politics
Challenges of political transition
As the nation heads for next elections, 
political leadership faces many questions in finalising the contours of the caretaker 
governments and the rules of the game
By Raza Rumi
As Pakistan prepares for the next general elections, several questions loom large on the political horizon. There will be major tests for leadership among the political elites in the next few weeks with respect to finalising the contours of a caretaker government as well as the rules of game in the forthcoming election. 

issue
Borrowed troubles
The country lost billions of rupees in the form of 
revenue because of non-taxation or bad debts written off by the banks
By Huzaima Bukhari 

Dr. Ikramul Haq
The Supreme Court of Pakistan, in suo moto Case No. 26 of 2007 and Human Rights Case Nos. 2698/06, 133, 778-P, 13933 and 14072-P of 2009, while questioning the authority and jurisdiction of State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) to waive off loans, constituted a three-member commission on June 3, 2011 to prepare a report in respect of recovery of written off loans from 1971 onwards. 

Leaving the wound unhealed
The security of Jammu and Kashmir cannot be guaranteed without the unconditional support of all the neighbouring states and the United Nations
By Nyla Ali Khan
The role of the United Nations in the Kashmir dispute is undeniable. Recent statements made by the government of India about disregarding the role of the UN in Jammu and Kashmir and reducing the Kashmir issue to a bilateral one, between the governments of India and Pakistan, are quite distressing. 

Epicentre of “great game”
Lying at the crossroads of South Asia, Balochistan remains in the grip of targeted and sectarian killings
By Alauddin Masood
Some events move everyone, creating tons of sympathy for affected people while building-up strong hatred against villains and a national consensus for deterrent action against the evil forces. The Hazara Town (Quetta) incident of February 16, 2013 is one of such catastrophes. The tragic incident left 89 citizens dead and some 200 injured. 

Roots of governance
Instead of generating further schisms in the already divided society, the local government system in Sindh should bring peace and harmony
By Dr Noman Ahmed
The issue of form and content of local government system has become a bone of contention in the politics of Sindh. The MQM left the treasury benches to sit in the opposition. The repeal of Sindh People’s Local Government Ordinance 2012, among other reasons, is cited as a core factor. 
Despite the orders of the Supreme Court to hold the local government elections a few months ago, no heed was paid to it. The other political parties also made local government a rallying point.

Change we need
The nexus of feudal politicians, the military and the bureaucracy must be done away with so that democracy, morality and justice survive
By Farooq Sumar
Pakistan’s chequered road to democracy is now finally being considered as the main reason for most of its ills. People at large are expressing the need to get away from the sham democracy of today and the khaki autocracy of yesterday. To bring about a change, it is necessary to identify the mistakes and the factors responsible. 
In order to discuss Pakistan’s failure to instill and develop democratic norms and traditions in its pursuit of nation building, one must begin with Mr. Jinnah’s Muslim League and its leadership at first. If a rational discussion is to take place, it is necessary to accept that nobody is beyond criticism. To err is human and the best of us also err. However, criticism must not be personal, it should be factual and honest.

Time for education emergency
The PTI’s education policy lists ambitious measures to reform the sector
By Shahzada Irfan Ahmed
The Pakistan Tehreek–e-Insaf (PTI) has recently announced a comprehensive education policy which is called the party “Education Vision”. The party leaders claim a lot of time, research, comparative studies of international educational systems and input from various quarters has gone into this whole exercise. Once it comes to power, the PTI plans to implement this policy in letter and spirit. 
Stating categorically that the country needs to impose an educational emergency to overcome most of its woes, the PTI believes it’s time the priorities should be redefined and maximum possible funds directed to this sector. 

Indo-Pak Cold War in Afghanistan
Pakistan and India are locked in a zero sum game in Afghanistan in which the gain of one is the loss of the other
By Dr Syed Hussain Shaheed Soherwordi
Pakistan and India are in the midst of a Cold War to influence developments in Afghanistan. Since the fall of Taliban regime in 2001, both have injected their confrontation into Afghan affairs. They follow a zero sum game in which gain of one is the loss of the other. This equation is further fanning bilateral Cold War. Their economic, financial, political, defense and geopolitical interests clash there and hence prevent each from gaining an edge over the other. Such Cold War is a stumbling block to bring development, peace and security in Afghanistan. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

politics
Challenges of political transition
As the nation heads for next elections, 
political leadership faces many questions in finalising the contours of the caretaker 
governments and the rules of the game
By Raza Rumi

As Pakistan prepares for the next general elections, several questions loom large on the political horizon. There will be major tests for leadership among the political elites in the next few weeks with respect to finalising the contours of a caretaker government as well as the rules of game in the forthcoming election.

It is worthwhile to mention that these elections will be the first of their kind when the civilian forces would take charge of the transition at hand. Throughout Pakistan’s history, the civil military bureaucracy has been the arbiter of democratic transitions and the only time when the civilian authorities under the leadership of ZAB attempted to transfer power, the country had to face a coup de tat and live with it for the next eleven years.

Pakistan’s noisy and multifarious media is highlighting various issues with respect to the electoral preparations, as well as the eligibility of candidates who will be running for the next election. The debates are sometimes informative, but on most occasions the intent is to sensationalise the difficult issues relating to the impending political transition. It is critical to inform the public opinion and build sufficient pressure on elected and unelected institutions to take the necessary steps which lead Pakistan to a fair and free election.

There are seven main challenges which need to be addressed by the political parties, especially the government and the opposition. The sooner these are dealt with, the more likely that a legitimate political process would make history.

Caretaker governments:

We know that the current parliament will end its term on 16th of March. However, the election schedule and the caretaker governments are still matters of much speculation, political point scoring and conspiracy theories. It would be vital for the major political parties to agree on the names for a caretaker prime minister and chief ministers.

Instead of bickering over individual names, the government and opposition would have to tilt the balance of power in favour of the political forces rather than leaving such decisions to the unelected institutions. In case the PPP and the PML-N fail to agree on the names then the ECP would take the decision and that may just surprise all and sundry. In any case, we need to develop healthy parliamentary traditions and a culture of bipartisan consensus on matters of national interest.

Given that there are political forces that remain outside the parliament, the government and opposition need to consult the PTI and such other groups which boycotted the 2008 elections. That consultation must be undertaken now and should be concluded as soon as possible. If the politicians have agreed on the 18th Amendment and other vital political compacts, then this should not be a difficult endeavour.

Compliance with the Election Commission scrutiny process:

It would be counterproductive for the political parties to indulge in a confrontational game with the ECP. In fact, after the conclusion of a democratic tenure and the public concerns over the quality of politicians who enter the legislatures, the political parties would be doing themselves a big favour by undertaking a cleanup process within their ranks.

Awarding tickets to men and women of dubious credentials hardly favours the image of the political parties and the future of democracy. Exaggerated or not, the perception that most parliamentarians don’t pay taxes or they are defaulters of national banks needs to be addressed by the political parties themselves. Sections of media may be delegitimizing the politicians, but the political parties must address these concerns instead of sweeping them under the carpet. This may be the best time for internal screening mechanisms where the electoral strength of a candidate may be tested against his or her eligibility as per the ECP rules.

