IN THE NEWS: U.S. SHOULD RETHINK ON AFGHANISTAN (MAY 23, 2017)

Written by admin on Tuesday, May 23rd, 2017

Selected by Olivier Immig & Jan van Heugten

US rethink on Afghanistan
SOURCE: The Nation
Tuesday, May 23, 2017
By JAVID HUSAIN

“You can count on the Americans
to do the right thing ultimately,
after trying everything else.”

–Winston Churchill

The US Afghanistan policy since the overthrow of the Taliban government in the aftermath of 9/11 is a living proof of the US proclivity to make strategic mistakes in handling international security issues. Washington proved the accuracy of Churchill’s assessment in its flawed handling of the war in Vietnam with disastrous consequences for Vietnam, the region, and the US itself. It persists in its gross mishandling of Iran since the Islamic revolution of 1979. With President Trump’s nationalist approach to foreign policy, the chances are that the US mishandling of Iran will get worse before, if ever, it gets better. The Palestine issue is another example of the US tendency to invite political and security disasters through its superficial analysis and incompetent handling of sensitive foreign policy issues. Any impartial observer of the Palestine issue and the Arab-Israel dispute would have no hesitation in concluding that the unquestioned support extended by the US to Israel in its aggressive and expansionist designs in Palestine is amongst the root causes of the monster of terrorism in the form of Al Qaeda and ISIS. The US invasion of Iraq in 2003 in violation of the principles of the UN Charter and international law was another example of its short-sighted and military-dominated approach in handling foreign policy issues. Washington under President Bush failed to foresee the negative strategic consequences of its invasion, from which Iraq, the region and the US continue to suffer till today.

Washington’s Afghanistan policy since 9/11 has again been full of strategic blunders, the adverse consequences of which continue to haunt that country, the region, and indeed the United States itself. After the overthrow of the Taliban government in Afghanistan in the aftermath of 9/11, the US decided to impose on the country a government of its choice reflecting its political and cultural preferences rather than one which would be reflective of the wishes of the Afghan people, their political tendencies, and their cultural traditions. As a former British ambassador to Afghanistan, Sherard Cowper-Coles, later put it, “the Bonn settlement that had followed (the overthrow of the Taliban government) had been a victors’ peace, from which the vanquished had been had been excluded; and the constitution resulting from that settlement could last only as long as the West was prepared to stay in Afghanistan to prop up the present disposition.”
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IN THE NEWS: TRUMP’S BLUSTER (MAY 23, 2017)

Written by admin on Tuesday, May 23rd, 2017

Selected by Olivier Immig & Jan van Heugten

Trump’s bluster
SOURCE: Dawn
Tuesday, May 23, 2017

INTERNATIONAL politics can often resemble the theatre of the absurd.

Certainly, US President Donald Trump’s address to a hall full of leaders from across the Muslim world on Sunday in Riyadh could fit the description. Both during the poll campaign and his presidency thus far, the American leader has demonised Muslims and singled them out for sharp criticism. And yet he was given a red-carpet reception by the kings, potentates and presidents-for-life who lord it over the Muslim world. Mr Trump had at one time toyed with the idea of setting up a ‘registry’ of Muslims in his country; he also signed an executive order banning the entry of people from seven Muslim-majority states before it was suspended by the American courts. But, bizarrely enough, at the summit he lectured his audience on the virtues of “hope and love”.

However, there was very little “hope and love” where Iran was concerned during the Arab-Islamic-American Summit. By excluding it from the event, the organisers and participants sent a pointed message to Iran that it did not belong in the ‘Islamic’ category. Moreover, Mr Trump did not mince his words; he lambasted Iran and accused it of fuelling the fires of “sectarian conflict and terror”, adding that Tehran must be isolated.

The Saudi king, the host of the conclave, himself set the tone before Mr Trump’s address by referring to Iran as the “spearhead of global terrorism”. Since 1979, when the imperial order in Iran was overthrown and replaced with a hybrid clerical-democratic regime, Riyadh and Tehran have had frigid ties. The Saudis accuse Iran of wanting to ‘export’ its revolution, while the Iranians consider Saudi Arabia an American ‘stooge’, scheming against their interests.

