Archive | South Asian Politics

Jewish people have a right to their ‘own land,’ Saudi crown prince says as he seeks ally against Iran

Posted on 04 April 2018 by admin

The remarks — long a taboo for the conservative kingdom that was known as a fierce foe of Israel’s creation — come as Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman is seeking closer security ties with Israel

Saudi Arabia appears to be in the middle of an attempt to rebrand the kingdom as progressive and, judging from the headlines since last year, the strategy appears to be working, at least to some extent.

Last September, the kingdom announced it would finally allow women to drive. One month later, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman said he wanted to return to a “moderate Islam.”

Now, in an interview with the Atlantic’s Jeffrey Goldberg, the crown prince has acknowledged that Jewish people have a right to their own homeland — long a taboo for the conservative kingdom that was known as a fierce foe of Israel’s creation. The remarks come as the crown prince is seeking closer economic and security ties with Israel.

While Saudi Arabia in the past has talked about recognizing Israel in the context of a peace deal with the Palestinians, the crown prince’s straight up acknowledgement that the Jews have a right to a homeland is the clearest statement to date.

On a practical level, Saudi Arabia has de-facto acknowledged that right since at least 2002 when it began sponsoring an initiative to foster a two-state solution — a solution that has also long been supported by the United States, even though with different premises. But officially, Saudi Arabia does not recognize the state of Israel.

While Saudi officials made Israel’s withdrawal to its territory prior to the 1967 Israeli-Arab war a precondition for closer relations in the past, that fundamental demand was not explicitly repeated by the crown prince in the Atlantic interview published on Monday.

“I believe that each people, anywhere, has a right to live in their peaceful nation. I believe the Palestinians and the Israelis have the right to have their own land. But we have to have a peace agreement to assure the stability for everyone and to have normal relations,” he told The Atlantic.

The timing for the acknowledgment does not appear to be a coincidence, as it follows months of diplomatic gestures, including the opening of Saudi Arabia’s airspace to commercial Israel-bound flights and the acknowledgment of back-channel communications between both governments.

After decades of threatening rhetoric, Saudi officials appear increasingly willing to strike a carefully conciliatory tone as they seek a new ally to confront their common arch enemy Iran and build stronger economic ties.

“Saudi Arabia has traditionally been a place that has produced a lot of anti-Semitic propaganda. Do you think you have a problem with anti-Semitism in your country?” Goldberg asked later in the Atlantic interview, to which Mohammed responded: “Our country doesn’t have a problem with Jews. Our Prophet Muhammad married a Jewish woman. Not just a friend — he married her.”

“Our prophet, his neighbours were Jewish. You will find a lot of Jews in Saudi Arabia coming from America, coming from Europe. There are no problems between Christian and Muslims and Jews. We have problems like you would find anywhere in the world, among some people. But the normal sort of problems,” said Mohammed, adding that there were “lot of interests we share,” including economically.

The crown prince’s economic reasoning laid out in the interview will likely play into the hands of critics who have long suspected the kingdom’s progressive rebranding to be primarily a marketing ploy. When the crown prince announced a more “moderate Islam” last year, critics cautioned that the declaration might have more to do with boosting the kingdom’s economy rather than reversing decades-old practices.

Mohammed, 32, has attempted to position himself as a favourite for the kingdom’s younger citizens, who are less religious than older generations and are facing disproportionately high unemployment rates. The Saudi leader is currently pursuing a major reform plan, named Saudi Vision 2030, to revitalize the kingdom’s economy.

The need for reforms may already have reversed at least some of the leadership’s previous ultraconservative stances, including the driving ban for women. The step was widely interpreted as a sign that the modernizers within the Saudi government may have gained ascendance over the conservative hard-liners. Saudi Arabia’s hard-liners have been under mounting pressure to agree to such proposals, as the kingdom has become increasingly engulfed in economic woes.

But the reforms have still been limited. Women’s subordination to men remains unchanged and repressions against Shiites have continued — despite Mohammed’s assurances in the interview that all was well between Sunnis and Shiites in the country.

“Shiites in Saudi Arabia still face a lot of grave injustices. They are being marginalized politically and are excluded from the country’s wealth. In recent years, security forces have also launched new crackdowns on the Shiite opposition in the country,” said Saudi Arabia researcher Sons.

The Saudi government also has repeatedly associated the Shiite opposition with Iran, a majority-Shiite country.

