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India caught in a cycle of bias – Part I

Published Jan 2018?

CPEC, doomed to failure, – Kashmir, a raging hotbed of terrorists; the spy caught red handed - a kidnap victim and Islamabad - one step shy of earning the state sponsor of terrorism label. While Pakistan, viewed from the Indian perspective appears to fulfill all the criteria for a rogue nation, India, in the Western eyes looks benign – a paragon of democracy and a champion of human rights. It is anything but.

A look at major headlines from both sides’ attempts to reconcile the Indian states’ carefully crafted image of objectivity with reality and debunk the myths peddled ad-nauseum. As the process examines Indian biases that are determined to seek out chinks in the Pak- China relationship and represent CPEC as a threat – that conflate the struggle in Kashmir with global terrorism while projecting failed attempts at cross-border intrusions from their end as successful surgical strikes on Pakistan and goes on to dress the Indian spymaster’s predicament in humanitar…
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Part II: Afghan Safe Havens – for Poppies, Politicians & Power Brokers

Published Global Village Space / Nov 2017?

The upgraded version of Afghan policy released in August 2017 was followed by US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson’s visit to the region in October. The stopover was unannounced - the location classified and the meeting lasted 2 hours. There was confusion whether it was held at Kabul in some government office or Bagram airbase in a fortified bunker. The state of insecurity may be behind the subterfuge. Soon after the Taliban attacked an army base killing many Afghan soldiers justifying the paranoia. There had been six attacks the week before. More were to follow.

The Taliban observe the surges and withdrawals - and adapt, while upping the ante. Nothing changes. Their confidence is unnerving given Kabul’s fortunes are changing for the better at least on the surface and the state seeks a new role for a war ravaged nation.

Afghanistan is now a member of Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB). Additional firepower and military might ha…

Analysis: Survival in the Age of Information Warfare

Published in Global Village Space / Nov 2017?

Pakistani troops recently rescued a US - Canadian family that had been captured in Afghanistan in 2012 and held hostage for 5 years. International media headlines however were not all laudatory; they editorialized, and dabbled in innuendos undermining a successful mission and the men who risked their lives to bring the captives home. This is not the first time the West glossed over an ally’s achievements. And it will not be the last, since negative spin is invaluable for propping up pre-prepared narratives, advancing agendas; shaping perceptions, reinforcing stereotypes, driving ratings and controlling the message.

Because dictatorships do not have monopoly over information warfare – everyone has a dog in the race and the fake news juggernaut appears unstoppable in the age of social media and instant messaging. And while traditional methods remain relevant in the game of deception, the advent of social media has only expanded their reac…

Analysis: Pakistan’s Contributions for the Uplift of Afghan People

Published in Global Village Space / Nov 2017?

Pakistan and Afghanistan have history. And it is not all good. They have a shared border – though its legality has been contested. They also managed to forge a united front against the Soviets and achieved the impossible. It is a rare moment of solidarity and teamwork.

The final round of the Cold War fought in the badlands of Afghanistan altered the timeline since then and as the Afghan state veered off course – the impact was felt on neighboring nations. It led to an influx of Afghan refugees in Pakistan, the emergence of Taliban, the fracturing of the Afghan socio-political structure and opened a breach in the global security.

All this is in the past.

Pakistan and Afghanistan may have been brothers in arms with shared borders and traditions and historical ties, but despite their time spent in the trenches, Pakistan’s economic value as a trade portal for a landlocked region or its place as host to millions of refugees and the biggest s…

Analysis: Afghanistan – An Actual Safe Haven – Part I

Published Global Affairs / Dec 2017?

The longest war is going according to plan; but whose plan exactly?

Not Washington - bogged down in a never-ending nightmare. Or Kabul - besieged and battered, barely holding its head above water. Not Pakistan, a frontline state suffering blowback and living under the weight of America’s expectations - and uncalled for accusations. The dramatic shifts in the geostrategic dynamics are not reflected in Washington’s stance towards Islamabad nor are they inclined towards the multiplayer great game unfolding in the backdrop with Russians, Iranians, Taliban, Indians, Chinese, ISIS and its Coalition forces.

