Pakistan is staring at allround deterioration in its comprehensive national power and overall national health. Its economic indicators are at an all-time low, internal situation is highly disturbed barring the state of Punjab. It is rapidly losing friends externally, latest being Saudi Arabia and UAE. Xi (China) is having a free run in all affairs of Pakistan and virtually dictating terms to them. It may not be out of place to state that the very sovereignty of Pakistan is under existential threat.
Economically it is under severe stress. It’s GDP has taken a dramatic dip from USD 315 billion in 2018 to USD 278 billion in 2019. Following the COVID-19 pandemic and a downswing in foreign remittances, it is likely to drop further. The Public debt stands at 87% and external debt has risen to 38.7% of its dwindling GDP. Inflation stands at an all-time high of 12.7 %. The Pak Rupee has devalued by almost 40 % and stands at PKR 168 to a dollar. Foreign reserve has fallen to 10.2 billion USD. The US has been constantly reducing its aid; from 2177 million USD in 2014 it has come down to 108 million USD in 2018. Till recently the aid in 2020 stands at just 70 million USD. It is a matter of serious concern for any country that has to go to the IMF now for the 13th time seeking bailout package simply for debt servicing besides borrowing from China to pay back dues to Saudi Arabia. Its 37 billion dollar debt has to be serviced with the help of 6 billion dollar IMF aid. But till now, only USD 1 billion was released, which was boosted in Apr 20 by another 1.4 billion dollar aid to manage the COVID crisis. The Chinese debt out of the total external debt of 37.359 billion is 14.652 billion primarily due to CPEC.
The impact of the economic burden has translated into higher tax collection, inflation and virtual takeover of the financial institution by IMF through its trusted Pakistani financial experts in various apex level government bodies. The traders have gone on strike, protesting against high taxation and expressing their inability to pay increased taxes. The other impact has been on its military preparedness. In the past, the government was diverting large portion of aid packages to enhance its military capacities and capabilities. Farooq Tariq maintains that the military establishment has had a role to play in the aggravation of the economy and despite the current situation recently sought a 20% pay hike to its forces. The Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) isn’t the first party to seek the Army’s help in maintaining the vicious circle of debt for Pakistan. Even the US aid given regularly to Pakistan since 2002, a major portion gets diverted to fund development of Army capabilities. The import of US Aid can be understood from the fact that since 2002 to 2018, US has given 34 billion USD aid to Pakistan of which Pakistan military has used 8.3 billion dollars and 14.5 billion dollars has been given to reimburse the expenditure made on Collation Security Forces (CSF). Only 11.3 billion dollar was allocated for civilian economic activity. Farooq Tariq has said “Military and debt expenses take up over half of the national budget at present. The successive governments have bowed down to the pressures of the generals and the creditors not to reduce these two unproductive expenditures,” he said. This has forced Pakistan to seek assistance from its allweather friend China. Pakistan is seeking to first, bring down mark-up on debt to London Interbank Offer Rate plus two (Libor+2) per cent from the existing average of about Libor+4.5pc. Second, Pakistan has sought an extension in debt repayment period in the tariff to 20 years from the existing repayment period of 10 years. However, China will extract its pound of flesh by forcing Pakistan to award contracts to Chinese companies with a grant of loan which will enable China to enable its outfits to use the loan money while Pakistan foots the exorbitant interest rates unlike the IMF and World Bank which provide soft loans. Situation is rapidly reaching a point of no return from where Pakistan will have no choice but to be overwhelmed by external and internal debt. In such dire economic state Pakistan is destined to become a virtual vassal of China.