In an interview with the Guardian newspaper last year, he blamed Saudi Arabia’s arch-enemy Shiite Iran for Saudi Arabia’s turn toward Wahhabism, an ultraconservative branch of Islam, which is being promoted by Riyadh both domestically and abroad. Religious scholars say that the Saudi state is deeply rooted in and has long been intimately entwined with Sunni Wahhabism. That same Islam was widely promoted in Muslim countries around the world, thanks to the Saudi state’s deep pockets.

In the Atlantic interview published on Monday evening, Mohammed nevertheless doubled down on his criticism, saying that “the Iranian supreme leader makes Hitler look good.”

One possible interpretation of his remarks? In comparison with Iran, Israel might not be so bad after all.

 

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MP Rob Oliphant hosts reception on Parliament Hill to mark Pakistan Day and Lahore Resolution

Posted on 28 March 2018 by admin

Ottawa – On Wednesday, March 21, Rob Oliphant, MP for Don Valley West, hosted a reception on Parliament Hill for members of the Canadian-Pakistani community to mark Pakistan Day and the 78 years since the Lahore Resolution. As Co-Chair of the Canada-Pakistan Parliamentary Friendship Group, Mr. Oliphant welcomed Pakistani High Commissioner H.E. Tariq Azim Khan, as well as Minister of Infrastructure and Communities Amarjeet Sohi and 15 other MPs from the Liberal, Conservative and Green parties, to the celebration, which highlighted the important relationship Canada and Pakistan have shared over the past seven decades. “Canada and Pakistan continue to co-operate on a variety of common issues, from governance and democracy, to regional security, to the fight against climate change,” said Mr. Oliphant. “Celebrating those achievements with members of the Canadian-Pakistani community at events such as our Pakistan Day reception help emphasize these deep, long lasting bonds between our two countries.”

 

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Kashmir Black Day Protest in Ottawa

Posted on 03 November 2017 by admin

           Canadian nationals of Pakistani and Kashmiri origin as well as supporters and sympathisers of the just struggle of the people of Indian Occupied Kashmir held a peaceful protest in the Parliament premises in Ottawa today.

           The protesters were carrying banners and placards highlighting gross human rights abuses including indiscriminate use of live firing and pellet guns by Indian occupation forces against innocent and unarmed people in Indian Occupied Jammu and Kashmir.

           The demonstrators urged the International Community to compel India to end its blatant human rights violations in the Indian Occupied Kashmir and create the enabling conditions for holding a free and fair plebiscite as promised by the early Indian leaders and envisaged under the relevant United Nations Security Council Resolutions.

 

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Missing Journalist Zeenat Shahzadi’sfamily and the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan believe Pakistan’s Special Forces are responsible

Posted on 25 October 2017 by admin

On Saturday August 19, Canadian Journalists for Free Expression held a rally at City Hall in downtown Toronto to mark the second anniversary of the brazen, daylight abduction of 24-year old Pakistani journalist Zeenat Shahzadi from a busy street in Lahore, Pakistan. Shahzadi’s family and the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan believe Pakistan’s Special Forces are responsible, The rally was held ‘to pressure Canada to intervene with the Pakistani government and urge them to immediately order a full investigation of Zeenat’s kidnapping’. Organizers also expressed solidarity with all the victims of enforced disappearances in Pakistan. Members of the Committee of Progressive Pakistani-Canadians attended the rally and distributed the following statement: ‘August 30 is the International Day of the Victims of Enforced Disappearances State persecution of progressives, leftists, socialists and communists has a long history in Pakistan. Over the years uncounted numbers have been arrested, hundreds tortured and many have died due to the severe pain and torment inflicted on them. Since the reign of General Musharraf (1999 – 2008), however, disappearances have increased greatly in number. Current estimates of the disappeared range from 5,000 to 15,000 according to some political and human rights groups in Pakistan. It is the Baloch nationalists and activists who have suffered the most grievously in this regard but in more recent years disappearances have spread to Sindh, Khyber Pakhtoonkhwa and Punjab and include political activists, human rights defenders, journalists and lawyers. The disappearances are widely believed to be the work of secret state agencies. No information is provided about the health of the disappeared or the locations they are being held in. Many disappeared people are often found dead, their bodies bearing bullet wounds and marks of torture. The government has not brought forward one perpetrator to face justice. We appeal to the Government of Pakistan that, in accordance with the constitution of the country and international law, it must: – Immediately end all disappearances by the state – Release all those presently so detained and try them in open court for alleged misdeeds if any – Punish those responsible for disappearances, and for the torture and deaths of the disappeared. – Provide reparations to victims and their families.

