Pakistan-Afghanistan: The Conjoined Twins

Have you heard about Allama Iqbal Faculty at Kabul University? Sir Syed Science Faculty Block at Nangarhar University? Liaqat Ali Khan Engineering Faculty at Balkh University? Rehman Baba High School in Kabul? And the sprawling ten-tower Jinnah Hospital Complex in Kabul and the Nishtar Kidney Hospital in Jalalabad?

  • Pakistan will issue 250,000 multiple entry visas to applicants across Afghanistan in 2010
  • 28,000 Afghans have studied in Pakistani schools, colleges and universities in the past 30 years; Islamabad has longstanding policy of educating the children of Afghan refugees
  • About 500,000 Afghan children attend schools in Pakistan
  • The most successful professionals in today’s Afghan society had studied in Pakistan
  • Afghan graduates from Pakistani universities receive higher salaries than graduates from any other country in the region
  • Every single day in 2009, 52,000 Afghans entered Pakistan for business, education and tourism
  • Tajik, Uzbek and Hazara Afghans are as welcome in Pakistan as the Pashtun Afghans
  • Pakistan once hosted 5.5 million Afghans, a majority of them continue to live with their Pakistani cousins
  • When the world abandoned Afghanistan after 1989, it was Pakistanis who supported their Afghan cousins

By AMBASSADOR MOHAMMAD SADIQ
[This is a revised version by the author]

KABUL, Afghanistan—While addressing the media in Islamabad on 11 March 2010, President Hamid Karzai very aptly said Pakistan and Afghanistan were conjoined twins. The remarks were not new but they hit the headlines, showing that nature of relations between the two countries continued to baffle many.

Mark Twain, the great American writer, had famously said Johann Sebastian Bach’s music was better than it sounded. If Twain were around today, he would have pronounced Pak-Afghan relationship ‘better than portrayed.’

Some 52,000 Afghans crossed border with Pakistan everyday in 2009 for business, jobs, medical treatment, education and to visit relatives. This was a significant increase over a year ago when 44,000 Afghans traversed the border daily. More visitors now undertake documented travel between the two countries by obtaining visas or visit permits.

Our Missions in Afghanistan have geared up to issue quarter of a million multiple entry visas to Afghan nationals during 2010. Pakistan issues more visas to Afghans than the rest of the world combined. Pakistan does not charge any visa fee from Afghan passport holders.

Contrary to the craftily promoted perception that Afghans of only one ethnicity are welcomed in Pakistan, one finds people from all over Afghanistan in Pakistani cities. Our consular records show that visas issued to Afghan nationals closely represent the ethnic composition of the population.

Despite occasional ups and downs at certain levels, the overall bilateral relations remained remarkably frequent and cordial. This explains the continued presence of over three million Afghan refugees in Pakistan for last 30 years. At one point, over 5.5 million Afghans were living in Pakistan. 37 percent of the refugees who voluntarily repatriate to Afghanistan are back in Pakistan within weeks.

In last thirty years, Afghans of all ethnicities and of political views had taken refuge in Pakistan: whether it was mass exodus against the Soviet occupation or flight from atrocities of a decade long internecine war. They looked at Pakistan as a place where they could find safety, at least temporarily, for their families.

The world hurriedly left Afghanistan after the Soviet withdrawal. The unfortunate events of 9/11 have reengaged the world in Afghanistan but still little attention is paid to the honourable return of refugees to their homes. The international community’s attitude towards Afghan refugees is rather callous. Just one example: they were disenfranchised in the last Presidential elections because the international community claimed that it was short of funds!

Due to Pakistan’s longstanding policy on educating Afghan nationals, some 28,000 Afghans had attended Pakistani universities and colleges in last three decades. Today, 6,000 Afghan students are enrolled in Pakistan’s colleges and universities. This represents about 60 percent of all Afghans studying in institutions of higher education abroad. In addition, about half a million Afghan refugee children attend schools in Pakistan.

