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Old Sunday, May 15, 2011
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Default Important Articles

Democracy and addressing public issues
Nizamuddin Nizamani

Inflation, price hike, electricity load shedding and the extreme energy crisis all seem to be worsening day by day but, unfortunately, the media is too busy with cricket and a debate over the legitimacy of the release of Raymond Davis, utterly ignoring issues faced by the poor masses

As part of the volatile political scenario in Pakistan of late, we have witnessed a growing number of protests by the masses, especially by specific organisations, demanding the implementation of different promises and pledges committed by the coalition government in Islamabad in general and Sindh in particular.

The protesters have been demanding an increase in minimum wages, as announced by the federal government, e.g. for the lady health workers (LHV), implementation of agreed negotiations for the Sindh Professors and Lecturers’ Association (SPLA) and an increase in wages for the lower staff of the education department. These protests have, unfortunately, been responded to with violence, baton charging, tear gas and mass arrests. The provincial governments in Sindh and Punjab are crushing every agitation and registering cases against the peaceful protesters under the Terrorism Act. They might be afraid of the revolutions being led by the people in the Arab world. Hunger strikes in front of the press clubs in big cities are the order of the day. Bankers associations and the families of missing persons dominate the screen. However, all that hue and cry seems to be falling on deaf ears.

The SPLA demands a time scale at par with other provinces as negotiated and agreed to by the Chief Secretary of Sindh, Mr Ghulam Ali Pasha, and Ms Sharmila Farooqi, who was then the advisor to the chief minister of Sindh, on November 11, 2010. However, the government reportedly backed out. The SPLA was compelled to press for the demand peacefully but the government crushed their protests with water guns, injured senior male and female professors, arrested 36 professors and vengefully transferred 412 professors to far-flung areas. The lower staff in the education department met with a similar fate. The teaching community blames the minister for education who they cite as being stubborn and involved in malpractices. The teachers’ demands seem to be parked at the Secretariat due to the wrangling between the secretary and minister for education.

Lady health workers demanding minimum wages were brutally treated and baton charged, and 180 of them were arrested. Surprisingly, one coach full of lady health workers and their innocent children was hijacked by police on March 25 and directly taken to Sukkur Central Jail instead of some women’s police station.

On the other hand, the law and order situation has become abysmal in the interior as well as urban centres. The writ of the state seems to be nowhere. Only during March, 190 people fell victim to the latest wave of target killings in Karachi. In Balochistan, target-killing victims are common people, the central command of Baloch nationalist parties and young students, specifically from the Balochistan National Party, which is the Mengal group. The people’s government has shocked people by adopting the violent and oppressive tactics they themselves suffered during dictatorial regimes.

Inflation, price hike, electricity load shedding and the extreme energy crisis all seem to be worsening day by day but, unfortunately, the media is too busy with cricket and a debate over the legitimacy of the release of Raymond Davis, utterly ignoring issues faced by the poor masses. Despite having a few major and macro political achievements like the NFC Award, end of the 17th Amendment and introduction of the 18th Amendment, the people’s government seems to have failed in delivering on micro-economic issues.

The PPP leadership used to complain that, in the past, they were not given enough time to deliver on their promises and were ousted after the completion of just two years. In the beginning of their current tenure, they kept imploring the people to wait and allow some time to the government for sustainable development. What should the public expect after the completion of three years of their current tenure?

Dr Marvin Weinbaum, Scholar-in-Residence at the Middle East Institute, a think-tank based in Washington, and an expert on Pakistan, opines that the coalition government in Pakistan is not addressing public issues. This supports the arguments of the pro-military school of thought, which says that democracy in Pakistan cannot deliver and that the naïve politicians waste time and resources either by internecine conflicts or fall prey to the artful bureaucracy. He does not believe in the negotiations made among coalition partners to continue with the process until and unless they address the overriding issues, as without this the whole process seems worthless. He bemoans that, apart from Quaid-e-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah, there has been no collectively acceptable leadership in Pakistan. For a brief period, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto appeared as a leader but, after him, our leaders have a limited pocket following; as a whole, the Pakistani public seems leaderless. He argues that the people reaching the power corridors in Pakistan, from Ayub Khan to Yahya, Zulfikar Bhutto to Generals Zia and Musharraf, all start believing that they are indispensable. He warns of grim consequences in case democracy fails to deliver. He does not support any rapid change being invoked by some sectors, impressed by the political upheavals in the Middle East. He says that because of different circumstances, the situation can very easily be hijacked by illiberal elements in Pakistan. He recommends choosing competent people who enjoy the support of the masses, and that they be made accountable to the same public.

Three years are enough proof and the public craves the fulfilment of the thousands of promises and rosy pictures that were presented to them during the election process.

We need to support the democratic process, we need to make it accountable and address the macro and micro issues of public relevance for the literal survival of the citizenry. A namesake democracy breeds only new generations of dictators who might already be waiting in the wings.
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Default What's Economic Freedom???

What's economic freedom?
BILAL AHMED (April 24, 2011)

Basically, the word freedom defines its own ideology (free to practice its own conception of good) the same logic applies within the economic paradigm that, an individual or set of individuals, institution or set of institutions, nation or set of nations etc can practice their own conception of economic good.

That means free to invest or withdraw wealth or capital (there is difference between wealth and capital) into market or in conventional bazaar (there is difference between market and bazaar). Ultimately movement of capital is free plus all participants possess choice and the decision-making authority.