The third challenge pertains to intra-party mechanisms for adherence to the electoral code of conduct.

The parliamentarians have now amended the electoral code of conduct and formally accepted most of what the ECP had suggested. The code is ambitious for it asks the political parties to avoid display of weapons, regulate election expenditure, streamline the process of advertising through hoardings and billboards and above all set out an overall framework for peaceful elections. The code is well conceived; however the real challenge is its enforcement.

The code of conduct cannot be implemented without the full ownership of the political parties and effective sensitization measures within the party ranks whereby all candidates are made to adhere that and any violation should be treated as undermining the party discipline. The evidence of the parties’ willingness to undertake the required measures seems lacking thus far.

Shunning extremism:

Perhaps the most disturbing reality of our times is kowtowing to the militant outfits by the political parties for electoral gains. Most notably, the PML-N has entered into local, unwritten, agreements with the Ahle Sunnat Wal Jamaat (ASWJ). Such an alliance may favour the PML-N in the short term but it would cost dearly in terms of the overall direction of Pakistani society.

In a democracy, all shades of political orientation coexist with each other. However, when violence as a justified means to uphold a particular ideology or world view is legitimized then the brutalisation of society cannot be arrested. By giving leeway to militant organizations, political parties, including the ruling PPP, are setting most dangerous precedents and this may lead to a long term undermining of the constitutional democracy as the radical groups do not recognize the Pakistani state or its constitution. There is no alternative to building public pressure on the political parties and ensuring that the ECP checks such practices and holds them illegal.

Access to polling booths:

My recent interactions with the political parties have underlined one key concern; the number of polling booths is way too small to cater for a country of 200 million people. For instance, in Balochistan the dispersed polling booths are immediate hurdle in the way of maximum electoral participation. Similarly, to increase women’s participation the polling booths have to be enhanced.

The paucity of polling booths also necessitates heavy transportation of voters to the place of polling. This reality leads to a situation where the richer candidates gain an edge over those who cannot afford such major investments into electioneering. There are thousands of government buildings available across Pakistan which could be used as polling booths and there is no reason why adequate planning cannot handle the additional demand. The ECP has already assured Pakistanis that 25000 new polling booths would be added thereby creating 90,000 booths in total.

Women’s participation:

The reasons of low women participation in Pakistan are well known. There are certain areas of the country where women are discouraged from voting. We cannot afford to let half of the electorate face challenges to its participation in such an important exercise. The ECP must take the political parties and candidates to task which are complicit in agreeing with the conservative forces to deny women their right to vote.

Similarly, the political parties at their end must look at the electoral roles and maximize their chances of gaining support. In light of their constitutional obligations, they must not allow the bigots to dictate terms of political engagement.

Media responsibility:

Thus far, certain worrying trends can be observed in terms of media’s attitude to the electoral process. First of all the corporate and the commercial override the imperatives of sound editorial filters and journalistic ethics. In recent months, the two controversial characters Malik Riaz and TUQ have been receiving inordinate coverage on tv channels. Paid content is evident and media responsibility at best is tenuous.

These are dangerous trends for the electoral campaigns may be unnecessarily influenced by money, thereby putting into question the ‘fairness’ of the election. The two regulators — ECP and PEMRA — must sit together to devise an elaborate framework on balancing the corporate needs of tv channels with those of electoral transparency.

Since 1988, the superior judiciary, toeing the line of the military establishment, was interfering in the electoral process. For instance, in 1988 it declared Zia’s dismissal of Junejo government as illegal but did not restore the government and decreed that fresh elections should take place. In the same year, the restriction of ID card to be presented at polling stations disenfranchised millions of Pakistanis and worked against the PPP. Through the 1990s and even under Musharraf the court decisions were a major hurdle to the conduct of fair elections. Luckily, in 2013 we have a SC that is independent and wants to support a free election. We hope that the court stays the course and helps in changing the direction of Pakistan’s fractured and endangered democracy.

The influence of the military and intelligence agencies is a different subject altogether and the fact that civilians have been minimising space for the interference is a major step forward. It would be in the interest of the military to allow for a legitimate election to take place given that it finds itself threatened by terrorists inside the country, regional powers outside the country and its battle for survival can only succeed when it has the support of elected representatives.

The recent statement of the military spokes person that elections on time are favoured by the security establishment is a welcome move and we hope that the bitter experiences of the 1990s would not be repeated by the rogue elements within its fold.

caption

Consultation is the only way forward.

caption

CEC bracing for the gigantic task ahead.

 

 

 

issue
Borrowed troubles
The country lost billions of rupees in the form of 
revenue because of non-taxation or bad debts written off by the banks
By Huzaima Bukhari 

Dr. Ikramul Haq

The Supreme Court of Pakistan, in suo moto Case No. 26 of 2007 and Human Rights Case Nos. 2698/06, 133, 778-P, 13933 and 14072-P of 2009, while questioning the authority and jurisdiction of State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) to waive off loans, constituted a three-member commission on June 3, 2011 to prepare a report in respect of recovery of written off loans from 1971 onwards.

The commission, headed by Justice Syed Jamshed Ali, former judge of apex court, submitted its report in Supreme Court and hearing was held on February 20, 2013. The court in its order of the same date ordered: “The report of the commission to be made public, which is available for inspection according to the rules to all and sundry. However, the procedure for allowing inspection of the report shall be regularised by the office. The locked iron boxes are ordered to be kept in safe custody along with their keys”. Notice was also issued to all the learned counsel appearing in the case and all concerned for March 15, 2013.

The commission, according to press reports, has revealed that loans worth Rs2.38 billon were waived off between 1971 and 1991 whereas loans worth Rs84.62 billion were waived off between 1992 and 2009. The commission, while holding bankers responsible for extending short-term or long-term loan facility to borrowers on inadequate securities, has recommended action against willful defaulters who took benefit of SBP’s Circular BPD No. 29, which expired on April 14, 2003 although the banks continued writing off loans till 2011.

The commission also has given the names of companies and directors who were beneficiaries of waivers of loans(http://www.nation.com.pk/pakistan-news-newspaper-daily-english-online/business/25-Feb-2013/sbp-says-rs256b-commission-claims-rs87b-loans-waived-off-in-38-years). The commission could only probe 740 cases and has proposed that 222 more cases should also be probed as Rs35 billion has been waived off in these cases.

The report found serious irregularities in loans given to politicians, civil and military bureaucracy, but could not get proofs about waiver on political basis, as bank officials allegedly “concealed the facts because they were afraid of the influential persons.” The bankers, it is said, have given only “business reasons for the writing off the loans.” The report consists of three volumes — Volume I (report of the commission), Volume-II (parts I to VII, synopsis of individual cases), Volume-III (annexures of Volume I) — and the supplementary paper book (containing different correspondence).

