Will Some One Please Steer the Wheels!

Pakistan is building itself as a regional economic hub and a gateway nation-state. Investment in structures built for the purpose is underway at a regional scale. There is, thus, much increased chance that instability in Pakistan will have a bearing on other countries in the region,  China being the most prominent among them. The West too will be impacted because Pakistan has been described as critical to its” war in Afghanistan.” Instability in Pakistan will invite foreign intervention at a scale hitherto not known in recent international affairs. The US has a self proclaimed security stake in the region where it is busy “exterminating existential threats to itself.” China has invested far too much in Pakistan to watch Pakistan go down while sitting on the fence as mere observer. India is waiting in the wings for its chance to reclaim parts, if not whole, of Pakistani territory for its commercial benefit. Afghanistan’s current leadership would want the Durand Line resettled.  Pashtuns may want to live as one instead of continuing to live as they are now, divided across Pakistan and Afghanistan. The plausible battles that would ensue, should Pakistan lose its structural equilibrium, and the violence that will grip the region should Pakistan relinquish its political sanity, will be unparalleled  in international affairs, way beyond what the world has watched in Lebanon and Yugoslavia in recent history.

And yet, during the last two months, the ruling elite in Pakistan has behaved in a manner that not only defies logic, but also exhibits utter disregard for Pakistan’s current political imperatives.  A very serious corruption scandal faced the nation when the Sharifs’ appeared in Panama Leaks.  The judiciary took notice of the matter and ordered a probe which took place but was not telecast for the benefit of the nation. The probe into the assets of the former first family should have been telecast, not only to ensure transparency, but also to ensure stability by preempting nasty retaliation by those who would obviously want to resist receiving the rough end of the shaft. I wrote in my blog on June 4, 2017, (titled “The Evolving Course of Events in Pakistan,”) that such a telecast is desirable. Sure enough, the absence of live telecast of the JIT probe gave Nawaz Sharif the opportunity to (incorrectly) describe his ouster as one (unfairly) being due to him not receiving salary from his son, and for possessing a work/residence  permit in UAE.  There was no countervailing narrative that echoed in the streets of Pakistan during the election campaign for NA 120 because Imran Khan, the de facto leader of the opposition, was not allowed by the Election Commission of Pakistan to campaign. Ever since Nawaz Sharif decided to politically contest his ouster, only his narrative has been publicized because the judiciary cannot issue public rebuttals and the opposition is busy doing God knows what! It seems to have allowed the ruling PML(N) to amend the constitution in late August, to facilitate the come back of Nawaz Sharif in future, by simply not being present in the parliament in enough numbers when the vote took place!

The former first family’s political heir apparent, Mariam Safdar, has displayed political acumen of the level of Marie Antoinette. Oblivious to what is at stake for her country, she has tried to mobilize the masses while campaigning for her mother’s election by attempting to inculcate mass antagonism against the judiciary and the security establishment of Pakistan, i.e., the two fundamental pillars of statehood. The election to fill in Nawaz Sharif’s seat in parliament was held under rules not comprehensible to ordinary Pakistanis at all. Imran Khan, the head of the opposition, was not allowed to campaign for his party’s candidate, while the daughter of the ousted Prime Minister was given a free hand to campaign for her mother, in a province that is ruled by her uncle Shahbaz Sharif,  the powerful Chief Minister of Punjab. The ousted Prime Minister’s wife has won the election with a margin of votes that is far less than what it used to be when Nawaz Sharif contested from the same constituency before Panama Leaks. Nawaz Sharif has decided to contest his ouster but not in the court of law! The new PML(N) appointed Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi has won hearts and minds within a short period of time by taking his job serious domestically and by standing up for Pakistan internationally. Yet Pakistanis watch his tenure with anxiety as the ousted PM seems in no mood to allow his party to function under a head other than himself. Nawaz Sharif now re-occupies the seat of the head of the party and Shahid Khaqan Abbasi has declared that ‘psychologically,’ he considers Nawaz Sharif as still “his PM.”

The ruling (and no longer ruling) elite is busy cooking a recipe for disaster and is, in the process, showing a breathtaking disregard for the dangers Pakistan is currently facing as a nation-state. God forbid, should a political tragedy occur in South Asia of unprecedented proportions, history will be describing the current political events of Pakistan as its prelude.

Will some-one please steer the wheels while there is time!


America’s Afghan Policy

When Washington declares that its policy in Afghanistan is not working, the key question to ask is “what is the goal?” if the goal is to have peace, (desired equally by the regional players,) the American action towards the goal post is wrong. Battles in Afghanistan are an ‘occupation enabled’ phenomenon, and will continue while the occupation is in process directly or through Afghan proxies. Occupation is anathema to Afghanistan’s political eco system. Its distinct history has earned Afghanistan the title ‘grave yard of empires.’ The British, on whose Empire the sun never set, were content to have Afghanistan as the buffer between the Crown and the Tzar, occupied by neither. Outsiders who sought to occupy Afghanistan did so at their own peril.

Yet another goal, repeatedly declared by the US, is to put an end to ‘terrorism.’  Here too, the action taken for the purpose (war) is the most ‘terrorism enabling’ action. When regular armies wage war against irregular fighters, the latter’s inevitable choice of weaponry is terrorism. This lesson from history will stay relevant till the weak find another weapon.

Arrogance of power aided by technology can instigate the Americans to pulverize Afghanistan. After all, the victim can reach neither the naval fleet anchored in the Arabian Sea, nor the mainland where the US is situated. Afghans have no retaliatory power outside of Afghanistan. This is the most dangerously naïve assumption because of the political ecology of the region. Three of the world’s great economies and four of the world’s most significant countries lie inside the region that surrounds Afghanistan, i.e., India, China, Russia and Pakistan. In one of these countries bordering Afghanistan, Pakistan, Muslims include the second largest ethnic group of Pushtuns, almost 28 million. Pushtuns are the majority ethnic group in Afghanistan. The other three countries, China, Russia, and India, harbor Muslim minorities in great numbers. Large tracts of land within these countries are Muslim populated areas. Russia’s south, (Daghestan,Chechnya, Turkestan, comprising nearly seven percent of Russia’s population) China’s west, the Uighours, (twenty million Muslims) and india’s 172 million Muslims living all over India, are greatly significant population segments, with organized institutions that protect community interests. Genocide of the Muslims in Afghanistan will mobilize the Muslim minorities in Russia, China and India against their respective states in an unprecedented manner. China’s Uighur problem and Russia’s Chechyan problem can be exacerbated. The policy could produce a revolution in Pakistan whose anti US sentiment will be reminiscent of the anti US sentiment of the Irani revolution in 1979. Pakistani state may try to pre empt such a revolution by disallowing the US the use of its  territory for military action in Afghanistan. If the US thinks it can turn to Iran as substitute it must know that such a policy on the part of Tehran could create a second revolution in Iran that seeks the over throw of a regime allied with the West – and the anti IRP revolution could be even more anti US than the anti Shah revolution spearheaded by the IRP itself.  Central Asia would not be immune to political shocks of such a policy, if followed by the US. Hence, US’ military approach could destabilize the domestic equilibrium of largest countries in the region and most significant economies in the world. Even the most tightly knit narrative spinned by the US, that they are busy  exterminating terrorism in Afghanistan, will be destroyed by the intrusive power of today’s electronic media.

