30
December

Conflict Transformation by Pakistan Army: The Central Trade Corridor (CTC)

Written By: Col Ehsan Mehmood Khan

Pakistan Army has contributed a great deal towards nation building both in kinetic and non-kinetic realms. Inter alia, the socio-economic spheres such as education, health, communication and telephony, national logistics, infrastructural development, and disaster management including rescue, relief and rehabilitation activities in the aftermath of natural calamities are but a few to note. In line with its counterinsurgency strategy, Pakistan Army has made noteworthy contributions towards the development of the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA), especially the North and South Waziristan Agencies, and the Malakand Division including Swat, after successful conduct of Operation Rah-e-Rast and Operation Rah-e-Nijat. The socio-economic development provides for the third stage in the strategy: Clear-Hold-Build-Transfer. Viewed through the intellectual prism of Johan Galtung, who is known as the Father of Peace Studies, it can be aptly called the course of conflict transformation being pursued by the army in FATA and Malakand Division. The “BUILD” stage of the counterinsurgency is reflective of the transformational approach of Pakistan Army.

The transformation has marked a host of milestones in recent years: ranging from rehabilitation of the Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) from Swat and South Waziristan Agency to building of road networks, rebuilding of the schools destroyed by the terrorists to construction of new schools, and from agricultural development initiatives to trade enhancement projects. The construction of Central Trade Corridor (CTC) is another major step, which is nothing less than a miracle and no smaller a gift by the army to the people of a conflict-torn region. It is a socio-economic project that systematically nets together Pakistan and Afghanistan by acting as a meaningful link between the Indus Highway of Pakistan and the Afghan Ring Road. Built by the Pakistan Army and Frontier Works Organization (FWO) over the last few years, it is 714 kilometres long road network. For such projects, the Army has followed an institutional approach. General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, the ex COAS had pushed this development work in FATA. General Raheel Sharif, COAS, has also vowed to pursue the development works vigorously. Recently, during his interaction with the officers and men at Miranshah and Wana, he expressed satisfaction over the achievements of the Army towards bringing stability in the conflict zone through development projects. He affirmed that these projects were likely to contribute in the national effort for durable peace in the conflict hit areas, and showed his resolve to go on with these initiatives at a very high pace.

The Trade Routes and Corridors

The geographical contiguity of Pakistan and Afghanistan provides for numerous routes and corridors for regional trade across their borders and with other countries. The strategic trade routes and corridors are as follows: Pakistan Afghanistan

• Northern Trade Corridor: Karachi Port / Port Qasim – Sukkur (along the Indus Highway /Motorway / G.T. Road) – Rawalpindi – Peshawar – Torkham Jalalabad – Kabul and onward (1,889 km).

• Southern Trade Corridor: Karachi Port / Port Qasim (along RCD Highway) Khuzdar – Kalat / Gwadar Port (along N-85) Turbat – Panjgur – Kalat – Quetta Chaman – Kandhar and onward to Kabul and beyond (Kandhar: 926 km from Karachi Port and 1,150 km from Gwadar Port. Kabul: 1,423 km from Karachi Port and 1,647 km from Gwadar Port).

• Central Trade Corridor: Karachi Port / Port Qasim Sukkur (along Indus Highway) – Rajanpur – D.G. Khan D.I. Khan – Ghulam Khan / Angoor Adda – Afghan Ring Road – Kabul / Kandhar (Kabul: 1,580 km via Indus Highway in Pakistan and Kabul-Gardez Highway in Afghanistan. Kandhar: 1,898 km via Indus Highway in Pakistan and Afghan Ring Road in Afghanistan).

Afghanistan Iran and Central Asia

• Inter alia, Kabul and Kandahar are the major trade hubs in Afghanistan for the three trade corridors.

• Northern Trade Corridor (Afghanistan – Tajikistan): Kabul Eshkashem / Sher Khan Bandar (Eshkashem: 515 km along Saricha Road and 621 km along Asian Highway-76. Sher Khan Bandar: 410 km along Asian Highway-76) – onward to South-Eastern and South-Western Tajikistan.

