New Age Islam Edit Bureau
30 March 2017
Fear, Culture and Violence
By Ammar Ali Jan
Israel’s Next War Is Always
By Larry Derfner
By Reema Shaukat
Counter-Terrorism Made Easy
By Asad Durrani
Reko Diq Ruckus
By Khurram Husain
Of Heritage & Development
By I.A. Rehman
Trumping Defence Into Oblivion — Top
By Harlan Ullman
Revisiting Socratic Teaching Through
By Jahanzeb Awan
Our Afghan Dilemma
By Hasan Khan
Moscow: Afghanistan Peace Initiative
By Dr Zafar N Jaspal
Compiled By New Age Islam Edit Bureau
March 29, 2017
The writer is a doctoral candidate at the
University of Cambridge and a lecturer at the Government College University,
Since the 1980s, the classical divide
between the Left and the Right over questions such as resource distribution and
class antagonism are no longer politically central. In a world in which the
profit motive became the central principle for organising economic life, the
category of ‘culture’ has been elevated as the principal site for ideological
From the US to Europe to India, the
political Right has turned questions of national purity into major electoral
concerns by proposing a pristine identity perpetually threatened by foreign
elements within the nation.
A couple of events last week in Pakistan
highlight the importance of cultural tropes and identitarian markers in
Pakistan’s political discourse. The first was a Pakhtun Culture Day event,
organised by the Pashtun Student Council, at Punjab University. The event was
disrupted by a brutal attack by members of the Islami Jamiat-e-Talaba, who
claimed that Pashto music and the traditional ‘attan’ dance were against “our
culture” and hence, could not be tolerated. A senior leader of the
Jamaat-e-Islami, Liaqat Baloch, defended the IJT’s actions, suggesting that a
violent response is natural if there is dancing on campuses. This is a chilling
statement, considering the similar line of reasoning used by those justifying
the attacks at Sehwan Sharif only a month ago.
In an unrelated but similar incident, a PTI
MNA recently asserted that, since Pakistan was created on the basis of Islam,
all “secularists” should migrate from the country to foreign lands. To
emphasise that his statement represented his core beliefs and was not merely a
slip of tongue, the honourable member of the house repeated his claims on
social media by quoting Jinnah, winning praise from the self-proclaimed
guardians of the ‘Pakistan ideology’.
Now, there is nothing inherently wrong with
disliking musical events (except perhaps poor taste) or with viewing the
history of the Pakistan Movement as having been intertwined with the popular
desire for Islamic law. One can discuss the merits of cultural activities on
campuses or the nuances of Colonial India’s history – but neither justify nor
explain the kind of violent outbursts witnessed in each case.
Why would a dance by some 20-year-olds lead
to clashes that end with the use of tear-gas by the police and heightened
security on campuses? Similarly, why would a law-maker suggest that those who
disagree with him on history should leave the country (perhaps not realising
how the business of expelling individuals and communities from the national body
led to some of the worst tragedies in modern history, including the rise of
fascism in Europe)?
Such reactions are manifestations not of
religious or national zeal, but stem from a deep sense of fear and insecurity.
And it this fear, and the fragility from which it stems, that we must question
if we are to understand such outbursts and think of ways of overcoming them.
Psychoanalysis informs us that human
personality, and the consequent individual and collective identities, are
neither inherent nor fixed, but are constructed through social interaction that
allows us to identify with a particular set of identitarian markers. Such a
process necessarily entails repressing certain features of the past and the
present to give coherence and stability to our identity. Yet, we can never be
fully identical to a given identity, since we always contain multiple histories
and cultures within our unconscious, even if we never fully acknowledge their
When we confront those repressed elements
in the form of the presence or actions of others, they appear as attempts to
disrupt, if not annihilate, the identity we have formed through the stories we
tell ourselves about who we are. This leads to what is known as “narcissistic
mortification”, an intense feeling of terror when faced with elements that
threaten not because they are foreign, but because they are too intimate and
internal to our psyche, producing a split within ourselves. This feeling of
fragility and fear often leads to the desire of violently removing such images
and practices in a desperate attempt to safeguard the identity that anchors our
We then begin an endless process of purging
and purification that is simultaneously aimed at others and oneself, since the
horror induced by their presence stems from their ability to remind us of a
truth within ourselves that we would like to repress. In other words, when we
punish others in the name of a pristine culture, we are simply punishing
ourselves, and the violence directed at these others is nothing but violence on
Consider the rather pathetic demand
recently made by a BJP leader to demolish Jinnah’s house in Mumbai since it
“reminds” him of Partition. Whether he remembers or forgets Partition is
inconsequential to the fact that it did take place, and no amount of violence
and destruction of symbols will change the course of history. Since the
inability to deal with the traumas of the past only results in an impossible
desire to purge the present of that past, it does not take long to start
equating all Indian Muslims as reminders/remainders of that past. This then
leads to the rise of fascist forces and the concomitant communal tensions that
have plagued India’s recent history.
Pakistan’s tense relationship with cultural
diversity, and the insistence on a homogenous, monolithic cultural ‘essence’,
has also resulted in this endless search for purity that is easily proclaimed
but hard to find and impossible to inhabit. The end result is that cultural
events invoke not mere criticism but brute violence, since they pose a
challenge to a fragile identity based on a flight from history. Similarly,
since the story of our independence, with all its messiness, is now frozen in a
neat and simplistic history of good versus evil (with ‘secularists’ signifying
the latter camp), one can expel evil since it undermines the purity of the
raison d’être of our existence.
What this manifests is our failure to
adequately deal with the primary wound of our collective identity – our own
past. We have thus far failed to acknowledge that no matter what ideological
goal we set out for ourselves (whether conservative, liberal, leftist, etc),
there will always remain residues from the past within the social world we
inhabit. An inability to deal with the presence of residual elements does not
obliterate them, but turns it into an element that haunts our psyche by
disrupting our process of self-identification.
