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.

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

Carried by Al-Jazeerah, CCUN, January 4, 2017

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.

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

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 in Syria and joins Russia and Iran to support Bashar ul Assad in the war, just so to end the war sooner by supporting the side that is most likely to win, it will be impossible for the US  and its allies to dislodge the regime in Syria. Similarly, if Turkey weaves an economic regime of greater trade ties with Russia, Turkey will have no more need for supporting NATO in future.  The  recent anti Russian activism on the streets of Turkey had very thin attendance. Considering how politicized the Turks have become as a polity post failed July coup, the level of attendance at a rally denouncing Russian  role in Allepo shows the absence of  wide spread anti Russian sentiment in Turkey. Oddly, it is the Russian envoy who is attacked in Turkey and killed a day before Russia, Turkey and Iran were to hold tripartite talks about Syria. Similarly odd, there have been consistent attempts at attacking and killing the Chinese workers in Pakistan post the forging of greater Pak-China trade ties.

Pakistan and Turkey are commercially important countries. Pakistan connects Central Asia to international markets through the Arabian sea while Turkey connects  Asia to Europe through its commercial hubs called Bosphorus and Dardannelles.

Both Turkey and Pakistan are in the process of forging new direction in their foreign and trade policy. Both are in the process of formulating unprecedented regional trade ties . Russia and China are the pivot of these ties for Turkey and Pakistan respectively.  The former are unquestioned regional hegemons and rising global powers.

The problem for both Turkey and Pakistan is that Russia and China are perceived in the West as foes.

The Soviet era “ideological” frameworks are absent from West’s rivalry with Russia and China. Hence, global bloc formation, cemented by the soft power of multinational economies of scale,  is no  longer deployed in aid of such rivalry. The Eurasian/Asian and western rivalry is happening at the time of declining power of the west and rising power of the Eurasian and Asian states. West can no  longer feed its rivalry with multidimensional soft power tools. Its activity on the containment front is thus dangerously confined to kinetic activity, be it overt or covert.

The west is specifically focused on kinetic activity in Asia and North Africa due to its regional formation called the war on terror. It has become increasingly difficult for the Muslim political elite to explain their collaboration with the west in what seems to be a renewable war on terror.  The war is wrecking the economies of developing countries and destroying their internal equilibrium, yet the west keeps pushing the regional governments deeper and deeper into the quagmire of civil wars with no clear end in sight.

The rise of the ‘new hegemons’ is a neighborly and continental affair for both Pakistan and Turkey. Hence both the Sharif government and the Erdogan government, (the latter especially post failed July coup) have started to promote regionalism in trade ties by forging better relations inside Asia and Eurasia, which would inevitably lead to greater political and military ties between Russia and Turkey and Pakistan, China and Russia.

The west perceives regionalism in trade as a threat to its economic and political interest. All significant commercial sea ports lie in Asia and Africa. Significant commodities are abundant on the two continents as well. However, where previously the trading regimes were built and controlled by the west, now the same are being built and controlled by Russia and China. The west thus must come up with containment strategies to frustrate, delay, or altogether destroy regionalism that is beginning to relegate the west, especially the US, to the periphery of international economic relations in the 21st century. Unfortunately for the masses in the west, their leaders are using traditional military ways  to deal with new, unprecedented threats. They are  using war on terror as a renewable resource in pursuit of containment of regionalism in economic relations.

The Chinese in Pakistan are building power projects and economic corridors. They do not move about with guns, but with hard hats. Yet, there have been several terror attacks on the Chinese workers in Pakistan ever since 2002. The most recent was in Sindh where a remote control bomb targeted Chinese engineers just days ago. Pakistan has raised a special force of several thousand military personnel just to safeguard the CPEC, China Pakistan Economic Corridor. Military supply line for coalition forces in Afghanistan also transits through over a thousand miles of Pakistani territory, yet no need was ever felt to raise a special military force in Pakistan to protect the supply route.

