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Archive for December, 2016

Opinion Piece Restoration of Writ in Aleppo – How Far is Peace for Syria? by Hamza Iftikhar, Research Associate, MUSLIM Institute

Opinion Piece 

Restoration of Writ in Aleppo – How Far is Peace for Syria? 

by Hamza Iftikhar Research Associate, MUSLIM Institute




After weeks of deadly battles between the opposition groups and the pro-government forces, the Syrian army took control over all of Aleppo as the last group of evacuees left eastern Aleppo on Thursday. Sadly, though, this does not mean that the Syrian conflict is nearing to an end. The reality couldn’t be far from it. Nor will this ‘victory’ bring back the scores of innocent civilians killed or take away the suffering of those who have endured unimaginable hardships over the past six years in the form starvationbombings and lack of medical attention. Not to mention the tens of millions who had to leave their homes in order to save their lives and those who are living in besieged areas. Just two days ago, around 35,000 more people had to leave their homes in order to evacuate to safety while about 70,000 have fled on foot to government-controlled areas since mid-November. In the last month alone, around 460 civilians have been killed in Aleppo, whereas the United Nations Human Rights Office said that it had reliable evidence that up to 82 civilians were shot on the spot by pro-government forces. We have reached such a depressing stage in the Syrian conflict that even shocking reports like these are not “unexpected” anymore. It is as if the world has given up on Syria, or better put, given up on humanity. 

According to an estimate by the UN special envoy for Syria Mr. Staffan de Mistura, 400,000 people have been killed in Syria ever since the conflict began in 2011. This then begs the question: how many more need to die before there’s a clear “winner” in Syria? How many more need to die before we as humans feel the responsibility to do something? In response to the world’s outrage regarding the siege of eastern Aleppo, the UN Security Council passed a resolution allowing 20 observers to monitor the evacuations. Now that the people have finally evacuated the city after long and torturous weeks in sub-zero temperatures, does that mean the job is done? Following the developments in Syria for the past almost six years, it wouldn’t be wrong to predict that the conflict can potentially follow to the Idlib province, east of Aleppo, where a large number of civilians have evacuated to. According to the International Rescue Committee (IRC), Idlib already hosts about 230,000 displaced people in almost 250 camps. Thus, the necessity to find a solution to the crisis is now required more than ever. 


There are many actors involved in the Syrian conflict, both domestic and international, non-state and state ones. When we look at the appalling and dreadful facts on the ground in Syria, it’s easy to play the blame game and point fingers at one or the other. We all have access to news and media covering this ferocious war, so instead of quoting here the exact figures and statistics regarding which group has killed more civilians, the point is that all have – and this is not acceptable. Blaming one group or the other for acting more ‘unjustly’ is not going to bring back all the 400,000, maybe even more, dead. It is not going to bring back the millions of displaced people to their homes safely. It is not going to lessen the suffering of the innocent civilians on the ground who have to live every day like it might be the last one. Whether it be the pro-Assad forces including the Syrian army and pro-government militias, supported by Iran and Russia, or the opposition forces including the Free Syrian Army, Jabhat Fatah Al-Sham or other rebel groups backed by the United States, Turkey, and the Arab Gulf States, everyone is to be blamed and they all are paying a price one way or the other. Hence, there are no “winners” in this conflict. We need to understand this and make our peace with it if we are to find a solution that will end the continued and prolonged bloodshed in Syria. 


Although he may have won the battle for Aleppo and gained momentum in the war, but Bashar Al Assad is still far from controlling the majority of Syria. He still needs to deal with the opposition groups in the North East, South East, Kurdish YPG in the North, and last but not the least, the self-proclaimed Islamic State. The stagnant economy, ruined infrastructure and aggravated sectarian divisions in Syria mean that even if he ‘wins’ the official war, Assad will have a long way to go before peace can prevail. While Russia certainly had an impact on the Syrian conflict, it did so with consequences. Apart from the huge cost of this venture and Russian fatalities in Syria, the attack on the Russian Metrojet Flight 9268 last year in October and the recent killing of Russian Ambassador to Turkey Andrei Karlov in Istanbul are some of the heavy prices that Moscow had to pay due to its involvement in the Syrian conflict. 


Similarly, the United States, Turkey and the Gulf States, particularly Saudi Arabia, all have had to endure massive financial costs and most importantly had to pay the price in the form of heinous terrorist attacks on their soil as a result of their involvement in the Syrian conflict. But instead of working out a whole balance sheet in order to determine which group has lost more lives, it suffices to say that both sides have suffered. Suffering that could have been avoided. More notably, the conflict between the two sides has ruined the country itself, exacerbated the existing regional turmoil, displaced millions of people and killed hundreds of thousands of innocent civilians who didn’t even chose to be in this inferno. 

