New Age Islam Edit Bureau
30 November 2017
Allied Against Terrorism
Dr Zafar Nawaz Jaspal
Myanmar Is Not A Simple Morality Tale
By Roger Cohen
The Surrender at Faizabad
By Mosharraf Zaidi
Political Paralysis — More To Come
By Rasul Bakhsh Rais
By Owen Bennett-Jones
The Week That Nothing Happened
By Chris Cork
Strategic Pivot of Pakistan-US Relationship
By Muhammad Ali Ehsan
CPEC: Moving Forward, New Threats
By Tariq Khalil
BCIM Corridor Vs CPEC
By Reema Shaukat
Compiled By New Age Islam Edit Bureau
November 29, 2017
THE terrorist organisations have been targeting Pakistan since the commencement of war on terrorism. Devastating suicidal attacks and bombings bloodied Karachi, Lahore, Peshawar, Quetta, Rawalpindi, as well as smaller cities and towns throughout Pakistan. The critical review of the terrorists’ activities in the country reveals that a corrosive mixture of external and domestic causes lie behind ruinous terrorist attacks in Pakistan. Therefore, Islamabad always endorses and sincerely supports both regional and global initiatives that are meant to combat the menace of terrorism.
Today, the radicalised militancy is a gigantic problem for all Muslim nations. The ideological motivation through biased interpretation of Islamic norms; ability to freely move across countries; financial backing through illicit trade; adept in use of communication technology; and above all the protracted global war on terrorism are important sustaining and enduring constituent of terrorism in Muslim countries. The extremists’ strategy is not limited by theological moral scruples—inhibition in killing of the innocent, unarmed, civilians and non-combatants. The radicalized militant groups have no compunction against killing of the innocent, women, children and the unarmed civilians.
The 41 Muslim nations constituted an intergovernmental Islamic Military Counter Terrorism Coalition (IMCTC) also referred as Islamic Military Alliance on December 15, 2015. The first meeting of the defence ministers and other senior officials from the IMCTC was held in Riyadh, Saudi Arab on November 26, 2017. The theme of the meeting was “Allied Against Terrorism.” The defense ministers finalized alliance’s terms of reference (TORs). The significant TOR is that each state’s participation “will be defined in accordance with each country’s capabilities and resources, as well as in accordance with each country’s desire to participate in a given military operation.” It means that one state decision or wishes are not binding for the alliance members. The members share their resources only to target the terrorist organizations. The declaratory objective of the alliance is to wipe out terrorists from the face of the earth. In this context, it will address ideology, communications, counter terrorist financing and military. On November 26, 2017, while speaking at the IMCTC, Saudi Crown Prince and Defence Minister Mohammed bin Salman rightly pointed out that: “Beyond the killing of innocent people and the spread of hatred, terrorism and extremism distort the image of our religion.” Indeed, the radicalized militancy is demoralizing for the Muslims.
The critics of IMCTC are expressing their reservations about the objective and execution of the coalition. Riyadh’s differences with a few states are causing confusion about the real objective of the coalition. For instance, Shiite-dominated Iran, as well as Syria and Iraq, whose leaders have close ties to Tehran, are not members of IMCTC. Tehran had already expressed its reservation on the formation of coalition. It claimed the coalition “may impact the unity of Islamic countries.” Qatar is party to the alliance. Currently, it is under siege by Saudi Arab led coalition. In the recent meeting of IMCTC Doha was not invited. The absence of the Qatari delegation in the meeting confirms the critics’ apprehensions about the alliance. Many security analysts believe that the alliance is not only steward by Riyadh but also assist the latter to pursue its regional and international objectives. Admittedly, the struggle for supremacy in the Middle East is alarming. Nonetheless, General Raheel Sharif (Retd), the commander-in-chief of IMCTC categorically pointed out that the coalition was not against any religion or state and it aims to “mobilize and coordinate the use of resources, facilitate the exchange of information and help member countries build their own counter-terrorism capacity.” Importantly, according to coalition TORs, it would be up to the member states to decide the extent of their participation in the coalition.
Notwithstanding, the presence of Pakistan’s Defence Minister Khurrum Dastagir in the recent IMCTC meeting, Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi along with Foreign Minister, Army Chief and Director General of Inter-Services Intelligence rushed to Riyadh on November 27, 2017, to participate in the formal launch of the Saudi-led military coalition against terrorism. The participation of Premier Abbasi does not confirm that Pakistan will be party in Middle Eastern current crisis. Government official position is that it will not allow its troops to participate in any military action outside the country. To conclude the IMCTC seems imperative for combating the menace of transnational terrorist organizations. It provides an opportunity to quash radicalised militancy from the Muslim societies and states. Islamabad needs to participate actively in IMCTC for ending terrorism, but it ought to be refrained from any initiative or action that aimed at any other Islamic country.
