Wednesday, 28 March 2012

Myth and reality of MFN

Courtesy:- Ambassador (retd) BA Malik


A new thinking has emerged that argues that the peaceful resolution of Kashmir can go hand in hand with trade normalisation with our nuclear-armed rival

A myth, the nemesis of reality, is a groundless belief that cannot be tested and validated empirically. Nations addicted to a mythical past perpetually remain prisoners of darkness. All over the world, myth or perception is more powerful than reality. Most societies believe to understand, rather than understand to believe. Developing societies are, by and large, irrational and extremist. Once an opinion forms, it is next to impossible to change or amend it in a society that honours the status quo and abhors change. Change is a law of nature but not so in many underdeveloped countries where resistance to change is the dominant narrative.

Memogate on a judicial ventilator

Courtesy:- Dr Mohammad Taqi


In a land where the governor of the largest province was assassinated by his own elite police guard due to a wrong perception created by some malicious sections of the media, the risk to Haqqani is imminent not imaginary

The so-called ‘memogate’ scandal is effectively dead. It has been for a while. But apparently the honourable Commission appointed by the Supreme Court of Pakistan (SC) to probe into the veracity of the alleged memo wishes to keep it alive on a judicial ventilator. 

The need for debate

Courtesy:- Azam Khalil



President Asif Zardari recently said: “The parliamentary oversight and democratic accountability was a new and important facet of Pakistan's foreign policy.” Perhaps, it will auger well for the country.
When the Nato forces with the tacit approval of USA’s high command attacked the Salalah checkpost that resulted in the death of 24 Pakistani soldiers, people finally woke up to the reality of being a non-Nato ally and frontline state in the war on terror. Both the political and military leadership, as well as members of civil society, reacted severely and condemned the outrageous act that led to the shut dowm of Nato supply routes into Afghanistan.

Tuesday, 27 March 2012

Pakistan’s economy - some positives

Courtesy:- Kamal Monnoo



Pakistan is routinely accused of either standing at the brink of an abyss, or being right in it, or fast becoming a failed state etc. There are critics who consistently moan about Pakistan losing its competitiveness, the continuously dwindling domestic and foreign investment in the country, growing unemployment and rising poverty, widening gap between the haves and the have-nots, gross mismanagement in the public sector enterprises, rising national debt, naked fiscal imprudence of the government, a rising current account deficit leading to an alarming and worsening of the balance of payment situation that if not timely corrected can see us default on our debt obligations and, last but not least, about a painfully extended cycle of low economic activity and high inflation is testing the patience and resilience of the Pakistani people like never before. Corruption is rampant, internal law and order is seriously compromised and sadly a perception of Pakistan is fast emerging in the international financial and corporate communities of a country difficult to engage and, perhaps, best avoided unless necessary!

FMCT – facts and fiction

Courtesy:- Tariq Osman Hyder
 March 28, 2012

Pakistan has been criticised for its stand on the fissile material cutoff treaty (FMCT) in the Conference on Disarmament (CD) in Geneva. It’s time to separate facts from fiction by examining what is being said.

Pakistan has blocked disarmament negotiations in the CD? The FMCT aims at stopping only future production. It remains a non-proliferation measure, not the disarmament fissile material treaty (FMT) addressing existing stockpiles which Pakistan advocates, a step towards nuclear disarmament which the nuclear powers are committed to under the NPT. Pakistan has blocked the FMCT for a couple of years, but between them the USA, UK, France, Russia and India have blocked negotiations for 30 years while they built up their fissile stocks.

Defining Pak-US re-engagement

Courtesy:- Saman Zulfqar


Parliamentary Committee on National Security has finally presented its report in the joint session of Parliament on March 20, 2012. The committee was given the task to revisit “terms of engagement” with the United States in the aftermath of Nato Attack on Salala Checkpost in November last year. The Committee’s recommendations include: to seek unconditional apology from United States over Salala attack; taxing the Nato supplies transiting through Pakistan; no verbal agreement with any foreign government regarding national security; no use of Pakistani bases and airspace by foreign forces without parliamentary approval; no hot pursuit or boots on ground; no covert operations on Pakistan’s soil; activities of foreign private security contractors should be subjected to Pakistani law; cessation of drone attacks; to seek civilian nuclear agreement with United States and not to succumb to US pressure but keep on pursuing gas pipeline project with Iran.

