Sunday, October 18, 2015

Five reasons why PTI lost NA-122 (and why it might fail again)

From an impartial election researcher's point of view, ‎NA-122‬ was always going to be a close contest between the PML-N and the PTI – pretty much a dead heat – however, PML-N did not win it as much as PTI lost it.
Yes, they put up a great fight but closing the gap with PML-N today means nothing in the long-term as public opinion changes over a matter of weeks. For those of you willing to consider something other than election rigging as the reason for this loss, one will be so bold as to suggest all roads lead to campaign failure.
It's been a really long time since May 2013 and the incumbency factor, plus any residual gains of the dharnas, should have been working against the PML-N (remember the 1990's? This population is pretty much done with the incumbent at the two-year mark).
The PTI has been building up momentum to change their baseline from “not winning” in urban Lahore to “winning” urban Lahore. Let’s face it, if the PTI is to be a formidable third force they have to be able to win in places where the demography (urban educated voters and high youth numbers) of their key constituents plays in their favour.
Simply put, if the PTI aren't winning urban Punjab yet, they're not winning any national elections in the next two and half years. 

Five ways PTI's campaign strategy failed:
1. Attack campaigns don't work if you don't have your ducks in a row
The PTI vilified Ayaz Sadiq (who remained rather dignified) to the extent that they made a martyr of him.
There is such a thing as taking your campaign to a point where it starts working against you, the effects of which you can see when your opponent’s voters show up in force.
2. Candidate selection is the holy grail of electioneering
The PTI clearly hasn't gotten the memo in the last 2.5 years.
Running attack campaigns will result in people hating your opponent, but at the same time, they also create higher expectations. Your voters are expecting a candidate who embodies the values YOU told them your opponent doesn't have.
Thus if that is the chosen nature of your campaign pick a benign gentleman/lady of known character (even if they are relatively unknown to the public) instead of a controversial electable.

3. Run a real campaign centered around WHO your candidate is
It's not enough to just be anti status-quo.
The undecided lazy voter just didn’t know enough about Aleem Khan outside of the PTI’s anti-PMLN campaign to come out and vote. Campaigns must give people something to vote for and not just something to vote against.
4. Put your house in order
The most deadly mismatch is that between a party's candidate selection vis-a-vis the values they claim to hold as a party. If your candidate is not (or at least, is not presented as) the epitome of your loudest values, the voter will question your ethos.
Answer me this, does the PTI, as a genuine harbinger of change, have as much traction today with voters as it did three years ago? I worry they don’t, and internal party politics are largely to blame for it.
5. Don't blame the media
If you didn't use them well, that's on you.

Those are just some basic criteria to a successful campaign that weren’t met here.
While one has your attention, let’s just call a spade a spade – this was NOT a contest between Ayaz Sadiq and Aleem Khan – this was a referendum on the righteousness of the PTI versus the evil of election rigging.
It's an absolutely terrible idea to link victory in one constituency to vindication of your party’s broader message. It’s simply too much pressure on one campaign and the problem with that paradigm is that elections have less to do with right or wrong and more to do with mathematics.
That kind of messaging raises the stakes for victory and increases the impact of defeat, where one constituency can sink your entire cause.
Little victories sustain causes, not losses! Little victories are the fuel for your supporters and the incentive for those undecided voters.

"Rigged elections of 2013" consequently doesn’t resonate the same way it did back in August 2014.

Furthermore, using that rhetoric will again alienate the critics and distance the swing voters. With each loss you failed to walk on water, you didn't emerge from the fire unscathed, and the children are crying because you just showed them Santa isn't real.
And finally, let’s address the expectation that somehow changing the process (election reform) will yield a different electoral outcome. That simply is not going to happen, not when political parties are choosing candidates that the public has a hard time getting behind. 

Processes and rules don’t change anything. They are just necessary to prevent deviations in behavior that might influence the outcome.
Campaigns, on the other hand, actually influence the outcome.
Campaigns have the power to change preferences. But the power to give the voter really good reasons to choose you lies with ... well ... you.
Published: http://www.dawn.com/news/1212615/five-reasons-why-pti-lost-na-122-and-why-it-might-fail-again