• Southern Trade Corridor (Afghanistan – Iran): Kandhar Zaranj / Islam Qila (Zaranj – 456 km and Islam Qila – 682 km) – onward to Eastern Iran.

• Central Trade Corridor : - Afghanistan – Turkmenistan: Kandhar – Toraghandi / Aqina (Toraghandi: 670 km. Aqina: 1039 km) – onward to Turkmenistan.

• Afghanistan – Uzbekistan: Kabul – Hairatan (464 km) – onward to Uzbekistan.

The Significance of Waziristan Corridor

Trade between Pakistan and Afghanistan has been traditionally taking place through the Northern and Southern Corridors. In addition, there are countless frequented and unfrequented routes between the two countries across the volatile border passing over the rough and hard mountains. The North and South Waziristan Agencies are located adjacent to the eastern Afghan provinces like Khost, Paktia and thus provide for an appropriate link both with Kabul and Kandhar – two important trade hubs in Afghanistan. On the other hand, the Waziristan Corridor also connects the FATA, Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa and Punjab province. Thus, the CTC enjoys geographical, communicational and trade centrality not only in the Pakistan-Afghanistan region, but on the larger map of South-Central-West Asia.

Why the Central Trade Corridor?

For centuries, Waziristan has been a corridor of convenience for the travellers, traders and invaders alike. Various routes moving in west-easternly direction matured into a corridor through a process of centuries. Alongside, it has had a history of turbulence, and thus violence. Thus, the area generally remained devoid of any significant blacktop roads over which the tangible attributes of progress and prosperity could travel to benefit the people living on both sides of Hindukush.

road tank 1Violence and poverty in FATA has heretofore had a chicken-egg or democracy-economy relationship. Violence inhibited development, and lack of development cultivated an environment conducive for violence. Situation is somewhat zero-sum. Increased development is expected to decrease the degree of violence. But progress and prosperity are not pedestrian anyway. They need roads to travel on. Education, health facilities, economic opportunities and civic services travel over the roads to reach the people of such remote regions. Due to various reasons, including the presence of foreign forces in Afghanistan, violence and poverty are shared attributes of the tribes inhabiting both sides of border. They are co-dependent in socio-economic spheres. Thus, transformational measures can have concurrent effect on both sides. Generally, this has been the context of construction of Central Trade Corridor. It has already started paying dividends. The people of Waziristan have hailed the project.

The Expected Benefit

The CTC is likely to yield immediate socio-economic benefit for the people of North and South Waziristan Agencies, and Afghanistan's Khost, Paktia and Paktika provinces. Next, it would benefit Pakistan and Afghanistan, the conjoined twins referred to as by President Hamid Karzai of Afghanistan in March 2010. In the long run, the CTC is expected to play a part in enhancement of trade in the entire South-Central-West Region. The key benefits are as expected to be as follows:-

- Replacing the existing non-mettled roads with international standard blacktop highways.

- Shrinking the time distance between North-Western Pakistan and South-Eastern Afghanistan.

- Reducing intra-Waziristan distance through an integral road network.

- Building a socio-economic and communicational gateway between Pakistan and Afghanistan.

- Creating prospects for improved education and health facilities.

- Generating economic opportunities along the highways.

- Transforming the conflict environment so as to gradually and systematically defeat and diminish the appeal for violent extremism among the masses of Waziristan. This would reflect positively by perceptibly reducing the trail of terror.

It is often espoused by some that poverty and economic insecurity is not the reason or the core motivation for violence in FATA. True; there are other drivers and sources of motivation that far outweigh poverty or destitution as the cause of violence. However, international experience shows that Economic Opportunity Structure (EOS) does have a noteworthy effect on environment of conflict and conditions of violence. Going by this reality, the CTC is expected to reconstruct and revamp the EOS of Waziristan as well as the neighbouring Afghan provinces.

road tank 2Trade is the backbone of economic security of a state or society. It is the centrepiece in the chain of economy that links the sections of production and consumption. It has remained important all through the history of mankind at all levels – macro, meso, and micro. Like other regions and sub-regions of the world, the Pakistan-Afghanistan region, too, has a lot of prospects to move forward with regional trade as a means to peace and prosperity for the people of the two countries and the region at large. Certainly, trade, whether between individuals and communities or between the states, is carried out on mutually beneficial terms. But it has to have some sort of contiguity and realization of the reality between the trading partners. Pakistan and Afghanistan have both. A Positive Response from Afghanistan

Response on the CTC has been very positive from the government and people of Afghanistan. To note, a high level Afghan defence delegation, headed by the defence minister General Bismillah Khan Mohammadi, visited Pakistan from January 27 to January 31, 2013. Amongst other areas of mutual cooperation, the CTC came under discussion to which both sides gave wider approval. According to official sources quoted in Dawn, “Afghans have recognised the centrality of Pakistan for peace and stability in their country not only in terms of kinetic military operations, but also with regard to socio-economic development of conflict zones.”

Today, 11 out of 34 Afghan provinces adjoin three federating units of Pakistan to include Balochistan, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA). Ethnically, Pashtun population bestrides the Pakistan-Afghanistan border. Besides hundreds of cattle-and-foot-tracks, there are dozens of vehicle-worthy roads and tracks crossing over the border. Some over 50,000 people from both sides cross the border daily using these frequented and unfrequented routes. Most of these routes are smuggling prone. Both Pakistan and Afghanistan agree to counteract, and to utilize all available routes and corridors in a mutually agreed and internationally legitimized manner. This is why the CTC is also listed among the routes of Afghanistan-Pakistan Transit Trade Agreement (APTTA). Conclusion

The construction of Central Trade Corridor is a step in the right direction. It would not only shorten the time distance between north-western Pakistan and south-eastern Afghanistan, but would also play a momentous role in conflict transformation on both sides of Hindukush. Pakistan Army has completed about 70 % of this 714-km stretch of road system linking various towns, important valleys and the Afghan Ring Road. It is tangible entity that acts as a link between various intangible attributes of Pakistan Army's counterinsurgency strategy.

The writer is a PhD (Peace and Conflict Studies) scholar and author of ‘Human Security in Pakistan’.
19
December

Are Video Games Making People Smarter?

Written By: Schezre Syed

Body sewed onto a chair, joystick clenched in hands, thumbs drumming tirelessly on a combination of buttons while the eyes remain riveted to a hypnotic display screen – having once tasted the thrill of a game, one can hardly go back. With such magnetism it’s no surprise that gaming is a billion dollar industry. But for all the ineludible allure, does the video game carry anything more than mere entertainment value? Is it making people wiser? To answer that, we have to understand the journey of the video game.

The industry of gaming is a lucrative one. Over the past six decades it has come a long way from the displays that consisted of only graphic/vector drawing or panel of lights, involving not more than one simple task or mission. Since its golden age in the 70s, theirs has been a world of 8-bit, 32-bit, 64-bit and 128-bit graphics, with plots so elaborate that the production and programming teams consist of an assortment of audio/visual technicians and artists as varied as those involved in the making of a commercial movie. Professionals from all walks of life are involved in their designing process, broadening storylines and emulating real life situations.

video games2

As technology made its way from official locations to our homes and eventually our pockets, so did the video game transfigure itself and seep into almost every piece of gadgetry. There was a time when one could only be found playing a video game on a coin-slot machine in an arcade or a gaming console attached to a TV. While those forums are as popular as ever, one can be as devout or as casual a consumer as one wants by choosing their platform. Cell phones offer gaming applications (Apps) that present a range of levels not only within a particular game, but also for the amount of effort required to ace it. It is interesting to note that simple game plans have proved to be as addictive (if not more) as those with detailed back stories and stages. People who may not even consider themselves gamers can be found toying with their phones for hours, hell-bent on completing a puzzle, a redundant task or firing birds at snickering opponents.