The blame for this prolonged conflict that continues to get worse day by day, therefore, rests on everyone involved. The international community in the form of international and regional organizations such as the UN, the Arab League or Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) have all failed to work out a solution to a conflict that started off as just anti-government protests. Not just in Syria, but it has also failed to attend to the dire situation in Iraq, Libya as well as Yemen. Living in the 21st century with the presence of these remarkable institutions, it is inconceivable that we still are not able to stop the blood being spilled over and over again. 

The situation in Syria, as well as in Iraq, Libya and Yemen, highlights the severe leadership crisis and strong divisions amongst Muslim countries themselves. All Muslim actors, regardless of their ideologies and interests, need to remind themselves of their Islamic roots when making decisions that could have repercussions far beyond their own borders. This is not something new or anything that has never been witnessed in history, it’s essentially cost/benefit analysis. Sadly in this case, when talking about the cost we ought to reduce the value of human life, even if it may be in hundreds of thousands. Helping those in need is one of the core principles of Islam, yet there’s barely any support and refuge given to those in need in Syria by those who are in the surrounding area. If Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan and even Europe is able to accommodate the refugees and provide them with basic food and shelter, then why can’t the rest of us? 


Even if geographical complications do not allow some countries to host refugees, the least they can do is to help end the bloodshed through diplomacy and mediation via the institutions that were formed for this exact purpose. The situation that unfolded in Aleppo was not something new or out of the blue. It was the continuity of endless turmoil in the Arab World. The regional actors need to realize how detrimental can the spill-over effect be of these conflicts for the whole Muslim world and its unity, at least whatever’s left of it. There’s a great danger of intensification of prevalent polarization along sectarian lines due to conflicting interests in the Syrian situation, as well as other regional conflicts. Therefore, it is absolutely necessary that the key players in the region work out a solution in Syria through dialogue with Syrians and other actors via institutions like the UN, Arab League and the OIC in order to stop the bloodshed immediately, attend to the safety and well-being of those displaced, and form a consensus amongst the opposing parties so peace can prosper in the short and long term. A similar approach needs to be adopted when dealing with other crisis such as those in Iraq, Libya, and Yemen. It is about time that humanity should be given priority over economic, geopolitical and ideological interests. For if we ourselves are going to turn against each other and ignore the cries of those in need, then how can we expect the rest of the world to act any different?

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America the Greatest Country in the World: A Commentary By Jeff Daniels

The series on TV called “The Newsroom”.
The actor is Jeff Daniels, in the role of a newscaster called Will McAvoy.

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Evolving Regional Security Dynamics And Impact on Pakistan’s Security By Asif Haroon Raja

Evolving Regional Security Dynamics

And Impact on Pakistan’s Security

Asif Haroon Raja

Till as late as 1990, India remained a close-knit strategic partner of former USSR and it kept belittling the US imperialist policies and its provision of military assistance to Pakistan on all international forums. It fully supported the Soviet military intervention and occupation of Afghanistan. Paradoxically, today India is among the most trusted strategic partners of the USA and the US together with Israel have become India’s major suppliers of arms.

Since 2006, the US has been investing in a long-term strategic partnership with India. In addition to the civil nuclear deal to India in 2008, and signing 10-year Defence Framework Agreement in June 2015, the US Congress approved H.R. 4825, in March 2016, better known as the US-India Defence Technology and Trade Partnership Act (DTTPA).

The specific steps both sides have taken to improve defence pact cooperation include expanding collaboration under the DTTPA by setting up five new joint working groups. These include: naval systems; air systems, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance; chemical and biological protection; and other systems; increasing indigenous production in India; exploring new opportunities to deepen cooperation in maritime security and maritime security objectives in support of the India-US Joint Strategic Vision for the Asia-Pacific and Indian Ocean Region; military-to-military relations; expanding knowledge partnership in the field of defense and regional and international security matters of mutual interest.

In August 2016, three military Indo-US agreements were inked: 1. Logistics Exchange Memo of Agreement (LEMOA). 2. Communication Interoperability & Security Memo of Agreement (CISMOA). 3. Basic Exchange & Cooperation Agreement for Geospatial Information & Data (BECA).

The LEMOA permits military forces of each country to resupply, replenish and stage operations, using other’s military bases. It also empowers Indian Navy to expand its presence in the Indo-Pacific region. The CISMO allows integration of communication networks, enabling the two sides to mount military operations jointly. BECA allows the exchange of sensitive information gathered by sensors and satellites. 

