Pakistan 2017

Written by  //  October 6, 2017  //  Pakistan  //  No comments

Pakistan’s ISI thwarts US plans in Afghanistan
By C Uday Bhaskar
(South Asia Monitor) Almost 16 years to the day since the US embarked upon its war on terrorism against the Afghan Taliban on October 7, 2001 as reprisal for the enormity of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, it appears that a White House administration is again issuing dire warnings to Rawalpindi (GHQ of the Pakistan Army) while still dangling the familiar ‘carrot.’
The war in Afghanistan, where Pakistan was accorded the status of a major non-NATO ally, has been expensive for the USA both in terms of blood and treasure. A study by the Brown University estimates that, as of 2016, the US may have spent up to US $ 2 trillion towards the Afghan campaign, which still remains inconclusive and messy.
The US Defense Secretary Jim Mattis … [stated] that while Pakistan may have come down on terrorism, “the ISI appears to run its own foreign policy.” This is an unusually unambiguous assertion by a US Def Sec but General Mattis added the caveat too: “We need to try one more time to make this strategy work with them; by, with and through the Pakistanis. And if our best efforts fail, the President (Trump) is prepared to take whatever steps are necessary.”

“New” U.S. policy on Afghanistan & Pakistan’s support for extremists
21-23 August
Why Trump Is Right to Get Tough With Pakistan
By Zalmay Khalilzad, U.S. ambassador to Afghanistan 2003-2005 and Iraq 2005-2007
(NYT) Mr. Trump is now the third successive president to acknowledge America’s important national security interests in Afghanistan and the region, which include the threat of Islamist extremism and terrorism, even the potential for nuclear terrorism. He recognizes that abandoning Afghanistan would allow safe havens for international terrorist organizations to emerge once more.
… the president must be ready for Pakistan to resist and test his resolve. This might come in the form of attacks on American assets in Afghanistan or of interference with supply routes across the Afghanistan-Pakistan border. Pakistan’s security apparatus will try to prove that the United States cannot succeed without cooperating on Islamabad’s terms.
The United States should impose sanctions against senior officials in the Pakistani military and intelligence services who play a direct role in supporting terrorists and extremists. (These sanctions should include bans on travel to the United States and allied countries, and the freezing of bank accounts.) Washington should also suspend all American aid to Pakistan and use its influence with the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund to do the same. It should begin a security assessment that would put Pakistan on the list of states that sponsor terrorist groups. Finally, the United States should conduct strikes against terrorist hide-outs in Pakistan.
The Trump administration should make clear to Islamabad that it would be willing to reverse these moves and repair relations — but only after Pakistan has demonstrated a change in conduct that has the clear result of diminished violence in Afghanistan.

China defends ally Pakistan after Trump criticism
(Reuters) – China defended its ally Pakistan on Tuesday after U.S. President Donald Trump said the United States could no longer be silent about Pakistan’s “safe havens” for militants and warned it had much to lose by continuing to “harbor terrorists”.
… Senior U.S. officials warned security assistance for Pakistan could be reduced unless the nuclear-armed nation cooperated more in preventing militants from using safe havens on its soil.
Critics say Pakistan sees militants such as the Taliban as useful tools to limit the influence of old rival India. Pakistan denies allowing militants refuge on its territory, saying it takes action against all groups.
Asked about Trump’s speech, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said Pakistan was on the front line in the struggle against terrorism and had made “great sacrifices” and “important contributions” in the fight.

Trump talks tough on Pakistan’s ‘terrorist’ havens, but options scarce
(Reuters) – Outlining a new strategy for the war in Afghanistan, U.S. President Donald Trump chastised Pakistan over its alleged support for Afghan militants – an approach analysts say will probably not change Pakistan’s strategic calculations and might push it in directions Washington does not want it to go.
Trump’s call for India to play a greater role in Afghanistan, in particular, will ring alarm bells for Pakistan’s generals, analysts said.
“Trump’s policy of engaging India and threatening action may actually constrain Pakistan and lead to the opposite of what he wants,” said Zahid Hussain, a Pakistani security analyst.

