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Posts Tagged Pakistan’s Hope

ALL IS NOT LOST IN PAKISTAN By Tariq A. Al Maeena, Special to Gulf News

Mustaqbil Pakistan is one of the many NGOs set up by selfless Pakistanis who have taken it upon themselves to contribute to some form of stability and productivity within their society



All is not lost in Pakistan


By Tariq A. Al Maeena, Special to Gulf News


16:54 January 2, 2017


All is not lost in Pakistan
Image Credit:Niño Jose Heredia/©Gulf News

With all the seemingly bad news emanating from Pakistan, a reader would not be faulted into imagining a scenario of doom for that country. Beleaguered as it has been since its involvement in the conflict following the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, the country has faced internal strife of great proportions that threatened to dismantle Pakistan.

It has, however, withstood great challenges and while not on pace with other countries, it still manages to plod on. From a low in 2009, Pakistan has shown a modest yet progressive increase in GNP for the past six years. Part of the reason could be attributed to selfless Pakistanis who have taken it upon themselves and formed NGOs which contribute to some form of stability and productivity within their society.

One such NGO that has been making steady inroads at the grassroots level is Mustaqbil Pakistan. The organization was formed in 2010 as a new political party whose primary objective was to bring about a fundamental change in the way politics is conducted in Pakistan.

Speaking at its launch, the party chairman Nadeem Mumtaz Qureshi minced no words saying, “We are living through what is possibly one of the most dangerous periods in our history. Our very existence as a sovereign state is threatened. At a time like this, it is imperative that all of us who have something positive to offer come together as one in defense of our homeland. And you, as leaders and moulders of public opinion, have a vital role to play.”










Qureshi then lamented the deteriorating conditions at the time. Insurgency and military conflict in two of the country’s provinces, killings and abductions of civilians in many cities, unemployment, hopelessness, desperation, suicides and a shocking absence of the writ of the government. He was then very direct as to the root of the problem.

“In Pakistan, the worst, most incompetent, most corrupt, most morally bankrupt, and most insincere of our people compete in our political arena. These people — in some sense the scum of our society — are elected to our parliament and shape our destiny. Why then should anyone of us be surprised that Pakistan is slowly crumbling? And, let’s be clear if this ‘scum’ continues to come back in power time and again — as it has done during the democratic phases of our history — then Pakistan will not survive.”

The party’s aim has been to bring decent, competent, sincere and honest Pakistanis into politics. This segment of the population was previously unwilling or unable to participate in politics. Their absence had created a political vacuum which according to Qureshi had been happily filled by the ‘scum’, the reason was given for the sorry state the country was in then.

Qureshi’s first thrust was to reach out to the media for support. To convince Pakistanis that they had it in their power to change their destiny, he challenged the media to tell it like it was.

“I am writing to you — eminent editors and producers in the print and broadcast media — to tell you that you have a crucial role to play. What you are doing today is not enough. The media broadcasts hours and hours of output featuring the ‘usual culprits’: our corrupt and incompetent politicians. Your smug anchors find gratification in having these already challenged people utter inanities and spew venom on their equally inane rivals. And what service do you render the people of Pakistan in broadcasting these programs hour after hour, evening after evening, day after day? Have you enlightened them? Have you informed them? Have you given them hope?”

Challenging the media to be more forthright, Qureshi continued, “Ladies and gentlemen you have to rise above all of this. Time is running out for Pakistan. Too much is at stake. You cannot continue to behave like this. There are people, here, today, now, working to change things. You need to identify them and then present them to your readers and viewers. You need to show Pakistanis that there is hope. And that there are still people who, sometimes at the risk of their safety, are working day and night to make Pakistan’s future brighter than its past. There are many, many, good, decent, sincere and competent Pakistanis working to bring change. They also deserve a chance to be heard. And you should let their ideas and agenda be heard.”

Realizing that to fight corruption in politics, one must first clean house from inside, the party since its inception has been working tirelessly and without any government support in introducing new faces in the country’s Provincial and National Assembly. They have been spreading their message in towns and villages and lending support wherever possible to make lives better.

