INSIGHT AND FORESIGHT

June 21, 2021

[ABSOLUTELY NOT]

Filed under: Uncategorized — sharafs @ 8:13 am
http://www.thenews.com.pk

Samson Simon Sharaf

A clear message of ‘Absolutely Not’ by Prime Minister Imran Khan in a TV interview to HBO will reverberate a long time in international politics and strategy. These two words much like Real Politick, Berlin Airlift and Kennan Telegram may well have decided the future of Pak-Afghanistan, US strategy in the region and possibly the old imperial template of containment.

Will peace be given a chance or will the region plunge once again into a new bout of violence and bloodshed?

A lot depends on how USA and its allies react to this humiliation and how far the Afghan Mujahidin groups can go to forge a national consensus. Ever since the Soviet invasion, the region has witnessed violence, bloodshed and anarchy. Hoping for the best and bracing for the worst, Pakistan’s Prime Minister insists on giving peace a chance.

US rationale for bases in Pakistan is based on the premise of eliminating D’aesh and ISIS. If US assertions are credible, then what did USA do during two decades of occupation to defeat these elements right next to Pakistan? Pakistan does not buy the logic. Last time when Pakistan did give these bases to USA, they were used to strike inside Pakistan and expand covert operations.

President Biden’s visit to EU was meant to give a new dimension to NATO much like it did post 9/11 when USA was the only super power, or Yalta and Breton Woods, when USA was the victor. Meeting with President Putin was marred my presentation of a crystal piece of the badly mauled Bison, once nearly extinct due to US conquest of the West. It also reminded the atrocities committed against Red Indians, Mormons, Slaves and Chinese workers who built the transcontinental railroad in most inhuman conditions whitewashed with Statue of Liberty. Turkey, though willing to give a helping hand as NATO ally cannot do so without Pakistan’s assistance. As someone commented, Turkey gets the dollars and Pakistan the blame.

Perhaps apart from selective use of violence and covert operations by CIA and Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC), an economic shift may begin to be visible.

In Middle East too, USA is thing out THAD and Patriot Missile Defence Systems. The much publicised USA-Israel-KSA-UAE alliance seems stalled. The list of failures includes Iraq, Libya, Syria and Yemen. The impression being created is that Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and UAE are building their own defensive capabilities whilst through diplomatic engagement; Iran will be restrained from supporting factions in Middle East.  The prolonged wars to bring democracy, eliminate Al Qaeda and save humanity in Middle East are ending with a whimper and the prospects of Project for the New American Century diminishing.

Some events do not add up.

IF USA and NATO are committed to supporting Ashraf Ghani in Afghanistan, then why are they stripping all bases reducing the combat capability of Afghan National Army (ANA)? Accepting a failure reinforced for over two decades with warfighting technologies can never convert to a victory with remote control; or still some Neo Clausewtzians wish to deal a final lethal blow to the region with a standoff? For the past three decades, warfare imposed world over has been a senseless affair devoid of any policy.  With nuts around, chances of an absolute war, however little cannot be ruled out.  

As Taliban Spokesman states, USA has committed over 1,500 violations of the accord, but they have shown restrained and refused to be provoked. Afghan Mujahedeen have distanced themselves from acts of violence by D’aesh and ISIS. Understandably, they want USA to leave without an option to fire a parting salvo. Only future will tell if they succeeded or not.

With so much out of control in Greater Middle East, USA may be forced to switch its instrument of policy that has thus far been invasions, coups and civil wars. Maybe, USA along with its allies will review an aggressive economic policy that can win hearts and minds of the people in the region. It will have to be as aggressive and result oriented as the Chinese BRI-CPEC projects. This translated to sustainable development and industrialisation very much like the Marshal Plan.

Only time will tell if Blue Dot Network planned for the Pacific Rim serves its purpose and expands, or is it just another neo imperialist tool reflecting the old mind-set?

June 8, 2021

SETTING THE AFGHAN TRAP

Filed under: Uncategorized — sharafs @ 5:51 am

Samson Simon Sharaf

According to a French Magazine that claims interviewing National Security Advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski, President Jimmy Carter, at his urging, aided the Afghan Mujahedin intentionally to lure the Soviet Union into invading Afghanistan in December 1979. The Afghan trap was set for USSR. What followed is a well-documented history of events and covert use of intelligence assets. History could well repeat itself.

What I once described a ‘War of Hate’ in Afghanistan is fast descending into retrograde by USA and its allies. The mission was to obliterate Al Qaida and their supposed ally Afghan Taliban. The reality is that the two were never allies but were lumped to provide USA a military presence to oversee Iran, China, Russia and Pakistan. The military arsenal that was used from Daisy Cutters to MOAB, precision guided bunker busters and armed drones kept alive the primordial notion of revenge perpetuated by still more hate.

With the Trojan of Al Qaida not destroyed and Afghan Taliban giving victory calls proves that Invasion of Afghanistan failed. But if the geostrategic designs were something else, there is lot to ponder about the future of USA and its allies in the region. India has been co-opted into the calculus through the Indo-Pacific Command. In military terms a Clean Break will decide if the withdrawal is orderly or not. The least, it will provide is a glimpse of victory raising many questions about the future.

In contrast to an orderly military withdrawal and handing over positions and assets to ANSF, Afghan Taliban’s creeping domination in 9 more districts is ominous for US perspective. Considering Taliban can also invest major capitals makes the existence of a defiant Ashraf Ghani Regime, the last of US allies in Afghanistan questionable. Seeing Pakistan’s role crucial to this tactical phase, USA is sending feelers for soliciting direct or indirect military support in terms of logistics and military bases.

For Pakistan it would be prudent to facilitate US logistics exclusively for withdrawal purposes. But providing military bases for strikes or overflights is an entirely different preposition. Once these are used against Afghan Taliban, it will aggravate conflict in the Pak-Afghan Region.

Circumspect and suspicious, Pakistan remains firm in declining military assistance to a country that treated it as a foe for two decades.

At the heart of this tragedy is not the aspiration of Afghan People to choose their future but for the geostrategic designs of great power rivalries to deny spaces to each other. The US dilemma is that if it leaves while closing options for future military strikes, it has lost the plot that UK created in Afghan Forward Policy in the late 19th Century. It also dampens its quest for a greater Middle East and opens up vast spaces for Russia and China thus far denied.

With China emerging as a very strong economic and military competitor, USA dreads that its containment arc around West and Central Asia also called the Greater Middle East will perforate. Hanging around in Afghanistan despite a military defeat seems cost prohibitive. The most likely and dangerous conclusion in the context of this Great Game would be to repeat the past with UK assistance and leave Afghanistan at simmer and boil.

Instability in Afghanistan and neighbouring Pakistan is the choicest and cruelest option. Therefore Afghanistan could descend into the 4th round of chaos beginning the Soviet invasion in 1979. Just like Taliban were lumped with Al Qaida, Pakistan could be sucked into the conflict. Tools of economic coercion and intimidation will be used in tandem to punish Pakistan and make it flexible. Pakistan needs to break away from the past and make new strategic partners.

The desired effects will be to forestall Chinese initiatives of BRI-CPEC and conjunction of Sino-Russian objectives. If this be so, then the likelihood of instability curve increases manifold.

The ground work for such an eventuality is already laid in the growing presence of D’aesh, ISIS and TTP in regions adjoining Pakistan and elements within Pakistan supporting PTM, sub nationalists, civil rights and freedom of press.  This is how Pakistan is being framed in the game theory of Prisoner’s dilemma.

Unlike the perceptions created, Pakistan exercises very little influence with Afghan Taliban. Accommodating USA will earn the ire of Afghan Taliban besides putting a spanner in BRI-CPEC projects. This unending spree of turmoil is not in Pakistan’s interest.

Pakistan’s sway with Taliban was considerably reduced when USA rejected Pakistan’s formula for peace in Afghanistan in 1996. Again after 9/11, USA rejected the Afghan Taliban proposal to hand over Laden to a Muslim Country to be tried under Islamic law. Instead, USA attacked Afghanistan and created a perception that Al Qaida and Taliban were the same entity. Taliban sanctuaries in lawless tribal regions were attacked from US bases in Pakistan. Taliban failed to secure the safety of Colonel Imam who was executed by TTP. Also there is not much Taliban did to restrict TTP attacks into Pakistan from Afghanistan. The fact that Taliban fended off repeated US, ISAF and NATO attacks and signed a peace agreement with USA emboldens their quest for an independent policy. When this happens, Afghan warlords will switch sides for convenience.

No one understands better than USA and UK the assumption that Pakistan could facilitate peace and normal transition through a popular process is Afghanistan is flawed. Yet in quest of larger designs, it will be pursued.  

Taliban view US plans and intentions with suspicion. They are reluctant towards more diplomacy at Doha and Ankara. They want the US to lay out its agenda explicitly. If left to perceptions, then Taliban feel they are being dragged into a precooked environment that does not suit them. This puts the future of an Afghan Islamic Emirate versus an Afghan Republic into question.

A hint was provided by President Ashraf Ghani’s attitude and coldness towards Pakistan. His contempt and defiance is confrontational.  Right up the sleeve are non-state actors.

