19
May

Written By: Dr. Sania Nishtar

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The government has a key role to play in addressing the plethora of challenges faced by the country – but systemic challenges pose significant performance constraints. Recognition of these constraints is the first step to mitigation. However, there is a general tendency to overlook the difference between 'manifestations,' 'causes,' and their 'determinants'. In Pakistan’s context of governance, the latter often remain unrecognized and therefore, unaddressed.

Pakistan's issues – extremism, militancy, terrorism, sectarian ethnic strife, organized criminal activity, informal economy, cycle of debt, societal polarization, energy crisis, widening inequalities, poor economic and social indicators – are all ‘manifestations’; just as a person with cancer will have fever as a symptom of underlying disease.

The actual cause is the systemic malaise, which undermines prospects for improvements: poor governance, eroded capacity of institutions, institutionalized corruption, and lack of attention to accountability and transparency. With a view to outlining ‘determinants’, I am offering some reflections from my tenure as Federal Minister in the 2013 Interim Government. These reflections relate to the systemic constraints, which in my opinion, stand in the way of effective governance and hence hamper the government’s performance. The frame of reference is government ministries and the issues highlighted are of a long-standing systemic nature.

My key observation relates to expectations regarding the government’s performance, which matters deeply since it determines the context in which all societal actors operate. Paradoxically, I noted that governments are simply not set up to perform. In setting up and running the government, the focus is on all attributes – elections, installing leadership, cabinet selection, and key appointments – except those that matter for its performance. As a result the government’s wide ranging strategic functions, which could provide a scaffold for national progress and development are compromised. In this regard, I found three key features missing from the performance equation – incentives, accountability and performance metrics.

Lack of appropriate incentives leads to underperformance. Rigidity of compensation is one aspect but perverse incentives, illustrated for example in the tendency to reward bureaucrats for furthering political allegiances, are more damaging. Additionally, there are serious gaps in performance and decision-making accountability. Functionaries are simply not answerable for performance. As a result, policies have limited grounding in evidence, priorities are determined by political expediency, the policy-action disconnects remain unaccounted and unnecessary policy vacillations, detrimental for reform, go unchecked. Many upright government functionaries of integrity navigate this space with great difficulty. The system just does not empower them to take control fully. On the other hand, corruption, collusion and arbitrage have become deeply entrenched. In many cases these have become the system itself. Many government departments extract rents and distribute them according to well-established shadow ‘rules’, which now govern the de facto functioning of departments.

These performance distortions get compounded by human resource competency and capacity constraints. Ministries are meant to formulate policy, set strategic direction, establish enabling frameworks, exercise impartial oversight, evenly regulate, and provide a level-playing field for private actors. Where policymaking is concerned, governments are not fungible. Policymaking and public interest are their core roles, but they must have capacity to take stock of the full range of responsibilities inherent to their mandate. Competency is crucial at the leadership level to comprehend this mandate.

How is it then that the system often places a leader in a public agency without appropriate understanding of these stewardship roles? Imagine a company with a CEO who doesn’t know the job, one who doesn’t have goals to deliver on and one who is also not accountable. What simply never happens in the private sector is the norm in the public system. With policymakers unable to understand their mandate, functionaries tangled in tactical decision-making, information systems underutilised and pervasive perverse incentives, we set government up perfectly to fail.

Another performance distortion is the absence of objective performance metrics – these are simply not part of the organizational culture in ministries. Government functionaries usually do not have a clear sense of delivery with no clear terms of reference and measurable operational targets in the context of overall goals for a sector. The lack of accountability for actions or inattention to needed actions within the system is most damaging. The central thread in each of Pakistan's problems is rooted in lack of accountability – because individuals and institutions have deliberately been inattentive to oversight and/or have opted for policy directions to the detriment of desired outcomes.

Compounding these performance distortions is another unrecognized factor. A popular misconception is that the government is one entity, which is not the case. The government (even at one level – federal or provincial) is an archipelago of many ministries, agencies and departments, with overlapping jurisdictions and / or competing interests. There is little incentive to work together, share resources and exploit synergy. Ironically, solutions to most public sector problems lie in intersectoral action. This creates a twofold imperative.

