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South Asia

Gasping Democracy and Our Unrelenting Kleptomaniacs

Dr. Muhammad Aslam Khan

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The ‘melodrama’, every Pakistani is witnessing, for last couple of months, portrays a national tragedy of its kind. It is baffling to see as high an office as that of Prime Minister (PM) indulging in sinister manoeuvres,

which strike at the roots of lustrous institutions like Judiciary and Pakistan Army. Yet the irony is that the PM who happens to be the constitutional Supreme Commander (SuCo) and his mentor, the President, he seeks guidance from, are under cyclic attacks of hallucination ever since the dawn of ‘Memo-gate’. The institutions that stand guard to establish writ of the government and protect the constitution are under cross-wire of Pakistan People Party’s (PPP) top guns, who also ‘cry wolf’ incessantly.

However, more they gaffe and groan, more they sink in the quagmire of their own making.

PPP chief whip, Dr (pseudo) Babar Awan appears in rhythm with him to reinforce malignant campaign as vociferously as he defends shamelessly his claim of being a PhD from US University that never existed.  Judiciary, perhaps after withholding its months-long restraint, finally took notice of their blatant defiance and served them the ‘contempt of court’ notices. Not to mention their lesser lies but the Himalayan one, they tell from across the rostrum amidst flashing cameras to claim that ‘they have never defied Judiciary’, lamenting concurrently that conspiracies are being hatched against the ‘parliament’ and the ‘people mandate’ for PPP. Being the ruling party, they carry heavy baggage of suspected treason, misconduct, corruption and nepotism. The have resorted to adopting a flawed hypothesis that their confrontation with Judiciary and Army would win them people’s popularity for second lease of life in forthcoming general elections in 2013.

Anyone keeping tag of the events would sequentially list all unashamed government’s attempts to block the dispensation of justice despite the apex court’s clear directions for conduct of transparent proceedings. To save an ‘above-the-law’ scion of two political stalwarts, Shujaat and Pervez of PML (Q) from possible retribution in the wake of massive, more than proven fraud and embezzlement charges, PPP embraced these politicians to win their party support. Ditching the political morality and the public trust, invested in them could never deter them just because greed of power in their lexicon has precedence over all virtues. The deal inscribed a shameful chapter of history of the time when crimes against the accused were liquidated. Intelligentsia, if writhing in pain, is justified to express their anguish on sight of their shenanigans, bulldozing way through crippled lower court. Unfortunately, in the land of pure the politicians justify all wicked games under the label ‘politics’ because they have taken oath and thereafter prevails a dirty tradition here when often immoral, brazenly offensive acts stand condoned. Rather than serving the masses, ‘democracy’ has been turned into a safe haven for plundering the national wealth by its standard-bearers. What a trial when the state was in prosecution role and what a fantastically ‘honourable’ acquittal of the accused while PM who leads ‘supreme parliament’, claims to ‘respect and obey the Judiciary’. In fact, he rubbed on his toes the Supreme Court instructions for appointing honest officers for transparent investigation and seeing the charges through to the logical end. If no evidence comes up before the court and the prosecution witnesses turn hostile, Judiciary cannot act as vagabonds to hand down any punishment. That distinguishes virtues from the vices.

The apex court verdict about NRO (National Reconciliation Order) in unambiguous terms was also trashed by the PPP. PM cronies openly defied and mocked Judiciary rather in poetic overtones. PM’s defence lawyer, pursuing ‘Contempt’ hearing made frightening revelation. He said there was no action left in NRO that was feasible to implement and PM thought it expedient, not to write letter to Swiss authorities to extricate public money stashed by the plunderers because his law team had given such recommendations. Mr. Aitzaz Hasan had no answer when the Bench reminded him about PM’s obligation of heeding to the court’s judgment and not to the law team’s summaries.

As if NRO and successive corruption scandals, generally cracked by vigilant media every fortnight were not enough. In between landed another bombshell—‘Memo-gate’ purported to be the brainchild of Hussain Haqani (former Pakistan’s ambassador to Washington) and with the alleged connivance of PPP leadership. It shocked every Pakistani on the suspected chicanery of some top black sheep to plot against a sensitive institution that is fulfilling its obligations under challenging scenario in credible ways. What added to the masses fury even more was the unprecedented vitriolic reaction demonstrated by PM and his patron, not to mention their cronies. Resultant immensity of panic, which struck the PPP leadership, at least benchmarked the devastating potentials of the episode, meaning that ‘Memo-gate’ was not any ‘Hoax-gate’. PM and the patron invented some pernicious themes to blackmail Judiciary as well as Army. He went, regrettably, beyond limits to accuse the Army and Spy Chief of serious allegations. His lie could not sustain long and had to retract his accusations. To show some feather in the cap, he fired the Secretary Defence because he refused to tow his line and submitted his ‘affidavit’ to the Supreme Court on the court’s instructions. Even non-professional would understand that the Secretary was bound to endorse his version and not the pack of lies if he was dictated to by anyone else. This way, PM has bagged colossal angst of the entire Army that holds such officer like the Secretary Defence in great esteem because of his clean conduct for about four decades. The mode and manner, he was shown the door, could be condemned to any extent because he was humiliated for his principled stand. SuCo did it because he ‘respects all the institutions.’