To explain the difference between market and bazaar, wealth and capital is beyond the scope of this article. For a quick understanding of market and bazaar, we shall assume it market and for wealth and capital we shall assume it as capital. The current era with enlightenment constructed its framework around freedom and supposes it free if the participants are economically free, or economic freedom. This is an ideal situation. However, I would like to share some elementary arguments associated with economic freedom.

The term economic freedom authorises us to practice our own conception of economic freedom or economic good, it's not finished here, although it starts from here. I argue that economic good for each participant finishes within the limits of profit and if I am not wrong that profit is the ultimate dominant economic good in the current phase if what you read is true.

Unprofitable economics practices wouldn't prevail in general. Those having profits are defiantly much freer than those, who are profitless, one more thing the ability to absorb the greater profit from market is quite small for all participants. Economic freedom shrinks and everyone can't attract profit from market. The same ability shall be restored by some individuals for whom we can say they are really free.

If economic freedom allows us to perform whatever we want with our capital then unequal distribution of income never allows us above phenomenon. Because in general, the profit-making ability falls within one group and the rest shall out of the scope of this who represent the majority, ruled by minority profit absorbers. What do you think this is an ideal scenario? The rule of the minority over the majority: No doubt dangerous for the political system (democracy).

One argument arises is of an individual default who cannot make the profits it is not the system, which means the system is appropriate, while the other side of picture is that the system is much elastic for corruption and supportive to maximise profits through legal methodology (monopolisation, cartelization, interest group league).

Movement of capital depends on profits. It's a fact that investment to its profits (returns) will be in the profitable sector. However, the remaining sectors remain unresponsive, when the margin of profit evaporates by any real or artificial causes. The investment shall also disappear that is the natural psyche of individuals in a free market economy.

The problem is of unequal distribution of income, the market is hijacked by some big bosses. The entrance to the market is open for all but real ability of investment remains out of scope for the general public because of hefty difference in income. In this way unequal distribution of income commands economic freedom.

An important point to define here, in a contemporary free market economy, the freedom for an individual is directly associated with capital. As the magnitude of capital increases, your degree of freedom increases. By the tool of capital, an individual can express his freedom. An individual without money is much more free. In the current system this can be easily understand without needful explanation.

In the above I have discussed the choices and decisions of an individual(s), No doubt an individual(s) serves the right for same but tight unequal capital distribution once again bind the individual(s) to act. In general the market rules the individual(s) not vise-versa (this is single direction function so called one way). This occurrence once again take-over the liberty of economic freedom.

Being a very small part of the market an individual(s) without capital cannot act on his fundamental right to practice economic freedom. The individual has only one choice to only serve the market as an obedient professional worker. An individual has the right of economic freedom but he cannot practice it through circumstances and the market fails to maintain the rights of an individual(s). This rational behaviour explains what may be a contradiction in economic freedom or the massive inaccuracy happening in system or both simultaneously.

In view of the above, the capital is centralised by profit and an individual(s) is blind as well as the deaf servant of market and market is bound with the contract of profits the ultimate interest for association. If the profit is dropped, the contract with market would be off. To remain part of the market an individual(s) must fall within profit line otherwise he is out of the market.

One serious problem arises right from here that, usually market participants adopt destructive activities for increasing their profit share for market survival. In the end, society bears the massive cost of their profits. The author, admits that there are a series of regulations on the market, but the market has soft avenues for the defaulter of regulations.

If the money is involved in any matter, there is a great probability for default, as capital (money) is the fuel of the market. According to an economic fundamental principle of maximisation of utility, individual(s) is free to maximise his utility, profit (that code is not challengeable if the economy is a free market) and unequal distribution of capital may support big bosses to justify their unwarranted acts. Economic freedom in the current times, even in advanced economies, is hard to maintain and to combat the same. Unequal distribution of capital must evaporate. Which is in principle is against economic freedom.
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Default Civil-military relations

Civil-military relations
SAIDA FAZAL( 28, 2011)

During the last few days, Leader of the Opposition in the National Assembly Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan has raised important questions regarding the civil and military relations. Speaking during the question hour on Monday, he reiterated three points he had raised earlier, vis-à-vis the military's mandate in dealing with the US, its role in domestic politics and a professed inability to protect the people from drone attacks.

Warming up to theme again, he said that the government hadn't come up with a clear statement as to what transpired during the ISI DG's meeting with the American officials during his recent visit to Washington. He also alleged that intelligence agencies were at their old games, funding certain politicians to destabilise the democratic set-up. And demanding an explanation as to why the military, despite getting astronomical budgetary allocations, had failed to protect Pakistani lives, he rejected Interior Minister Rehman Malik's reasoning that Pakistan does not possess the capability to stop drone attacks.

These are all valid and vital issues and concerns. Unfortunately, deviating from its defence-related duties, the Army in this country has made it a habit of directly or indirectly controlling the political decision-making process. This government is to blame also for willingly ceding much of civilian authority to the Army. It is an open secret that at present the Army makes all the key decisions about the conduct of war in the troubled tribal region as well as foreign policy. That reminds one of a clichéd but perceptive statement, often attributed to the war-time British prime minister Winston Churchill, but which actually came from French statesman Georges Clemenceau, that war [and foreign policy] is too important a business to be left to soldiers.

