Ambassador Abdul Basit, Former High Commissioner of Pakistan to India

Ambassador Abdul Basit is former High Commissioner of Pakistan to India. Earlier, he was Ambassador of Pakistan to Germany and has served as the Foreign Office Spokesperson. He has also been part of Pakistan’s diplomatic missions in Geneva, Moscow, New York, and London.

Currently, he hosts a TV show on News One “Awaz e Pakistan”.

Amb. Abdul Basit is an expert on Indo-Pak relations. He holds a Master’s degree in International Relations from Quaid e Azam University, and – upon knowing that I am also pursuing my post-graduate degree in International Relations at the same university, he eagerly asked about the prevailing ambience and shared past experiences.


Dr. Maria Sultan, Director General South Asian Strategic Stability Institute (SASSI)

Dr. Maria Sultan is Director General of the South Asian Strategic Stability Institute (SASSI) and Pakistan’s leading defense analyst. She has a deep insight of South Asian strategic environment and its nuclear/security dynamics.

Dr. Sultan comes across as a delightful person, humble in demeanour. Her optimism and faith over the future of Pakistan is unwavering and invigorating. Interviewing her was encouraging for me as woman since she embodies the success young women aspire to. 

Dr. Farooq Sattar, Leader MQM-Pakistan and Member National Assembly

Dr. Ishtiaq Ahmad, Director School of Politics and International Relations, Quaid e Azam University

Dr. Istiaq Ahmad is a current Director of School of Politics and International Relations at Quaid-i-Azam University, Islamabad. He is a well known academic professional, political analyst and the author of several books, including Gulbuddin Hekmatyar: An Afghan Trail from Jihad to Terrorism;  The Nuclear Danger: Going Down to Minimum Deterrence; India and Pakistan: Charting a Path to Peace; and Nuclear Non-Proliferation. He has also contributed various research publications, news articles, and reports that were published both at national and international newspapers and journals. 

Q: There is complex security interdependence among South Asian states, especially India and Pakistan. Previously it was confined to strategic rivalry but now it is moving towards commercial and economic rivalry. How do you see this?

Ishtiaq Ahmad: It’s a great transformation that is applicable to relationships all over South Asia, particularly India-Pakistan. Competition and cooperation among states, and even great power intervention in the region is now shifting from geo-politics to geo-economics. This is a healthy trend, I look at it in a very positive light. The former entails a tendency towards conflict while the latter towards cooperation. If countries are competing with each other for purely economic interests, there is always a probability of this competition turning into cooperation.

As far as Gwadar and Chabahar are concerned, I don’t see much of a difference between the two. They are both economic projects and, as such, there is great computability between the two.

Q: In an environment as hostile as South Asia’s, can two strategic ports function without feeding the security dilemmas of the respective states? Or will each seek to disrupt progress of the other?

Ishtiaq Ahmad: This is a great opportunity for Pakistan, for India, China, South Asia, Central Asia and even the world. Gwadar, Chabahar, CPECC, TAPI and CASA 1000 are all compatible projects with more areas of convergence than divergence. For the first time in history, all great powers – global and regional – have their interests converging in the same areas. The challenge is to harness this opportunity. Pakistan can overcome this challenge through ensuring internal and external stability, economic development, and an end to regional isolation.

Q: Is the cooperation you speak of possible without resolving the Kashmir issue?

Ishtiaq Ahmad: Unless you arrive at a viable resolution of disputes like the Kashmir dispute, matters will not stabilize. More than Pakistan, it is India that has a pragmatic interest in the resolution of Kashmir dispute. It is essential in order to avail the opening that has recently emerged in the region.

Q: Gwadar port is believed to be a game changer. Do you think it has the potential to bring a significant change for Pakistan and, by extension, South Asia?

Ishtiaq Ahmad: That depends upon the state and the leadership. It is a blessing in disguise, better than having nothing. Perhaps we did not even deserve it. But calling it a game-changer and a fate-changer is blowing it out of proportion. It is a slow-moving, long-term project. Gwadar can also have its costs. China is, after all, a great power. Its investment in Gwadar is based on pragmatic interests. China is undergoing economic stagnation. It needs to reach out to other regions and CPEC is just one of its projects, though it is the greatest.

It is also up to us to convince neighboring states, particularly India, that this is in their interest. Economic partnership with Pakistan is extremely important for India’s regional and global ambitions. So is the resolution of by standing conflicts. We should reach out through proactive diplomacy and regain the confidence and interest of states, especially our neighbors.

Video Credits: Nida Abbassi

Write-up Credits: Naima Shahab

Dean, Faculty of Contemporary Studies, National Defence University, Prof. Dr. Pervaiz Iqbal Cheema

Prof. Dr. Pervaiz Iqbal Cheema is Dean Faculty of Contemporary Studies at National Defence University, Islamabad. A seasoned teacher and experienced researcher Dr Cheema has served many academic institutions both inside and outside the country in various capacities over a period nearing four decades. He has numerous research publications to his name that were published inside as well as outside Pakistan.

