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Putting country on right track?

Addressing the inauguration ceremony of first power unit of Golan Gol Hydropower Project in Chittral, Prime Minister Shahid Khaqn Abbasi said gas and power crisis has been resolved and the erstwhile falling ratio of economic growth was now on the surge. He claimed that the country had been put on right track and the journey of development would go on if the democratic system continued. He urged the people to make a right decision in the next elections to be held in July.

There are no two opinions about the virtues of true democracy which is of the people, for the people and by the people. But do the civilian governments run by the two main streams political parties turn by turn meet this coordinal principle of democracy? Is it not true that the civilian governments that came to power by the votes of common man from 1970 till date were dominated by the feudal and mercantile classes which implemented entirely pro rich policies? It was because of the pro rich economic policies that middle class, who serves as the main engine of economic progress, has become nonexistent in the country and the society is divided in top and bottom classes.

The logic behind the journey of development is skewed one as it stands in conflict with the ground realities. Had the country been on the right track, the economic outlook of the country would have not been changed from stable to negative by the International Credit Rating Agencies, Fetch and Moody. World Bank would have not painted a grim picture of Pakistan’s economy because of the macro economic imbalances created by the fiscal and monetary mismanagement of the PML-N government. These imbalances include the alarming current account deficit of $ 12 billion caused by persistent decline in exports, public debt burden of Rs. 27000 billion because of reckless borrowing and massive external payments liabilities. Unemployment is on the rise with 6 million jobless people and entry of one million job seekers to job market every year.  Measured by International Poverty Line yardstick, 55 percent of country’s population is living below the poverty line.  According to UNDP Report of 2016 Human Development Index (HDI) of Pakistan is 0.55 which ranks it 147th in the ranking of 188 countries. The rate of brain   drain from the country has reached to the peak as in the last five years 2. 7 million young professional belonging to different professions have migrated to developed countries for employment and better career prospects. Even the employed doctors, engineers, public sector universities’ faculty members and postgraduates of management sciences serving as banker have left their homeland.

Power and gas crisis is not over as the power supply duration to rural areas is hardly two hours. That is why the KP government has started a program to solarise the irrigation tube wells, schools, Basic Health units and Rural and Rural Health Centers through out the province. Gas load shedding for domestic and commercial consumers has not ended.  There is no energy policy in black and white and the power generation strategy is lopsided. It is abnormally tilted against cheap power generation from hydro, wind and solar resources. The previous KP government submitted a number of hydropower projects with a total generation capacity of 2100 megawatts in 2012 to the federal government butout of them 108 megawatts Golan Gol project was approved for financing and the remaining more than a dozen projects are awaiting approval from the Central Development Working Party (CDWP). The completion of 960 megawatts Nelum Jhelum Hydropower Project has delayed for the want of financial resources. On the other hand financial resources are made available for environment polluting coal base thermal power plants and at present less important and least productive projects of motorways and Orange Train. The journey of development encompasses construction of big dams with large water reservoirs and liberal amounts of spending on human resource development, which are not included on the top in the list of priorities.

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Swat terror attack

A suicide bomb blast martyred 11 security personnel, including an officer near a military camp in Sawat. 13 people were injured in this blast that took place near the Pakistan army sports unit in the Kabal area of Swat. The soldiers were playing volley ball outside the military base when a suicide bomber managed to blew himself up. Tehrik-e- Taliban Pakistan (TTP) has claimed the credit for the attack that took place in the Sharif Abad of Kabal Tehsil.

