Page 1


Sunday, 30 March - 05 April, 2014

editorial Dedicated to the legacy of the late Hameed Nizami

Arif Nizami Editor

Aziz-ud-Din Ahmad

Agha Akbar

Asher John

Joint Editor

Associate Editor

Chief News Editor

Nuclear and responsible

Lahore – Ph: 042-36375963-5 Fax: 042-32535230 Karachi – Ph: 021-35381208-9 Fax: 021-35381208 Islamabad – Ph: 051-2287273 Fax: 051-2818125 Web: Email:

the talks in retrospect

One that lives by sword will have to be dispatched by sword


ALkS with the ttP continue amidst terrorist attacks on polio workers, personnel of law enforcement agencies, tribesmen considered to be loyal to the state and common people. Compared to January and February there was a slide in the number of attacks. Nevertheless there were at least two cases with double digit casualties while 18 tribesmen were kidnapped. In a high profile case, militants killed a judge and 10 others. the issue of the enforcement of Sharia has receded to the background for the time being. this has led taliban apologists like Imran khan to claim that it never was the ttP demand. this amounts to seeing what one wants to see. As late as February 8, the ttP spokesman Shahid Ullah Shahid told BBC Urdu website: “the war we are fighting is for enforcement of Sharia… and talks with the government we will be holding will be for the same objective.” What has happened is that a pragmatic ttP has decided

to give priority to issues it considers more urgent and essential for achieving the ultimate goal. What has become amply clear during the current engagement with the ttP is the importance of North Waziristan for the terrorist groups. the drones targeted Mehsud in North Waziristan. the casualties during the air strikes in January and Februaries included key ttP commanders. It is crucial for the ttP to seek concessions in the Agency, and if possible in other tribal areas, that would allow them freedom to move around. A number of ttP commanders are currently in the custody of the law enforcement agencies. their interrogation has provided leads to the security agencies, particularly in karachi, that have damaged the terrorist network. the arrest of numerous trained and motivated commanders has had a negative impact on the performance of the ttP. the organization desperately needs their release. the continuation of talks is therefore

of crucial importance to the ttP as it provides the network an opportunity to bargain. the network’s silence on the issue of Sharia is a tactical retreat. the ttP is not likely to forcibly stop other terrorist groups in their neighbourhood from launching attacks on the Shia community, polio workers or law enforcement personnel. Like a good workman they would not quarrel with their tools. the ttP would however hesitate from launching any major attack on army personnel for fear of the type of reprisals which hurt it badly in January and February. the hopes that the Pakistani taliban might be brought into the mainstream as allies of the PMLN or PtI are a pipedream. the army has been bled more by those considered as potential assets than by any standing army of a hostile country. the talks will provide no more than a temporary and partial respite. to ensure peace, one that lives by sword will have to be dispatched by sword. g

Always needing the Fund’s blessings That is, after all, where the money comes from


t has been quite a show for the finance ministry recently. Never mind the economy, note the economics. Sure, we missed a condition here and there – like the gas levy and interest rate adjustment – that came with the IMF’s Extended Fund Facility (EFF) last September, which probably saved us from default. But there was some exquisite financial diplomacy at display, followed by very generous billion-dollar-plus gifts from the world’s most powerful petro sheikhs. And suddenly the economy was fine, the second EFF review was successful, and another $555.6m was on its way. But Dar sahib has dealt with the Fund before and must understand well by now how its conditionalities take effect. the review may have been polite, but whenever there is a programme on, the international market takes cue from the IMF, not the country’s statistics. And continued failure to meet its demands will make floating bonds very difficult and attracting foreign investment near impossible. For starters, it will be hard to fight off an interest rate uptick much longer, even if it is meant more to curtail the government’s borrowing than to arrest inflation. there is no justification for the soft position any longer. the borrowing binge continues as before, and private sector crowding out has long ruled out economic expansion, employment multiplier, etc. And if the central bank finds some autonomy in the process, then that is one more condition met. the rupee, too, seemingly holding at agreeable levels for the ‘N’ leadership, is actually very shaky.


the dollar is the international reserve currency, after all, and safe haven of choice for a bulk of international investors in times of risk aversion. And since Russia’s adventures in Crimea have swung the market pendulum from risk to fear, this safe haven trading will strengthen the greenback just as other risk currencies have begun appreciating, a fact Dar sahib’s team no doubt appreciates well enough. Just like it understands GCC funds parked in the State Bank’s vaults is actually quite illusory. Strange as it sounds, reserves represent the government’s ability to raise or attract monies – the face of a continuous cycle. And unless the gifts are a recurring facility, there is little to be happy about. the effects will wear off soon enough. to be fair, the Fund’s requirements and conditions have created controversies wherever its structural adjustment programmes have gone. But there is little economies like Pakistan can do to justify their concerns, especially when they are still without a viable mechanism for controlling earnings and expenses. All means of raising the nation’s income are suspect and for far too long the state has found borrowing the best option, even for its day-to-day expenses. Some of the Fund’s prescriptions will have to be followed to ensure all tranches of the $6.78b EFF, otherwise this too will wear out sooner rather than later. In a way Dar sahib is right: the rupee needs to be stable and the reserves must swell. But if he goes about it in a way that a stronger economy achieves these targets instead of mysterious gifts, everybody will be the better for it. g

Defeating terrorism before it takes root


hE 53-odd heads of state at the nuclear security summit at the hague last week seemed acting responsibly enough. there is, after all, urgent need for every country in the nuclear club to constantly upgrade safety standards and practices. And there can be no two views about keeping all forms of uranium, even the non-weaponised variety, well away from terrorist hands. Al Qaeda has already played with chemical weapons in Syria, when stolen Libyan clusters were used just outside Damascus and blamed on the government, almost tricking US/NAtO into the war. the slightest amount of radioactive material in bad guys’ hands and the prospect of what might happen is just too dangerous to even contemplate. Yet checks and balances will go only so far in deterring terrorists bent upon advancing their cause. Responsible leaders representing nuclear capitals at the hague must no doubt have noted how terrorism, specifically al Qaeda type, has grown in the long years of the war against terrorism. It is almost as if war has had a direct influence in making the phenomenon grow rather than controlling it. It is, therefore, just as important to break down the Islamist militant so keen on destroying progressive society and study what makes him advance such absolute destruction as it is to keep sophisticated weapons from his reach. Granted, there is no shortage of indoctrinated jihadis in the al Qaedas and taliban of this world. But there is also no shortage of innocent youth sucked into this extremism. A mix of poverty,



economic backwardness, and bitterness has been known to push many people towards terrorism who would have otherwise stayed away. Barely able to manage subsistence, they are in no position to fend off insurgent groups as they approach their towns and villages. And once the jihad begins bringing power, authority, and dollars, it is difficult to look back at a life of constant struggle with no reward. Even now, as talks gather pace, there is concern among observers who understand the insurgency well that most militiamen will refuse to disarm simply because of the unattractive nature of ‘normal life’ in FAtA. So, as much as it is essential to contain terrorists, it is far more important to keep them from multiplying in the first place. And the shortest and quickest answer to that problem is improving the economic system and ensuring benefits trickle down to the most vulnerable sections of society. Producing nuclear energy, for both civil and military purposes, is as complicated as it is rewarding. But there is a need to extend complicated and rewarding processes in ways that bring direct benefits to people. As things stand, our economy is stagnating, inflation has long been uncomfortably high, and service delivery to the poor is virtually unheard of. Just as much with its negotiations with terrorists, Pakistan can break fresh ground in the international war on terror by not just advocating, but also presenting an economic programme that helps the lesser privileged, and defeats terrorism before it takes root in much of the population. g

For feedback, comments, suggestions and, most importantly, tips, contact us at

The first family, shers, we are told, like their animals. Their zoo in Raiwind has been in the news since some time, what with the unfortunate incident with the Siberian Tiger. Well, it is in the news again. A cat seems to have killed the first peacock! The premier was furious and has sacked two guards stationed there. how is that for a surreal headline? PM sacks security staff over cat killing peacock. g

********** WhiTe collar crime has been around since some time in Pakistan. After a hiatus, credit card fraud has resurfaced in the country. A gang is operating in Lahore. They have coopted some gas station attendants as well. So brace yourself when you receive a call from your bank asking you about the seventy cases of the good stuff you have ordered in London. g


Sunday, 30 March - 05 April, 2014


Lull before the storm Battle royale looms large

Arif nizAMi

The writer is Editor, Pakistan Today.


He push has come to shove in the first face-to-face talks with the militants. The stark reality that these parleys will not be a piece of cake is slowly but surely sinking in. A sense of optimism bordering on naivety being expressed by various government spokesmen and Taliban sympathizers – in various political and religious outfits – has been replaced with a sense of déjà vu. Intractable problems remain in striking a deal with the TTP. The militants are tough negotiators and not the rag tag mullahs keen to give a free lunch to the government nominated negotiating committee. Literally holding the state as hostage they are perfectly clear about their goals. On the other hand the government’s peace campaign being spearheaded by interior minister Nisar Ali Khan is confusion worst confounded? The bureaucrats in the peace committee were hoping for an extension of the ceasefire due to expire Monday for another three months. The Taliban on the other hand very clearly want demilitarization of Waziristan and establishment of a free zone for them. Negotiating from a position of strength, they have point blank refused to set free sons of former Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani and former Governor Salman

Taseer in their custody. Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif soon will have to decide on how to break the present impasse with the Taliban. The irony is that neither the militants on the one hand and the government and the military on the other are sincere about these so-called peace talks. everyone seems to be buying time for the final battle royale. The Taliban need time to regroup whereas the military owing to geostrategic reasons is staying its hand. In any case the all-powerful security apparatus is the final arbiter in the matter. The army insists that it has no non-combatant Taliban prisoners to release. As for those militants who have massacred security personnel or have breached vital military installations, they cannot

‘Gone is his obsession to dominate all institutions, including the military. But as it is becoming increasingly evident, it is difficult to cohabit with the khakis only on their terms.’ be freed so easily. In the backdrop of failed peace deals with the militants in the past the demand for withdrawal of troops from Waziristan also is a non-starter. In any case the charade of negotiating with the terrorists will have to end soon. Past history amply demonstrates that without implementation of a proper counter-insurgency strategy (COIN), talking to the militants already on the rampage will always be from a position of weakness. Hence, under the circumstances wilting under the TTP demands will be virtual capitulation

Editor’s mail Send your letters to: Letters to Editor, Pakistan Today, 4-Shaarey Fatima Jinnah, Lahore, Pakistan. Fax: +92-42-32535230 E-mail: Letters should be addressed to Pakistan Today exclusively

My encounters with banks Having received two bearer cheques, meant for me, this morning I first went to a branch of “ABC Bank” to present one at their counter. The young lady in the cabin asked me if I wanted to deposit the cheque in my account to which I said I wanted to encash it. She replied that the cheque was not drawn on their bank. I could at once understand my mistake: I had passed on to her the other cheque which was drawn on “STU Bank”. But I stood my ground and quipped, “So what, don’t I get paid at any ATM without any consideration at which bank I maintain my account?” She kept quiet and returned the cheque to me. I

‘In recent weeks two issues have amply demonstrated that despite protestations to the contrary the military and civilian leadership do not see eye to eye on them. Nonetheless in both the cases the khakis have managed to have their sway.’ In the final analysis, the military only from a position of strength is the final driver in cutting a deal with the TTP. In this context the present tenuous ceasefire can merely prove to be the lull before the real storm. A lot of hype is created about the military leadership and the government being on the same page. In a functioning democracy, the military is subservient to the civilian leadership. Hence, its job description is to be on the same page with the civilians. Not so in a nascent democracy like Pakistan with a long history of military dominance over the state structure. Frequent photo-ops of the COAS Gen Raheel Sharif with the civilian leadership are meant to convey the impression that unlike the past, the military and the government are enjoying a cozy relationship. But despite the hype, in Shakespearian parlance, something is rotten in the state of Denmark. That said, perhaps on the question of talks with the TTP at least a semblance of a joint strategy seems to be in place. However some of the Taliban sympathizers within the PML-N ranks can easily ruin this tenuous consensus if the prime minister does not outgrow his penchant for not giving enough attention to detail. In the prequel to the Kargil misadventure in 1999 this very syndrome cost him his job. In recent weeks two issues have amply demonstrated that despite protestations to the contrary the military and civilian leadership do not see eye to eye on them.

said since you encash cheques drawn on your own bank only, I would give you the right kind of cheque and passed on to her the cheque drawn on “ABC Bank” after signing on the reverse of it. Having received the cheque she said she wanted me to sign the cheque twice on the reverse to which my answer was that the second signature should be sought at the time of paying cash so that you can confirm that you are paying to the same person who tendered the cheque on the counter. The second signature should be for your safety not just as a routine. I further mentioned that in the absence of issuing any tokens the importance and significance of obtaining the second signature when making payment becomes a useful drill, a safety for the paying officer. All said and done she insisted that I first put both the signatures. What can’t be cured must be endured. She then asked me to hand over to her a copy of my CNIC to which I said it was a bearer cheque and anybody could get cash against it at the banks’ counter. But she insisted in a manner that if I did not comply with her instruction she would not pay my cheque. Well, again I had to submit to her instruction and passed on my original CNIC which she handed over to an orderly to get its photocopy. When he came back he had done 4 copies of my CNIC out of which he gave me 3

Nonetheless in both the cases the khakis have managed to have their sway. On the question of granting MFN status to India, at the last moment the item was struck off the federal cabinets’ agenda, on the pretext that the matter will be decided after the Indian general elections. According to government spokesmen, granting MFN status at this stage in the eyes of the BJP led opposition will be tantamount to providing a tailwind to the ruling Congress coalition in the elections. This is obviously a ludicrously lame excuse. The Federal Minister for Commerce Khurram Dastagir was dispatched in haste to Delhi earlier in the year to clinch the deal before the elections. Now the government obviously under pressure has twisted its own logic in reverse in order to backtrack. The other day visibly downcast Khurram Dastagir briefed the media in Lahore on how trade with India was a win-win situation for Pakistan. According to him, open trade with our estranged neighbour apart from bringing peace dividends will give a two per cent boost to our GDP. It was not merely a coincidence that zealots who in the past have served as the cat’s paw of the ubiquitous establishment hijacked Pakistan Day rallies last Sunday. Their hate-filled narrative was transparently anti-India reminding the Muslims that they should have no truck with Hindu infields till the Kashmir issue was resolved. Take the case of former strongman Musharraf who is comfortably ensconced in the

and one to the cash officer. I asked the cash officer why should you take all these measures, what was the purpose? The answer I got was that this was as per State Bank’s instructions and are meant to check money laundering etc. She said this as if she was telling me, no more questions please. However, I was reminded of an article I had gone through in a Pakistani newspaper over the week end I quote it, “Few months ago Pakistan economy witnessed an outflow of nearly $25 million plus a day, on occasions $60 million a day. According to SBP sources, the flight ran into staggering $9 billion a year”. I thought it was the true story of pound foolish, penny wise. Coming back to the photocopies of CNIC, I thought the scheme is fraught with more, bigger frauds. The orderly who had done 4 copies, could have done more to pocket few for him and to be used on documents to his benefits irrespective of what damage that could do to me. This can acquire bigger dimensions leading to bigger frauds and colossal damages to innocent persons. With all this in my mind I had by now entered the other bank, a foreign bank, a very big, famous bank. I had to encash my other cheque. Somehow or the other, I have been visiting this bank since few months and having noticed that the writing desk they have kept for

military cardiac institute in Rawalpindi for over two months on the pretext of being treated for an undisclosed heart ailment. Obviously the military is not in a mood that a civilian court should try one of its former chiefs for overthrowing a democratically elected civilian government. According to some reports the COAS has already conveyed to the prime minster the anxiety of the corps commanders if Musharraf is tried for high treason. The high drama staged the other day when Justice Faisel Arab heading the three member special court trying Musharraf walked out of his own court – only to return

