screams tore through the sky, travelling the deep lengths of haunting silence guarded
by military men at River Neelum. She wanted to grab her son, Ali Ahmad, from
the other side of the border and run. Instead, Jamila saw him being dragged
away by Indian soldiers, away from the river, away from the border, away from
her sight. The cross-border meeting time was over.
Ali Ahmad is 20 years old and was raised in the disputed territory of Jammu and Kashmir by one of his mother's relatives, who had looked after him since he was an infant. He was left or forgotten on the Indian side of the border when his mother was swept up in the mad rush to flee to Pakistan during the violence of the early 90s. He now lives and studies in New Delhi, and made the long journey to the border for the rare opportunity to see his mother. In fact, it was the rarest of opportunities, as she stood in front of him for the first time across the border at River Neelum -- also known as Kishanganga -- that splits the Kashmir region between India and Pakistan; the place where all the wars in his life began.
Jamila still lives in the beautiful, isolated valley of Pakistan-controlled Kashmir very near to the Line of Control (LoC) that divides the two countries and continues to be their single most threatening bone of contention.
"Return my son", she pleaded as people held her from trying to cross over the river. "Forgive me for leaving India. I was scared. Please return my son before I die."
Jamila uttered gibberish and let go of her last scream, before the sun slipped
behind the dark green mountains splitting Kehran into what Pakistanis generally
call ‘Azad [free] and Occupied Kashmir.'
For 20 years, Jamila had waited to meet her son, attempted to reach him, and since the recent initiation of cross border permits, has made dozens of visits to the permit office. All to no avail. Her application to cross the border has never been rejected, "they don't reject or give a reason for delay. They just don't grant us the permit," Jamila later told the AfPak Channel. "I have been trying for several years, and have spent hundreds of thousands of rupees just making incessant visits to the office, sometimes bribing officials who never really helped. Those who do get their permits must be really lucky, but I have never met anyone like that."
Jamila has no family on the Pakistani side of the border. Her father and husband were killed during the massacres of the 1990s in Indian-held Kashmir a few months after her marriage. The Indian army is accused of committing thousands of extra-judicial killings, and "stories of arrests, torture, killings, and secret burials were rife in Kashmir" at the time.
Jamila's town of Zachaldara, Handwara in North Kashmir's Kupwara district was infamous for such violence, and her "only hope was to escape." Her son was just a year old when she decided to go to Pakistan with a group from her village that was "fleeing to Azad Kashmir for freedom." "It sounded like a miraculous imagination, a dream, at that time to be able to live freely," Jamila said. "But freedom is pointless if it separates you from your own child." Today she is 45 but looks a decade older, perhaps aged by a lifelong desperation to live with her son again.
"I want to see him graduate from college and find a nice girl to marry. For
years I have dressed him for school in my head and I have imagined tucking him
to bed. But like the dreams we have had of freedom in Azad Kashmir, these
dreams I have for him are not real and I fear they shall never become." She
says she is "very tired" and fears dying from this wait.
What do Kashmiris want?
It seems for many Kashmiris that there is nothing more horrible than having a family and knowing that you will never meet them. Jamila is one of thousands of such Kashmiris in Pakistan, who are now speaking out about their issues through protests and demonstrations. On July 10th and August 5th of this year protesters gathered on both the Pakistan-controlled (Azad) and Indian-controlled sides of Kashmir bordering the Neelum Valley, and caught the attention of local and foreign media outlets. Chanting in demand for freedom from the armed forces of the two countries, they held banners that said "India, Pakistan, leave us alone." "Kashmir belongs to Kashmiris," and "Kashmir is burning, leave us alone."
Among the various difficulties that Azad Kashmiris face when trying to meet with their families on the other side of the border, the topmost include: (a) being unable to communicate with their relatives either via mobile phones or land lines; (b) being unable to send and receive mail, letters and packages, "It is also commonplace, that our mails and letter never really reach our families on the other side, and if they ever do, they are always open," pointed out Jamila; and (c) being unable to commute and meet their families across border.
The question is, why do these Kashmiris have to gather in dissent when India and Pakistan seem to be having rather healthy negotiations and agreeing on confidence building measures (CBMs) that often focus on relaxing regulations for Kashmiris? Kashmiris are now nominally permitted to meet their families as often as three times per year, for as long as 30 days per visit. And Kashmir now has five transit routes at the LoC for Kashmiri-born traders.
The most recent CBMs discussed by the two countries have resulted in landmark developments, including increasing the number of trading points along the Line of Control, increasing the number of days on which trading can occur, the launching of a new bus service to operate via new routes between northwestern Pakistan-occupied Kashmir and southern Indian-occupied Kashmir, and an increase in the frequency of the bus service between Muzaffarabad (the capital of Pakistan-controlled Kashmir) and Srinagar (the capital of Indian-controlled Kashmir). However, there is clearly a vast different between agreeing to a policy and implementing it on ground.
Local analyst and professor Khalil Sajjad, who works in the Peace Studies department at the University of Azad Jammu and Kashmir, believes that CBMs are merely a marketing tool to flaunt improving relations between India and Pakistan, and are not really delivering on the promises made to Kashmiris. "Even though new developments such as re-opening and regularizing of bus routes seems to provide unstinting opportunity to traders and people, if thousands of families have still been unable to meet their relatives for the past two decades, then in essence the impermeability is intact."
The core issue: Who gets the cross border permits?
Jamila is one of the approximately 10,000 applicants who have been seeking cross border permits since 2005. There are no exact numbers on how many applicants actually receive permits every year. The bus using the route between Chakoti in Pakistan-controlled Kashmir and Srinagar in Indian-controlled Kashmir carries around 40 passengers every Monday. Major Iftikhar from the Chakoti Military check post says, "90% of valid applicants get their permits. Only those declined by our verification procedure have to wait."
The verification procedure is long, and includes various levels of checks and double-checks. When applications are submitted, the individual's biographical details are initially verified by different government departments. "If their records are clean, we then give these details to about five agencies that are part of the Inter-Services Intelligence Directorate (ISI)," Major Iftikhar told the AfPak Channel. "We are very careful with who we are allowing to the other side of the border. This develops a feeling of neglect and hostility among many applicants who await permits, but we need to be fastidious since our relation with India is still very sensitive" he added.
Officer Mubarak Abass, who manages the Chakoti Crossing Point and looks after
the Srinagar-Muzaffarabad bus service on the Pakistani side, says "40 percent
of the total permits are currently pending. Many applications are held because
they do not qualify the verification procedure. Some submissions are incomplete;
others are marked red based on security concerns. For example, if we find the
applicant to have suspicious links or the data submitted by candidates is unverifiable
then we hold such applications. One needs to be chary of
the risks involved."
Are these limitations
violating civil rights? Broadcast
journalist Aurangzeb Jarral, who works for the private national channel Dunya
TV, says, "[the most] genuine and the most bland applicants with unblemished
records don't get their permits. I have met and interviewed many people who
have nothing to do with militancy or have the thinnest possibility of something
mistrustful, but they don't get their permits for years if not decades. This is
a clear-cut abuse of human rights, when the government has a system in place
just for these people but they are still not able to avail it. Many of them die
According to Wadood Ahmed,
who is currently conducting academic research on the Kashmir conflict, "It is
tacit knowledge that India and Pakistan do not want to provide absolute cross-border
access to Kashmiris on either side. And Kashmiris on both sides of the
border are well aware of this. More than any militancy threats, the real fear
has to do with a fair people's access." For India, the fear is that more
Kashmiris coming from the Pakistani side may create pressure for freedom, and
in the worst-case scenario, they may join liberation armies in Indian-held
Kashmir. For Pakistan, the fear is of spies sent by the Indian government. "As
long as India and Pakistan want to hold on to their sides of Kashmir, neither
of them will provide fare permits freely, even to the most authentic
Indian journalist Jahangir Ali told the AfPak Channel, "An old lady died in July this year of cancer. She had communicated her last wish to the [Indian] government; it was to meet her son. Her daughter and family tried to urge the government to let her son come to meet her from Pakistan. The government refused to give him the cross border permit. It was heart breaking to watch her die without seeing him. What good are such CBMs if they can't be serviced for genuine cases like this?"
Does this mean that India and Pakistan are only nominally applying the CBMs? Is Kashmir just a convenient rallying point for both countries? And is there is a strong interest on both sides of the border in keeping Kashmir alive?
"Look, absolute peace is really not in the interest of
either of the two countries," researcher Wadood Ahmed told this author. "Neither
of them wants to see Kashmiris independent because that would mean [one] of
them loses their territory." Both governments have failed to provide the
populace with welfare, development or infrastructure. Visa permits are just one
example of how the two states continue to put off the difficult task of giving Kashmiris'
their right to self-determination while giving the world the impression that
real progress is being made.
Kiran Nazish is a journalist based in Pakistan, currently covering the country's conflict areas to report on issues of human rights. She can be followed @kirannazish.
Will Afghanistan be ready for a 2014 transition? The International Crisis Group's (ICG) October 2012 report on this question drew a significant amount of attention for its warnings about electoral and political strife that could envelop the country following the withdrawal of NATO combat troops (and large amounts of aid) by the end of 2014. Less attention was paid, however, to the ICG's concerns about the state of the Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF, which consists of the army and police).
The report notes, "[a]s political competition heats up in the approach to the elections, there is a genuine risk that internecine competition between leaders of factions within the ANSF could lead not only to more green-on-blue incidents, but also to an increase in already high attrition rates and, in the worst case, disintegration of command and control soon after U.S. and NATO forces withdraw."
These warnings are even more concerning in light of the fact that the United States is pursing an inordinately military-heavy strategy in developing Afghanistan's security forces. The current strategy focuses on capacity building and neglects the reinforcement of democratic principles that are necessary to ensure Afghanistan's success: accountability, subordination to civilian authority, and respect for human rights, the law of armed conflict (LOAC), Afghan law, and the use of traditional justice. The United States must address these concerns by establishing parallel political and civilian tracks.
The goal of U.S. efforts vis-à-vis ANSF development appears straightforward: the U.S. strives to increase the capability of ANSF to sustain operations that ensure security, safeguard and establish governmental control, and combat terrorism. U.S. forces involved in ANSF development are focused on the skills ANSF need to confront armed opposition groups and crime. This translates into advice on targeting processes, the military decision-making process, law and order procedures, fire and maneuver, small unit tactics, etc. However, it is not apparent that U.S. policy and practice for this effort is taking into account the political, military, and social complexities involved in ANSF development; viewing it through the lens of security sector reform (SSR) helps to clarify this.
Just as is the case for foreign troops in Afghanistan, Afghan security forces can only succeed with the support of the civilian populace. How does U.S. assistance and advising take this need for acceptance into consideration, though? Moreover, how does it take into account the dire need to ensure that citizens can hold ANSF accountable for infractions that jeopardize such acceptance?
These are serious questions concerning U.S. efforts to develop ANSF and establish security. It appears that the United States does not have in place adequate doctrine, policies, or practices to monitor, report, and address ANSF progress with respect to complex matters of SSR and the professionalization of democratically controlled security forces. Such matters include the following:
The current U.S. training strategy for the ANSF risks furthering the conflict in Afghanistan by creating capable security forces that civilian authorities and Afghan citizens ultimately are not able to hold accountable. The absence of accountability and democratic control in cases of U.S.-assisted security forces has led to corruption, sectarian strife, and human rights and LOAC violations, for example, as we have seen already in Afghanistan, as well as in Uzbekistan, El Salvador, Vietnam, Iraq, Nicaragua, and South Sudan.
The United Nations 2011 report on protection of civilians in Afghanistan shows that Afghanistan needs to establish a system that allows for the investigation of ANSF infractions, and establishing one that sets methods to hold agents of abuse accountable is an even more daunting effort. The history of U.S. security assistance demonstrates the importance of monitoring, reporting, and advising on accountability and subordination of the ANSF to civilian authority: if accountability and subordination are insufficient, Afghanistan risks returning to an era of civil war.
The same ramifications confront ‘shadow governments' (i.e. Taliban local governments) that currently exist in Afghanistan when they do not reign in armed opposition groups sufficiently. Popular backlash against Taliban abuses, such as attacks on girls and the extrajudicial killings of mullahs, forces the Taliban to either discipline their fighters or deny responsibility. Just as the inability to control and hold accountable low-level fighters weakens support for the Taliban, the inability to control and hold accountable ANSF will weaken support for the Afghan government. It is essential that U.S. policy recognizes how the lack of transparency, accountability, and democratic control of security forces foments conflict.
The United States, however, cannot ensure Afghanistan will be properly equipped for accountability and control of ANSF if there is not a strong parallel political track between U.S. civilians working on the ANSF development effort and their Afghan counterparts. Things appear not to have changed much from Oxfam America's 2009 report on U.S. security assistance, which pointed out that "[i]n Iraq and Afghanistan, reliance on the U.S. military and private contractors to plan and implement U.S. SSR efforts has strongly reinforced the focus on operational capacity over accountability to civilian authority and respect for human rights." Oxfam correctly highlights in its report that the "[Department of State] should remain the lead agency in SSR, with the Department of Defense (DoD) facilitating the development of professional and accountable armed forces that are under civilian authority."
Advising and assisting ANSF is not just a military endeavor-it involves a great deal of political involvement and oversight. With a policy that utilizes a parallel political track, the U.S. can direct advisory brigades and teams in providing information to appropriate civilian counterparts so that they can address complex political-military issues. The U.S. must establish a strong political component that is led by the U.S. Department of State and dedicated to monitoring, reporting, and advising on the above SSR concerns in Afghanistan.
Another issue that U.S. policy vis-à-vis ANSF development neglects is civil society's involvement in the process. And because the conflict in Afghanistan is driven in part by Afghans' lack of trust in their government, such neglect is egregious. The existing U.S. efforts to encourage confidence in ANSF are superficial, consisting of propaganda campaigns rather than civil activities that would foster organic support for ANSF. Just as there must be democratic structures and processes that allow the Afghan government to control and monitor its security forces, there must be external avenues that allow Afghan citizens to convey concerns that help shape ANSF development and operations. For instance, providing assistance to civil society's involvement in these matters, such as building the ability of media to provide security sector oversight, encourages citizens to dialogue with their government and hold it responsible for its performance through the ballot box.
Educating Afghan media on their role in civil society as a ‘watch dog' for security force infractions is a critical positive step toward countering a myriad of issues-intimidation, government framing of incidents, restriction of information, etc.-that can hinder media oversight. The United States needs to establish a parallel civilian track that looks to secure the involvement of Afghan citizens in oversight of the ANSF through media, advocacy organizations, discussions with civil representatives, and elections. Afghans' use of elections to hold politicians responsible for the performance and control of domestic security forces is a clear demonstration of democratic accountability.
South Sudan-another test region for U.S. security assistance-provides a good example of what happens when security forces use overwhelming force in a nascent democracy, but citizens have no avenue to advocate for reform or hold their government accountable. When the Sudan People's Liberation Army (the SPLA-South Sudan's army) began to forcefully disarm militias in its historically restive Jonglei State-an effort that began in March 2012 and continues to date-the intervention resulted in numerous reported deaths, rapes, and extrajudicial killings, as well as a humanitarian crisis that persists to this day.
The SPLA's efforts in Jonglei State have alienated many from the Government of South Sudan. And while the fallout was predictable, the residents' inability to seek justice and security from the government is a failure for protection of civilians. Furthermore, it foments future conflict in South Sudan. Similar activity in Afghanistan would prove that Kabul and its forces are out of touch, not carrying out the will of the people, and essentially illegitimate.
As the United States looks toward a successful transition in 2014, it must address the above inadequacies if it hopes to provide Afghanistan with a fighting chance.
Ali A. Riazi is an advisor to NGOs and the U.S. government and military, with a focus on civilian protection, security sector reform, humanitarian affairs, and counter-terrorism. He served previously with the Afghanistan NGO Safety Office and the U.S. Marine Corps. He can be found at https://twitter.com/ali_riazi and http://www.abeingforitself.com.
As the United States' 2014 transition in Afghanistan approaches, American policymakers have underscored that President Hamid Karzai's government must undertake urgently needed institutional reforms. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton noted after this summer's Tokyo Conference that President Karzai had presented a "clear vision" for these reforms, which "must include fighting corruption, improving governance, strengthening the rule of law." Under the principle of mutual accountability, the United States will continue to support Afghanistan through and beyond transition.
For the U.S. to accurately gauge and support this process, we need an honest, robust grasp of Afghanistan's commitment to governance reform. But instead, since the U.S. surge began in late 2009, a few recurrent anecdotes have disproportionately driven the picture of Afghan governance that we see, thereby enabling the Afghan government's continuing reluctance to reform. A combination of bureaucratic pressures, journalistic factors, and data scarcity has led U.S. public discourse on Afghanistan to over-rely on "ground truthed" subjective narratives and personal testimonials. Proportionate, objective assessments of metrics relevant to governance reform have lost out in the noise.
"Anecdotalization" doesn't yet appear in the Oxford English Dictionary, but if it does, it will likely be because of the U.S. efforts in Afghanistan. To truly ensure much-needed Afghan government reform, we must finally suppress it.
How have a few recurrent anecdotes come to distort our understanding of Afghanistan's governance reform process?
First, predominant anecdotes have allowed us to mistake localized, distinct successes for replicable progress and reforms. Consider Nawa, which after years as one of Helmand's most dangerous districts demonstrated dramatically improved security and governance during the surge. Facilitated by American military leadership, helicopter-loads of high-ranking government officials, journalists, and think tankers visited the district for a few hours each, and produced personal testimonials like this one in a New York Times op-ed: "Nawa is flourishing. Seventy stores are open...and the streets are full of trucks and pedestrians. Security is so good we were able to walk around without body armor."
The author's bottom line echoed a Marine officer he quoted in his piece: "I hope people who say this war is unwinnable see stories like this." In contrast, observers with lengthier stays in Nawa noted its turnaround stemmed from a particular combination of tribal politics, local officials' calculations, and vast American inputs relative to the population-not any systematic action on the part of the Afghan government. Afghanistan comprises roughly 400 districts, but a vastly disproportionate number of eyewitness reports flowed in from Nawa and a handful of other districts like Arghandab and Baraki Barak. Colorful anecdotal successes drowned out more objective, broader assessments of governance reform.
Second, the pervasiveness of certain anecdotes has allowed us to confuse specific Afghan individuals' achievements for broader Afghan progress in institution building. American assistance to local Afghan government typically is focused on few key local officials. Many of these individuals demonstrated great strides or deep potential: behold the numerous accounts of Kandahar City's indefatigable mayor Ghulam Haider Hamidi, Helmand's reliable governor Ghulab Mangal, or Marja's promising district "governor in a box" Haji Zahir. Naturally, with transport facilitated by U.S. military leadership, the most impressive local officials were the ones who received frequent visits from high-level officials and influential correspondents, who could report they had seen local governance firsthand, and it was blooming. But judging overall governance progress on the basis of a few individuals is especially deceptive in Afghanistan, where officials are frequently reshuffled by the authorities in Kabul (as with Mangal), prove locally unpopular (Zahir), or are assassinated (Hamidi). Vivid testimonials don't equal a commitment to institutional reform.
Third, from a Kabul-based angle, a few persistent anecdotes have repeatedly allowed us to believe Afghan-led government reform is occurring where little actually is. For years, the international community pressured Kabul to clarify the scattered, confusing local governance picture. In 2010, the government responded with finalizing a 415-page Subnational Governance Policy: internally inconsistent yet enormously redundant, vast in ambit yet not enforceable in specifics. Before it could actually affect governance on the ground, the document needed significant legislative and administrative follow-up- which two and a half years later largely has not happened. But still, Afghan (and some American) officials alike frequently noted that they were pleased to see the policy had been drafted. A colorful testimonial counted as progress.
If this prevalence of anecdotes has allowed the Afghan government to substitute paper outputs for genuine reform, this pattern seems likely to repeat. After the Tokyo Conference described above, where the international community pressured the Karzai administration to launch serious reform and anti-corruption measures, Karzai responded with the lengthy decree: 167 articles along, divided among 33 government entities. As William Byrd and Attaullah Nasib have pointed out, the document lacked prioritization, action items, and benchmarks that can be evaluated. But it achieved its anecdotal point: as the Karzai administration has repeated frequently, it had "launched" a reform package.
How do we suppress the anecdotalization that has colored our understanding of Afghanistan's reform process? First, we must recognize that one cause is our own organizational incentives. In an era of budget constraints, military and civilian organizations in Afghanistan are pressured to demonstrate results quickly-and so they direct the unremitting stream of high-level visitors and influential thinkers to Afghanistan's most impressive cases. As a second explanation, our sound-bite culture places a premium on personal testimonials, and so peppering public communication with colorful narratives rather than tedious data is often viewed as more authentic or engaging. A third explanation lies in our unwitting mirror-imaging of the way the US government operates onto the way we believe the Afghan government does. In Washington, releasing an executive order has real consequences: it automatically triggers follow up and monitoring mechanisms from government agencies, Congress, and the media. Not so in Afghanistan, where glossy documents such as Karzai's presidential decree are often intended more to placate donors than to galvanize actions.
But the biggest reason of all for the rise of anecdotal noise is that alternatives are scarce. Measuring governance and reform-a nebulous, challenging task anywhere-- seems almost impossible in a data-poor, opaque context like Afghanistan. Data-driven evaluations do exist at the classified level, and unclassified information like The Asia Foundation's annual survey, the World Bank's indicators, International Crisis Group reports, and the Defense Department's bi-annual Section 1230 Reports add important insights or overviews. But the conversation about Afghanistan's progress resides heavily in the public domain, where opinion-makers gravitate toward the tactile, colorful personal story.
As U.S. policymakers turn toward 2014, they must suppress these recurrent anecdotes and focus on objectively measuring Afghanistan's governance reform against one central criterion: whether Afghan government institutions are prepared to "hold" the country after the U.S. drawdown. Instead of celebrating the unusual triumphs of districts like Nawa, we must look at indicators for how many provinces will be able to achieve relative success: ministry budget execution and service distribution to the local level. Instead of hoping that all local Afghan officials are as good as "our guy", we can measure whether Karzai's administration has truly made the subnational appointment system more merit based or locally accountable. Rather than check the box of "reform" with the release of a presidential anti-corruption decree, we can focus on the tedious work of prioritizing and following up on those 167 articles.
Shifting the narrative from one where a thousand vivid success stories bloom to one of objective assessment of reform won't be pleasant: it represents a move from the colorful to the colorless. But it is the only way to achieve our minimal objective in Afghanistan: an Afghan government that can endure after we depart.