The suicide bomb attack near a military camp shows that Tehrik-e Taliban Pakistan is still strong enough to strike the targets of their choosing. They are operating from their sanctuaries inside Afghanistan. They have the support of local facilitators and handlers. Frequent interaction with Afghanistan can help workout a mechanism for action against Maulana Fazal ullah group and other factions of TTP. However, the use of force alone cannot eradicate the menace of terrorism from the country unless the National Action Plan (NAP) is implemented in totality. The piecemeal approach will not bring the desired results. The mindset of extremism, built over the past 40 years will not change by merely announcing a belated National narrative “Paigham-e Haq.”The ruling elite is reluctant to show  political will and moral courage to implement the 22 points of this important documents approved by 1800 hundred religious scholars from all school of thoughts across the country. Its fate seems not to be different from NAP and will remain on the backburner because of political expediency. The National Narrative rejects extremism, sectarian hatred and declares use of force to impose Shariah as rebellion against the state. It calls suicide attacks ‘Haram’in the light of the teachings of Holy Quran and Sunnah. It also states that the core objective of all educational institutions shall be enlightenment and character building but this objective can be achieved only when the curricula of these institutions are reformed the task which the government does not seem willing to perform. The intolerant legacy of the last four decades and growing tendency towards extremism is devouring the state from within which must be fought headlong by implementing the National Narrative in letter and spirit besides law reforms to strengthen the justice system. The detailed judgment of the Supreme Court in attack on General (R) Musharaff case released on Saturday provides guidelines in this regard. Hopefully, the political leadership will make elimination of the scourge of terrorism as their first priority.


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Expanding Afghan War Theater

President Trump administration has now explicitly disclosed that it is not interested in a political settlement of Afghanistan Problem. Its South Asia strategy gives US commanders in the region absolute authority and the resources they need to deal with the militants safe heavens in both Afghanistan and Pakistan. The strategy that President Trump announced in August last year underlines the US determination to defeat Taliban in the battlefield in order to force them to accept the current set up in Kabul. As a part of this strategy, the trump administration recently increased drone attacks at the alleged safe heavens in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas of Pakistan. But so far the US administration never spoke of authorizing its field commanders to deal with the alleged safe heavens inside Pakistan.

The history of US invasion of third world countries shows that it had never won a war with its military might. It lost the Vietnam War despite expanding its use of massive air power against the North Vietnam, Kampuchea and Laos. Increasing the periodicity of Drone attacks inside Afghanistan and Pakistan will not enable the United States to defeat Taliban and by using extensively the high tech heavy weapons. The experience of the past 16 years amply confirms this bitter fact. The solution to Afghan issue can be achieved thorough sincere and meaningful dialogue, the plausible option which the Trump administration seems to have taken of the table. When the United States invaded Afghanistan after the 9/11 incident majority of the Pakistani defense analysts were of the opinion that it wanted to keep this region destabilized for long to deny the resources of Afghanistan and Central Asian States to rest of world. The Trump administration South Asia strategy that gives more weight to military option gives credence to the opinion of the analysts which they gave in 2001.

The military operation Zarb-i-Azab in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas has wiped out the sanctuaries of militants there. The incognito entry of militants from Afghanistan into Pakistan can be effectively controlled by strict border management for which cooperation from US and Afghan forces are not forthcoming. Pakistan on its part is carrying out the fencing of Pak-Afghan border and has also increased the number of check posts on the border. Pakistan has repeatedly urged Afghanistan to support border fencing which is mutually beneficial. Daesh has also joined the Afghan war theater. This terrorist organization has also claimed the responsibility of one of the recent three deadliest terrorist attacks in Kabul. Former Afghan President Hamid Karzai has blamed the United States for bringing Daesh fighters in unmarked helicopters to Afghanistan. He has also pointed an accusing finger on it for the supply of arms and finances to this international terrorist group. The military option will not produce the desired results and dialogue process must be initiated by involving all the stakeholders.