‘The Taliban need time to regroup whereas the military owing to geostrategic reasons is staying its hand. In any case the all-powerful security apparatus is the final arbiter in the matter.’ awhile later. The question remains however: how will the special court execute its non-bailable summons tomorrow if the former dictator again refuses to appear before it for being indicted. Sharif in the past as prime minister has always had tenuous and difficult relations with military chiefs. That is why this time he is perhaps doubly careful not to upset the apple cart. Gone is his obsession to dominate all institutions, including the military. But as it is becoming increasingly evident, it is difficult to cohabit with the khakis only on their terms. As the saying goes, the more things change, the more they remain the same. g

customers use is too low to be comfortable I did bring this to the notice of an officer of the bank who instantly and completely agreed with me and promised to bring this thing to the notice of the management. After that whenever I have gone to that bank I have repeated my observation but to no avail. The management was deaf to my complaints. But today when I entered the bank I was surprised that along with that old writing desk was lying another rather new desk of the same height and smaller in other dimensions. That was not yet in use. At this I was reminded of a joke which I repeated to the same officer whom I have been registering my complaints with. Let me share this joke with you too: On my turn I enquired from the cash officer why did he have to serve a young person from a counter specified as “For Senior Citizens Only” particularly when there was no rush on other adjoining windows. He did not have a proper answer. He just kept on mumbling something which I failed to understand on this side of the counter. However, because of my complaint, he neither asked me for the copy of my CNIC nor my contact numbers. If these are State Bank’s requirement I don’t know how he is going to satisfy the same. ABS JAFRI Lahore 03


Sunday, 30 March - 05 April, 2014


the puppetmasters of afghanistan

An Obama official admitted that “Money is the new 800 pound gorilla. It shifts the debate from ‘is the strategy working?’ to ‘can we afford it?’” Basharat hussain QizilBash The writer is an academic and journalist. He can be reached at


inally, the americans have decided to depart from afghanistan by the end of this year, after an occupation of good thirteen years. Today’s afghanistan is a reflection of the policies pursued by ‘the wise men of Washington.’ They are ‘wise’ because not only are they themselves the product of the world’s best institutions but the ones who assist them in formulating policies and their execution are also the most informed, knowledgeable, articulate and intelligent persons. after all, the US has been the unchallenged master of the globe since the disintegration of the erstwhile Soviet Union. Despite reservoirs of intelligence, wealth of knowledge and abundance of means, the americans remained confused about their objectives in afghanistan. The only thing that they were initially clear about was to destroy al Qaeda which had attacked their homeland and to punish the Talban regime that hosted this terrorist organization in afghanistan. This they did successfully in november 2001 by overthrowing the Taliban government, however, no homework was conducted as to what they would do with the occupied afghanistan. This is typical of the americans as earlier on they had left afghanistan in chaos after forcing the Soviet withdrawal. it seems as if they have no interest in learning any lesson from history. anyone who has studied the history of afghans knows very well that they just do not accept strict control of any central authority. in spite of this, the two most influential and resourceful institutions of the US- the Pentagon and the State Department- decided to build afghanistan, which is primarily tribal in nature on the ideals of a modern state. The first step in this direction was the introduction of democracy under which a Pashtun tribal leader Hamid Karzai was first ‘installed’ as the head of the government, who later ‘got elected’ as the head of the transitional


government in 2002 and eventually became the first elected president in 2004. The election of Karzai was not the expression of the popular will of the afghans because personally, he had no national standing and if he managed to reach the highest political office, it was solely due to the strong backing of the US as the occupying force. Karzai proved no gentleman as he abused the advantage of incumbency at the first opportunity by rigging the election to the extent that the Electoral Complaints Commission had to disqualify nearly 25% of the votes cast. Right under the nose of the americans, Karzai made a mockery of democracy by resorting to systematic fraud and violence during the 2009 presidential and 2010 general elections, which compelled the Electoral Commission to reject 1.3 million of the 5.6 million votes cast and to disqualify 21 of the 249 successful candidates in the 2010 general elections. The US policy of introducing electoral politics is waning among the afghans which can be understood from the facts that the number of cast votes in the presidential elections reduced from 7.4 million in 2004 to 4.8 million in 2009 whereas in the general elections the figures declined from 6.4 million in 2005 to 3.6 million in 2010. The selection of Karzai as the face of a democratic and modern afghan state actually tarnished the image of democracy and brought bad name to the american puppetmasters. a research conducted by the international institute for Strategic Studies on

What really spun the heads in Washington was the $5 trillion combined expenditure incurred during the last decade in fighting the ‘dumb war’ in Iraq and the ‘good war’ in Afghanistan. Added to this is the astronomical sum of $ 6 to 8 billion that is required annually to maintain the Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF) after 2014.

the future of afghanistan beyond 2014 admits that corruption marred “every aspect of the state’s interaction with afghan society”. a few instances may illustrate the magnitude. To be appointed at the district level, a police officer had to pay $50000. The head of Karzai’s afghan national Security Council was found demanding a brand new Toyota car for his son to kill investigation in a corruption case. The president of afghanistan was himself at the centre of corruption as he extorted between $10 to 50 million to buy the loyalties of the politicians. in October 2010, he admitted to have received biannual cash payments amounting to £625000 from iran for this slush fund. no wonder, a survey conducted by integrity Watch afghanistan in 2010 revealed that “everyday bribery of government officials had doubled since 2007,

with ordinary afghans having to pay an average of $156 in bribes each year to access government services.” Such were the state of affairs of the political system that was cobbled together by the US. The american performance with regard to law and order and economic sustainability in afghanistan was equally pathetic. The uprooted Qaeda and Taliban never allowed the US to establish order and peace in the country despite the presence of about 138000 american and foreign troops. This was because of a muddled approach of the ‘wizards in Washington’ as the Pentagon supported by the-then Secretary of State Hillary Clinton advocated an ambitious counter-insurgency (COin) strategy as the solution whereas Vice President Joseph Biden and the-then US ambassador to Kabul Karl Eikenberry opposed COin and instead advocated a much more modest approach. a classified assessment on afghanistan leaked to the ‘Washington Post’ in 2009 had revealed that america was heading to ‘mission failure.’ Was it the fear of military failure that compelled americans to pack up bags from afghanistan or were there other factors. as the afghan problem is multidimensional, there can obviously be no single factor; however, the most determining one that broke the back of the americans was the ever escalating financial cost of the afghan adventure. an Obama official admitted that “Money is the new 800 pound gorilla. it shifts the debate from ‘is the strategy working?’ to ‘can we afford it?’”

Just imagine the cost: one district of Helmand province sucking in $1.3 billion in civil and military operations was equal to the total military assistance provided by the US to Egypt, her most reliable strategic ally in the equally volatile Middle East. Equally staggering was the cost of $113 billion per year for maintaining a hundred thousand US troops in afghanistan. Moreover, what really spun the heads in Washington was the $5 trillion combined expenditure incurred during the last decade in fighting the ‘dumb war’ in iraq and the ‘good war’ in afghanistan. added to this is the astronomical sum of $ 6 to 8 billion that is required annually to maintain the afghan national Security Forces (anSF) after 2014. Can’t afghanistan itself afford the cost of its misfortune? it certainly can because the US government announced in2010 that the country possessed an untapped mineral wealth of about $1000 billion worth. This is the potential wealth which cannot be realized in the foreseeable future because the ghost of terrorism continues to lurk the length and breadth of afghanistan. What the americans failed to take into account is the fact that afghanistan has always relied on foreign assistance for survival. Even before the Soviet invasion, 40% of the state spending was financed by external sources and there has been no change in this trend during the decade long american project of nation building in afghanistan. Despite the pouring in of billions of dollars for economic development in afghanistan since 2001, the poverty rate has remained high and about 70% of the people still lack access to clean drinking water. While success has many fathers, no american is willing to own the failure in afghanistan. The nearest one conceding defeat has been a 2010 statement of arnold Fields, the US Special inspector General for afghan Reconstruction: “We have not done enough to build afghans’ capacity to manage their government and develop their economy.” The US adventure in afghanistan was the brainchild of the neocon Republicans under President Bush but when this adventure turned into a misadventure, even the Republicans began to distance themselves from it, Mitt Romney, the last Republican presidential candidate being one, when he declared, “We have learned that our troops shouldn’t go off and try and fight a war of independence for another nation. Only the afghans can win afghanistan’s independence from the Taliban.” g


Sunday, 30 March - 05 April, 2014

OpiniOn: AfgHAnisTAn’s 2014 ElEcTiOn

Need for strong mandate Afghanistan is on the cusp of its first ever non-violent transition of power in its modern history. On 5 April 2014, the third presidential election since the fall of the Taliban regime in 2001 will be held. What are the prospects for reconciliation with the Taliban? HAlimullAH KOusAry The writer is an Associate Research Fellow with the International Centre for Political Violence and Terrorism Research (ICPVTR) at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies (RSIS), Nanyang Technological University. He was previously with the Centre for Conflict and Peace Studies (CAPS) based in Kabul.


FGHAnISTAn has come a long way politically since the fall of the Taliban regime in 2001. It held two presidential elections in 2004 and 2009, and is slated to hold the third on 5 April 2014, which will transfer power to a new president. Hamid Karzai, after serving his two constitutional terms, is the first elected president to hand over leadership of the state to his successor without being ousted and/or pushed into exile. This shift signifies the growing liberalisation and maturity of the Afghan political elite. Evolution of political ordEr In their quest for victory, various political groups have forged alliances beyond ethnicities, regions and political dogmas, forming their presidential teams with the support of former foes. The nine presidential contestants and their teams comprise politicians and power brokers from different backgrounds. They include western-educated technocrats, former Mujahideens and communists.

They all recognise the need for continued presence of American forces in Afghanistan beyond 2014, and in the meantime want to bring the Taliban to the negotiation table with or without Pakistan’s support. These are the two issues that Afghans in general expect the future government to work on. The technocrats with a relatively weak support base have allied with Mujahideens to benefit from their large constituencies across the country. These alliances are an important sign of the gradual evolution of the current political order in Afghanistan with policies and services taking precedence over personalities and political groups. And once male-dominated, they have now become gender-inclusive. one major factor for this has been the growing level of political awareness among Afghan women and youth. Women began voting in the 2004 and 2009 elections and will do likewise in the 2014 election.

Their exposure over the last one decade has rendered their role in the broader political spectrum significant and thus created a need for women participation in elections and their membership in the political groups. young Afghans, symbolising moderate and pluralistic forces in the country, with many of them educated abroad, constitute the majority of the population. youth participation in previous elections has driven high voter registration and voter turnout and youths have developed into a core constituency that will be decisive in the 2014 election. lEgitimacy of futurE govErnmEnt However, while a milestone in the fledgling democratisation process, the 2014 election could also lead to an unfavourable aftermath that Afghanistan cannot afford at this critical juncture if it is marred by malpractice. During its two terms since 2004, the incumbent Afghan government no doubt made headway in certain fundamental areas but due to corruption and malpractice in the 2009 election, the government failed to deliver good governance and create a sense of belonging among the population. The chief concern among Afghans about the coming election is not about which team wins or loses, as there is no major difference in the contestants’ positions on principal issues facing Afghanistan today. They all recognise the need for continued presence of American forces in Afghanistan beyond 2014, and in the meantime want to bring the Taliban to the negotiation table with or without Pakistan’s support. These are the two issues that Afghans in general expect the future government to work on. The concern, however, seems to be whether the 2014 election will be free and fair given the existing security landscape in the country and the Taliban’s continued belligerence. The Taliban portrayed the 2014 election as “the latest plot of invaders” to install a “new puppet government”. They have intensified attacks on campaign rallies and distributed letters in provinces warning them against voting. Already, at least 408 of more than 7,000 polling centres remain closed and people in 62 districts of 15 provinces would be unable to vote due to high security risks. nEEd for unity The 2009 election was a precedent. The security threats reduced the voter turnout by more the 50 percent from 2004. This led to the massive ballot box stuffing in the 2009 polls. Given that the 2014 election will be held under a worse security condition than in 2009, it would be unrealistic to expect a 100 percent fraud-free election. But fraud committed on a massive scale will without a doubt undermine the legitimacy of the new government. It could drive the various political groups into mutual recriminations and disunity at a time when Afghanistan needs a government with a strong mandate and a supportive opposition to fight the hostile and foreign-backed Taliban. g

Why i joined the bJp There is only one way forward. And there is, among the visible choices, only one person best suited to lift the nation out of a septic swamp OuT Of Turn

mJ AKbAr

The writer is a leading Indian journalist and author. He is the Editor-in-Chief of The Sunday Guardian. He has also served as Editorial Director of India Today.


nyone who speaks in public, whether master orator or ordinary wordshuffler, comes to a platform after some preparation. The one eventuality no can quite prepare for is a crisis; and there is no crisis greater for an individual than a threat to one’s life. At that moment, the reaction is more likely to emerge from a heart than the head. The bombs that began to burst at narendra Modi’s Patliputra rally were aimed at the crowds, of course, but also at him. His instant response was to ask a powerful question of both Hindus and Muslims that went to the crux of the principal challenge before our nation, and included its solution as well. He asked these two great communities of our country to choose: they could either fight each other, or together they could confront that shaming curse called poverty. This placed everything in context and priority: we need peace in our country as an absolute fundamental necessity. This gives us the chance to rescue an economy that has been sent to hospital in the last decade before it sinks to a deathbed. The primary purpose of economic growth is to lift the poorest from their awful misery; and this can best be achieved only when every Indian, across differences of creed and caste, works hand in hand. We either move together or we barely move at all. It was an incisive definition of inclusive growth. At a time when Modi could have been forgiven for being emotional, he was practical, clearly focused and determined to pursue an economic vision. This fit a pattern. In a speech on August 15 last year, he said that the religion of anyone in public service was the Constitution of India. A compilation of his views by Siddharth Mazumdar, released a few weeks ago, opens with this sentence: “The essence of secularism is that all religions are equal before the law.” It asserted that sarva dharma sambhav was the philosophical magnet that united India from an ancient age. But how do such principles accord with the fact of the Gujarat riots, which is a constant theme in all attacks on him? I raised questions at the time of the riots as much as any other journalist did.

