09
January
January 2018(EDITION 01, Volume 55)
 
Written By: Maria Khalid
The year 2017 saw Pakistan’s continuing efforts for internal, regional and global peace through successfully combating the forces of terrorism and extremism. Operation Sherdil, Rah-e-Raast, Rah-e-Nijat, Khyber IV, Zarb-e-Azb, Radd-ul-Fasaad and many ....Read full article
 
Written By: Amir Zia
Out of this much touted figure of USD 33 billion, which Mr. Trump claims that the U.S. gave to Pakistan, USD 14.6 billion were on account of the Coalition Support Fund (CSF). The.....Read full article
 
Written By: AVM Shahzad Aslam Chaudhry (R)
2017 was a mixed year. Pakistan failed to climb out of its difficulties and created some more. The positives were few and far between. If the economy signaled some hope it soon got dashed when the chimera of development was seen to be based on massive borrowings.....Read full article
 
Written By: Ambassador Zamir Akram (R)
On the issue of Taliban safe havens in Pakistan which has strongly been denied, the logical answer would be to effectively monitor the Pakistan-Afghan International Border and deny Taliban the use of Afghan....Read full article
 
Written By: Dr. Zafar Nawaz Jaspal
The Trump administration released new “National Security Strategy of the United States of America” on December 18, 2017. It provides an important window into the thinking of Trump administration’s means, ways and ends. It underlines ....Read full article
 
Written By: Dr. Kamal Monnoo
World economy faced uncertainties and pessimism in 2017 over a series of “black swan” moments like Brexit and Donald Trump’s election in 2016 on a protectionist agenda. Mr. Trump’s recent move of pulling USA out of the .....Read full article
 
Written By: Hussain H. Zaidi
The South Asian portion of the NSS is thus a continuation of Trump’s Afghan strategy announced in August 2017, which at that time represented a flip-flop on his previous opposition to America’s costly involvement in foreign wars.....Read full article
 
Written By: Nadeem F. Paracha
In India the theory which became the basis of partition of India in 1947 (the Two-Nation Theory), is repeatedly castigated for being communal. The theory explained that the Muslims and Hindus of India were distinct communities who needed their own geographical......Read full article
 
Written By: M. Tahir Mushtaq
Recently, an article in Outlook India with headlines “Noida to Islamabad” has created lot of positive sound in the digital world regarding Pakistan’s emerging potential in the field of information technology. This article suggested with evidence that.....Read full article
 
Written By: Prof. Dr. Riaz Ahmed
His Highness Sir Sultan Muhammed Shah, Aga Khan III GCSI GCMG GCIE GCVO PC was the 48th Imam of Ismaili Shia Muslims. He was the first President of the All-India Muslim League. He was born in Karachi on November 2, 1877, but passed away in Versoix, Switzerland.....Read full article
 
Written By: Wing Commander Bahroni
On December 2, 2017, a grand ceremony was held at PAF Base Nur Khan to celebrate the 75th anniversary of No. 6 Air Transport Support Squadron. Air Chief Marshal Sohail Aman NI(M), Chief of the Air Staff, Pakistan Air Force, who was the chief guest....Read full article
 
Special Report: Hilal Desk
The seminar, Human Resource Development for the Youth of Balochistan – Opportunities and Challenges, was held in Quetta on December 7, 2017. Renowned speakers from academia, civil society, media and political sphere addressed a large number of audience including youth....Read full article
 
Report By: Major Badar
A remarkable Medal Parade Ceremony was hosted by PEC-9 at El-Geneina on November 20-21, 2017 incorporating participants of PFH-9. The event was a blend of fine display of military drill and cultural shows depicting and enhancing progressive, strong but soft image of Pakistan in a multinational.....Read full article
 
Written By: Ali Shehzad
I had just returned to my dormitory after attending an exhibition held by the different clubs in my university. Had I not been exhausted from the guitar I played alongside my crew, I would have loved to spend the whole day over there. It was a jolly good day filled with memories.....Read full article
 
Written By: Dr. Gulfaraz Ahmed
I read with envy that the most beneficial investment is when done on one’s own professional capacity and enriching experiences of new places, sights, cultures, explorations, discoveries and adventures etc. I took this pearl of wisdom internally and analyzed my own state of mind.....Read full article
 
Written By: Muhammad Azam Khan
Back in 2014, a UK based seafarer organization undertook a maritime awareness survey on sea commerce. This organization has continued to advance welfare interests of local seafarer community and alongside raised maritime awareness for over 90 years. The survey was instructive and it found.....Read full article
 
Written By: Omair Alavi
2017 was not a kind year to the Pakistani film industry – not only did the number of releases was less than last year, the quality of most of the films was bad as well. Only a couple of films – Punjab Nahi Jaungi and Na Maloom Afraad 2 turned out .....Read full article
 
Written By: Tahir Mehmood
That tall brown-skinned man was sitting on a mountain top. Lost in deep thoughts his eyes were fixed on the city below where millions lived on the bosom-land of their ancestors. An all-time wanderer, that man once began his journey in search of truth, beauty and ‘life’ itself.....Read full article
 
His Excellency Mr. S. Babur Girgin, Ambassador of Turkey, made a farewell call on General Zubair Mahmood Hayat, Chairman Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee at Joint Staff Headquarters, Rawalpindi on December 4, 2017. The Chairman JCSC thanked the ambassador for his valuable contributions.....Read full article
 
Chief of Army Staff (COAS) General Qamar Javed Bajwa visited Bahawalpur on December 20, 2017, to witness winter collective training exercise of mechanised formation. Commander Bahawalpur Corps Lieutenant General Sher Afgun briefed COAS about training of the corps for assigned operational tasks.....Read full article
 
Chief of Army Staff (COAS) General Qamar Javed Bajwa joined the Christian community at Christ Church, Rawalpindi to take part in Christmas celebrations. The congregation welcomed COAS and thanked him for sharing the festivity. COAS wished Merry Christmas to the entire Christian community.....Read full article

 
Chief of Army Staff (COAS) General Qamar Javed Bajwa visited Army Marksmanship Firing Ranges near Jhelum on December 16, 2017. He was the chief guest at the closing ceremony of 37th.........Read full article
 
On December 5, 2017, a delegation comprising members of Standing Committee on Defence from both houses of the Parliament visited Chakothi and Nezapir sectors on Line of Control (LOC). The delegation was briefed about situation along the LOC, Cease Fire Violations ......Read full article
 
23rd meeting of the National Command Authority (NCA) was held under the chairmanship of Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi on December 21, 2017. The meeting was attended by the Federal Ministers of Defence and Interior, Chairman JSC, Chief of Army Staff, Chief of Naval Staff, Chief of Air......Read full article
 
The inauguration ceremony of Shooter Squadron was held at PAF Base M.M. Alam (Mianwali) on December 11, 2017. Air Chief Marshal Sohail Aman, Chief of the Air Staff, Pakistan Air.....Read full article
 
Chief of the Naval Staff Admiral Zafar Mahmood Abbasi has recently visited Turkey and met with Turkish higher echelons including Minister of National Defence of Turkey, Commander Turkish General Staff and Commander Turkish Naval Forces......Read full article
 
Commander Royal Navy of Oman, Rear Admiral Abdullah Bin Khamis Bin Abdullah Al Raisi visited Naval Headquarters Islamabad and called on Chief of the Naval Staff, Admiral Zafar Mahmood....Read full article
 
Pakistan Navy Ship Saif (FFG-253) participated in 5th PN-PLA(N) Bilateral Exercise held at Shanghai, China. Upon arrival, the ship was received at sea by Chinese Navy (PLA (N)) Frigate Jingzhou off port Wusong, Shanghai.......Read full article
 
Pak-Saudi Special Forces joint counter-terrorism exercise ‘Al-Shehab-2’ took place at Prince Naif Security City, Riyadh. The two weeks long exercise started on November 25 and continued till December 10. “Al-Shehab 1” was held last year....Read full article
 
Commander Karachi Corps Lieutenant General Shahid Baig Mirza visited Exercise Area Kotri. He witnessed the Bridge Crossing Exercise by the armour elements and was briefed about the modern technical equipment and engineering machinery being used by Pakistan Army’s Corps of Engineers. Corps.....Read full article
 
Pakistan Army cricket team toured Australia to play a bilateral cricket series against their counterpart and other services teams. Though primary objective of the tour was to further cement good relations between the two armies, which remained a focus for all team members....Read full article
 
 
 
09
January

Written By: Omair Alavi

2017 was not a kind year to the Pakistani film industry – not only did the number of releases was less than last year, the quality of most of the films was bad as well. Only a couple of films – Punjab Nahi Jaungi and Na Maloom Afraad 2 turned out to be blockbusters with the former managing to cross Rs. 50 crores worldwide, a first for a Pakistani film. Na Maloom Afraad 2 managed to do better business than the original while Mehrunisa V Lub U won the race of Eid-ul-Fitr as it managed to recover its investment. Yalghaar’s business profit did not stir the market despite all other powerful ingredients.


The coming year seems to have a lot of films lined up for release but will they perform better than last year or will they falter at the box office that remains to be seen. Let’s analyze the films released in 2017 and then move on to the releases due in next 12 months and come up with an analysis that gives us the clear picture regarding the direction of our film industry. In short, 2018 will determine whether the industry is moving upwards or going down. Read on:

 

theyearthatwas.jpg2017 started on a sad note with Rafay Rashdi’s Thora Jee Le that seemed more like a student film than a commercial film; it was followed by Haisam Hussain’s much-awaited Balu Mahi that launched Osman Khalid Butt in films as well as Sadaf Kanwal and was the comeback flick of Ainy Jaffri. The film proved to be the plagiarized version of Bollywood flicks Jab We Met and Dil Bolay Hadippa and the audience rejected it despite its excellent soundtrack. Then came a couple of highly forgettable films namely Whistle and Raasta that couldn’t even last one week in the cinemas.


While Whistle was a failure with new cast and team, Raasta featured Sahir Lodhi as the actor, director, producer and even the scriptwriter, alongside Abeer Rizvi, Sana Fakhr and Aijazz Aslam as co-stars. The film’s dismal run at the box office prompted the actor to bash the critics, an act that was followed by Yasir Nawaz, Syed Noor, and Shaan Shahid who considered their below average films as a gift to the audience, one they didn’t ask for.


The second quarter brought as many as three films to cinemas – Chalay Thay Saath that was brilliantly shot but with a weak storyline; Yalghaar that was based on a real-life war between the Armed Forces and terrorists and Mehrunisa V Lub U that managed to recover its investment despite some critics blasting it for its vulgar and double-meaning dialogues. The month of August then saw two Pakistani films being released on the same date – Geo Sar Utha Kay and Chain Aye Na. One was produced by Shafqat Cheema and glorified the Police Force in Lollywood style while the other was Syed Noor’s comeback film featuring Shehroz Sabzwari and Sarish Khan. The film reminded the audience of Shah Ji’s classic cinema from the 90s and that’s the main reason why it didn’t look like a modern film, faltering at the box office.


Then came that time of the year when either Nabeel Qureshi or Nadeem Baig or both deliver their much-awaited hits to the audience. What’s surprising is that the two know what the cinegoers want and deliver exactly that in an era when the others are as clueless about their film’s fate as the audience. Nadeem Baig’s Punjab Nahi Jaungi not only broke all records domestically and internationally but also helped Humayun Saeed and Mehwish Hayat to reach the top position. The film had an excellent soundtrack as well as dialogues such as “Help Me Durdana”, making it a modern-day classic. Fizza Ali Meerza and Nabeel Qureshi’s Na Maloom Afraad 2 got banned in the Gulf States because the heist in the film revolved around a Sheikh who speaks Arabic that is incorrect and illogical. Despite the ban, the film did well at the box office and managed to finish second in the year’s lineup.


The successful September ended with the release of Saawan, Pakistan’s official entry to the Academy Awards and one of the better films of the year. However, due to its non-commercial value, it couldn’t fare well at the box office. Then came the biggest shock of the year – Shoaib Mansoor’s Verna ¬– which failed to impress the audience due to its bizarre story and execution. Mahira Khan’s acting was the saving grace but with bad story and direction, it was doomed from the moment it was released. The film benefited from its pre-release hype since it was supposedly banned by Censor Board although they claim that it was done on moral grounds.


The last month of the year brought as many as 3 films to the cinema screens – Aamir Mohiuddin’s Rangreza and Shaan Shahid’s Arth which failed to attract the audience because of their weak story, misguided direction and inability to appeal to the cine-goers. However, it all changed with Chupan Chupai that was released just three days before the New Year. Ahsan Khan’s comeback film connected with the youth who came to watch their favourite actor as well as Neelam Munir, Faizan Khawaja and Adnan Jaffer on the big screen. With the film set to do well, we can say that the year ended on a better note than it started on.


Come 2018 and we have loads of films lined up for the year – the year kicked off with Parchi that has been doing well in the cinemas, breaking the ‘first film of the year’ jinx. Next in line is Maan Jao Na that features Adeel Chaudhry and Elnaaz Norouzi in the lead, while Hajra Yamin and Ayaz Samoo will feature in supporting roles. Allah Yar and the Legend of Markhor is all slated for a February release followed by Pakistan Super League that will keep the audience entertained till the end of March. Asim Abbasi’s directorial debut Cake will then be released in the last week of March and the wonderful teaser has made people mark their calendars for this Sanam Saeed-Aminah Sheikh starrer.


The second quarter of the year is likely to see the clash of Jawed Sheikh’s Wujood, Ahsan Rahim’s Teefa in Trouble and Meenu – Farjad’s Saat Din, Mohabbat In. All these films are eyeing the Eid-ul-Fitr week and one hopes that one of them is released sooner than later. Wujood will bring Jawed Sheikh, Nadeem, and Shahid together for the first time while Teefa in Trouble will be Ali Zafar and Maya Ali’s big screen debut. Saat Din Mohabbat In will reunite Shehryar Munawwar and Mahira Khan for the first time since Ho Mann Jahaan that was released in 2016.


The next Eid will see Fahad Mustafa in action since he stars in not one but two films – Nadeem Baig’s Jawani Phir Nahi Ani 2 and Fizza Ali Meerza and Nabeel Qureshi’s Load Wedding. The former will also star franchise regulars Humayun Saeed, Ahmad Ali Butt and Vasay Chaudhry whereas Mehwish Hayat will play the female lead in the latter. The audience all over the world will be looking forward to both these films since the track record of both the directors is spotless and all the films that have become blockbusters in last four yours have featured either of them behind the camera.


Allah Yar and the Legend of Markhor will also not be the only animated film slated for a 2018 release – there is Tick Tock as well as the third installment of 3 Bahadur. Both these films haven’t finalized a release date but whenever they will be released, the audience will be waiting since not many animated feature films have been released in Pakistan. There is also the unreleased Project Ghazi that might finally make it to the theatre sometime in the next 12 months, hopefully as a proper release instead of the half-baked version that was screened last year.


A few projects that were supposed to be released last year will get to see the light of the day in 2018. These include veteran film director Sangeeta’s Tum Hee Ho featuring Danish Taimoor and Shahid Shafaat’s Jhol now with Zahid Ahmed in the lead instead of Bilal Ashraf; Rehan Sheikh’s Azad will also come to a screen near you, after doing extremely well in festivals abroad. Then there is Moammer Rana’s comeback vehicle Azaadi that also brings back Imran Malik to the director’s chair. The film also features Nadeem Baig and Sonya Hussain in the cast and tackles the Kashmir dispute in its own way. Then there is Shaan Shahid’s spy thriller Zarrar that has an entirely gora cast as per the director. The film is touted to be the most expensive Pakistani film ever and if all goes well, it will become one of the highest grossing films of the year.

 

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09
January

Written By: Tahir Mehmood

That tall brown-skinned man was sitting on a mountain top. Lost in deep thoughts his eyes were fixed on the city below where millions lived on the bosom-land of their ancestors. An all-time wanderer, that man once began his journey in search of truth, beauty and ‘life’ itself. He moved from place to place and to distant lands, lived in the ‘time’ and endured the pain of ‘knowing’. For years he lived in silence and isolation; an attribute of wisdom that only a few taste in life. In search of the absolute, he finally found out that: ideals define the living but people embody the life, too. Life which supposedly is governed by the unbending rules is also under continuous evolution, change and uncertainty. This clash, conflict and contradiction between the norm and the new put things mostly in grey than black-and-white. In this chaos lived the power of creation as static was stagnant. The challenge was opportunity, the pain was pleasure and the loss was gain.
The man has the power to give meaning to all known and unknown phenomena.
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He lived to know that pursuit of passion was to lead to troubled waters, but also found out that blind alleys often lead to hitherto unfound lands, too. Passion and courage combined are the essence of living never matched by mere counting of the days and years. It is beyond human dignity and ego to permanently live in fear. The living being have the option of free will to endeavour and conquer the fear; the fear of unknown and the fear of death. Free will and courage together shape new realities, construct new worlds, and the faculty of human creation is the essence of divine creation. He also came to know that courage, bravery and the will to suffer and sacrifice were deep-rooted emotions to expose to the ordinary. On surface these can be taught and inculcated, like soldiers doing it for duty and comradeship, but enduring courage is more an act of ‘knowing’ and conviction than intrinsic impulses.
Too powerful are those soldiers who personify the cause and willingly choose death over life!
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The ‘knowing’ phenomenon leads to the world where ‘self’ loses the meaning. The ‘knowing man’ transcends the life, stops fearing the unseen and traverses the valleys of death with absolute willingness. For there is no death to the Nature and man becomes the guardian rather than a meek tool of the Nature itself. Such men of integrity and character remain committed to the purpose and the assigned missions. They march-on with a high head, face the challenges of life-and-death and nothing deters them; neither the foe’s might nor their scarcity of resources! They move forward amidst voices of disbelief and timidity, and bear the brunt with fortitude. They fight with valour, die smilingly and win gracefully. The foes must know the potential of such a body of men before testing their resolve.
For fear the men who have nothing to lose, as loss is more a matter of perception than reality for the men of courage and will!
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The wandering man also learnt that justice, merit and equality are the best methods to tread the life of men and societies. The land itself has no value to be counted but the average happiness of the men living on it with fair opportunities to exploit their true potentials. There is always a need to work for bettering the lives of people. The ‘land’ bears the character of a mother that always endeavours to feed well, clothe well and shelter with a sense of dignity and belonging. While traversing the city and town dwellings, the wandering man did notice the demagogues who clamour for such dreams. Many have not the will nor the dedication to achieve such goals for others except raising their own value in the bargain. Few did fan the romanticism for nothing else but to break the will of the people to defend the land of their ancestors. They camouflaged the seeds of anarchy with aspirations of freedom and liberty; stability and order was criticised for the expression of sham. Notwithstanding the power of idealism in matters of wealth and opportunity, the wandering man also tasted the power of love.
Love transcends the logic of gain!
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The love of a mother does not depend on the beauty of the child, and a child’s love for the mother is not dependent upon the wealth of the latter. Their love is an act of Nature and does not count on cold logic of give-and-take. Love is such an ecstatic intoxication that conquers fear of death and loss. Those who love the land of their ancestors, call it mother-land, are actually the proponents of the love that knows no bounds. This abode called ‘motherland’ is their identity, pride and ego. Once the motherland is in danger, her sons respond with no care for the foe’s size of the armies nor his wealth and arrogance of power.
The men of courage stand firm, die in glory and live with honour.
……………………………………………………………
To fight and die for the motherland against a foreign aggressor is a perfectly rational and enlightened choice. No justification on any pretext should wink from this esteemed responsibility. As long as the sovereign Motherland exists, there is a hope to resolve internal discord.
Once Motherland is lost, all is lost!
……………………………………………………………
The wandering man on the mountain top suddenly shuddered. He had reached a decision. He descended the top and went down to the kinsmen. He spoke to the crowds with absolute humility and sincerity. The poor common folks in the streets responded to his call with cheers, slogans and pledges. These deprived yet uncomplaining men were worth gold who refused the intimidations by the foe. These men of courage were the pride of the land they lived in. They were absolutely rational in their response but the very rationale asked them to stand-up, forget the differences, and choose ‘death’ instead of humiliation by the foe. They were ready for a long-drawn struggle, hunger and strife! They all marched-on together being men of courage and glory. They had made their choice.
The choice was ‘Motherland’.

thechoice.jpg

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09
January
Asian Indoor Rowing Championship-2017

Open Mix, 4 Gold Medals

o N/Sub Maqbool Ali, 173 Engineer Battalion (Army)
o U/Nk Rashid Hussain, 314 Assault Engineer Battalion
o (Army)
o Ms. Rabia, Lahore Canal Boat Club
o Ms. Naila Bano, HEC

Light Weight Men Pair, 2 Silver Medals

o Hav Wali Ullah Khan, 31 FF (Army)

o Mr. Muzammil Shahzad, Lahore Canal Boat Club

Light Weight Mix, 4 Bronze Medals

o Spr Sohaib Ahmed, Engineer Centre (Army)
o Mr. Muzammil Shahzad, Lahore Canal Boat Club
o Ms. Naila Bano, HEC
o Ms. Nighat Kausar, Lahore Canal Boat Club

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09
January
Pakistan Army Cricket Team Tours Australia

newspakarmyteam.jpgPakistan Army cricket team toured Australia to play a bilateral cricket series against their counterpart and other services teams. Though primary objective of the tour was to further cement good relations between the two armies, which remained a focus for all team members, but display of good cricketing skills by Pakistan Army team, especially in Australian environment remained an area of focus. Pakistan Army cricket team not only won bilateral T-20 series against Australian Army, 3-0, but also whitewashed one day and T-20 championships against the three Australian services teams. Australian Army Chief also witnessed one day match played between both Army teams. Australian Army team although charged up with his presence put up a better show, but failed to make any difference.


Pakistani diaspora who came to witness the matches felt great pleasure on this achievement. It may be mentioned that Pakistan Army cricket team was invited to play against services teams for the first time. Only New Zealand, England and South African Army teams shared cricket turf with services teams before Pakistan.

09
January
Commander Karachi Corps Visits Exercise Area Kotri

newscaomandrkarachi.jpg

Commander Karachi Corps Lieutenant General Shahid Baig Mirza visited Exercise Area Kotri. He witnessed the Bridge Crossing Exercise by the armour elements and was briefed about the modern technical equipment and engineering machinery being used by Pakistan Army’s Corps of Engineers. Corps Commander appreciated the officers and soldiers and said that “Corps of Engineers has a vital role in modern warfare”.

