Friday, August 7, 2015

Long Live Bhuttoism - Main Beti Hoon Zulfikar Ki!

Pride of Pakistan : Aseefa Bhutto

In lieu of Independence Day on August 14, all of August the Daily Times will highlight individuals who continue to make Pakistan proud. Our seventh interview is with human and animal rights activist, and UN ambassador for polio eradication, Aseefa Bhutto.

You have long been associated with fighting for a polio-free Pakistan. From where you started, how far do you think you've come with your struggle in eradicating polio from the country?

Polio eradication is a cause that has always been very close to my heart, as it was so important to my mother and she paved the way for polio vaccination campaigns in 1994 when she vaccinated me. While we remain one of three countries where polio continues to be endemic, in the past year we have witnessed a 70 percent drop in the number of cases. This is a clear indication that we are headed in the right direction, but we cannot become complacent about our struggle with this disease. I will not be satisfied until we can finally declare Pakistan polio free and am committed to carrying on this campaign for as long as necessary.

"We are a nation that is infinitely rich in culture and made up of courageous individuals and I consider myself blessed every day to call myself Pakistani"

What are your day to day duties when it comes to managing polio eradication in Pakistan?

This varies depending on the day and the situation at the time but includes meeting with Lady Health Workers to hear their concerns and address the issues that they are facing on the campaign as well as meeting with organisations such as the WHO and Rotary International to coordinate eradication efforts with the Sindh government.

What have been some of the major setbacks in your fight for a polio-free Pakistan?

It is important to start out by saying that there has not been a single setback, rather, it is a combination of factors that has made polio eradication so difficult. Obviously, security concerns have been a major feature that have been making headlines. Our teams that risk their lives to save the lives of children across the country are true heroes and deserve our full support. Other issues that we have had to face consistently include religious misconceptions about the vaccine and the logistical difficulties involved in reaching remote and often unstable areas.

On your recent visit to the Lyari General Hospital, you inspected medical facilities and the overall treatment subjected to the patients there. How satisfied were you? How much more can healthcare services be improved in both government and private hospitals?

I think they are doing the best they can with the resources they have. At first
sight, it is immediately apparent that there is so much more to be done; patients frequently do not have individual beds and are often sharing scarce resources. While doctors and nurses are obviously committed to serving their patients there, we need to focus on improving the overall healthcare infrastructure to allow hospitals such as Lyari General to provide a higher level of care.

Are you content with the government's efforts in implementing an effective health care policy for all hospitals? Do you think enough is being done on that front?

As always, resources place significant restrictions on what is possible. However, it is clear that strong efforts are being made. It is always possible to improve and I hope to assist in strengthening the care services that are provided.

You are also a human rights activist and feel equally passionate about animal rights too. What steps have you taken to uphold animal rights in/out of Pakistan?

I passionately believe that all beings, both human and animals, deserve respect and should be treated in a decent manner. I am hoping to propose a bill to the Sindh parliament that will aim to improve the treatment of animals and animal rights in Sindh. Hopefully, this will gradually be taken on by the federal government.

What does it mean to be Pakistani for you?

It is, quite simply, the core of my identity. It is the first adjective that comes to mind when I try to describe myself and there is nothing in the world that makes me prouder than my beautiful country. We are a nation that is infinitely rich in culture and made up of courageous individuals and I consider myself blessed every day to call myself Pakistani.

Do you have any plans to enter politics?

In a way, I have always been in politics in some way or another. Since I was a small child I have been surrounded by diplomats and politicians. Both of my parents, my grandparents and many of my extended family members have helped to shape the political landscape of Pakistan so it was never possible to think of it as remote from my life. However, I am committed to ensuring that I am best able to serve the people if I do go into politics formally; I want to make sure that I have the requisite skills to focus on the major issues facing our country, especially in
the areas of health and humanitarian concerns.


A Polio-Free Pakistan

After being the first Pakistani child to be vaccinated against polio by her mother, the late Benazir Bhutto, Aseefa is now the UN Ambassador of Polio Eradication in Pakistan and has with undeterred spirit and determination, helped eradicate polio by 70% in the country - despite wide resistance and great obstacles.

Animal Welfare

Aseefa feels as strongly about animal rights in the country as much as human rights. She plans to propose a bill to the Sindh Parliament that will improve the treatment of animals and further animal rights in the province

The Star Activist

Aseefa manages all of this while completing a BSC in Politics and Sociology from Oxford Brookes University, UK.

Living On The Edge

In 2013, Aseefa went sky-diving from a height of 13,000 feet to help raise funds for the victims of Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines. Proceeds from her dive went towards UK-based charity Disasters Emergency Committee. Aseefa's JustGiving charity organisation, calls for generous donations for calamity-struck individuals.

