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.
14th December, 2015: A resolution presented today by the President, Centre for Pakistan and Gulf Studies (CPGS), Senator Sehar Kamran (TI) was unanimouslyadopted in the House of Federation, calling for a reaffirmation of solidarity with the families of the martyrs of the Army Public School, Peshawar, and demanding of the government to continue its struggle for the elimination of terrorism from the soil of Pakistan. Senator Sehar Kamran further recommended that 16th December shall be declared as the National Day for children’s education in Pakistan.
The Resolution comes two days before the one-year anniversary of the Army Public School Tragedy, in which 148 people – mostly children – were heinously murdered. Pakistan has achieved many successes in the past year against the terrorists responsible for this and many other similar acts through countless operations across the country. Senator Sehar Kamran called for the government to continue its drive against terrorism for a peaceful prosperous and stable Pakistan.
President Centre for Pakistan and Gulf Studies, Senator Sehar Kamran (TI) expressed sorrow over the unfortunate crash of the PAF trainer jet that resulted in the martyrdom of the Pakistan Air Force (PAF) Flying Officer Marium Mukhtiar. She has become the first female pilot to have died on a mission when a technical fault resulted in the crash of her jet near Kundian, Mianwali. Senator Kamran conveyed her condolences to the family of Ms. Mukhtiar and said that her heart goes out to them at this time of mourning and loss.
Senator Kamran also said that the Flying Officer’s career and her martyrdom is a testament to the fact that women in Pakistan today are as much involved in defending the borders as their male counterparts. She said the life of Ms. Marium Mukhtiar is an inspiration for women all around the world, and her name will remembered in the history of Pakistan.
By Senator Sehar Kamran (TI)
Nov 24, 2015
“Missiles may kill terrorists. But, I am convinced that good governance is what will kill terrorism.”
–UN Secretary General Mr Ban Ki Moon Addressing the General Assembly Thematic Debate, April 2015
Six years after its initiation, the National Counter Terrorism Authority (NACTA) – an ambitious directorate formulated to lead Counter Terrorism (CT) efforts within the country – continues to remain dormant. The purpose of establishing this directorate under NACTA was to setup a Centre for coordination and intelligence sharing among the 26 spy and law enforcement agencies in Pakistan, to enhance their abilities to curb acts of terrorism. But despite having been established through an act of Parliament in 2009, the legal status of the organization remained ambiguous until the passing of the ‘NACTA Bill’ on April 11th, 2013, which finally provided a legal basis for the directorate to conduct its operations.
NACTA also came to be designated as the focal organization for national security under the National Internal Security Policy (NISP) 2014-2018, approved by the Government of Pakistan on 25th of November, 2013. Undeniably, the principles upon which NACTA was established were honorable; to collaborate with international actors on areas like CT, to develop a national de-radicalization program with the support of partner institutions, and to provide a holistic counter terrorism strategy by implementing NISP, in true letter and spirit, with the help of Provincial Governments, Law Enforcement Agencies (LEAs), and intelligence agencies. Furthermore, one of the core objectives of NACTA was to carry out specialized research relevant to terrorism and extremism, to appoint a committee of experts from Government and non-Government organizations for deliberations in areas related to the mandate and functions of the Authority as well as to prepare and circulate appropriate documentation on the basis of these consultations and research. Unfortunately, however, that is not what has transpired.
NACTA, which was placed fourth on the agenda of the much-discussed National Action Plan, today is merely another redundant body with little say in the formulation or implementation process of policies related to extremism and counter terrorism. Rife with controversies, legal challenges and ambiguity of status, and faced with discontinuity in policies and lack of funding, the ambitious body of NACTA has become an entity which will probably never function fully.
NACTA could have played the role of a premium institution, leading both CT and CE research, mechanisms and strategies in the country and enhancing implementation and monitoring via interdepartmental coordination. Its unique central coordination abilities ought to have allowed it to identify vulnerable areas in addition to providing assistance to law enforcement agencies. NACTA’s abilities to strengthen law-enforcement in the country’s existential fight against terrorism and extremism has became overshadowed by this plethora of challenges.
