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Mehmood-Ul-Hassan Khan
We are living in an interconnected and interdependent world. The chess board of international politics is being played for nothing but to gain more geo-political strength and geo-strategic inroads. It is a game of power, possession and exploration of all possibilities. It is initiated to achieve hegemony and practically defuse harmony. It has repercussions which is multidimensional too. It may create regional equilibrium or belligerence. Ethic, morality, legality, and even democracy are the secondary consideration in the unending game of power. Socio-economic constraints, geo-political compulsions and above all geo-strategic concerns/requirements always compel the countries to initiate different strategic developments to protect their national interests, strategic assets and sovereignty.

In recent times, many interesting strategic developments occur within and around Pakistan which have great significance.

(a) National

(1) Shariah accord

At last, the peace agreement between the government of the NWFP and the Tehrik Nifaz-i-Shariat Muhammadi (TNSM) has been signed. Swat (one third of the whole NWFP) the Switzerland of Pakistan would be again in safe hands. The government is now hoping that by accepting Sharia law, Fazlullah and his followers can be persuaded to stop confronting the security forces and thereby allowing the writ of the civil administration and the army in all other matters to be re-established in Swat valley

NWFP Chief Minister announced a sharia-based judicial system for Malakand and Kohistan. The chief minister linked the enforcement of the system with restoration of peace and resumption of proper functioning of state institutions in Swat. The provincial government declared that all laws which were against sharia would be considered redundant in the region.

“Following successful negotiations between Maulana Sufi Mohammad and a team of the provincial government, it has been decided that from now onwards all laws related to the judicial system in Malakand division, including Kohistan, in conflict with sharia shall be considered redundant and defunct,” said a joint declaration signed by the government and Tehrik Nifaz-iShariat Muhammadi (TNSM)..

Now, it is in the hands of father-in-law (Maulana Sufi) and son-in-law (Maulana Fazlulla) to give peace a chance in the valley. The TNSM chief Maulana Sufi Mohammad and his companions would take a jirga to Swat and, hopefully, persuade the militants to lay down weapons. It is further agreed that the law enforcement personnel in Swat will not play a proactive role. They will remain in a reactive mode. They will stay there but retaliate if someone attacks them.

Salient Features

• The four sources of the judicial system, whose explanation has already been given in Islamic jurisprudence, are Holy Quran, Sunnah, Ijma and Qiyas and no decision against it would be acceptable
• For appeals, a Darul Qaza, meaning sharia court bench, will be established whose decision will be final
• A task force will oversee the implementation of these decisions
• The federal interior secretary and provincial chief secretaries would be the focal persons with the provincial chiefs of the Awami National Party and Pakistan People’s Party and the home and law secretaries as its members. One nominee of each of the two parties will be included in the task force.
• Heirs of every person killed will get Rs300,000 and each injured person will get Rs100,000.

Mixed Reactions

(a) National

Different people reacted differently. Majority of the people in Sawat are more than happy. The human activists have some serious concerns about the imposition of sharia-based judicial system. Many prominent political pundits have serious doubts about its success. Actually, they are afraid of Taliban’s Islamic system. Even many prominent lawyers also showed great concerns about the parallel judicial system in the country. After having said this, if we achieve a durable peace in the Sawat than we should feel proud not ashamed. The national media published different articles and comprehensive reports about this burning issue.

(b) International

As usual the international media reported differently about the sharia agreement between the militants and the government and termed it “rewarding militancy”. The New York Times, The Guardian, The Gulf Times, India Times and many others criticized the agreement. It is seemed that the international community is confused about the adoption of sharia based judicial system. Every country has its own means to protect the best interests of its people. The US media and think-tanks have reacted strongly to the agreement, describing it as a mistake that may have dangerous consequences for Pakistan and rest of the region. They think that it looks like total capitulation to the TNSM, takes right back to the first agreement in Swat which fell through. According to them the accord is a significant victory for the Taliban and could end two years of strife in the region which has seen militants pitted against Pakistani security forces. major defeat for Washington as well as Pakistan, and it could also lead to a major setback for the North Atlantic Treaty Organization in Afghanistan.

Islamic laws are within the constitutional framework of Pakistan and wondered if it could be an issue for anyone in the outside world. There are 625 federal reserves areas in the USA where the law of the land is not being functioned. So what is wrong to our ways to doing things and seeking justice? France also expressed worry on sharia accord and imposition of Sharia based judicial system in the NWFP.