The commission has suggested four steps: (i) principal amount should be recovered less payment already made, if any (ii) tribunals comprising the on duty or retired judges of High Courts should be set up for the recovery of amounts (iii) legislation for the recovery of written off loans should be made and (iv) action should also be taken against the credit committees.

It is expected that the powerful vested interests will resist all the steps proposed by the commission — they will not easily surrender ill-gotten wealth amassed through loan sharking and this money is their main weapon to capture state power. The privileged classes, despite all their differences, are united as far as corruption, tax evasion, and plundering of national wealth are concerned. They feel threatened whenever a public debate takes place in media about their tax declarations and amounts of written-off loans.

During the Musharraf-Shaukat era, the loan write-offs in just seven years (2000-2006) crossed the figure of Rs125 billion, whereas in the much-publicised “corrupt eras” of elected governments (985-1999) it was just Rs30 billion. This comparison speaks for itself and does not require any further comments.

The country’s banks and other financial institutions wrote off an amount of over Rs30 billion during the governments of Muhammad Khan Junejo, Benazir Bhutto and Nawaz Sharif. During the two tenures of Nawaz Sharif (1990-93 and 1997-99) total loans of Rs22.35 billion were written off — in his first tenure, a total of Rs2.39 billion were written off and during his second, the amount went up to Rs19.96 billion. The written off loans during the two tenures of Nawaz Sharif constituted approximately 74.5 per cent of the total of Rs30.18 billion, written off between 1986 and 1999. During the two tenures of late Benazir Bhutto, a total of Rs7.23 billion loans were written off, constituting 24.2 percent of the total written off loans — Rs494.97 million in her first tenure and Rs6.74 billion in the second term.

The corrupt business houses owned or backed by ruling elite during the Musharraf era skilfully engineered the amnesty scheme from SBP to get the benefit of loan write-offs and a consequential concession in tax law, whereas their personal wealth kept on increasing [see details in Who are beneficiaries of loan write-offs? The News, April 22, 2008]. All these beneficiaries of loan write-offs still possess assets worth billions of rupees and are in politics. Though, they have been exposed by the commission now, it is still not certain whether they will be disqualified from contesting elections.

The episode of loan waivers in Pakistan unveils many “big names” that control entire state apparatus through money power. The country lost billions of rupees in the form of revenues because of non-taxation or bad debts written off by the banks on the directions of SBP. The successive governments, SBP and Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) never considered the report of Auditor General of Pakistan issued in 1992 showing loss to public exchequer of Rs120 billion.

It is a matter of record that FBR, in the presence of this audit report, issued on February 4, 1993 another letter No. 13(26)/IT-1/79 giving further concessions to the banks [Politics of loan write-offs, The News, February 23, 2008]. The unscrupulous landed aristocrats and businessmen (most of them are elected members), state functionaries and corrupt bankers joined hands to deprive this nation of billions of rupees and colossal public revenues.

The big bosses of SBP and FBR should be taken to task by the Supreme Court to explain who asked them to issue “administrative instructions” in gross violation of law for loan write-offs and giving tax benefits to the beneficiaries.

The inquiry into loans write-offs by the commission has revealed the modus operandi used for looting public money by the powerful segments of society. It is time that the plunderers of public funds are punished and money squandered by them is recovered as suggested by the commission without any further delay. It is essential for establishing true democratic polity and transparent public and private institutions.

The writers, lawyers and authors of many books, are members Visiting Faculty of Lahore University of Management Sciences (LUMS).

 

 

 

 

 

Leaving the wound unhealed
The security of Jammu and Kashmir cannot be guaranteed without the unconditional support of all the neighbouring states and the United Nations
By Nyla Ali Khan

The role of the United Nations in the Kashmir dispute is undeniable. Recent statements made by the government of India about disregarding the role of the UN in Jammu and Kashmir and reducing the Kashmir issue to a bilateral one, between the governments of India and Pakistan, are quite distressing.

Several nations are signatories to the United Nations Charter and have committed themselves to uphold that charter in word and deed. India, which has often invoked moral superiority on other international issues, is now, without batting an eyelid, talking about disregarding world judgments on a very important issue close to home. Disputes are not resolved by violence, but they are not resolved by the blatant disregard of an important body of world opinion either.

The United Nations cannot simply be written off. This is a “truth” that even mainstream politicians in the NC and PDP need to realise. The security of Jammu and Kashmir cannot be guaranteed without the unconditional support of all the neighbouring states, superpowers, and the United Nations. That is the reality of global politics.

I found a letter written by Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah to the United Nations Security Council in 1957, while he was in incarceration, in which he invokes the moral, legal, and constitutional authority of the people’s voice. Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah’s credo is now, sadly and painfully, non-existent. The “leaders” of today in Jammu and Kashmir use the slogans of “plebiscite,” “autonomy,” and “self-rule” just for rhetorical purposes.

In 1949, the president of the UN Security Council, General A.G.L. McNaughton of Canada, endeavoured to outline proposals to resolve the dispute. He proposed a programme of gradual demilitarization and withdrawal of regular Indian and Pakistani forces, which were not required for the purposes of maintaining law and order from the Indian side of the cease-fire line. He also proposed disbandment of the militia of J&K, as well as of forces in Pakistani-administered “Azad” Kashmir. McNaughton recommended continuing the administration of the Northern Areas (NA) by the local authorities, subject to UN supervision. He recommended the appointment of a UN representative by the secretary general of the UN, who would supervise the process of demilitarization and procure conditions necessary to holding a fair and free plebiscite.

Although McNaughton’s proposals were lauded by most members of the Security Council, India stipulated that Pakistani forces must unconditionally withdraw from the state, and that disbandment of Pakistani-administered Kashmir troops must be accomplished before an impartial plebiscite could be held. In the interests of expediency, the UNCIP appointed a single mediator, Sir Owen Dixon, the United Nations representative for India and Pakistan, Australian jurist and wartime ambassador to the United States, to efficiently resolve the conflict.

A meeting of Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah’s National Conference was convened on 18 April 1950, in order to pass a resolution expressly warning the United Nations to take cognizance of Pakistan’s role as the aggressor. Even as Abdullah was aware of the infeasibility of withdrawing the Kashmir issue from the UN, the NC reiterated its commitment to securing the right of self-determination for the people of Kashmir. It was suspicious of the UN, which was subservient to the hegemony of the United States and the United Kingdom and flinched when it came to holding a plebiscite in Kashmir.

Abdullah declared that if a plebiscite was held in Kashmir and the people of Kashmir did not validate the accession to India that would not imply that, “as a matter of course Kashmir becomes part of Pakistan. . . . It would regain the status which it enjoyed immediately preceding the accession [i.e., independence]” (The Hindu, 26 March 1952). In 1949, Abdullah candidly told Michael Davidson, correspondent of the London Observer, that, “Accession to either side cannot bring peace. We want to live in friendship with both the Dominions” (quoted in Saxena 1975: 33).

