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Category — CHINA SCENE

Army chief says economy showing mixed indicators

by Khurram Husain in Dawn, October 12th, 2017

• Laments Pakistan has failed Balochistan
• Describes CPEC as complete development platform

KARACHI: Chief of the Army Staff Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa has said that the army is keenly watching developments in the country’s economy and shares some of the apprehensions being voiced about it.

“The economy is showing mixed indicators,” he said before an audience of businessmen and the military leadership of Karachi at a daylong event organised by the Federation of Pakistan Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FPCCI) and Inter-Services Public Relations at the DHA Golf Club on Wednesday.

“Growth has picked up but the debts are sky high. [The situation regarding] infrastructure and energy have improved considerably but the current account balance is not in our favour.”

The closest Gen Bajwa came to identifying economic priorities was when he stressed the need for widening the tax base, bringing in fiscal discipline and ensuring continuity of economic policies.

The event was held to discuss the intermingling of economy and security in today’s Pakistan and the keynote address by the chief of the army staff was preceded by a rather wild and roving discussion among various panellists about where the economy stands today. Almost all the speakers spoke at length about the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) as the cornerstone of Pakistan’s economic future.

Speakers included Ishrat Husain, a former State Bank governor; Salman Shah, the financial adviser during the regime of Pervez Musharraf; Ashfaque Hasan Khan, former director general of the Debt Management Office, also under Musharraf; Zubair Tufail, Lt Gen Muhammad Afzal; DG of the Frontier Works Organisation; and the FPCCI president.

The army chief told the audience that in the past it was “fashionable” to say that economics had subsumed security, but with the reemergence of “parochial passions” today “security has once again become the foremost business and task of the state”.

A little later he underlined the importance of the economy for sustaining the security gains of the past few years, adding it “is high time for us to [give] economic growth and sustainability the highest priority. Let me share with you that during the National Security Council meetings, economy remains one of our highest concerns”.

He described Pakistan as “a strategically challenged state” where “external actors are attempting to assert control and dictate our security priorities that have strong linkages with our economic future. The centrepiece of this effort is the CPEC”.

The allusion appears to point towards the growing closeness between China and Pakistan, which is shaping up to be a security as well as an economic relationship. Most recently, US Secretary of Defence General James Mattis told Congress that the United States opposed CPEC because “it goes through disputed territory”.

The army chief himself described CPEC in grand terms. “This corridor is not just a collection of infrastructure and power projects — it is in fact a complete development platform that has the potential to act as a powerful springboard for shared development in the entire CASA (Central Asia-South Asia) region,” he said during his prepared remarks.

“However, the completion of the project and, more importantly, optimisation of its socio-economic dividend for Pakistan and the region hinges on one word: ‘security’,” he added.

When talking of the effort to establish security, he said “we need a comprehensive effort to pursue [the] National Action Plan”, and pointed towards police and judicial reforms as obvious examples of the sort of measures that must be implemented under it. Then he added madressah reforms to the list. “Madressah reforms are also vital — we cannot afford to leave a large segment of our youth with limited options. Madressahs must enable their students to become useful members of society who are not left behind in any field of life.”

Gen Bajwa described Pakistan’s external situation as “a belligerent India on our east and an unstable Afghanistan on our west”, and twice called for peace with neighbouring countries and his “genuine desire to have normal and peaceful relations with India; however it takes two to tango”.

Through most of his speech, the COAS read from a prepared text, departing from it on occasion. In one instance, he addressed a question raised by Marium Saba Chaudhry of the FPCCI, in which she had criticised some of the speakers on the panel discussion that preceded his keynote address, for referring to residential areas in Gwadar as “slums”.

“These are not slums” she objected. “The inhabitants are not occupying this land illegally. These people live in these areas of Gwadar from where they fear they are going to be evicted to make room for the CPEC-related projects,” she told the panel, adding that when you refer to their neighbourhoods as ‘slums’ it heightens their fears that their claim to their homes is being weakened in the run-up to a mass eviction.

The army chief began his remarks by acknowledging the point, telling Ms Chaudhry: “I will address your question after my remarks.” At the conclusion, he addressed Ms Chaudhry by name and told her that Balochistan was close to his heart. “We have failed Balochistan. Pakistan has failed Balochistan and we will not let it happen again.”

He ended his speech by reminding the assembled businessmen of their duty as he saw it, which included paying their taxes, since the contribution of direct taxes to Pakistan’s treasury was abysmally low. “We have done our part on the security front, now it’s up to you to take initiative and turn the economy around.”

