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Pakistan’s security issues

Dr. James M. Dorsey

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Remarks at ISAS Panel Discussion: Pakistan in challenging times, 25 August 2017

The facetious answer to the question, what security challenges Pakistan faces is where does one start. One place to start is with the structural issues that underlie the multiple dangers Pakistan confronts. What that does, is help Pakistan as well as the various external powers involved in Pakistani security understand drivers and formulate policies. It also lays bare some uncomfortable truths, truths many Pakistanis prefer not to acknowledge.

Jumping the gun, one thing a look at Pakistan’s structural issues does, is explain why US policy has failed and why the course President Donald J. Trump intends to chart will fail. It also leads to the suggestion that the approach of China will fail despite its support for Pakistani rejection of US allegations of Pakistani support for militancy.

The most immediate uncomfortable truth is that it is virtually impossible to separate Pakistan’s domestic security concerns from its external ones. Not because they can be dismissed as the result of foreign interference but because they are often the legacy of past policies.

Pakistanis with good reason point to US and Saudi policies dating back to the war against the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan, if not earlier. That is beyond doubt. It however is also an argument that conveniently allows its proponents to distract from the fact that Pakistan was and is a full partner in the execution of those policies, not simply either the victim or the poorly acknowledged facilitator. With other words, Pakistan is and was the ultimate arbitrator of its history and shares equal responsibility for the consequences of its decisions.

Similarly, there is no doubt that Pakistan is located in a volatile part of the world. It shares borders with Afghanistan that has been in the throes of war and insurgency for decades, Iran, and an increasingly nationalist India. It is a stone’s throw from the Gulf and is one of two regional nuclear powers. Having said that, Pakistan’s legitimate security concerns are as much a function of its geography as they are problems of its own making.

There is equally no doubt that Pakistan has suffered significantly and continues to suffer from political violence. And indeed, Pakistan has done much to crackdown on militant groups. The political divide emerges over the question whether the Pakistani crackdown is comprehensive, targeting without qualification all militant groups, irrespective of who they are and what their goals are. It doesn’t. Pakistan, to its credit as well as to its detriment, makes no bones about this. In fact, this approach has become so deeply engrained that it is difficult to reverse, will not be changed by US sanctions, and ultimately will come to haunt Pakistan.

Decades of Pakistani support for various groups in support of its approach to Kashmir, its filtering of much of its threat perception through the prism of challenges posed by India, concern about vulnerabilities that arise from ethnic unrest and neglect in Balochistan, and abetting and aiding of Saudi policies, has created demons that lead their own life. To be sure, US policy, including the prescriptions recently laid out by President Trump do little to help Pakistan work through issues, take a step back, and look at alternative ways of enhancing domestic and external security. In fact, Trump’s policies threaten to harden existing differences and exacerbate regional tensions. In short, one is likely to see more of the same even if in some cases, indications are that Pakistan is adopting innovative approaches.

One such approach is evident in the case of Jamaat ud-Dawa, a group that is widely viewed as a front for Lashkar e-Taibe, a globally proscribed organization, and led by Hafez Saeed, who has been designated a terrorist under international law by the United Nations. For much of the past year, Saeed has been under house arrest rather than in prison. Jamaat-ud-Dawa has been allowed to continue operations. Treating Jamaat-ud-Dawa with kid gloves is but one issue that has raised questions about the sincerity and comprehensiveness of the Pakistani crackdown. Yet, a decision by the group to create a political party has sparked debate about how to deal with militancy in Pakistan. Indeed, a successful transition towards pluralistic, political engagement that involves an absolute rejection of violence would significantly contribute to enhancing domestic security and could serve as a model for others.

The chances of Jamaat-ud-Dawa becoming a model case, however, are undermined by the fact that there is little indication that its transition is embedded in broader policies. There is also little indication that Pakistan has the political will to reshape the environment in which, at least tacitly, militancy is allowed to flourish. Decades of Pakistani and Saudi support of various strands of Sunni Muslim ultra-conservatism has woven that worldview into the fabric of significant segments of government, the military and society. It is a worldview that does not encourage pluralism, tolerance and competitive, political engagement.