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THE PANAMA CASE JUDGMENT AND AFTERMATH

Posted on 27 April 2017 by admin

Dr Hasan Askari

The PMLN has reasons to celebrate because the majority judgment of the Supreme Court bench in the Panama Leaks case did not disqualify Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif. Two judges (minority opinion) disqualified Nawaz Sharif from holding the office for failing to be a “sadiq” and “Amin” as required by the constitution. However, the judgment of the majority (three judges) prevailed. Even the majority judgment contains adverse comments about the money affairs of the Prime Minister’s family and is critical of the role of the Chairman, National Accountability Bureau (NAB).

The majority judgment can be described as an interim order because the case against Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and his family has not been closed. The three judges have created an investigative team, headed by the Additional Director, Federal Investigation Authority (FIA), to seek information on sources of funds and their trail from the Prime Minister and his family. This report will be submitted to the Supreme Court in 60 days which will be taken up by a new bench to be established by the Chief Justice. In other words, the case will again be taken up in the light of the report of the investigative team for final disposal.

The opinion is divided on what will happen next. The PTI people are happy that the case has not been closed and that the chances of the Prime Minister’s disqualification still exist. However, the PMLN people feel that the Prime Minister has been saved from disqualification and even the new investigative team would not be able to find anything against the Prime Minister and his family. Therefore, the Prime Minister would continue in his office and complete his term.

This is true in theory that the case is not yet closed. However, there are several doubts if the present judgment will change. It seems that the Supreme Court has provided a subtle way out of the case to Nawaz Sharif.

If Nawaz Sharif and his family did not provide satisfactory evidence on the sources and movement of the family funds to the Supreme Court, how could an investigative team headed by a junior ranking officer extract information from the Prime Minister’s family.

Further, the Additional Director, FIA, is a government servant under the federal government headed by the Prime Minister.

How could be investigate the Prime Minister in an independent manner?

No new evidence is expected to be explored by this team, which can keep the case pending.

Further, the Chief Justice will have to set up a new Supreme Court bench to take up the case and look into the report of the investigative team. It is not clear if the bench can decide the matter without looking at the old evidence and without listening to the lawyers of both sides. This will amount to taking up the case more or less from the beginning. If this happens it will become another long process. It is quite possible that the new bench holds some sessions to review the report and then opt for more evidence. It can also adjourn the case for an indefinite period.

As the opposition political parties do not have any confidence in the investigative team headed by a federal government official, they are thinking that the judicial option may have come to an end. The major opposition parties, i.e. PTI, PPP, PMLQ, and Jamaat-i-Islami, have demanded that the Prime Minister should resign. Their argument is that two judges of the bench have disqualified the Prime Minister and the three judges have made some negative comments about him and his family. The PMLN has rejected this demand.

The National Assembly and the Senate had a stormy sessions on April 21, 2017, on account of the Supreme Court judgment. The opposition demanded the resignation of the Prime Minister and Imran Khan was not allowed to make a speech in the National Assembly. The sessions of both houses were postponed for an indefinite period. By closing the parliamentary session, the ruling PMLN has provided an easy reason to the opposition to go to streets. The tempers on both sides are running high in the post judgment period and both sides are using foul language against each other.

The PPP and the PTI have announced their separate plans to hold public rallies against the Prime Ministers in different places. Imran Khan has decided to hold a big public rally in Islamabad onApril 28, The Jamaat-i-Islami is also expected to do that. However, as long as these opposition parties join together in protest they will not be able to build much pressure on Nawaz Sharif. The public meetings of individual political parties can be neutralized by using the state machinery.

This means that despite being saved from disqualification, Nawaz Sharif will not get peaceful and stable political environment. The major opposition parties, especially the PTI and the People’s Party, are expected to resort to street protest on electricity shortages, corruption in government and poor governance. The Panama issue may lose its salience but political uncertainty and confrontation between the government and the opposition will continue.

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WILL PAKISTAN SOON GET RID OF EXTREMISM AND TERRORISM?

Posted on 13 April 2017 by admin

 Dr. Hasan Askari

 Another suicide bombing in Lahore. On April 5, a vehicle carrying the officials conducting national census was targeted by a suicide bomber in the outskirts of the city of Lahore. It killed 7 people, including four from the Army and one from the Air Force off-duty personnel. Twenty-two people were injured and several vehicles parked in the area were damaged. A faction of Tehrik-i-Taliban=i-Pakistan, Jamaatul Ahrar, claimed the responsibility for the attack.

