Sunday, September 16, 2018

Afghan Music Video - Ramsha Shifa - Maste Mangai

Analysis - #Afghanistan - Uncertain Prospects Of US-Taliban Talks

By Simran Walia
United States President Donald Trump’s administration has called for direct talks between the American envoys and the Taliban to end the 17-year long conflict and work towards peace in Afghanistan. The US led invasion in 2001 had removed Taliban from power. However, until now, the Taliban controls 45 percent of the country’s districts. The Afghan strategy by Trump last summer, which aimed at boosting Afghan security forces and the presence of the US troops, did not prove to be effective enough to break the conflict.
The Taliban has refused for direct talks with the Afghan government as it finds the government illegitimate, but demanded to negotiate with Washington. It finds America the real power behind the post 2001 Afghan state.  Since long, the Taliban have demanded a complete withdrawal of the foreign troops from Afghanistan, while it is difficult for the Afghan government to force the NATO troops to leave the nation. The main aim of the Afghan administration is to persuade the Taliban that the foreign troops may redeploy with regard to peace and stability, and not in response to the Taliban violence.
President Ashraf Ghani had called for a unilateral three-day ceasefire during the month of Ramadan with a hope of bringing the militants to the bargaining table, but was of no avail, rather they persevered. However, the ceasefire gave a small glimpse of the peace among Afghans and provided an impetus for the need of  a  political settlement. Previously, the US officials believed that Afghans would lead the peace process in the region. Nevertheless, seeing the situation of the country, America has overturned its stance and decided on negotiating with the Taliban. It also put forward the view that talks over political future such as the issues of Afghan political process, Afghan constitution and the situation of women would take place between the Afghan government and the Taliban. The US is supposed to intervene in the issues pertaining to the level of the US troops and their mission.
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo visited Kabul in July to further support the decision on direct talks for peace process.  He said that, ‘we, the United States are ready to talk to the Taliban and discuss the role of international forces’. America believes that it will certainly support and facilitate the peace discussions but at the end, the decision has to be taken and settled among the Afghans regarding the ‘Afghan solution’. American officials are quite hopeful that direct talks may move the peace process forward. Military strategies, which have been tested in Kabul, have intensified and will only prolong the war, and do not benefit anyone.
The Taliban too fears the dissolution of its country and shares some US goals on the issues of counter terrorism, counter narcotics and corruption. President Ghani believes that the diplomatic pressure from the United Nations and the NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organisation) may bring the Taliban to the negotiating table.  Alice Wells, the American diplomat, said that, ‘We are also calling on Afghanistan’s neighbors, especially Pakistan, to take additional steps in support of peace’. Pakistan has clearly not taken the decisive steps that it should have like expelling the Taliban elements who do not agree for the negotiations. It is also believed that the main Taliban group in Afghanistan is close to Pakistan. Kabul and Washington claimed that Islamabad is using this group as a proxy to curtail India’s role in the war torn region.
Therefore, another factor remains that with the parliamentary elections scheduled for October 20 in Kabul, the democratic process should be strengthened. In lieu of the elections, the decision of holding direct talks may point to the view that the Afghan administration does not have effective political authority. The US government will not benefit the electoral process in Afghanistan, because it is the confidence of the people in the electoral system that holds value. Henceforth, by engaging in direct talks between the Taliban and the US instead of the Kabul government, the message that Afghan administration is ineffective, will come out clearly to the Afghan voters, which may further undermine the entire electoral process. In addition, it is inevitable that the Taliban will demand a larger role in the next government if it engages in direct talks with the US.
The question of who talks to whom has indeed become a major hindrance to the Afghan peace process since 2011. However, the idea of talks between the United States and the Taliban is great as long as it does not affect the political and electoral process of Kabul. Nevertheless, the Afghan government also needs to negotiate directly with the Taliban since at the end even America believes that the peace process shall be ‘Afghan led and Afghan owned’. The date has not been finalised yet and the decision could be delayed too, but the willingness of the United States to hold talks indicates the urgency to end the conflict in Afghanistan.
President Ghani again attempted to offer a ceasefire in Eid-ul Adha and urged the Taliban to accept three-month long ceasefire for long lasting peace in the region. Unfortunately, the violence in the region of Kunduz seems to indicate that the Taliban did not accept the decision. They confirmed the capture of three buses with around 200 people in Kunduz. Moscow invited the Taliban, the US and Kabul for talks for the peace process next month. However, the decision of talks has been postponed keeping in mind Afghanistan’s position in the issue as Kabul and the US declined the offer to attend talks. President Ghani spoke with the Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov to attempt to ensure that talks with the Taliban happen in presence of the Afghan government. The Afghan government believes that it is futile to attend peace talks in Russia and it would attempt to deal directly with the Taliban. How the US, the Taliban and the Afghan government push the peace process forward remains to be seen.

