New Age Islam Edit Bureau
30 August 2017
Millions of Women Still Missing
By M Taimur Ali Ahmad
First Step towards Trust
By Omar Zafarullah
A Human Rights Evaluation
By Hammad Asif
Key Takeaways from Census Results
By Hasaan Khawar
The Wolf and the Lamb
By Wajid Shamsul Hasan
'Disappeared, Not Forgotten'
By Irshad Ahmad
Trump and the US War Machine
By Miranda Husain
Militarisation Of America’s Afghan Policy
By Shahid Javed Burki
Compiled By New Age Islam Edit Bureau
The preliminary results of the census have
raised many pertinent issues; most importantly regarding the massive population
boom. To many, this does not come as a surprise. The population time-bomb has
been a fairly relevant issue but one that is often discarded in the face of
what are considered pressing issues such as terrorism. An important element of
this discussion that does not receive much attention is the female-to-male
ratio of the country, a persistent problem that Pakistan, along with India and
China, has faced for decades. Preference for male children prevails abundantly
across society today, severely hindering social development and democracy.
If there are fewer women in society than
there should be, they have greater odds stacked against them in having a voice
in state and society
A common generalisation that is casually
thrown around is that women outnumber men in the world. Although true in many
parts of the world, this region has had an extremely low sex ratio in the past
few decades, reaching even 90 women for every 100 men. The 1998 census in
Pakistan gave a figure of 91.9 while the 2017 results put the number at 95.2.
Although there is a marked improvement in the gender skewness of our
population, the figure is still substantially lower than what is found in
Western countries but also in sub-Saharan countries. If some of the world’s
poorest countries can have a sex ratio in favour of females, then simply
linking economic progress to gender bias is a misleading hypothesis. More
evidence for this can be found in India and China, where the sex ratio has in
fact worsened over the last few decades, despite the tremendous economic
progress they have made.
The preference to have a boy is a
well-documented phenomenon in the region. Female infanticide, sex-selective
abortions, honour killings and a disregard for female wellbeing is rampant, and
not confined to any religion, class or ethnicity. Everyone does not partake in
the violence, but the majority actively perpetuate the phenomenon through
celebrating the birth of a boy, or having more children until there is at least
one male heir. Especially with mainstream access to ultrasounds that confirm
the sex of the child before birth, and the ease of abortions, the prevalence of
sex-selective abortions has increased. If not that, then as documented by a
recent piece in DAWN titled “No Country for Girls,” families discard female
babies right after birth outside NGOs such as Edhi.
The ramifications of this trend go beyond
the moral crime that is committed. In a democratic setup, as far as Pakistan
has one, demographics are a fundamental factor in shaping politics.
Representation across the political rungs depends fundamentally on the size of
social groups; arguments about access to the political sphere come later. If
there are simply fewer women in society than there should be, they have greater
odds stacked against them when it comes to having a voice in state and society.
Electoral politics, civil society and social institutions suffer from an
inherent misrepresentation of women, severely diminishing their power to fight
patriarchal practices and raise a collective voice.
Pervez Hoodbhoy in a piece earlier this
year, laid out the population problem at hand. But if we ever do get around to
seriously dealing with family planning, contraceptives and other mitigation
policies, it is essential to keep the gender aspect in mind. Pushing for
smaller family sizes will raise the stakes for having a boy, risking an
increase in the brutal practices against female born and unborn children.
China’s rising trend of a more male dominated society after the one-child
policy is an important testament to this looming threat. Therefore, along with
policies to restrict the population boom, there must be an emphasis on
countering the anti-female bias that exists. Countries like Bangladesh are a
prime example of population control and an improved sex ratio — almost 99 women
per 100 men.
This must happen on two fronts: economic
and social. Providing more education and employment opportunities to women is
one way to diminish the economic potential that exists between male and female
children. However, the importance of countering the social narrative against
female children cannot be overlooked. Even the self-proclaimed bastions of
morality — the clergy and its zealous minions — are active propagandists of
this cruelty. Seeing sons as the custodians of the family legacy, and a source
of pride and income is a prejudice that is deeply ingrained in all strata of
our society. Only a comprehensive and collective counter-narrative can begin to
neutralise this line of thinking.
