10
July
July 2017(EDITION 07, Volume 54)
 
Written By: Maria Khalid
Primarily every country has the responsibility of maintaining peace within its geographical boundaries and holds itself accountable to keep the internal security mechanism smooth and effective. Pakistan’s decision to fight the menace of terrorism was extraordinary....Read full article
 
Written By: Lt Gen Talat Masood (R)
The Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) was established in 2001, with the aim of countering extremism in the region and to strengthen border security. Its undeclared mission was also to act as a check against the growing influence of U.S. and NATO countries in the region.....Read full article
 
Written By: Lt Gen Tariq Waseem (R)
What is it that binds people together, year after year after year? A shared destiny, belief in a common cause, a unifying culture, cherished memories, and the strength that comes from an abiding relationship. This is the sum of a military professional’s espirit de corps, at the.....Read full article
 
Written By: Taj M. Khattak
Pakistan recently became a full member of Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) after Foreign Affairs' Advisor, Mr. Sartaj Aziz signed a ‘Memorandum of Obligations’ (MoOs) at Heads of State Summit in Tashkent, Uzbekistan along with Foreign Ministers of six....Read full article
 
Written By: Dr. Zafar Nawaz Jaspal
Since the beginning of twenty-first century the Middle Eastern nations have been encountering various subverting challenges. Militancy, domestic turmoil, struggles for regional hegemony, politics of intervention, sectarian animosity and Great Powers' interference....Read full article
 
Written By: Jennifer McKay
The Tochi Valley has had a long and colourful history. This beautiful valley, running from Bannu through Mir Ali and Miranshah, out to Degan, Boya and beyond, has seen many conflicts over the centuries. Today, it is at peace....Read full article
 
Written By: Rear Admiral Pervaiz Asghar (R)
Sea trade has been universally recognized as the principal driver of the global economy. It was however in the Indian Ocean that coastal trade as well as trans-oceanic passages are believed to have originated. This ocean is also unique in the sense that its wide expanse is enclosed....Read full article
 
Written By: Puruesh Chaudhary
Philosophers, military strategists, mathematicians and scientists have their own unique way of thinking, reasoning and inferring. It’s when that is applied in times of peace and war, it shapes our understanding of events and personalities......Read full article
 
Written By: Dr. Shahid Mahmud
To survive and thrive in the coming Artificial Intelligence (AI) enabled exponential-disruption, governments must proactively deal with the challenges and opportunities posed by AI. The field of artificial intelligence is making breathtaking advances.....Read full article
 
Written By: Amir Atta
This is an exciting time as we are only on the cusp of what’s to come with artificial intelligence. The next decade is set to show off the biggest change in man’s way of life since the beginning of the industrial era.....Read full article
 
Written By: Abdullah Khan
There are many types of Indian intelligence involvement in Pakistan. It has a history of launching dirty games in Pakistan and it brought the worst kind of results in 1971 when East Pakistan defected to become Bangladesh because of India’s intelligence....Read full article
 
Written By: Maj Wajiha Arshad
Women empowerment is taken in true letter and spirit in Pakistan by enhancing and improving the social, economic, political and legal strengths of the women and to ensure fair opportunities for the women in all walks of life. Ever-increasing responsibilities and lesser....Read full article
 
Written By: Hira Sagheer
It is a day like any other. The bright midday sun filters through the thick white curtains and paints the room a pale yellow hue. I say midday because that is the time I usually wake up at. I sleepily stretch in bed and turn around to look at my side where my angel......Read full article
 
Written By: Maj Azeemullah Baig
The Spanish climber Alberto Zerain, after the summit, descended safely once the rope was intact at the traverse of the Bottleneck. After reaching back at Camp-IV he preferred to go down to Camp-III. The other climbers had reached .....Read full article

 
Besides safeguarding maritime interests of Pakistan, Pakistan Navy (PN) has always been at the forefront to conduct Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Relief Operations overseas to extend support/help to international community. The resolve and commitment of Pakistan.........Read full article
 
Written By: Omair Alavi
Pakistan Cricket Team is one of its kind when it comes to world events – when the chips are down, they are the favorites but when they are the favorites, they usually exit badly. Who can forget the World Cup in 1992 where Imran Khan’s Tigers made a comeback from......Read full article
 
Hilal Desk
Hundreds of thousands of our soldiers are deployed at borders, LOC, battlefields and hard areas throughout the country. These brave men are carrying out various military operations on top of which lies Operation Radd-ul-Fasaad to permanently wipe terrorism......Read full article
 
Written By: Col Naiknam M.Baig
An emerging soldier artist defies the norms of art through his art of imperfection......Read full article
 
H.E Mr. Sun Weidong, Ambassador of China, called on General Zubair Mahmood Hayat, Chairman Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee at Joint Staff Headquarters, Rawalpindi. Matters related to defence and....Read full article
 
Chief of Army Staff, General Qamar Javed Bajwa visited Turkey on an official visit on June 20, 2017. On arrival, COAS visited Ataturk Mausoleum and laid floral wreath to pay homage to the father of Turkish nation and penned down his respects on the visitor....Read full article
 
Measures to improve security situation along the Pak-Afghan border continue. In line with the directions of COAS, phased fencing of entire Pak-Afghan border has commenced. In phase 1, high infiltration prone border areas in Bajaur....Read full article
 
Chief of the Naval Staff Admiral Muhammad Zakaullah visited Sri Lanka and called on President of Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka, Maithripala Sirisena, Prime Minister, Ranil Wickremesinghe, State Minister of Defense, Dinendra Ruwan Wijewardene....Read full article
 
A free medical camp was established in a school building at Gudai and Chillim towns of District Astore in compliance with the directions of Commander FCNA from May 12-14, 2017. Keeping in view the....Read full article
 
Commander 10 Corps, Lieutenant General Nadeem Raza visited troops deployed along LOC in Iftikharabad Sector. He reviewed the operational preparedness and expressed his satisfaction on operational readiness and vigilance exercised by forward troops. Corps Commander.....Read full article
 
10
July

Written By: Omair Alavi

Pakistan Cricket Team is one of its kind when it comes to world events – when the chips are down, they are the favorites but when they are the favorites, they usually exit badly. Who can forget the World Cup in 1992 where Imran Khan’s Tigers made a comeback from the verge of being knocked out and clinched the trophy after defeating one of the best sides in the tournament. Twenty-five years later, the same thing happened as Sarfraz Ahmed and his boys managed to win four consecutive matches to take home their first ever Champions Trophy. Was it luck, was it planning, was it due to the Holy month of Ramadan? What helped Pakistan do the unthinkable? Let’s analyze:

 

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THE GOOD

Sarfraz and His Courageous Captaincy

sarfrazahmed.jpgUsually when a captain leading his side in a world event loses the first match, all his plans go awry. He tries to win by hook or by crook and that doesn’t necessarily end up as a positive step. However, in case of Sarfraz Ahmed, things ended up pretty much the way he envisioned and since he and his boys gave their 100 percent, he ended up with the trophy and becoming the World Champions.

There were occasions when Sarfraz grip on the situation loosened especially in the grand finale, such as making Fakhar Zaman bowl, continuing with Shadab Khan when any pacer would have knocked the Indians out and sending Imad Wasim ahead of himself at the crucial stage. Come to think of it, he was sending messages through these decisions to the selectors – that Imad Wasim can’t bat and bowl when the situation demands, Fakhar might become an all-rounder and that Shadab still has a lot to learn.

 

The Resurgence of Hasan Ali

hassanali.jpgA year back, had someone predicted that Hasan Ali will end up as the leading wicket-taker of Champions Trophy, people would have laughed at that person. In the last 12 months, he has not only made a place for himself in the final XI of all formats but has also defeated the ‘leftist’ mindset that was prevalent in the selection committee. They continued to use one-dimensional pacers irrespective of conditions and that's one of the reasons why Pakistani pacers weren't taken seriously by opponents. Not anymore as the biggest export of Pakistan Super League has now become a threat with his variety of deliveries. With 13 wickets in 5 matches, including the prized scalps of world’s best batsmen, Hasan Ali helped Pakistan become the Champions from rock bottom position, literally. His celebration style has also become popular amongst the fans that include commentators, opposing players and well-wishers at home.

 

The Record-making Fakhar Zaman

fakharzaman.jpgNo Pakistani since the great Majid Khan in World Cup 1975 had hit 3 consecutive scores of 50 or above in an ICC event, till Fakhar Zaman hit 2 half centuries and one match-winning century against India in the Champions Trophy. Unlike his predecessors that go back 15 years, Fakhar has a flair that reminds one of Saeed Anwar and to some extent of Aamer Sohail. He likes to score runs than play a dot ball and that mindset is what Pakistan was missing. Move over Ahmed Shehzad; step aside Awais Zia; Fakhar Zaman is here to stay. His ascent to the top order must be highlighted as the most important step in Pakistan’s success story. Not only did he rattle the opposition fast bowlers in the process of making a name for himself, he was equally efficient against spinners, notably Jadeja-Ashwin duo that remained clueless in the grand finale.

 

THE Bad

Everyone is congratulating Inzamam-ul-Haq led selection committee for sending players who went on to win the trophy for Pakistan. What they don’t realize is that all these players were selected as backups and wouldn’t have played had India not thrashed Pakistan in the first match of the tournament. Umar Akmal repeated history by being sent back from a tour just like father-in-law Abdul Qadir in the 80s – Qadir was sent back on disciplinary grounds from Australia while Umar on lacking the required fitness. How Umar managed to clear the fitness test days after being declared 'super unfit' remains a mystery but when you have Inzamam-ul-Haq judging fitness, the answer is as clear as day. The former captain had never been fit his entire career and once even asked coach Javed Miandad to exclude him from training in exchange for a 100 the other day – he managed 80 odd runs in the next Test against England, twice! With Umar Akmal’s return to Pakistan and Sarfraz XI winning the event, one thing is sure – the door of a comeback for this Akmal is closed, this time for good.
 

THE UNEXPECTED

Dropping Crucial Catches

Catches win matches; but did you know that some catches even win tournaments – Sarfraz Ahmed got reprieved off by Lasith Malinga in the all-crucial league match against Sri Lanka and made the most of it by winning the match for his country. Had that catch been held, the tables may have reversed and Pakistan might have been on its way back home, rather than moving into the semi-final and later the final. Similarly, had Fakhar Zaman’s catch not been held by Jadeja in the grand finale, Babar Azam and Mohammad Hafeez might not have scored quickly, considering the centurion was getting tired with every passing over. Indeed, catches do win matches!

 

Bumrah – The New Sharma!

Then there are a few catches that are held but not held at the same time – just like the 1992 World Cup in which Ramiz Raja was declared ‘not out’ off a waist-high no-ball, Fakhar Zaman was caught behind off a front-foot no-ball bowled by Jasprit Bumrah 25 years later. The error ranks on top with Chetan Sharma’s failed Yorker in the final of the Austral-Asia Cup in 1986 and cost India the match as Fakhar Zaman went on to score a century that helped Pakistan post 338 for the loss of 4 wickets in 50 overs. Yes, solid batting from Azhar Ali, Mohammad Hafeez and Babar Azam helped as well but had that Bumrah-ball been a legal one, India might have had the upper hand. Who knows!

 

Luck Favours the Brave

As far as one can remember, the last time Pakistan played an ODI match in a ‘positive and aggressive’ manner was way back in 2008 when they defeated India in the final of Kitply Cup under Shoaib Malik. Nine years later, Pakistan managed to play positively and saw India lose by the biggest ever margin of 180 runs. The Indian medium pacers and spinners were treated as mediocre bowlers which they proved to be in conditions that resembled any place but India. Ravichandran Ashwin looked like a different bowler with the white ball as he was belted across the park, as was Ravi Jadeja who proved to be unlucky for his own team as he first couldn’t deliver the goods with the ball, and later ran out the Indian nation’s only hope Hardik Pandya. Pakistan managed to play like tigers and we all know that when that happens, we usually end up lifting the Cup!

 
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10
July

Hilal Desk

Hundreds of thousands of our soldiers are deployed at borders, LOC, battlefields and hard areas throughout the country. These brave men are carrying out various military operations on top of which lies Operation Radd-ul-Fasaad to permanently wipe terrorism from the country. While these soldiers have vowed to sacrifice everything they have for this very homeland and its people, the nation stands with them in the fight against terrorism and has full confidence in their capabilities to defend every inch of the country. This Eid-ul-Fitr, we extend our heartiest greetings and strongest prayers to the valiant soldiers.

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Eid Mubarak

jusciretnasira.jpgEid Mubarak to our valiant troops who are courageously defending our frontiers in these challenging times. Our security is being constantly threatened and attacked internally and externally by our enemies. The vigilant efforts of our Armed Forces have reduced terrorism in our country and made it possible for our citizens to breathe freely and lead their lives without fear. The stigma of being labeled as a war torn country has been removed through your unflinching sacrifices. We all pray that Allah Almighty may grant you more strength to protect our motherland. Amen!

Justice (retired) Nasira Javed Iqbal

 

sharifprofesor.jpgMy message is for those fortunate brethren who are out in the extreme cold and hot weathers to defend Pakistan all the way; who are out to stop the onslaught permanently; who have stopped the return of the dark ages at Pakistan’s frontiers; who have shunned comforts of life so that we may live in peace with our folk and families, toddlers and teenagers, women and off springs in our lovely homes and neighborhoods. To those who have made all this possible, your scarifices shall never be forgotten. Eid Mubarak!

Prof Sharif-ul-Mujahid (Eminent author and HEC distinguished national professor)

 

shahzad_nawaz.jpgMy beloved soldiers, it is my privilege to be greeting you this Eid-ul-Fitr. On this joyous day, I also wish to remind you that you are our pride manning our frontiers, celebrating Eid away from homes in remotest parts of this beautiful land with vigil, honor and courage. Do know that Pakistan is indebted to you; your people are grateful to you, and your family is not just your blood ones but also the ones who are related to you because of this common bond of love called Pakistan. God bless you. God bless Pakistan.

Shehzad Nawaz (Filmmaker, actor, singer, graphic designer)

 

asimulhaq.jpgI wish Eid Mubarak to each and everyone of you; may all of you have a very blessed Eid. You are the real heroes who put their lives on frontline each and everyday so we can live ours and breathe in a peaceful country. I would like to thank each one of you from the bottom of my heart for protecting us and providing a safety wall against all domestic and international enemies. The reason we are still on map of the world is because of you and the sacrifices you have made for us and continue to make every day. I salute you!

Aisam-ul-Haq (International Tennis player)

 

shaikjaved.jpgIn the heart of 200 million, one of the very few institutions left to be proud of is the Armed Forces of Pakistan for their credibility, courage, honesty and discipline. I salute them for fighting on so many fronts to make Pakistan safe from the evils.

Ay watan kay sajeelay jawano

Meri duwain tumharay liye hain

God Bless Pakistan Armed Forces!

Javed Sheikh (Actor, Film Director and Producer)

 

moeenali.jpgOur soldiers keep us safe and secure every day and thus we can walk safely, drive safely and live our lives doing extraordinary things. Even in times of extraordinary joy, while we celebrate our festivities on Eid day, our soldiers are sacrificing their Eid and their time with families for us. May Allah bless and protect them. Thank you for keeping us and our children safe.

Ali Moeen Nawazish (Academic, columnist)

 

bilalashraf.jpgI wish our forces a very very Happy Eid. It's because of their sacrifices and commitment to protect Pakistan that we can celebrate Eid with our families. May Allah bless our Army. Pakistan Zindabad!

Bilal Ashraf (Actor)

 

afrazadiah.jpgFor our brave soldiers who put their lives at risk so that we can sleep safe in our homes; for our courageous fighters who are away from their families and loved ones on this Eid; for our valiant heroes who choose our comfort, happiness and safety over their own. On this Eid the Pakistani nation is beholden to your courage and selflessness. With prayers, love and gratitude, a heartfelt Eid Mubarak!

Adiah Afraz (Professor, editor, writer)

 

shafqatamant.jpgAy watan k sajeelay jawano

Mere naghmay tumharay liye hain

This is not a song, these are my true feelings. I salute my brave soldiers who are defending our borders to make sure we can observe Ramadan peacefully and celebrate Eid with our families. You're always in our prayers. Keep defending this country and making us proud. God be with you!

Shafqat Amanat Ali (Singer)

 

omerayesha.jpgFestivities like Eid are one celebration that bring all of Pakistan together yet our soldiers deployed on borders and on various other missions stand alert to protect us round the clock. All throughout my childhood my grandmother would tell me stories of how strong our soldiers are and how they sacrifice important events and celebrations with their families for the safety of our nation. The immense pride I feel when I think about the sacrifices of our soldiers leaves me with a hope of a better and a stronger country for all Pakistanis. So on this Eid, let’s celebrate the dedication and patriotism of our soldiers and their families and let’s pray for their safety and security. I wish the whole nation a blessed Eid-ul-Fitr with the faith of better and peaceful days ahead.

Ayesha Omar (Actress)

 

aizaazam.jpgAs a nation that has been at war for last sixteen years now, our joyous occasions are often bittersweet. Even as we celebrate, we are reminded of our fallen soldiers and of the loved ones they leave behind. This Eid-ul-Fitr let us each take a moment to remember them once again. Pray for our martyrs and their families; pray for those still deployed defending our land with their lives; offer thanks for each day we are able to continue because of them; and never forget the debt of gratitude this nation owes them. May the Almighty accept their sacrifices and keep our motherland safe from all evils.

Aiza Azam (Professor)

 

abdulmuqeet.jpgWhile the soldiers of Pakistan Army are ever ready to respond and thwart aggression by enemy at borders, I am waiting for my turn to be selected to join them and become a member of the prestigious Armed Forces who fear none but Allah. The determination and sacrifice they offer is unmatched. The whole nation stands with them shoulder-to-shoulder and feels proud of them. Eid Mubarak from the nation to its brave sons of soil.

Abdul Muqueet (Student)

 
 
10
July
Commander 10 Corps Visits Troops Deployed Along LOC in Iftkharabad Sector

Commander 10 Corps, Lieutenant General Nadeem Raza visited troops deployed along LOC in Iftikharabad Sector. He reviewed the operational preparedness and expressed his satisfaction on operational readiness and vigilance exercised by forward troops. Corps Commander expressed his concern over continuous ceasefire violations by Indian troops targeting innocent civil population residing close to the LOC. While appreciating the indomitable spirit, he lauded the high morale of deployed troops and unflinching resolve of civil population of the area and urged for a befitting response to Indian ceasefire violations.

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10
July
Free Medical Camp Established in Gudai and Chillim

newsfreemedcamp.jpgA free medical camp was established in a school building at Gudai and Chillim towns of District Astore in compliance with the directions of Commander FCNA from May 12-14, 2017. Keeping in view the customs of this area, separate male, female and children OPDs were established. Separate medical stores were set up for male and female patients. Efforts were made in coordination with locals and civilian administration to make WHAM activity successful by displaying banners and announcements in mosques. Sufficient quantity of medicine was made available by CMH Gilgit through its own resources. Apart from medicines, hygiene kits were also distributed among families and children. Medicines of worth Rs. 0.7 Mn (approx) were provided to the patients free of cost.

FC Balochistan Conducts IBO in Quetta

newsfreemedcamp1.jpgFC Balochistan conducted an IBO in Quetta. Two wanted terrorists of BLA were tracked who got killed in exchange of fire. The killed terrorists were involved in attacking Armed Forces, target killing, kidnapping for ransom and IEDs planting in Quetta, Margate and Sangaan areas of Balochistan.

In FATA, security forces recovered huge quantity of weapons and ammunition during an IBO in village Nizkan Khel, Razin, Nazar Khel of South Waziristan Agency, Village Kaskai of Lower Dir, village Sirigal of Chitral and various areas of Dara Adam Khel. The recoveries include SMGs, Sakila gun, Missiles, 12 bore rifles, grenades, communication equipment, binoculars, ammunition of various calibres including 82 mm mortar and 12.7 mm rounds, rockets of RPG7, rounds of Draganov, switches, detonators and 14.5 mm ammunition.

