China — the all time superpower

Ali Sukhanver

Fortunes and misfortunes always go side by side. Pakistan is fortunate enough to have a friend like China as a neighbour but unfortunate to have a neighbour like India who never desires for stability and prosperity of Pakistan. The Pakistanis must be thankful to God for making China its neighbour because the situation could have been much painful for them if there were no China in the region. Pak-China friendship is time -tested and progressing by leaps and bounds every moment. Unluckily this friendship is proving itself much agonizing for those countries which dream of ruling this region on the basis of economic and political exploitation. This close cordial relationship between Pakistan and China has always been a target for such countries.

According to the reports the US authorities and other western countries always feel uneasy when they find the exemplary friendship between the two countries going ‘higher than the Himalayas and deeper than the ocean’. That is the reason they always try to create hitches and hurdles between the friendly relations of Pakistan and China. It is also said that the USA is providing nuclear support to India just to counter the increasing influence of China in the region. USA is very well aware of the fact that China is the only country which has a capability of giving tough time to it and this capability shall certainly increase manifold if Pakistan keeps on strengthening its relations with China. That is why there have been so many efforts to create misunderstandings between Pakistan and China. When we cast a look at the past ten years we find a long list of Chinese workers who lost their lives while working at different development projects in Pakistan. The terrorists targeted these Chinese workers simply to alarm and warn the Government of China that it must not send its workers to Pakistan. But in spite of all these threats China never backed out of its determination to make Pakistan strong and prosperous. Be it the Karakorum highway project or the Gawadar Port Plan, the heavy water reactor at Khusab or the manufacturing of JF-17-Thunder Air Crafts , China is always there to support Pakistan. The friendship between the two countries is becoming even stronger as time goes by.

Pak–China relations began in 1950 when Pakistan was among the first countries to recognise the People’s Republic of China. In 1962, the worsening Indo-China relationship turned into a series of hostility. That time Pakistan’ proved itself a very strong well-wisher of China by providing it all type of favour. It would not be an exaggeration if we call 1962, the title page of the story of love and friendship between these two countries. Since then this relationship is becoming stronger and stronger resulting in a variety of agreements of economic, military and technical assistance. The Pak-China friendship is a two-way journey. The whole of the Chinese nation is thankful to the people of Pakistan for their precious support on issues concerning China’s sovereignty, such as Taiwan, and Tibet. The Chinese leadership has always acknowledged the significant role of Pakistan in the early 1970s, which enabled China to break its isolation from the West and the US. Pakistan also helped China become a member for the United Nations. Pakistan has always played an effective role in bringing the Muslim world closer to China.

On the other hand China has always proved itself a very strong support to Pakistan through every time of trial and tribulation. The people of Pakistan can never forget the role of China during Pakistan-Indian tensions in 2008.That was the time when the Chinese leaders very openly promised unlimited financial and military aid to Pakistan. There could have been a very serious type of nuclear war if China were not there to support Pakistan. Above all, China has always provided a very staunch support to the Pakistani stance regarding the Kashmir issue. This affectionate assistance is something very positive for the people of Pakistan but very much discouraging to those who desire and plan for a weaker Pakistan. The countries like India are doing their best to dispel the clouds of vagueness and ambiguity between the two friendly countries. Recently it has been reported that the agents of Raw are trying to invade Xinjiang, the Chinese border province, in the guise of Islamic extremists. The RAW has provided them fake Pakistani identities. These agents are directed to create law and order disturbance in the peaceful land of Xinjiang. Most of these agents are the Hindus by creed but they are so well trained that it would be very much difficult to recognise their actual identity. According to the details some of these agents would intentionally surrender them before the security forces of China after being involved in some act of terrorism. The only purpose behind is to give the Chinese government an impression that Pakistan is trying to promote religious extremism in Xinjiang. Read more of this post

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US vs China: Dangerous phase has begun

Martin Jacques

The spats between the United States and China appear to be getting more numerous and more serious. The Chinese objected in strong terms to Washington’s latest arms deal with Taiwan and threatened to take sanctions against those firms involved. President Obama recently accused the Chinese of currency manipulation. At Davos, Larry Summers, the director of the White House’s National Economic Council, made an oblique attack on China by referring to mercantilist policies.

