Home / Tag Archives: Pakistan

Tag Archives: Pakistan

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.

Read More »

What is India hiding in Kashmir?

“Human rights violations in Kashmir perpetrated by Indian army with legal immunity dwarf in scale the violations that provoked international humanitarian action in other international disputes. Human rights violations in Kashmir have been documented by all international and neutral human rights organization. Very recently, it was also documented in the United Nations report issued by the High Commissioner on Human Rights. The High Commissioner urged India to allow the United Nations delegation to visit Kashmir to asses the situation. But India does not allow such a delegation to visit Kashmir. It clearly shows that India has something to hide. May be, India does not want the world powers to know the following: tens of thousands indiscriminately slaughtered and countless rapes, abductions, custodial disappearances, arbitrary detentions, arsons, and brutal suppression of peaceful political protest,” this was conveyed in a message to the conference attendees of Pakistani American Society of New York (PASNY) by Syed Ali Geelani, Chairman, All Parties Hurriyet Conference, Jammu & Kashmir. The Indian army is involved in serious war crimes. They open fire on unarmed civilians at their will because they have been given immunity under draconian laws, like Armed Forces Special Powers Act. (AFSPA). We demand an inquiry into these war crimes by a neutral agency, like the United Nations, Mr. Geelani added. He insisted that the movement in Kashmir is indigenous, popular and people’s movement and rejected the notion that it is Pakistan sponsored. Speaking as a guest speaker, Dr. Ghulam Nabi Fai, Secretary General, World Kashmir Awareness Forum reminded the audience of the injustice, tyranny and inhumanity of the Indian military as it occupies Kashmir. He cautioned that at this moment in our historic struggle for self-determination, the Kashmiri people with poise, confidence and unity are taking their inalienable struggle in a new direction of non-violence and peaceful agitation.

Read More »

History should not imprison the future of Kashmir

Human rights work in tandem with Kashmir peace initiatives. The two do not war with one another. The idea that suppression of human rights promotes peace is discredited by all history, including that of Kashmir. The denial of freedom of speech, association, religion, due process, equal justice, and self-determination in Kashmir has sabotaged peace, not boosted its chances. Ditto in the past for East Timor, Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia, Macedonia, Kosovo, Southern Sudan and etc. The people of Kashmir no less demand dignity and respect than do other peoples. History should not imprison the future, but neither can it be ignored in assessing the justice and morality of aspirations. A brief chronicling of Kashmir’s history will enlighten understanding of its current plight and viable solutions.India’s so-called “democracy” in Kashmir resembles Myanmar’s patently bogus democracy. The recent nationwide Panchayat (local bodies) elections are emblematic. Let me review the stunning voter boycott statistics from Srinagar and its surroundings on October 15, 2018. The Economic Times reported on October 18, 2018 that when the time for voting had ended, the turnout for the final phase of elections, which was held only for two municipal bodies in Kashmir, remained low as usual at 4.2 per cent. These boycott figures are not aberrational but typical. They represent a stunning vote of no confidence by the Kashmiri people in their current illegal governance by India. The peace process and human rights in Kashmir cannot be separated. They will succeed or fail together. We hope we can count on the moral suasion and conscience of the world leaders to push success forward.

Read More »

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.

Read More »

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.

Read More »

Statement by Foreign Minister at the 73rd Session of the UNGA

Statement by Foreign Minister  at the General Debate of the 73rd Session of the UN General Assembly: 29 September 2018 Madam President, Excellencies, Distinguished Delegates, Ladies and Gentlemen, May I begin by felicitating Madam Maria Fernanda Espinosa Graces upon her election as President of the General Assembly.  The stewardship of this session by an accomplished leader of her ranking and stature,would undoubtedly …

Read More »