October 12, 2017   No Comments

CPEC passes through disputed territory: US

by Anwar Iqbal in Dawn, October 7th, 2017
WASHINGTON: The Trump administration has informed Congress that it too believes the China-Pakistan Econo­mic Corridor (CPEC) passes through a disputed territory — originally an India claim aimed at thwarting the development plan.

The $56 billion CPEC passes through Pakis­t­an’s northern areas, which India claims is part of the disputed Jammu and Kashmir territory.

“The One Belt, One Road also goes through disputed territory, and I think that in itself shows the vulnerability of trying to establish that sort of a dictate,” US Defence Sec­retary James Mattis told the Senate Armed Services Committee.

Secretary Mattis and Chairman Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen Joseph Dun­­­ford ap­­peared before the Sen­ate and House armed services panel earlier this week to brief US lawmakers on the current situation in the Pak-Afghan region.

Secretary Mattis said the US oppo­sed the One Belt, One Road policy in principle because in a globalised world, there were many belts and many roads, and no one nation shou­­ld put itself into a position of dictating One Belt, One Road. And it opposed the one going through Pakistan also because it passed throu­­gh a disputed territory.

The new US position on CPEC will further strain already tense rel­ations between the US and Pakistan, which also opposed the greater role Washington has assigned to India in Afghanistan in a strategy President Trump announced on Aug 21.

“As far as Afghan­is­tan goes, as we try to separate out variables where, in some areas, we work with China, for example, terrorism — I think there are areas where we can work — find common ground with China when it comes to counterterrorism, and we should exercise those areas pretty fully,” said the US defence chief.

“But we should be under no illusions,” he warned. “There are areas where, also, strategically, we need to confront China where we think it’s unproductive — the direction they’re going in.”

October 7, 2017   No Comments

US backs India on OBOR, says it crosses ‘disputed’ territory

PTI report in Hindustan Times online,Oct 04, 2017
The Donald Trump administration threw its weight behind India’s opposition to the China- Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), saying it passes through a disputed territory and no country should put itself into a position of dictating the Belt and Road initiative.

India skipped the Belt and Road Forum (BRF) in May this year due to its sovereignty concerns over the nearly $60 billion CPEC, a flagship project of China’s prestigious One Belt One Road (OBOR), which passes through Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK).

Having returned from his maiden trip to India last week wherein he met his counterpart Nirmala Sitharaman and Prime Minister Narendra Modi, US Defense Secretary Jim Mattis appeared on Tuesday to be a strong opponent of China’s ambitious OBOR initiative.

“In a globalised world, there are many belts and many roads, and no one nation should put itself into a position of dictating ‘one belt, one road’,” Mattis told members of the Senate Armed Services Committee during a Congressional hearing.

“That said, the One Belt One Road also goes through disputed territory, and I think, that in itself shows the vulnerability of trying to establish that sort of a dictate,” Mattis said apparently referring to India’s position on CPEC.

Mattis was responding to a question from Senator Charles Peters over OBOR and China’s policy in this regard.

“The One Belt One Road strategy seeks to secure China’s control over both the continental and the maritime interest, in their eventual hope of dominating Eurasia and exploiting natural resources there, things that are certainly at odds with US policy. So what role do you see China playing in Afghanistan, and particularly related to their One Belt One Road,” Peter had asked.http://www.hindustantimes.com/india-news/us-backs-india-on-obor-says-it-crosses-disputed-territory/story-Lh2aIU5Nt5BGYUMCj8xk3L.html

October 4, 2017   No Comments

After Trump, now Brics: By Imtiaz Alam in The News, Sept 7, 2017

The writer is a senior journalist.
As the country’s top ambassadors meet in Islamabad to contemplate Pakistan’s response to President Trump’s recently announced policy on Afghanistan and South Asia, Pakistan’s diplomatic isolation seems almost complete with the naming of UN-designated terrorists which operated from Pakistani soil for the first time in the Xiamen Declaration of the 9th Brics Summit in China.

Where will the envoys draw the line this time compared to the last time they had met for such a consultation and had recommended certain policy inputs that they thought would help them sell a revised and consistent foreign policy the world would be, at least, ready to listen to?

Brics – a forum of the fast-growing developing economies of Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa – has expressed its: “concern on the security situation in the region and the violence caused by the Taliban, ISIL/DAISH, Al-Qaeda and its affiliates including [the] Eastern Turkistan Islamic Movement, Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, the Haqqani network, Lashkar-e-Tayyaba, Jaish-e-Mohammed, TTP and Hizbul-Tahrir”.

