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India: PM Modi government’s two-year extravaganza

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The government in India may have changed hands from Manmaohan Singh to Narendra Modi and from ‘hands to lotus’ (party symbols) but the functioning of the government has remained unchanged.

It is because basically there is no difference between Congress and BJP- both are Hindu parties, though former tricks the Muslims while the latter has does it with Hindus. Moreover, the RSS, the BJP and its previous avatars were supported by the Congress party in order to contain the Muslims leaders and keep the Muslim vote banks under its full control by using the paid Muslim leaders as party agents.

Many of BJP’s poll promises remain unfulfilled. Liquor baron Vijay Mallya left India with Modi support and is enjoy8ing life abroad with state protection. Both Congress and BJP play tricks, blaming each other for making India one of most corrupt nations on earth.

Both Congress and BJP ruling classes in Indian democracy consider the active promotion of corruption is their birth right and nobody can question their basic rights. Not even the Supreme court of India.

Former President of India Dr. Abdul Kalam rarely visited foreign countries and he made it appoint to go to South Africa where Mahatma Gandhi launched his freedom struggle and he went there only to visit Mahatma Gandhi’s memorials as tribute to him as India’s most important achievement.

But today, Indian PM Modi is known as tourist premier she is undertaking non-stop foreign visits, ostensibly to popularize India on world scene as if the previous governments, including of former PM Vajpayee, have failed to do that.

The Modi government not only promotes corruption but also spends too much money on PM torus and advertisements. RSS-BJP is fully aware fo the fact that they f took the people for an easy ride and now people are fully aware of their plight under the BJP government.

Indian PM Modi, who is actively engaged in a self styled world tour at state expenses, seems to be aiming at some sort of records, like the cricketers do with mafia help, to enter Guinness book, is also trying to outsmart the US presidents who generally undertake shuttle diplomatic exercises across many countries in one go.

PM Modi, who allows all Hindutva operations take place quietly, is doing what generally the domain of foreign ministry officals and corporate lords who jointly keep visiting many countries at state cost for discussing bilateral and multilateral issues and wherever possible striking economic deals. .

Like Vijay Mallya and Robert Vadra, who used India government of Congress and BJP to enlarge their business interests, Modi has used politics to fulfill his life ambition of world tours on state expenses.

PM Modi has managed to stitch around him a neat propaganda that his main focus would be foreign policy and he did so by inviting SAARC leaders for his inaugural ceremony in New Delhi in 2014. He spends more time and attention on his foreign tours than attending to and solving the domestic problems.

One major achievement of Modi era is the weakening of Congress party as a national party as part of BJP agenda of creating India without Congress, but BJP also has been in trouble as its influence also has been diminishing steadily.

Except that BJP is a thorough and open Hindutva communal party , there is not much that divides it form the Congress and other similar parties that use Muslims for elections and use criminal gangs to attack them after the poll.

Both BJP and Congress promote money laundering and IPL betting and gambling, rampant corruption, illegal mafias promotions, etc.

Shuttle triclomacy

US presidents are known to undertake shuttle diplomatic tours by clubbing a few countries to visits in a row. Modi seems to outsmart US precedent as well.

Many Indians feel proud of having got a prime minister who tours the world like any international tourist but state expenses and he spends not only on himself but for the entire entourage of about 200-300 persons from ministries, business lords, media magnets, etc, etc.

Indian Prime minister Narendra Modi is known to be on the move last two years from month one in office, visiting foreign countries in a row ostensibly to advance Indian interests if the prime ministers before him did not do that at all. Lucky ones are those who are in his good books. Modi and ‘allies’ spent more time abroad than in India, leaving governance to the cabinet members who take decisions on their own or as directed by the RSS-BJP leaders in the absence of their big leader.

Nothing is wrong if a PM with huge powers enjoys life abroad as his passion or hobby. Many people thought he is searching for Indian money kept abroad and wants to bring that money back home to be distributed among the voters who voted him and his BJP to power. .

Modi’s foreign tours influenced Indian president Pranab Mukherjee so much that he himself undertook tours like the latest one to China etc. taking cue from the prime minister’s t constant torus, some top officals, like Vice chancellors like EFLU (Hyderabad) keep themselves busy in foreign tours and attend office when they are ‘free’ that too in the evening hours while quality of educations and research has fallen in many ways. Generally the VC refuses to meet anyone as she always busy, obviously doing nothing. Without VC everyone does one feels like doing.