A corrupt and incompetent leadership that stumbled into power because of an accident has remained preoccupied looking after personal interests. As long as it was left alone, the Army could do whatever it liked in the disturbed areas, determining also the terms of co-operation with the US in its war in Afghanistan. Little wonder then that the Prime Minister felt it necessary to defend the abnormal relationship. He offered the explanation that the ISI chief's visit was part of a string of visits by various officials, including the defence and foreign secretaries, under the ongoing strategic partnership dialogue. That is fine for an answer. The question, however, pertained to the bigger issue of the military dominating the formulation of the country's defence and foreign policies. There is nothing wrong with the intelligence chief holding discussions with his American counterpart and other officials, but what he said and agreed to had to be decided by the government. Elected leaders, accountable to the public, rather than the military men are supposed to make all such decisions. Apparently, what the Leader of the Opposition wanted to establish was that instead of the government controlling the content of the discussions with the Americans, the Army acted independently, which of course would not, should not, be happening in a functioning democracy.

The question about the ISI's role in domestic politics is no less important. The Prime Minister could muster only a show-me-the-evidence response. He was willing to address the Opposition's concern, he said, if he had substantive proof. We all know about the intelligence agencies political activities from past experience, eg, the notorious Mehran Bank scandal of the early '90s, still pending in the apex court, in which the ISI is alleged to have bribed senior politicians and political parties to destabilise the then PPP government headed by Benazir Bhutto, and prevent its reelection. If it happened then it can happen now.

In fact, rumours are rife once again that a new political engineering project is in the works. They may or may not be grounded in reality, but the sense of alarm is genuine. The ISI is known to run a political wing. It would be unimaginable for an intelligence agency in a democratic country, such as RAW in India, to dabble in domestic politics. The ISI ought to stay within its mandate, too, and focus on protecting and promoting the country's security interests abroad.

As for the Interior Minister, his words do not deserve to be taken seriously but for the fact that he, rather than the prime minister, represents the real power in the ruling party. Note that he is interior minister, not defence or foreign minister. And yet he freely comments on all kinds of issues, including military's capability, or lack of it, to stop drone strikes. But his intellectual limitations allow him to think only like a 12-year-old, and treat everybody else at that level. Hence he tried to tell us that a nuclear-capable state is powerless to stop unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) strikes inside its territory.

Experts say these machines are vulnerable to basic air defences and have limited air-to-air defensive capability. Discussing the drones in a recent issue of "International Science and Technology, Security Policy", one such American expert, Andrew Callam, makes it clear that "limitations restrict UAV use to missions in regions where air defence threats have been eliminated."

More to the point, he says "even in the tribal regions of Pakistan, where there are virtually no air defences, members of the Taliban claimed to have shot down several CIA drones over South Waziristan." The problem clearly is not lack of capability; it is lack of respect for the lives of ordinary Pakistanis. We know it from impeccable American sources that drone attacks have gone on with the tacit approval of our government. It, therefore, should stop fooling the people. If it has good enough reason to support the attacks, it should explain the same to us.

The PML-N deserves to be commended for taking a courageous stand on all these issues. Some may want to point to its leadership's past to argue that it is now taking a principled stand on all critical issues because it has fallen out of favour with the military establishment, changing places with the PPP, which has now become a pro-establishment party. But then for anyone interested in seeing democracy strike strong roots in this country, what matters are not the political fortunes of one or the other party, but saving and strengthening the democratic system. It is imperative therefore that all branches of the state, and military as a subservient organisation of the executive branch, play their respective roles within the confines of the Constitution.
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Old Monday, May 16, 2011
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Default Four neglected crucial issues

Four neglected crucial issues
By
Inayatullah

Call it neglect, inefficiency or paralysis, as overwhelmingly important matters remain unattended or sidelined for months, if not years. Take the badly needed case of the supply of gas from Iran. Because of various factors – internal and external – the finalisation of the agreement with Iran was delayed for years. After the agreement was signed, it was expected that accelerated efforts would be made to implement it. However, little is known about the actual progress made and when it will be completed. Ironically enough, the Iranians have shown more interest and concern for the project than the Pakistan government. Is the weak and vulnerable government in Islamabad deliberately slowing down the process because of behind-the-scenes American pressure? Or is it just rank inefficiency? The silence or unconcern on the part of the opposition parties, too, is deplorable.

Water is crucial for the survival of our agriculture and for drinking purposes both for human beings and animals. Kalabagh Dam, essential as it is for the storage and generation of power, has been successfully placed in the cold storage – thanks to the irrational stand taken by Sindh and Balochistan. After long delays, hopes were pinned on Bhasha Dam. Reports appearing in the media, off and on, about initiating work in the area, have only served to create the general impression that instead of working on the project on a war footing – considering how desperately we need the construction of many more dams to cater to our essential needs – the pace of progress has been extremely slow. Whatever the initial hurdles or teething troubles, the government does not appear to have accorded the high priority that this vital work demanded. Why doesn’t the political opposition raise the issue in the National Assembly and the Senate?

More troubling, and in fact agonising, is the frightening prospect of the alienation of the people of the territorially largest province of Pakistan, Balochistan. No clear picture of what is going on this issue has been presented to us by the government, except for some administrative measures and references to a few steps taken under the so-called Aghaz-e-Haqooq-e-Balochistan package. The question is: Have the grievances of the “insurgents or separatists” been seriously considered and attended to? What indeed is the truth about the external (read India’s) involvement in the anti-state activities going on there? What was the content of the Pakistani accusations communicated to India at Sharm El Sheikh when the Indian and Pakistani Prime Ministers met?