Q: Gwadar Port is believed to be a game changer. Do you think it has the potential to bring a significant change for Pakistan and, by extension, South Asia?

Pervaiz Cheema: It is definitely a game-changer. But projects like these involve pragmatic interests on both sides. No state helps you for the sake of helping you.

China is an energy-dependent country. It imports energy resources from the Gulf which have to cover an estimated 10,000 km distance just to reach China and an additional 5,000 km inside it. China can find a replacement for this route in a) the Southeast Asian straits; b) Myanmar or Pakistan. Now India has military bases in proximity of the said straits. If the Sino-Indian rivalry continues, India can block those straits posing an insurmountable obstacle to Chinese trade. On the other hand, the Pakistan option is much safer. Once Gwadar is functional, China will be indifferent to obstacles posed by India in other trading routes.

Similarly, Pakistan has its interests. Gwadar is a potential trading hub. It will provide a shorter trading route to regional states.

Q: Do you think the development of Chabahar Port will threaten the successful functioning of Gwadar Port?

Pervaiz Cheema: Chabahar will not obstruct Gwadar’s potential. Iran will not allow it to be used toward that end. Naturally, due to their proximity, there will be competition. The neutral state will opt for a port based on political and geographical and technical factors.

Q:  Which port is more suitable for Afghanistan – the country believed to be crucial for the success of both?

Pervaiz Cheema: Both, but Gwadar more than Chabahar. Afghans will opt for Gwadar once their relations with Pakistan are mended, until then, they’ll go for Chabahar. We share certain commonalities with Afghanistan such as the Pushtoon race. These factors too will count.

Q: For Central Asian states which port would be more favorable for their trade?

Pervaiz Cheema: They would like to utilize both options now that they have them. But as it is, one assumes that they will go for Gwadar.

Q: In an environment as hostile as South Asia’s, can two strategic ports function without feeding the security dilemmas of the respective states? Or will each seek to disrupt progress of the other?

Pervaiz Cheema: There are a number of examples of proximate ports operating without conflict or hostility. Central Asia is a huge area and all its states are landlocked. They need access to the waters and they will avail the opportunities offered by both ports in this respect.

Write-up Credits: Naima Shahab

Video Credits: Nida Abbassi

Nuclear Physicist and Professor of Physics at Quaid e Azam University, Dr. Pervez Amirali Hoodbhoy

Dr. Pervez Amirali Hoodbhoy is a nuclear physicist, and a political-defence analyst. He has been associated with Quaid-e-Azam University as a professor of Physics since the 1970’s, and taught in other institutions such as the Lahore University of Management Sciences. He has also served as a member of the United Nations Secretary General’s Advisory Board on Disarmament.

Dr. Hoodbhoy is the recipient of national and international awards, including the Abdus Salam Prize for Mathematics and IEEE W.R.G Baker Award for Electronics. He has authored several books, among them Islam and Science: Religious Orthodoxy and the Battle for Rationality which has been translated into various languages.

Meeting Dr. Hoodhbhoy for this interview was a wonderful experience. He is welcoming and appreciative, especially when it comes to students. He is a true gentleman, polite and humble. He sits in his decorated office, opposite a green board with calculations handwritten all over – it mirrors his personality in all its colour, creativity and genius.

Dr. Hoodbhoy speaks the most beautiful Urdu. His speech is consistent in the purity of language and the tranquillity of tone.


Video Credits: Nida Abbasi

Former Director General Inter-Services Intelligence, Lieutenant General (R) Asad Durrani

Lt Gen (R) Asad Durrani is a retired three-star general of the Pakistani Army, and former head of the country’s premier intelligence agency – the ISI. He is a veteran of the 1965 and 1971 wars. Beside holding top positions in the military, he has proved his mettle as a diplomat, having been appointed as Pakistan’s ambassador first to Germany, and then to Saudi Arabia.

1. Thank you, sir, for taking out the time for this interview. Beginning from your career, how was the journey from a Second Lieutenant to a Lieutenant General and, later, as Director General (DG) Military Intelligence (MI) and DG Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI)?

Asad Durrani: There was nothing extraordinary about it. I got my commission as a regular line officer, and the career ran a reasonable course. For that I am very grateful to the Almighty. My landing as the DG MI was more of an accident. When Gen Aslam Beg took over as the Army Chief after Zia’s plane crashed in August 1988, he inducted me as the DGMI as I had earlier served with him. I had no prior experience of Intelligence. Had only done a stint as defence attaché and that too in a friendly country like Germany, where I represented the armed forces. But then in many other armies too the head of intelligence is an “outsider”. I spent two years on that assignment.

