There is no greater sorrow on earth than the loss of one’s native land. -Euripides 431 BCE
The unprecedented internal civil/ethnic conflicts have been causing a gross violation of human rights in terms of internal and external displacement. Consequently, some of the countries of the universe have been entrapped and crippled in refugee’s crisis. Afghanistan has also been facing a refugee crisis for the given of its political instability, underdevelopment, terrorism, fundamentalism, the presence of NATO forces.
Afghanistan has become a full member of SAARC in 2007. The SAARC was established on December 8, 1985, focussing on lofty and idealistic objectives such as the promotion of welfare and quality of life, acceleration of the economic growth, social progress, and cultural development and create mutual trust, understanding and appreciation of one another’s problems etc. The Afghan refugees have been facing myriads of problems despite such lofty and idealistic objectives of the SAARC. Against this background, the main focus of this article is look for, does SAARC take the notice of the plight of the Afghan Refugees to translate its objectives into reality by policy options? Does it have any refugee policy, if not, could it be made a part of the agenda for the 19th SAARC Summit (Islamabad-Pakistan) taking place in November 2016?
Scholars like Morgenthau (1948) and Malhotra (2009) have argued that the nation states have been fighting with each other to acquire more and more power to make their geopolitical space in the zero sum game. Afghanistan has been entrapped in the geopolitical cobweb. On account of its strategic location and richly endowed minerals attracted the intervention of the external powers like Russia, US, NATO and several other regional actors. The geopolitical and geostrategic interests of these players, made it battle ground till date by creating the dreaded terrorist organizations and Mujahedeen to fight with the Soviets. Later on, these groups became out of control and have expanded in many regions/countries. Responding to 9/11 attack, the Operation Enduring Freedom was launched which further complicated the Afghan refugee crisis. Out of this military solution of the terrorism, the people of Afghanistan had paid the price with internal and external displacements.
Afghanistan Refugees: A Rationale
The scholar like Ruiz and Emery (2001), have argued that the Afghan refugee crisis goes back to more than three decades. Since the Afghan-Soviet conflict, 26 million refugees have been compelled to run away from their homes either temporarily or permanently. The intervention of Soviets started the Afghanistan refugee crisis. Moreover, the violence and atrocities perpetrated by the Mujahideen forced the hundreds of thousands of refugees fled the country. The second critical phase for the afghan refugees during the Taliban control in 1994. The Taliban offensive had compelled about 1,50,000 Afghans to leave Afghanistan. The Afghan refugee crisis has been the product of unrelenting civil/ethnic conflict, unabated human rights violations, underdevelopment, lack of basic necessities of life like education, health, sanitation, unemployment, warring factions, and lastly the Operation Ensuring Freedom. As per the UN Commission on Human Rights special rapporteur on Afghanistan (October 2000), pointed out that the country has been in,
“A state of acute crisis—its resources depleted, its intelligentsia in exile, its people disenfranchised, its traditional political structures shattered and its human development indices among the lowest in the world.”
SAARC sans refugee policy
The SAARC was established in 1985, with prioritized objectives such as the promotion of welfare and quality of life, acceleration of the economic growth, social progress, and cultural development of the South Asian region. The plight and crisis of the refugees have been making fun of these objectives of the SAARC. For the given of critical problems of refugees, yet the SAARC has been failed to put its refugee policy in place till date. See the inflated number of the refugees, Haque (2012) has labelled the South Asian region as a “refugee melting pot”. The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) has mandated to protect and support the refugees across the world including the South Asia, by UN itself or at the request of refugees generating or hosting country, assisting in their repatriation and resettlement to a third country. The other instrument like the Convention on the Status of Refugees (1951) also governed the refugee crisis of the South Asian region. Though all the SAARC members have adopted generous approach towards the refugees but still they are hesitant to ratify the instruments governing the refugees such as the Refugee Convention (1951) and Protocol (1967), thus, individually and regionally lacking legal instruments to handle the refugee crisis of the region.
