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Pakistan Focus Analysis

Trump’s new found love for Pakistan

Now the US president has adopted a formal, diplomatic way of approaching its frontline partner in the terror war, instead of making use of the crude oratory that he is best at. Trump’s letter indicates that now there is a realization within the US administration that Pakistan’s co-operation is vital to ensuring peace in Afghanistan. Federal Minister for Human Rights Shireen Mazari demolished Khalilzad for his hawkish approach towards Islamabad by advising him to bring a “less arrogant and hostile mind set” during his visit to Islamabad. She credited Imran Khan for promptly responding to Trump’s Twitter tirade. She claimed that premier’s reply had ‘compelled Trump to do a reality check’. “So much for those in Pakistan who were quivering after Imran Khan’s tweets,” she added.Pakistan has suffered more than 75,000 casualties in the war on terrorism as it had agreed to cooperate with the US in that effort, even though “no Pakistani was involved” in the 9/11 attacks. Instead of “making Pakistan a scapegoat for their failures,” the United States should undertake a “serious assessment” of why, after a war involving hundreds of thousands of NATO and Afghan troops and more than $1 trillion in costs, the Taliban today are stronger than ever before. Since Pakistan has always advocated a political settlement to end war in Afghanistan, the US decision is welcomed,” the Foreign Ministry said in a statement. “Pakistan reiterates its commitment to play a facilitation role in good faith. Peace and stability in Afghanistan remains a shared responsibility,” statement added. If current phase of diplomacy between the US and Pakistan is steered well, it could help ease tension between Washington and Islamabad; and bring peace to Afghanistan.

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Geneva Conference on Afghanistan: A cart and horse dilemma

The Geneva Conference on Afghanistan, was co-hosted by the Government of Afghanistan and the UN “to renew their partnership and cooperation for Afghanistan’s peace, prosperity and self-reliance”. Meet was attended by delegations from 61 countries and 35 international organizations, and representatives of civil society, the private sector and the media. The Geneva Conference was a midway review between two pledging conferences: the Brussels Conference on Afghanistan (2016) and the next pledging conference expected to be held in 2020. While Afghan leadership was looking for peace in Geneva Ministerial Conference on Afghanistan, back home there were two back to back raids raids on occupation forces, two on the US and one on the UK assets. Four Americans soldiers were killed, taking the number to 12 during this year; more than 2,200 American soldiers have been killed in Afghanistan since 9/11. Since the start of 2015, when Afghan forces assumed lead in combative operations, 58 Americans have been killed, as compared to 30,000 Afghan police and soldiers. At least twelve people were killed after a massive blast outside a British security company’s compound in Kabul on November 28; the attack claimed by Taliban was the latest violence to target the Afghan capital. Blast was a car bomb targeting a compound which houses G4S, a private British security company, in east Kabul. Health ministry spokesman Wahid Majroh told AFP “10 dead, 19 wounded have been evacuated from site,” he did not mention victims’ nationalities. Attack came just hours after Afghan President Ashraf Ghani announced the formation of a team for prospective peace talks with the militant group, as the United Nations (UN) renewed calls for direct negotiations between Kabul and the insurgents. And on November 20, at least 55 people were killed when a bomber blew himself up in the middle of a banquet hall in one of the deadliest attacks in Afghanistan this year. The violence came as the Taliban intensify pressure on Afghan security forces, even as the international community ramps up efforts towards talks. If Khalilzad's effort also fizzles out, then Presidential elections may be put off. Notwithstanding the optimism, Afghan peace may stay elusive unless occupation forces offer concrete concessions including firm timeframe for the departure of last foreign soldier and substantial restructuring of Afghan constitution.

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Consulate Attack an Assault on CPEC

UN Security Council has condemned “in the strongest terms” terrorist attacks against the Chinese Consulate-General in Karachi and a market in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa’s Orakzai district resulting into martyrdom of 35 people besides injury to about 40 others. Members of the council appreciated the swift response of the Pakistani authorities. Council stressed the fundamental principle of inviolability of the diplomatic and consular premises and the obligations on host governments to take all appropriate steps to protect diplomatic and consular premises. Council members underlined the need to hold perpetrators, organizers, financiers and sponsors of those reprehensible terrorist acts accountable and bring them to justice, and urged all states to cooperate actively with the Pakistani government and all other relevant authorities in this regard. Attackers’ design failed and counterterrorism operation was culminated in an hour or so. However, two questions that arise are: Who could be the prime beneficiary of such an action against the Chinese in Pakistan especially in the backdrop of PM Imran Khan’s successful visit to China; and, Is it handy work of sleeping cells being operated by RAW, NDS and even CIA? Reportedly, the attack was orchestrated by outlawed BLA commander Aslam alias 'Achchu'. He is currently under treatment at Max Hospital in New Delhi. Friendship between Pakistan and China is everlasting, however, enemy forces are attempting to create obstacles. Pakistan is fully committed to taking all necessary measures to provide robust security to all Chinese nationals and projects in Pakistan. The two countries will continue to cooperate to thwart the designs of hostile forces against their times tested friendship. Pakistan and China are focused on their economic goals and remain steadfast to meet similar future challenges. Attack was clearly an attempt to undermine CPEC.