 

09
January
Pak-Saudi Special Forces Hold Joint Exercise Al-Shehab-2 in Riyadh

Pak-Saudi Special Forces joint counter-terrorism exercise ‘Al-Shehab-2’ took place at Prince Naif Security City, Riyadh. The two weeks long exercise started on November 25 and continued till December 10. “Al-Shehab 1” was held last year in Pakistan. Pakistani contingent comprising 68 officers and soldiers of Special Services Group (SSG) participating in this exercise.
The Pak-Saudi joint exercise will help participating troops from both sides to learn from each other’s experiences in the counter-terrorism field and strengthen bilateral cooperation between the two forces and the countries.

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09
January
PNS SAIF Participates in 5th Joint Pak-China Naval Exercise at Shanghai

newspnssaifpart.jpgPakistan Navy Ship Saif (FFG-253) participated in 5th PN-PLA(N) Bilateral Exercise held at Shanghai, China. Upon arrival, the ship was received at sea by Chinese Navy (PLA (N)) Frigate Jingzhou off port Wusong, Shanghai. An impressive welcome ceremony was held in which senior officials of Shanghai Naval Base along with Defence Attaché and Naval Attaché of Pakistan received the ship.


During the stay at the port, the Commanding Officer PNS Saif called on senior civil/military officials including Mayor of Shanghai, Mr. Fan Yufei and Commander of Shanghai Naval Base, Rear Admiral Wang Jianxun. An overwhelming response from Chinese authorities was received during the reception dinner onboard PNS Saif. Ambassador of Pakistan to China, Mr. Masood Khalid, co-hosted the event along with the ship’s Commanding Officer. A large number of guests representing civil/diplomatic/military communities in Shanghai attended the dinner.


PN-PLA(N) Bilateral Exercises were instituted in 2014 when Pakistan and Chinese Navies conducted inaugural joint exercise in Pakistani waters of North Arabian Sea. The second exercise of the series was conducted in East China Sea in year 2015 whereas both third and fourth exercises were held in beginning and at the end of year 2016 in North Arabian Sea. Now the 5th exercise of the series has been conducted in Chinese waters off Shanghai wherein PNS Saif and frontline warships of PLA(N) along with air and subsurface assets participated to carry out joint drills and naval maneuvers to develop interoperability between the two Naval Forces. Observers from both navies were also exchanged to learn and benefit from each other’s professional experiences. In addition, marine teams of both PN and PLA(N) also held joint training and tactical drills.


The visit of PNS Saif to China and conduct of 5th PN-PLA(N) Bilateral Exercise will further strengthen friendly and professional ties between the two important navies of South-West and Far-East Asia regions. The exercise will help in developing combined response by PN & PLA (N) in the face of conventional as well as asymmetric threat to maritime interests of both countries.

09
January
Commander Royal Navy of Oman Visits Naval Headquarters

newscommandriyalnavy.jpgCommander Royal Navy of Oman, Rear Admiral Abdullah Bin Khamis Bin Abdullah Al Raisi visited Naval Headquarters Islamabad and called on Chief of the Naval Staff, Admiral Zafar Mahmood Abbasi.


Upon arrival at the Naval Headquarters, Commander Royal Navy of Oman was received by Chief of the Naval Staff. A smartly turned out contingent of Pakistan Navy clad in ceremonial dress presented him Guard of Honour. The visiting dignitary was then introduced to Principal Staff Officers.


Later, Commander Royal Navy of Oman called on Chief of the Naval Staff in his office, where discussions on professional matters and bilateral naval collaboration were held. Various avenues of cooperation between the two Navies were also disussed. The Naval Chief highlighted Pakistan’s commitment and performance in the fight against terrorism including participation of Pakistan Navy in Coalition Maritime Campaign Plan (CMCP) and Counter Piracy Operations. Numerous tenures of Command of Multinational Task Forces 150 and 151 by senior Pakistan Navy officers were also briefed to the visiting dignitary.


A comprehensive brief on Regional Maritime Environment and Pakistan Navy’s Contribution in regional maritime security was also given to the visiting delegation. Commander Royal Navy of Oman highly appreciated the role and contributions of Pakistan Navy in maintaining peace and stability in the region.

09
January
CNS Visits Turkey

Chief of the Naval Staff Admiral Zafar Mahmood Abbasi has recently visited Turkey and met with Turkish higher echelons including Minister of National Defence of Turkey, Commander Turkish General Staff and Commander Turkish Naval Forces.


Upon his arrival at the Turkish Naval Forces Headquarters, Admiral Zafar Mahmood Abbasi was presented guard of honour by a contingent of Turkish Navy. Subsequently, he was conferred with “Legion of Merit of the Turkish Armed Forces” by his counterpart at an impressive ceremony in recognition of his services for promoting cooperation between the two navies. Earlier, both the commanders, held a meeting wherein various matters of mutual interest aimed at further promoting ties between the navies of two brotherly countries were discussed.


Chief of the Naval Staff also called on Minister of National Defence of Turkey, Mr. Nurettin Canikli and Commander Turkish General Staff, General Hulusi Akar in separate meetings. During the meetings, professional matters and various avenues of defence collaboration between Pakistan and Turkey came under discussion. Admiral Zafar Mahmood Abbasi highlighted the role and contribution of Pakistan Navy in maintaining peace and stability in the regional maritime domain. The Admiral also cited the conduct of Multinational Naval Exercise AMAN-17 under the auspices of Pakistan Navy and highly appreciated the active participation of Turkish Navy.


Turkish dignitaries acknowledged the efforts of Pakistan Navy for the establishment of maritime peace, stability and lawful order at sea by bringing together global navies towards a shared commitment under the ambit of Exercise AMAN 17. They also lauded commitment and performance of Pakistan Navy through participation in Coalition Maritime Campaign Plan (CMCP) and Counter Piracy Operations for maritime security and stability in the region.


During the visit, the Naval Chief met Commander Turkish Fleet, Vice Admiral Ercument Tatlioglu, Commander of Turkish Northern Sea Area, Rear Admiral (UH) Iskender Yildirim, Commander Turkish Naval Academy and Commander Naval Training & Education separately. Chief of the Naval Staff also visited Golcuk Naval Shipyard, Turkish Navy Ship TCG Heybeliada and Turkish Naval Academy.


The Naval Chief was given detailed briefings regarding Turkish Fleet Command. Admiral Zafar Mahmood Abbasi highly appreciated the role and contributions of Turkish Navy for maintaining maritime peace and stability in the region. Chief of the Naval Staff also visited various segments/sections of Turkish Naval Academy and interacted with midshipmen and cadets.


During his visit onboard Turkish Navy Ship TCG Heybeliada, the Naval Chief interacted with ship’s crew and appreciated their operational competence. The Naval Chief said that Pak-Turkey friendship is highly valued and the continued cooperation between them has proven to be a source of strength for both the countries.


It is expected that the visit of the Naval Chief will further enhance and expand naval collaboration and defence ties between the two countries in general and navies in particular.

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09
January
Air Chief Inaugurates Shooter Squadron at PAF Base M. M. Alam

newsairchiefinagurate.jpgThe inauguration ceremony of Shooter Squadron was held at PAF Base M.M. Alam (Mianwali) on December 11, 2017. Air Chief Marshal Sohail Aman, Chief of the Air Staff, Pakistan Air Force was the chief guest at the occasion. Veterans and a large number of retired and serving officers also attended the ceremony.


Addressing the audience at the occasion, the Air Chief said that ‘the concepts of the future fighter pilots have to be embedded in a manner that they go from this squadron to high-tech fighter aircraft and quickly embrace those concepts’. He added that ‘the pilots being trained there should adapt to an exhaustive academic and flying curriculum under the supervision of the finest of the instructor pilots’. He further said that ‘their job is onerous and very important as fighter pilots and support elements and this edge must remain very sharp’.


In his opening address, Air Commodore Tanvir Ashraf, Base Commander PAF Base M.M. Alam talked about the significance of this squadron in grooming and training of young pilots. A well crafted documentary highlighting the importance of this squadron in PAF was also shown during the ceremony. The Air Chief inaugurated the squadron by unveiling the plaque of this newly formed squadron. Later on, the Air Chief interacted with the squadron personnel and urged them to put in their best in training the future fighter pilots of Pakistan Air Force.


‘Shooter Squadron’ is an innovative idea of establishing a temporary flying squadron which would serve as a lead in fighter training. It would provide ample opportunities to the young pilots to polish their flying skills and bridging the gap between low-tech and medium tech aircraft. Training at this squadron would give the future air warriors enough confidence to ultimately undergo their conversions on state of the art F-16 and JF-17 Thunder aircraft.

08
January
NCA Reiterates Pakistan’s Policy of Developing and Maintaining Full Spectrum Deterrence

NCA Fully Endorses Both National Space Programme-2047 and Nuclear Power Programme

23rd meeting of the National Command Authority (NCA) was held under the chairmanship of Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi on December 21, 2017. The meeting was attended by the Federal Ministers of Defence and Interior, Chairman JSC, Chief of Army Staff, Chief of Naval Staff, Chief of Air Staff, Director General Strategic Plans Division, Director General Inter Services Intelligence, Secretary Foreign Affairs and other senior officials.


The NCA was briefed comprehensively on the strategic environment. It took stock of the regional security environment and in this regard, noted with concern certain destabilizing actions in Pakistan’s neighborhood which undermine the objective of maintaining strategic stability in South Asia. These include the massive arms build-up in the conventional domain, nuclearization of the Indian Ocean Region and plans for the development/deployment of ballistic missile defence (BMD).


While expressing full confidence in Pakistan’s capability to address any form of aggression, the NCA reiterated Pakistan’s policy of developing and maintaining Full Spectrum Deterrence in line with the policy of Credible Minimum Deterrence and avoidance of arms race. The NCA congratulated the scientists and engineers on their contributions to strengthen national defence capabilities. It appreciated the technological sophistication demonstrated during the tests of Babur III SLCM and Ababeel Missile System, which have ushered a new era in technological sophistication of Pakistan’s strategic capabilities.


The NCA took a detailed review of the nuclear security regime and expressed full confidence in command and control systems and security measures in place to ensure comprehensive stewardship and security of strategic assets and materials. It re-affirmed that as a responsible nuclear state Pakistan would continue to contribute meaningfully towards the global efforts to improve nuclear security and nuclear non-proliferation measures.

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The NCA appreciated the high standards of training and operational readiness of the strategic forces to meet all kinds of threats. It also asserted that Pakistan desires peaceful co-existence in the region and will endeavor to work with its neighbors to ensure strategic stability in South Asia.


The NCA noted with satisfaction the implementation of national comprehensive export control measures which are in line with international export control regimes. It reiterated that Pakistan has the requisite credentials to become part of various non-proliferation regimes, including the NSG, for which Pakistan seeks adoption of a non-discriminatory criteria based approach.


The NCA was also briefed on National Space Programme-2047 and Nuclear Power Programme for peaceful uses of nuclear technology to meet growing energy needs. NCA fully endorsed both these programmes as these are essential for future national socio-economic prosperity and growth. NCA particularly noted the potential of space programme in almost all current and emerging civilian sectors, ensuring resource generation and optimization. The role of nuclear applications in the fields of health, agriculture, medicine and industry was deeply appreciated. The NCA reaffirmed Pakistan’s interest in expanding international cooperation in these areas and playing a positive role towards achieving the Sustainable Development Goals as a provider of expertise and services in peaceful nuclear application.

08
January
Senate Standing Committee on Defence Visits LOC
On December 5, 2017, a delegation comprising members of Standing Committee on Defence from both houses of the Parliament visited Chakothi and Nezapir sectors on Line of Control (LOC). The delegation was briefed about situation along the LOC, Cease Fire Violations (CFVs) by Indian Army and resultant loss of innocent civilian lives and damage to infrastructure. The delegates also visited Trade Facilitation Centre where they were apprised of intra-Kashmir trade activities. The delegation condemned Indian provocative CFVs and appreciated professional and befitting response by Pakistan Army while also protecting the civilian population of Indian Occupied Kashmir.

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08
January
COAS Visits Army Marksmanship Firing Ranges Near Jhelum

newscoasvisitarmymarksman.jpgChief of Army Staff (COAS) General Qamar Javed Bajwa visited Army Marksmanship Firing Ranges near Jhelum on December 16, 2017. He was the chief guest at the closing ceremony of 37th Pakistan Army Rifle Association (PARA) Central Meet, the mega shooting competition of the country.


A total of 811 firers including 142 civilians and 25 teams from three Services, Pakistan Rangers, Lahore Garrison Shooting Gallery, Federal Rifle Association and Pakistan Police from Punjab, Sindh and KP participated in 29 events during the four-week-long meet. Special feature of the meet was participation of war wounded officers and soldiers who had overcome various levels of combat disabilities. The Pakistan Army team scored maximum points becoming the champion in Inter Services Firing Competition.


COAS awarded the trophies and medals to the winners and runners-up in each category of the competition. The biggest military shooting honour, The Master at Arms Trophy, was awarded to Havildar Sadiq Badshah of the Bahawalpur Corps. The President’s Cup National Challenge Match Trophy was awarded to Sepoy Azeem Shah of Army team. The Prime Minister Skills at Arms (big bore) National Challenge Match was won by the Army. The COAS trophy was won by the Pakistan Air Force. The Chief of Air Staff pistol match was won by Pakistan Navy. The Best Shot Match Trophy Gp-2 was awarded to Naik Nazar Ali. Major General Ahsan Gulrez won two individual and three team medals during the competition.

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While interacting with participants, COAS appreciated the shooters on their excellent standard of marksmanship. He said that shooting is one of the basic soldiering skills and mastery in this area is a proud achievement. He further said that December 16 is a day that we must never forget. Our enemy hurt us on this day at Peshawar three years ago. We have come out of this heart wrenching incident through national resilience and faith. COAS reiterated that we still have a lot to do to ensure that we completely defeat those who perpetrated that crime against us. He stated that while at the national level, the path is outlined in the National Action Plan, at the Army level, it is the pursuit of professional excellence and commitment which has turned the tide. The COAS concluded that the best way to pay homage to our Shuhada is through our contributions to the national strength in pursuit of national objectives.


Commanders of the Rawalpindi, Mangla, Gujranwala, Lahore, Multan and Bahawalpur Corps, the Inspector General for Training and Evaluation, Insepector General Arms and other senior military officers were also present.

08
January
COAS Joins the Christian Community in Celebrating Christmas
Chief of Army Staff (COAS) General Qamar Javed Bajwa joined the Christian community at Christ Church, Rawalpindi to take part in Christmas celebrations. The congregation welcomed COAS and thanked him for sharing the festivity. COAS wished Merry Christmas to the entire Christian community in Pakistan. He acknowledged the role of Christian brethren not only towards creation of Pakistan but also for their contributions towards its progress. He also appreciated the role played by various institutions in the fields of education, health and public welfare being managed by Christian community across Pakistan. He especially acknowledged their contributions in defence of the motherland as part of Pakistan Armed Forces. Commander Rawalpindi Corps was also present at the occasion.

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08
January
COAS Visits Bahawalpur Corps to Witness Winter Collective Training 2017
Chief of Army Staff (COAS) General Qamar Javed Bajwa visited Bahawalpur on December 20, 2017, to witness winter collective training exercise of mechanised formation. Commander Bahawalpur Corps Lieutenant General Sher Afgun briefed COAS about training of the corps for assigned operational tasks. Winter Collective Training was carried out under command units of 31 Corps. The training started on December 1, 2017 and culminated on December 31, 2017. COAS appreciated the high standards of training and professional skills displayed by the formation. He said that while ‘we are committed in the War on Terror (WoT), we cannot be complacent about our preparations for response to conventional threat’.

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08
January
Turkish Ambassador Calls on Chairman JCSC

 

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His Excellency Mr. S. Babur Girgin, Ambassador of Turkey, made a farewell call on General Zubair Mahmood Hayat, Chairman Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee at Joint Staff Headquarters, Rawalpindi on December 4, 2017. The Chairman JCSC thanked the ambassador for his valuable contributions in further strengthening the bilateral relationship between the two brotherly countries, particularly in the field of security and defence cooperation. H.E Mr. S. Babur Girgin commended the professionalism of Pakistan Armed Forces and sacrifices made by Pakistan in the war against terrorism.
08
January

Written By: Muhammad Azam Khan

Back in 2014, a UK based seafarer organization undertook a maritime awareness survey on sea commerce. This organization has continued to advance welfare interests of local seafarer community and alongside raised maritime awareness for over 90 years. The survey was instructive and it found that just four in ten people knew that the majority of food imported into UK came by sea. Of the 1,000 people surveyed, 27 percent said air and 20 percent road.


Amongst the many reasons cited for such a shocking state of maritime blindness in a country which once ruled the world through its navy, two reasons were revealing. Firstly, “Globalization”, it said, “has somewhat diminished Britain’s status as the pre-eminent maritime nation. Seafarers can now be employed from almost anywhere in the world, often on lower wages than their British counterparts”. Secondly, as per survey done among those people living in coastal towns and port cities, they did not have much of an inkling of what went on right under their noses. It led one analyst to remark, “the majority of business takes place ‘out of sight and hence out of mind’.”

winingovermaritime.jpgThe study is startling since 95 percent of UK imports are done through the sea. It is because of sea and Royal Navy which protect this commerce that they have food on their tables, fuel in their power stations, can heat boilers and cars, and also purchase most of the consumer goods that they take for granted. Yet this is only half the story, as the sea also transports 75 percent of British exports.


The term “maritime blindness” also, “sea blindness”, refers to a state where large segments of population in a country remain oblivious and unconscious of the sea or ocean related matters. It is a menacing threat for any nation requiring a maritime future. The term is now an accepted expression in the international nautical lexicon.


In Pakistan, a nuclear armed country where the fate of 208 million (latest head count) is closely tied to sea, the story is no different from UK. In fact a similar survey may perhaps produce even worse results. And like UK, in our case too, over 95 percent of Pakistan’s commerce and 100 percent of energy resources are shipped through sea. The oil tanker strike that followed the tragedy at District Ahmedpur Sharqia in Southern Punjab in June 2017 resulted in overextended queues at the gas stations across Pakistan. Yet if queried, barely anyone would have known wherefrom this oil, prior reaching refineries at Karachi, came from. But we carry the burden of a long history.

 

The term “maritime blindness” also, “sea blindness”, refers to a state where large segments of population in a country remain oblivious and unconscious of the sea or ocean related matters. It is a menacing threat for any nation requiring a maritime future. The term is now an accepted expression in the international nautical lexicon.

Most of the invasions in sub-continent emerged from the west. The inward centric Mughals had a penchant for building large armies. This came only at the expense of neglecting Indian shores. With the world’s strongest navy reinforcing the commercial interests of Great Britain via British East India Company, the Colonial masters gradually built up their land power, through Madras in 1749 and Bengal in 1756. It was beginning of enslavement of India and a long haul for British Raj.


The advent of steamships and the opening of the Suez Canal in November 1869 were two major developments that transformed trading patterns in the region by shortening the time and distances involved. During World War II, Britain desperately needed manpower to fight in Africa and elsewhere. The Raj turned its gaze on colonial Punjab, the massive granary of cotton and other agriculture products. Consequently, the world’s finest and largest network of canals was laid in Punjab but there were no industries that could offer economic and employment opportunities to local population. This was to serve twofold purpose. First, it provided cotton and other agriculture merchandise which London needed to run its commercial textile industry and second, for gifting large tracts of land holdings to the local lords, the so called modern day aristocracy, the favour was returned to the colonial masters in the provision of manpower to fight their war. With no jobs except in farms, the locals willingly agreed to join the British Army and remit money orders back home. It was to set a precedent for coming generations. To this day, the landlocked Punjab remains the largest repository of providing manpower to the armed forces, particularly Pakistan Army.

 

The maritime threats and challenges to Pakistan are not only varied but hybrid in nature, too. The arrest of Indian naval Commander Jadhav (from Balochistan on March 3 last year), and induction of nuclear submarines and strategic missiles are just the tip of the iceberg. Indian Navy plans to raise the inventory of warships from existing 145 to 200 by 2027. As of today, 40 warships are under construction in different Indian yards.

A cursory glance at the national media in Pakistan today shows that maritime matters seldom become a major headline story. Even when major international developments unfold in the dominion of oceans, we rarely find a mention of it on mainstream channels. The last national awakening on naval related matters came in November last year after Pakistan Navy picked up an Indian submarine which made a botched attempt to intrude into territorial waters close to Makran coast.


Added to this picture is our national history. The realization for having a strong navy never dawned to those in the corridors of power until it was just too late in 1971. The 1965 and 1971 wars kept the battles at sea away from media and public observation. This however cannot, and must not, take away the heroism or shine residing in some of the most audacious war time operations conducted by Pakistan Navy. The bold action of submarine Hangor that resulted in sinking of Indian Navy frigate or the steely and unwavering resolve of another Pakistan Navy submarine Ghazi in going down while hunting and unnerving the enemy in distant waters of Bay of Bengal during 1971 war are documented in gold, even in international chronicles.


The twenty first century world is altogether a different ball game. Oceans are at the heart of modern-day geo-politics. From the Western Pacific (South China Sea) to Western Indian Ocean, from Asia pivot to A2/AD, from Malacca to Hormuz, and from CPEC to recent Logistics Exchange Memorandum of Agreement (LEMoA) between United States and India, the energy-politics, the strategic interests, competition and confrontation, all cut across the maritime domain or else adjoining littoral region.


There is worldwide recognition that maritime power projection should now be seen as the reward for the capacity to use the ocean as the world’s greatest manoeuvre space. This is because ocean empire offers unlimited movement and capacity to surprise adversary and to calibrate the extent and nature of the military operations. The 2001 U.S.-led operation, Enduring Freedom and later operation Iraqi Freedom in March 2003 kicked off from western Indian Ocean.


To overcome the malaise of sea blindness, maritime awareness is a crucial enabling link. Over the past two decades Pakistan Navy has spearheaded initiatives that aimed to curtail sea blindness in the country. One such step was moving of the Naval Staff College to the country’s heartland, Lahore in 1996. Since upgraded as PN War College, the premier institute has served to expand maritime and naval outreach in Central Punjab and beyond. Besides integrating civil-military bureaucracy and academia through symposiums, seminars, workshops and dialogue, the institute has advanced the national cause of CPEC. The presence of a large number of officers from friendly countries (currently 28) in the year long Staff Course conducted at the College meanwhile reinforces ties and advance cultural affinity.


Entrusted with the onerous responsibility of security of Gwadar Port that underpins CPEC, Pakistan Navy recently raised a special task force (TF-88) of trained and motivated manpower. This has been in addition to other measures meant to extend inviolable security to Gwadar Port and maritime related projects of CPEC.


The maritime threats and challenges to Pakistan are not only varied but hybrid in nature, too. The arrest of Indian naval Commander Jadhav (from Balochistan on March 3 last year), and induction of nuclear submarines and strategic missiles are just the tip of the iceberg. Indian Navy plans to raise the inventory of warships from existing 145 to 200 by 2027. As of today, 40 warships are under construction in different Indian yards.