On the one hand governments need new competencies to tap the potential within intersectoral collaboration – such as intermediary agencies. On the other hand, new instruments and incentives are needed which can enable asset allocation mapping and foster collaborative division of labour. It is within this frame that metrics for whole of government performance assessment should also be developed with clarity on the manner in which sectors contribute to overall performance.

Unfortunately, the deepest governance reform to date, the 18th Amendment to the constitution was unable to address most of the causes of government’s underperformance despite the broad-based changes it introduced in the entire state system. Some urgently needed next steps are an imperative to enhance government performance. These should focus on institutionalising rule-based control on government functioning and rooting out politicization and arbitrariness.

There are three potentially important immediate entry points: respect for merit, close attention to conflict of interest and a shift towards e-filing in the government’s documentation system.

First, integrity in public service forms the bedrock of good governance. Although integrity is envisaged to be an attitude, there are means of structurally inculcating it such as by developing systems of compensation adequate to sustain appropriate livelihood, systems for transparent hiring and promotion, and mechanisms to provide appropriate oversight of discretionary decision-making. While it is important for the government to work towards strengthening these systems, some urgent actions are needed. Merit-based hiring and intolerance for nepotism, cronyism and patronage are important measures.

Secondly, in the affairs of the state, conflict of interest matters deeply and is one of the key ethical questions in governance. A conflict of interest is a situation “that has the potential to undermine the impartiality of a person because of the possibility of a clash between the person's self-interest and professional interest or public interest.” It is well recognized that often policymakers have business relationships in sectors where they are charged with policymaking responsibilities, raising conflict of interest concerns. These need to be actively regulated and managed. However, as opposed to this, I noticed that rules regulating conflict of interest are not explicitly defined. The code of conduct for ministers alludes to the need for separation, but exact modalities need to be established and enforced.

Thirdly, transparency in government documentation can be an important entry point to reform government functioning. The government's e-office suite, which is a customized application for management of the government's existing filing system, has existed for over eight years. It has met all the scrutiny criteria, including audit and was previously used by many ministries and attached departments. Not only can this system make the government's process of moving files more efficient and tamper-proof relative to the current system being used, it can also help to gauge workers' performance and help institutionalize accountability by virtue of its time stamping features. Despite its potential, the e-office suite is not optimally used. One of the most straightforward measures the government can take is to mandate its deployment in all government departments. This will be a significant step in promotion of transparency.

Collectively these measures, along with a culture of evidence based decision-making, electronic public expenditure tracking and procurement, better oversight of discretionary powers and effective use of existing audit tools are critical entry points to reform which could enhance government’s effectiveness. We must also appreciate that democracy, understood in the conventional sense – popular vote – is not a sufficient condition for good government, per se. In order to be truly democratic, elected governments need to embrace democratic values, doctrines, and behaviours. Institutional democratic attributes, which promote checks and balances and rule-based control on government functioning along with individual democratic behaviours – participatory evidence guided decision-making – are critically important in this respect. Majority rule without these attributes is likely to be abused, as has been witnessed in the past. We must set the building blocks right, so as to pave the way for tapping the country’s inherent strengths and unlocking the potential of its people.

The writer is a former Federal Minister and holds a Fellowship of the Royal College of Physicians of London. A PhD from Kings College, London, she is an eminent social scientist and regularly contributes in national print media on issues of health, governance and public policy. This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
19
May

Written By: Najmuddin A. Shaikh

Where does the Indo-Pak relationship stand today? Ceasefire violations particularly along the Working Boundary – the term which we use to describe the border between Pakistan and Indian Occupied Kashmir – have all but ceased, after the repeated allegations that appeared up to January. The last report traced in the Indian media alleged that 5 or 6 rounds were fired by the Pakistani Rangers on a post of the Indian Border Security Force on 15 March, without causing any damage and without inviting retaliatory fire.1 Does this mean that the sanctity of the ceasefire agreement has been restored, by and large, or does the 15 March incident allegation suggest that a fresh round of violations can be expected?

