Afghanistan's Election Turmoil

Despite the increased level of violent attacks from the Taliban in the weeks prior, Afghanistan successfully held national elections in October. However, that achievement of democracy is under threat, as complaints have arisen over fraud allegations, especially in the Kabul Province.  

A dispute has arisen between Afghanistan’s top election bodies over the October results of the parliamentary election in Kabul. Afghanistan’s Independent Election Complaints Commission (AIECC), declared all votes cast in Kabul province to be invalid, citing massive fraud and violations of election law. The Independent Election Commission (IEC), the other election body, stated that it was going to ignore the AIECC’s decision (which would ordinarily require holding a new election within seven days) and carry on with the certification of the results of Kabul’s vote.

The AIECC announced on Thursday, December 6th the removal of five officials from the IEC, also announcing that they would be fined $1,333 each and could face further action. The IEC rejected the move as politically motivated, and IEC chief Gulujan Badi Sayaad said his commission will continue counting the votes, and a legal response to the AIEEC decision would be coming soon.

Baktash Siawash, a member of Parliament from Kabul, has questioned the ruling. He claimed that the complaints body invalidated the vote before the preliminary tally was even announced, and that the AIECC appeared to single out Kabul, and ignored similar complaints in other provinces. With Kabul casting 1.2 million votes, more than any other province, by invalidating those vote the commission has impacted the legitimacy of the whole election, Mr. Siawash believes.

This political instability comes at an especially poor time, as US negotiators land in Afghanistan in another attempt to engage in talks with the Taliban to bring about a satisfactory conclusion to the decades-long conflict in Afghanistan. US special envoy Zalmay Khalilzad is in Afghanistan for his third trip since September, on a regional tour to build consensus for the Taliban to meet face to face with the Afghan government.

The process of negotiations has been made even more difficult by the fact that the Taliban have so far refused to enter negotiations with the Afghanistan government. Their reasoning is that the current government is just a puppet of the United States, so they refuse to engage with what they view as a proxy, choosing to only negotiate directly with the United States. However, Afghanistan President Ghani has long made clear that he believes that the peace process must involve the Afghani people, and as the people’s representative his administration should be present for the talks. He has also staked his political future as leader of the country on being able to deliver peace to Afghanistan.

 To make matters worse, several political parties have announced that they do not believe that President Ghani’s negotiating team can successfully engage with the Taliban. As a result, these political parties have decided to form their own negotiating teams, complicating the peace process and potentially undermining the US and President Ghani’s attempts.

Photo: Mohammad Ismail/Reuters


Pakistan and Gilgit-Baltistan at a Crossroads


Local demand for constitutional rights for Gilgit Baltistan is as old as Pakistan’s presence in this territory of state of Jammu and Kashmir. Pakistan took control of Gilgit Baltistan in 1947 during a war with India. The war broke out after Pakistan violated the standstill agreement it signed with the ruler of Kashmir followed by an attack by Pakistani forces which compelled the rule of Kashmir to accede to India.

 Since then, locals have been asking Pakistan to delink Gilgit Baltistan from Kashmir and grant it rights similar to those enjoyed by the Pakistani citizens. However, successive regimes have been putting off merger of Gilgit Baltistan with Pakistan throughout these decades and instead tried to treat the chronic matter through ad-hoc governance ordinances.

 Pakistan fears that delinking Gilgit Baltistan from Kashmir will compromise her stance on the issue and help India gain grounds. At the same time, India, although lacking physical control over Gilgit Baltistan, went ahead and amended its constitution to declare Gilgit Baltistan an integral part and granted the locals citizenship and a representation in the political institutions.

 Pakistan’s policy of running Gilgit Baltistan with ad-hoc ordinances is very long. In 1994, Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto issued a legal framework ordinance (LFO) to establish the first Gilgit Baltistan assembly. Later, General Pervaiz Musharraf after becoming the Chief Executive of the country issued another LFO in 2007. In 2009, Prime Minister Gilani issued empowerment and self-governance ordinance for Gilgit Baltistan which was subsequently replaced by Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif with a reformed package in 2018. Locals dubbed it the Emperor’s package since it consolidated absolute authority in the hands of the Prime Minister himself. All these ordinances and packages have come without constitutional protection and therefore fail to grant locals citizenship or representation in the parliament.

 Disapproving the theatrics of rulers, the proponents of the merger of Gilgit Baltistan with Pakistan filed a case in nation’s Supreme Court. To their dismay, Supreme Court ruled that Gilgit Baltistan is still part of Jammu Kashmir, and it cannot be absorbed into Pakistan and further that the concerned authorities should grant locals basic rights without affecting the Kashmir issue.[i] The Attorney General of Pakistan stated that Pakistan’s constitution cannot be amended to address Gilgit Baltistan issue and therefore existing ordinance would be reformed to satisfy the locals. Following the verdict, the federal cabinet chaired by Prime Minister Imran Khan affirmed the statement of the attorney general on the basis of country’s geostrategic interests and refused to declare Gilgit Baltistan part or province of Pakistan.

 This verdict is also affirmation of the statement of Dr. Muhammad Faisal of the foreign office, who on June 21, 2018 stated:

“Gilgit Baltistan is part of the state of Jammu & Kashmir and is a disputed territory. Please visit the UN website to see the numerous Security Council Resolutions on the Jammu & Kashmir dispute. Under International Law and as per the directives of the UN Security Council, the final disposition of the State of Jammu & Kashmir shall be made as a result of a free and fair UN-administered plebiscite, wherein the Kashmiris will decide their fate in accordance with their basic right to self-determination. The legality of the Jammu & Kashmir dispute in rooted in these binding UNSC Resolutions. Therefore, there is no doubt about the disputed status of the entire state of Jammu & Kashmir, including Gilgit Baltistan.” 

 People of Gilgit Baltistan have rejected the verdict of the Supreme Court and threatened region-wide protests.

 Pakistan doesn’t have many options left in regards to Gilgit Baltistan. Firstly, Pakistan cannot amend its constitution to merge Gilgit Baltistan. Secondly, Pakistan also cannot withdraw and allow India to assume control of Gilgit Baltistan as the success of CPEC rests on absolute control over Gilgit Baltistan.  At the same time, Pakistan cannot leave Gilgit Baltistan in its current limbo as this will only increase dissent and the demand for self-determination. Thirdly, Pakistan also realizes that it cannot expect support from the United Nations due to the fact that the Simla Agreement deemed Kashmir a bilateral issue.

 Therefore the only option available for Pakistan is to replicate the constitutional framework of “Azad” Kashmir in Gilgit Baltistan. It is expected that the people of Gilgit Baltistan will accept an Azad Kashmir-like constitutional set up granted it establishes genuine autonomy. In addition, people of Gilgit Baltistan also want Pakistan to stop violating the state subject rule that enables illegal demographic change and settlements in Gilgit Baltistan.

 Lastly but most importantly, Pakistan must recognize its interests in the long term resolution of this conflict with India and engage in earnest peace talks and break the pattern of supporting terrorism in Kashmir in order for the region to move forward.

 Senge Sering, a native of Gilgit Baltistan, is President of the Washington DC based Institute for Gilgit Baltistan Studies


Supreme Court forms committee to find solution ‘above the GB Order 2018 and below the Constitution’ – PAMIR TIMES

Islamabad: Attorney General of Pakistan Anwar Mansoor Khan informed the Supreme Court of Pakistan that GB cannot be made a separate province. He adopted this stance in front of the seven-member bench of the apex court, headed by Chief Justice of Pakistan Mian Saqib Nisar, on Friday during the hearing of the case related to GB’s constitutional status.


Kartarpur Corridor Will Not Help Resolve India-Pak Tensions

We can’t ignore Pakistan’s role in supporting terrorists operating in Jammu and Kashmir and the rest of India.


India and Pakistan opened a corridor recently so that Sikh pilgrims from India’s Punjab state might visit some of their religion’s holiest shrines located across the border. The ceremony marking the opening provided an opportunity for Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan to break some of the international isolation he has faced since his rise to office. This came in the form of the presence of Indian ministers from the Sikh community at his side as well as the chance to speak to Indian and international media. But beyond that, the event contributed little to the process of reducing India-Pakistan tensions.

From India’s perspective, the opening of the Kartarpur corridor was a regional affair that appeased the limited constituency of Sikhs in Indian Punjab. Pakistan’s support for terrorism remains the larger issue for India and Khan’s willingness to allow Indian pilgrims to visit holy shrines simply does not change that reality. India has entered its election cycle, making it difficult for New Delhi to ignore Pakistan’s role in supporting terrorists operating in Jammu and Kashmir and the rest of India.

Pakistan’s manifold crises, both domestic and foreign, also make it difficult for Khan to concede ground lest he be attacked for being soft on India, like he attacked his predecessors. That is why he simply repeats the mantra of how Pakistan wants good relations with India and insists that only the final resolution of the Kashmir dispute would pave the way for the two countries to live side by side as friends and neighbours. There is no acknowledgment that perpetrators of terrorist attacks in India, such as the masterminds of the 26/11 attacks in Mumbai, remain free to organise and operate in Pakistan.

Khan’s attempt to change from India hawk to dove soon after coming to office follows a well-worn pattern. Every time a new civilian Prime Minister assumes office in Pakistan, they raise hopes not just in India but also around the world about better relations between the two South Asian nations. But had resolution of the Kashmir dispute and the India-Pakistan standoff been that easy, relations would have improved as far back as the 1950s. At that time, the founding generation of both countries was alive, with personal relationships from the pre-partition era, and neither country was nuclear armed, nor were ties impeded by the existence of jihadi groups targeting India.

The expectations raised by some sections of the media over the opening of the Kartarpur Sahib are unrealistic because they fail to consider the real reasons for hostility between India and Pakistan. There is also an unwillingness to focus on the different motives and political incentives at work.

For Imran Khan, the Kartarpur corridor is a way to demonstrate that his Naya (New) Pakistan will resolve all problems that ailed Purana (Old) Pakistan, from economy to foreign policy. He believes that simply stating “if India takes one step, Pakistan will take two” will create the appearance of a peace process, sufficient to make him seem like a statesman. Khan saw the opening of the Kartarpur Sahib corridor—which will link Kartarpur Sahib Gurudwara in Pakistan with Dera Baba Nanak in India’s Gurdaspur district—as a political masterstroke. His Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi used the metaphor of “a googly” (a difficult ball directed at a batsman in cricket) to describe Khan’s initiative, exposing the cynicism at work behind it.

For India, the Kartarpur corridor is simply that, a corridor to ease access for Sikh pilgrims to their religious sites. It is an issue-specific concession, akin to offering visas for medical purposes, that ties in with India’s overall policy of improving people-to-people ties with Pakistan. It does not, however, reflect any change in Indian policy on substantive matters and, therefore, does not ease India’s policy over the last several years of refusing direct high-level talks with Pakistan until the issue of terrorism is addressed.

In an age of social media and 24-hour news cycles people have a short memory and there is a tendency to forget what happened in history. Every Indian Prime Minister from Jawaharlal Nehru to Narendra Modi has thought of improvement of ties with Pakistan as one of their legacies. That this has not happened in 70-plus years should explain some of the inherent difficulties.

Going back to the 1950s, better people to people relations, and ease of travel and tourism were proposed by the Indian side. From the 1990s, Delhi sought to push for closer economic ties by offering Pakistan Most Favoured Nation (MFN) status, that has yet to be reciprocated. In the last two decades, rail and bus links or visas for medical purposes have been viewed as the catalyst that might break down the barriers between the two countries.

There is consensus in India that a politically stable and economically integrated South Asia is in India’s national interest. Only in recent years has a strong anti-Pakistan sentiment emerged in India, particularly in the aftermath of the 1999 Kargil and the 2008 Mumbai terrorist attacks, both of which are reflective of a tendency on Pakistan’s part to use peace initiatives as an opportunity to covertly launch attacks.

The resumption of dialogue between India and Pakistan is being held back by the reluctance of the Pakistani security establishment to change its core views on India. Pakistani civilian leaders initiating friendship towards India—such as Benazir Bhutto, Nawaz Sharif, and Asif Zardari—have been targeted by their domestic opponents as “security risks” or “Indian agents” at the security establishment’s instigation. They also lost influence and power soon after initiating any peace process with India.

Since independence in 1947, Pakistan’s identity and foreign policy have been framed around the notion of an existential threat from India. Since the 1971 India-Pakistan war that led to the breakup of Pakistan and the creation of Bangladesh, Pakistan’s establishment has consistently supported insurgent and terror groups that have targeted India in the hope that this would help “cut India down to size” and ensure that India is unable to undo Partition.

In addition to helping groups in Kashmir, the Pakistani military and intelligence have also supported the Khalistan movement that seeks an independent Sikh state carved out of Indian Punjab. Although major violence in Punjab ended by the late 1980s, the Khalistan separatist movement survives abroad with Pakistan’s backing. The presence of a known pro-Khalistan leader, Gopal Singh Chawla, at the Kartarpur opening ceremony has already raised eyebrows in Delhi.

The opening of the Kartarpur Sahib corridor is hardly a step towards normal relations between India and Pakistan. If the Kartarpur corridor results in a rise of terror attacks by Khalistani operatives it would strengthen the views of those within India who believe that Pakistan just cannot be trusted.

Aparna Pande is Research Fellow and Director, India Initiative at the Washington-DC based Hudson Institute. Her books include Escaping India: Explaining Pakistan’s Foreign Policy (Routledge, 2011) and From Chanakya to Modi: The Evolution of India’s Foreign Policy (Harper Collins, 2017)

Photo: Reuters

What Trump's USA Must Remember About Terrorism When Negotiating With Taliban and Pakistan

President Donald Trump’s letter to Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan, reportedly seeking Islamabad’s assistance in bringing Afghanistan’s Taliban to the negotiating table, is reminiscent of a similar letter by President Obama to then President Asif Ali Zardari in 2009.

Veteran diplomat Zalmay Khalilzad is also in the region trying to reprise the role Richard Holbrooke played in finding a negotiated settlement for the quagmire in Afghanistan, of which Pakistan remains a major part.

If the Trump-Khalilzad effort is to be more successful than the Obama-Holbrooke exertions, it is important to understand what went wrong earlier.

Whenever the Taliban and Pakistan’s military-intelligence leadership sense that the US is eager to withdraw from Afghanistan, they express willingness to talk.