 The main objective of this terrorist attack was not to stop the national census but to demonstrate on the part of the terrorists that they still have the capacity and will to target the people serving the Pakistani state. The terrorists were able to hit the military personnel as well as civilians in one attack. The security of civilian and military offices and buildings in Pakistan has been strengthened, making it difficult to target these sites. But, in this case, the terrorists were able to target civilian and military officials on duty on a road side.

 The roadside where the attack took place was a meeting point of civilian and military officials engaged in national census. They would come to this place and, from there, they would go to nearby villages in different directions for undertaking census. It seems that the terrorists monitored this routine and then decided to target the census team whose security was not tight.

 The Punjab government sources claimed that the suicide bomber came from Afghanistan where the Pakistani Taliban are based. Even if we accept this accept this claim, a well-trained bomber from Afghanistan cannot undertake such an action without local connections and support. It has been learnt from such suicide bombing incidents that the concerned person reaches the targeted city and houses himself with the local connection of the organization who guides him to the target spot which is monitored for some days and then the suicide attack is conducted.

 Despite the terrorist incident, the general consensus in the country is that the terrorist incidents have declined over the last two years. The “Zarbi-Azb” security operation in North Waziristan and other tribal areas have weakened the Pakistani Taliban and other terrorists groups and factions. They no longer have exclusive areas to maintain their safe-bases for housing them, keeping the stockpile of weapons and for imparting training. Most of them have moved to Afghanistan or they are hiding in mainland Pakistan.

 Two interlinked action plans have been designed by civilian and military security authorities to cope with the left-over of terrorism. These are: Twenty-point National Action Plan, most of which is being implemented through the civilian federal and provincial governments and political and societal leaders. The other operation is “Raad-ul-Fasad,” meant to seek-out the extremists and terrorists hiding in the cities as well as to find out and dismantle their local support-bases and networks located in the cities and town. Who are the people, religious institutions and groups that provide them local hide-out or provide them money? Most of these groups and networks are said to be operating under cover of religious and societal and welfare organizations. The challenge for the state is how to distinguish between the genuine religious and charity groups and those using these titles for covering their negative and violent activities?

 The Army, the paramilitary forces and provincial governments are engaged in breaking the terrorist networks in the cities and towns. The government agencies like the Police, intelligence agencies and specialized police as well as the paramilitary forces and military intelligence agencies are working towards implementing the agendas of the National Action Plan and the “Raad-ul-Fasad”. However, the requisite political support is weak. The political parties and leaders, including Islamic political parties, and societal groups are not very active in mobilizing popular support against religious and cultural extremism and terrorism.

 The political leaders and political parties as well as the leaders of the society do condemn terrorism and describe it as being contrary to the principles and teachings of Islam. However, they avoid condemning any specific group that engages in violence and practices religious sectarianism. A number of them do not blame the Taliban but some unnamed foreign powers for funding some elements in the garb of the Taliban to engage in violence to malign Islam. The groups sharing religious-sectarian doctrines with the Taliban and such groups are hesitant to blame the Taliban or religious hardliners, including sectarian groups, for the current extremism and terrorism.

 The major problem is in the province of Punjab where the sectarian groups as well as the Kashmir focused groups are based. The Punjab government is conducting its own security operation which is limited in scope. It is not willing to give an independent role to the Army and the Rangers to conduct security operations in the Punjab in an autonomous manner. The PMLN government in the Punjab feels that its monopoly of power in the province will be threatened if the Rangers function as independently as they operate in Karachi. Further, the PMLN leadership is not inclined to openly campaign against the sectarian groups or known religious hardline groups for the fear of losing votes to Tehrik-i-Insaf and the Jamaat-i-Islami. The overall orientations of Punjab is conservative and the Political Right to Islamist. It is in this segment of population that the Taliban and other hardline and sectarian groups have the support. The PMLN cannot afford to engage in sustained campaign against militancy and religious extremism except in very general terms for the fear of losing votes. This phenomenon will become stronger as the general elections come close.

 The current efforts by the military and civilian governments, especially the security operations by the Army/paramilitary, will keep extremism and terrorism under check but these challenges are not expected to disappear completely from Pakistani society in the near future. The political considerations of many political parties and religious orientation of a good number of people softens their attitutude towards the groups pursuing hardline and narrow agendas.

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GLOBAL ISSUES ABOUT PAKISTAN’S NUCLEAR PORGRAM

Posted on 06 April 2017 by admin

 Dr. Hasan Askari

         Pakistan views its nuclear weapons as integral to its national security. Its policy makers and security analysts describe nuclear weapons as a protection for Pakistan’s security and foreign policy options against India’s superiority in conventional security, its flourishing nuclear weapons and the missile system.

