Monday, 27 February 2012

Gas transmission lines: Regional integration

FEBRUARY 27, 2012

Regional integration has remained a pipedream of the policymakers and the people of South Asia since the visionary idea of Saarc was floated in 1985.

Periodic conferences including regular summits of heads of state/government have produced nothing tangible in spite of piling up tons of statements, declarations and agreements on a vast variety of subjects including terrorism, trade and cultural ties.
The time has come to move from diplomatic language to concrete action to place South Asia on the map of regional organisations.

It is sorely disheartening to note that our region has lagged far behind other areas of the world in the field of regional co-operation.

As it is pointless to cry over wasted time or spilt milk the nations of South Asia are left with no choice but to join hands and team up immediately for shared peace and development.
There is no need to dig into extraneous reasons for the painfully slow progress in giving some semblance of collective substance to one of the most populated regions of the world.

It is more than obvious that the region has immense potential to compete with other parts of the earth provided the leaders rise in unison to place the horse before the cart.

Priorities have to be placed in the right sequence.

Without mincing words it is imperative to argue that trade above security is the only way forward considering the stunning problems facing more than one fifth of humanity.
West Asia and Central Asia cannot realise their untapped potential if South Asia remains dormant and in deep slumber.

The present century can become an Asian century only if South Asia wakes up and takes destiny in its own hands.
New hopes have sprung in the form of Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India (TAPI) and Iran-Pakistan-India (IPI) gas pipelines.

These gas pipelines if materialised can change the destiny of this region and the world.

Flow of energy from one region to the other will cement the bonds of friendship and economic co-operation in the most promising region of the planet.
The TAPI and IPI gas transmission lines under consideration are super highways to regional integration, peace and prosperity.

These two mega projects, however, face colossal hurdles.

TAPI is handicapped by the precarious law and order situation in war-torn Afghanistan although the major world powers are not opposed to this international flow of energy.

It is the IPI project, which has invited the outdated ire of the United States.

Washington has warned Pakistan and India to give up this plan because it is a "bad idea".

In order to punish Iran over it's alleged pursuit of nuclear power the Western nations led by the lone superpower have slapped stringent sanctions on Iran and are simultaneously exerting tremendous pressure on Pakistan, in particular, to keep off the Iranian oil and gas.

As the stakes are extremely high for energy-starved Pakistan, the IPI project has placed the latter in a defining point in time.
Choices for Pakistan and the US
US-Pakistan relations have witnessed numerous ups and downs since the partition of the Indian sub-continent in 1947.

The cold war followed by the war on terror has taken a heavy toll on the sustainability of the US-Pakistan friendship.

Both nations have been the most allied allies of each other for decades.

The two countries today stand at the dreaded crossroads at a critical time when the US-led Nato forces are planning to leave Afghanistan after more than a decade of occupation, after the 9/11 assault on the World Trade Centre.
Now if the US puts pressure and succeeds in forcing Pakistan to give up plans to import gas and electricity from Iran, the consequences for the two countries and the region are doomed to be disastrous.

US arm-twisting on this issue will fuel intense anti-Americanism, which will lead to more terrorism than America may have calculated.

Pakistan's energy sector will face acute shortages leading to fatal pressure on the war-affected economy.

Additionally, chances of regional integration of the economies of South Asia and Central Asia will become bleak.

More poverty in this region will mean bad news for Washington as well.
Americans are wrong if they insist in arguing that the Iran-Pakistan pipeline is "bad news".

Conversely, the reverse is true as failure to connect the energy fields of Iran with Pakistan and India will make this region, including the oil-rich Middle East, fertile for anti-Americanism, unrest and instability.

Needless to add that the US can ill-afford to ignite chaos in such a strategic location of the world.

Our American friends need to understand that the IPI is as useful as the TAPI for promoting peace and defeating terrorism both of which are apparently tall pillars of the US foreign policy.
The IPI and TAPI are two integral components of a win-win strategy for all the stakeholders including the United States.

Failure to understand the indispensable linkage between peace and development will spell disaster for all countries of the world.
Pakistan can serve as bridge between Washington and Tehran as Islamabad successfully bridged differences between Washington and Peking in 1970.
Pakistan and the US need each other because the two are allies against the long war on the terrorist threat to democracy.

It is imperative therefore that the policymakers in the corridors of power in Washington maintain friendship with Islamabad and vice versa.

A friendly Pakistan besides serving itself will bring rich dividends to our allies in Europe and across the Atlantic.

Controversial drone attacks and traditional US meddling in the internal affairs of Pakistan have already turned decades of amity into hostility.
The IPI and TAPI will also bring India and Pakistan together on one page and eliminate the threat of a nuclear winter, which will remain a distinct possibility if the two nuclear-armed nations do not step back from the disastrous precipice.
The extremist surge in Pakistan and the region has been precipitated partly by flawed US policies.