Election 2018 & Beyond

Winners and losers of Elections 2018 have kept up the national tradition, whereby, winners praise the elections while losers reject it. Participation in the elections was enormous, and nationwide. According to Election Commission of Pakistan, voter turnout was over 55.8 percent while over 47 percent women also caste their ballot. For the 272 general seats in the National Assembly, 3,459 candidates were in the run including 1,623 from Punjab, 824 from Sindh, 725 from Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa and 287 from Balochistan. In case of general seat of provincial assemblies, 4,036 candidates contested for 297 seats in the Punjab, 2,252 for 130 seats in the Sindh; 1,165 for 99 seats in the Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa and 943 candidates for 51 seats in the Balochistan. Over the years, conducting the elections is becoming more and more a security enterprise; over 371,000 soldiers were deployed for security duties during the election, including their presence inside each polling station. Keeping in view diametrically opposite stance on the credibility of elections by the two sides—Winners and Losers— it may be too early to pass an accurate judgement about its level of fairness; more so when Pakistan has a history of controversial elections. And in most of controversy related cases, credible evidence to support the rigging claims surfaced too late to benefit the aggrieved party; conscience of the whistle blowers, more often than not, pricked too late to be of any practical use. The only exception to this pattern was Election 1977. When, after the national assembly voting, the losing side walked away enbloc, from the remaining process, boycotted the provincial elections scheduled on third day of rigged national assembly polls. Political conglomerate, Pakistan National Alliance (PNA) took a two track approach, negotiating for settlement backed by a peaceful, yet paralysing, protest movement. Their effort dragged on for a long time; and in the meanwhile, military walked in. Rigging allegations in most of such controversial elections, have generally, proved to be right. However now, environment does not support 1977 like scenario, PMLN and PPPP are looking forward to coexist with PTI’s federal setup provided latter lets them have their safe heaven, Punjab and Sindh respectively, with a reasonable free hand. If this combination gets a sustainable traction, then agitations will be confined to few small parties which will not be able to mobilise worthwhile public support. However, if PTI chooses to hitch up only one of the two main rivals, most likely the PPPP, then the other would join the smaller parties and carry forward the agitation to a reasonable degree. Hence, in either of three combinations, no countrywide agitation is foreseen, at least in immediate timeframe. Scenario could change dramatically if a credible whistle blower, like a senior insider of ECP props up and puts forward sufficient evidence in support of rigging. Situation in Sindh is quite clear i.e. PPPP would form the provincial government; in Punjab, much will depend whether PTI takes a statesmanlike approach to let PMLN form and run the government in Punjab or take a short sighted approach of installing its own government by wooing smaller groups who are dying to come forward and do poodles. International assessments in the run-up to Election 2018 were hardly kind towards Pakistan’s democratic system and associated processes. Most of the predictions pointed towards a military engineered hung parliament leading to a weak government, which would remain bogged down with its day to day survival, leaving the political arena free for the military’s interventions as an accepted norm. Every Tom Dick and Harry liked to play the theme of pre-poll military intervention in favour of Imran khan. In all likelihood, the theme was over played. And there were different voices as well. For example in an interesting July 23 piece for Aljazeera, “Is Imran Khan the Pakistani military's 'favourite son'?” Michael Kuglelman commented: “Given Khan's personality and policy positions, there's reason to doubt that he is the army's blue-eyed boy. A big storyline in the lead up to Pakistan's July 25 election has been the nature of the relationship between Imran Khan, the cricket star-turned-politician and leader of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party, and the country's powerful military. According to the insinuations of some top leaders with the incumbent Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) party, the military is working behind the scenes to engineer an electoral outcome that results in a government helmed by Khan. It's a theory - one could certainly call it a conspiracy theory - embraced by many commentators inside and outside Pakistan. Indeed, Pakistan's army - which has held direct power for nearly half of Pakistan's 70-year existence, and has enjoyed an outsize role in politics when not in direct control - does have a strong incentive to undercut the PML-N, with which it sparred frequently in recent years, and to help propel the PML-N's main challenger, the PTI, to victory… However, the notion that the military would actually be comfortable with Khan as its man in Islamabad is questionable. Indeed, given considerations of personality and policy positions, there's reason to doubt that Khan is the military's blue-eyed boy. The army prefers a predictable and pliable civilian leader. Khan, however, is known for being mercurial and stubborn. Even some of Khan's positive traits - like his charisma and supreme self-confidence - could be liabilities for the military, because these qualities suggest he would be unwilling to defer to higher authority. Cult of personality types aren't known for being submissive. Ironically, a potentially more palatable prime minister choice for the military hails from the very party that the armed forces may be trying to