By Senator Sehar Kamran (TI)
Dec 17, 2015
Mein anay wala kal hoon, woh mujhe kyun aaj maray ga?
Ye us ka weham ho ga ke woh aisay khwaab maray ga
These verses reflect not only the message of hope and strength that resonated across the faces of the survivors of the Army Public School tragedy, but also the resilience that has been demonstrated by APS students since that Black Day in the pages of Pakistan’s history. Since then, these verses have also become the anthem of every child across the nation resolved to ‘rise and shine’ in the face of such base attempts at intimidation by the cowardly peddlers of terror. There is no ambiguity whatsoever that the attacks of December 16, 2014 were an attack not only on the children of Pakistan but on the education system itself, in a bid to derail the country’s future. But there is even lesser uncertainty today, almost a year on from the massacre, of the entire nation’s resolve to stand united and undeterred against such recreant brutality and to continue the pursuit of progress and excellence.
What stands to scrutiny then are the actions of the State of Pakistan to support this resolve and reinforce the protection of its citizens, and the ideals they seek to uphold. In the immediate aftermath of the tragedy at APS, the Prime Minister of Pakistan had summoned an All Parties’ Conference (APC) in Peshawar, in which all political parties had resolved to fight terrorism and build consensus on all issues of national importance. A 20 point ‘Action Plan’ had been drafted, and adopted in the Parliament as the National Action Plan (NAP). While the much hyped document has certainly been in the news since its initiation, unfortunately the goals and targets set therein have remained mostly unattainable. In fact, in July 2015, the Supreme Court of Pakistan itself termed the national counter terrorism strategy as a “plan of inaction”. Senior judge Justice Jawwad S. Khawaja remarked that not ‘a single bit’ of work had been done on the plan, despite the passage of six months. While some progress has been made on some points, many vital aspects of the NAP continue to be ignored.
As the one year anniversary of NAP draws close, there is a flurry of statements by leaders across the political spectrum, all fairly ambiguous as to why the goals set by NAP and unanimously agreed upon continue to remain elusive. Instead of acting as a single cohesive body, the state apparatus appears to have divided into ‘parties’ and ‘blocs’, all bent on protecting themselves and displacing blame over the lack of progress on NAP.
Of the twenty core issues addressed by the NAP, the most important matter that has remained unaddressed and is at the heart of the ineffectiveness of NAP is the activation of the National Counter-Terrorism Authority (NACTA). The organization that was meant to be at the heart of Pakistan’s counter terrorism and violent extremism drive and the central coordination agency remains un-empowered for a multitude of reasons. It has seen five ‘National Coordinators’ in two years, and has a strength of mere 57against the present 300 posts. Furthermore, no funds were included in the budget presented for FY 2015-2016, despite a request for Rs 960 million from the Ministry of Finance for its activation. As a result, the combined deterrence plan and comprehensive response plans envisaged under the National Internal Security Policy (NISP) remain largely un-implemented, and the formation of Joint Intelligence Directorate (JID) distant dream.
Similarly there are many other aspects of the NAP that have received far too little attention over the year, let alone actual enforcement. The fifth of the twenty points, for example, was concerned with literature, newspapers and magazines promoting hatred, decapitation, extremism, sectarianism and intolerance. While some action has certainly been taken against such publications espousing hate through cases registered under the Anti-Terrorism Act of 1997, many more go unchecked as the law remains inadequate to guarantee convictions for the accused in such cases. Many chat rooms and social media channels also continue to freely spread hate speech.
The next point dealt with constraining the finances of terrorist networks by cracking down on funding chains. Most of these outfits however, have already switched to innovative, ‘alternate’ money transfer networks – both ‘hawala’ based and informal – and no longer depend upon regular bank accounts. Worryingly, there is no action plan to combat such alternate mechanisms. For example, according to a study by the Pakistan Peace Collective (PPC), of only the money raised for charity in Pakistan annually, approximately 18 to 20% ends up in the hands of such terrorist organizations; 20% of 550 billion rupees is no small amount.
Furthermore, many defunct groups continue to operate within the country under pseudonyms, notably those with a focus on sectarian activities. Organized street protests, donation drives and control over various madrassas highlight how they are still operating without many checks. Their activities have claimed over 5,000 lives in Pakistan to date.
In this context, the delays in the registration and regulation of religious seminaries are a further problem. The total number of madrassas affiliated with the Wafaq is approximately 28,000, a tiny figure in comparison to the actually functional unregistered seminaries, scores of which escape the scrutiny of the government as they are usually built as an additional room of a mosque. There is no credible information for the number of unregistered madrassas, particularly since they are generally located in remote areas.
Similarly, little has been done to encourage the end of religious extremism and the protection of minorities. Pakistan’s abysmal record of the protection of its minorities and indiscriminate use of laws to persecute them is nothing short of disgraceful.
Little has been done to empower the Baloch government, and certainly no steps have been taken to establish and deploy a dedicated counter-terrorism force. There is still no comprehensive policy to resolve the issue of Afghan refugees. Nothing has been done to reform and empower criminal courts to strengthen anti-terrorism institutions.
