Posts Tagged ‘Bajwa’

Pakistan Must Not Surrender to Mob Rule

November 17, 2018

AN inflammatory video filmed just after the Aasia Bibi verdict has received well over five million views. Therein you can watch the TLP leadership calling for the murder of the three Supreme Court judges who dismissed blasphemy charges against Aasia; hear that officers of the Pakistan Army should revolt against COAS Gen Qamar Bajwa; see the country’s prime minister being called a “yehudi bacha” (‘Jewish child’); and listen to the call for overthrowing the PTI government.

The orator is Pir Afzal Qadri, but next to him is the founder-leader of the Tehreek-i-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP), Khadim Husain Rizvi. Famed for his foul mouth and colourful Punjabi expletives, Rizvi does not speak here but periodically raises both hands in enthusiastic endorsement. Once an unknown small-time madressah operator, he rocketed into national prominence last November after paralysing Islamabad for three weeks. He draws his strength from heading khatm-i-nabuwat demonstrations across Pakistan.

By Pervez Hoodbhoy

Image result for Khadim Hussain Rizvi, photos,

The founder-leader of the Tehreek-i-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP), Khadim Husain Rizvi

Had a call for murder and mutiny been made by any other members of Pakistani society, unimaginable punishment would have been meted out. Similarly for other countries: in the United States instigators of bloody insurrection would be locked up for years; in Iran or Saudi Arabia they would be hanged or beheaded; and in China they would mysteriously disappear. And in India? Similar, I suppose.

A similar open call for murder and mutiny by other Pakistanis would meet extreme punishment.

But we in Pakistan are apparently nicer, kinder people. Our normally voluble, judiciary suddenly lost its voice. Unlike with errant politicians, the Supreme Court did not dock TLP leaders for contempt of court. The ever-vigilant ISPR also somehow missed hearing the call for mutiny against the army’s top leadership. Instead, it pleaded for “an amicable and peaceful resolution” of the Asia Bibi matter because it “does not want the army dragged into the matter”.

And the prime minister? Against the ‘enemies of the state’ his fighting words and body style initially drew wide approbation. Some liberals bravely termed this Imran’s finest hour. But the hour lasted an hour and no more; what started with a roar ended with a whimper. The TLP’s flaccid half-apology was accepted, ignoring the lives lost and property damaged by the rioters.

Imran Khan now wants to fight fire with fire. His current talking points are fulfilling ‘Allama Iqbal’s dream’, and remaking Pakistan as the seventh-century state of Medina. His information minister has just announced unprecedented celebrations of the Holy Prophet’s (PBUH) birthday next week, and a grand khatm-i-nabuwat conference in Islamabad. Invitees will include the imam of the Holy Ka’aba, the mufti of Syria, and various high clerics.

With these new battle plans, Imran hopes to take the wind out of the TLP’s sails by showing its followers and others that he loves the Holy Prophet even more than them. But will it work in the Aasia Bibi case? And will it also work once the next crisis starts (assuming the present one somehow ends)?

As mullah power rises, one cannot be too optimistic. Clerics now believe they can take on any politician or, if need be, generals as well. There is good reason for their confidence. After all was said and done, in 2007 Islamabad’s destroyed Lal Masjid — now grandly reconstructed — defeated the generals.

Consider that the insurrectionists lost about 150 students and other fighters, but head cleric Maulana Abdul Aziz lives more comfortably in 2018 than in 2007. No charges were ever levied against Aziz or others for killing 11 SSG commandos. Meanwhile, Gen Musharraf, the then army chief, glumly passes his days in Dubai. Among other charges, he is accused of quelling an armed insurrection against Pakistan and killing one of Lal Masjid’s ring leaders.

The state’s reluctance to confront clerical power makes its earlier promises ring hollow. Take, for instance, madressah reform. Forgotten is the anti-terrorism National Action Plan that called for financial audits of madressahs, uncovering funding sources, curriculum expansion and revision, and monitoring of activities. That’s a dead duck. Try auditing TLP-associated madressahs.

The security establishment must now ask itself hard questions: has its mainstreaming of religious extremism gone too far? Can extremists actually be moderated by bringing them into the political fold? On the political chessboard, was it a good move to try balance ‘hard’ Deobandi power with ‘soft’ Barelvi power?

Blowbacks do happen: whereas a year ago Imran Khan had cautiously welcomed Rizvi into the anti-Nawaz Sharif camp, others who wanted Nawaz defeated went a step further. They allowed themselves to be recorded on video while handing out Rs1,000 notes to the rioters. Politically, this is very embarrassing because Rizvi and his wild eyed boys have gone their own way.

Certainly, the TLP turned out to be a bad investment. Contrarily, there appears to be a good investment. The largely Deobandi LeT/JuD was encouraged to launch its own political party, the Milli Muslim League (MML). In August 2017, its debut in national politics via the Lahore NA-120 by-elections gained it the fourth position, a surprising show of strength for a new party. MML election posters denounced Nawaz Sharif as a traitor for seeking peace with India and carried aloft pictures of Hafiz Saeed.

Another apparent plus: LeT/JuD has threatened neither army nor government. Its spokesman explained away its low profile during last week’s violent protests saying that JuD has appealed against the Supreme Court decision to free Asia Bibi and would await the conclusion of the legal process before taking to the streets. What a relief!

Some parts of the establishment might see this good behaviour as vindicating its mainstreaming doctrine. But injecting religious leaders and ex-militants into the political mix is a bad idea. When large masses of people react unthinkingly to emotive slogans, everyone is endangered by an explosive, unstable configuration. Ultimately political leaders — and those who secretly engineer political outcomes — also become unsafe. Have we not suffered enough tragic blowback since Soviet times? Pakistan must firmly reject the rule of religiously charged mobs. Instead it should aspire towards becoming part of civilised, cosmopolitan world society. Surrender is not an option.

The writer teaches physics in Islamabad and Lahore

Published in Dawn, November 17th, 2018


Pakistan: Government Excused Tehreek-i-Labbaik Pakistan Protesters; But Now Wants To Arrest “Miscreants” Who Damaged Property

November 4, 2018

Government proposing a China-like collection of surveillance video to determine who to arrest…

A day after reaching an agreement with the Tehreek-i-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP) leadership for ending their sit-ins, the federal government on Saturday ordered a “crackdown” against “miscreants” involved in damaging public and private properties and vehicles during the protests.

The directives for action against the miscreants were issued by Minister of State for Interior Shehryar Afridi after he received a briefing from different agencies about the damage suffered by the government and people during the three-day protests by religio-political groups over the Oct 31 Supreme Court verdict acquitting Aasia Bibi of a blasphemy charge, says an official announcement.

