03
May

Written By: Talat Masood

An irrevocable message of military command’s intention to establish the writ of the state in North Waziristan and rest of FATA, along with committing resources for the operation and pursuing it with vigour has changed the complexion of the war against terror that Pakistan has been waging for over a decade now. The credit clearly goes to General Raheel Sharif, the local commanders and the brave officers and soldiers who have laid down their lives to combat terrorism.

 

When the dastardly attack took place on Army Public School Peshawar, General Raheel Sharif realized that the most important requirement at the strategic level is a clear public declaration that there will be no mercy shown against the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan and other militant groups.These will be eliminated and their sanctuaries wiped off. An irrevocable message of military command’s intention to establish the writ of the state in North Waziristan and rest of FATA, along with committing resources for the operation and pursuing it with vigour has changed the complexion of the war against terror that Pakistan has been waging for over a decade now. The credit clearly goes to General Raheel Sharif, the local commanders and the brave officers and soldiers who have laid down their lives to combat terrorism.

 

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Pockets of resistance still remain in Shawal and Dattakhel in North Waziristan and in Khyber Agency and are to be cleared in final phase of the operation. A major impediment in completely eliminating the militants is the nature of the porous border and the inability of the Afghan forces to establish their writ in Afghanistan’s eastern and southern provinces that adjoin Pakistan’s border. The failure of Afghan forces to provide the anvil while Pakistan Army had launched Zarb-e-Azb allowed the militants to slip into Afghanistan. Finding a safe haven in several provinces close to our border they continue to infiltrate back and forth making it difficult to bring the military operation to its conclusion. Solution of this problem lies in strengthening border control on our side of the border and extending full cooperation to Afghan forces in managing their side.

 

The counter-insurgency operations will have to be followed up by building effective local governance and economic development. The civilian government as yet has not given sufficient attention to this aspect and seems to be relying on the army to undertake this task. Whereas it was expected that military would provide the necessary security and the civilian government would undertake reconstruction activities and establishment of a new administrative order in FATA. Introduction of reforms that largely meet the aspirations of the populace have been their long-standing demand. The merger of FATA in KP or creation of a separate province is essential to mainstream the area. For this soliciting the views of the tribal people through the traditional way of holding a grand Jirga or a referendum should be undertaken at priority. Other option would be to proceed along the lines on the basis of the introduced twenty-second amendment bill in the parliament. This would, however, require amending the constitution.

 

Whatever route for reforms is adopted it should have a broad consensus and dealt with a sense of urgency. Federal government cannot continue to vacillate on undertaking implementation of these reforms. The people of FATA who aspire to be equal partners with the rest of the provinces have suffered enough due to ineptitude of successive governments and deserve to get their basic rights. It is highly unfair to keep FATA in perpetual backwaters. Re-settlement of the IDPs is a major challenge that remains neglected. Compensation must be paid to those civilians whose property was destroyed or damaged and business ruined during this war insurgency. All these obligations need to be treated on priority otherwise it would lead to further alienation of the population and facilitate TTP and other anti-state elements to exploit their grievances. An overly narrow focus on counter-terrorism will be insufficient to win the hearts and minds of people. It has to be accompanied with rebuilding the infrastructure and introduction of major economic and political reforms.

 

More crucial, Pakistan is fully supporting efforts to stabilize Afghanistan in consort with the international community. The formation of the quadrilateral group consisting of US, China, Afghanistan and Pakistan has already had its four meetings and hopefully efforts by Islamabad to bring the Taliban to the negotiating table will materialize. As of now, it is not clear which factions of Taliban will be represented apart from Mullah Mansour’s group that has shown its inclination. The Hizb-i-Islami also seems willing. Even if the representatives of Afghan government and Taliban were to meet, expectations should be low. The gap between Taliban’s demands and the government’s position is too wide. Afghan government will like to negotiate while remaining within the bounds of the constitution, whereas, Taliban will want a fundamental revision of the constitution. Recent major attacks by the Taliban in Kunduz, Helmand and even in the heart of Kabul have emboldened the group to seek major concessions from the government, which it is not in a position to accept. A stalemate is a more likely outcome. As Taliban have remained very active in winter the summer offensive could be even harsher and bloody. Whether the Afghan forces withstand the invigorated insurgency depends on Afghan military’s professional competence, civilian leadership’s ability to mobilize the masses and international support.