Compared to many developed countries,
Pakistan — and South Asia in general — can boast of having elected women as
heads of state. Before partition as well as after, women such as Annie Besant,
Fatima Jinnah, Indira Gandhi and Benazir Bhutto have had a major role to play
in South Asian politics. However, a small band of women at the top does not
translate into real social change at the bottom. Rather than being entranced by
political gimmicks and blindly following messiahs, perhaps we should be more
cognizant of how our hatred towards a gender has engineered our society to
become unnatural and inherently misogynist.
August 30, 2017
The latest Afghan policy announced by US
President Trump looks a lot like the policy pitched by former VP Joe Biden (as
an alternate) in 2009. It stresses counterterrorism instead of the
counter-insurgency strategy which was adopted by Obama. It has a smaller
footprint and focuses on killing terrorists (and on nothing else).
In order to understand this policy more,
one must first reflect on the conditions in the White House. The Trump White
House is known for leaks, indiscipline, firings and finger-pointing by
President Trump against fired personnel. This White House is filled with
ex-generals (one of whom has lost a son in combat in Afghanistan.)
In the last few months, Trump has delegated
the decision on troop numbers to one of these ex-generals. The increase in
troop numbers calculated by this team of ex-generals (4000) is also not a
secret. However, it seems, the ex-generals have chosen not to use their
delegated powers for fear of back-tracking by Trump, followed by finger
pointing and public shaming – as has happened on other issues.
The ex-generals have instead forced Trump
to publicly demonstrate his ownership of this Afghan policy (on prime time
television) before proceeding. And, of all the different issues under
discussion in this White House, this is the only one that has not been
prematurely leaked and the only one on which Trump himself has stayed exactly
on course; not straying even a word away from the text before him.
I state all this only to underscore the
seriousness of the American establishment regarding this policy.
The new policy has the following major
-- It is open ended. This is a departure
from previous policies and this reverses the strict controls that earlier
commanders were under.
-- Leaving Afghanistan is not an option.
This moves the Taliban’s goal posts of withdrawal into an undetermined future.
This should also change our calculus.
-- The Afghan army, which is losing dozens
of soldiers every day, will continue as front-line troops supported by key US
personnel very close to the combat but not on the front lines ala Mosul in
-- US Special Ops personnel will engage
high-value targets, eliminating jihadi leadership – wherever they are found –
with a lower regard for collateral damage.
-- Any negotiations with the Taliban will
only be made after sustained fighting. These negotiations will be made not by
the US but by the Afghan government.
-- Pakistan has a choice to be a part of
“civilisation and order” or face the consequences which are not iterated but
left to our imagination. It seems the way to join “civilisation and order” is
by eliminating terrorist sanctuaries on our soil.
-- Relatively low levels of troop movement
aim to reduce the leverage Pakistan enjoys as Afghanistan’s logistics corridor.
A minor component of this policy is the
invitation to India to participate in economic development of Afghanistan. From
the eyes of Pakistani planners, this last bit crosses a red line since any sentence
with the word India in it is a red line in this part of the world.
Our reaction is accordingly in red type. We
deny all allegations and reject all calls to join “civilisation and order”.
Instead, we have asked the US to do more.
I like this response primarily because it
is a joint response from the two pillars which represent Pakistani thought. The
people we have chosen to represent us together with the people who have chosen
to represent us have jointly penned this response so this must be the best
response there could have been.
But as we sit and wait for the next round
in this game of high-stakes bluff – where both nations have called each others’
bluff – one thing makes me worried. And that is the issue of trust. No one
trusts us. The COAS has rightly asked the US for “trust”. Trust is a central
issue. Obama had called Pakistan “dysfunctional” and now Trump accuses us of
harbouring “agents of chaos”. And the US is our ally! There is something wrong
here. We have fought for the last forty years in a graveyard of empires – for
the world – not for us. And the recompense of this fight is that the world does
not trust us. Why? This is the real question that must be answered - between us
- before we go back to the world.
If someone in authority knows the answer to
this question, the time to speak is now. Square with us. Let us know. If there
are secrets that the world knows but we do not, tell them. If there are
mistakes that have been made, tell us. We will understand. And we will forgive.
And we will unite – not in empty bluster but in solid and fruitful action. We
will mend whatever trust has been broken. We will stand with you. We will
explain your position to the world. But tell us, the people, the truth and take
this first step towards trust.
