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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 …
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Analysis: Fallout from BRICS

Published by Global Affairs? / Oct 2017

Written Early Sept 2017

Admittedly, it is an unusual sight - China scrambling to issue clarifications and placate its closest ally in the aftermath of the BRICS Summit. China does not make foreign policy blunders, dictate strategy or put its stamp on statements without reading the fine print. Neither does it subscribe to the cowboy style - public shaming, threats, excessive use of carrots / sticks, blackmail – bluster. Yet the declaration issued at the BRICS annual summit held at Xiamen that singled out Pakistan based terror groups led to an ‘et tu China’ moment and saw Beijing in ‘damage control mode’.

To review what led to this dramatic break from tradition means that China’s perspective be considered and Pakistan’s attempts at extricating itself from a tangled web of proxies be factored in the narrative alongside its successes and failures, to balance the scales.

It may also be a good time to commence image / nation building efforts with ma…

Rebuttal: ‘Finding a Safe Place for Pakistani Christians’

Published in Global Village Space under the title: Is Pakistan as extremist as portrayed by the Western media?/ Sept 2017

‘Finding a Safe Place for Pakistani Christians’ by Marijana PETIR, Member of the European Parliament – finds systemic persecution in Pakistan’s backyard, implying a clear and present danger to minority groups while bypassing an inclusive society that honors and respects the contributions of its minority communities or a nation that deems the eradication of discriminatory laws and radical ideology an essential pillar of its counter-terrorism policy.

An impartial review must also consider the state funeral given to a German nun, the national flag flown at half mast as a mark of respect and the military men who carried her casket; remark on the monuments named after Christian martyrs who served their country, meet Roman Catholic Bishops or Franciscan nuns awarded highest honors and note Christian war heroes who are the pride of the nation. The civil society that forme…

OPED: The Sense of an Ending – Afghan War Chapter

Published Sep 2017/ Global Affairs
Written a few weeks before the new Afghan Policy was rolled out

‘The road to Afghanistan peace does not lie in Kabul’ by Rahmatullah Nabil and Melissa Skorka (Reuters – 12 July 2017) considers the political side of the equation, to bring stability to the region. That part makes some sense given the fact that boots on the ground have failed to deliver results and a lack of consensus has taken a serious toll on Pak-US relations. It also fixates on Islamabad as the root cause of all their earthly woes and considers taking a tougher stand towards their ‘reluctant ally’ in the hopes of turning the tide in this protracted war. That part makes less sense.

The change in policy direction is predicated upon assumptions that Haqqani's still use Pakistan as their base of operations. Islamabad’s reputation of using proxies continues to dictate U.S based policy-makers actions despite the changing security paradigm and emergence of a new pecking order.


OPED: Democracy at Stake in Pakistan?

Published Sep 2017 / Global Affairs
Written early Aug when the NS story was relevant

The Course of True Justice Never did Run Smooth

As the country completes its 70th year, yet another democratically elected leader gets the boot. He has also been disqualified from contesting in the future thereby ending his run as candidate for the coveted PM slot. From afar the negative holding pattern appears to be intact. Whispers of coups fly by from authors affiliated with foreign publications, a good many with South Asian handles and murky agendas.

Though it was blowback from Panama Papers responsible for Mr. Sharif’s undoing, the perception that democracy has taken a hit abounds. It is based on speculations that this was a military backed offensive under the guise of a judge’s gavel. They in turn prompt sensational headlines like ‘Pakistan's Prospects for Democracy Weaken as Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif Is Disqualified.’ And when former ambassadors like Hussain Haqqani proclaim that “Pakis…

OPED: The Afghan Policy in Perspective

Published in Global Village Space / Aug 2017

True to its reality show inspired template, the Afghan strategy was rolled out after months of speculations, suspense and dithering. It used memorable taglines and inflated figures. ‘Agents of chaos’, sunk costs described as ‘billions and billions’ and going all in seeking victory against all odds. It offered to be tough on Pakistan, even as it was vague on the outlines and predictable in its deployment.

Reading between the Lines

This is essentially the new, improvised policy meant not just for Afghanistan but also Pakistan and India. With it the U.S. administration appears to have heeded the advice of keeping the enemy in the dark. They have also dismissed the necessity of keeping their allies close and have instead embarked upon a strategic vision that aims to expand the theatre adding India to the volatile mix and potentially widen the gulf between allies.

Yet it is not the public performance of the commander-in-chief that catches the e…

The Book of Davis - Reading between the lines

Published by Global Affairs / Aug 2017

Raymond Davis is a champ. A team player, who puts the needs of his comrades in arms before himself. He is savvy. He is a man of integrity - a survivor - a trooper. Ray, the epitome of courage runs headlong towards danger and into a minefield - literally. He is all this and more. This is his story after all.

6 years ago, he was a trained Special Forces SF, undercover ‘contractor’, forced to navigate the cramped alleyways of Lahore on a routine mission – the details of which remain a mystery. His book ‘The Contractor: How I Landed in a Pakistani Prison and Ignited a Diplomatic Crisis’ with Storms Reback, revisits the scene of the crime to solidify his innocence and along the way take a few potshots at random players who helped secure his release. It’s a hair-raising ride.

His style is conversational, his demeanor - amiable. The case is still fresh in people’s minds and his intent to set the record straight ignites yet another round of controversy…

Why it would be a mistake to call Pakistan’s Bluff

Some Flaws in the Master Plan

Published in Global Village Space - 27 Jul 2017

The master plan chalked out in a piece, ‘Calling Pakistan’s Bluff’ by Whitney Kassel and Philip Reiner in Foreign Affairs (14 July, 2017) came laden with glaring flaws. And not just because it decided to present some decidedly soggy looking carrots paired with far too many sticks that threatened to expand U.S. boots on the grounds while pacifying Pak leadership with a limited supply of shiny new military hardware. The pros and cons of such an approach have also been explored by the writers but the overarching theme appeared to support such a move. The piece can now be seen in tandem with recent attempts to strong arm Pakistan by the U.S. Congress that call for curbs on military aid among other things. Some of it has already come to pass with 50 million dollars reimbursement held back from the Coalition Support Fund because Pentagon doesn’t feel enough has been done to justify the hefty price tag.

No to B…

The Importance of Being Pakistan

Published in Global Village Space / July 2017

Implications of a Modi – Trump style ‘meet and greet’

As Mr. Modi descended upon Washington, armed with Kashmiri shawls, tea, honey, and personalized invites for the first family to visit India, the U.S. media hastened to find parallels between the two nations. Democracies both (biggest / oldest), led by men with a degree of social-media savvy, men indifferent to public opinion and sporting unique greeting styles - hugs from Modi, handshakes from Trump.

Seen from afar, the show stopping performance yielded significant results, strengthened defense cooperation and secured 22 shiny new Guardian drones. Commentators noted that contentious issues like H1-B work visas and climate change etc were reportedly left out in the cold while detractors brooded over the symbolism that signaled the arrival of a new world order. As with all these visits, Pakistan wasn’t far from India’s thoughts and opinion makers now wonder at the extent Modi can shape…