New Age Islam Edit Bureau
10 October 2017
Will Pakistan See A Military Coup
Before The Next Elections?
By Talha Afzal
Afghanistan: The Longest War
By Sonali Kolhatkar
An Open Debate
By Amir Hussain
The Penalty Of Death
By Zainab Malik
Emerging World Order With Chinese
By Ghazanfar Ali Garewal
Who Is Listening?
By Ashraf Jehangir Qazi
Preparing for Ghani’s Visit
Trump’s Generals Want Escalation Not
By Mohammad Ali Baig
Compiled By New Age Islam Edit Bureau
Will Pakistan See A Military Coup Before
The Next Elections?
While many Pakistani citizens tout
democracy as the solution to many of the country’s problems, the resolve to
uphold democracy wanes at the first sign of trouble. Underpinned by feelings of
panic and impatience, even the slightest hint of dismal service is enough to
drive democracy out.
But the loss of trust in Pakistan’s
executive machinery is not the citizens fault. An abysmal state of governance
and the lack of any unifying vision has plagued Pakistani politics since the
nation was founded and still dominates public discourse. When the utopian
picture of democracy painted by political leaders fails to align with
realities, a faction of the champions of democracy turns to their ever present
saviour — The saviour that comes dressed in khakis and an imaginary red cape.
But how exactly does the saviour enter the
picture and where does it derive its power from?
Article 58(2)(b) of the Constitution of
Pakistan allows the president to dismiss the constituent assembly when a
government cannot continue in adherence to the provisions of constitution.
Following a period of sustained instability, it was in 1958 that this power was
first used by the president of Pakistan to declare martial law and appoint the
army chief as martial law administrator.
The provision of constitution that builds
on the concept of constitutional monarchy, fully captures the spirit of
democracy while embracing the need for checks by an independent monarch (modern
day president). The constitutional monarch who can only act within the
parameters of a codified constitution has minimal powers to meddle with the
affairs of executive branch but enough powers to dismiss elected parliament
under certain circumstances.
Traditionally, constitutional monarchs have
played a defining role in derailing coups that have threatened to overthrow
democratic institutions. The Spanish coup of 1981 is one such example. In
Pakistan however, these constitutional monarchs have sometimes had to conjure
military might to do the exact opposite: temporarily subvert democracy to
prevent abuses of power.
While rumour mills are going strong, how
likely is an actual military coup in the current milieu?
The absence of the more assertive generals
who have already retired means the likelihood of a direct coup is remote. If
you add to this the fact that Pakistan cannot afford to lose foreign aid or
upset China, the likelihood virtually plummets
Historically, the nation has seen several
such abuses by elected representatives. Among the more recent ones, the
constitutional amendments of 1997 that stripped the President of his reserve
powers and parliamentarians of their power to cast a dissenting vote resulted
in visible rifts in public trust. The amendments that systematically did away
with institutional checks on executive branch made way for a coup that was
widely welcomed by some factions.
Today we are at the same cross roads again.
The heavy majority that allowed Nawaz Sharif to alter the constitution in 1997
has allowed him to make some unpopular tweaks again. The recent electoral
reform bill paves way for the sacked Prime Minister to assume leadership of the
ruling party again. So long as the person in question does not serve as office
bearer, the bill allows the disqualified party member to get elected and remain
the party president. The law has been dubbed as ludicrous by opposition members
who have vowed to challenge it in court. Worse still, the absence of various
members of opposing parties during the session of assembly has fuelled grim
speculations about underhanded deals between the ruling party and other
Manipulation of law by political parties to
serve their own interests has strengthened the public perception that the
country is becoming a civilian dictatorship.
If you add to this the allegations of rampant corruption, the
unacceptable performance of opposition leaders in their respective provinces,
the proliferation of loyal but inept government advisors, the violation of election
code in the NA-120by-polls, the woeful power shortage, and Nawaz Sharif’s
endeavour to strengthen ties with neighbouring India, speculations about
military intervention become a tad more conceivable.
But while rumour mills are going strong,
how likely is an actual military coup in the current milieu?
Although attempts to override the will of
Pakistanis is paving way for seditious sentiments, the absence of the more
assertive Generals who have already retired means the likelihood of a direct
coup is remote. If you add to this the fact that Pakistan cannot afford to lose
foreign aid or upset China’s interest in the country, the likelihood virtually
But even with a low probability of a direct
coup, nothing is keeping military narratives from co-existing with
representative democracy. According to one school of thought, national security
and foreign policy have always been the military’s domain anyway and attempts
to engineer policy shifts by civilian governments have almost always failed.
Even with a low probability of a direct
coup, nothing is keeping military narratives from co-existing with
representative democracy. According to one school of thought, national security
and foreign policy have always been the military’s domain anyway and attempts
to engineer policy shifts by civilian governments have almost always failed
Co-existence of military narratives with
representative democracy can take a number of forms one of which is ceding
control over some of the key ministries to military in return for a new lease
on political life. Another is allowing the military to retain a greater say in
the country’s policy over relations with arch-rival India and the ongoing war
But whatever form it takes, we need to get
one thing straight: although interventionist strategies can sometimes serve the
greater good of restoring democracy, peaceful transfer of power between
civilian governments is the flat-out answer to our woes. Democracy is a
wonderful thing to defend. If we can somehow learn to tame it, lofty military
ambitions will stop making their way into mainstream politics.
