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Archive for August, 2018

Is Israel becoming a mafia state? by SIMONA WEINGLASS

 

Courtesy – Times of Israel

Is Israel becoming a mafia state?

Some 25% of the revenue of Israel’s lauded high-tech sector comes from shady or fraudulent industries; three-quarters of MKs are said to be in thrall to special interest groups

Simona Weinglass

Israel has become one of the world’s leading exporters of investment scams, with fraudsters stealing an estimated $5 billion to $10 billion per year from victims worldwide. (Illustrative photo: iStock)

Israel has become one of the world’s leading exporters of investment scams, with fraudsters stealing an estimated $5 billion to $10 billion per year from victims worldwide. (Illustrative photo: iStock)

The other day, I was sitting at a picnic with several friends when someone referred to Vladimir Putin’s Russia as a “mafia state.”

A Russian-born woman objected: “That is really offensive. Russia is a country of 140 million people. It is wrong to say they are all mafia.”

“I am not referring to the people,” said the first speaker. “The majority of Russians are good people. Most are victims of the regime they live under. But it is a fact that there is an overlapping corrupt elite that permeates the entire political and economic system as well as all major centers of decision-making. And this elite is connected to organized crime groups.”

With striking similarity, on a recent vacation in Washington, DC, I found myself talking to a Jewish woman who works in the US government. “I don’t understand,” she said with dismay. “In America, Jewish people are upstanding citizens. What is happening in Israel?”

The woman was referring to the massive growth of organized crime in Israel over the past ten years, as well as the fact that Israel has become one of the world’s leading exporters of investment scams, stealing an estimated $5 billion to $10 billion per year from victims worldwide.

Despite the fact that Israeli police recently announced that these investment scams are largely run by organized crime, which has grown to “monstrous proportions” as a consequence of little to no law enforcement for years, the Israeli government, parliament and authorities have to date proved unwilling or unable to shut them down, in part because these fraudulent industries have a powerful lobby in the Knesset.

“Most Israelis are good people,” I told the Washington woman in Israel’s defense. “It’s just the system that is broken.”

Police Superintendent Gabi Biton, left, at an August 2, 2017, Knesset panel devoted to a proposed law to ban Israel’s binary options industry. Biton told the panel that organized crime in Israel had grown to ‘monstrous proportions’ as a result of online investment fraud. (Simona Weinglass/Times of Israel)

Indeed, Israel’s democratic system has become riddled with the corruption of late. Analysts who study Israel’s high-tech sector (and who were unwilling to talk on the record for fear of angering their colleagues) told The Times of Israel last year that an estimated 25 percent of the revenue of Israel’s lauded high-tech sector comes from shady or fraudulent industries, including online gambling, binary options, forex, downloaders/injectors (companies that put malevolent software on your computer without your knowledge), and the payment, affiliate marketing and adtech companies that service these industries.

Israel’s Finance Ministry recently issued a report showing that the cost of nearly every consumer product, with the exception of education and produce, is significantly higher in Israel than the OECD average. Analysts attribute this high cost to monopolists and rent seekers who pull strings and lobby the government to block competition in industry after industry.

Meanwhile, apartment prices have risen 118% in the last ten years, for reasons economists cannot fully explain. Recently, the sale of new apartments has slowed, which a report in The Marker by Nimrod Bousso attributes to a recent crackdown on money laundering in Israeli banks ordered by the Bank of Israel’s Supervisor of the Banks. The report suggests that rampant money laundering was a significant factor in the rise of apartment prices in the first place.

The average price of a three-bedroom apartment in Tel Aviv is close to $1 million (Miriam Alster/Flash90)

Dr. Avichai Snir, an economist at Bar-Ilan University, published a paper on the impact of money laundering on rising apartment prices in October 2014. He used the modified cash-deposits ratio method — an approach employed by economists to assess the size of a country’s shadow economy, based on how much cash is in circulation — and calculated that between the years 2008 and 2014, Israel’s off-the-books economy soared from approximately 22% to 28% of the country’s GDP. This is an astounding jump. The first figure puts Israel in the company of countries like Italy and Spain; the second resembles economies like those of Romania and Bulgaria.

Snir has yet to calculate percentages for the years 2014 to 2017 but told The Times of Israel he intends to explore new methods of measuring money laundering that has its origins online.

On a separate but related note, a Knesset member recently told The Times of Israel that three-quarters of the 120 parliamentarians here are in thrall to special interest groups, whose lobbyists and PR flaks crowd the halls of the Knesset, and are relentlessly pressured to the point where the public interest, this MK lamented, becomes a weak voice in the back of their heads. The Times of Israel’s editor, sitting next to me as the MK in question delivered this shattering assessment of 90 colleagues was so horrified that he asked for it be repeated, to be sure he had heard correctly.

Tzvika Graiver, a lawyer for the Keep Olim in Israel Movement, told The Times of Israel recently that when he attends Knesset panels to advocate on behalf of steps that would ease life for new immigrants, he invariably finds himself seated alone amid an army of lobbyists and indifferent government bureaucrats.

For instance, in November 2016 there was a Knesset panel on the “black market” of driving instructors who demanded hefty sums of money from new immigrants before agreeing to set a date for a driver’s test. “It was our non-profit against an array of lobbyists for the driving teacher’s association, the licensing bureau and others.”

Tzvika Graiver, lawyer and advocate for new immigrants from the Keep Olim in Israel movement (Photo credit: Facebook)

Graiver actually won that battle against the driving instructors’ lobby, but his accumulated experience has left him with a feeling that the deck is stacked against the public interest in Israel’s parliament.

“Lobbyists control the Knesset; they set the agenda and they usually win,” he said. “There is no question that the majority of Knesset members today work on behalf of lobbyists and not the people.”

Earlier this year, draft legislation that would have banned all of Israel’s fraudulent online trading companies, and not just the part of the industry called “binary options,” was watered down in the course of behind-the-scenes consultations among the Israel Securities Authority, the Justice Ministry and the online trading industry itself. Anti-fraud advocates were stunned to arrive at the Reforms Committee meeting where the legislation was being debated to discover that the bill had been constricted and truncated without their knowledge, as a direct consequence of input from the very industries it was originally formulated to target.

Asked how this happened, one Israeli forex company owner told The Times of Israel, “You have no idea who you are dealing with. This is an industry that has way too much money and influence. Do not concern yourself over such things.”

