his stakes in investing financial and political capital in the neglected province.

Fifth cleavage is the growing sectarian chasm that threatens to cleave apart the centuries old pluralistic and secular fabric of Baloch society woven around Baloch identity. The rise of sectarian warfare mainly externally inspired and partially internally abetted has added a new dimension to hitherto ‘secular’ militancy based on sub nationalist struggle for rights. The forays of Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LeJ) in areas around Quetta and Mastung are a consequence of a state absence in the ungoverned spaces in 90 percent of the provincial area termed B area giving rise to rival sectarian warfare.

State has to be mindful of the slow rise of the rival sectarian militias supported by their external sponsors in the province. Balochistan is a victim of poor governance with the worst human security indices due to federal government’s indifference to development needs of the province.

Can a province function with such a large swathe of ungoverned space? Would provincial ‘Levies Force’ on the payroll of avaricious Sardars deliver in the absence of proper policing of the province? If the answer is a resounding no then the question that begs an answer is why is the government persisting with its B area folly? After a tour d’ horizon of the internal problems bedeviling peace in the province, we turn our gaze to external scene. There are external factors exacerbating the wicked problem of Balochistan. The CPEC initiative and the Gwadar port also rankle with the forces inimical to Pak-China cooperation. As a result, the sectarian militias and ethnic sub nationalists are being actively supported from across the Afghan border. The interests of Iran, India, USA, UAE, and Afghanistan have coalesced in this anti-CPEC game and that is the chief reason all sincere efforts by the civil and army leadership are being stonewalled. Like the water buckets flowing in a Persian Wheel, the flow of militancy across the porous Pak-Afghan border continues with munificent funding from RAW, NDS, and other stakeholders in this ‘Get CPEC’ game.

Pakistan needs to jettison expediency and reclaim all B areas as normal areas followed by strong administrative and law enforcement measures in hitherto ungoverned territories. Raising of human security index through investments in education, health, energy grid, and communication infrastructure should go hand in hand with necessary constitutional reforms to enhance the federal stakes in the provincial polity and development.

Dark Clouds: 07 August, 2017 "The Nation"

Interior minister Chaudary Nisar’s press conference on 27 July 2017, in which he reaffirmed his loyalties to the (then) PM and his party and announced that he would resign after the declaration of the verdict of Panama case, did not have any worthwhile effect on the prevailing political environment in the country. He however mentioned the impending danger to our country by using the words, “dark clouds”. Unfortunately, not much heed has been paid to this aspect even by the media. He also mentioned that only few persons in the top military and civil hierarchy including himself knew about this danger.


In the post cold war era, Pakistan, due to its geopolitical importance and being a leading Muslim state armed with nuclear weapons has always been a focus of attention of the super powers. In this regard the magnitude is further aggravated due to CPEC that is gravely antipathetic to India as well as the great powers. Their design for the balkanisation of the Greater Middle Eastern Region entails slicing Pakistan into different parts; Independent Greater Baluchistan, Jinnahpur and annexation of KPK with Afghanistan. This coupled with disarmament of nuclear assets and impeding the CPEC are the hallmarks of their plans. During the last two decades, the world powers with the connivance of India are trying hard to destabilise this country. Pakistan has therefore been trapped in a triangle of such dangerous strategies. These include Fourth Generation Warfare and AfPak Doctrines by the USA and Cold Start Strategy by India. Although these strategies/doctrines are defined by them in a different manner, they have their own hidden coercive agendas.


Fourth Generation Warfare (4GW) is an American doctrine that came into being in 1989 by a team of American analysts that included William S. Lind. It is defined as conflicts which involve: terrorism, sophisticated psychological warfare through media, pressurising the state by using economic, political, social and military factors, insurgency and guerilla warfare. In this war a direct attack on the core idea/philosophy or the centre of gravity of the target country is made through clandestine operations for creating adverse law and order situations, false reporting on media, exploitation of religious and sectarian beliefs, terrorism, buying loyalties of politicians and bureaucracy through heavy bribes and creating chaos, confusion and bewilderment in the country. Every nation has a core philosophy or a centre of gravity which is believed in and respected by its populace and if that philosophy is shaken, the general public loses its trust and moves into pandemonium. For example the centre of gravity of India lies in its secular system, in case of USA it rests on its democratic and judicial system. Likewise in case of Pakistan, its centre of gravity lies in its Army, which is kept by the public in high esteem and is a symbol of union of the Federation. This is the reason in Pakistan we witnessed a lot of army bashing and propaganda on the media in the recent years. The presence of Black Water in the country, frequent bomb blasts, increased terrorist activities sponsored by TPP, RAW and NDS is testament to their designs.


