Friday, February 20, 2015

Pakistan Sectarian Terror; China-Pak Corridor Route; India "Fishy" Boat Story

Why are the sectarian attacks on Pakistani Shia community continuing un-abated? What can be done to stop this carnage? Will Punjab government crack down harder on the Punjab-based sectarian outfits? 

What will be the outcome of President Obama's summit on "Countering Violent Extremism"? 

Has the PMLN government changed routing of China-Pak Economic Corridor (CPEC) to run it through Punjab and Sindh at the expense of Khyber-Pukhtunkhwa and Balochistan? Is this only an interim route to make CPEC operational more quickly by using existing infrastructure? Are there security and terrain challenges with the original route? Has China bought into this change? 

Is India engaged in cover-up with its constantly changing story of the Indian Coast Guard's unprovoked attack on a Pakistani fishing boat and the killing of innocent Pakistani fishermen?

ViewPoint from Overseas host Faraz Darvesh discusses these questions with well-known Pakistani journalist Raza Rumi in Washington and panelists Misbah Azam( and Riaz Haq ( in Silicon Valley.

Pakistan Sectarian Terror; China-Pak Corridor Route; India "Fishy" Boat Story from WBT TV on Vimeo.

Related Links:

Haq's Musings

Modi's Covert War Against Pakistan

Pak-China Industrial Corridor

Growing Intolerance in Pakistan

Viewpoint From Overseas Youtube Channel

Viewpoint From Overseas Vimeo Channel 


Riaz Haq said...

Express Tribune Op Ed by Pervez Tahir:

Traditionally, the Chinese side stays clear of Pakistan’s internal political controversies. Its interest in the project is, however, obvious. It extends its economic outreach in general and opens up laggard western regions to the world. The equity argument to bring these regions on a par with others ends at Khunjerab. Beyond Khunjerab, hard economics takes over. As the principal investor, the Chinese side would look for the quickest and the most cost-effective route to Gwadar. It is also necessary to make this sleepy port functional. Security costs may also have been factored in. As a recipient with minimal choices, this is what the government seems to be doing by filling the gaps in the Havelian-Islamabad-Lahore-Multan-Sukkur-Ratodero-Khuzdar-Gwadar route. Four ‘early harvest’ projects — land acquisition and shifting of utilities for the Karachi-Lahore motorway, construction of the Lahore-Abdul Hakim-Khanewal section, construction of the Multan-Sukkur section and construction of the Raikot-Havelian-Islamabad section — were included in the Public Sector Development Programme of 2014-15. The last two are largely financed by Chinese credit. Earlier this month, a delegation visited China to fast-track these projects.

No one knows which was the original route. The opposition claims that it passed through southern K-P, Zhob and Quetta. This is the shortest but the costliest route in terms of time and money. What was the opposition doing when the projects related to the eastern route were made part of the development budget? Waking up to the change now rather than debating it in the budget session reflects politicians proverbial lack of interest in economic matters. This late realisation and insistence on the most difficult route might endanger the entire Pakistan-China Economic Corridor project, which includes a focus on energy and economic zones and not just transit trade. In terms of cost, economic advantage and future opportunities, the middle ground is occupied by the route connecting Abbottabad, Mianwali, D I Khan, D G Khan, Ratodero, Khuzdar, Turbat and Gwadar. The route fulfils the original dream of the Indus Highway as an alternative artery. It connects the backward districts of all the provinces and is linked to Fata, Quetta and Zhob. Proximity to Central Asia, Afghanistan and Iran brings the concept of the economic corridor into full bloom. The time to exploit the full potential of Gwadar will also be reduced.
When all but one opposition party meets, as is being reported in the press, the one deemed to promote the cause of just one province, it is hoped that the development of Pakistan will be the main consideration. The current focus of the government on completing the eastern route may make immediate economic sense, but its long-term potential is limited. The Chinese fully understand that the opening up of new areas pushes the frontiers of economic opportunity further, while diminishing returns set in quickly from investment in relatively developed areas. So the equity argument does not end at the Chinese border. It extends to Pakistan also but without sacrificing the economic advantage. There could be no better Marshall plan than this connectivity.

Riaz Haq said...

The federal cabinet of Pakistan, during a meeting Monday, approved the Pakistan-China economic corridor, a media report said. Approval was also given along for starting negotiations with Beijing for importing 1,000 megawatts of electricity from China by laying a new transmission line, Dawn online reported. The Pakistan-China Economic Corridor (PCEC) is the country's biggest road project launched by the government. Work on one of the sections of the PCEC was initiated in December 2014, under which a motorway from Havelian to Thakot as phase one of the Islamabad-Raikot section of the corridor would be constructed. The Havalian to Thakot section of the corridor is being financed by China while other phases will be carried out on the basis of build, operate and Transfer (BOT).