Positive Negative
Hopes are high for achieving durable peace and harmony in the embattled areas of NWFP.
Socio-economic activities will be flourished and displaced population will be settled properly.

Easy and swift justice

Harmony in the NWFP and FATA

There may be end to parallel system that includes courts, police and even a electric power-distribution network and road construction. Finally writ of the government will be established The militants may regain many strategic areas. It would increase their influence. It may be trend-setter
If it fails, the chances of widespread anarchy are there.
The true spirits of justice may be harmed
Spread disharmony due to different ethnic and religious sects
The Afghanistan, India, NATO, USA, UK and the EU have already showed their concerns about the imposition of sharia based judicial system.
Women may be debarred from education
Health facilities may badly be affected
Human right violations may be on the rise

(2) Self-Admission

At last, the government of Pakistan completed its investigations about the Mumbai attacks. The Interior Adviser Rehman Malik provided a number of details of the Mumbai attacks. It started a new hot discussion in the country. The two most important admissions made by the interior adviser were: one, the masterminds of the Mumbai attacks were indeed Pakistani; and, two, six of the eight prime suspects were already in police custody. He also mentioned 30 questions that Pakistan has requested Indian authorities to respond to in order to further the investigations. India should respond as completely and quickly as it can. Politically, India needs to now bring its rhetoric in line with the reality of a cooperative Pakistan; brinkmanship needs to be toned down in favour of a more conciliatory stance.

Positive Negative
Now blame game would be stopped. It would stop demanding for the extradition of Pakistanis to India to stand trial there now India will have to drop the idea. Demands must be drafted carefully against the legally possible and the politically achievable. The halted bilateral trade relations will be restarted. Spirits of normalcy, cooperation, trust, and coordination would be flourished. Finally, India would reconsider its decision to suspend the composite dialogue. Developing the fledgling joint anti-terrorism mechanism may be announced and followed. The bold self-admission would be dangerous for the country. The international powers would increase pressure on Pakistan. The lobbyists may start projecting negative perception of Pakistan The danger is that the upcoming general elections in India may tempt politicians to use Mumbai, and terrorism generally, as a stick to beat Pakistan with in order to appear tougher to a domestic audience.
Pakistan may confront with the onslaught of militants after its self-admission.

Stakes are very high therefore both the parties should trust each other. The failure of this accord will be devastating.

(3) Greenery at stake

Water is life. It is now endangered. Water has become strategic weapon which plays very important role in the international politics. Every country is trying its levels best to secure its easy and smooth supply. India is constructing large dams on River Indus, which include Nimoo Bazgo with height 57 metre, Dumkhar of 42 meters height and “Chutak” dam 59 meters height to basically generate hydropower. Three dams can store water up to 120,000,000 cubic meters. It is bitter reality that India’s dam-failure record has been worst, as nine of its dams have so far collapsed.

It is reported that the three dams being built by India on River Indus could play havoc in Northern Areas of Pakistan if the said reservoirs collapse for any reason intentionally or unintentionally releasing huge quantum of water causing flash floods that could devastate large swathes of land in Pakistan. The Skardu city is to be the first victim and its airport that is only 17 to 18 meter high from Indus bed, would be submerged. The 282 Kilometer section of Karakoram Highway (KKH) from Besham to Jaglot having total length 806 Kilometer from Hasanabdal to Khunjarab would be washed away along with all bridges. The said dams have exposed the Diamer-Bhasha Dam to danger.

It is now the foremost duty of the government to take all possible measures to secure its water reservoirs and build more dams to fulfill its future requirements.

(b) Regional

(1) Emergence of new triangle over Afghanistan

In annual Munich Security Conference the US, NATO and Iran shared common concerns over Afghanistan. The US and the NATO forces are worried about their smooth supplies from Pakistan. The Talban attacked on depots of NATO in Peshawar. With about 80% of NATO’s supplies going through Pakistan, and with an additional 30,000 US troops to be pumped into Afghanistan, it is crucial that these supply lines be protected, or routed elsewhere. Although NATO has struck deals with some Central Asian republics and Russia for non-military supplies to pass through their territory, these routes are much longer and more expensive, leaving NATO with no choice but to negotiate with Iran. Good will gestures from the Obama’s administration towards Iran reflected paradigm shift in US foreign policy. Furthermore, Iran’s president said the world was “entering an era of dialogue” and that his country would welcome talks with it’s the United States, if they are based on mutual respect. Now it is seemed that the US will abdicate much of their interest in Iraq in favor of the Iranians, and in return, Tehran will allow passage to NATO’s non-military supplies through Chabahar port. Moreover, NATO’s top military commander in Afghanistan, General John Craddock, admitted that the alliance would not oppose individual member nations making deals with Iran to supply their forces in Afghanistan.

