Waziristan at Peace (Part II)

Written By: Jennifer McKay

With the majority of the community having returned to the Tochi Valley, life is moving to the new normal that is obvious across all of North Waziristan. The transition from a terrorist-infested area, to a peaceful community that has returned from displacement is not without challenges. But so much has been done already to rehabilitate this area and the prospects for the future are looking good. Not so long ago, when the soldiers moved through this area, the children made the ‘hand across the throat’ sign, wishing death to the soldiers. Now they wave happily and often salute the soldiers. Sometimes, they even pause from their game of cricket to run to the roadside to wave. This is reflection of love for Pakistan Army among tribal children and elders.

The Tochi Valley has had a long and colourful history. This beautiful valley, running from Bannu through Mir Ali and Miranshah, out to Degan, Boya and beyond, has seen many conflicts over the centuries. Today, it is at peace.

In the days of the British, it was the scene of many skirmishes between the tribesmen and the British Indian Army. The history books are full of interesting tales of the British attempting to subjugate the tribes, usually unsuccessfully. It is worth reading some of the books and articles on the history of North Waziristan and bordering areas of Afghanistan to get a better understanding of the fierce and independent tribesmen and their battles with the British. Most accounts were written by British officers and are imperialistic in their tone but they do provide a background to the many conflicts in the past century or two.

The British have long gone but since 2001 when the U.S. and foreign forces invaded Afghanistan, trouble in the Tribal Agencies started to escalate. Despite many attempts at building peace between militant factions and the state, trouble intensified to a point where military operations were needed to defeat the growing threat. It is not easy, nor desirable, for any army to have to fight its own people and Pakistan wanted to avoid the scenario of many innocent people in the region being caught up in what would ultimately become a necessary conflict. Terrorists, including Uzbeks, Chechens and others, along with local groups, had infiltrated and taken over communities, basically holding them as a collective human shield. In all instances across the seven Tribal Agencies, the Army moved the population out to protect innocent families. This was a massive effort and a huge cost to the state and more so, to the people many of whom lost everything. However, with talks bringing no resolution, and attacks growing in the area and the cities, the only solution was to launch the operations.


wazirstanatpeaceasd.jpgOperation Zarb-e-Azb, launched in June 2014, finally brought to an end the reign of terror of the militant groups that had moved into North Waziristan from Afghanistan and beyond to join forces with local militants. The alliances of these groups including the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, the East Turkestan Islamic Movement, Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, Jundallah and the Haqqani network were a threat to the country and the region. Tribal elders and thousands of innocent civilians and soldiers have died at the hands of these groups. The success of the military operations has led to a significant reduction of terror attacks in the country.


Following the operations, the government and Army could then start the process of bringing home the displaced population and rehabilitation and reconstruction efforts. These were already underway in the other six Agencies that had previously been cleared. The efforts have been massive and will continue for some time. The terrain and location of villages in North Waziristan makes the task more challenging but the leap forward from what was to what is and what will be, is impressive.

For this series of articles, I travelled to different parts of North Waziristan to get a better understanding of the difference in areas and what is happening. The areas are quite distinctive in nature and the Tochi Valley with its beauty and history is one area that is showing great potential.

New roads are making travel in North Waziristan so much easier. A new road from Miranshah to Boya is under construction and will soon be surfaced making it an even more pleasant journey out through the valley following the Tochi River. When I visited Boya – located a little over 20 kilometres from Miranshah – the valley was looking its most beautiful. Sun shining on the rugged ranges and the mud and brick houses and compounds in villages along the river, trees with bright green foliage, healthy crops in the fields, and children playing cricket, it seemed a vision of serenity. It was hard to imagine that so recently this had been the scene of so much misery.

Fighting in the area to defeat some of the most ruthless terrorists including Uzbeks and others involved in the attack on the Karachi Airport, was intense. Large caches of weapons and explosives were found in the clearing operations, a reminder of the firepower capability that terrorists can muster.

With the majority of the community having returned to the Tochi Valley, life is moving to the new normal that is obvious across all of North Waziristan. The transition from a terrorist-infested area, to a peaceful community that has returned from displacement is not without challenges. But so much has been done already to rehabilitate this area and the prospects for the future are looking good.

Not so long ago, when the soldiers moved through this area, the children made the ‘hand across the throat’ sign, wishing death to the soldiers. Now they wave happily and often salute the soldiers. Sometimes, they even pause from their game of cricket to run to the roadside to wave. This is reflection of love for Pakistan Army among tribal children and elders.

What a spectacular tourist drive this could be one day, now that peace has been restored. When more facilities are built, and the area opens up more to visitors, this will be a ‘must visit’ area. Let us hope that will be soon as tourism brings a lot of money to any area and the local people would prosper.

The people of the Boya and Degan area are already seeing new opportunities for prosperity at their doorstep with the discovery of copper and the opening of a mine and processing facilities. This is significant. Industry is needed across all of FATA and this once ‘no-go’ area of North Waziristan can certainly benefit from such ventures.

The abundance of minerals including copper, chromite, oil, and gas in FATA has been known for some years. However, the instability and threat of terrorism was too high for investors to take a chance on mining. That has changed. In 2016, the Frontier Works Organisation (FWO) signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the FATA Development Authority (FDA) to open a copper mine at Degan. FWO, through its subsidiary MEDO then partnered with Yantai Xinhai Mining Machinery to build a copper benefication plant that will have a capacity of 1,500 tons per day.

What is impressive about the agreement is that it will give 18 percent of the revenue to the local community, 10 percent to the FATA Development Authority, and 22 percent to corporate social responsibility initiatives to be spent on local projects.

In addition, this will bring jobs, not only at the mine and processing plant but also in the provision of support services from businesses in the community. Investment in industry can help communities make the leap from subsistence living to prosperity. The investment in this copper mine is a major step in encouraging other investors to look at opportunities in mining and other industries.

