Get the latest news and info on South Asian / Middle East region

http://twitter.com/pakistanpal

Pak minister fools the jail staff
pakistanpal

FOR PAKISTAN

Provincial Minister for Prisons Chaudhry Abdul Waheed Arain disguised himself as a local citizen hoping to meet acquaintances inside Camp Jail in Lahore, Express News reported on Friday.

Wardens and security officials asked for a total bribe amount of Rs1500; Rs700 when he tried to enter and the rest when he tried to leave.

All prison officials apologised when they finally recognised the minister but Arain went on to suspend the entire jail staff.


Pak Envoy sets the records straight at UNSC Meet
pakistanpal

Area 14/8

UNITED NATIONS: Top diplomats from Afghanistan and Pakistan engaged in verbal sparring during a discussion on cross-border terrorism and presence of terrorist safe havens, at the UN Security Council here.

"The fact remains: so long as terrorist sanctuaries continue to exist in Pakistan's soil and some elements continue to use terrorism as an instrument of foreign policy, peace will not prevail, neither in Afghanistan, nor in the region," Afghan Ambassador to the UN, Zahir Tanin, told the 15-member body during a special Security Council discussion on Afghanistan, yesterday.

"We also are very concerned with ongoing border shelling; this constitutes a serious threat to Afghan sovereignty and the prospect of friendly relations between our two countries," Tanin said referring to the recent exchange of fire across the Af-Pak border.

Pakistani Ambassador to the UN, Masood Khan, later was sharper in his response.

"I reject most emphatically Ambassador Tanin's argument - root, trunk and branch - that terrorist sanctuaries exist in Pakistan and some elements continue to use terrorism as an instrument of foreign policy," Khan said.

"No, sir, this is not true; and you know this is not true. And this is not good diplomacy. By using such arguments, you cast aspersions on our sincerity," he said.

"In Pakistan, we do not operate as elements, but as a whole, as one state. All institutions of the state have consensus that terrorism is a threat to both Pakistan and Afghanistan and therefore both countries should work together to eliminate this scourge," Khan said.

"I have not rebutted Ambassador Tanin's argument as a tit for tat response or to settle scores. I have said this to highlight that terrorists operate on both sides of the porous border. Many attacks against Pakistan are planned on Afghan soil," he said.

"That is why we need more aggressive policing and surveillance of the border. This will also help stop the shelling. We must not allow terrorists to manipulate and divide the people of Afghanistan and Pakistan," Khan said.

"This kind of contentious polemic is disingenuous, as Pakistan and Afghanistan communicate through multiple political and military channels to address all bilateral issues," he said.


Bridging the political-layman disconnect
pakistanpal

By Omar Farooque
Area 14/8

Democracy is for the so called middle class, states journalist Tahir Mehdi, author of the Motorcycle Diaries, a report on the political reality of rural areas in the weeks leading up to the general elections. With urban classes broiled in the pre-election frenzy of political association, Mehdi gives an insight into how 70 per cent of the country viewed the elections. He travelled over 1,800 km from Lahore to the Thal Desert, ending in Garhi Khuda Baksh. The three week journey into the heart of Pakistan began in April and ended in May. Mehdi said he chose to travel the roads less taken to meet with the under-represented, marginalized majority of the country.

Read more...

Tags:

Breaking what’s not broken
pakistanpal

By Azmaish Ka-waqt
Area 14/8

In a magnanimous but totally inexplicable budgetary gesture the government has decreed that henceforth hybrid cars upto 1200cc engine capacity will be duty and tax free. It transpires that there are no hybrid cars in this engine capacity range. The government has also decided that bigger luxury hybrid cars could be imported on reduced duty. Many people are drooling and licking their chops in anticipation. For example a BMW 7 series active hybrid luxury car that cost Rupees 21 million will be almost 6 million cheaper because of a 25% reduction in customs duty. This applies to other cars too-like the Porsche Cayenne Hybrid SUV and other BMW hybrids. Small electric (not hybrid) cars are available but these have to be charged from power outlets that do not exist outside homes and in any case they would be useless because of the prolonged power outages. Hybrid cars will create new maintenance problems,expensive battery imports and even problems of discarded battery disposal. Maybe a long deep rethink is required unless someone has plans to cash in quickly before the policy dies its own death.