As I have argued in my article for Foreign Policy, the Taliban prefers to ‘fight and talk’, while Pakistan often advocates a ceasefire. Highly visible attacks following peace overtures, such as the assassination in October of Kandahar police chief, General Abdul Raziq, in an attack that narrowly missed the top US commander in Afghanistan, serve two purposes.

They reinforce the narrative that Afghanistan cannot be won militarily, while also convincing fellow Jihadis that the American eagerness to negotiate is the result of weakness.

For Pakistan, the US focus on withdrawal from Afghanistan offers an opportunity to engage with Washington and to possibly secure US economic and military assistance.

The US war effort in Afghanistan since 2001 has never involved deployment of maximum force and there has never been sufficient action to shut down cross-border support for the Taliban from Pakistani territory.

Corruption and venal politics in Afghanistan have contributed to the general unwillingness among Americans to endlessly expend blood and treasure in a distant land, with no end in sight.

American fatalities in Afghanistan have been relatively low in recent years. In 2015, ten American troops lost their lives; nine were killed in 2016; and eleven in 2017. In 2018, so far, 12 American soldiers have died in combat in Afghanistan along with four other coalition soldiers, according to a New York Times article. Meanwhile, 28,529 Afghan security personnel have been killed in the fighting since 2015.

The Trump administration and its special representative for Afghanistan reconciliation Zalmay Khalilzad believe that the time is ripe for a negotiated settlement notwithstanding past difficulties in securing a deal.

Zalmay Khalilzad is an able and experienced diplomat, uniquely qualified to navigate the treacherous politics of Afghanistan where he was born and served as US ambassador during the George W. Bush administration.

President Trump has tapped the right person for a tough job, but even Khalilzad might not be able to overcome the gap in the thinking of the Taliban and the American outlook.

Pakistan’s economy is in a tailspin and the country’s need for an IMF bailout gives the US some useful leverage. But any transaction that gives Pakistan its bailout first might not lead to a satisfactory Pakistani role in helping the Americans. On the other hand, there is also the possibility that both sides could over-estimate their respective leverage – the US over the economy and Pakistan over an Afghan settlement – making a deal more difficult.

Realising the limitations imposed on the Holbrooke effort of over-dependence on Pakistan, Khalilzad is talking directly with the Taliban. He also recognises that Pakistan might support the insurgent leaders but does not completely control their insurgency.

But even after talking to Taliban leaders directly, things might not turn out to be as different from the past as some people in Washington would like to believe. On the eve of Khalilzad’s trip, Pakistan’s minister for human rights tweeted: “This time perhaps you [should] bring a less arrogant and hostile mindset when you visit Islamabad!”

The minister, Shireen Mazari, is well-known for her inflexible views about India, Israel and the United States and is considered a mouthpiece for hardliners in Pakistan’s military and intelligence service.

Her tweet was a reminder that not only is the Taliban a difficult enemy to reconcile with; some Pakistanis also have regional ambitions that are incompatible with American objectives.

While diplomats, like Khalilzad, are busy exploring peaceful outcomes for Afghanistan, these hardliners might be rooting for a Taliban victory following an American withdrawal.

Much of the discussion about Afghanistan in Washington since 2009 has focused on how America’s longest war can be brought to an early end. It is easily forgotten that just as defeating the Taliban militarily has proved difficult, negotiating with them has not been particularly easy either.

The Taliban has been playing the long game, hoping to wait the Americans out before defeating the inadequately trained Afghan forces. Their engagement with Khalilzad’s efforts comes amidst awareness that Americans are less focused right now on the need to deny safe havens to terrorists than they were in the immediate aftermath of 9/11.

While negotiating with the Taliban, Americans must remember that international terrorism is not over and precipitating US withdrawal from terrorist-infested regions like Afghanistan would only recreate ungoverned spaces that could again serve as operational bases for global terrorists.

Assurances by the Taliban and Pakistan about clearing out international terrorists have been given several times since 1996 and have often turned out to be inadequate or outright false. If there is to be a settlement this time, it would have to involve verifiable guarantees that Afghan and Pakistani soil will not be used to harbour or train terrorists responsible for attacks around the world.

Furthermore, efforts for a settlement should not end up giving a fillip to the narrative of global jihad. Al-Qaeda was born out of the storyline that Jihadi ideology forced the Soviets to withdraw from Afghanistan and led to the collapse of one superpower, the Soviet Union.

If Americans are seen to abandon Afghanistan in a hurry, the Jihadis will tell future recruits how the combination of their real religious zeal and terrorism overcame the military prowess of two superpowers.

The ‘triumph of Jihad’ narrative would increase the flow of recruits to terrorist groups and might result in increasing the frequency of terrorist attacks around the world.

Equally important are the apprehensions of Afghans other than the Taliban. Since 2001, Americans have helped Afghanistan implement a democratic constitution, provide access to education for women and encouraged the desire among Afghans to engage with the rest of the world – developments that are anathema to the Taliban. Even while pretending to talk, they seldom express willingness to allow Afghanistan’s progress to continue.

President Ashraf Ghani recently outlined the Afghan government’s roadmap for achieving peace, which emphasised “a peace agreement in which the Afghan Taliban would be included in a democratic and inclusive society” and “no armed groups with ties to transnational terrorist networks or transnational criminal organizations, or with ties to state/non-state actors, seeking influence in Afghanistan will be allowed to join the political process”.

While trying to persuade the Taliban and Pakistan to deliver peace, the Americans cannot afford to ignore the concerns of the Afghan government.

Husain Haqqani, director for South and Central Asia at the Hudson Institute in Washington D.C., was Pakistan’s ambassador to the United States from 2008-11. His latest book is ‘Reimagining Pakistan.

Photo: @US4AfghanPeace/Twitter

Afghanistan's Taliban Is in It to Win It

Like three of his predecessors, U.S. President Donald Trump is now reportedly seeking Pakistan’s assistance in bringing Afghanistan’s Taliban to the negotiating table. But the history of American negotiations with the Taliban, going back to the mid-1990s, shows how large the perceptual gap between the two sides is. Even when Pakistan has facilitated dialogue, those efforts have been frustrated by the chasm between America’s and the Taliban’s worldviews.

Zalmay Khalilzad, America’s negotiator in the new talks, is an able and experienced diplomat, uniquely qualified to navigate the treacherous politics of Afghanistan. Trump has tapped the right person for a tough job, but even Khalilzad may not be able to overcome the difference in outlook—and commitment—between the United States and the Taliban.

The United States does not lose wars; it only loses interest. From America’s point of view, Afghanistan is a poor backwater that becomes strategically significant only when a hostile power controls it. The United States supported Afghans waging a holy war against the Soviets during the 1980s, only to walk away after the Soviet withdrawal and return after the 9/11 terrorist attacks. Although the United States has never deployed the full possible force needed to eliminate the Taliban operating from safe havens across the border in Pakistan, most Americans feel they are embroiled in an endless war far from home. Reports about corruption and Afghanistan’s venal politics add to the view that the Afghans contribute less to the war effort than they should and that, after the killing of Osama bin Laden and degrading of al Qaeda, the United States has little reason to continue expending blood and treasure there.

But contrary to the perception in the United States, America’s Afghan allies have borne the vast bulk of the human cost of fighting in their country, especially in recent years. At least 28,529 Afghan security personnel have been killed in the fighting since 2015 alone. American fatalities are low in contrast. In 2015, 10 American troops lost their lives; nine were killed in 2016, and 11 were killed in 2017. In 2018 so far, 12 U.S. soldiers died in combat in Afghanistan.

The U.S. view of Afghanistan as less important in itself is visible in its past interactions with the Taliban. The former President Bill Clinton’s administration engaged with the Taliban in 1996, seeking information about Osama bin Laden and al Qaeda leaders, only to be told falsely that they were not in Taliban-controlled territory. Two years later, Pakistani officials told U.S. diplomats that the Taliban wanted to get rid of bin Laden and even suggested that the U.S. pay off the Taliban to expel the al Qaeda leader. Both ideas turned out to be red herrings.

After the Sept. 11 attacks, George W. Bush’s administration assumed that Gen. Pervez Musharraf’s military regime in Pakistan would help it take care of the Taliban threat just as it was helping to arrest some al Qaeda terrorists inside its own country. Once American officials realized that the Taliban’s safe haven in Pakistan was a major impediment to military success in Afghanistan, U.S. policy focused on incentivizing or pressuring Pakistan into helping American withdrawal.

Beginning with then-President Barack Obama’s appointment in 2009 of veteran diplomat Richard Holbrooke as special representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan, several attempts have been made to reach out to the Taliban and the Pakistani authorities for formal negotiations for a comprehensive settlement. The Trump administration has revitalized exploratory meetings with Taliban representatives with the appointment of Khalilzad as special representative for Afghan reconciliation.

Much of the discussion about Afghanistan in Washington since 2009 has focused on how America’s longest war can be brought to an early end. In addition to initiating the peace process, Obama even set a timeline for withdrawal of U.S. troops—something Trump has thankfully avoided.

But lost in the perennial discussion of the 17-year war is the point that military missions must be tied to the attainment of objectives, not to their length of time. If defeating the Taliban militarily has proved difficult, negotiating with them has not been particularly easy either. The Taliban’s view of the conflict is fundamentally different—and far more long-term—than Washington’s. In their worldview, shaped by their ideology, Americans are unbelievers occupying an Islamic country, and their Afghan allies are also legitimate targets of jihad. The Taliban have been playing the long game, hoping to wait the Americans out before defeating the inadequately trained Afghan forces.

The Taliban have a long pattern of following up peace overtures with highly visible attacks, such as the assassination in October of Kandahar’s police chief, Gen. Abdul Raziq, in an attack that narrowly missed the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan.

The Taliban have a long pattern of following up peace overtures with highly visible attacks, such as the assassination in October of Kandahar’s police chief, Gen. Abdul Raziq, in an attack that narrowly missed the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan.

The purpose of such attacks, soon after secret talks with U.S. interlocutors, is to demonstrate to true believers that the American eagerness to negotiate is the result of weakness, whereas the jihadis are willing to talk only to ease the withdrawal of infidels without giving up on their ideology.

While negotiating with the Taliban, Americans must remember that international terrorism is not over and that precipitate U.S. withdrawal from terrorist-infested regions such as Afghanistan would only recreate ungoverned spaces that could again serve as operational bases for global terrorists.

The Taliban and Pakistan have given assurances about clearing out international terrorists several times since 1996, and their promises have often turned out to be inadequate or outright false. If there is to be a settlement this time, it would have to involve verifiable guarantees that Afghan and Pakistani soil will not be used to harbor or train terrorists responsible for attacks around the world.

Al Qaeda was born out of the belief that jihadism had not only forced the Soviets to withdraw from Afghanistan but also led to the collapse of the Soviet Union. Many hold to a similar belief about the United States. The Islamic State took advantage of Obama’s decision to withdraw U.S. forces from Iraq without much forethought.

If the Americans are seen abandoning Afghanistan in a hurry, jihadists worldwide will tell future recruits how the combination of their religious zeal with terrorism overcame the military prowess of two superpowers. The “triumph of jihad” narrative would increase the flow of recruits and with it terrorist attacks. Better intelligence and homeland security have prevented large-scale attacks over the years, but an expansion in recruitment could strain those efforts.

And while talking to the Taliban is important, so are the concerns of ordinary Afghans. Since 2001, Americans have helped Afghanistan implement a democratic constitution, provide access to education for women, and encourage the desire among Afghans to engage with the rest of the world—developments that are anathema to the Taliban. Even while pretending to talk, they seldom express willingness to allow Afghanistan’s progress to continue.

A negotiated settlement in Afghanistan is a noble objective, but it should not be based on either a mistaken analysis of who is paying the costs or false hopes about an eventual settlement. While pursuing peace, Americans should not lose sight of the difficulties in securing a deal with the Taliban, a less easily reconcilable enemy, as well as Pakistan, a country with regional ambitions that are not always compatible with American objectives. The United States would do well to align its negotiating position with that of the Afghan government.

Nepal Hosts 2018 Asia-Pacific Summit

Over the past few days, around 1500 participants from 45 countries, including many heads of state, will have attended the Asia-Pacific Summit in Nepal. Organized by the South Korea-based Universal Peace Federation and supported by the Nepal government, the summit touched on many topics, from climate change to fake news. 

The official theme of the summit was “Addressing the Critical Challenges of Our Time: Interdependence, Mutual Prosperity, and Universal Values”. With the event attended by many small nations in the region, these topics were of crucial importance. Especially at a time when globalization can be seen as negative, as much larger nations (such as India and China) with much larger labor forces are often blamed for unemployment at home. The purpose of this event was to remind detractors that through increasing ties and connections with one another, in a fair and balanced way, all can prosper. Nepal’s Prime Minister Sharma Oli expressed his desire to continue developing friendly ties with neighboring countries on the basis of “equality and justice”.  

While the rhetoric may have become a little utopic at times, the summit did address some very real issues facing not only the region, but the world as a whole. Former Indian Prime Minister H.D. Deve Gowda said that the biggest challenges of the time are the threats of terrorism and climate change, both which pose “a threat to humanity irrespective of national border, religion and gender.” In his official statement addressing the summit, PM Oli spoke extensively on the danger climate change presents to the global community, especially to mountainous and small island countries. He warned that global warming is no longer just a challenge to development, but rather it has become a “challenge to survival, an existential threat to humanity”. He went on to explain that the mountains and forests in Nepal are of great importance to the region’s weather patterns. With Nepal dedicating a significant portion of its landmass to containing global temperature rise, PM Oli called for them to be seen as “global assets” and encouraged other countries to follow suit.

 Another issue addressed at the summit was the rise in fake news. As social media becomes more and more popular around the world, it has become even easier for false or misleading information to spread rapidly, masquerading as fact or the truth. Washington Times president Thomas P. McDevitt said that social media’s influence has grown dramatically recently. With no mechanism in place to verify news and information that gets published on social media, McDevitt warns that this has led to a growing credibility issue. Various heads of media organizations and top-notch journalists in attendance voiced their opinions on the media’s evolving role in the context of the world’s challenges. Many spoke on the need to practice self-regulation, while preserving freedom of expression. Masahiro Kuroki, president of Japanese newspaper Sekai, said that the media needs to work responsibility more than ever before, as fake news presents a plethora of challenges.  

Prime Minister Oli finished his address by stating that Nepal’s successful peace process within its own country. While he recognizes that a “one-size-fits-all” approach cannot work since all countries and their particular circumstances are different, he believes that the Nepal example can serve as inspiration to the many nations struggling with their own armed conflicts, and that a transition to peaceful democracy is possible.