Paradoxically, these questions were answered over 10 years by the UPA government. There has never been, since independence, such intense scrutiny, or such absolute determination to trace guilt to a chief minister, as Modi faced from institutions loyal to the UPA government over two full terms. every relevant instrument of state was assigned the task of finding something, anything that could trace guilt to Modi. They could not. The Supreme Court, which is above politics and parties, and which is our invaluable, independent guardian of the law and Constitution, undertook its own enquiries. Its first findings are in, and we know that the answer is exoneration. Moreover, there has been judicial accountability to an unprecedented degree in Gujarat. We are still waiting for justice in a hundred previous riots. one suspects that only some politicians have a vested interest in the past during an election when Indians want to vote for their future. The young want a government that gives them jobs; parents want their entrepreneurial skills to turn into food on the plate, into schools for their children, and into a horizon of hope. When Modi talks of building a hundred new cities,

At a time when Modi could have been forgiven for being emotional, he was practical, clearly focused and determined to pursue an economic vision. they can see jobs and opportunity rise with every floor of a new township. one significant indicator of the public anger lies in a statistic: employment has grown, on an average, at only 2% in the past decade. If the rate was higher in the first five years of UPA, when the economy was faring better, then one assumes it must have sunk to less than 2% in the second UPA term. A nation that was soaring on achievement and hope has sunk into depression. We need a national recovery mission. only someone who has delivered can offer a credible promise of leading such a critical mission. For those on the wrong side of 30 or 40, five years is just another passage in life. For those who are 20, five years is the difference between aspiration and despair. If a young person does not find a job in these five years, he or she begins to lose that vital energy which comes from self-confidence. If the young do not power the economy then the economy will be stuck in the quagmire of idle waste. There is only one way forward. And there is, among the visible choices, only one person best suited to lift the nation out of a septic swamp. you know his name, as well as I do. g 05


Sunday, 30 March - 05 April, 2014


Making Lahore a trade friendly city The government has a number of issues to resolve first Dr ImDaD HussaIn

The writer is Assistant Professor at Centre for Public Policy and Governance, Forman Christian College University Lahore. He also works with Punjab Urban Resource Centre.


hen a city is not trade friendly, it does not create enough economic opportunities and resources necessary to provide for the services citizens need. Therefore, it is plausible that no city, big or small, can ignore being or becoming trade friendly. The recent economic changes also require making cities places of economic growth. Innovation, competition, and employment-generation in cities have become the hallmarks of survival of economies across the globe. And why should they not be? Trade helps cities deliver their promises of human, societal and economic growth in major ways. Lahore is no exception to these trends. The good thing is that signs of trade friendliness are already visible in Lahore. But Lahore’s formal and informal institutional arrangements are not friendly with all traders and all trades. These arrangements are selective, exclusive, and inequitable in their treatment of various traders and trades. It is due to these exclusions that Lahore is not doing well on all account of trade friendliness. But Lahore has hope: Lahore can move up the ladder of trade friendliness by acting prudently. Without doubt, trade is growing in Lahore. But is it working well? not all of it. Why? Because top notch traders are


becoming richer, while small vendors and small traders are merely surviving. entrepreneurial acumen does not find encouragement both from the traders’ community or the government. Other indicators are also not satisfactory. If traders are not happy with the government, and if the government is not happy with the traders, the consumers and citizens are unhappy with both. That is not encouraging, of course. A good trade environment provides a win-win situation for all of stakeholders: government, traders, regulators, consumers. Of all the troubles trade and traders face in Lahore, regulatory troubles are the most important to highlight and deal with immediately. As a result of the regulatory troubles in vogue, transaction costs — costs involved in doing business — remain high and trade does not grow as it should. Trade related government agencies, ranging from ministry of commerce at the federal level to the industries department, operate under multiple logics and hence they move in multiple directions. Sometimes their logics are contradictory. As a result, the role of nonstate actors has increased in trade: most of the trade has become self-regulated. Yet this rise has benefits as well. As non-state actors, traders’ associations provide social, legal and

The best way to encourage competition among traders is to stop providing protection and privileges and direct public funds to develop trade related legal and physical infrastructure. political support to their members in various ways. This is their brighter side. On the other hand, the same associations also serve the purposes of political parties they are aligned with. This is their darker side. It bears noting that traders associations are becoming

The government should lean towards an option which reduces transaction costs. It should withdraw from its previous role of controlling and regulating trade to helping traders compete and create. powerful actors in politics, refusing submission to official policies. Problems such as low-tax recovery, poor quality of goods, and hazardous materials trading, mainly stem from the unaccountable power of traders associations. Therefore, regulatory restrictions and rise of non-state actors both contribute to make Lahore less trade friendly. Other trade troubles relate to the unpredictable working of law and contract enforcement, land use and zoning, poor facilities for circulating goods, inequitable distribution of development funds for markets, and extortion and tax evasion by public and private parties. Given this, Lahore has options available to make trade within its boundaries better. The first option is the complete deregulation of trade. Advocates of this option suggest the economy should be left to its own devices. The second option is to give meaningful role to the government in managing the economy. The third option is to bring government and traders closer to manage the economy. Let us try to make sense of these options for the peculiar case of Lahore. Lahore Chamber of Commerce supports the first option. It has claimed, time and again, that deregulation is the solution. economists such as Shahid Kardar also concur with this view. If this position is accepted, officials from industries department will have to be deputed somewhere else. If Lahore adopts the second option, it will strengthen government departments. If Lahore adopts the third option, it will create synergies by

bringing the government and traders closer. Which option, then, is best for Lahore? The answer is not easy. All options have their brighter and darker sides. All have different implications for transaction costs and, therefore, Lahore should adopt an option or a set of options which reduce these costs. The option of deregulation is not workable as non-state institutions are not developed and have little tradition of being accountable to people. The second option gives too much power to the government besides increasing its financial expenditure. The government will have to spend a lot of money to keep the prices in control, for example. The government should lean towards an option which reduces transaction costs. It should withdraw from its previous role of controlling and regulating trade to helping traders compete and create. It should act as a neutral arbiter among traders and their consumers. And it should gradually create conditions where none of the stakeholders involved in trade can trespass their legitimate roles. Since a lot of trade in Lahore is taking place informally, and since trade has become self-regulating, the government needs to rethink its role in trade. The best option for Lahore is to create an enabling environment for trade. The government should not try to regulate or control trades and traders. It should rather help trade associations become new institutions to self-regulate trade. It should create an atmosphere of competition. The best way to encourage competition among traders is to stop providing protection and privileges and direct public funds to develop trade related legal and physical infrastructure. In order to make Lahore trade friendly, both the federal and provincial governments should unburden themselves with trade related responsibilities and delegate a lot of work to the local government in Lahore, where it actually belongs. A strong local government can rework itself to achieve the goals of trade friendliness and use the benefits achieved from the trade to develop Lahore. g


Sunday, 30 March - 05 April, 2014


manufactured consent The media is the modern weapon of choice

Omer Zaheer meer The author is a leading economist, a qualified chartered accountant, and anti-money laundering expert who is helping reshape businesses at Millennium Law Company. He can be reached on Twitter and @OmerZaheerMeer and by email at


alcolm X once said that if you are not careful, the news (media) may make you hate the oppressed while loving the oppressor. This has never been truer than the present times. The rising influence of media in shaping public opinion has granted it powers unlike anything before in human history. So much so that now media campaigns are launched for reasons ranging from protecting corporate interests to larger world order dominance battles, without an average user suspecting. If one thinks about it, it actually makes perfect sense that media entities, which run as corporate profit-driven institutions, tend to subscribe to and further the agendas and vested interests of their sponsors. opinions are manufactured to serve these interest groups using consistent media attention on a particular line. This reality was explored by Noam chomsky in his work with Edward Herman in “manufacturing consent: The Political Economy of the mass media”. When analyzing the situation in Pakistan, we can see the relevance and actual implementation of the mass media campaign to mould popular opinion in the country. But what is the need? Who would want that? all valid questions. So let us examine, shall we? Pakistan has been blessed with a key strategic geographical position. With a weak leadership, the same blessing however has turned into a curse with different regional and global powers unfolding their desired world-order games in the country. The USa’s interests are related to the great-game currently in a complicated phase in afghanistan. India, of course, is interested because of the inherent dogma of animosity against Pakistan. and the age-old Persianarab rivalry is also being played out at the expense of Pakistan, not just in afghanistan, but very much within Pakistan. add to that the clash of regional economic interests with Pakistan’s and you have a quagmire at your hands. However, a nuclear power possessing a highly disciplined and sixth largest army in the world is not an easy cookie to swallow, even if one holds some sway on it. This has been proven by several steps taken over the last few decades. The prime examples of “alleged” nuclear

sharing with friendly countries (which was not illegal by a nonsignee of NPT), backing of “strategic assets” in afghanistan (largely due to the dubious american track record of dumping Pakistan) and the blocking of NaTo supply for months, had driven the above point to global policy makers planning their moves on the global stage to protect their national interests. The question arises as to how to tame a vital country such as Pakistan without been seen as doing so? There needed to be an answer and it was found with the advent of private electronic media in Pakistan. The leading strategists in the global powers burning their brain cells at leading think tanks, both private and state-funded, saw an opening to be seized upon. media corporations are corporate entities driven by profits. The USa began the trend by pouring billions of rupees into the Pakistani media. This way the following of a certain perspective was nurtured right from the beginning. This is not to totally dismiss the

In April 1971, the ‘success’ of an operation against Indiansponsored Mukhti-Bahini in the then East-Pakistan was announced only to be followed by the worst nightmare just eight months later, culminating in Bangladesh.

positive aspects of the electronic media revolution in Pakistan. Without doubt, the media has greatly enhanced the access of an ordinary citizen to information. also, there are positive exceptions too. But even if one ignores the quality of information provided, the access to information alone is not enough without detailed knowledge and framework of understanding necessary for forming independent opinions, which is hard to expect

from an average citizen in a country with a miserable literacy record. This can be proven with several examples where the national mood was made to swing in one direction only to be swung back to the opposite extreme later on, when it suited the “sponsors”. In april 1971, the ‘success’ of an operation against Indian-sponsored mukhti-Bahini in the then EastPakistan was announced only to be followed by the worst nightmare just eight months later, culminating in Bangladesh. Today most of the intelligentsia curse the forces for alleged atrocities back then, while neutral writers even from India expose these myths as hugely fabricated. Similarly about Balochistan operations, the national opinion is made to swing like a pendulum from absolute support under Bhutto to major backing under musharaf to major detestation at present. If we recall the recent past, the episode of lal-masjid saga is all too fresh. The electronic media created a war-hysteria, pressurising a

The question arises as to how to tame a vital country such as Pakistan without been seen as doing so? There needed to be an answer and it was found with the advent of private electronic media in Pakistan.

government facing its biggest challenge from lawyers movement and itself ready to oblige. once the operation ensued the same media pointed out the massive humanrights abuses, turning the national support into nation-wide shock and anger. Problems, unfortunately, compounded in all these instances. These days we’re facing yet another challenge in deciding the solution to TTP’s terror. It’s a complicated subject with more than fifty groups operating loosely under the TTP umbrella, warranting a detailed write-up. However, history has taught us that internal disorder can turn into chaos and possibly civil war with use of armed forces without proper strategies, especially to ensure avoidance of civilian miseries. In the light of the above, one would have expected the media to be objective and to guide the nation towards logic rather than cashing in on popular sentiments. opinion makers are expected to be neutral, and receptive to perspectives challenging mainstream sentiments of revenge against the inhumane terror unleashed by TTP factions. Instead, what we witness is a total dismissal of anything challenging the popular narrative of absolute use of force as sympathy for terrorism.

So much so that the sane voices drawing on the East-Pakistan experience and asking for protection of civilians while proposing a strategy of disengaging from a foreign war to take away the narrative of “Jihad”, isolating the non-reformable TTP elements by getting as many to lay arms as possible, and then using targeted force to eliminate the nonreformable, are dismissed with bias by key opinion makers. Sadly it has reached a stage where Imran Khan, who is leading this balanced alternate narrative at a heavy political cost and is the head of the second largest political party in terms of votes, is called “a man who sold Pakistan” and “Taliban apologist” for trying to put forward an alternate strategy, which his party believes to be best for Pakistan. Sadly this has bought us to a point where what seems to be another “manufactured consent” is now popularised. let’s hope against hope that the cost is not as dear as it has been in the past. g 07


cOver sTOry: shAle On The cArDs?

On shortages – past, present and future Our challenges now are of an existential nature

Aziz-uD-Din AhMAD The writer is a political analyst and a former academic.


national energy policy was put together in haste by the PML-N soon after it formed government last year. Finalised on June 25, it was presented before the CCI on August 2, which approved it promptly. While it took the government nearly seven months to formulate its security policy the half cooked energy policy was devised in about seven weeks. With the new energy plan in place, what Nawaz Sharif was supposed to do was to say “Let there be light “ and there would be enough of it not only for power starved Pakistan but also sufficient for export by 2018. Sharif then ordered load shedding to be ended by 2017 and went to rest. As he put it, the new energy policy would turn out to be “panacea of Pakistan’s energy ills.” For any energy policy to succeed it has to address a number of complex issues. What is more planners have to keep the holistic picture in view, which includes not only technical matters, development of institutional devices, new pricing structures and tackling new sources of power like shale gas and tight gas, but a whole gamut of socio political issues and matters related to foreign policy like ties with India and Iran, the two important neighbours whose cooperation could play a vital role in energy generation. As things stand improvement of relations with India remains stalled on account of the army which many think wants to keep the pot boiling. The relations with Iran are deteriorating on account of the conflict of interest on the part of the Sharif family which has close ties with the Saudi royalty. A major irritant for Tehran is Islamabad’s about turn on Syria, agreement to provide shoulder fired anti aircraft and anti tank missiles which

could tip the balance in favour of rebels fighting against Bashara al Asad. Soon after the announcement of the energy policy, loopholes made their presence felt. It was discovered for instance that while formulating the gas policy, the requirements of the textile industry in the wake of the grant of the GSP plus were not taken into consideration. Planning for the future has never been the forte of Pakistani governments, be they civilian or military. The leaders are so absorbed in day to day issues, and in the pursuit of personal, class or party interests that they have little time to plan about major national issues. They tend to go for shortcuts called ‘panaceas’ instead of formulating long gestation policies that may not be of much help in the next elections. Pakistan has suffered shortages of different kinds in its history. Going down memory lane, one remembers the early years in the country’s life marked by severe food shortages partly on account of smuggling and hoarding and partly due to low production capacity. People in British India had in fact started having a taste of shortages soon after the start

As things stand improvement of relations with India remains stalled on account of the army which many think wants to keep the pot boiling. The relations with Iran are deteriorating on account of the conflict of interest on the part of the Sharif family which has close ties with the Saudi royalty of World War II. These were however successfully managed by the British government through an effective rationing of the goods in short supply. The plan was successful, as with the exception of the Bengal famine, shortages were effectively dealt with. After the creation of Pakistan rationing in wheat and sugar continued for nearly a decade. The policy however failed to work satisfactorily due to bad administration

Planning for the future has never been the forte of Pakistani governments, be they civilian or military. The leaders are so absorbed in day to day issues, and in the pursuit of personal, class or party interests that they have little time to plan about major national issues combined with political cronyism. Wheat shortages under Liquat Ali Khan led to protest marches and the prime minister who was conferred the title of Quailed e Millat by his party was nicknamed by the opposition as Quaid e Qillat. Later Pakistan had to approach the US for wheat in aid which was transported from the port city to the interior in trucks displaying large banners with “Thank you America” inscribed in bold letters. even when wheat was abundantly available the trading mafia smuggled, hoarded and black marketed the commodity in collaboration with government officials. This showed that the best of plans would fail in the absence of rule of law and good governance. Power shortages came later on when demands from a growing industrial sector and requirements of urbanisation caused frequent power breakdowns. In 1947 Pakistan had two power generating units, one at Malkand in NWFP and the other at Shahdara in Lahore with the total capacity of 60 MW. For a while the country was forced to import power from India. Warsak hydro electric project, completed in 1961, provided some surplus power which made the ruling elite complacent. It was not considered necessary to plan about a distant future. Power was however in short supply soon. energy generation was to pick up only in 1970’s with the completion of the Mangla and the Tarbela Dams. But this too was soon to become insufficient. Little power was added to the national grid under Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto and General Zia. The military ruler is more to blame as he possessed absolute power, weak political

challenges and billions of dollars in foreign aid in the kitty. What is more his rule extended to about 12 years. Major power shortages occurred under Benazir in 1994 leading her to invite the IPPs to invest in the country. While the IPPs brought new problems, the country was able to temporarily cope with energy shortages. Like Zia the next military ruler Musharraf too failed to undertake any major venture in energy production despite wielding absolute power and getting enormous dollars for nearly a decade. Today also a lack of vision on the part of the ruling elite deters it from gauging the gravity of the shortages that are to come in its way in the next decade. Water shortages in days to come might lead to wars. The opposition to the dams persists as the political leadership is seen to be pursuing the interests of one province alone rather than the federation. With the subsoil water level fast going down due to overconsumption and wastage, urban centers like Lahore are likely to become water deficient like Karachi in a few years. There is no water conservation policy. Urbanisation is fast expanding while there is no plan to develop the required physical and social infrastructure capable of sustaining cities during the present century. Cutting trees to construct new roads for motorists is likely to cause more problems over the decades. The population is expanding without any effective control with the result that the country may not be able to provide people their minimum needs leading to more radicalisation and increase in crime rate. The government is unwilling to alienate clerics who are out of touch with social reality and oppose family planning in this day and age. environmental changes that are fast taking place would not only heighten water shortages but also lead to famines if plans are not afoot to evolve a policy to cope with them. The problem is too gigantic to be dealt with by one country alone. This requires an environment in the region marked by mutual confidence, presently absent. Do political parties and the establishment have any awareness of the emerging challenges of an existential nature? g

Understanding fracking The geopolitics of energy resources

Dr M AsAD KhAn

The writer is an MD and a member of PoliTact’s Board of Directors. He has a keen interest in energy, environmental issues and consults regularly with PoliTact on energy issues.


he terms ‘fracking’ and ‘shale gas’ have become quite popular in the last ten years or so. Shale gas and techniques such as fracking present tremendous potential for liberating individual countries from relying on a few gas and energy


rich nations. This obvioiusly creates its own unque political and economic challenges. however, as compared to the costs, the benefits are considerably greater. What is fracking? Fracking is short for hydraulic fracturing and has been around for 60 years. It is a process by which a mixture of water, sand and chemicals is injected into geologic formations (eg shale) at high pressure in order to create minute fractures in rock bed, typically located 6,000 to 10,000 feet below the surface, and release entrapped oil and natural gas. Recent advances in directional drilling (vertical, horizontal and S-shaped) have made extraction of natural gas and oil from shale formations economically viable. From a single well-pad on the surface, multiple wells can be drilled in different directions that penetrate the reservoir vertically or horizontally.