Amongst the most commonly cited reasons for this slow progress are the lack of coordination between government Ministers and law enforcement agencies, the misappropriation of funds, an inactive NACTA, the ineffectiveness of the apex committees – when eleven of the fifteen are chaired by one of the already busiest men in the country, what better could be expected – a somewhat tense civil-military relationship and most importantly, the lack of political will.
There is no doubt that 16th December will forever be marked as a Black day in the history of Pakistan, and for more reasons than one. It will be as the ‘day when our spirits were jolted but not broken’. Our forces have since fought bravely and Operation Zarb-e-Azb has offered a much-needed respite from the onslaught of terrorism, but now more than ever, it is the need of the hour that instead of playing the blame game, all stakeholders join hands to eliminate, once and for all, the threats posed to our nation. It is vital for the government to consolidate the gains made by the military, and the political leadership will have to play its part properly if the efforts against counterterrorism are not to go to waste. Terrorists alone cannot break our spirit, especially when we stand united as we do today, but the faith in the State’s counter-terrorism efforts must be restored for this drive to bear fruit.
Today we are honoured to say that we are proud of our forces and the slogan of our children ‘Mujhay dushman ke bachon ko parhana hai’. Let us hope that in this New Year, we may also be able to express similar sentiments for the NAP and in a long-overdue real drive by the Pakistani government to counter terrorism. Pakistan Zindabad.
By Senator Sehar Kamran (TI)
Jun 29, 2015
Several belligerent statements towards Pakistan from the top brass of Indian leadership have been making headlines in both countries for the past few weeks. The first statement came from the Indian Prime Minister, stating the China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) was ‘unacceptable’ to India. This was followed by the Defence minister, Manohar Parrikar, saying, “We have to neutralize terrorists through terrorists only. Why can’t we do it? We should do it. Why does my soldier have to do it”. Then, in the wake of the cross border attack (although denied by Myanmar government) Junior Minister for Information and Broadcasting, Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore asserted “we will carry out surgical strikes at the place and time of our own choosing”. He further added, “Western disturbances will also be equally dealt with.” The cherry on the cake was the statement by Prime Minister Modi in his Dhaka University address, where he openly acknowledged the role of India in the disintegration Pakistan.
These statements caused uproar within the civil and military leadership circles, and have justifiably evoked a strong reaction in Pakistan. From the Pakistani perspective, therefore, the most important question becomes the critical assessment of these statements; should they be taken as part of the pattern of BJP’s traditional bellicose rhetoric towards Pakistan for gaining political mileage with their domestic electorate? Or should they carry greater weight and be taken as the beginning of the official new Indian discourse towards its neighboring countries?
In order to test the purpose of these statements, it is important to analyze the context in which they were made. Given that there is no likelihood of an electoral campaign in India anytime soon which could require a harsh stance from BJP to assure them of a win, it is unlikely that the primary target group for these statements is the domestic electorate. The question then becomes one of discourse development; in this regard, three important aspects of Indian diplomacy must be highlighted and examined.
The first is related to the issue of Kashmir; this issue was recently highlighted in international media in light of the peaceful, pro-Pakistani demonstrations that were held in the Indian-occupied Kashmir. The statements about ‘using terrorism against Pakistan’, and regarding the conduct of operations in neighboring countries appears to be another attempt to assimilate the concept of ‘terrorism’ with the freedom struggle in Kashmir. This claim is substantiated by the fact the all cross-border troop mobilizations since 2001 have been the result of Indian allegations of cross border terrorism. Furthermore, all meetings held under the Joint Anti-Terrorism Mechanism (JATM) have failed to produce any substantial progress on the issue of terrorism, as India has been adamant to bring the freedom struggle in Indian-occupied Kashmir under the definition of ‘terrorism’, which is not acceptable to Pakistan.
Ironically, despite the fact that India has violated all United Nations resolutions on Kashmir, it aspires to permanent membership of the United Nations Security Council. Modi, in his Dhaka address, went so far as to justify India’s role in the 1971 war as a humanitarian one, all the while failing to acknowledge the humanitarian crises that persist in Kashmir, thereby demonstrating the self-contradictory nature of Indian policy. Moreover, the qualification for the membership of the United Nations Security (Council UNSC) does not lie in violating its resolutions. Rather, it is a taken as very basic grounds for disqualification. Such display of aggressive behavior towards neighbors – such as the fermenting of violence in Sri Lanka, Nepal and cross border incursions in these states – is a display of hegemonic tendencies and attitudes not worthy of a state deemed qualified to become a permanent UNSC member.
The second important aspect of this hostility is the strengthening position of Pakistan vis-à-vis India in South Asia. During the last few years, Pakistan has made remarkable achievements in strengthening its relations with China and Afghanistan. In Afghanistan, the policies of Ashraf Ghani and the proactive approach of the civil-military leadership in Pakistan have shifted the traditional strategic calculus of Afghanistan in favor of Pakistan. The previously utilized tool of ‘proxy warfare’ has been rejected by Ghani in the last SAARC summit, while substantiating Pakistan’s claim that India intended to use Afghanistan against it for strategic purposes. The military to military relations between Afghanistan and Pakistan, especially on the matters of intelligence-sharing and joint actions against terrorism, as well as acknowledging and seeking a proactive role by Pakistan in the Afghan peace process shows how India has lost Afghanistan to Pakistan.
