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Book review: Diagnosing and prescribing solutions for ills plaguing Pakistan

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Title: A State in Denial – Pakistan’s Misguided and Dangerous Crusade; Author: BG Verghese; Publisher: Rupa Publications India; Pages: 240; Price: Rs 500

What lies at the root of Pakistan’s persistent animus against its larger, eastern neighbour? Was it rancour over the process of Partition and the territorial division, over Kashmir, the division of river waters, the loss of East Pakistan, lingering fear of hegemony or something more ideological and intangible? What role did outside powers, notably the US, play? And more importantly, can this animus be overcome for a lasting reconciliation and if so, how?

What lies at the root of Pakistan’s persistent animus against its larger, eastern neighbour? Was it rancour over the process of Partition and the territorial division, over Kashmir, the division of river waters, the loss of East Pakistan, lingering fear of hegemony or something more ideological and intangible? What role did outside powers, notably the US, play? And more importantly, can this animus be overcome for a lasting reconciliation and if so, how?

These are some of the questions that veteran journalist B.G. Verghese, who died on December 30, 2014, deals with in his last book, which differs from others on the subject with its ultimately optimistic outlook and some radical out-of-the-box solutions on how the two countries can dismantle and bury deep the six decades of acrimony.

And these can be done in Kashmir itself, “which is not the core problem” and “can be shared” – a step which will “not undo Pakistan”, whose problem has always been a vapid “undefined ideology” that sought to give some purpose to a country “flawed at birth by the two-nation theory (with its inherent contradictions)” but was “little more than being ‘the other’ to ‘Hindu’ India” and made more shaky by a “self-proclaimed lack of anchorage or rootedness” by fixation on an exclusive “Islamic lineage with no non-Muslim foundations or associations”.

But most tellingly, Pakistan, as much it may have wanted to orient itself westwards, towards the Middle East, could never ignore India – at least, cartographically. As Verghese quips, the pre-1971 Pakistan needed India if only to display the entire country on the map.

Like the seasoned journalist, he was in his over seven-decade career, Verghese begins with a factual framework, with much new archival material from the official records of India-Pakistan relations. Though many official papers remain in private hands, he notes “considerable material has otherwise come to light over the years through memoirs and other sources, Indian and foreign” which he has cited to provide “interesting nuances and nuggets in the present narrative that offer a better and deeper insight into the anxieties, hostilities, mistrust, hopes and yearnings that have gone into shaping what has been a tormented relationship…”

He also adds that he has also cited many foreign authors and “responsible Pakistani sources, so as not to make it possible for anyone to dismiss this text as an Indian rant and pure propaganda”.

After an uncompromising introduction about the (mostly self-inflicted) malaise Pakistan finds itself, he takes us through a quick but incisive overview of the historical events that have come to define it – the battle for Kashmir in 1947-48, the integration of princely states like Kalat, Hyderabad, Junagadh and Bahawalpur into the two dominions and the hijinks that surrounded them, the 1965 war in Kashmir, and the creation of Bangladesh.

Verghese then moves to “hanging issues” including Siachen (and the American perfidy in its mapping!) as well as an innovative idea for what used to be the world’s highest battlefield, the dangerous shenanigans of A.Q. Khan’s nuclear “business”, and on Indus water sharing – an extraordinarily detailed account which not have been difficult for the author of “Waters of Hope”, then “deconstructs Pakistan” with some hard-hitting but cogently-argued arguments and contentions before coming to solutions which include autonomy and restructuring in the entire Jammu and Kashmir, overcoming the wounds of Partition and for Pakistan to “move away from fundamentalism and embrace the syncretic, Sufi-infused Islam it once knew” and fully accept its history.

The “evil” influence, as he brings out, has been – by its acts of commissions and omissions – the US, which has often known what is going on but chose to ignore it for such unclear, future interest – a position also well articulated in Husain Haqqani’s “Magnificent Delusions: Pakistan, the United States, and an Epic History of Misunderstanding”.

But Verghese’s book should is not only a primer of what is wrong with Pakistan and how it could be fixed but also an eloquent warning against India making the same mistakes and miscalculations, quite a few of which he discerns in some measure of some figures of the Narendra Modi government and some of its ideological backers! (Vikash Datta, IANS), (images.mathrubhuminews.in)

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At Heart of Asia (HoA) Conference in Amritsar, India likely to step up efforts to corner Pakistan due to its State-sponsored Terrorism

Pakistan's tribal region along the border of Afghanistan has been accused of being a "haven for terrorists"

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An Indian cricket fan is joined by others as he waves the Indian flag outside the Chinnaswamy Stadium, the venue of first Twenty20 cricket match between India and Pakistan, in Bangalore, India, December 25, 2012. VOA

Amritsar, Dec 3, 2016: With the rise in tension with Pakistan followed by another attack on an army base, India most likely will come up with strategies to make efforts to diplomatically handle the situation and deploy support for action against state-sponsored terrorism at the Heart of Asia conference scheduled in Amritsar from tomorrow.

After experiencing an increase in the attacks from terror groups based in Pakistan, Afghanistan is ready to urge for a counter-terrorism framework via a binding commitment at the Heart of Asia Istanbul Process. The HoA Istanbul Process is a platform provided since 2011 to assist the war-stricken country of Afghanistan during its transition, mentioned PTI.

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Important challenges including terror groups and ways to bring peace and stability to Afghanistan will be scrutinized by top officials of the 14 member countries.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Afghan President Ashraf Ghani will inaugurate the main conference on Sunday together where these two countries are likely to corner Pakistan on terror.

According to PTI, Pakistan will be represented by Pakistan Prime Minister’s Foreign Affairs Advisor Sartaj Aziz and all will be hoping to witness an Indo-Pak bilateral meeting. Preceding Aziz’s arrival India said that the cross-border terrorism will not be accepted in the bilateral ties with Pakistan and Aziz pointed out that talk cannot be conducted when surrounded by terror.

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India attempted to isolate Pakistan diplomatically after the attack in Uri on an army establishment and is likely to push it further at the Heart of Asia conference. According to PTI, India called Pakistan the “mother ship” of global terrorism at the BRICS summit, Goa in October.

Amritsar, not being very far from the Indo-Pak border is stocked up and multiple layers of security has been placed. The Indo-Pak border in Punjab is under heavy surveillance.

The major focus will obviously be dealing with terrorism because both India and Afghanistan rendered the terror emerging from Pakistan the greatest threat to peace and stability.

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The representatives from over 40 countries including USA, China, Russia and Iran attending the conference will discuss the framework for effective counter-terrorism proposed by Afghanistan.

In the absence of the External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj, who is ill, the Indian delegation will be led by the Finance Minister of India Arun Jaitley.

-prepared by Shivam Thaker of NewsGram with PTI inputs. Twitter: @Shivam_Thaker

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Pakistan is Shocked by PM Narendra Modi’s new Baloch Policy, says Pakistan-born Author Tarek Fatah

“If we give them and let them handle the mantle of religion that they seek to exploit for their own geo-political issues all over the globe, then we are really going to lose this war.” said Dr. M. Zuhdi Jasser, a Wisconsin-born Muslim

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Tarek Fatah. Source: tarekfatah.com

New Delhi, Nov 23, 2016: Pakistan-born Canadian journalist and author Tarek Fatah, whose sardonic dismissal of the radical Islam has won him fans in India, says that he is an Indian at heart.

Fatah says that he sees no progress for provinces of Pakistan like Balochistan and Sindh which are struggling to break free from the clutches of state-sponsored terrorism. The founder of the Muslim Canadian Congress praises the shift of India in its Balochistan policy saying that it has turned heads towards the issue which was never brought under the spotlight, mentioned HT report.

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When questioned by HT, about the endgame of the Balochistan Struggle- he said that a few years back, it could have been solved in a way where it could have been a part of the federation based on the presentation of some of the nationalist politicians, a six-point plan similar to what Sheikh Mujib Ur Rehman did to win the election in the year 1970.

The Pakistan government rejected it completely which sent out the message that the only path Islamabad suggested was the subjugation and elimination of the Balochi language.

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He said that a government in exile is necessary and after India’s intervention there is hope that the Baloch leadership might get together into a confederacy. Fatah thinks that Pakistan was taken aback. He said that they never thought that the Indians would know about Balochistan.

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He tells HT, since most NGOs and journalists serve public relations companies and rely on press releases and lobbyists, the Baloch have no understanding of the working of international media and hence, their voice is never aired.