Fracking is a proven technology with limited barriers to its implementation. As compared to nuclear energy, it is considerbaly less complex and

requires significantly less time to implement. Morover, the area of impact is limited and it does not require displacing people or use arable land, as in the case of hydroelectric dams. And it has the potential for creating thousands of new jobs. But fracking is not without its attendant environmental concerns. For example: 1. Fracking a single well requires up to seven million gallons of water, plus an additional 400,000 gallons of additives, including lubricants, biocides, scale and rust inhibitors, solvents, foaming and defoaming agents, emulsifiers and deemulsifiers, stabilisers and breakers. 2. 70 per cent of used contaminated water comes back up, bringing with it radioactive material and heavy metals (bromide, arsenic, barium, uranium, radium and radon) that need proper


Sunday, 30 March - 05 April, 2014

shale on the energy shore? Do we finally have an answer to the energy problem?

shAhAb JAfry The writer is a Lahore-based journalist and can be reached at


eveLOPING Pakistan’s shale oil and gas reserves can not only overturn our chronic energy shortage, but also help address poverty, employment, and trade deficit concerns. And it helps that our reserves are currently the eight largest in the world. A report recently prepared by the Islamabad based Sustainable Development Policy Institute (SDPI), and forwarded to the prime minister, estimates savings of approximately $15b, enough to eliminate the trade deficit altogether. Potential for a shale oil and gas revolution has occupied industry analysts and Wall Street pundits alike for a number of years, and is not without controversy. Its extraction is a complicated process, and so long as proper technology was not developed it was widely portrayed as an ambitious project mainly supported by anti-oil lobby groups, and dismissed as more noise than material. game changer Investment banks and hedge funds from New York to the City of London, so dependent on Big Oil money, also downplayed the shale phenomenon, preferring to keep the oil world restricted to traditional demand-supply matrices, and spot and futures

trading across their counters. But the US house had started growing wary of “addiction to Middle east oil” since the Bush days, when the partnership with the Gulf’s petro princes was apparently at its most mutually beneficial. And the Obama administration was eager for a more autonomous energy mix for more profound reasons, which included a visible desire to break off from the regressive oil influence of Gulf monarchies. With the war on terror and Arab Spring also coming into play, and presenting policy cleavages with the Saudis regarding controlling and funding al Qaeda like proxies across conflict zones, shale played a central role in formulating new US foreign and energy policy. Shale extraction involves a process called hydraulic fracturing, commonly referred to as fracking. But bringing the oil and gas to the surface sets off certain gases into the atmosphere, which triggered a wave of concern and protests among more environmentally sensitive governments of Western europe, leading to a temporary freeze across much of the continent. The Americans, however, leveraged the shale revolution for bigger policy objectives, where it proved a game changer. For the first time in its history, America is set to become a net energy exporter, largely because of the shale opportunity. And while not quite in an instant, but rather quickly, it is rid of its long standing dependence on foreign oil. This has enabled very fast, and bold, policy changes in the Middle east. OPeC’s oil muscle suddenly no longer as potent a deterrent, Washington has begun confronting GCC states, especially Saudi Arabia, for long unchecked excesses. It has recently threatened Riyadh with

disposal. 3. Potential migration of the fluids and gases left in the formation into potable water reservoirs. (the oil and gas industry estimates that 60 per cent of wells will leak over a thirtyyear period) 4. In places where shale gas is present but water is scarce, the need for water for fracking can easily outstrip supply thus leading to clash between drilling companies and local communities. the geopolitics of energy resources The recent Russian annexation of Crimea and the debate over how to respond and punish Russia has brought the geopolitics of energy in to the limelight once again. Recent deliberations at the house Foreign Affairs Committee in Washington reveal a desire to use the increasing American domestic energy output, using fracking, as an instrument of its national power. Moreover, there is a strong push for opening up natural gas exports, especially in the face of Russian threats, and heavy dependence of eastern europe on Russian energy sources. Despite the hype, there remain many challenges. United States has scarce pipeline and terminal capacity to transport huge amount of Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) across the Atlantic. even if they can ship LNG to europe, there is lack of infrastructure in europe to convert LNG back to gas form. This is the same problem Pakistan faced in importing LNG from Qatar. Plus the cost of

Shale extraction involves a process called hydraulic fracturing, commonly referred to as fracking. But bringing the oil and gas to the surface sets off certain gases into the atmosphere, which triggered a wave of concern and protests among more environmentally sensitive governments of Western Europe, leading to a temporary freeze across much of the continent. sanctions for sponsoring terrorism because of its support for Islamist militias. It is also not much worried about Saudi concerns as it begins unprecedented negotiations with Iran. And while much of europe will clearly take its time fully embracing shale – european countries have precedents of elections swinging on environmental issues – much of the rest of the world has been very impressed, and countries from Canada to China, Mexico to India, are lining up to take advantage of their own reserves. situation in pakistan For Pakistan to be so well naturally endowed with shale is indeed a blessing, hence SDPI’s optimism. energy, along with terrorism, is the country’s most pressing problem. If the security situation deters foreign and local investment besides triggering capital flight, the energy problem eats into whatever little production does take place. And big multi-year investments needed to turn the

energy mix will no doubt buoy the jobs market. Both fiscal and monetary regimes have failed to stimulate investment and employment. Rather than facilitate the private sector, the government has gone out of its way to crowd out indigenous investment initiatives. And because of its overwhelming presence in the money market – heavily borrowing even for basic official expenditure – it has eroded capital for private investment and expansion. At such a time the shale industry can provide precious employment opportunities across the country, especially since reserves have been found from Kohat, Potohar basins, across DG Khan, all the way down to Badin. And since the process is more labour-intensive than conventional oil extraction, job creation benefits will extend to semi skilled sections, creating an estimated 75,000 new jobs in the exploration phase alone. Yet it seems the SDPI’s projections are not causing immediate joy in too many government departments. “There is considerable optimism in the finance ministry, but the petroleum ministry still seems favouring the LNG alternative”, engr Arshad Abbassi, Advisor SDPI and lead author of the report, told Pakistan Today. “There are also voices from the renewable industry favouring solar and wind energy that drown far more feasible suggestions like shale”. LNG as a temporary fix seems widely acceptable, but SDPI’s concerns over longer reliance have wider resonance. “Pursuing the LNG policy over 20-25 years would be very wrong”, said Dr Salman Shah, former finance minister and supporter of government policy favouring

shipping LNG from Increasing American Pakistan can learn from Chinese the US to europe energy independence makes it a less is a cause of growing know-how and collaborate to exploit feasible alternative. alarm for the Middle shale gas/oil proven reserves. The good Russia can easily east, with the news is that the first well for Tight gas, outmaneuver United powerhouses there States by lowering its feeling more similar to shale gas, has started energy export prices expendable. producing 15 million cubic feet per to europe. Would What it means day of natural gas at Sajawal gas field that mean lower for pakistan revenues for Russia: When it comes to in Kirthar block in Sindh province yes, but marginally Pakistan, specifically because Russian related to shale gas revenues are extraction, it is vital dominated by oil sales. Additionally, Russia is to review the experiences of other countries planning to double its oil and gas exports to dealing with shale energy extraction and look Asia in the next 20 years, which includes China at both the positive and negative aspects. and Japan. According to some experts, if properly From a business standpoint, United States developed, Pakistan’s oil and gas resources are will profit a lot more enough to meet the by supplying LNG to nation’s requirement Asia than europe. for the next 50 years. From a business standpoint, United But even with all The Chairman of States will profit a lot more by these hard ground the Pakistan’s Task realities, many Force on supplying LNG to Asia than Europe. eastern european exploitation of shale But even with all these hard ground countries have gas, Dr Gulfaraz, realities, many Eastern European insisted that United recently stated the States take the lead country has the countries have insisted that United in providing them potential to become States take the lead in providing with an alternate and the ninth largest them with an alternate and viable viable energy options nation in the world to offset Russian having shale gas energy options to offset Russian dominance and resources. The dominance and monopoly monopoly. estimates vary

Considering the benefits that shale can bring Pakistan – energy sufficiency, even net export ability – there should be little hesitation on part of the government. exploring and extracting shale. “It should only be used as a stop-gap arrangement for two to five years while shale infrastructure is put into place”. energy and security formed core points of the N-league’s campaign prior to the elections. Its security policy of appeasement, while moderately successful for those favouring its right-of-centre point of view, has drawn its share of criticism from numerous circles. With regard to energy, it is now seen as presented with an unprecedented opportunity. “It is a matter of priorities”, said engr Abbassi. “The whole world is moving towards shale. With Poland, even europe’s reluctance is beginning to lessen”. Such a significant shift will no doubt come with reluctance from the powerful oil lobby, whose interests will be hurt. But considering the benefits that shale can bring Pakistan – energy sufficiency, even net export ability – there should be little hesitation on part of the government. “Once political will is there, governments are far more powerful than lobbies and mafias”, added Dr Shah. “Shale will give us energy independence for a hundred years. It is the way of the future. The government should immediately grasp this opportunity”. g

depending on different sources but it is clearly a viable source of energy with a potential to make Pakistan significantly less dependent on foreign energy sources in decades to come. This is significant when Pakistan’s other significant energy projects, such as IranPakistan gas pipeline and TAPI, have fallen victim to international pressure and regional instability. On the other hand, Pakistan’s close ally China has by some estimates the largest reserves of shale gas/oil in the world. The nation is working on technologies and methods to bring the cost of exploration, material, and infrastructure down. Pakistan can learn from Chinese know-how and collaborate to exploit shale gas/oil proven reserves. The good news is that the first well for Tight gas, similar to shale gas, has started producing 15 million cubic feet per day of natural gas at Sajawal gas field in Kirthar block in Sindh province. This is indeed a major development connected to unconventional hydrocarbon energy extraction in Pakistan. The main focus for Pakistan is gaining energy security, which means diversifying the availability of different energy sources within and outside Pakistan, with emphasis on stability and affordability of prices for the consumers. Like the US, if Pakistan can increase its energy independence, it would also lead to economic prosperity, more leverage in the conduct of its foreign policy and managing foreign influences. This obviously requires strategic long-term thinking. g



Sunday, 30 March - 05 April, 2014


obama’s last throw of the dice in the Middle East Little in the region resembles the arrangement in place when Obama became president Shahab Jafry The writer is a Lahore-based journalist and can be reached at


erhaps it is appropriate that america has one of its youngest presidents in office while the Middle east experiences unprecedented political novelties. One more steeped in the old ways might have taken longer to shake off the paralysis that the arab spring brought to the White house. remember when Old Guard rummys and Cheneys ran the Bush administration? how they turned a blind eye to events set in motion by the sudden removal of the Ba’ath party – sectarian shift, shi’a crescent, Iran-saudi hostility, etc. and how, at the height of the ’06 Israel-hezbollah war, Condi rice justified Lebanese deaths as “birth pangs of a new Middle east”? Yet however much Washington tries to be proactive, its strategy amounts to little more than a wild throw of the dice. There haven’t been so many go-it-alone policies in the region for a long time. The egyptians are set for a return to the Mubarak model under sisi, which Washington is fine with, so there goes the old line about democracy, etc. and the death spasm of the arab spring has left religious-right parties like the Brotherhood to mourn the death of the hope that came with Mubarak’s fall. some would find that ironic, especially since the Brotherhood was nowhere to be seen when secular and leftist groups first filled Tahrir square. But all that is fine with the saudis; they never liked the ikhwan, and didn’t like them any more when they brought political not monarchical Islam to legitimately govern the largest arab country. They have routed billions to Cairo, just like they did whenever Mubarak needed help, as sisi’s army has rounded up whatever Brotherhood miscreants would give up, and shot most of the more unruly bunch that wouldn’t back down from its mini civil war. Qatar didn’t like that one bit, of course. It had flooded Morsi’s government with just as many billions and has always been close to the party. It even accepted hamas, an old Brotherhood offshoot that had subsequently bunked with the Iran-syria-hezbollah axis and headquartered in Damascus, when it broke off and sided with syrian rebels. But the saudis prefer Islamist militias, not


Islamic political parties that can assume power through a legitimate democratic process, to do their proxy bidding. They are also unhappy with the coverage al Jazeera has been giving the Brotherhood’s so called struggle against military oppression. and so we have had the first public fallout within the GCC, manifested in saudi arabia and the Uae recalling their ambassadors from Doha. More recently, sections of the arab press have reported that Qatar played a crucial role in the recent high profile case of having Greek Orthodox nuns released from rebel held Yamrud area in syria, adding that Doha might have paid in excess of forty million pounds for the deal. If true, this would mean Qatar has just gone out of its way to make Bashar asad’s government look good, after three years of actively trying to finance its defeat on the ground, especially after a string of victories has seen government forces clearly take the initiative. There are also reports of Qatar again being vocal disputed islands at an awkward time, particularly since such discussions will also feature Iran. and while Kuwait has remained neutral in the saudi-Qatari standoff, Oman has been cozying

The Egyptians are set for a return to the Mubarak model under Sisi, which Washington is fine with, so there goes the old line about democracy, etc up to Iran, even facilitating IranUs talks. all this, of course, while the Iran-saudi proxy war continues in syria, where hundreds of thousands have already died. If these issues weren’t enough for the Us president to consider, there is always Israel’s belligerence and Washington’s continued inability to get Tel aviv to rein in settlement expansion and move towards a two-state solution. Obama and Netanyahu’s personal dislike of each other, and how that led to a public, official campaign from Tel aviv against Obama’s reelection campaign, is another one of those Middle eastern novelties as unthinkable a few years ago as a street show of force ousting Ben ali and Mubarak. and the syrian war is allowing Israel new excesses. It

has carried out carefully timed and targeted airstrikes inside syria a number of times now, each time drawing empty threats. It is also becoming more adventurous around the Golan frontier, where the syrian army has not had regular deployments since the war demanded greater show of force further inland. and however much its interests are now aligned with saudi arabia, and whatever the degree of their cooperation in bringing down asad, the Muslim world will not tolerate any alteration of borders set after the ’73 Yom Kippur War. If anything, it will give al Qaeda patrons another excuse to flood another frontier with their allah akbar jihad. But with Tel aviv just as furious as riyadh over Washington’s soft position on syria and nuclear thaw with Tehran, Obama’s chances of arguing for calm with Israel are not very bright. Then there is Turkey, perhaps the best example of foolishly following the saudi line on syria. erdogan was actually good friends with Bashar. he was also hailed as the ideal Muslim leader, leading the ideal Muslim government. poised to join the eU and drawing praise for its “zero problems with neighbours” policy, Turkey was

trumpeted as the example to follow. Then ankara sided with syrian rebels, hosted syrian refugees, opened its borders, provided logistic and financial help to the Fsa, and believed Damascus would fall in six months, making way for expansion of the sunni Islamic model that the Brotherhood had just brought to egypt. But with his position proving false and Turks upset at paying for another country’s problems because of the prime minister’s

Obama and Netanyahu’s personal dislike of each other, and how that led to a public, official campaign from Tel Aviv against Obama’s reelection campaign, is another one of those Middle Eastern novelties as unthinkable a few years ago as a street show of force ousting Ben Ali and Mubarak.