Granted, it is easy to look in from the outside and be critical. Similarly, tackling legacies is easier said than done. It is easy to criticize the US for invading Afghanistan in 2001 and having been engaged in a war ever since that has only served to exacerbate threats to regional and Pakistani security and that the United States ultimately cannot win. The problem is, one has to deal with the cards one is dealt. Without going into great depth, one could argue that the US in 2001 had no choice in Afghanistan in contrast to the invasion of Iraq two years later. Diplomatic engagement with the Taliban would have been the preferred route were it not for the fact that US and Taliban officials had been secretly meeting in various world capitals ever since the 1998 attacks on the US embassies in Nairobi and Dar-e-Salaam. The negotiations were going nowhere. 9/11 left the US with no choice. The result is a poorly executed war and at best half-hearted attempts to rebuild Afghanistan – a sine qua non for creating the economic, social and political conditions to put an end to the violence. Multiple proxy wars, including the one between Pakistan and India, have only contributed to a situation that progressively deteriorates.

None of this detracts from Pakistan’s inability to project the image of a state that has zero tolerance for political violence and is selective in its confrontation of militancy. Doubts about the comprehensiveness of the Pakistani approach are fed by multiple factors, ranging from the lack of political will to seriously tackle educational reform to failing to even project an image of a state that at the very least goes through the motions of confronting all militancy, to turning a blind eye when it suits the state’s purpose. The risks are huge and could threaten what Pakistan sees as a lifeline, its all-weather friendship with China and China’s multi-billion-dollar investment in the China Pakistan Economic Corridor.

Reports that Saudi Arabia and Iran are about to exchange diplomatic visits justify a degree of optimism that the kingdom may, at least for now, shelve plans to use Balochistan as a spring plank for efforts to destabilize Iran. The reports are bolstered by leaked emails that quote Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman as saying that he would favour US engagement with Iran. Time will tell. There is much that calls into question how serious talk of reduced tension between Saudi Arabia and Iran is, something that Pakistani security would greatly benefit from.

Nonetheless, Pakistani policy in dealing with the potential threat of the Saudi-Iranian rivalry playing out in part in a crucial, but already troubled province raises similar doubts. For much of the past year, Pakistan has turned a blind eye to the flow of Saudi funds to militants, some of whom are associated with outlawed groups such as the successors of Sipah-e-Sabaha and madrassas in Balochistan that nurture, violent anti-Iranian, anti-Shiite groups. The funds are often channelled through Saudis of Baloch descent.

Pakistan’s response to the US Treasury’s designation in May of Maulana Ali Muhammad Abu Turab as a specially designated terrorist is a case in point. The response highlighted the murky world of Pakistani militancy in which the lines between various groups are fluid, links to government are evident, and battles in Pakistan and Afghanistan and potentially Iran are inter-linked. To be sure, the US Treasury’s designation is not legally binding on Pakistan. Nonetheless, Pakistan would have gained much from being seen to take note of the designation and publicly look into the Treasury’s allegations. It did nothing of the kind, putting out at best a meek statement.

Abu Turab is a prominent Pakistani Islamic scholar of Afghan descent who serves on a government-appointed religious board, the Council of Islamic Ideology; maintains close ties to Saudi Arabia, runs a string of madrassas attended by thousands of students along Balochistan’s border with Afghanistan and is a major fund raiser for militant groups. A leader of Ahl-i-Hadith, a Saudi-supported Pakistani Wahhabi group, board member of Pakistan’s Saudi-backed Paigham TV, and head of the Saudi-funded Movement for the Protection of the Two Holy Cities, Abu Turab was designated on the very day he was on a fund-raising trip to the kingdom.

