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Pakistan Press (24 Aug 2017 NewAgeIslam.Com)

Delivering For the State By Kamila Hyat: New Age Islam's Selection, 24 August 2017

New Age Islam Edit Bureau

24 August 2017

Delivering For the State

By Kamila Hyat

The Emperor Has No Clothes

By Ammar Ali Jan

A Recycled Agenda

By Abdul Basit

Imran, Nawaz Walk Into A (Sheesha) Bar

By M Bilal Lakhani

Producing Pakistan: ‘Just Say It’s Beautiful’

By Daanish Mustafa

Afghanistan In Isolation

By Adam Weinstein

Anti-Establishment Politics

By Obed Pasha

Revitalising Karachi

By Mashaal Gauhar

What If A President Must Go?

By Harlan Ullman

Trump’s Enigmatic Afghanistan Stratagem

By Naveed Ahmad

Compiled By New Age Islam Edit Bureau


Delivering For the State

By Kamila Hyat

August 24, 2017

Within a period of two years, two state funerals were held in Karachi for Maulana Abdul Sattar Edhi and, more recently, Dr Ruth Pfau – both of whom were honoured for their services to humanity. Certainly, they deserve this honour.

But did the dignitaries who had gathered at these funerals consider the fact that these individuals – with their limited resources and boundless commitment – had, in reality, taken on precisely what the state should be doing for its people and bore the responsibility for it themselves? These humanitarians demonstrated that it is possible to create a better welfare setting for the people and achieve what appear to be virtual miracles, such as the eradication of leprosy.

Dr Pfau played a pivotal role ensuring that Pakistan is declared a leprosy-free state by WHO in 1996. Many other countries – including India, Bangladesh, Nepal, Ethiopia, Congo and Brazil – are still struggling to eliminate this disease. We should remember that Pakistan has not yet been able to eliminate polio despite the mass drive and state-run programmes carried out in all four provinces. And yet, one woman, who worked with a small team of volunteers and a dedicated staff, achieved what the state had failed to do.

Through his astonishing network of shelter homes, ambulance services, drives to recover missing children and other charitable efforts, Maulana Edhi also managed to go far beyond anything that the state has achieved. We still do not have government-run soup kitchens or other services running in a country where 24 percent of the population suffers from malnutrition and 50 percent of children are stunted.

Edhi saved children who had been abandoned by their families silently offering a space where they could be left in safety. His wife, Bilquis Edhi, has pointed out that when offered state help on various occasions, the Edhi Foundation maintained that it was, in fact, already performing the services of the state and, therefore, did not require assistance from it.

There are other examples in our society as well. Malala Yousafzai, who came so tragically close to requiring a funeral in 2012 – when she was shot near her school in Mingora – has done a great deal more than most ministers or state representatives to propagate the education of girls. Despite the vilification she has suffered in her own country – barring a few exceptions, such as a moving tribute from boys at a Shangla government school after she gained admission to Oxford University that demonstrated far greater generosity than what is shown by others who have demonised her – Malala has shown us what teenagers can achieve when the spirit and will exists and there is true belief in what they are attempting to achieve.

There are other people who are performing similar services on a smaller scale. A housewife in Karachi began a food service for those who are unable to obtain a meal when she saw their situation. Others have opened schools for the most deprived children in their communities – sometimes even in their own homes.

Doctors set out to serve people who have no or limited access to care. Dr Shershah Syed, an obstetrician in Karachi, offers an example of this through his effort to change the lives of thousands of women who are unable to obtain any other kind of help after suffering childbirth complications, such as fistula. There are others like him who can be found across the country.

The state has been unable to match the feats of any of these individuals. Just consider where we would stand in terms of social welfare if the achievements of Edhi, Pfau and others were replicated on a large scale, utilising the vast resources and infrastructure of the state. Certainly, the situation would vastly improve. Edhi alone brought hope to so many. On a larger scale, others could have received similar assistance. All this requires is empathy, concern and a giant dose of commitment.

These factors seem to be missing in the running of the state and the delivering of good governance. Something has gone terribly wrong somewhere. Yes, perhaps infrastructure projects, such as new roads and transport systems, are important. Lahore today has witnessed giant bridges and the pillars that support them along its considerably changed roads.

There are some questions over whether the altered traffic systems have improved vehicular flow. Yes, cheap, fast transport systems have helped people. But would more essential needs have been met if the same resources had been used to also improve operations at a few hospitals, refurbish even some government schools, train teachers and save children from the monotonous education they will be receiving as they return to schools after the summer break?

These are questions that we need to think about and find answers to. The reason why people like Edhi, Pfau, Malala and others have succeeded is simply because they are convinced of the need and necessity of what they do. Maulana Edhi repeatedly urged the state to do more for the people. His pleas brought no change in the functioning of this entity. We have not seen change over the many decades during which Pakistan has been in existence. As a result, people depend on individual efforts – at whatever scale they can be mustered up – on charity and their own incredible survival instincts which enable them to manage in the most impossible of conditions.

