Monday, April 13, 2015

For a robust economy in Afghanistan

Located in the vicinity of rising economies China and India, Afghanistan has the leverage of benefitting in areas like investment, technical expertise and technology transfer

The overarching focus in Afghanistan on political stability and effectiveness of the security forces is understandable given the nature of the immediate challenges confronting the country. However, in the long run, economic stability will have to figure in as an intrinsic driver towards sustainable peace. While the previous dispensation was predominantly security-driven, President Ashraf Ghani, with his stint at World Bank and as Finance Minister previously, is expected to underscore economic reconstruction as a key component of state-building.
Beyond providing fiscal cushioning, target-oriented economic interventions can help bridge the governance gap and financial deficits — hallmarks of the previous regime, which, as offshoots of a poorly managed economic toolbox, contribute to a widening political and security vacuum. This vacuum, in turn, provides leeway for extremist forces to move in, as established by Sarah Chayes (Carnegie Endowment) in her comprehensive study drawing linkages between governmental corruption and religious extremism, especially in the context of Afghanistan.
Rebooting the economy

For a decade since 2002, Afghanistan witnessed an encouraging 9.5 per cent growth rate and single digit inflation, but it was widely sustained by the inflow of donor funds and developmental aid. With the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) drawdown drawing close, the growth rate began to dip in 2013 and reached 3.8 per cent by early 2015. With little indigenous infrastructure or capacity, Afghanistan is set to face a downward spiral, especially as donor funding is beginning to dry up. While the Strategic Partnership Agreement with the U.S. in 2012 provides it a stopgap retrieve (including financial support for another decade from 2015-2024), along with the trickling in of some donor pledges made during the 2012 Tokyo conference, Kabul will ultimately have to devise concrete plans to reboot its economy.
In fact, at the core of its structural weakness lies Afghanistan’s overt reliance on foreign aid deftly manoeuvred during the Cold War when it played off both super powers to receive huge injections of aid.
At present, Afghanistan is banking on two factors to resuscitate its economy: its strategic location and its natural resources. Situated at the cusp of three regions — South Asia, the Persian Gulf, Central Asia and at the intersection of the East-West trade corridor — it hopes to channel its location as a hub of trade and transit activity by way of a land bridge between these diverse, yet immensely endowed, regions. In this regard, it plans to revive the ancient Silk Route. The U.S. has already drawn up plans for this opportunity in the form of its New Silk Road Initiative as has China with its proposed Silk Route Economic Belt.
At the core of its structural weakness lies Afghanistan’s overt reliance on foreign aid deftly manoeuvred during the Cold War when it played off both super powers to receive huge injections of aid
Also on the anvil is the transportation of energy from the energy-rich Caspian region to energy-deficit South Asia through a network of pipelines, especially the TAPI (Turkmenistan, Afghanistan, Pakistan, India) pipeline and the Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-China pipeline. Another energy project, CASA-1000, envisages the transmission of hydroelectric power from Central Asia to South Asia via Afghanistan. Afghanistan and Pakistan also signed the Afghanistan-Pakistan Transit and Trade Agreement in 2010 which is hoped to be pegged onto to the liberalisation of trade between Pakistan and India, allowing for a free movement of goods across the region. Located in the vicinity of rising economies China and India, Afghanistan also has the leverage of benefitting in areas such as investment, technical expertise and technology transfer.
The other element of Afghanistan’s economic architecture is its natural resources. It has traditionally been rich in resources such as coal, chromite and marble and has been exporting gas to Russia since 1967. Though some studies undertaken in the 1970s and 1980s indicated the presence of vast mineral and hydrocarbon resources, it was not until 2010 that the U.S. announced the discovery of nearly $1 trillion in untapped mineral deposits. The previously unknown deposits included huge veins of iron, copper, cobalt and gold, and critical industrial metals like lithium, so much so that Afghanistan was slated to become an important centre of global mining. It has already attracted considerable investment with China pledging $2.8 billion for the development of the Aynak copper mines and a consortium of Indian companies in partnership with Canadian companies announcing to invest $14.6 billion for the development of the iron ore mines in Hajigak. However, these investments, like those of the Silk Route land bridge, are presently at a standstill due to the precarious security scenario. The infrastructure for both plans is also missing and could take years to develop. In addition, the wealth of resources comes as a double-edged sword and could entail a vicious cycle of violence if not carefully handled. So, while grand in design and exhibiting huge promise, the enterprises are wrought with uncertainties and could take years to reach fruition.
Focussing on strengths

