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Current Affairs ( 14 Dec 2015, NewAgeIslam.Com)

The undeclared partition of Afghanistan: This Is How To Welcome Refugees: New Age Islam’s Selection From Pakistan Press, 15 December 2015

New Age Islam Edit Bureau

December 15th, 2015


The undeclared partition of Afghanistan

By Musa Khan Jalalzai

Buying peace at the grocery

By Jawed Naqvi

Lessons to apply

By Moeed Yusuf



The undeclared partition of Afghanistan

By Musa Khan Jalalzai

December 15th, 2015

The recent fall of Kunduz to the Taliban left far reaching effects on the ethnic balance in the north where the state has not been in full control since 1992. The fall also occurred due to the administrative and political confrontations between the two ethnic presidents (Ashraf Ghani and Abdullah Abdullah), which undermined the unity and integrity of the state. Former National Security Adviser (NSA) Rangin Spanta and former Afghan spy chief Rahmatullah Nabil criticised the government for its inability to manage the affairs of the state. President Ashraf Ghani recently admitted that some invisible enemy wanted the political partition of his country. “The enemy’s plan was that the political geography of Afghanistan should be partitioned into two,” he said. On December 3, 2015, the advisor to the chief executive, Mr Sanchakari, warned that some foreign and local groups wanted to divide Afghanistan. These complaints are not political stories; the government lost its control on 70 percent of its territory. Experts think the government is helpless and ineffective to counter such plots and this ineffectiveness might lead to the second Durand Line. The debate on the partition of Afghanistan has gone deep while the president suffers irritation and frustration as some ethnic commanders within the army and police forces are making things worse.

Interestingly, the country is being run by two presidents, two cabinets, two administrations, two bureaucracies, two budgets and two separate decision making entities. The appointments and transfers of governors and executive officers are being done on an ethnic basis. One president transfers or appoints an executive officer or governor, another rejects it and appoints his own men instead. The plan for the second Durand Line is in its final stage, while terrorists have started gathering in second Waziristan (Badakhshan) to push their operations inside Russia and China. President Ghani is also part of the plan of the second Durand Line to permanently divide the country on ethnic lines. Dr Abdullah is beating the drum behind him. Ambassador Robert Blackwill, in one of his speeches at the International Institute for Strategic Studies London disclosed that the US and its allies are thinking about a second Durand Line to divide Afghanistan into south and north.

The exponentially growing networks of Islamic State (IS) and its military strength in the country is a matter of great concern. The issue of controversial standpoints on terrorism remain. President Abdullah brands the Taliban as terrorists while President Ghani says they are not terrorists; they are political opposition. He also says, “Some members of the group have legitimate grievances given the torture and ill treatment they have suffered, and it is necessary to find ways to apologise and heal national wounds.” President Abdullah brands IS as the enemy of the people of Afghanistan while President Ghani remains tight lipped. Pakistan has, in the past, proudly viewed the Taliban as its national asset. Pakistani Senator Mushahid Hussian recently admitted that the Afghan Taliban were not considered an enemy on Pakistani soil.

However, the White House views the Taliban as facilitators of peace and IS as its naughty child. The Washington Post recently reported that Iraqi officials said that the US supported IS. Some Iraqi soldiers told the newspaper that they had seen videos of US planes dropping weapons to the IS military command. The US government does not stick to the principles and commitment of the Bilateral Security Accord (BSA) signed in 2014. The Pentagon and CIA are fighting IS in the Middle East and Persian Gulf but provide training to its fighters in Afghanistan. The Strategic Partnership Agreement, which was signed on May 1, 2012 between Afghanistan and the US, clearly elucidates that the Obama administration is committed to the stability and development of Afghanistan but, unfortunately, the Pentagon and CIA never realised the pain of the dying, staggering state of the country.

These contradictions of mind and thought have confused the military establishment of the country, which sacrifices more than 100 young solders every week in the war against the Taliban and IS. The Afghan state machinery is in deep crisis. The state has shattered and generated several states within a fragmented state. The bloodletting between the Taliban and IS continues unabated. Corruption has deeply wounded the body of the state. The staggering, one-leg Afghan state is being run by warlords and war criminals, which promote their own agenda, maintain their own militias and feed them from the state’s budget.

The majority of these war criminals act as police commanders and generals, and receive huge sums from the CIA and Pentagon. They officially control the resources of the missing state and are deeply involved in corruption, sexual abuse and drug trafficking. The clashes among state institutions have often been reported in the Afghan press. Clashes between parliament and local governments, and the scandal of Kabul Bank broke the back of the Afghan economy while, in 2015, Afghan Defence Minister Bismillah Khan Muhammadi and his colleagues defalcated all but $ 250 million in a contract with a foreign oil company. Now the process of revenue generation is in shambles as the tax money goes in the pockets of provincial governors and administrators.