Music Video - Kal Bhi Bhutto Zinda Tha

Voices of Pakistani Christians: Call for equal citizenship for non-Muslim Pakistanis

An international human development expert has called for a change in the Constitution so as to give the country’s non-Muslims their due citizenship rights.

Binghamton University (New York) Associate Professor Dr Lubna Chaudhry stressed the need for ensuring equal citizenship rights to all non-Muslim Pakistanis at a talk titled “Voices of Pakistani Christians: A preliminary analysis of perspectives on violence, belonging and citizenship”  at the Sustainable Development and Policy Institute on Tuesday.
The associate professor, while talking to The Express Tribune, said the Constitution needed to be changed, the electoral process reformed and the way government jobs were given overhauled, to realise equal citizenship rights for all non-Muslim Pakistanis.
Chaudhry’s talk focused on the perspectives she gathered of Pakistani Christians living in Islamabad and Rawalpindi about violence, identity, and citizenship.
Sharing her research findings, she said Pakistani Christians belonging to the upper and middle class saw structural discrimination against the community at large but they did not feel it at the more personal level.
On the other hand, Chaudhry said Pakistani Christians belonging to the lower and lower-middle class experienced discrimination in all walks of life, ranging from education to jobs to everyday interaction with Muslim Pakistanis.
She said that they believed that change needed to happen at both the macro-policy level as well as at the grassroots level. Chaudhry said they wanted to see the government and the Christian and Muslim religious leaders taking more responsibility.
SDPI Executive Director Dr Abid Qaiyum Suleri told The Express Tribune that Quaid-i-Azam’s vision in favour of equal citizenship rights was clear as stated in his August 11, 1947 speech to the constituent assembly. He said that non-Muslims should be brought into the mainstream as this would help repair the eroding societal fabric.
Dr Suleri further suggested that all citizens of Pakistan should enjoy equal rights such as the right to hold public office, including that of the head of state.
He added that it might sound symbolic but it was still important for those at the fringe of the society.
The SDPI executive director said Jinnah never founded the “Islamic Republic of Pakistan”, “he founded ‘Pakistan’”. He pointed out that Pakistan was made an “Islamic Republic” during Zulfikar Ali Bhutto’s term in office.
Suleri said the relationship between the state and the citizen should not be determined by an individual’s religion.
Non-Muslim Pakistanis did not want their representatives nominated, he said, adding that “They want an election and not a selection of their representatives”.
He suggested that when it comes to quotas, be it in jobs, admissions to educational institutes or representatives to the parliament, it would be advisable to make the allocations based on income-level rather than on religious or ethnic identities. Suleri said this would still benefit the ethnic and religious groups who were less privileged, without reinforcing the differences as was the case in the current system.
He said the term ‘minority’ carried a negative connotation, that of the ‘other’, and should not be used. “We are all Pakistanis, and do not need qualifiers to prove our identity and belongingness,” added Suleri.


The Counter-Terrorism Department, police and intelligence officials carried out joint search operations in seminaries of Multan, Faisalabad division, Gujranwala and Bahawalpur on Thursday.
On Sunday, one such operation was launched in Lahore seminaries where 14 students had been taken into custody.
Multan City Police Officer Azhar Ikram led the search operation in the city and Chungi No 9.
The spate of raids on seminaries is to bust militants, if any, from seminaries. It is a part of the National Action Plan to avert reaction to the Zarb-i-Azb Operation.
The police officer said that entire area was sealed before starting the operation while pickets were raised at several intersections and along roads for random searches. The seminaries of banned organisations, those on the fourth schedule and the workers of banned organisations were also searched, he said.
A house-to-house search was conducted to seize illegal weapons and explosives and people living in these localities illegally were detained.
He said 20 people were arrested and 20 Kalashnikovs seized from seminaries and houses.
Seven people were taken into custody during raids on seminaries while books, CDs and computers were seized.
The seminaries raided included Idara Dawat Wal Irshad, headed by PML-N MPA Maulana Ilyas Chinioti; Jamia Millia Islamia, Madressah Darul Uloom Madina, Madressah Jamia Farooqia and Jamia Baasat Rajoa Sadat.
Documents related to seminaries’ registration were also seized and the identity of students and teachers was verified through biometric machines.
Regional Police Officer’s spokesman Malik Shahid said 43 seminaries were searched in Faisalabad, Jhang and Toba Tek Singh.
He said police had not found any hate material, wanted suspects, explosives or proclaimed offenders in any seminary.
He said 21 seminaries had been searched in Faisalabad and 11 in Jhang.
Eighteen students from different seminaries were detained and later released after interrogation.
The students were arrested from seminaries at Sheranwala Bagh, on Sheikhupura Road, in Khiali, Railway Station and Sabzi Mandi.
Search operations were conducted in 18 seminaries of the district and 10 suspects taken into custody, mainly for failure to prove their identity.