The disagreement between China and the US at December’s Copenhagen climate summit has continued to reverberate. The Chinese government reacted strongly to Google’s claims – supported by the US administration – that cyber attacks against it had originated in China and its statement that it would no longer cooperate with government censorship of the Internet. The US has been increasingly critical of China’s unwillingness to agree to sanctions against Iran. And finally the Chinese government is accusing the US administration of interference in its internal affairs by insisting on the meeting this week between Barack Obama and the Dalai Lama in Washington. The issues of contention have come thick and fast. For the most part, however, they are hardly new.

The Chinese reaction to the Taiwan arms deal was entirely predictable, the only novelty being the threatened sanctions. Taiwan remains the most important priority for Chinese foreign policy. Their response to the Dalai Lama in Washington is equally predictable.

Obama’s and Summers’ statements about currency manipulation and mercantilism, respectively, are a little different. True, they are not entirely new; Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner accused the Chinese of currency manipulation in January 2009. But since Mr. Geithner’s ill-judged remark, the US administration has until now chosen to be more discreet. Google and climate change are relatively new bones of contention. But we should not be surprised by these disputes. China’s rise means that it is now involved in areas of the world and on issues where previously it had little or no stake. As China increasingly becomes a global power with interests to promote and defend around the world, it is bound to come into conflict with the United States on a growing number of subjects.

It appears that the US-China relationship is entering a markedly different phase. The key question is whether this will lead to growing acrimony between the two countries to the point where the bilateral relationship between them is seriously harmed or whether the generally positive relations of the past three decades can continue. There is a further underlying change in their relationship, namely China’s rise and America’s decline. While neither is new, the latter has only begun to be recognised since the global financial crisis. The expressions of the shift in power between the two are numerous. China has become more self-confident and, in a mild way, more assertive. This has been most evident in the way in which China has – understandably – expressed concern about the value of the dollar, raised the question of a new special-drawing-rights-based reserve currency, and blamed the global financial crisis on the behavior of Western, especially US, banks; though it can also be seen in a more general, though subtle, shift in Chinese attitudes. Read more of this post

Muslim demographic revolution & Western failure

click to enlarge

Dr Terry Lacey

In 1950 the population of the six BENPIT countries (Bangladesh, Egypt, Nigeria, Pakistan, Indonesia and Turkey) was 242 millions, rising to 886 million by 2009 and an estimated 1,361 million by 2050.

These and associated demographic trends render current Western strategy towards the Muslim world obsolete. Between 2010 and 2050 the population growth of the six BENPIT countries will be 475 million, while the population growth of the six most populated developed countries together will total 44 million. Worldwide 28 out of the 48 fastest growing countries in terms of population are majority Muslim, or with Muslim minorities comprising more than 33 percent of the population. For example the population of Afghanistan is now 28 million, rising to 45 million by 2025 and 75 million by 2050. Professor Jack A Goldstone writing in the journal Foreign Affairs (February 2010) on “The New Population Bomb” concludes that the West has to improve its relations with the Muslim world, that Turkey with a population of 100 million by 2050 must join the EU, and that the Muslim population of major EU countries now varies from 3 to 10 percent, and will double by 2050. These figures have major implications for the foreign and military policies of the West and for immigration into Western countries, with younger migrants needed to help sustain economies and social provision for aging populations.

The populations of the EU, US, Canada, Japan, South Korea and China are aging at an unprecedented rate. By 2050, 30 percent of all Americans, Europeans, Canadians and Chinese will be over 60. For example in South Korea the workforce will be about the same size as the people over 60 by 2050, and one third of the population must support the other two thirds. By contrast populations of Muslim countries and Muslim populations within industrialized countries have a quite different age structure with many more younger people and higher population growth, whereas the total population of some Western countries will be in net decline without more immigration. Read more of this post

America has become the Sick Man of the Western hemisphere, Obama certainly cannot continue running a world empire on borrowed money

Eric S. Margolis

President Barack Obama calls the $3.8 trillion budget he just sent to Congress a major step in restoring America’s economic health. In fact, it’s like giving a drug addict another potent dose of the narcotic to which he is addicted.

