Af-Pak relations and trust deficit

Pakistan is changing its policy towards Afghanistan. Islamabad is opting for a more favorable approach to its neighboring country Afghanistan. This is what we have been hearing from Pakistan’s security establishment but this time it were not Pakistani officials that hurled such like statements in media but they were officials from Afghan Ministry of Defense who said Monday that Pakistan is changing its policy. An Afghan high level delegation being led by the Afghan Defense Minister, Bismillah Mohammadi is still there in Islamabad for defense and mutual cooperation talks. Now many Afghans have been caught in a perplexed state of mind that how this-much seismic change in policy has taken place within nights or Pakistan really has become a victim to terrorism and now it wants to get rid of the terror-scourge, which is why it has brought this change in policy. If there is any truth what Pakistan’s security officials have told the visiting Afghan security officials then both the neighboring nations will see some positive outcomes. Till yesterday we were of the opinion that Pakistan is the biggest enemy of Afghanistan, however during the past few months it has released scores of the Taliban prisoners and will release many more, which reveals that something is changing there in the high echelons of Islamabad and Rawalpindi. Kabul welcomes this change yet the need is to go beyond these things. And if Pakistan really shows sincerity then the day is not so far that it will be a trust worthy friend. Moreover, Pakistan has offered to train Afghan security forces and welcoming this change and offer, Kabul has responded well. However, in dealing with a country like Pakistan, Kabul should be too careful lest it will become a ‘hot potato in throat case’ for Afghanistan. Being a close neighbor, Afghanistan needs closer and enhanced ties with Pakistan while similarly Pakistan needs to have good relations with Afghanistan but the matter is the trust deficit that has trammeled the relations of the two neighboring states for quite longer. Now is the time both the countries should think seriously over what they have lost during the past decades just because of the trust deficit and how it could be overcome. Besides that if Pakistan is really sincere in its relations with Afghanistan it will have to release the highly influential Taliban prisoners who are still there in Pakistani prisons. Their release could potentially give a new direction to the Afghan-led peace process. This time high hopes are pinned on the visit of the Afghan Defense Minister, Bismillah Mohammadi and the Afghan nation waits for a positive outgrowth. However most of the Afghan political affairs analysts are not that much sanguine about the change as they believe that Pakistan still is running with the hare and hunting with the hounds and until the day it shuns this type of game nothing will change but trust deficit will rule the relations of the two countries. This type of notion should go now but before reaching this level Pakistan will have to show honesty and duplicity has given its backlashes. If there is change in Pakistan’s policy for Afghanistan, definitely Afghanistan will receive it very well and warmly, nevertheless Pakistan will have to avoid bringing a third party—India into this relation because every nation has the right to have its friendly relations with another nation, so why should Pakistan pressurize Kabul for its cozy ties with New Delhi. Moreover, Afghanistan’s Ambassador to Pakistan Umar Daoudzai has said that the visit was an important step towards enhanced mutual cooperation in the areas of military and security. Let sincerity be the core of our future relations as without sincerity the two nations can hardly make headway and baffle with the scourge of militancy effectively.

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Afghan troop downsizing, a premature step