Should the PTI continue to grieve over ‘stolen’ seats? DAWN Blog



“One cannot lose if he does not accept defeat ... and in PTI’s dictionary, defeat does not exist.”
Imran Khan said to his supporters in Lahore on October 4th, while other PTI leaders standing behind him softly chuckled.
In the context of a democratic election, does this statement hold true?
Despite the rhetoric, on Sunday, by a close margin of 4,031 PML-N’s Sardar Ayaz Sadiq held his seat against PTI’s Aleem Khan in NA-122.
In George Orwell’s Animal Farm, a satirical allegory on Russian totalitarianism, lead character Napoleon plays to the base needs of his followers who chant, “Napoleon is always right.” They are told to envision a utopia, where there would be no corruption and equality amongst the classes. But goals promised are never truly defined nor real solutions offered.
It becomes a dangerous thing when citizens fail to ask tough questions, developing a cult of personality following to their leader. Ultimately, left unchecked, Napoleon becomes a tyrant worse than the original leaders of Animal Farm.
Khan also promotes a utopia: a corruption free Naya Pakistan. During his rallies, he rouses his young followers with catchy slogans and lofty promises (and here and there makes some unconstitutional demands).
In between each promise made, a neutered version of the unruly Gullu Butt, a tame DJ Butt, plays a carefully synchronised song. The crowds are encouraged to chant and dance, before having much opportunity to reflect on what was said.
Playing upon religious and historical references of purana Pakistan’s founders Quaid-e-Azam and spiritual head Allama Iqbal, Khan urges for a more “Islamic” and idealistic state; a state that prides itself in the stern implementation of justice.
But, is there justice in this dystopia for women killed in honour killings, for minorities deprived of religious freedoms, or millions of childrenenslaved in forced labour? No.
The party’s leadership does not rally in the streets to end these injustices. Justice is also not reserved for those killed by the Taliban. Khan has advocated forgiveness and talks as the solution, even after the horrifying APS school attack.
The stern justice he wishes to unleash is preoccupied with seizing the power of the rulers. Like the revolutionaries in Animal Farm what the advocates of a Naya Pakistan may not have realised is that in Celebrity Khan’s idyllic new world, “naya” soon means old and “justice” ultimately means to usurp the country’s democracy.
Khan’s politics of agitation, allegations of rigging, and long marches are nothing new for Pakistan.
Had he and Tahirul Qadri been successful in overthrowing the government (and system) it would’ve proven a dangerous transition back to the real status quo in Pakistan, in which a weak democracy is usurped by a military dictatorship. This has been the case for nearly half of the nation’s short history.
In one of his recent press conferences, Imran Khan openly invited the armyto conduct operations to “cleanse the nation” referring not to terror groups up in arms against the country, but to politicians.
And if one had any doubts after he pleaded with a third umpire to raise his finger and meddle into political affairs, over 20,000 costly posters covered the streets of Lahore, propagating candidate Aleem Khan alongside General Raheel Sharif. It is a stark reminder to the haunting posters, not yet forgotten, of Nawaz Sharif alongside General Zia.
The verdict by Justice Kazim Malik for NA-122, ruled for re-elections based on irregularities but cleared Sadiq Ayaz, or the PML-N, of any wrongdoing. This was widely celebrated as a victory for the PTI by its supporters.
The judicial commission’s report also laid to rest any allegations of systematic rigging. But this has not stopped the PTI’s continued cries of a stolen mandate by the ruling party PML-N.
Can the PTI continue to say their mandate has been stolen, when they have lost many by-elections to various parties oftentimes failing to retrieve even the same vote bank they had in the “rigged” 2013 elections?
A celebration would make sense had the PTI won the re-election for NA-122 but they now face another loss to Sadiq Ayaz.
In 2002, in the same constituency, Imran Khan had lost to Ayaz Sadiq by a substantial margin of 18,893 votes.
Similarly in 1997, when both he and Imran Khan were running under the banner of the PTI, both losing to PML-N candidates, Sadiq still received more votes than the widely popular Khan.
In the 2013 General Elections, Sadiq won against Khan by a margin of 8,945 votes. An audit of the votes later confirmed Sadiq’s win. The audit report found 3,642 invalid votes and 180,000 verified votes, which included 23,639 votes missing signatures of presiding officers and/or stamps but were otherwise ordained as verified and legitimate votes by the commission.
These were referred to repeatedly as “bogus” votes by the PTI, although this is not what the report claimed. (Had they been declared bogus, it would constitute approximately 17 per cent of the total votes, leaving 83 per cent as valid.)
The soft spoken Sadiq not only seems to have a sustained mandate throughout the years in his constituency, but has also earned the confidence of his fellow parliamentarians who voted him speaker of the house with a majority of 258 out of 313 votes. Still, the PTI put up a considerable fight and the gap is getting tighter.
Aleem Khan fared better than Imran Khan against Sadiq and, had he won it, would have been a big blow to the ruling PML-N party.
Like a cruel joke for a country used to seeing it’s elected officials sacked by military rulers, Sadiq was the third National Assembly speaker to be de-seated.
Still, Imran Khan continued to ask for a more “entertaining match”, as he wished to be competing against Nawaz Sharif, not Sadiq.

But one must ask, considering Pakistan’s fragile democracy, its current war against terrorism, and a population suffering from poverty, is there room for a never ending cycle of “entertaining” (yet very expensive) election matches, which may be toying with the mandate of the people?