AfPak is a recent American term which has been possibly coined by Richard Holbrooke, Obama’s special representative in 2008-9. AfPak has entered the lexicon of geopolitics, and has made clear to the world that the primary fronts for the global war on terrorism lie in Afghanistan and Pakistan. It has reinforced the message that the threat to US from Islamic religious policy, and the resulting fear infrastructure and problems in the two countries are intertwined. Michael Quinion writes, “It is an attempt to indicate and imprint in our DNA the fact that there is one theater of war, straddling an ill-defined border, the Durand Line, and that on the western side of that border, NATO and other forces are able to operate. On the eastern side, it’s the sovereign territory of Pakistan. But it is on the eastern side of this ill-defined border that the international terrorist movement is located.” The core agenda behind this concept is to gradually lure in the war of Afghanistan to Pakistan and destabilise it. America’s clandestine support of TPP and creating law and order situation through insurgency (as explained above) in recent years, are glaring examples of this strategy.


Cold Start Doctrine is basically an Indian military strategy against Pakistan, which is preluded by creating an adverse law and order situation through intelligence operations in the country with a view to destabilising Pakistan. Cold start is a shift from the old doctrine where the heavy Indian corps would attack and slice the country into two and subsequently achieve gains in northern and southern directions. In this scenario, it would take about a month’s time to mobilise the Indian Army. Smaller, lighter Indian offensive divisions have been grouped into numerous divisions with a view to biting and holding chunks of Pakistani territory so that Pakistan is not prompted to respond by nuclear attack. The overture to this doctrine is to create a conducive environment for them by intense hostile espionage and subversive activities by RAW to create panic in the country and creating a favorable environment congenial for launching their offensive as mentioned above. The capture of Commander Kalbhoshan Yadev, the Indian RAW agent is a glaring example of such activities.


The question is: how should Pakistan respond to these hostile strategies? With regards to Cold Start Doctrine of India, Pakistan’s tactical nuclear weapons and their delivery system - short range Hataf missile in order to destroy any Indian concentration of Divisions close to the border - is considered to be a befitting response. This has been an excellent strategy and is enough of a deterrent to stop India from any such adventure. AfPak concept has also been appropriately responded by Pakistan by carrying out Operation Zarb-e-Azb, effectively cleaning our border areas with Afghanistan. The combing operation, “Radd ul Fasad” is being successfully executed. Additionally the construction of fence on the western border would also effectively impede infiltration of the terrorists from Afghanistan.


Interestingly, Pakistan’s response against both these hostile strategies, i.e. Cold Start and AfPak as mentioned above, have been created and effectively laid on ground by the Army, with the civilian government, due to its incompetence, vested interests and indifference meekly following suit and claiming the credit. Just as in May 1998, when the Pakistan Army conducted the nuclear blast, the civilian government, which had been deadly against it, claimed the credit. As regards the response of 4GW, which is the most dangerous hostile strategy, Pakistan Army’s endeavors to create a response in the shape of National Action Plan which also involves government, politicians, media and the civil society etc., has unfortunately been resisted by few politicians, few people in Federal/Provincial governments and a segment of media due to their vested interests. This is the reason that operations Radd ul Fasad is stalled in Sindh and Punjab and cannot move forward. The great success achieved by Pakistan Rangers through their surgical operations in Karachi could not be consolidated. The resistance by the provincial governments of Sindh and Punjab for the operations are the great impediments for the National Action Plan. The Apex Committees formed as part of the National Action Plan have been rendered worthless and ineffective. Dr. Asim, Uzair Balouch and other such cases are the glaring examples in this regard.