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Revenue shortfall

The federal government has collected over Rs. 2 trillion in tax revenue during the first seven months of the current fiscal year, but fell short of target by Rs. 74 billion as growth in collection slowed down to 17.7 percent. The shortfall will make it difficult for the government to achieve the revised budget deficit target despite decent revenue collection by the Federal Board of Revenue (FBR). The shortfall may add 0.3 percent of the gross domestic product (GDP) to the budget deficit. The parliament has set the budget deficit target at 4.1 percent and had approved Rs. 4.013 trillion tax collection, which need 19. 2 percent growth.
The main thrust of the successive governments has been revenue collection through indirect taxes like sales tax, import duty, petroleum levies, surcharges and service charges in utility bills and turn-over tax. The indirect taxes have little buoyancy and are inelastic for increase in revenue. On the other hand, personal and corporate income tax, agriculture income tax, capital gains tax and broker’s tax are elastic in nature for revenue generation, giving the desired amount of revenue. There has been no serious efforts and legislation for the documentation of the economy. Even the half hearted campaigns for documentation of economy have to be abandoned because of political expediency. Tax collection authorities either succumb to political pressure and shut their eyes on tax evasion or do not tax the wealthy individuals, companies and partnership firms according to their real incomes and profits.
Amid its failure in expanding the narrow tax base, the government has now started a survey of commercial and high rise residential buildings across the country to scout people who have bought properties in plazas but do not feature in the tax net. The World Bank is of the opinion that data on the real state business is already available and there were media reports in 2010 that such data about 3.8 wealthy people out of tax net is very much on the record of FBR but the political leadership is not interested to bring them into the tax net though at nominal or flat rate of tax. The fresh survey will help update the already available data of potential tax evaders. However, the people are not optimistic about the success of the apparently the first comprehensive ground exercise in almost 17 years as door to do door survey of military led government during2000-2002 failed due to political expediency.
The number of tax return filers has steadily declined due to the leniency of the feudal-mercantile class dominated oligarchic government. In 2016 1.4 million tax payers filed tax returns, but in 2017 1.22 million tax return have so far been filed, and FBR has failed to retain even the existing tax payers. Hence, instead expanding the tax base FBR has let 180000 people of the hook. The government has announced to give tax amnesty on the offshore assets worth $ 150 billion acquired through money laundering which like the past two tax amnesty schemes may not result in expanding the tax base. This demonstrates the lack of seriousness on the part of the government to earnestly pursue a policy against tax evaders and bring them under the tax net. Instead of generating more revenue by taxing the rich people it provides them lope holes for tax evasion on the money accumulated through corrupt practices. On the contrary, any easy recourse is taken to reckless borrowing and the burden of debt servicing is borne by the poor people. After eating up $ 2.5 billion two months ago, the government is floating Euro Bonds worth $ 1 billion this month and for these loan transactions tax waivers are to be sought for. International market for fresh loans is tested days after Fitch, one of the three top global Credit rating Agencies, has downgraded the countrys’economic outlook from stable to negative. The tax laws need streamlining and strict implementation if the government really wants to increase the number of tax payers.

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Islamia College chemistry department

Islamia College is a historical and prestigious educational institution which is now a full-fledged University. The institution offer courses in science and arts from intermediate level to BS, M. Phil and Doctoral programs. But some of its departments lack basic academic and research facilities which hinders students ‘pursuit for knowledge. Although this University has received a grant of Rs. 10 billion from the Higher Education Commission which was announced by former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif in December, 2015 yet its management did not spend a single penny to improve the research facilities.

The chemistry department is in shambles as the labs of inorganic chemistry, organic chemistry and physical chemistry do not have state-of-art equipments besides the scarcity of essential chemicals. There is no bio-chemistry lab and the students are entirely at the mercy of government and private hospitals for the acquisition of data for their research work in BS, M.Phil and PhD programs. Three cheer to PTI government for enacting the MTI Act for teaching hospitals which has turned their administration into hydra headed monsters saying ‘Boo’ even to the Chief Minister and Health Minister of the province what to speak of the Health secretary and Director General Health department.  Quite recently the building of OMICS lab has been constructed but the required machinery and equipments will reach when the present batch of biochemistry students would have completed their eight semesters.  All the labs of the chemistry department are locked much before the closing hours of the university. The unbridled and accountable to none lab staff deny students’ access to the equipment in the labs and scold them if they insist for opening the doors of labs for research work. On the contrary, labs in Ghulam Ishaq Khan Institute of Engineering, science and technology, National University of Science and Technology and Quid-i-Azam University remain open till 11 P.M in the night to facilitate the research activities of the students.  These Universities acquire international research journals of high impact factor and display it on the stands in each department for the benefit of the students. But in the chemistry department of Islamia College University examination date sheets, new notifications and even list of students for the distribution of laptops are not displayed on the notice boards. Multi media has now become part and parcel of academic activity but there is only one multimedia for all the branches of chemistry department which does not cater to the requirements of the students.