The Indian Ocean is a global energy reservoir and a critical economic enabler. There are nearly 150 warships from foreign navies present here today. With a nominal and least share in the defence outlay, Pakistan Navy has gone an extra mile in marshaling efforts to sensitize the nation on progressing importance of oceans and related matters as well as what this means for the country’s future.


The first of its kind Maritime Security Workshop (MARSEW) held at the Naval War College from September 11-25, 2017, Lahore involving Federal and Provincial legislature is certainly a giant leap for the country. It is time for new generation of civil-military bureaucracy to take informed decisions for the greater good of Pakistan. Pakistan Navy meanwhile continues to play its committed role in national cause and stands as the country’s dependable maritime watchman.

 

The writer is a freelance journalist. He contributes on maritime security and other national issues.

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08
January

Written By: Dr. Gulfaraz Ahmed

I read with envy that the most beneficial investment is when done on one’s own professional capacity and enriching experiences of new places, sights, cultures, explorations, discoveries and adventures etc. I took this pearl of wisdom internally and analyzed my own state of mind and style of life. Although I did revere this wisdom, I had practically recused myself from the associated excitement. Then I came upon a corollary of the same: when you lose the excitement for exploration and adventure, you really need it the most. I realized that children were ever ready and excited to explore, so emulating a child’s attitude, I could rejuvenate my excitement for places, time, mode, activity, company and accoutrement etc.

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I thought that my dull attitude might be a common pattern with growing age although one does come across bold exceptions when older people do carry the spirit of adventure through cherished hobbies, adventures and pleasures of exploration. I felt that it was me who had put on the blinders limiting my aspirations in a narrow beam of practical realities of my limited living pattern. Aspiring to re-stimulate my life, I thought of a plan. I live with two grandchildren, a boy of seven years of age and a girl of five years of age, and their parents. I decided to start emulating them in chasing excitement and rekindling a long forgotten spark in my life. As a starter, I shared an idea with them of going on a trip to Chitral during the upcoming Eid holidays in the last week of June 2017. Although I initiated the idea I was not sure of carrying it out. But they built on the idea, and the combined excitement gained momentum impelling me to pull it off. We located a scenic hotel in Chitral known as Hindukush Heights and booked the rooms for five days. The tickets we got for the PIA flight to Chitral were for 25th June with the return flight scheduled for the 30th. I was caught up in the excitement spearheaded by the grandchildren. As the day approached we all headed to the airport rather early, obtained the boarding passes and waited anxiously to board the scenic flight of around 40 minutes. The scheduled time passed and then there was a bombshell announcement of cancellation of the flight because of adverse weather along the route.


Grossly disappointed by the cancellation of the flight I reconciled to the fate of a missed trip but the kids refused to give up and insisted to go by road. I had no choice as the kids refused to go back home. We started the journey by a van arranged by the hotel and set out at 2 p.m. for our destination. On my own, I would have never agreed to a difficult 20 hours’ drive but wanting to relearn the spirit of adventure I became a willing part of it. We spent the night in the Army Mess in Dir and started off the next morning to drive over the Lowari Top at about 11,000 feet altitude. There were 30 hairpin bends on the northern side to lose the height without covering the distance horizontally. As the journey progressed as did I start redeveloping the child in me – a child that must remain an inseparable part of you all your life. I joined the kids in all their excitement of dipping feet in ice-cold glacier water, standing in ice-cold wind hitting you with great force on the Lowari Top, going inside the tunnel closed to the traffic and stopping frequently to explore. Anything that excited the kids I joined them. The trip was going great for me as I redeveloped the old curiosity and spirit of discovery.


I caught the contagion of reliving in excitement and we had a fabulous five days in the long drawn valley with the pleasure of spending two days in Mastuj, a much more scenic place nearly twice the altitude of Chitral. We collected dry fruit, honey harvested from wild trees and local souvenirs. We were lucky to find the flight operational on our way back and reached home without diluting the taste of the fantastic trip.


Encouraged by this experience I decided to follow it up by another trip abroad about three months later. My son had long been inviting me for a relaxing trip to Nice in the south of France but I had always been stalling it on common excuses of busy schedule and likewise. I joined him in Nice in September which was in the middle of the holiday season and the beaches were packed with tourists. I was lucky to join two of my granddaughters who would pack my time with total excitement and continue the process of motivation to start living active again. I joined the children in dipping in the sea, walking along the beach, interesting hikes, exploration of medieval villages, driving to Macao and seeing the splendor of the Monte Carlo. Wearing t-shirts and shorts and eating at the beachside restaurants I merged with the people who looked happier, at ease and joyous. There were people of all ages and the old seemed to be enjoying as much as the young.

 

As the journey progressed as did I start redeveloping the child in me – a child that must remain an inseparable part of you all your life. I joined the kids in all their excitement of dipping feet in ice-cold glacier water, standing in ice-cold wind hitting you with great force on the Lowari Top, going inside the tunnel closed to the traffic and stopping frequently to explore. Anything that excited the kids I joined them. The trip was going great for me as I redeveloped the old curiosity and spirit of discovery.

We know that children play a lot and stay engaged and happy. The old stop playing, become serious and are often unhappy. There are lessons in this contrast. The old tend to give up mentally way before their bodies give up. If we could emulate children’s curiosity, excitement and instinct to play, the old could re-stimulate the mind to commandeer the body and live a more wholesome, healthy and happier life. It is common knowledge that average age in the world increases by more than one year in every four years. Increasing elderly population is a new factor of global demography and our social patterns are reformatting in this respect. It is important that the old are able to recreate in spirit to take full advantage of the growing longevity by relearning the art of living from the children around them. There is a beautiful expression in Urdu poetry which portends that it is important for the mind to control the heart but every once in a while the heart should lead the mind to keep the spice of life alive. It is a beautiful way of eulogizing the need to keep the inner child alive even in old age.


I am aware that one tends to gravitate to inactivity as the years advance but one needs to be nudged to spring back to activity and rediscover the spirit of exploration. It has motivated me to share my experience of rediscovering the child in me using the stories of my joy-trips. While driving through Chitral Valley I was reliving the moments stored hidden in my memory of earlier trips during my youthful days. There is a great pleasure in reliving through the old memories every now and then not only for comparing the new experiences with the old but also for invigorating the memory itself that often becomes a problem in later years.

 

The writer holds a PhD degree from Stanford University, California USA. He is a former Federal Secretary and has been CEO/Chairman of OGDCL and Chairman NEPRA.

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08
January

Report By: Major Badar

A remarkable Medal Parade Ceremony was hosted by PEC-9 at El-Geneina on November 20-21, 2017 incorporating participants of PFH-9. The event was a blend of fine display of military drill and cultural shows depicting and enhancing progressive, strong but soft image of Pakistan in a multinational environment. Deputy Force Commander UNAMID, Major General Fida Hussain Malik graced the occasion as Chief Guest. Besides Maj Gen Fida, national and international UNAMID staff including Head of Office Oumar Kane (Mauritania), Major General Qamar-ud-Din Muhammad (Sudan Armed Forces), Acting Sector Commander Colonel Amr Mansour (Egypt), Deputy Contingent Commander Colonel Rifat Ullah (Pakistan), and other various appointment holders of Sector West were present. Pakistani Staff Officers/Military Observers, military/civil hierarchy of other sectors also attended the ceremony.
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08
January

Written By: Prof. Dr. Riaz Ahmed

Sir Aga Khan’s Contribution in the Pakistan Movement 1906-1947

His Highness Sir Sultan Muhammed Shah, Aga Khan III GCSI GCMG GCIE GCVO PC was the 48th Imam of Ismaili Shia Muslims. He was the first President of the All-India Muslim League. He was born in Karachi on November 2, 1877, but passed away in Versoix, Switzerland on July 11, 1957. After Sir Syed Khan, he played a leading role not only in strengthening the political role of the Muslims of the Indo-Pak subcontinent, the cause of Aligarh Muslim University but also the Pakistan Movement. He was in close liaison with Quaid-i-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah, the founder of Pakistan in all the critical moments of the Movement.

 

thepaksaga.jpgAga Khan Leads Simla Deputation to Lord Minto, October 1, 1906
For starting the political role of the Muslims of British India, the Simla Deputation to Lord Minto, the Viceroy, on October 1, 1906 headed by Sir Aga Khan III did play a pivotal role. This Deputation consisted of 35 leading Muslim leaders from all parts of British India. It was considered as the first all-India Muslim gathering under the leadership of Sir Aga Khan which was representative of all the provinces, regions and parts of British India. In his memorandum Sir Aga Khan presented the Muslim demands for grant of separate electorates to the Muslims under the new reforms and pleaded permission from the British Government to allow the Muslims of India to form their own political party. Lord Minto, in his address, responded positively and promised to redress the Muslim demands under the new reforms. It was in consequence of this that the All India Muslim League was formed at Dhaka on December 30, 1906 at a meeting of the All India Mohammedan Educational Conference presided over by Nawab Viqar-ul-Mulk on a motion of Nawab Salimullah for the purpose of protecting the political and other interests of Muslims of British India.


First President of All India Muslim League, 1908-1913
First meeting of the All India Muslim League was held at Aligarh on March 18-19, 1908. In this meeting it was announced that HH Sir Aga Khan III has donated Rs.500/- for the Muslim League fund out of which Rs. 50/- were credited to the account of the League as the admission and membership fees. It was at this session that Sir Aga Khan III was unanimously elected as first President of the All India Muslim League. Second session of the AIML was held at Amritsar in December 1908. At this session also it was announced that the HH Aga Khan, permanent President of the party, donated Rs. 1500/- for the Muslim League fund. Actually, Presidents of the Party were of two kinds. First there was the permanent President who was elected for three years. The other pattern was that some prominent Muslim leader of the country was asked to preside over the session, but his position was temporary and honorary.


HH Sir Aga Khan, the permanent President, presided over the 3rd session of AIML held at Delhi on January 29-30, 1910. He delivered a long presidential address in which he surveyed the current political situation and guided the Muslims on how to move forward in advancing their demands. In a resolution passed by this session the Muslim League unanimously adopted the following resolution in which Sir Aga’s services to the cause of the Muslims were thus appreciated: “The All India Muslim League places on records its appreciation of the great services rendered to the Mohammedan cause by His Highness Aga Khan, GCIE, and assures him of its continued confidence and trust in his statesmanship and in his leadership of the Musalmans of India”. Sir Aga Khan was also present at the 4th session of AIML held at Nagpur, on December 28 and 30, 1910 and presided over the deliberations. The honorary President Syed Nabiullah delivered the presidential address. The 5th session of AIML was held in Calcutta on March 3-4, 1912. Honorary president of this session was Nawab Sir Salimullah of Dhaka who delivered his presidential address. The services of HH Agha Khan for the “caves of Mohammedans” were highly appreciated at this session as well. It was at this session that HH Aga Khan was elected for the second tenure as President AIML.


Since 1912, Quaid-i-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah had started his efforts for the Hindu-Muslim unity. Though he was not member of the AIML before 1913, he was invited to attend the meeting of the AIML Council on instructions from the Aga Khan by the Secretary of the AIML Syed Wazir Hasan. It was at this meeting under the presidentship of HH Sir Aga Khan that the AIML adopted its new policy of “self-government suitable to India” on a motion by Quaid-i-Azam. It was ratified by the next session held in March 1913. HH Aga Khan also attended the next 7th session of AIML held at Agra on December 30-31, 1913 where the Hon. President was Sir Ibrahim Rahimtoola, a Bombay business magnate, who delivered his presidential address. HH the Aga Khan, as President of the Party, himself moved a resolution for the creation of “Muslim National Fund” whose aim was the “the political progress and advancement of Musalmans” at every provincial level. This resolution was passed with great “acclamation”. Seconding this resolution the Raja of Mahmudabad appreciated the vision of HH Aga Khan. In matters of discussion on other resolutions also, the presence of HH Aga Khan had sobering effect on the proceedings of the Muslim League. Thereafter, HH the Aga Khan resigned from the presidentship of the AIML. Despite his resignation from the AIML, HH the Aga Khan had close contact with Jinnah especially during his efforts for the Hindu-Muslim unity during 1914-1916.


Contributions in the Pakistan Movement
Sir Aga Khan was also the president of the All Parties Muslim Conference held in 1928-29. During 1930-33, he attended the Round Table Conferences (RTCs) held in London for settling the future of the Muslims as delegate. Quaid-i-Azam was also in attendance the first of two conferences in London. Both jointly pleaded the cause of the Muslims. They were very close to each other and were in regular private and confidential correspondence, apart from the participation in the committees of the RTCs in London. They shared a lot of private consulation regarding the future of the Muslims. Sir Aga Khan’s letters of January 20, 1931, March 29, 1931, June 20, 1931 and many others indicate the kind of consulation both had regarding the future of the Muslims before going to different sessions of the RTC. This showed that both the leaders were highly confiding in each other and jointly making strategy regarding the future of the Muslims in British India.


He was nominated to represent India at the League of Nations in 1932, where he continued to work until the outbreak of the World War II. He was an excellent statesman and was elected President of the League of Nations (replaced by the United Nations) in July 1937. He was the only Asian to have been appointed to this high office.


During the Pakistan Movement Sir Aga Khan signally contributed towards the Pakistan Movement. Quaid-i-Azam and Sir Aga Khan were regularly in contact with each other for the furthering of the Pakistan Movement. They remained in contact even when the AIML became united at the time when Pakistan Movement was to be started and 24th session of AIML was held in Bombay on April 11-12, 1936 exhibiting the unity of the Muslim Conference and the All India Muslim League. The contribution of Sir Aga Khan was thus recorded: “There was no person in India except His Highness the Aga Khan who could make all the parties unite on one platform”.


During 1940-1947, at all the critical times, Quaid-i-Azam and Sir Aga Khan remained in close contact with each other and had a lot of consultation with each other on the issues such as Gandhi-Jinnah Talks, Cabinet Mission Plan and the Partition issues during May-August 1947.


Sir Aga Khan fell ill in 1954 during his visit to Dhaka and from then on struggling with ill health, passed away on July 11, 1957, in Switzerland and is buried in Aswan, Egypt. On the occasion of his birth anniversary on November 2, we pay tribute to a great Muslim leader by renewing our pledge to make Pakistan a prosperous and advanced country.

 

The writer is Ex-Director, National Institute of Historical and Cultural Research, and Professor at Quaid-i-Azam Chair (NIPS), Quaid-i-Azam University Islamabad.

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08
January

Written By: Nadeem F. Paracha

In India the theory which became the basis of partition of India in 1947 (the Two-Nation Theory), is repeatedly castigated for being communal. The theory explained that the Muslims and Hindus of India were distinct communities who needed their own geographical and political dwellings where they could lead their lives according to their divergent cultural mores.


In India, it were the many Congress governments which, between 1947 and 1990, molded the Indian nationalist narrative. In this long-held narrative, Pakistan’s founder, Muhammad Ali Jinnah and his All India Muslim League (AIML), were lambasted for proliferating ‘communal sentiments’. According to the narrative, this, in turn, unsettled the ‘historic Hindu-Muslim unity in India.’

 

whomadewho.jpgThis narrative continues to exist in India. However, with the electoral rise of Hindu nationalism in India, and, consequently, the exhibition of a more assertive stance towards Pakistan, some new academic undertakings have started to occur. These are trying to supplement the old Indian nationalist narrative with an added aspect that is in line with how Hindu nationalism comprehends the historical raison d’etre of Pakistan.


Take for instance the book Creating a New Medina by U.S.-based professor of history, Venkat Dhulipala. In it, Dhulipala, in a somewhat unintentional display of irony actually embraces the Pakistani nationalist narrative molded by Pakistan’s various conservative and ‘Islamist’ historians and political-religious parties to supposedly ‘prove’ that the creation of Pakistan was inherently a religious project fueled by the Two-Nation Theory.


This way Dhulipala is intellectually enshrining an inclination that has begun to take shape within some influential sectors of India’s historical scholarship which sees Pakistan’s so-called theological nature as the reason (and justification) behind the upsurge of Hindu nationalism in India. Basically this explanation by scholars such as Dhulipala is used to rationalize the existence and rise of radical Hindu nationalism in India.


What is being purposely overlooked and maybe even curbed by such Indian historians and scholars is the fact that the Muslim League’s Two-Nation Theory wasn’t some impulsive communal brainstorm emitting from Muslim leaders such as Jinnah. Instead, it had actually been formulated and then imposed upon them by Hindu nationalists!


As strange as this may sound, take the following quote by Jinnah as an example. In an address that he delivered on April 24, 1943, he reminded his audience: ‘I think you will bear me out that when we passed the Lahore Resolution (in 1940) we had not used the word, Pakistan. Who gave us this word? The Hindus fathered this word upon us.’


As opposed to many historians of a later age, Quaid-i-Azam knew exactly how the Two-Nation Theory evolved over a period of time. Quaid was right to suggest that it was initially fashioned by Hindu nationalists to justify and assert their own theological-nationalist agenda. Jinnah eventually adopted the theory for the Muslims but only after observing the emergence of some Hindu nationalist propensities from within influential segments of the otherwise ‘secular’ Indian National Congress. The imagined acuity and concoction of a communal Muslim League auto-rationalized the existentialist justifications of the Hindu nationalist forces.


Nabagopal Mitra, the 19th century Hindu nationalist, penned a long essay in which he defined the Hindus of India as a nation. In same essay he insisted that the Hindus of India held better intellects and customs than the Muslims and the Christians of the regions. He wrote: ‘The basis of national unity in India was the Hindu religion… and Hindus should strive to form an Aryan nation.’ (sic).


In a paper on Hindu nationalism (published in the 1920s), Bhai Parmanand, a foremost activist of the Hindu reformist outfit Arya Samaj, insisted that the Hindus and Muslims were two separate nations who were ‘irreconcilable.’ In his autobiography, ‘My Life’, Parmanand mentions that in 1908 he had called for an exchange and settling of Hindu and Muslim populations in different geographical areas.


The December 14, 1924 edition of The Tribune (a daily which was published from Bombay) Congress member Lajpat Rai was quoted to have asked for a ‘clear partition of the region into a Hindu India and non-Hindu India…’


It was a poet, V.D. Savarkar, who in 1924 invented the word, ‘Hindutva’ in a book which was also called Hindutva. He coined the word to mean ‘Hinduness’. He asserted that the Muslims and other non-Hindu peoples of India ‘were outside of Hindu nationhood.’ In 1937 Savarkar, while delivering a speech at a conference organized by the Hindu Mahasabha, said: ‘There are two nations in India: Hindus and the Muslims.’


In 1939, a leading light of the radical Hindu outfit the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), M.S. Golwalkar published a book called ‘We Or Our Nationhood Defined’. In it he proclaimed that the non-Hindu groups of India ‘should merge with the Hindu nation or perish’. He wrote that non-Hindus in India could not be considered Indian unless they were ‘purified’ (and/or converted to Hinduism).


Golwalkar added that the Hindus were India’s ‘national race’. He gave the example of Nazi Germany’s purge of the Jews as an ideal way to deal with minorities who refused to acclimatize to the culture of the national race.


During the recent increase in the assault on Muslims in India, the country’s Hindu nationalist PM Narendra Modi, recommended that his country’s Muslims should not be reprimanded. However, he added that the Muslims did need ‘purification’ (parishkar). Modi was referring to the use of this word in this context by BJP’s prime ideologue, Pandit Upadhyaya. Upadhyaya had first used the word decades ago as an extension of the Sanskrit word Shuddhi used by Hindu nationalist Dr. P.S. Moonje in 1923. Shuddhi also means ‘purification’ and Moonje had used it to mean the conversion of Muslims and Christians to Hinduism.


Muslim Indian historian Dr. Shamsul Islam has lengthily quoted speeches, articles and pamphlets of Hindu nationalists in his book Revisiting the Legacy of Allah Bakhsh. He did this to establish the fact that, indeed, the communal impulse and justification of India’s partition (into two separate nations) was originally formed by Hindu nationalists and was adopted much later by the likes of Jinnah. And as mentioned earlier, Jinnah adopted it in 1940 for the Muslims after fearing that Indian nationalism had now come to mean Hindu nationalism.


Even more ironic is the manner in which the historical narrative about the creation of Pakistan being formulated by Indian historians sympathetic to the BJP and Hindu nationalism, is being cheerfully received by certain leading religious groups of Pakistan. Their narrative too had explained Pakistan as a theological project. For example, the owner of a large chain of bookstores in Lahore recently informed me that there is a rising demand for an Urdu translation of Dhulipala’s book. He added that certain ‘Islamic’ organizations have in fact offered to translate it themselves.


But this narrative was badly battered by various Pakistani historians, especially from the mid-1980s onwards.

 

The writer is a Pakistani journalist, cultural, critic and satirist. He is the author of a detailed book on Pakistan’s ideological, political & social history, called ‘End of the Past.’

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08
January

Written By: Hussain H. Zaidi

The South Asian portion of the NSS is thus a continuation of Trump’s Afghan strategy announced in August 2017, which at that time represented a flip-flop on his previous opposition to America’s costly involvement in foreign wars. With the Afghan Army having proved unequal to the task of holding itself against the heightened Taliban onslaught and the IS taking root in Afghanistan, American exasperation is on the rise. What can be a safer haven for militant outfits than a country like Afghanistan where the writ of the state is conspicuous by its absence, an overwhelming majority of the population has been condemned to live in abject poverty and squalor, and where sufficient ideological support exists for radical Islamist groups?

Pakistan, maintains that it does not follow the policy-notion of good and bad militants and that by accusing it of backing Afghan militants, Washington is tilting at windmills. Not only that, it is the militants based in Afghanistan who are responsible for several acts of terrorism on Pakistani soil. So it is Pakistan which is paying the price of continuing instability in Afghanistan. If any country has a cause for complaint against its neighbour, it’s Pakistan over Afghan security forces failure to rein in terrorists on their side of the international border.

The new National Security Strategy (NSS) of the United States unveiled by the Donald Trump administration outlines the fundamental concerns and objectives of the domestic and foreign policies of the globe’s sole superpower. It also has significant implications for South and Central Asia including Pakistan.


Before discussing the major contours of Trump’s NSS, it may be a useful exercise to look at similar documents drawn up by his two immediate predecessors, George W. Bush and Barack Obama.


President Bush’s NSS, announced in 2002, was based on the doctrine of pre-emption which committed his administration to acting against emerging “threats” before they were fully formed. “We cannot defend America and our friends by hoping for the best… In the new world we have entered, the only path to peace and security is the path of action,” said the Bush era NSS document. The doctrine of pre-emption implied indubitable belief in the power of America to alter the course of the world. It was by invoking that doctrine that the U.S. forces invaded Iraq.