Frances Z. Brown, at time of writing, was an International Affairs Fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations and an Afghanistan Fellow at the U.S. Institute of Peace.
MAURICIO LIMA/AFP/Getty Images
The Taliban's shooting last Tuesday of a 14-year old girl, Malala Yousafzai, a tireless campaigner for girls' access to education, has plunged the entire Pakistani nation into a state of disbelief. Many in Pakistan and around the world have lauded her bravery, and some have questioned whether this incident is going change Pakistan, or is just another example of the ignored militant threat. The assault on Malala raises questions about the safety of female activists all over Pakistan.
In this article, we discuss ten major incidents over the past decade, all involving women, which shook the foundations of Pakistani society and increased public expectations for improved conditions for Pakistani women. These tragedies involve many different forms of violence against women, along with lax official responses that encourage a culture of impunity among the perpetrators of the assaults.
Malala Yousafzai: Taliban gunmen singled out Malala on October 9, 2012 in a school van full of girls returning home for the day. They shot her in the neck and head. She had infuriated the Taliban with her blog posts for the BBC that exposed the insurgent group's ban on girls' education in her native Swat, in the northwest of Pakistan. The Taliban consider girls' education to be un-Islamic and they began to destroy schools as a tactic to stop education for girls. According to TIME Magazine, they destroyed 473 schools between 2007 and 2009. The destruction and closure of local schools compelled Malala to speak up against the Taliban's actions. She met personally with top officials, including senior U.S. diplomats, to request them to help Pakistani girls receive uninterrupted education. The Taliban have vowed to kill Malala if she survives, and she currently remains under treatment in a hospital in England. Malala has emerged as a child hero epitomizing resistance against the Taliban.
Ramsha Masi is a teenaged Pakistani Christian girl, who according to some reports suffers from Down syndrome, and who was detained by authorities in Islamabad on blasphemy charges in August 2012 for allegedly burning pages of the Quran. She could face the death sentence if charges against her are proven. Ramsha's case spotlighted the vulnerability of Pakistan's religious minorities, who can easily be subjugated by Muslim clergymen under the controversial blasphemy law. It turned out that a Muslim cleric had actually planted evidence against the Christian girl but he was eventually granted bail by a court. Ramsha's physical safety still remains a major concern.
Sharmeen Obaid Chinoy, a filmmaker, made her country proud in 2012 by becoming the first Pakistani to win an Oscar award. Saving Face, her award-winning movie, however, stunned the world as it courageously exposed the despicable phenomenon of acid attacks on women. The movie instilled courage among the victims of acid assaults and drew international attention toward the unknown ferocious practice employed by abusive husbands, angry fathers, and Taliban militants alike.
Rankil Kumari: The case of this 17-year old Hindu girl has helped to draw public attention to another disquieting practice: Forceful conversion of Hindu girls into Islam, and their subsequent forced marriages with Muslim boys. On February 24, 2012, an influential Muslim politician kidnapped Ms. Kumari from her residence in Sindh province. When the girl resurfaced after a few days, she, apparently concerned about personal safety, said she had ‘willingly' embraced Islam and married a Muslim man. The Hindus, on their part, say young girls from their minority community are wholly unsafe in Pakistan, where each month at least 20 to 25 girls are forcefully converted to Islam and compelled to marry Muslims. According to one estimate, 300 Hindu girls are forcefully converted in Pakistan each year.
Asia Bibi is another Christian woman who became a victim of the blasphemy law. In November 2010, a court in Punjab handed her a death sentence for committing blasphemy against Islam. If the superior courts uphold the judgment, she will become Pakistan's first woman to be killed under the blasphemy law.
Ms. Bibi's case also indicates the improbability of abolishing or reforming the blasphemy laws. For example, Salmaan Taseer, the Punjab governor, was shot dead by his own security guard when he publicly spoke in support of Asia Bibi and proposed a review of the draconian law. His killing was immediately followed by another high-profile murder of the minister for minority affairs, Shahbaz Bhatti. The killings in the wake of Asia Bibi case have nearly silenced the debate over scraping the discriminatory blasphemy law.
Chand Bibi: In April 2009, a YouTube video showed the Taliban publicly flogging a 17-year old girl, Chand Bibi, in Swat Valley. The video shocked the nation by exposing the Taliban's barbaric ‘justice system'. The teenaged girl was flogged on charges of adultery in front of hundreds of people. A spokesman for the Taliban confirmed the incident, depriving the Taliban of public support in the area. Public backlash to the video was so intense that it paved the way for the Pakistani army to carry out an operation against the local Taliban in Swat.
The Baba Kot Girls: In August 2008, the Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) reported that five young girls had been shot and buried alive on the instructions of a powerful tribal elder in Baba Kot town of Balochistan province. The girls, whose number is often disputed, were buried alive after they opted to marry for love instead of accepting marriages arranged by their families. When the tragedy was reported in the media, it triggered a massive public outcry. A Pakistani senator, surprisingly, defended the incident in the Senate and justified it as "our tribal custom". The perpetrators of the Baba Kot murders were never punished. Every year, hundreds of girls are killed in the name of honor, mostly by their own male family members.
Benazir Bhutto inspired a full generation of Muslim women in 1988 when, at the age of 35, she became the first Muslim woman to head a government. Ms. Bhutto was twice elected as Pakistan's Prime Minister, and became a symbol of female courage. On December 27, 2007, Bhutto was assassinated after an election rally in the garrison town of Rawalpindi. Many Pakistanis, including Bhutto's opponents, believed their country would never be the same again after her tragic murder. Despite a United Nations investigation, who exactly killed Bhutto remains a mystery, and her murderers remain at large until today.
Dr. Shazia Khalid, 32, is a physician who was raped on January 2, 2005 in the gas-rich town of Sui, allegedly by a Captain in the Pakistani military. While the Pakistani army headed by General Pervez Musharraf endeavored to cover up the case, the incident was eventually made public and triggered cacophonous reactions from the powerful Bugti tribe, considered the captain's action an assault on the local customs.
General Musharraf publicly declared the captain "100 percent innocent" and went on to say, "a lot of people say if you want to go abroad and get a visa for Canada or citizenship and be a millionaire, get yourself raped." Dr. Khalid's rape triggered the country's worst conflict between the Pakistan army and the Baloch tribesmen, which continues today seven years later. The Pakistani army never put the captain on trial, and faced with death threats, Dr. Khalid had to flee Pakistan to England.
Mukhtaran Mai is Pakistan's most high-profile victim of gang-rape. In June 2002, a tribal council in Punjab Province endorsed her gang rape. She was paraded naked in front of hundreds of people and raped by men belonging to a powerful tribe. Unlike many rape victims in Pakistan and throughout the world, Mai chose to speak up against her rapists and pursue a legal battle. Her courage unsettled Pakistan's military dictator, General Pervez Musharraf, so much that he imposed travel restrictions on Mai by putting her name on Pakistan's Exit Control List (ECL) for fear that if she would tell her story abroad and add to the country's negative image in the world. She was also not allowed to meet with her lawyer. Glamour Magazine called Mai "The Bravest Woman in the World" and featured her as the 2005 "Woman of the Year." She has since then become a role model for Pakistani women by setting up her own organization to work for the welfare of rural women.
Malik Siraj Akbar, based in Washington DC, is an exiled Baloch journalist who founded The Baloch Hal, the first online English language newspaper in Balochistan, Pakistan. Formerly, he was a Regan-Fascell Democracy Fellow at the National Endowment for Democracy (NED) and a Hubert Humphrey Fellow at Arizona State University.
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Afghanistan provides all too many examples of the wisdom of Winston Churchill's saying "those that fail to learn from history, are doomed to repeat it." Great Britain forgot the hard-learned lessons from the First Anglo-Afghan War (1839-42) and got caught in the misadventure of the Second Anglo-Afghan War (1878-80). The Afghan Communist government that took power in a military coup in 1978 did not appear to have learned from the failed westernization and reform experiment of King Amanullah (1919-29); it imposed radical changes and engaged in brutal repression, quickly stirring up a violent reaction that threatened the new regime. The Soviet Union optimistically viewed its military intervention in Afghanistan at the end of 1979 as a limited action with a short time horizon-assumptions that proved unfounded and whose lack of realism would have been apparent from a review of Afghan history. And it does not seem that the United States and its NATO allies reflected on lessons from the Soviet occupation when they initiated the international military intervention in Afghanistan after 9/11, even though, as Bruce Riedel noted: "A country rarely fights the same war twice in one generation, especially from opposite sides. Yet that in many ways describes the U.S. role in Afghanistan today."
Afghanistan and its international partners now face a challenging process of international military drawdown and transition-in security, political, financial, and economic spheres. What can be learned from Afghanistan's history to inform and help guide this process? A recent paper outlines parallels and contrasts between past and present, and distills some historical themes and lessons that may be relevant for the current transition and beyond. It focuses on the change of Soviet strategy and its military withdrawal from Afghanistan (1986-89) and the subsequent Soviet-backed Najibullah regime (1989-92). Of course, any lessons from history must be applied cautiously, in full cognizance of the current situation and major differences from the past. Nevertheless, findings of the paper do shed light on themes and lessons from Afghanistan's history that could inform current transition planning and the path ahead.
First, it is necessary to clear up some myths and misconceptions. Afghanistan is a geographically well-defined country, whose borders were formed during a long period of conflicts and resistance against outside powers, most notably the British and Russian Empires. Dating from 1747, the country has a far longer history as a distinct national entity with continuity to the present than most of its neighbors-such as Pakistan, created in 1947 with artificially demarcated borders in two separate parts, or the central Asian states to the north formed after the break-up of the USSR at the end of 1991. Unlike some of its neighbors, Afghanistan has never had a significant secessionist movement. And the 1933-73 period shows that the country can be stable and effectively governed. The Afghan monarchial state did not penetrate deeply into the countryside, nor was it very successful developmentally, but it did keep the peace and maintain order, was perceived as legitimate internally and externally, maintained reasonable control over its borders, exercised independent diplomacy in a difficult region, and limited and monitored the activities of foreigners within the country-basic state functions which subsequent Afghan governments have struggled to fulfill.
Second, expectations about the pace of progress need to be kept modest. Whether domestically or externally driven, overly ambitious reform efforts with unrealistically short timeframes-particularly those disturbing established power relations in rural areas and affecting religion, culture, and the role of women-have led to sharp domestic reactions that set back development, sometimes for decades.
Third, the possibility of Afghanistan's neighbors playing "spoiler" roles and of regional rivalries undermining transition is very real. Historical experience and the current situation in Pakistan indicate that there may be a need to plan around, or at a minimum for contingency planning, with respect to Pakistan for example preventing a meaningful peace agreement with the Taliban. Iran and to a lesser extent other regional countries may also raise issues for the transition. More generally, the Soviet withdrawal period shows both the difficulties in reaching a peaceful solution to a conflict during military withdrawal, and the adverse consequences of failure to do so.
Fourth, Afghanistan's history has been characterized by chronic succession problems and associated conflict. Indeed not since 1933, and only three times since 1747, was there a smooth succession from one ruler to the next. Of the eight leaders of Afghanistan during 1973-2001, all but one died violent deaths or were ousted/exiled from power. Thus history highlights the challenges associated with the 2014 political transition and underlines the need for effective election preparations and a political strategy to maximize the prospects for smooth elections. If successful and not followed by post-election violence, the next Presidential election would comprise an unprecedented peaceful transfer of government leadership in Afghanistan's recent history.
Fifth, the post-Soviet withdrawal period shows the potential and limitations of Afghan security forces: holding onto Kabul and other large cities is probably the most that can be hoped for. Indeed, more risks may be associated with the Afghan National Army during and after the current transition given greater ethnic factionalization; parts of the ANA could fragment or desert earlier rather than later, whereas the post-Soviet Afghan army held together reasonably well until near the end.
Sixth, the Soviet and post-Soviet experience with arming and paying militias suggests that this approach is fraught with danger, risking instability given dependence on payments to militia leaders and exacerbating grievances and drivers of conflict due to predatory behavior of many militias. A "political marketplace" as seen in some African countries, where factionalized and short-term patronage is used for political and security management to hold together different ethnic groups and regional interests, and where deals reached can be-and frequently are-re-opened including through violence, is unstable and does not provide a good foundation for successful transition or sustained political progress.
Seventh, effective Afghan leadership, pursuing a national agenda, has been critical for achieving positive outcomes in times of change and transition in Afghanistan, including foreign military withdrawals. International experience also underlines the importance of effective national leadership during transitions, as emphasized in the 2011 World Development Report Conflict, Security, and Development.
Eighth, Afghanistan during most of its history has depended on outside financial support in various forms, and the current transition and following period will be no exception. While aid certainly can and should decline from the extraordinarily high levels seen in recent years, abruptly stopping or suddenly cutting back support would be a recipe for disaster, as occurred most notably in 1991-92 when the Soviet Union in its final days stopped all support to the Najibullah regime and it quickly collapsed.
Ninth, the Afghan economy currently is in much better shape than during the Soviet and post-Soviet period, having seen recovery and rapid growth over the past decade in contrast to the widespread destruction of infrastructure and the rural economic base and massive displacement of population during the 1980s and early 1990s. In coming years the destabilizing effects of a deep economic contraction must be avoided, which will depend on maintaining political stability, avoiding deterioration in security, and building confidence, as well as gradual rather than abrupt declines in international aid.
Finally, it is also important not to overlearn some apparent lessons from history. For example, Afghanistan's problematic experience over the past five decades with divisive, ideologically and ethnically driven political parties has made political parties in general an anathema to many Afghans. But effective political parties are an essential ingredient in successful democracies around the world, and a signal failure of the post-2001 period has been that more nationally oriented political parties have not emerged and developed.
In conclusion, some lessons from Afghanistan's turbulent history constitute warnings and cautionary themes about what can go wrong. This reflects the reality of the country's history, and both Afghans and international partners should move forward with eyes open so problems and risks can be managed better and mitigated to the extent possible. Certainly Afghanistan, the region, and the world cannot afford a repeat of the disastrous history of the 1990s-a worst-case outcome whose ramifications and damaging effects continue to be felt to this day. All parties must make strong efforts to ensure that such a repetition of history is avoided.
William Byrd is a visiting senior expert at the United States Institute of Peace. The views expressed here are his own.
Partnership is an essential aspect of our counterinsurgency strategy. It is also an indispensible element of the transition of responsibility to Afghans.
- COMISAF Tactical Directive, Revision 3, 7 July 2011
This week, the International Security and Assistance Force (ISAF) in Afghanistan suspended joint operations below the battalion level in response to an increase in "green-on-blue" attacks against international coalition forces by their Afghan National Security Force (ANSF) partners. The decision comes on the heels of the release of a movie that has inflamed the Muslim world, as well as two "insider attacks" last weekend that resulted in the deaths of six coalition members. At face value, the decision is understandable. Yet considering the importance that ISAF has placed on joint operations as the lynchpin of our strategy to withdraw from Afghanistan, one has to ask, "what kind of calculus goes into making this decision? And what impact will this have on our combat operations going forward?"
In terms of the calculus that goes into making such a decision, ISAF leaders had to weigh the safety of coalition troops with a decrease in combat effectiveness. But with 51 coalition deaths at the hands of their ANSF partners (also referred to as "green-on-blue" attacks) this year alone the decision seems prudent.
There is precedence for such action, as military units have been known to conduct "stand downs," -- a pause in training or combat operations -- in order to address a serious issue. In this case, halting joint operations allows ISAF leaders at all levels to evaluate their security posture, establish standard operating procedures to deal with insider attacks, and to imprint a mindset in all service members that "yes, the ANSF are your partners, but be alert and prepared 24/7."
[For the record, the problem of insider attacks is not out of the ordinary nor is it unique to Afghanistan. As a Special Forces instructor, I used to train U.S. Special Forces personnel to work with indigenous forces and to expect that some may turn on them during the course of training or combat. And recently, on a research trip to Somalia, I was almost killed in an insider attack that took the life of the man with whom I was talking.]
A stoppage in joint operations also sends a strong message to our Afghan partners to get their act together and do their part to stop insider attacks. After all, a unit's best defense against an attack is often the information provided to them by those who know it is coming. There is a reasonable expectation by coalition forces that Afghan soldiers and policemen will get wind of an attack prior to its execution -- and that they will take the necessary steps to inform their Coalition partners and/or thwart the attack themselves. So consider this a "stand down" in reverse, in that the coalition is forcing the ANSF to evaluate how they intend to address insider attacks.
More importantly, the decision to stop joint patrols recognizes that the enemy has found a weakness and that we can count on them to exploit it vigorously. If we expect the enemy to encourage more insider attacks and to exploit other instances of Muslim outrage, then we had better prepare for it. And right now, we are not prepared.
That said, keep in mind that a sizeable number of insider attacks are generated not by the Taliban but by disgruntled ANSF who feel that they have been disrespected or dishonored.
In terms of what impact this will have on our combat operations going forward, that obviously depends on whether or not we resume joint operations.
If we get back patrolling with the ANSF, expect two things: that our combat activities will have adjusted to consider insider attacks; and that insider attacks will still continue. Think of it like an Improvised Explosive Devise (IED): initially, we were unprepared to deal with that threat. Then in short order, we dramatically increased our capabilities to detect and defeat the IED. And yet, IEDs still keep coming. As we adapt, so does our enemy. Same situation with insider attacks: the risk is inherent and it will remain.
That said, one can expect ISAF and the ANSF to do a better job vetting ANSF personnel, using "guardian angels" (troops whose duty is to be ever-vigilant for an insider attack, especially during hours of darkness), and increasing security on Forward Operating Bases. Surprisingly, coalition troops may be encouraged to get even closer to their ANSF counterparts in order to increase information gathering opportunities and to decrease the chances of disgruntled soldier attacks.
If we decide not to resume joint operations, then expect a decrease in the effectiveness of combat operations -- at least initially.
Coalition forces conducting unilateral operations will certainly be challenged, as they rely on their ANSF counterparts' language ability and cultural sensitivity to gain access to information, increase situational awareness, and decrease the chance of unproductive interactions with the local populace.
The ANSF will suffer too, as they depend on the coalition for combat power and key enablers such as civil affairs, information operations, quick reaction forces, aviation and fire support, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR), medical evacuation and logistics.
But at this point let us acknowledge the fact that this is not the coalition's war to win; it is the Afghans'. Translation: combat effectiveness -- as measured by the coalition -- may drop. But the shock of being forced to shoulder the burden of winning this war may encourage the ANSF to start taking full responsibility for this fight. It most certainly will force the ANSF to adopt tactics, techniques and procedures that may be better suited to their organic capabilities - not a bad thing when one considers that the coalition will not always be there with their combat power and enablers.
The bottom line here is that the coalition is leaving, and by ceasing joint operations the ANSF would be forced to deal with that reality sooner rather than later.
To be sure, there are many Afghan Army units that are ready for the challenge. An example: 2/2/205, an Afghan Army battalion in Zabul Province that was as good or better than some of the coalition forces that I observed in my two and a half years in Afghanistan.
At the end of the day, the decision to stop joint patrols seems to be less about telling the ANSF we do not and will never trust them and more about deep-diving solutions to addressing insider attacks.
By increasing security and awareness the coalition can decrease its casualties and increase troops' confidence in going into battle with the ANSF at their side. And that is important, for as a friend in Afghanistan told me, "there is a difference between dying in combat and being murdered by those who are fighting alongside you."
Roger D. Carstens is a former Special Forces officer and a Senior Research Fellow at New America Foundation.
On Sunday, there will be a "splendid ceremony" marking the handover of the United States' Bagram prison. Yet despite the pomp, the handover hides the real story - the Afghans wanted this to mark the end of U.S. detention power in Afghanistan, while the U.S. has other ideas.
Remaking Bagram: The Creation of an Afghan Internment Regime and the Divide over U.S. Detention Power, a new report from the Open Society Foundations, revealed that while Afghan officials say they will have complete control over the Bagram detention facility-also known as the Detention Facility in Parwan (DFIP)-by September 9, 2012, the United States is likely to continue to control a portion of the facility. The Afghan government says that no detentions will be carried out by the U.S. military, while the United States maintains that it "still retains the authority to capture and detain."
This partial handover has come at a high cost for Afghanistan: the creation of a new internment regime that will allow the Afghan authorities to detain without trial. A number of Afghan officials have called this new regime unconstitutional and fear it will be subject to abuse.
The creation of an Afghan internment regime appears to have been introduced largely at the behest of the United States, in order to facilitate the handover of U.S. held detainees, and satisfy the U.S. desire for a lasting internment system on the Afghan side into which it could continue to transfer future captures. The system, created last March, closely resembles the U.S. system at Bagram. It was not introduced through legislation or even consultation with Parliament-instead it was created last March through a secret "inter-ministerial agreement" and unpublished presidential decree that are vaguely worded and ripe for abuse.
There is a danger that this will be the real legacy of Bagram--the creation of a flawed system of detention without trial in a country already wracked with decades of internal conflict, impunity, and weak rule of law. The Open Society Foundations learned that U.S.-Afghan disagreements over these issues led to a temporary suspension of detainee transfers from U.S. to Afghan control, which was resolved only days before the handover deadline.
And yet the "handover" ceremony will go on. In fairness, the majority of U.S.-held detainees have been transferred to the Afghan authorities at enormous speed over the past six months, and U.S. officials in Afghanistan are confronted with genuine challenges to transferring detainees responsibly. Handling of detainees by the Afghan government carries the potential for politicization and corruption of detainee releases. The capacity of the current government to process and properly prosecute detainees' cases is weak, and there is risk of detainees suffering torture and abuse, concerns that were compounded by a controversial new appointment to head the intelligence directorate. But differences between the United States and Afghanistan also reflect a central, long-lasting tension between Afghan sovereignty and U.S. strategic interests that has yet to be resolved, and that the March 9 handover merely papered over.
With the ISAF troop drawdown underway, the United States is trying to thread a tough needle: put Afghans in the lead on security, while at the same time continuing U.S. military operations, and protecting U.S. personnel. The role of special operations forces, and the reliance on detention operations like night raids, remain central to U.S. military strategy. Despite Afghan demands for sovereignty over night raids, there has been no sign of a decrease in these detention operations or the number of detainees sent to Bagram. The Open Society Foundations learned that since March, the United States has sent an additional 600 detainees into U.S. detention at Bagram, which President Karzai's National Security Advisor Dr. Rangin Spanta said was "not in accordance with our agreement."