Analyzing Baloch-Pashtun Relationship in Balochistan

By Jeeyand Kashif Sajidi
Balochistan, the largest and most restive province of Pakistan is inhabited by many ethnic groups such as Baloch, Pashtun, Hazara and Seraiki. Among these Baloch and Pashtun are two major ethnic groups. Both these nations are historic neighbors and history reveals that they have lived peacefully.
The only major conflict between the two is known as Afghan-Baloch war (1757) which took place between the troops of Baloch hero, Noori Naseer Khan and Afghan hero, Ahmed Shah Abdali. The battle ended with “The Treaty of Kalat” also known as “Treaty of non-interference” (1758) and opened a new chapter of friendship between the Balochs and Afghans.  By the treaty of Kalat, both the leaders agreed not to interfere in the internal matters of others and Baloch under their leader Naseer khan Noori accompanied the Afghan King Ahmed Shah Abdali in several campaigns in India and Iran. Naseer Khan helped the Afghans in defeating the Iranians in Khorasan (1759), he also assisted Ahmed Shah in the third battle of Panipat (1761). In 1765, he helped Ahmed Shah in giving a crushing defeat to the Sikhs of Punjab.
Both the nations have lots of similarities; they both live in a tribal system and take pride in their distinct cultural identity.  There is also similarity in their history, the disintegration of the Baloch and Afghan state took place at the same time in late 19th century, when British colonialists entered their region. Balochistan and Afghanistan paid a heavy price for their strategic location and became a victim of British Forward Policy and Great Game which was driven by strategic rivalry between Britishers and Russians in Central Asia. Russia forcefully annexed the Khanates of Central Asia and reached close to Afghanistan. British Indian government used it as pretext to invade Afghanistan in order to make it a buffer state and protect her Indian colony from Russia. Similarly, the strategic importance of Balochistan compelled the Britishers to attack it and interfere in its internal matters. Baloch and Afghan gave a tough time to the imperial power but the mighty Britishers at last were successful in achieving their geo-political aims.
The Afghans were defeated in the second Anglo-Afghan war (1878-1880) and were forced to sign” The treaty of Gandamak” which divided their country in different administrative units. It was here that some parts of Afghanistan were merged with few Baloch areas which were taken by the Britishers on lease from the then ruler of Kalat State and named the province as British Balochistan. On the other hand, colonial power divided the Balochistan into different parts. Western Balochistan was given to Iran (1871) without taking into consideration the history, geography, culture and sentiments of the native people. Goldsmith line, which divided Balochistan, was drawn to please Iran and keep it away from Russian influence. Britishers further divided Balochistan giving Baloch areas of Seistan and Zabol to Afghanistan. Whereas Kalat retained its independent status and British Balochistan was made a part of India.
The intentions of Britishers in dividing Balochistan and Afghanistan were clear. One was to check the Russian influence in the region and other was to weaken the Baloch and Afghan nationalism by dividing them politically and culturally. The imperial powers have always used the tactics of “Divide and Rule” in order to rule smoothly and exploit the resources of the colonies. The division of a particular ethnic group in heterogeneous political system divides its power and political unity and they cannot offer a joint resistance against the colonial masters.  Inayatullah Baloch in his book “The problem of Greater Balochistan” has written “A fixed area or territory is an essential factor for the development of nationalism. Scattered and physically separated people cannot become a nation. The political and international division of Balochistan became an obstacle and hindrance in the development of Baloch nationalism”.
After the Second World War, the Britishers left the region and two new states came into being Pakistan and India but the ex-colonial masters did not resolve the issue of Durand line, and Goldsmith line which divides Baloch and Pashtun in different countries. After the inception of Pakistan, there was no visible change came in the mindset of the ruling class. The Pakistani establishment viewed Baloch and Pashtun nationalism with great fear and implemented colonial policies which it inherited from its ex-Colonial masters in order to feeble the nationalism of both the groups.
After the creation of Pakistan, Baloch and Pashtun retained their old unity by forming a political party NAP and struggled jointly against the one unit system and demanded the creation of new provinces on ethnic basis. They succeeded in their aim in 1970 and one unit system was abolished by creating four new provinces. But still the establishment carried on the policy of Divide and Rule. Pashtun areas, which Afghanistan ceded to Britishers in second Anglo-Afghan were merged with Balochistan, without caring much about the feeling of the people of that area. Likewise, Baloch areas of Dera Ghazi, Rajanpur were put into Punjab and Jacobabad into Sindh.  The rulers were different but the idea was the same to check and curb the Baloch and Pashtun nationalism by dividing them into different provincial units.