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Moscow Format: New entry to knotty 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 …

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Indian brutalities in Occupied Kashmir: A failure of the UN

Pakistan has always pursued the matter at the UN. Kashmir issue was raised at international level five times in 10 days preceding the Black Day. Human Rights violations of the Kashmiri people have been repeatedly documented by independent human rights observers, the most significant among them being the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, who issued a report in June on the situation in Indian Occupied Jammu and Kashmir (IoK). Pakistan has endorsed the Report’s recommendations. And has renewed its call for the UN to set up a ‘Commission of Inquiry’ (COI) to investigate the grave human rights violations in IoK, as recommended by UN High Commissioner for Human Rights. “We endorse the report’s recommendations that a UN Inquiry Commission be constituted to investigate and redress the gross violations of the human rights of the Kashmiri people,” Ambassador Maleeha Lodhi recently told the General Assembly’s Third Committee, which deals with social, humanitarian and cultural questions. British Member of the European Parliament (MEP) Julie Ward has said human rights violations in IoK are a matter of great concern for the British people as well as the whole world. Ward said the occupied valley is the most militarized area in the world where human rights violations by the occupying forces happen on a daily basis and have sadly become part of the local population’s day-to-day life. “Pellet guns are used indiscriminately against protesters and bystanders during street demonstrations. The Indian army appears to be particularly targeting the eyes of the victims, which ends up in blindness in many cases”. Ward has raised the issue of human rights violations many a time. “I have also spoken twice in the UN Human Rights Council on the issue of women victims of violence in Kashmir. The latest developments in the valley are of particular concern for those who are worried about women rights,” she said. The Kashmir issue is very much alive at the UN and will remain alive until it is resolved according to the wishes of the people of Kashmir and UN Resolutions. Though the BJP government is ready to go to any lengths to suppress the popular uprising for freedom. However, it would never succeed in suppressing the Kashmiri freedom. The dark night that began on 27 October 1947, with India sending occupation forces continues; but while India could physically and illegally occupy territory it could not occupy hearts and minds. Brave people of Kashmir have resisted occupation for over 70 years and continue to do so. Pakistan has reaffirmed that the Jammu and Kashmir dispute will remain on the UN agenda until the Kashmiri people are allowed to exercise their will, according to the agreed method prescribed by the Security Council. Right to self-determination is sanctified in the very foundations of the United Nations. Yet, for countless people, the promise of freedom remains elusive. Three principles circumscribe the methodology for expression of right of self-determination: the right must be exercised freely and without the threat or use of coercion or repression; the right must not and cannot lapse with the passage of time; and, the legitimate struggle of peoples to self-determination must not be obfuscated or eclipsed by efforts to conflate it with terrorism.

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Contemporary INGOs: Hegemonic Proxies

When governments abdicate their basic responsibilities towards their people in terms of disaster management, healthcare, education, nutrition etc, the void is filled by NGOs and INGOs, and then host country has to bend backward to accommodate these entities. Hence, it is necessary that beside scrutinizing the INGOs, government of Pakistan takes essential steps to fill the capacity gaps in disaster management, health, education, social security etc.Modern warfare is characterized by calculated ambiguity, controlled chaos and perplexing complexity. It is envisaged that the future hybrid conflict in the region shall be fought by the foreign sponsored non-state actors and inserted proxies under the overall goal of influence operations so as to achieving the strategic end state rather than conventional military to military conflicts. It is no secret that some International Non-government organisations (INGOs) harbour foreign agents working against the interests of the host country with or without the knowledge or complicity of their parent organisation. Such INGOs provide an excellent cover for clandestine activity by hostile foreign agencies such as intelligence-gathering and subversion in the country in which they operate. International organizations and selected NGOs offer diversity of means available for international coercion. Non state actors will continue to play an important role in the future. Due to the technological advancement and globalization, a number of non-state actors and groups, transnational networks and even think tanks have influence against nation states or certain parts of it. Pakistan has asked 18 (INGOs) to wind up their operations within 60 days. During surveillance of these INGOs, it was revealed that they were involved in suspicious activities. They were doing things which were beyond their given mandate. Certain foreign funded organisations which were conducting surveys, were routinely sharing their data with hostile agencies. Some of the INGOs were also operating near sensitive installations.So far 145 INGOs have applied for registration. During scrutiny it was revealed that 63 INGOs are working against Pakistan’s security and solidarity. Ministry of Interior served notices to 49 INGOs (in November 2017 and August 2018) for closing their operation in the country; out of these, 18 filed representation against the decision and they were given ample opportunity to clear their position. Their appeals were unanimously regretted by a special committee constituted for the said purpose. Forty INGOs have not even bothered to get themselves registered and they continue to, work. Legal action against such INGOs is being contemplated.