Not only is this at odds with Afghan officials' unqualified insistence on complete control of the DFIP, and an end to U.S. detentions there, but it highlights another, related disagreement: how long the United States can detain an individual before handing over to Afghan authorities. "After the signing of the [Detentions] MoU the time limit to hold detainee is 72 hours and should be respected," Presidential Spokesperson Aimal Faizi told us. National Security Advisor Dr. Spanta reiterated that "There is a big difference in perception between them and us on this issue. ...I have discussed this with Karzai...and there is no tolerance with him on this issue."
Another unresolved issue is that of "third country nationals," or non-Afghan detainees. They remain in U.S. custody at the DFIP, their fate uncertain, and at risk of falling into a legal limbo of indefinite detention. The stalemate on these detainees ensures that the United States will continue to retain at least some portion of the DFIP for the foreseeable future, raising the troubling specter of another Guantanamo in Afghanistan.
Not wanting to rob President Karzai of a key political victory, the Afghan government appears, for now, to be turning a blind eye to these issues, and to the serious rule of law concerns that they raise. However, one of the principal criticisms of Bagram was its lack of legitimacy in the eyes of many Afghans-its secrecy, prolonged detention without trial, lack of access for lawyers and fears of detainee abuse. One has to wonder whether this is precisely what the United States has handed over to Afghanistan.
Agreeing to vaguely worded agreements that permits the U.S. and Afghan governments to interpret their obligations in starkly different ways may serve immediate political interests, but it is no way to build a lasting, legitimate, or lawful framework for detentions and ongoing military operations. Both governments have failed to resolve fundamental differences over the future of U.S. detention power in Afghanistan, and have presented the Afghan and American publics with very different pictures. These tough questions will be answered another day, it seems, as is often the case in Afghanistan.
Chris Rogers is a human rights lawyer for the Open Society Foundations specializing in human rights and conflict in Afghanistan and Pakistan.
MASSOUD HOSSAINI/AFP/Getty Images
As Pakistan's army chief General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani was declaring the "fight against extremism and terrorism" as his own war at the Pakistan Military Academy (PMA) Kakul (located less than a mile away from the now demolished bin Laden villa in Abbottabad) on August 13, militants were planning two audacious attacks: One against a key security installation in the country's heartland, and another on innocent civilians in the remote northern areas.
Less than 72 hours after Kayani's address, which many observers termed a landmark speech because of its tone, wording and timing, nine armed men in uniforms belonging to security forces mounted a daring attack on Minhas Airbase Kamra, located less than 70 kilometers west of the country's capital Islamabad, on the Grand Trunk (GT) Road leading to Peshawar.
The second attack, more barbarous in nature, was carried out in the Bubusar area of Mansehra district, located around 100 miles north of Islamabad, where armed men wearing military uniforms forced 20 Shia Muslims off a passenger bus and shot them at point blank range.
Responsibility for both the attacks was claimed by the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), the group considered by the Pakistani government to be the ‘bad Taliban.' Both the attacks were not the first of their kind. The Minhas Airbase in Kamra was the third major attack on a military base since 2009, while the killing of Shias in Mansehra was the third incident of its nature in the past six months.
Over the years, Pakistan's army and intelligence agencies have been under severe criticism over their failure -- and, many believe, their willful negligence -- in dealing with the various Taliban and sectarian groups that continue to keep their bases and training facilities in the tribal areas, and spread their tentacles to cities as far away as Karachi and Lahore.
Better late than never
In this context, General Kayani's statement, given the day before Pakistan's Independence Day, is of utmost importance. The country's most powerful man touched the right chord by warning of a "civil war" and calling the fight against terrorism "our own war."
Aside from falling right before Independence Day, the timing of General Kayani's statement is significant for a number of reasons: Pakistan's ambassador to Washington Sherry Rehman and the country's Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar have recently openly stated that the days of strategic depth -- Pakistan's pursuit of its interests in Afghanistan by working to install a Pakistan-friendly government, as well as keeping India away from establishing a foothold in the country -- are over. Pakistan's spymaster Zaheerul Islam also held "productive" talks with his CIA counterpart David Petraeus during his recent visit to Washington. And U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, after months of frustrating efforts to convince Pakistan to take action against the militant groups operating on its soil, expressed some degree of optimism by telling Reuters that Pakistan will be launching an operation against militants in North Waziristan.
Is there room for suspicion?
Judging by its wording and tone, General Kayani's Independence Day statement leaves no room for suspicions about the intention of the Pakistani security establishment with regards to extremism and terrorism. Yet, Sec. Panetta's latest revelation, despite its optimism, leaves some question marks when he states that the main target of the possible operation in North Waziristan will be the Pakistani Taliban rather than the Haqqani network.
The point in question is: has Pakistan really done away with the ‘strategic depth' approach towards Afghanistan? If so, what keeps the country's armed forces from going after individuals such as the Haqqanis, Hafiz Gul Bahadar, (a leader of Taliban fighters in North Waziristan who is believed to have good ties with the Pakistani establishment as well as in close contacts with the Arab fighters), and Maulvi Nazeer (a militant commander based in the Wana area of South Waziristan, Wazir is an anti-U.S. but pro-Pakistan leader, and liked by the Pakistani establishment), instead of chasing the already shattered TTP?
After all, individuals forming the TTP umbrella, such as Hakimullah Mehsud, (leader of the TTP in South Waziristan), Faqir Muhammad, (the Taliban leader in Bajaur tribal agency) Fazlullah (a Taliban leader from Swat who is believed to have escaped into Afghanistan and to be involved in carrying out attacks on Pakistani civilians and security forces from there) and the warlord Mangal Bagh (head of the banned Lashkar-e-Islam) were once overlooked for being the ‘good guys,' but are now turning their guns on innocent civilians as well as the country's strategic installations.
Another duplicity that still provides room for suspicion is the freedom of propaganda and movement allowed to people such as Hafiz Muhammad Saeed. The banned Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) chief, who is wanted in India for the 2008 Mumbai attacks, and is the subject of a bounty put out by the United States calling for information leading to his arrest, is still leading pro-jihad rallies in major Pakistani cities, including the capital, without being stopped or even warned by the authorities.
This kind of willful negligence with regards to people such as Hafiz Saeed, Gul Bahadar and Maulvi Nazeer, as well as groups like the Haqqani Network, is calling the writ of the state into question for ordinary Pakistanis, who have already lost trust in their political and military leadership for a number of other reasons.
For years, Pakistan has been accused of having a double standard regarding its actions against the militants by its allies and neighbors. This is the first time since Musharraf's era that the world is hearing Pakistan's top cop owning the anti-terror war in the strongest words, which is refreshing.
However, Pakistanis and non-Pakistanis alike want General Kayani to adopt an evenhanded approach towards all militants. People across the country welcomed the army when they ousted the Taliban from Swat in May 2009, and helped return the displaced people to their houses within a few months.
All of this goodwill was washed away when the army went after the TTP in South Waziristan the same year, though. Nothing resulted from that operation, except the displacement of hundreds of thousands of people, many of whom are still living in refugee camps. The people of the Bajaur tribal agency, where the army launched an operation in mid-2008, have yet to return to their houses. Similarly, the people of Bara district in the Khyber tribal agency have been living under a curfew for the past three years, while thousands of former residents are living in refugee camps with no sign of calm returning to their homes. And the militants are still targeting leaders who challenged the Taliban and raised Lashkars (peace committees) in their respective areas.
Those are the factors that shatter the people's trust in the state and its security agencies. To win their support like General Kayani wants to do, the political and military leadership need to conduct meaningful operations against all the militant groups in Pakistan, and block the escape routes of their leaders to prevent the repetition of what happened in the cases of Mullah Fazlullah, Faqir Muhammad, Mangal Bagh and Hakimullah Mehsud, all of whom escaped previous military campaigns. Only then will the public come forward and own the war alongside the Pakistani government and security forces.
Daud Khattak is a Pakistani journalist who writes about FATA, Pakistan and Afghanistan. Khattak worked for several Pakistani newspapers in Peshawar and Islamabad as well as for several years in Kabul, Afghanistan.
A. MAJEED/AFP/Getty Images
A plastic grocery bag is probably one of the most generously hoarded items in any Pakistani home. Ours all the way in Boston is no different. Two people and 200 plastic bags; look anywhere - under the mattress, over the closet, folded and tucked between prayer mats. A couple fall off every time I open my jewelry drawer to find my favorite pearl earrings my mother passed on to me with my dowry last year.
Iftikhar and Farzana Ahmed's home in Warrington, Cheshire in the United Kingdom must be no different, only they used their grocery bags to stuff their 17-year-old daughter Shafilea's mouth, blocking her airways and pinning her down till her "legs stopped kicking". But that wasn't punishment enough. Ahmed punched his teenager's lifeless body in the chest after the killing, enraged by her "desire to lead a westernized lifestyle" - wearing jeans, socializing with white girls and refusing to marry a much older man.
Shafilea is gone. So is my stockpile of plastic bags - to the very last one. But to recently convicted Iftikhar and Farzana Ahmed and thousands, if not millions, likeminded others, something else has been saved, guarded, maintained.
That something also led Javed Iqbal Shaikh, a respected lawyer, to pull out a gun and shoot point-blank his 22 year-old sister, Raheela Sehto, in front of dozens of witnesses in a "packed courtroom" in Hyderabad, Pakistan earlier this month. As the bullet penetrated the "left side of her head" she fell to the ground looking her husband, Zulfiqar Sehto, in the eye. Raheela's marriage to Sehto was the reason for which her brother felt compelled to brutally murder her, and Sehto the man Shaikh regrets he couldn't kill along with his sister.
Two women and innumerable others, time and time again, are erased from history in the hands of those who think themselves guardians of this centuries-old tradition. Regrettably, to the majority of ‘honorable' men, honor in all its entirety resides in the bodies of women and women alone, in the context of which their rights to live, let alone control, their own lives and to liberty and freedom of movement, expression, association, and physical integrity mean very, very little.
Whether out of fear or by choice, the complicity and support by other women in the family and the community - mothers, mothers-in-law, sisters, cousins - also strengthens the concept of women as property. Their participation in these deadly attacks also reaffirms the perception that violence against family members is a family and not a judicial issue.
This ‘community mentality' paired with misleading interpretations of religion and suit-yourself articulations of ‘family law' encourage patriarchy within families and negative attitudes towards female autonomy. Thus an environment is created in which violence against women is accepted and justified - a huge motivation for the family and community to cover up these heinous brutalities - a crime in itself. It is not surprising, then, that various women's groups in South-west Asia and the Middle East suspect the number of both reported and unreported victims to be at least four times the United Nations' decade-old figure of around 5,000 honor killings a year worldwide.
So for those daring to trespass the boundary of ‘appropriate' chalked-out by their male counterparts and guardians, ‘honor' is but a death sentence and has been so for hundreds and thousands of years. The concept of honor and its protection is widely displayed within many different male-dominated societies in human history, dating back to ancient Rome, the Arab tribes of Babylonian King Hammurabi as early as in 1200 BC, prerevolutionary China and many other societies and historical eras long before any major religion came into existence.
Today, however, the practice is becoming increasingly common across cultures and across religions, especially in South Asia and in Pakistan. The concept of honor in the region is largely dichotomous, and absurdly so. While honor in its masculine form is active and positive - dynamism, generosity, vigor, confidence, dominance and strength, a woman's honor, by contrast, revolves around negative, more passive concepts - chastity, obedience, servitude, domesticity and the endurance of pain and hardship without any display of feelings or complaint.
Unlike her male counterpart, a woman's honor can neither be increased nor regained - once lost, it is lost forever. What is worse is that when a woman loses her honor, the honor of her brothers, father and uncles is also lost and can only be regained through a violent display of dominance. Conveniently nonsensical but practiced explicitly in South Asia among Sikhs, Hindus and Muslims alike, with the same deadly effects.
In its latest annual report, the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan presented disappointing statistics for honor crimes in the country. More than 1,000 women and girls fall victim to honor killings every year in Pakistan, the report maintains, mostly at the hands of their brothers and husbands, with less than two per cent provided medical assistance before their death.
The Aurat Foundation, a reputable women's rights group in Pakistan, however, has uncovered numbers two times that figure. According to their report released in January this year, as many as 2,341 honor killings were reported in the country in 2011 - "a 27 per cent jump from the year before". But the figures are just "the tip of the iceberg", the report warns, since its researchers relied on cases reported in the media only.
But despite being ranked the third-most dangerous country for women in the world after Afghanistan and Congo - due to a barrage of threats including honor killings - over the past decade, Pakistan has also made adequate real world efforts to fortify women's rights in the country. In 2006, the country passed a bill to strengthen the law against honor killings under the Criminal Law (Amendment) Bill, making the crime punishable by a prison term of seven years or even by the death penalty. Last year in 2011, the Senate passed two landmark pieces of legislations into bills - the Prevention of Anti-Women Practices Bill and the Acid Control and Acid Crime Prevention Bill - an uncommon piece of news coming from the region since both bills were introduced and carried through by female members of its National Assembly.
But tackling something as engrained and as ancient as honor killing requires every thread of the country's social fabric to work together to bring about a wholesale change in common attitudes. This development may sound almost fairytale-ish in a Pakistani context, but if social change over centuries has led to a major decline of honor-based violence in certain parts of Europe, America and even the Middle East, then the global eradication of honor crimes remains a possibility. The question is, can Pakistan be a part of this change?
The current political climate in Pakistan is marked by a tug-of-war between civilian and military rulers on the one hand, and between liberal and religious elements on the other. The main casualties in this hostile environment are the women killed in the name of honor. The sitting Pakistan People's Party government has absolutely no support from the opposition party Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz , nor -- it seems -- from the judiciary, which is more interested in sacking the next available prime minister and policing the country's television channels for vulgarity than in taking legal action against the Hyderabad honor-killing incident.
In the lead-up to the upcoming general elections later this year, Imran Khan and his political party Tehreek-e-Insaf have in a matter of months risen to unrivaled popularity among Pakistan's youth. The so-called ‘pied piper' of Pakistani politics, attracting over 400,000 to his rally in Karachi earlier this year, however, has few words on the subject of honor killings. Offering his countrymen a ‘New Pakistan' free from American slavery as he comes into power, the man eats, breathes and sleeps drones. Honor killing, not so much, even though the women killed in the name of honor each year outnumber annual drone-related casualties in Pakistan.
Honor killing is a broader, more universal problem. It is not just a women's issue, or a religious or cultural one. It is a full-scale human rights concern where daily violence happens throughout the world in the name of honor.
Wherever there is a structural acceptance for violence against women, there is an acknowledgment that men have all the rights to legislate their own morality. Inaction of the state and silence on the part of national or community leaders and intellectuals the likes of Khan only fuel the ancient trend.
In Pakistan, there is a culture of impunity where men commit vicious acts to safeguard their so-called honor and roam freely. Tremendous amounts of pressure - political, judicial and social - need to be asserted to make sure these acts are punished. The problem needs to be openly and extensively discussed so that it can be uprooted. And what better place to do it than a gathering of 400,000 in the heart of the country? Who wouldn't like a ‘New Pakistan' where perpetrators are stripped of the very honor in the name of which they take innocent human lives and are duly punished?
The question remains: can Pakistan make the change?
Rabail Baig is a Pakistani journalist based in Boston.
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In a speech earlier this year to commemorate the reign of King Amanullah, Afghanistan's reformist king during the 1920's, Afghan President Hamid Karzai focused on the younger generation's contribution to the country's future: ‘'This is a steady wheel that is progressively moving toward more development, and it will not turn back," he said. "This is a young man's engine with a power that does not know cold or any other obstacles."
While the country's social development has seemed to move backwards since the 1920's, the Afghan youth of today make up the country's most encouraging hope for progression, though they do face obstacles. The formation of a variety of civil society organizations over the past 10 years, initiated and operated primarily by a younger generation of Afghansseemingly frustrated into motivation, has a central role to play in the course of the country's future.
This generation was born and has come of age during a time that forced many Afghan families to flee to neighboring or Western countries, where theytook advantage of opportunities for education and intellectual development. Those who remained in Afghanistan saw enough to know they wanted a different future. According to Afghanistan's Central Statistics Organization, 76 percent of the population is under the age of 35. Enrollment in higher education is at an all-time high - a 25 percent increase in university intake in 2012 compared to the previous year from 84,184 to 112,367. Though the quality of education is relatively low, the number of Afghans striving for an education attests to the country's desire to be educated.
Educated youths, mainly residing in urban areas, make up a cadre of young intellectuals and professionals that populate a large part of the public and private sector, from Afghan media, governmental bureaucracy, and diplomatic circles to, most importantly, civil society. They are in positions to have their voices heard in ways that influence their peers and set new standards of expectations from their leaders. This is bolstered by the scope and reach of social networking media as a tool for voicing opinion, which has forced even the Taliban to adopt tools such as Twitter in order to engage wider audiences. Another key characteristic of this generation is that they come from all different types of backgrounds-they are children of the diaspora, the mujahideen, and the communists, yet they share a common goal.
While the influence of this generation is invariably limited by the obstacles of the surroundings in which they operate, one area that has particularly flourished with the involvement of youth is civil society, asector of Afghan society that is dominated by the ideals and optimism of the entrepreneurial and socially progressive mood of many young, educated Afghans. The 4,280 civil society and non-governmental organizations registered in Afghanistan take many shapes and forms--from social responsibility and charity groups addressing issues such as women's and children's rights, the rights of the disabled, civic engagement, education, and environmental campaigns, to professional groups that bring together entrepreneurs and practitioners in various sectors including health, telecommunications, and economic development.
Two such exemplary organizations are Young Women for Change (YWC), a social organization advocating women's rights, and the National ICT Alliance of Afghanistan (NICTAA), a consortium of information and communication technology (ICT) entities working to forward the industry in Afghanistan. Established in 2011, YWC, the group of young Afghan women, and even some men, raises awareness of women's rights. The group has been highly vocal and visible in advocating for change, most notably in the summer of 2011 when male and female YWC members staged a public march to protest sexual harassment of women in the streets. More recently, the group opened Afghanistan's first women-only internet café.
NICTAA, as a consortium of information and communication technology (ICT) professionals established in 2008, brings together ICT actors in the public and private sector and academia to work toward the advancement and development of this sector in Afghanistan, an area that brings significant investment in the country, an estimated 1.7 billion USD as of June 2012.The organisation has represented Afghanistan's ICT sector at conferences worldwide, and is unique in that it works closely with the government to create opportunities in the sector in Afghanistan.
At a recent parliamentary inquiry in the United Kingdom, the Secretary of State for International Development, Andrew Mitchell, responded to multiple questions about how progress on women and human rights would be ensured post-2014 by referencing the British government's new program for strengthening civil society organisations. His argument was that by strengthening Afghan civil society, such organisations could in turn hold their government to account, and challenge its response to women and human rights.
While civil society organizations (CSOs) do hold a critical mirror to reflect the country's key issues, both positive and negative, and provide platforms for the public to respond, engage, and challenge social, professional, or economic policies and issues, they do face serious obstacles, mainly due to the lack of an enabling environment. Due to poor security, most groups are based from urban centers, with operations and progress mainly confined to Afghanistan's cities and out of reach of the nearly 80% of Afghans residing in rural areas.
Moreover, of the thousands of CSOs registered with the government, it's unclear how many are inactive or were set up as a means for channelling funds. Civil society has not escaped the touch of corruption plaguing Afghanistan, either. The government has not shied away from taking action against organisations that have been vocal in challenging them, most recently the controversial dismissal of the head of the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission, allegedly over the pending publication of a report accusing high-ranking cabinet members of past human rights violations.
Despite these challenges, CSOs do present an opportunity to put forth and encouragechangein Afghan society and policy. In a country where well-established, national political parties with clear strategic visions have not fully developed, the country risks floating from one power-holder to the next without the reform that often comes from healthy party rivalries and change of administrations.
The collective influences and achievements of civil society organisations at all levels of Afghan society need to be consolidated at a national level, especially in the face of uncertainty beyond 2014, as a way to fill that void. Uniting civil society organisations in a sort of national-level consortium would be a massive undertaking, not only due to the sheer number of groups, but also due to the range of differing topics and issues covered; however, a common overarching goal arguably underlies civil society groups in Afghanistan that only their united support could help advance: a peaceful and progressive future for the country geared toward economic, social, and educational advancement and stability.
Lael A. Mohib works in community and rural development in Afghanistan, and has an M.A. in International Relations with a focus on Afghanistan from Boston University. Hamdullah Mohib was Director of Information Technology at the American University of Afghanistan, and is now studying for his PhD at Brunel University.
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The July 31 U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee nomination hearing for ambassadors-designate Richard Olson (for Pakistan) and James Cunningham (for Afghanistan) exemplified the contradictory nature of U.S. relations with Pakistan. The foreign policies of the two countries are at irreconcilable cross purposes, which may converge in time, but not in the foreseeable future.
At the outset of the hearing, John Kerry, the committee's chairman, acknowledged that Pakistanis have suffered greatly in the fight against terror, and also underlined that "Pakistan remains central to what happens in Afghanistan." Ambassador-designate Richard Olson echoed Kerry's remarks, saying, "I don't have to tell you how important Pakistan is to the United States."
Later, Olson responded positively when asked about Pakistan military's doctrine of "strategic depth" (a concept in which Pakistan uses Afghanistan as an instrument of strategic security in ongoing tensions with India by attempting to control Afghanistan as a pawn for its own political purposes).
"My sense is that the Pakistani military and Pakistani government has moved away from [strategic depth]," the ambassador argued, probably drawing cues from Pakistan's gradually expanding dialogue with arch-rival India. Most of the Western skepticism of Pakistan's role in Afghanistan has been embedded in distrust of the so-called doctrine of strategic depth, a dynamic which outside observers have been reluctant to acknowledge is changing for the better.
However, Ambassador Olson also reaffirmed the United States' concern about the Pakistan-based Haqqani Network, describing it as "one of the toughest challenges that the U.S. faces." Olson's characterization only reaffirms the long-held view that the Haqqanis must remain a priority of the U.S. security establishment for their part in several deadly suicide bombings in and around Kabul since 2008. The U.S. Senate recently passed a bill requiring Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to report to Congress on whether the Haqqani Network should be designated a foreign terrorist organization, and if not, why.
But according to a recent New York Times report, based on one senior American official's estimate, Haqqani operations account for one-tenth of the attacks on ISAF troops, and perhaps 15 percent of casualties.