Riaz Haq said...

KARACHI: As the country continues to take steps in an attempt to tackle the persistent energy crisis, Commerce Minister Khurram Dastgir Khan on Wednesday said the government intends to approve 10,400-MW projects that fall under the Pak-China Economic Corridor by March.
He said this while talking to media during his visit to the head office of Federation of Pakistan Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FPCCI).
“Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has decided to expedite the work on energy projects to overcome the energy crisis,” he said, while declaring 2017 as the year in which the nation will see huge changes on both fronts — terrorism and energy crisis.

The commerce minister’s visit to FPCCI was part of the events scheduled to take place on the inauguration of the Expo Pakistan 2015 – the biggest annual trade fair of the country.
The event will be held at the Karachi Expo Centre from February 26 to March 1.
“I am here to take the business community in confidence so that they can plan their investments well before 2017,” said Dastgir, “Because with the help of recent steps to overcome terrorism and energy issues, Pakistan’s economy will get a massive boost in 2017.”
The Expo Pakistan 2015 has given the government confidence to display a strong image of Pakistan through its exportable goods, he said, adding that it has also planned a single country exhibition this summer in the United Kingdom to get business orders for our industries.
Replying to a question, Dastgir said that he was not promising to end load-shedding in 2017. “What I am saying is that Pakistan will be able to considerably resolve its energy crisis,” he added.
He said that his visit to FPCCI is also linked with the government’s efforts to start collecting budget proposals for the upcoming federal budget.
Speaking on a specific question on slow tax reforms in the country, he said that Pakistan definitely needs innovative solutions to overcome its problem of low tax-to-GDP ratio.
The minister also faced tough questions on why the government was not taking all provinces on board on the Pak-China economic corridor.

Riaz Haq said...

From Wall Street Journal:

Three militant groups in Pakistan say they have joined forces, potentially giving that country’s Taliban insurgents more heft to resist a military campaign by the government and stepping up the general threat from extremist organizations.

A joint statement on Thursday said a splinter group from Mohmand, in the country’s tribal areas, had rejoined the main Pakistani Taliban faction, while Mangal Bagh, a warlord in the Khyber region who wasn’t previously part of the Taliban, had now allied himself and his followers with it.

“We warn the Pakistani infidel system, its agents and this apostate army that we will not let their plans succeed under any circumstances,” the statement said.

Pakistani security officials declined to comment.

The convergence comes as the governments of Pakistan and neighboring Afghanistan are making tentative efforts to bring the Afghan Taliban into peace talks. In recent months, relations between Pakistan and Afghanistan have dramatically improved, leading to action by Afghan forces against the Pakistani Taliban presence in their country.

The three militant groups, which have links to al Qaeda, hold sway over territory on both sides of the Pakistan-Afghanistan border, further complicating military measures against them.

Together, the three groups have influence over a chunk of the tribal areas—Mohmand, Bajaur and Khyber regions—as well as a presence in the bordering eastern Afghan provinces of Nangarhar, Kunar and Nuristan.

The three factions would now be under a united command, to be run by a committee for now. The groups didn’t name the overall head in their statement.

The only major militant faction now still outside of the Pakistani Taliban is the group led by a commander known as Sajna, who is based in Waziristan and has many fighters from the powerful Mehsud tribe under him.

The Pakistani Taliban are nominally loyal to Mullah Mohammad Omar, the elusive leader of the Afghan Taliban, but the Pakistani militants operate independently. The main Pakistani Taliban faction is led by a militant going by the name of Mullah Fazlullah, who the Pakistani government says is based in eastern Afghanistan.

“The Pakistan army is going after them like never before, so uniting is a question of survival for them,” said Saifullah Mahsud, executive director of the FATA Research Center, a think tank in Islamabad. “With the groups uniting, the threat [from extremists] increases.”

The announcement comes as Islamic State, the militant group that holds large swaths of territory in Syria and Iraq, makes inroads into Pakistan and Afghanistan. Some Pakistani Taliban leaders have pledged allegiance to Islamic State, and officials in Islamabad and Kabul worry more militants might make the switch if the Afghan Taliban conclude a peace settlement with the Afghan government.

The Pakistani Taliban splinter group from Mohmand is a particularly hard-line faction, which had opposed the peace talks held by the Pakistani government with the Pakistani Taliban in early 2014. It also has influence in Bajaur, another key tribal area.