The good news, however, is that one need
not always have such a pathological relationship with one’s own past. We can
accept that certain events that had a momentous impact on the course of history
did occur, and there is no ‘going back’ to a pristine ‘Indian’, ‘Pakistani’,
‘Pakhtun’ or ‘Punjabi’ culture. Instead, one must recognise oneself and the
social world we inhabit as a product of a long history of encounters that
happened, missed encounters that could have happened but didn’t, and encounters
that are yet to happen in the future.
Thus, rather than a wound that paralyses
us, the presence of these multiple histories within ourselves can become a
source of regeneration. Instead of viewing the lack of correspondence between
society and our sense of self as a source of embarrassment, it will allow us to
recognise that we are always more than what we think we are, overcoming the
limits imposed by rigid cultural boundaries through our personal and collective
In a world plagued by monstrous
inequalities, wars, and a looming environmental catastrophe that threatens to
send human beings into oblivion, engaging in an endless and meaningless fight
over our ‘true identity’ is not only naive, it is criminal. What we need today
is a certain modesty towards the existence of a past, but an uncompromising
boldness towards the future. Only then will we overcome the fear of our own
history and finally come together, in all our personal and collective
diversity, to face the challenges that threaten the very survival of the human
Israel’s Next War Is Always ‘Inevitable’
March 30, 2017
IN this country, people have learned to
accept that one war follows another, every two or three years. “An Inevitable
Conflict in Gaza,” ran a headline in the daily newspaper Yediot Ahronot earlier
this month. “With Lebanon no longer hiding Hezbollah’s role, next war must hit
civilians where it hurts, Israeli minister says,” Haaretz reported a few days
What hardly any Israelis will consider,
though, and virtually no influential voices in the West will publicly suggest,
is that Israel — not Hezbollah in Lebanon, nor Hamas in Gaza, nor the
government of President Bashar al-Assad in Syria — is provoking the next war.
Counterintuitive though it may be to Israeli and most Western minds, Israel,
not its militant Islamist or brutal Syrian enemies, is the aggressor in these
On March 17, Israeli military jets did what
they’ve been doing every few months since the Syrian civil war started in 2011
— they bombed Syrian weaponry believed destined for Hezbollah, Syria’s ally and
Israel’s enemy in southern Lebanon. But this time, instead of letting the
attack pass without a response as it usually does, the Syrian Army fired
anti-aircraft missiles at the Israeli jets.
By the time the exchange was over, air raid
sirens had woken people in Israel. Afterward, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu
admitted publicly what Israel was doing. “Our policy is very consistent,” he
said. “When we identify attempts to transfer advanced weapons to Hezbollah, and
we have the intelligence and the operational capability, we act to prevent
that. That is what was and that is what will be.” According to Syrian reports,
he was as good as his word. In the following days an Israeli drone killed a
pro-government militiaman in Syria and Israeli jets struck targets on the
Syrian-Lebanese border, then hit Syrian Army posts near Damascus.
Around here it is considered perfectly
legitimate, indeed necessary, to send bomber jets and drones to stop Hezbollah
from getting advanced weapons. According to mainstream Israeli thinking,
Hezbollah, being pledged to Israel’s destruction, will act on its desire as
soon as it gets strong enough, so the only thing to do is prevent it from
getting strong enough. And if one of these times Syria or Hezbollah hits back
and kills some Israelis and another war breaks out — well, the next war’s
inevitable anyway. Nothing to do in the meantime but keep bombing.
With Hamas in Gaza, the situation is
somewhat different. There, no deterrence will work for long because unlike with
Lebanon — where Israel ended its occupation in 2000 — Israel to this day
controls Gaza militarily from without, rules its sister territory, the West
Bank, from within, and keeps several thousand Palestinians from Gaza and the
West Bank in Israeli prisons.
Until all that ends, there is no deterring
Hamas or the more radical Islamic groups in Gaza over the long term — and
probably not in the West Bank either. As long as the Palestinians live under
hostile Israeli rule, they will always have a reason to attack, and sooner or
later they will. While the Palestinian government in the West Bank has become
Israel’s grudging collaborator, Hamas and the more radical groups in Gaza are
pledged to fight.
Lately, militant groups in Gaza other than
Hamas have been firing their rockets in Israel’s direction, typically hitting
nothing but open space. In return, Israel has been blasting away at Hamas
military targets. Hamas has been holding its fire, but as the military affairs
commentator Alex Fishman wrote in Yediot Aharonot, that calm “may be broken as
soon as Israel attacks and Hamas feels that it can no longer take the
humiliation, or if an Israeli strike leaves too many casualties.”
Since its 2006 war with Hezbollah in
Lebanon, Israel has fought three wars against Hamas that devastated Gaza.
Avigdor Lieberman, now the defence minister, has said that the next one is
“inevitable.” And now the attacks on Syria and Hezbollah have gone from one
every few months to four in less than a week. How long before Israel wages its
next “war of self-defence”? The writer is a journalist.
The bilateral relations between the United
Arab Emirates and Pakistan have acquired new dimensions at all political,
economic and social levels emerging into trust-worthy strategic partnership and
are still continuing. Right from the beginning, the UAE has extended generous
humanitarian assistance, support for better health and education to Pakistan
whenever required. UAE which has become hub of investments, exports,
technologies, tourism and renewable energies and large number of Pakistanis are
contributing in the UAE’s economic boom. In Pakistan, UAE surely has encouraged
investment and helps in greater trade and commerce activities. UAE is one of
largest investors in Pakistan but bilateral trade has been steadily growing
over years and people-to-people contacts are constantly on increase.