After the merger of few Pashtun districts with Balochistan, the harmony that existed between the two began to evaporate because Pashtun became a minority in the new province. Since the creation of the province, Pashtun nationalists have claimed to be under-represented and time and time again they have put forward miscellaneous demands. One demand is to merge their areas with their brethren of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP). Second demand is to establish a separate province by the name of Southern Pashtunkhwa and third demand is for equal share in the distribution of resources in Balochistan.  They assert that their population is equal with that of Baloch in the province but their representation is far below in all the sectors. They support this argument by the fact that there has never been a single full fledge Pashtun Chief Minister in the province ever since its emergence. On the other hand Baloch nationalists maintain that Pashtun have been given more representation in proportion to their population and reject the claim that Pashtun and Baloch are equal in numbers.
2013 Elections
The elections of 2013 have widened the gulf between the two as some Pashtun candidates allegedly won form Baloch constituencies of PB-4, PB-5 and NA-260 through rigging. Another bone of contention between the two is the question of Afghan refugees. A large number of Afghan refugees have settled in Balochistan and have got the green Passport and now they are dual nationals of Pakistan and Afghanistan. Baloch nationalists have alleged that settlement of Afghan refugees is a conspiracy against Baloch which is plotted by establishment to transform Baloch majority into a minority. Whereas, Pashtun nationalist are of the view that Afghan refugees are settling in Pashtun areas which were historically their areas and Baloch should not have problem with this.
Points of View
According to Naseer Nangial, Provincial Deputy Secretary of Pashtunkhwa Student’s Organization (PSO), “Pashtuns comprise half of the population of Balochistan yet, we have never got our due rights. In the Baloch-Pashtun province, we will only accept the relationship of equality, the relationship of master and subject is not acceptable to us.” He added, “Baloch districts might be more in number, but our tehsils are even more populated than their districts. If Baloch nationalists want to treat us like their slaves than we want the restoration of the British Balochistan province which comprises of all the Pashtuns districts of Balochistan. Pashtun who is the owner of this land and have been living here for centuries are being labeled as refugees by Baloch leadership.”
According to Ghulam Nabi Marri, The General Secretary of Balochistan National Party’s Quetta District, “We have historical kinship with Pashtuns and they are our brothers. All the Pashtun don’t want a separate province but a specific political party is demanding it. Pashtun live separately from Baloch in their own districts and we have no claim on their land. If that ethnic party thinks it is the representative of all the Pashtuns, then they are part of the incumbent government they should pass a resolution in the Balochistan assembly for a new province, we will definitely endorse it.” He further added, “Their claim of equal population is not right and demand of same share in the distribution of resources is not reasonable. Baloch reside in 22 out of 32 districts in Balochistan. China has invested 46 billion dollars in Balochistan not because of the almonds and grapes but due to the deep sea port of Gwadar and world’s fifth largest deposit of copper and gold in Saindak and Rekodiq. All these areas have 100 percent Baloch population. Opportunist leaders have fooled their innocent people by calling Baloch as usurper, Baloch itself is an oppressed nation how it can subjugate others. They have no political ideology and their ideology is just based on the enmity with Baloch. Their political maturity can be judged from the fact that Baloch are demanding their rights from Islamabad and they are demanding their rights from Baloch.”
Many experts have expressed concerns that the census of 2016 will worsen the relation between the two ethnic groups and a single unpleasant event can lead to a civil war which the volatile province cannot afford.  A veteran Baloch politician Aslam Bezanjo said in his statement,” To hold a census in presence of Afghan refugees is beyond common sense. If Pashtun leadership wants them to be included in the census than they should merge their areas with KP.”  Baloch Political party BNP-Mengal also stated that” If Pashtunkhwa Milli Awami Party (PKMAP) propose a resolution for separating Pashtun areas from Balochistan, then  they will support it whole heartedly.  Baloch nationalists have shown maturity in their statements and it is the best way to resolve the conflict. It is time for the Pashtun leaders to reciprocate. Instead of demanding for equal representation and equal share in resources, they should demand a province of their own. Native of Balochistan already gets a very meager share in its own resources from the federal government and if they are asked to share their paltry resources with illegal Afghan refugees then it will be too unfair.
Bottom Line
Sense will prevail if PKMAP passes a resolution for a separate province and end the blame game and Baloch political parties should stay on their words and support it. In the new province if they want to share their resources with Afghan refugees or anyone else no one will have a problem.  This is the only way left by which cordial and harmonious ties between the two can be retained.

