Archive for the ‘South Asia’ Category

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Self Destruction – Pakistan at the Cricket World Cup 2015

February 21, 2015

CRICKET-WC-2015-PAK-WIS

I’m crestfallen, but not surprised by team Pakistan’s performance today against the West Indies in the World Cup. By showing up to International Crickets biggest tournament with apparently very little preparation, one shouldn’t have expected anything different than what’s happening.

Truth is, the teams they have lost to so far are not playing spectacular cricket, rather, Pakistan lacks the basic components of a world class team:

1. No Specialist Wicket Keeper. Pakistan is essentially playing without a wicket keeper and I wonder if that has ever happened in the history of the World Cup. Also, I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, a specialist wicket keeper must also be a spectacular bat as a requisite in one day international cricket in the past 20 years: think Australia’s Adam Gilchrist, Sri Lanka’s Kumar Sangakkara and India’s M.S. Dhoni. Yet, selectors (PCB), commentators (Ramiz Raja) coaching (Waqar Yunus) refuse to address why specialist wicket keeper and in form batsman Sarfaraz Ahmed is not on the team now. And with every Akmal butterfingers drop, Sarfaraz’s absence is sorely missed. Yahoo Sports puts it well:

Surprisingly, regular wicketkeeper Sarfraz Ahmed, who had scored prolifically against Australia and New Zealand in last year’s test and ODI series in the UAE, is yet to get his first Cricket World Cup match.

2. Zero Team Leadership: Starting from the top with mind boggling selections of the PCB, to Waqar Younus as a clueless coach and Misbah ul Haq as a most lackluster, demoralizing captain. Waqar consistently baffles everyone with his selection of bowlers and his misplacing batsman in the order (i.e. consistently selecting or opening with Younus Khan or putting him at the most valuable #3 spot, or not playing spin bowler Yasir Shah against the Windies who have trouble with spinners, but playing him against India who traditionally does okay with spinners). Then, Misbah who is the only captain out of every team i’ve seen, including the minnows who seems incapable of competitive, encouraging positive athletic leadership– which is a requisite of a captain for any sport! Battling legend Javed Miandad summarizes Misbah’s leadserhip succinctly

Cricket World Cup: Misbah-ul-Haq’s ‘weak’ leadership is not helping Pakistan, says Javed Miandad

This is aside from the fact that Misbah’s field placements CONSISTENTLY cost us matches (i.e. putting one of our least mobile fielders, Mohammad Irfan at mid wicket and long on), one is left scratching their head — what on earth is Misbah’s strategy, let alone rationale for winning?

Shoaib Akhtar agrees, he scathingly commented today “We are heading for disaster. I have never seen a more selfish and coward captain like Misbah,”

Remember Shahid Afridi as captain of Pakistan’s 2011 world cup team? THAT was world class leadership: Afridi led an inexperienced side that was underestimated by all, from the front, and launched them to exceeding all expectations. He was positive, motivational, competitive and strategic — Misbah doesn’t compare, and his captaincy is costing Pakistan win after win 😦

Shahid Afridi's Pretty Chiseled

Shahid Afridi’s Pretty Chiseled

3. No Batsmen Groomed for the World Cup: Shame on the PCB: Pakistan it seems is the only team who squandered the past 4 years without grooming enough batsmen for this tournament.

Inventor of the deadly “doosra” delivery, former master spinner Saqlain Mushtaq explains  “The whole nation feels let down and is understandably angry. You don’t expect such unprofessional decisions from a professional management,” he said.

Constantly yanking batsman with in form, winning performances like Fawad Alam, refusing to play Mohammad Hafeez when he insists he is ready, and wasting world class batsman like Umar Akmal and Shahid Afridi as lowest order players and instead playing non performing batsmen who consistently cost us key matches, like Younus Khan, Pakistan has yet to have a reliable opening duo, let alone stable batsmen to follow. And with Waqar Younus as coach admitting he’s still “experimenting” with the order (with dire results), Pakistan is painfully unprepared for the World Cup 2015.

Don’t expect major wins from a team that lacks the most basic components for crickets biggest tournament. I’m looking forward to tomorrows South Africa vs. India game. A.B. de Villiers, Hashim Amla and company — now that’s a team to be excited about.