The legality of sanctions

Courtesy:- Rafia Zakaria



LAST week, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton announced a list of 11 countries that had been exempted from sanctions after they had reduced their purchases of crude oil from Iran.
While that list was not released, a State Department official said that Pakistan was on the list of countries still being considered for sanctions.
This news of possible sanctions arrived in the shadow of renewed efforts to mend the US-Pakistan relationship. The mending and bending of US relations with Pakistan is a worn subject. In this latest case, Pakistan has announced the hiring of legal experts to investigate the legality of the threatened sanctions.

US Trojan horse

Courtesy:- S M Hali
March 28, 2012



Under the garb of expanding the Embassy’s premises, according to media reports, the US diplomatic mission in Islamabad has raised the hackles of city fathers by planning to increase the elevation of its complex. Those in charge of Pakistan’s security have observed that if this happens, the US will be able to keep an eye on all important buildings in its vicinity in the federal capital. These include the presidency, the Prime Minister’s residence and secretariat, Parliament and even the headquarters of Pakistan’s premier security agency, the ISI.

Regional security

Courtesy:- Najmuddin A. Shaikh



MEETING his Iranian, Afghan and Tajik counterparts in Dushanbe President Zardari made all the right noises.
A stable Afghanistan was in Pakistan’s interest; the nexus between militancy and drug trafficking needed to be curbed; non-state actors wanted to destabilise Afghanistan and, implicitly, they should not be allowed to do so; cooperation in all spheres among the four countries would assume added significance after the withdrawal of foreign forces in 2014; etc.

Parliament and foreign policy

Courtesy:- Dr Hasan Askari Rizvi

Let the legislature be the guide

The making and implementation of foreign and security policies in a parliamentary democratic system is the prerogative of the executive. There is a complex process in the executive for policy making involving institutional and organisational networks, campaigning by the advocates of different perspectives and mutual accommodation. In Pakistan, foreign and security policies are made jointly by civilian and military authorities with a strong input from the intelligence agencies, especially the ISI.

Monday, 26 March 2012

The Karachi dream

Courtesy:- Kahar Zalmay


There might be the presence of individual militants but to generalise that every Pashtun is a Talib or sympathiser of the Taliban in Karachi is wrong

Karachi was once a city of dreams where everybody, irrespective of race, colour or creed had the opportunity of prosperity and success and an upward social mobility through perseverance and hard work. Whoever you were and wherever you came from in pursuit of your dreams, you were received eagerly by this magnificent and truly metropolitan city. But this city of dreams and lights has been turned into a town of nightmares and darkness during the last two decades.

Divergent views on economy

Courtesy:- Dr Ashfaque H Khan
Tuesday, March 27, 2012

There appear to be divergent views on the current state of Pakistan’s economy. The government’s economic team would have us believe that the economy is moving in the right direction. According to the team, exports have touched an all time high at $25 billion and foreign exchange reserves have risen to $18 billion, they further contend that the tax collection has doubled, the current account shows a surplus, and economic growth is on a path of recovery. In addition, the new NFC Award is hailed as a great success.

On the other hand, four reports that appeared in the last two months on Pakistan’s economy have painted a rather dismal picture of the economy. These reports include the IMF Report under Article IV Consultation (February 2012), Moody’s and Standard and Poor’s (the two international rating agencies) reports (March 2012) and the Second Quarter Report of State Bank of Pakistan.