That is the situation in most of the central universities and no one controls the VCs. In many universities persons who busy elsewhere are appointed as VCs. Higher education is out of gear in India and there seems to be no cure at all. .

PM is on the move abroad. The Prime Minister next covers Afghanistan, Qatar, Switzerland, US and Mexico. Prime Minister Narendra Modi will embark on a five-nation visit from June 4 which will cover Afghanistan, Qatar, Switzerland, the US and Mexico. Modi will begin his trip with Afghanistan to inaugurate India-funded Salma Dam which has been constructed at a cost of about Rs 1,400 crore. From Afghanistan, he will proceed to energy-rich Qatar and then to Switzerland. During the two-day visit to energy-rich Qatar, Modi will hold extensive talks with Emir of Qatar Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani on a range of bilateral issues including ways to further boost economic ties, particularly in the hydrocarbon sector.

In Switzerland, the Prime Minister will hold talks with the Swiss leadership, including President Johann Schneider-Ammann, and is likely to seek cooperation to unearth black money accounts of Indians in Switzerland which was a promise made by him during elections in 2014. According to sources, the officials of the two countries are working on finalizing an arrangement that could pave the way for automatic exchange of information on tax-related issues. The Switzerland government had on May 18 initiated consultation on an ordinance to put in place a mechanism for automatic exchange of tax information with India and other countries.

From Switzerland, Modi will travel to the US on June 7 at the invitation of President Barack Obama, with whom he will review the progress made in key areas of defence, security and energy. During his stay, he will also address a Joint Meeting of the US Congress.

Big bossism

A man fond of celebrations even without any a big achievement, Narendra Modi and his government completed two-year in office and the celebrations at India Gate in Delhi marking the two year were a pomp and show. Corporate lords, hyper rich people gathered as the VIIPs. At the culmination of the mega show that saw and industry leaders narrating the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government’s achievements in the two years of its rule, Modi himself appeared on the platform and added to the list.

As prime ministerial candidate in 2014 Modi had promised the people of India a few important things, including end corruption, bring back the Indian money kept in foreign banks as part of money laundering effort to hide their wealth and huge money. Modi said his government got Rs 36,000 crore from subsidy cuts. Modi said a change has come, enumerated what his government planned to give to the poor in the ensuing years (for instance, LPG connections to crore people), in other words stating why the continuity of his government is a necessity for India’s poor.

Despite having the largest number of poor people in the world –India is not a poor country but an influential one.

India is seen as the country that talks a lot but when it comes to actually delivering its policy lacks substance. Similarly, in the military context, the Indian government keeps proclaiming how it has bought US$10 billion worth of arms from the US and this makes it a valuable arms market. To put this in context, in 2010, Saudi Arabia bought US$60 billion worth of weapons from the US after negotiating for just a few months.

Money will not move from the West to India until their corporations believe that India is actually serious about structural reforms. India is particular about not letting foreigners control Indian economy even while being part of it. Given the continued disillusionment with India in the realms of foreign policy, economics, and the military, major nations, particularly the USA also play cross-tricks.

Many capitalism specialists in India and abroad advise Indian government to attract the American corporations and earn the respect of the American government – rapidly open the Indian market and secure investments from the West. They play the usual Pakistan card to woo India to go for structural reforms for foreign capitalists to make strong presence in Indian economy; they argue that investments have a security dimension because as they increase in size they will grant India greater foreign policy autonomy and work to further isolate Pakistan.

BJP’s quiet corruption

The one point in his favor is there isn’t any corruption cases reported so far against Modi or any of Modi’s central ministers in the 2-year period, though nepotism issues do crop up. The government indeed exhibited its reforms intent by taking up several small steps such as the passage of key legislations – Aadhaar, bankruptcy code, coal and insurance bills. However, it is wrong to say that Modi put India back to the global scene through his relentless campaigns. He accelerated what the previous Congress government had said it did.

If Modi’s NDA government is to be compared with that Manmaohan Singh’s UPA regime the former is harmless. However, acceleration of Hindutva agenda has exposed the Modi government as being the embodiment of hate politics.

Was such huge spending on full page newspaper advertisements and prime time slots at News channels necessary? Especially when the country is reeling under the pain of successive droughts and farmers are staring at yet another agrarian crisis. There has been no notable change in the ground-level situation in the real economy (despite what the GDP numbers show) and the problem of huge employment persists. It certainly doesn’t. The problem is that this government tends to celebrate too early.

