Saturday, October 8, 2016

Pakistan - The elephant in the room

By Afrasiab Khattak
Amidst the persistent military tension on the Line of Control between India and Pakistan in Jammu and Kashmir, the first week of October saw a deepening civil-military schism in Pakistan’s power structure surfacing to the public and getting reported in national and international press.
Massive protests in the streets of Indian controlled Kashmir for the last almost three months have thoroughly embarrassed India and even the brutal measures in large numbers of its security forces have failed to quell the popular agitation. But when it comes to the international response to the situation in Kashmir, Pakistani diplomacy has a disadvantage on two counts. One, there have been terrorist attacks in Indian controlled Kashmir in recent years some of which were traced to Pakistan-based proscribed organizations such as Lashkar e Taiba (LeT) and Jaish e Muhammad (JeM). To the utter dismay of not only India, but also of other important members of international community, the government of Pakistan failed to take any action against these proscribed organisations, some think because of their alleged closeness to the country’s intelligence agencies.
Two, the current uprising was triggered by the death of a young commander Burhan Wani. There is almost negligible international criticism of Indian repression in Kashmir. It was in this context that in high level meetings in Pakistan on security and foreign policy the civilian leadership pointed an accusing finger at the security establishment’s patronage of proscribed militant outfits accused of terrorism. It is also pertinent to mention that the aforementioned high level meetings were held in the aftermath of cancellation of the Islamabad SAARC summit when seven out of total eight members (including India) pulled out of it. Most of them referred to the “problem of terrorism” as the main reason for their refusal to attend the SAARC summit in Islamabad. It is undoubtedly a foreign policy fiasco and a testimony to Pakistan’s total isolation in South Asia. It goes without saying that a continuous Pakistani support to Taliban’s all out war on Afghan state and society is an important factor in shaping her image as country that supports anti-state wars in the neighboring countries. The civilian part of the Pakistani state system is conscious of the fact the total monopoly of the country’s security establishment over Afghan policy led to the rupture of rapprochement with Afghanistan that had begun with President Ashraf Ghani’s historic Pakistan visit in 2014. So in the aforementioned high-level meetings Pakistan’s civilian leadership has spotted the elephant in the room but what can it do about it is the real question.
However, to be more accurate the civil military divide in Pakistan did not start with the recent military confrontation between Pakistan and India. It was there all along after the general elections of 2008 when democratically elected civilian government started to assert its authority. The PPP-led coalition government was able to introduce important constitutional reforms and to an extent could enhance the role of parliament in shaping the state policies. But President Asif Ali Zardari had to face blunt and naked coercion of the country’s security establishment to curtail civilian control over state policies. It was in the shape of the so-called memo commission, the background music of the notorious minus-one formula and the aggressive CJ of the Apex Court. However, civil-military tussle entered a new stage when Nawaz Sharif led PML-N won a clear majority in the 2013 general elections. This particular political party has its political base in the province of Punjab which is not only population-wise a bigger province than all the others put together but it also enjoys heavy domination in both civil and military bureaucracies and business elites of the country. As the authentic leader of Punjabi bourgeoisie and head of Muslim League, a political party that was once headed by Mohammad Ali Jinnah, the founder of Pakistan, Mian Nawaz Sharif is better able than any other political leader to stand up to the security establishment for asserting civilian authority. As a third time Prime Minister of the country he has a far greater experience in facing the overbearing security establishment that breathes heavily on the neck of civil governments. He is the only Prime Minister who has so far appointed three army chiefs and is shortly about to appoint the fourth one. That in itself is a record of sorts in a country where the military has either ruled the country directly or has resorted to back seat driving when it was not in a position to take over.
But this time round the situation is trickier than ever. PM Nawaz Sharif has won elections on a clear mandate focusing on the economic development of the country that necessitates normalisation of relations with the neighboring countries. Interestingly his election plate from in 2013 not only promised to forge normal relations with India but it also included starting economic cooperation with the eastern neighbor. Nawaz Sharif has been quite serious and consistent in this policy and has not hesitated from taking bold steps in this direction. Now this is a red rag to the country’s powerful security establishment that thrives on tension with neighboring countries. But to be fair the BJP government in India also failed to understand political dynamics in Pakistan and did not reciprocate Nawaz Sharif’s bold gestures. Its insistence on a military solution to the situation in Kashmir has definitely strengthened the hands of hawks in Pakistani ruling circles.
The first sit in by Imran Khan and Tahir Ul Qadri for overthrowing the government in 2014 is part of history. Now comes season two of the get-the-government campaign. Under the cover of demand for investigating the scandal of offshore companies revealed by the so-called Panama Papers there is move for a “regime change”. Ironically those who do not get tired of talking about the moral authority of PM Nawaz Sharif don’t say a word about the escape of General Pervez Musharraf from the country while facing charges of high treason for abrogating the Constitution. Be that as it may, timing and modus operandi of the current script being implemented by Imran Khan seems to be following the recent Egyptian model. But let us remember that the federation of Pakistan is a totally different country and unlike Egypt the loss of a federal parliamentary constitution can be fatal for her.

Bilawal Bhutto expressed solidarity with families of 2005 earthquake victims

Chairman Pakistan Peoples Party Bilawal Bhutto Zardari has expressed solidarity with the families of around 90,000 fellow citizens who lost their lives in deadly earthquake, which caused widespread devastation in Azad Jammu & Kashmir and parts of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa 11 years ago on October 8.
“Scars left the deaths and destruction of 2005 earthquake are still fresh and thousands of families and lakhs of other loved ones are still mourning one of the most catastrophic losses in the history natural disasters,” PPP Chairman said.
Bilawal Bhutto Zardari said that the depth of pain could only be felt by those who lost their loved ones but the 2005 earthquake drew grief and gloom from around the globe due its worst intensity and horrific havoc in the region.
PPP Chairman said that Muzaffarabad, Bagh and other cities have risen again from the debris into vibrant cities but memories of those died in the disaster shall continue to remain with us forever.
He said that PPP and its workers shared the sorrow and grief of the victims and we would continue to remember our brothers and sisters in Azad Kashmir, Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa and other affected districts.
Bilawal Bhutto Zardari prayed for the victims and their families expressing heartfelt sympathies with them.