Vision for the 19th SAARC Summit
The SAARC countries have been hosting 10 per cent of global refugee population, yet it is lacking refugee regime. SAARC members are still reluctant to ratifying the refugee conventions and protocol. Moreover, no provisions have been made in their respective constitutions. Even it has been argued that the SAARC members also remained passive to make national legal framework to sort out the refugee problem. Notwithstanding of the generous approach in providing shelter, the refugee policies of the each members of the SAARC has been based on adhoc administrative decisions.
Refugee problem in the South Asia is very critical. Since Afghanistan entrapped in the ethnic/civil war during the last three decades, hence it has been facing serious refugees’ crisis. Afghanistan is full member of SAARC since 2008. It has been holding strategic importance as it a bridge link between South, Middle and Central Asia. The Afghan refugee crisis has security implications for not only for the South Asian region rather across the boundaries of other contiguous regions as well. Thus, it becomes important for the SAARC to take some steps for the resolution of this problem.
According to the available statistics of UNHRC, about 2.7 million have been registered as Afghan refugees in Pakistan, are living in 380 camps. Apart from these, many hundred thousand refuges have remained unregistered and live on their own resources in the same country. About 75 percent of Afghan refugees live in Northwest Frontier, 20 percent in Baluchistan and 4 percent in Punjab Province.
The number of Afghan refugees in Iran, is stood between 2 and 2.25 million (Khorasan-700,000; Sistan-Baluchistan-250,000; Kerman-50,000; Tehran- approximately 200,000 to 300,000; Mashbad-250,000 and the rest in nine other provinces. However, it has been argued that Afghan refugees settled in Iran also included about 200,000, who had settled prior to the Soviet invasion and about 400,000 who have been working at that time as seasonal laborers, tradesmen, and nomads in Afghanistan. Afghan refugees have also been lining in India and according to UNHRC, stood at 10,000. However, Putz (2015) has argued that the audit report of the Special Inspector General for Afghan Reconstruction (SIGAR), data of refugees living in Pakistan and Iran are difficult to verify independently.
The 19th SAARC Summit (Islamabad) is taking place in November 2016. Till date, SAARC is lacking refugee regime. Even at the individual level, the member countries have been following the adhoc system to deal with the refugee problem. Since the 19th SAARC Summit will held in Pakistan, which is hosting the highest number of the Afghan refugees. Thus, it is highly recommended that refugee crisis of Afghanistan should be taken seriously on board. Since, the countries hosting the highest Afghan refugees, are going to participate in the 19th SAARC Summit, take this case on board seriously, so that the long term resolution of this could be seen.
What does the Kashmiri want?
A group of envoys visited the illegally-occupied Jammu and Kashmir State ostensibly `to take first-hand account of the situation in Jammu and Kashmir and government’s efforts to restore normalcy’ (Hindustan Times February 17, 2021). Srinagar welcomed the envoys with a spontaneous shutdown. Prior to the visit, political leaders and human-rights activists were detained. The envoys did not visit Farooq Abdullah, Mehbooba Mufti or any of the other opposition Kashmiri leaders.
The Hindu dated February 17, 2021 reported ‘The J&K government showcased “deepening democracy” to visiting 24 foreign diplomats, who arrived on a two-day tour of the Union Territory (UT) on Wednesday amid a spontaneous shutdown in Srinagar and alleged detention of recently elected National Conference (NC) district council members in Budgam’.
Post-special-status abolition situation
After abrogation of the special status, India took a number of steps to silence public dissent_diurnal and nocturnal search operations to hound, kidnap or kill the Kashmiri, Internet ex-communication, blatant use of draconian laws against ordinary Kashmiris and their leaders alike. A law was passed to jail parents of stone-pelters., if any. Meanwhile local body elections were held in which the ruling BJP was cut to size. But, India, as reported b y the Hindu also, showcased the elections in international media as a proof of popular participation and contentment of the people with the status quo.
Have the Kashmiri resigned to their fate
The mysterious silence in the Valley during the envoys’ visit speaks volumes on how much the Kashmiri hate India. However, it appears the Kashmiri could have shown their ennui through some mode of peaceful protest. They could draw lessons from the Occupy the Wall Street or Precariat Movement in the USA.