The distrust that pervaded the Kashmir political scene was outlined by the Communist paper People’s Age, which assessed the report of the United Nations Commission to the Security Council as an instrument of the political intrigues and machinations of imperialist powers against the engendering of democracy in J&K. It was critical of the complicity of Pakistan with these powers to destroy the beginnings of a democratic mass movement. It evaluated the attempt of the United States and the United Kingdom to preside over a purportedly “free and fair” plebiscite that would be held “under the direction of the military and political agents of American imperialism, masked as the UNO Commission officers,” as a strategy on their part to create and secure war bases on the subcontinent against the Soviet Union and China (Krishen 1951: 38).

As a placatory measure, in 1949 the UNCIP declared that “the Secretary-General of the United Nations will, in agreement with the Commission, nominate a Plebiscite Administrator who shall be a person of high international standing”. Needless to say, the plebiscite was never held.

The inability of the Indian government to hold a plebiscite is regarded by the Pakistani government and by pro-independence elements in Kashmir as an act of political sabotage. The Indian government has been rationalising its decision by placing the blame squarely on Pakistan for not demilitarizing the areas of J&K under its control, which was the primary condition specified by the United Nations for holding the plebiscite.

Josef Korbel, the Czech UN representative in Kashmir, observes that ten weeks after the Security Council had passed an injunction calling on both India and Pakistan to demilitarize the Kashmir region within five months, Sir Owen Dixon found that not an iota of work had been done in that regard. Although both parties had agreed to hold a plebiscite in the state, they had failed to take any of the preliminary measures required for a free and fair referendum. Sir Owen Dixon, therefore, decided to take matters into his own hands and asked for the unconditional withdrawal of Pakistani troops. This was followed by a request to both countries to enable the demilitarization of Kashmir.

The then prime minister of Pakistan, Liaquat Ali Khan, agreed to initiate the process by calling for the withdrawal of his troops. But this request, which would have enabled the maintenance of law and order, was denied by India (Korbel 2002: 171). The rationale that India provided for its denial was the necessity to defend Kashmir and maintain a semblance of order. India vehemently opposed any proposal that would place Pakistan on the same platform as India, and that would not take into account the incursion of Kashmir territory by Pakistani militia and tribesmen.

In order to neutralize the situation, Sir Owen Dixon suggested that while the plebiscite was being organised and held, the entire state should be governed by a coalition government, or by a neutral administration comprising nonpartisan groups, or by an executive formed of United Nations representatives. But his proposal did not meet with the approval he expected. In a further attempt to resolve the conflict, Sir Owen Dixon propounded the trifurcation of the state along communal or regional lines, or facilitating the secession of parts of the Jhelum Valley to Pakistan.

Despite the bombastic statements and blustering of the governments of both India and Pakistan, however, the Indian government has all along perceived the inclusion of Pakistani-administered J & K and the NA into India as unfeasible. Likewise, the government of Pakistan has all along either implicitly or explicitly acknowledged the impracticality of including the predominantly Buddhist Ladakh and predominantly Hindu Jammu as part of Pakistan. The coveted area that continues to generate irreconcilable differences between the two governments is the Valley of Kashmir.

Sir Owen Dixon nonetheless remained determined to formulate a viable solution to the Kashmir issue and suggested that a plebiscite be held only in the Kashmir Valley subsequent to its demilitarization, which would be conducted by an administrative body of UN officials. This proposal was rejected by Pakistan, which, however, reluctantly agreed to Sir Dixon’s further suggestion that the prime ministers of the two countries meet with him to discuss the viability of various solutions to the Kashmir dispute. But India decried this suggestion. A defeated man, Sir Dixon finally left the Indian subcontinent on 23 August 1950 (Korbel 2002: 174).

There seemed to be an inexplicable reluctance on both sides, India and Pakistan, to solve the Kashmir dispute diplomatically and amicably. Sir Dixon’s concluding recommendation was a bilateral resolution of the dispute with India and Pakistan as the responsible parties, without taking into account the ability of the Kashmiri people to determine their own political future.

After Dixon’s inability to implement conflict mitigation proposals, Frank Graham was appointed as mediator in 1951. Graham proposed the following: a reaffirmation of the ceasefire line; a mutual agreement that India and Pakistan would avoid making incendiary statements and that would reassert that Kashmir’s future would be decided by a plebiscite; and steady attempts at demilitarization.

But he was unable to dispel the doubts raised by the governments of India and Pakistan on securing the approval of both governments on a strategy for withdrawal of forces from the state, and agreement of both governments on a plebiscite administrator. Given the unviability of its proposals, the UN soon bowed out of the political quagmire, leaving an unhealed wound on the body politic of the Indian subcontinent: the Security Council resolutions affirming that the future of the state should be decided by its denizens.

(The writer is Visiting Professor Department of English, Gittinger Hall 113, University of Oklahoma USA)

caption

The shuttered held Kashmir.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Epicentre of “great game”
Lying at the crossroads of South Asia, Balochistan remains in the grip of targeted and sectarian killings
By Alauddin Masood

Some events move everyone, creating tons of sympathy for affected people while building-up strong hatred against villains and a national consensus for deterrent action against the evil forces. The Hazara Town (Quetta) incident of February 16, 2013 is one of such catastrophes. The tragic incident left 89 citizens dead and some 200 injured.

The massacre caused rage among the Hazara Shia community and countrywide protests and mourning. To assuage the nation, particularly the Hazaras, Prime Minister Raja Pervaiz Ashraf assured that his government would go to every possible extent to fight the terrorists and bring the culprits of this carnage to justice. “The people who committed this atrocity will get effective punishment,” the prime minister stated at the end of a debate in the National Assembly on February 18.

Angry MPs agitated in both the Houses of Parliament against the second act of sectarian carnage against the Hazara community within a span of 40 days. The lawmakers from all political parties condemned the attacks on the Hazaras. In a hard-hitting speech, Sheikh Waqas Akram, Minister for Education and Training, called upon all political parties to confront rather than befriend terrorists groups for electoral considerations. He said: “This is no time for speeches, we need action. This is the time to go against these outfits with full force. If they come to kill us, they should be killed first.” Balochistan and Sindh provincial assemblies condemned the Hazara Town attack and called upon the security outfits to nab the offenders.

Some elements are busy destabilising Pakistan by promoting sectarianism, stated Interior Minister Rehman Malik. Speaking in the Senate on February 20, the interior minister said that strong evidence is available that indicate a nexus between al-Qaeda, Balochistan Liberation Army and Lashkar-i-Jhangvi, adding 31 operatives of banned outfits have been arrested so far. Quetta, Karachi and Peshawar are still under threat. The Balochistan government had been issued three alerts on possible acts of terrorism.

In a report presented in the Supreme Court on February 20, the Defence Secretary contended that the ISI had conveyed to the quarters concerned that huge quantity of chemicals was transported from Lahore and there was likelihood of a suicide attack.