The next destination was DG ISI – that too was an “accident”. When Ghulam Ishaq Khan dismissed the first government of Benazir Bhutto, someone who was up to date with the situation in Afghanistan and Kashmir was needed to head the ISI. As DGMI, I was readily available. After serving there for an year and a half, I, by then a three-star general, went back to the mainstream, taking over as the Inspector General Training and Evaluation (IG T&I) in the GHQ. My last position was Commandant National Defence College- that is now a university.

2. What was it like to be part of the 1965 and 1971 wars?

AD: It is a matter of great pride for a professional soldier to have had combat experience. War may not be exactly something desirable, but in the military it is the ultimate test – an “acid test” as they say. I was a captain during the ’65 war – and did my part as a junior officer both in Chamb and Sialkot sectors. By the time the ’71 war broke out, I had done my Staff Course as a Major. I was deployed on the Rajasthan front where a crucial battle was fought. The experience was invaluable but more important was the self-confidence that developed after it. Again, I count it as a blessing that one came out of it in reasonably good shape.

3. Coming to the internal situation, it is widely believed that terrorism is the greatest threat facing us today and is of our own making. Would you agree with this?

AD: I would not. Terrorism is not the greatest threat facing us. Most of us can neither define this beast nor understand what it is. And as far as the current phenomenon- call it insurgency or militancy- is concerned, it is largely the result of governance deficit, inability to take care of our own people, and failure to manage the fallout of developments in our neighbourhood, especially the Soviet and American invasions of Afghanistan. To elaborate the last factor; management of the spill over of these wars had to ensure public support. Post 9/11, we failed to take the masses along over our relationship with the US. Resultantly, the disaffection acquired its own dynamics: many groups emerged in the aftermath; some with a political agenda, others with an ideological, and still others who were backed by anti-Pakistan elements, which, by the way also included our allies—and they networked. This development was expected, and taking care of such situations is a challenge that any state would face.

Therefore, the present troubles are a result of our failure to cope with the regional developments and orchestrate our responses. The fight against non-state actors is a complex affair. It has military as well as non-military dimensions. We did reasonably well on the military front, but that is only a small component of the onerous task, that essentially requires administrative, political and ideological measures that have largely remained unaddressed. If these aspects continue to receive scant attention, the root-causes remain and the scourge bounces back.

Let’s also remember that the phenomenon of terrorism goes back a long way in history and is there for all times to come. Terrorism is a technique of war that targets non-combatants, and is employed by states– Hiroshima, Nagasaki, Fallujah, Dresden, are some of the examples—as well as by the non-state actors. You can get rid of the terrorists but not of terrorism.

4. What then is the greatest challenge for Pakistan?

AD: How well the political leadership, the establishment, and the system address the needs of the people. The problem is that whereas it is the masses that bring the governments to power, it is the elites who decide what actually gets done. The result is poverty and alienation, which is then exploited by forces, including the militants, inimical to the state.

5.  Do you think that the decisions that Gen Zia took in the late 1980’s and that Gen Musharraf took post 9/11 were in the best interest of Pakistan?

AD: One must first understand the environment in which a decision was taken. Zia ul Haq decided to support the Afghan resistance because after the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, with a hostile India in the east and now not a very friendly a superpower in the west, we had fallen so to speak in the “jaws of a nutcracker”.  Thereafter, we had three options: wait and watch; reconcile with the fait accompli; or do something. No substantial help from the so-called international community was forthcoming and It was just us and the Afghan resistance, who had to hang-in there for two years till the US, followed by many others, joined in. It would therefore be an unkind verdict that we fought a proxy war. In fact we fought what actually was our war, and in due course, indeed with some outside help, succeeded to have the Soviet occupation vacated. If there were spill-overs like drugs, Kalashnikovs, or an ideology, countering that was also our job. So we succeeded on the external front, but not quite on the internal.

Post-9/11, the world body had sanctioned the invasion of Afghanistan. The US sought our help but India offered to stand-in; proclaiming that since “Pakistan was part of the problem, it could not be part of the solution”. The mere thought that combat aircrafts from the mighty western alliance would fly over Pakistani territory from Indian bases to bomb Afghanistan was not very comforting. So Musharraf decided it was better to cooperate with the coalition. But that of course did not mean that one had to do American bidding even when it was not in our interest. We could have negotiated with them “terms of engagement”: what we could do or would not do; we could lay down “redlines”, beyond which we would not go since that would be against our national interest. That is something all states do as a matter of right.

Since we failed to do that right at the outset, in due course the two countries were in a state of “low intensity conflict”. We did not have the same objectives, nor were our preferred means to achieve them in sync. Their assets, including Drones were going for targets in Pakistan, while certain individuals from here – those who were against the foreign invasion of our neighbouring country or were against our policy – went and fought the allied forces in Afghanistan. In the military jargon, you would call it a low-intensity war. 2011 was the climax of this war: Raymond Davis, Osama Bin Laden, Salala attack etc. After Salala, we blocked the NATO supplies for seven months and only then the nature of relationship was reviewed. There was a lesson to learn. if you are in the position that the other side needed your help, you can work out favourable terms for cooperation. The other side would always ask you to do more, and you can always insist on doing less. And if you take a firm stand you will always be successful- like we were when we stuck to our policy on China in the 1960s, on Iran post the revolution, and on our nuclear programme.

