Wold News

By Senator Sehar Kamran (TI)
Feb 26, 2020

Pakistan is facing a myriad of challenges. Some of them are unavoidable while others are self-created. The recent increase in the price of everyday commodities, especially food items, has affected all segments of society. Lack of an economic vision along with policy dictation from the International Monetary Fund (IMF), poor governance, administrative inexperience, and official incompetence are some of the factors that have led to the spiraling cost of living in the country.

According to the data released by the Pakistan Bureau of Statistics, inflation jumped from 12.6 percent in December to 14.6 percent in January, scaling the highest level in the last 12 years. The PBS figures also suggest that inflation has hit the rural areas more than the urban ones because the majority of the country’s population resides in small towns and villages.

Economic experts have attributed the rising inflation to the IMF bailout package that was approved last year. It is no secret that the Fund has indirectly dictated Pakistan’s economic and fiscal policies for nearly a year now. The current government has been unable to strike a balance between IMF demands and the economic necessities of vulnerable social segments. Instead of mitigating the impact of food inflation on the marginalized, officials are taking cosmetic measures such as launching crackdowns against alleged hoarders. Over the years however, we have seen that such measures do not yield substantial results but only trigger panic and instability on the ground. In addition, the constant hikes in electricity and gas prices have not only directly contributed to the increase in inflation but has hit the common man the most in economic terms.

Incompetence accompanied by hubris is a recipe for disaster. The present government needs to realize that it cannot continue with its knee-jerk responses and myopic economic policies anymore

Sehar Kamran

According to the IMF, GDP growth is projected at 2.4 percent in the current fiscal year which constitutes a sharp decline from 5.8 percent in 2018. Similarly, the Fund has noted that there will be a rise in inflation and unemployment in the coming months. It predicted that unemployment will be 6.2 percent higher than in 2018 and 2019 when it stood at 6.1 percent.

Ever since the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf government assumed the country’s political power in August 2018, the economic condition has taken a turn for the worse. When the ruling party came into power, it promised to create 10 million jobs in five years. Instead of generating more employment opportunities, however, it has even threatened existing ones.

GDP growth has drastically decreased which has resulted in an economic slowdown and unemployment. Every sector of the economy is suffering due to the lack of proper policy and direction. Government officials claim that they have a plan, but their statements are not translating into anything substantial on the ground. The instability and confusion in the economic realm is growing with each passing day.

It is feared that before the official 2020 budget, a mini-budget will be unveiled owing to the Federal Board of Revenue’s tax collection shortfall of Rs. 387 billion in the first seven months of this fiscal year. Experts say the shortfall may reach Rs. 700 billion by June this year if there is no [mini] budget. To make matters worse, the position of FBR chairman is currently vacant. The indecision of the PTI government is hurting ordinary citizens. Some economists have predicted the worsening situation might push at least 1.8 million people into poverty during the present fiscal year.

Incompetence accompanied by hubris is a recipe for disaster. The present government needs to realize that it cannot continue with its knee-jerk responses and myopic policies anymore. The country’s economy is struggling, and things are only getting worse. The monetary terms being dictated by the IMF at the cost of the livelihood of ordinary Pakistanis are unacceptable because the poor cannot keep up with rising inflation. It is impacting their quality of life and will inevitably generate a massive socioeconomic backlash in the longer run.

The incumbent government cannot continue blaming previous administrations for its own inaction and lack of economic foresight. Unfortunately, the hesitation and delay in taking important decisions have already cost the country much. People are rightly getting impatient since the current situation is no longer sustainable.

*Sehar Kamran is teh President of the Centre for Pakistan and Gulf Studies (CPGS), she is a prominent politician, acadmeician and practitioner in the areas of regional, international defense and strategic studies. Twitter @SeharKamran

Same version of the article appeared in The Arab News

Same version of the article appeared in Seharkamran.com

background image

Yemen  became  the  worst  place  for  contagious  diseases  since  the  conflict  began  and  health  services

diminished. Lack of access to clean drinking water and sanitation led to the worst outbreak of cholera in

2017 which claimed life of thousands. Similarly, the population of Yemen is continuously falling victim to

other diseases. About half of the country’s health facilities have been shut down in the five years of

conflict.

