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25 More Years Of Failed Pakistani Politics?

Posted by yourpakistan on October 31, 2010


If Pakistani politicians fail to build consensus, will they agree then on the need to step aside, spare us their chaotic politics, and let the rest of us force changes into the system to allow new thinking and new faces? Nawaz Sharif’s idea of a 25-year plan for Pakistan is not bad. Except if it means 25 more years of the same tested, tried and failed politics by the same incapable political parties.

Former Prime Minister of Pakistan Mr. Nawaz Sharif has issued a statement asking the nation’s politicians, judiciary and the military to create a 25-year plan he called the Charter of Pakistan. The plan, he said, should be produced ‘with consensus’ to pull Pakistan ‘out of its problems.’

Our politicians are just discovering what statesmen in other nations take for granted. Better late than never.

There is no reason to doubt Mr. Sharif’s sincerity in floating this idea. But he should also ponder with an open mind what many skeptic Pakistanis say about it. Seen from another context, this noble idea can easily turn into 25 more years of the same tested, tried and failed politics in Pakistan. More bluntly: another lease on life for dying Pakistani political elite.


The keyword in Mr. Sharif’s proposal is consensus. If Pakistan had concentrated on indoctrinating its citizens the way Israel, China and the United States have done with theirs, we could still have a common ground to start from. But in the present situation, the Pakistani State has allowed shortsighted and failed political parties to wrestle legitimacy from the State’s hands. Now these parties have become self-appointed sole representatives of entire groups of citizens: one party claims it represents all Urdu-speaking Pakistanis [which is a contradiction in terms since the language is owned by the State and the nation doesn’t belong to any specific group, but that’s another debate]. Another party claims it represents all Pashto-speaking Pakistanis [again, the language is owned by the State and is an integral part of the Pakistani identity]. The two largest parties, the PPPP and the PML have also fallen in the same pit, becoming more narrowly-based regional parties than national.

Pakistanis are not as divided as these parties make them out to be. Pakistanis have also watched with horror over the past three years as the respective leaders of the two parties came dangerously close to provincialism. President Zardari has indirectly threatened to use the so-called Sindh Card if his government was toppled. [He rejected the idea altogether when asked about it, but actions speak louder.] On PML’s side, Mr. Sharif’s faction is ironically guilty of the same since the other faction, the PML-Q, remains slightly better represented nationally across Sindh, Kashmir, Balochistan, Punjab, Pakhtunkhwa, and Baltistan.

Most of the existing parties run private and lethally-armed militias and have perfected the art of street chaos and messy/uncivilized politics. They often have nothing to offer their voters except whipping up linguistic differences. This assessment is a harsh reality. Best of all, there is no law – yet – to stop these parties from perpetuating this flawed concept of how political parties should behave internally and in public.


There is no tradition for planning in almost all of the major parties. Membership and career path within the parties depend on loyalty to a permanent, lifelong party chief. It’s more a modern form of a medieval tribe than a modern political party. There are isolated bright exceptions of some politicians succeeding in taking out party ‘planning documents’. Senator Mushahid Hussain Syed of PML-Q is a case in point and he has taken this talent with him to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee where he supervised the release of elegant and meaningful policy planning documents. But his talent remains confined to his person and has not rubbed off on the wider political culture in his or in other parties. For the rest of the political parties, planning for the future – let alone for 25 years – remains limited to a lousy collection of bullet-points and generalized essay-writing.


It is impossible to create consensus on anything in this fragmented, violent and shallow Pakistani political environment.

Moreover, in some cases, a State needs to impose discipline and not wait for it to develop. In the West, for example, discipline within a democratic system of governance evolved over centuries, not decades. The process included wars, famines, genocide, redrawing of borders, ethnic cleansing, and more wars. We in Pakistan can’t wait for due process to take its course. Israel is not the best of examples here for political reasons but even now there are many interpretations among Israelis for what Israeli history should be and what type of modern state Israel should be. The debate goes on. But for all the democracy and pluralism, only one interpretation for Israel’s history is enforced from top to bottom. And it was not put to vote but implemented from the inception of the State in 1948.

In China, Singapore, Malaysia, and Dubai, discipline was enforced. No one invited ‘stakeholders’ to sit down and develop consensus, except within adherents of the system, the ‘believers’, so to speak. There has to be a minimum common ground to start from. You can’t invite someone who believes in breaking up the country and another one who believes in one-nation theory and then expect to create a 25-year consensus.

Even in a mature democracy like the United States, a president went to war in Iraq despite half of the nation vehemently opposing it. There was no consensus at all.

In the Gulf region, there is one emirate that is deteriorating on all the vital indicators every year, and that is Kuwait. It currently has 38 billion dinars in its savings account, which means around $150 billion dollars, with small geography and a population of less than two million. And yet the Kuwaiti State has been unable to build any major universities and hospitals since the early 1980s. The reason is political instability. An opposition-dominated parliament and a government dominated by the ruling family have been at loggerheads since the introduction of parliamentary democracy in 1961. The United States and the West hailed the Kuwaiti democracy with its noisy free press as a role model for autocratic Saudi Arabia, UAE and Oman. But that was two decades ago, when the Western coalition that liberated Kuwait from Iraqi occupation insisted the Al-Sabah ruling family restore democracy and empower the country’s opposition groups. Today, everything is falling apart. In April and October this year, Kuwait’s reformed-minded Emir blasted the parliament and the constitution and blamed them for stalling development.

