Posts Tagged ‘Bajwa’

Pakistan: CPEC has no military dimensions, Pakistan says

December 28, 2018
DR Mohammad Faisal says the foreign minister will soon visit Qatar as part of efforts for boosting ties with countries in the region.
DR Mohammad Faisal says the foreign minister will soon visit Qatar as part of efforts for boosting ties with countries in the region.

Mr Faisal said the CPEC was an economic project between Pakistan and China. “The CPEC has helped Pakistan improve its economy, particularly energy and infrastructure sectors have improved under it. The CPEC is a bilateral economic project, which is not against any country,” he said.

Answering a question, he said the recent four-nation visit of the foreign minister was essentially part of the government policy to strengthen relations with all neighbours and regional countries and added that as part of the same effort the foreign minister would soon visit Qatar.

It is economic project which is not against any country: FO

The spokesman said Pakistan’s long-standing position to give peace and reconciliation a real chance in Afghanistan had become the basis of an international consensus.

“Recent developments in Afghanistan have all led to this widely acknowledged agreement. This new opening in Afghanistan and willingness of all countries who agree on Pakistan’s important role as facilitator has provided us a significant opportunity to also strengthen our bilateral relations with all the neighbours, especially for promotion of trade, economic and people-to- people linkages,” he said.

“The visit also provided an opportunity to listen to views of the leadership of these countries for promoting a joint regional approach towards Afghanistan and explore realistic possibilities of regional integration in economic terms,” he said.

Responding to another question, he said 341 Pakistani prisoners — 154 of them civilians and 187 fishermen — were currently incarcerated in Indian jails. Of them 45 prisoners, 12 civilians and 33 fishermen, have completed their sentence.

“Our mission is in contact with India’s external affairs ministry and related state governments for repatriation of Pakistani prisoners. The Pakistani high commission also engages with the Indian media to highlight the plight of Pakistani prisoners. A law firm has also been hired to assist in and facilitate the repatriation. Where required, NGOs working for prisoners and civil rights activists have also been engaged to facilitate repatriation of Pakistani prisoners.”

The spokesman said there were some problems in getting consular access, adding “however, our mission perseveres and actively pursues issues of all such prisoners.”

About reports of harassment by Indian authorities of Pakistani diplomats posted in New Delhi, and similar allegations from the other side, he said Pakistan stood for upholding the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations and had always endeavoured to facilitate the working of the Indian high commission in Islamabad, within the diplomatic norms, international law and practice. “It remains our position that the smooth and unhindered functioning of diplomatic missions is essential,” he remarked.

The Foreign Office spokesman urged the international community, especially human rights champions, to persuade India to immediately halt human rights violations and atrocities in held Kashmir. He said Indian occupation forces, during the so-called search and cordon operations, had recently martyred six Kashmiris — Soliha Mohammad Akhoon, Rasik Mir, Rouf Mir, Umer Ramzan Mir, Nadeem Sofi and Faisal Javid Khan — in Pulwama district of the occupied territory.

He refused to comment on appointment of two former Afghan intelligence chiefs known for their anti-Pakistan stance as interior and defence ministers by Afghan President Ashraf Ghani.

He also refused to comment on President Donald Trump’s surprise trip to Iraq to visit US forces stationed there that was condemned both by Iraqi politicians and militia leaders, and cancellation of his meeting with the Iraqi prime minister due to disagreement over the venue, saying “we cannot comment on the relations between two sovereign nations”.

Asked to confirm the reports that the second round of talks between United States and Taliban would take place in Saudi Arabia, he said “No. I have nothing more to say on this issue”.

Published in Dawn, December 28th, 2018


Afghanistan’s Foreign Minister Salahuddin Rabbani, Pakistan’s Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi and Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi look on after signing a memorandum of understanding on cooperation in fighting terrorism in Kabul, Afghanistan on Dec. 15, 2018. (REUTERS)


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Pakistan’s journalists complain of increasing censorship — “China-style aggressive crackdown on journalists, media”

December 26, 2018

Opposition political parties decapitated

Pakistani journalists, who have taken on military dictators and been beaten and jailed in the pursuit of a free press, say they now face a form of censorship that is more subtle but no less chilling, one spearheaded by the security services.