We still have people who live in little more than caves or the weakest of shacks. Yet, despite this, no effective state-level housing programme exists. Those which have been attempted have run into multiple problems tied with corruption, mismanagement and a lack of honesty in allocating homes. As a result, there are millions of homeless people across the country who sleep on pavements every day regardless of the weather and, for years, have no permanent address.

Apart from organising state funerals and, by doing so, honouring those who have taken on its work, an honourable state should attempt to address these issues on its own. So far, we have not seen such attempts being made. Occasional schemes have been launched. But in the ocean of misery, which has spread out across our nation – partially as a result of failures of planning and administration – these matter very little.

In some cases, actions taken by the state have added to people’s misery as it has demolished homes in order to set up other more lucrative projects or mine for resources, even though this can result in massive losses to communities who inhabit the area.

The relentless cutting of trees to widen roads is a miniscule example of this. The loss of trees culminates in high temperatures, more pollution and the threat of environmental havoc that we are already told lies ahead. Most of all, it often translates into worsening conditions in the lives of the people and the failure of governments to deliver to these people is one of the reasons for our failures.

Determined individuals such as the German-born Dr Pfau and the Gujarat-born Maulana Edhi demonstrated how much could be achieved with relatively little. They have shown us that there is a very real possibility of change and have often provided succour to the most deprived and the most ostracised.

Beyond the funerals, the real challenge is to take their work forward and demonstrate that we are indeed capable of replicating or building upon the efforts of these individuals and, by doing so, creating a more stable, stronger country.

Source: thenews.com.pk/print/225629-Delivering-for-the-state


The Emperor Has No Clothes

By Ammar Ali Jan

August 24, 2017

The latest outburst by Trump, threatening serious consequences for Pakistan for providing “safe havens” for terrorists, has stirred a mix of emotions, including surprise, fear and anger. It is particularly intriguing since Trump was an advocate for the withdrawal of US troops from Iraq and Afghanistan, and made it an important pillar of his foreign policy statements during the presidential campaign. With the looming escalation of US military involvement in the region, it is time for us in Pakistan to have an open debate on the changing nature of the US Empire, the emerging global order, and our own place in it.

Pakistan’s political and security leadership has oscillated between either complete capitulation to US interests, or a cynical use of its strategic position to pursue an ideologically-driven agenda. Capitulation to Empire resulted in the doling out of military and financial patronage as a ventilator for an authoritarian and decadent political order, particularly strengthening military regimes in the country. On the other hand, when the state occasionally tried to ‘assert’ itself, it did so to pursue fantasies of regional domination, in particular the desire to control Afghanistan, a policy that has caused immense suffering to that country, as well as to us.

With Trump’s belligerent posturing, we must reassess our strategy and consider treading the paths not taken. But before we do that, it is essential to understand where the US Empire stands today, especially militarily and ideologically.

The planned escalation of the war in Afghanistan by the US comes as the superpower acknowledges the embarrassment of participating in the longest war in the country’s history, and that too against a “ragtag army” of guerrilla fighters. While the US can lay the blame of its defeat in Afghanistan on Pakistan, that can in no way explain the colossal mess it has created in the Middle East. While Iraq was no paradise under the authoritarian regime of Saddam Hussain, the country has today deteriorated into one of the most dangerous places in the world, and a threat to the region because of the widespread presence of terrorist organisations.

The same is true for Libya, where a knee-jerk and ill-conceived military intervention devastated the country’s economic and political infrastructure and led to the proliferation of warlords and terrorist outfits. The spectacular collapse of the country’s economy in the aftermath of the military intervention has also fuelled the immigrant crisis stemming out of the Middle East and North Africa. Similarly, the indecisive, chaotic, and at times outright cruel, US policies in Yemen and Syria have placed the entire region in an endless spiral of war and destruction. This is the reason Trump’s recent threats of a military intervention in Venezuela were met with a unanimous rejection by Latin American countries (including Venezuela’s primary opponent, Colombia), since the past two decades have shown that the destruction caused in the wake of US interventions are seldom contained within the boundaries of a specific country.

What is noteworthy about America’s interventions post 9/11 is the growing gap between its capacity to cause immense destruction through its latest weaponry, and its ability to place an adequate amount of resources and skills for reconstructing societies. Unlike the post-Second World War scenario, where the US provided massive financial assistance under the ‘Marshal Plan’ to counter communist agitation in Western Europe, recent administrations have demonstrated little appetite for any such imperial generosity. In fact, the continuing economic crisis in the US and the fragility of public opinion in the face of US casualties has generated the dangerous dynamic of the ‘privatisation of war’.

Private security companies are playing an increasingly important role in combat operations around the world, particularly in Iraq and Northern Africa. Aljazeera recently reported the use of former child soldiers from Congo by American firms; these children are deployed in various war zones, including Iraq. The policy is aimed at cost-cutting since a Congolese soldier costs $250 per month without additional benefits (significantly less than the cost of an American soldier), and helps avoid US casualties in wars to ensure public support. In other words, the wretched of the earth now spill each other’s blood on the streets of the Global South to ensure the safety and security of the American Empire.

We are witnessing the emergence of a new imperial logic. Empires have always been concerned with the management of violence on a global scale, but in previous eras (pre-colonial, colonial and post-war imperial), there was an ideological commitment to reconstructing societies. Couched in racial or civilisational discourses such as the ‘White man’s Burden’, it nonetheless entailed a long-term physical attachment to the lands being governed by such Empires.