The Indian economy is still balancing its walk through the edge of a major banking crisis, which isn’t a theory in the near future if the government fails to support the state-run banks given the manner in which bad loans are piling up. In the March quarter alone, state-run banks reported cumulated losses of over Rs 14,000 crore on account of huge provisions made on bad loans. Stressed assets currently account for almost 11 percent of the total loans given by the banks. Of these loans, Rs 4,00,000 crore are gross NPAs and an equal amount of restructured loans, which could also turn bad if economy doesn’t pick up fast. There is a substantial quantum of SMA-2 loans, which means they are overdue for 60 days. If a banking a crisis happens, that can take the country in reverse gear by several years, forget about competing with China on economic growth.

With private investment cycle yet to resume, stalled projects are on the rise and the 17-month consecutive fall in exports do not offer any comfort to the economy. Compared to what the government has ‘achieved’ in the last two years, its unfulfilled tasks are massive and it hasn’t crossed even half way to say that economy has turned the corner. A big reason why Modi’s economy has escaped an economic crisis, despite two successive years of drought, is due to crashing oil and commodity prices. That will not sustain forever.

Modi should introspect

Self advertisements and foreign tour will only increase the economic burden on the nation.

Except the BJP government and its supporters and sympathizers, did the aam aadmi participate in the two-year celebrations? According to reports, as many as 454 farmers have ended their lives in Maharashtra’s drought-prone Marthawada region alone so far this year. The numbers are up by 22 percent, compared to the 372 cases reported till the end of May last year.

In many places in Marathwada, water levels in reservoirs are down to just 1 percent, as against 8 percent during the same period last year. Number of deaths reported due to shortage of drinking water have spiralled. Has the government done enough to address the problem? However, a good monsoon will save the economy from a disaster, a third year of successive drought would put us back on crisis.

If the Modi-government chose to avoid the two-year jamboree at Indian Gate, admitting that the time isn’t right for a celebration when the country is going through a crisis and acknowledging that the economy is not out of woods yet, that would have been a bigger advertisement for this government. It would have been evident that the government is sensitive to the pain of the country’s poor and is not oblivious to the ground realities of the real economy.

The good work the government has done should have been celebrated by 125 crore Indians too, not just an invited group of people at the India Gate that literally kept the aam aadmi —in Modi’s own parlance, the janta janardan – out of the fences of the festivities.

As mentioned earlier, the problem is that, in India, we tend to uncork the bubbly too early and even the good work this government is done will be lost in the clamour of unwarranted chest-thumping. That’s the reason why the balloon of 7.3-7.6 percent GDP growth the BJP leaders and top government bureaucrats often boast of was rightly pricked by RBI governor Raghuram Rajan when he said, “There are problems with the way we count GDP and which is why we need to be careful sometimes just talking about growth.” That didn’t mean, there is no growth in the economy. There is growth, indeed, but overstating it is dangerous.

What more, even if one reads between the lines of Subramanian Swamy’s now famous attacks on Rajan, there is an honest acknowledgement that economy is not doing well and job market is faring poorly. The fact is that there is uncertainty on both domestic and economic fronts that continue to threaten India’s economy – a slowing world (hence 17-month export contraction and possible reversal in commodity prices abroad) – and a fragile far sector that is heavily dependent on monsoons back at home. It’s certainly no time to celebrate.

As this government enters the second half of its five-year term, the focus will be logically more on appeasing the vote bank through more populist measures, rather than addressing radical reforms in the economy in preparation for the Uttar Pradesh elections in 2017 and 2019 general elections. That’s the reason why BJP think tank, Arun Shourie, criticized Modi saying he is managing only the headlines not the economy.

The two-year mega show slogans such as Ek Nayi Subhah and ‘change has come’ gives one the bad memories of ‘India Shining’ slogan launched by the NDA-government in 2003, which subsequently failed miserably. Even BJP’s top leader LK Advani had confessed later that the ‘feel-good factor’ campaign didn’t work well in the subsequent Lok Sabha elections. The Modi-government shouldn’t repeat the mistake. This incumbent government, with a huge mandate, is an opportunity to India not to miss its golden chance to emerge as a global power correcting its fundamental flaws.

