On the same day that Hilal asked me to write a piece about the “New Look Army” I was contacted by the Herald magazine to comment on the topic “In Gen Kayani's six year tenure as the Chief Of Army Staff, was there ever any point at which he could have considered staging a coup?” I found both propositions interesting, because I don't think that either is there a 'new look' army, or that there was a moment when General Kayani thought it might be a good thing for his country if he followed in the footsteps of Generals Zia and Musharraf.
This is not to say that the army is out-of-date. Far from it, as is described below. And while General Kayani may well have been frustrated on occasions, especially when the country had concluded (according to an impartial international opinion poll) that the civilian government was incompetent to the point of paralysis, there was decided opinion within the army – encouraged by him, it should be emphasised – that it is not the job of armies to be involved in political affairs. As I have written elsewhere, there is no doubt that military commanders who, as part of their martial responsibilities, are accustomed to, and expert in, directing and managing enormous numbers of personnel and vast quantities of expensive equipment, can transfer their skills to civilian pastures. But these should not include governance, for that would be contrary to all tenets of democracy. And, to be blunt, we soldiers aren't very good at running countries. Polo and cricket clubs, yes; hospitals and schools, certainly; business enterprises – well usually soldiers are pretty good, although they tend to overlook the profit motive. And it is silently accepted by even the army's most energetic critics that it, and the PAF, always work wonders following natural disasters such as earthquakes and floods.
But such matters as determining the number and duties of parliamentary committees and having endless discussions about intricate political and legal affairs tend to attract a military yawn or two. I saw this exact reaction, at first hand, from Generals Zia and Musharraf, both of whom I liked and who were kind to me, personally, but neither of whom demonstrated notable skill in dealing with civilians. I am reminded of the attitude of the Duke of Wellington who, after years as a most successful Commander-in-Chief of the British army, was in 1828 appointed prime minister by King George IV. In what he imagined to be the spirit of democracy he at once held a meeting of his Cabinet of politicians to decide on various courses of action. He described that experience as “An extraordinary affair. I gave them their orders and they wanted to stay and discuss them.” Quite so. Generals Zia and Musharraf would have understood and endorsed their viewpoint.
Pakistan's present-day army is an efficient organisation which, if directed by government to engage in hostilities, is capable of waging war effectively. Its leaders are determined to keep it efficient – and equally firm about its proper place in society. There have been complaints that the army, as with most others around the world, locates its units and headquarters away from the public. It is pointed out that there are large military camps which seem to be quite separate from the civilian mainstream and, indeed, society as a whole. Some observers consider this to be undesirable because they consider such physical isolation must limit the amount of time that soldiers are exposed to civilian influences.
In years gone by, this was certainly so, but in these days of media saturation and social networking it is no longer the case. Yet soldiers, even as part of the wider polity, must remain distanced in some ways, because they are guided by different tenets, not the least of which is the requirement to instantly and unquestioningly obey orders that at some stage may well require them to hazard their lives. It might be claimed that the 'unquestioning' part of that obligation is undemocratic and thus unacceptable in the new modern age, and it is reasonable that those who do not fully understand the military ethos might display some measure of concern about this aspect of military discipline, because they will never themselves experience the mid-battle imperative of instant obedience. To put it in the simplest terms: if a junior commander of troops is ordered to immediately take a certain course of action in the confusion of battle, while shot and shell and IEDs are exacting their horrific toll, he can't be permitted the luxury of argument. He must do exactly what he is told – and then demonstrate his own leadership and decision-making talents. Instant obedience is essential, and for that to be effective it has to be learned at the most basic stage of military education, and reinforced thereafter. A superior's condemnation in the Wellington style that “I gave them their orders and they wanted to stay and discuss them” has no place in democracy, certainly. But it still has a place in military affairs, because disobedience can cost lives. Leadership and moral example on the part of leaders are the most important characteristics – imperatives – of military life, and leaders expect, deserve, and must receive obedience.