The Punjab government has decided to tax the rich. Houses more than two Kanals (1000 Square Yards) are to be subjected to a onetime lump sum heavy tax. How about houses and farms on of 50,100 or 240 acres or more? Why not a super duper tax? It is also worth noting that these days' huge luxury houses with basements,swimming pools and theaters are built on less than two kanals-mostly 800 square yards. Drive around Lahore Cantonment and Defence Housing Authority areas and you will get the picture. People will be falling over each other to sub divide their large plots into smaller ones. Like the luxury tax on cars proposed earlier this may face legal challenges or it may also die its own death. Beyond the cosmetic 'rich have been taxed' slogan this step is unlikely to raise any significant revenues. It sounds like the highway robbery of forcible collection of zakat from bank accounts!

The Finance Ministers statement that if the defence budget is reduced by 50 billion then he will do away with the increase in the GST sounds strange. He is the one who has sanctioned the defence budget with a 10 % increase or has he forgotten that he is now in the government of which the defence institution is a part? The interior minister complaining about the agencies and their performance sounds equally strange. A new 'security policy' promised by him within three days is absolutely amazing. The previous government could not do it in five years. While he is at it he should also get his government to issue a strategic directive to the Armed Forces and the Agencies laying down exactly what they should or should not do-this will make life much simpler and they will be 'reined in' as demanded by an honorable member of the Parliament. The TV anchors that are falling over each other to project the government viewpoint will get much needed clarity. The drooling tail wagging sycophants who were critical of those now in power and are now looking expectantly for crumbs and handouts need to be watched carefully and their new found writing skills thoroughly examined.


Understanding Gwadar Port
pakistanpal

By Ghalib Sultan

Recently there has been some criticism of the strategic decision to build Gwadar port. In fact one critic has called the Port a - cruel joke. It is therefore important that we marshal some facts and then decide whether Gwadar was in Pakistan's interest or not. It is important to get this right because future policies of the new government will depend on how we view Gwadar.

The usual criteria for a port have been listed and it is being said that Gwadar does not meet these criteria. However, there are hundreds of ports which meet these criteria but are of negligible significance. On the other hand some of the world's most successful ports do not meet these criteria. There was huge skepticism when the 50 - berth Jabel Ali port was conceived. It met none of these criteria. In fact it was just a sandy beach with no infrastructure, no communications network, no population, no thriving hinterland, no areas of production, no water, power, roads, rail roads etc at all. Today it is a hugely thriving port.

Read more...

Tags:

Tacstrat Analysis: Building peace in Af-Pak
pakistanpal

Tacstrat Analysis

Who are the key players in the Af-Pak conundrum? First of all, the states of Afghanistan and Pakistan, which implies their respective elected governments, can be considered the main stakeholders. But unlike the banal diplomatic progression observed between sovereign states the Af-Pak tango surpasses tiers of complexity. Armies, economies, independent terror groups, opposition in politics and ideology, and neighboring countries combine to form a complex blend of interaction. With the new government elected in Pakistan, a balance between civil and military power, the keenness of terrorist groups to cooperate with the said governments, and of course the ability of Pakistan's newly elected government to cooperate with US and the Karzai government will determine the well being of Af-Pak and the region.

Read more...


PIA and Airports
pakistanpal

By Ghalib Sultan
Area 14/8

This is a true narration of facts. I went to the PIA website to make reservations for a flight from London to Lahore. The website indicated that only two seats were available in Business Class on the flight. I quickly asked my travel agent to make the reservations. He did so. Once the flight departed I looked around and found that half the seats in business class were empty. I casually mentioned this to the bursar on the flight. He informed me that a mafia controlled marketing and sales in PIA. The agents of this mafia booked all seats on the lowest fare well in advance and sold them at the last possible minute at the maximum fare at this time. If any seats remained unsold the loss was PIA's and they were not bothered. The bursar asked me to look in the Economy Class too. I did and saw many seats vacant.

Read more...


ZoneAsia-Pk: 21st Century Revolutions 101
pakistanpal

By Zara Zulfiqar
ZoneAsia-Pk

Our generation, in a matter of two to three decades has witnessed the impossible and astounding. From hand written letters, to phone calls, emails, cell phones and social networks, modes of communication have diversified, expanded and created based on our constant desire to attain more in less time. Today, the world news is only a click away, the latest update a tweet away, and commotion or motion a photograph away. In Pakistan we have experienced the proliferation of media and information sources. Depth has been replaced by diversity. All required knowledge is a talk show away. The sharpest of minds sit together and discuss issues from social to those of national importance.