The founder of UAE Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan
Al Nahyan was keen to give an impetus to the bilateral relations between the
two countries from the very beginning. It was further strengthened and
patronized by H.H. Sheikh Khalifa Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, the President of the UAE
and H.H. Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al Maktoum, Vice-President, Prime Minister
and Ruler of Dubai. Both countries reaffirm their strong commitment to further
reinforce the bonds of friendship. They urge the need to expand the horizon of
their bilateral cooperation in diverse fields reflecting deep-rooted and
historic ties. Pakistan offers vast opportunities for foreign direct
investments and joint ventures in infrastructure development, electricity
generation, water desalination, agricultural based industries, insurance and
Apart from trade and economic relations,
Pakistan UAE military ties are time tested. The Pakistani military has a
historic role in helping to train and equip the UAE military, such as training
fighter pilots of the UAE air force and other defence related equipment and
technology acquisitions. Apart from exchange of delegates at official and
unofficial level, military conducts joint exercises to strengthen their
capabilities. High level military delegates from both sides visit time to time
to boost their military associations. Recently Pak Army Chief Gen Qamar Javed
Bajwa visited UAE to discuss military ties between both the countries.
Chief of the Army Staff Qamar Javed Bajwa
met United Arab Emirates’ Vice-President and Prime Minister and Ruler of Dubai
Shaikh Mohammad bin Rashid Al Maktoum at the Zabeel Palace in Dubai and
discussed relations between Pakistan and UAE and a number of issues pertaining
to the military and the current situation in the region. The army chief praised
the development witnessed by the UAE in different fields. The Pakistan army
chief’s visit to the UAE was very critical for the relations between Pakistan
and the UAE and many defence analysts said that the Pakistan army chief’s visit
is to counter the Indian influence on Middle East. Pakistanis had been
witnessing some critical issues relating to the visa of Arab countries not only
ordinary visitors but also diplomatic officials think that General Bajwa’s
visit would help reduce stress and anxiety among Pakistan and Arab countries.
It is observed that many critics and
adversaries are adamant to prove that Pak UAE ties are no more fostering.
Earlier when in Afghanistan, attack on UAE consulate was carried out in
January, 2017 Afghanistan blamed Pakistan for this suicide attack and viewed
that UAE should rethink about its relations with Pakistan. It was quite
noticeable that Afghan Taliban took responsibility for this attack but Kandahar
Police Chief Abdul Raziq claimed in front of media categorically that
Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence and the Haqqani Network were behind the
incident. Such accusations proved wrong and no links of Pakistan’s involvement
was found. Now after General Bajwa’s visit to UAE some negative trends on
social media are also gaining attention just to malign relations between both
On twitter account of Mr. Dhahi Khalfan who
is Ex-Dubai Police Chief and is presently serving as Advisor to Sheikh
Mohammad, Ruler of Dubai on security related issues had tweeted in support of
independent Balochistan again. Earlier in Nov 2015 he conducted a survey on
social media to seek people opinion about independent Balochistan or do they
favour or support this cause or not. Again after visit of Pak Army Chief to UAE
these tweets are republished and were shared by different people from different
accounts to undermine Pakistan and UAE relations. The trend started on social
media after visit of Pakistan Chief of Army Staff to UAE who was well received
by UAE’s rulers and was highly appreciated by Emirates population and Pakistani
community. Soon after visit, the campaign on social media started to
destabilise Pak-UAE relations but those who are involved in negative campaigns
and propaganda must remember that both countries are clear about their
associations with each other.
The UAE has always been among the first
countries to deliver humanitarian relief and assistance to Pakistan in times of
need. In 2011, it launched the Pakistan Assistance Programme for building
schools, colleges and hospitals in Pakistan. Simultaneously, entrepreneurs from
Pakistan are warmly welcomed in the UAE, with many of them flourishing in the
country’s favourable business environment. Lately on this March 23, the tallest
skyscraper in the world, Burj Khalifa was brightened up with the colours of the
Pakistani flag to celebrate the Pakistan Day which depicts relations between
Recently, Abu Dhabi Fund for Development
funded the UAE-Pakistan Friendship Road, linking North and South Waziristan.
The assistance from UAE is in return nurtured with Pakistan’s commitment to
relationship which particularly has enhanced in last few years. So those who
are trying their energies for spoiling both countries connexions must keep in
mind that they will not to able to successful as mature leadership understand
their duties and dynamics of alliance between them.
TERRORISTS operate in small groups, at
times individually, and can blend in with the masses. Unconstrained by time and
space, they can pick and choose between a wide range of soft targets. They can
network with others of their ilk and are often supported by forces, domestic
and foreign, inimical to the state or its system. With all these assets, and easy
access to modern technology and means of communication, the terrorist of today
can be very flexible and evasive.
Over time, intelligence agencies like the
ISI and the IB may get a reasonably accurate big picture, but real-time
information to track down the perpetrators is hard to get. (The special branch
of police with its countrywide presence could have helped but has long been
In rare cases when we do get ‘actionable
intelligence’, clandestine means are best suited to nab the culprits. Such operations,
however, require immaculate planning, deliberate execution, and plenty of
patience. Even when successful, they eliminate only some individuals but not
the malaise that motivates them to commit acts of terrorism. To tackle the root
causes, besides political and administrative tools, sustained civic action is
needed. Assuming that we know how to go about it, it would still be a long
The problem is that when a major terrorist
attack occurs, or a series of them as it happens here every now and then,
people want a rapid response. The state then has to do something, or at least
be seen to be doing something. The principles of counterterrorism (CT) are then
short-circuited — in every country. Let’s take our own example.
Principles of counterterrorism are being
North Waziristan had to be depopulated
because the militants were too deeply embedded in the people (too bad that
Karachi and Lahore cannot be evacuated). Indeed there was no way to ensure that
the culprits would not slip out and live to fight another day. When they did,
again something had to be done. So we cracked down on the Afghan refugees. For
four decades we had hosted millions of them. Besides serving a humanitarian
cause, it was an investment in a neighbourly relationship. But now that we were
running out of easy options, throwing them out happened to be doable. And
although the terrorists — if any — amongst them would have relocated in good
time, the powers that be could still claim ‘firm action’.
