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The Death of the Poster Boy

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Burhan Wani-the face of young, revived and local militancy in Kashmir valley was killed last week by forces which resulted in an unforeseen law and order problem for the state apparatus and violent social unrest throughout Kashmir valley resulting in some thirty seven civilian killings and hundreds of injured-the toll still mounting.

The boy of just 22 years of age was called the face of new and young militancy in Kashmir valley and became quite famous due to his use of social media. This young chap even had taken over Dr Shah Faisal –the IAS topper of 2010 in fan fallowing who was then the inspiration of many Kashmiri youth. But Burhan Muzaffar Wani was much more popular especially in the southern belt of Kashmir purely due to his use of technology and wider popular support.

Security apparatus used to call this tech-savvy militant, the poster boy of young militancy in Kashmir as he was considered as an attraction to lure young locals to militancy in the valley. It was also believed that Burhan recruits youngsters and is the inspiration of many youths in Kashmir, thereby posing a serious threat to the security apparatus. The threat of increase in local militancy still continues even after his death; as believed by some Kashmir analysts and local politicians.

While i had gone to valley for a study on the annual holy Amarnath pilgrimage, i got stranded there due to the death of this poster boy. Being a local i stayed at my home and interacted with friends and acquaintances around on the situation that prevailed aftermath his killing.

“If twenty more civilian s die, Kashmir issue will reach some solution”, says an elderly man. Such thinking reflects that there is a section of society in Kashmir who thinks only violence can solve their issues and more the killings of civilians, more will be the impact. People perceive so because they have been witnessing only violence since the onset of the armed conflict since 1989.

“I am thirty three years old who has witnessed 2008 unrest and then 2010 unrest and all the other such big and small incidents since 1990s, but this time the situation is different and more dangerous. The valley is burning”, says a friend. Why is it different because of the rampant killing spree by forces and oft repeated crisis mishandling and failure of crowed control management?

Undoubtedly Burhan’s killing fallout is the huge unrest in itself after 2008 and 2010. How it led to such a violent turn, even the establishment couldn’t guess in time? Is it again a case of crisis mishandling or is it the lack of following SOPs by security apparatus. Why this incident resulted in so many civilians’ deaths, even the time will not tell because previous unrests are yet to be probed properly and nothing has come out so far and masses maintain that hardly anybody has been persecuted for civilian killings till date. Was killing Burhan a mistake or not a pre-diagnosed/mature and well thought out strategy that proved much expensive? Could he have been captured alive to avoid the crisis or was it really so impossible? Why so mass anger and why so much of growing popular support to militancy in the valley even today? Is movement or anger against the nation growing? Why Kashmiris support militancy and why so much of mass participation and sloganeering on militants’ funerals? Are such acts the sings of the mass alienation that has increased multifold due to bad governance and mass alienation or is it again the sentiment of secession from India that never dies down? Where will it lead us to and where will it end, nobody knows? Why nobody knows because nobody even the State government knows the methods of peace building on the ground but feels the pain only when it reaches the optimum? Are Kashmiri youth really so much alienated that even death is not a big deal now? Perhaps yes. There are endless questions and with alarming question marks at their end but till date with no answers.

A local told me that there is a sentiment which can never die down in the valley. Even there are brothers who want their sisters to marry a boy who is nothing but ‘Tehreek Pasand’ (Movement sympathiser).What has actually shaped such a mentality and mass perception, is a question to ponder over? Who is doing such a perception management in the valley? Analysts only call it Islamic radicalisation but i think it is beyond that.

“The shocking to see is the stone versus bullet again and the same civilian causalities. Does it mean people have lost the fear of death and prefer honour and dignity,” says a businessman. The question that still remains is the success of stone pelting as a practice among youth and who leads to such anger time and again, crisis mishandling, use of much force or what? Why hasn’t been stone pelting curbed so far? Who has failed and who will take responsibility for such a mess time and again?