undercut. Shehbaz Sharif, the brother of Nawaz, would be the PML-N's candidate for premier if it wins the election. While lacking his brother's charisma, he has a solid reputation as a capable and steady politician, and he gets along well with the military. Strikingly, in a recent interview with the Financial Times, Shehbaz Sharif called for the PML-N and the military to improve their ties. If the military truly has a favourite son, Shehbaz Sharif may have a better claim to the title than does Imran Khan. Meanwhile, Khan expresses some views that are at odds with the military's. Khan regularly expresses strong support for Pakistan's armed forces, and he has signalled his willingness to work with the army. "It is the Pakistan Army and not an enemy army," he said in a New York Times interview in May. "I will carry the army with me." In a country where the military's tentacles extend deep into politics, such comments from civilian leaders who aspire to ascend to the top echelons of power should come as no surprise. And yet, dig a bit deeper, and the differences begin to emerge. Khan has taken strikingly positive positions towards Iran; he has lambasted US President Donald Trump for his anti-Iran speeches, and he has even said Pakistan should "become like" Iran… Additionally, Khan's shrill and strident anti-American messaging - he once vowed to shoot down American drones if he were to be in power - likely unnerves the military, which hopes to salvage Pakistan's sputtering relationship with the US… The military is firmly behind these counterterrorism efforts - and welcomes the "American money" that helps finance them. Earlier this year, however, Washington suspended $1.1bn in aid amid worsening US-Pakistan ties. In early 2018, Khan repeated his criticism that Pakistan shouldn't be fighting its own people… However, given his personality, it's hard to imagine him happily ceding ground and giving in to the military; he's more likely to defy than to defer. Accordingly, there's a strong possibility that a Prime Minister Khan would spar with the military, exacerbating tensions in a civil-military relationship that already experienced ample strain during the last few years of the PML-N-led government. Such a dynamic could usher in a fresh period of political volatility in Pakistan. Ultimately, for Pakistan's military, the type of government is more important than the person that leads it. A weak and divided coalition is easier to influence and exploit than is a strong and united administration”. Notwithstanding, the strong perception about Imran Khan’s under the table relations with military are likely to persist. Ironically, he will be faced with an uphill task to recover back the authority on foreign policy and security related domains that military was able to wrench from the PMLN government due to leverage provided by Imran Khan’s long sit-in, during 2014, in Islamabad. People will wait and see how his fresh equation with military evolves. Apart, prospective Prime Minister’s Victory speech was reassuring and refreshing. Hopefully, he won’t get bogged down in cosmetics and would go ahead with substantive reforms. Likewise, the tone of All Parties Conference indicated that the loser elements are more likely to settle down with fate accompli after making face saving noises. With elections 2018, Pakistan has transitioned from a two to three party political system as for as Federal government making is concerned. Pattern of split mandate—federal government not forming its own party governments in all provinces—has sustained itself. Religious Right as well as remnants of the Left politics stand routed. Karachi is liberated from a four decades long pervasive and perpetual ethnic tainted fear. And the “Jeep” mystery stands buried, deep down, under the weight of people’s mandate. Alongside, myth of military supported parties and individuals also stood exposed. A distinctive feature of voting this time was unpredictability. The surveys and impressions were generally subjective, rather than reflective of likely voter behaviour. Three-way party contest has its own complexities and, besides, there were so many spoilers. Most analysts played safe by suggesting a razor sharp contest by placing the three main contenders at around 70 National Assembly seats, and drawing a scary confrontational scenario with competing smaller parties in King Maker role; lucky that it did not happen so. Bloodiest elections of Pakistan’s History ended with usual political undertones. On the Election Day also, 31 people were killed in a suicide bombing in Quetta. It was a stark reminder of the security challenges facing the new government. With Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf poised to form the new governments at the Centre and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, all other major parties across the country have cried foul over attempts to rig the elections and blamed the ECP for failing to conduct transparent polls. As usual, the Election Commission was quick, to reject the allegations; it blamed National Database & Registration Authority (NADRA) for delay in result announcement saying that the NADRA communication device did not function well. NADRA rejected the EC claim—a familiar post election blame shifting environment in Pakistan. Polling was conducted peacefully in most parts of the country, with no major incident of rigging reported during the day. However, while the vote count was still under way, the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz — the main contender to the PTI — rejected the election results and said: “Rigging has been committed in the elections. The puppet mandate [to PTI] is not acceptable. We will only accept the people’s mandate. It is unfortunate that the people came out of their homes to cast the votes in such a harsh weather but their mandate was stolen,” he said. He announced that his party would adopt all available political and legal options, as “we cannot