Safeguarding the secrecy of matters relevant to national interest and concealment of facts are altogether two different things; the first one is no doubt very sacred and very sublime but the secondMore
After spending two decades of their lives in the notorious Guantanamo Bay detention center on the U.S. Navy base in Cuba without any charge or trial, two Pakistani brothers were finally sent home by the U.S. authorities on February 23.
Abdul Rabbani (55) and Mohammed Rabbani (53) were first arrested by Pakistani authorities in 2002 from Karachi and were transferred to the CIA’s custody. The detention center at Guantanamo Bay was first established under former U.S. President George W. Bush’s administration as part of the so-called “global war on terrorism” after the September 11, 2001, attacks, with the objective of bypassing legal obligations related to detainees.
The brothers were accused by the U.S. of helping Al Qaeda operatives by providing them with shelter and other logistical support. However, they were never charged or tried formally.
They have accused the CIA of torturing them in custody before transferring them to Guantanamo Bay.
According to reports, at least 779 people have been detained at Guantanamo Bay since it was established in January 2002—it was constructed illegally in a U.S.-occupied part of Cuba. Over the years, many prisoners have been transferred to third countries or repatriated, especially after global attention was directed toward the human rights violations taking place at the facility following the publication of the Gitmo files by WikiLeaks.
According to the Associated Press, there are 32 more detainees in Guantanamo, of whom 18 are “eligible” for transfer—meaning they are not facing any charges or trial and will be transferred once countries willing to take them are found.
The China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), a flagship project under the China-proposed Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), has been playing a pivotal role in promoting green development in Pakistan, highlighting China’s commitment to harmonious coexistence of human beings and nature, Pakistani officials and experts said.
Talking to Xinhua, Convener of National Parliamentary Task Force on Sustainable Development Goals, Romina Khurshid Alam, said the cooperation between Pakistan and China under the CPEC in the fields of energy, transport, agriculture and industrial production has helped Pakistan boost green, low-carbon sustainable development.
Besides assisting Pakistan in overcoming energy crisis and infrastructure upgrading through the CPEC, Chinese companies in Pakistan have been strictly following international and local standards on safety and environmental protection, Alam said.
In implementing infrastructure projects, ecological factors have been fully considered and a number of green and clean energy projects including solar, wind and hydropower have been completed across the Asian country over the past several years, reducing carbon emissions and contributing to economic development, environment protection and improvement of living standards of the locals, said the official.
Citing the example of recently completed 720-megawatt Karot hydropower project, Alam said that a comprehensive biodiversity management plan was developed for construction and operation stages of the project to protect environment and wildlife around the project site.
Pakistan and China have further stepped up their cooperation in green energy for the benefit of the region under the CPEC, helping Pakistan mitigate the adverse impacts of climate change, said Hassan Daud Butt, senior advisor at the China Study Center of the Sustainable Development Policy Institute, an Islamabad-based think tank.
“Pakistan is one of the most vulnerable countries to climate change, with the country facing the worst climate-induced catastrophic floods recently. As the CPEC is making progress, it can help the country to tackle the climate change issue by increasing investment in renewable energy, green building construction, decreasing energy loss, and innovative practices such as green finance and other measures,” Butt told Xinhua.
Calling the CPEC a game changer and a green corridor, Shakeel Ahmad Ramay, chief executive officer of the Asian Institute of Eco-civilization Research and Development, said that the flagship project of the BRI is people-centric, environmentally friendly, inclusive and green and sustainable initiative.
China has been utilizing new technologies and making investments in BRI partner countries to support green development. Pakistan can learn from the Chinese experience and technology to realize its vision of high-quality green and sustainable development, Ramay told Xinhua.
“The CPEC has changed the landscape of Pakistan and has accelerated growth while bringing about socio-economic benefits for the people of Pakistan … China’s commitment to promoting carbon-free global economy is commendable,” he said.
Despite the worst pandemic (Covid-19) and flood destruction, Pakistan is anticipated to grow at a 3.2% annual rate in FY 2023/24, according to a World Bank estimate.
Pakistan has long been associated with negative stereotypes, with many seeing it as a failing state. Poverty, terrorism, political instability, and corruption have all been problems for the country. Despite these challenges, Pakistan has demonstrated amazing resilience and success.
Pakistan was established in 1947 as a result of the partition of British India. At its foundation, the country faced various problems, including the migration of millions of people and the formation of a new administration. Pakistan’s early years were defined by political instability, with numerous changes in administration and periods of martial law. Throughout Pakistan’s history, the military has played an important role, with various military coups taking place.
In the face of various adversities, Pakistan has demonstrated incredible resilience and success, and several variables contribute to this resilience.
Pakistan has achieved significant economic growth in recent years, with its GDP growing at an average rate of 5.2% per year between 2013 and 2018. The agriculture sector in Pakistan is a vital component of the country’s food security and economic stability, providing a foundation for resilience. This growth has been driven by industries such as IT and textiles, with Pakistan becoming one of the largest exporters of textiles, which account for the majority of Pakistan’s exports, valued at $19.33 billion in 2022 in the world. The IT industry has also seen significant growth, with the government actively promoting the sector as a key driver of economic growth.
According to the World Bank, the poverty rate in Pakistan has decreased from 64.3% in 2002 to 24.3% in 2015. However, major obstacles exist, particularly in rural regions. The government has made initiatives to address the issues of poverty, unemployment, and inequality, including the introduction of a poverty alleviation program and the implementation of a national minimum wage. However, more must be done to guarantee that the advantages of economic progress are more fairly distributed.
Pakistan has achieved substantial political progress in recent years, with civilian administrations peacefully transferring power. There has also been more journalistic freedom, with more coverage of political and social topics. To further reinforce democratic processes, the administration has made initiatives to strengthen institutions such as the judiciary and the Election Commission. To improve democratic institutions, the administration is aiming to increase openness and accountability.