Civilians Are Losing the War in Afghanistan

Patricia Gossman

Unprecedented Violence and Failed Reforms Signal Dangerous Political Crisis.
Who’s winning in Afghanistan?
That’s not the right question. The important one is who’s losing.
The answer: Ordinary people trying to get to work, kids in school, worshippers in their neighborhood mosque.
Thousands of Afghan civilians are losing their lives, their loved ones, or suffering devastating injuries in bombings, gunbattles, and other violence. Since January, the United Nations documented the highest number of civilian deaths in Afghanistan since it started keeping track in 2009. At least 1,692 civilians died in the first six month of 2018 and over 3,400 were injured. A quarter of these were children. Given the difficulties of collecting information from remote areas of conflict, the number is likely higher.
Suicide bombings and other insurgent attacks caused most of these deaths and injuries. The Islamic State of Khorasan Province (ISKP), the Afghan branch of the Islamic State, has targeted voter registration centers, public gatherings, and schools, singling out Afghanistan’s Shia community for attack. At the same time, people living in areas where these groups hold sway have experienced airstrikes by US and Afghan government forces that killed and injured more than 350 civilians between January and June.
Donors who appropriately condemn insurgent attacks seldom raise any concerns about the 7 percent of civilian casualties caused by airstrikes by Afghan or US government forces. These donors are preparing for a ministerial meeting in Geneva in November that the UN has called “a crucial moment for the government and international community to demonstrate progress.”
What progress will they point to? Parliamentary elections should have taken place by then, and donors who footed the bill may say that while the elections were “flawed,” maybe the presidential ones next April will be better. Don’t count on it. With highly suspicious voter registration numbers, a flood of fake ID cards, and infighting among political elites over the spoils of power, contested elections are one symptom of Afghanistan’s governance crisis.
Here are some others: the government’s failure to prosecute violence against women and torture, and the fact that long-touted gains in terms of girls’ education and media freedom are slipping away.
Between parliamentary elections this year and the upcoming presidential vote, Afghanistan is facing not just an escalating war, but also an unprecedented political crisis, though one long foreseen. Donors need to stop checking boxes blindly and hold the government to account.

#PPP - #Pakistan's first-ever Christian Advocate General - Bravo, Salman Talibuddin!

The PPP continues to consolidate its reputation as the party truly committed to empowering Pakistan’s minorities. For the Sindh government has made history by appointing the first-everChristian Advocate General, Salman Talibuddin.
This is good news all round. Especially for a community that is all too disgracefully reduced to derogatory caricatures; depicting them as never progressing beyond the role of sweepers. This is something that the Lahore Management and Waste Company (LMWC) — falling under the jurisdiction of the City District Government Lahore (CDGL), no less — has been party to. As it continues to launch public advertising campaigns requesting the citizenry not to drop rubbish on the streets over Christmas. Or Easter. Or on the occasion of the Mariambad festival. Thus the significance of Mr Talibuddin’s new post cannot be overestimated.
The PPP has, so far, lived up to its manifesto pledges of supporting minorities while strengthening their visibility in the mainstream. Such as the swearing-in to the Sindh Assembly of Tanzeela Qambrani; belonging to the Sheedi ethnic group that originally hails from Africa. A shame, then, that the PTI did not have the backbone to ultimately support its own appointment of the brilliant economist Dr Atif Mian to the Economic Advisory Council (EAC). For this gross misstep has dangerously re-ignited resentment against the Ahmadi community for daring to reject the minority non-Muslim label. Sadly, this legitimate exercise in self-determination has rendered the latter the most persecuted group in the country for the last four decades.
Thus while all of Pakistan is (hopefully) celebrating alongside the country’s Christians, it is to be remembered that there is much hard work still to be done when it comes to levelling the playing field for all minorities. The fact that it has taken some 70 years for a Christian to secure the post of Advocate-General should tell everyone everywhere the enormity of this challenge. This is not to take anything away from Mr Talibuddin. But it is to simply remind progressive Pakistanis that this is not the time to be resting on your laurels. This, after all, is just the beginning.

