Tag Archives: Karakoram

With China, for China – As China arrives, Pakistan cleans house

By Wajahat S. Khan

The Sino-Pak axis has matured. The decades old ‘Cheen-Pak Bhai Bhai’ narrative is fast moving beyond pan-Karakoram fraternal rhetoric complemented by scenically exotic highways, shared rocket designs and muted nuclear deals to morph into optically sound, fundamentally critical, even mutually loud and proud policy, infrastructure and defense initiatives on the ground. China – and not just its submarines – is coming to Pakistan, and Pakistan is getting ready to receive the People’s Republic. The ‘Bhai’ in Beijing, as the mood in Islamabad indicates, is now a BFF – Best Friend Forever – even a Friend With Benefits.

The comprehensive Chinese assistance package – hinged on the 3000 kilometer-long China-Pak Economic Corridor, an aggressive energy build-up and military modernization – is the largest planned foreign investment program for any country, ever, touching almost crossing over $100 billion in the next decade and a half, and is being seen as the next, and perhaps the last, big thing that war-weary Pakistan must grab on to, at any cost.

The Peking Promise

The plan is simple: The deep-sea port of Gwadar is going to drive Chinese imports, largely oil and gas, into western China, which is relatively underdeveloped versus the rest of the PRC and prone to militancy. The levies, infrastructure and traffic will tone up the CPEC network to create jobs, roads and even entire towns along the way from Pakistani Balochistan, through all of the Islamic Republic’s other provinces, to Chinese Kashgar in Xinjiang. Add the potential of Chinese naval presence in Gwadar that will let it over see Hormuz and neighboring ports and the reality of Pakistan’s newly formed and purpose-built 34th Infantry Division to protect Chinese assets and personnel, and there is a single-minded confidence that the corridor must be secured and will be secured. After all, the Pakistanis have given their word to Beijing.

“China is Pakistan’s only strategic friend…not even the Saudis get to have that privilege any longer” said a senior intelligence officer last month when China’s deputy intelligence chief, Dong Haizhou was promised “no hurdles for CPEC” by army chief General Raheel Sharif during a visit to GHQ, according to the military spokesperson’s office.

So, fuelled by the blank political cheque presented to the civilian and military security apparatus by popular support after the terrible Peshawar Army Public School massacre last December – which has granted the military, police and federal investigators unprecedented constitutional powers to clean house – whoever gets in the way of a CPEC-oriented Pakistan must move aside, or be pushed out. The purge is here, and the reasoning is to satisfy China.

Housekeeping

But this isn’t just the regular arrests and assassinations purge, the type that Pakistanis are used to. It’s more of a wide-ranging political rethink, a housekeeping exercise that runs from the south to the north, just like the corridor it is meant to pave. In Karachi and Sindh, the drive against ‘corrupt’ political parties like former president Asif Ali Zardari’s Pakistan Peoples Party has begun, which has forced him to take some respite and exit the country; also, that’s where the ‘violent’ wings of Karachi’s all-powerful Muttahida Qaumi Movement are being clipped, with some help from the BBC (which claims that India’s Research and Analysis Wing funded and trained the party’s militants) and British authorities (who are investigating the MQM’s leadership in London for murder and money laundering). Karachi, too violent and complicated to tackle alone, needed a pincer move to control it, and the Pakistanis have managed to find a partner here in the UK.

Continue reading With China, for China – As China arrives, Pakistan cleans house

China tables railway project linking to Pakistan

By Dawn.com

A research study regarding an international railway project linking Pakistan with China’s Xinjiang province through Azad Jammu and Kashmir has been commissioned by China, according to a Times of India and China Daily report.

The rail link funded primarily by China would connect Xinjiang’s western city Kashgar to the Gwadar deep sea port of Pakistan, said state-run China Daily while quoting the director of Xinjiang’s regional development and reform commission, Zhang Chunlin on the subject.

“The 1,800-km China-Pakistan railway is planned to also pass through Pakistan’s capital of Islamabad and Karachi,” Zhang had said at the two-day International Seminar on the Silk Road Economic Belt being held in Urumqi, Xinjiang’s capital.

Due to geo-strategic implications the project would be hard to proceed with, as it would be a requisite for the rail project to run through the Pamir Plateau and Karakoram Mountains. Although once completed it would emerge as one of the most strategically beneficial transportation infrastructures on the China-Pakistan economic corridor, opined Zhang.

“Although the cost of constructing the railway is expected to be high due to the hostile environment and complicated geographic conditions, the study of the project has already been started,” he added.

President Xi Jinping had also spoken in favour of rejuvenating conventional trade routes connecting China, Central Asia and Europe.

A multi-billion deal has already been signed to initiate work on an Economic Corridor linking Kashgar with the port city of Gwadar through AJK. It also implied revamping the already in place Karakoram road link despite the cynicism expressed by political analysts in China.

The project exhibits tremendous potential as it would enable China to run a port alongside Gulf of Oman which is deemed to be a hub for activities relating to oil tankers.

India however has objected to the project citing concerns that the said route would involve a disputed territory. Pakistan had given the operational key of the port city of Gwadar to Beijing back in 2013, a move deeply detested by India as it alleged it could provide a chance to China to monitor its port activities.