October 10, 2017
The longest war in modern US history
approaches its 16th anniversary Saturday, and so far there is no end in sight.
The war in Afghanistan began in the aftermath of the Sept 11, 2001 terrorist
attacks in New York City and Washington, DC, with the promise of vengeance
aimed at the Taliban, hosts of al-Qaida and Osama bin Laden. But that original
justification–still as morally questionable now as it was then–has gotten lost
amid the open-ended rhetoric of ‘fighting terrorism.’
The Pentagon recently disclosed that the
actual number of US troops currently in Afghanistan is 11,000 – significantly
higher than previously acknowledged. The announcement came just days after
President Donald Trump announced an open-ended escalation of the war. With
4,000 more troops now heading to Afghanistan, Sen Bob Corker, R-Tenn., who
heads the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, confirmed in an interview that US
troops will remain in Afghanistan for at least another decade.
It is a pity that neither Trump nor Corker
has been asked to justify the presence of troops in the country for another
decade when the first 16 years of the war appear to have yielded little of
value. Indeed, few American politicians who have supported and extended the war
year after year are able to articulate past failures or envision any future
strategy that holds promise. And so the war continues, seemingly because we
have no idea how or why to end it.
When questioned about the war strategy by
the House and Senate Armed Services Committees, Trump administration officials
were hard-pressed to respond, saying only that the Afghan military was more
likely to win against the Taliban with US troops advising and supporting it.
But the past 16 years of US military involvement have been variations on the same
theme: training, supporting and advising Afghan forces while dropping bombs and
conducting raids in parallel. If that strategy hasn’t worked for 16 years, why
would it work now?
Afghan civilians are caught between
corrupt, US-backed warlords in government, US troops on the ground and
airstrikes from above, Taliban forces, and now an emerging Islamic State
presence. The war has hardly improved their lives and will likely mean many
more years of violence.
The Revolutionary Association of the Women
of Afghanistan, the oldest women’s political organization in the country,
warned 16 years ago against US intervention. A member of RAWA (who uses the
pseudonym Heela to protect her identity) told me in a recent interview that
Trump’s plan is “not really a new strategy for Afghanistan or for the Afghan
people. Nor was it a surprise.” She explains that his plan “is actually a very
small tactical change in the wider strategy that the US has in the entire
region and especially in Afghanistan.”
That broader plan, which Heela sees as
unchanged despite the addition or withdrawal of a few thousands troops by
various presidents every few years, is continuing the US use of Afghanistan’s
“geographic location to keep its rivals like Russia, India, China, Iran, under
its thumb.” She adds, “That strategy is not going to change under Trump or any
other president for many years to come.”
If reducing terrorism was its goal, the US
has spectacularly failed in Afghanistan and appears to not care one way or
another. Aside from the terror it has rained down on Afghans year after year,
US presence there has only resulted in the Taliban gaining strength, the
US-backed government becoming more corrupt and the emergence of new formations
based on fundamentalist ideologies.
But if, as Heela suggests, the goal is to
maintain a strategic presence in Central Asia, near the territories of
political rivals, the war is ostensibly achieving that goal – albeit at a heavy
human and financial cost.
Already this year, well before Trump
announced his position on the war in Afghanistan, US violence in the country
was on the rise. The Bureau of Investigative Journalism has tracked American
airstrikes there since 2015 and has found a near-exponential rise in bombings.
“In an era of plummeting optimism for peace
and prosperity, the prospects of a better life begin to vanish from the popular
memory. This is bound to happen when hopes for betterment are dashed, voices of
dissent are muffled, the choices of a decent life are marred and freedom of
expression is barred.
“All this happens under the pretext of
securing an obscure future and we tend to kill our present to create a secure
Pakistan in the future. The people of this country have experienced the state
of permanent national security without being able to see peace and prosperity.
There is an emerging political narrative in Pakistan that gives primacy to
national security at the cost of freedom and democracy. The proverbial and
oft-repeated statement that Pakistan is undergoing a critical period never
comes to an end.
“We are made to believe that democracy does
not work in this country. This proclamation becomes even more farcical when
undemocratic rule is provided justification by the educated class of this
country. For the most part, our tumultuous political history has been a saga of
undemocratic political control and subjugation as a mode of governance.
“This strange logic has been hammered
through our education system as well. Our ideologically-induced textbooks of
history and literature provide all that material of ignorance and animosity.
Our children are being taught to hate other civilisations rather than being
provided help to explore the sociological and historical contexts of these
civilisations. It doesn’t stop here. History books provide fanciful stories of
the bravery, valour and faith of invaders who are presented as our heroes.
“What we have been reading as history is
ideological, anecdotal and subjective and propagates hatred, war and conflict.
