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Archive for category NAYA PAKISTAN

Quest for independence by Brig,Gen(Retd) Asif Haroon Raja

Quest for independence

Asif Haroon Raja

Creation of Pakistan

The founding members of Pakistan led by Quaid-e-Azam took part in the freedom movement to free the Muslims of India from the oppressive yoke of the British and the Hindus and to establish a homeland for them where they could live as an independent nation and practice Islam freely. The movement was based on Two-Nation Theory. To the great joys of the Indian Muslims, Pakistan appeared on the world map on August 14, 1947 and shattered the Hindu-British conspiracy of keeping India united.

Ideals of Quaid-e-Azam

The Quaid had aspired to transform the new state into an Islamic welfare state on the model of Misaq-e-Madina with equitable justice, equal opportunities for social growth and equitable distribution of wealth, and free of external influences. He had cautioned them to stay away from provincialism, nepotism, hoarding, corruption and fanaticism. He had emphasized upon hard work, character building, honesty, unity, faith, discipline, honor and dignity.

Mini-mind leaders replaced the Quaid

After his untimely death, his successors pushed his dreams on the backburner and went the wrong way. Successive regimes and the elite class stuck to the British systems and lifestyle. They remained tied to the colonial mindset and behaved like Brown Sahibs and Begum Sahibas while dealing with the downtrodden and remained detached from them. Waderas, Sardars, Maliks and Choudhris were governed by a feudal mindset.  

Till 1956, Pakistan functioned under the British India Parliamentary Act 1935, and adopted each and every system of governance, administration and laws inherited from the British. Same was the case with the military which adopted the British training, technical & administrative systems and doctrines. Till Gen Ziaul Haq’s takeover in July 1977, the mess life was the same as was during the British rule, hard drinks and eating with the fork in the left hand were not considered un-Islamic. Islam lovers were looked down upon as uncouth and un-officer like. Drill cautions were in English and whole training of officers was and still is in English language. Those attending courses at Sandhurst in UK & Fort Leavenworth in USA had an edge over others to reach the higher pedestal.     

US-centric foreign policy

Under the guise of security threats from India and Afghanistan, our early leaders clutched the finger of the US and obeyed their dictates in return for monetary assistance and military hardware. This approach made the rulers addicted to western way of life and to the foreign aid and subservient to the wishes of the US and the West, making Pakistan a dependent country.

As a result of putting all its eggs in the basket of the US, Pakistan had to tailor its foreign policy suiting the USA and in the process compromised its sovereignty, dignity and honor.

Dependence on loans from the IMF and the World Bank increased manifold once the two mainstream political parties, the PPP and PML-N, took turns from 1988 onwards. Their leaders filled their coffers with ill-gotten wealth, discarded merit and moral values, and promoted nepotism and dynastic politics. As a result of their heartless plunder and misuse of the state resources, Pakistan’s economy has remained in the woods.

Policy of appeasement

Since beggars can’t be choosers, the rulers had to adopt a policy of appeasement to keep Washington in good humor. They had to perforce bear the repeated betrayals of the US and its highly discriminatory policies. Appeasement in the form of ‘doing more’ crossed all limits after 9/11. No leader uttered a word in protest when it suffered a human loss of 80,000 people and financial loss of $ 150 billion while fighting the US imposed longest war on terror.

No civil or military leader could dare to object to the US interference in Pakistan’s internal affairs or the haughty behavior of the US officials. They couldn’t pick up courage to say that the so-called friends and allies were in reality behind cross-border terrorism. Fear psychosis governed their policy of appeasement. They begged for aid but never sought compensation and war reparations from the USA. They somehow got obsessed with the idea that Pakistan’s survival could be jeopardized without the US patronage and its support.

The privileged class never objected to the overly pro-US tilt since they are also beneficiaries of the US largesse. None realized that the ones begging for aid are never respected and the aid givers feel no compunction in treating them like slaves. Master-servant relationship has remained in vogue since 1954. This being the accepted trend, to expect a relationship with the US on equal footing is unrealistic. This rhetoric is meant to throw wool into the eyes of the public and to hide their own timidity.   

