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Afghanistan socio-economic and socio-political overview

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Afghanistan‘s economic growth has slowed but remains satisfactory levels to generate rising average standards of living. Real GDP growth is expected to close the fiscal year 2011-12 at 5.7 percent, down from 8.4 percent in 2010-11. The slowdown in growth was mainly due to weather-related condition which lowered agriculture output to below –average levels.

The economy this year (2012-2013) GDP growth-related to pick up again and is projected to reach 7.1 percent , favorable weather condition during the first quarter of the year resulted in good harvest season , which is likely to increase agricultural  output.

The service sector will continue to account for about half economic growth for next year fueled by the growth in the telecommunication sector.

In addition, donor funding and development projects will continue to drive the demand for transportation and distribution service.

Longer-term projections are less positive, aid levels are expected to decline significantly this will reduce GDP growth levels of 4 to 5 percent per year.

A sizeable financing gap will continue to exist through 2012 despite projections of healthy growth in domestic revue collection. Afghanistan’s biggest economic challenge is finding sources of sustainable and equitable growth.

Education: in 2001 after the fall of Taliban, net enrollment was estimated at 43% for boys and a dismal 3% for girls. Moreover, there were only about 21,000 teachers (large under-educated) for a school-age population estimated at more than 5 million-or about 240 students for every marginally trained teacher.

Since 2002, school enrollment has increased from 1 million to 7.2 million children girls enrollment increased from 191,000 to more than 2, 71 million. More than 101,000 teacher qualifications and the overall access to equitable quality education in Afghanistan.

Health: according to recent data from Afghanistan mortality survey 2010 (AMS 2010) life expectancy at birth is at 64 years. Only 27% of Afghans have access to safe drinking water and 5% adequate sanitation, nevertheless there has been considerable progress over the last 9 years, about 85% of the population lives in districts which now have providers to deliver basic package of health facility (based on AMS 2010). Infant and under -5 mortality in 2010 has declined to 77 and 97 per 1,000 live birth respectively from 111 and 161 per 1,000 live births in 2008. The pregnancy-related mortality ratio is about 327 per 100,000 births, which means that every two hours a women dies in Afghanistan from pregnancy-related causes.

Access to electricity: the percentage of population with access to electricity in Afghanistan among the lowest in the world. The ministry of energy and water estimates that about 30% of Afghans have access to electricity from grid-based power, micro-hydro or solar panel stations.

The situation has improved significantly in the major urban population centers along the critical north-east corridor between Mazar-e-sharif and Kabul, following the importance  of power from Uzbekistan and the rehabilitation of three hydro plants (Mahipar and Sorobi completed and Nghlu ongoing) increasing parts of some urban centers, for example Kabul, Mazar-e-sharif, and Pul-e-khomri, now have a 24 hrs power supply for the first time in decades.

Revenue Collection: since the implementation of an Automated System for Customs Data (ASYCUDA), the collection of transit fees in major transit corridors in Afghanistan has improved customs revenues have soared from around $50 million in 2003 (SY 1382) to over US$ 1 billion in 2011-2012 an increase of around 2,000% in 8 years.

Approximately 90% percent of imports and exports are covered through automated processing, the waiting time for trucks at the major border crossings has also decreased. The Afghan Custom Department has started the process to carry out customs performance measurement at Torkhum, Hairatan and Kabul Inland Customs Depots, but still there are vigorous signs of corruption are overseen the local heads of the department are involved in corruption but supported by the ministers within the administration these custom offices allow chemicals used in narcotics an illegal drugs (poppy, morphine) and other type of most dangerous drugs even they allow explosives and ammunitions for the Taliban to later on they are used to attack  coalition forces an Afghan security organizations the said Customs Department is doing just because of money purposes a long with that most of the staff are hired through private relation which has doubled the worsen situation within the system.

Role of commercial banks in the economic development of Afghanistan: in country like Afghanistan which is still in the initial stages of economic development, a well organized banking system is the need of the day. There is acute shortage of capital in private banking sector of Afghanistan; the banks can play an important role in promoting capital formation, in controlling speculation in maintaining a balance between requirements and availabilities and directing physical resources into desired channels.

Commercial banks play an active and important role in the economic development of a country if the banking system in country is effective and disciplined; it brings about a rapid growth in the various sectors of economy  but in Afghanistan a long side the in effectiveness of the banking system corruption and nepotism has played even negative role in the said sector  even worth the Afghan commercial and non-commercial banks are busy with money laundering for bulk money of the terror regime of Iran the worst case is most of such banks with such attitudes are openly supported by the President Karzai administration most blame even him that he is part of all these activities his family members are share holders of the said banks and these banks are established via mafia channels the money which invested are the output of drug dealing and seizing the public and private properties all in all mortified  the economy of Afghanistan , despite of the mentioned challenges the use of online banking is now increasing day by day, it has brought revolution in banking industry. The online banking which is the wave of future is now on the move in Afghanistan and progressing satisfactory to some extent.