The NSS of President Obama, unveiled in 2010, was more realistic in substance and more conciliatory in tone. “To succeed, we must face the world as it is,” admitted the opening paragraph of the NSS document. The strategy reiterated America’s role in shaping a global order capable of grappling with the 21st century challenges including wars over religion, ethnicity, nuclear proliferation, and economic instability and inequality. However, the NSS acknowledged that no single country was capable of meeting those challenges on its own. Hence, American interests were to be pursued through a rule-based international system in which all nations had rights as well as obligations.


In a departure from Bush’s pr-emption doctrine, Obama’s security strategy embraced engagement with “hostile” nations and collective action as the means to pursuing U.S. strategic objectives. Be that as it may, in the name of the rule-based multilateral system and collective action, NATO troops intervened in Libya in 2011 to bring the Gaddafi regime down. The U.S. also sided with some Middle Eastern countries in their unsuccessful pursuit to topple President Assad in Syria.

 

Any punitive measures, while they may put Pakistan in a spot, would make it difficult for Washington to hit the bull’s eye in Afghanistan. Whether Americans like it or lump it, alienating Pakistan will further frustrate the cause of peace in the war-torn country. Constructive engagement with Islamabad rather than penalization – or even “putting it on notice” – is the only viable policy option for Washington.

“To disrupt, dismantle and defeat Al-Qaeda and its affiliates” was described by the Obama administration NSS document as a key strategic objective of the U.S., which was to be achieved through a “judicious” use of American power both military and civilian. Pakistan together with Afghanistan was termed the “epicenter” of terrorism. Recognising the importance of Islamabad in defeating Al-Qaeda, the strategy sought to “foster a relationship with Pakistan founded upon mutual interests and mutual respects.”


What difference does the Trump administration’s NSS bring? The NSS paper starts with a profession of America First, which may be regarded as the keystone of the entire strategy. The opening paragraph reads: “An America that is safe, prosperous, and free at home is an America with the strength, confidence, and will to lead abroad. It is an America that can preserve peace, uphold liberty, and create enduring advantages for the American people. Putting America first is the duty of our government and the foundation for U.S. leadership in the world.”

 

plitcisofpower.jpgWhat is the significance of putting the central emphasis on America first? Does it mean that previous governments had subordinated American interests to some over-riding value, principle, or mission – a “blunder” that Trump will abjure? Or does it mean a return to the isolationism that had characterized U.S. foreign policy until nearly a century ago?


It is customary for American leaders and policy-makers to describe their actions in terms of a mission being guided by universal values, such as democracy, freedom, human rights, and the rule of law. In fact, pragmatism has always been the mainspring of U.S. policies and actions. A self-styled torchbearer of democracy, America has supported absolute monarchies and other forms of authoritarianism whenever it is deemed to be in its interest. The nation, that in theory respects international law, has from time to time intervened in different parts of the world to pull down “rogue” regimes. So, in a word, it has always been a case of couching perceived national interests in the garb of some ennobling principle.


The authors of the new NSS have only been blunt, in keeping with the tantrums that their president can’t resist making. In its own words, “It is a strategy of principled realism that is guided by outcomes, not ideology. It is based upon the view that peace, security, and prosperity depend on strong, sovereign nations that respect their citizens at home and cooperate to advance peace abroad. And it is grounded in the realization that American principles are a lasting force for good in the world.” One can note here the typical protestation of moral superiority of the U.S. over other nations.


In the beginning of his presidency, Trump did give the impression of harking back to isolationism, when, for instance, he had his country walk out of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), a trade treaty. But subsequent developments supported by a reading of the NSS document contradict this impression.
To begin with, the above quoted opening paragraph of the NSS makes it clear that the U.S. will continue to provide leadership to the world. In point of fact, “America first” will better enable the leadership to fulfil that role. In a subsequent page, the paper argues that when the U.S. does not lead, “malign actors” fill the void to the detriment of its interests.


The strategy paper recognizes that the Americans live in a competitive world; and thus as U.S. goes about accomplishing its leadership role, it will face competition mainly from two other nations, viz China and Russia. Both the competitors are criticized for representing “unfair” (economically) and “repressive” (politically) systems, as opposed to the “fair” and “free” system espoused by the U.S.

From the competitors, the NSS passes on to the threats. In the first place, there are “rouge” states like North Korea and Iran, which are set on destabilizing respective regions (Middle East in case of Iran, and East Asia in case of North Korea) and threatening American allies. Then there are transnational criminal and cataclysmic organizations, such as the so-called Islamic State (IS). While competitors and threats may call for different responses, the fundamental contest is seen to remain between those who put value on human freedom and dignity – Washington and its allies — and those who “oppress and enforce uniformity” – the adversaries.


At this point, the strategy paper makes a case for departure from the policies of previous administrations. Those policies, the argument goes, were based on the largely mistaken assumption that engagement with the rivals would turn them into partners; instead they (rivals) capitalized on the opportunities and now they pose an even greater threat to U.S. interests. The best way to grapple with such challenges is to make America more competitive, which calls for an America first strategy. The first responsibility of a government, the paper notes, is to its own people.


The strategy is based on four pillars: The first is protecting the American people, the territory and the American way of life. This will be done by preventing nuclear, chemical and biological attacks; blocking terrorists from reaching America; safeguarding the critical infrastructure; and deterring, disrupting, and defeating potential threats before they reach the country. The language here reminds the reader of the Bush doctrine of pre-emption.


The second pillar is promoting American prosperity. This goal will be achieved by reinvigorating the economy, addressing trade imbalances and unfair trade practices and maintaining the lead in research and technology. Preserving peace forms the third pillar, which calls for military and technological strength and exhorts the allies to share their responsibility in meeting common threats. The fourth and final pillar is advancing U.S. influence by leading in multilateral organizations and spreading American values of free enterprise and democracy.


The NSS will be tailored taking into account specific regional dynamics. Regions characterized by instability and weak governance are deemed to offer both threats and opportunities to U.S. interest: threats because such regions provide an environment conducive for terrorist organizations to thrive; opportunities because such a situation can serve as a springboard for ratcheting up security and prosperity.


Pakistan figures in the subsection on South and Central Asia (SCA). The authors of the NSS are well aware of the enormous importance of the region: It accounts for a quarter of the world population; it has two nuclear states (Pakistan and India), quite a few emerging economies; and “a fifth of all U.S.-designated terrorist groups.” Logically, the more important the region, the greater are the challenges that it presents to American policy-makers. One of these challenges takes the form of “threats from transnational terrorists and militants operating from within Pakistan,” which, it is believed, can endanger the security of the U.S. as well as that of its allies (read India and Afghanistan). Then there is “the prospect for an Indo-Pakistani military conflict that could lead to a nuclear exchange.” The paper also mentions the possibility of nuclear weapons or technology falling into the hands of terrorists.


The goals set by the NSS for SCA include maintaining American presence in the region sufficient to neutralize the security related threats, having “a Pakistan that is not engaged in destabilizing behavior,” and securing an Afghanistan that is stable and self-reliant, and making the region resistant to becoming a safe haven for the so called jihadi organizations.


In order to achieve these goals, a set of policy actions encompassing political, economic and security related measures will be taken by the U.S. The first such action described by the strategy paper is deepening strategic partnership with India and supporting its “leadership role” in the region. Pakistan will be “pressed” to beef up its counterterrorism efforts and take a “decisive” action against militants “operating on its soil” – failure to do so will undermine Washington-Islamabad partnership, so goes the threat – and “encouraged” to continue to demonstrate that its nuclear assets are safe. Afghan peace and security will be promoted by supporting Afghan forces in their fight against militant outfits, such as the Taliban, the IS, and Al-Qaeda. On the whole, SCA states will be helped to maintain their sovereignty against rising Chinese influence in the region.


The Americans will also encourage economic integration of SCA, which for all practical purposes means unrestricted trade between India and Pakistan and pressing Pakistan to allow Indian exports’ overland access to Afghanistan. India will be encouraged to increase its economic assistance in the region. U.S. trade and investment relations with Pakistan will be strengthened subject to its improved counterterrorism efforts. In other words, if Pakistan expects generous capital inflows from the U.S., it must measure up to the latter’s counterterrorism standards.


The South Asian portion of the NSS is thus a continuation of Trump’s Afghan strategy announced in August 2017, which at that time represented a flip-flop on his previous opposition to America’s costly involvement in foreign wars. With the Afghan Army having proved unequal to the task of holding itself against the heightened Taliban onslaught and the IS taking root in Afghanistan, American exasperation is on the rise. What can be a safer haven for militant outfits than a country like Afghanistan where the writ of the state is conspicuous by its absence, an overwhelming majority of the population has been condemned to live in abject poverty and squalor, and where sufficient ideological support exists for radical Islamist groups? Nearly two decades ago, it was these characteristics of Afghanistan that provided a fertile ground for Al-Qaeda to thrive in the country.

 

Exasperation clouds judgment. Instead of setting the Afghan house in order, the finger is pointed at Pakistan for being the “prime cause” of the squalid state of affairs in its north-western neighbour. The ultimatum to stick the knife into Pakistan in case it does not mend its ways has not come as a surprise. The Americans have been making such threats for years. The Trump team has only been more obtrusive in the choice of words.

Exasperation clouds judgment. Instead of setting the Afghan house in order, the finger is pointed at Pakistan for being the “prime cause” of the squalid state of affairs in its north-western neighbour. The ultimatum to stick the knife into Pakistan in case it does not mend its ways has not come as a surprise. The Americans have been making such threats for years. The Trump team has only been more obtrusive in the choice of words. On the other hand, India’s leadership role in Afghanistan will be supported, which may be seen as one way to punish Pakistan. The greater the Indian role in Afghanistan, the stronger will be its influence on the coalition government in Kabul to the detriment of Pakistan.


In essence, the Trump administration’s view of Pakistan, as brought out by the NSS, is the same as that held by the one that preceded it: an errant boy in the comity of nations in need of foreign assistance to sustain itself. So if the screw is turned on the chap, it may see reason.


The flip side is that Pakistan is the sixth-largest nation in the world in terms of its population and the second-largest state, economy and military power in South Asia. It possesses nuclear weapons and – at least on paper – is a major non-Nato ally as well as a strategic partner. Such credentials make Pakistan exceedingly important for durable peace in the region.


Understandably, the Obama administration as well as Congress had remained on tenterhooks on Pakistan. Should Islamabad be left to its own devices or continue to be engaged? Was going harder or softer a better course of action in dealing with Pakistan? Should Pakistan be declared a state sponsor of terrorism?


Pakistan maintains that it does not follow the policy-notion of good and bad militants and that by accusing it of backing Afghan militants, Washington is tilting at windmills. Not only that, it is the militants based in Afghanistan who are responsible for several acts of terrorism on Pakistani soil. So it is Pakistan which is paying the price of continuing instability in Afghanistan. If any country has a cause for complaint against its neighbour, it’s Pakistan over Afghan security forces failure to rein in terrorists on their side of the international border.


In international relations, as in interpersonal relations, perception is more important than reality. Despite Pakistan’s rebuttal, the Americans as well as their lackeys – the Afghans and Indians – remain unimpressed. In their book, mere tilting at Pakistan would be of little consequence. So the Trump administration must tighten up on Islamabad. This may take the form of designating Islamabad as a state sponsor of terrorism, revoking its non-Nato Ally status, or carrying out strikes on alleged militant hideouts in the settled areas of Pakistan, which may result in a good number of civilian casualties.


Any punitive measures, while they may put Pakistan in a spot, would make it difficult for Washington to hit the bull’s eye in Afghanistan. Whether Americans like it or lump it, alienating Pakistan will further frustrate the cause of peace in the war-torn country.


Constructive engagement with Islamabad rather than penalization – or even “putting it on notice” – is the only viable policy option for Washington.


Giving India a greater role in the region will raise Pakistan’s as well as China’s hackles. The envisaged role will be seen by both Beijing and Islamabad as running counter to their strategic interests in the region and bring the two even closer to each other.


It is time for the U.S. to resort to prudence, take practical measures to allay Pakistan’s legitimate concerns, stop being used by myopic leadership of India and Afghanistan and, also give peace a pragmatic chance. Pakistan has faced the brunt of this long drawn U.S. war and will meet halfway for peace and peace alone!

 

The author, a graduate from a Western European University, writes on political and economic issues.

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08
January

Written By: Dr. Kamal Monnoo

World economy faced uncertainties and pessimism in 2017 over a series of “black swan” moments like Brexit and Donald Trump’s election in 2016 on a protectionist agenda. Mr. Trump’s recent move of pulling USA out of the Paris Climate Deal adds to this uncertainty, which in turn creates a vacuum of global leadership that presents ripe opportunities to allies and adversaries alike to reorder the world’s power structure. And the likely contender is, of course, China. The Chinese are eager to fill this evolving void that Washington is leaving behind – on everything from setting the rules of trade and environmental standards to financing the infrastructure projects that will give Beijing vast influence. Almost to the end of the year, unlike the rest of the world, China instead saw positive developments in the global economy. It firmly believes that as its dominance on the world stage grows, the outcome from its push on trade and connectivity will further strengthen the global markets despite the current challenges and opportunities they face.
China's GDP achieved a 6.9 percent growth year-on-year based on comparable prices in the first quarter of this year, according to data issued by the Chinese National Bureau of Statistics on April 17, 2017. From the perspective of the world economic pattern, this is an economic performance beyond extensive market expectations and its biggest effect will be to further consolidate China's status as the world's economic stabilizer and economic engine. For countries like Pakistan where China is already investing around $50 billion (a figure which is likely to increase over time) under CPEC (China-Pakistan Economic Corridor) the implications of this rising Chinese global dominance are likely to be more profound. Also, the much talked about (overwhelming) Chinese presence in the country could come about much quicker than anticipated. Trouble is that the Pakistani public may not be fully ready for it. Since the present Pakistan government has been rather vague about what the CPEC precisely entails – relying more on generic marketable terms like development, jobs, investment, friendship, etc. – the mistrust amongst a segment of Pakistanis on the eventual impact of this endeavor on their lives does exist. After all, China is not an NGO coming to Pakistan to distribute jobs and aid packages; nor is it a philanthropist bringing free help without demanding anything in exchange. The CPEC cause is further hurt from active propaganda by some skeptics and foreign foes (for example, India) citing that the entire CPEC initiative is designed specifically for the benefit of the Chinese – with any benefit to Pakistan being merely from a spillover effect. According to them and going by recent news items published in the western press on the real objectives of the CPEC plan, they opine China intends to cane out an elongated economic enclave within Pakistan, run mostly by the Chinese for the Chinese. Pakistan benefits mostly by leasing out or in some cases literally surrendering its natural assets, thus taking them out of the hands of the Pakistani people and handing them over to the Chinese corporations. They argue that CPEC is an invasive economic project, which will greatly diminish Pakistan’s authority over its own land and resources, and allow China an almost unrestrained access to its ports and other key assets. While it may bring significant infusion of capital into Pakistan, in the long run – if this unveiled master plan is implemented – the Chinese corporations may very well be taking a lot more capital out of the country than what they effectively brought in!

 

In many ways, CPEC provides the advantage of being an “early harvest” program where people of Pakistan will not have to wait too long to see its positive results. A significant chunk of people-centric projects – Orange Line, Yellow Line, power plants and road networks – will be operational before 2020 and as their outcome starts pouring in and improving lives of Pakistanis, the public belief in CPEC will strengthen giving it more impetus and longevity. CPEC, if dealt judiciously, will tend to be a big unifying force for Pakistan.

Propaganda aside, on a more realistic note, amidst lack of transparency on part of the government in CPEC’s implementation and a lot of noise being raised from provinces other than Punjab, this all important investment bonanza for Pakistan may fast become grey than purple. The absence of a professional and autonomous apex board for overseeing all CPEC activities is not helping things either. In addition, it is unfortunate as it appears that with the passage of time both the Pakistani and Chinese marketers of this project are losing the plot on successfully creating a positive perception on CPEC. In a recent sitting with the Pakistani businessmen, the Chinese ambassador to Pakistan Sun Weidong stated that China has little interest in importing goods manufactured in Pakistan. Explaining the reasons to a gathering of leaders of the Federation of Pakistan Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FPCCI) in Islamabad, he opined that behind the China-Pakistan trade imbalance the main cause relates to the fact that Pakistan is either just not producing the goods that are needed in China or it simply does not have the capacity to do so. He admitted that under the current circumstances, unless there is a major policy shift in Pakistan or China, the Chinese corporations would garner the major chunk of the resultant economic activity. The thinking confirms rising concerns that Pakistani businesses may have little to gain in coming years, because it would largely benefit Chinese businesses. It may be pertinent to mention here that Pakistan's exports to China have been continuously falling from USD 2.69 billion in 2013-14 to USD 1.9 billion in 2015-16. There is a fear lurking that a time will soon come when the Chinese will start dictating terms and priorities rather than negotiating them. As an increasing number of Chinese enterprises acquire stakes in Pakistan's economy, and as the government takes out more and more loans from Chinese state-owned banks for supporting its balance-of-payments, in the process the space to negotiate and protect Pakistan interests naturally diminishes.


Furthermore, it is always important to be mindful of the reality that CPEC is not entirely a manifestation of the mutual desire of China and Pakistan to expand economic ties, but primarily of the larger global vision of China to revive the ancient Silk Route, returning China to the glory days of the Ming Dynasty when China literally dominated global trade. This vision is pursued through the OBOR (One Belt, One Road) initiative. Within the OBOR, so far, CPEC is the largest investment outlay by China, but this could change. Also, there are larger Chinese strategic interests at play here: a) Shortest, quickest and cheapest access to the Arabian Sea, b) With presence in Gwadar the ability to control, police and safeguard (where required) oil interests of China, which is the largest oil consumption economy in the world today, and last but not least, c) Help the grand development transition from East to West within China where such an effort will not only lift the under-developed western areas of China out of poverty and help resolve some long standing/traditional secessionist issues, but more importantly, also significantly add to the buying power of a big chunk of Chinese population, thereby boosting the overall Chinese endeavor to sustainably remain on the present economic growth path through shoring up its domestic consumption. These are few of the observations and opinions that critics of CPEC raise at various forums. These need to be suitably addressed to achieve the desired positive objectives from the project.


However, regardless of what the critics may have to say, there are clear winners in CPEC both for China and Pakistan. Following are of some these clear advantages to both China and Pakistan.


Advantages for China
As already mentioned above, while the CPEC is surely monumental for Pakistan, it at the same time also carries a number of advantages for China. Primarily, it constitutes an integral part of China’s broader vision to assert itself as the leading economic power through the OBOR initiative that seeks to physically connect China to its markets in Asia, Africa, Europe and beyond. The New Silk Road will link China with Europe through Central Asia and the Maritime Silk Road to ensure a safe passage of China’s shipping through the Indian Ocean and the South China Sea. CPEC will in effect connect China with virtually half of the population of the world.


Access to the Indian Ocean via Gwadar will enable China’s ships to bypass Malacca Strait and overcome its “Malacca Dilemma”. Development of Gwadar seaport and improvement of the infrastructure in the hinterland would help China sustain its permanent presence in the Gulf of Oman and the Arabian Sea.

 

The fact that China is opting to place its bets on Pakistan as one of the key pivots in its OBOR vision effectively means that with the right management and leadership skills Pakistan can emerge as the main corridor to not only China and Central Asia, but also the aspiring South Asian economies.

While the new silk roads are bound to intensify ongoing competition between India and China – and to a lesser extent between China and the USA – practically they will always be an asset on ground benefitting all regional stakeholders and thereby strengthening and cultivating increased Chinese influence in Central Asia in particular and the Asia continent and the world in general.


Advantages for Pakistan
Foremost, CPEC brings much needed investment in the Pakistani economy, which if harnessed prudently will be the harbinger of new opportunities for Pakistan and help it in spurring inclusive growth, in-turn creating jobs and reducing poverty. The scale of capital investment coupled with Chinese expertise of undertaking large-scale projects makes CPEC a potential game changer and cements China’s role in securing Pakistan’s stability and security.


Chinese investment under CPEC will help in not only expanding Pakistan’s GDP, but also by acting as a catalyst to its GDP growth. A consistent inflow of large-scale foreign direct investment will greatly help Pakistan to improve its perception-cum-image with other investors. It will signal that Pakistan is open for business and a safe and productive place to do business in. With CPEC becoming functional, Pakistan’s geo-strategic security interests will become directly aligned with those of China, consequently releasing much of the pressure that is currently being exerted from next-door neighbors, India and Afghanistan. Pakistan may be in a better position to engage other developed economies once its own economy is performing better.


CPEC is likely to have a natural spillover effect on further improvement in Pak-China defence and nuclear cooperation. The success of Sino-Pak partnership is also likely to ultimately attract Afghanistan into the CPEC fold and if this happens, the development can have a positive impact on relations with Afghanistan. China, Pakistan and Afghanistan, all have a shared interest in the stabilization of Afghanistan because the main threat to the realization of the OBOR vision comes from the terrorist groups.


In many ways, CPEC provides the advantage of being an “early harvest” program where people of Pakistan will not have to wait too long to see its positive results. A significant chunk of people-centric projects – Orange Line, Yellow Line, power plants and road networks – will be operational before 2020 and as their outcome starts pouring in and improving lives of Pakistanis, the public belief in CPEC will strengthen giving it more impetus and longevity. CPEC, if dealt judiciously, will tend to be a big unifying force for Pakistan.


It is a God sent opportunity for Pakistani businesses and the corporate sector to meaningfully connect to perhaps the most robust economy of the world and that too with one with whom we share borders. China today has a GDP of $ 18 trillion on a Purchasing Power Parity (PPP) basis. It has one of the largest foreign currency reserves of $3.6 trillion. It is the largest exporter of the world with $2.34 trillion annual exports and 3rd largest importer with annual imports of $1.96 trillion. It is the largest trading partner with more countries than any other economy of the world, including the USA. China today leads the initiative as being one of the main financiers of the developing world – recently creating the AIIB (Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank) – and its overseas investments today exceed $20 trillion. It has the world’s highest savings rate that gives it the strength to create its own resources for investments home and abroad. The fact that China is opting to place its bets on Pakistan as one of the key pivots in its OBOR vision effectively means that with the right management and leadership skills Pakistan can emerge as the main corridor to not only China and Central Asia, but also the aspiring South Asian economies. If we can get our house in order, the access to the rich Chinese market comprising of 1.5 billion people, immense knowledge and innovation, and the world’s largest pool of capital deployment, can provide us with the opportunity we have always been dreaming of.


CPEC, in the long-term, may also kick-start South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) as other South Asian economies are bound to get attracted to the benefits of connectivity to this expanding economic train. CPEC provides Pakistan with a chance to learn from the Chinese and to even involve them, where necessary, in order to resurrect the Pakistani state run enterprises. China, today, presents the best model on how to combine private sector entrepreneurial choices with state’s power and resources.


