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The South Asia Channel Watching Kunduz Collapse From the Sidelines

The fall of Kunduz jeopardizes Pakistan’s quest for internal stability.

Pakistan's Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif (C) inspects the indigenously manufactured surveillance drone at the Pakistan Aeronautical Complex in Kamra, some 65 km west of Islamabad on December 18, 2013, as Pakistani air chief Tahir Rafique Butt (R) and army chief Raheel Sharif (L) look on. Pakistan on December 18 launched  production of a new version of a combat aircraft featuring upgraded avionics and weapons system. The plane, to be called Block-II JF-17, will be manufactured at the Pakistan Aeronautical Complex west of Islamabad, which has so far produced 50 older-model Block-I JF-17s for the air force. AFP PHOTO/Aamir QURESHI        (Photo credit should read AAMIR QURESHI/AFP/Getty Images)

This week, the Taliban have overrun Kunduz, the first major city to suffer such fate in over a decade. While there will be obvious security and policy ramifications for Afghanistan and the United States, what will it mean for Pakistan?

For Pakistan, the fall of Kunduz means that its quest for internal stability could be in jeopardy. Pakistan has to use its leverage over the Taliban to bring them to the negotiating table. Pakistani Army chief, General Raheel Sharif, has once again called for restarting the Afghan reconciliation process for the security of the region and added that the Chinese investment in the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor could be shared with Afghanistan. Gen. Sharif’s suggestion can only materialize once the Taliban are contained and the Afghan government is strengthened.

There is a consensus among most experts that if the Taliban’s power grows in Pakistan’s neighborhood, it could exacerbate Pakistan’s internal security problems. Pakistani Taliban, currently fleeing to Afghanistan due to the military’s clean-up operations, will find support from their Afghan counterparts. The Afghan Taliban might not support the Pakistani Taliban or fight alongside them, but they will let the Pakistani Taliban regroup on Afghan soil in order to mount attacks within Pakistan which will come back to haunt Pakistan. […]

Islands of Hope – Life and Works of Akhter Hameed Khan

Raza Rumi reviews a book on the life and works of Akhter Hameed Khan, a legendary development guru

“It is not enough to say that he was a great man. He was one of the great human beings of the past century. He was so much ahead of everybody else that he was seen more as a ‘misfit’ than appreciated for his greatness…” (Nobel laureate Dr. Younas Khan on Akhter Hameed Khan)

In a country where idealism has taken a backseat and opportunism and greed are rampant, this book about the life and works of Akhter Hameed Khan (AHK) can be read as a kind of counter-narrative, a perennial challenge to Pakistan’s always-imminent descent into chaos. The AKH Resource Centre has done a fabulous job in putting the various trends of his thought and action into this lean volume, which is remarkable for its authentic voice and utter credibility.

Eighteen years ago I had the rare opportunity of working at the Aga Khan Rural Support Programme (AKRSP) under the leadership of Khan Saheb’s best known disciple, Mr. Shoab Sultan Khan. (AKRSP came years after experiments in community development and self-help programs such as Commila and the Orangi Pilot Project.) I was lucky enough here to meet the great AHK, if only briefly.

AHK, as he comes across in this book, was a curious mix of the Sufi visionary, the man of Gandhian principles, the subaltern researcher and a dedicated community worker. With his hybridized eclectic thought, in particular his approach to poverty and the poor, Khan Saheb was able to challenge Pakistan’s mainstream development discourse, which to date remains imperial. A colonial and post-colonial state acts as mai baap to its citizens and international agencies are the patrons, defining the problems and opportunities from a knowledge base that is detached from the people it seeks to serve and which, at the end of the day, always reiterates the ascendancy of the Western historical experiences of development, progress and prosperity. […]

November 19th, 2010|Published in The Friday Times|4 Comments

An agenda that does not deliver

South Asia is a region marked for its turbulent history and its endemic poverty and misgovernance. Much has been written about how certain states in India are worse off than Sub Saharan Africa in terms of social and economic indicators. Or that Pakistan and Bangladesh have millions of people struggling for a meager income to keep their families alive. The truth is that despite the recent gains made in economic growth in most South Asian economies, the structural causes of poverty persist and haunt the national planners.

The World Bank, or the rather grandiose title – the Bank – has remained a major player in the South Asian economies aiming to help these countries in reducing poverty and enhancing economic growth. The Bank has gained more traction in countries such as Pakistan and Bangladesh where the unelected executive is eager to engage with the IFIs and decisions on lending are achieved quickly. India has remained engaged but its complexity and federalism makes transactions more intensive. Having said that the country has emerged as World Bank’s favorite in the recent years. For instance, the Bank, committed USD 9.3 billion in financial assistance to India in the 2009-10 fiscal, more than the aid committed by the U.S. and the European Union. Although this is a small sum for India’s U.S. $1.2 trillion economy, it represents a sharp increase from the U.S. $2.2bn lent to India by the Bank last year  – Bank lending to India has traditionally averaged about U.S. $2.5-3bn a year. Similarly, for Pakistan the average lending level has been around $1-2bn, this has increased lately due to the recent recession and food and energy shocks. […]

November 1st, 2010|development, governance|7 Comments

China: Braving the Storm

China has so far braved many storms. However, this time it will be a test of its political leadership and economic managers to set a new direction for the economy.

August 23rd, 2010|Uncategorized|1 Comment

Whatever happened to Kerry-Lugar?

Pakistan’s dire fiscal situation has resulted in the reduction of development spending by 40 per cent. This does not bode well for the citizens who have been tormented by an energy crisis, persistent food inflation and rampant unemployment. In these circumstances, the development assistance under the Kerry-Lugar Bill (KLB) is much needed. Pakistan’s civilian government braved a media onslaught and the ire of the security establishment for tacitly supporting the US legislation. Other than the rhetoric around the ‘conditions’ drafted in Washington, there was an unstated agreement that the development assistance was welcome.

Months have elapsed and Pakistanis have yet to witness the roll out of the KLB. Global recession and political uncertainty at home underlie the tough days for Pakistanis especially the poor. It was expected that given the urgency of the situation, USAID was going to kickstart the delivery of its interventions. Well, the progress so far has been disappointing.

First, there seems to be no public sign of a consensus within the US bureaucratic machine how the aid under KLB will be delivered. Unconfirmed media reports suggest that the political versus the bureaucratic channels are not on the same page. The ‘political’ administration is ostensibly managing USAID systems and processes. There may be strategic reasons for that but the net result is that things are delayed. Not long ago, Pakistani government’s procedures were thought to be a problem but the trajectory of US bureaucracy only proves that public sector ailments are common. […]

Capital shock

My op-ed published in the NEWS. This was also posted at ATP and a robust discussion took place there.

A week long sojourn in Islamabad just came to an end. It was not the Islamabad that I had lived in or the one that my memory was intimate with. It has changed and perhaps forever.

I have been an accidental resident of Islamabad as I was thrown into the sleepy folds of the capital by imperatives of securing a livelihood. Lahoris can never be content with any other city. But Islamabad’s serenity as a stark contrast to the urban mess of Pakistan was most endearing to say the least. Even its cultural wastelands were forgivable for the communion with Nature was a splendid alternative to civilisation. Thus the sprawling greenbelts of Islamabad and its wild foliage became a source of inspiration and muse. I left the city three years ago with fond memories. […]

August 27th, 2008|Published in the NEWS|1 Comment