Forget about consensus in Pakistan. With $150 billion, the size of the city of Karachi, and a population of two million, Kuwait has been unable to create consensus for two decades on whether to allow international oil companies into Kuwaiti oilfields, whether to open up the economy or protect it, to build new cities or not, and the list is endless. Now the rulers of Qatar, Bahrain, UAE, and Oman laugh at the Kuwaiti democratic experiment. This is ironic because there was a time when these emirates saw Kuwait as a model for social development.

This doesn’t mean consensus-building is bad or that democracy doesn’t work. It still is the best system of governance so far, provided it is adapted to local conditions. What can work in the United States and Britain doesn’t even suit Italy, let alone Pakistan.

In Pakistan, media, social and political freedoms will always exist. But without limiting them, the State will have to intervene in the interim and enforce discipline and seize back powers taken away by failed political parties. The State will have to tolerate dissent but not chaos, mess and violence if they accompany democracy.

What is our link to democracy? It is limited to our elites studying it in Western colleges. When they return to Pakistan to rule, their actions are the opposite. In a society like ours, we don’t have the time or energy to evolve democracy and do social, educational and economic development at the same time. You can either get busy in developing consensus or developing the country. You choose.

Despite skepticism, I fully back Mr. Sharif’s idea of building consensus for a 25-year plan for Pakistan. But if the politicians fail to build consensus, will they agree then on the need to step aside, spare us their politics, and let the rest of us force changes into the system to allow new thinking and new faces?


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China: ‘Pakistan is our Israel’

Posted by yourpakistan on October 30, 2010

When a US delegate once confronted a Chinese diplomat about Beijing’s uncompromising support for Pakistan, the Chinese reportedly responded with a heavily-loaded sarcastic remark: “Pakistan is our Israel”.

But judging by China’s unrelenting support for some of its allies, including North Korea, Burma, Zimbabwe and Sudan, its protective arm around these countries is no different from the US and Western political embrace of Israel – right or wrong.

While China is battling the West over exchange rates, import tariffs and its territorial claims in the South China Sea, Beijing is also lobbying furiously to stall a Western- inspired proposal for a Commission of Inquiry on possible war crimes by the military junta in Burma (Myanmar).

“Such a commission should not be seen as a way to punish the government, but to prevent impunity and help prevent further abuse,” says the UN Special Rapporteur on Myanmar, Tomas Ojea Quintana.

But China, which in January 2007 exercised its veto, along with Russia, to prevent Security Council sanctions against Burma, has not shown any willingness to back the proposal – even for a watered-down commission.

“Clearly,” says one Asian diplomat, “China is trying to reassert its political clout at the United Nations as a counterweight to its defensive stand on currency and trade issues.”

The New York Times newspaper said on Tuesday that the US administration is facing a “confrontational relationship” with an assertive China and is trying to respond to “a surge of Chinese triumphalism” by strengthening Washington’s relationship with Japan and South Korea.

US President Barack Obama is planning to visit four Asian countries next month – Japan, Indonesia, India and South Korea – while bypassing China.

Meanwhile, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, who needs China’s support in the Security Council if he decides to run for a second term next year, is currently on his fourth trip to China, having visited the country in May and July 2008, and in July 2009.

In recent months, China has prevented a Security Council resolution against North Korea over the sinking of a South Korean ship and also tried to suppress a UN report alleging the use of Chinese-made bullets in attacks on UN peacekeepers in Darfur, Sudan.

“China sees value in promoting its image as the Security Council member defending the rights of the developing world, and China sees value in relying on the UN to counter US power,” said Linda Jakobson, director of the programme on China and Global Security at the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI).

Jakobson, an in-house China expert at SIPRI, points out that Beijing also sees value in participating in UN peacekeeping operations “both because this enhances the image of China as a responsible power but also because it gives Chinese military experience”.

Still, China relented to US and Western pressure in supporting four Security Council resolutions imposing sanctions against Iran, one of Beijing’s staunchest political, economic and military allies.

The fourth round of sanctions, all of them aimed primarily at Iran’s nuclear programme, was imposed in June this year.

Justifying his country’s support for the resolution, Chinese Ambassador Li Baodong was quoted as saying that Beijing wanted to make sure that sanctions would not affect the Iranian people or its normal overseas trade.

Jakobson said that China agreed to these sanctions after much deliberation and on the condition that the energy sector was excluded.

“This can be seen as a compromise solution on China’s part,” she said. “The exclusion of the energy sector was crucial.”

Jakobson also pointed out that China wants to protect the massive investments by Chinese energy companies already in Iran or under negotiation with Tehran, and China wants to ensure that its long-term strategic plans for energy security are not threatened.

In a detailed policy paper released last month, and titled “New Foreign Policy Actors in China”, SIPRI said the increasing sway of large state-owned energy companies have an increasing influence on foreign policy deliberations in China.

Jakobson, who co-authored the report with Dean Knox, said this is one example of that sway though it is noteworthy that there are other foreign policy actors who presumably were not inclined to advocate China’s support of the resolution.

On the other hand, she said, there were presumably actors who advocated China’s support for the resolution because China supports non-proliferation and does not want to see Iran go nuclear.

“If China had not supported the resolution, it would reflect badly on China’s image and undermine its efforts to portray itself as a responsible global power,” Jakobson said.