Amidst this hoo-ha of information proliferation, it is vital to acknowledge the degree to which exposure shapes public opinion. Media, popularly believed to be the fourth pillar, the watchdog of the democratic setup, needs to be called out frequently enough. Similarly, the latest addition to all things revolutionary is Social Media, where twitter, Facebook and Tumblr can combine powers to create force more momentous than mainstream media can muster to form.

The recent Arab Spring that got picked by Western mainstream media, and the powers of the globe realized that tweets can speak louder than words did Arab nations finally get liberated. Regardless of geographical location, historical context and racial undertones, the success or failure of recent uprisings is determined not by the level of oppression they've undergone, but the extent to which Western Media has chosen to pick them. Sounds like a conspiracy theory? Let's look at the recent Turkish revolt, where a few thousand have gathered to protest against Islamic rules of the State. They are demanding Prime Minister Erdogan to step down. The West has labeled this the Turkish Spring, while Erdogan has ignored it.

Turkey's situation in the international context resonates well with this sudden need for internal disruption. The country has just paid their last IMF installment, loan free, and ready to pursue European Union aspirations. Once the country meets the economic merit social instability must also be addressed. In this case Erdogan might just lose out. The level of coverage media chooses to give any issue (determined by external interests) dictates the seriousness of any matter. The protests at Teen Talwar in Karachi were presumably no less in seriousness or numbers, but because stability in Pakistan and support for the Sharif government suits the bigger agenda in the region, these revolutionaries didn't get heard on the same level.

Other examples of revolutions are Arab Revolutions (save Saudi Arabis) the Green Movement in Iran, Syria, and Balochistan nationalism. Among the non-issues are Palestine, Kashmir, Rohingya of Myanmar, India's Chhattisgarh uprising, and of course, Guantanamo Bay. The factors determining issues versus non issues seems to be very Western-centric. Hence a façade of political stability and control is maintained in selective parts of the World. It is quite bizarre how monopoly over narratives can be used to skew public opinion to a point that nation states can be coerced to conform. International mainstream media has created a monopoly over information and assumed credibility by virtue of being pioneers of the game.


KASHMIR FLASH IN NORWAY
pakistanpal

By Iqbal Khan
S.O.S Kashmir

Kashmir issue is on the agenda of the UN. Entire world, including India, acknowledges it as a dispute. However, Kashmir cause has not been able to attract required level of continuous sympathy at the international level. Nevertheless, there have all along been sporadic breezes of freshness through isolated efforts of Kashmiri and Pakistani diaspora. One such example was a Kashmir debate in the Norwegian parliament on May 23. And almost concurrently, European Parliament also adopted "Urgency Resolution" on the secret hanging of Afzal Guru. The proposed motion was discussed and unanimously voted in the European Parliament's plenary session at Strasbourg. Resolution condemned the secret execution of Afzal Guru. Resolution also regretted the deaths of three young Kashmiris following the protests against Afzal Guru's execution and called upon the security forces to exercise restraint in the use of force against peaceful protesters.

As regards discussion in Norway's parliament, an interpolation entitled "Kashmir on the backdrop of withdrawal of foreign troops from Afghanistan in 2014" was submitted for a debate by the Chairman of the Norwegian parliamentary Kashmir Committee and Christian Democrat (KRF) Party leader Mr Knut Arild Hareide. Mr Svein Roald Hansen who highlighted the historical and humanitarian aspect of the conflict said, "There has been a conflict area with three wars, a strong military presence and repeated tensions and confrontations between India and Pakistan. It is a conflict that undermines fundamental human rights of 10 million people who live there." Later talking to media, Knut said that Kashmir dispute can be resolved through the international mediation. He pointed out that in this regard the US and Europe has to do more to pressurise, especially India, to find a peaceful solution to this long standing dispute.

Debate in the Norwegian parliament lasted for nearly one hour; ranking parliamentarians from major political parties participated in the discourse. During the debate, Norwegian Foreign Minister Mr Espen Barth Eide stated that it is very important to closely monitor and contribute to a united world community that seeks to assist both countries in this tense situation. He opined that the conflict between India and Pakistan has deep historical roots: "There are many challenges associated with Kashmir. I do not think that a solution will be found in a kind of breakthrough, where everything is suddenly negotiated and done".

