Tuesday, 2 February 2016
Zarb e Azb in danger of losing its way, by Ayaz Amir
February 02, 2016 The News
It’s not the same as before; the zing has gone out of it. In Fata the operation is becoming a stalemate. Terrorist forces have been hit, badly hit, but they aren’t defeated. And their ability to mount maverick attacks such as the most recent in Charsadda is not to be ignored.
And the religious worldview, or rather the extremist worldview which is the ideological basis for the assault on the Pakistani state, is still there. Pakistan hasn’t become a more secular or ‘liberal’ place as a result of our war against terrorism.
To be sure, our soldiers and officers, mostly young officers, have proved themselves in this war, rendering great sacrifices against a tough and cruel enemy. Unfortunately, their sacrifices have not been matched by any corresponding change in the behaviour and attitudes of the rest of Pakistan. Our avowal of being in ‘a state of war’ remains a cosmetic declaration, without fire and spirit in it. For we remain for the most part as we were. Bribery in all walks of life, corruption, the state of justice, governmental efficiency, the mess on our roads, anything you can think of, it’s still all the same.
Only the fighting soldier has changed. This bears repeating. This is a new breed born of this unrelenting war. Even the mind of the young officer has changed. His eye is on the enemy and not real estate or the property business, which had become the leading pastime of senior echelons, and even mid-ranking officers, before the Taliban forced the Pakistan Army to return to its primary function of war and its related responsibilities. And the eye of the young officer is on the need to change Pakistan and the way it is run and its affairs are managed.
This is dangerous because such thinking should be the preserve of the political class and the educated citizenry. Soldiers have no business dreaming of politics. Bonapartism is not the seizing of power. Bonapartism is the thinking of dangerous thoughts. But in a republic whose institutions are weak and not fully developed, and where leaders are weak and self-serving – out to line their pockets all the time – and where the army is the dominant institution, as the Khalsa army was in the kingdom of Maharaja Ranjit Singh, those whose business is not to think dangerous thoughts start toying with dangerous ideas.
Especially when their own sacrifices contrasted with political greed and hypocrisy, and the windy nature of political oratory, fills them with contempt for the political class.
Because Zarb-e-Azb has been a pure military operation with no effort on the political front to initiate the socio-economic restructuring needed to make Pakistan a more efficient and forward-looking country, it has reached a plateau. What had to be done has been done. The enemy has been dislodged from his earlier positions but he survives…licking his wounds and planning his fresh moves. And the Pakistani state is where it was with all its accumulated inefficiencies – and corruption and commission-taking in high places and low still continuing as if Pakistan had never been in a state of war.
In Karachi something else is happening. The army command is getting bogged down in a side-battle, involving the PPP and Dr Asim Hussain. Would Asim Hussain have ever imagined, even in his wildest moments, that he would become the central character in such a drama? In pursuing this side-battle the Rangers, who are conducting the Karachi operation, are losing the plot.
Terrorism and the stranglehold of violence were the issues in Karachi, not corruption. Let’s concede for the sake of argument that Karachi was the most corrupt place on earth. Yet the source of Karachi’s violence was not corruption or the mis-governance of a corrupt administration. The source of that violence was ethnic-based politics and the dominance, stretching back over the past 30 years, of a particular Karachi-centric political party.
The Rangers started from the correct starting point. They went to the heart of Karachi’s problems but just when they had turned the corner, and the Karachi situation had dramatically improved, instead of concentrating on that front and bringing it to a conclusion, they opened a second front against the PPP.
Now the PPP may be all things, it may be the last word in corruption and mis-governance, guilty of every sin in the calendar, but not even its enemies can accuse it of having a soft corner for terrorism – whether the secular brand of terrorism which was the MQM’s forte or the Islamic revivalist brand of terror practised by the TTP and its many acolytes. In fact, despite all their other sins, the PPP and the ANP have been the greatest victims of terrorism. Let us not forget this.
Asim Hussain may be no one’s idea of an angel. He may be guilty of a thousand things. That’s for the courts to decide. But a sponsor of terrorism? Come my masters, this strains the imagination. And he has been in custody for months and there is still no proper charge-sheet against him. Is the object Asim Hussain or is it someone else? The whole thing now reeks of vindictiveness, and if this is what it is, heaven alone knows what may be the cause of it.
No one will touch our old friend Maulana Aziz of Lal Masjid. His greatest apologist is the government itself. But the Rangers seem to have forgotten everything else about Karachi and have only Asim Hussain in their gun-sights. And now there is the added drama of Uzair Jan Baloch’s sudden appearance. They said he was caught while trying to sneak into Karachi. As far as I could make out he was dressed in ‘boski’ shalwar-kameez, well-laundered too, and didn’t look like much of a fugitive.