The beg and borrow policy

Courtesy:- Abid Hasan
Tuesday, March 27, 2012

For decades, the political and military elite governing Pakistan have followed a beg and borrow strategy for financing government expenditures, rather than raising taxes. In addition, this elite stole from these resources to benefit themselves, and their family and friends. This financing strategy has made Pakistan much more dependent on foreign grants and loans, compared to other countries of similar size, endowment and level of development. Foreign borrowings for bad projects and programmes have mortgaged our future generations, while excessive foreign grants have mortgaged our national sovereignty.

Over the last two decades, Pakistan has received close to $40 billion in foreign grants (mostly from the UK and the US) and loans from the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund and the Asian Development Bank. As in all developing countries, the impact of this aid on Pakistan’s socio-economic development is directly linked to Pakistan’s own performance in respect of structural reforms and the effectiveness of the current and development spending by government. Since the effectiveness and accountability of total spending by government remains low in Pakistan, the effectiveness of foreign assistance has also been low. The “results on the ground” from the $40 billion of foreign assistance have been disappointing. While there are many examples of programmes that have helped Pakistan, there are as many, or more examples, of failure and less-than-satisfactory results.

Policy guidelines for Pak-US relationship

Courtesy:- Dr Raja Muhammad Khan


On the eve of seventy-second anniversary of Pakistan Day (Pakistan Resolution), the US Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, sent her message of felicitation to the people of Pakistan with the hope that both countries would be able to overcome their bilateral differences for a better engagement in the future. 
She said that, "Pakistan and the United States have a rich history of cooperation". We are committed to continuing this engagement and support as both of our nations work to build peace and prosperity in Pakistan and the region." In the process, she counted all cooperation and economic assistance, US has rendered to Pakistan. She however, failed to make a mention of Pakistani contributions, instability caused in the society and price it paid in term of economic and human losses. Meanwhile, State Department has confirmed that, there would a meeting between Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani and President Barrack Obama on the sidelines of the Nuclear Security Summit in Seoul, the South Korean capital. 

On the brink of Third World War

Courtesy:- Nadir Mir 
 March 27, 2012



It seems that 2012 onwards, the world is on the brink of Third World War. All sane and peace loving men would pray that it is averted. For, the horoscope of the times, points towards a global catastrophe in the making. The guns of August 1914 - First World War - paled in front of the Panzer Blitzkrieg of September 1939 - Second World War. The Third World War during the Cold War was averted between the Nato and the Warsaw Pact forces. If a war breaks out in 2012 onwards, nukes shall speak and, tragically, billions may die; it will most likely be global. This apocalyptic scenario may yet come to pass, unless it is stopped in its tracks.

Cavernous propaganda and Pakistan

Courtesy:- Alam Rind
Tuesday, March 27, 2012

The foreign forces have never been anywhere closer to victory in Afghanistan since its invasion. To cover up their failings, they have all along accused Pakistan of supporting and harbouring Taliban. One won’t be really surprised if they have started really believing it to be so. The Fata region has been widely propagated as safe haven for extremists. This is so in spite of the fact that the US has launched about 290 drone attacks in this area allegedly to target members of al-Qaeda and Taliban outfits, which resulted into over 2,800 casualties, mostly that of civilians.

On the other end, as a reaction to these attacks, extremists have targeted every nook and corner of Pakistan. Consequently, Pakistan has suffered around 30,000 civil and about 5,000 combatant casualties. Yet, international media is continuously tarnishing the image of Pakistan by projecting it as a state sponsoring terrorism. Their apathy for the sacrifices rendered by Pakistanis is what hurts the most.

The political gap

Courtesy:- Dr Maleeha Lodhi
Tuesday, March 27, 2012

The country marked Pakistan Day at another critical moment in its history when many questions about its future remain unanswered. An important question is this: can the country acquire the means to govern itself better by aligning politics with the energy and dynamics of a changing, more urbanised society? Will the gap that has emerged between electoral politics and a transformed social landscape be closed to deliver a more ‘functional’ polity?
 
