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Archive for category AFGHANISTAN

US QUAGMIRE IN AFGHANISTAN: The US  is Reviving Talks with the Afghan Taliban without Pre-conditions By Sajjad Shaukat

The US  is Reviving Talks with the Afghan Taliban without Pre-conditions

By

Sajjad Shaukat

When first time the US decided talks with the Afghan Taliban in 2012, the same was conditional, as America had demanded that before any deal, violence against Afghan people must stop and the Taliban must cut ties to Al Qaeda and other terrorist groups. She seeks to distinguish between Al-Qaeda-related fighters and Afghan insurgents—good and bad Taliban.

 

Afterwards, with the backing of the US, an office of the Taliban was opened in Qatar. After the Tokyo conference on Afghanistan, held in earlier July 2012, efforts to convince the Taliban for talks with the Kabul government had been expedited and Pakistan was requested to play an important task. In this regard, during the tripartite meeting in Kabul on July 19, 2012, the then British Prime Minister David Cameron and the former Afghan President Hamid Karzai met Pakistan’s former Prime Minister Raja Pervez Ashraf and reiterated Islamabad’s assistance for durable peace and stability in Afghanistan. They fully backed Pakistan to help arrange meetings between Afghan officials and Taliban representatives.

 

 

 

 

There were also reports that the US and the national security adviser to the Afghan President Karzai contacted the Taliban and had a secret dialogue with them. However, in a bid to win Taliban’s support for reconciliation, President Karzai had called upon their leader Mullah Omer to take part in the elections. On the other side, the Taliban were willing to resume talks with America but had refused dialogue with Karzai whom they consider colonial puppet.

 

Earlier, the Qatar-based talks with America were suspended because the ex-US President Barack Obama did not release five Taliban detainees to participate in peace negotiations as a pre-condition by the Taliban.

 

However, America along with other Western countries was fully supporting Karzai-led regime to commence peace deal with the Afghan Taliban with the help of Pakistan. While on the other side, top officials of America, Afghanistan and India, including their media continued blame game against Pakistan by accusing its security agencies of cross-border terrorism in Afghanistan—and support to the Taliban. They set aside the fact that US-led NATO forces had failed in coping with the resistance of the Afghan Taliban who is fighting a war of liberation against the occupying forces. In fact, America and other NATO countries wanted to make Pakistan a scapegoat of their defeat in Afghanistan.

 

 

 

 

 

In fact, when any terror attack occurs in Afghanistan, America, India and puppet rulers of Afghanistan shift the blame game towards Pakistan. The US has also accused Iran and Russia of assisting the Taliban in Afghanistan. Particularly, the main purpose of Washington was not only to pacify their people and justify the unending war in Afghanistan but also to fulfil the secret strategic designs against Russia, China, Pakistan and Iran.

 

Notably, on May 31, 2017, a massive truck bombing of the Afghan capital’s diplomatic section killed more than 150 people and injured hundreds of others, including foreigners. Taliban denied responsibility for the terror attack. But, Afghanistan’s intelligence service accused the Haqqani network by saying that a Taliban-affiliated group in Pakistan, carried out the attack. Addressing the conference-the “Kabul Process on Peace and Security Cooperation”, held in Kabul on June 6, 2017, which was attended by representatives from 26 countries and international organizations, Afghan President Ashraf Ghani criticized Pakistan for a lack of cooperation in promoting Afghan peace and alleged that Taliban insurgents are using sanctuaries on Pakistani soil to wage the insurgency in Afghanistan.

 

In the same speech, President Ghani offered peace talks to the Afghan Taliban by reiterating his preconditions such as recognition of the Afghan constitution, continuity of the reforms of educating and advancing the rights of women, and renunciation of violence and linkages with terrorist groups.

 

A Taliban spokesman rejected Ghani’s offer of a peace dialogue by stating that it is another attempt to endorse and prolong the foreign occupation of Afghanistan.

 

In the recent past, when the US-led NATO forces failed in coping with the stiff resistance of the Afghan Taliban in wake of the continued attack on their installations and Afghan forces, they have decided to revive peace talks with the Taliban without pre-conditions.

 

At present, the Afghan situation is witnessing new trend as all sides favour dialogue option and agree that there is no military solution. Pakistan has long been insisting on dialogue as only viable option to end Afghan quagmire.

 

In this respect, the US State Department has recently appointed experienced statesman Ambassador Khalilzad as an adviser for Afghanistan. During the recent visit of Pakistan’s Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi to America, Zalmay Khalilzad has also held a meeting with him. Both the leaders expressed positivity about a dialogue based Afghan peace process.