Pakistan - Ulema against polio

PARENTAL refusals continue to be a worrying factor in the drive against polio in Pakistan.
As reported in this paper yesterday, during the last vaccination campaign in Balochistan, parents of over 21,000 children refused to allow their offspring to be inoculated against the crippling disease. Of these, 21pc declined on religious grounds.
This was pointed out during a meeting in Quetta that provincial health officials held with prominent intellectuals and ulema.
With a vaccination drive scheduled to start soon in Balochistan, the religious leaders were asked to play a proactive role, particularly in the high-risk Quetta block, which includes Quetta, Pishin and Killa Abdullah districts.
Significantly, these areas were the most affected by polio last year in the province which recorded around 25 polio cases. The religious leaders present at the meeting reaffirmed their continued support for the polio eradication campaign.
However, the clergy needs to do far more than mouthing platitudes and giving reassurances. It has considerable sway over societal attitudes to education and healthcare, particularly in the country’s more conservative areas.
Vaccination against polio is no exception. In fact, religious sentiment has been especially exploited on this issue by extremists to derail the anti-polio effort, render the work of vaccinators exceedingly dangerous and even justify the murder of around 70 polio workers and members of their security detail since 2012.
Religious leaders can play a vital role to change the narrative and counter those peddling disinformation. However, the endeavour must be sustained and relentless enough to develop critical mass.
In 2013, hard-line cleric Maulana Samiul Haq issued a fatwa urging parents to have their children vaccinated against polio; he later appeared in a photo-op with PTI chief Imran Khan who administered anti-polio drops to his grandson.
Aside from dramatic visuals, such one-stop, flash-in-the-pan efforts achieve little of substance. Pakistan’s clergy could look to the stunning success in polio eradication by India where ulema committees — including representatives of various Muslim sects as well as a doctor — were formed to address parental reservations regarding vaccination, reportedly found most often among Muslim communities.
The strategy is often cited as having played a definitive role in India’s campaign.
Meanwhile, although authorities in Pakistan have even arrested parents/guardians for refusing to get their children inoculated against polio, they could perhaps — as a somewhat less draconian sanction — also consider linking the issuance or renewal of certain documents to parents allowing their children to be vaccinated.

The vulnerable children of Pakistan

By Zeeba T Hashmi

Harmful practices against children, including child abuse, go on with impunity and unfortunately lack prioritisation by the authorities.
The struggle for the rights of the child in Pakistan has come a long way to realise the gravity of the situation, in which children remain vulnerable to economic and social exploitation. The Constitution of Pakistan enshrines six Articles to safeguard the rights of children, which include protecting children from slavery, forced labour and employment of children under 14 in hazardous vocations, providing special protection to children, maintaining the religious identity of children at educational institutions, to provide free and compulsory education to children between the ages of five and 16 and to remove all social evils against children.

Although these injunctions do not, in spirit, fully complement the articles of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) that Pakistan ratified in 1997, their implementation, especially since the devolution, remain devoid of concrete state actions. The major visible problem is that there is no uniform definition of a child in the Constitution. The Child Employment Act of 1991 sets the age of employment at 14, which is in direct contradiction of the requirement to make education free and compulsory for children up to the age of 16. According to civil society organisations specialising in this field, the number of child labourers range between eight to 19 million, if the domestic sector is also included. The Society for the Protection of the Rights of the Child (SPARC) reports that among the children working as domestic labourers, around 62 percent are girls. Because of the lack of monitoring of household workers, many children, especially girls, are exploited and sometimes sexually abused by their employers.

The consideration of the age of a child is grossly discriminatory for a girl. For example, in the Hudood Ordinance, the age of the girl child is set at 16, whereas for boys it is 18. This discrimination is in direct contradiction of the articles of the UNCRC that consider an individual below the age of 18 to be a child. There are compounded vulnerabilities of children in Pakistan that are not covered by the Constitution and are insufficiently addressed by the implementing bodies, both at the national and provincial levels. In the plethora of issues that children face every day, those that suffer the most are children who belong to minority religions and poor households and suffer from physical and mental disabilities. So far, the state has failed to take adequate steps to counter discrimination against children. For the protection of the rights of children, the child protection bodies have been set up at the provincial level, with the exception of Balochistan and FATA. Though the government has set up the Child Protection Management System (CPMIS), with the help of UNICEF, it remains ineffective.