In contrast, contemporary Empire manages its interventions without a concomitant duty to re-stabilisation. Today, the US Africa Command (Africom) and Special Operations Command in Africa (SocAfrica) are engaged in nearly a hundred shadowy combat missions in Africa, without any public scrutiny or reciprocal commitments to economic or political development of these societies. Moreover, the US state and corporations (as well as of other countries) have become adept at cutting deals with private warlords and militias to get access to the required resources, bypassing even the need for any form of sovereign states. This is an Empire on a truly planetary scale, yet without any sense of responsibility associated with previous imperial orders.

Already under Bush and Obama, the strengthening of the surveillance state, support to brutal dictatorships in Egypt, Bahrain and Saudi Arabia and failed military interventions in Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya, had eroded America’s prestige in the eyes of the global community. With the Trump administration’s tacit support for neo-Nazi groups and outright disregard for constitutional norms at home, one can now explicitly see the sinister machinations of Empire that were obfuscated by the charm of previous US presidents. The emperor today is truly naked!

That does not mean that we in Pakistan should resort to a sophomoric rhetoric of anti-Americanism that we have witnessed over the last two decades. What this analysis suggests is that we have to chart an independent path from the trajectory of a declining Empire.

Fundamentally, if we were to improve relations with our neighbouring countries, we could play a pivotal role in regional integration due to our historical and cultural ties with India and the Islamicate world, and our friendly relations with China. For this to happen, however, we will have to give up our embarrassing fantasies of regional domination that have hindered even the acknowledgement of our diversity, let alone its utilisation for political and economic ends. It also means encouraging a more open and transparent debate as we engage with emerging key actors on the global stage, including China, something unfortunately missing from the shadowy nature of negotiations on CPEC.

The big lesson for progressive forces is that they made a mistake in believing that US pressure can become an adequate substitute for popular engagement to induce the structural changes needed in state-citizen relations in Pakistan. The US neither has the capacity nor the desire to bring freedom to other countries. In fact, the rise of fascist currents in American political life has raised questions on the future of freedom even in its own domestic politics.

It is the citizens of Pakistan that have the primary responsibility of safeguarding popular sovereignty, and for ensuring a frank discussion on the future trajectory of our country. Considering the interests of our elites in the perpetuation of Pakistan’s role as a petty rentier state in the global system, such calls for a reasoned exercise of sovereignty may seem like an impossible task. Yet, we have no option but to fight for it, since the costs of past mistakes are too high for us to allow their eternal repetition.

Source: thenews.com.pk/print/225630-The-emperor-has-no-clothes


A Recycled Agenda

By Abdul Basit

August 24, 2017

Amid ongoing political turmoil in Washington that has seen several White House top officials dismissed from their positions, US President Donald Trump has announced his new Afghan policy. Trump’s policy is in sharp contrast to his electoral promises of a complete disengagement from Afghanistan.

The US policy choices in Afghanistan were from bad (moderate troop surge to postpone the defeat) to worse (complete withdrawal precipitating immediate defeat) and Trump has opted for the former. While Trump’s Afghan policy is a departure from his predecessor’s approach in its boldness. But the broad parameters remain, more or less, the same. Apparently, the tone and tenor of the new policy is quite Clausewitzian as it seeks to combine the military, political and diplomatic components. However, in reality, it is only the military component that is preponderant.  

The key features of Trump’s Afghan policy operate on a condition-based approach instead of a calendar-driven policy. No more peace talks with the Taliban, holding Pakistan accountable for providing sanctuaries to the Afghan militant groups, working closely with India to stabilise Afghanistan and the deployments of an additional 4,000 US troops are the main elements of this policy. The addition of 4,000 troops will take the total number of foreign troops in Afghanistan to 15,000 (12,000 from the US and 3,000 from Nato) who will advise, assist and train the Afghan forces. Moreover, America’s open-ended commitment to Kabul will ease some pressure on the embattled National Unity Government (NUG) of Ashraf Ghani.

The policy seems to be a compromise between Trump – who wanted a complete withdrawal – and his generals – who wanted to ramp up the war effort in Afghanistan. The policy lacks a clear articulation on how its various components will break the strategic deadlock in Afghanistan, stabilise the deteriorating security situation and improve the prospects for peace-building. It raises more questions instead of providing answers. For instance, it is not clear what outcomes the Trump administration aims to achieve in Afghanistan by implementing the new strategy.

Despite a more assertive tone and a muscular outlook, Trump’s Afghan policy exposes Washington’s policy paralysis, lack of imagination and viable political options. It guarantees neither a decisive victory nor military gains that are significant enough to force the Taliban to come to the negotiating table.

President Obama, more or less, did the same during the final months of his administration. Obama’s original plan was to reduce the number of US troops in Afghanistan to 1,000 to protect the US Embassy in Kabul. But he twice modified the planned reduction on the advice of his military advisers to leave more troops in deployment.