 

Pakistan has assured the US of its full support for peace talks with the Afghan Taliban, as this was in line with the policy of the government and in the best interest of Islamabad. Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi was addressing a news conference after having talks with the US delegation which was led by the US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

 

In this connection, the State Department spokesperson Heather Nauert said on October 3, this year: “US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo pressed Afghanistan’s Taliban to come to the table to end the long-running war as he called on Pakistan to play a supportive role. Pompeo met in Washington with the foreign minister, Shah Mehmood Qureshi, in the latest US outreach to the government of Prime Minister Imran Khan, a longtime advocate of a negotiated settlement with insurgents. Pompeo appreciated Pakistan’s support for political reconciliation in Afghanistan and for peace in the neighbourhood…The top US diplomat, who met PM Imran last month in Islamabad, “emphasised the important role Pakistan could play in bringing about a negotiated settlement in Afghanistan Pompeo “agreed that there was momentum to advance the Afghan peace process and that the Afghan Taliban should seize the opportunity for dialogue”.

 

On the other hand, there are also reports that the Taliban have held talks with the Afghan Government in Saudi Arabia. Reported talks were related to a ceasefire during upcoming parliamentary elections in Afghanistan, to be held on October 20, this year. It is considered that the peaceful elections cannot be conducted in Afghanistan without the Taliban’s cooperation. Taliban have refuted the talks. Saudi Arabia is seeking a role to replace Qatar where the Taliban hold a political office. Russia has also emphasized for an Afghan solution based on negotiations between all sides.

 

Again, it is notable that Islamabad has long been insisting on talks to end the Afghan crisis through dialogue. All the regional players including Russia, Iran and even China have also been favouring this approach. In these terms, the visit of the Foreign Minister Qureshi to the US has been a success in which he has assured the international community about Pakistan’s pragmatic and positive support on all issues including that of Afghanistan. The visit has also resulted in melting the ice between Washington and Islamabad.

 

In this context, under the caption, “Study Finds Americans Feel U.S’s Involvement Has ‘Failed’, Afghan-based website Tolonews said on October 7, 2018: “A Washington-based research centre Pew has found that most American’s feel that the US’s second longest war–Afghanistan, after 17 years has failed…On the 17th anniversary of the US’s involvement in Afghanistan, 49% of Americans say their country has failed to win the war. The report is an eye-opener for those who have been supporting Trump’s policy of increasing military pressure to win the war in Afghanistan. In fact, the policy has resulted in a huge spike in losses of both Afghan defence forces as well as in the civilian causalities. The reverses in battleground have forced Trump administration to pursue the option of dialogue with Taliban which was advocated since long by Pakistan….Pakistan has given clear stance in recent days declaring an Afghan-led dialogue as the only option to bring peace in the region. Pakistan has offered its fullest cooperation in pursuance of peace. Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi has strongly rejected the military option and advocated dialogue to end the Afghan quagmire. A new survey by Pew also supports Pakistan’s stance for a durable solution. New development has once again indicated about positive Pakistani role” (Afghanistan Times and other news agencies also reported).

 

Reuters reported on October 8, 2018, “The Taliban directed Afghans to boycott upcoming parliamentary elections and demanded a complete withdrawal of foreign forces as the only solution to end the 17-year-old war as they ramped up attacks in strategic provinces. The statement from the hardline Islamic militant group coincided with the visit of top U.S. envoy Zalmay Khalilzad {Rabidly anti-Pakistan}, who has been appointed to lead peace efforts with the Taliban. Khalilzad met President Ashraf Ghani in Kabul to discuss ways to hold Afghan-led peace talks with the Taliban…With less than two weeks to go before the long-delayed elections, the Taliban and Islamic State have stepped up attacks across the country…“Peace is a holy process, and the U.S. government and people are united with the Afghan government and people in this process,” Khalilzad was quoted by Ghani’s office in a statement as saying. Khalilzad is scheduled to visit Pakistan, the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia and Qatar this week as he seeks to bring the Taliban to the negotiating table.”

 

Nevertheless, in the recent past, after the visit of the US Secretary of State Pompeo to Islamabad and visit of Pakistan’s Foreign Minister Qureshi to America, positive change has occurred between the strained relations of the US and Pakistan. Now, ties between the two countries are improving rapidly. Positive change in Pak-US relationship has resulted in positive change between Afghan-Pakistan ties. Therefore, Kabul has re-opened Pakistan consulate in Jalalabad.

 

These developments clearly show that now the US has realized that without Islamabad’s help, she cannot achieve durable peace and stability in Afghanistan. Otherwise, the US-led NATO forces will remain entangled in that war-torn country. Hence, with the support of Pakistan, unlike the previous conditional dialogue, the US is reviving talks with the Afghan Taliban without pre-conditions.

 

Sajjad Shaukat writes on international affairs and is the author of the book: the US vs Islamic Militants, Invisible Balance of Power: Dangerous Shift in International Relations

 

Email: sajjad_logic@yahoo.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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No Difference between A Pashtun or An Afghan By Sajjad Shaukat

No Difference between A Pashtun or An Afghan

By Sajjad Shaukat

 

US-led entities continue endless propaganda against Pakistan, as the latter is the only nuclear country in the Islamic World. Besides destabilizing Pakistan through terror-related attacks, these entities keeping alive propaganda campaign against the country to complete the Zionist-agenda.

