Friday, July 26, 2019

Opinion: Trump Gave Pakistan What It Wanted, But Afghan Peace Is Far From Guaranteed

On Tuesday, Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan wrapped up a three-day visit to Washington, D.C., at the invitation of President Trump. The much-anticipated visit followed last year's cuts in U.S. aid to Pakistan and wrangling between the two leaders on Twitter, where Trump accused Pakistan of deceit and Khan retorted that Pakistan wasn't to blame for U.S. failures in Afghanistan.
And it was, of course, Afghanistan that figured centrally in Khan's visit, which took place as U.S.-led peace talks continue with the Afghan Taliban. When describing U.S. policy in Afghanistan in a talk on Tuesday, Khan invokedAlbert Einstein's definition of insanity: doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results. Khan wanted to let everyone know that under his watch and Trump's leadership, the insanity was now over.By the time he wrapped up his visit, Khan had secured what Pakistan has always wanted: a seat at the table on Afghanistan, and the Pakistani perspective acknowledged. (Trump even said he'd like to mediate between India and Pakistan over the disputed territory of Kashmir, something India sees as a purely bilateral issue. The State Department later walked Trump's statement back).
The extent to which Pakistan will go to protect what it has gained this week remains to be seen, as does the extent to which the U.S. will want to keep Pakistan happy. This week, Khan hinted at a future meeting in which he would engage directly with Afghan Taliban leadership. If so, such a meeting would present a tremendous opportunity for Pakistan to cement its seat at the table in the broader infrastructure of the peace talks. The United States will unequivocally appreciate and capitalize on the additional channel of communication to pressure the Afghan Taliban — something to which Trump alluded on Monday during his press conference with Khan.
"I think Pakistan is going to help us out to extricate ourselves," Trump said, later remarking that he preferred this to his "plans on Afghanistan that if I wanted to win that war, Afghanistan would be wiped off the face of the Earth. It would be gone. It would be over in — literally, in 10 days. And I don't want to do — I don't want to go that route."
Khan likes to point out that he long supported a political solution in Afghanistan, before any other leader or government did. Likewise, Trump repeatedly calls out the failure of the Obama administration in prioritizing nation-building over ending the war. Their overlapping perspectives have created a convergence on Afghanistan in which Trump offers Pakistan a legitimate role — perhaps a longstanding one — in shaping the future of Afghanistan.
Pakistan's interest in Afghanistan's future relates to its concerns about the Indian presence there, which it believes poses direct threats to its security. Moving forward, India will continue to feature prominently in how Pakistan views Afghanistan.
But also driving Pakistan's interest in shaping Afghanistan's future is a pragmatic desire to gain influence in a rapidly fluctuating and complex geopolitical environment. When Pakistan looks to Afghanistan, it doesn't only see India. It also sees China, the United Arab Emirates, Iran, Saudi Arabia and other countries involved in a pursuit of transit routes, mineral extraction, port development and more.
Furthermore, no single country — namely, the United States — picks the winners and losers. Rather, current and future geopolitical competition in Afghanistan is defined by all countries playing all sides with each other, and by Afghanistan itself.
It is within this context that Pakistan must redefine itself from a pariah state that created and bolstered the Afghan Taliban — stoking U.S. anger and mistrust — to a collaborative, regional actor that engages all stakeholders and centers of power in Afghanistan and the region.
With these motivations in mind, Pakistan doesn't need to think twice about whether or not to pressure the Afghan Taliban to acquiesce to American demands for a cease-fire and engaging in an intra-Afghan dialogue.
The Trump-Khan view of how the war ends in Afghanistan strikes an important point — that Pakistan's interests and challenges in Afghanistan demand more attention than previous American governments afforded it. This week, Trump seemed to remedy that. But in the future, factors external to U.S.-Pakistan relations will test this spirit of renewed pragmatism.Pakistan's strained relations with the Afghan government, the Afghan government's own intra-Afghan dialogue and the involvement of other interlocutors such as China all demand a careful diplomatic approach that considers the multiple relationships in play. To date, those relationship dynamics fluctuate from friendly and collaborative to antagonistic and disengaged. The future likely holds more of the same. And if the United States and Pakistan move too fast on their track, Pakistan will lose what little political space and legitimacy it holds with the Afghan government — and the United States will lose another avenue toward pressuring the Afghan Taliban.Khan and Trump's focus on Afghanistan this week overshadowed the question of Pakistan-based militancy, which might have yielded more criticism from the Trump administration had Pakistan not recently detained anti-India militant leader Hafiz Saeed — and had Trump been less eager to take credit for it, as he did on Twitter.
Herein lies a fundamental roadblock in Pakistan securing its seat at the table: American demands of Pakistan to fight militancy extend beyond the Afghan Taliban to include Pakistan-based groups that threaten India. The White House fact sheet covering Monday's Trump-Khan meeting says as much: "Pakistan has taken some steps against terrorist groups operating within Pakistan. It is vital that Pakistan take action to shut down all groups once and for all."
Previous U.S. governments have similarly pursued Pakistan's collaboration in Afghanistan alongside asking Pakistan to eliminate the ability of Pakistan-based militants to operate on its territory. In that regard, the Trump administration is no different, offering Pakistan a say on Afghanistan in exchange for action against the likes of Saeed, who has been jailed and released numerous time before. Neither the Bush nor Obama administrations succeeded in pursuing both. The chance for failure remains high for Trump as well.