We may criticise America, Israel and India
for using massive force against population centres that produce ever more
militants, but when bombing our tribal areas, even the mention of ‘collateral
damage’ was taboo. Does it really matter that unlike the above-mentioned villains,
we were shelling our own people; and does anyone have any idea how many of them
lost their kith and kin, and indeed whatever property they had? Just because we
did not have the time and patience to follow the first principle of
counter-insurgency: employ force only to facilitate use of non-military means.
The outcry over ‘Pakhtun profiling’ was admittedly a bit over the top, but in
some crude form and at some local level it did take place, probably to satisfy
someone’s itch for some action. If it netted any terrorists, I do not know, but
it did provide all the right fuel to all the wrong quarters.
I may not have any idea how many potential
bombers were deterred or pre-empted at the check posts — now more or less a
permanent fixture of our landscape — but I am grateful that none of them blew
themselves up when hundreds of vehicles crawl through the barriers. At least
one cannot charge the security establishment of doing nothing.
Before the Afghan refugees became our
favourite punching bag, it was the madrasas that took most of the flak for
being ‘nurseries of terrorism’. According to statistics compiled by researchers
like the political scientist Robert Pape, less than one-fifth of those involved
in terrorist attacks had been to madrasas, and over two-thirds had studied up
to college and beyond. But as we cannot ban any universities, the seminaries
will remain our expedient explanation of the Jihadi mindset.
Of course nothing comes close to a
non-remedy to fight the menace of terrorism than our latest gimmick — ‘the
terrorists have been brainwashed, so let’s read to them another narrative’.
Anyone who believes that those committed to a cause deeply enough to blow
themselves up could be reprogrammed by a mantra, obviously has no idea what
‘de-radicalisation’ entails: plenty of sustained and thoughtful action. But
where even a National Action Plan has not brought about any movement where it
actually matters — in the civil society — a narrative is all that we have.
And if that too did not work, we could
always hold a cricket match to show that our CT was working.
March 30th, 2017
“HAVE you heard of Reko Diq?” the man asked
me in a hushed voice.
“No, what’s Reko Diq?” I replied.
“Very few have heard of it,” he said, “But
soon, the whole country will know this name.”
This was back in 2007, and I had just made
the acquaintance of a little known shady character whose name I cannot take
because our conversations were not for attribution. Suffice it to say that in a
few years time everybody knew his name.
We met on a couple of occasions, and talked
on the phone a few times. I was working for Dawn News in those days, when it
was an English channel. Meanwhile, the Musharraf regime was engulfed in
multiple uncertainties including the lawyers movement, Lal Masjid, the May 12
violence in Karachi, Fazlullah’s militia in Swat, a financial crisis growing in
the United States, and persistent talk of a ‘deal’ in the offing between
Musharraf and Benazir Bhutto.
Those were epic days and, as an economic
reporter, I was pulled in all directions to figure out the narrative arc of the
big picture that was buffeting the economy. It was then that I was introduced
to this fellow by a friend, and found him to be remarkably, in fact
suspiciously, well informed about what was happening in Lal Masjid. That
episode is what we had met to discuss when he suddenly popped this question on
“But this is a scandal of historic
proportions.” Then he elaborated, in a rambling diatribe, about the looting of
“the richest gold mine in the world”.
There was no link between the two, he
assured me. “But this is a scandal of historic proportions.” Then he
elaborated, in a rambling diatribe, about a mining lease granted for a pittance
(“a mere 25 per cent!”), about the looting of “the richest gold mine in the
world”, about corruption so huge it would make the head spin. So overwrought
was his telling that I lost all interest, telling myself that this guy was off
“What do you have to substantiate any of
this?” I asked him. “We can get you all the documents you need for your story,”
came the reply. Fine, I told him. Send me the documents and I’ll take a look.
A few days later an email arrived from him,
with a few attachments. When I opened them, they were nothing more than a few,
anonymously written, blog entry type pieces, written in what we used to call
stream-of-consciousness style. The key fact they hinged on was that the deal
struck between the Pakistan government and a company called the Tethyan Copper
Company (TCC) involved the latter keeping 75pc of the output, while the
government itself got only 25pc.
So I did some quick checking to see how
these proportions compare with international standards in mining leases, and it
appeared to be a somewhat standard formula. After all, the company would be
putting up all the upfront investment, $3.3 billion in this case.
A few days later the fellow called. “Have
you had a chance to look at the documents” he asked. “Yes,” I replied, “There’s
nothing there. They’re anonymous pieces of writing, nothing official and the
deal they describe is, in fact, a rather standard one in the mining industry.”
“We have lots more to share,” he said,
“including official documents.”
“Let’s see them,” I replied. And then he
said something that caused me to do a double take.
“No. First you do something with this, and
we’ll see what you are able to do. Then we’ll share more.” I told him there was
nothing I could do with the documents and our conversation ended.
A few years later, the story did indeed
blow up when the Supreme Court began hearing a case that had been defeated in
the Balochistan High Court in 2007. In 2011, with the hearings as a backdrop,
TCC submitted its feasibility for the mining project, and in 2013 the Supreme
Court comprehensively killed the deal, saying that the entire joint venture
agreement between the Balochistan government and TCC was illegal.
Shortly thereafter, TCC pulled out of the
deal saying, “We will pursue our claims for monetary damages, including lost
profits for the mining operations, in the international arbitration.” Last
week, that pursuit passed its first milestone, as a tribunal of the
International Centre for the Settlement of Investment Disputes, a World Bank arm,
gave its first order saying that the Pakistan government does indeed have
liability in the failure of the project.
Since then, Barrick Gold, the company that
was part of the Joint Venture that formed TCC and which carried out the
feasibility study of Reko Diq, appears to have spent $21 million in litigation
charges stemming from Reko Diq. From the amount being spent on litigation, it
appears they are out to recover far more than the $120m loss they acknowledge
in their annual report from the deal’s failure.