The drug is debt. More empires have fallen because of reckless finances than invasion. The latest example was the Soviet Union, which spent itself to ruin buying tanks. Washington’s deficit (the difference between spending and income from taxes) will reach a staggering $1.6 trillion this year. The huge sum will be borrowed, mostly from China and Japan, which the US already owes $1.5 trillion. Debt service will cost $250 billion. By 2015 it will consume a third of total federal spending. To spend $1 trillion, one would have had to start spending $1 million daily soon after Rome was founded and continue for 2,738 years until today.

Obama’s total military budget is nearly $1 trillion. This includes Pentagon spending of $ 880 billion. Add $75b (nearly 2.5 times France’s total defense budget) for 16 intelligence agencies with 200,000 employees. The Afghanistan and Iraq wars ($1 trillion so far), will cost $200-250 billion more this year, including hidden and indirect expenses. Obama’s Afghan ‘surge’ of 30,000 new troops will cost an additional $33 billion — more than Germany’s total defense budget. No wonder US defence stocks rose after Nobel Peace Laureate Barack Obama’s ‘austerity’ budget.

Military and intelligence spending relentlessly increase as unemployment hovers at 9.7 per cent. Critics claim the real figure is closer to 20 per cent. America has become the Sick Man of the Western hemisphere, an economic cripple like the defunct Ottoman Empire that used to be called the Sick Man of Asia. The Pentagon now accounts for half of total world military spending. Add America’s rich NATO allies and Japan, and the figure reaches 75 per cent.

China and Russia combined spend only a paltry 10 per cent of what the US spends on defence. There are 750 US military bases in 50 nations and 255,000 US military personnel stationed abroad, 116,000 in Europe, nearly 100,000 in Japan and South Korea. Read more of this post

USA will never be able to contain China

According to the media reports, China strongly reacted against Washington administration decision of arm sale for worth $ 6.4 billion dollars to Taiwan. The arms package for Taiwan made out by Pentagon’s Defense Security Cooperation Agency includes 60 UH-60M Black Hawk helicopters, 114 Patriot “Advanced Capability” missile defenses known as PAC-3, 12 advanced Harpoon missiles capable of both land-strike and anti-ship missions, as well as communications equipment for Taiwan’s F-16 fleet. The package also includes two renovated Osprey-class mine-hunting ships. On this issue Chinese leaders thrashed USA leadership and reveled that double standard of American foreign policy is a chronic disease in Sino-US relations. Beijing also indicated that it would “partially” stop bilateral military exchange programs with the Washington and also suspend talks on strategic security, arms control and anti-proliferation that were scheduled to take place soon. The Chinese Defense Ministry Foreign Affairs Office also summoned the defense attache of the U.S. Embassy in Beijing and lodged a “stern protest” against the proposed arms sale to Taiwan.

Therefore, the said arms supply to Taiwan is an indicator of USA Game Plan of containing China. To implement her plan, she simultaneously started targeting China on two fronts, first is to hit her speedy flourishing economy and other is to pose security threat to China on exterior and interior fronts. Pentagon created armed net around China while supporting India, Taiwan, and landing her troops in Afghanistan. Nuclear Pakistan is a major hindrance in American desire of containing China; therefore Islamabad also never enjoyed too much cordial relations with USA. Intimacy between two neighbouring nuclear powers (Pakistan and China) has never been digested by Pentagon and her Asian ally (India). In fact, China stance over current arms sale deal to Taiwan is absolutely correct since USA never displayed seriousness in establishing permanent relations with Bejing. The history reveals that overall chine’s relations with America always remained under clouds. Earlier in 1972 President Richard Nixon made his visit to the People’s Republic of China. It was a significant step taken by him in formally normalizing of relations between two nuclear powers. American President Nixon was become the first US topmost leader who carried out visit China and tried to remove the clouds from bilateral relations. In this context, Pakistan played a very vital and positive role in establishing relations between two countries. But Post world war era brought many changes in geopolitical environment. Disintegration of Soviet Union has further stamped the deterioration of bilateral relations between Washington and Beijing. Actors of old Cold War replaced with China and USA. World divided into new global blocks. New Cold War put the two said supper powers at dragger drawn.