leave that matter like this”. He hinted at a joint strategy by taking on-board other complainant parties. The Pakistan People’s Party (PPP), Muttahida Majlis-i-Amal (MMA), Muttahida Qaumi Movement-Pakistan (MQM-P), Tehreek-i-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP), Pak Sarzameen Party (PSP), Pakhtunkhwa Milli Awami Party (PkMAP) and Balochistan National Party-Mengal (BNP-M) also raised almost similar complaints of foul play. Most parties have claimed that their polling agents were forced out from polling stations without being provided with Form 45 (the statement of vote count) by presiding officers. Speaking on the occasion, PPP Chairman Bilawal Bhutto tweeted: “It’s now past midnight & I haven’t received official results from any constituency I am contesting myself. My candidates [are] complaining polling agents have been thrown out of polling stations across the country. Inexcusable & outrageous.” The silver lining was that, in a historic first, women in some conservative parts of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Punjab came out to cast their votes as candidates sought to fulfil the legal requirement of minimum 10 per cent women’s turnout to validate their result. Women in tribal areas and other conservative areas had traditionally been barred from voting in the past general elections, as the practice of keeping women from voting had been a well-entrenched norm under verbal and written agreements between candidates and family elders in such areas. For the first time in the country’s electoral history, the ECP had annulled the result of Dir Lower (PK-95) by-polls in 2015 after finding that none of the registered women voters had cast votes. This deterrence has worked. In Balochistan, too, women voted in numbers. The real Hero of 2018 Election was the electorate—the commoners in the street. In a bitterly polarised environment and biased predictions, the Voter could not be restrained even by harsh weather. Voter was, by and large, disciplined and composed, indicating that electorate duly value their right to vote. This sort of commitment of the people will add resilience to our democratic process. Perception has it that democracy in Pakistan is continuation of interplay between the filthy rich, moderated by institutions, with people’s wellbeing a low priority item on their agenda. It is indeed a dangerous assertion that has undermined Pakistan’s democracy, within and its image projection outside the country. Reality is that a typical Pakistani commoner has consistently and courageously demonstrated a commitment to the electoral process. There is a strong and visible change in the behaviour of Pakistani people where they have started questioning the time tested political leaders for their non-delivery over their promises. This has led to defeat of previously tested political leaders and erosion of major political parties. Few factors made these elections unpredictable: behavior of the voter falling in age bracket of 18 and 29, pre elections surveys on this count were, by and large, non-professional and judgmental; although there was a strong perception that youth may vote for the PTI, there was equally strong likelihood that, like earlier elections, they could be tamed by their elders; number of contestants was un-precedently high, especially with religious affiliations and those disgruntled party ticket hopefuls whose wish was not granted by their respective parties; most of them contested as independents. They were expected to erode the voters of their ex- parties; there was a perception that those using the “Jeep” symbols were miltablishment supported, and that Jeep group could emerge as a political force to reckon with. Likewise there were different scenarios being postulated with regard to Karachi, all hoping retention of overall Muhajir texture in one form or the other. Electorate shattered all these myths, and threw up clear mandate for parties rather than individuals. The PML-N is known for having an efficient and well tested electoral machine and for mastering the art of election-day activism. It had announced to undertake discrete measures to counter rigging, but it did not work and PML is one of the most articulate claimants of rigging. Three party contest was expected to throw up surprises, and it did. Now the gene is out and it can’t be forced back into the bottle. So everyone has to eventuality adjust to the reality. So called pre-poll rigging failed to achieve the objective of fractured mandate leading to a shaky coalition of the unwilling. Federal government is poised to be fairly stable, at least initially; and so is the situation in KP and Sindh. Split mandate in Punjab may continue to make interesting turns on day to day basis. Balochistan has its own dynamics where stability would rest of a proportionately huge conglomerate style cabinet. The post tooling and retooling has begun to put in place viable governments. Challenges facing the federal government are phenomenal. Inter-institutional wrangling, inefficient bureaucracy, politicised police, corrupt revenue system lethargic lower judiciary, well entrenched corruption in Public Procurement System, unsustainable Defence spending, Current Account Deficit of US$ 18 billion, dysfunctional power transmission and distribution system, circular debt approaching Rs 700 billion, external and internal borrowing crossing 40 percent of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP), bleeding State Enterprises , resurgent terrorism and looming water shortage are some of the domestic challenged. External challenges are equally wholesome: President Trump and Prime Minster Narendra Modi are unlikely to ease their squeeze; IMF conditions for bail-out are likely to be tougher than ever; exiting out of vicious cycle of Financial Action Task Force (FATF) listing is another daunting task; externally sponsored cross borders terrorism is unlikely to end any time soon, return of Afghan refugees is