        Pakistan’s nuclear program has a limited agenda focusing on India. However, India’s official and non-official circles and some western security analysts have traditionally attributed extended political agenda to Pakistan’s nuclear program that went beyond India. Pakistan was accused of working on an “Islamic Bomb” that would be made available to some Middle Eastern states, jeopardizing the security of Israel.  In the mid-1980s, there were media reports of a possible India-Israel joint air raid on Pakistan’s nuclear installations to destroy Pakistan’s capacity to produce a bomb.  The clandestine nature of Pakistan’s nuclear program was also targeted for criticism.  In post-September 2001 period, there was a persistent propaganda that Pakistan’s nuclear installations could be penetrated by religious extremists or the Al-Qaeda people get hold of Pakistani nuclear weapon, fissile and radioactive material or take-over some nuclear installation. 

       Pakistan’s diplomatic and academic response to this propaganda could be divided in two phases.  The First Phase include the writings in the pre-1998 Explosion period.  Pakistani response to global propaganda against Pakistan in this period was weak and slow, comprising articles published in journals/magazines and edited volumes.

   The second phase of academic work on Pakistan’s nuclear weapons program began to take shape soon after the explosions in May 1998.  The initial articles focused on justifying Pakistan’s decision to go for nuclear explosions, including the debate on who deserved to claim greater credit for this achievement.   Some concern was also expressed that India and Pakistan might get into bitter competition in the nuclear domain, complicating the management of strategic stability and diplomatic normalcy in the region.   

    By the end of the first decade of the 21st Century, a good number of young scholars, based mostly in Islamabad, cropped up who published research papers, newspaper articles and political commentaries addressing different aspects of Pakistan’s nuclear program as well as provided a spirited defense of Pakistan’s nuclear and missile delivery system.  

      Several books and monographs were published by Pakistani analysts. However, only three books deserve a special mention because these make a valuable attempt not only to provide a historical overview of Pakistan’s journey on road to nuclearization but also link their studies with the diversified theoretical formulations and global discourse on nuclear weapons.  Feroz Hassan Khan’s book entitled “Eating Grass: The Making of the Pakistani Bomb” (2012) is a remarkable contribution to the study of Pakistan’s nuclear program. Two books have been published by Dr. Naeem Salik. These are “Genesis of South Asian Nuclear Deterrence: Pakistan’s Perspective” (2009) and “Learning to Live with the Bomb: Pakistan: 1998-2016” (2017).

       Naeem Salik’s latest book “Learning to Live with the Bomb” makes a singular contribution by undertaking a critical and comprehensive review of how Pakistan learnt over the years the handling of different aspects of nuclear weapons capability.   Pakistan has demonstrated strong learning from others’ experience as well as from undertaking the actual task of building nuclear weapons. This learning process was not a single direction process and Pakistan slowly acquired the skills to address the dimensions of nuclearization. 

     The areas for learning and moving ahead with its own policies included  nuclear doctrine and policies, the command and control issues and mechanisms, safety and security of the nuclear program, nuclear export laws and administrative measures, and the making of the nuclear regulatory arrangements.   The efforts in these areas have helped to project Pakistan as a responsible nuclear power and assured the international community that it could effectively look after its nuclear program.

     Pakistan can confidently claim that its external security has been strengthened by learning to address all aspects of its nuclear programme.  However, nuclear weapons by them do not necessarily ensure the resolution of entrenched political problems. As war is no longer an option for India and Pakistan, there is now a stalemate like situation with reference to the major problems between India and Pakistan.  A low level of conflict now characterizes India-Pakistan relations since Narrendra Modi became India’s Prime Minister in May 2014. 

   Therefore, the new third wave of the literature on Pakistan’s nuclear program and national security must focus on two inter-related issues. First, how Pakistan can strengthen its diplomacy and build a soft image at the global level in order to generate enough diplomatic pressure for resolving the major problems between India and Pakistan. The role of positive and active diplomacy increases after the assumption of nuclear weapons. 

     Second, the policy makers and security analysts need to recognize that nuclear weapons are not relevant to addressing some internal security issues, i.e. extremism and terrorism, internal political disharmony and socio-economic inequities.  Nuclear weapons alone do not address these two sets of issues.   Pakistani scholars must also emphasize that Pakistan should assign a high priority to addressing these problems so as to promote internal harmony and strengthen the society.   This will increase Pakistan’s confidence as a nuclear weapon state.