Encouraged by the imminent US withdrawal from Afghanistan, militant groups in Pakistan and Afghanistan have launched a powerful campaign to regroup and issue warnings to Islamabad and Washington.

This dangerous trend can be arrested by Pak-US co-operation, which has come under intense stress following recent developments.
Positive developments
The third tripartite Pak-Afghan-Iran summit has raised new hopes of emergence of regional co-operation.

As a complementary process Pakistan and India have signed three trade agreements recently giving fresh impetus to the stalled peace process in South Asia.

These positive developments have laid the groundwork for materialisation of the TAPI and IPI projects.

Under these hopeful circumstances, the United States can be convinced to agree that the TAPI and IPI initiatives will serve national interests of all the stakeholders who are interested in the peace and prosperity of mankind.
Pakistan's acute energy needs cannot be left at the mercy of outsiders whose global interests may not converge with our own.

This is a moment which has to be seized come what may.

If America succeeds in blocking the IPI project Pakistan and the former will have to forget friendship for all times to come.
Pakistan has been a trusted ally of the United States for over six decades during the cold war as well as the war on terror.

Now is the time to test the sincerity and friendship of our war time allies.

The ball lies in the US court.

Regional integration is a foundation stone of our foreign policy as envisioned in PPP Manifesto 2008 which can be boosted by the TAPI and IPI gas delivery lines.

Our four immediate neighbours are as important to our survival as Canada and Mexico are essential to the security of the United States.

The USA need not dither and stand in the way of democracy and peaceful progress through integration of this region.

The United States has a unique opportunity to wash the ugly slur of imperialism from it's face by supporting traditional friends including Pakistan and Iran instead of erecting hurdles in the way of human progress.

It is the best and perhaps the last opportunity for America to gain the high moral ground rather than slipping into the dust bin of inhumanity.

Tuesday, 21 February 2012

Politics of regional cooperation

Courtesy:- Dr Hasan Askari Rizvi
13 hrs ago | Comments (1)
Pakistan and its neighbouring states often emphasise the need of promoting regional cooperation. Though some regional cooperation organisations exist in the region, cooperation among these states has generally been weak and limited. Some of these states entertain distrust about one another and they generally have more active relationship with the states outside the region.

Diplomacy behind trilateral cooperation

Courtesy:- Sajjad Shaukat

Diplomacy is employed for both positive and negative purposes. In positive sense, it is used to resolve an issue peacefully, and in negative sense, it is applied by states to gain selfish ends without caring for peace. Secret diplomacy always thwarts the aims of peace diplomacy. Let us analyse the new determination of Pakistan, Iran and Afghanistan for regional cooperation in wake of emerging geo-political scenario in the region. In the third trilateral summit at Islamabad, on February 17 this year, Pakistan’s President Asif Ali Zardari and Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Afghan President Hamid Karzai put their heads together to forge regional cooperation in multifaceted areas. They pledged to strengthen cooperation to eradicate terrorism and militancy from the region. The leaders of the three neighbouring countries declared that they would not allow any threat emanating from their respective territories against each other.

Moving towards normalisation

Courtesy:- Dr Rashid Ahmad Khan

The prime ministers of Pakistan and India have found a common chemistry to work together for peace and to hail each other as messengers of peace and cooperation between their countries

Indian Commerce Minister Anand Sharma’s Pakistan visit may not have gone entirely as expected. Its outcome, however, provides a clear indication that Islamabad and New Delhi are firmly set to move forward on the road to normalisation of their relations by enhancing their bilateral trade. The failure of Pakistan to hand over the complete negative list of items to the Indian side was a bit disappointing for those who had hoped the visit would finally clear the way for open trade between the two countries. But the signing of three agreements on customs cooperation, mutual recognition and redress of grievances relating to non-tariff barriers will boost the confidence of the Pakistani and Indian business communities to engage each other in mutually beneficial trade and commercial relations. As a sign of their strong resolve to enhance the level of their trade and economic cooperation, Pakistan and India are also seriously considering the opening of branches of their central banks in each other’s countries and a meeting of officials from both sides is scheduled to take place in Mumbai in March 2012 to discuss its modalities.

US sullying Pak affairs

Courtesy:- S M Hali 
 February 22, 2012

The resolution by US House of Representatives on Balochistan is not only in extreme bad taste, but also amounts to interfering in Pakistan’s internal affairs that is contrary to the UN mandate.
Balochistan is an integral part of Pakistan. The instrument of accession was signed by the Khan of Kalat on March 27, 1948, while the other states under British rule had already joined the newly independent country in 1947.

