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  #41  
Old Tuesday, April 03, 2012
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Phantom rulers


By Iqbal Jafar
April 03, 2012


WHO are the real rulers of Pakistan? Politicians? Bureaucrats? Feudals? The military? The question is not easy to answer mainly for the reason that none of the nominees for the award accepts being the ruler of Pakistan.

This confers upon Pakistan the unique distinction of being the only country where no person, party, group or class is willing to be recognised as its ruler. Undaunted, many historians, reporters, columnists, talk-show hosts and guests, local researchers and foreign spies, have been at it for quite sometime, but the mystery remains unsolved.

In the course of the search for the persons ruling this country incognito, many have given up, some have died, disappeared, been silenced, or have had their head shaven for being dense.

Ordinary citizens can hardly ever locate the `government` to get their problems addressed by the `competent authority`. On the other hand, functionaries, envoys and missions of foreign powers operating in the region are never quite sure who to negotiate with, so they talk to everybody from those perched on the hill top to those hunkering down in the plains.

This ridiculous situation had often been a source of much fun, but it has now ceased to be funny, especially in the context of Balochistan that burns and smoulders while disclaimers about who rules it have become more insistent and shrill.

The federal and the provincial governments, the military and the paramilitary, the police and the intelligence, have all denied having anything to do with the repressive measures, including the killing and kidnapping of the Baloch nationalists and political activists. In the face of these disclaimers who do we look for? Ghosts, apparitions, phantoms? Not just yet, one might say, for some other possibilities too have been suggested. According to one view, popularised bythe super-patriots, the unrest in Balochistan is being fomented as part of a bigger conspiracy by some foreign powers to break up Pakistan. One can agree or disagree with this assumption only by making yet another assumption, for there is little evidence, at least in the public`s knowledge, to prove or disprove the alleged intervention by foreign power or powers.

Granted though that anything is possible in geopolitical games, one cannot ignore the fact that the assumption regarding the so-called `foreign hands` remains unfounded, for no foreign spies, agents oroperatives have ever been caught or killed during all these years of insurgency in Balochistan, whereas hundreds of Baloch nationalists and political activists have been killed duringthe presentphase ofinsurgency.

Consider also the fact, even if there are any foreign spies or agents operating in Balochistan, they would only be supporting an already existing insurgency. The story of Baloch disaffection with Pakistan goes as far back as May 1948. The problemis not who started or supports the insurgency in Balochistan, but what to do with the phantom rulers of Pakistan who don`t seem inclined to either eliminate the foreign hands or pacify local ones.

Next, let us consider the theoretical arguments, based on deduction or the process of elimination, in support of the proposition that some foreign power or powers are behind the ongoing insurgency in Balochistan and the Baloch nationalists are working as their tools. The argument is, in fact, a combination of two different arguments that, if put in a loosely syb logistic format, would read as follows: First: foreign enemies are conspiring to break up Pakistan; Baloch nationalists demand separation of Balochistan from Pakistan; therefore, Baloch nationalists are agents of foreign powers. Second: Baloch nationalists and political activists are being killed; the military, paramilitary, and other agencies of the state are not involved in it; therefore, the Baloch nationab ists and political activists are being killed by foreign agents to destabilise Pakistan.

These arguments won`t pass the test of logic but may sound credible, or even acceptable, as a working hypothesis in a political discourse, if taken separately. But if the two arguments are taken together they can only lead to the conclusion that the Baloch nationalists and political activists are being killed by none other than those very foreign agents who are supposed to be busy supporting and inciting the Baloch nationalists to destabilise Pakistan.

Even more absurd would be the other possible conclusion that while one set of foreign hands arms, funds and trains the Baloch nationalists, another set of foreign hands kills or kidnaps them.

Can it be that those who keep repeating these arguments almost on a daily basis actually believe in the truth of these arguments and assumptions? Do they actually believe that the Baloch, who have been at odds with the state apparatus for the last 65 years, have no good reason to feel ignored, exploited and disinherited? One hopes that the false assumptions and arguments do not deceive the deceivers, as it sometimes happens, and the truth finally prevails.

Where should we go from here? In the first place the phantom rulers of Pakistan should step out of the fog of anonymity and take charge of the affairs of the state in accordance with the popular mandate, and the parameters laid down by the constitution.

Next, to initiate the process of healing, reconciliation and restoration of order in Balochistan, what needs to be done is for the supreme commander to summon a meeting of his commanders and discuss Balochistan for as long as it takes to reach a meaningful consensus on the future course. Together they must deliver the nation from the agony of paralytic inaction and stop this march of folly.

The writer is a former bureaucrat.

igjafar@gmail.com
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  #42  
Old Friday, April 06, 2012
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The pipeline path


By Najmuddin A. Shaikh
April 04, 2012


AT a time when Punjab`s cities are witnessing violent demonstrations against power outages, when the Supreme Court has declared all RPP contracts void ab initio and when each fortnight we see a fresh `circular debt` crisis, it is understandable that everyone is looking to the IranPakistan pipeline as a panacea.

We are all ready to make shrill noises about Pakistan`s sovereign right to go ahead with this project despite the threat of possible US sanctions. Since the question of sanctions looms large in the Pakistani imagination little heed has been paid, in the public discourse, to other aspects.

These aspects include: the work that Iran has done to extend the pipeline (IGAT 7) that it has built primarily to bring the Pars gas to the province of Sistan-Baluchistan; the cost of thePakistan part of the project; the problems associated with building a pipeline through insecure Balochistan; and the viability of working out a barter agreement to enable Pakistan to pay for the gas without having toresort to the international banking system. Using this system could well entail denial of access to US financial markets.

In this and a subsequent column I intend to discuss my understanding of these issues in the hope that better informed and technically far better qualified experts inside or outside government will provide clearer and more definitive answers.

First, according to my reading of American law the Iran-Libya Sanctions Act (ILSA) now made ISA again, the Comprehensive Iran Sanctions, Accountability and Divestment Act, the various executive orders and the Iran-related provisions of the National Defence Authorisation Act a company can be sanctioned if it invests in Iranian energy projects or supplies equipment for them. And foreign banks can be sanctioned if they make payments to the Iranian central bank topay for Iranian oil.