not in sight, so on and so forth. With an anti-status quo mind-set and promises of tall reforms agenda, the platter of the new federal government is any way over loaded. Like all contemporary modern democracies, Pakistani version of democracy has its peculiarities whose roots are firmly grounded in historic, socio-economic, cultural and sectarian dynamics. Its best feature is that people are spring-loaded towards democratic process. They have made a couple of very powerful rulers quit through peaceful urgings. They abhor inefficient and corruption tainted governments and are also not kind towards electoral rigging and governance failures. They are short on patience with regard to nonperforming governments for which a typical tolerance time is of 2-3 years. Generally, people want unacceptable regimes to change through electoral process; but when in terrible mood, there are some isolated voices for military takeover as well. Governments are made by rural vote, which is captive to ethno-sectarian and local power dynamics; and governments are toppled through urban agitations which have dubious promotors, financiers and string pullers. Typical span of a military takeover has been around a decade. Despite some of the very good development works and efficient governance, all ex-military rulers are publically condemned to derogatory term “dictator”. Military rulers may have ensured a semblance of efficient governance, better revenue collection and financial discipline; they all lacked political acumen and made mistakes, some of which were indeed political blunders. Towards their fag end, they were all found hobnobbing with same “dirty politicians” for prolongation of their rule. As a general practice, judiciary’s role has been opportunistic (with rare exceptions), it routinely sanctifies all successful regime changes, under one pretext or the other; and condemns them only when “usurper” has either departed or his power has declined beyond redemption. Media is still struggling to achieve a balance between “truth” and “accepting compensation” for not telling the truth. And Social Media is a typical representation of a dangerous trend of misplaced power without responsibility and accountability; while truth is still busy putting on its boots, falsehood reaches half of the World. Relationship between formal and informal State institutions is more often bumpy, and harmony is a rarity. These entities are often seen making alliances amongst themselves to paralyse functioning of remaining institutions. None of the duly elected Prime Ministers and most of the Parliaments could not complete their terms. And, most of the times, transition has been problematic. Need was felt to amend the 1973 Constitution 31 times; of these, the processes reached logical end 25 times. Majority of these amendments hovered around rewriting inter-institutional (im) balance; most of such efforts were subsequently undone and, at times, redone. Lax criteria and poor scrutiny allows shady persons to become a lawmaker. Making it to parliament by such people is seen as strengthening their positions in the local fiefdoms and covering own criminal trails; when in parliament, they do not support governance and transparency friendly law making. Tendency of amassing political power within family has touched dangerous proportions, politics of “electables” have made the political parties captive to, say, a dozen of families, whose members are found at leading tiers of all mainstream political parties; no matter which party come to power, the strategic interests of these families are perpetually protected at the cost of well-being of a common man. Smaller political parties play the role of King Makers when there is no clear winner; and their political broker like leaders extract much more power than their legitimate share. Most people blame certain apolitical institutions for making the polls controversial, but one cannot altogether absolve the politicians of the mess in which we have ended up. A significant section of our political leadership has a track record of entering into marriage of convenience with the entities notorious for interfering in the elections; and especially so when they find that they have no chance of winning the electoral race through fair and transparent process. National political leadership has repeatedly failed to lead the nation and bridge differences to ensure stabilization of political processes and strengthen democratic institutions. This is a well-known fact that all candidates use all means at their disposal to win the elections, be they fair or unfair; and at the end of the election the winner individual or party is crowned for rigging. Crying hoax is a common feature in such elections the World over, some real some fictions. Accusations of Russian inference in the US elections and Pakistan’s interference in recent elections of Indian state of Gujarat are some contemporary bizarre examples. New government may not be able to resolve most of these daunting problems, but it cannot afford to leave any one of mentioned issues unattended. While appearing in a struggle to overcome all the challenges, government must prioritise a few vital areas to mitigate the hardship of under privileged segments of masses. While there are credible domestic and international concerns that polls were rigged in favour of PTI, overall, Election 2018 has enhanced the national stature at home and abroad and improved Pakistan’s image amongst the comity of nations. Need of the hour is that the victorious parties and individuals must approach politics with a more democratic and conciliatory spirit. And for losers: for the sake national stability, politics must not be allowed to return to an era of open warfare akin to 1990s. Hopefully, all political parties and political individuals will soon put behind post electoral bickering and reconcile to the realities that be. We wish good luck to the new governments and expect them to do well.

