Webinar on Gwadar - CPEC
New Paradigm of Connectivity, Economics & Way Forward
Date: October 31, 2023
On October 31, 2023, Balochistan Think Tank Network (BTTN) organized an online Guest Lecture via Zoom on the importance of Gwadar and the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC). The lecture was given by Col Maqbool Afridi (R) and the title of his talk was ‘Gwadar-CPEC: A New Paradigm of Connectivity’. Col Afridi has 30 years of experience in the Pakistan Army and passionately advocates for Gwadar’s development. He has authored several articles and as Gwadar Builders and Developers Association (GBDA) Chairman, he actively works on Gwadar’s development and serves on Federation of Pakistan Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FPCCI) committees.
The Caretaker Minister of Health, Balochistan, Dr. Ameer Jogezai, attended the lecture at BTTN, where he was accompanied by the head of BTTN, Brig Agha Ahmad Gul (R), and the Faculty of Research of BTTN, while the Faculty of Research of the Center for International Strategic Studies, Sindh (CISSS) and members of Rabta Forum International (RFI) virtually joined from Karachi.
Col Maqbool started his presentation by shedding light on the importance of Gwadar. He said that Gwadar has enormous potential from all angles and dimensions for any kind of business activity, whether known or emerging, with ever-developing technologies. Being a deep-sea port and having a significant geostrategic location, Gwadar will be a gateway and hub for world businesses and trade, catering to all types of international commercial activities. Given the deteriorating economic situation of Pakistan, Col Afridi stated that Gwadar and CPEC are the only projects that can bail out the country from the present economic crunch.
The speaker identified seven possible potentials of CPEC spreading across several sectors, including transshipment, transit trade, trade and business, employment generation, fisheries, tourism, and real estate. He stressed that to achieve economic prosperity while harnessing the untapped potential of Gwadar and CPEC, it is imperative to develop a long-term economic-based policy in step with the world, rather than in isolation.
Finally, he put forward some suggestions to address the existing challenges to CPEC. According to him, it is crucial to establish a board or authority over the projects of CPEC. He even maintained that since CPEC is a long-term development project, there must be a periodically elected Deputy Prime Minister for the corridor. Besides, Col Afridi remarked that the Gwadar Smart Port City Master Plan (2017-2050) should be developed in accordance with the rules and regulations of the plan. Eventually, he stressed that the concerns of the local population of Gwadar must be addressed through dialogue.
His presentation was followed by a question and answer (Q&A) session. After the Q&A session, the Caretaker Minister for Health, Balochistan, Dr. Ameer Jogezai, shed light on the importance of Gwadar and the ongoing programs and achievements of the care taker government. He maintained that Gwadar is not only important for Balochistan but also for Pakistan, but unfortunately, political commitment and will are lacking to uplift Gwadar. He also remarked on the waning collective wisdom and efforts of the Pakistani nation for the prosperity of Pakistan.
Finally, the webinar was concluded by Brig Agha Ahmad Gul (R). In his concluding remarks, Brig Gul thanked the Honorable Minister for Health, Dr. Ameer Jogezai, and Colonel Maqbool Afridi (R), and appreciated their presence and valuable insights. He also thanked CISSS and RFI for their participation.
BTTN’s Webinar on Commemorating Youm-E-Takbir 28 May 1998 Nuclear Test
25 Years of Pakistan’s Nuclear Tests: Strategic Objectives and Peaceful Uses of Nuclear Technology
Date: May 26, 2023
To commemorate 25th Anniversary of Pakistan’s successful Nuclear Tests, Balochistan Think Tank Network organized a webinar on “25 Years of Pakistan Nuclear Tests: Strategic Objectives and Peaceful Uses of Nuclear Technology” on May 26, 2023. The webinar was moderated by Associate Director Research Miss Hananah Zarrar.
While discussing the “Backdrop of Pakistan’s Nuclear Tests and its Strategic Objectives”, Dr. Nasir Hafeez, Director Research SVI, explained the idea of Nuclear Diplomacy and Nuclear Discourse and stated that both ideas are inter-linked. He added that nuclear diplomacy is the art of conducting nuclear strategy. While referring to the nuclear debate between India and Pakistan, Dr Hafeez elaborated that where this debate remains conceptual in nature, the very existence of these weapons is effectively preventing the war in South Asia. He further added that India claims to be a responsible nuclear state. Yet, it was India that introduced nuclear weapons in South Asia even though India was involved in drafting the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), whereas Pakistan’s stance remained that of supporting the establishment of a nuclear-free South Asia until 1998.
Dr. Ansar Parvez, Former Chairman PAEC and Advisor (Nuclear Power) National Command Authority, apprised the session about both peaceful and military uses of Nuclear Technology. Dr Parvez highlighted the different realms where peaceful Nuclear Technology is doing wonders for the betterment of humanity, including providing clean energy, increasing crop health and productivity, and mitigating deadly diseases and illnesses with its medical applications. He emphasized on how nuclear technology is one effectively working towards achieving the sustainable development goals (SDGs).
Elaborating on Emerging Technologies and Integration with Nuclear Weapons, Air Cdre Khalid Banuri (R), Former DG ACDA, added that new and emerging technologies carry opportunities for better efficiency, but also poses challenges that are enormous and unavoidable. He further added that on the strategic level, we used to hear of whoever controlled the heartland or the rimland would rule the world. But today, whoever masters the Artificial Intelligence will rule the world. Air Cdre Banuri highlighted the increasing demand for the states to explore and master the emerging technologies especially AI to better stand in contemporary competing global order.
Mr. Asadullah Raisani referred to his recently conducted research’s findings that include the existence of abject poverty in the vicinity of the area where the tests were conducted. Chagai, Dalbandin area lacks resources and quality of living. This in turn has caused the people of the locality to blame their miseries on the Nuclear Tests conducted in 1998, which include deteriorating health conditions and facilities in the region. Some of the genuine health concerns such as rising cases of cancerous tumors, skin diseases and respiratory problems could be linked to the tests but diseases such as HIV, hepatitis, and appendicitis which the locals suffer from, are not at all related with radiation-borne diseases. The blaming culture found in the locals has its roots in economic and social frustration.
At the end of the webinar, Head of BTTN Brig Agha Ahmad Gul (R) said that despite American diplomatic pressures, Pakistan’s position to undertake nuclear tests in two weeks of the Indian Tests, should make the nation proud of its capabilities. Brig Gul (R) said that after the US attacked Japan with two different nuclear weapons, to test the two types of nuclear bombs, two red lines emerged slowly for nuclear-capable states. One, never to attack a nuclear state, as military response will be catastrophic and second, never to wage a war with another nuclear power. As none could win it and both states would end up with mutually assured destruction. He added that India nonchalantly crossed the First Red Line on 26 Feb 2019. Pakistan responded with Quid Pro Quo Plus the next day, shooting down Two Indian Fighters, capturing one pilot but then returning him the next day. Rather than admitting its loss, India falsely claimed to have shot down Pakistani F-16, which no one believed. Thus, it is natural to think when will India cross the 2nd Red Line with its irrational leadership. Yet, Pakistan’s will of resolve and capability of prompt response remains intact. Brig Gul (R) concluded the session with extending his gratitude to the speakers and the moderator.
BTTN’s Webinar on Kashmir Day
Date: February 06, 2023
Balochistan Think Tank Network (BTTN), Quetta organized an online webinar to observe the significance of the Kashmir Day that is commemorated every year by the people of Pakistan and Kashmir in solidarity with the Kashmiris of Indian Occupied Jammu and Kashmir (IOJK) who have been fighting for their freedom for more than seventy-five years. The webinar’s title was ‘A Geo-Historic and International Law’s Perspective – Way Forward for Resolving the Kashmir Conflict’. The webinar was moderated by Dr. Maria Malik Director Research, BTTN. The list of Speakers included Dr. Maria Saifuddin Effendi who is an Assistant Professor at National Defence University, Islamabad, Mr. Oves Anwar who is Director of Research at Research Society of International Law, Mr. Ajmal Khan who is a Research Officer at BTTN, Mr. Faisal Qayyum Magray who is a young Kashmiri Activist and Agha Ahmad Gul, head of BTTN.
Dr. Maria Malik spoke the beginning note by providing a brief background of the Kashmir issue, how the Indian army has perpetuated violent crackdowns to suppress the will of the people, why Kashmir was and still is a nuclear flashpoint between India and Pakistan, and stressed on Pakistan rightful stance on the status of Kashmir and to its resolution through peaceful means.