With this declaration, Islamabad could stand isolated globally on the issues of ‘cross-border terrorism’ that Pakistan has now, at least at the policy level, pledged to curb and has also decided to not to let its territory be used for terrorism against other countries since the unanimous passage of the National Action Plan. But let’s not forget that the ‘leakage’ of the quite known views expressed by former foreign secretary Ayaz Chaudhry in the National Security Committee of the cabinet is also said to have contributed to the ouster of the Nawaz Sharif government.

For India, this declaration is a big diplomatic achievement since its efforts to get Pakistan-based banned (and renamed) LeT and JeM included in Brics’ Goa Declaration was frustrated by China last year. Much earlier, the UN Security Council had designated JeM and LeT as terrorist organisations in 2001 and 2005, respectively. It is indeed good to recall that the same terrorist groups were also mentioned in the Amritsar Declaration of the 6th Ministerial Heart of Asia Conference on Afghanistan in December 2016; the declaration was endorsed by Pakistan and China as well.

However, Islamabad continued to take solace in blaming both Afghanistan and India for allowing and using Afghan soil for a proxy war against Pakistan. Indeed, both Islamabad and Rawalpindi were right in their allegations against both the aforementioned countries with regard to backing the TTP and other renegade terrorist groups for terrorism across Pakistan, but the Pakistani state could not absolve itself of not being equally tough with the ‘good Taliban’. But somehow, despite an apparent shift in policy – as repeated by both successive civil and military leaderships – to not to differentiate between ‘good and bad’ Taliban and not to let any terrorist groups use Pak territory for terrorism against any other country, we continued to take flak from international community on the footprints of these groups being seen to be behind various acts of terrorism.

These groups continue to exist under various pseudonyms and the camouflage of ‘welfare’. Amid a treacherous metamorphosis, they are now becoming the bulwark of fascism at the cost of the civil society, and are sanctified as the guardians of our ‘ideological frontiers’. In a delayed, flawed and self-serving ‘de-radicalisation’ process, they are defining the national narrative on a broad range of policy issues, including jihad, Islamisation (in reality, sectarianism), foreign relations and internal and external security policies. In fact, more than challenging India and checking its brutal suppression of the Kashmiri struggle, such groups pose a much greater threat to Pakistan’s internal security and inter-faith harmony.

The change in the Chinese position on Pakistan-based militant outfits has come after India and China came to an agreement over a 73-day military faceoff on the unsettled Dokalam area close to the Sikkim sector claimed both by China and Bhutan; the latter is now not very inclined to lay claim on the territory and is expected to mend fences with China to, perhaps, keep equi-distance from the two joint neighbours. Indian Prime Minister Modi and Chinese President Xi Jinping were to meet at the sidelines of the Brics Summit for what Indians described as “forward looking” discourse to put Sino-Indian relations on the “right track”, according to the Chinese side. The Brics Summit was in fact on ‘emerging markets and developing countries dialogue’ for their greater role in the global market, but it was taken over by the crisis created by the test of a hydrogen bomb by North Korea, something that can make Beijing-Washington relations reach a very tenuous situation.

President Trump’s sabre-rattling apart, Brics has come firmly against tougher sanctions or retaliation against North Korea and has, instead, asked for direct dialogue with Pyongyang. For Beijing, the Korean Peninsula’s security is more important than the Indo-Pak conflict. Moreover, they are no more enthusiastic to compensate for our extended security agendas or conflicts with our neighbours. They want us to focus on CPEC and engage with neighbours the way they are doing with India; the Sino-Indian model of economic cooperation is presented as a blueprint for negotiating border disputes.

For Pakistan, Kashmir remains a principal issue and we have learnt that the Kashmiri democratic struggle no more requires ‘guest fighters’ who now bring a bad name to their genuine aspirations. Jihadis for Kashmir are a liability and counter-productive. They are, rather, a threat to the safety and cohesion of our civil society. Pakistan can never sell its narrative to the world and will remain in jeopardy with the Haqqanis or LeT or JeM in its closet in any way.

On Afghanistan, Brics has very strongly expressed its desire for an end to the conflict and asked for a political resolution of the unending conflict through available mechanisms, including bilateral, trilateral, quadrilateral, multilateral and also Moscow and Istanbul initiatives. We must respond to the American overtures and Afghan President Ghani’s speech on this Eid offering “comprehensive political talks” since in his view “peace with Pakistan in our national interest”.