Read More »

People of Kashmir: A tough nut to crack

Month of July has special significance with regard to struggle of Kashmiri people. Two events “Martyrs day” and “Kashmir’s Accession to Pakistan day” are commemorated of 13 and 19 July respectively. Martyrs' Day is observed in Kashmir and the World over in remembrance of 22 Kashmiris killed on 13 July 1931 due to reckless firing by the state forces of Dogra ruler. On that day Kashmiris were peacefully agitating outside the Central Jail Srinagar, where an innocent Muslim Abdul Qadeer was being tried on the charge of terrorism and inciting public against the Maharaja of Kashmir. They were buried in the compound of Kanqah-i-Maula. The place is since known as Mazar-i-Shuhada (Tomb of Martyrs). So, Indian strategy of mixing up terrorism with legitimate struggle of Kashmiri people predates India’s independence from the British Raj. A historic resolution was passed unanimously by the people of the Muslim-dominated state in a meeting of the All Jammu Kashmir Muslim Conference held at the residence of Sardar Muhammad Ibrahim Khan, the founder President of AJK on July 19, 1947 at Aabi Guzer in Srinagar demanding the then Dogra rulers to materialise the accession of the Jammu Kashmir state to Pakistan honouring the decision and the categorical viewpoint of the majority population of the Muslim-majority Jammu & Kashmir state. This day is marked as “Kashmir’s Accession to Pakistan day". Awareness about plight of Kashmiris is picking up momentum. And powerful voices are now worried about HR violations in Kashmir. The latest in joining the ranks of those expressing serious concern over quandary of religious minorities, in India, is the US State Department, which showed its disappointment over refusal of the Indian Government in allowing a delegation of the US Commission on International Freedom to visit the country to have first-hand knowledge of trampling of human and fundamental rights in India. This is for the third time that the delegation has been denied visas and the motives are quite understandable. And only recently, the UN Human Rights Council has documented details of what is happening with Kashmiris, urging the UN General Assembly and Security Council to take up the issue seriously. Though India claims to be the biggest democracy and champion of secularism, its denial of access to the outside world clearly means it has something to hide. National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) of South Africa has confirmed that it will be investigating Indian Prime Minster Narendra Modi for his involvement in war crimes and HR violations in Kashmir. Fast Forward 2018: Kashmir continues to be occupied by India against the will of Kashmiri people. Indian Occupied Kashmir is burning. Hundreds of Kashmiri men, women and children have been killed over the past two months; more than 150 civilians have been blinded by the use of lethal pellet guns; and more than 10,000 men, women and children have been seriously injured because of the indiscriminate firing by occupying Indian forces. While Indian claims that pellet guns are non-lethal, the Doctors Association in Kashmir has clearly said that the embedded pellets in the bodies of the victims were causing fatal lead poisoning and put pregnant women at serious risk. Further, the toxic lead deposits in children’ bodies would stunt their growth. Kashmiris in IoK are under siege in their own land. The use of sexual molestation and rape, as an instrument of state terror, is a norm. Peaceful demonstrations are a crime, political meetings are banned and true representatives of Kashmiri people had been incarcerated. There are prolonged curfews and mobile telephone and internet blackouts in IoK. Indian occupation forces in the occupied territory are hunting down innocent citizens involving draconian black laws. Today, hundreds of thousands of Kashmiris are campaigning against the Indian repression to attain freedom and realization of their right to self-determination. Now two years after the martyrdom of Burhan Wani, his legacy for struggle for self-determination lives on. Martyrdom of Burhan Wani has infused new vigour in the indigenous freedom struggle of innocent Kashmiris who have been fighting for their right of self-determination for almost seven decades. Burhan Wani’s martyrdom has handed down the baton of freedom struggle to the youth of Kashmir, a fact recognized by a recently released report by the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR). In a recent Conference, President Azad Jammu and Kashmir, has appealed to the Canadian lawmakers to develop a bipartisan approach for the promotion and protection of human rights of Kashmiris in IoK. He made this appeal to the Canadian Senate and the House of Commons while addressing a Kashmir Conference at Hamilton, Canada, organized here by the Pakistan Business Association of Hamilton. He especially urged the Human Rights Committees of the Canadian Senate and the House of Commons to take note of the report on the human rights situation in IoK recently released by OHCHR, discuss it and support its recommendations. He highlighted two of the reports’ recommendations, namely, the establishment of a Commission of Inquiry by the Human Rights Council to ascertain facts on the ground and repeal of two draconian laws – Armed Forces Special Powers Act and the Public Safety Act. The Conference was also addressed by Scott Duvall, Member of Canadian Parliament, Ken Stone of the Hamilton Coalition to Stop the War, Mr. Chris Macleod of Cross Border Litigation Group, and Dr. Zafar Bangash, Chairman of the Friends of Kashmir Committee. Scott Duvall, MP, said that he would take back suggestion for focus on Human Rights Council’s Kashmir report in the Human Rights Committee of the House of Commons. Chris Macleod endorsed the idea that more attention must be given to the human right’s situation in IoK and in this regard the Human Rights Committees of the Canadian Senate and the House of Commons should play a role. Ken Stone said that the Kashmir Conference has been convened to hear the cries of the Kashmiris struggling against denial of self-determination in IoK. He said that in early 2017 he had visited Azad Kashmir and had found it to be truly free. In Azad Kashmir, unlike IoK, there was no presence of the Army in cities and towns, no gun-toting soldiers, no barricades and no sign of the people of AJK being repressed. Despite India’s state terrorism and savage oppression, the people of Kashmir and Pakistan believe in peaceful means and would continue to urge India to resort to dialogue and diplomacy. It is the responsibility of the UN and international community to avert a major war over Kashmir, which is a grave and potent risk. India should renounce the path of terrorism and violence and come back to diplomacy to resolve this issue within the political parameters defined by the UN Security Council Resolutions. Back in 1949, Canada’s General AGL McNaughton, in his capacity as President of the Security Council, had played an active role in the resolution of the dispute and on 22 December 1949 had proposed an impartial plebiscite in the territory to determine the future of Jammu and Kashmir and settle the dispute in accordance with the freely expressed will of its inhabitants. Stone said “occupation is a crime from Kashmir to Palestine”. And that solution given by the UN Security Council mandating a plebiscite to allow Kashmiris to determine their political future was the most viable, prudent and practicable dispensation. India is continuing occupation of IoK and brutalization of the Kashmir people in its attempts to illegally integrate the Occupied Kashmir to the Indian State. The Kashmir Conference also passed a resolution which unanimously calls on the UN to assume its responsibility to organize the Kashmir plebiscite under its supervision; and urges the UN to investigate all massacres, gang rapes, fake encounters, forced disappearances and wilful blinding of the Kashmiris. The resolution also called upon India to cease forthwith all human rights violations in IOK; and called on its government to allow UN/ independent investigations into the human rights situation in IoK; and to withdraw all its troops including armed constabulary from Jammu and Kashmir, particularly from cities, towns and villages. The world must break the cycle of appeasement of India. While the world, especially the western countries know fully well that Indian occupation forces are on a murderous rampage in the IoK and are committing crimes against humanity there, even then, the majority of the western nations have chosen to be silent on the issue or look the other way. This encourages and rewards Indian impunity in IoK and is tantamount to complicity in the Indian crimes. Moreover, plebiscite is not a dated instrument; Canada has recently held a plebiscite in Quebec.

Read More »

Is the new push for Afghan peace genuine?