India and Pakistan are clashing again over Kashmir. Here's what you need to know

By - Shashank Bengali

India and Pakistan are at it again.
The South Asian rivals are locked in another escalating confrontation over Kashmir, the ruggedly beautiful Himalayan territory they have tussled over for seven decades.
The countries have fought two wars over Kashmir, but the prospect of fresh hostilities is particularly worrisome because both now have nuclear weapons. Here’s a look at the conflict and what could happen next.
What triggered the current crisis? 
Tensions reached their highest point in years after four anti-India militants raided an army base inside Indian-controlled Kashmir on Sept. 18, killing 19 soldiers. India said the attackers came from Pakistan, which denied involvement.
India responded to the attack nine days later by sending commandos to strike militant outposts a short distance inside Pakistani-administered Kashmir. Although the countries regularly trade fire across the border in contravention of a decades-old cease-fire, this was the first time India publicly acknowledged such a strike.
In recent days, India has accused Pakistan of violating the cease-fire more than two dozen times. On Thursday the Indian army said it killed three militants who fired on another military camp and four others attempting to cross into Indian-controlled Kashmir.
When Britain gave up control of the Indian subcontinent in 1947, splitting it into a predominantly Hindu India and a predominantly Muslim Pakistan, the northern princely state of Kashmir — slightly larger than California — initially decided to remain independent.
Pakistan lay claim to Kashmir because most of its residents are Muslim. Shortly after independence, Pakistani raiders entered Kashmir, prompting the state’s then-ruler to agree to join India if it sent troops to help him.
The ensuing war ended with Kashmir being divided into Indian- and Pakistani-controlled portions along a 435-mile cease-fire line. The countries went back to war in 1965 but fought to a stalemate.
A 1972 agreement designated the cease-fire line as the Line of Control, which remains in effect.
India controls eastern Kashmir and the southern Kashmir Valley, slightly more land than Pakistan, which holds the north and west. China also claims a chunk of northeast Kashmir, a high-altitude desert that is part of a long-running territorial dispute with India.
How many have died in the conflict?
Separatist groups that oppose Indian rule in Kashmir — including some that desire independence — have long done battle with the half-million Indian troops stationed there. India estimates that more than 47,000 civilians and police have been killed in the territory since 1989, although human rights groups say the toll is much higher.
Since June, after Indian paramilitaries gunned down a 21-year-old militant, the Kashmir Valley has seen its deadliest violence in six years.
More than 80 civilians have been killed in clashes with police, who have been accused ofusing excessive force. India blames Pakistan for stoking the violence, although Pakistan denies it.
Some Indian analysts saw the Sept. 18 raid on the army base as an attempt by Pakistan-based militants to test Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who was already under international pressure over the deaths of demonstrators.
India and Pakistan have gone to the brink of war four times since 1987, but India has recently been reluctant to use force to avenge incursions in Kashmir, gambling that restraint earns it prestige globally.
But Modi — an ardent Hindu nationalist who took power in 2014 vowing to project a more muscular foreign policy — opted to strike back publicly after his high-profile efforts to patch relations with Pakistan failed.
Is the conflict likely to escalate?
Experts say it’s unlikely. While the loudest voices in India demand revenge against Pakistan, analysts say neither country gains if things get worse.
India is the world’s fastest-growing major economy, and Modi wants to focus on development, not defense. Several crucial state elections over the next year will hinge on how voters rate his Bharatiya Janata Party’s handling of the economy.
Pakistan lacks India’s conventional military capability. Its prime minister, Nawaz Sharif, is weak, and its powerful army chief is weighing retirement — an unsteady time for Pakistan to step into a major conflict with its more powerful neighbor.
Pakistan has denied that Indian commandos carried out “surgical strikes” after the Sept. 18 attack, characterizing the incidents as routine cross-border shelling. Hawks in India snigger at the denial, but Modi and other senior officials have not provided details that would confirm the operation, perhaps figuring that chest-thumping could make Pakistan more likely to retaliate.
The consequences of an all-out war between nuclear powers would be bleak: One study projected that if India and Pakistan exchanged 100 nuclear weapons — less than half their combined arsenal — the war would kill 20 million people in a week and endanger 2 billion worldwide

How are other countries responding?
The United States, which forged an alliance with Pakistan to fight terrorism, has recently grown closer to India.
Modi and President Obama have held several warm meetings and the bilateral trade and defense relationship is growing fast. Meanwhile, U.S. relations with Pakistan are souring, as shown by the Pentagon’s decision to withhold $300 million in military funding because Islamabad failed to demonstrate it had taken action against terrorist groups attacking U.S. interests in Afghanistan.
The White House recently called on Pakistan to do more to rein in militant groups such as Jaish-e-Mohammad, which India blames for several attacks, including the raid on the army base.
Pakistan finds itself increasingly isolated. It had to postpone a South Asian summit scheduled for November in Islamabad after India, Bangladesh, Afghanistan and Bhutan all withdrew in protest of the army base attack.
Its most powerful friend, China, has said it “attaches importance to Pakistan’s standpoint” on Kashmir. But according to reports, Beijing has quietly signaled to Islamabad that it must take a tougher line against militants.