On Monday the summit ended, and the participants returned to their respective nations. Moving forward, it remains to be seen just how much impact the summit will have, as most of the international media attention was focused on the G20 meeting. However, the topics discussed at the Asia-Pacific summit were of global importance, and reach far beyond just the region.  

Pakistan's Ongoing Struggles with Terrorism

The issue of terrorism continues to plague the nation of Pakistan. The negative effects of terrorist attacks spread far beyond the immediate consequences of death and injury. Terrorism by its very nature disrupts society, from both the bottom up and the top down. Terrorism also reduces foreign investment, especially in nations such as Pakistan which has failed to adequately prevent attacks from happening. In the recent weeks in Pakistan, both of these effects can be seen.

The unstated goal of most terrorist groups is to provoke the government into an overly harsh reaction. The terrorist organization hopes this will turn the public against the government and generate sympathy and support for their cause, or at the least destabilize the government, making it easier for the terrorist organization to continue its actions. This is how society can be disrupted by terrorism in a top-down fashion, where the government passes policies or judgements provoked by terror attacks. In more than a few cases, governments have used the specter of terrorism to justify their oppressive actions or draconian policies.

The decision of the Pakistan Supreme Court to acquit Asia Bibi of blasphemy charges attracted international attention, as did the massive protests against her release. As the protests threatened to turn into riots, the government appeased the leaders of the movement, the Tehreek-i-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP) political party, by assuring them Mrs. Bibi would not be allowed to leave the country until the appeals against the Supreme Court’s decision were made. However, last Saturday, Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry announced in a news conference that 3,000 TLP members had been arrested, including the chief and founder of the party Khadim Hussain Rizvi, and that the leadership will be tried on charges of treason and terrorism. These charges stem from the violent actions (attacking civilians and burning cars) and the violent rhetoric (urging the Supreme Court judges’ cooks and servants to kill the judge, condemning Prime Minister Imran Khan and the Pakistani army chief) that occurred during some of the protest. The rank and file members of TLP will be freed if they pledge to avoid engaging in “illegal and unconstitutional” political activities in the future.

While the violence carried out by the TLP during their protests is undefendable, and their rhetoric is shocking at times, one must wonder: do these attacks constitute terrorism? The Khan administration has not indicated if the political party itself will be labeled a terrorist organization, but with its leadership facing life imprisonment should they be found guilty, TLP will be hard-pressed to continue operating at its current capacity, having secured 2 million votes in the July general elections. Afzal Qadri, one of Mr. Rizvi’s deputies, shocked Pakistani society when he called for the overthrow of the army chief. Pakistan’s military is rarely criticized in public, as the military often does not tolerate any public demonstrations of dissent against them. It would not be hard for many Pakistanis to view these charges as attempts to silence the more provocative elements of the TLP political party, and perhaps could lead to increased support.  

Acts of terrorism can also heavily disrupt the state’s economy as well. Especially for states like Pakistan, which desperately desires foreign investment, these instances of violence are a significant detriment to their ability to attract foreign companies. Foreign investors already have to account for the vast amounts of corruption in Pakistan when doing their cost-benefit and risk analyses. Having to factor in potential acts of terrorism as well can make Pakistan too much of a risk for these investors.

However, China has decided to invest vast sums of money into Pakistan as a key part of their Belt and Road Initiative. The Chinese investment, while welcomed by many officials, has created significant problems on the ground for many Pakistanis. Many have had their lives and livelihoods disrupted by the massive amounts of construction being carried out by Chinese companies, who mainly employ only Chinese labor. Chinese construction has also been carried out in the volatile region of Balochistan. A few weeks ago, three suicide bombers belonging to the Baloch Liberation Army (BLA) carried out an attempted attack against the Chinese consulate in Karachi. While the attack was foiled, the fact that such an attack against a secure target in a high-security zone indicates the level of anger the BLA has against the Chinese government, and what the BLA sees as “Chinese military expansionist endeavors” in Balochistan. On Twitter, Prime Minister Khan condemned the attacks, and claimed the attacks were “intended to scare Chinese investors and undermine CPEC”.

The Chinese have been doing themselves little favors in carrying out their construction and business in Pakistan. CPEC was marketed to the Pakistani public as a massive source of job creation and business for Pakistani companies, but that has failed to materialize. Chinese companies are often exclusively used, for everything from construction to shipping the materials. This has caused many in Pakistan to complain and anger towards the Chinese has grown. Despite Pakistan pledging over 15,000 military forces to protecting Chinese workers and business interests within the country, Beijing has become increasing vocal of the need for Khan’s administration to take further measures. While the level of violence has not reached the point where China considers pulling out, it has certainly made things more difficult for the Pakistan government.   

Pakistan has claimed that they have taken great strides towards combating the terrorism presence within their borders (often in response to accusations by Afghani or American officials concerning Pakistan’s support for the Taliban), but these reaction events have tainted the belief that real progress has been made. With Imran Khan’s government facing a struggling economy and growingly dissatisfied population, terrorism will remain a significant problem to his administration.    

Modi Weighs into the Global Super Rink at G20

The thirteenth annual Group of Twenty (G20) conference took place last week in Buenos Aires, Argentina as global leaders descended onto the South American country to discuss various issues facing the world. G20 is an annual meeting of the world’s most important heads of state, including President Trump, Prime Minister May, President Putin, Prime Minister Modi, and many more. G20 is an opportunity for world leaders to foster alliances and show the world who they are friends with, and who they may be enemies with. This friendship was on display as Vladimir Putin and Saudi Prince Mohammed bin Salman were captured on film comfortably and firmly shaking hands like they were old time friends. This exuberant encounter exemplified changing coalitions in the geopolitical world. However, Putin and the Saudi Prince were not the only ones greeting each other with smiles. Prime Minister Modi was photographed warmly standing beside two different global allies. The first was Modi with Putin and Xi Jinping, and the other was alongside Trump and Shinzō Abe. Harking back to the past days of Indian non-alignment, Modi was clearly out to make more friends than enemies at the G20 summit as he seeks to expand India’s global influence.


Prime Minister Modi came with a plan to G20, which he laid to his global audience. He presented his nine point plan to deal with fugitive economic offenders, an issue which India has been handling a lot recently. Modi presented this plan to the delegation during the second session of the summit on international trade, and finance and taxation. The plan called for “effective freezing and efficient reparation of the criminal proceeds and offenders”, and for strong and active cooperation to help tackle the issue. India also joined efforts by fellow G20 countries to fully implement the principles of the United Nations Convention Against Corruption and United Nations Convention Against Transnational Organized Crime.


Another part of Modi’s nine point plan is his request for a task forces to be set up to deal with fugitive economic offenders, as well as “sharing experiences and best practices” for cases of extradition and gaps in the existing system of extradition. Modi called on Financial Action Task Force to “formulate a standard definition of fugitive economic offenders” and “to assign priority and focus to establishing international co-operation”. FATF was formed to combat threats to global financial systems. These threats can include money laundering or terrorist financing.


India has raised the issue of economic fugitives at G20 during the same time that two prominent stories regarding economic fugitives have emerged. India is looking to press charges of extradition on Nirav Modi and Mehul Choksi, both who are at the core of the PNB load fraud scheme. Due to recent events, the Indian government has enacted laws to prevent economic offenders from leaving India and fleeing to other countries. Choksi claims he is not returning to India due to a fear of a “lynch mob”, but the Indian government is searching for ways to press charges. Since this is an important issue to India as they struggle with convicting economic fugitives, they do not want other nations to make the same mistake.


Beyond the plan promoted by India, Modi has been working on the sidelines to help foster greater global relationships for India. Modi decided to ignore the global outcry against Mohammed bin Salman, and decided to meet privately with the king in his residence. The result of that meeting was Saudi Arabia’s offer to supply oil and petroleum to India as their energy demands grow. Modi also worked during the summit to bolster trilateral ties with Japan and the United Sates in the Indo-Pacific. Modi said “When you look at the acronym of our three countries — Japan, America, and India — it is ‘JAI’, which stands for success in Hindi.” Right after meeting with Japan and the US, Modi then joined China and Russia for their trilateral coalition of “RIC”. The three nations agreed on greater cooperation during international forums and global finance institutions. Some could argue that the unique position of India lends then to be able to make friends of all geopolitical alliances, as they are not yet dedicated to one more than another. While Modi’s economic fugitive plan is a step in the right direction, this alliance building is invaluable to India’s continuing international influence.


Additional news has come out regarding India and G20. Modi announced that India has been selected to be the host nation of the G20 Summit in 2022. The conference will coincide with the 75th anniversary of Indian Independence. India was initially selected to host in 2021, but requested to switch to 2022 to host during the independence anniversary. Modi was happy to announce that Italy, the initial country selected to host in 2022, had agreed to swap years with India.

In Our Own Interest

The Indian Navy celebrates Navy Day on December 4 which coincides with the naval missile attack on Karachi harbour during the 1971 war with Pakistan. That happened when the Indian Navy had complete domination in the Indian Ocean Region (IOR) amongst resident nations. Forty-seven years since, a lot has changed which has impacted the IOR security paradigm. It is worth examining some of the emerging dynamics in the Indian Ocean and opportunities it offers to the Indian Navy to exploit her full potential.

During the Cold War, there was relative calm in this region, there being two power centres and bipolar alignments. The area of containment and competition was primarily in the Atlantic and Pacific. The Indian Ocean did not witness turbulence as if this Ocean did not flow between two oceans. All that changed after the end of the Cold War. The European nations outsourced most of their security to the US under NATO umbrella. Oil prices shifted the focus to the Gulf. The attention of the US was more towards the security of sea lanes of communication for safe passage of energy for themselves and the allies. Of late, having declared pivot to Indo-Pacific Strategy, the US seems to be looking inwards with its America First Policy. This will have an impact in the deployment pattern of the US Navy in this region.

Countries, not in the NATO but energy dependent on the gulf, have been deploying their naval combatants in the IOR. It was not uncommon for the Indian Navy to exchange pleasantries with naval ships from over 15-20 countries from outside the region. The numbers went up to 38-40 countries at the peak of piracy in the Gulf of Aden off the Somalian coast.

Iran-Iraq conflict, invasion of Kuwait, 9/11 WTC attack and the fall of Saddam Hussein changed the contours of security worldwide. Global war on terror, Taliban in Afghanistan, Pervez Musharraf’s adventure in Kargil etc. finally spilt into the sea when 26/11 happened in Mumbai. It was significant and proved that terrorists could also use the seas apart from the navies to wage war by breaching territorial integrity of a nation. The entire focus, worldwide, shifted towards coastal and maritime security.

While these events were taking place, one country was rapidly enhancing its economic and military power — China. The hunger for power, both economic and military, necessitated the increased need for energy and security of the routes thereof, both over seas and land. China began strengthening her navy by building nuclear-powered and nuclear-armed submarines and building her first aircraft carrier, clearly announcing her far sea operation intentions. This was divergent from her earlier near sea operation’s vision. China became more and more aware that with the passage of time her needs would multiply and could be met only by transcontinental and oceanic expansion. Clearly, the Gulf, South America and Africa were the energy and resource destinations. To secure the lanes of these passages and acutely aware of the long logistics tail associated with these destinations, China used her economic diplomacy which invariably facilitated her naval presence in the Indian Ocean. Military Strategy Paper of 2015 spelt out clearly its intentions on becoming a maritime power. The subsequent debt trap of Sri Lanka, Myanmar and possibly Maldives speaks for itself.

Another important geopolitical development was the elimination of Osama bin Laden in Pakistan by the US Navy SEALS. This led to the US and NATO pull-out from Afghanistan and the decline of Pakistan’s relevance in the US calculus. China found this to be an opportunity to fulfil her desires of Indian encirclement and devised the CPEC under the Maritime Silk Route (MSR) and took control of Gwadar port on the Makran coast. Gwadar offered twin advantages. While China would ensure surveillance on the US naval presence in the Gulf across Straits of Hormuz, its surrogate Pakistan could counter any attempt by the Indian Navy to restrict their operational space on the western flank.

Fact remains that despite China’s effort to create land-based routes for energy transportation, over 50 per cent of her hydrocarbon will continue to transit over Indian Ocean in next three to four decades. The Malacca dilemma is not disappearing in a hurry. This is significant since China justifies the presence of her navy in the IOR, thus restraining the Indian Navy’s manoeuvring space. Also, most of Indian naval movements and activities could be susceptible to surveillance. China’s support to Pakistan emboldens it with an added inventory of eight additional Chinese submarines and possibly more of Ziangwei class frigates in future. The likelihood of port facilities in Myanmar, Sri Lanka and Male and full-fledged bases at Djibouti and Gwadar would lead to near all-time presence of the Chinese Navy. The Chinese are determined to displace the US in the Pacific and IOR as the dominant naval power. This has become very evident by China’s robust assertion and strident behaviour in its maritime littorals and construction of artificial structures and military infrastructure in the South China Sea. China’s attitude has been one of complete disregard to rule-based world order having rejected the Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA) verdict on South China Sea nine-dash-line, a case brought up by the Philippines.

China and India have avoided open rivalry despite their border frictions. There has been growing geo-economic competition on account of China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) which passes through Gilgit Baltistan, an area forming part of Indian territory occupied by Pakistan, the Maritime Silk Route touching ports in Sri Lanka and Pakistan. Chinese submarines deploy in the Indian Ocean more often. These developments in and around Indian Ocean have encouraged the Indian Navy to enlarge her combat engagement with the US and Japan with the likelihood of Australia joining in the near future. This has also encouraged the US to cooperate with India in its ‘Make in India’ drive. Indian naval chief announced last year that ships, aircraft and submarines are on mission-based deployment at all choke points in the IOR 24×7 to make their maritime domain awareness picture robust and current. This gives the naval combatants more time to react to any developing situation. The recent political developments in Maldives and Sri Lanka have only justified the navy’s long-standing belief that security of a region is important for economic development of India. Prime Minister Modi’s coined acronym SAGAR (Security and Growth for All in the Region) was both timely and visionary political statement.

This is the backdrop in which the resident and non-resident navies will be operating in the near future. The entire sea space is likely to become more crowded but transparent, each country aware of other’s deployment. The sea lanes of communication will be the focus area. Enhanced economic activities will call for more and more cooperation to avoid unintended or accidental confrontation. Shared security could become a necessity. There would be an increased presence of combatants since suspicions would be hard to dispel given the relations amongst the regional countries.