Certainly Pakistan, with its army fully engaged in the battle against terrorism, has zero incentive to initiate any fire violations and therefore if they do occur it could only be if the Indians decide to put on another display of the so-called muscular policy towards Pakistan. This, they may argue, would reinforce the war of words that has been triggered by the judicial decision to release Lakhvi, the alleged mastermind of the Mumbai carnage of 2008. The release order came because as reports in the Pakistani press put it, the prosecutors had failed to provide the required reports or fulfilled the other formalities for the extension of his detention under the Maintenance of Public Order.2

The detention of Lakhvi has since been extended by an order of the Punjab government but the Indian media did not lose the opportunity to recall that the US State Department spokesperson, while commending Pakistan’s cooperation in counter terrorism, mentioned about pledge by Government of Pakistan in her cooperation to bring the Mumbai perpetrators to justice.3 It is noteworthy that the State Department spokesperson refused in the same briefing to address the question of the Pakistani charge that the perpetrator of the attack on the Samjhota Express had been released by the Indian authorities on the ground that she did not have the relevant information.4

This exchange has once again brought to the fore the fact that not only does India place a high priority on bringing to justice the perpetrators of Mumbai but will continue to use this as a reason for not discussing other substantive issues with Pakistan. It believes that in so doing it will have the support of the United States and others in the international community. A former High Commissioner to Pakistan and National Security adviser in Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s government has praised Prime Minister Modi’s foreign policy and has termed as unfair, criticism of his “flip-flop” policy towards Pakistan arguing that these are tactical issues and what matters is addressing the cause which he defines as being “terrorism and the state sponsored angle to it”.5

Menon also suggests however that the Modi government has not, unlike Manmohan Singh, developed a vision of what relations with Pakistan should be and suggests that if it shows the same creativity that it did in the formation of the government in Kashmir then there would be hope.6 Menon of course is not part of the Modi government and has no direct role in the formulation of policy but he is part of what can be called the “security community” and his views could be seen as reflecting what some segments of this community would like Modi to do. Will he do it is an open question at this time.

One factor is of course going to be the international community’s interest in ensuring that as Pakistan seeks to implement its National Action Plan strained relations with India and consequent skirmishes – verbal or physical – do not become a distraction. India cannot ignore this as it seeks the approval and assistance of the international community – particularly direct foreign investment which is wary of going where regional tensions exist – nor can it set aside the advantages of a normalised relationship with Pakistan as a vital ingredient for the expansion of regional economic collaboration.

There is no doubt, that the Indian Foreign Secretary’s visit earlier this month, dubbed a part of a “SAARC Yatra” was owed at least in part to what President Obama had urged Modi to do. Writing on the eve of the visit I had said:

"Even while the visit of the Indian foreign Secretary has been termed a "SAARC Yatra" the announcement by the Indian Foreign office spokesperson that talks with Pakistan would cover all issues including Jammu and Kashmir indicates that there is a willingness on India's part of resume discussions on all the issues that form part of the "composite dialogue".

From Pakistan's perspective, the first priority will be ending the breaches of the 2004 ceasefire agreement along the "Working Boundary" and the LOC – a necessary prerequisite for winning the internal battle that Pakistan is waging against terrorism and in the step by step success of which India has a stake.

While definitive finalisation of agreements or implementation of existing agreements on Sir Creek, Siachen and NDMA may not be on the cards, an understanding on dates for meetings on these issues can be expected.

There should be an exchange of ideas on how the "Kashmir" dialogue is to be resumed. As a small step there may be an agreement on the proposal for opening additional crossing points across the LOC and on deployment of equipment to ensure that only legitimate items form part of the cross LOC trade. Positive developments on these issues can pave the way for substantive discussions on the advancement of regional integration that the "SAARC Yatra" will seek to promote and segue into the contribution that such integration would make to advancing peace and stability in Afghanistan. The Pakistan side while highlighting the efforts it is making to promote reconciliation in Afghanistan will ask India to join other regional countries in using their influence to promote this objective.

India’s concerns about the slow pace of action against the alleged perpetrators of the Mumbai incident and Pakistan's concerns about Indian activities in Balochistan will be raised but will hopefully not be the centrepiece of the dialogue.

Slow incremental progress and the creation of a more positive ambience rather than a spectacular break–through should be the optimal expectation.7 Even these modest expectations remained unrealised. Beyond the exchange of views on areas of convergence and listing the areas of divergence there was little that emerged in these talks but an effort was made to ensure that certain cordiality was maintained at least in the public statements. The adviser on foreign Affairs acknowledged that there had been no breakthrough and that “there was no date fixed for the next round of talks.”8 There may have been, one imagines, an effort on Pakistan’s part in the closed door discussions to suggest that the Pakistan Government was serious about pursuing the case against the alleged perpetrators of the Mumbai incident as part of its own battle against terrorism but had to proceed in a step by step manner given the enormity of the battle it was waging but clearly the Indians were not convinced. Pakistan was offered little satisfaction on the persecution of the alleged Samjhota Express perpetrators.