Pakistan can either remain trapped in a quagmire of weak governance, politics-as-usual, economic stagnation and crumbling public services. Or it can take advantage of changes underway in society to chart a course of reform and renewal.

End NATO cooperation

Courtesy:- Rizwan Ghani


The parliament should end NATO cooperation to avoid being part of US policy in Asia. The parliament was voted into power to scrap Musharraf’s pro-US policy so it is democratically obliged to end NATO cooperation. Pakistan has already lost over 40,000 people in America’s So-called War Against Terrorism (SWAT), spent $100 bn tax money on the war (China Daily) and suffered irreparable loss to national economy and image. Hillary and Gen. Allen’s statements projecting Pakistan as a threat to SWAT have shown that America cannot have a mutually beneficial relationship with Pakistan. Obama also undermined Pakistan’s support when he refused to meet Gilani in UN in September (local media, March 24). The establishment of permanent American military bases in Afghanistan under US-Afghan strategic alliance will change Pakistan into a permanent supply route, which in turn will thwart prospects of permanent peace in Pakistan and the region. Therefore, Pakistan should scrap NATO cooperation. 

Resetting Pak-US ties: where’s the trust?

Courtesy:-  Brig (retd) Farooq Hameed Khan
Tuesday, March 27, 2012

LAHORE: If the Parliamentary Committee on National Security (PCNS) called for an unconditional US apology in general terms, the parliament should clearly demand one from the US president. If Obama could apologise to the furious Afghan nation soon after the massacre of 16 Afghan civilians by a US Army Sergeant, he should have displayed similar statesmanship after the Salala tragedy.

The PCNS’s recommendation that activities of foreign private security contractors must be transparent and subject to Pakistani law only serves to encourage and legitimize the presence of such covert operatives on Pakistani soil. The parliament should instead call for expulsion of all foreigners other than accredited diplomats or those on officially recognized government postings/appointments duly cleared by national security agencies.

Parliamentary oversight

Courtesy:- Tanvir Ahmad Khan



FTER a curious and almost indefensible delay, the Parliamentary Committee on National Security (PCNS) on the guidelines for revised terms of engagement with USA/Nato/Isaf finally tabled its recommendations to a joint session of the two Houses of Pakistan’s parliament on March 20.
It was a workmanlike document written by members representing various parties; at least Prof Khurshid Ahmad had known reservations about the report’s contents on drone attacks and transit facilities to foreign forces in Afghanistan.