It is also in Pakistan’s national interest to have cordial relations with Afghanistan. We have lost so much for our Afghan policy for far too long, including all those ‘friends’ that we had helped too long. It is a no-win policy and must be drastically changed in favour of an Afghanistan that ensures peace within and at its borders with us.

To Pakistan’s relief, Brics has also included the TTP in its list of terrorists; that provides a ground for a quid pro quo. For that, we will have to revisit our Afghan policy and attitude towards the Haqqani Network. Indeed, it is not our job to sort out the Afghan Taliban or the Haqqanis, but we cannot also provide them any relief by endangering our own country at the same time. As they now claim to have captured more than 40 percent of Afghan territory, they must find their own way.

If at all our facilitation is required for a political reconciliation in Afghanistan, we should be willing to do our bit – however limited or effective it might be. Our national interest is in keeping our north-western and eastern borders secure and not letting proxy wars destabilise us. Why doesn’t Pakistan follow the advice of the Chinese president to have peaceful neighbourly relations with all neighbours and let all the countries of the region join hands against terrorism and against any support to any terrorist group against one another? It is time the Foreign Office told the power players to get over the hangover of Gen Zia’s destructive policies, which Pakistan can least afford now.

September 7, 2017   No Comments

The wall of BRICS: op-ed by Khurram Husain in Dawn, Sept 7, 2017

The writer is a member of staff.
IF you hide from reality for long enough, you can land up in a place from where it is next to impossible to find your way back. Something like that may be happening to Pakistan, where for more than a quarter century, our state has come to be virtually held hostage by a reality that we have been denying in almost every forum around the world. This reality is that within Pakistan, as a matter of official policy, violent militant groups have been nurtured, trained, supported and nestled within the general population for use as assets in an underground geopolitical game that we have tried to play in the region.

This history has been told so often, within and outside Pakistan, and evidence of the official patronage that these groups and their larger milieu enjoys has now mounted to such levels, that it has become an act of wilful schizophrenia to actually deny it now. Where exactly does one even begin to explain this to those who remain unaware of this fact even today, and resistant to really internalising its import?

For years, we have found different rationales to either justify or explain this away. Most recently, when the BRICS countries pointed to three specific groups in Pakistan and labelled them as terrorist entities, they were only echoing what the UN Security Council had done more than a decade and a half ago. Still the line came up that ‘these groups are already proscribed in Pakistan’, as a rationale or soft justification for the fact that the groups not only exist, but operate freely and openly, propagate their literature in society, operate giant administrative operations, and in some cases, are actually being mainstreamed into society as bona fide political parties.

What does proscription actually mean in Pakistan when the same members of the group in question need only start another organisation under a different name and carry on business as usual? One need only take a close look at what happened to the case against the Lal Masjid cleric who less than a decade ago had taken up arms against the state, and triggered a confrontation that actually resulted in the deaths of scores of military personnel. The case fell apart (take a look sometime at how this happened), and the cleric in question continues to live and preach openly in the same mosque. How did this come about if some form of official support was not available to him?

Another line told us that we need not worry. The countries that are crying foul over this situation are biased against us, and need to be perceived more as enemies than allies. Now we have China, we were told, which will stand by us and has no intention of similarly wagging a finger at us on this point. And with China we have CPEC, which is our road to future prosperity, something we have believed for generations now is given by a big brother, not earned through one’s own smarts and hard work.

Well now China has added its voice to the list of those countries pointing out that the presence of militant groups in Pakistan is a problem. To add meat to the proposition, they point to a “comprehensive approach in combating terrorism”, to include countering radical ideologies, halting the movement of terrorist fighters as well as their recruitment, interdicting their finances and much more. This is a heavy menu, and notice that all of what the BRICS declaration is committing to is within the framework of the United Nations, and an extension of what other leading powers in the world have already been saying for many years.

If anybody out there thought that somehow the emergence of China on the global stage, and its growing stakes in our neighborhood as well as others, along with its creed to not interfere in the ‘internal affairs’ of other countries, meant that finally we would have a free pass to engage our great game fantasies without let or hindrance, they ought to be in for a rude shock. The person who is still spinning the words to mean something other than what they say is like that person who has lived so long with his or her lies that they are unable to find their way back to reality.