While this cold war has continued for over three decades, today, the Saudis and Iranians have come dangerously close to a full-blown confrontation. This state of affairs calls for regional efforts to reduce tensions between the two countries and to ensure that the focus on fighting terrorism in the Muslim world is not lost. Unfortunately, by not extending an invitation to Tehran to participate in the summit and by giving space to the American leader to criticise Iran, the kingdom has only worsened matters. A summit that features numerous Muslim states can be an excellent forum for discussing differences. At this summit, there was only bluster.
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IN THE NEWS: 130.000 AFGHAN REFUGEES DEPORTED FROM IRAN SO FAR THIS YEAR (MAY 22, 2017)

Written by admin on Monday, May 22nd, 2017

Selected by Olivier Immig & Jan van Heugten

130,000 Afghan Refugees Deported From Iran So Far This Year
SOURCE: TOLO News
Monday, May 22, 2017

Almost 130,000 undocumented Afghan refugees have been forced to return home so far this year by the Iranian government.

Voice Of America (VOA) reported that hundreds are being sent home every day in line with Iran’s target to send back 600,000 Afghans by the end of the year.

“Last week, 7,695 Afghan refugees returned from Iran, 60-65 percent of whom were deported involuntarily,” said Hafiz Ahmad Miakhel, spokesman for the Afghanistan Ministry of Refugees and Returnees was quoted as saying by VOA.

“The majority of them were young individuals, but some were families, including women and children.”

This comes amid an ever growing number of return refugees to the country not only from Iran but also from Pakistan and Europe.

The International Monetary Fund said in a report earlier this year that this influx is seriously aggravating the government’s capacity to absorb refugees in an already difficult environment of high unemployment and internally displaced people after decades of conflict.

The IMF said that while the Afghan government works to strengthen internal coordination and strategic planning, the international community also needs to play a vital role in providing financial and humanitarian support to avert a crisis and limit the damage to Afghanistan’s already challenging social and security conditions, and development prospects. (more…)

IN THE NEWS: REGIONAL STRATEGIC DISORDER (MAY 22, 2017)

Written by admin on Monday, May 22nd, 2017

Selected by Olivier Immig & Jan van Heugten

REGIONAL STRATEGIC DISORDER
SOURCE: Newsweek Pakistan
Monday, May 22, 2017

*PAKISTAN MUST FIGURE OUT A WAY TO COEXIST WITH BOTH SAUDI ARABIA AND IRAN

Pakistan was helplessly wringing its hands over the rapidly developing strategic overhaul in the region as U.S. President Donald Trump danced the sword-dance with Saudi King Salman and condemned non-attending Iran at the Arab-Islamic-American Summit in Riyadh on Sunday. The Arab leaders, whose citizens Trump doesn’t want to visit America, sat and listened. What did Trump get for this tour de force? Nearly $110 billion immediately, and $350 billion over 10 years, in Saudi purchases.

Trump wanted predecessor President Obama’s nuclear deal with Iran squashed and didn’t care if Europe, which was also part of the deal, got offended. He accused Iran of spreading terrorism in the Middle East; but Iran remains the only state fighting the Islamic State together with the United States while Turkey and Russia are more focused on targeting Syrian resistance and the Kurds.

Trump accused Iran of spreading extremism in the region just as Tehran re-elected a moderate president in contrast to Saudi Arabia’s monarchic state. And while Pakistan’s Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif attended the summit, the Iranian border-guards fired four cautionary mortars into Pakistani territory. Trump has pocketed Saudi dollars and will land in Washington shouting “more jobs for Americans” while Europe and the Middle East mull the crisis of handling the Islamic State.

Pakistan doesn’t want to ruin its equation with Iran which could have solidified into mutual dependence had it not been for U.N. and American sanctions against Iran. Also, it can’t refuse to go along with Saudi Arabia given its economic dependence on its expat labour in the Kingdom and the United Arab Emirates plus many other unpublicized financial concessions. As it meditates sadly on its three alienated neighbours, Pakistan sees India getting along fine with the Kingdom while cosying up to Tehran, buying its gas-fields and building its ports.

India doesn’t mind Trump getting close to Israel after decades of alienation over Palestine while Pakistan will feel greatly embarrassed by Arabs and Israel sailing in the same boat against “nuclearizing” Iran.