After the recent coordinated attacks across Afghanistan, some news reports have started floating in international media that NATO chiefs and politicians are at war over ‘risky’ Afghan withdrawal plans.
The issue is that the international summit held in Brussels split over cost-cutting exit strategy.
If the proposed plan take practical shape it will have its fallouts as the strategy would see security forces depleted as soon as the West leaves Afghanistan. It is when the security situation across the country is still precarious while the blueprint for the West’s exit plan for the long war is being set out in a critical meeting, with military officials and diplomats at loggerheads to prevent a proposed downsizing in Afghan security forces. The conference was held in Brussels. It took place as an American newspaper—Los Angeles Times published photographs of US American soldiers next to the dismembered bodies of the purported Taliban suicide bombers. It is the oft-repeated incident that earned anger and condemnation from all over the world but the US Defense Secretary, Leon Panetta, had to apologize to the Afghan delegation and fellow NATO ministers for the way the reputation of the international forces had been tarnished and tainted by the actions apparently depicted in the pictures published in the American newspaper. The most perturbing aspect of the issue is that a British newspaper—‘The Independent’ has learnt that military commanders and diplomats have been in arguments against an early cut of almost 40 percent in the size of Afghan security forces, just when they are likely to take over full security responsibility from NATO. If it does happen in reality the gains made during the eleven years of the war would not last for long and would heap immediately after the exit of the foreign forces from here. As the two steps—exit of foreign forces and size cut in Afghan forces would ensue a number of troubles and challenges. Therefore, for time being this talk should be kept on back burner and shouldn’t be given a practical shape, it is when if the world community and NATO want to see democracy thriving in Afghanistan and if not then no one can stop their hands. We have learnt that they are firm on bringing a cut in the number of Afghan troops. It is believed that the numbers would shrink from 352,000 to 220,000 from 2014. Whereas the most irking facet of the story is that we have also come to know that Pakistan has appealed the US clandestinely to translate this very plan into practicality, which is why Islamabad decided to open supply routes to NATO. Even a person like Maulana Fazlurrehman—the Chief of Jamiat-e-Ulma-e-Islam had to show agreement over the reopening of NATO supply routes via Pakistan. Maulana is the person who runs religious seminaries all over Pakistan where potential suicide bombers and fighters are trained, but being exerted by Pakistan’s ISI, he didn’t oppose the reopening of the supply routes to NATO. Against this backdrop the US has promised Islamabad to bring a size cut in Afghan security forces though the primary and apparent reason is cost.
They claim that cutting manpower would lower the country’s annual defense budget. It is because if the change is not brought the international community will have to fund, from $6.2bn to $4.1bn. Nevertheless it is good that some of the senior diplomats and military official don’t agree with the proposed plan of downsizing of Afghans security forces. They claim that the cuts would have enormously damaging effects particularly at sensitive time that’s why they plead for delay. We—the Afghan citizens also believe the same that for time being the plan should be delayed until militancy is uprooted and when the situation permits to bring a cut then we wouldn’t have any objection. But until that the world community and the US will have to bear the brunt of the heavy weight of defense budgets.

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The throes in present and challenges in future?

When will the common man stop becoming victim in the prevailing chaos around us? The chaos and violence is so deep rooted that every nook and hook of the country is red with the blood of the common man. Who dies in nighttime search raids? Who is the victim of aerial bombings and who is the prey of IEDs and roadside blasts? Surely, it is the common man. It is the common man that makes majority of the nation. Though sometimes foreign troops, some political figures and others also become victims however during the throes of the eleven years of the war, it is the poor and civilian segment of the society that has been bleeding cap-a-pie. In such a situation the country needs unity among its different clans and lingual groups than ever, as within two years foreign troops would start withdrawal and it is quite likely that militants and their supporters would try their last ditch efforts to make their full comeback. If that time, we—the Pashtuns, Tajiks and Hazaras fail to stand united and fail in raising embankments against the coming flood, it will be hard enough to stem the tide of the militancy which has already plagued our society and nation. Moreover the West will have to pay a terrible price if it leaves Afghanistan in the lurch. The West will have to back the government in Kabul with significant military and financial aid to hold off the militants. If the West makes any lapse this time, it would unleash more dangerous and more lethal repercussions than what ensued in Afghanistan when the Red Forces made their haphazard exit and the West cut all its support to Kabul. Today the country is faced with the same situation however this time they shouldn’t leave Kabul stranded. Turnover any page of any national newspaper or give your ears to any television channel you will see and hear about violence even despite the presence of thousands of troops. When they would leave Afghanistan, it will embolden those who don’t want the development of this country and its citizens, to accelerate their anti-Afghan deadly activities. If it happens, terror and violence would rule this part of the world once again—to which we as nation seek good riddance. That’s why coming times are too challenging for us. To stem the tide of terror and militancy, there is too need to create unity among our ranks irrespective of it who is who and what is what. Besides that good governance, transparency, fast response justice system, and widening the job bank are the factors that will set the foundations of development in the country. These factors would definitely usher in a new era of change and development. If nepotism and corruption is rife as what these days we see then there is no way to hope for development and change. And those who are responsible for running the sate affairs should rewrite the procedure of recruitment for the defense services so that the recurrent incidents of shootings and killings of Afghan National Army personnel and Afghan National Police personnel by their own colleagues could be blocked. Infiltration is the outcome of nepotism and favoritism and this in any form is like weevil that eats up, roots of a tree or any other wooden object from inside. It is very important to block the way of infiltration. It can be when state-of-the-art system of recruitment is introduced. Until and unless there is an effective change in the recruitment and selection procedures for the defense services, incident that took place in Yahyakhel district of Paktika would keep its recurrence—where a colleague gunned down 9 local policemen on Friday. It is all because of infiltration and intolerance instigated into the minds of such evil doers by those who cannot tolerate the development of our troops. The government and officials concerned should come up with a devise so that infiltration could be blocked.

