Category Archives: International Relations

Review – No Ordinary Disruption

The most interesting insight in Richard Dobbs, James Manyika, and Jonathan Woetzel book to be published on May 12th by Public Affairs “No Ordinary Disruption: The Four Global Forces Breaking All the Trends” argues that the world economy’s operating system is changing and being rewritten. The authors explain the trends reshaping the world and contend why leaders must adjust to new realities.
In the early 19th century industrial revolution changed world’s geo-strategic perspective and today four fundamental disruptive forces are pushing world into dramatic transition that most world leaders seem unable to comprehend their trends, impending effects and magnitude and they need looking beyond Shanghai: The world is dealing four new trends in old manners namely: The age of urbanization, accelerating technological change, response to the challenges of an aging world and greater global connections centered on trade, people, finance.
The locus of economic activities is shifting within 440 small and medium size cities of world’s that many Western leaders might not have heard or could point on a map. These could be Mumbai, Dubai, and Shanghai, Hsinchu in northern Taiwan, Brazil’s Santa Catarina state, halfway between São Paulo and the Uruguayan border, Tianjin a city that lies around 120 kilometers southeast of Beijing whose estimated GDP is over $130 billion, making it around the same size as Stockholm, the capital of Sweden. By 2025, it is estimated that its GDP will be around US$ 625 billion, approximately that of all of Sweden.

The world is experiencing acceleration in the scope, scale, and economic impact of technology. Technology is overturning the speed of change in our lives and notion of status quo. In the past it took telephone more than 50 years after its invention to become utility item for half of the American homes and radio took 38 years to attract 50 million listeners. But Facebook attracted 6 million users in its first year and that number multiplied 100 times over the next five years.
The speed of innovation has multiplied and spread in recent years, it is poised to change and grow at an exponential speed beyond the power of human intuition to anticipate. The authors present interesting data in support of this argument, China’s mobile text- and voice-messaging service WeChat has 300 million users, more than the entire adult population of the United States. In 2009, two years after the iPhone’s launch, developers had created around 150,000 applications and by 2014 the number had reached 1.2 million, and users had downloaded more than 75 billion total apps, more than ten for every person on the planet. Twenty years ago, less than 3 percent of the world’s population had a mobile phone.
Technology offers the promise of economic progress for billions in emerging economies. The technological adoption and innovation is shortening the life cycle of companies and forcing executives to make decisions and commit resources much more quickly. The speed, processing power and connectivity have brought data revolution thus pushing world into a golden age of gadgetry, age of instant communication, and apparently boundless information which has placed unprecedented amounts of information in the hands of consumers.

The human population of new world is getting older, fertility is falling and the world’s population is graying dramatically. Ironically, we are not responding to the challenges of an aging world and caring for large numbers of elderly people will put severe pressure on government finances. Once aging was evident in developed economies, but now it is spreading to China and soon will reach Latin America. Thirty years ago, only a small share of the global population lived in the few countries with fertility rates substantially below needed to replace each generation i.e.2.1 children per woman. But by 2013, about 60 % of the world’s population is living in countries with fertility rates below the replacement rate.
Today’s world is much more connected through trade and through movements in capital, people, and information (data and communication)—what we call “flows.” The global trading system has expanded into a complex, intricate, sprawling web. Asia is becoming the world’s largest trading region. The volume of trade between China and Africa rose from $9 billion in 2000 to $211 billion in 2012. Global capital flows expanded 25 times between 1980 and 2007. More than one billion people crossed borders in 2009, over five times the number in 1980. The increasing speed of connecting trade, people, finance, and data is ushering a dynamic new phase of globalization, which would create unmatched opportunities, and perhaps foment unexpected volatility.
These four factors are happening simultaneously and world is changing radically thus disrupting long-established patterns, assumptions, tendencies, and habits that had long proved so reliable. Suddenly these have lost much of their resonance. We have more data and advice at our fingertips. The iPhone or the Samsung Galaxy contains far more information and processing power than the original supercomputer. But in the new world leaders need building intuitions to adjust to new realities and benefit from globalization which is full of opportunities and equally unsettling.