At least three Afghan generations have fought and lived through this turmoil and the 4th is in the midst of it. Three generations in Pakistan’s tribal regions have been affected. US withdrawal will remain an illusion as much as its Afghan victory is.

Within colliding tectonics, Pakistan has to carve its stability and future. There should be no misgivings or illusions that the next round of violence will be hi tech and devastating. It will never be America’s adieu to Afghanistan.

May 28, 2021

Remembering how Pakistan Went Nuclear

Filed under: Uncategorized — sharafs @ 6:35 am

Samson Simon Sharaf

1996-97 was a politically unstable time for India. BJP despite emerging as the single largest party could not muster a majority in thirteen days. A consensus candidate from the United Front supported by Congress lasted only eleven months. The next government formed by IK Gujral was dismissed in Dec 1998 for lack of majority. BJP had posed serious challenges to the INC coalition on charges of corruption and was poised to electioneer on issues that were most endearing to the philosophy of BHARAT VERSHA. Opinion polls indicated that BJP was most likely to emerge as the single largest party, a dark horse in the run up to elections in 1998. Their election campaign reflected the jingoist anti Pakistan Hindu Right. This made Pakistan suspicious of Indian nuclear intentions. Pakistan’s only option was to have a closer look. The most challenging question for Pakistan’s security planners was, would BJP follow its rhetoric of nuclear testing if it came to power? The task fell on my shoulders.

In November 1997, I was assigned by the then COAS General Jehanghir Karamat to determine if India would go nuclear. The study had to be completed by March 1998. This was a challenging assignment meaning that if BJP was to win the election, it would not be before March 1998 that it could come to power. Therefore, the research had to be primarily based on assumptions. BJP’s rhetoric in the run up to the elections was providing some clues but then it could be dismissed as an electioneering gobbledygook.

Because no physical preparations were underway, we had to get into the mind of Sang Parivar and make suitable hypotheses. Information was available on India’s technical advancements and lack of experimentation due to the nuclear moratorium since 1974. A generation had gone by which meant that many of the original scientist would not be around. With these technical gaps determined, the study began as an in depth appraisal of known Indian nuclear capabilities and developmental gaps. The first step in the study was to pin point the deficiencies in India’s technical nuclear capabilities and what was India most likely to address if and when it went nuclear. The following critical issues were determined for analysis:

  • We determined that the 1974 explosion was a conventional 1950 design not fit for weaponisation. More testing was needed to confirm designs of warheads.
  • We determined that based on decay rates, India needed further data not only to confirm its previous testing but also to calculate the life of the warheads and miniaturized designs.
  • We determined that India was following the plutonium route, something that had not been test fired in the past. Series of tests on plutonium were needed to design smaller and sleeker warheads.
  • We determined that India was already at an advanced stage of producing delivery systems. War head designs had to fit these systems, be sufficiently compact so as not to alter the payload and avionic designs of delivery systems.
  • Tests for boosted weapons crucial to miniaturisation were an absolute necessity.
  • The thought process in Sang Parivar and BJP rhetoric indicated that Bharat Versha would be incomplete without boasting thermo nuclear devices. Hence a fusion test could not be ruled out.

The study was being conducted on an assumption of ‘if BJP came to power’. Whatever India would do, would be in a hurry, therefore Pakistan too must be ready to respond.  Correct focus on technical issues was important.

Most information on India’s nuclear programme was of journalistic and academic nature. Indian scientists and governments had been tight lipped. Apart from plutonium production reactors, there was no information available on Inertial Confinement Fusion Tests (cold testing). Therefore it was decided to study the Israeli nuclear developments to get clues about how a country could have nuclear weapons without testing. We suspected that India and Israel were  sharing technical data.

The information gathered from the libraries in Rawalpindi and Islamabad was not enough. So my quest for latest books and journals led me to Ameena Saiyid of Oxford University Press. With the help of Dr. Zafar Iqbal Cheema, I was able to short list a few. But Ameena had a surprise. She took me to the basement where there was a complete shelf on Nuclear Strategy. It was a trove and just what the doctor ordered. By mid-December 1997, we had gone through all the books and had a fairly good idea how India would proceed if it decided to go nuclear.

Due to India’s limited capability in enriching uranium and relying on plutonium, we had reached the conclusion that India will conduct the following explosions.

  • A repeat of 1974 Fission design for confirmation.
  • A boosted weapon system based on a plutonium design.
  • A two stage thermo nuclear testing with the first stage based on a conventional design or a boosted weapon to produce the heat necessary for fusion.
  • Cognisant of depleting fissile material stockpiles, India would not carry out more than three tests but at the same time test warhead designs without the fissile material for collection of technical data.
  • Lastly Indian testing would be provocative and if Pakistan followed, international sanctions against Pakistan could be tightened.

By early February, diplomatic chatter intensified and there were reports that India was contemplating going nuclear. The argument by some members of the BJP particularly the prime minister in waiting, Mr. Atal  Bihari Vajpayee was that explosions by India would provoke Pakistan into testing. Reports on Indian nuclear test sites at Pokhran were not conclusive. Though our analysis was reaching its conclusions, we needed evidence to substantiate our hypotheses and formulate options for Pakistan.

A special high speed broad band internet connection was secured to monitor all nuclear information on India. A breakthrough came in satellite photography that focused on Pokhran every 24 hours. Initially there was no activity but by end February 1998, we began noticing track marks covered by fresh earth. Areas in vicinity showed vehicles and heavy equipment. By mid-March 1998, superimposition of images began revealing a typical pattern. These movements had begun even before BJP came into power. 15 March 1998 onwards activities accelerated. We estimated two months before India could resume nuclear testing.

We continued receiving inputs from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, diplomatic chatter and the intelligence agencies of Pakistan. These bits and pieces were accurately fitting into our hypotheses fast becoming a reality.  By end March, final analysis was ready and subjected to an in house discussion, followed by presentation to the COAS, General Jehanghir Karamat. Be prepared mission was issued to our scientists. Pakistan was ready to respond if India went nuclear.

On 11 May 1998, India went nuclear. We worked continuously for next 48 hours on deliberating Pakistan’s response which was ready and had to be fine-tuned with logistics and operation orders.

On 13th May 1998, we received a document from Mohatrama Benazir Bhutto’s emissary. She was in a self-exile and had made statements in USA that Pakistan should not go nuclear. The letter was double enveloped. I was the first to open it and read it aloud for everyone in the planning room. Written in her hand in turquoise ink on five cards, it was her recommendation that Pakistan must go nuclear. The technical details in the letter reflected her deep knowledge on nuclear strategy; in fact it was almost identical to our plan. She made suggestions only a deeply patriotic Pakistani could. That day, she won her spurs.

In the next two days, the accuracy of our study was proved to the minutest detail. The graphs of our monitoring stations indicated three major bangs, the last one flattening out. The first was a fission reaction of considerable yield. The second indicated a smaller yield confirming it was plutonium based boosted weapon. But the flattening out of the third explosion indicated that the second phase of the thermo nuclear device had fizzled out. India had failed to go thermo nuclear. The other tests that India claimed were tests without fissile materials.

International pressure on Pakistan was intense. There was a real threat of joint Indo-Israel strikes on our nuclear installations. Pakistan’s air defence and ground forces went on high alert. Preparations went into full swing.

For my team, it was a moment of extreme satisfaction, pride and humility.  Based on technical research, conclusions drawn through empiricism, intelligence gathering and trove of information revealed by satellite photography, we had ensured that Pakistan was ahead of time and not caught napping. We had also prepared Pakistan’s response that went exactly as suggested. As a result, our scientists and logisticians had enough lead time to prepare and conduct a series of nuclear testing as a credible and befitting response demonstrated with better technical capability than India. This would never have been possible without the confidence reposed in us by the COAS General Jehanghir Karamat, CGS Lt General Ali Kuli Khan and DGMO Major General Tauqeer Zia. Credit also goes to my team comprising Major General Ausaf Ali and Brigadier Wajahat Nazir.

Three factors kept us on course: guidance by Dr. Zafar Iqbal Cheema, the Chairman of the Department of Defence and Strategic Studies, Qaid-i-Azam University Islamabad, excellent books delivered by Ameena Saiyid and the French satellite imagery confirming our hypotheses to reality. Indian tests were a facsimile of our assessments.

With technical issues left to our scientists, engineers and logisticians, we refocused on in depth appraisal of the international reaction and budgetary consequences for Pakistan. It was also time to lay the foundations of a Nuclear Policy and Doctrine that would ensure durable peace in the region and foresee a negotiated settlement of all disputes with India. The central idea of the policy was Defensive Deterrence in other words a right to ‘first use’ under aggression. Cognisant of the nuclear strategy in the European theatre, Pakistan’s policy was designed to be dynamic, credible and fail-safe.

One of the most important conclusions of our study was that the post nuclear Pakistan had to be more responsible and self-reliant. Conventional forces had to get leaner with more firepower and mobility. The conventional forward defensive posture had to be supported with a network of lateral communications and electronic surveillance. Economically, Pakistan had to put its house in order. An imaginative and practical plan for the role of armed forces in national development was made. It included irrigation, building of dams, reclaiming waste lands, education, health, technical training schools and energy. These plans would see Pakistan through if more sanctions were imposed.