The Treasury described Abu Turab as a “facilitator…(who) helped…raise money in the Gulf and supported the movement of tens of thousands of dollars from the Gulf to Pakistan.”  The Treasury said funds raised by Abu Turab financed operations of various groups, including Jama’at ul Dawa, Lashkar-e-Tayyiba, the Taliban; and the Islamic State’s South Asian wing. A suspension of Abu Turab’s membership of the Council of Islamic Ideology pending the outcome of an independent Pakistani investigation would have done much to enhance Pakistan’s credibility. The failure to do so says much about the structural problems that underlie Pakistan’s security dilemmas.

So does the curious case of Masood Azhar, whose group, Jaish-e-Mohammed, has been proscribed by the United Nations as well as Pakistan. It raises questions about China’s approach that frankly I am at a loss to explain. China, at the behest of Pakistan, has for the second time this year prevented the United Nations from listing Azhar as a globally designated terrorist. It strikes me that various justifications put forward, including China honouring a request by the Pakistani military, and seeing Azhar as a way to needle India, do not cut ice given the threat militancy in Pakistan poses to China’s vast interests in the country.

In the short term, Pakistan, which has rejected Trump’s allegations of Pakistani support for militancy as scapegoating, is likely to see its escape route as closer relations with China and perhaps Russia. Ultimately, however, Pakistan’s relationship to militancy is likely to also complicate its ties to Beijing and Moscow amid escalating violence in Balochistan and no end in sight to the militant insurgency in Afghanistan.

As a result, Pakistan’s refusal to confront its demons could in the final analysis leave it out in the cold: its relationship with the United States severely damaged, India strengthened by closer cooperation with the US, and China and Russia demanding that it do what Washington wanted in the first place. Pakistan is likely to have fewer, if any, options and no escape routes once China and Russia come to the conclusion Trump has already articulated.

Dr. James M. Dorsey is a senior fellow at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies, co-director of the University of Würzburg’s Institute for Fan Culture, and the author of The Turbulent World of Middle East Soccer blog, a book with the same title, Comparative Political Transitions between Southeast Asia and the Middle East and North Africa, co-authored with Dr. Teresita Cruz-Del Rosario and three forthcoming books, Shifting Sands, Essays on Sports and Politics in the Middle East and North Africaas well as Creating Frankenstein: The Saudi Export of Ultra-conservatism and China and the Middle East: Venturing into the Maelstrom.

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South Asia

Kashmir: The Unconquerable Will of Kashmiris is still Alive

Syeda Dhanak Hashmi

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Every dictatorship flourishes more on the continuing incapacity of the public to examine and evaluate reality in the way that a scientist does in a practical manner; and that’s the reason why these skills, are not being taught in public education in order to keep them ignorant of the truth. In India, the children are reinforced with hatred for minorities especially Muslims, which develops into uncontrollable animosity, instilled in the minds of the masses by the dictators, without logical grounds. This is what has been happening in India since decades and now transformed into the genocidal agenda of RSS. The actual issue is actually with the Muslim identity that the people of Kashmiri have.

Kashmir, at the moment, is a prison under military control, not because of any rebellion which had happened there (none did); rather it is simply because of a senseless unconstitutional invasion, on August 5th, to conquer the valley (Muslim majority state) totally by Hindu Indian troops, to practice the nefarious designs of Hindu-totalitarian BJP government. Thus, turning India itself into an apartheid-supremacist regime, much like Israel is over Palestine. India has made this abrupt move to turn Kashmir into India’s own Palestine, grabbing the lands of Kashmiris by revoking Article 35A and turning it into a huge prison for Muslims.

Decades have passed, however, and the plebiscite promised was never held. Kashmir is the most militarized region in the world, with armed Indian troops deployed in the Indian-administered Kashmir for more than three decades. They have occupied Kashmir through the use of colonial war measures acts, including the Armed Forces Special Powers Act and the Public Safety Act that have given Indian troops complete impunity. The Genocide Watch, which keeps an eye on disputes across the world, gave a brief history of Kashmir in its alert while detailing the reasons which led it to issue the warning. The report was issued for Occupied Kashmir in the wake of India’s ongoing suppression in the Muslim majority region following revocation of its special status.