She said China attaches great importance to the United Nations and would like to see the role of the UN strengthened – though Beijing is wary of many proposals that want to expand Security Council membership and/or give power to members other than the present five permanent members, the United States, Britain, France, Russia and China.

The SIPRI report argues that actors outside the traditional power structure are increasingly shaping China’s foreign policy.

Influential new actors on the margins include Chinese state- owned enterprises, especially energy companies, which, due to their widespread international outreach, affect China’s bilateral relationships and diplomacy at large.

The others include local governments, especially in border and coastal provinces, which seek more lucrative trade and foreign investment opportunities.

At the same time, there is growing importance of researchers, who serve as advisors to officials and media, and netizens, who constitute a new pressure group that China’s leaders at times feel compelled to take into account, not least during international crises.

The findings also point to a fracturing of authority in foreign policy formulation.

Diversification outside China’s official decision making apparatus – along with changes within it – means that foreigners can no longer expect to only deal with one government agency or Party organ but must take into account multiple actors that have both a stake and say in the decision-making processes.

A version of this article first appeared on the Inter Press Service News Agency.

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Where Are The Leaders Of My Country

Posted by yourpakistan on October 29, 2010


My countrymen, Pakistan is passing through tumultuous times and we as a nation have to sacrifice”. This sentence was the starter of late Gen. Zia’s speech which I used to listen to when I was a kid during late 1980s. Then I grew up and saw the same rhetoric being uttered by our young Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto and then by the not-so-innocent Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif. When I entered university to enjoy the rush of adrenaline (for all the stories I heard about university life), I would see Gen. Musharraff uttering the same rhetoric.

That sentence lingers on very much in 2010.

If you do extensive historical readings about Pakistan and travel every inch of it, you can reach a fair conclusion that there is a ‘hand of God’ in the affairs of Pakistan. These so-called established leaders have always made us afraid of the grave situation we are confronted with by using the aforementioned sentence in the opening of their speech. 180 million Pakistanis resolve is time tested and their endurance is guaranteed. We were down under in 1971 when East-Pakistan was plucked from Jinnah’s envisioned Pakistan, remember Russian treaty with India in august 1971 emboldened Indra Gandhi to attack Pakistan openly in November 1971 and then the end is a known fact to all of us. The same bleeding and weak Pakistan went for all out support in late 70’s, when even western support was not in sight, to their Afghan brethren and made Russia bleed profusely. Resultantly Russian empire diminished from the world map and we took our revenge from at least one party which was involved in dismantling Pakistan back in 1971, the other can enjoy the breathing space for the time being.

During the same conflict in 1980s we became a nuclear power. The musical chair of democratic governments and the Pressler amendment by the US Congress kept Pakistan under pressure but Pakistan went on undeterred. Pakistan took out its crowned jewels from the basement in 1998 and fired its indigenous Ghauri missile in the sky and later exploded its nuclear devices at Chaghi under the cloud of an imminent threat of aggression and daunting external aggression of India. The resolve of the people continued to grow stronger. Gen. Musharraff era is very fresh in our minds and we solely know how his policies suffered a total miscarriage. The last leg of this epoch included the deadly wave of terror blasts in 2007-9 with bombs going off almost in all the cities of Pakistan, the Swat operation and later the Waziristan operation. Then came in the historical floods.

During all these times there was not a moment when our president or prime minister gave a statement in print or electronic media telling Pakistanis the following:  I, as the leader of Pakistan, will deliver and stand firm on strong foundations. I will see beyond my nose and would steer the nation out of this rough patch. My countrymen, I know about your invaluable resolve and faith which in the end will be the factor on which I would count on. Insha ALLAH we will surmount this crisis. Pakistan Paindabad.”

Frankly, if you listen to Pakistani politicians, they will try to convince you that Pakistan has been in ICU since 1947. This is not true. They have always told us we are passing through a crucial phase and that superpowers can’t ignore Pakistan due to its strategic position. Next you know, Pakistan faces foreign interference in our internal and external matters.

This is the excuse our leaders use to save their skin and cover their own short comings, i.e. their inability to deliver in demanding times.

For us Pakistanis, it is our enduring faith that Pakistan is here to stay. It is going nowhere but forward, Insha ALLAH. We shall refute and debunk the writings and speeches of self-styled ‘Pakistan experts’, local and foreign, who spread confusion on Pakistan’s future. Today, I resolve that, by my actions and deeds, I will work to help our decision makers identify the best that is in the interest of our homeland.

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Japan’s Doublespeak On Pakistan’s Nuclear Program

Posted by yourpakistan on October 28, 2010



Tokyo is asking Pakistan to sign NPT while condoning nuclear sales to India. The move will worsen global nuclear proliferation. Unfortunately, like the US, Japan’s record on nuclear safety is not too good.

Non-proliferation has over time become increasingly discriminatory and a vehicle for the powerful to pressurize states they consider “unreliable”, and the fact that these targeted states happen to be primarily Muslim states, with the sole exception of North Korea, reflects a further bias within the developed world. In fact, the accommodating manner in which the US has treated North Korea’s open defiance of the NPT in contrast to the treatment meted out to Iran which has stayed within its NPT obligations and continuously reiterated its abhorrence of nuclear weapons, only bolsters the perception that Muslim states are being targeted by the US and its allies on multiple fronts, especially post-9/11. The Indo-US nuclear deal, and the repercussions of it within the IAEA and Nuclear Suppliers’ Group (NSG), has brought all these contradictions and dualities out into the open.