19

Growing Health Insecurity in Yemen

Before the conflict erupted in 2014 Yemen was showing progress in education. Primary gross enrollment

ratio stood at 98.17% in 2013 (89.42% for females while 106.6% for males) before the violence erupted

10

.

The five years of conflict has reversed the progress and done further damage to education in Yemen.

11

Education Under Attack in Yemen

9

Total schools 

out of use

Damaged in war Closed down

Used for 

shelter

Out of school 

children

Risk of 

dropping out

 

Schools 

rehabilitated 

since 2015

66%

13

7%

15

27%

14

2,500

12

2

million

16

3.7

million

17

1,300

18

02

02

Al-Maydani hospital

02

Al Sabeen hospital

for motherhood

02

Al Dourayhmi

rural hospital

02

Military Hospital

Sanaa

02

02

02

Population in need of humanitarian assistance

24 million (about 80% of total 

 population)

20

Population with no access to clean water

19 million 70% approx.

21

and sanitation

Population with no access to adequate healthcare

19.7 million 70 % approx.

22

Victims of waterborne diseases and lack of sanitation

 1.2 million (58% are children)

23

Population dead due to cholera since 2017

2,500

24

Dialysis patients died since 2015

25%

25

Women and children suffering from

80,000

26

psychological problems

Civilians

paralyzed

  9,835 (800 children)

27

Statistics

In  war,  whoever  wins,  it  is  the  human  life  that  is  lost.  The  prolonged  conflict  in  Yemen  has  seen  a

staggering number of people killed and an even bigger number of people displaced.

Human Cost of Yemen Conflict

28

Death tollsince

2015

100,000

29

Internally displaced persons

3.3  million

30

Returnees

1

million

31

Direct civilian targeting attacks

4,900

32

Total civilian casualties from air raids since

2015

8,635

33

Civilian casualties from direct violence

12,000

(Saudi-led coalition responsible for

67% while Houthis responsible for 16%)

34

Civilian casualties through direct Saudi-led

8,000

coalition

(of which 67% came from airstrikes)

35

Civilian casualties from Houthis and allies

2,000

36

Civilian casualties in

2019

1,100

37

Total casualities in

2019

20,000

38

Most deaths and violence reported in

Taiz, Hodieda and Jawf

39

Number of Saudi-led coalition air raids since

2015

20,328

40

Number of conflict events since

2015

40,000

41

Deadliest year of war

2018

30,800 people killed

42

Number of conflict events in

2019

8,000

43

April was the month with most casualties in

2019

2,500

44

Elsewhere, condition of food security is no better than the rest of humanitarian needs in Yemen. Reports

coming out from Yemen reveal the gravity of issue. Blockade from the sea and continuous violence has

created food scarcity and data show the severity of it.

Food Security in Yemen

Children dead from
acute malnutrition

85,000

45

Children suffering from

acute malnutrition

360,000

46

Population vulnerable

to food insecurity

20

million

47

Population suffering from

extreme hunger

Population in need of

 nutrition assistance

7.4

million

49

10

million

48

People suffering from

acute malnutrition

3

 million

(2 million children and 1 million

 pregnant lactating women)

50

Indiscriminate bombing and airstrikes have become the trademark of Yemen

war for some time now. Excessive use of power and banned weapons are in flow

and regardless of allegiance, often civilians pay the price. Every now and then

non-combative vicinities are targeted by either side and the debate is eventually

brushed under the carpet. There have been some events of carnage that leti the

world in horror. Saudi-led coalition is largely blamed for carrying out attacks on

non-military targets as it has conducted more than 20,000 air raids since the

start of war.

51

 Only about one third of those raids hit the military targets.

52

Some

of the non-military targets can be enlisted as below.

Indiscriminate Attacks

Incident   

 

 

Date  

 

 

Casualties

Strikes on the city of Saada

April 6-May 11 (2015)

59 

killed

(including 14 women

 and 35 children)

53

Bombing of residential

July 24, 2015

65

 killed

compounds in Mokha

(including 10 children)