Leaders and led out of sync

Contrary to the misperceptions and compulsions of the ruling regimes and the upper class who view the US favorably, the great majority in Pakistan hate the US and yearn to get rid of its perverse influence and meddlesome role. Having gone through the trials and tribulations, they clearly see the dual faced and biased attitude of the US and the harms it has caused to them and their country. Due to contrasting perceptions, the leaders and the led in Pakistan have remained out of sync. The disadvantaged resent the advantaged class. 

Apart from anti-Americanism, other major cribs of the people are that the ruling regimes are insensitive, selfish, corrupt, anti-poor and hypocrites. These impressions got ingrained into their minds after comparing their affluent lifestyle and their callous showoff of wealth and power with their own wretched conditions.

It is shocking for them to see that there is no change in their lives from pre-partition days, nor in the insolent attitude of the rich class who treat them harshly but are submissive before the US and Europe. Slavish submissiveness to the US diktat has frustrated the people.

It is in the backdrop of callousness of the elite class and the rulers towards them and subservience of the leaders towards the USA that they saw in Imran Khan (IK) a glimmer of hope who had the guts to stand up to the American arrogance and bullying attitude. 

Role of the military

Out of 75 years of Pakistan’s political history, the military has ruled for nearly 33 years and for the rest of the period, it has been ruling indirectly. FM Ayub Khan nurtured ZA Bhutto, Gen Yahya Khan played into the hands of ZA Bhutto and Sheikh Mujib, Gen Ziaul Haq groomed Nawaz Sharif (NS) and Gen Musharraf extended his rule with the help of King’s Party and by giving NRO.  

Rise of the PTI

It was due to the growing resentment of the people against the two dynasties ruling the country since 1988 that the military establishment thought of making a new experiment with the emerging party PTI under IK in 2011. They saw in him all the traits of a successful leader who was honest, had charisma and dash, was determined and had a missionary zeal to accomplish his goals. He rose to prominence after his mammoth public meetings at Lahore and in Karachi in October 2011. 

Outcome of July 2018 elections

The one-seater PTI steered by IK and guided by invisible hands increased its political strength in the 2013 elections to 35 National Assembly (NA) seats, and it bagged the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP). In the Centre and in Punjab, it was the 3rd largest party. In the 2018 elections, helped by the establishment, the PTI increased its tally to 115 NA seats and emerged as the single largest winning party, and gained a majority in KP. Its victory was, however, dampened since it couldn’t win even a simple majority in the Centre and in Punjab. As such it had to grudgingly resort to horse-trading and to bank upon the support of the allies to form governments in the Centre and in Punjab.

This milestone of defeating the two major parties was achieved by the PTI owing to the singular efforts of IK. His emphasis on justice on doorsteps, elimination of corruption, sympathy for the unemployed and the homeless, and above all his objections against war on terror appealed to the senses of the common people. What fascinated them was his vitriolic attacks on the top leadership of the PML-N, PPP and JUI-F and his resolve to put all the corrupt political leaders in jails and to bring back the looted wealth.                  

While PPP which had turned into a regional party in 2013 elections managed to retain its bastion of Sindh, the PML-N was the biggest loser since its head NS was disqualified from the seat of PM in July 2017, removed from the chair of president of his party, and jailed for ten years. His party not only lost the elections, but it also lost its forte of Punjab. Since then the PML-N leaders are grieving that the establishment had stolen their victory to hand over power to the selected. Their cribbing had weight since the establishment had decided to try a fresh horse with a clean record.     

Aims of Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM)

The PDM under the leadership of Maulana Fazlur Rahman, comprising 13 parties was formed in 2019 with a view to force the PTI regime to hold early elections. The PDM leaders wanted to unseat IK not because of the dwindling economy and price hike, but because of the tightening noose of accountability around their necks. IK didn’t agree to forgive their sins as Gen Musharraf had done, and was hell-bent to take the mega corruption and money laundering cases pursued by the NAB to their logical conclusion.

Finding all their escape routes getting blocked, the PDM stepped up their efforts in 2021 towards the achievement of their one-point agenda of getting rid of IK. They drew strength from the lack of performance of the ruling regime, failing to fulfill any of the rosy promises made by IK, and increase in the menace of corruption. The health of the economy couldn’t be improved due to unprecedented tough conditions imposed by the IMF, the blackmailing attitude of the FATF and Covid-19 which affected the economies of the whole world. 