Occupy has six letters. A group of six persons mostly celebrities in their fields, stand up at some busy street holding letters O,C, C, U, P, and Y. The Kashmiris also could have displayed the letters in word `AZADI’ through a group of five persons.
Arnold Toynbee, in his Challenge and Response Theory postulates that if a challenge is too onerous a nation may become apathetic. In similar vein, Ibn-e-Khaldoon suggests that survival of a tribe (nation) depends on cohesion (asabiya, nationalism) of a tribe faced with life-and-death threat around its frontiers.
Amy Chua (Political Tribes: Group Instinct and the Fate of Nations) talks about static or dynamic response of a society as shaped by group instincts of various components of a society.
Applying Amy Chua’s framework to Kashmir situation
Amy Chua challenges the view that the conventional mechanism of demokratia (government by the people) is a panacea for all the problems of a society. Thus the recently-held local level elections or even `state assembly’ elections in occupied Kashmir are no panacea for the Kashmiris’ simmering discontentment, their revulsion to yoke of Indian rule. Chua, in her afore-quoted book analysed situation in Vietnam, Afghanistan, Iraq and Venezuela, besides so-called terror tribes including the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria.
Kashmir in Chua’s framework would suggest it is naïve to believe that Kashmiris are resigned to their fate. By analogy, even a thousand years of exploitation by a microscopic Chinese population did not subdue the Vietnamese hatred of the Chinese. As soon as the Americans left Vietnam, the native Vietnamese prowled upon the rich community of Chinese like a pack of wolves. The Americans plunged into decade long futile war with Vietnam without realizing that the Vietnamese were not Chinese stooges.
The indomitable fighting spirit
Indian forces had been using pellet guns to blind the Kashmir. Now, former chief minister Mehbooba Mufti, they have begun to use even chemical weapons against the Kashmiri.
Let us have a glimpse of the dogra’s reign of terror in Kashmir. To stifle the Kashmiri’s fighting spirit, the dogra punished even Kashmiri children who played with fork-slings (ghulail) and stones (Muhammad Yousaf Saraf, Kashmiris Fight for Freedom, vol. 1, p. 50). Under the dogra rule, the Kashmiri were treated no better than beasts of burden. Instead of donkeys and horses, Kashmiri Muslims were used to transport goods across Gilgit, Leh and Skardu. They carried luggage on their backs across glaciers as high as 17,000 feet. Thousands of them perished along the way each year owing to frost bites, fall from a precipice, and hunger or sickness. The dogra caravans were not humane enough to stop for a while in the snowy passes to look after the injured porters (or ‘human beasts of burden’). Besides performing the forced labour, the Kashmiri had to pay heavy taxes. Whole of their produce was confiscated by the dogra. Little was left for tillers and their children to eat. On every item, the oppressed Kashmiri had to pay multiple taxes. Take shawls. Not only the shawl-makers were taxed, but also the other intermediaries like importers of pashmina (wool) from Ladakh, and storekeepers, whether wholesalers or retailers (ibid. p. 280-81).
The regressive revenue system resulted in a famine during winter of 1877. People began to die of starvation. Instead of releasing grain stocks from the royal go-downs, the maharajah’s constabulary drowned the starved, crying people in the Wullar Lake. Saraf writes: “Whole boat-loads of starving people have been conveyed by the Maharajah’s officials to the Woolar Lake, and there drowned” (ibid. p. 294).
The reign of terror by Indian forces (now estimated at about nine lac regulars and security personnel) who replaced the maharajah’s constabulary on October 27, 1947 is no less gruesome. International human-rights organisations, as well as India’s National Human Rights Commission, have brought into limelight the Kashmiri’s mysterious disappearances, their custodial deaths, and countless rapes of hapless Kashmiri women.
Like the dogra, Indian rulers are mercilessly exploiting Kashmiris’ economic resources. Bulk of locally-generated electricity is being diverted to Indian states. The tourism industry is in shambles. Highly – educated people have no jobs. With no inflow of tourists, the shopkeepers have no business. Unlike the occupied Kashmir, all the socio-economic sectors in Azad Kashmir are progressing by leaps and bounds.