According to a Gallup survey, China’s staggering economic growth has been fuelled not only by the attempt to replace a socialist “command economy” with one built along market lines, but also by an extraordinary commitment to hard work among the people of the Middle Kingdom. Harvard theologian Michael Novak argues that certain Confucian values are similar to those analyzed by Max Weber in the Protestant Ethic and The Spirit of Capitalism (1904). In a Pakistani society, which is overtly ritualistic, introduction of Confucian values and Chinese work ethics can be extremely beneficial in driving operational efficiencies.


Challenges for Pakistan
Having listed the advantages, it will nevertheless be prudent to recognize that mentioned below are some of the simultaneously occurring main challenges that Pakistan will face against the planned investments under CPEC:


• No real expertise to handle inflows of such magnitudes totaling $50 billion.
• Lack of human resource and a professional apex structure to transparently and professionally
• Manage CPEC’s implementation.
• Resultant future debt servicing issues.
• CPEC can adversely hit our current account deficit by ballooning imports.
• Erosion of domestic/home industry.
• Political/provincial bickering adding to disunity in Pakistan.
• Pressure on external account once profits and re-payment start flowing out, with present currency swap arrangements being inadequate.
• Diminished negotiating power, given our political and military dependence cum reliance on China and also due to lack of other investment options with us at present.


Further, one must also take into account some concerns that arose from the experiences of other countries, which have been recent recipients of investments:


Recent Chinese investments in Sri Lanka have not generated the kind of returns they originally envisaged. For example, the four-lane highway leading out of the town of Hambantota and the boondoggles built and financed by China beyond and along this highway have thus far failed to generate the kind of economic activity required to justify the payback on the debt accumulated against these projects: A 35,000-seat cricket stadium, an almost vacant $1.5 billion deep water port and a 16 miles inland airport at the cost of $209 million stands as amongst the world’s emptiest international airports.


Mattala Rajapaksa International Airport, the second largest in Sri Lanka, designed to handle a million passengers per year, currently receives only about a dozen passengers per day. Projects like Mattala are not driven by local economic needs but by remote stratagems. When Sri Lanka’s 27-year civil war ended in 2009, the president at the time, Mahinda Rajapaksa, worked on the idea of turning his poor home district into a world-class business and tourism hub to help its moribund economy. China was happy to oblige. Hambantota sits in a very strategic location, just a few miles north of the vital Indian Ocean shipping lane over which more than 80 percent of China’s imported oil travels. However, so far no travellers have come, only the bills. The Mattala airport has annual revenues of roughly $300,000 but now it must repay China $23.6 million a year for the next eight years according to Sri Lanka’s Transport and Civil Aviation Ministry. Overall, around 90 percent of the country’s revenues go in servicing debt. To relieve its debt crisis, Sri Lanka has put its ‘white elephants’ (unsustainable investments) up for sale. In late July 2017, the Sri Lankan government agreed to give China control of the deep water port – a 70 percent equity stake over 99 years – in exchange for writing off $1.1 billion of the island’s debt. And, China has promised to invest another $600 million to make the port commercially viable. However, this was not done originally. Likewise, outcomes emerging from the experiences of Indonesia, Nigeria and lately Kenya (where an inter-connecting railways has been built at a colossal cost) are not of encouraging economic dividends.


To conclude, the economic-cum-geo-political reality is that the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), with an enormous potential to ultimately deliver up to $62 billion of bilateral developmental projects between Pakistan and China, can be a “game changer” not only for Pakistan, but also for entire South Asia. The economic corridor will connect Pakistan’s Gwadar Port in Balochistan with Kashgar in the northwestern Chinese province of Xinjiang through several extensive networks of roads and various other infrastructure projects. This project has become a “flagship project” of China’s Silk Road Economic Belt. Launched in 2015 and intended, at least on paper, to be finished by 2030, the CPEC has of late figured regularly in Pakistan’s economic and national security discourse. Many hope the project will prove to be a win-win for both countries. China is expected to save millions of dollars every year through increased access to the Indian Ocean and the creation of a shorter route for energy imports from the Middle East. The project holds great potential to not only boost China’s domestic economy, but also enhance its geopolitical clout and improve regional stability. Pakistan is also understandably pleased. The excitement felt among political and economic circles stems to a large degree from Pakistan’s wobbly economic performance in recent years, where the country has been failing to meet its GDP targets. For the Pakistani government, the project promises an economic boost and a potential solution to the country’s currently feeble socio-economic structure. Many hope CPEC will result in: an expanded infrastructure in the country, the introduction of large-scale hydro, solar, thermal, and wind-driven projects fit to tackle the country’s severe energy crisis, and perhaps also a transnational rail system.


Moreover, this project will help Islamabad elevate its strategic partnership with China. Care needs to be taken that from the very start that Pakistan safeguards its long-term economic interests in a way that projects undertaken today do not become the cause of pain tomorrow.

 

The writer is an entrepreneur and economic analyst.

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IBOs Conducted by FC Balochistan in Different Areas of Balochistan

cpecfromidea.jpgFC Balochistan conducted IBOs in Rustam Darbar, Dera Bugti and Killi Deba areas on December 11, 2017. 6 terrorists of TTP were apprehended. Recovered explosives, arms and ammunition including anti-personal mines, detonators and communications equipment. In Punjab Pakistan Rangers Punjab with Police and intelligence agencies conducted IBOs in Attock, Rawalpindi and Sargodha. 12 terrorist facilitators were apprehended. number of illegal weapons/ammunition were also recovered.

 

 

 

 
08
January

The year 2017 saw Pakistan’s continuing efforts for internal, regional and global peace through successfully combating the forces of terrorism and extremism. Operation Sherdil, Rah-e-Raast, Rah-e-Nijat, Khyber IV, Zarb-e-Azb, Radd-ul-Fasaad and many other efforts are not all but few examples of our commitment towards peace. Pakistan has remained a staunch ally of all forces working for world peace. This policy is in line with the vision of our Founding Father Quaid-i-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah who envisioned Pakistan as a model state of peace and progress for the rest of the world. Our efforts in achieving this goal are unwavering under all circumstances. The world remains appreciative of Pakistan’s efforts towards peace. Pakistan and the United States have also worked very closely in achieving desired objective of a peaceful region. However, due to various reasons of expediency, strategic and operational flawed strategies, implicit and explicit role of spoilers, of late the U.S. policymakers seem more bent towards blame-game than prudently orchestrating the peaceful outcomes. The new U.S. National Security Strategy 2017 has been received largely as veering sharply away from the old priorities with a bellicose and threatening South and Central Asia policy cast in stark terms that may lead to a complex tapestry. After years of fighting the War on Terror Pakistan has been seemingly left on its own to confront the multiple challenges arising from cross-border terrorism from Afghanistan while India continues to take priceless lives along the Line of Control. The confutation is further proved by the fact that Pakistan Army has lost several of its brave officers and soldiers in terrorist attacks originating from Afghanistan and during anti-terrorist operations conducted with unassailable sincerity to rid the country of this menace.


This being said, it is time for U.S. and Afghanistan to do more for Pakistan. Peace in Afghanistan is conducive to yielding the dividends of peace in Pakistan and without a symbiotic relationship and cooperation from the Afghan side Pakistan will have to keep fighting terrorism emanating from the cross-border movement. Major General Asif Ghafoor, DG ISPR, in a recent press conference mentioned that “Our Armed Forces are contributing to regional and world peace in cooperation with our friends and allies. We wish to continue this cooperative engagement which remains the way forward; not coercion. There shall be no compromise on self respect.”


The scenario we are faced with as we enter 2018 encompasses many challenges; however, with collective efforts of the government, our security forces and the nation, these challenges can be converted into opportunities. The internal security challenges have been countered significantly in the last few years as from 2013 to 2017, terrorism incidents have significantly reduced. The previous operations including Operation Zarb-e-Azb and the ongoing Operation Radd-ul-Fasaad tackled terrorism in the physical domain. It also largely helped in curtailing connectivity between the terrorist abettors and facilitators inside Afghanistan. However, the situation warrants changes in the current approach of the U.S.; it must probe the anti-Pakistan Indian role, not only through Afghan territory but also along the Line of Control.


Towards the end of 2017, another significant development was Chief of Army Staff, General Qamar Javed Bajwa’s briefing to the Senate Committee on national security and the recent developments at the regional and global level. COAS ensured full support to government in enforcing law and order and providing support to development projects in the country. The emphasis remains on the resolve to continue our struggle against the menace of violent extremism through a synergetic and focused effort in which entire nation is involved, based on the principle of collective potential and shared responsibility.


As Quaid-i-Azam stated on January 23, 1948, “The weak and the defenseless in this imperfect world invite aggression from others. The best way in which we can serve the cause of peace is by removing the temptation from the minds of those who think we are weak and therefore have no honor. That temptation can only be removed if we make ourselves so strong that nobody dare disregard our national integrity. Every one of us has an important role to play in guarding national interests and your watchwords should be faith, discipline and self-sacrifice.”


Pakistan has time and again proved to be a resilient nation with a strong, committed and dedicated Armed Forces and no one else is entitled to disregard our efforts by their own maxims. In 2018 also, Pakistan will leave no stone unturned for internal and external peace. Opportunity exists for not letting the divisive elements to dominate discourse and give way to understanding by mending the rifts. The New Year comes as an opportunity to see an end to fanaticism, extremism and the killing of innocent humans and to transform the region and world into a peaceful global society.


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08
January

Special Report: Hilal Desk

The seminar, Human Resource Development for the Youth of Balochistan – Opportunities and Challenges, was held in Quetta on December 7, 2017. Renowned speakers from academia, civil society, media and political sphere addressed a large number of audience including youth from Balochistan. COAS Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa was the keynote speaker.


In his address the COAS mentioned that presently over 25,000 Baloch students are receiving quality education at various Army and Frontiers Corps-run schools and cadet colleges all over Pakistan. Nearly 20,000 sons of Balochistan are serving in Army including over 600 as officers while 232 cadets are undergoing training at Pakistan Military Academy (PMA), Kakul. He said that this was only the representation in Pakistan Army and the number gets even higher when we take into account the Baloch youth in Pakistan Air Force, Pakistan Navy and other Law Enforcement Agencies. The COAS said that ‘our future is bright and our youth is fully capable of taking on the mantle. Balochi youth is as capable as the youth of any other area of Pakistan’. He further said that ‘we have enough resources, we just need to improve our human resource. The civil service needs to be made attractive so that the top talent comes to civil service as it is the backbone of any country’.


The COAS also announced the establishment of an MRI center at Turbat while expediting the establishment of already announced educational institutions. He further stated that the Army is a state institution meant to serve the nation. The Army shall continue to perform its role while national security and development remains a national obligation for all state institutions. He also said that ‘he believes in democracy and even more so in the democratic values of selfless service and supremacy of moral authority. All of us have a duty to the nation’.


General Qamar Javed Bajwa concluded that tomorrow’s Balochistan would be the engine of national development effort and an invaluable link from north to south and also to the west.

 

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08
January

Written By: Ali Shehzad

Ali Shahzad, brother of Flight Lieutenant Umer Shahzad, pens his personal account about his martyred brother

 

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It was 13:15 p.m. on September 24, 2016, an unusually sunny Saturday in Beijing.


I had just returned to my dormitory after attending an exhibition held by the different clubs in my university. Had I not been exhausted from the guitar I played alongside my crew, I would have loved to spend the whole day over there. It was a jolly good day filled with memories I had made through my interaction with the Chinese students, expanding my social circle. Unusual to my routine on a weekend, I decided to take a mid-day siesta. My last thoughts, as I would remember, comprised of how thankful I was to my God for giving me all the success and happiness a person of my position could possibly desire.

 

And then the clock struck 17:18 p.m.
As per norm, I swiped my finger across my mobile to check the time. Incidentally, I also decided to share some of the pictures of the exhibition on social websites. And then I saw a message sent by an old colleague from Pakistan.


‘I have just come to know that your brother has ejected from his aircraft. I hope he is safe’.
‘You’re damn right he is safe’, I thought to myself. I had suddenly realized that I had no remaining balance in my mobile phone, hence there was no way to contact my father in case of an emergency, unless he had a live internet connection in Pakistan. The sun was setting, and I remember everyone rushing to the makeshift prayer rooms we had set up in our dormitory. I rushed to a friend’s room, grabbed his mobile phone and returned to my room for making the call.


And then the hammer dropped.
As my father would describe in a melancholic tone, my only brother (Flt Lt Umer Shahzad) had embraced martyrdom in an F-7 air crash during a routine exercise in Peshawar.
There was no one else in my room, since everyone was either busy with maghrib prayers or fixing up a meal in the dormitory kitchen.


The first thing I could think of was to muster up the courage to offer my prayer in my room, including the longest bows I have ever made to the Almighty. All my spoken and unspoken prayers must have shaken the clouds. And then, after 30 minutes of fully absorbing the news and coming out of shock, I realized that I should call my room-mate and get help.

themrtyerbro1.jpg“Talha, please come to the room. I need some help,” I called my room-mate.
“Coming in a minute,” he replied. And then he was the first one I broke the news to.
“Talha, I am not in a position to book my air tickets. I can’t think clearly. Help me, please”.
There is a problem with the flights from China to Pakistan; only 3 flights in a week and all of them on weekdays. How was my air ticket booked? Who called the taxi to the airport? How did I keep my composure (with no one else)? And how on earth was I able to attend my brother’s funeral/burial service in Lahore in the next 24 hours? Only Allah would have the answers to these questions. The truth of the matter is that I had to find a connecting flight to Lahore from Beijing, with a 6 hour transit time in Abu Dhabi.


As a student striving to open my eyes to the world, I have always struggled in finding inspirational personalities to learn from. Alas! Who knew that I had the biggest example right beside me? I had to face the most difficult flight plan ahead, so I kept my mind calmly occupied with the thoughts of my brother’s personality, and what I had just lost.


I had lost my best friend.
Flt Lt Umer Shahzad Shaheed was born in Lahore on July 19, 1990. He was 26 when he embraced martyrdom. He was the eldest of the two sons of Air Commodore Asif Shahzad. He was intelligent, well-disciplined and a friendly person, always acquainted with most of the people around the block. And there’s a possible explanation to this too; Umer was talented on nearly all levels, so he appealed to large number of people from different backgrounds, with different tastes. No matter what kind of lens is used to gauge the personality of Umer, he would always stand out from the crowd.


He had an academic strength about him. He always stood in the top 3 positions in his class. He broke all records in his college with his A’s in the GCSE O-Level. And honestly speaking, he was one of the best teachers I have had the pleasure to learn from. As a younger brother, I would inherit all of his important ‘notes’ in the school, and he would always be ready to give me a crash course whenever I needed one.


Umer also had a liking for performing arts. His acts and plays were still remembered among the senior faculty of his schools and residents of the Air Force bases. One of his feats of acting, called the ‘Little Man’, also went viral on social media websites. He was a self-taught guitarist, and similar to many things, I also learned this art from him. I remember Umer alone, having enough confidence to participate in all of the local gigs with his own musical band called the UKS.


Umer was also an honourable sportsman and a fair competitor, too. During our 2-year stay in England (from 2003 to 2005 due to my father’s post-graduate education), I clearly remember my brother winning all sorts of trophies, while playing cricket in Cranfield University. His coach was very much impressed by his performance, to the point that he even decided to approach my father one day, seeking permission to recommend Umer for the county cricket. Football, basketball, volleyball or any other sport, Umer was not only a participant in such activities, he would also prove himself to be a true captain leading by example.


I will never forget his tears of joy, as soon as he received his call letter to join Pakistan Air Force. It was one of those moments (as described by most of the successful people in literature) where a person receives his calling towards what is destined for him. Now that I think of it, Allah definitely had much better plans for him. Indeed, there’s a lesson to be learnt here for the youth.


He exhibited peak performances after his induction in the Air Force. At PAF Academy Risalpur, the senior cadets would always describe Umer as a true specimen of a 'Gentleman Cadet'. His strength in the academics, physical fitness, discipline (and all the qualities that are required for a good officer) combined with his management and leadership skills, earned him the award of the AUO (Academy Under Officer, the most prestigious appointment for a cadet in the academy). On completion of his training as a Pilot Officer from the PAF Academy, Umer also won the General Service Training (GST) Trophy as well as the Sword of Honour, due to his exceptional performance as a young cadet. For anyone not familiar with the jargon, these are the most prized awards in the PAF Academy, a dream of every cadet enrolled. But Umer was destined for a place much higher, indeed.


Even during his service as a Flying Officer and Flight Lieutenant, Umer’s senior officers were always satisfied with his learning curve and adaptability to the profession. He was a true leader, a humble man to work alongside, as described by his coursemates in the Air Force. Come what may, no one ever doubted in his ability to lead. On a personal note, I always thought that at his time, he would make a great Chief of the Air Staff, and I always motivated him to do his best in the line of duty, and become the best!


In September, his squadron arrived at PAF Base Peshawar for an exercise and Umer visited our home in Peshawar. Perhaps it was fate that brought him to see our parents for the last time before leaving. The last wash received by Umer’s green flight suit was given by my mother herself.


After the crash, his body was brought to CMH, Peshawar. It was a closed-casket funeral service, which was attended by the highest ranking officials of our armed forces including the three services chiefs. Former Chief of Army Staff General Raheel Shareef expressed his feelings to my father saying, “Asif, you know that I have become the Chief of Army Staff yet my mother still remembers my Shaheed elder brother, Shabir Shareef all the time. You have suffered a great personal loss, but you have also been honoured by the Almighty to be the father of a martyr. Never lose sight of this lasting pride."


The funeral prayers were offered multiple times in various cities including Peshawar, Lahore and Quetta, the home base of his squadron. His body was taken to be buried in Lahore with a service procession to our uncle’s house. It was the same house in which we had celebrated Umer’s engagement to our uncle’s daughter. Plans were in hand for his wedding next year. Alas! Carrying my brother’s coffin from the same house where we had plans to celebrate his wedding was devastatingly painful. I pray no one suffers this way; it is too tragic for human souls to bear.


Umer’s funeral was the only event that I was able to attend 2 hours later after landing in Pakistan. I had to say goodbye to my brother before I could say anything to anyone else in Pakistan. It is not a coincidence that he has been buried very close to the airport (a place echoing with the thunderous sound of the turbo engines every now and then) alongside some of the greatest martyrs of our country. Many brave soldiers have laid down their lives for our great nation, Pakistan.


The frequent postings of our parents in the armed forces do not allow us to settle in a particular place for a very long time. Therefore, I would like to imagine that most of the people like me do not get the opportunity to have solidified friendships outside of our homes a lot. Therefore, on a personal level, I have not only lost my only sibling, but also my best friend!


But interestingly, I still feel Umer’s presence around myself, reassuring my faith in a verse about the martyrs in my religion "And do not say about those who are killed in the way of Allah, they are dead. Rather, they are alive, but you perceive [it] not" (Bakrah, 2:154). For the last 6 years, we have never lived in the same place anyway. Although he is now away from my sight, I still feel that my brother is just a call away.


“If a man can bridge the gap between life and death, if he can live on after he's dead, then maybe he was a great man.”
James Dean

 

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08
January

Written By: Wing Commander Bahroni

On December 2, 2017, a grand ceremony was held at PAF Base Nur Khan to celebrate the 75th anniversary of No. 6 Air Transport Support Squadron. Air Chief Marshal Sohail Aman NI(M), Chief of the Air Staff, Pakistan Air Force, who was the chief guest at the occasion, also unveiled a commemorative postage stamp which has been issued by the Pakistan Post to pay tribute to the services rendered by No. 6 Squadron during the past 75 years. War veterans, former Air Chiefs and a large number of retired and serving officers were in attendance. A well-crafted documentary highlighting the glorious history of this magnificent squadron was shown during the ceremony.


The squadron was raised on December 1, 1942 at Trichinopoly under the command of Squadron Leader Mehar Singh. Equipped with Hawker Hurricane aircraft, the squadron was assigned the Tactical Reconnaissance Role while the Burma campaign was in full swing during the World War II. Due to its valuable contributions on the Burma Front in 1943, two of its pilots earned the Distinguished Flying Cross for their gallantry while its Commanding Officer was decorated with the Distinguished Service Order for his exemplary leadership during Burma campaign. In April 1947, months before Independence, the squadron moved to Drigh Road, Karachi and was re-equipped with the Douglas C-47 Dakota, thus changing the role of the squadron to air transportation.

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April 13, 1948 marked the historic day when a 6 Squadron’s Dakota flew Quaid-i-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah from Karachi to Risalpur, where Father of the Nation delivered the famous historic address and thus set the direction for Pakistan Air Force. Then again, on September 12, 1948 three Dakotas of No. 6 Squadron were flown in close formation to pay tribute to the Quaid on his funeral ceremony. The year 1949 was marked by rapid changes and indigenization for the squadron. The Freighters were modified to carry 4000 lbs Block Buster Bombs under each wing. The new capability thus brought the name Medium Range Transport and Bomber Squadron.

 

cel75yearof1.jpgThe saga of joint operations with Pakistan Army dates back to those times when No. 6 Squadron was fully involved in support of 12 Division of Pakistan Army that was marking its footprints in Northern Areas of Pakistan. During this time the idea of carrying out tactical missions was conceived and executed with professionalism. Later on, the first Minimarg and Gultari aerial drop missions were conducted in November 1957. In August 1959, while Northern Area Operations were in full swing, the squadron shifted to its present location and started the most demanding and dangerous Shimshal and Passu drop aerial missions.


March 1, 1963 was a historic day in the history of the squadron; the C-130 Hercules entered the arena and changed the doctrine of PAF Air Transport Operations for the times to come. Months after the induction of state-of-the-art Hercules, clouds of war started gathering on the horizon in early 1965. The War of 1965 is the saga of heroic performance of our fighter pilots and remarkable feats displayed by the crew of No. 6 Squadron. The heroes of No. 6 Squadron used the Hercules in a versatile and unique manner that would be remembered by our adversary for ages. Never would have the designer of Hercules dreamt that this aircraft would be used as a bomber in the pitch dark night against the most challenging air defence of that time. Offensive bombing missions were flown all across the eastern border and eleven aircrews were awarded gallantry medals; the maximum among all PAF squadrons.

 

cel75yearof2.jpgIn 1971 war, the enemy once again tried her luck against the fervour of our gallant heroes. With the added advantage of past experiences of the 1965 war and with innovative ideas of our predecessors, C-130s were once again called to action. Bombing missions were again flown by the mighty Hercules, the most accomplished being the attack at Jaisalmir which inflicted heavy damage on the Indian Air Force Technical Complex.