Another problem for India, as previously indicated, is the China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) and the Gwadar port. The Indian PM has categorically stated that the CPEC is not ‘acceptable’ to India; it has simultaneously also launched a plan to develop the Chabahar port as an alternate route of access for Central Asian resources. Iran, however, is looking towards Pakistan and China, particularly after its nuclear deal with P5+1 gets materialized. It is looking to improve both economic and trade relations with China in particular, the best possible gateway for which is offered by China Pakistan Economic Corridor. Pakistan also stands to benefit greatly from the Iran-Pakistan gas pipeline project, which was abandoned in haste amid US pressure, should this deal come through. Furthermore, the Asian Infrastructure Investment bank makes China a formidable economic power on the global stage – one that is highly unlikely to compromise its interests in these deals over Indian insecurity.
This argument is further supported by the fact that in December 2014, Pakistan and Iran signed five MoUs to enhance bilateral trade and investment. The Pakistan’s Federal Minister for Commerce also expressed Pakistan’s wish to operationalize all current Preferential Trade Agreements with Iran.
The third factor behind the recent Indian aggression is the growing influence of China in South Asia. China has expanded its scope and investment in Myanmar, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Pakistan, which is tantamount to strategic encirclement for India. It places India at a precarious position in regional affairs. Its ambitions to become the regional ‘police state’ have been challenged. Formerly, India had been an active partner of the United States in their policy of containing China. Of the resultant benefits, India not only enjoyed a Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) waiver within the nuclear realm, but also nurtured the dream of becoming the sole hegemon within the Indian Ocean. However, China’s countermoves, based on economic expansion in the region and supporting engagement with Pakistan for its membership bid in the NSG, has rendered India virtually isolated.
Against this backdrop, the hostile diplomacy is a sign of increasing Indian frustration. However such wild diplomatic faux pas will not end Indian isolation, rather they will further deteriorate its relations with regional states. This fact has been realized by the opposition, the Indian National Congress Party, which has censured the BJP for tarnishing India’s image in the region. Similarly, political leaders in both China and Pakistan have reaffirmed repeatedly that the CPEC is a project for the betterment of the region as a whole, and will prove highly beneficial to all party states; yet the immature Indian reactions highlight the lack of strategic and diplomatic acumen to benefit from such positive developments.
Pakistan’s response, both from the civil and military leadership, is commendable, as it conveys a clear message to India that any misadventure and miscalculation will invite only catastrophic consequences. Action in Myanmar, notwithstanding the denial of the event by the latter, cannot be equated to action in Pakistan, and will only amount to a massive strategic blunder. Any such military adventurism will bring disastrous consequences to the region. Furthermore, in adopting such a hostile stance in recent weeks, India has only further isolated itself, and tarnished its image as a responsible and pro-regional integration state, in stark contrast to its popular international rhetoric.
By Abdul Ghafoor
May 19, 2015
Afghan Taliban held a meeting on May 2 with the representatives of the Afghan government and United Nation officials at Qatar. The eight-member Taliban delegation included various high officials headed by Mohammad Abbas Stanikzai; whereas, the Afghan government delegation was comprised of twenty members from three different ethnic groups of Afghanistan, led by the Afghan President Ashraf Ghani’s uncle- Qayyum Kochai. The meeting was organized by the Canadian organization Pugwash Council and titled “Afghanistan Dialogue”.
The Afghan government signified their consent for the re-opening of the Afghan Taliban office in Doha and the Taliban delegation agreed to hold talks with Afghan government in near future. However, no progress was made regarding a possible ceasefire. Meanwhile, Taliban fighters in Afghanistan stormed at a check-post in Badakhshan province killing eighteen security personnel. The Taliban tied the condition of US and Western forces’ withdrawal from Afghanistan to the ceasefire. Furthermore, they also demanded the removal of Taliban’s higher ranked officer’s names from the UN terrorism blacklist.
The Afghan Taliban talks with government are a positive sign for the peace and stability of Afghanistan and the region. A ‘political’ office of the Taliban enables them to hold direct talks with Afghan government, so as to reach a mutually-agreed mechanism for a future ceasefire. Albeit, it may be early to hold such a high expectations, particularly considering the fact that the Taliban have already declared the Afghan constitution as un-Islamic and drawn from the western values.
The Taliban are well aware that politico-ideological space has shrunk for them, and fighting may no longer be an option or lead to a solution for their ‘cause’. Therefore, the condition of western forces’ withdrawal and the current intensive spring-offensive against the Afghan government are clearly pressurizing maneuvers of the Taliban to put themselves in a better bargaining position with the Afghan government. Besides these extreme conditions, the Taliban have softened their stand on a number of other crucial issues, especially girls’ education.
By Abdul Ghafoor
Apr 22, 2015
It is often said that Pak-China ties are ‘deeper than the ocean and higher than the Himalayas’. Recently these ties have superseded all such theoretical metaphors, particularly in light of the visit by the Chinese President Mr Xi Jinping to Pakistan, and the numerous Memorandums that were signed during this stay.