It is anathematic to the peaceful coexistence of pluralistic communities in
Pakistan. This is not only the case in Pakistan. The same is taking place in
India as well. With the rise of right-wing Hindu nationalism, a new narrative
of history is being invented to provide ideological legitimacy to Modi’s
fascism. The history of hatred serves the political and economic interests of
the ruling elite across the divide. We read these concocted stories as history
and expect our educated youth to become enlightened and support democracy and
“Our civilian rule has not been an ideal
mode of democratic governance for the educated youth to aspire for. The
disillusionment with democratic regimes has invigorated this jingoistic mindset
of absolute control as a means of development and progress. Even today, the
people refer to the era of Ayub Khan as an ideal period of development and
progress. Our national psyche has historically and politically been framed to
distrust democratic governance. Democracy is bound to fail in this country
unless we allow drastic reforms in our education system and our political
leadership shows statesmanship to demonstrate that democracy is the best form
“We are not aliens or Martians who live
separately on a planet of increasing political consensus about the nexus of
democracy, peace and prosperity. Democracy was never put to work in this
country right from the day of its independence. Those who propagate this
anti-democracy and anti-parliamentary logic of governance present themselves as
“This genesis of political nihilism calls
for the advent of a messianic character to rectify our socio-political ills.
Those who have guts, prescience, vision and wisdom to articulate the roadmap of
a better society are pushed to the margins.”
This is the summary of an hour-long
reflection of a semi-literate, aggrieved man in a remote village situated 180
kilometres in the northeast of Gilgit town. These words of wisdom could easily
be used as quotable references had they been uttered by a well-reputed
intellectual. We could deduce from such utterances that wisdom is not the
preserve of the chosen ones. Instead, it is out there for everyone.
The young man was referring to the moral,
political and institutional decay of our society, which breeds pessimism and
dejection. The height of moral turpitude lies in our mundane practices and the
choice to remain a recipient and to eulogise those we think will change the
world for us. The capricious quest for short-term material gains is what we
have inculcated in the minds of the youth in this country.
In this remote village of Gilgit-Baltistan,
there has been a growth of ill-conceived enterprises across the Karakoram
Highway (KKH) with the hope to get rich overnight. The youth are being told
that CPEC will bring them the fortunes of the future. This may be true for
large contractors of security and construction and other well-placed
businesses. But for a small entrepreneur, there is nothing much to cheer about.
The Chinese are coming with a complete package of their own – including
domestic labour, hospitality services and a whole paraphernalia of goods and
services – and will not rely on our underdeveloped institutional structure.
The story of the transformative potential
of CPEC has not gone down well with some people. The observations of this young
man who lives in a remote village that is situated at the gateway of CPEC
represent the dilemma of our society. This man has articulated what I heard
repeatedly during my recent visit to Gilgit-Baltistan.
Many people have apprehensions about being
excluded from the mainstream political decision-making on CPEC. The more there
is talk about CPEC, the less they are convinced about its trickledown benefits
for the poor people of this country. The citizens of Pakistan and those who
have yet to be entitled as citizens under the constitution – the people of
Gilgit-Baltistan – find it difficult to believe in the rhetoric of prosperity.
The families that have been affected by the
KKH’s upgradation in Upper Hunza say they have yet to be paid their land
compensation. According to a local development worker, the National Highway
Authority (NHA) in Gilgit-Baltistan has violated the Land Acquisition Act by
reducing the compensation amount without consulting the Land Revenue
Department. The NHA has been revising the compensation papers and reducing the
compensation amount for the last 10 years without paying even a single penny to
the affected families who live along the KKH in Upper Hunza.
There have also been allegations that the
NHA has been using delaying tactics. People are reportedly also being
threatened with arrest on grounds of being anti-state elements if they do not
abstain from demanding compensation. These acts of depriving poor farmers of
their land compensation do not go well with the claims of the game-changing
prospects of CPEC. The story does not end there in Gilgit-Baltistan. There are
similar stories emerging areas along the CPEC route that passes through
Balochistan, Sindh, KP and Punjab.
CPEC should be about the citizens of
Pakistan. If it does not change the fate of our poor, all those tall claims of
prosperity are meaningless. The demands for legitimate economic rights made by
poor farmers should not be considered ‘anti-state’ and it is the state that
seems to adopting an anti-people stance. The apprehensions regarding CPEC
cannot be equated with anti-state activities either. It is the constitutional
right of the people of Pakistan to know their economic and political future.
It is the responsibility of the political
government and security planners to allow an open debate on CPEC’s pros and
cons for the people of Pakistan. No state can afford to adopt and sustain an
anti-people approach for a long period. Let’s make a pledge to chart out a new
social contract so that Pakistan, like other civilised nations, can see
democracy, peace and prosperity.
The Penalty of Death
Muhammad Azam has spent more years in a
death row cell in Karachi than he has outside prison. Jail records trace his
journey into a broken criminal justice system to 1998 when he was arrested at
the age of 17 and detained at the Youthful Offenders Industrial School in
Relying on a confession extracted through
brutal torture, Azam was sentenced to death by an anti-terrorism court in 1999.