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Pakistan Day parade displays diplomatic linkages with other nations

Posted on 01 April 2017 by admin

  Dr. Hasan Askari

  The government of Pakistan is striving hard to improve its diplomatic image at the international level and highlight how Pakistan is making an earnest effort to control religious extremism and terrorism. The impressive parade of three services of the military in Islamabad on March 23 was a major effort to highlight Pakistan’s military strength and their professional quality.

 The March 23 parade remained suspended for some years due to troubled internal security situation. However, last year (2016) the civilian and military authorities felt that the Zarb-i-Azb security operation by the military in North Waziristan and other tribal areas had brought the security situation under control and they could revive the parade. So the parade was held on March 23, 2016.

 This year on March 23, 2017, the parade was held in a more elaborate manner. In fact, the Pakistan Resolution Day was observed more widely all over the country, including in many places in Balochistan. There were three noteworthy features of the parade this year.

 First, China and Saudi Arabia sent two contingents of their Army to participate in the parade. The Chinese contingent was quite large and, for the first time, the troops from two friendly countries participated in the parade. Second, Turkey sent its colorful military band (Mehteran band) also participated in the parade. This band especially played Pakistani national songs in addition to their special band display. Third, South Africa’s Chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee and the Chief of National Dense Forces General Solly Zacharia Shoke witnessed the parade as an honored guest. The aircraft Fly-Pass was led by Pakistan’s Air Force Chief Air Chief Marshal Sohail Aman.

 The Pakistan Day parade effectively demonstrated Pakistan’s close linkages with some countries. This is an attempt to challenge the propaganda that Pakistan is being isolated at the international level. Pakistan is also endeavoring to improve its relations with Russia in trade and procurement of military equipment. Russia has also offered to build gas pipeline from Karachi to Lahore. For the last two years, Pakistan is negotiating with Russia for the purchase of some military purpose helicopter and military equipment. This process is expected to be completed by mid-2017.

 While cultivating Russia, Pakistan needs to recognize that in Russia’s South Asia policy, India continues to be the first priority because of the long established trade relations and Russia’s contribution in building India’s industrial base, especially defense industry. The economic considerations, i.e. trade, sale of weapons to India, supply of machinery and support material for Russian-installed industry sustain Russian stakes in India

 The Russian leadership wants to improve relations with Pakistan in order to increase its options in this region rather than abandon India. In fact, Russia is opting for this strategy because India has cultivated very active relations with the U.S. By stepping up its ties with Pakistan, Russia wants to show to India that it also has new options in foreign policy in region. Therefore, Pakistan has an opportunity to revive its relations with Russia.

 Pakistan is so fascinated by the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor that it wants to rely on it to undertake all kind of development work all over Pakistan. The original corridor plan amounted to $ 46 billion for linking Kashgar in Xinjiang Province with Gwadar Port via road. Several power generation and other industrial projects will be established along the corridor. Now, several new projects have been added to it which has increased its total investment to over $ 51 billion. As Pakistan is attempting to insert more development projects into it, the Corridor project could become unmanageable. .

 It is advisable to implement the original corridor projects in a manner that the provinces stay satisfied. Once these projects are completed in the shortest possible time and then go to other projects. Such a step-by-step approach can yield better results than the current policy of Pakistani government to increase the projects under the Corridor.

 If Pakistan has to improve its image abroad, it needs to cultivate positive relations with other countries. The Corridor project will link Pakistan not only with China but also with several other countries. Even with Western China, Pakistan will develop extensive bilateral trade with China and China’s transit trade will pass through Pakistan, giving clear benefit to Pakistan, especially to Balochistan.

 While working towards building image at the global level, Pakistan needs to be viewed by others as a safe place for trade and investment and a big market for other countries. This means that Pakistan must continue to address the terrorism and extremism within Pakistan. For this reason, the current counter-terrorism operation named “Raad-ul-Fasad” becomes relevant to the completion of the Corridor project and also for building a better image at the global level.

 Pakistan must work towards improving relations with Afghanistan and Iran. This will increase the importance of the Corridor because these countries would like to be linked with the Corridor.

 Pakistan should assign a priority to dealing with the Kabul government rather than building ties with some Taliban groups to play politics in Afghanistan. The reopening of the Pakistan-Afghanistan border is a sensible decision. Hopefully, Pakistan and Afghanistan would abandon their one-sided versions of what has gone wrong with their relations and explore the option of improved relations.

 The U.S., China and Russia want Afghanistan and Pakistan to work in harmony. Though there is no dispute between Iran and Pakistan but their relations are restrained. Paying attention to improving relations with Afghanistan and Iran will strengthen Pakistan’s international image.