In a nutshell, the war to end the Afghan population will initiate civil wars within many countries in the region. In such a scenario, terrorism will expand and flourish at humungous levels. The US needs regional territories to carry goods in and out of Afghanistan for trade purpose (their real purpose for being in Afghanistan is lithium). There will be no safe places to do so. Constant battle will make trade unsustainable.

US’ second option is to use the Pakistan military for exterminating the Afghan resistance – and it is currently exercising its leverage with Indian collaboration. For Pakistan, such a policy would mean a potential civil war within its own boundaries that will weaken the Pakistan military vis-à-vis India and undermine Pakistan’s nuclear deterrence. Pakistani generals have so far carried out successful targeted operations against militants. They prefer to confine their activities to intelligence enabled operations. That is why when the US accuses Pakistan of harboring terrorists, Pakistan responds by demanding that whereabouts be supplied so it can take them out. The US has no doubt Pakistan will take militants out if they are pin pointed because the threat to Pakistan is just as big. Pakistan is endeavoring to establish itself as a gateway civilization where all foreigners feel welcomed, not threatened. Yet, Washington issues vague pronouncements about Pakistan’s role, not real intelligence about terrorists’ whereabouts.

During the sixteen year long occupation, the US extensively checked the afghan territory for resources. It subsequently qualified Afghanistan as the Saudi Arabia of lithium. The significance of lithium, of which cell phone batteries are made, is doubly enhanced in view of climate change induced natural disasters the west is currently confronted with in rapid succession. If fossil fuel driven cars are inducing global warming, a greater need in the West will be felt to cut down carbon emission. Even rogue Presidents like Trump will come round to signing emission control treaties. This will greatly increase the demand for hybrid cars (rechargeable electronic cars). Lithium will be in much greater demand then. The US is destroying the trade potential of this resource by continuing to wage war in Afghanistan. US’s kinetic activity is making all trade routes out of Afghanistan un safe. Only and only negotiated settlement with Afghan resistance and the regional powers will allow the US to mine and transport lucrative commodities out of the region. US has learned its lessons regarding the power of a combative Asian population during the heyday of its power in the world (Vietnam). Now that the US is in a comparative decline, its stakes are even higher.

It is highly unlikely that Pakistan military will agree to a policy of joining hands with the US for extermination of the Afghan resistance and enabling American occupation of Afghanistan for the foreseeable future. Such a policy is not in the interest of Pakistan’s ally and long term economic partner China. The US could use the Afghan territory to foment trouble in China’s restive Muslim province. It could do the same for Russia’s south. Initially, trump looked like he could be a President free of Cold War era prejudices. He has since knuckled under the US military and intelligence establishment, who seem incapable of shedding the prejudice.  Hence Pakistan is not likely to follow a policy the US, in cahoots with India, is pressurizing Islamabad to follow.

The best way forward for the US is to shed its Cold War era animosities. Extend a cordial hand out to China with a view to becoming its trade partner, not its trade rival. There is much the US can gain economically from such a policy. US also needs to Reset its relations with Russia and utilize the rapidly warming Bering straits for greater trade ties with Eurasia. Sustainable trade ties can not be built upon perpetual petulance and paranoid eavesdropping on friends and perceived foes alike. Neither can these be built on settlements the Europeans could afford to have on foreign lands five centuries ago. The world has changed. Centers of innovation and industry are no longer confined to the west only. Human resource development is more likely to be evenly spread across the globe than ever before as states learn to apply the power of information technology innovatively to human resource development. India’s real relevance to the US is as a trade partner, not as a security partner. When it comes down to brass tacks, It is foolish to think India will wage battle with the regional nuclear powers to protect the US’ military hold in the region. India can be a better trade partner for the US if Indo-Pak enmity is settled through a settlement of the Kashmir dispute. Such a settlement has never been more plausible than at present.

Making peace between India and Pakistan through resolution of the outstanding Kashmir issue, negotiating the terms of withdrawal with the Afghan resistance, and instituting a trade regime that involves the regional powers is the best way forward for the US and the only way forward for effective, unhindered trade in and out of region. Waging war to have peace is like trying to stop an earthquake from happening.


The Kashmiri Voice that Keeps Getting Louder After it was Silenced Forever

One year ago on this day, July 8th,  Burhan Wani , the young hero of Kashmiri struggle for freedom, was murdered in Indian Occupied Kashmir. The crime caused a  revolution in the making as Kashmiri masses were galvanized into action against India like never before.  India is holding the territory of Kashmir against the will of the kashmiris for the last seventy years. The government of India’s founding father, Jawahar Lal Nehru, pledged to honor the wishes of the Kashmiris in 1947 and repeatedly since then. With the pledge, Nehru bought time to get out of the first Kashmir war that started as early as 1947 and was naturally supported by Pakistan. The pledge was not kept by Nehru and his successors. Pakistan is made up of what used to be Muslim majority states in India and as such, feels a natural affinity with the people of Indian Occupied Kashmir – the only Muslim majority state that remains under Indian occupation.

Since 1989, instead of a plebiscite, a brutal military, equipped with special powers ( immunity against criminal prosecution) is hoisted upon the people of Indian Occupied Kashmir. Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely.  India’s military action in Kashmir is an embodiment of the same maxim.

Kashmiri women are beautiful by Indian standards. They look European and in Indian culture, being fair of complexion is the hall mark of beauty.  The Indian soldiers rape Kashmiri girls as small as twelve and India’s law can not  touch the offender.  The female rape victims of Indian soldiers in occupied Kashmir range from poor rural girls to students with academic distinction. If  a rape victim happens to be an educated female, the rape ends in murder of the victim. In all such  cases, the police tries to give protection to the soldiers involved. Famous gang rape cases such as the Shopian rape case make it to India’s constituent assemblies for debate, others are not noted because the victims are dis empowered or over powered by the occupying forces.

Born into social and political torture,  the younger generation of Kashmiris has been actively trying to rid itself of the Indian yoke since 1989. Burhan Wani, (b 1994 – d.2016)  rose to be a leader of the young advocating for end to Indian occupation of their lives. Successful use of social media and his personal charisma lead to widespread following of Burhan Muzzafar Wani. He spoke for Kashmiri people’s right to dignity and protection under the law, and argued that it will never happen under Indian occupation, hence Kashmiris must strive for freedom so their young men and women can live in dignity and their elders can live in peace. Burhan Wani became the symbol of Kashmiri defiance of Indian occupation at the young age of eighteen.