So far, the Modi-government hasn’t managed to bring in big changes in the Indian economy that can translate into major job growth and prosperity. But, it is on the right track. Complacency can spoil the big opportunity.

BJP and Modi can only promote corruption

Possibly most people who voted for BJP, in order deny the hopelessly corrupt Congress party of Sonia-Rahul-Manmohan trio, hoping that it might help the nation get rid of corruption, are not at all happy that Modi government betrayed them.

People of Uttar Pradesh fell prey to Modi’s big claims and promises in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections and gave votes much above the expectations of BJP to help it form government at the Centre. But none of the promises have been fulfilled. BSP supremo Mayawati today questioned Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s claim of working for farmers in Uttar Pradesh, alleging that his government had treated the state with “apathy and neglect” during its two-year rule. “Modi government has betrayed people by not keeping its promise as a result of which the ‘vikas parv rally’ in Saharanpur was not up to the mark despite attempts to bring people from neighbouring Haryana and Utarakhand.

The twenty-two crore people of Uttar Pradesh have suffered due to neglect of the central government. “Modi government was having ostentatious celebrations on completion of two years to divert people’s attention from its failures and growing frustration over unfulfilled promises,” the BSP president alleged. Referring to Prime Minister’s announcement of raising retirement age of doctors to 65 years, she said it was an attempt to gain cheap publicity. The BSP chief claimed in a release issued by the state party unit here that like the rally organized in Mathura on completion of Modi government’s in office, this year’s event also failed to get a response from people.

In the two years of the Modi government, none of that seems to have happened. There are no actions on 1.76-lakh crore 2G spectrum scam, Coal-gate scam, Commonwealth games scam etc. Even if Acche Din may not have come as claimed, at least corruption-free days seem to be here. Is it truly the case?

On September 30, 2014, the Ministry of Consumer Affairs, Food and Public Distribution exempted Stock Limit on Imported Pulses till September 30, 2015 and in an Order stated that : “the Central Government hereby makes the following Order further to amend the Removal of (Licensing requirements, Stock limits and Movement Restrictions) on Specified Foodstuffs Order, 2002. What this means is that the cap set on accumulating food commodities was removed. This cap was put to prevent hoarding of foodstuff by middlemen thus causing extreme rise in prices.

This order meant that from now on, anyone with the financial ware withal could buy and stock up as much food products as they wanted. This was further aided by another government order passed just five days before where exception of customs duty on imported pulses was extended the till December 31, 2014 for garbanzos and till March 31, 2015 for other pulses.

BJP has refused to do away with the power middle men so that common people are safe, because BJP itself has plenty of middle men groomed for years of its misrule at the centre and many states as alternatives to the Congress lot.

The price increase of pulses hit exactly a year later. One could say this means that there was enough time for interested parties with ‘ware withal’ to hoard the food commodities to create an artificial scarcity and determine prices? We have had food inflation before, but such high prices hint at the possibility of one company, or even a cartel causing it. The exception of customs duty should have helped keep import costs low. Also, the price that the farmer was getting did not increase. The increase was initiated and controlled by the new middlemen that had come in. If you consider the amount of money paid to a farmer for the pulses and the price at which it was sold in the market and factor in the amount of pulses sold, you will realize that Indians have paid at least one lakh crore extra for this inflation which should not have been there in the first place, at least not to this extent.

BJP serves the corporate lords more than the Congress party did. Were there people who benefited from the lifting of cap on hoarding? In fact, they may have influenced the lifting of the cap? Was the cap lifted deliberately to benefit a few. There are people who made wrongful profits worth thousands of crores. Who are they? In Maharashtra ex-CM Prithviraj Chavan made pointed digs at the current Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis in a “Rs 4,000 crore scam” of a similar nature, which could be part of a nationwide pulses scam. Chavan revealed that the original six page note that led to the decision to lift the ban on hoarding had mention of only edible oil and oil seeds. But, when the noting was sent for the approval to secretary (marketing), lifting of ban on pulses was added in original note. “Who ordered secretary to add pulses in the list? Who was behind it?” he asked.” another scam worth Rs. 29,000 crores was unearthed. Forty of India’s biggest energy companies are being investigated by a wing of the Union Ministry of Finance for over-invoicing of imported coal. The artificially higher prices of coal have been passed on to electricity consumers across the country.