Myanmar Is Not a Simple Morality Tale
AS world capitals go, this is one of the weirdest. Six-lane highways with scarcely a car on them could serve as runways. The roads connect concealed ministries and vast convention centres. A white heat glares over the emptiness. There is no hub, gathering place or public square — and that is the point. Military leaders in Myanmar wanted a capital secure in its remoteness, and they unveiled this city in 2005. Yangon, the bustling former capital, was treacherous; over the decades of suffocating rule by generals, protests would erupt. So it is in this undemocratic fortress, of all places, that Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, long the world’s champion of democracy, spends her days, contemplating a spectacular fall from grace: the dishonoured icon in her ghostly labyrinth.
Seldom has a reputation collapsed so fast. Aung San Suu Kyi, daughter of the assassinated Burmese independence hero, Aung San, endured 15 years of house arrest in confronting military rule. She won the Nobel Peace Prize. Serene in her bravery and defiance, she came to occupy a particular place in the world’s imagination and, in 2015, swept to victory in elections that appeared to close the decades-long military chapter in Myanmar history. But her muted evasiveness before the flight across the Bangladeshi border of some 620,000 Rohingya, a Muslim minority in western Myanmar, has prompted international outrage. Her halo has evaporated.
After such investment in her goodness, the world is livid at being duped. The city of Oxford stripped her of an honour. It’s open season against “The Lady,” as she is known. Why can she not see the “widespread atrocities committed by Myanmar’s security forces” to which Secretary of State Rex Tillerson alluded during a brief visit this month, actions the State Department defined last week as “ethnic cleansing”? The problem is with what the West wants her to be. Kofi Annan, the former United Nations secretary general who delivered a report on the situation in Rakhine State, in western Myanmar, just as the violence erupted there, told me that people in the West were incensed about Aung San Suu Kyi because, “We created a saint and the saint has become a politician, and we don’t like that.”
Certainly Aung San Suu Kyi has appeared unmoved. She has avoided condemning the military for what the United Nations has called a “human rights nightmare.” She shuns the word “Rohingya,” a term reviled by many in Myanmar’s Buddhist majority as an invented identity. Her communications team has proved hapless, and opacity has become a hallmark of her administration as she has shunned interviews. At a rare appearance with Tillerson at the Foreign Ministry here, she said, “I don’t know why people say that I’ve been silent.” It’s untrue, she insisted. “I think what people mean is that what I say is not interesting enough. But what I say is not meant to be exciting, it’s meant to be accurate. And it’s aimed at creating more harmony.”
In many respects, the military continues to rule. When her National League for Democracy won the 2015 election, Aung San Suu Kyi did not become president. The world rejoiced — and glossed over this detail. The 2008 Constitution, crafted by the military, bars her from the presidency because she has children who are British citizens. So she labours under the contrived honorific of state counsellor. The Ministries of Defence, Home Affairs and Border Affairs — all the guns — remain under military control, as do the National Defence and Security Council and 25 percent of all seats in Parliament. This was not a handover of power. It was a highly controlled, and easily reversible, cession of partial authority.
Aung San Suu Kyi’s decisions must be seen in this context. She is playing a long game for real democratic change. “She is walking one step by one step in a very careful way, standing delicately between the military and the people,” said U Chit Khaing, a prominent businessman in Yangon. Perhaps she is playing the game too cautiously, but there is nothing in her history to suggest she’s anything but resolute. The problem is she’s a novice in her current role. As a politician, not a saint, it must be said that Aung San Suu Kyi has proved inept. This is scarcely surprising. She lived most of her life abroad, was confined on her return, and has no prior experience of governing or administering.
In Rakhine State, where all hell broke loose last August, the poverty is etched in drawn faces with staring eyes. The streets of its capital, Sittwe, a little over an hour’s flight from Yangon, are dusty and depleted. Its beach is overrun with stray dogs and crows feeding on garbage. As the town goes, so goes all of Rakhine, now one of the poorest parts of Myanmar, itself a very poor country. The violence that ripped through the northern part of the state was a disaster foretold.
I spoke by phone with Saed Mohamed, a 31-year-old teacher confined since 2012 in a camp. “The government has cheated us so many times,” he told me. “I have lost my trust in Aung San Suu Kyi. She is still lying. She never talks about our Rohingya suffering. She talks of peace and community, but her government has done nothing for reconciliation.” Myanmar, with its bell-shaped golden pagodas dotting the landscape, shimmering in the liquid light, often seems gripped these days by a fevered view of itself as the last bastion of Buddhism, facing down the global advance of Islam in Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Pakistan and elsewhere. The Rohingya have come to personify these fears.
The Surrender At Faizabad
November 28, 2017
After almost three weeks of blackmail, hand-wringing, cowardice, thuggery and incompetence, the government of Pakistan and the violent extremists who had camped out at Faizabad under the leadership of Khadim Hussain Rizvi have reached an agreement. A national crisis triggered by a few dozen hoodlums and exacerbated by the incompetent who supposedly run this asylum was over.