The Tochi Valley is very close to the Afghanistan Border. Although the situation with Afghanistan is often fractious, the benefits for both countries in building trade are obvious. As North Waziristan opens up, and with the excellent roads linking it with the cities in Pakistan and to the border, new opportunities will arise for trade in minerals, fruit and vegetables, and other goods. Enhanced trade and effective joint border management will increase the chances for long-term peace on both sides of the border.

What is concerning though is that the situation in Afghanistan appears to be worsening. With the Afghan Taliban controlling large swathes of the country and a growing presence of Daesh, it is hard to say what will happen. The Trump Administration has recently announced that more U.S. troops will be sent to Afghanistan but the situation remains unclear whether this will make a difference when billions of dollars and fifteen years of a huge presence of U.S. and ISAF forces on the ground with a large Afghan Army could not bring peace. Foreign analysts do not seem positive that this latest increase will help due to the growing power of Afghan Taliban and Daesh across the country. For Pakistan, which has done so much to defeat terrorism, and lost so many lives to bring peace within its own borders, peace in Afghanistan is critical.

In a previous article, “Waziristan at Peace” I wrote about the improvements that have already been made in these villages around Boya and Degan. One of the most important of these is the small hospital, which is currently staffed by Army medical officers, lady health workers, and local medical assistants. The area has significant health problems that have not previously been addressed including general health care, cardiology, and women’s health. Healthcare is a vital component for the wellbeing of this area to progress and prosperity. One of the major health problems highlighted by the Army doctors, and which should be prioritized and addressed in community health is that of malaria and leishmaniasis, both of which are common in this area.

These two maladies, delivered by mosquitos and sandflies respectively, are extremely dangerous and can cause long-term illnesses and even death. While many are more familiar with malaria, less is understood about leishmaniasis which is a dangerous and painful disease. The World Health Organisation suggests that leishmaniasis affects some of the poorest people on earth, and is associated with malnutrition, population displacement, poor housing, a weak immune system and lack of financial resources. The disease is linked to environmental changes such as deforestation, building of dams, irrigation schemes, and urbanization.


Tochi Valley has the potential to become a symbol of what can be achieved in the process of bringing long-term peace and stability and to become a prosperous area of the country. The components are all there and the current situation is looking very promising indeed. With support and encouragement, the education of children and youth, improved health and wellbeing for all, plus economic prosperity through investment, small business and agriculture, the future looks bright in the Tochi Valley.

According to health advisories, “affected regions are often remote and unstable, with limited resources for treating this disease.” Doctors Without Borders calls leishmaniasis “one of the most dangerous neglected tropical diseases.” It can be transmitted from one human to another in certain circumstances. The Organization also states that this disease is second only to malaria in parasitic causes of death. It can cause skin lesions, mainly ulcers, on exposed parts of the body, leaving life-long scars and serious disability.

Treating the illness is one thing though no vaccines are available, but more important is to take preventative measures, and to get to the cause of the problem. The World Health Organisation provides advice on how communities can reduce the risk. Raising awareness of the risks of these two diseases carried by tiny flying monsters is clearly an activity that would be helpful to the communities. Government health officials and possibly the World Health Organisation or other humanitarian agencies could support the work that the Army is already doing enough on this, including research into the local environmental conditions in which these insects thrive to eliminate the breeding grounds. It would be of great benefit to the local people and their future wellbeing.

The growing number of good schools in the area also provide opportunities not only for good education and vocational training for boys and girls, but also to inculcate awareness of hygiene, health, and also about the local environment. Children are wise and like to share what they learn with their parents. This will further raise awareness of important community health issues. The same applies to the Women’s Vocational Centers. Sharing the benefits of health issues and how best to address these, is extremely helpful in spreading the word. This is already happening at the Centers.

The local people are not just leaving it up to the Army to do the work; they too are taking the initiative. Although the Army has built excellent local markets, it is a positive sign to see so many small ‘tuckshops’, scrap metal and building materials depots, tyre repairers, and other small businesses along the roadside. Farming families are adapting new techniques they have learned from the Army to get better crop yields. Another sign of positive change is the visible pride the Khasardars have in their duties. There is no shortage of candidates to join up.

Tochi Valley has the potential to become a symbol of what can be achieved in the process of bringing long-term peace and stability and to become a prosperous area of the country. The components are all there and the current situation is looking very promising indeed. With support and encouragement, the education of children and youth, improved health and wellbeing for all, plus economic prosperity through investment, small business and agriculture, the future looks bright in the Tochi Valley.

(To be Continued...)


The writer is Australian Disaster Management and Civil-Military Relations Consultant, based in Islamabad where she consults for Government and UN agencies. She has also worked with ERRA and NDMA.

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ایس سی او۔ پاکستان کی رکنیت اور علاقائی اہمیت

Published in Hilal Urdu July 2017

تحریر: فرخ سہیل گوئندی

شنگھائی کوآپریشن آرگنائزیشن نے سرد جنگ کے خاتمے کے بعد خطے میں بدلتی صورتِ حال کے نتیجے میں ایک نئے علاقائی اتحاد کے طور پر جنم لیا۔ سرد جنگ کے زمانے میں، سابق سوویت یونین اور ریاست ہائے متحدہ امریکہ کے مابین مقابلے کے نتیجے میں دونوں طاقتوں نے اپنے ہاں اسلحے کے انبار لگانا شروع کردئیے۔ جب سرد جنگ کا خاتمہ ہوا تو دنیا کے مختلف ممالک علاقائی اقتصادی اتحادوں میں جڑنے لگے۔انہی میں سے ایک اتحاد شنگھائی کوآپریشن آرگنائزیشن ہے۔ چین ایک عالمی اقتصادی طاقت کے طور پر تیزرفتار‘ زور پکڑتا ہوا ملک جانا جانے لگا اور روسی فیڈریشن، اقتصادی اور نئے عسکری اتحادوں میں اہم کردار ادا کرنے لگی۔ چین کو علاقائی اور عالمی منڈیوں تک رسائی کے لئے نئے راستے درکار تھے۔ آج ہم آسانی سے دیکھ سکتے ہیں کہ چین اپنے ان اہداف میں کامیابی سے آگے بڑھ رہا ہے۔ شنگھائی کوآپریشن آرگنائزیشن کا قیام اِن اہداف کے لئے ہی تھا جس میں روسی فیڈریشن علاقائی توازن میں اپنا برابر حصہ ڈال رہی ہے۔