#Pakistan - Imran Khan's first year in office: U-turns and oppression

By Taha Siddiqui
In the first year of Khan's tenure Pakistan regressed in many ways, especially in terms of the economy and human rights.
 It has been a year since Imran Khan became Pakistan's prime minister following what many consider the dirtiest general election in the country's 73-year history, with opposition parties and international observers alleging that it was the all-powerful Pakistan military that made the former cricketer's victory possible.
Khan's campaign slogan was "Naya (new) Pakistan", but a year into his premiership he is nowhere close to building a new Pakistan. What is worse, the country has regressed in many ways during his tenure, especially in terms of the economy, political stability and the state of human rights in the country.
Khan also walked back on many of his campaign promises in his first year in office. These reversals gained him the embarrassing nickname "U-turn Khan" and forced him to publicly defend his record, saying: "A leader who does not take 'U-turns' [in the best interests of the nation] is not a 'real leader'."
However, none of Khan's many U-turns have helped Pakistan in any way.

Sinking the economy

Khan's biggest blunder so far was on the economic front - the country's currency is in a devaluation spiral and has lost 35 percent of its value in just one year. The situation got so bad that Khan had to reshuffle his ministerial cabinet and remove the finance minister he had marketed for years as the solution to Pakistan's financial woes.
As a candidate, Khan had promised to fix Pakistan's sinking economy without taking any foreign loans. However, his government broke all previous records by borrowing $16bn in just one year - the highest ever external borrowing in any fiscal year since Pakistan's creation in 1947.
Over the last year, the country's economic growth rate has also halved - down to 3.3 percent, the lowest in nine years. Meanwhile, the government's trade and fiscal deficit continue to widen.
Khan knows the problem lies with revenue generation, as many well-off citizens do not pay taxes in the country. But the rich continue to evade taxes and are not interested in paying up, leaving the poor to pay more through indirect taxation, creating more poverty and further discontent among the masses.
While the country goes through this financial meltdown, Khan is also adding to the country's political volatility, further damaging the economy.