Following that, Mr. Ajmal Khan talked on the Geographical and Historical Aspects of the Kashmir Issue – and Significance for Peace in the Region. He provided a brief description of Kashmir’s geography and its significance and highlighted the political and historical background of the region. He emphasized that the choice of the Kashmiri people has up till today been neglected by the international community and major powers and how India’s claim of being the largest democracy proves paradoxical in light of its totalitarian policies in Kashmir. He noted that the oppression faced by the Kashmiri people is a result of the violation of the UNSC resolutions 39 and 47 and also stressed on the unilaterality of the revocation of Article 370 which violates even the Simla Agreement which is quite regularly championed by Indian statesmen.
Dr. Maria Effendi’s talk focused on two premises, that is, the Concept of Genocide and how Kashmir can be referred to as a genocide? She continued her talk by referring to the genocide convention of 1948 which was adopted by the UN General Assembly whose principles have been constantly violated by the Indian government and armed forces. Furthermore, she stressed on the need to revisit Kashmir’s historical oppression by stating that 1846 not 1947 should be taken as the starting point from which the oppression of the Kashmiri Muslims began. She added that the Dogra rule was as much complicit in the oppression of Muslims as the current Hindu regime dominating Indian politics.
Dr. Oves Anwar spoke on the lack of political clarity over the Kashmir issue. He emphasized the need to use the correct terminology when referring to Kashmir as terminologies have repercussions on legal stages. He suggested the use of the word “Annexation” when referring to Indian Occupied Kashmir. He also made an effort to provide clarity on the basic constituents of Occupation as defined by the International Committee of the Red Cross as “Unconsented to, effective Occupation without holding Sovereign Title to the territory”. All the three requisites are fulfilled by the current Indian military actions in Kashmir and thus the situation in Kashmir can legally stated as a War situation, therefore it is not mere human rights violations, rather International Humanitarian Law violations and War Crimes which are being committed by India.
Mr. Faisal Qayyum Magray proposed for a speedy end to the human rights violations in Kashmir and stressed that the region should be saved from becoming a nuclear flashpoint. He pointed out that the name Kashmir has become synonymous with death and destruction and how the problem has evolved from and ethno-racial perspective to state patronage of oppression. He lamented the fact that Kashmiris lack the support of the international community and that not much has been done on that level to effectively result in the peaceful resolution of the conflict.
Head of BTTN, retired Brig. Agha Ahmad Gul, being the final speaker of the webinar, brought forward his remarks on the issue. He emphasized on the need for a revival within Indian people themselves if the problem of Kashmir is to be resolved. He regretted that the UNSC is not a just forum and that justice is only served when it suits the major powers’ interests. He continued with highlighting the constraints faced by Pakistan in the 1948 war on Kashmir. Furthermore, he clarified that the current prospects of War with India as a solution to the Kashmir issue are unrealistic and India’s relative strength in military, population and economic terms heavily outweigh that of ours. Finally, he recommended the audience to maintain their patience, seek economic, political and diplomatic empowerment and wait for the right time to launch an effective campaign to finally turn the wishes of the Kashmiris into reality.
Youth Development Through Education in Balochistan
Date: Monday 26 April 2022
On April 26, 2022, BTTN organized its first webinar on ‘Youth Development through Education in Balochistan.” The webinar was chaired by Consultant BTTN, Brig Agha Ahmad Gul ®, and moderated by Dr. Maria Malik, Director Research, BTTN. The speakers included Dr. Faiz Kakar, Consultant FAO and IUCN; Dr. Kausar S. Khan, Community Engagement Advisor, Interactive Research and Development Pakistan (IRD), visiting faculty at Agha Khan University; Mr. Amjad Rashid Qureshi, CEO of Taraqee Foundation; and Dr. Mir Sadaat Baloch, President BCPP. The speakers highlighted the challenges faced by Balochistan’s education sector and presented policy recommendations, which was followed by a question-and-answer session. Speakers highlighted the importance of technical and vocational education and its dire need in the province. They also emphasized on the need to revisit the curriculum and methodology according to the demands of contemporary times. The webinar concluded with the remarks of the chair, who thanked the speakers for their participation and enlightened talks. The chair recalled that the speakers unanimously emphasized the indispensable importance of education, especially technical education, efforts to remove bottlenecks in education in the province and formulate policies to achieve sustainable solutions. Education should be administered through mutual dialogue between the students and the teachers with the hope for teaching and learning rather than fear. Civility and comradeship should be the outcome and hallmarks of education.