Shahbaz Sharif says: `Despite having 100 per cent support of the institutions, the inept government of Imran Khan failed to deliver’. We were not even given 10 per cent support of the institutions” (Dawn dated October 24, 2019). When out of power, inept politicians scold the `Establishment’. In similar vein, Imran Khan gave vent to his frustration in his autobiography, Pakistan: A Personal History, October 17, 2011 edition) upon winning only one seat in first electtoral contest. Furious at `Establishment/ISI’, He wrote, “No politician in this country’s history up till then had ever beaten the establishment” (p.225). He adds, “[ISI’s Major-General Ehtisham] Zamir gave me the ISI’s assessment of how many seats each party could get in the autumn elections… Sadly this has been a legacy of intelligence agencies in Pakistan, who without a proper broad based analysis, have made decisions which have proved disastrous for our country”. He recalls, “This was my first experience of dealing with the ISI”, pages 222-223, ibid. “Consequently a lot of potentially good candidates abandoned us. The ones that were left were turned on by the ISI; its agents either threatened the Tehrik-e-Insaf candidates or cajoled or lured them into Musharraf’s PML (Q)…Some candidates gave up altogether, telling me they could not fight the ISI. They said they would be wasting their money”.
“Authority” under Pakistan’s Constitution: According to Pakistan’s Constitution (1973), “sovereignty” belongs to Allah Almighty, and “authority” is reposed in elected representatives? The Constitution, a written one, categorically spells out separation of powers between legislature, executive and the judiciary. Yet, Pakistan’s constitutional history reflects that various organs had been encroaching upon each other’s domain. Doubtless, `nothing is as simple as its looks at first sight’ (Murphy’s Law).
Civilians themselves invite military for intervention: In mid-1950’s Isikander Mirza appointed serving general, Mohammad Ayub Khan, defence minister in his cabinet. Unable to subdue agitation, Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto banked on General Ziaul Haq to quell popular Pakistan National Alliance movement. During sit-ins against MNS’s government, Imran Khan, now prime minister, and Tahirul Qadri 9minhajul Quran) held meetings with army chief. Now, ahead of 31st October Long March, Maulana Fazlur Rehman met army chief.
Establishment’s Composition: What is composition of the invisible, yet ubiquitous and decisive Establishment? Ayesha Sideeqa Agha tried to map its contours in her essay `Mapping the “Establishment” (Ishtiaq Ahmad and Adnan Rafiq, Pakistan’s Democratic Transition: Change and Persistence, pp.53-71). Besides, following books try to peek into the “Establishment”: (a) Maleeha Lodhi’s Pakistan: Beyond ‘The Crisis State’ (2011), (b) Anatol Lieven’s Pakistan: A Hard Country (2011), (c) Javed Jabbar’s Pakistan: Unique Origins; Unique Destiny? (2011), and (d) Aqil Shah’s The Army and Democracy.
Civil-military discord: Lack of Establishment’s support for the PML-N government was due to divergent perceptions about foreign policy concerning India. MNS’s government launched aman ki asha, desire for peace, media campaign, spearheaded by Jang Media Group. AB Bajpayee, then India’s prime minister was given rousing welcome. En route, live size cow models were installed to show veneration for cow. The visit resulted in Lahore Accord. Re-elected PML-N government kept up its policy of rapprochement with India. The jingoist Narendra Modi developed affinity for Mian Nawaz Shareef. He even called on MNS at the latter’s Jaati-Umara private residential estate (near Raiwind, Lahore)
Military’s offish attitude towards MNS was portrayed in media as an issue of civil-military relations. But, Saamuel P. Huntington, in his 1957 book Soldier and the State views this `issue’ as `an issue of civilian control of the military. He postulated ` a good balance of civil military relations was where the armed forces are subservient to political leadership’. Feaver also thought `a good balance depended on the `civilian leadership’s capacity to punish military for disobedience’. The erudite scholars’ vision of civilian control is relevant to cultures they discussed in their works. Their ideas do not appear to sync with Pakistan’s socio-economic milieu. Pakistan’s society and polity is nowhere near even Turkey where military dominated popular ethos.
Army is unwilling to cede its space in defence and foreign affairs to civilians, who, it regards as corrupt and incompetent. A social-media rumour was that MNS wanted to divest army chief’s powers through legislative amendment. The `Establishment’ acted fast to ensure that MNS did not enjoy majority in Senate also. An Inter-Services Public Relations release is self-explanatory `if you try to clip the army’s wings, it will react. It did react to forestall MNS (Yaroslav Trafimov, `Pakistan leader’s predicament shows power of the Deep State. Prime Minister Sharif Tried to Emulate Turkey’s Erdogan, Now Risks Sharing Fate of Egypt’s Morsi’, Wall Street Journal September 9, 2014). The Journal reported `After winning elections by a landslide last year, Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif quickly moved to emulate another budding Muslim democracy, Turkey, in neutering the army’s political might’.