Attitude of the faculty members play a vital role in the dissemination of knowledge. The friendly attitude of the faculty encourage students’ quest for contemporary knowledge. But in Islamia college chemistry department the dictatorial response of faculty discourage the students yearning for knowledge and they hesitate to communicate with their professors. Will the Vice Chancellor look into the state of affairs of this department and restore the prestige and excellence of Islamia College University?

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Refugee repatriation: Shifting the buck

The deadline for the stay of Afghan Refugees has expired on Wednesday. The National Security Committee had differed with the proposal of the Ministry of States and Frontier Regions (SAFRON) about one year extension for their stay in Pakistan beyond 31st January 2018. An official of this Ministry had hinted last month about the preparation of emergency plan for the repatriation of Afghan Refugees in consultation with UNHCR. But no progress or even spadework whatsoever was made by the Ministry of SAFRON since then. Afghan Ambassador Umer Zakhelwal had also urged a Jirga of Afghan Refugee elders that the time has come for them to pack up for homeward journey and participate in the reconstruction of Afghanistan., although he lambasted  his government for not providing proper relief assistance to the Afghans who have returned home.

It appears that once again this most important issue has been put on the backburner because of political expediency and serving the vested interest of a Pukhtun Nationalist politician from Baluchistan. Talking to US Deputy Secretary of State Nancy Izoo Jackson in Islamabad, Federal Minister for SAFRON Abdul Qadar Baloch urged the United States to chalk out a framework for the successful repatriation of Afghan Refugees keeping in view the security and economic situation of Pakistan. He said Pakistan has been facing multiple and complex problems due to the abnormally prolonged stay of Afghan Refugees.

This skewed logic of giving the task of working out the Afghan Refugees repatriation framework to a country other than the host is nothing but shirking away from the responsibility that the government of Pakistan has to fulfill. The SAFRON Minister appreciated the UNHCR relief assistance package and described it a major factor in refugees’ repatriation. He asked the US Deputy Secretary of State to work with Afghanistan for encouraging refugees to return back to their motherland. Strange enough, it is not the responsibility of the US alone to persuade Afghan government for the repatriation of its national from Pakistan. The federal government has the prime responsibility to interact with Afghan government and emphasize the return of the refuges. The message of Afghan ambassador to Afghan Refugees for making up their mind for the return journey is loud and clear. It is the government of Pakistan which seems confused and reluctant and this time around it is taking shelter behind the vague and inconclusive discussion in a round table meeting at the Institute of Policy Studies on 27th January about the repatriation of Afghan refugees. The incumbent federal government prefers to remain hostage to eulogizing and defending the former disqualified Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and deliberately ignores the worsening situation in Afghanistan which has a direct bearing on the peace and stability of this region.

Tolo news channel has reported that Afghan President Ashraf Ghani refused to take a condolence Phone Call from the Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi on late Tuesday night in connection with the recent spate of terrorist attacks in Kabul. The channel has claimed that Presdent Ghani is sending a delegation to share the evidence of these attacks with Pakistan Army. If the claim of refusing to take the Prime Minister’s telephone call by Afghan president is true then where our civilian leadership stands in the realm of foreign and security policy. A tweet from the spokesman of foreign office Dr Mohammad Faisal confirmed that a high-level Afghan delegation would like to visit Pakistan for discussion between the two countries. The delegation comprises Afghan Interior Minister Wais Barmak and National Directorate of Security Chief. The foreign office revealed on Tuesday that Pakistan had handed over more than two dozens suspects belonging to Taliban and their affiliated Haqqani network to Afghanistan. The handover took place in November last year just weeks before the maiden visit of Army Chief General to Kabul. However, their extradition was kept confidential till now.  It is an established fact that terrorists from their sanctuaries inside Afghanistan come and get morphed with Afghan Refugees to carry out attacks in Pakistan. The plan of repatriation of 2.4 million Afghan Nationals to their country should be on the front burner to eradicate the menace of terror attacks in Pakistan and slam the doors of Afghan government allegation against Pakistan.

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Gawadar free trade zone

The dream of making Gawdar free trade zone came true. Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi inaugurated first Gawader International Expo on Monday. The Expo was attended by entrepreneurs and 5000 thousand business representatives from all over the world. About 200 companies from both China and Pakistan also participated in this event. Addressing the two days Expo, the Prime Minister announced an equalization package for the speedy socio-economic uplift of Baluchistan under which the federal government will provide 50 percent funds for the development of every district in the province.