IN THE NEWS: PM ARRIVES IN SAUDI ARABIA TO ATTEND US-ARAB ISLAMIC SUMMIT (MAY 21, 2017)

Written by admin on Sunday, May 21st, 2017

Selected by Olivier Immig & Jan van Heugten

PM arrives in Saudi Arabia to attend US-Arab-Islamic Summit
SOURCE: The Express Tribune
Sunday, May 21, 2017
By SARDAR SIKANDER

ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif arrived in Saudi Arabia on Sunday to participate in US-Arab-Islamic Summit, which is seen as an important conclave entailing crucial regional implications.

Upon his arrival at King Salman Airbase, PM Nawaz was warmly received by Riyadh Governor Faisal bin Bandar Al Saud. The prime minister is accompanied by Foreign Affairs Adviser Sartaj Aziz.

Some 55 heads of states and governments from the Muslim world have been invited to participate in the three-day summit – a first trilateral summit of its kind. Sharif’s visit is taking place on the invitation of King Salman bin Abdul Aziz, said a statement from the PM House on Saturday.

Pakistan, Saudi Arabia share identical views on all issues: PM Nawaz

There are reports that Sharif will hold informal interactions with Saudi royalties regarding Iran’s concerns over the 41-nation military alliance headed by Pakistan’s former army chief General [retd] Raheel Sharif.

However, an expert in matters of foreign affairs does not pin much hope on this count. Speaking to The Express Tribune, Dr Hassan Askari Rizvi said, “Saudi Arabia’s stance regarding Iran is too adamant to be engaged in dialogue.” (more…)

IN THE NEWS: A BLOODTHIRSTY OPPOSITION (MAY 21, 2017)

Written by admin on Sunday, May 21st, 2017

Selected by Olivier Immig & Jan van Heugten

A bloodthirsty opposition
SOURCE: Daily Times
Sunday, May 21, 2017

The jury is in. The International Court of Justice has ruled. Pakistan cannot, for the time being, execute the Indian spy it picked up more than a year ago on its soil earlier this year. And that is as it should be.

Yet there are vociferous voices coming from inside Pakistan that wholeheartedly beg to differ, with the religious parties taking the lead in slating the democratically-elected government for having played its hand so badly that their bloodlust has had to be put on hold. They have also accused the ICJ of failure in holding a free and fair trial — going as far as to contend that the UN court has a habit of displaying bias against Pakistan when dealing with cases involving the two neighbours.

This is a very serious allegation and Pakistan should be grateful that none of these parties was representing it at The Hague. For we would have surely been slapped with charges of contempt of court. Also problematic are allegations that Pakistan is not taking matters of national security seriously.

Much, too, has been made of the inexperience of the lawyer chosen to represent Pakistan. Though much more has been made of possible behind-the-scene deal making. Here, it is the PPP and PTI who are leading the charge, citing the recent visit by a particular Indian businessman. In the case of the former, this suggests a return to a mandate of vengeful democracy just in time for the elections. As for the latter, this hints at a burgeoning romance of political and electoral convenience.

Yet amid this petulance over no one’s head being off for now — there is a resounding silence from the entire opposition. Meaning that if they feel as strongly as they claim then they should perhaps go back to beginning and redirect their ire towards the institution that got the ball rolling in the first place. Namely, Pakistan’s security establishment. For in its rush to have go viral Kulbushan Jadhav’s video confession — that may or may not have been doctored — the establishment alone bears responsibility for jeopardising the tenets of a fair trial. (more…)

IN THE NEWS: EMBATTLED AFGHAN VICE PRESIDENT DOSTUM LEAVES FOR TURKEY (MAY 20, 2017)

Written by admin on Saturday, May 20th, 2017

Selected by Olivier Immig & Jan van Heugten

Embattled Afghan Vice President Dostum Leaves For Turkey
SOURCE: Gandhara
Saturday, May 20, 2017

Controversial Afghan Vice President Abdul Rashid Dostum has left the country and flown to Turkey, officials say.

Yaseen Khamosh, a media adviser to Dostum, told RFE/RL late on May 19 that Dostum had gone to Turkey for medical reasons.

Later, Bashid Ahmad Tayanj, an Afghan parliament member and the spokesman for Dostum’s Junbish Party, said on Ayna TV that Dostum was on a flight to Turkey but would return after receiving medical treatment.

No details about Dostum’s health were available.

The reports of Dostum’s flight from Afghanistan come amid unresolved accusations that men loyal to him were involved in the kidnapping and abuse of a political rival last year.