10
July
Admiral Muhammad Zakaullah Meets Sri Lankan President, Prime Minister and Top Military Leadership

Chief of the Naval Staff Admiral Muhammad Zakaullah visited Sri Lanka and called on President of Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka, Maithripala Sirisena, Prime Minister, Ranil Wickremesinghe, State Minister of Defense, Dinendra Ruwan Wijewardene and top military leadership including Chief of Defense Staff Sri Lankan Armed Forces and three Services’ Chiefs in separate meetings.

 

newscnsmeetsrilankan.jpgDuring the meetings with President and Prime Minister, matters of mutual interests were dilated upon. Admiral Zakaullah highlighted Pakistan Navy’s efforts in pursuance of Government of Pakistan policies to maintain peace and security in the Indian Ocean region in collaboration with international community. The Admiral reiterated Pakistan’s continued support to Sri Lankan Armed Forces in the field of training, provision of technical manpower and expertise.


Sri Lankan President and Prime Minister acknowledged Pakistan Navy’s strenuous efforts for maintaining maritime security in the region and also expressed satisfaction over the historical bonds and defense collaboration between Pakistan and Sri Lanka in various fields including training, reciprocal visits, port calls and exercises, and, hoped for further strengthening of the defense ties and bilateral relations. The dignitaries lauded Pakistan Navy’s all out support and assistance to Sri Lankan people during the recent devastating floods and highly appreciated professional acumen and commitment of Pakistan Navy personnel displayed during Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Relief Operations.


The Naval Chief also met Chief of Defense Staff Sri Lankan Armed Forces, Air Chief Marshal Kolitha Gunathilake, Commander of Army, Lieutenant General A. W. J. Crishanthe De Silva, Commander Sri Lankan Navy, Vice Admiral Ravindra C. Wijegunaratne and Commander of Air Force Air Marshal Kapila Veedhiya Bandara Jayampathy.


During the meetings with military leaders, professional matters of mutual interest and bilateral defense ties were pondered upon. Military dignitaries acknowledged warm and brotherly relations between Pakistan and Sri Lanka based on strong foundations and historical ties and highly appreciated the role and contributions of Pakistan in spearheading various initiatives for maintaining peace and stability in the region.


Admiral Muhammad Zakaullah also looked forward to further enhancing the interaction between both the countries in the diverse fields of training, mutual visits and defense collaboration.


Earlier, upon the invitation of the Commander of Sri Lankan Navy, Vice Admiral Ravindra Wijegunaratne, Admiral Muhammad Zakaullah also attended the passing out parade of midshipmen and cadets, as the chief guest, held at Naval and Maritime Academy in Trincomalee, Sri Lanka, and interacted with newly commissioned officers.


It is expected that the recent visit of the Naval Chief will further enhance and expand defense ties between the two countries in general and the Armed Forces in particular.

10
July
Pakistan Begins Phased Fencing of Pak-Afghan Border

newssecpakafghanborder.jpgMeasures to improve security situation along the Pak-Afghan border continue. In line with the directions of COAS, phased fencing of entire Pak-Afghan border has commenced. In phase 1, high infiltration prone border areas in Bajaur, Mohmand and Khyber Agencies are being fenced. In phase 2, fencing of remaining border areas including Balochistan will be executed. Besides fencing, Pakistan Army and FC KP are constructing new Forts/Border Posts to improve surveillance and defensibility. A secure Pak-Afghan border is in common interest of both countries and a well coordinated border security mechanism is essential for enduring peace and stability.

Pakistan Army shall continue its efforts to consolidate gains achieved in War on Terror: COAS

Chief of Army Staff, General Qamar Javed Bajwa visited Peshawar Corps Headquarters. He was given detailed briefing on situation along Pak-Afghan border, ongoing and future operations, progress on development works and return of TDPs. COAS appreciated improved security situation and measures for better border management including fencing.

 newssecpakafghanborder1.jpgCOAS expressed his satisfaction on operational readiness of the formations and asked them to stay vigilant against all types of threat. He said that we consider Afghanistan as a brotherly neighbor and terrorists are our common enemy. The threat thus requires a trust based coordinated response rather than blame game or unwarranted skirmishes.

 

COAS said that unilateral actions like drone strike etc. are counterproductive and against the spirit of ongoing cooperation and intelligence sharing being diligently undertaken by Pakistan. Pakistan Army is capable of taking effective measures if actionable intelligence is shared. He said that our focus now is to transform our operational achievements in FATA into enduring peace and stability for which early mainstreaming of FATA, through reforms is essential and Pakistan Army fully supports all efforts towards that end.

 

COAS said that our brave tribal brothers through their support, cooperation and resolve, have enabled its security forces to succeed during the operations and now it is time for them to live a fearless and quality social life as citizens of Pakistan. COAS said that Pakistan Army shall continue its efforts to consolidate gains achieved thus far and stated that Army stands with all other institutions to get Pakistan rid of menace retarding its progress and prosperity.

 

Earlier, on arrival at Corps Headquarters, COAS was received by Commander Peshawar Corps Lieutenant General Nazir Ahmad Butt.

Our enemies shall never succeed to lower our resolve or to divide us: COAS

General Qamar Javed Bajwa, Chief of Army Staff (COAS) visited Parachinar, Kurram Agency. COAS was briefed in detail about security situation and recent terrorist incidents. COAS interacted with local tribal elders and representatives of the sit-in. Offering newssecpakafghanborder2.jpgdua for Shuhada, COAS expressed his grief on loss of precious lives. COAS said that he was abroad and on return weather delayed his attempts to visit Parachinar. Meanwhile, Commander Peshawar Corps and IGFC were present at Parachinar and implemented directions of COAS in taking care of the victims and the affected families. He said that we as a nation have given unprecedented sacrifices in war against terrorism and we shall succeed. "Our enemies shall never succeed to lower our resolve or to divide us," COAS remarked. Appreciating FC KP and local administration for their efforts, COAS acknowledged their contributions. To date 126 brave soldiers of FC KP alone have laid their lives and 387 have got injured while performing security duties in Kurram Agency only. "FC KP is a professional force inclusive of all tribes and sects performing their duties selflessly," COAS said.
Speaking at the occasion Tribal elders expressed their full confidence and trust in Army and its leadership. "We stand with our Security Forces and our blood is for our motherland. We all are Pakistanis and Muslims," the elders remarked.
Later, COAS also met representatives of sit-in and listened to their concerns. "While administrative concerns will be pursued with the executive body, suggestions regarding security mechanism are being incorporated forthwith. We can only be effective when locals are part of the security and vigilance," COAS said.
COAS announced the following:-
* While there are clear evidences of hostile foreign hands in recent incidents, local facilitators and abettors have been apprehended who will be tried in military courts.
* Additional Army troops have been moved in Parachinar to enhance its security while FC troops are being beefed up on Pak-Afghan border to seal it effectively. Toori Razakars are also being dovetailed on check posts.
* Safe city project for Parachinar by installing CCTV cameras in line with the ones in Lahore and Islamabad will be undertaken.
* Fencing of border is already in progress. More sensitive areas of FATA are being fenced in Phase 1 while complete Pak-Afghan border including the border in Balochistan will be fenced in Phase 2.
* Firing by FC troops while handling mob situation post blast is being inquired and those responsible shall not be spared. FC commandant has already been changed. Notwithstanding the irreparable loss, four Shaheeds and injured due to firing have been given separate compensation by FC.
* Army Public School Parachinar is named after Maj Gulfam Shaheed and it will be upgraded to Cadet College in due course.
* Trauma Centre will be established at Parachinar by Army while local civil hospital will be upgraded for better medical care by civil administration.
* Government has now announced compensation for Parachinar victims at par with other such victims elsewhere in the country. All Pakistanis are equal.
* Army fully supports mainstreaming of FATA which is being pursued and its early implementation is essential for enduring peace and stability.
COAS said that Pakistan Army shall continue its efforts to bring back normalcy in the country. He said that threat continues to reside across the border in Afghanistan with ISIS gaining strength there. "We need to remain united, steadfast, prepared and vigilant against this threat which has an agenda of exploiting sectarian fault-line. "Our security forces are symbol of national integration so is our security apparatus; we are one nation. Also, a greater Pak-Afghan border coordination and security cooperation is required in this regard," COAS remarked.

Those responsible for Parachinar incidents shall be brought to law: COAS

Army is closely following the sectarian and ethnic colour being deliberately given to recent spate of incidents in the country by hostile intelligence agencies/sponsored anti-state elements. Having failed to divide us through terrorism, our enemy is now trying to target and fragment us along sectarian/ethnic lines which merit a unified national response.

Ongoing malicious campaign of enemies of Pakistan which is also unwittingly being spread on social media is highly regrettable and we all need to be cognizant of it. "For us every Shaheed/injured is equal, regardless of sect/ethnicity and indeed is a great loss.” We all are Pakistanis and Muslims who fully respect the religious rights of our Pakistani non-Muslim minorities," COAS said.

COAS has interacted with religious clergy of all sects over the last few days for their positive involvement in defeating this ongoing sinister campaign. It is assured that those responsible for Parachinar incidents shall be brought to law and victims will be compensated without any discrimination. "Alhamdulillah, we have brought security situation in country including FATA under control and shall not allow its regression at any cost," COAS said.

10
July
COAS Visits Turkey

Chief of Army Staff, General Qamar Javed Bajwa visited Turkey on an official visit on June 20, 2017. On arrival, COAS visited Ataturk Mausoleum and laid floral wreath to pay homage to the father of Turkish nation and penned down his respects on the visitor’s book.

 

COAS visited Turkish Land Force Headquarters where he was received by General Salih Zeki Çolak, Commander Turkish Land Forces and was presented Guard of Honour. At the Turkish Land Force Headquarters, COAS was briefed on the regional security situation as well as the Turkish Land Forces and their various undertakings in the fields of training, defense production and peacekeeping operations.

 

COAS was awarded the Legion of Merit in a simple and graceful ceremony in recognition of his services for promotion of Pakistan-Turkey defense ties. Speaking on the occasion, COAS underscored the special place that Turkey enjoys in the hearts of all Pakistanis. He dedicated the award to the Shuhada of both Pakistani and Turkish Armed Forces.

 

Later, COAS called on Chief of Turkish General Staff, General Hulusi Akar and discussed matters related to regional security and the role Armed Forces of both countries play towards peace and stability. The two military leaders agreed to further enhance defense cooperation in multiple fields. Turkish military leadership was greatly appreciative of the role Pakistan Army plays against terrorism as well as in peacekeeping operations and as a factor of stability in a very volatile region.

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10
July
Ambassador of China Calls on CJCSC to Discuss Matters Related to Defence and Security

newsambaschinacjsc.jpgH.E Mr. Sun Weidong, Ambassador of China, called on General Zubair Mahmood Hayat, Chairman Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee at Joint Staff Headquarters, Rawalpindi. Matters related to defence and security were discussed during the meeting. Both sides reiterated their resolve for further strengthening of this special relationship.

The Ambassador commended the professionalism of Pakistan Armed Forces and acknowledged sacrifices made by Pakistan in the war against terrorism.

 

 

 

CJCSC Attends 12th Round of Defence and Security Talks in China

General Zubair Mahmood Hayat, Chairman Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee, on a three days official visit from June 14 - 17 to China, attended 12th Round of Defence and Security Talks. CJCSC had meetings with General Fang Fenghui, Chinese Chief of Joint Staff Department and Chinese Foreign Minister, Mr. Wang Yi. Chinese leadership lauded strong iron bond between the two countries and agreed to further strengthen and deepen their strategic relationship. Earlier on arrival at Ba Yi Building, a smartly turned out contingent of Chinese Armed Forces presented Guard of Honour to the CJCSC.

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07
July
An emerging soldier artist defies the norms of art through his art of imperfection

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07
July

Written By: Maj Azeemullah Baig

The Spanish climber Alberto Zerain, after the summit, descended safely once the rope was intact at the traverse of the Bottleneck. After reaching back at Camp-IV he preferred to go down to Camp-III. The other climbers had reached the summit as per their speed and timings. Alberto had reached at summit around 0300 p.m. on August 1, 2008 and the last summiteer reached by 0730 p.m. that evening. The climbers took their victory pictures at the top, completely unaware of the destroyed rope section in the traverse.

An eyewitness account of the shocking events of 2008 K2 Summit in which 11 climbers tragically lost their lives.

 

It was the first week of May 2008, when the team of famous mountaineers and climbers from across the globe started pouring in at K2 Base Camp at 5650 meters (18650 ft), after crossing the Baltoro/Concordia Glacier. The Dutch (Norit Team) were the first to arrive, then a French ski team, followed by the South Koreans, who had the largest member of climbers and Sherpas from Nepal. There was also a Serbian team, a Norwegian team, a French team, an American team, an Italian pair, members of Pakistani High Altitude Porters, a climber from Singapore along with sherpas and High Altitude Porters who joined late at the base camp and a solo Spaniard who joined for summit from Broad Peak Camp on the final push day to K2.

 

thefatalmoves.jpgExpedition teams at base camp devised their own plans and moved accordingly to establish further camps above the Advance Base Camp. After acclimatization, the next task was to store and dump equipment at higher camps for summit. Due to bad weather, the teams barely managed to fix ropes till Camp-III at 7200 meters (23,760 ft). The climbers waited almost two months for a clear weather window for the summit. There were multiple sources for weather forecast at base camp. The French climber, Hugues D’ Aubarede, predicted clear weather window by the end of July and also confirmed his stay at the base camp. Prior to this many team leaders at base camp were thinking of packing up and rolling back.


Now several joint team meetings were being held for collective efforts for the summit. Finally, the teams agreed and sat fingers-crossed to make a joint venture in terms of technical gadgets and equipment. In all these meetings the Serbian Liaison Officer, Major Sabir and I were actively involved. In the final joint team meeting, an experienced team for rope fixing and trial breaking was nominated. I, being the liaison officer with the Korean expedition had to participate actively at times, due to their language barrier. The Koreans were well equipped in terms of climbing gadgetry and had experienced Nepali Sherpas as well. At the end, all teams from Korea, Serbia, Norway, Norit, France, Italy and American International agreed for a joint venture.


Finally, the experienced and strong climbers, Nepali Sherpas and Pakistani High Altitude Porters were earmarked for the leading team under the leadership of high altitude porter Shaheen Baig. I was given the responsibility of radio communication and monitoring of dots in the scope from base camp. All the teams were excited for the summit. On July 27, 2008, the teams started from base camp. Abruzzi route was scaled by the Korean, Serbian, Norwegian and Spanish terms. On July 28, the Cesan route was adopted to ascend by the Norit Team, French Hugues and Mehrban, Italian, Irish and American International team.

 

thefatalmoves1.jpgBoth teams following different routes (Abruzzi/Cesan) had to converge on the shoulder at Camp IV (7800 m) by July 31. On July 27, Abruzzi team reached Camp-I (6000 m). The teams stayed at Camp-II (6800 m) from July 28-29 due to bad weather. On the same day, Shaheen Baig had to go down due to blood vomiting caused by suspected ulcer. The message about Shaheen Baig’s descend was radioed to base camp. At base camp, Major Sabir tasked me to evacuate the sick Pakistani porter. In response, the next morning I along with Mr. Nadir Khan (staff with Serbians) went up towards Advance Base Camp to evacuate Shaheen Baig. He was safely brought to base camp and then immediately evacuated to Skardu for medical checkup. Now, the teams at camp-III were deprived of an experienced climber i.e., Shaheen Baig, who knew exactly where to fix the rope ahead of Camp-IV in the Bottleneck. On July 30, all climbers reached camp-III (7500 m) except Mr. Lee (Korean) who had to descend due to bad health. On July 31, the remaining climbers pushed towards Camp-IV (7800 m) except Mr. Chris from USA and Miss Song Gui Hwa from Korea. They aborted their mission and I received Miss Song during night hours between Advance Base Camp and K2 Base Camp. She was stranded, exhausted and lost. Then came July 31, 2008; the green signal for the final push towards the summit in a state of high morale was passed on radio to base camp at night. In response, I exchanged best wishes for the upcoming task and boosted their morale for a safe summit.


August 1, 2008 – Final Push Towards Summit
The leading team was Sherpas: Pemba, Jumik and Pasang; Koreans: Hwang, Park and Kim; Pakistani High Altitude Porters: Karim, Hussain and Ali and later joined by Spanish solo Alberto Zerain. Once they reached Camp-IV, they started ignoring terms set at the base camp. It was decided in the joint meeting that 600 meters rope will be fixed in Bottleneck; 400 meters was promised by Norit team and 200 meters by the Italians. Once the equipment and rope was counted, 100 meters rope was found short against Italians as promised at base camp. In the joint meeting, Korean leader Kim Soo demanded 700 meters rope for Bottleneck. On Abruzzi route till Camp-IV most of the rope fixing was done by the Korean Team. Shaheen Baig, based on his experience said that 600 meters was enough for Bottleneck and everyone agreed on that. But the climbers needed Shaheen Baig (evacuated from Camp-III) who exactly knew where to fix the line above Camp-IV. The prime mistake committed was planting a line just above Camp-IV. As a result, undue delay was caused while repositioning the rope from the lower portion. In the meanwhile, remaining climbers started to marshall under the dangerous Bottleneck, putting their lives in danger. I was monitoring this cramped situation with a scope from base camp and when inquired for the delay the reply on radio was that situation was crowded under the couloir, upward pace was slow and fixing of the line in the Bottleneck remained a conundrum. The two members of American team, Eric Meyer and Frederik Strang decided to abort mission after calculating the slow pace of climbers and unnecessary exposure under ice-fall from the Bottleneck. Two more climbers from Norit team, Chris Klinke and Jellestaleman abandoned their forward move and returned to Camp-IV. The team nominated to lead started 3 hours late. All this activity of fixing rope and unnecessary delay took almost 12 hours which normally might have taken 5 to 6 hours. The overhanging 300 ft ice wall was a nightmare for climbers, who had to scale 50 degree straight up to couloir and then traverse towards summit.


First Fatality: Dren Mandic (Serbia) and Jehan Baig (Pakistan)
The slow pace and undue exposure in Bottleneck seemed to be a continuous source of frustration among climbers. A staff member named Sakhawat came to the Control Base tent and warned me of deadly consequences after observing poor progress. He further added that he has not ever seen such a jammed line and crowd under the death trap of Bottleneck. All of a sudden there was chaos in Bottleneck and at 0945 a.m. on August 1, 2008, the first tragedy was reported, when Serbian climber Dren, unclipped himself to cross Cecilie Skog, a Norwegian climber in front of him. Once he was unclipped he lost his balance and fell over 150 meters down the Bottleneck. His body was seen moving from Camp-IV. When Serbian climber Predrag Zagorac and Isoplanic along with porter Hussain turned back, they pronounced him dead after checking his pulse.


The next blunder was made when the Serbians contacted their manager at K2 Base Camp for further orders. He instructed them to bring the body down and told them to abort their attempt towards the summit. This sort of adventure should not be made at such an elevation, as it is a risk that endangers others’ lives.


There is a difference of opinion over Jehan Baig’s death. I personally believe that the loss of another life to bring a dead body above 8000 meters is not advised. He seemed to be nervous as he was already exhausted. There were six individuals including Fredrik Strang (specialist in high altitude disease) and two Serb climbers along with their porters Hussain and Mohammad Ali who went to rescue and bring the body down. Jehan Baig was with French Climber Hugues for his support to summit. Once they started to slide the body downwards wrapped in a sleeping bag, it gained speed and momentum. Jehan Baig was holding the rope tied with Dren’s body, as others were also sharing the downwards drag. The warning to be careful and safe made him more confused and after a few sudden jerks from the weight of the dead body, Jehan Baig was imbalanced over a steep gradient towards Eastern face (China face side). At 1230 p.m., the news of the second casuality was radioed. The shaken Serbians now aborted their rescue mission, wrapped the body in their country’s flag, fastened it to the mountain above camp-IV, and the rescue team started their move back to Camp-IV.