Journalists and press freedom advocates say the military and the powerful Inter-Services Intelligence agency, or ISI, are pressuring media outlets to quash critical coverage. The newly elected government is meanwhile slashing its advertising budget, squeezing a key source of revenue for private newspapers and TV stations.

Qazi Salauddin, a veteran Pakistani journalist who has witnessed successive periods of direct military rule, said today’s censorship is the worst it’s ever been.

“Today we don’t know what will annoy them,” he said of the military. “Today we have to do self-censorship and that is the worst kind of censorship, because it is done out of fear.”

Image result for Imran Khan, photos

Imran Khan

Websites have been shut down, including the Urdu website of the U.S. government-funded Voice of America, after it reported on a tribal movement critical of military operations in regions bordering Afghanistan. Mashaal Radio, affiliated with Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, has also been shut down.

Journalist Cyril Almeida was charged with treason after he published an interview with Nawaz Sharif in which the former prime minister accused the Pakistani military of aiding the militants who carried out the 2008 Mumbai attacks.

Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan meets visiting Chinese foreign minister Wang Yi in Islamabad on September 9. Photo: Xinhua

Authorities are also targeting social media, asking Twitter to suspend accounts and submitting thousands of requests to Facebook to take down pages for a variety of reasons, ranging from criticism of the military to propagating hate and insulting Islam.

Image result for Pakistan’s Chief of Army Staff General Qamar Javed Bajwa with Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi

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

Taha Siddiqui, a blogger and journalist who is critical of the security services, lives in self-imposed exile in France after an attempt on his life earlier this year, which he blamed on the ISI. He said Twitter suspended his account twice in 72 hours, telling him it was because of “objectionable content that was in violation of Pakistani law,” without elaborating.

Journalist Matiullah Jan, labeled “anti-state” by the military for his criticism of the judiciary and army, called the crackdown “a systematic attempt by the military and its intelligence agency to assert control with a facade of a democratically elected government.”

New legislation regulating print and online media has also alarmed press freedom advocates, who fear it will grant authorities even more censorship tools.

Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry denies the government is cracking down on press freedoms, saying it only acts to prevent incitement to violence. Pakistan has banned coverage of the hard-line Tehreek-e-Labbaik movement after it held violent protests and threatened to kill a Christian woman who was acquitted of blasphemy charges after years spent on death row. Blasphemy is punishable by death in Pakistan, and the mere accusation can spark deadly mob violence.

Image result for Fawad Chaudhry, photos

Fawad Chaudhry

“Pakistan has the freest media possible, and powerful media criticize the government and even agencies and (the) army establishment at their will,” Chaudhry told The Associated Press. “Incitement of hatred is the only area that we interfere.”

But journalists say the interference goes much further, and has worsened since July’s national elections. They say intelligence agents have called reporters to demand that opinion pieces be withdrawn and to quash investigative reports on allegations that the military intervened in the vote to help elect Prime Minister Imran Khan.

The security establishment is especially sensitive about coverage of the Pashtun Tahafaz (Protection) Movement, or PTM, which has criticized the military’s actions in the tribal regions. Pakistan has long been accused of covertly supporting the Afghan Taliban while waging a scorched-earth campaign against homegrown extremists who threaten the state, allegations denied by the government.

“We have been facing a media blackout since the very first day,” said Mohsin Dawar, a parliamentarian and founding member of the PTM. “The military now is enjoying unquestioned power in the country, and the PTM questioned their power.”

Dawar said newspapers have refused to carry their statements or cover their press conferences.

In this Thursday Dec. 20, 2018 photo, jobless newspaper workers protest near the Parliament, in Islamabad, Pakistan. Pakistan’s military and security agencies are exerting more pressure than ever on local media. The newly elected government is meanwhile slashing its advertising budget, squeezing a key source of revenue for private newspapers and TV stations. (AP Photo/B.K. Bangash)

Chaudhry said coverage of PTM is restricted because “we have fought a war in that area.”