Instead of brokering deals with Russia and
China and Iran, broker a deal with us, the people of Pakistan. Look not for
strength without. You will find this strength within. Tell us the truth. Pray
tell us and we will help you find a way out.
August 29, 2017
We try to find meaning in our actions. In
the decisions we take we always have an obvious ending in mind. We observe
outcomes and outputs to correct our actions and change directions, as though we
are trying to follow a scientific process in our lives. Our desire to achieve
an intended goal puts us closer to understanding the causal relationships that
help organise our efforts in controlling change. Our need for evidence-based
practice helps us address the problems we face.
Thus, it is valid to say that evaluation is
central to human development. It assesses the effects of programmes, policies
and initiatives undertaken to find their worth, provide useful feedback and
guide further action. With this generic goal of evaluation in mind, each
landmark in time is just another reminder of reviewing past decisions.
This August marks the 70 years of
independence of both India and Pakistan. In order to evaluate where both these
countries stand, we need to look back and see where we started and why we
started. Back then, the people of the sub-continent were witnessing a cosmic
change. The direct rule of British crown in India was ending and anticipation
to this change fuelled an uprising. Deliberations on what post-colonial India
will look like spanned decades and gave birth to a movement that was centred on
the protection of human rights.
When Jinnah said we fought for Pakistan
because there was a danger of the denial of human rights in this sub-continent,
he was iterating the vision that was the soul of the partition decision. If we
are interested in how far we have come since then, the only true criterion for
evaluation is the status of human rights for the people of this land.
Sadly, the state of affairs today on either
side of the border draws a very bleak picture.
In Pakistan, militant violence lasting over
a decade has favoured the inexplicable rise in the political influence of the
military. Without oversight, there is bound to be rights violations when a plan
to eradicate terrorism is implemented. Addressing militancy provides a
justification for authorities to muzzle dissenting voices in support of human
rights. Freedoms are lost, and birthrights are denied when even parliament
gives in and passes vague and overbroad legislation.
Be a part of any social minority in
Pakistan and only then, you will be able to see how far we stand from the
vision that created this divide in the subcontinent. Women, children, transgender
and religious minorities all face violent attacks, insecurity and persecution.
An overly charged bias has taken over us all that the state finds itself
helpless to provide adequate protection to the vulnerable and hold perpetrators
At times even the state joins hands with
the culprits and fails to ratify legislation on forced conversions, turns a
blind eye to misuse of blasphemy laws and keeps up the pressure on journalists
and rights activists to keep any criticism in check.
The situation in India is not much
different. Their military is notorious for acting with impunity when deployed
in areas of internal conflict. They also resort to communal violence to protect
religious sentiments of a Hindu majority. Just like ours, authorities there are
famed to use criminal defamation laws to prosecute citizens with dissenting
opinions. Women there are too victims of rape, acid attacks and honour killings
while the government seems powerless to ensure their safety.
Seventy years down the road an overview of
the rights situation in either country reveals a serious parting from the
original plan. We never arrived to the Pakistan, which Jinnah had envisioned.
We became the very people who in his mind would have threatened to deny rights
had there been no Pakistan. It is ironic to say that our blasphemy law is no
different from their beef ban.
So we are 207+ million in number, up from
132+ million back in 1998. If we keep on growing like this, we’ll be the
third-largest country in the world by 2050 with 450+ million humans, behind
India and China. This growth rate is outrageous. For the last 19 years, we have
been adding one person to our population every eight seconds. Add in the number
of deaths and we realise that we have been reproducing at a much faster pace.
Population control programmes, which have consumed billions, need serious soul-searching.
Even more interestingly, these results have taken many by surprise. The World
Bank and UNFPA thought we should be somewhere close to 197 million, but we are
off by about 10 million people. Surprisingly, the CCI projected us at somewhere
near 205 million, an estimate far better than that of the development experts.
Secondly and more importantly, where have
these people come from? Excluding Islamabad Capital Territory (ICT), the
population growth has been highest in Balochistan, followed by Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa
(K-P). This is no surprise, as Balochistan and K-P have a much higher poverty
incidence than Punjab and Sindh. Poverty and population growth have long been
known to coexist and often nurture each other. On the other hand, the lowest
population growth (1.81%) was witnessed in rural Punjab, but urbanisation might
have had a greater role to play here.