سرد جنگ کے خاتمے کے بعد دہشت گردی ایک عالمی مسئلہ بن کر سامنے آیا، لیکن اہم بات یہ ہے کہ اس عالمی دہشت گردی کا مرکز، مشرقِ وسطیٰ بن کر ابھرا۔ عراق، شام اور لیبیا جیسی اہم ریاستوں کو جیسے کھوکھلا کیا گیا، اگر اس کو غور سے دیکھا جائے تو معاملہ سمجھ میں آتا ہے کہ دہشت گردی کو ان ممالک میں کیوں کر اور کن طاقتوں نے پلنے ‘بڑھنے اور پنپنے کے مواقع فراہم کئے۔ پاکستان بھی اُن ممالک میں شامل ہے جس کو دہشت گردی کے ذریعے کھوکھلا کرنے کی عالمی سازش کارفرما تھی، جسے پاکستان کی مسلح افواج نے بھرپور طریقے سے ناکام بنانے میں فیصلہ کن کردار ادا کیا۔ پاکستان اس تناظر میں ایک اہم ترین ملک ہے، جو مشرقِ وسطیٰ، وسطی ایشیا اور جنوبی ایشیا کے سنگم پر واقع ہے اور نئی عالمی اقتصادی طاقت عوامی جمہوریہ چین کا دیرینہ دوست اور اتحادی ہے۔ حال ہی میں چین کو راہداری دینے کے منصوبے نے پاکستان کی علاقائی طاقت کو مضبوط تر کردیا ہے۔ پاکستان سرد جنگ کے خاتمے کے بعد ایک نیا کردار بنانے میں کوشاں ہے۔ شنگھائی کوآپریشن آرگنائزیشن میں 2005ء سے ایک آبزرور کی حیثیت سے اس کی شمولیت اسی پالیسی کا حصہ ہے۔ اور اب جون 2017ء میں قازقستان کے دارالحکومت آستانہ میں شنگھائی کوآپریشن آرگنائزیشن کی سربراہ کانفرنس میں پاکستان اور بھارت کو مکمل رکنیت دے دی گئی ہے۔ یہ پاکستان کا خطے میں ایک اہم ملک ہونے کا بڑا ثبوت ہے اور یہ کہ پاکستان کے بغیر علاقائی اتحاد نامکمل سمجھے جارہے ہیں۔ پاکستان نہ صرف ایک ایٹمی طاقت ہونے کے ناتے اہم ملک ہے بلکہ اس کی جیو سٹریٹجک اہمیت کو بھی کوئی علاقائی اور عالمی طاقت نظرانداز نہیں کرسکتی۔

آستانہ میں ہونے والی اس سربراہ کانفرنس میں وزیراعظم پاکستان نوازشریف نے شرکت کی اور کانفرنس میں شامل رہنماؤں سے ملاقاتیں بھی کیں۔ کانفرنس میں ایک اہم توجہ دینے والی بات روسی صدر ولادی میر پوٹن نے کی انہوں نے خطاب میں کہا کہ دہشت گردی ایک اہم مسئلہ ہے جس سے شنگھائی کوآپریشن آرگنائزیشن کے رکن ممالک کو نمٹنا ہوگا۔ انہوں نے کہا کہ عراق اور شام میں پُراسرار طریقے سے جنم لینے والی دہشت گرد تنظیم
مشرقِ وسطیٰ کے بعد وسطی ایشیا اور جنوبی روس میں دہشت گردی پھیلا کر اِن خطوں کے ممالک کو
کرنے کا منصوبہ رکھتی ہے۔ یقیناًیہ ایک اہم مسئلہ ہے اور سوال یہ ہے کہ
اُن ہی ممالک کو کیوں اپنے نشانے پر رکھ رہی ہے جو کسی حوالے سے عالمی سرمایہ داری کے سرخیل امریکہ کے زیادہ کہنے میں نہیں۔ شنگھائی کوآپریشن میں شامل روس اور چین کے علاوہ قازقستان، کرغستان، تاجکستان اور ازبکستان رکن ممالک ہیں۔ اگر روسی صدرپیوٹن کے اس بیان کو اس تناظر میں دیکھا جائے تو وہ گمبھیر صورتِ حال سمجھ میں آتی ہے جس کی طرف انہوں نے آستانہ کانفرنس میں اشارہ کیا ہے۔ پاکستان جہاں ایک طرف ایسی ہی دہشت گردی کا شکار ملک ہے، وہیں پاکستان علاقے میں اقتصادی راہداریوں کے ذریعے اپنی حیثیت بھی منوا رہا ہے۔ چند ماہ قبل پاکستان میں روسی سفیر نے باقاعدہ پریس کانفرنس میں اس خواہش کا اظہار کیا تھا کہ پاکستان چین اقتصادی راہداری سے روسی فیڈریشن مستفید ہونے کی خواہش رکھتی ہے۔ بھارت اس صورتِ حال میں پیچیدگی کا شکار ہے۔ لیکن ان بدلتے ہوئے حالات میں وہ جہاں پاکستان کو تنہا کرنے میں ناکام رہا، وہاں وہ پاکستان چین راہداری منصوبے میں، جس میں روس بھی دلچسپی رکھتا ہے، اب روڑے اٹکانے کے بجائے فوائد حاصل کرنے کا خواہاں بھی ہے۔ لیکن بھارتی حکومت اس حقیقت کو حلق سے نگلنے میں بڑی تکلیف محسوس کررہی ہے۔