Pakistan and China have signed over 51 MoUs worth $46 billion in areas of energy and infrastructure; work on these projects is expected to commence immediately. Chinese investment in Pakistan comes at a time when it is vitally important, and it has quickly entirely overshadowed the intermittent US economic aid, given to Pakistan over a long period of 10-15 years.
These investments will greatly help Pakistan in overcoming its rising energy-shortage issues that have been the foremost irritant in preventing the growth of commercial industry in Pakistan. With enough energy, Pakistan can enhance its exports significantly and generate higher jobs. Furthermore, the Gwadar port of Pakistan will become an economic center for South and Central Asia. The port will become an important refueling center for trade cargoes moving towards the South East and the Far East.
The Chinese investment in Pakistan is a part of China’s Grand Strategy to maturate its comparatively underdeveloped western areas and bring them at par with eastern China. Besides this, the Chinese are committed to diversifying their energy corridors and rendering their energy security invulnerable.
The trade corridor will give China closer access to the resources of the Persian Gulf, the Middle East and Africa. Secondly, China has developed very close ties with Central Asian Republics, whose resources could be exploited and exported westward via Gwadar. Above all else, the Chinese efforts to connect Pakistan, Afghanistan, and CARs in a close-knit economic web will entail stability and prosperity for the region, and is therefore in the best interests of all states in the region.
By Ifrah Waqar
Apr 9, 2015
Yemen, a country located in the South of Saudi Arabia is increasingly making headlines these days both regionally and internationally. Conflicts, uprisings, drone attacks (which began in the country in 2002) and disturbances, none of which are unknown to the residents of Yemen, as the country, have been a magnet for trouble pretty much since the 1960s.
The current unrest in Yemen can be traced to the 1962 uprising when the British with the help of its Middle Eastern allies carried out covert activities in the country and used it as a battle ground. The country was divided into two fronts then: North and South. Ever since, the country has continuously faced turbulence and has been a soft target for other entities.
Al Qaeda, Islamic State (formerly known as the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria), “terrorist hub” are some of the names which are now associated with Yemen. Lately, it’s the Houthi Shia rebels who have brought the country to limelight.
Historically, Houthis are Zaidi Shias. They constitute about 30 percent of the population, were once best known as a movement who preached peace, are now being labelled as trouble mongers but this latest uprising or tide in their movement did not happen overnight.
The first time, Houthis came face-to-face with the Yemini government was in 2004 when the founder of the Houthis, Hussein Bader Addian was arrested and later killed. It was then when the movement turned to arms. The Houthis movement started conducting protests based on grounds of self-defence with the then Yemen’s President Ali Abdullah Saleh viewing them as a threat to his rule.
The Houthis have been gathering momentum pretty much since last August after the country cut down on the fuel subsidy by declaring it an economic strangulation. It was then that thousands of Houthi protesters marched towards the Yemini capital Sanaa and demanded the government under President Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi to resign. The call which was given by the Houthi leader Abdulmalek al-Houthi also demanded granting them with political rights and reforms. The Houthi protestors were then called for dialogue by the Yemini government and a UN brokered deal was ultimately agreed upon by the two sides. The agreement did not last and Hadi was declared as illegitimate by the Houthi rebels after they moved to the capital on 21st September, 2014. The Houthi rebels stormed into the Presidential palace and placed Hadi, Yemen’s Prime Minister and two other ministers under house arrest.
However, President Hadi was able to escape. He flew to Aden on 21st February and declared himself as the rightful President of Yemen. On the other hand, violence and anarchy continued to rock Yemen when finally its Northern neighbour felt the need to intervene to save itself from the flames igniting from Yemen and Saudi Arabia formally began airstrikes against the Houthi Shia rebels.
Sharing a border of 1,800 (1,100 miles) Kilometres with Yemen, Saudi Arabia is gravely concerned about the situation in its volatile backyard. Before initiating air strikes under its own-led coalition on Yemen, last year Saudi Arabia started building a giant border fence to seal its border with Yemen. The action obviously did not reap the desired results and about a month after ousting the Saudi backed Yemini President Hadi, Saudi Arabia initiated airstrikes in Yemen.
A 10-nation Saudi led coalition is currently carrying out attacks in Yemen. After initiation of airstrikes, an Arab League meeting was immediately called upon to discuss the issue of Yemen in Sharam-ul-Sheikh. The 22 nations representing the Arab League called for creation of a joint Arab military force whose Chief Nabil al-Arabi said the Saudi-led offensive would “continue until the militia withdraws and surrenders its weapons”.
Saudi Arabia is currently calling for international support against the Houthi rebels and has blamed Iran for creating confusion and destabilisation by supporting the Houthis. Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi has gone one step further and has referred to the Houthis as “puppets of Iran” thereby alleging Iran of directly supporting them.
Currently, Saudi Arabia is engaged on multiple fronts i.e. internal and external. Saudi Arabia recently experienced a power transition with King Salman bin Abdul Aziz coming to power after the recently deceased King Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz. Firstly, the Kingdom feels a direct threat emanating from the Islamic State (formerly known as the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria) which has emerged as perhaps the biggest threat to the Middle-East and Saudi Arabia. Secondly, the recently concluded nuclear deal between Iran and the P5+1 led by the United States has added to the threats perceived by the Kingdom. Finally, the prevailing turbulence over its border with Yemen caused by the Houthi rebels, is a cause of grave concern.
