New Age Islam Edit Bureau
16 January 2017
Optimism Vs Gloom
By Huma Yusuf
The Curious Case Of Pakistan-India Relationship
Pak-US Ties: Return Of Carrot & Stick Policy
By Dr Muhammad
South Asia In The Emerging World Order
By Shahid Javed
A Nation Which Loves To Laugh At Others
Trump: Opportunities For Pakistan
Space For The Sharifs
By Syed Talat
Compiled By New Age Islam Edit Bureau
January 16th, 2017
THE words on these
pages over the past few days have well captured the despair many of us feel at
witnessing the slowly sinking ship that is our democracy, our human rights, our
freedom of speech, our very belief that humanity is united by a basic sense of
But if you follow
Ahsan Iqbal on Twitter, you’re probably in a much cheerier mood. From his
perspective, “Pakistan is rising”. This year has started on a particularly high
note: on The Economist’s Jan 6 ranking of the fastest growing economies,
Pakistan was the highest-ranked Muslim-majority country. The CEO of Nestle
Pakistan has said that Pakistan is poised to enter a “hot zone” of economic
activity with double-digit growth. The year 2017 will see Pakistan break free
from its categorisation as a ‘frontier’ market and romp ahead as an ‘emerging’
economy as per MSCI indexing, which will no doubt attract more investors. The
Nikkei Asian Review has given Nawaz Sharif “top marks” and predicted he’ll win
the 2018 elections thanks to his administration’s orchestration of an economic
turnaround and the CPEC windfall.
How does one
reconcile the growing anguish of many Pakistanis with the buoyant projections
of the country’s outlook on its planning minister’s Twitter feed? During a
recent prize acceptance speech, British novelist Zadie Smith discussed optimism
and despair, and reminded us that “in this world there is only incremental
progress. Only the wilfully blind can ignore that the history of human
existence is simultaneously the history of pain: of brutality, murder, mass
extinction, every form of venality and cyclical horror. No land is free of it;
no people are without their bloodstain; no tribe entirely innocent. But there
is still this redeeming matter of incremental progress”.
The powers can’t
have their cake and eat it too.
Smith also warned
that those with “apocalyptic perspectives” might miss incremental changes and
fall into despair. Perhaps that’s the issue — too many liberals and champions
of democracy are giving in to their apocalyptic perspectives and failing to
suitably revel in the incremental progress?
Sadly, I think
not. The problem is not one of perspective, but of precariousness. Pakistanis
are despairing because they no longer know the rules — and more importantly,
the values and priorities — of the country in which they live. And this sense
of precariousness, and the uncertainty and fear it produces, is a direct
consequence of the state’s confusion about its vision for Pakistan.
A Pakistan in
which sectarian militant groups are defended by the interior minister and
social media activists disappeared is not an unfamiliar place. How could we
forget the 1980s so soon? Such events align perfectly with an entrenched belief
that Pakistan is under existential threat from its neighbours and the world’s
great powers, and that only a securitised state can protect the nation’s
sovereignty and territorial integrity. In this context, anyone that threatens
the power and control of the securitised state — whether it be external actors
with Cold Start doctrines or no-name Facebook users who question security
policies — is the enemy. This paradigm is consistent and familiar.
cannot both be rising and existentially threatened. These world views do not
and cannot align. The state’s dilemma is that it cannot reconcile the
disconnect, nor can it wilfully induce cognitive dissonance among the public.
And while this disconnect endures, Pakistanis will remain on uncertain footing,
fearful of falling, and that too on unfamiliar ground.
A country cannot
simultaneously experience prosperity (reflected in the rise of a middle class,
improving socio-economic indicators, inward investment and greater connectivity
with the world) and peril (which demands authoritarianism, surveillance and
The past few days
are a good illustration of why the contradiction must be resolved. Each good
news story about Pakistan’s economic prospects and positive outlook is
undermined by a negative news headline about persistent militancy and
widespread human rights violations. International allies, investors, and the
diaspora community may rejoice at the former, but they don’t like the latter.
