Wednesday, May 15, 2019

India in Afghanistan After the Soviet Withdrawal

Walking A Tightrope: Pakistan Struggles To Juggle Multiple Balls – Analysis


Pakistan risks falling off the tightrope it walks as it attempts to balance its relations with rivals Saudi Arabia and Iran.
Developments in recent days, including this weekend’s Baloch nationalist attack on a luxury hotel in the strategic port city of Gwadar and a legal dispute over completion of a gas pipeline against the backdrop of Saudi-Iranian-Qatari competition for the Pakistani gas market, suggest that Pakistan is caught between a rock and a hard place.
The South Asian nation’s seemingly unsustainable tightrope walk is likely to have consequences for the security of China’s massive US$45 billion investment in the China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), a crown jewel of Beijing’s Belt and Road initiative; an approximately US$10 billion planned Saudi investment in a refinery and a copper mine in the troubled Pakistani province of Balochistan; and Pakistani hopes of getting a grip on  political violence in a bid to attract further badly needed foreign investment and avoid sanctioning for inadequate counterterrorism measures.
The assault on the highly secured hilltop Zaver Pearl Continental Hotel Gwadar, part of Pakistan’s largest luxury hotel chain, in which four people, including three gunmen were killed, was the second incident since Pakistani prime minister Imran Khan and Iranian president Hassan Rouhani last month agreed to step up security cooperation along their 959-kilometre long border.
Many Baloch, members of an ethnic minority on both sides of the border, feel economically disadvantaged and marginalized with a minority harbouring nationalist aspirations. Security-led repressive policies by both Iran and Pakistan have fuelled militancy and offer ample opportunity for manipulation by regional powers.
In an emailed statement claiming responsibility for the hotel attack, Baloch Liberation Army (BL) spokesman Jihand Baloch said this weekend’s attack targeted “Chinese and other investors who were staying at the PC hotel.” The hotel was believed to have few guests because of Ramadan.
In an earlier statement issued last week after an attack on a coal mine in which five people were killed, Mr. Baloch asserted that “Balochistan is a war-torn region and we will not allow any investments until the independence of Balochistan.”
BLA operatives have in the past seven months hit various Chinese targets beyond the boundaries of Balochistan, including a convoy transporting Chinese engineers in Karachi and the People’s Republic’s consulate in the city.
Baloch nationalist militancy is not the only problem confronting Pakistani security forces in the strategic southwest of the country. The Islamic State claimed responsibility for an attack last month on a market in the Baloch capital of Quetta frequented by Hazaras, a beleaguered Shiite minority, in which 19 people were killed and dozens injured.
Iran blamed allegedly Saudi and US-backed Balochistan-based Sunni Muslim militants for an assault in February on the Iranian side of the border that killed 27 Revolutionary Guards.
In an apparent bid to build confidence, Mr. Khan admitted during his visit to Tehran that militants operating from Pakistan had attacked targets in Iran but vowed to put an end to that.
Complicating Mr. Khan’s efforts to walk a fine line between Saudi Arabia and Iran and safeguard crucial Chinese and future Saudi investment is the fact that the Trump administration’s stepped up maximum pressure campaign against the Islamic republic is restricting the South Asian nation’s ability to live up to prior commitments to Iran and fuelling Iranian concern that Saudi Arabia is able to influence Pakistani policy.
Jeddah-based Arab News quoted Mobin Saulat, the managing director of Pakistan’s state-owned Inter State Gas Systems, as advising his Iranian counterparts that US sanctions were preventing it from completing the Pakistani leg of an agreed gas pipeline despite statements by Messrs. Khan and Rouhani that they were seeking to enhance connectivity between their two countries.
Iranian suspicion of Saudi covert activity in Balochistan as well as the kingdom’s ability to influence Pakistani policy stems from multiple factors that Tehran sees as indicators.
These include massive Saudi financial assistance to help Pakistan avert a financial crisis, question marks among international oil executives of the economic rationale for the kingdom’s  plan to build a refinery in Gwadar, a plan published by a Riyadh think tank calling for the fostering of an insurgency among Iran’s Baloch minority, reports by Pakistani militants of Saudi funding for anti-Shiite and anti-Iranian Sunni Muslim militants in Balochistan, and evidence of broader segments of the Pakistani population buying into Saudi-inspired ultraconservative interpretations of Islam as a result of the kingdom’s decades-long support of religious and cultural institutions as well as media.
Iran’s province of Sistan and Balochistan hosts the Indian-backed port of Chabahar, a mere 70 kilometres up the Arabian Sea coast from Gwadar. A shadowy militant Sunni Muslim group claimed responsibility for a rare suicide bombing in Chabahar in December.
Pakistan scholar Madiha Afzal noted in a just released Brookings report that “Saudi Arabia has succeeded in changing the character of Pakistan’s religiosity in a bid to expand its influence in the Muslim world, and in its mission to counter Iran.”
While US sanctions may have, at least for now, given the death knell to the Iran-Pakistan pipeline, Saudi influence appears to have failed in stopping Pakistan from entertaining a gas deal with Qatar, another of the kingdom’s nemeses, despite an almost two-year old Saudi-United Arab Emirates-led diplomatic and economic boycott of the Gulf state.
Qatar recently lowered the price in a bid for a major Pakistani liquified natural gas (LNG) contract in an effort to outcompete Saudi Arabia, that last month sent a delegation to Islamabad to discuss the South Asian nation’s gas needs.
The competition is about more than commercial advantage. While Qatar sees its gas exports as part of its soft power strategy, Saudi Arabia views the Pakistani contract as part of an effort to establish the kingdom as a major trader and marketeer as it strives to position itself as a significant gas exporter over the next decade.
Pakistan’s ability to maintain its tightrope walk could be further endangered if it fails to convince the Financial Action Task Force (FATF), an international anti-money laundering and terrorism finance watch dog, that it is doing sufficient to meet the group’s standards.
Pakistan was last year grey listed by the group and risks being blacklisted if it fails to convince FATF in talks later this month that it has substantially improved its controls. Blacklisting listing would significantly curtail its access to international finance at a time that it is seeking a bailout by the International Monetary Fund. (IMF).
Juggling multiple balls is proving to be an increasingly difficult act in which Pakistan may be the country out on a limb but many of its partners have a stake in ensuring that it maintains its tightrope walk.