The warlord Mr. Bagh brings significant manpower to the militants’ table, along with a network located on the edge of Peshawar, the most significant city in Pakistan’s northwest. And the main land route for transporting supplies in and out of Afghanistan passes through the Khyber region, where his group operates.

In June, the army unleashed a major offensive that is still under way against the Pakistani Taliban base in North Waziristan, part of the tribal areas along the Afghan border. An operation was later launched in Khyber.

The Pakistani Taliban, responsible for some of the bloodiest attacks against security forces and civilians in the country, have been on the defensive since then. The group claimed responsibility for a massacre at a school in Peshawar in December that left more than 130 children dead.

Riaz Haq said...

Beijing’s focus and commitment to the PCEC is also manifest in the recent visit to Islamabad of a high profile Chinese expert group on long-term planning of the PCEC. Led by Hu Dongsheng, deputy director general of the China Development Bank, the 19-member group held extensive discussions on the project. Both sides emphasised the need to speed up the process of drafting the PCEC long-term plan, which includes not only roads but a lot of social infrastructure in Balochistan and other areas aligned with the corridor. If realised, the PCEC will not only benefit Pakistan in terms of improvement of its economy and security condition, but also contribute to regional peace, stability and prosperity.
The Gwadar-Kashghar route was originally planned to run through Bisima, Khuzdar, Kalat and Quetta onto Zhob, D I Khan, Hassan Abdal and onwards to Kashghar but it has been changed to Bisima, Ratodero and towards Punjab, which means bypassing the Baloch and Pakhtun areas. That is why there were recent protests in the Senate by members from Khyber- Pashtunkhwa (K-P), Fata and Balochistan. According to the new plan, the corridor route turns from Havelian towards the east and links up with the Islamabad-Lahore Motorway, to include Punjab. From here, the corridor is linked to the Lahore-Karachi Motorway and then to Gwadar. Officials at the Planning Commission argue that the completion of infrastructure in K-P and Balochistan will take a few years and thus it was imperative to utilise the existing infrastructure. This was done, insist officials, to accommodate Chinese concerns rooted in the security condition in K-P and Balochistan.
Apparently, the federal government altered the PCEC route and made it longer by 300 kilometres, without taking the Pakhtun and Baloch stakeholders into confidence. This is yet another example of the surreptitious and the high-handed approach towards the smaller provinces. The reaction from within the two provinces was natural and requires attention by the federal government.
As this bickering simmers in Pakistan, the Chinese leadership is worrying about future developments. President Xi is expected to visit Islamabad soon and will hopefully provide a fresh impetus to the PCEC-related projects, which Beijing firmly remains committed to. Chinese officials say the corridor project is not just meant for one region, but for the economic development of the whole of Pakistan. Chinese diplomats in Islamabad are both enthusiastic as well as concerned about the controversy surrounding the corridor. There will be quite a spectacle if protestors from Balochistan and K-P greeted President Xi, said an official. Why can’t Pakistani leaders sit together and flesh out the issues in an amicable and transparent way, wondered another visitor from Beijing. While there may have been complex internal security challenges as well as Chinese concerns that might have prompted changes in the corridor route but why was this done in such a controversial manner? Pakistan needs unity, transparent political conduct and a people-focused commitment like never before.

Riaz Haq said...

Ambassador of Pakistan to Afghanistan Syed Abrar Hussain on Monday said that Pakistan had planned to construct a motorway from Peshawar to Kabul and a feasibility study about the project would soon be commissioned.

Ambassador expressed these views after hoisting National flag on the occasion of National Day at the Pakistan embassy in Kabul. He said that the motorway project will not only improve connectivity between the two neighbours and Central Asian States but would also bring economic prosperity to Afghanistan, said a press release.

He also underscored the need for intensifying bilateral cooperation between the two countries in the areas of trade, economy, culture and defence. He said that Pakistan attached utmost significance to its ties with the brotherly country and would like to see a strong, stable, peaceful and prosperous Afghanistan.

Talking to efforts to enhance trade with Afghanistan, the ambassador said that Pakistan had removed several trade impediments so as to facilitate and encourage bilateral trade. He stated that Pakistan had executed various projects in health, education and infrastructure sectors in Afghanistan which would tremendously benefit the Afghan people.

Pakistan day was celebrated in the Embassy of Pakistan, Kabul, with great enthusiasm and national fervor to commemorate the passage of historical Lahore Resolution on March 23, 1940 which played a vital role in determing the destination of the Muslims of sub-continent. The Pakistan Day ceremony started with national anthem and hoisting of flag by the Ambassador.