The historical baggage of unresolved boundary and collusion of China with Pakistan would continue to exert pressure on Indian defence budget. Maritime deterrence, both conventional and nuclear, would have to be maintained to prevent any fall out of escalation over land boundaries. Security of sea lanes closer to Makran coast will become a bigger challenge given the belligerence of Pakistan which is likely to increase because of Chinese collusion and full operationalisation of Gwadar. The protection of trade, against both traditional and non-traditional security challenges, will witness overall increase.

This situation offers opportunity of greater political (budgetary) and diplomatic support for scaling up naval capabilities for round-the-clock surveillance of the IOR. The navy will need to add to its maritime patrol aircraft and anti-submarine helicopter inventory urgently apart from its ongoing surface ship and submarine building programmes. Since airborne platforms are import dependent, the identification, selection and negotiations would have to be completed post-haste for induction. The navy has been discharging these duties with available assets in a professional manner. Time has come to sustain these operational deployments for longer periods in the coming decades. We have to take care of our own security and prosperity. We cannot expect any other country to fight for our cause in the IOR or over continental borders.

Article was first published on Force India

India's Assembly Elections: The "Semi-Finals" for 2019

The 2018 Assembly elections are currently taking place in India, and will determine which political party will hold power in each individual state. The first five states to take part in the voting include Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Rajasthan, Telangana, and Mizoram. The two primary competitors in this election include the Indian National Congress and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP); however, there are numerous individual state parties such as the Telangana Rashtra Samithi in Telangana and the Mizo National Front in Mizoram that have the potential to win majority seats.

The 2018 Assembly elections in India will have a significant impact on the country, as they are considered the “semi- finals” to the 2019 Lok Sabha election. The party that wins the majority seats in the individual Assembly elections has the power to further the legislation they choose and push their party agenda in that state. In Rajasthan specifically, Congress has promised a “gochar bhumi” (grazing land) development board and a Vedic culture and education board to sway voters’ opinions on which party would better serve their communities.

In Telangana, the current Chief Minister K Chandrasekhara Rao of the Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS) party has made headlines due to his insistence that he will win over 100 out of 119 seats in this upcoming election. Now that the polls open on December 7th and there are shifting tides regarding his re-election, Rao has been appealing to the masses. He stated in a rally, “It is an election for our dignity and maintaining our identity.”

Based on the specific political climates in each state, there are predicted outcomes for this election. In Madhya Pradesh, many believe that Congress will make a comeback after facing a huge defeat in 2013. Congress had won only 58 out of the 230 Assembly seats in this state, with BJP holding the power for the past fifteen years. In Chhattisgarh, Congress is also expected to win majority seats, although BJP had been the victor in this state during the last election. The same outcome is expected in Rajasthan, with Congress expected to hold the power after the election results are counted.

 The expected results in Telangana and Mizoram show less certainty of a Congress victory, with the Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS) currently in power in the former. The TRS won their first election in 2014 after becoming a separate state from Andhra Pradesh, although Congress was the party that backed the state’s formation. While it was previously expected that the TRS would win this election again, there was a recent C- voter survey that showed Congress winning majority seats. In Mizoram as well, there is not a clear predicted victor of the election. Congress is currently holding the power in the state, but the Mizo National Front is a prominent competitor during this election.

While citizens in Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, and Mizoram have already voted, the elections for Rajasthan and Telangana are taking place on December 7th. The campaigning efforts by Congress, BJP and the TRS have intensified over the past few days, hoping to sway voters during the final stretch. Congress President Rahul Gandhi was in Telangana on Monday December 3rd, to advocate for his party. He stated that the TRS and BJP have a “secret partnership”, and later tweeted, “Great people of Telangana, Modi, KCR & Owaisi are one. They speak in twisted tongues. Do not be fooled by them!” BJP President Amit Shah recently accused TRS and Congress of “minority appeasement” to get more votes. Statements such as these portray the animosity present between the parties, and the lengths they will go to undermine each other’s credibility.

Hits & Misses: Lessons from 1971

Several strategic and operational lessons from the two-front India-Pakistan War of 1971 remain relevant even in today’s vastly different geostrategic and conflict landscapes in South Asia. Revisiting them may not offer contemporary solutions to existing security challenges in the region, but they offer deep insights into the still-fractured India-Pakistan relationship. Western analysts and commentators have been  reluctant to praise India for its strategic decisiveness and willingness to covertly and then directly intervene militarily in East Pakistan on an R2P platform and risk a two-front war with Pakistan.[1] However they do admit that despite its fractured polity, for once India was united across party lines as its leadership combined ‘realpolitik’ with genuine empathy for victims of the genocide.

          Mulling over the idea of going to war from March 1971 onwards and heeding the advice of her army chief, Gen Manekshaw, to delay commencement of operations for many reasons, Indira Gandhi had examined the political consequences of war and its possible outcomes carefully. Though Indira Gandhi initially thought that given the training and significant material assistance being given to the Mukti Bahini; it would be able to defeat the Pakistan Army in East Pakistan on its own, she had not reckoned with the increasing brutality of the Pak Army and the spiralling refugee crisis. With over 10 million refugees streaming into India by November 1971, there was no alternative to direct military action on the eastern front. So certain was she of the need to go to war that one can’t but help benchmark her decision against the seven markers for assessing the relative strength of countries on the brink of war laid out by Geoffrey Blainey, the noted Australian military historian. These are:

‘military strength and the ability to apply that strength efficiently in the chosen zone of war; predictions of how outside nations would behave in the event of the war; perceptions of internal unity and of the unity or discord of the enemy; memory or forgetfulness of the realities and sufferings of war; perceptions of prosperity and of ability to sustain economically; the personality and mental quality of the leaders who weighed the evidence; nationalism and ideology; and the personality and mental qualities of the leaders who weighed the evidence and decided for peace or war.’[2]

On every count, India, Indira Gandhi and her team were well ahead of Yahya Khan, Bhutto and the fragmented Pakistani strategic leadership. Provoked by India’s constant probing in East Pakistan from mid-November, Pakistan struck first on the western front on 03 December, 1971.

 Hoping for some irrational success through pre-emption, it allowed India to supplement its operational superiority with the opportunity to occupy the moral high ground in the ensuing 14 day conflict. The surrender of Dacca and the splitting of Pakistan remains the single most impactful strategic event of the war. Lt Gen Shammi Mehta (Retd) put the whole campaign in the East in the right perspective, albeit with a touch of drama and flair when he remarked:

‘The Indian Armed Forces had in 14 days, liberated a country from where it withdrew in 90 days, picked up 93,000 prisoners, and released them one year later at an average body weight of one-and-a –half times their original weight.’[3]

The defeat further shattered the martial myth of the Punjabi and Pathan dominated Pakistani Army as it crumbled in the face of a secular and diverse Indian Armed Forces and the non-martial Bengalis. The scars of the dismembering remain a debilitating legacy, particularly within the Pakistan Army though the PAF and PN took the defeat more objectively. This is reflected in much of the writing that has emerged from Pakistan on the 1971 war in recent times.[4] The slow normalisation of relations between India and Pakistan since the 1971 war can mainly be attributed to the obsession of the Pak Army to ‘get even’ with India and avenge the loss of 1971.

India emerged as the clear regional power in South Asia after the 1971 war with Pakistan by demonstrating significant national will to tackle a crisis of enormous proportions. By diplomatically engaging with Russia, Western Europe and the US, and sensitising them about the ongoing human tragedy in East Pakistan and the spiralling refugee crisis in India, the Indian government succeeded in conveying to the world that it wanted a peaceful solution to the problem. However, the speed with which it commenced military operations indicated its resolve and willingness to use military force in pursuit of its national interests.

If India was outmanoeuvred strategically at any stage, it was during the Simla Conference of 1972 where a wily Bhutto managed to convince Indira Gandhi of the need to de-link a Kashmir settlement from the negotiations to release the 93,000 Pak prisoners held by India. This, he emphasised, was essential for the survival of his democratically elected government.[5] An internationally recognised agreement over Kashmir in terms of converting the Cease Fire Line into a clearly delineated and demarcated boundary may have sorted out the Kashmir issue once and for all. Hussain Haqqani offers telling comments on the Simla Agreement when he writes:

‘He (Bhutto) pleaded with Gandhi not to insist on including a final resolution of the Jammu and Kashmir dispute in any bilateral agreement although, from India’s point of view, this would have been the ideal opportunity to impose a solution.’[6]

In a moment of triumphant magnanimity, Indira Gandhi lost a golden opportunity to remove the ‘Kashmir’ thorn from India’s flesh. It also allowed Pakistan to keep the pot boiling till it re-worked its strategies to wrest Kashmir from India. Indira Gandhi’s Grand Strategy during the 1971 war was to adopt a ‘balance of power’ model by combining key tenets of non-alignment, realpolitik and an element of altruism. One cannot but drawing parallels between these strategies and the one adopted by PM Vajpayee during the Kargil Conflict.

There is little doubt that the metamorphosis and ‘hardening’ of Indian diplomacy took place in the run-up to the 1971 conflict. Recently declassified White House conversations with Kissinger reveal Nixon as a self-serving President with little interest or empathy for the developing world in general, and South Asia in particular. Kissinger, on the other hand comes across as a brilliant, hard-driving and mercurial czar of US diplomacy – he understood the crisis, but chose to go along with Nixon on the path to restoring relations with China as that is where he felt lay the most tangible gains for US foreign policy.[7] As the crisis unfolded and the India-Pak war ended in a decisive victory for India, both Nixon and Kissinger were clearly irked by Indira Gandhi’s assertiveness and refusal to cower before US hegemony in the region.  Her refusal to get rattled by the posturing of the Seventh Fleet, only increased their frustration at not being able to coerce India into ceasing military operations before its objectives were met. Hard-ball realpolitik coupled with a fair degree of empathy for the suffering population of East Pakistan forced Indira Gandhi to ‘do the right thing’ and wage what can easily be called today as a ‘just war.’

At the operational level, clear and congruent objectives the service chiefs to subordinate formations and effective politico-military interfaces between the service chiefs and key interlocutors from the Prime Minister’s office resulted in a commonality of purpose. Capability building was given top priority and the service chiefs enjoyed a fair degree of independence when it came to designing their concept of operations. Even though the Indian Army and its talismanic chief Manekshaw retained their importance as ‘first among equals’ in a predominantly land-centric armed forces, Indira Gandhi and Jagjivan Ram, her portly and jovial Defence Minister realised the value of air and maritime power in a two-front battle. Due credit must go to them, Air Chief Marshal P.C.Lal and Admiral S.M. Nanda for transforming Indian air and sea power from being mere adjuncts of land power, into tools of military power that had the ability to contribute significantly to a joint military campaign. This ensured that Manekshaw as Chairman of the Chiefs of Staff Committee had no other choice but to create joint-war fighting capability by amalgamating air and sea power into his overall theatre battle plans in both the eastern and western sectors. That there is a pressing need for the improvement of such synergies in the current strategic and operational environment is a given should India want to realize its power potential.

Air Vice Marshal (Dr) Arjun Subramaniam (Retired) is a Visiting Prof at The Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy and the author of ‘India’s Wars: A Military History 1947-1971.’


[1] Arjun Subramaniam, Brave Diplomacy amidst Genocide, The Hindu, 03 December, 2013 at

[2] Geoffrey Blainey, The Causes of War (New York: The Free Press,1988, p.123

[3] Arjun Subramaniam, India’s Wars: A Military History 1947-1971 (Annapolis: Naval Institute Press, 2017), p.425.

[4] Shuja Nawaz, Hussain Haqqani, Sajjad Haider, Kaiser Tufail and Agha Humayun Amin are amongst those whose writings emerge as objective and incisive.

[5] Hussain Haqqani, Pakistan: Between Mosque and Military ( Washington D.C.: Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, 2005), pp.98-99. The book has excellent chapters on the India-Pakistan relationship and is one of the most objective books on the Pakistan Army in the modern era.

[6] Hussain Haqqani, pp.98-99.

[7] See Arjun Subramaniam, Brave Diplomacy amidst Genocide, The Hindu, 03 December, 2013 at



Domestic Tension in Afghanistan Amidst Potential Peace Talks

There have been numerous violent attacks throughout Afghanistan over the past week, which has led to an increased amount of tension in the nation. The most recent attack took place in the Farah province on November 25th, which was initiated by the Taliban. Some other recent attacks include one at a religious gathering in Kabul on November 20th, and another on an Afghan army base mosque in the Khost province on November 23rd. The increased number and magnitude of these attacks portray the increasing confidence held by many insurgency fighters, specifically within the Taliban. There is coincidentally an international conference occurring on November 27th regarding the peace efforts in Afghanistan, held by the Afghan government and the United Nations in Geneva. This conference comes at a crucial time for the Afghan government, which is struggling to contain the numerous attacks occurring within the nation.

The Taliban-led ambush on November 25th led to the death of twenty-two Afghan police officers, contributing to the growing number of casualties during this week’s violence. The insurgency group targeted a security force convoy in the Lash-e- Joveyn district of the Farah province, which is an Afghan region with a strong Taliban foothold. Reuters reported, “Afghan authorities no longer release detailed figures but U.S. Defense Secretary James Mattis recently confirmed casualties have been running at some 500 a month, a figure many officials in Kabul say understates the real toll.” This high casualty number is coupled with increasing confidence within the Taliban, only furthering the Afghan government’s drive to establish peace talks with the insurgency group.

On November 20th, at least fifty people were killed from a suicide bombing incident that occurred in Kabul. There were hundreds of Muslim clerics that had gathered in the nation’s capital to celebrate the Prophet Muhammad’s day of birth, and eighty people were injured according to Afghanistan’s Public Health Ministry. Neither the Taliban nor ISIS have claimed responsibility for this attack yet. There was another explosion on November 23rd in the Khost province of Afghanistan, which it occurred in a mosque within an Afghan army base. The attack specifically targeted the second regiment of the Afghan national army, and they were conducting their Friday prayers inside the base at the time. Twenty-six people were killed in the incident, and there were over fifty people injured as well. There has not been official confirmation regarding the nature of the attack; it may have been carried out by a suicide bomber, or by means of a remotely detonated bomb.