personal feelings, his government began losing legitimacy just as the investment market turned against him, the lira weakened, and news of his personal corruption all but sidelined him as a political force. Not long ago he had won domestic praise for standing up to the Israelis, and Obama had personally intervened to get Netanyahu to apologise, if only to restore a working Muslim link with the Israelis since egypt was too deeply embroiled in its own problems at the time. such hopes now seem misplaced. Whatever public statements come out of Obama’s saudi tour – and the arabs, americans and Israelis seldom give out true public statements when together – the first order of business will be finding out where america stands with regard to the saudis in the new arrangement. The oil for security deal has defined whatever has happened in the Middle east, at least on the Muslim side, ever since Us president Franklin roosevelt and saudi King abdul aziz cruised the suez together aboard the Uss Quincy in ’45. But if Obama is willing to cajole Iran at the risk of alienating Israel when relations are already shaky, it seems he might just come down hard on saudi arabia too on what things will be like from here on. even that would be the slightest confirmation of consistency in a volatile and rapidly changing region. g


Sunday, 30 March - 05 April, 2014


The grand strategy nATO’s emerging response to russian advances

Arif AnsAr

The writer is chief analyst at PoliTact, a Washington-based futurist advisory firm ( He can be reached at:, and on Twitter at: @ArifAnsar


ebate has continued over what more NatO and european Union can do to punish Russia for taking over Crimea and to stop it from going any further. History is replete with similar scenarios with one or the other european power overstretched itself, based on false sense of the ground situation, while attempting to change borders and correct history. the fear is that appearing weak, or worse, not doing anything, can encourage further expansion that could later require an even bigger and costly response. Nonetheless, as noted in an earlier piece, the US considers european stability as the bedrock of its own security paradigm and Russian actions cannot simply be ignored. this is why President Obama has spent literally the whole week in europe meeting and assuring various allies, before heading to Saudi arabia. Clearly, the Middle east and asia Pacific have moved to the background for the time being as the european theater emerges as the center of gravity in world affairs. Strategic adjuStmentS For more than a decade major european powers and US have remained fixated on fighting terrorists in afPak, Middle east and North africa. In this, Russia has cooperated with the West, and just recently helped out in Syria as well. For the most part, however, China and Russia have stayed away from direct involvement in any of the conflicts connected with the campaign against terror. this helped them economically at a time when the west has been going through a major recession. It was this realisation, in addition to other factors, which has forced NatO and US to put matters in perspective and to evaluate what level of threat the extremists pose, and who the real strategic adversaries may be. this assessment brought in to limelight the ‘Pivot to the Pacific’ strategy and the importance of reinvigorating the NatO alliance in the aftermath of US withdrawal from Iraq and afghanistan. as the west and NatO go through this strategic adjustment and transition, turbulence in europe would have been the last thing to expect. In this regard, two angles have emerged: Russians took the steps sensing the american weakness and european divisions. the US has shifted its emphasis more and more towards political solutions to conflicts, especially recently in Syria and over the Iranian nuclear program. the other tangent being: the Russians were provoked to intervene so as to distract it from gaining in the Middle east, which it has begun to in places like Syria, egypt, and Iraq. Speaking in brussels on March 26th President Obama reiterated that europe would have to start thinking about diversifying its energy resources and reduce dependence on Russia. With the US already the largest producer of gas, it could certainly become one of the exporters. the challenge being the US is far from europe and that adds

to the transportation costs, plus there are still infrastructure limitations in this regard. Obama repeatedly highlighted european unity in dealing with Russian aggression. Future oF nato a case can be made that in the absence of any preeminent threat to europe, and with US withdrawal from Iraq and afghanistan, NatO alliance has been looking for a new mission. the recent NSa surveillance scandal has also ruffled up ties and disillusioned traditional european allies. In his speech, Obama emphasised that the US has remained concerned about NatO members cutting their defense budgets, and he made it clear that all members would have to ‘chip in’ to provide security for europe in the aftermath of Crimea. Irrespective of these factors, NatO takes on an additional significance as US begins a shift towards the asia Pacific. On the other hand, there has been growing worry amongst european and arab allies about what the american pivot to the Pacific means for them. this is why President Obama stressed in his address in brussels that the european partnership is the ‘cornerstone’ of american global engagement. In this context, the Russian takeover of Crimea represents a threat around which NatO and europe can coalesce. Furthermore, it could benefit US economically if eastern and western europe indeed starts to transfer their energy acquisitions from the US. europe and US are also engaged in finalising far reaching transatlantic free trade agreement to strengthen the linkages. However, this outlook does reflect the expendability of Middle east. europe and middle eaSt Declining american dependence on energy supplies from the Middle east, accompanied by the policy shift on Iran and Syria, plus a move to the Pacific, are more than enough reasons to cause paranoia in the Gulf region. Speaking last December at the Manama Dialog organised by IISS, the US Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel had assured the arab allies about the continued US presence in the region. “Our emphasis on diplomatic tools should not be misinterpreted. We know diplomacy cannot operate in a vacuum. Our success will continue to hinge on america’s military power, the credibility of our assurances to our allies and partners in the Middle east that we will use it,” he stated. He also referred to the kind of threats being confronted: “Many challenges that the region already faced, from violent

Declining American dependence on energy supplies from the Middle East, accompanied by the policy shift on Iran and Syria, plus a move to the Pacific, are more than enough reasons to cause paranoia in the Gulf region extremism to failed states to proliferation, have actually intensified, and destabilising actor, state and non-state actors alike, have adopted more and more advanced weaponry, weaponry from ballistic missiles to cyber capabilities.” there is evidence to suggest that other european powers are also moving in tandem with the US in the evolving strategy. For example, in april 2013, UK based think tank Royal United Services Institute (RUSI), presented a ‘Return to east of Suez’ policy brief. the paper suggests that britain is considering placing its land, sea, and air forces across the Middle east, for touch and go type operations. the report added that arab awakening, the situation of Iran and Syria, has made the Middle east highly volatile and britain is preparing policy options on how to respond. according to the RUSI report, the potential missions could be in support of the american and NatO operations, but could be taken independently as well. and, it goes on to ease european worries that britain is looking to operate outside of european security arrangements. In a larger framework, while the US is pivoting to the Pacific, UK appears to be taking on a backstopping role in the Middle east. Meanwhile, in June 2013, Putin declared that Russia will maintain a permanent naval presence in the area as well. “this is a strategically important region and we have tasks to carry out there to provide for the national security of the Russian Federation,” he had stated. Similarly, French troops arrived in Mali at the beginning of 2013 to conduct counter terror activity and the footprint has been increasing ever since. Politact had noted at the time that this move would likely be matched by other european powers. that has indeed been taking place with the French, Scandinavians, american, and eU troops

getting involved in the conflict of Central african Republic. it’S not juSt about crimea thus what happened in Ukraine and Crimea have wider connections and it would be naïve to think that only european dynamics are at play. While Russia may have seen american weakness in the Middle east, the US may want to distract the bear recognising its leverage. european economic recession, accompanied by resurgence in nationalist fervour, does not reflect well on the future of the european Union. History tells us that anemic fiscal conditions accompanied by resurgence of nationalism can be a combustible mixture. the risk is that the crisis developing over Ukraine and Crimea may cause western powers to compete with each other, and shift the tensions to other regions of the world. this will then also test

Speaking in Brussels on March 26th President Obama reiterated that Europe would have to start thinking about diversifying its energy resources and reduce dependence on Russia. With the US already the largest producer of gas, it could certainly become one of the exporters the resilience of Russian-Chinese ties. a Chinese expert Vasily Kashin, who at the analysis of Strategies and technologies (CaSt) think tank, told Reuters recently, “the worse Russia’s relations are with the west, the closer Russia will want to be to China. If China supports you, no one can say you’re isolated.” europe and South aSia early indications of what this focus towards europe means for South asia came to the fore this week when US decided to shift $10 million from Pakistan’s aid towards supporting Ukraine. Surprisingly, the coverage of critical afghan election on april 5 is also not getting due attention in western capitals. Meanwhile, Putin thanked China and India for their understanding on the Ukraine crisis; both have refrained from criticising Russia directly. g 11


Sunday, 30 March - 05 April, 2014


Cricket diplomacy Abayas: What’s Unifying South Asia in bigotry, not to love? jingoism and xenophobia


e have known for a long time that there is no unifying factor greater than the game of cricket – at least in South Asia. Cricketing diplomacy has for long solved matters between India and Pakistan, and one feels disputes like Wullar Barrage could well be settled over a T20 game. Of course who gets to influence Afghanistan might need an ODI series, while Kashmir can only be settled through a Test championship. Cricket can obviously solve all prevalent issues in South Asia. Over the past month or so, South Asia has once again proven how cricket is the biggest unifying factor in the region. Just when one thought Afghanistan and Pakistan might run away with extremist titles, along comes Meerut’s Swami Vivekanand Subharti University (SVSU) and suspends 67 Kashmiri students for cheering Pakistan’s victory against India in the Asia Cup. When SVSU realised how ridiculous the suspension was and tried to overturn it, self proclaimed atheist Javed Akhtar tweeted how those Kashmiris should actually be rusticated and sent to Kashmir. Pakistan meanwhile offered the Kashmiri students spots in its own universities if they were having trouble in India. Now this episode proved to be a unifier because: It showed India can outdo Pakistan in terms of bigotry of a new kind: cricketing xenophobia. It forced Pakistanis to act hypocritically and pretend to be the saviours of Kashmiris, despite having left

its own minorities to rot. If any of those 67 students were Ahmadis, would they still be equally welcome? Javed Akhtar proved how religion quite clearly is not the only cause behind bigotry. And how these self proclaimed “atheists” and “humanists” have just as much jingoism and manifest as much ‘holier than thou’ attitude as your average Joe mullah. It also could have given the Kashmiris yet another example of how their future should neither be dependent on India nor on Pakistan. Both of them are equally hungry, egocentric vultures. All these points of course combine to conjure the same result: South Asians are a bunch of xenophobic bigots, and no matter how much you resist generalisations, they would force you into it. Just like on the cricket pitch, Bangladesh seemed to have fallen way down the pecking order on the pitch of bigotry as well. However, their resurgence on the later is considerably more conspicuous than on the former. And while the nation collectively mulls over banning Jamaat-e-Islami – you know to send a statement out to the extremists – Sheikh Haseena Wajid, the Prime Minister of Bangladesh, put a ban on Bangladeshis against flying flags of foreign countries. She was quite clearly upset by seeing all those Bangladeshis supporting Pakistan in the matches against India and Australia. This ban, even though has since been overturned, along with the suspension of Kashmiri students in India, has taken secular Bangladesh and secular India to depths of bigotry that even extremist Pakistan has never fallen to. While India was hammering Pakistan, there were Pakistanis who donned the Indian uniform in Karachi celebrating their favourite team’s victory. Pakistan seems to have more cricketing tolerance than India or Bangladesh. Who would have thought! Of course what the Bangladeshi prime minister was actually vying to ensure was that in a potential India versus Pakistan world cup final, the crowd would only be flying Bangladeshi flags. This of course would be the greatest exhibition of unity the world has ever seen, because after all, India, Pakistan and Bangladesh were once one single bunch of bigoted people. Now they are forced into being jingoistic separately. We are still not sure as to what message flying Bangladeshi flags in a match between england and Australia would have sent out though. g The writer has served as ambassador to Pitchistan and Boundarydesh. He is known as the Henry Kissinger of the cricketing world. All aftereffects of reading The Horizontal Column are the readers’ headache.


Let’s make abayas cool again!

Luavut Zahid The writer is a journalist based in Lahore. Her writings focus on current affairs and crisis response. She can be reached at, she tweets @luavut


ArdAy mein rehne du pardah na uthao. That needs to be our new mantra as of right now. It’s about time we stopped giving abayas all this heat for no reason. Sure it may get hot inside an abaya anyway, but that’s not the kind of heat we’re talking about. We need to stop this yahoodi jihad against a tool that is meant to promote modesty. Sure, your average Joe might tell you that it’s instead being used by patriarchal uncles as a tool of oppression, but get real. Many women will tell you that it’s their personal choice to adorn themselves in these glorious robes fit for queens. Let’s forget about the oppressed women for a second. Yes, yes, they make up a substantial population of the Muslim world, but not everything is about them. Geez! Does anyone have any idea the amount of money and time one can save because of the existence of abayas? You go on and on about how women are caged, but they are truly liberated only while using an abaya. To never have to shower again, to never have to wash one’s hair again, to be able to use perfumes like no one’s business – is that not every man’s dream? Well, it’s a gift from men to women. Imagine the amount of cash you can use for other stuff instead of wasting it on fancy shampoos and conditioners. However, people have their own preferences. For ladies who are fans of bathing regularly the abaya still promises to be the perfect beauty companion. All the dirt, dust and pollution around us is ruining our skin and hair. Our mothers had fat braids and glowing skins, and we’re left with a hankering for the next fair and lovely ad campaign. An abaya protects the hair from all this nonsense and leaves a woman’s hair feeling soft, light and absolutely fresh. Of course let’s not pretend why we really love those abayas, ladies. Who wouldn’t want to instantly get elevated to the status of a pious being? You want people to fear you? To respect you? To want to be like you? Well the abaya

takes care of all of that in one good sweep. The best part is that once a woman puts on her abaya, she immediately becomes better than everyone else around – especially women that don’t bother with keeping their modesty safe. The look on people’s faces is absolutely priceless when they realise that God chose to save the ladies in black. The right path definitely has its own perks. Who would dare interrupt you in your holiness as long as you look great in your favourite type of two piece? Did you know that women who wear abayas are never harassed on the roads? Tharkees who would hit on a rock that looked like a woman back away when they see such a woman. She is their sister, she is their pride. Women in abayas are also never raped. It’s a fool proof strategy for people who are in dire need of protecting modesty. A lot of people slam on abaya clad women when they interact with men, lekin unka dil nai hai kya? In fact as soon as you strap yourself into one of these brilliant things you can talk to just about any guy you want without having to worry about being labelled into “those” kinds of women. You know, the ones who go ahead and talk to men anyway even though they have nothing to conceal their real identities. But modesty isn’t the only thing you can achieve with these lovely things. What good is an abaya if you can’t go a little crazy and have fun with it? It doesn’t matter what you wear underneath and you don’t have to follow any boring social norms either. But forget what’s inside, it’s what’s on the outside that counts. Abayas don’t have to be boring old black form subduing things anymore. You can opt for a form flattering number or find something with just the right amount of oomph needed to grab everyone’s attention. You might like the classic vampy look with smoky eye makeup that will help you lock in the gaze of anyone you want. Now some people will try to abaya-sham you into getting something simpler, but thumb your beautifully concealed nose at these depraved souls and move on. These fahash women can spend Rs50,000 on designer dresses but a well made abaya which costs half as much becomes a thorn in their side when it’s spent for Allah Mian. There are so many perks of abayas that it would take around a thousand articles to just articulate maybe half. They also double as aids for crossing busy roads. With an abaya you can literally close your eyes and start walking and all the cars, trucks, bikes, etc will screech to a halt in your honour. It’s about time women got over having to look left and right before crossing a road. The list could go on and on; it’s absolutely endless. g


Sunday, 30 March - 05 April, 2014


Spy agencies, not politicians, hold the cards in Washington The CIA and NSA routinely ignore the law and Constitution themselves but want the Justice Department to protect them from an over-reaching Congress. The “House of Cards” is playing for laughs. Which side will President Obama take in this fight? WIllIam GreIder


NatioN, USa

am addicted to House of Cards, the British and American versions, but I suggest that both TV series have been looking at the wrong game. On television, the story line is about a wicked political schemer, accompanied by his wicked wife, who climbs to the ultimate perch of power—prime minister or president—through fiendishly malevolent manipulations, including homicide. In the real world of Washington, however, politicians look more like impotent innocents compared to their true masters. It is the spooks and the spies who shuffle the deck and deal the cards. They hide their cut-throat intrigues behind bland initials—the CIA and the NSA. In recent weeks, a lurid reallife melodrama has been playing out in the nation’s capital that has the flavor of old-fashioned conspiracy theories. The two clandestine agencies are the true puppet masters. It is elected politicians, even the president, who are puppets dancing on a string. I hope the TV writers are taking notes. This would make a swell plot outline for a third season of the popular drama—”House of Cards, the Reality TV Version.” The plot begins a decade ago in the bad years after 9/11 when the CIA embraced global torture in the war against terrorism. Official Washington was traumatized by the attack and looked the other way, pretending not to know what the spooks were doing. The men in black plucked various “terrorists” off the Arab Street and shipped them to less squeamish countries around the world where the US agents could use medieval methods for pain and punishment, techniques officially prohibited by US law. The political system was at first shocked when gruesome details were exposed by vigilant reporters. But soon enough the spooks were being celebrated as our anonymous heroes—sticking it to the bad guys, satisfying the popular thirst for revenge. CIA operatives even taped the cruelty for agency archives. The torturers even got their own popular TV show called 24. The Bush administration issued far-fetched legal justifications explaining their torture wasn’t illegal torture. The press backed off a bit and began gingerly noting differences of opinion on waterboarding and sleep deprivation.