#Pakistan - The fallout of the Atif Mian episode - Wages of appeasement


The fallout of the Atif Mian episode shows that the matter has acquired greater and more ominous dimensions than the controversy over his nomination.
By its mishandling of the Atif Mian affair the state has exposed its soft belly to the rejuvenated extremists who are going to target it again and again, and the consequences could be extremely grave.
That the Princeton professor was eminently qualified to be invited to advise the state on economic matters was as much beyond doubt as the latter’s need for sound counsel. But he was subjected to a barrage of calumny no truly Muslim community would tolerate because of its being bereft of reason. There is no difference of opinion among Islamic scholars on the need for Muslims to benefit from knowledge wherever it is available, and to weigh any advice for its soundness or otherwise regardless of its origin.
For a while the government tried not to lose its head. The Information Minister was right in arguing that a citizen’s faith could not be a ground to debar him from public service and that Pakistan belonged as much to the minorities as it did to the majority community. Apparently, he misjudged among other things, the pro-extremist inclination of the state apparatus. The government also perhaps did not consider it necessary to talk to the protesters, as it had done to bring the Faizabad agitation to an end, or to the people at large. This amounted to a concession to the traditionalist lobby amongst the ulema who likes to shun a rational debate on any issue.
The main ground of opposition to Professor Atif Mian was that he and his community did not respect the constitution and wanted it changed. The plea is untenable for three main reasons.
First, having reservations about any provision of the constitution is not a crime nor can efforts to change it be dismissed as such. Those who believe in the kind of a federation that Pakistan’s founding fathers had wished to establish and the have-nots — the country’s majority — would like to change many provisions of the basic law and they cannot be faulted for that. To hold otherwise would amount to making the principle underlying the amendment procedure not only redundant but also unlawful.
Secondly, those accusing Professor Atif Mian of disrespect for the constitution are as brazen-facedly violating the country’s basic law as was done by their mentor and benefactor, Gen Ziaul Haq, when he described it as a sheaf of papers that he could tear up any time (he did much worse by changing it beyond recognition). Where is the constitutional provision that requires an advisor to the government to be a Muslim by the state’s definition? And which provision of the constitution permits anyone to threaten the state with violence if it does not yield to an unlawful demand?
Thirdly, the logic of the extremist lobby would disqualify all practitioners of law who learnt anything from Mohamedan Law by Mulla, a Parsi non-believer, or from a translation of Hidaya by Hamilton, a Christian non-believer. The Raisman Award should be undone as its author was not a Muslim. The government should not talk to the IMF or the World Bank until they find good Muslims by Pakistan standards to make their decisions. No book should mention Professor Abdus Salam’s winning the Nobel Prize as a son of Pakistan, nor General Akhtar Husain Malik’s dash to Chamb in 1965, nor General (then Brigadier) Abdul Ali’s role in the “greatest tank battle” at Chavinda. The discourse of the absurd has no end.
The fallout of the Atif Mian episode shows that the matter has acquired greater and more ominous dimensions than the controversy over his nomination on the Economic Advisory Council or the widespread view about the government’s surrender.
The extremist lobby is not going to be content with forcing the government’s hands on the Atif Mian affair or purging the state services of Ahmadis. These are steps in an ongoing (since 1948) campaign to demolish the democratic premises of the state of Pakistan. The challengers do not believe in democracy or political parties — especially those in opposition — in the right of parliament to make laws, or dispensation of justice by the judiciary as at present constituted.
