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Daily Times Editorials – 27th March 2016

The Raheel-Rouhani meeting

During his two-day official visit to Pakistan, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani has held meetings with top civil and military leaderships of Pakistan. Chief of Army Staff (COAS) General Raheel Sharif called on President Rouhani and discussed matters of regional security, Pak-Iran relations, border security and connectivity. President Rouhani paid rich tributes to the achievements of the Pakistan army in Operation Zarb-e-Azb. After the lifting of international sanctions on Iran, Tehran and Islamabad are looking forward to improving bilateral relations.

After the meeting between the COAS and the Iranian president, it was reported in the local media that the issue of the involvement of Research and Analysis Wing (RAW) in Pakistan’s internal affairs as well as the arrest of an alleged Indian spy from Balochistan by Pakistan’s security agencies also came under discussion. However, President Rouhani later termed this news a rumour and rejected claims by some official quarters that the issue of Indian spy agency’s involvement in Pakistan was discussed. If there was no discussion regarding RAW’s involvement in Pakistan, why was media hype created? It has been learnt that the detained Indian national is claimed to have entered Pakistan via Iran, with a valid Iranian visa on his passport. Fingers are being raised about a possible link between Iran and India. In order to allay these concerns, Iran is expected to fully cooperate with Pakistan regarding the infiltration of an Indian national from Iranian territory to Balochistan. These are serious allegations and need to be thoroughly probed. Iran should not allow anyone to use its soil for any action against Pakistan. It is important to note that instead of our foreign or interior ministries taking up the issue with their Iranian counterparts, it is the COAS who has discussed the infiltration with the Iranian president.

Pakistan and Iran should work together and share intelligence of this type of infiltration from Iran to Pakistan. How can an Indian national infiltrate into Pakistan via Iran without coming into the notice of the Iranian authorities? The concerned authorities from both states need to take notice of such subversive acts. At a time when Pakistan and China are going in full swing on the completion of China-Pakistan Economic Corridor that Iran can use to export its oil and gas, they should ensure that the Iranian territory is not used against Pakistan in any shape and form. Pakistan and Iran need to bolster ties so that both countries are able to uproot the menace of terrorism from the region

The new Pak-India dynamic?

As media in Pakistan and India invoke a new war of words hurling unsubstantiated allegations and counter-allegations on one another in the wake of the arrest of an Indian national reportedly from Balcohistan, Indian police is said to have taken into detainment 35 Pakistani nationals in Rajasthan carrying incomplete travel documents. While the man caught in Balochistan, Kulbhushan Yadav, has been confirmed by the Indian government to be an Indian national, and a retired naval official, there is the expected official categorical repudiation of the theory put forth by the Pakistan authorities claiming Yadav to be an agent working for the Research and Analysis Wing (RAW) India. Yadav, in the custody of the security agencies of Pakistan, is alleged of “illegal entry” and “subversive activities”, and while India’s denial of any link [of Yadav] to government is taken with a pinch of salt by Pakistan media and public, it is interesting to note that this is the first time the Indian government has acknowledged that a person in the custody of Pakistan security agencies had an association with India’s armed forces.

As the Joint Investigation Team (JIT) from Pakistan and India meets on Monday to start the Pathankot probe, the [restricted] access being given to Pakistan’s officials — including Lahore Deputy Director General Intelligence Bureau Mohammad Azim Arshad, Inter-Services Intelligence Lt. Col. Tanvir Ahmed, Military Intelligence Lt. Col. Irfan Mirza and Gujaranwala CTD Investigating Officer Shahid Tanveer — to a high-security area is also a sign of the emergence of a new mechanism between Pakistan and India. It is noteworthy that instead of the stereotypical knee-jerk reaction after every untoward incident in India for which it blamed Pakistan, there is a newfound pragmatism and farsightedness marking the Pakistan-India relationship. Pakistan’s acknowledgment to initiate an investigation into the Pathankot terror attack instead of a blanket refusal to accept the allegation is seen as reiteration of Pakistan’s commitment to elimination of terror within and without its borders. BJP government’s agreement to accept Pakistan’s cooperation into the attack with the formation of a JIT is a marked change from the last government of the UPA that believed in an instant freezing of relations between Pakistan and India whenever there was any cross border firing or an allegation of Pakistan-related terrorism in India.