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A Guide to Pakistan’s Election 2013

May 10, 2013
Pakistani Elections 2013

Each Candidate Brings a Unique Skill Set, Experience & Expertise

This marks the first time in Pakistan’s history a civilian government has completed its full term and will transition power to a new civilian government, Pakistani elections this Saturday are complete with hope, democratic fervor, and anticipation. Here is a guide to whose running, and what each party stands for.

The Businessman: Nawaz Sharif
Party: PML-N

Economic Philosophy: Industry Friendly, Economically Liberal: Nawaz Sharif is a consistent proponent of “rapid industrialization” and there is little doubt he will incorporate free market principles anywhere he can. “He liberalized foreign exchange regulations and denationalized several public sector industrial enterprises and financial institutions”, including electric utilities in hopes to curtail power shortages that have crippled businesses and left Pakistani’s reeling in hot summers from lack of electricity. Sharif vows to remove these shortages, known as “load shedding” in the coming years through increased use of natural gas extracted from Baluchistan. While Socialist policies have historically been more popular in Pakistan, Sharif intends to “cut government expenditure by 30 percent in order to secure international backing for the economy” and is likely to continue his legacy as a free market capitalist.
Foreign Policy: Flexible & Amendable: His record includes initiating peace processes with India in his first term as prime minister and is remembered for launching the Delhi Lahore Bus , with his Indian counterpart Atul Vajpayee in 1999. Sharif claims he will not be part of the War on Terror, but rarely shies from turning to the United States for assistance. During the 1998 Kargil conflict, former President Clinton writes in his autobiography that he was personally asked by Prime Minister Sharif to visit and discuss the conflict. He did however defy American calls to halt Pakistan’s nuclear program and the country faced crippling sanctions as a result. Sharif has since promised to “recalibrate Pakistan’s counterterrorism partnership with United States” , in hopes to quell widespread resentment of American handling of terrorism in Pakistan. He supports handing over Gwadar port to China and the singing of a gas supply project with Iran,citing Pakistan’s current foreign policy posture leaves them in “isolation” and such projects is a route to connecting with the world.
Social Policy: Very Conservative: A protégé of Pakistan’s most religious conservative leader General Zia ul Haq, Sharif initiated the ghastly 15th Constitutional Amendment bill known as the Shariat bill in 1998 during his term which empowered the “prime minister to enforce what he thought was right and to prohibit what he considered wrong in Islam irrespective of what the Constitution or any judgment of the courts”. Suffice to say religious conservatism will color his social policy.
Voter Base/Popularity: Very popular in the Punjab. Sharif has widespread support of the middle and lower class, urban population. He also commands support of the industrialist and business class, given his support of free market policies.
Leadership Style/Personality: With a feudal background, Sharif is considered a son of the soil in the Punjab, (even though he lives a rather lavish lifestyle; be brings white tigers to his campaign rallies). He is mild mannered, conservative and has a simple, unobtrusive, way about him which helps him connect with most Pakistanis.
Security Issues: He says drone attacks are against “national sovereignty” and will not tolerate them but does not offer specific alternatives to drone policy, or how to curtail them in the immediate future. Considered to be “soft” of militant groups, and lacking a significant record of standing up for minority groups, he has vowed to end America’s war on terror but “declines to say whether he would stop military operations against the Taliban and Al Qaeda” and has floated ideas on engagement with militant groups as workable options as opposed to “guns and bullets” . My guess is his government will initiate added dialogue with militant groups on a need to basis. Sharif is a free markets leader, and will prioritize big business before putting security atop his agenda.
American Counterpart: Mitt Romney – Both free market businessman to their core, socially conservative and very wealthy, these men are rather similar. Sharif does not have Ivy League degrees, but seems more down to earth and connects with the general public with ease.