“The population is in process of settling down, (and a) narrative that creates hatred cannot be allowed,” he said.

Steven Butler, Asia program coordinator for the Committee to Protect Journalists, said Pakistan has waged an “aggressive crackdown” on the media.

“The crackdown comes behind the scenes and is increasingly exerted through the owners of media properties,” he said.

There are currently 89 private television channels licensed by the government. Most of the privately-owned channels emerged in just the last 15 years and are owned by big businesses, said Mohammad Ziauddin of the Pakistan Press Foundation, a free press advocacy group.

“The new entrants in the media are business people. They got into the media industry not to make money, not to serve the public, but to have clout,” he said, making them vulnerable to intimidation and financial coercion.

In the last two months, hundreds of journalists have been laid off as government advertising — a key source of revenue — has been drastically reduced. A rate schedule seen by the AP shows the government was until recently paying upward of $2,500 for a 60-second spot, which has now been reduced to $400 to $500.

“While reliance on government revenues is not a healthy model for press freedom, the sudden cutbacks have imposed extreme hardship on the media, which has had basically no time to adjust business models,” Butler said.

Chaudhry defends the new rate schedule, saying previous governments paid well above the market rate in return for positive coverage.

“The last government used television advertising as tool to bribe media,” he said.

Associated Press


Pakistan Army backs peace efforts, asks India to fight hunger first

December 23, 2018
“Pakistan is a peace-loving country and believes in peace within and peace without,” says Army Chief Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa.
“Pakistan is a peace-loving country and believes in peace within and peace without,” says Army Chief Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa.

While addressing the passing-out parade of 110th Midshipmen and 19th Short Service Course at Naval Academy, the COAS touched upon key issues related to the country’s defence and modern technology transforming the nature of warfare and warned that the “unannounced war against us” was yet to be over.

“Pakistan is a peace-loving country and believes in peace within and peace without,” the army chief said.

COAS tells newly inducted navy men to be ready to respond in case of surgical strike in battlefield, cognitive domain, media or cyberspace

“Wars bring death, destruction and misery for the people. Ultimately, all issues are resolved on the table through negotiations that is why we are trying very hard to help bring a lasting peace in Afghanistan by supporting Afghan-led and Afghan-owned peace plan. Similarly, our new government has extended a hand of peace and friendship towards India with utmost sincerity but it should not be taken as our weakness. Peace benefits everybody. It is time to fight against hunger, disease and illiteracy, then to fight against each other.”

Before sharing his thoughts about relations with the neighbouring countries, Gen Bajwa narrated the armed forces’ sacrifices to restore peace to the country and warned the young naval personnel about the challenges ahead. “Please remember, we are yet to get out from terrorism or sabotage phase of an unannounced war against us that the subversion phase has also started,” he said.

“Like the terrorists before, the protagonists of the new threats are, at times, our own people. Mostly misguided by ambitions, blinded by hate, ethnicity or religion or simply overawed by social media onslaught, some of our own boys and girls readily fall victim to such dangerous or hostile narratives.”

The response to such onslaughts or threats could not always be kinetic in nature, he said, suggesting the armed forces to deal with them in cognitive domain by producing or propagating a superior narrative. “But this can only happen if you have developed the ability to handle unwarranted criticism with patience and possess better intellectual skills to respond to such threats with logic and reasoning. You will be required to lead your troops, who rank amongst the finest in the world, into the battlefield with full zeal and confidence,” he said.

The COAS highlighted the need for adopting technologies amid growing advancement in science and technology, fast-changing faces of war threats and long-lasting impact of modernisation. “Modern technology has transformed the nature of warfare and has tilted the balance squarely, in favour of those nations that have embraced the change readily,” he said.

Gen Bajwa told the young navy men to keep themselves “abreast with the latest developments in the field of science, technology and warfare. But frankly speaking, even that will not be sufficient as the ever-increasing threat of hybrid war, to which we are subjected to, will need a totally new approach and change of traditional mindset.