Updated November 04, 2018
Cases to be registered after identification of culprits through video footage.— AP/File
Cases to be registered after identification of culprits through video footage.— AP/File

It says that cases will be registered against “all those miscreants who under the guise of peaceful protests caused destruction to property and harmed unarmed citizens”.

Through the statement, the ministry has welcomed the stance taken by the Ulema that they were not involved in any violence and some “miscreants” were involved in the destruction caused to properties. It says that efforts are being made to identify the miscreants with the help of video footage.

Cases to be registered after identification of culprits through video footage

“Cases will be registered and legal action will be taken against all the miscreant elements to be identified,” says the statement.

It further says that the Cybercrime Wing of the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) and the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) have been directed to monitor and investigate provocative material being circulated on social media to incite hate. The head of the Cybercrime Wing and the PTA chairman have been instructed to obtain “forensic data of the miscreants.”

Supporters of the Tehreek-e-Labaik Pakistan (TLP), a hardline religious political party, chant slogans during a protest on the blocked Faizabad bridge

“The interior ministry will initiate criminal proceedings against all those spreading extremist and hateful propaganda on social media,” it says.

The government took the decision to take action against the troublemakers amid criticism against it for striking a deal with the protesters in which there has been no mention of the damage caused to the properties of innocent people.

Similarly, the government is facing criticism for not taking any action against those leaders of the protest who had threatened the judges and used seditious language against state institutions.

Talking to Dawn, Federal Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry said it would be wrong to say that the government had surrendered before the protesters through the agreement.

Refusing to speak further on the matter, he said presently they were only doing firefighting and a prolonged strategy would be prepared to meet any such situation in the future and to establish the writ of the state in a more effective manner.

Earlier in the day, Minister of State for Communications Murad Saeed had said that the government had decided to take action against those miscreants who destroyed state property along motorways and highways during the protests.

He said that it was the “time to establish that calls for protest shouldn’t be taken as a licence to destruction”.

The minister said that videos and images of the protests over the apex court’s decision would be scrutinised to identify the perpetrators who caused damage to public property.

“The Constitution permits peaceful protests, but under no circumstances damaging public and private property under the garb of protests,” the minister remarked.

He said the property along national highways was damaged all over the country and now billions would have to be spent on repair works.

He said it was commendable that the protest leadership had distanced itself from those who created havoc in the garb of protests.

In Lahore, police have registered 11 FIRs in different police stations against 1,500 people under various charges, including terrorism. Similarly, Islamabad police have booked nearly 250 protesters for injuring policemen and damaging state property.

Sindh police have also reportedly decided to register cases against the organisers of sit-ins over charges of riots and damaging property on behalf of the state or on the complaint of aggrieved persons whose properties were damaged.

A police officer pointed out that Korangi police station has already registered a case on the complaint of the watchman of a factory in the area, as around 15 to 16 protesters tried to ‘forcibly’ shut the industrial unit and resorted to riots on Friday.

Inspector General of Sindh police Dr Syed Kaleem Imam on Saturday presided over a meeting at Central Police Office in Karachi where he was quoted to have said, “Whatever happened during the last five days… I feel great regret over it.”

Published in Dawn, November 4th, 2018


Pakistan’s PM Khan’s government “surrendered” to Islamists during blasphemy crisis — Is Pakistan ruled by Islamists?

November 3, 2018

Experts say that an agreement between the government and Islamists to bar a Christian woman recently acquitted in a blasphemy case from leaving the country shows that radical groups are more powerful than the state.

Supporters of the Tehreek-e-Labaik Pakistan (TLP), a hardline religious political party, chant slogans during a protest on the blocked Faizabad bridge

When Prime Minister Imran Khan, who took office in August, addressed the nation on October 31, the day when the top court accepted Asia Bibi’s appeal against her death sentence for alleged blasphemy, many observers hoped that the government would deal with agitating Islamists with an iron hand. Khan had warned the TLP not to mess with the state power. But the premier left for China the day after, and instead of taking stern action against TLP activists, his government surrendered to the group’s demands by sealing a controversial agreement with Islamists.

But for three days the Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan party (TLP) managed to paralyze Pakistan’s major cities, with its supporters blocking streets and highways and vandalizing private and public property. TLP leaders declared the Supreme Court judges who had acquitted Bibi infidels and urged their followers to assassinate them. The TLP had also called for a mutiny within the Pakistani military, with soldiers supportive of their Islamist narrative to oust General Qamar Javed Bajwa, the army chief.

Read more: Asia Bibi’s blasphemy verdict: Islamists protest across Pakistan

According to the agreement, the TLP will end the nationwide protest (which it has); the government will release arrested protesters without charge; the government will not block a review of Bibi’s acquittal in the Supreme Court, and most critically, will take measures to ban Bibi from leaving Pakistan. She and her family continue to receive death threats. Her lawyer, Saif-ul-Mulook, left for a European country Saturday morning, saying his life was under threat. Unconfirmed reports claim Mulook was heading to the UK.

“The government has promised to implement the agreement within 100 days. If it doesn’t do it, our activists will take to the streets again,” Pir Ejaz Shah, a TLP spokesman, told DW.

He denied claims that Pir Afzal Qadri, a senior TLP official, had apologized for criticizing the military. Instead, according to Shah the government officials apologized to them for hurting the sentiments of the Muslims through the Supreme Court acquittal verdict.

Read more: Asia Bibi’s husband tells DW he fears for wife’s safety

‘Historic ruling’

Bibi was arrested in June 2009, after her neighbors complained that she had made derogatory remarks about Islam’s Prophet Muhammad. A year later, Bibi was sentenced to death under the country’s strict blasphemy laws, despite strong opposition from national and international human rights groups.

Pakistan’s rights activists and civil society groups had lauded the top court’s judges for their bold decision to overturn Bibi’s death sentence.

“It is a historic ruling and will be helpful in promoting religious harmony,” Ayub Malik, an Islamabad-based political analyst, told DW after the October 31 ruling. “Bibi’s acquittal proves that most blasphemy cases in Pakistan are fabricated.”

“This is a landmark verdict. The judges and lawyers have demonstrated great courage,” Farzana Bari, an Islamabad-based rights activist, told DW.

“But the government’s real test starts now, as it faces a backlash from extremists,” Bari added.

State weakened

But the way PM Khan’s government “surrendered” to Islamists – and in such a short span of time – has left Pakistan’s liberals baffled and scared.