Reko Diq is not the only large deal to fall
apart in this manner. Its problems began in 2006, when the first case was filed
against it in the Balochistan High Court. That was a year after the Steel Mills
case shut down the country’s privatisation programme. Since then, the mill has
accumulated debt of $3.5bn and losses of Rs177bn. The year after the Supreme
Court hearings began on Reko Diq, the same court struck down the LNG deal with
GDF Suez. For five years subsequently, our industry and power plants gasped for
the precious fuel as gas shortages doubled from one to two billion cubic metres
We can talk about the details of the Reko
Diq case. There is a lot to be said either way, but one thing that is certain
to me from my brief interaction with the shady character about a decade ago is
that neither side in this affair is all that innocent, and this pattern of
stirring controversies around every deal has not served the country well.
A NEWS item recently informed us of the
Indian authorities’ decision to shift Tipu Sultan’s armoury near Mysore to a
new site, about 100 metres away, so as to clear the path for a rail track. Did
this report have any lesson for the Pakistani administrators responsible for
India is now ruled by a party that has
little respect for Muslim contribution to its cultural heritage. The saffron
brigade is not suspected of any love for Tipu Sultan. The urgency of expanding
the railway network cannot be denied. Besides, the armoury is a simple work of
masonry. It is unlikely to be considered a significant construction,
particularly in south India, which boasts a large number of archaeological
Yet, instead of demolishing the building
where Tipu Sultan stored his weapons and gunpowder, it was decided to preserve
it, thus confirming fidelity to the principle that while undertaking
development civilised countries cannot ignore their obligation to conserve
Older people might be able to recall the
international effort made in the 1960s to lift the massive twin temples
comprising the Nubian Monuments in Egypt and relocate them elsewhere. This was
done in order to save them from getting submerged in Lake Nasser, the
artificial reservoir that was created as a result of the Aswan Dam’s
construction. In England a project that appeared to threaten Stonehenge was
kept pending until it was proved that the monument was not at risk. Numerous
other examples show that it is wrong to ask any people to choose between
development and heritage, because the only sane option is to ensure that
development does not harm heritage.
Neglect of historical monuments speaks of
the authorities’ distaste for culture.
Compare this worldwide concern for
conservation of people’s heritage with the situation in Pakistan. International
experts’ concern over the threat to the Shalimar Gardens, a World Heritage
Site, has had no effect on the promoters of Lahore’s Orange Line Train project.
Unesco has been asking the Punjab government to allow its mission to make an
on-site survey, but the government is reported to be keen on delaying the
crucial inspection until the case pending before the Supreme Court is decided.
If these reports are true, the provincial authority could invite censure for
blinking at a serious threat to the world’s heritage.
This lapse into philistinism is not a new
disorder. The administration has a long record of neglecting heritage. Before
independence, the Pakistan territories had been put on the world heritage map
by Marshall, Wheeler and Bannerjee, and the people took pride in their
inheritance of the Indus Valley Civilisation of Mohenjo Daro and Harappa. Later
on, the Italians came to explore our past in Swat and the French dug up
Mehergarh and added another 5,000 years to the Pakistani people’s history.
For some time, indigenous experts kept
interest in heritage alive. Dr Ahmed Hasan Dani discovered the Kharosthi
writings on stones in the Northern Areas. Dr F.A. Khan explored Kot Diji and
Bhambore, and Dr Rafique Mughal started excavations in Punjab. But for many
years now, interest in heritage conservation has steadily declined.
Our record in maintaining and conserving
historical and cultural monuments is extremely poor. No worthwhile research has
been done on Harappa and Mohenjo Daro for years. The interest shown in
conserving Gandhara art noticed in the early 1970s has all but died down. No
Pakistani is known to have followed Alexander Burnes’ journey of discovery
along the Indus. The monuments at Rawat that should have marked the beginning
of a journey along Alexander’s march to Multan are fast disappearing. One does
not know of any plans to ascertain what lies buried under the scores of mounds
in Punjab that were earmarked for exploration decades ago.
Except for the preservation of the
Tollinton Building (though what to do with it is still not clear) and the Aga
Khan Foundation’s efforts to conserve Shahi Hammam (on a second attempt) and
remove some of the encroachments in front of the Wazir Khan Mosque, the neglect
of monuments in Lahore itself speaks of the authorities’ distaste for culture.
The way Noor Jahan’s tomb has been rebuilt over and over again is a scandal.
Equally deplorable is the ruination of the Lahore Fort’s painted wall and the
damage to the Sheesh Mahal. The neglect of the marvellous Rohtas Fort is a
long, painful story.
Quite unforgivable is the neglect of Hindu
temples in Punjab and the magnificent monuments in Tharparkar, especially in
the Nagarparkar sector. The conservation of these heritage sites and their
inclusion in the national narrative is a duty the state can ignore only at the
risk of being branded uncivilised. The fact that some of the monuments belong
to the pre-Islamic era makes no difference. Heritage cannot be divided by
belief. The Muslims have not disowned the pre-Islamic monuments in Saudi
Arabia, Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, Iran, Turkey and North Africa.
If by some twisted logic the Muslims of
Pakistan wish to write off certain parts of their heritage, despite their being
more important than Tipu Sultan’s armoury, they have no right to force their
views on the members of the non-Muslim communities. The state’s duty to
conserve what these citizens consider sacred or significant in cultural terms
Perhaps there is a need to disabuse the
mind of the state’s authority regarding its concept of development, for it
still seems wedded to the theory of increasing the country’s economic potential
without enriching its human capital. Otherwise, the rhetoric about agricultural
progress could not have excluded the right of tenants and landless cultivators
to own land. Low priority to the poverty-stricken people’s right to education,
medical cover and a decent standard of life, lack of respect for their national
languages, their folk arts and their heritage is ingrained in the ruling
elite’s mindset, and it blatantly disregards the people’s identity, culture and
The worst part of the story is not that
Pakistan’s heritage might be lost — more worrisome is the possibility of the
people being cut off from their soil, their culture, their history, and from
President Donald Trump appears to have
forgotten all about his robust plans to ‘rebuild’ America’s defences.
