Friday, August 25, 2017
Pakistan People’s Party Chairman Bilawal Bhutto has formed a 10-member Foreign Relations Committee with former federal minister Senator Sherry Rehman as its convener.
Senator Farhatullah Babar, Hina Rabbani Khar, Saleem Mandviwala, Faisal Karim Kundi, Fauzia Habib, Matloob Inquilabi, Palwasha Khan, Imran Nadeem, Senator Fateh Muhammed Hasni will be the members of the committee.
Notification in this regard was issued from the Chairman Secretariat by his Political Secretary Jameel Ahmed Soomro. Senator Sherry Rehman said that the PPP has always had the most robust and clear foreign policy for Pakistan.
From Zulfikar Ali Bhutto to Benazir Bhutto and Asif Ali Zardari’s government to today, to Chairman Bilawal, the PPP has clear views on policy, he said. “We have articulated the best interests of Pakistan, both at home and abroad,” she said.
From the nuclear deterrent to missile capability, and making the China opportunity real via giving Gwadar port handling to the People’s Republic by (then) president Zardari, the party has taken seminal initiatives for safeguarding the borders, integrity and sovereignty of Pakistan, she said.
“We are the only party that envisions peace for Pakistan both at home and abroad in real and meaningful terms. The committee is an important body of the party and I look forward to working with the leadership and my colleagues on framing national responses to present and upcoming challenges,” Sherry said.
By Gautam Adhikari
President Donald Trump delivered an intriguing address to the nation on Monday. It was intriguing not only because of the paucity of detail on what exactly his new policy on Afghanistan and South Asia would entail, but because of its apparent reliance on a sequenced military response with little light cast on diplomatic repercussions.
From the speech, it is hard to detect a clear aim. What exactly is the U.S. goal in Afghanistan? There have been two purported goals thus far: One is defeating the Taliban and stabilizing the country from Kabul; the other is to choke any future possibility of Afghanistan being a base for the export of terror as happened on 9/11. Neither is achievable any longer, if it ever was, by a primarily military onslaught. A few thousand additional troops cannot do the job, even if they are not bound by a time constraint as Trump suggested.
All efforts over 17 years to achieve the first goal have not succeeded. The Taliban today controls roughly 40 percent of the country; the government in Kabul less than a quarter directly, while retaining some influence in the remaining parts, according to published reports. A massive American and allied presence, lasting several years, of over 100,000 did drive the Taliban away temporarily, but they're back and gaining ground.
The second goal of stemming the export of terror was probably the initial aim of the George W Bush administration and it seemed to succeed for a while. But today, the Islamic State group operates there and al-Qaida remains on the loose. This is to say nothing of groups like the Haqqani network and other terror networks that operate with apparent impunity across the Afghanistan-Pakistan border to inflict casualties on U.S.-NATO troops as well as Afghan forces.
Trump appeared to come down hard, rightly, on Pakistan, without whose support and encouragement neither the Taliban nor the terrorists would find it easy to operate. But U.S. policymakers have known this for a while. It has nevertheless remained a crucial roadblock in efforts to stabilize Afghanistan.
So Trump added a new element to the mix: India would offer the US more support in Afghanistan, and Pakistan, Trump hinted, had better watch out. Well, that too has its problems.
The president's suggested shift in strategic alignments did not indicate the scope of the role India would play, more than its ongoing assistance in development and reconstruction. Was he expecting India to involve itself militarily more directly than it might be ready to? Has a plan been worked out with New Delhi or is it just dire words?
Aside from alarming Islamabad to drive it closer into the arms of China – its "all-weather friend" – such a move would complicate the balance of power in nuclear-armed South Asia. Currently, India is in a mutually belligerent face-off with China on its border in the trifecta of Bhutan, China and India, to say nothing of its perennial tension with Pakistan on its western border. And China, as it has quickly indicated, would move even closer to Pakistan if it begins to lose U.S. military and economic backing.
With a military victory over the Taliban out of the question, absent a highly unlikely years-long presence of hundreds of thousands of U.S.-NATO forces once again, a holding operation with a few thousand U.S. forces until "conditions" improve would take a major diplomatic initiative in the region.
It would have to involve not just Pakistan and India but also two other rising players in Afghanistan – Iran and Russia – while ensuring that China agrees that reining in Pakistan would be in its global strategic interest. Beijing, however, sees matters differently. Meanwhile, clandestine financing of the Taliban and terrorists by some Gulf states, particularly hard-to-confront Saudi Arabia, must be stopped.