Rashad Suleymanov, the vice president of the European Parliament explicitly mentioned in Geneva that the European parliament will impose sanctions on Pakistan if the human rights infringements do not stop in occupied Balochistan.

While explaining the situation in Sindh, he said that Sindh has been diluted by the Urdu-speaking immigrants who migrated came in from India. At first, Jinnah took away their major city Karachi and converted it into an Urdu speaking city where no other language was permitted. This deprived around 90% of the population who spoke Gujarati, Sindhi, and Balochi.

None of the Gujarati speaking people were employed as the requirement was the ability to converse in Urdu and the Sindhi were pushed away from the urban cities.

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On being asked why is he so critical of Pakistan he said that the colonial power has blood on its hands. It bullied itself into shame when Pakistan was formed. Around 60 percent Pakistan converse in Bengali, but the Punjabis forced Urdu upon the Bengalis. The bitterness is invoked by their attempt to appear as descendants of Babur and Taimur which will launch the retake of Delhi as the Mughal Empire. It is an insult to intelligence and the Punjabi ancestry.

“I visited Pakistan last in 2006. My brother had to change his last name. I do have extended family and unfortunately, sometimes they face questions. They have to disown me. That is what restricts most sincere people to speak out because the Punjabi Pakistani state has a very feudal, medieval way of torturing relatives or running away with daughters.” He told the Hindustan Times when asked about his family in Pakistan.

He said that it is not a natural alliance but that is how parliamentary politics works when asked about the BJP-PDP alliance.

Talking about the turmoil in Kashmir he said that the Arabisation of the people is taking place and it can be felt in Burhan Wani’s message. He said that it was not Sheikh Abdullah’s language, it was coming from ISIS (Islamic State).

He said that this was not about territorial occupation or freedom, it was about the dominion of this world by a “fanatic Islamic-Fascist order”.

“There is no national interest. They (Kashmiris), a segment of Indian Muslims, and the Indian left want some exotic fantasy of Pakistan to remain there. So they can live the drama of peace, progress, why can’t we live together. It is a complete fraud.” Says Fatah.

He explains that at one end we have the completely fascist order based on deception and the other end has Hindu guilt-ridden liberals that say they have a plan to practice brotherhood nut it is the Hindu right-wing hindering that.

“The real ultra-right is the Muslim liberal class, it is not the other way round.”

When said that he was very critical to the left he said “I think the CPM is the ultra-right wing party in India.” How can the Left, the Marxists, protect the rights of the fascists, Jamat-e-Islami, or the Muslim Brotherhood.

The most horrific face of Islam is represented by ISIS and they are the ones controlling the Kashmir agenda.

When asked if he would want to become an Indian citizen, he said, “I would love to but there is not a system in India wherein I could apply for it. Imagine, Portugal’s prime minister is the first European head ever to be of Indian origin, he would I’m sure love to visit Goa. I don’t blame anyone, but it is just how things are.

I have asked but there is no application for citizenship. Our entire family is Mumbai Punjabis, but we can’t be Indians. I am as Indian as anybody else.”

He says that the status of young girls is changing in India. There is something very different between the girls on either sides of the border. There are young girls clad in skirts and ties, sitting on bikes confidently, which is not at all visible in Pakistan. You could see this in the 1950s Lahore as most women went to work on a bicycle.

There is no unified Pakistan: the Sindhis and the Balochis want freedom, the Karachi mayor is imprisoned and they are in a delusional state. The Afghan wars have Arabised the Pashtuns and the Punjabis want to speak Urdu. There is an ongoing identity crisis but the majority of the ruling class are fundamentally aggressive and think it is their right to erase anything un-Islamic.

They have been taught that the Hindus are fragile and weak and it is their job to civilise them. A group of brainwashed people cannot be reasoned with rationally.

“We are dealing with a considerably more rational reasonable people (in India) because of women’s empowerment in India,” adds Fateh.