It is also apparent that from the Indian perspective or at least from the perspective of the present government in India, the gains of normalising relations with Pakistan are outweighed by the perceived advantage of keeping Pakistan in the dock and thus putting off discussions on the agenda items in which Pakistan has an interest. Among these, Kashmir is of course foremost but there are other items in which the benefits are clear for both sides. So what can one look forward to? It seems, though this is by no means certain that India will exercise restraint in terms of violating the ceasefire for some time. It is also possible that the voice of influential members of the “security community” will find listeners among Modi’s closest confidantes, of whom there do not appear to be too many, and their advocacy of a resumption of the dialogue may become policy.

There is however another perspective – perhaps too harsh – articulated by my colleague in a recent article. He says, “There is zero mutual trust and even less political will. India does not feel the need to accommodate Pakistan. There is no domestic constituency for it. India sees itself as too strong for a weak and isolated Pakistan to do it any real harm. This perceived Indian ‘arrogance and inflexibility’ undermines the ‘liberal’ argument in Pakistan that it needs to develop a stable relationship with India in its own interest.”9

His view of the reality may be too harsh but this does not detract from the value of his comment, “Pakistan and India cannot develop mutual cordiality overnight. But they should jointly acknowledge that in the 21st century they must jointly work towards it. Addressing each other’s core concerns must become a priority for both countries. This will require a shared and realistic vision to guide the policies of both countries towards each other.”10

1 “Pakistan Rangers violate ceasefire near Jammu”. Hindu, March 15, 2015

2 Malik Asad, “Govt not serious about prosecuting Lakhvi?”. Dawn, March 15, 2015

3 US State Department Press Briefing, “We are monitoring reports that an Islamabad High Court judge suspended detention orders for the alleged Mumbai attack mastermind. The Government of Pakistan has pledged its cooperation in bringing the perpetrators, financiers and – financers and sponsors of the Mumbai terrorist attacks to justice, and we urge Pakistan to follow through on that commitment. Pakistan is a critical partner in a fight against terrorism. We’ve certainly seen the reports, but we can’t speculate on the outcome of an ongoing legal process in Pakistan”. (http://www.state.gov/r/pa/prs/dpb/2015/03/238880.htm, accessed March 13, 2015.)

4 Ibid.

5 “Ex-NSA Shiv Shankar Menon lauds PM Narendra Modi foreign policy”. Indian Express, March 17, 2015

6 Ibid

7 “Second Opinion on Indian Foreign Secretary’s”. (http://jinnah-institute.org/second-opinion-gearing-for-a-reset-india-pakistan-foreign-secretary-level-talks/, accessed March 2, 2015)

8 Mateen Haider, “Sartaj Aziz admits no breakthrough in talks with India”. Dawn, March 6, 2015

9 Ashraf Jehangir Qazi, “Policy towards India”. Dawn, March 10, 2015

10 Ibid.

The writer is a former Foreign Secretary of Pakistan and contributes regularly for print and electronic media.

19
May

Written By: Amir Zia

Why peace, normality and the rule of law have been evading Karachi since mid ‘80s? How Pakistan’s commercial and financial hub became hostage to deadly criminal mafias and violent ethnic, sectarian and political groups over the past couple of decades? And what’s the reason that successive large and small-scale operations launched during this period failed to address the challenges of lawlessness, violence and rampant crime in the city?

These remain pertinent questions as paramilitary rangers have again geared up the Karachi Operation, targeting members of the outlawed terrorist groups and criminal mafias as well as suspected and convicted target killers, operating with the backing of their powerful political mentors.

karachi  a character

The renewed vigour in Karachi Operation – launched in September 2013 – indeed brought a brief two-to three-day complete halt in politically and religiously motivated killings in mid-March. It also raised hopes among many dwellers of this restive port city that peace remains within the realm of possibility if the state institutions act without political considerations.

However, for skeptics the security forces scored such temporary victories a number of times in the past amidst similar media-hype and fanfare. But the powerful criminal-cum-political mafias and terrorists not just survived, they managed to bounce back with greater force after remaining on the ropes for some time.