Ayesha Siddiqa Agha is of view that Pakistan’s military exercises its hegemony through not only politico-economic power but also intellectual power. The intellectual power, according to her, is exercised through `ISPR/ISI, Strategic Pans Division, military-created think tanks, military-sponsored journalists, military in universities, and partnership with ideological groups’.
Who wields `authority’: the venal politicians have any grass-root support. As such, when they are booted out, there are no tears in anyone’s eyes. The military `usurpers’ soon emerge as heroes, soldiers of fortune. History is witness to egoistic clash between bureaucracies, judiciary and the Parliament in Pakistan. It is not military, alone, but also other stakeholders vied for wresting `authority’ from contestants’ hands.
Shortly before pronouncing his verdict on Dosso case, Justice Muneer declared that ‘when politics enters the portals of Justice, democracy, its cherished inmate, walks out by the backdoor’.
The king-pins in various institutions, remained at daggers drawn, oblivious of jurist Jean Bodin’s dictum, majesta est summa in civas ac subditoes legibus que salute potestas, that is ‘highest power over citizens and subjects is unrestrained by law’. Bodin explained power resides with whosoever has ‘power to coerce’. It does not reside with electorate, parliament, judiciary or even constitution. The force of circumstance may enable bureaucrats, judge, politico, and even a praetorian ruler to usurp `authority’ excluding others, or sharing it with others’
Julius Caesar and Napoleon also harboured extra-constitutional thoughts. During his self-crowning in 1804, Napoleon said, “What is the throne, a bit of wood gilded and covered with velvet. I am the state. I alone am here, the representative of the people”. Napoleon told Moreau de Lyonne, “The constitution, what is it but a heap of ruins. Has it not been successively the sport of every party?” “Has not every kind of tyranny been committed in its name since the day of its establishment?” Take gen Zia of Pakistan. While addressing a press conference in Teheran, he said, “What is the Constitution?” “It is a booklet with ten or twelve pages. I can tear them up and say that from tomorrow we shall live under a different system. Is there anybody to stop me? Today the people will follow wherever I lead them. All the politicians including the once mighty Mr. Bhutto will follow me with their tail wagging (ibid. pp. 87-88). Dicey said, “No Constitution can be absolutely safe from a Revolution or a coup detat”.
Alas! All the soldiers of fortune, in uniform or civvies, were mortal. Pakistan’s PM-weres and PMs-to be should take the cues. Remember Nehru said, “Pakistan, I would not have that carbuncle on India’s back”. Patel called Jinnah ‘poison’.
Sand-dune leaders: Pakistan has no charismatic leader to confront military eyeball-to-eyeball on various issues (power sharing, defence allocations, etc.). Bolman and Deal say `Great leadership begins when a leader’s world view [Weltanschanschauung] and personal story, honed over years of experience, meet a situation that both presents challenges and opportunities’. They add, `Great leaders test and evolve their story over time, experimenting, polishing abandoning plot lines that don’t work, and re-inventing those that do. Bad stories often lead to disaster, but good ones conjure magic’ (Lee G. Bolman and Terrence E Deal, How Great Leaders Think: The Art of Reframing, 2014, Jossey-Bass, page 193). Weltanschauung is a German word which literally means `world view’. The word combines “Welt” (“world”) with “Anschauung” (“view”), which ultimately derives from the Middle High German verb schouwen (“to look at” or “to see”). It is a particular philosophy or view of life; the world views of an individual or group. It is a concept fundamental to German philosophy and epistemology and refers to a wide world perception. Additionally, it refers to the framework of ideas and beliefs forming a global description through which an individual, group or culture watches and interprets the world and interacts with it.
Study of leadership styles across swathes of literature indicates that the two traits, a `world view’ and a `story line’ are common in all business leaders (Steve Job, Penny, Eisner, Ford, and Rockefeller). Or, in political leaders like Hitler, Lenin, Stalin, Mao, and Lincoln, whether you abhor or adore them. Some management texts sum up leadership styles (Robert Blake and Jane Mouton) through grids of `concern for people’ (country club, human orientation) and `concern for results’ (task orientation). The leaders share their `world view’ with people who fall in line to leave behind a legacy, a story. China’s XI, again and again, reminds his companions to tell China story, and tell it well, to the world. Pakistani pseudo-leaders have no story to tell.
Hitler, otherwise viewed as a psychopath, explains his `world view in Chapter 1 of his autobiography (Weltenschauung and party, page 298) Mein Kampf (My Struggle). He says `Thus we brought to knowledge of public those first principles and lines of action along which the new struggle was to be conducted for the abolition of a confused mass of obsolete ideas which had obscure and often pernicious tendencies’. In his autobiography (written in prison), Hitler reviews all aspects of German life, the World War I defeat, collapse of the Second Reich, `the mask of Federalism’, `propaganda and organisation’, `German post-War policy of alliances’, and Germany’s policy in Eastern Europe’. His efforts to forge alliances with adversaries reflect that he was a rational flexible man. Napoleon’s `world view’ (like Julius Caesar’s) is less pronounced than his lust for `power’ and contempt for `constitution’ (a la ZA Bhutto, Zia, et al). Pakistan’s prime ministers and prime-ministers-to-be forgot French jurist Jean Bodin’s dictum `majesta est summa in civas ac subditoes legibusque salute potestas, that is ‘highest power over citizens and subjects is unrestrained by law’ (Roedad Khan, Pakistan: A Dream Gone Sour, p. 179.). Napoleon told Moreau de Lyonne, “The constitution, what is it but a heap of ruins. Has it not been successively the sport of every party?” “Has not every kind of tyranny been committed in its name since the day of its establishment?”