If we submit to pressure because of any weakness, we would always be told to do more, and the results will be disastrous. But whenever we take decisions in our interest and for our own people, we will succeed. And remember no state worth its name would change its policies in return of aid that it received.

6. What should be Pakistan’s present policy toward the U.S.?

AD: I think we’re now on the right track. We have understood that we must keep our options in foreign relations open. We have improved our ties with Russia and Iran- with the latter even at the expense of annoying our old friend, Saudi Arabia. But of course, it is the domestic scene that matters more. Internally, there are serious shortcomings. Some believe that given time the present system, that passes for democracy, would take care of our internal issues. I’m not an expert in this field but I don’t think the system is robust enough to improve on its own. There are deep structural flaws that will overtime cause more harm than good.

7. Can we still differentiate between good and bad Taliban?

AD: Good or bad is a judgment that all of us can individually make, but differentiate we must. Even if all of them were bad, we still have to stagger our approach, to deal with them, in time and in methodology. Taking on all of them at the same time would not only unite them but would also over-extend our resources. Some must be dealt with urgently- the present enemy; others whose tackling could wait- the future enemy. The methodology too must vary. Against some groups you have to use force, some others would require political treatment, and still others who may have to be eliminated by intelligence operations.

Moreover, the military instrument that we usually employ can only  win time, and space, for the political and administrative means that may be more complex but unless pursued whole-heartedly, would not eliminate the root causes of this problem.

8. India and Pakistan both want their influence in Afghanistan. For Pakistan, there is a hatred for in the Afghanistan public, while India is one of the biggest investors in Afghanistan’s infrastructure development. How do you see the future nexus of these?

AD: The Afghans are not a monolith. They are split along tribal, ethnic, linguistic and cultural lines. Then there are other divisions: those who resist the invaders, and those who collaborate with them. There are good reasons that we support the resistors and our people empathise with them. Liberating Afghanistan from foreign military presence is the first step towards restoring stability. However, those who are the beneficiaries of the occupation would indeed be unhappy with our policies. According to a New York Times survey done over a year ago, one-third of the Afghans support the cause of the Taliban, so at least that number should be happy with us.

Regarding the Indian influence; we should have no objections to India pursuing its economic, even cultural objectives. It is their right. Indeed, we have problems when the Indians sponsor anti-Pakistani activities from Afghan soil. But again it is our job to counter them, and if we cannot do that in our own “backyard”, with all the advantages of history and geography, then the fault is  all ours.

I don’t lose any sleep over the state of Indo-Pak relations. They have been frozen in time ever since we achieved a strategic balance- conventional as well as unconventional. Some cosmetic or atmospheric variations were still possible but there is little chance of a breakthrough. India prefers the status-quo, and we have also learnt to live with it.

9. If you were to give a message to the people of Pakistan, what would that be?

AD: Pakistanis are wise people. They don’t need any message from me. The sub-state sector of the polity has kept us afloat, but of course the optimum returns are only possible when the state too starts performing as efficiently as the people. The various divides that we hear about- between the ethnic groups, for example- are essentially political in nature. All these factions know that sticking together was their best bet, and all of them believe that they are part of this country and have a stake in its well-being.


Video credits: Nida Abbasi

Write-up credits: Naima Shahab


Chairman PTI Policy Council and Member National Assembly, Asad Umar

Asad Umar, by virtue of his personality, history, and political affiliation, ranks among the leading figures in contemporary Pakistani politics. Erstwhile CEO of food production giant Engro Corporation, he began his political career by joining the Pakistan Tehreek e Insaf  (PTI) in 2012. Asad Umar heads the Media, Marketing, and Policy division of PTI. He was elected to the National Assembly from NA-48 in the 2013 General Elections.

Asad Umar embodies the PTI’s conviction in ‘change’ as an instrument of socio-economic prosperity in thought, speech, and person. Given the choices he has made over the past few years, and the precedence he has given to the larger over personal interest, one can hardly question his sincerity. His ideas are as convincing as they are powerful. Coupled with the PTI’s revolutionary rhetoric, one hopes that his corporate pragmatism helps translate his, and the party’s, vision into reality.

 1.  Beginning with your career, you have clearly been a success. But is what you have achieved in line with what you always wanted to achieve?

Asad Umar: In the early 1990s, corporate companies, including mine, first took to defining their ‘visions’. That’s what pushed me to craft my personal vision, one that I have held on to for over twenty-five years now: to be able to make a significant, positive impact on the economic lives of the people of Pakistan. The direction has been the same since, and I have gotten the opportunity to get somewhere. Could I have gotten farther? Yes, I could have.