Those who do not believe this may read Al-Qaeda ideologue Zarqavi’s critique of the Pakistan state, Supaida-i-Sahar (Brightness at dawn). The traditional interpreters of Islamic injunctions treat a Muslim state’s relations with an un-Islamic country as an aberration. Are the people of Pakistan prepared to go that far by continuing to appease the extremists?
The fallout of the Atif Mian episode shows that the matter has acquired greater and more ominous dimensions than the controversy over his nomination on the Economic Advisory Council or the widespread view about the government’s surrender. Call attention notices were moved in both Houses of parliament and the Islamabad High Court was urged to admonish the government for taking an unconstitutional step though the honourable judge did not see any prima facie deviation from the constitution.
Women activists claiming to be members of the ruling party demonstrated against the government’s decision to seek advice from Dr Atif Mian. Somebody declared that the nikah of all those who had defended the government with their spouses had been nullified — the ultimate punishment for non-conformists. The government is said to have been warned by its intelligence services of a serious commotion if did not back away, although there is no knowing how much this advice was coloured by these agencies’ subjective view about the way the matter needed to be resolved.
Thus we find that the extremist elements in the religious lobby are getting support from other people that are presumed to belong to educated and conscious sections of society. This prevents acceptance of the official apology, that the country cannot afford a disruptive confrontation with a group of citizens at a time when it is facing many challenges, for the simple reason that the state has been paying a heavy cost for following this course for several decades.
Sixty years ago it was possible for a weak-looking prime minister, Khwaja Nazimuddin, to thwart the Punjab government’s plan to bring him down by instigating anti-Ahmadi rioting, for General Azam to ferret out the leader of the ‘movement’, Maulana Abdul Sattar Niazi, from his hideout in a mosque in no time, and for Justices Munir and Kayani to write what has come to be known as the Munir Inquiry Report. It is extremely doubtful if any of these precedents can be followed today. That is a measure of the state’s retreat in the face of extremists’ pressure, a direct consequence of the policy of appeasement, and decisions to postpone the state’s duty to a more opportune moment.
All leaders of elected governments in Pakistan, from prime minister Liaquat Ali Khan to prime minister Nawaz Sharif, negotiated peace with the extremist challengers by offering them concessions in the constitution and law, or by paying for their enterprises, or by withholding from the courts’ evidence against the militants. Each of these steps whetted the extremists’ appetite for more concessions. What the result of this drift is going to be is not difficult to visualise and Dr Fazlur Rahman’s assurance that the period of the extremists’ hegemony, though extremely bitter and costly, will be brief offers little consolation to the present generation.
While questioning the Imran Khan government for its loss of nerves during the Atif Mian controversy one is also moved by a feeling of sympathy for it as it has been hit by a most serious crisis so early in its life. It is being called upon to decide whether it will passively watch the Ahmadi citizens mowed down one by one across the country and forcibly deprived of their rights as guaranteed by the constitution and the laws, or whether it will do its duty to the people and their creator by defending the vulnerable and marginalised sections of society.
There is another issue that the PTI leader himself should ponder. Is it possible that he inadvertantly increased the space for extremists by an inordinately loud demonstration of religiosity during the final phase of the election campaign?