“The government’s writ has been weakened tremendously after it signed and agreement with the TLP. The move will further destabilize Pakistan and more groups like the TLP will now blackmail the state,” Ali K. Chishti, a Karachi-based security analyst, told DW.

Waqas Ahmed Goraya, a blogger and activist based in the Netherlands, who was detained by Pakistani security agencies in January 2017 and subsequently released, told DW that the state has completely “lost its writ” after the agreement.

“If TLP leader Khadim Rizvi declares himself a caliph tomorrow and bring his supporters to the street, how would the Pakistani state deal with him?” said Goraya.

“All state institutions tried to avoid confrontation with Islamist protesters. The surrender will make Islamists more powerful and more resilient,” he added.

 A poster bearing an image of Asia Bibi with the words 'Free Asia Bibi'Bibi was sentenced to death in 2010 under Pakistan’s strict blasphemy laws

Bibi’s future and Pakistan’s international isolation

Khalid Hameed Farooqi, a senior Pakistani journalist based in Brussels, says that while Bibi’s acquittal decision was hailed by European diplomatic circles, the government’s agreement with Islamists has damaged the country’s image.

“The Pakistani rulers must understand that such moves will increase their country’s international isolation. The deal has caused much harm,” Farooqi told DW.

The question remains whether Khan’s government will put Bibi on the Exit Control List (ECL) and bar her foreign departure.

Zahid Gishkori, an Islamabad-based journalist associated with Geo TV, believes the government is only buying time and will not ban Bibi from travelling abroad. “Only the top court or the government can put her name on the ECL. I think PM Khan won’t do that. Also, I don’t see the acquittal review stand in the court of law as it was a unanimous verdict by Supreme Court’s judges,” Gishkori told DW.

Analyst Chishti says Bibi’s future remains uncertain as “she is stuck in a friendly country’s embassy awaiting documentation.”

“The government-TLP agreement would not affect her departure. But it would make the lives of other blasphemy victims more difficult,” Chishti said. “The government has failed; it has once again surrendered to fanatics.”

Experts say Pakistan is heading toward more chaos, which is evident by the fact that a prominent religious leader, Maulana Sami Ul Haq, also known as “father of the Taliban,” was assassinated by unknown attackers on Friday.


Iranian FM in Pakistan to discuss issue of abducted border guards

October 31, 2018

Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif reached Pakistan on Tuesday night on an unscheduled trip to follow up on the issue of abducted border guards and discuss “certain regional developments”, according to diplomatic sources.

Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif. — Photo/File
Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif. — Photo/File

Mr Zarif, besides holding a meeting with Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi, is expected to call on Prime Minister Imran Khan and Chief of the Army Staff Gen Qamar Bajwa during his one-day trip.

Iranian Ambassador Mehdi Honardoost met FM Qureshi on Tuesday to discuss the hurriedly planned trip of Mr Zarif. Foreign Office spokesman Dr Mohammad Faisal tweeted: “Iranian Ambassador in Pakistan called on FM at MoFA today #pakiranbrotherhood.”

A diplomatic source said the efforts for recovery of the abducted guards are on the top of Mr Zarif’s agenda. About 12 Iranian border guards were kidnapped by militants a fortnight ago from a post in Mirjaveh region close to the border with Pakistan’s Balochistan province. Jaish al-Adl, a terrorist group operating in the region, had claimed responsibility for their kidnapping. Iranian leaders believe that the militants transferred the guards to Pakistan after taking them hostage.

Mr Zarif and Mr Qureshi had earlier spoken over the phone regarding the matter immediately after the incident. During the conversation on that occasion, he had requested the Pakistani government to enhance security along the border by increasing troops deployment and other measures.

The Iranian foreign minister had also urged the Pakistani authorities to act swiftly to recover the hostages and arrest the elements behind the terrorist incident in accordance with “the previous understandings” between the two countries.

Similarly Iran’s top military commander Maj Gen Mohammad Hossein Bagheri had also after the incident called Gen Bajwa to urge intensification of efforts for search and rescue of kidnapped Iranian border guards.

Meanwhile, a source said the visiting foreign minister was expected to additionally raise the issue of Israel’s growing contacts with Muslim countries in what is being seen as an attempt to encircle Iran. There have also been rumours of a private Israeli jet visiting Islamabad, which have been strongly denied by the government.

Published in Dawn, October 31st, 2018

Pakistan’s ISI never lets relations with India improve: Muhajir activist Nadeem Nusrat

September 29, 2018

Image may contain: one or more people and sunglasses

Chairman of Voice of Karachi (VOK) Nadeem Nusrat while talking to ANI said that the intelligence in Pakistan never lets relations between the two countries improve. (ANI)


By Nadeem Nusrat

(From May 2018)

The question of Pakistan’s constitutional makeup and power-sharing is once again coming under intense debate. Given the demographic imbalance and sharp ethnic differences that exist among the country’s four provinces, Pakistan badly needs a constitutional solution that can satisfy all ethnic and religious segments of society.

However, Pakistan’s Punjabi elites, who control Pakistan’s powerful military and the federal bureaucracy, have failed to even initiate a serious, academic and meaningful debate on this issue. With rapidly growing unrest, and even the feelings of separatism, in Karachi, Balochistan, KPK, Gilgit-Baltistan, Quetta and the northern parts of the country, and renewed calls from some quarters to declare Pakistan a “state sponsoring terrorism,” it is essential to find a constitutional solution that could provide a sense of belonging to all of Pakistan’s ethnic and religious.

I firmly believe in the notion that democracy and the principle of representation go hand in hand. Neither can function without the other. True representation is only possible under a genuine system of democracy — and the stability of democracy is dependent on how content a country’s ethnic and religious minorities are with their representation in power.

In the latter part of the 18th century, the British failed to assess the level of resentment among their subjects in North America over the issues of unjust taxation and their inability to challenge arbitrary British decisions. The British paid the price by losing their imperial control over North America.

The Founding Fathers of a newly liberated United States of America, on the other hand, were quick to learn from the mistakes of their former colonial masters and realized the importance of the principle of just representation. Those who undertook the task to draft the first U.S. Constitution went to great lengths to resolve issues relating to its framework and every state’s representation in the federal and state legislature.

Given the vast disparity between various states’ population size in the 1780s, it was not easy to find a solution that could equally satisfy all the states over the issue of their representation in the proposed federal legislature. The states with bigger populations wanted larger representation, causing fear among the smaller states of being perpetually subjugated — similar to the situation that Pakistan has been in since its inception. The American situation was dire and could have easily resulted in the disintegration of the newly established federation.

The Framers of the U.S. Constitution, however, resolved the brewing crisis through a series of compromises that afforded constitutional safeguards to all states, large and small, and ensured their due rights.