It’s time we realised that the looming danger in the shape of “dark clouds” as mentioned by the Interior minister is imminent. We also need to realize that it is urgently imperative for the entire nation, including politicians, media persons, bureaucracy, civilians and civil society to join hands together and prepare ourselves for fighting against this danger.

Is there any way to help Pakitan improve governance?: 07 August, 2017 "Pakistan Today"

Last Friday, under a narrow and never before utilized clause of Pakistani Constitution, one facused on moral probity, Pakistan's supreme court deemed Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif ineligible to be "an honest member of Parliament," and thereby ineligible to hold office as Prime Minister. He resigned.

The decision emerged from processes unleashed by the Panama Papers, in which undisclosed assets held by Sharif's family members came to light. The Supreme Court decision strangely cited the nondisclosure of income from a company his son owns in Dubai as the reason for the moral probity finding. (Sharif's lawyers said he did not receive such income.) more...

Afghan tragedy — two very bad choices: 03 August, 2017 "Daily Times"

The Trump administration reportedly is in the throes of concocting a ‘new’ strategy for Afghanistan. No White House wants to lose a war especially one that has its provenance in 1980 with the decision to arm the Afghan Mujahedeen against the invading Soviet army and in 2001 with the US invasion into Afghanistan to punish al Qaeda for the attacks of September 11th. The war is now in its sixteenth year with no end in sight.

About this war, Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis bluntly observed: “we are not winning.” Nine years earlier in January 2008, another Marine four star general and former NATO military commander James Jones signed out a report for the Atlantic Council (in which I participated) that began “Make no mistake: NATO is losing in Afghanistan.” The reaction was so intense that the sentence was softened to read, “The West is not winning.”

Why is the diagnosis today as stark as it was nearly a decade ago? The answer in part explains the tragedy engulfing Afghanistan. In simplest terms, no feasible solution to the conditions in Afghanistan ever existed beyond stationing several hundreds of thousands of troops for an indefinite period to ‘pacify’ the country. And history showed that this option never worked. Nor has convincing or coercing Pakistan to alter its policies towards Afghanistan and the Taliban succeeded.

Pashtunwala, that is the Pashtun creed that stresses honour, hospitality and revenge, and the diverse ethnic divisions along with the de-centralisation of power and authority away from Kabul were never conducive to any regime imposed by outside forces. With corruption a way of life and essential to basic societal functions including the conduct of business, Western culture and politics were anathema to Afghans regardless of ethnicity. But the British, Russians, Soviets and today America and NATO failed to understand or ignored that Afghanistan was a graveyard of empires.

The first of the current strategic blunders was George W. Bush’s shift of aims from capturing or killing Osama bin Laden in 2001 to what was euphemistically called ‘nation building.’ The central idea was that by modernising Afghanistan, Afghans would be better able to make the country safer, more secure and more stable. A constitution was written as the American Founding Fathers rather than Afghans would have preferred. The noble goal of educating women became vital to this mission.

Unfortunately, a very diverse Afghan society was not prepared to accept westernization. Selecting Hamid Karzai as the first president ensured a dysfunctional government would follow in which corruption flourished. And isolating Iran as part of any solution was foolhardy.

President Barack Obama’s ‘surge’ of military forces in 2009 yielded only a temporary respite. But a whole of government beyond over reliance on military action was desperately needed if there were any chance of ending the conflict successfully. Ashraf Ghani, a western educated economist, ascended to a presidency crippled by a political negotiation that made his Tajik rival and adversary Dr Abdullah Abdulla a co-CEO, a situation that was untenable.

 

With corruption a way of life and essential to basic societal functions, including the conduct of business, Western culture and politics were anathema to Afghans regardless of ethnicity

Former Vice President Joe Biden’s much earlier recommendation of shifting to a counter-terrorist strategy and reducing the size of the western commitment might have worked. But Barack Obama made Afghanistan “the good war” and instead reinforced the Bush strategy with the surge of 30,000 forces. Today only two choices exist. And both are not good.