Moises Naim, a Washington DC-based thinker who penned the watershed essay “Mafia States,” has delineated several stages through which a state descends into mafia statehood. The first is called “criminal penetration,” when a criminal organization is able to place “one of its own” in the state structure. The second is “criminal infiltration,” which Naim defines as “when the infection has spread throughout the state apparatus within the given country, and the linkages to external illicit networks proliferate.”

Finally, there is a stage called “criminal capture” which is defined as “the condition of dysfunctional governance in which criminal agents are so sufficiently prominent in positions of state authority that their criminal actions cannot effectively be restrained by the state. At some point, it may become part of state or substate institutional doctrine to engage in illicit activity.”

One notorious example of alleged criminal penetration occurred in Israel in 2003, when Inbal Gavrieli was elected to the Knesset for the Likud party. In a 2009 cable leaked by Wikileaks, the US ambassador to Israel wrote, “The election of Inbal Gavrieli to the Knesset in 2003 as a member of Likud raised concerns about organized crime influence in the party’s Central Committee. Gavrieli is the daughter of a suspected crime boss, and she attempted to use her parliamentary immunity to block investigations into her father’s business.”

A Rolls Royce car parked at the Tel Aviv-Jaffa port, on November 15, 2014. (Nati SHohat/Flash90)

Naim cites Russia and Venezuela as examples of countries with criminal infiltration, while Guinea-Bissau is an example of complete state capture.

It is unclear where Israel falls on this spectrum. In 2009, the US Embassy wrote of a “growing problem” of organized crime elements “penetrating the Israeli establishment and corrupting public officials.”

In his book “Rock, Paper, Scissors: Game Theory in Everyday Life,” Len Fisher describes the problem of corruption as akin to the “Stag Hunt” scenario in game theory: A group of people set out to hunt a stag. If they all cooperate, they are likely to be successful. But if a few decide not to hunt stag but to hunt hares, which are easier to catch, for their own personal benefit, the entire enterprise fails and more and more stag hunters decide they are better off looking out only for themselves and hunting hares.

Once you have a society where most people are hunting hares, it is very difficult to evolve back to the stag hunting (non-corrupt) scenario. Even if a few hare hunters stop being selfish and decide to cooperate, the group dynamic quickly reverts back to the default of hare hunting. But not all hope is lost, because societies of stag hunters have in fact spontaneously emerged in history, and this, said Fisher, is often because many individuals change their minds about what other members of society will do and begin to trust each other.

It is clearly in Israel’s interest to enforce the rule of law and uproot criminality, among other reasons because corrupt states suffer dire economic consequences. (Russia’s economy is shrinking, despite the constant supply of income from oil.) But there appear to be too many hare hunters in today’s Israel, looking after their own interests, and not enough stag hunters. This could change if more ordinary Israelis got involved in the battle to fight corruption. While the system shows signs of being broken, most Israelis are decent people, emphatically deserving of a society in which the rule of law is enforced and criminality is relentlessly faced down and uprooted.

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LETTER TO EDITOR August 27th, 2018 Presidential Candidature

LETTER TO EDITOR

August 27th, 2018

Presidential Candidature

 

All opposition parties have so far failed to field a unanimous presidential candidate and have thus left an open field for Mr. Arif Alvi to sail through the ensuing elections to be held on September 4, 2018.

 

However, what is still more surprising is that none of them, including Maulana Fazal ur Rehman, has blamed “Khalai Makhlooq” for the division amongst their ranks.  How have they forgotten altogether such an important perennial rhetoric of theirs to play upon as always heretofore?! Isn’t surprising?

 

Col. Riaz Jafri (Retd)
30 Westridge 1
Rawalpindi 46000
Pakistan
E.mail: jafri@rifiela.com

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Challenges faced by the Imran Khan in Pakistan By Asif Haroon Raja

Challenges faced by the Imran Khan Govt in Pakistan

Asif Haroon Raja

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Imran Khan (IK) has assumed charge of the government at a time when Pakistan is in a dire economic strait and the disenfranchised people socially traumatized. It is politically polarized, economically weak and is carrying a huge burden of foreign debt and circular debt. Foreign exchange reserves have dipped to about $10 billion while fiscal deficit and current account deficit have ballooned.

Pakistan is faced with a looming water crisis and has still not overcome the menace of terrorism. Regionalism has gained strength as can be seen from the emergence of Pashtun Tahaffuz Movement in FATA/Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP), simmering in Gilgit-Baltistan and in AJK, and foreign abetted terrorism in Baluchistan.

IK has promised a lot and is expected to show results in next 100 days. He is determined to bring back the $ 200 billion looted wealth from abroad, end culture of corruption and pomposity, introduce simplicity and austerity, carryout across the board accountability, restore merit, provide jobs to ten million people, and 50 lacs houses to the poor, provide clean drinking water, make the country green by planting trees, carryout electoral, bureaucratic, judicial, education, health and police reforms, build Diamer Bhasha dam, implement 20-point National Action Plan. He intends to convert PM House and Governor Houses into public places and has taken a lead by shifting to the 3-bed house of military secretary, has cut down servants from 520 to two and fleet of cars to two. On the occasion of oath taking ceremony, only tea and biscuits were served. 

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At the outset, he has made mistakes which are censured by his critics. In his bid to complete the number game in the Centre and in Punjab, he had to induct independents and members from PML-Q and MQM whom he had severely disparaged and vowed that he will never take them on board. In his 21-member cabinet, 18 are from other parties and only three from PTI. The most censured act is the selection of chief minister Punjab about which apart from PTI, all are of the view that it is not a wise choice. Handing over the portfolio of the defence minister to former CM KP Pervez Khattak is viewed as a poor choice. Placing of jailed three-time PM Nawaz Sharif and his daughter Maryam on exit control list, while ignoring absconder Gen Musharraf living in self-imposed exile and wanted by the trial court is also not well received.           

The country is faced with major challenges on the foreign policy front. Pakistan’s foreign policy is often visualized through the prism of the country’s unpredictable relations with Afghanistan, the eternal rivalry and perpetual tension on the Line of Control (LoC) with its much bigger neighbour India and the love-hate relationship with the United States. China, Iran, Saudi Arabia, and the rest of the Middle East also figure out notably in the foreign policy framework. The US, western world, Israel and Afghanistan are heavily tilted towards India and have formed a strategic nexus. China and Turkey are the only two countries upon which Pakistan can depend upon but both are faced with US sanctions. 