Music Video - Lokan do do yaar banaye - Afshan Zebi

Many Pakistanis with Ivy League PhDs support discrimination against Ahmadis

Pakistan’s deep-rooted religious-nationalist prejudices will not disappear unless they are methodically confronted and opposed.
Pakistan’s recent controversy over the appointment of an Ahmadi economist to an advisory panel is emblematic of the country’s deeper psychosis of identity. Confronting ideological demons is more important for Pakistan than promises by the country’s best and brightest to provide it good technocratic advice.
Princeton University economist, Atif R. Mian, was first appointed to Prime Minister Imran Khan’s Economic Advisory Council (EAC) and then forced to resign on grounds that he belonged to the Ahmadiyya community. Soon after Atif Mian resigned, two other internationally respected economists of Pakistani origin, Asim Khwaja of Harvard University and Imran Rasul of University College of London, also resigned in solidarity.
All of them promised to continue trying to ‘help Pakistan’, probably with their wise economic counsel.
But just as correct diagnosis is important before even the best surgeon can deal with cancerous growth, it is important for Pakistan’s great economic minds to understand why their expertise was valued less than their religious or sectarian affiliation.
Atif Mian attributed the campaign against his inclusion in the advisory committee to ‘opposition from Mullahs’. He ignored the fact that Imran Khan had himself made protection of Khatm-e-Nabuwat (Finality of Prophethood) – a code for anti-Ahmadi rhetoric and violence – a plank of his election campaign.
That religion became an issue in selecting economists best suited to guide Pakistan when it is facing an economic crisis was not surprising, given the political and ideological dynamics of the country.
While Atif Mian, Asim Khwaja and Imran Rasul might be among the best of the best that Pakistan has produced, Pakistan’s problems are not due to the absence of technocrats, economists, or other professionals.
Even those Pakistani governments that earned a reputation for poor governance often had at least some good technocrats available to them for advice or policymaking.
Pakistan’s problem essentially is an ideological and political one. As I point out in my book Reimagining Pakistan, much of Pakistan’s dysfunction is the result of its inability to answer questions bred by conflicting expectations, most of them relating to its national narrative.
How Islamic is Pakistan meant to be? What does it mean to be an Islamic state in modern times? What should be the balance of power between a central Pakistani government and the various provinces representing various nationalities and ethnic groups? Must Pakistan forever be at war with India to justify its existence as a separate state? If so, how can it avoid dominance by the military and militants?
Although ideological questions have preoccupied Pakistanis, theirs is not the only contemporary nation state that started out as an idea. It differs from others, however, in not evolving an identity beyond the grievances that fuelled the demand for a separate Muslim state in the subcontinent.
The combustible mix of religion and politics, the pursuit of nuclear weapons, the acceptance and encouragement of terrorism, and the angry tone in Pakistan’s relations with the rest of the world are all by-products of the indignation that helped create Pakistan and has since been nurtured by the Pakistani state.
The two-pronged approach of many Pakistani writers painting a sunny picture of their country is to insist that Pakistan’s accomplishments serve as both its justification and its potential while laying its problems at the door of historic injustices or current international malfeasance. Responsibility for collective failure or miscalculation can be avoided by lamenting the absence of good leaders.
There appears little willingness to consider that Pakistan might need to review some of the fundamental assumptions in its national belief system – militarism, radical Islamist ideology, perennial conflict with India, dependence on external support, and refusal to recognise ethnic identities and religious pluralism – to break out of a permanent crisis mode and move towards a more stable future.
Defining Pakistan’s nationalism through Islam exposed the country to the paradox of setting a national boundary upon a universalist faith. Consequently, Pakistan’s Islamists, and often the state apparatus, have sought to manipulate religious sentiment to bolster nationalist feeling without intending to establish the Islamic state they constantly talk about.
Islamic ideology not only sets Pakistan apart from India, notwithstanding many commonalities of history, culture and social mores; it also musters a diverse nation’s energies in pushing back policy pressures from major international powers. In some ways, it is a weapon amid weakness even if it is a gun held to one’s own head.
Constant indignation at real or perceived indignities against Islam is a useful device for Pakistan’s leaders. They distract from substantive economic and social issues. Quite often, religious rage is generated through falsehoods and rumours, which are systematically deployed as vehicles of policy.
I have run into many Pakistanis with PhDs, including some who work for the World Bank, who argue in favour of Pakistan’s constitutional discrimination against Ahmadis. “Why don’t they just acknowledge that they are not Muslims, then they can live in Pakistan, like Hindus, Christians, Sikhs and Parsis,” one of them once asked me.
Even their Ivy League university PhDs fail to help them understand that defining a religion in the modern era is a personal or possibly a social matter, not something that can be dealt with through the constitution or legislation.
Thus, Catholics can consider Protestants as non-Christians and Protestants can think likewise about Catholics. Both Catholics and Protestants can consider the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormons) a religion outside Christianity. But there is not a single country in the world that has legislated on the matter of who is or is not a Christian, which is how it should be.
It is important to remember that such legislation also runs contrary to the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights, to which Pakistan is a signatory. That declaration not only guarantees freedom of religion but also the freedom to change religion. Heresy is, therefore, now a religious concept, not a legal one.
By insisting on their religious sentiment being superior to the religious views or feelings of others, Pakistanis effectively end up separating themselves from the rest of the world. Pakistan’s international isolation will not end until Pakistanis can understand why the rest of the world finds their religious nationalism out of step with the 21st century.
Pakistani national identity is also deeply intertwined with negative sentiments about people of other religions, most notably Hindus but Jews and Christians as well.
When endemic prejudice becomes part of nationalism, economists, technocrats, and professionals can’t help overcome it.
Even if Atif Mian, Asim Khwaja and Imran Rasul help Pakistan’s economic growth through sensible policy recommendations, the deep-rooted religious-nationalist prejudices will not disappear unless they are methodically confronted and opposed.
Nazi Germany, imperialist Japan and fascist Italy did not have a dearth of good economic planners, scientists, engineers, and doctors. They just did not have enough political and social activists who could resist the rise of extremism.
It is sad that some of the best Pakistani minds sitting in international organisations and doing great research in academia abroad tend to avoid political controversy that is inevitable when you challenge dogma and wrong narratives.
Confronting misdirected religious nationalism might be more important for Pakistan right now than simply setting state finances right.