The scam is conservatively estimated by government officials at no less than Rs 29,000 crore, a third of which is in the form of higher power tariffs. Big names from the corporate sector, notably the Adani group and ADAG, are being probed for their alleged involvement in the scandal. What are the findings of these investigations? Will it be laid out before the public? What about the Panama Papers which names the Adani group, Indiabulls, DLF, Apollo Tyres among many others. The din began and died mostly with Amitabh Bachchan. Is the government making any investigation on this? What about the 20,000 crore GSPC scam? What about the Vyapam scam of Madhya Pradesh where eye witnesses are being killed in hordes? What about the Asaram Bapu case where eye witnesses are being killed off with impunity?

Isn’t it corruption to allow these to happen when you have the entire might of the state to protect these people? What about Chhattisgarh, another state that has been ruled by the BJP for the third term where violent atrocities have again been unleashed on the tribal, including rape and murder? Journalists reporting on these issues have routinely been targeted and hounded off? Isn’t it corruption when nothing is done about these? Isn’t it corruption when because of the actions or inactions of the PM, religious fundamentalists get the inspiration and power to not just say – for stupid words of idiots can be a source of mirth at times – but do anything?

To murder in the name of food, to beat people up in the name of morality and religion, aren’t these forms of corruption as well? Perhaps it is all right to brand anyone who questions the government as ‘libtards’, ‘sickulars’, any journalist who dares to question Modi actions as a ‘presstitude’. There is fun in this pointless name calling. But jokes do not hide the facts about corruption. Isn’t it corruption when an atmosphere of fear is allowed to develop, grow and circulate in the nation, where anyone who doubts, who questions, not only fears being called names, but fears for her/his very life?

Indian development ignores the plight of commons and functions only to protect the interest of the rich and corporate class.. Isn’t it corruption when the government shoves an overpriced Bullet Train costing 90,000 crore for the benefit of a handful who anyways have the luxury and choice of air travel when railways that caters to common millions is systematically neglected? It’s said the good of the many outweigh the good of the few. Won’t you then use the same money to transform the railways, increase trains and connectivity, improve efficiency in railways thus transforming the lives of literally millions and also helping your flagship campaigns like ‘Make in India’?

Isn’t it corruption when you divert the attention of the public by branding a bunch of student criticising you as anti-nationals. Isn’t it corruption when media houses, inspired by your actions, discuss nothing but the idea of ‘anti-nationalism’ even when an agrarian crisis, a terrible drought has hit the nation hard, killing thousands, debilitating millions? Isn’t it corruption when the PM of the country who finds the time to visit a new country every other week, not only does not declare a national emergency when the nation is faced with the worst draught in decades, but also does not find the time to pay the token visit to these drought affected regions?

Isn’t it corruption when you cut funding on education and healthcare adversely affecting the lives of millions of people in the nation and when they protest, like they have with regards UGC all over the country like in Hyderabad University, JNU, Jadavpur, FTII etc., you unleash the might of the state on them? And yes, brand them anti-nationals as well. Isn’t it national corruption when people expressing doubts are threatened, by government supporters in the vilest terms? Isn’t it a dangerous form of corruption, this building up of greater, more violent division in the society and to dangerously high levels?

So is the current BJP government at the centre corruption free? Depends on which side of the divide you view it from and how you define ‘corruption’ (scams are just one aspect of corruption). From the positive business sentiment point of view who demand and in many cases have been given the impunity to profit from the masses at will, it will seem like the greatest government. But there are millions of destitute who are not benefiting from the new status quo, but are being pushed into greater perils because of a lot of the actions of the current government. By the looks of it, the skeletons that have been gathering in the closet for the last two years have begun to rattle.

Observation

As the Modi government is searching for routes to help the corporate lords who accompany him in all foreign tours to take away even the remaining public sector property and state wealth, the common masses who are rightful owners of Indian economy feel dejected and betrayed by the anti-congress plus secret ally BJP.

RSS intolerance and BJP PM’s foreign tours at state cost cannot go hand in hand.

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South Asia

COVID-19 May Become ‘Pandemic Plus’ for Certain Countries and People

Irfan Shahzad Takalvi

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As the world grapples with COVID-19 and ponders over its ultimate toll, it may actually turn out to be a pandemic plus kind of a scenario for some people, countries and regions.

Lingering conflicts, already prevalent diseases and natural disasters – on top of a host of political and governance issues – may actually render novel coronavirus an exacerbated threat for people in certain parts of the world.  

