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The future of Afghanistan – towards a regional solution

Here is a video podcast I did for the Pak-China institute. The transcript follows the video.

The situation in Afghanistan, especially as its unfolding before the NATO pull-out in 2014, obviously has already started to manifest some of the key critical issues there. First of all is the problem of stability and security for the people, because it is widely expected now that if there are no basic agreements, and durable regional agreements which include Pakistan, China and India, the country may once again fall into anarchy, and with different militias and power wielders vying for space in the country. So that is a major challenge that, not just the Afghan people or Pakistan but the world is concerned about… The unfortunate part of the story is that for 30 years, Afghanistan has been in the throes of instability.


August 29th, 2013|Afghanistan, India, Peace, Politics|4 Comments

Pakistan, Taliban and Karzai

My piece for ANN (link) where I argue how Pakistan’s Prime Minister is struggling to taking charge of the country’s security policies, away from the security forces, and turning around its economy. Pakistan in real terms has no choice but to facilitate a peace process given the likelihood of more instability after 2014.


Afghan President Hamed Karzai’s visit to Pakistan has ended without concrete outcomes. However, in terms of building trust with Pakistan and negotiating the future of Afghanistan this was a significant development. The impending pullout of NATO/ISAF combat troops from Afghanistan and forthcoming presidential elections in April 2014 require the nebulous peace process to be accelerated. The Afghan government accuses Pakistan of letting the Taleban use its soil for attacks against the country and Pakistan denies this charge adding that its leverage with the Afghan Taleban is limited and exaggerated by all concerned parties.New allies? Hamed Karzai didn't visit Pakistan in one and a half years. During the trip on 26 and 27 August he met Pakistan's new Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif for the first time. They spontaneously added another morning of talks to the agenda. This, at least, was a good sign. Photo: Borneobulletin

During the parleys between Pakistan’s new Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and President Karzai the issue of the Afghan Taleban’s former second-in-command Mulla Baradar and facilitating a direct contact between the Afghan Taleban and the Afghan High Peace Council must have been discussed. The press conference held by both leaders comprised statements of good intentions but avoided specific references to the issues discussed and agreements made.

Predictably, Nawaz Sharif mentioned trade and energy related matters and was upbeat about the completion of ongoing projects. The real issue – getting the Taleban on the negotiating table – was missing in the public statement. Historically, Pakistan’s regional security policy is an exclusive domain of its powerful military and premier intelligence outfit, the Inter Services Intelligence (ISI) agency. While Karzai is close to completing his term and is concerned about his legacy and holding a peaceful transition, Sharif is gradually moving towards setting the institutional frameworks right. The national security committee is being revamped and Sharif is keen to take charge of the complex policy environment.


August 29th, 2013|Afghanistan, Pakistan, Politics, terrorism|3 Comments

Recognising the shift in Pakistan’s India policy

An Editorial for the Express Tribune

The silver lining of the current Pakistan-India stand-off is that Pakistan’s Prime Minister (PM) Nawaz Sharif remains committed to his visionary policy of making progress in peacebuilding with our traditional rival. PM Sharif has been consistent about his resolve to build bridges with India and bolster economic cooperation between the two countries and in a gesture of goodwill, his government  has taken the right decision to release 365 Indian prisoners, which include 340 fishermen and 25 crewmembers of Indian vessels. Prior to the 2013 elections, PM Sharif made exceptionally bold statements on moving forward with the peace process. In particular, he assured India that Pakistani soil will not be used against India. This was a tacit message that earlier cases of Pakistani militants’ carrying out terrorist attacks in India would be addressed by his regime.

The recent escalation at the Line of Control (LoC) started when five Indian soldiers were killed. Initially, the Indian government claimed that the attackers were militants dressed in the Pakistan Army uniform. However, within days, the official stance changed and once again the Pakistan Army was blamed. Since then, the two sides have indulged in reckless behaviour by firing at each other, resulting in the death and injuries of soldiers on both sides. The public opinion in India, fuelled by irresponsible sections of the media, is restive and unforgiving. This has jeopardised the future of composite dialogue as well as the potential of the two prime ministers meeting on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly in September. At the heart of the matter is the asymmetry between the domestic approaches to the peace process in both countries. In Pakistan, there is a near-consensus that peace has to be secured. The army has deferred to this growing public mood. As PM Sharif said in his interview given to the UK’S Telegraph a few days ago, India-bashing is out of fashion in Pakistan. The elections of 2013 and even the by-elections completed on August 22 did not mention India as an issue. In fact, the by-elections took place amid heightened tensions and not a single party or its candidate made an issue of it.


India and the Af-Pak question

Latest for Express Tribune

Recently, US Secretary of State John Kerry elaborated on the need for India to take on a proactive role in Afghanistan’s elections next year. According to him, Indian involvement in Afghanistan could lead to greater institutional stability in the country and help Afghanistan’s nascent, […]

Talking to the TTP

Latest for the Express Tribune:

Despite the victory of a pro-peace coalition and its overtures to the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (K-P), militancy and violence continues unabated in the province. The recent suicide bombing in Mardan, which killed dozens, including MPA Imran Khan Mohmand, is […]

Welcome remarks

This is a worthwhile editorial published in ET

The seasoned Congress leader and India’s well-known dove Mani Shankar Aiyarhas made some bold remarks at the Atlantic Council, a Washington-based think tank. He has reminded his countrymen that it is time to change how they view Pakistan. Citing the recent developments in Pakistan, he has rightly […]

June 8th, 2013|Politics|0 Comments

Pakistan: Political transition amid regional instability

Last week I attended a roundtable organised by Friedrich Naumann Foundation for Freedom in Berlin. The theme was “Shaping the Future of Pakistan: Loose, Fail, or Win“. I delivered a presentation (link ->> Berlin presentation Pakistan) and discussed the short to medium prospects for Pakistan. Most importantly, how regional instability was likely to impact […]

March 25th, 2013|India-Pakistan History, Pakistan, Politics|1 Comment