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War on terror—War of lies

This op-ed piece has been already published on 26th April 2011.

The Wikileaks wire unearthed the other day the US has placed its duplicitous ally ISI as a terrorist affiliate wherein seems no new information as it has been an open secret for us all that for decades the Pakistan’s ISI has had used the religious zealots as its most fatal weapon in this region. But it is also worth mentioning the notorious ISI could not dare to do all this on its solo basis rather it walked on the path of fatal games under the patronage of CIA.
It was the CIA that trained the most infamous ISI and it was then the ISI that trained Taliban in Peshawar and its outskirts against the Red Forces in Afghanistan. Along these lines it would not be needless to mention here the interview of Zbigniew Brzezinski to Le Nouvel Observateur (France) and Robert Gates—the former director of the CIA, in his memoirs ‘ From the Shadows’ confessed that US intelligence services began aid to the Mujahideen in Afghanistan six months before the Soviet invasion on Afghanistan.
The ties of ISI and CIA have strengthened the Islamist Forces that were hell-bent on crushing the progressive forces in Afghanistan and Pakistan as the ISI apparatus—the Taliban executed the unity-epitome, Najeebullah, publicly while the progressive forces in Peshawar cozened before the teachers of violence and intolerance. It is claimed that ISI pressurized the Awami National Party-led government in Pakhtunkhwa to show its unison on drone issue with the US lest the ANP would become history therefore yielding before the threat the Pakhtunkhawa provincial assembly passed anti-US drone resolution. It is quite ridiculous because just before weeks of the passing of the resolution the Awami National Party was feeling no weariness on calling the drones strikes very useful in defeating terrorism whilst something occurred behind the closed doors that compelled this secular party on taking a volt-e-face on its stance. And see the duplicitous role of the US as it was the joint effort to raise Mujahideen against the USSR while after the fall of USSR, CIA and ISI did not parted ways as the CIA wanted to now curtail China’s influence in the region and preferred to look the other way when it came to discuss about the swarming number of Jihadi outfits in Pakistan such as Lashkar-e-Tayyeba, Lashkar-e-Omar (LeO), Sipah-e-Sahaba Pakistan (SSP), Tehreek-e-Nafaz-e-Shariat-e-Mohammadi, Lashkar-eJhangvi (LeJ), Tehreek-e-Jaferia Pakistan (TJP), Sipah-e-Muhammad Pakistan (SMP), Nadeem Commando, Harkat-ul-Mujahideen Al-alami(HuMA), Hizb-ul-Mujahideen (HM), Al Badr, Jamait-ul-Mujahideen (JuM), Lashkar-e-Jabbar (LeJ), Harkat-ul-Jehad-al-Islami(HUJI), Al Jehad, Ikhwan-ul-Mujahideen, Al Mujahid Force, Tehrik-e-Jehad, and Islami Inquilabi Mahaz. These are a few names of the Jihadi factions; led by Punjabi Taliban while the ISI created the Pashtun Taliban outfits so that it can divert the attention of the world community from these Punjabi Taliban groups while the US deadly silence is equal responsible to the growth of these militants’ groups as until the day Taliban in Afghanistan were still considered a useful tool by the US to encounter Iran’s influence in the region the Washington deliberately mummed over the mushroom growth of terrorist outfits.
Pashtuns who are divested of the mainstream media have remained voiceless that is why they could not brought the presence of Punjabi Taliban on such an accumulative scale while the Punjabi owned media portrayed the entire Pashtun folk as a terrorist.
Now it is necessary to mention that there are more or less 32 militants groups in Punjab either fighting in Kashmir or mentoring the Pashtoon militants while there are as many as 12 terror outfits in Pakhtunkhwa, tribal belt and Afghanistan.