Or at least that is the impression that
Senator John McCain gave at a Brussels conference recently when he dropped the
following bombshell: the apprentice-president had had not requested a single
meeting with him to discuss plans to boost military forces.
Whilst on the campaign trail, Trump had
derided McCain — who is Chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee — for
having been shot down and held captive for five-and-a-half years during the
Vietnam War. That the President has not even sought consultation with one of
the country’s top defence experts is another slap in the face not just for the
Senator but also for America’s armed forces. Furthermore, it also smacks of the
hubris that has thus far characterised this White House.
Yet here’s the thing. Even if this year’s
defence spending is increased to $640 billion — as recommended by both the
House and Senate Armed Services Committees — this is in no way fills the
massivegaps in terms of both preparedness and procurement that have accrued
over the last decade. That the military is in such bad shape seems ludicrous
given the trillions of dollars spent during the last 16 years of uninterrupted
Several factors account for these vast
First, is the budget process itself which
is intrinsically linked to resolution procedures. In practical terms, this
mandates planning on a yearly basis — regardless of whether certain projects
demand long-term attention. This, in effect, freezes new starts.The waste is
Second, is the impact of the Budget Control
Act (BCA). This places caps on both defence and non-defence discretionary
spending. And cuts are incurred equally across both whenever excesses are
Third and most insidious, is the
uncontrollable internal cost growth for everything from precision weapons to
people to pencils. In real terms, this translates to about 5-7 percent a year,
placing it above the rate of inflation. This increase amounts to $30-45 billion
per annum in additional spending. This barely covers the cost of keeping up. It
extends neither to meeting existing shortfalls nor adding capacity. Even at
$640 billion, this will not cover a return to previous levels of readiness and
procurement. If this continues, a return to the so-called post-Vietnam “hollow
force” — when the military was unprepared, unready and ill-equipped to do its
job — will not be far around the corner.The Pentagon’s Defence Business Board
has warned of the impact of this but sadly, no one is listening.
As technology advances it brings with its
both greater capability and higher costs. Aircraft carriers, without air wings,
cost just under $15 billion each. The cost of the F-35 A is about $100 million.
And its flying costs per hour for maintenance are about $80,000. These will go
down. But over the life span of the aircraft, the costs are still enormous.
The Trump plan is to increase both Army and
Marine ground forces. It also envisages upping Naval and Air Force capacity. In
addition, the country must upgrade its nuclear arsenal. To achieve all this as
well as having a prepared defence force — the price tag comes in at more than
$8 billion per annum. Unless uncontrollable internal costs and budget
procedures are brought to heel these could skyrocket to around one trillion
dollars a year. This would see the US effectively spend itself into oblivion.
The Trump plan comes at a price tag of more
than $8 billion per annum. Unless uncontrollable internal costs and budget
procedures are brought to heel these could skyrocket to around one trillion
dollars a year. This would see the US effectively spend itself into oblivion
What, then, is to be done?
Firstly, the US must recognise that 20th
century concepts of defence are largely no longer relevant today. Neither China
nor Russia is on any kind of war footing. Their objectives are purely to secure
respectivegeo-political gains. Hence, the US response must be to come up with a
counter strategy that is not reliant on military force alone.
Secondly, Washington must be cognisant of
the power of asymmetric threats such has cyber warfare (including hacking),
propaganda (including the dissemination of disinformation) as well as the
intrusion into internal politics by stealth. Increasing the size of the
military has no bearing on filling these strategic black holes.
Thirdly, uncontrollable internal cost
growths at the Pentagon must be checked.
To sum up, the choice remains between a
smaller, prepared and well-trained and well-equipped military force or a larger
but ‘hollow’ defence. The answer is not rocket science. But, sadly, no one at
the White House appears to have got that memo. And nor will they unless and until
the input of key Congress members for defence is actively sought.
Revisiting Socratic Teaching through
By Jahanzeb Awan
South Africa’s apartheid era was notable
for the country’s ranking high on all economic indicators while the majority of
the citizenry faced a life of systematic subjugation and discrimination. This
reminds us that while focus on economic development remains important — the opportunity
cost of this cannot be democracy, social justice, social cohesion and
Unfortunately, any social development model
rests on consensus from the elite. If this class opts for real development then
it will likely result in a comprehensive and far-reaching education policy
aimed at producing minds well versed in independence of thought, critical
thinking and empathy and respect for others. Yet if economic growth remains the
sole objective of policy makers — what we will have is a citizenry whose
collective priority exclusively hinges upon employment in terms of market
We have seen this happen in Pakistan. Over
the last few decades, education policies have been focused promoting the STEM
discipline, meaning science, technology, engineering and mathematics education.
This has been at the expense of humanities and liberal arts. This doesn’t bode
well for the future since the latter produce creative and innovative thinkers
who are prone to challenge injustice and the wavering from established
democratic values. We simply cannot afford a ‘trade off’ between the two.
Instead, we should recall the educational
philosophy of Rabindranath Tagore, who in 1901 established an experimental
school at Santiniketan in West Bengal. Its aim was to develop creative and
independent minds capable of developing innovative ideas in every discipline,
free from the rigidity of established academic traditions.
It ought to come as no surprise that
economists are now confronting such issues as: the moral limits of the market
or how to juxtapose distributive justice and individual liberty when it comes
to suggesting welfare policies
The school’s core values were founded in
the Socratic tradition of questioning, intellectual self-reliance and freedom.
In short, as Tagore himself put it: the human mind gains true freedom not when
it possesses the ideas of others. But when it establishes its own standards of
judgement and thought process. He even went on to immortalise his strong
dislike of learning by rote in is famous allegory, ‘The parrot’s training’.
Contemporary American philosopher Martha C
Nussbaum believes that Tagore strongly influenced the educational philosophy of
John Dewey — the man responsible for laying down the philosophical foundations
of the US education system, which is firmly grounded in the liberal arts
tradition. The result has been an intellectual emancipation reflected in the
extraordinary US contribution to the world. Of the 911 Nobel Prizes thus far
awarded — 259 have gone to American citizens.