In recent years, Pakistan has experienced considerable security challenges, including terrorism and regional wars. Terrorist assaults have long plagued the country, with the most recent being the 2014 attack on the Army Public School in Peshawar, which killed 132 students and 9 staff members. Regional crises, notably the ongoing violence in neighboring Afghanistan, have also had an impact on the country.
Despite these difficulties, Pakistan’s military and security forces have achieved tremendous advances in battling terrorism and enhancing security. Pakistan boasts a robust military, which serves to preserve stability and protect its territorial sovereignty. The commencement of Operation Zarb-e-Azb in 2014 was a watershed moment in Pakistan’s counter-terrorism efforts, with the military effectively striking terrorist strongholds in tribal areas. As a result, the number of terrorist attacks in Pakistan has reduced dramatically, with a 62% decline in the number of events and an 83% decrease in the number of deaths between 2014 and 2019.
Pakistan has also made progress in improving regional security, particularly through its role in the Afghan peace process. Pakistan has played a key role in facilitating peace talks between the Taliban and the Afghan government, to promote stability and security in the region.
Pakistan has made significant progress in recent years in improving social indicators such as education, healthcare, and gender equality. The government has invested heavily in improving access to education, particularly for girls, with the number of out-of-school children decreasing by 22% between 2017 and 2019. According to UNESCO, Pakistan’s literacy rate has improved from 43% in 1998 to 63% in 2017. Healthcare has also improved, with the government launching several initiatives to increase access to healthcare services and improve the quality of care.
Pakistan has made strides toward gender equality, notably through legal measures such as the Protection of Women Against Violence Act and the Criminal Law Amendment Act. Women’s representation in Pakistan’s National Assembly has increased from 20.7% in 2013 to 20.9% in 2018. Civil society has been critical in advancing social change, notably via lobbying and awareness-raising initiatives on topics like gender-based violence and child marriage.
Continued investment in economic growth, political stability, and social advancement is required for Pakistan to build on its achievements and tackle the remaining problems. The overseas diaspora has historically helped the country in times of need through remittances and foreign direct investment. Friendly countries such as China, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates are also assisting the country in overcoming its economic difficulties.
The Indian police and paramilitary troops damaged 114 houses and burned 22 others in 2020. This practice has now extended to four districts of Indian-occupied Jammu and Kashmir in 2023: Srinagar, Budgam, Anantnag, and Baramulla. The demolition of houses and properties in Kashmir has taken a heavy toll on the people of Kashmir. Not only have they been left homeless, but the emotional, psychological, economic, and societal consequences of their conduct have been terrible.
The extensive demolition of Kashmiri civilians’ houses and properties is one of the most terrible repercussions of the conflict in Kashmir. The demolition of Kashmiri houses and properties is a violation of human rights and dignity that the Indian government and the international world must condemn and prevent.
Kashmir has a long history of strife, persecution, and political turmoil dating back to 1947 when India and Pakistan were divided. The Indian government has retained authority over the territory, resulting in severe breaches of human rights and international law. The Indian government has exacerbated the conflict in Kashmir by using military force and committing extensive human rights violations, including the demolition of houses and properties. For many Kashmiris, this has resulted in widespread displacement, poverty, and homelessness.
The extensive demolition of homes and buildings in Kashmir has wreaked havoc on the Kashmiri people and their communities. As a result, many Kashmiris have experienced significant migration, poverty, and homelessness, resulting in widespread misery and hardship.
Destroying houses and property in Kashmir is a blatant violation of international human rights norms, particularly the right to sufficient housing and the ban on arbitrary displacement. The Indian government has violated the rights of the Kashmiri people by failing to comply with these principles. For the illegal demolition of houses and properties in Kashmir, the Indian government has failed to give due process and accountability. This lack of accountability has aided the region’s massive and continuous breaches of human rights.
The rampant demolition of homes and buildings in Kashmir has major ramifications for India’s rule of law and human rights protection. It sends a clear message that the Indian government does not respect human rights and dignity and that the rule of law is not enforced in the region.
Amnesty International India’s board chair, Aakar Patel, stated that the continuing demolitions appear to be a continuation of the harsh HRVs in the Muslim majority region of IIOJK and that no one should be forced homeless or subject to other human rights abuses as a result of evictions. The Indian government must immediately cease the demolition campaign and guarantee that protections against forced evictions are implemented per international human rights norms.
It is worth noting here that Modi is moving quickly to seize Kashmiris’ land to transform the whole state of J&K into its colony. Evicting people from lands they have owned for generations is another step in the colonization of Kashmir. The recent directive on land encroachment issued by the IIOJK administration is part of Modi’s diabolical plan to take Kashmiris’ land. Prime Minister Narendra Modi is transforming IIOJK into a settler colony, just like Israel is doing in occupied Palestine. The RSS and BJP have long desired the colonization of IIOJK. By repealing Art 370, India eliminated a barrier to non-locals settling in IIOJK. Modi’s ultimate goal in J&K is to eradicate Muslim identity and construct Hindu civilization.
The loss of a home is a very devastating experience for anybody, and the situation in Kashmir is no exception. Families whose houses and properties were demolished have left severe emotional wounds, feeling as though they have lost a piece of their identity. This trauma is exacerbated by the dread of losing their homes and livelihoods in the future, producing enormous psychological pain. As a result of the demolitions, several families have expressed dread, worry, and pessimism.
Loss of houses and property in Kashmir has far-reaching and terrible economic consequences. Many Kashmiri families’ homes and assets are their life savings and sole source of income. Many families have fallen into poverty and despair as a result of the loss of these assets, making it impossible for them to restore their lives. The societal impact is also substantial. When a family loses their house, they typically lose access to essential utilities like water and electricity, which can have major effects on their health and well-being. Furthermore, the loss of one’s house or property might result in relocation and forced migration, creating even more disruption and pain.