Yet rather than celebratory, the mood in English-medium Pakistan is sombre. After weeks of demanding the writ of the state, we watched the state stutter and stumble into a half-baked and ill-conceived ‘operation’ to clear the protest area, only to have the tension explode. A blanket ban on all news channels and social media ensued. The army issued a tweet, unbelievable in its brazenness and audacity, equating a bunch of criminals and the government – whilst distancing the army from it all. Predictably, the whining in English-medium Pakistan reached a crescendo. Then, suddenly, a major general signed the dotted line and the crisis was over. You would think we would have been happy and broken out into song and dance. But the reaction to the agreement that brought an end to the drama at Faizabad is far from jubilant. It’s like someone close to us has died.
Many business-class Pakistanis can barely read the Urdu script of the agreement, much less fathom what was just reinforced by its substance. The dream of a modern and pluralistic state is dead. Long live Quaid-e-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah. His dream is dead. His Pakistan is dead.
It has been dead for a long time. But English-medium Pakistan, or essentially Jinnah’s Pakistan, doesn’t want to bury the body. Every so often, someone or the other comes along and pokes around at the rotting carcass. Obviously, this creates a stink. We all plug our noses and demand ‘writ of the state’. When the state does anything, it is ugly. It has to be. We are dealing with a rotting carcass after all. When reality hits us full-frontal, we then mope about a surrender, about the gaping hole in our praxis: we are democratic in spirit, and certainly by dint of constitution, but not when the rubber hits the road. When it really matters, our democratic ethos is not very useful at all. Time and time again, it is our armed forces that do the heavy lifting. Our civil-military divide widens in these testing moments. It doesn’t help that often, the people behind the wheel in the GHQ do not have the soft hands of surgeons, but wield instead the heavy hands of soldiers that have both sent the enemy to their graves and carried the coffins of young soldiers that were martyred in the name of our great country.
Among the various insults to the memory of Quaid-e-Azam that are packed in the agreement between this latest permutation of violent extremists in Barelvi clothing and the government is the immeasurable disequilibrium between our military and the elected civilian leadership. Ahsan Iqbal is a decent, patriotic and deeply religious man. A democrat. And highly educated to boot. He has contested elections. He has stood by the political leader of his choice consistently. He has tried to serve the country. Mistakes? He has made plenty. We all have. But seeing his name on that agreement, equated with the likes of Khadim Hussain Rizvi. It is an unpleasant jolt of reality.
A federal minister is reduced to being treated by the same metric as the violent and uncouth thugs that illegally occupied public space, in direct violation of court orders. The kicker? An officer of the armed forces equivalent to no higher than BPS-21, or additional secretary, has underwritten and supervised this equivalence.
Of course, why lament the elected representative from Narowal alone? Zahid Hamid, the elected representative from Sialkot has won three elections in a row from NA-114. He is not only no longer a federal minister, but also unlikely to be able to continue being an effective constituency politician. The Faizabad crisis is going to claim many scalps, Hamid’s is the first and most obvious one. But what this entire story is going to create, in terms of election narratives, is the unreliability of the PML-N in matters to do with important religious personalities and symbols in Pakistan. Pakistanis have almost never been single-issue voters, but the Mumtaz Qadri narrative in politics is not really about what it seems to be about: there is no debate on any religious or spiritual matter in Pakistan. It is all already firmly decided in favour of those whose outrage was centre-stage for almost three weeks in Faizabad. So what does Khadim Hussain Rizvi really want? He wants his share.
In English-medium Pakistan, if you want your ‘share’ you should work hard and play by the rules. But the Maali, the driver, the Maasi and the bus conductor do work hard and, for the most part, do play by the rules. And they do not really get their share. In English-medium Pakistan, it should be no secret why the Maali, the driver, the Maasi and the bus conductor do not get their share. Hint: they are medium incompatible.
Bhutto came along and promised a social contract in which they would be rewarded for their labour. Instead, he transformed the state into a job-awarding entity. Zia came along and needed something even better than dignity and free jobs (BPS 1- BPS 16). He found it in Islam. He put a burqa on a state that had no problems turning tricks for the Americans. Benazir Bhutto and Nawaz Sharif came along and promised everything Bhutto and Zia promised, just more of it. More free jobs and more Islam. The Khadim Hussain Rizvis and Sufi Muhammads of this land came of age in this era. By the time General Musharraf had decided to take the burqa off the state (but turn tricks all the same), we all began to realise that there aren’t enough jobs and there isn’t enough Islam for everyone. But unlike jobs, which are tangible and can be measured, there is no measure for religious faith and devotion. It is both unlimited, and immeasurable.
This gives religious politics in Pakistan both unlimited potential as well as the potential for immeasurable damage. The assault on Jinnah’s Pakistan has two fronts, both of which are pure genius. The first is the Mumtaz Qadri narrative: it can be deployed on anyone, at any time, to manage the spectrum of domestic discourse. The second is the Kashmir narrative: it is the remainder from the clumsy long-division that the GHQ conceived of in the 1990s, and that Pakistanis not yet born will be paying for at airports around the world for the foreseeable future. It may have only been incidental that Hafiz Saeed was released from house arrest as the Faizabad Dharna was reaching its climax – but all good Muslims know that there is meaning in everything.