Even our all-weather friend China has called for tighter border controls with
Pakistan (at the same time that it’s putting up the cash for mega projects
aimed at facilitating the movement of goods and energy supplies across that
Our powers that be
should not be greedy at the expense of Pakistan’s institutions and social
fabric. They cannot have their cake and eat it too. They cannot have both
complete power and prosperity. They cannot live by the fallacy that Pakistan is
both rising and falling at every moment. They must choose between optimism and
despair as they craft their vision for the country, and know that their choice
will be reflected in the daily experience of its citizens. My vote is for
optimism, and the open, democratic, progressive and prosperous Pakistan that it
By Shazar Shafqat
India and Pakistan are at it again. The war of words has recently echoed in the
United Nations. His Excellency, Mr. António Guterres, the ninth Secretary
General of the United Nations, may not find it the most opportune time to have
taken over the reins of the UN.
Whether it be the
dossiers prepared by the Pakistani government highlighting the espionage
activities carried out on the Pakistani soil by the Indian operatives, or the
Indian calls for declaring Pakistan a state sponsor of terrorism. All of these
are politically motivated moves aimed at having the last laugh, and unsettling
the adversary’s policy decisions back home.
Does this bode
well? No. Whenever the tensions between India and Pakistan are on the rise, the
entire South Asian region comes under jeopardy. Well, you just can’t endanger
1.7 billion lives-can you? That’s how catastrophic it can be.
nuclear in 1998, both the countries have, at many a times, scared the hell out
of the entire world, particularly the South Asians. Remember December 13, 2001?
Remember the eyeball — to-eyeball confrontation? Remember the Mumbai episode?
You’ll surely remember the latest Uri and Nagrota Base incidents that have
flared up the discussions on lowering the nuclear threshold even more. This is
where the stability-instability paradox comes into play. Although, India and
Pakistan have enjoyed relative stability at the nuclear level, yet the
instability at the sub-conventional level is an anathema in itself.
The possession of
nukes might have played a key role in deterring both the countries from
engaging in any sort of heroism. The concept of limited war with controlled
escalation does prevail. But, with emotions running high on both sides of the
LOC- who is to ensure the war, once started, would remain limited? After all,
considering the love lost both the countries have for each other; sanity, in
such a situation, often takes a back seat.
It is pertinent to
note that individual consciousness determines the level of conscientiousness
one will exude. For leaders in India and Pakistan, the level of insight and
command over regional as well as international affairs tend to matter a lot.
The absence of which can lead to jingoistic, narrow and short-term policy
objectives, whereas, a high level of perceptivity can infuse calmness and
equanimity. The problem with leaders in India-Pakistan region is that they’re
either too ingenuous in their claims and policy decisions, or they succumb to
the right wing-the largely popular- narrative, all too easily.
If Mr. Nawaz
Sharif can maneuver himself through two sit-ins in the last two years,
presumably come out unscathed from ‘Panamagate scandal’ and ward off his
critics by being back in business after his open heart surgery in London last
year, then surely enough, a long-lasting peace initiative can also be envisaged
in South Asia.
Modi’s popularity graph has been on a steady rise ever since he took the office
in 2014. He has delivered to a large extent, and even the areas where he has
somewhat failed to live up to the expectations of his voter base are appeasable
If none of this
can be channeled towards harmonizing the South Asian region and spreading love
and amiability, then one may wonder, what else can. After all, what munificent
gift can there be for the South Asians if peace and tranquility looms large
over the India-Pakistan horizon.
Whatever the media
tells you, it is all but hogwash. Pakistan’s relationship with Iran is at
loggerheads. Introspection might assuage the conspiracy theorists a bit. Let me
put it straight. No, it’s not India, Israel or even the Unites States that tend
to pull the strings. The question is; does Pakistan actually need outsiders to
create panic and consternation? Aren’t the Pakistanis good at it anyway?
decision may be somewhat personal, but the ramifications can be significant
enough for Pakistan’s internal security. Similar Pan-Islamism ideas have been
pitched in the past, and the results haven’t been auspicious. It ought to be
deciphered whether, in the light of the current scenario, Pan-Islamism or
Pakistan’s internal security is what needs the most attention.