The NYT quoted a senior Obama administration official as saying "I am not convinced there is a command-and-control relationship between the ISI and those attacks." Yet the storm gathering around the Haqqani Network, believed to be holed up in North Waziristan as a protective umbrella for al-Qaeda Central, betrays the American security establishment's unease with the group. It also points to a future course of action in which Americans may zero in on the Haqqanis as the single largest source of instability in Afghanistan, despite the fact that the Network is credited with just about ten percent of the total attacks on U.S. and ISAF forces.
And herein lies Pakistan's predicament; its ties with some non-state actors, such as the Afghan Taliban and the Haqqani network, as well as the India-focused Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) and Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM), undermine its foreign relations.
These groups sit at the heart of Pakistan's rocky relationship with the United States, Afghanistan and India. The former two view the Haqqani Network as the biggest impediment to peace and reconciliation in Afghanistan. The latter considers Lashkar-e-Taiba, the group that staged multiple deadly attacks in Mumbai in November 2008, to be an existential threat.
But as far the Pakistani security establishment is concerned, these militant groups have long served as valuable foreign policy instruments. And since Islamabad's Afghanistan policy is not contingent upon America's desired endgame in the war-torn country, declaring a total divorce from these outfits seems improbable under the current circumstances.
This raises the possibility of these groups periodically rocking the Pakistan-U.S. alliance through terror strikes. This begs the question: can the United States -- and India in particular -- decouple their dialogue with Pakistan from terrorist strikes attributed to the Haqqanis or Lashkar-e-Taiba?
Probably not. And this constitutes the basis for the difficulties ahead; unless both Washington and New Delhi can see visible signs of "change of mind" in Islamabad and Rawalpindi (where the military establishment is headquartered), they will keep prompting Pakistan to safeguard their "security interests" by disassociating with the Haqqanis and Lashkar-e-Taiba, ratcheting up pressure on Pakistan in whatever way possible, thereby disallowing the creation of a true U.S.-Pakistan alliance.
That is why former ambassador Husain Haqqani advises both Pakistan and the United States to focus on being friends rather than "allies" because "deviating national [security] interests" run contrary to the basics of an alliance. The focus, he said, should be more on trade, engagement among civil society groups and politicians. In Amb. Haqqani's opinion, creating economic and civil society linkages promises greater security than a security partnership that has consistently been characterized by mutual suspicion and distrust.
Pressures stemming from domestic politics -- the upcoming Presidential election in the United States this November, and the political turmoil in anticipation of a general election in Pakistan later this year -- essentially rule out a quick convergence of two conflicting narratives. A gradual but substantial build-up in mutual trust in the months ahead looks impossible, too; Pakistan is not likely to crack down on the Haqqani Network the way Washington proposes. Nor does Pakistan hold sway over other partners of the Haqqanis, like Mullah Omar and Gulbuddin Hekmatyar.
While foreign expectations that Pakistan might serve as a bridge between this tripodal insurgency and the Kabul regime may not be entirely realistic, it still should not prevent Islamabad from reshaping its national security paradigm in a way so as to earn the trust of the international community. One of the requirements would of course be to alter the nature of its relations with non-state Pakistani and Afghan actors.
Top-most Pakistani civilian and military officials say the change is underway, but it is not, however, going to happen overnight. We must keep our volatile socio-political context in mind, they insist.
History dictates that the United States, while pursuing its long-term geo-political objectives, should openly acknowledge the policy changes in Pakistan, the way ambassador Olson did before the Senate Committee. This will give Islamabad more confidence to continue the policy-fixing -- if not transformation -- path, and thus create space for a more productive engagement.
Officials at Pakistan's Ministry of Foreign Affairs insist that this would also mean that unless the United States recognizes the compulsions that geography and the cross-border demography places on Pakistan, and until the country is allowed to fashion relations with countries such as Iran in its own way, the path forward will remain fraught with bickering and disagreements.
Imtiaz Gul is the Executive Director of the independent Centre for Research and Security Studies, and the author of the forthcoming book Pakistan: Before and After Osama, Roli Books, India.
When Zabiuddin Ansari was handed over to the Indian authorities several weeks ago, it was big news - at least in India - as a result of the information he was expected to provide to the authorities there about the 2008 Mumbai attacks. As previous posts have illustrated, his story also provided valuable insights into the nature of the jihadist threat to India, the state of India-Pakistan relations, and the importance of international counterterrorism cooperation to contain the threats posed by Pakistan-based and supported militants. The most important angle according to some observers, however, was the fact that Ansari was arrested by the Saudi authorities, who subsequently handed him over to India despite Riyadh's historically close alliance with Islamabad. While at first glance this could suggest a wider geopolitical realignment, the reality is more nuanced. Though Pakistan is in no danger of being completely abandoned, its continued tolerance of militant groups makes even its staunchest allies skittish.
Pakistan remains the only nuclear-armed Muslim nation and, crucially, it's a Sunni Muslim nation, which makes it an essential Saudi ally in the event that Shi'a Iran acquires a nuclear capacity. Furthermore, the Saudi royal family has depended directly on the Pakistan Army for protection at times and Pakistani soldiers continue to play an important role in Saudi Arabia. It's very difficult to imagine India supplanting Pakistan in these areas. Saudi engagement with India began as part of a wider endeavor in which it sought to develop new markets for oil, expand economically where possible, and forge stronger political ties in Asia to augment the traditional U.S.-Saudi relationship and balance against Iran. However, it would be naïve to think India is ready to line up in lock-step against Iran any more than Saudi Arabia is prepared to abandon its alliance with Pakistan.
Nevertheless, Riyadh's decision to hand over Ansari despite his possessing a Pakistan passport and over the vociferous objections of the Pakistani authorities is a significant event and indicative of several important trends. First, it marked an important turning point in Saudi-India counterterrorism cooperation that could only have occurred amidst improved bilateral ties between the two countries. Second, it suggests increasing concerns within the Kingdom about Pakistani militants in general and Lashkar-e-Taiba specifically, as well as Pakistan's ability to control them. This is related to a more troubling trend for Pakistan in which its continued support for militant proxies has put strains on relationships with even its closest allies who fear the repercussions for their own internal security.
Playing the Field
In January 2006, Saudi king Abdullah bin Abdul-Aziz al-Saud visited India as part of a four-country tour that also included a stop in Beijing. This was the first visit to India by a Saudi king since 1955, after which bilateral relations quickly froze as a result of Cold War politics. At the time of the landmark 2006 visit, Saudi Arabia provided only a trickle of oil to India, but soon after became its number one crude oil source. Although oil remains the lifeline of the relationship, the two countries' interests now extend beyond black gold. Trade between them has boomed, as have Indian investments in Saudi Arabia, where more than 1 million Indians work, making them the biggest expatriate community in the Kingdom. There is significant cultural exchange as well owing largely to the fact that India has the second-largest Muslim population in the world, many of who are interested in Saudi Arabia as the host of Islam's two holiest sites.
The Delhi Declaration signed during King Saud's visit heralded a "new era in India-Saudi relations" in which both countries would develop a broad strategic vision. As such, it served as a major building block for the relationship, which has since expanded to include notable security-related issues. In 2006 the two leaders initially intended to sign a mutual legal assistance treaty pertaining to criminal matters, which often serves as a precursor to an extradition treaty. Instead, they signed a Memorandum of Understanding on Combating Crime designed to deal with terrorism and transnational crime. Although it appeared comprehensive on paper and covered a range of issues, perceptual disagreements over the concept of terrorism meant that in reality there would be limited cooperation.
By 2010, when Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh visited Saudi Arabia, bilateral relations had improved significantly. Prime Minister Singh and King Saud signed the Riyadh Declaration, which set the stage for actual counterterrorism cooperation, as well as signing a separate extradition treaty. Earlier this year the two countries boosted defense ties and further deepened counterterrorism cooperation when Indian Defense Minister AK Antony visited the Kingdom. According to Indian officials, Saudi cooperation on counterterrorism issues has improved significantly in the past six months. By this time, Saudi officials had already had Zabiuddin Ansari in custody for more than half a year.
Ansari traveled to Saudi Arabia on a Pakistani passport in the name of Riyasat Ali to launch a recruitment campaign for future attacks against India. As detailed in the previous post, India-U.S. counterterrorism coordination appears to have enabled Ansari's identification and ultimately led to his arrest by Saudi authorities in May 2011. However, Riyadh was reluctant to hand him over to India for fear of upsetting Pakistan, where officials surely recognized the damage he could cause in the court of public opinion. In the past, any suspected militant traveling on a Pakistani passport would be sent back to Pakistan. In this instance, Pakistani pressure to reclaim custody of Ansari appears to have been intense, but so too was Indian and American pressure to secure his handover.
Riyadh ultimately demanded a DNA profile and other evidence from India to establish Ansari's Indian nationality. New Delhi was able to fulfill these requirements, but Pakistan could not show credible proof that Ansari was one of its own. The ability to make a strong legal case for handing him over and improved bilateral ties between Riyadh and New Delhi were undoubtedly important factors. But baser security concerns likely also were at play.
Running Hot and Cold
Saudi Arabia proved a reluctant contributor to the international effort against al-Qaeda and associated movements after 9/11. This remained the case until the Kingdom suffered directly from al-Qaeda attacks beginning in 2003. However, it remained relatively tolerant of Lashkar-e-Taiba. This owed to Saudi Arabia's relationship with Pakistan, but also resulted from Lashkar's position vis-à-vis the Kingdom.
Some Lashkar leaders have ties to Saudi Arabia dating back several decades, and these men often view Saudi Arabia as the best Islamic state, even if it is not an ideal one. In other words, their attachment to the Kingdom extends beyond its mere utility as a fundraising and support base for militant activity. Similarly, Lashkar leaders' strong commitment to spreading Ahl-e-Hadith (or Salafi) Islam via non-violent activism and their decision to eschew revolutionary terrorism in favor of pan-Islamist jihad makes the group more palatable than al-Qaeda to the Saudi state. Several Lashkar watchers, including this author, have speculated that the group distanced itself from al-Qaeda circa 2003 as a result not only of pressure from Islamabad, but also Riyadh.
Lashkar's relationship with al-Qaeda - the Central organization and its affiliate in the Arabian Peninsula - remains a dynamic one, but interlocutors in Pakistan and the United States have told the author that cooperation between the two has increased of late. Meanwhile, the wider narrative generated by the 2008 Mumbai attacks is that Lashkar is becoming a global threat. Regardless of whether one agrees with this assessment, it would be surprising if American and Indian officials did not make the case that an overly permissive environment could spell trouble for Saudi Arabia, and not too difficult to imagine their counterparts in Riyadh entertaining the notion seriously. Acute concerns about Lashkar exist against the backdrop of Pakistan's unwillingness or inability to reign in the group or others like it as well as growing disquiet over possible jihadist influences on elements within the Pakistan Army.
Putting Ansari in Perspective
Saudi Arabia broke a taboo when it handed over Zabiuddin Ansari and, as should be evident, this has significant implications. Saudi authorities are holding additional Indian militants, and they're willingness to deport these men will be an important means of gauging the constancy of the trends highlighted in this post. However, it must be noted that all of these men are Indian - Riyadh is yet to begin evicting Pakistani operatives, much less arresting and deporting them to India. In short, this hardly spells the end of Lashkar operations in the Kingdom, though as the previous post observed the terrain there has become somewhat less hospitable.
In the zero-sum world of India-Pakistan relations, Ansari's handover was an unquestionable win for New Delhi. In addition to the intelligence gleaned and validation offered regarding the 2008 Mumbai attacks, India also scored a diplomatic victory, albeit with U.S. support. Amidst the focus on signals intercepts and direct action, U.S. diplomatic engagement is often overlooked. In this instance, Indian officials have confirmed it was critical to securing a favorable outcome.
Finally, this event should cause concern in Islamabad and Rawalpindi about the degree to which continued tolerance of groups like Lashkar is creating unease among even its closest allies. China too has evinced concern - rarely and diplomatically, but nevertheless publicly - about the potential for Pakistan-based militants to threaten its own internal security. Saudi Arabia has now gone a significant step further. Neither country is about to abandon Pakistan, but nor is their commitment to Pakistan as absolute as some of its leaders might publicly claim or privately wish to believe.
Stephen Tankel is an assistant professor at American University and a non-resident fellow at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. He recently returned from an extended research trip to South Asia examining internal security issues and is spending the summer at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars as a public policy scholar.
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On Monday, the New York Times wrote about an unreleased report by the Afghanistan Human Rights Commission mapping human rights abuses from 1978 until 2001. Spanning the two bloody decades in which Afghanistan oscillated from Russian occupation and violent resistance, to all-out civil war in the early 1990s, to oppressive Taliban rule, the report documents tens of thousands of deaths, torture and other extreme abuses, including evidence of 180 mass graves. Although many of these abuses are well known, what has caused the biggest controversy, and the reason the report is still unpublished, the Times reports, is that many of the perpetrators are members of the current government or are local powerbrokers who still hold sway over key regions and provinces in Afghanistan.
Many of these incidents (the Dasht-e-Laili massacre of 2,000 Taliban prisoners; massacres of Hazara populations in Bamiyan during the Taliban era; the 1993 Afshar massacre by mujahedeen leaders) have been documented by other groups, but this report appears is of a different scale and level of detail. It is certainly the most comprehensive reporting on past abuses to date, and with more forensic and investigative resources, likely more rigorous. It also holds the greatest promise for energizing a more balanced and holistic debate about how Afghanistan might address this horrific past. Whereas past transitional justice projects have been criticized for singling out certain warlords or ethnic groups, this mapping illustrates how widespread the violence was. Victims and culprits can be found in every ethnic group, every region, every pocket of Afghan society. This report might be used as a springboard for a national discussion about how to move beyond finger-pointing and allow recognition of past abuses to be a part of more meaningful national reconciliation.
If it ever comes out that is. Previous high-level efforts to get traction on transitional justice issues have been squashed due to political pressure. For example, a 2005 United Nations mapping report that documented past cycles of violence and conflict and tied specific abuses to perpetrators was never released officially (though it has been leaked). Similarly, much controversy has surrounded the release of the AIHRC mapping report. Originally commissioned in 2005, human rights advocates have been preparing for an imminent release for several years but publication has been repeatedly delayed, in part due to technical issues and follow-up research, but also because of political pressure from the Afghan government, the Times reports. Most recently, when the Afghan government learned of the report's imminent release, the lead Commissioner in charge, Nader Nadery, was fired - many believe in order to prevent the report's release.
Nor is the Afghan government the only player to question if the report should be released. A U.S. official quoted in the piece argued the report should not be published, at least until after Afghanistan's 2014 presidential election "There will be a time for it, but I'm not persuaded this is the time. ...It's going to reopen all the old wounds."
This is a refrain that human rights advocates have heard time and again. While there has been much lip-service to supporting transitional justice, it has always been de-prioritized versus other political and security concerns. With a new election cycle, a new stabilization initiative, prospective reconciliation talks, or simply flowering insecurity always on the horizon, there has never been a "right" time for such a discussion. And in the meantime the rancor caused by impunity continues to erode confidence in the Afghan government and the rule of law, and the abuses of past years seem ever more likely to repeat themselves. This was never truer than it is now, as the looming 2014 elections and withdrawal of international combat troops have prompted many of the same perpetrators of past abuses to re-arm in preparation for a potential new era of violence.
Not only would it be important for such a report to come out now, so that there is at least a chance that such concerns will be discussed during this critical transition period, but it would be a serious setback if the report succumbed to political pressure and was not published at all. Already there are troubling signs that the space to publish critical thought in Afghanistan is getting worse, not better over time. In post-2001 Afghanistan, one of the few unequivocal successes has been the growth and freedom of the media. Afghan journalists, researchers and analysts have consistently been at the forefront of a surging new civil society, asking challenging questions and providing one of the few real checks and balances to government actions. Supported by foreign aid donors, and unrestrained by a Karzai administration that for most of the last 10 years has tolerated criticism, Afghans have enjoyed greater freedom of speech and association than anywhere else in the region.
However, there are signs that space is shrinking. Afghan journalists and stringers have been reporting greater harassment - in some cases leading to physical abuse - at a local level. New procedures have also been instituted that limit NGO activities or research organizations. When I was in Afghanistan earlier this month, we had to seek permission from several, overlapping ministries in Kabul to do even the most basic research or events in the provinces. Given this overall climate, the perception that the AIHRC report is hushed up would send a powerful signal to Afghan media and civil society: If a report of this magnitude and importance cannot be published, then what can?
The fact that such a report could even be produced shows how far Afghanistan has come in the last 10 years. Now, the way the report is treated is an important litmus test of how many of those gains will be preserved following transition. Publishing this report would not, of course, resolve all the underlying political issues. And while not a given, the Afghan government may fear it would put many of its key allies and partners at risk of prosecution (although the Amnesty law likely would prevent that) or disqualification from upcoming elections. However, ignoring this issue for so many years has created much larger consequences that might be better addressed in this transition period than left to fester. The Afghan government has a credibility problem both with the Afghan public and with the international community (whom it relies upon for continued aid). Past efforts to ignore these issues has to widespread, popular disillusionment with the Afghan government, undermining efforts on stabilization, rule of law development, and reconciliation. If the Afghan government embraced this report (which it originally commissioned) as an opportunity to begin a national conversation on these issues, it might be a concrete way to show the Afghan population and international donors that it meant all of the commitments about reforming government institutions and protecting rights that it made at events like the recent Tokyo conference. It would show that while there are many challenges on the horizon, Afghanistan's leaders and political system have moved beyond where it was in the 1980s and 1990s. There has never been a more critical time for such a statement.
Erica Gaston is a Senior Program Officer on Rule of Law in Afghanistan at the U.S. Institute of Peace.
This is the third in a series of four posts examining the lessons and implications drawn from the arrest of Zabiuddin Ansari, who played a key role in the 2008 Mumbai attacks. The first examined the variegated nature of the jihadist threat confronting India today. The second explored the impact of Ansari's revelations regarding the persistence of that threat as well as his affirmation of Indian allegations regarding the Mumbai attacks on the renewed India-Pakistan engagement.
As previous posts made clear, Zabiuddin Ansari is likely providing Indian authorities with all manner of information, which will be picked over and analyzed during the coming months. One fact is immediately clear, however, and that is the Pakistan security establishment remains unwilling to end its support for non-state proxies. In the absence of a policy that succeeds in convincing, cajoling or compelling Pakistan to change its behavior, it has become essential to devise mechanisms to mitigate the external threats from Pakistan-based and Pakistan-supported militants. Even if Pakistan were to make an unambiguous effort to dismantle the militant infrastructure on its soil, such mechanisms would still be necessary in the near term. While a host of states have pursued unilateral measures, calls for international cooperation to manage these threats have also increased. Ansari's story illustrates the importance of this cooperation as well as its limits.
The U.S.-India Joint Working Group on Counterterrorism is more than a decade old, but counterterrorism cooperation between the two countries really accelerated after the 2008 Mumbai attacks. The U.S. government only began paying greater attention to Lashkar and its Indian affiliates in the wake of those attacks, while American forensic assistance to India in building a strong case that they were planned in Pakistan catalyzed a willingness in New Delhi to work more closely with Washington. In addition to infusing the U.S.-India Joint Working Group on Counterterrorism with new life, the two countries also launched a Homeland Security Dialogue Ministerial in May 2011. Although ample room still exists for improvement, officials in both countries agree that cooperation has increased during the last few years.
Crucially, in the last several years, the United States, India, and the United Kingdom all took steps to facilitate counterterrorism efforts in Bangladesh. Lashkar has networks throughout South Asia and stretching into East Asia, but Bangladesh has historically been the most important staging ground for attacks against India. The group began building up its networks there in the mid-1990s, and Indian operatives played an important role in this effort from the outset. The growth of the indigenous Harkat-ul-Jihad-al-Islami Bangladesh (HuJI-B) provided another mechanism for supporting attacks in India, which other Pakistan-based groups (including the original HuJI) could attempt to leverage for this purpose as well. Even more important than its role as a staging point for attacks, Bangladesh became an important place of refuge for Indian operatives as well as a transit point to and from Pakistan for men, material, and money. Ansari was among those who took advantage of its role in this regard, fleeing to Bangladesh in 2006 before ultimately moving on to Pakistan.
Since the mid-1990s, control of the government in Dhaka has alternated between the Awami League and the Bangladesh Nationalist Party, with a military caretaker government in place from late 2006 through early 2009. The Awami League historically has been friendlier to India and less tolerant of Islamist-cum-jihadist actors than the BNP, but at different times both parties have been guilty of turning a blind eye to jihadist activities aimed at India.
Bangladeshi authorities began cracking down on domestic jihadists like HuJI-B after 2005 when some of them launched a series of bomb blasts across the country. In 2008, the Awami League won a landslide election in which it campaigned on closer ties with India and a promised crackdown on Islamist militancy. Meanwhile, New Delhi was reaching out to improve relations with Dhaka, while the United States offered valuable military and counterterrorism assistance as part of its push to degrade jihadist networks in South Asia. In 2009-2010, Bangladesh counterterrorism efforts expanded to include foreign elements as well. Indian, Bangladeshi, British, and American interlocutors with whom the author met during a recent visit to Dhaka all stressed that since 2010 Bangladesh has become less hospitable terrain. Officials from India and Bangladesh also agreed that counterterrorism cooperation between the two countries coupled with U.S. assistance contributed to this improvement, a view shared by independent experts.
The Persian Gulf, however, has remained fertile soil in terms of a support base for South Asian militancy. U.S. counterterrorism efforts vis-à-vis the Gulf have focused primarily on terrorist threat financing, which is understandable given that a host of jihadist groups rely heavily on fundraising networks there. What is often overlooked is the role the Gulf can play as a logistical and recruitment hub; for Lashkar, its Indian affiliates, and other Pakistan-based groups interested in launching attacks against India. For these reasons, this author has maintained that in terms of containing and degrading the threat from South Asian militancy, particularly Lashkar and its Indian affiliates, greater focus needs to be given to monitoring and infiltrating Gulf-based networks that could be used to recruit operatives or provide logistical support for terrorist attacks.
Recruitment efforts typically focus on Indian Muslims working in the region as part of a diaspora presence that numbers over 1 million. The presence of a Pakistani diaspora, coupled with the large number of South Asians who travel annually to Saudi Arabia for legitimate religious purposes, enables militants to blend in with the masses and makes the Gulf an opportune place for operatives to meet. Several Pakistan-based militant groups have ties with Saudi Arabia dating back to the 1980s, while the Indian crime boss-cum-terrorist Dawood Ibrahim, currently sheltering in Pakistan, has provided access to additional networks in places such as the United Arab Emirates. Finally, Riyadh's close relationship with Islamabad meant that anyone found engaging in militant activities was simply sent back to Pakistan provided he was traveling on a Pakistani passport. That is, until Zabiuddin Ansari's arrest in May 2011.
