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Archive for category PAKISTAN SHINING

 Elections in the Merged Tribal Districts Show Historical Change  By Sajjad Shaukat


 Elections in the Merged Tribal Districts Show Historical Change

 By

Sajjad Shaukat

 

This is the first time in the history of Pakistan that polling was held for elections of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP)

 

Map of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa

 

 

Assembly in the merged tribal districts of Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) on July 20, this year and the counting of votes is underway, with the unofficial results have started pouring in.

 

Sixteen seats have been contested in seven districts. Of the 285 candidates standing for the elections, 202 are independent candidates. There are over 2.8 million registered voters in the area, of which 1.13 million are women.

 

At 16, the PTI has the most candidates who contested the elections from the ruling political party. The JUI-F has 15 candidates, ANP has 14, PPP and JI both have 13 and the PML-N has five candidates. Two women have also contested the election–the ANP’s Naheed Afridi in PK-106 Khyber and JI’s Malasa Bibi in PK-108 Kurram.

 

A total of 1,897 polling stations have been set up across the merged districts. Of these, 482 have been reserved for men, 376 for women, and 1,049 are combined. Pakistan Army, police and Frontier Constabulary personnel have been deployed at polling stations across the seven districts. In this regard, Spokesperson of Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) Nadeem Qasim said it may take a day for the official results to be announced in ex-FATA elections. He elaborated: “Polling has completed peacefully in the region. He appreciated the role of all institutions, including the Army for making a peaceful election happen”.

 

According to reports, voter turnout remained decent.

 

In fact, the Pakistan Army played a key role in restoring peace in the tribal regions. Hence, almost all political parties nominated their candidates for the constituencies, as the political activities have gained peace. The army made strenuous efforts to bring the people of FATA in the mainstream of the country.

 

The government has expressed resolve to spend billions of rupees in the next 10 years for the development of FATA and the uplift of the local population in order to bring them at par with the citizens of the other areas of the country and to remove any sense of deprivation among them.

 

The tribal regions remained troubled for over a decade ever since the US-led so-called war on terror started. Pakistan’s Armed Forces and especially Army have successfully broken the backbone of the foreign-backed terrorists by the military operations Zarb-e-Azb and Radd-ul-Fasaad, while country’s primary intelligence agency ISI has broken the network of these terrorist groups by capturing several militants and thwarting a number of terror attempts. Besides other provinces, peace has been restored in the KP.

 

In this respect, thousands of terrorists were killed and a huge quantity of explosives seized during the operations of the security agencies.

So as to sustain the hard-earned peace, Pakistan Army has also started the fencing of the Pakistan-Afghanistan border. It would stop preventing illegal cross-border movement—including those of terrorists who enter Pakistan from Afghanistan’s side and bring the drug-weapon trade to a halt. The fencing of the Pak-Afghan border which is 2,611-kilometre is expected to be completed by 2020 whereas 643 kilometres–462 kilometres in KP and 181 kilometres in Balochistan have been covered so far. 843 border posts are planned, out of which 233 have been completed, while the construction of 140 posts is underway.

 

It is due to the huge sacrifices of Army and other law-enforcement agencies that improvement in the security situation in the tribal areas became possible. The number of check posts has also decreased by 31 percent in the past three years, resulting in growing trade activities. Roads have been improved for connectivity with other areas of the country, including FATA. In this regard, more than 800-kilometres of roads have been constructed in the tribal districts as part of the communication network, thus reducing the time to one-thirds.

 

However, with the assistance of the security forces, Pakistan held the epoch-making elections in the tribal districts and thus, gave a strong message to the international community that peace has returned in the conflict zone.

 

It is notable that external powers which have been supporting the Baloch Sub-Nationalists (BSNs) are also behind the Pashtun Tahafuz Movement (PTM) as part of their unfinished agenda against Pakistan. They leave no stone unturned in misguiding the people of the Balochistan and particularly those of the KP by creating one after another issue. In this respect, the emergence of the PTM at a crucial time, which is being paid by anti-Pakistan hostile elements and countries, aims at accentuating the ethnic cleavages of the country, influence Pashtun population in pursuance of strategic objectives of the foreign powers. PTM which is actually a veritable political entity of the Afghanistan-based Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) and wants to accomplish its nefarious designs against Pakistan and its Army has opposed the amalgamation of FATA/PATA with KP province.