The position of ‘National Coordinator’ or the head of NACTA, has been occupied by five people in the last two years only. The task of National Coordinator is to execute and monitor policies implemented by NACTA, but regrettably, the body has not been able to formulate anything. Against the present 300 posts in the anti-terror body, the current strength is just 57 which again highlights its incompetence.
Today, when Pakistan is fighting a war of its survival, where internal stability is at stake, and the one year anniversary of National Action Plan is fast approaching where “strengthening and activation of NACTA” was included in 20 points, there was no mention of any funds for the premium counter-terrorism body NACTA in the budget presented FY 2015-2016. The minister of finance in a post budget press conference tried to pass the matter by claiming its budget was included in the Ministry of Interior’s allocation but a denial from a Ministry of Interior official refuting the Minister of Finance’s statement depicted how sorry the state of affairs of NACTA is. In addition, the ministry had requested Rs.960 million from Finance Ministry for activation of NACTA but no progress has been made in this regard.
Another hurdle in the activation of NACTA has been a confusion over its legal status. In 2014, Islamabad High Court gave a ruling removing the then NACTA head and placing the command of NACTA under Prime Minister. This ambiguity over the legal status has resulted in the delayed materialization of NISP and NAP on ground, as NACTA was supposed to be the institution that oversaw their implementation.
Even after almost six years of its launch, this counter terrorism body has technologically and administratively not evolved as a frontline institution, as it should have. The capability to formulate and gather its own intelligence information is still missing. Administratively, there is no consensus among the relevant institutions on the operational mechanism of the counter terrorism body. To prevent NACTA from becoming a superfluous body, and to ensure its existence as an effective institution, it is recommended that NACTA’s status be rectified, to enable it to act as an authoritative body. It may also be attached to the Prime Minister Secretariat, and the status of the ‘NACTA Coordinator’ be elevated to that of a minister of state, reporting directly to the Prime Minister. This could help alleviate the growing problems faced by the nascent organization, and enable it to start operating effectively at the earliest.
Another important factor in this context is the allocation of required/appropriate funds and their timely release. This will allow for the development of a skeleton structure that may work on developing a basic framework for the organization. Such a structure should be comprised of personnel selected on the basis of qualification and merit, through a transparent system, preferably through the Federal Public Service Commission. Similarly, the recruitment of top level professionals within the actual institution is also vital for its functionality, and will reaffirm the basic aim behind establishing NACTA as Pakistan’s premium counter terrorism body.
Finally, the current practice of changing NACTA heads every few months must end. Appointing favored personnel on ad-hoc basis has proven highly detrimental in the past in the past, and will continue to do damage the institution. Only when these underlying issues are resolved can NACTA become able to fulfil its purpose and conduct regular coordination meetings between national and provincial CT departments as well as relevant agencies, which are necessary for establishing an effective monitoring system to counter the threat of terrorism and violent extremism in Pakistan.
Same version of the article appeared in The Nation
President CPGS, Senator Sehar Kamran (TI) with Director General, IAEA Yukiya Amano
President Centre for Pakistan and Gulf Studies (CPGS), Senator Sehar Kamran (TI) led a two-member CPGS delegation participating in the two day European Union Non-Proliferation and Disarmament Conference on 11-12th November, organized by the International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS) in Brussels. The conference was attended by 300 experts including the Director General International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), Yukiya Amano as well as other prominent dignitaries and experts. The speakers and participants discussed issues related to nuclear proliferation and other threats. The Iranian Nuclear deal was discussed at some length, with most participants being of the view that the deal would prove helpful for fostering peace and stability in the stability in the region.
Another current issue under debate was the role of nuclear weapons in light of the Ukraine crisis, and the resultant rise in tensions between Russia and the USA. Additionally, speakers from across the globe emphasized on further nuclear weapons reductions in P-5 nuclear weapons countries, especially the US and Russia. In this context, the imminent speakers and participants suggested substantive, tangible and concrete steps to prevent the further proliferation of nuclear weapons.