The Afghan government and United Nations- held conference on November 27th will determine the success of the aid efforts that Afghanistan has received from the international community over the past several years. Many nations have contributed to helping Afghanistan in its endeavors to resolve the violence within the country, whether it be monetary support or security forces. While there will not be a Taliban representative attending this meeting, a member stated, “We hope the international leaders accept our demands and put pressure on the U.S. to withdraw all foreign forces from Afghanistan… Otherwise the conference will hold little significance.” This meeting coincides with U.S. President Trump’s efforts to establish a peace deal with the Taliban, which the Afghan government is not involved with at the group’s insistence. While there is increased discussion over peace talks with the Taliban, these developments come at a time of great tension within Afghanistan with the numerous attacks this week. These incidents show the necessity of a peace deal with the Taliban and other violent actors in Afghanistan, as the casualty numbers will only increase until there is a consensus reached.

India and Saudi Arabia Seek Closer Economic Ties

India is considering investing in new major projects led by Saudi Arabia. The Gulf state recently announced a $500 billion project to expand diverse global investment into the Kingdom beyond just oil. As their oil reserves dwindle, Saudi Arabia is looking to the future and knows that it must diversify its economy to stay relevant as a world player. “Neom”, is the name of the futuristic $500 billion mega city that Saudi Arabia hopes to build with its new surge in global investment. Neom would include new roads and railroads, airports and sea ports, as well as the development of an entertainment city and a Red Sea tourism project. India plans to explore investment and contracts opportunities in Neom.  

As a sign of genuine interest regarding Saudi Arabia’s future economic growth, Indian delegates will be meeting in Riyadh on November 27th and 28th to discuss the numerous investment opportunities available. The delegation was organized by the Economic Diplomacy Division of Ministry of External Affairs and Trade Promotion Council of India. The delegation to Riyadh will be headed up by External Affairs secretary Manoj Bharti. The Indian team will meet with Saudi delegates is discuss possible contracts and investments in regard to infrastructure, housing, allied sectors and the entertainment industry of Riyadh and Neom.

Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030 is the plan to reduce their dependence on oil and to strongly diversify their economy. It also plans to further develop public service sectors like health, education, infrastructure and tourism. Vision 2030 aims to increase non-oil industry trade through goods and consumer products, in which India is a prime success story. The 2030 project is expected to open up new opportunities for Indian companies and professionals in sectors like railways, hospitality, tourism, airports, housing, information technology and entertainment. The Saudi Arabian General Investment Authority has issued more than 400 licenses to Indian firms to operate within the Kingdom. There is the potential that Indian companies will partner in the construction process for the high-speed 450-kilometer railway linking Mecca and Medina, and in the construction of an airport in Jeddah.

As these talks take place, it is important to understand the strength of the Indian-Saudi Arabian relationship. Indian investments into Saudi Arabia have totaled $1.5 billion, while Saudi Arabia has only invested $16 million into India. However, on the other hand, Saudi Arabia is the fourth largest trading partner of India. The bilateral trade between the two countries has exceeded $25 billion in just 2016-2017. Saudi Arabia is India’s largest supplier of crude oil, with the country accounting for 20% of India’s total annual imports. 2.7% of India’s exports were sent to Saudi Arabia, while 5.5% of India’s imports came from Saudi Arabia.

Another point of strength between the two countries is the number of expats living abroad. There are about 3.2 million Indians inside of Saudi Arabia, making up the largest expatriate group in Saudi Arabia. Indians inside Saudi Arabia send $10 billions of annual remittances back to India. Former Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh visited the gulf kingdom in 2010 during a three-day visit. Current Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi has also made a visit to Saudi Arabia in 2016, where PM Modi received Saudi Arabia’s highest civilian honor, the Order of King Abdulaziz.

As Saudi Arabia attempts to move their country forward beyond oil, India seeks to cash in on that opportunity. These fresh rounds of economic investment will bring the countries much closer. Though India has primarily invested into Saudi Arabia, it is very likely that Saudi Arabia will return the favor and invest back into India. Vision 2030 will change the way Saudi Arabia aligns itself across the globe, as it seeks to move beyond relationships built solely on oil.

Money, honour, hope – Why Donald Trump’s US & Imran Khan’s Pakistan are having an open spat

The exchange of tough messages over the last few days on Twitter between American president Donald Trump and Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan created news but was nothing new. Trump accused Pakistan of not doing “a damn thing for us” and Khan replied with a list of costs incurred by Pakistan on behalf of the United States.

Leaders of the two countries have been having similar arguments since 1965, when the US suspended military supplies to Pakistan during its war with India.

Three American presidents — Dwight D. Eisenhower, John F. Kennedy, and Lyndon B. Johnson — have asked the question: What do we get from aiding Pakistan? Five — Jimmy Carter, George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, and Barack Obama — have wondered aloud about whether Pakistan’s leaders can be trusted to keep their word.

Pakistan had retorted then that the ungrateful Americans had hurt Pakistan in the middle of a war even though Pakistan took risks in helping the Americans spy on the Soviet Union. Americans argued that they had paid Pakistan for its services with good money and Pakistan had violated the terms under which it acquired US weapons by initiating war with India.

The argument about who wronged whom has taken many twists and turns but its nature has changed little. The bottom line is that the US-Pakistan relationship has been transactional and both sides periodically disagree on the terms of their transaction.

Over the last two decades, US-Pakistan relations have often been described as America’s most difficult external relationship. Although the two countries have been nominal allies dating back to Pakistan’s independence in 1947, their relationship has never been free of friction.

Even in its heyday in the 1950s and 1960s – when Pakistan was described as America’s “most allied ally in Asia”– the US-Pakistan partnership was far from an alliance based on shared values and interests; instead, each of the two partners was always preoccupied with confronting different enemies and pinning different expectations to their association.

Pakistan’s motive in pursuing an alliance with the United States was its quest for security against its much larger neighbour, India. Pakistan has repeatedly turned to the United States as its most significant source of expensive weapons and economic aid.

Although, in the hope of winning US support for Pakistan’s regional aims, Pakistani leaders have assured US officials that they share the United States’ global security concerns. Pakistan has been repeatedly disappointed because the United States does not share Pakistan’s fears of Indian hegemony in South Asia.

For its part, the United States has also chased a mirage when it has assumed that, over time, its assistance to Pakistan would engender a sense of security among Pakistanis, thereby leading to a change in Pakistan’s priorities and objectives.

The United States initially poured money and arms into Pakistan in the hope of building a major fighting force, which could assist in defending Asia against Communism. Pakistan repeatedly failed to live up to its promises to provide troops for any of the wars the United States fought against Communist forces, instead using American weapons in its conflict with India.

Furthermore, the US hopes of persuading Pakistan to give up or curtail its nuclear weapons programme or to stop using Jihadi militants as proxies in regional conflicts have similarly proved futile.

Meanwhile, in Pakistan, successive governments have spent a lot of time trying to figure out how to maintain Pakistan’s freedom of action while depending on American aid. But neither country has changed its core policies nor have they given up the hope that the other will change.

Both sides have their own narrative, making it a tale of exaggerated expectations, broken promises, and disastrous misunderstandings.

President Trump might be incorrect in saying that Pakistan has not done anything for the US because over the decades, Pakistan has helped the United States with some of its policy objectives. He is right in noting that Pakistan has offered tactical cooperation in return for aid, while at the same time undermining strategic objectives of the US.

As I have already told PTI, Pakistani leaders, too, are being disingenuous in describing the US as ‘ungrateful’. Americans have provided over $43 billion in military and economic assistance since 1954, helped build Pakistan’s conventional military capability, and bailed Pakistan out of several economic and political crises.

The U.S. has also ignored or treaded lightly with Pakistan over actions that have resulted in strenuous sanctions for other countries. Pakistan’s open support for Jihadi terrorist groups has not resulted in it being labelled a “state sponsor of terrorism” and its pursuit and acquisition of nuclear weapons has been treated differently than, say, Iran or North Korea.

In the process of seeking transactional advantages, both countries have incurred strategic costs. The Americans have been mired in the long-drawn conflict in Afghanistan because of the unrealistic assumption that economic and military assistance would somehow help Pakistan root out its proxies in Afghanistan – the Afghan Taliban.

Pakistan, on the other hand, has had to pretend to be a US ally even in Afghanistan even though its self-defined national interest there did not coincide with the American objectives. This led to the “deceit and lies” that Trump complains about as well as the “costs to Pakistan” that are at the heart of Imran Khan’s grievance.

Trump and many Americans now recognise that an alliance cannot endure amidst a fundamental divergence of interests. Khan’s assertion that “Pak[istan] has suffered enough fighting US’s war. Now we will do what is best for our people and our interests,” reflects Pakistani sentiment. Although it begs the question why successive Pakistani governments have agreed to be an American ally if the alliance did not serve Pakistan’s interests?

It is difficult to recall another country that says that it acted against its own interests for the sake of an ally like Pakistan does or one that demands recompense for losses it incurred. In any case, few outside Pakistan buy into the mantra of “We did it for the US even though it resulted in the killing of our own people and huge losses to our economy”.

Pakistan’s narrative is said to be about national honour, which gets hurt by any negative remark by an American leader, but Pakistan’s policy has always been pragmatic.

Pakistan’s perennial need for aid and loans, as well as military material, was the basis of its elite’s pursuit of an alliance relationship with the United States. As long as that need persists, Islamabad would continue to be tempted to go back to old transactional patterns.

It is the Americans who are less likely to return to what I describe in my book as ‘magnificent delusions’. Not only do Pakistan’s ambitions in Afghanistan conflict with US plans, but the two countries strongly disagree about China’s expanding influence in Asia.

Only a strategic rethink on the part of Pakistan can lead to a reset in US-Pakistan ties. Until then, occasional Twitter spats and “we paid a heavy price for being your ally” statements will continue to characterise this unusual relationship.

Indian Army's transformation process has begun, but it needs to be a progression rather than a one-time act

Probably stung by poor perceptional response on the intended changes to the army’s structure in different domains, its leadership decided to go transparent and brief the army veteran community on what exactly it was attempting and how. A good decision no doubt in today’s environment when disinformation is so easy and holding backing unclassified information is unproductive. However, a degree of clarity on a few issues is necessary before a brief description and analysis of some of the intended change.

Transformation is not something achieved in a year or two; it’s an ongoing process which spans several years and takes into account the national functional environment, changing nature of conflict, threats, material resource availability, emerging technology, suitability of existing doctrine, quality of human intake, training needs and logistics, among other domains. This must not be confused with restructuring, a terminology being loosely used today. Restructuring by itself is at best a part of the transformation process. The Indian Army, inspired by the US exercise of transforming itself into the digital-information age after the First Gulf War, attempted such an exercise beginning 2005. However, it could force no traction with the political leadership and an unsupportive bureaucracy. The first exercise in attempted transformation led to some accretions as part of Plans, but that was about all. A major accretional sanction it could achieve was for the Mountain Strike Corps (MSC), 90,000 strong at an estimated cost of Rs 65,000 crore. However, transformation itself found no takers. In the face of lack of budgetary support, even the MSC was later virtually shelved.

In the light of the above and escalating threats in which two front war and more have become a reality, especially after Doka La, somehow the Army has been unable to convince the political leadership of the need for suitable budget support to create the right deterrence and dissuasion which it aims to achieve against its adversaries. A notion appears to prevail among the non-uniformed, including the political leadership, diplomatic community and bureaucracy that conventional threats are passé and hybrid conflict is the flavour of the day. It is usually forgotten that deterrence through conventional military strength caters for the far end of the conflict spectrum while responding in the hybrid domain which is many times an ongoing phenomenon in varying intensity.

The current exercise initiated by the army leadership is indeed a bold attempt to overcome many of the imponderables in the face of poor perception about the nature of threats. It is currently a restructuring effort and will hopefully eventually progress into a transformation, going by my earlier explanation of the two terms. What is important is that the leadership is attempting to do a large number of things in a short period to overcome many of the anomalies which have piled up over time. The immediate backdrop study is the Shekatkar Committee Report of 2016, but it is heartening to see that a plethora of past reports, including the VK Singh Report on transformation, have been examined. Each such report is a wealth of analysis of that time with an eye on the future which is already the time we are living in. Many of the unactioned thoughts and ideas gain relevance even with changing context.

Four theme based committees have been formed, each under a Lt Gen, with terms of reference. These are — reorganising and optimisation with an aim of transforming the Indian Army, reorganization of the army HQ, cadre review of officers and review of terms of engagement of other ranks (OR). Each of them deserves a separate analytical piece but this analysis is a generic one to get a measure of understanding before more is written specifically on each study.

Obviously, two things are driving the entire exercise which the army chief appears to have correctly assessed as core to his current concern. First is the low budgetary support with no apparent assurance of any assuaging of the perception prevailing in the army. Second is the dilution in status of ranks of officers and the relative deprivation in terms of promotion prospects for all ranks across the board compared to the civil services, an issue snowballing to greater acrimony. Very interestingly, unlike in the past when the government approved a fixed increment of promotion vacancies as part of cadre review and the army doing the fitment by looking for appointments for upgradation, this time, the reverse seems true.

Doctrinally proactive strategy, a euphemism for Cold Start, requires progressive alteration in its capability to be effective. That is being attempted through the creation of Integrated Battle Groups (IBGs) different from the current ones which are essentially based on loose grouping of a division and an armored brigade. What is being sought is a configuration with a permanent grouping of a mix of lesser number of infantry units along with some armored regiments, mechanised infantry and artillery units with dedicated and possibly assured communication, engineer and logistics support. This is the major change in the plains and desert creating a larger number of formations somewhere between a brigade and a division group thus enhancing the number of formations, increasing flexibility and reducing the headquarters (HQ) elements currently existing as the command and control body of each brigade and division. It’s a good thought since the number of contact points along the frontage automatically increase in an offensive operation in which a corps HQ directly controls the IBGs which will be under a Major General each, thus doing away for the need of Brigadier as a command rank. Something similar is being attempted in the mountains for offensive operations but two areas remain intact as they are. These are the Line of Control and the Strike Corps, clarity on which is yet missing. The rank of Brigadier will exist but there will be no selection board to become Maj Gen. Brigadiers will be automatically promoted to Major General rank after 2-3 years. Both ranks of Brigs and Maj Gens will be placed in same Pay Level 14. The army hopes to promote 80 officers per batch to Maj Gen, much above the current number, and thereby improve feasibility of more officers attaining the Senior Administrative Grade (SAG), although nowhere near the percentage achieved by the Civil Services.