“Even rifles are snatched and to the worst police personnel are kidnapped by protesters. The situation has crossed all limits. People hate local police even a cop was pushed in Jhelum along with his vehicle resulting in his death. It cannot be worst than this. Has police failed local aspirations or is facing the wrath of past mistakes?” says a young chap.

“The police feels caught between the devil and the deep sea, masses hate them and bosses push them against us”, says an old man.

“The new wave of anger against the system is on its full flair”, says a young man.

“The future of Kashmir may whatever be, but this uprising (he calls it Ragdo-3) is the severe one and may turn decisive, says a history student”. Will the state learn some lessons out of such repeated violence, i think not.

Burhans’s death led to many more deaths for his death is treated as a major setback to militancy in Kashmir and big success for forces. But the question as much debated in media now is that whether the new recruitment will increase or decrease due to this killing. If the poster boy got killed who will recruit now, some say, the dead Burhan will recruit, for emotion and inspiration may motivate the youth now. Sloganeering is everywhere, some raise pro-freedom slogans some eulogise Pakistan while some attach religion to the Kashmir’s political issue. Killings a routine these days still peoples sympathy seems increasing and violence slowly is becoming a part of culture.

“State has power and absolute power this time which is being used against us, we are still not afraid.” Preaches sloganeer during a protest.

As a social analyst and being an insider, one can see a different turn now. People especially well educated feel such killings are a mistake on the part of security forces as far as the bloody fallouts are concerned. State is not enough public sensitive and killings are still not replaced with arrests. Should forces prefer arrests to encounters?

The situation in the valley is obviously tense and everyone is sacred. People don’t necessarily fear security forces but fellow people for everyone has turned a rebel and violence against each other is almost legitimised. I myself had to rush to airport for the national capital at 2 am in the night just because of people’s protests during the day and stone pelting on the roads.

Despite the appeals of maintaining peace by PM Modi, Home Minister Rajnath Singh and the CM Mehbooba, peace is yet to return to the already peace fragile valley. Will only peace appeals do when so much needs to be done on the ground, remains a big question? Who will stop this routine bloodshed in the valley? Who will speak to angry youth and build peace in the valley? Who has the capacity to bridge the hateful gap between Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh? Who will restore peace and justice by delivering on HR abuse of the past? Who will value peoples’ lives and who will stop this killing spree? Centre has to ponder over it and think of a credible administration in Kashmir. Healing touch theory should be practised on the ground and i am sure PM Modi is capable of that.

Yesterday only the Hizb (PoK based Militant outfit) appointed a new commander after Burhan’s killing to continue what was being done, what does it indicate? Simply that this is not the end of the show. So making peace has fewer stakeholders than those producing more and more violence. We need permanent peace building strategy for Kashmir not just some statements of sorrow when it boils time and again. For a perpetual peace building in Kashmir, State primarily needs to engage with those who know and understand Kashmir well from a strategy and security perspective, State need the consultation with those who understand Kashmir well from its economic perspective and those who know the society of Kashmir well.

The death of the poster boy after all does not mean the end of the violent story and it has already affected the fragile normalcy of the valley.The and of the hour is to address the issue politically for a long lasting peace.

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South Asia

Pakistan PM’s Saudi affair likely to backfire

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Pakistan’s relations with Saudi Arabia flourished during the previous government headed by Nawaz Sharif, primarily due to his personal business interests in the Kingdom and friendly association with members of the Saudi royal family. Despite the criticism at home, Sharif never missed an opportunity to eulogize the Saudi rulers and support their wrongs.

During Sharif’s tenure as Prime Minister, while Pakistan’s ‘love affair’ with Riyadh blossomed, relations with Tehran plummeted. When the ambitious gas pipeline project was shelved by the Sharif government in 2015 under the Saudi pressure, some experts couldn’t resist the temptation of reading the obituary of Iran-Pakistan friendship. It seemed game over.

But the political transition in Islamabad this year rekindled hopes of a new foreign policy taking shape in Islamabad under the populist premier Imran Khan.