Eventually, as truth caught up with official lies and the long war in Iraq was exposed as another gigantic fraud, Americans lost their stomach for lawlessness in Washington. The CIA discreetly destroyed its torture tapes (a pity since this would have been terrific footage for the TV show). The Agency denied everything and promised not to do it again. The new president took their word for it. In a forgiving tone, Obama urged Americans not to be obsessed with old controversies. Congress assured the nation that the Intelligence Committees of House and Senate were exceedingly vigilant and they would scold the CIA vigorously if it ever lied again (details, alas, were kept “classified” so as not to aid the enemy). Public affairs in Washington might have settled down to usual pretensions of “straight talk” except that some high-minded computer geeks came along and blew the doors off government secrecy. First, it was the notorious Wikileaks gang that posted reams of official government documents on the Internet, lighting bonfires of indignation around the world. Reading the private cables from US embassies or the text of a secretly negotiated trade agreement is an educational experience. It desanctifies the lofty legends of diplomacy. Next it was Citizen Snowden who came forward with the crown jewels of secrets—the shocking dimensions of the National Security Agency’s digital invasion of privacy. The government really is listening to your daily pedestrian talk, recording our intimate thoughts. For many years, the people who believed this were usually also hearing voices from God and the Wizard of Oz. Now it is established that Americans at large are in the files, their phone calls conveniently recorded for the spooks and spies, should the government agencies find a reason to know more about you. The agency says it won’t do this (unless really, really necessary to save the nation). But we also learned the agency lies, not just to you and me, but to congressional inquiries. The NSA and the CIA, though sometimes rivals for power, can be thought of as the “evil twins” of government bureaucracy— licensed to trample on the Bill of Rights in the name of protecting the nation from alien forces. The two agencies are joined at the hip by this new storm of staggering revelations. Both are trying awkwardly to maintain their Cold War mystique but the storm threatens to blow away their “house of cards.” Puppet-like

politicians are exposed as utterly incompetent watchdogs. The puppet masters don’t look so smart either. What’s promising is they are turning on each other. Senator Dianne Feinstein, chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee and long-loyal apologist for the spy agencies, accused the CIA of spying on her committee’s belated investigation into the torture scandal. CIA Director John Brennan turned around and put the blame on her, actually accusing her committee staff of snooping on the agency. He even filed a complaint with the Justice Department and asked for a criminal investigation of the congressional oversight committee. Feinstein in turn asked Justice to investigate Brennan. This is truly weird. A Huffington Post headline captured the absurdity: “ Senators Okay with Spying on Citizens, But Outraged It Happened to Congress.” You can turn it around and make the same point. The CIA and NSA routinely ignore the law and Constitution themselves but want the Justice Department to protect them from an over-reaching Congress. The “House of Cards” is playing for laughs. Which side will President Obama take in this fight? Meanwhile, Citizen Snowden

continues his educational campaign with more bracing revelations about the National Security Agency. Thanks to Snowden, The Washington Post reported that the NSA has built a surveillance system that can record “100 percent” of a foreign country’s telephone calls—every single phone conversation. The voice interception program is called MYSTIC. Its official emblem portrays a gnarly wizard in a purple robe and pointy hat, holding a cell phone aloft. Do they think this is a Saturday morning cartoon? “At the request of US officials, The Washington Post is withholding details that could be used to identify the country where the program is being employed or other countries where its use was envisioned,” the story said. Furthermore, the Post reported that at least five other countries are listed for potential use of the same total collection though the Post doesn’t name them either. Each month, the newspaper reported, NSA analysts send millions of voice clippings for processing and longterm storage. So which countries in the world are getting “hoovered” everyday by Washington? Russia or China? Maybe both? Or a trading rival like Germany? Whatever the agencies claim, we know not to take their denials too

seriously. They lie when they think they need to lie, even to their supposed overseers. But Snowden and associates certainly know the answer. They could conduct a worldwide contest or conversation of their own—asking people to guess. Or Snowden can simply make the revelation and prepare to take a lot of heat from the desktop warriors in Washington. The more I thought about it, I kept coming back to the homeland. Maybe the NSA is listening to the USA. It cannot say so for obvious reasons but the premium value of turning the MYSTIC wizard loose on fellow Americans would be fantastic. Maybe for national security purposes or maybe for the NSA-CIA’s own security. Sounds outlandish, I know, but if the NSA can listen to the cell phone of Angela Merkel in Germany, it can undoubtedly listen in on Barack Obama in Washington. I am not making an accusation but asking the question describes the true depth of distrust the government has brought upon itself. Where is the president in all this? Mostly limp and unpersuasive so far in very restrained responses. He didn’t fire the CIA director nor the NSA director though both have lied to Congress and the public, and are obvious candidates for blame. The president did not launch a seriously independent inquiry nor does he seem to understand that, whether or not it’s fair, the blame falls at his feet. Why didn’t he get angry? Because he knows the secrets, he is therefore vulnerable to reprisal. The spies may not have tapped the White House phones but they do know what he knows and can always make use of it. This is the very core of the card game played by the intelligence agencies and it didn’t start with Barack Obama. When any new president comes to town, he is told the secrets first thing and continuously. The briefings can be chilling but also thrilling. Ultimately, it can also be slyly coopting to learn what the government knows only at the very highest level. As the agencies take the White House deeper and deeper into the black box, it becomes harder for a president to dissent. It also makes it riskier to do so. The CIA or NSA know what he heard and know what he said when he learned the secrets. If the president decides to condemn their dirty work, the spooks and spies can leak to the press how in the privacy of the Oval Office the commander-in-chief gave the green light. g 13


Sunday, 30 March - 05 April, 2014


The real model of democratic Islam is rapidly crumbling The country is now so deeply polarized between those who love Erdogan and those who can’t stand him that it is equally clear that it cannot heal as long as he remains in power Claudio Gallo



t the end of this week month there will be a very special rendezvous in turkey. the local elections March 30 will decide not only the new mayors of Istanbul, Ankara and Izmir, among others: after the current season of scandals and rampant authoritarianism, it will be a crucial test to assess whether Prime Minister Erdogan is still able to play the old game. the dream of a moderate Islamism ‘alla turca’ is indeed crumbling away. to understand how we got to this point, we have to take a step back. Once upon a time, there was the Demo-Islamic New Wave with the round face and the moustache of Erdogan. Many analysts believed they were seeing the avatar of the old Western DemoChristian party in Janissary disguise: religion ‘ma non troppo’, always at the center against the opposite extremisms. turkish businessmen started to uncork bottles of (nonalcoholic) champagne: the AKP, the Islamic party, had some little manias, like introducing the headscarf in universities and to ban every drop of wine, but it was bowing ecstatically in front of the market’s dogma. For the Islamists, the economy’s numbers were turning in medals. All pious and honest people, not like the old Kemalist, secular cynics always expecting a little help to grease the gears of bureaucracy. Foreign Minister Davutoglu brilliantly invented a long term politics that someone called neoOttoman. the first corollary was: zero problems with our neighbors. Friends of Iranians and Israelis alike. At home, they opened a promising dialogue with the Kurds, until recently still called ‘turks of the mountains’. the result was that the long lists of dead soldiers in the war against the separatists almost disappeared. When in 2011 the socalled Arab Springs exploded, turkey was already a model ready to be exported. With the Arab uprisings, however, the perfect image began to melt away. A model cannot afford ambiguities, but Erdogan was very wavering about Libya and Egypt. Gaddafi’s Libya meant a lot of dollars, the Egypt of Mubarak was on the verge of signing a huge free trade pact with Ankara: business and revolt did not get along. Embarrassed by the loyalty due to his NAtO partners, in Libya Erdogan tried at the last round to propose himself as an unlikely mediator and in Egypt


jumped on the bandwagon of the Muslim Brotherhood. the alliance with the Brothers was cemented by the beginning of civil war in Syria. turkey became the main military rear line of the international cartel against Assad. Farewell Zero Problems with Our Neighbors. the good relations with Iran, the principal supporter of Damascus, collapsed with Syria. the deadly Israeli assault on the Mavi Marmara, the ship of pro-Palestinian turkish activists trying to break the blockade of Gaza, led Ankara to break relations with Israel. America was watching the old ally with increasing apprehension, which, however, in the case of Syria remained essential. the willingness of Ankara to purchase some Chinese missiles has been the final irritation for Washington and NAtO. Problems at home At home, Erdogan got rid of the generals’ power early. the Army used to be the true masters of turkish politics (three coups and two half-coups from 1960 to 1997) with a series of shady trials for conspiracy. the ‘diversity’ of the Islamic party was beginning to crumble, the sin of corruption unexpectedly found breeding ground among the pious Islamists. the government showed a growing annoyance with the democratic rules, especially against journalists, who never bowed enough. the country started to boil over and divide into two opposing camps. Last year, the people’s protests to save Gezi Park, an ancient Ottoman garden in Istanbul, from being cemented over, led to a series of protests across the country, brutally crushed by police. the result was 11 people dead and over 8,000 injured. In this atmosphere, the rupture grows between Erdogan and his crucial ally, Fethullah Guelen, a former turkish Imam retired in the Holy Land of Pennsylvania. the movement of Guelen (to tell the truth he has just explained that it is not a movement but a network...) popularly called Hizmet (volunteer services) is a moderate Islamic organization, active throughout Asia to Xinjiang in China. Some observers, such as the former FBI translator Sibel Edmonds, say that it has deep ties to the CIA.

For the American Imam, Erdogan was guilty of having broken off relations with Israel, but the last casus belli was the proposed closure by the government of the University prep schools, controlled by 30 percent from the Islamic network. Hizmet has legions of members in the police, the judiciary, the turkish bureaucracy, in the same majority party: now the prime minister has discovered that it is ‘a parallel state’. As it happens, shortly after the political divorce, the police discovered a huge corruption scandal involving several sons of AKP ministers. More than a plot it seems like revenge. Investigators began to perceive some strange traffic that before was apparently out of their radar. the reaction of the sultan was furious: 10,000 policemen and magistrates where transferred, the judicial power was crushed under the heel of political power. the (allegedly) most explosive tapping arrived in December: like a script from a Scorsese Mafia movie, Erdogan and his son, Bilal, speak about hundreds of millions of euro and dollars to be transferred from the family houses, before someone decides to go and take a look around. Bilal burst out at one point: “We still need to get rid of another 30 million euro.” A really tough job. A furious Erdogan said on tV that it was a plot to smear him. the Western media was cautious; the BBC noted that the voice of the leader in the wire-tapping was weak and uncertain, not peremptory as usual. the very fact that the prime minister made a rhetorical joke about the next possible leak of tapes about sexual conversations (excusatio non petita, accusatio manifesta, said the

Romans: ‘an unprovoked excuse is a sign of guilt’) has thrown the turkish public opinion in a frantic wait for the new tapping. Locked inside his disdain for the ‘conspiracies’, Erdogan has just made another terrible mistake by expressing not a word of regret for the death, a few days ago, of Berkin Elvan. Even worse, when he finally chose to speak, he said: “the boy’s death has not hurt the economy.” Berkin was a 15-year-old boy, who was going to buy some bread in the turbulent days of clashes in Istanbul’s Gezi Park. A tear gas canister smashed his head; he remained in a coma for nine months before his death. to make the story more disturbing is the fact that the guy was an Alevi, i.e. that he belonged to a Shiite minority. Erdogan has often talked offensively about Alevis, letting it transpire that he does not consider them Muslims. all a-twitter Erdogan’s latest show of strength was to try to ban twitter in turkey, one of the more effective sources of criticism in his regard. Western media didn’t believe their eyes: an occasion to show themselves as paladins of free speech. Even President Guel had to break his silence and declare: “I hope that the ban will not last.” “Erdogan’s authoritarian tendencies have been evident for a long time,” says Jeremy Salt, history professor at Ankara Bilkent University, author of one of the best books on the modern history of the Middle East, ‘the Unmaking of the Middle East’, “but they have accelerated since leaked conversations last year implicated the sons of senior ministers, and ministers themselves, in wide-scale corruption. By interfering with the internet and taking direct control of the judiciary, as he did last year after the Gezi Park protests, Erdogan is accusing outside forces, and an assortment of internal enemies, of trying to damage turkey through their attacks on him. Local elections are due on March 30, and the tempo of political events can be expected to be maintained until then. these elections will be a pointer to national voting tendencies but whenever it happens, how it happens and how long it takes, it is clear that the Erdogan era is drawing to an end. the country is now so deeply polarized between those who love Erdogan and those who can’t

stand him, that it is equally clear that it cannot heal as long as he remains in power.” Economics Professor Buhran Senatalar, of Instanbul Bilgi University, thinks the same, that the danger is the polarization of the country. “In turkey the rule of law itself is in danger. During its rallies, the majority party is using very aggressive and violent language against every kind of opposition. We are bound to a risky polarization between the ones who stand by Erdogan and the others. In the coming elections the government AKP party will consider maintaining 40 percent of the vote as a victory. the great game is between the three big cities of Ankara, Izmir and Istanbul. the polls are saying that Izmir is in the hands of CHP, the socialdemocratic party of opposition, Istanbul is in the middle and Ankara is very disputed. If the CHP reaches 30 percent it will be a victory. If the AKP goes below 40 per cent, Erdogan will have many reasons to worry,” he said. “(Erdogan) is not a man without resources,” wrote Henri J. Barkey, professor of International Relations at Lehigh University. He is quite capable of engendering a crisis of sorts, international or domestic, to distract attention and to rally the troops around him. It is also possible that, barring a manufactured crisis, serious reversals in the municipal elections - including the possible losses of Istanbul, his home base, and Ankara, to the opposition will provoke a move against him within his own party. Already some in the party are secretly hoping that President Abdullah Gul, also a founding member of AKP, will intervene. “there is no question that Erdogan is in a fight for his political life, but the ground is rapidly shifting under him. the crisis is taking a toll on the economic life of the country. No amount of bombastic recriminations against real and imaginary enemies can undo the momentous damage done to his and turkey’s reputation, the rule of law, and confidence in sound crisis management - all necessary ingredients for a country to move ahead in a globalized world.” the big danger now is that Erdogan chooses to embrace a political adventure to try to distract attention from his scandals. the growing tension at the Syrian border, with a Syrian jet just shot down by turkish Army and the constant support of turkish artillery to the rebels near the border, are not a good sign. g Claudio Gallo is a journalist, currently working as a Culture editor at La Stampa, where he also was foreign desk editor and London correspondent. His main interest is Middle East politics.


