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Bangladesh: Will this country become Pakistan or Kashmir?

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A political group is spreading the perception that the country will again become Pakistan if Awami League loses control of Bangladesh. They even suggested a label “Banglastan” for this supposed nation which transforms into an improvised Pakistan in the East. But symptomatically it appears to become another Kashmir, or in a classical sense be called Banglashir (Bangladesh + Kashmir).

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina went to Shantiniketan, India to attend the VishvaBharati convocation. On the same occasion, Narendra Modi joined in as a Vishva-Bharati’s Acharya. Various observers believe this particular rendezvous was orchestrated at an opportune moment to help re-establish a relationship between the two leaders. The media hyped it as  viewing a display of the mythical chariots (RathaYatra), but the primary objective was to push a package; “how to win the upcoming election at the end of this year once again”; by hook or crook, whatever it takes.

On this visit, Hasina propagated the fear of Pakistan and that; her’s is the only party that can be trusted to continue the pro-India mantle faithfully that works out magnificently for India and also gives the power she wants.

The “Ananda Bazar Patrika” zealously propagated the Pakistan fear. Even though this magazine was not supposed to be privy to the contents of the secret meeting between Hasina and Modi, and yet they published a piece covering the event. It was headlined “Hasina’s message – the anti-liberation forces are perpetrating the plot to make Bangladesh into Pakistan. If Awami League loses power, India has to live with two houses of Pakistan; one in the West and the other in the East.  So, India should render its necessary support to the present government of Bangladesh.”

Indira Gandhi uttered the above sentence in 1971. She used to say that the head could survive pain on one side. But it is difficult to sleep with pain on both sides. Ananda Bazar highlighted a similar statement by Hasina. As there are no comments on this issue from Hasina’s office, it can be assumed to be a true declaration by Sheikh Hasina.

A “Preeti” press conference was organized at Ganobhaban (Prime Minister’s residence) after her return from that trip. The entire country was watching the congregation of such an elite group of flattering journalists who were asking appealing questions allowing her to continue her long cacophony against her opponents without even semblance to the questions asked. One of them asked; “we understand, an Indian newspaper has indicated that Bangladesh wants a reward for what you have done for India.” To this, the Prime Minister retorted; “I do not want any rewards. Why do I need a reward here? I do not have the habit of asking for favors; rather I am magnanimous in giving more than I receive. Whatever I gave to India; India should remember me forever. ”

Another Sheikh, Sheikh Mohammed Abdullah of Kashmir, also gave away everything without asking for anything in return. He had the habit of being magnanimous in giving more than what he received. People in Kashmir have not forgotten that ever since 1947.

In 1947, Sheikh Mohammed Abdullah welcomed the Indian army into Kashmir. He fully supported the document evidencing alignment with India. In exchange, he was able to act as the Chief Minister of Kashmir till 1953. The man who is most responsible for the suffering of people in Jammu and Kashmir, as well as the people of India and Pakistan; is Sheikh Mohammed Abdullah.

In the lust for power, these Sheikhs became so blind that, the sufferings of the people never crossed their minds. There were mass killings of about 250,000 Muslims and displacement of approximately 1,000,000 persons in Jammu and Kashmir.

In 1953, Sheikh Abdullah realized he made a tremendous mistake by trusting India when his perceived friend Nehru put him in jail. This mistake has caused enormous sufferings for the Kashmiri people for which they are paying till now. They do not see any future in the Indian Federation.

All indications are that Bangladesh is proceeding towards the path of Kashmir. By creating the myth of a Pakistani Genie, Bangladesh is being prepared to become another Kashmir. Here, we can hear the sound of another Sheikh’s footsteps.

Before the arrival of the British, the Hindus and Muslims lived peacefully in these lands what was India.  To effectively administer India, the British devised a “divide and rule” policy between Hindus and the Muslims. It worked out very well for them. They were acting as the judge and the jury while the Hindus and Muslims were fighting. If they did not get tired, the British could have ruled India for another century using the same method.

Their “divide and rule” policy created a new dimension of troubles in India. Even before leaving for good, they embedded a seed of enmity between Hindus and Muslims. One of these seeds was the creation of the Kashmir problem. India and Pakistan; even though very poor, were importing arms and ammunition in record levels heeding poverty of their population. Now, both of these nations are very large purveyors of weapons and are two big nuclear powers.