That's the main difference between the average citizen and the military citizen who has chosen to defend his (or her) country against whatever threats might present themselves. And it's one of the reasons why we military people are bad at trying to direct governments. It is best to stay out of such affairs and concentrate on professional improvement, which is exactly what has been happening in Pakistan's army in recent years. When the army was committed to the Tribal Agencies and their abutting regions there was an obvious dearth of experience in counter-insurgency (COIN) procedures. Units already serving in the west of the country had most exposure to COIN, naturally (and some of it hard-won, through bitter experience), but they were thin on the ground and found it difficult to cope with incidents so widely spread in their areas of operations. The solution was reinforcement by units from the east, with plans to move them back to conventional warfare readiness should there be an emergency along the Line of Control or the border with India.
East-based units were skilled in such things as bridging and armour-infantry cooperation, but had not much practice in, for example, convoy movement through territory subject to insurgency. There is a great difference between advancing through a minefield and moving by tracks that in all probability have Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs) placed along the way. Units in the east had concentrated, quite properly, on the tactics required to defeat an Indian armoured advance into Pakistan and were trained to take the war across the border by rapid movement to seize territory. Dissident local tribesmen and foreign militants crossing from Afghanistan are quite a different challenge, and initial operations against them were largely unsatisfactory, and some, to be blunt, disastrous (we must be honest). But things changed.
14 Infantry Division was the first formation to be redeployed westwards, into South Waziristan, and its GOC, Major General Tariq Khan, had to establish schools to train officers and soldiers in counter insurgency skills, which required a major effort, not only in selecting instructors and training areas, but in logistics and, above all, in operational commitment. Like the Sri Lankan army which, since 1982 until its defeat of the Tamil insurgents in 2009, suffered from the twin and usually conflicting demands of conducting training while concurrently countering the Tamil Tigers, 14 Division and other formations had to balance the requirement to teach essential skills with the urgency of patrolling, getting to know the terrain and people, and mounting operations to dominate the area.
While the decision to move troops westward was the right one, there had not been enough thought on the part of higher planners about the practical difficulties involved. This was an entirely new experience for the Pakistan army. As Dawn newspaper recorded in 2008, “A senior army commander pointed towards a huge compound which... was in fact 'a nursery for preparing suicide bombers.' According to Major General Tariq Khan, who commands the 14 Division, 'it was like a factory that had been recruiting 9-12 year-old boys, and turning them into suicide bombers.' [Army officers stated] that until the operation started they only had some idea about such activities, and it was only in January  that they discovered how organized these militants were in their mission to recruit, indoctrinate and launch suicide bombers. The computers, other equipment and literature seized from the place, some of which were shown to us, give graphic details of the training process in this so-called 'nursery.' There are videos of young boys carrying out executions, a classroom where 10-12-year olds are sitting in formation, with white band of Quranic verses wrapped around their forehead, and there are training videos to show how Improvised Explosive Devices are made and detonated.”
This was a, somewhat, different scene to that along the frontier with India, and it took time to get used to it. (And, incidentally, it is shocking that anyone in Pakistan – or anywhere – could ever support evil fanatics who train children to kill by suicide). But Pakistan Army did its job extremely well in the tribal areas and their surrounds, and its high-quality leadership and professionalism were equally well-demonstrated in its defeat of vicious extremists in Swat.