Meanwhile, Afghanistan could focus on its other strengths such as agriculture and livestock. Only 6 per cent of its land is cultivated; it could increase the yield to its full potential and help switch over from a predominantly opium-driven sector to alternative crops. This will address its issue of food insecurity. It could also harness its upper-riparian position and enter into water-sharing agreements with neighbours, especially with Iran and Pakistan. It could further build on its expanding service sector, undertake measures to plug corruption, and try bring its vast informal economy within the formal tax net. Scams such as the Kabul Bank fraud, one of the worst in international banking history, should be checked and an earnest effort to structurally reform the sector should be undertaken. Only by evolving a robust economy will it become a bulwark.

Afghanistan’s defining fight: Technocrats vs. strongmen

By Sudarsan Raghavan

A massive portrait of a middle-aged man towers over the Ferris wheel and giant mushrooms at an amusement park here. At night, the image is bathed in an ethereal light, visible from a quarter-mile away.
His admirers call him “Ustad,” or “Teacher.” His critics call him the King.
For more than a decade, Atta Mohammad Noor, governor of Balkh province, has controlled this northern region with an iron hand, imbued with the authority of the freedom fighter he was and the ultra-rich businessman he has become. Guns, militias and guile, as well as his ability to provide security, have made him one of the country’s most formidable strongmen.
To many war-weary Afghans, former warlords such as Noor — who are accused of human rights abuses yet rule with impunity — have to be marginalized for the nation to move into a new era. To their supporters, these former warlords remain a bulwark against the Taliban, al-Qaeda and,possibly, the Islamic State, more vital than ever as the U.S. military mission edges to a close.
“If Ustad Atta is ever replaced as governor, there will be chaos here, and it will spread to other provinces,” declared Haji Abdul Wahab, a close friend who manages the park, which Noor built. “He’s got a special place in the hearts of Afghan people.”
Noor’s rise and endurance is a legacy of America’s longest war and an emblem of a fresh contest for influence. It pits the aspirations of Western-educated technocrats keen to transform Afghanistan against conservative ethnic and tribal strongmen determined to preserve the status quo. That struggle is becoming the definitive battle for the future of every aspect of the country’s affairs — from forming a new cabinet to tackling rampant corruption to engaging in peace talks with the Taliban.
There’s a tug of war between two different ways of running the country,” said Peter Semneby, Sweden’s ambassador to Afghanistan. “It’s the traditional patronage way of running Afghanistan against the modern way of running a country, with respect for the constitution, laws and transparency.”
By the time U.S. forces left Iraq, conflict and occupation had destroyed many of the patronage networks, creating new elites. In Afghanistan, the traditional political order remains entrenched after more than 13 years of war, bolstered by American support, a weak central government and fears of a resurgent Taliban.
The ascent last year of ­President Ashraf Ghani, a U.S-educated former World Bank official, was widely seen as a key step in altering old notions of power. But Noor and other strongmen are challenging his efforts to strengthen the government’s authority. The U.S.-brokered power-sharing deal that ushered Ghani into his position “was a narrow victory for the modern way of running Afghanistan,” Semneby said. “But the patronage system is striking back.”
The mujahideen legacy
That system is visible across this sprawling provincial capital, the country’s fourth-largest city, graced with ancient shrines and modern construction projects. Billboards looming over intersections show Noor with influential former mujahideen leaders from years past. The message is unmistakably clear: Noor is the heir to their legacy.
An ethnic Tajik, Noor gained prominence in late 2001 as the top mujahideen commander in northern Afghanistan fighting the Taliban regime. With American funds and weapons, the rebels ousted the Islamists, paving the way for Noor to control the nation’s security forces in strategic Balkh province. In 2003, after a series of battles, he pushed out his main rival, Abdul Rashid Dostum, an ethnic Uzbek warlord, from its capital, Mazar-e Sharif. The next year, then-President Hamid Karzai made Noor provincial governor.
Under Karzai, the warlords thrived. The government either installed them in influential positions or left them alone. Many received funds from the United States and other Western powers to work alongside U.S. and NATO forces to fight the Taliban and al-Qaeda, further increasing their influence in Afghanistan’s political circles.
Broad-shouldered with an athletic build, Noor was a high school teacher — hence his nickname — before he joined the U.S.-backed mujahideen resisting the Soviet occupation in the 1980s. He has since shaved his thick beard and traded his military uniform for tailored Western suits.
He has doled out parcels of land and jobs to hundreds of his former commanders and fighters, according to Western diplomats and human rights activists. Noor exerts influence over the media, judicial system and commercial life here. He’s said to control lucrative customs revenue as well as dozens of companies, some of which receive Western-funded government contracts.
In late 2001 and early 2002, forces under Noor’s command carried out a campaign of looting and rape against ethnic Pashtuns, whose tribesmen make up a majority of the Taliban, according to Human Rights Watch. Today, Noor commands a network of militias, some of which have been implicated in numerous violations, including killings, beatings, abductions, extortion and land seizures.