Afghanistan needs intensified political and diplomatic efforts to explore a negotiated settlement of the conflict. Instead, Trump has further militarised the conflict, which is a recipe for endless war. From the strategic point of view, an indefinite commitment to a protracted and asymmetrical war is a poor policy choice.

A military strategy is employed to create favourable conditions, which could be exploited politically. However, it is unclear how this policy of militarisation will create a political opening. It’s not rocket science to understand that 15,000 foreign troops will not be able to achieve what 150,000 Nato/Isaf forces could not achieve, barring a few tactical victories.

Trump’s policy pronouncement is a clear indication that Washington is scaling down its commitment from stabilising Afghanistan to preventing a terrorist attack on US soil which originates from Afghanistan. The issue with this kind of muddled mindset is that preventing Afghanistan from turning into a fertile ground for terrorist groups requires nation-building, which the Trump administration is shying away from. Unfortunately, as long as the government in Kabul remains dysfunctional, the Taliban will remain a hard reality.

Ideally, an overall political strategy was required for Afghanistan that should have guided its military component, among others. Instead, Washington has outsourced the Afghan policy to Pentagon opting for a militarised policy that offers little hope for conflict resolution. At best, Trump’s new Afghan policy will deny Taliban an outright military victory. At worst, it will further harden the Taliban’s insurgent attacks and fuel fresh recruitment.

The Trump administration has taken an oversimplified, static view of a complicated, dynamic and fluid regional issue that has changed dramatically since his inauguration in January 2017. The Afghan Taliban has diversified the regional linkages, minimising their sole dependence on Pakistan.

Today, the Taliban have a working relationship with Iran and Russia and, to a lesser extent, with Beijing. Islamabad, Tehran and Moscow consider the continued US military presence in Afghanistan to be a threat to their security and detrimental to their regional interests. So, while the Trump administration has taken a tough line on Pakistan for providing sanctuaries to the Taliban, it has fallen short of pointing out the support for the latter from Russia and Iran.

Scapegoating Pakistan for its policy failures in Afghanistan will not ease the US predicament in Afghanistan. The buck certainly does not stop at Islamabad. It is rather ironic that with its less than half-hearted commitment, Washington expects Islamabad to do more while it is the former who needs to do more.

The hard-line towards Pakistan is not going to change its Afghan policy. On the contrary, the increased Indian engagement in Afghanistan – as envisaged by Trump in his speech – will further strengthen Islamabad’s threat perception and add to its strategic anxiety. Consequently, Islamabad will continue to pursue a policy that aims to minimise the Indian influence in Afghanistan to avoid strategic encirclement.

Unfortunately, the endgame in Afghanistan has become more uncertain, with no end in sight to America’s longest war. With its new Afghan policy, the Trump administration can manage the conflict in Afghanistan but cannot resolve it. Consequently, the current status quo in Afghanistan is likely to persist. Notwithstanding recent battlefield gains, the Taliban will not win and Kabul will not lose, despite the breakdown of governance and the economic meltdown.

Source: thenews.com.pk/print/225631-A-recycled-agenda


Imran, Nawaz Walk into a (Sheesha) Bar

By M Bilal Lakhani


The year is 2019. In a daring coup, the Pakistani cricket team exiled all politicians from the country. Meanwhile, Nawaz Sharif and Imran Khan take a trip down memory lane by walking into a Sheesha bar on Edgeware road in London.

This is a satire piece. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, is purely intentional.

Imran Khan: Nawaz Bhai, I thought I would be the first Pakistani cricketer to become Prime Minister. At least when you did Dhandli, I could stage a Dharna and bring the house down. But the PCB establishment just kicked all us politicians out of the country. All it took was an umpire’s finger and we’re out... we didn’t even get a review!

Nawaz Sharif: Stop crying like Umar Akmal, Imran! Politics was never for a clean man like you. We should have played politics like cricketers. You should have led like Shahid Afridi, with an all or nothing, governance style. I should have played the long game, with a Misbah style tuktuk knock. Think about it, you go after the shiny things, like a billion tree tsunami and I try to restore the civilian-cricketer imbalance. Instead, all you wanted to talk about was match fixing.

Imran Khan: It’s funny how we realised too late that we’re playing for the same team — Pakistan. Misbah and Afridi had dramatically different styles but they were always playing for the same team. We forgot that in politics. We always disagreed on approach but we were both fighting for a better Pakistan. We should have taken the temperature down ahead of the 2018 elections. It cost our country too much. You should have never spoken out against the PCB establishment.

Imran Khan: It’s funny how we realised too late that we’re playing for the same team — Pakistan. Misbah and Afridi had dramatically different styles but they were always playing for the same team. We forgot that in politics

Nawaz Sharif: Speaking of establishments, what would you like me to order for you... a Virgin Pina Colada?

Imran Khan: Very funny Mian Sahib, you know they don’t serve Nihari at Sheesha bars, right?

Nawaz Sharif: Yaar, your sense of humour has really gone down since you started hanging out with Sheikh Rashid. How’s he doing anyway?

Imran Khan: I have to give it to him. Somehow he always manages to become a minister, whenever there’s a technocratic government in place. Always pulling a surgical strike on my heart, that man.