Everything in the declaration shows that the BRICS countries, that include Russia and China, will not advance an alternative set of norms to those around which the Euro-American world order is constructed. To combat terror financing, for example, they seek to work with the UN resolutions and the Financial Action Task Force that has for years been pointing out the vulnerability of the Pakistan financial system to being used by designated terrorist groups because the latter operate with impunity in Pakistan.

Yes there have been huge successes in our own war against terror. Groups like the TTP have been pushed out of Swat and North and South Waziristan, and the sacrifices made by Pakistan’s soldiers in the course of this fighting have been admirable and deserve commendation. Yes, the security situation has improved from a decade ago, although much ground remains to be covered.

And yes, let’s also add that much of the finger-wagging from the West, particularly America, is in bad faith. America is not losing the war in Afghanistan because of Pakistan. America is losing the war for the simple reason that no sooner had the fighting commenced in earnest in Afghanistan, it lost its focus and went barrelling into Iraq instead. All else is detail.

But there is a reason why Pakistan has had such a difficult time getting the world to recognise this simple reality: because we have been lying to ourselves and our allies about the nature of our involvement in this war all along. If Abbottabad didn’t establish this, surely the death of Mullah Mansour on Pakistani soil, with Pakistani credentials in his pocket, did. https://www.dawn.com/news/1356010/the-wall-of-brics

September 7, 2017   No Comments

Pakistan needs introspection on BRICS: by Zulfiquar Rao in Daily Times, Sept 7, 2017

The writer is a sociologist with interest in history and politics.
Many in Pakistan were surprised when the association of five major emerging national economies Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa (BRICS) declaration from its meeting in Xiamen, China on September 4, 2017 included Pakistan-based terrorist outfits Lashkar-e-Tayyaba (LeT), Haqqani Network, and Jaish-e-Muhammad (JeM) as the entities which have threatened the peace and stability in the region. Pakistan formally rejected the BRICS’ declaration saying there’s no space left for terrorist outfits in the country following its military operations against terrorist organisations; although there aren’t many buyers of this assertion. Pakistan further reiterated that the country itself has been the victim of terrorism as thousands of civilians and military men lost their lives in the fight against terror.

Both political commentators and the government saw the declaration with an element of surprise because in the past, China had been obstructing any move by India to directly or indirectly implicate Pakistan and to designate some of the key leaders of the terrorist outfits based in Pakistan as a global terrorist and a threat to regional peace. However, the fact the declaration mentioning names of these outfits had been signed by China too, speaks volumes about the limits of the sensational perception among Pakistanis of their so called deeper-than-ocean and higher-than-Himalayas friendship with China. Locally, it feels more shocking as government of Pakistan and a number of policy experts had not expected this, especially in the backdrop of recent Sino-Indian border skirmishes and consequent diplomatic tensions between them.

However, what makes the declaration even more significant is that it has echoed some of the points of the new US policy on Afghanistan and South Asia, that President Trump had recently announced, which had already upset Pakistan and led to postponement of scheduled diplomacy visits between the US and Pakistan. From Pakistan’s point of view, certainly, to an extent, one can say that the new US policy has favored India’s stance, offered India a greater role in Afghanistan, and scapegoated Pakistan for US’s own failures in Afghanistan. Yet, the argument is incapable of rubbishing the views shared by the US, EU, and many of neighboring countries that Pakistan’s government’s actions and military offensives against the terrorist outfits are only selective and without much regard to regional peace and stability.

This is precisely what Pakistan’s Foreign Secretary had warned about the participants of a high level meeting on national security that then Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif had chaired last year in early October. The Foreign Secretary had shared that despite Pakistan’s counter diplomatic efforts to India’s avowed plans to render Pakistan diplomatically isolated, the country found no eager recipients of its counter narrative across the world’s most influential capitals, and that a diplomatic isolation may be imminent if Pakistan didn’t act against Masood Azhar, JeM, Hafiz Saeed, LeT and Haqqani Network.

Unfortunately, the forewarning from the Foreign Secretary got buried under the farcical ‘Dawn-leak’ scandal, which was no more than a news story of that meeting in a newspaper. But the military establishment created so much of ruckus through media men and TV channels aligned to its narrative that civilian led democratic government had to find respite only in constituting a joint investigation committee on that news story and forget insisting on acting against terrorist outfits indiscriminately.