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said during an unannounced visit to Kabul on July 09 that there was “now hope” for peace talks between the Afghan government and the Taliban. “An element of the progress is the capacity that we now have to believe that there is now hope,” Pompeo told a press conference. “Many of the Taliban now see that they can’t win on the ground militarily. That’s very deeply connected to President Trump’s strategy… Make no mistake, there’s still a great deal of work to do”, he added. However, recent BBC study reveals that Taliban are openly active in 70 per cent of Afghanistan; Afghan government controls 122 districts, or about 30 per cent of the country. Yet, it does not mean that government controlled territories are free from Taliban attacks. “Kabul and other major cities, for example, suffered major attacks – launched from adjacent areas, or by sleeper cells,” the report said. When asked about the BBC’s study, the Pentagon did not comment directly, but pointed to the latest figures by the NATO-led coalition, asserting that about 56 per cent of Afghanistan’s territory was under Afghan government control or influence. The study quoted a spokesperson for Afghan President Ashraf Ghani playing down the findings. The BBC study also said Islamic State had a presence in 30 districts, but noted it did not fully control any of them. Earlier Taliban had refused the government’s request to extend their three-day Eid ceasefire, launching fresh attacks that have seen scores killed or injured. Resurgence of insider attacks after almost a year’s gap also belies Pompeo’s claims. President Ashraf Ghani thanked Pompeo for US support, hailing Trump’s strategy as a “game changer” in the conflict. Pompeo said while the United States would have an “important” role in peace talks, the process must be Afghan-led. Taliban’s key demands for engaging in talks has been the complete withdrawal of foreign troops from Afghanistan, but observers say they now appear amenable to a timetable for their pull-out. However, Taliban have rejected the latest peace talks offer. Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said Taliban “are not interested in talks while foreign troops are still on Afghan soil.” Mujahid also repeated long-standing Taliban claims that Afghan government officials are “puppets. Renewed violence and the Taliban’s recent vow to continue their fight has dampened hopes that the truce would provide a clear path to peace talks. Ambassador Alice G Wells, US Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary, visits Islamabad [and Kabul] so frequently that Pakistan’s foreign office might be thinking of offering her complimentary accommodation for setting up Islamabad camp office! Beyond routines Wells has a special assignment: to hold Taliban by their throat and present them to President Ashraf Ghani, as soon as possible. Ghani already has an America dictated power sharing draft agreement in his pocket. And American support for granting him blanket clearance for rigging his second term election is contingent upon making reasonable performance on this track. Both Afghanistan and the US want to reach some kind of deal with the Taliban before the parliamentary elections due later this year. Hence Wells’ urgency! Arduous challenge for Alice is that Taliban insist on talking directly to the US, as they think that present status of Afghanistan is of a country under American occupation. So they want to engage with the power that be—ostensibly, logical thinking. With focus on Taliban, Wells is putting in strenuous effort to steer the Pak-US relationship clear of mines laid by President Donal Trump. During her latest visit, she reiterated that Pak-US relationship is important and the US would like to carry it forward. Despite Trump sown hiccups, these bilateral relations are still presenting a functional façade. Pakistan is confident that Taliban could be brought to the negotiating table after the success of recent short ceasefire on Eid. However, it feels that bringing Taliban to negotiating point is not the sole responsibility of Pakistan, but is a shared errand. In a parallel development, during several rounds of discussions between Pakistani and Afghan officials, both sides have worked out a roadmap on how to invite Taliban to join the political process. Afghan President has confirmed that Pakistan and Afghanistan have made considerable progress on how to achieve peace in Afghanistan. This however does not match ground realities. Against this backdrop, Wells’ recent visit to Kabul and Islamabad was significant. While in Kabul, she stated that American leadership desires decisive moves in the peace talks. Wells said there was widespread support for peace, underlined by scenes of unarmed fighters mingling with government troops and civilians on the streets of Afghan cities during Eid festival. Wells said that Taliban’s failure to engage in talks to end Afghanistan’s nearly 17-year old conflict was ‘unacceptable’: “I think it creates this impulse for everyone to renew their efforts to find a negotiated political solution. “Increasingly I think it’s becoming simply unacceptable for the Taliban not to negotiate”— a wishful assumption. Taliban soon responded by multiple attacks killing scores of people in Jalalabad and elsewhere. Wells also called on Army chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa. Views were exchanged on issues of mutual interest, regional security and cooperation between both the countries, the Inter-Services Public Relations said in a statement. She “commended the sacrifices and resilience of the people and armed forces of Pakistan and appreciated the role Pakistan Army has played in battling the scourge of terrorism”. Both agreed on continued engagement at multiple levels. Trump has suspended military and civil sector aid to Pakistan since the beginning of this year alongside holding back the already paid for military hardware. America is also defaulting on arears of Coalition Support Fund, amount that America owes to Pakistan that latter has already spent on account of logistical services provided to the US. Finance Minister, Dr Shamshad Akhtar also held a meeting with Wells. They discussed the current state of Pak-US relations with particular focus on economic cooperation. Finance Minister said that such bilateral visits enhance understanding of each other’s point of view on important issues. The Minister also briefed Alice Wells about Pakistan’s participation in the recently concluded FATF meeting. America had gone out of the way to have Pakistan placed on FATF grey list to the extent of circumventing the FTAF operating procedures. Wells said that since the Afghan government and United States were willing to start talking without preconditions, the onus was now on the Taliban to respond— once again logic stands on its head. “Right now it’s the Taliban leaders… who aren’t residing in Afghanistan, who are the obstacle to a negotiated political settlement,” Wells said. She forgot to account for those Taliban controlling over 70 percent of Afghan territories. Previous meaningful peace initiatives were deliberately scuttled by the US, one has to see how the current one proceeds! Only the forward movement of peace process will reflect on America’s sincerity of purpose, which is hard to discern—at least for now.

