Tag Archives: Development

Women and US-Taliban Peace Talks

Women of Afghanistan are still hopeful about a better future … 

On the surface, our world leaders protrude an aura of optimism when asked about the US-Taliban peace Talks. They talk about a world where the viral spread of terrorism by the hands of such militant groups is nothing more than a distant nightmare. An example of such portrayal is present in an interview given by the President of Afghanistan, Ashraf Ghani, who said, that ‘For the first time, the possibility for peace is really at hand. The aim of the South Asia strategy is not to perpetuate war; it is simply put as a staple of understanding within a secure South Asia’. Recently, the President of the United States of America, Donald J. Trump said that he ‘believes that great nations do not fight endless wars. He wants to end 18 years of war and bring back the US military group from Afghanistan.’ The outlook of the peace talks is believed to be positive, it creates an illusion that our world is moulding into a suburban utopia where everything is perfectly conjoined with one another to make a seemingly flawless wonderland.

However, we forget that even the said utopian wonderland tends to break under the visual perfection of its existence. Upon closer inspection into the US-Taliban peace talks we observe how society causally undermines the suffering of the silent half of the Afghan population, the Afghani women. Prior to the Taliban take over and the Soviet occupation, Afghanistan was a relatively progressive country when addressing the rights of women. Afghan women made up 50% of government workers, 70% of schoolteachers, and 40% of doctors in Kabul. After the fall of the Taliban regime, things started to look a bit better for the Afghan women, at least on paper. In the year 2004, a new constitution was approved, and the country held its first presidential elections, proclaiming that Afghanistan is henceforth a democratic state that provides equal rights to men and women. Continue reading

Leave a comment

Filed under Afghanistan, Discussion, Peace building, Politics, Trump, United States, Women

Reko Diq: Pakistan versus Gold Diggers

These narratives show how foreign investors are a double-edged sword for Pakistan. TCC was suspected of lending support to Baloch separatists. 

Pakistan has recently been garnering a lot of attention in international tribunals. A recent case is the Reko Diq case, which led to arbitration in the World Bank’s International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID). In Tethyan Copper Company Pty Limited v. Islamic Republic of Pakistan (ICSID Case No. ARB/12/1), ICSID has ruled that Pakistan has to pay a $5.8 billion penalty to a mining company, the Tethyan Copper Company (TCC). It is an oddity that the Pakistani public has been disabled from knowing the full details of the ICSID arbitration judgment. The condition for the publication of the award is that both parties must consent to its publication and apparently there is no consensus that it should be published, or alternatively there is consensus that it should not be published. Either way that is rather opaque and lacks transparency. Yet we do know the identities of the arbitrators and the costly law firms employed by the parties and all the procedural steps in the arbitration (which is rather pointless indeed without knowing the full and exact details of the final arbitration award). 

It is rather appalling that the award is not in the public domain and the people of Pakistan are being denied access to the full details of the decision. Reko Diq is a region in Balochistan that has large gold and copper reserves. TCC acquired an exploration license in 2006, buying it from the company BHP Minerals. Though this seems a very recent mining project, TCC itself is a joint venture by other foreign companies, and BHP had been granted licenses since 1993 by the Balochistan Development Authority (BDA) under the Chagai Hills Exploration Joint Venture Agreement (Chevja). Now that TCC was exploring Reko Diq’s reserves, it completed its feasibility study in 2010, and applied for a mining lease, but it was denied. Chevja had been challenged by petitioners before. In 2013, the Supreme Court decided that the agreement (Chevja) was void ab initio. In 2009, the provincial government had already terminated Chevja. Continue reading

Leave a comment

Filed under Accountability, Balochistan, Corruption, Courts, Discussion, Economy, Legislation, Mining, Pakistan, World Bank

India’s tit-for-tat policy in its trade war with the United States: A master stroke or miscalculation?

India has long had a field day putting tariffs on American products. No longer acceptable!