Wajid Ali

The Peril of Civil War in Yemen

The rebellion erupted in northern Yemen by Houthi insurgents about ten years ago has turned to be a full-fledged civil war. From its covert phases it is now an open rebellion involving Saudi Arabia and a coalition of Gulf States including Bahrain, Kuwait, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates participating against Houthi insurgents militarily. The Houthi rebellion is named after a dissident cleric Hussein Badreddin al-Houthi, head of shia Zaidi branch who died leading a conflict in Northern Yemen in 2004.
The rebellion is motivated over community’s discontent over government’s discrimination and continued aggression against the group. The slogan of defending Houthi community picked momentum in various stages since 2004 till conflict reached from neighbouring governorates of Hajjah, ‘Amran, al-Jawf and the Saudi province of Jizan to Yemeni capital Sanaa.
Yemen has an area of about 528,000 square km with a population of 26 million and rebels control most area after bringing the intense fighting around the strategic Gulf of Aden after fall of capitol to Houthi.
The violence has become norm across Yemen motivating militias to commit atrocities and still get away from accountability. This has given flip to other freedom movements in Dhamar, Hudaydah, Taiz and barren eastern Yemen. The government blames Iranian backing of Houthis to overthrow government, while rebels accuse Saudi Arabia and US supporting the Yemeni government in massacre of its community.
The idea of years long selling of false hope of political reality to Yemenis by international community has created conflicts rather than peace and tranquility. The UN declared “Yemen as a transitional model” which indeed has slipped further into the abyss of turmoil, bringing more violence than peace, tarnishing democracy, social justice and cohesion.
Saudi Arabia faces a complex, uncertain, and ever-changing regional landscape demanding defending the northern and southern borders and surrounding sea-lanes and internal security against potential tensions and aggressions that could spill across state lines at regional level, where terrorist cells have emerged in the neighborhood to fill power vacuum.
Saudi Arabia finds itself in serious security situation with ingress of revolt close to its province of Jizan, leaving no option to quell the insurgency in the formatting stages. Saudi Arabia and a coalition of regional Gulf States also share similar security threats, while US wants to pin down suspected hide-outs of Al Qaeda within its borders. The Saudi coalition prefers to come out of the Yemini crisis with installation of a favorable Sunni government willing to align itself with Saudi Arabia, a U.S. ally, than with Iran.
In the past Houthi insurgents blamed US-Saudi air force’s massacre of citizens in the north of Yemen and other populated areas where markets, refugee camps and villages were targeted in the garb. It is therefore unlikely that intervention would lead quickly to the creation of a favorable government.
The Middle East has been a battlefield of ad hoc stability that enabled Iran to project its power. Iran indeed is taking advantage of short-term tactical decisions by conflictual states in the strategic expansion of conflict from Lebanon, Iraq, Syria, and now Yemen.
Iran on other hand is blamed of benefiting from instability in neighboring countries by clandestinely invest in local groups that can serve as proxies for its interests, capable of fighting not only regional governments but also world powers such as the U.S. and its Western allies. The price of oil would probably rise as a consequence, which would also serve the Iranian interests.
The country could well become the battleground for an international proxy war in a way the world hasn’t seen since Vietnam. In addition, fundamentalists ISIS and Al Qaeda-backed groups would view U.S. intervention as a call to arms and would capitalize on the instability and insecurity to advance their fight against the West.
The conflict is dominated by allegations and counter allegations to condense the scope of diplomacy and reconciliation. Countries that could have played a positive role are either alleged of their involvement or alegeding each other. Saudi Arabia alleges Iranian involvements in the insurgency of secretly supplying arms through its Red Sea coast and training of rebels in an Iranian-run camp across the Red Sea in Eritrea with active involvement of the members of Lebanon’s Iran-backed Hezbollah militia.
Iranians deny their involvement to make it difficult for independent observers to ascertain varsity of these accusations. Jordan alleged Saudis of deploying their commandos to fight alongside the Saudis in an offensive against Northern Jabal al-Al-Dukhan, located in Saudi territory south-west of Jizan at the border between Saudi Arabia and Yemen, but Saudis sent the Jordanian commandos to fight in Northern Yemen.
Morocco is alleged to have sent hundreds of elite fighters, mainly para-troopers trained in counter-insurgency operations to assist 2009-10 Saudi offensive in Jizan. Pakistan is also alleged of its special forces fighting in Yemeni counter insurgency operations in Sa’dah.
Though the conflict is being projected on sectarian lines, but in many ways it is a political. The events in Yemen and Iraq are not directly connected and essentially it remains power struggle between Iran and Saudi Arabia (and its Arab and western allies) for political power and influence in the region.
The Houthis are being identified Shia sect fighting non shia legitimate regime to gain support from the predominantly Sunni Arab population, and to lend legitimacy to its actions. The narrative that Shia population in Gulf States, Iraq and Syria backed by Iran and if by any chance it is replaced by Shi’a governments there would be a solid sea of Shi’ism from the confines of Pakistan to the Mediterranean is most dangerous dimension of the conflict and this fault line can be exploited.
These are defining moments in the history of Pakistan. The emerging alliance against Houthi insurgents, ISIS and global terrorism will spread in the region and remaining nonaligned would not be an option. This will recount difficulties like Pakistan’s previous alliances and most states consumed by internal challenges would pursue integration of Pakistan into the gambit.
Pakistan faces difficult situation, where it has no choice than committing politically, militarily and morally to Saudi Arabia and regional alliance. It will be difficult to ignore legitimate international alliance against sectarian rebels of the fear of possible internal sectarian strife back home. Perhaps this is first time that Saudi led alliance is relying within Muslim and seeks a critical role of Pakistan alongside Egypt and Turkey. In return it gives Pakistan an opportunity to build strategic alliance and regain its influence lost during war on terror.
“May you live in interesting times” is taken to be an old Chinese curse. What at first sight appears to be a blessing; the proverb is to underline the risks over the opportunities while living in interesting times. Joining or leaving the alliance is interesting time for Pakistan. Pakistan should hope to play important role in the Unified Military Force of Muslim countries and Muslim Union on the lines of NATO and EU. Strategic decisions are to be taken within strategic timeframe otherwise it is lost opportunity. Pakistan has to commit militarily in this complex security landscape under some umbrella despite a possibility of being embroiled in a diverse array of internal challenges.