 

Nevertheless, it is because of the Amry’s development-works in the tribal areas that the PTM has failed in instigating the public against the federation of the country. While the amalgamation of FATA/PATA with Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province will result in multiple benefits for the people by overcoming their multi-faceted problems. Therefore, the merger of FATA/PATA with the KP was welcomed by the tribal people—the tribal people will get representation in the KP Assembly and the National Assembly.

 

Earlier, the proceedings for the merger have witnessed intense activities in shape of meetings, debate etc. High-powered National Implementation Committee (NIC) on FATA Reforms had earlier endorsed the merger of tribal regions with KP in a meeting attended by the prime minister, chief of army staff, and others, including the Chief Minister of the KP and Chairman of the Cabinet Committee on FATA Reforms Sartaj Aziz. Later, in May 2018, the National Security Committee (NSC) in its 23rd meeting endorsed the merger of FATA with KP, while noting the regional and global security situation.

The credit for making the merger a reality has been attributed to Pakistan’s Chief of Army Staff General Qamar Javed Bajwa, who continued to push the political leadership for requisite activism on the issue. The role of opposition parties also remained positive and appreciable. 

 

The merger of FATA/PATA with the KP province has been a long-awaited move, as there has been too much suffering in the tribal areas. FATA was administered through Frontier Crimes Regulation (FCR), and political agent acted as a justice along with other executive tasks. FCR was a set of laws under which joint territorial duties and penalties were imposed. Since America’s attack on Afghanistan, FATA arose as a zone of trouble and proxy warfare. It also became a security risk for the region and put Pakistan into many hardships.

 

FCR which was officially enacted in 1901 has its origins in laws which were enacted by the British colonialists in the Pashtun-inhabited tribal areas in the Northwest of British India. They were specifically devised to counter the opposition of the Pashtuns to British rule. The main objective of the FCR was to protect the interests of the British Empire. More than a century later, this law continued to be applied to FATA residents by the Government of Pakistan.  Not only did the FCR deprived the people of FATA their fundamental rights, but also had taken away their basic legal rights like ‘Appeal, Wakeel and Daleel’.

 

So, it is a positive dimension for the tribal people, as they have got rid of colonialism which continued after the partition of the Sub-continent. The tribal Sardars (Lords) who continued British practices were in favour of the division of FATA/PATA and KP. Now, this merger is likely to upset sub-nationalist tendencies, being exploited by Pakistan’s foreign enemies and some internal entities.

 

At present, FATA is the most deprived and least-developed area in Pakistan. With the lowest per capita income in the country, two-third of its population simply lives below the poverty line. The literacy rate is as low as only 17% among males and only 3% among females. And, almost half the population has no access to clean drinking water. No substantial endeavour had been made to promote the socio-economic wellbeing of the people in FATA.

 

It is worth mentioning that since the occupation of Afghanistan by the US-led NATO forces, Pakistan has become center of the intelligence agencies such as American CIA, Indian RAW and Israeli Mossad which are in collusion with Afghan National Directorate of Security (NDS) to obtain the covert designs of the their countries and some Western countries against Russia, China and Pakistan, including Iran.

 

Under the cover of fighting terrorism, these secret agencies support the militants of Islamic State group (Also known as ISIS, ISIL and Daesh) and Afghanistan-based TTP, including their linked outfits which have been conducting terror-assaults in Afghanistan and Pakistan as part of the double game of the US-led countries. And CIA and RAW which are in collaboration with NDS are clandestinely assisting the Afghan National Unity Government (NUG) to manipulate the Pashtun Tahafuz Movement (PTM), as these external entities are behind this movement.

 

Nonetheless, we can conclude that the nation, especially the people of FATA are thankful to the Pakistan Army which played a major role in the integration of the tribal regions with the mainstream of the country. Therefore, during the polling-day, people were raising slogans in favour of Pakistan Army, while elections in the merged tribal districts show historical change.