2. You have been the CEO of Engro Corporation, and are known as one of the highest paid individuals in Pakistan. Why then did you resign and opt for politics as a career?

AU: There are two dimensions to this. One is the compensation dimension that you refer to. That I’ve never been interested in. What Allah had already given me, was enough.

The second dimension is more important. At Engro, I had an opportunity to contribute. Our company made investments worth $1 billion in four years – something that no private company has achieved in the history of Pakistan. I was awarded Sitara-e-Imtiaz for it. So there were dramatic improvements in investments and employment, especially those of the hundred-thousand farmers who supply milk to Engro Corporation. But I left it though I was achieving what I had set out for myself in my personal vision because, potentially, there is room for making an even greater impact here. And it has been worth it. So there was an opportunity for contribution there and there’s one here. But this is different.

3. Politicians often get personal and fail to maintain their decorum in speeches and public discussions. How do you ensure that you don’t?

AU: Everyone has their own style. In the by-election campaign, when you are head-to-head with your rival, many personal details were brought up against me – the city I come from, the hotel I’m staying in, etc. But I, to the best of my knowledge, never even named the candidate I was contesting against. I think the idea is more powerful than the person. Your message is more powerful if conveyed through ideology instead of personality.

I don’t quite agree with you when you refer to personal attacks. They are not so frequent in Pakistani politics. If Nawaz Sharif says Imran Khan’s priorities are not correct in the assembly, this is not a personal attack. If we say Mian Sahib does not follow democratic norms and laws, this is not a personal attack. This is Imran Khan’s or Nawaz Sharif’s criticism of political choices and judgements.

But language is also disregarded, at times…

There are politicians who do that, yes. But, normally, our society does not accept that. People like it better if debates take place within the confines of courtesy and respect.

4. To be an optimistic is a good thing but optimism should be based on realistic grounds. Is the drastic change that PTI calls for under the slogan of Naya Pakistan really an applicable idea in the contemporary situation?

AU: That’s a good question, and an important one. And, if you don’t mind, it shows us how we have fallen from the point whence we began our journey. The man who first dreamed of Pakistan told us to aim higher than the stars. He said his plea reached the gates of heaven so that even God heard it. That is where we began and now we talk about being realistic and pragmatic. I’ll put a situation in front of you, ponder over it and make an inner judgement. General Elections, 1937: The All India Muslim League is routed, completely. The results are an electoral fiasco. Three years later, the AIML gathers in Lahore and passes a resolution on March 23. We’ll make a separate homeland for the Muslims, they say. Was that realistic? You’ve gotten a flailing three years ago, you haven’t one in a single state and you speak of a separate homeland? How is that even possible?

I ask you, had that resolution not been passed, had Quaid-e-Azam’s leadership not put forth that vision, would Pakistan have been made? If instead the resolution had been that realistically, in light of the given mandate, we should try to do better next time – would Pakistan have been made?

You see, I’m not a philosopher. I’m a businessman. What can be more pragmatic than business? I’ve been affiliated with quite a successful company and worked on projects worth billions of rupees. It does not do without pragmatism. You need pragmatism in managing day-to-day affairs, you need it to translate vision into reality. But you don’t need it to achieve big. You must think big in order to achieve big. In fact, all who have done so were once told that they didn’t talk sense and that they’d gone bonkers.

If you think things are fine in Pakistan, life’s good, neither are 48 per cent Pakistanis malnourished nor 20 million out of school, women have their rights, the state a good reputation, and the green passport invokes a positive image, then fine. Let it be. But if you want to see Pakistan somewhere better, then you’ll have to think big.

5. In the 2013 general elections, apart from rigging, what other factors contributed to making PTI the second runner-up?

AU: Internal factors. Late intra-party elections kept us from having ground organizations down to the penultimate year before the elections. There were differences within the party. Our message did not reach the rural population as successfully as did during the sit-in. Late candidate-selection, people got their tickets less than a month before the elections and around 70 per cent of these were novices.

6. Are you satisfied with the recent LG elections? And how important is Local Government?

AU: In Islamabad, as per the delimitations by the Election Commission of Pakistan in June, half the seats were urban, half rural – which is, roundabout, the distribution of our population. The same ECP, when it delimited the regions three months later, reduced the urban to 17 per cent against a 33 per cent of rural seats. That alone, if rectified, would win PTI an additional three to four seats.

Secondly, the election was held on a working day when everyone knows the educated, working middle class is the PTI’s core support group. That too cost us, at least, two to three seats.

But, relatively, the Islamabad results are much better. That is something that the PTI acknowledges, something that the media, too, has acknowledged. We have won 60 per cent of the urban seats. As for the rest of Pakistan, Islamabad has come out as an aberration. LG elections are the sitting government’s elections: the PTI has won in KPK, PPP in interior Sindh, MQM in Karachi, and in Punjab… It would be incorrect to judge popularity on the basis of it.