British misdeeds have created this enormous enmity amongst peoples that were otherwise living peacefully for centuries. Without the Kashmir issue, India and Pakistan could have lived peacefully. But the British had to leave their legacy behind. Instead of using their wealth for the benefit of their people, they indulged into purchasing arms and ammunition. Otherwise, the region could have achieved unprecedented prosperity.

A prolific crusader, Arundhati Roy promoted the cause of Kashmiri independence despite the stereotyped Indians calling her a traitor and wanted her incarcerated. In an interview, Miss Roy said, if the state runs a case against me in the court of law then there should be a case against Nehru (the first Prime Minister of India) even post his death. She mentioned several telegrams and radio addresses by Nehru in which he said; “I declare, the fate of the Kashmiris will be decided by themselves. This promise is not only for the Kashmiris; it is to the entire world. I will never renege from this covenant, and I won’t be able to do it either (3 November 1947)”.

For the sake of Kashmir, Pakistan and India fought three wars; 1947, 1965 and 1999. It is incumbent to the parties in this conflict to address issues and mitigate their differences for the sake of peace and prosperity. The people who talk about the European like peace in the sub-continent, somehow are not getting involved deeply in this pursuit.

The armed forces of India comprise of about 1,300,000 persons which makes it the third largest standing armies of the world. About 700,000 of their armed personnel are deployed in Jammu and Kashmir. With a population of 7,000,000, this is one to ten ratio and makes it the largest per capita army deployment in the world. Naturally, the expenditures related to this engagement is enormous.

If Bangladesh was to be made into a defacto colony, India has to deploy 20 times the soldiers as in Jammu and Kashmir. When India is already over-stressed within Kashmir, where should she be looking into when it comes to Bangladesh?

If India thinks Bangladesh will be similar to the peoples of Sikkim and Bhutan, they would grossly misjudge the situation on the ground. In 1947, 90 percent people of the then East Bengal (now Bangladesh) voted for the formation of Pakistan. Bangladeshis got disenchanted with the misrule of the Pakistani ruling class. Even with the commonality of religion, which was initially thought to be viable, now could not keep the Bangladeshis from remaining in Pakistan. The war of liberation in 1971 was the result of the resolve of the Bangladeshis.

India must realize, the hatred towards Pakistani rulers is now being diverted against Indian defacto rule of Bangladesh by maintaining Awami League as their proxy. More the Awami League gets through with make-believe elections; the more Bangladeshis will be agitated against India. They firmly believe, the Indian government is behind these fake elections.

Anti-India feelings are running high throughout South Asia. Leaving Pakistan alone, one cannot forget Sri Lanka, the Maldives and the people of Bangladesh who are tired of Indian policies. Even the Hindu Nepal is no exception. How long will the peace in Bhutan last is someone’s guess? No one likes anyone to pry into one’s family and nation. People abhor agents of foreign governments. If this hatred magnifies, the scenario in the entire sub-continent may drown into chaos.

Various Indian think tanks are already warning about these scenarios. With China encircling India in all directions, one does not have to look in any other direction.

Every action has an equal and opposite reaction. When India is playing with her smaller neighbors, a counter activity/reaction is developing. Indian neighbors would rather have China as their friend owing to meddling in their internal affairs by India. Not only that India has pain on both sides; that pain will propagate to every organ of the body. Because of wrong Indian policies, all neighbors are transforming into Pakistan.

When the neighboring nations like Bangladesh and India create ties with some political parties and not the people, they focus all their energies on the winning of that political party.  With aiding Awami League only, there is already tremendous anti-Indian feelings within the people of Bangladesh. China would gladly work her way into the void.

Awami League strengthens their power by exhibiting the fear of the Pakistani Genie. The main opposition party BNP must expose that point in a clear voice. The recent trip to Delhi by the BNP leadership must be clearly explained to the public. BNP must proceed with their political agenda in a transparent, concise manner keeping the people with them at every stage.