Well, yes, a
Muslim Military Alliance might come in handy, but the timing isn’t appropriate.
Pakistan is mired in internal conflicts, extremism seems to be penetrating deep
down within, and sectarian strife doesn’t seem to end anytime soon. In such a
quagmire, this is what the Pakistani intelligentsia needs to know: The threat
lies within, not without.
current hostility between the two nuclear-armed neighbors, normalization seems
to be too big a wish to ask for. The solution, although, isn’t fatuous. Both
India and Pakistan should look to marginalize the hate-mongering far right
extremists. This is what’s needed to break the impasse.
If India wants
Pakistan to neutralize Hafiz Saeed, then it may need to replicate the policy
decision at home. India should look to keep Raj Thackeray and the likes at bay,
particularly when it comes to India’s policy decisions regarding its western
neighbor. Pakistan, on the other hand, should ensure that the state no longer
patronizes the India-focused ultraists. If this can be achieved, then a
breakthrough might just be around the corner. If not, the people on both sides
of the international border aren’t any stranger to the jingoistic rhetoric,
Shazar Shafqat is an independent
researcher and a security analyst having expertise in writing about
counter-terrorism, internal security and military related affairs
By Dr Muhammad Khan
January 16, 2017
statements about the Pak-US relationship have surfaced from US this week. The
future Pentagon boss; US Defence Secretary-designate, General (retd) James
Mattis, promised incentivising Pakistan, provided Pakistan follow the American
dictates; do more for the security of Afghanistan and safeguard the US national
interests in the region. He said while responding the questions from Senate
Committee, that, “If confirmed, I will work with the State Department and the
Congress to incentivise Pakistan’s cooperation on issues critical to our
national interests and the region’s security, with focus on Pakistan’s need to
expel or neutralise externally-focused militant groups that operate within its
borders.” Indeed, the statement of US Defence Secretary-designate clearly
points towards the future American strategy, in fact a revival of the ‘carrot
and stick policy’
procedure for the confirmation of the Defence Secretary was conducted, the US
State Department spokesman, Mark Toner, endorsed the allegations; Kabul had
levelled against Pakistan, after Afghanistan was targeted through multiple
attacks. After the attacks, Kabul blamed Islamabad that, “the existence of safe
havens in FATA allowed terrorists to carry out attacks inside Afghanistan
whenever they want.” Whereas, the Kabul regime was direct and blunt in accusing
Pakistan, the State Department spokesman was very tactful, while making
accusation against Islamabad.
It was through an
indirect approach, the US apportions the blame on Pakistan and included some
positive words too, about the Pakistani achievements. He said that, though
Pakistan “had made some progress and had taken some steps to address these safe
havens, but clearly the problem persists.” In a way, it was negation of what
Pakistani military has achieved over the years against the menace of terrorism,
which US along with forty-eight countries collation could not achieve in one
and half decade and withdrew its forces, without meeting a slightest success.
Even US and NATO drawdown (leaving 10,000 US Special Forces behind on nine
strategic bases) was fully supported by Pak Army, otherwise Taliban would have
butchered them, as they did with former Soviet Army in late 1980s.
commanders and civilian leadership like John Kerry were full of praise for
Pakistan Army, once it supported and cover US and NATO forces drawdown. Then,
they were quite appreciative of the major military operations against, Pak Army
undertook in almost all agencies of FATA. What has gone wrong now that, there
is a restart of the blame game and demand for do more?
In all military
operations, Pak Army has operated against the militants indiscriminately,
without any biases. Indeed, neither Afghan Taliban nor Haqqani network has any
acceptability in Pakistan. They have never served the Pakistani interests,
thus, there is no place for any of them. Therefore, Mark Toner’s statement
that, “United States continues to urge Pakistan to act against all terrorist
groups without any discrimination” is based on ill will and just to second the
allegations from Afghanistan, whose leadership is acting as US and Indian
puppet. Washington and Kabul should not expect Pakistani security forces fight
against militants inside Afghanistan.