The Deal Maker: Asif Ali Zardari
Party: PPP

Economic Philosophy: Centrist with Socialist Tendencies: The party has socialist roots but since the death of Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto and his debacle of nationalizing major industries in the 70’s, the PPP has taken a centrist shift. Benazir Bhutto as prime minister favored socio-economic development through fiscal and monetary expansionist policies, and under her husband Asif Zardari’s leadership, the party will continue along this route. The PPP implemented welfare projects, including income support schemes which handed cash out to rural areas, especially in Sindh. Prime Minister Zardari has repeatedly called for consensus in Pakistan on economic issues and turned a nose to repeated US calls to steer clear of Iran’s gas pipeline. The pipeline deal with Tehran is Prime Minister’s Zardari’s answer to “chronic energy shortages in the country”
Foreign Policy: Accommodating: The party most diametrically opposed to the military in Pakistan, the PPP seeks to forge closer ties with the United States. The military having brutally executed Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto, Pakistan’s most populous leader in the 1970’s, and house arresting his daughter Benazir (who would later go on to be Prime Minister) the Zardari government is responsible for appointing Hussain Haqqani as Ambassador in D.C. Recall Hussain Haqqani’s rather embarrassing Memo Gate controversy in which the Ambassador sent a memorandum to Admiral Mike Mullen seeking the Obama Administrations assistance in an American takeover of Pakistan’s military apparatus”. THe Prime Minister has also spent much time cultivating business ties with China, including announcing their takeover of the Gwadar port as part of a “drive to secure energy and maritime routes”. And despite seeking closer ties with the United States, Zardari has gone against US requests and met with Iran’s President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to finalize the Iran Pakistan gas pipeline.
Social Policy: Liberal Leaning: Historically they have been very protective of minority rights, but the PPP has not been able to prevent a current upsurge in violence against Shias, Ahmedi’s and Christians. Social policy has been rooted in helping the poor through inflationary schemes; Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto’s exceedingly popular and iconic promise of “roti kapra makaan” (bread, clothing, shelter) is still a sentiment held by the PPP. Prime Minister Zardari’s government can also boast passing a “raft of women’s empowerment resolutions through the previous parliament, including laws against domestic violence and sexual harassment”, testimony to the PPP’s liberal leaning posture. And even though many party stalwarts have been sidelined by the Zardari government in the past few years, they remain mostly committed to PPP causes.
Voter Base/Popularity: The PPP’s stronghold has always been in Sindh,. The party commands support of the rural, lower, and middle class. They also have support in the southern part of Punjab. Not enough to win the election this year, but his party consistently wins a significant number of seats.
Leadership Style/Personality: Asif Ali Zardari is a savvy business dealer and deft negotiator. Coming from a relatively modest feudal background, Zardari grew up with a chip on his shoulder, and has been in business for himself since his teens. Beginning with selling tickets to his father’s cinema, to trading cars, selling assets, negotiating land deals, he has always created opportunities, and found success for himself. May not be as well liked as Nawaaz Sharif in Pakistan, but he is renowned to be the most loyal of friends to those who know him.
Security Issues: Prime Minister Zardari and his party have always sought widespread civil society support before opting for military solutions. Last year, he referred to drones as counterproductive, yet on the whole, drones have increased during his regime . On terrorism, Prime Minister Zardari has worked with the military establishment on some operations, (such as negotiating peace in SWAT with the Taliban) but insists Pakistan needs the support of civil society to launch operations against militants, while simultaneously censuring the media, judiciary and other right wing parties for not being supportive enough.
American Counterpart: Rod Blagojevich: Two left leaning party leaders jailed for corruption, they also share strikingly characteristic smiles and have suffered the brunt of many a political cartoon. Asif Zardari and Rod Blagojevich also both elicit a love hate response from people, there’s no middle ground; one either likes, or really dislikes them.