Promotability from Lt Col to Col is to be increased from current 35-38 percent to about 55-60 percent with additional vacancies of Colonels who will also enter the “staff only” stream currently reserved for Maj Gen. That will enable “command and staff’ stream officers to be placed in command as Colonels in about 18 years of service after serving a tenure in staff. It will reduce the Colonel to Brigadier/Maj Gen service gap and allow more senior Colonels to command as the perception about very young Commanding Officers (COs) has not been as positive as had been contemplated. The army appears willing to take a notional cut of 4,500 from its authorised strength of 49,000 officers, to cater for enhanced cadre strength at senior ranks. A plethora of measures is being considered to optimise the use of available strength of officers. Merger of the sub area HQ with the corps HQ and 20 percent reduction of officers at Delhi is under consideration with pruning of the army HQ. There is likely to be a small cut in authorised strength of even frontline units to enable a pruning of up to 100,000 all ranks from the current authorisation.

As stated earlier, the restructuring hopefully with an eye towards transformation is yet at proposal stage. The one negative in all this is that the leadership hopes to commence restructuring in 2019 with a drastically short doctrinal test in a single exercise with troops and war game. This is unlikely to deliver optimum results because the proposed changes are actually a drastic overhaul of structures.

Not everything under change is being viewed positively by the experienced veteran community which also drives public opinion, especially the tampering with ranks and terms of service. The prevailing perception is that it is being driven more by the government’s unreasonable attitude and lack of understanding of professional needs which the army leadership has been unable to resist. Not the best way of going about it but under the circumstances a creditable attempt, which needs more refinement.

Tahir Khan Dawar Murder Case: Divergent Narratives and Missing Dots

The recent kidnapping and gruesome murder of Tahir Dawar, the Superintendent of Police posted in Peshawar, has opened yet another Pandora box for the Pakistani state in light of the mysterious circumstances of his disappearance and his dead body being discovered in Afghanistan’s Nangarhar district. The period between his disappearance, that is, 26th October and the appearance of his dead body’s photos on social media on 13th November caught Islamabad off-guard both regarding the security lapse as well as the irresponsible statements that came from senior office bearers in the Imran Khan’s government. Parliamentary discussions seemed to be dominated by the opposition cornering the government on these lapses as multiple versions regarding his abduction failed to give a clear picture of what exactly happened. As Dawar’s relatives frantically searched for him, Ifthikar Durrani, the Prime Minister’s special assistant on Media gave an irresponsible interview to the Voice of America claiming he was safe and sound in Peshawar. Not only did his version differ from the government’s version, but it also seemed that he did not verify with the security agencies as he failed to disclose his source of information in the following media interviews. 

 Further, the episode also kicked off a storm in Pakistan’s Pashtun belt, which has once again given a strong impetus to the Pashtun Tahaffuz Movement (PTM), a civil rights movement that had emerged earlier this year under Manzoor Pashteen out of the discontent that mobilized the Pashtuns after Naqeebullah Maseed’s extrajudicial killing in Karachi.

Given his Pashtun ethnicity and Waziristani identity, the discourse after SP Dawar’s killing has got divided between the government/military version and that of the Pashtun activists, particularly from the PTM. On the one hand, the establishment’s narrative chose to highlight Dawar's profile as an upfront police officer who battled the "bad" Taliban and survived attempts on his life, thereby signaling a larger international conspiracy in his killing. After his death, a video of Dawar addressing PTM workers went viral, where he stressed on the need to be vigilant against threats from Afghanistan, India and the America, further cementing this narrative. Having served in Bannu in the last decade (which had become a hotbed for Pakistani Taliban’s attacks) and later cracking down on criminal networks in Peshawar, Dawar's commitment to the nation is unquestionable. On the other hand, the Pashtun activists cited his last days’ Facebook posts to bring attention to his disenchantment with the state’s response to the Pashtun sentiment following the rise of PTM.

Also, what contributes to strong suspicions is how Dawar could be taken all the way from Islamabad into the Afghan territory when one has to cross multiple check posts, especially those in the tribal areas. Veteran journalist Saleem Safi stated that one has to pass through 50 check posts when travelling from Islamabad all the way up to the Afghan border. The same check posts of KP and erstwhile FATA - which become a rallying point for the PTM, given the harassments the passersby had to face- appeared to have easily bypassed when Dawar was taken away to Nangarhar.

To add to the ongoing politicization, media reports began highlighting the carelessness with which his death was covered. This was substantiated by the varying narratives that emerged from the leaders who went to Torkham to collect his body. The Dawn reported that the body was handed over by the Afghan officials to Minister of State for Interior Shehrayar Afridi. Later, reports emerged that it was not the Afghan officials but the members of the Mohmand tribe who handed over the body only after the slain SP’s family members and Mohsin Dawar (MNA from North Waziristan) arrived. They also refused to hand over SP Dawar’s body to the Pakistani consulate in Jalalabad despite repeated requests.  The body was allegedly taken forcefully by a military helicopter from Landi Kotal to Peshawar.

Statements from Dawar's anguished family members (especially his son and brothers) are evident of their discontent with the way the case has been handled. Dawar’s son not only called for an international commission for a fair investigation, but also stated that senior police officials and the DG ISI should resign to facilitate a fair probe.

A deeper insight into the case was given by an article by journalist Azaz Syed in Pakistan 24 based on his interaction with Dawar’s brothers, where he sheds light on Dawar’s arrest of some people in possession of arms and explosives in heavy quantity. However, political pressure from above, these suspects had to be released by the Senior Superintendent of Police posted above Dawar. Perhaps some lead could definitely emerge from investigating the need to release these suspects and the politicians involved the pressurizing the police department, as Syed notes.   This angle also needs to be compared with the claim of some Pashtun activists in the social media circles that Tahir Dawar was targeted for going after the “Good Taliban”. 

At the moment, a Joint Investigation Team has finally been formed to probe the case but too many missing dots and divergent contexts surrounding his death have kept the discontent simmering. Rather than the state externalizing the causes of his death, it is sincerely hoped that those involved in his killing are brought to justice.


Chinese Consulate Attack Puts Pakistan Between a Rock and a Hard Place

Two attacks in Pakistan, including a brazen assault on the Chinese consulate in Karachi, are likely to complicate prime minister Imran Khan’s efforts to renegotiate China’s massive, controversial Belt and Road investments as well as an International Monetary Fund (IMF) bailout and ensure that Pakistan is shielded from blacklisting by an international anti-money laundering and terrorism finance watchdog.

The attack on the consulate by three members of the Balochistan Liberation Army, a militant nationalist group seeking what it terms self-determination for the troubled, resource-rich, sparsely populated Pakistani province that constitutes the heartland of China’s US$45 billion investment and the crown jewel of its infrastructure and energy generation-driven Belt and Road initiative.

The attack, together with an unrelated suicide bombing by unidentified militants that killed 26 people and wounded 55 others in a market in the province of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, comes at an awkward moment for Mr. Khan.

With Pakistan teetering on the edge of a financial crisis, Mr. Khan has been seeking financial aid from friendly countries like China, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates as well as a bailout from the IMF.

Responding to widespread criticism of Chinese investment terms that go beyond Baloch grievances, Mr. Khan is seeking to renegotiate the Chinese terms as well as the priorities of what both countries have dubbed the China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) that will link the crucial Baloch port of Gwadar with China’s troubled north-western province of Xinjiang, the scene of a brutal crackdown on Turkic Muslims.

Mr. Khan last month bought some relief by attending Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s showcase investors conference in Riyadh, dubbed Davos in the Desert, that was being shunned by numerous CEOs of Western financial institutions, tech entrepreneurs and media moguls as well as senior Western government officials because of the killing of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

In talks with King Salman and the crown prince, Saudi Arabia promised to deposit US$3 billion in Pakistan’s central bank as balance of payments support and to defer up to US$3 billion in payments for oil imports for a year. The kingdom this week deposited US$1 billion in Pakistan’s central bank as Mr. Khan was visiting the UAE.

However, Mr. Khan’s visit to Beijing earlier this month was less conclusive. Despite lofty words and the signing of a raft of agreements, Mr. Khan’s visit failed to produce any immediate cash relief with China insisting that more talks were needed.

China signalled its irritation at Mr. Khan’s declared intention to pressure China to change the emphasis of CPEC by sending only its transportation minister to receive the prime minister upon his arrival.

Amid criticism of CPEC by Baloch activists who charge that the province’s local population has no stake in the project and members of the business community who chafe at China importing materials needed for projects from China rather than purchasing them locally and largely employing Chinese rather than Pakistani nationals, Mr. Khan only elicited vague promises for his demand that the focus of CPEC on issues such as job creation, manufacturing and agriculture be fast forwarded.

China’s refusal to immediately bail Pakistan out has forced Mr. Khan to turn to the IMF for help. The IMF, backed by the United States, has set tough conditions for a bailout, including complete disclosure of Chinese financial support.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo warned in July that any potential IMF bailout should not provide funds to pay off Chinese lenders. US Pakistani relations dived this week with President Donald J. Trump and Mr. Khan trading barbs on Twitter.

The attack on the consulate coupled with Saudi Arabia’s financial support is likely to fuel long-standing Chinese concerns that Pakistan has yet to get a grip on political violence in the country. Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said in response to the attack that China had asked Pakistan to step up security. Pakistan has a 15,000-man force dedicated to protecting Chinese nationals and assets.

China also fears that Balochistan could become a launching pad for potential US-Saudi efforts to destabilize Iran by stirring unrest among the Islamic republic’s ethnic minorities.

The attack together with the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa bombing not only signals a recent spike in political violence in Pakistan but also comes against the backdrop ofincreased incidents involving Iran’s Kurdish, Iranian Arab and Baloch minorities.

Earlier this month, Pakistan said it had rescued five of 12 abducted Iranian border guards, saying efforts to recover the other captives are ongoing. An anti-Iran Sunni Muslim militant organization, Jaish al-Adl or Army of Justice, kidnapped the guards a month ago in the south-eastern Iranian border city of Mirjaveh and took them to the Pakistani side of the porous frontier between the two countries.

The attack on the consulate as well as the bombing in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa are likely to increase pressure from the Financial Action Task Force (FATF), an international anti-money laundering and terrorism finance watchdog, and its Asian counterpart, the Asia Pacific Group (APG) to strengthen Pakistani compliance with international best practices.

An APG delegation expressed its dissatisfaction with Pakistani compliance in October and said it would report its findings to FATF by the end of this month. FATF put Pakistan on a grey list in February, a prelude to blacklisting if the country fails to clean up its act. Blacklisting could potentially derail Pakistan’s request for IMF assistance.

In sum, this week’s attacks put Pakistan between a rock and a hard place. Countering militancy has proven difficult, if not impossible, given the deep-seated links between government, political parties and militants, a web that includes Mr. Khan and many of his associates.

Dr. James M. Dorsey is a senior fellow at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies, co-director of the University of Würzburg’s Institute for Fan Culture, and co-host of the New Books in Middle Eastern Studies podcast. James is the author of The Turbulent World of Middle East Soccer blog, a book with the same title and a co-authored volume, Comparative Political Transitions between Southeast Asia and the Middle East and North Africa as well as Shifting Sands, Essays on Sports and Politics in the Middle East and North Africa and just published China and the Middle East: Venturing into the Maelstrom

Editors Note: Some Baloch sources have pointed out that this may be a splinter group of the BLA

Disruptions and Democracy: The Sri Lankan Political Crisis Through a Geopolitical Lens

“The pattern of history cannot be changed. We are the progeny of progression across time and space that shift from small scales to big ones and back again.” John Lewis Gaddis, On Grand Strategy


The masterpiece the Rise and Fall of the Great Powers by Paul Kennedy, clearly identifies the shift from the US imperial overstretch and its position to remain as the bastion of global democracy- and its decline. Kennedy explains, “it has been a common dilemma facing previous number one countries that even as their relative economic strength is ebbing, the growing foreign challenges to their position have compelled them to allocate more and more of their resources into military sector, which in turn squeezes out productive investment and, heavier taxes, deepening domestic splits over spending priorities and a weakening capacity to bear the burdens of defense”.


In 415BC Athens, a maritime power, Pericles strengthened democracy and built a wall to defend the city state. He underestimated their relative decline of strength. It was an overstretched Athenian power that attacked Sicily and took a hard lesson in defeat. It was the beginning of the decline, recorded Thucydides. The expedition was launched on the pretext of being in danger of being ruled themselves, if they ceased to rule others.


In late 2018, the power of the USA is not in calculation with its strength. Further, its own democratic structure in question. The elected President has decided to go against the very foundation and norms of the nation. His rhetoric of nationalism, protectionism and disruptive foreign policy threatens world order as we know it. US hypocrisy is clear in most places they intervened to install democratic values in the recent past including the Middle East. Western intervention was clearly seen after end of the Sri Lankan civil war in 2009. This was seen as interfering with the sovereignty of the nation during Rajapaksa’s regime. Today, they are disturbed by the recent moves by President Sirisena in dissolving the Parliament and calling for elections. On the other hand, the Executive had completely lost confidence to work with the former Prime Minister Ranil Wickremasinghe -who has in turn requested international assistance to restore democracy. One should also not forget that in January 2015, Wickremesinghe was sworn in as Prime Minister in a politically amoral way despite not holding the majority in the Parliament.


Meanwhile, China gives a clear signal that they will not intervene in Sri Lankan domestic political issues. The Chinese Ambassador to Sri Lanka H.E. Cheng Xueyuan visited and congratulated the newly appointed Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa.  According to local media out of the 43 foreign missions, the Diplomats of the US and Europe have stayed away from a meeting with the Sri Lankan foreign Minister recently in Colombo. This move is in protest of Presidents Sirisena’s decision to dissolve Parliament. US ambassador to Sri Lanka H.E Ambassador Teplitz attending parliament to observe the proceedings the day after the super court ruling tweeted  that she is glad that the institution is functioning constitutionally.


Looking at the Sri Lankan situation a senior US administration official said, “I would say speaking about countries generally, not just the country we’re talking about, generally speaking one of the key tenants of President (Donald) Trump’s Free and Open Indo-Pacific (FOIP) concept and our Indo-Pacific Strategy is to protect the sovereignty of countries all across the region.” The FOIP introduced by Japanese Prime Minister Abe now supported by Trump will be used to contain the Chinese influence in the Indo-Pacific. FOIP targets nations who has pledged support such as Sri Lanka and Maldives to China’s grand strategy of Belt and Road according to some scholars.