29 July
Nawaz Sharif, left, who resigned as Pakistan’s prime minister, with Shehbaz Sharif in Lahore, Pakistan, in 2013. Credit Rahat Dar/European Pressphoto Agency

Ousted Pakistan Leader Passes Baton to Brother, Shehbaz Sharif
On one level, it was a clear choice. Over the past four years, as chief minister of Punjab Province, Pakistan’s most crucial political power base, Shehbaz Sharif, 65, has presided over a high-profile campaign of infrastructure improvements and social development programs. He has become known for surprise inspection “raids” of hospitals or schools, even in Punjab’s smaller towns, and his aides describe him as a workaholic with a taste for 7 a.m. staff meetings. Even his socks are vibrant — he will wear colorfully striped socks even when formally dressed.(What is it about the leader’s socks these days?) … Though he is seen as popular, Shehbaz Sharif has also been dogged by accusations of police brutality under his watch as Punjab’s chief minister. And he has been criticized for doing too little to curb extremist sectarian groups in the province.
Pakistan gets new PM, Shahid Khaqan Abbasi elected interim Prime Minister
(Times of India) Abbasi would serve as the chief executive of Pakistan for 45 days. In the meantime, Punjab chief minister Shehbaz Sharif would contest elections to make his way into the country’s National Assembly.

28 July
C Uday Bhaskar: A Chapter in Pakistani Politics Closes With Nawaz Sharif’s Exit
(The Quint) In a keenly watched, landmark judgement, beleaguered Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif was disqualified by the Supreme Court of his country on Friday from holding office, on charges of financial transgression.
A few hours later, Mr Nawaz Sharif tendered his resignation to uphold the sanctity of the law, though he rejected the charges levelled against him.
These charges of amassing disproportionate assets through off-shore companies against Sharif and his family members were first revealed in 2016, in what is referred to as the “Panama Papers” leak.
Sharif’s Exit Has Varied Implications for Indo-Pak Relations
While avenues for appealing against this verdict are being explored, it may be valid to presume that the active and effective political trajectory of Sharif has now hit a legal glass-ceiling, and the Opposition parties, led by the mercurial cricketer-turned-politician Imran Khan, will seek to consolidate their electoral advantage in the domestic tumultuous political arena.
Why Ousting Nawaz Sharif Sets a Dangerous Precedent for Pakistan
(NYT) While the Panama leaks were fortuitous, Mr. Sharif’s crime seems to be the same this time around: crossing the military by pursuing conciliatory policies toward India as well as Afghanistan and by reportedly demanding that Inter-Services Intelligence end its use of militant groups as tools of foreign policy. With coups globally out of fashion, the generals could not have been happier to topple Mr. Sharif without rolling the tanks.
The judges have clearly undermined the perception of justice by deposing Mr. Sharif without due process or trial to prove his innocence.
Pakistan’s Supreme Court disqualified Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif on Friday from holding public office for life in a corruption inquiry linked to the Panama Papers, which had named three of his children as owners of offshore companies suspected of laundering money. The court also ordered the National Accountability Bureau, the country’s top anticorruption agency, to file corruption cases against Mr. Sharif and his family members based on the evidence collected by the court appointed Joint Investigation Team (J.I.T.).The verdict came as no surprise. Even though Mr. Sharif was not named in the Panama leaks, and there is no evidence that he abused public office for private gain, the judges disqualified him for hiding assets, and therefore, not being “honest,” an insidious constitutional requirement for being a member of Parliament.

11 July

Microsoft’s Calibri font used as proof against Pakistan’s Prime Minister in corruption case
The “Panama Papers” is a collection of 11.5 million documents detailing information related to over 200,000 offshore accounts. Ever since the Panama Papers were anonymously leaked back in 2015, there has been a major shift in the political situation in many countries. One such country is Pakistan, where the names of numerous members of the Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s family were spotted in the papers.
As such, for the past year or so, legal and financial authorities have been investigating the Prime Minister and his family over charges of corruption after pressure from opposing parties in Pakistan as well as public outcry. With the investigation now entering crucial stages, it appears that the availability and use of Microsoft’s Calibri font have been used as evidence in the case.
Sharif’s daughter, Maryam Nawaz submitted photocopies of several documents in order to deny any wrongdoing, but it appears that the use of Microsoft’s Calibri font may be her undoing.
The documents are dated February 6, 2006, but it is important to note that the Calibri font wasn’t commercially available until much later.