Sunday, 30 March - 05 April, 2014


Why 'londongrad' weighs on Britain's russia policy

Extraordinary Russian wealth has accumulated in London, much of it of questionable origins. Inevitably, it will be factored into British decisions in the showdown with Vladimir Putin erIC alBert


le MoNde

HEY are the most expensive and luxurious flats in the whole of London. Their ultramodern bay windows offer an unobstructed view onto Hyde Park. An underground corridor connects them to the Mandarin Oriental, the palace where Michelin-starred chef Heston Blumenthal has one of his prized restaurants. In total, the 76 apartments in One Hyde Park, a building designed by legendary architect Richard Rogers, were sold for $2.4 billion, an average of $30 million dollars each, according to an investigation conducted by Nicholas Shaxson, author of a book on tax havens. This is also the location that pro-European Ukrainians chose to demonstrate several times over the last few months. Among the owners of this luxury temple are Rinat Akhmetov — Ukraine's richest man with significant political influence, who Forbes estimates has accumulated a personal fortune of $12.5 billion. Akhmetov is not the only representative of the Russian sphere of influence to have invested in One Hyde Park. Irina Viktorovna Kharitonina and Viktor

Kharitonin, the co-owners of a large Russian pharmaceutical company, have two flats there. Construction magnate Vladislav Doronin is one of their neighbors. As for Alastair Tulloch, a British lawyer close to Russian circles, his name is listed as the owner of four apartments, whose real owners' names are hidden behind a shadowy organization. The British capital is the major financial center for oligarchs from Russia and all former Soviet states, and is now sometimes referred to as "Londongrad." According to estate agency Knight Frank, Russian buyers represent 10% of luxury residences, while some 60% of the new files opened by the London Chamber of Commerce & Industry come from Russia or Eastern Europe. The extraordinary court case between Roman Abramovich, the owner of London's soccer club Chelsea FC, and Boris Berezovsky, a famous opponent to Putin who died last year, also took place in London. "A lot of oligarchs bring to London vast quantities of money and use this city as their headquarters to manage their personal wealth," says John Christensen from the association Tax Justice Network, who suspects that much of the wealth flow winds up circulating through money laundering. A merchant banker, specialized

ted Galen Carpenter NatioNal iNterest Vice President Joe Biden has become the Obama administration’s point man to reassure nervous NATO allies, especially those on Russia’s frontier, in the aftermath of Moscow’s seizure of Crimea. Following a trip to Poland, the vice president went to the Baltic republics. Standing side by side with the leaders of Latvia and Lithuania at a press conference in Vilnius, Biden reminded Russia that article 5 of the North Atlantic Treaty considers an attack on any NATO member to be an attack on all. He added that the United States was “absolutely committed” to defending its allies. “We’re in this with you, together,” he told the Baltic leaders. Those comments confirm that U.S. policymakers have apparently forgotten NATO’s original strategic purpose. Indeed, they have apparently forgotten what the purpose should be of any U.S. military alliance: to enhance the security of the American republic. The commitments to NATO easternmost members threaten to do the opposite: greatly increase the risks to America for the most meager possible benefits. Despite the diplomatic froth about transAtlantic solidarity and the promotion of Western values during the Cold War, NATO had a straightforward strategic rationale. It was a mechanism to keep a major economic and strategic prize, Western Europe, out of the orbit of an aggressively expansionist totalitarian power, the Soviet Union. That was a rational goal for the United States, especially given the global circumstances at the time. Adding Western Europe’s economic and military capabilities to those of the USSR would have drastically altered the global balance of power and created the specter of an isolated, beleaguered United States. American leaders were willing to incur even dire risks to prevent Moscow from making

in Russian business, confirms this implicitly. "A lot of Russian activities are legal and the laundering doesn't necessarily take place in London because it's too visible, but it's indeed here that the lawyers, the legal experts and counsellors are." Since it concerns illegal money, it is impossible to accurately say how much this represents. However, even Russia's Central Bank has estimated that two-thirds of the capital that leaves the country come from illegal activities. According to Tax Justice Network, capital flight in Russia over the last 30 years is as high as $798 billion. Another clue for this is that most foreign investments made in Russia come from Cyprus, the British Virgin Islands, Bermuda and the Netherlands (via the Dutch Antilles). In other words, tax havens, most of them directly under London's jurisdiction. "For the most part, it's laundered money that comes back to Russia," accuses Ben Judah, author of the book Fragile

Empire: How Russia Fell In And Out of Love With Vladimir Putin. Worse still, even oligarchs accuse each other. Alexander Lebedev, who earned his fortune in finance and owns the British dailies London Evening Standard and The Independent, wrote in a Feb. 26 op-ed in The New York Times that Andrei Borodin, a former chief executive of Bank of Moscow who now lives in Britain, is someone who "can continue to live off the proceeds of their crimes." Borodin rejects all accusations of corruption. According to Judah, Russian money now influences British authorities. He underlines the fact that oligarchs are well integrated in

Are the Baltic states next? the region a satellite, however remote that outcome might seem to us in retrospect. NATO’s relevance to the United States declined dramatically with the collapse of the Soviet Union. One cannot legitimately equate today’s Russia, with an aging, declining population, a military with many antiquated components, and merely the world’s eighth-largest economy, to the capabilities the USSR possessed during its heyday. Russia is a conventional, secondtier power that has some regional interests and ambitions, but it is not even remotely a global expansionist threat, much less a totalitarian expansionist threat. That reality should have impelled the United States to give NATO a retirement party at the end of the Cold War, transferring responsibility for Europe’s defense to the principal European powers and, gradually, to the European Union. Instead, U.S. and NATO leaders scrambled to find an alternative mission to keep the alliance in business. They soon settled on an especially dangerous one—expanding NATO into Central and Eastern Europe, eventually to the borders of the Russian Federation itself. Critics warned that such a move created needless new risks for the United States, and that some of the commitments virtually invited a challenge from Russia once it had regained some strength. That is precisely what has happened, and Biden’s reassurances threaten to make a perilous situation even more so. Although Soviet leaders might have harbored some doubts that the United States would risk nuclear war to defend Western Europe, that region’s importance made the U.S. commitment reasonably credible. In any case, it was simply too chancy for the Kremlin to assume that Washington was bluffing. But Washington’s current pledge to

undertake such a grave risk merely to defend such tiny allies as the Baltic republics from a noncommunist Russia is far less credible. Those countries have little strategic or economic relevance to the United States. Conversely, because of historical and geographic factors, they have considerable importance to Moscow. That is a bad combination for the credibility of a U.S. defense commitment. Vladimir Putin has already demonstrated that he will not cower in the face of U.S. geopolitical moves in Russia’s neighborhood. That point became apparent already in 2008, when Moscow responded to provocations in Georgia by launching a military offensive. The Kremlin did so even though Washington had increasingly treated Georgia as a de facto ally and spoke openly of pushing NATO membership for that country. Once fighting erupted, elements of the Georgian military and population apparently believed that NATO would come to their rescue. Except for imposing a few largely ineffectual economic sanctions, though, the United States tamely accepted Russia’s move to sever and protect two of Georgia’s secessionist-minded provinces. The recent takeover of Crimea marked a significant escalation of Moscow’s determination to defend and consolidate its sphere of influence in Eastern Europe. This time, Putin not only scorned an implicit U.S. security relationship with a client state (as he did regarding Georgia) he openly defied repeated, pointed U.S. warnings. And again, the U.S. response has been anemic and little more than symbolic, suggesting that such warnings are merely a bluff. Given that track record, it would not be a shock if at some point the Kremlin decided to press its interests regarding the Baltic republics. Russian-speaking

the upper echelons of British society, partly because they send their children to the most expensive private schools. There are 2,150 Russian children in the biggest boarding houses, representing tuition fees of about $97 million per year. "The British elite have a hedge-fund mentality. They don't produce anything but live off annuities they take on foreign money, including from Russia," he claims. In these conditions, imposing sanctions that would weaken The City is out of the question. On March 3, Hugh Powell, deputy national security adviser, revealed this by accident, as he was on his way to meet Prime Minister David Cameron at 10 Downing Street. The memo he was holding was photographed, and amongst other things, it said that London's financial center should not be closed to Russians. The discovery left Ben Judah infuriated. "As long as the United Kingdom continues to launder money, it will remain a partner to Russia." g

inhabitants in both Estonia and Latvia (descendants of settlers sent by Moscow during the Soviet era) have long complained about discrimination at the hands of their governments. Putin has an ideal pretext if he wishes to try to pry those countries out of the Western orbit. True, it would entail a greater risk than his adventures in Georgia and Ukraine, given NATO’s explicit Article 5 security guarantees to members. But Putin has already shown himself to be a bit of a gambler. Any Russian coercive moves against the Baltic republics would create an ugly choice for Washington between a bad outcome and worse one. The bad outcome would be to back down in the face of a Crimea-style action against a NATO member. That would be a humiliation for the United States and raise serious doubts about Washington’s other security commitments. A worse outcome, though, would be to try to fulfill the article 5 pledge and risk a catastrophic war against a nuclear-armed adversary over meager geopolitical stakes. It was appallingly bad judgment for U.S. policymakers to put their country in such a position. Military allies are supposed to augment American power and improve the security position of the United States. The goal should not be to collect allies simply for the sake of collecting allies, regardless of the costs and risks involved. Acquiring an assortment of weak, vulnerable security clients masquerading as useful allies is the height of folly. They are dangerous strategic liabilities, not assets. Yet that is what Washington has done by pushing NATO’s expansion into Russia’s traditional sphere of influence. g Ted Galen Carpenter, a senior fellow at the Cato Institute and a contributing editor to The National Interest. His books on NATO include Beyond NATO: Staying Out of Europe’s Wars (1994), NATO Enlargement: Illusions and Reality (1998), and NATO Enters the 21st Century (2001). 15


Sunday, 30 March - 05 April, 2014


‘america is acting like a third world country’ Lunch with Prince Turki al-Faisal

Edward LucE


Financial Times

e have arranged to have lunch at the Occidental Grill & Seafood, a smart restaurant very near the White House. Having been head of Saudi Arabia’s General Intelligence Directorate (GID) for 24 years – stepping down in 2001 just 10 days before the 9/11 attacks – Turki is probably the most experienced spy on the planet. Since then he has been Saudi Arabia’s ambassador to the UK and Ireland and then to the United States. Now he runs a think-tank in Riyadh, the King Faisal Centre for Research and Islamic Studies, and travels the world giving lectures and meeting friends. Turki is in town for several weeks to lecture at Georgetown University, which he attended as an undergraduate (leaving in 1968). Turki is keen to get back to his thoughts on America.“There are certain characteristics about Americans that I find constant,” he says. “One of them is a tremendous curiosity about you. They want to know more about you – they ask about your family. It is a quality that brings you closer to them.” ******* As our dishes arrive – both courses are put on the table at once – I ask what he thinks has changed in the US over the years. “When I was here in the 1960s, LBJ was still president – he had it all. He did the Great Society, internal social reform, expansion of the welfare state, he also conducted a massive external war in Vietnam – 500,000 Americans were there,” he says. But things have changed. America is now in an era of choices, yet it seems incapable of making them. “In Johnson’s days when I was in college, he was very good at bringing in the Republicans to support him,” says Turki. “Now there is polarisation – that sense of waywardness and distraction. Two extremes pulling American society and we don’t have the centre pulling them back. The middle used to absorb – there were shock absorbers. It doesn’t do that anymore.” How, I ask, do America’s internal problems affect the Middle east? He reminds me about Barack Obama’s recent trip to Saudi Arabia since 2009. Back then the president was accused by US conservatives of “kowtowing” to the Saudi king after making a long bow. The atmosphere has since changed. Relations between Washington and Riyadh have rarely been worse. The al-Sauds got along famously with both Bushes but there is great mistrust of the Obama administration, particularly


over its pursuit of nuclear talks with Iran, which Saudi Arabia sees as its arch-enemy. “Let’s say that people are talking about the American retreat, particularly in the Middle east,” Turki says. “For the Kingdom, it is a matter of putting our foot down, where in the past we did not. It is a matter of accepting reality. You have to acknowledge the world has changed. Obama’s speech to the UN last September made it clear that America will be concentrating exclusively on Palestine and Iran, and for everywhere else – Syria, Libya, Sudan, Yemen, Mali, Iraq, egypt, and so on – you will have to fend for yourself. So whether it is collecting your [Saudi Arabia’s] own resources to do that, or reaching out to others in the area to help you overcome these challenges, we are adjusting to the reality of a retreating America.” I am mindful that Turki remains a controversial figure in the west. In 2004, Paris Match was ordered to pay Prince Turki damages after the French magazine had accused him of foreknowledge of the 9/11 attacks. The next year a US court ruled that he and other Saudis were immune from prosecution over 9/11 (although that is now under appeal). Turki has called al-Qaeda an “evil cult”. But the fact that he stepped down just 10 days before the attacks was poor optics. Was 9/11 an intelligence failure, I ask? “Yes, across the board,” he replies. “Now when you look back on it, signals should have been picked up that weren’t, information that should have been shared wasn’t – across the whole intelligence community. I know there is a lot of work being done to get away from those failures, not reading signs correctly, etc. That’s the main reason there hasn’t been the same spectacular events as happened in 2001. Not just in America but also in Saudi Arabia.”

The man who headed Saudi Arabia’s intelligence service for 24 years talks about equal rights for Saudi women and which country has the best spies Turki has by now polished off his steak. I am curious to hear his assessment of America’s intelligence capabilities today. I ask him to rank the best in the world in terms of data gathering, interpretation of data, and operations. Turki relishes the question. “In terms of raw data, definitely the Americans have it over everybody because of their technical and financial means,” he says. “In terms of human resources, I would rate the British as having the most expert human

capabilities on specific subjects – at that time [when he was head of Saudi intelligence], of course, it was the Soviet Union – the bane of everybody. To get a first-hand report from a British analyst always had that extra edge and knowledge that you felt comfortable in accepting as being authoritative. Probably in terms of operational capability and in terms of unleashing your capabilities, I would say the Israelis are the most professional, although they’ve committed lots of mistakes. But they do accomplish their missions.” No mention of the Chinese? “That’s what has changed the most since 2001,” he says. “I can only tell you that Chinese intelligence didn’t loom large in those days.” ******* I ask him whether he likes dates. “I love dates,” he says. He mentions that his name, Turki, was given because he was the youngest of eight sons. It means the “unripened date that is left on the branch”, which will be picked later in the season. “Yes, I love dates passionately. I eat them every day.” Are you proud of having been born in [the holy city of ] Mecca, I ask, now in full conversational risk mode. “Well, it’s a privilege, but not especially,” he says. “It’s fun to tell people that I’m a Meccawi.” ******* Having drunk my coffee, I move back on to international affairs, asking what he thinks of Vladimir Putin’s incursion into Crimea? “I’m reminded of children’s stories,” Turki says. “The wolf is attacking a pack [sic] of sheep. It is gobbling up one of them and going about its business eating and the rest of the sheep are bleating.” At this point he mimics a sheep: “Baaaaaa baaaaaaaa.” There is a twinkle in his eye. “This is what is happening today. While the wolf is eating the sheep, there is no shepherd to come to the rescue of the pack. This is where we find ourselves today.” But how should the west respond? I remind him that a few months ago he had criticised Obama for having set a red line on Syria’s use of chemical weapons and then failed to act on it. The line

then turns pink and eventually white, Turki had added. The Obama administration had reacted testily to his words. “If you are going to set a red line, you must act on the red line,” Turki says now. “This is what Putin is very much a master of. He has kept quiet. You didn’t hear him roaring, or boasting, or anything like that. He is quiet. The rest of the world is going baaaaaaaa. It’s a terrible situation.” But what can the world reasonably do? Turki smiles. “You’re British, he says, “so you would remember the charge of the light brigade [the disastrous British cavalry charge against well-defended Russian forces during the Crimean war].” That having been settled, I turn the conversation to Saudi Arabia. Is Turki concerned that his country has such a poor reputation in the west, and particularly here in the US? I mention the ban on women drivers, among other things.