BNP was in power at a crucial time of Bangladesh when coups and counter-coups were happening every time you look around. BNP is a nationalist party and never converted Bangladesh into Pakistan then, and is not planning for it now. It is transparent propaganda spread by Sheikh Hasina and her party. Creating Sheikh Abdullahs by instilling fear of a ghost of Pakistan, we cannot save Bangladesh from becoming a Kashmir. India must realize this and not put all eggs in one basket.

While BNP needs India, India also requires the cooperation of BNP. If the scenario changes, India may have lost their opportunity to maintain a reliable neighbor. Any shortcut way may bring a considerable loss for India as well as BNP.

India’s general election is forthcoming. In the last election, Awami League government helped the Congress Party. BJP is fully aware of this. Doubt remains whether Modi government will bring the crocodile by digging the canal. Whether Modi has realized this, it is a matter of guess.  “All disciples’ in a temple are not true disciples”; Modi is fully aware of this.

BNP and their partners are deeply rooted in various localities outside the capital city Dhaka. At this time, BNP has only one roadmap in front of them. They should not participate in the upcoming polls without the help of a neutral caretaker government; otherwise, it will be another electoral fiasco like 2014 election. Awami League and Hasina know, they are shouldering a burden of illegitimacy and BNP must make sure this burden should crush an authoritarian regime Hasina is running. With firm resolve and clear direction, this fascist government will crumble.

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South Asia

Pakistan at a crossroads as Imran Khan is sworn in

Dr. James M. Dorsey

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Criticism of Pakistan’s anti-money laundering and terrorism finance regime by the Asia Pacific Group on Money Laundering (APG) is likely to complicate incoming Pakistani prime minister Imran Khan’s efforts to tackle his country’s financial crisis.

Addressing the criticism of the 41-nation APG, which reports to the Financial Action Task Force (FATF), an international anti-money laundering and anti-terrorism watchdog that earlier this year put Pakistan on a grey list with the prospect of blacklisting it is key to a possible Pakistani request for a US$ 12 billion International Monetary Fund (IMF) bailout.

A US demand that any IMF package exclude funding for paying off Chinese loans coupled with the APG/FATF criticism, against a backdrop of the Pakistani military’s efforts to nudge militants into the mainstream of Pakistani politics and the incoming prime minister’s mixed statements on extremism, could push Mr. Khan to turn to China and Saudi Arabia for rescue, a move that would likely not put Pakistan in the kind of straightjacket it needs to reform and restructure its troubled economy.

The APG criticism followed Pakistani efforts to demonstrate its sincerity by passing in February the Anti-Terrorism Ordinance of 2018, which gave groups and individuals designated by the UN as international terrorists the same status in Pakistan for the first time.

Pakistan, however, has yet to implement the ordinance by for example acting against Hafez Saeed, a leader of the banned group Lashkar-e-Taiba and the alleged mastermind of the 2008 attacks in Mumbai, who despite having been designated a global terrorist by the United Nations Security Council and having a US$ 10 million US Treasury bounty on his head, fielded candidates in last month’s election.

The APG, which just ended talks with Pakistani officials, has scheduled follow-up visits to Pakistan in September and October to monitor Pakistani progress in addressing its concerns, which focus on legal provisions governing non-profit and charitable organisations, transparency in the country’s beneficial ownership regime and the handling of reports on suspicious financial transactions.

Those concerns go to the heart of the effort by the Pakistani military and intelligence to mainstream militants who garnered just under ten percent of the vote in last month’s election but have a far greater impact on Pakistani politics. The military and intelligence have in the past encouraged militants to form political organizations with which mainstream political parties have been willing to cooperate and establish charity operations that have had a substantial social impact.

Similarly, Mr. Khan, who earned the nickname Taliban Khan, is likely to have to counter his past record of allowing government funds to go to militant madrassas, his advocacy for the opening in Pakistan of an official Taliban Pakistan office, and his support of the Afghan Taliban. His Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI)-headed government in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, gave in February US$2.5 million to Darul Aloom Haqqania, a militant religious seminary.

Dubbed a “jihad university,” Darul Aloom Haqqania, headed by Sami ul-Haq, a hard-line Islamist politician known as the father of the Taliban, counts among its alumni, Mullah Omar, the deceased leader of the Taliban, Jalaluddin Haqqani, the head of the Haqqani Network. Asim Umar, leader of Al-Qaeda in the Indian Subcontinent, and Mullah Akhtar Mansoor, Mullah Omar’s successor who was killed in a 2016 US drone strike.