54

Airstrike on funeral in Sanaa

October 8, 2016

100 

killed and 500 injured

Attack on wedding in Al-Wahijah

April 23, 2018

131

   killed

   55

Strikes on fish market in Hodeida

August 2, 2018

30

 killed

56

School bus targeted in Saada

August 9, 2018

41

 killed (including

40 children)

         and

77

injured

57

Residential area in Sanaa

April 7, 2019

11

 killed 39 injured

58

Attack on market in Saada

July 29, 2019

13

 killed and 23 injured

59

Detention center bombed

September 1, 2019

60

 killed and 50 wounded

60

Market in al-Raqou, Saada

December 24, 2019

17

 killed

61

1\3

rd

20,000 air raids

 

 

 

HUMANITARIAN CRISIS IN

YEMEN

2015-2019

Yemen is stretched over 527,968 sq km with population of around 28 million. It is located in Middle East

and  has  border  with  Kingdom  of  Saudi  Arabia  in  the  North,  Red  Sea  in  the  West,  Gulf  of  Aden  and

Guardafui Channel in South, while has Arabian Sea and Oman in the East. Yemen is a low income agrarian

country with a little dependence on its oil and gas exports. Secretary General of United Nations António 

Guterres termed the crisis in Yemen as the worst man-made humanitarian crisis in the world2. Five years

of  war  and  armed  conflict  drastically  deteriorated  the  health,  education,  security,  food  security  and

infrastructure of Yemen. Every aspect of development and human development is marred by a never

ending cycle of violence.

Health facilities, medical and health workers and patients are protected by international humanitarian law

and constitute war crimes. Hence, attack on medical/health facilities is prohibited at all times. The Geneva

Convention of 1949 and the Additional Protocols of 1977 guarantee affirm the protection of both medical

facilities and medical workers.

Medical Facilities Targeted in Conflict

3

Number of

attacks on

medical facilities

Direct attacks on

medical facilities

Medical facilities

targeted in Houthi

controlled area

Medical facilities

targeted in Al-Qaeda

controlled area

01

 7

133

  4

129

   5

83

 6

Reportedly

16 medical facilities have been targeted more than once and at least three have been targeted

repeatedly

Number of Times a Medical Facility was Targeted 

                                                                             8

09

Al-Thawara hospital

02

Mareb hospital

02

Harad German

 hospital

05

Hays Al-Rifi hospital

04

22 Mayo hospital

03

Military hospital Taiz

03

Yemen International

Hospital

02

Republican hospital Taiz

Five years of conflict and pounding of bombs from sky and land dealt a mighty blow to the infrastructure

of Yemen. Yemen is the poorest country in Middle East and the damage to roads, bridges and buildings

has been estimated in billions of dollars.

Infrastructure Destroyed

Overall estimated damage to infrastructure

$3.29 billion

62

Total length of roads in Yemen

71,300 km

63

(including 6,200 km

paved roads)

Roads destroyed

5,000

km

64

Power sector assets (transmission lines

55%

65

and power stations etc.) damaged
Power sector assets (transmission lines and

8%

66

power stations etc.) completely destroyed

316

7,246

Factories

608

3,919

265

36

2,512

414,574

Destroyed Till 2018

67

620

Malls and

shopping centers

Commercial

buildings

Food trucks

Fuel stations

360

Fuel tankers

Transportation

vehicles

Mosques

917

Tourism sites

271

Sports facilities

112

Media facilities

Archeological sites

219

Airports

15

Seaports

14

Bridges and roads

Power stations

and generators

185

Telecommunication

towers

421

Government

buildings

1,797

Destroyed or

damaged homes

Yemen is largely an agrarian economy and therefore depends on it agriculture for availability of food and

employment. Around 65 percent of Yemen’s population belongs to rural areas.

70

 Similarly, about half the

population is dependent on animal husbandry and farming for livelihood. On the other hand attacks on

water  facilities  has  greatly  contributed  in  the  decline  of  country’s  agricultural  production.  Prolonged

conflict  has  severely  hampered  the  agrarian  production  and  hence  food  scarcity  has  hit  a  staggering

number of people and looms over the rest.

International Labour Organization survey stated that about two-thirds of displaced population was from

rural areas, hence a substantial decline followed in agricultural workforce and output.

71

Reconstruction Efforts till February 2019

68

Roads improved

   370 km

Farms built or improved

   4,000 hectares

Reconstruction Cost Estimates

69

 

Short term

   $28 billions

Long term

   $60 billions

Agricultural Disaster

Before the armed conflict erupted in Yemen, it was already the poorest country in Arab world and Middle

East. The conflict only made it worse. 47% population living in poverty prior to war has increased to 75%

in 2019. If the conflict does not end it will reach up to 79% in 2022 making Yemen the poorest country of

the world.