Everyone knows he was caught in Dubai sometime back and he’s only been brought in from the cold now. What for? If he has any beans to spill we can safely bet that the beans will neither be related to the MQM nor the TTP. It’s a safe guess they will be about the PPP…Asif Zardari and so on. This is further confirmation of the fact that the Karachi operation has gone off the rails. No longer about its primary target, it is now in hot pursuit of a secondary objective.
Corruption is an issue in Pakistan…a big one. But Zarb-e-Azb was never about corruption, although there is no shortage of people who would have liked it to be about that, as much about Punjab corruption as Sindh corruption.
Zarb-e-Azb was about the challenge of the TTP and it was about Karachi violence. The army was successful in Fata and the Rangers were successful in Karachi. The frontline units in Fata still have their eyes on the main enemy. There is no confusion about objective as far as they are concerned. But the Rangers in Karachi, driven by a false sense of vendetta or God knows what, have allowed themselves to be side-tracked. With bated breath the nation now awaits the confessions of Saint Uzair Jan of Lyari. The drama takes another turn, although, alas, what it most elicits now is a yawn and a weary shrug of the shoulders.
The army has won itself a reputation this last year and a half. Should it begin to compromise it so lightly?
- See more at: http://www.thenews.com.pk/print/95447-Zarb-e-Azb-in-danger-of-losing-its-way#sthash.zuZVCcfL.dpuf
Monday, 1 February 2016
Deplorable role of our politicians, Brigadier Asif Haroon Raja
Irresponsible behavior of our political leaders is causing irreparable damage to the nation. Their myopia has caused deep anguish to the people. Their selfishness broke the country into two. When Mujibur Rahman and 22 co-accused were arrested on charges of treason and secession in 1968, the politicians bailed them out. When Ayub Khan who had uplifted the fortunes of Pakistan sky high, agreed to all the demands of the opposition and called the Round Table Conference to find a political way out, power hungry ZA Bhutto failed the conference. While Gen Yahya gave all the political concessions and allocated heaviest development outlays for the eastern wing to appease the Bengalis, Mujibur Rahman chose to play the Indian game to become PM of Bangladesh and not of united Pakistan. ZA Bhutto added fuel to fire since he wanted half of the cake of power at all cost. Their obduracy and India’s disgusting role led to the break of Pakistan. Bangladesh broke away to become independent but has become a satellite of India.
Egotism and greed of nationalist politicians from Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) and Sindh, later joined by Baluchistan nationalists blocked the construction of Kalabagh Dam (KBD), vital for the survival of Pakistan. Who doesn’t know that India was behind the ones opposing KBD and had doled out large amounts to achieve her sinister design? Today when India has built well over 60 dams on the three rivers flowing into Pakistan from occupied Kashmir and is hell bent to make Pakistan a water scarce country and a barren land, no one is holding the opponents accountable. India is now in a position to flood our rivers during flood season each year and control water during seeds sowing season. This strategy has been devised to bend nuclear Pakistan and force it to give up Kashmir and accept Indian hegemony if it wants to survive. But for the avaricious politicians who have sold their souls to the devil, India could never have succeeded in her designs. Thanks to Ayub Khan who constructed Tarbela and Mangla Dams and laid a network of irrigation canals, otherwise Pakistan by now would have been a drought stricken country and couldn’t have possibly pursued its nuclear program or maintained strong armed forces.
We know the architects of NRO and what price the beneficiaries had agreed to pay to get cleansed from criminal and corruption charges and secure power. We know the dream team of PPP-MQM-ANP-JUI-F formed by the US in March 2008 and how this chosen team went about giving Pakistan on contract to the adversaries of Pakistan. While all the PPP leading lights involved in mega scandals were given a clean chit, 8000 MQM leaders involved in heinous crimes were let off. This team played havoc with Pakistan in its 5-year rule. Besides minting money and reducing Pakistan into a carcass, the MQM in its bid to gain total control over Karachi and other urban centres of Sindh let loose a reign of terror in Karachi with the help of its target killers, extortionists, kidnappers. Railway was almost grounded by ANP minister. While all the economic indicators had gone into negative, all profit earning state corporations ran on oxygen, economy almost collapsed and debts doubled. Country was run by taking loans from IMF, World Bank, local banks and printing notes. PML-N tied to charter of democracy looked the other way.
Pakistan was seen as a breeding ground of terrorism, the most dangerous country in the world and a failing state. An impression had been built that Pakistan’s nukes were unsafe and likely to be snatched by militants and hence must be taken in safe custody. Pak Army and ISI were ridiculed by propagating that they were either in league with terrorists or were inefficient and were repeatedly asked to do more. Every Tom, Dick and Harry could whip Pakistan and our leaders took the insults and whips without a whimper. No country was prepared to invest even $ 100 in Pakistan and foreign investment had dried up. Pakistan suffered worst energy crisis and people had to endure 18-20 hours load shedding. There was acute shortage of gas, fuel and commodities. Corruption scaled new heights and was institutionalized. Nepotism was adopted and merit discarded. Cheats and crooks were preferred over honest people. Accountability was in name only since no one was held accountable under the name of national reconciliation. Even those sentenced to death were not hanged because of moratorium. Over 4000 terrorists arrested by the Army soldiers in combat zones were freed by the law courts. No criminal in Karachi involved in hundreds of murders was convicted and punished.