While the federal government’s initiative about the restoration of the rights of the people of Balochistan has proved to be a damp squib, no real efforts appears to have been taken in hand to address the phenomenon of the disappearances of Balochis and the discovery of their dead bodies. The latest report of a student leader taken away and later killed has attracted attention at the national level. The government must come clear and clean about the bullet-ridden body of the former Chairman of the Baloch Students Organisation, who was abducted while on his way to Karachi. This latest case is bound to add fuel to the already burning fire of the Balochi rage. This, happening, weeks after the Judicial Commission had submitted its report speaks volumes about the way a crucial national issue is being tinkered with. The Commission had taken a serious notice of dozens of the cases of missing persons and the continuation of such disappearances. In fact, it had gone to the length of censoring the intelligence agencies for illegally detaining the persons involved. It is not known if compensation amounts have been paid to these people, as recommended by the Commission. Can we afford to continue this culpable neglect?

The performance of the political opposition here, too, has been disappointing. The PML-N does perk up in this connection off and on, and Nawaz Sharif did raise the issue once or twice, but no sustained effort has been made to pursue the matter seriously. It is time Parliament meets to focus on this issue for at least four days and presses the government to scrupulously and speedily implement its recommendations and directives.

I now come to a national concern, which I personally have been highlighting in some of my earlier columns. As stated in earlier writings, 60 million Pakistanis today are completely illiterate. In this age of knowledge and information technology, can a country, 50 percent of whose nationals cannot read the number of a bus, move ahead with time? Last year, the honourable Prime Minister declared the year 2010 as the National Literacy Year in a conference held in Peshawar. Since then little was done to implement the programme for the year; the Literacy Year was extended to 2011. A few million rupees were also earmarked for the activities to be undertaken.

So my latest enquiries about the programme for the year to be undertaken by the National Commission for Human Development, announced by the Prime Minister as the lead national literacy agency, indicate that despite reminders no money has so far been released to the Commission even though three months have already gone by. If this is the state of affairs in regard to the Prime Minister’s own, widely publicised, commitment, one can imagine the quantum of attention being paid to the national and regional literacy plans and programmes. No wonder, the latest Global Monitoring report relegates Pakistan to the category of a few countries, which will fail to achieve a single (of the six) Education for All (EFA) goals to which the Government of Pakistan committed itself at the World Education Forum held at Dakar.

The same goes for the Millennium Development Goals relating to education. With the enforcement of the provision of the 18th Amendment with education (and literacy) ceasing to be the central government’s responsibility, who will plan the literacy goals and monitor progress at the national level? In Balochistan and Sindh only a small fraction of the required number of literacy centres have been opened and there are little prospects of any substantial increase there. Left to them and their neglect of literacy, who will goad and guide them to bestir themselves and make rapid strides to catch up with the rest of the developing world?

Pakistan is one of the few countries where, while literacy is increasing at the rate of around one percent every year, the number of illiterates, at the same time, is going up. In 1951, the number of illiterate females for instance was 9 million. Today, it is nearing 40 million. In 1949, India, China and Pakistan had more or less similar literacy rates ranging from 14 to 17. Today, India is around 70 percent, China 99 percent, while Pakistan claims to be 56 percent literate with almost half of the population incapable of reading and writing. Again will the political opposition take up this severely neglected issue and make the government realise its inescapable responsibility mandated by the Constitution of Pakistan to eliminate illiteracy in the shortest possible time. Please, dear opposition, wake up the governments, at the centre and in the provinces, to move rapidly in this neglected field.

The writer is a political and international relations analyst.
Email: pacadepak@gmail.com
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Default The Balochistan dynamics