The US has not only opened all its military and technology doors to India, and institutionalized the US-India security partnership, but has also encouraged Israel and other allies to do so as well. For the past eight years, India has been the world’s largest arms importer, buying over $100 billion in weapons each year, two-thirds of which are deployed against Pakistan. Moreover, US military and political support embolden India in its confrontational comportment towards Pakistan and China.

The legislation seeks to uplift India to the same status as America’s allies in the NATO, as well as its other major treaty partners like Japan, Australia, New Zealand and Israel. According to Senator Mark Warner, “As an important partner with a flourishing economy, India has huge potential as a market for American defense manufacturers.” On December 8, 2016, USA designated India as its major defence partner with a view to expanding bilateral defence cooperation between both nations. This was announced by visiting US Defence Secretary Ashton Carter in New Delhi. The designation has placed India among the closest allies and partners of the US.

Forgetting that Nehru had raised a storm when Pakistan had become part of SEATO and CENTO in 1954, asserting that the pacts  posed a threat to Indian security, and on this plea had taken a U-turn on his pledge to grant right of self-determination to the Kashmiris, India has felt no qualm in signing defence agreements with the USA which have a direct bearing upon Pakistan’s security.

Some analysts in India are viewing these defence agreements with skepticism and are expressing fears that it will reduce India to a client state and also render India more vulnerable to Jihadis because of the presence of US troops on Indian soil.

In line with its traditional policy of appeasement, Pakistan had kept quiet when the discriminatory Indo-US nuclear deal was inked in 2008. It again raised no objection over these provocative agreements which are more threatening than the Indo-Soviet Peace and Friendship Treaty signed in August 1971. 

Pakistan had a strong reason to join western defence pacts since India is five times bigger in size and resources, has five-time larger armed forces with a strong defence industrial base, and above all, it had adopted a belligerent posture. Pakistan also had to contend with unfriendly Afghanistan espousing the stunt of Pakhtunistan and refusing to recognize Durand Line as an international border. India, on the other hand, has no external threat since all the South Asian neighbors are smaller in size and militarily weak.

China threat is just a bogey created by India to extract maximum benefits from the US-led West by pretending to be acting as a bulwark against China. In real terms, India is enjoying friendly relations with China and both have put the border dispute on the back burner to promote trade. The two are having a trade worth $70 billion, which is likely to shoot up to $100 billion in near future. China’s military policy is defensive and its foreign policy is based on peace and friendship. It has no aggressive designs against any country. Had India been threatened by China, it would have deployed the bulk of its armed forces against China and not against Pakistan? On the ground, over 70% of Indian strike formations and airbases are poised against Pakistan. It’s Cold Start doctrine is also Pakistan specific.

Even after cutting Pakistan into two and after a lapse of 70 years, India has still not reconciled to the existence of Pakistan. It’s sinister designs are evident from its massive covert operations launched in FATA, Baluchistan and Karachi with the help of proxies since 2003. It is resorting to coercive tactics by keeping the Line of Control in Kashmir and working boundary in Sialkot sector heated up through unrelenting firing in contravention to 2003 ceasefire agreement, carrying out false flag operations in Indian Occupied Kashmir (IOK), fake surgical strike in Azad Kashmir, intrusion by drone and submarine and hurling threats. Recently, Indian Home Minister Jagannath Singh chimed that Pakistan will be broken into 10 pieces. It has now started to reduce the water flow in the three Pakistan specific rivers emanating from IOK to make Pakistan barren. India has spurned peace overtures of Pakistan and refuses to talk on the core issue of Kashmir, which has become a nuclear flashpoint.    

India has all along aspired to become a world power and still nourishes the myth of Maha Bharat woven in the 19th century. For the accomplishment of its ambitions, India considers Pakistan as the only stumbling block and a thorn in its flesh. It keeps hatching conspiracies how to remove the thorn and undo Pakistan. India cannot reconcile with politically stable, economically and militarily strong Pakistan equipped with nukes. Construction of CPEC and Gwadar Port have unnerved India since the project has the potential to rupture India’s grand design to debase, isolate, encircle and destroy Pakistan. India is desperately finding ways how to scuttle this project.

One of the reasons of boosting trade with China is to pull it away from Pakistan. India has succeeded in spoiling Pakistan’s relations with Afghanistan and in creating misgivings in Pak-Iran relations. Forging closer ties with Saudi Arabia and the Gulf States were also aimed at isolating Pakistan. However, India failed to spoil Pak-China relations that are scaling new heights after the commissioning of CPEC. 

As if the irritant of CPEC was not enough, the ongoing uprising in IOK has rattled India. In sheer frustration, it has stepped up a propaganda campaign to get Pakistan declared as a terror-abetting state. To this end, Narendra Modi has missed no opportunity to demean Pakistan. He tried to garner the support of the members of BRICS at Goa and of Heart of Asia Conference at Amritsar but Russia bailed out Pakistan on both occasions by rebuffing India’s vilification and appreciating Pakistan’s role in combating terrorism.