Could all that money and time be better spent on education and alleviating poverty?
For a party claiming the country’s fight against rotten apples as its very own, controversial Aleem Khan was an unlikely choice for an important reelection which serves as a decisive battle for the PTI. Having a notorious reputation of being part of the land mafia, it is clear he was not picked on merit as much as on the fact that he is one of the biggest donors to PTI.
In an alarming social media message defending his decision, Imran Khan silenced dissent, calling those not in favour of the appointment of Aleem Khan as Trojan horses and the “worst of enemies” of the PTI.
As the popular saying goes, be cautious when you are promised too much too soon. Would Aleem Khan being elected into Parliament, the same onePTI once referred to as fake, really bring back Ibn Khaldun’s glory daysand would Imran Khan’s Prime Ministership bring about the emergence of a Pakistani Caliphate? Probably not.
Imran Khan often says he has everything, but the one thing he has never had is power. That is the one of the greatest lusts of man which he is now seeking. At the rally on October 4th he even alluded to the “patience” with which he has been waiting for it. Such lust can corrupt the very best of us.
Hence, PTI supporters must be open to criticism of their leadership, engage in critical thinking, and demand better decision making.
Shouldn’t they demand Khan apologise to his own followers first and foremost that much of his allegations about systematic rigging simply didn’t prove to be true?
The Judicial Commission categorically declared Pakistan’s 2013 General Elections, “...in accordance with the law,” as well as “a true and fair reflection of the mandate given by the electorate.”
Pakistan’s May 2013 elections were also monitored by over 40,000 independent observers. Such is the protocol in fragile democracies to settle cries of rigging and to offer much needed legitimacy to elections. Along with the country’s most esteemed judges comprising the Judicial Commision, that Imran Khan himself praised, these independent organisations saw no evidence of systematic rigging.
There was consensus that the irregularities found were largely due to human error and not on a large enough scale to deem the election not transparent. Unfortunately irregularities to some degree even exist in the elections of the most stable and oldest of democracies, including that of the United States.
Yet, remarkably, mesmerising Khan has managed to continue the rhetoric that massive rigging took place. Is it that hard to fathom that the then bedridden Imran Khan did not win the elections of 2013? Even if he were certain of his loss, would he not accept defeat anyway?
If the PTI is to be a formidable force for much needed change in the country, it’s up to its promising wide-eyed followers to take lead of their party, hold its own leadership accountable, and not buy into rhetoric when it ceases to make sense.
In the meantime, we can at least thank the PTI for pressurising the ruling PML-N party into action.
Pulished at: http://www.dawn.com/news/1212602/should-the-pti-continue-to-grieve-over-stolen-seats

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Imran Khan as CEC Pakistan

THERE is one man who is fit to take the office of the Chief Election Commissioner of Pakistan, and that person is Mr. Imran Khan. He works day and night to ensure impartial elections in Pakistan. He wants recounting after recounting after recounting in almost every constituency, in which his party loses an election. He wants re-elections in almost every constituency in which his party loses — just to ensure that Pakistan gets rid of rigging.
I hope, the government of Pakistan will offer him the post of the Chief Election Commissioner of Pakistan. In that way, Mr. Khan can save millions of rupees that he pays to D.J. Butt. He can also save his time consumed in protesting against rigged elections.
The government would then also be able to save public property from wild youths who want to damage it — like the office of PTV.
More interesting, Mr. Khan would be able to supervise all the returning officers, and he would be able to recount votes at any time in constituencies in which his party would lose the elections. And then Mr Khan would be finally satisfied.
If this is not done, then the people should be ready that for the next three years Islamabad will see nothing but parties and dances protesting against rigging in elections, and D. J. Butt would be making millions of rupees in profit.
Bashaam Bachani
Tando Allahyar
Published in Dawn, October 15th , 2015
http://www.dawn.com/news/1213108/imran-as-cec

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Our spoilt brats by Irfan Hussain

".... This is the kind of revolution Pakistan needs. We have to stop the privileged from jumping the queue, and the well-connected from monopolising the state’s resources. Above all, powerful people must be prevented from taking the law into their own hands.
This is what Imran Khan did when he forced the Islamabad police to release his supporters arrested for breaking the law. Both he and Tahirul Qadri have been flouting many laws for weeks and getting away with it....

So while Imran Khan’s party would be allowed to demonstrate outside 10 Downing Street, it could certainly not block traffic. And if the PTI chief tried to intervene when his followers were arrested, he would be locked up so fast it would make his head spin....