Ansari's arrest and subsequent deportation is an example of how such cooperation should work and the impact it can have. As typically is the case, the details of precisely how Ansari's presence was detected in Saudi Arabia are somewhat opaque. It appears he used an alias known to Indian intelligence to set up a website to inveigle new recruits, but according to Indian officials with whom the author spoke, it was U.S. intelligence that initially zoomed in on him. If so, this suggests that information sharing between the two countries coupled with U.S. capabilities to monitor Internet traffic led to his identification. It is clear that once Ansari's identity was confirmed, the United States asked Saudi authorities to detain him, and then worked in tandem with their Indian counterparts to ensure he was not returned to Pakistan despite carrying a passport from that country. It was more than a year before Ansari was turned over to the Indian authorities.
Saudi Arabia's willingness to deport Ansari to India came despite significant Pakistani protestations - a decision which will be explored in the final post of this series. Three points are important here. First, to reiterate, Ansari's identification, arrest and subsequent deportation to India were the result of greater international counterterrorism cooperation. Second, Ansari appears to be providing Indian authorities with a trove of intelligence about Lashkar and IM operations in Pakistan, India, and possibly the Gulf, which they have pledged to share with the United States This is likely to enable additional monitoring and infiltration of Lashkar and IM networks as well as assisting ongoing investigations. Third, the fact that the Gulf is no longer a guaranteed safe space for operations could have an impact on how militants conduct activities there.
None of this spells the end of the threat posed by Lashkar, the Indian Mujahideen, or other militants based in Pakistan. Bangladesh is a far less viable logistical hub than in the past, but gains there are reversible without continued vigilance. Further, although Ansari's arrest and deportation is significant, the Gulf has not suddenly become a no-go area. Finally, international cooperation is primarily a means of threat containment and mitigation. It is no substitute for action in Pakistan. Such a policy shift is unlikely in the near term, but in addition to reducing the efficacy of Pakistan-based or supported militants, international cooperation should send a message to Pakistan that it risks inviting further isolation.
Stephen Tankel is an assistant professor at American University and a non-resident fellow at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. He recently returned from an extended research trip to South Asia examining internal security issues and is spending the summer at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars as a public policy scholar.
On Saturday, Imran Khan, a Pakistani cricketer-turned-politician with a propensity for threatening massive protests, once again threatened to lead a "tsunami march" to the country's capital if Pakistan's PPP-led government ignores (for the second time) the Supreme Court's orders concerning the reopening of corruption cases against President Asif Ali Zardari. This is just the latest development in a growing confrontation between the executive -- led by the Pakistan People's Party (PPP) -- and the Supreme Court.
In recent months, Pakistan's judiciary and executive have been engaged in a power struggle that threatens to further destabilize a politically weak government already beset by problems ranging from economic decline to a major electricity crisis. The root of the current conflict lies in the Supreme Court's insistence that Prime Minister Raja Ashraf write a letter to the courts in Switzerland, asking them to reopen previous corruption cases against President Asif Ali Zardari. In a bold move, the Supreme Court already dismissed previous Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani on charges of contempt of court for refusing to write such a letter to the Swiss courts. It has now warned PM Ashraf that it will take "appropriate action in accordance with the law" in the event that he refuses to comply with the Court's order.
In response, the current government has sought to protect PM Ashraf by passing the Contempt of Court Bill 2012, legislation that shields top government officials from charges of contempt of court. It is unlikely that the Court will allow this bill to stand - petitions challenging the Contempt of Court Bill have already been filed in the Supreme Court, which has now allowed PM Ashraf until the 25th of July to make a decision. Ironically, this has put the Supreme Court - an institution that has immense popular support in Pakistan for its powerful stand in 2007-2008 against the military ruler General Pervez Musharraf - on a collision course with a civilian, democratically elected government.
As the lines are increasingly being drawn between the judiciary and the executive, supporters of each side have argued heatedly about the constitutionality of the court's actions. Justice Markandey Katju, who once served on the Indian Supreme Court, believes the Pakistani Supreme Court has "flouted all canons of constitutional jurisprudence," since Article 248 of the Pakistani Constitution provides immunity to the President from criminal prosecution. Yet Article 248 only provides immunity to the President from criminal prosecution by domestic courts, and the Supreme Court is still free to ask a foreign court to pursue criminal proceedings against the President. As a result, it can be argued that the court's actions have not violated the constitution.
More worrying than the debates over the legality of the current situation is the discourse that has emerged within Pakistan about the meaning of democracy and the role of different institutions in a democratic system. The executive claims that by sending one prime minister home and threatening to remove another, the judiciary is endangering the country's fragile democratic system in a personal vendetta against the President. On the other hand, the Supreme Court has increasingly portrayed itself as the real representative of the people, an alternative to the elected parliament. Most dramatically, Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry recently argued that the notion of parliamentary supremacy is "out of place in the modern era," stating that the constitution has predominance over the parliament.
The written judgment of Justice Jawwad S. Khawaja in the case concerning the dismissal of former Prime Minister Gilani further illustrates this deeply problematic way of thinking about the role of the judiciary in a democratic system. Justice Khawaja states that "it is the Constitution which is supreme over all organs of the State because it manifests the will of the people." Since, by this logic, the Constitution represents the will of the people, it is the Supreme Court - as guardian of the Constitution - that truly represents this will. Justice Khawaja clearly defines where power really lies in his understanding of a democratic system: "The Court can effectively perform the role of the people's sentinel and guardian of their rights by enforcing their will; even against members of Parliament who may have been elected by the people but who have become disobedient to the Constitution and thus strayed from their will."
Through such words the very meaning of democracy has been redefined by the Supreme Court with a brilliant sleight of hand. No longer is democracy about people choosing their representatives through free and fair elections, with the opportunity to hold these elected leaders accountable through the ballot box. As far as the Supreme Court is concerned, democracy is about representing the will of the people as reflected in the Constitution and, of course, as interpreted by the Supreme Court itself. This is particularly problematic given the ease with which military rulers throughout Pakistan's history have manipulated the constitution, tainting the very notion of constitutionalism in Pakistan.
In fact, this kind of discourse is eerily similar to the Pakistani military's past claims of being the only institution that can protect the country and further the interests of the people. Historically, the military has frequently justified its interference in the political sphere by arguing that incompetent, corrupt politicians cannot run the country. Replace the "military" with the "Supreme Court" and this last sentence just as easily describes the current crisis in Pakistan. The executive is not exempt from this either - it, too, claims to be the sole power that can protect the interests of the people. While liberally throwing around words like "democracy," these claims overlook the fact that a fundamental aspect of a well-entrenched democracy is a balance of power between different institutions: the executive, the judiciary and the parliament. None of these institutions can claim sole power over other institutions without seriously jeopardizing the democratic process.
If the Supreme Court's commitment to democracy is more than just rhetoric, it needs to recognize the parliament as the elected representative of the people, however corrupt and incompetent it may perceive these elected officials to be. It also needs to recognize that the democratic system does have some in-built mechanisms of accountability, one of which is the ballot box. This is not to say that the Supreme Court should not prosecute and hold accountable those who have been accused of engaging in criminal activities, but that the Court should also take into account other factors - such as public interest, political stability, and political feasibility - in its decisions, as is the norm in courts across the world. While the Supreme Court may not be acting unconstitutionally, it is certainly undermining Pakistan's democracy, and seems to have no intention of backing down.
For the first time in Pakistan's history, a democratically elected civilian government might be able to finish its full term next year. In a country that has struggled with a history of military coups and active military involvement in politics, this will be an unprecedented achievement. It would be extremely unfortunate - after the struggles against the military undertaken by both the judiciary and the politicians - were the Supreme Court now to stand in the way of the very process of democratization that it set in motion.
Fatima Mustafa is a PhD candidate at Boston University researching issues of state-building in the developing world.
AAMIR QURESHI/AFP/Getty Images
With the word "sorry," Secretary of State Hillary Clinton recently opened the door for the United States to continue to supply its forces in Afghanistan through Pakistan. Getting to this word took months of effort on both sides but "sorry" may not be enough to keep the relationship on an even keel for too long. It will need a sustained effort on both sides. The auguries are not good.
Many factors militate against a stable relationship. A lack of clearly defined aims on both sides works against a lasting solution to the mistrust that pervades the U.S.-Pakistan relationship. Moreover, there does not appear to be a center of gravity to decision making in either side to lead the building of a lasting relationship. The United States seeks a compliant ally that will help an orderly exit from Afghanistan in the waning days of a difficult conflict, and help guarantee peace and stability after the U.S. and coalition forces leave. Its aims inside Pakistan are unclear, as is the role it wishes Pakistan to play on Afghanistan. Attack the Afghan Taliban or bring them to the table? The US military is focused on getting the Pakistanis to attack the Haqqani Network, for example, while the Department of State is trying to get them to the negotiating table.
Pakistan does not appear to have a clear end goal either. It has a persistent paranoia built on an anti-American historical narrative that influences its leadership and civil society. In their view, the United States is a fickle friend and mercurial master. It comes and goes from the region. And now even its longer term presence in Afghanistan is suspect, since those troops are believed by some to have been designated to take out Pakistan's nuclear weapons. Moreover, the United States is seen cozying up to India, Pakistan's traditional rival to the east, and giving it a greater role in Afghanistan.
Now, that the supply routes to Afghanistan are opening up, and a separate agreement is likely to emerge on compensating Pakistan for its infrastructure damage over the past decade or so, a number of fault lines remain. What will it take to restore balance to this relationship?
First, Pakistan needs to clarify its positive role in the Afghan reconciliation rather than rely on hedging its support while continuing to allow Afghan Taliban to use its territory to attack Afghanistan and coalition forces there. Is its military still betting on a Pakhtun alliance that includes the Haqqani Network to run Afghanistan in the future? North Waziristan, the Haqqani base in Pakistan, has become a magnet for not only Afghan Taliban but also local Pakistani Taliban as well as Punjabi militants who pose a real threat to Pakistan's own stability.
Pakistan could either persuade the Haqqanis to exit North Waziristan and take their war into Afghanistan proper. Or, it can risk a long-promised military offensive that may end up consolidating all the insurgents in that territory, and opening a new front that may extend into the Punjab in the Pakistani hinterland. Pakistan also needs to reach out to non-Pakhtun elements in Afghanistan and help all Afghans create a stable polity and economy after the coalition ceases its major operations in 2014. Otherwise, it risks fomenting fissures inside Afghanistan and creating a reverse sanctuary for its own insurgents on the Afghan side of the border. Without a friendly government in Kabul, it faces the prospect of continued insurgent attacks from across the Durand Line.
For its part, the United States needs to recognize that its unfettered use of drones to attack targets inside Pakistan has knock-on effects inside Pakistan that lead to widespread fear and hatred. Persistent use of drone techno logy has elevated an instrument of war to virtual policy status in the United States. This may be the time to reopen discussions on practicable ways of involving senior Pakistani military officers based in border coordination centers in targeting decisions and rebuilding the intelligence cooperation that netted many al-Qaeda leaders in the past.
The United States must also find better and faster ways of getting its promised Kerry-Lugar-Berman development assistance into the hands of project planners at the provincial level inside Pakistan. In order to do this it will need to invest in helping build Pakistan's intellectual and physical infrastructure, and restore access to energy while enhancing Pakistani textile exports to the United States. There is no silver bullet remedy for Pakistan's problems. The United States must work with Pakistan on a broad front but in a more coordinated manner than before.
Internally, apart from a divided and dysfunctional polity, with the civil, military, and judiciary authorities sniping at each other, Pakistan faces a serious economic challenge. Rampant domestic borrowing, a shattered energy sector, inflation, and a low tax-to-GDP ratio have put it in an economic hole. It will need help from the United States and other allies to garner financial assistance from international financial institutions. Most important, it will need to muster the political will and courage to change the structure of its rentier state economy. Until Pakistan takes the actions necessary to fix its economy, international aid will be hard to get. Pakistan's age-old game is based on the assumption that it is too important to be allowed to fail, so the United States and others will come to its assistance, despite its lack of action on its own behalf. This approach has been nurtured by the US giving in to Pakistani demands in the past and therefore is likely to persist.
Pakistan, like the United States, is in election mode, as the government and other political parties position themselves for a fresh mandate perhaps in early 2013. So, expect no bold decisions. It will take hard work and persistence to mend the misalliance between the United States and Pakistan. How both countries address the issues that constantly threaten their relationship will determine the success or failure of the current rapprochement. Another crisis may well be lurking around the corner.
Shuja Nawaz is the director of the South Asia Center at the Atlantic Council in Washington DC.
Just over a decade ago, in January 2002, the world came together in Tokyo in the wake of the fall of the Taliban regime to pledge our common support for political, economic and social transition in Afghanistan.
We were well aware of the long-term nature of the commitment we were making, in
line with the ancient Afghan proverb, "One flower will not make a
As key world leaders convene this weekend in Tokyo to reaffirm this commitment and keep faith with the Afghan people in advance of the draw-down of international combat forces, it is important to also reflect on the significant achievements made in Afghanistan over the past decade, especially for women and girls.
Afghan women today live an average of 15 years longer than they did a decade ago, thanks to dramatically increased access to health care, increased midwife assisted births, a tripling of gross domestic product per capita, and a large decline in the number of people living in extreme poverty.
Educational opportunities for women and girls have expanded dramatically: nearly 40 percent of students enrolled in schools are girls and 120,000 female students have graduated from secondary schools in the last five years alone.
About 40,000 young women are enrolled in public and private universities, with more enrolling each year.
Some observers are concerned that these achievements, will unravel with the
departure of international combat forces and that these gains could be
reversed. But, the Afghan people - with our support - are not prepared to
sacrifice the gains they have made, particularly by Afghan women, as they
understand that no country can get ahead if it leaves half of its people
That is why our agencies - U.S. Agency for International Development and State Department - will continue working with our Afghan and international partners to support opportunities that enable Afghan women and girls to fight for gender equality and implement laws protecting their human rights as enshrined in the Afghan Constitution.
The Strategic Partnership Agreement signed in Kabul in early May provides a long-term framework for relations between the United States and Afghanistan after the drawdown of U.S. forces and highlights the mutual commitments of both nations to the protection of women's rights and the advancement of the essential role of Afghan women in society in order to live up to their full God-given potential economically, socially, and politically.
There's a long path ahead for Afghanistan.
But part of the way ahead is simple and clear - tapping Afghan women's full potential is essential to achieving peace, stability and economic growth in Afghanistan.
And so one notable difference between the two Tokyo conferences is the enhanced participation of women this time around.
Women will be in Tokyo in full force: indeed, the past 10 years, women have raised expectations for their inclusion even as they have shown that women in Afghanistan are a powerful force of stability, brokers for peace, and a vital component of economic opportunities.
Civil society groups attending Tokyo are calling for equal participation in the Afghan and international delegation; the adoption of "gender-impact statements" for all reconstruction and development projects; and the allocation of external funding to projects that advance education, health, housing, livelihoods and other opportunities for women and girls.
A strong civil society and full participation of Afghan women at national, local and provincial levels also will give us the best chance for any potential for peace. The role of civil society is particularly constructive in the ability to bring communities together working at the grassroots level. They can help to develop peace rooted at local levels and then most importantly to help keep it.
No, a single flower does not
make a spring, but A combination of a strong civil society working together
with the Afghan government to guarantee women's rights will cement their
crucial role in Afghanistan's future.
With our mutual support and careful nurturing, the advancements of the strong women of Afghanistan over the past decade can blossom into a stable, prosperous and sustainable future for the people of Afghanistan.
So we'll stand by them.
Melanne Verveer is President Obama's Ambassador-at-Large for Global Women's Issues and Donald Steinberg serves as deputy administrator at the U.S. Agency for International Development.
A. MAJEED/AFP/Getty Images
Ten years after the first Afghanistan reconstruction conference was held in Tokyo in 2002, Japan will host a second donors' gathering on July 8 to formulate a strategy to ensure the sustainable development of Afghanistan beyond 2014 - the date set for NATO's withdrawal. Tokyo 1 took place at a time of high hope, a clean slate, and enthusiasm for engagement, but almost no assessment of the gargantuan rebuilding task to be undertaken in a country devastated by more than two decades of warfare. There also was no insurgency to worry about. Tokyo 2 is happening at a time of uncertainty and donor fatigue, but at least the stakeholders now have a vast (and expensive) database to work with. However, the most conspicuous feature Afghans and donors will face next week and beyond, is the fragility permeating the Afghan security, political and economic sectors. Furthermore, the Taliban are now viewed as a real threat to stability.
This is not to say that Afghanistan, a country with a strong society and a weak state, is about to collapse or be engulfed in civil war, as some dramatically predict, but it is to highlight the very real concerns that Afghans have about their predicament, knowing that too much money (and generosity) resulted in less than desired outcomes on all three fronts. Not only are there serious lessons, especially in regards to contracting and prioritization, to be learned about the international side of the engagement since 2002, but also about the Afghan absorption, management and accountability sides as well.
Although the Afghan economy's growth rate has hovered around an average of 8% per annum for the past nine years, income per capita has tripled to more than $520, life expectancy and child and maternal deaths have improved considerably, more than 8 million children have access to education, domestic revenue has increased eight-fold since 2002, and the country's telecommunication and energy connections are impressive, there is still angst about an unresponsive government, a donor-led economy, and a nagging insurgency.
The Afghan ministerial delegation, led by then-interim chairman Hamid Karzai, headed to Tokyo 1 with a short wish list to present to a receptive community of donors, but it did not prioritize key sectors like agriculture, power and water, or institution and capacity building. The main focus was on road building. It took nearly five more years to focus on agriculture and power. The emphasis this time around should be on infrastructure, institution and human capital buildup
Initially, the footprint adopted for rebuilding and securing Afghanistan was light and small. With the re-emergence of Taliban militias from their cross-border hideouts by 2005, and a realization that the impoverished nation needed a more robust effort to make up for two generations of destruction and lack of development in all sectors, a heavier footprint and grander financial investment became necessary to make a difference.
As aid and troop inflows reached new heights by 2010-11, economic, political and public opinion expediencies in major donor nations resulted in a strategic about-face to lower expenditures and start the withdrawal process - some would argue prematurely - anchored in hopes that a half-cooked reconciliation process aimed partly at re-integrating the Taliban would be easily reached. In a country where more than 95% of the local economy is dependent on military spending, American development aid alone has been cut nearly in half this year, from $4.1 billion to $2.5 billion.
Today, as donors gather in Tokyo 2 to pledge once again to support the Afghan economy beyond 2014, Afghanistan stands at a precarious crossroads, either leading toward business-as-usual, a path to serious reform and overhaul, or worsening conditions.
There are two critical goals:
1. Avoiding a repeat of the early 1990s collapse of the communist regime, partly as a result of money supplies running dry from Moscow;
2. Avoiding a repeat of the last 1o years in terms of weak strategizing, weak coordination, less-than-adequate prioritization, mismanagement, waste, graft, nepotism, impunity, and fraud. The fact that after all these years, Afghan state institutions are still having major difficulties with the expenditure of their development budget is a sign of structural dissonance, low capacity, and weak middle-to-upper management skills. Unprofessional auditing systems have given rise to political manipulation.
The immediate remedy is not just about channeling a greater percentage of foreign aid through government channels (although that has to be a consideration), it is about competent leadership at the helm of weak institutions who can restructure and assure fiscal discipline by adopting result-oriented strategies.
The trust factor has eroded so deeply between government and the public, and between the donors and Afghan authorities, that it is becoming increasingly difficult to initiate real reforms, fight corruption (starting at higher levels) and adopt better governance practices. The rebound requires a major effort on the part of the Afghan government to implement widespread consultation and participatory decision-making in order to rebuild confidence.
It is expected that discussions at Tokyo 2 will also focus on regional integration and cooperation. While Afghan security challenges are fed by neighborhood players, all efforts should be made to prevent an economic relapse post-2014 and facilitate a democratic and peaceful transfer of power.
As Afghanistan aims to exploit its underground mineral wealth and oil and gas reserves - to a large extent subject to relative peace and stability - and serve as the regional linkage for the "new silk road," it will be incumbent upon the authorities to adopt laws on access to information, and set up credible watchdog functions, and for all sides to follow strict rules pertaining to transparency, accountability, and environmental and cultural sensitivity.
In the Afghan context, reform requires political will, a competent and committed team, as well as a belief in good governance and rule of law, in creating effective partnerships across international, communal and private, public alignments, and in designing smart and sustainable projects that take into consideration the needs and rights of communities, including women, girls, and minorities.
The Afghan government will reportedly make a request for almost $4 billion of annual aid until 2025, and will agree to sign off on a "Mutual Accountability Framework" spelling out obligations on all sides.
Tokyo 2 needs to make use of best practices and agree on what constitutes a priority program. Donors also need to assure sustainability of all projects proposed by the Afghan side as part of the more than 20 programs that will require funding. There will be a requirement to put in place functional follow-up mechanisms and track established benchmarks.
While the international community takes yet another step to affirm its long-term commitment to Afghanistan -- following the Chicago NATO summit in May and the Bonn 2 conference last December -- Afghanistan will need to give assurances that it is adopting a reformist agenda that not only would enable all transitions to succeed but would make Afghanistan more self-sufficient within in a more stable region. Together they need to reduce the risks inherent to fragility.
Omar Samad is Senior Afghanistan Expert at the United States Institute of Peace in Washington D.C. Formerly, he served as Afghanistan's Ambassador to France (2009-2011) and Canada (2004-2009). He was spokesperson for the Foreign Ministry between 2001-2004.
Koichi Kamoshida/Getty Images
Afghanistan since the downfall of the Taliban regime in 2001 has been subjected to a plethora of high-profile international meetings, occurring with increasing frequency in recent years. It seems that no other conflict-affected developing country has been as "meeting-ized" as Afghanistan. With the Chicago NATO Summit focused on Afghanistan's security recently held in May, the "Heart of Asia" Ministerial Conference in Kabul in June, the Tokyo conference on development in July, and the possibility of follow-up meetings already being discussed, it might be useful to step back and review this experience as has been done in a recent paper.