 

For the purpose, they have launched a controversial and heated debate in Afghanistan whether the term ‘Afghan’ designate, a ‘nationality or ethnic’ group.

 

This controversy delayed the issue of national identity card for people of Afghanistan for years. Influential ethnic groups of Afghanistan which are currently heading the government do not look at the word ‘Afghan’, a nationality for people of Afghanistan, but an ethnic group.

 

On the other side, history provides ample evidence that the word Afghan has been interchangeably used for Pashtuns. The people who initially inhibited in the south-east of the Amu Darya in Afghanistan, to the west of the Indus River in Pakistan are Pushtuns. The Pashtuns or Afghans primarily speak Pashto language and follow Pashtunwali code of conduct. They are primarily found in Afghanistan and Pakistan and form the world’s largest tribal society, today. Throughout the South Asian subcontinent, they are often referred to as Pathans.

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Today, the Pashtun tribes with over 65 million people live in Pakistan, while approximately over 28 Million people in Afghanistan and another 1.5 million or more live in Iran. There are 1.8 million registered and unregistered Afghan refugees who are living in Pakistan, a majority of which are Pashtuns.

 

As regards Pakistani Pashtun, over 26 million live in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KPK), 9 million in FATA, and around 7 million in Karachi alone, 9 million in Punjab, 3 million in Sindh and 6.5 million in Baluchistan. The figure does not include the Niazi tribe of Mianwali who are also Pathans, but fewer speak the Pashto language.

 

Undoubtedly, Pashtuns are very well knitted in Pakistani society and enjoy power positions in government, civil and military bureaucracy. They also enjoy vast connectivity due to inter-marriages with other ethnic groups. So, it is not difficult to grasp when Pashtun tribes suffer tyranny and ill-treatment in Afghanistan; a large number of Pashtuns and their friends are saddened all over Pakistan.

 

It regrettable that Pashtuns in FATA are suffering due to drone attacks and Frontier Crimes Regulation (FCR) which is an outdated and cruel system of collective punishment. Hence, for the first time, they have desired to move away from the concept of “illaqa-e-ghair” (Outsiders Land) and to completely integrate into Pakistani state, including its legal system.

 

However, the anti-Pakistan forces which always manipulate the relations between Afghanistan and Pakistan on the pretext of Pashtuns are extremely worried over the new development in the FATA and KPK.

It is the misfortune of the country that the current government of Pakistan is also showing apathetic and sluggish approach to the new development and is not meeting the demands of Pashtuns.

 

 

  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In fact, in Afghanistan, primarily Pashtuns are resisting American occupation and are, therefore, facing the wrath of the US-led NATO. Hence, in frustration, America and India which are in connivance with the Afghan National Unity Government (NUG) are behind this new move to differentiate between a Pashtun or an Afghan in order to malign Islamabad.

 

Besides, as part of the propaganda campaign, these hostile forces are using few politicians and political activists and social workers to slow down integration of FATA into mainstream Pakistan.

 

In this respect, the Pashtun Tahafuz Movement (PTM), a noble student initiative which was launched in 2013 for the purpose of clearing landmines in Waziristan has been de-tracked. The movement rightfully protested the extra-judicial killing of Naqeebullah Mehsud by the police force in Karachi. A long march followed by a sit-in in Islamabad was organized by the movement and the same was supported by many patriotic citizens of Pakistan. Nevertheless, later, key personnel of PTM started making radical speeches against Pakistan Army and its security agencies in Baluchistan.

 

Apart from the Afghan top political leadership, few crooks of Awami National Party (ANP) and ultra-liberals are also misleading Pashtuns. As part of the propaganda, anti-Pakistan speeches of PTM workers are also attracting wide publicity by Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL), a United States funded organization. Another website Gandhara, and Mashaal Radio is found cultivating suspicion between Pakistan military and Pashtuns. The real aim behind these sinister designs is to create a rift between Pashtuns and Pakistan Army.

 

In this context, Saira Bano Orakzai, a proud Pashtun at Research Fellow at Harvard University in her recent article says that the time is ripe for the people of the tribal areas to make a clear choice; to struggle to restore rights and peace or to struggle against this country’s institutions and ideology, only to get entangled in a perpetual conflict.

 

Notably, PTM instead of articulating and moving towards a solution for the problems of FATA has stretched its ideology to an unknown “La La land”, and thus, it is derailing an already fragile reforms process for FATA’s future.

 

These internal and external hostile elements do not want developments in FATA, which can result in progress of their people in various fields. These elements want to continue the past system of the colonial era at the cost of Pakistan.

 

It is a good sign that in the budget 2018-2019, the government has proposed Rs.24.5 billion for FATA. To bring FATA in the mainstream, a ten-year FATA development plan with a total outlay of Rs.100 billion has been approved. During 2018-19 Rs.10 billion are proposed to be provided.