It would then seem that no sanctions could be imposed if Pakistan has not invested in the Iranian portion of the pipeline and no sanctions would apply if Pakistan made no payments for Iranian oil through the Iranian central bank. Gas purchases appear to be excluded from the present legislation.

Another part of the legislation calls for sanctions on pipelines to and from Iran but this has quite clearly not been applied to the three pipelines already operational Iran-Turkey, IranArmenia and Iran-Turkmenistan. There appears to be little risk, therefore, of sanctions on the Iran-Pakistan pipeline though questions may be raised for local banks if they are asked to finance the project. (Legal experts might like to see the report prepared by Kenneth Katzman for the US Congressional Research Service).

Second, the Iranian part of the pipeline has been built up to Iranshahr,which is about 250km from our border.

IGAT 7, a 56-inch-diameter pipeline, became operational in August 2010 and is supplying gas to Sistan-Baluchistan.

The last portion up to our border remains unbuilt; however, so far as my information goes an Iranian company has been selected to carry out the pipelaying. One should assume that the Iranians have wisely decided not to start work on the last portion until construction commences in Pakistan.

The 900km stretch built so far has reportedly cost the Iranians $700m. This means a cost, for a 56-inch-diameter pipeline, of less than $0.8m per kilometre. Presumably they have used pipes manufactured by their own Ahwaz Rolling Mill, a public-cum-private sector enterprise. Currently, the pipeline is carrying 1.8 billion cubic feet of gas per day (bcfd) but its capacity can be increased to 2.9bcfd which is more than sufficient to meet our needs. It is, however, thecost of the pipeline that should be of most interest to us as we ponder the allocation of contracts for the building of our 780 kilometre-long 42-inch-diameter pipeline.

Before I turn to the issue of the pipeline`s cost and financing let me talk about the sorry experience we have had in the past with energy projects. In 1984, we had purchased from the Soviet Union three turbines of 210MWs for the Multan power plant at a total cost of $371m for which the Soviets had provided the credit. This worked out at approximately 0.5 million per megawatt of installed capacity.

At that time I recall the then finance minister the late president Ghulam Ishaq Khan before signing the agreement in Moscow met Marshal Malinovsky, the then Soviet defence minister. Our minister argued that the price we were being asked to pay was too high. The marshal said the price was reasonable but complained bitterly that theChinese had made copies of these Sovietdesigned turbines and were selling them at half the price.

As ambassador in the US in 1990-91, I pointed this out and said that since it was then a buyers` market, privateinvestors should be able to get equipment at prices only nominally higher than those we paid in 1984 to the Soviet Union. We ended up agreeing that the cost would be $1.2m per megawatt for the Hub power plant and guaranteed a fixed return to the investors on this exorbitant price.

The scandal of the RPPs apart, there have been repeated instances in our public-sector organisations of exorbitant sums having been paid for contracts offered without public bidding or through manipulated tenders. On each occasion it has been argued that the need was urgent and procedures ensuring transparency and proper evaluation could not be followed. Let us not make this project another such example by suggesting that this pipeline should cost us $2m per kilometre and should be awarded without bidding.

The writer is a former foreign secretary.
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  #43  
Old Monday, April 16, 2012
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Promise of peace?


By Tanvir Ahmad Khan
April 10, 2012


BY a tragic coincidence, President Zardari left for New Delhi just as a wave of grief over the horrific loss of life caused by a mighty avalanche in the army`s encampment in the dizzying heights of Siachen swept across Pakistan.

Zardari had conferred with Gen Kayani the evening before and, in an appropriate division of labour, the generalheadedfor Skardu to take stock of the relief operation under way in the Gayari sub-sector while Zardari went on a journey that highlighted the imperative of peace with India.

The tragedy in Siachen was a reminder that confrontations between the two effectively stalemated South Asian neighbours have been futile. It is a pity that the Indian army blocks the implementation of the Rajiv Gandhi-Benazir Bhutto accord on disengagement in Siachen. By now, the need for deploying substantial forces in that snow-covered wasteland would have disappeared to mutual advantageIt is probably academic whether President Zardari`s primary motivation came from the declared intention of prayers and thanksgiving at the shrine of Khawaja Moinuddin Chishti or from his perception that, for a whole range of reasons embedded in the state of bilateral relations as well as in his domestic political needs, a conversation with Manmohan Singh could not be delayed further. We know from the past international initiatives of our president that public and private concerns coexist and mingle effortlessly in his case.

In the history of `accidental` summits between India and Pakistan, President Zardari might have done better than the erstwhile leaders of Pakistan. I accompanied Gen Ziaul Haq during his visit to India, undertaken to defuse the crisis on the borders created by Gen Sunderji`s massive Exercise Brasstacks.

We watched cricket in the Jaipur stadium, went to the same hallowed dargah in Ajmer and, in between, experienced anguished uncertainty if a meeting with Rajiv Gandhi would at all materialise. It did and a revealing comparing of notes by the two leaders, of which I am the solewitness, helped reverse the momentum towards an armed conflict.

The meeting did not, however, open any new doors for enduring reconciliation. As unilateral gestures go, Gen Musharraf`s dash to the rostrum with an outstretched palm to shake the Indian prime minister by hand at a multilateral conference is mostly remembered for its amateurish nature. Zardari`s pilgrimage may produce better results.

Zardari chose Ajmer Sharif as the focal point of his visit to India, a city known for the inclusive magic of a hallowed shrine that is revered by followers of all religions and that permits saints and sinners alike to connect with its abiding spirituality.

One does not know what Manmohan Singh made of Zardari`s Sufi longings but he would not have turned his face away from the secular potential of his presence on the Indian soil.

He organised a warm welcome fol-lowed by a lunch in the style of the Great Mughals, even as millions literally starve in the two countries, spoke amiably of the exclusive meeting with the guest, accepted an invitation, for the nth time, to visit Pakistan and generally indulged the Pakistani president in his desire to introduce his own emerging dynasty to the Indian dynasty that created modern India, got interrupted occasionally and now seeks a renewal of its long rule across the bridge provided by his stint as prime minister under Sonia Gandhi`s oversight.

In Pakistan`s fractious political culture, opinions about the dynamics of Zardari`s approach to India will continue to differ. But his readiness to walk an extra mile to replace decades of hostility by an era of cooperation is sound and timely.