We remember how merrily our leaders accepted the Kerry Lugar Bill which in the garb of aid was designed to control Pakistan’s premier institutions and strategic assets. We also remember the Memo scandal and the devious role of our ambassador in Washington who had authored it at the behest of the top leaders in Pakistan. Hussain Haqqani had pushed in 7000 CIA and Blackwater operatives without seeking clearance from Ministry of Foreign Affairs and ISI. Rahman Malik as Interior Minister served the vested interests of his local and foreign masters submissively and enabled Blackwater to establish itself in major urban centres. It has now been established that while MQM is closely linked with RAW, PPP leadership is involved in financial terrorism in Karachi and ANP connection with the Indian Congress is no secret. BLA, BRA, BLF are creations of MI-6, CIA, RAW and are serving their agenda to detach Baluchistan from Pakistan. Their absconding leaders are leading a luxurious life in London, Geneva and Washington. TTP is also a creation of foreign agencies and its top leaders are hosted by Afghan intelligence in Kunar, Nuristan, Nangarhar and used by RAW against Pakistan.
Instead of building institutions and focusing on alleviating the sufferings of the poor, the politicians got involved in filling their coffers. While the PPP wasted all their energies in glorifying ZA Bhutto and Benazir and in demeaning Gen Ziaul Haq, the MQM and ANP lionized Altaf Hussain and Bacha Khan respectively. PPP and MQM kept fighting in Sindh but slept in one bed. Their insatiable greed and lust for big money and power, and their uncaring habit of displaying their wealth sowed the seeds of materialism and immorality. Their dishonesty stimulated culture of corruption. Their arrogant behavior and their lackadaisical approach and insensitivity towards the have-nots bred intolerance, resentment and further fueled religious extremism and terrorism. Their inefficiency crumbled the economy and accentuated joblessness and poverty. Lacking in vision and patriotism, and preferring self-interests over national interests, they remained engrossed in transferring wealth to Swiss banks and procuring property abroad and took little interest in education and in integrating the society as one whole, which is prone to divisive tendencies due to factors of regionalism, ethnicity, sectarianism, secular-Islamic divide and religious divides. Their corrupt practices became a key factor in disillusioning the youth and in going astray and in fanning provincialism.
These glaring anomalies can be attributed to a robber baron but certainly not to a Guardian. One can expect the callous feudal lord to commit such thoughtless acts but cannot be expected from a true leader and a well-wisher. The have-nots have been groaning under the weight of unbearable poverty and crying in pain for the last 69 years, but the ones sitting in the corridors of power and taking turns to loot the national wealth and resources are so smug in their high lifestyle that they either turn a deaf ear to their cries or pretend that they are doing a lot for them. Each time they stand for elections, they reach up to the have-nots and promise them moon, but no sooner they get elected through their votes they get disconnected from them. Having spent millions during election campaign, they consider it their right to plunder the national wealth. They forget the sacrifices rendered by the workers, tillers, farmers, laborers, artisans who keep the economic wheels of the country running irrespective of the odds.
Even under such insalubrious circumstances, the Army and ISI remained focused on battling with the foreign agencies supported terrorist groups in FATA and parts of KP and managed to recapture 17 administrative units from their hold in 2009 and retained them since the civil administration expressed its inability to takeover. Over 3000 security personnel embraced martyrdom in Swat and South Waziristan operations while the list of injured was much longer.
It is indeed ironic that well knowing that Pakistan has been cleverly trapped into a web of international conspiracy and the security forces are fighting an existential war since 2004, the politicians have brought no change in their behavior pattern and conduct. While the Army is at war and is shedding blood to safeguard the territorial integrity and sovereignty of motherland, and has demolished the last stronghold of TTP in North Waziristan, there is no change in the way of life of politicians. They are still making money, squabbling and indulging in intrigues. MQM followed by the PPP are trying to discredit the Rangers and fail the operation in Karachi since both want the axe to fall on smaller fish only and to spare the big fish. Sindh government is dragging its feet to grant extension to Rangers. They are doing so against the wishes of people of Karachi.
Disgruntled politicians in Sindh never hesitate from using Sindh or Muhajir card. There are some envious of progress achieved by Shahbaz, blaming Punjab for lack of development in smaller provinces. Punjab cannot be blamed for plunging the city of lights Karachi into darkness and soaking the streets with human blood. It is PPP which is creating hurdles in the implementation of National Action Plan and is now seeking judicial inquiry of Bacha Khan University terror attack. PPP is building pressure on the government to wind up Rangers operation in Karachi.
