Tag Archives: Pakistan

Doha to Astana: insulate and integrate

Daily Times, June 15, 2017

D. Suba Chandran is Professor, National Institute of Advanced Studies (NIAS), Bengaluru.

Two diverging developments in South Asian’s western neighbourhoods — Gulf and Central Asia, calls for two different approaches especially by India and Pakistan. While South Asia should try to insulate itself from the ongoing crisis in the Gulf, we should try to integrate further with the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) and pursue it as an Indo-Pak opportunity.

JIT: What next for Nawaz Sharif?

Rising Kashmir, June 20, 2017

D. Suba Chandran is Professor, National Institute of Advanced Studies (NIAS), Bengaluru.

Last week, Pakistan’s Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif appeared in front of the Joint Investigation Team (JIT), constituted as a part of the Supreme Court’s verdict on Panama scandal. The Court had asked the JIT to finalise its report in two months, and the latter has been interviewing individuals, including the immediate family members of Sharif. But this process has become a controversy, with the JIT accusing institutions for tampering with information and the Sharif family blaming the JIT of harassment and politicization. With the process becoming politicized now, what will happen when JIT submits its report? What next for Nawaz Sharif?


Terrorism and Violence in Pakistan: Understanding their Mind

ISSSP Reflections No. 51, March 18, 2017

Author: Niveditha RM

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During last month, there were a series of terror attacks in Punjab, Khyber Paktunkhwa and Sindh, claiming more than 100 lives.

Print and Social media were full of opinions on what the problems are in Pakistan and how could they be addressed. This commentary focuses on how the Pakistanis perceive terrorism, violence and the fallouts. What do they consider as the major cause and what do they see as a possible solution?

Afghanistan and Pakistan border problems: A major cause

Most in Pakistan consider failure to address the Afghanistan issue as a primary problem for violence and terror inside Pakistan.

A section consider that Afghan policies of Pakistan and supporting militants in the past as a reason for the recent attacks. A section also question the efficacy of the National Action Plan  A commentator wrote: “For decades- dating back to the Mujahideen – our (Pakistan) chief export to Afghanistan has been militancy. The Afghan Taliban and the Haqqani Network, whether by neglect or more likely design, were low on our list of priorities. Yet we managed to summon up outrage over the leadership of TTP finding safe refuge in Afghanistan. As ye sow, so shall ye reap?”

A section within Pakistan is worried about the policies being pursued by Pakistan to address the issue. This section considers that there are no new steps and what is being done currently is the repeat of the past. This perception also underlines the failure of National Action Plan in a comprehensive manner.

A section questions the distinctions between ‘good’ and ‘bad’ militant groups have prolonged the strategic decisions.

Another section looks at the failure in developing a stable diplomatic relations with Kabul. This section propagates that the army has conducted multiple military operations internally but has failed to establish friendly ties with Afghanistan. The civil and military establishments both have failed to develop effective and productive cooperation . A section also considers that the Afghan indifference terror attacks in Pakistan as another major problem.

A section also feels the growing strength of the Tehrik-i-Taliban (TTP) in the Afghan-Pak borders as a primary reason for the recent surge in violence. Of course, there are multiple strains within this thought process. While a section considers that the geography is conducive for this TTP presence in the border regions, another section accuses Afghanistan for either not taking action against the militants or coluding with them. Most in Pakistan believe that the sanctuaries and safe haven that TTP have in Afghanistan is a primary reason for the continuing attacks. 

The India Factor

Few in Pakistan also consider India as a factor behind the recent surge. They project the following reasons for India supporting terrorism in Pakistan.

Undermining the CPEC: There is a general perception in Pakistan that India is unhappy with the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor and has been trying to sabotage it. Pakistan Foreign Office spokes person Nafees Zakaria urged the international community to take action against India, blaming for the terror attacks in Pakistan. Pakistan Muslim League-N  Central Information Secretary Mushahidullah Khan commented that India has carried out the attacks fearing the CPEC progress. And Punjab Law Minister Rana Sanaullah claimed India’s hand behind the attacks. This section considers that the CPEC would help Pakistan’s economic progress which India wants to undermine.