Every mega development project brings backwash and spread effects and up to certain extent the reservations of the people of Baluchistan were genuine that Gawadar free trade zone will attract investment and human resource from the comparatively developed areas of the country which may create demographic imbalance at the expense of local people besides shrinking employment opportunities for them . The equalization financial package will ensure balanced economic development in Baluchistan provided the development funds are honestly utilized. The massive development package that was given by the previous PPP government could not bring any improvement in the lives to the people of Baluchistan because bulk of the development funds was misappropriated. The major factor of recent no confidence motion against PML-N Chief Minister Nawab Sana Ullah Zwhri and his resignation before the tabling of the motion was the lopsided and skewed priorities of his government. The development funds were not evenly released for all the areas of the province compelling the lawmakers of his own party to revolt against him.

China intends to employ 38000 Pakistani workforce in the Gawadar Trade Zone for which a training program in going on in the CPEC Technical and Vocational Training Center there. Preference should be given to the locals for imparting them training and providing employment. Human resource development must be an essential component of development priorities that will be fixed for the equalization package. Social sector development of Baluchistan has been neglected in the past and it needs special attention of both the federal and provincial government to allay the sense of deprivation lurking in the minds of the people of the province.

It is not yet clear as to whether Singpur model will be followed in the Gawadar free economic zone or Chinese Yuan will be the dominant currency for trade and investment because both China and Pakistan has agreed that Yuan will be the legal tender for this purpose. An agreement of currency swap does exist between China and Pakistan but Pakistan exporters and importer prefer bilateral trade with China in US dollars instead of opting for Yuan. In the backdrop of World Economic Forum there are bold inductions that the United States will devalue dollar 14-16 percent against the major currencies. The currency war between China and the United States will make US dollar more preferable for Pakistani trader to use it for foreign trade. The depreciation of Rupee against dollar, Euro and British Pound sterling has resulted in a steady surge in exports as it slightly improved its competitiveness in world market.

Senior Vice President Federation of Pakistan Chamber of Commerce and Industry (FPCCI) Syed Mazhar Ali, while hailing the opening of Gwader Free Zone, stressed the need for taking measures for transfer of technology instead of importing Chinese goods. He said the technology transfer would help in industrial development and create job opportunities for the skilled and semi skilled labor force of the country. He emphasized the need for improving the industrial base of the country and for focusing on value addition instead of exporting raw material and depending on imports to fulfill the domestic requirement. Likewise, Islamabad Chambers of Commerce and Industry has called upon the government to focus on promoting exports in order to attain self sufficiency and reduce dependence on domestic and foreign loans as the cost of debt servicing is rising and eating sufficient amount of tax revenue. The debt servicing devoured 30.4 percent of tax revenue.  The sky-high tariff of energy inputs and regressive tax structure has taken a heavy toll on country’s exports. The value of exports was $ 25 billion in 2013-14 which dropped to $ 21 billion in 2016-17. Substantial reduction in the tariff of energy inputs, value addition and diversification of exports market will increase both the value and quantum of exports. Currently 44 percent of Pakistan exports are going to the markets of China, the United states,, Briton, Germany and Afghanistan.  Search of new markets is inevitable by facilitating the visits of exporters to a large number of countries.

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Revival of economy

In a meeting with World Bank (WB) delegation, Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi claimed that implementation of overall economic reforms agenda by the PML-N government has resulted in the revival of national economy and the economic growth is now on the upward trajectory. He also claimed that concrete measures have been taken to ease the cost of doing business for improving the economic environment. The Prime Minister urged the World Bank to help in resolving water disputes with India.

The socio-economic indicators reflected in high level of unemployment, 50 percent people living below the poverty line, looming large debt trap, $12 billion current account deficit, flight of capital, fast depreciation of currency against almost all foreign currencies and relocation of textile industry outside the country do not support the claim of revived economy. Six million educated young people are unemployed and every year half a million new job seekers enter the job market. The unemployment statistics does not include the rate of un employment in the informal sector which is not documented in the yearly estimate of National income accenting and employment data. The international poverty line based on $ 2 daily income depicts that about 100 million people are living below the poverty line and if drastic pro poor people economic reforms are not implemented with strict control over financial corruption the trend of abject poverty will certaily emerge.