Today, we have no leader, like Quaid-e-Azam, with a `world view’, no `story line’ of sustained committed struggle. MJ Akber rightly observes `The [Pakistani] political leaders act like sand dunes. They move in the direction the wind blows’ (Akber, In Pakistan Today, Mittal Publications, New Delhi, p. 216). John R. Schmidt agrees, ` The mainstream political parties in Pakistan can best be viewed as patronage networks, whose primary goal is seeking political offices to gain access to state resources, which can then be used to distribute patronage among their members’ (The Unravelling, Pakistan in the Age of jihad, pages 36-37). Why it is so? Stanley A. Kochanek unpuzzles the conundrum by pointing out `Parties in Pakistan are built from the top-down and are identified with their founders. The office holders are appointed by the leader. Membership rolls are largely bogus and organizational structure exists only on paper’ (Interest groups and Development, Oxford University Press, New Delhi, 1983, p.64). `Most political parties are non-democratic in their structure, character and outlook. The process for leadership selection is not by election, but by nomination. Political parties have no links with policy process as personalities rather than issues matter’ (Saeed Shafqat, Contemporary Issues in Pakistan Studies, pp. 247-256).
Street power: Our chequered political history tells that street power is more important than parliamentary supremacy. A political leader without such power is a wasp without a sting, or maybe, to his denigrators, a snake without fangs. Here I quote from Roedad Khan’s Pakistan: A Dream gone Sour. The author is witness to palace intrigues from Ayub Khan to General Zia. While musing over Bhutto’s execution, he says, “The fatal mistake made by the PPP leadership was to fight the battle for saving Bhutto’s neck in the court room only (p. 69). Zia told the author, “It is his neck or mine… Instead of mobilizing street power, the PPP concentrating on collecting appeals for mercy from foreign heads of government..Agartala Conspiracy Case was withdrawn not because prosecution case against Mujeeb was weak, but because over a million people were out on the streets of Dhakka (p. 70).’Bhutto had betrayed the common people who regarded him as their champion and who shared his ideals and dreams. With the loss of that base, he was totally isolated and at the mercy of the khaki [army] (p. 78).
Right to revolt: Do the people in a land of sand-dunes have the right to revolt? Liberalist philosophers suggests there is a limit beyond which obedience to rule of law is no longer sacrosanct. Locke suggests when government no longer fulfils its duty to provide for the common good, individuals have the right to rebel against it; the [social] contract has been broken’. Abraham Lincoln said, “You can fool some of the people all of the time, and all of the people some of the time, but you cannot fool all of the people all of the time.” Were he a Pakistani, he would have swirled and swooned in his grave to see life-like caricature of his dictum here.
Lip service in manifestos and Constitution: Manifestos are fanciful mementos, eclectic product of religious dictates and fancy provisions in our constitution. They have short life of one-political term unless truncated by praetorians.Article 37 of our constitution relates to `Promotion of social justice and eradication of social evils’. Clause 37 (e): provides `reduce disparity in the income and earnings of individuals…’ (differentials of wealth of an ordinary citizen and a politician?). Article 38 is about `Promotion of social and economic well-being of the people’.
Clause (d) directs `provide basic necessities of life, such as food, clothing, housing, education and medical relief, for all such citizens, irrespective of sex, caste, creed or race, as are permanently or temporarily unable to earn their livelihood on account of infirmity, sickness or unemployment’ (what about others who work without enough money to make ends meet or get medical treatment?). What about across-the-board accountability?
Plight of Pakistan’s Federal Government `Services’ Hospital: FGSH is the only hospital to treat civil servants and their families in Rawalpindi Islamabad area. For political expediency, the government has `entitled’ general public to this hospital. As PIMS charges fees for lab tests, so the whole population from Rawalpindi to Murree Hills and even Azad Kashmir with ICT/Rawalpindi CNICs falls swarms upon this hospital.
After outbreak of dengue, this hospital became `unserviceable’ for civil servants, including over 70 years’ old retirees like me. There is no window to serve elderly civil servants in labs, clinics, Emergency or at medical store. They too have to queue up for long hours like `general’ crowd. The officers’ ward is occupied by unauthorized `sifarshees’ with little room for officers.
In an emergency like Dengue outbreak, all hospitals, civil or military, private or public, should share patient load equitably. Alternatively, the handful of civil servants and their families should be entitled to general treatment at military hospital through some insurance-based or revolving-fund mechanism.
Plight of Defence Paid Servants: Upon retirement, such servants are disentitled from the medicare they had been receiving during service life. They are not entitled to allotment of plots or flats by Defence Housing Authority. As such, after retirement they find themselves poorer than Church’s mice.