We didn’t like Maulana Fazlur Rehman because he is an exceptionally good politician (which naturally means bad guy) who was happy to work within the broad spectrum of Jinnah’s Pakistan. We didn’t like the Jamaat-e-Islami because it makes us uncomfortable, what with their retrograde twentieth century colonial hangover and contradictory anti-American tirades. Now we have to contend with things like the Tehreek-e-Labbaik and the Milli Muslim League.
The army will not rein them in, because the army is a coherent institution that is in the middle of a war. It will not open new fronts at a time when it is hard enough to manage morale, discipline and unity of command. It will also not challenge the unlimited potential and immeasurable potency of people’s faith.
The source of new ideas can never be a bureaucracy; no matter how many guns we give them. The eroded writ of the state and the abject surrender that the Faizabad agreement represent cannot be repaired by lamenting our civil-military divide or the irrationality of an unhinged religiosity in our national discourse. Jinnah’s Pakistan is dead because Jinnah is dead. Nations don’t find renewal in newspaper op-eds or WhatsApp groups. They find them in leaders. Pakistan does not have any. What it does have is plenty more of where the Faizabad crisis came from. Buckle up.
The Dharna in Islamabad has finally ended to the relief of every one. So has ended the occupation of roads, intersections within and around major cities and motorways over the last weekend that paralysed the movement of goods and people in larger parts of the country. The choice of occupying Faizabad Interchange that connects mainly the two cities and heavy vehicular traffic between Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa and major cities along the historic Grand Trunk Road was strategic and well-calculated one. A few thousand zealots and followers of a vitriolic mullah paralysed the federal and Punjab governments for three weeks.
What would be the response of any government anywhere in the world if any group for any reason occupied such a traffic interchange in violation of the law, Constitution and public interest? The local administration — the district-level police and civil bureaucracy — would get the roads cleared and restore the flow of traffic by dispersing the crowd and arresting the leaders; but Pakistan is another country. Political expediency of our political leaders, their incompetence and politics of survival have turned Pakistan into a weak and weakening state.
This is not the first time that the state authorities have surrendered to the demands of religious groups. Starting with the passage of the Objectives Resolution in 1949 it has happened many times that has contributed to the menace of street-power politics of mullahs. Measured by popular votes, they don’t have public support, but they have guns, sticks, hate-speech, and above all the power of fatwas that put lives of their opponents in danger. It amounts to creating fear and insecurity for those who hold power and are seen to be acting against what the mullahs term established religious norms, rules and ideas about shaping ethos of Muslim-majority Pakistan.
This brings us back to the historical legacy of dangerous compromises our leaders made on the identity and character of the country, place of religious minorities and the role of religion in politics. We need to engage in the anatomy of the paralysis and why it is likely to produce more of the same in this background. It is not the surrender of the PML-N, it is of every party past and present government. Remember a secular, modernist Z A Bhutto and the unanimity among all the political parties, religious, mainstream, ethnic and so-called secular in declaring Ahmadis non-Muslims. The recent Islamabad dharna was reconfirmation of the same politics, and a refresher course for all politicians to recite exactly the same words of faith as spouted out from over the Faizabad bridge. That was the best escape route to personal safety of the political class of all varieties. An overwhelming majority of those who would make it to daily talk shows just disappeared from the scene.
After putting up resistance to the unreasonable demands of the dharna leaders for three weeks, trying all peaceful means and setting fresh deadlines, the government finally launched a police operation on Saturday. It fizzled out within a few hours. More people from the surrounding areas reportedly joined the dharna, swelling its ranks. Then, it faced a much larger reaction as supporters of dharna began to block roads. Fearing deaths and an inevitable political backlash, the interior ministry halted the operation.
This is failure of a ruling group in power that is leaderless, incompetent, wounded by corruption charges and divided from within. But at a larger level, it is failure of the state, society and the people of Pakistan in standing up against the intimidation of the religious demagogues. Surrendering to them like this would weaken us further.
November 30, 2017
AS everyone knows, the demand for the law minister’s resignation cloaked another unarticulated desire: that Pakistan should be an Islamic state. But what exactly does that mean?
In post-Shah Iran, in Afghanistan during the Taliban’s Islamic Emirate, and more recently in parts of Iraq and Syria, clerics have claimed that the governments they established were not only religiously correct but also, more broadly, part of new Islamic states. And according to the Saudi constitution, that country also qualifies. “The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia,” the constitution proclaims: “is a sovereign Arab Islamic state with Islam as its religion; God’s Book and the Sunnah of His Prophet, God’s prayers and peace be upon him, are its constitution…”
When he declared his caliphate in 2014, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi’s first claim was that he alone was in charge: “The legality of all emirates, groups, states, and organisations, becomes null by the expansion of the caliph’s authority and arrival of its troops to their areas.” Then, much like any secular politician, he made a series of vague promises, vowing to “build, reform, remove oppression, spread justice, and bring about safety and tranquillity ... courts have been established to resolve disputes and complaints. Evil has been removed.”