While IK did not explain his government foreign policy in his inaugural address to the nation on August 18, Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi’s news conference soon after taking charge of the office in Islamabad on August 20 quietened the critics. Besides passing on a message of peace to the governments and people of Afghanistan and India, Qureshi also tried to dispel the general impression that the security establishment is the real formulator of Pakistan’s foreign policy. He made it clear that the foreign policy will be made at the Foreign Office of Pakistan.

Strained relations with the USA

Relationship with the US is at the lowest ebb. Insecurity in Afghanistan has been one of the major reasons for the ups and downs in relations between the two countries. After spending billions of dollars and sacrificing the lives of more than 2,300 American men and women over the past 17 years, the US wants to terminate the war and exit with honour.

Miffed by the defiance of Pakistan, the US is prompting Financial Action Task Force (FATF) to blacklist Pakistan if it refuses to mend its ways. The FATF, the global financial watchdog, has placed Pakistan on the greylist at a time when the country needs an immediate bailout package of $12 billion. To this end, a meeting has already taken place a few days ago and the next meeting is scheduled for October. The US has already frozen aid to Pakistan for the country’s alleged failure to take serious steps in fighting terrorism and extremism.

Since Trump’s security speech on Afghanistan on August 22, 2017, the US has been distancing itself from Pakistan and is now at the verge of cutting off relations and imposing sanctions. After several punitive steps, the Trump administration has now instructed the IMF to give a loan to Pakistan only if it receives an assurance that the money will neither be used to repay the loans to China nor for the development of CPEC. It has made it clear that help will be rendered if IK becomes compliant to a degree of undercutting his domestic credibility and dipping Pakistan’s relations with China. CPEC has become a bigger threat than the nuclear program for the USA since it breaks the strategic encirclement and containment of China and also poses a threat to the US hegemony in Asia.

 

The Trump administration, in its latest attempt to put pressure on Pakistan, has started to close various training programs for Pakistani military officials. Trump’s decision to shut down military training programs that have kept the two countries’ security institutions engaged means that Washington’s influence will further reduce over the country, particularly when it comes to the question of engaging with the national security establishment in Pakistan.

The US stands to lose more by withdrawing the training than just the prospects of future relations with the Pakistan military. They have only two plausible access routes to Central Asia. One passes through Iran and the other via Pakistan. Having already severed relations with Iran, it makes no sense to push Pakistan into a corner at the same time as well. The US has all along been giving a raw deal to Pakistan. Drone attacks, raids on military posts, refusal to reimburse costs of logistics supplies, cessation of military aid, do more mantra etc. are the rewards doled out for the huge sacrifices rendered.

Presumably, Washington takes it for granted that Pakistan’s dependence on the US for spare parts and stores for her existing military equipment is such that it over-rides all other considerations. 

The US changed stance towards Pakistan and its heavy tilt towards India will certainly become a factor that will further drive away Pakistan’s national security apparatus when it comes to developing strategic ties with other states that are willing to fill the void being left by the US.

The possibility that Washington may resuscitate the military training program for Islamabad in the near future cannot be ruled out. Pakistan cannot afford to wait for any such development to take place. Pakistan is bound to feel alarmed and threatened enough to consider instituting suitable measures to protect her security that may not suit the US in the future. Pakistan has already signed a military training agreement with Russia and the first group of Pakistani military officers is expected to arrive in Russia soon. According to the agreement, the Pakistani military officials will receive training in Russia’s military institutes.

The decision is likely to further isolate Washington’s remaining pockets of influence in Pakistan. Pakistan’s national security establishment, which prefers to maintain a working relationship with the US, particularly in the area of security cooperation, is not going to appreciate a decision that directly targets its institutional professional development and outreach. It will only leave Washington more secluded when it comes to developing a direct connection with Pakistan’s security institutions.

Furthermore, an effort to segregate Pakistan militarily at a time when the US is trying to directly engage the Afghan Taliban doesn’t bode well for any effort to revive the Afghan peace process. Pakistan has big stakes in the Afghan peace process and an eventual settlement will have to incorporate Pakistan’s concerns. In that context, the ongoing targeting of the country’s security apparatus would simply create more distrust among both countries’ national security institutions, which are directly engaged in Afghanistan.

Pak Army’s resolute stance against Indian aggressive posturing and on Kashmir issue and its insistence to reduce Indian influence in Afghanistan irrespective of what the puppet Afghan regime in Kabul may want are not to the liking of Washington. To keep Pakistan under pressure, the US-Afghan-India troika keeps hurling unsubstantiated allegations of providing safe havens to Afghan Taliban and Haqqani network. Imran is also accused of having a soft corner towards the Taliban.

 

The military leadership has concluded that the US is not a reliable bilateral and regional partner. GHQ has decided to abstain from doing more at the cost of harming Pakistan’s national interests. This change in posture has angered the US. The US policymakers are feeling upset that Imran Khan will “lubricate the military agenda”, since he is viewed as a pawn of the military, likely to pursue GHQ dictated national security policy.

 

India’s persistent animosity

The archrival India which has still not reconciled with the existence of Pakistan even after breaking it into two has doubled efforts to strategically encircle and further isolate Pakistan on the international level in her bid to create conducive conditions for another adventure to further splinter Pakistan.  

India blamed Pakistan for all the terrorist attacks in India and in IOK and for keeping the LoC hot. Ignoring the hard reality that IOK is in illegal occupation of India since October 1947, and that unresolved Kashmir issue is the chief bone of contention which led to three major wars and several conflicts between the two arch-rivals, India has created a false narrative that Pak Army stands in the way of good relations with India.

 

This fake narrative is far from the truth. The reality is that India is a hopelessly diverse and divided country. It will not be wrong to say that it is an ethnic museum and Indian union is farcical and artificial as is evident from dozens of separatist movements and insurgencies in all parts of India. India needs an external enemy to keep the attention of her people away from the internal woes. Pakistan fits the bill perfectly for this purpose. In its absence, India will fall apart sooner than later. They know it, which makes close relations between the two countries wishful thinking at best.