In a joint study with the finance advisor, we concluded that Pakistan would run a deficit of 5 Billion US$ for the first year. Aggravated by more sanctions, this deficit could have an exponential effect. One view was that the high state of morale in the country could be boosted by the government to stimulate growth and ride out the crises. The contrarian view was that there would be run on the banks, particularly foreign currency accounts.

With Gen. Musharraf as the new COAS, Pakistan soon changed course. Some plans to give a stimulus to the economy were implemented. The growth was positive. In hindsight, Kargil was a manifestation of the fact that two nuclear powers could fight a limited conflict. It laid the groundwork for Indian violations across the Line of Control and generated ideas like the Cold Start about limited conflict under a nuclear shadow. 9/11 further plunged Pakistan into its deepest crises. Pakistan’s brief economic recovery from 2000 to 2004 was converted into a windfall and wasted.

Somewhere along the way, Pakistan lost the plot. Elites of every description sucked blood out of stones. They actually ruined Pakistan.

I am still of the view that Pakistan’s national power potential on a time continuum is realisable determined by the sole factors of national resolve and political will. Inherently Pakistan is blessed by mineral resources, rivers, skilled manpower and a national character of rising to the occasion. It needs a very short period to make Pakistan self-reliant and economically stable.

May 13, 2021

خلفشار اور تباہی کا رستہ

Filed under: Uncategorized — sharafs @ 3:05 am

Samson Simon Sharaf

افغانستان سے امریکی انخلا امن کی جانب پیش رفت ہرگز نہیں۔جس طرح افغانستان میں مختلف گروہ متحرک ہیں اور ان کی صف بندی کی گئی ہیں اس سے تو یہی ظاہر ہوتا ہے کہ افغانستان امریکی فوجی انخلا کے بعد ایک طویل عرصہ تک تنازعات اور جنگ کا شکار رہے گا۔ یہ خلفشار نہ صرف افغانستان بلکہ پاکستان کو بھی غیر مستحکم کرنے کی وجہ بنے گا۔ بظاہر یہی محسوس ہوتا ہے کہ امریکہ نے پاکستان کو ہائی برڈ زون میں مصروف رکھنے کے لئے منصوبہ بندی کر رکھی ہے۔امریکہ پاکستان کے خلاف یہ جال سی پیک کو ناکام بنانے کے لئے بن رہا ہے تاکہ پاکستان کو مضبوط ہونے سے روکا جا سکے اور عالمی تجارت اور معیشت میں جو کردار مصر کی نہر سویز کا ہے وہ سی پیک کے فعال ہونے کے بعد پاکستان نہ حاصل کر پائے۔اگر افغانستان میں پرتشدد کارروائیاں جاری رہتی ہیں تو افغانستان کی بدامنی اور خانہ جنگی بلوچستان اور خیبر پختونخواہ کے امن کو یرغمال بنائے رکھے گی ۔تورا بورا رینج میں القاعدہ آئی ایس آئی ایس اور تحریک طالبان کو منظم کر کے پاکستان کے لئے مشکلات پیدا کر دی گئی ہیں۔سعودی عرب کی نئی صف بندیوں سے بھی یہ ظاہر ہوتا ہے کہ خطہ میں امریکہ، فرانس ،برطانیہ اور اسرائیل کس قسم کا خوفناک کھیل کھیل رہے ہیں۔ جس کا مقصد عربوں کو تنہائی کا شکار کرنا ہے۔ دوسرا مقصد عربوں کوباہمی تنازعات میں الجھا کر ان کے تیل کے وسائل کو کنٹرول کرنا ہے تیسرا مقصد خطے کے سیاسی ڈھانچے کو ازسرنو منظم کرنا ہے۔ یہ خلیج میں مغرب کی نئی منصوبہ بندی اور سازشوں کا ہی نتیجہ ہے کہ سعودی عرب اپنے دشمن ایران سے تنائو کم کرنے کی کوششوں میں مصروف ہے خطہ کے ممالک دشمنی ختم کرکے دوستی کا ہاتھ بڑھانے پر مجبور ہے خطہ میں شام اور عراق چین اور روس میں قربتیں بڑھ رہی ہیں۔ افغانستان میں پاکستان کی سرحد کے قریب طالبان کی موجودگی پاکستان کے لئے مسلسل خطرہ رہے گی جس طرح وزیرستان میں ضرب عضب سے پہلے تھی افغان طالبان نے دانستہ طور پر خطے میں داعش دولت اسلامیہ اور تحریک طالبان پاکستان کی کارروائیوں سے آنکھیں بند کئے رکھیں۔ بلوچستان کے شدت اور تشدد پسندوں نے بھی ان تنظیموں سے گٹھ جوڑ کر کے قندھار میں بیٹھ کر بلوچستان اور سندھ میں کارروائیاں کیں اور مستقبل میں بھی طالبان کے دوہرے کردار کی وجہ سے یہ تنظیمیں افغان سرزمین کو پاکستان میں استحکام کے لئے استعمال کرتی رہیں گی۔پاکستان کو افغان سرحد سے پریشان کرنے کا مقصد صرف مشرقی سرحد اور لائن آف کنٹرول پر پاکستان کی گرفت کمزور کرکے بھارت کو فری ہینڈ دینا ہے۔ یورپی یونین کا فرانس کی حمایت میں کھڑے ہونا تو محض ایک اشارہ ہے پاکستان کو شدید اور سخت حالات کا سامنا کرنا پڑ سکتا ہے۔ مغربی ممالک اقتصادی پابندیوں کے ذریعے پاکستان کی عدم استحکام کی شکار معیشت کو تباہ کر سکتے ہیں۔پاکستان کو اپنی بقا کے لئے آئی ایم ایف کے آگے گھٹنے ٹیکنے پر مجبور کیا جا سکتا ہے۔ عالمی سرمایہ دارانہ نظام پاکستان کو سٹیٹ بنک آف پاکستان، آئی ایم ایف، ورلڈ بنک، فیفٹ اور ڈبلیو ٹی او کے ذریعے براہ راست کنٹرول کرنے کی کوشش کر رہا ہے۔ تاکہ پاکستان کے پاس عالمی سرمایہ دارانہ نظام کی خواہشات پر عمل کرنے کے سوا کوئی چارہ ہی نہ رہے۔ان مقاصد کے حصول کے لئے سیاسی حلقوں کو بھی استعمال کیا جا رہا ہے۔ پاکستان میں کرپٹ اشرافیہ حکومت پر اپنی گرفت مضبوط کرنے کے لئے اور احتساب کے عمل کوسبوتاژ کرنے کے لئے اکھٹی ہو گئی ہے یہاں تک کہ دوست اور دشمن کی پہچان ختم ہو کر رہ گئی ہے۔یہ اسی گٹھ جوڑ کا نتیجہ ہے کہ حکومت کے لئے عام آدمی کے مسائل اور مشکلات کے بارے میں سوچنے کے امکانات محدود ہو کر رہ گئے ہیں۔ نئے وزیر خزانہ کی حکومت گزشتہ پالیسیوں کے باکل متضاد اپروچ دراصل حکومت کی تین سال کی پالیسیوں کے خلاف چارج شیٹ ہے۔پاکستانی میڈیا بھی حکومت کے مثبت اقدام کو نظر انداز کر کے حکومت کو مسلسل تنقید کا نشانہ بنا رہا یہ بھی اس بات کی دلیل ہے کہ پاکستان کو اندر اور باہر سے خلفشار کا شکار کرنے کے لئے تانے بانے بنے جا رہے ہیں۔ تباہی پاکستان کی طرف تیزی سے بڑھ رہی ہے مگر پاکستان کی حکومت سیاستدان عدلیہ میڈیا یہاں تک کہ مذہبی حلقے اس منصوبے سے بے نیاز ہیں۔ پاکستان کے خلاف کھیل کا یہ حصہ ہے کہ یہاں ہر کوئی دوسرے کا گلہ کاٹنے کے درپے ہے۔مندرجہ بالا سطور میں پاکستان کو درپیش جن چیلنجز اور خطرات کا ذکر کیا گیا ان سے بے نیاز پاکستان کی تمام سیاسی پارٹیاں اس وقت اپنی قوت ایسی سٹریٹجی بنانے میں صرف کر رہی ہیں کہ کس طرح پنجاب پر قبضہ کیا جائے، کس طرح وفاق میں عدم اعتماد کی تحریک کو کامیاب بنایا جائے، کس طرح چالیس ضمیر فروش سیاستدانوں کی وفاداری خریدی جائے اور عمران خان کو کرسی سے اتارا جائے۔ کسی کو ملکی مفاد کی کوئی پروا نہیں ہر کوئی عمران خان سے ہر قیمت پر نجات حاصل کرنے کے درپے ہے۔ پاکستان کے خلاف سازشوں کے جال بُنے جا رہے ہیں مگر کسی کو پروا نہیں۔ کہنے کو عدلیہ آزاد مگر اس کے فیصلے مسلسل ایک سیاسی جماعت کے حق میں آ رہے ہیں۔اس کا سبب بیورو کریسی میں موجود عناصر ہیں یا حکومت میں یا پھر نام نہاد اسٹیبلشمنٹ میں؟گزشتہ تین برس میں پاکستان مسلسل کم یا زیادہ مواقع حاصل کرتا رہا ہے مگر حکومت کی معاشی ٹیم کی ناقص حکمت عملی کی وجہ سے ان سے بھر پور استفادہ حاصل نہ کیا جا سکا۔پاکستان کے معاشی انجن جو زراعت ہے کو بہتر بنانے کے لئے کوئی اقدامات نہ ہو سکے۔سی پیک کو پاکستانی معیشت کی ریڑھ کی ہڈی بنانے کے لئے کچھ نہ کیا گیا۔ صارف مارکیٹ حکومتی مافیاز کے کنٹرول میں رہی۔سر کلر ڈیتھ توانائی کے شعبے میں ٹائم بم کی صورت میں موجود ہے۔وجوہات جو بھی ہوں موجودہ حکومت مختلف قسم کے حصار میں پھنسی رہی اور خود کو بے بس محسوس کرتی رہی ہے ۔پاور پالیٹکس میں کمزوری کے بطن سے عدم استحکام جنم لیتا ہے۔عدم تفہیم اور غیر دانشمندانہ فیصلے ہوتے ہیں جب سب کچھ ہی جل کر راکھ ہو جائے تو پھر کھونے کے لئے بچتا ہی کیا ہے۔پاکستان کی مغربی سرحد پر دیدہ اور نادیدہ خطرات کا تقاضا ہے کہ پاکستان کی ڈولتی معیشت کو سنبھالنے کی کوشش کی جائے بڑھتی سیاسی انارکی کو روکنے کے لئے اقدامات کئے جائیں تاکہ پاکستان کی سیاسی اور عسکری قیادت پاکستان کو درپیش خطرات سے نمٹنے کے لئے یکسوئی سے حکمت عملی مرتب کر سکے۔اگر بدعنوان عناصر اور کارٹیلز کو یونہی کھلا چھوڑ دیا گیا تو حکومتی اقدامات رائیگاں جائیں گے اور پاکستان کی عدلیہ قومی دولت لوٹنے والوں کو ریلیف دیتی رہے گی۔ بدقسمتی سے پاکستان کے دشمن پاکستان کو کھلے عام چیلنج کر رہے ہیں مگر پاکستان کی قیادت خطرات کو محسوس کرنے سے قاصر ہے۔اگر پاکستان حالات کو کنٹرول کرنے کے لئے قابل عمل حکمت عملی مرتب نہیں کرتا تو خدانخواستہ ملک عدم استحام اور انتشار کی طرف بڑھتا رہے گا اور یہ پاکستان کے لئے خطرناک صورتحال ہو گی۔پاکستانی قیادت گزشتہ تین دھائیوں سے خطرات سے آنکھیں بند کیے ہوئے ہے۔اگر اسی طرح چلتا رہے گا تو پھر پاکستان کو منزل مقصود تک پہنچانے کے لئے کون سوچے گا؟یہی وجہ ہے کہ میں آج بھی پاکستان سے مخلص قیادت سے یہی گزارش کروں گا کہ وہ ماضی میں کیے گئے غلط فیصلوں پر رجوع کرے اور پاکستان کے مفادمیں فیصلہ سازی کی جائے یہی ایک راستہ ہے جو پاکستان کو تباہی سے بچا سکتا ہے ورنہ پاکستان اسی طرح ختم نہ ہونے والے عدم استحکام اور خلفشار کا شکار رہے گا۔