To facilitate the capacity building efforts of other donors, Pakistan also encourages third party sponsorship of training of Afghan students and officials in its institutions. Under this policy, over five hundred Afghan nationals attended courses in the field of agriculture from a few weeks duration to postgraduate degrees in the AgricultureUniversity of Peshawar alone. Scores were trained in other professions ranging from medicine to civil aviation.

Over the years, Afghan students in Pakistan have mostly been allowed the same opportunities and treatment which are extended to our own nationals. A whole generation of Afghans is thus educated, and now gainfully employed, inside Afghanistan or abroad.

Most successful professionals in today’s Afghan society had studied in Pakistan. They dominate the work place not only in government offices, international organizations and NGOs but also as professionals, businessmen, and skilled and semi-skilled workers.

And more proudly, Afghan graduates from Pakistani universities are paid significantly higher salaries than graduates from any other neighboring country.

Pakistan is further providing 2,000 fully funded graduate and post-graduate scholarships to Afghan students in its institutions of higher learning over the next four years. The placements are being made in ten different fields from medicine to IT to agriculture. The first batch of the students under this programme had already left for Pakistan early this year.

Providing consistent and across the board education and capacity building opportunities is Pakistan’s greatest gift to the people of Afghanistan and it is considered so innate that it is hardly mentioned in any discourse in Kabul.

Another important area where Pakistan has been of unlimited help to the people of Afghanistan is healthcare. Afghans are provided free medical care in Pakistan’s government hospitals, a facility available to our own nationals.

Over 90 percent of Afghans who seek medical treatment abroad visit Pakistan. Most of the Afghan patients opt for free treatment at government or philanthropic healthcare facilities. Moneyed Afghan patients are welcomed by many countries but for their less fortunate compatriots only Pakistan has kept its doors opened.

Just a few examples of the effects of this facility: 40 percent of patients in Peshawar’s major government hospitals and 11 percent patients in tertiary hospitals all over Pakhtunkhwa province are Afghans; over 50 percent patients in major government hospitals in Quetta are Afghan nationals; and two Pakistani philanthropic hospitals perform free eye surgeries on about 30,000 Afghans every year. Read more of this post

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The Kalash People of Pakistan

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A replay of Bunker Hill

Afghan fighters

By I. M. Mohsin

The operation code named ‘Mushtarak’, launched by the huge foreign forces along with some Afghan complement in Helmand has run into serious problems. Its projected aim was to provide security to the local people while dismantling ‘enemy’ strongholds in the same area. A tempestuous publicity campaign heralded the start of hostilities by the ISAF. Such media hype was considered necessary to warn the local people of the impending attacks. Many people, as such, migrated to other areas which would have caused great resentment among the afflicted Afghans. Subsequently, the foreign forces felt obliged to forbid any help to the Taliban by any resident. All such moves indicate that in nine years, the US army has not understood anything of the local culture which rules the roost, particularly when fighting the foreigners. If the Americans had heeded Gorbachev’s advice or that of their own ambassador in Kabul’s foreboding, they may have been better off. The real lesson that history teaches, as the Russians learnt the hard way after losing their Soviet Empire, is that atrocities by an awful power do not, generally, make the Afghans bend.

History also proves that despite the odds, they have always emerged successful. Licking its wounds caused by the exercise of vicious power, the aggrieved party waits to hit back. No wonder the Taliban, deriving strength from their history, took a serious dig at the foreign troops by saying that “the current occupiers of Afghanistan, like the Red Army will face defeat” on the occasion of the 20th anniversary of the withdrawal of the defeated Russian troops.

In choosing the subject, I was influenced by the history of the American War of Independence. The ragtag force under George Washington conquered the Bunker Hill outpost of the British troops. Feeling outraged, the British commander rushed a strong contingent which drove the Americans away after some fighting. However, thereafter the US militia turned into Taliban. As the British forces started a withdrawal exercise, the Americans would waylay/ambush repeatedly with consequences for the then British ‘occupation’ force. This stands as a landmark development which finally led to the American Independence. It is difficult to make out how asymmetrical was the power between the parties then as compared with the AfPak tragedy. The strategy of the Afghans has always been a repeat of Bunker Hill. In fact, their battling prowess covers distinctly about 12 hundred years. The underlying hallmark of the same is that they have infinite patience in avenging the wrong that has been done to them more so by a foreigner. Read more of this post

Proud to be a Pakistani

S. Tariq

I recently had the opportunity to travel from Abu Dhabi to London on business. Let me confess that I am not a happy air traveller and nine times out of 10 am inclined to take a sedative and sleep my way through the flight. This time however, I made an exception and struck up a conversation with a middle aged, distinguished looking European sitting in the seat next to mine. After our initial exchange of pleasantries was over, we came to the inevitable question of where we came from. When I told him that I was a Pakistani, he looked at me in a distinctly uncomfortable manner. Feeling a bit peevish and angry, I asked him if something was bothering him. He stuttered a bit and then said: “To tell you the truth, I do not know how to carry on a conversation with anyone from Pakistan, since they invariably come around to lambasting westerners for all ills that beset their country.” I was now confronted with a complex situation where I had to, in the few hours that we had available, act as an unaccredited ambassador of my country and also keep myself engaged in conversation to distract my mind from the ‘perils’ of flying. By the time we landed at Heathrow, I had managed to salvage the Pakistani image to a large extent and secure an invitation to lunch at the gentleman’s family home in Sussex. We are now good friends and ‘Wally’, as I shall discreetly call him, has become an avid lobbyist for everything Pakistani.

Passengers travelling on a foreign airline flying from the United Arab Emirates to Pakistan were awakened from their reverie by loud expletives answered by a soft female voice trying to explain that snatching up a second tray of food from the passing trolley was a definite ‘no no’. Perhaps it was the sight of the chic stewardess, who spoke Urdu flawlessly, that had aroused the ‘macho male chauvinist’ in the moustached and bearded Pakistani, but the man was berating the poor girl in a language that made me lower my head in shame.

The other day, while window shopping with my family in Jinnah Super, we were stopped in our tracks by the sight of a Pakistani escorting a group of elderly foreign visitors around the shops. The man, who appeared educated and fairly well-to-do, was engaged in what can best be termed as a despicable show of subservience and sycophancy towards his charges. I wonder whether he was amply rewarded by his colonial master’s for selling his pride and making a fool out of himself.

And now we have the story, where a bunch of our so-called ‘cricketing heroes’ got the snubbing of their life in the recently conducted Indian Premier League bidding gala, when not one of the teams made a bid for them. I wonder how many of these stars will return home chastised with the realisation that they have brought a bad name to Pakistan and how many of them will once again rush to the next auction only to suffer more humiliation.

Somehow our concept of national pride got warped with the early demise of our Founding Father and the inept leadership that followed. We set aside the notion of collective pride in being Pakistanis and set about developing individual vanity. We nurtured a culture where quiet dignity and humility were considered signs of weakness and as an icing on the cake, we demonstrated our negative qualities to the outside world. We did not even then realise what damage we had done, till such time we were singled out at foreign airports and visa offices and subjected to procedures that no self-respecting human would tolerate.

I often wonder if we can turn things around, before it is too late. I have begun a personal campaign of politely telling people not to spit on the sidewalk or litter our roads, not to put posters on road signs meant to guide people, not to break queues or traffic lanes and generally behave in a dignified manner. In doing so, I have courted trouble, but I intend to persevere in the hope that others will follow my example and perhaps one day this small group of people will grow, heralding a change – a change that will spawn a new breed of citizens who will travel forth into the world commanding respect, awe and pride in being a Pakistani.