This leaves one wondering what the authorities are doing to prevent such acts from happening. Given gravity of the situation, merely point scoring, pointing fingers at others or relaxing after passing on information to others will not serve much purpose. There is urgent and pressing need to take action and concrete measures to eliminate the scourge of terrorism in keeping with practices elsewhere. It is in everyone’s knowledge that after 9/11, the USA made foolproof arrangements to ensure that such an act does not occur again. The same can be said about Britain, Spain and the rest of the developed world.

Knowledgeable circles believe that the carnage of Hazaras could have been prevented had the FC and police made concerted efforts to arrest a coterie of terrorists belonging to Usman Saifullah Kurd faction of Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, as recommended in a secret dossier. The dossiers contained details about the planners and attackers responsible for the January 10 killing of over 100 Hazaras in double suicide bombing on Alamdar Road in Quetta.

The anti-Hazara pogrom has taken a toll of 3,000 people in a span of ten years. According to Hazara community sources, some 200,000 Hazaras have been impelled to migrate within or outside the country. The recent incident in Quetta happened at a time when Gwadar Port’s operation was being handed over to China Overseas Port Holding Authority, which reflects that some powers do not want a progressive Pakistan. Amongst them, India has publicly expressed her anxiety at handing over administration of the Gwardar Port to China.

Actually, India had been expressing her concerns right from the times when Pakistan had started building Gwadar deep seaport. On January 21, 2008, Indian Naval Chief Admiral Sureesh Mehta, while delivering T. S. Narayanswamy Memorial Lecture at Chennai, stated that Gwadar Port has “serious strategic implications for India.” Being only 180 nautical miles from the exit of Straits of Hormuz, Gwadar Port would enable Pakistan to “take control over the world energy jugular and interdiction of Indian tankers.”

This brings to one’s mind broad features of India’s Pakistan-specific war strategies, including its current “96 Hours Rapid Thrust Strategy.” Under its first phase, India has plans to incite, encourage and patronise large-scale terrorism in Pakistan. During the second phase of its Rapid Thrust Strategy, India has plans to take Pakistan Army unaware by launching a massive surprise attack, with a force of 200,000 soldiers, and return to its borders within 96 hours after hitting targets and accomplishing the mission.

Under this doctrine, India’s South-West Army Command might strike Pakistan at an opportune time, say when the Pakistan Army is intensely involved in tackling internal problems, like foreign engineered Sindhi-Mohajir or Shia-Sunni riots.

It may be noted that during the last two decades, India had drawn-up many strategies to hit Pakistan, but these failed due to Pakistan’s nuclear capability or its strategy of nuclear deterrence. India had styled its earlier war strategies as NBC, Hot War, Hot War Pursuit, Cold Start, etc. According to General Deepak Kapoore, who was chief of the Indian Army from 2007-2010, operations under “96 Hours Rapid Thrust Strategy” would be completed before Pakistan Army could gear-up even to raise its initial battle cry of Allah-o-Akbar. Deepak’s successor, General Bikram Singh, is all praise for this war strategy and has announced to keep it operative.

Rich in minerals, Balochistan is the least populated but, area-wise, Pakistan’s largest province, which is located at the crossroads of South Asia, Central Asia and the Middle East. Due to its geo-strategic location, Gwadar Port and rich potential in natural resources (particularly oil, natural gas, uranium, gold, copper and marble), Balochistan has become a regional epicentre of “great game.”

While Balochistan’s backwardness, in terms of socio-economic development as compared to Pakistan’s other provinces, has created a sense of deprivation and frustration among the Baloch, the vested interests remain engaged in efforts to create disturbances by exploiting their feelings. Bad governance, weak writ of the state, poor law and order situation, corruption, marginalization of the people, vociferous political demands and foreign involvement have made the situation in this province precarious and complicated.

In addition to turf wars by states involved in the great game, targeted killings and political or sectarian killings by local actors, Balochistan remains in the grip of inter-tribe strife and a wave of crime. While Baloch nationalists blame state security institutions for murders, the government agencies deny this. Absence of a strong opposition further adds to the woes of the people. Perhaps, it is the only government in the world where all legislators, with the exception of two or three MPAs (including Bakhtiar Domki and Yar Mohammad Rind), are part of the executive. The last aspect brings to the fore the need for enacting a law to fix the number of MPs who could be inducted as ministers or assigned executive jobs.

The terrorists are either playing in the hands of inimical forces or furthering the agenda of anti-Pakistan forces unwittingly. Given the situation, the government needs to take the citizens into confidence on the threats facing the state and with their help and cooperation deal with the terrorists with an iron hand, if these elements refuse to surrender and place them at the mercy of law.

Alauddin Masood is a freelance columnist based at Islamabad.

E-mail: [email protected]

 

 

 

Roots of governance
Instead of generating further schisms in the already divided society, the local government system in Sindh should bring peace and harmony
By Dr Noman Ahmed

The issue of form and content of local government system has become a bone of contention in the politics of Sindh. The MQM left the treasury benches to sit in the opposition. The repeal of Sindh People’s Local Government Ordinance 2012, among other reasons, is cited as a core factor.

Despite the orders of the Supreme Court to hold the local government elections a few months ago, no heed was paid to it. The other political parties also made local government a rallying point.

In his public address in Naushahro Feroze during the second week of February 2013, Nawaz Sharif informed an emotionally-charged audience that his party was against the Sindh Peoples Local Government Ordinance 2012 which he termed an act synonymous with the division of Sindh. While discussing issues of related importance, the learned political leader stopped short of informing about the alternative model.

According to some commentators, there seems to be a remarkable similarity between the stance of the Pakistan People’s Party and the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz on this count as both are not interested in the local governance! But the urban dwellers, especially in larger cities, know it very well that without a politically elected and administratively empowered local setup, there will be no letup in their day-to-day woes pertaining to law and order, development and maintenance.

It is sad to note that while the federal and provincial governments tend to collaborate, the local tiers are left out in the chill. This dissension is especially spread by the henchmen who control provincial tiers of respective parties. It is correct that the local government systems have been bolstered by military dictators for their own vested interests, but this fact does not undermine the merits and opportunities inbuilt in it. Foremost in this respect is the creation of a legitimate avenue for leadership development.

In an arena where dynastic and aristocratic claims to leadership overtake merit at every end, the only option which can enable future political leadership to emerge is local government. There are hundreds of case studies pertinent to ordinary councilors, women/labour councilors, union council nazims, town/tehsil/taluka level leaders and district level representatives who were able to win their offices purely on merit and later proved their popularity through re-election. Even in the most dangerous labyrinths of the province, these dedicated public representatives made tireless efforts to address pressing problems related to education, health, social welfare and area management. Some of them were even devoid of any political affiliation and had to face the wrath of both right and left wing parties.

The two elections during 2001 and 2005 were reasonable tests for their performance evaluation, mal-functioning of electoral process notwithstanding. Real political culture cannot be nurtured without frequent practice of voting process along the party cadres, local, provincial and national assemblies. Needless to say those roots of democracy can only germinate if allowed to do so at the lowest level of governance.

If one examines the level of association of common folks with local councilors and other representatives, it constitutes the baseline of political interactions. Besides, people need an efficient service delivery mechanism and complaint redress system, such as attestation, verification and certification of various kinds. Local institutions and their elected members are normally forthcoming in such tasks.