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May 8, 2021

THE ROAD TO GRADUATED ANARCHY

Filed under: Uncategorized — sharafs @ 5:28 am

Samson Simon Sharaf

US withdrawal from Afghanistan is not a peace move; the way various factions are mapped and placed means a prolonged conflict to keep AFPAK destabalised. USA will make selective use of its long-arm, keeping Pakistan engaged in hybrid zone of neither friend nor foe and work against a CPEC that confines Pakistan’s role to that of Egypt in Suez Canal.

In order to limit Pakistan’s outreach and independence, Pakistan is being trapped into a steep downward curve of bad governance spearheaded by 18th amendment and economic hitmen; some operating on behest of outside state and non-state actors and others for greed, loot and plunder. The new generation of Jinnah’s Khotay Sikkay (political turncoats) is alive and kicking. In the past three decades, they have wrested control of consumer markets like dairies, poultry, livestock, food grains and sugar. They control market elasticity and the government seems helpless. Some also control policies within the government and threaten with forty odd numbers. Worst the advisors and core of Prime Minister’s team continues to falter, pushing an otherwise honest and well-meaning prime minister into a corner.

Though violence in Afghanistan is usual, there is a surge of hostile activities in Balochistan and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. As indicated by deployments, hostile presence in Tora Bora range controlled by Da’esh, Al Qaida, ISIS and TTP indicate difficult times for Pakistan. The drumbeats of violence and low intensity conflict are getting louder.

Like their presence in Waziristan, post 9/11 till conclusion of Zarb e Azb, Afghan Taliban will play double game by turning a blind eye to the potpourri of Da’esh, ISIS and TTP. Terrorists of Baloch separatist will keep debouching from Kandahar Region creating trouble in Balochistan and parts of Sindh. As a consequence, Pakistan’s defensive posture will be forced to wheel to the West giving India more freedom of action in IOK and working boundary. Recent escalation at Samba was a tester and warning shot.  Pakistan has to hold back its friendship hand towards India.

Despite this danger and the recognisable threats, in Pakistan, it is business as usual. The country has yet to awaken to the impending realities. In western strategic appraisals, a steep downward trajectory in governance could result in lack of control and complete anarchy. The chequerboard is ready in all its forms and manifestations whose ultimate objective is outside intervention.  

The recent EU initiative in support of France is a mere show of cards. More stringent conditions could follow, that could melt Pakistan’s non sustainable economy on the turn of a switch. Just like the wage of sin is death, relying on IMF will haunt Pakistan in days to come. If the pyre rekindles, a new social contract may be the only option to stabilise politics.

Imperialist capitalism is exercising its vectors of direct control (SBP, IMF, WB, FATF, and WTO et al) leaving no options for thehapless masses, scourged by political market forces that have joined hands with the transnational system.  As Pakistan stabilises its major economic indices, these are but figures that can be swarmed any moment by circular debts, rising poverty, inflation, consumer prices and bad governance.

Corrupt cartels and cabals are busy squeezing their grip on a government paradoxically committed to anti-corruption while being unable to differentiate friend from foe. It appears that the closest advisors, movers & shakers render inadequate options to address the difficulties of the common man. Majority amongst them have conflict of interests.

pakbee.com

The PTI government is isolated from its diehard party cadres who in private express dissatisfaction. The party’s think tanks have no say in governance while those in power turn deaf ears.  There has been no meeting of the party’s CEC since it came to power, rendering it redundant and as hapless as the people of the country.

The diametrically opposite approach of the new finance minister is a charge sheet on the past three years of economic performance. Though the media hype puts more blame on the government than the many positives it deserves, it is evident that Graduated Anarchy is being orchestrated from within and outside.

The dangerous road to destruction has been carved and no one seems to care amongst the government, political parties, judiciary, media, NGOs and religious elements. The quest to eliminate each other is like a Royal Rumble with everyone at each other’s throat.

Oblivious to the scenario painted above, every political party is busy in make-break strategy; how to topple Punjab, how to pass a vote of no confidence or how to exploit the gang of forty odd politicians of opportunity (a relic of Republican Party tradition) to down the tenacious Imran Khan. They are least bothered by the larger national interests as long as they extract a pound of Imran Khan’s flesh. There are wheels within wheels within wheels.

No one knows who calls the shots; a so called independent judiciary whose decisions largely favour one political party, elements within bureaucracy, the government or the so called establishment?

In the past three years, Pakistan could have availed fleeting opportunities, but for the insulated character of the economic advisory team. Nothing has been done to agitate Pakistan’s biggest engine of GDP: Agriculture. Those placed at helm are traditionally exploiters of the system. CPEC has not transformed into an economic boon. Consumer markets controlled by political mafia are out of control. Circular debt in energy sector is a time bomb.

Whatever the case, the present government is under multi directional siege and forced to feel vulnerable. In power politics, vulnerability breeds instability, lack of cognition and hasty decision making.  When everything becomes ashes, what remains are losers.

With a floating invisible threat looming on the western border, it is time to devote concerted efforts towards grassroots economic stability, preclude political instability and give pause to the armed and civil armed forces to focus on future threats and devise plans.

Cartels and cabals, left unchecked will scuttle the best efforts towards equilibrium and judiciary will keep giving relief to plunderers of the country. Hence notwithstanding the ultimate result of this confrontation, the next pit stop is constitutional reforms through an absolute majority.

Unfortunately, as events indicate, the varying factions have drawn their swords openly and friends have stilettos up their sleeves, while the voices of sanity and reason rot in dungeons. If no decisive and positive actions are taken, Pakistan may follow an extremely unstable course. That will be a very dangerous day.

By the time the rumble ends, Pakistan would have lost three decades. Then who will gather the remains of the day and start carving a new destiny? 