In 2000, the Juvenile Justice Systems Ordinance 2000 granted protection to all
juvenile offenders from the death penalty and a presidential notification
issued in 2001 extended the protection to all those who, like Azam, had been
sentenced before the law came into force.
In compliance with the new directives, the
prison authorities in 2004 forwarded a request to the ATC for the commutation
of Azam’s sentence. Despite the unequivocal language of the law, the court
refused to honour the jail’s request and condemned Azam to a lifetime on what
has been described as the world’s largest death row.
The arbitrariness and injustice in Azam’s
case permeates every corner of the criminal justice system that upholds the
application of the death penalty in Pakistan. In October 2016, the Supreme
Court acquitted two brothers from Bahawalpur only to find that they had already
been executed the year before. The oversight hardly amounted to an abnormality
in dealing with a death row population in which, according to the Ansar Burney
Trust, over 60 percent are innocent.
As the global community marks the 15th
World Day Against the Death Penalty on October 10, Pakistan has taken its place
amongst the world’s fifth largest executioners, with over 480 total executions
since a six-year moratorium was lifted in December 2014.
With only 16 percent of all executions
being for terrorism crimes, the burden of Pakistan’s death penalty falls on the
most vulnerable of its populations. The estimated death row population of at
least 6,000 constitutes the poor, the destitute, juvenile offenders and
mentally ill and physically disabled prisoners. The rich, able and politically
connected are nowhere to be found within the walls of the country’s
eight-by-ten feet death row cells.
Political marginalisation of the condemned
groups not only leads to discrimination at the time of sentencing but also
impacts their march to the gallows. In a recent study by Justice Project
Pakistan, it was discovered that executions were increasingly utilised by
prison authorities to “make room” in overcrowded prisons.
It is apparent that the marginalised death
row population has become the ideal pawn in the struggle to convince the
populace that it is winning the war on terror. The political currency of the
death penalty clearly overpowers the need to take into account humanitarian
Despite the human rights violations that
characterise Pakistan’s death row, the government of Pakistan has failed to
exercise the constitutional power of mercy in even a single case. This includes
the case of Abdul Basit, a death-row prisoner who became paralysed after
contracting tubercular meningitis that was left untreated by prison
authorities. Since his execution was stayed in 2015 on humanitarian grounds,
the government has failed to take any decision on whether to execute him or
pardon him. For the past two years, Basit and his family fear that they will
wake up to an execution warrant.
On the World Day Against the Death Penalty,
Pakistan faces the daunting task of defending its decision to enforce the death
penalty from scathing criticism through three consecutive UN Human Rights Treaty
Body reviews. First, Pakistan must reduce the number of laws that merit the
death penalty from an astounding 27 crimes to only the most serious of
offences. Second, Pakistan must ensure that vulnerable groups – such as
juvenile offenders and mentally disabled prisoners – are protected from being
sentenced to death and from execution. Third, Pakistan must introduce
transparent and effective processes to consider clemency petitions rather than
continuing its protection of rejecting them en masse.
It cannot be denied that the Ministry of
Human Rights has demonstrated its commitment to close the gaps of our criminal
justice system. Acknowledging of the urgency of the problem can only spring
forward what we need most: reform.
Emerging World Order with Chinese
Not so long ago, America considered China a
challenge to the liberal world order so it began to integrate Beijing in
international institutions and system. Now after this task has been
accomplished, the global influence of the US is waning.
For decades, the crisis of capitalism, the
populist reaction to economic inequality and the dual approach towards
globalising the liberal world order brewed a storm which has culminated in
Trump being elected as President of the US. His policies on trade and climate
change are helping Beijing grow powerful in the international arena. The more
powerful a state is in world politics, the more influence it wields to shape
the world order. So what impact China could have on the liberal world order?
The world order is the distribution of
power and authority among the states in global politics. Before WW-I, power
rested in Europe so a multipolar order emerged where the states kept vying for
influence and dominance. Gradually, the global power accumulated in the US and
the Soviet Union at the end of the WW-II, which fashioned a bipolar order.
The Atlantic Charter, establishment of the
United Nations and, after General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade, the World
Bank shaped the contours of the international system which had indomitable
American characteristics. The spirit of the Bretton woods institutions and
system, along with other international organisations and entities, was imbued
with liberalism, which afterwards got a dominant shade of neo-liberalism and
When the Soviet Union disintegrated, the US
became the sole superpower and the moment of unipolar word order prevailed. In
this era states’ demand for their “fair and just share” in the international
system was always choked by pulling the strings of institutions that have
remained at the service of their architects. The demand never died out and with
the rise of other players, especially China, many a state began to occupy the
locus of power where America failed. South Asia, Central Asia and the Middle
East, for instance.
China with its economic might has been
increasing its political and diplomatic clout in the world. Its dealing with
the rest of the world and its approach towards international institutions is
marked with three distinguished characteristics.