While it is yet to be proved what the arrested Indian man, on an Iranian visa, was doing in Balochistan, an area in which the RAW is alleged to be involved in creating unrest, it is important to note that an investigative process has been started to establish the motive behind the mysterious, and undoubtedly, highly suspicious, presence of a retired Indian naval official in Balochistan. Instead of keeping the arrest under a shroud of secrecy that is the hallmark of most such arrests in the two countries, Pakistan government after submitting its deep concern to the Indian High Commission is following the due process of investigation that follows such cases. This, in turn, would set a good precedent for all those cases — in both Pakistan and India — in which many ordinary Pakistanis and Indians are alleged to have committed real and perceived crimes — an inadvertent entry into the other’s border, incomplete documentation, travel to places in addition to places for which the visa had been given, and over-staying the visa-limit. There are countless stories of Pakistani and Indian citizens rotting in jail on trumped-up charges, or in certain cases, years after their actual sentence is over. It is hoped that the 35 Pakistanis detained in Rajasthan for incomplete documentation would be allowed to return home after the verification process is over. That would be in the spirit of the dynamic that the governments of Prime Ministers Nawaz Sharif and Narendra Modi seem determined to apply to the reaffirmed reiteration to resolve all issues between Pakistan and India. *

Pakistan’s World T20 exit

Pakistan’s humiliating exit from the ongoing World Twenty20 (T20) in India has hugely disappointed all and sundry. Captain Shahid Afridi and his men failed to come up to the expectations of their countrymen once again. Australia not only outplayed Pakistan by 21 runs but also knocked them out of the marquee tournament on Friday in a do-or-die match. After their shameful performance in the Asia Cup in Bangladesh, preceding the World Twenty20, fans in the country and around the globe were hoping for a turnaround in the fortunes of Team Pakistan. But the men in green proved to be the masters of disasters. Team Pakistan’s only victory was in their opening match against Bangladesh while they lost the remaining three — against India, New Zealand and Australia — in a dismal manner. Team Pakistan’s unpredictability and unprofessionalism are, once again, in the limelight. Had Pakistan defeated the dark horses of the tournament — the Black Caps — there would have been a golden chance for them to qualify for the semifinals, but they let this opportunity slip through their fingers. The batting, fielding, and above all, shoddy captaincy let Team Pakistan down in the tournament. There was an absence of fearless cricket, a coherent strategy, and aggression in the game. And, on the surface, there was no inspiration from the captain.

The Pakistan players still continue to make basic errors, time and again, game after game. Their ability and skill is on par with anyone else in the world but they seem to give away 10 percent in all the facets of the game that do not actually require much more than discipline and habit. Pakistan legend Wasim Akram has rightly put it: “Pakistan cricket is 10 years behind the modern game.” The Pakistan team’s performance in the World T20 has shown that they lack education, professionalism, mental toughness, sincerity and determination despite having immense talent. There must be transparent accountability of the performance. But is the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) willing and able to act in an enlightened manner?

The unwise decisions taken by the PCB, selectors and team management have backfired. How can anyone run the board in an effective and strong manner when the de jure chairman and the de facto chairman are afraid of player-power. There is something apparently seriously wrong with Pakistan cricket as the PCB seems to excel in making dubious decisions of an arbitrary nature that defy all reasoning and common sense. The men at the helm — a chairman who is on the wrong side of 80, and another powerful figure running a state within a state — in the PCB have made Pakistan cricket a laughing stock. There has been more action off the field than on it in Pakistan cricket. Knowing little about the game of which they have been made czars out of the blue, they surround themselves with sycophants who readily endorse their every fanciful decision and make hay while the sun shines. The good of the game is farthest from their agenda. They have exposed the PCB’s total lack of creative and imaginative solutions, and its utter failure in dealing with the problems of modern day professional sport. It is obvious that Pakistan cricket has passed into the hands of slippery individuals with no sport-related credentials. Whoever joins the PCB bandwagon seems to be working on a no-retirement age clause.

The choice is clear: Pakistan cricket can continue to wallow in the depths, where it will ultimately perish, or summon every ounce of reserve and rise to the surface. For anything to be salvaged from the unmitigated disaster that was the World T20, the post-mortem must be thorough and unsparing. The present PCB top officials are in contradiction to the Pakistani mindset, having a defensive and passive outlook that has sucked the passion out of the team’s game. Pakistan cricket must return to the values that made it great: aggression, passion and fearlessness. And it must start now. But the most important factor is who would head the board. That is a decision that Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, the PCB patron, has to make. For the sake of Pakistan cricket, hopefully he would get it right this time round.

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