Friday, July 3, 2015


Why Afghanistan's neighbours fear drugs influx

By Ahmed Rashid

Could increased fighting in northern Afghanistan lead to an influx of drugs transiting through Tajikistan and Central Asia to Russia and Europe? That is the worry of senior officials in the region.

Afghanistan-Pakistan Emerging Relations: An Opportunity Or A Threat

Since the launch of the summer offensive ‘Azam’ by insurgent groups, Afghanistan has gone through one of its most challenging periods of the last 14 years. Afghanistan national security forces have witnessed huge number of casualties. Insurgency in North of Afghanistan and the fallout of districts in Kunduz, Badakhshan and Nuristan echoes the unpreparedness of Afghan forces to fight without international forces air-support. Similarly Kabul was lucky not to witness the massacre of its member of parliament, as a group of suicide bomber were unable to reach their desires, otherwise, the intrusion would have cost the National Unity Government (NUG) a huge price.
Besides these insecurities and political uncertainties, the leadership of the NUG still believes that peace negotiations should be prioritiesed. They also have been adamant that the Memorendum of Understanging (MoU) between the intelligence organisations of Afghanistan and Pakistan has not yet been inked while copies of the signed MoU are circulating in the social media websites.
As the leadership of the NUG is tilting and flexing their foreign policy towards Pakistan in hope of peace and security that could be attained with their support. However, there are groups of ‘opposition’ to the approach taken by President Ghani and his team. Amongst them is the former President Hamed Karzai, who has remained politically active, despite stepping down last year.
The former President has recently held informal talks with the major stakeholders in India, China and Russia. Amongst these meeting two are of core importance a meeting he held with Prime Minister of India Narender Singh Modi and the Russian President Vladimir Putin. He has informed both of them about the challenges that Afghanistan is facing with the transitioning of power to Afghan forces, while also voicing his concerns about policies of the NUG. In his visit meeting with President Putin, he reiterated that “We have entered a new sort of relationship with Russia,” he further added, “And that relationship is now blossoming.”
The question with Afghans is that whether the growing insecurities, political uncertainties, and unemployment were the things that they were expecting from the NUG. It has almost been now 10 months, and the NUG has not delivered on any of the promises that the leadership of NUG promised to the people of Afghanistan.
The people of Afghanistan do understand that the core to all the above stated issues is insecurity, but how far more will the people of Afghanistan have to suffer. President Ashraf Ghani has offered Pakistan exceptional opportunity to work out peace for them. We don’t think this opportunity will come again, as failure to Ghani’s will dishearten other Afghan leaders to make such an offer to its western neighbors. We do understand that Pakistan wants Afghanistan that its territory and institutions should not be used against its national interest but Afghans would expect the same.
However we do understand that the movement of Taliban is not now only confined to support from Pakistan, as there are other regional and international miscreants that have provided them funding and logistics over the years to ensure that Afghanistan remains a mayhem to regional counties. We would therefore ask for a more comprehensive approach from neighboring countries including China, India, Russia and Saudi to think out of box, about durable peace in Afghanistan, otherwise the continuity of the insecurity would have direct and indirect impact on these counties.

Pakistan's Crippling disease : Fresh polio case detected in Balochistan

Health officials on Thursday confirmed that a four-year-old boy tested positive for polio virus in Pashtunabad, on the outskirts of Quetta, raising the total number of cases in the country to 26 this year.
Officials at the Emergency Operation Centre (EOC) said that poliovirus was reported in samples obtained from 57-month-old Sharifullah.  They revealed that the boy’s parents had refused immunisation against the crippling disease citing religious reasons.
They added that Sharif Ullah’s father, Abdul Khaliq believed that polio drops cause impotency.
Commenting on the situation, Dr Syed Saifur Rehman, who heads the centre for polio eradication in the province, said that “Parents are responsible for destroying the lives of their children.” “They are putting the country at stake when they refuse to administer anti-polio drops,” he added.
Most polio cases in the country are primarily the result of non-administration of the vaccine either due to the family’s refusal or because polio volunteers are not able to reach families due to security impediments.