Baghdadi’s version of heaven on earth turned out to be well short of eternal. But some clerics believe he was from the outset mistaken in his claim to run an Islamic state. Soon after the self-proclaimed caliph gave his famous sermon in Mosul’s Grand Mosque, the scholar Yusef al-Qaradawi insisted that Baghdadi was in violation of Sharia law. “We look forward to the coming, as soon as possible, of the caliphate,” he said, “but the declaration issued by the Islamic State is void under Sharia.” The title of caliph, he went on, can “only be given by the entire Muslim nation” and not by a single group. Meanwhile, a spokesman for the Grand Imam of Al Azhar said: “The Islamic caliphate can’t be restored by force. Occupying a country and killing half of its population ... this is not an Islamic state, this is terrorism.”
The concept of an Islamic state will always be contested.
So how to adjudicate between the rival claims and sharply different views of Iranian Shias, Taliban clerics, Saudi royals, Iraqi insurgents and their critics? The case of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan raises its own dilemmas. According to Article 227 of its Constitution, all Pakistan’s laws “shall be brought in conformity with the Injunctions of Islam as laid down in the Holy Quran and Sunnah”.
Having said that, the ‘Preamble’ makes it clear that the country was intended to be a democratic state as much as an explicitly Islamic one. “Faithful to the declaration made by the Founder of Pakistan, Quaid-i-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah,” it reads, “Pakistan would be a democratic State based on Islamic principles of social justice.”
There is considerable evidence — including that famous August 1947 address to the constitutional assembly — that what Jinnah had in mind was not an Islamic state but a state for Muslims to live in without fear of persecution.
The 1940 resolution of the All India Muslim League made no reference to an ‘Islamic state’, and many religious parties, committed as they were to pan Islamism, opposed the idea of Pakistan because they did not envision it becoming an Islamic state. After all, if they did believe it would be an Islamic state, how could they oppose it? The clerics focused on constitutional issues and certain provisions such as the requirement that the president be a Muslim thereby giving Pakistan’s polity a distinctly Islamic hue. All this, however, clearly fell short of the Saudi idea that the basic Islamic texts are themselves the constitution.
Gen Zia’s attempt to Islamicise Pakistani society did introduce Islamic punishment for criminal acts such as amputations. He also called parliament the Majlis-i-Shura and introduced Sharia courts. But the limits to Zia’s religious ambitions soon became all too apparent. When the Sharia courts were barred from giving judgements on Zia’s martial law it was clear that he was not serious about creating an Islamic state but was simply using Islam to bolster his legitimacy.
The concept of an Islamic state will always be contested. Many of the protesters rampaging through the streets take pride in the memory of the Ottoman Empire, considering to have been an Islamic state. But, if they knew anything about it, the same protesters would also think the lifestyle of many Ottoman rulers as hopelessly un-Islamic.
There is one point Ayatollah Khomeini, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi and Mullah Omar could surely agree on. For an Islamic state to exist, the clerics have to be in charge. And by that standard, for all its constitutional provisions, Saudi Arabia remains a monarchy, not an Islamic state. And the Islamic Republic of Pakistan doesn’t come close. Not yet.
And it has been another week when peace and tranquillity covered the land with a benign sense that all is well. There were no deaths in the demonstrations that never happened. The business of governance sailed serenely on the sea of democracy sails a-billowing and smiling politicians dispensed sweets to adoring crowds nationwide. There was not even a hint of trouble in any of the large and smaller cities where people came out on the streets carrying flowers that they did not put in the muzzles of the guns of the paramilitaries that were not there to deal with any situation that was not getting out of control. Anywhere.
Across the land there was no sense that in any way that a totally invisible and completely fictitious corner had been turned on a road that we all know is as straight as a ruler and leads to a sunny horizon where children wave excitedly as they see the future and it is golden, decorated with jewels and awash with milk, honey and the balm of human kindness. For them, there is only a life of ease and prosperity, free of hunger, poverty and disease, living in a country that is so ably governed that airports are thick with delegations from foreign powers anxious to come and learn the lessons our perfectly-functioning democracy is delivering hour by hour.
Have you noticed how tolerant our country is? The way the lion lies down with the lamb and swords are forged into ploughshares at smithies everywhere? Gone are the guns! Everywhere you look there are wall-chalkings advertising interfaith harmony groups where there will be singing and dancing, the cutting of celebratory cakes, interfaith marriages arranged and adhoc classes in transparency spring up at the drop of a hat. Several hats on a really good day.
Age-old divisions were never really there and the distortions of history that portray anything other than a land blessed with an abundance of everything and no divisions were on display anywhere in the last week. Not one. Not even a tiny rift. It is a seamless world, resting on gilded columns as it rides through the grubby comity of nations that surround us with their lies and doubts and deceptions. They are all deceivers whispering falsehoods in our ears. But do we listen? No we do not!