Firstly, despite its strategy of ‘march
west’, Beijing has continued its engagement with the ASEAN countries while
switching between assertiveness and diplomatic cordiality here and then. Here
is the takeaway, Beijing will not give up its claims in its immediate territory
and continue to end the disagreement by bringing the contending states in its
closer embrace, applying a mix of geopolitics and geo-economics tactics.
China’s handy and most instrumental policy
tool in diluting the disagreements has been bilateralism. Here China calls the
shots. It applies this policy option particularly in the projects and
initiatives which may decrease the influence of other major players of Asia —
Japan and India
Secondly, it is creating a network of
multilateral institutions at the regional level especially where it has
resources to contribute and to flex its management muscle in the complete
consonance of the local leadership. In Central Asia, it established the
Shanghai Corporation Organisation which has become a powerful force in managing
the regional affairs. For Asian development, it founded the Asian
Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB), dubbed as a parallel institution to the
Though it is debatable, yet it offers an
insight into the Chinese characteristics in a multilateral institution.
Compared with the other Bretton Woods institutions, the International Monetary
Fund (IMF) for example, AIIB is not micromanaged by Beijing.
The World Bank and IMF conditions the aid
and development projects with the spread of liberal and democratic values where
AIIB doesn’t put such a constraint on the states seeking its help. China, being
the main architect of the bank, prefers to stay out of the internal affairs of
a state. Moreover, AIIB’s article of Agreement bars the member states from
influencing political affairs.
Thirdly, other than multilateralism,
China’s handy and most instrumental policy tool in diluting the disagreements
has been bilateralism. Here China calls the shots.
It applies this policy option particularly
in the projects and initiatives which may decrease the influence of other major
players of Asia, Japan and India. Belt and Road Initiative is the case in
point. The most striking pattern of bilateral engagement appeared in China’s
signing of Hambantota Port Deal with Sri Lanka.
The remarkable feature of the deal is that
it was approved by the parliament of Sri Lanka which endowed the sole
responsibility of the security and commercial operations to the Sri Lankan
government. Beijing’s approach in signing agreements is in sharp contrast with
the American approach of bullying states while ordering “either you are with us
or against us.”
Consensus and no-conditionality are the
hallmark of the institutions designed by China. Negotiation and the
will-of-people is the significant matter for Beijing in striking a deal with
any other country. However, sticking to its guns in the case of an unfair dispute
is also a salient feature of the Chinese culture, which most dislike. The new
world order is not likely to be dominated by one player only; it would be a
mosaic of asymmetric powers with China as one of its most influential player.
History provides insight into the present while the present sets the base for
insight into the future. China’s present is hardly at odds with its past
practices. Its current engagements and actions bode well for a harmonious
October 09, 2017
THE degenerate politics of Pakistan on
public display every day is sucking the life-blood of the country. The
legislative and political stratagems in support of massive and organised
corruption and in defiance of the Supreme Court are holding the whole country
The relentless plunder of the people is
destroying the lives of millions upon millions of living and unborn Pakistanis.
No enemy could be so hostile! Is it too late to save Pakistan? It is never too
late for decent Pakistanis to change from being passive spectators and actively
organise to save their country from hovering vultures. Now is a defining
Fifty years ago, Pakistan was on course to
be a prosperous, educated, middle-class, secure and stable country with a per
capita income at least 10 times that of today. But institutionalised
corruption, cynical leadership, predatory governance, subversion of national
priorities, and the hijacking of the national interest have brought the country
to its present pass.
No ‘saviour’ will come. Pakistan’s
‘leaders’ must be servants of people’s movements.
We are told ‘speak truth to power’. Noam
Chomsky says the powerful know the truth and are very happy with it. The people
need to speak truth to each other in order to realise their own power to change
their circumstances and confront predators. No ‘saviour’ will come. Pakistan’s
‘leaders’ must be servants of people’s movements. CPEC and China’s invaluable
friendship cannot compensate for criminal misrule.
Movements require a mobilising vision,
commitment, organisation, struggle, feedback, and participatory
decision-making. Otherwise, any progress will be sporadic, temporary and
insufficient to overcome the political inertia. The hopeless response to
constructive proposals will remain: who is listening?
The challenge is not to make sensible
recommendations which are promptly ignored; it is to develop movements which
ensure they cannot be ignored. Unfortunately, many think the moral strength,
mental horizons, political confidence and organising capacities of the people
are too limited to challenge the powers that be.