Pakistan: Stifled Media – Analysis

By Sanchita Bhattacharya
On April 30, 2019, unidentified assailants shot dead journalist Malik Amanullah Khan near Landa Sharif Adda on the Multan-Dera Road in Paroa Tehsil (revenue unit) of Dera Ismail Khan in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. Amanullah Khan was a local reporter who wrote for Urdu daily Meezan-e-Adl and was Chairman of Paroa Press Club.
Earlier, on December 3, 2018, Nurul Hasan, a Nowshera-based reporter of a private television channel, was shot dead by unknown motorcyclists in Peshawar, the provincial capital of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.
According to South Asia Terrorism Portal (SATP) database, available since March 2000, the first incident of killing of journalists was recorded on February 7, 2005, when two journalists were shot dead by armed assailants in Wana, the headquarters of the then South Waziristan Agency of the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA).
Since then, according to partial data collated by SATP, at least 38 journalists have been killed in Pakistan. A high of six journalists were killed in the year 2013 followed by five in 2010; four each in 2009, 2011 and 2012; three each in 2014 and 2015; two each in 2005 and 2017; and one each in 2006, 2007, 2008, 2018 and 2019. No such fatality was recorded in years 2000 to 2004. These numbers are likely underestimates. 
Also, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), at least 61 journalists have been killed in Pakistan between 1992 and 2018. A maximum of eight journalists were killed in 2010 followed by seven each in 2011 and 2012; five each in 2007, 2008 and 2013; four in 2009, three in 2014; two each in 1994, 2002, 2005, 2006 and 2016; one each in 1997, 2000, 2003, 2004, 2015, 2017 and 2018. No fatality was recorded in years 1992, 1993, 1995, 1996, 1998, 1999 and 2001.
Journalists in Pakistan have been subjected to abduction; murder by beheading, target killing, throat-slitting, hurling of bombs and beating to death; physical torture and suicide attack. And it is not just terrorists, insurgents, separatists, gangsters and drug traffickers whom journalists have to fear: state sponsored actors, including intelligence agencies, also pose a threat.
In one prominent case, on May 29, 2011, Saleem Shahzad, Pakistan Bureau Chief of Asia Times Online, was abducted after he exposed links between al Qaeda, a group of Naval personnel and the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) in the attack at the Pakistan Naval Station (PNS) Mehran within Faisal Naval Airbase in Karachi. 10 Security Force (SF) personnel were killed in the terrorist attack. Later on, June 1, 2011, his body was found with signs of torture, in the Mandi Bahauddin District of Punjab Province. In July 2011, The New York Times reported that US officials had reliable intelligence that showed that the ISI was responsible for Shahzad’s murder. Predictably, in January, 2012, Pakistan’s official commission of inquiry concluded that the perpetrators were unknown, a finding that was widely criticized as lacking credibility.
Though the available data clearly indicates that fewer journalists have been killed over past few years, reports show that the media is more stifled than it was earlier. The CPJ Annual Report 2018 thus observes,
…Despite a decline in fatal violence against journalists the media environment is worse today than it has been in recent years… Intimidation and threats of assault have led journalists and editors to avoid reporting stories on topics that would lead them into trouble. These topics include a wide range of touchy issues: religion, Chinese investment, relations with India, militant groups, and criticism of the military.
Another CPJ report, Acts of Intimidation: In Pakistan, journalists’ fear and censorship grow even as fatal violence declines, based on interviews with journalists across Pakistan, released on September 12, 2018, highlighting the plight of journalists in the country, noted that “the deterioration in the climate for press freedom in Pakistan accompanied a reduction in murders and attacks against the media” and “the two trends are linked, with measures the military took to stomp out terrorism directly resulting in pressure on the media”. The report adds, further, “conditions for the free press are as bad as when the country was under military dictatorship, and journalists were flogged and newspapers forced to close”.
More importantly, the September report, underlined the role of military in suppressing Press freedom,
The military garnered widespread praise for its crackdown on militancy after the school attack, which resulted in a sharp decline of terrorist incidents — and in turn, violence against journalists. Yet the stepped-up activity put the military in position to exert even greater control. The military has quietly, but effectively, set restrictions on reporting: from barring access to regions including Balochistan where there is armed separatism and religious extremism, to encouraging self-censorship through direct and indirect methods of intimidation, including calling editors to complain about coverage and even allegedly instigating violence against reporters. The military, intelligence, or military-linked and political groups were the suspected source of fire that resulted in half of the 22 journalist murders in the past decade. Hence it is easy to see how the military’s widening reach is viewed as a source of intimidation. The military has clashed with Pakistan’s elected government, which tried and ultimately failed to assert civilian control. Journalists find themselves in the middle of this battle, struggling to report while staying out of trouble.