This approach is gaining currency
elsewhere. Recently, China and Singapore have made moves to follow the same
path despite existing political systems not being entirely conducive to such
reforms. Sadly, no such inroads are being made in Pakistan. Here, the emphasis
remains on rote learning, with intellectual exchange between students and
teachers actively discouraged. Meaning that we have an education model that
promotes control and obedience of thought. As such, it is better suited to an
authoritarian set-up. In addition, it is the capitalist free-market that
determines the accessibility of courses. Presently, only five higher education
institutes in the country offer philosophy degrees. Predictably, the outcome of
all this is Pakistan’s abysmal ranking on global indexes. We are the world’s
six most populous nation. We come in at number 147 in the human development
index; 109 in terms of quality of democracy; and 80 in the World Happiness
It ought to come as no surprise that
economists are now confronting such issues as: the moral limits of the market
or how to juxtapose distributive justice and individual liberty when it comes
to suggesting welfare policies. Thus public policy makers often feel unanchored
when pure economic analysis of development policies comes into direct conflict
with moral and ethical questions. Should the state provide elitist schooling to
children of the poor or not, for example?
Nevertheless, we should not confuse the
matter at hand. This is not about producing increased humanities graduates. It
is simply a gentle reminder to our policy makers to include the broader
objectives of human development within the education paradigm. It is only way
forward in terms of achieving development goals as a whole.
We must not waste the lessons of Tagore’s
philosophy. Indeed, his work should be mandatory reading for all, not least of
all our policy makers.
Amid a long deadlock in relations with
Kabul, Pakistan’s decision to attend the Moscow moot on Afghan peace in
mid-April demonstrates the country’s desire to miss no opportunity to mend its
strained relationship with its troubling neighbour.
The continued tensions and hostilities with
Kabul have, for decades now, abundantly proved that Pakistan is finding it
difficult to restore normal relations with Afghanistan. However, the Moscow
conference – which aims to develop a regional consensus for peace in
Afghanistan – offers a good opportunity to sincerely hammer out a strategy and
ensure peace in both Afghanistan and Pakistan. In addition, important regional
players – such as India and Iran (who are probably the key stakeholders to the
conflict), the Afghan Taliban and the Kabul regime – will also be participating
for the first time in the meeting.
Relations between Pakistan and Afghanistan
began to turn sour much before Pakistan decided to close the border for all
types of traffic (after it was confirmed that the perpetrators of deadly
terrorist attacks came from Afghanistan).
In December 2016, Afghan President Dr
Ashraf Ghani snubbed Pakistan at the Heart of Asia Conference in Amritsar and
rejected $500 million that Islamabad offered for the reconstruction of his
country. Earlier, Kabul upset Pakistan when it refused to attend the Saarc
summit that was scheduled to be held in Islamabad in September 2016.
Pakistan currently finds itself in a real
dilemma. One the one hand, Islamabad is finding it difficult to mend its
relations with Kabul while on the other, peace and stability in Afghanistan is
absolutely vital for its own peace and stability. Any attempt to leave
Afghanistan completely will also prove to be a hard bargain. Such steps could
potentially push the Afghans towards India and the latter may use its soil
against us to destabilise our western regions.
Pakistan wanted to quickly achieve two
objectives when it resorted to the short-term measure of closing all border
crossings with Afghanistan. First, it wanted to tighten the border crossing
mechanism and avoid further such untoward incidents. Second, it wanted to
pressurise the otherwise ‘least responsive’ Kabul administration to take action
against militants and their sanctuaries inside Afghanistan. But the objectives
have not materialised. All there has been is a mere reiteration of the pledge
during the NSAs meetings in London that steps will be taken for effective
border management and dealing with the enemies.
As a quick-fix, Pakistan prefers short-term
measures instead of long-term strategies of engaging Kabul politically and
diplomatically to control the hydra-headed monster of cross-border militancy.
Pakistan a long porous, mountainous border
with Afghanistan – dotted with almost 270 frequented and unfrequented crossing
points. As a result, any attempts to stop militants from entering Pakistan by
simply closing the formal points and leaving 260 irregular crossings unattended
are bound to fail.
Without a proper quid pro quo, Islamabad’s
policy of intimidating Kabul through military action or stopping transit trade
to compel Afghanistan to stop TTP militants from using Afghan soil against
Pakistan was also a fruitless exercise.
The Afghans, including their leaders, are
gradually becoming immune to these pressure tactics by Pakistan. In August
2016, Pakistan also closed its borders at Chaman for almost three weeks.
Instead of listening to Pakistan’s concerns, Kabul started ignoring Pakistan
and even raised the controversy of the Durand Line.
Pakistan’s other dilemma is that the more
it is distancing itself from the Afghans by taking punitive measures, India is
stepping in to fill the vacuum by easing travel requirements for the Afghans to
India and offering them cheaper business, educational and medical facilities.
Pakistan failed to realise that the
National Unity Government in Kabul – which Afghans sarcastically claim has
everything except ‘unity’ – is facing internal problems, such as endemic
corruption, ethnic divisions and dwindling internal security. The worst victims
of the border closure were the people of the two countries as hundreds and
thousands of families were stranded for weeks on both sides. Many of them lost
millions in trade and businesses and faced unemployment. In this situation, the
Afghan leadership, instead of taking any responsibility, started accusing Islamabad
of blackmailing and creating problems for the Afghans.
Pakistan policymakers need to seriously
rethink their stance over Afghanistan. Instead of reinforcing failures by
pursuing the current policy of ‘strategic distance’, they should readopt a policy
of ‘strategic engagement’ with the Afghans. If not checked, the developing
situation in the Afghan backyard will signal to another bloody wave of proxy
wars and insurgency. We must rise to the occasion and take bold decisions –
perhaps even unpopular ones – regarding Afghanistan. Let’s drop our historical
baggage and prove to be not just a big country but people with big hearts.