The Captain: Imran Khan
Party: PTI

zainab jeewanjee and imran khan smallest

zainab jeewanjee and imran khan

Economic Philosophy: Welfare Policies: Imran Khan says he will “end corruption in 19 days” and plans to sideline the bureaucracy to do so. All economic plans that follow are rooted in this idea. He will declare an energy emergency and claims to end load shedding in 2 years through an oversight board for energy distributers in attempt to make it an apolitical body while privatizing energy companies. He also plans to increase use of coal from Pakistan, and has made calls for an Islamic Welfare State. No word yet as to what the Islamic Welfare State would mean and how to go about implementing it, but it makes for wonderful campaigning with the people.
Foreign Policy: Assertive: “America is destroying Pakistan”, suffice to say Imran Khan is the candidate most opposed to current US policy to Pakistan, while clarifying he is not “anti-west” . He vociferously opposes all post 9/11 Pakistani regimes from General Musharraf to Prime Minister Zardari, for cooperating in what was once known as the “war on terror”. He finds current relations, involving drone attacks in exchange for American aid more than just transactional, but a failure. Referring to it as an “American war on Pakistani soil” , Khan insists on Pakistan’s sovereignty first, and a rejection of American aid if current policies persist . And in regards to India, as a world renowned former cricketer, India may be warm to an Imran Khan regime and such popularity in the Subcontinent could be an opportunity for diplomatic headway in bilateral relations with Delhi.
Social Policy: Conservative Reformist: Khan’s vision of an Islamic Society looks like Scandinavia; “a humane society, where there is rule of law, a society that looks after its weak, its handicapped.” Where to begin creating institutions to do this, has yet to be fleshed out. As with his energy policy, he vows to declare an emergency on education to tackle the country’s illiteracy problem, commissioning international scholar Dr. Azeem Ibrahim to come up with the plan. On minority issues, he has condemned Lashkar e Jhangvi’s killing of Shia’s yet. Overall, one may expect someone who was known for a high flying, partying lifestyle as a fashionable celebrity cricketer to be more on the liberal side of the social spectrum, but his policies for Pakistan are astonishingly conservative.
Voter Base/Popularity: Young, rural, urban, elite, upper middle class, and educated Pakistani’s are supporting Imran Khan in this election. He also commands a significant supporting from overseas Pakistani’s, especially in the United States, where he has raised millions for this election campaign, in his cancer hospital in previous years. They say if the youth turn out to vote, the election will swing his way.
Leadership Style/Personality: He’s the man who brought the Cricket world cup to Pakistan and will always be known as a hero who led a nation to victory. Men admire him and women love him; he’s compelling, handsome and speaking from personal experience, has a rather impressive presence. Leading PTI gradually, but steadily over the years with a straight shooting manner, he is criticized for being soft on substance. An unwavering posture against highly unpopular American policies and promise of sweeping change however, is where he finds tremendous support.

Security Issues: If elected, Imran Khan says he will simply shoot down American drones . He will negotiate with the Taliban, explaining actual militants comprise only a small sector of Pakistani society and plans to reconstitute tribal Jirga’s to maintain peace. He want to withdraw all Pakistani troops from FATA tribal areas and applauded Prime Minister Zardari’s and the military brokered peace deal with the Taliban in SWAT 2009, which was promptly violated by the Taliban almost immediately. His plan for securing the nation from increased sectarian violence, political bombings and terrorist militancy are rooted in ending American drones and “Rambo style” mercenaries who he explains increase, rather than decrease violence.

American Counterpart: Ron Paul: Both call for limited foreign interferences and engagements as a silver bullet to their country’s problems. They are straight shooters, unabashedly opinionated and while they don’t always have an exhaustive, full proof plans on how to pursue their relatively radical policies they both command increased followers each election cycle!

 Altaf Husssain : The Organizer

Party: MQM

Economic Philosophy: Small Scale, Private Enterprises: A party founded to establish a corruption free society, uproot the feudal system and establish a meritocracy in Pakistan’s Indian immigrants, and other minorities have a fair shot at social mobility, the party is a strong proponent of free market capitalism. They have executed several large scale development work in Pakistan’s largest city, Karachi.
Foreign Policy: Progressive: MQM is the part that stands up most forcefully against the Taliban, historically and in this election. Sadly, they have been viciously targeted and attacked for this stance in the past weeks through bomb blasts in and around their party offices. They do not support American drones, but do support military operations against terrorist militants as needed. They call for “close, and honorable ties” with India along with a newly “independent foreign policy” .
Social Policy: Liberal : MQM is historically secular and has always stood up strongly in support of minority rights. They have vociferously condemned every attack against minorities in Pakistan.
Voter Base/Popularity: Altaf Hussain and MQM’s stronghold is in Karachi, among the urban, Urdu Speaking, educated middle classes. Urdu speakers are Paksitani’s who trace their roots back to India; their families migrated to Pakistan during partition, and they are disapprovingly referred to as “mohajirs” (migrants).
Leadership Style/Personality: Altaf Hussain is a cult like figure, the single and supreme ruler of the party, he has a thunderous speaking style. With the security of knowing his party does not command enough support to rival PML-N, PPP, or PTI and other parties throughout the years, he leads loudly, and forcefully.
Security Issues: Unwaveringly opposed to militancy and MQM supports grassroots movements to counter it. They have a stronghold in Karachi and a loyal party base in this large city couple this with Hussain’s powerful leadership (even though he lives in England) the MQM can mobilize attacks against the Taliban on a local scale.
American Counterpart: Jimmy Hoffa. They’re both charismatic leaders who catapulted their organization to protect a minority population to the forefront of the political scene. It helps that they happen to look alike also.

May the best candidate win.

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Would Imran Khan call Ron Paul to Bat?