Thirdly, the change in provincial
population shares is perhaps the most consequential issue. If there were 100
people in Pakistan, 15 of them would be living in K-P, two in Fata, 53 in
Punjab, 23 in Sindh, six in Balochistan and one in ICT. In 1998, K-P had 13,
Punjab 56 while Balochistan had five (out of 100). The rest had the same
proportion. This change will have important repercussions about distribution of
resources and allocation of national assembly seats. The next NFC award will
have to be announced, with Punjab compromising in favour of K-P and
Balochistan. Similarly, Article 51(3) of the Constitution will have to be
amended, in the light of Article 51(5), which mandates the allocation of seats
based on the basis of population in accordance with the last preceding census
officially published. This would mean at least eight fewer seats for Punjab in
332-strong National Assembly, with 5-6 more seats for K-P and almost three more
Next comes the male-to-female ratio. Using
the 100 people analogy, we would have 51 males and 49 females, which is very
close to world’s average. This has, however, come down since 1998, when we had
52 men out of every 100 people. This change could be a result of widening gap
between female and male life expectancy at birth, which currently stands at
almost two years.
Another upsetting aspect of these results
relates to productivity. According to the World Bank data, Pakistan ranked
126th out of 175 countries in 2016 based on GDP per capita, a measure of the
country’s workforce productivity. Even if our GDP grows by 5% this year, our
GDP per capita in 2017 would only be as high as we claimed to have in 2015. We
knew we were unproductive, but it’s worse than we thought.
The most striking number from census
results is the transgender population. While the government must be given
credit to acknowledge the so far ignored transgender population, the number
looks far too small. The population of 10,418 translates into one transgender
person for every 20,000 people. In India, there is one for every 2,600
individuals, with a clear realisation that the actual number may be six to
seven times higher. This means that there could actually be one transgender
person for every 400 citizens. Our demographics can’t be that different. Even
if we assume 1/2,600 ratio, it means that we have identified only one out of
every eight transgender persons in Pakistan. Considering this huge anomaly, it
is critical that any policy measure to support transgender needs should not be
based on these modest estimates.
Lastly, comes the urban-rural split. About
64 people out of every 100 live in rural areas, while 36 reside in urban
settlements. The latter, however, may grow to 40 by 2050 with existing growth
rates. We have added 30 million people to our urban population in the last 19
years and we are all set to add another 112 million by 2050, if we continue
unabated. This unfortunately is not a result of any coherent strategy, which
means that we are not well prepared to face this challenge neither do we have
any mechanisms to reap its dividends.
Urbanisation and its associated issues are
likely to force their way onto policy makers’ radar in the near future or else
the population pressure is going to wipe out whatever semblance of service
delivery and public order remains. Merely feeding these 450 million souls would
be a nightmare, let alone educating them, providing them health services or catering
to their electricity, transport and water requirements. These preliminary
census results should be an eye-opener for policymakers to have a paradigm
shift. We are facing an emergency and we need to attend to it now or else we
are going to witness a crisis of unprecedented proportions in not very distant
When we were kids we learnt many a lesson
of life from Aesop’s fables. As one looks at the current war of words launched
by American President Trump against Pakistan, one is reminded of the “The Wolf
and the Lamb” story. We have had more than six decades long relations with the
United States. It has been a mix bag of ups and downs — from most trusted ally
in East of Suez — a cornerstone of American foreign policy — to our present
status of a lamb threatened by the wolf blaming Pakistan for its reverses in
the ongoing 16-year long war in Afghanistan — known in history — as the
graveyard of empires.
Looking at the intensity of heat going up
every moment, I wondered if it was a comedy of error or something deliberate to
provide new vistas of debate on Pakistani TV channels running out of steam
after the disqualification of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif on being a God-father
running his government as Sicilian mafia, his resignation and taking over by
Shahid Khaqqan Abbasi in his place. As soon as President Trump blasted
Pakistan, one saw a surge of foreign policy, security experts and ex-diplomats
queue up outside TV channels — suited and booted, painted and powdered — to
counter blast Trump.