81

Suffering Economy of Yemen

GDP Annual Growth Rate (%)

82

Unemployment 

83

2014

2015

2016

2017

2018

2.4%

4.8%

-0.2%

-16.7%

-13.6%

2014

2014

2015

2015

2016

2016

2017

2017

2018

2018

13.47%

2014

2015

2016

2017

2018

14.02%

13.52%

13.18%

12.93%

Human Development Index Rating

154

84

 

160

85

 

168

86

 

178

87

 

177

88

 

Al-Shaheed Saif

Al-Sawadi hospital

Harad General

hospital

Al-Thawara hospital,

Sanaa

Al-Thawara hospital,

Hudaydah

3%

72

   

approx

2,963

73

 

295

74

75

76

Land arable in Yemen according to

UN Food and Agriculture Organization

General Farms targeted

Chicken and poultry farms

Farms targeted in first 18 months of war

180

75

Animal and poultry farms targeted in

first 18 months of war

Yemen’s dependence on importing

food at household level

70%

77

 

Water tanks, pumps and networks

727

78

 

Water reservoir in al-Nahdin district

Feb 07,

2016 

79

Marib dam

June 01, 

2015

80

http://data.un.org/en/iso/ye.html
https://www.un.org/sg/en/content/sg/speeches/2018-11-02/remarks-press-encounter-yemen
3 https://medical-facilities.yemeniarchive.org/
4 https://medical-facilities.yemeniarchive.org/
https://medical-facilities.yemeniarchive.org/
https://medical-facilities.yemeniarchive.org/
7  https://medical-facilities.yemeniarchive.org/
https://medical-facilities.yemeniarchive.org/
https://www.unicef.org/mena/media/1911/file/YMN-Report-2018.pd
10 http://uis.unesco.org/en/country/ye
11 https://www.ye.undp.org/content/dam/yemen/General/Docs/ImpactOfWarOnDevelopmentInYemen.pdf
12 https://www.ye.undp.org/content/dam/yemen/General/Docs/ImpactOfWarOnDevelopmentInYemen.pdf
13 https://www.unicef.org/mena/media/1911/file/YMN-Report-2018.pdf.pdf
14 https://www.unicef.org/mena/media/1911/file/YMN-Report-2018.pdf.pdf
15 https://www.unicef.org/mena/media/1911/file/YMN-Report-2018.pdf.pdf
16 https://www.unicef.org/mena/media/1911/file/YMN-Report-2018.pdf.pdf
17 https://www.unicef.org/press-releases/school-year-starts-yemen-2-million-children-are-out-school-and-another-37-million
18 https://www.unicef.org/press-releases/school-year-starts-yemen-2-million-children-are-out-school-and-another-37-million
19 https://news.un.org/en/story/2019/11/1051521
20 https://news.un.org/en/story/2019/02/1032811
21 https://news.un.org/en/story/2019/02/1032811
22 https://news.un.org/en/story/2019/02/1032811
23 https://www.projecthope.org/crisis-in-yemen/09/2019/
24 https://www.projecthope.org/crisis-in-yemen/09/2019/
25 https://www.icrc.org/en/document/yemen-hidden-cost-war-thousands-kidney-dialysis-patients-risk-death
26 https://www.presstv.com/Detail/2019/12/21/614231/80,000-suffer-from-persistent-trauma,-psychological-disorders:-Ministry
27 https://www.presstv.com/Detail/2019/12/21/614231/80,000-suffer-from-persistent-trauma,-psychological-disorders:-Ministry
28 https://www.acleddata.com/2019/10/31/press-release-over-100000-reported-killed-in-yemen-war/
29 https://www.acleddata.com/2019/10/31/press-release-over-100000-reported-killed-in-yemen-war/
30  http://reporting.unhcr.org/sites/default/files/UNHCR%20Yemen%20Fact%20sheet%20-%20January%202019.pdf
31 http://reporting.unhcr.org/sites/default/files/UNHCR%20Yemen%20Fact%20sheet%20-%20January%202019.pdf
32 https://www.acleddata.com/2019/10/31/press-release-over-100000-reported-killed-in-yemen-war/
33 https://www.yemendataproject.org/
34 https://www.acleddata.com/2019/10/31/press-release-over-100000-reported-killed-in-yemen-war/
35 https://www.acleddata.com/2019/10/31/press-release-over-100000-reported-killed-in-yemen-war/
36 
https://www.acleddata.com/2019/10/31/press-release-over-100000-reported-killed-in-yemen-war/
37 
https://www.acleddata.com/2019/10/31/press-release-over-100000-reported-killed-in-yemen-war/
38
 https://www.acleddata.com/2019/10/31/press-release-over-100000-reported-killed-in-yemen-war/
39
 https://www.acleddata.com/2019/10/31/press-release-over-100000-reported-killed-in-yemen-war/
40 
https://www.yemendataproject.org/
41  https://www.acleddata.com/2019/10/31/press-release-over-100000-reported-killed-in-yemen-war/