As for the importance, democracy is incomplete without local body elections. A 180 million population represented by 273 MNAs and around 800 MPAs – it’s mathematically unworkable. Secondly, our service-delivery institutions have collapsed so you cannot even expect purpose-built institution to deliver. You need representatives at the grassroots level.

If you are using politics to increase your property and empower your family, then you’d want to keep power centralized. But if you’re doing it to improve people’s lives, then you have to distribute the authority, you have to take it down to the grassroots. You have to mend the alleys, the parks, the dispensaries, and the teaching system. You have to establish libraries, you have to provide clean drinking water. Local representatives should be empowered with the authority and the resources to mend all this.

7. If PTI manages a majority at the Centre in the coming years, what major difference would it make for Pakistan?

AU: Why do you say ‘if’? It’s not a question of ‘if’, it’s a question of ‘when’. You see, the basic difference from which all other follow is this: Presently, a few families are governing the entire state and distributing the gains among themselves. We have to replace that with a Pakistan where all 180 million people are in control. We have to devolve power and take politics out of institutions and service-delivery systems.

8. Being a business expert, how do you see CPEC improving Pakistan’s economy and internal situation?

AU: CPEC is a positive development. It is a good thing and must garner everyone’s support. But what CPEC is exactly, we still haven’t figured out. Today’s Dawn editorial mentions a statement by Governor State Bank that there is no transparency in the project, no one knows what is going on. That is exactly what I have been saying… The parliamentary oversight committee was established on our call, I represent the PTI in it – I and Senator Shibli Faraz. I put forth six questions in the last committee and called for a follow-up this morning. The meeting was on November 18, it has been more than three weeks. Utter plain questions, the same that the Govenor State Bank is now asking.

The primary difference is that power projects in Pakistan were financed by the West, the World Bank, the Asian Development Bank… now they are being financed by China because the West is running out of savings and the cash surplus rests with China. So that’s not a dramatic difference but it’s a good thing.

9. If you had to give one message to the youth of Pakistan, what would that be?

AU: The Pakistani youth is way more vigilant. I should be taking their opinion instead. What can I say? My knowledge has become redundant. Again, to quote Allama Iqbal, Khirad ko ghulami se aazad kar, Jawano(n) ko peero(n) ka ustaad kar (- let intellect be free from slavery, let the young guide the old). So the time has come. The youth will advise us now.

I believe in Pakistan, I’ve always believed in Pakistan. I’ve been rewarded by Pakistan, tremendously. So, believe in Pakistan, make your contribution the best way you can – whatever drives your passion. And, in sha Allah (God willing) the country will one day become the country that Jinnah envisioned it to be.


Video Credits: Nida Abbasi

Write-up Credits: Naima Shahab


Dean, Faculty of Contemporary Studies, National Defence University, Prof Dr. Pervaiz Iqbal Cheema


“I’m optimistic, you see, because optimism comes cheaper”, said Dr. Pervaiz Iqbal Cheema

Prof Dr Pervaiz Iqbal Cheema is Dean Faculty of Contemporary Studies at National Defence University, Islamabad. A seasoned teacher and experienced researcher Dr Cheema has served many academic institutions both inside and outside the country in various capacities over a period nearing four decades. He has numerous research publications to his name that were published inside as well as outside Pakistan.

Dr Cheema is also a cricket enthusiast. When asked to recount a memory from a 1960s match against visiting Indian cricket team, he said he could only recount an embarrassing one. Did you get bowled out at 0? I asked. No, I scored 33 runs as the opener, he said. And then added, smiling,I dropped a catch in front of the girls’ camp.

Q:Given the command you have over the International Relations discipline, you must view related developments with a keen eye. What particular conclusions do you draw from the current South-Asian political scenario?

Pervaiz Cheema:South Asia is a very confusing case-study. India and Pakistan are the two big powers here. On the one hand we have cultural similarities – the commonalities that we often highlight but on the other we are caught in the cobweb of conflict and political differences. It is a well recognized fact that mutual cooperation and collaboration can not only accelerate the process of economic development but also transform the region from a conflict ridden area to a region of peace and tranquillity. But the Indian hegemonic pursuit is impeding the attainment of this objective. My perception is that smaller powers of the region are afraid of India’s might and hegemonic designs.  In the interests of regional economic development and social welfare, we must devote ourselves to efforts that can promote desired normalization between India and Pakistan. Jointly it can help us to play an effective role in international organizations. If we go forward together, we stand to benefit.

The way I see it, three things on either side of the border hinder normalization: perceptions, attitudes and the media.

Q: Nuclear deterrence has somewhat assured South-Asian stability. Do you agree? How far do you think this can go?

PC: To an extent, yes. India wants to establish its superiority and does have an edge in the shape of nuclear submarines, but it is equally conscious of Pakistan’s effective missile capability that can deliver both the conventional and nuclear weapons.