The Unipolar System emerged which resulted into the supremacy of USA. China supported USA at number of occasions against Russia but unfortunately the single global power opened new fronts against china and Muslim world. Washington supported overtly Israel, India and now started instigating Taiwan against China. It is mentionable here that China is a mother country of Taiwan but American kept on using Taiwan leadership against China covertly but at times overtly assured Chinese authorities that she believed in the policy of noninterference on Taiwan issue consider it integral part of China. American dual face only reflects that USA never left her hidden policy of containment and would like to use Taiwan territory as her fighting base against China. But the people of Taiwan probably are against their leadership decision of extending relations with Washington against their mother country China. China also warned USA after three weeks of increasingly furious exchanges between two countries (USA and China) over arms sale issue to Taiwan. There was news that American administration would be arranging Tibetan spiritual leader visit Dalai Lama and Obama has the desire to meet Lama soon. In this context Zhu Weiqun, a vice minister of the united front work department of China’s ruling Communist Party, which steers policy on religious affairs said any meeting would “seriously undermine” the political basis of China-US relations.

He further stressed that If the U.S. leader chooses this time to meet the Dalai Lama, then it would be difficult for Beijing to rescue Washington from the currant economic crises. Read more of this post

German company to set up 50 MW Solar Energy Project

ISLAMABAD: AZUR Energy Group of Germany will set up a 50 MegaWatt Solar project in Pakistan and a feasibility report in this regard has already been formulated.

This was told by a German Energy Group delegation during a visit by the Board of Investment (BOI) on Wednesday.

The delegation also called on Minister of State and Chairman BOI Saleem H. Mandviwala and discussed investment opportunities in various sectors of the economy including the energy sector in Pakistan.

The chairman of AZUR Energy Group of Germany said that his company has already prepared a feasibility report and a ground survey is being conducted at Multan and Bahawalpur areas and negotiations for the acquiring of land for the project is also in progress. Read more of this post

THE SALE OF PAKISTAN

Only the Air-Condition Pakistani class could think of such a wheeze and get away with it. Who says our leaders are brain dead? May Allah continue to shower His blessings upon the Zardari/Bhuttos, the Sharifs and all their hanger ons! Amen.

“Islamabad has established an extraordinarily welcoming investment environment that financiers will find hard to resist. The government’s Corporate Agriculture Farming (CAF) policy — spelled out on the Board of Investment’s website — effectively legalises foreign land acquisitions. It permits state land to be purchased outright or leased for 50 years, and allows investors to determine the size of their acquisitions (with no upper ceiling). These features apply to a broad range of agriculture from crops, fruits and vegetables to forestry and livestock farming.”

What a brilliant idea! Sell the most fertile parcels of state land to the oil saturated Arabs [the Saudis, the Emiratis and the assorted dung heads of Arabia] pocket your commission and live happily ever after in the Disney world of Dubai and the fleshpots of London’s Edgeware Road/Park Lane. As to the landless, sweating masses – turn them into Talibans, a la Swat style and get the Americans to keep them in their place by ‘droning’ them.

Only the Air-Condition Pakistani class could think of such a wheeze and get away with it. Who says our leaders are brain dead?  May Allah continue to shower His blessings upon the Zardari/Bhuttos, the Sharifs and all their hanger ons! Amen.


Putting the country on sale

The Nation, Jan. 31, 2010.

For those of us who had thought that the scheme of leasing out a million acres of agricultural land to foreign investors had been shelved by the government, the statement of Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi last week served as a rude awakening. Shamelessly reaffirming his government’s commitment to go ahead with the sinister plan, he gave odd justifications for going ahead with it. He was in Dubai for a meeting of Frie-nds of Pakistan who are supposed to help us in this time of need. The Arab countries that have expressed interest in this unethical land grab, obviously have a poor sense of friendship. The message they, as well as the other so-called friends, are sending out is that when a friend is in need, exploit the friend and get a good price for his family silver.