بہرطور شنگھائی کوآپریشن آرگنائزیشن میں بھارت اور پاکستان کی مکمل رکنیت کے بعد یہ تنظیم عالمی سطح پر ایک نئی اہمیت اختیار کرگئی ہے۔ جہاں اس میں چین اور روس جیسی اقتصادی اور عسکری طاقتیں شامل ہیں، وہیں پاکستان اور بھارت کی رکنیت نے اس تنظیم میں دنیا کی آدھی آبادی کو شامل کردیا ہے۔ اس تنظیم میں دنیا کی چار ایٹمی طاقتیں، چین، روس، پاکستان اور بھارت شامل ہیں۔ ایسے میں یہ ایک اقتصادی اور عالمی طاقت میں توازن میں فیصلہ کن کردار ادا کرنے والا علاقائی اتحاد بنتا چلا جا رہا ہے۔ شنگھائی کوآپریشن سرد جنگ کے خاتمے کے بعد جنم لینے والے اتحادوں میں ایک اتحاد ثابت ہونے جا رہا ہے۔ اس کی سب سے بڑی طاقت خطے کے دو اہم ممالک روس اور چین ہیں اور اس کے بعد پاکستان اور بھارت دوسرے اہم ممالک ہیں۔ اس اتحاد میں پاکستان کی مکمل رکنیت پاکستان کی ایک
Powerful State
ہونے کا ثبوت ہے۔ پاکستان دھیرے دھیرے جس طرح امریکی چنگل سے باہر آرہا ہے، اس نے پاکستان کی اہمیت کو مزید مضبوط کردیا ہے۔ اگر سفارتی حوالے سے دیکھا جائے تو پاکستان اس اتحاد کے اندر بھی ایک طاقت ور ملک کی حیثیت رکھتا ہے۔ چین کے ساتھ دوستی اور لاتعداد منصوبوں میں شمولیت اور خصوصاً اب پاک چین اقتصادی راہداری ، پاکستان کے‘ اس تنظیم کے اندر‘ ایک انتہائی اہم ملک ہونے کی دلیل ہے۔ روس، پاکستان کی اس اہمیت سے جس قدر آگاہ ہے، اس کا اندازہ گزشتہ چند برسوں میں دونوں ممالک کے مابین مضبوط ہوتے سفارتی تعلقات سے لگایا جا سکتا ہے۔

مضمون نگار معروف صحافی ‘ کالم نگار اور متعدد کتابوں کے مصنف ہیں۔

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Strategic Significance of Sea Trade Regime

Written By: Rear Admiral Pervaiz Asghar (R)

Sea trade has been universally recognized as the principal driver of the global economy. It was however in the Indian Ocean that coastal trade as well as trans-oceanic passages are believed to have originated. This ocean is also unique in the sense that its wide expanse is enclosed on three sides by land, while the southern perimeter is hemmed in by the forces of nature, and indeed during most of its history, ships rarely ventured beyond the Tropic of Capricorn. On closer inspection, one can discern a number of seas and channels on its periphery, which enabled early traders like the Greeks, Egyptians, Phoenicians, Arabs, Indians and even the Chinese to move freely around, and even beyond the ocean, spreading and assimilating cultural and religious influences.

The Chinese Admiral Zheng He was arguably the first outside power to venture into the Indian Ocean, with his massive fleet touching all the major ports from Malacca in the east to Zanzibar in the west during the seven different voyages that he undertook between 1405 and 1433. It was however, only when Vasco da Gama made his way round the Cape of Good Hope to reach Calicut in 1498 that the region was destined never to be the same again. The Portuguese were followed in quick succession by the Dutch, the English and the French and although their methods differed, the intent was the same: trade domination through mastery of the sea. What the colonial era managed to achieve, amongst other things, was the gradual replacement of traditional manufacturing hubs, traditional markets and traditional ports with new ones.

But as Britain was entrenching itself ever so firmly in the heart of the Indian Ocean, it could not have failed to appreciate the strategic and economic advantages that a direct trade route through the Red Sea and the Mediterranean would confer to the empire. The two seas had after all been historically linked for millennia till the eighth century Abbasid Caliph had it closed for supposedly tactical reasons.


stratgicsignmfacne.jpgA serious breakthrough in the construction of the canal however, occurred at the hands of a Frenchman in 1858 when Ferdinand de Lesseps, a diplomat as well as an engineer, used both his skills to convince the Egyptian Viceroy, Sa'id Pasha, of the necessity of the project. Construction officially began on April 25, 1859 and when the canal finally opened for traffic around ten years later, it had an immediate and significant impact on world trade.

After assuming full control of the canal in 1962 by buying off the Anglo-French owners, Egypt set up the Suez Canal Authority to regulate its working. Apart from income generation through transit fee, the canal also furnishes livelihood to a number of people, employed both within and outside. From a single sleepy settlement of around 4000 inhabitants when the canal’s construction began, a large number of industries have crept up all along the western flank of the canal, as well as the ports of Said and Suez at either end.

Though the canal is a cash cow for a cash-strapped nation, its working is still plagued by delays and systemic inefficiency. All those who have traversed the waterway would know that each vessel has to stop four times during the 18 hour passage, once at the Port Said outer anchorage, then at Port Said mooring, then at the Great Bitter Lakes anchorage and yet again at Port Suez. Apart from the canal transit fee, each ship owner has to embark and pay for four separate pilots, one at each stop, as well as for a couple of electricians who do nothing but sleep (for if you don’t, the ship’s movement is held up on the pretext of not having the specified lighting arrangements on board). In addition, each pilot unfailingly asks for some gift, even if it is only a pack of cigarettes.

As construction work on the Suez Canal was winding down, the same French entrepreneur, Ferdinand de Lesseps got Colombia, then the parent state of Panama, interested in a canal designed to furnish a much shorter trade route between the Pacific and Atlantic oceans, compared to the 8000 mile longer journey around the southern tip of South America – Cape Horn. But the construction which began in 1881 finally culminated in 1914, with the United States ultimately transferring its management to Panama in 1999. In case you are wondering what the Panama Canal has to do with a discussion on Indian Ocean trade, I’ll revert to that later.