Silencing the opposition

Before he came to power, Khan repeatedly said the country was not progressing because of corrupt politicians who had stashed their wealth abroad and promised to bring back this stolen money. Once in power, he did go after some of these politicians, but the authorities have been unable to find anything substantive to return.
Moreover, many corrupt members of Khan's party have not faced any probes. Also, it has recently been claimed that, in some cases, the "accountability" judges were blackmailed into convicting Khan's political opponents without substantial evidence of wrongdoing. All this led many in Pakistan to brand Imran Khan's accountability drive a political witch-hunt aimed at silencing the opposition.  
In the last year, the military and the government also used other charges to implicate and silence opposition figures. Rana Sanaullah,  who is a prominent parliamentarian and vocal critic of Khan's government, for example, was recently arrested for allegedly trafficking drugs by the military-run anti-narcotics force. Sanaullah had predicted his detention a few days before, stating that he was going to be arrested soon and the government was contemplating under what charges to detain him.
This wave of political crackdowns ignited a people's movement in Punjab, the largest province in the country. Thousands of people, led by Maryam Nawaz Sharif, the daughter of the imprisoned former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, took to the streets across Pakistan on July 25 to protest the new government's assault on opposing voices.
Ms Sharif had recently taken to social media to ask those who wish "to live in a free, democratic and just Pakistan" to join her movement. "I shall be leading protest rallies across Pakistan that will not only ask for justice for Nawaz Sharif but demand rule of law, freedom of expression, end to manipulation of the entire system to punish public representatives, stealing people's mandate, imposition of selected," she said on Twitter.
However, while some of the opposition protests were covered live by Pakistan's domestic news television channels, the Nawaz-led main demonstration in the city of Quetta was not covered by Pakistani media. The blackout was due to a federal cabinet order earlier this month banning coverage of opposition political leaders who are under investigation for corruption.
Given the ongoing deterioration of media freedoms in Pakistan, not many journalists are willing to go against the government's wishes. Earlier this month, three news channels that ignored the cabinet order and covered a news conference by Ms Sharif were taken off the air, demonstrating the current government's disturbing dictatorial tendencies.
However, its not only the Pakistani journalists who suffer at the hands of a government hellbent on silencing all opposing voices. 

Attacking human rights activists

Pakistani human rights activists who speak up about the rule of law and people's rights are also being targetted by the authorities. Gulalai Ismail, an award-winning women rights activist, is currently in hiding for supporting the plight of the Pashtun community, Pakistan's second-largest ethnic group, through the Pashtun Tahaffuz (protection) Movement, the PTM.
PTM has been protesting for over a year, demanding accountability for the military's actions in the tribal belt near the Afghanistan-Pakistan border where the Pakistan Army has been conducting operations since 9/11 with no civilian oversight.
But, instead of listening to their demands, both the military and the government went on an assault against the movement, ordering the media to not to cover any of their protests and arresting their leaders. Two of the movement's parliamentarians, Mohsin Dawar and Ali Wazir, were recently imprisoned for allegedly attacking a military check-post, even though video evidence of the incident clearly shows that the soldiers opened fire on them first as they were passing through with a group of unarmed demonstrators.
Before coming into power, Khan had appeared at a PTM rally, promising to take up the movement's cause. In fact, he campaigned against the Pakistan military's operations himself for years and blamed the leadership's decision to partner with the US in imposing the so-called war on terror, which resulted in Pashtun suffering. 
However, after becoming prime minister, he swiftly forgot his promises and abandoned the Pashtun cause. He now seems to be following the same path as previous governments, unequivocally supporting the Pakistan military's actions on the tribal belt. He also recently went to the US for the first time as prime minister and agreed to work with Washington "to bring peace and economic stability in South Asia", seemingly forgetting how he used to accuse the US of destroying peace in Pakistan.
So why has Khan made so many U-turns and become almost a different person after only a year in power?
How did his ruling party, Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf (PTI), go from being the party of change to being the party of "the establishment", meaning the country's all-powerful military?
It appears that the country's powerful generals, known to influence politics from behind the scenes, have installed Khan as prime minister to be able to control the country while keeping up the pretence of democracy. Khan is forced into making so many U-turns because it is not him taking the decisions and determining policies, the establishment is
But there seems to be one thing that Pakistan's generals are failing to understand: A country as diverse as Pakistan can not flourish while its civilian rulers are being manipulated by the military behind the scenes.
Pakistani democracy cannot prosper until the media is free, human rights protections are robust and  elected officials are allowed to make decisions without any external pressure. The Pakistani people will not tolerate being ruled by puppet governments forever. While Khan seems to have survived politically his first year in office, if he does not change course and meet the demands of the Pakistani people he promised to serve, he may not be so lucky in the near future.

Bees, Bulls, And Blogs: Pakistan's Media Crisis

How Pakistan Is Playing Washington—Again

Trump thinks he can get Imran Khan to help as he exits Afghanistan. History suggests otherwise.

