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Time to Internationalize Samjhauta Express case

Foreign Secretary briefed the Islamabad Diplomatic Corps on the historic injustice done to the forty-four Pakistanis killed in the Samjhauta Express terrorist attack in 2007 in India, with the acquittal of all four perpetrators, including Swami Aseemanand, the mastermind of the heinous attacks and an activist of the Hindu terrorist organization, RSS. A Special National Investigation Agency (NIA) Court in India's Haryana state acquitted four individuals on March 20. Foreign Secretary stressed that the NIA itself had earlier charge-sheeted the perpetrators. Around 224 witnesses of the total 299 testified before the court. Indian media reported extensively about the connection between the Samjhauta Terrorist Attacks and Hindu extremists, including Lieutenant Colonel Purohit and Sadhvi Pragya Singh Thakur who were subsequently arrested in October 2008, including for provision of (Research department explosive (RDX). On 18 December 2010, Swami Aseemanand publicly confessed before the New Delhi court that Hindu terror outfits were behind the blasts. Foreign Secretary stressed that despite repeated requests by Pakistan for a fair trial and expeditiously bringing the perpetrators to justice, after a lapse of more than 11 years. Nearly 70 people were killed in the train blasts, which took place near Panipat in Haryana on February 18, 2007. Indian approach of hatred against Muslims is crossing all etiquettes and norms. International community needs to intervene and ask India to behave in a decent way. One is surprised over the judgment. The very confessional statements of Swami Aseemanand, a key figure in the Hindutva terror network, and others of their involvement in Samjhauta terror attack were sufficient to sentence and award the culprits a strict punishment. Given the posture of Indian leadership, Pakistan should not expect that any justice will be done in the case with the victim families. The injustice meted out to the victim families of Samjhauta express must be taken up strongly at all the international forums including during bilateral meetings with the world leaders. If India can move the ICJ over the arrest of its terrorist-spy Kulbhushan Yadav who was involved in sabotage activities in Pakistan, then why cannot we do the same? If NIA does not file an appeal against the verdict, Pakistan should take the matter to International Court of Justice and United Nations Human Rights Council.

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Narendra Modi’s psyche of overreach

India’s intrusion into Pakistan’s Balakote enclave and China’s Doklam bulge will go down the annals of history as fiascos that cumulatively brought down the stature of India from a near global power to a sub-state pygmy. India’s foreign policy and electoral campaigning is pegged around arousing and cashing anti-Pakistan and anti-China sentiment. It is a bipartisan malice but is far more pronounced in case of BJP. Probably Congress has been duly humbled by the outcomes of Indo-China war of 1962 and India-Pakistan war of 1965. BJP is still on learning curve. Each of these fiascos was Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s equivalent of Napoleon’s Waterloo. War hysteria is now visibly on down slide. Respective High Commissioners are returning to New Delhi and Islamabad after ‘consultation’. Resumption of international train— Samjhota Express— and barter trade alongside forward movement on Kartarpur Corridor initiative and continuation of weekly communication at Military Operations Directorate level are the steps indicating de-escalation. As of now, Pakistan-India relationship is erratic; it needs an urgent and bold course correction. It needs to be managed in a professional way, circumventing the emotive pitfalls and historic baggage. Relationship is rather complex, and while suggesting a way forward there is always a risk of either over-simplification or overstatement. Overall, there is a need to enhance the crisis management capacity at bilateral level, focused on how can dialogue be made the sole and continuous method and how can its derailment by single, unexpected event, be avoided. A task easier said than done! Prime Minster Narendra Modi is poised to commit more follies to mitigate the impact of earlier stupidities hoping that same thing done over and over again may someday produce a different result. So let’s keep our fingers crossed at least till Indian general elections.

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Modi! Still Itchy?