So another glorious week in our stainless history passes and no there is no balance-of-payments deficit and who told you that lie I wonder? Probably an American. They are all over the place, watching and reporting on the serene beauty of the wonderland we all live in. Dirty spies. A nirvana among states where week after week precisely nothing happens beyond a renewal of the rosy glow that envelopes every single one of us lucky enough to live here.
So little happened…well nothing, really, that it is difficult to pick out anything to write about. How wonderful, to be in a position where all there is to see is bosky dells and wooded glades where in fallow deer graze and infants gurgle beside babbling brooks that are filled with singing fish. Singing fish. A soft cool dew caresses the feet as you wade through the lush grasses on the dawn of another day in Paradise.
Gosh how lucky we are to be in that eternity of nothing ever happening. There is no need for newspapers. Good heavens no and we are so much better off without them. Word of mouth is good for a land where there nothing ever happens so there is nothing to talk about and thus we go smiling and mute, waving as we tread the rose-petal way through to a serene dusk and a benign sunset. How good it is to sit at the edge of a starlit infinity and gaze across the heavens secure in the knowledge that we will go to bed and sleep the sleep of the just, the good, the beneficent. Beside us our children are safe in their beds, are untroubled by anything because there is nothing to be troubled about. And that was the week where nothing, nothing whatsoever in any way shape or form, happened in Pakistan.
November 30, 2017
Reportedly two top officials from the US — Defence Secretary James Mattis and Joint Chief of Staff Chairman Joseph Dunford — will be visiting Pakistan in the next week. Even before the visits can take place ‘the tone of their visit’ is being set by General John W Nicholsons, the commander of US and Nato forces in Afghanistan. The general on Nov 28th said that “he had not seen any change in Pakistan’s support for militants so far, despite President Donald Trump taking a tougher line against Islamabad.” Pakistan is accused of supporting the Afghan Taliban and the US wants it to take actions against any militants, mostly referred to as the Haqqani Network, that cross the border from Pakistan’s side and execute attacks on Afghanistan’s soil. The current ‘strategic deadlock’ between the US and Pakistan stems from the Pakistani position taken by both the civilian and military leadership that “Pakistan has done enough,” and the military and security reverses that what the US and its trained Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF) face in Afghanistan is because of their own poor security planning and lack of military action against the Afghan Taliban within Afghanistan’s own borders.
Gen Mattis is already putting Pakistani leadership in a tight spot even before he has arrived by giving his pre-visit statements like “the US would try one more time to work with Pakistan in Afghanistan before President Donald Trump would turn to options to address Islamabad’s alleged support for militant groups.” When asked by a reporter that Pakistan could undertake temporary changes only to go back on its old ways, the US defence Secretary replied, “We don’t want transient and temporary changes and Islamabad must understand that while there are significant advantages to changing, the penalties for not changing are just as significant.” This isn’t the language of encouragement and support by the US to an ally that is tied in partnership to fight the War on Terror instead it’s a threatening language that disregards the tremendous sacrifices Pakistan has given. Where to from here would the Pakistan-US strategic relationship now go? To me, both countries have already approached a ‘strategic pivot’ in their relationship, the precise timing of end of which may be uncertain but surely the upcoming high-profile visits will prove a catalyst.
Pakistan will continue to disagree with President Trump’s assessment that Pakistan is a safe haven to “agents of chaos, violence and terror.” More importantly, it seems the civilian and military leadership in Pakistan has finally decided to fight the WoT not ‘by changing its behaviour’ but how to fight it under the (possible) US imposed economic depravity and diplomatic isolation, if in case the US decides not only to step back from the US-Pakistani partnership but also impose certain sanctions on Pakistan. While the strategic ending of the partnership has been on the cards for a long time now the real question is will the US benefit from the discontinuity of this partnership?
What the US needs to remember is that it is not only Afghanistan’s insecurity but its broader conflict with the ‘jihadists’ terrorism’ in which it needs the support of countries like Pakistan. It should not look at its relationship with Pakistan from a narrow policy goal of apportioning blame on Pakistan for its own huge security failure. More broadly, it should focus on helping to eliminate the causes that breed extremism and radicalisation in countries like Pakistan. As long as the causes of jihadist ideology persist, so too will the threat to the regional as well as global security.
Didn’t the US try the ‘heavy foot print strategy’ in Afghanistan and maintained over 100,000 troops at the height of its surge (Obama’s way of war in 2011-2014)? At that time why was strict border management on the Afghan side of the border not tried? The simple answer is that the nature of terrain and the hundreds of posts that stretch and expand over 2,430kms of border present easy and vulnerable targets to the Taliban, and a reliance on such a security method and strategy would have meant risk of higher causalities. It is interesting to read Rod Nordland’s report in The New York Times titled ‘US Expands Kabul Security Zone, Digging In for Next Decade’. This report suggests that even now the US emphasis is not on implementing tighter and stricter control on Pakistan-Afghan border management but on expansion and security of the Green Zone around Kabul, which houses Western embassies, government ministries and the Nato and US military headquarters. Norland’s report emphasises that “even after 16 years of US presence in Kabul the expansion of the Green Zone in Kabul is a reminder that even the capital city’s central districts have become too difficult to defend from Taliban’s bombings.”