Financial Action Task Force (FAT F) Noose
As if debt servicing was not enough of a trouble, Pakistan faces further distress from the Financial Action Task Force (FATF). It has extended the retention of Pakistan in the grey list during its online June 2020 meeting but still not absolved Pakistan from financing terror organisations and has extended the retention of Pakistan in grey list till its next meeting in October 2020. Pakistan and China had made a joint appeal to take off Pakistan from grey list but the US report on Pakistan slamming it for continuing to support the terror groups operating in Afghanistan and India from Pakistani soil convinced the members of FATF that Pakistan was doing an eyewash of curbing terror funding. Pakistan was further humiliated when its attempt to allegedly implicate four persons from India including an Engineer working in Afghanistan as sanctioned terrorist with links to groups like the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) and Jamaatul Ahrar (JuA) was vetoed by the US in the UNSC. Pakistan, once known as the exporter of terror, is now being haunted by the Frankenstein Monster it created as a matter of state policy.
Baluchistan Insurgency. Although incidents of terror activities have seen a marginal drop attributed primarily to excessive use of military power on its own citizens in Baluchistan, KPK and Sindh, extremism and intolerance is on the rise. The current situation has the potential of exploding in the face of the Pakistani government if incidents such as the assassination of Hayat Baloch continues to be perpetuated by the Pakistani Army. 25 year old Hayat Baloch, a science undergraduate at Karachi University was killed in cold blood by Frontier Corps (FC) troops in public view in front of his parents without being given any chance to explain his case in Baluchistan’s Turbat town. The incident has sparked unprecedented protests with people gathering in thousands across Baluchistan, other parts of Pakistan. The protests are also taking place in various parts of the world. Baluchistan Human Rights Commission (BHRC) and a pro-independence leader of Baluchistan Allah Nizar have severely criticized the killing. Allah Nizar has said that “Our armed struggle is in accordance with the international laws and is being waged on our land. Until now Baloch armed struggle has not violated any international law and abided by the Geneva Conventions. On the contrary, Pakistan is committing war crimes on a daily basis.”
Discontent in PoK and Gilgit – Baltistan (GB). Highhanded approach of Pakistan has the potential to spark fissiparous tendencies in PoK and GB. For example, a large section of the population is silently but resolutely resisting the occupation of PoK by Pakistani Army. On 21 Aug 20 a journalist and an activist Tanveer Ahmad was on hunger strike demanding removal of all Pakistani flags hoisted in the region. Later he was seen removing the flags himself. He further added that he was mishandled and threatened with death by the security forces. Similarly, people of GB feel cheated by Pakistan as their status stands changed after the release of the new map of Pakistan, wherein they have now been merged with PoK. Earlier GB was directly administered from Islamabad. The new status has the potential to deny adequate resources to Shia dominated GB in favour of the Sunni dominated PoK areas of Mirpur and Muzaffarabad.
Simmering Sindh. Situation in Sind is also not very encouraging, if the recent blast in the Karachi Stock Exchange is any indicator, even Sind is witnessing under currents of internal disaffection with the Punjabi dominated Government of Pakistan. The responsibility for the blast was taken by BLA linked Majeed Brigade. The stock exchange blast was preceded by four coordinated blasts across the Sind province on 19 Jun 20. The responsibility for the blasts was taken by a shadowy militant outfit Sindhudesh Revolutionary Army.
Undercurrents in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KPK). To add to the already mounting woes of Pakistan, situation in KPK is also far from encouraging. One of the renowned leaders of PTM was shot dead in May by some unknown assailants. In July 2020, the UN pulled up the government of Pakistan for disappearance of a leading KPK human rights activist Idris Khattak. He was picked up from his car on 13 Nov 2019 by Pakistani Security Forces near Swabi Interchange. If the situation is quite for the time being in this trouble prone province, it is due to dual reasons of severe impact of COVID and highhanded treatment BY Pakistani military. Tide in KPK can turn either which way in the future.