The Balochistan dynamics
By
Hamid Alvi

Balochistan area-wise is the biggest province of Pakistan, but having the smallest proportion of the population seem to be acquiring a focal position in the national and international media. The vast area does not only hold huge natural resources, but also has treasures of hidden secrets and stories of international interests that, unfortunately, result in the instability of the area and causes harm to the local population and their interests. The latest media reports converge on moulding ideas, building perceptions, and convincing people that the security apparatus is the main coercive tool being used against the natives to deprive them of their livelihood. The recent theme shows a similarity between the interested international partners and their facilitators at the local level. They blame the Pakistani media for not reporting on the brutal realities of Balochistan in any meaningful manner. Despite the fact that the province is of great strategic interest to the world, its people suffer from persistent, systemic and widespread human rights abuse by state authorities .The Human Rights Watch gives verdict by saying “indisputable” evidence points to the hand of the FC, the ISI and its sister agency, military intelligence, behind the killings and kidnapping. However, they fail to convince the general public on issues like the killings of 11 people by unidentified armed men at a Frontier Works Organisation (FWO) camp in Palari area of Balochistan’s Gwadar district, targeting “settlers” and government officials and killing at least 16 Punjabi speaking individuals in the Bolan area last August. The responsibility of all such incidents though has been publicly accepted by insurgent groups like BLA or BRA. They also do not bring out the army’s contributions in Balochistan for a common Balochi. Especially General Kayani’s announcements like the education city at Sui for the Balochi people and that Pakistan army will recruit 8,500 more youths from the province, while 4,000 Baloch youths have already joined the army after completing their training courses.Why the world focuses on Balochistan only? The answer lies in the vested interest of regional and global powers due to its geographical location. The covert hands supporting militancy, from within and through the safe havens provided to the militants in different countries seemed to be focused on the destabilisation of Pakistan. It is no secret now that the Government of Balochistan in exile (GOB Exile), established by the militants in April 2005, has its headquarter in Jerusalem, as is evident from the website that anyone can go and have a look. Very interestingly, the Balochistan Legal Fund (BLF) has the address originating from Washington DC. The ban on jihadi organisations and their assets freezing is a common international phenomenon, but what about such support originating from Washington? I am reminded of a document titled How India’s intelligence establishment see the Balochistan situation written by Kanchan Lakashman, which says: “While the US is broadly committed to the general ‘stabilisation’ of Pakistan, it does have a vested interest in delaying projects that would establish a dominant Chinese strategic presence in the region, particularly the Port of Gwadar.” Thus, the military analyst predicts that some US interest will be persistent through low-grade violence in the province and this is where the Indo-US interest converges. According to the WikiLeaks, the Americans are also interested in increasing their influence in Gwadar and other part of the Balochistan. A regional think-tank says: “Damaging China-Pakistan joint venture of development of Gwader port is one of the main US interest in Balochistan.” The Gulf Times reported that the investigations into the Raymond Davis case, have revealed that the US spy agency CIA is indulging in heavy recruitment of local agents in Pakistan’s south-western province (Balochistan) to locate the members of the so-called Quetta-based Taliban Shura. The Quetta Shura is a term used by the Americans for the Mullah Omar-led Taliban commanders. The probe also indicates that around 300 plus CIA contractors are present in various parts of the country, apparently to keep an eye on the Taliban and Al-Qaeda leaders that the American suspects have taken refuge in various cities and towns across the country. According to a source: The New York Times reports that the “Taliban commanders of Marja were killed in Quetta to give credibility to Quetta Shura, whereas the ISAF report confirms his death in action in Afghanistan.” The pictures obtained from Raymond show the sensitive areas of the Pak-India border, which has more relevance for India, rather than America. Surely, the US is not the only player in the province. The activities of Mir Suleiman, Khan of Kalat operating from UK, holding anti-Pakistan rallies and submitting a letter to 10 Downing Street maligning Pakistan for forcible annexation of Balochistan has its own dimensions? What amazes one is the presence and involvement of the Indian Consulates in Afghanistan bordering Balochistan along the illegal arms supply route, the arrest of Mir Gazin Marri in Dubai in March 2006 for channelling funds to BLA, and the arrest and release of Harbayar Marri in UK - these facts leave many questions unanswered. Our political and military leaders often have information of this foreign hand, but they never speak.The most surprising move has this time come from India - its first initiative for cricket diplomacy to improve regional relationship. Such an initiative must be taken positively, but the future must be predicted in the light of history. India has always had a hegemonic approach towards its neighbours and its goodwill gestures have mostly concluded with economic or militarily strangulating projects for them. May it be, the construction of a barrage at Farakka, near the border with Bangladesh. For the downstream riparian country, freshwater availability depends on the share of water diverted by upstream India, and as a result Bangladesh has experienced a 50 percent decrease of dry season mean flow amounts, since the commissioning of the barrage in 1975. Such drastic reductions have caused a series of problems, including drop in agro and fish productivity, saltwater intrusion and ecological imbalance. Pakistan is locked in other territorial disputes with India such as the Siachen Glacier, Sir Creek and the construction of dams, including Baglihar Dam built over the River Chenab in Jammu and Kashmir. Similarly China, Nepal, Myanmar, and Sri Lanka all have host of problems with India, leading to mistrust in relationship. The cricket diplomacy had this time coupled with a report that India is all set to build 558 roads at a cost of Rs500 billion along the border with two hostile neighbours - China and Pakistan - in a bid to effectively counter the former, which is working at a high speed to execute a world class infrastructure along the Indo-China and Indo-Pakistan border region.This apart, the central government has also decided to build an all weather road along the 1,417 km long Indo-Myanmar border region, besides the construction of at least 50 helipads to ensure a quick reaction from the air force and the infantry, in case of any eventuality. India had redrafted its military doctrine on building border infrastructure along the Indo-China region, as the road and rail connectivity at the international border areas are now seen as a force multiplier in a real war situation, since they help faster movement of equipment and quick mobilisation of troops. This needs attention in the backdrop of the Indian military chief’s statement of taking both countries simultaneously through its Cold Start doctrine.Having said that, way forward and dialogue must get a chance and we should not only rely on history full of suspicions. There is a need to understand the latest foreign policy trends where America works with three faces - White House, Pentagon and CIA and India admits that pressure groups at times force its Prime Minister to pursue a particular policy line. Even in Pakistan, Zardari and Kayani have a line of action which is widely discussed. The answer lies in understanding, developing and cementing the house to guard implosions and securing national interest and pride at the international level. The writer is a freelance columnist.
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Default US Imperialism. . .