In his victory speech, Khan made it categorically clear that he would like to strengthen ties with allies in the Middle East, including Iran and Saudi Arabia. During his first meeting with the Iranian envoy to Islamabad, Khan reiterated his desire to bolster ties with Tehran and revive important projects that had been put on the backburner by the previous political dispensation, including the gas pipeline.

Experts termed it a “significant shift” in Pakistan’s foreign policy as his predecessor was seen overtly inclined towards stronger Pakistan-Saudi relations than Pakistan-Iran relations. Writing in The New Arab, Dr. Fazzur Rahman Siddiqui, a fellow at Indian Council of World Affairs, said with the exit of Nawaz Sharif, Saudi Arabia had lost a reliable ally who never concealed his affection for the Gulf states in general, and Saudi Arabia in particular “for both personal and strategic reasons.”

It was widely believed that Khan’s approach will be different from Sharif and he will not yield to covert pressures from Washington or Riyadh. At least that is what appeared.
When Khan embarked on his first foreign trip to Saudi Arabia, keeping alive the tradition set by his predecessors, he sought to underscore that Riyadh will remain a priority for Pakistan’s foreign policy. Pertinently, it was President Hasan Rouhani of Iran, not King Salman of Saudi Arabia, who first extended an invitation to him.

But the faith in his leadership or his vision for ‘Naya Pakistan’ (new Pakistan) was not yet dented. The massive army of his followers on Twitter ensured that the public opinion, or at least the opinion of netizens, was firmly in favor of his leadership and policies.

As the country’s fiscal deficit inflated to 6.6 percent of gross domestic product (GDP) in the 2017-2018 financial year, Khan panicked. He boarded the plane to Riyadh again, this time to seek funds. To woo the Saudi rulers, Khan said Riyadh had “always stood with Pakistan in difficult times and the Pakistani government and its people highly acknowledge it.”
Speculation had been put to rest. Khan was walking in the footsteps of his predecessor.

Following his second visit to Riyadh, Saudi regime announced $6 billion in financial support to Islamabad. It corresponded with the international outrage over the cold-blooded murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi. Even as many world leaders boycotted a Saudi investment conference, the so-called ‘Davos in the desert’, over Khashoggi’s death, Khan attended the event.

On asked why he attended the conference when many other world leaders had turned down the invitation, Khan said Pakistan was “desperate” for Saudi loans to shore up the flailing economy.

“Unless we get loans from friendly countries or the IMF, we actually won’t have in another two or three months enough foreign exchange to service our debts or to pay for our imports. So we’re desperate at the moment,” he was quoted saying by the Middle East Eye.

Khan conceded that his immediate foreign policy priority was maintaining good relations with Saudi Arabia despite unprecedented outrage over Khashoggi’s murder by Saudi officials or the outcry over Saudi’s horrendous war crimes in Yemen.

Pakistan, which had previously maintained a neutral stance on Yemen war, might now be forced to support the Saudi onslaught there, some observers fear. If Khan can ignore a reprehensible crime like the killing of Khashoggi because of Saudi petrodollars, it can be expected that he will support the Saudi war crimes in Yemen also, although he has so far resisted doing that.

While Khan has adopted a strong and unwavering stance against the US, he seems to have succumbed to the temptation of being subservient to the Saudi Kingdom, for funds. That is where he risks losing the goodwill he has earned back in Pakistan and in the international community.

At a time when the world is saying ‘no’ to Saudi Arabia, Khan is part of a tiny minority that is going against the tide. This approach will only isolate Pakistan and it has isolated Riyadh and Washington.

Being subservient to Saudi interests also means that Khan will be forced to toe his predecessor’s line on Iran. If that happens, Islamabad will again be forced to shelve the gas pipeline project, which is being described as critical to Pakistan’s energy requirements.

Khan is walking a tightrope. Wisdom lies in taking informed decisions in the best interests of Pakistan keeping in view long-term goals. In the cricketing terminology, the cricketer-turned-prime minister could do well by playing the forward defensive shot rather than the mistimed stroke in the air.