Demolitions of homes and assets have exacerbated Kashmir’s cycle of poverty and insecurity. The loss of assets and livelihoods has exacerbated poverty and despair, making it harder for families to satisfy their basic requirements. As a result, the populace has become increasingly vulnerable to exploitation and abuse, continuing a cycle of poverty and instability.
The human cost of demolitions in Kashmir emphasizes the emotional, psychological, economic, and societal consequences of such actions. It has demonstrated how the loss of houses and properties has had far-reaching implications for Kashmiris, worsening poverty and instability and inflicting severe emotional distress. Given the devastation caused by demolitions, the Indian government must act quickly to put an end to these practices. The Kashmiri people’s human rights must be maintained, and their homes and properties must be protected from further devastation.
It is critical to raise awareness about the human cost of demolitions in Kashmir and other conflict zones. This includes encouraging governments and other players to hold human rights violators accountable and calling on governments and other actors to uphold the rights and dignity of all people, regardless of ethnicity, religion, or political affiliation.
The economy of Pakistan is struggling, and it is taking some desperate measures to prevent a collapse. The issue is so severe that the country has decided to sell its embassy property in Washington and ordered markets, wedding venues, restaurants, and shopping centers to shut early to preserve electricity, which is mostly produced by imported oil.
Even though the country’s economy has not been doing well for a while, the crisis has recently gotten worse as a result of a number of factors, including: disproportionately higher government involvement in economic activities, a sizable informal economy, agriculture’s continued role as a major employer of labor, a focus on cotton-related production activities, policies biased toward import-substituting activities, disregard for the services economy in public policies, and a low rate of savings.
The economy of Pakistan is now bound by slow growth, high unemployment and inflation, declining investment, large fiscal deficits, and a worsening external balance situation. Due to limited international capital inflows, significant debt repayments, and a sluggish expansion of foreign revenues, foreign currency reserves are rapidly decreasing. Only one month’s worth of imports can now be paid out of Pakistan’s foreign reserves. These are the results of the economy’s fundamental issues not being addressed promptly. In turn, failure to produce “inclusive” development endangers society’s social order.
Pakistan’s savings rate is consistently low compared to the need for investments. This is one of the key causes of our dependence on foreign funding. When foreign money is unavailable, the investment rate declines even further, negatively impacting employment and the economy. The main causes of Pakistan’s poor private savings are: low or negative real interest rates, insecure income, many dependents, low levels of education, high inflation, a lack of saving culture, etc.
The nation’s energy dilemma is mostly caused by circular debt, untargeted subsidies, distribution issues, and theft. Due to high generating costs relative to the price paid by distribution corporations, the government offers significant subsidies.
Large portions of the economy operate informally and are exempt from national rules and regulations. The informal economy is not included in official statistics since it is not registered. Because of this, the majority of official economic statistics show a dire situation. The informal economy has to be recorded.
Losing State-Owned Enterprises (SOEs) uses significant financial resources in addition to paying down massive amounts of debt, hindering economic development and public budgets. The major causes of SOE losses include staff incompetence, overstaffing, inefficiencies, and corruption. The government has been giving SOEs resources to guarantee that these businesses continue to operate. However, SOEs make no real efforts to increase their productivity, efficiency, etc., to make themselves financially viable in the long run. As a result, the government spends significant money annually to ensure SOE existence.
Weak regulatory systems are to blame for a lot of the economic issues. In consequence, inadequate institutional capacity contributes to the lax enforcement of rules and regulations. This is particularly evident regarding how tax and competition rules are applied. People dodge and avoid paying taxes with the help of tax authorities and legal loopholes. The lack of application of competition legislation makes it easier for vendors, in general, to defraud customers on both price and quality.
Pakistan needs to implement economic changes due to its ingrained structural issues. It ought to go slowly while implementing well-thought-out changes. The government must consider the societal effects of changes, such as joblessness, environmental damage, and economic disruption, while enacting them. Additionally, reforms should be planned such that there is no imbalance across the provinces. Strong political will and agreement between the federal and provincial governments are necessary for all of this.
Introduce fundamental changes to the economy, SOEs, and business environment, which will boost investment. The ultimate goal of SOE, restructuring and privatization should be to aid in the restoration of fiscal stability and to increase investor confidence in Pakistan’s future economic prospects and possibilities, which will promote development and job creation. Remove bias from policies discouraging exports, reduce commodity concentration, diversify export markets, and boost exports’ ability to compete globally. This will increase export shares in both international and domestic markets.
To put Pakistan on a path of higher and more inclusive growth, immediate policy changes are required, including: (1 ) strengthening public finances through revenue mobilization, cuts in wasteful and low-priority expenditure, and a strengthened fiscal decentralization framework; (ii) reforming the energy sector to eliminate the power deficit and untargeted subsidies; and (iii) Making the economy less reliant on foreign help for maintaining growth, which would be a significant structural transformation. Though it could take some time, the procedure must start right away. In this sense, policies should be implemented to encourage increased savings among all economic participants.
Any economy’s growth is driven by the private sector. Sadly, the majority of economic policies, particularly those pertaining to finance, are prejudiced against the private sector. As a result, this industry has not had the anticipated effects on the economy. The private sector should permit all economic activity to take the lead, provided that the regulatory framework is efficient. The government’s main responsibility should be to assist the underprivileged with social and physical infrastructure and social safety.
The economy of Pakistan is under pressure, and several important economic indicators specify a dire scenario. The decision-makers must have a real debate about how they intend to take genuine action to address the difficulties ahead as the problems with oil, gas, and power worsen for the general public and the government. Unfortunately, we are mired in a political drama that never seems to let up.
The first shipment of crude oil and petroleum products is anticipated to enter Pakistan in late March after the completion of a definitive agreement between Pakistan and Russia. In Pakistan, to negotiate the contract, Russian Energy Minister Nikolay Shulginov said that we have already resolved to prepare an agreement to address all of the concerns that we have with respect to volume, payments, insurance, and transportation.