On  8 July, 2016, Burhan Wani was murdered by Indian military forces. The blood shed by the Indian military served as a shot in the arm of Kashmiri struggle for freedom. An unprecedented number of Kashmiris poured out of their homes into the streets of Kashmir on July 9, 2016, to pay homage to their martyred son and hero, and since that day, Kashmir has slipped out of India’s hands. The strength of Kashmiri struggle has cognitively enfeebled the Indian state so much that their military has resorted to the desperate act of usage of chemical weapons on civilian population. Such acts have a logical conclusion, history tells us. The inevitable conclusion is the end to a rule that is rejected by its subjects en masse. India is no longer the administrator in Indian Occupied Kashmir. Its “rule” has been transformed into an “invasion.” All invasions have an end date. India’s end date in Kashmir is approaching.


Post Panamaleaks probe of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s assets, through a Joint Investigative Team ( JIT ), is Pakistan’s great leap forward in the struggle to end corruption in the corridors of power. But will the struggle that is thus far proceeding lawfully also end lawfully?  It does not seem likely. The ruling party has a persecution complex and the Panama hearing has only intensified it. The proceeding against a sitting PM and his family is the first ever of its kind in Pakistan, and although the judicial entities involved are acting sovereign, with no SOPs in place, their road is bumpy.

For the benefit of the nation, live broadcast of the proceedings would have been in order.  In democracy, people’s right to know is the foremost value in all matters pertaining to the conduct of their democratic leaders. The whole nation in America watched the Iran Contra hearings in 1987. The interrogation was televised live on CSPAN and aired on National Public Radio for the benefit of all Americans. On the one hand, the live coverage minimized media’s spin doctors’ projection of vested interests at the expense of truth. On the other, the individual with the gift for gab rose in public esteem during the coverage regardless of which side he/she occupied. Col. Oliver North emerged as the young republican’s hero from the Iran Contra hearings by virtue of his good looks and cocky mannerism, while Arthur Limen, Chief Counsel for the Senate investigation, didn’t capture the popular imagination because his visuals were less impressive compared to that of Oliver North. These facetious differences notwithstanding, a televised probe of such matters can make a real difference in the quality of democracy a country has. Pakistan is missing an opportunity to grow by not televising the Panama hearings.

Despite the apparent sovereignty of the JIT as exhibited thus far, matters seem headed towards a violent confrontation between the government and the judiciary on one hand, and the government and opposition on the other. It is because mature voices in the PML(N) are silent while immature voices of sycophancy are shrill and loud ever since the Panama affair put Nawaz Sharif in the dock a year ago. From day one, there has been no intra party meeting to address the Panama revelations regarding the first family’s assets abroad. There has been no moral and candid stance taken by the Party syndicate, no declaration to the effect issued to the public by Party stalwarts. The Panamaleaks affair was an opportunity for the PML(N) to rise as a mature and invincible political party in Pakistan. Instead, it is cutting a sorry figure as some of its leaders shoot verbal arrows here and there in their bid to show loyalty to their besieged leader while others have sat on the fence and have avoided taking a principled stand on the matter from day one.

The most likely outcome of the probe is the permanent disqualification of Nawaz Sharif and his immediate family from holding any public office in Pakistan. Psychologically unprepared for such an outcome, the Sharif family seems in no mood to defer to the judiciary regarding its fate. It is trying to legitimize its defiance by insisting on taking the matter to the public and having it decided through the ballot. The much-needed electoral reforms have yet to crystallize. The opposition seems hell-bent on having the  Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and his immediate family disqualified, including the PM’s daughter who is groomed for office. The Pakistani public has been made to witness the contradictory statements of the first family in the matter of acquisition of immense wealth through 24/7 media and because it is generally disappointed in the quality of its leadership, it is least motivated to take an active stand in favor of one against the other. The ruling family has rich networks and seems all set to utilize them in its support.  The political parties of Pakistan are happy to see the back of Nawaz Sharif and Co. before the next election but are also apprehensive of the legacy of accountability the JIT probe will bequeath to the nation. Some powerful leaders in the opposition will thus utilize their resources to thwart such a legacy from getting entrenched while supporting the go Nawaz go hype created by Imran Khan.

There are thus many cross currents at play.  It does not seem likely that the end of this affair will be the court ordering the Prime Minister to step down, followed by the Prime Minister bowing out in peace and his party accepting the outcome with equanimity. If fireworks are displayed, the casualty will be PML(N) for sure, but no clear winner is in sight at present. Imran Khan is credited with the movement to end corruption but he has damaged his image through missteps in the last two years and his redeeming acts do not outweigh the mistakes as yet.  Asif Zardari has put an end to the promising entrance of Bilawal Bhutto into Pakistani leadership scene while being quite uninspiring himself.

The most likely person to benefit from the current situation is Tahir Ul Qadri of Tehreek-e-Minhaj ul Quran. His entry into active politics now is therefore certain. His ability to prevail under the circumstances is also unquestioned. Qadri is likely to enter Pakistani political scene with “I told you sos” and due to the proven veracity of his assertions, he is likely to capture a very big audience.

The show of political force, in the near future, is likely to be between Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf’s Imran Khan and Tehreek-e- Minhaj ul Quran’s Dr. Tahir-ul-Qadri. It is the religious segment of Pakistani population that is likely to be the most mobilized in the circumstance.   


Two P.M on April 20th was the most popular TV hour in Pakistan as Pakistanis thronged in front of TV sets to hear the Supreme Court verdict on the fate of their Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif. The case against Nawaz Sharif carried allegations of money laundering and corruption after Sharif family’s name appeared in the infamous Panama Leaks in early 2016.

In its judgment, the Supreme Court ordered the formation of a Joint Investigative Team with the responsibility to ascertain the answers to ten questions raised by the apex court. The questions fundamentally ask how, when and where did the Prime Minister and his family raise the money to acquire off shore companies and extravagant European real estate. The joint investigative team will be headed by the Federal Investigative Agency (FIA) and will include members of intelligence, including Pakistan’s foremost military intelligence the Inter Services Intelligence (ISI). It is to submit its report no later than sixty days after its formation. The process of formation of the JIT is to complete within seven days of the court order. The JIT can call the Prime Minister and his two sons for questioning.

There are two important aspects of this Order. First, during the six months long hearing, it was amply revealed that the Prime Minister and his family were unable to show a clear and credible money trail that lay behind their acquisition of off shore companies and the extravagant London real estate publicly owned by Nawaz Sharif’s immediate family. Secondly, it is the first time in the history of Pakistan that a Prime Minister will be investigated by a federal investigatory agency while he is still holding office. After turning the lights on the fundamental realities of the case during Panama case hearing under rigorous media scrutiny, the Supreme Court of Pakistan has handed the matter for investigation over to where it really belongs, Pakistan’s federal investigatory institutions.  The hearing in the Supreme Court has thus minimized the possibility of Shady deals between the high and mighty and the investigative officers involved in the case.