If there are bomb
blasts and attacks within Afghanistan, how can Pakistan be blamed. Is it not
the responsibility of Afghan Security forces to secure Afghan land? Definitely,
the “remoteness of the area along Pak Afghan border is an issue, but, Pakistani
security forces have proved that, it can tackle any threat and combat any
danger through its Grand Military Operation, “Zarb –e- Azb. This operation has
proved the worth of Pak Army and there has returned the peace and stability in
entire country after the successes of this and related military operations all
over the country.
Yes, If there is a
problem along Pak-Afghan border, it is on the Afghan side, where RAW and NDS
are collectively training, arming and harbouring the militants against
Pakistan. These militants of TTP are hiding in safe heveans in Nuristan and
other bordering provinces of Ahjnistan and operate against Pakistan, as per
dictates of RAW and NDS, which have the backings of their respective
Governments. Why cannot General Mattis and Mark Toner see that aspect? He has
been Commander of US central Command and commander of US forces in Afghanistan.
This mean whatever Afghanistan and India do against Pakistan through their
spying networks has acceptability for Pentagon and State Department and
Pakistan can be blamed even after doing so much against terrorism and for the
global peace. This is unjustified and indeed a discriminatory policy of United
States towards Pakistan.
The Foreign Office
spokesman of Pakistan, Mr Nafees Zakaria has strongly rejected these US and
Afghan allegations. Indeed, Pakistan does not allow usage of its soil against
any other country, which is a very clear state policy. In fact, Afghanistan is
home of terrorism and extremism and housing all sort of terrorist
organizations; the Taliban, The TTP, The Al-Qaeda, Daesh (ISIS) and host of
others. How can Pakistan or any other country fight these terrorist outfits
within Afghanistan? Mr Zakria said that it is “not appropriate to blame others
for the adversities due to the deteriorating security situation in Afghanistan.
The oft repeated claims regarding safe havens are, therefore, more of rhetoric
than anything else.” Furthermore, “The activities of Indian spy agency –
Research and Analysis Wing – and its nexus with Afghan agency – NDS – remain a
matter of deep concern for Pakistan.”
The revival of
Carrot and Stick policy of the US should be rejected right from the outset.
Pakistan had enough from US in its last seven decades history. Let us not be
dictated by U.S anymore and have a relationship based on equality and mutual
respect.US has always used Pakistan for the promotion of its national interests,
which mostly run counter to national interests of Pakistan. Owing to strong
footed Pak-China relationship, US is on defensive and trying to realign with a
new strategy, which Pakistani government should not forget is a revival of its
old game. Let us not be trapped again. Pakistan has lost over 65,000 people in
this global war on terror, besides, suffering over 119 billion USD on economic
grounds. Besides, let us talk clearly with Afghanistan on the bilateral issues,
the NDS-RAW nexus and about its blame game, which must be stopped now.
By Shahid Javed Burki
January 15, 2017
unexpected political rise is more than just intriguing. It will have
consequences that will go well beyond his country’s borders. It has already
invited a great deal of commentary by those on the left of the political
spectrum. It has also begun to be examined from different regional
perspectives. The left in Europe worries that Trump’s triumph is a part of a
general phenomenon that has become apparent on both sides of the Atlantic. In
Britain, Brexit was also an unexpected development. This resulted from a
referendum called by then Prime Minister David Cameron to determine whether the
British wanted to stay with the European Union or leave and go on their own.
Some 52 per cent of those voting were in favor of leaving. Most of the “leave” vote came from the
country’s smaller towns and rural areas. Those in London and other large cities
voted overwhelmingly in favour of “staying.” This rural-urban divide paralleled
the one that occurred a few months later in the elections in the US.
should worry Asia, in particular the southern part of the continent. Judging
from the commentary in the South Asian media, it appears that there is much
fascination with the Trump drama. It is seen as political theatre. It is yet to
dawn on the politically-wise pundits that the South Asian region which was next
in line to benefit from the world economic and political order built after the
end of the Second Word War would greatly suffer. That order is now under
threat. It had essentially three features.
One, it was based
on the rule of law put in place by agreement among states and was not enforced
by one powerful nation. Two, institutions of governance were established to
ensure that internationally agreed principles were followed by all nations.