Even though certain important elements still need to be worked out, the agreement would greatly impact Pakistan’s economy and relations with the rest of the world if it were to go through. It is the first significant step that Pakistan and Russia have taken toward developing their bilateral cooperation in oil and gas trading. In the past, discussions in this respect remained at the level of first expressions of interest. Pakistan now intends to meet 35% of its whole crude oil need from Russia and start imports in a few months. If all goes according to plan, the trade may significantly alter the bilateral relationship, enabling both nations to better organize their interactions.
The possibility of importing gas and oil from Russia also gives Pakistan another outlet to acquire oil at a lower cost. This is crucial since Pakistan’s foreign currency reserves are adequate to pay for three weeks’ worth of oil imports, putting the country in a similar scenario to the default. Most of Pakistan’s imports are made up of energy, and the country would benefit from cheaper oil from Russia by being able to control its growing trade imbalance and balance-of-payments issue. To pay for Russian oil, Pakistan is anticipated to utilize the Chinese yuan. The joint declaration states that the oil and gas trade transactions would be set up such that both nations profit after an agreement on the technical specification has been reached. This may lessen some of the strain on Pakistan’s foreign exchange reserves.
The outcome is also a significant diplomatic victory for Pakistan. Following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, it seems that Pakistan has discovered a means to evade the sanctions imposed by the West. Pakistan might not have gone this far in talks with Russia if it had been concerned that the agreement would upset the United States and its allies. This is especially significant since Pakistan is now in negotiations for another review to allow the release of significant money from the International Monetary Fund (IMF).
The speed at which Pakistan and Russia are closing a deal suggests that the United States may not oppose the two nations doing commerce. It’s also probable that Pakistan accepted American advice while deciding to acquire Russian oil. The United States and Pakistan’s usual Gulf energy suppliers have not yet made any public declarations objecting to Islamabad’s continuing talks with Moscow.
The U.S. seems ready to ignore the agreement. Ned Price, a spokesman for the State Department, said that “the U.S. was sensitive to the difficulty of stabilizing Pakistan’s economy. I know Pakistan’s collaboration with the IMF and other global financial organizations. We want Pakistan to be in a situation where its economy is stable”. According to reports, Washington has increased financial involvement with the present Pakistani administration. A team of top U.S. Department of Treasury officials is scheduled to visit Pakistan shortly to address various areas of financial assistance for Pakistan. In addition, the American embassy in Islamabad plans a seminar on energy security challenges for Pakistan in March.
For Pakistan, everything seems to be going well. It is encountering little opposition in its efforts to reach an agreement with Moscow. Now, Islamabad should concentrate on fulfilling all technical requirements to guarantee that Russian supplies reach Pakistan’s ports as soon as possible. Thus, the IGC session is crucial and significant. The general diplomacy in the Asian area around energy and gas has also caught Pakistan off guard. A power struggle between the two giants has developed out of what started as China’s economic sway over the ASEAN area. It is now being fueled by Russia’s attempts to advance east. India’s oil consumption appeared to have no boundaries as it devoured roughly 60 million barrels of Russian oil in 2022. Is India only trying to restock its oil supplies, or is it attempting to sway regional oil diplomacy on the Quad’s behalf? With the best U.S. oil refineries awaiting Russian oil supply, which has been speculated as another reason for the increased Indian oil supply, a ban on Russia from Europe does not have a significant impact on its oil and gas supply. The officials’ nerves will be tested as they attempt to clinch a successful deal, particularly with the IMF watching their every move intently.
Pakistan’s greatest failure has been the inability to recognize the actual problems that we are currently facing and the propensity of moving funds from one area to another over the last 75 years without truly paying our bills and commitments. The most recent Geneva Convention is a prime example of this pattern when Pakistan obtained bank and soft loans totaling more than $ 9 billion to avoid the looming economic crisis. The facilitators of Pakistani government machinery need to reevaluate several things, including their upcoming diplomatic commitments and agreements as well as our internal competence.
Kashmir is a region in northern India that has long been at the focus of a territorial dispute between India and Pakistan. Since 1947, when India achieved independence from Britain and was divided into two countries, India and Pakistan, the region has been under Indian authority. Since then, the Kashmiris have fought for their rights, especially the right to self-determination and independence from Indian rule.
The Kashmir conflict has its origins in the region’s historical and political environment. Kashmir was divided between India and Pakistan as a result of India’s split in 1947. This partition, however, was not peaceful, and the two countries have been at conflict for regional authority ever since. The conflict has resulted in three wars and skirmishes, the most recent being the ongoing conflict over the Indian government’s revocation of Article 35A and 370 in Indian-occupied Kashmir, which has been marked by human rights violations, state-sponsored violence, and the suppression of civil liberties.
Kashmir’s quest for self-determination and freedom has lasted decades. Kashmiris have been in the vanguard of this battle, advocating for their rights and opposing Indian authority via peaceful protests and acts of resistance. Despite the difficulties they have experienced, the Kashmiri people have stayed persistent in their quest of independence and justice.
The Kashmiri people’s resistance to Indian domination demonstrates their tenacity, power, and resolve. Despite the obstacles, they continue to struggle for their rights, demonstrating that they are unwilling to give up their liberties or their right to self-determination. They have demonstrated via their resistance that they are the guardians of their land and the protectors of their rights.
The Kashmiri People’s Resistance:
Kashmiris have been fighting Indian authority in a variety of ways, including peaceful marches, civil disobedience, and armed resistance. Peaceful protests have been a regular form of resistance, with Kashmiris going to the streets to oppose the Indian government’s policies and breaches of human rights in the area. Armed resistance was also part of the resistance movement, with certain organisations urging the use of force to fight Indian authority.
Civil society and human rights groups have played an important part in the Kashmir resistance movement. These groups have been critical in recording human rights violations, campaigning for Kashmiri people’s rights, and offering support and help to individuals impacted by the war.