However, what has been a rude shock for many has been the growing duplicity of Japan on nuclear-related issues. Post-1945 Japan has ostensibly maintained a strong anti-nuclear posture given how it is the only country to have actually suffered nuclear attacks – courtesy the United States. Yet, over a period of time Japan is moving out of the shadows of its professed anti-militarist position as it develops a vibrant arms industry, partners the US in Missile Defense and maintains one of the largest peaceful nuclear programs in the world. As if that was not enough to worry neighbors like China and the Koreas, who still recall the bitter legacy of Japanese militarism, Japan has also begun adopting a dual approach on the nuclear issue with an unstinting opposition to Pakistan’s nuclear program, but the beginnings of an accommodation to the far more extensive Indian nuclear program. Most recently, this has been reflected in the outcome of the meeting between the Japanese and Indian premiers in Tokyo which not only resulted in a trade pact, but also the promise of Japanese export to India of its state-of-the-art nuclear technology.

India, as a result of its nuclear deal with the US, has become a vast market for nuclear exports and countries like France and the UK are casting aside their superfluous non-proliferation concerns in order to gain access to this market – with the US clearing the NSG and IAEA hurdles. For the Japanese, the road is less smooth because there is still a strong anti-nuclear weapons lobby within Japan. Yet the Japanese Premier, Naoto Kan, is undeterred and stated that India and Japan had “agreed to speed up negotiations for civil nuclear energy cooperation while seeking India’s understanding of our country’s sentiment as a nuclear-bombed nation.” So, unlike the demands on Pakistan by the Japanese to sign the NPT and CTBT, no such demand is being made on India – only an apologetic appeal for Indian understanding as to why the Japanese will take a little more time to give India sensitive nuclear technology.

On further scrutiny, it is easy to find that Japan has long harbored nuclear ambitions and its nuclear program has been developed in such a way that it is barely a “screwdriver’s turn” away from possessing nuclear weapons. So far, it has suited Japan to have a “nuclear ready” status without actually taking the last and final step in that direction. That is why, at a Pugwash Conference in Beijing a few years earlier, one heard the North and South Korean participants decry Japanese plans to build the controversial Rokkasho reprocessing plant, which has now become operational and is the first industrial-scale reprocessing plant in a non-nuclear weapon state (NNWS). As a matter of fact, Japan possesses massive amounts of excess plutonium because it also has a large fast-breeder program, which allows stockpiles of fissile material to be built up. In December 1995, Japan was reported to have 4.7 tons of plutonium – enough for 700 nuclear warheads. Japan also has an indigenous nuclear enrichment plant – something the Indians are still seeking to perfect – which can also provide enriched uranium for nuclear weapons production. Japan has also developed the M-V three-stage solid fuel rocket, similar in design to the US LGM-118A Peacekeeper ICBM, which could serve as a ready delivery vehicle. In addition, Japan has been involved in developing the latest fighter aircraft with the US also. So, it has all the nuts and bolts in place if it chooses to go nuclear. Already, there is a growing move to do away totally with the constitutional restrictions on Japan developing a full-scale military.

Unfortunately, like the US, Japan’s record on nuclear safety is not too good. Nuclear safety issues have been more acute in Japan which has had a series of nuclear accidents. The following incidents relating to nuclear safety issues in Japan once again highlights the fact that so far globally it is the more developed industrial states that seem to have had more extensive safety problems in terms of their nuclear installations.

According to the record on the Greenpeace website, between 1975-1995, the following nuclear accidents took place in Japan:

· 1975: Release of radioactivity from Japan’s Mihama nuclear power plant.

· 1979: Two workers suffer radioactive contamination at Japan’s Tokaimura nuclear complex.

· 1986: 12 people receive “slight” plutonium contamination, while inspecting a store room at the Tokaimura nuclear complex.

· 1991: Rupture of steam generator pipe causes release of radioactivity at Mihama nuclear power plant.

· 1991: Reactor shut-down due to break of control system at Japan’s Sendai nuclear power plant.

· 1991: Release of radioactivity from Japan’s Fukui nuclear power plant.

· 1993: High pressure steam accident kills one worker and injures two others at Japan’s Fukushima nuclear power plant.

· 1995: Fire due to leakage of sodium coolant from the Monju fast breeder reactor. The Japanese nuclear industry attempted to cover up the full extent of the accident and the reactor was shut-down.

Moreover, on September 30, 1999, an accident at a uranium-processing facility in Tokaimura, 70 miles northeast of Tokyo, occurred. The accident was triggered when three workers used too much uranium to make fuel and set off an uncontrolled atomic reaction. A total of 439 people, including nearby residents, were believed to have been exposed to radiation.

( Again, days after an earthquake, on July 24, 2000, the Tokyo Electric Power Company found 29 gallons of radioactive water leaking from a nuclear reactor at the Fukushima No 1 plant in northern Japan (USA Today, July 17, 2007). The story repeated itself on September 17, 2003, when officials at the Chuba Electric Power’s Hamaoka plant in central Japan discovered that about 1.6 gallons of radioactive water had leaked from one of the reactors. In November 2001, the same reactor was shut down after two radioactive leaks occurred within three days. Even more disturbing was the fatal accident that took place at the Mihama plant on August 29, 2004, killing at least four people. There was no leak of radioactivity, but as the Greenpeace website pointed out, it was the deadliest accident in a catalogue of nuclear scandals in Japan. Seven workers were also injured due to the steam leak, possibly caused by a lack of cooling water in the reactor. These safety problems have continued to haunt Japan’s nuclear facilities and in July 2007, Japan had to suspend operations at the nuclear plant near Kashiwazaki, after a radiation leak and other damage from a deadly earthquake raised new concerns about the safety of the nation’s accident-plagued nuclear industry (The New York Times, July 18, 2007).