The American constitutional experience is a classic example of how democracy is not necessarily, as often presumed, the rule of majority. Majoritarianism may be a good rule to follow in homogeneous societies where an overwhelming majority shares a common ethnic, linguistic and religious background, but it is impractical and fraught with dangers in countries like Pakistan that have many ethnic groups competing for rights and power.

Pakistan’s problems may be acute, but the country is certainly not alone in this. In recent decades, a number of countries with diverse populations — Belgium, Netherlands, Austria, Lebanon, South Africa and Cyprus, to name a few — have faced the challenge of reconciling the wishes of majority groups with the ambitions of minorities. But unlike Pakistan, these countries have not allowed this problem to obstruct the nation-building process and instead have developed various forms of power-sharing. The most common system of governance employed by such countries is what Arend Lijphart, a Dutch-born American scholar, calls “consociational” democracy — or to use the less polysyllabic synonym described by Modern British History Professor Ian Talbot, power-sharing.

The fundamental argument for consociationalism is grounded in the assumption that democracy and majority rule may be incompatible under certain circumstances. The theory does not challenge prevailing democratic principles and instead focuses on societies where the population is divided along various lines. It argues that the seemingly innocuous application of majority rule in such conditions could lead to disastrous results — mainly due to the presence of influential minority groups who refuse to yield to majority rule. This is the case with Pakistan, in which a highly educated, industrialized and secular ethnic group known as Mohajirs, is being subjected to subjugation by the majority Punjabis.

The theory itself is fairly simple, and Arend Lijphart defines it in terms of four basic characteristics:

• Joint decision-making by a grand coalition government that represents all significant segments of an ethnically or religiously divided society;

• A high degree of decentralization and autonomy for the constituent communities;

• A rough proportionality in political representation and civil service appointments; and

• A mutual veto concerning the most vital and fundamental issues. The veto can be a formal rule and even be enshrined in the nation’s constitution, but it is usually the outgrowth of the unwritten rule that most decisions, and certainly the most important ones, require not only the participation of the representatives of all groups but also their consent.

A critical analysis of the above clearly suggests that the whole theory of consociationalism is characterized by a series of checks and balances — as enshrined in the U.S. Constitution — that remove the possibility of one group of population or one branch of government dominating the rest. By devolving power to the regional level, for instance, the system gives all groups sufficient autonomy to run their own affairs.

Similarly, by granting the power of veto in decision-making to all segments, the system effectively prevents any single group from imposing arbitrary decisions over others. This, in turn, effectively allays the minorities’ fear of living under perpetual majority domination. By incorporating proportional representation, consociational democracy ensures full demographic representation of all segments of society in the decision-making of the country.

Interestingly, this power-sharing system is not entirely new to Punjab, the region from where Pakistan’s military establishment comes from. In fact, it may come as a surprise to many that it was the Muslim political elite in pre-partition Punjab that was instrumental in introducing the power-sharing system that Arend Lijphart has recently interpreted as a classical form of consociational democracy.

In British Punjab, the just over 50 percent Muslim population, according to the majoritarian principle of democracy, had every right to form a provincial government on its own. However, the roughly 18 percent Sikhs and 30 percent Hindus were no less influential in Punjab. Thus, any government without these minorities’ representation would have led to disaster in the province.

Sir Fazl-i-Husain, arguably the most influential Muslim politician in the colonial setup until his death in 1936, was the first one to realize the peculiar religious makeup of Punjab and the perils of majority rule in the province. His brainchild, the Unionist Party of Punjab, may be criticized for its pro-British leanings; yet it would be an academic dishonesty not to credit the party for its amazing understanding of Punjab’s peculiar communal makeup and its attempts to establish an all-representative government rather than insisting on the Muslim majority’s right to rule.

In the mid-1940s, however, the Muslim League’s politics of “Muslim nationalism” brought an end to the Unionists’ consociationalism. When the League swept the 1946 elections and emerged as the single largest party in pre-partition Punjab, it was in a position, according to majoritarian rule, to demand the right to form its government in the province. But the problem was that the Muslim League, despite being the majority party, drew its support solely from Muslim electorates and was seen by non-Muslims as the representative of Muslim interests only.

The British, deeming majority rule inimical to such a religiously polarized region, denied the League the right to rule. Anyone interested in an analogy can recall the political stalemate of 1971 when the Awami League, the single largest party in Pakistan after the 1971 election, was denied the right to form the central government on the grounds that it lacked the mandate of the non-Bengalis. The ensuing crises were similar: Punjab was partitioned in 1947, and East Pakistan broke away in 1971.

The point to stress here is that majoritarianism is not the only form of democracy available, nor is its application viable in all circumstances. It may be best suited to homogeneous countries but certainly lacks the ability to serve pluralistic societies.

Pakistani lawmakers and politicians — and its Punjabi-dominated powerful military, in particular — must admit that Pakistan is not a homogeneous country. They have to be mindful of the fact that Pakistan is inhabited by people who have been ethnically and culturally distinguished from each other for many, many centuries. The creation of Bangladesh was not the first example to reveal how deep such divisions run, nor are the ongoing Mohajir, Baloch, and Pashtoon uprisings likely to be the last.

Pakistan’s religious minorities — Christians, Hindus, Ahmadis, Shiites, Agha Khanis- Bohris, etc. — fare no better in Pakistan. Hundreds of members belonging to these religious minorities have been killed in deadly attacks in recent years that were carried out by religious extremist groups, which, according to credible reports, enjoy the support from Pakistan’s “deep state.” They should also be considered stakeholders in the country’s decision-making at the national level and be considered equal citizens of Pakistan.

Religion and Pakistani nationalism may serve as a unifying force during external aggression and internal calamities, but in normal circumstances, the apprehensions and fears of the minorities will continue to hamper the country’s efforts to achieve national unity and political stability. All previous attempts by Pakistan’s Punjabi-dominated military establishment and media to inculcate political or national unity through artificial means have only complicated the issue. Continuing with such measures is only likely to aggravate the current predicament. What Pakistan now needs is a complete redesigning of its current internal geographical units, along with a new constitutional framework that could afford permanent legal safeguards to all ethnic and religious groups. Every citizen of Pakistan should be allowed to hold any important office, irrespective of ethnicity, religion sect or gender.

As is the case with almost all other theories, consociationalism has been subjected to some degree of criticism. But nothing has dampened its strength, as it still remains the only system that offers an effective, and democratic, way out of majoritarianism — the main source of restlessness among the Pakistan’s ethnic minorities. Pakistan’s political elite and scholars could explore the theory further and refine it as per Pakistan’s peculiar needs, but it is now established without a doubt that the current system will not be able to get Pakistan out of its current predicament. Consociationalism under the circumstances seems to be best way to make Pakistan a viable state.