Cutting and running which is how the US vacated Vietnam in 1975 were and are politically unacceptable. Hence, the US can persist with the current commitment perhaps augmented with a few thousand more troops for, possibly, many more decades. There is precedence: American forces are still deployed in Germany and Japan seven decades after World War-II with a profound exception. Both states were and are at peace.

Second, the US and its allies can adopt a variant of the Biden strategy, namely a small presence designed to contain the terrorist threat and resurgence of al Qaeda or the growth of the Islamic State. This is not a short-term either. But it would be conducted with far fewer forces and with minimum emphasis on nation building. Training of Afghan security and police forces would continue possibly conducted by civilian contractors to lessen the military profile.

Neither of these choices is appealing and indeed has enormous flaws and risks. Tragically, after sixteen years of committing substantial treasure in blood and money — possibly in excess of a trillion dollars — with no end in sight to make Afghanistan safer and more secure, the alternative ranges from bad to worse.

CPEC and the opportunity for agriculture: 03 August, 2017 "Express Tribune"

China is a world's largest importer of agricultural products. In 2015, China imported $160 billion worth of agricultural products. However, Pakistan's share in these products was minuscle less than half a percentage point despite having a large agrarian base and a shared border in China.

With a population of 1.3 billion people, China consumes almost $1 trillion worth of food every year. With increased urbanisation and rising incomes, Chinese comsumption patterns are also changing, and demand for high. more...

China, the new global leader?: 02 August, 2017 "The Nation"

The roles have reversed: The United States (US) and the West from being champions of openness, lasses faire, free trade and responsible economic behaviour are suddenly looking inwards cum turning protectionist, and China – once regarded to be a closed kingdom – takes over as the new global economic leader by choosing to look outwards. Today, it promotes increased global trade, cross-invests its surplus in poor and developing economies, bids to connect the world through its one belt-one road vision, and from being a violator of green houses gases it, more than any other industrial nation of the world, champions the cause of environmental protection. Anyone accusing Chinese motives to be driven by greed will have a hard time explaining its rationale, as Chinese investment goes to regions that are high risk, poor or developing and may not necessarily yield high returns; at least in the short-term. Recipients include: Pakistan $50 billion, Indonesia $40 billion; Sri Lanka $20 billion, Myanmar: $10 billion, Liberia $6 billion, Kenya $15 billion, Iran $20 billion, the list goes on as the total outlay under the one belt-one road connectivity vision is set to surpass $1 trillion.

While some may argue that Chinese ultimate plan or goal is to establish its hegemony, but the reality is that its engagement is such that most recipient countries are confident that they will be able to safeguard their national interests when settling for inflows from Chinese investments and loans. They believe that they can not only harness a great opportunity to develop, but also gain access to new markets, which otherwise would have been impossible to reach. Also, by connecting so closely to China they feel that they will progress by simply piggybacking the most vibrant economy of the world. Obviously the US and the West would like to think otherwise, but the pendulum has perhaps already shifted and despite concerns being raised by them on China’s real economic health, the latest figures reveal otherwise. China’s economy grew by a healthy 6.9 percent year on year in the first half of this year (data from the National Bureau of Statistics released in July, 2017), and this has attracted considerable international attention. Also, the latest reports from the World Bank and the IMF tend to be generally optimistic about China’s growth, believing that China’s strong growth showing in infrastructure-investment and domestic consumption well support its goal of achieving an economic structure that sustains itself on in-house dynamics rather than having an over-dependence on international markets.

Meanwhile, China’s economic management philosophy in recent years has transitioned significantly. It is revisiting its toxic assets’ accumulation by ringing reforms in its national debt management practices; reducing overall financial risk by introducing responsible lending in its banking sector; and endeavouring to reduce excess manufacturing capacity by instead focusing on productivity. And the results on these steps are also already reflecting in recent figures: Value addition in high-tech industry showed an increase of 13.1 percent year-on-year. Online domestic consumption increased 33.4 percent year-on-year. The number of daily average new registered enterprises has moved up to 15,600. All this eye-catching data in China’s interim report bears testimony to the fact that its economy is finally seeing new drivers of growth.