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Mini Budget: Much ado about nothing!

Monetary measures unveiled by the mini budget suggest that the government did not do its homework and, by and large, it intends to continue the policies of previous government. Instead of bringing any new sector or class of people in the tax net, the government has increased the burden on the existing taxpayers. It did not scale back non-development expenditures but has cut the development budget, which will pull down the economic growth rate to a level that will not be sufficient to absorb new entrants in the job market. Asia Development Bank has estimated 4.8 percent growth for the current fiscal against last governments’ projection of 6.2. Despite trumped up austerity drive, the cost of running the civilian government has been reduced by only Rs3 billion. Mini budget indicates that government is in a “go, no go” state with regard to availing IMF bailout package, however, it has a responsibility towards protecting general public against undue economic hardship. Hopefully, the good sense would prevail, and financial matter would be handled in a professional manner.

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Turns and Twists of Afghan Peace

Afghanistan’s Chief Executive Officer Abdullah Abdullah said on September 17 that some politicians were pushing for the review of the Bilateral Security Agreement (BSA) between Afghanistan and the US in pursuit of their own interests. “They once again brought it up for debate for their personal objectives; I don’t think that this will help the security situation of our country. In the wake of a sharp increase in fatalities among security forces in numerous provinces, a number of parliamentarians had called for the BSA to be assessed. They said the agreement has not been successful in the fight against insurgency; and the US has failed to enforce the agreement when it comes to the mobilization of Afghan Security and Defence Forces (ANDSF). The call by Afghanistan’s influential politicians and some political parties to review the BSA with the US has been met with mixed reactions by the Afghan government, members of parliament and political experts. Among those who defend the BSA is General Abdul Raziq, the police chief of southern Kandahar province who said that the BSA had been approved by over 5,000 members of the Loya Jirga who represented the people of Afghanistan from all provinces. Sustained direct Taliban-US talks are the current reality of Afghan peace process, though to the chagrin of Afghan government who had been insisting to remain the front face of peace negotiations. At least for now, it is Taliban steered peace course. Latest inputs indicate that Taliban are preparing to send a delegation for further talks with the US officials about ending the conflict in Afghanistan, this would be the second round where Taliban are likely to put forward substantive proposals. Supposedly lot of mileage was covered during three sessions of the first round. Taliban are ready for a second round, possibly this month, which is likely to focus on prisoner exchanges, confidence building measures, and ways to move from back-door meetings to formal negotiations, said Taliban officials in separate interviews. Whether or not the peace talks will gain momentum in the midst of increasing violence in Kabul remains an open question. Negotiating peace, reconstruction and a stable polity in Afghanistan amid a raging violent conflict continues to be an uphill accomplishment. First vice-president, General Abdul Rashid Dostum, aptly said on September 13 that the ongoing war in Afghanistan was “in no one’s interest and called for a responsible end to the conflict”. Afghan peace should not be lost in processes.

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Where is the “Reset”?

“Reset” is an American way to cover up a stupidity under the garb of ambiguous misnomer without admitting its failure. Pakistan and the US are following divergent interests in the region; hence, space for any meaningful course corrections to achieve convergence of interests is rather limited. The US needs Pakistan to sustain its presence in Afghanistan. With President Trump’s folly of walking away from Iran nuclear deal, availability of alternative supply route to Afghanistan via Iran has become a pipedream for American leadership. Thus the US does not want to lose Pakistan in totality. Nonetheless, Pakistan cannot continue cosying up with the US as long as it continues to shift Pakistan-India strategic balance in latter’s favour. While US officials tried to keep the meetings focused on Afghanistan, Pakistan pointed out American favouritism toward India and bias against their country. And Secretary of State Mike Pompeo went straight to New Delhi to sign another strategic agreement.The billion dollar question is where is the Reset? At best there is a stalemate, but no one seems to be affirming. Any way, it is essential to build a national consensus on foreign policy.