 

The spillover effect on Pakistan could be serious if the civil war in Afghanistan intensifies. Pakistan has to continue pressurizing the Taliban to find a negotiated settlement but in case of a failure should take measures to reduce the fallout. The government and military leadership’s policy of developing a strong relationship with Afghanistan will largely depend on how the peace process evolves. This is despite the fact that Pakistan is making serious efforts in removing the misperception that it wants to promote the Taliban or any militant group. Its focus is to facilitate the peace process in its own and regional interest. If efforts to find a peaceful settlement fail and Afghanistan’s civil war intensifies during security transition it will have a spillover effect on Pakistan and the region. A continuous insurgency in Afghanistan will reverberate in FATA and given the historical and current linkages between TTP, Taliban and other militant groups, it will pose a serious challenge to manage its security. Already we are noticing that the Taliban are in control of large parts of Afghanistan’s southern and eastern provinces and have extended their reach to the northern city of Kunduz and other parts of Afghanistan.

 

While Pakistan has its own self-interest to pursue policies to stabilize Afghanistan, it is also concerned about the growing Indian influence in Afghanistan. And hopes Afghanistan to pursue an equitable foreign policy and reciprocate Pakistan’s sincere attempts at working with it for its own good and that of the region.

 

Pakistan has largely been able to contain the insurgency but will continue to face sporadic attacks in the foreseeable future. The situation in Afghanistan is likely to remain volatile and uncertain until a political solution is agreed between the government and Taliban. Some of these negative trends in the region can be neutralized by greater cooperation among neighbours, improved governance and sustained international support.

The writer is a retired Lieutenant General from Pakistan Army and an eminent scholar on national security and political issues. This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
If efforts to find a peaceful settlement fail and Afghanistan’s civil war intensifies during security transition it will have a spillover effect over Pakistan and the region. A continuous insurgency in Afghanistan will reverberate in FATA and given the historical and current linkages between TTP, Taliban and other militant groups, it will pose a serious challenge to manage its security. Already we are noticing that the Taliban are in control of large parts of Afghanistan’s southern and eastern provinces and have extended their reach to the northern city of Kunduz and other parts of Afghanistan.

*****

While Pakistan has its own self-interest to pursue policies to stabilize Afghanistan, it is also concerned about the growing Indian influence in Afghanistan. And hopes Afghanistan to pursue an equitable foreign policy and reciprocate Pakistan’s sincere attempts at working with it for its own good and that of the region.
 
25
February

Written By: Warda Gohar

Huma Butt (Student)

New year is a time to take a fresh breath, inhale some motivation humabutt.jpg and exhale commitment and determination. Take on the challenges to bring about a positive change within your personality and around you. Pick up a small task and stick to it until the goal is achieved. Remember the country is above all because you are born here and now you have to make it special with your actions.

 

Sarah Tariq (Creative Manager)

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It’s dilemma of our youth that we have forgotten our duty to respect the country and the culture we belong to! This year we should aim to eliminate corruption (at least at our level) and try to work hard for betterment of Pakistan with full zeal and enthusiasm.

 

Sarim Sheikh (Electrical Engineer)

It is not the time to only pen down the resolution. We should take every little step to increase positivity. Let us make a firm resolve to transform Pakistan into a peaceful country in 2016. Not mere words but our deeds and actions must prove our commitment.

 

Khadijah Qadeer (Training Manager)

We should realize that only pointing out flaws and highlighting weaknesses will eventually make us a despondent nation. The progress of a nation depends on high character of its citizens. This year think as a patriot and act! Remember, a nation can never flourish if it lacks commitment, dedication and hard work. So let us be responsible citizens and educate our children so that they can grow up and make this country better and proud.

 

Awais Ali Khan (Chief Coordinator)

We need to educate people about learning ‘to live together’ and ‘accepting the difference of opinions’. 2016 must see us making efforts to support our youth to transform Pakistan into a peaceful and pluralistic society.