Despite being a signatory to the NPT, because Japan continues to expand its civil nuclear base, issues of safety will be a source of concern within its immediate Asian neighborhood. Moreover, in the context of the threat of nuclear terror from non-state actors, Japan can be extremely vulnerable because it was in Japan that chemical weapons terrorist attacks took place in 1994 and 1995 by a group calling itself Aum Shinrikyo, presently on the US terrorist groups’ list.

With such a record, is it not time for Japan to stop its hypocrisy on the nuclear issue and treat Pakistan and India on an equal footing in terms of nuclear assistance? There is no credibility either in Japan’s non-proliferation posturing or its concerns over nuclear safety vis-à-vis Pakistan – especially with its nuclear cooperation talks with India.

This paper is based on an op-ed by the author in The Nation. Reach Dr. Mazari at callstr[at]

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Pakistan Can Survive a Year Like this, Can Survive Anything

Posted by yourpakistan on October 27, 2010

By David Pilling

Just 18 months ago Hillary Clinton declared there was an “existential threat” to Pakistan. The Taliban had occupied the picturesque Swat valley and imposed sharia law only 100 miles from Islamabad. With militancy on the rise in almost every corner of the country and bomb blasts thundering across its cities, the nuclear-armed state did indeed appear to be in peril.

Only weeks after the US secretary of state’s intervention, Pakistani troops poured into Swat. Several hundred militants were killed and more than 2m refugees fledin the biggest internal displacement of people since the Rwandan genocide. The Swat campaign was “a watershed moment”, according to Salman Taseer, governor of Punjab and an ally of the civilian government of President Asif Ali Zardari. “It was a battle for life and death. If we hadn’t survived that, who knows?”

Who knows indeed. Yet watershed moments are hardly a rarity in Pakistan, a state that lurches from crisis to crisis like a bus stuck in first gear (and lacking brakes and headlights to boot). Since the army imposed a tenuous order on Swat, Pakistan has been buffeted by the mother of all floods, a fresh wave of suicide bombings and what Maleeha Lodhi, former ambassador to the US, calls “layer upon layer of economic crises”.

Yet Pakistan has survived. In its partial victories against Islamist militants it may even have made some kind of progress. It is all too easy to think of Pakistan as a failing – even a failed – state. But it might be better to see it as the state that refuses to fail.

To appreciate just how remarkable this is, cast your mind back to this dangerous year’s catalogue of fire and brimstone. First, following its victory in Swat, the army turned its attention on South Waziristan, bombarding militants in lawless areas bordering Afghanistan. Many considered that an important step, given the well-documented links between the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) spy agency and tribal militants, part of Pakistan’s quest for “strategic depth” in Afghanistan.

Second, and partly as a result of the army’s offensives, there has been a wave of counter-attacks on hotels, mosques and police stations. Last October, militants mounted a brazen raid on the supposedly impregnable headquarters of the 500,000-strong army. That led to alarm that men with beards and a less-than-glowing feeling towards America were getting perilously close to Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal.

Third, Pakistan has had to adapt to a dramatic shift in US policy towards Afghanistan. In December, President Barack Obama ordered a surge of 30,000extra troops, a military intensification that has sent militants scurrying across the border into Pakistan. Worse from Islamabad’s point of view, the US president has committed to drawing down those troops from next summer, a retreat, if it happens, that would once again leave Pakistan alone in a nasty neighbourhood.

Fourth, the economic outlook remains precarious. Pakistan just about avoided a balance of payments crisis which, at one point, saw its reserves dwindle to just one month’s import cover. But respite has come at the cost of being in hock to the International Monetary Fund, which has extended some $7bn in loans. With tax receipts at a miserable 9 per cent of output, it is unclear how it will make ends meet.

As if these man-made calamities were not enough, Pakistan has been drowning in the worst floods in its history. At one point, no less than one-fifth of the country was under water. Imran Khan, the cricket idol turned politician, describes seeing buffalo swept up in the engorged rivers like pieces of paper. With crops failing, millions made homeless and the threat of disease looming, many warned that the flood would prove the final straw for Pakistan.

Remarkably it has not been. Why not? A partial explanation for Pakistan’s staying power is that it has become an extortionary state that thrives on crisis. Islamabad is well versed in the art of prising cash out of panicked donors by sidling ever-more convincingly towards the abyss. Not even the most ardent conspiracy theorist could accuse Pakistan of manufacturing its own floods. But, as documents released by WikiLeaks confirmed, the state has long maintained a deeply ambiguous relationship with the very elements threatening to tear it apart.

There are more benign explanations too. The strength of civil society has helped. Many refugees from the floods, like those from Swat, have found temporary shelter with the networks of friends and relatives that bind the country together. The army’s response to the floods has also underscored, for better or worse, the efficiency of the state’s best-run institution. Even the civilian administration, weak and discredited as it is, has clung on. If, as now seems plausible, Mr Zardari can survive, power could yet be transferred from one democratically elected administration to another for the first time in Pakistan’s 63-year history.