Read More »

Dynamics of FATF listing

Pakistan Focus Analysis. Indo-US anti-Pakistan nexus is so very obvious, both have in-chorus expressed their joy on Pakistan’s placement on grey list. Indian Express has reported that “India, US are one in saying Pakistan deserved to be demoted to anti-terror funding group's 'grey list’”. "India welcomes the decision of the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) to place Pakistan in its Compliance Document (grey list) for ICRG [International Cooperation review Group] monitoring," said India's ministry of external affairs. And; "outstanding counterterrorism deficiencies consistently raised by the Financial Action Task Force and [Pakistan] needs to take actions, including on the raising and moving of funds of UN-designated terrorist groups, a top US official said to news agency PTI”. Decision is politically motivated and is part of American strategy to pressurise Pakistan to settle some other scores. Pakistan has been placed among the jurisdictions (states) with strategic deficiencies: Ethiopia, Serbia, Sri Lanka, Syria, Trinidad and Tobago, Tunisia and Yemen. FATF has called upon these states to complete implementation of the action plans expeditiously and within the proposed timeframes, vowing to closely monitor the implementation. It was also agreed in February Plenary that an Action Plan would be negotiated between Pakistan and FATF members by June. This has been done. The FATF has formally placed Pakistan on the grey list due to ‘strategic deficiencies’ in its anti-money laundering and terrorism financing regime. The decision came despite Pakistan had demonstrated reasonable progress in three out of four major areas of FATF concerns. Pakistan’s team led by Finance Minister apprised the plenary about measures that Pakistan had taken to stop money laundering and strangling the terror financing. In prevailing World Order, nothing works better than American pressures. During February plenary, the US and the UK went out of their way to by-pass the standard FATF procedures and jointly arm twist the FATF for nominating Pakistan for the grey list in June, regardless of its February-June period effort and progress; they were also joined by France and Germany. Pakistan has undertaken to work towards effective implementation of the Action Plan, while staying in the grey list. A similar situation took place in 2011 when Pakistan was included in the grey list and was taken out in 2015 after it successfully implemented the Action Plan. There were tall claims that Pakistan was unlikely to be placed on the grey list of the global financial watchdog as the country had made enough progress to meet international anti-money laundering and terror financing standards, such euphoric environment had been created before and during the previous FATF plenary meeting as well. There is a need to float realistic expectations before such international events. FATF identifies jurisdictions with strategic AML/CFT deficiencies in its two public documents: FATF Public Statement (call for action)– commonly known as black list—and Improving Global AML/CFT Compliance— nick named as grey list. It is an on-going process; these lists are updated three times a year. Interestingly, FATF does not use grey list/blacklist terminologies. The ICRG of the APG had identified four key areas of concerns: deficiencies in the supervision of Anti-Money Laundering (AML) and Counter Terrorism Financing regimes; cross-border illicit movement of currency by terrorist groups; progress on terrorism financing investigation and prosecution; and implementation of the United Nations Security Council resolutions 1267 and 1373, for curbing terror financing. ICRG report has shown that Pakistan did show progress on three out of four major areas of concerns. Cross-border smuggling of cash was the only major area where Pakistan admitted deficiencies. Maximum number of conditions – nine to be precise – take into account the concerns of the UNSC resolutions, followed by eight commitments to address concerns regarding terrorism financing prosecution, four are about curbing currency movement across the border and five recommendations relate to improvement in the supervision mechanisms of banks and companies. Pakistan has undertaken to demonstrate that authorities are identifying cash couriers and enforcing controls on illicit movement of currency and understanding the risk of cash couriers being used for terrorism financing. Remember Ayan Ali case? And who protected her? Carrier is enjoying quality life abroad. Pakistan has made a “high-level political commitment to work with the FATF and APG to strengthen its Anti-money Laundering (AML)/Countering Financing of Terrorism (CFT) regime and to address its strategic counter-terrorist financing-related deficiencies,” according to FATF announcement. The FATF said Pakistan will also be demonstrating that remedial actions and sanctions are applied in cases of AML/CFT violations, and that these actions have an effect on AML/CFT compliance by financial institutions. “It will be demonstrating that competent authorities are cooperating and taking action to identify and take enforcement action against illegal money or value transfer services.” During the intervening period Pakistan government did strenuous hard work to plug the gaps. Ambitious laws were enacted. Finance ministry improved institutional mechanisms for handling anti-money laundering and countering financing terrorism issues. Coordination between the State Bank, Banking institutions and law enforcement agencies had also been strengthened to curb money laundering and terror financing. Pakistan has recently addressed issues raised by the FATF through a tax amnesty scheme, while Securities and Exchange Commission has issued Anti-Money Laundering and Countering Financing of Terrorism Regulations (2018). National Security Committee has also reaffirmed its commitment to cooperate with the FATF. Through its Action Plan, Pakistan has demonstrated to the world that it was ready to go an extra mile to curb money laundering. Pakistan will have to deliver on the first goal by January next year and complete all the 26 actions by September 2019,” it is indeed a tight schedule. One wonders whether Pakistan has requisite mechanisms in place to implement and steer such an ambitious plan. An expert assessment has it that though Pakistan’s inclusion in the grey list may hurt its image in the international landscape, its economic impact will not be as severe as being portrayed. This is because when Pakistan was part of the grey list/blacklist (2008-2015), it successfully approached multilateral bodies, floated international bonds and had international trades. Hopefully Pakistan will be able to come out or grey list in September 2019, however it must follow consistent economic policies to remain out of such trouble spots. Caretaker government would do a great service by forming a national commission to identify and punish all those responsible for letting the things reverse back after Pakistan’s previous journey to blacklist was over.

Read More »