 

Muhammad Hammad (Student)

In Pakistan there is a dire need of ‘Research and Development’. Especially the post-graduate students should realize the need and take the initiative to organize themselves in small research forums and groups to produce knowledge and invent to make our country proud at international level.

 

Sbeela Sattar (Student)

Entrepreneurship is something that can change the fate of a nation and the individual. Pakistani youth is extremely talented and innovative but lags behind for not being provided with proper guidance and direction. More and more counselling and support programmes should be initiated by the government with public participation so that 2016 could be the ‘Entrepreneurs’ Year’.

 

Adil Hussain (Student)

2016 should be the year of ‘Healthy Pakistan’. In Pakistan there is dire need to teach people about health and nutrition. Synthetic and canned foods trend have added more to fast food addiction. Lifestyles of the people are not healthier and supportive of a healthy mind. This year there should be awareness campaigns to promote better and safe eating habits, particularly the government should educate people about benefits of organic food.

 

Sana Rehman (Freelance Feature Writer)

We all are representatives of Pakistan. The personality and character matters a lot when we interact with international community. So think before expressing and try to build a positive image of the beloved homeland through your personality and character. We should feel proud as a Pakistani because without Pakistan, we have no identity.

 

Rida Zafar Awan (Student)

I am making a resolve for 2016 to use my ‘motivational speech’ skills and change thinking of people for a better Pakistan.

 
25
February

Written By: Dr. Zafar Mahmood

The new economic geography approach maps the economic landscape in a dynamic way and inhabits it with economic agents in production, employment, investment, infrastructure, etc. Thus, by unleashing the hidden growth potential of the region it stimulates socio-economic development. The approach allows the distribution of benefits accruing region-wide in the form of growing trade, investment and economic agents’ contacts.


Trade corridor (henceforth the corridor) connects economic agents along a defined geography. They provide connectivity between economic hubs, usually centred along the corridor, where large endowment of economic resources and economic agents are concentrated.


Modern day economic corridors take advantage of efficient ‘multimodal transport network’ with the help of quality infrastructure, logistics, distribution networks that link production clusters, urban centres, and international gateways. Equally important for the corridor is an enabling policy framework that eases doing business and non-tariff measures to facilitate trade. The corridor promotes growth by removing infrastructure bottlenecks, improving access to markets, stimulating trade and investment and boosting productivity and efficiency through associated network externalities and agglomeration effects. The corridor also promotes inclusive growth by expanding economic opportunities in backward regions and linking them with urban centres and production clusters.

ecoofchinapakcoridor.jpgWithin the above perspective, the $46 billion China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), of which the trade corridor is an important component, aims to connect Gwadar Port to China’s Xinjiang province, via a network of highways, railways and pipelines to transport oil and gas. The corridor will run about 2,700 km from Gwadar to Kashgar and will reduce the present distance between the two cities by 9000 km, thus the route will be much shorter and cheaper. It will also open trade routes for Western China and provide China direct access to the resource-rich Middle East region via the Arabian Sea, bypassing longer logistical routes through the Strait of Malacca.


The corridor is an extension of China’s proposed 21st century Silk Road initiative. China has promised to invest around $11.8 billion in infrastructure projects. The agreement also includes $622 million for Gwadar Port. The corridor also includes upgrading of Pakistan's major transport infrastructure, including: Karakorum Highway, Karachi-Lahore Motorway, the Gwadar Port, East Bay Expressway Project and Gwadar International Airport. This massive investment plan if effectively implemented is expected to transform Pakistan into a regional trade and industry hub.


Energy security is a key concern for China. Oil pipelines through Pakistan would reduce its cost of transportation that will be a source of revenue earnings and employment generation for Pakistan. So the alterative trade route, which will cut down the distance and time, will be mutually beneficial for both countries. In this context, China plans to build mega oil storage facilities and a refinery at Gwadar Port, with oil transported to Xinjiang via road and pipeline.


Gwadar’s potential to serve as a transit hub for grain and food storage facilities as well as industrial and processing zones along the corridor would further boost investment opportunities. Besides trade and energy, the corridor would ultimately serve as a gateway for commerce and transport between the South Asia, Central Asia, China and Gulf countries.