January 9, 2012
American Congressman Ron Paul

Ron Paul speaks during the Republican Leadership Conference: 2011

Is it just me, or are seemingly incessant GOP debates the past few months allowing President Obama’s lack of public exposure to seem more and more like solid leadership? The Republican lineups simplistic, square and reactionary focus on “Anti-Obama” rhetoric especially on foreign policy has highlighted a resoundingly hawkish stance on Iran with little attention to our current engagements in Afghanistan and Pakistan. And while it may be expedient amongst a certain political base to try and one-up each other in aggressive foreign policy talk, only Ron Paul challenges the party line on Americas role in the world.

When it comes to Pakistan, compared to Democrats Republicans have a consistent history of preferring to work closely with the military establishment in Islamabad. While there is a level of bipartisanship post 9/11, (case in point is Obama’s continuation of Bush era drone use with little debate), Republicans have through the Cold War and beyond preferred dealing with the military establishment rather than focusing on democratic, or liberal institution building. Which is not necessarily an entirely erroneous  policy; part of the rationale is that state building is expensive in blood, toil, time and treasure and rarely feasible. Further, there are an endless number of constraints and uncertainties that profoundly hinder institution, or democratic state building in a place like Pakistan, rendering Republican policies simply pragmatic.

Which brings us to current policy: the bipartisan endorsed “Enhanced Partnership with Pakistan Act” (S. 1707)  enacted in 2009 has yet to bear tangible fruit. Granted the aforementioned that institution building is time exhaustive, the fact remains that Pakistan has deteriorated politically, in the realm of security and economically. And having watched everyone from Gov. Romney, Sen. Santorun, Gov. Perry, Rep. Bachmann and yes even the soft spoken Gov. Huntsman, reiterates hawkish foreign policy while refusing to acknowledge a need for meaningful improvement. In the Republican camp only Rep. Ron Paul’s extreme calls for an isolationist posture offer some semblance of change. And because his prescriptions have yet to be tried, the utility of his ideas have yet to be tested. And now may be a time to consider his stance since they call for exactly what the Pakistani public wants right now.

Referring to our policies to Pakistan as nothing short of “Bombs for Bribes” Ron Paul acknowledges the nobility, yet inherent futility in calling for democratic institutions in places of strategic engagement. He understands that we are already engaged in “130 countries” with “700 bases around the world” and in this speech against the Enhanced Partnership with Pakistan Act, he bluntly explains:

the way we treat our fellow countries around the world is we tell them what to do and if they do it, we give them money. If they don’t we bomb them. Under this condition we are doing both. We are currently dropping bombs in Pakistan and innocent people get killed. If you want to promote our good values and democratic processes, you can’t antagonize the people”

He goes on to suggest dialogue and trade as alternatives to current policy. And although his statement is simplistic and was made in 2009, it highlights Ron Paul’s isolationist, more economically focused prescriptions on foreign policy that seek to reduce our military footprint abroad based on pragmatic constraints, like military and fiscal overstretch. And these calls seem more reasonable than before, especially when it comes to Pakistan and the fact that our aid has yet to yield satisfactory results. So while the Obama administration continues engagement and GOP candidates refuse to acknowledge much concern over current policy to Pakistan, can Ron Paul really be the only alternative available?

Someone once considered completely out of left, excuse me, right field, could be the reminder we need to moderate our engagement with countries of interest. Because what is interesting is that current rhetoric in Pakistan is very much in line with Ron Paul’s ideas. Ron Paul isn’t touting conspiracy theories, nor does he echo far left foreign policy thinkers like Noam Chomsky. Rather, his past statements on our engagement in Pakistan as “inadvertently causing chaos” and “violating security and sovereignty” are exactly what the average Pakistani seems to feel and hears about in their mainstream TV, and print media. Takeaway for us means, it’s a perception the is realistic; perhaps more so than current policy reflects.

In fact, legendary cricket star turned politician Imran Khan’s recent surge in popularity is in large part due to his highly critical foreign policy rhetoric that vociferously calls for D.C. to adopt a more isolationist stance so Pakistan might reclaim lost autonomy. Imran Khan steadily built support for his party on the continued observation that America’s “War on Terror” has intensified insecurity and his subsequent promises to curtail American involvement is a first step in alleviating Pakistan’s problems.

He underscores Ron Paul’s sentiment that perceptions urgently matter in a climate where American intervention is increasingly received hostilely.  Both politicians insistence on winnings hearts and minds renders Ron Paul’s foreign policy prescriptions worthy of consideration. Imran Khan’s recent ascendency and Governor Paul’s gradually increasing support marks a convergence in shifting to a direction of a less militarized approach to Pakistan. Two men once considered out of the realm of politician viability now increasingly resonate in their respective publics; policymakers ought to take note.