Look at how some political parties assisted by segment of media are opposing the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), which is a win-win project for both Pakistan and China since it helps Pakistan in getting out of the woods and China in developing its western provinces and in getting connected with South Asia, Middle East, Africa and beyond. The ones in the vanguard are Tehreek-e-Insaaf, ANP, PPP, JUI-F supported by Baloch nationalists. They are speaking the language of India which is hell-bent to scuttle CPEC.
While the $46 billion project is being viewed by the analysts all over the globe as a game changer for Pakistan as well as for South Asia, India is creating hurdles and has declared that it is unacceptable. Reason is that this project will bolster Pakistan’s economy and enhance its significance in the world and above all decisively demolish India’s plan to encircle Pakistan and her grandiose plans to become a regional and global power. India knows that politically stable, economically sound and militarily strong Pakistan will quicken the pace for liberation of occupied Kashmir from her clutches and then unravel Indian Union. Like India, the US is equally upset about CPEC since it will jeopardise its ambition to shift its strategic pivot from West Asia to Asia-Pacific, disrupt its plans to encircle its chief rival China and will thwart its plans to harness the mineral resources of Central Asia.
Since the CPEC has become a nightmare for India as well as USA because Central Asian Republics and some Gulf Countries have already got attracted towards it, the BJP regime has established a special desk of RAW at Delhi and allocated $300 million to scuttle CPEC at all cost. In addition, ex Afghan President Hamid Karzai has been given $30 million to keep Afghan base active for cross border terrorism in Pakistan. Indian National Adviser Ajit Dowal is the director of the operation and he is using multiple methods to achieve India’s ends. Heating up of LoC/Working boundary, false flag operations, threatening posture, and acceleration in acts of terror in restive zones of Pakistan through which western route passes, establishing a link between TTP runaway leaders and Daesh and straining Afghan-Pakistan relations were part of the gory plan. Having failed to disrupt the progress of CPEC and getting flabbergasted with the outstanding successes achieved by Operation Zarb-e-Azb in northwest, FC operation in Baluchistan and Rangers led operation in Karachi, India seems to have acquired the services of some political parties and anchors/journalists in Pakistan to do what she couldn’t do.
Their possible linkage with foreign agenda can be discerned from the fact that the first attempt to scare away the Chinese from undertaking this project was made through Dharna politics. People were led astray under the slogan of ‘change’. Negative politics delayed the signing of the CPEC deal by six months. Another trick employed was to spoil civil-military relations. After the failure of dharna to achieve its objective, complexion of Pakistan began to improve, and the CPEC project took off. Guided by outsiders, the detractors tried to make it controversial by raising the issue of ‘route’ under the pretext that Baluchistan and KP provinces would derive least benefits from it. They tried to mislead the people by asserting that original plan had been changed to benefit Punjab whereas the only route in the original plan was western. They insisted upon giving priority to western route over central and eastern routes. And when to their great disappointment this issue was amicably resolved by the PM in the All Parties’ Conference held in May 2015 that development of western route will be given top priority, they were left gaping and had to shut up for next six months.
They then waited for their patrons for the new theme to play up. To pick faults, they stated that the western route which is being constructed by FWO under the supervision and protection of Army is just a road. When they were explained that it was a four-lane Highway in continuation to KKH, they are now saying that a six-lane motorway along with all the allied facilities are required at the outset. KP CM is using threatening language; similar to the language used by ANP leaders about KBD. They fail to realise that CPEC is a 15-year long term project which has been entirely funded by China, and the one investing $46 billion has its own interests and security concerns and would like the venture to be profitable and not a liability. No one has ever invested this kind of money in Pakistan. As far as energy parks are concerned, which would consume $35 billion of the total amount, those would be decided in consultation with provinces and the latter will have to earmark places and acquire land. The opponents in their frenetic hatred for the ruling party to gain political mileage have started to sing the old song of “Punjab’, which was sung by the Bengalis and it is not difficult to ascertain as to who is the composer of the song.
The frustrated politicians know well that operationalization of CPEC and resolution of energy crisis by 2018 will sink their political ambitions to capture power in 2018 elections. To remain relevant and garner support of the public, they are ringing false alarm bells about CPEC and employing all sorts of dirty tricks to make it controversial and to dishearten the Chinese and oblige them to abandon the project. Their bleating impelled China to express its concern. In their mad frenzy, they do not understand that this opportunity that has come our way is a fate changer and if it slips away Pakistan will never be able to get rid of its external and internal debts and to remove socio-economic deprivations of smaller provinces and will continue to lurch from one crisis to another and remain vulnerable to conspiracies and foreign adventures.