PPP and PM’s aversion in recent years for the Army is least masqueraded. He travels hundreds of KM to offer condolences for a bureaucrat who died during a road accident, a justified gesture of generosity and care for the deceased’s family. Conversely, SuCo is not inclined to show military grace ever to render his symbolic shoulder-support for a few seconds to the funerals of several dozen soldiers who sacrificed their most precious asset, life, for the country at Salala Post on Afghan border. The sacrifices rendered by the martyrs are acknowledged whole-heartedly because when Army stands guard round the clock in treacherous terrain and at dizzy heights up to 21000 feet, 180 million people have peaceful and sound slumber. The beauty of the entire zealous dedication is that Army does it as a sacred duty that it owes to the fellow citizens.

The country is in grip of curses, imposed on it by the rulers. The way all PPP government blunders are dumped in a basket called, ‘conspiracies’, it is a strange paradox that embezzlement cases surfacing in last over four years have links invariably to the President and PM’s advisors or their chosen fraudsters. A record flare for the less educated youth to rehabilitate him is also a golden feather in PPP’s hat when PM appointed a matriculate as Chairman OGDC and let the PhDs rot. OGDC is Oil and (natural) Gas Development Corporation that is corruption den for the corrupt. Yet PPP’s chief as well as minor whips rattle without blink because ‘they respect all institutions’. They may be right by a fraction as in their reckoning at least, ‘corruption’ has also become an institution in Pakistan, genuinely loved by them. PPP government has singular honour to preside over 8500 billion rupees ($8b) going down the ‘corruption’ drain during its rule since 2008. Thanks to recent Transparency International’s mind-boggling report. Only the black hole in the universe could suck in such a big amount. Implicitly, this party or some of its individuals have bigger corruption-holes than the black hole. That is how they leave democracy gasping for survival. In the mean time, monstrous ‘hunger’ is devouring the poor masses gradually but consistently. It is indeed a grave situation in Pakistan.

One would extend appreciation for the sober and honest voices within them who are in minority. However, their silence, by squelching their conscience off, makes them party to their leaders’ abhorrent misdeeds to share equal if not greater responsibility. Best service to render is to the state and not to the corrupt individuals who tend to perpetrate tyranny. ‎ “All tyranny needs to gain a foothold is for people of good conscience to remain silent,” said Thomas Jefferson.

Dr. Muhammad Aslam Khan is a retired Brig Gen from Pakistan Army, served 32 years. A veteran of ‘1971 Indo-Pak War’ has been instructor in officers’ Pakistan Military Academy, commanded Divisional as well as Corps Artillery. Holds first class Masters degree in International Relations and PhD degree, acquired in 2002-2007 from University of Peshawar, Pakistan. Authored a book, writes frequently in national and international media. Has attended several seminars and conferences within the country and abroad on invitation. Travelled to Switzerland (twice), UK, US, UAE, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, Germany (twice). Cambodia and Thailand. Email: dr.makni49@yahoo.com

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South Asia

Pakistan Securing Its Maritime Interest and CPEC

Qura tul ain Hafeez

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The IOR is a major sea route that unites the Middle East, Africa, and East Asia with Europe and America. The excessive economic growth of littoral states of Indian Ocean obliges them to protect their energy needs and interests in order to endure their purchasing power. This has great security implications for the sea line of communication of the littoral states of IOR like Pakistan.

Continuing to Pakistan’s interests in IOR the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor has great potential to transmute Pakistan into a central trade platform, which would undeniably gushed the enemies, particularly India, to halt it. The development of Gwadar sea-ports as part of BRI in general  and that of CPEC in particular has amplified India’s concerns’ and aimed for more sophisticated and advanced naval build-up. Furthermore, India perceives the Gawadar port (that is considered as crown jewel of CPEC) as a hazard to its contesting interests in Central Asia countries.  The reason being, India can access Afghanistan, Iran and Central Asian Republics (CARs) only through Cahabahar by passing Pakistan and Gawadar  a deep water sea port that is easily accessible to these land locked states then Chahabahr. A couple of days back on 24th December 2018 India has formally over taken the operational control of Iran’s Cahabahar port – only (0 Km away from Gawadar port. India’s aspirations to become blue water navy in the IOR raise serious concerns among Pakistan’s maritime security. CPEC would lead toward increased maritime politics and contestations not only between Pakistan and India but would also involve China and US.