On November 30, 2015, the deputy of the CEO, warlord Muhammad Khan, warned that powerful government officials, warlords and militia commanders had grabbed three million acres of land across the country. Many ethnic groups still need their representation and voice in the government. It is going to be a great task to integrate Afghan society. Afghans are living in a constant state of fear while millions of refugees in Pakistan and Iran are unable to return due to the instability across the country. Roads are not safe. Governors and higher officials, women and children are under threat. Highways, government offices and military headquarters are in danger. There is no job, no health and physical security, no food and no means of earning. As insurgents and separatist groups receive sophisticated weapons from their masters, the national security and territorial integrity of Afghanistan has come even more under threat. It seems the partition of the country is inevitable.

Musa Khan Jalalzai is the author of The Prospect of Nuclear Jihad in Pakistan.


Buying peace at the grocery

By Jawed Naqvi

December 15th, 2015

FELLOW peace campaigners on both sides of the border would probably disagree with me, but I do believe firmly that neither reviving cricket ties nor boosting bilateral trade is the way to correct the sorry relations between Pakistan and India.

If we can’t let people visit each other freely, don’t blame poor trade or cricket or, as is often the case, the Kashmir dispute. In any case, none should hold the people hostage to this or that tycoon’s greed.

Yes, Indian and Pakistani chambers of commerce must strive to do more business with each other. Such clubs, however, are about seeking profits. Peace and democracy is hardly their forte.

As for cricket, the same people — traders masquerading as industrial magnates, money launderers and punters, directly or indirectly push cricket and politics in both countries, more so in India than in Pakistan. Vulgar nationalism has been harnessed in their marketing gimmick. Use such and such cement, breakfast cereal or soap for the nation’s health.

Ordinary people praying for peace between the South Asian neighbours must not yield to the propaganda that a good business climate can heal political ties.

I stopped watching cricket years ago when it swapped its gene pool of social graces in a Faustian bargain with nationalist hooliganism. The body language of the players too has changed.

Majid Khan and Gundappa Vishwanath were admired by their generation of cricket lovers for their batting skills but also because they walked before the umpire could raise his finger. We can attribute it to commerce that today’s cricketers, with few exceptions, will defy even the electronic evidence. And then they would leave the crease only with a foul gesture.

They are far removed from Colin Cowdrey, Neil Harvey, Conrad Hunte, M.L. Jaisimha, Hanif Mohammad, the works, who exuded grace on the field. The intemperate burning of the bails on one occasion and the so-called bodyline series marked a brief departure but moulded humorously into the Ashes contest between England and Australia.

Recall the normal neighbourly behaviour until the mid-1960s when neither India nor Pakistan was hankering after improved trade, nor was the Kashmir question settled to anyone’s satisfaction if memory serves right. There were four or five crossing points from where people could travel easily and freely to the other side without let or hindrance. Cricket was a normal game at par with hockey between the two sides.

Then the trader-punter combo took over cricket, overtaking Kerry Packer and Abdur Rehman Bukhatir. It remains there. I remember Dawood Ibrahim waving the Indian flag in Sharjah as he ‘patronised’ cricket matches between the two sides from his VIP enclosure. Pakistani ‘re-export merchants’ were involved too. Some later moved into TV, nationalist TV.

Ordinary people praying for peace between the South Asian neighbours must not yield to the propaganda that a good business climate can heal political ties. If trade could improve ties, relations between India and Nepal would not be in the doldrums. If commerce could usher peace or democracy, we should not have let the East India Company leave our shores. Is China investing billions in Pakistan to shore up sagging friendship? Or is it that time-tested political relations have paved the way between Beijing and Gwadar. The idea that trade constitutes a mandatory prelude to Indians and Pakistanis going to a music concert together seems a devious alibi for bad politics.

It is true that the groundbreaking ceremony was held for the Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India gas pipeline in concert with politicians of India and Pakistan who did an unexplained about-turn in favour of peace talks, which is good. However, none should blame the hitherto absence of Tapi or a stalled pipeline from Iran for the fact that Pakistan cannot play a match in Mumbai.

Will roaring business make the Shiv Sena change its heart? Was it the poor trade volumes that made Pakistani militants attack Sri Lankan players in Lahore, which makes it difficult to hold a match there, particularly if it involves Indians?

The two countries should sort out the mess, which is a political mess.

There’s doubt though that Nawaz Sharif has successfully tamed the zealots, who were his mass base when they washed the Minar-i-Pakistan after the Hindu prime minister of a maligned country had visited there to usher peace.

Is Narendra Modi planning to disown his brand of religious extremists? That could be more crucial than any formulaic business deals with mealy-mouthed peace overtures. It was Hindutva fanatics who scrubbed Mahatma Gandhi’s shrine to seek its purification after Pervez Musharraf offered flowers there.

And while they can go about setting up as many gas pipelines as they wish they must explain something very clearly to the people. Why must people on both sides huddle like beggars at the visa counters while fat cat business captains are feted in the ante-rooms of power? And only when they give a sated burp, will it convey the signal of normalised relations?