Birth registration takes place and children are issued a B-Form, until they reach the age of 18, when they are issued National ID cards. The children of refugees are issued similar cards, but they are deprived of the basic rights that other Pakistani children enjoy. There have also been budget cuts by the government that forced the Basic Education for Afghan Refugees to curtail its activities, resulting in the expulsion of about 20,000 Afghan refugee children from schools. The Bengalis and Biharis remain stateless in Pakistan, along with the Rohingiyas from Myanmar. Their children suffer the most as they are not issued ID cards or registered births, thus depriving them of their basic rights in Pakistan. They are also discouraged from seeking legal help whenever they come into conflict with the law. Apart from the risks that refugee children face, thousands of children have been displaced due to the war on terror and are subjected to extreme hardships.

Discrimination on the basis of religion is a concern that needs proper redress. Not only are the minorities considered social outcasts, but they also face extreme difficulties in attaining education on merit. According to the policy, a Hafiz-e-Quran gets 20 extra points, whereas a non-Muslim does not get any, resulting in them not meeting the standards in highly competitive educational institutes. Although the government allows for the non-Muslim students to choose ethics studies over Islamiyat subject, as is also enshrined in the constitution, in application this does not happen due to the lack of availability of ethics books and/or teachers trained in the subject. As a result, non-Muslim children become plagued by a confused identity, which is a gross violation of their dignity and religion. Although there have been attempts by the state to promote interfaith harmony, they loses their appeal because of growing intolerance and bigotry.

Children belonging to poor families are forced to attend dilapidated schools, in which the quality of education is poor and negligible. Consequently, their poor analytical skills and critical thinking make these children incapable of landing decent jobs in the future and they remain in the vicious cycle of poverty. Harmful practices against children, including child abuse, go on with impunity and unfortunately lack prioritisation by the authorities. The Sindh government adopted the Child Marriages Restraint Act, much to the dismay of the religious parties, who continue to advocate that marriageable age be in sync with Islam. In its attempt to curb child marriages, the Punjab government has levied harsher penalties on those responsible for child marriages, including clerics and parents. These are good precedents for other provinces to follow but the Council of Islamic Ideology strongly opposes them, as it considers such a ban to be un-Islamic. The implementation of these new laws is a test of time to see the fruits that they may bear. With more than 40 percent of the total population under the age of 19 years, attempts to curb vulnerabilities should become a primary focus of the country in the long run, as the number of crimes against children grows. Pakistan must make a stern policy to propagate and safeguard the rights of children to protect this country’s future.

Successes and Challenges in Afghanistan and Pakistan

Dan Feldman
Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan 
United States Institute of Peace
Washington, DC
August 5, 2015