Therefore, I would still bet on honest leadership at the helm, with elasticity to reverse bad decisions and inclusivity of party cadres for positive decision making. This is the only way out. All others will lead to unending instability.

Post Script

A serious reassessment in KSA has shown how it’s hubristic pursuit of glorious visions has plunged it in a den of wolves led by USA, France, UK and Israel; They set out to ensure regional isolation of the Arabs. The second was control of it’s oil resources. The third was a reshuffle of its political structures.

The raisin d’etre for this Western buildup is being made redundant by the Saudi embrace of the former enemy Iran. All former rivals have become potential allies. Syria, Iraq and then China and Russia. This is a strategic tectonic shift.

As a consequence the game to destabilize Pakistan the Pivot will intensify manifold.

April 26, 2021

A MILL IN STILL BIRTH WITH NO O2

Filed under: Uncategorized — sharafs @ 6:01 am

The tragedy of Pakistan Steel

Pakistan Steel Mill can rightly be called a Still Birth; a wish that never was:

a case of chasing shadows: and a dream turned nightmare;

not because it was destiny

but for other factors like greed, inefficiency and disloyalty to the country. 

Samson Simon Sharaf

One immediate problem I confronted as Patron of Insaf Jafakash Workers Federations and President Insaf Labour Wing in 2020 was Pakistan Steel Mill. Incidentally, I headed the monitoring team at GHQ in 1999, that was largely assertive in profitably kick starting the mill. By 2004, Rs. 12 Billion principal debt and a deficit of Rs. 19 Billion were paid back, besides covering Rs. 9 Billion losses. Yes, a colossal figure of Rs. 40 Billion in 5 years. If we take 2006 as the zenith of Pakistan Steel Mill, it was only 14 years ago that it was alive and kicking. The sudden death in 2015 is a manipulated dynamic.

In view of the Covid 19 Environment I demanded through my CBA Labour Union to recommission the oxygen generation plant. The demand was also part of our Charter of Demands that ultimately stood rejected by the Steel Mill and Ministry of Industries. I also had a long inconclusive meeting with Advisor Razzak Dawood.

All efforts fell on deaf years as the government and bureaucracy had a pre conceived conviction to sell off this national asset. They were ignorant of the many Supreme Court decisions on the subject and whisked away current litigations in the apex court. Now the country direly needs oxygen and like India, Pakistan may not have enough resources to meet the rising demands created by new variants of Covid 19.

India is suffering an acute shortage despite all hospitals having their integral oxygen concentrator plants for ICUs. Unfortunately the demand in India has outstripped local production capacities. In Pakistan, most hospitals do not have integral oxygen production capability except Christian Hospital Taxila. God forbid, if the Oxygen demand in Pakistan rises, it will become a national emergency and Pakistan may have to rely on imports. Therefore I tweeted below:

I have had discussions with some segments of authorities on how to kick start the dead project that was closed in running state. I fear it may not be possible due to massive misappropriations, corruption of software, lack of inventories and positive will.

Despite misleading demarches by governments since 2008, a detailed analysis of events leads to the inevitable conclusion that the governmental cases of privatisation since 1998, rejected by Supreme Court in 2006 and again reaffirmed by the apex court in May 2012 point to a direction the government does not wish to pursue. The bottom line is to sell it.

No government since 2006 has shown the resolve to carry out in-depth investigations, ascertain how and why losses occurred, who is responsible for inefficiency and who should be made accountable? The ministry of law has not done its homework and MOI&P keeps passing unsubstantiated information to ECC and cabinet while losses accumulate. This evasion has checks in the many Supreme Court judgements and will not go unchecked.  

Post world war II, this was the most ambitious project of the country in public sector, conceived in 1947 that never took off since foundation stone in 1973 and inauguration in 1985. Intervening years are a sorry state of inefficiency, greed, rise of cartels and cabals that frequent corridors of power.  By 2015, when the oxygen plant was switched off, the mafia ensured it was dead. 

Why PPPP ensured the flagship project of its founder be cast into the death chamber is baffling. Closure of the Oxygen Plant in 2015 is explainable due to vested interests and linked to an LOI in March 2006 signed by Minister of Industries Mr. Jehanghir Khan Tareen to a shady consortium of an offshore company PSMC in Mauritius controlled by Mittal of India.

No government document can explain why this tragedy came to pass. The truth lies hidden in the desires to keep Pakistan underdeveloped, the political economy of dependence, corporate capitalism, economic hitmen and now ‘The Age of Surveillance Capitalism’ that has moved beyond sovereignty of nation-states where according to  Shoshana Zuboff, one vector belongs to the longer history of modernisation and centuries-long societal shift (nationalism) and opposing vector belongs to the decades long neo liberal economic paradigm to reverse, subdue, impede and even destroy the individual urge toward psychological self-determination and moral agency.

I doubt the Steel Mill Gurus will be willing to kick start the oxygen plant. Sometime after 2015, the software of the mill went suspiciously corrupt. All automated records and inventories gone! Then it was free for all to vandalise the project. Perhaps the government may have to commission an exclusive team from Ministry of science and Technology, SPD and POF to recommission the oxygen Plant.

The Prime Minister should appoint a JIT to investigate a) why Supreme Court Orders have been by passed and b) fix responsibility from 2006 onwards for losses, irregularities, steel import tariffs and financial frauds. Techno-forensic audit must be part of the task given to JIT.

Without satisfying the Supreme Court questions, the government can never sell this national asset.

Meanwhile resuscitate the Oxygen Plant and allow duty free import of Oxygen Concentrators.

Note: By writing this I am taking on Pakistan’s biggest Mafias, Cartels, Economic Hitmen and strongest lobbies that influence governments.

April 25, 2021

CHALLENGES FOR PTI

Filed under: Uncategorized — sharafs @ 5:35 am

Samson Simon Sharaf

The Fighter

Despite all that is happening in the PTI Government and the party itself, I stand by my writing that, “PTIs internal dynamics are like tectonic plates cutting and crashing like nature’s equilibrium. Like the Himalayas, the party continues to evolve, grow and rise”. 

This is part of the rigours a new party governing through an unholy alliance of shoestring majority has to grow out of. Besieged by the pulls and pushes in this coalition, there are limitations to what the party can deliver according to its vision and purpose enunciated in its constitution and manifestos. The bright part is that it still enjoys absolute majority in KPK and GB. Punjab where it must deliver and fight to live another day is a shoestring like the centre and this is where the battle has to be fought.  

The recent onslaught is of the party’s own making. About 30 landlords, industrialist real estate tycoons and biradari politicians joined the party under Jehanghir Tareen in 2012. They are more interested in their self-centred desires than the vision of the party. Having handed control of party management to Jahangir Tareen and lion’s share in 2018 elections, the writing was always on the wall.

In addition there are about ten so called electable who joined the party before elections and won. Now they are reacting openly and challenging the party. They have the numbers that can grow to challenge Punjab and the Centre. This challenge has many constitutional pathways.

Unfortunately, this entire drama unfolds from Punjab’s feudal, industrial and Biradari elites backing a common purpose. Thse were clans who were not even loyal to Qaud E Azam. Punjab’s Chief Minister, a rank outsider has neither the insight nor the prowess to neutralise these powerful lobbies.

The first spring board is the legacy of the Republican Party that even ditched Qaid e Azam’s vision. This alliance keeps popping with opportunities.

Second came to being with the Economic Reforms Act of 1992. This created a nexus between the Industrialist and other elites in an environment where corruption, money laundering and inside trading became rampant. Industrialist who had suffered due to nationalisation got a new life.

The third scourge is the Non Party elections of 1985. A comprehensive study was carried out by IB to make the system effective. Officers who still control IB were then junior officers. Those who served IB and are now politicians know all tricks of the trade.

In retrospect and as I wrote in 2018, PTI was better off on the opposition benches. The so called establishment that purportedly backed him know the game of numbers but oblivious to the under currents within these elites. They ignored the lesson of history that such elites cooperate beyond ideological and party levels. Their material abundance is mutual and they scratch each other’s backs: a reason why PTI could not profit from many cases it contested against PMLN in the courts.

The ranks of these 40 odd or more belligerents are a non-cohesive splintered group. Some are allied with PMLN due to local politics, others to wrest control of Punjab in Faisalabad, Jhang, Kabirwala, Khanewal, Luddan and Vehari. There are separate groups vying for Multan, Bahawalpur, Rahimyar khan and Sadiqabad. Top it up woth industrialist and you come up with a mosaic of these carpetbaggers. Concurrently they are double triple connected to PMLN, PPP and the Baradari Lobbies. Within, they are also for each other’s throats. Seen in this context, Jehaghir Tareen becomes a less important factor but he neutralises it by links right up with PMLN and PPP through his Industrial and family connections. He can play very smart, as he has done ever since he joined politics.

The next budgetary session for the government in Punjab and Centre will be a test. If these numbers do not show up, the government ends with a minority and may need at least one large party to bail it. The obvious is PPP that also controls Sindh and has numbers in the Senate. If the opportunist Cuckoos vote against party policy, there will be crises of confidence and again PPP as a catalyst will emerge as a broker. Therefore, these elements will suck last blood from stones till the budgetary sessions. The government has time to engage, neutralise and pacify these lobbies.