Chinese Under Criticism
Even its all-weather friend China is coming under severe criticism from a large section of people of Pakistan especially the religious section for forcing Pakistan not to take up the case of Uighur Muslims who have been subjected to atrocities by Chinese administration. Journals like Ishraq, Ahl-E-Hadith, Mohaddis, Peyam, Al Burhan, Al Aitisam, Uswah Hasana and Tarjuman Ul Quran have been discussing the matter since November 2019. Chinese Mission in Pakistan has started dictating terms and has asked for reports on the anti-Uighur emotions in the Paki public, degree of people to people contact between Pakistan and people from Kashgar and Urmuqi. Chinese are worried about their dream project of CPEC getting sabotaged by radical groups favourably disposed to Uighur Muslims especially in Gilgit – Baltistan (GB) and proindependence fighters in Balochistan. It has already forced Pakistan to raise a new Special Security Division for protection of the corridor and has taken a commitment from Pakistan to quickly raise the second division for the balance of the CPEC corridor. It would not be out of place to conclude that Pakistan is internally sitting on an extremely volatile volcano which may erupt and become active any time.
Diminishing External Support
OIC Jolt. Externally too it is facing disappointments and rejections by various nations. Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia has refused to meet the Pakistan Army Chief Qamar Bajwa when he had recently visited the Islamic Kingdom to placate him for statement made earlier by the Pakistani Foreign Minister Qureshi. Most experts attribute this snub to Pakistan’s effort to make an alternative Muslim grouping to the OIC with Turkey as its leader; this may be the overriding reason. To drive home their displeasure Saudis have also recalled one billion worth of loan repayments prematurely forcing Pakistan to borrow from its iron friend china a case of robbing Peter to pay Paul. Saudi Arabia has also discontinued oil supplies at a reduced rate to Pakistan. With China striking a deal with Iran, Pakistan has probably been made the errand boy to build an alternate muslim grouping comprising Malaysia – Qatar – Iran – Pakistan – Turkey with the strong backing of the Chinese. This will definitely not go well with Saudi Arabia. In fact few weeks back Saudi Arabia had refused to discuss the Kashmir issue in the OIC, which augurs well for India.
US – China a Zero Sum Game. Even the US has been very lukewarm in its support due to Pakistan virtually selling itself off to China. It has severely cut the aid to Pakistan as highlighted earlier. Pakistanis are hoping that Donald Trump will not win the next elections and Biden may provide the required diversity in the international equation. However, if statements which have been recently made by Biden on terrorism are any indicators, Pakistan may continue to find the going tough. Biden’s campaign agenda released recently states, US will work with India in the Indo-Pacific to ensure no country, including China, “is able to threaten its neighbours with impunity” and will have “no tolerance” for crossborder terrorism in South Asia.” So, Pakistan is doomed either way; it is stuck between the Devil and the Deep Sea.
Pakistan knows that overreliance on only one country for economic assistance will make it highly vulnerable. But despite its effort to garner economic aid from Islamic countries, IMF and the US to tide over the debt crisis and COVID-19 troubles, substantial aid is not forthcoming, forcing it to rely more and more on China. In fact The Dawn had reported in May 2020 that Pakistan had approached 11 bilateral lenders including China under a G20 initiative to suspend for about a year the payment of debt and its interest. Pakistan has to pay about $615 million to China between May 2020 and June 2021 under bilateral debt. It has also requested China for ease in payment obligations of over $30 billion under the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC). Dawn went on to add that while China was considering Pakistan’s request but warned them against expectation that China would forgive the debts outright. Proving an old adage that Chinese are nobody’s friend. Internationally, Pakistan has been reduced to being part of a very restricted international alignment of “North Korea-ChinaMalaysia-Pakistan -few Central Asian Republics-Afghanistan [a question mark as of now]-IranQatar-Turkey. With most of the nations in this grouping not in a position to really assist either economically and militarily, Pakistan appears destined on a path of losing its sovereignty to China lock, stock and barrel. China is quietly working to a plan to make Pakistan truly its vassal with minimum investment and maximum outcome in line with the teachings of their ancient and modern Strategy Masters Sun Tzu and Mao respectively.
Lt Gen Dushyant Singh, PVSM, AVSM (Retd) is an alumni of NDC, DSSC, CDM and Naval Post Graduate School California, USA. He has served in varied terrains and theatre of operations, in India and in the UN as Military Observer. He also holds the distinction of having served twice in the elite National Security Guards, as the Deputy Inspector General (Operations) and the Inspector General (Operations).