President CPGS, Senator Sehar Kamran, while representing the Centre and Pakistan, met with distinguished guests including DG IAEA Yukiya Amano, Adviser to the Vice President and Head of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran, Ambassador Ali Asghar Soltanieh, Pakistan’s Ambassador to Belgium H.E. Ms Naghmana Hashmi, IISS Director Non-Proliferation and Disarmament Programme Mr Mark Fitzpatrick and many others.
Senator Sehar Kamran also intervened in discussion and raised the issue of double standards and discriminatory policies of a ‘politically-dominated’ nuclear regime regarding the civil nuclear energy deal. She stated that major powers have adopted a ‘discriminatory’ approach, providing a civilian deal to a select few, while Pakistan, which has strong nuclear fuel cycles expertise in addition to extensive experience in handling and running nuclear power plants, is being denied the same as a result of the lack of a criteria-based aproach.
During discussions with Mr. Fitzpatrick, Senator Kamran (TI) highlighted the urgency of Pakistan’s energy needs and importance of access to civil nuclear technology in this context. Mr Fitzpatrick praised the role of CPGS in initiating a project as vitally important as ‘JOHAR “Contemporary Debate in the 2nd Nuclear Age”’. He added it is positive that today there is talk of a Civil Nuclear deal with Pakistan; when he first raised the possibility of offering such a program at Vienna in early 2015, many eyebrows were raised.
He further reminisced that the first time nuclear veteran Dr. Peter Lavoy discussed a possible ‘Pakistan-USA’ nuclear deal was at the CPGS seminar on “Nuclear Non-proliferation, Arms Control and Disarmament: Contemporary Challenges and Prospects”, held on May 7, 2014. Now that a narrative has been built, with an increasing number of scholars, including Toby Dalton and Michael Krepon, genuinely considering and promoting the idea of “a normal Nuclear Pakistan”, talks on civil nuclear relations between Pakistan and the US can continue to improve. The new debates in this context will be regarding procedures and conditions, which can be negotiated.
President CPGS Senator Sehar Kamran with International Delegates at the Conference
October 29, 2015: President Centre for Pakistan and Gulf Studies (CPGS), Senator Sehar Kamran (TI) participated in the two day international conference on ‘Middle East Crises between Regional and International Policies – Vulnerability and Influences’ organized by the Qatar Armed Forces at the Doha International Strategic Policies Forum, DISP 2015 on 27-28th October.
President CPGS Senator Sehar Kamran Presenting CPGS’ Souvenir to the Commander of the Centre for Strategic Studies, Major General Sannad Ali ali-Naimi
Senator Sehar Kamran met with the high ranking eminent members of the Qatar armed forces and other delegates from various countries during the conference. Discussion on matters of mutual interest and collaboration between CPGS and research institutions of Qatar were also held.
President Centre for Pakistan and Gulf Studies, Senator Sehar Kamran (TI) Participated in Doha International Strategic Policies Forum, DISP 2015
Islamabad, October 26, 2015: President Centre for Pakistan and Gulf Studies, Senator Sehar Kamran (TI) said it was on this day 68 years ago when Indian forces unconstitutionally and without any moral justification entered the valley of Jammu and Kashmir and till date has set new records of human rights violations and barbarity in the valley. She said this day is referred to as Black Day because the occupation of Kashmir by Indian was in complete violation of the partition plan of 1947 and against the aspirations of the people of Kashmir.
Senator Kamran said India for a long time has subjugated the rights of people of Kashmir yet it portrays itself to be the champion of democracy yet imposing undeclared curfew and restrictions as well as ban on Muharram processions to name a few.
Senator Sehar Kamran said Pakistan has always stated the Kashmir dispute should be resolved according to the United Nations resolutions and the aspirations of the people of Kashmir. All road of peace pass through Kashmir. Today, Kashmir is the biggest militarized zone in the world and the people of the valley are rendering innumerable sacrifices everyday just to gain freedom the Indian shackles, the lives of hundreds and thousands of people are at stake which cannot be ignored any longer, she said. Senator Kamran said the world community must come together and resolve this dispute as it is no longer about geography but it has morphed into a humanitarian issue.
By Senator Sehar Kamran (TI)
Oct 26, 2015
“No foreign policy – no matter how ingenious – has any chance of success if it is born in the minds of a few and carried in the hearts of none.”
–Henry A. Kissinger
This week Pakistan’s Prime Minister Mian Nawaz Sharif has embarked upon his much-anticipated visit to Washington. A lot of expectations and reservations are already attached to this visit which is occurring against the backdrop of a rapidly worsening situation in Afghanistan, aggravating Pakistan-India ties, the pressing issues of terrorism and extremism as well as the recent spotlight on Pakistan’s nuclear weapons.
The White House, in one pre-visit statement has stated that the visit “will provide an opportunity to strengthen our (Pakistan and the United States’) cooperation on issues of mutual interest, including economic growth, trade and investment, clean energy, global health, climate change, nuclear security, counterterrorism, and regional stability.” Pakistan’s Foreign Office has also reiterated that Sharif will “brief the US leadership on Pakistan’s policies for the revival of the economy, the fight against terrorism and the regional situation. Discussions will also be held on bilateral cooperation in the fields of economy, trade, education, defense, counter-terrorism, health and climate change”.
PM Nawaz Sharif’s visit comes in the aftermath of disappointing appearances at the Ufa Summit as well as the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA); the addresses on both occasions have not left a note-worthy impact for the promotion of Pakistan’s long-term interests on the global stage. In Ufa, national observers opined that Pakistan both mishandled its case and debased its stature as a strong, nuclear state by acting ready to kneel before any and all Indian demands for a handshake opportunity with the Indian Premier, Narendra Modi. The UNGA speech by the PM was felt by many as a hollow media stunt, with little to no value and even less impact – be it positive or a negative. This lackluster performance by the Pakistani Premier at such high a level forum is a lost opportunity; this was the most powerful forum for conducive talks on the issues of terrorism, extremism, for highlighting and promoting Pakistan’s achievements and experiences in this context. It was also an effective forum to emphasize the role of foreign involvement and funding in sustaining terror groups, and presenting Pakistan’s knowledge and point of view in this context.
This new visit once again provides a platform to Pakistan to assert its viewpoints and agenda on the previously mentioned matters of national interest which were sidelined earlier at Ufa and the UNGA. At this point in time the region appears to be approaching chaos, and with the regressive security situation in Afghanistan, the stakes have risen for President Obama himself; his Presidential term comes to an end next year and despite campaign promises, he will likely remain unable to end the two wars he inherited from his predecessor, which will have a significant impact on his legacy. These are factors that should be considered when evaluating possible US reservations or offers during meetings with the Pakistani Prime Minister.
In the context of brokering peace in Afghanistan, Pakistan’s role in initiating the peace process and hosting the first round of talks in Murree, which even had representatives from China and the US in addition to the Taliban and Afghan officials, was appreciated globally. Since then however, Pakistan has not been able to effectively capitalize upon its positive leading role before the international community, particularly in this regard.
Recently there have been various unconfirmed media reports about a possible US-Pakistan nuclear deal; the possibility of such a deal has been met with silence or simply denied, and resulted in a media ‘hoopla’ which must clearly be addressed during this visit. Pakistan should not act defensively about its justified demands concerning national security and interests, but rather a proactive, robust diplomatic approach is needed in this sensitive matter – one which appropriately demonstrates the country’s national prestige.
Pakistan should also take this opportunity to forcefully present its case over the constant and increasing Indian belligerence on the Line of Control and the worsening human rights situation in Indian-held Kashmir – where most recently a man was killed and scores of protesters injured over a ‘beef’ ban; such unprovoked aggression and exclusionary policies by a state that lays claim to both democracy and secularism can have severe consequences for the region. The rising incidents of extremism in India, its increasing interference in neighboring and regional states can and will have long-term effects on the stability of the region.
Furthermore during his visit, Pakistan’s Prime Minister should make additional efforts to engage with the expatriate Pakistani community within the US, especially the business community on a broader level than is currently expected, and to use the visit as an opportunity to link potential American investment with local businesses.
Finally, when all is said and done, it should be remembered that the PM Nawaz Sharif is in the US representing Pakistan, and notwithstanding any past weaknesses and incompetence, it is vital that he presents a firm stance on behalf of Pakistan during this visit. The onus of responsibility now resides with Mr Sharif and his team, who have flown out to the US carrying with them the aspirations, expectations and hopes of the people of Pakistan.
With this in view, the following suggestions should be remembered during the visit:
- National interests must be the only driving force behind Pakistan’s foreign policy. All our efforts, endeavors and ventures in the domain of foreign policy must be subject to this key criterion.
- Better trade and investment opportunities should be at the forefront of the agenda along with a demand for access to the Nuclear Suppliers Group. Nothing however, can come at the cost of biased, unbalanced and exclusive restrictions, particularly in the context of matters of national security.
- Terrorism and extremism are major concerns both for Pakistan and the US. Indian involvement in fomenting terrorism in Pakistan must be exposed and evidence disseminated at all appropriate platforms.
- Pakistan may offer its services to play a role (as it has been playing voluntarily) in the Afghan political peace process again, but the country should ask the US to demote the detractors of Afghanistan’s peace process present in Afghanistan, especially in the National Directorate of Security (NDS), for culmination of a long lasting peace process. Only peace and stability in Afghanistan will bring peace and stability in the region.
Same version of the article appeared in The Nation
By Senator Sehar Kamran (TI)
Oct 7, 2015
“All human situations have their inconveniences. We feel those of the present but neither see nor feel those of the future; and hence we often make troublesome changes without amendment, and frequently for the worse.”
The Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) Summit on Science and Technology (S&T) was due to be held in Islamabad on 11 November 2015. It would have been the first ever Heads of State/Government level meeting of the OIC dedicated to the promotion and advancement of Science and Technology in the Muslim world. The Summit was to have been preceded by the COMSTECH General Assembly on 9th and 10th November 2015, where OIC Ministers for S&T would have discussed and endorsed the Summit outcomes in the form of the document that was to have been the ‘Islamabad Declaration’, and took 2 years of hard work and input from 157 scientists to take shape. All this is no longer to be.
With it, Pakistan has lost another golden opportunity, worth $200-$300 million of investment, as well as quite possibly COMSTECH itself. The excuse – unsurprisingly – is security concerns yet again. Ironically, the concerns do not stem from the 50-odd Heads of State and numerous other dignitaries that were to visit Pakistan, but from the top political strata of our own government that does not appear to have sufficient faith in its own security arrangements, particularly ‘in light of the Badaber attack. Further irony that this decision comes mere weeks from the celebration of Pakistan’s Defense Day, where this same leadership was falling over itself to parade its faith and pride in the country’s security institutions. At a time when the Pakistani nation stands united behind its forces and has high hopes from Operation Zarb-e-Azab; when we celebrate our National days with zeal and zest; when security in the country is stronger than it has been for many a year, so much so that we have had successful visits by the Chinese President and visiting cricket teams from Zimbabwe and Bangladesh, the decision to cancel the summit over security concerns will be a major blow to the morale of the entire nation.
But the greatest misfortune of all perhaps is the utter apathy and disinterest of the government towards any and every arrangement that had to do with what would have been a historic event, as is reflected in the callous manner in which the entire affair has been handled.
In the wise words of the great American entrepreneur John Scully, “The future belongs to those who see possibilities before they become obvious.” We, clearly, are not of that ilk. For those who may not understand just what it is we have lost with our failure to host the OIC Summit on S&T, let us examine what the Summit had to offer.
Pakistan made its commitment to host this event during the OIC Summit in Cairo in 2013. At the time, other member countries including Malaysia, Turkey, Iran and the UAE also expressed their interest in hosting the Summit, citing their recent advances in S&T and questioning Pakistan’s credentials. However, strong Saudi support and encouragement, and Pakistan’s capacity as the Chair of COMSTECH afforded us this honour.
Independent from the Summit, it is also mandatory for COMSTECH to hold at least one General Assembly session every two years, and it is important to remember that no session has been held since 2011. Failing to meet one of the basic statutory requirements is an indication of COMSTECH’s inability to function effectively under the patronage of Pakistan, at a time when several other countries would only be pleased to step into its shoes.
Hosting of the Summit by Pakistan, on the other hand, would not only have provided an opportunity to reassert our leadership role within the Muslim world, and underline Pakistan’s significance as a scientifically advanced Muslim country, it was also a great opportunity to demonstrate that the country is not isolated, as is often projected, while showcasing its S&T achievements and opening potential markets for its services and products. The occasion could have been further utilised to reassure the international community of the improving security situation in Pakistan, and its stability as it emerges as a regional platform for multi-faceted collaborations.
The motivation for increased scientific and technological cooperation among Muslim countries is multi-fold. While it is important to maintain and strengthen S&T engagements with the more technologically-advanced West remains undeniable, certain challenges facing Muslim countries are peculiar to them and could be much better addressed through such collaboration. Additionally, many Muslim countries face similar challenges, and possess similar levels of development as well as shared values. These factors, leveraged by pooled resources, expertise, technology and experience-sharing, can facilitate better understanding and S&T cooperation, particularly regarding issues that may be of lesser concern to the West.
The S&T Summit would not only have led to discussions and planning for collaboration on research, but also tackled issues regarding the employability of Muslim Youth, and put into pipeline collaborative technical and vocational education programmes for skill development. Other areas for potential cooperation included application of technologies for enhancing water, food and energy security in OIC countries, as well as on health-related issues including vaccines and medicines.
The Summit would also have been an opportunity to discuss cooperation and open markets for Pakistan for peaceful uses of nuclear energy – in the health, food safety, and agriculture sectors – in accordance with IAEA standards of nuclear non-proliferation, safety and security. Discussions on cooperation in space technology and the mapping of natural resources in OIC countries to this end could have been possible.
The working document for the summit prepared in consultation with over 157 leading scientists, proposed a 10-year actionable agenda, and assigning a major role to Pakistan in the implementation process for the next ten years.
The OIC Secretary General had also been lobbying for this Summit himself during recent visits to over 16 OIC countries, where he personally encouraged these states to participate in the Summit at the highest level. He arranged briefings for the Ambassadors of OIC countries, both in Jeddah and Riyadh, on the significance of the Summit, and engaged a UK based media house to project and cover the Summit proceedings. All this had generated a high level of interest in the Summit.
This cancellation is an embarrassment, and has seriously undermined confidence in Pakistan within the Muslim world. The enormous opportunity and the event are perhaps lost, but massive space has been opened for introspection of where it is exactly that we as a nation wish to see Pakistan ten or even twenty years down the line. Given this hasty and undeliberated decision and its far-reaching impact, should there not at least be some public scrutiny over how such decisions are taken?
S&T is undeniably a key driver for socio-economic progress. The pursuit of knowledge and the new frontiers which follow naturally will witness an ever-increasing impact on all of humanity in the 21st century, and science and technology not only offer the tools for making change, but also for managing it. But as Havel put it, “Vision itself is not enough. It must be combined with venture. It is not enough to stare up the steps, we must step up the stairs”.
In the April of 1984, Nobel Laureate and renowned physicist Dr Abdus Salam made a speech at the UNESCO House where he said, “An aspect of reverence for the sciences in Islam was the patronage they enjoyed in the Islamic Commonwealth. To paraphrase what H.A.R. Gibb has written about Arabic literature on the sciences; ‘To a greater extent than elsewhere, the flowering of the sciences in Islam was conditional… on the liberality and patronage of those in high positions. Where Muslim society was in decay, science lost vitality and force. But so long as, in one capital or another, princes and ministers found pleasure, profit or reputation in patronising the sciences, the torch was kept burning.’”
We would do well to remind ourselves of all that we have lost and continue to lose since the Islamic Commonwealth ended its patronisation of the sciences. And we would do well to understand that it is exactly this same mistake we have repeated today.
Same version of the article appeared in The Nation
By Tahir Ahmad
Sep 30, 2015
On September 6, 2015, a bill was moved in the National Assembly that has called for extensive reforms in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas. This bill puts forward certain propositions related to the constitutional status of FATA by amending Article 1, sub clause 2(c) that states that tribal areas are part of the territories of Pakistan, and suggests the merger of FATA into Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) as Provincially Administered Tribal Areas (PATA). Furthermore, the bill also recommends a revision of Article 247, clause 7, under which the high court does not have jurisdiction in this area, which according to many legislators simply constitutes a denial of justice.
At the time of the British Raj, FATA was viewed and maintained as a buffer zone between the British Empire and Russia. Even after partition the region has retained this ‘special status’, for purposes both strategic and otherwise; to date it remains outside the domain of state institutions. Now, as the state has been compelled to enter the area unofficially due to Operation Zarb-e-Azab, it seeks to formalize its jurisdictional claim in the area by calling for a comprehensive reform package that includes the extension of the writ of the state’s civil administration and political institutions into FATA.
The above-mentioned proposal for the merger of FATA with KP has been contested on several grounds, the foremost being that the people from these tribal areas are not accustomed to state institutions and that these areas can therefore only be best governed by the Frontier Crimes Regulation (FCR) – an infamous law from the time of the British Raj. Several tribal leaders, including former Senator Hameedullah Jan Afridi are also opposed to the idea that FATA be merged into Khyber Pakhtunkhwa at all, and advocate the case for a separate provincial status for the area. They hold the conviction that provincial bureaucracy will exploit the simple people of these areas and, supported by tribal associations, these tribal legislators argue that a separate portion in the NFC should be allotted to FATA, as the distribution of developmental budget will remain a challenge if FATA is merged into Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.
These are the problems that are likely to become the focus of debate surrounding this bill and the proposal for mainstreaming FATA. In this context, the political implications for the tribal communities, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa as well as the rest of the country are worth considering.
While some of these arguments may have logical explanations, they fail to fully contextualize the issues at hand. For instance, the argument for tribal lack of familiarity and thereby an implied resistance towards state institutions does not take into account or explain the settlement of Mohmand tribes in the established districts of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. The settlement of people from South and North Waziristan in Tonk, Dera Ismail Khan and Bannu districts, and those from Orakzai, Khurrum and Khyber cannot be ignored when the case for FCR is being made.
The contrasting arguments in this respect are far more compelling; if the FCR is abolished and the state justice system prevails, the tribes would finally have access to a system that provides them relief from the despotic rule of political agents. Moreover, it will result in increased representation for the merged region in both Houses of Parliament as well as the Provincial Assembly, and remain unchanged for the Senate. The number of representatives in the National Assembly would also increase by 12 – a number that will have significant impact on legislation, and thereby on center-provincial relations.
Secondly, with the merger, the share of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa in the National Finance Commission Award (NFC) will actually increase proportionately. The 7th NFC award distributed the federal divisible pool funds along the following lines: 85 percent by population, followed by revenue generation, level of underdevelopment and losses in the War on Terror. Interestingly, recently provinces failed to achieve consensus on the 8th NFC award, and as a result, the 7th NFC award will be extended for another year. This unsuccessful NFC meeting indicates that the already soured federal and provincial relations may be further strained if FATA were to be merged into KP. Besides population proportion, the level of underdevelopment and losses due to the War on Terror may further act as an apple of discord between the Centre and KP.
Afridi’s claim that the provincial bureaucracy of KP would exploit the simple people of FATA, however, is not logical, as even a separate provincial status will also require a bureaucratic setup. The status of FATA as a province under the Pakistan Penal Code (PPC), Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC), and the extension of the original and appellate jurisdiction of high court will remain the same whether FATA becomes a separate province or is merged with Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. Using this argument to insist upon a separate provincial status for FATA therefore, seems an unnecessarily irrational demand.