While explaining the reasons behind issuing the alert, the organization also recalled the Indian atrocities in Kashmir where occupation forces have carried out genocide and massacres, killing people mercilessly. The people of Kashmir have been suffering the human rights violations which include gang rapes and mass disappearances of thousands of people. As many as 100,000 Kashmiris have been killed and several thousand wounded, blinded with pellet guns and maimed, including through torture tactics in custody.

Though the imperialistic forces have tried their best to silence and suppress the Kashmiris, yet they have been fighting for self-determination for hundreds of years. Today, the Hindutva ideology disguised in the mask of nationalism to control the valley continue crushing the Muslims without any ignominy. Hence, India’s decision to revoke Jammu and Kashmir’s special status, is nothing other than yet another act of shameless imperialist aggression.

There can be no legal justification of Modi’s traitorism to the Indian Constitution which he has been doing to J&K ever since August 5th. The only real question is instead whether Indian media will start to publicize this important fact or will it follow the path of yellow journalism as ever. Meanwhile, the Indian government races forward with its rape of India’s Constitution, in the hope that the Muslims of J&K will evacuate that land so as to enable Hindus ‘democratically’ to enforce some sort of apartheid anti-Muslim regime there, which is a clear violation of Indian law merely to implement the RSS wicked strategies to achieve the Hindu control there.

There is no denying the fact that fascists everywhere are traitors to their country, and this is now being made manifestly clear in India where Modi seems to be like Hitler. Hence, the status of India as a democracy has been badly derailed because a country where the constitution is illegally exploited does not deserve to be called a democratic country. There is a procedure to be followed (to amend) any constitution i.e., an amendment bill must be passed by each house of Parliament by a two-thirds majority of its total membership when at least two-thirds are present and vote.

Therefore, Modi’s hold of Kashmir is unconstitutional, at least unless and until India’s Constitution is amended. Moreover, if Indian military continues its occupation there, then it is likely to spark a war in Kashmir, which could quickly become a war between Hindu-majority India and Muslim-majority Pakistan, next door to India.

Pakistan is the loudest to voice its opinion against change. Pakistan has always responded promptly when it comes to Kashmir and stated, ‘’Pakistan will exercise all possible options to counter the illegal steps. Kashmir is the jugular vein of Pakistan, and anyone laying a hand on our jugular vein will meet a frightful end.”

In a nutshell, the BJP government is openly violating the international humanitarian law by means of this brutal and entirely unjustifiable military crackdown. The attempt to change demography of Kashmir through ethnic cleansing by India is being watched by the world and the international organisations are helpless in playing their role on Kashmir issue. Furthermore, it is unfortunate that the important Muslim countries including Saudi Arabia and UAE have not condemned Indian atrocities in IHK. It is only Pakistan which has always played a positive role and made constructive efforts to resolve Kashmir issue, where India has always responded back with aggression. But India should keep in mind that Pakistani forces are fully prepared to respond any Indian aggression in a befitting manner.

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South Asia

‘Six weeks of Indian Disinformation in Kashmir Lockdown’

Ramla Khan

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The Indian curfew in Srinagar, capital to Jammu and Kashmir territory climbs to six weeks. Not only are the roads concealed with military troops but the reality and misery of eight million people remains unexposed plus disinformed to the world. Despite of all international media spelling in unison the perturbed lifestyle of Kashmir, alas New Delhi’s state media still presents a rare tranquil plot of the region. Only state centric news is transmitted with favorable changes and molds. Kashmir crisis is not an Indian debut with disinformation operations instead the Modi dominion is today termed a pro in this regard. The ‘Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) landslide’ in 2019 electoral is largely credited to his ‘bundle of lies’ which induced the Indian general public to vote on the ideological lines of Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS).As supported by the popular American magazine ‘The Atlantic’- many of India’s misinformation campaigns are developed and run by political parties. Another Washington based institute labels ‘What’s more alarming is that political parties, including Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s BJP, are behind most of these disinformation campaigns’.  The critique and accounts of Pakistani leadership are pronounced as a tool of forged propagandaby Indian press -Zee TV and ‘The Economic Times’.