Compassion demands that `civilian officers paid out of defence service estimates’, and their families should, at least, be entitled to same treatment as admissible to their serving brethren. I, for one, was shocked to find that after 39 years’ service, I had been disentitled from medical treatment I enjoyed during serving years. My daughter fell sick, and was practically denied any treatment at civil-government medical facilities. I fell back on Ali Medical who charged me non-reimbursable, hefty 80,000 rupees.
Do revolutions come from Heavens? Human beings created a social contract wherein they bartered some of their naturally derived freedom to get security from a sovereign ruler. They did so as in a state of nature they were `solitary, poor, nasty, brutish …’ (Hobbes). Locke suggests when government no longer fulfils its duty to provide for the common good, individuals have the right to rebel against it; the
contract has been broken’. The US Declaration of Independence a’ la Locke provides that it is citizens’ duty to throw off a despotic government and provide new Guards for their Security.
An average Pakistani believes that revolutions are not made, they come about from Heavens. He is unmindful that a revolution, revolt or rebellion is `as natural a growth as an oak’ (Wendell Phillips). Yet, the bitter truth is that `a government which is united’ [by mafias in every sphere of life] `cannot be toppled’ (Plato). Apathy had been a feature of pre-partition society also. Till 1857, Moghal `emperors’ lived on British dole, less than one lac (Jaswant Singh’s Jinnah: Partition, India Pakistan). History of intruders is no history (Marx).Only a handful of rajputs committed johar (suicide en mass like Jews at Masada) when besieged or defeated.
The masses remained silent spectators to War of Independence (Sepoy Mutiny 1857) and isolated uprisings in Bengal _ Faraizi movement 1830-57, Santal Pargana 1855, Indigo districts 1859-61, Tushkhali 1855, Indigo districts 1872-75, Pabna 1873, Chhagalnaiya 1874, Mymensingh 1874-1882 and Munshigang 1980-81. David Hume, not any Indian, created Congress followed by four English presidents.
Aware of selfishness of the Indian people, the British created a class of chiefs (chieftains) to suit their need for loyalists, war fund raisers and recruiters in post -`mutiny’ period and during the Second World War. Peek into the pre-partition gazetteers and you would know the patri-lineage of today’s’ tiwanas, nawabs, pirs, syed faqirs, qizilbash, kharrals, gakhars, and their ilk. A gubernatorial gazetteer states, `I have for many years felt convinced that the time had arrived for the Government to try to introduce some distinction for those who can show hereditary services before the Hon’ble Company’s rule in India ceased. I have often said that I should be proud to wear a Copper Order, bearing merely the words `Teesri pusht Sirkar Company ka Naukar’ (servant to ruling East India Company for the third generation).
Some pirs and mashaikh even quoted verses from Holy Quran to justify allegiance to Englishman (amir), after loyalty to Allah and the Messenger (PBUH). They pointed out that Quran ordained that ihsan (favour) be returned with favour. The ihsan were British favours like titles (khan bahadur etc.), honorary medals, khilat with attached money rewards, life pensions, office of honorary magistrate, assistant commissioner, courtier, etc. A tiwana military officer even testified in favour of O’Dwyer (Jallianwala Bagh massacre) when the latter was under trial.
Health-care for all: Pakistan could learn a lot from Ayusman Bharat and Thailand’s success in achieving universal healthcare in 2002. Thai lesson is importance of tight control within very limited resources at their disposal. They initially excluded high cost treatments such as renal dialysis and organ transplantation. They then went on to build a careful architecture which allowed them, through their Health Intervention and Technology Assessment Program, to clearly specify medically validated protocols and associated prices for all the available services, including diagnostics and medicines.
Born slaves: Population in the Sub-Continent has a slavish mentality. They are change-averse. Gandhi astutely perceived psyche of the Indians (Pakistanis included) (a la Tolstoy’s A Letter to a Hindu) that Indians themselves allowed themselves to be colonized for their own material interests. Otherwise there was no way 30,000 `rather weak and ill-looking Britons could enslave 200 million `vigorous, clever, strong, and freedom loving people (Stegler, 2000). He lamented that Indians had become `sly sycophants and willing servants of the Empire thereby proving to the world that they were morally unfit to serve the country. Gandhi’s ethos sound reverberated in revolutionary ideologies of several revolutionary movements. If government and people are nationalistic, there would be no need to overthrow them (Lincoln’s dictum `Government of the people for …’). SunYat-sen (China) translated Lincoln’s principles into nationalism, democracy and socialism. Marx theory of society postulated that economics determines the socio-political realities. Marx visualized god as creation of human hands, rather than His hand guiding the humans. Lenin envisioned a professional core to lead the revolution.