Turkey has traditionally sought a place for itself in Europe.  Pakistan too preferred ties with the west after becoming a sovereign state in 1947. Come twenty first century, those ties have significantly decreased and if Islamabad continues to forge composite regional ties at the current rate, its ties with the west will obviously end as an exercise in self-contradiction (unless of course, the west changes its posture towards Russia and China from confrontation to cooperation).

For now, Pakistan’s natural linkage to central Asia has been temporarily broken by the US occupation of Afghanistan. Greater ties with China is Pakistan’s way of getting round that blockage.  China is Pakistan’s economic hope,  and yet there have been relentless terror attacks on the Chinese workers in Pakistan.

These attacks tell us that the west’s ‘renewable’ war on terror is being used as a source of containment of regionalism in Asian and African economies.

In containment of post war communism, the west utilized a mixture of hard and soft power.  In containment of current regionalism in Asia and Africa, west’s  soft power is starkly absent.

The absence of this ‘healthy’ mix is what is increasingly defining the 21st century as the century of the West and the “Rest,” to borrow a phrase from American academic Zachary Karabel.

The Consistent Pattern of Shattering of Consensus in Pakistan

There is a consistent pattern at work in Pakistan since 2013, (or before, if you date it from Benazir’s assassination in the run up to the 2008 general election). Every time a political consensus evolves regarding core issues, some extraneous event impacts the consensus adversely and shatters it. First time it happened post 2013 election was on November 1st, 2013, when Hakim Ullah Mehsud, the leader of Pakistan’s militant group, the TTP, was killed by a US drone in North Waziristan.  Mehsud was acting as the guarantor and facilitator of the peace deal the newly elected Sharif government was trying to make with the Pakistani Taliban for ceasefire and end to abetment of the Afghan resistance in return for pardon and massive development work in the FATA region.  Pakistanis in general were happy with the peace prospect. All political parties welcomed it. Hopes were pinned on Hakimullah Mehsud as the man with enough clout to make the peace deal stick. His death put a swift end to all hopes of peace in FATA through negotiation. A war followed that continues to this day.

The second time political consensus was shattered was on April 19th, 2014, barely eleven months after Nawaz Sharif’s government was sworn into office and had just begun to get its grip on affairs of governance.

On April 19, 2014, a reputed journalist and one of Nawaz Sharif’s close friends, Hamid Mir, was shot repeatedly in his lower body while being driven to his office in the city of Karachi. Hamid was lying unconscious in the intensive care unit of a hospital when his brother accused the Director General of Pakistan’s premier intelligence agency, the ISI, of masterminding the attack on Hamid Mir. Mir’s employer and Pakistan’s largest TV network, GEO, began to show pictures of DG ISI minutes after the allegation was leveled by Mir’s brother. Very quickly, the sensational news was common currency in national and international media without the presentation of any evidence by Geo News Network in support of repeated allegation.

The absence of evidence turned mass sympathy for Hamid Mir into anger at Geo News Network for denigrating Pakistan’s security apparatus without a shred of evidence.  During this rise in mass anger, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif called on Hamid Mir to inquire after the latter’s state of health.

Mir is no ordinary journalist. He is Pakistan’s best known anchor person and a friend of Nawaz Sharif. Under ordinary circumstances, the PM calling on such a personality after he is shot by terrorists would be in order. Under special circumstances created post Mir’s employer Geo News Network’s repeated yet baseless allegation, PM’s visit was a serious mistake on his part. The mass anger in Pakistan shifted from Geo News Network to Nawaz Sharif’s person.

At the time of Hamid Mir shooting, the Sharif government was doing well. On its watch, the Rupee had risen ten points against the dollar for the first time in a decade. Nawaz had succeeded in winning a national consensus on his policy of negotiating peace with the insurgents in Pakistan’s FATA area. There was a general hope that peace will prevail under the Nawaz led government.

Nawaz’s unwise response to the events post Mir shooting eroded the above mentioned consensus as the Pakistani street began to question their prime minister’s patriotism. People began to wonder why Nawaz Sharif chose to side with the subversive forces inside a commercial venture (i.e. Geo News Network) rather than defending the integrity of the state’s most vital institutions. Questions rose as to why the PM had never called on any of the bereaved whose sons and spouses had died with their boots on during the war on terror.