Nawaz Sharif: Lolz. Who would have thought? With Shahid Afridi in government, our growing foreign debt will pause itself like the man’s age.

Imran Khan: And with the Rawalpindi Express getting the contract to build metros and motorways in Punjab, your brother must be thinking why he didn’t think of this while he was in power. Name the metros and motorways after a popular cricketer and people won’t protest or trash the place.

Nawaz Sharif: You know, I never understood why we spent so much time fighting each other versus fighting together for the country.

Imran Khan: It was good politics but we would have been far more effective governing together. Imagine my energy, leadership and a no nonsense attitude to corruption coupled with your experience as a three time Prime Minister and influence to keep the cricketers playing in the stadium versus the streets.

Nawaz Sharif: Yeah, if I could build a time machine and go back in time, that’s the one thing I would change. Tone down the rhetoric against the PCB establishment and your burger friends as well as the media. But you gave me such little breathing room with your aggressive street politics. I had no choice but to go on the attack.

Imran Khan: Yaar Mian Saheb, I know a Qatari Prince, who’s good with time machines. Want me to give him a call?

Nawaz Sharif: Very funny. I also have Gulalai on speed dial. Let’s not go there.

Imran Khan: Yaar, aik tau aap fouran personal ho jatay hain.

Nawaz Sharif: Acha, by the way, I have to tell you, for all my anger about you destabilising my government, I really admire your unrelenting persistence and campaign against corruption. You were a force for good in Pakistani politics, despite my differences with you. We made a good team for Pakistan.

Imran Khan: Nawaz bhai, I still don’t like you but I can finally understand your point of view in exile. The beauty of democracy is that we can argue with each other as much as we want. We should have built on each other’s strengths, rather than exploiting each other’s weaknesses. You represent the voice of millions of Pakistanis, as do I. We should have tried to unite our supporters versus trying to make them fight each other.

Nawaz Sharif: If only we could go back in time and lead by example; passionate but polite.

Imran Khan: If only we could go back in time.

Source: dailytimes.com.pk/opinion/24-Aug-17/imran-nawaz-walk-into-a-sheesha-bar


Producing Pakistan: ‘Just Say it’s Beautiful’

By Daanish Mustafa


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 aesthetics. 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 aesthetics

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-sexual 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 something, 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.

Source: dailytimes.com.pk/opinion/24-Aug-17/producing-pakistan-just-say-its-beautiful


Afghanistan In Isolation

By Adam Weinstein


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.

Source: dailytimes.com.pk/opinion/24-Aug-17/afghanistan-in-isolation


Anti-Establishment Politics

By Obed Pasha


What Nawaz Sharif experienced on GT road a couple of weeks back is the solidarity of the masses towards the leaders who challenge the establishment. Time and again, the masses have put their weight behind any leader who has rebelled against the deep state throughout our history. Before Nawaz Sharif, the mantle of anti-establishment politics was with Benazir Bhutto owing to her struggle against Zia-ul-Haq. Earlier, her father Zulfikar Ali Bhutto gained an overwhelming adulation from the masses for defying General Ayub Khan. Much like what is happening today, people thronged to greet Benazir Bhutto upon her return in 1986 and Zulfikar Ali Bhutto during his 1967 visit to Lahore.

By hailing rebels as heroes, the masses demonstrate their anger toward an extractive system which enriches the ultra-powerful establishment and its cronies in the urban professional class at the expense of the poor and less educated. Simmering public frustration against police, patwaris, local judges, and revenue collectors concludes into mass movements against the established order and the rebel leader serves as a focal point, a personality to coalesce around and forge collective action against the deep state.

Our current establishment is a descendant of the British colonial government whose purpose was to subjugate the masses to enrich the empire. In such a system, the masses are held in contempt by the state and their resources are squeezed through legal means and complex institutional manoeuvres with the help of local elite and the professional class. If someone thinks the masses do not comprehend this intricate web of legal plunder, they are badly mistaken. Rural and urban masses are very much cognizant of the system imposed over them. They understand how their rights to better education and healthcare are stolen by the establishment through its narrative of national security and perpetual animosity with neighbouring countries.

History tells us that being on the wrong side of the establishment comes with grave consequences, but the war can be won. Many Latin American countries like Bolivia and Chile have defeated their respective establishments for good

History of anti-establishment revolt in this region is much older than Pakistan. Who can forget Bhagat Singh and Pir Sibghatullah Shah Rashidi’s ultimate sacrifice for opposing the empire. Even a dacoit like Jagga Jatt is revered in folk songs for standing up to the local state structure in early 20th century. Bacha Khan’s legacy of peaceful agitation against British and Pakistani establishments is still very much relevant in Pakistani politics. Heroes of our folklore defied imperial powers much before the British colonial government.

Sufi Inayat Shaheed of Sindh led a rebellion against the Mughals and Kalhoras on behalf of the peasants in the early 18th century and created a community of independent farmers under the maxim ‘Jo Khere So Khaye’ (The one who ploughs the land, is the rightful owner of the produce). His shrine in Thatta attracts numerous people every day. And let’s not forget the 10-year long rebellion of Dulla Bhatti against the Mughal Emperor Akbar. Dulla Bhatti remains a hero in Punjab and ‘Lohris’ are still sung in his name even after centuries of systematic suppression from the state. All these protagonists had distinct ideologies and intentions, but had one thing in common: they all rebelled against the establishment of their time and became heroes to the masses.