  

 

But, it is the right hour that without further loss of time, the government of Pakistan should immediately merge FATA with KPK and implement FATA reforms.

 

Moreover, the alleged killing of Naqeebullah Mehsud by Rao Anwar be immediately resolved, because inquisitive forces are exploiting the situation.

 

Furthermore, Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (PEMRA) must monitor and check the hostile propaganda against the unity and interests of Pashtun people on national and international media.

 

It is also crucial hour that Pashtuns should identify their enemies and friends. Pashtuns should not pay attention to the controversial debate which has taken origin from Afghanistan to differentiate between Pashtuns and Afghans, while they should know that there is no difference between A Pashtun or An Afghan.

 

 

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Future Expects Tougher Times for Afghanistan by Ishaal Zehra

Future Expects Tougher Times for Afghanistan

Ishaal Zehra

 

 

 

In the changing geopolitical scenario, President Trump’s Afghanistan policy signifies tougher times for an already fallen regime.

The US urgency for an exit from this decades’ old Afghan war is being felt by the policy thinkers and onlookers though there is no working timeline given by President Trump. Determining the cost and productiveness of the troops in Afghanistan, the businessman turned President of the United States is now interested in withdrawing those troops from this costly war. The uncertainty produced in the region thus has translated into a situation where the other regional actors are responding to the reservations by aligning their own interests.

For these countries, there is no uncertainty about the bottom line. The White House is looking for an exit with the shortest considerable timeline. This has also been confirmed by the departure of ex-trump advisor on Afghanistan, H.R. McMaster, and the appointment of Iran and North Korea focused, John Bolton as his successor.

The US military commanders are seen moving quickly to finish the job. The situation has become so obscure that the other powers in the region — the two influentials, China, Russia and neighbouring Iran, India, and Pakistan — have started recognizing their security options, threats and opportunities once the United States fully withdraws, while minutely weighing in the limitations of the Kabul government.

The US is building up the strength of Afghan units with a re-energized air campaign and new advisory units emplaced with Afghan army battalions while the administration pushes for talks with the Taliban in order to bring a negotiated end to the conflict. China has made it clear that it will support Afghan government-led efforts to negotiate an end to the conflict with the Taliban – an approach which is supported by the United States. It has also signed a defence agreement with Afghanistan to build a base in northern Afghanistan and set up a trilateral contact group with Afghanistan and Pakistan to combat terrorism.

Moscow, on the other hand, has heightened cooperation between Russia and Pakistan that is empirically visible. In February of this year, Moscow appointed an honorary consul in the city of Peshawar, Pakistan. Moreover, the addition of Russian language signage in the tribal belt and even around Islamabad also reflect upon the camaraderie both the countries are enjoying. Iran’s concern about ISIS spillover beyond her boundaries can be seen as a reason behind its move to cement relation with Pakistan. In the past Iran and India have traditionally worked together at many visible times, however, as India has now moved closer to the United States and Israel, Iran has begun to take on a more adversarial tone vis-à-vis India. This became quite visible in 2017 when Iran rejected Trump’s call for greater Indian engagement in Afghanistan and criticized Indian military actions in Kashmir.

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Other small non-aligned countries like Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, and Tajikistan have joined Russia and China in the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) thus putting their weight behind these big regional powers. Apparently, India seems to be the only odd man out in the aligning of interests in the region. It has a long and most of the time troubled relationship with both China and Pakistan having a history of hostile conflicts with both. Her relations with Iran have become more difficult in recent years as New Delhi deepened her relations with the United States. This new friendship with the US has actually dismissed the chances of allying with her long-gone love of the past, Russia also.

Russia is the dominant military partner for Central Asia while China takes the lead in economic activities. Owing to the changing US policies in Afghanistan, both the countries, for varied reasons, are concerned about the ability of the Afghan government to keep control of its territory and its capability to fully contain the radical elements without the support of US army. Besides, they also recognize the importance of the role Pakistan is playing in reigning in the militants. And this recognition has made them adopt a two-track policy: providing support for the Afghan government while trying to get Pakistan on board vis-a-vis the Taliban.

 

 

 

 

 

 

This is coming at a time when the United States has relegated Pakistan’s role in the Afghan conflict culmination strategy and blocked the military assistance funds to Islamabad on the pretext of not doing more. The inability of the Afghan government to address the prevailing security situation is having a negative impact on her economic development consequently leading the major regional powers to look for other options to stabilize the region. Moreover, India will never put her boots on the ground because she is still been haunted by her failed experience with intervention in Sri Lanka in the 1980s. Also, given the uneasy relationship with Pakistan and Iran, the geography of the region precludes an easy way to do this and Indian army is neither trained to nor have the courage to go for a war in this terrain single-handedly.

Stakeholders in Afghanistan need to understand new ground realities. Any viable regional mechanism for taking on the Afghan cauldron cannot seem possible without having Pakistan on board. Especially at a time when both Pakistan and Afghanistan are on the course of redefining mutual relations. For a peaceful and economic exit plan, the US also cannot deny that Pakistan provides unmatchable logistic routes for the foreign forces engaged in the Afghan war. Routes through Pakistan are the shortest and cheapest and presently are the safest owing to the Pakistan army’s resolve to ascertain peace in the country. Another exit option could be through aligning the SCO with US exit policy since all the major regional powers are available under this one umbrella. Interestingly, and quite contrary to the US beliefs, the members of the SCO also trust Pakistan of being the lone brave lion to handle this menace impeccably. A better understanding of regional sensitivities will help the US to better grasp the situation in Afghanistan if she really wants to end this decades-old deadly conflict.

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Inspired political instability in Pakistan by Brig.(Retd)Asif Haroon Raja

Inspired political instability in Pakistan

Asif Haroon Raja

 

 

 

 

On October 11, 1999, a democratically elected government of PML-N was toppled by the military under Gen Pervez Musharraf. Nawaz Sharif (NS) was jailed and awarded life sentence on charges of hijacking and terrorism. Saudi Arabia came to his rescue and he was exiled for ten years. Benazir Bhutto (BB) was already in self-imposed exile. The Supreme Court legitimized military rule and authorized Musharraf to amend the constitution to his liking. With two mainstream leaders in exile, it became easy for Musharraf to carve out a King’s Party comprising turncoats from PML-N and PPP by applying coercive and blackmailing tactics.

Pakistan came under the black star after 9/11 when Musharraf agreed to become a coalition partner of US-NATO, render assistance to topple friendly Taliban regime in Afghanistan, and to help in installing the US selected Northern Alliance regime led by Hamid Karzai, which became anti-Pakistan and pro-India. Pakistan also agreed to become a frontline State to fight US imposed war on terror. Musharraf and his team didn’t realize that Afghanistan had been occupied by the USA under a preplanned strategy to destabilize the region and achieve its geostrategic and geo-economic objectives and that Pakistan was not an ally but a target.

Since then, Afghanistan is being bled by the occupying forces and the collaborators and Pakistan bled through proxies and drones. Pakistan has been striving hard to combat the existential threat of terrorism, achieve political stability, and improve its economy and to sail towards the shores of safety, security, progress, and prosperity. Terrorism couldn’t be eliminated since the ones demanding the elimination of terrorism secretly support terror groups in Pakistan and seek destabilization of Pakistan to achieve their hidden objectives.  

The socio-politico-economic situation became abysmal during the five years rule of the PPP under Zardari. The coalition of PPP-MQM-ANP installed by USA-UK in March 2008 with an ulterior motive reduced the country to a carcass. The rot was stymied when NS led PML-N government took over power in June 2013.

Improvement of internal security and the economy as a result of dedicated operations in Karachi, FATA and Baluchistan, better financial management and forthcoming CPEC couldn’t be digested by adversaries of Pakistan since it hampered their agenda of disabling Pakistan’s nuclear program. Likewise, development driven agenda didn’t suit the politicians in opposition.

A well-orchestrated hate campaign was unleashed by politicians, lobbies, media and social media against NS within one year of his rule to discredit him. Vilification campaign and demand for accountability should have been logically directed against massive wrongdoings of Zardari and company and anti-Pakistan MQM under Altaf working on RAW-MI-6 agenda, the effects of which are still being borne by the people of Pakistan.

Instead, the tirade has remained focused on ruling PML-N regime which has lifted all economic indicators from negative to positive, stabilized macro economy and restored the health of the sick economy to some degree. It has pulled out the country from the worst energy crisis and hopefully by March 2018 it would overcome power shortages. The lawless regions of FATA, parts of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP), Baluchistan and Karachi have been made stable and peaceful and the genie of terrorism controlled to quite an extent. Large numbers of mega development projects are in progress and foreign investment that had dried up is flowing in. Socio-economic deprivations of smaller provinces are likely to be addressed by the game-changing CPEC. Pakistan’s image that had sunk low has risen among the world comity and it has again become relevant.

While the ruling government has made substantial progress in the last 4 years, however, a lot is still to be done. Pakistan is still not out of the woods since internal and external security situation is tense, debt burden and trade deficit have increased and exports have dwindled. One reason that Pakistan has not overcome its multiple difficulties is the negative role of detractors within Pakistan that have constantly been creating hurdles in the way of progress and development. Secondly, PPP-led Sindh government is not serious in carrying out reforms and controlling corruption which is bleeding Karachi, the economic lifeline of Pakistan. Thirdly, RAW, NDS, CIA, Mossad, MI-6 nexus based in Afghanistan continues to abet terrorism in Pakistan and induce political instability.

Turning a deaf ear to the impressive progress made, power hungry and disgruntled politicians assisted by media downplay the positives by finding faults in development projects and drum beat the weak areas. They are leaving no stone unturned to disparage the image of NS and block the progress through negative tactics. This phenomenon of vilification campaign and impeding growth and development is not new.

Awami League led by Sheikh Mujibur Rahman and PPP under ZA Bhutto disturbed law and order situation by resorting to street agitation to overturn the stupendous all-round developments made by Ayub Khan during his 10-years rule. Economically and militarily strong Pakistan was unacceptable to the adversaries of Pakistan. After forcing Ayub Khan to resign, the duo deliberately created a political logjam for politically naïve Gen Yahya Khan. By tearing up Polish resolution at the UN, Bhutto made sure that the armed forces suffered immense humiliation at the hands of archrival India. Mujib and Bhutto were instrumental in the breakup of Pakistan into two in 1971. All this was done at the behest of foreign powers to cut Pakistan and its armed forces to size.

While Sheikh Mujib had galvanized Bengali nationalism by blaming West Pakistan for the backwardness of East Pakistan and had promised the moon to the Bengalis, Bhutto cast a spell of magic on the downtrodden people of West Pakistan by chanting the slogan of Roti, Kapra, Makan. Both brought people on the streets to paralyze and derail the system. Both lacked sincerity of purpose and their sole ambition was to gain power. While Mujib wanted the whole cake, Bhutto wanted half of it. Lust for power overrode national interests.

ZA Bhutto during his 7 years rule became a dictator. To curb political dissent, he created FSF and opened Dalai camp to torture his opponents. He washed away the gains made by Ayub Khan through his highly anomalous policy of nationalization which gave a deathly blow to the burgeoning industry of Pakistan, banking, and education. Indiscipline was inculcated by Bhutto by inciting the labor and working class to rebel against their employers. He misled the masses by blaming 22 rich families for keeping Pakistan backward. He ignored the hard fact that Indian leaders had predicted that Pakistan would collapse within six months under the weight of economics. Pakistan developed its economic legs to stand on because of the financial assets brought by these very industrialists who had opted to shift to Pakistan. Ironically, since the early 1990s, successive governments in Pakistan have been begging foreign investors and offering lucrative terms to induce them to invest in Pakistan, build industries, buy lands and install thermal power projects.   

Bhutto intensified New-Sindhi and Old-Sindhi antagonism in Sindh by introducing quota system and making the Sindhi language a compulsory subject in Sindh. He incensed Baloch and Pashtuns after he sacked provincial governments in Baluchistan and Frontier provinces and mounted an operation against the Baloch rebels. He supported Islamists in Afghanistan to counter the belligerence of Sardar Daud thereby stoking religious extremism and Jihadism in Pakistan which later on accelerated during the 10-year Afghan war and uprising in Indian Occupied Kashmir (IOK). Bhutto promoted secularism which triggered religious extremism, deepened Islamic-secular divide and gave birth to PNA movement and led to his ouster.

While Bhutto started the Kahuta project to develop a nuclear bomb, uranium enriched nuclear program could not have seen the light of the day had Afghan war not taken place. Gen Ziaul Haq took full advantage of it and pursued it relentlessly and carried out cold tests in 1984. Fear of bomb in the basement kept India at bay. Zia crushed the PPP-led MRD movement in 1983 with dangerous connotations, since it had the full support of India. He had to deal with foreign supported Al-Zulfiqar movement together with KGB-RAW-KHAD nexus involved in terrorism.

Pakistan under Zia single-handedly managed the Afghan war and emerged victoriously. Zia had made up his mind to make Pakistan a truly Islamic State in the light of Quran and Sunnah and had envisioned a clear strategy how to go about playing up the Khalistan movement and Kashmiri freedom movement and taking the two movements to their logical ends. Had Zia lived longer, Afghanistan could have saved itself from the bloody civil war and would have remained ever obliged to Pakistan. Prejudiced PPP and seculars, however, portray him as the worst dictator and blame him for loading Pakistan with all the misfortunes.

The PPP under Benazir Bhutto (BB) symbolized poor governance, immorality, and corruption, thanks to her husband Zardari who became Mr. 10% in her first tenure and Mr. 20% in 2nd tenure. Both the civil and military establishments viewed BB as a security risk owing to her extraordinary softness towards her Oxford buddy Rajiv Gandhi and her commitment given to the USA that she would roll back the nuclear program. But for the provision of the list of Sikh leaders to India, Khalistan could have become a reality and IOK might have achieved independence since the Khalistan and Kashmir movements had almost linked up and Afghan Mujahideen under Gulbadin Hikmatyar had promised physical help. Thermal power has driven IPP agreement signed by BB in her second tenure amounted to giving control of electricity to foreign powers. It paved the way for the energy crisis.

As opposed to two shortened PPP regimes led by BB, two short-lived PML-N regimes under NS were comparatively better which saw some development works including motorway and above all Pakistan becoming the 7th nuclear power.