This canal in due course gave rise to a new term, Panamax, which essentially refers to the largest carrying capacity of a ship that can safely transit the canal, 55000 dwt for tankers and upto 3999 TEUs for container ships. Those ships which could carry more than 4000 TEUs came to be referred to as post-Panamax. As ship payloads kept increasing, touching 20,000 TEUs by now, vessels beyond a carrying capacity of 8000 TEUs came to be known as neo-Panamaxes.

The importance of these two canals to the health of the international maritime community and indeed to the global economy did not go unrecognized. The 1888 Constantinople Convention (which Britain was reluctant to sign till 1904) required the Suez Canal to be kept open to ships of all nations in both peace and war, but could not prevent its prolonged closure following the 1967 Arab-Israel war. Similarly, the U.S.-Panama Treaty of 1977 confirmed the status of the Panama Canal as a neutral international waterway where every vessel is guaranteed safe passage at all times.

As ship sizes were seen to be continuously increasing, the Panama Canal Authority (ACP) launched an ambitious $5.4 billion expansion plan in 2007 aimed at garnering a greater share of shipping. Though the ACP was expecting a windfall from this endeavour, with ship-handling capacity having been enhanced from 5000 TEUs to 14000, in actuality it has made little difference thus far. Preliminary assessments show that while the average ship size has risen from 4600 to 6400 TEUs, the number of vessels transiting the canal has correspondingly decreased. Overall, since its completion in June 2016, ship transits are running well below the canal’s current capacity, with less than a third of the available slots being taken. The new lock chambers now allow for an estimated 79% of all cargo carrying vessels to transit the canal, up from 45%.

Strange as it may seem, the two canals, Suez and Panama, although half a world apart, figuratively speaking, are also in competition for that significant chunk of shipping traffic that takes place between the South China Sea region and Western Europe or even the U.S. East coast. In addition, with low bunker prices favouring the use of the longer route round the southern tip of Africa by larger ships, the Suez Canal was faced with another unlikely rival. General Sisi, on taking over the reins of a financially distressed nation, made the canal’s upgrade his topmost priority in a bid to enhance revenue generation. After all, he had history on his side: the number of ships using the canal had risen sharply from 486 transits in 1870 (the first full year of operation) to 17,148 in 2014, with the net tonnage also registering an increase from 444,000 MT to 963 million MT during the same period. Net revenue for the year 2014 was touching $5.5 billion. An ambitious $9 billion upgrade was thus launched with the objective of not only permitting larger ships to transit but also to reduce wait times by allowing both Northbound and Southbound ships to pass simultaneously. This project, completed on August 6, 2015, added nearly 30 km of side channels to its original length of 164 km. The high expectations which the Suez Canal Authority had (the traffic doubling and revenue tripling over next 8 years) doesn’t seem likely to materialize, with revenue generation during 2016 not much different from 2014. The Suez Canal has, in one respect at least, been out-manoeuvred by the Panama Canal: the latter has succeeded in garnering a greater share of the container traffic between the United States and East Asia, raising it from 48% to 57% at present.

The third major waterway, much more natural and far more busier than the two afore-mentioned canals is the Malacca Straits straddling the Malaysian peninsula and the largest Indonesian island of Sumatra. Its importance as the major and most convenient gateway linking the Indian Ocean with the outside world has not faded over the ages. This is the strait that has propelled the rise of Singapore as the greatest port city in the Indian Ocean.

The delicate balancing act between the world’s three major waterways, the Suez Canal, the Panama Canal and the Malacca Straits may face some turbulence in the years ahead if Chinese plans to generate alternate and competing routes to the latter two materialize. Flushed with money, technology and wherewithal, China’s ambitions are unfolding. As part of its maritime Silk Road, which criss-crosses the world’s oceans, China is contemplating a canal across the Kra Isthmus in Thailand which would skirt the congested and pirate-infested Malacca Straits. The $50 billion plan envisages a 30 mile long canal linking the Andaman Sea direct to the South China Sea through southern Thailand, with ports and industrial zones at either end. Apart from the two countries involved, the proposed canal would be extremely beneficial to Indo-China especially Vietnam which is constructing a new Deepwater Port, Hon Khoai, with U.S. help, directly opposite the mouth of the Said Canal. China would however be the major beneficiary, as apart from having upto 4 days of transit time to Chinese ports, the Kra Canal would reduce the vulnerability of Chinese ships transiting the Malacca Straits, aptly termed as the ‘Malacca Dilemma’. Though the Thai government is yet to take a decision in the matter with local politics in play, it is surmised that the opportunity of becoming a regional maritime center, with direct benefits to its impoverished southern region, will be too tempting to pass up. Singapore is obviously not thrilled at all as its entire economy revolves around shipping passing through the Malacca Straits.

The other major project being eyed is a 278 km long canal through Nicaragua as a direct rival to the Panama Canal. Envisaged to be over 3 times the length of the 100 year old Panama Canal, it is expected to be much deeper and wider than the latter, enabling the largest ships to pass through. The United States, which is understandably not pleased at the prospect, has tried to cast doubt on its viability, but there are far more serious concerns about its environmental impact, particularly as it transits through Lake Nicaragua, the largest source of freshwater in Central America. Though Nicaragua appears keen on its implementation, the $50 billion Interoceanic Grand Canal project, as it is known, would not automatically translate into economic prosperity for the impoverished region for the next 50 years at least, much like the Panama Canal.

The Government of China, possibly because of U.S. resentment, is maintaining a safe distance from the project, with a Chinese company, Hong Kong Nicaraguan Development Investment (HKND), led by a flamboyant Chinese billionaire, hogging the limelight. The Nicaraguan government approved the route in July 2014, but despite the construction work having officially begun later that year, there is not much to show for it yet on ground. If and when completed, the new canal is envisaged to attract around 5% of global trade, approximately the same as Panama Canal is drawing these days.