 

Yet another notion in play is that if Pakistan accepts LoC as the permanent border and resolves the Kashmir dispute, it will end the age-old antagonism and usher in an era of peace and friendship. This idea died its death in the aftermath of 9/11 when India started to meddle in FATA, Baluchistan and Karachi and threatened to break Pakistan into four pieces and also resorted to water terrorism to make Pakistan’s arid lands barren. India has deployed over seven lacs troops in IOK to suppress the freedom movement and to deny the Kashmiris their right of self-determination in accordance with the UN Resolutions.    

 

Afghanistan’s unwanted resentment

Afghanistan under a string-puppet regime continues to act as a base of operation for anti-Pakistan agencies involved in cross-border terrorism to destabilize Pakistan. Relations with Afghanistan are once again returning to the usual blame-game phase following the Taliban’s unsuccessful attempt to besiege Ghazni City, capital of Ghazni province, located 120 kilometres south of Kabul. Visiting the city of Ghazni days after the Taliban attack was repulsed by the Afghan security forces, President Ashraf Ghani alleged that the attackers came from Pakistan and many of those injured in fighting are now being treated in hospitals across the border. Pakistan refuted the charges by saying that many Afghans visit Pakistani hospitals for treatment on daily basis. It is still ready to play its role in establishing peace in Afghanistan.

The Taliban that are on the offensive and have gained influence over 65% of Afghan territory and are now attacking cities, refuse to have parleys with the unity govt. They have held direct talks with the USA at Doha and will soon be holding a second round of talks. Their stance of withdrawal of occupying troops remains unchanged. 

Since victory against the Taliban is now almost out of the question, and for all practical purposes the US has lost the war, the need for a negotiated settlement is felt more than ever before. Pakistan’s role in bringing the Taliban to the negotiating table is considered pivotal both by Washington and Kabul.

Iran’s unfounded reservations

Iran has its own reservations and off and on heats up the southern border. It has serious objections over the appointment of Gen Raheel Sharif as the head of 41-Muslim States military alliance. It is more close to India than to Pakistan and is in a way helping India in her encirclement plan by letting India develop Chahbahar seaport and connecting it with road/rail network in Afghanistan to provide trade routes to Central Asia and to undermine Gwadar Port.

Mellowed relations with the GCC States

Pakistan’s relations with the Saudi led the GCC States are not as warm as they used to. Coolness occurred when Pakistan crassly refused to come to the rescue of Saudi Arabia faced with Yemen crisis in 2016. Since then, Saudi Arabia and UAE have veered towards India. However, a change is seen in their attitude after the takeover by the new regime in Islamabad. Riyadh has promised to extend financial assistance and oil on deferred payment.   

Pak-China ever-growing relations

China is the only country which has never let down Pakistan and irrespective of changing leadership, their relations have progressed leaps and bounds. CPEC is a glue which has bonded the two together.

 

Pakistan’s nuclear program an eyesore

 

With regard to Pakistan’s nuclear status, it is unacceptable to both, the US and India as well as to Israel. They feel that the Pakistan Army stands in the way of her nuclear disarmament. Realistically, this US objective is not going to change and will always remain at the base of her policy towards Pakistan. All the allegations related to terrorism, Afghanistan, etc. are mere excuses and ruses to keep Pakistan under pressure.

 

It will be juvenile to think that all will be well if Pakistan were to give up her nuclear weapons. A capability once acquired can always be recreated. The next step will be to reduce her to a state that makes this impossible. In a sense, Pakistan is riding a tiger and she cannot afford to dismount. 

Reasons behind strain in Pakistan-US relations

Following are the main reasons that resulted in distancing both the countries from each other and contributed towards growing Pak-Russia relations:

  • Washington has now since long been choking the military assistance and funding to Pakistan alleging Pakistan to be harbouring terrorists and supporting non-state actors in Afghanistan.
  • As if the denial of financial aid and military hardware was not enough, US has also put a block to the International Exchange Program of Military Training with Pakistan.
  • Under the new South Asian policy, the Trump administration has given India a larger role believing it to be a more dependable and trustworthy partner to resolve the Afghan quandary, instead of Pakistan, thus further alienating Pakistan, which has rendered thousands of sacrifices for the cause.
  • The US called a special FATF session to get Pak placed in the grey list and played the main role in diverting Saudi support against Pakistan.
  • The US has been criticizing CPEC and has also gone as far as to caution IMF and Pakistan as to not allow using IMF money to pay back Chinese loans. Pakistan has still not opted for the package.
  • Though the US policymakers are mindful of the implications of isolating Pakistan and realize that a likely isolated Pakistan will fall into the lap of Russia, yet the US is continuing with its policy of pressurizing Pakistan.
  • Cessation of the military training program has caused a serious blow to the GHQ-Pentagon’s direct line of contact for the military-to-military relationship.

Pakistan-Russia improved relations

 

Security cooperation between Islamabad and Moscow has expanded over the last few years. Among other things, Washington’s heavy-handed approach toward Pakistan has been considered one of the reasons driving it away from the US.

Islamabad had sufficiently anticipated the upcoming harsh decisions by the Trump administration after the New Year Tweet alleging Pakistan of cheating, deceiving and backstabbing. As such, Pakistan started cultivating relations with Moscow which were already on an upward trend after the sale of Russian MI 35 helicopters to Pakistan in 2015/16.

Following are the reasons for ongoing warmth in Pak-Russia relations:

(1) Both the countries have sufficiently moved past cold war and Soviet- Afghanistan war legacy. Credit should be given to Pakistan’s aggressive military diplomacy with Russia over the past 3 – 4 years.

(2) Gen Qamar Bajwa’s visit to Russia was extraordinary in further fomenting the Pak-Russia relations during which Russia acknowledged Pakistan’s contribution in War on Terror and termed Pakistan as a geo-strategically important country. During the early half of this year, Pakistan’s Foreign Minister and National Security Advisor had already conducted successful visits to Russia.

(3) During his visit to Moscow, the COAS also discussed the possibility of buying air defence systems, the T-90 tanks and Russian engines for JF-17 fighters. The discussion has also been started to sign the Sukhoi-35 deal.

(4) Pakistan and Russia have now been regularly holding military exercises. The military exercise, Druzhba (Friendship-2016 and 2017), a two-week long exercise had been held twice at a time when Indo-Pak tensions were particularly high. The military drill not only strengthened Pakistan-Russia military ties but also provided a conducive environment for trust building.

(5) After the stoppage of military training exchange program with the US, Islamabad signed a similar agreement with Moscow allowing Pakistan military officials to join training in Russian institutions on a reciprocal basis.
(6) The supply of military hardware and equipment with Russia is also expected to increase in coming years.