The current flurry of meetings is occurring in a context of declining international troops and financial resources for Afghanistan, whereas in earlier years the international engagement was being maintained or increased. But the lessons from the past decade's numerous events remain highly relevant. The meetings have been successful in keeping international attention focused on Afghanistan, eliciting financial support, demonstrating inclusiveness and providing a "seat at the table" for all partners, generating good strategic documents, and providing a forum for the Afghan government. However, there have been many problems:
In the future, the effectiveness of these meetings could be increased by: (1) keeping to realistic expectations about what meetings can accomplish; (2) not expecting meetings to substitute for difficult decisions and hard actions; (3) having substantive meeting agendas, avoiding complete co-optation by diplomatic priorities, and maintaining discipline in shaping the agenda; (4) matching meeting objectives with the main issue(s) the meeting is supposed to address; (5) ensuring quality background work for meetings; (6) focusing on key areas and a few simple, monitorable benchmarks; and (7) keeping the number and frequency of meetings manageable.
Turning to the most recent and upcoming meetings, the Chicago NATO Summit on security during May 20-21 did succeed in coming out with a consensus overall figure for the total cost of the Afghan security sector in future years. However, donor pledges fell short of fully covering the international portion of this amount, with some donors not yet being in a position to make pledges. Moreover, beyond the financial cost a whole range of non-financial issues and problems plague Afghanistan's security sector, which pose big question marks for the success of the security transition in coming years.
The recent "Heart of Asia" meeting in Kabul on June 14 well illustrates the limitations of such meetings. It is one of a long series of meetings on regional issues (some focused on regional economic development and trade, others on political and security relationships, still others on border controls and drugs) which have not accomplished a great deal in substantive terms. This latest meeting, a follow-up to the high-profile Istanbul meeting on regional security last November, did bring together the key regional players plus Afghanistan's more distant partners and related international organizations, but it did not seem to generate much in the way of concrete progress. This is not surprising given the geopolitical fault lines and sharply diverging interests and relationships represented at the meeting-ranging from Iran to Russia, India, China, Pakistan, the USA, and others-which make this one of the most difficult parts of the world for achieving real progress on regional cooperation in political, security, or economic dimensions. These realities belie the optimistic pronouncements on Afghanistan as a "land bridge" in Central Asia or the hopes for a "new Silk Road".
Finally, the upcoming Tokyo meeting is intended to set the longer-term development agenda for Afghanistan, with a 10-year time horizon beyond then-i.e. for the "decade of transformation" following the 2011-2014 transition. While taking a longer-term perspective on Afghanistan is important, this soaring rhetoric may distract from the key question of whether the transition will go well enough-politically, economically, and security-wise-that the country will be in a position to achieve rapid development progress post-2014. In addition, based on the experience with past similar high-profile meetings there are a number of issues, a few of which are outlined below:
William Byrd is a visiting senior expert at the United States Institute of Peace. He participated in and was involved in the preparations for many of the high-profile international meetings on Afghanistan over the past 10-plus years. The views expressed here are his own.
Americans are not alone in worrying that their
economic futures are headed in the wrong direction. Afghans, too, fear that the
next several years will bring a business tailspin that will see recent
gains eked out by small and medium companies dissolve amid security woes and a
sharp pullback in international largesse and, of course, foreign forces.
The "light of a new day" may be "on the horizon," as President Obama announced this May from Bagram Air Base, but Afghan entrepreneurs want to make sure their start-ups survive the changes that will accompany whatever comes next. This Thursday 50 such business-owners, 12 women among them, will gather at an investment conference in New Delhi hosted by the Confederation of Indian Industries with support from the Confederation of Women Entrepreneurs in India (CWEI).
The goal is to promote private sector investment in Afghan firms that will increasingly be seen as growth anchors for their country going forward. Companies descending on India this week in search of dollars range from big mining entities to smaller but growing entities including software, carpet-making, and media ventures. Outside Afghanistan few may think of the war-plagued nation as a small-business or start-up hub, but the resourcefulness of the dogged entrepreneurs I have covered these past seven years matches that of any I have interviewed in other countries, rich or poor. Afghan businessmen and women will need every bit of this determination as they confront the uncertainty of the coming years. And it is in America's and NATO's interests that they succeed.
As President Obama noted at Bagram, "Americans are tired of war," and the military intervention in Afghanistan has plunged to new depths of unpopularity in the latest public opinion polls. But economic development is critical to promoting stability and U.S. security interests, and it is essential to making the President's laudable idea of bringing a "responsible end" to America's longest war more than just empty words. Research shows that negative economic shocks of five percent can increase the risk of a civil war by 50 percent in fragile environments . Bolstering entrepreneurs, particularly those running small- and medium-size enterprises, is part of fostering lasting growth that is in both Afghanistan and America's best interest.
Despite remaining on the list of the world's poorest nations, Afghanistan has logged economic successes and macroeconomic stability on which to build. The country's GDP has more than tripled in the last decade, averaging around nine percent a year, with notable gains in infrastructure, telecommunications, and financial and business services. The Ministry of Communications recently began awarding 3G licenses to cellular phone companies and internet usage is expected to climb as technology improves and prices drop. Mobile phone penetration has leapt from less than one percent in 2001 to well above 60 percent today.
And business growth has not been limited to large
firms. Small companies have cropped up across sectors, creating
desperately needed jobs in a country whose unemployment rate is estimated
at well above forty
percent. The non-governmental organization Building Markets,
which ran a business matchmaking service that helped Afghan firms learn of and
apply for international contracts, counted 3,400 companies in its business
database in 2008. By 2012 that number had climbed to 8,300, with nearly
300 owned by women. According to the World Bank's
"Doing Business" report, Afghanistan ranks 30th among 183 economies
when it comes to the ease of starting a business, requiring four procedures and
seven days to register a firm. Training programs such as the
International Finance Corporation's "Business Edge," Goldman Sachs' "10,000
Women," and Bpeace's "Fast Runners" now work with entrepreneurs seeking
management and marketing training. And Afghan export promotion officials
proudly point to recent wins marketing their carpets and dried fruits and nuts
to consumers in Europe and the Middle East.
Yet bad news and economic question marks threaten to swamp the small steps forward. In 2010, Afghanistan's economy received nearly the same amount in foreign aid as it counted in GDP, and the assistance tsunami, often routed around the rickety central government rather than through it, has hardly helped to bolster the country's already weak institutions. Graft remains rampant: Afghanistan shared the next-to-last spot with Myanmar in Transparency International's 2011 "Corruption Perceptions Index." Meanwhile, the trade deficit looks to top $6 billion and fiscal health remains shaky at best, with estimates suggesting government revenues will cover only 60 percent of the Afghan operating budget in 2013.
President Obama pledged in the Strategic Partnership Agreement he signed with Afghanistan's President Hamid Karzai that the United States "shall help strengthen Afghanistan's economic foundation and support sustainable development." This promise was not made simply because America is a benevolent power, but because an economically stable and increasingly prosperous Afghanistan connected to the world is good for the United States. It will soon be up to Congress to decide how much continued economic aid and development assistance to offer Afghanistan, and the temptation will be great to follow the Iraq example of ever-smaller requests met by even smaller authorizations. But shoving Afghanistan off the economic edge would be both short-sighted and counter-productive. As the World Bank noted recently, "international experience and Afghanistan's own history show that an abrupt cutoff in aid can lead to fiscal crisis, loss of control over the security sector, collapse of political authority, and possibly civil war."
America may be drawing down troops and withdrawing militarily from Afghanistan, but the Afghan entrepreneurs gathering this week in India remain worthy of U.S. support and investment. They are allies in the American quest to bring "sustainable stability" to a country and a region that desperately need it.
Gayle Tzemach Lemmon is a fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations and the author of The Dressmaker of Khair Khana.
NATO's plan to transition Afghanistan to Afghan security control by the end
of 2014 offers an unexpected but potentially golden opportunity for the United States
and its allies to rectify, or at least improve, their strategy towards Pakistan.
In the midst of major budget cuts and a reorientation of our global footprint
away from Iraq and Afghanistan, Western leaders -- and particularly the U.S.
Congress -- are already tempted to reduce support to a country that can at best be
considered a fair-weather friend. But over the next several years, the
United States and NATO will be offered a chance to help Pakistan establish a
functioning civil society without the complications of a Western-led counterinsurgency
campaign across the border.
One benefit of reducing NATO's military presence in Afghanistan is that it will make it easier for the U.S. and allied governments to support entities in Pakistan in addition to the Government of Pakistan itself, particularly non-governmental organizations. At the same time, it will make accepting that assistance more palatable to Pakistanis, many of whom believe NATO's war has wrought violence and destruction upon their country. While foreign aid is far from guaranteed to achieve its intended results in Pakistan (or anywhere), effective assistance to Pakistan's civil society, in combination with increased access to foreign markets and improvements in security, is the tool most likely to help Pakistanis slow the slide toward failed nuclear statehood. With a fast-growing population of disenfranchised and radicalized youth, that scenario represents a clear threat to Western interests as well as Pakistan itself.
Over the course of a ten-year war in Afghanistan, the United States and allied governments steadily increased assistance to the government of Pakistan, reducing it only after the death of Osama bin Laden and Pakistan's indignant response. From the United States alone, direct overt aid and military reimbursements ballooned from $1.99 billion in 2002 to $4.29 billion in 2010. This number dropped to $2.37 billion in 2011 following a slow deterioration of relations that hit rock-bottom with the bin Laden raid on May 2 and has continued to slip over issues like NATO supply lines and cross-border incidents. The majority of this decrease has been made up of security assistance, and specifically Coalition Support Funds (CSF), which are used to reimburse Pakistan for military operations undertaken in support of Operation Enduring Freedom.
In the immediate aftermath of September 11, the United States was explicit in its statements of expectations for Pakistani cooperation, and confidence in Pakistan's support for U.S. efforts ran high through early 2002. By early 2003, however, President Karzai was intimating that Pakistan might be behind some Taliban attacks inside Afghanistan, or at least that Pakistan harbored those who were conducting them. The U.S. press was regularly reporting such accusations - including cryptic quotes from anonymous U.S. officials -- by mid-2004, and in July 2008, U.S. officials were all but confirming that Pakistan Inter-Services Intelligence Directorate (ISI) was supporting Taliban groups.
Thus, the majority of U.S. assistance was ultimately provided
in spite of what many perceived as a contradiction between what Pakistan said
("we're on your side in Afghanistan; your terrorists are our
terrorists"), and what their actions seemed to convey ("we are
primarily concerned with our terrorists and may go as far as supporting those
who attack your soldiers if it will protect our interests in Kabul").
These misgivings were felt broadly inside the U.S. government, reaching as high
as former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Mike Mullen who, after
years of staunch support for Pakistan, famously called the Haqqani Network a "veritable
arm of the ISI." But Pakistan's military cooperation along the border
combined with critical assistance on counterterrorism made providing almost
anything worth the cost, even while many knew the assistance relationship was
This calculus must shift as NATO reduces its footprint in Afghanistan. The United States and NATO will still need the Government of Pakistan's cooperation on certain issues, particularly counterterrorism, but also ensuring supplies reach the Special Operations and intelligence personnel remaining in Afghanistan after the bulk of the forces withdraw. Maintaining good relations with the military and civilian leadership is critical, because they are important regional actors and arbiters of access for personnel, official and otherwise. Improving the Pakistan military's ability to control its territory will also remain important as long as insurgent groups - not to mention al-Qaeda - continue to use it as a safe haven. But overall the United States and its allies will need those entities less, making it easier to diversify who receives aid in the country. Certainly it will be a challenge to maintain these relationships while diverting assistance from the military and/or civilian government to other groups within Pakistan. But as long as we are careful to avoid supporting groups that the Government of Pakistan views as active threats (i.e., opposing political parties, Christian groups, or organizations associated with India), there is no reason the United States, its allies, and private aid organizations cannot provide assistance to groups outside the formal government structure and/or military. In fact, this is the United States' foreign assistance model in many other countries around the world.
States and its allies will also have more leeway to negotiate access for
personnel who can oversee implementation and increase transparency. For example, the Government of Pakistan has
been circumspect about allowing U.S.
and other foreign personnel to directly implement assistance programs and
military training, with obvious effects on donors' ability to verify how and
where money is spent. Past efforts to
use assistance as leverage to gain necessary access have been somewhat
successful, but have floundered during periods of escalated tensions. If the United States and NATO are less
dependent on Pakistan to support operations in Afghanistan, and if
Afghanistan-related tensions are even partially diffused, they will be better
positioned to require access and transparency in return for aid.
The future stability of Pakistan is reliant on a viable civilian leadership capable and willing to address the needs of its people. With a population of more than 180 million growing by 50 million over the next 15 years, the political elite's inability to address a chronic lack of education and basic services is setting the conditions for major civil unrest accompanied by sectarian violence and instability. Current efforts to remedy these problems are underfunded and plagued by administrative and logistical problems, making the likelihood of effective progress slim without outside help. And in a country with rampant Islamic extremism and a fast-growing nuclear arsenal, the current trajectory makes Pakistan - already a dangerous place - even more ominous on the world stage.
nations' ability to change Pakistan's
overall course is limited. There is,
however, reason to be hopeful. There
were an estimated 100,000 non-profit
organizations operating in Pakistan as of 2009, a large percentage of which are
locally-funded and could have greater impact with the help of foreign
funding. In a less contentious future
environment, the United States and its allies could provide assistance to some
of these groups, as well as work through international organizations and
encourage foreign investment and private donations. While the U.S. Congress and allied
governments are justified in remembering Pakistan's indiscretions over the
course of the Afghan war, it is the responsibility of those nations' leaders to
win over lawmakers and their constituents on why an unstable Pakistan only
means more turbulence for the region and beyond.
These non-profit organizations and other parts of Pakistani civil society, including its long-stifled but not non-existent private sector, may have a chance of improving conditions in the country, drawing on the support of the moderate majority. Pakistani and international charitable organizations are making a small dent in the massive problem set Pakistani confronts, particularly in the realm of education. But there is one fact that Western policy-makers are going to have to accept: many of these players hold Islamist and anti-Western views. As we learned in Egypt and other Arab Spring nations, we cannot expect entities to represent the people of a Muslim nation and not embody some Islamic values. This fact in itself does not make that group extremist or an enemy of the West.
should apply this new understanding to future engagement with Pakistan, while
remaining aware of both the sensitivities of the Government of Pakistan and
those of the U.S. Congress, who remain the stewards of U.S. tax-payer dollars. If the United States, NATO, and Pakistan can
use the Afghan drawdown to reduce tensions and improve security, if only
marginally, the U.S.-Pakistan relationship has the potential to more closely
resemble the peace-time relationships maintained with other nations in South
Asia and elsewhere. This would encompass
a balance of international assistance (both through government structures and
non-profits, keeping in line with host nation priorities), free and balanced
trade relationships, and help in developing a dynamic political and economic
Conveniently, the drawdown in Afghanistan also makes it easier for many Pakistani groups to work with Western groups and governments. Many Pakistanis are quick to blame Pakistan's domestic problems on the war in Afghanistan and Pakistan's participation in it. Whether or not this is based in reality, those perceptions drive politics within Pakistan. As the United States and NATO reduce their military presence in the region, Pakistani officials will be less able to blame Western actions for their domestic problems. At the same time, the population will increasingly focus on day-to-day survival rather than regional matters, and non-profits will increasingly seek civilian assistance for their country. The West can meet those calls and gain much good will at a reasonable cost.
Based on its own national and strategic interests, Pakistan has been a tentative ally in the Afghan war. But the United States and its allies cannot write off the population of Pakistan for the shortcomings of its political system. In fact, to do so poses much greater long-term risks, the mitigation of which requires a nation moving towards economic viability whose problems are not spilling into the world around it. Failure to maintain international support to Pakistan means discarding a real chance for progress by walking away before the real work has begun.
Whitney Kassel is a former Assistant for Counterterrorism Policy in the Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Special Operations and Low Intensity Conflict (ASD SO/LIC), and now serves as a director at The Arkin Group.
Arif Ali/AFP/Getty Images
Several weeks ago, the United States government placed a $10 million bounty on the head of Hafiz Mohammad Saeed as part of the State Department's Rewards for Justice Program. Saeed is the founder of the Pakistan-based militant group Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT). Last week, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton followed up on the bounty with complaints that Pakistan should be doing more to bring Saeed to justice, to which Pakistani Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani responded on May 13 that available evidence was insufficient to arrest Saeed.
In the aftermath of the deadly 2008 Mumbai terror attacks, Saeed was detained, and then released uncharged, despite damning information provided to Pakistan by the U.S. and Indian governments firmly linking LeT to the attacks. This lack of action was no surprise to terrorism analysts outside of Pakistan, who strongly believe that LeT has been deliberately fostered as a proxy by the shadowy and largely unaccountable intelligence service in Pakistan, the Inter-Services Intelligence Directorate, or the ISI.
Yet the circumstances of this particular bounty are unique, and that uniqueness may lead to an interesting new example of the so-called "law of unintended consequences." The bounty calls for information leading to the arrest and prosecution of Saeed, yet unlike Osama bin Laden or leaders of the Taliban for whom rewards are on offer, Saeed is not in hiding; his whereabouts in Pakistan are generally well-known. However, if a Pakistani citizen were to call the U.S. Embassy in Islamabad and say, "Saeed is at an anti-NATO rally in Lahore right now," that person is not going to collect the reward, because the information can't lead to his arrest and prosecution without help from Pakistan, help which is clearly not forthcoming. Given the angry backlash in Pakistan against both the U.S. raid on Osama bin Laden's compound last May, and the border shooting incident last November that left 24 Pakistani soldiers dead at the hands of NATO forces, it is also unlikely the United States is going to carry out a unilateral operation to grab Saeed.
Practically speaking, Saeed would have to be outside of Pakistan, in a country that would honor the arrest warrants against him, for any person or group who reported Saeed's whereabouts to collect the rich bounty. Knowing this, Saeed isn't too likely to voluntarily depart the one country where he can be sure he won't be arrested. In fact, he requested protection from the Pakistani government shortly after the bounty was announced, indicating that the suspect himself may be concerned about individuals looking to collect the massive reward.
As Pakistan is clearly not going to arrest Saeed, the bounty on his head, and the subsequent complaints by Clinton, could be viewed simply as ongoing protests by the U.S. government about Pakistan's protection of Saeed and formal notice that LeT will be receiving scrutiny levels similar to al-Qaeda. Fine, so far as that goes...but what is to stop a criminal gang, a band of mercenaries, or even a group of patriotic Indians, from kidnapping Saeed, smuggling him out of Pakistan, leaving him tied up in a safe house in, say, Sri Lanka, phoning the U.S. Embassy and demanding the $10 million reward in return for Saeed's location?
Putting a huge bounty on the head of a person who cannot be arrested and prosecuted in his home country, but who also isn't in hiding, is surely a powerful motivation for anyone enticed by the bounty to make sure Saeed is outside Pakistan and wrapped in a tidy package before reporting his whereabouts. And while the current shaky relations with Pakistan make it unlikely that the United States would take unilateral action inside the country, there is nothing to stop anybody else from deciding the offer on Saeed is too tempting to ignore. Lest one consider this an unlikely scenario, look no farther than Colombia, where fat rewards for kidnapping and weak/corrupt law enforcement have turned kidnapping for cash into a cottage industry that had become a major source of income for narco-terrorist group FARC. Crime and corruption are at meteoric levels in Pakistan, and there are plenty of criminal gangs who may consider the U.S. government's offer on Saeed as too tempting to pass up.
Encouraging people to grab Saeed and get him out of Pakistan was almost certainly not the intent of Rewards for Justice offer. But when Pakistan's clear refusal to act against Saeed is considered in tandem with the conditions necessary to claim the money, it is hard to imagine the offered reward, practically speaking, as anything other than an open bounty for the rendition of Saeed outside Pakistan, regardless of whether that is what it was ever intended to be.
Art Keller is a former CIA case officer who served in Pakistan and the author of the new novel about Iran, Hollow Strength.
Arif Ali/AFP/Getty Images
The May 20 NATO summit in Chicago was dominated by the issue of Afghanistan. Amidst all the talk about withdrawing international combat troops by 2014, funding the Afghan National Security Forces beyond 2014, and a doubtful political settlement with the Taliban, one subject was absent from the formal agenda: drugs.
Yet in few other countries is the drugs trade so entrenched as it is in Afghanistan. Accounting for between one-quarter and one-third of the national economy, it is an integral part of the insecurity blighting Afghan life for the past 30 years.
Debate may continue for years as to whether the Western intervention in Afghanistan has made the world safer or more insecure in the post-9/11 era. But it has not only done nothing to reduce global supplies of illicit opium; rather, it has made the problem worse.
The international drugs-control regime, in place since the 1961 Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs came into effect, rests on prohibiting use in consumer countries and reducing supply in producer states. In Afghanistan, the source of around 60 per cent of the planet's illicit opium and 85 per cent of heroin, the latter objective may never be achieved to any meaningful degree.
The boom years for Afghan poppy cultivation began in the 1970s, thanks to political instability in Southeast Asia's fertile 'Golden Triangle' and bans on the crop in neighbouring Iran and Pakistan. The Soviet invasion in late 1979 gave local warlords an incentive to plant opium poppies to fund their insurgency against Moscow.
In the three decades since, with few other sources of income, opium production has come to provide for up to half a million Afghan households. The poppy is a hardy, drought-resistant plant, much easier for farmers to grow than saffron and more profitable than wheat. Both have been offered as alternative crops, but with only limited take-up. The criminal networks that have sprung up around the drugs trade provide farmers with seeds, fertiliser and cash loans; in short they offer an alternative welfare system. The principal growing regions, the southern Pashtun-dominated provinces of Helmand and Kandahar, are also Taliban strongholds.
For all these reasons, NATO efforts to eradicate opium - either by aerial spraying or manually- have alienated the population. Indeed, they have often had to be abandoned in the face of popular resistance. Crop disease did more to reduce opium production in 2010 than NATO's counter-narcotics strategy. The United Nations recently reported there had been a 61 percent rebound in opium production in 2011, and prices were soaring. This is a worrying trend, which seems set to continue after NATO troops leave.
Drug seizures, while rising, still account for less than 5% of opium produced. As a general rule, the United Nations estimates, law-enforcement agencies need to interdict about 70% of supplies to make the drugs trade less financially attractive to traffickers and dealers. In any circumstances, this is an extremely challenging objective. In the large swathes of Afghanistan where the central government and security forces wield no control, it is completely unrealistic. Meanwhile, no major trafficker has yet successfully been prosecuted due to a widespread culture of impunity.