Saudi Arabia is a heavy-weight and like other heavy-weights, the countries under its influence acting out on their own. The current Saudi regime feels it is being cornered and to get back into control, it has to tackle with the Yemini situation with an iron hand and complete success. It needs to be understood that Saudi Arabia will not leave any stone unturned unless it emerges from this situation with the upper-hand, no matter the cost.
Iran is once again amid controversy and this time it is not only about its impending nuclear deal. Iran is being accused by the Arabs especially Saudi Arabia of providing support to the Houthi Shias. Even through Iran has called for political talks between all parties on Yemen issue, it cannot save itself from the allegations of igniting the flames of war in the country.
Iran and Saudi Arabia have more than often found themselves on opposite side of the page. Iran, which takes great pride in its Iranian nationalism and Shia history has historically refused to bow down to Saudi Arabia’s lead, dictation and its place in the Muslim world. Though the two have never directly engaged in a conflict but they have been found fighting against each other via proxies. Over the years, their battle grounds have altered but the fight for dominance, regional or otherwise, has not.
The case of Yemen is no different. Houthis who share a Shia bond with Iran, it seems are being supported by it. The motivation or goal for supporting the Houthis can be debated upon but it seems Iran is bent upon extending its sphere of influence to Saudi Arabia’s backyard.
Adding to this mix is the geo-politics of sea. The Bab el-Mandeb Strait is a chokepoint between the Horn of Africa and the Middle East, and it is a strategic link between the Mediterranean Sea and the Indian Ocean. It connects the Gulf of Aden and Arabian Sea with the Red Sea and is located between Yemen, Djibouti and Eritrea. In 2013, an estimated 3.8 million bbl/d of crude oil and refined petroleum products flowed through this waterway. This politics of sea is a driving factor that cannot be overlooked while considering the raison d’etre of the current conflagration.
Saudi Arabia sees Iran’s influence in Yemen as a way to spread its wings in its backyard, in the Gulf of Aden. This conflict needs to be seen in this geo-strategic backdrop.
The prevailing situation in Yemen is an outright play of realpolitik, narrowing it down to sectarianism will perhaps be, over simplifying it. It is a fight for dominance and interest. As in this conflict, one of the parties involved is Saudi Arabia, a lot of attention has been focused on Pakistan’s decision and role in the Yemen conflict.
To put it simply, Pakistan is in a conundrum with regard to the situation in Yemen. The country shares a deep historical bond with Saudi Arabia and any decision to join or not join the Saudi-led coalition against airstrikes on Houthi rebels will have a deep impact on the relations between the two countries.
On the other hand, Pakistan houses 20 percent of Shi’a population and any wrong decision at this time when Pakistan itself is rocked by violence and turbulence has the possibility of impinging upon the country’s future by provoking sectarian violence in the country. A Pakistani delegation led by Khwaja Asif, Pakistan’s Defence Minister went to Riyadh to assess the situation. Pakistan’s policy makers have sat down together in a joint Parliamentary Session and are currently contemplating on which decision to take.
Different political parties have expressed divergent views on Pakistan’s supposed role in Yemen but they all have agreed that Pakistan should not be directly involved in the conflict.
The main opposition parties, Pakistan People’s Party, Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf, Awami National Party, Muttahida Qaumi Movement and smaller parties like Awami Worker Party have outrightly opposed military intervention in the ongoing conflict. The religious political parties especially Jamaat-e-Islami and Jamiat-ullema-Islam have called for Pakistan’s role as a mediator and not as an interventionist. It should be noted that the Adviser on Foreign Affairs and National Security Sartaj Aziz has hinted at an emerging consensus in parliament against intervention in Yemen. Furthermore, media and civil society is staunchly opposing Pakistan’s role as an interventionist force.
The safest policy option for Pakistan would be to play the role of a negotiator among all parties and avoid taking a part in the Saudi-led coalition carrying out attacks in Yemen. Pakistan’s interests are in playing the role of a facilitator and avoiding conflict with any of the involved parties to save itself from any future controversy.
Violence and wars are never a solution. World’s history is full of evidence on how every war ended on a political solution. Pakistan, itself, being the victim of anarchy and violence for more than three decades, has enough experience of how a vulnerable neighbour can impinge upon a country’s security, and it therefore, needs to convey this sentiment to its Arab allies especially Saudi Arabia to solve these issue diplomatically. Yemen is a sovereign country and the world needs to let the people of Yemen decide on which direction to take.
With the over-all volatile situation in the Middle-East, all parties involved need to let sanity prevail or else the situation will get worse and perhaps engulf the countries along with their monarchies, and there will be nothing to fight over.
Ifrah Waqar is currently working as a Research Associate at the Centre for Pakistan and Gulf Studies. The views expressed in this report are of writers own and do not necessarily present the position of the Centre.
