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The lack of economic opportunities for the populace in Afghanistan is a major impediment to peace and stability. Without an adequate industrial base and/or agriculture infrastructure, guns-for-hire in abundance as a means to finding income is neither conducive for foreign direct investment nor for domestic entrepreneurial initiatives. That a small elite cabal with fixed mindsets returned after the fall of the Taliban to occupy seats of power in Kabul, does not help.



The bitter hometruth about our foreign policy is that none of the major political parties can deny the opening narrative of PML(N)’s Manifesto for the 2013 election, “Pakistan today is at war within, while isolated abroad. Its independence and sovereignty stand compromised, its economic weaknesses are forcing us to go begging bowl in hand, while foreign states undertake unilateral strikes on its territory and non-state actors use it as a sanctuary to pursue their own agendas, oblivious to Pakistan’s national interests”. We have been muddling along on a “passage to nowhere” because of the self-serving agendas of both our civil and military rulers alike.


Putin’s Russia

The compelling feedback one gets soon after arriving in Moscow is that whatever reservations the Russians may have about Vladimir Putin’s autocratic style of governance notwithstanding, they are united behind him on Crimea and the Ukraine. In his broken English our driver described with great gusto how Putin had snatched Russia’s Crimea back from foreign hands. This refrain was repeated across the broad spectrum, Russian nationalism stood out loud and clear. There seemed no qualms or second-guessing among the populace about the means Putin was using to raise the country back to its former greatness. On the contrary, there was visible pride in the flexing of the military muscle to assert Russia’s dominance in what they call the “near abroad”. One is reminded about the Crimean War in mid-19th century and Tennyson’s “Charge of the Light Brigade”, with the western sanctions starting to bite the Russian population remains united in “theirs not to reason why, theirs but to do and die.”


Pakistan’s “Gold Coast”

If any other country in the world had the type of coast that Pakistan has, long stretches of virgin beaches with vast empty spaces hinterland, it would have been commercially exploited to the limit by now. But Pakistani planners being what they are, more akin to a mule with blinders, their focus has been more or less along the Indus Valley, with only lip-service attention to other areas. Whereas in the early days of the country it made sense, for a country with one seaport serving a population of 130 million (not counting the hundreds of millions in countries beyond) it is imperative to have alternatives. Furthermore domestic population congestion and economic factors because of the emerging markets of Central Asia require that a new sea-land dimension along a different axis be added for expansion or otherwise all facilities and opportunities are likely to be clogged and choked up.