42  https://www.acleddata.com/2019/06/18/press-release-yemen-war-death-toll-exceeds-90000-according-to-new-acled-data-for-2015/
43  https://www.acleddata.com/2019/06/18/press-release-yemen-war-death-toll-exceeds-90000-according-to-new-acled-data-for-2015/
44  https://www.acleddata.com/2019/10/31/press-release-over-100000-reported-killed-in-yemen-war/
45  https://www.savethechildren.org/us/about-us/media-and-news/2018-press-releases/yemen-85000-children-may-have-died-from-starvation
46  https://www.unicef.org/emergencies/yemen-crisis
47  https://www.projecthope.org/crisis-in-yemen/09/2019/
48  https://www.projecthope.org/crisis-in-yemen/09/2019/
49  https://www.usaid.gov/yemen/fact-sheets/health-fact-sheet
50  https://www.projecthope.org/crisis-in-yemen/09/2019/
51 https://www.yemendataproject.org/
52 https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2019/oct/03/yemen-airstrikes-saudi-arabia-mbs-us
53 https://www.hrw.org/report/2015/06/30/targeting-saada/unlawful-coalition-airstrikes-saada-city-yemen
54 https://www.hrw.org/news/2015/07/27/yemen-coalition-strikes-residence-apparent-war-crime
55 https://www.theguardian.com/world/2015/sep/29/death-toll-from-airstrike-on-yemen-wedding-hits-131
56 https://www.dw.com/en/deadly-airstrikes-on-fish-market-in-yemens-hodeidah/a-44938814
57 https://www.aljazeera.com/programmes/specialseries/2018/12/yemen-saada-bus-bombing-181221224132671.html
58 https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2019/04/saudi-led-air-raids-kill-11-civilians-yemen-sanaa-190407201257046.html
59 https://www.reuters.com/article/us-yemen-security/attack-on-yemen-market-kills-more-than-10-warring-parties-trade-blame-idUSKCN1UO1SR
60 https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2019/09/houthis-saudi-led-coalition-bombs-yemen-prison-kills-dozens-190901075603392.html
61 https://www.presstv.com/Detail/2019/12/25/614560/Sa%E2%80%99ada-strike-flagrant-violation-of-international-human-rights-laws:-Yemeni-Ministry
62 https://en.irna.ir/news/83261327/Saudi-coalition-destroys-5-000-km-of-roads-in-Yemen
63 http://www.investinyemen.org/content.php?c=11&langid=2&pageid=3
64 https://en.irna.ir/news/83261327/Saudi-coalition-destroys-5-000-km-of-roads-in-Yemen
65 https://blogs.worldbank.org/energy/measuring-electricity-access-amidst-active-conflict-lessons-yemen
66 https://blogs.worldbank.org/energy/measuring-electricity-access-amidst-active-conflict-lessons-yemen
67 https://www.mintpressnews.com/yemen-war-destroyed/245935/
68 https://stories.undp.org/2c1cb95b37c6e2f69d1e39bd1f6cea22
69 https://aawsat.com/english/home/article/1716141/yemeni-minister-28-billion-needed-short-term-reconstruction-plans
70  https://tradingeconomics.com/yemen/rural-population-percent-of-total-population-wb-data.html
71 https://merip.org/2019/03/the-saudi-coalitions-food-war-on-yemen/
72 https://merip.org/2019/03/the-saudi-coalitions-food-war-on-yemen/
73 https://www.mintpressnews.com/yemen-war-destroyed/245935/
74 https://www.mintpressnews.com/yemen-war-destroyed/245935/
75 https://merip.org/2019/03/the-saudi-coalitions-food-war-on-yemen/
76 https://merip.org/2019/03/the-saudi-coalitions-food-war-on-yemen/
77 http://www.fao.org/3/CA3134EN/ca3134en.pdf
78 http://arwarights.org/unhrc
79 http://en.humanrightsagency.com/en/yemen-saudi-airstrike-kills-family-of-five-in-sana-report/
80  http://archive.almanar.com.lb/english/article.php?id=213277
81 https://www.undp.org/content/undp/en/home/news-centre/news/2019/Prolonged_conflict_would_make_Yemen_poorest_country_in_world_UNDP.html
82 https://www.worldeconomics.com/GrossDomesticProduct/Yemen.gdp
83 https://www.macrotrends.net/countries/YEM/yemen/unemployment-rate
84 https://www.undp.org/content/undp/en/home/presscenter/events/2014/july/HDR2014.html
85 http://hdr.undp.org/sites/default/files/2015_human_development_report.pdf
86 http://hdr.undp.org/sites/default/files/2016_human_development_report.pdf
87 https://countryeconomy.com/hdi
88 http://hdr.undp.org/sites/all/themes/hdr_theme/country-notes/YEM.pdf