Think about countries such as Afghanistan, Yemen, Syria and Libya. Years and decades of unending armed conflict means inadequate, if at all, healthcare apparatus in most parts of these countries. Even a very low rate of COVID-infections would simply be beyond the capacity of the system to handle, leaving countless people to die haplessly.

Take Afghanistan, for instance. While the number of infections right now is low at around 400 with around a dozen deaths reported, it is emerging that some 2,00,000 refugees and migrant workers returning from Iran are not being tested – raising fears that a wave of large scale infections may just be around the corner. In case of Yemen, the grave extent of hunger amongst a large chunk of population also means dangerously weak levels of resistance against any illness. The situation is by no means any better in war zones of Syria and Libya.

Refugees and Temporarily Displaced Persons (TDPs) face added vulnerabilities. Millions of Syrians in Turkey and Afghans in Iran and Pakistan live in crowded, ill-equipped camps. So, perhaps worse, is the case for hundreds of thousands of Rohingya in Bangladesh. Poor living conditions and little-to-no access to quality healthcare may translate into much higher risk, even with a small-scale outbreak of this hard to contain virus. Social distancing and isolation are unthinkable in such unfortunate settings.

In Pakistan, this is also the start of time when the cases of Dengue fever begin. For past several years, every year the country loses dozens of lives with thousands of infections crippling the services at Out-Patient Departments (OPDs) of public hospitals at their peak in summer. Right now, OPDs of public hospitals are already closed to safeguard spread of COVID-19. It is a nightmare to imagine the peak of the two difficult-to-deal-with diseases striking together, or even one following the other, in a short span of time.

Over past few months, countries from East Africa to Middle East to South-West Asia have faced devastating locusts’ attacks on their standing crops – worst ever since 1993. Food crops of millions of hectares across these three regions have either been devastated already, or on verge of being lost to these little flying creatures. Unhindered supply of food items can hardly be overemphasized in times of a pandemic. Unless taken proper care of, locusts remain a serious threat to food security of tens of millions of people.

More importantly, experts are warning that millions of eggs have already been laid by locusts in countries such as Pakistan, and new mating / reproductive seasons also loom. This tells us that coming cotton and maize crops would also be in danger, mostly so in the poorest parts of affected countries where farming is the lone livelihood.

Oppressed populations are another group facing added danger. The world is well aware of the virtual curfew in India Held Kashmir (IHK) for over eight months now, since August 5, 2019. Situation in occupied Palestinian Territories is hardly any different either. Strict controls over medical supplies and essential items, and sources of information, are all set to multiply the impact of a pandemic once it outbreaks in such environments.

And it sadly is not the case only for occupied territories of Kashmir and Palestine. Ruling Bhartia Janta Party’s (BJP) attitude towards 200 million plus Indian Muslims – especially recent laws aimed at their exclusion – make the Muslim population of India all the more threatened when a pandemic breaks out in such a vast, overly populous but ill-equipped country. Reports of Muslims truckers transporting essential supplies in this hard time have already starting to emerge, and public statements of politicians are fanning the fire of anti-Muslim communalism.

And last but not the least, crippling sanctions on certain countries. It has widely been reported internationally that US sanctions are severely limiting Iran’s response – amongst one of the worst affected countries – towards COVID-19. Tehran is not able to easily import essential supplies for its fight against the virus that has already killed some 4000 Iranians.

Now it is coming to the fore that US sanctions are also hampering supply of medical and humanitarian aid not only to Iran but also to Cuba and Venezuela – particularly the aid being sent by China and its corporate. This indeed is a serious humanitarian dilemma for the countries subjected to sanction. Good to note however that voices, international as well as from within the US, are starting to be raised on inhumane impact of these restrictions.

Upended risks call for special attention, on part of governments and international institutions. Let us hope the world can realize this, coming up with timely and targeted response.

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Pakistan’s Corona Fight: Through Faith or Foolishness?

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Science has given lucid understanding of diseases and also provided medicament for it. In this 21st Century, science and technology has occupied almost all the areas of human life starting from medical to cosmos. The ongoing global pandemic of corona virus has put almost all the world into psycho-economic misery. People have shortage of food and medical supplies and governments are busy in controlling human loss. China’s Wuhan city which is said to be the birthplace of Novel Corona virus has returned to normal life because of the effective control of Chinese government and its policies. The Italy has been devastated because of the most-deaths caused by Covid-19 and Spain is also one of the badly affected countries. The US and UK have also announced their policies to combat N-corona virus and are also briefing their nations about the estimated death toll.