US Imperialism
By
Dave Lindorff

There was a truly bizarre and telling paragraph at the end of a Wall Street Journal news report on Pakistan’s demand that the US bring home hundreds of CIA and Special Forces personnel operating undercover in that country, and that it halt the drone strikes in the border regions abutting Afghanistan, which have been killing countless civilian men, women and children.
Reporters Adam Entous and Matthew Rosenberg, with no sense of irony, wrote: “The US hasn’t committed to adjusting the drone program in response to Pakistan’s request. The CIA operates covertly, meaning the program doesn’t require Islamabad’s support, under US law. Some officials say the CIA operates with relative autonomy in the tribal areas. They played down the level of support they now receive from Pakistan.”
Earlier in the story, in fact in the lead, the article states that Pakistan has ‘privately demanded’ that the CIA halt the drone strikes and pull out most of the CIA and special forces personnel operating in the country. But by the end of the article, we learn that the country is ‘requesting’ a halt to attacks by the US on its own territory and people. But odder is this notion that because the CIA is a covert agency, its operations don’t need Pakistan’s support under US law.
Excuse me for asking, but what exactly does US law have to do with whether or not the CIA needs another government’s support for it to operate in that country legally?
Somehow we’re at a point where even journalists and editors in the US accept without question the notion that the US is somehow free to run military operations anywhere it wants, to kill civilians with impunity, and to ignore demands not just of foreign governments but of the people of entire nations, at will, and that the issue is not whether CIA and special forces activity in a foreign country is legal in that country, but whether it is legal “under US law.” This is the definition of imperialism. It’s what I remember reading about how the Roman Legions behaved in the lands they occupied.
This whole sordid tale in Pakistan came to light because of the outrageous actions of one CIA operative, Raymond Davis, who was arrested and charged with two murders after he slaughtered two young men, apparently operatives of Pakistan’s ISI, on a busy Lahore boulevard.
For all the US hyperventilating against Shariah law in Muslim countries, it was by applying Pakistan’s Shariah Law on the use of death payments to victims’ families that the US got Davis sprung.
But he was not freed before virtually everyone in Pakistan had begun calling for his trial and execution, and not before it became clear that he, and the rest of the US spy army in Pakistan, was actually involved in subverting civil authority in that country. There will eventually come a day of reckoning for this kind of imperial over-reaching.
Already, the US is losing its war in Afghanistan, largely because its imperial legions treat the whole Afghan population either as the enemy, or as obstacles in the way of its killing machine. Already the US is finally being pushed out of Iraq (another war lost). And things aren’t looking that great even for America’s latest imperial adventure in the little country of Libya.
In fact, as our vast and unprecedentedly expensive military bankrupts the nation, we may someday even find our own country being overrun by the armed agents of other lands, with their robotic aircraft bombing our helpless citizenry. When it does finally come to pass, we will have only our own imperial hubris to blame.
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Old Wednesday, May 18, 2011
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Default Who sets the agenda?

Who sets the agenda?
By
Zubeida Mustafa

SO much has happened between the US and Pakistan in recent months that it is time for a review of their relationship. It would require the two countries to step back and make a dispassionate and objective assessment of their equation.

A couple of days ago, a Pakistani analyst from a western think tank — Washington hosts a number of them of all hues — summed up in this paper the pros and cons of the strategic alliance the two countries have forged.

Moeed Yusuf wrote that the bond between the two countries “is driven by Pakistan’s utility [for the US] in fighting terrorism”. He added, “If it is about the bare minimum, terrorism and insurgency-led violence in Afghanistan and Pakistan may be enough to keep bilateral ties going.” Ironically, according to him, this predicates “the longevity of the interest on terrorism” on the failure of their current efforts to improve relations.

Yusuf goes on to give the long list of “primary interests” to be negotiated. They are actually irrelevant when there is no convergence on a basic framework within which the two states want to deal with one another. This also implies that the two sides find it in their interest to keep the pot boiling. This is exactly what many in Pakistan suspect is being done by their spy agencies.

Some sections of society — the elite and the civil and military bureaucracy — want healthy relations with the US in their own class interest. The vast majority, with the exception of the vocal religious extremists, does not have a say in the matter and probably does not care. It is so busy trying to earn its daily bread that it has no time to join demos or stand up to make its voice heard which in any case will be ignored. Even the religious lobbies use their anti-American stance selectively when they feel the need to embarrass the government. Many of them have received bounties from the US when they found it convenient.

One may well ask then what interest does Washington have in sustaining this relationship that is at best half-hearted? Of course, a lot of ruckus is raised about the danger of terrorism being imported to the American continent from our part of the world. But the main concern of the US is not terrorism. It is oil. With access to Central Asian oil through Afghanistan and the most natural route to Afghanistan through Pakistan, the US would want to retain control over this region.

What is Pakistan’s interest in the US? This question was answered 60 years ago when it entered Seato and the Baghdad Pact in the heyday of non-alignment. Pakistan wanted military aid to defend itself against what it perceived as an Indian threat to its existence. An offshoot of this military relationship was the strengthening of the army and allowing it a free hand in politics. Democracy could never flourish in Pakistan, and Washington has always had a comfortable equation with every military government in Islamabad, the divergence in aims notwithstanding. US arms supply to Islamabad has kept the army happy.

The policies Pakistan was forced to follow, mostly under IMF diktat, have proved to be detrimental to the vast majority. The country has lived with this contradiction because the elites have prospered and helped to mediate American interest in the country.

The souring of ties between the two militaries that resulted in harsh exchanges between the CIA and the ISI also indicated total lack of trust between them. As a result they have been playing a three-cornered game with their common enemy. It is Pakistan that suffered most.

The Raymond Davis episode provided the intelligence the opportunity to put its bigger partner in a tight spot. But we cannot be certain that the worst is over. Take the example of the drones. Since 2004 the US has dispatched drones from bases in the neighbourhood to attack militants from the air to avoid the need for ground operations. This has resulted in a heavy loss of civilian life (see table below).

Year Number of attacks Casualties
2004-09 96 1114
2010 134 929
2011 18 127

The Raymond Davis drama interrupted the pattern of events for four weeks but thereafter the drones were back. However, it appears that the deal paving the way for Mr Davis’s flight from Pakistan also addressed the drone issue. There has been no attack since March 17 — 19 drone-free days in a row. But can we assume that the drones will not return? With the Shamsi air base in Balochistan in place, how can one be certain?

Another point of contention is the presence of the CIA undercover agents in large numbers in Pakistan. What is the nature of their responsibilities? It did emerge that Mr Davis was hobnobbing with the militants. Whether all agents have been asked to leave the country is the big question. One cannot feel comfortable about the ISI’s relationship with the Taliban.