Pakistan - The death of journalism

If provocation does not work, what is the solution? More provocation until you become an anchor yourself!
Irrespective of one’s professional background, every important person (self-declared or otherwise) shares the same dream about the peak of his career in Pakistan: to appear on television as a ‘senior expert,’ the first reliable step towards hosting his/her own programme. Apart from the young and energetic, retirees with ‘severe’ heart disease are also jumping in (allegedly) to join the party and seize fame and fortune. Who can blame them for such an endeavour, an endeavor that pays well both in terms of financial compensation and political influence?

In fact, it is because of our insatiable desire for fame and fortune that Pakistan has become such a burgeoning market for these senior experts and, along with them, suicide bombers and world-renowned terrorists. One major difference, to be kept in mind though, between the two is that the latter (men of action) are concerned about their reward in the afterlife while the former (paper tigers) are only worried about their eminence in this mundane world. By mentioning this, I by no means am rooting for men of action over paper tigers since I believe that each one of them, in their own way, endangers our national integrity and regional peace. Let me put it another way: no country can afford to have so many of them together, except when it is determined to become Pakistan in the near future.

Coming back to the experts, I must make it clear to the readers that we do not know the cut off that sets apart a junior expert from a senior one. For many, it is just a figure of speech, an expression to show respect to any guest. In some instances, they even call each other seniors when they know it is the first month of the ‘senior’ on the job. Likewise, I am not sure what makes an expert an expert. Is it the number of their published books, their contributions to research articles, groundbreaking technological inventions, discovery of the new laws of mechanics or their landmark policy papers that changed the direction of the country? We are not sure. However, listening to them on television makes me think that none of these literary, legal or scientific contributions are required as a prerequisite to be an expert. On the contrary, these qualities may be frowned upon and discouraged. To be proclaimed as a specialist and then to be able to maintain that success one must bear only one attribute: to provoke others and/or be provoked by them into a feud that includes shouting, swearing, yelling and even kicking, slapping or throwing a punch.

By adopting this simple formula, if you have already appeared as a guest on some television shows and have showed off your talent, then let me assure you that you have fulfilled the first step of your dream, which is to conduct your own programme. However, with interested applicants ranging from retired generals to local physicians, and from stage comedians to serving bureaucrats, the market is full of well-connected, talented (most of the time self-proclaimed legendary) candidates, people who have done so much for the country that only fools can turn them down. In their presence, it is all but natural for one to feel intimidated and even depressed. What should one do then? I guess one should follow the same time-tested rule, normally reserved for democracy, which goes like this: “If democracy does not deliver, what is the solution? More democracy.” In the same way, if provocation does not work, what is the solution? More provocation until you become an anchor yourself!

And once you have secured your position as a host, vanquishing your competition, the world falls in line for you. I understand that in the beginning you have to focus on your own area of expertise and maintain your individual style but as a host, once you have drawn enough viewership, you must expand your skillfulness and cast your authority in biology, chemistry, physics, medicine and the economy along with international relations, public policy, politics and defence, all at the same time.

Every evening, wearing perfect makeup on your face, hiding all the blemishes on your skin (and character), as a true patriot you have to spend — which you already do — at least five minutes of your time on an introductory lecture providing the nation a guideline on how to succeed, computing its progress report and enumerating the reasons for its failure. If the people in power were sincere they would grab these pearls of wisdom that you have just spilled, stack them up together and compile all of them as a book of wisdom to be carried in their pockets all the time. But, alas, crooked politicians miss this ‘near divine’ wisdom.

Remembering, from divine wisdom, I must add that during your introductory speech no one should be allowed to question you, correct you or ask to provide appropriate references. Just like no one can challenge the authority of the cleric with a mike who can talk for hours without making any sense on the most difficult aspects of human evolution, atomic physics or astronomy. While it is the same type of job (as both of you have to entertain the audience for a long period of time and provide the nation an outline for its personal and collective success) the only difference between you and the cleric is the visible absence/presence of the beard, the robe, the camera, the discussion table and the pulpit. The question is: in the presence of so many clerics, do we need more?