Reports also suggest that all the six Afghan Military Corps are now engaged in offensive operations in Afghanistan. That is good news but as long as Pak-Afghan border is not manned by ANSF’s defensive corps both Afghanistan and Pakistan will keep accusing each other of not preventing the cross-border movement of the militants. Having spent $800 billion in this 17-year-old war that has cost it over 2,000 causalities and over 20,000 wounded, is the US still justified to keep fortifying Kabul and do nothing at the Pak-Afghan border that it considers the only place from where trouble emanates?
The US and Nato force presence in Afghanistan suggests that the US is not planning to fight the Taliban on the battlefield. This ‘light foot print’ approach necessarily features reliance on drone and other long-range strikes on the militants with occasional Special Forces operations against the militant hideouts that would continue to have a large ANSF’s component. Is this an international force that seems to be gearing up by digging in the Green Zone to win a war in Afghanistan?
To sum up, those responsible to charting America’s strategic course in the years ahead in the Afghan war must not lose sight of two important factors. One, the road to success in Afghan war runs through Pakistan and for that both the US and Pakistan need to partner rather than take opposite views on how to fight this war. Two, without border management and control on the Afghan side of the border infiltrators will continue to sneak into Afghanistan from Pakistan’s side and vice versa — for that Pakistan cannot be unilaterally blamed — doing more at the US and Afghan end is equally crucial to win this war.
DRONE attack in Kurram Agency in March this year was the first in Trump regime. It has now been followed with many more in Pakistan and Afghanistan. The argument that it was meant to kill terrorists is not digestible. Apparently it is a test fire to see Pakistan’s reaction. It is important for Pakistan to convey strong response to ensure that follow up attacks will not shift to cities where Trump is blaming Haqqani net work or other Taliban leadership. If it happens due to portrayal of weakness, it be catastrophic. Unfortunately our response has been casual as usual. The diatribe by Trump is continuing. Latest threat to North Korea that the will be obliterated if they do not come in line is red signal for Pakistan as well, where he is equating Al-Qaeda and Taliban. It is a serious threat while he is blaming Pakistan. With two or three conciliatory statements coming from Pentagon should push us in a state of complacency.
The anger of US is on two counts. It’s failure to coerce Pakistan to fight their battle they are failing to win in Afghanistan and other is CPEC, and failure to lift India to isolate Pakistan. Indian has leashed its fury on line of control where Kashmiri youth has not been controlled and every passing day in-spite of hidden interest of USA and Europe human right organisations are voicing their concern. To internationalise Balochistan Indian RAW has redoubled its efforts, recent posters on taxies and buses in London are proof and in Balochistan old Punjab Card is being played and we witness fresh wave of terrorism incidents in which scores of Punjabi youth are killed. While defence forces are sacrificing their lives our Parliament is sleeping where not a single attention-notice is served. Ruling party leader in recent Congregations did no utter a single word on these terrorist activities.
Unfolding events in KSA and Middle East are likely to cause geo strategic ripples where US, KSA and Israel nexus may plunge whole region engulfed in a new war. US president during Asia Pacific tour witnessed his efforts getting commitment on new unfolding plan, a Phase two after 9/11 in which Iraq, Syria, Libya, Egypt stand destroyed, is beginning to be commenced. Impact on Pakistan will be the outcome. Pakistan will have to Charter it’s course on razors edge. In the region India need to divert world attention from Kashmir. Therefore not only pressures on LOC will increase but sabotage in Balochistan and also in Punjab.
There should be no doubt there are scores of sleeping cells just need activation. Increased terrorist attacks in Balochistan and North of Pakistan bear witness. The urban centres of Pakistan are extremely vulnerable, especially Karachi. The reports emanating from Afghanistan also suggest Pakistan should be ready to face a new wave of terrorism. Unfortunately weak political structure seems to be in confused and perplexed state. Quick decision making is lacking. Elements against Pakistan are likely to use this void. A fifth dimensional war has already been launched and imposed on Pakistan. CPEC will be targeted by vested interests. Pakistan and China need to counter this jointly.
CPEC is important for Pakistan for commercial and more so strategic reasons. It is more important to China for its grand strategic reasons, for its global reach, as waters of China sea and Indian ocean beside economic reasons are likely to be dominated beside US Strategic interests , and also India’s increased naval presence. Pakistan and China have larger interests at stake. For that firstly Pakistan must put its own house in order quickly. A strong political will is required to counter 5th dimensional war. Iron hand against corruption as it a proven fact that there is nexus between corruption, crime and terrorism. Our Navy must be strengthened and it’s posture from mere Defence to Offensive Defence be reviewed. That mean resource mobilisation. In this Pakistan must not only seek Chinese help but also turn to Russia for help. It will be natural move. To protect sea Pakistan must also increase PAF capability. As short and as long term necessity time is short.