Hardened criminals – involved in killings, extortion and land encroachment rackets – thrived under the umbrella of most mainstream political and religious parties operating in Karachi. The situation got messier when the banned organizations also went into the money-making ventures – from committing bank robberies to kidnapping for ransom – to sustain and finance terror activities.

According to a veteran police officer, who served in Karachi on several top positions, criminalization of politics and politicization of crime remain the unique phenomenon here since the late 1980s.

This nexus between crime and politics expanded and deepened with every passing day. Scratch the surface a little and one finds office bearers and stalwarts of this or that political party patronizing notorious killers and criminals in localities they dominate. A spike in politically-motivated killings is mostly the result of battles to expand or defend turfs by the competing parties – as it happened between the PPP and the MQM during their previous stint in power (2008-13). Even militants allegedly belonging to the ANP – which was also a partner in the Sindh coalition government with the PPP and the MQM at that time – were also involved in the bloodletting, violence and crime. Despite being allies, militants of these parties – supported by some first tier leaders – went for a tit-for-tat killing spree across the city. Extortionists allegedly belonging to these three and other political, religious and ethnic parties targeted small and large businesses, traders, industrialists and shopkeepers with impunity. Each political player extracted share from the booty according to its size and weight.

The unprecedented loot and plunder by major players forced shopkeepers and businesses to stage shutter down protests across the city as they demanded the government to protect their lives and businesses. But barring firefighting measures, the then government failed to take any comprehensive measures against criminals and terrorists because of political expediency.

The law and order situation deteriorated to an extent that the international media started dubbing Karachi among the most dangerous megacities of the world. Security concerns drove many business-people and industrialists out of the city. A number of major business and industrialist houses shifted operations to other parts of the country, while those who could afford located them abroad. The outflow of investments and closure of businesses proved a severe blow not just for the city, but the economy of the entire country.

In early September 2013, the newly elected government ordered operation in Karachi on growing public demand. Because of the popular pressure, all the major parties supported the move. However, blatant political interference in the police department and vested

interests drove the wind of the operation after the initial months of success. Political appointments forced good officers out of the top positions. Even the slot of the Station House Officers (SHO) remained up for grabs to the highest bidder. No wonder, during a visit to Karachi in February, Chief of Army Staff (COAS), General Raheel Sharif stressed the need to depoliticise the police force and called for an even-handed operation against terrorists and criminals regardless of their political, religious or sectarian affiliations.

As the operation got a fresh impetus in recent weeks, it is vital that authorities learn from the past experience. They need to initiate measures which can help consolidate gains made as a result of the paramilitary rangers-led crackdown. Any charter aimed at establishing peace in Karachi should include the immediate goal of breaking the nexus between crime, politics and religious extremism. For this, across the board crackdown on all those political, religious, sectarian, and nationalist forces remains a must which in any way patronize terrorism and crime. This process has already started. It is now necessary to keep reasserting the credibility and impartiality of the operation.

However in this age of 24/7 news channels, too much media-hype about initial successes can lead to unnecessary controversies. This needs to be avoided at every cost. Let facts speak for themselves. Let the justice take its due course. The sensational nature of most of our news channels has the potential of transforming even most serious and subtle developments into a farce. Along with an even-handed operation, authorities need to focus on mid-to-long-term reforms. This includes the foremost task of building capacity and ability of those institutions responsible for combating crime and dispensing justice.

 

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The process should start with sweeping reforms in police force as underlined by the Army Chief. Karachi, and in fact the entire Sindh province needs a police force, which is free from political interference. The Police Order 2002 provides foundations to create a politically neutral, operationally autonomous, professionally efficient and accountable force.

But unfortunately, this system was compromised – especially after 2008. The 18th Constitutional Amendment further blunted the implementation of Police Order as each provincial government tried to enact laws to suit its interests rather than creating a professional, efficient and independent police force. The Sindh province proved the worst case as it altogether repealed the Police Order in 2011. Instead, the provincial government reintroduced the colonial-era laws governing the police.

There is a need to build pressure on the PPP-led Sindh government to reintroduce the Police Order 2002 if it is sincere in restoring peace in Karachi. Judicial reforms must also move in tandem with the police reforms. Increasing the number of courts and judges at every level remains the first step to ensure quick justice. Today, cases drag on from grandfather to grandson. This must change. Similarly, our judicial system must ensure that it remains affordable for the people belonging to the low income groups. The government also should take measures and enact laws to protect witnesses, prosecutors and judges. At the same time, more investment is needed to improve the quality and performance of prosecution.