 

ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED @ THE FOREIGN POLICY ASSOCIATION

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India & Pakistan – Going At it Again

June 19, 2010
Pakistan Warms up for the Asia Cup India Match - June 2010

Pakistan Warms up for the Asia Cup India Match - June 2010

Well, it’s that time again. An India vs. Pakistan ODI match will be underway in a few moments. And there’s nothing like India-Pakistan cricket. For better or worse, it’s THE epic rivalry; it get’s catty, intense, fans are insanely polarized. It’s basically crickets equivalent to the NHL’s Crosby / Ovechkin rivalry. For my non-sports readers, it’s akin to team Aniston vs team Angelina. (for the record: I’m team Ovechkin and Angelina respectively)

But whether you’re a Pakistan or India fan, both teams are somewhat evenly matched at this time with Pakistan having more depth and raw talent, and India with firm composure, more consistent experience and better record in recent history. So it’s likely going to be a nail biter, winding down to the final over to determine a winner.

So, what’s it going to take for the men in green? Here’s what’s swimming around my head before the game:

Afridi: Stay the same. Awesome performance in the last game as skipper. In typical Afridi character he lived up to the “boom boom” title and strong character we expect from him. With 110 off of 75 it was his natural game catapulted to great heights with leadership and consistency. Good news is he has a tendency to excel against India. Let’s hope that form is maintained.

Salman Butt: Hold your wicket yo. He usually does, but it’s not always certain, yet crucial that he does so today. The Indian bowling attack looks mediocre, but don’t underestimate their pace bowling. Zaheer Khan is in the attack and Nehra could do harm too.

Abdur Razzaq: My favorite All rounder must be the Danger Man today. What does that mean? It means if we need it, you make 14 runs an over. No questions asked. Oh, and when we need those key maiden overs in the last hour of their lineup, keep up the bowling defense.

Kamran Akmal: Please no butterfingers. This is a world class game and an epic rivalry, no room for drop catches. Also, be quicker on the stumpings. Be a solid bat; a clutch hitter picking up the run rate consistently as a lower order batsman and even more so if you’re pushed up the order.

Mohammad Aamer: Come in strong and shut down Sehwag. Perhaps cut him some slack early on, get him into a slogging mindset then throw on pressure with an ultra slow ball. Sehwag’s bat is so fast that this is bound to be confusing to his game.

Shahzaib Hasan: Damn rookie stop playing like it’s a test match.

Shoaib Akhtar: Watch the extras, nuff said. If The Rawalpindi express does this, there’s no stopping him.

Shoaib Malik: Be at the top of your game, back form a honeymoon we need to see classic Malik in your best form. Picking off Harbhajan smashing off a couple sixes, fielding like a beast, and with accurate off spin.

Umar Akmal: Run with raw talent. You’ve got the youth, energy and can hold your wicket with a solid strike rate. Pick up the occasional boundary and stay consistent.

Prediction :::: the game changer will be either Shoaib  Malik or Shoab Akhtar. They’re comback kids and can steal matches for Pakistan. They’ve done it in classic form in the past, and i want to see them do it again tonight.

Let the games begin !

🙂

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South Asian Smart Power – Aman ki Asha

February 26, 2010
Futility of Military/Economically Motivated relations Minus Democratic Input

Futility of Military Motivated relations Minus Democratic Input

While working in D.C. some years back almost every Congress person, Think Tank and academic I came across was certain on one thing on nuclear proliferation: if an atomic bomb ever goes off again, it’s going to happen in South Asia. It was a dismal but resounding notion that I have even heard expressed amongst South Asians. Profound mistrust, three wars, land disputes, all spurred by a gory colonial partition 60 odd years ago has left Pakistan and India scarred in a way that makes cynics of even the best of us.

A realist might tell you that nuclear armed neighbors by way of deterrence have allowed India and Pakistan to refrain from war since testing their atom bombs, but even they would conclude war is inevitable. Liberals would make a case for enhanced trade to gradually spur economic interdependence to help avoid conflict, which is perhaps the most palatable idea, but statistics show that deepening trade between India and Pakistan has not yet improved relations:

“trade between India and Pakistan was at its highest ever in the year following Kargil. 