Wajid Ali

Why terrorism in Pakistan is seen indifferently by outside world? 

“In post Cherlie Hebdo incident of January 07, 2015 where twelve persons were killed, eighty-three states from Albania to Vietnam condemned the attack[1]. Five major international organisations from OIC to United Nations expressed solidarity with the victims[2]. More than thirty heads of the states of all races, religions and colours participated in an open rally on the streets of Paris to say that they were against terrorism[3]. This was all possible due to opinion expressed by thousands of people who came out on same day of attacks to condemn the incident by their active but peaceful gathering. As it was an attack on journalists so world press was also united and some called it an attack on western civilization[4]. Anti Pakistan lobbies do not miss any chance to malign Pakistan. Fareed Zakriya, an Indian born American journalist said that Pakistani Prime Minister has not condemned the attack, as he should have[5]. However, it was not all that neat. Some fifty cases were registered where Muslims in France were attacked merely due to their faith[6].

When 9/11 took place, urgency was created. NCTC and Homeland Security were the outcome of hectic exercises to develop a response mechanism. In UK, India, Canada and many other countries reviewed their contingency plans and started capacity building programs of civilian and military institutions. Contrary to this, attack on APS Peshawar on December 16, 2014 did not generate same response despite hundred and fifty nine casualties, most of them children. There were very few public demonstrations in the country. Sixty three states issued statements. Nationally all political parties condemned the incident and a consensus seemed to emerge against terrorism. Even Al Qaida and Afghan Taliban condemned the attack on innocent children[7]. However, the momentum built by media and action promised by the government were not realised due to poor implementation. Delays in implementation of NAP and ambivalence to take dangerous yet decisive actions by LEAs are diluting the intent behind NAP. Divergent interests of the state institutions preventing integrated response. Moreover, due to past policies of the state and poor governance, Pakistan does not enjoy good reputation in the international community for fighting against terrorism.