However, India managed to get a favorable response from the US administration by way of increased pressure on Pakistan to deal with Haqqani network and Afghan Taliban leaders allegedly based in Pakistan. The release of close support fund has been made conditional to action against the US nominated militants. Indian lobby in the USA was behind the passage of a resolution by the US Congress declaring Pakistan as a terrorist state.

Afghan peace process pursued by USA, China, Afghanistan, and Pakistan has been scrapped and a new group comprising the USA, India and Afghanistan formed. The purpose was to lower the importance of Pakistan and to promote India. It is so far a non-starter.

The silence by the US over increased violations by India across the Line of Control and the Working Boundary, targeting civilians including passenger buses and ambulances in AK, as well as its brutal campaign of repression in Kashmir points to the fact that it has willfully overlooked these transgressions by India in the light of its growing alliance partnership with India.  Pressure has even been exerted on China not to transfer advanced weaponry and technologies to Pakistan. 

Worse, the US appears to be encouraging closer ties between India and the GCC states, especially Saudi Arabia. The US had a hand in Indo-Saudi and Indo-UAE high-profile economic deals. There may be an Iranian gambit as well. Given India’s close relations with Iran and informal US-Iranian cooperation against the militant Islamic State group in Iraq and Syria, a collaboration between the US, India, and Iran to ‘stabilise’ Afghanistan cannot be ruled out.

Unless this dynamic is changed, Pakistan’s capabilities for conventional defence and nuclear deterrence against India could be significantly eroded.

Seen in this perspective, the US alliance with India has negative implications for Pakistan’s security. Although there may be rough times ahead in the relationship with the US, Pakistan’s diplomacy will have to be both dynamic and imaginative.

Much to the chagrin of India, Russia is slowly and steadily getting nearer to Pakistan. Russia and Pakistan held their first-ever consultation on regional issues on December 14, 2016, in Islamabad. During the consultations, a wide range of regional issues as well as key areas of mutual interest, including economic cooperation and connectivity were discussed.

In the wake of Russia evincing interest in China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), there is a distinct possibility that sooner than later, Russia will jump on to the bandwagon of CPEC in pursuit of its age-old dream of reaching the warm waters. Once that happens, it will open vistas for an alliance between Russia, SCO countries, China and Pakistan. This grouping will turn into a bigger magnet to attract Iran, South Asian and Middle East countries. 64 countries are likely to join CPEC. Pakistan by virtue of its strategic location will become the hub of the strategic corridor. The reason why Iran will get tempted is Chahbahar seaport’s shallowness and India losing interest in its development. The route from China to Chahbahar via Afghanistan suffers from insecurity since it passes through Taliban-controlled regions over which the Afghan troops have negligible control.

Another factor which is drawing Russia, Central Asian States, and Iran toward Pakistan are the threats of terrorism and Pakistan’s admirable role in tackling the menace. Its achievements outmatch all other countries engaged in counter-terrorism since 2001. Unstable and insecure Afghanistan doesn’t suit any regional country.

The US and India are stoking terrorism in Afghanistan and exporting terrorism from Afghanistan into neighboring countries, particularly Pakistan. The duo, viewed as spoilers, teamed up with corrupt and inefficient unity govt in Kabul, despite being on a weak wicket want peace on their terms and is pressurizing Pakistan to force the Taliban to agree.

Having read the ill intentions of USA and India, Russia has offered its services and a new group comprising Russia, China and Pakistan has come into being to broker peace in Afghanistan. This group has better prospects since all its members have a better understanding with the Taliban. Possible inclusion of Iran will further fortify this group.              

The US-India DTTPA underlines the dramatic change in today’s political environment. For India, access to advanced US weaponry and technology means that it can now pursue an aggressive military modernization. Military balance in the region gets further disturbed due to continued supply of arms to India by Russia.

The US growing tilt towards India must be seen in the context of the limited convergence of interest with Pakistan and the new administration under Donald Trump that will be taking over the White House on January 20, 2017. Pakistan aligned with China doesn’t fit into the security paradigm of Washington.  

Alongside an assertive diplomatic offensive, Pakistan’s military response too must also be well-calibrated and considered in order to meet these adverse developments. At the military level, Pakistan must ensure a defensive and asymmetrical capability, including the credibility of its nuclear deterrence that would preserve its ability to deter any conventional Indian military adventures. Pakistan’s missile defence capabilities must be multiplied along with ensuring the availability of anti-aircraft and ballistic missile defence systems. On the sea, while it may not be possible to go in for the expensive option of an aircraft carrier, Pakistan would need to upgrade and add to its submarines, fast missile boats, as well as anti-submarine warfare capabilities.