Those may be policies that, at least initially, may be less of an obstacle in assistance on offer from China and Saudi Arabia to replenish Pakistan’s foreign exchange reserves that have plummeted over the past year to US$ 10.4 billion, enough to cover two months of imports at best. Pakistan’s currency, the rupee, has been devalued four times since December and lost almost a quarter of its value.

Chinese loans have so far kept Pakistan afloat with state-owned banks extending more than US$5 billion in loans in the past year. PTI officials said this week that China has promised the incoming government further loans to keep Pakistan afloat and enable it to avoid reverting to the IMF, which would demand transparency in the funding of projects related to China’s US$50 billion plus investment in the China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), a crown jewel of its Belt and Road initiative.

And that is where the rub is. Despite Chinese officials reportedly urging Pakistan to reduce its deficit, neither China nor Saudi Arabia, which has offered to lend Pakistan US$4 billion are likely to impose the kind of regime that would put the country, which has turned to the IMF 12 times already for help, on a sustainable financial path.

Relying on China and Saudi Arabia would likely buy Pakistan time but ultimately not enable it to avoid the consequences of blacklisting by FATF, which would severely limit its access to financial markets, if it fails to put in place and implement a credible anti-money laundering and terrorism finance regime

Moreover, relying on China and Saudi Arabia, two of Pakistan’s closest allies could prove risky. Neither country shielded Pakistan from FATF grey listing in February. A Chinese official said at the time that China had not stood up for Pakistan because it did not want to “lose face by supporting a move that’s doomed to fail.”

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The problem of pellet guns in Kashmir

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Jammu and Kashmir is the only northern state of the Indian union dogged with an overridden unhealthy political atmosphere. The valley of Kashmir is beset with a major governance deficit which has given renewed impetus to the dissenting voices of the masses day in and day out. Dissent is the hallmark of a democracy which acts as a medium for the expression of the masses against the system. There are certain rights and duties guaranteed by the Indian constitution for the citizens, including the right to freedom of expression and right to life. Caught in the quagmire of a political crisis that has deeply permeated the society, the people in Kashmir from time to time vent up their dissent. Hartals are the tools for the masses through which they ventilate their pent up emotions. Kashmir is not a different case. It is also amuck with crisis and caught in a looming distress day in and day out. Kashmir is the most sensitive zone of the whole Asian sub-continent, where situations turn awry with the passage of time, like the seasons of the year and is the only state of the Indian Union where there has been a reckless use of the pellet guns without any regard for the precious life of the common man. This is a sort of dichotomy.

The use of pellet guns is a major problem which has not only maimed, blinded and killed the masses, but also shaken the collective conscience of the people, who have fallen prey to a different approach of dichotomy of the government. The killing of militant commander Burhan Wani in 2016 brought about a volcanic eruption in valley which not only deteriorated the situation in Kashmir, but also increased the massive alienation of the masses. The waves of grief and anger against the day-to-day killings and maims that the people felt increased with each passing day. In order to control the crisis, the security agencies used the deadly pellets which caused heavy damage to the sufferers. More than 1200 people lost their vision in 2016. According to a report of State Human Rights Commission (SHRC), more than 75% people suffered injuries due to pellet guns, ranging from minor to major in 2016.There was a heavy loss of life.

Although small in size, these black metallic balls have deteriorated our young generation. The use of pellet guns has wreaked crisis in Kashmir. For the security agencies, it is meant to disperse the crowds, but, for the common masses, it is a problematic affair. Pellet guns are pump-action shotguns which fire a cluster of small, round, metal pellets with high velocity over a broad range.

Recently, after the killing of a militant from Pahalgam area during the anti-establishment protests, a number of people were injured due to pellet A nurse working in the same area personally told me that we healed at least 100 plus pellet injured victims. The bloody Sunday of this year’s April and the subsequent clashes of the protestors with the security agencies left many injured, with multiple cases of pellet injuries to the eyes of the protestors.