It appears that intelligence agencies from both sides are setting the agenda of US-Pakistan relations. Since spy agencies are not accountable to a democratic government their operation lacks transparency. How can it be ensured that the people of Pakistan also stand to gain from this enigmatic state of inter-state relations? The Pakistani intelligence’s first priority is to procure military aid to make the army strong. It is another matter that the country becomes weak in the process.

Zubeida Mustafa | Official website of Zubeida Mustafa
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Default Af-Pak: a peace to end all peace.....


Af-Pak: a peace to end all peace
By
Dr Mohammad Taqi

After the ‘war to end war’, they seem to have been pretty successful in Paris at making a ‘peace to end peace’” –Field Marshal Sir Archibald Wavell. Lord Wavell, a commander of the British forces in the Middle East and later a Viceroy of India, had been commenting on the treaties bringing World War I to an end and the future shape of the post-Ottoman Middle East, but the mad dash towards ‘peace and reconciliation’ in the Pak-Afghan region over the last two weeks suggests that after a decade-long war, we too may be in for more turbulence, not tranquillity.


The very connotations of the terms truth, peace and reconciliation make it nearly impossible to say anything critical of — let alone contradicting — the process. But when the inimitable host of VOA’s Pashto service, Rahman Bunairee asked me last week to comment on President Asif Ali Zardari’s remarks in Turkey about opening up of a Taliban diplomatic office there, I found it difficult not to be cynical about the whole drama. “Since when does the president have such clout to determine Pakistan’s foreign policy, especially vis-à-vis Afghanistan,” I responded. Thinking of Wavell’s words, I added that what appears now to be a solution to a problem will likely be the mother of many larger problems to follow. President Zardari was speaking for the Pakistan Army and the so-called peace proposal — the diplomatic street address for the Taliban included — had been drafted in Rawalpindi. The civilians may have been acting it out, but the script is unmistakably Khaki.

In the last three decades, Afghanistan has gone through ideological, ethno-nationalistic, and religious strife. It has been a battleground in the Cold War as well as in the hot conflict, with regional and global powers pulling it in several directions and ultimately finding it unmanageable. The powers vying for sway over Afghanistan have not only imposed war on Afghanistan but have also attempted to impose peace on it. But just like they have rejected every foreign occupation, the Afghans have also rejected every peace deal thrust upon them. A made-in-Pakistan solution, even if peddled through Hamid Karzai, is no exception and will never be acceptable to the majority of Afghans. But sensing an opportunity in Karzai’s schizophrenic relationship with the US, Pakistan, of course, had to try one more time to meddle in Afghanistan. The world superpowers may not have learned the lesson that they are unwelcome in Afghanistan but neither has Pakistan.

I had noted here last week that the meeting between General Ahmed Shuja Pasha and Leon Panetta has raised more issues than it has solved and that the Pakistani and US interests in the region are divergent. I had also mentioned that starting with the Raymond Davis affair, the Pakistani top brass has opted for bravado directed at the US to redefine the red lines, which have been crossed from a Pakistani perspective. The continued aggressive posturing by the Pakistani establishment, albeit this time with a full civilian façade and on the pretext of seeking peace in Afghanistan, indicates that the already dysfunctional relationship between the US and Pakistan is literally on the rocks. Any further brinkmanship on the part of the Pakistani security establishment may entail an American response, which may not be to the liking of the former. The drone strike immediately after General Pasha leaving the US was not exactly part of a 21-gun salute.

While the Pakistanis believe that the Americans are up to their neck in Afghanistan and the Arab world, they also realise that even without doing something terribly harsh, the US still maintains sufficient leverage through financial means. For example, due to the recent budget deal between the Democrats and the Republicans, the Pakistan Counterinsurgency Capability Fund (PCCF) has reverted back to the Pentagon from the State Department, for the rest of the fiscal year. In simple words, General David Petraeus, who remains a key proponent of battering the Taliban before negotiating with them, will continue to have a say in how and when the money flows to the Pakistani security establishment. The State Department, which the Pakistanis consider sympathetic to their ‘legitimate’ interests in Afghanistan, will have to wait its turn. Add to this the recent snub at the IMF and potentially more in the pipeline (depending on how Admiral Mike Mullen’s visit goes) and Pakistan’s limited options become rather evident.

The Pakistani perception, however, continues to be that the US pullout from Afghanistan is imminent and without jostling their way to centre-stage, they may be left out of any future arrangement in Kabul. An India-friendly government in Kabul has remained the ultimate Pakistani nightmare and they are ready to go to any length to avert such a scenario, even if it meant fighting till the last Afghan. To this end the Pakistani security establishment has done everything ranging from harbouring and nurturing the Taliban’s Quetta Shura and the Haqqani terrorist network, to actually taking the Taliban leaders into protective custody of sorts, thus denying the US direct contact with them to initiate a meaningful dialogue. The most important Pakistani concern about the drone attacks remains that they may decapitate the Pakistan-groomed future rulers of Kabul. But as it bets on the American drawdown being on time, Pakistan is also cognisant of the US patience running thin with its antics.

It is in this context of uncertainty about the US withdrawal and events preceding and following it that Pakistan has opted to project itself as the ‘peacemaker’ in Afghanistan. Hoping to pry away Karzai and any others who are hedging their bets for a post-US Afghanistan, the Pakistanis have actually taken a shot in the diplomatic dark. The complete blackout of the Pakistani manoeuvring in the US media and tepid response of the US officials, including Admiral Mullen’s talk in Afghanistan, indicate that the US is about to pour cold water on the Pakistani hopes to rule Kabul again by proxy. A last moment US plan to stay on is well within the scope of the future strategy.