In their battle against Indian domination, the Kashmiri people have faced several hurdles. To crush the resistance movement, the Indian government has utilised military force, limited civil freedoms, and enforced mobility restrictions. Furthermore, the Kashmiri people have endured economic and social difficulties, such as unemployment, poverty, and a lack of access to fundamental amenities including as healthcare and education. Despite these obstacles, the Kashmiri people have maintained their resistance to Indian rule, exhibiting their enduring spirit and desire to protect their land and rights.
The Impact of Indian Occupation on Kashmir:
Indian soldiers have perpetrated several human rights abuses and crimes in Kashmir throughout their rule. Extrajudicial deaths, forced disappearances, arbitrary arrests and incarceration, and widespread use of torture have all occurred. Furthermore, the Indian government has enforced curfews and mobility restrictions, restricting the Kashmiri people’s capacity to freely express themselves and engage in political activities.
The Indian occupation of Kashmir has had a significant influence on Kashmiri socioeconomic and cultural life. The battle has resulted in massive devastation and displacement, as well as pervasive poverty and unemployment. The actions of the Indian government have also led in a reduction in the region’s level of living, with restricted access to essential amenities like as healthcare and education. In addition, the Indian government has enforced cultural restrictions, restricting the Kashmiri people’s capacity to retain and express their cultural history and identity.
The international community must play a critical role in resolving the situation in Kashmir. The international community must hold the Indian government accountable for its actions and campaign for the Kashmiri people’s rights and freedoms. Furthermore, the international community can have a role in resolving the issue and supporting attempts to find a peaceful conclusion. Nonetheless, despite demands from the Kashmiri people and human rights organisations, the international community has mostly failed to take effective action to improve the situation in Kashmir.
The Kashmiri people’s unwavering passion and desire to protect their land and rights is exemplified by their resistance against Indian domination. Despite multiple difficulties and breaches of their human rights, they have maintained a peaceful and nonviolent resistance to claim their right to self-determination. This resistance is vital not only for the people of Kashmir, but also for the broader context of the fight for freedom and justice.
The international community must demonstrate sympathy and support for the Kashmiri people in their struggle against Indian occupation. This may take numerous forms, from increasing awareness about the situation in Kashmir to lobbying for Kashmiri people’s rights on a worldwide scale. The Kashmiri people can only expect to accomplish their aim of independence and self-determination via collective action.
Pakistan’s acute energy crisis is the immediate backdrop against which Foreign Minister Bilawal Zardari’s forthcoming talks with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov in Moscow today need to be understood.
But then, Lavrov is a ‘Renaissance man’ in the world of international diplomacy and is sure to synchronise his watch with Zardari’s. For both countries, things have changed, old friends are leaving and life doesn’t stop for anyone.
The Russian Foreign Ministry press release on Zardari’s visit stated tersely, “The foreign ministers will discuss the state of bilateral relations, regional and international issues. Special attention will be paid to the development of trade and economic relations.”
The MFA spokesperson Maria Zakharova subsequently disclosed that the Russian and Pakistani companies are “actively working to resolve the remaining issues” concerning the supply of Russian energy resources to Pakistan. She noted that the payment system is an issue, as Russia wants an arrangement in national currencies “or in the currencies of third countries that are protected from sanctions risks.”
Also, energy cooperation by its very nature involves substantial long-term investments and the fact remains that, as Zakharova put it, “the US currency is a soap bubble, unsecured money that is printed even despite America’s huge public debt.”
Importantly, Zakharova highlighted that the two countries have also decided to “discuss a comprehensive plan for energy cooperation, which provides for the construction of infrastructure and the supply of energy carriers” within a framework that holds the potential to “ensure the sustainable development” of Pakistan’s gas industry. A Russian gas pipeline to Pakistan is in the making.
Zardari’s visit to Moscow comes within 3 weeks of a tripartite gas cooperation arrangement between Russia, Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan making headlines in the news cycle. The termination of Russia’s decades-old energy ties with Europe, including gas supplies via pipelines, motivates Moscow’s search for new markets, Asian markets being a priority.
Thus, late last year, Moscow proposed a gas union with Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan offering to help out the two Central Asian states that are struggling with gas shortages. Earlier this month, Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan signed two separate agreements with the Russian giant Gazprom cementing the new partnership. A new vista is opening for Russia to use the existing gas pipelines in these two countries to export gas to their domestic market in immediate terms.
Albeit in a bilateral format, this arrangement also positions Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan potentially as transit countries enabling Russian gas supplies to the regional and world market, especially China, South Asian countries and the ASEAN region. (Russia has proposed a similar arrangement to Ankara to route its gas to the European market via an energy hub in Turkey.)
All energy projects are “geopolitical,” as the recent destruction of Russia’s Nord Stream pipelines, masterminded by the US, would show. But this one is a “win-win” for both Russia and the two central Asian states, as the income accruing to Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan out of transit fee will be very substantial and long-term, whilst Russia gains access to new markets.
Enter Afghanistan. On January 11-12, Russia’s presidential envoy for Afghanistan, Zamir Kabulov came down to Kabul and held in-depth consultations with the Taliban leadership in pursuit of “Moscow’s unwavering commitment to developing a comprehensive dialogue with Kabul.” The Russian Foreign Ministry press release stated that the focus was on “mutually beneficial cooperation in such sectors as energy, agriculture, transport, infrastructure, industry, mining, in particular, the organisation of regular commercial supplies of Russian fuel and agricultural products to Afghan companies.”
The press release said, “As the situation in Afghanistan stabilises, domestic economic operators may participate in the construction and operation of the Turkmenistan–Afghanistan–Pakistan–India gas pipeline, as well as in the restoration of large infrastructure projects built on the territory of Afghanistan during the Soviet era.”