India using Afghanistan as a Proxy: Many within Pakistan consider that India is using Afghanistan as a proxy to destabilize the country. India is held responsible for the sour relation between Pakistan and Afghanistan. This section considers that India wants to use Afghanistan as a proxy on Pakistan’s western border and continue sot support terrorist attacks. This section also claimed that the RAW is trying to impose on Pakistan using terror as a tool.

Bringing bad reputation to Pakistan:  A section in Pakistan also consider that India support terrorism to bring bad reputation to the country. This section consider that a series of encouraged by the RAW are engaged in creating this bad image at the international level. Few even linked with the Pakistan Super League’s final to be held in Lahore at that time – that India wanted to undermine that!

Looking inward

Of course, not every one in Pakistan blame the outsiders for their internal problem. Some consider militancy problem in Punjab as an issue, which is yet to be acknowledged by the political leaders. PML-N has not focused adequately and not provided institutional support to counter the militant threat. A section criticizes government’s opposition to military operations in the region.

Few criticize the NAP; they consider it has goals, objectives and vision but lacks plan. According to them, the number of terrorists killed and refugees deported is impressive but is meaningless. It has become reference point for every counter-terrorism action.  

Small sections do consider that the problem is being externalized. For this section, the policy challenges need to be focused on long term benefits.

Will Pakistan look inward as well to counter terrorism and combat future attacks? Or will it continue to blame the outsiders?

About the Author

Niveditha RM is a Research Intern with ISSSP, National Institute of Advanced Studies (NIAS), Bengaluru. She can be reached at <nivedithamraj@gmail.com>

Tehmina Janjua: Internal Challenges for the New Foreign Secretary

ISSSP Reflections No. 49, February 27, 2017

Author: D Suba Chandran

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Tehmina Janjua, when she takes over the Foreign Secretary in March 2017, will become Pakistan’s first woman Foreign Secretary. Her challenges are numerous – both within Pakistan (especially vis-a-vis foreign policy decision making structure) and outside – especially with big powers such as the US and immediate neighbours – India, Afghanistan and Iran. Besides the above, she will also have to face rest of the international community – in addressing Pakistan’s negative image.

There seems to be an extra focus (though unfair) in the media on she being the first “woman” foreign secretary. Perhaps, it may have played a role in the decision making, as an image building exercise at the international level. There is likely to be a series of changes in the next few weeks. Pakistan’s serving foreign secretary Aizaz Chaudhry will be replacing the present Ambassador to the US. Abdul Basit, Pakistan’s High Commissioner was expected to replace Aizaz, but the Prime Minister seem to have opted for Tehmina Janjua.

Tehmina’s track record is substantial; she is a highly experienced diplomat with so much understanding at the international levels. She has worked extensively with the United Nations and currently she has been Pakistan’s Permanent Representative to the UN in Geneva. She was earlier the spokesperson for the external ministry and has served as Ambassador to Italy from December 2011 to October 2015.

There have been women diplomats in Pakistan, highly decorated, efficient and successful, for example Maleeha Lodhi. Maleeha, though not a career diplomat, is currently Pakistan’s Permanent Representative to the UN in New York; earlier she has served as Pakistan’s High Commissioner to the UK and Ambassador to the US.

Tehmina may not have served as an Ambassador in the region, but has enough international experience. The real issues however, for Tehmina will not be related to whether she has served in the neighbourhood or not. There are serious domestic and international challenges that she would be inheriting. Especially the domestic challenges that would restrict her functioning, is the focus of this short commentary.

It is not easy to be a Foreign Secretary in South Asia in the first place. Given the political decision making process, role and actual position of the Prime Minister/President and bilateral relations with the neighbours and big powers – the position of foreign secretary in the region has always been challenging. In India, the situation has been improving since the 1998 nuclear tests; starting from Shyam Saran, there have been a series of Foreign Secretaries, who have been able to discharge the functions expected of the external ministry.