Pakistan in the recent past has been growing sluggishly. Its exports-to-GDP ratio is falling. Domestic investors are wary to invest in the country, which dissuades foreign investors to invest in Pakistan. This situation is mainly due to lack of regional connectivity, which results into high trade cost for our traders. This in turn hinders domestic industries to become part of international production networks and benefit from economies-of-scale that are available in international market. Pakistan needs to create more than 1.5 million jobs every year. On the whole, the Pakistani economy is currently under performing. By proactively becoming part of the new strategic regional economy, it can unlock the untapped economic potential of the new entrants to its labour market. In this regard, the corridor is considered as vital for Pakistan’s economic prosperity. To make the corridor a successful enterprise, several underlying economic factors will have to be incorporated in policy formulation. In this regard, following is recommended:


• Ensure complete and strong commitment and support for the corridor by all stakeholders at all levels of policy and decision making, be it private or public, federal or provincial organizations.


• Introduce human resource development and technology development programmes to bridge the existing innovative knowledge gap by involving leading universities and research institutions of Pakistan.


• With initiation of work on the corridor, periodically track its work progress on all the project components to timely resolve issues and overcome hurdles and quickly adapt to the changing needs and priorities. Moreover, put the corridor related issues on the main policy agendas of federal and provincial governments.


• Ensure sufficient and sustained funding support for all the corridor projects for their timely completion.
• Develop effective institutional mechanisms and arrangements to ensure coordinated and sustained efforts among local Pakistani institutions as well as between the institutions of China and Pakistan.


• Charge transit fee on commercial basis to recover the full cost of the corridor and other network services.


• Develop common transit procedures and effectively implement the recently signed TIR Carnets Convention (Transports Internationaus Routiers or International Road Transport), which is to provide simplified and harmonized procedure of international road transport from the starting point of goods in transit to their end point. Make this Convention as part and parcel of Pak-China bilateral trade agreement. Also modernize road haulage fleet and services; this would, however, require capacity building in institutions dealing with the trade and transit trade.


• Initiate work on world-grade trade facilitation system to benefit from the full trade and investment potential of the corridor. In this context, transit trade should be implemented through a system of Automated Import and Export System, Economic Operators’ registration and identification systems, a Single Electronic Access Point, an Integrated Tariff Environment, etc.


• Conclude a comprehensive transit trade agreement with China, which is vital for the success of economic corridor. In this regard, we can learn from the best European practices in transit trade arrangements and facilities.


• Provide investment incentives to foreign firms, regional and international, by providing free trade and hassle free environment. In this regard: encourage investment to produce quality goods for export to regional markets.


• Provide local connectivity to the corridor through feeder links and integration through domestic transport networks.


• Government should create awareness among people living along the corridor to start planning for activities that would be required by local and foreign transporters.


• Proactively plan for the promotion of tourism industry as easy connectivity will attract foreign tourists to visit Pakistan.


• For the overall success of the corridor, Pakistan needs to take collective policy initiatives by approaching the Chinese government; especially in areas where it doesn’t have institutional capacity and expertise. This is because China has vast experience in establishing and operating regional trade corridors.


• Establish export-oriented natural and human resource-based industrial clusters along the Corridor. For this government needs to: (i) provide basic and efficient infrastructure in these clusters to attract domestic and foreign investors; (ii) establish industrial technology enclaves in these clusters to facilitate the innovation process; (iii) diversify production by manufacturing quality and sophisticated products for upcoming regional product market space; and (iv) induce industries to acquire more production capabilities and capacities to enhance their access to regional markets.


All in all, given the current impasse in the Pakistan economy, the corridor is expected to fast revive it. It will strengthen the existing strategic partnership between China and Pakistan. In the time to come, the corridor’s success will induce other regional countries to benefit from this connectivity by joining it, leading to regional peace, harmony and prosperity. It is, therefore, imperative that the whole nation unites to support and work for the success of the China-Pakistan trade corridor.