With all this talk and action on the canal fronts, Turkey did not want to be left behind. After all, the Bosphorus Strait controls all the traffic, including warships, to and from the Black Sea. Traffic in the Bosphorus has risen sharply in recent years, owing to increased oil production in the Caspian Sea fields, which is mostly being shipped through the Black Sea. The new 45 km long Istanbul Canal running parallel to the Bosphorus, announced in 2011, is controversial owing again to environmental concerns, but the Turkish President has recently vowed to get the job done. Turkey feels that the requirement of an alternate route is inescapable as the Bosphorus is incapable of handling more than 150 million tonnes of oil annually, and that limit has already been reached. A cost estimate of $10 billion is being floated, though outside experts claim that its construction may well be 4 to 5 times this figure. Its financial viability may thus well depend on which figure is closer to reality.

On the home front, the China Pakistan Economic Corridor, once complete, has the power to transform the Indian Ocean sea trading regime. For one thing, it will propel the rise of China’s impoverished western region into a Special Economic Zone. Though this vast region shares a border with as many as eight countries, the route passing through the entire length of Pakistani territory to the port of Gwadar would furnish it with the most convenient linkage to international shipping lanes and international markets.

So much for shortened trade routes. The next arena where opportunity presented itself was in the field of shipping which rose steadily in the decades following the Second World War. This was the era when most nations still licking their wounds were embarking on the rocky road to recovery, with ships carrying raw materials and manufactured goods serving as the workhorses. Cheap oil from the Middle East, which acted as the catalyst for growth, was most in demand. Until 1956 when war over the Suez Canal resulted in its closure, all tankers conformed to the size restriction imposed by the canal. This crisis, during which tankers had to perforce use the longer route around the Cape of Good Hope, generated a new opportunity, an opportunity that gave birth to the era of the supertankers. So from 47,500 dwt in 1955, the world’s largest individual tankers ballooned in size to 564,763 dwt in 1979. As the new-build order book for huge supertankers kept increasing, fate again intervened in the form of the first oil crisis of 1973, sparked by the Arab-Israeli conflict, which caused oil prices to quadruple overnight. Apart from engineering a drastic slowdown of the booming global economy, it also resulted in a downward spiral of the overall fleet capacity from a peak of 350 million dwt prior to stabilizing in 1987 at 250 million dwt. Much has however admittedly changed in the oil trading patterns over the past four decades, with bulk of the Mid-east oil now making its way eastwards.

The steadily increasing global oil requirements led to the growth of dedicated oil export terminals, the offshore ones becoming capable of handling the biggest supertankers. The Ras Tanurah complex of Saudi Arabia is still counted amongst the largest of such terminals, with the Ras Juaymah facility a distant second. Its closest rival, Iran’s Kharg Island terminal, had made an impressive start in the early fifties by establishing a linkage through a submarine cable with a major mainland oilfield. Located 16 miles off the coast of Iran, the port was incessantly bombed by the Iraqi Air Force during the Iran-Iraq war, which succeeded in reducing it to rubble by the fall of 1986. The Port has again risen from the ashes, though the process has been painfully slow owing to the sanctions the country has been perpetually burdened with.

Worries about a possible closure of the Strait of Hormuz led Saudi Arabia to construct a 745 mile East-West pipeline from Abqaiq, whose huge processing complex handles about two-thirds the country’s oil output, to Yanbu on the Red Sea. Such concerns became more real during the U.S.-Iran nuclear standoff which not only helped propel oil prices to a record $147 per barrel in 2008, but also prompted a tangible response from other regional oil producers. Billions of dollars in investment has converted Fujairah from a sleepy sheikhdom into a global energy transshipment hub, with enough capacity to store up to two-thirds of daily global demand (60 million barrels of crude) and more being planned during next two years to rival Singapore. The largest supertankers or VLCCs as they are called can now be seen making a beeline for this port. This has been achieved by linking the UAEs biggest oil fields with a 240 mile long and 48 inch wide pipeline to its only seaport east of Hormuz.

The next great opportunity arose out of what can be termed as an earth-shattering development in the mechanics of global sea trade. From a humble beginning of just 58 containers being carried in a vessel converted for the purpose way back in 1956, containerization has now become the new all-pervasive norm. It can be said to be the unheralded harbinger of globalization, as without its anti-theft, pro-efficiency and cost-effectiveness features, transoceanic shipping may well have remained a mirage.

As the concept took hold in the Indian Ocean region also, terminals dedicated to handling container trade sprang up, as they were bound to, in all the major regional ports. Globally, the share of countries with container ports rose from about 1% in 1966 to nearly 90% by 1983. Pakistan was a bit slow in appreciating this phenomenon as its first container terminal only commenced operations in 1998.

As ship sizes, measured in Twenty-foot Equivalent Units, kept increasing to achieve economy of scale, the larger ships commenced liner services, touching only a few well-located ports, with feeder services transporting the off-loaded containers to their ultimate destinations. Ports in the Indian Ocean best placed to capitalize on this trend were Aden, Colombo and Singapore. By the 1990s Singapore had gone on to become both the busiest port in terms of shipping tonnage as well as the largest transshipment hub. Colombo, though plagued by an unmanageable insurgency in the 1980s, which lasted for nearly three decades, still managed to hold itself as the largest and busiest port in South Asia. Despite being gifted with an ideal location and a natural harbour, Aden had to struggle to retain its position as terrorism and turmoil both took their toll. Salalah in Oman, which was a sleepy fishing and bunkering port in the 1990s, suddenly surged ahead to fill the void created by Aden’s volatile environment, particularly after the USS Cole bombing of 2002, and become a major regional transshipment hub catering to the East African region as well as the eastern coast of the Arabian peninsula.