While I agree that PML-N is not a party of angels and there are quite many feudal lords and crooks in it, the fact is that its performance is far better than the previous regime. It must be allowed to work and complete its tenure. If PPP led regime could be tolerated why not this one which is delivering. Let the people decide its fate in May 2018. Any turmoil in the political setup at this delicate stage when economy is yet to stabilize, energy crisis are yet to be overcome, and our adversaries are getting impatient to denuclearize and fragment Pakistan, will be suicidal. Talk of presidential form of government, national government, or the Army taking over power are unproductive suggestions at this stage. Meaningless tug of war will help our adversaries and not Pakistan. The critics must rationally analyse whether the present government has retrogressed or progressed after it took over.
Nawaz’s softness towards India, although highly unpalatable, may be tolerated. After all, Pakistan cannot afford tension on its eastern and western fronts. It is the duty of the government in power to keep the neighbors placated, particularly when our adversaries are provoking Pakistan intentionally. Pakistan’s chief focus should be towards improvement of economy. Economic prosperity alone will deter our adversaries. At the same time, ongoing operations in FATA, Baluchistan and Karachi must continue relentlessly and National Action Plan implemented in letter and spirit to achieve conclusive results. Besides the cancer of terrorism, the bigger cancer of corruption must also be cured. All this is possible only if civil-military relations remain harmonious, all institutions to perform at their optimum levels and provincial governments to concentrate on improving the socio-economic conditions of their respective provinces rather than blaming the federal government.
The writer is a retired Brig, defence analyst, columnist, author of five books, Director Measac Research Centre, Director Board of Governors Pakistan Thinkers Forum, takes part in TV talk shows. email@example.com
Sunday, 31 January 2016
Roots of terror, Andleeb Abbas
Daily Times, Lahore 31/01/2016
The funding of many seminaries from almost a dozen countries, including Saudi Arabia and India, is still not assessed when it comes to their usage and distribution
The biggest problem is not admitting that you have a problem. The reluctant admission by the head of the country that the National Action Plan (NAP) is not really what it should be is the first step towards damage prevention. During the one year of NAP’s implementation nearly every review has pointed out that there are serious gaps in implementation.
The apex committee’s results, defence analysts and the media have been crying out loud on the “non-seriousness” of the government in taking hard action. However, the government has been in public denial of this danger, terming it as just political point scoring. The fact that it took another attack in a university where teachers and students were the victims of political apathy is the sad reflection of a mindset that believes plans would have actually been detrimental to the construction of the Taj Mahal. However, the realisation that mere talk and heavy powered apex meetings are not going to work is also an achievement of sorts.
The first step is to shift the focus from damage control to damage prevention. Anti-terrorism activities have to be preceded by counter and proactive strategies. Thus, as we do in any plan, we need to draw out a whole map of the pre-suicide jacket acceptance flow, the wearing of the jacket operation flow and beyond the blow up flow. This three-stage approach will identify critical points of sowing the seed, fertilising the seed and spreading the seed underground to intertwine with other roots. The time before the young mind becomes polluted enough to wear the suicide jacket has received minimum effort and resources. The polluters who in recent times have mostly quieted down and are a bit subtler in their preaching and outreach due to operations, are far from being eliminated or minimised. Points number three and seven in NAP, which specify banning militant wings and banned outfits with any name, have almost zero progress to show.
The very fact that India had to give us evidence about Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM) operating under some other name and being involved in the Pathankot attack is clear evidence of the will of the state in this direction. Azhar Masood’s arrest has been made but we all know that after a while he may be back under some other name. When we knew that he was operating under the name of Saadi and publishing hate literature, why did we not take action? There have been some attempts in south Punjab to dismantle a few dens but concerted effort is lacking. The height of Punjab operations is the cracking down on the Chotu gang but the other big and famous alligators are all lurking just beneath the surface ready to attack whenever it is opportune.
Also, the fertiliser that feeds this seed in terms of arms and financing has not been choked and thus the spurts of attacks continue. The funding of many seminaries from almost a dozen countries, including Saudi Arabia and India, is still not assessed when it comes to their usage and distribution. The fact that the Bacha Khan terrorists were in possession of Indian and Afghan money is not just a cross-border transition but also an indication of how easily money gets transferred illegally in this country.
If Ayyan Ali cannot be apprehended carrying illegal millions in one whole year then God knows how we can possibly choke money channels that are being sponsored by political parties themselves with the help of overseas sponsors.
Many areas of NAP have to do with substituting the terrorist narrative with an alternative narrative to make it difficult for terrorists to infiltrate these unexposed minds. The environment and the soil have to be changed for a different plant to grow. For this purpose, a counter-narrative committee was formed that comprised scholars and religious leaders who were to make this narrative and ensure that it gives an alternative thought process to the target population.