Push Towards Summit Under Death Shadows
The climbers were now scaling the Bottleneck under tremendous pressure and the unnecessary delays exhausted them. The sudden fatalities above Camp-IV also had a demoralizing effect on climbers at the outset of their attempt, but they continued their climb towards the summit. The principle rule which the climbers started to compromise on was the turn-around time. They were already late and exposed under couloir and had lost almost six hours in the Bottleneck. When the exhaustion and frustration level crossed the limits, the Spanish climber Alberto led the traverse and the rest followed him. Alberto Zerain’s pace was fast and he was the first climber to reach the K2 summit. After him was Little Pasang (Nepal) then Lars (Norwegian) followed by Kim Jae Soo, Cecilie (Norway), Miss Go Mi Sung, Park, Hwang and Jumick (Korean); the Koreans stayed at the summit till 0710 in the morning because Kim Hyo Gyeang came up late. The other climbers who followed were Chhrring, Hugues, Mehrban and Norit Team; Marco was the last one to reach the summit.


The Spanish climber Alberto Zerain, after the summit, descended safely once the rope was intact at the traverse of the Bottleneck. After reaching back at Camp-IV he preferred to go down to Camp-III. The other climbers had reached the summit as per their speed and timings. Alberto had reached at summit around 0300 p.m. on August 1, 2008 and the last summiteer reached by 0730 p.m. that evening. The climbers took their victory pictures at the top, completely unaware of the destroyed rope section in the traverse.


The biggest challenge for the climbers at the top was to descend and negotiate traverse of Bottleneck without rope. That only meant a technical climb (famous as Alpinist Style). The climbers were already over-exhausted due to unforeseen delays and weak team work. All the activity was communicated to base camp, but my only concern was timely return of the climbers and the crossing of Bottleneck. I radioed Kim Jae Soo (Korean leader) for a safe and timely descend, but then what I had feared happened; disorientation and loss of direction at the top. Down at the base camp, I yelled on radio after observing the torch lights descending in the wrong direction. At night, head lamps were visible like stars in the sky and I would direct them through radio to the actual route. High up at the top, climbers risked their lives in two ways; staying and spending the night at the top in disorientation and descending in darkness without rope in the Bottleneck. But the determined climbers decided to embrace death with honour. Their struggle increased manifolds due to the absence of rope in the traverse. The destruction of technical gadgetry and rope by serac fall trapped the climbers in the Zone of Death (above Bottleneck). The two Korean members, Kim Jae Soo and Miss Go Mi Sun managed to navigate Bottleneck in dark and reached Camp-IV. The third casualty occurred when Norwegians were crossing Bottleneck back towards Camp-IV. Rolf Bae did not go up to the summit and waited in the Bottleneck for his wife Cecilie and Lars, who were returning from summit. The three Norwegians, while descending couloir, were caught in a serac fall which struck Rolf in front of his wife and he died on the spot while Ceiclie Skog and Lars were stranded, without food and oxygen but managed to reach Camp-IV around midnight. Sherpa Pemba Gyalje battled through the traverse towards Camp IV. Sherpa Chhiring Borje clipped little Pasang Lama with his harness and did ‘free solo’ through Bottleneck safely. Nine climbers were still stuck above Bottleneck. The climbers who managed to reach Camp-IV were weak and dehydrated. The climbers trapped above Bottleneck were battling for their lives in the darkness at 8300 meters. The lone survivors were struggling against the dark slippery gradient, –40°C temperature, scarcity of food, exhaustion and disorientation. Three climbers Wilco, Gerald and Marco decided to spend the night in the open above Bottleneck.


The 61 year old French climber Hugues tried to bypass Bottleneck in the darkness and fell to his death. He was seen falling down by Cas van de Gevel who was at bottom of Bottleneck. There are myths about porter Mehrban Karim’s death. Some say he moved in the opposite direction but climbers assumed he met the same fate of falling down while trying to descend and escaping death in Bottleneck. The remaining Korean members and Jumich were missing somewhere in the Bottleneck, untraceable. The three climbers, Wilco Van Rooijen (Dutch), Marco Confortola (Italy) and Gerald McDonnell (Irish) who spent the night above Bottleneck started to descend at 0500 a.m. on August 2, 2008. On their descend they spotted the three missing Korean climbers (Hwang, Park and Kim along with Sherpa Jumich) trapped in a very bad condition and entangled in ropes. They spent 3 hours to free the Koreans but failed. Marco started to descend and Gerald opted to stay with the trapped Koreans. I communicated at Camp-IV for the possibility of rescue and then Big Pasang and Tsering Bhote were tasked to bring back the members from Bottleneck. Big Pasang reached the trapped team. He motivated Jumich and clipped him with himself. He started to move back and informed me about Gerald’s presence with the remaining Koreans. They had descended 50 meters when a serac fell and hit all the trapped climbers along with Big Pasang and Jumich. This ominous tragedy occurred in front of Tsering Bhote (Sherpa) who returned back to Camp-IV. The last two climbers, namely Wilco (Dutch) and Marco (Italy) who were still missing above Camp-IV used their satellite phones which helped in tracing the satellite coordinates. Wilco continued his descent via Cesan route and Marco opted for the Abruzzi route. I contacted the Korean leader Kim Jae Soo to organize their descent to base camp because of bad weather conditions. The teams started moving back to Camp-III and then towards Camp-II. Meanwhile, Pemba found Marco unconscious around Camp-IV. He was oxygenated and evacuated to Camp-IV. Wilco was still battling for his life and spent the night in the open while trying to descend. During the night, some lights were seen between Camp-IV and Camp-III of Cesan route. The guys at base camp managed to trace Wilco as a dot in scope and conveyed to Camp-III. Finally, Wilco reached and saw signs of life at Camp-III. The Korean and other climbers started descending. I arranged a rescue team towards Camp-I to receive the trapped and frost bitten climbers. The Koreans started their move from Camp-III and my team reached at Advance Base Camp, waiting for them. On the morning of August 3, my team with the necessary medical and rescue equipment climbed up towards Camp-I, after some time climbers were spotted approaching. On meeting, their packs were removed and we descended down.


At Advance Base Camp, they were physically checked and some climbers were treated for second-degree frostbite on their fingers and toes. We started our move towards base camp. There the injured climbers were checked and treated by Eric Meyer. Wilco and Cas were also rescued and they were treated in Norit Team mess tent. Wilco was in bad shape, snow blinded, with torn lips, blisters in mouth and frostbitten fingers and toes. That night spent at base camp was terrible. Screams of pain and mourning the death of fellow climbers made everyone full of sorrow. In the morning, chopper engine was heard roaring over Baltoro Glacier. My team prepared the landing strip and I guided the chopper pilot to land on running rotors. It was a relief when the patients were evacuated. On same evening, Italian Climber Marco was also rescued. The climber was acting abnormally and in total disorientation. He had severe sun burn and frost bite on fingers and toes. Due to pain and trauma, he avoided talking.


That evening, I wrote and nailed the names of the dead climbers up on K2 on steel dishes and cooking pot lids. On August 04, 2008, my remaining expedition members who had survived (12 out of 17) planned to move towards Skardu. They were totally exhausted and some were injured as well. The Koreans hired a military MI-17 to reach Skardu from K2 Base Camp. Marco was also heli-lifted and admitted in Combined Military Hospital (CMH), Skardu. Some patients were given treatment at CMH, Rawalpindi. After two days, all the team members were called for debriefing at Alpine Club and Ministry of Tourism in Islamabad. The meeting was presided by Secretary Ministry of Tourism and conducted by President Alpine Club Pakistan. The poor coordination, failing to estimate return time, non-adherence to basic climbing rules, relying more on high altitude porters and sherpas was discussed at length. The debriefing concluded on giving tribute to all those climbers who gave their lives for a noble cause, in the pursuit of rescuing others. On August 10, 2008, the climbers started flying back to their countries, with inspiring tales that would keep the summit spirit alive forever.

 

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07
July

Written By: Hira Sagheer

It is a day like any other. The bright midday sun filters through the thick white curtains and paints the room a pale yellow hue. I say midday because that is the time I usually wake up at. I sleepily stretch in bed and turn around to look at my side where my angel co-sleeps and is curled up like the perfect human child that he is. I smile to myself as I get out of bed already yearning for that steaming hot mug of tea my NCB (non-combatant bearer) prepares every morning for my breakfast.


Who let the dogs out {woof, woof, woof, woof}, Who let the dogs out {woof, woof…} I frantically look for my phone in the sheets and silence it. Who could be calling at this ungodly hour? Feeling a massive grump coming on, I take it outside. I see my husband’s name flash on the screen and swipe to pick.


Me: Hey, you almost woke up Moustafa!
Him: You guys are still sleeping?
Me: *major eye-roll*
Him: Anyway, I called to tell that I gave the NCB a week off. Signed his leave in the morning.
Me: Wait… whaaa… wh… why… wwhatt…
Him: Yeah, some emergency back home. Anyway, I have to run. See you at home.
Me: Wait… Wh… whaaa… wh… why… wwhatt…


A sharp wailing snaps me out of my stupefied sputter. For a moment, I think I am the one wailing, lamenting the loss of what feels like my right hand. But it’s coming from the other room. Perfect, the kid is up. I drag myself against will to the bedroom and hug my kid. The wailing stops. Then it starts again. It’s definitely me this time.


Who, you might ask, is this NCB? Whose imminent absence has reduced me to a wailing, sputtering mess. He is God’s greatest blessing to an Army wife in Pakistan. He is our go-to guy. He’s the guy we rely on to get things done. If one is lucky, they end up with a NCB who is a miracle walking around on two legs. He fixes our plumbing. He repairs the switches. He is there to rescue us when the pressure cooker acts up or the blender just won’t blend. He does the cooking, does the dishes, gets our groceries, goes to the laundry, supervises workers around the house and is essentially the center of our little galaxy. He’s like our very own, personalized fairy godmother and the reason why we feel like such goddamn princesses (excuse the lingo). I cannot stress enough the focal point this guy has in the life and household of an Army wife.


As I digest the news, my inner goddess comes to my aid. She takes me by the shoulders and tries to shake some sense into me. You are a strong, capable young woman, she yells in my face. It’s only house work, she says. It’s only seven days, she starts to make sense. You. can.handle.this, I nod along. WHO ARE YOU? she demands. I AM A STRONG, CAPABLE YOUNG WOMAN! I chant back. WHO CAN DO THIS? she’s fierce. I CAN DO THIS! I show her. I got this!

 

adayinlife.jpgLike a woman on a mission, I spring out of bed and start on ‘things’. First things first, wash the kid. I yank Moustafa off the bed and rush him into the bathroom. He looks too startled to protest and a little scared by my game face. I splash his face and shepherd him back into the room where I randomly pick his clothes out of the closet. Normally, I’d spend at least a good, solid fifteen minutes planning and selecting the perfect outfit but ain’t nobody got time for that today. I throw a shirt over his head, yank his shorts up to his waist and I swear I hear him wince. I whisk him off the bed, grab the comforter in my strong lady hands and haul it over the bed. There, the bed’s made. This will have to do. I gather clothes strewn across the room and dump them into the laundry basket. I do not have the time or the patience today to sort and fold clothes and put them away. Everything outside the closet qualifies as laundry. This house just got a new rule!


We hurry out into the living room and the state it is in leaves me a little dazed. It is as if a hurricane tore through it while we were asleep. Husband’s clothes heaped on a couch, Moustafa’s toys from last night scattered as far as the eye could see and a dozen other random objects I honestly believe didn’t belong to us. I tie my dupatta into a knot at my waist (you know a desi woman means business when she does that) and get to bringing some semblance of sense to this disaster zone. I zig and zag between couches, coffee table and corner tables and, if in that moment, I looked behind me I’d definitely see chemtrails. When the living room looks livable again, I leave my kid in the company of his iPad (yes, I am that mom this morning, don’t you even start with me!) and head to the kitchen.


That strong, capable woman who pulled herself together five minutes earlier after being yelled at by the voices in her head collapses in the kitchen door. Did the MOAB (Mother of all Bombs) drop down here last night while we were tucked away in bed? Because it most definitely looks like it did. There are last night’s dishes still soaking in the sink (I usually leave them for my trusted NCB to wash in the morning), pots and pans still greasy from the last cooked meal, the counter hasn’t been wiped down, the stove hasn’t been sponged off and there is a trayful of used glasses by the sink. How did this even happen, is the last thought I have before my vision turns to a black field of nothingness and I almost collapse. How can a family of three create THIS much mess in the kitchen? I wonder if we have more people living in the house whom I did not know about. I know it looks bad, but it’s just dishes, the goddess is back and she coos. Are you scared of some harmless dishes? she asks sensibly. Yes, I reply meekly before I put on my neon yellow gloves and dive elbow deep into the dirty dish galore. I visibly gag as my gloved and protected hand touches something seemingly icky. My first thought is to tear off these gloves and set the kitchen on fire so I never have to deal with this mess again. Certainly we can live off the Officers' Mess until the NCB comes back and builds me a new kitchen from scratch. The thought makes me smile. This is probably the first time I have smiled all day and it feels utterly weird. Once the dishes are done, gloves still on, I wipe the counters, scrub the stove and mop the kitchen floor. It’s time to take the trash out and as I open the bin to tie the bag, the goddess jumps off her couch and dry heaves. You can do this, she gasps. I respond with another gag attack.


Once order is restored in the kitchen and everything is clean and shiny again, I take a deep breath. Time to get started on breakfast. I whip up some eggs and make the easiest version of omelette possible and wolf it down over the sink straight from the pan. I think about making a mug of tea but then think of all the crusty tea I’d have to clean from the saucepan and decide one day without tea wouldn’t kill me. Probably. There is no way I am starting a new dirty dish pile. Oh crap, I mutter as I remember my kid who probably needs breakfast too. I whip up the same easy-omelette for him with a glass of milk.


Normally, I’d qualify for the highest civil award just for successfully feeding my kid food three times a day. Like any other wonderful toddler, he hates being fed. Our meals start with me doing everything short of a cheerleading routine to get him to eat a few bites. When that fails, and it almost always does, I resort to pleading my case. Besides being picky when it comes to his eating habits, my kid is also an expert at sniffing out my weaknesses. Today is no exception. He can sense desperation oozing out of every pore of his mother’s existence and vehemently shakes his head as soon as I enter the room with his tray. ‘No Mama, no’, he tells me. ‘Sit down here right now!!!’, I hiss through gritted teeth. The goddess and I do not have the patience today to jump through the hoops and instead jump straight to the last resort. It works and he scampers to his high chair. Thank you, God!


After feeding Moustafa his breakfast in what feels like record breaking time, I head back into the kitchen. It’s time to get started on lunch. I am still thinking on lunch options when there is a loud Ding Dong Ding. Since there is no NCB it means I get to be the lucky one to walk out in the scorching heat and open the gate for whoever it is. Yayee me! I head out and open the gate. It is the cleaning guy. Good God, I almost forgot about him since it is the NCB who supervises him. I let him in and tell him to get started on his work. I head back into the kitchen and hear Moustafa crying. Hurrying into the room I realize that I left him strapped in his high chair after breakfast. I unbuckle him and let him out and head back inside the kitchen. So where was I before I went to let the cleaning guy in? Yeah, what to make for lunch, which is quite possibly the hardest question every housewife has to deal with every single day. I settle on making pasta with some white sauce because anything with gravy would mean making roti to go with it. Which would mean kneading the dough, making little dough spheres called pairaas, rolling them flat and then cooking them. And there was no way I was getting into that mess all by myself.


Pasta means loads of cutting so I get right to it. I get all the veggies out and put the meat out to thaw. As I put the water on stove to bring it to a boil for pasta, I hear an ear-piercing shatter from the living room. I dash into the living room and to my horror the cleaning guy is standing by the coffee table, looking extremely guilty. I follow his line of vision and find the reason why. My favorite tall vase is shattered into a hundred little pieces and scattered all over the floor. I look in horror at the shattered vase and then at the cleaning guy and then back at the vase. I open my mouth to express the horror and the accompanying grief raging through my veins but nothing comes out. I close my eyes and the goddess hugs my limp frame. I open my eyes and tell the cleaning guy to gather up all the pieces. I get down on my hands and knees and gather as many pieces as I can. I take the broom myself and sweep the room once, twice and thrice just to be sure that all the pieces are taken care of since my kid spends a major portion of his day running around barefoot in the same room. Once that is taken care of, I watch the cleaning guy like a hawk while he gets the rest of the house cleaned.


Once he’s gone I am back in the kitchen, boiling pasta and cutting vegetables. That half an hour I spend prepping things is continuously interrupted by my boy and his never-ending demands. First he wants a snack. Five minutes later he’s back for some water. Hardly five minutes have passed before he calls out again from the living room which I choose to ignore. After a minute of him relentlessly calling me, I give up and head to the living room. He’s pooped, of course! Why wouldn’t he when I am literally at the end of my wits. After washing him up and putting on a fresh diaper, I head back into the kitchen and drain the over-boiled, mushed pasta. It doesn’t look that bad, the goddess assures me. I toss the vegetables, I have done a sloppy job of cutting, into a very lumpy white sauce and fold in the pasta. There, lunch and dinner and snack sorted. I dare anyone to ask me for anything else today, I dare them!
On my way to the living room from the kitchen I see my reflection in the hallway mirror and realize I have not brushed my teeth, washed my face and combed my hair. What’s worse is that I hadn’t changed before sleeping and I hadn’t changed after waking up. Truly and completely, a mess! Better wash up!
Before I can finish that thought there is a loud beep, beep outside and Moustafa rushes past me all excited and giddy. Baba, Baba he exclaims and I become conscious of the fact that it is almost evening, the husband’s back home. I have barely gotten the food off the stove and I look like trash. I peek into the living room to have proof in hand that I have been busy getting things done and of course it is back to its usual disaster-struck state. The husband strides in with Moustafa in his arms and takes one long look at me, another at the room and then back at me again. He grins, ‘Tough day?’ At least he gets it.


I fix him a plate while he changes and then iron his uniform while he eats. Once he’s done, I take the dishes into the kitchen and pull on those neon gloves again. Hello new best friend, I say to my gloves and the goddess looks sympathetic. It’s laundry next (Bleukh). After putting a load in the laundry, I get back to the ironing and by the time I am done it’s almost dinner time. In the meantime, my kid poops a total of three more times (he has an active digestive system, bless him), is fed forcefully under threats two more times and has thrown five very loud tantrums.


After dinner is eaten and the kitchen is wiped down one final time, I sink into the living room couch. This is the first time I have sat down the entire day. My legs are screaming in pain, I have a family of aches in my back and my shoulders are throbbing. I smell strongly of garlic and faintly of poop. I never got around to washing up and fixing my face and I have lost the energy to even care at this point.


I look at the sea of toys and all things random and extra which have engulfed the living room and think to myself: 1 down, 6 to go. The goddess swoons and falls dramatically off her couch.

 

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07
July

Besides safeguarding maritime interests of Pakistan, Pakistan Navy (PN) has always been at the forefront to conduct Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Relief Operations overseas to extend support/help to international community. The resolve and commitment of Pakistan Navy was evident at numerous occasions in the past including assistance rendered to Maldives and Indonesia after Tsunami in 2004, rescue of MV Suez Crew from Pirates in 2011 and successful conduct of humanitarian operations to evacuate stranded Pakistanis and foreign nationals at Yemen in 2015. Recent conduct of Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Relief (HADR) operations in support of flood stricken Sri Lankan populace is also another glorious chapter of the same zeal and commitment of PN.


In the aftermath of severe floods in May 2017 which caused havoc and devastation in Sri Lanka, leaving hundreds dead and millions displaced. Realizing the gravity of the situation and with the objective to help Sri lankan people, Pakistan Navy ship Zulfiquar with embarked helicopter Alouette which was on an overseas deployment to South-East Asia was diverted to Colombo, Sri Lanka, upon the instructions of Chief of the Naval Staff, Admiral Muhammad Zakaullah. While enroute to Sri Lanka, the ship conducted search operations while remaining close to southwestern coast of Sri Lanka in order to ascertain extent of damage and spillover.