Pakistan is a starkly unique nation in that regard. It does not mean that Covid-19 has not hit Pakistan rather majority of the Pakistanis are taking this pandemic as mere insignificant disease. In response to WHO’s warning ,Pakistan’s government announced partial lockdown of cities and majority of the public and private institutions are shut down to avoid further spread of Covid-19.Apart from Urban centers people are determined to fight N-Corona virus through their faith and they believe N-Corona cannot kill them until the will of God. There is no doubt that almost all of the divine religions believe in it but this thinking seriously undermines scientific findings. By not abiding instructions of the government, its hard to avoid killer bug. People at large are terming it the wrath of God and advocate that everyone should seek His mercy. On the contrary under such a crisis hoarders are making large sums of money by creating artificial shortage of food and grocery items. Masks, sanitizers and other products have already disappeared from the market. This simply is the organized hypocrisy of so-called religious ones.

 In response to government’s appeal not to offer prayers at mosques there have been an outright reaction from people at large. Some radicals termed it as the conspiracy of Jews and Christians to halt prayers at Ka’aba(the holiest place for Muslims).In the meanwhile clergy in Pakistan did a press conference on national media and Ulema(from all school of thoughts) sat together and urged people to offer Juma(Friday) prayers in the mosques. This act was against governmental policy to fight N-Corona virus and seriously undermined the writ of the government. Even faith advocates that “follow your Emir(ruler)”This way Prime Minister Imran Khan is the democratic ruler(emir) but his instructions were openly violated. In Pakistan Tableeghi Jamaat(preachers party) was no less than others in flaunting disobedience to government orders. Majority of the Pakistanis wait response from religious clergy to act and government tried its best to telecast Ulema messages on national television to aware about the pandemic (Covid-19) and urged people to stay home. Al-Azhar’s Grand Imam Shaikh of Al Azhar and Supreme Council also issued a Fatwa that Juma Prayers can be suspended during such a critical time. Pakistan’s most powerful constitutional body the council of Islamic ideology(CII) chairman Qibla Ayaz also issued a statement that masses should pray home instead of going mosques because there is a fear of pandemic spread to others. This crisis of Covid-19 had more cases in Pakistan found among pilgrims coming back from Iran and Saudi Arabia. The pilgrims coming from Taftan(Iran border) had to stay at quarantine centers which were not well equipped and the supplies of food and shelter were inadequate. That led pilgrims to (most of them affected) to break quarantine and escaped. It caused spread of Covid-19 to others too. National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) briefed the government and shared the details with people about the supplies (ventilators, masks, medical kits, testing kits) coming from China.

China being time tested friend stood by Pakistan otherwise medical staffers were reluctant to perform duties in some parts Sindh and they went on strike. Prime Minister Imran Khan has taken several measures to effectively control the spread of Covid-19 and avoid economic loss. Pakistan’s chief of Army staff General Qamar Bajwa also urged the entire nation to stay united in such a critical time. There are acts of kindness and charity all over to help the poor and needy to avert starvation. There are crackdowns on hoarders and price hikers. But if the people are fighting against covid-19 through their faith, then faith advocates humanity, honesty and generosity too which profit makers lack at this juncture. Ramadan (holy month of fasting) is imminent and this behavior is likely to prevail. There is a grim challenge of countering misinformation on social media where various religious figures incite people to oppose government orders of banning Friday prayers at mosques. Some so called Ulema are terming it a conspiracy against Islam and its followers. None of them is talking of its cure because they either lack scientific knowledge or do not believe science. Pakistani masses are fighting corona virus pandemic because of their lack of knowledge, it’s the same as a cancer patients survives a cancer until he/she comes to know about it. The moment a patient is diagnosed with the cancer, he/she no longer survives. Sometimes ignorance is a bliss but that bliss does not last longer in case of pandemic. I conclude my argument here that science has the power to cure diseases. It also provides remedies to most lethal diseases but Covid-19 vaccine is not made yet and if science fails, faith consoles the victims. But the faith guidelines should come from government instead of any random Ulema.