Mr. Knut Arild Hareide while warning both the countries for ignoring the Kashmir conflict, emphasized: "what more than anything else can destroy a better relationship between India and Pakistan is the conflict around Kashmir. This is a regressive wound in the relationship between governments and a continuing tragedy for the Kashmiri people. In the region there is a fear of a renewed wave of violence and terrorism after 2014." Stressing on the need to improve the negotiating atmosphere he said "it is important that both these countries help build mutual trust and reduce fear and hatred. About execution of Afzal Guru in February this year, he said, Norway is against the death penalty and urges all countries to refrain from it. This is a principle which of course must apply in this region". The Norwegian parliament has conducted debate on Kashmir for the second time, in a year, emphasizing for settlement of the Kashmir conflict. An earlier debate was held in September 2012, when the Norwegian parliament raised the issue of unidentified mass graves in the occupied Kashmir.
Kashmiri diaspora in Norway has indeed made commendable efforts to achieve the exquisite objective of moulding international public opinion in favour of their just cause. This shows that given the hard work and dedication, there is no reason why positive results cannot be achieved in highlighting the cause of Kashmiri people elsewhere.

Kashmiri leadership across the world has applauded this debate. Hurriyat Conference Chief Mirwaiz Umar Farooq has hailed the Norwegian Parliament's recently conducted debate on Kashmir dispute "which has once again brought into focus the perils of this long standing dispute and its dangerous implications on international security and stability." He described this effort as timely and most welcome step as it has recognized the necessity of the resolution of Kashmir dispute which besides bringing bloodshed and enormous miseries on the people of Jammu and Kashmir is posing a continuous nuclear warfare threat in this part of the world. Mirwaiz further said that "the Norwegian Parliament's debate has encouraged the suffering people of Jammu and Kashmir and has made us hopeful that our sacrifices are not ignored and the world is taking note of our plight and sacrifices for a just cause."

Mirwaiz has expressed hope that in the light of international concern over Kashmir issue and in the best interest of the people of the sub-continent, the governments of India and Pakistan will initiate a meaningful and time bound dialogue process for the resolution of Kashmir dispute without any further delay and include genuine leadership of the people in the process so as to find a just solution in accordance with the wishes of the people of Jammu and Kashmir.

Statistics from the "Institute for Conflict Management" which tracks fatalities in terrorist attacks in South Asia show that twice as many security forces personnel have been killed by freedom fighters during this year in the Kashmir Valley. Taking into account the most recent deaths, 19 security personnel have died so far this year. By comparison, in 2012, 17 security forces personnel were killed, and in 2011, the death toll was 30 such personnel. Security analysts attribute the recent increase in the number of Indian security personnel deaths to a deliberate strategy by the freedom fighters: carrying out more audacious and better-planned attacks on Indian security forces. Ajai Sahni, head of the Institute for Conflict Management said, "Previously, such attacks have been low-key and mostly unsuccessful… Now these attacks are seen as low investment and high profit activity…it creates the impression that if the policemen can't protect themselves, then how can they protect people?"These attacks "are momentary efforts to send a very strong message," Sahni added. MM Khajuria, a security analyst who has also served as the director general of police for Jammu and Kashmir, said, "They (attacks) are aimed at exploiting the public sentiment and creating a base for recruitment."

These remarks acknowledge that spark of struggle for independence in the IHK is not only alive, but is kicking as well. And the barbaric suppressive acts of Indian security forced spread over decades have not been able to dent the will of Kashmiris of IHJ&K.

Kashmiris and Pakistanis living in other countries need to follow the footstep of Kashmiris residing in Norway and make concerted efforts to gain support of the public opinion of their respective host countries. Pakistani missions abroad and the Kashmir Committee of the parliament also have a special responsibility in this regard. There is a need to provide requisite support to the Pakistani diaspora in all the countries to highlight the atrocities being let loose by Indian occupation forces and the need for resolution of one of the oldest conflicts on the UN agenda. Notwithstanding the fact that "Human Rights" attract a lot of lip service and these have indeed become buzzwords of international politics, their application is selective. Unfortunately, we have not been able to effectively expose gross HR violations in the densest militarized zone of the world.

Hopefully, the new government would reinvigorate the effort towards drawing the attention of comity of nations towards settlement of Kashmir dispute in line with the aspirations of the people of Kashmir. Moreover, notwithstanding the settlement of the dispute, there is a need to grant provisional representation to the people of AJK and Gilgit Baltistan in the National Assembly and Senate of Pakistan.