At the time the party was formed, Qureshi had exhorted, “Rome is burning. You can continue to fiddle. Or you can pick up a bucket and join those of us who want to do more.”

It seems many Pakistanis have picked up on his message to set their country’s path to recovery.

— Tariq A. Al Maeena is a Saudi socio-political commentator. He lives in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. You can follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/@talmaeena


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Pakistan Think Tank Organization Thanks, Brother Tariq A.Al Maeena


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The ‘Kaptaan’ who can bring peace – Maria Waqar

The ‘Kaptaan’ who can bring peace

He is pejoratively called Taleban Khan by Pakistan’s liberals, but Imran Khan’s potential to engage the Taleban can be a boon. It is often said that education is the panacea for all of Pakistan’s problems. But if you really want to see a case showing that education can, in fact, have no link with the capacity to solve problems, then try talking to Pakistan’s liberals about the Taleban. For the liberals, the Taleban are an evil force bent on transporting them from the comfort of their villas to some ramshackle place, where women totter in burkas and men are rendered indistinguishable by their long beards. The Taleban evoke an emotional reaction so intense in Pakistan’s privileged, westernised lot that their acumen is hijacked by ideological hatred. Their capacity to objectively discuss Talebanisation is undermined by their paranoia of possibly living a scene out of The Kite Runner in the future.

So, if someone tries to rationally talk about the Taleban, without denouncing them for their supposed intentions to set up madrassas in every nook and cranny, the liberals get irked. And if someone takes the liberty to suggest talking to the Taleban, he or she is labelled a Taleban apologist, fundo, extremist — the list goes on.

It’s no surprise, therefore, that Imran Khan has faced great criticism for his views on the Taleban — he’s been called Taleban Khan, his opponents have sniggered about his supposed invisible beard, he’s been pejoratively labelled as a right-wing politician (as if a genuinely leftist leader, who never sought support from religious parties, ever existed in Pakistan). 

But, Imran Khan’s views are based on a reality that most of the country’s liberals have refused to acknowledge: The Taliban are here to stay. Yes, it would be great if a military operation could pummel them into submission and the vast inundation of aid-dollars could veer the “hearts and minds” of the people away from militants. And it would be truly wonderful if an asteroid-like drone could make them suddenly disappear. But guess what? That just isn’t going to happen. After countless drone strikes, several military operations and millions of aid-dollars later, the Taleban are stronger than ever. And, in fact, they are no longer holed up in a region that most affluent Pakistanis would have spent their lives not knowing a thing about if weren’t for the war on terror.  The Taleban are now in Pakistan’s major cities, blowing up places and people and coercing the population to abstain from voting.

The affluent people living in these cities have long negated the idea of even considering the idea of negotiating with the Taleban, thinking that this would transform Pakistan into Afghanistan one day. But the way the militants are currently trying to derail the democratic process is dreadfully reminiscent of their attempts to thwart Afghan elections in the past. Pakistan is on its way to becoming Afghanistan.

So in the light of these reality checks, let’s evaluate the options Pakistanis have at the moment. First, there’s the option of eliminating the Taleban completely. While getting completely rid of rebels and insurgents through military might is always a theoretical possibility for a state, its execution is often difficult and painful. It took Sri Lanka 17 long years to crush the LTTE — the inventors of suicide bombing — in 2009, but it came at a high human cost. Scores of Tamil civilians lost their lives and thousands were internally displaced, as the Sri Lankan military cracked down on the Tamil insurgents.

Another famous case of a successful counterinsurgency operation is the Malayan Emergency (1948-1960) when the British forces crushed the Malaysian National Liberation Army in Malaya (modern-day Malaysia). Cited repeatedly in a plethora of counterinsurgency studies, the campaign involved a number of hardline tactics, including forced relocation of hundreds of thousands of people — now considered a war crime according to international law — to isolate the rebels. The “hearts and minds” campaign that was employed by British troops to win the support of the indigenous population in Malaya is often cited as the motive behind the cottage industry of Western-backed development programmes in Pakistan. But still, the military campaign was of utmost importance in successfully countering the insurgency. 