Q: The core concern between the two countries is the Kashmir issue. What military and diplomatic steps do you think would be most appropriate in overcoming this?

PC: The dynamics of this Indo-Pak conflict go back to pre-partition days and the inept partition processes further complicated the situation. While many problems that emanated at the time partition were more or less resolved in one form or the other the ongoing Kashmir dispute continued to haunt the relationships between India and Pakistan.  Adjusting any conflict resolution strategy to the contemporary dynamics is a challenge and will require hard work. Both parties must make sincere efforts to resolve this dispute which had already take a very heavy toll of relationships. A settlement may involve some form of a compromise and both the media as well as the leadership should prepare their people for such an eventuality. Finally, both parties should recognize the existence of a third party, the Kashmiris. Without having them on board, we cannot hope to achieve any long-term settlement.

Q: Would Pakistan’s giving MFN status to India improve relations in the long term?

PC: India gave Pakistan MFN status back in 1996. Since we didn’t reciprocate, they started creating hurdles in cross-border trade. Both countries should realize the mutual importance of trade but trade pattern has to be balanced. No doubt there will be objection to any such decision by political parties and interest groups within India and Pakistan, but there are ways to deal with that. The decision must be projected in a way that the public perceives it conducive to its interests.

I do believe progress is being made but we are still long way away from the desired level and it would catch need greater efforts to accelerate the process and avoid outsiders’ interference.

Q: How do you see the growing US-India defence cooperation?

PC: India has demonstrated certain concerns bordering on its insecurities when it comes to China. It sees China’s policy aimed at a containment of India. That is of course an Indian interpretation. However the Chinese are not oblivious to the Indian and American pursuits in the region.  The Chinese have developed good relations with many countries of the region including Pakistan. In fact Pakistan and China’s friendship is depicted in terms of catch-phrases like ‘higher than the Himalayas’, ‘deeper than the ocean and ‘sweeter than honey’ – it’s all poetry to be honest. The factual situation is that both China and Pakistan recognize the mutually accrued benefits of close relationship.

The United States is building India as a bulwark against China hoping that India would perform the American task in the region.

Q: US-Afghan Strategic Partnership Agreement has extended US involvement in Afghanistan. What does this mean for Pakistan?

PC: They’ll be staying till 2017. That’s what I think. They say they’ll leave in 2016, but they’ll leave the year after. The reason? By then, the Afghan Air Force will be capable enough to fly its own planes and also Afghan National Army would gain sufficient confidence.

As for Pakistan, I believe we have reason to be optimistic. Karzai was a slippery customer, but Ghani is different person. He has taken Pakistan on board and recognized the role Pakistan can play in facilitating intra-state normalization. I see a realization of the benefits of such cooperation on both sides. But, mind you, though Ghani realizes the necessity of having good relations with Pakistan, he won’t be driving India away either.

Q: Do you see prospects of Pak-Afghan normalization in the near future?

PC: You see, Afghanistan is a landlocked state. It needs Pakistan for ensuring smooth transit trade through Pakistan. They have an alternative route in Iran, but Afghanistan’s 40% Pakhtuns would be happier to trade with the Pakhtuns in Pakistan. I think that Afghanistan will eventually stabilize. The civil war is inconclusive and they know it. They’ll find a role for Pakistan in arriving at a long-term negotiated settlement.

I’m optimistic, you see, because optimism comes cheaper.

Q: What advice do you have for students who wish to pursue higher education or a career in this field?

PC: Know your facts. It’s not wrong to have biases but even biases should be rationalised. Work hard and pray and I am sure that God will guide and help you in your pursuits.


Write-up credits: Naima Shahab

Former President of Jammu and Kashmir People’s Party, Sardar Khalid Ibrahim



“Pakistan’s message is loud and clear: Peace, but with equality”, said Khalid Ibrahim.

Sardar Khalid Ibrahim hails from one of Azad Kashmir’s most respected families. A renowned politician in his own right, he is the son of  Sardar Muhammad Ibrahim Khan – the founder of Kashmir’s freedom struggle. Khalid Ibrahim has served as President of the Jammu and Kashmir People’s Party which may be called a breakaway faction or the now-independent Kashmir chapter of Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto’s Pakistan People’s Party.

Unlike most politicians, Khalid Ibrahim is not a populist. He is a strict adherent of political morality regardless of whether or not it wins him state patronage. He is genuinely concerned about the deteriorating reputation of politicians and, in embodying honesty in both thought and action, is doing his part to set things straight. His hope in Kashmir’s future is unfaltering, it is also refreshing.

Q: You come from a well-recognized political background. Tell us about your father.

Khalid Ibrahim: My father was basically a democrat. He was a freedom-fighter. His being a student of Politics and Philosophy helped him through. The resolution for Azad Kashmir’s incorporation into Pakistan was signed at his home. He has also been Azad Kashmir’s representative at the UN. He was disturbed in the later years, yes. But we’re heading in the right direction today, and at good pace. The sanctity of the vote may be lost but at least people are talking about it.