One has yet to see anything worthwhile coming out of this motley group of countries that have created yet another club for the avowed purpose of helping out Pakistan in consideration of the price it has paid for fighting terrorism and to strengthen the now not-so-new democracy. Going by the Foreign Minister’s recent statement, it seems that the club serves the interests of the generous prosperous friends more than those of the one going around the globe with a begging bowl. Knowing the desperation of the beggar friend whose functionaries do not miss an occasion to register their economic helplessness and to plead with servile eyes and tones for some charity, these so-called affluent friends seem to be finding good bargains for whatever is to be grabbed in the state of Pakistan. All in the name of friendship of course.

It is surprising that after the treatment meted out to us by our best friend and ally, we still have a stomach for these so-called friendships, and as if one were not enough, we are willing to follow the tunes of this assortment of pied
pipers.


The government, instead of relying on such fickle friends, should be focusing on the wealth of resources at its disposal waiting to be managed properly.
After all, that is what it is there for. Or does the democratic government
believe that its sole purpose is to stay afloat in the short term, even if it means auctioning the country’s vital resources in a grand loot sale? Certainly, something better is expected of a democratic government.

In a ridiculous attempt at justifying the scheme, the Foreign Minister has now informed us that the land that the government intends to lease out is not owned by anyone. By that he means that the land is not owned by any private
individual. But does that mean that these precious acres are lawaris? Does he not know that land not owned by any private individual is owned by the state of Pakistan and is therefore collectively owned by the people of Pakistan?
Does he not know that the government is entrusted with looking after this land and not to sell it off to greedy friends mouthing sincerity? Does the government have no obligation to find ways of util-ising the invaluable resource for the betterment of the people it claims to represent?

To further expose his poverty of vision, the Foreign Minister said that the land to be leased out is not under cultivation and therefore we should not object to handing it over to the foreign investors who will pump in the
resources to cultivate it. Is it the best our democratic government has to offer us? If investors from distant lands with no tradition of agriculture can come and cultivate it, it should not be difficult for Pakistanis to do it, what with an agricultural heritage and knowledge going back to pre-historic times. Instead of wasting government funds on retrogressive schemes like the Benazir Income Support Programme that make beggars of able-bodied citizens rather than helping them stand on their feet, couldn’t the government spend them on helping landless farmers cultivate the land that it wants to throw away to foreign investors?

It is very unfortunate indeed that the government would insist on pushing such a hare-brained and patently nefarious scheme down our throats at the insistence of its dubious friends. But then, it is not just one nut in the
machine that the government is mowing down Pakistan and its citizens with. Whether it is for loans taken from the foul international financial institutions or for aid that it hopes to get from its best friend under the Kerry-Lugar Act,
or for crumbs it hopes to collect from the so-called Friends of Pakistan, the government is willing to compromise the well-being of the people in whose name it governs the country.

To be fair, the present government is only partially responsible for this state of affairs. In recent times, all successive governments have followed the same path. Whether it was the ‘Islamic’ dictatorship of Ziaul Haq or the quasi-democratic governments of Benazir Bhutto and Nawaz Sharif that followed, or the moderate-dictatorship of Musharraf or the Q-government that he gave birth to, those at the helm of affairs have shown a similar poverty of
vision when it comes to managing the country’s economy and the abundant resources at their disposal. They come with new mantras and programmes, but beneath the shallow surface, nothing changes on this count. Those in charge of the future of the Paki-stani people have shown a propensity to become willing partners in their exploitation at the hands of investors, states and multilateral financial institutions. Together, this evil partnership has made a rich land poor, turning its gold to dust.

Granted that the present government has inherited much of this legacy from its predecessors, there is still no excuse for continuing with it, especially when the cost has become too high for the people of Pakistan to bear. More
than millions and billions of dollars that the government is breathlessly running after, what is actually required is a political vision that appreciates the true worth of this land and its people.