The writer is a Professor of Economics at School of Social Sciences and Humanities at NUST, Islamabad. This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
On the whole, the Pakistani economy is currently under performing. By proactively becoming part of the new strategic regional economy, it can unlock the untapped economic potential of the new entrants to its labour market. In this regard, the corridor is considered as vital for Pakistan’s economic prosperity. To make the corridor a successful enterprise, several underlying economic factors will have to be incorporated in policy formulation.

*****

 
25
February

Written By: Salman Masood

The memory of the gruesome December 16, 2014 terror attack on Army Public School, Peshawar, will always convulse the Pakistani nation. The sheer barbarity of the attack and scale of its brutality is unparalleled; the horror unbearable. 144 people, including 122 school-going children, were mowed down mercilessly by the Taliban militants as they attempted desperately to kill the national spirit through an unprecedented bloodbath. But the Pakistani nation is resilient and its resolve is indomitable. The immediate, inevitable grief and sorrow in the aftermath of the tragedy led to a resolve by the nation, spearheaded by its military and civilian leadership, that terrorists cannot cow us down.

 

And, on December 16, 2015, the first anniversary of the APS tragedy, this resolve was reiterated in glowing tributes as the nation remembered the martyrs in ceremonies across the country. In emotional speeches at sombre events and candlelit vigils, the little martyrs of Peshawar were remembered with teary eyes and heavy hearts. In documentaries on the television news networks, their young lives were celebrated. The anniversary became a collective sum of remembrance and sadness, imbued with the resolve of renewal and reinvigoration.

 

Most strikingly, one of the most fitting tributes came from the Inter-Services Public Relations Directorate, the media wing of the Pakistani military, when it released a powerful and evocative song ‘Mujhay maa us sae badla lene jana hai, Mujhay dushman k bachon ko parhana hai’ (Mother, I have to go seek revenge from him/I have to educate the enemy’s children).

 

The lyrics of the song eschew the natural urge of violent revenge. Instead, it is an expression of the desire of the young to ‘educate’ the children of the ‘enemy’, to help them crawl out of the darkness that has been thrust upon them by the terrorist mindset. The video of the song delivers a powerful message: education is the key that would unlock the minds of those surrounded by obscurantist and errant interpretations of religion, mired in militancy and violence.

 

Unfortunately, Pakistan has one of the lowest literacy rates in the world. It was 58 per cent in 2015, a stark contrast to the 88 per cent target set by the United Nations for 2015 under its Millennium Development Goals. For a nation with so much promise and potential, such a low rate of literacy means that its population, especially the youth, cannot reach their true potential.

 

Education, and the knowledge it imparts, is essential for national growth and competitiveness in the world. In a globalized age of specialised scientific knowledge and advancement, education paves the way towards progress and societal advancement. An educated citizenry is a must for developing a society that can be at par with the leading developed countries of the world. Unfortunately, Pakistan is not producing enough scientists and professors, technical experts and professionals, who can add to the core of invaluable intellectual capital essential to give the country a competitive edge in an interconnected and globalised economy.

 

Fixing the domestic economy is an integral part of this gargantuan task and therefore unequal distribution of wealth and income disparities need to be addressed. National security is essentially a function of the economy and a robust and vibrant economy cannot be attained without excellence in education.

 

But it is not just the technological and scientific aspects of the education system of the country that can transform a nation. It is only one of the several parts of the bigger picture. The education system should also cultivate a citizenry that is deeply aware of the national interest and strives to preserve and enhance it without any confusion and obfuscation. As noted by some recent studies, security of a country is not just dependent on its military prowess and might. It is the human capital that determines the effectiveness of national security and this capital, in turn, is contingent upon the quality of the public school system.

 

Regrettably, there has been a gradual and persistent decay in the public school system of the country. Adding to the woe is the unfortunate reality that there are different mediums of instruction and often parallel or incompatible set of curricula, which result in a shambolic and confused mindset. Also, for the past several years, there has been a constant cacophony of noise by some people, who relish in questioning – and even ridiculing – the core values and traditions of the society and country. Self-loathing and insulting those who want to uphold the sense of patriotism and sense of pride in the country is a favourite refrain of this particular mindset. The growth of an unhinged social media has lent them an amplified voice as they question the very basis and existence of national interest and attempt to dilute and debase the principles underlying the state and society. Therefore, while there is a need to educate the ‘enemy’, as echoed by the song released on the APS anniversary, there is also a need to re-educate those who have been misled and swept away by such malicious propaganda. A sense of national pride needs to be inculcated in the (young) minds, spurring and inspiring them to become proud, valuable and productive citizens of the country.

