TRUMP, PAKISTAN AND AFGHANISTAN

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.

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Why the Fatal attacks on the Russian Envoy in Turkey and the Chinese Workers in Pakistan

Al-Jazeerah, CCUN, January 4, 2017;  www.aljazeerah.info

Attacks on the Russian envoy in Turkey and attacks on the Chinese workers in Pakistan depict attempt at containing regionalism through kinetic force. If  Turkey changes its stance towards the war i…

Source: West’s Containment of Regionalism in Emergent Economies – A Look at the Attack on Russian Envoy in Turkey

Politicians’ Ill Use of the Word “Politics” is a Red Flag Over Democratic Culture in Pakistan

Carried by Al-Jazeerah, CCUN, January 20, 2017

In political science, ‘public representation’ entails the ability to assess the wishes of a polity, to fathom their needs, to articulate the same constructively through speech, to address the same through sincere care consisting of policy planning and implementation. Public reps are political beings. Politics is defined as the rules, norms and functions that make an existing state more useful to its citizens. Though democracy as an uninterrupted phenomenon is two hundred and fifty years old, (if you date it from its formation in USA), humanity has yet to design formal education leading to the creation of a public representative, such as Masters or Ph.D  or Post Doc. in public representation, though formal education in political science does exist and philosophically addresses the myriad manifestations of political existence.

In the absence of a formal and scientific academic design aimed at creating professional public representatives, the latter are self-initiated professionals. However, aptitude is as much at the core of this profession as any other. Without the ability to assess the wishes of the public, without caring to fathom public needs, and without the ability that innovatively and dexterously addresses those needs, one cannot be a good public representative. There is a general assumption that only a good public representative will make it to office because his or her selection depends on the choice made by the majority of public.

Because the public representative can come into a governing position without prior training, his/her mettle is to be tested while in office. The imperatives of his/her status require the public rep to move beyond articulation of public needs and policy promise, into the domain of conceiving and implementing policy that addresses public needs successfully. Though trained bureaucrats in their hierarchic office for a long period help public reps govern, yet the latter must exercise leadership in the office they hold. Unless the leaders deliver healthy leadership, the democratic political process is hollow within and unproductive without.

Pakistan calls itself a new democracy because only recently  has there been uninterrupted hand over of power from one representative government to another since Pakistan emerged as a sovereign state in 1947. Paradoxically, it is only during this time, (since 2008) that public reps have started unwittingly making statements regarding their political role that disparage the role itself. This tendency is a red flag over Pakistan’s democratic political culture. If it is not checked by civil society, Pakistan’s nascent democracy will grow akin to a python slowly eating its own tale.

The most significant example of the unhealthy tendency of describing public role disparagingly is the pronouncements made by the representatives of the ruling party PML(N) about their leader and Pakistan’s Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s  speeches in parliament and his address to the nation post Panama Leaks.  Nawaz Sharif gave one explanation of asset acquisition to the parliament and the public, and another to the Supreme Court during hearing of Panama Leaks case. Nawaz Sharif’s lawyer and other members of his party are explaining away the inconsistency by calling the speeches Nawaz Sharif, the elected office holder at the helm of government, made in his address to the nation on TV and in the elected Parliament of Pakistan as merely “political” statements, that should not be accorded importance during a judicial examination  of Prime Minister’s ‘political character,’ (which ultimately is what the Panama Leaks case hearing is about).

Prime Minister submitted to the court that he bought the extravagant May Fair flats in London with the money raised from investments in Qatar.  Only a letter from a Qatari prince was submitted as proof of the same. During hearing in December 2016, justice Aijaz ul Hassan asked why the PM didn’t mention Qatari investment in his address about Panama Leaks to the nation and the parliament.  Nawaz Sharif’s counsel Salman Butt replied by stating the Prime Minister’s speech cannot be a judicial record as it was only a political speech. !!!!!

No clarification was issued later from the office of the Prime Minister regarding the disparaging comment made about the speech of the Prime Minister of a country in the Parliament and on air as address to the nation.

There are innumerable instances of usage of the concepts “political” and “politics” by Pakistan’s political elite as frivolous, non-serious, unworthy, self-seeking or self-aggrandizing. For instance, when-ever there is a terror attack that claims a large number of lives, the government’s response to criticism regarding its security policy is always the advice that members of the opposition should not do “politics” over a tragedy of national proportions.  The interior minister Chaudhy Nisar Ali Khan has often used the word “politics” in similar manner. On January 28, 2016, a week after the terror attack on Bacha Khan university, Chaudhry Nisar responded to the opposition party PPP’s  criticism of government’s inability to implement the National Action Plan against terrorism in the following words;  “If some one does not like my personality, no matter; but don’t do ‘politics’ on national issues.” Speaking in the aftermath of the tragic Landhi train accident that killed 22 and injured 60, 28 year old Bilawal Bhutto, who studied social sciences  at Oxford, also seems to have succumbed to this culture when he said that there should be no ‘politics’ over terrorism and accidents.

The state is defined as the highest form of community and aims at the highest good. It is founded on political association. ‘Politics’ defines the nature and function of the state. A state’s political rulers and politicians aim at the good of citizens of a state.

The phrase “office politics” is used as a disparaging phrase at unit levels, referring to self seeking behavior, focused on who gets what, when and how. Office politics is perceived as an impediment to the main function of the enterprise. Pakistan’s public representatives, who are quintessential political beings, attach similar meaning to the word politics. They thus not only undermine their own professional credibility as politicians, they belittle democratic culture itself as one devoid of accountability, ethics, and respectable norms with deference to which democratic politics function.

Pakistani politicians’ description of politics fails to take cognizance of the true definition of politics. The manner in which politicians describe their chief function in society has a bearing on the quality of the function itself. Misappropriation of the concept of ‘politics’  is a red flag over Pakistan’s nascent democratic culture.