Sunday, 25 March 2012

India triggers an arms race

Courtesy:- Khalid Iqbal


A recent study by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) indicates that “India was the biggest arms importer in the period 2007-11, accounting for 10 percent in the weapons volume.” China, which was the world’s top arms importer in 2006 and 2007, has now dropped to fourth place. Globally, the volume of international transfers of major conventional weapons was 24 percent higher during 2007-11 as compared to the 2002-06. Over the past five years, Asia and Oceania accounted for 44 percent of conventional arms imports. It appears a tall figure when compared with 19 percent for Europe, 11 percent for North and South America, and 9 percent for Africa.
The SIPRI report indicates: “India’s imports of major weapons increased by 38 percent between 2002-06 and 2007-11…….Notable deliveries of combat aircraft during 2007-11 included 120 Su-30MKs and 16 MiG-29Ks from Russia and 20 Jaguars from the United Kingdom.”
Yet once again, India has announced a 17 percent raise in its defence expenditure over the previous year. Reportedly, “the hike comes a year after India had increased its budget expenses by 11 percent. A cumulative outlook over the past two years shows that India has increased its military spending by a third” that is, indeed, a substantial raise. India’s defence outlay for 2012-13 is $42 billion. On the contrary, Pakistan’s defence budget is less than $6 billion.
Further, according to reports, “The capital expenditure of the Indian armed forces that goes towards the purchase of equipment was set at around $17.5 billion - a 15.7 percent hike from last year’s capital allocation; 70 percent of this amount will go towards servicing contracts already signed. The rest will be reserved for the procurement of new equipment, including procuring new aircraft from French company Rafale.”
The revenue component of the defence budget amounts to $21.67 billion. This part of the budget goes towards paying salaries. Commenting on the ballooning revenue aspect of the defence budget, Dr Laxman Behera of the Institute of Defence Studies and Analyses said: “Pay and allowances are obligatory in nature and the government has little control over their growth, given the mandatory increase in annual pay and dearness allowances. Moreover, most of today’s pay and allowances constitute tomorrow’s defence pensions, over which also the government has little control. The uncontrollable growths in these two components have great implication on other aspects of the defence budget.” However, India like many other countries does not pay its pension out of defence estimates.
The raison d’être of geostrategic compulsions that the Indian government often refers to while increasing its military expenditure is not logical at all! For instance, Pakistan does not present a military threat to India. Also, the budget of other smaller countries neighbouring India is comparatively meagre. Most of them do not have the requisite military prowess to pose any meaningful threat to a country that boasts to be a mini-superpower. Certainly, India is justifying its military build-up in the Chinese context. However, Beijing has consistently followed a policy of reconciliation and is focused on the economic well being of its people. Though China is a global power with attendant roles and responsibilities, even then it jacked up its defence budget for the new year only by 11 percent, to $106.41 billion.
India is one of the biggest importers of military hardware in the world. It is a country where more than 440 million people live in poverty that exceeds half of the world’s poor. These military expenditure hikes will only accentuate their miserable conditions. Additionally, it would put a strain on the national budgets of adjoining states. The CPI(M) leader, Sitaram Yechury, has rightly pointed out that the budget would increase financial burden on the common man.
The defence projects worth $17.5 billion include 126 Medium Multi-Role Combat Aircraft (MMRCA), 145 Ultra-Light Howitzers (ULH), 197 Light Utility Helicopters, 75 Pilatus PC-7 basic trainer for its air force, and other weapons and systems for the three services. The international consultancy firm, KPMG, estimates that New Delhi will hand out military contracts worth $112 billion by 2016. This would certainly fuel an arms race in Asia.
The question, however, is: What do the Indians actually have in mind? It is obvious that besides China’s containment, the huge military preparations are meant to intimidate Pakistan and extend India’s sphere of influence to the Middle East, Central Asia and beyond. Thus, Pakistan has its legitimate concerns on this arms purchase spree. India has fought both China and Pakistan; it has fought three wars with Pakistan and only one with China. Hence, an increase in defence spending by India, on the pretext of Chinese threat, cannot be ignored by Pakistan. The hike in India’s military budget, thus, gives the wrong message to its neighbours and it would contribute towards perpetuating tensions in South Asia and beyond. Its neighbours’ concerns are not baseless, because India is not on the best of terms with them and it has a history of military conflicts with Pakistan and China.
India tries to justify its defence spending on the plea that its major threat is China. However, this is not true because most of its weapons, especially huge armour inventory, are Pakistan-specific. Most of its combat aircraft and ballistic missiles have a short range and, hence, are better suited for usage against Pakistan. India is also developing its Ballistic Missile Defence system focused on a missile threat from Pakistan. Likewise, its military structures field dispositions and command organisations are poised for employment against Pakistan.
The hike in India’s defence budget is certainly food for thought for our analysts, who eagerly engage themselves in a propaganda campaign against Pakistan’s defence budget. Pakistan does not want to indulge in an arms race, but India’s military preparations cannot be ignored, especially when it is busy stirring trouble wherever it can, particularly in Balochistan, to which it was given access by the USA through Afghanistan. Thus, if Pakistan was to increase its defence expenditure this year, it would be by compulsion and not by choice.


Reflections on Pak-US relations

Courtesy:-  Ikramullah



Recently, a report by the Parliamentary Committee on National Security (PCNS), headed by Senator Raza Rabbani, tasked to compile recommendations for “new terms of engagement” with the US in the aftermath of Nato’s attack on the Salalah checkposts that killed 24 Pakistani soldiers on November 26, 2011, was tabled in the joint session of Parliament. It consisted of 40 recommendations.