Repression of truth with oppression

Discrete vistas have appeared between the on aired news from international broadcasting and New Delhi. The normalcy and ease of restrictions has been claimed in Srinagar since August as mentioned by ‘The Economic Times’ – Restrictions eased in J-K; life returning to normal. whereas AI Jazeera – the leading Qatar pay television channel repetitively discusses the torment of stranded people in lockdown. Al Jazeera, identifies back to back ‘ average 20 protests each day’ which explicitly notifies that the curbing termed curfew is alive.

According to DW, a German news network the ‘truth cannot be verified’ as the security forces turn the camera away, ‘the right to speak freely will not simply be restored when the phones start ringing again’ as the newspaper editors in Srinagar complain being dictated what to write and what not to. Under the fascist policies of Narender Modi people are detained from speaking actual situation on media and are facing harassment from Indian troops resting all over the roads since August 5,2019.  The few days back episode of Dr. Omer Salim  is an exemplar who on spot during his interview to a BBC reporter was captured by Indian police. The video clip is a vivid demonstration that how the truth is delayed from reaching world. The doctor had merely requested the government to reopen the communication infrastructure and treatment facilities for chemotherapies and patients who needed urgent dialysis sessions. Another broadcasted report by DW television identifies untreated patients due to closed operation theaters.

The fingers are raised on Indian ideals of democracy by the foreign media. New Delhi can dub the Islamabad news sources as self-fabricated so lets take in the statement of Urmila Matondkar, an Indian actress converted politician: “The question is not only about abrogating Article 370. It was done in inhuman manner,”. IAS Officer Kannan Gopinathan, resigned from his reputed post last month with his utterance on India Today, “I joined civil service with the hope that I can be the voice of those who have been silenced. But here, I lost my own voice.”

Concealed tragedy of Kashmir

The Times of India’ mentions “not a single bullet has been fired” in the state since August 5″. Al Jazeera in its September apprise jots ‘Electric shocks, beatings’: Kashmiris allege abuse by India army. New York Times registers ‘Asrar was known as a smart young boy who stayed away from protests, hedied after security officers hit him in the face with buckshot. As stated by ‘The Guardian’,the 16-year-old, Asrar Ahmed Khanwas fired with a pellet gun on 6 August and due to severe injury deceased in the following month. The news remained uncovered by any prominent channels in New Delhi. According to TRT World, Turkish press network, Lieutenant of Indian army Jeet Singh Dhillon has denied to use any weapon despite of medical verification his conference professed  that a stone was hit to the young teen.

The criterion of justice

Under the present adopted stratagem of New Delhi against the Muslim community in Kashmir, Modi government is highly defamed at various platforms except in India which still nominates it as a hero of nation. The world needs to define its justice criterion with exception of caste creed and color. Unfortunately the ethical code remains absent throughout the globe.

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South Asia

Abrogation of Article 370 and Pakistan’s Pathetic Response

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Pakistan, which is a party to Kashmir dispute could not make significant move after the Indian decision to scrap Article 370. The fragile economy, conventional military asymmetry and limited influence in international community restrict the options for Pakistan to take any strong stance against Indian illegal decision.

A month ago the government of BJP illegally dissolved the special status of Jammu and Kashmir through demolishing the Article 370. The article provides immunity to Jammu and Kashmir from Indian laws except foreign affairs, finance and communications. The decision is profoundly rejected by masses of Jammu and Kashmir and Pakistan. In the mean time the opposition parties in India also expressed strong dissatisfaction against decision and predicted severe repercussions for Indian state. The decision has also been challenged in the Indian Supreme Court and hearing has already been started. Yet, since the 5th August Kashmir is under siege, curfew has been imposed, communication network, medical and health facilities have been blocked. The international human rights organizations and defenders issued a genocide warning and warned India not to commit genocide.