“Therefore, you have to prepare and enable yourself to read the environment, gauge the enemies’ latest moves and be ready to respond, even when a surgical strike exists only in cognitive domain or media or even when the attack comes, not in the battlefield but in cyber space, or against country’s ideological frontiers.”

Published in Dawn, December 23rd, 2018

China’s ‘Belt and Road’ Plan in Pakistan Takes a Military Turn

December 20, 2018

Under a program China insisted was peaceful, Pakistan is cooperating on distinctly defense-related projects, including a secret plan to build new fighter jets.

When President Trump started the new year by suspending billions of dollars of security aid to Pakistan, one theory was that it would scare the Pakistani military into cooperating better with its American allies.

The reality was that Pakistan already had a replacement sponsor lined up.

Image result for Chinese-Pakistani military cooperation, pictures

Just two weeks later, the Pakistani Air Force and Chinese officials were putting the final touches on a secret proposal to expand Pakistan’s building of Chinese military jets, weaponry and other hardware. The confidential plan, reviewed by The New York Times, would also deepen the cooperation between China and Pakistan in space, a frontier the Pentagon recently said Beijing was trying to militarize after decades of playing catch-up.

All those military projects were designated as part of China’s Belt and Road Initiative, a $1 trillion chain of infrastructure development programs stretching across some 70 countries, built and financed by Beijing.

Chinese officials have repeatedly said the Belt and Road is purely an economic project with peaceful intent. But with its plan for Pakistan, China is for the first time explicitly tying a Belt and Road proposal to its military ambitions — and confirming the concerns of a host of nations who suspect the infrastructure initiative is really about helping China project armed might.

By Maria Abi-Habib
The New York Times

As China’s strategically located and nuclear-armed neighbor, Pakistan has been the leading example of how the Chinese projects are being used to give Beijing both favor and leverage among its clients.

Since the beginning of the Belt and Road Initiative in 2013, Pakistan has been the program’s flagship site, with some $62 billion in projects planned in the so-called China-Pakistan Economic Corridor. In the process, China has lent more and more money to Pakistan at a time of economic desperation there, binding the two countries ever closer.

For the most part, Pakistan has eagerly turned more toward China as the chill with the United States has deepened. Some Pakistani officials are growing concerned about losing sovereignty to their deep-pocketed Asian ally, but the host of ways the two countries are now bound together may leave Pakistan with little choice but to go along.

Even before the revelation of the new Chinese-Pakistani military cooperation, some of China’s biggest projects in Pakistan had clear strategic implications.

Source: Center for Strategic and International Studies | By The New York Times

A Chinese-built seaport and special economic zone in the Pakistani town of Gwadar is rooted in trade, giving China a quicker route to get goods to the Arabian Sea. But it also gives Beijing a strategic card to play against India and the United States if tensions worsen to the point of naval blockades as the two powers increasingly confront each other at sea.

A less scrutinized component of Belt and Road is the central role Pakistan plays in China’s Beidou satellite navigation system. Pakistan is the only other country that has been granted access to the system’s military service, allowing more precise guidance for missiles, ships and aircraft.

Image result for Beidou satellite navigation system, pictures

The cooperation is meant to be a blueprint for Beidou’s expansion to other Belt and Road nations, however, ostensibly ending its clients’ reliance on the American military-run GPS network that Chinese officials fear is monitored and manipulated by the United States.

[Read The Times’s series “China Rules,” about how China wrote its playbook to counter the West.]

In Pakistan, China has found an amenable ally with much to recommend it: shared borders and a long history of cooperation; a hedge in South Asia against India; a large market for arms sales and trade with potential for growth; a wealth of natural resources.

Now, China is also finding a better showcase for its security and surveillance technology in a place once defined by its close military relationship with the United States.

“The focus of Belt and Road is on roads and bridges and ports, because those are the concrete construction projects that people can easily see. But it’s the technologies of the future and technologies of future security systems that could be the biggest security threat in the Belt and Road project,” said Priscilla Moriuchi, the director of strategic threat development at Recorded Future, a cyberthreat intelligence monitoring company based in Massachusetts.