If true, Pakistan will have no future. But
if slavish pessimism is rejected we can meaningfully discuss some realities and
requirements a leadership committed to serving a people’s movement for national
transformation should consider. The following are a few:
(i) The population of Pakistan will reach
an utterly unmanageable 400 million by 2050;
(ii) Along with climate change and the
risks of nuclear conflict these are existential challenges. Addressing them are
(iii) There has been enormous
underinvestment in the whole range of human resource development which would
raise capacities to address these challenges;
(iv) Massive investments are needed for
poverty reduction and transforming the health, education, sanitary, housing,
mother-and-child care, basic services provision, human and gender rights
protections, administrative and governance systems;
(v) The money for these investments must be
largely generated from the revenues of a developing economy to preserve
Pakistan’s political and economic sovereignty;
(vi) Long-term economic growth rates should
be transformational (eight per cent for 30 years?) for defence expenditures,
debt repayments and administration costs to be met without incurring
unserviceable and ruinous debt;
(vii) Budgetary allocations and tax burdens
must be transparent, rational, redistributive and pro-growth;
(viii) Social and economic inequalities
should be significantly reduced while living-wage job opportunities are
maximised through human resource development;
(ix) Credit Suisse recently estimated
Pakistan’s middle class at over 6m. This is around 3pc of the population. A
middle-class country should have a middle class approximately half the
population. The structure of power and class-based governance stand in the way
of addressing this situation;
(x) Defence spending that takes away from
other essential spending undermines economic and national security;
(xi) Transition from a security to a
development and democratic state is the condition for national security in
(xii) Major corruption should be a capital
crime. The Soft State Syndrome is fatal;
(xiii) The promotion of a ‘culture’ of
rationality, innovation, and science and technology is indispensable to
implement transformation policies;
(xiv) Civil-military relations mean nothing
outside civilian supremacy;
(xv) Capable, responsible and accountable
policymaking institutions must replace personal, uninformed, uneducated and
(xvi) Governance must be brought closer to
the people through devolution of power;
(xvii) The formation of additional
provinces should be encouraged in accordance with the wishes of the concerned
(xviii) Terrorism is a major challenge.
Though deep-rooted it must be uprooted. It is largely the result of national
and international injustice, violence and elite complicity;
(xix) Counterterrorism without addressing
the root causes of terrorism is disguised state terror. Politically
mainstreaming banned but renamed extremist organisations associated with
terrorism is an irresponsible dereliction of duty;
(xx) Nuclear weapons are a deterrent to
prevent war. They should never be considered a first-strike option;
(xxi) The protection of nuclear assets and
materials is less about systems reliability; it is more about external
perceptions of Pakistan’s sustained political will to deny unauthorised access;
(xxii) Without transformational change at
home, foreign policy cannot develop international credibility and
(xxiii) The Foreign Service as the nation’s
‘first line of defence’ must be upgraded and empowered as a major priority;
(xxiv) A foreign minister must elicit
respect and loyalty from the foreign service through his understanding of
foreign policy issues and his commitment to service morale and welfare;
(xxv) The foreign minister must also carry
weight in the cabinet and the corridors of power for his ministry to provide
indispensable professional input for a credible foreign policy. Recent
criticisms of his remarks about putting our house in order are disingenuous and
(xxvi) Policies towards India, Kashmir, the
US, Afghanistan, Iran, etc should be integrated and consistent with national
transformation, 21st-century imperatives, international law, strategic
partnership with China, and UN resolutions on Jammu and Kashmir. Short-term
policies must be embedded in longer-term policy perspectives to maximise
possibilities for principled and acceptable outcomes.
All of the above is doable. But who is
listening? The political system is rotten beyond polite description. A corrupt
elite cannot communicate with the people. It can only deceive and ferociously
defend its loot. However, a people made aware of their faith and power to be
free, will listen, challenge and prevail.
The recent visit of COAS Qamar Bajwa to
Kabul seems to have produced newfound energy and enthusiasm between Afghanistan
and Pakistan. This was inevitable. Afghanistan has no choice but to engage with
Pakistan. But how this engagement is managed will determine how successful this
new impetus will be. The recurring theme in Pakistan-Afghanistan relations has
been not learning from prior mistakes. Détente between the two countries is not
unprecedented. It was President Ashraf Ghani’s first priority when he took
office in 2014. Before we come back, we must learn from prior mistakes.
Ghani is among the most brilliant,
thoughtful leaders in the world. When he first became president, he employed
that brilliance to engage Pakistan in a discussion predicated on three things.
First, since 2001 Afghanistan under Hamid
Karzai had tried to force Pakistan into certain behaviour by using the West. By
2014, those efforts had yielded nothing for Afghanistan. Ghani concluded that
Pakistan needed to engage with a sovereign Afghan government, rather than a
proxy for the Americans.
Second, given that Afghanistan offers more
than simply the toxicity of insecurity (namely a pathway to energy-rich Central
Asia), Ghani sought to establish a channel of economic and trade route
engagement with Pakistan.
Third, there is no pathway to progress in
Afghanistan, without addressing the threat posed by the Taliban. Ghani sought
to fast-track efforts to engage with and talk to them, whilst holding onto his
After a tense summer of elections in 2014,
Ghani became president. By November 2014, the gains from Operation Zarb-e-Azb,
and new unprecedented clarity from Kabul had set the stage for Ghani’s first
visit to Pakistan as president. His visit helped establish a two-track
conversation. In one, Pakistan would press the Taliban (including the Haqqani
Network), to less violence and more negotiation. In the other, Pakistan would
strengthen Afghanistan by facilitating trade and economic growth.