Kyrgyzstan’s surprise decision to shut a key US airbase, the US agreement with Kazakhstan, expected agreement with Uzbekistan and Russia willingness to cooperate with the US has changed the pretext of regional power equation. Meanwhile, President Barack Obama has ordered an interagency review to examine US policy on Afghanistan and Pakistan before a NATO summit in April, 2009.

Positive Negative
It may cool-down the fanatic spirits of militants and Talban in the NWFP and FATA.
Law and order situation and writ of the government would be established. It may lessen the ratios of human causality and collateral damages The government of Pakistan would be looser in many respects. It may be debarred from strategic depth. We may also loose millions of dollars as transit route charges. The bilateral relations with NATO forces and the US may be at crossroad. It will give Iran a strategic edge in the region.

(2) Iranian satellite launch

Recently, Iran has launched its satellite (60-pound (37.2 kilogram) into orbit. Omid will fly in near-polar orbit 650 kilometers above the Earth. It will pass over Iran six times every 24 hours. It is the country’s second satellite. The first was the Russian-made Sina-1, which was launched on 27 October 2005. At that time, Iran became the 43rd nation to own a satellite. The Omid has stunted many regional as well as global power players. Western chanceries and national security agencies have taken the development seriously. The international media described reactions as nervous. The satellite has been described by Iran’s state media as a data-processing device for research and telecommunications, and was launched into a low Earth orbit. According to many experts the launch was made using a modified long-range missile, a Safir 2 rocket, and was planned under strict United Nations economic sanctions. It has a regional strategic deployment.

Geo-Strategic implications

• Omid (hope) has enhanced Iran’s military capability
• Military experts estimate that the two-stage rocket used for Hope could easily carry a small warhead to a target 2,500 kilometers away. It may not be an inter-continental ballistic missile, but now southern Europe comes within its range, as indeed the whole of Israel. It is now reality that Iran has in hand a credible deterrent against a US-Israeli military attack. White House press secretary Robert Gibbs described the launch as of acute concern to this administration”. German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeir said after “we want to be helpful in making sure that the outstretched hand of President Obama is a strong hand.” No doubt, these are strong words.
• They can not only intercept radio, satellite and e-mail communications but they can if highly enough developed also track the movement of military and economic assets.
• Iran hopes to launch three more satellites by 2010. Once a web is installed, the strategic capacity of Tehran in intercepting moves aimed at its nuclear and other installations will increase. By 2010 and beyond Iran’s strategic weapons system is projected to develop further. By 2012, it may have reached the feared benchmark of possessing the nuclear weapons, the delivery systems and the satellite capacity to detect any action against them.
• Instrumental in Iran alleged expansion in the region.
• Monitoring data, telecommunication and earthquake incidents would be bitterly managed
• The space is vast and infinite which will provide best opportunity for Iran to strengthen its military capabilities, unmanned drone technology and missile deterrence.

In order to match the ongoing strategic developments, the government of Pakistan will have to act sensibly prepared, articulately formulated foreign policy to protect its geo-political and geo-strategic interests.

(3) Reconsolidation of Russian and India ties

It is seemed that Russia, using all means at its disposal to urgently convince the world community that it has reemerged as a global military force to be considered seriously. Russia has recently; conducted joint naval exercises with India to help combat terrorism and piracy. The Indra 2009 exercise, held for the fourth time since 2003, allowed both countries to jointly practice the protection of shipping and combating piracy at sea and terrorism, while strengthening interoperability and focusing on their communications, joint maneuvering and artillery and rocket firing.