First published in our partner MNA

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Pakistan a peace loving nation

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Muslims when meeting each other greet “Peace be upon you”. Islam is the religion of Peace and Love, Islamophobia is the creation of a few minds only. There is no doubt that there exists few criminals in every society, every religion, and every country, but such exceptions, may not be used to blame the whole nation, religion or country. Since its independence Pakistan has been promoting peace and stability around the world. Pakistan’s Peace-keeping missions have been playing important roles around the world to maintain peace in troubled areas. We are major contributor to Peace-Keeping Force and have been part of almost all of UN Peace-Missions, during the history of 7 decades. Pakistan is supportive of any efforts by any nation towards promotion or maintenance of peace.

Recently, UNGA’s Disarmament Committee adopted Pakistan’s resolutions with an overwhelming support, in New York on 9th November 2018. Three resolutions proposed by Pakistan were adopted by the UN General Assembly’s First Committee with an overwhelming support. The whole world supported Pakistan’s resolution while India was the only country to oppose them.

In fact, the resolutions highlight the importance of regional approaches to disarmament, which complement global disarmament efforts and stress the need to promote confidence building measures for enhancing regional and international peace and security. The resolution on conventional arms control was adopted by a large majority of 179 countries. India was the sole country to vote against the resolution.

Earlier, a big victory for Pakistan came, on November 1stwhen the Committee also adopted Pakistan’s resolution on assuring non-nuclear weapon states against the use or threat of use of nuclear weapons by 122 votes. The First Committee of the UN General Assembly which meets annually deals with disarmament, global challenges, and threats to peace that affect the international community and is mandated to seek solutions to global security challenges by considering all disarmament and international security matters within the scope of the UN Charter. Pakistan’s role in disarmament was admired and non-proliferation of uranium. We strongly condemn biological and chemical weapons and strictly adhere to UN decisions.

Pakistan is a responsible country and always exploring the opportunities of peace. Pakistan has always initiated the peace process with India and sincerely tried best to resolve all issues with India, including Jammu and Kashmir, by a peaceful dialogue. Pakistan respects UN, Respect UN mandate, Respect UN Charter, and wants others to do the same. It believes in diplomacy, and there is precedence that some of the more complicated issues around the world, has been resolved by diplomacy, then why not Pakistan-India issues be resolved by dialogue too.

We support the supremacy of UN and all nations must respect the UN. We always stand with the oppressed and raise voice for the victims. Our struggle for justice and righteousness is always admired. We keep on struggling for global peace and be part of any peace process around the world.

The Indian opposition to Pakistani resolution and persistent refusal to leave Kashmir has exposed the true Indian face. The recent International Amnesty report on Human Right violation in Kashmir was a big blow to India. Indian atrocities against its own minorities and lower caste Hindus is condemned widely. Indian opposition to the UN resolution on Palestine is also an example of India’s international position.

It is time that serious notice is taken by the UN, International Community and all conscious individuals to stand up for International Peace, Justice and Human Rights.  We all should keep on struggling for a better world for our next generation. We should be united for “Peace, Stability and Prosperity” for humanity globally.

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The Making of Modern Maldives: A Look at Maumoon Gayoom

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Authors: Srimal Fernando and Pooja Singh