In the Afghan memory, Pakistan, for three decades, has been part of the problem, not the solution. Each time that Pakistan has ‘sponsored peace’ there, rockets have rained on Kabul. Pakistan has miscalculated the Afghan and the US readiness to accept it as a partner in peace and the Gilani-Kayani-Pasha delegation to Kabul is being seen as a too-clever-by-half move to shoulder out the legitimate stakeholders. Unless Pakistan comes clean on the jihadist terrorists it harbours, any peace it sponsors will mean an end of all peace.

The writer can be reached at mazdaki@me.com

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Default Pakistan-China trade and investment....

ANALYSIS: Pakistan-China trade and investment
By
Muhammad Aftab

The founding of the Pakistan-China Trans-Border Economic Zone, upgrading avenues for trade, overland and across the Karakoram mountains, and steps being taken for integrated border management will enable both Pakistan and China to optimally utilise the “natural complementarities of the two countries”

Despite the tense situation in which terrorism has landed Pakistan, China, once again, has decided to help Pakistan. Besides boosting trade, it will invest in energy, mineral exploration, motorways construction, special industrial zones, and customs and tariffs harmonisation.

These plans were unveiled during Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani’s just-concluded visit to China on the eve of the 60th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between the two countries.

Chinese steadfastness is unmatched. “No matter how the global situation may change, the resolve and determination of the government and the people of China in developing its relations with Pakistan will never be swayed,” Jia Qinglin, chair of the powerful Chinese Peoples Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC) said at a reception for Gilani.

Gilani invited a joint business forum, and said “There is a great potential for the participation of Chinese corporations in the development of the energy sector in Pakistan. This includes hydro, thermal and renewable energy.”

“Joint ventures with equity participation of Chinese corporations and financial institutions, can transform Pakistan’s economic landscape and will certainly prove to be a win-win scenario,” Gilani assured the Chinese businessmen, investors, and experts. Islamabad would like Chinese corporates to focus on Pakistan in their strategic plans, as the two countries have a proven record of good relations in all fields and sectors. As a result of these close ties, Chinese investors, businessmen and traders get a very high priority at the government and private level, and all facilities are quickly provided to investors. Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao and Gilani, and top Chinese leaders lauded mutual ties and urged their “further strengthening”.

Trade is the top gainer since the two countries signed a Preferential Trade Agreement (PTA). The two-way trade rose 27.7 percent in 2010 to $ 8.7 billion. “Our two countries have set a target of attaining $ 15 billion in trade in coming years,” Gilani said at the business forum that was co-hosted by the China Council for Promotion of International Trade (CCPIT) and the Embassy of Pakistan in Beijing.

Beijing, in an official statement this week, also said, “Chinese government will encourage the Chinese enterprises to expand investment in Pakistan and strengthen their cooperation in trade, finance and science and technology.” The two countries have also enhanced cooperation in defence production, ranging from tanks to fighter jets, and civilian technology.

The latest example of cooperation is the May 19 opening of a Chinese-built nuclear power station at Chashma in central Pakistan. China will build two more nuclear power plants, under a just-signed contract.

The head of China’s Hudian Group informed Gilani the group would immediately invest $ 400 million and establish a 350 megawatt (MW) thermal power plant at Lahore. The group has expertise in hydro and coal-fired power projects. It is currently working on several projects in East and South Asia.

A report prepared by the US administration projects that in view of Pakistan’s huge energy shortage and leaping future demand, at least $ 21.8 billion can immediately be invested in this country. Its priority target is to immediately start generating 6,950 MW of power that will cost $ 21.8 billion. “It needs at least $ 7.7 billion to complete its six thermal power projects on a top priority basis,” chiefly on a government-to-government level. An additional $ 14.1 billion investment is required from the foreign private sector.

Many projects are likely to materialise following the Beijing talks. Li Ruogu, chairman of the Chinese Export-Import Bank (EXIM Bank) announced the bank would finance the multi-billion dollar Gwadar-Karachi-Faisalabad motorway. The motorway will connect the newly built Chinese deep-sea port at Gwadar, located at the mouth of the Straits of Hormuz, with Pakistan’s biggest industrial hub and financial centre of Karachi, and the third biggest industrial region of Faisalabad. The three cities have fast developing business links with Dubai and the Gulf Cooperation Council.

This bank already has financed huge Chinese projects in Pakistan. These include Chashma Nuclear Power Plants, Karakoram Highway that connects Pakistan with Eastern China through the Karakoram Range, and Saindak Gold and Copper Mining Project in Balochistan.

Pakistan-China Joint Commission on Economy, Trade, Scientific and Technical Cooperation, in addition, announced last December that China will invest $ 13.2 billion in Pakistani projects, spread over energy, water, industry, agriculture and fisheries. The founding of the Pakistan-China Trans-Border Economic Zone, upgrading avenues for trade, overland and across the Karakoram mountains, and steps being taken for integrated border management and customs and tariffs harmonisation will enable both Pakistan and China to optimally utilise the “natural complementarities of the two countries”, as China and Pakistan describe it.

Mark the significance of these projects. Their strategy is that, besides selling to the Pakistani market, China and Pakistan plan to export the production to Dubai, GCC, Middle East, Africa and other markets.

The writer is an Islamabad-based journalist and former Director General of APP

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