The charges led to domestic and international calls for an investigation and for Dostum to be prosecuted.

The Afghan government did not comment on Dostum’s future or if his departure was related to his alleged involvement in the abduction.
Tayanj dismissed speculation on social-media sites that Dostum was going into exile.

“General Dostum never leaves the country but remains alongside his people during difficult times,” Tayanj said.

A powerful ethnic Uzbek warlord, Dostum has not been charged with any crime in the 2016 detention of Ahmad Ishchi, who said he was abducted by Dostum’s militia, beaten, and sexually abused before being released after several days.

Ashraf Ghani was heavily criticized when he chose Dostum to be his vice president ahead of the 2014 presidential election that he won.

IN THE NEWS: PAKISTAN IN DENIAL OVER SCALE OF ILLEGAL ORGAN HARVESTING (MAY 20, 2017)

Written by admin on Saturday, May 20th, 2017

Selected by Olivier Immig & Jan van Heugten

Pakistan in denial over scale of illegal organ harvesting
SOURCE: Asia Times
Saturday, May 20, 2017
By F.M. SHAKIL

*A recent raid on a network involved in trading human organs made headlines but legislators have ignored a report showing extent of the problem and who is complicit

Last month, Pakistan’s federal investigation agency (FIA) busted a gang involved in trading human organs. Dozens of doctors, agents and suppliers who had made significant sums of money in the illegal sale and transplantation of kidneys and other human parts were arrested.

On a tip-off, the agency then raided a hotel in Pakistan’s summer resort, Murree, on May 11, apprehending the gang’s main “ringleader” along with three of his accomplices.

Punjab’s Chief Minister Punjab, Shahbaz Sharif, subsequently ordered a major clampdown on the illegal kidney trade, saying “these elements do not deserve leniency.”

A handful of arrests and noises from politicians about reining in the trade fail to reckon with it scale, however. Pakistan is a hub for the illegal organ trade, with clients from all over the world driving demand. Plagued by poverty, many in Pakistan – particularly in Punjab – resort to selling their organs to pay off high-interest debts, fund small-scale start-ups or even solemnize marriages. Their desperation ensures a steady supply of organs for prospective local and foreign customers, with middlemen fetching hefty sums after paying donors a pittance. Surgeons and clandestine operating centers also take their share. (more…)

IN THE NEWS: DISAGREEMENTS STALL PAKISTAN’S TRIBAL AREA REFORMS (MAY 19, 2017)

Written by admin on Friday, May 19th, 2017

Selected by Olivier Immig & Jan van Heugten

Disagreements Stall Pakistan’s Tribal Area Reforms
SOURCE: Gandhara
Friday, May 19, 2017 (Posted)
By ABUBAKAR SIDDIQUE

*More than 50,000 civilians were killed while more than 3 million were forced to leave their homeland during a decade of unrest in FATA

Pakistani government-sponsored legislation aimed at reforming the archaic governance regime in the country’s beleaguered northwestern tribal areas has stalled because of disagreements within the ruling coalition.

Protests erupted in the National Assembly, or lower house of the Pakistani Parliament, on May 18. Lawmakers made angry speeches after Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s administration indicated it would not press for adopting constitutional amendments aimed at changing the status of the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) into a regularly administered region.

Opposition leader Khurshid Shah accused Sharif’s Pakistan Muslim League Nawaz-led government of sabotaging its own legislative agenda on long-awaited FATA reforms.

“While hiding behind walls, the government is sabotaging FATA reforms through its allies,” he told lawmakers.

Shah was referring to Pakistani media reports that said Sharif has directed his administration to postpone a push for adopting the proposed legislation until his return from an ongoing visit to China.

Several reports in the Pakistani media said Sharif made the decision after his allies — the Islamist leader Maulana Fazalur Rehman and Pashtun nationalist Mahmood Khan Achakzai — opposed the proposed laws.