 

This is obviously not to suggest at all that they are imparted with a slant of education that leads to xenophobia and bigotry. The need is not only to develop an enlightened citizenry, proud of its heritage and country, but which, at the same time, is equipped with the intellectual zeal and ability to communicate and compete with the global audience and regional challenges. The target should be to raise conscientious citizens who believe in the rule of law, democracy, good governance and sanctity of human life.

 

There is also a word of caution. Mere education would not ensure achievement of these goals. For more than a decade, the biggest challenge to the Pakistani state has been from religious radicalism and extremism. Such a mindset has found itself an easy incubation not only in the religious seminaries of the tribal regions and provincial backwaters, but it has crawled its way into the public universities and private institutions. While most of the terror attacks can be traced back to have been carried out by the illiterate and misled youth of the tribal regions, some of the most heinous and deadly attacks were planned and carried out by graduates and highly educated individuals.

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Earlier this month, Punjab counterterrorism department arrested two teachers and one student of Punjab University in Lahore. Both teachers were highly qualified – one had a PhD degree from Netherlands – and yet investigators say they were active participants of the banned group Hizb ut-Tahrir. One of the main suspects in May 2015 Safoora attack – when dozens of muslims belonging to the Ismaili sect were mercilessly killed inside a commuter bus in Karachi – studied from the prestigious Institute of Business Administration. And, the arrests in the second last week of this month in Karachi led to a ring of facilitators of Safoora attack who were also highly educated, with degrees from the West. Tashfeen Malik, who along with her husband Syed Rizwan Farook, is accused to carrying out the recent San Bernardino killings in United States was also educated and a very bright student, according to her teachers and class fellows.

 

The complexity of the situation and the multiple root causes of militancy and religious radicalism, therefore, pose a daunting challenge for the policy-makers.

 

Religious radicalism poses an existential threat to the Pakistani society. It becomes imperative to mainstream the religious seminaries, wean them away from extremist and sectarian influences and deprive them of the easy availability of weapons and ammunitions. A large segment of the poor of the society cannot afford to pay even nominal fees for government schools and end up sending their children to religious seminaries. The public education system, therefore, needs to have a massive overhaul and transformation, not only in performance and delivery but also in terms of access and admissions.

 

Most importantly, the dichotomies and anomalies in the national discourse need to be addressed. The national narrative needs to be recaptured and redefined in consonance with the changing times and needs. The legal system would also have to be reformed for provision of quick and easy justice to ensure domestic stability. These steps would become the foundation stones for the human capital, which will determine and safeguard our national security.

The writer is Resident Editor of a leading national daily. He can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
The education system should also cultivate a citizenry that is deeply aware of the national interest and strives to preserve and enhance it without any confusion and obfuscation. As noted by some recent studies, security of a country is not just dependent on its military prowess and might. It is the human capital that determines the effectiveness of national security and this capital, in turn, is contingent upon the quality of the public school system.

*****

Also, for the past several years, there has been a constant cacophony of noise by some people, who relish in questioning – and even ridiculing – the core values and traditions of the society and country. Self-loathing and insulting those who want to uphold the sense of patriotism and sense of pride in the country is a favourite refrain of this particular mindset. The growth of an unhinged social media has lent them an amplified voice as they question the very basis and existence of national interest and attempt to dilute and debase the principles underlying the state and society.

*****

There is also a word of caution. Mere education would not ensure achievement of these goals. For more than a decade, the biggest challenge to the Pakistani state has been from religious radicalism and extremism. Such a mindset has found itself an easy incubation not only in the religious seminaries of the tribal regions and provincial backwaters, but it has crawled its way into the public universities and private institutions.

*****

 
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