Toynbee’s Challenge and Response Theory suggests that if the challenge is too strong, a nation becomes apathetic. Ibn-e-Khaldoon’s asabiya (spirit of national cohesion) also suggests that a nation’s spirit is likely to be smothered by a challenge which is too heavy. Historical lessons do not apply to the Kashmiri’s struggle. Neither Indians, nor the dogra could gag them. The struggle for freedom has continued unabated.
The lesson from Kashmiris’ struggle for freedom is that repression or palliatives like elections in occupied Kashmir are no good. The Kashmiri wants “freedom”. Their group instinct is `resistance’. But they need to learn from peaceful resistance movements like the Occupy and the Precariat.
Pakistan Day Celebrations: Civilian Participation
Pakistan got independence on 14 August 1947 by hectic political struggle from the platform of All India Muslim League (AIML) under the dynamic leadership of Quaid e Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah. The presidential address at Allahabad on 29 December 1930 of Dr. Muhammad Iqbal, accelerated and gave more clarity to the movement. He presented the idea and concept that Muslims are a separate nation by emphasizing that a nation is distinguished from the other based on religion, customs, and traditions. At the same time, he strongly disagreed with the Western concept of religion as a private affair. Iqbal explained that Islam is a way of life and thus Muslims are a separate nationand accentuated that unless their rights areprotected, it is impossible to establish peace and tranquility in the sub-continent. The determined political struggle of AIML led to March 23, 1940, Lahore Resolution, at its 27th annual session. The Quaid addressed the session on the first day andstressedthat Hindus and Muslims follow two different religions, philosophies, social customs literature and this made them two distinct nations.
The contents of the resolution, according to Story of Pakistan are“No constitutional plan would be workable or acceptable to the Muslims unless geographical contiguous units are demarcated into regions which should be so constituted with such territorial readjustments as may benecessary. That the areas in which the Muslims are numerically in majority as in the North-Western and Eastern zones of India should be grouped to constitute independent states in which the constituent units shall be autonomous and sovereign”. It strongly rejected the concept of United India. The word states wassubstituted to one state by a resolution passed at the 1941 Madras session of the AIML which stated, “everyone should clearly understand that we are striving for one independent and sovereign Muslim State.” Moreover, in all speeches, the Quaid used the word “an independent homeland” or “an independent Muslim state”.Pakistan and India became dominions on 14 and 15 August 1947 respectivelyby the Indian Independence Act, 1947, based on the Mountbatten Plan of 3 Junepassed by the parliament of the UK on 18 July. Keeping in view the atrocities being committed by RSS, a militant wing of BJP in Indian Illegally occupied Kashmir (IIoK), and minorities especially Muslims in all over Indianot being allowed to practice religion freely, havevery sturdily substantiated the decision of AIML to fight for a separate state for Muslims. It elucidates their political acumen and far-sightedness.
Pakistan remained a dominion for about nine years till thefirst constitution as the Islamic Republic of Pakistan was adopted on 23 March 1956.Thereafter 23 March was celebrated as “Republic Day” (Yome Jamhooria)every year to commemorate the Lahore resolution and adoption of the constitution. After the imposition of martial law by Ayub Khan in Oct 1958,it is being celebrated as“Pakistan Day”. Probably the plotter of the coup could not celebrate constitutionalism and democracy on March 23 so ‘Republic Day’ was replaced with ‘Pakistan Day. The main feature is a three-servicesparade in Islamabad followed bythe display of military weapons and equipment. Floats of the provinces also march past. The flypast by Army and Navy combat aircraft displaying their weapons and equipment.The flypast by PAF fighters and aerobatic.