12 June
Panama Leak: Sharif Pak’s First Sitting PM to Testify Before JIT
The unprecedented development will make Sharif the first incumbent to appear before such a panel, let alone one probing allegations of financial irregularities or fraud against nearly his entire family, going back three generations

17 February
Islam at war: Pakistan, Iraq attacks failure to resolve internal political contestations
By C Uday Bhaskar
(South Asia Monitor) An attack on a major Sufi shrine in Sehwan in the Sind province of Pakistan on Thursday (Feb 16) resulted in the death of 76 innocent people and more than 200 have been injured. The death toll is expected to rise. The Islamic State (IS) and its ideological affiliates in Pakistan have claimed responsibility for this attack and threatened that this is only the beginning of such an anti-Sufi /Shia campaign to exterminate the apostate – or ‘non-believer’.
On the same day (Feb 16) a car bomb killed 55 people and injured scores more in the Shia dominated area of the Iraqi capital Baghdad. The attack was claimed by the IS and this was the third attack in the week.
In Pakistan the Sind suicide bomber attack was preceded by a major terror attack in Lahore, Punjab on Monday (Feb 13) and this was followed by similar attacks in the other two provinces of Pakistan on Tuesday and Wednesday. In both cases, the TTP (Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan) , an anti-Shia terror group has claimed responsibility.
It may be recalled that the same group had carried out the attack on an army school in Peshawar in December 2014 that resulted in the death of more than 140 innocents – of whom 132 were children.
The root of the current pattern of terror-related bloodshed in Pakistan can be traced to the cynical political manipulation of intra-Islamic sectarian identity and related practice that prioritizes the dominant Sunni faction at the expense of the other sects. This political ploy goes back to the early 1950s and has been exacerbated by the special status accorded to the Saudi form of puritanical, misogynistic Wahabbi-Salafi Islam.
The IS and the virulent anti-Sunni ideology associated with it is currently under increasing military pressure in West Asia (Syria-Iraq) and being forced to re-group and assert its appeal and credibility.
The current pattern of intense terror-triggered violence targeting the Sufi-Shia combine in Pakistan and Iraq is a manifestation of this undercurrent.

24 January
Pakistan Is the Crisis Flying Under the Radar
Why the Trump administration needs a plan for Pakistan, now.
(Foreign Policy) As the sixth-most-populous country in the world (ahead of Nigeria, and behind Brazil), Pakistan is home to more than 200 million people and, by some accounts, the world’s second-largest city, Karachi. When Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif was elected in May 2013, the country marked its first democratic transition between political parties since partition in 1947. Recently, the strength of the country’s nascent democracy has been questioned as Sharif confronts protests in response to the Panama Papers, which revealed that his family hid wealth in overseas accounts to avoid paying taxes. This highlights the ongoing challenge of corruption that threatens Pakistan’s democratic stability and long-term growth potential. The nation also faces a virulent terrorism problem from the Pakistani Taliban, which has killed tens of thousands of civilians and troops over the past five years.
Looming over all of this are the issues associated with Pakistan’s long, unsettled relationship with India. Tensions between India and Pakistan have been especially high since September …  the two countries have since exchanged daily cross-border fire, leading to the deaths of soldiers and civilians on both sides. Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal probably contains over 100 warheads, existing as a hedge against a similar Indian arsenal.

While under a reasonable level of military security at the moment, the nuclear weapons represent the world’s least-stable nuclear capability — with the possible exception of North Korea.

Lessons From Trump’s ‘Fantastic’ Phone Call to Pakistan
On words and meaning in international politics
Uncertainty and challenges to convention won’t necessarily make the world more dangerous. But they may not make it safer either. One of the key questions of Trump’s presidency will be whether the benefits of unpredictability outweigh its costs.
(The Atlantic) This week, the U.S. president-elect spoke with the Pakistani prime minister and, according to the Pakistani government’s account of the conversation, delivered the following message: Everything is awesome. It was, arguably, the most surprising presidential phone call since George H.W. Bush got pranked by that pretend Iranian president.
Pakistan, Donald Trump reportedly told Nawaz Sharif, is a “fantastic” country full of “fantastic” people that he “would love” to visit as president. Sharif was described as “terrific.” Pakistanis “are one of the most intelligent people,” Trump allegedly added. “I am ready and willing to play any role that you want me to play to address and find solutions to the outstanding problems.”
It’s unclear how accurate the Pakistani government’s record of the discussion is, though the language does have a Trumpian ring to it (Trump’s transition team released a much more subdued summary of the call). But what’s surprising about the account is how disconnected it is from the current state of affairs. Everything is not awesome in U.S.-Pakistan relations. The two countries are the bitterest of friends. They have long clashed over the haven that terrorist groups have found in Pakistan and over U.S. efforts, including drone strikes and the raid on Osama bin Laden’s compound, to kill those terrorists. Pakistan, a nation with a growing arsenal of nuclear weapons, is the archenemy of India, another nuclear-armed state and a critical U.S. ally. U.S. officials see Pakistan—with its weak political institutions and suspected government support for militant groups in Afghanistan and the contested territory of Kashmir—as an alarming source of regional instability. (2 December 2016)

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