The ship carried relief goods, paramedical facilities and medicines. Upon arrival at Colombo Port, Pakistan Navy ship was received by Commander Western Naval Area Sri Lankan Navy Rear Admiral NPS Attygalle, Deputy High Commissioner of Pakistan Mr. Janbaz Khan, Defence Advisor of Pakistan Colonel Rajil and other high officials of Sri Lankan Government.

 

frommaritmedom.jpgIn a ceremony, held onboard PNS Zulfiquar the same day, the Acting High Commissioner of Pakistan, Dr. Sarfraz Ahmed Khan Sipra and Commanding Officer PNS Zulfiquar Captain Faisal Javed Sheikh handed over the relief goods to the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Sri Lanka, Mr. Ravi Karunanayake.


On the occasion the Sir Lankan Foreign Minister expressed his gratitude to the people of Pakistan in general and Pakistan Navy in particular for a swift response and providing valued assistance at time of need. The minister acknowledged that Pakistan and Sri Lanka enjoy long lasting and brotherly relations based on historical ties and Pakistan has always been forthcoming in extending support and assistance in a time of calamity.


Later, on the same day Pakistan Navy teams, in collaboration with Sri Lankan Army, Navy and Local District Administration, started Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Relief (HADR) Operations and established medical camps at various flood stricken rural areas.


During the 4 days operations, Pakistan Navy Search and Rescue Teams, with required technical equipment reached to the far flung areas of harsh topography, comprising marshes, swamps and unpredictable waterways in severely affected districts of Horna, Malwana, Kalutara and Raxapana to help the flood stricken populace.


Pakistan Navy teams rescued/evacuated a large number of flood stranded population from far flung villages, provided medical treatment and medicines to flood affected families, restored fresh water supply to local population by decontaminating wells, cleared roadways and passages by de-flooding marshy areas and last but not least, also provided edibles, fresh water and dry ration to displaced families, mostly women, kids and the elderly. Pakistan Navy’s ardent and unflinching support immensely helped to restore activities of life amongst the population of far flung villages. Sri Lankan political and military higher echelon acknowledged and highly appreciated Pakistan Navy’s efforts for helping Sri Lankan people in the hour of need at all forums.


Chief of the Naval Staff, Admiral Muhammad Zakaullah, expressed that 'prompt and timely help to Sri Lankan people is a display of Pakistan Navy’s unflinching resolve in support of a friendly nation in times of need.'


Naval forces have an inherent capability of flexibility and reach which have been clearly manifested/employed during the HADR operations in Sri Lanka by Pakistan Navy. The current operation signifes the professional acumen and commitment of Pakistan Navy to conduct such a prompt and large scale operation involving diverse technical and professional expertise. Pakistan Navy is resolute in maintaining and delivering on its commitment to the nation and global community for providing any assistance to keep Pakistan’s flag higher. Pakistan Navy ships, flying the green flag around the globe are reflection of national character, resilience and unrelenting commitment to the humanitarian cause.

 

Public Relations Directorate (Pak Navy)
 
07
July

Written By: Maj Wajiha Arshad

Women empowerment is taken in true letter and spirit in Pakistan by enhancing and improving the social, economic, political and legal strengths of the women and to ensure fair opportunities for the women in all walks of life. Ever-increasing responsibilities and lesser opportunities in the past have always been a great challenge for Pakistani women. However, they by now have been successful in reaching almost all professional fields including politics, sports, education sector, police, judiciary, bureaucracy, business, banking, and many others. In addition, women have been actively joining military since the establishment of Pakistan. How can one forget the first lady of Pakistan Begum Ra'ana who took the lead in starting the women’s voluntary service in 1948 to support the medical and logistics for the Pakistan Armed Forces engaged in the Indo-Pakistan war of 1948. Taking the quote of Quaid-i-Azam Muhammed Ali Jinnah sincerely, “No struggle can ever succeed without women participating side by side with men,” Pakistan Armed Forces induct women regularly in various branches of the military.

 

thepioners.jpgBeing a proud daughter of this motherland I feel honored to be part of the women who are serving in Pakistan Armed Forces. In 2006, the first women fighter pilots batch joined the combat aerial mission command of PAF. Similarly with the induction of 13 Lady Officers’ courses in Army since 2006, a total of 405 lady officers other than Army Medical Corps are serving in various Arms/Services. In order to train these officers in handling routine office matters and to integrate them in to the overall system of the Field Army, a Junior Staff Course of 6 weeks duration was run from April 17 to May 27, 2017 in Army School of Logistics, Kuldana.


Military training in Pakistan Army inhabits a significant place in the career of an officer. Apart from physical training in order to perform their jobs competently, officers are required to communicate, write, interpret and implement effectively. The personal growth of an officer in the military is second-to-none. This growth is of course magnified depending on the training an officer undergoes before joining and during the service. The institution, Army School of Logistics, holds a rich history of training officers of Pakistan Army. In 1952, Army School of Administration was established at Kuldana. In the seventies, the formation of logistic areas and expansion in the Army underlined the need to impart formalized training to logistics staff in an organized manner. In 1974, Army School of Logistics was established at Abbottabad in addition to the Army School of Administration. In 1976, both the institutions were merged and school was re-designated as Army School of Logistics at Kuldana.


The realization of importance of Junior Staff Course was further enhanced on reaching Kuldana and getting awareness about the course we had to undergo. In 1982, Junior Staff Course was introduced to train Staff Officers. Total 28 courses were organised from 1982-1991 (1675 Officers qualified). And now it has been restarted and is being carried out exclusively for the lady officers. Aspiring to reach the level of the first female Major General, Shahida Malik, the second, Major General Shahida Badshah, and Major General Nigar Johar, the third woman in Pakistan Army to reach the rank of Army two stars, this particular course is taken to be as one of the milestones for the long journey ahead.


The 20 student lady officers who joined this course came from different Arms: the Signals Corps, the Electrical and Mechanical Engineering Corps, Psychologists, Army Education Corps, Inter Services Public Relations Directorate, C4I and Judge Advocate General Branch. With this diverse background the officers didn't have much of an idea about the course as it was being commenced for the very first time for lady officers. As per student mindset I took suggestions and guidance from senior officers around, which in addition to help, further supplemented the apprehensions.


Winding roads of Kuldana, warm welcome arranged by the school and seeing old friends after a long time relieved the nerves slightly. I was fascinated after reading that Kuldana means “way or high place” in the vernacular and was also known as “British Infantry Line” in the 19th century. The British carved some essence of England in Murree, making Kuldana their home away from home. There is a long scroll of names of renowned British Regiments that camped here since 1860s. However, once the course kicked off, there was hardly a moment to take our eyes off the books and look around to enjoy the epic beauty of Kuldana as we tried to keep up with the pace of studies.


During the course of six weeks we underwent training related to staff duties, administration in field and military writing. Commandant Army School of Logistics, Brigadier Kashif Zafar and faculty guided the lady officers in a positive way and helped to cultivate a better professional understanding by organizing this course in efficacious manner. The tutorials, individual exercises and exams kept us on toes. On the way back home after long days of studies the scenic beauty of Kuldana had a soothing effect on us. Although on reaching home, we always had a long list of tasks to be done for the next day. The course made me realise how military prepares its officers for multi-tasking, acting under immense pressure and keeping the wits under control with a balanced approach. Besides hectic routine and immense pressure of studies we were able to manage time to keep up with the course.


Faculty of the school extended great support and provided opportunity to the students to visit and interact with staff of field formations and experience the real environment. These visits were even more fruitful for lady officers who seldom get the opportunity to visit formations. Moreover, these visits were educative, productive and informative. The school proudly bearing the hallmark for logisticians has endeavored to impart comprehensive knowledge of tactics and logistics base along with necessary staff work to the student officers. This has helped to improve knowledge of lady officers about the tactical and logistic problems faced in the mountains during both defensive and offensive operations. In pursuance of knowledge, a three day visit to Muzaffarabad was conducted for lady officers.


Once the last week of this course started, the idea of departing from the strong bond developed with coursemates gave jitters. The course ended imparting great knowledge and lovely memories of closing ceremony. All the lady officers successfully qualified the course and proudly received certificates with Major Tahira being awarded the first position. The group studies, late night dinners during exam preparations and joint struggles for staying awake with extra cups of tea and black coffee brought us together as never before. I personally feel honored to be a part of another pioneer course; one was the first ladies batch that passed out from Pakistan Military Academy ten years back in 2007, and, now first Lady Officers Junior Staff Course in 2017.

 

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07
July

Written By: Abdullah Khan

There are many types of Indian intelligence involvement in Pakistan. It has a history of launching dirty games in Pakistan and it brought the worst kind of results in 1971 when East Pakistan defected to become Bangladesh because of India’s intelligence and military involvement. Let’s discuss different types of Indian involvement in Pakistan.


Terror Sponsoring: India has a documented and well-proven history of sponsoring terrorism in Pakistan. It supported Mukti Bahini, the rebel militia in East Pakistan and eventually Pakistan was broken into two. Indian government has now officially admitted that it was not only sponsoring Mukti Bahini terrorists but also Indian forces fought alongside Mukti Bahini in the garb of Bengali fighters.1 Pakistan officially accuses India of sponsoring TTP, Jamat-ul-Ahrar, Baloch Liberation Army (BLA), Baloch Republican Army (BRA), Baloch Liberation Front (BLF) and other anti-Pakistan militant groups. Former foreign secretary of Pakistan and Pakistan’s ambassador to U.S. Aizaz Chaudhry2, and many other government officials have publicly accused India of sponsoring terrorism in Pakistan3.

 

theindiandirty.jpgKeeping the deniability factor in play, India has been smartly using Afghan soil against Pakistan.4 Pakistan believes that India spent huge money in Afghanistan’s civil society and academia to tarnish Pakistan’s image despite being host to millions of Afghan refugees. Hostile environment in Afghanistan helps India to use Afghan territory and resources against Pakistan. Nexus between Afghanistan’s National Directorate of Security (NDS) and Indian intelligence is a well-known fact. Recent surrender of chief spokesman of Jamat-ul-Ahrar and former spokesman of TTP Ahsanullah Ahsan revealed that Afghan NDS at the behest of Indian intelligence provides special cards and permits to anti-Pakistan militants of different groups to move freely in Afghanistan.


Most worrying factor was revealed recently in April 2017 that RAW is also sponsoring Daesh or ISIS. Although Pakistan had strong intelligence inputs that establishment of Daesh sanctuaries along its border in Nangarhar and Kunar provinces were a handiwork of RAW, but an operation by Sindh Rangers in Karachi unearthed dangerous level of involvement by RAW in the country.5 India not only provides funds, logistics and other resources to anti-Pakistan militants but it also provides medical treatment to key militant leaders. Surrendered spokesman Ahsanullah Ahsan revealed that Omar Khalid Khorasani was injured in a gun fight and went to India on an Afghan passport for treatment.6 Ajit Doval, the national security advisor of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, is key man behind the policy of sponsoring terrorist groups. He professes the concept of fighting fire with fire. His infamous lecture of 2014 in which he advocated using militant groups for strategic goals is available on internet (link in the footnote).7 There are worrying signs that Indian intelligence under his supervision is in a process of bringing Daesh in Occupied Kashmir to counter Pakistan’s so-called influence over militant groups and freedom struggle. Recent audio messages by a senior militant commander of Hizbul Mujahideen Zakir Musa in favor of Daesh can be seen as symptoms of the strategy being pursued. Daesh’s inclusion in Kashmir theater will weaken Pakistan’s influence but it will be catastrophic in future for India itself. Since Ajid Doval became advisor to Prime Minister, this has been seen for the first time that Indian nationals have started taking part in global jihadi movements. Prior to emergence of Daesh there were rare instances where Indian citizens despite being second or third largest population of Muslims in any country were found involved in global Jihad.


Sending Own Agents: India has a history of sending its own agents and officers to carry out subversive activities in Pakistan. Many of them were caught and tried in courts. The latest example is arrest of Research and Analysis Wing’s (RAW) officer Kulbhushan Jadev who was arrested from Balochistan and was operating from Iran. Few years back an Indian RAW agent Surbajeet Singh died in a Pakistani jail after an attack by other prisoners.8 He was convicted of terrorism charges and was sentenced to death by Pakistani court. Prime Minister Modi’s advisor on National Security, Ajit Kumar Doval spent seven years in Pakistan as undercover agent as a Muslim and he admitted it openly.9 Another Indian agent Kashmir Singh was released by President Pervez Musharraf after 35 years in Pakistan.10 Some Muslim clerics who recently visited Pakistan were also suspected of working for Indian Intelligence.11 Who knows how many are still in the country without any detection.

 

India has a documented and well-proven history of sponsoring terrorism in Pakistan. It supported Mukti Bahini, the rebel militia in East Pakistan and eventually Pakistan was broken into two. Indian government has now officially admitted that it was not only sponsoring Mukti Bahini terrorists but also Indian forces fought alongside Mukti Bahini in the garb of Bengali fighters. Pakistan officially accuses India of sponsoring TTP, Jamat-ul-Ahrar, Baloch Liberation Army (BLA), Baloch Republican Army (BRA), Baloch Liberation Front (BLF) and other anti-Pakistan militant groups. Former foreign secretary of Pakistan and currently Pakistan’s ambassador to U.S. Aizaz Chaudhry, and many other government officials have publicly accused India of sponsoring terrorists in Pakistan. Keeping the deniability factor in play, India has been smartly using Afghan soil against Pakistan . Pakistan believes that India spent huge money in Afghanistan’s civil society and academia to tarnish Pakistan’s image despite being host to millions of Afghan refugees.

Political Involvement: India always exploits weak points of Pakistan’s internal politics. It is practically involved in Balochistan to exploit the political rights issue of the Baloch people. As mentioned earlier that it sponsors rebel groups in Balochistan and all their propaganda material is carried without verification in Indian media. One of the major political parties MQM has also been accused of being sponsored by India. RAW allegedly provides training to MQM militants in India. Recently, political leadership of MQM Pakistan distanced itself from its founding leader Altaf Hussain on the charges of his links with Indian intelligence as well as receiving funds from RAW. It also runs training camps for Baloch rebels in Afghanistan. India was also involved in 1960s/1970s in the issue of Pakhtunistan, a proposed separate homeland for Pashtuns. One of the leaders of Pakhtunistan movement, Juma Khan Sufi has recently exposed how India was providing funds and other support for the movement.

India keeps its ties with centrifugal forces in Pakistan especially ethnic political parties. It used its influence to make Kalabagh Dam a controversial issue, which deprived Pakistan of a huge mega energy project. Pakistan is still unable to build Kalabagh Dam because ethnic politicians in KP and Sindh oppose the project publicly while privately they admit that there is no harm to any of the provinces. Pakistan also believes that India is involved in exploiting sectarian fault lines in Pakistani society.


Media Sector Involvement: Indian intelligence is also believed to be involved in exerting its influence in Pakistani media, film industry, showbiz, and other areas. Although Pakistan may not be able to prove Indian involvement in media sector at international level but Indian narrative gets very good coverage in Pakistan.

India has a history of sending its own agents and officers to carry out subversive activities in Pakistan. Many of them were caught and tried in courts. The latest example is arrest of Research and Analysis Wing’s (RAW) officer Kulbhushan Jadev who was arrested from Balochistan and was operating from Iran. Few years back an Indian RAW agent Surbajeet Singh died in a Pakistani jail after an attack by other prisoners. He was convicted of terrorism charges and was sentenced to death by Pakistani court. Prime Minister Modi’s advisor on National Security, Ajit Kumar Doval spent seven years in Pakistan as undercover agent as a Muslim and he admitted it openly.
Some media networks are accused of having ties with India. Aman Ki Asha project by staunch anti-Pakistan Times of India is also seen as part of Indian efforts to influence Pakistani media for its better public perception. Indian film industry has produced many anti-Pakistan movies in collaboration with their intelligence. Informed circles in Pakistan maintain that Pakistan is under ‘cultural invasion’ from India.12 There is no doubt that Indian film industry has helped India create a soft image of it not just in Pakistan but in other countries as well.

 


Indian intelligence involvement in Pakistan is far cleverer than Pakistan. It seldom leaves footprints and most of the time uses local assets to promote its interests. However, recent arrest of RAW’s officer Kulbhushan and its case now in International Court of Justice may present an opportunity for Pakistan to highlight the issue at international level with facts and proofs.


Matter of fact is that almost every country has some level of intelligence presence in neighboring countries or in countries where there are some national interests involved. However, there is a difference between intelligence presence and meddling in other country’s affairs. Unfortunately, India has used its intelligence to dent Pakistan’s geographical integrity. These are nothing but dirty games which will eventually hurt India itself as ‘what goes around comes around’ and sometimes ‘comes around big time’.

 

The writer is Managing Director Pakistan Institute for Conflict and Security Studies. He is an expert on militancy and regional security. twitter

@Abdullahkhan333

E-mail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

 

1 "Indian Forces Fought Along Mukti Bahini: Modi". 2017. Thenews.com.pk.
https://www.thenews.com.pk/print/12923-indian-forces-fought-along-mukti-bahini-modi.
2 Haider, Mateen. 2015. "RAW Involved In Terrorist Activities Across Pakistan: Foreign Secretary". DAWN.COM.
https://www.dawn.com/news/1181908.
3 "India Involved In Terrorist Activities In Pakistan: FO". 2017. Thenews.com.pk.
https://www.thenews.com.pk/latest/186742-India-involved-in-terrorist-activities-in-Pakistan-FO.
4 "Sabena Siddiqui". 2017. Commandeleven. https://www.commandeleven.com/author/sabeenasiddiqui/.
5 "Rangers Unearth Terrorist, RAW, NDS Nexus - The Express Tribune". 2017. The Express Tribune.
https://tribune.com.pk/story/1381325/rangers-arrest-5-raw-affiliated-al-qaeda-terrorists-karachi/.
6 "NDS-RAW Nexus Working To Destabilise Pakistan: Ehsanullah Ehsan". 2017. Pakistantoday.com.pk.
https://www.pakistantoday.com.pk/2017/05/13/nds-raw-nexus-working-to-destabilise-pakistan-ehsanullah-ehsan/.
7 Ranjan, Pratyush. 2016. "Who Is India's NSA Ajit Doval And What Is The 'Doval Doctrine'? - News Nation".
http://Www.Newsnation.In. http://www.newsnation.in/article/146274-who-is-indias-nsa-ajit-doval-and-what-is-doval-doctrine.html.
8 Dawn.com, Agencies. 2013. "Sarabjit Dies at Lahore's Jinnah Hospital". DAWN.COM. https://www.dawn.com/news/795055.
9 "Ajit Doval – The Great Indian Spy Who Spent 7 Years in Pakistan as a Muslim". 2015. Zee News.
http://zeenews.india.com/news/india/ajit-doval-the-great-indian-spy-who-spent-7-years-in-pakistan-as-a-muslim_1837959.html.
10 Kashmir Singh released from Lahore jail - Times of India
"Kashmir Singh Released From Lahore Jail - Times Of India". 2017. The Times Of India. Accessed June 6 2017.
http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/Kashmir-Singh-released-from-Lahore-jail/articleshow/2834915.cms.
11 "Pakistan Admits Detaining Indian Clerics Over Suspected Movement, India Rubbishes Claims Of 'Unauthorised Visit'". 2017. Firstpost.
http://www.firstpost.com/india/sushma-swaraj-asks-for-update-from-islamabad-on-indian-clerics-missing-in-pakistan-3339390.html.
12 "Invasion Of Pakistani Culture". 2017. Thenews.com.pk.
https://www.thenews.com.pk/print/48155-invasion-of-pakistani-culture.

 
07
July

Primarily every country has the responsibility of maintaining peace within its geographical boundaries and holds itself accountable to keep the internal security mechanism smooth and effective. Pakistan’s decision to fight the menace of terrorism was extraordinary in nature and vital for regional and world peace. Pakistan has paid a huge price in last sixteen years for peace with an unwavering resolve. Pakistan Armed Forces with full backing of the entire nation offered unparalleled sacrifices and resultantly achieved phenomenal successes against terrorism. This war is yet not over and Pakistan Armed Forces in coordination with other Law Enforcement Agencies are conducting Operation Radd-ul-Fasaad with full gusto. This is our unflinching commitment to rid the country from the barbaric forces of disorder and restore complete normalcy.