(7) The chief of Russia’s external intelligence agency visited Pakistan to participate in a four-nation meeting, with Chinese and Iranian spymasters in attendance. The rare meeting focused on the buildup of ISIS (Khurasan) in turmoil-hit Afghanistan, which might jeopardize key interests of both countries in the region. Induction of Blackwater in Afghanistan by the USA to take over security duties will add to the worries of regional countries. 

(8) The volume of bilateral trade between the two countries has increased by 82 per cent in the first five months of 2018 and stood at $450 million.

(9) Moscow is also working to help Pakistan build a 1,100-kilometer gas pipeline linking Karachi to Lahore.

(10) There is a strong possibility of nuclear cooperation for peaceful purposes.

(11). Moscow had also sent its envoy in Islamabad to meet PM-elect IK. The Russian ambassador urged him to fast-track the growing relations between the two countries while IK also expressed interest in economic cooperation and asked for Russian drilling companies to explore oil and gas in Pakistan.

(12). Being blackmailed and alienated by the US, Pakistan is also seeking Russian support for its fragile economy. The country needs IMF bailout package worth more than $ 5 billion to repay due instalments of foreign loans, however, Pakistan is trying to avoid IMF bailout.

Imran’s dilemma

Alarm bells have started to ring in the USA after IK’s election and he has spelt out his policies to convert Pakistan into an Islamic welfare state on the model of Madina and make it self-reliant. Knowing that he is a go-getter and will brook no external dictation, the US will redouble efforts to apply diplomatic and economic pressures on Pakistan as in the case of Turkey and Iran. International media will also train their guns on Imran Khan to discredit him.     

 

His dilemma is that if he disregards the US unsubstantiated allegations and terms them as a pack of lies, and at the same time establishes himself as a leader after dismantling all the internal obstacles in the way of building Naya Pakistan, the US will remain wary of him that as a national leader he will take no exterior dictation either.

 

Placing own national interest over the US strategic interests comes at a price. Turkey is faced with this reality. Nevertheless, IK will need to make it clear to all and sundry that no matter what the price, he will face down all who presume to limit his vision for Pakistan.  

 

The US Secretary of State is visiting Pakistan on September 5 to meet the newly elected PM IK. Foreign Minister Qureshi has made it clear that after listening to the concerns of the visitor, Pakistan security concerns will also be put forward and an effort made to carve out a relationship based on mutual respect and reciprocity.

 

It will be seen how dexterously IK and Qureshi will play their cards to bridge the trust deficit with USA, India and Afghanistan, reinvigorate relations with Iran and Arab States, further cement relations with China, build mutually sustaining relations with Russia, forge deeper relation with ASEAN, Central Asia, Africa and Europe, explore new markets to enhance exports, and above all, improve the image of Pakistan and restore the pride and honor of Pakistanis.  

 

The new Finance Minister Asad Umar will be under close scrutiny and judged how he will tackle the debt problem and energize the sinking economy. Speedy development of CPEC will be crucial for the revival of the economy.

 

Way Forward 

Pakistan should continue with its steady approach in stimulating its relations with Russia as it is in need of a heavyweight like Russia apart from China at the global level to counter challenges posed by the US.

As highlighted by PM IK and FM Qureshi, Pakistan should follow an engagement policy with the US to avoid further damage to the bilateral relations and ensure a balanced and mutually beneficial relationship.

The US has sufficiently denied Pakistan of the military hardware agreements, so it must try to diversify its suppliers of military needs and Russia can be a major contributor.

Pakistan must commit as well as ensure benefits of CPEC to Russia and Central Asia to gain from this major economic initiative.

Pakistan should continue to work with all regional and global partners to seek a long-lasting and peaceful resolution to Afghanistan conflict instead of being pressurized on the issue.

The US is trying to use economic tool against Pakistan like it is doing against China and Turkey to further its political goals. The world needs to see such non- constructive moves by the superpower, which are detrimental to global peace.

Pakistan-Russia are important regional partners desiring peace in Afghanistan through political moves instead of using force.

Pakistan offers the benefits of CPEC to all the regional countries including Russia and it invites open partnerships in this landmark economic initiative.

Military diplomacy guided by the landmark visit by COAS to Russia has opened new avenues of cooperation between Pakistan and Russia from which both the countries have only to gain.

Convergence of interests of Pakistan and Russia in the military domain will help both the countries to work for peace in the region. The ultimate aim of Pakistan leadership is to have a peaceful and prosperous South Asia.

Afghanistan peace is a joint desire of all regional countries and Pakistan-Russia partnership in Afghanistan is likely to bring a lasting end to the Afghan conflict.

Stronger Pak-Russia ties are the need of the hour for a peaceful South Asia.

 

The writer is a retired Brig, a war veteran, defence and security analyst, columnist, author of five books, Vice Chairman Thinkers Forum Pakistan, Director Measac Research Centre, Member Council PESS and TJP. asifharoonraja@gmail.com 

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Afghanistan: The War That Shames America By Eric Margolis

Afghanistan: The War That Shames America

By Eric Margolis

August 20, 2018

 After 17 bloody years, the longest war in US history continues without relent or purpose in Afghanistan.

There, a valiant, fiercely-independent people, the Pashtun (Pathan) mountain tribes, have battled the full might of the US Empire to a stalemate that has so far cost American taxpayers $4 trillion, and 2,371 dead and 20,320 wounded soldiers. No one knows how many Afghans have died. The number is kept secret.

Pashtun tribesmen in the Taliban alliance and their allies are fighting to oust all foreign troops from Afghanistan and evict the western-imposed and backed puppet regime in Kabul that pretends to be the nation’s legitimate government. Withdraw foreign troops and the Kabul regime would last for only days.

The whole thing smells of the Vietnam War. Lessons so painfully learned by America in that conflict have been completely forgotten and the same mistakes repeated. The lies and happy talk from politicians, generals and media continue apace.

This week, Taliban forces occupied the important strategic city of Ghazni on the road from Peshawar to Kabul. It took three days and massive air attacks by US B-1 heavy bombers, Apache helicopter gunships, A-10 ground attack aircraft, and massed warplanes from US bases in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Qatar and the 5th US Fleet to finally drive back the Taliban assault. Taliban also overran key military targets in Kabul and the countryside, killing hundreds of government troops in a sort of Afghan Tet offensive.