It is unfortunate that PTI forgot to understand environments in which it was formed. Contextual understanding explains that whilst critics see a party at conflict within, it actually means evolution. Breaking fritters of a political culture plaguing Pakistan for over seven decades is onerous and challenging. With Imran Khan’s no nonsense attitude, a deep sense of right and ability to transform impossibilities, PTI was created to reboot Pakistan’s electoral landscape. Unfortunately in 2018, it became part of the malaise and hence the present crises.

From 2008 to 2013, PTI emerged as the biggest critic of the NRO sponsored governments. Imran Khan’s decision in 2009 to form a shadow government, appoint choicest spokespersons and reorganisation paid immediate dividends. The social media was suddenly abuzz. Party’s presence in media grew. Its membership swelled. Pakistanis not previously known for activism began to throng PTI Rallies. Within few months, crowds of few thousands swelled to millions.  A series of rallies from 2010 onwards resulted in a mammoth gathering at Lahore on 30 October 2011.

Come hordes of elitists who subsequently elbowed out the ideology! The most tragic compromise was that a larger principal of ‘celebrating the cultural and religious diversity into one Pakistani identity’ was sacrificed to cater to wishes of few.  It was a departure from Qaid e Azam Muhhamad Ali Jinnah’s 11 August speech whose original recording was incidentally unearthed by PTI for 30 October gathering?

For analysts, PTI numbers in 2018 elections still matter as popular votes that helped 40 or more odd birds of opportunity win seats. Whether these numbers swell in 2023 depends on how Imran Khan handles the latest challenges.

He has options and he must go down fighting sinking the titanic of opportunists’ elites. People will throng back to him.

April 1, 2021

بن موسم ملہار

Filed under: Uncategorized — sharafs @ 5:07 am
Photography by Samson Simon Sharaf


Roznama Dunya
جمعرات 01 اپریل 2021ء
Samson Simon Sharaf

حالیہ چند دنوں میں حکومت کی طرف سے اٹھائے گئے اقدامات کے اثرات پاکستان کے مستقبل پر دہائیوں تک محسوس کئے جائیں گے۔
سوشل میڈیا نے حالیہ تبدیلیوں کے حوالے سے عام آدمی کو مخمصے میں ڈال دیا ہے۔ اس لیے ہماری آنے والی نسلیں ہی یہ فیصلہ کر پائیں گی کہ یہ تبدیلیاں حکومت وقت کا درست فیصلہ تھا یا غلط۔ حکومت کے سٹیٹ بینک آف پاکستان کو کلی طور پر ایک خودمختار ادارہ بنانے کے فیصلے پر تبصرہ کرنے کے لیے اس کے ماضی سے باخبر ہونا ازحد ضروری ہے۔ اس حوالے سے آئی ایم ایف کی سفارشات نے حکومتی فیصلے کو مزید متنازعہ بنا دیا ہے۔ اس حوالے سے میری کچھ ریٹائرڈ افسروں اور سٹیٹ بینک کے کچھ سابق گورنر صاحبان سے بات ہوئی۔ ان کی متفقہ رائے یہ تھی کہ سٹیٹ بینک کو تو پہلے ہی کافی حد تک خودمختاری حاصل تھی۔ مسئلہ بینک کی اعلیٰ انتظامیہ کا ہے کہ وہ اس خود مختاری کو کس حد تک استعمال کرنا جانتی ہے۔ ان کا اس بات پر بھی اتفاق تھا کہ کلی خودمختاری بھی بہتر انداز میں سسٹم میں رہتے ہوئے ہی استعمال کی جا سکتی ہے۔ ڈاکٹر اشفاق احمد جو 1999ء سے 2004ء تک پاکستان کی معیشت کو سنبھالتے رہے ہیں اور جو ڈالر کے مقابلے میں روپے کو مستحکم کرنے‘ قرضوں کی واپسی کے انتظامات کرنے کے علاوہ آئی ایم ایف سے مذاکرات کار کے فرائض بھی انجام دیتے رہے ہیں، جب ان سے اس حوالے سے بات ہوئی تو انہوں نے اس حکومتی اقدام کو نو آبادیاتی نظام کی طرف واپسی سے تعمیر کیا۔ اسی طرح یٰسین انور بھی سٹیٹ بینک کے گورنر کی حیثیت سے چین کے ساتھ مقامی تجارت کی پالیسی کے موجد ہیں۔ انہوں نے اس اقدام کو خودکشی قرار دیا ہے جبکہ زاہد رفیق جو فوریکس سے معاملہ کرتے رہے ہیں ان کا کہنا تھا کہ اس اقدام کے بعد اب سٹیٹ بینک ریاستی ادارہ نہیں رہا۔ ایسی حکومت جو پہلے ہی بہت سے خودمختار اور نیم خود مختار اداروں کے بگڑے معاملات سنبھالنے میں جتی ہوئی ہے، سٹیٹ بینک کی مکمل خودمختاری کے بعد اس کے لیے مزید مسائل پیدا ہوں گے۔ سٹیٹ بینک کی خودمختاری کے حوالے سے تکنیکی امور سے قطع نظر بھی اگر کوئی پاکستان کی سیاسی معیشت کا تجزیہ کرنا چاہے تو 1960ء کے بعد پاکستان کی مختلف ادوار کی کابینہ کے فیصلہ پر سر چکرا جاتا ہے۔ حکومت کا سٹیٹ بینک کی خودمختاری کا فیصلہ اس وقت سامنے آیا ہے جب حکومت کی بھارت کے ساتھ پرامن تعلقات کی خواہش اچانک میسر ہوئی ہے۔ اچانک فیصلہ بھی امریکہ کے ایما پر کیا گیا ہے کیونکہ امریکہ بھارت کو اپنے اندرونی خلفشار سے نکلنے کے لیے وقت دینا چاہتا ہے۔ ایک تاثر یہ بھی ہے کہ پاکستان کی امن کی خواہش اس وقت تک کارگر ثابت نہیں ہو سکتی جب تک پاکستان مقبوضہ کشمیر کے موجودہ سٹیٹس پر سمجھوتہ کرنے پر راضی نہیں ہوتا۔ چین پہلے ہی لداخ میں گھسا ہوا ہے۔ خطہ میں چین کی بالادستی پاکستان کے مفاد میں ہے کیونکہ بھارت کو اب دو محاذوں پر مزاحمت کا سامنا ہے۔ پاکستان کی امن کی ترجیح بھارت کو ایک محاذ سے نجات دلا سکتی ہے۔ اس کے علاوہ سی پیک پاکستان کے لیے سٹریٹجک اہمیت رکھنے کے ساتھ گیم چینجر کی حیثیت رکھتا ہے۔ پاکستان کا چین کی طرف جھکائو اور انحصار بڑھ رہا ہے اس نازک وقت میں حکومت کی امن کی خواہش کیا معنی رکھتی ہے؟ پاکستان کی اس سے بڑھ کر بے توقیری کیا ہو سکتی ہے کہ امریکہ پاکستان سے مقبوضہ کشمیر میں مثبت کردار ادا کرنے کا مطالبہ کرے جس کا مقصد ہے کہ کشمیر بارے عالمی قراردادوں کو مسترد کردیا جائے۔ شملہ معاہدہ کو دفن کر دیا جائے۔ یہاں تک کہ بھارت کے مقبوضہ کشمیر کے حوالے سے آرٹیکل 370 خاتمے کو جائز سمجھا جائے جو چین کے لیے بھی کسی صورت قابل قبول نہیں۔ مطالبات اس وقت کئے جا رہے ہیں جبکہ امریکہ نے سفارتی روایات کو بالائے طاق رکھتے ہوئے پاکستان کو ماحولیاتی کانفرنس میں بھی مدعو کرنا مناسب نہیں سمجھا۔ یہ تو عالمی منظر نامہ تھا‘ داخلی لحاظ سے دیکھا جائے تو سٹیٹ بینک کو خودمختاری دینے کا فیصلہ اس وقت سامنے آیا ہے جب پاکستان سٹیل ملز کی نجکاری حکومت کی ترجیحات میں سرفہرست ہے۔ تعجب کی بات تو یہ ہے کہ حکومت سٹیل ملز کی نجکاری کا کام اسی ٹیم کے سپرد کیا ہے جو 2004ء میں سابق صدر مشرف کے گرد حصار بنائے ہوئے تھی آج بھی یہ لوگ وزیراعظم عمران خان کے مشیروں کے گروپ میں موجود ہیں۔ یہاں یہ بات بھی قابل توجہ ہے کہ پاکستان سٹیل ملز اپنے آغاز کے بعد سے 1980ء سے نجکاری کی فہرست میں شامل چلی آ رہی ہے۔ حیرت کی بات تو یہ بھی ہے کہ 1998ء میں جب حکومت نے سٹیل ملز کو اونے پونے داموں بیچنے کی کوشش کی تو سپریم کورٹ نے2006ء میں مداخلت کی تھی۔ اسی طرح 2012ء میں عدالت کو مداخلت کرنا پڑی مگر 2006ء کے بعد کسی بھی حکومت نے اس حوالے سے نہ تو لوٹ مار میں ملوث عناصر کے خلاف تحقیقات کرنا مناسب سمجھا نہ ہی ذمہ داران کی نشان دہی ہو سکی۔ وزارت قانون نے اس حوالے سے کبھی بھی اپنا ہوم ورک نہ کیا اور معاملہ وزارت نجکاری کو بھیج دیا گیا جس نے غیر مصدقہ اطلاعات ای سی سی اور کابینہ کے آگے رکھ دیں۔ یہ اس نااہلی کی وجہ ہے کہ پاکستان سٹیل ملز مسلسل خسارے میں جا رہی ہے۔ اپنے قیام کے وقت سٹیل ملز کا پیداواری ہدف 1.1 ملین ٹن مقرر کیا گیا تھا بعد میں جسے ذوالفقار علی بھٹو نے 1973ء میں 2.2 ملین ٹن کر دیا۔ تکنیکی اعتبار سے دیکھا جائے تو پاکستان سٹیل ملز کا منصوبہ تاحال زیر تکمیل ہے۔ ایک ایسی کلی جو کبھی پھول نہ بن سکی۔ پاکستان سٹیل ملز کی نجکاری کے کرتا دھرتا ماضی میں جہانگیر ترین تھے۔ پرویز مشرف کابینہ میں وزیر تھے، ان کی طرف سے سٹیل ملز کی فروخت کے حوالے سے جو لیٹر آف انٹرسٹ آیا وہ اس کا تعلق آف شور کمپنی سے تھا۔ اس وقت سپریم کورٹ نے مداخلت کر کے یہ معاملہ ختم کردیا تھا۔ اس کے بعد ہونا تو یہ چاہیے تھا کہ اگر حکومت کو سٹیل ملز ہر حال میںفروخت ہی کرنا ہے تو سٹیل ملز کی نجکاری کے حوالے سے معاملات سپریم کورٹ کی ہدایات کی روشنی میں آگے بڑھائے جاتے کیونکہ اعلی ٰ ترین عدالت کے حکم کے بغیر نیلامی کا عمل شروع ہی نہیں کیا جاسکتا اور اس سے پہلے حکومت کو ہدایات کی روشنی میں تکنیکی فرانزک آڈٹ کروانا ہے مگر حکومت نے اس حوالے سے ابھی تک کوئی اقدامات نہیں کئے۔ اگر حکومت سٹیل ملز کی نجکاری چاہتی ہے تو پہلے عدالتی حکم کے مطابق فرانزک آڈٹ کے لیے جے آئی ٹی تشکیل دے۔ اسی طرح ماضی میں پی آئی اے بھی پاکستان کا قابل فخر ادارہ رہا ہے جس نے محدود وسائل میں تیز رفتار ترقی کی مگر 1980ء کے بعد یہ قومی ادارہ بھی سیاسی مداخلت اور سیاسی بھرتیوں کی وجہ سے تباہ ہوگیا۔ ورنہ یہی ادارہ تھا جس نے عالمی سروسز کے ذریعے دنیا میں اپنی پہچان بنانے کے علاوہ امریکہ اور فرانس میں ہوٹل بنائے مگر سیاسی مداخلت اور من پسند بھرتیوں کی وجہ سے پی آئی اے کی ترقی کا سفر تنزلی کی طرف گامزن ہوا اور پی آئی اے کے سائیڈ لائن کاروبار تو تباہ ہوئے ہی، خود قومی ایئر لائن بھی خسارے کی وجہ سے ملکی معیشت پر ناقابل برداشت بوجھ بن گئی۔ بدقسمتی سے ہماری حکومتوں کی پالیسیاں آئی ایم ایف کے ایجنڈے کے گرد گھومتی رہی ہیں اور حکومتوں کی کوشش بجٹ خسارے اور قرض کی ادائیگی کیلئے مزید قرض لینے تک ہی محدود رہیں۔ ہماری حکومت کی ہمیشہ ہی پہلی ترجیح مقامی انڈسٹری اور معیشت کی ترقی کی بجائے برآمدات بڑھانے تک ہی محدود رہی۔