Given his past, Nawaz Sharif is probably the unlikeliest of leaders to have joined their ranks. He belongs to the business elite of Pakistan which has exploited the system over decades. He remained a key instrument of the establishment as it conspired against the peoples’ true mandate throughout the 1980s and 1990s. His party has always remained a right-wing conservative organisation, often supporting militant outfits and espousing reactionary views against India. Since the last couple of decades, however, his world view has slowly been absorbing values of socio-economic progress and equity.

Whatever his past and however reluctantly, Nawaz Sharif is currently the most popular leader in Pakistan who has gained tremendous support from the masses due to his anti-establishment stance over the last few months. The tide of mass support he received during his GT road rally will not allow him to sit quietly in Lahore and he will continue touring cities and town all over Pakistan until the next elections. But the path he has chosen is extremely perilous. The deep-state has infinite control over the society. It has access to numerous means to frustrate a challenger. History tells us that being on the wrong side of the establishment comes with grave consequences, but the war can be won. Many Latin American countries like Bolivia and Chile have defeated their respective establishments for good. Turkey and Bangladesh are also good examples in this respect.

The question is, will Nawaz Sharif embrace his destiny to help bring true democratic rule and civilian supremacy to the country, or will he succumb under pressure and allow the status quo to continue? It is certain that the people will stand by him so long as he is willing to be a rebel. What he does next with his newfound popularity will define the future of Pakistan.

Source: dailytimes.com.pk/opinion/24-Aug-17/anti-establishment-politics


Revitalising Karachi

By Mashaal Gauhar


Karachi’s recent ranking on The Economist Intelligence Unit Index as one of the world’s least liveable cities only confirms what the people of Karachi have known and suffered for a long time. Despite the city’s importance as the country’s primary economic hub for trade and investment, Karachi has been the victim of chronic negligence and poor governance.

Although the law and order situation has improved in recent months, violence has been a hallmark of everyday life for the people of Karachi. Renowned economist, the late Dr Mahbubul Haq stated, “Economic advancement in the city has been curtailed by conflict along ethnic and sectarian lines, however the roots of such conflict have more to do with dysfunctional urban development than simply, ethnicity and religion. The social and economic division of the city into planned and unplanned areas, the competition over resources and public services and the interplay between political parties and interest groups have tainted the city to a considerable degree.”

Dr Haq’s observations about the damaging consequences of “dysfunctional urban development” highlights the importance addressing Karachi’s civic issues, particularly as the city’s population continues to swell inexorably.

The coastal city of Jeddah provides an interesting benchmark. Jeddah too suffered the ravages caused by an overwhelming surge in population, outdated infrastructure and a lack of planning. Like Karachi, Jeddah would suffer from water shortages as well as devastating floods. In the 1970s, the city’s administration embarked on a project of major urban renewal led by its dynamic mayor Mohamed Said Farsi.

In addition to providing basic new infrastructure, sufficient water, electricity, sewage disposal and telecommunications services, Jeddah was beautified through the development of parks and green spaces. Art works were installed throughout the city to create a virtual open-air art museum. This was called the Jeddah Beautification Project and has led to the city being recognised internationally as a leading hub for art and design.

Unregulated and speculative construction continues ceaselessly in Karachi. This along with a dilapidated infrastructure, high pollution levels, inadequate sanitation and unreliable water and power supply has marred the lives of the city’s residents

Given Karachi’s wealth of creative talent, the same feat can be achieved as in Jeddah. Karachi’s problems can be overcome as master plans have been drawn up but have failed to be implemented. The city’s leading architects and urban planners like Arif Hasan have formulated road maps envisioning the way forward for Karachi

A lack of urban planning has left Karachi prey to haphazard and unsightly expansion. Today, unregulated speculative construction continues ceaselessly. This along with dilapidated infrastructure, high pollution levels, inadequate sanitation and unreliable water and power supply has marred the lives of the city’s estimated 20 million residents.

In October 2016 Sindh Chief Minister Murad Ali Shah announced the Karachi Liveable Improvement Project to restore the city’s rundown heritage buildings. Primarily funded by the World Bank, the project also promises to build pedestrian access ways, roads and parks.

As the late Dr Mahbubul Haq highlighted, communities supported by well-designed public spaces are better positioned to harness social problems such as crime. As a city that provides a quarter of the nation’s GDP, Karachi must be afforded greater priority.

Source: dailytimes.com.pk/opinion/24-Aug-17/revitalising-karachi


What If A President Must Go?

By Harlan Ullman


After seven months in power, given the performance and record of the forty-fifth president of the United States, the question of fitness to retain the office is no longer an idle one. The Trump White House seems in perpetual chaos and incapable of restraining the president’s lesser angels in word, deed and twitter account. Each week appears to be worse than the previous one.

Whether threatening war with North Korea or stubbornly refusing to sanction neo-Nazis, white supremacists and the Ku Klux Klan, Mr Trump seems incapable or unwilling to act presidentially. But in fairness, virtually all presidents stumble in their first year in office.