-prepared by Shivam Thaker with inputs from HT. Twitter: @Shivam_Thaker

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Pakistan Not Doing Enough against Haqqani Network of Militants to prevent cross-border attacks, says US General

The Taliban has warned of “disastrous consequences” if the higher Afghan courts also uphold Anas Haqqani’s death sentence

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Pakistan
Insurgents suspected of belonging to the Haqqani network are presented to the media at the National Directorate of Security (NDS) headquarters in Kabul, Afghanistan, May 30, 2013. VOA
  • The commander of U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan, General Nicholson, claims that Pakistan has not pressurised the Haqqani Network to prevent them from plotting attacks
  • Pakistani authorities deny the presence of any sanctuaries, insisting that counter-terrorism military operations have indiscriminately targeted
  • A brother of Sirajuddin Haqqani, the chief commander of the network is in Afghan custody and has been sentenced to death

Sept 24, 2016: The commander of U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan says neighbouring Pakistan has not yet placed “adequate pressure” on the Haqqani Network of militants to prevent them from plotting deadly cross-border attacks.

Afghan authorities allege leaders of the group, which is fighting alongside the Taliban, are directing “high-profile” attacks, particularly in the capital, Kabul, from their sanctuaries on Pakistani soil, with the covert support of the country’s intelligence operatives.

“There is not adequate pressure being put on the Haqqanis” by the Pakistan government, General John Nicholson told a news conference at the Pentagon on Friday.

“The Haqqanis operationally have been able to continue to conduct operations inside Afghanistan. They constitute the primary threat to Americans, to coalition members and to Afghans, especially in and around Kabul,” he added.

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Though he acknowledged the number of attacks in the capital city has fallen to 16 this year compared to 23 during the same period in 2015, crediting joint U.S. and Afghan security measures.

Pakistani authorities deny the presence of any sanctuaries and insist counter-terrorism military operations have indiscriminately targeted and uprooted all militant infrastructures on their side of the border, including those of Afghan insurgents.

FILE - Army Lt. Gen. John Nicholson testifies on Capitol Hill in Washington, Jan. 28, 2016, before the the Senate Armed Services Committee. VOA
FILE – Army Lt. Gen. John Nicholson testifies on Capitol Hill in Washington, Jan. 28, 2016, before the Senate Armed Services Committee. VOA

Relations between Islamabad and Washington have been frayed over the past decade because of U.S. frustrations over Pakistan’s alleged unwillingness to act against Haqqanis.

Last month, the U.S. administration decided not to pay the Pakistan government $300 million in military reimbursements after Secretary of Defense Ash Carter told Congress he was unable to certify the country was taking sufficient action against Haqqanis and other militant groups on its soil.

Ghani in tough spot

In his Friday briefing, Gen. Nicholson also confirmed a brother of Sirajuddin Haqqani, the chief commander of the network, is in Afghan custody and has been sentenced to death by a local court.

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani is under increasing pressure at home to ensure an early execution of the convict, Anas Haqqani, to deter his brother’s group from inflicting further bloodshed on Afghans.

But Nicholson indicated it may take a while before the high-profile trial is concluded, saying the death sentence is currently going through the appeals process.

“The trial and the subsequent appeal process is entirely in control of the Afghan government so that is up to them how this plays out… And the appeals process just began, so I would expect this to continue into 2017 because of the appeals process,” he said.

Anas Haqqani, a senior leader of the Haqqani network, arrested by the Afghan Intelligence Service (NDS) in Khost province is seen in this handout picture released Oct. 16, 2014. VOA
Anas Haqqani, a senior leader of the Haqqani network, arrested by the Afghan Intelligence Service (NDS) in Khost province is seen in this handout picture released Oct. 16, 2014.
VOA

The Taliban has warned of “disastrous consequences” if the higher Afghan courts also uphold Anas Haqqani’s death sentence.

“The war and its intensity will increase in all parts of the country. A lot of blood will be spilled and the government will be responsible for all of it,” the Islamist insurgency threatened in a recent statement released by its media wing.

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The Taliban has described the man as “an ordinary student of [a] religious school,” saying he is not involved in any political or military activity, nor has there been any prize money on his head. It also alleges the U.S. military is behind Anas Haqqani’s arrest and the judicial verdict.

It is also widely believed that Taliban sources late last month intentionally released the video to reporters of a Western couple it has been holding hostage since 2012 to pressure Kabul and U.S. authorities against the possible execution of the Haqqani family member.

The hostages include an American woman, Caitlan Coleman, her Canadian husband, Joshua Boyle, and their two children. In the leaked video, the couple has urged their respective governments to meet the demands of their captives to save their lives. The Taliban is said to have demanded the Afghan government halt execution of its prisoners. (VOA)