The Indian foreign secretary was quick on April 8 to reassure Indian hawks that Manmohan Singh had, indeed, raised the question of Hafiz Saeed; he also clarified that his prime minister would visit Pakistan at a `convenient` time, a formulation that deserves the riposte that problems of bilateral relations, the complexity of the regional situation, the uncertainties ofthe endgame in Afghanistan and the interplay of regional politics with that of global powers warrant that the Indian prime minister should make it convenient to continue the dialogue in Pakistan itself.

We have also been informed that, on his part, Zardari talked of Kashmir, Siachen and Sir Creek.

The part of the bilateral spectrum that can and may be lit up soon is represented by trade. There is by now a genuine possibility that it can be substantially built up without stoking fears of the exploitation of the vulnerabilities of either side, a consideration more applicable to Pakistan`s weaker economy than to India.

Pakistan can expand commerce and India can adjust its infamous non-tariff barriers with considerable assurance that the consequence would be mutually beneficial. It will probably be some time before Islamabad can convince NewDelhi that it would be similarly advantageous to resolve more contentious issues and that, in the long run, the two countries should find a settlement in Jammu andKashmir in close consultation with its long-suffering people.

President Zardari is usually too preoccupied with personal gain to be a political visionary. He has, however, taken an initiative that can energise the lacklustre process of normalisation of relations between Pakistan and India.

Paradoxical as it may seem, he is today in a better position to deliver than Manmohan Singh.

The conversation held on April 8 would have better traction if the two leaders make it easier for the other side to move forward. Pakistan has yet to overcome the dark forces of terror that have claimed 35,000 Pakistani lives; this fact of the Pakistani situation warrants that India should not feel threatened from the Pakistani soil.

Building peace with neighbours is not a game; it is an undeniable demand of our times. If the interlocutors of April 8 dedicate themselves to this task, they would find the saint of Ajmer Sharif on their side. An accidental summit may become an important milestone in the quest for peace and progress in our blighted region.

The writer is a former foreign secretar.
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Old Monday, April 16, 2012
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The path of gas


By Najmuddin A. Shaikh
April 11, 2012


IN my last column I had suggested that Pakistan needed to be careful in awarding contracts for the Pakistan part of the IranPakistan pipeline. We should study such recent examples of pipeline construction in our neighbourhood as the Dolphin Project in the UAE, the IGAT 7 pipeline in Iran and the BakuTbilisi-Ceyhan gas pipeline.

The first benchmark ought to be the IGAT 7 of Iran for the obvious reason that this is the pipeline from which our gas will be drawn and if there are any flaws there they will affect us irrespective of what improvements or changes we make in our own section of the pipeline.

Here the reported cost of the pipeline is $700m for 900km of the 56-inch-diameter pipeline. Perhaps this figure is wrong but we need to get the full details from our Iranian friends and work out what wecan do including the possibility that we acquire the required pipe from the Iranian Ahwaz Rolling Mill, which presumably provided the pipe for the Iranian IGAT 7.

Of the other pipelines the one Ihave studied most closely is the Dolphin Project`s construction of the 48-inchdiameter pipeline connecting over 244km from the gas-receiving plant in Taweelah to the Fujairah power and desalination plant.

This successfully completed project was awarded to Stroytransgaz a Russian company in 2008 at $418m or roughly $ 1.73m per kilometre. At that time, steel prices were at an all-time high and Dolphin or Stroytransgaz contracted to buy 120,000 tons of pipe from Mannesman in Germany for more than $200m.

Since then, steel prices have halved.

According to the Steelonthenet.com website billet prices that were above $1,000 a ton in 2008 now stand at just about $500. One assumes therefore that the cost of material would be about half of what had to be paid in 2008. Were we building a 48-inch-diameter pipeline we would have needed to use by Dolphin standard some 400,000 tons of pipe but since ours is a 42-inch-diameter pipeline the requirement would be reduced to about 320,000 tons and would cost, even if we went to the expensive Mannesman source, about $300m. (I have seen a news item that our interstate pipeline compa-ny has invited expressions of interest for the supply of 335,000 tons of pipe which is roughly in line with my calculation).

Compressor stations will be needed and I have not been able to determine how many will be needed and what they will cost but a perusal of the literature would suggest that for the amount of gas involved we may need three or four compressor stations with a total 100,000 horsepower. These should not in my view cost more than $50-75m.

As regard other costs an American study suggests that in America in 2007 pipeline costs were roughly divided between labour (35 per cent), material (35 per cent) and the balance as miscellaneous of which right-of-way costs were about eight to nine per cent.

They projected that material costs would decline but labour and right-ofway and other miscellaneous costs would rise. Material costs have, as stated, declined. This, however, is the only factor, which is common to Pakistan and theUS. The other costs are much lower in Pakistan. The Balochistan government has granted right of way for free, and the cost of the skilled welder in Pakistan is about 10-15 per cent of the cost of welders in the US.

Our design and other miscellaneous expenses have to be much more modest since the current designed path of the pipeline, running parallel to the coastal highway will create few environmental concerns and require culverts or other major tasks other than the crossing of the Indus.

Perhaps this is wrong and experts should indicate what their evaluation is but to my mind in Pakistan the cost of material will be about 50 per cent of the total cost of our pipeline. That means our 780km pipeline should cost about $700m to $800m and no more. It is an amount that the government can easily cough up from its own resources if it diverts the gas surcharge towards this end, and the problems of finding foreign financing need not arise.

Turning now to the question of paying for the pipe that I presume we would import from Iran if Ahwaz Rolling mills has the capacity, I believe we have to seegreater use of imagination and innovation. To start with, we must work out a mechanism whereby our payment is made in rupees used by the Iranians to pay for what they import from Pakistan.

What can this be? The Iranians have contracted to purchase 120,000 tons of hard red winter wheat from the US at an FOB (Free on Board) price in excess of $300. Given prevailing freight and insurance rates the CIF (Cost Insurance Freight) cost will probably be in the neighbourhood of $380. Internal distribution costs will push the delivered cost of wheat to the provinces bordering Pakistan to $400 per ton or slightly more.