Some of the banks already stared providing ATM/MCS to the customers to develop e-banking such as online money transfer, shopping, ease of business and travel tours.

Political perspective: Afghanistan is pretty critical from the political perception full of challenges, war-lords are in place, corruption, and lawlessness tremendously strained Afghan people. Most importantly, the insurgency has become sturdy. Most of the bordering areas between Afghanistan Pakistan and between Afghanistan and Iran are out of the run of the Afghan government. One major portion of the state [the judiciary] has outlawed real discussion and the President has failed to set up its members of government. War criminals and organized crime activists are highly maneuvering and laying more burdens on the shoulder of ordinary Afghans. Dreadfully fewer economic and political developments have taken place. The legislative appendage is not feasible. Most of its members are warlords, drug mafia or criminals. The absence of democratic tenets such as justice, fairness or civil liberties, have outcomes that enduringly collide between sundry limbs of the state. The largest part, notably the unconstitutional proceeds of president, added to the tribulations.

Regional conflict: Contention flanked by US and China on one hand and on the other between US and Russia. The rivalry linking Iran and Saudi Arabia as well as among Pakistan and India continues to be a problem. The panic of losing the war on terror, revitalization of radicalism, Islamization of the society, economic stagnation and unemployment  have caused total failure in Afghanistan and most of Afghans have lost any hope in the current and future of the country. Most imagine the worst. There are no new beginnings for the country. Most of the youngsters endeavor to take refuge in the western world, therefore one can observe gloomy and hazy ambiance of Afghanistan.

Security outlook: As it is obvious that Afghanistan previously facing numerous enemies, defies most specially the vulnerable security circumstances generated here. An open arena for drug dealers, land mafia, economic mafia, war-lords and organized criminals exists to take advantage of situations. Beside corruption, nepotism and dissipations of the national security agencies (such as national police, army and intelligence) have added to the insufficiency of the security sectors even with proper training. Additionally, to the NATO abandonment of Afghanistan, we possibly will adjoin dividedness between tribes and tribal leaders. Furthermore, issues between war-lords, religious fantasist, socio-political fractions and splinter groups as our result total pandemonium will evoke events of the 90’s. Consequently, the NATO withdrawal will escort the country towards arm strife among plenty of tribes, drug dealers, religious political factions which may bring about disintegration of the country. This may occur in addition to a real clash between Sunni and Shia peoples.

Ajmal Sohail is a graduate in terrorism and extremism studies from both Leiden University in the Netherlands and Maryland University in the United States; he works in the meantime as an intelligence analyst and Counter-terrorism expert. He does remain well connected with the political players in his country, both those physically in Afghanistan and those working from outside, allowing him to gain insights into the extremely complex geopolitical situation in Afghanistan and in the South Asia region. He is the co-founder and co-president of the Counter Narco-Terrorism Alliance Germany, directing its intelligence and counter-terrorism portfolios. His analysis is regularly featured in various international news outlets, print and television and he even runs his own sources to get the most classified Intel. His analysis and other content can be accessed at his personal website: http://www.ajmalsohail.com

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South Asia

The Rise of Non-State Actors in Afghanistan: A Consequence of Political Vacuum

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Terrorism

In recent years, Afghanistan has witnessed a surge in the influence of non-state actors such as the Taliban and Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP). These groups have exploited the political vacuum in the country to carry out acts of violence and terrorism, creating instability and insecurity for the Afghan people and neighboring countries.

Introduction:

The history of Afghanistan is marked by political instability and conflict. In the 1990s, the country was torn apart by a civil war between rival factions, which created a power vacuum that was eventually filled by the Taliban. The Taliban regime was eventually overthrown in 2001 with the help of international forces, but the country has since struggled to establish a stable and effective political administration.

The absence of a recognized political administration in Afghanistan has led to a power vacuum that has allowed non-state actors, such as the TTP, to exploit the situation and use Afghan soil to launch attacks against Pakistan, thereby threatening its security and stability.

The Political Vacuum in Afghanistan:

In the absence of a recognized political administration, non-state actors have been able to take advantage of the situation to establish themselves as power brokers in the country. The Taliban, for example, has been able to regain control over large swathes of territory and carry out acts of violence and terrorism against the Afghan government and international forces. The TTP, which operates primarily in Pakistan, has also taken advantage of the political vacuum in Afghanistan to use the country as a base for launching attacks against Pakistan.