Once the people started to complain about record breaking inflation, price hike and devaluation of the Rupee, the PDM leaders added ‘incompetency and inefficiency’ to their narrative of ‘selected and selectors’.

Dawn of 2022 saw the popularity of IK declining and PTI financial managers seemed unable to stem the decline in macroeconomics. Rupee value and economy kept waning while foreign exchange reserves, foreign/local debts, inflation, and prices kept shooting up.

Improvements overshadowed by price spiral

The PTI government handled the Covid-19 challenge adeptly and earned kudos from the world, it increased the volume of exports and reduced the current account deficit, and also expedited work on seven dams. However, its inability to control the price spiral overshadowed its achievements. Due to lack of parliamentary majority and policy of non-cooperation with the opposition, no major reform could be undertaken.

PDM didn’t pose a threat

In spite of the lack of governance and financial mismanagement of the ruling regime, the PDM posed no threat due to its internal divisions. There were differences of opinions between the PML-N and the PPP whether to opt for mass resignations from national/provincial assemblies, or to go for vote-of-no-confidence (VoNC).

There were differences within the PML-N as well; elder brother and her daughter wanting a hawkish approach towards both PTI and the establishment, and the younger brother preferring a dovish approach.

These variances went in favor of the PTI. The other big advantage enjoyed by the PTI was the full back-up support of the establishment

Neutrality of the establishment

Problem started when differences arose between IK and Gen Qamar Bajwa over the posting out of DG ISI in July 2021, over Punjab and KP chief ministers Buzdar-Mehmood, and PM’s chief secretary Azam Khan, IK’s lambasting of Gen Musharraf, his lack of diplomatic skills in dealing with the US, Arab Gulf States and China, and his refusal to adopt a policy of accommodation with the opposition.

When IK refused to listen to saner advice from the establishment, and didn’t perform on ground, the establishment decided to become neutral. This mid-stream change of posture went entirely in favor of the PDM and in disfavor of the PTI.  

The US interference

Matters took a dramatic turn in March 2022 when the US meddled into internal politics of Pakistan by threatening to change the regime. The Biden administration was impelled to intervene due to IK’s policy of defiance starting from ‘Absolutely Not’, his visit to Moscow, abstaining from voting in the UN, refusing to condemn Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and forging closer ties with Russia.

Biden couldn’t afford non-cooperation at that critical juncture since it could give ideas to other US allies to become defiant. Sri Lanka had also abstained from voting. The US hurried to unite the divided PDM, purchase the dissident legislators of the PTI and provided funds to Zardari to make the VoNC successful.

Victim of foreign conspiracy

The shoddy manner in which the new regime took over power on April 9 gave a ready-made narrative to the fallen party to beat its detractors with. Unlike previous regime changes whose ouster through military coups or presidential acts were celebrated by the people and the opposition parties distributed sweets, this time the reverse happened.

The public is sympathizing with the ousted party and censuring the ones who are holding the reins of power. They and the neutrals are dubbed as traitors. IK whose popularity was on the decline and would have further dipped by mid-2023, has made a turnabout and it is ascending. He has once again become the most popular leader as can be seen from the mammoth public gatherings in various cities he is addressing.

Takeover of new government

Shahbaz Sharif (SS) has taken over at a time when Pak economy is at the brink of collapse. He and other PDM members vied for ouster of the PTI regime but had no plans in hand how they would steer the sinking ship out of the choppy waters.

Herculean efforts are required to salvage the crisis situation, but he and his team are giving glum looks. SS has lost his old flame and he urged other partners as well as the NSC to share the responsibility collectively once he took tough decisions to meet the demands of the IMF.

He will be able to present the budget in June and move the economic wheels only if the IMF as well as other friendly countries extend loans up to $ 12 billion. Petrol bomb has been dropped to soften the IMF. Loans will be a temporary remedy to remove the headache but wouldn’t cure the chronic illness. His biggest challenge is, how to deal with IK led PTI which has pledged to protest if the government doesn’t agree to hold elections within 90 days.