In one year not a single meeting of this committee has been held. Similarly, the only communication strategy to get the nation activated on an alternative thought path has been done by the Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR), which is using the media to create some support for the anti-terrorism stance.
The most fertile terrorism areas of FATA and Balochistan have a long history of being deprived and alienated, leading them to become breeding grounds for terrorist dens. These have just been treated as battlegrounds where the army goes and dismantles the dens only to find them being restored with the passage of time. No reforms, no development, no education and no engagement will lead to no change. The anger and resentment in these areas is an ideal base for terrorists to make them all rebels for a wrong cause.
In Khyber Pakhtunkhwa the border is as secure as a national park. It has been decided that the Frontier Corps (FC), who are specialists in border manning, will be restored to this duty. Of the 25,000 required hardly 500 are present at the most dangerous point for crossing over. Of the three million Afghan refugees who were to be repatriated, only 55,000 have gone back.
The National Counter-Terrorism Authority (NACTA) is now a familiar story of failure as the 23 intelligence agencies that are operating in the country are not coordinated under the umbrella of an apex organisation that lacks funding, empowerment and credibility. The result? Four terrorists hop across the border talking non-stop on Afghan Sims to their masters and barge into a university to hold the country hostage. The rest is a sickeningly familiar story: the bravery of teachers, sacrifice of students, valour of security guards, great combat of police and army and the rehearsed grief-stricken condemnation of the politicians.
The route to the root of terror is much before the happening of the event. The fact that all steps on the flow chart of pre-attack have been treated with disdain by the government is itself the reason why after one year of a relative lull, the winds of terror have started blowing again. That is why more pressure is needed from all ends to make the government do what it is not doing, to crack down on internal supporters, to choke financing channels, to make reforms in FATA and other areas, to run a counter-terror narrative, to collate, disperse and ensure action on intelligence, to negotiate better with border countries, to use local governments to do community policing. However, if the two most important people to drive this agenda, i.e. the prime minister, who decides to extend his Davos trip to London for “personal reasons”, and the minister of interior, who decides to disappear due to “health issues”, then this ‘committed’ approach may be the biggest reason for having an amazingly inactive NAP.
The writer is a columnist and analyst, and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
Pakistan’s Gilgit-Baltistan region is frequently in the news these days, but not necessarily for its mouth-watering cherries and dried apricots. The much touted US $46 billion China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) will pass through this beautiful province in the north to reach Chinese-operated Gwadar port in the country's south. While there is hope it will transform the economy and help bridge Pakistan’s power shortfall, CPEC has also triggered concerns that the local people might be left out of the gains.
To be built over the next several years, the 3,218 kilometre route will connect Kashgar in China’s western Xinjiang region to the port of Gwadar. Currently, nearly 80 per cent of China’s oil is transported by ship from the Strait of Malacca to Shanghai, a distance of more than 16,000 km, with the journey taking between two to three months. But once Gwadar begins operating, the distance would be reduced to less than 5,000 km.
If all goes well and on schedule, of the 21 agreements on energy– including gas, coal and solar energy– 14 will be able to provide up to 10,400 megawatts (MW) of energy by March 2018, to make up for the 2015 energy shortfall of 4,500MW. According to China Daily, these projects should provide up to 16,400MW of energy altogether.
Businessmen like Milad-us-Salman, a resident of Gilgit-Baltistan who exports fresh fruits like cherries, apricots and apples, is hoping that CPEC will be a game-changer for the region. So far, the carefully packaged truckloads of fruit traverse the rundown Karakoram highway to reach the national capital Islamabad, from where they are flown to Qatar, Abu Dhabi and Dubai.
Last year, his company, Karakoram Natural Resources Pvt. Ltd., sold fruit worth Rs20 million (US $190,000). “We sold 30 tonnes of cherries and 100 tonnes of apples,” Salman said.
Hopes and doubts
With the CPEC passing through Gilgit-Baltistan, Salman hopes the route will open business opportunities for the region's traders.
Diverting fruit to China will be more profitable, for one, will be more profitable. “We can double our sales and profits if we can sell to China where cherries are very popular," he said.
Currently, he ships his produce to Dubai through air-cargo. "It would be faster and cheaper if we could send it by road to China via Xinjiang as we can get a one-year border pass to travel within that border," Salman explained.
According to the Asian Development Bank (ADB), Gilgit-Baltistan produces over 100,000 metric tonnes of fresh apricots annually. While there are no official surveys, Zulfiqar Momin, who heads Farm House Pvt Ltd., which exports fresh and dried fruits to the Middle East, estimates that Gilgit-Baltistan produces up to 4,000 tonnes of cherries and up to 20,000 tonnes of apples.
“All fruits grown in Gilgit-Baltistan are organic with no pesticides used,” Momin said.