Pakistan has also rendered full cooperation to other regional countries in the war against terrorism. Contrary to the spirit, sufficient evidences prove that terrorists use sanctuaries inside Afghanistan to launch/support/coordinate attacks in Pakistan. To address this issue, Pakistan has started to work on comprehensive border security measures along the entire Pak-Afghan international border including fencing; starting from Khyber Pakhtunkhwa in the north and extending the work through Balochistan. It is in the interest of Afghanistan and ‘Resolute Support Mission’ forces operating inside Afghanistan to support such measures. The efficacy of such measures will also end the cross-border infiltration, and hence the ‘blame game’. This proves our sincerity and a pragmatic approach to ensure enduring peace and stability.


Notwithstanding above, the almost routine accusations of Kabul blaming Pakistan for ‘undeclared war of aggression’ do not hold any ground. It has been repeatedly underscored that the situation in Afghanistan results from internal factors and the intertwined security threats have far-reaching implications for regional peace and security. While Pakistan has made unparalleled sacrifices in the war against terrorism, it also has the major stakes in the peace and stability in Afghanistan. COAS in a recent statement said that while counter-terrorism efforts by Pakistan continue, it is time now for the other stakeholders to ‘Do More’. He also said, “We consider Afghanistan as a brotherly neighbor and terrorists are our common enemy. The threat thus requires a trust based coordinated response rather than blame game or unwarranted skirmishes.”


To proceed further on agenda of regional peace and stability, it is essential for Afghanistan and other stakeholders to review the failures and shortcoming in more pragmatic and realistic way. It is rationality and prudence that will serve the peace and not ‘blame game’ or whimsical aggressive posturing. Any action by anyone that undermines our efforts will be highly counter-productive and against the mutual interest of bringing peace and stability in the region. In the global arena, instead of vigorous haughty proclivity, serious efforts for peace and restraint are required to responsibly react to the emerging issues. There is a need to forge a convergence or work plan in coordination with all stakeholders to facilitate the peacemaking efforts instead of further escalating the crisis. In the current scenario, display of prudence, restraint and dialogue has a massive potential to resolve regional and global issues with a collective approach.

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07
July

Written By: Dr. Shahid Mahmud

The amount of data we produce doubles every year. In 2016, we produced as much data as in the entire history of humankind through 2015. Soon, the things around us, possibly even our clothing, also will be connected with the Internet. It is estimated that in 10 years’ time there will be 150 billion networked measuring sensors, 20 times more than people on earth. Then, the amount of data will double every 12 hours. Everything will become intelligent; soon we will not only have smart phones, but also smart homes, smart factories and smart cities. We should also expect these developments to result in smart nations and a smarter planet. Digitization of military assets, operations and processes is resulting in huge volumes of data being produced.

Why is This Critical?
To survive and thrive in the coming Artificial Intelligence (AI) enabled exponential-disruption, governments must proactively deal with the challenges and opportunities posed by AI. The field of artificial intelligence is making breathtaking advances. In particular, it is contributing to the automation of data analysis. Artificial intelligence is no longer programmed line by line, but is now capable of learning, thereby continuously developing itself. Recently, Google's Deep Mind algorithm taught itself how to win 49 Atari games. Algorithms can now recognize handwritten language and patterns almost as well as humans and even complete some tasks better than them. They are able to describe the contents of photos and videos. Today 70% of all financial transactions are performed by algorithms. News content is, in part, automatically generated. This all has radical economic consequences: in the coming 10 to 20 years around half of today's jobs will be replaced by algorithms. Because of the applications of AI, we are experiencing the greatest transformation since the end of the Second World War; after the automation of production and the creation of self-driving cars, the automation of society is next. With this, society is at the crossroads, which promises tremendous prospects but also considerable risks.

 

aigovernance.jpgModern defence organizations have been striving over the past two decades to achieve Network Centric Warfare (NCW) capabilities to address low intensity conflict, especially in urban environments, so that they can leverage information technology to turn information superiority into a competitive advantage. The information technology required to enable the superiority through NCW cannot be achieved by subsystems or individual systems, but need networked, cooperating and integrated system of systems (SoS). The integrated nature of the SoS, centered on an extensive communications network, facilitates the foundation for complete implementation of NCW.


Often in the past, these organizations pioneered both the development of technology and its application. Such is not the case today. Major advances in Information Technology are being driven primarily by the demands of the commercial sector and such organizations have led the evolution towards adopting a network-centric-approach-agility that has fueled business intelligence efficiently responding to market needs. These disruptive technologies that include big data analytics, artificial intelligence, internet and dedicated cloud infrastructures are defining how governance and operations of SoS is taking place.


Having a closer look at the core disruptors, it is becoming increasing fundamental to highlight the skill set required to adopt these technologies.


Data Deluge
The amount of data we produce doubles every year. In 2016, we produced as much data as in the entire history of humankind through 2015. Soon, the things around us, possibly even our clothing, also will be connected with the Internet. It is estimated that in 10 years’ time there will be 150 billion networked measuring sensors, 20 times more than people on earth. Then, the amount of data will double every 12 hours. Everything will become intelligent; soon we will not only have smart phones, but also smart homes, smart factories and smart cities. We should also expect these developments to result in smart nations and a smarter planet. Digitization of military assets, operations and processes is resulting in huge volumes of data being produced. Since 9/11, the amount of data from drones and other surveillance technology has risen 1,600 percent. The U.S. armed forces now have approximately 8 million computing devices – a number that is expected to double by 2020.


IoT Networks
The U.S. military has begun using the latest connected technology to assist soldiers and other military professionals in warfare. In particular, it’s placing a big emphasis on the data. The armed forces are collecting data from a range of different platforms, including aircraft, weapon systems, ground vehicles and troops in the field. Once this information has been created, it’s sent to intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance systems. The latter are capable of pinpointing the most critical data for missions. The army is working with a few companies to help it integrate and use IoT solutions in daily operations. Lockheed Martin, for instance, is providing assistance on using machine learning to automate decision-making. This approach is helping the armed forces collect intelligence and identify key threats quicker and with more accuracy.


Advanced armed forces around the world are heading towards more integrated warfare approaches. The U.S. army has already implemented a classified IoT-based communication network line spanning 48,000 miles, which is being used in missile defence and battle coordination scenarios. This war fighting network merges elements of the army’s ballistic missile defence system into one central hub, which can be used to counteract threats all over the world. It takes data from hundreds of sensors, radars and satellites and translates that data into a common language for the missile defence systems to interact and engage the threat.


The AI Challenge
AI presents some alarming governance challenges. The most troubling perhaps has to do with the uncontrolled growth of deep AI or AGI in military robotics – at least 56 countries are currently developing battlefield robots. Gates, Musk, and Hawking are among those who have warned that proper governance must be placed around AI and military robotics integration or face the risk of military AI gone wild with potentially catastrophic consequences for humans. The fact that big data – and AI-centric functions – require exponential growth in data center facilities with significant capital and operational expenses. A significant risk involves computational ethics; an emerging discipline that seeks to provide machines not with “right” or “wrong” choices but with acceptable behavioral parameters within society.


What Should We be Asking Ourselves?
Government executives, military strategists, business community and the civil society have either ignored or taken AI for granted as outlook on these issues has been narrow without much consideration for their competitiveness and the impact on governance. As with other technological developments, the national leadership needs to understand the technical and socio-political landscape, evaluate the vulnerabilities, identify the value-based mechanisms, build national/organizational talent and demonstrate resilience to encourage an appropriate strategy and governance around this new element of national strength.

Capturing data, analyzing, acting and building possible future outcomes is the core function of big data analytics for the military, especially a force involved in counter-terrorism and public safety operations. However, it is of vital importance that the data collection, analytics and future forecasting functions be indigenously developed to safeguard against eavesdropping and intelligence gathering by foreign, non-allied entities. An indigenous data analytics and foresight laboratory is required to ensure independence and safeguarding against meddling from foreign influencers.

Therefore dimensions worth exploring in Pakistan’s context are:
How mature is the country’s use of big data analytics?
How pervasive is the country’s IoT deployment and analytics use?
How developed is the country’s fusion of various, previously disconnected data banks?
How proactive is the intelligence gathering and analysis of the country’s regional competitors, as well as non-traditional influencers using AI?


These three tenets should be closely observed regarding AI for effective governance:
The leadership is proactively engaged in AI strategy formulation, risk identification and oversight.
The leadership is proactively enabling expertise development and engagement of external experts to evaluate the intersection of AI with the defence’s core functions and services.
Functional and operational executives implement AI strategy collaboratively and in an integrated manner, through task forces or committees.


IoT Infrastructure
Designing, procurement and deployment of IoT infrastructure for various military-use-cases including smart metering, immersive virtual simulations for training, battlefield monitoring and awareness, unmanned systems, prevision targeting, flight-control systems, supply chain management, condition based maintenance, energy management, access control, threat detection, tactical communications, surveillance, crowd monitoring, fleet management, telemedicine, etc.


Indigenous Data Analytics and Scenario Building Futures Laboratory
Capturing data, analyzing, acting and building possible future outcomes is the core function of big data analytics for the military, especially a force involved in counter-terrorism and public safety operations. However, it is of vital importance that the data collection, analytics and future forecasting functions be indigenously developed to safeguard against eavesdropping and intelligence gathering by foreign, non-allied entities. An indigenous data analytics and foresight laboratory is required to ensure independence and safeguarding against meddling from foreign influencers.


Combat Cloud
Usually each branch of a defence force has its own infrastructure, both for connectivity and for the back-office systems. Transitioning to a combat cloud infrastructure would offer huge operational advantages, with greater ability to export both data and assets in the field for joint operations. When implemented, a combat cloud would allow information and control to move farther forward when appropriate, providing the operational flexibility to deal with a near peer targeting the national data systems.

 

The latest wave of technology governance focuses on thinking (artificially intelligent) machines that are not subservient to human input only – they can sense and make decisions on their own. AI and machine learning present unique complexities in governance that as a society we largely have not been forced to previously consider.

System Integrator
Defence sector does not inherently have the organic capacity to manage and oversee monumentally complex technology projects without diverting focus from its core functions. This is especially true in case of our regional security situation that is affected by continuous conflict, strategic national projects demanding stability, and a defence sector that is facing both internal and external covert and overt pressures. A responsible agent is needed to drive the technological evolution towards NCW (based on IoT, big data analytics and AI), manage risks across complex projects, ensure common vision, leading to a System of Systems that is greater than constituent parts. Modern defence forces, such as the U.S. military, have employed private contractors as Lead System Integrators (LSIs), to manage the development of selected SoS programs; because they accepted that the military did not have the organic managerial capability to oversee such monumental development tasks.


The New National Security Paradigm
AI is already disrupting traditional industries, e.g., the once ever-expanding Indian IT industry – addressing 15% of India’s annual exports at U.S. Dollars 100 billion – is now undergoing layoffs; cheap outsourced labor that performs routine tasks for North America (63%), the UK (13% ) and for other European countries (11%), is being eclipsed by the demand for artificial intelligence, cloud computing, big data analytics, robotic process automation, etc. These technologies require highly advanced skills, and to be competitive the Indian IT firms have to either replace or reskill their workers – both require an AI and big-data ready workforce. This is not only a regional but also a global problem, where there is less need for routine transactional employees.


The defence sector faces a similar challenge, where network centric warfare will depend on Systems of Systems, which will be coordinating and communicating in battlefield scenarios via AI and IoT enabled components. Managing these systems and remaining in control of the battlefield will require field commanders who are well versed with technology and military leaders adept at technology governance. Governments will have to bank on these skills as they too will be drawn to push for higher standards of cost and efficiency management against depleting resources. One innovative approach being utilised by DARPA’s Strategic Capabilities Office looks at how soldiers in battlefield will make strategic and tactical decisions when seemingly infinite informantion will be available to them through connected swarms of sensors; the challenge being to get soldiers as much information as possible, with as much learning applied to it in the simplest and clearest way. Pilot programs in which soldiers are being trained using machine learning based tactical augmented reality computer games are already underway.
Technology governance is not a new notion, we have already gone through various adoption phases of technology governance, starting from the advent of the steam engine, to the availability of wired communication and more recently with computing machines. However, the latest wave of technology governance focuses on thinking (artificially intelligent) machines that are not subservient to human input only – they can sense and make decisions on their own. AI and machine learning present unique complexities in governance that as a society we largely have not been forced to previously consider. Advanced countries are already making significant progress in this regard, with White House Office of Science and Technology Policy having set the foundation for domestic policymaking on issues related to machine intelligence, and the UK Parliament has also released a report on robotics and artificial intelligence policy. This is a new way of informing national security paradigm.

 

Dr. Shahid Mahmud, PhD in Artificial Intelligence is the CEO and Chairman of the Interactive Group of Companies. Has a Masters degree in Defence & Strategic Studies from National Defence University; and did his engineering from NED University. Dr. Mahmud is a Distinguished Eisenhower Fellow 2016

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07
July

Written By: Taj M. Khattak

The influence of SCO in regional and global issues is also increasing slowly but consistently and is expected to grow further as the number of observer countries and dialogue partners increase. It wouldn’t be too far-fetched to state that in not too distant a future, SCO has the potential to transition from its current label as a regional ‘hub club’ to a powerful cooperation forum that would deal with security and economic issues on a wider geographical space from Southeast Asia to Eastern Europe.

Pakistan recently became a full member of Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) after Foreign Affairs' Advisor, Mr. Sartaj Aziz signed a ‘Memorandum of Obligations’ (MoOs) at Heads of State Summit in Tashkent, Uzbekistan along with Foreign Ministers of six member states: China, Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan. Except Uzbekistan which was admitted in 2001, the others had been members of SCO since 1996 when it was first formed. Pakistan’s entry into SCO, along with that of India, had been approved in principle by member states last year at Ufa in Russia, subject to procedural formalities but they joined as full members in June 2017.

 

sconewprso.jpgSCO has a robust organizational structure where ‘The Council of Heads of States’ form its top decision making body which meets at SCO’s summit held each year in one of the member states’ capital cities by rotation. The second highest decision making body is ‘The Council of Heads of Governments’ which holds annual summits during which members discuss issues of multilateral cooperation and approve organization’s budget. The global footprint of SCO in terms of human race and economic clout is huge and can be gauged from the fact that between them the eight permanent members of SCO constitute nearly half the world’s population and a quarter of world’s GDP.


Quite appropriately then, SCO has done well to join hands with other international and regional bodies beginning with UNO where it has an observer status in the General Assembly since 2004. Likewise, it has reached out to Commonwealth of Independent States (2005), Association of Southeast Asian Nations (2005), the Collective Security Treaty Organization (2007), the Economic Co-operation Organization (2007), the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (2011), the Conference of Interaction and Confidence Building Measures in Asia (2014) and the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and Pacific (2015).


In its observer’s status, Pakistan had been regularly attending SCO’s meeting since 2005 but applied for full membership in 2010, becoming the first country amongst observer members to apply for an elevated status. Both India and Pakistan are expected to speedily complete the remaining process preferably before next year’s planned Summit in Kazakhstan for their integration in the organization’s cooperation mechanism which includes regular meetings between their foreign ministers and heads of the states.


Given the state of Indo-Pak relations, simultaneous membership of SCO by these two countries must have been a difficult proposition but it goes to the credit of member states to pull it off smoothly and successfully. The accession of Pakistan and India to SCO will undoubtedly enhance its relevance both regionally and globally. Iran, which has been attending the SCO’s proceedings as an observer, could be the next country to join SCO as a full member thus adding further to its importance. Iran’s joining of SCO could happen sooner than later in view of its worsening relations with U.S. on the nuclear deal signed during former President Obama’s administration and the political re-alignment in the wake of U.S. President Donald Trump’s recent visit to Saudi Arabia.


SCO has an appropriate focus on creating improved security environments for weaker states in the region resulting from potential fallout from further instability in Afghanistan. This has been so right from its inception when in 1996 its members first signed what they called ‘Treaty on Deepening Military Trust in Border Regions’ followed by another agreement the following year called ‘Reduction of Military Forces in Border Region’. There has, however, been little constructive work on the ground to prepare weaker states of the organization located on southern fringes of two geographically vast and militarily strong countries like Russia and China, to cope with fallout from Afghanistan if it slides into deeper chaos as a result of uncertain and unpredictable actions by U.S. administration – a danger which has increased ever since the incumbent U.S. President assumed power in Washington DC.


Regular summit meetings in the last few years have enhanced SCO’s status as an important and effective multilateral forum where actual issues of international policy, economy, regional security and security come under serious discussion. In contemporary global milieu, these four elements are becoming increasingly crucial to stimulate investment for economic development. Pakistan stands to gain from full membership of SCO as it will provide an opportunity to play its cards better with countries like U.S. and multilateral donors including the World Bank, International Monetary Fund and Asian Development Bank where U.S. wields considerable influence and uses these forums for political gains.


The influence of SCO in regional and global issues is also increasing slowly but consistently and is expected to grow further as the number of observer countries and dialogue partners increase. It wouldn’t be too far-fetched to state that in not too distant a future, SCO has the potential to transition from its current label as a regional ‘hub club’ to a powerful co-operation forum that would deal with security and economic issues on a wider geographical space from Southeast Asia to Eastern Europe.


The permanent membership status of SCO is also likely to help Pakistan in gaining greater access to resource base and energy projects within the organization’s framework. This could go a long way in shoring up its economic vulnerabilities; strengthen diplomatic standing in its interactions with other countries and overall rendering it less prone to pressure tactics by financially and militarily strong countries.


A pertinent example of such pressure tactics is the Iran-Pak gas pipeline project where Pakistan has been pressurized to shelve the project and opt instead for liquefied natural gas (LNG) imports from Qatar. The U.S. Agency for International Development USAID had even engaged a consultant to assist Pakistan in reaching an agreement for a commercial deal for LNG supply from Qatar. The double irony is that even such an arrangement could also be severely impacted by ongoing Saudi-Qatar tensions, adding to difficulties in Pakistan’s endeavors to secure dependable energy lifelines so vital for our development.


Pakistan’s membership of SCO will boost several other major projects such as military and technical cooperation with Russia and strategic communication projects with China. Pakistan’s recent offer to SCO members to use Pakistan’s ports once CPEC is completed holds a lot of promise for increased commercial activity in the region and amongst SCO countries through Arabian Sea trade routes. This appears very logical given Pakistan’s focus on a trade strategy of developing linkages with neighbors, leveraging its geographical location and capitalizing on regional connectivity initiatives. Cross-border trade is especially important for land-locked countries to the north of Pakistan. Both SCO countries and Pakistan stand to gain substantially in this matrix through expansion of trade and investment as well as greater integration through road networks, rail, fiber optic cables and energy pipelines which are the hallmark of CPEC project.

 

Pakistan’s membership of SCO will boost several other major projects such as military and technical co-operation with Russia and strategic communication projects with China. Pakistan’s recent offer to SCO members to use Pakistan’s ports once CPEC is completed holds a lot of promise for increased commercial activity in the region and amongst SCO countries through Arabian Sea trade routes. This appears very logical given Pakistan’s focus on a trade strategy of developing linkages with neighbors, leveraging its geographical location and capitalizing on regional connectivity initiatives. Cross-border trade is especially important for land-locked countries to the north of Pakistan. Both SCO countries and Pakistan stand to gain substantially in this matrix through expansion of trade and investment as well as greater integration through road networks, rail, fiber optic cables and energy pipelines which are the hallmark of CPEC project.

As there is more progress on China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) and Silk Road Economic Belt with Eurasian Economic Union, the role of Pakistan in regional economy and infrastructure projects will increase which in turn will have a positive impact on its standing in the SCO.


In the last two decades, SCO has gradually but steadily consolidated its place as an important international forum which is becoming difficult to ignore in current global politics. This is being acknowledged in Western capital though in the same vein they are also critical of its objectives.