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Gen Kayani vows to root out militancy despite losses

RAWALPINDI: Chief of the Army Staff General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani has said that Pakistan has suffered the maximum in terms of human and economic losses due to terrorism and violent extremism, but it has not dented the resolve of the nation and its armed forces to root out the terrorism in line with own national interests.

He made these remarks, while talking to a group of foreign correspondents on his return from Brussels, where he had gone to attend the conference of NATO commanders on a special invitation.

The Army chief said he has conveyed the concerns, challenges, contributions and constraints of Pakistan in its fight against the terrorists.

The COAS said that he had highlighted the key issues of the conflict that needed to be fully understood and addressed. He drew the attention of the forum towards the huge sacrifices made by the people of Pakistan and its armed forces, due to the effect of ‘Blow Back’.

Referring to Afghanistan, Gen Kayani said: “Our objective is to have peaceful, stable and friendly Afghanistan. We cannot wish for Afghanistan anything that we don’t wish for Pakistan”.

He reaffirmed that geography, culture and history can neither be separated nor wished away and emphasized that our operations in 2009 have helped improve situation in Afghanistan in terms of squeezing of spaces, better control of areas and continuous logistic flow.

The COAS identified five fundamentals that helped in turning the tide and must not be lost sight for future operations. These are: public opinion, media support, army’s capability and resolve, ‘our war’ was not ‘US war’ and a comprehensive strategy based on four different phases namely clear, hold, build and transfer.

About the way forward, he said that, the fundamentals should remain strong and intact, short and long term interests be reconciled, strategic direction should be maintained and coordination be effect based.

He informed the NATO commanders that our strategic paradigm needs to be fully realized. He said we are the second largest Muslim nation in the World located in a strategic region defined by competing interests and civilizational cross roads, with a prolonged history of conflict.

“We have three million Afghan refugees. At present, our operations are in a transitory phase (from hold to build), we must consolidate our gains and fully stabilize the areas secured, lest it falls back to terrorists.”

Constraints of capability to absorb and operate, limited cutting edge counter intelligence, counter terrorism capability and limited budgetary space should be factored in, he said.

In his concluding remarks, General said Pakistan has contributed to bring peace and stability in Afghanistan.

“We have the will and resolve to overcome the menace of terrorism in our country and we have the public support. We have also offered to train ANA and ANP, as we have the capacity and wherewithal to do so.”

He reiterated that Pakistan should be trusted and enabled.


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Cricket terrorism

Sultan M Hali | India has used every excuse possible to turn it into an instrument of terror. It has used coercive diplomacy, taking full advantage of the reconstruction opportunity in Afghanistan to launch terror attacks in Pakistan. 9/11 was used as a ploy to ditch its erstwhile ally Russia and join the US camp to take up cudgels against Pakistan. The Iran-Pakistan-India gas pipeline was employed as a tool of intimidation and blackmail. The Confidence Building Measures by Pakistan were misused by India as a ploy for oppression and viewed as a sign of Pakistan’s weakness. Other nations including Pakistan make use of sports, culture and fine arts to enhance relations especially when tensions are rising. Pakistan’s president Zia-ul-Haq used cricket diplomacy to diffuse the chances of conflict between Pakistan and India when there was fear of war between the two during the Operation Brass-tacks era.

Unfortunately, India is exploiting the event of sports, especially cricket for terrorizing Pakistan. Earlier too Hindu extremists have threatened to attack and maim Pakistani cricketers in pursuance of their nefarious chauvinistic designs. They have dug up cricket pitches, created furor by inciting crowd vandalism to disrupt matches which appeared to be going against India. In the early days of Pakistan-India cricket fixtures, readers may recall an incident when Pakistan team was visiting India for a cricket series, Pakistan’s star batsman Hanif Muhammad was approached by an Indian fanatic posing to be a “fan”, who wanted to shake hands with the “Little Master” on the eve of the match. Innocently Hanif Muhammad extended his hand, but a blade concealed between the fingers of the “fan” cut his hand badly. That is another story that with a bandaged hand and three stitches, the master player went on to score 202 runs. Pakistani players playing for the Indian Premier League (IPL) who were stuck in Mumbai following the attacks on 26/11/2007 were threatened to be assassinated by Hindu militants as retaliation for the assault. Pakistani teams have time and again been threatened to desist from visiting India.