The CPEC, some believe, will also boost tourism in the 73,000 square km region. The region is considered to be a mountaineer’s paradise, since it is home to five of the ‘eight-thousanders’ (peaks above 8,000 metres), as well as more than 50 mountains over 7,000 metres. It is also home to the world’s second highest peak K2 and the Nanga Parbat.
But development consultant Izhar Hunzai, who also belongs to the area, has no such expectations. The CPEC, he feels, is nothing more than a “black hole” as far as the people of the region are concerned.
“The government has not engaged with us; we do not know exactly how much or what Gilgit-Baltistan’s role will be in CPEC or how we will benefit from it,” he said.
While both Pakistan and China will benefit through this region, he feels his people will be left “selling eggs”.
“I fear when the region opens up, it will give short shrift to the locals," he added.
Meaning of short shrift: 1/ brief and unsympathetic treatment
2.(formerly) a brief period allowed to a condemned prisoner to makeconfession
3. Make short shrift of, to dispose of quickly and unsympathetically
Land of opportunities
But it does not necessarily have to be this way. According to Hunzai, the region has infinite water resources to tap.
“By building hydro power projects, Pakistan can sell clean energy to China and even use it for itself, the development consultant said. "If Bhutan can sell to India, why can’t we sell to China?” Hunzai poted out that the Chinese already taking the country’s national grid to its border province.
It made little sense to him that the Pakistan government wanted to buy 1,000MW of hydropower from Tajikistan under the Central Asia South Asia (CASA-1000) project and construct an expensive 750km transmission line when the resource was right there in the country’s own backyard.
However, the government is almost ready to revive the Diamer-Bhasha dam, a gravity dam on the Indus river in Gilgit-Baltistan, in the second phase of CPEC. Once completed, it is estimated to generate 4,500MW of electricity, besides serving as a huge water reservoir for the country.
Hunzai also lamented the government’s decision of buying discarded coal powered plants from China and using imported coal to run it. Doing some quick calculations on the back-of-the-envelope, he asked, “Why produce 22 cents per unit electricity from imported fuel and sell it to the people at a subsidised rate of 15 cents? Why not make electricity from hydropower which would cost just 0.02 cents?”
According to the ADB, Gilgit-Baltistan has the potential to produce nearly 50,000MW of energy. Just Bunji Dam, a run-of-the-river project that the ADB has invested in, has the capacity to generate up to 7,100MW electricity when completed.
The government is not wilfully neglecting the region, countered long-time hydropower advocate Tahir Dhindsa of the Islamabad-based Sustainable Development Policy Institute. Instead, he feels the problem is more about the profits that middlemen make. It is all about the “kickbacks and commissions” that one can earn quickly from “cheap and carbon-spewing coal power plants”, compared to almost none from hydropower projects that can take up to 10 years or more.
“The future is renewables as has been reiterated in Paris at the COP21 and Pakistan should seriously be thinking about its future course of action,” he said.
There is also the fear that the CPEC may lead to widespread displacement of the locals. “Of the 73,000 square kilometres, cultivable land is just 1pc," Hunzai explained. "If that is also swallowed by rich investors from outside, we will become a minority and economically subservient once there will be no farmland or orchards left to earn our livelihood from."
He is not the only one. Given the secrecy and confusion surrounding the project, its design and its budgetary allocation, three of Pakistan’s four provinces recently held a well attended All Parties Conference (APC) and vented their anger at the central government for its opaqueness regarding the share of investments for each of the provinces.
“CPEC is not the problem. It has just highlighted the imbalance in provinces with the largest one, Punjab, being seen as favoured specially as far as investments on road infrastructure are concerned and fuelling bitterness among the rest of the three provinces,” rued Vaqar Zakaria, an energy expert heading Hagler Bailley.
Trying to address the concerns of the provinces soon after the APC, federal minister for planning, Ahsan Iqbal, who heads the Planning Commission of Pakistan, said in a television interview that this was not a time for scoring political points by making the project controversial. CPEC, he said, was not a project to benefit a party or a government as was being portrayed by politicians and the media but to the entire country.
Of the US $46bn, between $35bn to $38bn were earmarked for the energy sector– of this, $11.6bnwill be invested in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, $11.5bn in Sindh, $7.1bn in Balochistan and $6.9bn in Punjab.
Beijing has urged Islamabad to resolve the internal differences on the CPEC to create favourable working conditions for the project to roll out smoothly.
—This piece was first published on The Third Pole and has been reproduced with permission.
IBN E ASHFAQUE
a day ago
According to China Daily, these projects should provide up to 16,400MW of energy altogether. The Pakistani government run by a bunch of Lahoris will ensure that their is no transparency, Only beneficially of CPEC will be a bunch of Lahorees and their heirlings.........Pakistanis as usual will get not much of it.....and Gilgitees will not get much out of it
Wednesday, 27 January 2016
UN Development Programme Report 2015
January 27, 2016 Daily Times
The 2015 Human Development Report released by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) on January 26 has ranked Pakistan 147th out of 188 countries on the Human Development Index and 121st out of 155 countries on the Gender Inequality Index.