Within Pakistan we face the quandary of a wheat surplus created by the purchase from the farmer at a price well above the prevailing international price. The cost of procurement given the Rs950 per maund that the farmer receives is probably Rs25-26000 per tonne. If Pakistani wheat is accepted as being the equiva-lent of American hard red winter wheat the FOB price of $300 will just about match our procurement price.

Our cost of transporting wheat from the mandi towns to Port Qasim and then sea transport to an Iranianport should be possible for the $75 per ton.

We have also created a fleet of trucks capable of carrying 40-foot containers to cater to the needs of Isaf and Nato forces the need for which, even if supply routes are opened, will disappear in a couple of years.

If arranging overland delivery from our mandi towns directly to the flourmills in the Iranian provinces bordering Pakistan can be arranged would the freight and insurance cost remain below $100 per ton? The journey will be oneway; the chances of getting a return cargo are slim since there are few highvolume goods involved in Iranian exports to Pakistan unless something innovative is considered.

As ambassador to Iran in 1992-1994 I had proposed after some discussions in Tehran that in the areas of Balochistan bordering Iran we should ask the Iranians to supply gas cylinders that our own companies were not able to supply for logistical and other reasons. Could this proposal, which was then shot down, be resurrected to provide a return cargo?

The writer is a former foreign secretary.
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Negotiating with America


By Tanvir Ahmad Khan
April 24, 2012


MILLIONS of words have been written to explain why PalcistanUS relations have alternated between strategic collusion that occasionally became an important determinant of regional history and periods in which the United States punished Pakistan with lasting damage.

Analysts deconstructing the refusal of both sides to let go of an often troubled relationship have written book-length treatises on the dynamics of bilateral negotiations that continue in good times and bad times.

One of the most engaging recent studies of the subject is the book How Pakistan Negotiates with the United States by two veterans of American diplomacy in South Asia, Teresita Schaffer and Howard Schaffer, notable for focus on factors such as Pakistan`s ideological pre-occupations, geopolitics and power structure.

Impressive as the existing canon is, there is need for a more intensive and impartial study of the fast-changing context of Pakistan-US relations and of the negotiations undertaken tosteer it through new vulnerabilities.

Several factors make the period since the 1990s particularly distinctive. First, the Indian shift to market economy created an opening for Washington that had eluded it for a long time.

Second, the US skilfully differentiated between Pakistan and India in the negotiations that followed the subcontinental nuclear tests of 1998; eventually, this distinction led to the unabashedly discriminatory Indo-US civil nuclear deal.

Third, Pakistan`s Kargil misadventure accelerated what Stimson Centre`s Michael Krepon calls the `the big shift` towards a new strategic partnership between Washington and New Delhi.

Fourth, as if his monumental folly in Kargil had not caused enough damage, Gen Musharraf signed on to the post-9/11 American strategic plans in the region with very hazy terms of engagement.

Washington read Musharraf`s decision as a pledge of total compliance that it was to enforce later with coercive diplomacy, large intelligence presence and drone attacks.

Fifth, the decade-long war in Afghanistan got extended to Pakistan imposing unacceptable losses.

Sixth, Pakistan`s predicament created a divergence of objectives about theendgame in Afghanistan.

Seventh, as its Afghan project failed inexorably, Washington tried to impose upon the Pakistan Army tasks that were manifestly inconsistent with Pakistan`s national interest and which could not be undertaken with any hope of success.

Quintessentially, the crisis of relations that Pakistan and the United States are now trying to resolve with a higher sense of realism has three principal dimensions.

One, the United States, still the greatest military power in human history, is bruised by the lack of success in Iraq and Afghanistan in the latter case, notwithstanding Barack Obama`s military surge.

Two, Pakistan has yet to win the war against religious militancy which is destructive for Pakistan and is seen by Washington as a major hurdle in implementing its regional policy; the last sixmonthly White House report on Afghanistan and Pakistan to Congressnoted wryly that `[As] such, there remains no clear path towards defeating the insurgency in Pakistan`.

Three, though on the mend, IndiaPakistan discord has not ceased to be a potential threat to the pan-Asia US strategic design which would now have a new China-oriented centre of gravity in the Pacific basin.

Paradoxically, it is not just Pakistan that is trying to craft a viable foreign and security policy in stressed conditions; the US has to contend with unprecedented diffusion of political and economic power across the globe that took place while it was engrossed in its trillion-dollar wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Its impatience with Pakistan reflects the kind of irritability that imperial systems have been historically prone to in dealing with such transitions. It has intensified interference in Pakistan`s domestic politics though, ironically, it has often weakened client Pakistani regimes by subjecting them to imprudent coercion.

The US agenda included transformation of Pakistan`s armed forces and their mission. Relations with Pakistan would not have plunged so low if Washington had not embarked upon a policy to tame Pakistan`s military establishment. The coercive approach ran into a major crisiswith Nato`s fateful air attack on the Pakistani border post of Salala. The Pakistan Army has since demonstrated that it can leverage its strength better than the hapless civilians devoid of popular support.

Given the present realities, the iron law of necessity demands that Pakistan and the US successfully negotiate the parameters of their future relations. In Pakistan, the project is endangered by two sets of people: a powerful lobby in the political class, diplomacy, economic ministries and the media that yearns to get back to a golden past that never existed and agitational groups that thrive on pathological anti-Americanism. In Washington, the threat comes from segments of the establishment that are still not willing to factor into policy Pakistan`s strategic concerns and the aspirations of its people to achieve a semblance of what the political scientists fashionably call `sovereign equality`.Pakistan is no different from the other 190 states or so to seek stable and profitable relations with the US. Unfortunately for it, the American policy towards the regionin which it is situated has been subject to major readjustments and Pakistan has not been able to cope with the contingent shocks.

Now that its parliament has written a decent report, Prime Minister Gilani has met President Barack Obama and Gen Kayani has held long deliberations with Centcom`s leader Gen James Mattis and Isaf commander Gen John Allen, the stage is set to re-negotiate a more sustainable relationship. What can and cannot be done over the next several years can be discerned more clearly.

Pakistani negotiators should harbour no illusion that they can substantially alter American strategic priorities. But Washington needs Pakistan`s assistance till 2014 and beyond in sorting out the mess in Afghanistan; Islamabad should provide it ungrudgingly to the extent it remains compatible with its own security.

