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

Pentagon Seeks Contractor to Move Weapons Through Pakistan/Afghanistan

Add to Google Buzz

by Jeremy Scahill

The United States military is in the process of taking bids from private war contractors to secure and ship massive amounts of US military equipment through sensitive areas of Pakistan into Afghanistan, where it will then be distributed to various US Forward Operating Bases and other facilities. According to thecontract solicitation (PDF), “There will be an average of 5000″ import shipments “transiting the Afghanistan and Pakistan ground lines of communication (GLOC) per month, along with 500 export shipments.” The solicitation states that, “This number may increase or decrease due to US military transportation requirements,” adding, “The contractor must maintain a constant capability to surge to any location within Afghanistan or Pakistan” within a 30-day period. Among the duties the contractor will perform is “intelligence, to include threat assessments throughout Afghanistan and Pakistan.”

And while it seems the United States is trying to put a Pakistani or Afghan face on the work, the terms of the contract mandate that US personnel will be involved with inherently risky and potentially lethal operations. Among the firms listed by the Department of Defense as “interested vendors” are an Afghan company tied to a veteran CIA officer and run by the son of Afghan defense minister, General Abdul Rahim Wardak, and a Pakistani outfit with links to Blackwater.

Perhaps most striking about this US military contract solicitation is the admission by the military that contractors are being used for shipping and guarding military hardware as a runaround to the current official policy of the US and Pakistan governments that the US military does not conduct operations in Pakistan. “Due to current limitations on having US military presence in Pakistan and threat levels precluding US Military active involvement with the contractor ‘outside the wire’ in Afghanistan, the contractor must be proactive at identifying appropriate methods for obtaining the necessary in-transit visibility information,” according to the contract solicitation.

Many of the companies that have currently expressed interest in the contract are registered as Pakistani or Afghan businesses. It is well established that the US military depends on Pakistani and Afghan intermediaries to pay off the Taliban and other resistance groups in Afghanistan and Pakistan to allow safe passage of US military hardware and other supplies, meaning the United States is effectively funding both sides of the war. As my colleague Aram Roston reported last year for The Nation, “US military officials in Kabul estimate that a minimum of 10 percent of the Pentagon’s logistics contracts–hundreds of millions of dollars–consists of payments to insurgents.” Other US military sources have told me the number might be as high as 20 percent.

The current contracting arrangement for which the DoD is soliciting bids is essentially a more formalized way of doing the same thing. But while the contractor may place a Pakistani or Afghan stamp on the paper trail and allow the United States and Pakistan to deny that US personnel are involved, the security language of the solicitation actually mandates that US personnel work the operations.

According to the solicitation, the contractor must provide personnel “capable of facilitating, coordinating, obtaining, and reporting critical movement control data and information from the appropriate US government personnel at multiple locations.” The personnel must “have the ability to obtain necessary identification…to gain access to base camps within Afghanistan without escort.” Most importantly, “Personnel must have a valid US Secret Security Clearance.” That level of clearance—”Secret”—cannot be issued to a foreign citizen, meaning that the contract actually necessitates US citizens working on the contract, presumably in Pakistan and Afghanistan.

This arrangement is not new. In fact, this is precisely the arrangement I reported on last year for The Nation (See “The Secret US War in Pakistan“). According to Blackwater and US military sources, US military shipments were being protected on a contract with Kestral Logistics, a powerful Pakistani firm, which specializes in military logistical support, private security and intelligence consulting. It is staffed with former high-ranking Pakistani army and government officials. A former senior Blackwater executive with experience in Pakistan told me that Kestral subcontracted to Blackwater and that “Blackwater has provided convoy security for Defense Department shipments destined for Afghanistan that would arrive in the port at Karachi. Blackwater, according to the former executive, would guard the supplies as they were transported overland from Karachi to Peshawar and then west through the Torkham border crossing, the most important supply route for the US military in Afghanistan.” Blackwater, he said, was paid by the Pakistani government through Kestral for consulting services. “That gives the Pakistani government the cover to say, ‘Hey, no, we don’t have any Westerners doing this. It’s all local and our people are doing it.’ But it gets them the expertise that Westerners provide for [counterterrorism]-related work,” according to the former Blackwater executive.

All of this is consistent with the US military’s current contract solicitation. What’s more, Kestral is listed as an “interested vendor” on the current DoD contract. According to federal lobbying records, Kestral has hired former Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs Roger Noriega, who served in that post from 2003 to 2005, to lobby the US government, including the State Department, USAID and Congress, on foreign affairs issues “regarding [Kestral’s] capabilities to carry out activities of interest to the United States.” Noriega was hired through his firm, Vision Americas, which he runs with Christina Rocca, a former CIA operations official who served as assistant secretary of state for South Asian affairs from 2001 to 2006 and was deeply involved in shaping US policy toward Pakistan. Since late 2009, Kestral has paid Vision Americas and a Vision Americas-affiliated firm, Firecreek Ltd., at least $60,000 to lobby on defense and foreign policy issues. Read more of this post

Patriotism in Pakistan’s Balochistan

Add to Google Buzz

The international realization of this strategic importance of Balochistan has deprived its people of their calm and peace.


By Ali Sukhanver

My moon is every body’s moon; this poetic phrase seems no more limited to the expression of love between a lover and the beloved; with the passage of time it has become more appropriate and more suitable for the sincere and truthful lands like that of Balochistan. Located on the northern tip of straits of Hormuz, Balochistan has no doubt become ever body’s moon. This is the area through which much of the world’s oil supply passes. Moreover it is God giftedly rich in natural resources with an estimated 19 trillion cubic feet of natural gas reserves and 6 trillion barrels of oil reserves. Therefore, many countries including USA, Russia and India see Balochistan as a strategically important zone of influence.

The international realization of this strategic importance of Balochistan has deprived its people of their calm and peace by pushing them into an artificially created series of trials and tribulations. Mercilessly exploding bombs and cruelly piercing bullets have targeted nothing but the atmospheric serenity and tranquility of this land. A few days back, all newspapers and electronic media channels were replete with the news of two boxers from Balochistan, Naimatullah Khan and Mohammad Waseem who won gold and silver medals, respectively, at the South Asian Games. Talking on the occasion, the medalists said that they are very happy that they secured medals for their country Pakistan and promised that they would work more hard in the same spirit to win more honour and respect for their motherland in future. Silver medalist Waseem said that justice was not done with him in the final because he is a Pakistani and he was winning the contest against an Indian boxer.
Read more of this post

%d bloggers like this: