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
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.
By Senator Sehar Kamran (TI)
Sep 2, 2015
“War against terrorism and extremism is being fought for future generations.”– General Raheel Sharif, Chief of Army Staff (Command and Staff College, Quetta, 21st May, 2015)
Contemporaneously, violent extremism has emerged not only as one of the most daunting challenges faced by Pakistan, but is in fact amongst the most formidable of challenges that bedevil the global community today. There is no easy remedy for a narrative that hinges on verge of insanity, and finds its following in appeals to frustrated, impressionable minds by creating a perverse connection between social taboos/extreme ideologies and a ‘difficult but righteous’ path.
Today, Pakistan is fighting a war for its very survival against this faceless enemy. It is working hard to overcome its wounds from the atrocities committed by extremists under various guises – atrocities that have shocked the world – be it in the form of the innumerable suicide attacks on government buildings, the taking hostage of innocents, as in the 2009 Police Academy attack or the culminated horror of the December 16, 2014 attack on the Army Public School, where 132 innocent school children were ruthlessly massacred along with other nine members of the school staff.
Pakistan has now been tackling the menace of extremism – specifically violent extremism – for decades. In the aftermath of 9/11 and as a repercussion of the US-led NATO invasion of Afghanistan, extremists in this region gained much strength and the state of Pakistan suffered great setbacks as well as perhaps one of the worst crises in its history. The invasion in a region where governance was not at its strongest inadvertently created a vacuum which provided space for these resurgent non-state actors to occupy, enabling them to better propagate their skewed narratives.
Instability in the region reached its peak when these elements felt confident enough to issue ‘diktats’ to the state. Of these non-state elements, one particularly difficult group which emerged was the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP). The TTP, with its anti-state agenda, came into the limelight in 2007 and has since been involved in most of the terrorist activities inside the country in some form.
As a result the country has suffered some major set-backs. Political leaders and workers as well as military officials have been specifically targeted. Benazir Bhutto, the leader of one of Pakistan’s largest popular political parties, the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) was also assassinated in one such cowardly attack.
The first real headway against these groups only came as late as 2009 with ‘Operation Rah-e-Rast’, when Pakistan Army reclaimed the area of Swat. An even greater success, and on a larger scale is seen by the mega operation launched by the Army in 2014 – Operation Zarb-e-Azb. This operation has destroyed the communication lines of terrorists and today, for the first time in over a decade, relative peace prevails in the country.
Furthermore, to support the military operations, a focused de-radicalization project was launched by the Army in Swat, which aimed at rehabilitating confirmed militants. This project was the first to acknowledge the sensitivity required when attempting de-radicalization at this scale by working separately with various segments within a militant group. ‘Sabawoon’ is a facility that focused mostly on juveniles while ‘Mishal’ comprised work with adult detainees, and ‘Sparlay’ worked with the family members of detained militants. The programme has been fairly successfully and many former militants have been rehabilitated.
It is important to note here the vital role the de-radicalization project has played in preventing a resurgence of militancy in Swat, as the fact remains that unless the root causes behind emergence of extremism and its turn towards violence are identified, no permanent progress can be made towards fighting and eliminating it.
The use of violent acts for the pursuit of vested interests is the tactic most often employed by extremists groups, either for politically motivated aims or for ideological objectives. Recently, two major attacks occurred that once again highlighted this fact; the Safoora Goth incident and the suicide attack on Punjab’s Home Minister Shuja Khanzada.
The Safoora Goth incident, which claimed lives of 45 people – mostly Ismaili Shias, was perpetrated by an engineering student and his group of friends, who had been systematically brainwashed into getting radicalized by elements with political agendas that have the know-how for specifically targeting such vulnerable youth. These same students were also involved in killing a prominent Karachi based activist.
Understanding the phenomenon from an un-skewed perspective therefore is very important. For the most part, groups that are at the root of events like the Safoora Goth incident do not have any ‘return address’ or a specific territorial identity. This transnational character along with easy access to mass media outlets eases the path for the propagation of their agenda, while simultaneously making decisive action against them a formidable task.
Violent extremism knows no borders, religion, or cultural boundaries. It is a global enemy. It is also multi-faceted, and as such demands a broad and comprehensive approach to tackle it.
Although there is a realization that exists today at the global level to identify the ideologies, the infrastructure, the recruiters and funders of violent extremists, it should also be understood that if discriminatory policies continue to exist across international platforms, such factors and factions will continue to thrive. Policies need to be reevaluated; long standing issues lead to long term grievances and provide a raison d’etre for manipulative extremist groups, providing them with the material to manipulate people with and incite them to violence in the name of some misplaced ideal of social justice.
It is vital, now more than ever, to agree on what the root causes are behind this menace in order to effectively tackle them. A coordinated response from all the stakeholders is our best bet in this fight. To build upon the successes achieved by Operation Zarb-e-Azab, it is vital to engage all affected parties in dialogue that transcends sectarian and religious divides. Moreover, resilience must be built into local communities to resist radicalization at the grass-root level alongside efforts towards the economic integration of the population that feels isolated or deprived. Most importantly, a counter-narrative that promotes tolerance is critical while concurrently working to curb the dissemination of hate speech and extremist ideas. The use of force has been shown to be insufficient on its own. In this era of globalization, only a common strategy devised with international consent can effectively meet this transnational threat. Today we face an enemy that is dynamic and evolves with the strategies we pursue to counter it. Only a broader and more creative approach will help eradicate this menace permanently.
Article was originally published in The Nation on September 02, 2015.
By Senator Sehar Kamran (TI)
Jul 13, 2015
According to Amnesty International on July 1, 2015, “India has martyred one lakh (100,000) people in Kashmir. More than 8,000 disappeared (while) in the custody of army and state police. No one has returned so far.”
Indian Occupied Kashmir (IOK) has been in the news off and on since Indian soldiers invaded the valley in 1947, marking the beginning of an era of injustice, oppression and cruelty. ‘Millions killed’, ‘thousands disappeared’, and ‘hundreds tortured’ has become the recurrent mantra in headlines on both sides of the border as well as in international media; in fact such phrases have become something of a trademark feature in any accurate representation of Indian ruthlessness in IOK.
In what is part of the foundation stone of modern civil society – the Universal Declaration of Human Rights – Article 3 categorically states, “Everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of person”. Clearly the sorry state of affairs in IOK stands in clear violation of this declaration. Oppression, loss, fear, injustice and struggle are rampant in the region. In fact, it would not be inappropriate to say that the human rights crisis which exists in the valley has only intensified since the disputed elections of 1987, following which and the series of demonstrations and strikes against the Indian Government on the continued deprivation and grievances of the citizens of Kashmir, the Indian military unleashed a new wave of torture upon the citizens of the valley that has lasted from 1989 to date, and looks set to continue unabated indefinitely.
These violations of basic human rights were possible as the result of a very special law that passed through the Indian Parliament; the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) enacted by the Government of India in September 1990, which granted special powers to the Indian Armed Forces in Kashmir. The AFSPA has been criticised heavily since the start of its implementation, as its provisions entail permissions for Indian forces to kill, shoot or destroy any building in IOK on mere suspicion. This draconian law also allows a non-commissioned officer or an individual of equivalent rank to use force and exercise the power of arrest without warrant. Furthermore, under section 7, forces can even commit extrajudicial killings without the fear of prosecution.
AFSPA has continued to come under heavy criticism from international organisations such as the United Nations, Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and other non-governmental organisations. Navanethem Pillay, the UN Commissioner for Human Rights in 2009 asked India to repeal the AFSPA, stating the law breached human rights standards.
2015 marks 25 years of the use of this draconian law; a law which essentially protects Indian forces from any consequences for their brutality and savagery against innocent, unarmed Kashmiris. To date, not a single member of the security forces has been put to trial in a civilian court for the human rights violations in IOK.
To paint a clearer picture of the extent of the atrocities; in 2011, India’s Jammu and Kashmir State Human Rights Commission released a report stating that a three-year investigation had uncovered 2,156 unidentified bodies in 38 sites in the region. These unmarked graves confirm allegations of just how big a role the Indian forces have played in the disappearance and extra-judicial killings of the Kashmiri people.
In 2010, a new generation of young Kashmiri protesters was forced to take to the streets after a local youth was illegally killed by security personnel. The unarmed, peaceful protesters faced the iron hand of Indian security forces, but Indian brutality failed, as it always has, to dampen the spirits of the youth who had nothing more than stones in their hands to fight off the modern, heavy, state of the art Indian military machinery.
Despite acknowledging Indian atrocities, unfortunately, the cries of the Kashmiri people and their peaceful struggle for freedom has not been able to garner any decisive movement by international bodies for the resolution of this dispute. Indians have tried, time and again, to sabotage the Kashmiri cause and struggle for freedom by attempting to link it with militancy and terrorism. It is only the continued resistance of the valiant people of Kashmir, who have not let such malicious agenda deter them from their quest for peace that has prevented heinous Indian designs from succeeding.
Indian deniability of its role in IOK becomes even more questionable given their reaction to the attempts of any independent body to look into the issue. Anyone who tries to expose the Indian atrocities in IOK, Indian officials instead of answering or denying the ‘allegations’, take extreme measures to either prevent access to the information and to Kashmir, or simply silence the query and remove the questioner from the equation altogether. The most recent example of this behaviour is the American researcher Christine Mehta, who was working for Amnesty International and got deported from India for investigating the alleged human rights abuses for Amnesty International.
Pakistan has always been a vocal moral supporter and sympathiser of the Kashmiri’s right to self-determination, often facing the brunt of malicious Indian retaliation and slanderous agenda, but never ceasing to raise its voice against the imperialistic behaviour in Kashmir.
The people of Pakistan have deep national, historical, religious and cultural bonds with the people of Kashmir.
This affinity is often depicted in the supportive protest rallies for Indian Occupied Kashmir in Pakistan, and the reciprocal slogans of ‘Long Live Pakistan’ with the raised Pakistani flag under the shadows of Indian guns in IOK. Pakistan and Kashmir are one soul in two bodies.
It goes without saying that all roads to peace and prosperity in South Asia go through Kashmir. The shadows of oppression and deprivation have loomed for far too long in IOK, and it is high time that international bodies take notice of India’s draconian laws in the Kashmir valley, particularly as it tries to wear its mask of respectability to gain access to institutions whose basic charter premises it does not respect. A ‘rising and shining’ India, prospectively seeking membership of United Nations Security Council currently being in blatant violation of UNSC resolutions, must settle the Kashmir dispute in accordance with the UNSC resolutions.
If India truly wishes to reach great power status, it should seek an early resolution of the Kashmir dispute in accordance with the aspirations of the Kashmiri people; allow an independent investigation into the Human Rights violations and comply with its international multilateral responsibilities. Or else its feet would keep dragging in the South Asian region, because of its policy of retaining regional disputes. The right to self-determination belongs to the people of Kashmir, and it is one that they will get eventually – if not today then tomorrow.
Same version of the article appeared in The Nation
By Senator Sehar Kamran (TI)
Jul 09, 2015
Pakistan’s defence budget proposal for the year 2015-2016, was announced on 5th June, 2015, with the budget standing at PKR 781 billion, and the allocation for defence increased by 11.6 percent. Unsurprisingly, in the typically cavalier fashion of its critics, this increase has come under harsh censure, with little or no understanding of the context of why it occurred, or cognizance of the challenges being faced by Pakistan.
A closer look at global and regional facts and figures, presents a picture better representative of reality. In contrast to its regional partners, Pakistan’s defence budget has actually decreased over time, particularly in comparison to its share in the total national budget. Our defence budget for the 2003-2004, stood at about 21 percent of the total budget, whereas in the latest budget, allocation for defence totals approximately 16.6 percent of the total, standing behind debt services and general public services.
Pakistan has been in the line of fire from various fronts, where in light of this, this increase is far from controversial. The myriad of internal and external security challenges also gravely constricts policy makers in devising viable and feasible strategies to tackle these issues effectively. In order to better understand the complexity and contextual requirements of the threats, and their compulsions on the defence budget, it is useful to highlight exactly what these challenges are. These can be on understood in terms of a three-tiered approach, i.e. international complexities, regional challenges and domestic threats.
Rapid geopolitical and geostrategic changes are dominating the international arena. The Middle East is trapped in conflict and strife, from the emergence of the Islamic State, to the unrest in Yemen. Additionally the reservations of the US vis-à-vis China, and the impending Iran nuclear deal, are all factors that directly impact the security as well as the socio-economic policies of Pakistan.
Regionally, the struggle in Afghanistan for stability is facing new challenges in the wake of the official conclusion of the US-NATO mission. Furthermore, the infiltration of the militants of ‘Islamic State’ in the neighbouring country has also raised concerns in Pakistan. Then the race for dominance in the Indian Ocean comes into play; it is being crowded with regional as well as extra-regional forces. China is also steadily making its presence felt as a great power, clashing with India’s aspirations to achieve major power status in the region. All these factors have culminated in the heightening threat perception in the region, thereby compelling countries to increase their military budgets. This year only, India’s military budget, after an increase of 11 percent stands at $40 billion, and China has increased its defence budget for 2015-16 by 10.1 percent.
Given the recent string of hawkish statements by high profile Indian officials, the rise in the Indian defense budget is particularly worrisome. The BJP government’s election manifesto elucidates a commitment to indigenize the development of defence technologies by encouraging domestic industry to have a larger share in design and production of military hardware, both for domestic use and exports. According to reports, over the next decade India is expected to spend $100 billion on its defense upgrade program. Furthermore, in August 2014, the Modi government, working on the program of military modernization, increased the stakes that foreign defense contractors were allowed to hold in joint defense ventures from 26 percent to 49 percent. In light of the contentious history and strained relations between Pakistan and India, these actions add to the heightening regional threat perception and exert pressure on Pakistan’s defense compulsions.
At the domestic front, Pakistan has been and in fact still is faced with various monumental challenges. Militancy, extremism, and terrorism have wreaked havoc inside the country over the last decade. Federally Administered Tribal Areas and the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province have been the worst affected, where external involvement and precarious border conditions have further adversely affected the internal security situation of Pakistan. While, the Operation Zarb-e-Azb, has improved domestic conditions rapidly, significant challenges continue to threaten the peace and stability of Pakistan.
In short, the US drawdown and the new civilian government in Afghanistan, India’s hawkish posturing and unveiled attempts to sabotage Pakistan’s interests in the regionvia a policy of encirclement, all these challenges stand face first for Pakistan. Additionally, the ever-increasing demands of the Zarb-e-Azb campaign and the fight against extremism and counter-insurgency compel the country to increase its defence budget.
According to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), in 2014 the world’s military expenditure totalled $1.8 trillion dollars. Where the US military spending fell by 6.5 percent, the military expenditure in Asia rose by 5 percent, standing at a staggering total of $439 billion. These figures highlight the trend of power politics gaining momentum in the region and the pressure and compulsions they create for Pakistan’s defence spending.
The threats emanating from the eastern and western borders are real and in order to maintain the stability and security of the country, a robust defence budget is imperative. In the coming days, this expenditure is likely to focus on the modernization of equipment, capacity-building and increasing the strength of the armed forces. The continuous engagement of them in the war against terrorism also requires logistical support. Pakistan has always been reluctant to engage in any arms race, but strategic constraints such as those described in this article do not leave it with many alternatives.
The progress of any country is rooted in its economic prosperity, which cannot be attained without the basic precepts for stability – peace and security. There should be no doubt that Pakistan would go to any length to secure and maintain its national interests, and the role of its armed forces in guaranteeing this peace and security is paramount. Given the vast scope of this role, the new defence budget is more than justified, and the entire nation shall stand as one behind it and with our forces.
Same version of the article appeared in The Nation
By Senator Sehar Kamran (TI)
Jun 17, 2015
“We fought for Bangladesh’s ‘swabhimaan’ (honor)… alongside Mukti Jodhas (Mukti Bahani)… for Bangladesh.”
–Narindra Modi, Indian Prime Minister
Address at the University of Dhaka 7th June 2015
Once again, in the contentious history of the post-colonial subcontinent, has an Indian Premiere unabashedly admitted to interfering in the affairs of Pakistan. From Indira Gandhi’s boast, “We have taken the revenge of a thousand years […] we have drowned the two-nation theory in the Bay of Bengal”, to Modi’s dramatic proclamation, there is simply no room for doubt about India’s consistent and covert involvement, leading to the disintegration of Pakistan.
The remarks are part of a series of controversial comments pouring in from India since the launch of the CPEC project, which has India on pins and needles, and have stirred up a storm in political circles on both sides of the border.
The controversial raillery began with the statement by the Indian Defense Minister, “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? Kaante se kaanta nikalta hai (You remove a thorn with a thorn).” Parrikar’s remarks came in the wake of the open denunciation of Indian intelligence involvement in terrorist activities inside the country at a time when it is deeply committed to the war against violent extremism. Pakistan’s officials, including the PM’s Advisor on National Security and Foreign Affairs, Sartaj Aziz, as well as – and perhaps for the first time in such a categorical manner – the Corps Commanders Conference in early May, have openly castigated RAW activities in Pakistan.
Mr Parrikar’s statement acquires an especially aggressive character when it is viewed in the context of the series of allegations that have come from India in recent weeks. In a speech February 2014, the now National Security Advisor, Ajit Doval, referred to using a ‘terrorism strategy’ against Pakistan, where India ‘buys’ terrorist elements to be used against the latter as part of its defensive-offence strategy.
Since then, the stream of accusations has escalated, clearly illustrating the Indian strategy of proactive aggression towards Pakistan. Doval’s statement was followed by that of the Indian Defence Minister, after which the National Security Advisor once again made headlines for complacently stating that India shares a 106-km-long non-contagious border with Afghanistan – insinuating that the area of Gilgit-Baltistan was legally a part on India and occupied by Pakistan illegally, during his Rustamji Memorial Lecture on ‘Challenges of Securing Our Borders’.
The verbal onslaught does not stop there. Speaking at a security conference in Singapore, the Indian Minister of State for Defence, Rao Inderjit Singh, alleged the Islamic State (formerly known as the Islamic State of Iraq and Sryia) militants could very likely ‘buy a nuclear weapon’ from its contacts in Pakistan. The Indian External Affairs Minister, Sushma Swaraj, also added her two-penny bit during a press conference on June 1st, where she stated there were no plans to engage with Pakistan, as ‘talks cannot be held in the shadow of violence and terrorism’.
Controversy raised its ugly head again during the Indian PM’s recent visit to China, where he raised the issue of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) “very strongly” and termed the project “unacceptable”. It is also noteworthy that following the announcement of the CPEC, the Indian government summoned the Chinese envoy to be appraised of details and express their disapproval. The Indian envoy in Beijing also raised the issue.
Furthermore, during Narendra Modi’s visit to Bangladesh, in his address to Dhaka University, he once again blamed Pakistan for spreading terrorism in India. This strategically aggressive and provocative posture that has recently been taken up by India appears to have peaked with the statement by Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore, the Junior Minister for Information and Broadcasting on June 10th, where he categorically stated that based on intelligence: “We will carry out surgical strikes at the place and time of our own choosing.”
It is evident that India has resorted to a systematic campaign of defamation and provocation towards Pakistan – a campaign that has gained momentum since the announcement of the CPEC, as well as Chinese support for engagement with Pakistan on the NSG membership issue. Such statements are a blatant attempt to not only destabilize the precarious strategic balance of the region, but to hold Pakistan back from progress and development.
And yet, as is often the case when it comes to relations between these two neighbors, proactive Indian aggression is overshadowed anew in international media by the Indian-sponsored propaganda against Pakistan, perpetually characterizing Pakistan as the ‘black sheep’ of South Asia.
Unlike the baseless smear campaign by India, the allegations of Indian intelligence involvement in aiding terrorism and its perpetrators in Pakistan are founded in fact, and have even been owned by various officials in India time and again. The current Indian aggressive posture becomes even more hypocritical in light of the nuclear deals between India and the US, and more recently India and Canada.
The Sharm-el-Sheikh joint statement in July 2009, for example, saw the Indian premier admitting to Indian interference and role in inciting terrorism in Pakistan, particularly in Baluchistan. Similarly, an India Today report published in September 2013, revealed that Technical Support Division (TDS) had spent crores of rupees to carry out covert operations to finance bombings and secession movements in the neighboring countries (including Pakistan). Then in April 2010, a serving Indian Army officer, Lieutenant Colonel Shrikant Prasad Purohit, was discovered to be an active member of the Hindutva brigade of the extremist group Abhinav Bharat, responsible for the bombings on Pakistan-bound Samjhota Express.
Ironically, despite the Pakistan-bashing, the majority of terrorist incidents inside India have been committed by their own extremist organizations. Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) Chief, Swami Aseemanand, confessed during investigation that he, along with other Hindu activists, was involved in the Malegon, Samjhota Express, Ajmer and Mecca Masjid bombings.
The geo-political scenario that is developing as a result of the Indian arms build-up and provocative demeanor is a blatant attempt to overthrow the precarious strategic balance of the region. Sanity can only prevail if the Indian aggression is approached with calm and dignity. Pakistan cannot and will not stand for any breach of its sovereignty in any shape of form, but we must refuse to get sucked into the spiral of malicious designs that hope to see a weakened Pakistan.
Article Originally Published at: The Nation
By Senator Sehar Kamran (TI)
Jun 10, 2015
The ever-present mot in the rumormongers’ eye, Pakistan’s nuclear weapons program has made it to the headlines again. This time the country is allegedly at the brink of proliferating nuclear weapons to Saudi Arabia. This particular sensational story was broken by the Sunday Times, and quoted, very handily, unnamed Saudi officials – unsurprisingly such unnamed sources and officials are always readily available when it is Pakistan’s nuclear weapons program in the line of fire. This is nothing but old wine in new bottles. The story has been regurgitated in local and international media quite frequently, despite no actual evidence. In attempting to write on the issue one wonders twice whether it even demands the serious attention or time required for the dismissal such superfluous alarms.
Although concerns about possible nuclear dominos falling in Middle East have some veracity, the scenario isn’t new. The current fears in this regard have conflagrated in the wake of the success of P-5+1 and Iran’s negotiated framework agreement over a possible deal, curtailing Iran’s capability for building a bomb while retaining, at the same time, the capability for peaceful uses of nuclear energy. In this regard, Saudi Arabia seriously doubts the veracity of US claims that an agreement could effectively halt Iranian ambitions for building a bomb. These fears and doubts have translated into serious, proactive thought for exploring a nuclear option that entails the enrichment and reprocessing technologies in the Kingdom itself. These fears have also led the KSA to decline participation in the Camp David Summit convened by the US, alongside its Gulf States partners, all of whom have spurned US assurances for an enhanced cooperation.
The myth that Pakistan is the most likely supplier for such Saudi ambition to acquire a bomb is only predictable. The recent story in Sunday Times even goes so far as to quote yet more anonymous officials – this time from the US – claiming that KSA would get a nuclear bomb “off the shelf”. However, is there any physical evidence to substantiate this allegation? Of course not!
Let us then humor the dubious claim, and re-examine the assertion from a logical perspective. Pakistan, as a nuclear weapon state outside the NPT, has had a hard time in establishing its non-proliferation credentials after the infamous AQ Khan Proliferation episode. An explicit Command and Control Structure headed by the National Command Authority was also specifically instituted to oversee the nuclear program and ensure there was no space for another such episode. To date, no other nuclear weapons state has made such a transparent arrangement. In order to rule out inadvertent nuclear use or transfer of sensitive knowledge or technology, the 10-member politico-military body of NCA makes collective decision making related to the strategic issues.
As a responsible nuclear weapons state, Pakistan has contributed significantly to international efforts to control the proliferation of nuclear weapons and other weapons of mass destruction. At the national level, it has instituted a strong export control regime and developed a Strategic Export Control Division under the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, which acts as a licensing authority and is responsible for regulating exports of dual use or sensitive technologies. Furthermore, the country reports submitted by Pakistan in compliance with the UNSCR 1540 are greatly commended for their correctness and completeness. Although a non-member of the export control regimes such as the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG), Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR), Wassenaar Arrangement (WA), and Australian Group (AG), it abides by their guidelines on a voluntary basis. Furthermore, Pakistan has also expressed its desire to obtain membership of these voluntary arrangements.
As per policy prescription, Pakistan has always promoted nuclear nonproliferation norms, with the recent Iranian nuclear crisis being a relevant example. Pakistan maintained that Iran should comply with its nonproliferation obligations in the NPT; Saudi Arabia’s case would be no different.
In signing the Indo-US deal, the US rewarded India for its so-called “good non-proliferation credentials” subjectively, thereby legitimizing its strategic programme outside safeguards. Pakistan has been advocating a legitimate case for access to nuclear technology for civilian use, particularly given its ever-increasing energy requirement-production gap. In such a scenario, it is difficult to fathom what benefits could be accrued by proliferating weapons, when it would seriously undermine Pakistan’s strategic, economic and political interests.
To evade doubts of insiders proliferating nuclear knowledge for lucrative purposes, various strong mechanisms were put in place. Let us be very clear that the Personnel Reliability Program (PRP) and Human Reliability Program (HRP) are robust mechanisms that ensure periodic screening and monitoring of all personnel, during inductions as well as in active service. The programmes include intrusive systems of reporting, approvals and constant monitoring of all movements of key personnel in possession of sensitive knowledge.
Pakistan has nothing to gain from proliferation to Saudi Arabia or any other country for that matter; such a move would only bring a lot of international censure and result in alienation. Moreover, Pakistan has been advocating its case as an energy-deficient country, for access to nuclear technology for peaceful uses through the NSG, which is faced with several roadblocks as is. Pakistan’s reputation as a responsible nuclear weapons state would be seriously damaged, and chances of progress on this front would become jeopardized. It will also have to face serious sanctions in addition to international isolationism, which will seriously undermine its national counter-terrorism campaigns as well as multiply political and socio-economic difficulties.
The truth of the matter is that such articles appear to be part of the campaign against Pakistan’s nuclear weapons, churned out time and again by a malicious propaganda machine at maligning the country’s reputation as a responsible nuclear weapon state. Pakistan, as a nuclear weapons state, has oft suffered the brunt of sins that at times were not even committed by it. Despite the ‘original sin’ of proliferation (the 1974 nuclear test) having been committed by India, the brunt was borne by Pakistan in shape of the French and Canadians withdrawing their cooperation in 1970s from the plutonium reprocessing plant as well as from the Karachi Nuclear Power Plant (KANUPP) respectively.
Finally, Pakistan tested nuclear weapons at a time when the world was bent on denying their necessity and Pakistan’s legitimate security needs; they were positively dismayed to learn Pakistan would retain this capability for its self-defence. Just like the first American nuclear test, Trinity, is not generally associated with a ‘Christian’ Bomb, and India’s Smiling Buddha Test is not a ‘Vegetarian Bomb’, the ‘Pakistani’ bomb is by no means an ‘Islamic’ one.
This Article originaly appeared in The Nation, May 29, 2015
By Tahir Ahmad
May 20, 2015
The execution of political dissent in Egyptian politics is not an unusual occurrence; in fact it is a common incident in what are considered ‘closed’ societies and dictatorial regimes. In Mohamed Morsi’s trial however, there are certain factors which can be considered responsible for this verdict that may even lead to his execution. These include his political background, the internal dynamics of Egyptian politics and the external factors. Furthermore, while some of the immediate charges leveled against him during his trial are separate from the policies that led to his political isolation, they are nonetheless closely connected with his trial.
Morsi hails from the Muslim Brotherhood (MB), an organization which was banned after the assassination of Anwer Sadat. Since then, the pre-election arrest of MB members has become a matter of routine. The MB agenda is known to be crowned by the desire to impose Islamic-based governance in the country, which places it at odds with military regime. The MB also opposes the friendly foreign policy of Egypt towards Israel and the United States. Thus it was expected that the once/if the MB came to power, civil-military relations would worsen.
The government of Egypt should seek a political resolution, as confrontation ensuing from a political execution will bring further instability to the state, as well as dilute the strength of the armed forces.
On assuming power, Morsi initiated measures for reducing the powers of the armed forces; he removed several military officers from key administrative positions, and introduced civilian oversight of the finances as well as procurement related matters – a move that infuriated the entire military establishment of the country. At this point, the military simply needed a feasible pretext on account of which Morsi could be unseated, and the military could regain its lost prestige since the fall of Mubarak.