In Pakistan, there are additional challenges to the Foreign Secretary. First and foremost is the decision making process and the actors involved in it. Though in a democracy, Parliament and elected representatives led by the Prime Minister is expected to play a predominant role in shaping country’s foreign policy, this has not been the case in Pakistan. The military has been playing a powerful role not only in foreign policy decision making, but also on Pakistan’s strategic assets and their developments. Shaping the relations with the neighbourhood and the big powers – especially the US and China has remained more with the GHQ than with the Parliament and External Ministry.

Second, the GHQ would prefer complete control over foreign policy especially vis-a-vis Pakistan’s immediate neighbourhood. Perhaps, that could be a reason also to choose Tehmina, as she has enormous international exposure, than any substantial experience in the immediate neighbourhood. For Tehmina, the above would be the biggest challenge, which her predecessors also inherited.

Third, added to the above restriction is the absence of a full time foreign minister. Nawaz Sharif for reasons best known to him has not appointed a full time foreign minister and has been running the external relations through Special Advisors, in this case Sartaj Aziz.

Though Sartaz Aziz is extremely capable, he is not the “Foreign Minister” chosen from one of the elected representatives of the Parliament. Special Advisor may enjoy a cabinet position, but it is not equivalent to being a Foreign Minister. The protocol conscious diplomatic community should be well aware of the difference.

One could also argue, foreign minister in Pakistan is more symbolic. Hina Rabbani was the last foreign minister of Pakistan and the media, especially social media was highly critical of her.

Finally, the biggest domestic challenge with huge international ramification – militancy and militant groups. While the foreign ministry in Pakistan may have no access, leverage or control over the militant groups within Pakistan, the diplomats will be at the receiving end at the international level – both fire fighting and image building. Even for the Pakistani Ambassador to China, with whom they share an “all weather relationship” that is “higher than the Himalayas” and “deeper than the Oceans” (and now “sweeter than honey”), it would not be an easy task to defend Pakistan’s image and policies relating to militancy.

Worse, for the foreign ministry of Pakistan, they would not be privy to the larger interaction between the political leadership, military and ISI on the use and abuse of militant groups as a strategic asset on Pakistan’s eastern and western borders. As a result, their envoys serving in New Delhi, Kabul and Tehran may not be fully aware of the larger calculations behind actual developments along the borders. The foreign secretary, at times may know about the border developments and Pakistan’s response from his or her envoys in the neighbouring countries than from his or her own Parliament!

All the best Tehmina Janjua. Given the inherent limitations, we sincerely wish, you take proactive measures to stabilise the LoC, strengthen it further with pursuing the earlier agreements between two parts of J&K, and normalise Pakistan’s relationship with India. Hope you bring a new perspective and a change as well across the Wagah.

 About the Author

Dr. D. Suba Chandran is Professor, National Institute of Advanced Studies (NIAS), Bengaluru. He can be reached at <subachandran[at]gmail.com>

Does Pakistan’s Ababeel Medium Range Ballistic Missile Really Have MIRV Capability?

Delhi Defence Review, February 03, 2017

Rajaram Nagappa, Professor and Dean of the ISSSP, National Institute of Advanced Studies, Bengaluru.

Pakistan has carried out a missile test – it was not another training or pre-deployment test of Shaheen 2 or Shaheen 3, but the test of a new missile called Ababeel on 24 January 2017. The missile is claimed to have a range of 2200km and is said to be capable of carrying Multiple Independently Targetable Re-entry Vehicles (MIRV).

Unlike the Shaheen 2, the new missile has three stages. The Ababeel thermal fairing (heat shield) has a large diameter than its core vehicle. The extra volume thus available is consistent with the requirements for MIRV capabilities. It must however, be noted that there are a number of technical constraints that have to be overcome before one can infer that Pakistan has succeeded in developing MIRV capability.

To read the complete article click here

Military Courts in Pakistan: Will they return? What are the implications?

Military Courts in Pakistan: Will they return? What are the implications?

NIAS Strategic Forecast No. 12 | Author: D Suba Chandran | January 2017

To read the complete report click here

To cite: D Suba Chandran. “Military Courts in Pakistan: Will they return? What are the implications?,” NIAS Strategic Forecast No. 12. Bangalore: International Strategic and Security Studies Programme, National Institute of Advanced Studies, Januaury 2017.