Television channels, delighted to have a 24/7 rolling crisis to report on, have poured oil onto the flames. The army has maintained an enigmatic posture while the courts have dragged their feet in directing the government to end the anarchy. All these competing power centres have further weakened a shaky government. Nawaz Sharif, never the most decisive of leaders, resembles a rabbit frozen in the headlights of an oncoming car.
But despite his many failings, he has a clear mandate to rule until 2018. If he now announces early elections, this would be a victory for unconstitutional forces, and set a precedent for the next demagogue to exploit.
Imran Khan has repeatedly said what he would do when he becomes prime minister, including sorting out sundry politicians and public officials. He has even threatened to hand over Nawaz Sharif to the Taliban. Leaving aside the lack of gravitas and decorum such puerile threats reveal, his aspiration to the country’s top job should make it incumbent on him to strengthen, not weaken, the state."

Taken from: http://www.dawn.com/news/1133020/our-spoilt-brats

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

This is New Pakistan, already!!

Pakistan has changed, many still need to realize the fact. In last 6, 7 years people of Pakistan have become more aware of their rights and country politics than before. Huge turnout in 2013 elections is another indication of change. PTI has stood first or second in many constituencies, highlighting a significant change in Pakistan. We are now living in New Pakistan where voter can throw the people out if they do not perform. PTI holds most of the credit for this change. These elections are success for PTI. Common PTI supporter just need to realize this. IK never defined the change as 'Govt of PTI'. I think IK is satisfied with his and his party's performance. First time voters should now show maturity; one cannot win majority right away (that too without any record of running a govt.); it takes time.

As PTI has emerged as a bigger party than veterans like MQM, JI, PML-Q et al, PTI should show more maturity, stop wasting their energies and should move on. They are now in a position to spread the effect of change. PTI is in parliament now with significant no. of seats. They should have made strategies to make alliances with other opposition parties right after the trend of the results was out. They have not made any single such move after elections, which shows lack of preparations and maturity on PTI's part. Inexperience and lack of maturity is one of the reasons PTI could not get majority in center. They should not waste their energies in lesser important issues like 'Saad Rafiq ko maza chakhana hai', 'Saad Rafiq enter kyun hua khawateen ki side per?' If certain ppl have issues, they should move to courts and not occupy streets.

PTI and PML-N should now think for Pakistan and start respecting each others' mandate. NS has already shown maturity by saying 'aap nay mujhe gaali di, main nay aap ko muaaf kia. aayein table per baithein aur muzaakraat karein'. NS has also said that it is PTI's right to form Govt in KP. In center, PTI can now cash in and discuss a formula with PML-N. PTI can demand ministry of foreign affairs and a couple of relevant ministries that can improve image of Pakistan. If PML-N does not agree, sit in opposition and try to capture the seat of Opposition Leader, Head of Public Accounts Committee, Head Kashmir Committee. In KP PTI can offer PML-N to join them in Govt. I wish PML-N allows PTI to run the province as they like.

Mature moves from PTI are still awaited. Party leadership should stand up, accept the results as PPPP, ANP, MQM etc. have done. PTI leadership should take immediate steps so that they can play effective role in Pakistani politics. They should thank their supporters and ask them to be patient for a while. Elections campaigns can be run with emotions, a country/province cannot be run this way. Patience, maturity and calmness are required skills to run state affairs. Supporters should allow the leadership to focus on bigger issues. Handle the rigging issues through courts or EC.

There are certain old things in our New Pakistan. One of them is not respecting the mandate given to others, a tradition of 1990s. Todays this type of agitational politics damages party's image. Parties might lose their voters if they keep doing street/propaganda politics only. 

Sunday, February 10, 2013

New Provinces in Pakistan?

These days almost all political parties of Pakistan are talking about the need to divide existing provinces for one reason or the other. Every party has its own interests in this cause; some would like to avoid division on linguistic or ethnic basis and others would like to exploit the two bases, some would like to increase the representation of current Punjab, in Senate, from 25 to 40, some would like to appoint one of their leaders as a CM of a new province, some would do it to protect rights of the people of ignored/underprivileged Punjab. Whatever the reason be, most of the parties agree to have more provinces.

This is encouraging that we realize the need for new provinces. The desire to have more provinces should be inspired by administrative reasons and not by any other reason. All other reasons will give birth to a new problem of having boundaries for each province.

Pakistan already has around 25 administrative divisions. An administrative division is the next tier of government after a province. Why not make each Division a Province? Since all divisions are administrative, the new provinces will be made purely on administrative basis. I feel that the proposal of promoting each division to a province can serve as a litmus test for the parties who are serious in their demand for new province. Their seriousness in demands for new province will be in doubt if the parties who still want to have Saraikistan, BJP, or South Punjab but do not like to have a Division as a Province. This should also make those happy who want to divide Punjab and those who want to divide Sindh.