One should not overstate Pakistan’s resilience. The world is rightly alarmed at the mayhem that rages at its centre. But, if you care to look on the bright side, you might conclude that, if Pakistan can survive a year like this, it can survive anything.


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Where Interests Clash – US-Pakistan Strategic Dialogue

Posted by yourpakistan on October 26, 2010

Farooq Hameed Khan – The Nation

It was the perfect setting for some frank and hard talk, as the Pakistani delegation headed by Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi along with General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani arrived in Washington for the third round of the much trumpeted Strategic Dialogue.

Despite USA’s flood relief efforts, Dr Aafia Siddiqui’s 86-year jail sentence and increased drone strikes have fuelled anti-Americanism to new heights in Pakistan. More importantly, the unprovoked helicopter air strikes, which killed three Frontier Corps soldiers, had witnessed a stinging Pakistani response and as a result NATO’s Torkham and Chaman logistics lifelines were closed for almost 10 days. In addition, with over a hundred NATO oil tankers going up in flames in Pakistan, the US administration was shocked. A few weeks earlier, a Pakistani military delegation had called off their official visit to CENTCOM in protest against the humiliation faced at the airport in Washington.

Meanwhile, Washington continues to ignore Islamabad’s strategic interests. The US is stuck to its stubborn position and ruled out any mediation between India and Pakistan on the Kashmir issue, which is, indeed, a negation of President Obama’s commitment during his pre-White House campaign to help resolve the issue. However, the Pakistani leadership, though wrongly, expects that Obama, during his forthcoming visit to India, would prove his statesmanship and urge the Indian government to end the human rights violations in Kashmir and help resolve the dispute according to the UN resolutions.

One wonders why does the US continue to propagate that the real threat to Pakistan is from the extremists within its borders and not posed by India. This line of thinking forces Pakistanis to suspect US motives, especially when the superpower ignores the deployment of bulk of Indian war machine on its eastern borders. General Kayani’s India-centric stance, hence, makes perfect strategic sense and is in line with our national security interests.

While Holbrooke confirmed that ‘private talks’ were being held on the supply of civil nuclear technology to Pakistan, the US has also asked for details about the Pak-China civil nuclear agreement to see if it fits in with the international regime. By according preferential treatment to India in providing the civil nuclear technology, the US has disturbed the nuclear balance in South Asia and, thus, worked against Pakistan’s vital interests. But with the latest dialogue structured around 13 sectors, it has lost its strategic bias and become more tactical in nature. Accordingly, Pakistan’s core interests related to halting the drone strikes, transfer of armed drone technology, establishment of ROZs in FATA, enhanced market access or export quota for Pakistani goods or help in debt retirement or moratorium continue to remained unaddressed.


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Did President Zardari Approve Increased Drone Attacks In The Last Strategic Dialogue?

Posted by yourpakistan on October 25, 2010

Was the green light given to CIA during the last round? Can our Foreign Minister Qureshi tell us if President Zardari gave the green light for CIA to kill innocent Pakistanis? Who in Islamabad is responsible for the deaths of innocent and patriotic Pakistanis in our tribal belt?

The Pakistani delegation headed by our very own foreign minister Makhdoom Shah Mehmood Hussain Qureshi is in session with the U.S delegation in Washington for the third round of the strategic dialogue, headed by secretary of state Hillary Rodham. The word strategic is enthralling but the moment a sane person comes to know about the outcome of these US-PAK strategic dialogues they instantly say, ‘It’s just a discourse between U.S and Pakistan for no better outcome.’

The recently published book, Obama’s Wars, is full of taunts against Pakistan, portraying it as a tainted ally. Not to mention a report by a Washington think tank accusing Pakistan of diverting flood money to its nuclear program. And the Obama administration report to Congress stating Pakistan is not doing enough against Al-Qaeda and Taliban. All of this leaves a bad taste in the mouth just before starting a strategic dialogue and clearly shows that U.S is pressurizing Pakistan by this rhetoric and storming up a public perception that Pakistan is the reason why America is losing Afghanistan.

Will our very own foreign minister ever tell us what Pakistan got out of this strategic dialogue? What Pakistan gained and lost?
These are million-dollar questions in the minds of 180 million people of Pakistan thrown at out rulers but with no answers in the offing. After the second round of strategic talks in Islamabad, the suppressed and sandwiched Pakistanis saw increased drone attacks. Did the U.S get a go-ahead during that round of talks? Or is Bob Woodward right when he states in his book that President Zardari told a former CIA director, “Collateral damage worries you Americans. It does not worry me”?

Who will clear this haze and let the nation know about the man who is responsible for deaths of the innocent and patriot people of FATA?

Our sovereignty is challenged almost every day. Back in 2008 at Gora Pai in the Mohmand tribal region of Pakistan, 11 soldiers of Pakistan Army lost their lives due to coalition forces’ indiscriminate firing. Later, American officials called it a “regrettable incident.” Our government did nothing in retaliation. Late last month NATO helicopters crossed in Kurram Agency and killed three of our soldiers again and this time came a befitting response from Pakistan fully endorsed by the ordinary public to choke ISAF supply lines. At this critical juncture, the whole nation is asking one question: Why are the US and ISAF forces killing its own ally? Will this grave issue be taken up in the ongoing strategic dialogue?