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Narendra Modi's agony of the day is that he cannot disown the burning Indian aircraft inside Pakistani territory and captivity of a living Wing Commander by Pakistan. Reinforcement of fault lines within Indian state and society are not leading Narendra Modi anywhere. He wants to win elections merely by arousing anti Pakistan sentiment. India got the befitting reply within a day when the PAF struck six targets inside India without crossing the line of control, and also shot down two Indian Air Force aircraft, one of the pilot, a senior IAF officer is now a Prisoner of War. Earlier cowardly incursion into Pakistan airspace by the IAF on February 26 bespeaks of how Indian Prime Minster Narendra Modi is entrapped into self-imposed stupidities. Having failed to deliver on many accounts, Modi wants to win another term through mere rhetoric; and anti-Pakistan sentiment that generally goes down well with hard-line rural Hindu populace. Now India will remain on the edge as Pakistan takes its own time to pay back in the same coin. Longer the pause, higher the frustration in Indian political and military circles. Tensions would any way prevail till the general elections in India. Having failed to deliver on many accounts, Modi wants to win another term through mere rhetoric; and anti-Pakistan sentiment that generally goes down well with hard-line rural Hindu populace. Now India will remain on the edge as Pakistan takes its own time to pay back in the same coin. Longer the pause, higher the frustration in Indian political and military circles. Tensions would any way prevail till the general elections in India. Pakistan’s response to the IAF strike would be measured. But the question is will India’s leadership be able to stomach it and whether will it jump up a couple of additional rungs on escalation ladder from where it with neither be able to move up, nor slide down without loss of face.

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Together for Peace: Aman 2019

Together for Peace: Aman 2019 Aman 2019 was the 6th exercise of a multinational naval initiative hosted biennially by Pakistan Navy since 2007. Twenty eight countries had participated in the first Aman exercise in 2007; number rose to 46 in Aman-2019. Exercise radiated a strong message to Indian Prime Minster Narendra Modi, who has been dreaming of isolating Pakistan internationally …

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Afghan peace process in disarray

President Trump is tasting the real power these days. Taliban have the military prowess to attack the places of their liking at the timing of their choosing. In the diplomacy domain, Taliban dictate the venue and agenda. And when they meet Americans, they field Guantanamo hardened Taliban negotiators to stare in the eyes of top American diplomats. Of late, peace talks between Taliban and US officials were cancelled over agenda disagreement. Senior Taliban members based in Afghanistan said “both sides have agreed to not meet.” Three meetings have already taken place between Taliban leaders and US special envoy Zalmay Khalilzad. Saudi Arabia, Pakistan and the UAE took part in the last round of talks in December. Reports last month about US President Trump’s plans to withdraw thousands of troops from Afghanistan has triggered uncertainty. However, Afghan peace process is in disarray.Interestingly, as an afterthought, the US has taken a step back from the earlier hype of pulling out 7,000 troops from Afghanistan. An Afghan High Peace Council (HPC) representative has declared that if Taliban insist on not meeting Afghan government delegation, then, HPC won’t participate in Saudi Arabia session of talks. With these firmly grounded irritants and posturing, Afghan peace my not just be around the corner.

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Afghan peace process on fast track!

America is abdicating its obligation of bringing a responsible end to “wrong wars”, it has decided to pull out its troops from Syria and Afghanistan. A lot has happened with regard to evolving Afghan peace process during 2018, most of the activity is not yet in public domain. Hopefully, Pakistan government would stand on its feet firmly to safeguard its core national interests; and would not buckle under American pressure to offer strategic concessions in exchange for paltry gains like previous governments which had to deal with earlier portions of Afghan crisis. Americans are in an indecent hurry, this should not tailspin Pakistan into a state of panic. With recent American trend of walking away from earlier international treaties, they can no longer be trusted with new ones. Pakistan should insist for appropriate international guarantees, both within and outside UNSC framework. Alongside, all six immediate neighbours of Afghanistan should be made part of the evolving peace agreement. There should be a multilateral mechanism to oversee the implementation of agreement leading to transfer of control of Afghanistan’s destiny to Afghan people through a UN supervised presidential and parliamentary elections in which Taliban also participate as a political entity. Trump administration is aiming to strike a deal with the Taliban by April next year or before the Afghan presidential elections. The Taliban, who control over 60 per cent of the Afghan territory, want the US forces to leave Afghanistan. Representatives of the Taliban, the US and several Asian countries gathered in the UAE on December 17-18. The talks were supposed to last three days, as per earlier official announcements, but neither side explained what prompted them to abruptly end the process. Afghan government officials also travelled to the UAE, but were not invited into the meeting. They met with other delegations and said that efforts to join the discussions continued.