Foreign debt is worth $ 85 billion and the total public debt is well over Rs 27000 billion. Fresh loans are acquired on high rate of interest for debt repayment, external sector obligations because of widening foreign trade gap and budgetary support. The trade deficit with China alone is $ 8 billion and with Indonesia it stands at $ 2.3 billion.  Under the Preferential Trade Agreement (PTA), Indonesia has now agreed to enhance the import of Kinnow from 34000 ton to 60000 ton but this will not have a significant impact on bilateral trade deficit because it will fetch $ 33 million foreign exchange. The 10 years period of Generalized Scheme of Preference Plus (GSP Plus) for exports on Zero tariff to European Union has expired but the exports could not record an appreciable increase due to lack of completive edge of our products against the export items of other countries to which tariff concession was not granted. The Prime Minister himself admitted in his speech at Pakistan Economic Forum a few days ago that exports are stagnant at $ 20 billion. But rice exporters are denied of the incentives to enhance the export ‘Basmati’ rice worth 265 million dollars to the European Union.

The World Bank and International Monetary Fund are persistently urging the government to utilize the available IT data with the Federal Bureau of Revenue to expand the tax base by direct taxes like wealth tax, corporate income tax, Tax on agriculture income, capital gains tax and broker’s tax. But the present government dominated by mercantile and feudal classes does not want to impose tax on the rich and wealthy people and is mercilessly burdening the poor people over and over with indirect taxes. The percentage of tax return of non-filers companies and business partnership enterprises has reached to 43 percent. The trade bodies have repeatedly requested the government to expel the ghost of Finance Minister on long leave, Ishaq Darom this important ministry to bring down the cost of doing business but to no veil. The Lahore Chamber of Commerce and Industry (LCCI) in their meeting in November last year gave valuable proposals for putting the economy on real economic growth path ,however, their proposals are yet to be seriously considered. The economic growth calculated on expenditure method alone is not the true barometer of the health of the economy. The expenditure on so called development projects that are reflected on paper and not existing on the ground jack up the economic growth estimates. Likewise, expenditure slippages in the coming general elections will also show a rising trend of economic growth but these expenditures have no trickle down effect on the life of common man. The socio-economic uplift of the people is depicted by Human Development Index (HDI).  The UNDP report released in April 2017 rank Pakistan 148 out of 187 countries with a poor HDI of 0.5. The literacy rate has dropped from 60 t0 58 percent during the last two years.

No doubt WB can help Pakistan resolve water disputes with India but the latter wins cases pertaining to construction controversial dams on three westerly rivers in violation of Indus BasinTreaty because of the animosity of Pakistani leadership towards the construction of big dams right from Z.A Bhutto down to Benazir Bhutto and Nawaz Sharif. The dams of Tarbela, Mangla and Warsak were built in President Ayub Khan Era. Consensus is deliberately not evolved for the construction of Kalbagh dam; Diya Mir Basha dam project has been shelved, and construction of Dasu dam is on hold. The World Bank has already highlighted the macro economic imbalances of Pakistan’s economy in its report issued in August 2017 and its management will be least interested in hollow assurances of economic reforms from Pakistani leadership.

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Carnage in Kabul

At least 95 people were killed and 163 others wounded in a suicide bomb attack in the Afghanistan Capital Kabul on Saturday near Jamhuriate Hospital. The explosion happened at about 1 pm when a suicide bomber detonated an explosive laden ambulance in a busy area of the city. The blast happened in the area where several high-profile organizations, including European Union have offices. Afghan Talban has claimed the responsibility of the bombing.  This is the second deadliest terrorist attack in Kabul in the last eight days. Five gunmen stormed the Intercontinental Hotel in Kabul on 20th January. The attack left 40 people dead and 22 injured.