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Afghan regime police and army units put up feeble resistance or ran away. Parts of Ghazni were left in ruins. It was a huge embarrassment to the US imperial generals and their Afghan satraps who had claimed ‘the corner in Afghanistan has finally been turned.’

Efforts by the Trump administration to bomb the Taliban into submission have clearly failed. US commanders fear using American ground troops in battle lest they suffer serious casualties. Meanwhile, the US is running low on bombs.

Roads are now so dangerous for the occupiers that most movement must be by air. Taliban is estimated to permanently control almost 50% of Afghanistan. That number would rise to 100% were it not for omnipresent US air power. Taliban rules the night.

Taliban are not and never were ‘terrorists’ as Washington’s war propaganda falsely claimed. I was there at the creation of the movement – a group of Afghan religious students armed by Pakistan whose goal was to stop post-civil war banditry, the mass rape of women, and to fight the Afghan Communists. When the Taliban gained power, it eliminated 95% of the rampant Afghanistan opium-heroin trade. After the US invaded, allied to the old Afghan Communists and northern Tajik tribes, opium-heroin production soared to record levels. Today, US-occupied Afghanistan is the world’s largest producer of opium, morphine and heroin.

US occupation authorities claim drug production is run by the Taliban. This is another big lie. The Afghan warlords who support the regime of President Ashraf Ghani entirely control the production and export of drugs. The army and secret police get a big cut. How else would trucks packed with drugs get across the border into Pakistan and Central Asia?

The United States has inadvertently become one of the world’s leading drug dealers. This is one of the most shameful legacies of the Afghan War. But just one. Watching the world’s greatest powerbomb and ravage little Afghanistan, a nation so poor that some of its people can’t afford sandals, is a huge dishonour for Americans.

Even so, the Pashtun defeated the invading armies of Alexander the Great, Genghis Khan, Tamerlane, the Mogul Emperors and the mighty British Raj. The US looks to be next in the Graveyard of Empires.

Nobody in Washington can enunciate a good reason for continuing the colonial war in Afghanistan. One hears talk of minerals, women’s rights and democracy as a pretext for keeping US forces in Afghanistan. All nonsense. A possible real reason is to deny influence over Afghanistan, though the Chinese are too smart to grab this poisoned cup. They have more than enough with their rebellious Uighur Muslims.

Interestingly, the so-called ‘terrorist training camps’ supposedly found in Afghanistan in 2001 were actually guerilla training camps run by Pakistani intelligence to train Kashmiri rebels and CIA-run camps for exiled Uighur fighters from China.

The canard that the US had to invade Afghanistan to get at Osama bin Laden, alleged author of the 9/11 attacks, is untrue. The attacks were made by Saudis and mounted from Hamburg and Madrid, not Afghanistan. I’m not even sure bin Laden was behind the attacks.

My late friend and journalist Arnaud de Borchgrave shared my doubts and insisted that the Taliban leader Mullah Omar offered to turn bin Laden over to a court in a Muslim nation to prove his guilt or innocence.

President George Bush, caught sleeping on guard duty and humiliated, had to find an easy target for revenge – and that was Afghanistan.

Eric S. Margolis is an award-winning, internationally syndicated columnist. His articles have appeared in the New York Times, the International Herald Tribune the Los Angeles Times, Times of London, the Gulf Times, the Khaleej Times, Nation – Pakistan, Hurriyet, – Turkey, Sun-Times Malaysia and other news sites in Asia. ericmargolis.com

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Mountbatten, Sikhs and Massacres of Muslims at Partition – Commodore Tariq Majeed PN (Retd)

Awareness Brief-AB-04-18-Tuesday, 14 August 2018, Zilhaj 2, 1439

If you desire to refresh the wounds of the heart,

Recall now and then this story of the days past

Mountbatten, Sikhs and Massacres of Muslims at Partition

Commodore Tariq Majeed PN (Retd)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

   Partition of the Subcontinent in August 1947 on withdrawal of British colonial power and emergence of Pakistan and Hindu India as independent states was a most momentous event of the 20th century. It was accompanied by immense social turmoil, uprooting of millions of people and horrific bloodshed—in which Muslims were the main victims.

         It is often said that enormous sacrifices were made in attaining Pakistan. This paper gives a glimpse of these sacrifices.

Many books were written about the Partition, mostly by western writers and Indians. Very few of these books can be considered as depicting the facts correctly. Yet, it is rare to find a book which does not hide those facts which go against the thesis of the book’s author. Besides, a subject that these books gloss over or evade altogether is the planned bloodshed of Indian Muslim population by Sikhs and Governor General Mountbatten’s role in it.

In the literature on the Partition, an outstanding book is Disastrous Twilight—A Personal Record of the Partition of India by Major-General Shahid Hamid, published in 1986 by Leo Cooper. The author was Private Secretary, 1946-47, to Field Marshal Claude Auchinleck who was the last Commander-in-Chief in British India from 20 October 1943 to 26 September 1947. Shahid Hamid saw the unfolding of critical events from close quarters as the C-in-C’s office was privy to all matters, military, political or administrative. He kept a record of all important happenings, which is valuable material for history on all vital aspects of the Partition. What is more valuable is the record of striking revelations on sensitive issues. A top issue in this regard is Mountbatten’s role in the carnage of Muslims by Sikhs. His actions that provoked this carnage included deceitfully making changes in the Boundary Commission’s Award and intentionally delaying the announcement of the Award.

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Master Tara Singh -Promotor of Muslims Refugees migrating to Pakistan

 

 

 

 

 

The facts recorded in Shahid Hamid’s book are reproduced here. Headings have been added for quick grasp of contents. All dates pertain to the year 1947.