Because the G-20 failed to restore the international trade order, on 9 July 2019 American President Donald Trump fired off yet another Twitter attack. This tweet from the US President was posted after a few days of the G-20 Summit, when he met Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi at the sidelines of the G-20 Summit late last month, where the two leaders agreed upon further meetings to resolve the escalating matter of trade disputes which included import quotas on agricultural goods and to put price caps on medical devices. The other hindering topics included:  outsourcing of intellectual property protections on generic drugs. Moreover, ever since taking office, President Trump has focused on reducing bilateral trade deficits to reduce national security impact of steel and aluminum imports, however, a deadlock was avoided up until the recent but significant change in Prime Minister Modi’s approach after getting elected for a second term.

The decision to revoke India’s status for special trade treatment and the slap back tariffs by India on US goods and services has quickly led Washington and New Delhi towards an impasse. The desire 0f the Modi  government to please domestic constituencies has further aggravated the situation to a tit-for-tat stand-off and India has escalated a trade battle by slapping new tariffs on American goods, a battle that was never worth fighting and may now indeed backfire. Furthermore, India had announced retaliatory tariffs back in June last year, but they were recently implemented. The 120% tariffs on US goods and services are limited in nature and largely symbolic but show a shift from restrain to a tit-for-tat policy by India. Modi government’s shift backward on market openness, with increasing tariffs on a few dozen goods, new regulations on e-commerce and a push for data localization in its growing digital economy is what has upset the Trump administration. Continue reading

Leave a comment

Filed under Discussion, Economy, India, Pakistan, Politics, Trump, United States

Mr Tariq Khosa discusses security and governance challenges facing Pakistan

Pakistan’s national objective is based upon pursuing social justice through peace and security …

On Saturday, July 20, 2019, former Federal Secretary, Inspector General of Police and Director General FIA, Mr. Tariq Khosa, visited The Pakistan Institute of International Affairs, where he addressed the members of the Institute on Internal Security and Governance Challenges confronting Pakistan. He started his speech by explaining that he does not have any political affiliations or any personal agenda. He expressly stated that his lecture did not intend to offend any segment of society. While discussing terrorism and internal security challenges he focused on three ‘Ms’, (i) Mullah; by which he meant religious extremists, who by design deliberately promote a mindset that proliferates violence, (ii) Military; who he said are the big part of the problem, yet they are a bigger solution to those issues, and (iii) Militants, in shape of non-state actors who have eroded the authority of the state. He spoke about the Karachi Operation which started under the command of the Karachi police force, with the support of Intelligence Bureau, in September 2013. 

He explained that since 2013, terrorist incidents in Karachi have declined by 70%. Subsequently, 373 terrorists were killed and 521 were arrested from 2015 till 2018. Unfortunately, the police faced the major brunt of this operation, with a total of 450 police officers who were martyred, 163 in 2013 which reduced to 6 in 2018. Mr. Khosa recounted that it was not the Pulwama Incident which made us change our strategy on the use of non-state actors, but that the decision was taken along with the present government in January 2019, emphasizing that there would not be any non-state actor in the future. However, the efficiency of this policy is yet to be seen. He further explained how the Police Reforms were constituted by the Supreme Court, in a committee of serving IGs as well as nine retired IGs who had served in all the provinces and have come up with a seven-point agenda to reform governance issues. Continue reading

Leave a comment

Filed under Accountability, Criminal law, Discussion, Events, Human Rights, India, Karachi, Pakistan, Pakistan Horizon, Police, Politics

PIIA Roundtable on Iran with Dr Syed Mohammad Kazem Sajjadpour

On Friday, July 19 2019, Dr. Syed Mohammad Kazem Sajjadpour, President of the famous Institute for Political and International Studies (IPIS), visited us at The Pakistan Institute of International Affairs (PIIA) for a roundtable on Iran’s relationship with the United States and how it is influencing the course of events in the region. He said that in order to understand the question of why Iran is the way it is today, it is important to comprehend three integral factors – the United States’ contradictory policies with Iran, the resulting state of bitterness, and an uneven assessment of the available possibilities. By laying emphasis on the contradictory policies of the United States, during very tense times, Dr. Kazem sought to explain how certain inconsistencies in the harsh policies of the United States have been a significant source of tension between the two countries, especially when pursuing negotiations and settling agreements.