• Author Nadeem Nusrat is chairman of The Voice of Karachi and South Asia Minority Alliance Foundation, Washington, D.C.-based advocacy groups that represent Pakistan and other South Asian countries’ ethnic and religious minorities.

What Imran Khan as Prime Minister means for the India-Pakistan relations

September 25, 2018

An Expert Explains why it may be futile to look for the ‘real’ Imran Khan — and why his being ‘on the same page of the same book’ with the Pakistan Army may be a double-edged sword.

By: Express News Service | New Delhi | Updated: September 25, 2018 12:12:38 pm

Tilak Devasher, who retired from a high post in the Cabinet Secretariat after having served in Pakistan, during the conversation in New Delhi with The Indian Express National Editor (North) Nirupama Subramanian on September 22. (Express Photo/Praveen Khanna)In the course of separate conversations in Mumbai and New Delhi, author and veteran Pakistan expert Tilak Devasher explained to The Indian Express’sNirupama Subramanian and a select group of the newspaper’s readers why it may be futile to look for the ‘real’ Imran Khan — and why his being ‘on the same page of the same book’ with the Pakistan Army may be a double-edged sword.

Devasher is a former bureaucrat who retired as Special Secretary in the Cabinet Secretariat, Government of India. Acknowledged as an expert on Pakistan, Devasher writes on developments in South Asia with a focus on Pakistan and Afghanistan. He is the author of Pakistan: Courting the Abyss and Pakistan: At the Helm.

READ | Pakistan’s ‘friendship’ offer to India should not be seen as weakness, says Imran Khan

On what Imran Khan stands for in his politics, whether he is a centrist, a liberal, or ‘Taliban’ Khan

I am not sure Imran Khan knows himself; he has come to mean many things to many people. But more than ideological labels, there are three things that are going to stand out in his tenure as Prime Minister.

First, his strong belief in an Islamic welfare state — according to him, Pakistan’s problems stem from the fact that it has been unable to devise a political system to implement the egalitarian, democratic, ethical principles of Islam, which include the rule of law, justice, compassion, and welfare. But given the sectarianism and radicalisation in Pakistan today, this seems like a very simplistic and ambitious idea.

Second, his fight against corruption. According to him, Pakistanis began to lose hope from the 1990s on, when the country was plunged into semi-anarchy, with corruption destroying every institution. He set up Tehreek-e-Insaf in 1996 to fight for justice, and it was his efforts that ultimately led to the dismissal of Nawaz Sharif as Prime Minister. But to come into power, Imran Khan has had to co-opt the so-called electables, the important people in the various districts, who come with the baggage of corruption. It’ll be interesting to see how far Imran Khan will go with his fight for justice.

The third obvious element is his personality — his determination, singleminded focus, and his belief that he can achieve things. In his first address, he said he had the power to do muqabla, he could fight over any issue and emerge successful. As a cricketer, he was dropped after his first Test [in June 1971], and the press used to call him Imran Can’t rather than Imran Khan. It took him a long time [until July 1974] to get back into the side, and the rest is history. Likewise with the Shaukat Khanum Hospital. People scoffed at him, saying you can’t set up a free cancer hospital, but he showed that he could. The same happened with the educational institution he set up in Mianwali. He has tremendous determination and will power. The flip side is that such a strong belief in yourself can also lead to arrogance, and to a feeling that he alone knows what needs to be done, he alone can achieve the impossible.

prime minister imran khan india pakistan tiesDevasher is the author of two books on Pakistan (Express Photo/Praveen Khanna)

On assorted jihadists and Islamic fundamentalists contesting the recent Pakistan elections

The major takeaway from this development is the mainstreaming of the jihadi elements who, despite having lost, are now mainstream political figures. This is a huge ideological change as far as the Lashkar-e-Taiba and Jamaat-ud-Dawa are concerned. After opposing western democracy and elections as “un-Islamic” for years, Hafiz Saeed has had a change of heart primarily to get his people mainstream, because of pressure from the Pakistan Army who themselves are under considerable [international] pressure [for their links to jihadists].

While a jihadist can theoretically be mainstreamed, mainstreaming jihadists without de-weaponisation, de-radicalisation, and re-education runs the risk of infecting mainstream religious parties or even mainstream political parties. None of these people who contested and have now become mainstream have been de-radicalised. Their rhetoric continues to be extreme, and you may soon find mainstream religious parties like the Jamaat-e-Islami or the Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam adopting hardline rhetoric to match the rhetoric of these people.

The rise of the Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan [which has won two seats in the Sindh Provincial Assembly] is a very significant development because it is the assertion of the Barelvis. In the ’70s and ’80s, the Barelvi Jamiat Ulema-e-Pakistan was strong, but the party went into decline because the Afghan jihad shifted the focus of attention to the Deobandis and the Ahl-e-Hadees. Now suddenly the Barelvis have come up again, and they have established themselves as the fifth largest party in terms of voteshare, they’ve won 2.2 million votes, and they’ve got more votes in the Punjab Assembly than the Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal. Does this mean the Establishment is now looking at the Barelvis instead of the Deobandis? We have to wait and see. But no extremism, be it of the Deobandi or the Salafi or the Barelvi kind, can be good.

Watch | How should India deal with Imran Khan’s Pakistan?

On Imran Khan being the Pakistan Establishment’s “selected Prime Minister”

In 2002, Imran Khan was in negotiations with Gen Pervez Musharraf, he was considering joining Musharraf, and had had a couple of secret meetings with him. But he backed out after realising that Musharraf’s cabinet would be full of corrupt people. The go-between, Maj Gen Ehtesham Zamir of the ISI, told him that the reality of Pakistan was that people voted for crooks. As Imran backed out, Musharraf warned him of the consequences of not joining the government, and sure enough, the PTI won only a single seat. This time around, Imran Khan realised that to be Prime Minister, he would have to do a deal with the Establishment. For the Army, the dilemma was that they did not want the PML(N) to return to power, and Asif Zardari was anathema because of his strong statements against the Army. Also, the PPP has no presence in Punjab, and no amount of engineering could have brought it victory there. Imran Khan was the only option, and he had the added advantage of the singleminded focus against Nawaz Sharif, which was what the Army wanted. But while Imran Khan brings to the table opposition to Nawaz Sharif, his victory has been arranged in such a manner that even though his is the largest party, even with independents and smaller parties, he has only a slender majority in the 342-member National Assembly. So, if at any time Imran Khan starts getting ideas that he is an awaami person, the Army can pull the rug from under his feet. They won’t at the moment, since he is their man. They will allow him the space to govern, especially on internal issues. I don’t see a problem for the next two years at least. But this possibility will always be there.
