 

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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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. 

Image result for Problems facing Pakistan

 

 

  

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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Invisible Blinkers By   Brig(R)  Saleem Qamar Butt

Invisible Blinkers

By

Brig(R)  Saleem Qamar Butt

The moment one lands back from a developed country at any airport in Pakistan, one gets an uncanny feeling of chaos, mismanagement, dishonesty, rudeness, pollution and lawlessness…..all antonyms to values otherwise expected to prevail in an Islamic country where everyone claims to be a pious and holier than holiest Muslim. 

One is compelled to ponder as to why people in majority behave so bad living here or even those who live abroad and soon after touching home base, behave in the same appalling manners. Our airports, railway and bus stations, all public places and traffic on roads is perhaps one of the worst display in the world and speak volume about our poor education system and overall poorest grooming as human beings or members of a civilized society. Ironically, nothing seems to be done either by the government or by non-government institutions to arrest these negative practices.

While our religion puts so much emphasis on piety, cleanliness, truthfulness, doing good things and stopping self and others from evil practices, discipline, politeness and on helping the needy, why then people apparently performing all Islamic duties (haqooq Allah) and visibly following five main pillars of Islam, falter so badly on performing duties as a useful and sober member of society (haqooq-ul-ibad)? There is no short answer though; yet, a shallow dive into this matter reveals that most of us are wearing ‘invisible blinkers’, that keep us from considering a situation rationally or suffering from a phenomenon akin to a pair of flaps attached to a horse’s bridle, one beside each eye, to keep the horse from looking anywhere but straight ahead…..focused on self preservation and progress alone. What causes these invisible blinkers’ attachment to our eyes that causesmunafqat’, ‘double-dealing’ or ‘hypocrisy’? I posed this question to an Islamic scholar and he gave an out of the ordinary answer. According to him, “if a person willingly, knowingly or unknowingly eats forbidden or Haram, his/her sense of judgment on sifting right from wrong is taken away by Almighty as a punishment” something similar to ‘summun bukmun….!’

However, in societies like Japan or Singapore where religion is not so much visible, Islamic virtues and values are best seen in practice and hypocrisy is almost extinct. It is said that ‘poverty has no religion’….but our society defies this proverbial truth too because the rich class is more corrupt and duplicitous than poor people. The honest minority is facing enormous frustration as corruption infested society makes it almost impossible to remain free from ill practices one way or the other. No amounts of dua or prayers seem to work to put the rail back on tracks as far as Pakistan’s difficulties and challenges are concerned. Nevertheless, sometimes most complex challenges have simple solutions.

If we can follow the dictum, charity begins at home, we may find the silver lining sooner than expected. In Germany and Japan after second world war and in Central Asian Republics after independence from former Soviet Union in early 90s, the institution of Mothers and teachers played the main role in grooming and educating the children and youth to rise as shining stars of hope and prosperity of nations and results achieved by these countries in all fields in a short span of time are too obvious to neglect. If we can choose and elect the right leadership, who can provide people universal free education system, well-groomed mothers and highly qualified teachers, we can achieve in a decade what we have missed in the last seven decades. The training of trainers through Japanese and German teachers at the national level on a massive scale and raising the status of teachers in the society needs to be accorded a high priority. Our highly educated women resource need to be galvanized to undertake to groom of mothers as being practiced in Ladies Clubs in military circles. Inclusions of sports in all educational institutions must be made compulsory for the inculcation of sportsmen spirit and to ensure mental and physical health. A political party that can include these simple and basic grassroots level steps in its manifesto may be given preference for electing our government instead of lofty but hollow slogans. We as a nation have to strive hard to get rid of invisible blinkers. 

Allah only helps those who help themselves; therefore, we have to bell the cat ourselves rather than expecting in vain miracle happening by mere inactive prayers.

* Brigadier(R) Saleem Qamar Butt, SI (M) is a student of International Relations, Defence and Warfare Studies with expertise in Executive Management, Military & Intelligence Diplomacy, Strategic Analyses and Forecast.