Writer is Consultant, Policy & Strategic Response, IPRI. Email:Khalid3408@gmail.com


BREAKING NEWS
pakistanpal

By Ahsan Waheed
Originally Posted: Area 14/8

Several interesting developments seem to be taking place as the post election scenario moves to the swearing in of the new federal and provincial governments. The electronic and print media is going bananas reporting the kaleidoscope of events as they unfold. It would be instructive to review some of the more significant stories.

It seems the old guard of the PML(N) is all set to come back at the federal level and in Punjab. This was,of course expected but one was hoping against hope that there would be at least a few new faces. Names of known criminals and religious fanatics are being mentioned as having wormed themselves in to the political mainstream on PML(N) tickets and this plus the PML(N)'s soft stance on the Taliban is leading to the speculation that the PML(N) government may take a hard right turn for survival and to appease their friends the Saudis - especially if the reports of billions being doled out by them are true.

There are reports of bureaucrats being selected by a former bureaucrat closely tied to the PML(N) leadership. Competency and merit would be far more important considerations if the government is to gain credibility through governance. So far there is no sign of any significant policy making activity nor is the issue of the public sector enterprises being addressed in spite of the losses being sustained and the various mafias within them operating with impunity. PIA recently made a spectacle of itself in London by failing to control two unruly passengers - and this in spite of the large numbers in the cabin crew - maybe the poor quality and shortage of food being reported by passengers was the trigger.

One report has it that a policy to permit duty free import of hybrid cars is being considered to ease the CNG shortage and misuse. If true then this would be another hare brained scheme like the earlier yellow cab disaster. The terrible tragedy in Gujranwala where a CNG fitted unsafe van exploded burning children alive should have been a game changing event but no one has moved a muscle beyond the standard platitudes. CNG needs to be banned in vehicles. If hybrid car import is to be encouraged then a proper policy of import and domestic production must be evolved. Populist knee jerk utterances are not required. In any case future tragedies must be averted by enforcing safety standards and laws.

There are reports of various measures being taken to address the horrendous electricity shortage that is causing untold misery and loss. No one seems to know exactly what is happening and TV anchors besides trying to resolve political issues are also trying to figure out an answer to this crisis. A white paper laying out the unvarnished truth would help more than various speculative reports of Saudi oil and plans to jump start dead projects or THAR coal being the final answer or alternatives like solar energy being an option besides cutting the losses.

The Yaum e Takbeer being celebrated with gusto and the PML(N) hogging the limelight needs to be tempered with some cold logic. Is this something to celebrate? Does any other country do so? Is it proper to have models of the nuclear test site all over the place? Should scientists be paraded around to crow about their individual achievements? Can a country with nuclear weapons be in economic decline,politically unstable and under threat from militancy and radicalism? If our nuclear tests were security driven in response to India's tests and if we want to retain this capability as a deterrent to balance the threat from India then surely we need to be quietly professional and restrained and not shouting our heads off from roof tops.

A Special Envoy from India has met our Prime Minister elect with a special message from the Indian Prime Minister. This is probably to reciprocate the enthusiasm shown by our incoming Prime Minister for better relations with India. These are good positive developments but the larger picture in the region and beyond has to be the backdrop for this important bilateral relationship. The Chairman of the Indian Policy Advisory Board and a former Foreign Secretary Mr Shyam Saran has very recently laid out India's views about are nuclear ambitions and a more distorted picture would be hard to come by. While laying the blame at Pakistan's door for any future nuclear event he conveniently forgets that India tested first and that the discriminatory US-India Nuclear Agreement and the exemption by the NSG,as well as India's SLBM and BMD ambitions are the real drivers behind the escalatory trends in the sub-continent. There is also the perception that India uses Afghanistan to destabilize Pakistan. All this and much more has to be factored into the bilateral relationship.

Much is being said about the talks with the TTP but very little is being revealed about how and on what basis these talks are going to be held given the stated stance of the TTP. The Maulana who is being made the go-between has very little credibility and is already setting pre-conditions for the talks like an assurance from the military! Such decisions are best made in forums where there can be an inclusive and informed debate and discussion. In fact what is needed is a forum for formal civil-military interaction and policy decision making.


?

Log in

No account? Create an account