References

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Commentary by Senator Sehar Kamran T.I.

Jan 22, 2020

 “Peace is the virtue of civilization; war is its crime”: -Victor Hugo 

The year 2020 started with a literal bang. Blazing fires across Australia and the US and Iran tensions, with the two countries almost at the brink of a war captured the news headlines across the globe, for the first half of January. The raging clouds of war seem to have simmered away, as of now, but the tension continues to linger in the Middle East. With every passing day, the uncertainty and confusion is gaining momentum, and the world is waiting with a bated breath to see where this heightened tension in the US-Iran relations is heading towards.

It is no secret that Iran has been under severe international pressure and sanctions, directly for the last two decades at least. Tensions in the US-Iran bilateral relations have been simmering since last year, when the US unilaterally abandoned the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) signed between Iran and the P5+1 in 2015 following over a decade long diplomatic endeavors, and imposed strict international sanctions against Iran which have crippled its economy.

The US drone attack which resulted in the assassination of Iranian General Qasem Soleimani, of the elite Quds Force, in Baghdad on 3rd January has not only amplified the strain in the already tense US-Iran relations but also depicted how fragile the regional peace is. What is more shocking is the fact that two attacks were planned on the day General Soleimani was killed. The other attack was targeted against Abdul Reza Shahlai, a senior Iranian Commander, in Yemen but it remained unsuccessful. These two simultaneous events jolted not only Iran but also the region and the whole world because it was seen by many as an intentional act of war.

In retaliation to the American drone strike, Iran fired 22 missiles targeting two American bases in Iraq. Initially the US President and Pentagon denied any injuries or deaths, the US military on 16th January stated that 11 of its soldiers were wounded, as a result of the retaliatory strikes by Iran.

Iran’s Defense Minister issued a statement on 17th January asking the US not try to test the Iranian people’s resolve because the missile attack on the US base was just a “warning” and “in self-defense,” and Iran was “prepared to give a powerful response to any adventurism.”

Following the Iranian attacks, President Trump in a live televised address to the nation threatened to “target 52 Iranian sites” including cultural centers, and announced more “punishing” economic sanctions against the country. However, the US officials later back-tracked and President Trump toned down the war rhetoric by tweeting “all is well”.

When it seemed that the war cries had slowed down, a Ukrainian commercial airliner in Tehran was accidently shot down by the Iranian military on 8th January consequently worsening the already tense situation. The passenger jet was carrying 176 persons on board who were all killed. Initially, Tehran denied the news and dubbed the allegations as a part of US’s “psychological operations” against Iran. However, on 11thJanuary, Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani tweeted that an Iranian internal investigation had found that the missiles had been fired due to human error, and described the missile attack on the plane as an “unintentional” and “unforgivable mistake”. Many observers viewed this statement as a step on part of Iran towards de-escalation in the tensions in the region. However, the situation continues to be tense and remains explosive warranting serious and meaningful diplomatic efforts. What cannot be denied is the fact that the 176 people who died in the air crash were the unwarranted victims of the US-Iran tensions.