Small scale development schemes, maintenance and repair projects are also important works that require immediate attention. If the decision-making apparatus is centralised in Karachi and in the person of chief minister, very little progress can be expected. Expectation from bureaucrats alone to be sympathetic to the local issues may not be very realistic. A well functioning local government system in urban and rural domains has to be strengthened after removing the various handicaps that it has faced

Problems identified during the past several years include poor quality of human resource, paucity of operational budgets, weak mechanism of monitoring, absence of effective audit and accounts procedures and financial dependence on the provincial/federal government. One finds more developed cities like Karachi struggling with shortage of funds to strengthen vital services such as water supply. Many other sectors are even worse in service delivery outreaches.

The current breakdown of law and order is also a crucial matter that needs attention of the political parties. The relationship of local scale policing and maintenance of peace and harmony among the ranks of various interest groups can be facilitated through an efficient local government.

While the provincial status of the police department may remain intact, some local autonomy can be negotiated among the politicians and civil society to carve out a workable solution. For residents of Karachi, this is more important who have been held hostage to target killings and turf wars that has claimed more than 5000 lives between 2003 to 2011. The number is only rising without any respite. As obvious, a political solution in the form of a local governance formula could be an effective answer.

Politicians may not be allowed to run away from the problems that became grave due to their differences, greed for clandestine power and pelf and criminal inaction. The political parties should evolve a fresh strategy by using elected local government to serve their clearly pronounced manifestoes.

There are many institutional arms, think tanks and nongovernmental organisations that have garnered enough experience to transform the political objectives into a proper workable blueprint for the future form of local government. In the spirit of democracy and fair play, any such blueprint should be debated threadbare with each stakeholder, party and group that matter in Sindh. The local government should bring peace and harmony to the province, not generate further schisms in the already divided ranks in the society.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Change we need
The nexus of feudal politicians, the military and the bureaucracy must be done away with so that democracy, morality and justice survive
By Farooq Sumar

Pakistan’s chequered road to democracy is now finally being considered as the main reason for most of its ills. People at large are expressing the need to get away from the sham democracy of today and the khaki autocracy of yesterday. To bring about a change, it is necessary to identify the mistakes and the factors responsible.

In order to discuss Pakistan’s failure to instill and develop democratic norms and traditions in its pursuit of nation building, one must begin with Mr. Jinnah’s Muslim League and its leadership at first. If a rational discussion is to take place, it is necessary to accept that nobody is beyond criticism. To err is human and the best of us also err. However, criticism must not be personal, it should be factual and honest.

Democracy was jolted and its values ignored by the Quaid when he refused recognition to Bengali as a national language. The country’s majority (54%) was Bengali speaking but only Urdu and English had national status. The people of East Pakistan were denied their democratic right by the decision of one man who they had come to respect and love.

Here were the first seeds of things to come: disrespect of democratic rights, autocratic decision making, a hint of colonial approach towards East Pakistan and harbinger of divisions as the Bengali people had a major grievance around which other genuine grievances related to discrimination would take root. Even a man of Mr. Jinnah’s stature, his outstanding leadership qualities and deep understanding, could make such a mistake. One must consider his failing health in that last year of his life, the immense pressures of governance in those chaotic times and the absence of good advice.

Besides the Quaid-e-Azam, the Muslim League had no other statesman, nobody of stature or vision came even close to him. Surely the Quaid would be aware of this, so why did he not try to remedy it earlier particularly when he was well aware of his own illness since quite some time?

Liaquat Ali Khan was a loyal lieutenant, sincere and honest but lacked the leadership qualities required for a newly independent country to take path breaking decisions. As a result, grave mistakes were made. His biggest mistake was his failure to provide a Constitution to the country. Before he was assassinated in 1951, he had almost four years to do so. It is correct that there was deadlock in the Constituent Assembly between members from East Pakistan and those representing the provinces of the western wing, but then it is always the job of the leader to provide the leadership to resolve issues through compromise and persuasion, to use the carrot and the stick. Why did he drag his feet? Why did he not see the urgency to provide a constitutional framework as quickly as possible so that the undemocratic forces could be silenced and the job of nation building could be attended to in haste? He had seen that Mr. Nehru and the Congress party had already provided India a constitution in 1950; did that not pressurise him to get his act together? Was it just that he did not possess the leadership qualities required or were there some personal considerations? Unfortunately this delay became the biggest blow to democracy and development in Pakistan from which it has still not recovered.

As we finally got a Constitution after 26 years of Independence in 1973, lot of water had already flowed under the bridge. Colossal damage had been inflicted on the socio-political culture, bureaucratic control was established, feudal stranglehold was all pervasive and most importantly the military was now a party in the power game. The Martial Laws of 1958 and 1969 provided a pattern of intervention and a culture of autocratic rule in a sans-constitutional jungle, the aftermath of 1965 war with India, the shameful acts of Yahya and Bhutto which denied the East Pakistani majority to take legitimate power and forced their secession all disfigured the nation.

The 1973 Constitution has not proved to be a deterrent to or eliminate the undemocratic culture thereafter. Immediately after its adoption in 1973, the clauses pertaining to fundamental rights were suspended by Bhutto and in 1977 the elections were rigged by the authors! These unconstitutional steps were Bhutto’s biggest blunders, he killed the democracy that he had just given life to and the country went to the wilderness. Martial Laws and deviations of Zia and Musharraf (sanctioned by a gutless judiciary) proved inasmuch, as did the murder of Prime Minister Bhutto and the “civilian rule” of the 90’s where the military pulled all the strings and the civilian “rulers” were happy filling their pockets — a clear case of subversion of the constitution. This situation still continues with a greater vengeance.

The fault certainly is not of the 1973 Constitution, it is of those who abrogate, suspend, disfigure and violate the constitution. It is the fault of all those who actively supported and upheld these unconstitutional actions and continue to do so. What about those “electable” who change partners like prostitutes every time the wind changes? What about the great majority of ministers and legislators who are tax evaders, looters and plunderers as the various scams have shown and some also carry serious criminal charges? What about those who hide behind immunities to avoid prosecution? Who can accept that a person indicted by the Supreme Court would continue as Cabinet Minister and then be elevated to the post of Prime Minister?

In any self respecting society, once a public official is charged or even there is a hint of wrong doing he or she immediately resigns to allow the law to take its course. Here there is no shame, no conscience and no democratic upbringing. How does an officer of the military break his oath when he agrees to uphold and implement the orders of a usurper? How does a serving general accept unconstitutional orders from a president to interfere in the formation of political parties and another set of serving generals agree to collect funds in order to rig elections? We call this charade democracy? How can democracy, morality and justice survive at the mercy of these marauders? This is nothing but the nexus of feudal politicians, the military and the bureaucracy; in recent decades one must add the crime syndicates. Pakistan has not produced a single statesman after Mr. Jinnah, with vision, democratic principles and sincerity.