Strategic cooperation with China, and expanding military and diplomatic cooperation with Russia will remain critical. Just as the US is willing to share cutting-edge military technologies with India, China and Russia must be cultivated to share their most advanced weapons systems with Pakistan, including nuclear submarines, stealth aircraft, and anti-aircraft carrier missiles. Russian weapons systems such as the S300 anti-ballistic missile and the SU-31 fighter-bomber are among the best in class.

Red lines would also need to be drawn in Afghanistan. Pakistan must impress upon the international community that no Indian military presence or use of Afghan territory for subversion against Pakistan will be stomached.

In all likelihood, the chaos in Afghanistan may be prolonged and Pakistan must make all efforts to continue to support inter-Afghan dialogue.

Fostering an understanding with Iran and rebuilding a close relationship with Saudi Arabia is also essential for restraining Indian penetration in the Gulf. 

Being immediate neighbours, friendship with Afghanistan is a strategic compulsion and with Iran a strategic necessity for Pakistan.

Most important of all, China will remain a critical country whose cooperation is vital to ensure regional stability as Pakistan and China work to strengthen regional connectivity through the CPEC.

Iran and Saudi Arabia at loggerheads need to shun ideological confrontation and instead jointly work for the restoration of peace in war-torn the Middle East and carve out a regional security structure.

Last but not least, 2017 will be a highly challenging year for Pakistan. Internal political wrangling and tug of war will intensify and so would foreign-hatched intrigues. Unity and consolidation of home front are the best defence against external and internal challenges. 

The writer is a retired Brig, a war veteran, a defence analyst, columnist, author of five books, Vice Chairman Thinkers Forum Pakistan, DG Measac Research Centre; Member Executive Council PESS and TJP. [email protected]










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The Tame Tiger By Ambassador Munir Akram

The Tame Tiger













The writer is a former Pakistan ambassador to the UN.

IN the midst of major global transitions, Pakistan confronts multiple challenges: domestic discord, terrorism, Indian hostility and subversion, Afghan chaos and American pressure. The low energy response of Pakistan’s ruling classes to these challenges displays an absence of self-confidence and an assumption that Pakistan’s destiny will be determined by forces and factors other than ourselves.

Such attitudes are ill-suited to the world’s fifth largest country by population; one defended by the sixth largest, nuclear equipped, armed forces; with an economy growing at 5pc annually despite the terrorist violence, political turmoil and dysfunctional governance.

It is universally acknowledged that Pakistanis are a resilient and resourceful people. Yet Pakistan has become a ‘soft state’ because its elites have embraced selfish goals nationally and a subservient posture internationally.

Over the decades, our ruling classes have become inured to the patronage of our Cold War ‘ally’, the United States, and other rich ‘benefactors’. They cannot contemplate the consequences of cutting the umbilical cord of external dependency. For most of Pakistan’s ‘common’ people, who do not benefit from this largesse, the impact of the oft-threatened termination of external financial or political support would be marginal and bearable.

Pakistan’s elites have embraced selfish goals nationally and a subservient posture internationally.

If the interests of the elite are set aside and national interest guides policy exclusively, Pakistan has the intrinsic capacity to withstand external pressure, overcome most of its present challenges and exploit the vast opportunities offered by the current strategic transition in world affairs.

In Pakistan, today, domestic terrorism and violent extremism can be eliminated if the National Action Plan is implemented without regard to the political umbrellas that protect some of these violent elements.

Action against the TTP safe havens in Afghan­istan is held back by concern about America’s reaction. Yet, unless the US-Nato forces themselves eliminate these safe havens, Pakistan will have to do so if it is to stop India’s subversion from Afghan territory.

The Kabul government can surely be ‘persuaded’ to stop its constant abuse and perfidious collaboration with India against Pakistan if Islamabad utilizes its considerable leverage. Once Kabul is cooperative, the Afghan Taliban, including the Haqqani network, should be either convinced to join a peace dialogue or ejected totally from Pakistan’s territory. Pakistan does not need ‘strategic depth’; it has nuclear weapons.

India is a hegemonist power. If it is to preserve the rationale for its creation, Pakistan cannot accept Indian domination. It must maintain credible nuclear and conventional deterrence but avoid war with India. However, until the Kashmir dispute is resolved, a conflict could be triggered by a popular Kashmiri revolt like the present one. If India imposes a war on Pakistan, the latter should not rely entirely on the threat of nuclear retaliation. India could also be defeated conventionally — with the help of our people.