On April 29, 1972 No. 6 Squadron became the first PAF Squadron to receive the Squadron Colour in recognition of its outstanding performance in Kashmir Operations and Indo-Pak wars of 1965 and 1971.
During the late 60s when the foundation stones of the Karakoram Highway (KKH) were being laid, No. 6 Squadron was at nation’s service to airlift heavy machinery, personnel, rations and huge equipment to Gilgit. Pakistan Air Force established an air bridge between Chaklala and Gilgit for the construction and timely completion of the 8th wonder of the world.


The C-130s were also excessively used for critically needed national and international relief efforts. On December 26, 2004 tsunami struck South East Asia with a strong jolt. No. 6 Squadron displayed exemplary professionalism during tsunami relief operations in Sri Lanka, Maldives and Indonesia. On the fateful morning of October 8, 2005 a massive earthquake measuring 7.6 on Richter scale jolted the northern areas of Pakistan and played havoc on life and property. PAF immediately responded to the nation’s call and Chaklala became the hub of all relief operations. No. 6 Squadron worked with unparalleled zeal and established air bridge with the affected areas to support casualty evacuation and provision of relief goods. Similarly, the monsoons of 2010 brought the most horrifying floods that resulted in devastation of human lives, crops, and national asset. As always, Transport fleet came up to the nation’s expectations in this hour of need by extending all out support and provided relentless assistance to the flood victims. The squadron remained extensively involved in Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (ISR) and relief operations for floods of 2011 as well.


Our cunning enemy treacherously occupied Siachen in 1982 which led to a standoff that continues till date. On request of Pakistan Army, the squadron undertook the uphill task of transporting heavy machinery, howitzer guns, ammunition and soldiers to Skardu and Gilgit for the initial build up. At the same time, the squadron also evacuated large number of Pakistan Army’s soldiers who became victims of frostbite and other serious injuries. Soon after, the squadron was tasked to conduct aerial delivery missions at Paiju Drop Zone in support of Pakistan Army troops deployed at Siachen. Flying through narrow valleys over some of the largest glaciers of the world, these missions demand highest level of professionalism, skill and accuracy, which has always remained the essence of transport aircrew. These challenging missions continue even today.


On May 28, 1998, when Pakistan successfully tested its nuclear devices in response to Indian nuclear tests, No. 6 Squadron was again at the forefront. During these crucial times it played a key role in transporting the scientists and finally the nuclear devices to Quetta in a short period. Dr. Samar Mubarakmand remarked: “I must say that Pakistan Air Force has made a tremendous contribution to the conduct of the entire nuclear experiments and the atomic tests. The 6 Squadron and the C-130s not only had a great contribution in transporting nuclear devices to Quetta from Islamabad, but they also carried members of our team before and after the detonations were completed.”


The 9/11 attacks on USA changed the complete global geo-political scenario in general and for Pakistan in particular. When the United States launched attacks on Taliban-controlled areas of Afghanistan, Pakistan decided to join the international community in the War against Terror. This led to volatile situation on our western as well as sea borders. Therefore, to guard the Pak-Afghan International Border and to cater for any attack from sea side on south, Operation Al-Mizan was launched in mid-October, 2001. It was a high level, tri-services operation executed to counter threats generated in post-9/11 scenario. C-130s were extensively used in the transportation of Army troops and Air Defence units for the operation. Nearly all the missions were flown during the foggy nights under complete RT silence. In December 2001, when Pakistan was engaged in Operation Al-Mizan, Indians launched full-scale military exercise leading to escalation on the Eastern Border. In response, Pakistan launched Operation Sentinel. As usual, No. 6 Squadron was the first to take part in the operations. Transport fleet deployed the entire war assets along with PAF personnel in record time thus preventing the enemy to make any mischief against the motherland. Air Chief Marshal Mushaf Ali Mir paid tribute to the transport element on December 12, 2002 during his visit to the base. He wrote in the visitors’ book, “An outstanding achievement made by our PAF Base, Chaklala during Operation Al-Mizan and Operation Sentinel. You were the ‘Battle Winners’; we salute your dedication and professionalism.”


Following the aftermath of Pakistan joining the GWOT, there was a dire need to break the backbone of terrorists active in tribal areas of Pakistan. Once again, in order to accomplish this task, No. 6 Squadron was bestowed with the herculean task of ISR to have real time picture in the headquarters and to shooters both in air and on ground. The C-130s were further modified for laser designation for dynamic targeting thus minimizing the sensor to shooter time. Jelled with the fighter elements of PAF, the transport aircrew conducted many successful missions during Operations Rah-e-Rast, Rah-e-Nijat and Zarb-e-Azb with zero collateral damage and thus broke the backbone of terrorists in the area of operation. Where the most advanced air forces of the world failed to achieve the desired results, Pakistan Air Force once again proved its mettle by ensuring no collateral damage; thanks to the valuable support provided by No. 6 Squadron.


Besides operational tasks, No. 6 Squadron participated in Royal International Air Tattoo (RIAT) 2006 along with the renowned air forces of the world. PAF C-130 became the star of show and bagged all three trophies for static display and team competitions. PAF returned to RIAT 2016 winning Concours D’ Elegance Trophy for the best static display during the competition.


Never before June 7, 2017 the mighty Himalayas overseeing the Skardu valley had heard the growl of C-130 propellers in reverse in the dark of night. NVG operations in Skardu are the major milestone in the history of Squadron.


Be it the conduct of tactical operations in the snow covered mountains of Northern Areas or the ISR operations in the rugged terrain of FATA; be it the support of sister services in joint operations or the relief efforts both in-land and abroad, No. 6 Squadron has left an indelible mark in the history of Pakistan Air Force. Celebrating the 75th anniversary of this magnificent squadron, under the leadership of Group Captain Raja Usman the aircrew earnestly pledged to continue serving the sacred motherland for the times to come.

 

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08
January

Written By: M. Tahir Mushtaq

Recently, an article in Outlook India with headlines “Noida to Islamabad” has created lot of positive sound in the digital world regarding Pakistan’s emerging potential in the field of information technology. This article suggested with evidence that IT Jobs were beginning to move from India to Pakistan. The story emanated from a western origin IT company’s action of laying off 125 employees from India and hiring the same numbers from Pakistan the very next day. It further narrated that job cuts had plagued the Indian IT Industry for about two years, with “Bloodbath in Bangalore being the recurring headline and the neighbouring (Pakistan) budding IT Industry growing in its own space. With this positive sound, most of the analysts referring to the story published in The New York Times Op-Ed in 2015 titled “Pakistan, the Next Software Hub?” predict that future of Pakistan’s IT landscape is very bright in the wake of the Fourth Industrial Revolution where Pakistani talent has the unique ability and potential to out-innovate its competitors to help Pakistan lead in this arena.

 

pakitindustryboom.jpgPakistan’s digital potential is immense in terms of talent and cost competitiveness. The IT sector is growing exponentially with phenomenal pace as a result of progressive policy interventions of Ministry of IT. The size of IT Industry has doubled in past four years and there is an optimistic prediction that it will grow further 100% in the next two to four years. The internet penetration has risen from less than 2% to over 30% in the past four years. Over 1,50,000 IT professionals available in the market have made us an ideal landscape in terms of human capital. Our talent is unique in terms of creativity and ability to assimilate new skills at a faster pace. We should take pride in this fact that Pakistani talent have helped produce many accomplished technology companies like Careem and Afiniti. Both of these Unicorn (over billion dollars worth) companies, like other companies of Pakistani origin have been engineered in Pakistan, where the local talent has designed the innovative software which is the core of their success. Afiniti is an AI (Artificial Intelligence) based company which has largely been engineered in Lahore, while the taxi hailing service Careem has been engineered in Karachi. This demonstrates the depth and breadth of our local IT talent that can produce any world class product fit into the fourth wave of technology.

pakitindustryboom1.jpgThe strength of the Pakistani diaspora is another competitive differential which could be a great source of strength for our industry by helping to establish their footprint in the western markets. Tens of thousands of IT experts with Pakistani origin are based in the West, whose collective potential could be the key prime mover to tap into the potential of new digital order. Quite recently a Pakistani American, NED alumni Mr. Raghib Hussain’s company Cavium has been acquired by Marvel at a value of USD 6 billion. We have numerous success stories like it where Pakistani Expats are creating ripples in Western world through their entrepreneurial and technological talent. We have similar inspirational stories of budding talent at home in the shape of Shaheer Niazi (introduced new factors in the electric honeycomb phenomenon eyed for Nobel Prize) and Haroon Haseeb (Queen Leader Award Winner) which provides every reason for optimism of our future tech talent. The local talent on the back of networking strength of diaspora can help position Pakistan more favourably to win the technology projects to help with increasing the IT remittances.

 

We live in a time of ubiquitous opportunity in the digital space to lead a better and convenient life. The world is changing to a new paradigm of creative and disruptive economies. No one could have thought few years back that world’s largest taxi company (Uber) will own no taxi, largest accommodation provider (Airbnb) will have no property, largest movie house (Netflix) could have no cinema. This transformative change necessitates disruptive models of entrepreneurship and workplace.

The Fourth Industrial Revolution which brings with it numerous challenges for the existing technological landscape also promises new avenues of opportunity in the field of Artificial Intelligence, IoT (Internet of Things), Data Analytics etc. Pakistani talent is uniquely positioned to take advantage of it due to their fast learning abilities in the presence of new mediums of e-learning which remove the traditional barriers of learning limited to physical spaced knowledge centres. Pakistan’s talent landscape includes formal IT professionals complemented by a large number of freelancers who have made their name on international e-platforms exhibiting professional brilliance with quality delivery on time at competitive prices. Pakistan has the unique distinction of being ranked in top three freelancing countries as being marked by biggest freelancing website (Freelancers.com). According to Helma Kasuma of Freelancers.com, out of 25 million visitors, one million are Pakistani freelancers. This shows that Pakistan’s freelancing industry is thriving and have lots of potential to rise. With this in view, Ministry of IT through Ignite (National Technology Fund) is rolling out a comprehensive program to train one million people including Freelancers as part of Digi Skills Program. This program is aimed at upping Pakistan’s IT remittance to over $6 billion in coming years by providing training to freelancers on hot skills through state-of-the-art e-learning mediums. The skills chosen for training are aligned with the emerging requirements of skill sets deemed required in the wake of Fourth Industrial Revolution. This program will not only help to bridge the employment gap but also help to increase Pakistan’s remittances to an astronomical proportion.

pakitindustryboom2.jpgWe live in a time of ubiquitous opportunity in the digital space to lead a better and convenient life. The world is changing to a new paradigm of creative and disruptive economies. No one could have thought few years back that world’s largest taxi company (Uber) will own no taxi, largest accommodation provider (Airbnb) will have no property, largest movie house (Netflix) could have no cinema. This transformative change necessitates disruptive models of entrepreneurship and workplace. With this realization, host of incubation centres have been set up in Pakistan in public and private sector to nurture the innovation by converting their ideas into commercial products. As part of realization of IT Minister’s vision, Ignite (National Technology Fund) has established National Incubation Center (NCI) at Islamabad with the partnership of Jazz and on similar pattern, incubation centres are also being established in Lahore, Karachi, Quetta and Peshawar. These incubation centres coupled with AI, IoT, Fintech based national excellence centres under the auspices of MoIT will create an effective enabling platform to harness the true potential of our people to ride the wave of Fourth Industrial Revolution. These centres will serve as the budding ground of ideas and their fruition into a viable product that which not only provide immense opportunities of employment but will also give a strong boost to the national economy. We can trust that with these centres of innovation, our local talent can not only make strides in new vistas of technology like Artificial Intelligence but make themselves competitively fit to take the local tech industry to new heights of success.


While talking about Pakistani talent we should not lose sight of our girls and women who have immense potential and energy to take Pakistan forward in every field of life including the technology. In the traditional world physical barriers limit the talent of women and girls to physical spaces while the digital world provides them with ample opportunities to tap into their true potential. Though they have exhibited their potential in every field of life, digital sector is the new-found opportunity where without moving from their place they could do wonderful jobs like coding, online teaching etc. with the help of technology while simultaneously taking care of their families. This has been solidly verified as part of Ministry of IT’s “ICT4G” project executed through USF (Universal Service Fund), where tens of thousands of girls from unprivileged areas have been trained on Microsoft’s 4C program including coding, computing, coaching and communication. This training is leveraged to empower them financially by using digital skills, to earn livelihoods and contributing towards their family income generation. The successful stories of beneficiaries of this project help us achieve basic purpose of women empowerment leading towards sustained economic productivity and growth as well as reduction of deeply entrenched discriminatory practices.


Pakistan, with thriving middle class of over 50 million is an ideal investment gateway to Asia. On the back of fast growth of ICT sector, we have witnessed a new-found interest of investment in ICT sector of Pakistan. Most recently, five companies got licenses to establish assembly line of smartphones in Pakistan including Haier, G5, Jio Phone, and Mob mobile. Another area of impending investment is e-business. It is growing at an exponential pace and has a huge potential in the wake of our population size and growing trends of this segment. World’s biggest e-business players like Alibaba have shown keen interest in Pakistan’s e-commerce sector. There is no denying the fact that to capitalize the gains of emerging technologies, 5G is the key. As per a report of “Al Arabiya,” Pakistan is uniquely distinguished to be tipped as the first country in the region – even surpassing India – which will introduce 5G. This will help us provide all the encompassing advantages of a first-mover on the technology front which will become the base for the quick adoption of peripheral technologies associated with Fourth Industrial Revolution.


With these moving trends and developments, Pakistan is truly poised to become a new frontier in the field of Information Technology. The stage is set for us and wind is blowing in our favour. We have great people who can help us ride the new wave seamlessly with all competitive advantages that we have. The need is to spread positivity about these real trends because it will not only keep the budding talent inside motivated but also consolidate trust of foreigners on Pakistan’s potential for investment. In coming years Pakistan will be a hot destination for entrepreneurs and venture capitalist and will be an ideal place for technological investment in Asia.

 

The writer is a member of HRD at the Ministry of IT, Government of Pakistan.

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08
January

Written By: Dr. Zafar Nawaz Jaspal


The Trump administration released new “National Security Strategy of the United States of America” on December 18, 2017. It provides an important window into the thinking of Trump administration’s means, ways and ends. It underlines the steady transformation in the global politics that is causing new strategic alliances or partnerships formation. The materialization of new partnerships is advantageous for a few regional actors and alarming for the smaller states, particularly in Asia. Indeed, Trump’s National Security Strategy (NSS) 2017 will not only steward the United States during the next three years, but also immensely influence the global strategic environment. Importantly, it stresses on great power competition with China, flatters India, and snubs Pakistan. The great power’s strategic competition would not only make Pakistan’s strategic environment vulnerable, but also drag it into their strategic theater. In addition, the Trump administration officials’ recent mantra that India is a reliable natural partner and Pakistan is an unreliable partner in South Asia is a critical development. Therefore, the NSS 2017 needs to be taken seriously and the document’s critical examination is imperative for chalking out a befitting coherent strategy to uphold Pakistan’s national interest.


Realistically, the NSS 2017 specifically targeted Pakistan. It claimed, “The United States continues to face threats from transnational terrorists and militants operating from within Pakistan.” Importantly, it reiterates the allegations, which were levied in the Trump Afghanistan and South Asia policy statement on August 21, 2017. He accused: “For its part, Pakistan often gives safe haven to agents of chaos, violence, and terror.” He pointed out: “We can no longer be silent about Pakistan’s safe havens for terrorist organizations, the Taliban, and other groups that pose a threat to the region and beyond. Pakistan has much to gain from partnering with our effort in Afghanistan. It has much to lose by continuing to harbor criminals and terrorists.” On December 21, 2017, during his Afghanistan visit Vice President Mike Pence also stated that “President Trump has put Pakistan on notice.” Secretaries of Defense and State and the National Security Advisor also hinted for punitive measures including stopping U.S. economic and military assistance to Pakistan. These alarming developments have germinated four important interlinked questions: What is NSS 2017? Why is the Trump administration flattering India? Could NSS 2017, President Trump’s South Asia and Afghanistan policy, and other official’s warnings serve the intellectual pretext to impose economic sanctions against Pakistan and conduct extended drone strikes on the Pakistani territory in the near future? What is Pakistan’s response? The following discussion is an attempt to explain the philosophical constructs of the NSS 2017, shift in the American policies in the changing global strategic environment, destabilizing repercussions from the promotion of India and Pakistan’s cautious response.

 

Trump administration is determined to give India a bigger role in Afghanistan. It is blaming Pakistan for its own failure in the region. The people of Pakistan are disturbed by the Trump administration’s repeated mantras of ‘do-more’; ‘placing on notice’.

The philosophical constructs of Trump’s NSS 2017 are ‘internationalism’ blended in principles of ‘realism’. It is a strategy of principled realism that is guided by outcomes, not ideology. It equates the international politics with the Hobbesian world in which sovereign states compete for advantage and militarily advantageous nations coerce the smaller/dependent partners for maximizing their gains. The procurement of modernized high-tech military hardware, therefore, is inevitable to pursue objectives in competitive geopolitical affairs. While confirming the recurrence of the era of balance of power, it echoes the realization that era of United States’ role as the ‘sole super power’ to structure and administer a ‘new world order’ is checkmated by rising China and the assertive Russian Federation. Therefore, it applauds India’s “leadership role in Indian Ocean security and throughout the broader region” to balance China in the Asian strategic setting. Secondly, the NSS document reflects the American frustration due to protracted warfare in Afghanistan, unending war on terrorism, radicalized outfits or lone wolf terrorists’ presence in the American and European societies, crises in west Asia, advancing nuclear arsenal of North Korea and Pakistan’s endeavor for a sovereign foreign policy and its shift towards Eurasian powers. Third, the document also signals Trump administrations apathetic approach towards climate change; promoting democracy and human rights, and disarmament of conventional and nuclear weapons.


The edifice of NSS 2017 document is realism. It “acknowledges the central role of power in international politics, affirms that sovereign states are the best hope for a peaceful world, and clearly defines our national interests.” In theory, realism depicts states as operating in a nasty and brutish Hobbesian world that prompts them to compete for power and influence at the expense of other nations. Sovereign states subordinate or disregard moral principles while pursuing their objectives in the anarchical international society. In such a world sovereign states maximize their gains through competition instead of cooperation. Two senior members of Trump administration, H.R. McMaster, National Security Adviser, and Gary Cohn, Director of the National Economic Council wrote in the Wall Street Journal (May 30, 2017) that the world is “an arena where nations, non-governmental actors, and businesses engage and compete for advantage.” Similar theme was spelled out in the NSS 2017. It expresses distress on the current international economic order because it is disadvantageous for the interest of America. President Trump is convinced that free-trade deals undermine the U.S. national interest and are advantageous for its adversaries. Hence, the United States has to maximize its military strength to play a decisive role in the international geopolitical affairs. This precisely why the Trump administration is inclined towards mercantilist economic philosophy.

 

Pakistan cannot be apathetic to India’s increasing military capability and its role in its Western neighborhood at the behest of the United States. Islamabad’s renunciation of Washington’s attempt to demonstrate India as a great power in South Asia is a source of annoyance for the Trump administration. Therefore, President Trump and his cohorts are accusing and reprimanding Pakistan.

The document reveals the strong leaning of the Trump administration towards internationalism. It says, “An America that is safe, prosperous, and free at home is an America with the strength, confidence, and will to lead abroad.” It also rationalizes the internationalist policy by reminding that in the absence of the American leadership in the aftermath of World War I, the world descended into World War II. “We learned the difficult lesson that when America does not lead, malign actors fill the void to the disadvantage of the United States.” The irony is that during the 2016 presidential election campaign the impression was given that Donald Trump foreign and strategic policy would be influenced by the isolationist norms. As a presidential candidate he stated: “the problems in Europe, Asia, NATO, and Syria, are for others to worry about.” The NSS 2017 document sounds different. It completely discards the isolationist approach in making the United States foreign and strategic policy. Therefore, in the current changing international politics, Washington remains assertive for its leadership to steward the like-minded states, allies and partners.


The NSS 2017 clearly reiterated to endure the United States leadership in the global politics and also identified China and the Russian Federation as strategic competitors of the United States in the twenty-first century. It underscored that: “China and Russia challenge American power, influence, and interests, attempting to erode American security and prosperity.” It added: “China and Russia are developing advanced weapons and capabilities that could threaten our critical infrastructure and our command and control architecture.” The formulation of a favorable balance of power necessitates rebuilding America’s military strength. The NSS 2017 accentuates President Trump’s promised defense spending spree. In February 2017 at MacDill Air Force Base in Florida, he admitted that American troops lacked equipment. Nevertheless, they would see “beautiful new planes and beautiful new equipment.” The NSS 2017 document says: “We will modernize our nuclear enterprise to ensure that we have the scientific, engineering, and manufacturing capabilities necessary to retain an effective and safe nuclear triad and respond to future national security threats.” It also indicated that the United States is deploying a layered missile defense system. The modernization of both conventional and nuclear weapons intensifies the security dilemma puzzle of many states, including China and the Russian Federation, which are pilloried by NSS 2017 as challengers to United States primacy in the global geopolitical affairs.


The United States, today, is aimed for promoting a balance of power that favors the United States, its allies, and its partners. Perhaps, the pursuit of global leadership through the military buildup and constituting strategic partnerships alarm other great powers. They struggle to sustain their influence in their neighborhood. The strategic opposition by other leading powers is natural. On December 19, 2017, Beijing and Moscow decried President Donald Trump’s NSS 2017 as a “Cold War mentality” with an “imperialist character”. Chinese foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying stated: “We urge the United States to stop intentionally distorting China’s strategic intentions and to abandon outdated notions such as the Cold War mentality and zero-sum game, otherwise it will only harm itself or others.” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov opined: “The imperialist character of this document is obvious, as is the refusal to renounce a unipolar world, an insistent refusal.” The Chinese and Russians response marked that Trump’s National Security Strategy disturbs both nations and thereby they adopt political, economic and military countermeasures.


The NSS 2017 document exhibits a shift in the American perceptions about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Previously, the Americans maintained, “Israeli-Palestinian conflict is the center of the Middle East’s (if not the world’s) troubles”. The new NSS says: “For generations the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians has been understood as the prime irritant preventing peace and prosperity in the region. Today, the threats from jihadist terrorist organizations and the threat from Iran are creating the realization that Israel is not the cause of the region’s problems. States have increasingly found common interests with Israel in confronting common threats.” The alarming variable in the shift is that the current American administration is setting aside the legitimate demand for right of self-determination of the people of Palestine. It is instead diverting the attention of the world towards jihadist terrorists and Iran. Admittedly, the Islamic State had posed a serious threat to entire region. However, currently, it is losing its influence in the Middle East and gaining influence in Afghanistan whereas the Iran issue was baselessly aggregated in the NSS. Many Americans have also expressed their serious concerns over Trump’s Iran policy. This shift in the American policy will be having serious repercussion for the South-West Asia.