Thanks Nancy. I’m delighted to be at USIP to give my valedictory address as the Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan, or, as we term it, “SRAP.” I visited the region this past week to pay my farewell calls, and look forward to comparing notes here with Steve and Andrew given their own extremely recent travels, and appreciate their flexibility on the timing of this event. The relationship with USIP has been a special and even familial one, and a model for the way in which experts and policy makers can shape each other’s thinking in a collaborative manner. Thank you for that.
I started working on Afghanistan and Pakistan six years ago when Richard Holbrooke offered me a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity at the inception of the SRAP office to serve as his deputy, and ultimately became Special Representative myself a year ago. Now that I’m transitioning back to the private sector, I wanted to reflect on the successes that have been achieved while also acknowledging the many challenges that remain.
I was incredulous recently when in the midst of testifying to Congress, my deputy was asked derisively, “What has diplomacy actually achieved in Afghanistan?” That demonstrated for me the need to highlight the fragile but significant developments in the region that have been fostered and sustained due primarily to assiduous diplomatic efforts.
• It was diplomacy that facilitated and nurtured the Afghan effort to create a government of national unity;
• It was diplomacy that has put our bilateral relationship with Pakistan on firmer footing now than at any point in this Administration;
• It was diplomacy that opened an historic opportunity for Afghanistan and Pakistan to work together toward a common interest in peace;
• It was diplomacy that has supported Afghan determination to fundamentally change the role of women in society;
• It was diplomacy that secured the international political and financial support the Government and security forces of Afghanistan need;
• And it can only be through sustained diplomacy with the international community and especially the countries of the region that the opportunity for success in Afghanistan will be preserved.
These types of diplomatic openings don’t just spontaneously generate. I am extremely proud to have been a charter member of SRAP – this innovative and entrepreneurial team, created by the vision of Secretary Clinton and Ambassador Holbrooke, and sustained by Secretary Kerry’s own commitment to this office, this region, and to the power of diplomacy. Due to its achievements, I believe SRAP will serve as a whole-of-government prototype for how government can more nimbly respond to complex crises in the future. And every day, this dedicated team, many of whom are here today, has honored Richard Holbrooke’s memory by seeking to fulfill his definition of diplomacy -- minimizing conflict, saving lives, and achieving results.
You all know the list of momentous achievements in Afghanistan: access to education, improving the role of women and girls, health and longevity, independent media, infrastructure, and GDP growth. Afghanistan is simply not the country it was when the Taliban ruled.
Political stability in Afghanistan is the lynchpin of Afghan security. Just one year ago, the prospects for stable leadership after the electoral impasse seemed remote, and the unpalatable options included an extension of President Karzai’s term and threats of a “parallel government.” After an Afghan request for his intervention, Secretary Kerry made two visits to Kabul last July and August, when he famously brokered the political compromise that resulted in the unity government. After achieving agreement on the parameters of that framework, I was left behind in Kabul to lead the mediation and hammer out, over six or seven weeks, a political agreement between now-President Ghani and now-CEO Abdullah to form a unity government, becoming the first democratic transition of power in Afghanistan’s history.
Coalition governments, even in the most mature democracies, grapple mightily with implementation, and Afghanistan is no different. But President Ghani’s government has made progress in a range of key areas over the past year, from appointments and anti-corruption initiatives to the recent establishment of the Special Electoral Reform Commission, which was especially fulfilling for me to meet with last week.
For this unity government to achieve its promises of reform, it must operate in a more inclusive manner. This includes empowering Ministries and provincial governors to assume much of the work, and engaging more comprehensively with the full range of Afghan stakeholders – the Parliament, civil society, opinion leaders, domestic media, and ultimately the Afghan people. Those who feel excluded from the government pave the way for spoilers to attract the disaffected and create unnecessary instability.
That is why I urge my colleagues in the Afghan government to seize this last, best opportunity to demonstrate that this government is both durable and functional, and can translate the rhetoric of policy vision into tangible policy implementation that will benefit the daily lives of all Afghans. And my message to those outside of government is – support the unity government and ensure it’s on the path to success. This is the legitimate government, reflective of the millions of votes cast, that the international community will continue to support. Afghans don’t deserve any alternative that weakens rather than strengthens the fabric of their society.
Political stability will optimize success in the ongoing efforts to address other related challenges. The economic climate must weather the shock of the drawdown of international resources. And the security challenges throughout the country are severe, as the Taliban has launched a violent onslaught, killing many civilians and inflicting significant casualties. We always anticipated this would be a difficult fighting season and pose a real challenge to the Afghan security forces, but they have held their own. While the Taliban has made temporary gains, the ANSF has retaken lost territory, and the Taliban have not seriously challenged any major urban center or provincial capital. The ANSF has proven it was ready for the lead security responsibility transferred to it from NATO last year, and we will continue to support the ANSF as it builds the skills and resources it needs to match its undoubted courage and commitment.
One final word on the progress we have seen in Afghanistan. We and our allies should be proud of the role that our assistance has played – including that administered through our unprecedented “civilian surge.” Development will always be difficult work, and there will at times be accurate reports of waste given the challenges faced by one of the world’s poorest, most conflict-affected, and least institutionalized countries. And to be clear, anyone – American or Afghan, government employee or contractor – who illegally benefits from assistance funds must be held accountable. But despite the easy allure of “gotcha” reporting on assistance delivery, we must continue to assess the overall impact of our efforts, and not just focus on the easiest, mechanical accounting of project execution. We must redouble our efforts to provide accountability to the extent feasible, but not fundamentally chill initiatives that are critical to achieving our core security interests – degrading Al Qaeda and its affiliates, and ensuring Afghanistan does not once again become a safe haven for terrorists who can threaten international security. These are hard goals and important ones, and there will be failures as we try to find the right mix of initiatives to achieve them. But that risk of failure is one worth taking.