The Chinese-built and operated port in Gwadar, Pakistan.Credit Drazen Jorgic/Reuters

The tightening China-Pakistan security alliance has gained momentum on a long road to the Arabian Sea.

In 2015, under Belt and Road, China took a nascent port in the Pakistani coastal town of Gwadar and supercharged the project with an estimated $800 million development plan that included a large special economic zone for Chinese companies.

Linking the port to western China would be a new 2,000-mile network of highways and rails through the most forbidding stretch of Pakistan: Baluchistan Province, a resource-rich region plagued by militancy.

Image result for Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif of Pakistan, center left, praying during the formal opening of Gwadar port in 2016. Credit Muhammad Yousuf/Associated Press

The public vision for the project was that it would allow Chinese goods to bypass much longer and more expensive shipping routes through the Indian Ocean and avoid the territorial waters of several American allies in Asia.

From the beginning, though, key details of the project were kept from the public and lawmakers, officials say, including the terms of its loan structure and the length of the lease, more than 40 years, that a Chinese state-owned company secured to operate the port.

If there was concern within Pakistan about the hidden costs of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, also known as CPEC, there was growing suspicion abroad about a hidden military aspect, as well.

Image result for Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif of Pakistan, center left, praying during the formal opening of Gwadar port in 2016. Credit Muhammad Yousuf/Associated Press
Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif of Pakistan, center left, praying during the formal opening of Gwadar port in 2016. Credit Muhammad Yousuf/Associated Press

In recent years, Chinese state-owned companies have built or begun constructing seaports at strategic spots around the Indian Ocean, including places in Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and Malaysia.

Chinese officials insisted that the ports would not be militarized. But analysts began wondering whether China’s endgame was to muscle its way onto coastal territories that could become prime military assets — much as it did when it started militarizing contested islands in the South China Sea.

Then, Sri Lanka, unable to repay its ballooning debt with China, handed over the Chinese-built port at Hambantota in a 99-year lease agreement last year. Indian and American officials expressed a growing conviction that taking control of the port had been China’s intent all along.

In October, Vice President Mike Pence said Sri Lanka was a warning for all Belt and Road countries that China was luring them into debt traps.

“China uses so-called debt diplomacy to expand its influence,” Mr. Pence said in a speech.

“Just ask Sri Lanka, which took on massive debt to let Chinese state companies build a port of questionable commercial value,” Mr. Pence added. “It may soon become a forward military base for China’s growing blue-water navy.”

Military analysts predict that China could use Gwadar to expand the naval footprint of its attack submarines, after agreeing in 2015 to sell eight submarines to Pakistan in a deal worth up to $6 billion. China could use the equipment it sells to the South Asian country to refuel its own submarines, extending its navy’s global reach.

The Sahiwal coal power plant in Pakistan’s Punjab Province was one of the first and biggest projects financed and completed under the Belt and Road Initiative. Pakistan has fallen behind on payments just to operate the plant. Credit Asad Zaidi/Bloomberg
The Sahiwal coal power plant in Pakistan’s Punjab Province was one of the first and biggest projects financed and completed under the Belt and Road Initiative. Pakistan has fallen behind on payments just to operate the plant. Credit Asad Zaidi/Bloomberg

When China inaugurated Belt and Road, in 2013, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s new government in Pakistan saw it as the answer for a host of problems.

Foreign investment in Pakistan was scant, driven away by terrorist attacks and the country’s enduring reputation for corruption. And Pakistan desperately needed a modern power grid to help ease persistent electricity shortages.

Pakistani officials say that Beijing first proposed the highway from China’s western Xinjiang region through Pakistan that connected to Gwadar port. But Pakistani officials insisted that new coal power plants be built. China agreed.

With CPEC under fresh scrutiny, Chinese and Pakistani officials in recent weeks have contended that Pakistan has a debt problem, but not a Chinese debt problem. In October, the country’s central bank revealed an overall debt and liability burden of about $215 billion, with $95 billion externally held. With nearly half of CPEC’s projects completed — in terms of worth — Pakistan currently owes China $23 billion.