Their can be reasons to disagree with the suggestion; for example legislative issues, new buildings for assemblies, high courts etc. But there will be legislative issues whenever we want to have a new province. Since each division has basic infrastructure already in place, I feel that there is very little need to build brand new buildings. Existing buildings can be used for the time being and new ones can be built overtime.

Promoting a Division to a Province can resolve many administrative as well as political issues. There will be no conflicts in demarcation of provincial boundaries. This system will allow people to have their representative at a relatively smaller area. This will end the debate of giving rights to south Punjab or rural Sindh. This approach to have new provinces has no linguistic or ethnic reasons. Hopefully, this will end the dirty politics of fooling people and exploiting their sentiments on the basis of their association with a locality. This tier of government is a middle tier between the local government and current provincial government. These new provinces will reduce the gap between the two tiers of the government. Also, this approach to create more provinces is more proactive than reactive.


Saturday, December 10, 2011

Kargil: another view

Kargil: another view

The fact remains that the Kargil Heights were on the Pakistan side of the ceasefire line since 1949 and so was the Siachin glacier
until Indian forces moved there.

The Kargil Heights not only commanded the confluence of the supply line from Srinagar and Leh but, more importantly, provided access to Baltistan in the north, which India claims as their ‘atoot ang’.

As late as Aug 9, 1998, Defence Minister Fernandes reiterated: “The part of Kashmir under the control of Pakistan will have to be reclaimed”. He talked of finishing the ‘unfinished business’ of 1971.

The Indian occupation of the Kargil Heights was cause for worry.

In 1982 the Indians sneaked into Siachin (NW of Kargil). The world kept blatantly silent. Siachin adjoins the Chinese border, even they said nothing.

But in May 1999 when our forces moved into the Kargil Heights exactly like the Indians had done in Siachin, there was an
uproar.

It was a brilliant, well-planned move. Logistical support; and strategic depth was provided from the ridges in the north to the well-dug in positions on inaccessible high ground.

There is much ado about who was actually fighting. Call them ‘Pakistan-supported forces’ or ‘Kashmiri guerillas’, what’s in a name! They were fighting to take back what was theirs.

The Indians threw in four divisions of their elite troops with full air support but could not dislodge the Pakistanis.

They tried and tried for nearly two months, longer than any India/Pakistan war. Action on our international border was out of question, a nuclear deterrent was now well in place.

Hundreds of bodies were arriving at Indian homes. Exhaustion was setting in. A plea for ceasefire was imminent. Mr Bajpai tried the last trick in his bag. He sent an SOS to the always ready to help: president Clinton.

Nawaz Sharif was summoned to Washington. Even if he was kept in the dark about Kargil earlier, he was definitely advised this time by his generals to accept a ceasefire but under no condition concede to a pullback. That was the strategy. ‘Finders keepers’ was the prevailing law.

In Washington at the Blair House Nawaz Sharif and president Clinton were the only two persons present, other than Bruce Ridal who was taking notes. Our prime minister was no match for president Clinton. He was browbeaten and threatened.

Eventually he acquiesced.

Alas! A war that we had won hands down on the battlefield was lost on the table in Washington.

Later in March 2000, while addressing the Indian Parliament, Mr Clinton asserted: “It was not India but the US which intervened and forced Pakistan to withdraw from Kargil “.

While the Indian government and the media supported their armed forces to the hilt, our prime minister was telling the world: “I didn’t do it, it was my army chief’.

CAPT S. Afaq Rizvi
Karachi

This post appeared in Dawn: http://www.dawn.com/2011/12/05/kargil-another-view.html

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Dilip Hiro, Pakistan's Other Partner

Has the Obama Administration Miscalculated in Pakistan?
By Dilip Hiro

Washington often acts as if Pakistan were its client state, with no other possible patron but the United States. It assumes that Pakistani leaders, having made all the usual declarations about upholding the “sacred sovereignty” of their country, will end up yielding to periodic American demands, including those for a free hand in staging drone attacks in its tribal lands bordering Afghanistan. This is a flawed assessment of Washington’s long, tortuous relationship with Islamabad.

A recurring feature of the Obama administration’s foreign policy has been its failure to properly measure the strengths (as well as weaknesses) of its challengers, major or minor, as well as its friends, steadfast or fickle. To earlier examples of this phenomenon, one may now add Pakistan.

That country has an active partnership with another major power, potentially a viable substitute for the U.S. should relations with the Obama administration continue to deteriorate. The Islamabad-Washington relationship has swung from close alliance in the Afghan anti-Soviet jihad years of the 1980s to unmistaken alienation in the early 1990s, when Pakistan was on the U.S. watch list as a state supporting international terrorism. Relations between Islamabad and Beijing, on the other hand, have been consistently cordial for almost three decades. Pakistan’s Chinese alliance, noted fitfully by the U.S., is one of its most potent weapons in any future showdown with the Obama administration.

Playing the China Card

Another factor, also poorly assessed, affects an ongoing war. While, in the 1980s, Pakistan acted as the crucial conduit for U.S. aid and weapons to jihadists in Afghanistan, today it could be an obstacle to the delivery of supplies to America’s military in Afghanistan. It potentially wields a powerful instrument when it comes to the efficiency with which the U.S. and its NATO allies fight the Taliban. It controls the supply lines to the combat forces in that landlocked country.

Taken together, these two factors make Pakistan a far more formidable and independent force than U.S. policymakers concede publicly or even privately.

The Supply Line as Jugular

Angered at the potential duplicity of Pakistan in having provided a haven to Osama bin Laden for years, the Obama administration seems to be losing sight of the strength of the cards Islamabad holds in its hand.

To supply the 100,000 American troops now in Afghanistan, as well as 50,000 troops from other NATO nations and more than 100,000 employees of private contractors, the Pentagon must have unfettered access to that country through its neighbors. Among the six countries adjoining Afghanistan, only three have seaports, with those of China far too distant to be of practical use. Of the remaining two, Iran -- Washington’s number one enemy in the region -- is out. That places Pakistan in a unique position.

Currently about three-quarters of the supplies for the 400-plus U.S. and coalition bases in Afghanistan -- from gigantic Bagram Air Base to tiny patrol outposts -- go overland via Pakistan or through its air space. These shipments include almost all the lethal cargo and most of the fuel needed by U.S.-led NATO forces. On their arrival at Karachi, the only major Pakistani seaport, these supplies are transferred to trucks, which travel a long route to crossing points on the Afghan border. Of these, two are key: Torkham and Chaman.

Torkham, approached through the famed Khyber Pass, leads directly to Kabul, the Afghan capital, and Bagram Air Base, the largest U.S. military facility in the country. Approached through the Bolan Pass in the southwestern Pakistani province of Baluchistan, Chaman provides a direct route to Kandahar Air Base, the largest U.S. military camp in southern Afghanistan.

Operated by some 4,000 Pakistani drivers and their helpers, nearly 300 trucks and oil tankers pass through Torkham and another 200 through Chaman daily. Increasing attacks on these convoys by Taliban-allied militants in Pakistan starting in 2007 led the Pentagon into a desperate search for alternative supply routes.

After Empire by Dilip HiroWith the help of NATO member Latvia, as well as Russia, and Uzbekistan, Pentagon planners succeeded in setting up the Northern Distribution Network (NDN). It is a 3,220-mile railroad link between the Latvian port of Riga and the Uzbek border city of Termez. It is, in turn, connected by a bridge over the Oxus River to the Afghan town of Hairatan. The Uzbek government, however, allows only non-lethal goods to cross its territory. In addition, the Termez-Hairatan route can handle no more than 130 tons of cargo a day. The expense of shipping goods over such a long distance puts a crimp in the Pentagon’s $120 billion annual budget for the Afghan War, and couldn’t possibly replace the Pakistani supply routes.

There is also the Manas Transit Center leased by the U.S. from the government of Kyrgyzstan in December 2001. Due to its proximity to Bagram Air Base, its main functions are transiting coalition forces in and out of Afghanistan, and storing jet fuel for mid-air refueling of U.S. and NATO planes in Afghanistan.

The indispensability of Pakistan’s land routes to the Pentagon has given its government significant leverage in countering excessive diplomatic pressure from or continued violations of its sovereignty by Washington. Last September, for instance, after a NATO helicopter gunship crossed into Pakistan from Afghanistan in hot pursuit of insurgents and killed three paramilitaries of the Pakistani Frontier Corps in the tribal agency of Kurram, Islamabad responded quickly.

It closed the Khyber Pass route to NATO trucks and oil tankers, which stranded many vehicles en route, giving Pakistani militants an opportunity to torch them. And they did. Admiral Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, issued a written apology to his Pakistani counterpart General Ashhaq Parvez Kayani, conveying his “most sincere condolences for the regrettable loss of your soldiers killed and wounded on 30 September.” Anne Patterson, the U.S. ambassador to Pakistan, issued an apology for the “terrible accident,” explaining that the helicopter crew had mistaken the Pakistani paratroopers for insurgents. Yet Pakistan waited eight days before reopening the Torkham border post.

Pakistan’s Other Cards: Oil, Terrorism, and China

In this region of rugged terrain, mountain passes play a crucial geopolitical role. When China and Pakistan began negotiating the demarcation of their frontier after the 1962 Sino-Indian War (itself rooted in a border dispute), Beijing insisted on having the Khunjerab Pass in Pakistani-administered Kashmir. Islamabad obliged. As a result, the 2,000-square-mile territory it ceded to China as part of the Sino-Pakistan Border and Trade Agreement in March 1963 included that mountain pass.