On Imran Khan and the Army being “on the same page”

Not only are they on the same page, according to Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi, they are reading from the same book. [Minister for Information and Broadcasting] Fawad Chaudhry has said the key difference between Imran Khan’s government and the previous government is that [Army Chief] Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa and Imran share the same vision of prosperity of the region. While that’s a very positive thing, my caveat would be that if the same page, and if the book, points in the direction of normalisation of relations with India, it’s excellent, and we’ll come to know that very soon on the ground through levels of LoC firing and infiltration, etc. — but what if the same page, or the same book that they’re on, is not normalisation of relations with India? Earlier, when there was a difference between the civil government and the military, you always had the hope that a leader like Nawaz Sharif would try and have some talks, but now, if both are on the same page and that page is not conducive to normalisation, then we are where we were. So let’s hope that the same page they are on, is conducive to normalisation and of better relations with India…

READ | India arrogant and negative, says Imran Khan

On the report in The New York Times that the Pakistan Army is keen on some kind of engagement

Every Pak Army Chief, if you go back, whether Ashfaq Parvez Kayani or Raheel Sharif, has talked about having good, normal relations. That way, Bajwa saying the same thing is par for the course… The reason why Pakistan was doing this; that was the important thing — international isolation, the pressure of the US withholding $1 billion in aid in January and now $300 million just before [Secretary of State Mike] Pompeo’s visit, a precarious economy… My point would be that if the Pakistan Army was serious about wanting to talk, now that you have a civilian government which is on the same page, why not say so openly? It does not mean that it has to be a public announcement or a press release; there are so many channels through which this message can be conveyed, instead of leaving hints, signalling, subterfuge. If you want something, even through diplomatic channels, there are possibilities of doing it… The NYT article was clearly based on a deliberate leak. I think Pakistan needs to come up — maybe they are finding their feet, maybe they don’t want to come out too openly because of domestic pressures — so, maybe in the near future, you will see something more concrete. I think we should wait for that.

Former diplomat and Union Minister Mani Shankar Aiyar and other members of the audience engage with Tilak Devasher during the ‘Explained’ conversation in New Delhi last week (Express Photo/Praveen Khanna)

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Shah Mehmood Qureshi

On the possibility of India engaging separately with the Army and Pakistan’s civilian leaders

You can’t do that, because the Pakistan Army Chief has a unique position. He is not only head of the Army but also head of a political institution which has huge financial interests. And he can take decisions which the Indian Army Chief cannot take. So if you have somebody to talk to General Bajwa, you will probably require four or five officials from the Indian side to be able to talk to that one particular person. Now, if they are on the same page, the civilian government is there, you have Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi. The conversation should be at that level. It should be presumed that it is coming with the clearance of the Army. Which Nawaz Sharif couldn’t do; he was always looking over his shoulder at the Army. I think Imran Khan, in the first year or two, will have the confidence that he is backed by the Army — if they are on the same page or reading from the same book.

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General Bajwa

On whether shutting Pakistan out, stopping all engagement, is an option

It is neither feasible nor desirable, for the simple reason that you can’t escape geography. You have a difficult neighbour, you have to deal with the neighbour; you can’t get away from it. Number two, we are talking to Pakistan on a daily basis. We have a 100-plus mission in Islamabad; they have a 100-plus mission in New Delhi. Almost on a daily basis, whether it is prisoners, trade, visas, conversations are being held… You can’t isolate yourself from Pakistan, even though it is a difficult neighbour. Everybody knows that. I don’t think it is feasible, desirable to block yourself from Pakistan.

Devasher with Subramanian (Express Photo/Praveen Khanna)

On Imran Khan’s assertion that if India takes one step forward, Pakistan will take two, and what that one step by India could be

I am not sure what India can do in the environment that is there. If you look at the last four years or even before that, earlier there was a very strong back channel, and conversations were held over an extended period of time. Then when the NDA government came, invitations were made, all the SAARC leaders including Nawaz Sharif came. The Prime Minister went to Lahore. I don’t know what else India can do…

On whether the Prime Minister can go to the SAARC summit in Pakistan, revive SAARC

I am not very hopeful about SAARC being a relevant forum anymore. The point is that we need international forums where the two Prime Ministers can meet on the sidelines, without the glare of the media, and talk things over, like they have done earlier — on the sidelines of the Paris climate change talks, we saw that huddle between Nawaz Sharif and Prime Minister Modi. Certainly you need forums, but there are forums other than SAARC. I am sceptical because I don’t think there is anything left in SAARC. I somehow don’t see it being revived or being an effective platform, because SAARC always gets bogged down in Indo-Pak. There are certainly other forums — the UN is one, SCO is another, all kinds of conferences take place internationally . The important thing is to have a forum, a platform, where the ice can be broken.

Is new Pakistani PM Khan backtracking on China’s economic corridor?

September 19, 2018

China is reportedly irked by the new Pakistani government’s criticism of the multibillion-dollar China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) initiative in the South Asian country. But can Islamabad afford to offend Beijing?

Pakistani PM Imran Khan (picture-alliance/ZUMAPRESS/R. Sajid Hussain)

Pakistan’s army chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa arrived in Beijing on a three-day official visit on Sunday, days after a Pakistani minister raised concerns about China’s $57-billion China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) project.

Abdul Razak Dawood, Pakistan’s minister for commerce, industry and investment in Prime Minister Imran Khan’s government, last week suggested that all CPEC projects could be suspended until a review is completed.

“I think we should put everything on hold for a year, so we can get our act together,” Dawood told the Financial Times in an interview. “Perhaps we can stretch CPEC out over another five years or so.”

Dawood also criticized the previous government headed by Nawaz Sharif, who is now incarcerated on corruption allegations, for granting China “too favorable” terms on many projects.

Read more: ‘New Silk Road’ and China’s hegemonic ambitions

“Chinese companies received tax breaks, many breaks and have an undue advantage in Pakistan; this is one of the things we’re looking at because it’s not fair that Pakistani companies should be disadvantaged,” Dawood said.

Later, Dawood “clarified” to a local TV channel that his remarks about CPEC had been taken out of context.

In 2015, China announced CPEC, which is part of its intercontinental One Belt, One Road initiative, with an aim to expand its influence in Pakistan and across Central and South Asia, as well  as countering US and Indian influence in the region. CPEC also includes plans to create road, rail and oil pipeline links to improve connectivity between China and the Middle East.