Q: Why did you resign from the Legislative Assembly twice, and give up opportunities to assume higher political offices?

KI: These decisions are not for me to make, they are for the people. We stand for elections every 5 years and it is up to the people to decide if they want us to assume office. I have been to the Legislative Assembly four times but have never been part of the government. I have my reasons. I was earlier part of the Pakistan Peoples Party – it’s a mainstream political party. Then, after I developed differences with the leadership, I established my own party that is confined to Azad Kashmir.

But it was never just about making it to the office. It was about participating in the actual decision-making process. Unfortunately, Pakistani political parties reserve that right to themselves. They do all our decision-making and we are expected to tow along.

People, not just in Pakistan but around the world, have lost all trust in politicians. It is owing to negligence of meritocracy and of the mandate of the people.

Q: Interests of the global hegemon tend to be more influential than any international laws or UN resolutions. What impact do you think growing US-India relations would have on the Kashmir issue?

KI: Nothing much, really. These are short-term policies shaped by an era of market-economy. India has a population advantage over us. This may cause a short-term setback to the Kashmir issue but nothing in the long-term.

We’ve had the upper hand since 1949. The UN resolution has given us that leverage. India, on the other hand, has been on the back foot. It’s evident in how its call for permanent membership of the UN Security Council is rejected. How can it claim entitlement to a veto, when it still hasn’t fulfilled its obligations under a resolution passed nearly seven decades ago?

Q: Don’t these relations have the potential to win India a significant position in Afghanistan?

KI: They do. The US wants to increase Indian presence in Afghanistan but that is unacceptable for us. We are contiguous to the state and it is we who have borne the brunt of its turmoil for the past thirty years. Bypassing us today and establishing another state’s influence there – especially one we consider hostile to us – is a non-viable option. It will have great costs. We cannot put our existence in jeopardy. We cannot afford Indian presence on both our eastern and western fronts.

Q: What policy do you suggest Pakistan should have towards India?

KI: Our policies should be consistent. India has institutionalized its struggle but it hasn’t made much of a difference. We are still fighting the struggle for our survival. And where they have the greater defence budget, we are the fastest growing nuclear arsenal. So we’re even.

Q: How should Pakistan respond to India’s aspirations for regional hegemony in South Asia?

KI: Pakistan’s foreign policy from day one has been resistant to the rise of a regional hegemon. Aman, barabari k saath. We want peace with equality. If you consider China, the interests are mutual. There is no subordination.

I concede that this has also been damaging, but that is how it is. We resisted the ascent of Russia, first, and the resulting dismemberment was only reciprocal. Today, our strategic position remains the same. We will resist the rise of India. Pakistan’s message is loud and clear: Peace, but with equality.

Q: Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi wants to abolish Article 370 of the Indian Constitution. Do you think that would be a task easily achieved?

KI: The Indian government cannot lose its leverage in Kashmir. It’s hardly been s week since the BJP formed a coalition with Mufti Sayeed’s People’s Democratic Party, and look what message they sent with the release of Masarat Alam. The government wouldn’t want to further ruin its mandate, 370 is a far cry.

Q: Recently it has been reported that a sizeable number of Hindus have migrated to Kashmir which can have a decisive impact on any future referendum or plebiscite. How should Pakistan react to this?

KI: If you ask my opinion, there cannot be a migration of that scale. Such claims are made to gain political mileage. India says the same about Azad Kashmir. To tell you the truth, there are more Afghanis in Kashmir today than Pakistanis. Pakistanis go there only as tourists.

If India does this for political mileage, it isn’t going to win them any. It could’ve, back when they had leaders like Sheikh Abdullah, but not today. They have no man in Kashmir today to support such a move.

Q: Should Pakistan hold its ground on the Kashmir issue, or is compromise necessary for conflict resolution?

KI: We must not lose sight of our main goal – the right of self-determination. The stance of the political parties is softening. But as long as we have institutions like the Pakistan Army on our side, this struggle will continue. The Army has given unparalleled support to Kashmir, it has fought for us on the international platform. The politicians, barring Quaid e Azam and Liaquat Ali Khan, never did that. Ayub Khan once said to the Kashmiris, there will come a time when the people and political parties of Pakistan will forget you, but the Pakistan Army never will. And that is exactly what has happened.

As for compromise, it’s more important that we accept each other first. You cannot bring about peace between two parties who are hostile to the very existence to each other. It took Europe 200 years to learn this lesson, they learned it the hard way. Let’s see how we learn it. But we cannot learn it overnight, either.

Q: If you had to give one message to the people of Kashmir, what would it be?

KI: We don’t give messages, we take messages. That’s our job. We listen to what the people have to say. But the Kashmiris need to work on something – they need to learn to compromise. They’re not ready to compromise.


Write-up credits: Naima Shahab