Going gaga over grain


By Michael Kugelman
Dawn News, Sep. 17, 2009.


Last May, while Pakistan’s military was waging its offensive in Swat, Islamabad officials were simultaneously launching another offensive in the Gulf: a charm offensive to secure investment in Pakistani farmland.

Appearing at ‘farmland road shows’ across the region, the investment ministry representatives depicted Pakistan’s soil as the perfect solution to the Gulf nations’ food insecurity.

Such efforts have paid off for Islamabad (and according to media reports, more shows have been staged in recent days). Pakistan’s farmland is an increasingly popular target for wealthy, food-importing nations who, because of the volatility of world food markets, are taking food security matters into their own hands. These states (and also private investors) aim to buy or lease farmland overseas, grow their own crops and export them back home.

Given their lack of transparency, the details surrounding these investments are sketchy and the facts elusive. In Pakistan, uncertainty reigns over the exact amount of land made available to investors, the quantum of land sold or leased so far, and who is in fact doing the investing.

Still, even without these details, there is strong evidence to suggest that the race for Pakistan’s farmland — if not halted prematurely by farmers’ opposition or investor change-of-hearts — could trigger droves of land deals, acute resource shortages and even political strife.

Islamabad has established an extraordinarily welcoming investment environment that financiers will find hard to resist. The government’s Corporate Agriculture Farming (CAF) policy — spelled out on the Board of Investment’s website — effectively legalises foreign land acquisitions. It permits state land to be purchased outright or leased for 50 years, and allows investors to determine the size of their acquisitions (with no upper ceiling). These features apply to a broad range of agriculture from crops, fruits and vegetables to forestry and livestock farming.

Land investors flock to countries with strong legal protections. Cambodia’s government has reportedly established a national land concession authorising public land to be allocated to foreigners — and the country is now experiencing what the BBC describes as an ‘epidemic of land-grabbing’. Conversely, in India, foreign companies are banned from owning farmland — and considerably fewer investors have come calling.

Pakistan, like Cambodia, provides the legal cover farmland investors look for. However, the CAF goes beyond legal protections. It also offers generous financial incentives such as 100 per cent foreign equity; exemptions on land transfer duties; and customs-duty-free, sales-tax-free agricultural machinery imports.

Legal protection and financial incentives — what more could a foreign land investor in Pakistan want? Security, of course, and Islamabad purports to have this covered as well, through the formation of a 100,000-strong security unit. Pakistan’s government is so serious about concluding land deals that it has offered to deploy a force almost a fifth the size of the army to protect investors’ new holdings.

A rash of foreign land acquisitions in Pakistan would deepen the country’s resource crisis. Pakistan already suffers widespread water shortages, and could be water-scarce by 2020. However, supplies could dry up much sooner if enormous quantities of water are siphoned off to support large-scale, water-intensive agricultural production schemes.

To understand the scale of Pakistan’s water shortages, take a look at Aquastat, the FAO’s water statistics database. Of all the nations most often associated with relinquishing farmland, only one — Kenya — has less water availability per capita than Pakistan’s 1400 cubic metres. In fact, of the nearly 200 countries listed in the database, only 35 have less water than Pakistan — many of them the parched countries of the Gulf that are seeking the water-laden farmland they lack at home.

Indeed, quests for overseas farmland are water hunts as much as they are land hunts. Yet investors are seemingly so seduced by Islamabad’s legal and financial inducements that they disregard the fact that Pakistan’s water supply can barely sustain its own farming, much less that of immense foreign agribusiness projects.

Pakistan’s water and energy shortages could also limit the possible benefits accruing from the deals, including better technology, more employment and higher crop yields. With limited energy to operate upgraded farm machinery, and limited water to irrigate cropland, farming job prospects could suffer and talk of increased yields could become irrelevant.

Land deals could mean not just compromised small-holder livelihoods but also widespread displacement. Not surprisingly, critics argue that big land acquisitions could spark violent responses and mass political unrest. Such predictions may be premature — other than in Madagascar, opposition has been relatively localised — but they are not far-fetched in Pakistan.