That agreement, in turn, led to the building of the 800-mile-long Karkoram Highway linking Kashgar in China’s Xinjiang Region and the Pakistani town of Abbottabad, now a household name in America. That road sealed a strategic partnership between Beijing and Islamabad that has strong geopolitical, military, and economic components.

Both countries share the common aim of frustrating India’s aspiration to become the regional superpower of South Asia. In addition, the Chinese government views Pakistan as a crucial ally in its efforts to acquire energy security in the coming decades.

Given Pakistan’s hostility toward India since its establishment in 1947, Beijing made an effort to strengthen that country militarily and economically following its 1962 war with India. After Delhi exploded a “nuclear device” in 1974, China actively aided Islamabad’s nuclear-weapons program. In March 1984, its nuclear testing site at Lop Nor became the venue for a successful explosion of a nuclear bomb assembled by Pakistan. Later, it passed on crucial missile technology to Islamabad.

During this period, China emerged as the main supplier of military hardware to Pakistan. Today, nearly four-fifths of Pakistan’s main battle tanks, three-fifths of its warplanes, and three-quarters of its patrol boats and missile crafts are Chinese-made. Given its limited resources, Islamabad cannot afford to buy expensive American or Western arms and has therefore opted for cheaper, less advanced Chinese weapons in greater numbers. Moreover, Pakistan and China have an ongoing co-production project involving the manufacture of JF-17 Thunder fighter aircraft, similar to America’s versatile F-16.

As a consequence, over the past decades a pro-China lobby has emerged in the Pakistani officer corps. It was therefore not surprising when, in the wake of the American raid in Abbottabad, Pakistani military officials let it be known that they might allow the Chinese to examine the rotor of the stealth version of the damaged Black Hawk helicopter left behind by the U.S. Navy SEALS. That threat, though reportedly not carried out, was a clear signal to the U.S.: if it persisted in violating Pakistan’s sovereignty and applying too much pressure, the Pakistanis might choose to align even more closely with Washington’s rival in Asia, the People’s Republic of China. To underline the point, Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani traveled to Beijing two weeks after the Abbottabad air raid.

Gilani’s three-day visit involved the signing of several Sino-Pakistani agreements on trade, finance, science, and technology. The highpoint was his meeting with Chinese President Hu Jintao. Following that summit, an official spokesperson announced Beijing’s decision to urge Chinese enterprises to strengthen their economic ties with Pakistan by expanding investments there.

Among numerous Sino-Pakistani projects in the pipeline is the building of a railroad between Havelian in Pakistan and Kashgar in China, a plan approved by the two governments in July 2010. This is expected to be the first phase of a far more ambitious undertaking to connect Kashgar with the Pakistani port of Gwadar.

A small fishing village on the Arabian Sea coastline of Baluchistan, Gwadar was transformed into a modern seaport in 2008 by the China Harbor Engineering Company Group, a subsidiary of the China Communications Construction Company Group, a giant state-owned corporation. The port is only 330 miles from the Strait of Hormuz at the mouth of the Persian Gulf through which flows much of China’s supplies of Middle Eastern oil. In the wake of the Gilani visit, China has reportedly agreed to take over future operation of the port.

More than a decade ago, China’s leaders decided to reduce the proportion of its oil imports transported by tanker because of the vulnerability of the shipping lanes from the Persian Gulf and East Africa to its ports. These pass through the narrow Malacca Strait, which is guarded by the U.S. Navy. In addition, the 3,500-mile-long journey -- to be undertaken by 60% of China’s petroleum imports -- is expensive. By having a significant part of its imported oil shipped to Gwadar and then via rail to Kashgar, China would reduce its shipping costs while securing most of its petroleum imports.

At home, the Chinese government remains wary of the Islamist terrorism practiced by Muslim Uighurs agitating for an independent East Turkestan in Xinjiang. Some of them have links to al-Qaeda. Islamabad has long been aware of this. In October 2003, the Pakistani military killed Hasan Mahsum, leader of the East Turkestan Islamic Movement, and in August 2004, the Pakistani and Chinese armies conducted a joint anti-terrorism exercise in Xinjiang.

Almost seven years later, Beijing coupled its satisfaction over the death of Osama bin Laden with praise for Islamabad for pursuing what it termed a “vigorous” policy in combatting terrorism. In stark contrast to the recent blast of criticism from Washington about Pakistan’s role in the war on terrorism, coupled with congressional threats to drastically reduce American aid, China laid out a red carpet for Gilani on his visit.

Referring to the “economic losses” Pakistan had suffered in its ongoing counter-terrorism campaigns, the Chinese government called upon the international community to support the Pakistani regime in its attempts to “restore national stability and development in its economy.”