This is a sober judgment. It is in contrast to the judgment of the Supreme Court which was rendered in 2013 after Tahir Ul Qadri petitioned for reconstitution of the Election Commission of Pakistan. Back then, the court rendered a subversive judgment when it refused to acknowledge Tahir ul Qadri’s locus standi because the latter held dual nationality of Canada as well as Pakistan.

In the instant case, the Supreme Court intervened in the escalating show down between the Pakistan Tehrik-e-insaf and the ruling PML(N) over Panama Leaks and took suo moto notice of the charges leveled against the Prime Minister by assembling court in November 2016 to hear both sides.  The court thus not only defused the political tension at the time, it also created a situation for the Prime Minister of Pakistan wherein the latter could not get away with revelations in Panama Leaks by strong arming the opposition that was busy agitating on the streets, calling for Prime Minister’s resignation and scrutiny of his assets.  Through its order of April 20, 2017, the apex court has created an opportunity for the investigative institutions of Pakistan to do what they are paid to do and in the process has steered the country on the path to institutional development.

Is the trouble for the Prime Minister over? Not at all. The Supreme Court could declare the Prime Minister ineligible to hold office after the JIT report is submitted. If Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif had answers to the questions raised by the Supreme Court, he would have submitted them during the six months long hearing that lasted from November 2016 to April 2017.

What follows now is a sobriety test for all involved in this matter.

The Prime Minister has to show that he is capable of handling his personal financial crises in a manner that does not adversely impact his country and the party he founded under the name of PML (N), and thus set an example for Pakistan’s future leaders. The  FIA will have to prove its own functionality in a transparent manner to evolve into a viable state institution for all times to come. The political parties who take their wars to the streets will have to learn to defer to institutions instead because they can work if pressure is exerted wisely.

If any of the above mentioned actors fails to act soberly, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif could still be removed from office, but through nasty means instead of the ones laid out in the law of the land.

The Supreme Court of Pakistan has done superbly thus far. It has averted a political crisis, reinforced the power of national institutions and prevented a sitting head of state from strong arming into silence his opponents’ call for accountability.


A presentation was given by Zeenia Satti on war on Terror’s Impact on Trade in the Middle East on July 5, 2013 at the Institute of Strategic Studies, Islamabad. Full text of the presentation was posted on her former website www.zeeniasatti.com. The same website was stolen on August 24, 2015. No text from it has been found on the internet ever since. The web hosting company would not help even though the account was current at the time the query was made . The government of Pakistan was approached to deal with the cyber theft. The concerned official expressed inability to help, saying “we are works in progress and do not have a system to deal with the cyber crime yet.”  The blogger herself did not have copies of the blog as the PC carrying the same was stolen.  She had to go to some lengths to procure text of some of her blogs.

The full text of Zeenia Satti’s July 5, 2013 presentation at the Institute of Strategic Studies Islamabad is posted below. What is interesting to note is the fact that while Zeenia  Satti herself gave an abstract of the presentation to the ISSI and a press release to the national daily ‘the News’, ‘the News’ carried  a press release supplied by the Institute of Strategic Studies instead. The abstract supplied by the speaker herself and the one released to the press by the ISSI are both posted below. As can be seen, the abstract released by ISSI regarding Satti’s talk on July 5, 2013 bears no relevance what so ever to the content of talk given by Zeenia  Satti  the same day  under the title “War on Terror’s Impact on Trade in the Middle East.”

When approached, ISSI put all the blame on one of their newly appointed Research Associates.

The News was approached to correct the error to no avail.


A seminar on War on Terror’s impact on the Trading Potential of Middle Eastern States was held at the Institute of Strategic Studies Islamabad on Friday, July 5, 2013. The speaker, Zeenia Satti,  is a consultant, political analyst and former Teaching Fellow at Harvard University, USA.  According to Ms. Satti, the Muslim countries from Central Asia to North Africa have an unprecedented opportunity of becoming prosperous through trade with each other and the international community.  However, their potential is being corroded through the Long War on Terror.  Further, the war on terror is indirectly weakening the economies of the BRICS as well.

Ms. Satti gave a politico-economic analysis of how the intricate nexus between War on Terror and resultant insurgencies, the US sponsored change in maritime security regime and the declining revenue of the regional governments through a worsening security situation that impacts trade is weakening the economy of each and every state in the region. The Peninsula Arabs are not exempt despite possessing the most strategic commodity called fossil fuels. If WOT continues, they may learn in time that they are neither able to sell the amount of oil and gas they want nor receive a fair  market price for their product. (Submitted to the News on July 5, 2013).


“A renowned Political Analyst and former Teaching Fellow at Harvard University, Ms. Zeenia Satti Friday said that the war on terror has struck the trading potential of Middle Eastern States.

She expressed these views in a public talk titled “WOT’s impact on the trading potential of the Middle Eastern States” distinguished lecture Series 2013 organised by the Institute of Strategic Studies Islamabad (ISSI).

While talking about the War on Terror’s impact on the trading potential of the Middle Eastern States, Ms. Satti shed light on several aspects of trade in the region and how the insurgencies and wars in the region have affected the trading potential of many states and continue to do so.

She said that several Middle Eastern countries are major producers of oil and natural gas, economic performance in the Middle East as a whole lags behind other regions in the world in terms of GDP, per capita income, employment and economic diversification.

While talking about the region’s trade potential, she said that limited integration in the global economy is frequently cited as an obstacle to the region’s overall economic development.

Similarly, the region’s trade with the world is concentrated in a small number of products and the conflicts in the region also raise key questions like, “What extent should the international community balance a regional approach of increased trade and investment with more tailored policies to the specific needs of individual countries?, she said.

She said that the United States sanctions on Iran have also affected trade in the region to a great extent as legitimate trade has been halted and greatly affected by the sanctions and has also led to illegal trade and smuggling.

She said Middle East could not handle economic issues. we have to handle it diplomaticly and with political will.

Talking about the law and order in Gawader as reported in the international media, Ms. Satti said that the international media only reports what is happening in the province of Balochistan on the whole and Gwadar alone is not projected.

The speaker said that the challenges in the region present opportunities for new governments but at the same time, a regime of shadow economies has also come into existence and the parallel economies are weakening legitimate trade in the region.

The full text of the July 5, 2013 presentation by Zeenia Satti at ISSI, a think tank of the Foreign Ministry of Pakistan, follows below:

WOT’s (War on Terror’s) impact on the trading potential of Middle Eastern States.

Transcript of Public Talk at the Institute of Strategic Studies Islamabad, July 5, 2013.