Afghanistan has become a quagmire for the US and its allies and just for face-saving Pakistan is being pulled in slowly to be blamed for the failures in Afghanistan. One must remember the days when U.S forces were badly hurt in Vietnam and “operation creep” was launched to bomb Laos and Cambodia to shift the blame on them.

Pakistan foreign policy experts have very few moves left on the chess board of “strategic dialogue.”

Mr. Khan is a columnist from Nowshera. He is a Pakistani nationalist. Reach him


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US Aid To Come With Strings Attached

Posted by yourpakistan on October 24, 2010


Stringent conditions are expected to be attached with the new $2 billion US military aid that Pakistan may start receiving from 2012.
Background interviews with American diplomats and Foreign Office officials reveal that the aid will be linked with progress against militant groups which the Obama administration believes the Pakistan military has yet to confront head on.

The Americans suspect that the Pakistan military has a “hands off” approach towards certain militant groups, namely the Haqqani network and Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT), a jihadi outfit believed to be active in Indian Kashmir. A recent White House report submitted to the US Congress claims that the Pakistan military continued to avoid engagements that would put it in direct conflict with the Afghan Taliban or al Qaeda inspired Haqqani network in North Waziristan.

Official sources disclosed to The Express Tribune that the Indian lobby is also active in Washington to ensure that the US aid is linked with Pakistan dismantling LeT, which New Delhi believes was behind the Mumbai attacks.

However, it is widely believed that Pakistan’s reluctance to go after groups such as the Haqqani network stems from the fact that the military does not see it a direct threat to its interests. The military establishment is also concerned over the growing Indian influence in Afghanistan therefore it is keeping its options open by not directly challenging the Afghan Taliban.

Another factor that disturbs Pakistan is its reported exclusion from the Afghan reconciliation process. “Pakistan wants the US to address these concerns before it goes all out against such militant groups,” said a Foreign Office official.

On Friday, Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani also warned that anyAfghan reconciliation plan, which excludes Pakistan, might not succeed – fuelling speculation that Islamabad is being kept at bay from the process. “There must be discussions on all these issues during the strategic dialogue in Washington,” an American diplomat told The Express Tribune on condition of anonymity.
He said the details of the aid package will be worked out in due course of time. “But I am sure that the assistance will be linked with certain conditions,” he added.

The conditions will certainly include Pakistan’s firm assurance that the military assistance would not be diverted to the country’s nuclear program. “This is one of the serious issues for the US Congress,” he added.

The Express Tribune has also learnt that the Pakistan military asked for immediate assistance to boost its capability to launch an offensive in North Waziristan. However, the Obama Administration told Pakistan that the US will provide assistance only after the military shows “substantive” progress against certain militant groups.

“The next two years are very crucial and the US will see what progress Pakistan has made to dismantle and destroy the ability of terrorists to target America and its allies,” remarked another US diplomat. “If Pakistan lives up to its commitment, the US Congress will certainly have no hesitation to approve the aid,” he added.

Published in The Express Tribune, October 24th, 2010.


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Americans Lie To Pakistan About Everything

Posted by yourpakistan on October 23, 2010

One day they tell us training camps of so-called ‘Baloch’ separatists are closed. Next day Brahamdagh Bugti springs up in Kandahar or Helmand.

The recent visit to Kabul has produced strange results for me. Though it was very informative, it has created more confusion in my mind. This time round, I had the opportunity to listen to many parties to the conflict in Afghanistan. I held long discussions with Aftab Ahmad Khan Sherpao, Ahsan Iqbal, Mehmood Khan Achakzai, Gen (r) Asad Durrani, Afrasiyab Khattak, Ashraf Jehangir Qazi and Najmuddin Sheikh as all these prominent personalities were invited, like the scribe, to attend the second conference of the Abu Dhabi process held under the auspices of the East-West Institute and the UAE government.

This time my meetings in Kabul were not restricted to ministers and advisers of the Karzai government. Rather I held meetings with former Taliban ambassador to Pakistan Mulla Abdus Salam Zaeef, ex-foreign minister of the Taliban regime Maulvi Wakil Ahmad Mutawakkil, some old-time friends from Hizb-e-Islami, Afghan intellectuals and the UAE and German ambassadors to Kabul. We also enjoyed the hospitality of the intellectual but very active Pakistani ambassador to Kabul, Mr Muhammad Sadiq. All these discussions and meetings were very useful as I listened to almost all parties to the Afghan conflict.

However these different opinions and positions created a comprehensive, but extremely shocking, picture of the whole spectrum of issues. Once you observe a snapshot of the double standards and group and national prejudices, you would be able to easily understand the reasons behind the spiralling conflict and its debilitating consequences for Pakistan. And why, despite international and regional efforts, this region has been destined for further instability and chaos.

Pakistan is a frontline state and an indispensable ally of the US in the war against terrorism. But the US does not treat it as an ally. There is a huge trust-deficit between the two partners. The US neither shares its ambitions and plans for the region with Pakistan, nor is ready to disclose its strategy to this vital partner. The Americans say one thing but do another thing. For example, Pakistan was informed that NATO was making preparations for action in Kandahar. But suddenly that plan was scrapped without intimating Pakistan and action was initiated instead in the border areas of provinces like Khost, Paktia and Paktika. One day the US assures Pakistan that all camps of Baloch separatists in Afghanistan have been dismantled, while the next day Brahamdagh Bugti surfaces in Kandahar or Helmand.