The situation in Afghanistan highlights the importance of having a recognized political administration in place. A stable and effective political administration is essential for maintaining peace and security in the country and preventing the rise of non-state actors like TTP. It is also essential for preventing the country from being used as a base for launching attacks against neighboring countries.

Furthermore, the lack of a recognized political administration in Afghanistan has made it difficult for the international community to effectively address the challenges facing the country. The international community has been working to support the Afghan government in its efforts to establish a stable and effective political administration, but progress has been slow. The rise of non-state actors like TTP has only added to the challenges facing the international community and made it more difficult to find a solution to the conflict in Afghanistan.

To address the challenges facing Afghanistan, the international community needs to continue to support the Afghan government in its efforts to establish a stable and effective political administration. This can be achieved through providing financial, technical, and diplomatic support, as well as through helping to build the capacity of Afghan institutions and encouraging the development of civil society. The international community must also work to address the root causes of the conflict in Afghanistan, such as poverty, lack of access to education, and political instability.

The international community must take a firm stance against non-state actors like TTP, who seek to destabilize the region and carry out acts of violence and terrorism. This can be achieved through targeted sanctions, diplomatic pressure, and military operations if necessary. The international community must also work to disrupt the networks and financing mechanisms that these groups use to carry out their activities.

The Threat to Pakistan:

Pakistan, a country with a rich history and culture, is facing a serious threat from non-state actors operating within its borders. One such group is the Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), which has been using the soil of Afghanistan to launch attacks against Pakistan. This has had a severe impact on the security and stability of the country, making it imperative for a coordinated effort to be made to address this issue.

The TTP, a militant group based in Afghanistan, has been using the country as a safe haven to launch attacks against Pakistan. From Afghanistan, TTP has been able to plan and coordinate attacks on Pakistan, causing death and destruction. The porous border between Afghanistan and Pakistan has made it easy for TTP to cross over and carry out these attacks. This has resulted in a serious threat to the security and stability of Pakistan, putting the lives of its citizens in danger.

The actions of TTP have had a profound impact on the security and stability of Pakistan. The group’s attacks have resulted in the loss of innocent lives, causing grief and distress to families and communities. TTP’s actions have also had an impact on the economy, as businesses and industries have been forced to shut down due to the insecurity. This has resulted in job losses and economic instability, putting a strain on the country’s already fragile economy. The threat posed by TTP has also had a negative impact on the country’s reputation, as it is seen as a country unable to control its own territory and protect its citizens.

The threat posed by non-state actors like TTP cannot be addressed by a single entity. A coordinated effort between the government, military, and other relevant organizations is necessary to address this issue. The government and military must work together to secure the border between Afghanistan and Pakistan to prevent TTP from crossing over. The government must also take steps to tackle the root causes of extremism, such as poverty and ignorance, to prevent the rise of such groups. International organizations must also play their part in addressing this issue, by providing support and resources to help combat the threat posed by TTP.

Conclusion:

In conclusion, the rise of non-state actors like TTP in Afghanistan is a direct result of the political vacuum in the country. The use of Afghan soil by TTP to launch attacks against Pakistan has had a severe impact on the security and stability of the country. The situation highlights the importance of having a recognized political administration in place to maintain peace and security and prevent the rise of these dangerous groups. The international community must continue to support the Afghan government in its efforts to establish a stable and effective political administration, and work together to prevent the country from becoming a breeding ground for non-state actors like TTP.

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Kashmir – Beyond Solidarity

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Kashmir, a region located in the northern part of India and southeastern part of Pakistan, has a long history of conflict and political disputes. One of the core issues in the region is denial of peoples Right of self-determination guaranteed by 13 UNSC resolution. The situation in Kashmir has further escalated in recent years,when India revoked the autonomous status Under Article 370 and Article 35-A of Constitution in August 2019 and initiated a demographic changes of Muslim majority region. After this unilateral and illegal annexation of occupied territory, India has doubled the war crime and crimes against humanity in the region.

The Islamic Republic of Pakistan- a party to the Kashmir dispute marks February 5th, the annual Kashmir Solidarity Day, to express support for the people of Kashmir and their Just struggle for self-determination. The right to self-determination is a principle enshrined in international law that recognizes the right of a person to freely determine their political status and pursue economic, social, and cultural development. To achieve this fundamental Right of Self-determination, the people of Kashmir have been struggling for more than seven decades and the Indian government has used excessive force and resorted to war crimes against the Kashmiri for suppression of this inalienable right.  