War of narratives and sabre rattling

The PTI succeeded in selling its narrative to the public which is based on ‘foreign conspiracy and imported government of looters and traitors’. He played the victim card shrewdly by emphasizing that he had been removed from power since he wanted to frame an independent foreign policy free of the US influence so as to make Pakistan truly free and independent.  

The people loved him on account of his bold defiance to the US bellicosity which none had ever exhibited. They heckled and harassed the defectors and all those who were part of the conspiracy. The people are not accepting the new set-up whom they see as rotten eggs.

Being a crowd puller, he attracted huge crowds in his public meetings in various cities from April 12 till May 22. The high-pitched fervor and emotionalism on display since April 10th was rarely seen before. His fading charisma has revived and his inanities during his 3 ½ years rule forgotten and forgiven and he is riding on a high crest of popularity.

Bolstered by the massive size of the rallies and the gusto of his supporters, IK gave further fillip to his narrative by terming his fightback as a war of independence. He vehemently castigated his opponents, the ECP, the judiciary and the army chief whom he mockingly called ‘neutral’, a ‘facilitator’, a ‘handler’ of the conspiracy. After naming him Mir Jaffar in his Abbottabad speech, he changed his stance at Jhelum by saying he meant SS.

IK and other PTI senior leaders are violating the constitution, endorsing politics of agitation, hate and violence, and are inciting their followers. IK and Sheikh Rashid arrogantly crowed that it will be a bloody long march which no power on earth will be able to stop.

He gave a call to his supporters all over the country that he wanted two million marchers to storm Islamabad (Isbd) on May 25 from two directions like a hurricane and sweep away all the obstacles and the sitting government. He declared the long march as Azadi march and demanded early elections.

Judging from the extensively heightened emotions and fervor of his supporters in the public gatherings, IK had no doubt in his mind that they would overcome all the obstacles and reach D-Chowk in Isbd. He was over-confident that next time he will sweep the elections with a thumping majority. 

Government’s response

To dampen the rising tide of PTI’s public gatherings, the PML-N, PPP and JUI-F leaders also held public meetings but those were no match to the PTI jalsas. The government couldn’t have matched PTI’s offensive without an effective narrative as appealing as that of PTI’s narrative. Worthwhile narrative cannot be framed with two PMs (NS and SS), and two finance ministers (Dar and Misbah), and divided thoughts on early or delayed elections. Zardari ruled out elections without electoral reforms and change in NAB laws. 

As a tit-for-tat, Maryum Nawaz and other PML-N leaders also resorted to similar tactics of injecting hatred into politics. A series of corruption cases are being initiated against the PTI leaders. Tosha Khana and Farah Gogi cases are being investigated hoping that it would help in tearing the mask of honesty worn by IK and in belittling him. Unlike the last tenure of PML-N in which it was very soft towards the vandalism of the PTI, this time the coalition government with hardnose Rana Sanaullah as Interior Minister, was determined to deal with the Azadi marchers with an iron hand the way the TLP activists were brutalized by the former regime.

The crackdown started in Punjab and in Sindh a day earlier to the D-Day. Houses of PTI leaders and their supporters were raided in dark hours. The routes to Islamabad were blocked with containers. On D-Day, the police made extensive use of teargas shells, rubber bullets and batons.  

Drop scene of much-publicized long march

The PTI had strategized a two pronged assault on Islamabad from Punjab and KP. After the loss of Punjab, it was left with only one base of operation in KP where it has a strong govt. IK had to call off the sit-in at D Chowk abruptly due to extremely stiff actions of the law enforcers and the number of marchers who were well below 30-50,000. Justification given by him is that he feared a bloody clash since many of the PTI activists were armed.

Another threat hurled

After the show of force on May 2 backfired due to strong resistance put up by the law enforcers, the PTI has once again threatened to storm Isbd with greater preparations and fervor after 6 June if the imported govt didn’t announce the election date. This time the PTI intends to attack under the judicial cover and wants the judiciary to tie the hands of the law enforcers, failing which it would come well-equipped and better prepared. KP’s CM Mehmood has disclosed his intentions by stating that they would come with full force to Isbd.