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‘ARMY CAN MEET ANY CHALLENGE TO SAFEGUARD COUNTRY’
The Army is fully prepared to meet any challenge like the use of drones and social media by adversaries to safeguard the country, said Commandant of Chennai-based Officers Training Academy (OTA) Lieutenant General M K Das. Lt Gen Das, who is also the colonel of the Jammu and Kashmir Light Infantry (JAKLI) regiment, said the situation in J&K is getting better with the Army and other security agencies working together to stamp out terrorism. Speaking to media on the sidelines of the maiden attestation parade of 460 new recruits of the 126th batch after a successful 40-week training period at Dansal here, he said the Indian Army is aware of the challenges and prepared to give a befitting response to the enemies of the nation.
Talking about the need to introduce special training courses for soldiers in the aftermath of the developments in Afghanistan, he said, “Our training is very contemporary as it caters for all the contingencies and unforeseen situations. My young soldiers, who have taken the oath to defend the constitution and the country, will live up to all the challenges. One of the unique things of this regiment (JAKLI) is all our troops hail from J&K and Ladakh. They have ingrained quality to be security conscious much more than others.” Lt Gen Das said, “All the situations unfolding in the country or in our neighbourhood, the JAKLI regiment will continue to excel and be the lead agency in the fight against terrorism.” Asked about the challenges posed by the use of drones to hit targets and deliver weapons and narcotics from across the LoC and International Border, he said a capsule course on anti-drone measures has been introduced. “On Army Day on 15 January, our chief took the threat seriously and our soldiers are being prepared to deal with the challenge in a better way.” During recruitment training, Lt Gen Das said that besides the arms handing and exercises, thrust is also given on science and technology, cybersecurity and other new challenges. He said the misuse of social media by “anti-national” elements is a reality and the new recruits are being trained in cybersecurity during their basic and orientation courses.
On attempts by Pakistan to mislead the youth of J&K, Lt Gen Das said, “The youth of J&K is showing keenness to be a part of the regiment which is a message to those who think they can mislead our youth. Joining the regiment is the best way to serve the nation, the youth live like a family and there is complete communal harmony.” He said the regiment is increasing the number of local youth from Ladakh and would also go for recruitment in J&K to provide an opportunity to the local youth to become part of this regiment. Asked about his message to the misguided youth, he said, “J&K is the crown of India but if I focus as a soldier, I feel they (misguided youth) have not understood their country… the situation has not gone out of hand and the Army has kept its window open to allow them to surrender and join the national mainstream.”
He added, “We have a unit of 162 Infantry Territorial Army who are former militants but have become upright soldiers.” Lt Gen Das said the Army and other security agencies are working in close coordination and the situation in J&K is getting better and the “day is not far when this region will make our country proud.”
SOUTHERN NAVAL COMMAND OBSERVES INTERNATIONAL COASTAL CLEAN-UP DAY IN KOCHI
The Southern Naval Command observed International Coastal Clean-up Day on Saturday with a focus on mangrove plantation and clearance of plastic/non-biodegradable waste along with waterfront areas in and around Kochi, said a press release from the Ministry of Defence.
Pursuant to the global campaign of keeping coastlines clean, more than 600 Naval personnel and the families of Southern Naval Command undertook clearance of plastic and non-biodegradable waste at different locations spread across the city, coastal areas such as Fort Kochi beach, Thevara waterfront, Willingdon Island, Cherai beach, Bolgatty and around 2 km stretch of the Venduruthy channel while restoring around 1 lakh sqm of mangroves to the pristine condition. In addition, 80 mangrove saplings were also planted along the Venduruthy channel. Similar coastal cleanup drives and lectures/webinars/competitions emphasising protection of the coastal and marine environment were undertaken with the enthusiastic participation of the Naval community at other outstation Naval units located at Lonavala, Jamnagar, Chilka, Coimbatore, Goa, Ezhimala and Mumbai.