By Saima Aman Sial
March 03, 2015
Nuclear energy is considered to be a reliable source of energy that steers clear of fossil fuels, releases less radioactivity than coal-fired power plants and stands unaffected by the oil and gas prices fluctuations. Among some basic questions asked about nuclear energy is the question of how safe is the nuclear energy. Presently, there are some 435 operable civil nuclear power nuclear reactors around the world, with a further 71 under construction.
Though Chernobyl and Three Miles Island faced nuclear accidents, only Chernobyl has been classified as a major accident by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). Moreover, after Chernobyl there have been no deaths attributed to radiation exposure from the Nuclear Power Plants (NPPs). The plans for nuclear energy have, hence, remained undeterred even after the Fukushima nuclear power plants accident. The evidence over six decades shows that nuclear power is a safe means of generating electricity. The graphical depiction, presented by World Nuclear Association, also illustrates the risk of accidents in nuclear power plants is low and declining.
Courtesy: World Nuclear Association
In order to address the concerns being variously voiced about the safety of nuclear power plants, it is important to understand the redundancy of safety features that are put in place to ensure the safety of the nuclear power plant as well as the safety of individuals living in vicinity of the plant from radiation exposure. There are various physical barriers put in place to ensure that the radiation does not leak to the atmosphere. Technically, it includes the fuel enclosed in fuel pallet, pallets covered in metal tubes, the covering around it, the reactor vessel which houses them and finally the containment. Even the containment has two steel-and-concrete domes with airspace in between. The robustness of contemporary generation of nuclear power plants is such that it can sustain a major level earthquake originating from beneath its surface.
Putting the debate about the Karachi Nuclear Power Plants in perspective, the safety features incorporate active as well as passive measures and hence the plant can operate safely without causing hazardous radiation exposure for local population. This report attempts to discuss some of the common safety concerns in this regard and layout the existing measures available to dispel the concerns.
Pakistan’s quest for nuclear energy for peaceful uses is as old as the Atoms for Peace Program of the U.S. (1953). Since then Pakistan has been operating to research reactors, PAR-I and PAR-II, KANUPP and Chashma I and II. Later, when India diverted nuclear fuel from the Canadian reactor for a nuclear explosion illegally, Canada moved out of its agreement with Pakistan to operate its Karachi Nuclear power Plant (KANUPP). The Pakistani scientist and engineers however have been operating the plant successfully without the vendor support for 40 years now.
As of 2012, Nuclear power contributed 4.7% in the overall electricity generation. Pakistan’s Energy Security Action Plan decided to increase the share of nuclear energy in the overall energy mix to address the electricity shortage in the country. The plan envisages 8800 MWe by 2030 and 40,000 MW of electricity generation through nuclear power.
The Chashma Nuclear Power Plants (NPPs) have been successfully operating and since their installation no incident relating to the safety has been reported during their operation. This amply demonstrates the skills as well as professionalism of Pakistan’s scientists and engineers in operating nuclear reactors at par with internationally acclaimed best practices. The units 1 & 2 of Chashma NPPs contribute 325 MWe each, to the national grid and have a high efficiency rate compared to other sources of electricity production, as depicted in the bar graph below;
Courtesy – Pakistan Atomic Energy Commission Official Website
Apart from operating at their optimal capacity, it is educating to note that the reactors have been contributing in providing cheap energy compared to electricity produced by Hydro, coal and other Independent Power producers (IPPs), as illustrated in the graph below;
Courtesy – Pakistan Atomic Energy Commission Official Website
As regards the new nuclear power plants at Karachi site, the K-2 and K-3 NPPs would be an important contribution in the overall plan of 8800MW by 2030. Only these two units would contribute 2,200MWe to the national grid and would help overcome the power crisis.
Since news about the new units to be installed at KANUPP site, there has been a lot of concern being raised regarding the safety of people living in close vicinity with the plant (within a 30km radius). In this regard, some concerned citizens cite the Pakistan Environmental Protection Act, 1997, which stipulates that before the commencement of a project on such a large scale, a public message should be issued alongside the date and time of a public hearing. Hence, they claim they have not been taken into confidence. It is important to note here that the Pakistan Environmental Protection Act, 1997, had the provision to skip the public hearing of an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) if the case was of ‘national importance’. In this regard, Sindh Environmental Protection Agency (SEPA) had given an NOC after its experts approved the project in 2013. Furthermore, to address the public fears PAEC would still carry out a public hearing on the project.
Regarding the design features of ACP-1000 plant that China would supply, the Chinese model reactor has passed the Generic Reactor Safety Review of the International Atomic Energy Agency as a third-generation plant after one-year evaluation. With regard to the apprehensions of radioactivity in case of an accident, there are several aspects of the debate that have to be understood. Firstly, before selection of the site, several geological and seismic studies are conducted to understand the site and look for active seismicity traces. The K-2 & K-3 site has been selected after a thorough survey conducted by the IAEA and Pakistan Nuclear Regulatory Authority (PNRA). The historical experience suggests that the highest tsunami that may be expected in Karachi is 2.8 metres above the sea-level, while the K-2 and K-3 are 12 metres above the sea-level. Moreover, the plant can withstand an earthquake of 9 magnitude on the Richter scale, though the maximum projection for the site is 8. PAEC examined the site ground for major earthquake history, collecting all the instrumental, historical data and claimed that that all seismic fault lines near the plants are inactive.