In a broadcast on 7 May 2009 Prime Minister Gilani stated that “To restore the honour and dignity of our homeland and to protect our people, the armed forces have been called in to eliminate the militants and terrorists” in Swat, and operations began next day, with the army stating that “After the complete breakdown of law and order and the non-adherence of the militants to the peace deal in Swat Valley, the army was called out in aid of the civil power to eliminate the militants and restore the writ of the government. The operation will continue until such time as we have liberated the people of Swat from the clutches of the militants. The military will not leave unless it is taken over by the civil administration and the writ of the government is restored.” <?p>
The army did indeed liberate Swat, and its success was not only an indication of competence in conducting COIN operations but was evidence of flexibility, that most important principle of war. The army has come a long way from the somewhat complacent outlook I noted when first associated with it in 1980, as a UN Observer in Rawalakot and Astore. (These were very different days, when UN officers went on lengthy patrols, 'Field Tasks', as they were called, along the Line of Control (LOC). I spent, for example, three splendid weeks climbing in the mountains with 3 NLI and walked almost half of the LOC). There are problems, of course, of which the most serious is shortage of junior officers, resulting in difficulty for Military Secretary
Branch, GHQ to adjust officers. Then there is the increasing problem of operating costs. Some media commentators complain about the expense of having an army but do not appear to realise the extent of the financial burden imposed by the demands of training and operations that have been required to meet the growing threat to the nation's stability. The army did not take it upon itself to redeploy to the west of the country to put down rebellion. It acted, as is proper, on the orders of the civilian government, but there seems to be little understanding of the consequent enormous costs of moving, supplying and maintaining 150,000 troops in remote areas. The cost of ammunition, alone, has been staggering, in spite of the fact that the military-directed Pakistan Ordnance Factories (POF) produce world-class ammunition at a small fraction of the cost of western-manufactured equivalents. But the main price of the army's operations has no monetary measure. It has been in the sacrifice of its officers and soldiers who have given their lives in defence of their country, which cannot be quantified in economic terms. The suffering of the wounded, the grieving of the bereaved families, the loss to the army itself – the family at arms – are an indication of individual and community commitment that merits the utmost respect. The losses make nonsense of claims by armchair critics who insist that the army “hasn't done enough” to protect Pakistan against the savagery of the extremists.
In the wider scheme of affairs, the army is well aware of the country's social and economic challenges, and its stance was explained pithily by General Kayani in April 2012 when he said that “We in the army understand very well that there should be a very good balance between defence and development. You cannot spend on defence alone and forget about development. Ultimately the security of a country is not only that you secure boundaries and borders but it is when people that live in the country feel happy, their needs are being met. Only in that case will a country be truly safe.” It is difficult to disagree with the contention that security stems from a combination of social development and national capability to combat forces that seek to destabilize the country. But the price has to be paid.
Pakistan has suffered grievously from confrontations between governments and the army, but the present generation of military leaders is well aware that further friction could have disastrous consequences. The fact that 60% of the population turned out to vote in extremely difficult circumstances in May 2013 is heartening and indicative that, this time, democracy could be here to stay. It is up to the army to play its part in maintaining the nation's stability in order that extremists cannot prevent modernisation and national development, which are so crucial. I venture to predict that it will do so in accordance with the Constitution and under direction of whatever civilian government is in power.
What is modern political thought can be subject to lot of intellectual controversy. Nor can the issue of timing – when and how the modern thought progressed – can easily be settled. What is settled, however, is that there is a modern strands of political thought and they have greatly shaped the contemporary world of politics. Democracy, in many institutional forms and types of political arrangements, is the result of some powerful political ideas. Let us explore some of them and how they have influenced the evolution of contemporary world.
Some of the enlightenment ideas are at the root of modern thought. Chief among them is the reason – all men and women are endowed with reason, a distinctive faculty of human. In the evolution of political ideas it was emphasis on reason that enabled men of intellect and learning, and even ordinary folks to know what the natural law was. Thinkers relied heavily on reason and the law of nature to make an argument for freedom and equality. In other words, by the law of nature – that is the essence of pure human character – freedom is fundamental to our being full and complete persons. Equality of humans is a corollary of freedom. If we are free, he or she is equally free, no more or less than others. Lest you misunderstand this point, equality is in terms of equal rights, and should never be construed as equality of status, possession, power and influence. Actually, liberty results into inequality – the outcome of differential talents, motivations, social circumstances and opportunities. People being equal in rights may end up in unequal distribution of incomes, social status and power.
In a very traditional, hierarchical order in the post-renaissance period, freedom and equality were very radical ideas. Those who talked of freedom and equality were considered heretics. Why? These two ideas challenged the traditional authority, structures. Briefly, the traditional authority both in social and political spheres, was based on inherited status, not earned by but owed to parentage. Sons of feudal lords became feudal lords and sons of king, princes. In the traditional view of these arrangements, men had no power. God ordained everything, God distributed wealth, confirmed status, and appointed kings.