In Pakistan, too, diplomats have been at the front lines of protecting our national interests. Diplomacy has brought our bilateral relationship from a tumultuous nadir several years ago to its current strengthened and stable position, based on a more honest and realistic set of expectations.
The principal vehicle for this recovery has been our Strategic Dialogue, where we have honed in on key areas of strategic alignment to deliver results, including countering terrorism, addressing nuclear concerns, and promoting stability through economic reforms and trade, energy initiatives, and educational opportunities.
This evolving dynamic has produced some notable progress, particularly in targeting Al Qaeda leadership and countering the threat posed by IEDs. There is a renewed effort by the Pakistani leadership to bring greater security throughout the country, as demonstrated by the ambitious undertaking of the North Waziristan operation just a year ago, and which has been further accelerated in the aftermath of the Peshawar massacre last December.
Our assistance has been of great value under Kerry Lugar Berman, which has rebalanced our assistance portfolio in favor of civilian assistance, from the previously disproportionate reliance on security assistance,. In particular, our ability to better brand key “high visibility, high impact signature projects” in energy, economic growth, infrastructure development, and higher education contributed to improved perceptions of the U.S. High-level economic visits, including by Commerce Secretary Pritzker earlier this year, showcase the potential of the economic relationship, which can be unlocked if Pakistan continues progress on its reform agenda.
Yet despite this progress, as with other complex – yet crucial – relationships, the U.S.-Pakistan one still faces challenges, though ones we now discuss in a transparent manner befitting real partners. We continue to have concerns about Pakistan’s history of using proxies against perceived foes in the region. Although we’ve seen concrete actions by Pakistan to more clearly establish the writ of sovereignty, the military and civilian leadership must make good on their commitments not to differentiate between terrorist groups. Just as they have vigorously pursued the Pakistani Taliban, they must take equally forceful actions against groups like the Haqqani Network, which pose serious threats to American (and Afghan) lives and resources, and Lashkar-e-Tayyiba, which has the potential to destabilize the region.
Let me also say a word about Pakistan’s democracy. I’ve heard many allege that the U.S. is ambivalent about democracy in Pakistan – but that could not be further from the truth. We realize that the process of strengthening and embedding democratic rule will be gradual – but it is critical to Pakistan’s future, and I know this is also understood by both Pakistan’s civilian and military leadership. It has been almost eight years since democracy was reinstated in Pakistan, and two and a half years since the country’s own first historic transition of power, and there continue to be challenges. Just a year ago, the Sharif government was beset by protests that fed rumors of a coup, but today, it appears that civilian and military leadership have come to an important modus vivendi, as preserving the centrality of civilian led, democratic institutions, is critical to Pakistan’s future.
AfPak / Reconciliation
Diplomacy is also giving new life to the relationship between Afghanistan and Pakistan. President Ghani deserves great credit for courageously opening the opportunity for rapprochement with Pakistan, and particularly in such a deliberate and strategic manner.
We similarly appreciate Pakistan’s efforts to further an Afghan-led, Afghan-owned reconciliation process, as the U.S. has long maintained that it is just such a process, which we strongly support without pre-conditions, is the surest way to end violence and achieve lasting stability in Afghanistan and the region.
It is clear that there can be no long-term stability in Afghanistan without Pakistan’s support and Pakistan has taken unprecedented actions this year to facilitate a discussion between the Afghan government and the Taliban, resulting in the Murree meeting on July 7th, the first time that senior Taliban representatives openly and with permission from their leadership met with an official and representative Afghan government delegation.
Needless to say, the news of Mullah Omar’s death last week has complicated this picture. But I believe it may be an important opportunity. The Taliban think of themselves as a movement that emerged to end a civil war. Now they have to decide whether to continue to fight, or to finally end the violence that has stunted Afghanistan’s development, and become part of the legitimate political system of a sovereign, united Afghanistan.
Concerted American diplomacy has also resulted in the sustained engagement of the international community, and particularly the key nations of the region. Since the beginning of this Administration, one important mechanism for coordination has been the International Contact Group we launched, comprised of the SRAPs from over 50 countries, including more than one-third from Muslim-majority countries.
I’m especially optimistic that regional powers have increasingly come to see that supporting a stable Afghanistan, free of terrorism, is in their interests. There has been a marked and productive change in the posture of countries in the region over the past six years. As one example, we welcome China’s engagement in Afghanistan and Pakistan, which we see not as competitive but complementary to our own efforts. In 2009, on my first official trip to engage the Chinese, my colleagues in Beijing refused to even have the words “Afghanistan” or “Pakistan” on our agenda. Today we have embarked on a series of collaborative development projects in Afghanistan and convened a trilateral U.S.-China-Afghanistan discussion, both firsts of their kind with the Chinese.
Our efforts to spur broader regional integration include both diplomatic endeavors to convene key neighbors, such as through the Heart of Asia process, and economic initiatives, such as energy connectivity between countries via the CASA-1000 project, or fully implementing the Afghanistan-Pakistan Transit Trade Agreement.
Our interest in stability in Afghanistan and Pakistan is no less acute than it was 14 years ago. The achievements that have been made in Afghanistan and Pakistan have come at the cost of an immense investment in blood and treasure by not just the U.S., but by our coalition partners, and most of all, by Afghans and Pakistanis. Those investments can be redeemed and our interests secured only by continued diplomacy. I am deeply grateful for the opportunity to learn from some of America’s finest and most storied diplomats and to myself carry that baton for a year, working with what remains, as Holbrooke frequently touted, the best and most dedicated team I’ve ever seen. I will watch with passionate interest as they continue this critical work.