Somewhere in our foreign ministry’s archives is the record of a conversation between the then foreign minister Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto and China’s premier Chou En-lai soon after the 1965 war. When Bhutto explained that Pakistan’s offensive on Akhoor had to be halted and its forces redeployed to protect Lahore after India attacked across the border, the Chinese premier opined that Pakistan should not have redeployed. Pakistani forces, he said, would have been welcomed in Kashmir; on the other hand, the people of Lahore would have fought Indian occupation on the streets and, with this people’s struggle, ‘you would have made your nation.’ There is a lesson here for our strategists.

There is considerable anxiety in Islamabad about US policy under Trump. Despite the prime minister’s effusive phone conversation with Trump, Pakistan is likely to suffer collateral damage from the growing US rivalry with China and its strategic partnership with India. However, unless the US seeks Pakistan’s submission to Indian domination or attempts to neutralize its nuclear deterrence, a cooperative or at least non-hostile relationship can be established with Washington. If appropriately negotiated, common ground can be found in combating terrorism, in Afghanistan, reciprocal nuclear restraint with India and mutually beneficial investment and economic cooperation.

China’s emergence as a global economic and military power offers a historic opportunity for Pakistan. It must be grasped with both hands. The CPEC project is critical, economically and strategically, for Pakistan. If pursued with vision, the opportunity can encompass: investment in all sectors of the Pakistan economy; rapid modernization of Pakistan’s defence capabilities; stabilisation of Afghanistan; and creation of an economic network under the One Belt, One Road initiative integrating Pakistan with Iran, the GCC, Central Asia and Russia, apart from China.

Yet Pakistan should not rely on China or any other country for its development. The Pakistani state has to play a central role. Some important goals that Islamabad can secure are:

One, achieve financial independence. Tax revenues can be doubled, from the present 9pc of GDP to the global norm of 18pc. Savings of 1-2pc of the federal budget can be realized by divesting major loss-making government corporations. Pakistan’s capital markets can be enlarged to provide local development finance. The additional fiscal capacity can be used to eliminate extreme poverty, expand education and health programs, support small farmers and small and medium enterprises.

Two, adopt a ‘Pakistan first’ industrial policy and reverse the unilateral disarmament of the country’s trade regime. Nascent industries need to be nurtured through higher tariffs and a clampdown on smuggling. They can meet the high domestic demand for consumer and durable goods, which is the main driver of Pakistan’s growth and, once competitive, contribute to expanding Pakistan’s dismally small exports.

Three, support agriculture. This sector still supports 60pc of Pakistan’s population. Our crop yields are one-eighth of those in industrial countries. With adequate financial and technical support, especially to smaller farmers, Pakistan can emerge as a regional breadbasket.

Improved governance is essential. In today’s globalized world, no country can progress without an efficient bureaucracy. Pakistan’s administrators should be functionally competent, competitively chosen, handsomely remunerated and fully accountable.

None of these goals can be adequately achieved without decisive national leadership. Our electoral democracy, chained to feudal and industrial power structures, requires being reformed to enable clean and competent leaders to secure office. Only then will the Pakistani ‘tiger’ be able to leave the cage in which it has been confined. 

The writer is a former Pakistan ambassador to the UN.

Published in Dawn December 25th, 2016

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The Rajputana Liberation Movement

 The Rajputana Liberation Flag

A Sun to represent the Saura-Saka religion of the Rajputs and a yellow band to further emphasize that heritage.




















The Rajputana Liberation Movement

The Rajputana Liberation Front was formed with the following objectives:

1. To restore the Rajput civilization of Rajasthan to its former glory and free the Rajputs from the shackles of Brahminist slavery by establishing a sovereign and independent Rajputana or Rajputstan,

2. To restore the ancient Saka civilization of Sakastan and foster greater unity with kindred Saka races such as Gurjurs, Jats, and Gujaratis.

3. To restore the Rajasthani language to its pristine purity by removal of Sanskritic corruptions, to revive the ancient indigenous Mahajani Rajput script by abolishing the Sanskritic Devanagari, and encouraging usage of Rajput rather than Brahmanic grammar.

4. To revive the ancient Rajput-Saura religion of Sun-veneration by declaring it a separate and independent religion in its own right, and not a mere sect of Brahmanism ie. Hinduism.

In all this, the RLF does not advocate the use of violence by Rajputs or other Sakas but uses solely peaceful methods of achieving its objectives.


What is Rajputana?

`Rajputana’ means `Land of Rajputs’ in Rajasthani, it is an indigenous term for `Rajputstan’. Rajputana has been a historical reality since the Sakas entered into India in the centuries following the birth of Christ. They established a large Sakastan which included at its peak the Indus-Ganges Valley and western India. The locus of Sakastan and those regions which have best preserved their Saka heritage are, however, the Rajputana and Gujarat sub-regions. Rajputana was never part of the Indo-Aryan dominated regions of Maharashtra or of Aryavarta. The Saks formed a distinct race with its own civilization and religion. The Rajputs are also not `Hindu’, we are instead Sauras or Sun-worshippers.