There can be no real and workable democracy and there can be no constitutional rule in this country if these crooks of the past and present come back to power. They have plundered to acquire chateaus in France and Mayfair properties in London and much too much more.

Hope and wish as much as we may, a real change will be difficult to achieve with the next election. The Election Commission and the Supreme Court are making a herculean effort to cleanse the filth and clear a path for fair elections but even if they succeed where are the fair and honest candidates to elect? The system has been so evolved and controlled by the captivity mechanism of biradaris and feudal landlord’s stranglehold on their enslaved peasants; while in the cities, particularly Karachi, the various mafias including the ruling mafia hold the population at ransom with the connivance and support of the police, rangers and other governmental agencies. Everybody’s war chests are full to the brim with looted funds; staggering resources will be put to work.

Change does not come in a jiffy, especially when the rot of sixty five years and solidly entrenched vested interests are involved. Moreover a dedicated, sincere and wise leadership is required to precipitate change, which does not exist. Also the media is still in the learning mode of investigative journalism.

One election, therefore, will not bring complete change, it may partially change the makeup of the assemblies where more honest voices would pressurise the rulers. The use of public protests, like Dr Qadri’s march, is a must in order to pressurise and create awareness. In addition, if the Supreme Court and ECP continue to reform and improve their control and management of the electoral process including the threadbare scrutiny of the candidates and eliminate intimidation over the next five years, then we could hope for a meaningful change in the 2017/18 elections. The question is do we have even that much time?

The writer is a known Pakistani industrialist based in Karachi

 

 

 

 

 

 

Time for education emergency
The PTI’s education policy lists ambitious measures to reform the sector
By Shahzada Irfan Ahmed

The Pakistan Tehreek–e-Insaf (PTI) has recently announced a comprehensive education policy which is called the party “Education Vision”. The party leaders claim a lot of time, research, comparative studies of international educational systems and input from various quarters has gone into this whole exercise. Once it comes to power, the PTI plans to implement this policy in letter and spirit.

Stating categorically that the country needs to impose an educational emergency to overcome most of its woes, the PTI believes it’s time the priorities should be redefined and maximum possible funds directed to this sector.

In the first phase, spanning five years, there are plans to lift the allocation for education sector from 1.8 per cent to 5 per cent of the country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP). If things go as foreseen by the optimistic party leaders, this allocation may go up to 10 per cent of the GDP in the second phase, also spanning five years.

Critics claim it is unrealistic to increase the budgetary allocation to this tune in one go — requiring an additional Rs 2.5 trillion. But the party’s economic team seems quite clear on how to generate these financial resources.

Other salient features of the policy are “one education system for all” where mother tongue and/or Urdu will be a medium of instruction till class 8 and a new uniform curriculum will be devised for all, impetus on provision of adult literacy, decentralised governance in education where education service delivery and management will be devolved to district and sub-district levels, improvement in the quality of teaching and teacher training, and maximum use of Information and Communications Technology (ICT) for learning.

The announcement of this policy has come at the right time with all political parties gearing up for the coming elections and finalising their manifestos and slogans. In this context, the PTI has distanced itself from other political rivals saying while others focus on what should be done, it is quite clear on how it would be done.

However, the opponents choose to question what they call the party’s obsession to reverse everything just for the sake of it. For example, they find it hard to believe that a party one of whose leaders runs elite school systems in the country will be able to implement a uniform school system and that too with mother tongue as the mode of instruction.

The PTI Central Senior Vice President Asad Umar, who presented the party’s economic policy and reform agenda months ago, clarifies their education policy is well-planned, and not at all a move aimed at political point-scoring. He tells TNS the different policies announced by the PTI are all interlinked and nothing is done in isolation.

He says the PTI is not worried about how to generate additional funds for the education sector. “It’s simply a matter of priority. We’ll have to be clear on whether to import bulletproof cars, conduct missile tests or do something else with the resources available with us.”

The PTI thinks there are different sectors from where funds can be directed to this sector where they are needed the most. For example, the estimated Rs 400 billion that is wasted in the faulty management of state-owned enterprises could be saved by streamlining their systems and that money spared for education sector, he adds. The party also hopes to add trillions to the exchequer by taxing the powerful, who have so far managed to remain out of the tax net, claiming it has started the exercise by making their leaders declare their assets and tax returns.

On the revision of curriculum, Umar says they believe it should be in conformity with what their goals as a nation are and must suit the vision of a Pakistan they need. “We cannot discard our history and at same time must not forget we are living in the 21st century.” Umar says that madrassa students will also be brought into the mainstream and imparted education that can earn them jobs in the market. They should not remain suitable only as custodians of mosques.

PTI Chairman Policy Committee Jahangir Tareen, who announced the education policy on Feb 20, justifies the proposed imposition of educational emergency in the country and paints a bleak picture of the situation on ground. The literacy rate, he laments, is only 58 per cent, and even worse in rural areas, and as low as 46 per cent among women. Out of a total 44 million children who fall in the age bracket of 5 to 16 years, only 25.7 million are enrolled in schools. Only 1.1 million out of the total population of the country go to university.

The six-point agenda the party has floated, he believes, caters to the need of qualified teachers, strong and an accountable governance model and use of ICT such as mass availability of tablet computers to enable use of distance education facility and so on.

Asad Umar defends the idea of mother tongue as the medium of instruction. He says it has been proven in studies all over the world that this is the best way to teach young people in the formative phase of their lives. English can be learnt separately as a language but should not be considered the only key to success in pursuit for education.

Citing his own example, he tells TNS he studied for his Bachelors of Commerce (B. Com) at the prestigious Government Commerce College whose graduates became country’s leading chartered accountants later. “I remember the students who had come from Urdu medium background were the strongest. Their concepts were very clear, they were hard-working and they had learnt English with rigorous study and mastered it over the years.”

* Lifting allocation for education sector from 1.8 per cent to 5 per cent of the                     country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) 

* One education system for all 

* Mother tongue and/or Urdu will be a medium of instruction 

* Impetus on provision of adult literacy 

* Education service delivery and management will be devolved to district and              sub-district levels 

* Improvement in the quality of teaching and teachers training 

* Maximum use of Information and Communications Technology (ICT) for            learning 

* Funds to siphoned off from resources meant for bullet proof cars, missile tests

The News on Sunday is pleased to be a part of the Zara Sochiye campaign launched by the Jang Group to highlight the harsh realities of Education that prevail in Pakistan. It is aimed at creating awareness and taking the first step towards reforming education by identifying the problems. This is a subject close to our hearts. From this week, we start a series that looks at how all the major political parties in the country plan to achieve the goal of Education for All.

   

 

 

 

Indo-Pak Cold War in Afghanistan
Pakistan and India are locked in a zero sum game in Afghanistan in which the gain of one is the loss of the other
By Dr Syed Hussain Shaheed Soherwordi

Pakistan and India are in the midst of a Cold War to influence developments in Afghanistan. Since the fall of Taliban regime in 2001, both have injected their confrontation into Afghan affairs. They follow a zero sum game in which gain of one is the loss of the other. This equation is further fanning bilateral Cold War. Their economic, financial, political, defense and geopolitical interests clash there and hence prevent each from gaining an edge over the other. Such Cold War is a stumbling block to bring development, peace and security in Afghanistan.