Three, countries could not follow their own interests; they had to abide by
international law. Donald Trump’s rise is expected to dismantle this order. The
conduct of international trade was by far the most important element of this
economic order. It was trade that propelled forward the countries in East Asia
the World Bank called the “miracle economies.” China was the next big
beneficiary of this system. Next in line
were the countries of South Asia. It was this recognition that brought in China
to Pakistan with its China-Pakistan Economic Corridor. (CPEC)
What has given the
new American president the clout is the support he has received from the people
who were not political regulars. Since they were not active in politics they
did not figure in the many polls that were conducted as the Americans headed
for the November 8 presidential elections. It was their vote for Donald Trump
that put him in the White House. It is their politicisation that will push the
existing global economic order in a direction that will harm many world
regions, in particular South Asia. Post-election survey data suggests that the
Trump voters were not bothered by his bigotry, lack of decency, thin-skinned
approach to criticism and his use of cooked up data to get across his ideas.
Soon after the elections were over, there was near-consensus that these voters
went for Trump since they had been badly hurt by the process of globalisation.
There was job loss because of the migration of many industries to countries
such as China and Mexico. Lower-paying jobs went to immigrants from Mexico and
the countries in Central America. Trump seems to have read the situation
correctly winning the support of this group by promising to bring back to the
US, the industries that had left and building a wall along the country’s
southern border to keep out illegal immigrants who have entered America. These people want policymakers to concentrate
on what is good for America, not necessarily support a rule-based world order.
The most damaging
aspect of the new system Trump is likely to put in place is that it will, in
his words, place “America first.” Washington would not subscribe to a world
system which requires that some classes in the country may get hurt. The most
important consequence of this approach will be in the area of international
trade. It will become protectionist rather than open and rule based. This will
come about just as South Asia was getting ready to step in the shoes of China
which was moving out of manufacturing of goods that would be produced by cheap
and not highly trained workers. CPEC was supposed to move Pakistan in that
By Aminah Suhail Qureshi
Having my wrists
shackled with the manacle of nationalism, I struggled not to write on this
particular topic. I made a strenuous effort to resist my fingers from typing
these words as I feared crossing my boundaries and defaming my country and its
people. But even bacteria stabilise themselves after shifting from lag to log
phase. What are we (I did not use “Who” on purpose!)? We, as a society, have
set certain principles for ourselves, no matter how shabby and rotten. One of
them is finding entertainment and amusement in others’ mistakes, sufferings and
agonies. Our collective attitude, as a nation, towards dealing with almost
every controversy can adopt different dimensions. While one aspect comprises
jubilation, censuring, and abomination, the other facet consists of mocking,
damning those who initially derided, and then being remorseful. I have reached
this conclusion after my years of observation and, regretfully, this theory has
been vindicated by some incidents that have occurred lately.
Back in 2012, when
Malala was shot in an assassination attempt, the initial national sentiments
advocated for her safety and catching the culprits. I remember how every single
person prayed for her health and well-being and how supportive the whole
country was towards the decision of moving her to the United Kingdom for
further treatment. But then the dynamics changed and the same nation started
execrating the same Malala as an ‘agent’. The same Malala who was being
celebrated as flag-bearer of female education was later ridiculed for gaining
the apparent windfall fame and admiration from the West. She was accused of
being an opportunist who fled from her land for her personal gains in contrast
to thousands of girls who are still fighting the war raged against them on the
actual battlefield. This particular example followed the first course:
jubilation, censuring, and abomination.
All along his
career until recently, Misbahul Haq has been admonished for batting slow. Who
does not remember him being dubbed as a ‘Tuk Tuk’? He was scrutinised over his
captaincy in 2013 after series defeat against South Africa. After years of
denunciation and threats of being removed from the team, Misbah announced his
retirement from ODIs and T-20Is after playing the 2015 World Cup. The same
captain became the leading run scorer in the tournament from Pakistan. The same
‘Tuk Tuk’ became the oldest captain ever to score a test century while playing
against England at Lord’s in July 2016. The same Misbah’s captaincy helped
Pakistan in achieving the number 1 ranking in test cricket for the first time
since 1988 in August 2016. Now his slowness is described as his composure and
he is no more targeted after shameful defeats, including the latest one against
Australia. This specific case assumed the second approach: mocking, damning the
ridiculers, and being rueful.