Here’s why. According to the World Food Programme, 77 million Pakistanis are already food-insecure, and many of them live in the country’s most volatile areas. Foreign land holdings could cause a flare-up of this food vulnerability powder keg at the worst possible time. During the height of last year’s global food crisis, Pakistan imposed export bans to keep domestic food prices down.

According to a report by the International Institute for Sustainable Development, the UAE — which hopes to grow rice and wheat in Pakistan — then requested blanket exemptions from these bans.

Islamabad eventually relaxed export restrictions on Basmati rice. So a politically explosive scenario — such as the UAE trucking rice out of a drought-stricken or war-ravaged Pakistan and exporting it back to the Gulf while hungry locals look on — is not at all unrealistic. Throw that investment-protecting security force into the mix, and things could get really ugly.

Furthermore, there are long-standing rifts between Pakistan’s rural poor and its wealthy, landholding elite. Scores of huge land acquisitions — particularly if they displace poor labourers — would exacerbate these class-based cleavages.

Ominously, the Taliban’s actions in Swat reveal a new ability to exploit class divisions by pitting landless farmers against their landlords. Militants may well use farmland acquisitions as a pretext for fomenting a fresh class revolt in Punjab, the fertile, populous province coveted by the Taliban and reportedly ground zero for the farms race in Pakistan. Such a thought is enough to make one wonder if those farmland road shows are really worth the effort.

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Welcome to the Stone Age

Samson Simon Sharaf | Did Richard Armitage make an understatement when he threatened to pulp Pakistan to Stone Age? And in reaction, had Pakistani policy makers averted a conflict through unstinted support and secure ultimate national interests? As I have repeatedly asserted, the public through media is merely exposed to a very small fraction of the reality eclipsed with subtle propaganda. The unknown is of grave concern. Eight years hence, after all that has happened, Pakistan’s security perspectives have only deepened.

The ‘shock and awe’ phase of the invasion of Afghanistan witnessed the worse use of violence for global domination. In deciding the wars on Iraq, Afghanistan and now Pakistan (Afpak), the Capitol Hill strategists chose to ignore a basic lesson of the American Civil War in which the North despite a ragtag army defeated the more sophisticated South; any use of violence related to hate and revenge will ultimately fail. ISAF, USA and the Afghan Combine, unlike Pakistan have ceded more and more ground to the Afghan resistance. The third surge seems to be lea-ding nowhere and prospects of an imminent US withdrawal look dimmer by the day. The question arises, then why Afghanistan?

In a conflict not of our choosing, but in many ways of our own making, landmarks crucial to a winning national strategy are elusive. Following military operations, Pakistan holds more ground in troubled areas. However, in a counter insurgency operation, ground is not always the most vital. In a conflict lacking manoeuvres and firepower, the insurgent has the option to melt away and float in the milieu like fish in water. The method, time and target to strike are always flexible, invariably punctuated with surprise. In contrast, the security mechanism remains stretched to limits, predictable and static. Devoid of any noteworthy economic and moral support, for how long will the country be able to sustain an ongoing asymmetrical conflict that is now costing more than all the wars in the past combined?

The effects of the Afghan conflict on Pakistan are damaging on all counts. The malaise is like a squamous with tentacles spread to every sinew of our society. The military to some extent may succeed in dominating the geographical and cyber space, but what of the individuals whose mind cannot be reached and tamed and who have the capacity to proliferate? They inevitably matter in a society fractured by poor economic conditions, sectarianism, crime and population explosion. Seen in the context of the ongoing political controversies, economic recession and fault lines within the society, it will take a very long and herculean efforts to restore normalcy. Given the obtaining environments, conditions are most likely to worsen before we could hope for a turn for the positive. What happens during the interim and how, we as a nation contend is the concern of every Pakistani. Tragically, a national policy to win hearts and minds in general and at the grassroots in particular is conspicuously missing. For how long can we play the flute while Pakistan burns?