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In the eyes of the beholder by Tariq A. Al-Maeena

In the eyes of the beholder

by

 

Tariq A. Al-Maeena

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Following my article a couple of weeks ago in which I complimented the Pakistani cricket team for snatching victory from the jaws of defeat against their formidable arch-rivals India, I received a couple of comments that left me puzzled.

One was from a Westerner while the other critic was an Asian. The gist of it was essentially dressing me down for complimenting what they both termed as a “failed state”. They both individually felt that there was not much to Pakistan’s credit to mention, and perhaps that was why I praised their team’s victory.

But let’s take a closer look at this country before we rush to judgment. Pakistan has been listed among the next 11 countries that along with the BRICS countries (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) have a high potential of becoming among the world’s largest economies in the 21st century.

In the last five years, Pakistan’s literacy rate has grown by 250 percent, the largest increase in any country to date. According to a poll organized by the Institute of European Business Administration, from 125 countries, Pakistanis have been ranked the “fourth most intelligent people” across the globe. The Cambridge exams of both A and O levels have been topped by Pakistani students and this is a record yet to be broken. The world’s youngest certified Microsoft Experts, Arfa Kareem and Babar Iqbal, are from Pakistan. The seventh largest pool of scientists and engineers come from, you guessed it, Pakistan. The fourth largest broadband Internet system of the world is in Pakistan.

Pakistan is the first and only Islamic country to attain nuclear power. It is also notable for having some of the best-trained air force pilots in the world. The country’s missile technology is one of the best in the world. The country has produced a large quantity of various types of missiles since it has become a nuclear power. It also boasts of the sixth largest military force in the world.

In cooperation with China, Pakistan has produced the PAC JF-17 Thunder aircraft, a lightweight, single-engine, multi-role combat aircraft developed by the Pakistan Aeronautical Complex (PAC). The JF-17 can be used for aerial reconnaissance, ground attack and aircraft interception. Its designation “JF-17” by Pakistan is short for “Joint Fighter-17”.

It has also constructed the world’s largest warm-water, deep-sea port situated on the Arabian Sea at Gwadar in Balochistan province. Tarbela Dam is the world’s largest earth-filled dam and second largest dam overall. The Karakoram Highway, connecting China and Pakistan, is the highest paved international road in the world. The Khewra Salt Mine, the second largest salt mine in the world is in operation in the Punjab region of Pakistan. The world’s largest irrigation network is present in Pakistan. It serves 14.4 million hectares of cultivated land. The irrigation system is fed by water from the Indus River.

Land of some of the oldest civilizations (Indus Valley and Mohenjo-Daro), Pakistan is a multilingual country with more than 60 languages spoken. It is the sixth most populated country in the world and the second-most populous Muslim-majority country. It also has the second-largest Shia population in the world. The Edhi Foundation, a non-profit social welfare program in Pakistan, founded by Abdul Sattar Edhi in 1951 runs the world’s largest ambulance network. The country also boasts of the world’s youngest civil judge, Muhammad Illyas.

Pakistan is one the biggest exporters of surgical instruments in the world. About 50 percent of the world’s footballs are made in Pakistan. Nestle Pakistan is one of the largest milk processing plants which generate large revenue every year.

Among its natural wonders, Pakistan has the highest mountain ranges in the world. The world’s second highest and the ninth highest mountains, K2 and Nanga Parbat respectively, are in Pakistan. The Thar Desert is among the world’s largest sub-tropical deserts. The world’s highest polo ground is in Shandur Top, Pakistan at a height of 3,700 meters.

In 1994, Pakistan became the first country in the world to hold four World Cup titles tournaments in different mainstream sports simultaneously. The sports included cricket, hockey, squash and snooker.

The Lonely Planet, a global tourist guide, has listed Pakistan as being tourism’s “next big thing for more years than we care to remember. But world media headlines always send things off the rails.”

Perhaps my critics too have been unfairly influenced by media headlines. I urge them to take a second look at this country before they rush to judgment. Beauty is in the eyes of the beholder.

— The author can be reached at talmaeena@aol.com. Follow him on Twitter @talmaeena

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Pakistan Facts – Part 3   By FTD

 

 

Pakistan Facts – Part 3   By FTD

Kaghan Valley – Pakistan

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