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Selective Assessments of Human Rights Status

These times are witnessing increasingly selective assessments regarding Human Rights status across the World. And slogan of Human Rights has become a tool for furthering hidden strategic objectives. In response to the letter, written by HRW Asia Director Brad Adams to Prime Minster Imran Khan, on August 24, Federal Minister for Human Rights Shireen Mazari responded: “I hope that you would also raise your voice against a massive human rights violations, carried out in the Indian-occupied Kashmir, Palestine and in some European States against Muslims citizens.” Minister also urged HRW to take up the issue of the violation of human rights by some European states against their Muslim citizens in the form of curtailing their right to practice their religion freely and in the form of abuse of Islam and its Prophet (PBUH), in direct contravention of the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms. “Since HRW claims to monitor human rights across the world, I would like to be informed on how you are ensuring the rights of Muslim citizens to have their mosques and be able to dress and practice their religion freely and without ridicule in European states,” she added. She went on to ask that since the HRW claims to monitor human rights violations in over 90 countries, “I hope that would include the massive human rights violations being carried out as a matter of state policy by India in Indian Occupied Kashmir. Minister also said that she would like to be informed on how the NGO is “ensuring the rights of Muslim citizens to have their mosques and be able to dress and practice their religion freely and without ridicule in European states”, which have seen an upsurge of xenophobia in recent years. Pakistan government would always welcome positive suggestions, but “an NGO’s institutional credibility will rest on its commitment to ensure human rights across the globe and not just in selective states.” She added. In a blatant violation freedom of information norms, India’s home ministry abruptly withdrew the security clearance granted to Qatar’s Al Jazeera network after a documentary on Indian-occupied Kashmir (IoK) was aired by the channel. Now, matter is under consideration at appellate level. According to Times of India, the report leading to this action had highlighted the protests after the killing of Burhan Wani in 2016 and the brutal use of pellet guns against protesters amongst other Human Rights violations in IoK. Report was deemed by Indian government as biased. The Economic Times has added that “the television channel will be taken off air if the Home Ministry strikes down the review petition filed by Al Jazeera”. Moreover, Indian government has also rejected recent reports by Amnesty International and Office of the High Commission for Human Rights (OHCHR) on atrocities being committed by the Indian security forces in IoK. “Once again we find out that Kashmiris are the ones having to pay the price for the political battle”. In a related development, Meenakshi Ganguly, the South Asia director at Human Rights Watch (HRW), has “urged the Indian leadership to admit that human rights violations are taking place on their side of the Line of Control (LoC), and they must work with Pakistan to find a solution that puts the interests of Kashmiris first”. She said it is about time leaders in both India and Pakistan realized that Kashmiris are living in a conflict zone and suffering human rights violations. “They must understand and acknowledge this and ensure that human rights of these people are not violated anymore. It needs to happen right now… this should be about Kashmiris who are suffering.” When asked to comment on misuse of special powers given to the Indian military, Ganguly said that not only the UN but also other groups and commissions, including those, formed under the Indian government have also appealed to the government to repeal such laws. Commenting on the role rights groups like Amnesty and OHCHR could play to make India more accountable over Kashmir issue, especially when Modi government is targeting almost all minority ethnicities in the country, she commented that the voice of dissent should not become the political tool. “Unfortunately this is what happens way too often”. Commenting on increasing communal violence by pro-BJP vigilantes against religious minorities in the country, Ganguly said the environment of an extreme form of nationalism violates religious freedom. Prime Minster Imran Khan has recently said that little noteworthy progress has been made in the past to find a solution for the Kashmir issue. He said so while meeting Pakistan’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations Maleeha Lodhi before assuming office, adding that through the UN resolutions on Kashmir a solution must be found for this intractable issue. Now an extraordinary situation is developing in IoK in the wake of BJP government’s attempts to abrogate Article 35-A of the constitution that grants special status to the occupied territory and its citizens. India is using all cheap tactics from brute use of force to political and constitutional aggression for forcing the occupied territory completely to its fold. The Kashmiri leadership has made it clear that they will fight with full resilience to foil the nefarious designs of India. Pakistan government must approach not only the International Court of Justice (ICJ) but also the United Nations Security Council and the Organization of Islamic Cooperation to prevent the Indian government from going ahead with its plans of changing demographic nature of Jammu and Kashmir.

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