By Middle East I do not mean the Arab states only. I use the term to designate the entire Asian and North African Islamic civilization. I do so because the war that commenced in response to the twin tower attack in New York twelve years ago started in Afghanistan but gradually encompassed the entire gamut of Islamic countries directly or indirectly.

Before deliberating on War on Terror’s impact on the trading potential of the Islamic countries, I’d like to establish, albeit briefly, the centrality of trade in the making and un making of the Islamic civilization in history.

Trade was the catalyst for the first truly cosmopolitan Islamic civilization that lasted from seventh to the thirteenth century AD. It was led by the Arabs, and we will shortly see how and why the Arab rulers of vast areas in Asia, Africa and Europe ultimately came to be known as merely the Peninsula Arabs. Compared to the Arab civilization, the Christian, Chinese and Indian civilizations at the time were based on agrarian economy. The Islamic Arabs generated prosperity through merchant economy and wove together a rich fabric of multilingual, multiracial and multi religious people as diverse as the Indians, the Chinese, the South West Asians, the North Africans the black Africans and the Europeans.

The scholarly debate on the reasons for the decline of the Islamic civilization considers the closing of the doors of ijtihad in the fourteenth century to be the prime cause of the decline. A young student of history named Shahzeb Khan presents an explanation for the decline that is more scientific than the ijtehad theory. According to Shahzeb Khan, the Arabs could have re-established themselves as a great civilization post Mongol invasion were it not for Christopher Columbus’s discovery of America and its fatal economic impact on Islamic trade.

After Columbus discovered America in 1492, Spaniards followed in his footsteps by exploring more of what is now Latin America. They found enormous amount of gold and silver, such that the world had never seen. The gold and silver hitherto used by natives for ornaments was now flooding into the world economy, causing a 400 percent inflation that corroded the economies of most non-European nations and helped Europe to develop a global market system. The new wealth caused Europe to grow in power. Khan attributes the decline in Islamic civilization to the changing patterns of international trade in the following manner.

Hitherto, trade in West African gold was a major part of the Islamic economy. After the Spanish colonization of the Americas, the economy of the Gold Coast and the trans-Saharan trade collapsed. The Europeans established new routes for global trade, bypassing the Islamic ones. They also developed the technology to mount cannons on ships. When the Portuguese sailed around Africa and entered the Indian Ocean in the 1500s, they forcibly destroyed Arab maritime trade by gunning down their dhows, thus enabling themselves to take over trade in Asia. Thereafter, the Arabs were literally confined to their desert, which, according to Khan, explains how the founders and administrators of the first truly universal empire in history came to be known ever since as “the Peninsula Arabs.”

The discovery of oil in early 1900s on Arab lands and the basing of industrial economies on fossil fuel added to the wealth of the peninsula Arabs, but did not change the state of decline in the Islamic civilization because petro dollars were recycled to the West. The richer the oil producing Arabs grew, the greater their desire for modern infrastructure grew. Euro-American companies built the same and pocketed payments in huge amounts every year in return for their services.

Towards the end of the twentieth century a critical change took place. The USSR collapsed. The majority of the Islamic states that rose from this debris in Central Asia were rich in oil and gas deposits. Their being landlocked did not matter so much, as they could connect to the Arabian Sea ports through friendly Islamic states of Afghanistan and Pakistan, and to the Mediterranean traversing Eurasia through another friendly Islamic state Turkey.

Another critical development takes place at the beginning of the twenty first century. Asia begins to rise vis-à-vis the west. India and China become ascendant economies with soaring growth rates. China begins to overtake the USA as a superpower. Russia turns around with Putin’s rise to power in 2000.

Both these developments have tremendous implications for Middle Eastern prosperity through trade. The appearance of the newly independent Central Asian States on the world map creates a harmonious chain of near contiguous Muslim states from Central Asia to South Asia to South West Asia to North Africa, who can carry out uninterrupted trade with each other, and with the BRICs. The chain of Middle Eastern states includes those who possess world’s largest fossil fuel reserves. Not only do the Muslim countries encompass strategic trade routes on land, they also control all major maritime hubs in the Arabian Sea/ Indian Ocean. Add to that Turkey in South Eastern Europe, with its control of the Bosporus and the Dardanelles, and you have the picture of a civilization whose one billion strong people are all set to transform their lot through trade on land and on sea. Their linkage with the ascendant Chinese and Indian economies, each with one billion strong population, would create an Indian Ocean/Trans Asian boom that would replace the transatlantic economy within a decade. (Read the decade of WOT).

Because all major maritime transportation hubs for energy trade lie under the control of the Middle Eastern states, it would give the ascendant economies of Asia greater strategic advantage in guarding the same with their militaries, should the rivalry for access to finite energy resources escalate between Asian and the Euro-American economies. An economic, political and military nexus would thus form between the Middle Eastern states that produce energy and control the transportation routes supplying the same to the world, and the rising Asian economies and the ascendant South that would be consuming greater and greater amounts of fossil fuels.

Europe and America could be bypassed in this entire activity with their shrinking manufacturing base and their comparatively undersized human resource. This would make the US redundant in terms of power and influence. The state of Israel would also get jeopardized as it is kept afloat through Euro-American support, particularly that of the US.

So what we see happening here is the repeat of the history I alluded to at the beginning of my talk, in which the discovery of Latin American gold and alternative trade routes by passing the Middle Eastern civilization led to the latter’s ultimate redundancy in international affairs. The danger of this happening to the Euro-American civilization (the West) in general and the US in particular was now rising.

This is the background to the unique US decision to respond to the terror attack on its soil on September eleven 2001 as an act of war, not as domestic crime. The decision was geopolitical in nature and was aimed at striking at the weakest link in the chain of the rising Trans Asian boom. This weak link is the Middle East, where the US already had strong intelligence and significant military presence.

Two invasions that the United States of America undertook one after the other broke the administrative strength in the territorial contiguity of the Middle Eastern civilization. The occupation of Afghanistan politically severed Pakistan from Central Asia and created insurgencies, resulting in the destruction of regional security environment with impact on Pakistan’s trade prospects. Pakistan, as you know, is the gateway to Central Asia.

The invasion and occupation of Iraq cut Turkey off from South West Asia and destroyed the security environment of the South West Asian region. Turkey is the bridge between Europe and South West Asia. Turkey’s internal security was compromised when the Kurdish separatist movement rose from the destruction of the Iraqi state. Besides its negative impact on Turkey as a transit hub for energy supply routes, Turkey’s multi billion dollars tourism industry also took a hit.

Pakistan Turkey and Iran are respectively the first, second and third largest militaries in the Islamic civilization.  Each state is now besieged within. Sanctions against Iran have destroyed its economy, its maritime transportation capacity, and have harmed economies throughout the region whose infrastructure was linked to Iran’s economy. Dubai’s economy is already suffering from the collapse of the real estate market and Dubai World’s failure to repay its debt. It is now incurring huge additional losses due to sanctions against Iran. Dubai had a trillion dollars volume of trade with Iran. Turkey had built up whole sectors of its economy catering to Iranian oil and gas. Those are no longer functional. Pakistan desperately needs energy from Iran but can no longer get it with ease.