He said that negotiations between the United States and Iran continued for twelve years before the Americans decided to withdraw itself from further negotiations. In this regard, Dr. Kazem explained how Iran wasn’t doing anything wrong and it was in fact merely abiding by the negotiations. Even now, he expressed that Iran is willing to negotiate, however, in this era of nationhood and nationalism, Iran has to defend itself – its integrity and sovereignty. Hence, according to him, maximum pressure from the United States is likely to bring maximum resistance from Iran as well. He also explained that contradictory American policies have resulted in a state of bitterness where one has to choose from the limited alternatives available, that is cooperation and confrontation. Talking about Pakistan and Turkey and their relationship with Iran, Dr. Kazem said that Iran, Pakistan and Turkey are all regional players. He further explained that they all have stakes in the region, and are connected through a regional perspective. Continue reading

Leave a comment

Filed under Discussion, Events, Iran, Nuclear Energy, Peace building, PIIA, The Middle East, UK, United States

Qatar and the Global Energy Market: The Politics of Natural Gas

Pakistan’s position in this dilemma is unique; it enjoys ties with Qatar, as well as with Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.

On 22 June 2019, Emir of Qatar Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani arrived in Pakistan on the invitation of Prime Minister Imran Khan for a two-day state visit. The state visit was specifically aimed at strengthening bilateral ties and improving cooperation in diverse fields between Qatar and Pakistan. In addition to the one-on-one talks between the Emir, Prime Minister Imran Khan and President Arif Alvi respectively, delegation-level meetings were also conducted between representatives of both countries. Notably, one of the most important results of this visit was the subsequent pledge for mutual cooperation with regard to gas exploration and the energy sector. The sheer competitiveness of the energy market is a stark reality. In a bid to secure a pivotal multi-billion-dollar supply contract, the Qataris reduced prices of liquefied natural gas (LNG) for Pakistan in May 2019.

With Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates both offering enticing offers concerning deferred oil and LNG payments for Pakistan, Qatar sought to modify LNG prices in order to successfully secure the deal. It is reported that presently, Qatar exports ‘500 mmcfd [million cubic feet per day] to Pakistan under a 15-year agreement struck at 13.37% of Brent crude price.’[i] Pakistan has been negotiating with a number of countries including Russia, Turkey, Malaysia, Azerbaijan and Italy with regard to attaining long-term gas deals. Saudi Arabia (and state-owned petroleum and natural gas company Aramco) has also shown interest in securing a gas deal with Pakistan. Continue reading

Leave a comment

Filed under Discussion, Economy, Energy, Pakistan, Pakistan Horizon, Politics, Russia, The Middle East

Analysis: Iran and the Drone Standoff

If Iran plays its cards wisely, it may gain more prestige than the US out of this incident … Iran, the scapegoat for Trump’s goals, has admirably held its ground in the face of a greater power.

The world breathed a sigh of relief when President Trump called off US airstrikes on three Iranian targets this Friday in response to the shooting down of the US Global Hawk surveillance drone. “I asked, how many will die. 150 people, sir, was the answer from a General. 10 minutes before the strike I stopped it, not proportionate to shooting down an unmanned drone,” he said, adding that he was “in no hurry” to confront Iran. It is rather ironic that the US should present the sparing of human lives as its key point in calling off the attack when it has profited by selling millions of dollars’ worth of arms to different states involved in regional conflicts in the Middle East and Africa. When trying to understand US behavior it is worth considering two factors: Trump’s short-sighted focus on re-election coupled with the fact he’s a businessman in the guise of a politician.

Trump is trying to strike what he believes is a “better deal” while also benefitting powerful American military interests. But the ongoing standoff is increasing global volatility, making war almost inevitable. It is also no secret that the US accounts for 34% of all global arms sales selling more than double the amount of weapons than Russia (the second largest exporter of arms). With such a lucrative industry in place and Trump’s business acumen, it stands to reason he would highly benefit by creating a situation that would escalate conflict till just below the threshold of war inspiring enough fear and tension for states to buy arms from the US. On the surface Trump appears to be making good on his promises: a tougher stance on Iran while also not committing any ground troops in foreign lands. He is well aware that the age of conventional warfare is over: the US has been striking back by employing sanctions, engaging in surveillance via drones and launching cyber-attacks. Continue reading

Leave a comment

Filed under Cyber Warfare, Discussion, Drones, Iran, Nuclear Energy, Politics, The Middle East, Trump, United States