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Reclaiming One’s Voice



Raza Rumi cuts through the high decibel terrorism rhetoric to voice some ground realities of Pakistan, all this while braving attempts on his life.



A few months back, I had to leave my country simply to ensure that I would not be left dead. The price of public positions is hard. Perhaps I had ruffled too many feathers or was simply unlucky to have caught the attention of those who tried to kill me. I am trying to make sense of things that may have fallen apart for me. But have they? I keep trying at making sense of my country, the one I belong to and the one I love immensely.

Nuclear state. An Islamic Republic. A Failed state? Endless labels and categories have been accorded to what Pakistan represents today to the world at large. Some facts speak for themselves but perceptions are deceptive as they start morphing into realities. Pakistan is also a resilient country and inspires me to fight the odds, the demons that have to be defeated and the endless list of things that need to be done.

Contrary to what most diagnose, Pakistan’s trajectory was not inevitable. The country’s founder, almost a demonic figure in India, attempted to set a direction in his August 11 speech by recognising that religion could mobilise people and politics but cannot be an instrument for governance. “We are starting with this fundamental principle,” said Jinnah, “that we are all citizens and equal citizens of one State.” The famous words followed: “…in course of time Hindus would cease to be Hindus and Muslims would cease to be Muslims, not in the religious sense, because that is the personal faith of each individual, but in the political sense as citizens of the State.” Critics say it was too late. Others think this was the only way to shape statecraft when a new state had come into being. Perhaps all of this is irrelevant now. Sixty seven years later, Pakistan is hardly the country it was geographically or otherwise in 1947.


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

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

Afghanistan: no cooperation, no stability

This is a shorter version of a brief which was prepared for Pakistani Senate’s standing committee on Defence. Also published here. Full report here

Pakistan and Afghanistan are joined by geography and a complex history. A long and imaginary border drawn at the end of the colonial era runs through bonds of religion, culture, language and ethnicity. Thirty years of war, political upheaval and instability in Afghanistan have been shared by Pakistan in no small measure. Since independence in 1947, Pakistan has had an unstable bilateral relationship with its northwestern neighbour, stemming from border disputes. Afghanistan has always objected to the Durand Line as the official border and claims areas in Pakistan’s tribal areas and the Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa province as its own territory.

Despite the affinities and physical proximity, this has been a troubled relationship, worsened by British, Soviet and American ambitions.

Pakistani strategists – comprising mostly the security establishment – have always feared a hostile Afghan government since it would lead to the country’s encirclement. An unfriendly Afghan government on the western border, with traditional enemy India to the east, has been an overarching fear in conventional military estimates. The hostility towards India has therefore informed the way Pakistan views Afghanistan.

The Cold War, jihad and the Taliban

The Cold War has had the greatest impact on Pakistan-Afghanistan relations in recent decades. The Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in 1979 plunged the country into civil war, after which Pakistan, with the U.S. and Saudi Arabia, backed the Afghan ‘mujahideen’ resistance, which eventually ‘defeated’ the U.S.S.R. ten years later. What followed was abandonment by the international community, especially the West. During the 1990s, the rise of a predominantly Pashtun religious militia – the Taliban – facilitated by Pakistan complicated matters, pitting Pakistan against non-Pashtun Afghans as the Taliban carried out atrocities against other ethnic and religious groups in Afghanistan.

The Taliban captured Kabul in 1996 and ended up controlling around 90 percent of the country by 2001. Pakistan was their closest ally, and one of just three countries that recognized their regime. There is increasing evidence that Pakistan’s intelligence establishment aided Taliban’s consolidation of power in Afghanistan in the 90s.

The U.S.-led war on terror after the September 11, 2001 attacks transformed the Taliban – who were providing safe havens to al Qaeda – into the enemies of the United States. The Taliban’s main opponents, the Northern Alliance, became the obvious favourite of the West, and was provided a generous share of power after coalition forces toppled the Taliban regime.

Pakistan had officially urged the Taliban to surrender al Qaeda and their leader, Osama bin Laden, to the U.S., but the Taliban leader Mullah Mohammed Omar refused, and vowed to defend his ‘guests’. After Kabul fell on November 13, 2001, the Taliban went into hiding.

As the U.S.-led NATO forces declared victory and started their disastrous state-building project, the Taliban movement re-emerged in mid-2000s, starting an insurgency against coalition and Afghan forces. […]

March 9th, 2013|Afghanistan, India, Pakistan, SouthAsia|1 Comment