March 31, 2021

CREATING SPRING IN AUTUMN

Filed under: Uncategorized — sharafs @ 6:13 am
This oasis looking landscape is a deceptive parched desert in Nara Pakistan. Water is extremely bitter and nothing survives.
Photographed by Samson Simon Sharaf

Samson Simon Sharaf

Pure economics is mathematical and may look promising but when juxtaposed with political reverberations, results could be opposite. Statesmen have to cater for international obligations but not at the cost of welfare and aspirations of the people. The statesman has to function within these compelling contrasts.

My land is parched through neglect where rivers raging destruction pass. The streams have run dry because the land shifted and rivers were not harnessed. The once rich orchards were never pruned and don’t fruit. The flora and fauna died long ago; once jungles of concrete and asphalts twining like venomous serpents and grabbed lands blocked their flow. The foliage has drifted with howling winds that blow into the arid desert. The land of plenty and world’s biggest river system is parched, hostile and becoming inhabitable through infestation of vampires, leaches and pests that sucked its blood for decades.

These are recent events likely to affect the future of Pakistan for many decades to come. For a common man, sifting facts from illusions is difficult especially in presence of a hyperactive social media. Only posterity will determine whether Pakistan moved in the right direction? This article is of enduring significance and endeavors to visualize the future in backdrop of past and present.

State Bank of Pakistan

The anticipated bill for making State Bank of Pakistan fully autonomous is an initiative sans background checks. IMF suggestion makes it controversial. I questioned a few retired officials and governors of SBP. They all maintained that the Central Bank was sufficiently autonomous only if the top brass of the bank knew how to use it. They agreed there could be no full autonomy; rather only within the system.

Dr Ashfaq the architect of Pakistan’s economy from 1999 to 2004 that included an ‘out of box’ economic revival, debt retirement, stabilization of dollar and chief negotiator with IMF calls this the ‘arrival of the neo-colonial viceroy’.

Mr. Yasin Anwar the ex-Governor SBP and architect of many currency swaps with China calls it suicidal and lacking in depth imagination.

Zahid Rafiq, an ex-official dealing with forex opines that without oversight of Planning Commission, SBP will no more be a state institution. He critically recalls the inability of SBP to sterilise dollars. Rather it decided to maintain the parity. With the increase of FCA remittances Rs 1 Trillion windfall should have been easily absorbed in the State Sector through issue of Government securities at market rates to the holders. This would have appreciated the rupee; discouraged consumerism sponsored by banks and hedged national savings. Inevitably, the imports and therefore the value added exports would have become cheaper. The bank did the opposite.

With a government struggling to control already autonomous and semi-autonomous institutions, a fully autonomous SBP will become a major hitch.  Technical characteristics aside, for a person analysing Pakistan’s political economy and documenting Economic Hitmen since the 60’s, the cabinet decision needs in depth studies and review.

Peace Blitz

Pakistan has suddenly awoken from slumber to a Peace Blitz with India. As written earlier, this impromptu and out of tune quest for peace came at behest of USA albeit, providing breathing space to India. The perception handling of the Islamabad Peace Conference did not produce the desired effects implying that Pakistan was willing to compromise on the status of Kashmir; something China used the other way to attrite India in Ladakh. With Chinese dominance in Ladakh, a region shared with Pakistan, the future of a once two front dilemma for India that changed to a single front is once again receding to a two from engagement. With CPEC in high gear and Pakistan’s strategic tilt towards China evident, what was the need for such an ill-timed appeasement?

As insult to injury, without a second thought, USA wants Pakistan to play a constructive role in IOK. This means rejecting US Resolutions, Burying Simla Accord and ratifying India’s Annexation of Kashmir formalised through repeal of Article 370, something that China does not accept.  Unceremoniously, Pakistan has been excluded from the environmental conference.

What happens in Afghanistan is another issue best left to an exclusive commentary.

Privatisation

Pakistan Steel Mills is on the top list of privatisation. The present government continues to pursue the privatisation policy advanced by a group surrounding President Musharraf in 2004. Most are reincarnate part of the advisory group of Prime Minister.

The mill was forced into a still birth since the 80s. An analysis leads to the inevitable conclusion that the governmental cases of privatisation since 1998, rejected by Supreme Court in 2006 and again reaffirmed by the apex court in May 2012 do not support the views of privatisation gurus. Since 2006 no government has shown the resolve to carry out in-depth investigations, and affix responsibility for corruption and inefficiency. The ministry of law never did its homework and MOI&P passed on unsubstantiated information to ECC and cabinet. It is this inefficiency that accumulates losses.  The start-up of the mill was designed at 1.1 Million Tons per Year (MTPY) amended to 2.2 MTPY by Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto in 1973. Technically, the mill is still incomplete and under construction; a sapling and flower bud sown in a hostile environment.

One major architect of privatisation was Jehanghir Khan Tareen. As Miniser of MOI&P, he moved the first LOI for privatisation, at a time the mill had overshot into profits. This LOI was directly connected to shady offshore companies. The Supreme Court struck down this LOI but there was no follow up by government. Even if privatisation of Steel Mill is a preferred option, no privatisation can be carried out unless actions ordered by the apex courts from 2006-20012 are implemented. This includes a Techno-Forensics audit. Before we even contemplate privatisation, the government needs to appoint a JIT to conduct a techno-forensic audit.