Courtesy: DAWN
http://www.dawn.com/news/1116104/china-tables-railway-project-linking-to-pakistan

Why India can’t give up Siachen

By: Vikram Sood

The nation cannot afford to repeat the strategic mistakes of the past — like halting our advance at Uri in 1948 or not capturing Skardu; or giving up Haji Pir in 1966; or returning 93,000 troops and territory in 1972

The strategic advantage accruing to India in Siachen should not be given up for apparent short-term political gains. Giving up Siachen as a gesture of friendship would also mean that its recapture would be extremely expensive to India in men and material, says Vikram Sood.

Continue reading Why India can’t give up Siachen

BBC News – Avalanche buries 100 Pakistani troops in Kashmir

A Pakistani general says more than 100 troops have been buried by an avalanche in the disputed Kashmir region.

Pakistan army spokesman Major General Athar Abbas told the BBC some bodies had been recovered but could not say how many had survived.

The avalanche hit a military camp near the Siachen glacier in the Karakoram branch of the Himalaya mountains. A rescue operation is underway.

India and Pakistan both claim the area and have deployed thousands of troops. ….

Read more » BBC

A country for bigotry

Land of bigots

By Tazeen Javed

It has been a year since Shahbaz Bhatti passed away. No, strike that, he did not pass away; his life was brutally cut short when he was murdered. Everyone from the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) to the Sipah-i-Sahaba Pakistan have been suspected with his murder, either by the police officials, or by the home ministry, yet no decent progress has been made.

In a way, it all makes sense, since only certain kinds of angry groups of men, who bay for blood and destruction, seem to carry any weight around here. Bhatti was NOT that kind of a man. He believed in fighting for rights the democratic way and had planned to introduce legislation that would ban hate speech and hate literature against all. He was campaigning for official holidays for minorities’ religious festivals and wanted the blasphemy law to be repealed which turned out to be a crime worthy of death.

Bhatti’s death is not a lone incidence of brutal violence. Planned acts of aggression and cruelty against minorities — whether ethnic, religious, sectarian or communal — is becoming a norm in the ‘Land of the Pure’. Intolerance has reached such levels that people with names that revealed their sectarian or religious beliefs are afraid to use them when they feel unsafe. Slain journalist, Mukarram Khan Atif narrated one such incident, which depicted the extent of narrow-mindedness and fanaticism in the country. He and another reporter were travelling south from Mohmand Agency through Khyber Agency and one of them had to use a name that would make him pass off as a member of the majority sect.

The minority communities — no matter who they are and where they are living — are constantly under threat. We have cases of forced conversions of Hindu girls, mostly minors in Sindh who are forcefully abducted and married to Muslim men and then presented to the court as religious converts. According to a treasury member of the Sindh Assembly, around 20 to 25 forced conversions take place every month in the province.

Acts of mob violence against Ahmadis seem to be rising at an alarming rate. The situation is such that any Ahmadi family is at risk of being threatened with the blasphemy law. Their places of worship are gunned and/or ransacked and the law-enforcement community and the state does nothing and silently looks on.

The perpetrators of the Gojra incident, where a whole Christian colony was burnt down, still roam free and the Hazaras in Balochistan are regularly targeted for their sectarian and ethnic identity. Also, nothing is done to check the dissemination of hate literature, some of which can be found even in mainstream bookstores. Last week’s tragic shooting of passengers travelling on a bus to Gilgit on the Karakoram Highway, where people were asked to show their CNICs and then taken off and killed — all of them were Shia — shows that we have reached an even higher level of prejudice and bigotry.

It would not be wrong to say that intolerance rules our society and no one is safe here in this country other than the men who perpetuate bias, bigotry and hatred?

Courtesy: The Express Tribune, March 3rd, 2012.

China’s Discreet Hold on Pakistan’s Northern Borderlands

By SELIG S. HARRISON

While the world focuses on the flood-ravaged Indus River valley, a quiet geopolitical crisis is unfolding in the Himalayan borderlands of northern Pakistan, where Islamabad is handing over de facto control of the strategic Gilgit-Baltistan region in the northwest corner of disputed Kashmir to China.

The entire Pakistan-occupied western portion of Kashmir stretching from Gilgit in the north to Azad (Free) Kashmir in the south is closed to the world, in contrast to the media access that India permits in the eastern part, where it is combating a Pakistan-backed insurgency. But reports from a variety of foreign intelligence sources, Pakistani journalists and Pakistani human rights workers reveal two important new developments in Gilgit-Baltistan: a simmering rebellion against Pakistani rule and the influx of an estimated 7,000 to 11,000 soldiers of the People’s Liberation Army.

China wants a grip on the region to assure unfettered road and rail access to the Gulf through Pakistan. It takes 16 to 25 days for Chinese oil tankers to reach the Gulf. When high-speed rail and road links through Gilgit and Baltistan are completed, China will be able to transport cargo from Eastern China to the new Chinese-built Pakistani naval bases at Gwadar, Pasni and Ormara, just east of the Gulf, within 48 hours.

Many of the P.L.A. soldiers entering Gilgit-Baltistan are expected to work on the railroad. Some are extending the Karakoram Highway, built to link China’s Sinkiang Province with Pakistan. Others are working on dams, expressways and other projects.

Read more >> The New York Times