Since the introduction of the internet, the fraternity is ever-expanding. Players find themselves taking their sessions online and battling or teaming up with people scattered all over the world. It seems as though once a player logs his gaming session onto the net, they find themselves free of caste, creed and assume an alias that enlists them into an international coven. Moreover, online or not, these games are known to help social development in people with an autism spectrum disorder. By providing an environment that stimulates such learning without the need of direct human contact, they eliminate the biggest cause of stress to a child or adult with a disorder.

Video games have been under scrutiny for being too violent or explicit in vulgarity and aggression. These infotainment machines have been accused of turning teens into adrenalin junkies who may even find daily life too mundane without the profit-induced atmosphere that the pseudo-real gaming world offers. While there being a certain amount of truth, many studies have failed to find a correlation between those attitudes and video games. In fact, psychologists argue in favour of the application of video games. Not only have puzzles, trivia and informative content been trickling into gaming plots, but even with the creativity displayed in different types of games, an environment is created that is highly conducive to learning. Whether one is choosing a game for themselves or their children, they can also screen the content and (from an ever-growing directory) choose the one most appropriate to their requirements.

What sets this art apart from any other is the requirement of a certain amount of skill from the consumer to allow them to access to next stage. One needs to be the player of a certain caliber and that can only be attained if they try their hand at the game and fail over and over, only to try again. It makes the players jump all sorts of hoops and can still deny them the complete experience if they do not deliver. By offering small prizes along the way, it evokes the feeling that they almost had it, and that if they try just one more time, success is ensured. Moreover, to master the craft requires focus. Gamers are expected to have cat-like reflexes while employing exemplary hand-eye coordination – all of which need not be inherent, but can be developed with practice. This improves the sense of self-worth a person has, since it keeps challenging children and adults to work harder, be better and truly earn the prize. Not to mention, it enhances their critical thinking abilities, while making them faster and more determined problem solvers.

Among the biggest arguments against video games states is that they promote a lifestyle with lack of any physical activity. While moderation is paramount to tackling most of such complaints, it is evident that the gaming industry has been listening. Over the years, it seems to be overcoming its own shortcomings, all the while wowing audiences with its ingenuity in creativity, concept and design. For example games such as the ‘Nintendo WII’ make the players involve their bodies in order to play.

The industry is revered by a high percentage of teens, with adults joining their ranks increasingly. Dissuading them from playing the games means denying their power as invaluable sources of entertainment and education. They need to be recognized for their potential and we need to be smarter consumers to extract full benefits. By studying humans, this art is evolving and thus playing its part in improving our experience and lifestyle. Are we truly listening to it and playing ours?
Writer is an Art Graduate, art curator and visual artist who focuses on understanding the impact of pop culture on society.
31
December

Governance of 3G

Written By: Dr Sania Nishtar

During the month of September, the Supreme Court directed the government to put in place the necessary institutional arrangements at the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA), in particular, hiring of the three members central to the governance of this regulatory body, so that the long awaited 3G spectrum and licence auction could be expedited – in compliance a number of steps have been taken by the government. However, the premise of the public policy discourse on 3G centres on the notion that the auction will yield revenue in foreign exchange, badly needed to offset part of the budgetary deficit.

3G should not, however, be viewed through the narrow lens of a revenue-raising option, as it has potential for much broader impact through its correlation with economic growth and development.


As opposed to 2G technology, 3G enables better data usage and video content viewing because of increased speed of mobile internet, not gov 3g1previously available to mobile phone users. This is not a 'nice-to-have' luxury but has important implications for economic growth, human development, and governance. According to the World Economic Forum's Global Information Technology Report 2013, for a given level of mobile penetration, a 10% increase in 3G penetration increases GDP per-capita growth by 0.15 percentage points and a doubling of mobile data use is associated with an increase in the GDP per-capita growth rate of 0.5 percentage points. The same report also outlines the benefits of digitization, a process which can be facilitated by 3G, and the mass adoption of which can benefit both the public as well as private sectors. A 10% increase in the country's digitization score drives a 0.75% growth in its GDP per capita. Although these projections, which assume that the necessary enablers to fully reap 3G's benefits are in place, may not strictly apply in Pakistan's setting, they offer instructive evidence with respect to 3G's overall potential, nonetheless.