WOT has had widespread negative influence on the trading potential of each and every Middle Eastern state. Because it would take a long time to describe the impact country by country, I am going to describe the impact of WOT on the trading potential of the Middle Eastern states issue by issue.


Almost 90% of international trade is done through oceans. Prior to WOT, this regime was purposely lax to allow all players to participate according to their means. After WOT, a very stringent regime of security related requirements has been introduced by the US. It runs parallel to the UN sponsored regime which tightened its own rules post 9/11. In reality, the US sponsored regime has side lined the UN regime. This has had the impact of expelling smaller players from maritime trade and created a near monopoly of mostly West based larger players on the high seas.

Secondly, the manner in which WOT was waged (prolonged occupation amidst mismanagement and abuse) created an inevitable insurgent environment in the region whereby organized groups, indigenous or proxy, began their armed struggle against US occupation. Being unable to take their insurgency to the US, they directed it towards their respective states who are allied with the US in WOT. This had a direct bearing on Muslim countries’ maritime trade potential because most maritime transportation hubs controlled by the Muslims constitute narrow choke points. The development of a myriad of armed regional insurgencies increased the security risk of these channels. The straits of Malacca for instance were temporarily declared high risk area by LIyod’s Joint war Council some years ago. This jacked up the premium of ships crossing these waters to war zone levels, making it an undesirable route for commercial purpose. China, 80% of whose energy supplies traverse the straits of Malacca, started to invest in an alternative route through Burma. Burma, thereafter, found an incentive in eliminating its Muslim population to pre-empt the danger of insurgency due to which its own trade route may suffer similar fate as the Straits of Malacca.

Pakistan’s Gwadar is another example.  Ten years ago it was a dusty fishing village, now it is an impressive state of the art port built in the hope that it would be a hub of trade to and fro central Asia. Eight insurgent attacks on the port made the Pakistan government hand over its security to China. The Indian Ocean and the Red Sea are designated High Risk Areas, policed by the US, not the UN. The US must be consulted on everything bilaterally and has the right to interdict any ship.

The more WOT spreads, the more the insurgencies are likely to spread in predominantly Muslim countries. Even if there are no terror attacks on ships crossing the waters adjacent to the insurgent countries, the insurgency itself is enough to raise the risk levels of these waterways with negative economic implications for the states who earn revenue from the channels.

Terrorism on high seas is not a serious concern for analysts because terrorists strike to invite attention to their cause. Ships on seas are isolated objects beyond media’s reach. Secondly, terrorists do not possess the technical skills and tools to strike large vessels. The US has raised the concern that terrorists could sub contract their mission to the pirates. In reality the two missions are mutually contradictory. Pirates economically depend on sea traffic in their areas of operation. Terrorism can lead to a decline in such traffic or altogether end it. Believing that terrorists and pirates can form an alliance is like assuming that because lions kill antelopes, they can hand out a contract to hunters to decimate the antelope population.

So, in the end, we are left more with fears than genuine threats and yet the jacking up of security risk has impacted Middle Eastern economies negatively. Even prior to the Egyptian uprising, Yacht insurers stopped covering vessels that sailed to Egypt’s ports on the Red Sea, bringing down Egypt’s tourist trade.

Due to WOT, crossing what was formerly known as the hubs of maritime transportation has become costly in monetary terms. 90% of maritime insurance is controlled by the West. While large multinationals can afford the new regime of maritime security, Middle Eastern dhows are getting wiped from the scene. This in turn has stymied the trading potential of Middle Eastern traders in non fossil fuel commodities. Single commodity trading does not lead to development of a civilization.

Eco tourism has also taken a big hit. Eco-tourism has increased the potential of underdeveloped states to earn revenue through tourism as it does not require infrastructure. Due to declining wages in the west and rising environmental awareness, eco tourism has become especially popular during the past decade. The attack in Gilgit Baltistan’s Dianmar sector on tourists in May 2013 is an attack on the government of Gilgit Baltistan’s potential to earn revenue from eco tourism.

The expanded and ever deepening system of surveillance of maritime traffic is ostensibly for stopping terrorism or trade in WMDs. In reality it is US’ fear of Middle Eastern countries covertly providing bases to China, and the latter covertly providing weaponry to the former, that has led the US to monitor every little drift wood on the high seas through an unprecedented system of surveillance operating out of UK, Australia, New Zealand, Canada and the US.  It is this diversion of interests that has made India, China, Malaysia and Indonesia stay out of the US initiated regime of Proliferation Security Initiative. The maritime surveillance has increased the potential of false flag operations against real or perceived enemies. The attack on Pakistan’s Mehran base in May 2011 is an example of a false flag operation in which P C 3 Orion aircrafts were destroyed, ostensibly by the Tehrik-e-Taliban-e-Pakistan! The aircrafts have no relevance to the insurgency inside Pakistan.


WOT has struck the on land trading potential of Middle Eastern states in two ways. One is of course through creating insurgencies which attack trade convoys travelling through routes that are under insurgent influence, or close to insurgent held territories.  The other is through the cognitive deterioration regarding each others’ societies that has made the regional states adopt a policy of hardening of borders. Their trade interests are better served through maintaining soft borders and regional free trade zones. Prior to WOT, Uzbek, Turkmen, and Tajik traders would have traded their product in Pakistani and Irani markets and vice versa without the current debilitating visa regime.

In the year 2000, Tehreek-e-Taliban e Pakistan did not exist. Even during Pakistan’s most Islamist rule for eleven years under General Zia ul Haq, no such movement developed in Pakistan. During six years of Taliban rule in Afghanistan, the movement stayed confined to a portion of Afghanistan as Northern Afghanistan remained out of its control. The Islamic movement of Uzbekistan (IMU) was a miniscule dormant cell confined to Uzbekistan. Now we are told the IMU has spread to Turkmenistan, Tajikistan, Kyrgystan, Afghanistan China and Pakistan. An insurgent movement calling itself Jandullah has started targeting Iran from the trip point of Iran Pakistan and Afghanistan. Al Qaeda we are told has spread itself to Iraq, Libya, and Yemen. Because of insurgent movements by Jamma Islamiya, Indonesia’s trade routes have become unsafe. PKK is waging insurgent attacks on Turkey’s trade routes; Boko Haram is carrying out insurgent attacks in Nigeria, Cameroon, and Niger. Al Shabab is combatant in Somalia. Jamaat ul Mujahideen is conducting insurgent battle in Bangladesh.