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Time to create Rakhine as a Muslim State for Rohingyas

Myanmar insists that Rohingyas are interlopers from Bangladesh despite most of them living for generations in western Rakhine state of Myanmar, they have long been denied basic political rights and liberties. Bangladesh does not accept that Rohingyas have a Bengali lineage. Anthropologists believe that Rohingya roots trace back to Saudi Arabia, who migrated to Myanmar (Burma) around 7th & 8th century AC. Except Bangladesh and Myanmar who think such a return as a good idea, there are hardly any buyers of such forced eviction. United Nations doesn’t want forced eviction to happen. United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet, warned that forcing the first batch of about 2,200 Rohingya living in refugee camps to ground zero of mass violence against the minority Muslim group would be a “clear violation” of core international legal principles. Human Rights groups have called the move “dangerous and premature.” A number of Human Rights groups say “they are shocked”. Even the people who will be affected the most, Rohingya Muslims from Myanmar, are upset that their future, once again, is being decided without their input.So far Aung Suu Kyi’s leadership performance has been derisive. No one expected governing to be easy for her, as country’s leader. Her election had ended more than a half-century of military rule; yet the hegemony has not retrieved; and Bonapartism is galore. In pursuit of her over ambitious political objectives, she has been used and discredited by Junta. Suu Kyi had declared ending the long-running ethnic insurgencies that have torn the country apart as her top priority, but her lacklustre peace effort has proved ineffective. Ever since fighting between government forces and ethnic groups has been spiralling up. Though World has been shocked by reports that the military has carried out atrocities, including rape and murder, against the Rohingya, Aung Suu has said little on the matter and done even lesser. Her government’s growing suppression of speech on the Internet seems perverse for a onetime democracy icon who spent 15 years under house arrest. No wonders her popularity is on decline. Growth has slowed and foreign investment has dipped significantly. Suu Kyi faces daunting challenges. In rebuilding the country, she must overcome decades of mismanagement and profiteering by previous military governments that enriched the generals and their cronies and brought the economy to its knees. The biggest stain on Suu Kyi’s record may be her government’s brutal treatment of the Rohingya, and her tepid response to it. Prevailing World order is known for acting very fast in Muslim versus non-Muslim conflicts where outcome is likely to benefit non-Muslims. And it shows criminal negligence when Muslims are likely to gain through political settlement of any such conflict. When pushed too hard, conflict is settled in a way that it’s a paralytic outcome, ensuring mitigation of equitable advantage to Muslim faction of population. Some of the conflicts like Kashmir and Palestine are deliberately kept on back burners as their settlement would benefit Muslim segment of respective population. Myanmar’s Rohingya conflict also falls in “let ferment” category. Likewise is the situation about Afghan and Yemen crisis, as well as simmering Middle East and North African Muslim countries. Muslims are right to assume that current World Order has not served them a fair deal; and unless there is a significant change in its format, Muslims will continue to be marginalised at state, community and individual levels. But the billion dollar question is that how long the current World Political Order would take to assume ownership of Myanmar crisis? Time has already reached for declaring Rakhine as a sovereign State where Rohingyas could live peacefully and practice their religion peacefully.