Most of the conversation about Ghani’s time
as president has been taken up by the first track. We all know what happened
there. In December 2014, Afghanistan-based TTP terrorists attacked the Army
Public School in Peshawar. Somehow, Pakistan’s resolve to trust President Ghani
and forge ahead with Afghanistan survived that attack. That resolve helped
initiate the Murree Process, as the first formal meeting between the Afghan
government and the Taliban took place in the summer of 2015.
The momentum of the Murree talks was too
much to bear for the enemies of peace in the region, and the leak of Mullah
Omar’s expiration essentially paralysed the process. Ghani valiantly sought to
live another day, and came to Pakistan in December of 2015, a year after APS,
to attend the Heart of Asia conference. Pakistani leaders, including both
then-prime minister Nawaz Sharif, and then-COAS Raheel Sharif, received Ghani
at the airport, but the damage to the security track of the
Pakistan-Afghanistan relationship was already done.
Then the wheels really fell off. In May
2016 the Americans zapped Mullah Mansoor Akhtar in a drone strike, essentially
ending the second iteration of the Murree process, a la the Quadrilateral
Coordination Group. President Ghani, having lost the trust of both PM Sharif and
COAS Sharif, essentially gave up on Pakistan, and adopted the tone of a
frustrated and defeated man. By December 2016, at the Heart of Asia summit in
Amritsar, he had joined Indian leaders in openly attacking Pakistan.
Three things have rendered the Pakistan-Afghanistan
relationship as dysfunctional under Ghani as it was under Karzai. The first is
Pakistani distrust of a community of Afghan mercenaries that serve only as
spoilers to regional peace. These mercenaries occupy official space in the new
Afghan state’s intelligence apparatus, but operate largely to undermine it at
every stage. The leak of the Mullah Omar news is seen as exhibit one in that
The second is a fog of miscommunication and
distrust between Pakistan and the US, and a near collapse in this important
relationship. The deep frustration of the Obama Administration with Pakistan’s
failure to follow up on conversations between senior US officials and Pakistani
leaders in late 2014 through mid-2015 may have precipitated the US assassination
of Mullah Mansoor. The decapitation of the Taliban, however, shifted the centre
of gravity of Afghan insurgents squarely in favour of the Haqqani Network.
Perhaps nothing fuelled Pakistani distrust of American intentions in the region
as much as that drone strike did.
Both of these two factors are outside
Pakistan’s control. The third and final poison in Afghanistan’s relationship
with Pakistan however is very much Pakistani domain. What is it? Pakistani
On his first trip to Pakistan as president
in November 2014, President Ghani agreed to a range of economy and
trade-related measures with Pakistan. The purpose was to enhance Afghan
economic activity, pilot some of the regional connectivity agenda within the
wider CPEC and CAREC frameworks, and provide Ghani and pro-Pakistan voices
within Afghanistan with the proof that a friendly posture toward Pakistan
yields tangible benefits to the Afghan people. To really give teeth to the
economy and trade track with Pakistan, Ghani even posted the man who was
negotiating this agenda with Pakistan, his finance minister Omer Zakhilwal, as
his ambassador to Pakistan.
A to-do list of 42 items was prepared by
Finance Minister Zakhilwal and Finance Minister Ishaq Dar in early 2015. The
list included a range of easy wins, ranging from speedier clearances for
Afghanistan-bound trucks to faster execution of trade facilitation projects. To
date, there has been virtually no progress on any of the 42 items.
To boot, Pakistan has leaned into an
anti-Pakistan narrative in Kabul at every opportunity, essentially lubricating
the pathway of anti-Pakistan mercenaries in Afghanistan. Decisions like sealing
the Afghanistan-Pakistan border after terrorist attacks, or repatriating a
small percentage of the Afghan refugees that live in Pakistan as retribution
for anti-Pakistan speeches by Afghan leaders, or prosecuting telegenic Afghans
that violate Pakistani laws like Sharbat Gula have all served to strengthen the
false narrative of Pakistan enjoying the continued humiliation or insecurity in
As Ashraf Ghani’s fourth winter as
president of Afghanistan approaches, Pakistanis need to heed five lessons from
First, enabling Afghan trade and economic
growth is easier than shutting down the Haqqani Network. Pakistan must
immediately take measures to process as much of the Zakhilwal-Dar agreement on
economy and trade as it can.
Second, Ghani’s outreach to Pakistan has
cost Ghani more than it has cost Pakistan – he must be treated with great
empathy and respect. Pakistan’s enemies will spare no effort in running down
Ghani when he returns to Kabul. They should not be aided by Pakistanis,
wittingly or unwittingly.
Third, the enemies of peace in the region
use many actors to further their agendas, including remnants of the TTP based
in Afghanistan. But not every critic of Pakistan is a RAW agent, and not every
mistake the Americans make is borne of ill will. Whilst not letting our guard
down, Pakistan needs to engage the US government in a robust conversation about
the region’s future, concurrent to its détente with President Ghani. Pakistan
has done more to fight terror than any country. Those unconvinced of this need
convincing. Name-calling will not achieve this.