Most important, the MFA added that “During the consultations, considerable attention was paid to the prospects of political and diplomatic recognition of the current Afghan Government by the international community, including by the Russian Federation.” It concluded that “The leadership of Afghanistan highly appreciates the efforts of the Russian Federation to assist the Afghan people in building a peaceful, independent and economically self-sufficient State.”
Interestingly, in a TV interview soon after his return to Moscow, Kabulov openly alleged that the ISIL in Afghanistan is nothing but an Anglo-American project with an agenda to cause instability in the region. Indeed, the regional setting is changing dramatically. Russia has become intensely conscious of the burden of history and realises the imperative to strengthen its leadership role as the provider of security for the Central Asian region. The western threat to Central Asia and North Caucasus is continuing.
Russia hopes to lead a regional effort to stabilise the Afghan situation and counter extremist groups, which act as a geopolitical tool for Washington. Russia (and China) increasingly deals with the Taliban rulers as the established government of Afghanistan. Fundamentally, terrorism is a major concern for Russia (and China).
Moscow estimates that the Taliban has the political will to act against the ISIS optimally, but lacks the financial resources. To be sure, Afghanistan will figure in Lavrov’s talks with Zardari. India’s National Security Advisor Ajit Doval will also be visiting Moscow shortly for consultations on Afghanistan.
This is an appropriate time for India to improve its relations with Pakistan. Fortuitously, the SCO-related events will bring Pakistani leaders to India. PM Modi has announced that India’s G-20 Presidency “will be grounded in the theme ‘Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam’ or One Earth, One Family, One Future.’” Conceivably, India should invite Pakistan to the G20 Summit in Delhi in September as a special guest.
At a pragmatic level, the TAPI gas pipeline project dovetails with the tripartite gas union that Russia is putting together with Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan. The Russian daily Nezavisimaya Gazeta wrote recently that Moscow has high hopes of extending the Central Asian gas grid to the South Asian region and to the ASEAN region in the medium term.
Andrei Grozin, head of the Department of Central Asia and Kazakhstan at the Institute of CIS Countries and senior researcher at the Institute of Oriental Studies of the Russian Academy of Sciences, told the Russian daily that “This is already a new state policy of Russia, and it is obvious that neither Astana nor Tashkent will be able to refuse to participate in this project. Experts agree that by the middle of this century, Southeast Asia will become the main energy-consuming region. No matter how fantastic the expansion of the gas pipeline network to Afghanistan, Pakistan, India, China may sound now, it will soon become a reality. Therefore, it is necessary to promote our raw materials to the southern markets today.”
Of course, such a mega project will raise hiccups in Washington. It comes as no surprise that the US Undersecretary of state Victoria Nuland (who midwifed the 2014 regime change in Kiev and openly gloats over the sabotage and destruction of Russia’s Nord Stream gas pipeline) is arriving in Delhi this week.
Washington is upset that Western sanctions pressure on Russian oil exports has led to a significant strengthening of India’s energy ties with Russia. Not only is Russian crude sold to India twice as cheap as world analogues, but the Russian production of petroleum products is actually transferred to India.
After the entry into force of the European embargo on Russian oil products w.e.f February 5, India is set to become the main supplier of refined Russian oil to Europe with a potential export turnover in tens of billions of dollars. (Please see Russia gives India the supply of Europe with petroleum products, Nezavisimaya Gazeta, Jan. 16, 2023) Exports of diesel fuel from India are already increasing.
Technically, this does not violate EU sanctions against Russia. But it annoys the Biden Administration, which had anticipated that there would be potential to boost US exports to replace Russian petroleum products in the lucrative European market.
The US will be uneasy about a “gas union” betwixt Russia, Pakistan and India. But India has vital interests in safeguarding its energy security. The western hegemony in the world order is ending. Russia’s “gas union” in Central Asia signals that the time has come for regional states in South Asia to respond with a unity of purpose.
On January 19, 2023, three Police constables were killed in a suicide attack at the Takhta Beg Police checkpost in Jamrud tehsil (revenue unit) of Khyber District in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP). Police said terrorists armed with hand grenades, entered the premises and opened fire using a sub-machine gun. After the firing, a suicide bomber blew himself up. The Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) claimed responsibility for the attack.
On January 18, 2023, a teenager, Raheedullah, was found beheaded in a remote area of Bargai village in Lakki Marwat District. The Ittehadul Mujahideen-i-Khurasan left a dagger and a hand written chit in Pashto near the body, with the message that Raheedullah was found guilty of spying for the Army and the Counter Terrorism Department (CTD).
On January 14, 2023, three Policemen, including Deputy Superintendent of Police (DSP), Badaber Sardar Hussain and his two Police guards, Irshad and Jehanzeb, were killed in a terrorist attack on the Sarband Police Station in Peshawar, the provincial capital of KP. KP Inspector General of Police (IGP) Moazzam Jah Ansari said that sniper rifles were used by the terrorists in the incident, for the first time in Peshawar. TTP claimed responsibility for the attack. The CTD killed the two terrorists who were involved in the attack, Gul Hayyee and Hazrat Umar, residents of the Bara area of Khyber District and Mohmand Hal Yeka Tut in Peshawar, while two to three other terrorists managed to escape.
According to partial data compiled by the South Asia Terrorism Portal (SATP), KP has recorded 33 terrorism-related fatalities, including 23 terrorists, eight Security Force (SF) personnel and two civilians, so far, in the current year (data till January 22, 2023). During the corresponding period of 2022, the province had recorded 19 such fatalities including 11 terrorists, five SF personnel and three civilians.
KP recorded a total of 527 fatalities (119 civilians, 173 SF personnel and 235 terrorists) in 184 incidents of killing in 2022, as against 300 such fatalities (71 civilians, 108 SF personnel, and 121 terrorists) in 129 such incidents in 2021, registering an increase of 75.66 per cent in overall fatalities. Overall fatalities, on year-on-year basis, have been on a continuous rise since 2020, when fatalities stood at 216 (61 civilians, 57 SF personnel, and 98 terrorists) in comparison to 130 (30 civilians, 69 SF personnel, and 31 terrorists) in 2019.