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Bajwa-Imran Visit to China and Rumours about CPEC

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It was a rumour for a long period that China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) had been dying because of various reasons along with the negligence of the present government. In this regard, there are two popular narratives about the CPEC and Pak-China relations. One perspective which has been floating within Pakistani society since long is that because of American and Indian pressure regarding CPEC and Chinese involvement within the country, Islamabad has stopped the work on the projects that come under CPEC. Besides, Pakistan has been pressurized through International Monetary Fund (IMF) and Financial Action Task Force (FATF) to withdraw from Chinese investment within the country, therefore, it faces various difficulties in continuation of projects. While another perspective portrays an optimistic picture of the whole scenario where work on CPEC projects is in process and 13 projects worth $11 billion have completed. The projects such as M-5 (Multan to Sukkur Motorway), 2×660MW Port Qasim Coal-Fired Power Plant, 50MW Dawood Wind Farm, and 100MW Jhimpir Wind Farm have been completed which show the progress and success of CPEC. Also, the visit of Prime Minister Imran Khan and Army Chief Qamar Javed Bajwa and their talks about CPEC as well as point of view regarding CPEC show that both the Army and government are on the same page to continue the projects under CPEC.

Moreover, the formation of CPEC Authority which keeps the surveillance upon CPEC related works is also the evidence of the seriousness of government regarding CPEC. Furthermore, both the representative from Pakistan showed the intention of making relations between both nations namely China and Pakistan even stronger through engagement in multiple businesses and trade-related activities. Though American pressure creates many difficulties for Pakistan to continue the project still there is much progress in many projects related to CPEC. Moreover, America does not want China to rise at regional as well as global level. In this regard, the United States tries to counter Beijing actively on various grounds. Likewise, the American “Pivot to Asia” or “Rebalancing” policy aims to counter and restrict Chinese influence in the Asian continent including countering its engagement in the Asia-Pacific. However, Washington has been trying to contain Beijing but its economic growth shows the success. Therefore, it is considered the right time for Pakistan to shift its tilt towards China rather than an unbelievable, unpredictable, and weak alliance with America. Furthermore, Islamabad has been testing and observing the friendship of America which mostly remained seasonal and based on a specific issue after the fulfilment of objectives, Washington uses to ignore Islamabad even in its difficult times.

Pakistan through proper utilization of the CPEC initiative could boost its economy and get rid of American bloc which has a great share in the destruction, deaths, terrorism, underdevelopment and backwardness within the country. Many of the writers dub the CPEC and Chinese involvement in Pakistan as game changer which would take Islamabad towards the path of peace, prosperity, development, progress, and innovation within multiple fields. It is said that Pakistan could serve as the “Israel of China” because of various reasons it may be economic, political or financial which can be useful for the development of Beijing as well as Islamabad. As Israel keeps much importance for the US and it cannot compromise on its interests even at the cost of opposition and criticism from many states. Such as Washington’s “Deal of the Century” including support of it at every global forum. In the same manner, the South Asian region particularly Pakistan carries great importance for China which could connect Beijing with various natural rich resource nations of the Middle East and Central Asia. Moreover, it also paves the way for Beijing by connecting it with many other important countries of various continents of the world. Therefore, China has been struggling to create peace in the region. Furthermore, Afghanistan is the major nation which suffers from instability and security problems that also left effects on regional stability. Therefore, China wants to solve the Afghanistan problem for making it stable which will pave the way for the completion of the Chinese Belt and Road Initiative (BRI).

Concerning the Afghan issue, Beijing sees Islamabad as an important state which can play a decisive role in solving the Afghan problem as well as bringing peace in the region resultantly stopping the long-standing war at Afghanistan’s land. Peace and stability in Afghanistan could serve multiple interests of China because Kabul provides the land route for China to reach the Central Asian states that ultimately connects it with Europe. Therefore, China has been struggling hard to secure its national interest. That can easily be achieved if China will be successful in generating the dominance and influence over the South Asia region. Furthermore, this region is considered the testing grounds for the success of the Chinese initiated project namely BRI. As for American bloc and the other entities which are not happy with the rise of China are concerned, they also know the importance of this region for Beijing. It is mostly agreed that the success of BRI depends upon the successful completion of projects within this region. Therefore it is observed that if Beijing would be successful in the completion of projects all over South Asia than no one can beat and resist China on becoming the dominant or global power. In this regard, Washington will not allow Beijing to take its place easily. So it uses multiple strategies to contain China such as pressurizing Pakistan to withdraw from BRI, Strengthening relations with India and prolonging Afghan issue, and putting new sanctions on Iran.

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