As far as the Afghans’ behavior is concerned, it thoroughly betrays double standards. Those Afghans who are up in arms against Pakistan’s influence in Afghanistan are trying to make room for Iranian and Indian influence. Similarly, those Afghan militants, who consider the presence of foreign militants on Afghan soil as against their sovereignty have completely shut their eyes to the presence of foreign troops in all corners of that country.

Strangely, Afghans who consider the presence of foreign troops a violation of their honor are making no noise about the presence of foreign militants from the Arab countries and Central Asia. Similarly, people who waste no opportunity to condemn the Taliban regime’s excesses have no time to criticise the internecine conflict between Mujahideen groups and the resulting catastrophe for the people of Afghanistan.

The majority of Afghans believe that Pakistan is supporting the Taliban insurgency in Afghanistan. But when Pakistanis propose regulating cross-border movements and fencing of the Durand Line to stop infiltration, the same Pakistan-bashers are vehemently opposed to such moves. Thousands of Afghans are crossing into Pakistan everyday without proper visas, but even prominent figures like Mehmood Khan Achakzai are not allowed to enter Afghanistan without a proper visa. The Pakistani embassy in Kabul issues six-months’ multiple-entry visas to Afghans, but the Afghan foreign ministry, despite so many requests, does not issue multiple-entry visas even to Pakistani citizens who, like this scribe, visit Kabul at least once a month.

The story of Pakistani double standards presents a picture of its own. Our establishment always requests India for normalization of relations, but is not amenable to the idea of Afghanistan’s relations with India. The retired generals and religious leaders who do not hesitate to criticize America’s imperial behavior towards Pakistan are strongly desirous of Pakistani behavior of this kind regarding Afghanistan.

The rulers in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa and Islamabad are engaged in supporting the idea of negotiations with the Afghan Taliban, but they have shut all doors to such initiatives on this side of the border. These rulers get furious at American helicopters’ intrusion into Pakistan, but have tacitly permitted drone attacks. The Pakhtun nationalists, who are opposed to the Durand Line as a proper border and vociferously advocate the cause of a single Pakhtun nation on both sides of the border, are highly critical of Pakhtun Taliban’s presence in Pakistan. But the question is: if the Durand line is ineffective as a border for other Pakhtuns, then why should it be sacrosanct for the Taliban?

The confusion and double standards are a baffling riddle. The region is up for grabs; every player within its borders and beyond is trying to become the sole master of the region. It appears that this fire will not remain restricted to Quetta and Peshawar. Rather, God forbid, it is going to engulf the whole country. But the tragedy is that the residents of the fortresses of Islamabad, Rawalpindi and Lahore neither comprehend the intensity of this fire nor have any sense to feel it before it engulfs everybody around. Here everyone is busy playing the “NRO” and other such games. All important individuals and institutions are fighting to grab more powers and authority. Incomprehensibly, our rulers, policymakers and leaders forget the fact that war and anarchy forgive none. The masses, rulers, religious and nationalist Pakhtuns and Punjabis would be indistinguishable sufferers of war and anarchy. Once a country is turned into “Afghanistan” then its people do not remain masters of their own destiny, nor are they allowed to think on their own. Resultantly, the international and regional powers rule such nations through local faces.

Mr. Safi is a renowned Pakistani journalist and an expert on Pak-Afghan affairs. This op-ed was published by The News International. Reach Mr. Safi at


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USA to Cut Aid to Pakistan Army Units Over Abuse

Posted by yourpakistan on October 22, 2010

Pakistani army units believed to have killed unarmed prisoners or civilians during anti-Taliban offensives are to be denied training and equipment from US forces, according to reports.

Pakistani army soldiers patrol a street in Miranshah, the main North Waziristan town
along the Pakistan Photo: AFP/GETTY

The aid cuts are the latest in a series of developments highlighting the uneasy relationship between Washington and its vital ally, sometimes seen as hindering the fight against al-Qaeda. The White House has not yet informed Pakistan of its decision even though senior Pakistani officials are in Washington for a series of talks this week, according to The New York Times, citing officials from both countries.

It comes just as the two nations seek to smooth over their latest crisis after Nato helicopters killed Pakistani troops along the Afghanistan-Pakistan border and Islamabad responded by blocking the main transit point for US war supplies.
Barack Obama’s administration has “a lot of concern about not embarrassing” the Pakistani military, a senior official told the Times.

Some US-backed Pakistani Army and special operations troops who have been in action against Taliban fighters in the Swat Valley and South Waziristan along the lawless border region will be affected by the decision, the newspaper said. The move would be in line with a law known as the Leahy Amendment, which requires the United States to cut off aid to foreign military units found to have committed gross human rights violations.

Units from Indonesia and Colombia have been affected in the past, but this would be the first time it would hit a country of such strategic importance as Pakistan. It receives about $2 billion (£1.26 billion) in US aid for its military each year.”I told the White House that I have real concerns about the Pakistani military’s actions, and I’m not going to close my eyes to it because of our national interests in Pakistan,” the amendment’s author Senator Patrick Leahy told the Times. A senior Pakistani official involved in discussions about the matter told the newspaper that the United States had expressed concern about reports of hundreds of extrajudicial killings committed by the Pakistani military. Pakistan was addressing the issue, he said.

But the official noted that so far, the US government “has not threatened us with withholding of assistance or training for any of our military units on these grounds.”

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