“Because of the regular and ongoing nature of abuses, it is credible to allege that Atta is either aware of the abuses and directly complicit, or he is indirectly culpable for failing to stop the abuses and hold perpetrators accountable,” said John Sifton, Human Rights Watch’s Asia ­Advocacy director.
A confidential 2011 security report by the U.S. and NATO-led coalition forces, obtained by The Washington Post, found that Noor sought to bolster his political position “by using his patronage network to assassinate and harass political opponents.” The report added that Noor’s “relationship with criminals, especially drug traffickers, has likely been profitable and contributed to [his] financial resources.“
Anyone who opposes him is a target, his critics say.
“Because of Atta’s power, I can no longer do my work freely,” said Shamsuddin Shams, 51, an ethnic Uzbek activist and former businessman who has openly criticized Noor. Noor, he said, confiscated his lands by force, threw him in prison several times and shut down a university he had launched.
Noor did not respond to repeated requests to be interviewed for this story. He has publicly denied allegations of abuses and corruption. In interviews, his friends and close associates insisted that he is so wealthy that he does not need to subsist on graft or violence.
“There’s no truth to what his enemies say about him,” said Zahir Wahdat, the deputy governor of the province and also a former mujahideen commander.
Noor’s supporters contend that he and other strongmen are Afghanistan’s true leaders and have sacrificed immensely for the nation. They disdain technocrats such as Ghani who spent much of their adult lives in the United States and Europe, returning only after the Taliban was ousted.
“Who has destroyed this country for the past 13 years? It’s the people who came from the West,” said Mowlana Farid, a close friend of Noor’s for three decades. “These people with Western ideas have given a bad name to the mujahideen, calling them warlords. Instead of disrespecting them, they have to be respected.”
Opponents of the president
At Balkh Gate, the main entrance to the city, police officers search cars for weapons. Travelers cannot enter unless they deposit their guns and pick them up on the way out. In no other province in Afghanistan does that happen. The policemen are supposed to report to the nation’s Interior Ministry. But it’s clear where their allegiance lies.
“If we had a committed person like Ustad Atta in every province, Afghanistan would be secure,” said Hamidullah Chamto, the police commander at the gate, which was emblazoned with another giant portrait of Noor.
Mazar-e Sharif is widely viewed as the safest city in the country, largely due to Noor’s intelligence, police and military forces. In one recent incident, kidnappers snatched a 4-year-old boy, a relative of a well-known politician. Noor ordered that 5,000 photos of the child be distributed and closed all roads leading out of the city.
“The kidnappers released the child by the afternoon,” recalled Mohammad Moeen Marastial, the politician, who is a close Ghani ally. “Atta has people everywhere.”
That helps explain why Noor remains governor despite the allegations. In Noor, the United States and its allies see someone who can keep the north secure at a time when the Taliban are making inroads outside of their traditional power centers in the south and east.
But Noor and other strongmen have also emerged as the most powerful opposition to Ghani, even as the president forges the closest relationship an Afghan leader has had with Washington in decades.
During last year’s elections, Noor was a key supporter of Abdullah Abdullah, also a prominent former mujahideen figure. Noor publicly criticized Ghani and vowed to create a parallel government in the north if Ghani was elected. Ghani, in turn, vowed to tackle what he described as the illegal activities of Noor and other former warlords — and remove them from their influential positions.
The power-sharing deal brokered by Secretary of State John F. Kerry, under which Abdullah became the country’s chief executive, staved off potential chaos. But it boosted the influence of Noor and other strongmen aligned with Abdullah. Forced to make compromises, Ghani now leads an administration filled with former warlords, including Dostum, who is his vice president.
“If Ustad Atta doesn’t himself want to be replaced, no one can replace him,” Wahdat said.
Unlikely to be removed
In January, members of parliament loyal to the old patronage system rejected more than half the ministers Ghani had appointed to his cabinet, which still is not fully functioning. Some Karzai loyalists and former mujahideen commanders have voiced displeasure with Ghani’s attempts to enter peace talks with the Taliban. Ghani has also had a difficult time persuading Noor and other strongmen in charge of border areas to release vital customs revenue to the government.
“Ghani has a vision for a more unified country, and that runs up hard against Atta’s sense of independence,” said Graeme Smith, Afghanistan analyst for the International Crisis Group.
Noor has aspirations to become leader of the ethnic Tajiks, potentially positioning himself for even greater influence, Western diplomats and analysts said. Even Ghani’s closest friends say it is unlikely that he will fire Noor as governor in the near future. They are more worried that the Taliban or other militants will gain ground — or that other former warlords who have committed even graver abuses, such as Dostum, could seize control of the north.
“The government has too many problems,” said Marastial. “If I was in Ghani’s position, for the stability of Afghanistan, it would be better if Atta stays in his position.”