Even with the existing constraints, 3G's capabilities, its data transfer speed-enhancing and digitization-enabling features can facilitate both governance, as well as service delivery especially when seen in context of the country's rapidly evolving 'mobile money' (mMoney) capabilities. For example, the emphasis on transparency, targeting and effectiveness in government-to-people payments, rightly being espoused by many development partners, alone can benefit millions of people.

3G is available in 160 countries of the world, even including the less developed neighbouring Afghanistan. However, in Pakistan, its auction has been impeded by legal and governance impediments since 2007. To begin with, a seven year moratorium on the entry of new operators, which was part of the Pakistan Telecommunication Company Limited (PTCL) privatization agreement, was the basis of the decision not to auction the spectrum in that time-frame as it would have increased competition at the time when Etisalat had just made an investment to purchase PTCL. The moratorium was lifted in March 2013 but in the run up to that, governance issues at the PTA, the agency responsible for the auction, have been the impediment. Problems existed both at the policy 'process' level as well its implementation.

PTA is the telecom sector regulator, and rightly so, it is at an arms-length from the sector policy making entity, the Ministry of Information Technology (MoIT). In 2011, MoIT had issued a policy directive asking PTA to proceed with the auction but problems with policy implementation resulted in a major deadlock which ultimately paralysed governance within the organization. It was ironic that the regulator of the largest industry in Pakistan was completely non-functional for at least seven months. Deadlocks over appointments lurched the process from one court stay to another, as a consequence of which functionaries within PTA endured significant hardship and several policy processes including 3G auction, stood still. Delay in the 3G auction alone has incurred a massive loss to the economy in terms of opportunity.

Most recently, the incumbent government has issued a policy directive to proceed with the auction and has resolved some of the issues at PTA. However, it remains to be seen if the auction will generate the expected level of interest given the emergence of newer technologies, which are leading consumers to use wireless broadband, or 'hot spots', rather than mobile networks for data. This notwithstanding, transparency and conformity with stipulated rules could be the winning ingredient in this auction, relatively speaking.

There is another legal complexity in the process of the auction, which hasn't featured well in public debate yet. According to the Telecom Deregulation Act 2004 (Act), proceeds of the 3G “Spectrum” auction are meant to be channelled into the Universal Service Fund (USF), a Section 42 company, which pools 1.5% of net profits of mobile cellular operators. The Act permits “license fees” to be collected by the government though. Governance issues notwithstanding, USF has a very important mandate – providing subsidies to telecom operators for provision of connectivity to Pakistan's under-served and remote areas. If appropriately harnessed, this could be truly trans-formative for bridging the digital divide, opening avenues for main-streaming these remote areas in the formal economy and helping deliver health and education services to the under-served. The government has already withdrawn part of USF's existing funds by amending the rules; the role of USF's 'autonomous' board in this decision remains unknown. It also appears that by opting to auction the “Spectrum Licences”, the government plans to deposit the auction fees into its consolidated fund since the Act permits the license fees to be collected by the government. However, according to the Act, the Spectrum auction money has to go to the USF and it appears logical to assume that in order to use the auction proceeds for any purpose other than the one for which the law stipulates its use, an amendment to the law would be necessary.

It would be interesting to watch how parliamentary proceedings on the amendment to the law pan out, as a verdict on this would be reflective of parliamentarians' capacity, level of engagement and ability to influence decisions. It would be unfortunate to dismantle a system with strategic potential just because we have to pay for the inefficiencies of past governments and / or finance tactical interventions. This will be a test of the robustness of parliamentary proceedings, their actual role in key decisions, their ability to appreciate the difference between strategy and tactics and their outlook towards nation-building as opposed to short-term political gains.

The writer is a former Federal Minister and holds a Fellowship of the Royal College of Physicians of London. A PhD from Kings College, London, she is an eminent social scientist and regularly contributes in national print media on issues of health, governance and public policy. This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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