India’s military spending

Courtesy:- Asif Ezdi
Monday, March 26, 2012

Presenting the country’s annual budget for 2012-13 in the Indian parliament earlier this month, Indian Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee announced a massive 17 percent increase in spending on defence services, raising it to 1.93 trillion Indian rupees ($40 or 38.6 billion). Of this outlay, 41 percent would be spent on procuring modern weapons systems and military hardware. This year’s rise follows a 12 percent increase in the previous year’s budget. Mukherjee offered little explanation for this massive boost in military expenditure, apart from stating that the allocation was “based on present needs” and that “any further requirement will be met.” India’s actual military budget is even higher, as the figure for “defence services” does not include spending on its nuclear weapons programme, military pensions and the paramilitary forces.

Wednesday, 21 March 2012

The one

Courtesy:- Mehr Tarar


Benazir Bhutto cannot be copied. Period. The biggest female politician of Pakistan to date, and in all honesty, what one can deduce looking at the present and the future generations of female politicians here. Let’s just say it’s safe to assume she was the first and the last one

Warped thoughts and blocking of minds

Courtesy:- Kamila Hyat


The ongoing process by the Pakistan Telecommunications Authority to block ‘objectionable’ websites is taking on ridiculous dimensions. Over 13,000 websites have already been blocked, while the process continues – with the interior minister stating that ‘un-Islamic’ websites would be closed, denying access to them to Internet users.
The question of quite what constitutes an un-Islamic website has been left very vague, while even the interpretation of ‘pornographic’ sites is at best hazy – given that what is acceptable to one adult may not be to another.

Unwelcome conversions

Courtesy:- I.A Rehman



THE Hindu community, particularly in Sindh, has been in the grip of strong feelings of grief, anger and insecurity for several weeks. Unless its grievances are speedily addressed Pakistan stands to suffer incalculable harm in both material and moral terms.
The issue of Hindu girls’ conversion to Islam and marriage to Muslim men, both transitions alleged to be forced and often after abduction, is not new. Indeed, it has always been high on the Hindu citizens’ list of complaints. What is new is the scale and intensity of their reaction and the large number of their appeals for justice. It seems three recent cases involving Rinkal Kumari, Lata Kumari and Aasha Kumari have unleashed the Hindu community’s long-brewing fears of loss of its religious and cultural identities.
The three cases are not identical in detail. Dr Murli Lal Karira, who belonged to Jacobabad and practised medicine at Suhbatpur, in Jafarabad district, was reported to have been abducted while travelling homeward. Some days later, his niece, Aasha Kumari Karira, who was taking lessons at a Jacobabad beauty parlour, did not return home after her work hours, and was believed to have been abducted. Her whereabouts are unknown.

Misleading dramatics

Courtesy:- Rustam Shah Mohmand
Thursday, March 22, 2012

The joint session of parliament has been convened to formulate a new policy for the government that will henceforth govern relations with the United States. A parliamentary committee has prepared a set of recommendations for consideration and approval by the joint session.

The event marks the beginning of a new practice in governance where the executive branch of the state is seen to be abdicating its authority to the elected chamber in the realm of decision-making in vital national sectors. The idea, however, is not to seek the involvement of public representatives in decision-making but to create a wider, institutionalised justification for the resumption of Nato supplies through Pakistan.

Musharraf, lies and audiotapes

Courtesy:- Dr Mohammad Taqi


So Musharraf’s intention was not to kill Nawab sahib. Really? Remember his chest thumping that those who challenge the state’s writ ‘will be fixed’ and that it was not the 1970s and “they won’t know what hit them”

As predicted in this space, the Pakistani state and its present and former appendages have gone into overdrive ostensibly to mitigate the damage from the increasing international focus on the systematic atrocities being committed by the Pakistani security and intelligence forces in Balochistan.