Expressing our anger by putting off Alice’s
visit is definitely not the right approach. We should have let her come in and
express our dismay to her in the best of diplomatic language. Now Americans
must be thinking that President Trump has given us a shock and we are finding
it hard to recover
I came across a picture of Barbara Bush,
wife of President Bush Sr laughing over something with President Obama. And the
caption said and I quote — Barbara to Obama: “I was mad at you for making my
George look so dumb, but that’s behind us now. Thanks to the moron who
succeeded you, my son is looking more like a genius every day”. Indeed.
Now coming back to the wolf and lamb story
— I reproduce it to bring out the commonality of interest. The wolf is hungry;
he sees a little lamb drinking water at a brook. Like Trump wants to teach
lesson to Pakistan, wolf found some plausible excuse for eating him. Standing
higher up the stream began to accuse lamb of disturbing the water, mudding it
up and preventing him from drinking.
Like Pakistan fighting its own war on
terror and having no direct role in Afghanistan as such, the lamb replied that
he was only touching the water with his lips; and that, besides, seeing that he
was standing downstream, he could not possibly be disturbing the water higher
up to make it muddy. Having made no head way in its do more mantra, American
General Nicholson now says that the Afghan troublemakers are ensconced in safe
havens of Peshawar and Quetta. It is much like the wolf having done no good by
his earlier accusation, said: “Well, but last year you insulted my Father.”
Poor little creature replied that at that time he was not born, the big bad
wolf wound up by saying: “However ready you may be with your answers, I shall
none the less make a meal of you.”
Current strain in the social media is
between sublime to ridiculous. Bigoted and emotional mavericks, would like
Pakistan to test fire its long range capabilities. On the other hand, both the
Prime Minister and his Foreign Minister reacted first mutedly, then there was
knee-jerk reaction to Trump’s firework, followed by volleys of insinuations by
General Nicholson. Our Foreign Office decided to cancel American Secretary
Alice Wells visit to Pakistan — a symbolic manifestation of our belated
so-called hawkish response. Now one has learnt that so far three requests have
been made from our side to reschedule it.
We are in a Catch-22 situation. It is time
to get over with the initial shock, dispel urgently the impression that none of
the stakeholders are on the same page. Deft diplomacy requires taking into
consideration all the pros and cons. Our reaction should be mature, well conceived
and well measured. By putting off Alice’s visit to express our anger is
definitely not the right approach. We should have let her come in and given it
to her in best of diplomatic language-toughest message. However, with a house
divided and knowing not where to go — now Americans must be thinking that
President Trump has given us a shock and we are finding it hard to recover.
President Bush soon after 9-11 and his
administration’s failure to strike a deal with Mulla Omar’s government over gas
pipeline, served an ultimatum on General Pervez Musharraf that you are either
with us or with them (Taliban), Pakistan has been sinking deeper into the
quagmire. His successor Obama had promised to end war and leave. Both the
previous Presidents thought that Pakistan would deliver in a platter Taliban to
deal with them.
In a recent interview I heard Gen Musharraf
crying over spilt milk accusing the USA of having used Pakistan to fight the
Soviet Union and then leaving us in the cold with four million Afghan refugees
and Taliban to look after. I wish the interviewer could have asked him who sold
Pakistan out to the Americans as a frontline state in return for billions of US
dollars in aid and equipment — both during Gen Zia and his days. Pakistan today
is reaping the bitter harvest of the seeds sowed by the two. They preferred to
seek legitimacy from Washington rather than their own people. Currently, it is
an exercise in futility to continue the endless debate. To effectively counter
them we shall have to put our house in order and bury the impression that there
exists a nexus between the government, establishment and Haqqani Network.
Lastly, Chairman PPP Bilawal Bhutto and
PPPP’s leader of opposition Khursheed Shah have rightly demanded immediate
calling of the joint session of Parliament to debate not only President Trump’s
speech, his latest threats but also lack of effective foreign policy. We need a
well-meaning unanimous resolution to convey to Washington to stop bullying us
for its own failures despite its heavy presence, drones and mother of all bombs
plus troops more to come.
Today, the world is commemorating the
International Day of the Victims of Enforced and Involuntary Disappearances,
standing with the victims of enforced disappearance (ED), asking the Government
of Pakistan to ratify the International Convention for the Protection of All
Persons from Enforced Disappearance (ICPPED), specifically criminalise ED,
bring the perpetrator of ED to justice and to curb the legal and procedural
impunity for the perpetrators.