In this regard Pakistan must also review its foreign diplomacy to be more active. It must be ready to counter Indian-exterior manoeuvres. So far Pakistan has successfully averted Indian effort to isolate Pakistan. Also in threat assessment we must not forget India’s ability to choke us water starved or glut are main lands with water. Internally our disaster management is far from satisfactory and Civil Defence Organisations are just on paper. While threats of war are looming, specially in a limited nuclear regime public awareness is totally missing.
AMID all controversies and debates on CPEC, this project is undergoing major developments, thus giving a befitting reply to the opponents and adversaries of Pakistan and CPEC venture. Year 2016 and 2017 brought noteworthy evolvement in CPEC where people witnessed Pak-China friendship prospering and prompt expansion work being done under CPEC. Today, China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) has become talk of the globe. CPEC, an essential component of One Belt, One Road proposed by China, is termed as a “Game Changer” for Pakistan. It is not only the pivot of China-Pakistan politico-economic relations, but holds similar promise for the region and beyond.
While the project offers enormous opportunities to Pakistan such as economic prosperity, socio-economic uplift of general population and under developed areas, there are also few challenges attached to it. Because of its wide-ranging scope, CPEC particularly has gained the attention of the West and the USA. For them this massive project by China under the concept of OBOR will make China an economic giant than already it is and will undermine the USA as superpower of the world. Under the OBOR, countries will be connected through infrastructure and telecommunication links. This will be accomplished by developing deep water ports, where possible and then building the infrastructure to link them through industrial zones and markets.
India has always tried to sabotage this project through different means. Be it confessional video of Kulbhushan Yadav or sponsored terrorist attacks in Baluchistan, India is trying its best to make CPEC a failure for Pakistan and overwrought its relations with China. India is seen countering CPEC by making developments on Chabahar Port and connexion with Iran and Gulf countries to enhance its regional influence. China has always dreamt of greater regional connectivity and before initiation and start of work on OBOR, there was an earlier concept of Kunming initiative. Bangladesh, China, India and Myanmar (BCIM) Economic Corridor is a concept to build the first expressway between India and China that will pass through Myanmar and Bangladesh.
The concept emerged in late 1990s, from China’s Yunnan province about possible sub regional cooperation involving South-Western China, Eastern India. Myanmar and Bangladesh. This eventually led to the development of the platform which came to be known as the “Kunming Initiative”. The first meeting of the initiative was organized in 1999 in Kunming capital of Yunnan province. Advocates of this multi-model corridor idea projected two prominent objectives behind this BCIM initiative, first is economic integration of the sub-region and second development of the border regions.
The ‘Kunming Initiative’ evolved into the BCIM Forum for Regional Cooperation during its first meeting with the objective to create a platform where major stakeholders could meet and discuss issues in the context of promoting economic growth and trade in the BCIM region; identify specific sectors and projects which would promote greater collaboration amongst the BCIM nations; and strengthen cooperation and institutional arrangements among the concerned key players and stakeholders to deepen BCIM ties. However, there is a perception among Chinese scholars that India is least interested to the BCIM project by linking its reservations on the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor which passes through AJ&K and GB. India holds its undue claim on this territory and keeps on objecting that this CPEC route is illegal. Hence, in the current context of trust deficit between India and China, this BCIM initiative does not seems to be fulfilled in near future.
There is thought that after witnessing slow response from India, China may put in more concentrated efforts to link Kunming with Bay of Bengal by establishing its route through Lashio, Mandalay to the sea port Kyauk Phyu in Myanmar, which is feasible in terms of distance and location. It is pertinent to highlight that Myanmar plays a significant role in China’s Belt and Road Initiative, due to its strategic location close to South East Asia and its better opening in the Bay of Bengal. But the current turmoil in Myanmar, Rohingya crisis in Rakhine state of Myanmar and fleeing of millions of Rohingyas to Bangladesh will result in trust deficit between Myanmar and Bangladesh where security of both the states is affected. Likewise the sensitive security in North-Eastern states of India generate threat to this project completion. It must be kept in mind that India with its hegemonic designs in South Asia will never let any economic or defence related project to be completed as it will undermine its so-called superiority in the region. India claims its good relations with China but never wants that China which is economic imperative in the region should rule the world too.
Therefore, the concept on which this Kunming Initiative was launched “that regional cooperation should be guided by the Five Principles of Peaceful Coexistence, emphasising equality and mutual benefit, sustainable development, comparative advantages, adoption of international standards, and infrastructure development in order to enhance connectivity and facilitate widest possible economic cooperation”, seem impossible to be completed under OBOR because of non-cordial relations among four member countries. Therefore, this project appears as a hopeless case because of prevailing security situation, Indian hegemonic designs in region and countering Chinese initiatives of OBOR particularly CPEC. India’s less interest in this BCIM also depicts India’s malicious designs to sabotage CPEC through whatever possible means.