Being the Training Command of the Indian Navy, the Southern Naval Command has always been at the vanguard in promoting environmental conservation activities both at the Command Headquarters, Kochi as well as at Naval stations spread across the country.
Mandated to oversee naval training, the Southern Naval Command has conceptualised and implemented a variety of green initiatives. Keeping environmental preservation as one of the Key Result Areas, the Command has constantly endeavoured to motivate young officer and sailor trainees of the Indian Navy to imbibe the habit of protecting mother nature as part of their grooming efforts in preparing them to become responsible future Naval leaders and dependable citizens of India.
Particular attention has also been given to create more awareness among the families and more importantly the children.
During the last three years, the Command has adopted a multi-dimensional approach towards conservation of the environment and implementation of energy conservation methods.
To highlight a few, the personnel of the Command were actively involved in the rejuvenation of 4.5-km-long Venduruthy Channel near Kochi Naval base, creating awareness in and around Naval establishments.
Efforts were undertaken to enhance green cover by conducting mass plantation drives which included planting more than 75,000 trees, using the fast-growing Miyawaki forestation method. In addition, regular coastal clean-up drives, mangrove plantation drives, in-house handling and recycling of bio and non-biodegradable waste, adopting efficient energy and water-saving methods etc were also undertaken. The Command has also earnestly endeavoured to continue all the efforts for protecting and conserving the environment and natural resources. Towards achieving the same, the Command has implemented a Green Initiative and Environment Conservation Roadmap with a prime focus on Carbon footprint reduction.
With the personal involvement of Vice Admiral Anil Kumar Chawla, Flag Officer Commanding-in-Chief, Southern Naval Command is committed to creating a clean, green and healthy environment in line with the visionary environment conservation policies of the Govt of India. On the occasion, Adv M Anilkumar, Mayor, Kochi Municipal Corporation and staff also participated in Kochi.
IAF TO HOLD AIR SHOW OVER DAL LAKE IN SRINAGAR ON 26 SEPT
An air show will be held here on 26 September where IAF’s skydiving team Akash Ganga and Suryakiran Aerobatic and Display Team and paramotor flying will manoeuvre the skies over the famous Dal Lake, officials informed on Saturday.
The air show will be organised by the Air Force Station Srinagar and the Jammu and Kashmir administration as part of the ongoing celebrations commemorating ‘Azadi ka Amrit Mahotsav’, they said. The main aim of the exercise—under the theme ‘Give Wings to Your Dream’—is to motivate the youth of the valley to join the Indian Air Force (IAF) and to promote tourism in the region, the officials said.
The event will be flagged off Lieutenant Governor Manoj Sinha at the Sher-e-Kashmir International Conference Centre (SKICC) overlooking Dal Lake.
More than 3,000 college and school students are expected to participate in the programme to witness the impressive manoeuvres of the IAF, which will motivate them to dream about a career in the force and in the aviation sector, the officials said. “The show will also develop passion among the students to give wings to their dreams. Along with the students, 700 teachers will also be present at the venue,” they added.
During the demonstration, students will also be familiarised with the new technological advancements achieved and incorporated by the IAF while flying aircraft in the sky over the world-famous Dal Lake, the officials said. Stalls will be established at SKICC where students will be familiarised with the achievements of the Air Force, employment opportunities in the IAF, recruitment rules and eligibility criteria, they added.
Srinagar-based PRO Defence Col Emron Musavi said the display will include flypast by various aircraft of the IAF. The spectators would also get to witness paramotor flying and IAF’s skydiving team Akash Ganga in action. ‘Ambassadors of IAF’, Suryakiran Aerobatic Display Team, will be performing in the valley after a gap of 14 years, he said. Col Musavi said the symphony orchestra of the IAF would also be performing at the event. The event would also consist of a photo exhibition depicting the history of the
IAF, he said.
ARMY ORGANISES EXHIBITION IN JAIPUR TO COMMEMORATE INDIA’S VICTORY IN 1971 WAR
JAIPUR : South Western Command of the Indian Army on Saturday organised an exhibition showcasing defence equipment at Chitrakoot Stadium in Jaipur to mark the 50th anniversary of India’s victory over Pakistan in the 1971 war.