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The curse of US addiction for wars

This op-ed piece has been already published on 9th October 2011.

The US started out as thirteen small and prone colonies clinging to east coast of North America. No one at that time had conceived that over the next century, those thirteen states would expand all the way across the continent, yoking or expelling the native populace and seizing Arizona, Texas, New Mexico and California from Mexico. It had to get through a lethal civil war yet acquired a modest set of overseas colonies and emerged on the global pulpit by taking part in world wars. To touch its today’s position it has fought a dozen wars and engaged in a myriad of countless military interventions and expeditions. But despite such history, hardly Americans confess that they are a warrior nation and a garrison state. Yet in their inner hearts they confess it that’s why in 2008, they elected Obama because they perceived he turn out to be different from his predecessors, particularly in approach to the use of armed forces. Not only the Americans but the Norwegian Nobel Committee seemingly went beguiled into awarding him the Nobel Peace Prize and that too not for anything he had done yet in pursuit of the hope he might do in future. But the hopes and dreams of Americans remained mere dreams. Against the aspirations and dreams of his nation, Obama has escalated US involvement in Afghanistan following an elusive policy and initiated a new war in Libya. And as a blowback 77 soldiers were injured in a suicide bombing in central Maidan Wardak on the 9/11 of 2011. It was not the orthodox and fanatic approach of a young Afghan suicide bomber that led to the injury of the US troops but it is the US addiction for wars that is responsible for the loss of four thousand American troops in Afghanistan. If America can wage war in Iraq in pursuit of just regime change how can we expect for positive changes here in Afghanistan. And instead prolonging war in Afghanistan, an American clear and consistent approach is the need of the day because the political instability and insecurity is the outgrowth of the turbid and murky US policies. And according to a Gallup survey 42 percent Americans think that waging war in Afghanistan was a deadliest mistake that not only brought a cleavage among nations of the world but spurred nine percent joblessness at home also. And when majority of Afghans want early exit of foreign troops then how the statement of Ryan Crocker be connoted when he said that security transition does not mean ‘disengagement’?
For them we don’t know but for us it the US engagement in Afghanistan on long term basis, which in no way is favourable for the peace in the region, or it is hell-bent on wresting Afghanistan, as it had already done it in case of Arizona, New Mexico and Texas.

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Turkey’s likely investment in Afghan mining sector—Heydays for Kabul?

This op-ed piece has already been published in newspaper on 17th April 2011.