Considering that it will remain an essentially transactional relationship, the guid pro quo sought by Pakistan should be a significant American contribution to the rehabilitation of its economy; with energy, market access, education and training providing the principal themes of future cooperation.

The writer is a former foreign secretary.
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Islands of stability


By Najmuddin A. Shaikh
April 25, 2012


THERE is ferment in the Muslim world as the people seek a more democratic dispensation.

There is also a dangerous turbulence. Ostensibly, the turbulence flows from a revolt against dictators who have kowtowed to the West to remain in power and whose corrupt regimes have accumulated ill-gotten gains at the cost of the people.

Theoretically, all the protesters were united in seeking to overthrow dictatorships and to create governing structures responsive to the needs, economic and political, of all people. In practice it is a turbulence that has brought to the fore the divide between the extreme Islamists and the moderate interpreters of Islam, divisions among sects in Islam, the divide between Muslim majorities and minorities and that among variousethnic groups and various tribes.

In Egypt, there is a divide between the Islamists and the liberals, between the Muslims and the Copts and perhaps most importantly between the military and the people. Themilitary`s efforts at manipulation continue and make uncertain the prospect of presidential elections in May.

In Syria, the divide is between the minority Alawite sect and the majority Sunnis, with the orthodox Shia falling somewhere in between. Syria may overthrow Bashar al-Assad but it is not at all clear that democracy for all Syrians will come about. In both countries, the economic situation is deteriorating.

In Iraq, there is the divide between the Shia majority and the Sunnis who had traditionally wielded power and between the Arab majority and the Kurdish minority whose aspirations for independence may appear closer to realisation. However, this would threaten to tear apart the state structures of the entire area including Turkey, Iran and Syria all with substantial Kurdish minorities.

In Jordan, concessions by the ruling family have ensured relative peace but this remains threatened as much by internal tribal and ethnic fissures as bythe ripple effect of the ongoing IsraelPalestine conflict.

In Yemen, the overthrowing of a dictator has not resolved the tribal divides.

Good leadership under President Hadi may succeed in resolving this issue by power-sharing arrangements but the terrorists of Al Qaeda of the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) will make this difficult as will the army which will be needed to fight the group.

In Libya, tribal and territorial divisions Benghazi vs Tripoli and the absence of administrative structures has made the success of the Libyan revolution problematic. In each of these countries there is both revulsion against the West and the hope that the West will somehow help realise the democratic aspirations of the people.

One could go on to detail the problems in other parts of the Muslim world but one hopes the point has already been made that this is a familiar litany because in Pakistan, the second mostpopulous country of the Muslim world and its sole nuclear-weapon country, we have all and more of the problems that afflict the Muslim world.

Everyday we lose dozens of people because of sectarian and ethnic strife.

Everyday some Baloch say their grievances cannot be resolved within a united Pakistan. Everyday incidents such as the Bannu jailbreak show that the terrorists, both foreign and local, are becoming more powerful. Every other day we see stories of discrimination against minorities and of forced conversions. Every other day we see evidence of the collapse of the public-sector organisations that swallow the lifeblood of the economy. Everyday we see evidence that we remain at odds with our western neighbour and while good steps are being taken in terms of our eastern neighbour we still seem to allow our policies to be determined by illusory threat perceptions and unworthy and unrealisable ambitions.

Malaysia, Indonesia and Brunei, lyingon the periphery of the heartland of the Muslim world, appear to be islands of stability in the stormy sea that is the Muslim world. There we have seen relative stability come after wise political leadership and good governance has brought under control the various evils that afflict the other parts of the Muslim world.

Malaysia`s ethnic harmony between the indigenous Malay and the Chinese and Indian minorities came after years of able leadership and affirmative actions, which brought the Malays closer to par with their Chinese and Indian counterparts. Indonesia, after years of fruitless efforts, under successive military-supported dictators, to expand its territorial limits eventually not only gave up such ambitions, but even ceded part of the territory it held and granted greater autonomy to other areas. It could then reduce the influence of the military in politics and get on with the job of exploiting its rich natural resources tousher in an era of prosperity and economic well-being for the people.

Are there lessons to be learnt from the experience of these countries? Clearly, the chief lesson is that we must have stable and able leadership which even while looking after its own interests framespolicies, both domestic and foreign, to serve the domestic agenda of promoting the economic well-being of its people and eliminating the causes of ethnic and sectarian strife.

But to my mind the even more important lesson is that the administrative structure must be improved and depoliticised. We started with an administrative structure that was the envy of countries like Malaysia. It was recruited on merit.

Today, with notable exceptions, posts in the bureaucracy have become gifts that the politicians dole out to their favourites or sell to the highest bidder.

Today, no conscientious police officer dare arrest even a killer without checking his political connections.

How do we change this dismal picture? How do we become a country that the Economist once called the `model for economic development in the Third World?` My modest suggestions will follow in another column.

The writer is a former foreign secretary.
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Our clueless ruling class