The forthcoming cricket “World Cup”, which is to be hosted by South Asia in 2011, with the venues to be divided between Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and India was sabotaged for Pakistan. Initially India raised the specter of terror threats to visiting teams in Pakistan, which caused Australia, New Zealand and England to abstain from playing in Pakistan. Sri Lanka and Bangladesh, in a show of solidarity with us, decided to send their cricket teams to Pakistan. Reportedly, Indian intelligence agency RAW organized a deadly attack on the visiting cricket team at Lahore, sealing the fate of Pakistan as venue for the World Cup. This is not only going to deprive Pakistan of revenues and Pakistani fans the chance of witnessing exciting cricket matches, but also divest the national team of vital match practice, contributing to its dismal match performance in the recent past. The latest machination by the protagonists of Hindutva and Indian extremists, in humiliating Pakistani cricketers in the IPL is not only distasteful, but requires condemnation at the international level. Pakistani cricketers are not only the world champions in the 20/20 form of cricket, but have also rendered match winning performances in their various teams during the previous IPL tournaments. They should have been in demand by each and every team contesting in the IPL. Initially, problems were created in the issuance of visas for the Pakistani players, and then they were told to face the ignominy of facing auctioneering by different team sponsors/proprietors. Once the Pakistani players were placed for bidding, to their utter humiliation, not a single Pakistani cricketer was bid for. It has now emerged that the farcical auction was engineered by RAW and militant Hindus. Rajasthan Royals’ co-owner Shilpa Shetty, co-owner of Kings XI Punjab Preity Zinta and Shahrukh Khan of Kolkata Knight riders have confirmed that the Hindu Extremist organization Shiv Sena and goons of RAW’s underworld mafia threatened the bidders to refrain from hiring Pakistani Cricket stars at the auction of the players for the 3rd session of IPL.

Without clearly naming Shiv Sena and RAW goons, the Bollywood sensations have expressed that they were threatened that if they would opt for hiring Pak cricketers, they (Pak Cricketers) would be badly harmed by them ( the Shiv Sena and RAW goons). Apart from the showbiz beauties who were amongst the bidder at the IPL auction some business tycoons at the auction, including Ness Wadia and Mukesh Ambani have also expressed the same while talking to media or commenting over the situation at private functions in Mumbai. The bidders have confirmed that the Pakistani cricketers were in great demand while some impartial and saner elements of the Indian media have disclosed opinion polls reflecting the choice of Indian fans who voted in the excess of 72% to see the star performers from Pakistani cricket playing on their soil.

On the other side, Indian belligerent leaders continue to threaten Pakistan with dire consequences if 26/11 type attacks are repeated. Indian threatening attitude has taken the extreme situation, where they see PAF’s preparations for war games at Sargodha as threatening for India. Sargodha is situated in the heart of the Punjab and is a Main Operating airbase, yet it is being described as a border city and the trenches and tunnels dug for war-games, have been construed as threatening postures. Indian Air Defence has gone so berserk that it mistook its own aircraft on the radar and declared them as hostile intruders and was preparing to take punitive action. Under these circumstances, Pakistan should boycott the IPL matches. No Pakistani cable operator should broadcast the IPL matches in Pakistan. During the Cricket World Cup, Pakistan should refuse to play any match on Indian soil. In one of the previous World Cup cricket tournaments, Australia had refused to play in Sri Lanka; we can adopt a similar policy for India. Such drastic steps will expose Indian belligerence and cricket terrorism and bear pressure on it from using sports fixtures for its nefarious ends.


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