India has adopted a two-pronged approach in Afghanistan. It wants to secure and strengthen Afghanistan. Strong Afghanistan would mean weak terrorists who normally plot terrorist acts while keeping their safe havens in Afghanistan. This would also mean safe Indian trade routes to Central Asian Republics. New Delhi also wants to keep a check on Islamabad’s influence. This would mean India’s growing regional power and interests vis-à-vis its arch rival Pakistan.

On the other hand, Pakistan sees India’s growing influence in Afghanistan as a detrimental fact to its security from its geographical ‘soft belly’. In case, a strong and anti-Pakistan alliance between New Delhi and Kabul takes place, it will be a two-front war for Pakistan (East-India, West-Afghanistan). This will also end the concept of ‘Strategic Depth’ policy propounded by its security establishment. By playing its active role in Afghanistan, it also wants to obstruct India’s ability to support separatists in Balochistan. India has always been seen as an existential threat to Pakistan thereby strengthening defense policy stronger than the foreign policy of the country.

India and Afghanistan have always been on hostile terms with Pakistan since 1947. There have been short breaks of peace with both countries. However, territorial disputes like Durand Line and Kashmir have always maligned the bilateral relations. Over and above, Pakistan’s military is focused on internal security concerns of the country which mostly border with Afghanistan. Hence any hostile or cautious power exerting influence in Afghanistan is perceived a direct threat to Pakistan’s territorial integrity. Sharing 2200 KM long porous and unguarded border with Afghanistan is making it a ‘soft belly’ of Pakistan from where terrorists and spy agents of hostile countries can sneak in to play havoc with Pakistanis. Hence, for Pakistan, Afghanistan will always be dealt with a fine blend of defense and foreign policies which may be called “Defreign” policy.

Kabul is in quest of non-political security. It wants to have trade, economic and financial relations for its development. Generally speaking, Afghanistan is a rural society which bred terrorism and extremism in the country. It’s the high time that Kabul is focusing on urbanizing the Afghan society for bringing an end to war psyche once and for all. War psyche will be over once people are integrated into business and economic cycles. This was what happened with Europe after the Second World War. It was such spirit that resulted in the formation of European Union. Hence, President Karzai of Afghanistan is more interested in trade relations with the neighbours than talking anything that may produce controversy for his shabby regime.

The Afghan determinations of trade and economy are supported by India wholeheartedly. India has a democratic polity, institutionalised decision-making process, internal stability, large consumer base, and growing world economy. Thus New Delhi suits Kabul’s agenda. Delhi along with Washington is spending more and more in Afghanistan to strengthen its hold and play an active role in the post-2014 Afghanistan. However, Karzai’s government has also played, very often, India and Pakistan against each other to serve its own interests. At times, Kabul distanced himself from Islamabad and moved closer to Delhi for its cooperation and assistance.

On the other hand, Pakistan’s role in Afghanistan comes from two aspects. One, it has been the victim of terrorism that sneaks inside its territory from Afghan border. Two, being an immediate neighbour, it wants to play an active role in the post-2014 Afghanistan.

Developing internal security dynamics and external threats have kept Pakistan entangled domestically. However, due to a synergy of Afghanistan and India, Pakistan’s role in Afghanistan is marginalised which frustrates its territorial security from the 2200 KM long border. We need to understand that Pakistan is the frontline ally of the Allies in the War on Terror and hence is not only fighting against terrorists in the Fata region but also in the settled areas of the country. It is also containing the spillover of terrorism to India and other countries in the South. Hence, a comparison between India and Pakistan for their economies and stability is out of question. Had India been that proactive in fighting war on terror and had it been an immediate neighbour of Afghanistan, the picture would have been completely different.

According to Pakistan’s finance minister, the war on terror has cost Pakistan’s economy a lavish sum of $79 billion (this was stated in the year 2011). Though Pakistan is not positioned well to boost trade, it has demonstrated its strong willingness to take steps designed to improve the lives of ordinary Afghans. However, Pakistan’s any such goodwill gesture has been neutralised by the Indian hostile propaganda against Pakistan in Afghanistan.

If India perceives influence in Afghanistan to advance its broader domestic and regional interests; Pakistan views much of its Afghan Defreign policy through an Indo-centric prism. However, Pakistan has its objectives beyond Indian role in Afghanistan. It has to ensure that a post-2014 Afghanistan will not lash the dead horse of ‘Pashtunistan’. This has been witnessed in history that the moment Afghanistan experiences a friction of stability, it starts creating unrest and instability in Balochistan and Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa in the name of ‘Pashtunistan’.

Afghanistan may also raise the issue of Durand Line. Hence Pakistan has to adopt a policy by which it may ensure and enforce the sanctity of the border between the two countries. While keeping Kabul’s attention away from such ‘fair-weather issues’, Pakistan needs to move gingerly to muster Afghan friendship to establish a medium for enhancing trade and commercial links with Central Asian Republics (CARS).

Pakistan must watch the peace process between the Taliban, the US and the Kabul regime. Any brokered peace between them must not be at the cost of Pakistan’s regional interests. Indeed, it’s a fact that without peaceful Afghanistan, Pakistan will never be peaceful. However, it’s also a reality that without Pakistan’s cooperation, peace process will not see a broad day light. Whenever Pakistan was neglected in peace process, the policy lashed back.

Having said that, this cooperation must not be for the pro-Pakistan regime in Kabul. We need to accept that Afghanistan is an independent sovereign country and hence it has all the rights to have an independent and indigenous foreign policy. But it must be kept in view for Afghanistan that ‘a fish can swim only in a friendly sea’. Hence, Afghanistan has to develop friendly relations with Pakistan which is sharing a long in-defendable border.

Pak-India relations are very important for peace and stability in Afghanistan. Till their hostile relations, it is highly unlikely that there will be a fundamental shift in their policy bias. The trust deficit between the Pak-Afghan governments needs to be repaired. The mistrust between the two countries has played to India’s advantage by deepening Indo-Afghan partnership. Pakistan also has to take concrete steps to develop cordial relations with Afghanistan. Afghan stability and economic growth would equally benefit Pakistan and India. However, a Cold War in Afghanistan will not only be detrimental for Afghans, but it will also have negative and grim effects on India and Pakistan.

As the US draws down its troops from Afghanistan in 2014, it must not encourage any regional country to fill the potential vacuum which may hurt other neighbouring countries. The growing Indian influence in Afghanistan is indeed a threat for Pakistan. This would mean Pakistan would be a sandwich between its eastern borders (India) and western borders (India-influenced Afghanistan). This will never be acceptable to Pakistan’s political and security establishment. Understanding regional sensitivities is prerequisite to peace in the region.

(The author teaches at the department of International Relations University of Peshawar. [email protected])

 

 

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