“When I was ambassador talking to British, Irish and American audiences, I used to ask the question, ‘Who is the most prized woman in Saudi Arabia today?’ And the answer is, ‘A woman with a job.’ When I was growing up, the head of a family considered it shameful to ask his wife or daughter to get a job. He thought he should take care of his womenfolk. Because of education, the woman with a job became something of a prize and she brings in more income to her parents, she’s looked up to by her siblings, and she’s sought after by suitors.” But she still isn’t allowed to drive, I point out. He nods. “But what I hear from people in my entourage, the women in my family, is that driving is not that important. What is important to them is equal legal rights, whether it is inheritance, divorce, childcare, things that affect women’s livelihood. They say let us concentrate on improving these things first and not expend our energy on driving, because that will come by itself.” As the bill arrives, I tell him I have to head to a briefing on the latest Obama budget proposal. Turki laughs. “Is there any chance of that being passed?” he asks. No, I reply. “America is acting like a third world country,” he replies. Then after a pause, he adds: “I watched the Oscars the other night. And I turned to the person next to me and said, ‘You know, this is what America is best at – putting on a parade, crowds of people coming in and cheering and eating popcorn and living a wonderful life. In everyone’s minds, this is what America is about. They live the good life.’ ” I say that I agree with him in the main, except that life is getting tougher for the middle class. He interrupts: “But it’s true, most Americans have the good life. They have those unique qualities of inquisitiveness and hospitality and they think of their country as nirvana. every once in a while they get woken up by someone like Mr Putin – they get a reality check.” He laughs. I half-expect him to mimic a wolf. He puts on his hat and we walk together into the snow outside. g Edward Luce is the FT’s chief US commentator.


Return of a King Sunday, 30 March - 05 April, 2014


William dalrymple’s history of the First Afghan War is as richly embroidered as a great novel


RupeRt edis

n April 1839 Britain invaded Afghanistan for the first time. When the British Army left in 1842, after first suffering and then avenging its worst military disaster of the 19th century, a contemporary wrote that it was “a war begun for no wise purpose… not one benefit, political or military, has been acquired with this war. Our eventual evacuation of the country resembled the retreat of an army defeated.” Britain had first cast a fearful eye towards Afghanistan when napoleon threatened to cross Persia and descend through the Khyber Pass on British India, where vast, tenuously held territories had recently been conquered by the East India Company. Then the rapidly lengthening shadow of Tsarist Russia on the map of Central Asia caused the same terror among policymakers in London and Calcutta. In 1838, a cabal of hawkish political officers managed to persuade Lord Auckland, the dilettante governor-general of India, to invade Afghanistan to replace the popular ruler, Dost Mohammed, who was allegedly leaning towards the Russians, with the luckless then-exiled Shah Shuja – the king of the book’s title. This flew in the face of advice from Alexander Burnes, the young and celebrated player of the Great Game, who unlike the hawks had travelled extensively in Afghanistan and knew the political landscape at first hand. As with subsequent Western invasions of Afghanistan, this was accomplished relatively easily. However, the occupying British and Indian troops soon stirred loathing with their public drinking and whoring. Shah Shuja, a dignified but ineffective character, steadily lost support by association with the alien infidels. Politically sidelined, Burnes threw himself into philandering, which sparked the Kabul uprising and his own brutal murder after he purloined an Afghan noble’s favourite slave girl. Another disastrous error by Lord Auckland was appointing as Kabul’s military commander the aged and gout-struck General Elphinstone, a friend from grouse-shooting parties in Scotland. Instead of snuffing out trouble, Elphinstone dithered as the rebellion gathered pace, led by Dost Mohammed’s brilliant son, Akbar Khan. With the

British cantonment under constant attack, Elphinstone agreed with Akbar Khan to evacuate his army back to India in January 1842. The unwieldy host of 16,000 British soldiers, Indian sepoys, wives, children and camp followers was quickly overwhelmed by the terrible cold and deep snow. Over five nights without cover in temperatures far below zero, thousands froze to death. Contemporary sources describe soldiers with limbs “like charred logs of wood” from frostbite, in no state to fight, slaughtered in their hundreds by Pashtun tribesmen. Only the Army surgeon Dr Brydon made it to the Jalalabad garrison. To restore British face, a socalled Army of Retribution, this time led properly, retook Kabul in September 1842. Its route back through the Via Dolorosa of the retreat was strewn with macabre reminders of the catastrophe – including a cave with a pile of human bones outside it, where some soldiers had tried to stay alive by devouring each other; and “60 skeletons scattered on the hill” of the last stand at Gandamak, “the officers plainly distinguishable by the long hair which remained attached to their skulls”. This enraged army committed terrible atrocities, leaving neville Chamberlain, a young officer who accompanied the army, “disgusted with myself, the world and above all my cruel profession”. The army then left, and Shah Shuja was soon murdered. Dost Mohammed quietly returned to the throne; and in due course he had his son Akbar Khan, whose popularity menaced his own, poisoned. As well as going deep into dangerous parts of Afghanistan and Pakistan to research his book, Dalrymple has uncovered some remarkable new Afghan and Indian sources. We see beyond stereotypes of treacherous Afghan “fanatics” to the complex and remarkable individuals some of them were. The young Akbar Khan was celebrated for his matinee-idol looks and dashing leadership, and emerges as a civilised appreciator of Hellenistic Gandharan sculpture and a magnanimous captor. Dalrymple points out that Afghans regard their deliverance from the British in 1842 as “their Trafalgar, Waterloo and Battle of Britain rolled into one”, and the events remain keenly alive in the national memory. Like Dalrymple’s heartbreaking, extraordinary White Mughals, this book is as taut and richly embroidered as a

great novel. However, as in White Mughals, Dalrymple can get carried away with attempts to give unwonted contemporary or didactic relevance to his account. Britain’s First Afghan War does not have the “clear and relevant parallels” claimed for it “with the current deepening crisis” of the latest invasion of Afghanistan. It is strongly arguable that the situation in Afghanistan is improving, not worsening, and writing that Afghanistan may end up as in 1842 “ruled by the same [Taliban]

government which the war was originally fought to overthrow” is plain wrong. The West’s justified war aims in 2001 of toppling the Taliban and destroying al-Qaeda in Afghanistan have been achieved, notwithstanding the colossal waste of men and material in muddled strategy since; and its armies are undefeated and undefeatable militarily, in spite of Dalrymple’s claim that “the Afghan resistance [has]

r Afghanistan : The Battle fo ng Ki a of rn Retu lrymple By William Da blishing Pu y ur sb oom Publisher: Bl Price: £25 ; k) p (Hardbac Pages: 609p

succeeded again in… propelling the hated Kafirs into a humiliating exit”. That President Karzai, the current “pro-Western puppet ruler” – who is stepping down after elections next year – is from the same Afghan sub-tribe as Shah Shuja is an interesting historical coincidence, no more. Overwrought comparisons with the present aside, this book is a masterpiece of nuanced writing and research, and a thrilling account of a watershed Victorian conflict. g




Fit for a Governor

These buildings are evidence of the dominance of the British and the allegiance that our upper class offered them

Salman RaShid

Salman Rashid, rated as the best in the country, is a travel writer and photographer who has travelled all around Pakistan and written about his journeys.


orlorn and abandoned amid mango and citrus orchards, mehal (palace), as the locals call it, sits in an open dusty plain. This is the country of the Hiraj sub-clan of the Sials who left their native Jhang district to the northeast to settle here some two hundred years ago. The name of the village that this small group established to stake out its claim,


gives away a sense of insecurity of those long ago times: they called their habitation Chowki Hiraj. Some twenty kilometres north of Kabirwala (Khanewal district) and a mere kilometre from the Ravi River, the chowki, or defensive post, would have been a need of the time: the Sikhs under Maharaja Ranjit Singh were coming into their own and raiding the land in order to assert their dominance. Not long afterwards, their influence was to reach this area as well. Remnants of that old fortified chowki stand to this day together with its surrounding mud-brick wall. It is today home to the servants of the Hiraj family. Over the years the family grew in wealth and status and by the beginning of the 20th century was politically rather well placed. The early decades saw the Hiraj family of Kabirwala being led by Sardar Wali Mohammed, a member of the legislative assembly (MLA) of India, who received the title of Khan Bahadur for services rendered to the British crown. It was he who commissioned the building of this handsome building.

Though the family has no record to show, local lore recounts how the Khan Bahadur received word that the governor of Punjab, the Laat Saab (Lord Sahib), sent word of his desire to visit the area. Now, in those days when roads were scarce and time had a different quality,

In those days when roads were scarce and time had a different quality, such programmes were sent a couple of years in advance. Consequently, the Khan Bahadur had sufficient time to raise an edifice that would suit the office of the provincial governor such programmes were sent a couple of years in advance. Consequently, the Khan Bahadur had sufficient time to raise an edifice that would suit the office of the provincial governor. The exact period of construction was not known because of a lack of documents. Sardar Ahmed Yar

Hiraj, the current custodian of mehal, great-grandson of the Khan Bahadur, recounts the various traditions that placed its construction from the early 1910s until sometime about twenty years later. Tradition also recounts that the building, rather like Sher Shah Suri’s Rohtas Fort, never fully served the purpose it was built for. As the governor, having left the train at Khanewal, was being driven by buggy the nearly forty kilometres to Chowki Hiraj, he was confounded by the men who lined the road all the way from the station to the village. Uniformed in immaculate white dress with red cummerbunds wherein gleamed well-handled swords, they seemed a very proper army. The man panicked. He was not sufficiently well protected and with memories of the mutiny of 1857 still not very stale, he refused to stay overnight. It is not recorded how his Lordship reacted when told (for told he surely must have been) that the guesthouse had especially been constructed for this visit. One wonders if the Khan Bahadur was commended for his foresight or if

his Lordship was too flustered to go into that formality. Done with dinner, the governor insisted on being driven back to Khanewal. His bidding had to be done. But the worthy Khan Bahadur Wali Mohammed Hiraj had stocked up on a vast amount of ghee for the meals planned for the governor and his entourage. There being no other use for it now, every single one of the torches that lit the forty-


Sunday, 30 March - 05 April, 2014

kilometre long route back to Khanewal was fuelled by real ghee! There could scarcely have been a better expression of allegiance to the crown. During the lifetime of the Khan Bahadur (died 1960), mehal occasionally served as a guest room for important visitors. But for the past half-century or so, with the family living permanently at Khanewal, mehal has been virtually

neglected. The floods of 1973 sent water lapping through the building up to a height of three quarters of a metre. From then on, the building was abandoned. Decay had set in when young Ahmed Yar undertook to renovate it in 1994. Strangely enough, without any training or external input, Ahmed Yar preserved the building as original, both in terms of shape as well as materials. Only, some bits of rotten roofing timbers had to be

discarded and being unable to figure out the mortar used by the original builder, he relied on modern cement in the more badly damaged parts. As the ceiling of the main hall was dismantled the main timber – a hefty trunk of teak, was found to bear a signature and a date: Mistri Allah Buksh, 1926. Since this was the ceiling that would have been finished last of all Ahmed Yar concluded that 1926

was the year of completion of the building. Conscious that disuse will hasten the demise of the building Ahmed Yar hopes to make mehal liveable for use on weekends and other holidays. Kamil Khan Mumtaz, the noted architectural historian, says this, like others of its kind, is an important building in that it is a significant historic document. It is by studying such construction that we understand the building trends

of that time. It is a window into the social attitudes, life style, and relationships between the different sections of the society. These buildings are evidence of the dominance of the British and the allegiance that our upper class offered them. As such, they are a part of the history of Punjab, he says. That it is a hybrid makes it all the more important for it records the relationship between the ruler and the ruled. g 19



Sunday, 30 March - 05 April, 2014



Former military men, ex-cricketers protest against giving MFN status to India wagah Our speCial COrrespOndenT


OrMer army men and ex-cricketers came together in hordes to protest against the government’s plan of granting India the Most Favoured Nation (MFN) status at Wagah border on Monday. The protestors shouted anti-India slogans, displayed placards brimming with antagonism for the expected move and in their own words tried to “wake the nation up”. The protest comes a few days after Pakistan maintained its tradition of never having beaten India in cricket in a World Cup encounter in the World T20 clash in Bangladesh.

A former army general on condition of anonymity told Khabaristan Today, “We have neither beaten India in any cricket World Cup match nor… And hence, to consider them as our most favourite nation is downright insane.” When asked what any of this had to do with matters of commerce and trade, the general replied, “Unless you are trading troops or getting

batsmen from India, any move that forces me to call my enemy my favourite nation, will not be tolerated obviously.” Former cricketers were also pretty animated during the protests and kept pointing out how memories of Bangalore, the Centurian or Mohali should be enough to rebuff any claims of India being our favourite nation. A former cricketer, not

Turkey throws gauntlet by banning Twitter; Pakistan set to block Google IstanbuL Our Turkey COrrespOndenT


UrKISh Prime Minister recep Tayyip erdoğan’s decision to ban Twitter in his country ahead of the municipal elections has not been taken kindly back home. But in an exclusive interview with Khabaristan Today, erdogan has revealed the actual reasons behind the decision, which contradict the general consensus. “I just wanted to give Pakistan a run for its money. Banning YouTube was a pretty ridiculous move, but I believe blocking Twitter has outdone that move. The gauntlet has been thrown to Pakistan. Let’s see if they respond even more

ridiculously,” the Turkish prime minister told Khabaristan Today. The prime minister was then asked if it was just about outdoing Pakistan’s ridiculousness couldn’t Turkey just have bred terrorists and kept on negotiating with them over and over again, he replied, “Well, that would have meant negotiating with myself, over and over again. On second thought, that does sound like an unbelievably ridiculous idea!” Government of Pakistan meanwhile has decided to take up erdogan’s challenge. The word from the IT ministry is that it is only a matter of time before Google is banned in Pakistan. Turkey would have a hard time topping that. g

important enough to be named, told Khabaristan Today, “You would expect your favourite nation to lose at least once against you in the World Cup of your favourite sport. especially during the 1990s when we were the far superior side. how did India beat us in all three matches in 1992, 1996 and 1999? Most favourite nation? Over my dead body!” After forestalling another ex-cricketer’s manoeuvre of converting the other former player into a dead body, our correspondent asked the protestors whether they liked the sound of Non-Discriminatory Market Access on reciprocal Basis in lieu of Most Favourite Nation. The answer was unanimously in the affirmative; following which everyone wrapped up the show and went back home. g

Meera arrested for having sex with husband

PTI celebrates March 25 as party’s birthday Peshawar Our Tsunami COrrespOndenT


he Pakistan Tehrik-eInsaf (PTI) celebrated its 22nd birthday on Tuesday in Peshawar, Khabaristan Today has learnt. This coincides with the 22nd anniversary of Pakistan winning the ODI World Cup in Australia in 1992. Insiders in the political party suggest that the party leaders believe that the day Pakistan won the cricket World Cup PTI was born, and in fact if the World Cup triumph hadn’t been conjured, PTI would never


have become a political factor at all. “Winning the cricket World Cup was the topmost credential of our party chief in the lead up to the elections and it only makes sense that the party’s biggest achievement is

Happy birtHday pti

recognised as the moment that it came into being. PTI celebrates March 25 as its birthday every year,” a senior party member told Khabaristan Today on condition of anonymity. “To be very frank if Pakitsan had not won the World Cup, PTI would be left with Shaukat Khanum hospital as its complete manifesto – or the part sans Taliban apologia. The only reason PTI is the second biggest political party in Pakistan today is because of the World Cup victory,” the party member added. g

Lahore Our meera Jee COrrespOndenT


court on Tuesday had issued arrest warrant against film star Meera and her husband Captain Naveed, following which the police arrested them for the crime of having sex. At a time when the country is sinking in the quagmire of energy shortage, economy is struggling despite “friendly” grants and of course the small matter of the Taliban wreaking havoc all over the place, a married couple having sex continues to hog the news and the limelight.

A judicial expert and a practicing lawyer preferring to remain anonymous, owing to the sensitivity of the case, claimed that it was perfectly legal for a married couple to have sex in this country. “Yes, a husband and wife can have sex in the country. That’s perfectly legal. In fact that’s how most children are born in Pakistan,” he said. Another lawyer, again on the condition of anonymity, commented on the matter by saying, “It is a terribly harsh verdict. I mean they are married. That’s what they will do. In any case there are much bigger issues for the court to deal with, one would think.” g

Dna issue 17