Such an intricate diplomatic minuet is necessary but may be beyond the present capacity of the Trump administration. Apart from severely weakening the State Department, the administration has not even appointed an ambassador to New Delhi following the departure of Richard Verma at the end of Obama's term. Further, diplomacy with China and Russia has become more complicated than it already was with the imposition of sanctions announced on Tuesday. And, with Iran, the possibility of getting its cooperation for Afghan peace is remote as things stand.
Trump's speech, therefore, raises many more questions than it cared to answer.
|Index/Fund||3-month Performance||2-year Performance|
|Global X MSCI Pakistan (PAK)||-20.93%||3.95|
|iShares S&P India 50 (INDY)||5.79||31.96%|
Malik Siraj Akbar
President Obama, according to Bob Woodward’s book “Obama’s Wars,” had said in a 2009 Oval Office meeting, that the cancer [of terrorism] was in Pakistan, and the United States needed to make sure that the “cancer doesn’t spread.” The Obama Administration, reports the New America Foundation, conducted 353 drones strikes in Pakistan that killed between 1,659 to 2,683 suspected militants. America under Obama could not succeed in obliterating Islamic terrorist groups in the Af-Pak region or punishing Pakistan for providing sanctuary to terrorists, including Osama bin Laden. “Newsweek“ reported that the United States had provided Pakistan approximately 20 billion dollars since 2001. But Obama was not tough enough to call out Pakistan in public for its double standards in the war against terrorism.
President Trump, while unveiling his new Afghanistan policy on Monday, finally said, “we can no longer be silent about Pakistan’s safe-havens for terrorist organizations, the Taliban and other groups that pose a threat to the region and beyond.” Trump is not known for keeping his words or being consistent in his position on any issue. Therefore, we are not sure how seriously his Monday’s speech should be taken both in America and Pakistan.
The United States insists that Pakistan must change its approach or face substantial cut in U.S. assistance. Washington has taken a harsh stand against Pakistan after having to squander much time in naively hoping that Islamabad would change its behavior and voluntarily end ties with violent organizations.
In The Wrong Enemy: America in Afghanistan, 2001-2014, the New York Timesreporter Carlotta Gall argued that for the United States, Pakistan, not Afghanistan, had been the true enemy.
“Pakistan, supposedly an ally, has proved to be perfidious, driving the violence in Afghanistan for its own cynical, hegemonic reasons.”
Trump’s new Afghanistan policy was being eagerly awaited mainly for what it had to say about Pakistan’s role in the troubled region. His remarks on Pakistan are likely to be welcomed in at least three places.
First, Afghanistan has complained for years that Pakistan-based terrorist groups keep masterminding deadly attacks inside their country to destabilize Afghanistan. From President Hamid Karzai to Ashraf Ghani, all Afghan leaders have expressed frustration with Pakistan’s bullying attitude, support for the Jihadist networks and the presence of the Taliban’s Quetta Shura in Pakistan. The key Taliban leadership operating from Pakistan, and routinely plots horrific attacks inside Afghanistan.
To curb the Indian influence in Afghanistan, Pakistan has deployed the LeT and its affiliated charity organizations in Balochistan, the country’s largest province bordering Iran and Afghanistan. The LeT’s presence in Balochistan does not bode well for India, Afghanistan and the American troops in Afghanistan as it is going to provide a fertile ground for a new alliance for all kinds of violent Islamic groups. Even if Pakistan succeeds in containing India’s presence in Afghanistan, it won’t be able to stop growing cooperation between India and its other western neighbor i.e. Iran.
Additionally, the Islamic State (IS) has persistently asserted its might in the already volatile region through several suicide bombings that have targeted police officers, innocent civilians, lawyers, and soldiers. Instead of going after the Islamic State, Pakistan continues to deny its existence within its boundaries although the organization has claimed responsibility for numerous attacks it has conducted in Pakistan since last year.
Third, educated and progressive Pakistanis, who have been upset with their government’s support for radical groups, and continued financial assistance from the United States, seem delighted over this “paradigm shift in U.S. South Asia policy.” Secretary of State Rex Tillerson is correct in stating that Pakistan has suffered greatly from terrorism, a statement his Pakistani counterparts frequently make although with a twist. Pakistan selectively talks about the innocent citizens it has lost in the hands of the Taliban but refrains from telling the remaining part of the story as to why so many other such terrorist outfits still exist and operate without the slightest fear of government’s action.