Even the Mumbai attacks have not significantly dented India-Pakistan trade relations. Pakistan trades with 100’s of countries, India being the 9th largest trading partner”

So if deepening trade and deterrence haven’t yielded what confidently could be considered lasting peace, what will it take? I’m of the opinion that realist and liberalist policies must be accompanied by ground level, macro scale diplomacy.  Because while deterrence satisfies the all mighty military institutions, and trade satisfies highly influential business elites there’s little attention given to the masses; and by masses I mean billions of South Asians who have yet to even fathom peace as a possibility.

Call it ground level diplomacy, soft power or good ol’ winning hearts and minds: it’s  the missing ingredient in bilateral relations. Resident Indian’s and Pakistani’s have a perceived animosity for one another that verges on the irrational. Catapulting cricket matches between both countries as akin to war, hate crimes against Muslims in India to cross border terrorism is absurd for states divided by man made, post colonial borders.

So the problem is not one of trade, or military might: it’s epistemic. Both countries must engage one another from the ground up. Shashi Tharoor, the decorated Indian Parliamentarian described the effectiveness of Indian soft power best at a TED conference last year:

“India’s soft power, its true of music, dance of arts, yoga, aryuveda, even cuisine. With these examples come the sense that in todays world its not the side of the bigger army that wins, it’s the one that tells a better story. And india is the land of a better story. Stereotypes are changing.  Today people in Silicon valley people talk of IIT’s with same reverence of MIT”

Why not apply that soft power in Pakistan? And vice versa. I laud the Aman ki Asha initiative for doing exactly this. Launched by Pakistani media conglomerate Geo T.V. and on the Indian side, the Times of India, both companies have taken up the task of engaging both countries using soft power. As media houses, through television, print and web placements, they engage masses directly, finally sidestepping politically or economically motivated discourse both countries are used to. THeir mission statement reads:

Public opinion is far too potent a force to be left in the hands of narrow vested interests. The people of today must find its voice and force the rulers to listen. The awaam must write its own placards and fashion its own slogans. The leaders must learn to be led and not blindly followed. Skepticism about the given is often the genesis of faith. This skepticism has been brewing. It can be unleashed to forge a new social compact between the people of this region. A social compact based on a simple yet powerful impulse – Aman ki Asha. A desire for peace.

Aman ki Asha taps the widespread but underrepresented sentiments of commonality shared by South Asians. By engaging the masses directly with soft power it’s is a brilliant first step at mitigating the most potent problem in bilateral relations: mistrust. And what is most brilliant about the initiative is that could have teeth. Unlike countless other proposals for peace, Aman ki Asha uses mass media to speak to masses directly with a specifically outlined agenda:

“Issues of trade and commerce, of investments, of financial infrastructure, of cultural exchanges, of religious and medical tourism, of free movement of ideas, of visa regimes, of sporting ties, of connectivity, of reviving existing routes, of market access, of separated families, of the plight of prisoners, will be part of our initial agenda. Through debates, discussions and the telling of stories we will find commonalities and space, for compromise and adjustment, on matters that have bedevilled relations for over 60 years”

It sounds promising, because although I do not anticipate this dissemination of smart power to yield results immediately, if it’s done consistently it might have a capacity to democratize the push for peace. It ought not to be the military, or economic institutions setting the agenda, rather, policies should reflect the will of the people. Aman ki Asha is a hugely cooperative step in bilateral ties. More peaceful relations in South Asia can begin by reminding the masses of what my Pakistani born and raised mother said when she came back from a trip to India in 2005 they (Indians) eat the same food, sound the same, act and even look the same as us”. With such strong commonality felt amongst everyday people, one questions the legitimacy of policymaking that has historically divided, rather than united South Asians. And if that sentiment disseminates, albeit gradually, there’s much to hope for in the future.

ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED @

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Indian Premier League Bowls an Underarm Delivery to Pakistan

January 21, 2010

To my knowledge, Cricket is not an official tool of diplomacy in international relations. Cricket is however, traditionally a sophisticated, gentleman’s game.

But the Indian Premier League (IPL) foolishly overlooked this and soured the name of cricket on Tuesday by adhering to tacit government calls to exclude Pakistani cricketers from this years IPL tournament.

A very childish move because on a micro level, it wastes World Class cricketers’ time and on a macro scale, excludes the World Champions in 20Twenty from this tournament.