Here’s one way to regard this overemphasis on the peace panacea. In an Indian movie about a Mughal prince and his affair with a courtesan — Pakistanis in packed trains came in droves to watch Mughal-i-Azam in Indian theatres in the 1960s — there is a line that seems nicely relevant to our argument.

Emperor Akbar is opposed to Prince Salim marrying Anarkali. However, his desperate queen suggests that such a tie-up could be a way to help tame their rebellious son. Akbar frames his wife’s suggestion into a blunt query: “Apni aulaad ko paaney ke liye humko ek kaneez ka ehsaan lena hoga?” (To get back our son are we to seek the goodwill of a handmaiden?) Why pass brazen blackmail for sagacious policy, is what Akbar told his wife.

Everyone goes to the corner shop to fetch their daily provisions. That they can buy an ounce of democracy or a bellyful of peace from the grocer is sophistry.

Jawed Naqvi is Dawn’s correspondent in Delhi.


Lessons to apply

By Moeed Yusuf

December 15th, 2015

THE Heart of Asia conference has produced some promising results. Perhaps of most immediate value is the Afghan and Pakistani leadership’s agreement to revive constructive engagement on Afghanistan’s peace process.

Quite a diplomatic victory, this is. The back­­channel had worked overtime for months — led primarily by the US and UK — to get Kabul and Islamabad to engage again. Both Afghanistan and Pakistan were reluctant till the last minute. And if one is to go by the public statements of their leaders, neither side seems too hopeful that coming together again will produce much to cheer about.

They may be right; the mutual mistrust may prove too deep to overcome. And yet, there is the undeniable reality that makes it incumbent upon them to give this their best shot: neither side can afford a collapsed Afghanistan and forward movement on the peace process is impossible unless they work together — read, unless Pakistan is on board.

To do so, they’ll need to learn and apply the right lessons from the peace talks earlier this year.

Pak-Afghan mistrust may prove too deep to overcome.

The basics first: both sides need to own up to the respective tasks. Pakistan must recognise that President Ashraf Ghani’s primary interest is not in talking to the Afghan Taliban. He needs a reduction in insurgent-led violence in his country to sustain his engagement with Pakistan. For this to happen, the discussion needs to move beyond finger-pointing. Both sides ought to agree on a very specific strategy targeted at recalcitrant elements within the insurgency, and Pakistan should pursue this in a demonstrable manner.

On the Afghan side, the direct link between Pakistan’s concern about TTP sanctuaries on Afghan territory and its approach to Afghanistan must not be overlooked. Acquiring Afghan help in tackling TTP sanctuaries is probably the single-most potent incentive for Pakistan to work the reconciliation peace with Kabul. Meanwhile, Afghanistan must demonstrate sincerity on its part — of the kind it did immediately after the December 2014 Army Public School attack in Peshawar. Its ability to do so would also allay Pakistani concerns that Ghani is unable to control his security establishment.

Then, timelines are going to be absolutely crucial in the next iteration of reconciliation talks. Both sides must focus on trying to frontload a few successes, however minor, that can be used to rally support behind their engagement. This will be especially important for Ghani, given the pressure he is facing for his positive overtures towards Pakistan at the recent conference. These successes could entail quick initiation of Taliban talks, action against specific targets of interest to either side, concessions in the broader bilateral Pak-Afghan relationship, even if unrelated to reconciliation, etc.

Related, I am not sure there is space any longer for a spread-out process to re-engage the Taliban. In retrospect, the attempt at reconciliation talks earlier this year took too long to move from talks about talks to ice­breakers. Such a dragged-out process will be open invitation to throw a spanner in the works.

We need a greater sense of urgency and a more focused approach. The first order of business is to get to a ceasefire deal between Kabul and the Taliban. Achieving this is the only way to buy enough time to be able to sustain the talks till they reach their logical conclusion. All sides need to jump right into discussions on a ceasefire and hold continuous sessions with a firm time limit set on achieving a deal. This implies that both the Afghan govern­ment and the Taliban must come to the table with realistic plans. Kabul and Islamabad should consider agree­ing beforehand on the minimum concessions they must get from the Taliban. Pakistan would exert whatever pressure it can to push the Taliban to agree.

Finally, the importance of controlling the narratives can’t be stressed enough. Even in the best-case scenario, violence in Afghanistan will continue for some time. If the Afghan narrative that blames Pakistan for every major attack goes unchallenged by Kabul, Ghani’s own space to manoeuvre will shrink further. Similarly, ‘spoilers’ are not about to disappear, even if their salience can be reduced. Pakistan would therefore have to temper its expectations. It will also be important not to allow space to those who wish to paint every anti-Pakistan statement as part of a conspiracy or evidence of Ghani’s weakness.

Both sides could adopt a policy of public praise and private rebuke. Publicly highlighting successes achieved as a result of engagement and keeping hard talk behind closed doors would convey candour when needed but also restrict the space for the naysayers to manipulate the narrative.

None of this is going to be easy. But neither can win unless they work at this together. There just isn’t another way.

Moeed Yusuf is a foreign policy expert based in Washington, DC.


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