Afghanistan perched on southern flank of two major members of SCO (Russia and China) and from where they perceive a threat of instability, also happens to be Pakistan’s northern flank. There is thus a commonality of interest to join hands in thwarting designs of destabilizing elements and enhancing regional security for benefit of all countries. Pakistan might find that looking at multiple options to deepen economic cooperation through use of SCO forum may well be the best remedy against a continuing threat of terrorism and violence. Pakistan would do well to utilize this platform in areas in which SCO offers the maximum dividend and has the best potential, namely greater connectivity in state-of-the-art communications, international standard rail and road network, and multi-dimensional energy corridors.


While SCO has the potential of mediating and resolving varying problems, we shouldn’t be overzealous in bringing its long outstanding disputes to this forum for resolution as this could retard progress on much needed economic integration and be counter-productive. Besides, ignoring ‘development-centric’ core interests of other member states could adversely affect the growth of SCO and reduce its relevance regionally and internationally, as indeed has happened in the case of SAARC, albeit due to an entirely different set of reasons.

 

The writer is a retired Vice Admiral of Pakistan Navy.

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07
July

Written By: Lt Gen Tariq Waseem (R)

We were staring into the impossibility of delivering to expectations, when the military’s espirit de corps intervened. From the General Headquarters to PMA Kakul to institutions and units in Abbottabad, all embraced our desires as their own, lending enthusiasm and cooperation that was unprecedented and spontaneous. One motivation guided them all – “we do not forget our veterans and we will do all we can to make the bonds that keep us together even stronger”. One event, one celebration, one day that epitomizes the collective responsibility of the military family to its enduring ethos of togetherness!

What is it that binds people together, year after year after year? A shared destiny, belief in a common cause, a unifying culture, cherished memories, and the strength that comes from an abiding relationship. This is the sum of a military professional’s espirit de corps, at the heart of the camaraderie that marks its members as part of a unique enterprise. Military men join up as strangers, arriving from disparate backgrounds and from all corners of the land. They begin to live together through all the vagaries that the demands of their solemn oath places upon them. They share great moments, reveling in each other’s joys and achievements, providing strength in their sorrows, and building around them a vast family that becomes a ‘band of brothers’ knitted together by collective experiences. When the time comes to bid farewell they merely fade away, but they can never leave. We are all soldiers for life!

 

soldierforlife.jpgRecently, I had the tremendous good fortune to witness all of this in person. The occasion was the Golden Jubilee Celebrations of 40th PMA Long Course held at Abbottabad from 5-7 May 2017. I led a three-man organizing committee tasked to arrange a gathering to celebrate the day we joined the Pakistan Army. It started off as an exploratory venture, but as time wore on it took a life of its own, drawing in some three hundred people across four generations and three continents, from age 87 years to six months old! Our ambitions for the event were propelled by the excitement that it generated amongst old friends, who not only wished to reconnect at the place of their first meeting but wanted their memories to be passed on to the following generations. As the magnitude of the task grew, so did the logistics of it. We were staring into the impossibility of delivering to expectations, when the military’s espirit de corps intervened. From the General Headquarters to PMA Kakul to institutions and units in Abbottabad, all embraced our desires as their own, lending enthusiasm and cooperation that was unprecedented and spontaneous. One motivation guided them all – “we do not forget our veterans and we will do all we can to make the bonds that keep us together even stronger”. One event, one celebration, one day that epitomizes the collective responsibility of the military family to its enduring ethos of togetherness!


The veterans of 40th PMA Long Course (May 7, 1967 - April 19, 1969) arrived at PMA, Kakul at 0930 hours on May 6, 2017 to commemorate the completion of exactly 50 years since they first entered these very same gates! A galaxy of 276 guests – the founding Term Commander, Platoon Commanders, Gentlemen Cadets, wives, children and grandchildren – were warmly welcomed behind the Main Mess, on the steps to the Rafiullah Drill Square (RDS). Out of 167 course-mates (including Naval Cadets) that formed the original batch, 126 are alive, of whom 65 attended this memorable occasion along with their families. There was an air of excitement as friends reconnected under a magical, nostalgic spell – embracing and hugging and patting each other amidst shouts of joy! The backdrop of the Main Mess served as the ideal platform to preserve the memory of this ‘Grand Gathering’ in group photographs with and without the families.

Finally, with heavy hearts and tearful eyes and leaden feet, this great family of friends took leave of each other, locking themselves in one last tight embrace, not wanting to let go. Then, they sauntered off into the distance, looking back and exchanging furtive glances, not knowing what lay in the future for them.

As the trumpets rang out, the PMA Drill Staff swung into action. The coursemates were mustered for the traditional ‘Parade’, organized into their original five platoons led by their respective SUOs (in our time 1st Pakistan Battalion comprised of five companies: Khalid, Tariq, Qasim, Salah-Ud-Din and Aurangzeb). They were then put through their paces, under the watchful eyes of the Adjutant as he sat astride his magnificent charger, and paraded around the RDS with long-forgotten skills. The Drill Subedar Major censured Tariq Platoon (the Champion in 1969) for their “poor drill”, to the amusement of the spectators and the other platoons! The families looked on from the enclosures, with rapt attention and curiosity, taking pictures and making videos. These retired and aging officers, once again perked up and became young cadets, as they proudly tried to recapture the glorious moments from the past.

soldierforlife1.jpgThe PMA Band played the same old tunes, as these “officers-turned-cadets” slow-marched up the stairs to the lilting strains of “Al Wida” in a re-enactment of their passing-out, to disappear once again into the Main Mess. Their families followed them and joined them for some well-earned ‘Hi-Tea’ and refreshments. The guests mingled around as they exchanged more memories, accomplishments and pleasantries with each other, introducing families and creating new friendships.


The guests were then divided into two groups and they embarked upon a ‘Tour of PMA’. The voyage through PMA, in fact, proved exciting as well as wistful. It was meant to be a drive-through the now massive PMA complex, but everybody demanded stops along the way to dismount from the buses to experience first-hand their respective Company Lines, the rooms they lived in, the many venues of their ‘ragging’, the Mile Track, Horse and Saddle Club, Visitors’ Centre, Museum etc. They cherished the places of their own time and admired the new structures. The officers and their families were especially mesmerized to find the original data of their time in the PMA Museum in the form of Long Roll, Rising Crescent, individual, group and company photos, the Honour Boards, memorabilia from their past, etc. In fact, the Museum took them back to their own time within a compact capsule.


The guests then arrived for the ‘Formal Commemoration Lunch’ at the imposing 3rd Pakistan Battalion Mess and relished the full-service meal, experiencing once again the formality and dignity of dining at the PMA, with its unique cooking aroma and the enthralling ambiance of their Alma Mater. During the lunch, a pictorial slideshow of their time, with the music of their own Passing Out Parade playing in the background, was projected on screens around the hall. Then, as the Course Senior, I rose up and led a silent prayer to honour the Shuhada and to remember the departed colleagues of the Course. In my address to the assembled guests, Ireminisced with the help of photographs and montages, sharing many interesting incidents from our training. I emphasized the value of this event, as a continuation of military traditions designed to foster ever greater cohesion. On behalf of the Course, I thanked Maj Gen Abdullah Dogar, Commandant PMA, and his team for extending extraordinary support to enable such an unprecedented celebration of our Golden Jubilee. Special thanks were extended to Lt Col Taimur, CO 3rd Pakistan Battalion; Maj Usman Sarwar, the Coordinating Officer; and Maj Sarfraz Ahmed, Exo Museum for their hardwork and cooperation. A standing ovation was given to two coursemates, Brig Ijaz Rasool (Retd) and Col Tahir Mumtaz (Retd), for their tireless efforts in organizing this memorable event on such an unprecedented scale. ‘Souvenirs’ were then presented by an eminent selection of Platoon Commanders, senior members and the Company SUOs to the many local institutions and units – the Baloch, Frontier Force and AMC Regimental Centres, the ASPT & MW, the MES, FWO, Topo Survey Unit, and Station Headquarters – who contributed most enthusiastically in hosting the event.


Finally, the founding Term Commander of 40th PMA Brig Azam Mirza (Retd), was invited to join me in unveiling the ‘Course Gift’ to PMA Kakul: a magnificent trophy representing the“Battle Standards of the Warriors of Islam”, a truly inspirational memento that we hope will serve as a lasting beacon for the gentlemen cadets.


The majestic ceremony came to an end around 1600 hours, with the Band playing familiar tunes as the Course departed the PMA grounds carrying with them unforgettable memories – from the past and the present.


This was not the end of the celebrations, however.
The guests reassembled at the Baloch Regimental Centre for ‘Dinner and Musical Evening’, which turned into a night of songs, dances, gaiety and fun. There was an air of informality and vitality as the families arrived at the beautifully decorated lawns overlooking the lights of Abbottabad. This was a moment for photographs and much laughter, before everyone settled down to hear Brig Ijaz Rasool (Retd) describe the year-long journey towards holding the Golden Jubilee. There were interesting facts and data, from ISSB selections to a full count of what and where each of our colleagues became, to details on attendance and financial stock-taking. The wives of our departed colleagues and of the organisers were then invited to cut the ‘Jubilee Cake’, crafted in the colours of PMA and the five companies of 1st Pak Battalion. A lavish sit-down dinner followed, served to the accompaniment of live music. Well satiated, the families joined together as they were regaled by the melodious voice of ‘Bulbul-e-Hazara’. The course mates became young again as they swayed to the rhythm of the songs, interspersed with the recounting of some light moments from the past by Brig Javed Aziz (Retd). The night wore on and not a single person was spared from taking the floor and moving to the tunes! There was much more fun in stock, but a wild storm and rain put a halt to the festivities around midnight. One surprise awaited the families as they exited the venue, however: individually packed and labelled ‘Gift Bags’ filled with especially prepared mementoes for each and every one – cadets, wives, children and grandchildren – all 276 of them!


The next day, before the Course departed for their homes, there was one last activity still waiting for them – a casual outing to the Piffers’ Golf Club for ‘Brunch and Picnic’, with games played out by all ages! The venue was exquisitely set up by the hosts amidst lush green lawns and towering maple trees in the backdrop of the Abbottabad hills. Stalls were set up with snacks and balloon-shooting and other games of skill for the children. The wives contested keenly at putting a golf ball; the girls ran the spoon and potato race; the boys, the wheelbarrow race. There were other events like thread-and-needle, sack, and three-legged races amidst a constant clamour to claim more than 40 prizes on offer! The men re-paired to one corner where a general body meeting of the ‘Fortieth Forte Association’ finalized course matters and lauded the contributions of past office bearers, Brig Tariq Mohar (Retd) and Mr. Osama Tariq to keep the fraternity together. Regret was expressed at the negative attitude of Bangladesh government in not allowing some of our desirous Bengali course mates from participating. Finally, it was unanimously agreed to begin the process of compiling a Memory Book for publication by April 19, 2019 to mark the Golden Jubilee of the Passing Out. With everyone tired from the activities all around, they now turned their attention to the sumptuous brunch, accompanied by more friendly banter and some much needed relaxing in the sun. As the hour of departure came nearer there was a last round of photographs, and vows all around to carry the flame of this 50 years bond of comradeship forward, into the next generation.


Finally, with heavy hearts and tearful eyes and leaden feet, this great family of friends took leave of each other, locking themselves in one last tight embrace, not wanting to let go. Then, they sauntered off into the distance, looking back and exchanging furtive glances, not knowing what lay in the future for them. Rumi had said: “This moment is all that there is. But, do not grieve. The moments you lose come around as memories that are forever.” The family of 40th PMA Long Course had lived their moments joyously, transforming them into priceless vignettes, reflected in everlasting memories. ‘Fortieth Forte Forever’!


On my return from the event, I wrote a letter of thanks on behalf of the Course to General Qamar Javed Bajwa, Chief of Army Staff. I said to the Chief: “We were blessed to have had these dedicated and committed institutions, as well as individuals with an abiding sense of personal devotion, working tirelessly to honour us and our memories. It was most humbling for us to receive such respect and attention, many years after we last wore our uniforms. Each and every one of us came away with renewed pride in our glorious heritage of camaraderie and espirit de corps, and in this great brotherhood and profession that will never cease to be a part of us. We wish to express our deepest appreciation and gratitude to all under your command for living up to the oldest and grandest of all military traditions: that we are one family – never forgotten, never separated, never retired.”


We are sure that those who follow us will continue to receive the Chief’s encouragement and the military’s institutional patronage. Fostering cohesion and developing a spirit of comradeship lies at the foundation of our profession, sustaining and nurturing its growth. Our prayers for the glory, strength, and well-being of the Pakistan Army!

 

Lt Gen Tariq Waseem Ghazi (Retired) was commissioned in the Baloch Regiment and served the Pakistan Army for 38 years. He has been a UN Chief Military Observer, Commander of a Corps, and Commandant of both Command & Staff College, Quetta and National Defence College, Islamabad (now university, NDU). He has also served as the country’s Secretary of Defence from 2005-2007.

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07
July

Written By: Amir Atta

This is an exciting time as we are only on the cusp of what’s to come with artificial intelligence. The next decade is set to show off the biggest change in man’s way of life since the beginning of the industrial era.

 

Artificial Intelligence (AI) is dominating the headlines these days with promises of automation and virtual assistants. However, its applications in real life aren’t limited to these and are almost endless. Advancements in the field are helping solve some of the world’s biggest problems faced today.

 

appofai.jpgStill in its infant stages, AI is making machines smarter and human lives easier. Without a doubt, the future will be powered by AI and self-aware systems. Present technology can’t necessarily be called true AI, but the algorithms behind it certainly are capable of recognizing and responding to pre-defined tasks.


Despite its rapid growth, most of us are unaware of what AI is being used for today. Business, apps, smartphones, hospitals, defense, cars; everything is already moving towards automation through AI. While there’s a whole lot that true AI will be able to achieve in the future, for now let’s talk about the present day AI and some of its applications in different fields of life.

 

Smartphones and Gadgets
Perhaps the most popular implementation of AI can be seen in smartphones and gadgets. Powered by Android, iOS or even Windows, gadgets come with built-in virtual assistants. Even handwriting recognition, voice recognition and facial recognition are examples of artificial intelligence.


appofai1.jpgWhether it’s Google Assistant, Samsung’s Bixby, Apple’s Siri, Microsoft’s Cortana or Amazon’s Alexa, all of these virtual assistants power billions of devices allowing users to automate tasks and perform common tasks without having to lift a finger.


These days, voice recognition and smart devices have reached such a level that companies like Apple, Google and Amazon are offering standalone devices which can do anything from turning on the lights to ordering a pizza before you can say “I am hungry”.


However, there’s more to AI in smart devices than just personal assistants. Google’s Deepmind AI is basically used in all of its products ranging from search to the Photos app. Learning from all of its users and using advanced algorithms, it can identify images and make predictions like a human mind. Similarly, Facebook and Microsoft are using their own AI engines to power their products. It is indeed the contextual implementation of AI which makes it more useful and smarter in such devices.


Self-Driving Cars
Advancements in AI have enabled the automotive industry to finally innovate passenger vehicles. Evolution towards self-driving cars is at hand as more than 30 companies are utilizing AI or planning to incorporate it in either their current products or upcoming ones to move towards the creation of driverless cars. Few notable ones include Tesla, Google, BMW, Audi, Apple and Toyota. These cars, when commercially available, will be able to drive from one location to another without a driver.

appofai2.jpg
Modern cars already have AI-based assist features like parking assist, advanced cruise control and lane change assistance. In the future, fully autonomous cars will make journeys safer, reliable and more comfortable for the passengers.


Self driving cars are said to reduce car accidents by a massive 90%. AI powered traffic management systems will also be upgraded to reduce wait times and emissions by up to 26% and 75% respectively.
Such cars are already being tested and could go mainstream within the next few years.


Defence
International armies and military research institutions are also trying to implement AI in weapon systems. Some are already calling AI as the new arms race and a weapon that’s deadlier than nuclear weapons.

 

appofai3.jpgModern defence weapons can take decisions in split seconds when acquiring targets, hundreds of times faster than what a human could achieve.


Similarly, offensive weapons like targeting systems and missiles are also being upgraded to use AI in order to hit targets with a higher accuracy. Russia, China and the U.S. are leading the use of AI in military applications.


Robot weapons (like the popular movie, Terminator) are also being developed to replace the common soldier. On the other hand, soldiers are being upgraded with weapons which can automatically fire when a target is locked.


The aviation sector as well has seen major improvements, thanks to AI. Use of the technology in simulators is useful to train pilots in air warfare. Computers are capable of coming up with success scenarios and strategies in critical situations based on placement, speed, size and strengths at hand and the counter force capabilities. Soon, pilots may be assisted by AI during combat as it could determine the best manoeuvres and support in their actual implementation.

 

International armies and military research institutions are also trying to implement AI in weapon systems. Some are already calling AI as the new arms race and a weapon that’s deadlier than nuclear weapons. Modern defence weapons can take decisions in split seconds when acquiring targets, hundreds of times faster than what a human could achieve.

AI powered drones are already under development which can take out submarines or hit targets from the air.


Even though the use of AI in military matters has remained under the radar so far, governments and the private sector are spending more on military uses of AI than the rest of the fields combined.


Enterprises
Enterprises and non-profits are using the power of artificial intelligence to tackle major social, political, and financial issues.


Machine learning, the statistical arm of AI, is an expert system which makes use of data to predict and streamline outcomes. Tools developed by businesses to make use of AI are meant to empower implementation and decision making.


Where AI really shines is finding and answering the ‘Why’ questions. For example, why a certain component fails one percent of the time and, why a certain number of customers popup at a certain time of the year?


This is all answered with machine learning which is helping enterprises and even the Fortune 500 to grow even further.


AI could soon be used to prevent frauds, corruption and make credit decisions. Organisations can better understand their clients with knowledge based AI systems.


Health and Medicine
Artificial Intelligence is making its way into the healthcare sector by assisting doctors and researchers. AI in healthcare is expected to grow at a rate of 40% until 2021 to reach the $6.6 billion mark.


According to Bloomberg, Microsoft has developed an AI – named Hanover – which helps doctors identify treatments for cancer. There are over 800 medicines and vaccines to treat the deadly disease which makes picking the right ones more difficult.


CNN has reported that a recent study by surgeons at the Children's National Medical Center in Washington successfully demonstrated a surgery with an autonomous robot.


AI is also being utilised for drug creation, elderly assistance, treatment plan designing, heart analysis and computer aided interpretation of medical results. The technology can deduce facts which are often missed by the naked eye.


Several Other Uses
As mentioned before, uses of AI are limitless and it can be utilised in almost every common or uncommon task.


Robots have always fascinated everyone but until now these have been limited to un-intelligent tasks. With AI, that could change, robots could work where humans can’t, help save costs and perform more reliably.


Popular music and video streaming platforms like, Spotify and Netflix, also make use of AI to predict what a user would want to watch or listen based on their previous usage and the type of content.


Privacy, security and wildlife preservation could also see a major boost as AI becomes more self-aware. Education sector is expected to improve as well with robot readers and exam checkers, allowing for more precision and impartiality in results.


News and online publishing could soon be replaced by AI powered writers. It is possible that five years from now, you could be reading an article like this written by an AI bot. For the publishers, AI could help boost readership with intelligent traffic management.


Other fields which are seeing AI implementations are toys, video games, marketing sector, customer support and artificial development of hardware and software.


Conclusion
Even though people have been under the assumption that AI simply means intelligent machines which can act on their own, the reality is quite different. AI’s independence depends on its implementation. Machine learning is a part of AI which can learn from data and make deductions not seen by humans. In simpler words, for the first time AI-powered machines could teach humans and help in making new discoveries.


This is an exciting time as we are only on the cusp of what’s to come with artificial intelligence. The next decade is set to show off the biggest change in man’s way of life since the beginning of the industrial era.

 

The writer is a Data Network expert.