By Iqbal Jafar
November 06, 2012


Political clash and conflict is not something new for Pakistan nor, indeed, for any other democracy in the world. What is new in the present situation is the fact that all the various elements of the ruling class are at loggerheads with each other, not excluding even the armed forces and the judiciary. This is unprecedented in our history.
Despite the game of musical chairs played by the contenders for power, and dramatic events like coups, dismissals, intrigues and betrayals, the ruling class had been a fairly stable entity until recently. Lest there be some confusion about what exactly this entity is composed of, let me offer an operational description of the ruling class. Under the present dispensation – and in order of importance – the ruling class consists of six elements: the military, the politicians, the bureaucracy, the judiciary, the media, and the legal profession. The last three are new entrants in the game, since about 2009. Prior to that, even the judiciary was no more than an adjunct to the executive.
While the ruling class as an entity was quite stable, there were internal adjustments to power-sharing between different elements of the ruling class on various occasions. It is worthwhile to keep those variations in mind to understand the internal dynamics of the ruling class since the early days when none of elements of the ruling class was quite certain of its role, and strengths and weaknesses.
The internal adjustment in power-sharing occurred five times since independence. From 1947 to 1951 (four years), the ruling class consisted of the politicians, the bureaucracy and the military, with politicians as senior partners and the bureaucracy close behind. From 1951 to 1958 (seven years), it consisted of the same three elements but with the bureaucracy as the senior partner and the military close behind. From 1958 to 1971 (13 years), the military was in the dominant position, and the politicians a poor third. From 1971 to 1977 (six years), the politicians were in the driving seat, the bureaucracy close to the seat of power, and the military trailing behind. From 1977 to the present day (35 years), the military has been the dominant power, followed by the politicians, and with the bureaucracy subservient to both.
The military has, thus, been in the dominant position for a total of 48 years, that is, from 1958 to 1971 and from 1977 to the present day. But since 2009 the ruling class expanded – under the pressure of events – to include the judiciary, the media and the legal profession. However, their relative position on the ladder of authority depends upon the context in which a comparison is made.
This, in brief, is the history of power-sharing since independence among various constituents of the ruling class. The present situation, however, is not more of the same. For reasons that have yet to be identified, the ruling class is in complete disarray. Each of its elements is in conflict with the others, and most of them have been weakened by internal conflicts as well. This has led to a rather complicated game of multi-pronged see-saw, with none of the players quite certain whether they are up or down.
One reason or, perhaps, the main reason of the anarchy at the highest level is that the ruling class, as a whole, is quite clueless as to what is happening to the state of Pakistan, why, and what to do about it. The ruling class is not only clueless but feels powerless to even contain the accelerating forces of disruption – lawlessness, poverty, administrative incompetence, collapsing institutions, sectarian and ethnic hatreds, and much else besides.
The ruling class has no one else to blame for this monumental mess but itself, and hence mutual flagellation in a situation where it is no more possible to round up the usual suspects. In short, the ruling class is in the grip of an impotent rage that can only be self-consuming.
Why have things come to such a pass? Mostly because this nation has been ruled by an increasingly rapacious kleptocracy for more than five decades, from the early 1960s. It succeeded only too well in stealing the material resources of the country and repressing its human resource. But in its success lay the seeds of its destruction, for kleptocracy is not an economically sustainable enterprise.
Now at the end of those five decades the ruling class finds itself presiding over a country that is financially bankrupt, economically decrepit, intellectually barren, and morally decadent. Might as well let the ruling class preside over this rotten mess till it is swept away in a manner where the remedy may be worse than the disease – something that often happens after a violent change.
Hopefully, it is possible yet to avert that kind of disaster by simply holding free and fair elections as early as the constitutional provisions permit. Those who have a stake in the future of this nation have to do all that they can to ensure that the results of the elections truly reflect the will of the people as expressed through their votes. Maybe luck will favour us with a dedicated leadership that will rebuild the nation brick by brick to replace its rotten structure and take us back to the land of our dreams.

http://images.thenews.com.pk/06-11-2...s/e-141318.htm
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Old Tuesday, November 20, 2012
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Here comes act two


By Shamshad Ahmad
November 20, 2012


Barack Hussein Obama has been re-elected as US president for a second term. He indeed is a miracle man. Four years ago he made history as the son of an African immigrant from Kenya and a white woman from Kansas to become America’s first-ever black president. Storming the last citadel, Obama had entered the White House in what was seen as a centuries-old barrier cross. It was Martin Luther King Jr’s dream for a ‘colorblind’ America come true. This miracle could happen only in a country called America.
Then, within less than a year of his presidency, Obama made history by becoming a Nobel Peace Prize Laureate as the head of state of a superpower that had tirelessly been fighting wars since the Second World War. This was no less than a miracle because he received this honour with no “peace” credentials of his own till then. It was an unexpected honour and a big “surprise” for Obama himself. He became the third serving US president to have won the Nobel Peace Prize. The other two sitting American presidents receiving this honour were Theodore Roosevelt in 1906, for negotiating an end to the war between Russia and Japan, and Woodrow Wilson in 1919, for the Treaty of Versailles.
Interestingly, in Obama’s case, there was no peace dividend visible anywhere in the world that could be attributed to his efforts. He had not even initiated any peace plan much less announcing a withdrawal schedule for ending the decade-long Afghan war. It took him two years to do so and that too under pressure from Nato allies and from his own war weary people.
Despite all the inertia of his first term, he has won the second term with a convincing lead both in popular and electoral votes. Of course, becoming America’s first black president four years ago was an unrepeatable feat, but now winning four more years is history as well. He is only the fourth Democrat since 1900 to do so. Others who achieved this were Woodrow Wilson, Franklin D. Roosevelt and Bill Clinton. What is even more creditable is that Obama made it in the hardest of circumstances.
No one since 1940 has won a re-election with unemployment at or above eight percent. Four years ago, he entered the White House with a terrible legacy of wars, global image erosion, shattered economy, depleted social security, healthcare crisis, and a decaying education system. In his first term, marked by hesitancy and inertia, he was mostly in the firing-line from the American right which contemptuously painted him as “Barack Hussein Obama, the Kenyan Marxist Muslim bent on destroying America.” Yet, the American people voted to let their 44th president finish what he had started.
For the rest of the world, there were lessons to be learnt on how democracy reigns supreme in America. It is only in this multi-ethnic land that a first generation non-white immigrant’s son can cross all barriers, if smart enough, to be the president of the most powerful nation in the world. One shouldn’t read too much in the post-election “secession” petitions by a handful of Obama resenters. What matters is that, after a fierce election battle, everybody quickly came around as one nation. Mitt Romney was gracious enough to concede victory to his opponent telling his supporters that “at a time like this, we can’t risk partisan bickering” and that “our leaders have to reach across the aisle to do the people’s work.”
President Obama was no less conciliatory. He hoped to meet Romney and discuss how they could work together. “We may have battled fiercely, he said, “but it’s only because we love this country deeply.” Obama assured his people, “whether I earned your vote or not, I have listened to you, I have learned from you and you have made me a better president.” This is the true spirit of democracy. We, in Pakistan, have never heard this metaphor in our own political verbiage. Sure, we have a long way to go to make democracy work in our country. But at least we should be learning what our systemic aberrations are and how others hold on to their national interests.
America’s challenges at the beginning of Obama’s second term are all too familiar: On the domestic front, the list is topped with issues of economy, employment, energy, education, tax reform and immigration reforms. The foremost priority has to be a budget deal on spending cuts and deficit reduction through changes in tax codes and social security entitlement benchmarks. Obama’s healthcare reform, which would have been repealed had Romney come to power will now be implemented as Obamacare legacy. Given the Republican control in the House of Representatives, Obama’s task ahead is not going to be easy but if he manages to bring the tax revenues and spending into balance, it might endear him to posterity.
On the foreign policy front, Obama has an equally challenging agenda on which he cannot afford to remain complacent. By now, he knows wars do not bring peace. Hopefully, he will resist any attempts to open new fronts and instead will look for peaceful arrangements through diplomacy and dialogue, not by force or coercion. He is likely to pursue a deal with Iran that verifiably limits its nuclear programme and avoids war; a deal in Afghanistan that averts civil war when the US forces leave in 2014; a deal with Putin for help with the political transition in Syria, and finally, a long-outstanding deal in the Middle East to create a Palestinian state with secure borders for Israel.
Obama has a watershed opportunity now. He has four years to build a legacy that none of his predecessors could even dream. Obviously, Washington has its own priorities as part of its global outreach, its larger Asian agenda and its ongoing Central Asia-focused ‘Great Game.’ But in the context of South Asia, the US must remain sensitive to Pakistan’s legitimate concerns and security interests. Any policies that create strategic imbalances in the region and fuel an arms race between the two nuclear-capable neighbours with an escalatory effect on their military budgets and arsenals are no service to the peoples of the region.
On the US-Pakistan relationship, Obama must take the initiative to end the cycle of suspicion and discord and forge a partnership that promotes the interests of both and is in accord with the aspirations of their peoples. It is time our two countries also moved beyond transactional engagements and focused more on strengthening their relationship by making it more substantive and meaningful through greater political, economic and strategic content. A paradigm shift is also needed in America’s global policies to address its negative perception as an “arrogant superpower” which, according to the famous two-times Pulitzer Prize winner historian, Arthur Schlesinger has “two sets of values, one for its internal policies and the other used in foreign affairs.”
President Obama must not forget “the principle of justice to all peoples and nationalities, and their right to live on equal terms of liberty and safety with one another” that his fellow Democrat predecessor, President Woodrow Wilson had spelt out in his famous 14-point congressional speech in January 1918. Woodrow Wilson’s ghost doesn’t have to come to remind him that to make “the world safe for every peace-loving nation which wishes to live its own life and determine its own institutions, it must be assured of justice and fair dealing, and that unless justice is done to others it will not be done to us.” Obama knows this line. He must now translate it into reality.