Significantly, overall fatalities in 2022 are the highest in a year since 2014, when there were 697 fatalities. In terms of SF fatalities, the 2022 tally is the highest since 2013, when there were 181 fatalities. Terrorist fatalities in 2022 were the highest since 2011, when there were 372 such fatalities. The number of civilians killed in a year touched three digits after a gap of five years, with 122 civilians killed in 2016.
Other parameters of violence also indicated a worsening security situation in the province. Total terrorism-linked incidents jumped sharply from 168 in 2021 to 225 in 2022, the highest since 2015, when there were 278 incidents. The number of major incidents (each involving three or more killings) increased from 41 in 2021 to 56 in 2022, the highest since 2013, when there were 72 such incidents. The resultant fatalities in such attacks also increased from 186 in 2021 to 337 in 2022. Similarly, KP accounted for an increased number of explosions, from 32 in 2021 to 45 in 2022 (the highest since 2015, when there were 50 such incidents), and the resulting fatalities spiked from 52 to 129. The province recorded eight suicide attacks in 2022 (the highest since 2017, when there were also eight such attacks) as against two in 2021. In the worst attack, on March 4, at least 63 worshippers lost their lives and 194 others were injured when a suicide attacker detonated himself inside a Shia Mosque in the Koocha Risaldar area of Peshawar.
Of 38 Districts in KP, 16 recorded terrorism-related violence, according to the SATP database. The most violent District in 2022 was, again, North Waziristan District, which accounted for 177 deaths, followed by Peshawar (87 fatalities), Bannu (60 fatalities) and Dera Ismail Khan (43 fatalities). In 2021 as well, North Waziristan recorded the maximum of 106 killings, followed by South Waziristan (51 fatalities), Peshawar (25 fatalities) and Bajaur (22 fatalities). Of 38 Districts, 21 Districts registered terrorism-related incidents in 2021. 2020 saw terrorism-related incidents in 19 Districts, of which North Waziristan had the highest number of fatalities (110), followed by Peshawar (27) and South Waziristan (21).
In 2019, violence in KP had fallen to its second lowest level, in terms of fatalities, as terrorists had started to escape to Afghanistan due to continuous SF operations in the tribal areas of Pakistan. With the Taliban starting to strengthen their position in Afghanistan in 2020, the TTP terrorists who had escaped to Afghanistan started receiving increasing support inside Afghanistan, which helped them in their efforts to revive their campaigns in Pakistan. The process gained momentum with the Taliban’s return to power in Afghanistan on August 15, 2021.
Though an attempt to start a direct dialogue between the TTP and the Pakistan Government was initiated soon after the Taliban seized Kabul, it finally succeeded in May 2022. After a fractious six months, it came to an end in November 2022. During this entire period, there was not a single phase of peace on the ground.
On the contrary, an October 12, 2022, report suggested that the TTP had re-emerged violently in the restive areas of Swat, as militants detained Police personnel and an Army officer after enforcement officials launched an operation to capture TTP militants. Earlier, an August 12, 2022, report noted that TTP militants had established a check-post at Balasoor Top, besides roaming about freely in other areas of the Matta tehsil of Swat. The areas included Bar Shor, Koz Shor, Namal, Gat Peuchar and among others. Significantly, the Geo News correspondent in Swat, Mehboob Ali, claimed that at least 200-250 TTP terrorists were present and operating in the area.
On December 23, 2022, after analysing the overall law and order situation in KP, the Police department declared South and North Waziristan, Lakki Marwat and Bannu Districts, terrorist ‘trouble spots’. Additional Inspector General of Police (ADGP), Operations, Mohammad Ali Babakhel declared, “Southern districts, including North and South Waziristan [from among the newly-merged tribal districts] as well as Lakki Marwat and Bannu districts [from settled areas], are trouble spots.”
Indeed, on December 27, 2022, Federal Interior Minister Rana Sanaullah disclosed that there were around 7,000 to 10,000 TTP fighters in the region, and they were accompanied by 25,000 members of their families. He added that some of the terrorists, who had previously laid down arms, had secretly resumed activities, and alleged, “The biggest reason for this is the failure of [the] Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government and Counter Terrorism Department… It is their job to stop it.”
Meanwhile, a report presented to Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif during the national security review meeting in December 2022, warned that, because of an acute shortage of staff and resources, the KP CTD would not be able to prevent or stop terrorist attacks in the province, and lacked the capacity to fight terrorism.
Significantly, in a daring incident on December 18, 2022, a detained terrorist overpowered a constable at the CTD Complex in Bannu Cantonment (Bannu District) and, after snatching the constable’s weapon, freed 34 other detained terrorists. As soon as they came out of the lockup, the terrorists took possession of more weapons and started firing. One CTD constable was killed, while another was injured, and died later. Meanwhile, SFs cordoned off the area and launched an operation. Immediately after the seizure of the complex by the terrorists on December 18, two terrorists were killed, three were arrested, and two security forces personnel were injured in the exchange of fire. Efforts to induce the terrorists to surrender unconditionally continued for the next two days. On December 20, the SFs took initiated an operation against the terrorists who refused to surrender. During the resulting and fierce exchange of fire between terrorists and security forces, 25 terrorists were killed. Three terrorists were arrested and the remaining seven surrendered. Three SF personnel were killed in the operation, while another 10, including two officers, were injured. The TTP claimed responsibility for the incident.
As ‘official’ talks between the TTP and the Government collapsed with the TTPs declaration of an end to the ceasefire on November 28, 2022, an escalation of violence within KP, and the possibilities of its fanning out into other areas of Pakistan, have increased dramatically. The risk of Pakistan’s tribal areas once again becoming the “most dangerous place on earth” is real.