However, the officially stated fact that 35, 000 Pakistani citizens have been killed by Pakistan-based groups does not cancel out the other disturbing reality that Pakistan tolerates the “good Taliban.” The people of Pakistan have suffered enormously because of their government’s longstanding ties with and tolerance for Jihadist outfits. The people of Pakistan are forced to pay a heavy price for their government’s insane ambition to control and influence Afghanistan, and also contain India’s influence inside its western neighbor.
Pakistan, backed by China, has unsurprisingly pushed back on Trump’s speech by employing its victim and national honor cards and describing the United States as the usual “untrustworthy” and “selfish” ally that keeps ditching it each time after achieving its own regional goals. Yet, an end to Pakistan’s support for Jihadist groups is necessary for regional peace and stability. This can happen either through a progressive political movement within the country, which does not seem likely, or intense international pressure. As long as Pakistan’s foreign policy is defined by apologists who justify support for the Taliban and other Jihadist groups under different pretexts, the average Pakistani citizen will live under the fear of more terrorist attacks at public places.
Unfortunately, political parties in Pakistan live under tremendous fear of the powerful army. Even the liberal Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) has gone an extra mile to please the military through supporting undemocratic military courts and issuing anti-American statements. The PPP, which should have guided Pakistan toward a progressive and secular path, is fighting for its own survival with the rise of another anti-U.S. leader, Imran Khan, of the Pakistan Justice Movement, who is often nicknamed as “Taliban Khan” for his apologetic pro-Taliban stance. The ouster of former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif last month has further instilled the fear of the military among Pakistan’s political parties. It is this reason that Pakistanis have suddenly developed consensus on a foreign policy that refuses to acknowledge that supporting extremist groups was a dire mistake, and it has weakened the Pakistani state. Otherwise, on a usual day, it would be difficult to see the left-wing PPP and the right-wing PTI of Imran Khan on the same page.
The problem with Trump’s new strategy is the lack of a clear timeline. Today, the Af-Pak region is even more dangerous than it was before September 11, 2001. The Taliban and the Islamic State are increasing their presence in the area. They might temporarily seem competing against each other, but they will ultimately come together on a mutual agenda that aims to harm the United States.
Washington will not win the war by bombing Afghanistan as long as Pakistan continues to provide safe havens to America’s enemies. China, on its part, must also realize that it will be seriously risking its investment inside Pakistan by not persuading the latter to end ties with extremist groups. The Taliban have, more than once, kidnapped Chinese citizens in Pakistan, and such incidents are expected to increase as China expands its presence there. Thus, China’s interests rest in a peaceful and stable Pakistan that shows zero tolerance for terrorist groups. (For China, this should also include terrorist groups that aspire to attack India.)
Back in Washington, President Trump should not only warn Pakistan but must ask for a roadmap to clean its soil from Jihadist organizations that threaten the safety and security of the United States, Pakistan’s neighbors and, above all, the people of Pakistan. The Pakistanis pretend that the United States no longer has leverage over their country. That is not entirely accurate. Even the powerful military dictator General Musharraf, once threatened by the United States after 9/11, was compelled to appear on the national television and renounce Pakistan’s support for all kinds of extremist groups in 2001. Unfortunately, after some time, Musharraf too turned out to be a crook, and a secret admirer of the same terrorist outfits he had once promised to eliminate.
For Trump’s Afghanistan policy to succeed, it is critical to revisit and cure Pakistan’s forgotten cancer.
However, PPP’s stance of opposing Nawaz at all costs comes a little late in the day. During its term in office (2008-2013), it adopted a policy of reconciliation that was exploited by Imran Khan and his varied allies in influential urban professional classes as mukmuka or a grand deal to cover each other’s alleged corruption. This perception dented PPP’s position especially in the Punjab and the results of 2013, among other things, were influenced by this perception. The young, dynamic Bilawal Bhutto has pursued a different line especially in the recent years. But the party’s positions have wavered thereby enabling Imran Khan to emerge as the key opposition voice.