Fourth, there is no escape from the Haqqani
Network. It adorns Pakistan’s throat like a noose made of barbed wire. Any
plans for Afghanistan’s future that do not include a plan to neutralise the
threat of this group will fail the smell test that the international community,
including China and Russia, apply to this region. Pakistani strategists need to
Fifth, and perhaps most importantly, the
enemies of peace in the region have exploited Pakistani incompetence before.
They will not stop. It is incompetence that fails to address disagreements
between military and civilian authorities robustly (and privately). It is
incompetence that fails to make progress on the trade and growth agenda with
Ashraf Ghani’s next trip to Pakistan can be
worthy of the hype being generated – but only if it differs from past trips.
Pakistani competence is a much more potent determinant of the future of our
region than the poisonous agendas of the enemies of peace in the region. We are
better than the enemies of peace. Ghani’s trip to Pakistan is our chance to
WHY and how US President Trump was left
with no choice but to put all the blame on others especially Pakistan? What
people are responsible or perhaps the driving force behind Trump’s U-turn in
Afghanistan – since he said that “my first instinct was to pull out”? Why
neither Afghanistan nor America allows Pakistan to fence and manage the Pak-Afghan
border? Why whenever Pakistan launches a military operation in the border
region – the American and Afghan forces pull back – providing militants with
strategic depth? And last but not the least – why there still exists Taliban’s
office in Qatar? There has been a lot of commentary in Pakistan flanked by
emotions of being deceived and betrayed over Trump’s new strategy. Besides the
resentful feelings and sentiments of the people of Pakistan there is a serious
need to review the approach towards Afghanistan.
The men who are dominating Trump
Administration and have encircled President Trump are either warriors or such
men who have been seriously critical of U.S. Policy for Afghanistan. For
instance Trump’s White House Chief of Staff retired Gen. John Kelly is among
those who wants a renewed approach towards Afghanistan. Unfortunately, Gen.
Kelly lost his son Lt. Robert Kelly while serving in Afghanistan in 2010 as a
result of a landmine. Similarly, Secretary of Defence retired Gen. James Mattis
a.k.a. ‘mad dog’ has had been vocal in criticizing the Afghan Policy and also
saw action in Afghanistan. While Trump’s serving military advisor Gen. Joseph
Dunford was also stationed at Afghanistan. Again, Trump’s National Security
Advisor Lt Gen H R McMaster is a war veteran having served in Iraq and
Afghanistan. Quite interestingly McMaster has been able to overshadow the rest
of the administration and was able to remove people like Steve Bannon from the
White House. Previously, Bannon served as the White House Chief Strategist.
CNN’s article by Peter Bergen “For Trump’s Generals, this is personal” is a
remarkable critique behind the new policy.
Trump’s New South Asia Policy is a clear
result of him being under the serious control of his Generals. The ramifications
of this new strategy would be severely negative – since it is like giving a
free hand to the military to handle the Afghan War. To achieve military cum
political objectives – the number of drone strikes would increase inside
Pakistan – primarily targeting civilian and unarmed populations. These drone
strikes have had little value in counter-terrorism in the past but now these
strikes would not only be aimed to eliminate high value targets but to stir
things up in the Pak-Afghan border areas. As a consequence of those strikes
there will be a new wave of terrorist incidents across Pakistan and those
groups who somehow ceased their terrorist activities will begin to re-evaluate
Also, unfortunate but ‘deliberate
accidents’ like Salala Incident – are likely to happen again – ostensibly
depicting the frustration of the US Military Forces. The chain of actions would
also trigger an increased pressure on Pakistan by heating up the Eastern and
Western borders and would see considerable increase in cross-border skirmishes.
As a result, those Taliban which are inclined towards Pakistan would conduct
counter-strikes in Afghanistan by targeting ISAF, NATO and Afghan National Army
and other Afghan law enforcement agencies – resulting in more problems for the
US and its Allies in relation to Pakistan. This ‘rat race’ is likely to happen
and would gain momentum if Trump executes this new strategy.
It is very much easy to conclude that
Trump’s speech was a charge sheet against his predecessors. Apart from the
concerns of Trump – it has been an established opinion of commentators and
analysts that there exists only one solution for Afghanistan and that is to
bring Taliban on the negotiations table by allowing Pakistan to use its
influence. Great powers like China and Russia have also admitted the fact that
without Pakistan being onboard – sustainable and long lasting peace can never
be achieved in Afghanistan.
The acquisition of power and prestige has
always been instrumental in the international system and particularly the great
powers seem to be obsessed with it. Overtly, America being a great power –
aspires to achieve only one specific objective – to find an honourable exit
from Afghanistan. Without a slightest doubt – the Trump Administration is
applying the same principle that President Nixon and his National Security
Advisor Henry Kissinger applied in Vietnam – to expand the conflict. Nixon and
Kissinger took Vietnam War to neighbouring Cambodia and Laos to suppress the
Communist Forces operating through the alleged ‘Ho Chi Minh Strait’.
Kissinger’s orders to General Alexander Haig to ‘destroy everything that moves’
is a testament to American strategic culture – that is perhaps coming into play