Addressing the participants, he highlighted the historical significance of the day and paid tributes to the founding fathers who had rendered immense sacrifices for achieving a separate homeland. He said that the Pakistan's Resolution of 23rd March 1940 laid the foundation stone of an independent country.

He also paid homage, in his address, to the Father of Nation, Quaid-e-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah, whose relentless struggle led to the creation of Pakistan on August 14, 1947. The ceremony was attended by members of Pakistani community including educationists, engineers, doctors, senior executives and businessmen.

Riaz Haq said...

#Pakistan: 47 #Indian Fishermen Arrested By Pakistan Maritime Security Force. #India

Pakistani marine forces on Saturday arrested 47 Indian fishermen who were accused of violating Pakistan’s territorial waters in the Arabian Sea, the police said. Pakistan’s Maritime Security Agency also seized eight boats belonging to the fishermen, who it said had strayed into Pakistani waters. The fishermen were handed over to the police in the port city of Karachi. Such arrests are frequently carried out by both countries; the maritime border in the Arabian Sea is poorly defined and many fishing boats lack the technology needed to be certain of their precise location. The fishermen often languish in jail because the poor diplomatic relationship between Pakistan and India makes it difficult to resolve the cases. Pakistan released 172 Indian fishermen in February as “a good-will gesture” but arrested 45 others last month.

Riaz Haq said...

China-Punjab Economic Corridor? by Adnan Amir

Out of the $28 billion worth projects, Punjab gets $11 billion, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) $2.5 billion and Balochistan gets nothing. That’s right, not a single penny out of $28 billion would be spent in Balochistan which is the most backward province in Pakistan. Sindh would get $9 billion from these projects; however the major chunk of that amount would be for the Lahore-Karachi Motorway, a project meant for Lahore. There is no justifiable reason whatsoever which can be floated to defend this unjust division of projects among the four federating units of Pakistan.

During the agreement signing ceremony that took place in Prime Minister House on April 20, only the Punjab Chief Minister was present. The other three chief ministers were not invited. It’s not just about invitations, no person from Balochistan and KP was chosen for the workgroups that finalized the details of CPEC with Chinese officials. It would not be an exaggeration to say that Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and his brother Shehbaz Sharif orchestrated the show only to benefit their support base in Punjab.

This deal that was supposed to bring prosperity to Pakistan has become controversial from the outset. The KP Chief Minister, Pervez Khattak has openly criticized the federal government for preferring Punjab over other provinces. The legislators of Balochistan Assembly dubbed the agreements between Pakistan and China as between Lahore and Beijing. Shah Mahmood Qureshi, Vice president of PTI, who also belongs from Punjab, has criticized the federal government for its Punjab-centric approach in distribution of CPEC projects.

The route of CPEC rail and road link was the first thing that triggered the controversy. The original route of CPEC would pass from the center of the country. It would start from Gwadar-Ratodero-Dear Allah Yar-Dera Ghazi Khan-D.I Khan-Hassanabdal and all the way to Kashghar. PML-N government has created confusion over the original route. They have come up with a mindboggling concoction that the CPEC would not be one road but a network of roads. That’s wildly untrue because as per the original plan, there would be one main route, ranging from 2 to 6 lanes. During the agreement signing ceremony, the government of Pakistan agreed with China on the eastern route that would take the Gwadar-Ratodero-Sukkur-Lahore-Islamabad-Abbotabad route. Clearly this route is meant to benefit Lahore at the expense of two backward provinces of Pakistan, Balochistan and KP.

Coming to the inaugurated projects, Lahore already has a Metro Bus service, but the government of Pakistan is establishing an Orange Line Mass Rail transit system in the city. China would provide $1.6 billion for this project. A branch of Industrial and Commercial Bank of China would be established in Lahore. And where would the China Cultural Centre be established? No prizes for guessing. Would it not be fair if these projects were divided equally among all four provincial capitals? I guess it would not be acceptable to the Punjab centric agenda of PML-N.

Protests have already erupted against what is being termed as China-Punjab economic corridor. Right and left wing parties in both KP and Balochistan are on the same page on this issue, which is a rare occurrence. Federal Minister Ahsan Iqbal has already given his verdict on the protestors and he is in the process of distributing certificates of treachery. He said, “Hidden hands, some politicians, and also India are trying to make the multi-billion dollar framework [CPEC] controversial.” According to the criteria set forth by Mr. Ahsan Iqbal, this article must also be the work of hidden hands to sabotage the interests of Pakistan. Fortunately, for PML-N government, a draconian cybercrime bill is in the pipeline that would be used to crush any dissent to anti-federation policies of their government on internet.