By now, US should know Pakistan civilian government won’t deliver

A more realistic US policy would probably be to reach out to the Afghan Taliban, bypassing Pakistan. And a recent announcement suggests just that.
Pakistan appears to have effectively rejected Secretary of State Michael Pompeo’s offer of a ‘reset’ in relations with the United States. The US offer was predicated on Pakistan playing a role ‘in bringing about a negotiated peace in Afghanistan’ and taking ‘sustained and decisive measures against terrorists and militants threatening regional peace and stability.’
Within a week of Pompeo’s short stopover in Islamabad, Pakistan’s Supreme Court has overruled restrictions imposed by the previous government on Jamaat-ud-Dawa (JuD), a front for the terrorist Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT), and its charity arm, Falahi Insaniyat Foundation (FIF). The restrictions on JuD and FIF reflected the designation by the United States of both organisations as terrorist fronts.
Both JuD and FIF are linked to LeT founder Hafiz Saeed, who has been subject to United Nations sanctions since December 2008 for “participating in the financing, planning, facilitating, preparing or perpetrating of acts of activities by, in conjunction with, under the name of, on behalf or in support of” LeT and Al-Qaeda.
Pakistan’s Supreme Court is notorious for acting at the behest of its national security apparatus and its current Chief Justice Saqib Nisar has earned a reputation for being close to both the country’s establishment and the newly appointed civilian government led by cricketer-turned-politician Imran Khan.
Anyone who understands the manoeuvrings of Pakistan’s establishment and politics could see the court’s judgment about Saeed’s charity as a response to Pompeo’s remarks after his meetings with Khan and Pakistan army chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa. Pompeo was accompanied on his short visit to Pakistan by General Joseph Dunford, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, to ensure better military-to-military messaging.
The US Secretary of State said that he wanted better US-Pakistan relations but “it’s time for us to begin to deliver on our joint commitment” and Washington expected “on the ground” actions that would help “begin to build confidence and trust.” From the American perspective, it was important for Pompeo to convey to Pakistan’s leaders that the US was willing to set things right as long as Pakistan keeps its part of the bargain.


Avoiding harsh language while in Islamabad so as not to offend their Pakistani hosts, the Americans were blunter in the joint statement after their ‘2+2’ ministerial dialogue with India. That statement “denounced any use of terrorist proxies in the region” and “called on Pakistan to ensure that the territory under its control is not used to launch terrorist attacks on other countries.”
The India-US Joint Statement “called on Pakistan to bring to justice expeditiously the perpetrators of the Mumbai, Pathankot, Uri, and other cross-border terrorist attacks” and spoke of “strengthening cooperation and action against terrorist groups, including Al-Qa’ida, ISIS, Lashkar-e-Tayyiba, Jaish-e-Mohammad, Hizb-ul Mujahideen, the Haqqani Network, Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan, D-Company, and their affiliates.”
Pakistani officials know that terrorism has been the sticking point in relations between the erstwhile allies, almost since the end of the US-backed jihad against the Soviets in Afghanistan in 1989. Americans have wanted Pakistan to stop using Jihadis as proxies against India and in Afghanistan. Pakistan has either denied doing what it does or explained it away as a national security imperative.
The Americans have taken Pakistani promises of acting against all terrorists seriously on several critical occasions, only to be disappointed later. Former president George W. Bush had hoped for a complete turnaround in Pakistan’s policy after 9/11 but learned that “obsession with India” prevented General Pervez Musharraf from fulfilling his promise.
In 2008, soon after the election of a civilian government, the US Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Admiral Michael Mullen, and the CIA’s Deputy Director, Stephen Kappes, travelled to Islamabad on a mission similar to the one undertaken by Pompeo and Dunford. The purpose was to seek Pakistan’s commitment to comprehensive action against all terrorist groups based in the country.