During the first week of January 2017, many in Pakistan were surprised, when the government allowed the earlier Parliamentary legislation on the military courts to elapse. The civil society in Pakistan, to a large extent, responded positively to this development and wanted the government to take control and initiate a political and legal process to address terrorism. However, two press releases – post 7 January 2017 from the PMO and the military’s ISPR hint at the return of military courts.

A section within Pakistan also wants to extend the military courts for the following reasons. They consider that the regular courts are not fool proof, take time and allow the militants to escape from getting convicted. They also argue that the military courts dispense justice at a faster pace and death sentences will convey a strong message to the terrorists and prevent them from pursuing a violent course. So, will the military courts get re-established? And what will be its long term political implications?

Pakistan’s New Army Chief: The Sharif Balance Sheet & the Bajwa Forecast

Pakistan’s New Army Chief: The Sharif Balance Sheet & the Bajwa Forecast

NIAS Strategic Forecast No. 10 | Author: D Suba Chandran | November 2016

To read the complete report click here

To cite: D Suba Chandran. Pakistan’s New Army Chief: The Sharif Balance Sheet & the Bajwa Forecast. NIAS Strategic Forecast No. 10. Bangalore: International Strategic and Security Studies Programme, National Institute of Advanced Studies, November 2016, available at

nsf-10For the first time in the last two decades, Pakistan’s Army Chief retired as per scheduled without an extension… The government has announced Gen Qamar Bajwa as the next Army Chief. What are the major challenges for Gen Bajwa? Of course, it is not a clean slate for him; the legacy of his predecessor Gen Raheel Sharif will play an important role in shaping his options. Will he continue where Gen Sharif left, or will he chart his own roadmap? What is the Sharif legacy? And what is the Bajwa forecast?

Gen Bajwa will also have to match Gen Sharif’s popularity. Undoubtedly Gen Sharif was one of the most popular Pakistani Army Chiefs in recent decades. He was viewed as a thorough professional soldier who took tough decisions.

Peshawar to Charsadda: Is the NAP adequate to deal with the TTP?

ISSSP Reflections No. 39, March 1, 2016

Author: Riffath Khaji
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Source: http://www.wishesh.com/

Last month, the TTP made a deadly attack on Bacha Khan University in Charsadda. Despite the public anger against a similar strategy in Peshawar in December 2015 (the attack on Army Public School), the TTP seems to be continuing with its strategy.

Is the TTP  targeting the mainstream education, or have chosen them, because they are soft targets? Why is the State in Pakistan, despite the NAP, unable to neutralize the TTP? With the NAP faltering, will there be more Taliban attacks in Pakistan?

Schools and Colleges: Is the TTP targeting mainstream education?

The Pakistani Taliban seems to be targeting the schools and colleges because they are soft targets and also because they are main stream educational institutions. The Bacha Khan University system, started by Khan Abdul Gaffer Khan, is based on a secular, moderate and nationalist education.

In 2012, the TTP attacked Malala Yosufzai who represented the mainstream education, which TTP was against. The Army Public School was attacked by the TTP in 2014 not only because there were children of army personal, but also because it was a mainstream institution and a soft target as well. Given the enormity of the issue, physical protection of all the educational institutions will be a tough task. So the State will have to pursue a different strategy. A discussion on the NAP assumes importance in this context.

TTP’s Continuing Attacks: The Failure of National Action Plan?

Post Peshawar attack in 2014, the National Action Plan (NAP) was promulgated in January 2015. The primary objective is to fight terrorism. Following could be identified as the major features of the NAP: Some of the NAP highlights are as follow:-

  • No armed organization to be allowed to operate.
  • The anti-terrorism organization National Counter Terrorism Authority Pakistan (NACTA) to be strengthened and activated.
  • All sources of funding of terrorists and terrorist organizations to be completely eliminated.
  • Action to be taken to stop religious extremism and protect religious minorities.
  • Complete ban to be imposed on airing the views of terrorists and terrorist organizations in the print and electronic media.
  • Terrorists’ communication networks to be dismantled.
  • Immediate steps to stop the spread of terrorism on the internet and social media.

NAP looks good on papers but the reality is unchanged and unsatisfactory.