Street anger soon crystallized into organized agitation calling for Nawaz’s ouster. In mid-August 2014,  Imran Khan and Tahir Ul Qadri joined hands to stage a sit in outside the parliament. During the four months long sit in with impressive attendance, Imran Khan rose as the national hero. A new national consensus developed as people began to envision Imran Khan as the next Prime Minister of Pakistan. By the end of 2014, the nation began to anticipate the fall of the Sharif government and mid-term election.

This consensus was shattered again by an act of terrorism and Imran Khan’s unwise response to it. A school in Peshawar was attacked by terrorists on December 16th, 2014. The School attack killed 132 Pakistani students in the provincial capital of KPK. On the  heels of the shock and grief caused by the horrific attack,  Imran Khan called off his movement against the government at precisely the time he had promised to take it to the next level – i.e., street agitation all over Pakistan.

Political leaders cannot afford to build hopes and then dash them suddenly. It is the worst thing they can do to their following. Hence on December 18, 2014, as Imran was pictured embracing the very Sharif he had been vilifying for four months, the consensus that had built around Imran Khan began to corrode.  The same has not been rebuilt with similar conviction ever since.

Having weathered the sit in, Nawaz Sharif and his ruling party, the PML-N (or “Noon League” as it is called in Pakistan) began to concentrate on governance. The PML-N seemed to have gotten re entrenched as the local body election results in 2015 and 2016 showed the Noon League in forefront at the grass roots nearly all over Pakistan. The local body election results gave birth to a fresh belief that the PML N will sweep the next general election, to be held in 2018, as no other party in Pakistan seemed strong enough politically to challenge its nationwide strength. PML-N cushioned itself again as a fresh national consensus evolved regarding its leadership prowess.

It was at this juncture that the Panama Leaks, an extraneous event, suddenly catapulted Nawaz Sharif’s leadership into crisis which kept getting deeper and deeper as the ruling Party failed to manage the allegation of money laundering by its leader wisely. Nawaz Sharif denied the allegation of money laundering. His denial lacked cogency.  Despite that, PML-N party cadre supported Nawaz, which brought the integrity of the entire party into question. The case is now in Supreme Court amidst an intensive media trial. Every day there are new revelations regarding Sharif family’s ill-gotten wealth as new witnesses surface to tell their first-hand account on TV channels.

The Panama Leaks have shattered the belief that Nawaz Sharif and his PML –N would continue to lead Pakistan beyond 2018. Because of the political mishandling of Panama Leaks at the party cadre level, should Sharif be removed from office due to court verdict or some other development, the fall of the central government is eminent.

A corrosion of consensus weakens not just a polity but also the incumbents, who must rule in the vacuum produced by the shattering of the very consensus they previously enjoyed in office. In addition to suffering from a repeatedly shattered political consensus, Pakistan is plagued by a government whose top executive is besieged by the investigation of money laundering.

At the time of writing, no political party is strong enough to fill the vacuum created by PML-N’s political enfeeblement post Panama Leaks. Meanwhile, as Pakistan moves away from the US, it is forging regional ties rigorously. Pakistan is forging stronger commercial ties with China through CPEC and with Russia through unprecedented joint military exercises. During this period of transition, two of Pakistan’s immediate neighbors, Afghanistan and India, have joined forces against Pakistan. Both are backed by the US, Pakistan’s ally no more yet a country with strong intelligence network inside Pakistan and unprecedented military presence in Central Asia. Pakistan is thus sitting on two fault lines, each crossing the other at critical political junctures.  One fault line is created by the fact that Pakistan’s structural shift away from its traditional ally, the US, is not accompanied by a shift in software application that would end the operation of intensive and extensive US intelligence within Pakistan. The other fault line is the political power vacuum caused repeatedly by the shattering of consensus through events triggered by forces extraneous to Pakistan’s main political function.

Pakistan’s nuclear weapons are indeed relevant to its defense, but the force Pakistan needs to manage its current risks is that of human intelligence.