The NSS reiterated Washington’s commitment to strengthen India’s military power and enhance its role in the Asian strategic setting. It says, “We welcome India’s emergence as a leading global power and stronger strategic and defense partner. We will seek to increase quadrilateral cooperation with Japan, Australia, and India.” United States, Australia and Japan constituted strategic partnership with India. Indeed, this strategic partnership is to check China’s increasing clout in the global affairs, particularly in Asia-Pacific. China’s assertiveness in South China Sea is a nuisance for United States and its South East Asian allies. Moreover, its increasing naval presence throughout the Indian Ocean irritates India that regarded India Ocean as part of its immediate sphere of influence. On July 10, 2017 the United States, Japan, and India lunched a tri-nation Malabar exercise in the Bay of Bengal. The naval exercise was aimed at achieving deeper military ties between the three nations. In the exercise, the U.S. navy’s largest nuclear-powered aircraft carrier USS Nimitz, the Indian Navy’s solitary aircraft carrier INS Vikramaditya and Japan Izumo-class helicopter carrier participated. They deployed front-line warships, submarines and aircraft as part of the maritime exercise. The U.S. Navy spokesperson stated: “As members of Indo-Asia-Pacific nations, our maritime forces are natural partners, and we look forward to continuing to strengthen our bonds and personal relationships.” Certainly, United States, Japan and India maritime forces cooperation is advantageous for their national interests, but disturbing for the other Indo-Pacific littoral states.


Since the beginning of 21st century, India and United States strategic partnership is on a positive trajectory. The strategic partnership facilitates New Delhi in the pursuit of its regional and global agenda. Washington supports unconditionally New Delhi at the international forums against Pakistan. It facilitated India’s entry into Missile Technology Control Regime in 2016 and Wassenaar Arrangement in 2017. Washington has been lobbying to make New Delhi a full member of Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) since May 2016. The former also endorses India’s great power ambitions in South Asia, Indian Ocean and beyond. The NSS 2017 claims: “We will expand our defense and security cooperation with India, a Major Defense Partner of the United States, and support India’s growing relationships throughout the region.” In the political context, the document pointed out, “We will deepen our strategic partnership with India and support its leadership role in the Indian Ocean security and throughout the broader region.” The United States is preparing India to play a regional leviathan role in South Asia and the Indian Ocean to keep in check the increasing influence of China in the region. The NSS promises, “We will help South Asian nations maintain their sovereignty as China increases its influence in the region.” The Americans are deliberately ignoring the fact that a politically and militarily strong India would be perilous for strategic stability in South Asia. India has already unleashed hybrid warfare against its neighboring states, including Pakistan, to pacify their demand for sovereign equality in the regional affairs. New Delhi typically operates below the threshold of conventional warfare, using a blend of military and paramilitary tools, including proxy forces/militants/separatists, cyber tools, and information operations to shape and coerce neighboring states to its advantage. Consequently, India succeeded against its small neighbors. Nevertheless, Islamabad has been resisting New Delhi’s endeavors to establish its hegemony in the region through the conventional and hybrid warfare.


Ironically, the Trump administration does not condemn India’s frequent violations of the Line of Control and butchering of innocent Kashmiris in the Indian Occupied Kashmir (IOK). Conversely, they endorse New Delhi’s claims that the Indian border forces fire at LOC to prevent infiltration of the militants and they are killing terrorists in the Indian Occupied Kashmir. In reality, Indian armed forces are killing innocent civilians on both sides of the LOC. The NSS says “U.S. interests in the region include countering terrorist threats that impact the security of the U.S. homeland and our allies, preventing cross-border terrorism that raises the prospect of military and nuclear tensions, and preventing nuclear weapons, technology, and materials from falling into the hands of terrorists.” It failed to express its concerns over the reckless behavior of the Indian ruling elite. Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Air Force Chief had openly expressed their desire to conduct surgical strikes or hot pursuit against nuclear-armed Pakistan. This hawkish irrational attitude of the Indian leadership is alarming for the South Asian strategic stability. Indeed, it is an accurate conclusion of the NSS 2017 that: “The prospect for an Indo-Pakistani military conflict that could lead to a nuclear exchange remains a key concern requiring consistent diplomatic attention.” India and Pakistan tense relations and formal warmongering to blackmail the latter threaten to spiral into escalated conflict entailing nuclear strike exchanges. Instead of addressing New Delhi’s irresponsible surgical strike mania, the document says: “The United States will also encourage Pakistan to continue demonstrating that it is a responsible steward of its nuclear assets.” It is indirectly raising a questions on the safety and security of Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal when taking the history of Pakistan’s nuclear program into account proves that it is a responsible nuclear weapon state. Pakistan has always handled its nuclear assets responsibly. Islamabad cannot compromise on its nuclear weapons because they are essential to prevent a nuclear attack, non-nuclear strategic attacks, and large-scale conventional aggression.


Realistically, today, America’s military remains the strongest in the world. Despite this the military advantages of the United States are shrinking or limits are exposed in the prevalent global politics. Its mighty military machine has failed to secure unconditional victory in Afghanistan. The continuous Afghan Taliban resistance in Afghanistan is a source of frustration for the Americans. On August 21, 2017, President Trump in his South Asia plan highlighted American frustrations. He stated: “I share the American people’s frustration. I also share their frustration over a foreign policy that has spent too much time, energy, money — and most importantly, lives — trying to rebuild countries in our own image instead of pursuing our security interests above all other considerations.” At various occasions, Trump administration accused Islamabad of providing safe haven to the Afghan Taliban. The Americans have been scapegoating Pakistan to conceal their failure in Afghanistan.


The NSS 2017 completely ignored Pakistan’s sacrifices in the global war on terrorism. It repeats the old mantra of unsubstantiated allegations and unreasonable demands. It demanded, “Pakistan decisive action against militant and terrorist groups operating from its soil.” Pakistan has successfully been conducting military operations like Zarb-e-Azb and Radd-ul-Fasaad against terrorist organizations and their facilitators. It seems that the NSS 2017 the Indian point of view, i.e., ‘cross-border terrorism that raises the prospect of military and nuclear tensions.’ The Government of Pakistan responded candidly without caving into Trump administrations threats. It warned that “unsubstantiated allegations” will only “trivialize Pakistan’s efforts for fighting terrorism.” It also reminded Trump administration: “Pakistan has long been at the forefront in the fight against regional and global terrorism. It is because of Pakistan’s cooperation with the international community, acknowledged and appreciated by the U.S. leadership, that the Al-Qaeda core was decimated from the region.”


The preceding discussion confirms that the Trump administration is determined to give India a bigger role in Afghanistan. It is blaming Pakistan for its own failure in the region. The people of Pakistan are disturbed by the Trump administration’s repeated mantras of ‘do-more’; ‘placing on notice’; ‘U.S. could take unilateral action’; etc. On December 28, 2017, DG ISPR Major General Asif Ghafoor voiced Pakistani’s concerns by saying: “We have done enough and we can’t do it anymore for anyone. It is time Afghanistan and the U.S. do more for Pakistan.” The befitting diplomatic response and Islamabad’s unwillingness to ‘do more’ may enrage President Trump, entailing drone strikes on Pakistani territory. Islamabad categorically stated that any unilateral actions taken inside Pakistan by the U.S. would be met with an emphatic response. General Ghafoor specified: “The armed forces are working with friends and want to continue doing so, but there can be no compromise on our national honor. We do not want a conflict with our friends, but will ensure the security of Pakistan.”


To conclude, Pakistan cannot be apathetic to India’s increasing military capability and its role in its Western neighborhood at the behest of the United States. Islamabad’s renunciation of Washington’s attempt to demonstrate India as a great power in South Asia is a source of annoyance for the Trump administration. Therefore, President Trump and his cohorts are accusing and reprimanding Pakistan. Conversely, Pakistani ruling elite is doing its best to convince the Americans that it is neither interested in undermining American supremacy in the global politics nor desires to quash Pakistan-United States strategic partnership.

 

The writer is Associate Professor at School of Politics and International Relations, Quaid-i-Azam University, Islamabad.
 
08
January

Written By: Ambassador Zamir Akram (R)


On the issue of Taliban safe havens in Pakistan which has strongly been denied, the logical answer would be to effectively monitor the Pakistan-Afghan International Border and deny Taliban the use of Afghan refugee camps as bases by ensuring the earliest return of all Afghan refugees. But the U.S. remains reluctant to implement these measures. Accordingly, it is not for Pakistan but for the U.S. to do more in dealing with terrorism and working to bring peace to Afghanistan. As such, it needs a realistic exit strategy from Afghanistan. But so far, such a strategy is absent. On the contrary, the Trump administration’s “strategy” is a recipe for prolonged conflict in search of an elusive “victory”.

For the last 16 years, the U.S. has been fighting the longest war in its history in Afghanistan. However, it still does not have an exit strategy despite losses of USD 3 trillion and thousands of lives. The only American excuse for this stalemate is to blame Pakistan and keep demanding that Pakistan needs to do more to help the U.S. win its war on terror. But to use Pakistan as a scape-goat for American failure is not a strategy – let alone a means to exit from Afghanistan.


During his election campaign, Trump had advocated a withdrawal from the Afghan quagmire. But after becoming President, he was persuaded by the Pentagon and the CIA to continue fighting without a deadline in search for an elusive ‘victory’ against the Taliban. The so-called “South-Asian approach” to Afghanistan announced by Trump in August, is no more than a rehash of past failed policies. The crux of this policy is to put pressure on Pakistan “to do more” by closing down alleged Taliban safe havens on its territory. Another key aspect is to give India a greater role in Afghanistan, thereby implicitly endorsing the encirclement of Pakistan from the Afghan and Indian sides.

 

nousexitstrategy.jpgBut the Americans soon realized that they had gone too far in trying to corner Pakistan, since no amount of pressure can persuade Pakistan to compromise on its own regional security interests and by encouraging India to play a greater role in Afghanistan they would diminish rather than encourage Pakistani cooperation. Moreover, in the absence of any other options, the U.S. still needs Pakistan’s ground and air space for logistical purposes in Afghanistan. As a result, there have been several subsequent efforts to backpedal from the aggressive and threatening stance expressed by Trump.


In their recent visits to Islamabad, Secretary of State Tillerson and Defense Secretary Mattis, have been at pains to mollify Pakistani civilian and military leaders. The revised approach is to “find common ground” with Pakistan and to recognize Pakistan’s sacrifices in the war on terror. Mattis also reportedly conveyed that “the U.S. is ready to play its role in addressing Pakistan’s legitimate concerns” regarding Afghanistan. In more concrete terms, the U.S. released USD 700 million from the USD 2 billion of held up Coalition Support Funds (CSFs) incurred by Pakistan in support of the war on terror.


While these developments denote a welcome change in the U.S. approach, there still remain major hurdles in the bilateral relationship. For instance, the U.S. still needs to reimburse Pakistan the remaining CSF. It has also reneged on its agreement for sale of certain armaments such as the F-16 aircraft. The size of American assistance to Pakistan has also been greatly slashed. Meanwhile, the typical American good cop/bad cop routine with Pakistan continues with positive comments by Tillerson and Mattis countered by CIA Director Pompeo’s threat that if Islamabad does not close down Taliban “safe havens”, then the U.S. will use all means to do so. Therefore, the “do more” mantra of the past three American administrations goes on.


Such differences between the U.S. and Pakistan do not augur well for either country nor for that matter for Afghanistan or the regional security itself. Continued violence and instability in Afghanistan is not in the interest of any country – the U.S., Pakistan or Afghanistan. There is need for a realistic and pragmatic approach to resolve the Afghan problem. Repeating the mistakes of the past will not generate success for the Americans. The simple truth that emerges from the past 16 years of warfare is that there is no military solution in Afghanistan. The only option is to evolve a political solution involving all stakeholders. This process needs to begin with an American reappraisal of their failed policies and recognize the reasons for the failure.

 

Since the start of its occupation of Afghanistan in response to the 9/11 terrorist attacks, the U.S. has failed to distinguish between Al-Qaeda terrorists and the Taliban, who claim to fight against foreign occupation of their country. While Al-Qaeda’s fighters can be killed and defeated, the Taliban, belonging to the Afghan Pushtun majority, cannot be wiped out. To make matters worse, use of air power, such as drones, causing civilian casualties among Afghans has actually helped the Taliban recruit more troops. This has been compounded by the corruption and misrule by the U.S. backed Kabul government. Failure to eradicate poppy cultivation and the drug trade, which has actually grown during the American occupation, has further helped the Taliban by providing a valuable source of funding.

Since the start of its occupation of Afghanistan in response to the 9/11 terrorist attacks, the U.S. has failed to distinguish between Al-Qaeda terrorists and the Taliban, who claim for fight against foreign occupation of their country. While Al-Qaeda’s fighters can be killed and defeated, the Taliban, belonging to the Afghan Pushtun majority, cannot be wiped out. To make matters worse, use of air power, such as drones, causing civilian casualties among Afghans has actually helped the Taliban recruit more troops. This has been compounded by the corruption and misrule by the U.S. backed Kabul government. Failure to eradicate poppy cultivation and the drug trade, which has actually grown during the American occupation, has further helped the Taliban by providing a valuable source of funding.


Meanwhile, the U.S. plan to build-up the Afghan security forces with American support has failed. On the contrary, the Taliban have gained in strength, taking control of nearly 40% of Afghan territory, even in non-Pushtun areas such as Kunduz and Herat provinces. Consequently, regional powers with security and business interests relating to Afghanistan, such as China, Russia and Iran, have established contacts with the Taliban. The growing rivalry between the Taliban and emerging ISIS terrorist forces in Afghanistan has further increased the relevance of the Taliban for these countries which perceive ISIS as a growing security threat for them. For all these reasons, it is becoming increasingly important for the U.S. to recognize that their continued military and political opposition to the Taliban is unlikely to succeed. The only way to end this confrontation is to promote a durable political settlement in Afghanistan through dialogue which takes into account the interests of all sides.
Another major flaw in U.S. policy has been the imposition of a unitary constitution on Afghanistan which is inconsistent with the decentralized nature of the Afghan polity, consisting of different tribal, ethnic and sectarian groups. A durable political structure will have to take this reality into account and a government will need to evolve based on power-sharing and greater decentralization.

 

This situation is complicated by the highly dubious U.S. role tolerating Indian sponsored TTP and Baloch terrorist safe havens in Nangarhar, Helmand, and Kunar provinces of Afghanistan, which continue to operate freely despite the presence of U.S. military and intelligence agencies. Moreover, America is unwilling to help Pakistan’s efforts to better manage the Pakistan-Afghan border, giving rise to the suspicion that it wants the TTP and Baloch terrorists to continue with their attacks in Pakistan. This may be to pressurize Pakistan as well as to try and derail the CPEC, which the U.S. has opposed at the behest of its Indian clients as well as to strategically contain China. In these circumstances, the offer by Defense Secretary Mattis to address Pakistan’s legitimate security concerns is hardly convincing, unless proven otherwise with concrete steps on ground.

Another major folly has been the lack of a consistent long term strategy in Afghanistan. Initially, under the Bush administration, the objective was to defeat terrorism. Thereafter, within a few years, the goal was switched to Afghan nation building which was also pursued by the Obama administration. Now President Trump has abandoned nation building and is back to fighting terrorism. Moreover, following initial successes against Al-Qaeda and the Taliban, Bush turned towards invading Iraq which diverted forces and resources away from Afghanistan and provided the opportunity for the Taliban to re-group and reassert their influence in the country.


Even the nation building effort was half-hearted and misguided, with billions going to American contractors and corrupt Afghan officials, and only a fraction reaching the Afghan people. The irony is that if just a small percentage of the colossal expenditure on the Afghan war effort was used to build the country’s economy and infrastructure, it would have guaranteed popular support for the U.S. and its Kabul allies. As a result the opportunity to win Afghan hearts and minds was squandered, which worked in favour of the Taliban.


To make matters worse, the U.S. consistently relied on the wrong Afghans to achieve their objectives. In their eagerness to defeat the Taliban, Americans relied on the support of non-Pushtun minority groups such as the Tajiks of the erstwhile Northern Alliance, who were given key security, defence and intelligence positions. This not only alienated the Taliban but the majority Pushtun population which continues to harbor serious misgivings about the Tajiks due to their harsh experience during ten years of the Afghan civil war. Even those Pushtuns like Hamid Karzai and others in the government are viewed by the majority as stooges and tools of the Americans.


From Pakistan’s perspective, Washington has consistently failed to recognize Islamabad’s strategic imperatives regarding Afghanistan. For Pakistan, the compulsions of geo-politics and the historical legacies of disputes with India over Kashmir and Afghanistan over the erstwhile Durand Line border (de jure and de facto international border) have combined to conflate the threat of hostile encirclement from its western and eastern borders. Therefore, Pakistan and India have historically competed for influence in Afghanistan. Pakistan’s relations with Afghanistan have, therefore, been a function of its relations with India and of India’s relations with Afghanistan. This triangular relationship will continue in the future. Those Americans, or indeed Pakistanis or Indians, who dismiss this reality as ‘paranoia’ of the Pakistani security establishment, need only look so far at the current Indian and Afghan support for the TTP and Baloch terrorists located in Afghan safe havens from where they carry-out terrorist attacks in Pakistan. This clear and present danger for Pakistan, which has existed in various manifestations such as the Pushtunistan bogey and Baloch insurgencies since independence, requires Pakistan to ensure leverage in Afghanistan. For this reason, it cannot now afford to alienate the Afghans including the Taliban nor fight America’s war on its territory, especially since there are 3.5 million mostly Pushtun Afghan refugees in Pakistan.


This situation is complicated by the highly dubious U.S. role tolerating Indian sponsored TTP and Baloch terrorist safe havens in Nangarhar, Helmand, and Kunar provinces of Afghanistan, which continue to operate freely despite the presence of U.S. military and intelligence agencies. Moreover, America is unwilling to help Pakistan’s efforts to better manage the Pakistan-Afghan border, giving rise to the suspicion that it wants the TTP and Baloch terrorists to continue with their attacks in Pakistan. This may be to pressurize Pakistan as well as to try and derail the CPEC, which the U.S. has opposed at the behest of its Indian clients as well as to strategically contain China. In these circumstances, the offer by Defense Secretary Mattis to address Pakistan’s legitimate security concerns is hardly convincing, unless proven otherwise with concrete steps on ground.


Moreover, Washington’s belated acknowledgement of Pakistan’s sacrifices in the war on terror holds little comfort for Pakistan. Apart from continuing to withhold over USD 2 billion of CSF funds, the U.S. continues to ask Pakistan to “do more”. It has ignored the direct cost of USD 142 billion that Pakistan has incurred in the war on terror since 9/11. More importantly, by asking Pakistan to do more, the U.S. has trivialized the loss of more than 70,000 Pakistanis, both civilian and armed forces personnel, who have died in this counter-terrorism campaign, the highest number of casualties than even the combined losses of the U.S. and its NATO allies in Afghanistan. Moreover, of all the countries engaged in counter-terrorism operations, not just in Afghanistan, the most successful have been the operations conducted by Pakistan, owing to which there has been more than 70% reduction in terrorist incidents in Pakistan. And this is despite the Indo-Afghan support for the TTP and Baloch terrorists.


On the issue of Taliban safe havens in Pakistan which has strongly been denied, the logical answer would be to effectively monitor the Pakistan-Afghan International Border and deny Taliban the use of Afghan refugee camps as bases by ensuring the earliest return of all Afghan refugees. But the U.S. remains reluctant to implement these measures.


Accordingly, it is not for Pakistan but for the U.S. to do more in dealing with terrorism and working to bring peace to Afghanistan. As such, it needs a realistic exit strategy from Afghanistan. But so far, such a strategy is absent. On the contrary, the Trump administration’s “strategy” is a recipe for prolonged conflict in search of an elusive “victory”.


Meanwhile, the dangers of terrorism in Afghanistan are increasing with the growing presence of ISIS and the activities of the TTP with Indian support leading to a ISIS-TTP nexus. Instead of addressing this potent terrorist threat for the entire region, the U.S. remains fixated on fighting the Taliban.


All this gives rise to the question whether the U.S. actually does want to exit from Afghanistan. A counter-narrative has, therefore, emerged even in the U.S. that the real American objective is to prolong the Afghan conflict in order to provide justification for the indefinite presence of American troops there. This argument is supported by the fact that the U.S. has set up five permanent military bases in Afghanistan and is reportedly beginning construction of yet another base. The presence of these bases was agreed with the earlier Karzai government and endorsed by the current regime. Such a high level military presence would be instrumental for the U.S. to monitor Pakistan, especially its nuclear assets – an objective already acknowledged by several Americans including Trump. It would also facilitate American clandestine activities against China and Iran as well as Russian interests through Central Asia. The killing of Taliban leader Mulla Mansoor by a U.S. drone which derailed the dialogue process being promoted by Pakistan indicates American opposition to a dialogue and further supports this view. The cost of such a policy to the Americans in terms of blood and treasure would be minimal. In fact the American military-industrial complex would greatly benefit from this policy.


These developments cannot be dismissed as mere conspiracy theories until the U.S. comes up with a coherent and realistic strategy to resolve the Afghan conflict and pursues a credible exit strategy. Continuation of the Afghan conflict also suits India as it keeps Pakistan preoccupied on both its eastern and western borders while at the same time threatening the implementation of CPEC.


In this dangerous environment, it is imperative for Pakistan to continue with its efforts to defeat terrorism internally while securing its border with Afghanistan. It also needs to work with Iran, China and Russia to ensure its security and to try and pre-empt the U.S. by jointly promoting an Afghan political settlement. This effort may not succeed, given the Kabul government’s reliance on the U.S., but at least it will expose American and Indian objectives in the region and make achievement of these malafide objectives more difficult.

 

The writer is a former Ambassador of Pakistan.

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08
January

Written By: AVM Shahzad Aslam

Chaudhry (R)


2017 was a mixed year. Pakistan failed to climb out of its difficulties and created some more. The positives were few and far between. If the economy signaled some hope it soon got dashed when the chimera of development was seen to be based on massive borrowings. China’s investments in CPEC which primarily include communication links and energy projects came in handy to buoy some promise but it was neutralized by loans which the Chinese made for most of these projects. More than investment CPEC turned out to be forced development in areas which will first serve Chinese interest but if properly channeled can trigger revival of the defunct economy in Pakistan.