Friday, 17 February 2012

Economic consequences of the 20th Amendment

Courtesy:- Pervez Tahir

The 20th Amendment to the Constitution will have an unintended consequence for the good of the economy. By firmly placing the appointment of the caretaker government within the political domain — and away from the establishment and the technocratic hopefuls — the Amendment saves the country from the economic experimentation that previous set-ups have been indulging in, in the past.
A caretaker government is meant to run the routine business of the government while the Election Commission holds elections without fear or favour. However, caretaker governments in the past have been the handiwork of the establishment, working through the president.Under the new Amendment, the role of the president is ceremonial, in that, he administers oath of office to the caretaker prime minister and cabinet. In the interest of the political system, the new institutionalised arrangement will force the outgoing government and the opposition to agree on names that do not have long-term ambitions. In this regard, the notion that technocrats without formal political affiliations are more likely to be neutral and respectful of their mandates, is patently false. This does not exclude my own profession of economics. In fact, it is largely the economists, especially from the IFIs, whose good economic intentions pave the way to political hell. As an extension of the establishment, they tend to believe that ‘good’ economic policies can be quickly enforced in a political vacuum and that the public financial system may be freed of corruption, rent-seeking and patronage without any understanding of the political economy and the institutional foundations of  ‘bad’ policies. As the revival of the political process either rolls back ‘good’ policies or soft-pedals them, the ‘good’ economists blame the politicians and the political process for failing to deliver and turn to longer lasting unelected regimes. Regime stability is thus seen as crucial to economic stability, which is deemed to be a necessary condition for growth.

The first stone

Courtesy:- Ayaz Amir
Friday, February 17, 2012

Pity our doomsday prophets who have been predicting the end of things. For them this is likely to be a long year. When predictions fall by the wayside, when fate refuses to march to our tine, and the pillars of the temple expected to fall remain standing, hope turns to dust and time takes on a different dimension.

I know you will shriek on hearing the word memo one more time but to get an idea of how quickly things can change just consider the excitement with which this net was first cast, as if there was no escape for its intended victims. Now it is an embarrassment, best forgotten by all concerned.

Monday, 13 February 2012

Expansion in Pak-Sri Lanka ties

Courtesy :-  Malik Muhammad Ashraf

Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa visit to Pakistan has, undoubtedly, given a new dimension to bilateral relations between the two countries, in view of the fact that they have agreed to enhance bilateral trade from the current volume of $375 million to $2 billion within the next three years, besides expanding cooperation in the field of economy, defence, media and technical education. Till recent past, the relationship between the two countries predominantly focused on defence cooperation because of Sri Lanka’s war against the Tamil Tigers. It is, perhaps, not an exaggeration to say that Pakistan actually helped Sri Lanka end the 30-year insurgency by providing the much needed arms and ammunition to fight the militants. The Tamil Tigers were so enraged by it that they even tried to kill the Pakistani Ambassador in 2006.

Diplomacy and perseverance pay off

Courtesy :- MA Malik

In view of the fact that 30 percent of Pakistan's exports, worth £3 billion, land in the European Union (EU) countries, the five years waiver granted by the World Trade Organisation Council (WTOC) for Trade in Goods for duty-free access of Pakistani goods to EU countries is decidedly a very significant and unprecedented step in the history of the world body, which will go a long way in reviving the sagging economy of Pakistan. It is estimated that this particular decision will fetch Pakistan additional earnings of 990 million euros. This unprecedented favour conferred on Pakistan at the request of EU itself, represents a rewarding success for the diplomatic efforts and perseverance of the present government in convincing the EU countries that instead of aid, what Pakistan required was enhancement in its trade and preferential treatment to its exports to EU. The initiative for ‘Trade not Aid’ was launched in the backdrop of the devastating deluge of July 2010, which had a debilitating impact on the economy of Pakistan besides incalculable damage to the infrastructure and loss of thousands of lives. 

Tuesday, 7 February 2012

Freedom or licence for TV

Courtesy:- Zubeida Mustafa

THERE is much to be cherished about the freedom that our media, especially the electronic media, has come to enjoy. The extent to which this freedom — it was called licence in earlier days — has gone is provoking a debate. This is a positive development because there are some media heavyweights who are now ready to admit that something is amiss.
When critics first started speaking up against the electronic media a few years ago, the issue that gave rise to controversy was the portrayal of violence. The Pakistan Medical Association raised this issue and invited some journalists for a dialogue to explain how scenes of violence impacted on the minds of young children.

Pakistan, Qatar convert ties into strategic partnership

Courtesy:- Muhammad Saleh Zaafir
Wednesday, February 08, 2012

DOHA: Pakistan and Qatar have decided to convert their ties into a strategic relationship as Qatari Ruler Hamad bin Khalifa Al-Thani said the ongoing visit of Prime Minister Syed Yusuf Raza Gilani to Qatar had opened a new chapter in the relationship of the two brotherly countries and new vistas of cooperation. “Qatar is willing to cooperate with Pakistan in all fields,î he said Tuesday. 