Franklin Roosevelt assumed the presidency in 1933 as America was in the throes of the Great Depression and the cancer of Nazi Germany was beginning to metastasize. Harry Truman had never been briefed on the atom bomb before FDR died in April 1945. An exception was Bill Clinton. By 1993, the Soviet Union had collapsed. George H.W. Bush had moved to make Europe whole, free and at peace and driven Saddam Hussein from Kuwait. And the economy was recovering.

Yet the first months of the Clinton administration were tumultuous. An ill-advised attempt to allow homosexuals to serve openly in the military turned into a political disaster. Whitewater, “TravelGate,” health care reform and the suicide of Vince Foster, a White House aide close to the Clintons, roiled the administration. The president’s popularity was about as low as President Trump’s is today.

George W. Bush had to confront September 11th and the subsequent war on terror and interventions into Afghanistan and Iraq—-the first conflict unresolved after sixteen years and the second arguably the greatest strategic disaster since the Civil War. Barack Obama inherited the financial collapse of 2008 and the two unfinished wars. And Donald Trump assumed the presidency with American forces still at war, a sluggish economy, a nation profoundly divided along partisan lines and a government that was at best dysfunctional.

Yet, so far, President Trump has not matured. Nor has his temperament and performance reassured a majority of Americans that he is fit to continue as chief executive. But replacing or removing a president from office is made purposely difficult by the constitution. Presidents can leave office through half a dozen means.

First, presidents can resign or refuse to run for re-election. Harry Truman called it quits in 1952. Richard Nixon, facing certain impeachment by the House of Representatives for “high crimes and misdemeanours” and conviction by a 2/3 vote of the Senate chose to resign making Vice President Gerald Ford his successor. Lyndon Johnson, tormented by Vietnam would not accept the nomination of his party for a second term.

Second, the Twenty-Second Amendment limits a president to two elected terms enacted after FDR was thrice re-elected. Dwight Eisenhower, Ronald Reagan, Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and Barack Obama left office as mandated by this amendment.

Third, presidents can die in office. William Henry Harrison succumbed to pneumonia after weeks in office. William McKinley and John Kennedy were assassinated.

Fourth, presidents can be impeached and convicted by the Congress. Andrew Johnson and Bill Clinton were the only presidents ever impeached by the House. Neither was convicted by the Senate.

Finally, presidents can be removed if incapacitated under the Twenty-Fifth amendment. This amendment was sensibly approved in the nuclear age so that the duties of the commander-in-chief were temporarily passed on to the vice president if the president were incapacitated either by a stroke or other medical condition or if undergoing surgery in which anaesthesia was administered. Normally, the president would sign a letter temporarily assigning power to the vice president. Then, after surgery in the cases of Ronald Reagan and later George H.W. Bush, the president would reassume his duties.

However, and this is a big however, should the vice president and a majority of the cabinet agree that a president was incapacitated, after informing the President Pro Tempore of the Senate and the Speaker of the House, a president could be temporarily removed. But the president has the penultimate say. He (and one day she) can inform Congress that the incapacitation was temporary and reassume duties. Only then would a 2/3 vote of both Houses remove the president.

These are uncharted and dangerous waters. Unless President Trump can change his personality and temperament in his eighth decade and the Russian allegations prove baseless, those waters do not seem to becoming any calmer

Further, while the Constitution specifies removal for “treason, bribery and high crimes and misdemeanours,” only in approving the articles of impeachment can the House define what high crimes and misdemeanours mean. Incompetence and temperament do not easily fall into this category. Here, the “emoluments clause” could come into effect.

The emoluments clause states in part: “… And no Person holding any Office of Profit or Trust under them, shall, without the Consent of the Congress, accept of any present, Emolument, Office, or Title, of any kind whatever, from any King, Prince, or foreign State.

President Trump is already facing several lawsuits over this clause. The question remains——suppose he continues to stumble and demonstrate an unfitness to govern. What next? The new chief of staff, General John Kelly and Trump’s closest advisers—his daughter Ivanka and son-in-law Jared Kushner—-have had little overt impact in tempering presidential temperament and conduct. Or suppose collusion and illegality over Russian entanglement resulted from one of the current investigations?

The most rational case would be a delegation of senior citizens, probably Republicans, privately meeting with the president to put him on notice about his conduct. The problem is who would fall into this category? With Richard Nixon, the House and Senate had many stalwarts particularly Howard Baker. Who would fill this role?

These are uncharted and dangerous waters. Unless President Trump can change his personality and temperament in his eighth decade and the Russian allegations prove baseless, those waters do not seem to becoming any calmer.

Source: dailytimes.com.pk/opinion/24-Aug-17/what-if-a-president-must-go


Trump’s Enigmatic Afghanistan Stratagem

By Naveed Ahmad

August 23, 2017

US President Donald Trump stood true to his reputation. His Afghanistan policy is vague, devoid of deadlines and other details. He was addressing his critics at home on Monday while spelling out American anguish to a complex problem, Washington’s toolbox has failed to fix in 16 years.