Despite the counter militancy operations and now the NAP, the violence in Federally Administered Tribal Area (FATA) by TTP has been increasing since 2007. Rise of the TTP in Pakistan’s FATA and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) has also resulted in its expansion into other provinces through Punjabi Taliban and the Karachi Taliban.

After Peshawar attack, the State began acting against TTP with an extra vigour through the establishment of military courts, removing moratorium on death sentences and increased air attacks against the TTP. Though there is a tough military action, there seems to be less inputs from the political Establishment in addressing the issue.

Besides the seriousness over the NAP between the political and military establishments, the TTP is a well-networked cadre based organization. It draws its forces from both sides of Durand Line and has shown since its inception that it can re-group and re-organize and launch deadly attacks. As it penetrates into the heartland of Pakistani state from its traditional seat of operations, it is emphasizing and consolidating further. The increase in attacks in Sindh, especially Karachi, shows it is no longer confined to the tribal belts. It is also banking on the Pashtun sentiments and using it to score political points. The very fact that many religious based parties and nonpolitical organizations refused to condemn the Bacha Khan University attack shows TTP’s strength and influence.

With the existing differences at the State and political levels and the core of TTP remaining intact, the danger of more attacks in the coming days cannot be ruled out.  

About the Author

Ms Riffath Khaji is Junior Research Fellow, International Strategic and Security Studies Programme, National Institute of Advanced Studies, Bangalore. She can be reached at kaziriffath737[at]gmail[dot]com

Will Pakistan Integrate Gilgit Baltistan? And What If?

Will Pakistan Integrate Gilgit Baltistan? And What If?

NIAS Strategic Forecast No. 4 | Author: D. Suba Chandran | February 26, 2016

To read the complete report click here

To cite: D. Suba Chandran. Will Pakistan Integrate Gilgit Baltistan? And What If? NIAS Strategic Forecast No. 4. Bangalore: International Strategic and Security Studies Programme, National Institute of Advanced Studies, February 2016, available at http://isssp.in/will-pakistan-integrate-gilgit-baltistan-what-if/

Suba NSF 4Pakistan government has recently constituted a committee to “upgrade the status” of Gilgit-Baltistan (GB) either into a “constitutional province” or a “provisional province” of Pakistan. This perhaps is the second major step by Islamabad in the recent years, after creating the current Gilgit Baltistan Legislative Assembly through a Presidential Order by Asif Ali Zardari in 2009.

What is the contemporary need for Pakistan to change the status of GB? Is it responding to internal demands from GB, or external pressure from China? Or is there a slow burn in the recent years, in terms of fully integrating GB, but through an administrative salami slicing? What is likely to become of the GB status?

NTI’s 2016 Nuclear Security Index Report

ISSSP Reflections No. 38, February 24, 2016

Author: Beenish Altaf
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NSS 2014

Source: MEA Website

After encountering the frenzy and blazing debates on the repercussions of 2012 and 2014 NTI reports, the year is again open to the same heated arguments once again. Being a national of the South Asian country where the matter of nuclear security always remained an important issue, this article is an attempt to analyse the 2016 NTI Nuclear Security Index.

Nuclear Threat Initiative (NTI) founded by US Senator Sam Nunn and CNN Founder, Ted Turner, works to strengthen global security by reducing the unauthorized and accidental use of nuclear weapons, preventing the spread of biological, chemical, radiological, and nuclear weapons.  In addition, the NTI also assesses and evaluates the safety at nuclear facilities worldwide.

Worldwide Theft/Sabotage Ranking

The NTI 2016 Nuclear Security Index ranks 25 countries that possess “one kilogram or more of weapons-usable nuclear materials.” Both India and Pakistan fall into this category. In Asia, while China is ranked 20th, India and Pakistan are placed 23rd and 22nd in the index out of the 24 states with weapons-usable nuclear materials. Japan occupies the 13th position but has moved up 6 places from 2012 NTI ranking. The top position has been retained by Australia. Among the nuclear weapons states, France is placed at the 7th position, United Kingdom and United States occupy the 11th position.