Half-hearted steps

Soon after the Mumbai attacks in November 2008, I accompanied Pakistan’s National Security Adviser, Major General Mahmud Ali Durrani, to meetings with US officials. My notes of the meeting with President Bush’s National Security Adviser, Stephen Hadley, provide useful context for the current US-Pakistan deliberations.
Hadley had said then that after 9/ 11, President Musharraf responded positively in his words and actions and appeared to make a strategic shift. Subsequently, in the aftermath of the bombings of the Indian Parliament in 2002, the US realised that instead of a strategic shift. Pakistan had only taken some incremental, half-hearted and reversible steps. Hadley suspected that after the Mumbai bombings, Pakistan was following the 2002 example.
In 2008, the US demanded a strategic shift against terrorist organizations like LeT, pointing out that American lives had been lost in Mumbai. Hadley had told Durrani that the Mumbai bombings provided “an opportunity to strengthen civilian supremacy over all institutions of State” – a reference to concerns that the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) sometimes acted independently.
Pakistan promised action and initially arrested several individuals connected to the Mumbai attacks. Subsequently, it demanded “more intelligence, more evidence, and more material help” to help both action against terrorist groups and prosecutions against those involved in attacks outside Pakistan.
American officials were then provided with a preferred sequence in which Pakistan would act against various terrorist groups, beginning with groups that were responsible for terrorist attacks inside the country. US drone strikes were specifically requested against Baitullah Mehsud and other leaders of Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan who had declared war on the Pakistan army.
While the Americans kept their promise of material assistance and drone strikes against those considered enemies by Pakistan, the country has managed to avoid acting against Afghan Taliban, the Haqqani Network, or LeT and other groups targeting India.

Relations with India  

It is unlikely that it will do so, especially at a time when Pakistan’s calculus seems to be that the US is eager to leave Afghanistan and has become closer to India now than to Pakistan. Ten years ago, Pakistan depended on the US more than it does now and the country’s fantasy of having access to unlimited Chinese assistance had not begun.
Now, it should be clear to Americans that a hyper-nationalist Pakistani civilian leadership is unlikely to try and deliver what relatively more pro-American politicians could not.
As for the Pakistani military, it has always worked on the assumption that it can wait the Americans out in Afghanistan. Why would it give in and make compromises at a time when it feels its dream of American withdrawal is about to materialise?
A more realistic US policy would probably be to reach out to the Afghan Taliban, bypassing Pakistan. Pompeo’s announcement that legendary Afghan-American diplomat, Zalmay Khalilzad, will now be “the State Department’s lead person” for reconciliation efforts in Afghanistan suggests that is where things might be headed.

#Pakistan - The Ungoverned Land

By Khaled Ahmed

Islamabad’s writ has disappeared from 60 per cent of Pakistan’s territory.