Situation one year after proves that unless Pakistan acts its part well first, none of its friends like China, Saudi Arabia and Turkey can help it in diplomatic success or survival beyond their own interests and limited clout. Pakistan requires a policy shift in national security perception and foreign policy principles. For instance, Pakistan must learn not to transform what are actually its diplomatic and political disputes with other countries into militaristic ones. Letting anti-Afghan and anti-US Taliban operate from Pakistan not only tarnishes Pakistan’s image but also triggers tit-for-tat acts from Afghanistan side, which is witnessed in the form of anti-Pakistan Taliban and other similar forces finding refuge inside Afghanistan. Similar is the story vis-à-vis India in the form of its support for Baloch separatists and anti-Pakistan Taliban inside Afghanistan, which is a response to terrorists using Pakistani soil to infiltrate into India and inflict death and destruction there.

So the kind of diplomatic isolation facing Pakistan can only be averted if its national security policy and foreign policy principles start revolving around and aiming at social and economic well-being of its people. Pakistan’s influence in Afghanistan will follow, and it can better pitch its legitimate claim over Kashmir as Pakistan switches to more pro-peace approach. Pakistan must be warned: with empty coffers and empty stomachs fed with jingoistic narrative it will risk inviting more troubles and miseries than success and prosperity for itself as a state and people therein.http://dailytimes.com.pk/opinion/07-Sep-17/pakistan-needs-introspection-on-brics

September 7, 2017   No Comments

Crackdown on Christians in China after killing of two missionaries in Balochistan

report in Dawn, September 5th, 2017
KARACHI: The killing in recent months of a Chinese man and a woman at the hands of suspected militants in Balochistan has put Beijing in a quandary. That’s because the two were not in Quetta to teach mandarin but to do something with which the Chinese are unlikely to be associated: preach Christianity.

The militant Islamic State (IS) group announced on June 8 that Meng Lisi and Li Xinheng, who were in their mid-twenties, had been killed. The pair had been kidnapped in Quetta on May 24 by gunmen masquerading as policemen.

According to an in-depth report published on Monday by the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC), “as a self-declared atheist government, news of Chinese Christian missionaries getting into trouble abroad is embarrassing. But at the same time, Beijing needs to show it can protect its citizens as it goes global” by launching several ambitious infrastructure projects overseas.

Despite the dilemma it is facing, the Chinese government has responded to the Balochistan incident by launching a crackdown on a community already under considerable pressure.

The government has detained “at least four preachers from church groups in Zhejiang [province] as part of a targeted blitz against house churches connected to overseas missions, says Bob Fu, whose US-based China Aid group supports Christians in the country”, said the BBC report. “They have been released but are not allowed to continue their activities and are banned from giving media interviews, he says.”

According to the report, “China’s up to 100 million Christians have been subject to increased scrutiny and harassment since Xi Jinping became president in 2012, Mr Fu says”. But the incident in Pakistan has made matters worse for the community.

That’s because the Quetta story “draws attention to an unintended and often overlooked by-product of China’s aggressive drive to develop new trading routes and carve out influence across Asia, Africa and the Middle East”, said the report.

“Hundreds and possibly even thousands of the country’s growing cadre of Christian missionaries are along for the ride too — even if Beijing doesn’t want them there.”

There are thousands of Protestant churches in Zhejiang, both the official ones permitted by the atheist Chinese Communist Party and so-called “underground” or “home” churches, whose members often meet inside private homes.

“Neither of the pair who ended up in Quetta were originally from Zhejiang, but they did join ‘home churches’ in the province,” said BBC.

Mr Li’s mother, who only wanted to be mentioned as Mrs Liu, told reporters that her son had not met Ms Meng before he travelled to Pakistan in September last year. She thought he was going to Balochistan to teach Mandarin.

After the kidnapping of the Chinese pair, the military launched a three-day operation in an area south of Mastung.

“It is in Mastung that IS later said it had carried out the killings, and Mrs Liu questions why the Pakistani government launched an attack in the area instead of trying to negotiate their release.

“Why didn’t the Chinese government tell the Pakistani side to save our children? she asks.

“She says her phone is monitored, and authorities have been investigating the family.”

When Ms Meng and Mr Li were abducted, they were first reported to have been working at a language school run by a South Korean.

“Locals in Jinnah Town, a wealthy area of Quetta where the language centre was based, said the group, while distinctly visible, kept a low profile… One boy said he overheard them saying ‘we are all sinners’, and that they distributed leaflets, rings and bracelets. “Another said he saw three women who spoke some Urdu and Pashto, and were ‘doing something about Christianity’.”

In the provincial capital, Chinese individuals could occasionally be seen on the streets before the May kidnapping but since then they have vanished.