Addressing these fears that are generally caused because of lack of technical knowledge and understanding of nuclear technology and its safety features, Chairman PAEC Dr. Ansar Pervez stated that “there is more radioactivity in air flight from Islamabad to Karachi than in living next to a nuclear site. He also maintained that the K-2 and K-3 will pose no threat to marine life including fishes and other species. “There will be a limited effect on fish; we’ve already conducted different studies to ensure minimum threat to the marine life.”
The ACP-1000 is a ‘Pressurised Water Reactor’ (PWR) and is in industrial use for over four decades. These are Generation III plants and have several layers of active and passive safety features to augment safety. According to PAEC General Manager Azfar Minhaj, chances of nuclear accident in third generation plant are 1 in 80 million a year. The safety features include, passive safety system to perform residual heat removal, molten core retaining and containment heat removal. The system can provide cooling for 72 hours without electricity. To ensure that there is no release of radioactivity to the outside, there is filtered ventilation that serves as an additional barrier to the release of radioactivity. The double-shell containment also provides additional protection in this regard.
Pakistan is an energy deficient country and is contemplating the use of various sources of energy to overcome the crisis. The load shedding of electricity has caused major crisis for Pakistan’s industry and hence for the economy. To address these issues, Pakistan’s Energy Security Plan 2050, envisages 40,000 megawatt to be contributed through nuclear power. Hence, nuclear power is quintessential for Pakistan’s growing energy needs and to address the ever increasing power load shedding crisis. The Karachi Nuclear Power Plants would contribute some 2200 MWe to this overall energy plan.
Pakistan is one amongst some 31 states that are pursuing nuclear energy programmes to overcome their energy needs. The PAEC is a professional nuclear energy producer that has thus far supplied nuclear power in a cost-effective, efficient manner and has an impeccable record of nuclear safety. The fears about the safety of K-2 and K-3 therefore need to be seen in their right perspective and undue alarm should be dispelled in this regard. The advanced reactor design with in build safety features alongside the review by IAEA provides the confidence to carry on with the project efficiently to address the burgeoning power crisis in the country.
 “Number of nuclear reactors operable and under construction”, World Nuclear Association, available at: http://www.world-nuclear.org/Nuclear-Basics/Global-number-of-nuclear-reactors/
 KANUPP celebrates 40 Years of safe operation, Pakistan Observer, 1 January, 2013, available at: http://pakobserver.net/201301/01/detailnews.asp?id=189666
 Nuclear Power in Pakistan, World Nuclear Association, February 2015, http://www.world-nuclear.org/info/Country-Profiles/Countries-O-S/Pakistan/
 “32 nuclear plants to produce 40,000MW: PAEC”, The News International, 27 February, 2014, available at: http://www.thenews.com.pk/Todays-News-3-235039-32-nuclear-plants-to-produce-40,000MW:-PAEC
 “Safety concerns over nuclear power plants project site”, Dawn, 12 November, 2014, available at: http://www.dawn.com/news/1143822
 “Nuclear plant project okayed after secret EIA hearing”, Dawn, 3 February, 2014, available at:
 Author’s discussion with a PNRA official on 13 March, 2015.
 “Nuclear power: ‘K-2, K-3 nuclear reactors more safe than Fukushima”, Express Tribune,
24 January, 2014, available at: http://tribune.com.pk/story/662959/nuclear-power-k-2-k-3-nuclear-reactors-more-safe-than-fukushima/
 “32 nuclear plants to produce 40,000MW: PAEC”, The News International, 27 February, 2014.
 Taking into confidence: PAEC intends to gather public support for nuclear plants planned for city, Express Tribune, 18 January, 2015, available at: http://tribune.com.pk/story/823856/taking-into-confidence-paec-intends-to-gather-public-support-for-nuclear-plants-planned-for-city-karachi-city/
 Pakistan Atomic Energy Commission Official Website, available at http://www.paec.gov.pk/Parameters
By Dr. Nazir hussain & Sannia Abdullah
Feb 26, 2015
The newly-elected President of Sri Lanka, Maithripala Sirsisena, in his first visit abroad has chosen India to show his preference and future direction of foreign policy approach. He and Premier Narindara Modi signed an agreement on nuclear safety aiming to provide Sri Lanka with nuclear energy infrastructure, heralding a strategic understanding to forge closer ties between the two states. This is an important development in the South Asian security calculus depicting a new look of Sri Lankan regional approach and Indian growing influence in South Asia undermining Pakistani and Chinese role in the region. Therefore, this article endeavours to discuss the new-found Indo-Sri Lanka relations, especially the nuclear agreement, and its implications on regional security.