PIA was a prestigious organisation built in reputation, services and efficiency over the years. Political interferences and corruption ruined the organisation from the 80s onwards. During good days it also developed side businesses like poultry, dairies, catering, engineering and hospitality. Rather than realign the organisation to old standards, the affiliated business are either dead or being offloaded tantamount to conceding defeat. This practice has to stop.

Kick-starting Local Economies

It is unfortunate the government policies have revolved around IMF, balance of payments, budgetary deficits and retiring loans. Emphasis has been on boosting exports. Though this is a commendable effort, kick starting ailing local economies has been completely ignored.  While the downstream agriculture industry had benefitted through subsidies, farmers suffer worst form of exploitation at hands of downstream industry and middlemen. The agriculture sector needs a complete review to make it profitable and exportable. The government has to break shackles of the fertilizer and agro-chemical industries and revert to natural agriculture that improves production, ecology, CO2 emissions and soil health. This is an ignored and no cost sector that needs immediate attention.

Energy Sector

The experiment of reorganising PSO in 2004 on advice of experts has not worked. Bifurcation of WAPDA had produces negative results and created independent cartels that manipulate pricing. Circular debt created by PSO is at all times a ticking time bomb.

Conclusion

The process of manipulating Pakistan’s economy began with the Economic Reforms Act of 1992. Ever since, hitmen effect has increased exponentially. Failure of SBP to stabilise and sterilise foreign exchange, abandonment of deletion programmes in auto sectors, PSO, distribution & transmission companies, steel, sugar, fertilizer, agro-chemical, cement and downstream industries have all played their negative role in filling personal coffers.

But there were and are men with broken hearts who do not slouch in defeat but fight back like warriors.

Late Dr Zafar Altaf always came up with novel ways to modernise agriculture. Despite producing a bumper season in 1999-2001, he was sacked. His project of Idara e Kissan (Halla Milk) was bludgeoned. The government destroyed his hybrid Canola and Cotton seed projects. His successor, Mr. Asif Sharif of Pakistan Qudarti Nizam e Kasht (PCNK natural agriculture) had unsuccessfully knocked every door but he continues lighting his lamp.

Mr. Usman Amin Uddin was the lone ranger fighting energy mafias in 2000s. Had he had his way Pakistan today would have been an energy exporting country. Despite his frail health, he continues his mission but who listens?

Dr. Ashfaq, the architect of Pakistan’s ‘out of box’ growth in 2000s, debt retirement and chief negotiator with IMF is abandoned on side-lines. Certainly his exclusion does not benefit Pakistan.

I also recall 2018 when Mr. Yasin Anwar the ex-Governor of SBP knocked every door in vain to get Pakistan a currency swap instead of an IMF plan in 2018. No one listened to him.

So where will the buck stop? Axing Nadeem Babar and Dr. Hafeez Sheikh is a good step. But it will have no effect till such time the complete group of sages who ill-advised President Musharraf and also mislead Prime Minister Imran Khan are not removed. To ensure a fast developing and self-sufficient Pakistan, they have to be held accountable.  

March 24, 2021

THE PEACE BLITZ

Filed under: Uncategorized — sharafs @ 7:18 am

Samson Simon Sharaf

Indian Express reports back channel contacts between India and Pakistan. The report speculates that Indian National Security Adviser A. K. Doval may have held talks directly with the Pakistan Army Chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa? This backdrop enabled Director Generals of Military Operations to arrive at the February 25 joint statement for adherence to the ceasefire. They also agreed to discuss “core issues and concerns”. The notion of back channel itself is caustic within Pakistan. First, it undermines the foreign office and secondly creates discomfort within the policy making institutions. It is an envelope laced in poison.

According to The Diplomat, a new media report substantiated a recent claim that the United Arab Emirates (UAE) had midwifed the February 25 India-Pakistan ceasefire. Having abandoned Kashmir very recently, how come UAE has become so sensitive to issues of the region? It is now part of the US, Israel, Saudi and India nexus and what beholds it to Pakistan?  

Sushant Singh writing for Foreign Policy stated that the news about the cease-fire grabbed headlines.  Significant, that the two countries agreed to address each other’s core issues and concerns which have the propensity to disturb peace and lead to violence, clearly indicates the first step in a longer peace process. The announcement could not have emerged without weeks of back channel diplomatic work by the two governments, including the buy-in of the top political leaderships of both countries and of Pakistan’s powerful military leadership. In backdrop of Indo-Pakistan conflict, this sounds like a fait accompli and buy-in is difficult for anyone to digest.

On March 22, Bloomberg noted “the India-Pakistan cease-fire marked a milestone in secret talks brokered by the UAE that began months earlier, according to officials aware of the situation who asked not to be identified.” US State Department spokesman Ned Price dodged a question on what role the U.S. played in bringing the two sides besides urging Pakistan to play a constructive role in Afghanistan, Kashmir and other places. “Obviously Pakistan has an important role to play when it comes to Afghanistan and what takes place across its other border, so clearly, we will be paying close attention”. It is surprising that the US diplomat is asking Pakistan to play a constructive role in IOK.

Though apparently, USA is trying to convince that its plans of Asian Pivot have shifted to the Indo-Pacific Region, one needs to question its strategy of a Greater Middle East right into Central Asia. Is it so easy to dispense with the Asian Pivot extending from Africa to Israel, Saudi Arabia, UAE and Oman? To an extent, buying the US narrative of down grading CENTCOM is plausible with my oft repeated hypothesis that CENTOM is the anvil while Indo-Pacific command with India is the swinging hammer against Pakistani and Chinese interests.

In search for many questions that linger, it is clear that the new administration in USA has a pivotal role in the latest development. It is trying to reignite its template of old relationships with Pakistan. But the balance in the region is already shifted in favour of China. What can USA now offer that China cannot? Does USA assume that cajoling Pakistan and drawing it away from China will be easy? Will Pakistan be ready to compromise on core interests of China just to appease USA for advantages that are unknown and historically abusive?

As diplomatic demarches suggest, the objective pertains to a larger durable partnership with India and diminishing Pakistani role in Afghanistan. USA wants India to break away from the constant South Asian imbroglio and buy time for a temporary peace and settlement of the core issue of Kashmir later. Will it suit Pakistan to give time to India as part of the Indo-Pacific Quad to strengthen manifold and subsequently create a larger security situation.

To suggest that this diplomatic foray is to preserve and advance US interests in the region is not an understatement. In a sense, the latest development is resumption of the old normal; like re-baking old cookies.

In the interim, India through legislation has also changed the status of IOK through abrogation of Article 370 rejected both by China and Pakistan and dilution of Article 35A. Since the status of IOK in Indian Constitution is already changed (though technically still subject to Supreme Court interpretations), it would need two major amendments to proceed further. Before embarking on resolving many outstanding issues with Pakistan, India will first have to pass through its own legal and constitutional road blocks as also satisfy China on identical issues.  First, changing any status needs a constitutional amendment and secondly Articles 370 and 35A have to be restored. Linked with UN Resolutions of Kashmir, the roadmap to normalcy between India and Pakistan besides legal framework is vague.

There are reasons why India has shown this thaw. Having being humbled in Ladakh by China, regime change in USA and international pressure mounting on atrocities in IOK, India direly needed a pause to realign its policies with objectives and directions of its Indo-Pacific ally the USA.

In the past few years, the Cease Fire Agreement brokered by President Musharraf had been in place but violated. India needed to keep the front hot to barricade IOK and follow a policy to ultimately annexing the territory which it did. Terrorism was a hoax created over two incidents that still remain shrouded in mystery. India succeeded to exploit terrorism perceptions to its advantage and appease the West. Diplomatically isolated, Pakistan remained at the receiving end. Having endured the rigours and wilderness, what are the new extra ordinary prospects for Pakistan?

In diplomacy, contacts between countries never cease to exist. India and Pakistan still have High Commissions besides the hotlines between DGMOs, embassy neighbourhoods abroad and in UN. Most CBMs are still operative. Why such backdoor diplomacy, when doors on both sides were already open is a very intriguing question?

Crucial to this entire initiative is the future of Afghanistan. Will Afghan Taliban after the recently concluded quadrilateral talks in Russia be willing to step down from their hard earned stated position. In addition what will be India’s role there and would it halt interference in Pakistan through its proxies that include pro Indian Afghans, ISIS, D’aesh and BLA elements. Then on a lighter note, is USA willing to reimburse to Pakistan whatever it owes.

In this perspective, Pakistan as a minimalist state has to tread and broker cautiously, especially when such developments could impinge on its relations with China and the new found understanding with Iran. Most, it must resist compromising the aspirations of the people of IOK.

Pakistan needs to set its own house in order. IMF, IFI’s, Autonomy of State Bank of Pakistan, international arbitrations and unloading national assets are all strings of the same policy. These in no way help Pakistan in becoming self-reliant and self-sufficient. This poisoned umbilical cord needs to be cut for good.

Though the existing political turmoil eclipses hidden designs of this latest initiative, the consequences will be far reaching for future of Pakistan. The taste of pudding lies in eating it. I am unsure what the brew is all about?

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