Considering that the judiciary ousted Nawaz Sharif last month is a controversial decision, a party with a history of experiencing grave injustices must not throw its weight behind the arbitrary decisions of the unelected institutions. More so, when its leadership, especially the former President Asif Ali Zardari, has been a target of similar campaigns and runs the risk of being disqualified under infamous Articles 62 and 63. During the negotiations around eighteenth amendment, Sharif opposed changes to Articles 62 and 63 — a legacy of General Zia’s dictatorship. Nawaz erred and has paid a price for his myopia. The PPP must not do the same. The eighteenth amendment was a great start but our constitution needs to be fully purged of authoritarianism and religio-fascist overtones. The PPP in accordance with its long cherished principles should enable this process even if it may be needed by its political foe, i.e., the PML-N.
In this context, PPP’s wise leader and Chairman Senate has echoed some of the issues raised by deposed PM Nawaz Sharif. The need for a grand dialogue between institutions sounds utopian given the power imbalance between the institutions of the state but it is a goal that must be pursued to strengthen democratic governance and reduce periodic bouts of political instability., The PPP as the second largest party in the Parliament has a historic role to play. It must not sacrifice its long-held principles for short-term gains. If anything, our recent history shows that cosying up with the establishment was counterproductive. Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto was fired from office despite her best efforts to build a bridge. The Zardari government tried its best but was always kept unstable. These are clear lessons that the party needs to ponder. The country at this juncture needs civilian forces to unite, strengthen constitutionalism and undo the viciousness of the past.
Pakistan Peoples’ Party (PPP) now headed by Bilawal Bhutto Zardari is back in the electoral politics after 20 years as the Election Commission of Pakistan has allowed the PPP and the PPP-P to contest the coming by-election in Lahore from a single platform.
Basically having the ticket of PPP, Faisal Mir will be contesting the by-election from NA-120 (Lahore) as the joint candidate of PPP (3 Ps) and PPP-P (4 Ps) with the election symbol – Arrow.
Currently, all parliamentarians of the Bhutto’s party in the National Assembly, provincial assemblies and Senate belong to the Pakistan Peoples’ Party- Parliamentarians (PPP-P ) headed by Asif Ali Zardari.
On the other hand, the PPP, headed by Bilawal Bhutto is not having a single parliamentarian in any legislature but is registered in the Election Commission as a separate political party with the election symbol of cross-swords. The PPP-P is having the election symbol of Arrow.
Two weeks back, both the parties (the PPP and the PPP-P) filed an application in the Election Commission of Pakistan stating that they were contesting election in NA-120 in an alliance and wanted to contest on a common election symbol of Arrow. Election Commission of Pakistan has now permitted Faisal Mir to contest election with election symbol of Arrow.
The new development means that the two parties can contest the coming elections on a common election symbol (Arrow). After the 2018 elections, it will be legally possible for the party to contest any future elections from the platform of PPP instead of the PPP-P.
It merits mention here that formation of PPP-P was necessitated in 2002 when General Musharraf made changes in the election rules to keep Benazir Bhutto out of the election race.
At present, the two parties have different officebearers as both are registered in the Election Commission of Pakistan as separate political entities.
It is also important to note here that the matter of ownership of the PPP is sub-judice as a petition filed by Naheed Khan, former political secretary to Benazir Bhutto, claiming to be the rightful heir to this title is still pending in the court for decision. And since the PPP-P has its representation in the Parliament as well as in the provincial assemblies, disbanding this party at this stage may have its legal implications.
Staff Reporter from Islamabad adds: Pakistan People’s Party yesterday decided that it will not drag the PML-N government out of the crisis.
A party meeting held here, however, concluded that repealing of the articles 62 and 63 of the constitution could be discussed in the parliament, sources said.
The meeting was jointly chaired by PPP Chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari and Co-Chairman Asif Ali Zardari.
Aitzaz Ahsan, Sherry Rehman, Raja Pervez Ashraf, Khurshid Shah, Nayyar Bokhari, Farhatullah Babar, Naveed Qamar, Mustafa Nawaz Khokhar, Dr Asim Hussain and others attended the meeting.
On the occasion, Bilawal and Zardari consulted the PPP members on the political situation and the government's plan to make constitutional amendments.
The PPP leadership saw the developments as government's trick to bring back Nawaz Sharif who was ousted as the prime minister last month.
The PPP meeting also discussed US President Donald Trump's hostile statement against Pakistan.
The PPP meeting reiterated its decision of ‘no negotiations’ with government A PPP statement later said the meeting asked the provincial chapters of the party to step up mass-contact campaign.
The meeting also reposed full confidence in the leadership of Asif Ali Zardari and Bilawal Bhutto Zardari.