PPP under Zardari scaled new heights of corruption, nepotism, and ineptness. An abortive attempt was made to civilianize the ISI. The ill-omened Kerry-Lugar Bill opened the doors for NGOs, Blackwater and CIA agents which triggered urban terrorism. Helicopters assault in Abbottabad to get Osama bin Laden was aimed at tarnishing the image of Army and ISI. Hussain Haqqani at the behest of Zardari signed the Memo to virtually give Pakistan on contract to the USA. Gen Ashfaq Kayani and Lt Gen Shuja Pasha blocked the ominous effort and regained 17 administrative units in the northwest under the influence of RAW-NDS-CIA controlled TTP.

PPP and MQM looted and plundered national wealth with both hands and sucked the blood of Karachi which generates over 60% of Pakistan’s revenue. Corruption-ridden ANP derailed the railway and did nothing for KP. While Karachi became lawless, a separatist movement in Baluchistan gained considerable strength. All State Corporations were systematically destroyed and Pakistan’s external debt doubled. Pakistan got caught up in worst energy crisis because of which industries began to close down and many industrialists shifted to other countries. The country was brought to the brink of economic collapse and yet the PPP government was allowed to complete five years.

PTI under Imran Khan (IK) gained political space in 2011 as a result of misdoings of PPP and MQM, but instead of training its guns on the PPP and MQM, it locked horns with PML-N in Punjab since it knew that power resided in Punjab and nowhere else. The only silver lining in those dark days was the Shahbaz Sharif-led government in Punjab which kept things going despite highly unfavorable environments. Indefatigable Shahbaz’s outstanding performance paved the way for PML-N’s impressive victory in May 2013 elections.      

IK never reconciled with 2013 election results and for reasons best known to him imagined that he deserved to win. He married up with dubious Tahirul Qadri led PAT and single seater Sheikh Rashid to drumbeat the issue of rigging. They discounted the fact that PPP and not PML-N was in power that had made the transitional government to hold elections and that PTI had no roots in rural Pakistan. IK chose to emulate politics of agitation and defiance of Mujib and Bhutto to achieve his political ends. Following in their footsteps, he chanted the catchy slogan of ‘change’ and ‘Naya (new) Pakistan’. Like Bhutto, he too promotes liberalism and is germinating seeds of indiscipline among the youth. Previously his slogan was ‘justice’ and now his slogan is ‘corruption’.

IK has all along pursued politics of defiance and agitation to undermine the State and its institutions and freely indulges in mudslinging and unsubstantiated accusations to defame NS and his family. After failing to oust NS by staging a 126-day sit-in in Islamabad in 2014, and then trying to lock down Islamabad in October 2016, IK is now pinning hopes on Panama Papers case handled by Supreme Court Bench. He refuses to admit that name of NS is not included in the list of account holders in Fonseca Mossack Offshore Company, and that PML-N government will remain in power until next elections even if NS is sacked or he resigns. 

While giving long sermons on the ills of corruption, IK completely skips the fact that cupboards of most of his party leaders are filled with skeletons. He is oblivious of the enormous moral degeneration of the society as a whole. Moral turpitude of the nation has hit rock bottom and corruption is one small part of it which has permeated into the blood of all segments of the society. The ones accepting graft and the others doling out graft are equally guilty. IK has no plan for moral refurbishment of the society or how to eliminate corruption.

 

 

 

 

 

How will the corrupt be taken to task in the absence of effective accountability bill which is lying pending since 2010? If IK is so concerned about the eradication of corruption, why has he not agitated inside and outside the parliament to pass the accountability bill and make National Accountability Bureau (NAB) more effective and independent?

If he strongly feels that all elections including the 2013 elections were rigged, has he made any effort to reform electoral laws to prevent rigging in future? Without comprehensive electoral reforms, same lot of immoral politicians will get elected and keep shifting from one green pasture to the other to derive maximum material benefits.

Likewise, he has not pressurized the government to reform the criminal justice system and functioning of lower courts. Unless the judicial system is reformed, justice will remain confined to the elite class only and the ones involved in white collar crimes and mega corruption will never be netted. Similarly, crime and corruption cannot be tackled unless the police are depoliticized and investigative/prosecution systems streamlined.

PTI is a collection of turncoats from other parties. Each and every defector in his party has a blemished track record. How IK expects to make New Pakistan with such opportunists who have brought him under their sway? When he couldn’t convert KP into a role model province, how can he change the destiny of whole of Pakistan with a King’s Party, particularly when he has no political standing in Baluchistan and Sindh?

PTI, PPP and other political parties in opposition are ganging up to derail the political system by creating chaos and hampering growth and development. This is being done at a time when Pakistan is at an economic takeoff stage as a result of better governance and financial management and commissioning of CPEC. At the same time, it is up against external enemies and local detractors that are trying to sabotage progress. CPEC is an eyesore for India, USA, Iran, and Dubai.

Upset by the achievements made by Pakistan, the adversaries that had been collectively trying to destabilize, de-Islamize, denuclearize and balkanize Pakistan since 2002 have intensified their efforts to block the development programs. The only option they are left with is to topple the ruling regime and foment political bedlam. This task has been undertaken by PTI and PPP.  

The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA) led the Gulf States have still not forgotten and forgiven the slight inflicted by Pakistan when its request for military support to tackle the threat posed by the Huthis in Yemen last year was impolitely turned down. The government had whittled under pressure of PTI and PPP. The fissures that were contracted with a lot of efforts are once again being widened by Iran inspired lobbies in Pakistan. Led by PTI, these lobbies in concert with media are applying pressure on the government to detach Pakistan from the 41-Member Islamic Military Alliance (IMA) sponsored by KSA to fight terrorism and to call back Gen Raheel Sharif, selected as head of the Alliance. The Same old logic of Iran’s sensibilities and misplaced danger of Shia-Sunni rift in Pakistan is being put forward.

Recently concluded Arab-Islamic-US Summit in Riyadh gave strength to these lobbies to state that their fears that the IMA was Iran-specific have come true after the vitriolic speeches made by Trump and King Salman. They upped the ante by painting a very dark picture with ominous ramifications for Pakistan. Pressure has been intensified to force the government to opt out of the Alliance, not realizing that such a step would fulfill the dream of India to isolate Pakistan. We have seen how KSA and its close allies have offensively reacted against Qatar, and it can treat Pakistan in a similar manner.

It must not be forgotten that KSA has always come to the rescue of Pakistan in its testing times, and has always been sympathetic towards Pakistan regardless of which political party or military ruler has been in power. It has taken pride in Pakistan’s armed forces and nuclear capability and has never threatened Pakistan. Same is not true for Iran. Gone are the days of Reza Shah Pahlavi. Attitudes in Iran have changed since the arrival of Ayatollahs and their officials have adopted an arrogant posture.

Under what pretext and logic the Iranian lobbies in Pakistan lobbied to stop Pakistan from dispatching troops to KSA when it was threatened by Iran supported Huthis? What moral right Iran has to militarily support Huthis in Yemen? In what way we were pitching ourselves against Iran? Pakistani troops would not have jumped into the cauldron of Yemen war but at best would have deployed a division size force along the Saudi-Yemeni border to defend the integrity of KSA. Has Pakistan not been sending troops in the past to KSA for training purposes and for the defense of Khana Kaaba, and when KSA was threatened by Iraq in 1991?

Once our myopic leaders opted to annoy KSA and the other Gulf States to please Iran, how did Iran reciprocate our gesture of staying out of Yemen war? Soon after, Iran stood with India and Afghanistan and signed Chahbahar agreement. Iran will never annoy India to please Pakistan but will annoy Pakistan to please India as was evident from Iran Army chief’s threat to Pakistan last May. It is closer to India and Northern Alliance ruled Afghanistan than with Pakistan.

This very lobby which is in a small minority but has also influenced many veterans has been consistently tarnishing the image of former COAS Gen Raheel Sharif with the sole purpose of forcing him to resign or compelling Pak government to call him back from Riyadh. It has been repeatedly stressed by the government that the IMA headed by Gen Raheel is directed against terrorism and is not against Iran or any other country and that whenever it transgresses its mandate, Pakistan will detach itself. But the lobbies are unprepared to buy it since they are solely worried about Iran’s interest and not of Pakistan and its armed forces and keep playing sectarian card. One may ask as to why they drum up proxy wars of KSA and not of Iran. Why do they want the IMA to fight Al-Qaeda, Daesh, and Taliban and to spare Iran’s proxies? KSA and not Iran is vulnerable to threats from proxies as well as from Iran-Iraq-Syria-Yemen-Hezbollah nexus.

Pakistan is faced with foreign funded proxies and Hybrid War. India wants to teach Pakistan a lesson. Afghanistan has become a hostile country. Indo-US-Afghan nexus has not changed its dangerous agenda against Pakistan. Iran is not friendly. Another storm stimulated by USA and Israel is building up in the already turbulent the Middle East as a result of heightened Iran-Saudi hostility and KSA-Qatar confrontation, which is giving shape to new alignments. Pakistan cannot remain unconcerned by these hazardous developments and its diplomacy is under test. Pakistan cannot afford to take sides and it will be its diplomatic success if it manages to stay neutral and act as a moderator to defuse KSA-Qatar tension and scale down KSA-Iran animosity.

It is, however, most unfortunate that our power hungry politicians backed by paid media are oblivious of the precarious geopolitical environments and are wholly interested in snatching power by hook or crook. Devoid of political power, they first provoked the Army to boot out NS and are now expectantly looking towards the Supreme Court to disqualify him whether he is an offender or not. Like PTI, PPP has also begun to flex its political muscles and is somehow very hopeful that it will regain power in the Centre and in all provinces.

The Author & Pakistan Think Tank Thought Leader

Asif Haroon Raja is a retired Brigadier, took part in the epic battle of Hilli in 1971 war, served as Defence Attache Egypt & Sudan, a defense analyst, columnist, author of five books, Vice Chairman Thinkers Forum Pakistan, Director Measac Research Centre. asifharoonraj@gmail.com     

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