Having weathered the storm, the interior minister is feeling more confident that he will frustrate their intimidating tactics and use of force. Maryam Nawaz is keeping the political temperature high and is urging the judiciary to stay out of the political tussle. 150 FIRS have been registered against the top leaders and activists of the PTI in various police stations on charges of arson.

Penchant for early elections

Early elections are being advocated by all and sundry as the only solution to the volatile political situation. In their view, if early elections are not held there will be a big clash and things would get out of control and might lead to a civil war.

This argument would have been weighty, had the situation not been abnormal and political polarization not touched the zenith, and the economy had some life to sustain the expenses of elections and its fallout effects. It is feasible if electoral reforms had been done and the two most trusted institutions of the military establishment and the judiciary not been compromised by the politicians. The ECP is not trusted by the PTI. So who will ensure free and fair elections, and who will ensure that this time both sides will gracefully accept the results??

Foreign agenda

No one is looking at the bigger game of the US which has all along been trying to roll back Pakistan’s nuclear/missile programs. Route to Pakistan’s nuclear program is through its custodians and not the politicians. For them, the chief concern is to weaken the trunk of the army. To this end, the Indo-US-UK-Israel nexus have been hatching never-ending conspiracies and have used the tool of subversion extensively to poison the minds of the people against the army. They have failed but have not given up their agenda.

It is for the first time that they have succeeded in creating some cracks within the fort of the army and the veterans. For the first time a segment within the serving and retired army officers are trusting IK and mistrusting the army chief which is onerous.   

Prudence and not violence is the need of the day

In the wake of extensively charged up emotions and hate-filled environments, there is a dire need to tamp down the political rhetoric and to let sanity prevail. Since neither side is prepared to lower their tempers and are bracing for a showdown, which could be bloody as hinted by IK, and the social media as well as the spoilers are sprinkling fuel to intensify hatred and to push the country towards chaos, anarchy and possible civil war, a third party will have to step in fast to act as a referee and to douse the fire. Unfortunately, the two premier institutions – the army and the judiciary – that have always come forward as saviors in testing times stand compromised.

 

The three pillars of the state – the military, the judiciary and the media – joined by intellectuals, academicians and prominent figures of civil society will have to play a role to put sense into the mind of egoist IK who has thrown tolerance, prudence and sagacity out of the window and is inciting the youth to resort to violence. His hate-filled rhetoric is dangerous, and his utopian narrative of “slavery or independence” is captivating but do not help in putting the crippled economy back on the rails. Disunited house is easy prey for the adversaries, while a united front would keep them at bay.

 

 

 

Additional Reading

Who Was That Masked Man? | Start Searching for the Main Character? | Who was Telling America ?

 

 

 

 

 

     

Ways and means will have to be found to stop the poison being injected into our minds by the West and India, which has colored our perceptions and affected our rational thinking.

Pakistan urgently needs reforms, political stability and economic uplift and not delusional so-called Azadi which is a route to destabilization.

Like a Loya Jirga in Afghanistan, there is an urgent need for a national dialogue in which all stakeholders should sit down under one roof. They should first decide as to which system is more suitable and practical and is closer to the aspirations of the people.

The writer is retired Brig Gen, war veteran, defence, security & political analyst, international columnist, author of five books, Chairman Thinkers Forum Pakistan, Director Measac Research Centre, takes part in TV talk shows, and delivers talks. asifharoonraja@gmail.com

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An Overseas Pakistani lady speaks out on politics in Pakistan

 

Video

https://www.facebook.com/MubashirHassanShahCBL/videos/446946210072988/

 

 

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DUNYA TV – Kamran Khan kay Saath – Pakistani Exports at Record Level

 

Reference

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 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. 

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

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

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

Strained relations with the USA

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

India’s persistent animosity

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

Afghanistan’s unwanted resentment

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

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

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

Iran’s unfounded reservations

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

Mellowed relations with the GCC States

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

Pak-China ever-growing relations

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

 

Pakistan’s nuclear program an eyesore

 

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

 

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

Reasons behind strain in Pakistan-US relations

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

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

Pakistan-Russia improved relations

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Imran’s dilemma

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

Way Forward 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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