We must end this madness, by extending a
hand of friendship to Kabul and engage with Kabul with an open mind instead of
only focusing on India’s influence in Afghanistan. We must also acknowledge
that Pakistan has recognised the Ghani-led unity government as a legitimate
regime and had agreed in the Quadrilateral Coordination Group to take action
against elements in the Taliban who are irreconcilable.
Reports suggest that a delegation from the
Afghan Taliban visited Islamabad and might have discussed their participation
or otherwise in the scheduled meeting in Moscow. Pakistan must exercise
whatever – if any – influence it has over the Taliban. Simultaneously, the
Kabul regime should be persuaded not to arrest those Taliban leaders who agree
to a peaceful settlement; and the international community can also be asked to
revise the blacklist.
While engaging with Afghanistan, Pakistan
must keep the historical distrust of the Afghans in mind and act as a mere
facilitator. Once an environment of sufficient confidence is provided, Kabul
and the Taliban should sit together and find a solution to the ‘Afghan problem’
themselves. Pakistan’s prime objective is to ensure a peaceful and stable
Afghanistan, not who rules Kabul. If Afghanistan is stable it will, no doubt,
THE increasing violence and the continuity
of trans-national terrorist syndicate’s sanctuaries in Afghanistan’s peripheral
regions have scared the neighbours of the country. They are worried about the
regional terrorist groups increasing association with the IS (Daesh). The IS
fighters’ foothold and the continuity of protracted warfare in Afghanistan
would be having deleterious spill over effect on the neighbouring states
national security. Accordingly, the neighbours of Afghanistan are endeavouring
to prevent it from further descending into dreadful chaos.
The Russians have convened a 12 nations
meeting for the restoration of peace in Afghanistan on April 14, 2017, in
Moscow. China, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iran, India and Central Asian nations are
among the invitees to the Moscow conference. Many analysts believe that the
Russians practical involvement in the Afghanistan affairs is a continuation of
its assertiveness in the Eurasian region. Secondly, it’s efforts to prevent IS
from spreading its tentacles in the war-torn Afghanistan. Besides Russians, the
Chinese are also actively participating in the Afghan peace efforts. Beijing is
equally scared from the spread of IS influence in Afghanistan. The forthcoming
meeting accentuates Russians and Chinese convergence of opinion over the peace
process in Afghanistan and thwarting IS making inroads close to o the borders
of Central Asian countries.
Since the rise of IS in Iraq and Syria in
2014, the Russians have been alarmed about its expansionist agenda. The
Russians took seriously IS announcement about the establishment of ‘Caliphate’
and its provinces in different parts of the world. The extension of the
Caliphate to the ‘Khorasan province ‘encompassing Afghanistan and parts of
Pakistan and Iran validated Moscow’s fear. Moreover, IS associates conducted
terrorist acts in Afghanistan and Pakistan.
Moscow realizes the vulnerability of its
soft belly especially Chechnya. According to press reports, the Chechens form
one of the largest foreign contingents in IS war in Iraq and Syria. Therefore,
Moscow considers IS gradual penetration in Afghanistan horrendous happening. To
impede the IS intrusion in Afghanistan, Moscow established direct contacts with
the Afghan Taliban. The Afghan Unity Government expressed its announce and
compelled the Russians to terminate their contacts with the Afghan Taliban.
Conversely, the Russians seem convinced that without the cooperation of Afghan
Taliban the rise of IS could not be obstructed in Afghanistan.
Although, Trump Administration has not
publicised its policy on Afghanistan, yet it is an open secret that Washington
would not abandon Afghanistan. The continuity of Obama Administration policy is
expected. Moreover, United States has strategic interest in Central and West
Asia and thereby it cannot ignore South Asia in its foreign and strategic
calculation. In this context, Washington has been cementing its strategic
partnership with India. It is also facilitating New Delhi role in Afghanistan.
The recent Moscow’s contacts with Afghan
Taliban and its neighbouring states irritate Trump Administration. The latter
considers the former contacts with Taliban as a direct interference in the
Afghanistan affairs. American analysts professed the Moscow Afghanistan peace
initiative; President Putin smart tactic to increase Russians influence in the
region. Hence, the Trump Administration declined the invitation of the Moscow
to participate in the multinational meeting scheduled on April 14, 2016. The
absence of the United States in the meeting obviously reflects the divergence
of opinion of the Great Powers over the peace process in Afghanistan.
Islamabad’s earnest desire is to abolish
terrorist sanctuaries located in Afghanistan. Without erasing these sanctuaries
Pakistani law enforcement agencies could not completely annihilate
Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan. Therefore, it sincerely participated in
quadrilateral dialogue process. Unfortunately, President Ghani’s flippant
attitude resulted in increasing mistrust between Kabul and Islamabad. Instead
of realising and mending his own government’s shortcomings, he blamed Pakistan.
Consequently, quadrilateral dialogue process was shelved without any tangible
Presently, Islamabad is supporting
Russians’ Afghanistan peace initiative. It participated in the three trilateral
meetings that were held for deliberation during the recent months. Indeed, the
forthcoming Moscow multilateral meeting is the outcome of Russians, Chinese and
Pakistani officials efforts. Moreover, Afghan Taliban leadership was approached
to participate unconditionally in the peace talks with the Afghan government.
Afghan Taliban, however, expressed their disinclination to participate in a
meeting in which Afghan Unity Government representatives would be partaking in
peace negotiations. The absence of Afghan Taliban in the multinational peace
conference certainly cast a shadow over the Moscow Afghanistan peace
To conclude the forthcoming Moscow
multinational meeting is a timely regional peace initiative to end the 16-year
devastating war in Afghanistan. Nonetheless, without a direct dialogue between
the Afghan Unity Government and Afghan Taliban the peace in Afghanistan would
remain a mere optimistic fantasy.