ICPPED was adopted by the United Nations
General Assembly (UNGA) on 20 December 2006 while it entered into force on 23rd
December 2010. The UNGA through its resolution 65/209 decided and declared 30th
August as the International Day of the Victims of ED, to be observed every
year. Although the ICPPED has been signed by 96 states and has been ratified by
57 states it is yet to be ratified by Pakistan.
Pakistan’s 3rd UPR will be in the upcoming
28th session of Human Rights Council, scheduled in Oct-Nov2017. In the 2nd
Cycle of UPR held in 2012, Pakistan accepted four recommendations with a
promise to fulfil, noted two and rejected one, related to ED. One accepted
recommendation asked Pakistan to specifically criminalise ED in the Penal Code
and reinforce the capacities of the Commission on ED. The second was requesting
Pakistan to reinforce its efforts to fight impunity regarding cases of ED by
bringing all responsible persons to justice, while the third accepted
recommendation was to “ensure investigations and prosecution of those
responsible for abduction and ED.”
Although Pakistan accepted the above-noted
recommendations, it failed to specifically criminalise EDs. It hasn’t initiated
any procedural steps or legislation to curb impunity conferred on perpetrators,
nor has it taken any steps to investigate EDs or to prosecute the perpetrators.
Like, in the extraordinary situation of
terrorism, the President of Pakistan promulgated Actions in Aid to Civil Power
Regulations (AACPR), for Federally Administered Tribal Area (FATA) and
Provincially Administered Tribal Area (PATA) on June 27th, 2011. A
retrospective effect was given to AACPR from February 2008. AACPR empowered the
military to make arrests and keep the ‘suspects’ in prolonged detentions in the
internment centres, established in FATA and PATA. Under AACPR, the ‘suspects’
illegally arrested or detained after February 2008 were considered legally
arrested and detained, after June 2011.
The Peshawar High Court (PHC) has shown its
infuriation on the non-functioning of the Oversight Broad established under
AACPR many times. Citing its duty which is to review cases of an interned
person within 120 days. The data shared by Peshawar High Court in 2014 shows
that around 1992 persons were kept in these internment centres.
After the Peshawar Army Public School
incident in December 2014, military courts were established for the trial of a
civilian suspect of terrorism by amendments in Pakistan Army Act (PAA) and the
Constitution. Through 21st Constitutional Amendment, military courts were
initially established for two years. Later on, when the two years period
expired, it was extended for another two years, through 23rd Constitutional
Amendment. These military courts were also given retrospective effect, which
empowered it to make trials of the civil suspect arrested or detained under
AACPR (since February 2008). The law arbitrarily conferred impunity for the
security forces and officials of the law enforcement agencies for their acts
done in good faith. And it is now absolutely clear that no legal proceeding can
be initiated against them (being protected by law).
On the International Day of the Victims of
Enforced Disappearance, we urge the government of Pakistan to implement and
enact relevant laws to deter such practices
Suspects who were illegally detained after
February 2008 were supposed to be shifted to the internment centres established
under AACPR in 2011. It is also important that these internment centres were
alleged to be the places where victims of ‘enforced disappearance’ were kept.
These suspects who were arrested or detained under AACPR can be tried by
military courts established in January 2015.
Pakistan has enacted counter terrorism laws
with little tangible effects. It has not only failed to specifically
criminalise the ED but has enacted laws and regulations which legalise ED.
Through different counter terrorism legislations, it has conferred absolute
impunity for the perpetrators of ED. It also failed to investigate ED and till
date, even a single perpetrator of ED hasn’t been prosecuted.
Besids that, Pakistan’s superior courts
have many times held that any criminal laws which take away rights of the
individuals shall not be enforced. Pakistan is also state party of the
International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, article 15 of which says
that no one should be charged with an offence which was not a crime according
to the law for the time being enforced. Furthermore, the, extension of laws in
criminal jurisprudence is considered a violation of international human right
law in general and ICCPR in specific. Pakistan has a history of enacting laws
retrospectively and legalizing prolonged and indefinite detentions.
Here on the eve of International Day of the
Victims of ED, we urge the government of Pakistan to implement and enact laws
quickly. Pakistan should take back AACPR, should ratify the International
Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance,
should criminalise ED, should strengthen the Commission of Inquiry on ED to
investigate cases of EDs and should also prosecute perpetrators involved in EDs
by curtailing their legal and procedural impunity.