Significantly, during the months before the 2018 General Elections of Pakistan, several journalists were beaten, abducted and otherwise intimidated, with just one thread tying them together – their criticism of the military.The witch-hunt against the media began after journalist Matiullah Jan wrote highly critical articles against Pakistan’s military and judiciary. On June 4, 2018, military spokesperson Major General Asif Ghafoor held a press conference where he claimed that a handful of journalists and bloggers were “anti-State and anti-military”. Unsurprisingly just a day later, on June 5, 2018, columnist and political commentator, Gul Bukhari was abducted in an Army-controlled area of Lahore by unknown attackers, including men in military uniform. She was, however, freed a few hours later.
On the same night, BOL TV broadcast journalist Asad Kharal’s car was intercepted by masked men near Lahore airport, and he was taken out of the car and beaten. He received severe injuries and was taken to Lahore Services Hospital for medical treatment.
Earlier, on January 10, 2018, prominent Pakistani journalist Taha Siddiqui was beaten and threatened by armed men, during an attempt to kidnap him in broad daylight, as he took a taxi to the airport in the capital, Islamabad. A few weeks after the incident, he relocated to Paris (France). According to a July 2018 report, Siddiqui claimed,
The army and intelligence agencies were threatening me and I suspect the people who tried to kidnap me were from the army. They do not like investigative reporting that uncovers the wrongdoings of those institutions.
According to an October 2018 report, several journalists and editors were of the opinion that the ongoing hostility towards media, was more dangerous than it had been under previous Governments. They saw it as coming from all pillars of the state, with Imran Khan’s government considered closely in sync with the courts and the military. The military is accused of pressuring the courts to block any opposition or even criticism of Pakistan’s Army.
Indeed, impunity and a lack of prosecution has characterised many of the attacks on journalists in Pakistan. The impunity enjoyed by killers of journalists in Pakistan is among the highest in the world. According to a report shared by International Center for the Protection of Media Freedom and Defending the Rights of Journalists (ICPFJ) on October 31, 2018, murdered journalists and their families had received justice in only one of 26 cases over the preceding five years. Iqbal Khattak, the Executive Director of Freedom Network, which prepared the report, observed, “Journalists continue to get target killed and threats against them continue to grow and the State’s legal system (police failure) and justice system (courts failure) have failed to provide them justice.”
Significantly, amidst this enveloping environment of intimidation, fear and state failure, Cyril Almeida, the Assistant Editor of Dawn, was awarded the 2019 World Press Freedom Hero award by the International Press Institute for his ‘critical’ and ‘tenacious coverage’ of the Pakistani military-security complex. Significantly, Almeida is under trial for treason – an offence that carries a potential death penalty – for an interview with former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, in which the latter accused the Pakistan Army of aiding the terrorists who carried out the 2008 Mumbai attacks, which killed 175 people, including 144 civilians, 22 Security Force personnel and all nine attackers. Afzal But, President of the Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists, notes, “This is the darkest period for journalism in the country’s history, no doubt about it.”
Assessing the overall situation of media, CPJ Asia Program Coordinator, Steven Butler, stated,
While the decline in the killing of journalists is encouraging, the government needs to counteract pressures that have resulted in rampant self-censorship and threats to the media. Pakistan must address the disturbing trend of impunity and attacks on journalists to shore up this faltering pillar of democracy.
Against this backdrop, Pakistan saw its first-ever two-day (May 2 and May 3, 2019) Sahafi (Journalist) Summit held in Karachi, the provincial capital of Sindh, to discuss at length the fast-emerging challenges to journalism in the country, including threats to independent news media from digital disinformation and financial cuts. The summit reportedly generated robust and inclusive discussions on the current challenges faced by the news industry in Pakistan, focusing, inter alia, on the coordinated and malicious spread of disinformation, the crisis of media literacy, regulations and the broadcast media’s struggling business model for revenue generation. The challenges faced by Pakistani women reporters were also discussed along with Pakistan’s media economy, including the issue of mass layoffs, investment in digital news and services and the role of news media owners.
In a society fixated on ‘righteous’ conduct overwhelmingly defined by religious extremism and militarized hypernationlism, journalists have come to dread violence for doing their job. With repeated physical attacks, fear has taken over the media, resulting in unprecedented self-imposed censorship. 