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Crossfire of Afghan peace processes

Afghanistan rivals failed to reach a breakthrough on holding direct peace negotiations during international talks in Moscow, the latest international effort to end the conflict. Russia had invited representatives from the United States as well as India, Iran, China and Central Asian Republics; all hailed the Moscow Format Consultations on Afghanistan as an opportunity to “open a new page” in Afghanistan’s history and seek an end to the war 17 years after the US-led invasion. This was the first meeting of the Moscow Format with participation of Afghan High Peace Council representatives and Afghan Taliban delegation from its Qatar political office. Pakistan views the Moscow Format meeting as a step towards lasting peace and stability in Afghanistan. Afghanistan is caught in cross-fire of multiple peace initiatives through more than a dozen processes. Most of the ongoing Afghan peace processes are nothing more than a trash. Afghan peace is the biggest challenge of this century, haunting the comity of nations. It needs a quality peace process under the UN auspices, underwritten by P-5 members of UNSC; and led by UNSG’s special envoy of the stature of late Kofi Annan.

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Civil and Military judicial systems: Need for bridging the gap

Military judicial systems, the World over, are known for delivering swift, speedy and credible justice during extraordinary times. Especially so when the routine of the run judicial system is unable to deliver justice due to any of the accepted multiple genuine reasons. Post 9/11 setting threw up such extraordinary environment when circumstances had rendered the normal judicial channels ineffective, particularly when it came to punishing hard core terrorists. This situation prevailed for about fifteen years and none of the terrorist was awarded meaningful penalty for heinous crimes, it was often observed that those arrested on these accounts were promptly granted bail and were repeatedly caught committing same crimes again and again. Under these conditions National Action Plan was formulated to counter terrorism and military courts were setup for a limited time. These courts served the purpose and award of meaningful punishments to had core terrorists helped in quelling the waves of terrorism promptly.Military courts were established for two years and during this period civil judiciary was expected to fix its weaknesses and be able to re-takeover the task. However, it failed to do so, so the military courts were asked to carry out the task for another two years; this period is to end in January 2019. However, civilian courts are still no better than what they were in January 2015. It is yet another testimony of the lack of faith in the country’s criminal justice system and the sheer ineptness of political system to reform it. Reasons that led to setting up of military courts continue to persist. And it goes to the credit of swift action by military courts alongside military operations that terrorism is on its fag end. Certainly Army’s Judge Advocate General’s team will have to answer many question, as to why pointed out technical gaps and procedural voids were not plugged-in during the trial proceedings. While at the same time, PHC bench needs to account for basing such decision mainly on technicalities, while mainly ignoring the substance matter, and that too in case of heinous crimes. There are many rungs between capital punishments and outright acquittal and one does not have to go berserk to jump straight from capital punishment to acquittal option without preferring to choose from whole assortment of lower degree punishments. Under the circumstances remanding the case for retrial should have been a win-win situation for all sides. Hopefully, a worthwhile solution would be found out. Army needs to undertake capacity enhancement of its JAG branch to avoid recurrences. And PHC should avoid outright choking of one of the parliament approved and constitutionally established judicial sub-system.

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Pakistan asks America to keep its troops in Afghanistan till stability

In a clear departure from its earlier position, Pakistan has cautioned against the US forces’ withdrawal from Afghanistan without first achieving the complete peace and security in the country. “Pakistan has been reiterating that the US forces should stay in Afghanistan till the achievement of complete peace and stability,” Foreign office spokesperson said at the weekly briefing on October 18. “I would like to draw your attention to the chaos in the aftermath of the withdrawal of USSR [Union of Soviet Socialist Republics] in the late 1980s. The region cannot afford anything similar, at this time,” he added. Provincial governor, Police and Intelligence chiefs were assassinated in an attack in Kandahar province while the top American commander in Afghanistan General Austin Miller narrowly escaped. Probably, it was an inside job. Over thirty percent polling stations are not likely to open due to violence during October 20 parliamentary polls. Afghanistan is undoubtedly in a chaos, and Pakistan's concerns about post US pullout are not unfounded. May be Pakistan is anticipating a sudden pullout by President Trump. Whatever, the people of Pakistan need to be taken into confidence over this change of stance.

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