In Gwadar, the centrepiece of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, frequent attacks by insurgents have denied Chinese workers the freedom of unguarded movement on the streets, reporters there say. They remain in secure compounds and move under heavy security escort, according to the report.https://www.dawn.com/news/1355704/crackdown-on-christians-in-china-after-killing-of-two-missionaries-in-balochistan

September 5, 2017   No Comments

BRICS declaration to be studied before Asif’s visit to China, Russia: by Tariq Butt in The News, September 5, 2017

ISLAMABAD: Foreign Minister Khawaja Mohammad Asif’s planned visits to China and Russia in the wake of President Donald Trump’s announcement of his South Asia strategy have assumed added importance due to the Xiamen Declaration of BRICS relating to certain terrorist outfits.

The terrorist organizations listed in the statement of BRICS — Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa – are proscribed in Pakistan and are, therefore, not allowed to exist or work.

“We can no longer be silent about Pakistan’s safe havens for terrorist organizations; we have been paying Pakistan billions and billions of dollars at the same time they are housing the very terrorists that we are fighting. That will have to change and that will change immediately,” Trump had stated last month, attracting a sharp reaction from Pakistan.

After unveiling of this strategy, the foreign minister, who on an invitation of his American counterpart was planning to visit Washington, delayed his trip. Instead, he announced that before going to the United States, he would embark upon a visit to Beijing, Moscow and Ankara to consult with them on Trump’s severe stand against Pakistan.

Obviously, prior to the foreign minister’s visits policy makers will be required to closely read and analyse the BRICS declaration to formulate their strategy and find out the difference between its focus and stress and that of President Trump’s statement. The dates of the trips are yet to be firmed up.

While Trump had given a general, sweeping statement against Pakistan without naming any terrorist organization, the BRICS declaration has listed such outfits saying “we express concern over the security situation in the region and violence caused by the Taliban, the Islamic State [IS], Al-Qaeda and its affiliates, including the Haqqani Network, Lashkar-e-Taiba [LeJ], Jaish-e-Mohammad [JeM], Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan [TTP] and Hizbut Tahrir.”

However, unlike the US president, the BRICS did not name Pakistan. But the reference to Haqqani Network, LeJ and JeM pertained to Pakistan although Islamabad has consistently vehemently repudiated any role of these organizations in terrorist activities in Pakistan or outside its territory.

China had defended Pakistan after Trump’s remarks, saying its neighbour was on the front line in the struggle against terrorism and had made great sacrifices and important contributions in the fight.

The BRICS declaration has also included the TTP in the list of terrorist outfits. Pakistan has repeatedly protested over the sponsoring of terrorism by the TTP, which emanates from Afghanistan as its top leaders are based in the neighbouring country. However, Pakistan’s protestations have fallen on deaf ears because the Afghan government has never done anything to arrest these hardened terrorists and hand them over to Pakistan to face justice. Islamabad has delivered more than once credible evidence and proofs to Kabul about their terrorist activities in Pakistan.

Pakistan has a special interest in restoring normalcy in Afghanistan but the US is not paying heed to its calls and instead keeps hurling allegations over it. However, the Xiamen declaration agreed to strengthen cooperation against a range of terror groups, deplored “all terrorist attacks worldwide”, condemned terrorism “in all its forms and manifestations wherever committed and by whomsoever and stresses that there can be no justification whatsoever for any act of terrorism”.

The Hizbut Tahrir was proscribed by Pakistan in 2004. According to Wikipedia, it was founded in 1964 in Jerusalem by Taqiuddin al-Nabhani, an Islamic scholar and appeals court judge from Palestine. Since then it has spread to more than 50 countries, and grown to a membership estimated to be between “tens of thousands” to “about one million”.

Hizbut Tahrir is active in Western countries, particularly in Britain, and also in several Arab and Central Asian countries, despite being banned by some governments.

The Haqqani network is an Afghan insurgent group using asymmetric warfare to fight against US-led NATO forces and the government of Afghanistan. Pakistan is often accused in regard to this outfit, a charge that Islamabad denies.https://www.thenews.com.pk/print/227887-BRICS-declaration-to-be-studied-before-Asifs-visit-to-China-Russia

September 5, 2017   No Comments

BRICS name militant groups as regional security concern

BRICS name militant groups as regional security concern
Report in Dawn, September 05, 2017
XIAMEN: The leaders of the five emerging market BRICS powers have for the first time named militant groups allegedly based in Pakistan as a regional security concern and called for their patrons to be held to account.