It mentioned that only 19.3 percent of women reach secondary education compared to 46.1 percent of men, while female participation in the labour market is 24.6 percent compared to 82.9 percent for men. The report released on Tuesday called attention to the fact that the world was going through a rapid process of transformation, driven by technological progress, globalisation and environmental and demographic change, and this inevitably affects people in different ways, leaving some with the short end of the stick. Therefore, to counter this disparity what is needed is equitable and decent work for all, and the report calls on the government to address one of the world’s greatest development challenges. In this regard it proposes a three-pronged action agenda, most significantly, calling for a new social contract where policy formation is carried out while taking into consideration all members of society. It also urges acknowledgment of the importance of informal work, which includes unpaid voluntary work and creative work in policy formation.
While the report makes an important distinction between employment, which is restricted to the formal sector, and work, which includes formal and informal work, the statistics do not take this into account. For a developing economy like Pakistan, it is the informal sector that forms the major part of the labour market. Especially when analysing gender inequality, it is crucial to consider that an enormous part of women’s contribution to society is in the form of informal and unpaid work, such as care giving, housework and in rural areas agricultural work, which goes unrecognised.
Apart from this, the solution presented of the creation of a new social contract is idealistic to say the least, since the existing social contract that conceptually outlines the relationship between the state and citizen, where the former exists to serve the latter, has never come close to meeting the ground realities in which the state is predominantly an alienated power above society. There is a need to develop realistic objectives that will help counter the current paradigm. Moreover, the government needs to acknowledge the severity of the problem of female education that deprives such a large number of girls from acquiring even secondary level education. The most crucial problem here is access to education, first of all geographically, due to a dearth of school networks across the country, often making a daily journey exceptionally difficult for young girls, and also due to societal problems. Another key issue is the abysmal quality of education in the existing schools, which perpetuates not only negative views regarding education’s values among the lower classes but also widely held conservative attitudes towards women’s education, which is arguably the most fundamental issue. *
Tuesday, 26 January 2016
Refugees claim Islamic State (ISIS) Militants Living among them in Germany
They recalled that while being held in IS captivity, the only thing they prayed for was to be shot instead of being beheaded.
The same community, now living in the city of Saarlouis, say the horrors of that experience have followed them all the way to Germany, after they found out that a man they say had ties to Islamic State is living among them.
A refugee, who only agreed to speak to RT on condition of anonymity, said he is positive the man living in his town is the same member of IS he encountered in Syria.
“He stopped me many times at the checkpoint near our village; we were even able to find him on Facebook, I go to the web page and th
ere’s this guy again,” the refugee said.
When the man first saw the jihadist in Germany, his reaction was that of panic.
“I was very scared that this terrorist is in a democratic state like Germany just living here,” the refugee told RT, adding that he does not understand how those who kept whole families hostage now have Syrian refugee status in Germany.
The Assyrian community now feels very insecure as a former IS member had been recognized, the man said. He added that some people are even considering leaving Germany, but do not know where to run to.
Community leaders say that once they were convinced the ‘refugee’ was in fact a former jihadist, they went straight to the police.
“The police have taken this very seriously, but we worry that the law cannot back this up with a strong case. They have to wait until this person does something criminal here,” Charlie Kanoun, the chairman of the Assyrian Culture Association, told RT.
“But those people were killers in Syria and fly the ISIS flag here even. Such people should have no place in Germany,” Kanoun said.
Police confirmed that an investigation is underway, but no charges relating to terrorism or any other crime have been brought.
As the investigation continues, and with the influx of refugees showing no signs of slowing, the question is being asked as to who exactly is coming to Europe.
“This is a very difficult point for our community here. Those victims of kidnapping were brought here for safety and security, and then these terrorists are here,” Kanoun said, adding that the German authorities “are being very gentle with them,” reiterating that his compatriots might have to flee again.
“This is tragic that we will again be forced to be refugees, this time in a Christian state that cannot protect us,” Kanoun said.
Last February, Islamic State kidnapped around 250 Assyrian Christians and demanded ransoms of $100,000 per person. Some have since been released but many remain in captivity.
“ISIS came to our village, they devastated our fields, burnt our churches, tore apart our lives. They kidnapped us, murdered us. We have an unbearable feeling of loss,” a former hostage told RT.
He recalled that while in captivity, he overheard a conversation between his captors, saying that
One of the IS militants holding Assyrian Christians captive was a German who had converted to radical Islam, the former hostage said.
The German security services are currently preparing findings on more than 790 German Islamists who have traveled to Syria, the National Police Bureau of Saarland reported.