In last 75 years and particularly since 1989 when Indian occupational authorities closed the peaceful and democratic means seeking UN guaranteed Right of self-determination for region. India started mass massacres and multiple abusive mechanization against the civilians and pro freedom politicians. Human rights organizations have documented the widespread use of torture, extrajudicial killings, and other forms of violence by Indian armed  forces in Indian-occupied Kashmir. These actions have resulted in the death of thousands of Kashmiri civilians and the displacement of many others. The Indian occupying forces have also imposed strict restrictions on freedom of speech and assembly in the region, leading to the suppression of dissent and the stifling of Pro freedom political activism.

The new war strategy against the Kashmiris by Indian government is a massive demographic engineering by settling non-Kashmiri Indians in the territory, confiscating their land ,properties  and the ongoing demolition to pave the way for outside industrialist with the aim to change the disputed status of Kashmir, which has been guaranteed Plebiscite by UN and then Indian parliament.

The situation in Kashmir remains a complex and volatile issue that requires the international community’s attention and action. The people of Kashmir have the right to self-determination and must be protected from violence and human rights abuse perpetrated  by 900,000 Indian armed forces occupying the territory . Moreover, the selective approach of international organization on Kashmir & Palestine questions the basic structure of UN Charter which pledges to safeguard the ‘Humanity’ from the wrath of aggressor.  The international community has largely been silent on the issue of Kashmiri self-determination and violence committed by Indian armed forces in the region. Some international organizations and countries have called for an end to violence and for the protection of the human rights of the Kashmiri people, but these calls have been rhetoric which has been rejected by the Indian government.

The responsibility of Pakistan towards Kashmir must be beyond diplomacy and geo-economic interest. On this Kashmir Solidarity Day, we must come together to draw a new road map liberating the people of Kashmir from the Illegal occupation of India and also support their Just Struggle for justice, freedom, and self-determination.

The majority of Kashmirs in the IIOJK consider their struggle against India for the unfinished agenda of Partition and it is a moral responsibly of every Pakistani to become part of their legitimate struggle.

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The U.S. raising Engagement in South Asia: New Battlefield of Sino-US rivalry

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Victoria Nuland, the United States undersecretary of state for political affairs, calls on Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal at the latter’s residence in Baluwatar of Kathmandu on Monday, January 30, 2023. Photo: Dahal’s Secretariat

With the new year 2023, the visits of top American diplomats to South Asian countries have increased.  These recent visits are concluded as the counter steps of the US against the Chinese influence in the region.

Recently, from the end of January to a few days in February, the American Under Secretary Victoria Newland visited three countries in South Asia and headed toward Gulf. Recently, Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs Victoria Nuland visited to three South Asian nations including Nepal, India, Sri Lanka, and the gulf nation Qatar for a week starting from Jan 28-Feb 3.

Before her, Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asian Affairs Donald Lu had traveled to India and Bangladesh from January 12-15. Within the span of a week, another senior official from the Biden Administration, Samantha Power, administrator of the USAID is scheduled to Visit Nepal.

Soon after Power’s return, Afreen Akhter, Deputy Assistant Sectary in the Bureau of South and Central Asian Affairs (SCA) for Nepal, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Bhutan, and the Maldives, as well as the Office of Security and Transnational Affairs set to visit Nepal.

These engagements and activisms by the US in Nepal and South Asian Region are focused on Countering Chinese influence and encircling from the South.

Review of Recent Visits

Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs Victoria Nuland, the visit was centralized with US-Indo Pacific Strategy and its framework. It was the first visit of any senior US official after the formation of a Leftist dominated government led by Puspa Kamal Dahal ‘Prachand’, the Chair of CPN (Maoist Center). During her Stay in Nepal, she met with Prachanda, foreign minister Bimala Paudel Rai, former Prime Minister, Sher Bahadur Deuba, and KP Sharma Oli.  During these meetings, she proposed a collaboration to fight against China and Russia.

Let me quote her from the meeting with the press in Kathmandu, “We can see authoritarians from all over the world trying to force them to enforce the rules around the world.” Though she didn’t mention China, her indication was toward China. “So we have to work together to protect democracy,” she purposed to the leaders in Kathmandu. In the term “Urgent Global Issue” all her meeting was focused on China and obviously on Russia too.

In New Delhi, Under Secretary Victoria co-chaired the annual meeting of the India-US Foreign Office Association (FOC). Within the umbrella term “India-US Comprehensive Global Strategic Partnership” the meeting was focused on US’s Indo-Pacific Strategy.