The new chief minister of Punjab is a sardar — read feudal lord — from South Punjab’s most abandoned part of Dera Ghazi Khan. Sardar Usman Buzdar is from Taunsa Sharif, which has no electricity. Taunsa has been the incubator of the proxy warriors Pakistan used in Afghanistan and India and produced leadership for the anti-Shia sectarian banned outfit called Sipah-e-Sahaba, honoured in the country for supplying proxy fodder.
In 1947, the British Raj bequeathed to the Muslims of India a tightly administered state. But next door Afghanistan couldn’t be called a normal state. It couldn’t prevent penetration of its territory and it couldn’t collect taxes. But the great proxy war in Afghanistan was approved by the West, fighting its decisive battle with the Soviet Union after the latter invaded Afghanistan in 1979.
Pakistan soon began imitating Afghanistan by losing its own writ. Karachi was literally taken over by terrorist groups operating in Afghanistan and Iran. It is still crippled by street crime. Today, Pakistan has a National Action Plan (NAP) “to crack down on terrorism”, and a National Counter-Terrorism Authority (NACTA) to restore its state authority. But both remain notable for lack of success.
Although no city has been spared by terrorists, some areas of the country are seriously lacking in the state’s outreach. Terrorism that challenged the sovereign state came from many quarters, all of them related to the ideology Pakistan was wedded to. Its Taliban were fighting in Afghanistan and the Afghan Taliban were ensconced in Pakistan together with over 3 million Afghan refugees.
The tribal areas, which Pakistan wrongly left out of normal administration as some kind of tribal museum, were more infested with warriors than the rest of the country. Each tribal agency was allowed “self-rule” through warlords. Some of these satrapies were adjacent to big cities and were allowed to extract booty as the police watched.
The 2008 Khyber Agency war by terrorist Lashkar-e-Islam unfolded right under the nose of the administration in Peshawar. The Kurram Agency war proved too much for Islamabad as it spread to adjacent Aurakzai and Mohmand agencies, coming down to the settled districts of the old Frontier Province, Hangu and Kohat. Even in 2018, the Pakistani Taliban in Afghanistan can get anyone killed in Peshawar on demand.
These “ungoverned” areas of Pakistan provided 40 per cent of the warriors fighting to establish a Taliban state in Afghanistan. The Afghan Taliban populated cities like Quetta and Karachi. Pakistan denied hosting Arab warriors like Osama bin Laden and Aiman Al-Zawahiri, who were discovered living comfortably in Abbottabad and Karachi respectively.
In the hinterland of Sindh, the wadera (feudal lord) never allowed the police to function normally and has not accepted the writ of the state to this day. Add to this hiatus of state authority the territory of South Punjab, where the madrassa still rules and the state obeys orders. When a brave Punjab home secretary killed Malik Ishaq, the leader of Daesh-connected Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, in a police encounter in Lahore in 2017, he was chased to his house in the north and killed to scare the Punjab police out of their wits.
In May 2012, the chief justice of the Peshawar High Court stated that the writ of the Peshawar government did not run beyond 10 km. Pakistan looked like waking up when Swat valley was occupied by Pakistani Taliban in 2009. It took action, but Fazlullah, the leader of the Taliban, fled into Afghanistan. He got little Malala Yusufzai nearly killed. Pakistan couldn’t do much. All its enemies were killed by its archenemy, the US, with drones. Today, Pakistan refuses to believe that it is falling apart. And that its writ has disappeared from 60 per cent of its territory; and foreign killers are still hiding in its territory.

    #Pakistan -#PPP - Zardari, Bilawal meet Nawaz to extend condolences on Kulsoom's demise

    Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari and former president Asif Ali Zardari met ex-premier Nawaz Sharif on Sunday to extend condolences on Begum Kulsoom Nawaz's demise.
    PPP Chairman Bilawal and Zardari were accompanied by a PPP delegation during their visit to Jati Umrah.
    In the meeting, the PPP leaders expressed profound grief over the former first lady’s passing.
    Zardari and Nawaz shed light on Kulsoom Nawaz’s life and struggles she bravely faced.
    Asif Zardari said that Kulsoom Nawaz was a brave and fearless woman. “The nation will remember her sacrifices rendered for democracy and the country,” said the former president.
    Zardari said that they share the Sharif family’s grief in this difficult time.
    Former prime minister Nawaz said that he is most aggrieved over not being with Kulsoom in her last hours. 
    Begum Kulsoom passed away on September 11 at the Harley Street Clinic in London, where she was being treated for lymphoma. She was laid to rest at Jatih Umrah on Friday.  
    PPP leaders including Yousaf Raza Gillani, Raja Pervaiz Ashraf, Khursheed Shah, Naveed Qamar, and Qamar Zaman Kaira attended the former first lady’s funeral.
    Following Begum Kulsoom's death, Nawaz, Maryam, and her husband Captain (retd) Safdar Awan were released from Adiala Jail on parole till Sunday.