 

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Pak-Afghan relations shaky after terrorists use Afghanistan as safe haven

Posted on 23 March 2017 by admin

 Dr. Hasan Askari

 Pakistan’s Adviser on Foreign Policy, Sartaj Aziz, and Afghanistan’s National Security Adviser, Haneef Atmar, met in London on March 15 and 16 on the invitation of the British government. They discussed ways and means to overcome current difficulties in the relations between Pakistan and Afghanistan. The major desire of the Afghan government is to seek the reopening of the Pakistan-Afghan border and restart bilateral and transit trade between the two countries.

 Afghanistan and Pakistan agreed to adopt measures to improve confidence between the two countries as the first move towards restoration of full interaction between the two countries, including the reopening of the border. It is in the interest of both countries to pursue normal diplomatic, economic and trade interaction between them. However, as the distrust between Pakistan and Afghanistan increased over the last one year normal interaction could not be pursued. Both sides have developed complaints against each other.

 The current crisis in the Pakistan-Afghanistan relations developed in February this year. There were several terrorist attacks in different parts of Pakistan in early February whose attackers were traced to the Pakistani Taliban groups based in Afghanistan. These Pakistani Taliban groups also attacked Pakistani border posts from time to time. Pakistan asked the Afghan government not to let these groups use its territory for terrorist activity in Pakistan.

 As Afghanistan did not do anything, Pakistan Army bombed their camps with long range guns without entering Afghanistan territory. Rather than removing the camps of Pakistani Taliban and their allies from Afghanistan, the Afghan government protested against bombing into Afghan territory. Pakistan gave a list of 76 wanted people to the Afghan government that were based in Afghanistan. The Afghan Foreign Office responded by giving a list of 85 wanted people to Pakistan who were said to be living in Pakistan.

 On February 17, Pakistan closed all three crossing points on the Pakistan-Afghanistan border which stopped bilateral trade as well as the transit of foreign goods that Afghanistan gets through the Karachi seaport. This border was opened for two days on March 7 and 8, to enable Pakistanis and Afghans stranded in each other’s country to return home.

 The complete closure of the Pakistan-Afghanistan border has created serious problems for Afghanistan because Afghanistan gets a large part of goods of daily use, including wheat, rice, and other kitchen and household products from Pakistan. As Afghanistan does not have any direct sea access. A large part of its international trade takes place through the Karachi seaport and these goods go to Afghanistan via trucks from Karachi. All this has stopped now, causing problems to the Kabul government.

The Afghan trading community favors good relations with Pakistan because their business interests are tied to Pakistan. Similarly, Pakistani business and transport community, especially from Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, also wants to the border to be opened so that the trade restarts. The Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa business community has suffered heavy financial losses due to the closure of the Pakistan-Afghanistan border. Further, the closure of the border is also causing problems to ordinary Afghans who visit Peshawar for a number of reasons, including small business, getting of goods for personal use, medical treatment or for meeting with their relations. All of them favor the resumption of movement of goods, services and people across the border.

 The most serious obstacle to improving the relations between Pakistan and Afghanistan is mutual distrust that has developed since the assumption of power by the first post-Taliban government led by Hamid Karzai late December 2001. The governments of Hamid Karzai and the present government of Ashraf Ghani accuse Pakistan of sheltering Afghan Taliban leaders and activists who go the Afghanistan to challenge the Kabul government through violent activity. As the Kabul government is unable to cope with the Afghan Taliban pressure, it blames Pakistan for all violent activity in Afghanistan. It tries to create the impression that everything is fine in Afghanistan and that the trouble is caused by the people coming from Pakistan. This is far away from the reality that most of Taliban are based in Afghanistan. Now, Daish (Islamic State) is establishing itself in Afghanistan.

 The Kabul government is not willing to cooperate with Pakistan for border control so that unauthorized movement of people across the border is checked. It only wants that Pakistan military should fight out Afghan Taliban inside Pakistani territory.

 Pakistan’s major complaint against the Kabul government is its anti-Pakistan disposition and that it pursue anti-Pakistan propaganda inside Afghanistan and abroad. Pakistan also expresses strong concern about Afghanistan’s strong leanings towards India and giving ample opportunity to India’s intelligence agency to engage in anti-Pakistan activity from Afghan soil. Pakistan claims that India’s intelligence agency provides funds to Pakistani Taliban and Baloch dissident groups. Pakistan is also unhappy that the Afghan government is unable to acknowledge Pakistan’s contribution to hosting Afghan refugees.