Mao like Gandhi was rueful at passivity and docility of people. He wanted people to struggle (douzheng) to smash prevailing social inhibitions in such a dramatic and traumatic way that participants could never again re-establish their pre-struggle relationship. Mao says `If you want to know the taste of a pear, you must change the pear by eating it yourself. If you want to know the theory and methods of revolution you must take part in revolution. All genuine knowledge originates in direct experience’. `A person learns to swim in the water not in a library’ [of how-to-swim books] (Paulo Freire). Sanerro Luminoso (the Shining Path) also advocated Mao’s ideas of prolonged guerilla warfare as the only way to overthrow the government. Paulo Freire points out “To affirm that men and women are persons and persons should be free and yet do nothing tangible to make this affirmation a reality is a farce’.
Ayub Khan added the chapter of 22 families to the English-raj aristocracy. About 460 scions of the pre-partition chiefs along with industrial barons created in Ayub era are returned again and again to assemblies. Pakistan’s successive ruling coteries are a miracle that defies common sense and principles of political science.
Politicians in Pakistan should do soul searching. Why people do not come on streets when the jackboots kick them out. It is because they have no grass-root support. They should at least provide for health-care, now in shambles. The politicians go abroad for medical treatment. As such, they do not care a fig for shabby medi-care in Pakistan.
Jubilant PTI should take a cue from Bhutto’s fate. It should shun clientele politics and do some pro-poor legislation. At least come up with a national healthcare and education policy. Waterston in Development Planning suggest `nucleus’ approach. Let government attend first to neglected handful of defence-paid civilians. Thereafter, a universal health-care, probably insurance based, be evolved. If Thailand could do it why can’t Pakistan? Let’s pray our sand-dune rulers come up with, at least a uniform education, healthcare and housing policy.
None of the scholarly works, being second-hand accounts, circumscribe the `Establishment’ fully. They remain esoteric mumbo jumbo. I, for one suggest, that Shahbaz/MNS, together with Imran Khan, with invaluable inputs from fall-guy Chaudhry Nisar, should, for the benefit of posterity, write a first-hand expose of `obnoxious actions of Pakistan’s Establishment’ (RK Kaushik, Pakistan’s Establishment a migraine we must live with , The Statesman February 21, 2019).
Let India loosen pressure on Imran Khan to enable him to fulfil his lofty promises. After all, he is not really “an ISI stooge”, or “a cobra in India’s backyard” (News. Statetimes dated July 29, 2018).
TLP vs Pakistan: A major conundrum
A few days back we have experienced a violent anti-French protest by Tehreek-e-Labaik Pakistan (TLP) that has paralyzed the country. This party which has recently emerged as a powerful force to be reckoned with in Pakistani politics is principally fighting against the Blasphemy case that was reported in France when a school teacher, Smaeul Paty showed caricatures of Prophet (PBUH) to the class. Therefore, it is demanding the boycott of French products, expulsion of the French ambassador, and with recent crackdown the release of TLP leader Saad Rizvi-a 26 years old.
However, to achieve their motives they were seen using violent means like protest with police and supporters clashing in the major cities leading to causality counts, massive injuries, and imprisonment. Pakistani administration has now banned the Hard-line party under anti-Terror law 1997, Section 11(B) on grounds that its actions are prejudicial to the peace and security of country and were meant to imitate the public, causing huge bodily harms to law enforcement agencies and bystanders.
Nevertheless, this protest by TLP that has wreaked havoc in Pakistan has to be analyzed from a critical lens while looking up to the factors that under the shadow are playing a major role in its propagation. There is a need to connect dots because TLP’s existence is not new, it has a history, and is time and again used as a “pressure group” by different factions openly or through back channels to achieve their vested interest.
A question arises, why TLP was not taken as a terrorist organization back in the time when the current PTI government used to have engagements with it? Why not PTM and MQM that are posing an existential threat to Pakistan and having connections with the RAW agency as well? Why only TLP has to face the music? Is it for the purpose to get out of the FATF grey list by banning such violent parties to show up for peace, but if it’s the case then the move is highly mistaken because considering the image of Pakistan internationally it is more distressing than ever.
Moving further, can we say that both TLP and State are part of the same ship befooling only the public? Or there is another undercover force behind it. Was all the criticism that the PTI government came across for mishandling the protest and not acting swiftly was intentional to point towards the failure of govt and to show the relevance of a particular faction without whom Pakistan can’t even deal with a protest?
Therefore, it’s important to understand who is acting at the backend of all the chaos as in Pakistan religion is very close to heart that is one of the reasons it is most likely to be exploited by the powerful factions for their interest. For instance, the very purpose of TLP creation by Khadim Rizvi in 2015 was to protect Pakistan’s blasphemy law and the finality of the prophet. As this is one of the factors that unites Muslims across the world. It’s not for the first time that TLP has shown up in the forms of protest, we did have the same protest in 2018 when Asia Bibi, a Christian woman was involved in blasphemy. At that time TLP had three days major sit-ins in Lahore after the Supreme Court overturned the death sentence awarded to Aasia Bibi by a trial court and upheld by the Lahore High Court, and ordered her release.