As Pakistan is grappling with an acute economic crisis, experts say that CPEC has the potential to stimulate much-needed economic activity in the country.

Karte Map China Pakistan Economic Corridor

Reservations against CPEC

But Khan’s new government, which was inaugurated in August, has hinted that it would not give China a free hand over CPEC.

Dawood’s criticism of CPEC came soon after China’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi visited Islamabad. Officially, the two sides reaffirmed the mutual benefits of the Beijing-funded projects.

Pakistani media says the army chief’s Beijing visit could be aimed at allaying China’s concerns over PM Khan’s approach toward its economic projects.

“During the visit COAS (Chief of Army Staff) will interact with various Chinese leaders including his counterpart,” Major General Asif Ghafoor, the military spokesman, tweeted on Sunday.

General Bajwa is considered as the most powerful person in Pakistan, as analysts say the South Asian country’s military controls foreign and security policy matters and also has huge stakes in economy.

Khurrum Sher Zaman, an official belonging to Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI, Movement for Justice) party says the government is not opposed to CPEC.

“We have not taken a U-turn on CPEC. The finance ministry made some changes to the budget so that we can study and review some of the CPEC projects. But that does not mean that the government wants to scrap it. CPEC is crucial for Pakistan and its future,” Zaman told DW.

Read more: Can Afghanistan join China-Pakistan Economic Corridor?


It’s not just the ruling party that has reservations about CPEC; many other political groups, particularly those with support in smaller provinces of the country, are skeptical about China’s growing economic clout. Some analysts say that CPEC could turn Pakistan into China’s “economic colony.”

Read more: Gwadar – Pakistan’s impoverished colony or an economic hub?

“The commerce minister represents his country’s business community. He actually echoed the sentiments of Pakistani industrialists who are wary of China’s growing control on Pakistan’s economy,” Ayub Malik, an Islamabad-based analyst, told DW.

“Dawood’s statement has infuriated both China and the Pakistani military establishment. Army chief Bajwa’s visit to China was not pre-planned and it appears that he decided to visit Beijing to control the damage caused by the minister’s interview,” Malik added.

But Malik is of the view that China would not dwell on the controversy as its commercial and strategic stakes in Pakistan are too high.

“At the same time Pakistan cannot afford to offend Beijing as it badly needs financial aid. The US has cut Pakistan’s aid and China is probably the only reliable partner for the country,” Malik underlined.

Read more: US aid cut: Why Pakistan shouldn’t rely on China

Imran Khan and Mike PompeoUS Secretary of State Mike Pompeo held talks with Pakistani PM Khan in Islamabad earlier this month

US pressure?

Some analysts believe that by criticizing CPEC, the new government is also trying to send a signal to Washington that it does not intend to break ties with the US just to appease China.

Khan’s government urgently needs an International Monetary Fund (IMF) bailout to pay its debts, and the US, which has the biggest share in the IMF, has made it clear that it would not allow the West’s money to be used to repay China.

The South Asian nation’s economy has been in poor shape over the past several years. While its current account deficit jumped 43 percent to $18 billion ($15.4 billion) in the fiscal year that ended June 30, its fiscal deficit rose to 6.8 percent of GDP.

The country’s foreign exchange reserves, meanwhile, are dwindling, plummeting to just over $9 billion now from $16.4 billion in May 2017. The central bank has been forced to devalue the currency three times since December. Rising global crude prices present another challenge, as Pakistan imports about 80 percent of its oil needs.

Some analysts also say that the recent controversy about Atif Mian, a world renowned economist who was first appointed by Khan on his economic advisory board and was later sacked due to his Ahmedi faith [Pakistan declared Ahmedis non-Muslims in the 1970s] was a result of Mian’s anti-CPEC approach and closeness to the IMF.

“Mian’s appointment indicated that the ruling party was also against CPEC. It is likely that he was removed from his post not only because of the pressure exerted by Islamic clerics but also by Chinese authorities,” Ahsan Raza, a Lahore-based analyst, told DW.

Mushahid Ullah Khan, a former minster in Sharif’s government, says that Dawood would not have said anything against CPEC without PM Khan’s approval.

“The government has harmed Pakistan’s relations to China. CPEC’s future is in danger, but if they try to roll it back or delay it, our party will resist it,” former Sharif minister Khan, told DW.

Economic experts also say that the government’s decision to seek IMF money, and Washington’s approval in this regard, would help determine in the coming days which camp – the US or China – the new government deems more important for its survival.

Read more: Pakistani minister: ‘CPEC linked to civilian supremacy’

Additional reporting by Sattar Khan, DW’s Islamabad correspondent.

Pakistan: Military, ISI Important to Security But Economy Needs Immediate Attention

September 19, 2018

SECURITY briefings for a newly elected prime minister may not be unprecedented, but the excitement over Imran Khan’s intensive parleys at GHQ and the ISI headquarters certainly are. Our hyper-animated information minister described how proud the prime minister and the cabinet ministers were at the rare honour of meeting “the command of the world’s best army”.

He claimed that it was the first time in the country’s history that the civil and military leadership were on ‘one page’. True, it is critical for the civilian incumbent to build good relations with all stakeholders. But such hyperbole over an event that should have been treated as routine accentuates the existing imbalance between the two institutions of state. And optics do matter.

By Zahid Hussain

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Undoubtedly, there is much goodwill among the top brass for the government that had been missing in the past. There was a grudging acceptance of the two previous administrations led by the PPP and subsequently the PML-N. But constant friction over various policy issues made cohabitation extremely difficult. The clash with the military had contributed to the fall of Nawaz Sharif that ultimately boosted Imran Khan’s rise to power.

It is evident that the generals feel much more comfortable working with the new civilian dispensation that does not come with any past baggage. The grand reception for the prime minister and his team at GHQ proves the point. All that sounds good for the smooth working of the government. The euphoria in PTI ranks over the goodwill gesture is understandable. But, at the same time, it also demonstrates the party’s sense of insecurity and lack of self-confidence.

The government is focusing on the economic & political situation. Security & external matters are not its priority.

A fledgling administration certainly needs the establishment’s support that could provide it some breathing space. It is imperative for the military leadership to help stabilise the political and economic situation that also threatens its institutional interests. The fact is that the security establishment has gained greater space and there is no apparent reason for it to feel that it should rein in the current civilian administration.

There is no real challenge to the establishment’s predominance in the spheres of national security and foreign policy. Imran Khan government is more focused on firefighting on the economic and political fronts, and security and external matters are not a priority. With no vision and clear policy direction of its own, the government appears happy to accept the lead. Yet, it is too early to celebrate given the inherent problems in the power structure.