Naseer Ahmad Bhat of Seer Hamdan, Anantnag was killed by the security forces during the post-Burhan phase of 2016 protests in Kashmir. He was an able worker and a good cricketer who fell silent to the pellets. Not only the collective conscience of the people was shaken, but also a state of disparity ensued. These deadly pellets have not even spared the school going children and snatched the power of seeing of the victims. Insha, a pellet victim who passed her matriculation examination last year despite odds is an inspiring hope for the likewise victims.

Pellets cause a number of biological ramifications in the victim, like the loss of vision, the state of paralysis, in case, the damage is caused to the spinal cord, defacements, and death in case of damage to the vital organs of the body, like, heart, kidneys, lungs, brain, etc. Moreover, the pangs of guilt that a victim suffers in silence dishearten one and all. The use of pellet guns as a crowd-control method during protests, whether in case of cordon and search operations (CASO) or common protests has added a volley of questions to the psyche of the common man? Being a part of the Indian union, that two acing the crown, Kashmir has been treated otherwise all through the passing times. People have got million queries, but, there are no solid answers to their problems and subsequent tactful solutions.

The substitution of pellet guns with PAVA shells can in no way control the crisis. The way people of other parts of the country are treated should form a close semblance in case of protests in Kashmir. Why the security forces are using pellets and bullets against the people whom the system claims with a sense of belonging. There can be other alternatives, like the use of water cannons without any damage and subsequent ensuing crisis that engulfs the society and creeps the psyche of the common men. If this is the notion of the system to punish dissent, then dissent itself takes a u-turn of additions and alterations with the passage of time. The bleeding valley is giving a close call for one and all to unite and ensue a state of peace and order. There is an urgent requirement of the administrative and political will to stop the use of pellet guns in Kashmir.

Whatever is happening to the people of Kashmir has not been experienced by the other people of the country. After all, it is a question of humanity. People suffer out of the ways as circumstances decide or may be destined otherwise. But to expect a peaceful valley without the intervention of a political will would be an underestimation of statements. There is a dual intolerance in Kashmir, one from the people and next from the system. The systematic targeting of the protestors from a point blank range irrespective of regard for the human life has shattered several families in Kashmir

Kashmir is passing through the phases of testing times with each passing day. The ugly turn of the situations and recurring events and the amateur dealing of the same has created an unhealthy atmosphere everywhere, where people have lost faith in the governance systems. The safety and security of every Tom, Dick and Harry is the looming question of the hour. Exits from dwellings and adieus from home don’t guarantee the safe return of the leavers. The interlocutor of the centre in vale, Mr. Dineshwar Sharma once reiterated that, ‘the priority is to prevent Kashmir turning into Syria’. The imbroglio has crippled the educational scenario, down slowed the economy, increased the unemployment, but, above all, the ultimate question is the redressal of the problem at stake, which for God sake can erupt into a lava-laden volcano one day and engulf the whole peace, stability and order of the South Asia, if not tactfully handled in the current times by the government.

The victory of BJP at the centre with the thumping majority after the 2014 Lok Sabha elections with the slogan of ‘minimum government, maximum governance’ falls short of words and has partially failed in the state of J&K.The killings of the common masses are in no way remedies to the political ailments. There should be the ultimate regard for the human lives. Why has the blood of the people become so cheap .When will peace return to the valley of Kashmir? The government of India had constituted an expert committee in July 2016 to explore other possible alternatives to pellet guns as non-lethal weapons. Although, the committee submitted its report and the recommendations were taken into account by the government for implementation. But, what happened afterwards lies in the public domain for discussion. The use of pellet guns is tantamount to the violation of rights of the people.

In order to direct the valley towards the state of peace and development, the role of multiple players of India, Pakistan and Valley is necessary. This way the government can make a significant contribution in the restoration of normalcy. The need of the hour is the unity of all the stakeholders of the society, like government, non-governmental parties, NGO’s, etc. to help these pellet victims via financial or other means.

Although, there has been a strong criticism of the use of pellet guns not only at the local level ,but also at the international level, but the main part of the problem resolution lies with the government of India and the state. Although, much has been said and written about the people of Kashmir with the flow of waters of the river Jhelum, but the stability of the region is a farfetched dream. Here, comes the role of the government into play. The use of pellet guns against the dissenting masses has wreaked havoc and wounded the collective psyche of the people, particularly those who have lost their near and dear ones due to the deadly metallic balls. Those who have fully or partially lost the vision and are living in dark suffer in silence. The government should review the situation and put a full stop for the future use of pellet guns. Those who have lost their dear ones should be financially compensated or by provision of bread and butter. However, the clarion call of the people is the complete ban and stoppage of these pellet guns in order to prevent the further damage and restore the faith of the people in the system. The government of India should pass a resolution to put a terminal pause to the use of pellet guns in the state of Jammu and Kashmir.