Alternative approaches have been proposed. Most recently, in May 2012, Tajik Interior Minister Ramazon Rakhimov proposed that opium should be purchased directly from Afghan farmers to either be used in the pharmaceutical industry or to be destroyed. He also called on other countries to do the same in a move he deemed essential to fight drug trafficking and narcotics-fuelled terrorism. But this option was tried in 2002 when the United Kingdom had the lead on narcotics reduction, and had to be abandoned in the face of evidence that the purchasing programme constituted a perverse incentive to increase production. Licit production of opium for medical purposes may be a long-term option for Afghanistan, but not while current conditions of high insecurity and pervasive corruption persist.
In the West, the drugs scourge is mostly thought about in terms of the lives lost, opportunities wasted and the social disruption created through addiction. In fragile and impoverished nations such as Afghanistan, drugs create a shadow state, fuelling institutional corruption, instability, violence and human misery. The Taliban, which banned the planting of opium in 2001, was deriving an estimated U.S. $125 million per year from the business by 2009. It has been an equally important revenue stream for former warlords whose inclusion in the administration of President Hamid Karzai NATO's International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) has done little to oppose. Such individuals have a powerful vested interest in state weakness to the obvious detriment of good governance and institution-building. And all these actors are likely to maximise revenues from opium production in the run-up to the 2014 NATO/ISAF drawdown to hedge against an uncertain future.
A trade in which so many have vested interests will never be unwound simply or swiftly.
What drives it is its huge profitability, a consequence of continuing Western demand. No-one can confidently predict the consequences of changing the drugs prohibition regime. The current approach has not achieved the 1961 Single Convention's objectives. But has had the unintended consequence of perpetuating and increasing corruption and instability in parts of the world least equipped to deal with the consequences. Perhaps our collective experience in Afghanistan should serve as the basis for a serious rethink of global drugs policy? This would involve a cost/benefit analysis of current policies, scenario planning of the impact of alternative approaches and a much greater focus on demand reduction in consumer states. The issue of narcotics needs to be taken out of the silo it currently inhabits and looked at in the wider context of international security and development.
Nigel Inkster is Director of Transnational Threats and Political Risk at the International Institute for Strategic Studies. He is the author of ‘Drugs, Insecurity and Failed States: the Problems of Prohibition.'
Paula Bronstein/Getty Images
On May 20th, the United States will host a summit of NATO leaders in Chicago. Afghanistan will feature prominently in the summit's agenda. The recently concluded Strategic Partnership between the United States and Afghanistan provides a promising basis to build a partnership based on commitment to securing Afghanistan's democratic transition and the protection and promotion of rights for Afghan citizens. Delivering on its promises will require avoiding short cuts that carry the illusion of peace, and instead building a partnership with the real ally of stability: the majority of Afghan citizens.
There is a danger that the global debate is losing sight of the need to protect Afghan civilians and to consolidate the hard-won gains of the past ten years. The search for a quick deal in some American policy circles neatly coincide with those of Afghanistan's opportunistic and survival-driven political class, and especially elements within the government. This narrow policy consensus runs contrary to what most Afghans want: the preservation of the progress that has been won at great cost to both Afghans and the international community since 2001.
A sense of anxiety about what might happen after 2014 pervades Afghan society, and was caused primarily by the sidelining of human rights as a political commitment by both the Afghan government and its international partners since 2007. While the government has demonstrated increasing hostility to its human rights obligations, its international supporters have voiced only muted criticism, lacking penalties or action of any kind.
Against the wishes of generations of war victims, all civil war era actors have been granted broad immunity. The passage of the Shia Personal Status Law infringes on the legal rights of Shia women. The widely-praised Media Law that would have enshrined greater freedom of expression has been shelved. Known human rights abusers have been appointed to high-ranking positions within the national police force, while the Presidential Palace has lent its approval -- sometimes overt, sometimes tacit -- to a succession of regressive statements by the Ulema Council regarding women's rights. Afghan women, civil society, and human rights defenders are rapidly losing the space to speak out and organize freely, and these groups worry, with good reason, that government may soon try to silence them altogether.
The vision articulated by Afghans and their international partners in the Bonn Conference in 2001 entailed a commitment to building a democratic Afghanistan in which human rights and the rule of law prevailed. This vision was later reaffirmed by more than 500 delegates from across the country at the 2002 Loya Jirga. While neither of these historic agreements were flawless, as a participant in both I was filled with high expectations and energized with optimism for my country's future.
Whatever its weaknesses, the progressive vision for a post-Taliban Afghanistan provided civil society with room to grow. Hundreds of civic groups, including many devoted to women's rights, sprung up across the country. With international support and the enthusiasm of a new generation of Afghans, the independent media blossomed as never before in Afghanistan's history. But these gains have had little time to take root, and they are now at serious risk of being crushed.
This is the reality of Afghanistan in 2012. How did we get here?
First, since the end of the transition period established by the Bonn Agreement (2004), the Afghan political leadership has failed to implement an inclusive vision for Afghanistan's future. Instead, the government has opted for the politics of tactical, backroom deals as a strategy for guaranteeing their political survival. This brand of reactionary policy-making appeals to the most conservative and violent elements in Afghan society for support, and ignores the interests and aspirations of the vast majority. Unwilling to speak out or act upon major human rights issues, Afghanistan's political leaders have prevented Afghans from following the path that they chose and enshrined in their constitution in January 2004.
The international community has accepted these worrying trends, and has refrained from exerting real political pressure on the government to comply with its international obligations and the Afghan Constitution. Afghan human rights advocates have lobbied tirelessly, but their arguments, evidence, and pleas have been largely ignored. As time has passed, human rights have been mentioned less frequently in international discussions on Afghanistan and this is reflected in official documents. In the most recent U.N. Security Council resolutions on Afghanistan, passed on March 22, 2012, human rights were relegated to a sub-item.
Emboldened by recent international permissiveness, Afghan leaders have increasingly viewed justice and human rights as more of a luxury than an indispensable prerequisite for peace. In December 2007, President Karzai publicly announced that he would not challenge human rights violators and would not implement the Peace, Justice and Reconciliation action plan adopted by his own government in 2005. The vetting process for police reform that had managed to exclude at least 14 notorious figures from reappointment as chiefs of police was frozen indefinitely in 2007.
Other difficulties have aggravated the situation. The president's lack of desire for political development through political parties has hindered the establishment of active and effective political movements in the country.
In the absence of robust, democratic political pathways through which the majority could voice their aspirations, the Palace has relied instead on figures and factions who represent a tiny portion of society. While democratic voices have consistently marginalized, those advocating a non-representative form of conservatism, the Ulema Council, and a powerful minority seeking their own political and economic interests, have therefore exerted a disproportionate influence over the direction of national policy.
A second reason for the decline of the human rights and democracy agendas has had to do with the evolution of international strategy and priorities. Early on, at least rhetorically, Afghanistan's international partners (the United States in particular) embraced human rights reforms as a component of the state-building strategy in Afghanistan. Over time, however, the focus shifted to defeating the insurgency, then to counterterrorism, and then to containing the insurgency. With this shift towards military objectives, the human rights agenda suffered. The United States embraced nearly any party that would oppose the Taliban, regardless of their human rights records. Afghan prisoners were abused in American-run prisons. Night raids continued, providing powerful recruiting narratives to the Taliban who, undeterred, killed civilians in ever larger numbers with each passing year. Continued partnership between the international military and malign elements of the past contributed to a gradual but steady move of the Kabul government toward embracing the same abusive figures.
President Obama's review of the Afghanistan strategy, released in March 2009, further limited the objectives for the American engagement in Afghanistan, dropping the idea of supporting democracy and human rights entirely. Elements within the Afghan government took this cue and began to neglect their own commitments. Indeed, a senior aide to President Karzai told me that the Palace has come to believe that human rights and democracy are not priority issues for the United States because they want to achieve reconciliation; therefore, "we will also relax our practice and policy on that front".
The alliances between some of the members of the international community, the Afghan government, and local warlords have implications that stretch well beyond human rights issues. Militarily and economically empowered by these alliances the warlords have been able to block merit-based upward mobility in the public and private sectors. By dominating political decision-making in the government, they have established dominant roles for their old militia structure members, guaranteeing specific interest groups hefty government and international contracts while protecting their unaccounted wealth.
Since the current structures protect the warlords and enable their domination, they correctly view reform efforts aimed at good governance, rule of law and human rights as a threat that could drive them from power. Consequently, they have aggressively undermined all such reform efforts, actively manipulating systems. Through their influence at the Palace, a small group of wartime leaders are utilizing government appointments to expand their own network rather than serve the public interest. There is little risk of exposure or accountability and a high return. Those who are being formally appointed by the President (but actually at the behest of unaccountable and influential patrons) feel less loyalty to their official boss than to those who nominated them. The public understands that public office is being used to dole out favors to the informal leaders. Ultimately, public trust in the government is severely undermined.
In a desperate move to end almost ten years of military engagement, in 2011 the U.S. and Afghan governments set two potentially conflicting goals by opting to negotiate a peace deal with the Taliban while simultaneously beginning the transition out of Afghanistan. In a situation where the Afghan government is increasingly weak, more hostile toward its international allies, and less capable of winning public support, Afghans fear that negotiating with insurgents from a weak position will further undermine human rights -- particularly the gains made with respect to women's rights.
Ordinary Afghans understand that a settlement at the expense of human rights and democracy will yield a very short-lived peace. Rather, such so-called "peace" protocols are likely to usher in a renewed, and more vicious, round of civil war. The key to a lasting peace by contrast is found in respect and protection of the rights of Afghans, ensuring good governance, and delivering justice for the wrongdoings of the past.
To address some of these problems, Kabul and Washington should consider a number of steps:
Build on the Strategic Partnership Agreement
The Strategic Partnership Agreement explicitly restates the shared determination of the United States and the Government of Afghanistan to achieving the goal of a stable and independent state of Afghanistan, ‘governed on the basis of Afghanistan's constitution, shared democratic values, including respect for the fundamental rights and freedoms of all men and women.' By recognizing and emphasizing the importance of the rights, needs and aspirations of the people of Afghanistan and of democratic values, the agreement is a first step towards reassuring Afghans that constitutional rights and freedoms are non-negotiable. The May conference in Chicago presents an opportunity for the international community to reinforce its commitment to rule of law and human rights in Afghanistan.
Peaceful and timely democratic transfer of power through elections
The end of the constitutional term of President Karzai coincides with the scheduled completion of the transition of security responsibility from international forces to Afghans. The Afghan government must ensure that Afghanistan makes a peaceful democratic transition of political power by 2014. Afghanistan's future stability depends as much on the capability of its security forces and their adherence to human rights and rule of law as it does on a peaceful transition of power to a next elected administration. Both should be key priorities.
President Karzai should therefore announce the date for the 2014 presidential elections, support a genuine electoral reform process and facilitate a peaceful democratic transition of power for the first time in the nation's recent history. The United States, NATO countries, and the United Nations should already be seriously focused on how to support Afghanistan's elections and should take care to learn the hard lessons of 2009 as well as from the positive experiences of 2002, 2004 and 2005.
President Karzai should immediately initiate a clear process for holding to account those who are guilty of past crimes, and clarify that any crimes from now on will meet the full accountability of the judicial process. To begin with, he should implement the government's action plan on Peace, Justice and Reconciliation adopted in 2007.
President Karzai and his government should abandon the politics of the back-room deal and embrace the aspirations of the vast majority for good governance, democracy and human rights. To do so, he must engage the Afghan parliament in the formation of policy, and the international community should provide technical support to parliamentary committees. This support would allow legislators to gain the ability to formulate, present and adopt specific policy options to the government, instead of debating in general terms -- and in a reactionary manner -- executive decisions that have already been made.
President Karzai must provide equal space for pro-democracy and reform voices in policy development and decision-making, and the international community should break its long silence when it comes to bringing onboard pro-reform agendas and voices. To facilitate ownership of national processes, the president should create incentives for political parties to generate alternative policy debates. The political parties and Afghan civil society must engage in a much more aggressive, structured, and realistic advocacy campaign for the implementation of reform agendas, and they should press President Karzai to remove from office those whose acts are undermining his own legacy in human rights and democracy. President Karzai must hold accountable officials who are involved in abusive practices and abandon the practice of simply reshuffling them to other senior positions.
Inclusive Talks with the Insurgents and Clearly Defined Redlines
It is also imperative for the government to show that it has begun -- in practice - to make the protection of human rights and promotion of democratic practices the center of its agenda. The Afghan government must publicly and explicitly assure Afghans that all rights and freedoms enshrined in the Afghanistan Constitution and the gains made in the past decade regarding human rights and democratic development are not negotiable in any talks with the Taliban. The United States must do the same.
Nader Nadery served as Human Rights Commissioner at Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission and chairperson of Free and Fair Election Foundation of Afghanistan (FEFA) based in Kabul.
The next Afghan presidential election is currently slated for 2014, an uninspiring prospect given the sky-high levels of corruption, nepotism, and patronage that beleaguers the Afghan political system. To make things worse, President Hamid Karzai has suggested holding the elections in 2013 to avoid an overlap with the planned end of NATO's combat mission. And there is still no functional plan in place for a smooth transfer of political power to a post-Karzai government.
The challenges of a successful political transition in Afghanistan are multiple. The Afghan government has not yet defined a plausible political strategy for its sustainability after 2014. Furthermore, the Afghan and U.S. governments have failed to develop a mature political class from which the Afghan people can democratically select their leaders. This is further aggravated by officials' failure to establish adept civil services in Afghanistan. As a result, the largely corrupt and inept Afghan civil service is characterized by and operates under a vast network of political patronage and nepotism, leaving it incapable of delivering basic services to the Afghan people. The durability of the Afghan political system requires a feasible political reform agenda that addresses endemic corruption and nepotism, and a political settlement process with an inclusive internal Afghan dialogue.
Tackling these shortcomings are fundamental to Afghanistan's future generation of leadership, and there are growing concerns in Kabul that President Karzai may attempt to enter the 2014 election, despite being constitutionally barred, and his repeated statements that he will not seek a third term. Earlier, the concern, especially among the Afghan opposition, was that President Karzai would amend Afghanistan's election laws, which currently prevent him from seeking another term in office. However, speculations now abound that Karzai will handpick a successor who will serve as president while he runs the show from behind the scenes. If employed, this arrangement - similar to the one between Russian President Dmitry Medvedev and Prime Minister Vladimir Putin - effectively keeps the seat warm until Karzai's return. At present, there is no provision in the Afghan Constitution stipulating that Karzai cannot return to the presidency after a short absence. Depending on whom Karzai picks as his successor, such a move will likely spark outrage among many in Afghanistan, specifically among members of the so-called "loyal" opposition group, the erstwhile Northern Alliance.
The late Burhanuddin Rabbani, a former Afghan president and head of the High Peace Council (HPC), was previously touted to succeed Karzai largely due to his role as an interlocutor between the Afghan government and opposition groups. With Rabbani no longer in play, some of the other names currently being tossed around are: Atta Mohammad Noor, a Tajik and current governor of Balkh province; Farooq Wardak, a Pashtun and the current Minister of Education; Mohammad Hanif Atmar, a prominent Pashtun and former Minister of Interior and Education; and Ashraf Ghani, a well-known Pashtun, one-time presidential contender, and former Minister of Finance who is now chairman of Afghanistan's security transition commission. Rumors also abound that President Karzai has been grooming Qayum Karzai, his multi-millionaire older brother who presently dominates most of Afghanistan's security, construction, and transportation sectors, to succeed him. A one-time restaurant owner in Maryland and now an unrivaled Afghan powerbroker, Qayum is said to be the man behind all key cabinet and provincial level appointments in Afghanistan.
However, President Karzai's first choice and personal favorite appears to be Education Minister Farooq Wardak, due in large part to the confidence and trust President Karzai has placed in him. If President Karzai chooses to publicly announce his support for Wardak's candidacy, it could significantly raise Wardak's current stature, and garner widespread public support, particularly among the Pashtun voters who would most likely rally to get him elected. The 2014 elections are central to future political stability of the country. With the anticipated election irregularities and several in Karzai's inner clique loathe to forgo the power they currently enjoy, the election will test the trust and confidence of the Afghan people in the governance system and their future participation in Afghanistan's political process. While it is too early to anticipate, President Karzai's voluntary departure before the election will not only sit positively with many Afghans, but will also leave him a respectable legacy in Afghan history.
There is also a widespread perception in Afghanistan that the United States acts as kingmaker, and whomever the U.S. supports will become the next president. Whether or not that narrative is true, the United States can help encourage young and educated new leaders to become involved in politics, and advise the Afghan government to disqualify corrupt individuals.
Some American officials have recently increased outreach to Afghan political figures, which appears to have somehow emboldened the kingmaker perceptions among Afghans. Senior members of the U.S. Congress reached out to the members of the Northern Alliance during a recent visit to Kabul, riling many, including President Karzai. The emphasis of this political outreach effort stressed a peculiar narrative of decentralization that contradicts the policy of the Obama administration. This type of power devolvement includes, among other things, granting legislative power to the provincial councils, and having elected provincial governors rather than presidential appointees. These elected officials would also have all powers invested in them, including the ability to levy their own taxes and make key provincial appointments.
Yet, this strategy also entails accepting considerable risks.
Giving provincial governors the authority to hire and fire civil servants, and levy their own taxes with no input or control from Kabul risks creating and supporting local "strongmen" and parallel power structures that could be potentially destabilizing. Such an arrangement also risks turning up the heat on the already simmering ethnic tensions, and could essentially create a Pashtun-dominated "Pashtunistan" separated from a confederation of provinces dominated by ethnic Tajiks, Uzbeks and Hazaras. It is a strategy of soft partition that effectively opens the door for ethnic cleansing. A cursory look at history, including that of India, Bosnia, Palestine, and Cyprus suggests that the partition of mixed political entities has almost always been accompanied or preceded by ethnic cleansing and/or colossal ethnic violence. Afghanistan's population is heterogeneous, and any proposals, however attractive, for the country's de facto or de jure partition through decentralization appear not only impractical, but also irresponsible. So while U.S. support in Afghanistan over the past decade has been invaluable, and U.S. officials have the right to criticize the Afghan government, any such calls, or the supporting of one faction over another currently displayed by certain members of the U.S. Congress, amount to meddling in Afghanistan's domestic affairs and must be avoided.
At a time when the U.S. is in need of widespread public support on the Afghan mission, the administration's tone on Afghan governance is feeble. It is time that the U.S. starts investing in and nurturing the future generation of capable Afghan leaders through education, leadership training, and foreign exposure, rather than supporting the usual unholy alliance of corrupt or militant pro-American individuals it has supported in the past. This includes supporting key moderate and visionary leaders, technocrats, capable civil servants in each of the factions, as well as bringing new, dynamic, educated and impartial young leaders into the political sphere that will lead the country into a positive future. The 2014 election is of crucial significance. Real and tangible steps must be taken towards guaranteeing that Afghanistan's future does not once again fall into the hands of warlords, drug kingpins, or jihadi leaders that will most certainly compromise the freedom and security of Afghan people.
Javid Ahmad is program coordinator with the Asia Program of the German Marshall Fund of the United States in Washington, D.C. The views reflected here are his own.
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Recent months have seen unprecedented progress on trade relations between India and Pakistan. Last November, Pakistan granted India "most favored nation" (MFN) status, fifteen years after India added Pakistan to its MFN list. On April 13, India announced that it would allow foreign direct investment (FDI) from Pakistan. And on the same day, a historic integrated checkpoint opened at the Attari-Wagah border crossing, which will allow commercial traffic and trade to flow between the two countries.
Additionally, Pakistan has replaced its positive list allowing only 2,000 different items to be imported from India with a negative list that bans just 1,209 goods, but allows all others. Currently, this list prohibits trade of items in industries such as agriculture, chemicals, and ceramics, but the Pakistani government pledged to phase out the negative list by the end of this year, thus allowing all Indian goods into Pakistan.
Some in Pakistan welcome the normalization of trade relations between India and Pakistan, while others are skeptical of how it may pan out.
Chaudhry Azhar's family has been a wholesaler of bananas and mangoes for over 30 years, a tradition Azhar continues today at Lahore's largest vegetable and fruit market, Badami Bagh Mandi. "This trade agreement will affect us a lot," he says. "India is giving subsidies to all items, such as free electricity. Our farmers will be at a loss and India will benefit from us. We cannot compete with their subsidies."
Opening the border to Indian crops that are supported by large subsidies might put Pakistani farmers at a disadvantage, but some traders are grateful for the option of importing a better product from their neighbors. Among the bustling sounds of vendors hawking their wares, one of Azhar's employees, Haji Mohammad Akram, proudly shows the bananas that have come from India, and compares them to the ones from Pakistan that have rotted due to bad weather. Increasing the ease with which the two countries can trade will allow vendors to be more selective with their products.
Most business owners agree that bilateral trade will only be effective if Pakistan imports goods that they don't have, though. Saleem Khan brings oranges, apples, and grapes from Balochistan to sell in Lahore. But he says, "We imported oranges from Iran even when Pakistan had supplies of it. The Government benefits the exporters of other countries and hurts the local farmers."
Wholesalers worry that India's larger, more powerful economy will allow it to export goods that Pakistan already produces, such as bananas and oranges. But there appears to be an understanding that India might be able to provide goods and services that are sorely lacking in Pakistan. Nadeem Kambo, a broker at the market who favors the trade between India and Pakistan, suggests getting electricity from India. He says, "If we do not get items that we need from other countries, then what do we have here?"
Similarly, the President of Lahore Chamber of Commerce, Irfan Qaiser Sheikh, supports trade between regional and bordering countries but understands the reservations and concerns brought by local business owners. "We are not in favor of opening trade at the cost of our industries," says Sheikh.
The biggest impact of some of the potential trade policies will be on the farmers that grow the crop and sell it to the wholesalers. Mohammad Qasim, a wholesaler of onions and potatoes says, "This will affect our farmers a lot. If we look at it from a trading perspective, we will get something in return of giving something. We should get the things that the farmers need in return for what we give them."
At the Lahore Chamber of Commerce, Sheikh says they have done their homework on the matter, but he also understands that the Government needs to address the key concerns and take an active role in the normalization of trade relations in order to move forward on an even playing field with India. "We really need to address all core issues once and for all to achieve the desired results."
Mian Anjum Nisar, a local manufacturer, believes some Pakistani industries, such as home textiles and certain raw materials that are not available in India, would benefit from expanding trade relations. Faisalabad is known for its competitive producers of cotton and textiles, which would undoubtedly find eager markets for their products in India. However, Nisar worries that Pakistan as a whole may not be able to benefit in the long run. "India's scale of economy is far bigger than ours." Nisar says.