In such turbulent circumstances Pakistan is required to prepare its sea based defense to secure its sea lines.   Islamabad needs to carefully evaluate its options and develop its strategic response accordingly, involving but not limited to continuous development of its naval capability and an even closer maritime cooperation with China. In view of the prevailing power dynamics in Indian Ocean Pakistan Navyin order to secure its interest in IOR inked a contract with China’s State Shipbuilding Corporation (CSSC)in June 2018 for two, Type 054AP frigates. The agreement is an extension of a previously signed agreement in 2017. Recently on December 19, 2018 steel-cutting ceremony for the second Type 054A frigate for the Pakistan Navy was held at the Hudong-Zhonghua shipyard in Shanghai. The type 054 AP warship frigates will be equipped with modern detection-state of art sensor and Guided Missiles weapon systems; capable of anti-ship, anti-submarine and air-defense operations. According to the report of China Daily report added that the “Type 054A is the best frigate in service with the PLAN”.

It is pertinent to mention here that maritime security is linked with the Economic security and vice versa. Gawader port is one of the most important projects of the CPEC where Pakistan and China are very hopeful that in future this shipping port will generate the revenue for Pakistan’s economy.  There is a big chunk of fishery industry through which Pakistan can earn a lot. It will stimulate business and trade activities at state level and across the region.  The 054 AP frigates ““Will be one of the largest and most technologically advanced platforms of the Pakistani Navy and strengthen the country’s capability to respond to future challenges, maintain peace and stability and the balance of power in the Indian Ocean region” a report on 2nd January 2019 released by  Chinese state owned media said.

In some, to deal with all these existing defies Pakistan Navy (PN) has espoused to a multi divided line of action for safeguarding the port in more effective manners. It conducts security patrolling h and coastal exercises from time to time. Furthermore, previously in 2013 it has inaugurated its Joint Maritime Information Coordination Center (JMICC) in Karachi to provide with an effective mechanism of Maritime Domain Awareness (MDA).  After receiving these 054 AP frigates warship Pakistan will definitely in far more better position to counter India’s vested interests in Indian Ocean region. It will also help secure the Gwadar port which is the chief component of Pakistan maritime trade activities. China has always been an al weather strategic partner of Pakistan. Although India always tries to propagate that CPEC is military agreement instead of an economic one however, securing the economic interests with an advanced mechanism does not mean at all that it’s planning something militarily. Pakistan has always adopted a defensive policy and it is the right of every sovereign state to secure its interests even if they are economic as there is no morality in international politics, still CPEC is an economic project which welcomes every state of the region for economic cooperation  even if it is India as well.

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2018 was the deadliest year in the history of Kashmir

Irfan Khan

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Kashmir is natural paradise and gorgeous valley located between Pakistan, India, Afghanistan, China and with a small strip of 27 miles with Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan. But it is still a disputed region since partition of United India into India and Pakistan (also Bangladesh in 1971) in 1947.

The history of the freedom of Kashmir dates to 1931 when the people, both Hindus and Muslims, initiated a freedom movement against the then Maharaja (ruler) to have their own indigenous rule. The resentment of the people led to the ‘Quit Kashmir’ campaign against the Maharaja in 1946. Faced with the insurgency of his people, the Maharaja fled the capital, Srinagar, on October 25, 1947 and arranged that India send its army to help him crush the rebellion. India, coveting the territory, set the condition that Maharaja must sign an ‘Instrument of Accession’ to India. At the same time, India had to attach another condition that accession was made subject to ‘reference to the people.’ On India’s showing, therefore, the accession has a provisional character.

Then India brought the dispute to the United Nations where the Security Council discussed the question exhaustively from January to April 1948. Then both India and Pakistan and approved by the international community that the dispute over the status of Jammu and Kashmir can be settled only in accordance with the will of the people which can be ascertained through the democratic method of a free and impartial Kashmiri citizens vote.

The people of Kashmir, despite of being injured since long could not lost their hope. They believe in United Nation(UN), assuming it will advocate choice of freedom for them. During the July-August 2018, people from entire Srinagar and other towns, were protesting government of India’s violation of Article 35-A of Indian’s constitution. 35-A, assure special rights to the state of Jammu and Kashmir.

Whenever, there is peaceful demonstration from them, then they must suffer basic human rights violation, fear and state of starvation as response of Indian government. In 2018, 111 civilians are killed which is double to the previous year recorded 40 killing by the Indian forces. India has some 500,000 troops deployed in Kashmir. Popular unrest has been rising since 2016 when a charismatic young Kashmiri leader, Burhan Wani, was shot dead by Indian forces.