In this critical situation which is developed by India, Pakistan took stance to stand by Kashmir. Pakistan highlighted the violent action which engulfed the rights and lives of Kashmiri people’s. Although Pakistan expressed strong resistance and proclaimed to use all the means to give Kashmiri’s their right, but there is a huge difference in words and deeds. On behest of Pakistan, China called UN Security Council meeting to discuss the issue and Chinese ambassador strongly condemned the Indian action and urged both parties to resolve the dispute through peaceful means. Yet it is important to point out that permanent members of UNSC refused to issue a post meeting joint   statement.

Here it is wise to highlight that the international politics is dominated by the self-interests of dominant powers and weak states have no say in the system. Pakistan could not compete with Indian power in international relations. After scrapping the article, India immediately sought foreign support and Prime Minister Narendra Modi went to different states. Modi visited France, Bahrain and UAE, while Prime Minister of Pakistan Imran Khan only made phone calls to seek support against Indian action. This clearly disclosed the inefficiency of Pakistan to counter the Indian narrative.

Indian economic and investment potential is another factor behind cool response of international powers. India is trading partner of many countries and most prominent among them are USA, UK, UAE, China, European Union and Australia. The US has invested 9 million in India during the 2016 and UK has signed the commercial deals of 9.3 million recently. Australia is benefitted from Indian students and its education export is 2 billion dollars. EU a group of 27 independent states is another major investor and trade partner of India with 2.5 % international shares.

In contemporary international politics, diaspora is a backbone of any nation and same is true for India. It is observed that Indians are residing almost every influential state. More than 3.5 million Indians are working in UAE. During the 2015, Indian share was 16% in expats residing in the US, and Saudi Arabia host 1.9 million Indians. Kuwait having 1 million Indian workers and Oman 777,632 Indians. Europe also host the 1.2 million Indians.

The bilateral trade of India with US, China, EU, Japan, and Australia is impressive. In 2019, bilateral trade of India-China crossed the 100 billion, which expects to grow further. The US is second largest trading partner of India in goods, and the single largest export destination of Indian exporters. The bilateral trade has been grew at 7.59% annually from 68.4 billion in 2008 to 142.1 billion in 2018.

The 8.8 million Pakistanis are residing in western states, 4.7 million are living in EU and 1.2 in U.K. But Pakistan failed to activate its diaspora to promote national interests of the state. The Pakistani leadership never paid serious attention to engage diaspora, which resulted in poor representation of Pakistan in international community. On the other hand, Indian diaspora is much influential and have strong say in policies of US and EU. Their skills and education help them to climb the ladder of success and influence. So, it is high time for Pakistan to devise an effective strategy to lobby the national interests and engage diaspora. The diaspora is considered the defense line as they bridge the gap between their parent and host state. 

Pakistan’s economic structure is fragile with rising debt and prices of commodities. The country is dependent on international monitory institutions to repay its debt which crossed over 100 billion dollars. It is on 150thposition in poverty index among 189 countries according to UN Human Development Indicators. The value of rupee is decreased to lowest level and government is losing its credibility. Pakistan is spending its 20% budget on Army which is higher than education, health and social development allocation. The fragile economy, poor coordination in policy making and influence of military in foreign policy making has reduced the role of other state institutions. Although, current civilian government claims that civilian and military leadership is on same page, but the poor and ill-coordinated response exposed the fault lines. The top hierarchy of civilian and political leadership did not bother itself to convey Pakistani position on Kashmir, except making statements.

If Pakistan really want to influence the international community, then it needs to fix its poor economy, to improve its human and social system, engage diaspora, make effective and inclusive foreign and security policy. The economic, political and military power can guarantee the national interests of the country. So Pakistan work tirelessly on all the fronts to achieve the status of major power.

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