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Old Thursday, March 28, 2013
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THE SOFTER OPTION

Mohammad Ali Babakhel

SOME time ago, 38 ex-militants were released after receiving vocational training at Navi Sahar, an armed forces’ institute in Bajaur. It was an endeavour to reintegrate them into society, as violent extremism cannot be eliminated through force alone.
Radicalisation is not a quick process; rather, it is the product of historical events, ideological conflict, and social and economic deprivation. The mistreatment of the masses by the mighty has been a reality throughout history; it is this injustice that propels people towards radicalisation and extreme actions.
De-radicalisation is an endeavour directed at changing an individual’s value system and helping him reject the extremist ideology and embrace mainstream values. This is a constructive approach. The prevailing impression that the elimination of terrorism and other forms of violent extremism can only be tackled by the law-enforcement and security agencies is erroneous.
De-radicalisation equally requires the involvement of academics, researchers, sociologists, anthropologists, the media and clergy. Those who think that the law-enforcement agencies will be able to eliminate this menace in isolation are living in a fool’s paradise.
The hard approach to countering terrorism is primarily based on the use of force. In the post 9/11 scenario, few countries opted for soft counterterrorism approaches. In fact, de-radicalisation needs to be understood in the context of radicalisation itself. People who may be spiritually curious but have only a limited knowledge of their religion and are in dire need of money are most susceptible to radicalisation. In their search for potential extremists and terrorists, the hunters focus on a person’s psychological, financial and social needs, and then proceed to assess his capabilities.
De-radicalisation helps reduce the number of terrorists, increases the government’s writ and constitutes a cost-effective option for dealing with militancy. Various strategies of the method have been tried over the past decade by countries including Bangladesh, Egypt, Indonesia, Saudi Arabia, Algeria, Morocco and Jordan.
Bangladesh’s de-radicalisation programme is based on incarceration, intelligence and intellectual intervention. The strategy was created primarily focusing on the Jamaatul Mujahideen and Harkatul Jihad-al-Islami, and the programme chiefly targets religious educational institutions.
On the other hand, the overriding feature of Morocco’s de-radicalisation initiative is a human rights-centric approach. The programme is a joint initiative by the government and civil society organisations. By encouraging the investigation of past grave human rights violations such as kidnappings and enforced disappearances, the government tried to win the people over.
Further, human rights bodies such as a committee for justice and reconciliation and a centre for the rights of the people were established. These forums actively engaged with communities for the protection of human rights, while investment in the training of imams yielded positive dividends. The electronic media has also been effectively used in the de-radicalisation process.
The Jordanian model revolves around the perception that extremism increases due to misguided youth buying into perverse views of religion. Their de-radicalisation programme is based on military measures and educational inventiveness. Moreover, through the enactment of an anti-terrorism law and a fatwa in 2006, the state defined the procedure of issuing religious decrees.
Jail reform is another method that has been incorporated in the Jordanian programme, since prisons are a breeding ground for extremism. During the de-radicalisation process, it was also learnt that apart from other reasons, weak parental control plays a significant factor in radicalisation.
The Saudi programme, launched in 2005, is rooted in a psychological, cultural and religious basis. The programme appears to be a benevolent one as beneficiaries are entitled to pursue an education and marry with financial help. The programme brought 4,000 former extremists back into the mainstream. There is increasing realisation regarding education and the capacity-building of imams. The Saudi model believes in the segregation of radical and ordinary criminals.
In Pakistan, we should give prison reforms serious thought as our jails are places where ordinary criminals can be transformed into extremists. An estimated 63 per cent of the population is under the age of 25 years. Owing to illiteracy, abject poverty and poor parental control, young people are likely to fall prey to extremism.
A de-radicalisation initiative in Swat was introduced in 2009. The programme has three components, focusing on juveniles, adult prisoners and family members of detained persons. The Swat model can be studied for its impact and replicated in other parts of the country.
In Punjab, counterterrorism authorities, with the collaboration of a technical and vocational training institute authority, initiated a pilot project to de-radicalise former extremists. More than 300 former members of banned organisations belonging to 15 districts of the province benefited from the programme. The joint venture intends to enrol another 1,300 people.
The pilot programme was allocated Rs9.33 million, and former extremists aged between 16 and 35 years have been inducted. Trainees get Rs500 a month as pocket money, and upon the successful completion of training, are entitled to a maximum of Rs30,000 as an interest-free loan.
It is imperative that it is understood that incarceration alone will not counter the spread of radicalisation. The police and prison departments should be closely associated with de-radicalisation programmes. Our prisons push prisoners towards more isolation, making them vulnerable to radical thoughts. If we deny them access to positive information, we will be the losers.
In a few countries, an education-based approach has successfully been introduced in jails. Under such initiatives prisoners are in jails close to their homes. They are encouraged to study and access newspapers and television. Further, they have frequent meetings with family members. Such a humane approach has yielded positive dividends in terms of de-radicalisation.
This is a cost effective option. The United States spends $150 billion annually on its fight against militancy while Saudi Arabia runs a de-radicalisation programme at the cost of only $12m per year.
De-radicalisation is a soft approach to combating terrorism within the orbit of respect for fundamental human rights. Therefore, Pakistan will have to invest more in such initiatives.