But the country stands to owe $62 billion to China — before interest balloons the figure to some $90 billion — under the plan for Belt and Road’s expansion there in coming years.

Pakistan’s central bank governor, Ashraf Wathra, said publicly in 2015 that he had no clarity on Chinese investments in Pakistan and was concerned about rising debt levels. It still took him months after that to secure a briefing from cabinet officials.

Years after contracting to have China build new power plants, Pakistan still has a problem with severe electricity shortfalls. Credit Rizwan Tabassum/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

“My main question was, ‘Do we have any feasibility studies of these projects and a cost-benefit analysis?’ Their answers were all evasive,” recalled Mr. Wathra, who has since retired.

Ahsan Iqbal, a cabinet minister and the main architect for CPEC in the previous government, said the project was well thought-through and dismissed Mr. Wathra’s account.

“No one wanted to invest here — the Chinese took a chance,” Mr. Iqbal said in an interview.

But the bill is coming due. Pakistan’s first debt repayments to China are set for next year, starting at about $300 million and gradually increasing to reach about $3.2 billion by 2026, according to officials. And Pakistan is already having trouble paying what it owes to Chinese companies.

Pakistan already builds Chinese-designed JF-17 fighter jets, like this one. Under a secret proposal, Pakistan would also cooperate with China to build a new generation of fighters. Credit Reuters

According to the undisclosed proposal drawn up by the Pakistani Air Force and Chinese officials at the start of the year, a special economic zone under CPEC would be created in Pakistan to produce a new generation of fighter jets. For the first time, navigation systems, radar systems and onboard weapons would be built jointly by the countries at factories in Pakistan.

The proposal, confirmed by officials at the Ministry of Planning and Development, would expand China and Pakistan’s current cooperation on the JF-17 fighter jet, which is assembled at Pakistan’s military-run Kamra Aeronautical Complex in Punjab Province. The Chinese-designed jets have given Pakistan an alternative to the American-built F-16 fighters that have become more difficult to obtain as Islamabad’s relationship with Washington frays.

The plans are in the final stages of approval, but the current government is expected to rubber stamp the project, officials in Islamabad say.

For China, Pakistan could become a showcase for other countries seeking to shift their militaries away from American equipment and toward Chinese arms, Western diplomats said. And because China is not averse to selling such advanced weaponry as ballistic missiles — which the United States will not sell to allies like Saudi Arabia — the deal with Pakistan could be a steppingstone to a bigger market for Chinese weapons in the Muslim world.

For years, some of the most important military coordination between China and Pakistan has been going on in space.

Just months before Beijing unveiled the Belt and Road project in 2013, it signed an agreement with Pakistan to build a network of satellite stations inside the South Asian country to establish the Beidou Navigation Systemas an alternative to the American GPS network.

Beidou quickly became a core component of Belt and Road, with the Chinese government calling the satellite network part of an “information Silk Road” in a 2015 white paper.

A model of China’s Beidou navigation satellite network, shown during the China International Aviation and Aerospace Exhibition in Zhuhai in November. Credit Kin Cheung/Associated Press

Like GPS, Beidou has a civilian function and a military one. If its trial with Pakistan goes well, Beijing could offer Beidou’s military service to other countries, creating a bloc of nations whose military actions would be more difficult for the United States to monitor.

By 2020, all 35 satellites for the system will be launched in collaboration with other Belt and Road countries, completing Beidou.

“Beidou, whatever any users use it for — whether it’s a civilian navigating their way to the grocery store or a government using it to coordinate their rocket launches — those are all things that China can track,” said Ms. Moriuchi, of the research group Recorded Future. “And that’s what is most striking: that this authoritarian government will be a major technology provider for numerous countries in Asia, Africa and Europe.”

For the Pentagon, China’s satellite launches are ominous.

China’s military “continues to strengthen its military space capabilities despite its public stance against the militarization of space,” including developing Beidou and new weaponry, according to a Pentagon report issued to Congress in May.