However, the question then arises that if China is in essence vying to generate home grown growth then why is it investing so heavily abroad? Since the financial logic behind China’s spree of overseas mergers and acquisitions (M&A) is often hard to define, the answer to this question may also not be very cut and dry in financial terms and have more to do with attaining glory that takes China back to the economic leadership days of the Ming Dynasty. In the last 6 months alone, Chinese companies have announced cross-border deals worth $107 billion. Few bring any of the financial benefits typical of conventional M&A. So-called synergies are usually absent, and the buyers generally tend to leave the incumbent management in place. Analyze this more deeply and three factors seem to be at play: The first and probably the most likely driver is the desire to acquire foreign technology and management expertise. For example, the $43 billion offer by the China National Chemical Corporation, known as ChemChina, for Syngenta, the Swiss pesticide and seed giant, fits into this category. So does the $5billion bid by Midea, the Chinese appliance maker, for Kuka, the German robotics company. Such deals/offers appear to be motivated by the fact that even a minority stake may bring seats on the board of a target company and afford access to information otherwise behind closed doors. Such deals that are perceived to be in the national interest also benefit from cheap finance: China’s state owned banks lend at interest rate of 2% to finance acquisitions involving new technology or expertise.

Second, some of these Chinese acquisitions represent a search for value, compared with inflated asset prices at home. Chinese equities still look expensive: Shares on mainland exchanges trade at an average premium of 36 percent to shares in the same companies listed in Hong Kong. Overseas purchases also provide a hedge against currency devaluation, as well as diversification. For example, given the cheap financing available to most M&A, this notion perfectly fits the bill for China’s Anbang Insurance Group’s offer of $14 billion to Starwood hotels – the bid though was not accepted! Lastly, the third factor: These can be termed as ‘trophy’ purchases for China. They may lack financial logic but are a part of a broader political calculus. President Xi Jinping’s love of football helps explain the recent rush by Chinese buyers to purchase European football clubs. And when Mr. Xi recently visited New York, he stayed at the Anbang-owned Waldorf Astoria hotel – a privilege he must have felt to be beyond price!

The World of Science: 02 August, 2017 "The News"

 

There are exciting discoveries taking place in almost every field of science that are transforming our lives in an unpredictable manner. In an earlier article, I wrote about the advancements made in artificial intelligence. However, the pace at which this field is involving has posed a clear and present danger which, if not checked immediately, could lead to the extinction of human beings from our planet.

Elon Musk, the CEO of the electric car company Tesla and of the space transportation company SpaceX, issued a sombre warning recently on this emerging threat. Speaking to the governance of various US states at the summer meeting of the National Governors Association, he wanted that artificial intelligence is the "biggest risk that we face as a civilization". more...

A Tribute to Dr. Majid Nizami: 28 July, 2017 "The Nation"

LAHORE - Officeholders of the Nazaria-i-Pakistan Trust (NPT) and other speakers at a seminar here paid glowing tributes to late Dr Majid Nizami.


The seminar was organised by the NPT and the Pakistan Movement Workers Trust (PMWT) at Aiwan-i-Karkunan-i-Tehreek-i-Pakistan in connection with Dr Majid Nizami’s third death anniversary.


A large number of people from all walks of life attended the seminar to pay homage to Dr Majid Nizami for protecting the ideological boundaries of Pakistan throughout his life.


The NPT also organised a pictorial exhibition for the visitors at the Aiwan-i-Karkunan-i-Tehreek-i-Pakistan.


Addressing the seminar, NPT Chairman and former president of Pakistan Rafique Tarar said that struggle of Dr Majid Nizami was “a leading chapter of our national history”. He held ideas and thoughts of Quaid-i-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah and Allama Muhammad Iqbal. He was a symbol of truth and boldness in the society and he never surrendered to any civil or military dictator throughout his life.


He recalled that Dr Majid Nizami had a firm belief that Hindus could never be friends of Muslims. He also praised Dr Majid Nizami for safeguarding the ideological and religious boundaries of Pakistan.


NPT Vice Chairman Prof Dr Rafique Ahmed urged the young generation to study the ideas and thoughts of Dr Majid Nizami. He said that Dr Nizami set up many national institutions like Nawa-i-Waqt, Nazaria-i-Pakistan Trust, Aiwan-i-Iqbal and Aiwan-i-Quaid-i-Azam.