Sri Lanka and Maldives: Chinese and Indian influence


China’s economic security and  Indian Ocean ambitions is deeply  ingrained  in the Indian Ocean littoral states . Maldives and Sri Lanka are clearly two island nations within the Chinese sphere of influence.  President Solih’s, Maldives newly elected President’s plans to restore democracy and balance the Indian and Chinese regional presence, is yet to unravel. The recent Presidential elect’s actions may be seen in comparison to Sri Lanka President Sirisena’s 2015 plans for a balance and non-aligned foreign policy. .


The geopolitics affecting small island nations has to be calculated closely in this century. To small island nations, China and India represent a rising power from the same continent and an emerging power.  India id positioned 32km to Sri Lanka and 700 km from the Maldives. Internal instability is caused by the internal politics only is a badly under evaluated statement.


N. Sathiya Moorthy analyzes the Indian position on Sri Lanka as,“Unlike in shared neighbour Maldives, where India played all its cards in the name of democracy, on the current crisis in Sri Lanka, New Delhi has been holding the cards close to its chest. The return of traditional Indian pragmatism seems to have influenced not only post-Cold War European friends, at least up to a point, of whom some were seen as scaling down their criticism of the Sirisena-Rajapaksa duo, until rumours of imminent dissolution of Parliament began doing the rounds on Friday, November 9th.”


In the Maldivian case, Solih’s predecessor Yameen was labelled as an autocrat and who signed MOUs to strengthen its relationship with China and support the Belt and Road Initiative. Through this, the Maldives departed from an India first policy. This rings of the same manner in which Rajapaksa was labelled with the same Chinese affiliation and support. Will President Solih renegotiate the Chinese projects? And if so, how much will he succeed is the question. In the Sri Lankan case, it was clear that the renegotiation skill of Prime Minister Wickremesinghe failed. This ended in the leasing of the strategic port for three generations. I opine that this is connected to Wickremesinghe eventually losing his own portfolio a few days ago, perhaps not only because of the leasing to China but his strategy of rebalancing China with other powers which threatened the national security of the Nation. In a related geo-strategic incident taking place on Sri Lankan soil, a feasibility study was to be conducted by the Indians to lease out the strategic military air strip belonging to Sri Lanka.


How did the previous election promise of investigations into Chinese projects ended up as a futile exercise? In an article in January 2018,, I expressed that the dragon cannot be contained, Will the same situation unfold in Maldives just like Sri Lanka?


President Solih’s new government’s plans for democratization could be weakened from within their allies in the coalition who are neither democratic nor progressive just like Sirisena’s who weakened from inside and failed to balance the spheres of influence from outside.


Sri Lankan Domestic Politics


Internal instability are opportunities for the external powers who will take an upper hand to intervene. Most nations that opened their door to Western powers to restore democracy has seen nations shatter into further political instability and economic decline. Libya and Iraq being the best-case studies.


Argentina in 1913 was world’s tenth richest country but from 1930 to mid-1970 the country experienced six military coups, alongside political instability, three separate bouts of hyperinflation exceeded 500 percent per year while economic growth rates sank below zero for several years. The Argentinian Government failed to think long term. Among the factors result in a countries growth is clearly political instability and short-term thinking. This is a lesson to many nations in the present day with political instability and short-sighted policy explained by Dambiso Moyo the internationally renowned economist in her book Edge of Chaos.


Sri Lanka is no exception to this and is already at the edge of chaos. The unity Governments with the new bipartisan model was a failure as the two ideologies center left and center right did not create the required space to accommodate diverse opinion. Consensus within the coalition Yahapalanaya government failed at many turns since inception in 2015. What resulted was a constitutional grid lock between the executive and the legislature.


In a shocking move, the Sri Lankan President ended up making his opponent as the Prime Minister. President Sirisena, perhaps accused of constitutional disruption and disloyalty, has placed national interest and the cry for political and economic stability in installing a Prime Minister with the same political ideology.


What Ranil Wickremasinghe failed during the three years was to work his own strategy. His Prime Ministership has been ceased twice on national security grounds. His Foreign Minister was dismissed for investigation on corruption, his own Minister working as a consultant who wrote a book on Central Bank Bond Scam was found guilty accepting funds from the bidders of the bond scam, his closes friend the former central bank governor went missing after the bond scam of Rs11billion, are serious blows to his office.


The divided house with majority with Wickremasinghe will attempt to claim his legitimacy while the Executive will dismiss this claim sticking to his appointment of President Rajapaksa. This position of President will not change, and the Legislature will need to give in to the President’s decision at one point or the house will be in continuous turmoil as one fraction will surround the Speaker’s Chair another will surround Prime Ministers chair to secure the position. The son of the former visionary leader Ranasinghe Premadasa is a popular choice of many from for the next leadership of UNP.

Sajith Premadasa is also clearly seen in this picture perhaps waiting patiently just like his father who came to power after President Jayawardena.

It is time for all party leaders come to a consensus, to reach out common masses to cast their ballot to choose the new Prime Minister.


Yet again, the people of the small island nation of Sri Lanka await stability. Grand geo-strategies of powers looking seaward weigh in, thus, entangling the local to the global, to a measure it cannot be fully understood without one another.



Asanga Abeyagoonasekera is the director general of the National Security Think Tank of Sri Lanka (INSSSL) under the Sri Lankan Ministry of Defense. The views expressed here are his own.

Rise and Fall of the Frontier Gandhi’s Legacy

The Awami National Party (ANP), one of the two main Pashtun nationalist parties in Pakistan, took an unusually harsh measure over a week ago, when it suspended the basic membership of its former provincial president and ex-Senator Afrasiab Khattak and the incumbent female vice president and ex-member National Assembly Bushra Gohar, for allegedly sowing discord among the party cadres through their social media activities, among other things. The highhanded action is not merely the party’s internal matter but an event that could shape or deface the Pashtun nationalist politics for years to come. The hasty and shoddy decision is deeply worrisome for many reasons: firstly, the ANP proclaims to be the political heir to the legacy of the legendary freedom-fighter Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan, also known as Badshah Khan or the Frontier Gandhi; secondly, the party advertises itself as a liberal, democratic outfit where dissent is tolerated if not welcomed and encouraged; thirdly, the decision had a strong whiff of the party pandering to the Pakistani army; and, fourthly, one of the leaders axed, Afrasiab Khattak, has been synonymous with the Marxist, leftist and progressive nationalist politics for a good 50 years, and not just in Pakistan but Afghanistan as well. The brusque dismissal from a party, which is supposedly is anti-status quo, of a man who has influenced three generations of political activists, bodes ill for both the enlightened Pashtun nationalism and free-thinking Pakistanis at large.

The sorry episode is reminiscent of another historical event, when two brothers, each one a political giant in his own right, were loggerheads over whether to collaborate with the Pakistani civil and military establishment or not. Badshah Khan and his Khudai Khidmatgars (KKs or the Servants of God) aka the Red Shirts were allied with the Indian National Congress (INC) throughout the freedom movement against the British rule. When the INC accepted the British plan to partition India without the Pashtuns getting their right to self-determination i.e. to have an independent status, as against joining Pakistan or India, Badshah Khan while lamenting the INC’s betrayal had begrudgingly accepted existence in the new Pakistani dominion. While an independent Pashtunistan issue was raised by both Afghanistan and Pashtuns to the east of the Duran Line, Badshah Khan, true to his oath of allegiance to the new state, however, never once tried to sabotage the Pakistani federation. But the grand old man of Pashtuns, also had an unflinching commitment to his people, whom he felt were getting a short shrift in the new state due to the civil-military establishment’s machinations. While Badshah Khan called for rights and autonomy for the ethno-national entities within Pakistan, his older brother Abdul Jabbar Khan, known commonly as Dr. Khan Sahib, who had served as the KK/INC’s chief minister of the Northwest Frontier province (NWFP) twice only to have his ministry dismissed by the nascent Muslim League government in Pakistan, was coopted by the new country’s establishment. After some time in prison, Dr. Khan Sahib caved and opted to join the government as the premier of what was called the One Unit, which was an administrative structure where the four west Pakistani provinces were lumped together to counter the numerical Bengali majority from the then East Pakistan. In his book, Ghaffar Khan: Nonviolent Badshah of the Pakhtuns, Rajmohan Gandhi records: “Over One Unit, implemented in 1955 with the agreement of the legislatures of the Punjab, Sindh and the NWFP, the brothers were totally divided. Dr. Khan Sahib became the active proponent of One Unit and the younger brother its ardent foe.”

The One Unit was the Pakistani establishment’s ploy to deny the Bengalis of East Pakistan their democratic right to rule, by consolidating the West Pakistani provinces into one entity for an ostensible parity with the eastern wing. The Khan Brothers, who had been the stalwarts of both the Indian liberation movement and Pashtun nationalism, were thus divided and conquered. On the eve of Dr. Khan Sahib’s inauguration as the premier of the One Unit, his younger, but immensely more celebrated, brother was in prison! The One Unit was an oppressive tool to serve the ruling elite and establishment’s interest. Dr. Khan Sahib and the Governor General Iskandar Mirza – a bureaucrat and a major general himself – tried to convince Badshah Khan of the new schemes “virtues” but to no avail. Rajmohan Gandhi chronicles the latter’s feelings: “My elder brother is the Prime Minister of West Pakistan, and among the Pakhtuns the elder brother is given the position of the father. But then I have dared to disagree with him on the issue of One Unit because I see great harm in it for my people.”

While Dr. Khan Sahib went on join the Republican Party, a king’s party effectively, in July 1957, Badshah Khan along with the Bengali peasant leader Maulana Abdul Hameed Bhashani, Punjabi leftist Mian Iftikharuddin and a former Muslim Leaguer-turned-Sindhi nationalist GM Syed, formed the united Pakistan’s first openly leftist political outfit, the National Awami Party (NAP) after the country had banned the Communist Party of Pakistan (CPP) in 1954. While the NAP was a multi-class, socialist party with clear leftist orientation, it wasn’t technically a Marxist working-class party. Nonetheless, the formidable agitators that they were, Badshah Khan and Maulana Bhashani, mobilized the masses in both wings of the country. The beauty of the NAP was that it, not unlike the INC, served as an umbrella organization for vast array of political views and activist cadres. From hardcore Marxists to ethno-nationalists to trade unionists to peasants

The NAP, like other political outfits, bore the brunt of the country’s first martial law regime led by Field Marshal Mohammad Ayub Khan. While Maulana Bhashani eventually developed a soft corner for the Ayub regime thanks to their common affinity with Peking, Badshah Khan and the NAP in West Pakistan remained vehemently opposed to the junta. In 1965, the Field Marshal’s electoral bid for presidency against Ms. Fatima Jinnah, the revered sister of the country’s founder Muhammad Ali Jinnah, saw the NAP split over support to the two candidates. Badshah Khan’s son, Khan Abdul Wali Khan, who by then was established as a Pashtun nationalist leader in his own right, along with Professor Muzaffar and a majority faction of the NAP chose to support Ms. Jinnah. The combined opposition, effectively led by the anti-establishment leaders and cadres, served as the backbone of Ms. Jinnah’s electoral campaign. The NAP also utilized this as an opportunity to revamp its program and reorganize its cadres. While the KKs had significant electoral victories to their credit, their NAP successors found their political feet running Ms. Jinnah’s campaign. In that era, the NAP moved from a party of protest to an organization capable of electoral politics. The party developed a clear pro-Soviet bend – in contrast to Bhashani’s pro-Peking tilt --under Wali Khan’s leadership and formally declared itself as a separate entity on July 1, 1968. Badshah Khan’s down-to-earth, primordial Pashtun nationalism had evolved into a national-democratic thought and political process, which also attracted the Baloch and Sindhi nationalists as well as died-in-the-wool Marxists. The NAP was a cocoon, an umbrella, a shelter or a front – depending on how one looks at it – for a rainbow of political opinions and programs from hard left to bourgeois nationalists. The famed Baloch triumvirate, Nawab Khair Bux Khan Marri, Sardar Attaullah Khan Mengal and the quintessential Baloch Marxist-nationalist Mir Ghaus Bux Bizenjo, made NAP their home. The younger breed of the Marxist Pashtun politicians like Afrasiab Khattak, Lateef Afridi, Mukhtiar Bacha, Sarfaraz Mahmood as well as the underground CPP leaders, like Imam Ali Nazish Amrohi and Professor Jamal Naqvi, all found home in the NAP or its affiliated bodies. The NAP vehemently opposed the martial laws imposed by Ayub Khan and his successor Agha Muhammad Yahya Khan and went into the 1970 elections on a progressive, anti-imperialist program that called for devolution of powers to the federating the units. The NAP secured electoral plurality in the NWFP – rechristened later as the Khyber-Pukhtunkhwa (KP) -- and the Balochistan provinces and, to the charging of the establishment, formed governments there. This was the highest point of Badshah Khan’s political and reformist struggle, who while steering clear of the electoral politics himself, had guided – in spirit, if you will – the NAP.

Individuals with tremendously varying backgrounds, like Afrasiab Khattak, who had joined and then led one of the student wings of the NAP called the Pashtun Students Federation (PSF), to the celebrated tribal Baloch leader Nawab Akbar Khan Bugti, contributed to the NAP’s rise, culminating in an electoral victory in the NWFP (KP) and Balochistan. On the other hand, sick and tired of the Pakistani establishments intrigues, especially attempts to deny the East Pakistanis their rightfully-gained electoral victory, the Bengalis led by Sheikh Mujib-ur-Rehman and his Awami League, waged a war of independence and Bangladesh came into being. The NAP’s government in the Balochistan was dismissed by Zulfikar Ali Bhutto and its NWFP (KP) government resigned in protest. The more militant among the Baloch wing of the party started an armed struggle against the state, while the Pashtun wing by-and-large stuck to non-violent protests. The NAP was banned, and its Pashtun, Baloch and even Punjabi leaders, were imprisoned. Bhutto got the Supreme Court of Pakistan (SCP) to ban the NAP on the pretext of treasonous activities, while its entire leadership remained behind bars for over four years in what became known as the Hyderabad Conspiracy Case.  The NAP’s General Secretary, ideologue and famous poet Ajmal Khattak was perhaps the only first-tier leader to avoid arrest, by going into self-exile in Kabul. The Hyderabad tribunal was eventually disbanded when in an irony of fate, Bhutto was toppled by his hand-picked army chief, General Zia-ul-Haq. The demise of the NAP as broad-based, multi-class, leftist outfit, which not only championed socialism but also the rights of the ethno-national entities, however started with the Supreme Court ban.

