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What Ails Pakistan?

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– Shantanu Mukharji
Pakistan is grappling with numerous and complex problems within as the date for the review to take off its name from the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) imposed grey list is coming close.
Mid February is the time when the entire global community is watching for when the Paris based FATF will decide the fate of Pakistan on charges of money laundering and terror financing through various home grown terror outfits which remained under the patronage of the Pakistan’s security and intelligence agencies and were resorting to cross border terror assaults and collaborating with some terror groups with international ramifications. However, in the last few weeks Pakistan has been seen engaged in hectic diplomatic activity, in conjunction with its all weather friend China, to see it is let off the hook as noticed in the most recent FATF meet in Beijing.
Meanwhile, anti terror bodies and peace lovers are keeping their fingers crossed amid credible reports that Pakistan has used its self proclaimed tact and stealth to convince the US that it could prevail upon the Afghan Taliban to facilitate a deal to see an early US troops’ withdrawal from the Afghan soil. Either way, Pakistan is deeply embedded with countless terror groups and is trying in a feverish pitch to redeem its position, chances of which look dim.
In another Pakistan related development, state of Baluchistan where dissent is at its peak, security agencies are at work on a war footing to beef up measures to strengthen security. That shows the dismal state of affair that this terror prone vulnerable state is witnessing. The Baluchis in general have been protesting against the Pakistani government alleging discrimination, excesses and unleashing of state terror. On its part, the government forces have been ruthless to repress the dissent. Baluchis have also been critical of the China touted Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) apprehending impingement on their land and self pride. Also, Baluchistan and its capital city, Quetta in particular, have witnessed a slew of terror attacks which were conveniently attributed to India.
Now to intensify security in Baluchistan, a new command and control set up is being conceptualised by the Pakistani government mainly to give an impression to the simple Baluchis that the federal government is not indifferent to their security concerns. This new format is expected to be functional from June 2020. There are thousands of additional cctv cameras are being installed to meet multiple security challenges. Numerically, the preceding year 2019 saw 80 cases of major terror attacks in Baluchistan out of which 22 were in Quetta. In addition to heavy casualties amongst the security forces including the police, there were 151 civilian deaths in Baluchistan alone. In fact, the statistics of deaths could me much more than the available figures. ISI the principal force behind all the planning and execution in Baluchistan, remains silent on the measures relating to intelligence and action. This looks intriguing.
The media control in Pakistan continues to be unfriendly towards the general people. The draconian Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (PEMRA), has invited comments on a new draft resolution attempting to introduce changes in the Web TV and Over the Top TV (OTT) as part of the government’s ongoing campaign to keep the media dependent on the state machinery. It’s alleged by independent quarters that the fresh moves are an onslaught on media restrictions and fundamental rights of speech, press freedom and right to information as guaranteed by Articles 19 and 19 A of the Pakistani constitution. It’s largely feared that with the new arbitrary regulations, will enable a close coordination with Pakistan Telecom Authority that violates licensing rules. This is also likely to overstep the TV regulator’s legal provisions.
It would seem from the current stringent measures to curb media freedom and fundamental rights, the State is calling the shots and people continue to be reeling under the pressures of the military and civilian government combination disallowing any  truth to surface. However, the general public is understanding the game plan but perhaps feeling helpless to ventilate its ire.
(Writer is a security analyst and a columnist on topical issues. The views expressed are personal.)

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