It was a part of religious belief that if men challenged authority of their lords, they would commit sin. Kings were shadow of God on earth, his Divine appointees, and Will of God himself. That logic worked for centuries to keep the old order in place. Practically fear and threat of brutality and violence along with use of tradition and religion kept the populations in check for centuries. Religion and tradition began to loosen their hold with post-renaissance man questioning their logic of power, authority and inequality. It was the beginning of modern age when individualism – the idea that each individual is free to determine his social path, religion; and is endowed with a right to have say who governs him – the making of political authority.
The movement for fundamental rights began to emerge over the social and political horizons of the West with the recognition of freedom. Even in the middle of 18th century, several parallel movements for rights gained strength and some rights got recognised, the political systems in most of Europe, Asia, Africa and Latin America remained monarchical. Old political orders built around monarchy and aristocratic class remained unchanged. Two revolutions in the last quarter of 18th century began to change the old order with people embracing radical ideas of freedom and equality. First it was the American Revolution in 1776, which was greatly influenced by the idea of rights of individuals and nations the national rights, the right to be free, independent and sovereign. John Locke's ideas of civil government and his concern with life, liberty and property had left great impression on the American leaders.
In the writing of the Declaration of Independence and later framing the American Constitution in 1787, Locke had left a deep mark. Americans were so impressed by Locke that they copied his words in verbatim in the Declaration of Independence. Locke, a 17th century English philosopher had made two serious arguments about nature and purpose of government. First, a government must be based on the consent of the people. Second, the purpose of the government is to benefit the people and not those who govern. Locke insisted that the government was under obligation to protect 'life, liberty and property” of people. The idea of property is more than material possession. For that reason, Thomas Jefferson and his committee that drafted the Declaration of Independence substituted “property” with “pursuit of happiness”.
The second revolution was the French revolution 1789-99, under which the old order broke down, plunging the country into turmoil and conflict. Three ideas shaped this revolution – liberty, equality and fraternity, meaning solidarity among people. In the 19th century freedom of thought and expression got recognised as fundamental rights in countries like Britain and United States where democracy had begun to take firm roots. Government was no longer seen as a Divine gift to chosen ones – the monarch and aristocracy – but an outcome of political process. The idea of consent of the governed defined the legitimacy of the government.
Popular sovereignty replaced the old notions of authority and sovereignty. What it basically means is that right to govern rests with the people and they transfer this right temporarily, for a specified period, to their representatives. The elected representatives don't have borrowed power of the people that they have to use only in the interest of their constituents. What if the representatives or the government elected by the people fails to govern in their interest? According to Locke, they have a right to rebel. Some of the American states have embodied this idea into a “recall” procedure under which a sitting governor of the state can be unseated by a referendum.
Overtime the idea of limited government found greater acceptance among the democratic thinkers and statesmen. Only a government, limited by law and constitution, could respect rights and freedoms of the individuals. Writing a constitution and defining the powers of the government, they thought, were keys to constraining the powers of government. Today, constitutionalism means precisely that, and more in a sense that the powers government exercises are given by the constitution made by men and not by another authority.
For centuries, concentration of powers in one institution, the monarchy has created tyranny. It is a question of common sense, if authority of the state is concentrated in a single institution or a person then, the power is more likely to be used for personal benefit and hurt people than when it is divided among different institutions. An 18th French philosopher Montesquieu made a strong argument for separating legislative, judicial and executive powers of the state.
These ideas and many more, that due to limit of space we cannot discuss, have shaped the modern political world of democracy, constitutional government and fundamental rights. Not every country or elites in every state have accepted every modern democratic idea for governance. The reason is simple; democratic transformations and transitions, in other words, implementation of modern ideas require a political struggle to defeat the vested interests that have stakes in establishing and maintaining non-democratic systems.
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.
Violence 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.
Trade 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’.