Speaking on the occasion, Daily Pakistan Editor Mujeeb-ur-Rehman Shami said that Dr Nizami never compromised the interest of Pakistan and struggled for democracy, eradication of corruption and supremacy of the Constitution. He was a strong supporter of the Kashmir cause. He said that Dr Nizami was a symbol of serious journalism in Pakistan that is rare today.


Among others who spoke on the occasion were Saeed Aasi, Justice (r) Aftab Farrukh, Jamil Athar, Prof Ata-ur-Rehman, Sahibzada Sultan Ahmed Ali, Pir Syed Haroon Gilani, Begum Mehnaz Rafi, Rana Muhammad Arshad, Shujaat Hashmi, Maulana Ameer Hamza, Khurshid Ahmed, Maulana Muhammad Shafi Josh, Azad Bin Haider, Dr Ghazala Shaheen, Prof Dr Perveen Khan, Begum Safia Ishaq and Begum Hamid Rana.


NPT Secretary Shahid Rasheed vowed to continue with the mission of Dr Majid Nizami in the larger interest of Pakistan.

Afghan Hospitality: 28 July, 2017 "The Nation"

Pakistan and Afghanistan are both victims of terrorism and as such, they need to cooperate with each other earnestly to effectively deal with the common threat. But it is regrettable to note that the persistent efforts by Pakistan to promote Afghan-owned and Afghan-led reconciliation in Afghanistan and to develop a common strategy in cooperation with her against the terrorists have not been fruitful because of the intransigent and non-cooperative attitude of the Afghan government.


The Afghan government and USA continue to raise accusing fingers towards Pakistan, questioning the veracity of indiscriminate action against the terrorist entities through operation Zarb-e-Azb, with the former invariably holding Pakistan responsible for the terrorist attacks in Afghanistan. The US has even withheld the release of funds under the Coalition Support Fund maintaining that Pakistan had not taken decisive action against the Haqqani network.


Pakistani leadership, both civilian and military, has repeatedly tried to clear the haze through every available forum but there has been no change in their narrative. The fact is that TTP operatives based in Afghanistan have been planning and executing terrorist attacks in Pakistan from Afghan soil with the covert support of RAW and Afghan intelligence, NDS.


The Pakistani leadership provided solid proof to the Afghan government about the use of Afghan territory by the terrorists to foment terrorism within Pakistan, particularly when the APS tragedy unfolded in Peshawar in December 2014. Earlier, when operation Zarb-e-Azb was launched in June the same year after the terrorist attack at Karachi airport, that was also the handiwork of terrorists based on Afghan territory. Pakistan security authorities and the government duly notified the Afghan government about the commencement of the operation, requesting it to make sure that terrorists did not escape into Afghanistan when military action was undertaken in North Waziristan. The desired cooperation never came forth, with the result that the leadership of the TTP and other terrorist groups crossed over to Afghanistan and set up their training camps along the border on the Afghan side.


Terrorist attacks in Quetta, Lahore and Sehwan Sharif left no choice for the security establishment of Pakistan to take retaliatory action against the terrorist training camps within Afghan territory, besides closure of the entry point between the two countries, which put further strain on the relations between two countries. Pakistan also took a unilateral decision to fence the border and construct forts and observer points along the border to stop cross border movement of the terrorists and also to regulate the movement of citizens of the two countries through the approved exit and entry points.


However, due to subsequent efforts through diplomatic channels and trilateral talks between Afghanistan, Pakistan and China, the ice started melting and both the countries expressed the resolve to coordinate their efforts with regards to action against the terrorists and keep each other in the loop.


In line with this understanding, the Pakistan military, before starting Operation Khyber-IV in the Rajgal Valley of Khyber Agency to forestall the possibility of IS operatives entering Khyber Agency, informed the Afghan government, the Resolute Support Mission and ODRP. However the Afghan government, in its reaction to the operation denied that it had been notified about the operation and said that these operations needed to be carried out in terrorist centres in Lahore, Karachi, Peshawar and Quetta, monitored by China and US. Responding to the Afghan reaction, the ISPR said that Pakistan army looked forward to trust-based security coordination and cooperation to fight against the common enemy, adding that the rhetoric of blame and suggestive allegations were the agenda of forces working against order and peace in the region.