A few months back,
the cameras of our beloved media captured the moment when Bilawal Bhutto was
shedding tears for his mother while taking her name. Some proclaimed it as a
proof of his effeminateness and taunted him for not befitting in the scaffold
of masculinity, and yet some doubted these tears to be pretentious and weapons
which could be used for emotional manipulation of the masses for political
gains. What has this nation not called him? Billo Rani, Zanani, and what not?
Even our politicians do not spare him when it comes to his English accent. At
such times, the whole nation stands united for deploring Bilawal’s naivety when
it comes to speaking in Urdu. But was this incident not poles apart from just
delivering a political speech in front of a bunch of people who are more
interested in the food that is scheduled to be served after political
assemblages instead of the speeches? Is the realm of politics actually derived
of emotionalism to such an extent that a 28-year-old man weeping in the
remembrance of his mother appears sissy and is unacceptable in this misogynist
society? This incident and all those related to this man mostly go through the
following process of audit: mocking, damning the taunters, and regret.
are such people who are difficult to be satisfied. While we would not spare any
single press conference for laughing at Bilawal Bhutto’s English accent, we
could not help shaming the Lahorite who accidentally blurted out a phrase that
actually is not deserved by us. She impulsively uttered “We are proud of you.”
We laughed and had a great time jesting at how bad her spoken English was. So
is more than half of this country’s! Should we all commit suicide over this?
Has it not been ages since we won freedom from Britain? Or are we still living
in an illusion of being a colony and have failed to enter postcolonial era?
Individuals who expressed their thoughts on social media and showed ‘concern’
that this might be her only chance to speak in front of a camera should realise
that creating a Facebook or Twitter profile might be their only chance to opine
about something.Quoting Jibran Nasir’s Facebook post on January 13, 2017, “All
those making fun of a little girl’s English to the extent of bullying her, do
you think your parents can say to you “We are proud of you”?”
It is not about
one, two or a few incidents, dear readers. It is about our common way of
thinking and looking at things. It is about our frame of mind. It is about our
orientations and inclinations. We do not even make a tiddliest effort to
control our fits of cachinnation upon seeing a person falling from stairs or
slipping in a puddle. This is what we learn from others and practise throughout
our lives. Why is it such a big deal? It is a significant issue for the same reason
as asking our government to make more dams and barrages, i.e. sustainability of
the human race, not Homo sapiens, because we proclaim our superiority over
animals. We just do not have to live; we have to live wisely.
Aminah Suhail Qureshi is a student of Biotechnology with an
interest in current affairs, politics and journalism
By Khurram Minhas
Pakistani media has
rendered Trump as the enemy of Islam and Pakistan. Situation in Pakistan was
not in favour of Trump in the past several months. How Pakistan ran out of
Trump’s unexpected triumph is a lingering question. Political pundits failed to
apprehend Trump’s win in elections. Public opinion was not different from
political pundits. They never expected Trump winning the election.
TV channels ran
long discussions and broadcasted elections results and in the morning all were
stunned. Their analyses fell on the grounds. In the morning, they were not
prepared to make fresh, hasty, and unprepared comments and analyses on Trump’s
unexpected victory. This was the lacuna of Pakistani media as they are habitual
of pre-planned emotional reactions.
Pakistan’s Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif wasted no time in sending a message to
Trump for his victory in the hope to work together to improve relations under
his presidency. The subsequent events after elections show positive trends
towards Pakistan-US ties.
There is a brighter
side of Trump’s election as President of the US. He has shown rationality
towards various issues and gave due importance to Pakistan-US relationship
during and after his electoral campaign. The Republican Party platform seems to
mark a pleasant departure from usual Washington rhetoric of blaming Pakistan
for its own internal as well as regional problems and asking it to do more. The
58-page party platform released during Trump’s election campaign is reflective
of an unexpectedly friendly towards Pakistan and recognizes the historic ties
the US has had with Islamabad. It also stresses the need to continue this
The best part of
Trump’s apparent policy towards South Asia is his willingness of mediation for
Kashmir dispute. He has publically expressed his willingness on two occasions;
firstly, in an interview to “Hindustan Times”, Trump said that, he would be
willing to play a mediatory role in addressing the “very, very hot tinderbox”
of Kashmir between India and Pakistan. Secondly, during the telephone
conversation with Prime Minister of Pakistan he reaffirmed his willingness to
mediate the Kashmir dispute. It was longstanding desire of Pakistani
establishment to involve the US or any other major power of the world into
mediation of Kashmir dispute, which was rejected repeatedly by the US.