Riaz Haq said...

Political parties on Thursday hammered out a consensus on the route of Pak-China Economic Corridor during an All Parties Conference chaired by Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif.

The APC agreed that the western route of the corridor would be completed first, which would be built from Hasan Abdal to Gwadar, passing through Mianwali, Dera Ismail Khan and Zohb.

The prime minister told the meeting that a parliamentary committee would be formed to monitor the project while working groups would also be formed to address the concerns of all the provinces.

The prime minister said China had provided a unique opportunity in the form of economic corridor.

During the meeting, Federal Minister for Planning and Development Ahsan Iqbal said no new road would be built as part of the project instead different roads would be connected to link them with Khunjrab.

He dispelled the notion about a change in the original route of the Pak-China Economic Corridor.

The minister told the participants of the APC that the Pak-China corridor was not only the name of a road rather it was a portfolio consisted of different projects, including infrastructure, energy, Gwadar port and industrial cooperation.

This was the second APC to be called on the CPEC project. The first APC took place on May 13. The conference has been called to build consensus among political parties and remove any concerns they have regarding the mega project.

"I hope this becomes a tradition that even in the future we sit together to bring about consensus to move forward on national issues," said Sharif in his opening address to the attendants of the meeting.

Riaz Haq said...

#Fishermen Caught Up in #India - #Pakistan’s Maritime Border Dispute – The Numbers. #SirCreek #Fishing via @WSJ

Sir Creek, a narrow estuary that divides India and Pakistan in the Arabian Sea, has been part of a long-simmering maritime boundary dispute between the two nations for decades. Hundreds of thousands of fishermen from the two countries have found themselves caught in the middle. Many of them have been arrested or imprisoned after inadvertently crossing the perceived boundary in pursuit of ribbon fish, pomfret and prawns.

Here’s a look into the numbers related to the Sir Creek dispute and the fishermen held by the maritime authorities of Pakistan and India from the area.

The number of fishermen in Indian and Pakistani jails for illegally crossing the disputed border at sea. Among them, 355 Indian fishermen are in Pakistani jails and 27 Pakistani fishermen are in Indian jails, according to Pakistan’s Foreign Ministry. India’s Foreign Ministry declined to comment.

60 miles
The length of the Sir Creek tidal channel, situated in the marshy land of the Rann of Kutch, which lies on the border between the Indian state of Gujarat and the Pakistani state of Sindh.
Between 8 to 9 miles
The width of Sir Creek, according to experts. India claims the border lies at the middle of the navigable channel of the creek. Pakistan claims the whole creek and says its border extends from the Indian coast. As the waterway is 8 miles to 9 miles wide where it opens into the sea, the line effectively determines sovereignty over hundreds of square miles of prime fishing waters and potential oil-and-gas reserves.
When talks to resolve the Sir Creek border dispute between Indian and Pakistan began–they have been taking place on and off since then. The most-recent round of talks to address the issue of the river and the demarcation of the maritime border was held in 2012.
About 6 miles
The distance from each country into the creek that both sides have agreed is off limits to fishing until the maritime boundary dispute is settled. Still, fishermen sometimes cross unintentionally over the perceived boundary citing lack of global-positioning devices in their boats or the knowledge to operate them.

Riaz Haq said...

#Udhampur attacker is from #India Occupied #Kashmir, not from #Pakistan | via @sharethis

ISLAMABAD: The young man arrested from Udhampur for his involvement in an attack on a convoy of Indian security forces is a resident of Indian Occupied Kashmir (IOK).

Senior journalist and anchor for Geo News programme ‘Capital Talk’ Hamid Mir said the young man was a resident of a Ghat village located in Kulgam district of IOK near the Jhelum River.

The senior journalist also revealed that the attacker had worked as a bus conductor and was known popularly in the area as ‘jhalla’ (mad person).

According to Hamid Mir nine relatives of the attacker are among the fifteen people arrested from the village. The attacker’s immediate family has fled the village.

Sources told Hamid Mir that the second attacker, Nauman, who was killed is also a resident of IOK and that the plan of attack was made in Ghat village. Indian media had claimed that this second attacker was also Pakistani, belonging to Bahawalpur.

Indian media had labeled the attacker as “Kasab II” after the lone surviving gunman from the 2008 Mumbai attacks.

Indian Home Minister Shri Rajnath Singh also claimed the identity of the captured individual to be Mohammad Naveed Yakub aka Usman, resident of Faisalabad in Pakistan.

Pakistan’s National Database and Registration Authority (NADRA) dismissed Indian allegations stating that Usman is not Pakistani.