The establishment of military courts has provided the much-needed space to the civilian government in which it can start initiating such reforms. There is also a need to improve quality of governance and efficiency on a war-footing in Sindh, particularly in the urban centres. Allocation of resources for the infrastructure and social development in Karachi should be part and parcel of this initiative.

A huge city like Karachi cannot be governed without an efficient and powerful local bodies system. But ironically, the ruling parties are trying to avoid the local elections not just in Sindh but also in Punjab under various pretexts despite repeated Supreme Court orders. Hopefully, in the coming months both provincial

governments will implement their constitutional obligation as per the court orders.

Karachi also desperately needs investment for infrastructure development, which has been on the backburner since 2008. It is ironic that a city of nearly 20 million people is without a modern mass transit system. The poor public transport system is the cause of major friction and discord in the city. Any peace package for Karachi must include provision for the establishment of modern metro and rapid bus systems. Social and economic uplift and development of slums and backward neighbourhoods – from Lyari to Orangi and Soharab Goth to Korangi – also remains vital to beat crime and terrorism.

Only a comprehensive package – involving both the crackdown on criminals, terrorists, and their patrons as well as institutional reforms and social and economic development – can help bring durable peace and establish the rule of law in Karachi.

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

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

Twitter: @AmirZia1

22
April

Written By: Usman Saeed

While, Pakistan is engaged in combating terrorist networks in the tribal regions, new super powers alliances are emerging in Asia. Russia and China both neighbours and the USA, European Union and allies are bracing up to throw challenges to each other in Asia and more specifically in Central Asia and South Asia. US President’s recent visit to India and US-India defence agreement with US intent to transfer nuclear technology and co-production of state-of-the-art weapon systems to enhance India’s war fighting capability (against China and Pakistan) is one major strategic development in South Asia. The US shift in policy at a juncture when her forces are pulling out from Afghanistan has multiplied the security challenges not so much for China but definitely for Pakistan.

The US global policy shift puts Pakistan in a dilemma for balancing her diplomatic relations with USA. One wonders what the Indian sentiments were at the time of swapping Russia with USA? Russia was India’s time tested ally that had equipped more than 70% of Indian defence forces with state-of-the-art weapon systems/ technologies and supported India at every plane of interest? India must have in her calculus adjudged Russia as declining power and a history while USA viewed as future power for a greater US-India power projection role in Asia. The strategic shift in US policy in favour of India – the country known for bitter relations with neighbouring countries – requires Pakistani policy planners to be extra vigilant on diplomatic, economic and military fronts.

Pakistan’s ties with both USA and China have been friendly since Pakistan economically and militarily benefitted from both the countries. But now it appears, Pakistan’s relations with China may not have been viewed well by opposing global/ regional powers. What diplomatic options Pakistan should exercise now in new scenario is a matter of serious deliberations. Should we outrightly join Russia-China strategic alliance or maintain delicate balance in our relations with China and USA. Another policy option can be to continue maintaining relations with US while overlooking US-India strategic collaboration. The answer to these options may be governed by our long term national security concerns, economic interests and more logically proportionate to the quantum of US physical transfer of nuclear technology and modern weapon systems to India. Pakistan’s energy requirements are linked to gas pipe lines from Central Asia and Iran. Likewise, our defence orientation that has remained so far towards USA and the West is more likely to undergo reorientation towards China and Russia in future. The Central Asian States shall also depend on Pakistan’s sea ports via Afghanistan for business and trade ventures. While in case of India our dependency is linked to Indian controlled origins of fresh waters in Indian Held Kashmir (IHK) that can be regulated by India to control flow in our river system. Thus it is our compulsion to maintain cordial relations with neighbours along both the borders for not only economic development but also for successful elimination of terrorist networks in the country.