Any failure in improving governance, or the inability of the administration to prevent an economic slide, could widen the existing imbalance, allowing the military more space. It is a lesson to be learnt from the past. Such situations increase the security establishment’s assertiveness.

Contrary to perception, it was not the clash over foreign and national security policies that intensified the confrontation between Nawaz Sharif’s government and the military. It was essentially past baggage, discord on internal political matters, Sharif’s style of governance and the deteriorating economy that brought the situation to a head. Gen Musharraf’s treason trial and the media ‘leak’ besides other issues seemed to be the main reasons for moving against the former prime minister.

Sharif lost the game with the emergence of an assertive judiciary as an informal part of the power troika. Seen to be backed by the security establishment, the judiciary in the past year has become, perhaps, the most powerful player in the emerging power matrix. Many have observed that it has gone beyond judicial activism, and has extended its role to areas that come under executive domain. The elections and a democratic transition have not altered that power template. The PTI government may not yet feel pressure from the superior judiciary. But it is not a very comfortable situation for the new dispensation either.

In fact, it has not been a very promising beginning for the PTI-led coalition government composed of disparate political groups. It has yet to find direction with an inexperienced team at the helm. The situation is much more complex as the country faces multiple challenges, both internal and external. That surely demands greater cohesion and cooperation among the stakeholders.

It is true that the security apparatus is keen to prop up this government. Yet there is a limit to what this can deliver if the civilian government does not get its act together, leave behind its populist ways and focus on governance. It appears obvious that a weak civilian dispensation could give greater space to the other two institutions of state, thus widening the imbalance in the power structure. That could lead to conflict among these institutions hampering the democratic process as we have witnessed in the past. Power struggles are inherent in the system, but these must not be allowed to disrupt the political process.

Undoubtedly, civil-military relations have remained a major source of political and economic instability hampering the democratic process in the country. There is no denying that civilian supremacy is essential to a democratic dispensation. Indeed, there is a need to change the balance of power in favour of the elected dispensation.

But this cannot be accomplished without carrying out some fundamental reforms in the political system itself in order to make the executive and legislature more effective.

For civilian supremacy, it is essential that the government not only improve governance but also strengthen civilian and democratic institutions. True, the government has launched an ambitious reform agenda to strengthen the local government system and restructure the bureaucracy. They are certainly important steps, but the real issue is of the prime minister’s ability to implement those plans from a weak political base.

Unfortunately, both elected leaders and the security agencies have been responsible for undermining civilian institutions. Imran Khan must learn a lesson from the mistakes of past governments and focus more seriously on institution building. In order to strengthen democracy, he needs to develop a broader consensus among all political forces and with other institutions of state.

The writer is an author and journalist.

Twitter: @hidhussain

Published in Dawn, September 19th, 2018

China says military ties ‘backbone’ to relations with Pakistan

September 19, 2018

Military ties between China and Pakistan are the “backbone” of relations between the two countries, a senior Chinese general told Pakistan’s visiting army chief, days after a Pakistani minister stirred unease about Chinese Silk Road projects.

General Qamar Javed Bajwa is the most senior Pakistani figure to visit ally China since the new government of Prime Minister Imran Khan took office in August, and his trip comes a week or so after a senior Chinese diplomat visited Islamabad.

Pakistan has deepened ties with China in recent years as relations with the United States have frayed.

Image result for Bajwa, in China, photos

Bajwa may be hoping to smooth out any Chinese alarm at comments last week by Pakistan’s commerce minister, Abdul Razak Dawood, who suggested suspending for a year projects in the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, the Pakistan leg of China’s Belt and Road Initiative that includes recreating the old Silk Road trading route.

On Tuesday, Zhang Youxia, a deputy chairman of China’s powerful Central Military Commission which President Xi Jinping heads, reiterated to Bajwa that the two countries are “all weather” strategic cooperative partners.

“China-Pakistan military ties are an important backbone of relations between the two countries,” said Zhang according to a statement by China’s Defence Ministry late on Tuesday.

“The two militaries should further pay close attention to practical cooperation in all areas, keep raising the ability to deal with various security risks and challenges, and join hands to protect the common interests of both countries.”

However, Zhang cited Xi as saying that the Belt and Road initiative should be a benchmark for China-Pakistan ties.

He said China appreciated the new Pakistan government’s platform of fully promoting the relationship and that China was willing to work with the new government to push construction of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor.

Beijing has pledged to invest about $60 billion in Pakistan for infrastructure for the Belt and Road project.

Reporting by Ben Blanchard


Pakistan’s army chief Bajwa in China after ‘Silk Road’ tension

September 18, 2018

Pakistan’s army chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa began a three-day visit to China on Sunday, Pakistan’s military said, days after a Pakistani minister stirred unease about Chinese Silk Road projects in the South Asian nation.

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Pakistan’s Chief of Army Staff General Qamar Javed Bajwa with Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi. FILE photo

Bajwa is the most senior Pakistani figure to visit staunch ally China since the new government of Prime Minister Imran Khan took office in August, and his trip comes a week after China’s top diplomat visited Islamabad.

Pakistan has deepened ties with China in recent years as relations with the United States have frayed.

Bajwa may be hoping in Beijing to smooth out any Chinese alarm at comments last week by Pakistan’s commerce minister, Abdul Razak Dawood, who suggested suspending for a year projects in the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), the Pakistan leg of China’s Belt and Road Initiative that includes recreating the old Silk Road trading route.

Bajwa, the Chief of Army Staff (COAS), regularly holds meetings with world leaders due to the Pakistan armed forces’ outsize influence in the nuclear-armed nation, where the military controls security and dictates major foreign policy decisions.

“During the visit COAS will interact with various Chinese leaders including his counterpart,” Major General Asif Ghafoor, the military spokesman, tweeted late on Sunday.

Beijing has pledged to invest about $60 billion in Pakistan for infrastructure for the Belt and Road project.

Dawood, in an interview with the Financial Times, also suggested the CPEC contracts had been unfairly negotiated by the previous government and were too favorable to the Chinese. Later he said the comments were taken out of context, but did not dispute their veracity.

The critical comments were published just after China’s top diplomat, State Councillor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi, visited Pakistan and the two sides reaffirmed the mutual benefits of the Beijing-funded projects.

On Thursday, Pakistan’s government said it wanted CPEC to include more projects with a focus on socio-economic development, something which would align more with the populist agenda of Khan’s new administration.

Reporting by Drazen Jorgic; Editing by Susan Fenton