In a daring incident on December 18, 2022, a detained terrorist overpowered a constable at the Counter Terrorism Department (CTD) Complex in Bannu Cantonment (Bannu District) and, after snatching the constable’s weapon, freed 34 other detained terrorists.
Major General Ahmed Sharif Chaudhry, Director-General (DG) Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR), stated, “As soon as they came out of lockup, the terrorists got more weapons from the mall and started firing.” One CTD constable was killed and another was injured. The injured constable died later. Meanwhile, Security Forces (SFs) cordoned off the area and launched an operation. “Immediately after the seizure of the complex on December 18, two terrorists were killed, three were arrested, and two security forces personnel were injured in the exchange of fire,” the DG added. “Efforts to induce the terrorists to surrender unconditionally continued for the next two days,” he disclosed, adding that the terrorists demanded a safe passage to Afghanistan. On December 20, the SFs took action against the terrorists for not surrendering. “During the operation – fierce exchange of fire between terrorists and security forces – 25 terrorists were killed. Three terrorists were arrested while seven surrendered. Three sons of the soil were martyred fighting bravely in the operation,” the DG added. 10 soldiers, including two officers, were injured in the operation.
Meanwhile, a Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) spokesperson on December 18, 2022, claimed responsibility for the hostage incident. He ‘clarified’ that though the militants in the previous video statement while demanding safe passage “mistakenly mentioned Afghanistan”, the group in fact had spoken to government officials overnight and asked them to “shift the prisoners” to either South or North Waziristan.
On December 19, two civilians and one soldier were killed while one civilian was injured in a suicide attack in Miranshah area of North Waziristan District.
On December 18, four Policemen were killed and four were wounded, as terrorists attacked the Bargai Police Station in Lakki Marwat District. The terrorists used rockets and grenades to break into the Police Station. Militants managed to flee after killing the enforcement personnel.
On December 14, one soldier and a civilian were killed while 14 others, including nine security personnel, were injured, when a suicide attacker on a motorcycle targeted a Security Forces’ (SFs) convoy on Data Khel Road at Miranshah in North Waziristan District.
On December 7, 2022, a Policeman was killed when terrorists attacked a Police post with heavy weapons in the Kangar Pul area of Bannu District.
In a brutal incident, on December 5, 2022, a Frontier Constabulary (FC) soldier and his son were killed by unidentified assailants in the Jani Khel town of Bannu District. Around 20 armed men entered the house of the FC soldier and shot the two dead. They then beheaded the FC soldier and hung his head from a tree in the Bachki Market area. The head was spotted by tribesmen in the morning, who then informed the Police.
The Bannu Division in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) comprises three Districts: Bannu, Lakki Marwat and North Waziristan.
According to partial data compiled by the South Asia Terrorism Portal (SATP), the Bannu Division has recorded at least 343 terrorism-related fatalities (16 civilians, 76 SF personnel and 164 terrorists) in 2022, thus far (data till December 25, 2022). In 2021, there were 175 terrorism-related fatalities, including 17 civilians, 46 SF personnel and 57 terrorists.
The 2022 tally, with over a week still to go, is the highest in a year since 2009, when fatalities peaked at 399. Fatalities in the Division have been on a rise since 2018.
SF fatalities in 2022 were the highest in a year since 2007, when 106 troopers were killed. The 2022 terrorist fatalities were the highest since 2009, when 245 terrorists were killed. Meanwhile, civilians continue to face a threat from the terrorists, though this has remained moderate over time.
The Bannu Division accounted for a total of 2,877 fatalities (348 civilians, 594 SF personnel, 1190 terrorists, 162 Not Specified) since March 6, 2000, when SATP commenced compiling data on conflicts in Pakistan. These fatalities were recorded in 348 incidents of killing.
The District-wise distribution saw 1,416 fatalities in the North Waziristan District (48 civilians, 374 SF personnel, 842 terrorists, 152 Not Specified); 634 in the Bannu District (299 terrorists, 164 civilians, 162 SF personnel and nine Not Specified); and 244 in the Lakki Marwat District (136 civilians, 58 SF personnel, 49 terrorists and one Not Specified). [North Waziristan was an Agency of the erstwhile Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) till May 28, 2018, when FATA was merged with KP.]
Indeed, unsettled by the security situation, Bannu Commissioner Arshad Khan, in a meeting on July 18, 2022, asked the relevant officials to prepare a comprehensive report on Police infrastructure and working mechanisms in North Waziristan.
On December 19, 2022, a report presented to Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif during the national security review meeting warned that, because of an acute shortage of staff and resources, the CTD of KP would not be able to prevent or stop terrorist attacks in the province and lacked the capacity to fight terrorism. The report noted,
Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa environment remained highly volatile when compared with other provinces; in the last one year, Punjab faced 5 terrorist incidents (3 Shaheed and 30 injured) compared with 704 in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (305 Shaheed and 689 injured); with 93 terrorists killed mostly by security forces. Despite facing major wrath of terrorism, focus of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government on counter terrorism capacity building is absent.
Rana Sanaullah, Federal Minister of the Interior, blamed the province’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI)-led government, asserting that the province was paying the price of PTI Chairman Imran Khan’s “incompetence and corruption”, adding “Imran Khan is busy dissolving assemblies and terrorists are busy killing innocent people of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.” Significantly, Imran Khan has threatened to dissolve KP and Punjab Assemblies, where his party is ruling.
Further, on December 23, 2022, Additional Inspector General of Police (AIDGP)-Operations, Mohammad Ali Babakhel, declared that the “southern districts, including North and South Waziristan [from among the newly-merged tribal districts] as well as Lakki Marwat and Bannu districts [from settled areas], are trouble spots.”
On November 28, 2022, the TTP declared an end to the seven month-long ceasefire and is most likely to escalate violence in the Bannu Division and elsewhere in KP, as well as in the country at large. The present political slugfest between the ruling Pakistan Muslim League – Nawaz, and Imran Khan’s PTI can only provide the terrorists greater opportunities for violence and further destabilization.