He also says that the difference in the tariffs levied by India and those levied by Pakistan will also play a big role. Currently, India's peak tariff on Pakistani goods stands at 8%, while Pakistan has placed 25% tariff fee on Indian goods. Under the Trade Liberalization Plan (TLP) of the South Asian Free Trade Agreement (SAFTA), India and Pakistan must bring tariffs down to between zero and five percent this year. In order for Pakistan to meet that deadline, the 25% tariff would need to be cut quickly and dramatically, which would likely come as a dangerous shock to the domestic manufacturing industry.
Tariffs are not the only challenge, though. India's non-tariff barriers are widely recognized as significant impediments to efficient, cost-effective trade. Sheikh sees this as a major concern in moving ahead with bilateral trade. He says, "India has got to remove the non-tariff barriers that they have imposed on Pakistan." Non-tariff barriers are non-monetary policies that raise the risk or cost of exporting goods to a country. India has, for example, certain standard approval laboratories where certificates must be issued to goods before they can clear the border. This procedure is lengthy, and the rejection of just one product can endanger an entire consignment.
Haris Naseer, the Director of Marketing at Infotech, an IT company based in Pakistan, considers logistics and visa requirements to be his main concerns, while having more items available for import from India will be beneficial. "In the technology industry, since there is not as much of a physical movement of goods, and due to the new visa requirements, it will be easier to move resources from one country to another." Under the revised visa requirements, businesspersons can be granted multiple-entry visas, and permission to visit up to five different cities. Previous business visas for citizens of India and Pakistan required extensive paperwork, and only allowed visa-holders to visit three cities.
The traders in Lahore are not very optimistic about the prospects of normalizing trade relations with India, though many acknowledged the potential benefits of such a development if it is done the right way. Pakistani authorities will need to address this apprehension in order to get the critical support of small businesses in their effort to reopen economic borders with their neighbors.
Aisha Chowdhry is a freelance journalist, born and raised in Lahore, Pakistan. She has covered stories from Afghanistan and Pakistan for USA Today, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and The New York Times among other publications. You can follow her on Twitter @ aishach
This year, the United Kingdom hosts the Olympic Games, and security services are on particularly high alert. Magnifying an already tense environment, the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) and then al-Qaeda released videos in the past few weeks, threatening the United Kingdom if convicted jihadists serving sentences in the U.K. are not treated better. The TTP threatened, "we will show them how we take revenge for the mistreatment of our brothers." Are these just empty threats, or are they, in fact, causes for genuine concern for British security services?
The first video threat was a speech by Waliur Rehman Mehsud (TTP's deputy leader and a regular spokesman), who told British authorities to take better care of the jihadists that it was holding in prison, specifically highlighting the cases of Roshonara Choudhry, the woman who tried to kill a member of Parliament for his support of the Iraq War after watching Anwar al-Awlaki videos; Dhiren Barot, the Hindu convert who fought alongside Pakistani militant group Lashkar-e-Taiba, wrote about his experiences in a book, and was later arrested as part of a cell plotting unspecified attacks in the U.K.; and Bilal Abdullah, the Iraqi doctor who was jailed for first leaving a set of car bombs in central London in 2007, and then driving a jeep laden with explosive material into Glasgow airport. All three are serving long sentences in the U.K., and Barot and Abdullah have been linked to al-Qaeda Central to al-Qaeda in Iraq respectively.
Two weeks later, al-Qaeda released a statement telling the U.K. not to extradite Abu Qatada, the Jordanian-Palestinian imam who was one of the cornerstones of Londonistan, to Jordan. Though he has not been convicted of any offenses, security services have repeatedly highlighted his menace, and in March 2004 a British high court judge described him as "very heavily involved, indeed at the center in the United Kingdom of terrorist activities associate with al Qaeda. He is truly a dangerous individual." He is currently still battling his extradition to Jordan on charges linked to a plot in that country from around the Millennium. In the statement, al-Qaeda demands that the British government send the cleric to one of the Arab Spring nations instead of Jordan. This threat was followed soon afterwards by similar messages from al-Qaeda's Iraqi affiliate (the Islamic State of Iraq), and another by al-Shabaab (the Somali group that recently pledged allegiance to al Qaeda).
Neither of these statements is in fact very new: TTP and Waliur Mehsud have repeatedly threatened the West, and have been linked to terrorist plots in Europe and America. Similarly, in June 2009 al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) demanded the British government release Abu Qatada, and executed captive British citizen Edwin Dyer when British officials refused to comply. Whether al-Qaeda militants in Pakistan are currently holding any British prisoners they can use as leverage this time around is unclear, but given the long-standing connection between jihad in Pakistan and the United Kingdom, British services will be watching these messages closely.
Whilst the British-Pakistani terrorist connection is no longer what it was -- a source of most of Britain's domestic terrorist plots as young British men went to fight in Afghanistan and were re-directed back home to carry out attacks -- it has not completely dissipated. Earlier this year, a group of nine men pled guilty to a plot to plant a bomb in the London Stock Exchange. Four were directly implicated in the bombing plan, while the others were fulfilling a series of subsidiary roles, including developing a training camp in Pakistan that they could turn into a location for British citizens to prepare for jihad. And later this year we will see the trial of a group of Pakistani-Britons arrested in Birmingham last October. The group of seven has allegedly been linked to training in the AfPak region, and were reported to have recorded martyrdom videos. And these allegations are merely the most recent in a long list. British intelligence officers have broken up other cells containing individuals who have gone abroad to seek training, and their early intervention prevented the plots from advancing much beyond this point. And at least four British citizens have fallen foul of drone strikes in Waziristan since October 2010.
But the stream of money and fighters (according to British intelligence, prior to 2002 some 3,000 British citizens had gone to fight) that used to go back and forth has now died down to a trickle. Clearly, some sympathy still exists amongst Britain's South Asian community for what many see as the plight of their brethren at home, but the number of young men willing to go fight alongside militants there has fallen. The intelligence community is unwilling to specify publicly, but told journalist Jason Burke that "never more than a few score in any one year, their number [of young Britons going to fight in South Asia] has now been reduced to a handful." This has likely stunted the capacity of al-Qaeda and its affiliates to launch attacks in the United Kingdom with much ease. This is not to say that the U.K. is not a target - these latest statements are testament to the country's continued presence on group's priority list - but militants are now likely find their plots more difficult to put into action.
What is unclear is whether this difficulty of moving into action is a result of a lack of willingness from recruits or whether it is a lack of capacity from al-Qaeda to be able to manage plots and networks launching strikes abroad. According to a series of documents believed to be from al-Qaeda Central that were obtained by German security forces when they arrested a pair of fighters returning from Waziristan last year, al-Qaeda used to have a capacity to manage large networks of plotters in the United Kingdom using operational managers in Waziristan, who were in close contact with the cells on the ground. This capacity seems to have gone away, with the group taking a far more hands-off approach to managing cells. In neither of the aforementioned British plots (that on the London Stock Exchange and that involving a Birmingham cell) was there, from information currently available, evidence of management by al-Qaeda Central of the plot on the ground. The last major set of plots with a key manager in Waziristan were concocted by a group disrupted in northern England in April 2009 (who were allegedly planning a campaign in northern England), another cell led by Najibullah Zazi stopped in September 2009 in New York (one of whom is currently on trial in New York), and then in July 2010 in Norway (when a group of three was planning an unspecified attack in Oslo using hydrogen peroxide based bombs).
Since then, we have seen an increasingly loose set of individuals dispatched from Waziristan to the West (and in particular the U.K.) to attempt to carry out terrorist attacks. Some sort of network of people going back and forth from the U.K. continues to exist - it was only July last year that British Special Forces in Herat detained a British couple who had snuck into Afghanistan and were allegedly trying to connect with extremists to launch an unspecified attack either in Afghanistan or back in the U.K. The couple, at least one of whom was a British citizen, is currently in Afghanistan in unknown circumstances, having been released by British forces. However, we are no longer seeing the sorts of large-scale plots with connections right to the top that we saw coming along the British-Pakistani pipeline in the early/mid-2000s.
All of this suggests both a lowering in the volume of individuals going back and forth, and a degradation of the capacity of al-Qaeda or others in Afghanistan and Pakistan to effectively manage such individuals and turn them into operational cells. The days of the British-Pakistani connection's role as the primary source of the terrorist threat in the West appear to have passed.
Raffaello Pantucci is an Associate Fellow at the International Center for the Study of Radicalisation (ICSR) and the author of the forthcoming "We Love Death As You Love Life: Britain's Suburban Mujahedeen" (Hurst/Columbia University Press). His writing can be found at: http://www.raffaellopantucci.com.
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Afghan labourers take part in the construction of a bridge at Barikowt, in Afghanistan's eastern Kunar province on April 3, 2009.
‘No matter how high the mountain, there is a road to the top' (Afghan proverb)
In Afghanistan, bridges are important. They link families separated by Afghanistan's often mountainous terrain, enable farmers to bring crops to market, and allow everyone - from traders to teachers - to move about more securely.
Last month, as Afghanistan's newly appointed Minister of Rural Rehabilitation and Development, I handed over more than twenty completed projects - including a 460ft bridge and a university community center - to the people of Kapisa province in northeast Afghanistan. The bridge alone will benefit more than 70,000 people.
What relevance does this have for America, especially given longstanding concerns about the reasons for engaging in Afghanistan, the human and financial costs of doing so, and continuing apprehension about plans for transition, and Afghanistan's future stability and prospects?
Well, despite the regular diet of negative news about Afghanistan as we approach the drawdown of international - primarily American - military forces, I believe significant and sustained developmental progress is being achieved.
You might think, that as a government minister, I would say that. But the evidence is compelling.
My ministry manages five nationwide programs. Last year alone they provided direct technical support and funding to villages and districts in every one of Afghanistan's 34 provinces to help meet community-owned, locally agreed development plans. Rural roads and bridges helped connect two million people; access to clean water and sanitation reached two million more. And we helped almost 60,000 people, a third of them women, launch savings groups that will go on to create small and medium-sized businesses. Our work helps reintegrate former insurgents into communities as productive members of society, supporting stabilization efforts by our civilian and military partners. It is long running and life changing.
The major human development indicators are now moving in the right direction - for example, on the number of children in school, or levels of child and maternal mortality - but after thirty years of conflict Afghanistan has started from very low baselines. There is much more to do.
Afghans are increasingly taking responsibility for security and service provision. Under the third tranche of the Inteqal, or transition process, approximately 75% of the population will have seen security responsibilities pass to Afghan forces. That process is scheduled for completion by the end of 2014 but, as we know, it is not without its risks.
The years from transition to 2025 are already being termed a period of ‘transformation,' in which Afghanistan moves from heavy dependence on international donors to a state better able to pay its own way in the world, and make its own decisions. Support from the United States and the rest of the international community has been essential to fostering economic growth, social development, and stronger governance, enabling the Afghan government to begin providing support to 38,000 communities in over three hundred districts throughout 34 provinces.
Even in insecure areas, we have devised innovative mechanisms to deliver critically needed assistance, because development can and does address the root causes of conflict. Reducing poverty removes local grievances that can lead to tacit support for violence. Investing in education and training helps Afghanistan's young men and women find meaningful jobs. For farmers - and four out of five Afghans have a direct involvement with agriculture - promoting alternative, legal ways of generating income, instead of poppy cultivation, reduces insecurity and corruption.
A number of sectoral initiatives - National Priority Programs - are currently being finalized in partnership with international donors. The Tokyo Conference this July will look at those programs, including how they translate into long-term financial support. Discussions will not be easy: a decade more is needed before Afghanistan's economy can generate a substantial proportion of its own budget needs, and the global economic crisis has changed the donor landscape.
In the run-up to Tokyo, there is much the U.S. can do. I believe the Obama administration and Congress should look at a comprehensive package of support:
Now is not a time to cut and run. We know that post-conflict stabilization and development requires decades to complete, but we are a long way from becoming a ‘failed state.' The real and sustainable progress made so far has been achieved at great human and financial cost: the United States' continued commitment to our long-term development will be vital in bringing about a secure, stable, democratic and prosperous Afghanistan.
Wais Ahmad Barmak, Minister of Rural Rehabilitation and Development in the Afghan Government, is currently visiting the United States.
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Since the beginning of 2012, all four provinces in Pakistan have experienced suicide bombings and terrorist related violence, including the most recent attacks in Quetta, Karachi and Peshawar, which killed scores of innocent people. And yet over the past four years, Pakistan's civilian government has failed to develop a counter-extremism strategy that addresses the underlying political, social and economic causes of militancy in the country.
While the parliament and executive bemoan the military's marginalization of civilian institutions in tackling militancy, the fact remains that it is Pakistan's elected officials who have foundered in the development of a civilian strategy that combats militancy. Meanwhile, more than 30,000 Pakistanis have died in terrorism-related violence over the past decade.
In the absence of a national plan of action, the Pakistani military has pursued a strategy focused almost entirely on drone strikes, military operations and illegal detentions, tactics that disregard the rule of law and due process, and are likely to destabilize the country over the long-term.
At a time when the government has failed to deliver, Pakistan's civil society groups have a critical role to play. Over the past few years, civil society actors in Pakistan have demonstrated their powers of persuasion in the face of government inaction-in the cases of the restoration of the chief justice and the annulment of the infamous National Reconciliation Order, to name just a few examples. Effective civil society mobilization can once again pressure the government to counter militancy in the following ways:
1. Forge a political solution to militancy, and ensure transparency
At an All-Parties Conference last September that was also attended by the military leadership, Pakistani lawmakers pushed for negotiations with Pakistani militant groups in the tribal belt, emphasizing the need to ‘give peace a chance'. Six months on, while military operations continue in the tribal belt, it is unclear whether Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani's government has developed a coherent negotiating framework within which it can engage with its myriad militant groups.
Pakistan's civilian leadership must now take the lead in defining a negotiating strategy with the Taliban. Getting the military leadership on board will be crucial, though, as previous peace processes have been marred by a lack of coordination. In 2008, the newly elected provincial government in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KPK) initiated dialogue with the Pakistani Taliban. However, these talks lacked the support of the military and federal government. Soon after the ANP-led government signed a peace agreement with the Tehreek-e Taliban's Swat chapter in 2008 (not to be confused with the 2009 peace deal), the military began a bombing campaign against the TTP in the tribal belt, and in the process jeopardized the ANP-brokered deal. The lack of a unified front weakened the government's position.
It is also extremely important to establish civil society-based monitoring and verification committees that can ensure insurgent groups' compliance with the peace agreements reached. Previously, the post-negotiation phases have lacked transparency, and independent groups have not had the access needed to determine which side is responsible for violating the provisions of the peace agreement. Civil society groups should demand more transparency in this regard.
2. Implement an anti-terror legislative regime
Pakistan's civil society groups must pressure the government to address gaps in the criminal justice infrastructure that allow militant groups to operate with impunity, as well as to implement legislation against terrorism that already exists.
In 1997, in response to the rising tide of sectarian violence in the country, Nawaz Sharif's government enacted the Anti-Terrorism Act (ATA), which created special anti-terrorism courts and expanded punishments associated with terrorism. However, gaps remain, and according to a recent report commissioned by the Punjab government, approximately 75% of the people accused of terrorism in the Punjab province over the last two decades were acquitted due to a lack of evidence against them.
In 2010, the Interior Ministry introduced further amendments to the ATA designed to make it easier for suspected terrorists to be prosecuted. While the parliamentary committee has deliberated on the anti-terror amendment tabled before it, it has yet to make recommendations on this critical issue.
Even when Pakistani administrations put in the effort to create anti-terror legislative regimes, they have faltered with respect to their implementation due to political considerations. Both civilian and military governments (PPP, PML-N as well as Musharraf's regime) have courted violent sectarian outfits for electoral support and votes, and have therefore failed to apprehend their leaders.
3. Address socio-economic imbalances
While most militant organizations have overt political or religious agendas, there are underlying socio-economic factors that are also at play. For instance, in districts of southern Punjab, the land-owning gentry have historically been mostly Shiite, who over generations have converted their economic influence into political clout. Consequently, the founders of Lashkar-e-Jhangvi and Sipah-e-Sahaba (militant anti-Shiite organizations) were Sunni (Deobandi) men from impoverished backgrounds who won great popular support among their communities by challenging the Shiite feudal landlords in the area on both economic and ideological grounds. In addition, the apparent complicity of the land-owning elite with the corrupt and inept local judicial and administrative systems pushed the local population toward individuals who challenge the system.
The deeply entrenched feudal system must be challenged to reduce the social inequities found in these areas. While over Pakistan's 64 year history, many land redistribution bills have been introduced in parliament, those most comprehensive in scope have failed to pass, not least due to the fact that many in parliament have large landholdings and stymie such efforts. In addition, it is likely that the military, which forms part of the ‘landed elite' in Pakistan, would also resist the implementation of such measures. It therefore falls to civil society to mobilize and push for land redistribution, which could prove to be helpful in mitigating some of the socio-economic causes of sectarian militancy in Pakistan.
For far too long Pakistan's civilian leadership has blamed its failure to manage militancy issues on the military establishment's preponderance in political and security affairs of the country. This should no longer be acceptable to the Pakistani population. Pakistan's vibrant civil society and diaspora have an important role to play in holding the government accountable for its lack of a viable anti-militancy strategy ahead of elections next year. Nothing else is likely to motivate the country's elected officials to fulfill their responsibility of protecting the people of Pakistan.
Mehlaqa Samdani is a peacebuilding associate at the Karuna Peacebuilding Center in Amherst. She is currently working on a civil society-based strategy to combat violent sectarianism in Pakistan and blogs at ‘Politics and Peacebuilding in Pakistan'.
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As calls for an international intervention in conflict-wracked Syria begin to echo in Washington, it is critical that policy-makers remember the lessons learned in Afghanistan. One recent editorial on the crisis highlighted Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's use of a United Nations Security Council brokered peace plan to buy extra time to crush his opponents, the Free Syrian Army. The plan, pulled together by international envoy Kofi Annan, called for Syria to withdraw troops, tanks and heavy weapons from major urban areas where fighting has claimed over 1000 civilian lives in the last week. Assad's predictable outmaneuvering of the U.N. drew this response from the Editors:
"The inescapable reality is that Mr. Assad will go on killing unless and until he is faced with a more formidable military opposition. That is why the shortest way to the end of the Syrian crisis is the one Mr. Obama is resisting: military support for the opposition and, if necessary, intervention by NATO."
I think that they are right. But having participated in an intervention or two in my day, here are a few thoughts to consider before we jump in:
Go in light.
There will be calls for a large-scale, multinational intervention. But consider Afghanistan 2001, where 300 U.S. Special Forces and 110 CIA officers - supported by precision air strikes - partnered with the Northern Alliance to overthrow the Taliban in a matter of weeks.
Or Libya 2011; Operation Odyssey Dawn (U.S. operation) and Operation Unified Protector (NATO) used air strikes and Tomahawk missiles to cover ground assaults by forces opposed to Qaddafi's military. Duration: months.
The takeaway: a small investment of ground, intelligence, communications and air support can help produce an insurgent victory in a reasonable amount of time. Special Forces, for example - Arabic-speaking, experts in small unit tactics and calling in precision air support - can act as force multipliers by organizing, training, equipping and supporting the Free Syrian Army to conduct guerilla warfare, subversion, sabotage and intelligence activities.
Equally important: the fewer American and coalition partners on the ground the better, as it gives the Free Syrian Army and political leaders-in-waiting more legitimacy. After all, this is their war to win.
Go in smart.
Following a Free Syrian Army victory, we can expect some kind of insurgency. Fomented by former al-Assad regime members with external support, this insurgency will include former Syrian military members, elites who have lost position, true believers, and citizens taking advantage of the chaos to address local grievances.
As the Syrian Army's fortunes decline, caches of weapons and ammunition will be squirreled away for future use.
That said, there are 100 things that can be done right now to tamp down those things that will foster a post-conflict insurgency. And when it starts, there are 100 things that we need to do to put that insurgency to rest.
Go in cheap.
The U.S. is broke. In the coming year, the Pentagon, the Department of State and USAID will all suffer huge budget cuts. And after burning through immense amounts of cash in Iraq and Afghanistan, politicians and citizens alike are going to want this one done on the cheap.
And do not expect our allies to pick up our financial slack. NATO members are recovering from operations in Afghanistan and a rough economic ride thanks to the Euro crisis.
And that's okay - because going in with wads of money for stabilization, reconstruction and development can distort national and local economies and contribute to corruption. It is better to have fewer resources, and work to get government and community contributions for proposed projects. Sometimes less can be more.
Go in with humility.
If the Free Syrian Army pulls off a victory, they will have earned the respect of the world for winning their freedom from a ruthless dictator.
Let's be conscious of shackling and binding the new government with all sorts of Western cultural requirements.
In Afghanistan, Iraq, Kosovo and Bosnia intervening and international organizations have, at times, forcefully pushed Western ideas, notions and agendas before newly formed governments. Note that what is important to us will probably be important to them too - but maybe not this year, or the next. So think about what is immediately possible, and lay down the groundwork for that which is not.
Go in - but be prepared to walk out
Do not want it more than they want it. Never become so invested in another country's success that you cannot walk away.
If for some horrible reason the post conflict government participates in Human Rights violations, engages in corruption at levels that could lead to state capture, behaves in other ways that are irresponsible or reprehensible, and refuses to work with donor and supporting nations willing to assist them in recovery, then be prepared to walk away.
What is unacceptable in this day an age is to find your nation or international organization so leveraged by a new government that they can behave poorly and get away with it - because they know that you cannot leave; and that you will refuse to fail.
We do not want to find ourselves supporting a government that is as bad as the one that we helped remove.
Lastly, never take the first step until you know that last.
Do not commit to intervene until an agreement is reached with the Syrian opposition that outlines how the conflict ends and how the peace is to be secured.
Perhaps an important starting point to the conversation: "what do you/we want Syria to look like in 20 years?" The answer to that question tells you how to construct your post-conflict situation - and that in turn tells you how to fight your war.
Discuss things like:
- dismissing the Syrian military wholesale or deciding to work with it;
- choosing to form either a strong central government (that may lack capacity) or a federalized state;
- the process for creating a new constitution: timeline, participation, and content;
Essentially, what we want to avoid is rushing to bad decisions that will hamstring efforts to bring Syria back as a full participant in the world community.
Intervention seems to be a possibility. We have a lot of experience and talent in this arena - let's put it to good use.
Roger D. Carstens is a Senior Research Fellow at New America Foundation. A former Army Special Forces officer, he is currently in Somalia conducting research for a book that he is writing on counterinsurgency.
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