Mission Rebuild Afghanistan

In the backdrop are nations used as pawns to keep Cold War allies or emergent threats in check. On the side are non-state actors wielded as weapons to thwart ambitions and counter bigger threats like ISIS. And at the centre is a strategy that offers a patchwork quilt of something old, something new, something borrowed to s…

US-Pak Relations - Skewed Perspectives, Misplaced Priorities, Shared Objectives

Published in Global Affairs / Nov 2017

Pakistan once allied with the U.S. against the Soviet bloc and hailed as a strategic asset may be tempted to rehash the past to underscore the importance of an alliance forged decades ago – one that continues to be in play. It may still recall how they stood as a bulwark against communism, built robust civil-military partnerships and a solid cooperation platform. A mutually beneficial relationship that strengthened Pakistan’s defense, and reinforced America’s might delivered results.

Pages of history can be illuminating but in order to battle hostile agendas and navigate complex terrains, to comprehend changing realities and devise realistic strategies, expectations must be tempered. While the immense toll it took to achieve the hard fought domestic stability speaks volumes about Pakistan’s track record in counter-terror, it is not what concerns superpowers desperate for dignified exit strategies, and dealing with a rag tag army of Afghans vs. o…

OPED: Extremism by any other name….

Published by Global Affairs / Nov 2017

A few years ago a gathering of Pakistani intellectuals tried to sound the alarm over India’s creeping radicalization and obvious leanings towards militant mindsets. Barkha Dutt – a prominent Indian journalist who was present as a guest speaker pooh-poohed the fears – proudly pointing to a vibrant civil society able to stave off the coming storm. Her Pakistani hosts were unconvinced. Having witnessed first-hand the rise and fall of extremism – they recognized the symptoms and could testify to its pervasive hold on an otherwise liberal society and the challenges of clearing leftover toxic waste.

Pakistan’s concern was not tinged with condescension - it was well meaning. Despite its many imperfections – it had already begun mapping a way out and wondered if the region could survive the fallout of harboring an extremist outlook in the neighborhood.
Hindutva – Hindu nationalism, an ideology that apparently seeks to remake Indian society and instil…

OpEd: Religious Fault-lines in Pakistan

Published in Global Village Space under the title : Fixing Religious Fault lines in the age of ISIS / 23rd Oct 2017

A few days before Muharram, grand proclamations advocating peace and calm that suggested people shun their religious, sectarian and ethnic biases “to promote the great characteristics of sacrifice, unity and discipline” served as a prologue to bridging the ultimate divide. Then came the promises. The clergy reconstituted the ‘National Reconciliatory Council' in a bid to propel the vision of a united front. An awakening followed.

Terrorism must go. And there were reality checks.

How does Pakistan overcome decades of dissension to realize its dreams of interfaith harmony? Such sentiments while admirable face roadblocks.

But then there was a declaration – that religion is a matter between a person and his creator.
That no one has to prove they are Muslims. It was a surprisingly candid admission – one that perhaps did not need to be spelled out yet the statement co…

OPED: Why a Lunch Date with a Congressman has Citizens Spooked?

Published in Global Affairs? / Oct 2017

When someone like Altaf Hussain – the one of body bags, bhatta fame meets someone like US Congressman Dana Rohrabacher known for being rabidly anti Pakistan, it sets the room a buzzing. The founding father of MQM who lives in exile in London and under whose reign Karachi was reduced to a hulk, now wanders the halls with a human rights violation pitch that always tests well with Western audiences as he leads an anti Pakistan lobby in his spare time. It could be nothing. Or it could mean everything.

The Coming Storm or a Storm in a Tea Cup?

Dana Rohrabacher who went on to meet WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange – the fugitive, had once drafted a bill with Senator Ted Poe to declare Pakistan a state sponsor of terror making him the perfect candidate for such a rendezvous.
Altaf Hussain was also seen hobnobbing with the exiled Khan of Kalat, a Baloch dissident strongly opposed to CPEC and soft towards Modi. Altaf’s closest aide has expressed similar …