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07
July

Written By: Puruesh Chaudhary

According to recent statistics released for the months of December 2016 to June 2017 on social media usage; 2 billion on Facebook, 1.5 billion on Youtube, 700 million on Instagram, 328 million on Twitter, 1.2 billion on Whatsapp, 255 million on Snapchat, 1.2 billion on Facebook Messenger, 889 million on Wechat – the intensity of data generated just across these platforms should be revealing in itself. The more the data, the more the learning, consequently leading to an enhanced crystallization of a much sophisticated processes of ‘artificial minds’ (coined by Don Franceschetti) cognizant by algorithmic sequencing.

Philosophers, military strategists, mathematicians and scientists have their own unique way of thinking, reasoning and inferring. It’s when that is applied in times of peace and war, it shapes our understanding of events and personalities. From a thinker that delivers a concept to a messenger that delivers information is crucial to the process of developing this understanding – ‘Peace cannot be kept by force, it can only be achieved by understanding’ according to Albert Einstein. Yet Aristotle says: ‘We make war that we may live in Peace’. And as Napoleon Bonaparte puts it as, ‘Never interrupt your enemy when he’s making a mistake’. But should our thinking be guided by what Plato believed in i.e., ‘Only the dead have seen the end of War'. So, technically those left behind, do what? suffer or celebrate – the irony here is that with the proliferation of information communication technologies much of the time even the content creators are confused as to whom the actual quote is attributed to. Nowadays even labelled as fake news appear tantamount to it being a threat to national security. This is happening on digital platforms. Meanwhile, what also is available on these platforms, on trustworthiness that is; indeed, Allah orders you to render the trusts to their owners, and when you judge between people; to judge with justice. Indeed, Allah advises you with it. Indeed, Allah is All-Hearing, All-Seeing [An Nisa 4:58]. Further expanding on this according to Saheeh Bukhari and Saheeh Muslim, Prophet Muhammad (Peace Be Upon Him) says that, The signs of the hypocrite are three; when he speaks he lies, when he promises he breaks his promise and when he is entrusted he betrays the trust. There's a greater probability to integrate the known human ethics and morals in to Artificial Intelligence. To shepherd this interaction between man and machine – Transhumanism, an international intellectual and cultural movement is supporting the use of science and technology that enhances human capacities in both physical and mental spheres. A not-for-profit organization based out of Los Angeles United States, Humanity advocates the ethical use of such advanced technology. Transhuman means beyond human. Yuval Harari, an Israeli Historian in his book Homo Deus: A brief History of Tomorrow also investigates what may seem to be far future the transition from humanism. The Executive Director of the Institute for Ethics and Emerging Technologies and Editor for the Journal of Evolution and Technology explores the Compatibility of Religious and Transhumanist views of Metaphysics, Suffering, Virtue and Transcendence in an Enhanced Future in which he advocates for ‘trans-spirituality’ what also appears to be significant is the membership survey conducted by the World Transhumanist Association in 2004-05 which found that at least one quarter of its overall 1100 respondents were religious in some sense, whereby 1% described their religious and spiritual views of that of a Muslim.

 

al_war_and_peace.jpg‘Artificial Intelligence and the Future of Warfare’ research paper published earlier this year by the Chatham House charts out the complexities around incorporation of AI both in the commercial sector as well as in the military industry. The framework provided therefore considers the role of human intervention as the level of uncertainty increases at a much advanced stage. The autonomous system doesn’t necessarily rule out the power of human cognition. Information and communication sector remains one of the critical vertical in the development of an autonomous system; a sector which received more research and development funds globally than any other industry. In 2015, Elon Musk and Stephen Hawking both signatory to an open letter called for ban on autonomous weapons. But why? Could it be possible that AI is potentially being positioned as an instrument of deterrence just as the nuclear programme was over the last couple decades or is this just absurd. How can or will the augmented and virtual reality build toward a scenario causing serious threat to human security? Will the gaming industry contribute to such a scenario or will it remain purely for entertainment purposes? Is singularity in 2045 just a myth? The cognitive dimensions of warfare in the 21st century have clearly not made the discourse in this part of the world. This new reality also caters to taking down an entire nation’s power grid, to investment in nuclear capabilities in outer space.


The combination of war and technology is both damaging and catastrophic.
Yet historically the world has witnessed how the meanings around the nature of war has evolved. A computer-enabled programme capable of killing humans based on mechanically generated algorithm is quite a dystopian future. In which case very little work has been produced on healing human suffering. But as innovation progresses; it is quite evident that weaponisation of Artificial Intelligence is plausible and therefore is the future of armed forces around the world.


However in this world reality, the experience will be Realtime.
If we let that sink in; we would realize that the change has already happened. The failure to recognize will only leave us in shock and awe – in a constant state of bewilderment. But maybe this is what we want. There’s solace. Ignorance is not only a bliss but partially also an exit strategy, an exit from assumed responsibilities. However, big data challenges the very core of our current state of understanding which structure our thoughts. What will accelerate this challenge is machine learning and Artificial Intelligence. It is when the technology begins to make better sense than an ordinary person; is when that person can theoretically carve out newer opportunities depending on which side of the paradigm they exist – the space for a creationist is already very limited and deeply competitive in this industry. The human mind has the capacity to reflect and unreflect. According to recent statistics released for the months of December 2016 to June 2017 on social media usage; 2 billion on Facebook, 1.5 billion on Youtube, 700 million on Instagram, 328 million on Twitter, 1.2 billion on Whatsapp, 255 million on Snapchat, 1.2 billion on Facebook Messenger, 889 million on Wechat – the intensity of data generated just across these platforms should be revealing in itself. The more the data, the more the learning, consequently leading to an enhanced crystallization of a much sophisticated processes of ‘artificial minds’ (coined by Don Franceschetti) cognizant by algorithmic sequencing.


It's all about who has the algorithm to crack a problem statement and the strength of the method which can truly be used for goodness.


In 1956 Dartmouth Conference, John McCarthy gave AI its name; who also happened to be one of the founding fathers of Artificial Intelligence. The Internet Society classifies AI as an internet enabled technology. Thereby meaning to say that this isn’t something new. What will be new is our comprehension of what this means to the wellbeing of the people of Pakistan. The social implications which would require aggressive legislative actions.


So what do we know so far?
Intelligence is when you can solve a problem; sequence decisions, plans and actions. Governance although vast in its arrangement; yet it is pretty much at the heart of national security; if the institutions assuming peoples’ responsibility and their accountability are devoid of any philosophical considerations of AI, it is a threat to state stability. Started back in the 1950s; AI System can now learn, have vision, recognize speech, can plan and reason too; to some degree. The margin of error reduces everyday. The pace of improvement although not radical but is very real. AI Research continues to address two essential factors; knowledge representation and inference – learning and reasoning at the core integrating the system. The contextual knowledge base in Pakistan is incredibly weak. And it stems from even weaker comprehension of data science. And this should be frightening for the policymakers, strategists, academics, responsibility-based activists. But that doesn’t mean there’s nothing going on.


There is.
In terms of how future-oriented Pakistan has been over the last 15 years in terms of our search patterns in the context of artificial intelligence, Google trends provide a unique insight as they indicate high degree of attention between the years 2004-05 which has reasonably declined over the years and currently is moderately silent compared to otherwise the sort of investment going in to development of AI Systems across the world. However, in the same context Defense of the Ancients also known as DotA is one that trends also; a highly competitive online strategy video game originating from a subgenre of realtime strategy.


The central question therefore is; what is our collective capability?
In Pakistan’s case the first five decades were relatively over ‘territorial wars’ or for a better word ‘conflict’; the next two were about ‘war on terror’ which in some ways was managed by the drone technology – and for a battle hardened army this should instil a thought over what will the next hundred look like. If it's any consolation the one thing we know for a fact that it is being called ‘cyberwarfare’. NATO in 2016 recognized cyberspace as an ‘operational domain’; all possible conflicts in the foreseeable future now have a cyber dimension.


There’s land, sea and air. But now there is space, cyberspace and headspace, too – Mark Sedwill UK National Security Advisor at the RUSI Land Warfare Conference 2017.


If ‘headspace’ is the sixth dimensional operation; how will the security and safety doctrines incorporate this domain? And have the rules of the game established?


What has changed in the last 20 years – there has been a surge of global data footprint in the digital, physical and biological sphere and much of it is already public; for this question to even occur at this point in time – and that too in this particular case is because there are two choices here: a) someone other than Pakistan does this for her; b) Pakistan does this for herself in her own way. In either circumstance it will be national security choice.


Sure; it’s a different choice. But not so unique when it comes to the history of choices Pakistan has made. The country needs to work towards becoming anti-fragile; more self aware as a society so it does not cascade into an imminent failure. More than 95% Muslims, 40% Punjabis, 15% Pashtuns, 14% Sindhi, 8% Saraiki, 7% Muhajir, 3% Baloch with over 60 languages – Linguistic education is an imperative; both from the perspective of its socio-cultural development, function and structure. This is the real AI opportunity. There’s data in everything. It's in abundance. The ability for the state apparatus to equip itself to understand and recognize the immense responsibility it has to be able to become substantively responsive is not utopian – it is something that needed to happen, like yesterday. And this is where it must garner all necessary support, this it can’t do alone effectiveness of which is in public space. Narrow in on the disparities. The automated systems have the potential of harnessing massive amount of data creating valuable insight as a way of overcoming dull challenges of the society which otherwise remains quite low on political agenda. On this account, the learnable evolution model helps.


Experience at the heart of Artificial Intelligence.Identifying anomalous behaviours as an indication of policy reflection. 

“Khudi ko kar buland itna ke har taqdeer se pehle
Khuda bande se khud pooche bata teri raza kya hai ” – Dr. Muhammad Iqbal
Develop the self-ego so that before every decree
God will ascertain from you: "What is your wish?"
Is it thus possible that people of Pakistan struggle less to overcome the most mundane issues? Yes.
So can AI System anticipate and respond to Pakistan’s future challenges? Yes. But internet governance is the need of the day.


If the current state of understanding today is Artificial Intelligence, this is not the way of augmenting the future thinking; then it is not too early to assume that we are simply unprepared and ill-equipped for what lies ahead. An intelligent agent is no longer contained in a human body; rather it could simultaneously exist in a human-like form free from any suffering. And if we think that a basic calculator, Google search engine, Microsoft Office enhances our abilities to do, get more done, be more efficient – imagine what an AI System would mean for creating public goods. Deep sense of psychology and human behaviours that organizes mental structures, information processing, decision-making, experience, cognition are the underpinnings of the building blocks of mind, thought and imaginations – these are key features of strengthening AI systems.

Intelligence is when you can solve a problem; sequence decisions, plans and actions. Governance although vast in its arrangement; yet it is pretty much at the heart of national security; if the institutions assuming peoples’ responsibility and their accountability are devoid of any philosophical considerations of AI is a threat to state stability.

Pursuing work at the Foresight Lab, I was asked this question by an AI Professor ‘Which philosophy determines your way of Futures Research’? – never have I felt so deeply challenged and yet so liberated. AI can solve problems – what is truly spectacular is when we start to comprehend and pivot at the philosophy which will determine how it is enabled to shape a human-centric reality in a country of over 200 million. The phenomenological conversations, the extended meanings, interpretation of metaphors and analogy are therefore fundamental in determining the foresight of AI applications and services in times of peace and war. As the investment in AI is increasing; so is the gathering of big data and growth of internet of things – this is creating an enabling environment for AI-based services to expand in the public space. Traditionally, cataloguing power across master, warriors and workers was the way of thinking, this approach has been archaic for quite sometime; the process of algorithmic decision-making system disrupts the tradition as a whole. And it's happening now. For those who believe, especially the political set-up that the right to information is something significant, little would they have to wait for when this right transitions on to open data. It’s not how, it’s a matter of when it’s right to open data.


When ideas are arranged, thinking becomes an activity driven by interactions – the mind that generates these interactions are often rooted in human connection in the physical domain this being captured by machine learning which provides the logic of sensing and interpretation; for the intelligent agent then classifying it beyond the physical nature aspiring to gravitate towards the cornerstone of metaphysical realities is a real challenge. Hence, philosophy of religion becomes an extremely necessary element in demonstrating AI capabilities. The blend of this and linguistic authority gives the Pakistani society the strength required to navigate in a possible dystopian future. With a critical discernment of identifying forward and reversed metaphors embedded in the socio-cultural dynamics of Pakistan. A construct which is weaved in to a sense of purpose for greater good. However the conceptual formation around Artificial Intelligence needs to be one which is organic. This can happen when knowledge on Pakistan and its people is integrated, machine learning and artificial intelligence can gainfully connect those dots.

What has changed in the last 20 years – there has been a surge of global data footprint in the digital, physical and biological sphere and much of is already public; for this question to even occur at this point in time – and that too in this particular case is because there are two choices here: a) someone other than Pakistan does this for her; b) Pakistan does this for herself in her own way. In either circumstance it will be national security choice.

Coherency in thoughts and matter empowering the people to make wiser choices will transform the existing paradigm which in itself today is primitive and self-defeating. Bridging the perception gap between aspirations and realities of the young Pakistanis will transform this paradigm. Should Pakistan survive on narrow, general or super AI? This should be the starting point for Pakistan in the era of AI (R) evolution. But here’s a caveat, the Chinese philosophy Tianxia accommodates the Belt & Road Initiative; while by 2075 Islam will be the World’s largest religion as projected by the Pew Research Center – how Pakistan positions itself will be critical in defining the future of everything to happen in and to the country. What informs this understanding about these foresight dynamics is the philosophy of big data; just as Ibn Khaldun, the greatest philosopher of his time described the evolution of societies and gave meaning to institutions. AI in whichever shape, size or form needs to lift people up, not create an environment that leads to an onslaught of vulnerabilities. If Pakistan needs to win some serious space, it can’t do so with an approach which is severely entrenched in the acts of imbalance.


The national security as we know today is going to be significantly different in 2100.
“God! Grant me knowledge of the ultimate nature of things” – Prophet Muhammad (Peace Be Upon Him)


Hence the final question; should there be a Philosophy of Artificial Intelligence in Pakistan when all the philosophies and logics in the world fail a grieving mother?
A brief response: Yes.

 

The writer is Futures Researcher and Strategic Narrative Professional, Founder and President of a think tank AGAHI.

E-mail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Twitter: @puruesh

 
07
July

Written By: Rear Admiral Pervaiz Asghar (R)

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


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


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

 

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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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

 

The writer is a retired Rear Admiral of Pakistan Navy and a Maritime Researcher. He has served as the Director General of the National Centre for Maritime Policy Research at Bahria University, Karachi.
 
07
July

Written By: Jennifer McKay

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

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


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


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

 

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

 

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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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

 

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

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


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


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


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


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

(To be Continued...)

 

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

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07
July

Written By: Dr. Zafar Nawaz Jaspal

Since the beginning of twenty-first century the Middle Eastern nations have been encountering various subverting challenges. Militancy, domestic turmoil, struggles for regional hegemony, politics of intervention, sectarian animosity and Great Powers' interference have immensely destabilized the entire region. The oil and gas resources improved the living style of the people and provided the ruling elite to invest in state building instead of nation building. Consequently, almost every Middle Eastern state is victim of political instability. They are suffering from indigenous political movements to insurgencies of varying level. The tribal mindset and subjective-cum-parochial political culture are obstructing the nation building and self-governing processes in these nations. Instead of concentrating on nation building, improving the governance system and regional prosperity, the Gulf Cooperation Council has spent over $1 trillion on mostly high-end Western military equipment since the turn of the millennium. The gigantic investment in the arms procurement not only deepens the security dilemma and increases arms race, but also causes war between/among neighbors.

 

themiddleeastern.jpgThe current Middle Eastern crisis mirrors exactly the regional realpolitik disaster. Hypothetically speaking, the client state struggle to act as a regional power displeased the status quo favored nations. The status quo nations aligned against the revisionist states. The struggle for dominance has literally turned much of the region into the battlefield. Indeed, it’s neither sectarian conflict nor ideological competition. It’s simply realpolitik or quest for supremacy. The following discussion is an attempt to answer three interlinked questions, i.e., What are the causes of current Middle East imbroglio? Is it reshaping the Middle Eastern strategic environment? How should Pakistan respond to the Arab states conflict?


Qatar’s outsized and independent role in the regional politics frustrated its Arab neighbors. On June 5, 2017 Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Egypt and United Arab Emirates cut off diplomatic relations and attempted to impose an economic boycott of Qatar – a tiny-yet-wealthy peninsular Middle Eastern state. Three Arab states – Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and UAE – cut air, sea, and land links and ordered Qatari diplomats and citizens to leave their countries within two weeks. Egypt, however, refrained from calling back its nearly 250,000 nationals working in Qatar. In addition, Yemen, Maldives and the pro-UAE faction that controls the east of Libya quickly followed suit.


The Saudi-led coalition’s collective decision to siege Qatar was officially justified as part of these nations’ 'apparently' fight against terrorism. They accused Qatar for supporting terrorist groups including Daesh (ISIS), al-Qaeda, and the Muslim Brotherhood. Qatar formerly declared the allegations baseless. The UAE State Minister for Foreign Affairs Anwar Gargash stated: “This is a foreign policy that has gone wild. We need to put everything in check.” Many analysts opined that Saudi Arabia-led coalition was disturbed due to Doha’s closeness to Tehran, Islamist movements and supporting political Islam. Raymond Barrett, author of Dubai Dreams: Inside the Kingdom of Bling, opined: “Qatar has been ostracized by its “brotherly” neighbors, as the language of regional diplomacy has it, for not kowtowing to the collective vision for the Middle East now largely shared by the United States, Saudi Arabia and Israel.” Nevertheless, the punitive diplomatic measures were attempted to germinate political, societal and economic crisis for Qatar.


The feud between Riyadh and Doha has been simmering for years. The critical review of Qatar’s foreign policy reveals that since mid-1980s, Doha has been endeavoring to break away from Riyadh ascendancy to chalk out an independent foreign policy. It had established diplomatic relations with the Soviet Union, a Saudi adversary, in 1988. Saudi and Qatari soldiers clashed at the border in 1992. In the 1994 Yemen civil war, Qatar and Saudi Arabia backed opposing sides. From late 1990s, Doha has increased its struggle to get itself on the map as an independent state instead of a vassal state of Saudi Arabia. The 2011 Arab Spring furthered mistrust among Arab nations. Doha’s activist foreign policy irritated its neighboring states. For instance, Riyadh and Doha supported opposing political parties in Tunisia. Consequently, Saudi, Emirati and Bahraini ambassadors were withdrawn from Doha in 2014. Below are a few factors, which collectively culminated in the current Middle East crisis.


First, the Saudis, Emiratis, Bahrainis and Egyptians are immensely against Islamist political parties. The political Islam is neither acceptable to Kings/Sheikhs nor dictators because it questions their legitimacy to rule their people. It’s an open secret that Qatar’s ruling elite supports political Islam or Islamist political parties such as Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood. Yusuf al-Qaradawi, Muslim Brotherhood’s spiritual leader, has been living in Qatar since 1960s. Qatar’s television station Al Jazeera programs during and after the Arab Spring in 2011 (Arab Spring which resulted in the forceful exit of a few dictators and rulers from the Arab states) alarmed these states. Egypt and Saudi Arabia pressurized Doha to freeze all bank accounts and expel Brotherhood and Hamas leaders residing in Qatar. Doha, however, adopted denial approach.


Second, these countries are equally disturbed by Doha’s increasing influence far and wide due to its vast coffers. Its regional as well as international clout has improved in the recent years. It was rightly pointed out: “If foreign governments had to deal with the Muslim Brotherhood, the Palestinian group Hamas, Chechen separatists or even the Taliban, they often went through Qatar.” In reality, Qatar ceased to act as a vassal state of Saudi Arabia in the regional politics. It took independent decisions on various occasions, especially cultivating close bilateral relations with Iran and sponsoring grassroot Islamist movements such as the Muslim Brotherhood branches across the Arab world. Doha supports these movements for spreading its influence and extending its geopolitical leverage in the Middle East.