Therefore, Trump’s stay in White House as President represents one of the most
important opportunities for the positive developments over Kashmir dispute.
businessman he will try to increase economic relationship with the world and
with South Asian countries. Trump’s business mindset is likely to support
Chinese regional and extra-regional connectivity for business and trade. Since
2009, the Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) of the US to Pakistan was decreasing
gradually, which also negatively affected various sectors of Pakistani economy.
However, it seems that during the Trump administration, Pakistan will regain
FDI of the US in different sectors, which will help strengthening Pakistan’s
has direct relevance in resolving the Afghan problem, which is a key to Trump’s
apparent overseas defence policies. Pakistan’s importance will likely to
increase during Trump’s presidency in South Asia due to Afghan reconciliation
process. Trump’s policy of strong American economy cannot be materialized
effectively until and unless it reduces defence commitments in the overseas. He
has categorically rejected the possibility of military invasions during this
tenure. He has criticised his predecessors over military invasions, which
hampered American economy. In this backdrop, it seems that he will likely to
decrease military forces from Afghanistan. Therefore, he would like to see
resumption of Quad lateral Peace Talks (US, China, Afghanistan and Pakistan) or
other such forums in order to see reconciliation in Afghanistan during his
opportunities for Pakistan are emerging from the White House after January 20,
despite various challenges which have been highlighted by the media since the
election of Donald Trump. Now there will be a testing time for the government
of Pakistan that how it effectively exploit those opportunities in its favour.
Khurram Minhas is a research scholar at Islamabad Policy
Research Institute, Islamabad. He can be reached at
Space for the Sharifs
By Syed Talat Hussain
Even though the
political environment is Panama-leaks laden, the Nawaz Sharif government can
draw comfort from the fact that it has got one front less to fight on.
Since the change
of command in the army, there has been a visible shift in the tone and tenor of
civil-military ties. General
Raheel’s civilian-government smash squads and the accompanying PR machinery
have both peacefully descended into the dust-bin of history. A more normal and
professional outlook has replaced the functioning of the armed forces, whose
leaders are vowing to uphold the institution’s “dignity and credibility through
selfless ‘performance’ of our role and duties”. This is a far cry from the
state of affairs a few months ago
when cheap (and fake) ratings topped grace and propriety.
This has given the
government space — a word that in the Sharifs’ world means that the army is off
their political back. This, in turn, implies that they can be more emphatic and
sure-footed in the exercise of power. However, this space isn’t guaranteed to
last if the ruling family misreads its meaning and jumps to wrong conclusions
about its implications. This space can certainly evaporate if the Sharifs try
to harness it to their unfair advantage and attempt silly experiments.
Understanding this space is, therefore, crucial for keeping civil-military ties
on an even keel and ensuring that a good new beginning does not have a tragic
government has to recognise is that the army’s command has changed but the army
has not. It is the same institution that it used to be, whose professional
upbringing since independence has been
nurtured by coup d’états and direct control over all facets of national life.
The more recent
generation of officers has seen a more complex interplay of factors define
their worldview. The war on terror and the attendant cost of slow victory have
taken the spread of their idea of defence of Pakistan beyond borders. Now every
district and every union council is considered an area of legitimate action
meant to secure the country’s survival.
matters to what is taught at schools, from media reporting to the performance
of the stock market, the army’s eye surveys all. Their business and real-estate
dealings have woven them directly into the fabric of the national economy.
These dealings have built a huge financial stake in matters that earlier were
considered out of bounds.