The dog days, it seems are on the verge of vanishing as amid violence and chaos across the country we are getting some good news as well. Though according to media pundits no news is good news, but let consider it from the opposite and say that every news is not bad news.
This is what we have been witnessing these days. The other day the Pakistani delegation led by Prime Minister Yousuf Gilani and the Sunday visit of Bhutanese Prime Minister are a few events which show that situations are going towards betterment. Above all the interest of Turkish investors in mine sector of Afghanistan is good for the economic growth of the country because we need our own economic base and industry instead stilting on foreign aids for long because foreign aids cannot save us from the economic insecurity in case when the world community close its generous hand.
This is as glaring as the sun that Afghanistan has such a vast pool of untapped but it is our misfortune that we could not leeway to work ourselves on exploring these natural resources because of decades long wars. There seems a bit little weight in the press reports that US had its eyes on these untapped natural resources of Afghanistan and the countries near Caspian that is why it came here under the pretext of war on terror. For time being it saved Afghanistan from the bring of Stone Age Era but in long it would off course leave indelible imprints and backlashes not only on Afghanistan but also on the region. Nonetheless the interest of Turkish investors in our mine sector is worth acclaiming as it would turn the fragile economy of Afghanistan into one of the world adamant economy because Afghanistan has second largest pool of lithium after Saudi Arabia which is used in cellular phones, iPads and laptop batteries. Besides that the discovery of Afghanistan minerals include huge veins of iron, copper, gold, cobalt niobium which are there on such a large scale that it can transform our homeland into one of the major mining centres of the world.
The natural resources of Afghanistan are estimated at $ 3 trillion but it would a mere wish-world until we seriously start work on exploring it and exploiting for our economy.
And Turkey is such a state which we have had good relations that is why it is quite easy to rely it as compare to our neighbouring states and the US.
The case of US investment in gold sector of Pakistan—Balochistan is in front of us when the federal government of Musharraf inked MoU with the US but later on it was feeling repentance over the deal. Therefore when a democratically elected government came into existence it annulled the agreement terming it anti-national interests. Thus we can conclude that it is not danger-free to have agreements with US especially in mine sector therefore it would be good if we welcome Turkey to have investment in Afghanistan as compare to US which has been keeping its covetous eye on the untapped entrails of natural resources.

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With unity we are the victorious

This op-ed piece has been already published in newspaper.on 21st May 2011

There could be no greater curse on a nation to be foisted with an aimless and deadly war as the Afghans are because we are caught between a rock and hard place having no clear vision about how to get out of the place.
Hardly have we got in the past ten years good news, this is the situation across our mother land. We are bearing the brunt of war as a result of the conspiracies of others hatched against the innocent and gullible Afghans.
Those who reared and provided sanctuary to the militants is getting the US aid in billions of dollars and enhancing its nuclear capability and arsenal while those who fought the red forces for the liberty of its mother land are still stuck between the hammer and the anvil.
Today Afghanistan is faced with enormous challenges internally as well as externally. It has home grown and foreign-backed militants, proliferated in almost all the sectors starting from military to police, from education to banking with the covert support of our neighbouring states. Simultaneously, the foreign troops have also unleashed terror, for there is hardly a day where we do not receive news about civilians’ killings and so many a times we get the news about their rape cases—the most heinous of crimes. Besides that the nation is dejectedly entangled and enmeshed in a vicious circle of terrorism involving a multiplicity of terror forces, including foreign proxies, homegrown fanatics but to add to its miseries, it has a deeply troubled economy.
Amid all these vicissitudes there is lack of consensus among the leaders which has further enmeshed the nations into troubles. To take the nation out of this bog, it needs leadership equipped with political wisdom and acumen, for only a president or a minister cannot steer the nation towards a safe harbour until he has all the political figures on the same page, with big minds, tall thoughts, and above all enthusiasm for riddance of the scourge of terror. We have hardly seen any pragmatic idea, peace road map or anything else that we can appreciate from the opposition leaders who feel pride in criticism only.
The Saturday blow right at the military hospital right at the heart of Kabul should be eye-opening incident for all because terrorism is our collective enemy and needs to be fought collectively and if we are stuck in the war of words only, violence and bloodshed would remain our destiny. It is worth pondering that how the assaulter crept into the high-security Wazir Akbar Khan area why the militants attacked a hospital and doctors’ community this time for they are life-saving messiahs. Our political leaders should starting thinking collectively instead working for factionism and should now ponder over the root causes of the terror, for until we reach the cancerous spot, which is spreading the germs of this leprous disease, it is quite immaturity to hope for the cure.

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