 This week, U.S. President Donald Trump held out extravagant hopes to Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan, suggesting he wanted to resume security aid, multiply bilateral trade many times over, and even try to mediate the decades-old Kashmir issue with India (claiming, falsely, that Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi had asked him for help).
Trump’s friendly display represented a major presidential entreaty with a singular goal: to induce Pakistan “to help us out to extricate ourselves” from neighboring Afghanistan, as the president put it.
To many experts and former U.S. officials dealing with Pakistan, Trump’s pleas had a familiar ring and promised similar results: Islamabad will smile and say yes to most things, and then go on with its close relationship with the Taliban—including welcoming the radical Islamist forces as they retake Kabul following a U.S. withdrawal.
“They are so good at this game—literally rope a dope,” said Vipin Narang, a political science professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. “Their incentive is to bait and bleed the United States and extract as many goodies (at one point a nuclear arsenal) out of us as they can. And we have been baited and bled for 40 years. This is the most profitable franchise in Pakistani history.”Former U.S. Ambassador to Afghanistan Ryan Crocker, who has said he experienced Pakistani duplicity firsthand when the U.S. Embassy in Kabul was attacked—allegedly by what Crocker called “Pakistan-based insurgents”—said he views Trump’s outreach as part of an awkward departure plan that all sides will see through.“I have had this sense from the start that by going into talks with the Taliban, without the Afghan government being there, we’ve effectively been saying, ‘We surrender.’ I see this as a pretty clumsily managed part of that overall endeavor,” Crocker told Foreign Policy.
Pakistan, Crocker added, may well induce the Taliban—who will be willing to go along—to accede to U.S. demands that the militants no longer attack U.S. forces, but that will only be a ruse to accelerate an American departure. And no matter what Khan might promise Trump, the Pakistani Inter-Services Intelligence agency and military will continue to oversee their active support of the Taliban, he said.
“They will look forward to the Taliban taking over the country,” Crocker said. “That’s been behind their almost two-decade refusal to clamp down on the [Taliban] leadership.” Still, some experts said any effort to bring the troops home from Afghanistan requires Pakistan’s help.
“Trump might well be getting played, but Trump’s clumsy lies might still usefully support what [U.S. envoy Zalmay] Khalilzad is doing with the Taliban and Kabul,” said James Schwemlein, a nonresident scholar in the South Asia program at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, referring to Washington’s special envoy to Afghanistan.

Bilawal urges people to rebel against 'selected govt'

With the opposition marking July 25 as a “black day” when the public’s mandate was allegedly stolen in last year’s general election, Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari has come out calling for citizens to stand up against the “selected government”.
“July 25 will always live on in infamy as the day that a selected government was imposed on the public through blatant rigging,” Bilawal said in his address in Jinnah Ground, Karachi on Thursday.
The scion of the Bhutto political dynasty lambasted Prime Minister Imran Khan for “making the lives of Pakistani miserable”. “The government has not only dropped an inflation bomb but also shamed the country’s name on the international stage with his [Imran’s] antics.”
The PPP chairman thanked the masses for coming out in their droves on the call of the opposition, terming this to be the “clearest sign that this government has been rejected in their eyes”.
Opposition parties, Bilawal added, had always come together to fight for the nation’s interests in the past.
“Today we have also banded together for the sake of the Pakistani people,” he said.
We all have our own manifestos and political ideologies but we all share the same patriotism,” the PPP chief added.
Bilawal said democracy was under threat, adding that,”Your [Pakistanis rights] are being infringed upon.”
He said the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) government had joined hands with other parties it had previously deemed to be the country’s enemies.
“If you come into power after election rigging then what else can I call this government but selected,” Bilawal cried out to the crowd.
He claimed PM Imran was “powerless” in forming his own cabinet and was compelled to roll out a budget on the whims and wishes of the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

‘The prime minister’s a hypocrite who has lied so much he has forgotten what the truth is anymore,” he claimed.
عمران صرف جھوٹا ہی نہیں بلکہ منافق ہے۔ جسے اپنا وزیر نکالنے کا اختیار نہ ہو، اپنا بجٹ بنانے کا اختیار نہ ہو، جسکی کابینہ میں الیکٹڈ سے زیادہ سلیکٹڈ ہوں، اسے سلیکٹڈ نہ کہوں تو کیا کہوں۔ایسی جعلی حکومت کو ہم نہیں مانتے۔@bbhuttozardari