While Wali Khan and other leaders were languishing in Bhutto’s prison, the former’s wife Begum Naseem Wali Khan along with a Baloch opposition leader Sardar Sherbaz Khan Mazari found the National Democratic Party (NDP). Badshah Khan blessed the new party but remained out of its organizational structure. The NDP, which effectively was bourgeois Pashtun nationalist party, joined hands with assorted right-wing religious and centrist parties against ZA Bhutto, who to his own detriment, had morphed into an elected dictator. The old NAP’s leftist guard frowned upon the NDP’s collaboration with the right-wing parties, many of whom had the blessings of the country’s army. While the NDP did not collaborate directly with the army, the combined opposition to Bhutto called the Pakistan National Alliance (PNA), had many who did. After the disbanding of the Hyderabad tribunal Wali Khan assumed the leadership of the NDP. Out of the Baloch leaders, Nawab Marri opted to go not enter active politics and later went into self-exile while Mengal and Bizenjo briefly joined the NDP only to quit after much bickering. Bizenjo, along with Ajmal Khattak, Nazish Amrohi and Professor Jamal Naqvi et al, was among the underground CPP’s leadership with the former NAP’s ranks. He opted to revive Pakistan National Party (PNP) and nearly all Pashtun leftists within Pakistan, including Afrasiab Khattak and Lateef Afridi joined Bizenjo. It wasn’t long before Gen Zia-ul-Haq came down hard on the underground and openly operating communists from the legendary Sindhi Marxist Jam Saqi to Afrasiab Khattak. In what were dubbed as Operation Sweep I & II, Zia rounded up Bhutto loyalists as well as assorted leftists across the country. Khattak finally fled Pakistan into exile in Kabul.

The limited appeal of the NDP, effectively a rump party of the NAP, was not lost on both the leftists and Wali Khan himself, who strived for a merger of the nationalists, leftists and fellow travelers. Finally in 1986 the Awami National Party (ANP), a Pakistan-wide outfit, was formed after the merger of the NDP, the Mazdoor Kissan Party (Labor, Peasant party or MKP) faction led by Kamil Bangash, Sindhi leftist-nationalist Rasool Bux Paleejo’s Awami Tehrik and the PNP’s Pashtun Marxist faction led by Lateef Afridi. Badshah Khan, up in age then and frequently ill, did not have much to do with the new party or politics for that matter at the time. With Bizenjo opting to stay away from the new party, it had no Baloch representation of note, from the outset and within a short period Paleejo too parted ways, reducing it back to being effectively a Pashtun outfit. The Pashtun Marxists, however, were extremely active and contributed significantly to the ANP’s program, which even used the vintage Leninist jargon such as the national democratic revolution, being the ultimate objective. While the Pashtun nationalist had vied for maximum provincial autonomy within Pakistan, it was the Marxist ideologues that set the tone and tenor of both the demands for provincial rights within Pakistan as well as fraternal ties with Afghanistan, if not an outright call for reunification of the Pashtun/Afghan irredentas.  Lateef Afridi and Sarfraz Mahmood had coined what became the ANP’s signature slogan for the rights of the ethno-national entities constituting the Pakistani federations. The Pashto slogan “Khpala Khawra, Khpal Ikhtiyar” literally meant our land, our right to rule. The ANP’s leftist cadre was proactive in the Movement for the Restoration of Democracy (MRD), a multiparty coalition resisting the martial law. Through the Pashtun Marxists Ajmal Khattak and Afrasiab Khattak in Kabul, the progressive nationalists also had a great liaison with the Peoples Democratic Party of Afghanistan (PDPA) and staunchly supported the communist Saur Revolution, a common rally cry being “Lar aw bar, yaw Afghan” (Afghans to the east and west of the Durand Line are but one).

After General Zia’s demise in an air crash, democracy returned to Pakistan. The ANP did rather dismally at the 1988 polls and was forced to form a provincial coalition government with its former foe and ally in the MRD, the Pakistan Peoples Party that was then led by Benazir Bhutto. The progressive group of the ANP was instrumental in the negotiations with the PPP and the execution of the coalition. With Benazir Bhutto’s rise to power, scores of political exiles and self-exiles returned home and among them were Ajmal Khattak and Afrasiab Khattak, both of whom joined the ANP immediately. The ANP-PPP coalition didn’t last long and within months rifts developed and the ANP, much to the chagrin of its leftist leaders and cadres, sided with the opposition rightwing alliance called Islami Jamhoori Ittehad (IJI), in a no-confidence vote to oust the Prime Minister Bhutto. While Bhutto temporarily survived in the office, the ANP-PPP coalition did not. The leftists led by Lateef Afridi and Afrasiab Khattak, and a few nationalists like Mohammad Afzal Khan, within the ANP, staunchly opposed the party siding with the IJI but being a numerical minority could not prevail and quit. Ajmal Khattak remained in the fold at the time. The ANP remain under the control of Begum Naseem Wali Khan, who ran a rather tight ship within the party and had no qualms about colluding with the security establishment, as her ageing husband hung his political gloves. The leftists reorganized themselves as a communist bloc called the Qaumi Inquilabi Party (National Revolutionary Party or QIP) in 1989, which did not last long as first the two leaders Lateef Afridi and Afrasiab Khattak fell out with each other and then the fall of the Soviet Union left the Marxists rather rudderless. The two did join Afzal Khan to form the Pakhtunkhwa Qaumi Party only to go their separate ways again and then later rejoin the ANP one by one. In a major turn of events, Wali Khan’s son Asfandyar Wali Khan joined hands with Afrasiab Khattak to first topple and then oust his step-mother and party leader Begum Naseem Wali Khan, who had become increasingly unpopular.

Once again the progressive group, led predominantly by Afrasiab Khattak, set the post-2005 ANP’s agenda, which included larger quantum of provincial autonomy, renaming the NWFP as the Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (KP), and incorporating the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) into the KP. Khattak was the first politician to actually formulate in writing that the FATA’s exclusively Pashtun population makeup, geographical contiguity of the various tribal agencies with the KP and established trade and social ties, make it imperative that not only should the constitution of Pakistan be extended into FATA but the region be formally merged with the KP. The merger finally came to fruition in 2018. A two-time chairperson of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP), Khattak also ensured that the party platform also raised rights issues. In the revamped ANP, women leaders like Bushra Gohar, took centerstage and became the vocal and enlightened face of the party. The ANP championed the cause of peace in Afghanistan in the post-9/11 world and advocated for the Afghan refugees in Pakistan to be given their due rights. While Asfandyar Wali Khan signed off on the party’s reformed, progressive agenda, Afrasiab Khattak’s imprint on its formulation was unmistakable. The party drew the ire of both the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) and the military establishment, whom it criticized for carrying out a duplicitous policy of harboring the so-called good Taliban to fight in Afghanistan.  The TTP unleashed dozens of attacks on the ANP killing prominent leaders, their family members and hundreds of workers. Despite the reign of terror, the ANP secured electoral success in the 2008 and formed a coalition government in the KP, with the PPP and joined the federal government as well.

Afrasiab Khattak, the party’s provincial president back then and the de facto whip of the provincial government, was elected to the senate. Along with the ANP’s late Senator Haji Muhammad Adeel, Khattak worked with the PPP to reform the constitution and rid it of several aberrations and virulent mutations introduced by military dictators, resulting in thelandmark 18th constitutional amendment. On several other issues, which could not be undone, the two ANP senators made strong dissenting notes. The PPP government led by Asif Zardari and the provincial governments also signed an overdue National Finance Commission (NFC) accord. Between the 18th amendment and the NFC accord, the provinces, got the maximum quantum of political, legislative and financial autonomy in the history of the country, something which the erstwhile NAP and its various successors had strived for. The icing on the cake was formal, constitutional name-change of the NWFP to Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa. The ANP was at the pinnacle of its political achievements, the key intellectual architect of which was Afrasiab Khattak. Under Khattak’s tutelage, the provincial government undertook curriculum reform in KP to rectify the warped and deceitful history that been part of the syllabus for decades. He also was the most vocal opponent of the Pakistan army’s jihadist project, especially its Afghanistan misadventure.  A frequent speaker on Pak-Afghan talk circuit, he consistently called for rolling back the disastrous strategy of prosecuting foreign policy through jihadist proxies. Many of these issues obviously did not go down well with the security establishment, which on the eve of 2013 elections did little to stop the TTP of virtually bombing the ANP out of elections. In addition, the party’s traditional leadership had assorted corruption  charges leveled against it. The ANP was routed in the polls. In the subsequent years, while Afrasiab Khattak remained the face of the part in the media, he was sidelined in the internal power struggle.

The last straw that broke the camel’s back and precipitated his expulsion, was Afrasiab Khattak openly sympathizing with the nascent Pashtun Tahafuz Movement (Pashtun Defense League or PTM). In the aftermath of the 2013 elections, the ANP under Asfandyar Wali Khan had opted to tread cautiously vis-à-vis the army’s Afghan policy and its increasing encroachment on the domestic political domain. The blowback from the Taliban venture was the worst in the tribal areas, where the common people bore the brunt first of the TTP and then the army when it decided to go after the TTP or so-called bad Taliban i.e. the ones which attack the army and the state. Behind an iron curtain, the army conducted operations against the TTP, while preserving the ostensibly good Taliban i.e. the ones that fight on its behalf in Afghanistan. The operations left a trail of death, destruction, displaced people and disappeared individuals. The ANP’s reticence created a political void, which the PTM, led by the tribal Pashtun youth started to fill. The army has deplored the PTM openly, tacitly and through its hirelings in the conventional and social media, only to see the movement evolve into a campaign that draws support from the Pashtuns of the former FATA, KP and the Pashtun region of the Balochistan. Approaching the 2018 elections, the ANP’s calculus remained that it did not wish to ruffle the army’s feathers and it expelled one of the key PTM leaders Mohsin Dawar in the run up to the polls. The army, however, was unwilling to let even the tame, docile ANP back in power. While two key PTM leaders were elected to the national assembly, the ANP suffered another massive defeat, in an election dubbed one of most tainted ones in the country’s history, with Asfandyar Wali Khan losing his home constituency yet again. The ascendant army was wrestling back from politicians the ground it had lost after the ouster of General Pervez Musharraf in 2008-9. A rolling, creeping coup was underway and culminated with the installation of the army’s blue-eyed leader Imran Khan.

It was in this backdrop that the progressives within the ANP wanted the leadership to revisit its program, message, organization and mobilization strategy and tactics. People like Afrasiab Khattak sensed that the country’s massive young population is tired of the old canards and looking for change on both the right and left of the political spectrum. Khattak saw the PTM as complementing the ANP and not as a competitor. The ANP on the other hand came under pressure ostensibly from the army to rein in Afrasiab Khattak and Bushra Gohar, who were seen sympathizing with the PTM’s message, especially through their Twitter accounts. Asfandyar Wali Khan apparently shared a screenshot of one their posts apparently to chastise the progressive leaders. Without any internal due process, they were given an ambiguous charge-sheet and after reviewing their response, they were shown the door. It seems unlikely that the ANP will reverse its decision. The ousted leaders remain unbending and continue to morally support what is a legitimate, constitutional and, above all, non-violent movement for rights and rectification of wrongs done to the Pashtuns. At a time when the ANP needed to reinvent its politics and reinvigorate its electorate, it opted to cave in to the army and collaborate in censuring two of its most articulate leaders. It is deeply disturbing to see at a time when the press remains in chains in Pakistan, the political parties instead of speaking up, are gagging their own. The two successive electoral defeats were not the lowest point of the ANP, for in politics one wins some and loses some, but an abject surrender to the army’s brazen attempts to control political parties and discourse, is certainly the lowest point in its history. At a time when the party should have revived and upheld the great Badshah Khan’s upright and defiant legacy, it has opted to follow in the tracks of Dr. Khan Sahib, which unfortunately lead to political oblivion.

(Mohammad Taqi is a Pakistani-American columnist; he tweets @mazdaki)

Healthly Debate is Essential for the Continued Growth of Indian Economy


The ongoing tussle between the Indian government and its central regulatory bank, Reserve Bank of India (RBI), is not as alarming as it is made out to be if viewed through a lens of debate being essential in a flourishing democracy.

 The major points of difference between the government and the RBI revolve around loosening credit policies for medium and small enterprises and immediate exploitation of the bank’s reserves to address India’s growing fiscal deficit. While the former has been squeezed for a few banks under the ‘Prompt Corrective Action’ (PCA) framework that applies to state-owned banks, the latter is seen by the RBI as an easy way for the government to wiggle out of a corner instead of adopting tough ‘financial belt tightening’ mechanisms. The former Vice-Chairman of Niti Ayog, Arvind Panagriya, has urged the two to resolve differences keeping national interest in mind, and though the differences seem to have been partially resolved, we have not seen the last of such differences.

 The Reserve Bank of India has a rich tradition of having independent-minded governors at the helm and three of them immediately come to mind – Bimal Jalan, Y.V.Reddy and Raghuram Rajan. The current governor, Urijit Patel and his team have been quietly assertive and determined to put forward their point, but have recognised the need to meet the government half-way.

 Their appointment of RBI governors down the years reflects a bi-partisan acceptance of the need for an independent and autonomous institution to regulate and oversee India’s economy, which is the engine of India’s emergence as an influential power. There is also the reality of Indian politics that drives a wedge between institutions such as the RBI which look at long-term policies, and the executive, which succumbs to short term compulsions of populism and opportunism. This again, is an infirmity, which is not only typical of India, but is true for most democracies.

With elections around the corner and economic growth over the last fours years having been steady rather than spectacular, Finance Minister Jaitely will be under pressure to stimulate growth on the last lap, even if it means diluting the various safety nets that institutions like RBI lay out. Medium and Small Enterprises represent a sizeable segment of India’s emerging middle class and easing capital acquisition for them is important for the Modi government. One of the ways the Modi government is seeking to address the problem is asking the RBI to shed about 30 percent of its current holding of cash reserves of Rs 9.6 Lakh crores, which it feels are well above globally accepted norms.

 When viewed with only modest employment generation efforts and rapid infrastructure growth, the need for additional capital cannot be overemphasized; the challenge for the Modi government will be how to stimulate growth and yet heed the cautionary interventions of the RBI. Holding the middle ground seems to be the best way forward for a reasonably stable Indian economy.