Much like this, in Nov 2020 the same protest was headed by Maulana Khadim Rizvi for dismissal of the French envoy. So the problem is with the government’s poor handling of the situation. Why it even agreed to remove the French ambassador in the first place, why it pledged to have a resolution sent to National Assemble on 20th April, if that was meant to be broken. Why not it was resolved properly through negotiations at its very beginning and even when they got sight of TLP planning to go for protests across Pakistan, or can we say that it was a deliberate move.
No matter what, it’s at the end the image of Pakistan that is under threat. Struggling to deal with a number of domestic issues, TLP emergence is no less than an extra salt for Pakistan. Thus, we need to understand TLP in the context of real and non-time threats that it is and can pose nationally and internationally to Pakistan before things get completely out of hand and where no solution seems likely.
Pointing to some of the most likely threat TLP could pose to Pakistan internationally and nationally. First and foremost, Pakistan that is already struggling to have stable economy, the TLP protestors and their demands like boycotting of French products would be a major challenge for Pakistan. For instance, EU is one of Pakistan’s largest export markets worth $6.92 billion (34%) with France alone accounting for 5% of total imports from Pakistan. Not just this, but Pakistan imports from France totaled US $356.05 Million in 2020. Hence with such massive trade going on between two states, cutting ties with France would not mean losing France but the larger European Union that will impact economy. Most recently EU has call for a review on Pakistan’s GSP+ Status because of alarming increase in the use of Blasphemy accusations. So the loss of GSP+ status would again mean another loss of $3.5 billion.
Then protests by TLP against France increase likelihood of Pakistan being in the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) grey list for years to come. Having already suffered a loss of almost $38 billion because of being in the Gray list since 2008, in this case when Pakistan FATF decision is scheduled on June, 2021 such violent protests added to the problems.
Moreover, TLP protest has given a clue to Pakistan’s enemies that always look up for such opportunities to create instability in Pakistan. Most importantly, India in our neighbors that has time and again used such religious factions for its interests and fund them across the border, so TLP protesters are yet another soft target for India to exploit. Reports too suggested out of 400,000 tweets, 70% were from fake accounts with around 380 Indian groups circulating fake news regarding the civil war in Pakistan.
Not just this, but a major real-time threat came to the government in its dealing with the protestors. As PTI government is already under severe criticism by the public for its poor performance, so in this state of crisis where it failed to tackle the situation timely, it just gives another hint for the current government’s incompetency which opposition parties exploited further.
Then the image of Pakistan that is projected internationally with the onset of such violent religious extremist protests by TLP is no less than a threat. Pakistan that is already under havoc for being referred to as a terrorist state, these actions by TLP again projected Pakistan’s image as an extremist state which is why France ordered its nationals to leave Pakistan at the earliest possible.
Conclusively, struggling to deal with the economic crisis, internal instability, separatist movements, and political divide, these protests only added to the problems. Therefore, it’s time Pakistan should take serious actions against such violent protestors. It has to rethink its policies, has to devise new strategies. Time demands thinking beyond self-interest towards the broader interest of Pakistan.
Possible scenarios in Afghanistan after US withdrawal
After two decades of U.S. warfare in Afghanistan, President Joe Biden has announced the date for the withdrawal of U.S. troops and ends the longest war. According to him, the United States wills withdrawal its entire military forces from Afghanistan military bases by 9/11/2021. Many Afghanistan politicians do not believe that the U.S. withdraws all of its troops because the central government of Afghanistan does not have adequate preparation after the U.S. withdrawal situation. However, in this article, I will explore the thinkable scenarios in Afghanistan after the U.S. troop’s withdrawal? In this study, I will focus on some possible situations in Afghanistan.
First, achieving peace and construction of Afghanistan National Unity Government (ANUG) is the first possible option post-exit of U.S., Now that foreigners have announced they have left the country, there is no reason for conflict. Such a situation will achieve long peace and stability in Afghanistan and the region; this option needs a comprehensive peace, including internal and external players involved in the coming peace process. I look forward to how the Afghan government maintains the balance of power between the Taliban and other political parties; this is very crucial because the imbalance drawback to the collapse of government and Afghanistan will plunge into civil war as we experienced during the Najibullah government as well. In the external arena, the most affirmative scenario is the situation for the regional country will not be worse. The U.S. will continue its support to the Kabul government in the post-exit era. The external stakeholders, particularly China and Russia, are interested in stability and durable peace in Afghanistan through cooperation with the other regional states (Pakistan, India, Iran, and Turkey). The resolution of the Afghanistan issue will guarantee the security of South and Central Asia its vital for China and Russia because of the core threats to China and Russia from Afghanistan terrorist groups activities, its danger for the U.S. as well.
Another significant reason is that Afghanistan is the gateway to the Central Asian States with potentially untapped energy resources. The regional Actors want direct access through Afghanistan to these natural resources to meet their dire energy demands. Because of American military presence in the region, the regional countries, particularly Iran, Pakistan, China, and Russia, felt threatened. They began to oppose and protect their interests connected with Afghanistan’s peace and security. The notion is that, in the prolonged presence of the United States, these states that have economic and security interests in Afghanistan would be in danger. China and Afghanistan have several ongoing projects underway, and different transnational actors have sabotaged these projects on several occasions. Likewise, Pakistan has a direct border link with Afghanistan, has several stakes in Afghanistan, and needs access to Central Asia. Pakistan also has concerns about the presence of America. It has also made strong connections with China so that mutual interests could be met by joining hands together.