However, internationally, terrorism is not the biggest reason of human fatalities. Diseases and traffic incidents cause more casualties than terrorism in conflict free zones[8]. Some experts believe that real reason of exaggeration of terrorist threats has more to do with domestic politics than with the true level of danger. ‘Whenever a terrorist incident occurs, politicians are quick to accuse incumbents of failing to do enough to prevent such actions’[9]. ‘And the media has every reason to join the chorus of doom and gloom: Even a small terrorist incident gets lots of people watching, listening, or reading online, especially when it occurs in Paris, London, or some other Western city’[10]. If seen through this lens, Charlie Hebdo incident response is somewhat exaggerated and it helps the terrorists to expand the war and recruit more people into their cause.

There are some differences in pre-incident and post-incident situations in Pakistan and rest of the world. Consider the Charlie Hebdo case or very recent Chapel Hill shooting in North Carolina USA where three Muslims are being killed by one person[11]. In post incident scenario, firstly, police deployment is adequate and professional handling of crime scene in visible through controlled access granted to Media. Media handling of Police is skilful and images of crime scene are not available for every one. This helps in minimising the visibility of destruction, which is highly desired by the terrorists but not by the state as it affects the morale of forces and the public.

Secondly, pre-incident work done by law enforcement and intelligence agencies helps them in timely investigation and identification of the suspects. This rapid analysis and identification of the culprits restores the confidence of the public on their security apparatus. This also results in shifting the focus from victims to accused and people come forward to help the LEAs to achieve their target. Urgency is created and all efforts are integrated to book the criminals. However, the cooperation by public depends upon relationship of between the LEAs and the public cultivated by service delivery rather for transactional motives to solve the crime riddle.

Thirdly, in almost all cases, civilian law enforcement officers come forward and nowhere intelligence agencies or military unduly interact with Media. Similarly, Special armed forces or Gendarmerie are deployed for a short time to demonstrate people highest level of security as confidence building measure but they are not called in for longer terms for strategic reasons. Media handling by only LEAs prevents contradictory information provided by various agencies.

Fourthly, threat assessments for local and foreign population, media and dignitaries are also issued to regulate their movements and share information. In Pakistan there is lack of timely coordination and cooperation with local and foreign media. For this information, foreign diplomats and police advisors cultivate relationships with intelligence agencies to remain informed about potential threats or develop their in house programs for coming to such conclusions.

Most of the time, one terrorist group or the other accepts responsibility of attack. In addition most common modus operandi is suicide attack. Therefore, terrorist is also wiped out in the incident. So identification issue is over. No action or slow action taken against the network of terrorists results in mounting mistrust of the people against the state institutions particularly Police and politicians – the easy targets. It is also true that international Media and opinion makers has a negative bias against Pakistan and security institutions.

Hence, due to poor Media engagement strategy, slow action by Police and over action by Army and Rangers, remains on the wrong side of the media and they create sensation for their business development. Lack of political stability and ambivalent stance on terrorism and past history of terrorism incidents give anti Pakistan lobbyists reasons to sharpen their criticism. Even in cases where there are no links of Pakistan they find grounds to attack Pakistan for their mercantile interests and ideological leanings.

‘In other words, the keys to success are not bellicose speeches, mass marches, wars on terror, or continued military interventions throughout the [country]. The key is calm resolution and conscious efforts to build resiliency at home. Tragedies will occur from time to time, but they cannot alter our way of life unless we allow them to do so. Terrorists of all sorts remain too weak to impose their will upon us, which means we always have the freedom to decide how to react to the danger they pose. We will be fools indeed if we allow the modest threat they pose to scare us into doing something foolish or, worse still, into abandoning the core principles of a free society’[12]. Core principles of a pluralistic society of Pakistan are rule of law, equality and justice for all.”



[3] Unity Rally for Paris Shootings, Jan 11, 2015

[4] BBC News January 08, 2015,

[5] Fareed Zakriay on Paris Attacks, F. World, Jan 09, 2015

[6] RT News, January 13, 2015,


[8] Conflict affected zones include Iraq, Afghanistan, Somalia, Pakistan, Libya


[10] Walt, Stephan, Think before you March, Foreign Policy, January 16, 2015


[12] Walt, Stephan, Think before you March, Foreign Policy, January 16, 2015 “