#Iran Says Open To Joint Operations With #Afghanistan, #Pakistan

Iran says it is ready to conduct joint counterterrorism operations with eastern neighbors Afghanistan and Pakistan.
Interior Minister Abdolreza Rahmani Fazli told reporters in Tehran on April 13 that Iran was willing to "carry out joint operations against terrorists with Pakistan and Afghanistan inside their territory."
Fazli said that although Tehran did not face any "critical security problems," the "occasional acts of sabotage" in Iran had taken place due to the "lack of control" in the neighboring countries.
In the past few months, armed groups have carried out several attacks against Iranian security forces along the volatile border with Pakistan and Afghanistan.
On April 7, the Jaish al-Adl militant group killed eight border guards near the border with Pakistan in Iran's southeastern province of Sistan and Baluchistan.
Iranian-backed Shi'ite militias have helped Iraqi forces fight Islamic State (IS) militants in Iraq, and Iran is one of several countries that have expressed concern about a growing IS presence in Afghanistan.


After Pakistani government made decision to maintain neutrality in Yemen crisis, Saudi Arab Deputy Minister of Islamic Affairs Dr. Abdul Aziz Abdullah started to influence banned religious outfits, religious political leaders, politicians, different heads of religious seminaries, journalists, NGOs on Yemen crisis, according to reports.

The undiplomatic and illegal ambassadorial activities of Dr. Abdullah has exposed the PML-N Government’s leniency toward Saudi Kingdoms, as Pakistani authorities let the Saudi minister free to do whatever in Pakistan.

It is pertinent to mention here that Dr. Abdullah recently presided over the Tahfuz-e-Harman-e-Sharifin Seminar, organized by the Jamiyat Ahle Hadith on April 11 in Islamabad. The seminar was attended by Molana Abul Khair, Jamat-ut-Dawa’s Hafiz Saeed, Pir Amin Hasnat, Pir Mehfoz Mashhadi, Molana Fazul-ur-Rahman Khalil of Ansar Ul Ummah, Owais Norani, Liaquat Bloch, Farzand Hamid-ul-Haq and Sami-ul-Haq, who is famous as the father of Taliban.

According to reports, the Saudi minister also contacted to the heads of the banned outfits and religious militants, which is really a threat to Pakistan’s sovereignty, as Pakistani armed forces are already engaged in the surgical operation, Zarb-e-Azb against these militants in different parts of the country.

The unjustified influence of the Saudi minister has motivated some religious parties and banned outfits to decry the resolution passed by Pakistan National Assembly on Yemen.

Following the motive of Saudi Arabia, the chief of banned outfit, Anjuman-e-Sipah-e-Sahaba Pakistan (SSP), Maulana Muhammad Ahmad Ludhianvi has declared the resolution passed by Pakistan National Assembly on Yemen as “against the will of the people” and “a waste of time”.

Saudi-backed Mullahs (clerics) now have come in the ground to support Saudi Kingdome, and resolved that their parties’ workers and students of hundreds of religious seminaries (Madaris) will go and join Saudi-led alliance of ten countries.

Some reports say that some of journalist and anchor person including Saleem Safi, Amir Liaquat Hussain, Salman Ghani, Ahmed Qureshi (a junior anchor) and many others have been influenced by Saudi Arabian authorities to get their support.

Malala Yousafzai - World must do more to free Nigerian schoolgirl hostages

Nobel peace laureate Malala Yousafzai on Monday criticised Nigerian and world leaders for not doing enough to help free 219 schoolgirls kidnapped a year ago by Boko Haram militants.

“In my opinion, Nigerian leaders and the international community have not done enough to help you,” she said in a letter to the teenagers, on the eve of the first anniversary of their abduction.
“They must do much more to help secure your release. I am among many people pressuring them to make sure you are freed,” she added, calling the girls “my brave sisters”.
Yousafzai’s letter, which she said was “a message of solidarity love and hope”, comes as events, including marches, prayers and vigils, were being held to mark the girls’ 12 months in captivity.
Islamist fighters kidnapped 276 girls from their school in the remote town of Chibok, in Borno state, northeastern Nigeria, on the evening of April 14 last year.
Fifty-seven managed to escape soon afterwards but the remainder have not been seen since an appearance in a Boko Haram video in May last year.
Boko Haram leader Abubakar Shekau has claimed they have all converted to Islam and been “married off”.
Nigeria’s President Goodluck Jonathan and his government were heavily criticised for their response to the kidnapping but Malala said there were now “reasons for hope and optimism”.
“Nigerian forces are re-gaining territory and protecting more schools,” she wrote.
“Nigeria’s newly elected president, Muhammadu Buhari, has vowed to make securing your freedom a top priority and promised his government will not tolerate violence against women and girls.”
Malala, 17, also wrote of her own experiences at the hands of militants in her native Pakistan. She was nearly killed by the Taliban in October 2012 for insisting that girls had a right to an education.
She recovered and became a global champion of girls’ rights to go to school.
A fund set up in her name would ensure the girls will continue their education after their release, she said, urging them not to give up hope.
“I look forward to the day I can hug each one of you, pray with you and celebrate your freedom with your families. Until then, stay strong and never lose hope. You are my heroes,” she added.
The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) on Monday said that 800,000 of the 1.5 million people displaced by Boko Haram’s insurgency were children.
More than 300 schools have been severely damaged or destroyed between January 2012 and December last year, with at least 196 teachers and 314 schoolchildren killed in that period, it added.
Children have increasingly become targets for kidnapping, sexual abuse and forced marriage as well as “weapons of war”, being made to fight alongside militants or used as human bombs, UNICEF said.

Pakistan - Violence In Turbat

The heinous killings of 20 labourers, who belonged to Sindh and Punjab, in the Turbat district of Balochistan on Saturday is yet another reminder of the grim situation in the province. Balochistan Liberation Front, a banned separatist militant group, claimed responsibility for the ethnic killings. Such groups, who claim to be fighting for the rights of Baloch people and independent Balochistan, cannot possibly do greater damage to their alleged cause. By murdering poor labourers, who take no part in devising the military establishment’s policy towards the province and can barely make ends meet, such extremist elements undermine the efforts of dedicated rights and political activists – Baloch and non-Baloch – struggling for peace and justice in Balochistan. 
Those, who campaign for justice and do not shy away from raising their voice against the military establishment’s highhandedness in Balochistan, must offer an equally unequivocal condemnation of ethnic killings in Turbat carried out by separatist groups. No cause, no grievance and no state or military policies justifies ethnic attacks on innocent civilians. It is indeed possible to offer meaningful resistance to misguided policies of the military establishment without excusing or justifying activities of BLF and other militant separatist groups. Loud state propaganda could never destroy their credibility like their own silence does.
As things stand today, Balochistan’s legitimate grievances remain unaddressed. That is partially because of the lack of interest and apathy afflicting the rest of the country. Most do not even understand the nature of problems in the province they have never visited and do not feel the need to. Such incidents will only contribute to Balochistan’s isolation and reinforce suspicions and paranoia surrounding the plight of the Baloch people. Issues like missing persons, lack of civilian powers and military excesses, which ought to be discussed and debated throughout Pakistan, remain stuck on the backseat owing to both state censorship and terrorist activities carried out by entities such as BLF.
The solution to Balochistan’s problems will not come from bullets regardless of who is pulling the trigger. If the state wishes to effectively counter militant separatists, it is advised to empower politicians, activists and citizens remain unarmed despite all that they face. Let them appear on television screens and let people listen to what they have to say. The unwarranted insecurity and paranoia is not doing anyone any good. Pakistan can and will survive harsh statements and unpleasing remarks, but what it cannot afford is perpetual silence.