 

chalenges2018.jpgTowards the middle of the year, continuing unabated to its end and rolling over to the new year, the disqualification of the Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif by the Supreme Court in the wake of the Panama Leaks trial and arising(s) thereof, conflated Pakistan’s misfortunes to the point of listlessness and stagnation as a nation. It seemed to have lost its way as Nawaz Sharif’s party and his government struggled to cope with the rare judicial discretion to unseat a sitting Prime Minister. Rather than mind the fort for the remaining time of this government, they entangled themselves in the political web of inaction through insinuations and blame-game against the state and its institutions while they took their focus off from running the state and the nation; failing to govern either. It has hurt Shahid Khaqan Abbasi’s government to no end. Pakistan had thus entered in a period of aimless drift in the last six months of 2017.


This multiplied the challenges for Pakistan as it hurtles through from one year into another, weighed by its failures and disappointments rather than associating with the dawn of the new year with resolutions and greater promises. A stocktaking and an exercise in prioritization however beckons. When the sun rises on the first morning of 2018 in Pakistan, she will have plenty to worry about. Sadly, some of those worries could have easily been avoided but have pushed themselves at the top of the to-do list of things if Pakistan must retain its coherence and integrity as a relevant member of the global community.

 

When the sun rises on the first morning of 2018 in Pakistan, she will have plenty to worry about. Sadly, some of those worries could have easily been avoided but have pushed themselves at the top of the to-do list of things if Pakistan must retain its coherence and integrity as a relevant member of the global community.

Political Stability: Politically Pakistan has been in a no-man’s land with almost no governance, aimless and lackluster administration and a confused sense of purpose. This vacuum has created a void where Pakistan’s existing challenges, some existential in nature like the fight against terrorism have found increased eminence, while others like regional alliances which have tended to isolate Pakistan have become more ominous.


The elections in 2018 must be held on time. These must be held as fairly as possible to give them credibility which will obviate allegations of fraud and manipulation of public opinion against an undesired electoral result by losing political parties. The revised election laws have been recently passed by the Parliament which as the overarching statute must act as the touchstone of veracity. Any objections must be efficiently and expeditiously dealt with by the Courts. After the Parliament is in place it must function as the primary source of debate on policy and legislation and the leaders who form it must give it the primacy in matters of the state and the nation. Local governments must be fully in place with necessary legal and financial authority to take up their role in community and nation-building.


If there is one lesson that the country needs to draw from its recent experience of disturbed politics and its subsequent fall-out, it is to retain a strong, durable and a credible political system with functioning democratic and political structures to support it which alone will ensure a stable socio-political environment for the nation to evolve and realize its potential. The new year will enjoin this facet as our nation’s foremost task of 2018. The politicians who make-up this element of our nation and statehood must realize the urgency of following a conduct which can fulfill their occupational obligations in the most optimum manner; the one aspect which can provide stability and direction to all in pursuit of realizing the potential of a progressive and a prosperous future. Their personal conduct will have to be above board to ensure that their collective is rarely brought to question.


Fighting Terror, Eliminating Extremism: Pakistan had come close to claiming a near perfect end to the threat of terror which had plagued the landscape of the country and the region now for more than a decade-and-a-half. But a loss of focus in most areas of governance over the last year-and-a-half has meant that even this existential danger of terror amidst us escaped a stricter scrutiny. Operation Radd-ul-Fasaad was first announced as the more inward aspect of a continuing war on terror even as Pakistan loudly began to seek the return of the over three million Afghan refugees from its soil and put in place steps to seek better border control with Afghanistan. This effort slipped a little when the operation could not be uniformly launched all across the country and a more reactive, intelligence-based effort instead became the norm.


With the loss of initiative the momentum in internal security operations was lost. This recreated the space available to inimical forces to return to their terrorist ways. Quetta, in particular, and parts of KP have been buffeted with the return of terror, spasmodic, yet reminding of its pervasive threat. This threat requires a return to fighting terror, its executants, its facilitators and its planners wherever they may be using all resources available to the state. Returning Afghan refugees to their homeland must retain the highest priority, while securing borders through fencing, entry and exit control, and electronic monitoring reinforced by physical troops deployment along the border should be concurrently implemented.


Efforts on the external front to improve regional and bilateral relationships and a better understanding with Pakistan’s neighbours, bilaterally and multilaterally will augment efforts to achieve peace. Daesh is likely to replace Al-Qaeda as the future threat in the region. Alone, or in consultation with other countries of the region, Pakistan must push for coordinated efforts where possible, choosing direct action where possible to deny space to this increasingly ominous phenomenon. The threat of Daesh can be the new lever of terror for those who plan to continue to coerce Pakistan into submission.


Internally, Pakistan will have to expend all efforts to fighting radicalism and extremism in religious thinking as a priority. Unless this is addressed, the pervasive source of recruiting foot-soldiers for these terror outfits will remain available. Until this is nipped in the bud through a composite action of law enforcement, better economic inducement, and a corrective narrative by authentic religious scholars of the country to help negate what has attracted most misdirected cadres to these groups of terrorists, this one aspect of strife within will remain a potent possibility. Institution and reversion to National Action Plan as the blueprint to wean the society away from its radical thought and extremist ways is the key to disabling the unstinted supply of such disgruntled youth. With Daesh lurking in the background with its more sophisticated appeal, these corrective measures can be Pakistan’s only assured means to leave internecine and debilitating conflict behind and pursue what should become a more progressive society. The nation has paid its wages in blood; it deserves its rewards of finding stability and peace.


Economic Resilience: Pakistan’s economy has rested essentially on borrowed money. The infrastructure inadequacies though were an equally big handicap. These were addressed through CPEC which has helped bridge the energy gap but on the flip side has added more burden to the debt basket. This government may have focused more on keeping economic macro-indicators on line but missed the trees for the wood when it could not devise a strategy which could augment production and growth. Poverty levels may have further worsened and jobs declined. Overall the impact on the common man is of a worsening capacity. Indicators such as education and health have suffered. And along the way the stewardship was lost when the mandarins managing the economy got entangled in court cases relating to past corruption. The list is long and is what the current government is fighting against in the courts but what it betrays is an inadequate competence in economic stewardship.


These wrongs will need to be righted in 2018 under a fiscal and economic leadership which can reinforce what can be potentially strong and reinvigorate the base of engagement which should not only diversify but add value to what are Pakistani economy’s base strength, like agriculture, or something as progressive as IT when most of the world may move to AI leaving window for lower forms of IT to be filled in. Pakistan’s future economic blueprint must in essence rely on two basic planks: agriculture and IT as the world mutes the later into AI. Modernising agriculture will be critical. Controlling population growth, sensitizing to environment and climate change will mean that growth could be long term and sustainable.


An Economic Development Council under the Finance Minister would be needed composed of the Planning, Agriculture, Education and Health Ministers, as indeed the conventionally included Ministers of IT, Tourism, and Population Control. Each economic development initiative must carry inputs to contribute to the functions of one or all of the constituent departments and surely not work against the interest of any. This will need a hands-on Finance Minister capable of leading the group and conscious of the criticality of each of these components. Industry and communication are the other important components.


Policies and strategies must contribute to national growth and prosperity while alleviating poverty and enabling job growth.


Social Integration: As it stands, Pakistan’s inner front is far more loaded with uncertainty and vulnerability. The fissures are many and deep; or they have been let to deepen with inaction or through deliberate strategy. The divide is obvious: other than sectarian which forms a constant backdrop, the religious-non-religious divide has gained even greater poignance – those who were not religious enough in belief or practice hardly ever voiced against those who followed or professed religion; civ-mil divide in the last three decades has entrenched; the poor vs. the rich and the empowered vs. the disempowered divide is a dangerous one as well. An intra-power wielders struggle is tugging at the seams of the fabric of nationhood.


Many wish to refer to the Indian example as to why nationalism need not be an overwhelmingly assimilating consequence, or why the sense of nationalism is bad. However, they tend to forget the physical dimensions of a nation as they make this ill-considered observation. A larger nation with a huge population has no threat of further fragmentation. India surely falls in that category. Britain or Spain may have no second thoughts – which they do, incidentally – of letting the Scots and the Catalans consider separate homelands since entire Europe anyway is more like a political definition of a confederation. Even India comes close to the same characterization.


Pakistan on the other hand is much smaller and hence vulnerable to fissiparousness if sub-nationalism becomes entrenched. Loss of even the smallest piece of its present territories will tell heavy on its composition and weaken it further, unable to withstand centrifugal-(ities) elsewhere. Larger nations can assimilate better such tendencies with its stronger core whose heavier weight is strong enough to keep fissiparity at the fringes without impacting the larger structure. Smaller nations remain far more vulnerable and hence seek greater cohesion. In the end nothing might weaken Pakistan as much as its internal divisions or threats of breaking-away of territories.


The division in the nation is both structural and ideological. Structurally in economic and opportunity terms the state can and should make all necessary amends to minimize the varying degrees of a promise to opportunity, and in education and health for example, to mitigate the existing chasm. Ideology is where the division has permeated slowly but surely; and is far too dangerous to national cohesion and long term well-being. Issues related to sub-nationalism aside, expression of thought considered injurious to the majority sentiment leads to a scare typical of nations like Pakistan which have apprehended externally planted or internally nurtured sentiment of volatile disharmony as the largest threat to its existence.


The nation has also failed over decades to replace such fear with alternate mechanisms of nationhood of either improving stakes for all or better resilience through education to differing thought on matters as sensitive as religion and national integrity. Examples of missing persons whether on charges of blasphemy, or voicing dissent in favour of one thought or another especially related to external influences thus become more frequent. It is here that the state will have to relent some, consider how to channelize such idealism and enable it the freedom to express itself within the domain of the state and the society. Rather than stifle voices, it is better to let those be expressed without causing undue harm in the hands of external agency.


The society and the state should be fair to all and enable an equal opportunity promise for upward mobility through structures and attitudinal change at all levels of governance. That alone will enable common stakes for all citizens of the state with equal interest in the common well-being. That also then provides a direction to the society to agree on some fundamentals and not be embroiled in internecine conflict in the society. A leadership at all levels, civil, political and religious and social stowed with such sense can become the trigger for the change which is an essential to Pakistan’s long-term health. The absence of which currently is its all-time biggest threat.


Law and Order: As innocuous as it may seem the respect and implementation of this one aspect of governance is the key to bringing a sense of a society and a state to its existence. With attitudes that have instead permeated in this aspect including its implementation or when in violation its retribution remains the weakest link in how Pakistani society continues to be buffeted with a lack of coherence and direction. The emergence of groups which can hold the state to ransom at the drop of a hat, the inability of the state to respond to such manipulation of its vulnerabilities and the soft hand which tends to further augment such inclination are all indicators of the massive failure of the state and the society to develop a law-abiding citizenship.


Even if it may appear imposed, for that is how it will have to be initiated to inculcate changing attitudes and approaches towards abiding law, the cycle must begin at the top. Initially maybe examples are made of a few who get garnered in because of their misdeeds and later unless rectified if others too fall prey to what the law outlines as retribution it might deter and scare others into submission of the superiority of the law as it stands. Similarly, the first impulse against any such event against the powerful of the country will be to change or eradicate the law which binds him or her, that is where the citizenry and the judicial system must stand up any such manipulation of the law at the hands of targeted legislation for the benefit of the powerful. Once corrected the followers and the ordinary citizens have no way than to follow law which should be fair and as easily applicable through equal honesty to establish a social order more in line with how the larger world exists. That will make us into a behaviorally more responsible people with little inclination for deviation from the norm. These deviations today are many and are the bane of how Pakistani society has turned up in turn burdening both the state and the nation with challenges which at times seem insurmountable.


Conclusion: One other, mindsets will also need to change as a sine qua non even if the will to stem the rot and remedy the wrongs of the past exists, and that relates to the competence factor. In our nation competence is equated with position of authority. It is unfortunate that people of immense competence rot on the wayside in matters which relate to our nation and statehood but their expertise remains untapped. Academics, specialists and people imbued with ideas cannot find an opportunity to convey those to people who sit on decision-taking positions. Those that reach those positions are wary to tap into that resource for avoiding to look short of ideas. Cumulatively the environment of mediocrity sustains which cannot lift the country out of its existing and future challenges. 2018 will be the year of all hands coming together after the elections are over and a new government is in with a fresh mandate. What will still be needed will be the avenues where the nation as whole can become the partner in the process to lift the nation up from its predicaments.

 

The writer is a retired Air Vice Marshal and security analyst who has also served as Pakistan’s Ambassador to Sri Lanka.

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08
January

Written By: Amir Zia


Out of this much touted figure of USD 33 billion, which Mr. Trump claims that the U.S. gave to Pakistan, USD 14.6 billion were on account of the Coalition Support Fund (CSF). The fact is that Pakistan spends more under this head than what it receives from Washington. The remaining USD18.8 billion comprised around USD 8.0 billion in security and military assistance, while the remaining USD 10 billion plus amount falls under the category of economic assistance disbursed through the USAID. Even out of this USAID amount, three-fourth goes back to the United States as consultancy and advisory fee. According to economic experts, the average annual U.S. assistance Pakistan received over the last 15 years is not more than USD 650 million an year, which remains less than one percent of the country’s budget.

U.S. President Donald Trump’s unapologetically brash, reckless and undiplomatic tweets are sending “virtual” tremors across the globe, or at least a part of it. In just the first three days of 2018, Mr. Trump used his private Twitter account to call Pakistan – once seen as the key U.S. ally in the war against terrorism – “a liar and a cheat,” threaten North Korea that he has “a much bigger” nuclear button and to take his animosity towards the American press to a new level by announcing “the most dishonest and corrupt media awards of the year.”


As a business tycoon and television personality, Mr. Trump could certainly afford to thrive on controversies. He could bulldoze rivals in political, business, media and social circles, using and abusing the social media without the worry of any wider consequences. But exercising similar tactics as president of the world’s most powerful nation is tantamount to upsetting the applecart and introducing an element of dangerous unpredictability and uncertainty in the international politics.


Yes, before Mr. Trump, it was unimaginable that a U.S. president would be taking to Twitter in a rash and impulsive manner to insult, abuse and threaten other states instead of opting for considered, careful, calculated and responsible diplomacy. Not anymore. And ironically, his blunt, unconventional and confrontationist style is defining and leading the U.S. foreign policy now.


Twitter Tirade
Mr. Trump’s New Year’s Twitter tirade against Pakistan, in which he accused Islamabad of playing a double game with Washington, remains unwarranted, thoughtless and damaging in the overall fight against extremism and terrorism. It marks a new low in the often rocky relationship of these two uneasy allies who have a history of working closely together as well as witnessing prolonged periods of estrangement.

Pakistan is the world’s only country that defeated terrorists without any foreign assistance, establishing the state writ even in those remote parts of the country where it never existed before. Pakistan Armed Forces successfully cleared terrorist safe havens including from North Waziristan in successive operations at huge sacrifices.

Yet, at least on part of Pakistan, both its civil and military leaders have been consistent in efforts to maintain friendly ties with Washington. To date, this desire of working with the United States has not changed.

Yet, at least on part of Pakistan, both its civil and military leaders have been consistent in efforts to maintain friendly ties with Washington. To date, this desire of working with the United States has not changed.


Director General Inter Services Public Relations Maj General Asif Ghafoor asserted in his various media interactions that Pakistan considers the United States as a friend and an ally and wants it to succeed in Afghanistan. But “a third force” has been trying to create misunderstanding between the two countries, he said referring towards the negative role played by the hostile neighbor i.e. India. The military spokesman, however, said that in case of any U.S. action against Pakistan, the armed forces would respond according to the aspirations of the people. This position underlines the fact that Pakistan’s desire of peace and friendly relation should not be taken as its weakness or lack of will to protect its national interests.

 

theperilsof.jpgPakistan’s civil and military leaders have reacted in a measured and mature manner to the recent provocation by Mr. Trump and other top U.S. officials in recent weeks and months.


The flawed and inconsistent U.S. approach in its dealings with Pakistan was highlighted by former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton way back in April 2009 in these words; “(we) have a history of kind of moving in and out of Pakistan.”


Clinton explained how the militancy in Pakistan was linked to the U.S.-backed proxy war against the Soviets in Afghanistan. “… we then left Pakistan [after the collapse of Soviet Union]... We said okay fine you deal with the Stingers that we left all over your country... you deal with the mines that are along the border and... by the way we don't want to have anything to do with you... in fact we're sanctioning you... So we stopped dealing with the Pakistani military and with ISI and we now are making up for a lot of lost time,” she told a subcommittee of the House Appropriations Committee, while discussing the Obama administration’s foreign policy at that time.


Stating the Obvious
Mr. Trump’s administration is committing the same mistake of blaming, abandoning and victimizing Pakistan as pointed out by Hillary Clinton in 2009. This has been the continual flaw of U.S. policymakers, who time and again ditched their time-tested and dependable ally, creating more problems than solutions.


However, even before the Trump juggernaut came into motion, at various levels a sustained propaganda campaign had already been launched against Pakistan in Washington and other Western capitals, which accused Islamabad of not doing enough to help the U.S.-led NATO forces achieve victory in the war-ravaged Afghanistan.


These allegations mainly stem from the fact that despite spending trillions of dollars in its longest ever war, the United States and its allies failed to achieve their goals in the land-locked Central Asian state. Pakistan was made a scapegoat to divert attention from the policy and military failures of the U.S.-led NATO forces.


Washington’s growing strategic relations with India that included the controversial nuclear cooperation treaty of 2008 – which fundamentally reversed more than 50 years of U.S. non-proliferation efforts – also played a role in the gradual widening of trust deficit between Pakistan and the United States. The preferential treatment given to India by the United States, which also gave New Delhi a freehand in Afghanistan allowing it to use the Afghan soil to fan terrorism in Pakistan, also became one of the main bones of contention.


Changing U.S. Priorities
However, while blaming Pakistan for the Afghan mess, the U.S. decision-makers seem to deliberately overlook the way their successive governments kept changing goalposts in Afghanistan.


President George W. Bush vowed in 2002 to make Afghanistan a modern democratic state – invoking the memories of Marshall Plan – but then going full steam into Iraq, neglecting the Afghan mission. President Barrack Obama in 2009 promised to focus on narrower goals that included defeating Al-Qaeda and the Taliban by a military surge and then pull out and leave “a good enough” Afghanistan. The cornerstone of Mr. Obama’s strategy was to work with Pakistan and it’s military to defeat the Al-Qaeda and its likes. But when Mr. Trump announced his Afghan policy on August 21, 2017, he ruled out pulling troops out of Afghanistan, announcing more boots on the ground and insisting that Pakistan must “do more” or face possible sanctions. Mr. Trump’s decision to stay and “fight to win” is another major policy shift in which the U.S. administration has decided to use coercive approach against Pakistan not just to put the blame of its failure on Islamabad but to directly suck it in the Afghan conflict – which successive Pakistani leaders have successfully been resisting so far.


Myth of $33 Billion
The U.S. administration, however, is building pressure on Pakistan to do its bidding, underlining its rash approach and failure to understand – by design or default – the complexities of Afghanistan.


Mr. Trump in his provocative New Year’s Tweet claimed that the United States “foolishly” gave “Pakistan more than 33 billion dollars in aid over the last 15 years and they have given us nothing but lies & deceit, thinking of our leaders as fools.” This statement itself exposes either the deliberate twisting of facts by the U.S. president or his lack of understanding.


Out of this much touted figure of USD 33 billion, which Mr. Trump claims that the U.S. gave to Pakistan, USD 14.6 billion were on account of the Coalition Support Fund (CSF). The fact is that Pakistan spends more under this head than what it receives from Washington. The remaining USD18.8 billion comprised around USD 8.0 billion in security and military assistance, while the remaining USD 10 billion plus amount falls under the category of economic assistance disbursed through the USAID. Even out of this USAID amount, three-fourth goes back to the United States as consultancy and advisory fee. According to economic experts, the average annual U.S. assistance Pakistan received over the last 15 years is not more than USD 650 million an year, which remains less than one percent of the country’s budget.


Ignoring Facts
While unreasonably blaming Pakistan for its Afghan woes, the U.S. leadership completely ignores the fact that no other country assisted the United States the way Pakistan did in the war against terrorism.
Pakistan is the world’s only country that defeated terrorists without any foreign assistance, establishing the state writ even in those remote parts of the country where it never existed before. Pakistan Armed Forces successfully cleared terrorist safe havens including from North Waziristan in successive operations at huge sacrifices.


In order to address the concerns of Kabul and U.S.-led NATO forces regarding the alleged cross-border infiltration, Pakistan has started fencing its more than 2,600-kilometer long frontiers with Afghanistan, establishing new posts and introducing the border management system. But these measures are not being matched by Afghanistan, which in a bizarre manner, is opposing the fencing and the border management system. The Afghans and the U.S.-led forces also are doing little to monitor or man the international border to check the flow of terrorists from Afghanistan into Pakistan.


The Afghan Taliban have managed to gain ground in many parts of Afghanistan because the U.S. led forces failed to put boots on the ground, while the Afghan Army lacks the capacity and ability to stand on its own against this indigenous resistance movement.


Pakistan also has been urging Kabul for the repatriation of millions of Afghan refugees, which will help in curbing the narcotics trade as well as fighting terrorism. Pakistan has also offered for intelligence sharing time and again for prompt action against terrorists.

 

These allegations mainly stem from the fact that despite spending trillions of dollars in its longest ever war, the United States and its allies failed to achieve their goals in the land-locked Central Asian state. Pakistan was made a scapegoat to divert attention from the policy and military failures of the U.S.-led NATO forces.

In a nutshell, the blame game will lead Pakistan and the United States nowhere in the fight against terrorism. By targeting and victimizing Pakistan only the narrative of terrorists and extremists is being strengthened which remains a bad omen in this war. The U.S. belligerence will also strengthen those political and religious forces in Pakistan which firmly stand opposed to any cooperation with the United States in the war against terrorism.


Main Bulwark
Pakistan Armed Forces and state institutions serve as the main bulwark against terrorism and extremism in the region. They are not just holding together this nation of more than 200 million people but also stopping the tide of extremism from spreading across South and Central Asia.


Any attempts to weaken or damage these institutions would not just throw Pakistan into an unprecedented turmoil and aggravate an already dangerous situation in Afghanistan, but plunge the entire South Asia including India into a chaos, where religious, sectarian and ethnic fault-lines run deep and wide.


The United States’ myopic policies of blaming Pakistan, which has rendered huge sacrifices in the war against terrorism, will lead the two countries nowhere. The solution lies in cooperation, building trust, addressing Pakistan’s concerns regarding Afghanistan and helping resolve its unresolved issues, including the protracted Kashmir dispute with India.


On many fronts Pakistani and U.S. interests converge. There are more reasons to cooperate in the fight against extremism and terrorism than to confront. But it should remain clear that while Pakistan and its people desire close and friendly relations with the United States and all neighbours, it will stand up for its core national interests come what may.

 

The writer is an eminent journalist who regularly contributes for print and electronic media.

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Twitter: @AmirZia1

 

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