The Chinese response to bin Laden’s killing and its immediate aftermath in Pakistan should be a reminder to the Obama administration: in its dealings with Pakistan in pursuit of its Afghan goals, it has a weaker hand than it imagines. Someday, Pakistan may block those supply lines and play the China card to Washington's dismay.

Dilip Hiro is the author of 32 books, the latest being After Empire: The Birth of A Multipolar World (Nation Books). His upcoming book on jihadists in South Asia will be published by Yale University Press later in the year.

Copyright 2011 Dilip Hiro


Copied from: Tomgram: Dilip Hiro, Pakistan's Other Partner | TomDispatch

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Was Zardari ‘ill-prepared’?

THIS refers to the report ‘2009: Nato officials bewildered by ill-prepared Zardari’ (May 21).

Those who take the time to read the piece in its entirety will see that President Asif Ali Zardari made an impassioned
and strong case for Pakistan.

He clearly explained to his audience what Pakistan’s role had been and was as a front-line state in the war against extremism and about all the sacrifices Pakistan and its people had made.

To mock the democratically elected civilian president for not knowing the language of Nato is cynical and not useful.

Perhaps those Nato officials were used to President Zardari’s predecessor who was more martial and less democratic in his language and more conversant with military manners.

FARAHNAZ ISPAHANI
MNA and Media Adviser to President
Islamabad

Dawn: Was Zardari ‘ill-prepared’?

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Successes and Failures of #CIA People of #America should know

(America needs to raise debt ceiling, on emergency basis, to avoid default)

Sometimes it makes me laugh when ppl blame pakistani agency for playing a double game, name a single agency in this world which does not play a double game? anyone plz?

It is actually the job of an agency to play games and safeguard interests of its country, for example CIA supported, against Russia, the Afghan Mujahideen and later started fighting Afghan Taliban. This was just because (CIA run) US had different interests on these two different occasions. When US points fingers on ISI tht it is playin a double game, it makes me believe tht CIA is very incompetent as an agency, which eventually forces them to use some other means (like diplomatic front and media) to counter ISI's professional strategy...
CIA, to me, seems so incompetent sometimes tht i feel sorry for the ppl of america who are funding their unprofessional agency. Incompetence of CIA? following are a few examples:

  1. US destroyed the stealth helicopter (used in May 02 operation) to avoid transfer of technology but failed to destroy the most sensitive part (i.e. the tail. This, btw, is criminal.)
  2. US killed 'the highest value target' and failed to produce any evidence tht they did it... a large number of americans consider it a lie
  3. US secret operative Raymond Davis killed, in public, two men simply coz he thought they had guns?
  4. US entered afghanistan without a good exit strategy...
  5. US attacked afghanistan to gain a strong influence in the region, ten years into the war n they still have very weak influence in the region, in addition they've lost their dominance in the rest of the region...
  6. US attacked iraq on false intelligence information given by CIA (one of the unnecessary wars which brought US to the brink of default)
  7. US failed to provide any evidence tht OBL was behind 9/11 - a huge intelligence failure...

The only success for CIA has been a defamed ISI, only if someone considers it a success.

CIA has a history of failures (and afghanistan will b just another 'feather in its cap') despite being one of the highest budget agencies, but it still enjoys the status of a professional agency in america. I wish ppl of america wake up soon n realize wht has CIA done with them? coz of CIA, USA has more enemies in this world than it has friends... USA has soaring economy coz of this notorious agency...
good luck ppl of america

Monday, March 21, 2011

Liberated Libya rejects US intervention



Libyans overwhelmingly reject foreign intervention! A US subsidiary the UNO came to help the people of Libya who did not at all want the kind of help US provided.

Supporting Libyan Revolution, Opposing Foreign Intervention

Leave it to the people of Libya to decide. If not now, they'll bring the revolution a few years later. Let THEM do it!!! Why make their army weaker? It is loss of Libyans too!!


More at The Real News

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Balancing parking tickets against murders

By Murtaza Haider

For the US Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, a parking ticket violation is more atrocious than a murder. As a junior senator from New York, Mrs. Clinton wanted to revoke the diplomatic immunity for scofflaw diplomats who were stationed at the United Nations in New York and had racked up $21.3 million in parking violations. As the Secretary of State, however, she is invoking diplomatic immunity for Mr. Raymond Davis, who is accused of murdering two young men in Lahore.

Read full article
Balancing parking tickets against murders

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Salman Taseer sayin he is against blasphemy

this video does not tell he did blasphemy or supported blasphemy... yes he pointed out some improvements in registration of the case.

Salman Taseer talks abt Blasphemy Law on CNN

in this video he does not seem to b in favor of repealing the law. though he mentioned towards the end tht the penalty shld not b death sentence...