Similarly, Iran and Russia being strategic partnerships have profound political and economic interests in Afghanistan and arch-rivals of the United States. Both countries have to oppose the actions of the United States and a potential threat for both country’s interests in the Afghan mainland and Central Asia. It means the diverging interests in Afghanistan of regional and American interests, politico-military outcomes would in the long term seem not conducive for lasting peace in Afghanistan unless these could have a political consensus on the said diverging interests vis-à-vis Afghanistan internal reconciliation. If all stakeholders involving in the Istanbul negotiation, they could form an ANUG that all have so far required. Agree, this will be the best option to end the war, and such a government will be bringing peace and stability in Afghanistan and the region.
Second, maintain the status quo: U.S. President announced the date of the withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan, reminding that the United States continued its assistance, exceptionally provide large military and financial aid to Afghanistan. It is unclear whether such a promise will be fulfilled; if the U.S. keeps its support, particularly military and financial assistance to Kabul, the Afghan security forces have enough power to maintain the status quo after the U.S. exit. In this case, if the peace talks in the Istanbul conference fail, the Kabul government will survive. The Afghanistan national army will able to fight against the Taliban and other terrorist groups. Let us remember that Dr. Najib’s government was still strong in terms of power, defense. Still, the main reason was led to his government downfall are the imbalance between internal control and ethnic divisions. Regarding imbalance, we can see the role of General Dostum. In the beginning, he was a core ally with Najib when he turned to the North alliance because he did not see himself in the power position. The ongoing situations in Afghanistan are similar; the statement should focus on the role of warlords and political parties to maintain the inter balance this significant for the central government to survive. On the other hands, the economic and military support for the Afghanistan government crucial because without external support Afghanistan government cannot survive; if the necessary financial resources for security are not available from external donors at the same times in the government of the internal situation have many challenges such as insurgency, terrorist, ethnicity, corruption, and warlords. The current conditions Afghanistan faces the external and internal threat; the Afghanistan government need to deal with it. In this situation how the Ghani will deal with post-U.S. withdrawal, he has two choices two survive the first; he imbalance with China and Russia because china can help Afghanistan financially and play a significant role to force Pakistan and Taliban as well, this choice very dangerous if he fails cannot survive if he succeeds he will be overcome both threats. The second is to keep its alliance with the U.S. this situation will maintain the status quo but not bring durable peace and stability in Afghanistan.
Third, the collapse of government and going to civil war: after two decades of war, the U.S. shortcut way to bring peace in Afghanistan. Washington tries to face save from withdrawal of Afghanistan. The U.S., represent Khalilzad, has provided a draft Afghanistan Peace Agreement to the Kabul government and Taliban. The core idea is to replace the elected Afghan government with a transnational one that may occur, including Taliban and negotiation between the parties for a future permanent system. At the same time, president Ghani receives a letter from U.S. Secretary of state Blinken saying it was “urgent” to “accelerate peace talks” and move “quickly toward a settlement.” The letter also has asked Turkey to host a high-level meeting between the Afghan sides “in the coming weeks to finalize a peace agreement.” Suppose the government is to think of independent defense. The Istanbul conference is a good opportunity for the Taliban and Kabul governments to achieve peace; otherwise, the situation will be worse. The current situations are an important opportunity for all different parties, ideologies, groups, and ethnic groups have come together. The unification and arrangement of these products is a complex and arduous task and requires compassion and sacrifice. On the other hand, if the Kabul government delays the negation to remain in power and the Taliban also holds up to returning to power by force, this condition will disintegrate because the ethnic, linguistic, religious, and other divisions turn into armed conflict. In the worst-case scenario, then the 1990s, conflict and war and killing will be restarted, and Afghanistan situations will be worse than Iraq and Syria. In conclusion, this paper argues the future situations of Afghanistan after the U.S. force withdrawal from Afghanistan. During the history of Afghanistan’s statement constantly losing in the diplomatic arena in this crucial moment, how the Ghani governments deal with internal and external issues? All Afghanistan people wish the politicians can play a good role and end the forty-year war and move towards prosperity and stability. If the intra-afghan dialog fails, keep the status quo is also good, at least worse government better than no government, for the benefit of the people and the inhabitants of the big cities, as far as it is acceptable. It is like being delivered in an explosion and suicide attack in these twenty years, and so on. But if we go to the civil war and ethnic conflict and alley to alley, people will forget the previous civil war. I hope that will not happen. People are starving for peace and stability. It would be suitable for political leaders to abandon their interests, focus on the national interest, and move toward a peaceful and prosperous Afghanistan.
Afghanistan: the US and NATO withdrawal and future prospects
On April 14, the United States of America announced that it would withdraw all its troops stationed in Afghanistan from May 1 to September 11, 2021. On the same day, NATO also said it would coordinate with the White House military to initiate the withdrawal.