In a telephone call on May 17, Rehman reportedly convinced Sharif to postpone the reforms. The two leaders are rumoured to have the Pakistani leader’s ear.
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IN THE NEWS: PAK-IRAN PRECIPICE (MAY 19, 2017)

Written by admin on Friday, May 19th, 2017

Selected by Olivier Immig & Jan van Heugten

Pak-Iran precipice
SOURCE: Daily Times
Friday, May 19, 2017
By ADNAN RANDHAWA

*We have been able to demonstrate our mastery in staining relations with our neighbours across the religious lines, be it with Sunni Afghanistan or Shia Iran; or with communist China or Hindu India

We have got only four immediate neighbours and, as on today, we have highly strained relations with three of them. The fourth one — China — has serious reservations on some of our suicidal policies. That China’s reservations do not trump its bigger strategic goals, at least for the time being, is only a temporary relief. Additionally, we have been able to demonstrate our mastery in staining relations with our neighbours across the religious lines, be it with Sunni Afghanistan or Shiite Iran; or with communist China or Hindu India. One can only thank God that we do not have more immediate neighbours like China and Russia each having sixteen in totals.

Much has been said and written on what has gone wrong in case of India and Afghanistan. But on Iran, a fog of disinformation, propaganda and media blackout — largely because that now involves Balochistan — has dimmed the lines between reality and falsehood. Iranian Army Chief’s threat might have come as a surprise for those who rely only upon local media. For those who monitor foreign media that threat was a little overdue, unfortunately though.

For quite some time now, Western media has been abuzz with reports, pieces and opinion articles pointing to sharp deterioration in Pak-Iran relations, mainly because of our recent policy shifts heavily tilting towards Saudi Arabia. Following points were highlighted in the western media: First, the US, Saudi Arabia and Israel have forged an alliance against Iran. Secondly, the Saudi-led military alliance of Sunni countries is an outcome of policy to contain Iran and has the US backing. Thirdly, US-Saudi-Israel alliance has plans to fuel ethnic tensions in various parts of Iran and the list includes Baloch area within Iran as well (that should raise alarm bells for us). Fourthly, Pakistan by allowing Gen. Raheel Sharif to head Saudi-led military alliance and committing contingent of combat troops to Saudi Arabia has made a policy shift that is not sustainable for it. Fifthly, the proxy war theatre in Balochistan is going to heat up further as the alliance of trio is funding and supporting anti-Iran jihadi infrastructure in a big way in Balochistan. Sixthly, in financing and supporting Jundallah in Balochistan, Israel has also been part of the US and Saudi efforts. Seventhly, the Iranian threats to hit militants within Pakistan cannot be taken lightly, as in 2013 Iran has already raided and bombed anti-Iran militants in Kulauhi area of Balochistan.

So on Iran too, we have same security-cum-foreign policy — featuring proxies, foreign funding, militancy, cross-border attacks — for which we are getting bashed internationally with respect to Afghanistan and India.

Our Foreign Office is shambolic. Partly, its complacency is its undoing. But a larger part of the blame is found in the civil-military imbalance that has plagued us from the beginning.

While we conveniently downplay the killing of around 10 Iranian border guards by militants from our side, Iran’s ire and impatience are understandable. How can our policy of opening a third front on our borders for no reason at all be defended? Why are we so fond of importing foreign conflicts in our own territory — Saudi-Iran conflict in this case?

As I have pointed out several times earlier, our policy making on foreign and security realms is in wrong hands. And that brings us to the real problem at hand that needs immediate corrective measures.

Our foreign office is in shackles. Partly, its complacency is its undoing. But larger part can be attributed to the civil-military imbalance that plagued our polity from the very beginning. Leaving aside the debate where the blame lies for a dysfunctional foreign office, we need to focus right now on how to make this core institution functional.

First step would be to liberate it from overarching influence of military. Secondly, efforts are needed to attract better human resource. Decades of dysfunction have left it with a lot of deadwood. Thirdly, its bureaucratic system needs a complete overhaul so that professionalism and efficiency is rewarded and not penalised.

Naturally, revamping foreign office will not suffice; something more is required. Prime minister, who is the chief executive of country, needs to become the real boss. In the person of Nawaz Sharif, we have the best leader who has the ability to bring the country out of the abyss into which wrong policies have thrown it with respect to our immediate neighbours. Given the encouraging developments on release of missing bloggers and Dawn Leaks saga, Nawaz government should come forward and take the command of policy formulation on foreign and security matters.

General Bajwa has already earned the respect and dignity of the nation by showing his commitment to democracy and constitutionalism. One can hope that he has the courage to rectify anomalies in policy making and would like to record his name in history by disengaging military from the terrains that constitutionally belong to other wings of the state.