By Miranda Husain
Donald Trump is a man who likes to leave
his mark on things. Even when it risks being more of a stain than a mark of,
well, anything of real substance.
After lamenting the wars in Afghanistan and
Iraq and more or less promising the American people a cut-and-run in both he
looks predictably set to stay the course. Indeed, the unquiet American is doing
the do that George W Bush never did. The latter became seemingly bored by the
sheer lack of glamour in Afghanistan and found himself rather unbothered about
finishing what he had started there. Far more exciting to just go ahead and
invade Iraq, just because he could. Yet far more strategic, as well, to leave
both in a state of utter chaos.
The same goes for Trump. He isn’t about to
pack up and get out of Afghanistan. Not while there is the small matter of
unfinished business there. Meaning that the inconsequential troop surge that
has been announced will not accomplish anything meaningful aside from a token
presence — just sufficient to blame Pakistan for the American failure to exit
the Afghan quagmire of its own making. Which is, at it transpires, something
rather consequential in terms of rewriting occupation narratives on the go.
Over in Iraq, that other post-9/11 military
invasion that also had nothing to do with those attacks, the
apprentice-president, similarly, doesn’t seem too bothered about exit
strategies. The pretext there is that the US is committed to flushing out ISIS.
Yet media watchdogs, such as the Committee to Protect Journalists, have warned
that territorial losses by the latter aren’t cause for celebration. Given the
rise of the Popular Mobilisation Units (Al-Hashd Al-Sha’abi), an umbrella group
of some 40 different milita outfits boasting a total capacity of 100,000 men.
Though said to be overwhelmingly Shia in composition it is believed to cross
some ethnic divides. The CPJ and Human Rights Watch have pointed to the PMU’s
poor human rights record, extending to enforced disappearances and torture. Yet
this hasn’t stopped it from being on the Iraqi state’s payroll, after
Parliament last year moved to have it incorporated into the regular armed
forces. Nor has it prevented American collaboration. Indeed, when the US-led
coalition finally admitted to being behind the Mosul civilian massacre that
left 200 dead earlier this year — it also came clean about using PMU-provided
Iraqi militia outfit the PMU is fighting
ISIS. Yet it has a poor human rights record, extending to enforced
disappearances and torture. This hasn’t stopped it from being on the Iraqi
state’s payroll. Nor has it prevented US collaboration
The world ought to have learned one lesson
from the ongoing wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. Namely that when a US president
appears to act without rhyme or reason that is when he is at his most ruthless.
Because just as there is always rhyme so, too, is there always reason. It’s
just true agendas are usually well concealed. Consider, PM al-Abadi is a man
who has supposedly endeavoured to guarantee increased Sunni participation in
the governing of Iraq. Yet he, by all accounts, doesn’t want to see the Shia
militia dissolved. By contrast, we have Muqtada al-Sadr, the so-called
firebrand Shia cleric, who has repeatedly called for this un-merry band of men
to be disbanded. And then there is the US that has gone from relying on PMU
logistics to earlier this month bombing the militia outfit. It may or may not
have been significant that the latter was said to be fighting at the time in
the district of Akashat close to the border with Syria. The US, for its part,
has reportedly indicated that any ‘trespassing’ into Syrian territory by PMU
forces is unacceptable. That al-Abadi has announced an increased budget for the
group doesn’t bode well. For it recalls to mind the situation in Afghanistan
when the Interior Ministry and the US military literally spent millions in
futile efforts to buy off local warlords during the Karzai regime.
It seems that Donald Trump might just be
smarter than the average bear. In other words, just like Bush junior before
him, he is strategically sowing the seeds of further chaos in the region to
justify American military presence there. And he is doing so as both a signal
to Russia and China that the battle for resources is not only on — so, too, is
the war for regional hegemony, a hegemony that is never exclusively restricted
to just one area. Afghanistan and Iraq are simply the first fall guys of the
era of a new American empire.