Expressing unswerving solidarity with Pakistan in various spheres of life during his more than an hour meeting with Prime Minister Gilani here at the chief executive office (Amiri Diwan) on Tuesday, he termed the occasion a historic and fresh start after a gap of nine long years. The meeting took place in an extremely cordial atmosphere where all issues pertaining to international, regional and bilateral importance came under discussion. Foreign Minister Ms Hina Rabbani Khar who left for Russia immediately after the meeting also took part in the meeting while PMís advisor on petroleum and natural resources Dr Asim Hussain, Federal Minister Mian Riaz Hussain Pirzada, leader of the Tribal Parliamentarians Haji Muneer Khan Orakzai and Pakistan-Qatar Business Association representative Ahmad Khali assisted the prime minister in the meeting. 

Pak foreign policy needs changes

Courtesy:- Shaukat M Zafar

D:\\wwwroot\data\pictures\139192.jpg not foundThe vision of our founding fathers of a progressive, moderate and democratic nation committed to development of a modern Islamic state is now badly at stake. A deliberate attempt is underway in the West to defame Pakistanby questioning its credibility in war on terror. Slamming Islam and tracking Muslims have become order of the Western civilization. The US usedPakistan to its advantage for as long as it could and Pakistan provided services for which the benefits accrued. The global landscape is now rapidly changing and Pakistan does not have the luxury of time on its side as it figures out its way out of the woods. Pakistan’s foreign policy requires a paradigm shift in the wake of recent deterioration in our ties with US by diversifying Pakistan’s international relations, while Pak-US relations face a deepening conflict. Its rescue is vital for our nation’s future as also for peace in the region and coexistence between civilizations. 

Monday, 6 February 2012

Kashmir solidarity day & youth’s uprising

Courtesy:- Farhat Iqbal 

Ever since 9/11 terrorists’ attack on American soil, the nature of the Kashmiri uprising changed from a phenomenal support to a primarily domestic driven movement - “Youth Uprising”. 

Despite a paradigm shift in Pakistan’s policy, the Indian government continued to deploy large numbers of troops in Kashmir for cracking down on civil liberties. India still maintains 500,000 troops that comprise its regular army, the Border Security Force and the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF). Kashmir has been in the throes of an uprising since 1989. The suffering of the Kashmiri people has been very painful and distressing. Many thousands of them have been killed, wounded and permanently disabled by the Indian occupation forces over the past several years. The latest round of protests erupted after the June 11, 2010 killing by Indian police of three Kashmiri youth. The humiliation, the memories of victimization and of those who have lost their lives fuels collective hatred that led to the escalation and spiraling of violence. Years of injustice beyond physical and emotional levels had established social dimension of revenge.

Friday, 3 February 2012

Freedom will definitely dawn in Kashmir

Courtesy:- Moazzam Raza Tabassam
February 3, 2012

Due to New Delhi’s stubbornness and reluctance, the Kashmir valley known as a heaven on earth, is today suffering oppression and tyranny. When the Kashmir dispute erupted in 1947-1948, the United States championed the stand that the future status of Kashmir must be ascertained in accordance with the wishes and aspirations of the people of the territory. The US was a principal sponsor of the resolution, which was adopted by the Security Council on 21st April 1948 and which was based on that unchallenged principle. Following the resolution, the US as a leading member of the United Nations Commission for India and Pakistan, adhered to that stand. The basic formula for settlement was incorporated in the resolutions of that Commission adopted on 13th August 1948 and 5th January 1949.Though the United Nations was able to arrange a ceasefire between the Pakistani and Indian forces on the Kashmir front, but it could not play an effective role for final solution of the Kashmir dispute. The resolutions passed by the world body stand un-implemented even after passage of six decades.The cold war between West and East blocs also had a very negative impact on working of the United Nations. Particularly the veto power used by Soviet Union in support of Indian occupation of territory marginalized the role of the United Nation. However the fact that the Kashmiris continue to demand their right of self-determination and the Military observers of United Nations are still deployed on ceasefire line has exposed the Indian claims that the dispute is an internal problem of India. The world body was supposed to be source of support for oppressed people but in case of Kashmir it failed to give fundamental right to the oppressed Kashmiris yet. The world community has acknowledged the firm commitment and affiliation of the Kashmiri people with Pakistan and its ideology, despite the passage of over half a century.

PNCA painting exhibition marks Kashmir Day

Pakistan National Council of the Arts

ISLAMABAD: The Pakistan National Council of Arts (PNCA) opened up an art exhibition on Wednesday, displaying masterpieces by 25 leading artists of the country in connection with the Kashmir Day.

Scores of people visited at the PNCA and appreciated the artists who painted and drew sketches of the people who had sacrificed their lives for the freedom of Kashmir.