Third, Abu Dhabi is very much concerned about the increasing influence of the Muslim Brotherhood throughout the region. The Muslim Brotherhood-led grassroot movements have the potential to challenge the status quo in the UAE’s poorer Emirates. Importantly, the local Muslim Brotherhood branches have maintained a support base in these Emirates for decades. Hence, naturally, Qatar’s political and financial support to Muslim Brotherhood is against the national security of United Arab Emirates. Moreover, both Abu Dhabi and Doha are entangled in proxy war in Libya since the demise of Muammar Gaddafi in 2011. The former opposes latter’s present backing to Muslim Brotherhood-led coalition (“Libya Dawn”) government in Tripoli against internationally recognized Tobruk-based Libyan government. Emirates is determined to counter Qatar’s influence in war-torn state particularly to quash Muslim Brotherhood’s sanctuaries in Libya.


Fourth, the Saudis did not appreciate Qatar’s decision to pay $1bn ransom to al-Qaeda affiliates and Iran-backed militiamen in Iraq for the release of 26 members of a Qatari falcon-hunting party, including nine members of Al Thani ruling family. The falcon-hunting party was captured in southern Iraq in December 2015. The Iranian-backed Shia militia held the party hostage for 16 months. According to Financial Times report: “Qatar paid $700 million to Iran and Shiite militias supported by the regime. An additional sum of between $200 million and $300 million was paid to Syria, most of it to al-Qaeda-affiliated group Tahrir al-Sham.” Thus, Qatari officials paid $1 billion in ransom for the release of falconry party. The bulk of the funds allegedly made their way to the Iranian officials and affiliated Shiite militias. Perhaps, a billion-dollar ransom would be enough to buy a lot of explosives to boost proxy wars in the region. In a joint statement Saudi Arabia and its allies also announced the placing of 59 individuals and 12 organizations on a “terror list”. The terror list includes Qatari and Qatar-based businessmen, government officials, members of Qatar’s ruling Al Thani family, exiled Egyptian cleric Yusuf Al Qaradawi, etc.


Fifth, Saudis distrust Qatar's support to Saudi-led coalition fighting the Houthi. The former accused the latter for secretly helping to fight the Iranian-linked Houthi rebels in Yemen. Doha’s support to Hamas, which governs the Gaza Strip and is a rival of the Palestinian Authority, is also not acceptable to Riyadh and its Arab allies. Moreover, Qatar’s sponsored ‘Four Towns’ agreement in Syria on March 29, 2017, negotiated with Iran and Hezbollah was criticized as forced displacements by Saudi-led coalition.


Sixth, Bahrain's ruling elite is convinced that Qatar finances groups associated with Iran to subvert and spread chaos in Bahrain. On June 16, 2017, Bahraini authorities revealed recordings of phone conversations between Hamad bin Khalifa al-Attiyah, the special adviser to the former Emir Qatar, and Bahraini opposition cleric Hassan Ali Mohammed Jumaa Sultan (key leaders of al-Wefaq Party), where both conspired to provoke chaos in Bahrain in 2011.


Seventh, the increasing cooperation between Iran and Qatar is not acceptable to Saudi Arabia. Whereas, Qatar seems determined in sustaining its economic relations with Iran because both share exploration rights of world’s largest gas field – 9,700 sq-km expanse that holds at least 43 trillion cubic metres of gas reserves deep in the Gulf waters. The tension between Riyadh and Tehran has increased in the recent months. Saudi Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, in an interview in May 2017, with Middle East Broadcasting Corp, stated that the battle with the Islamic republic would be fought “inside Iran, not in Saudi Arabia”. Iranian Defence Minister General Hossein Dehghan responded that in “such stupidity” nothing would be “left in Saudi Arabia except Mecca and Medina.” Nevertheless, the Saudi Arab and UAE isolating moves would draw Qatar closer to Iran. Tehran certainly seizes the opportunity and assists Doha.


Eighth, the Saudis and their allies were agitated by the incendiary comments by Qatar’s Emir Tamim at a military graduation ceremony on May 23, 2017. They claimed that Emir Tamim “expressed support for Iran, Hamas, Hezbollah and Israel – while suggesting that U.S. President Donald Trump may not last in power.” He also described Hamas as “the legitimate representative of the Palestinian people,” and called Iran “a big power in the stabilization of the region.” Doha officially denied authenticity of Emir Tamim speech and claimed that the Qatar News Agency website had been hacked and false statements were posted on it.


Ninth, the autocratic Arab ruling elite desires to tame journalistic independence or close down Qatar’s television station Al Jazeera. They accused it of promoting terrorist groups in Yemen and sparking divisions in Saudi Arabia. Egyptian authorities accused it of being the mouthpiece of the Muslim Brotherhood.


The general perception was that Saudi Arab might repeat its Yemeni strategy (2015 Operation Decisive Storm; the Saudi and UAE-led intervention in Yemen) after isolating Qatar diplomatically and economically. The trends indicate that the probability of Saudi Arab military adventurism is remote. Turkey’s decision to send 3000 soldiers, Iran’s announcement of support and above all the U.S. military air base in Al Udeid, Qatar (employed for U.S.-led strikes on ISIS in Syria and Iraq) would deter Saudi military action against Qatar. Kuwait and Oman would also discourage Saudis from any such military action. In April 2017, Oman and Iran conducted joint naval exercise (search and rescue) in the territorial waters of the Sea of Oman. On June 19, 2017 the Minister of State of Foreign Affairs of the UAE, Anwar Gargash stated: “We bet on time, we do not want to escalate the situation, we want to isolate it.” Hence, military offensive is not on the agenda of the Saudi-led coalition of five Arab countries.


Although the UAE severed its ties with Qatar, yet the emirate of Dubai seems uncomfortable due to tens of thousands of Iranian expatriates investment in Dubai and latter’s port Jebel Ali merchandise with Qatar, which is one of the largest containers shipping line in the Middle East. To check the dissenting voice in the UAE, the government has banned people from publishing expressions of sympathy towards Qatar. The UAE Attorney-General Hamad Saif al-Shamsi said to the Gulf News: “Strict and firm action will be taken against anyone who shows sympathy or any form of bias towards Qatar, or against anyone who objects to the position of the United Arab Emirates, whether it be through the means of social media, or any type of written, visual or verbal form.” The violator could be imprisoned for 15 years and pay a minimum fine of at least 500,000 dirhams (£105,446 or $136,115).


Turkey and Kuwait had endeavored to lower the temperature. They offered their good offices to facilitate peace talks. Importantly, Ankara’s immediate offer for mediation among the Arab states lacks acceptability because it had already declared Qatar its ally in the region. In 2014, it set up its first Middle Eastern military base in Qatar with some 150 troops. On June 7, 2017 Turkish parliament approved an agreement to increase the contingent of Turkish forces deployed at the Turkish base in Qatar. Secondly, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan condemned the Saudi-UAE effort to isolate Qatar. Third, Qatari Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani showed strong support for the Turkish government and President Recep Tayyip Erdogan during and after July 2016 failed military coup attempt in Turkey. Fourth, since the overthrow of former Egyptian president Mohamed Morsi by Abdel Fattah el-Sisi in 2013, the relations between Ankara and Cairo have been distressing. It is because Turkey like Qatar had “provided support for the Egyptian revolution and condemned the military coup that brought the country's current leader, Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, into power.”


The preceding discussion reveals that three sub-regional blocs in the Middle East are in the process of formulation. Iran, Yemen, Syria and Iraq constitute one bloc. The non-state organizations associated with this bloc are Shia militias in Iraq, Syria, Hezbollah and the Houthis. Saudi Arabia steward the second bloc, which included Saudi Arabia, UAE, Bahrain and Egypt. The third bloc contains Turkey, Qatar, the Muslim Brotherhood and the forces instrumental in the Arab Spring. The first and third bloc policies converge. Tehran was quick, therefore, to let Doha know it was ready to help in any way it could. “Iran kept its airspace and ports open to Qatar, and half a dozen of Iranian cargo planes have delivered supplies to the blockaded Qataris.” Whereas; the second bloc is determined to contain the influence of both Shia Islam as well as political Islam in the Middle East.


In reality, the tussle among the Middle Eastern states is in the advantage of transnational terrorist organizations and the Great Powers. The current crisis further destabilizes a region already grappling with three civil wars and jihadist insurgencies on several fronts. It emboldens Islamic State (Daesh), al-Qaeda etc. to attack on the law enforcement agencies and secure their sanctuaries in the region. On June 7, 2017 Islamic State attacked on the Iranian parliament and the mausoleum of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, the founder of the Islamic Republic. It killed 12 and 46 were wounded. The terrorist attacks are likely to further aggravate tension between Saudi Arabia and Iran.


The Great Powers’ interference systematically increases in the regional politics. These not only sell their obsolete weapons to the Arab nations but also exploit their differences for curbing their sovereign decision making in the global affairs. Americans and Russians Middle Eastern policies have been contributing in widening the regional fault lines. Moscow maintains strategic relations with Tehran, whereas Washington backs Riyadh against Iran.


Remarkably, Trump Administration failed to articulate a coordinated Washington position on the current Middle Eastern crisis. Is it a deliberate approach? President Donald Trump in his speech in Riyadh on May 20, 2017 explicitly encouraged Saudi Arabia and its likeminded states against Iran. He categorically alleged Iran as the world’s sponsor of terrorism: “From Lebanon to Iraq to Yemen, Iran funds, arms, and trains terrorists, militias, and other extremist groups that spread destruction and chaos across the region. For decades, Iran has fuelled the fires of sectarian conflict and terror.” On June 6, 2017 he also praised Saudi-led alliance actions against terrorist groups and their sympathizers. He tweeted: “During my recent trip to the Middle East, I stated that there can no longer be funding of Radical Ideology. Leaders pointed to Qatar – look!” Precisely, President Trump endorsed the siege of Qatar and professed it the beginning of the end of terrorism.


Importantly, the American establishment cannot ignore Qatar entirely because it is home to some 10,000 American troops at the Al Udeid Air Base. At the same time, increasing cooperation between Doha and Tehran is intolerable for Washington. The punitive measures against Qatar are not viewed in the interest of United States. Therefore, senior Trump Administration members acted cautiously. They called for dialogue to end the crisis. Consequently, President Trump caved into the establishment approach and offered to host a meeting in White House to resolve Arab states crisis. U.S. Secretary of State Rex W. Tillerson called on Qatar “to be responsive to the concerns of its neighbors.” He added: “We call on the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Egypt to ease the blockade against Qatar.” In addition, on June 14, 2017 the U.S. Secretary of Defence Jim Mattis and his Qatari counterpart Khalid al-Attiyah signed a letter of agreement for a $12-billion sale of U.S.-manufactured F-15 fighters. Pentagon statement pointed out: “The $12-billion sale will give Qatar a state-of-the-art capability and increase security cooperation and interoperability between the United States and Qatar.” Precisely, Washington is profiting from selling lethal arms to both Riyadh and Doha.


Qatar seems under siege from its neighbors. They cut transport links, making it difficult to import and export goods including water and perishable food items. Turkey and Iran’s political, diplomatic, economic and military assistance prevent Qatar from complete regional isolation. The support of these countries, however, cannot ensure the continuity of economic growth of the tiny Arab state. The neighbors’ siege has serious socio-economic repercussions and thereby the panic is noticeable in several sectors including shipping, food, airlines, banking, stocks, etc. According to CAPA Center for Aviation report: “Losing Saudi, Bahrain, and UAE airspace would effectively ground Qatar Airways.” Similarly, losing Dubai port Jebel Ali not only delays shipments but also increases the cost of container transportation. The Saudi Arabia, UAE and Bahrain banks are delaying letters of credit and other deals with Qatari banks. This could instigate investors to pull out from Qatari banks. Precisely, Qatar’s economy is suffering from tangible detrimental shocks of diplomatic crisis. Notwithstanding, Doha is encountering immense economic difficulties, but seem determined to continue defying neighboring Arab states interference in its foreign policy. On June 13, 2017, Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al-Thani categorically stated: “Whatever relates to our foreign affairs ... no one has the right to discuss.” Precisely, Doha despite economic and diplomatic pressure seems determined to maintain its independent foreign policy in the Middle East.


Pakistan announced to continue its diplomatic and trade relations with Qatar. Simultaneously, “The Prime Minister reaffirmed the strong commitment of the people and the government of Pakistan to the territorial integrity and sovereignty of the Kingdom, and the safety of Harmain al Sharifain.” Actually, Islamabad needs to maintain cordial bilateral relations with all the Middle Eastern nations. Indeed, it’s difficult. The problematic probability is that Saudi Arab-led coalition may adopt a ‘you are with us or you are against us’ approach. In 2015, Pakistan’s parliament recommendation to adopt neutrality in Yemen conflict annoyed Saudi Arabia and the UAE. The Foreign Office spokesman Nafees Zakaria reiterated the spirit of Parliament’s recommendation again on June 13, 2017: “Pakistan believes in unity among Muslim countries. We have made consistent efforts for its promotion.” Is neutrality in the interest of Pakistan?


The warlike situation in the Middle East obviously undercuts the prospects of China-Pakistan Economic Corridor project in particular and China’s One Belt, One Road initiative in general. Therefore, Islamabad needs to be proactive in resolving the prevalent Arab crisis. The National Assembly (Pakistan) called upon “all countries to show restraint and resolve all differences through dialogue. This house also calls upon the government to take concrete steps towards forging unity amongst the Muslim Ummah in the region.” On June 12, 2017 while responding to the demand of the House, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif accompanied by senior ministers and Chief of Army Staff, Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa visited Riyadh for a quick resolution of the crisis. Instead of using multilateral approach i.e., using the Organization of Islamic Cooperation for bringing about peace and stability in the Middle East, Pakistani leadership adopted bilateral approach to mediate between the conflicting parties. Nevertheless, the latter’s approach for finding a diplomatic solution to the Qatar crisis has not achieved any breakthrough so far.


To conclude, from Riyadh to Doha and from Cairo to Tehran, Islamabad has genuinely friendly and stable ties with all sides. Sustaining cordial relations with the Saudi-led coalition of five Arab countries is imperative. Simultaneously, the continuity of friendly relations with Qatar, Iran, Turkey is in the national interest of Pakistan. Therefore, siding with any one party would be counterproductive. Hence, Islamabad can only act as a neutral interlocutor in rescuing the region from current imbroglio, instead of getting embroiled in the Middle Eastern conflict. Hence, it is in Pakistan’s interest to convince the conflicting parties to climb down from their maximalist demands and reach a broadly acceptable compromise for the sake of peace in the Middle East.

 

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

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07
July

Written By: Lt Gen Talat Masood (R)

The Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) was established in 2001, with the aim of countering extremism in the region and to strengthen border security. Its undeclared mission was also to act as a check against the growing influence of U.S. and NATO countries in the region. With the recent addition of India and Pakistan as full members SCO currently has eight members.


In many ways Pakistan’s membership of SCO is a positive development, as it will facilitate the advancement of regional peace and enhance opportunities for economic development. Full membership of the organization will contribute toward deepening and widening the relationship with China. It should also enhance the level of relations with Russia and by enabling greater interaction with Central Asian states open up new avenues of cooperation.

 

pakmembereco.jpgWith Pakistan already engaged in the implementation of China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, a flag bearer project of One Belt, One Road (OBOR), it was only logical that it became a member of SCO. The further strengthening of relationship with China could not have come at a better time. The U.S. Congress has been building pressure to cut off economic and military assistance to Pakistan. In tandem India has tried to isolate Pakistan. But Pakistan’s expanding ties with China could partly neutralize the negative fallout. What is more reassuring that our relations with China are gaining momentum at a time when it is clearly an ascending global power.


These economic and political benefits of SCO will, however, accrue provided Pakistan prepares itself to take full advantage of it. Much would depend on how efficiently it implements the various CPEC related projects and subsequently manages them. The Chinese side is well prepared and thorough in their planning and execution of the entire project. No doubt Pakistan Planning Commission has been meticulously associated with the planning of CPEC and overseeing its progress but a lot would depend on how seriously the provincial and federal governments take their responsibility.


It is fairly evident that the Chinese side is well prepared and motivated to implement the projects of CPEC. The onus lies on Pakistan to step up its preparations and inject greater level of coordination and professionalism in planning and execution.


At a time when Indian hostility is at its peak and relations with U.S. are going through a difficult phase strengthening our economic and strategic partnership with China and bringing us closer to Russia is expected to partly counter its ill affects. Pakistan by becoming a full member of SCO feels far more confident that the attempt by India to isolate Pakistan has been largely reduced. Moreover, as the Foreign Secretary stated that there are strong historical and cultural links as well as several economic and strategic complementarities of Pakistan with members of SCO.


Whereas, China seeing Pakistan’s great potential in its location and its adversarial relationship with India views it as a country with which its strategic interests converge.

 

As astute observers of the region have noted, by developing a close relationship with the rising power China and improving relations with Russia, Pakistan is on the right side of history. Especially at a time when global power equations are in a state of flux.

For Pakistan, attitude of Trump Administration and the Congress bordering open hostility act as an additional incentive to align itself closely with China.


As astute observers of the region have noted, by developing a close relationship with the rising power China and improving relations with Russia, Pakistan is on the right side of history. Especially at a time when global power equations are in a state of flux.


SCO does offer India and Pakistan another platform for improving relations. A major thrust of the Treaty is on “Long-Term Good-Neighborliness, Friendship and Cooperation”. In the present circumstances it would, however, depend largely on India to take the initiative. So far it has used SCO as another forum to lambast Pakistan. It is regrettable that this is despite the fact that it is an agreed principle of the organization that the forum will not be exploited for political point scoring. Anti-Pakistan rhetoric was also at its peak during Modi’s visit to the U.S. If this hostile attitude persists also in the context of SCO, no tangible progress on normalization of relations with India can be expected.
Interestingly, despite the pleasant rhetoric and substantial progress on political and strategic issues, differences between Indian and U.S. policies exist. Major issues of contention are work visas, differences on Paris climate pact and exports from India.


If however, India and Pakistan were to cooperate on issues related to terrorism it could bring about a qualitative change in the overall security situation in the region. It could also create an enabling environment whereby the two countries could address issues. Regrettably, there seem scant prospects of that with India presently pursuing just the opposite policy by supporting anti-Pakistan terrorist groups in Afghanistan. Whereas, Pakistan in recent past has taken firm measures to curb the activities of Haqqani Network in FATA. In any case with over fifty percent of Afghan territory not under government control and Taliban operating freely the allegation by U.S. and Afghanistan of Pakistan’s complicity merely reflects scapegoating their failure.


One could also argue that cutting off the U.S. assistance could well be a blessing in disguise. For it will compel Pakistan to mobilize internal resources and reduce foreign reliance to which it has got addicted over the years. Furthermore, SCO opens up new opportunities for trade and economic relations with Central Asian countries and beyond that Pakistan could utilize.

 

It is regrettable that this is despite the fact that it is an agreed principle of the organization that the forum will not be exploited for political point scoring. Anti-Pakistan rhetoric was also at its peak during Modi’s visit to the U.S. If this hostile attitude persists also in the context of SCO, no tangible progress on normalization of relations with India can be expected.

What is, however, most worrisome that there is emergence of Islamic State in Afghanistan, especially in areas bordering Pakistan. This has raised serious concern in Russia and China that these groups could expand their activities to their territories. Pakistan’s efforts at taking preventive measures against these groups and improving border management is being duly recognized by Russia and China.


India finds SCO an opportunity to assert itself in central and south Asian region. At the economic level it will be able to further expand its trade links with China. With Russia its ties have been weakening due to its heavy tilt toward U.S. CPEC does provide a platform to revive and strengthen its relations with Moscow. Nonetheless, considering the acute tensions that presently exist between Washington and Moscow, India will have to tread carefully. India perhaps considers itself sufficiently confident that its size, current state of economy and international stature allows that flexibility to balance the relationship.


New Delhi’s heavy tilt toward Washington and the latter’s somewhat hostile attitude toward Pakistan provide ample justification for our policy makers to lean heavily on China and strengthen relations with Russia. China would also be keenly watching how India’s strategic alignment with U.S. would play out in the context of SCO.

 

The writer is a retired Lieutenant General from Pakistan Army and an eminent scholar on national security and political issues. Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
 

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