Rajputana thus embodies the supreme Saka ideals. It is the firm conviction of the RLF that the preservation of Saka ideals requires an independent Rajputstan. For the last fifty years, the incredible damage done to the Saka heritage of Rajputs has been immense and incalculable. Indeed, the Rajput culture is at grave risk of being wiped out from the face of the Earth. Only independence can lead to a resurrection of the Rajput civilization.



During their centuries-long rule of northern India, the Rajputs constructed several palaces. Shown here is the Chandramahal in City Palace, Jaipur, Rajasthan, which was built by the Kachwaha


The origin of the Rajputs is the subject of debate. Writers such as M. S. Naravane and V. P. Malik believe that the term was not used to designate a particular tribe or social group until the 6th century AD, as there is no mention of the term in the historical record as pertaining to a social group prior to that time.[2] One theory espouses that with the collapse of the Gupta empire from the late 6th century, the invading Hephthalites (White Huns) were probably integrated within Indian society. Leaders and nobles from among the invaders were assimilated into the Kshatriya ritual rank in the Hindu varna system, while others who followed and supported them — such as the Ahirs, Gurjars, and Jats – were ranked as cultivators.[1] At the same time, some indigenous tribes were ranked as Rajput, examples of which are the Bundelas, Chandelas, and Rathors. Encyclopaedia Britannica notes that Rajputs “… actually vary greatly in status, from princely lineages, such as the Guhilot and Kachwaha, to simple cultivators.”[1] Aydogdy Kurbanov says that the assimilation was specifically between the Hephthalites, Gurjars, and people from northwestern India, forming the Rajput community.[3] Pradeep Barua also believes that Rajputs have foreign origins, he says their practice of asserting Kshatriya status was followed by other Indian groups thereby establishing themselves as Rajputs.[4] According to most authorities successful claims to Rajput status frequently were made by groups that achieved secular power; probably that is how the invaders from Central Asia, as well as patrician lines of indigenous tribal peoples, were absorbed.[1]

Rajput kingdoms

A royal Rajput procession, a mural at the fort in Jodhpur.[5]
See also: List of Rajput dynasties
From the beginning of the 7th century, Rajput dynasties dominated North India, including areas now in Pakistan, and the many petty Rajput kingdoms became the primary obstacle to the complete Muslim conquest of Hindu India.[1] These dynasties were disparate: loyalty to a clan was more important than allegiance to the wider Rajput social grouping, meaning that one clan would fight another. This and the internecine jostling for position that took place when a clan leader (raja) died meant that Rajput politics were fluid and prevented the formation of a coherent Rajput empire.[6] Even after the Muslim conquest of the Punjab and the Ganga River valley, the Rajputs maintained their independence in Rajasthan and the forests of central India. Later, Sultan Alauddin Khilji of the Khilji dynasty took the two Rajput forts of Chitor and Ranthambhor in eastern Rajasthan in the 14th century but could not hold them for long.[1]

During the height of Mughal rule in India, most Rajput rulers formed a close relationship with the Mughal emperors and served them in different capacities.[7]The only Rajput ruler who did not submit to Akbar was Rana Pratap of Chittor. However, even his own brother sided with Akbar during the conflict between the two sides.[8] Akbar married Rajput princesses and his heirs, Jahangir, Shah Jahan and Aurangzeb could all be considered partly of Rajput extraction by either having mothers or grandmothers who were Rajput. Raja Man Singh I of Amber was one of the most trusted generals of Akbar while his son Mirza Jai Singh served Aurangzeb in a similar capacity. Jai Singh was instrumental in defeating the great Maratha leader Shivaji in 1663.

British colonial period

Mayo College was established by the British government in 1875 at Ajmer, Rajputana to educate Rajput princes and other nobles.

A water reservoir inside Chittorgarh Fort as seen in 2006
According to historian Virbhadra Singhji, Rajputs ruled in the “overwhelming” majority of the princely states of Rajasthan and Saurashtra in the British Raj era. These regions also contained the largest concentration of princely states in India, including over 200 in Saurashtra alone.[9]

James Tod, a British colonial official, was impressed by the military qualities of the Rajputs but is today considered to have been unusually enamoured by them. Although the group venerate him to this day, he is viewed by many historians since the late nineteenth-century as being a not particularly reliable commentator.[10][11] Jason Freitag, his only significant biographer, has said that Tod is “manifestly biased”.[12]