Russia’s contribution to the naval exercises held off the coast of Mumbai in the Arabian Sea. Russia’s five ships participated from the Northern and Pacific fleets. These were: the Pyotr Velikiy (Peter the Great), the flagship of the Northern Fleet and a nuclear-powered battle cruiser; the Admiral Vinogradov, an anti-submarine warfare ship tasked with escorting merchant ships at the Horn of Africa; the Fotiy Krylov, a rescue tugboat; and the tankers Pechenga and Boris Butoma. India contributed two destroyers, including the INS Delhi, and a small number of other vessels. The Russian naval grouping rendezvoused off the Gao coast, commencing the first stage of the joint naval exercises on January 26, spending two days in the port of Marmagao before the final stage of Indra 2009 off the coast of Somalia.

The navy is assuming greater strategic importance as Russia seeks to maximize its resurgence as a great power. President Dmitry Medvedev, visiting the Nakhimov Naval Academy in St Petersburg on January 27, reassured the cadets that despite Russia’s financial downturn, its plans to reform and modernize the navy will go ahead. In the meantime, appearances by the Russian navy in the Caribbean and South America, as well as joint naval exercises in the Mediterranean Sea with Turkey and these latest exercises with India, all serve as cheaper interim mechanisms to promote Russia’s great power status. Russian military strategists advised their government to establish/build future naval bases would be located on the island of Socotra, Yemen, and in the ports of Tartus, Syria and Tripoli, Libya.

(3a) India’s air force will have its own satellite by mid-2010

India’s air force will have its own dedicated satellite by mid-2010, enabling precise strikes against targets like terrorist training camps. Indian Air Chief Marshal Fali Major said “we will have our own satellite functioning by the middle of next year to enhance our surveillance and capability in this turbulent region. The satellite would provide images for the Indian Air Force’s (IAF) integrated air command and control system being set up this year. The command and control system will have sophisticated radars and sensors to enable us to conduct operations with high flexibility. In a surgical strike it will also be useful.

(3b) India’s nuclear submarine plan

Recently, India has announced to increase its defense budget by 34% to 1.4 trillion rupees (US$30 billion) which may also increase the defence budget of Pakistan too. According to the report India is near to complete three nuclear-powered submarines. It is further said “things are in the final stage now in the Advanced Technology Vessel [nuclear-submarines] project. The Advanced Technology Vessel (ATV) project is part of India’s $3 billion plan to build five submarines. Moreover, India is concurrently developing the K-15 ballistic missile, which can be nuclear-tipped and launched from submarines.

According to many regional military experts India has been rigorously seeking the technical assistance from France and Russia for the completion of the ATV project. The ATV nuclear backed ballistic missile submarine (SSBN) project began in the late 1970’s and is being implemented at a secret dry dock in Visakhapatnam, India’s Eastern Naval command base. It is seemed that these submarines are a critical addition to India’s weapons capabilities. Nuclear-powered submarines with their greater speed, power, range and the length they can stay submerged compared to conventional diesel-electric submarines are effective for sudden strikes as well as fast and stealthy protection from attacks. The addition has multiplier geo-strategic repercussions for China and Pakistan.

The government of Pakistan and military experts should sit together to make functional plans to modernize Pak-Navy immediately. The domination of Indian navy in the region and especially in Indian Ocean would be great set-back for us in the days to come.

Concluding Remarks

Islam does not stand alone for punishments. It is blessing which is unbiased towards every one irrespective of color, caste, sect and gender too. Islam also stands for humanity, forgiveness and horrendous acts of revengefulness and enmity has no scope. Sabotage activities, destructive happenings, kidnapping incidents, brutal murders and fanatic thinking achieve nothing but curse and total alienation. Let us hope that caravans of “Sufi” would not be wandering in search of soulful people in and around the valley and ultimate goal of durable peace would also be achieved. Let us hope that mountains would be covered again with lash greenery and full snow and people would not be easy prey of ghosts anymore. Let us hope that small boys and girls would again be in schools for their education and beacons houses would not be attacked in the near future.

The chess board of regional and global power politics is being rewritten and rephrased. Emergence of new alliances, formation of new power sharing formulas, new political bargaining schemes/efforts, propounding militarily preparedness and above all rethinking in foreign policies have left very little space for Pakistan to operate easily. It is high time for the policy makers to initiate positive measure to pull-out Pakistan from this deep sea of isolation so that we may be geo-politically and geo-strategically in better position of bargaining in the near future.

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