The relations between India and Sri Lanka date back to the period of Emperor Ashoka in the 4th Century BC, when Buddhism was introduced in this Island. India and Sri Lanka are connected by sea through the Palk Strait in the Bay of Bengal. The bilateral relations remained cordial until the initiation of Indira Doctrine, which envisaged Indian dominant role in the resolution of disputes in South Asia countries. In this context, the Indian role remained controversial in the Sri Lankan civil war between the Tamils and the Sinhalese; Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) and Lankan central government. India supported the Tamil Tigers whole-heartedly and, ultimately, through the 1987 Accord, directly intervened in Sri Lanka under the pretext of controlling the Sri Lankan civil war. Though the situation stabilized, the Indian role became controversial and, ultimately, soared after the assassination of Rajiv Gandhi in 1991, which was blamed on the Tamil Tigers. The LTTE was labeled terrorist entity by India in 1992. The role of China and Pakistan during the civil war was crucial as both these countries supplied weapons, trained the Islanders in counter-insurgency operations, and helped the country rebuild and stabilize politically. Consequently, Sri Lanka became close to China and Pakistan and Indian role was marginalized.
Sri Lanka is India’s largest trading partner in South Asia. In 2013, the bilateral trade reached up to U.S. $3.7 billion. The major areas of investment by India include petroleum, telecom, IT, copper, real estate, hospital, tourism, banking and food industries and food processing products. India proactively participated in the rehabilitation and relief programme, particularly after the tsunami disaster. Thus, Sri Lanka became the recipient of $167.4 million development credit given by India. In development sector, India is instrumental in assisting Sri Lankan government in both mega and micro projects, including renovation of Palaly Airport, Kankesanthurai Harbour, construction of a Cultural Centre in Jaffna, interconnection of electricity grids between the two countries, construction of a 150-bed hospital in Dickoya and setting up a coal power plant in Sampur as a joint venture between National Thermal Power Corporation (NTPC) and Ceylon Electricity Board (CEB). The total Indian investment is $1.3 billion in Sri Lanka. However, despite the growing economic and trade relations, Sri Lanka remained closer to China and Pakistan than India under the government of President Rajparkash.
With the trip of the new Sri Lankan President, Maithripala Sirisena, to India in February 2015, the bilateral cooperation between the two countries has moved forward consolidating into ‘strategic partnership’. On February 16, 2015, President Sirsisena and PM Modi signed a joint agreement on nuclear safety aiming to provide Sri Lanka with nuclear energy infrastructure. It is expected that India will also supply Sri Lanka with small nuclear reactor of 600MW capacity to be established by 2030. The agreement’s initial step is to fulfill energy requirement, which is likely to expand further to involve security and strategic needs. This bilateral cooperative agreement would assist Sri Lanka through exchange of knowledge, resources, capacity-building and providing expertise in the realm of peaceful uses of nuclear energy (including radioisotopes, nuclear safety, radiation safety and nuclear security), and cooperation in radioactive waste management and nuclear and radiological disaster mitigation.
From the standpoint of IAEA safeguards, the deal is congruous to international standards and practices. Even though the deal does not amount much, it carries political significance. The incumbent political leadership in Sri Lanka has asked for a review of $1.5 billion project of creating a port city near the Colombo port. The agreement of creating of dubbed port city was signed between the previous government of (Sri Lanka) and Chinese government. Chinese President Xi Jinping inaugurated the construction work in September 2014, in an attempt to strengthen China’s maritime strategy and connect South East Asia and South Asia through the Silk Route. According to Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe, “All the activities of the Port City deal were done without transparency and without following many legal procedures. The agreement was signed without cabinet approval.” China hopes that the new government overcomes this controversy; nonetheless, expects to respect the state-level agreement signed between the two governments; as China has investments of about $6 billion in Sri Lanka and the bilateral trade of $3.14 billion (2011) that may be jeopardized after the decision of new Lankan government to review the project.
The strategic cooperation at the onset of new political governments on both sides carries strategic implications for regional politics. To offset the Chinese ‘string of pearls’ strategy, India has straddled fast through economic and military inroads in the Indian Ocean Rim states through the islands of Mauritius, Maldives, Seychelles and Madagascar and the rim states of South Africa, Tanzania and Mozambique. The blue water navy of India is also seeking to train, equip and provide assistance, including hydrographic support to the island nations to secure and advance its naval interests in the Ocean.
The Sri Lanka-India nuclear deal aims to highlight Indian interests to maintain its political influence over other South Asian states as a regional hegemon; while, at the same time, it guards Indian Ocean from China’s over-stretching naval wing. As already stated by a Chinese official, the Indian Ocean is not confined to India, China is likely to assert its economic influence through enhancing developmental projects. The construction of offshore port city close to Colombo is another pearl in its string.
The realpolitik assumptions demand that the Sri Lankan government strikes a balance between the two regional economic giants, China and India, and continue to seek financial benefits from
each one of them. That is challenging as Modi government is interested to finish off the Chinese influence from Sri Lanka as it attempts to outshine Indian hegemony in the region.
The India-Sri Lankan nuclear deals symbolizes the growing Indian assertiveness in the South Asian security calculations; as both Sri Lanka and Bangladesh now have pro-India governments and are being courted to undermine the growing Chinese and Pakistani roles. The Deal also signifies Indian confidence as a supplier state after being given the status of a de facto ‘Nuclear State’ in the backdrop of the Indo-U.S. nuclear deal and NSG wavier. India, under the BJP, is re-crafting the ‘Indira Doctrine’ of becoming a regional hegemon in South Asia. This episode may result in a conflictual security architecture in South Asia, rather than developing a cooperative mechanism for regional peace, progress and development.
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