The Rajput practices of female infanticide and sati (widow immolation) were other matters of concern to the British colonialists. It was believed that the Rajputs were the primary adherents to these practices, which the British Raj considered savage and which provided the initial impetus for British ethnographic studies of the subcontinent that eventually manifested itself as a much wider exercise in social engineering.[13]

In reference to the role of the Rajput soldiers serving under the British banner, Captain A. H. Bingley wrote:

“Rajputs have served in our ranks from Plassey to the present day (1899). They have taken part in almost every campaign undertaken by the Indian armies. Under Forde they defeated the French at Condore. Under Monro at Buxar they routed the forces of the Nawab of Oudh. Under Lake they took part in the brilliant series of victories which destroyed the power of the Marathas.”[14]

Independent India
On India’s independence in 1947, the princely states, including those of the Rajput, were given three choices: join either India or Pakistan, or remain independent. Rajput rulers of the 22 princely states of Rajputana acceded to newly independent India, amalgamated into the new state of Rajasthan in 1949–1950.[15] Initially the maharajas were granted funding from the Privy purse in exchange for their acquiescence, but a series of land reforms over the following decades weakened their power, and their privy purse was cut off during Indira Gandhi’s administration under the 1971 Constitution 26th Amendment Act. The estates, treasures, and practices of the old Rajput rulers now form a key part of Rajasthan’s tourist trade and cultural memory.[16]

In 1951, the Rajput Rana dynasty of Nepal came to an end, having been the power behind the throne of the Shah monarchs figureheads since 1846.[17]

The Rajput Dogra dynasty of Kashmir and Jammu also came to an end in 1947.[18] though title was retained until monarchy was abolished in 1971 by the 26th amendment to the Constitution of India.[19]

The Rajputs of India are today considered to be a Forward Caste in the country’s system of positive discrimination. This means that they receive no favour from the administration.[20]

Main article: Rajput clans
There are several major subdivisions of Rajputs, known as vansh or vamsha, the step below the super-division jāti[21] These vansh delineate claimed descent from various sources, and the Rajput are generally considered to be divided into three primary vansh:[22] Suryavanshi denotes descent from the solar deity Surya, Chandravanshi from the lunar deity Chandra, and Agnivanshi from the fire deity Agni.[23] The four prominent clans in the post-Gupta period – Chauhans, Paramaras, Pratiharas and Solankis — all claimed their mythological origin to have been from a sacrificial fire at Mount Abu.[4]

Lesser-noted vansh include Udayvanshi, Rajvanshi,[24] and Rishivanshi.[25] The histories of the various vanshs were later recorded in documents known as vamshāavalīis; André Wink counts these among the “status-legitimizing texts”.[26]

Beneath the vansh division are smaller and smaller subdivisions: kul, shakh (“branch”), khamp or khanp (“twig”), and nak (“twig tip”).[27] Marriages within a kul are generally disallowed (with some flexibility for kul-mates of different gotra lineages). The kul serves as the primary identity for many of the Rajput clans, and each kul is protected by a family goddess, the kuldevi. Lindsey Harlan notes that in some cases, skakhs have become powerful enough to be functionally kuls in their own right.[28]

Culture and ethos

A talwar, developed under Rajputana Khanda in the Maharana Pratap’s period
The Rajputs were a Martial Race in the period of the British Raj.[29] This was a designation created by administrators that classified each ethnic group as either “martial” or “non-martial”: a “martial race” was typically considered brave and well built for fighting,[30] whilst the remainder were those whom the British believed to be unfit for battle because of their sedentary lifestyles.[31]

                                                      Rajput Lifestyle

The double-edged scimitar known as the khanda was a popular weapon among the Rajputs of that era. On special occasions, a primary chief would break up a meeting of his vassal chiefs with khanda nariyal, the distribution of daggers and coconuts. Another affirmation of the Rajput’s reverence for his sword was the Karga Shapna (“adoration of the sword”) ritual, performed during the annual Navaratri festival, after which a Rajput is considered “free to indulge his passion for rapine and revenge”.[32]

Rajputs generally have adopted the custom of purdah (seclusion of women).[1]

By the late 19th century, there was a shift of focus among Rajputs from politics to a concern with kinship.[33] Many Rajputs of Rajasthan are nostalgic about their past and keenly conscious of their genealogy, emphasizing a Rajput ethos that is martial in spirit, with a fierce pride in lineage and tradition.[34]

Rajput diet
The Anthropological Survey of India identified that in Gujarat, Rajputs are ‘by and large’ non-vegetarians, regular drinkers of alcohol, and also smoke and chew betel leaves.[35] These traits are also followed by Rajputs of Maharashtra with mutton, chicken and fish being consumed, and also pork (which historically dates back to the predilection for Rajput warriors and princes to hone their fighting skills by hunting and eating wild-pig).[36]

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