All of these militant movements emerged during the decade of WOT. Although WOT occupied only Afghanistan and Iraq, the nuances of WOT inflamed pan Islamic passion. WOT leadership chose not to pronounce a country or region based description of terrorism, such as Afghan terrorism or Iraqi terrorism, or  North African, Central Asian, South Asian terrorism. Instead, the term “Islamic terrorism” is used as a catch phrase by western media and Western elites. To Islam’s followers throughout the globe, the pronouncement is received as an attack on their religion. Added to it are revelations regarding desecration of the Islamic holy book of Quran by prison authorities in the US, videos of atrocities committed by US troops in Iraq and Afghanistan and the abuses committed in off shore prisons. The above mentioned ‘soft attacks’ from the West have generated violent insurgencies all over the Middle East, besieging governments from within.

During imperial times, borderlands in the Middle Eastern colonies were not developed because the trade related infrastructure was constructed to connect the peripheral metropolis to the central metropolis which lay inside Europe. Regional trade was not the goal. Post-colonial border lands throughout the Middle East are therefore seeped in abject poverty. Had WOT not happened, chances are these lands would have developed impressive infrastructure so Islamic countries could trade with each other. Now as things stand, most states do not have the revenue to build infrastructure and the absence of the same makes their trade routes vulnerable to insurgent attacks. Going by scientific estimation, As WOT continues, there is likely to be more, not less of these insurgencies and therefore more, not less of international terrorism. Cross border trade will be subjected to terror attacks. (Merchants and merchandise are not safe even on the scenic and historically serene Silk Route between China and Pakistan).

The third factor that has fractured the actual trade regime and scuttled the prospective one is the US imposed stringent sanctions against Iran, getting increasingly tough during the last six years. The lethal impact of these sanctions has been two fold. First, legitimate trade has come to a halt, hurting regional states. Secondly, smuggling has started, empowering the underworld. A shadow economy has networked throughout the region with its accompanying under world transnational bodies. Terror financing has thus been made easy.

With the US troops’ inability to keep up the elimination of drug production in Afghanistan (a feat accomplished during the five year Taliban rule), drugs have added another debilitating element to the maintenance of law and order in the region. Karachi, which was meant to be Pakistan’s major point of transit trade, has become a major transit point for drugs from Afghanistan. Heavily armed gangs in Karachi engage in drug trafficking. Political groups find drug mafias as handy suppliers of cash in return for political patronage. Police is bribed with amounts never seen before. The nexus has resulted in the Karachi of today. Even during the Soviet Afghan war, Karachi did not get this bad. Karachi’s security cannot be restored till drug production in Afghanistan stops.

The shadow economic activity that has risen out of the shackles of economic sanctions of first pre occupation Iraq,  then Iran, then Syria (all in the same region) has given rise to a parallel economy that is steadily weakening governments because smuggling enriches and empowers the underworld while denying states their due share of revenue from trade. This makes clandestine groups more powerful vis-a-vis the state, making it difficult for states to maintain law and order within their boundaries.  Corruption is legitimated because regional customs officials have sympathy for the people of the sanctioned state. Hence they accept bribery and look the other way when commodities are being smuggled to and fro. As bureaucracy gets weaker, the domestic enemies of state get stronger. A vicious cycle of state enfeeblement and underworld empowerment has thus been created by WOT throughout the region.

Regional trade in human resource has also suffered during WOT. A huge number of migrant workers from non oil producing states had started working in oil producing states, providing their home countries remittances. This is beginning to decline rapidly due to a combination of sanctions, war and negative perception on the part of the regional states regarding each others’ populations. The Libyan and Iraqi conflict dried up remittances and sent home migrant workers from the once prosperous oil producing nations. Sanctions against Iran have made the value of Iran’s currency plummet, with negative impact on remittances from Iran to other Muslim countries such as Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Egypt.

Due to open military intervention of the West in Middle Eastern domestic conflicts, weaponization of non- state actors has resulted at a scale that exceeds even the cold war era clandestine gun running to proxy warriors.  Weapons from Libyan stock piles, we are told, have made it to Chad, Mali, Nigeria and Niger. Gulf of Guinea has been red flagged for commercial shipping because of rising incidents of piracy in which the pirates are equipped with heavy weaponry.

Hence a region in which all states have the potential to trade with each other and the world, and grow prosperous and powerful in the process, is being pushed into underworld activity and civil strife. A force applied from without the region is engineering a regional politico-economic climate that is unhealthy for local populations but promotes the trade agenda of the foreign force. The more strife ridden the Middle East gets, the more the US is able to contrive itself as the gendarme that China, India, Russia, and Brazil will have to do business with, instead of simply bypassing an empire whose business generating capacity has petered out. WOT is a brain dead empire’s life support machinery, aimed at generating free trade for the euro-American companies. Without WOT, the empire will be no more and the western states will have to re invent themselves either individually or collectively. WOT’s continuance, on the other hand, is a burden on global economy and because of its blow back, also a  burden on the euro-American populations. WOT is not a war. It is an exercise in social, political and economic engineering with negative impact on the ascendant Asian economies.

If the Middle Eastern states do not deploy their collective diplomacy towards ending WOT, The most likely outcome of this long war would be the steady spread of uprisings in all the Islamic states against their respective state systems. In the absence of leadership, such uprisings are likely to invite foreign intervention, to the detriment of Middle Eastern states, their population, and their resources.  The Peninsula Arabs are not exempt. If WOT continues, they are likely to learn in due course that they can neither sell the amount of oil and gas they desire, nor get the fair market price they deserve.

The Middle Eastern states have to deploy their political skill at two fronts – Internally, they must possess the skills to placate their own restive population so insurgencies can end. Externally, all Middle Eastern states must deploy multilateral diplomacy to end WOT. WOT is a war against the Muslim countries and Islamic populations in the short run only. In the long run, it is a war against China, India, Russia South Africa and Brazil. Behind America’s wooing of India lurks the fear of Trans Asian economies ultimately allying themselves against the Western economies in the inevitable economic, political or even military confrontation. American overture to India is thus an exercise in pre-emptive diplomacy to prevent the same.

Indo US alliance will not work to the benefit of India in the long run. All of US’s non European alliances have produced negative consequences for the latter. The NICS, i.e., South Korea and Taiwan, plus Egypt, Mexico, Pakistan, and Philippines are some of the example of non-European post war US allies who did not benefit in the long run from their alliance with the US.

India for its part is happy to see the US mitigate, through WOT, the danger Delhi faces in the shape of Pakistan, a hostile country with nukes through which all of India’s energy supply from the Central Asia and the Gulf region transits. Pakistan continues to appease India bilaterally, in the hope that hostilities will give way to trade. This will not do because WOT has destroyed Pakistan’s political power vis-a-vis India.

Only a rigorous multilateral political approach, in collaboration with BRICs, will get each Middle Eastern country out of WOT engineered shackles. The significant economies of South America and Africa are also important components of the bridge the newly emergent economies must build to wage a concerted diplomatic struggle against WOT. The Muslim states, being the first target of WOT, must produce the first collective voice of reason in this regard. Constructive reasoning is likely to get international reception. First, the Middle Eastern civilization must have articulate and smart leadership that can handle subversive warfare domestically and a changing world internationally.