The writer is a deputy inspector general of the police.
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Old Tuesday, May 07, 2013
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Default Under the shadow of violence

Under the shadow of violence


Mohammad Ali Babakhel


THE country is seeing unprecedented violence in the run-up to the elections. How challenging is it for the law enforcement agencies to respond to the scale of violence and how will security be ensured during the nine hours of polling on May 11?

Security at the polling stations in Nowshera, Dera Ismail Khan, Tank and Hangu, which have been notified for internally displaced persons, will present another challenge.

Apart from the candidates of the three political parties — the PPP, the Muttahida Qaumi Movement and the Awami National Party — that have been threatened by the Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan, the militants are targeting candidates from the tribal areas.

The offices of some such hopefuls were attacked in Peshawar and Kohat; in Bajaur Agency, a female suicide bomber targeted the entrance of a hospital (this was the second such attack in the area carried out by a woman).

In this phase of pre-poll violence, officials of the Election Commission of Pakistan have also been targeted. In Quetta, a district election officer was killed and in Kharan district, militants threw a hand grenade at the residence of an ECP officer.

Providing security for the 15,629 candidates contesting for national and provincial seats is a massive task. What needs to be understood is that the mere deployment of a few more policemen is not the solution. This may raise the visibility of the police, but it cannot guarantee security.

And, further, it must be kept in mind that policemen must be deployed according to a plan based on intelligence. A candidate from Bannu who was recently targeted was accompanied by policemen, and a few of them were killed as a result while the attack could not be prevented.

The militants are increasingly turning to technology. During the pre-election period in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, an escalation in violence has been witnessed in Peshawar, Kohat, Bannu, Karak, Charsadda, Mardan, Nowshera and Swabi. Apart from carrying out suicide bombings, the militants also lob grenades, plant improvised explosive devices (IEDs), carry out targeted killings and deliver threatening letters.

In the run-up to the 2008 elections, militants used the tactic of going after a few selected personalities in selected areas such as Peshawar, Charsadda and Swat. Currently, however, they are also attacking ‘soft’ targets.

This seemingly endless cycle of violence was already well under way before the countdown to the elections began. The militants have merely found more of an opportunity now to target politicians and their supporters. The media coverage of the violence has also played a role in the escalation of the general fear and confusion among the public.

In Sindh, Karachi has remained the prime focus of those bent upon sowing the seeds of terror. Apart from the killing of election candidates, workers of selected parties have been targeted. Lobbing IEDs at candidates’ offices is a favourite tactic of the militants. That a candidate’s convoy was attacked by a suicide bomber near Shikarpur sends an alarming signal about the penetration of extremists in areas that had hitherto been seen as largely peaceful.

In Balochistan, the areas that have seen attacks include Pishin, Quetta, Jafferabad, Turbat, Kech and Jhal Magsi. The violence has been of such severity that a 15-day ‘targeted operation’ was launched to ensure the peaceful conduct of the elections.

The unfortunate reality is that the militants have successfully managed to shift their focus from the macro to the micro level. This is evident from their shift in focus from public meetings to corner meetings and candidates’ offices.

The public has so far not shown too much enthusiasm about the coming elections, but as political activities accelerate in the last days before polling, so might the actions of the extremists.

Law enforcement authorities must carry out threat assessments, issue security advice — this is important as at present there is virtually no free flow of such information between the police and politicians — and provide protection to candidates, the public and to the offices and staff of the ECP. Police staff needs to be trained to transport the polling material safely.

The extremists are doing their best to spread fear and anxiety. They have gone on the offensive, trying to demonstrate their capacity to hit at will. Law enforcement agencies, too, must keep pace with their will and tactics. But, at the same time, the political leadership must recognise that there are limits to the security agencies’ capacities.

Pakistan has seen no systemic efforts to assess the image of the police. On polling day, when policemen facilitate the administration — for example by commandeering vehicles — they hurt their image. To prevent this, it is imperative that standard procedure be formulated and adhered to in such matters.

Given the adverse situation in KP, the police department took the innovative step of starting to issue security advice and carry out threat assessments. Police deployment has been increased to the maximum level. Across the country, though, it is difficult for law enforcement agencies to muster the manpower required to hold elections in peace.

In this connection, there was news that the Karachi police department is considering hiring a buttressing force of some 15,000 private security guards. Bringing retired policemen back on duty has also been considered but difficulties were posed by the lack of updated data verifying their credentials; such information should have been collected at the provincial and district levels.

May 11 will be a real test for the law enforcement authorities, requiring coordinated effort and patience.

It remains to be seen how far their efforts will go in deterring attacks.

The writer is a deputy inspector- general of police.

alibabakhel@hotmail.com


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