4 Years of People's Government




             This video highlights the hallmark achievements of Government of Pakistan during last 4 years. 




Tuesday, 20 March 2012

Balochistan vs General Pervaiz Musharraf

Courtesy:- Dr Qaisar Rashid


What General Musharraf has asked the ethnic Baloch is to barter away their political rights for the development work he did in Balochistan. The Baloch are declining that proposition

On last Wednesday March 14 and Thursday March 15, under the heading Understanding Balochistan, General (retired) Pervaiz Musharraf’s piece appeared (in two parts) in a national English daily. The quality of writing indicated that Dubai must be short of ghostwriters, otherwise, better written stuff could have been produced. If a piece of writing is a criterion to judge a writer’s intellectual calibre, one wonders who the fellows inviting General Musharraf to deliver lectures and earn millions of dollars are. The reason to attend his lectures is still explicable but the rationale to pay him in millions is beyond a Pakistani’s understanding. The public money of some foreign countries must be squandered by the ghost paymasters, I presume. 

Welcome change or more of the same?

Courtesy:- Tariq Fatemi



An alarming fall-out from the enhanced US-Iran tension, is therenewed pressure on Pakistan to abandon the gas pipeline project with Iran, which could kill the prospect of an early end to the nation’s worsening energy crisis.
While it is essential to invest in further gas and oil exploration and also exploit other sources of energy, the most economic and secure way for the foreseeable future, is to import gas from neighbouring Iran –– the world’s second largest gas producer. It sounds simple and do-able, but inability to appreciate the enormity of the challenge and advantages of this project, has stymied any meaningful progress on it, ever since Iran and Pakistan came to a preliminary agreement in 1995.

Promise and problems of an ‘Asian century’

Courtesy:- Dr Maleeha Lodhi
March 21, 2012


The writer is special adviser to the Jang Group/Geo and a former envoy to the US and the UK.

Pakistan figured frequently, at times unexpectedly, during last week’s conference in Delhi organised by India Today. The media group’s annual ‘conclave’ is a glitzy, high profile affair. This year was no different.

The theme was ‘An Asian Century’ but the subjects covered were diverse. They ranged from corruption, cricket, dynastic politics and citizen activism to India’s economic future, the rise of China and shifts in global power. Speakers were just as varied – masters of strategy, Bollywood stars, sportsmen, business entrepreneurs, social activists, writers and political leaders.

The changing endgame

Courtesy:- Najmuddin A. Shaikh



AS parliament begins its debate on the resetting of US-Pakistan relations and presumably insists on laying out transparently the parameters for the relationship it should bear in mind the recent dramatic changes in the Afghan situation which are an important though not dominant element in the US-Pakistan relationship.
I say important rather than dominant because the elimination of the terrorist threat posed by Al Qaeda and its affiliates remains the principal American objective in the region and that is seen to be emanating from Pakistan’s soil rather than Afghanistan’s.
In my view, even if a reconciliation process brings a modicum of peace to Afghanistan the American interest in our region and in our own struggle against terrorism and extremism will continue for the decade or more that would be needed to change the mindset created over the last 34 years.
Unfortunately, recent developments in Afghanistan make it unlikely that peace of any sort will be achieved in Afghanistan. One can break up these developments into two parts, the first being those that have exacerbated almost to a breaking point the tensions between the Karzai and Obama administrations, between the Afghan National Security Forces and Nato forces and perhaps most importantly between the Afghan populace and the Nato forces particularly in the insurgency-ridden south and east of the country.

Monday, 19 March 2012

Cash cropping versus food sovereignty

Courtesy:- Syed Mohammad Ali



Instead of rethinking what crops to grow and how to help lessen the growing friend of malnutrition and food shortages in Pakistan, agricultural policymaking remains preoccupied with rather different concerns. Consider, for instance, Punjab government’s ongoing tussle with the US agrochemical giant, Monsanto, over demands for intellectual property rights (IPRs) protection of its Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) cotton seeds.