The vital task for the current times is to build a consensus for the total pellet ban. The use of non-lethal methods by the security agencies like water cannons could be the best alternatives. This will not only restore the faith of the people in governance, but also generate a feeling of belongingness among the masses. The bruised scars of the pellets have defaulted the trust of the people in the political system. Although, the situation is worrisome for one and all, but, in which direction the boat sails lies with the future course of action. After all action speaks louder than the words.

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South Asia

Pakistan not a Threat for Israel: Clearing Misconceptions

Uzge A. Saleem

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Ever since 1998; the beginning of Pakistan’s nuclear age, the state’s self-defense mechanism has been a source of worry and unrest for India and the US. Both these states never really accepted that a small state like Pakistan could develop the prestigious asset and was now well capable of defending itself against external threats. US opposed the program on the grounds that it had been tested after the signing of NPT and that it is an “illegitimate” program. Their basic concern was Pakistan not being a party to NPT and US non-proliferation efforts failing. India, though very much against the program, could not openly oppose it on the same grounds because its own Nuclear Program had the same issue i.e. it was tested after the signing of NPT and they had also not signed the treaty.

There  are  a  lot  of  ambiguities  surrounding   Pakistan’s  nuclear  program  which  are  there intentionally for the benefit and security of the program and state. However, there is one thing which has been kept very clear since day one and that is the Indo centric nature of Pakistan’s nuclear program. The program was developed because the conventionally strong next door neighbor had developed their program. Pakistan, in an attempt to ensure territorial security, had to develop its own program as well. US, China, Russia, France or the UK were never a threat to Pakistan nor was Pakistan on their attack agenda. India on the other hand was in close territorial proximity, a historic enemy, conventionally stronger and now also a nuclear power. After evaluating all these factors any national strategist would suggest a nuclear program for Pakistan and that is exactly what the state did.

There have been news in an Israeli newspaper,  Haaretz, that Pakistan is more of a threat to Israel than Iran. This was published on 20 May, 2018. The grounds for this allegation have been identified  as  Pakistan’s  growing  arsenal  and  other  similar  reasons  which  have  always  been popular in the western policy circles. Iran, a conventional enemy, one with which there have been numerous conflicts, has been ruled out as a threat to Israel since they do not have a nuclear arsenal.

However, there are many concrete facts that have been ignored in this propagating debate. For instance Pakistan has had no wars with Israel. Both the states have never even been on the verge of an all-out war. The states have never even had a conflict that could’ve led to war. Although Iran does not have  a nuclear arsenal at present but that did not stop the states from indulging into conflicts before and although initiating a nuclear war might not be a possibility for Iran but a conventional war is very much within their skill set.

Pakistan is already indulged in a two front defense strategy on its eastern and western borders. The Taliban threat from the west and the ever present Indian threat from the east, particularly along the  line of control is already consuming most of the state’s energy, attention and resources. Under such circumstances, jumping into any sort of venture as far as Israel without any apparent or direct conflict seems like an amateur move which is not expected from Pakistan whatsoever. If any linkages are being made based on the fact that Iran and Israel have cordial ties then they are weak to begin with. On the other hand India and Iran have more than friendly ties and India’s nuclear arsenal is growing rapidly with the US help. However, this does not mean that just because India is a nuclear state and a friend of Iran, it will be inclined to attack Israel.

Pakistan’s nuclear program is solely for the safety and security of the nation against any external threat.  The program  is not for the state  to pick  and choose  enemies  and start  non-existing conflicts. That is definitely not how Pakistan intends to use its resources and deviate from the real agenda which is to protect the state of Pakistan. The only condition under which Pakistan would use its nuclear weapons against any state would be if they choose to attack the territory of Pakistan in a nuclear or non-nuclear manner. The state has been absolutely clear about this from the very beginning of its  nuclear era.

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