India welcomed the move — which participated at a summit in the Chinese city of Xiamen — as an important step forward in the fight against militant attacks.

Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa make up the BRICS grouping. The group called for an immediate end to violence in Afghanistan.

“We, in this regard, express concern on the security situation in the region and violence caused by the Taliban, ISIS…Al Qaeda and its affiliates, including Eas­tern Turkistan Islamic Move­ment, Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, the Haqqani network, Lashkar-i-Taiba, Jaish-i-Mohammad, TTP and Hizbut Tahrir,” the leaders said in the declaration.

In the 43-page declaration, Xi, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Russian President Vladimir Putin, Brazilian President Michel Temer and South African President Jacob Zuma said they would work together to improve global economic governance to foster “a more just and equitable international order”.

The BRICS called for “comprehensive reform” of the United Nations and the UN Security Council “with a view to making it more representative, effective and efficient, and to increase the representation of the developing countries so that it can adequately respond to global challenges”.

The five also pledged their opposition to protectionism, a theme increasingly taken up by host Chinese President Xi Jinping as anti-globalisation sentiment in the West poses a threat to China’s vast export markets.

Indian foreign ministry official Preeti Saran told reporters on the sidelines of the summit that wording in the communiqué was a “very important development” and that there was recognition that the world cannot have double standards when dealing with militant attacks.

“You cannot have good and bad terrorists, and it is a collective action. Members of the BRICS countries have themselves been victims of terrorism, and I would say that what has come of today acknowledges the fact that we must work collectively in handling this [terrorism],” she said.

India’s media said naming the allegedly Pakistan-based groups in the BRICS resolution was an important win for Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s administration which at last year’s summit called Pakistan the “mother ship of terrorism”.

China has generally been supportive of its ally Pakistan in the past and has repeatedly blocked India’s attempt to get the head of Jaish-i-Mohammad added to a UN blacklist of groups linked to Al Qaeda.

There was no immediate comment from Pakistan on the BRICS resolution. https://www.dawn.com/news/

September 5, 2017   No Comments

China’s Himalayan Climb-Down: edit in The Wall St Journal

A three-month standoff between Chinese and Indian troops in a remote corner of the Himalayas ended this week with both sides agreeing to withdraw. Beijing is claiming victory, but this is face-saving bravado. New Delhi successfully repulsed a Chinese attempt to assert control over the disputed region.

In June China quietly began construction of a road across the Doklam Plateau, an area that Indian ally Bhutan also claims. The area overlooks the Siliguri Corridor, a stretch of territory 27 kilometers wide at its narrowest point that leads to the country’s landlocked northeastern states. The Indian government was understandably alarmed because the new road would allow the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) to move tanks and artillery within striking range of the corridor, also known as the “Chicken’s Neck.”

Lightly armed Indian troops entered the disputed area in mid-June, bringing the Chinese road construction to a halt. Some 300 soldiers from each side camped about 100 meters from each other.

Beijing demanded that Indian forces withdraw unconditionally and kept up a barrage of threats and maneuvers. The Indian government remained largely silent, appealing for a diplomatic solution.

The PLA regularly crosses the Himalayan frontier to expand its area of control and poses as the victim when challenged. These tactics are similar to those used by the Chinese Navy in the South and East China Seas, where it seeks to intimidate other claimants to islands and waters.

In 1962 China and India fought a brief border war after Chinese forces built a road across the disputed area of Aksai Chin. The PLA routed the Indian Army in that conflict. Over the past few months, Chinese officials and state-run media promised to teach India another lesson if it didn’t withdraw from Doklam.

India is better equipped to resist Chinese pressure today because it is a nuclear power and has considerable conventional forces near Doklam. The strategic vulnerability of the Chicken’s Neck also stiffened its resolve.

But the key difference was India’s willingness to wait out China rather than moving more of its forces into disputed areas, as it did in 1962. Unable to blame India for a military clash, Beijing had little choice but to open talks.

On Monday India got the resolution it wanted, an agreement that both sides would withdraw and China would cease its road-building. The bulldozers left along with the PLA troops.

The government of Prime Minister Narendra Modi deserves most of the credit for the positive outcome. It chose to make its stand on high ground morally and militarily. As a responsible great power, New Delhi refused to be drawn into escalation by Beijing’s bellicose rhetoric. India’s deft handling of the dispute shows that principled resistance can face down China’s creeping aggression.https://www.wsj.com/articles/chinas-himalayan-climb-down-1504221994

September 1, 2017   No Comments