Pakistan in the Crosshairs

 

Beyond its shores, Pakistan’s fair name has unfortunately become synonymous with terrorism of the Islamic variety. Its reputation has, over the years, taken so much of a hit that even President Obama once referred to it as a ‘disastrously dysfunctional country’. Though most of us remain in defiant denial, the unpalatable fact is that the rising tide of radicalism and religious exclusivity that continues to envelop us in its embrace since the early nineteen eighties has forced its way unhindered into the national consciousness.

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CPEC – Opportunities for Karachi

CPEC – just four simple letters, letters on which an entire nation’s hopes and aspirations are pinned. This huge injection of Chinese investment is vital for jump-starting the Pakistani economy. Such a generous shot in the arm can also unfortunately have the opposite effect, that of dooming the country to perpetual servitude. A high level of preparedness, ability and capacity to exploit the opportunities on offer is a prerequisite for avoiding this setback. And as the term ‘Economic Corridor’ signifies, opportunities herein are indeed aplenty.

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Gloom and Boom in the City of Lights

Karachi is in many ways a microcosm of the country itself. One finds all religions, nationalities and ethnicities represented here. There is no dearth of good entrepreneurs, businessmen, traders, transporters, educationists, artisans and other professionals, and no shortage of skilled labour either. So why doesn’t the city click? An avid follower of the Karachi scene would perhaps frame the question differently: ‘How has the city managed to survive and thrive despite the adversities it is pitted against?’But prior addressing this question as well as the major issue of how to go about reinvigorating the socio-economic dynamism of Karachi, it is useful to understand what the city has gone through and is going through and what are the major impediments in its path to glory.

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Cracking the FATA Code

The Federally Administered Tribal Areas of Pakistan (better known by its acronym FATA) had been created in 1849 to serve as a buffer between British India and Afghanistan, while Afghanistan itself was being softened through invasions, coercion, subsidies and diplomacy to keep Czarist Russia at bay. Having entered into a joint agreement with the Afghan Emir for the demarcation of the international border, the British also managed to persuade Russia to follow suit, resulting thereby in bifurcating the Pashtun tribes on the British side and the Turkmen, Uzbek and Tajik Territories on the Russian side of the demarcated Afghan border.

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CPEC – Building Bridges in a Troubled Region

 

No sooner had the Karakoram Highway, which connects the northern stretches of  Pakistan with China’s westernmost autonomous region through the high-altitude Khunjerab Pass, opened for business in 1979, it ushered in its wake numerous possibilities and opportunities. Hasan Abdal, which constitutes the starting point of this highway, was already connected to the North South road and rail network from  Peshawar to Karachi. Most of the developments that followed, like the motorway branches emanating from Lahore for instance, all took place along the already developed areas of the River Indus and its tributaries. This made good commercial and political sense at the time as all major centres of population as well as those associated with agricultural and industrial productivity were concentrated there.

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Driven By Evolution, God’s Creation!

Although Darwin has managed to whip up a frenzy for unleashing a ‘dangerous idea’ that supposedly undercuts religious beliefs about creationism- that all species were concurrently created in their present form by God a couple of thousand years ago- the fact is that in his magnum opus ‘The Origin of Species’, based on his painstaking practical observations during his extensive scientific forays in and around South America, the Galápagos Islands in particular, Darwin just shows how one species gradually changes into another, without really exploring in detail the origin of life. His basic premise, that all life forms evolved from a single cell organism, came in later articles. The one thing the Catholic Church latched on to, about apes being man’s immediate forefather, earned him a great deal of scorn for not only belittling man, but also belittling the word of God.
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The United Nations – Geared for Change?

For I dipp’d into the future, far as human eye could see,
Saw the vision of the world, and all the wonders that would be;
Saw the heavens fill with commerce, argosies of magic sails
Pilots of the purple twilight, dropping down with costly bales;
Heard the heavens filled with shouting, and there rain’d a ghastly dew,
From the nations’ airy navies grappling in the central blue,
Till the war drums throbbed no longer and the battle flags were furled,
In the Parliament of Man, the Federation of the world.

(Lord Alfred Tennyson, Locksley Hall, 1842)

The Phoenix-like emergence of the United Nations Organisation from the ashes of the Second World War was a calculated move to fend off the possibility of such a catastrophe ever recurring, something that its much-discredited predecessor, the League of Nations, had failed to do. To be fair, the sort of baggage the League of Nations had been saddled with had primed it for disaster. For one thing, the Covenant of the League, drawn up by the victors of the First World War, was primarily designed to supplement the terms of the uneven peace treaty with Germany. Such arrogance was not well received in the US, whose senate refused to ratify the Covenant.
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An Uneasy Alliance

Since Pakistan’s emergence on the world map, Pak-US ties have been characterised more by mutual dependence than shared interests as is the norm. America to its credit has always made its concerns clear: Soviet Union being its favourite bugbear till the end of the Cold War and the deceptively ambiguous war on terror thereafter. Though Pakistan officially tows the same line, its commitment is diffused by the singular prism, that of India, through which it views all its assessments.
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A Time for Introspection

The Muslim ‘Ummah’, if it can be termed as such, is on the verge of imploding. Almost all countries in its fold are riven with strife, strife of their own making. The reason is not hard to find: a blatant disregard of the cardinal principle of unity as enshrined in the Quran, which enjoins the believers “to hold fast to the rope of Allah, and not be divided amongst themselves”. Divisions have always been, and continue to be, deliberately engineered by the ruling classes in a bid to indefinitely prolong their reign, using the clergy as a willing accomplice. Instead of the focus being on points of convergence, of which there are legion, the emphasis is regrettably on fomenting differences. Tribes are pitched against tribes and nation states against nation states; no heed is paid to the Quranic injunction about tribes being created ‘so that you may know each other’ and not be antagonistic towards each other. Sectarian feelings are deliberately inflamed, with minorities being at the receiving end, ignoring the Quranic caution to be patient and wait for Allah, Who alone knows everything, to reveal where we each erred. Patience is unfortunately not our strongest suit.
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Pakistan’s Strategic Environment

Pakistan’s security perspective remained exceedingly bleak during the decade following India’s first nuclear explosion in 1974. It’s policy of nuclear ambiguity from the mid- nineteen eighties onwards served it well. Though the country was finally forced to come out of the nuclear closet in May 1998, thanks largely to its neighbour’s renewed nuclear testing and post-blast rhetorics, the decision to do do, in retrospect, appears to be a sound one. The severe sanctions imposed eventually got eased some three years later through force of circumstances, following Pakistan’s decision to put its weight behind the U.S.- led invasion of Afghanistan.
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