Russia-China friendly relations and their fast growing influence in Central Asia has mainly started with Chinese funded gas pipeline project from Russia to China and collective interest of both the countries to establish multi-polar world for limiting strategic pressures from US in Asia-Pacific regions. Both the countries have unfailing interest in oil, gas and mineral resources in the Central Asia that will sustain future economy of not only Russia and China but also the entire world. Central Asian states Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan are abundantly rich with oil and gas resources but economically less developed. These countries after independence from erstwhile Soviet Union have been receiving economic aid from USA and the EU but in meagre quantity. Resultantly, frustration exists among the people of these states who after independence from Soviet Union (now Russia) expected greater economic support from the West for developments. Pro-West orientation in Central Asia is now gradually fading and vacuum exists for Russia and China to fill. Anti-US public mood in Afghanistan and Pakistan is also no more a secret. Another factor that has drawn China and Russia closer is US- Russia bitter relations on Ukraine and Syrian crisis and US focus in the Pacific region to contain China. In case, US sponsored Indian defence forces build-up gains mammoth proportion, Pakistan will be left with little choice but to join China-Russia alliance. Our diplomatic and defence relations with Russia would see a new turn and radically improve in future. Pakistan has so far not enjoyed warm relations with Russia. Our relations vacillated between cool to hostile and failed to promote any meaningful social, economic, defence and technology cooperation. Our foreign policy remained influenced by Soviets’ pro-India policy. Our relations with USA remained friendly but at the cost of distancing away from the Soviet Union (now Russia). India however exploited the situation by portraying her stance as non-aligned country and acquired state-of-the-art Russian military weapons/equipment and abundant economic aid so far.

Russian geographical location, size and quality of human resource have much to offer to us in future. Geographically, located mainly in Asia and land borders with European countries like Norway, Sweden, Finland, Poland, and others like Azerbaijan, Belarus, Ukraine, Kazakhstan, Mongolia, China, North Korea, the Russian nation is recognized for her courage, sacrifices and distinct achievements in the fields of sciences, technology, education and economy. Victories against the King of Sweden, Napoleon Bonaparte, Hitler and others established her unchallenged supremacy in the region. It became Russian Empire after territorial acquisitions/ expansions towards the Pacific, Baltic, Europe and Asia. Two successive defeats during the Russo-Japanese war of 1905 and the WW-1 spread poverty. Violent agitation popularly known as Russian Revolution ended with overthrow of imperial regime and ushered in new era. World War-2 inflicted yet another stream of devastation and havoc to the country but valiant stand against the German Army and victory at the cost of deaths of millions of people raised the stature of Russia in the comity of nations. The USSR was developed economically, militarily and in other sectors so extensively that alone she could rival the USA. The Communist regime crumbled in early nineties due to military setback in Afghanistan followed by glasnost (openness) and perestroika (restructuring) policy pursued by Mr. Gorbachev that eventually led to disintegration of the USSR. Fourteen states declared independence and what we have at present is Russia – still most powerful country after the USA. Vladimir Putin has pursued economic reforms agenda that has contributed substantially to overcome economic crisis. One may not be surprised, when on any day he may announce his long due visit to Pakistan with new vision and free of pro-Indian mindset/biases. Russia has recently expressed desire to strengthen relations with Pakistan. Likely sale of MI-35 and MI-28 helicopters to Pakistan could be the beginning of more to follow in terms of enhanced military and economic cooperation.

Pakistan is desperately in need to develop trade and energy corridors with Central Asian States that comprise Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan. All these states collectively have population over 65 million and predominantly Muslims. Whichever country, i.e. USA, Russia or China can facilitate development of oil, gas and hydro power lines and road infrastructure via Afghanistan to these states and with Iran as well would be a genuine friend of Pakistan. And whichever country out of above can mediate and bring about amicable resolution of Kashmir and water issues with India and also assist in overcoming menace of terrorism shall be an equally respectful country for the people of Pakistan. Pakistan has now entered into the fourteenth year of fighting terrorist networks that have hit nearly all sectors of our national life. A significantly large contingent of Pakistan Army has successfully engaged these networks in FATA and settled regions bordering long, open, mountainous and most complex western borders. However, the safe sanctuaries of their command structures and outfits inside Afghanistan and other Central Asian States adjoining Afghanistan beyond our operational jurisdiction can only be dismantled with the joint effort of North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) and Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO). Pakistani nation does hope that US-Pakistan relations shall not be strained and regional power balance will not tilt in favour of India that may trigger yet another arms race at the cost of other regional priorities in South Asia.

The writer is a retired Brigadier and Ex. Director ‘Awareness and Prevention Division’ NAB. This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
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