Barring military operations daringly led by young officers, all other indicators of a national well being have gradually plummeted. Unplanned urbanisation in mega cities is rapidly morphing into bigger pockets of poverty providing breeding grounds for minimalist agendas. Wheat, sugar, rice, cotton, fertilizer, pesticide, cement and communication cartels are on an unchecked loose. Value added exports are being manipulated to dwindle in face of raw exports, pricing issues, time delays, energy shortages, transportation costs and high interest rates. Agricultural products like cane, cotton, wheat and paddy have virtually suffocated through pricing mechanisms, water shortages and energy inputs. Two years of bumper crops are now hampered by lack of winter monsoons and extremely low water particularly in the river systems. The GDP other than the incidental 1.1 is virtually at a halt. Barring the import bill, Pakistan’s economic downturn does not appear to be affected by the global recession. The question arises that despite positive home grown indicators, why Pakistan’s economy is being allowed to slide into shortages, hyperinflation and dependency?

Just like the insurgents need a cause and outside support to sustain themselves, counties fighting them also need a powerhouse to defeat them. Even the best military plans are doomed to fail in the absence of an all encompassing national strategy. So far the entire might of ISAF and USA with full international support and massive resources has only resulted in ceding more areas to Taliban. In contrast, Pakistan despite economic constraints, manipulative political economy and practically non-existent international assistance/support has cleared area after area. In terms of success ratios to economics, the results have been at a fraction of what ISAF and USA spend in Afghanistan. Yet the unending chants of ‘do more’ grows vociferous and threatening by the day. India has been showered far more praises in this WOT than Pakistan that has done the donkey’s work and remains a donkey.

Gratitude to Pakistan in this disowned conflict usually makes headlines in form of leaks by the American and British media reflecting an uneasiness with Pakistan’s nuclear capability and complicity with terrorism. This propaganda is followed by statements of US and UK officials synchronised with threatening statements and posturing from India and their military establishment. With the Baghliar Dam in operation and numerous ‘run of the river’ power generating units on rivers leading to Pakistan in place, India manipulates water flow at will.

What has the government done to formulate a cohesive national policy?

Rather than venture on an all-encompassing national austerity programme, boost domestic growth particularly in the agrarian sector, facilitate value addition of exports and initiate rehabilitation plans for young men exposed to militancy, the government seems to adopt and pursue policies to the contrary. International financial institutions with their unfriendly conditions are back. Price structuring is grossly manipulative and exports discouraged. At the same time the government is involved in serious political differences with its allies, military establishment and the judiciary. Rather than channelise all efforts into the conflict and nation building, resources are being wasted on issues not of immediate significance. It appears that Pakistan’s policy makers have willingly chosen to recluse the nation to backwardness. President’s recent tirades are unequivocal in that ‘if we go, everything goes with us’. This is indeed a very poor reflection of a country and its leadership at war.

Least metaphorically, lanterns and candles are back but expensive. Earthen oil lamps have replaced energy savers and petromax. Raw brown sugar is now a household substitute. In rural areas, donkey carts and bullocks are becoming the preferred mode of transport. A generation bred on consumerism and leasing is rushing to cycle shops.

Being loyal that we are, we will do it ourselves and save USA the bother. Welcome to the Stone Age!

Is America a failed state?

Spengler | Barack Obama won the Democratic nomination and then the presidency by offering the same program that Peter Pan gave the Darling children: Close your eyes, think happy thoughts, and you will be able to fly. “Yes we can” in the meantime has changed to “No he can’t,” as America lost five million jobs in 2009 and its effective unemployment rate, including so-called long-term discouraged workers, rose to 22%, a level unseen since the Great Depression.

Within 24 hours, the voters of Massachusetts may turn the freshly-baked president into a prematurely lame duck, by electing an obscure Republican to the senate seat held for a generation by Ted Kennedy. If that occurs, Obama’s veto-and-filibuster-proof majority in the senate will disappear and faint hearts in his own party will hedge their bets on the proposed public healthcare program. The Republicans should be careful what they wish for: no one is voting for the opposition, for the Republican party has no economic program and no unifying theme except its objection to Obama. The voters are protesting a radical change in their status for the worse, and will penalize whoever has the misfortune to be in power. Read more of this post

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