Pakistan - #YemenCrisis - Unacceptable threat

UAE’s Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Dr Anwar Mohammad Gargash needs to go back to school to relearn the appropriate manner of conducting foreign relations, particularly with friendly countries. The worthy minister of a country Pakistan regards as a friend has attempted a ‘diplomatic’ intervention against the Pakistani parliament’s unanimous resolution to stay out of the Yemen conflict while being ready to come to Saudi Arabia’s assistance should its sovereignty or territorial integrity be threatened (so far it is not, despite the latest reports of ground clashes on the Saudi-Yemeni border because of Yemeni retaliation against the Kingdom’s air strikes). In what can only be termed unprecedented undiplomatic language, the UAE minister has seen fit to criticise the Pakistani parliament’s resolution as unacceptable neutrality in a conflict in which the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) Arab countries are, according to their narrative, combating the spread of Iran’s influence (a charge that Tehran denies, despite the latest report that a couple of Iranian officers have been captured by the militias fighting against the Houthis and their allies). It is in fact so unacceptable to Dr Gargash that he issues a not even thinly veiled threat to Pakistan that it must either do what Saudi Arabia and its GCC allies want (send fighter aircraft, naval ships and ground troops to Yemen alongside the Arab coalition) or be ready to “pay the price”. Dr Gargash goes on to interpret Pakistan and Turkey’s calls for seeking a political solution to the Yemen conflict as reflecting that Iran is more important to Islamabad and Ankara than the Arabs. Interestingly, the UAE’s ‘senior’ partner, Saudi Arabia, has dispatched its foreign minister to Islamabad for discussions. On arrival, he said the parliamentary resolution is Pakistan’s internal matter and although he hopes for a better response from Pakistan, he is here to conduct an exchange of views. What a difference! Saudi Arabia is leading the 10-member Arab coalition and is in the forefront of the air strikes on Yemen but the junior foreign minister of the UAE seems to have diplomatic niceties lost on him. While the Pakistan foreign office has maintained a ‘diplomatic’ silence, pleading no such official message has been received from the UAE so far, Federal Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar has weighed in by calling the threat unacceptable. Certainly no self-respecting country can accept such diktat or language, even from a friend.

Dr Gargash’s undiplomatic outburst aside, which may well reflect partially the GCC’s frustration at not being able to turn the tide of battle in Yemen despite continuous air strikes, the ground situation in Yemen both reveals the limitations of air power alone in any war as well as the risks of entering the war on the side of deposed president Hadi and against the Houthis and their allies. Informed analysts who know Yemen well are warning that any such intervention, far from defeating the Houthis and their allies, promises to turn into a protracted war that will become a self-fulfilling prophecy of the war spilling over the border into Saudi Arabia itself. Interestingly, what has largely gone unnoticed is the US’s support to the Saudi-led war in Yemen. Not only are there now reports of Washington opening its intelligence sharing a crack wider to assist the Saudi bombing campaign, it has now admitted mid-air refuelling of Saudi jets to strengthen the bombing campaign.

Thank God for the collective wisdom of our parliament that scotched any notion of Pakistan getting entangled in another proxy war in the region (the ones in Afghanistan and Indian Held Kashmir, in case anyone needs reminding, have yet to end). Not only would any Pakistani acceptance of the Saudi request for a military intervention have drawn armed forces personnel and resources away from our own struggle against terrorism (though some may drool at the possibility of being richly rewarded by our Arab friends), it had the potential of alienating neighbour Iran and pitching Pakistan directly into the maelstrom of a regional proxy war that is being painted in sectarian colours despite the complexity of the situation and forces fighting in Yemen. Additionally, it is worth reflecting on the US backing to the Saudi campaign opening the door in Yemen to al Qaeda and Islamic State, just as its ill thought through intervention in Iraq and Syria did. The law of unintended consequences is fully at work in the region. Lessons must be learnt from past such mistakes and Pakistan should first and foremost look to its own house on fire, then play a wise and reconciliatory role in its own interests.