In October, Pakistan’s information minister, Fawad Chaudhry, said that by 2022, Pakistan would send its own astronaut into space with China’s help.

“We are close to China, and we are getting more close,” he said in a later interview. “It’s time for the West to wake up and recognize our importance.”

The Pakistani military has been a vital supporter, and securer, of China’s projects in Pakistan. Credit Akhtar Soomro/Reuters

Though the relationship between China and Pakistan has clearly grown closer, it has not been without tension. CPEC could still be vulnerable to political shifts in Pakistan — as happened this year in Malaysia, which shelved three big projects by Chinese companies.

Campaigning during the parliamentary elections that made him prime minister in July, Imran Khan vowed to review CPEC projects and renegotiate them if he won. In September, after meeting in Saudi Arabia with the crown prince, Mr. Khan said that the kingdom had agreed to invest in CPEC too.

Pakistan’s new commerce minister then proposed pausing all CPEC projects while the government assessed them.

The moves by Pakistan’s new government angered Beijing, which was concerned they could set back Belt and Road globally.

But in Pakistan, China has a steady ally it can approach to smooth things over: the country’s powerful military establishment, which stands to fill its coffers with millions of dollars through CPEC as the military’s construction companies win infrastructure bids.

Shortly after the commerce minister’s comments, the Pakistani Army’s top commander, Gen. Qamar Javed Bajwa, hurried to Beijing for an unannounced visit with President Xi Jinping. The meeting came six weeks before Mr. Khan made his first official visit with the Chinese president, a trip he had listed as a priority.

Statements from the military said General Bajwa and Mr. Xi spoke extensively about Belt and Road projects.

General Bajwa “said that the Belt and Road initiative with CPEC as its flagship is destined to succeed despite all odds, and Pakistan’s army shall ensure security of CPEC at all costs,” read a statement from the Pakistani military.

Shortly after the Beijing meeting, Pakistan’s government rolled back its invitation to Saudi Arabia to join CPEC and all talk of pausing or canceling Chinese projects has stopped.

Prime Minister Imran Khan of Pakistan went to meet President Xi Jinping in China in November with high hopes for an economic deal. But few details have been announced. Credit Pool photo by Thomas Peter

But China could face another challenge to its investments: a Pakistani financial crisis that has forced Mr. Khan’s government to seek loans from international lenders that require transparency.

Throughout September, international delegations traveled to Islamabad carrying the same message: Reveal the extent of Chinese loans if you want financial assistance.

In a late September meeting with visiting officials from the International Monetary Fund, Pakistan’s government asked for a bailout of up to $12 billion. The fund’s representatives pressed Pakistan to share all existing agreements with the Chinese government and demanded I.M.F. input during any future CPEC negotiations — a previously undisclosed facet of the negotiations, according to communications seen by the Fund and a Pakistani official. The fund also sought assurances that Pakistan would not use a bailout to repay CPEC loans.

But the Chinese Embassy in Islamabad stepped up its engagement as well, demanding that CPEC deals be kept secret and promising to shore up Pakistan’s finances with bilateral loans, Pakistani officials say.

Three months after taking office, Mr. Khan still has not made good on his campaign promises to reveal the nature of the $62 billion investment Beijing has committed to Pakistan, and his government has backtracked on an I.M.F. deal.

In early November, Mr. Khan visited Mr. Xi in Beijing, a trip during which he was expected to clinch bilateral loans and grants to ease Pakistan’s financial crisis.

Instead, his government walked away with vague promises of a deal “in principle,” but refused to disclose any details.

A Chinese national flag, center at the Sahiwal coal power plant in Pakistan, which cost about $1.9 billion to build. Pakistan now owes around $119 million in back payments to Chinese companies just for operating the plant. Credit Asad Zaidi/Bloomberg

Luz Ding contributed reporting from Beijing.

A version of this article appears in print on , on Page A1 of the New York edition with the headline: What China Gets for Building Up Pakistan: A Military Toehold.

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.