Mentoring of the
last decade and a half has hardened the unflattering institutional view of the
civilian side. The Musharraf years taught them that politicians were a
dispensable commodity, bought, sold and discarded at will. The Kayani years
brought home the lesson that politicians need constant help and hand-holding
,and without the army’s advice and protection they cannot even do as much as
hold a electoral exercise much less steer the country’s defence and foreign
policy in stormy international waters.
The last three
years have made them think that it takes a Twitter account to beat down the
entire political class, and that marketing fictionalised glory is necessary for
keeping a upper hand in national affairs. All this has happened together with
the eruption of bruising political battles among the civilians, ruining
everyone’s reputation and popularising the legend that every closet is filled
with dirty skeletons.
COAS General Qamar
Bajwa cannot rewrite this orientation of the armed forces over night. No
commander can. He will not be able to change this mindset even in his full
tenure. No commander can. The best that can be done is to create a more
determined focus for this mighty force on pressing professional challenges, and
insulate its functioning from the daily grind of politics regurgitated and
projected ad nauseam through the national media. This is precisely what General
Qamar Bajwa’s new team is attempting to do, even though this seemingly regular
command communication itself has become a bit of a task.
contextualises the space that the government has got for itself. More
crucially, it highlights how limited this space is. Several things have to
happen for this space to become the new normal. Foremost among these is
enhancement of the capacity of the government to accelerate its decision-making
process in key policy areas. It has to go beyond holding meetings and issuing
re-assuring press releases. A calendar of activity with deadlines and marked
areas of responsibility has to be created to speed up the process of gathering
results in sectors that cannot wait.
agonising debate on proscribed organisations and military courts reflects
nothing but poor commitment and shoddy planning. The interior minister’s
bizarre stand in the face of growing national consensus on non-state groups is
just one telling sign of the characteristic laziness that marks the prime
minister’s exercise of his own command. Besides this, the style of governing
the country continues to be slipshod and unmethodical. There is one Ishaq Dar
for everything, and two foreign policy advisers and a defence minister for
nothing. Prime Minister Sharif wants to run all affairs himself and yet does not
want more than two persons around him as advisers.
His maximum time
is consumed by debating the Panama leaks, and now recently on throwing loaves
and fishes of development projects for political gains. Those designing the
political strategy of survival of the government and defeat of its opponents
are also deputed to design plans to manage and secure Pakistan’s interest in an
extremely challenging regional and global setting.
Sharif does not have a team beyond his core team. The cabinet is a platform for
endorsing pre-decided actions, and is dominated by the same individuals who
control and call the shots outside the cabinet room. This is ad-hocism at its
worst. No vision or reasonable plan of national action on strategic matters can
be born out of it.
The coming months
will test this system of running Pakistan through a kitchen cabinet. The new
army high command must be making its own plans to tackle challenges they see as
existential threats to or unique opportunities for Pakistan to secure its
borders, and enhance its clout. These plans will not go very far if the
political government does not own them or if it does not give its input for
making them more realistic and achievable. This requires preparedness,
sophistication in decision-making, a deep capacity to do follow up and, most
important, constant attention to detail.
None of the above
exists in the manner in which the Sharif government functions. It is chaotic
and lacks professional depth that can only come from becoming genuinely inclusive
in debate before planning. Fire-fighting methods have become innate to its
governing instinct. The only exigency that it recognises is the exigency of
survival in power.
If the government
continues to skirt tackling core challenges to Pakistan and if it is consumed
by daily politics, the space that it has vis-a-vis the army will not be of any
use. The space will shrink and
eventually become a thing of the past, generating the same debilitating
disbalance in the civil-military equation that has been the bane of this
country for decades.
So far the new
army chief has sent out all the right signals. The barracks are no longer
platforms of pointless boasting. Media space is used for articulating
institutional interests only and meetings under the prime minister’s command
have become more productive and congenial. In other words, he is improving and
changing his institution’s game.
Can the Sharif
government use this opening to step up to the plate? Can it significantly alter
its style of policymaking? Can it act like a government in charge of a
strategically important nuclear-armed state instead of remaining satisfied with
performing mayoral functions only? So far the evidence suggests that it is the
same old government it used to be when it did not have space.