For a stable Afghanistan

Courtesy:- Javid Husain
March 20, 2012



As if the US did not enough troubles already in Afghanistan because of its flawed Afghan strategy, the gross misconduct on the part of its soldiers keeps aggravating its problems. The latest tragic incident was the massacre of 16 Afghan villagers, including women and children, by a lone American soldier in Panjwayi District near Kandahar on March 11. This tragedy took place in the wake of the disgusting videos showing American soldiers urinating on Afghan corpses and the desecration of the Holy Quran, which led to widespread demonstrations in Afghanistan and the killing of Isaf soldiers by the Afghans. The Americans are, thus, not only losing the political battle in Afghanistan, but they have also lost the moral high ground to the opposition.

CBMs in South Asia

Courtesy:- Jehangir Karamat & Shashi Tyagi



THOUGH India-Pakistan relations are going through a relatively calm phase, things can change quickly. We must therefore take advantage of the present atmosphere to lock in beneficial patterns of behaviour.
One area where we believe that progress can be made is on the question of military confidence-building measures (CBMs). The idea behind CBMs is well-tested; military establishments agree to avoid actions which are threatening to the other side as a means to help avoid unintended conflicts. Of course, CBMs are not a panacea; if people want to have a conflict CBMs will not prevent it. But CBMs do provide a mechanism whereby states which want to avoid a conflict through accident or misperception can develop ways to help do so.

Nuclear security and challenges

Courtesy:- Air Cdre Khalid Iqbal (R)


Nuclear security has always been a serious concern for the comity of nations. Non- Proliferation Treaty (NPT) makes all parties to the treaty responsible for implementing nuclear security related regimes. IAEA is the body with a legal mandate to monitor the implementation of various security related regimes. In addition, there are a number of institutionalized as well as informal mechanisms which oversee the nuclear security from various aspects; however, membership of all these entities is voluntary and their decisions have only recommendatory value. After 9/11, a genuine concern emerged about likelihood of nuclear terrorism. Concerns of nuclear security are based on chances of theft of material, sabotage, unauthorized use of nuclear weapons, insider-outsider collaboration etc. This led to adoption of UNSC resolution 1540. Subsequently, this fear has often been overplayed to use it as a political tool for selective application. 

The demographic edge

Courtesy:- Dr Akmal Hussain
March 19, 2012


Pakistan is undergoing a change in the age composition of its population. The labour force, particularly, the young age group (between 14 to 49 years) is growing faster than the population as a whole. Overall, as much as 60 per cent of the population today is below the age of 30. Let us discuss the nature of demographic change in the country and the subsequent challenges for policymakers.

Afghans: The eventual sufferers

Courtesy:- Dr Raja Muhammad Khan


Three grisly incidents recently committed by US forces in Afghanistan indicate imperial mindsets of this occupying power. The first incident was urinating on the bodies of the Taliban by US soldiers. While committing this callous act, US soldiers appear to be amusing themselves and as if they have done something of pride, as video indicates. Another act was the burning the Holy Quran by US soldiers in a US Military Base in Afghanistan. By doing that U.S uniformed persons gave an impression that they wilfully disrespect the Muslim belief and their religion, in a country whose inhabitants are very strict followers of the religion. The third incident was killing of sixteen innocent civilians by a US Sergeant mercilessly and burning them too. Most of those targeted were women and children. 

A threat in the making

Courtesy:- Imran Malik 
 March 19, 2012



Maverick US Congressmen Rep Dana Rohrabacher (R-California) and Rep Louise Gohmert (R-Texas) have initiated efforts to change the entire political structure of South West Asia (SWA) by creating an independent Balochistan comprising Pakistani, Iranian and Afghan Baloch areas in cahoots with the Afghan Northern Alliance (ANA) and a group of angry Pakistan Baloch Sardars (PBS). In February, they organised a public congressional hearing on Balochistan and then introduced a Baloch right to self-determination bill before the US Congress.