But can the success of the British operation that was fought in Malaya’s jungles be replicated in Pakistan’s far greater territory, which is now speckled far and wide with Taleban bases (the primary reason why the US policy of exclusively targeting Pakistan’s borderlands with drones has failed in crushing the militancy)?  And while the Tamil civilian population suffered enormously as the Sinhalese state attempted to annihilate the LTTE, will the Pakistani military, which has a disproportionately high representation of the Pashtuns, let people from their own ethnic group be collateral damage in the fight against militancy? These are difficult questions, but Pakistanis need to think about them before they make a choice at the ballot.

Now, let’s consider the option of talking to the Taleban.  Before calling me a ‘fundo’ or a biased Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf supporter, please note that the country which started the war on terror — the US — has been holding peace talks with the Taleban in Qatar to facilitate the country’s exit from Afghanistan in 2014. Afghan President Hamid Karzai, who had once declared that the Taleban were never coming back to Afghanistan, is very much part of these talks. The US and Afghanistan have finally realised that it’s virtually impossible to crush the Taleban.

And many states have been able to successfully negotiate with rebels/insurgents and pave way for peace. One case is of Indonesia, which struck a peace deal with separatist rebels from the Free Aceh Movement (GAM) in 2005 after the latter fought an insurgency for 29 years. Under the agreement, the province of Aceh was given  special autonomy and government troops withdrew from the area after GAM laid down their arms. And in 2012,  the Philippines signed a peace deal with Islamist rebel group Moro Islamic Liberation Front (Milf), brokered by Malaysia.

The most recent case is the decision of the Kurdish rebel group, Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) that has fought a guerrilla war against the Turkish state for the past 30 years, to withdraw its fighters to neighbouring countries in an effort to commit to peace.

Negotiating with recalcitrant non-state actors, however, is no easy feat for governments; it is, in fact, fraught with problems. The biggest problem, as Barbara Walter has argued in her seminal workCommitting to Peace: The Successful Settlement of Civil Wars, is finding a neutral third-party guarantor who will ensure that the two parties will stick to the terms of the accord. Otherwise, how can the rebels credibly know that the much more powerful state will not simply gun them down just as soon as they lay down their arms?

The absence of an impartial actor is one major reason why the Pakistani government’s previous accords with the Taleban have failed, including the Swat deal. At this point, many people reading this  piece have absolutely no doubt that I am a complete ‘fundo’, but there are two things I want to pinpoint. First is that both sides — the militants and the Pakistani army — were constantly flouting the terms of the Swat deal. The deep mistrust on both sides made the weaker power, the Taleban, highly insecure and inclined to offensively exert their might — by kidnapping security personnel and refusing to put down their arms, for example.  

Secondly, detractors of the Swat deal often say that it bolstered Talebanisation, but here’s my problem with this thesis: Pakistan is getting Talebanised although there’s no deal in place. And it’s happening because Pakistan has no coherent strategy to deal with militants.

The ideal way for the state to deal with the Taleban would be to first debilitate them militarily, and then offer to negotiate with them when they are weaker. The examples that I have already cited show that negotiating with rebels when they are in a position of  weakness can prove fruitful. The Aceh peace agreement came after the 2004 tsunami had devastated the province and weakened the rebels, making them inclined to a peace deal with the government. And the recent decision of the Kurdish rebel fighters to withdraw from Turkey has followed months of quiet negotiation between the jailed founder of the PKK, Abdullah Ocalan, and the Turkish government.

Basically, negotiations with the Taleban just cannot be avoided. If Pakistan is to ever find peace, its leaders will have to talk to the Taleban at some point in time.  And there’s no better politician who can do this right now than Imran Khan. He’s the only one who has the guts to openly talk about the Taleban and has the potential to engage them. While we don’t yet know what his exact strategy is going to be, the strategies (or lack thereof) of other politicians vis-à-vis the Taleban have miserably failed. Those, whose minds are not blinded, can clearly see that this is, in fact, true.


Maria Waqar is a senior-sub editor at Khaleej Times. She can be contacted at maria@khaleejtimes.com

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