Militarisation of America’s Afghan Policy
August 28, 2017
On August 21st, in front of an audience of
military personnel gathered at Fort Myer, Virginia, President Donald Trump
announced a new strategy for dealing with the situation in Afghanistan. During
the long campaign for the presidency, Trump said that he did not want to have
the American troops fighting foreign wars. He would, he told his cheering
supporters, the moment he entered the White House, bring back America’s
fighting men and women in their bases at home in the United States. But once in
office, he had to deal with reality and take into account the wishes of the
senior officers in uniform. Many of these worked in his administration. His new
chief of staff, a serving lieutenant general who had experience of working in
Afghanistan, held views very different from the president’s.
The president asked his security team to
come up with a new strategy that would serve America’s interest not only in
Afghanistan but also in the large geographical space around the war-torn
country. The coupling of Afghanistan with South Asia had been attempted once
before. In the policy review of the Afghan situation in the early days of the
Barack Obama administration, Washington decided to create a new office that
would focus on the larger area around Afghanistan that would include India and
Pakistan. But New Delhi objected and wanted to be kept out of any formal
arrangement. This was done and the new office was called Afghanistan-Pakistan.
Richard Holbrooke, a seasoned diplomat, was put in charge of the office.
The Af-Pak interpreted its mission to work
with Kabul and Islamabad and have the two capitals develop a joint strategy
with respect to the control of the insurgency that had begun to take a heavy
toll in the country. It was under Holbrooke that the Americans began to use the
drone as the weapon of choice of dealing with the leaders of the insurgency.
Washington did not fully appreciate that the use of unmanned aircraft to fire
at the chosen targets would inflict a great deal of collateral damage in the
form of civilian deaths. The drones killed hundreds of women and children and
led to the strong antipathy among the people in Pakistan about America and the
Americans. The Pew Research, a Washington-based organisation that researches
public opinion about issues of importance for the American policymakers, found
that of all the people it surveyed around the world the Pakistanis had the most
contempt for America. This fact — that America was not popular with the general
public — could not be ignored by the politicians working out of Islamabad.
These developments in the American Afghan
policy occurred while Pakistan was attempting to create a political order in
which elected civilians were in charge of policymaking. Previous epochs of
close Islamabad-Washington cooperation had occurred during military rule in
Pakistan. Now with the military having withdrawn to the barracks, the civilian
authorities had to be mindful about public opinion. It is important to bear in
mind that the new Afghan policy has the heavy military footprint.
Those working on the details of the Afghan
strategy for consideration by President Donald Trump reviewed three options.
The first was complete withdrawal from Afghanistan. This was the approach
favoured by the president but in the military’s view that would have resulted
in disastrous consequences. There were lessons to be learned from America’s
engagement in Iraq. The then president, Barack Obama, ordered the complete
pullout from that country and the result was chaos which helped the rise of
Islamic extremism in the form of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria. The
military feared that something similar would occur in Afghanistan. America had
to stay engaged and that led to the question of how that should be done. One
answer — the second of the three considered — came from Stephen Bannon who was
then President Trump’s designated chief strategist.
Bannon chaired Trump’s campaign
headquarters and was close to the new president in his thinking about global
matters. He, like the president, was of the view that the Trump administration
should concentrate its energy and money on solving domestic policies and not on
foreign engagements. If America had to stay involved in Afghanistan, it could
do so by outsourcing the war effort to the CIA who would conduct operations in
that country by hiring private contractors. The intelligence agency rather than
the Pentagon would be in charge of America’s involvement in Afghanistan. There
was a foretaste of this approach in Pakistan when, in January 2011, Raymond
Davis who was stationed in Lahore killed two young men on a busy street in
broad daylight. The incident led to a near breakdown of Pakistan-Afghan
relations. The military firmly rejected the Bannon approach.
The third approach was to continue with
“more of the same” but with one important difference. Under president Obama,
the White House managed the war to the minutest detail. It not only decided how
many American troops will be involved but also where they will fight and how
they would do the fighting. The military leadership did not like to be put
again into this kind of straitjacket. Its preference was to be left alone to
decide on most matters. The president was inclined to do that and was one
reason why he did not announce how many additional “boots on the ground” would
be dispatched to Afghanistan and how they will operate.
The militarisation of the Afghan policy has
been missed in most commentaries in Pakistan about the newly adopted approach
by President Trump to deal with the worsening situation in Pakistan’s
neighbouring country. It is important to fully understand the role the military
is now playing in designing America’s approach to the world outside its
borders. This should be factored in as Islamabad develops its formal response
to the new Afghan policy.