The statement by the Ministry of External Affairs mentioned that both sides have made their commitment to a free, open, and equitable Indo-Pacific region and discussed in the Quad, Indo-Pacific Economic Framework (IPEF), Indo-Pacific Maritime Domain Awareness Initiative (IPMDA). All these forums are led by the US against China.

The Quad is an informal security alliance comprising India, Japan, and Australia, led by the US. While The IPEF and IPMDA are the ‘framework’ unveiled by US President Joe Biden during his visit to Japan on May 23 last year. The White House’s fact sheet states that the United States is an economic power in the Indo-Pacific region and aims to expand American leadership in the area. India, Japan, South Korea, Australia, New Zealand, and other countries are included in this framework.

China had strong opposition to such a framework. On the geopolitical strategy, these frameworks are designed as the new weapon by the US to counter China.

“The IPEF is designed to advance US geopolitical strategy. In the name of cooperation, the framework seeks to exclude certain countries, establish US-led trade rules, restructure the system of industrial chains, and decouple regional countries from the Chinese economy,” Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Wang Wenbin’s Regular Press Conference on May 25, 2022, had lamented the framework.

Mahathir Mohamad, Former Prime Minister of Malaysia, a member nation of the IPEF had criticized a new U.S.-led economic grouping, saying it is intended to isolate China, and won’t benefit regional economic growth without Beijing. This show that the visit of Under Secretary Victoria was solely focused on US-IPS, and rheostat the Chinese influence in the region.

Colombo was the third and last stop of this visit in South Asia. It was the second visit of Under Secretary Victoria to Sri Lanka, which they called the victims of China’s “Debt Trap”. She with Assistant Secretary Donald Lu and Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Indo-Pacific Security Affairs Amanda Dory visited Colombo last year in March.

Sri Lank a member of BRI, had rejected the US assistance program MCC. The US used to accuse Chines investment in Sri Lank as a “Debt Trap”. the cause of the “debt-trap diplomacy”, Sri Lanka lost Control of a major port- read the report entitled “The Elements of the China Challenge” state.  But, Sri Lank had rejected the western accusations of the “Debt Trap”.

On January 12-15, the US Assistant Secretary of State Donald Lu had his visit to India and Bangladesh. This visit was also aimed at expanding bilateral relations and preventing Chinese influence from the relevant countries.

It is a controversial interview with an Indian Television, Lu directly accused China of being Aggressive towards Indian Border. “We have said that the border dispute between India and China Should be solved peacefully through negotiations directly between the two parties. Having said that we haven’t seen PRC has taken good faith steps to resolve this border conflict,” he stated.

His Next Stop was Dhaka, where the Newly appointed Chinese Foreign Minister Qin Gang was stepped in a week before. Though it was called “Technical Stopover” by China, it was his first foreign stop after holding the position. They stopped after a day, US Senior Director for South Asia, National Security Council Rear Admiral Eileen Laubacher landed for four days visit to Dhaka.

Bangladesh, with close ties with China holding an election next year. The United States has imposed sanctions on the Bangladesh Paramilitary Forces ‘Rapid Action Battalion (RAB)’ on charges of human rights violations since 2021. Previously, Bangladesh was not invited on the Summit for Democracy held by US President Joe Biden on December 9 and 2021. During this visit to Dhaka, US Assistant Secretary of State Lu praised the RAB and hinted to lift the ban.

He also held talks with Bangladesh to participate in the Indo-Pacific Strategy.

South Asia as New Battlefield of Sino-US rivalry

These high-ranking US officials’ visits to South Asian countries are in line with the strategy to encircle China, while Taiwan Straits Crisis is ragging the Sino-US tension. The US has a clear interest in South Asia with its defense strategy of IPS. In this case, it seems that the small countries of South Asia will be in the strategic grip of the power centers. India is competing with China as a member of the IPS. The three-tier economy and the Power Centre are competing against south Asia.

The rise of China has challenged the US’s hegemony in global affairs. China plans to overtake the position of the US by 2050. The US fears that Beijing could overtake the US’s global leadership role. To stop China from achieving its goals of 2050, the US has deployed its IPS toward South Asia too.

The center stage of the global affair is shifting towards Asia. And, when the world is divided into two poles, it will have an adverse effect on the small countries of South Asia directly. The US is talking about peace and stability in the region, isolating China, with the largest population in the globe. China is also moving forward to expand its influence in the Asian region. India is an emerging economy in itself, which has supported the US to stop China. India wants to maintain its domination in South Asia by stopping China.

In the rivalry between the three-tier economy and the two polar power centers, underdeveloped South Asian countries have opportunities to gain economic and infrastructure development. Side by side the three are chances of losses of balance and risk of becoming the battlefield of Sino-US rivalry. 

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