Prior to the Friday huddle at Camp David, with cabinet and generals, Trump had even mulled over firing General John Nicholson – US troops’ commander in Afghanistan – without ever holding a one-on-one meeting during his seven months in the White House.

The other option on his table included handing over Afghanistan’s security to private security forces comprising military veterans. The intelligence lobby pleaded a broader role for CIA in counter-terror operations. The far-right anarchists like Steve Bannon had done their bit to make the case for complete withdrawal and abandoning the country, the original line Trump had taken for years including while on the campaign trail.

Nothing could have served Russia’s Putin and Iran’s expansionist agenda better than Washington bidding farewell to Kabul when its security forces are demoralised and the militants are on the rampage.

Trump’s near-orbit generals – Chief of Staff John Kelly, Defence Secretary James Mattis and National Security Adviser General HR McMaster – prevailed but not quite fully, considering opacities in Trump’s speech. They could get the embattled president’s nod for a military campaign to continue with replenishment and an open time frame (until the return of satisfactory conditions).

Besides, the White House has opted to make the military’s assessment process less stringent than it used to be.

He minced no words while pronouncing Pentagon’s sole objective to eliminate terrorists. A notion of state building involving institutional capacity building for efficient self-governance has been dropped. The same goes for the timeframe.

The trigger-happy Republican president has shelved the political option of dialogue while declaring “to change the approach in how to deal with Pakistan”. His spokesperson stated that the president has put Islamabad on notice. No words of warning for Iran and Russia though, both of which happen to most ambitious disruptors in the country.

The US president said, “Pakistan has much to gain from partnering with our effort in Afghanistan. It has much to lose by continuing to harbour criminals and terrorists.”

Disregarding its gradually lessening leverage on Islamabad, Washington plans to end military aid in the future. It is already withholding $350 million due to reservations over Pakistan’s counter-terror actions. Though military hardware sale has gone through steep decline over the years, the Islamic republic is still among the so-called major non-Nato allies, making it eligible for the US aid and access to advanced US military hardware.

Trump’s references to India may seem out of place in his speech but sounded like music for New Delhi. They were aimed at invoking Pakistan’s concern of encirclement with explicit White House nod.

Islamabad and Rawalpindi did not tremble with shock waves. Despite US Central Command chief’s successful visit, that also included a briefing on Waziristan, the expectations were low. Like much of Trump’s decisions, the major powers will not be signing up on Afghanistan strategy without reservations. Financially weak it may be, yet the threat of 1990s era sanctions or end to American aid will not bring Pakistan to the knees. Neither the punitive curbs work before nor will they deliver in the days to come.

The elephant in the room is a resurgence of the Taliban and the ISIS in Afghanistan and multinational failure to help establish robust security apparatus to stem the tide. Notwithstanding en masse desertion of troops and policemen, green-on-blue attacks have surged again, resulting in casualties of the US troops.

Afghanistan’s future political stability may not be a concern for the Trump administration but it sure is an important factor.

The White House must have taken stock of deepening political fissures in the unity government. Infighting between Afghan President Ashraf Ghani and CEO Abdullah-Abdullah trickled down to the very end, with mostly governors and police chief at odds with each other.

Besides, rampant corruption has taken the toll on the institutional capacity building as well as service delivery. The Taliban and ISIS have benefitted from feuding bureaucratic elite to unabated poppy crop and demoralised deserting troops alike. Already, Afghanistan’s 90% of the national budget is financed by foreign aid. A World Bank report noted that the country would be incapable of surviving without foreign assistance until at least 2024. The steep southward slide continues.

Washington’s disarray will aggravate in the months to come. Trump’s attention span is limited even on the most pressing national and global issues. He will neither hold regular video conferences with Ashraf Ghani nor take stock of the on-ground situation from General Nicholson.

Thus, the US military will not endanger its working relationship with the Pakistani counterpart. Otherwise, it jeopardises the vital logistical corridor, intelligence sharing and other less discussed but crucial means of cooperation in place since the start of the Afghan war. The relations between White House and Pentagon may worsen with prospects of Kelly and McMaster either quitting at some or reactively digging in deeper to safeguard establishment’s interests.

Meanwhile, China and Pakistan may enhance effort for pushing the Taliban and the Afghan government to resume talks with the militants. Gulbadin Hekmatyar’s embrace of mainstream politics resulted from the negotiation instead of a military action. China has already rejected Trump’s speech, and will not wait for the neighbouring country fall victim to mindless hawkish policies of the US.

Pakistan, nonetheless, must continue its operations against extremists’ ‘safe havens’ as was witnessed during operation Khyber IV. The fencing of Durand Line will ensure relative security from back and forth infiltration. Resumption of drone operation and killing of any operatives of Haqqani group will be detrimental to Islamabad’s claims of ‘no safe havens on its soil’. Better intelligence cooperation and effective preparedness and action cannot be compromised due to a hawkish speech of an embattled leader.

Without Afghan security forces’ commitment and capability, military victory in Afghanistan is a distant dream. Similarly, without an active cooperation with Pakistan, America’s chances of stabilising the war torn country remain dim as well.

Source: tribune.com.pk/story/1489096/trumps-enigmatic-afghanistan-stratagem/


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