Such a pretext was provided by the rift that occurred between Morsi and his coalition partners over power-sharing and constitutional amendments. In the parliamentary elections, the Freedom and Justice Party (FJP is a political extension of the banned MB, led by Morsi) and the Salafist Al-Nour party came to the fore as the majority parties, both in the Shura Council and the Lower House. Other parties sitting on the opposition benches won only eight percent of the parliamentary seats. The rift between the two parties occurred due to matters related to
ministerial positions. Al-Nour accused Mosri and the MB of failing to fulfill their promise related to ministerial positions for its members. Furthermore, the chief of the Al-Nour party, Younis Makhyoun, threatened to reveal a report that would expose Morsi’s policies of “Ikhwanisation” – a strategy that, according to him, was based on the appointment of 13 MB members as governors and thousands of others in key positions. In the opposition, the National Salvation Front (NSF) was against the text of the Constitution, which it claimed had certain controversial clauses regarding the powers of the President and Islamic law. The Al-Nour party was against the removal of the clauses related to Islamic law, but held similar opinions regarding the powers of the president. This rift among the political parties left Morsi politically isolated at the domestic front; an isolation which was further reinforced by the international factors.
Internationally, the steps taken by Mohamed Morsi were viewed with confusion in the United States and the Gulf Countries, who had traditionally maintained close ties with Egyptian Army. Morsi’s relations with the Gulf States were based around two factors: the relations of the coalition partner, the Salafist Al-Nour party and Morsi’s relations with Iran. The weakening relations with his coalition partner and his visit to Iran were viewed as an attempt to seek alternatives to the previous policies of Egypt under Mubarak.
The other international factor was the role of the United States, which has always been deeply concerned with the security of Israel, and thus maintained close relations with Egypt. The rise of Morsi however, saw these close relations deteriorate, as the MB was against the clientele relationship of the Egyptian Army with the United States.
The Subsequent Vortex
In addition to the internal as well as international isolation, Morsi’s downfall can be traced to one essential factor; the state-society relations under his regime. Although Morsi had popular legitimacy to begin with, he did not initiate policies which could strengthen his position against the military establishment. His predecessor, Hosni Mubarak had centralized powers in the hands of the few, and policies based on privatization, liberalization, and tourism had disillusioned the workers who, over the years, took to the streets in mass protests. Mubarak had dispossessed the people of their political liberties and civil freedom which forced the Egyptian working class, constituting the majority of population, to overthrow his regime. It is noteworthy that Morsi focused only on the agenda of the MB, and ignored other areas which were the among the root causes of the revolution. Thus, he distanced himself from the masses and became increasingly unpopular.
Taking advantage of this situation, the military staged a demonstration against Morsi with the help of the opposition parties. Morsi’s coalition partners remained neutral, which is considered by the greater part of the population to be the result of a tacit agreement between them and the establishment. As a consequence of the mass protests, staged or otherwise, the military was presented with the opportunity it sought, and a ready-made pretext to unseat Morsi and charge him with different crimes, including cases of espionage, jail break and abetment in murder.
The recent verdict by military-backed courts is certain to bring protests from the members of the Muslim Brotherhood as well as people from civil society. It will be difficult for the Sisi regime to gain popularity as the political and civil segments of society will be reminded of past experiences, which may put them at odds with the military regime. This situation is further complicated by challenges like the matter of the Coptic Christians in the Egypt, the threat of Islamic State, and the involvement of Egyptian forces against the Houthis in Yemen.
The matter of Coptic Christians and IS could potentially garner US support, and participation against Houthis in Yemen will invite the Saudi-led GCC in forging closer relations. This relationship can then be used by Gen Sisi to attract the political support of the Salafist Al-Nour Party. Against this backdrop the Army and Gen Sisi appear to be in a strong position against Morsi. Nonetheless, the priorities of the general populace, if effectively mobilized by the MB members, could trigger another lot of mass protests and violence.
The government of Egypt should seek a political resolution, as confrontation ensuing from a political execution will bring further instability to the state, as well as dilute the strength of the armed forces. A constitutional arrangement based on inclusion and plurality can best resolve the current political problems faced by Egypt. Moreover, the government should address the problems of the working class majority, which continue to persist and were in fact the primary cause of the revolution, and could resurface again in the form of mass protests and internal violence. For peace to prevail a political solution based on the aspirations of the common populace are vital, and necessary for returning political stability to Egypt.