 Pakistan is now devoting attention to unilaterally strengthening the monitoring and security of the Afghan border to check unauthorized movement of people. While strengthening border control, there is a need to reopen the border for human movement and trade. The closure of the border is causing a lot of inconvenience to ordinary people and independent business people on both sides. While pursuing a tough policy towards the Kabul government, Pakistan should not lose the goodwill of the common people in Afghanistan who want this border to reopen for travelling.

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WHY DO PAKISTANI PARLIAMENTARIANS FIGHT?

Posted on 16 March 2017 by admin

  Dr. Hasan Askari

 Two deplorable incidents involving the members of the National Assembly took place on January 26 and March 9. In both cases the members of the ruling PMLN and its arch rival PTI were involved. In the first incident, the members of these parties exchanged punches on the floor of the National Assembly. In the second incident, the two members belonging to PMLN and the PTI made controversial remarks about each other’s leader on the floor of the house. As they came out of the house into the lobby they exchanged hot words and the PTI member attempted to punch the PMLN member. Other members intervened to stop them. Later, the PMLN member held a press conference and made obnoxious remarks about the PTI member and the PTI chief.

 In Pakistan, political leaders and parliamentarians often use non-democratic and un-parliamentary language to address their political adversaries. It is quite common for them to talk about their political opponents in a contemptuous manner. Others who may not make rude and ill-mannered remarks are unable or unwilling to stop their party colleagues from adopting such a negative disposition that brings bad name to democratic institutions and processes.

 Several factors explain the decline in the quality of political discourse and the use of outrageous remarks by parliamentarians. First, parliamentary elections have become such an expensive exercise that only sufficiently wealthy people can take part in it. Certain professions in Pakistan have thrown up a large number of wealthy people during the last two decades, who are convinced that their economic clout gives them a license to pursue their agendas any way they wish. These people hardly care about democratic values and norms except when these serve their political agendas.

 Second, political partisanship has intensified so much that most leaders equate their party interest with the national interest and do not hesitate a moment in rejecting the viewpoint of their rival political party. There is very little, if any, regard for consensus-building, merit and professionalism. The partisan interest rides supreme.

 Third, major political parties encourage their activists to adopt a tough and insulting disposition towards the activists of the rival political parties. The major confrontation is between the PMLN and the PTI as the latter is attempting to challenge the former’s monopoly of power in Punjab. Their members are often engaged in mud-slinging against each other which has lowered the quality of political discourse.

 Fourth, political talk shows on the private sector TV have also contributed to degrading political interaction among the competing political parties. Many anchors and producers invite the political leaders to their programmes who have the reputation of engaging in verbal fights with their rival party leaders. A leader is likely to get more invitations for TV talk shows if he/she develops the reputation of making controversial remarks or heckles the political rivals. Most political parties have “loose and rude” talkers who are praised by the party top leaders for neutralizing the arguments of the political rival. The PMLN has excelled in preparing a team of party activists whose only task is to “praise Nawaz Sharif and condemn Imran Khan” on the media. Such TV shows have contributed to diminishing decency in political exchanges

 Fifth, the party top leaders do not reprimand their parliamentarians or other activists for their indecent and un-parliamentary disposition. The top leaders like Nawaz Sharif and Imran Khan do not regularly attend the parliamentary session that gives an opportunity their respective party members to engage in free-for-all speecesh in the house. The absence of top leader from the house also causes the quorum problem. A good number of members do not turn up for the session or stay there briefly.

 The overall governance pattern negates the principles and spirit of democracy. Instead of creating viable democratic institutions and processes the focus is on building personalized political fiefdom. Professionalism, administrative nonpartisanship and judicious handling of state resources and socio-economic development are replaced with unconditional loyalty to the chief. All development work for the people is projected as personal favours of the ruler. As all favours and distribution of state resources is done by the ruler at the personalized level, there is a race in the political party for showing allegiance to the chief. One way of achieving this goal is to praise the chief all the time and adopt a derogatory disposition towards political adversaries. Such a political culture is the major obstacle to democratic consolidation. Democratic structure and rituals may survive but their substance and spirt is missing.

 The above statement on the poverty of democracy in Pakistan is not meant to make a case for discarding it. The deficiency in Pakistani democracy is correctable provided the top political leaders of the major political parties agree to mend their ways. They need to turn political parties into autonomous political machines with internal democracy. The culture of sycophancy needs to be replaced with professionalism and experience. The top leaders must attend the assembly sessions with greater frequency. They must make sure that the members attend the sessions regularly, take part in the proceedings and maintain the decorum inside and outside the house. This will improve the quality in Pakistan.

 

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