WOT is not a war against Islam. Those who think so delude themselves into thinking their religion is of importance to the outsiders. The Muslim countries are WOT’s first target because they are the weakest link in the chain of emerging Trans Asian and southern boom. WOT is destroying the potentially robust Central Asian, South Asian, South West Asian and North African markets for the BRIC economies. Had WOT not interrupted the economic potential of the region, Growth in BRICs would not have been held hostage to the fate of the Euro-American economies.


From Daily Times, January 26, 2017.

War is defined as an occurrence in which organized military forces engage in violence on both sides of the conflict. Only US’s invasion of Afghanistan and Iraq meet the definition of war. After that, US ‘war on terror’ transmuted into military interventions in countries much smaller and weaker than the US. The interventions were either in collaboration with the government of the nation state, such as in Pakistan or Yemen, or in collaboration with the rebel groups against the government of a nation state, such as Syria and Libya.

A spiral of violence has now been created. The presence of militant groups is the reason America gives for military intervention and bombing of civilians in the region. The civilian deaths create more militant groups who carry out terror attacks to destabilize their own government on account of latter’s alliance with the US. Terror attacks also kill civilians. The military in the state where terror groups strike tries to take them out by bombing its own areas. Civilians either die in such strikes, or are dislocated. Because of the stigma of hailing from a terrorist area, the internally displaced people lead a life devoid of social support. Poverty levels within a country do not allow its government to fully address the needs of the IDPs. Urban ghettoization and increase in poverty thus ensues, adding region wide pockets of misery. Such pockets become fertile grounds for crimes including terrorism. Civilians suffer as their streets and neighborhoods become less secure. The “War on Terror” is, in many ways, a war by organized military forces against civilians. Terrorism has been the stated target, but not the casualty of this war.

In the eighties, during the Soviet Afghan war, terrorism struck Pakistan but remained confined to the North West Frontier Province (now KPK). During Pakistan’s second involvement in the Afghan conflict, wherein it again aided and abetted the US, (now the occupying force in Afghanistan), terrorism spread to every nook and corner of Pakistan. No province, no city remains out of reach of terrorists.

Why is that?

For one, in the eighties Pakistan was helping the resistance, which is the side most likely to use terrorism in furtherance of its policy. Secondly, the KGB did not have the levels of intelligence in Pakistan that the CIA does. Had the KGB been present in Pakistan in large numbers, it would have masterminded terror attacks all over Pakistan to dissuade the central government from helping the Americans in their proxy war against the USSR in Afghanistan.

Similarly, the US has an interest in clearing Afghanistan of nationalist elements because it has a commercial plan involving Afghanistan. America finds Pakistan’s military as the most useful resource in furtherance of the objective of eliminating nationalist forces in Afghanistan and their helpers in Pakistan.

Of course, in order to be able to engage Pakistan thus, compulsions have to be created. If Pakistan itself suffers terror attacks, its government and its military have a reason to go after the most obvious suspects, members of the resistance in Afghanistan and their allies in Pakistan.

That means terrorism in Pakistan will not end till the US has succeeded in eliminating the nationalist forces within Afghanistan. Helping the US achieve such an end goal is detrimental to Pakistan’s survival because of the ‘India factor.’ New Delhi covets Pakistani territory due to its enhanced economic value. When Pakistan engages against its own people for a prolonged period, India finds its window of opportunity to delegitimize and  dismember Pakistan. Furthermore, it is not in Pakistan’s interest to eliminate its martial races in the areas adjacent to Afghanistan, where a hostile India has lodged itself with the help of the US.

After every major terror attack, Pakistan engages on its own land against militants who are helping the Afghan resistance. The latest of such engagements, carried out by Raheel Sharif, saw the most intense bombardment and the most wide spread dislocation of people from the area bordering Afghanistan. During this time, terror attacks greatly decreased but were unprecedented in intensity and scale. After each occurrence, the Pakistani military took its invasion of border areas to a higher scale.

Even if all support structures for the Afghan war are destroyed in Pakistan’s border areas, the US’s end goal of eliminating nationalist forces in Afghanistan will still remain to be fulfilled. Hence, the US will continue to demand more from Pakistan. India will continue to use the predicament Pakistan is thus placed in to its advantage. Pakistan’s best option at countering such a pressure is to gather regional and international support to emphasize the futility of the path US is walking in Afghanistan, and to help steer it in a fresh direction that brings benefits to Washington and to the Afghans without further use of force.

Trump’s eagerness to work with Russia is a window of opportunity for Pakistan in this direction. Pakistan, Russia and China want to engage the Taliban to counter ISIS threat. Trump also views ISIS as a greater threat. This convergence of US, Russia and China’s interest can be used as the catalyst for a multilateral agreement to promote peace between the resistance and the collaborators of the west in Afghanistan and to steer the US towards troop withdrawal in the wake of a multilateral agreement for a trade regime that accords the US a share. US withdrawal from Afghanistan can also be made possible if Russia and Pakistan help bring the US and China on the negotiating table where disputes are resolved through diplomatic engagement.  Such a scenario will calm India’s saber rattling against Pakistan and force it on to a negotiating table with Islamabad. If Pakistan, in collaboration with Russia, succeeds in bringing the US and China into a cooperative mode, India runs the danger of being left out of the commercial structures that are being built in the region because, unlike Pakistan, India lies on the fringe of such arrangements.

Pakistan needs rigorous and creative diplomacy towards this end. For starter, it needs a foreign minister with the caliber of Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto, who dexterously operated on the cutting edge of international affairs, and knew how to create space for Pakistan within a forbidding scenario. Pakistan is building a CPEC with China. In collaboration with the US and Russia, Pakistan can build a trade corridor from Eurasia to South Asia traversing Afghanistan, and ending at the ports and cities of South Asia and Iran. Such a trade corridor can only be sustained with the help of the local population of the region. Peace will have to be established with the Afghan resistance to work towards that goal. Hitherto, the Americans have kept troops in Afghanistan because they wanted to build a trading regime in central Asia to the exclusion of Russia and China. However, George Bush’s America was comfortable in its super power status when it chose to deal with matters expeditiously rather than diplomatically. Trump’s America is struggling to recreate and reimagine itself. Trump’s slogan “America First” shows willingness to shed old ties and eagerness to build new ones to be “strong again.”

Trump’s lack of shyness in adopting an innovative foreign policy (unlike his predecessor Obama) should be an encouraging sign for policy planners in Pakistan. Trump wants dividends in Afghanistan but is willing to adopt a new course of action towards the goal. Pakistan can be and should be the catalyst for realignment of forces in a win-win scenario for all players in the region.