A more rational argument in this context would be based upon constituency-based politics of development. Normally in such a political model, a chief minister from a particular district concentrates or spends most of the developmental budget on their own district at the expense of other districts. If FATA is merged with Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, it will affect the dynamics of provincial politics several ways. The merge will mean the addition of 30 million people to Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, and new constituencies in the provincial assembly. The figure of 30 million is probably significantly lower than the actual number, as it has been taken from the 1998 census – today, in addition to the natural population growth there are at least one million IDPs in FATA from North Waziristan alone; one can only imagine what the current exact population count is. This evolution in the membership of the constituencies will play a critical role in the formation of the provincial government. Furthermore, constituency-preference based political practices, together with the despotic rule of political agents, has and will continue to alienate the people of tribal areas from ideas of modernity and development – a factor that is also considered responsible for the rise of terrorism and extremism in FATA.
Under the current provincial set up the population of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa can be divided in to four zones; the Peshawar valley consisting Peshawar, Mardan, Swabi, Nowshehra and Charsadda, the Hazara Belt, from Haripur to Kohistan, the South from Kohat to Dera Ismail Khan, and Swat Valley. In Swat the ANP, JI and PTI may be stronger, but in the Hazara belt PML N is stronger, in the South the JUI, whereas in the Peshawar Valley, it is a shared domain as there is no permanent trend in electoral victories for any political party.
Adding the new zone of FATA will benefit Peshawar and the South Zone as the FR Peshawar, Khyber and Mohmand Agency will be added to the Peshawar Zone whereas North and South Waziristan, Orakzai and Khurram Agency and the adjacent FR regions will be added to the South. Thus, political parties will have to enhance their support-base in these two areas if they would like to form the provincial government in the area. In this context, the role of the JUI in the South will further increase, particularly as they already have a strong support base in the South, which effectively means a greater role for the JUI in the formation of government if FATA merges into KP. In comparison, the Mohmand and Khyber agencies in the Peshawar Valley has lower possibility for permanent constituencies, which means space will remain open for all political parties.
Lastly, the question of attributing a provincial status to FATA must also be considered from a purely administrative angle as well. A separate status for FATA is not a very feasible option; this mountainous area stretches from Bajaur in the North to South Waziristan in the South, covering seven agencies, among which there is no direct line of communication in terms of transportation and the movement of people. There are link routes between North and South Waziristan, Orakzai and Khurram Agency through which the people of this area can have easy access to Kohat, Bannu and DI Khan. Similarly, Khyber, Mohmand and Bajaur are linked to the Peshawar valley, but it is difficult to establish direct communication linkages with the tribal areas located in the South. In these circumstances, locating the capital of the province would be challenge for the government and the people of tribal areas.
The issue around the distribution of developmental budget can be resolved by fixing separate shares for every agency in the NFC Award itself, or the formation of a provincial finance commission that determines resource allocation and distribution for FATA and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.
Before any of this comes to pass however, it is of the utmost importance that all political parties showcase the resolve and commitment needed to support such bills in the Parliament; the bill can only pass by two third majorities. Reportedly FATA legislators have been assured by the Awami National Party, the Pakistan People’s Party, and the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf of their support in this regard. The rest remains at the mercy of the differences among the tribal legislators and other political parties.
There are also some who are advocating for referendum-based reforms in the region, but the question for such a referendum remains undecided, as it is not clear that whether it is a referendum on the abolition of the FCR alone or on the ‘special’ provincial status that they desire. In the context of a referendum however, it is important to remember the nature and capacity of the locals, and their limitations (political, cultural, financial as well as potential duress from the current agents and powerful entities). A biased referendum favoring the maintenance of the FCR would provide legal justification for its perpetuation, and retain the ‘black hole’-like nature of the region, alien from any experiences of modernity and state institutions. A more comprehensive strategy is required for the inclusion of tribal regions into the state of Pakistan, so that it may move into the twenty first century with the rest of the country.