Former Maldivian President Maumoon Gayoom occupies an important place in Maldivian political history largely because he guided this equatorial island nation to unprecedented levels of economic growth and also through tough times when democracy was challenged. Gayoom has a national as well as international reputation that made his name familiar to the rest of the South Asian countries. It was after his return from Nigeria’s Ahmadu Bello University as a lecturer, Gayoom commenced his political journey as a close aid of prime minister Ahmed Zaki in mid-70’s and later as a cabinet minister under Ibrahim Nasir. Gayoom’s leadership embarked on a more reformist approach in the first two terms during his presidency. He was able to take credit for the rise of the tourism sector and an increase in the fish productivity. In Male, as well as in the rest of the Maldivian islands, building of small fisheries harbors were accelerated under the rapid development programs initiated under his presidency. When one looks at the Maldivian foreign policy, Maumoon was credited as one of the key founders of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) in 1985. Hence, he raised global awareness on climate change on the international arena. In this context, especially the awareness on small island nations facing rise in sea water levels which affects the livelihood of the islanders was a key theme which brought international attention. On the development side, the Hulhulemale reclamation project and the upgrading of roads and other infrastructure initiatives that he implemented are highly credited for by the Maldivians. In fact, the people’s president who visits the islands regularly was named as “A Man for All Islands” by the famous author in his book about Gayoom’s biography.

Early in his administration, former president introduced socio-economic experiments in reawakening the islands. His administration accelerated the economic growth in the twenty Atolls from Northern Haa Atoll to Southern Seenu Atoll instilling a degree of optimism and enthusiasm among the Maldivians. Yet another economic achievement in the tourism sector was the increase of luxury resorts from two in 1978 to hundred by 2008. Gayoom’s career is most relevant due to his performance and for changing the country’s political system to a multi-party democratic system where the power is vested on the citizens.

Another milestone during his tenure was to expand the average income of Maldivians from US$ 377 in 1978 to US$3,654 in 2008. However, towards the end of his presidency, the first signs of irreconcilable difficulties with the Maldivian opposition led by Mohamed Nasheed, the leader of Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) started emerging in 2000. The Maldivian pro-democracy movement started in Male in 2003 and then moved to other Islands. As a result, Maldives adopted a multi-party political system and in 2008. In the same year the presidential campaign came to a climax where in the second phase of the presidential elections, the confident president had felt a constant sense of uncertainty since most of the opposition presidential candidates supported Mohamed Nasheed, the leader of the Maldivian Democratic Party. Gayoom lost the election and Nasheed the opposition leader assumed presidency.  The courageous former president Gayoom transferred the presidential powers to the newly elected president smoothly.

In fact, the reformist former president Gayoom formed the Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party and later, he was one of the key founders of the Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) where his half-brother, Yameen Abdul Gayoom shared powers within the party. Hence, Qasim Ibrahim, a former finance minister under Nasheed’s government and also close confidant of president Gayoom led the Jumhooree Party (JP) which combined with PPM in 2013 presidential elections.

Unfortunately, in 2012 the overthrow of president Nasheed one of New Delhi’s closest allies in South Asia shocked the diplomatic circles on both sides of Asia as well as in the west. It took more than five years for Gayoom’s PPM party under the presidency of Yameen to return to power. However, due to widespread corruption and authoritative rules under Yameen’s presidency, many of the opposition party members such as former Maldivian president Nasheed, Jumhooree Party leader Qasim Ibrahim and many other political leaders who opposed the undemocratic rule were prisoned through unlawful means.

During the darkest period of the Maldivian politics from 2017 to September 2018, the lone voice of the public opposition belonged to a few opposition leaders such as, Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, Ibrahim Mohamed Solih cannot be forgotten. In the same period, former president Gayoom, Nasheed and several opposition members created a united opposition to unseat president Yameen and his majority party rule through democratic non-violent means. One of the major reasons for this change by Gayoom in Yameen’s leadership was the widespread corruption and the authoritative rule. Finally, president Yameen prisoned former president Gayoom and his son, Faris Maumoon. This was one of the main reasons where large number of Gayoom supporters broke away from PPM led by president Yameen. This reason influenced the 23rd September 2018 presidential elections where opposition common candidate Ibrahim Solih saw a massive victory margin against president Yameen.

One could argue that, Gayoom, the president who guided Maldives to economic prosperity was the same charismatic leader who guided the South Asian Island nation towards democratic maturity. Maumoon Gayoom has been the most unpredictable political influencer in the modern political making of Maldives.

*Pooja Singh, a scholar of Masters in Diplomacy, Law, Business at Jindal School of International Affairs, India.

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