Dubai’s Jebel Ali, constructed in 1979, did not take long to establish its credentials as the busiest and best-equipped port in the Middle-East, and was amongst the foremost in the region to attract containerized traffic. The U.S.-Iran nuclear standoff at the beginning of the current century, which stoked fears of a possible blockage of the Straits of Hormuz, led to the emergence of such transshipment hubs as Sohar in Oman and Sharjah’s Khor Fakkan, both located outside the Gulf. Khor Fakkan in particular has established itself in a short period of time as the best transshipment port in the region.

From what has been recounted so far, it can easily be gauged that in every crisis lies an opportunity, particularly for those discerning enough to take the plunge, and that every opportunity needs to be seized at the right moment. Risk taking works both ways and the sensible thing to do is to always have a Plan B ready to forestall possible disaster. Every crisis brings turbulence in its wake and the only maritime entities able to weather such storms are the ones who distinguish themselves by virtue of their efficiency, their recourse to best management practices and above all, by their ability to monitor and predict global trends likely to leave an impact on the maritime industry.


The writer is a retired Rear Admiral of Pakistan Navy and a Maritime Researcher. He has served as the Director General of the National Centre for Maritime Policy Research at Bahria University, Karachi.

مقبوضہ کشمیر میں سوشل میڈیا پر پابندی۔۔۔کب تک؟

Published in Hilal Urdu July 2017

تحریر: صائمہ جبار

قائداعظم محمدعلی جناحؒ نے کشمیر کوپاکستان کی شہ رگ قرار دیا تھا۔ظاہر ہے شہ رگ کے بغیر کوئی شخص زندہ نہیں رہ سکتا۔یہی وجہ ہے کہ پاکستانیوں کے دل اپنے کشمیری بہن بھائیوں کے ساتھ دھڑکتے ہیں۔ وہ ظلم و ستم کا شکار ہوں تو یہ کیسے ممکن ہے کہ یہاں کے شہری پُرسکون رہ سکیں۔ گویا ان کی بے قراری ایک فطری امر ہے۔

مقبوضہ کشمیر میں بھارتی فوج کی ظلم و بربریت انتہا پر ہے ۔ ضلع بڈگام میں لوگوں کے پتھراؤ سے بچنے کے لئے ایک نوجوان کو فوجی جیپ کے آگے باندھ دیا گیا۔سوشل میڈیا کے ذریعے وائرل ہونے والی اس ویڈیونے دنیا کو بھارتی بربریت کی صحیح تصویر دکھا ئی تو بھارت چکرا کر رہ گیا اوردنیا کی سب سے بڑی جمہوریت ہو نے کا دعویٰ کرنے والے بھارت نے26 اپریل 2017 کوکشمیر میں انٹر نیٹ مہیا کرنے والی تمام کمپنیوں کو فیس بک، ٹوئٹر اور واٹس ایپ جیسی تمام سوشل میڈیا ویب سائٹس عارضی طور پر بند کرنے کے احکامات جاری کر دیئے۔ گزشتہ پانچ برس میں بھارت 30 سے زائد کشمیریوں کا انٹر نیٹ بند کر چکا ہے۔جبکہ گزشتہ برس کشمیری کمانڈر برہان وانی کی شہادت کے بعد تو انٹرنیٹ بلیک آوٹ چھ ماہ تک جاری رہا۔برہان وانی کی شہرت بھی سوشل میڈیا سے ہی پھیلی تھی۔
یاد رہے کہ بھارتی حکومت نے مقبوضہ کشمیر میں اسرائیلی طرز پر کشمیری پنڈتوں کی علیٰحدہ بستیاں قائم کرنے کا منصوبہ بھی بنا رکھا ہے۔ اور برہان وانی نے اپنی سوشل میڈیا پر پوسٹ کئے جانے والے ویڈیو پیغامات میں بھارت کے اس منصوبے کو بے نقاب کیا تھا۔ نوجوان کشمیری اپنی جان کو خطرے میں ڈال کر مظاہروں کی ویڈیو بناتے ہیں اور انٹرنیٹ پر اپ لوڈ کرتے ہیں۔مقبوضہ کشمیر میں بھارتی حکام نے اس کا جواز یہ دیا ہے کہ سماج دشمن عناصر سوشل میڈیا کو قومی مفاد کے خلاف استعمال کر رہے ہیں۔

Software Freedom Law Centre
کی رپورٹ کے مطابق 2012 سے 2016 تک 31 سے زائد مرتبہ انٹرنیٹ کو کشمیر میں بلاک کیا گیا ہے ۔ تاہم اب پہلی مرتبہ ایسا ہوا ہے کہ سوشل میڈیا نیٹ ورکنگ سائٹس پر مکمل پابندی لگائی گئی ہے۔مقبوضہ کشمیر میں تقریباً آٹھ لاکھ فوجی تعینات ہیں جو دنیا میں اس وقت سب سے زیادہ فوجی موجودگی والا علاقہ بن چکا ہے۔ نیو یارک میں قائم کمیٹی’’ ٹو پروٹیکٹ جرنلسٹ ‘‘نے بھارت سے مطالبہ کیا ہے کہ جموں و کشمیر میں سوشل میڈیا پر عائد پابندی اٹھائی جائے۔رپورٹرز ودآؤٹ بارڈر کی عالمی تنظیم نے بھی کشمیر میں سوشل میڈیا بین پر تشویش کا اظہار کیا ہے،اور بھارت کو فوری طور پر یہ بین ختم کرنے کا کہا ہے۔