Another factor that needs to be examined in this ‘heating of tensions’ scenario is the upcoming Presidential election in the US. It seems that President Trump intends making anti-Iran rhetoric as part of his campaign. Echoes of starting a new war are being heard in Washington, and as a result the US Congress led by Democrats, passed a resolution on 9th January, to curb President Donald Trump’s powers of waging war against Iran. Although it doesn’t carry the force of law, the measure calls for President Trump to stop use of military force against Iran within 30 days if he does not have congressional approval. On 11th January, 13 US lawmakers including Bernie Sanders and Kamala Harris, introduced a “No War against Iran Act”, which would deny the Pentagon of any funds for unauthorized use of military force against Iran.

However, there is one certainty that the proxy war in the Middle Eastern theatre is likely to intensify in the coming days especially in Iraq, Syria and Yemen. US’s Middle Eastern allies will be on high alert because there is a danger of Iranian backed militants’ attacks on strategic targets and US bases across the region. Due to retaliatory attacks, it will cause further chaos and instability in the region and the world.

Iran is Pakistan’s Western neighbour and the two countries share a 959 km long border. Though Pakistan has stated that it will not “take part in anyone else’s war”, and will stay neutral, but it is quite possible that in case of an armed conflict between Washington and Tehran, the country will be badly impacted. Pakistan cannot take sides in the war between its strategic partners including the US as well as its consistent Middle Eastern allies and its brotherly neighboring country, Iran. Moreover, Pakistan houses the second highest Shia population in the world. With fragile economy, burning domestic issues and societal divide, the country cannot afford to take sides in a conflict which can ignite a sectarian warfare inside its borders.

Furthermore, Islamabad is already engaged on its Eastern border with India and has tense Western border with Afghanistan, and it cannot get involved on another front. In addition, the country is already grappling with the menace of violent extremism and radicalism, another misadventure by global powers will only make matters worse, for the entire region. The region which is already in turmoil cannot afford to have another armed conflict.

In the light of these events, Pakistan’s Foreign Minister undertook a whirlwind tour of Iran, KSA, and the US to defuse tensions and discuss the Middle East crisis, but there is a limitation as to how much and how effective a role can Pakistan play to defuse the tensions in these crucial times.

In a statement and press talk Pakistan Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi has stressed on Islamabad’s commitment toward “security and stability” in South Asia as he met US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and held talks on various issues, including regional security and stability, the situation in Afghanistan and the Middle East. However, the recent tweet of US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo reads, “Enjoyed meeting with Pakistani Foreign Minister @SMQureshiPTI today. We discussed countering Iranian aggression, the Afghan peace process, trade ties, and regional stability”.

The Tweet message of Secretary Mike Pompeo has raised concerns and generated new debate in Pakistan on US’ anticipation about Pakistan’s role “countering Iranian aggression”. Moreover, it is sad that there is no mention of ‘Kashmir crisis’ in the Pompeo’s message.

People of Pakistan are not ready to face another crisis and accept a US “Do More” mantra. It is high time for Pakistan to focus on domestic issues, maintain internal stability, promote political and institutional harmony, evolve national unity and elicit public trust. At the same time, it is significant that the country stays away from regional quagmires which will only bring more problems.

The international community needs to play its role to avert any such misadventures by big powers which will destabilize the entire world. War is in nobody’s interest. The world is already burning. The world needs no reminders how devastating a war can be, and how it can hamper international peace and security. Humanity needs to come together and prevent another disaster in the making. Sanity must prevail, otherwise the fate of this world will be nothing but death and destruction.

The writer is the founder and Patron in Chief of a non-partisan think tank; the Centre for Pakistan and Gulf Studies (CPGS), she is a prominent politician, academician and practitioner in the areas of regional, international defense and strategic studies. She has served as an elected Member of the Upper House of Parliament of Islamic Republic of Pakistan from 2012-2018, until May 2019 she was the Member Senate of Pakistan Forum for Policy Research (SFPR). She has also remained the member of Senate committees on Defence, Foreign Affairs, Human Rights and the convener of the Pakistan-Saudi Parliamentary Friendship Group at the Senate of Pakistan. Twitter @SeharKamran

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