It’s bad enough that Pakistani visa’s were issued at the last moment, and IPL franchises were not given any guarantee that official clearance would ultimately be given at game time. Plus there are domestic extremist threats in India such as the Shiv Sena who even the Aussie team are worried about.

But the IPL has given no official reason for the snub, and realistically, bidding on Pakistani cricketers posed no serious security threat. And because the snub comes after implicit government instructions that Pakistani’s would not be “welcome in places like Mumbai”, a deep short sightedness is revealed on the Indian side, whether it be on the part of the BCCI, IPL, or government.

Were decision makers naïve enough to think that not bidding on Pakistani players would send a tough message to the Pakistani government so that they might soften up on Kashmir or divert troops from the Indian, to the Afghan border? I highly doubt it. Which renders the decision to exclude Pakistani players just juvenile.

It’s the kind of thing a teenager does which accomplishes little else than a momentary, base satisfaction that he or she later realizes wasn’t worth it as they get older. Because this is not going to improve relations, and it certainly doesn’t help the game of cricket to exclude the World Champs. It sends a symbolic slap across the border to millions of fans. Mind you, it slaps the fans, not the government, the fans. So, even though cricket is not an official tool of diplomacy, it can have a periphery effect of separating peoples. This snub can only stall rather than alleviate already chilling relations in South Asia.

But mostly, this comes at the cost of cricket in general. It’s reminiscent of  Greg and Trevor Chappel bowling the now infamous underarm ball to New Zealand in 1981. Shame on IPL for such a foolish misstep that accomplishes nothing positive.

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Identifying Demons in Pakistan

December 9, 2009

NYTIMES does a good job of publishing weekly articles on the Af-Pak situation. And a recent piece had a very enticing title: “The Demons that Haunt Pakistan” . It conjured deep curiosity and I delved into it anticipating the “demons” referred to how terrorists have paralyzed the country since 9/11.

Instead, the writer interviews one oddball Psychiatrist who says the “Gucci suit” wearing Americans are the real terrorists and Blackwater is luring his hired help to engage in a grand U.S. conspiracy to destroy Pakistan. Based on this sole, very erratic viewpoint, she presumes that like a “teenager” Pakistan is “self-conscious, emotional, quick to blame others for its troubles” and is where conspiracy theories are “pervasive”. But the presumption that Anti-Americanism supersedes resentment of actual terrorists who have is not well founded. In fact, only at the end of the article does she acknowledge the moderate Pakistani viewpoint:

“Islam treats foreigners according to their wishes,” It’s not what these people (terrorists) say — killing them or asking others to terrorize them,” he said contemptuously of the militants. “We must treat everybody equally. Christians, Jews, Muslims”

The author refers to this as the “unlikely exception”, but on the contrary, this perspective is more likely to be found in Pakistan. The gentleman expressing this view is working class and the masses are working class. They’re not doctors or professionals whom the author erroneously cites as the norm. Further, it’s the working classes who struggle most with terrorism, not the sliver of Pakistan’s elite population who maintain comforts despite political upheaval. So the  implication that demon-esque Anti Americanism is rooted in spectacular conspiracy theories is unlikely:

The majority masses are far more skeptical of Pakistani policymakers and domestic corruption than of Blackwater and the American, or Indian government for that matter.

More accurately on India, the author cites counter productive policies in Pakistan that maintained, rather than obliterated the feudal system and attributes the profound struggles of Partition to subsequent skepticism that has been harbored by both countries for one another since. Plus, having fought three wars in just 62 years, she explains it’s “natural that Pakistan’s security concerns focus more on its eastern border with India” and “not irrational” for Pakistan to resent American calls for change in this strategy.

The piece goes on to explain resentment of American policymaking viewed  as “U.S. single-mindedly pursues it’s own interests as it did in the 80’s when it was confronting the Soviets”. And therein lies skepticism for the United States in Pakistan: it’s rooted in abandoning ship post the Soviet-Afghan war. Leaving Pakistan with one of the worlds largest refugee problems well ISI/CIA trained extremist Islamist militants in a developing country hasn’t boded well 20 years later. As a partial result, Pakistan hasn’t developed, it’s deteriorated. Cooperation in our Afghan operation in the 80’s isn’t perceived as productive. Thus,

Current skepticism of U.S. expansion in the Af-Pak war is not a matter of irrational, conspiracy theories or bitterness for all things American, it comes after prolonged, and now daily struggle against extremist Islam, and terrorists who massacre Pakistanis almost daily since 9/11.

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