The year 2021 marks the 20th anniversary of the outbreak of war in Afghanistan, a conflict that has actually been going on since the Soviet invasion of that unfortunate country on December 24, 1979.
What are the plans of NATO and the United States? How will the situation in Afghanistan change in the future?
Regarding the US announcement of the deadline for troop withdrawal, Afghan President Ashraf Ghani has said that the Afghan government respects the US government’s decision to withdraw its troops by the agreed date.
According to the Associated Press, there were 2,500 US troops in Afghanistan before May 1, far below the peak of over 110,000 in 2011.
According to the websites of the Financial Times and theDeutsche Welle, some ten thousand soldiers from the 36 NATO Member States and other US allies are currently stationed in Afghanistan, including as many as 895 Italian soldiers, as well as 1,300 Germans, 750 Brits, 619 Romanians, 600 Turks, etc.
President Trump’s previous Administration signed a peace agreement with the Taliban in Afghanistan in February 2020, setting May 1, 2021 as the deadline for NATO to begin withdrawing from that country. The Washington Post reported that after the current US government issued the withdrawal statement, the Taliban immediately said that if the United States violated the peace agreement and did not withdraw its troops in Afghanistan, the situation would get worse and one of the parties to the agreement would take responsibility for it.
This year is the twentieth since the United States started the war in Afghanistan after the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. The war in Afghanistan is the United States’ longest overseas war, and has killed over 2,300 US soldiers and wounded some 20,000 people, at a cost of over 1 trillion US dollars.
Although the United States and its allies attacked the Taliban and al-Qaeda, the situation in Afghanistan has been turbulent for a long time, with over a hundred thousand Afghan civilian casualties in the fighting.
According to The New York Times, both Parties’ members of the US Congress have differing views on the consequences of withdrawal. According to the newspaper, Republicans and some Democrats believe that the troop withdrawal will encourage the Taliban insurgency, while others believe it is necessary to put an end to this indefinite war.
But what considerations can be made for the US and NATO withdrawal from Afghanistan?
It is well known that the purpose of the United States in taking the war to Afghanistan was a very heavy measure of retaliation against al-Qaeda, which had organised the terrorist attacks of September 11, and against the Taliban regime that protected the top leaders of that terrorist organisation. Although al-Qaeda has not been destroyed, it is unlikely to create similar problems. The United States has achieved its strategic goals and is no longer involved in East Asia’s tactics and strategy.
The interests of NATO (considering its individual Member States) in Afghanistan are fewer than those of the United States. As a military alliance with the United States, the achievement of US strategic goals means that NATO’s equal strategic goals have also been achieved. Hence, rather than continuing to run the risk of confronting the Taliban and al-Qaeda after US military withdrawals, NATO is more willing to remove the “political burden” as soon as possible.
While announcing the terms of the withdrawal, the White House has stated that the threat of extremist organisations such as Somalia’s al-Shabaab and ISIS is spreading globally and it is therefore meaningless to concentrate forces in Afghanistan, with a steady expansion of its military cycle. At the same time, however, the White House has stated that after withdrawal, diplomatic and counter-terrorism mechanisms will be reorganised in Afghanistan to face security challenges. Hence, from the US perspective, there is currently a greater terrorist threat than al-Qaeda and the Taliban.
The prospectsfor advancing the Indo-Pacific regional strategy to oppose China also means that it would be counterproductive for the United States to remain in Afghanistan any longer. Even after the troop withdrawal, there will be insecurity in Afghanistan. That being the case, however, the United States will still find ways and means to support the Afghan regime and the armed forces of the Kabul government.
The Washington Post has also reported statements by a Pentagon official who has stressed that Afghanistan is a landlocked country: consequently, once US and NATO forces withdraw, one of the biggest challenges will be how to effectively monitor and combat extremist organisations and resist threats to US security: at that distance it will be even more difficult without sea landings.
According to Reuters, the CIA predicts that the possibility of a further US-Afghan peace deal is little and has warned that once the United States and its allies withdraw, it will be difficult to stop the Taliban.
The Afghan government forces currently control Kabul and other large cities, but the Taliban are present in more than half of the country’s territory and rural areas. In the future, the possibility of a Taliban counter-offensive cannot be ruled out.
Great Britain’s The Guardian has commented that the years of war have generally made Afghans feel a strong sense of insecurity and the withdrawal of troops will not bring much comfort to the local population. According to the London-based newspaper, for the United States this is yet another war that cannot be won.
According to experts, there are two extreme possibilities in the future situation in Afghanistan. The excellent situation is the one in which the less extremist wing of the Taliban mediates so that, once the United States withdraws, the Taliban can gradually move from being an extremist organisation to being an internal administrative one and then negotiate with the legitimate government supported by the United Nations: this would mean a long-term peace after forty-two years of war.
Under extremely unfavourable circumstances, instead, the Afghan government forces would overestimate their military strength and intend to continue the war alone against their traditional opponents, at which point peace negotiations between the two sides would break down.
This would mean falling again into a prolonged civil war and into eternal war.
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