Friday, 29 January 2016

Bridging the Gaps in the CPEC

The democratically elected government of Pakistan has been largely successful in controlling political instability. It is all set to complete its constitutionally mandated term if it gains credibility of the general public. The Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) led government sailed off with its economic agenda by ushering in the big of deals, contracts and understandings. This started changing the image of Pakistan as a failed or failing state. The leadership has worked hard to furnish ideas; be it the promise of revitalizing the energy issue through a sustainable mix, serving the growing population, pacifying inflation, drying down the dengue epidemic, addressing the menace of polio, stimulating foreign diplomacy efforts especially with the neighboring nations, establishing order in the education circuit, devising strategies in the health portfolio or bringing overwhelming investment through its strong relations. Shortfalls remain especially in the education and health sectors and overall governance capacity.

Read more: Bridging the Gaps in the CPEC

Wednesday, 27 January 2016

Afghan quadrilateral talks

This Monday, senior diplomats from Pakistan, Afghanistan, China and the United States met in Islamabad to lay the groundwork for a new round of peace talks with the Taliban. There has been a sense of urgency with regards to pushing for another round of talks as the Taliban have seized large sections of Afghan territory in the past few months. Therefore, the presence of both American and Chinese officials at the meeting was seen as a signal of importance of the negotiations.

Earlier news reports had suggested that the Taliban representatives and Afghan officials could meet sometime during the first-half of January, however, the meeting on Monday seemed as much about trying to smooth over months of tension between Pakistan and Afghanistan as about any real prospect of a change of heart by the Taliban. After the meeting, the officials released a statement saying that another planning session would take place in Kabul, the Afghan capital, next Monday. During the opening remarks, Sartaj Aziz, the senior foreign policy aide to Pakistan’s Prime Minister, Nawaz Sharif, said that Pakistan was committed to furthering the Afghan reconciliation process. More importantly, he addressed the Afghan government’s demands to take military action against the irreconcilable elements with the Taliban by stating that the use of force against such elements cannot precede the offer of talks to all the groups. He rightly pointed out that it would be counterproductive to set any preconditions before the talks commence.

Read more: Afghan quadrilateral talks

Talks with the Afghan Taliban: Critical timelines

Earlier this week, reports emerged that COAS Gen Raheel Sharif will travel to Afghanis­tan in the last week of the current month for talks with the Afghan government on modalities for resumption of the reconciliation process. Gen Sharif was initially expected to visit Kabul before the Heart of Asia meeting in Islamabad on Dec 9, but tensions in the relationship prevented the visit from taking place. However, During President Ghani’s visit to Pakistan, the two countries agreed to end the blame game and restart the reconciliation process from where it had been suspended in July following the disclosure of Mullah Omar’s death. The resumed process would function under a new quadrilateral framework also involving China and US, which in the earlier version acted as observers.

As the four countries wait for settlement of details, the timing and sequencing of the resumed reconciliation process, contacts with militant groups are already under way for convincing them to join the talks. Senior Afghan officials have expressed hope through their recent statements that Gen Raheel Sharif’s visit will not only provide an impetus to efforts for resurrecting a waning peace process but also help mend fractured ties between the two neighbors. An official belonging to the Ghani administration stated that the visit would have two dimensions; focusing on improving bilateral relations, but more importantly exploring options for talks with the Taliban.

Read more: Talks with the Afghan Taliban: Critical timelines

Sunday, 24 January 2016

The evolving nature of our security crisis

Earlier this month, the Islamic State claimed it was responsible for an attack on a Pakistani consulate in Jalalabad, Nangarhar province. In a statement translated by the US monitor Site Intelligence, the “Khorasan Province of the Islamic State” said three of its members had attacked the consulate in Jalalabad, the capital of Nangarhar province, which borders Pakistan. Afghan officials said seven members of the security forces were killed in the attack. In the State Department’s online announcement of the new designation of the group as a “foreign terrorist organization,” it described ISIL-K as being based in the “Afghanistan/Pakistan region and is composed primarily of former members of Tehrik-e Taliban Pakistan and the Afghan Taliban.”
Nangarhar is home to a number of insurgent groups and criminal gangs who benefit from the province’s proximity to the Pakistan border. Insurgent attacks are not uncommon in Jalalabad. ISIS has established a presence in Nangarhar, having fought the Taliban in recent months for control of at least four border districts. The attack came two days after Islamabad hosted a meeting of representatives from Afghanistan, Pakistan, China and the US to discuss ending the Taliban insurgency.

Read more: The evolving nature of our security crisis