Author’s Introduction—in his own words. I had never met Field Marshal Sir Claude Auchinleck before I was selected to be his first Indian Private Secretary. Why I was selected for the post I do not know… I was fortunate to witness many historic events, and also to meet the men who made them possible. This gave me a unique insight into the character of the leaders and their approach to the national problems that were facing them. I was able to record their opinions, expressed both privately and in the open… I saw small men entrusted with great jobs, playing with the destiny of millions. This book has been written incorporating the diary I kept diligently in those days. It is not just a record of events but includes my reactions to what I saw, what I heard and what came across my desk.                                                [p. vii]

            I have come to the conclusion that someday I may publish my diaries as a book, for in it there will be certain facts brought to the light of which few people have knowledge.                                                                                                [p. 240]

The Sikhs’ Reaction to the Partition Plan. 4 June: When Mountbatten announced his (June 3) Plan, the Sikhs promptly perfected their plan for revenge. Led by their warrior class and assisted by their leaders, they have organized themselves into ‘Jathas’ (gangs). They have adopted force and terror tactics. They are now preparing their followers physically and psychologically for the brutalities to be inflicted on the Muslims. The Congress High Command is encouraging them and calls them the ‘sword arm of the Congress’.

Mountbatten at no stage encouraged the Sikhs to come to a settlement with the Muslim League which would have partially avoided the massacre. In fact, he encouraged them to stay with the Congress. When the Sikhs became violent he arrested none.                                                                                      [p.180,181]

Radcliffe’s Appointment. 28 June 1947: It had been decided to ask Sir Cyril Radcliffe to be the head of the Punjab and Bengal Boundary Commissions. I think that it is a great mistake as he can be influenced by Mountbatten. It would have been far better to have selected a man from a country outside the Commonwealth. [p.194]                                                                                           

Boundary Commission. 22 July: The Boundary Commission has been set up and has started its deliberations.                                                                         [p.208]  

24 July: The Punjab Boundary Force has been positioned. It is too small a force to be effective. The Sikhs have decided to ignore it and put their plan of vengeance into operation. There have been riots in Dehra Dun, Meerut, Pilibhit, Alwar and Bharatpur. Many Muslims are being massacred.                                    [p.209, 210]

Efforts to Influence the Boundary Commission. 21 July 1947: Baldev Singh* has asked Major Short** to fly out to India and use his influence to get the Boundary Line drawn as much to the West as possible.                                                      [p. 208]

* A top Sikh leader; Mountbatten knew Baldev Singh was the treasurer of a fund that

  the Sikhs were collecting for buying arms.                                                      [p.163]                                                     

**Major Short, an old officer of XI Sikh Regiment and a great Sikh enthusiast; arrived on 28 July, stayed with Baldev, attached to Mountbatten’s staff and was their unofficial adviser on Sikh affairs. [p.211]. Short had been introduced to Mountbatten by Cripps as the authority on Sikh affairs.                                                    [p.180]

Hindus also for Killing Muslims. 4 August: Evan Jenkins, the Governor of Punjab, says that when the Hindus mention that ruthless action must be taken to restore law and order they mean that every Muslim should be killed.                               [p.219]

Boundary Award Delayed. 9 August 1947: Everyone is talking about the impending Boundary Award. On many occasions, Radcliffe, supported by his secretary, Beaumont, had said that the Muslim Majority Tehsils of Ferozpore which include the Canal Headworks, Zehra and Moga, will form part of Pakistan. It is said that yesterday (8 August) Radcliffe had finalised the Award. He has now submitted it to Mountbatten, who is trying to keep it a closely guarded secret. Many of its salient points have already leaked out through the staff of the Boundary Commission and through his own staff.

            A copy of the Award, unwittingly, and unknown to Mountbatten, has been sent by George Abell* to the Secretary of the Governor of Punjab and is known to many. It is common talk that Mountbatten is busy changing it – giving India a corridor to Kashmir through Gurdaspur as well as the Ferozpore Headworks. The Muslims are very jittery. Radcliffe originally said that he would require one to two years to establish the Boundary Line but Mountbatten has over-ruled him. He wants him to base it on the ‘rule of thumb’. There is continuous consultation between the  Congress, the Sikhs, the Princes and Mountbatten. Something is cooking. Nobody knows the date of the announcement of the Award. It is up to Mountbatten.

            Governor of Punjab has been asked by Mountbatten for advice as to the date of the announcement. It is also said that the Viceroy will not be issuing the Award in the form of a communiqué from the Viceroy’s House. It will be published as a Gazette Extraordinary under the instructions of the Boundary Commission. Mountbatten wants to give the impression to the world that he had nothing to do with it.      [p.222]

*George Abell entered the ICS in 1928; Private Secretary to the Viceroy 1945-47.

Rioting by Sikhs. 9 August 1947: Rioting by Sikhs has started. This is in accordance with their plan.                                                                           [p.223]

C-in-C Pakistan Army—on the Delay in the Award. 11 August: General Frank Messervy is of the opinion that the postponement of the Boundary Commission Award is causing uncertainty and immense bloodshed.                                  [p.224]

Shocking Report of the Boundary Force. 11 August: A report has been received from the Punjab Boundary Force which says that:

■ The refugee problem, mainly from Eastern Punjab to Western Punjab is becoming increasingly difficult.

■ The disturbances are producing an average of two hundred to five hundred killings a day. Raids are organized and usually carried out by well-armed gangs of Sikhs.

■ Derailment of trains is a common occurrence. The Maharajah of Faridkot himself is known to be organizing the operations.

■ On arrival in Amritsar to take over their duties, the non-Muslim Police disarmed the Muslim members of the Police Force.                                                           [p.224]

Messervy’s Alarming Report. 11 August: General Messervy has also reported that the situation in Punjab is really bad. The Sikhs are operating large numbers of gangs and timely information about their movement is impossible. The situation in Amritsar is fast deteriorating as a result of the disarming of the Muslim Police by the Hindu Superintendent of Police.                                                                             [p.224]

The Sikhs’ Ghastly Behaviour. 13 August: In a conference in Lahore, Jenkins, the Governor, and Pete Rees, Commander of the Boundary Force, gave their views on the prevailing situation. They painted a very gloomy picture. They said that the Sikhs were behaving with ‘pre-medieval ferocity’, and felt the worst had still to come.

            The C-in-C made a note. ‘The delay in announcing the Award of the Boundary Commission is having a most disturbing and harmful effect.’                          [p.225]

Late Announcement of Award led to the Storm of Killings.  16 August: There was a meeting of the Joint Defence Council under the chairmanship of Mountbatten. It was attended by Nehru, Vallabhai Patel, Baldev Singh and Liaquat Ali Khan. Auchinleck gave his views on what he had seen in the last few days and on the discussion he had with Governor Jenkins and Major-General Thomas Rees. He emphasized that the delay in announcing the Award of the Boundary Commission had resulted in the wildest rumours, even to the extent, for example, that Lahore will be part of India. This has given fresh impetus to the killings by the Sikhs. The Award should have been announced on 9 August, as Jenkins had suggested earlier.