The United Sates abandoned Afghanistan after the withdrawal of Red Army of former Soviet Union and left it at the mercy of Afghan Warlords. Afghanistan’s President Dr. Najebullah wanted a transfer of power to Afghan Tanzimat in through a UN brokered agreement for which the UN representative for Afghanistan Benon  Sevan was making efforts. However, UN did not receive the required support from the United States. Again after the fall of Najee ullah regime the war between the Afghan warlords intensified and the super powers did not perform their role in bringing peace and stability to Afghanistan. The unabated fratricidal war there created a political vacuum which paved the way for the rise of Taliban. The international community did not engage them in a meaningful dialogue and consequently Afghanistan became a safe heaven for terrorist groups of different nationalities.  Had the United States and other world powers fulfilled their international responsibilities and stabilized Afghanistan after the withdrawal of Soviet forces, the country would have not become epicenter of global terrorism and the tragic incident of 11/9 would have been avoided. The United States would have not landed in the Afghan quagmire.

The bitter experience of battle for the past 16 years should have convinced the American leadership that winning war against an amorphous enemy in Afghanistan with a tremendous military might is not possible and the war can be ended through a dialogue involving all the stakeholders of this conflict. In this regard Afghan Taliban should be reckoned a party to the conflict and should not be ignored in peace initiatives. The United States was invited to the 12 party peace conference held in Moscow in April 2017 but it did not attend this important moot. The role of Russia, China, Central Asian States, Pakistan and Iran needs to be recognized in the resolution of the current Afghan war.

There is another misconception in Washington that Pakistan is not a part of the solution and it is part of the problem. Ironically, the present ruling political leadership is not seriously engaging the US administration to ally their misgivings and convince them that Islamabad is keen to support all the diplomatic initiatives for restoring peace and stability in Afghanistan. The statement of the Prime Minister Shahid Khaqn Abbasi that Pak-US Relations haven on the downward trajectory for the last 15 years and sharp critique of President Trump will not help to mend the ruptures in bilateral relation. Friendly relations and closer cooperation between Washington and Islamabad is inevitable for resolution of Afghan issue, peace and stability in the region. Besides this, civilian leadership of Pakistan should undertake frequent interactions as a confidence building measure with the ruling Afghan leadership who always lay the  blame of violence and terrorist attacks on our doors.

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Restoration of blocked CNICs’

Interior Minister Ahsan Iqbal has disclosed that committees comprising members of parliament have been formed at district level to restore blocked Computerized National Identity Cards (CNIs’) numbering 125000. He said NDRA will restore the blocked CNICs’on the verification members of parliament.

It is no longer a secret that a large number of Afghan Nationals and citizens of some other countries obtained Pakistani CNICs’ with the connivance of NADRA officials. But this bitter fact has also to be admitted that politicians of Pukhtun Nationalist parties of Khyber Pukhtunkhwa and Baluchistan were also involved in this illegal activity. There were allegations in media that the leadership of a staunch allied party of PML-N from Baluchistan had managed to obtain CNICs’for a half a million Afghan Refugees. In Karachi also this important identity document was obtained illegallyby foreign nationals. When the frequency of terrorist attacks increased manifold, the then Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan had to act in the supreme national interest and the Ministry of Interior directed NADRA to conduct a comprehensive re-verification drive of the CNICs. This most important move in the national interest infuriated Pk MAP Chief Mahmood Khan Achakzai and ANP President Asfandiar Wali. They agitated this issue on parochial arguments in the National Assembly and described it an act of victimization of Pukhtuns which is not the reality.  Playing the ethnicity card for political motives is detrimental for national cohesion and solidarity of the country. In fact; Afghan Nationals were inducted in the family trees of those Pakistani families whose forefathers were the confide citizens of the areas which constituted Pakistan in 1947. They now face the ordeal of blocked CNICs’for whom the restoration process these cards should be simplified without the involvement of elected representatives of nationalist parties. Revenue record of immovable property and school certificates pertaining to the pre 1980 periods can serve an authentic document for the restoration of CNICs’. Moreover, the role of the state agencies at this point of time should not be excluded to make the verification procedure fool proof. National interest should reign supreme over political expediencies of securing vote bank for next general elections as the country is virtually in a state of war against the amorphous enemy and the repatriation of Afghan Refugees is inevitable if the government is really keen to win this war once and for all and make the country once again the cradle of peace enabling the common man to live a peaceful life.