Since the commencement of the operation Khyber IV, a spate of terrorist attacks have occurred in Pakistan including the one at Lahore. The responsibility of these attacks has been accepted by TTP. A similar attack has also occurred in Kabul. The COAS General Qamar Bajwa has said that the simultaneous terrorist acts in Lahore and Kabul proved that both the countries were victims of terrorism and the regional actors and hostile agencies were using terror as a policy tool. He said that both countries would continue to suffer if those actors were able to use Afghan territory with impunity. He also offered help to Afghanistan in eliminating terrorist safe havens in their border area.


General Bajwa was right on the money in pointing out a regional dimension to the phenomenon of terrorism and involvement of some regional powers and their agencies. It is hard to take exception to what General Bajwa has said. The present government, since its inception, has also been trying to remove the ambience of mistrust between the two countries in an effort to develop a common strategy to tackle terrorism as it rightly felt convinced that peace in Pakistan was inextricably linked to peace in Afghanistan. It has been pursuing a policy of looking for a peaceful neighbourhood and building regional linkages. But unfortunately, those efforts have not produced the desired results.


My considered view is that the Afghan government was actually not in a position to take an independent decision with regards to the resolution of the Afghan conundrum and eliminating terrorism through collaborative efforts with Pakistan. The key to the resolution of these issues lies with the US. Unfortunately, the US does not want a solution to these problems as continued instability in this region suits her strategic interests. I have in my columns maintained throughout that the US was not going to get out of Afghanistan and it would keep permanent presence in that country. It has already announced to reinforce its forces in Afghanistan, which will surely lead to the escalation of conflict in the country. The Taliban, who have been demanding complete withdrawal of US and NATO forces before they could even think of negotiating with the Afghan government, would not accept the new development at any cost.


The instability in this region also suits the objectives of US-India nexus to thwart rising Chinese influence in the region and beyond, as well as to sabotage CPEC. The portents are not very encouraging for Pakistan. The US is already reviewing its relations with Pakistan. Under the circumstances, Pakistan will have to recalibrate its relations with the US in line with the dictates of the emerging geo-strategic realities without straining its relations with the only super power of the world. It should continue with its unilateral action of securing the border with Afghanistan and focusing on eliminating the remaining support network of the terrorists. Building strategic, economic and defence partnership with countries like Russia, China and central Asian states could also help in mitigating the negative impact of US-India nexus, besides effective use of the forum of CSO.


The desired cooperation never came forth, with the result that the leadership of the TTP and other terrorist groups crossed over to Afghanistan and set up their training camps along the border on the Afghan side.


A Radical strategic review: 27 July, 2017 "The Nation"

The top US General in Afghanistan called upon Pakistan’s army chief at the GHQ in Rawalpindi this Monday. COAS General Qamar Javed Bajwa is reported to have told General Nicholson, Commander, Resolute Support Mission and United States Forces in Afghanistan, that some quarters in the US and Afghanistan are undermining Pakistan’s counter-terrorism role to mislead the strategic review of the Afghan/South-Asia policy under the Trump administration. General Qamar is too polite.

It is becoming clearer each day that the so-called strategic review is unlikely to change anything essentially. Trump is boosting the US-Afghanistan-India nexus to new heights. Pakistan is poised to get the usual big stick and some half-eaten carrots. Rather than waiting for something good to come out of the review, we should perhaps start working on a strategic review of our own. What we need is an overhaul that practically redefines our geo-strategic positioning and perspective.

Picture this: Last week, the US made another deduction of 50 million dollars from the Coalition Support Fund it owes to Pakistan as reimbursement for joint operations conducted last year, bringing the total amount withheld from 2016 CSF to $350 million. We are not doing enough against the Haqqani network, we are told. We will end up getting only $550 million of the total $900 million. Surely, we must find a better way to exist in this world as a nation-state.

A few days later, a carrot was sent from Kabul in the person of General Nicholson. According to the ISPR press release, he praised the professionalism of Pak Armed Forces and the resilience of the Pakistani nation, just like so many other military and civilian officials from imperial capitals who visit the GHQ and utter nice words about Pakistan’s military and its counter-terrorism success; words which are obviously inconsequential and downright devious.

Remember John McCain who came calling not so long ago, and was taken to South Waziristan along with the congressional delegation he was leading, to show them the fantastic counter-terrorism job we’d done and the impressive rehabilitation measures undertaken. He said all those nice things about Pakistan and its counter-terrorism efforts, only to negate them the next day in Kabul.

The flip-flop continues as a distracting back-drop; words that praise us alternate with actions that hurt us. Against this repetitive backdrop, the unchanging imperial agenda for the region is fine-tuned and pushed further by hook or crook, onwards towards its hegemonic blood-soaked ends. The praise for Pak Armed Forces, the patronizing pats on the back are just as hypocritical as the claims that the US is fighting terrorism all over the globe.

Pakistan figures in the imperial agenda as a toothless satellite state under India’s suzerainty and is marked for eventual balkanisation. Afghanistan is the springboard from where terrorism is to be exported to its immediate neighbours and to the Muslim regions of China and Russia. The US is not about to change its mind because of Pakistan’s concerns and its interests. To stop the multi-pronged thrust of the imperial US agenda, it has to be defeated militarily. There is no other way.

Look at what’s happening in Syria. Uncle Sam is beginning to see the light only after its defeat on the ground. After the initial bombast of arms deliveries to anti-Assad militants and more American boots on the ground, the Tomahawk missiles and attacks on Syrian government forces, Trump is backing off. He is talking ceasefires and de-escalation. To top it all, he has ordered the CIA to wind up its program to advise, arm, train and assist ‘moderate rebels’ (read proxy terrorists) fighting to bring down the Assad government. Nothing brings Uncle Sam to his senses better than a clear military defeat.

It won’t be easy in Afghanistan and, obviously, Pakistan cannot take on the US on its own. The US has occupied Afghanistan for almost 16 years and practically controls the puppet Afghan government and institutions. It has military bases all over the place and a significantly large deployment of troops. And now we are hearing about an indefinite American presence in the country, which means never-ending instability not only in Afghanistan but the entire neighbourhood.

Recent reports suggest that the US is facilitating the rise of ISIS in Afghanistan. Besides, right from the start, the US has supervised the expansion of Indian foot-print in the occupied country, much of it aimed against Pakistan. Modi and Trump are eager to reap the bitter harvest of this long unholy partnership. They are bound together in their ‘countering-China’ worldview and have joined hands to disrupt its Belt and Road Initiative, especially CPEC that is billed as BRI’s flagship project.

Most probably, in the spirit of saying nice things, General Qamar and General Nicholson agreed on the need for continuous engagement and coordination for peace and stability in the region. Otherwise it is hard to imagine the US doing anything to promote peace and stability, in Afghanistan, in the region or anywhere in the world.

The Pak-US cooperation in Afghanistan is unlikely to go beyond the constant refrain of its ‘do more’ mantra, which basically means ‘do-as-told’. Uncle Sam would like us to be an obedient dog, willing to happily die fetching for him in Afghanistan. There’s only one thing that could bring Uncle Sam to his senses.While defeating the US in Afghanistan might not be easy, it is not impossible. It will require an alliance between China, Russia, Pakistan, Iran, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan and probably Turkey as well, to end US occupation. Pakistan will have to play its part and ban the transport of NATO supplies through its territory to begin with.The countries in the neighbourhood will have to guard against not only infiltration of proxy terrorists from Afghanistan but also economic warfare and other imperial tools of war. They will need to coordinate their support to Afghan groups fighting for freedom and to harmonise their diplomacy. All the while, they can continue to say nice things about bringing peace and stability in the region, just like Uncle Sam. In the case of this multipolar alliance, at least the intentions would be sincere.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Demographic dividend: 05 July, 2017 "Pakistan Today"

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

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

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

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

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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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

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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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