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Monthly Archives: July 2015

Brittleness of Afghan peace process

As second round of direct talks between the Taliban and Afghan government is about to begin, all is not well on the Taliban side. Amid uncertainty over Mullah Omar’s fate, internal power struggle has flared up; Mullah Omar’s eldest son Mullah Yaqoob has taken the centre-stage. He is all set to take over the Taliban leadership in case his father’s death is confirmed. De-facto Taliban head Mulla Mansur is facing a rebellion by important military commanders. Opposition to Mansur, is centred round Mulla Yaqoob. Mansur heads the pro-talks faction; while those opposing the talks are gravitated towards Yaqoob. Some Western diplomats, long sceptical about Pakistani promises, say Islamabad now seems serious about promoting Afghan stability. “This is the most genuine push we have seen from Pakistan,” said one diplomat. According to the Afghanistan Strategic and Regional Studies Centre, the Taliban’s growing political activities could be viewed as a rejoinder to mounting pressures it is receiving from Pakistan. President Ashraf Ghani has welcomed the Murree process and is hopeful that the talks would lead to restoration of durable peace. “The whole nation wants peace. During the past 14 years we tried to hold face-to-face talks but could not succeed. But it has happened now.” Ghani said. He has called upon the Taliban to come up with a list of their demands at the second round of talks. Pakistan is striving to live up to its principled stance on peace process; however, it would be unfair to assume that it exercises control over the Afghan Taliban. The start of talks is a positive step, but much could still go wrong. Peace process needs a whole-hearted support from international community and an unflinching UNSC underwriting; it’s time for the P-5 to join the effort and evolve a strong system of guarantors.

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Iran nuclear deal: the slippery road ahead

It is too early to have an accurate assessment of the monitoring provisions of Vienna agreement. Even if all actors are presumed to act in good faith—which is not a likely proposition— the slippery provisions of the agreement are rather intricate and circuitous; and hence, their execution is likely to bog down into glitches. Text and its likely diverse interpretations embody endless grounds for sounding Iranian noncompliance. After13 years in the wilderness, potentially dangerous row over Iran’s nuclear programme is hopefully coming to a close—at least for the time being. Iran has undertaken to drastically review its programme in return for lifting of crippling economic sanctions. Pakistan has rightly welcomed the accord hoping that it would help resume progress on gas pipeline agreement besides a quantum increase in bilateral trade.

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SCO evolving and growing

Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) is an emerging and evolving organization trying to formulate an Asia vision and Asia voice. This objective is indeed a tall order given the fierce opposition by the US led Western bloc. While the US wishes a unipolar World under its tutelage, it promotes multi-polar Asia with 4-5 power centres working at cross purposes. Currently it is busy in putting together a 9-10 Asian countries’ alliance against China under the banner of “Pivot Asia”. With its expansion programme, SCO is set to become an Asia focused organization with global outreach. SCO has sufficient space to consolidate its performance in the areas of non-traditional security concerns facing the Asia continent. Climate change adaptation, disaster management, drug trafficking and disease mitigation are some of the areas where SCO has unchallenged turf. In the long term it could go on to set up an Asian parliament and a conflict resolution mechanism. Pakistan has indeed eased the moment by becoming a member of SCO. SCO is slowly and steadily building a harmonious region in keeping with the Shanghai Spirit that promotes mutual trust, mutual benefit, equality, consultation, respect for diverse civilizations and pursuit of common development. After the current tranche of expansion, this organisation is poised to play a constructive role in Asia with a global outreach.

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Emerging China Century

China has effectively checkmated American “Pivot to Asia” rhetoric by mobilizing the support of 57 counties for its economic venture: Asia Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB). We in Pakistan welcome the setting up of AIIB and view it as an instrument of regional development. At the same time caution is due for AIIB: it should watch out the overt and covert behavior of its competitors, some of them are known for scuttling such initiatives by making them controversial by attaching negative tags of money laundering, drug trafficking etc. As Greece struggles to manage its debt trap, it has already swallowed the humble pie of being a defaulter. Negotiations for a cash-for-reform package between Athens and its creditors broke down over the previous weekend and Greek Prime Minister Alexis Trspras called a surprise referendum to vote on whether to accept further austerity or risk going out of the euro zone. Greece has failed to pay a 1.6 billion euro loan instalment due to the International Monetary Fund (IMF) after failing to secure new rescue funding. The global financial system, as well as the global capital market, will be affected by what happens in Greece. Incidents of similar difficulties faced by other European and no-European countries facing similar problems are not infrequent. Under these circumstances, launching of AIIB by China is certainly refreshing.

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Is Afghan statesmanship retuning to Karzai era?

As Afghan peace process is learning the ropes, attendant issues keep surfacing time and again. However, despite fragility, process is poised to move forward, albeit in inches.Those who have stakes in keeping the country unstable are working overtime to impede the peace process. As a starting point, effort is on to undo the thaw in Pak-Afghan relations.Apart from Afghanistan, it is Pakistan that stands to benefit from a peaceful Afghanistan. Those who want Pakistan to remain in the grips of militancy and violence know it well that such a scenario shall remain self-sustaining only as long as Afghanistan keeps boiling. Moreover, those international players who want to prevent the flow of Central Asian energy towards South Asia would play their part, albeit through Afghan front men, to prevent the return of sustained calm to Afghanistan. President Ashraf Ghani is doing well by not subscribing to the disrupters of peace efforts; he is indeed emerging as a statesman par excellence. If he is able to hold to present course, he will be able to make significant contributions in intra-Afghan reconciliation and peace making. Time has come for a paradigm shift in the stated position by the Afghan government as well as Taliban, and in this context, the Afghan government owes unleashing of the proverbial first drop of the rain—political concessions for the resistance groups.

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