The third edition of the NTI Report released in January 2016 is prepared in collaboration with the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU). This year’s report has a new addition to the index that is the sabotage ranking, which reviews the nuclear security environment in 45 countries based on potential sabotage risks. The theft ranking and sabotage ranking scores assesses the contribution of 24 states across five broad categories (1) Quantities and Sites, (2) Security and Control Measures, (3) Global Norms, (4) Domestic Commitments and Capacity, and (5) Risk Environment.

The table below depicts the country-wise ranking in the 2016 NTI reports and the change from the 2012 NTI Report.

Beenish NTI Pic

Source: NTI Index Website www[dot]ntiindex[dot]org

The Nuclear Security Summit Process

The fourth and final gathering of the world leaders for Nuclear Security Summit (NSS) is planned for March 31 – April 1, 2016 in Washington D.C.  The 2016 Washington NSS will culminate the series of three summits held in Washington, DC (2010), Seoul (2012), and at The Hague (2014). All the three summits tried to draw attention to the threat of nuclear sabotage, security of facilities and sites, safety of fissile materials including while in transportation and nuclear terrorism and establish a mechanism to enforce the countries to take stronger measures to prevent nuclear terrorism.

Speaking about the NSS process, NTI Co-Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Sam Nunn stated, “President Obama launched the summit process and he and his team as well as a host of committed world leaders, deserve credit for their achievements so far … and the work is not complete, however, and a plan to sustain high-level political attention on nuclear security must be a top priority at the Summit in Washington DC.” This statement creates an impression that the process of NSS has to go beyond the Obama Administration. However, there is no authentic information in the public domain as of yet whether the NSS process is likely to continue.

Likewise the NTI President Joan Rohlfing said “The current global nuclear security system has dangerous gaps that prevent it from being truly comprehensive and effective … Until those gaps are closed, terrorists will seek to exploit them. Leaders must commit to a path forward when they meet this spring. The consequences of inaction in the face of new and evolving threats are simply too great.” Rohlfing’s statement too reflects the desire to continue the NSS process beyond the 2016 NSS Summit.

It is pertinent to mention here that even though nuclear security is solely the sovereign right of a state, many countries should take the collective and mutually agreed steps to guarantee safety and security against the existing global threats. By and large, the NSS outcomes cannot be expected as a binding legal instrument and its operating mechanism are political in nature unless the states have signed the conventions. This situation creates an imperative to continue the NSS process beyond 2016 Washington DC summit .

Spotting Pakistan

Although Pakistan is one rank ahead of India in the NTI 2016 rankings, it still falls in the bottom of ranking for theft of nuclear weapon use-able material. The current NTI Index admits that Pakistan passed new cyber security regulations but it argues that the process of progress was too diminutive to upgrade its score. This is of course a subjective assessment that ignores their own statistics as given in the table.  Pakistan is taking steps to update its nuclear security regulations and to implement nuclear security best practices.

The NTI Report mentions that Pakistan’s improvement is primarily due to an “increased score for on-site physical protection resulting from new laws and regulations requiring licensees to provide physical protection to nuclear sites and on-site reviews of security.” Regarding the on-site physical protection the report mentions that “Pakistan, improved its score by three points compared with 2012, and demonstrated the largest improvement by any nuclear-armed state.” It is also pertinent to mention here that Pakistan has well-designed, skilled and committed nuclear security force approx 30,000 in number, which is geared to provide security, control and physical protection of its nuclear facilities and materials during transportation.

Despite deteriorating law and order situation in Pakistan not a single event of nuclear facility or radiological material’s theft has been reported so far which is commendable indeed. However, there is always a room for improvement and Pakistan needs to be vigilant to take measures to further improve the safety and security of its sensitive facilities to further improve its ranking in future.

About the Author

Beenish Altaf works for the Strategic Vision Institute, Islamabad. She is currently pursuing projects related to the strategic issues of south Asia, South Asian quest for the export control group’s membership and Pakistan-India nuclear equation. She has been a Visiting Fellow at the Stimson Center, Washington DC. Her work has appeared in The National Interest, South Asian Voices, international blogs and various dailies. She can be reached at beenishaltaf7[at]gmail[dot]com

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