Patel said rioting at Rawalpindi started a chain reaction. He admitted that Tara Singh had made indiscreet and inflammable speeches, which had added fuel to the fire. Liaquat openly said that the whole thing had been carefully engineered by the Sikhs under the guidance of Baldev. Nehru sat depressed and in a daze. He asked whether there was a military escort on every train. If so, why did the massacres take place? He was told that the gangs got on to the train with their arms concealed. Once on, they then attacked suddenly.

Mountbatten tried to humour everyone and admitted that he hoped he had not made too big a mistake by not announcing the Award on 9 August. He said that the storm was not unexpected, but its extent could not have been anticipated. He said he now realized that if he had rounded up the Sikh trouble-makers, including Tara Singh, he would not have had to face this day.                                              [p.234]

Mountbatten’s Underhand Alterations. 16 August: The Award has been shown to the leaders. It is a black day for Pakistan. All the rumours were true about Mountbatten amending the findings, and that he has destroyed the proof. What he did not realize was that, by mistake, a copy was sent to the Secretary of the Governor of Punjab which Jenkins gave to his successor, Francis Mudie, who handed it over to Liaquat. This has horrified Mountbatten.

The amendments Mountbatten made were common knowledge. The Canal Headworks at Ferozepore have been awarded to India on the instigation of his great friend, the Maharajah of Bikaner who, on 11 August, sent his Prime Minister, Sirdar Pannikar, and his Chief Engineer, Kanwar Sain, to see him. It has convinced the Muslims that Mountbatten altered the Award. Finally, Nehru was instrumental in getting the Award altered. A corridor has been provided to Kashmir.               [p.235]

The Treacherous Alterations in the Boundary Award. The Pakistan Times, 18 August 1947, reported, ‘In Punjab, the notional division had been unfair but the final Award has gone much further and hacked off some of our richest tracts of land. The blow has been the hardest in Gurdaspur where the two Muslim Tehsils of Gurdaspur and Batala with a Muslim majority have been thrown into Hindustan along with the Pathankot Tehsil, taking away from Pakistan the rich Muslim industrial area of Batala. A part of Lahore has been broken off. Radcliffe has gone to the trouble of drawing a village to village boundary but the Ajnala Tehsil of Amritsar District with a 60 per cent Muslim majority and contiguous to the District of Lahore has been completely forgotten. The Tehsils of Zehra and Ferozepore with a clear Muslim majority have been dismissed with talk of “disruption of communication”.’       [p.236]

Mountbatten Lied about the Alterations. 16 August: Mountbatten says that he received the Award on 13 August and signed it on the 15th. Everyone knows this is not correct. The late announcement has caused havoc because of the uncertainty of which areas would finally belong where.  Mountbatten wanted the bloodbath to happen when the two Governments had been established so that the responsibility would not be his.                                                                                         [p.235]

Award Published. 17 August: The Boundary Award was published today.    [p.236]

Sikhs on the Rampage. 17 August: A meeting of the Joint Defence Council has been held in Ambala. Rees told the meeting that without the Punjab Boundary Force the slaughter would have been far greater. The Sikhs are burning the country from Lahore to Julundhur and turning it into a battlefield.

            Percy Howard wrote in The Sunday Express, ‘It was really the movement of the Sikh community out of the new Pakistan which sparked off the great killings in Punjab and they acted like savages.’                                                       [p.236]

 

Sikhs’ Private Army. 19 August: Situation in Punjab, especially Amritsar, is bad. Sikh personnel of the (disbanded) Indian National Army (of Subhas Chandra Bose) have formed a Private army for the slaughter of the Muslims. They want to ensure the elimination of Muslims from the Sikh areas of Punjab. The Indian Government is incapable of controlling the Sikhs. Trains to Pakistan are being looted each day and their occupants slaughtered.                                                   [p.237]

 

Appalling Situation in Delhi. 5 September: Situation in Delhi is extremely critical. Muslims are being hunted and butchered in the streets, and the bodies lie rotting. Arson and looting are the order of the day.                                                   [p.246]

 

Bloodshed was Pre-Planned. 8 September: Sikhs in Simla have been slaughtering the Muslims according to a pre-arranged plan. The civil administration in east Punjab is practically non-existent. There too the Muslims are being slaughtered according to a concerted plan.                                                                                        [p.246]

 

The ban on ‘Kirpans’ Withdrawn. 13 September: (From a letter to Mountbatten by Auchinleck). “I feel I must tell you of my fears about the present situation. I see in today’s newspaper that the ban placed on ‘Kirpans’ has been virtually withdrawn. The general public, here and all over India, can place one interpretation only on this action, which is that the Government does not really mean to grasp this problem of asserting its authority over the forces of disorder. The inference is that it is afraid to deal with the Sikhs as they should be dealt with.”                                          [p.249]

 

Governor Jenkins’ Official Records were Burnt. Once when I met Jenkins and pressed him to write his memoirs, he replied that ‘It is not in the interest of the Commonwealth.’ It is known that at the time of his departure from India he was warned by Mountbatten not to speak out. He was ordered to burn all his official papers, which included many connected with the Boundary affair, but still, a few papers including the original sketch map demarcating the boundaries between the two Dominions before it was altered by Mountbatten fell into the hands of Francis Mudie, the Governor, who gave them to Liaquat.                                           [p.300]

 

Clear-Cut Conclusions. Among the several conclusions from the given facts, two must be highlighted. Mountbatten knew the consequences of delaying the Boundary Award, that when announced it will absolutely shock and stun the Muslims in the Muslim-majority Areas, which by the rules of the Boundary Award were to be part of Pakistan, but which he had given to India. The Muslims will be seized with panic and fright and will be powerless against the Sikhs’ onslaught. This is what happened.

Secondly, the plans of the intended massacres that had been made in advance were known to Baldev Singh and Major Short, Mountbatten’s adviser on Sikh affairs. And Nehru and Mountbatten were aware of the coming bloodshed by the Sikhs but did not try to prevent it.

 

The writer is an analyst of national and global issues and is dedicated to exposing the issues harmful to Pakistan’s security and sovereignty.     

 

 

Tariq Majeed

Cell: 0301-438-6267

Email: dilbedar@Yahoo.com

 

 

 

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