Pakistan always has been bolstering the way of peaceful talk with India over the issue. Last year, in October, Prime Minister Imran Khan, repeated Pakistan’s stance that the solution to the region’s dispute laid in dialogue. He said,”It is time India realised that it must move to resolve the Kashmir dispute through dialogue in accordance with the UN SC resolutions and the wishes of the Kashmiri people”.

Kashmiri leader Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, in response to PM Khan said we welcomed “Pakistan’s concern” but called for Pakistan to “do much more” to “put an end to the appalling grind of repression and human rights abuse that Kashmiris are suffering at the hands of Indian state.

Happily, UN has issued human right report on Kashmir in June 2018. The report of 49 pages strongly emphasis on human right violation and abuses and delivering justice for all Kashmiris. UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein remarked “The political dimensions of the dispute between India and Pakistan have long been centre-stage, but this is not a conflict frozen in time. It is a conflict that has robbed millions of their basic human rights and continues to this day to inflict untold suffering. Therefore, any resolution of the political situation in Kashmir must entail a commitment to end the cycles of violence and ensure accountability for past and current violations and abuses by all parties and provide redress for victims”.

2018 was the deadliest year in the history of Kashmir. Hope so, Pakistan and India sandwiched by UN would resolve the issue based on Kashmir people’s choice of freedom so that human violation could be ceased.

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South Asia

CPSEC: The Saudi addition to CPEC

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CPEC has been a cornerstone of Pakistan’s long-term macroeconomic policy, and no matter who has been in power, the resolve to continue it further has been steadfast. Pakistan has realized its geopolitical advantage and has focused on constructing trade, energy and transportation corridors throughout its length. China and Pakistan in 2015, had agreed on partnering for the development of an economic corridor which would connect China’s western front with that of the Indus Belt and eventually with the Arabian Sea. The plan saw $ 62 Billion being committed to the execution of the project, building roads, rails, and power projects all along the length of Pakistan.   Contrary to popular belief, the economic corridor actually benefits both countries. China needs alternate routes for uninterrupted trade and energy supply, while Pakistan direly needed infrastructure and power sector development.

Saudi Involvement

At the recent Investment Conference titled “Davos in the Desert”, Pakistan’s newly elected Prime Minister had pitched the investment opportunities in Pakistan. Saudi Arabia now wants to be a partner in the CPEC project. The investment revolves around the establishment of an “Oil City” in Gawadar. Adviser to the Pakistani Prime Minister had said Saudi that the investment in the huge Oil City project in Gwadar would be $22 billion.

Recently after the twitter spat between the US and Saudi Arabia, the relations have been strained between the two long-term allies. Saudi Arabia, a longstanding US ally in the region is looking to diversify its relations with other nations to reduce its American dependence. This is why Saudi Arabia wants to partner into the CPEC project.

What benefits does Saudi Arabia have with the joining in the project? Saudi Arabia is still the largest supplier of crude oil. It has been looking to secure its oil exports and look for stable markets for its oil export. China is the largest importer of crude oil in the world, accounting for 18.6% of the total global import. The US, on the other hand, is the second largest importer of crude oil, though it also has a huge domestic production which accounts for 40% of its total domestic use. China clearly has the demand and the will to import Saudi oil and for this reason, Saudi Arabia wants to establish refineries, storages, and oil processing units at Gawadar to allow for uninterrupted oil flow into western China. The flow of this oil would be through Pakistan which has longstanding friendly bilateral relations with both Saudi Arabia and China. These relations are also independent of each other, hence the relations would not be affected by overlapping national interests. China also wants to have an uninterrupted energy supply to its mainland via alternate routes, which could not be affected by the geopolitics of the seas.

Saudi Arabia also looks at Pakistan as its long-term partner and a potential market for its exports.  Pakistan has a 202 million population, 70% of which is under 35 years of age. In case, peace returns to the region, Pakistan could show exponential growth and bulge of a new vibrant and energy-hungry middle class. In addition to that, Saudi Arabia wants to have stakes in Pakistan’s economy and what better way of doing all this than to invest in an Oil City, which also happens to be geographically nearby Saudi territory. Pakistan has also been very eager for investment diversification in its economy to avoid being labeled a China-only economy. Showing to the world that’s its doors are open for any country willing to invest into Pakistan.

Convergence of interests

This incredible convergence of interests paves the way for the China Pakistan Saudi Economic Corridor to be a very constructive regional partnership.  This partnership would see three regional powers engaging in positive regional trade and connectivity projects which would eventually increase trade, trust, and dependence on each other. Pakistan and China, both have repeatedly stated that CPEC is open for all to join in and collectively reap the benefits of trade and regional connectivity.

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