#Pakistan - #MyHealthMinisterIsTerrorist - #Peshawar doctors boycott OPDs after brawl with health minister

Doctors boycotted the outpatient departments at all government hospitals across Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Wednesday after an associate professor was beaten allegedly by Health Minister Hisham Inamullah Khan.
According to the KP Doctors Council, their primary demand was that an FIR be registered against the beating of Dr Ziauddin and a judicial inquiry be opened against Inamullah Khan. Dr Ziauddin works at Khyber Teaching Hospital.
The minister and his guard beat the assistant professor during a meeting of the hospital board of governors.
Dr Ziauddin and the minister shouted at each other during the meeting.
The minister claimed, however, that Nausherwan Burki, a cousin of Prime Minister Imran Khan, was egged by young doctors.
Inamullah Khan has said that when he reached the hospital to inquire further, he too was attacked. He claimed that Dr Ziauddin had attacked him but he was saved by his bodyguards.
A case has been later registered against Dr Ziauddin on the minister’s request. The police have arrested four young doctors after identifying them from CCTV footage of egging Burki.
Chief Minister Mahmood Khan summoned a report after ordering an immediate inquiry.

#Pakistan #PPP - Bilawal Bhutto writes letter to #NAB

Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari has responded to the letter of National Accountability Bureau (NAB), Chief Minister’s Advisor on Information Barrister Murtaza Wahab has confirmed.
In the letter, Bilawal writes he could not appear before the anti-graft body on May 17 owing to some crucial engagements.
Bilawal Bhutto Zardari urged the NAB to set any date in the next week so that he could appear before it.The advisor said “PPP chairman he received letter from NAB on May 13. The letter was written on May 08.”