Speaking to ANI, an Indian army official said, “We have displayed the defence equipment in this exhibition to make people aware of the Indian army achievements. We want to motivate the youth by showcasing these types of equipment.” “Under the leadership of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, these events had been started to make people aware of Indian Arm Forces. So, we are also continuing the move by organising these kinds of events,” he added.
Further, he said that India’s victory over Pakistan in the 1971 war is memorable for all the Indians, so, every citizen should be aware of this war.
BRO makes history, appoints woman Army officer in-charge of road construction unit
The Border Roads Organisation (BRO) has appointed a woman Army officer for the first as the Officer Commanding of its 75 road construction company (RCC) in Uttarakhand, the Defence Ministry said on Sunday.
The three platoon commanders under Major Aaina, Captain Anjana, AEE (Civ) Bhawana Joshi and AEE (Civ) Vishnumaya K became the first women RCC. The appointments were made on August 30.
BRO on Sunday recalled the list of women officers who were assigned higher leadership roles in the organisation in the current year.
According to a statement issued by the Defence Ministry, BRO has inducted a large number of women into its workforce over the years, right from officers to the level of commercial pilot license holders. “In this regard, a General Reserve Engineer Force (GREF) officer EE (Civ) Vaishali S Hiwase took over the reins of 83 Road Construction Company on April 28, employed on an important Indo-China road connecting Munisairi-Bughdiar-Milam, in an area full of adversity and challenges. The lady officer has taken control and is leading the charge with meticulous execution of her tasks,” the statement said.
“The BRO created history again on 30 August when Major Aaina of Project Shivalik took charged as Officer Commanding, 75 Road Construction Companies (RCC) at Pipalkoti in Chamoli district in Uttarakhand. She is the first Indian Army Engineer Officer to command a road construction company. Not only this, all three platoon commanders under her, Captain Anjana, AEE (Civ) Bhawana Joshi and AEE (Civ) Vishnumaya K are lady officers and they have together created a first-ever women RCC. The Border Roads plans to make four such all women-led RCCs, two each in North Eastern and Western Sectors.”
As India celebrates 75 Years of Azaadi Ka Amrit Mahotsav, it also celebrates the ongoing efforts of our Nation towards women empowerment. Women today have started assuming their rightful, equal place as the frontrunners in nation-building and representatives of our strong national character, the statement read.
Over the last six decades, in a graduated and steady manner, the BRO has increased the number of women employed in various roles and duties of road construction. A consolidated effort is being made to empower them by giving them authority and responsibilities to undertake work independently. These women have become symbols of Nari Shakti in their respective areas.
IN FIRST FOREIGN VISIT AFTER TAKING OVER AS CDS, GEN BIPIN RAWAT TO VISIT RUSSIA, US
In his first visit abroad after taking over as the Chief of Defence Staff (CDS), General Bipin Rawat will be visiting Russia and the US.
Rawat took over his new office as CDS on 31 December 2019, and since then has been declining foreign invitations for focusing on the new assignment of integrating the defence forces as a combined fighting force. “There is a conference of the CDS-rank officers of the Shanghai Cooperation Agreement member countries. China and Pakistan are also part of this grouping,” senior defence officials said.
The CDS conference would be focusing on addressing the regional security issues and Afghanistan is also likely to come up for discussion, they said.
The CDS would also witness the activities of the respective armed forces taking part in the SCO peace mission drills being held in Russia. Indian Army and Air Force are also taking part in the exercise there.
The visit will take place in the coming week and soon after return from Russia, Rawat would be leaving for the US for meeting his counterpart and other American military leadership at the Pentagon.
The two countries have been coming closer militarily in the last few years and have been holding multiple military exercises and hardware cooperation.
The Indian military saw a major change in senior-level structures under the Narendra Modi government as the focus is now on the theatrisation of the fighting forces and bringing in more capabilities and jointness among the three services.
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