آج کے دور میں سوشل میڈیا کی اہمیت سے انکار کرنا نا ممکن ہے۔ مقبوضہ کشمیر میں نوجوان نسل کی تعداد بہت زیادہ ہے۔ اور وہ سوشل میڈیا کا استعمال کر کے دنیا کو بھارت کا اصل چہرہ دکھا رہے ہیں۔ پیلٹ گن فائرنگ سے متاثر افراد کی تصاویر شاید ہم تک کبھی نہ پہنچتیں کیونکہ روایتی میڈیا پر تو پہلے سے پابندیاں تھیں۔ یہ تو سوشل میڈیا ہی تھا کہ جس کے ذریعے دنیا تک وہ تصاویر پہنچیں جو کہ بھارتی غنڈا گردی کا منہ بولتا ثبوت ہیں۔کشمیری نوجوان نہ صرف سوشل میڈیا پر اپنے غصے کا اظہار کرتے ہیں بلکہ احتجاج کی کال دینے کے لئے بھی اس کا استعمال کرتے رہے ہیں۔لوکل انتظامیہ اس بات سے خوفزدہ ہو کر سوشل میڈیا سایٹس پر پابندی لگا رہی ہے۔ٹویٹر،فیس بک اور واٹس ایپ وغیرہ کو بند کیا جا چکا ہے۔

لیکن ہمت ہے ان کشمیری نوجوانوں کی جنہوں نے ہار نہ ماننے کی قسم اٹھا رکھی ہے۔انیس سالہ طالب علم عزیر جان نے کشمیریوں کے رابطے کے لئے فیس بک کا ایک لوکل ورژن بنا ڈالا۔جس کا نام کیش بک ہے۔کچھ ہی روز میں اس سائٹ پر سات سے آٹھ ہزار لوگوں نے اپنے آپ کو رجسٹر ڈکیا ہے اور روز بروز ان میں اضافہ ہو رہا ہے۔عزیر جان کے مطابق یہ سائٹ بنانے کی وجہ یہ ہے کہ جب باقی تمام سوشل نیٹ ورکس کو بند کر دیا گیا ہے تو کشمیری آپس میں کیسے رابطے کریں گے۔ یہ سائٹ ان کو یہی سہولت دے گی۔بیانیے کی یہ جنگ اب سوشل میڈیا پر بھی پھیل چکی ہے۔

آج کشمیر پہلے سے زیادہ بھارت کے خلاف ہے۔کشمیریوں نے ہتھیار ڈالنے سے انکار کر دیا ہے اورکشمیر میں حقِ خود ارادیت کا مطالبہ زور پکڑتا جا رہا ہے۔ یہ مطالبہ 1947 سے چلا آ رہا ہے۔
مسئلہ کشمیر اقوام متحدہ کا قدیم ترین بین الاقوامی حل طلب مسئلہ ہے۔بھارت پاکستان میں پہلی جنگ اسی مسئلے پر ہوئی۔بھارت اس مسئلے کو اقوامِ متحدہ میں یکم جنوری 1948میں لے کر گیا۔کشمیر میں بھارت اور پاکستان کے فوجی تعینات ہو گئے تھے۔اقوامِ متحدہ سکیورٹی کونسل کی قرارداد میں کہا گیا کہ کشمیر بھارت کے ساتھ الحاق کرے گا یا پاکستان کے ساتھ اس کا فیصلہ ایک جمہوری طریقے سے حقِ خود ارادیت کے تحت کیا جائے گا۔بعد میں 3 اگست 1948 اور 5 جنوری 1949 کو اس قرارداد پر پھر سے زور دیا گیا۔

اب تک کشمیرمیں بھارتی فوج کے مظالم کا سلسلہ جاری ہے۔ انسانی حقوق کی تنظیموں کے مطابق اب تک ایک لاکھ کے قریب لوگ شہید ہو چکے ہیں۔ پیلٹ فائرنگ کا نیا ہتھیار بھارتی فوج کے ہاتھ آ گیا ہے جس سے ہزاروں لوگوں کی بینائی جا چکی ہے۔ خواتین کی عصمت دری ، ماؤں کے سامنے جوان بیٹوں کا قتل بھارتی فوج کے لئے ایک عام سی بات ہے۔بھارتی افواج نے انسانی حقوق کی پامالی کا ریکارڈ کشمیر میں قائم کیا ہے۔

پاکستان کے ساتھ کشمیریوں کی محبت کا سلسلہ بہت پرانا اور تاریخی ہے۔ کشمیری شہدا کو پاکستانی جھنڈے میں دفنایا جاتا ہے۔ جنازوں میں پاکستان زندہ باد اور ہم لے کے رہیں گے آ زادی کے نعرے گونجتے رہتے ہیں۔
قدرتی حسن سے مالا مال وادی جموں وکشمیر انیسویں صدی میں مشہور سیاحتی مقام ہوا کرتی تھی۔ اس کا موسم اور دلکش مناظر سیاحوں کی نگاہ کا مرکز ہوا کرتے تھے۔ لیکن اس حسین وادی کو ایسی نظر لگی کہ یہاں امن و امان ناپید ہو گیا۔ ایسا لگتا ہے کہ وادی کسی دیو کے تسلط میں ہے جس کی آزادی کے لئے وہاں کے مقیم اپنے خون کا نذرانہ دے رہے ہیں۔

ضرورت اس امر کی ہے کہ دنیا بھارت کی ان سفاکانہ اور ظالمانہ کارروائیوں کا نوٹس لے تا کہ کشمیر کو فلسطین بننے سے روکا جا سکے۔پاکستان کی طرف سے ہمیشہ مسئلہ کشمیر پر بات چیت کو خوش آمدید کہا گیا ہے لیکن بھارت کسی صورت اس مسئلے پر کسی تیسرے فریق کی ثالثی ماننے پر تیار نہیں ہوتا۔

بہرکیف جدید ٹیکنالوجی کے اس دور میں بھارت کے لئے ناممکن ہو گیا ہے کہ وہ اپنے مظالم کو دنیا سے چھپائے رکھے۔ لہٰذا بھارت جس قدر بھی کوشش کرلے‘ ظلم و ستم کا بازار گرم کرے یا پھر سوشل میڈیا پر پابندیاں لگائے ۔ اب یہ بات طے ہے کہ جلد یا بابدیر بھارت کو کشمیریوں کے حقِ خود ارادیت کو تسلیم کرنا ہی پڑے گا اور کشمیریوں کو بھارت سے نجات مل کر رہے گی۔

مضمون نگار نجی ٹی وی چینل سے منسلک ہیں۔

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