The celebrations are spread over about two and half hours.Pakistan Day has taken the shape of a Defense Day which was not originally intended. Moreover, Army, Navy, and Air Force organize their respective Defense Days on 6,8, and 7 Septemberevery year. The events of the Pakistan Day parade give an impression especially to civilians that military strength is the only most important component of national power. The remaining such as economic capacity, natural resources, industrial capacity, national cohesion, political structure, and leadership, etc. which are also very vital needs to be given projection. Therefore, parade proceedings may be modified to include more participation of civilian-related events. The latest inventory and indigenously developed weapons and equipment may be displayed to reduce timings. The PAF fighters may only carry out professional flypast andaerobatic performance similar to the aerobatic display team, like “Red Arrow “may be excluded. It is pertinent to mention that most of the countries have prohibited aerobatic display in public places to avoid any untoward incident. It is suggested that floats carrying students who have topped in the boards and universitiesand have done distinct research work in the past year may be added. Similarly,floats carrying civilians who have been awarded Pride of Performance and other awards, businessmen who have been bestowed awards, sportsmen who have brought honors for Pakistan may also be included. Few industrial floats may also be added with indigenously manufactured machinery and other items.Floats carrying agricultural products and livestock may also be considered.Citations are read as the float passes the dais. Moreover, in Islamabad and the provincial capitals industrial exhibitions may be organized which may include indigenously developed machinery and other items.The civilian participation in Pakistan Day celebrations will certainly add colors and act as a source of pride for them as well as for the nation.
Ancestral Lineage of Hazaras: from Afghanistan to Pakistan
While the origins of Hazaras are much debated, opinions differ when it comes to the ancestral lineage of Hazara community. According to some historians, Hazaras are the original inhabitants of Hazarajat (now central Afghanistan).Among Hassan Pouladi, Prof. Shah Ali Akbar, Fletcher, and Abdul HaiHabibi, J. P. Ferrier who was a renowned French scholar was the first who argued based on his explanations of the Greek historian Quintus Curtius about the battles of Alexander the Great and his travels to these areas, now Afghanistan that Hazaras were native inhabitants of Afghanistan since the time of Alexander the Great and have not migrated from any other places to this land.
Whereas, according to some, Hazaras have Mongolian ancestry under Genghis Khan. This notion that Hazaras have Mongolian origin takes its origin in the 19th century when European came to Afghanistan, and they distinguish people with Mongolian featured faces among other Caucasian faces. Hazaras were originally represented by the word ‘Ozala’ or ‘Hosala’ which, with the passing of time became ‘Hazara’. The very word ‘Hazara’ then was used to refer to the counting system in the armed forces of Genghis Khan i.e. ‘hazara’ that meant thousand, which comprised one level of the troops.
Yet, few opinionate, Hazaras have Persian and Turko-Mongolian ancestry. According to a report they descended from Genghis Khan’s Army that mixed with Persian and Turkic locals whom as a result of conflict had been settled in now Hazara inhabited areas of Afghanistan.
Nevertheless, some think, Hazaras have ancestral lineage with theKushan Dynasty that goes back two millennia when Bamiyan in Afghanistan was home to the largest statues of ancient Buddhist civilization. Patrons of this idea highlight the similar facial features of Hazaras to those of Buddhist murals and statues in the region. Whilst, some of the Hazaras believe that they are the descendants of one of the sons of Noah.
Although, all the above mentioned theories might differ when it comes to ancestral lineage of Hazara community, but they have one thing in common and that is the land of Hazaras which now constitute parts of Afghanistan, Iran, and Pakistan. People of Hazaras settled in the mountainous regions of central Afghanistan as early as the 19th century, with the majority of their inhabitants living in Hazarajat (the land of Hazara), which is situated in the rough central mountainous core of Afghanistan with an area stretch over 50,000 sq.km.The Hazaras speak a dialect of Persian (Dari dialect) that is called Hazaragi. Hazaragi was one of the two largest languages of Afghanistan. Hazaragi includes many Mongolian and Turkic words, which also maintains the theory that they have Mongolian ancestry.
Afghanistan is a multi-ethnic country with almost 8 major and 10 minor different ethnic groups; among major ethnic groups are Pashtun, Tajiks, and Hazaras etc. Hazaras were once the largest ethnic group in Afghanistan and constituted approximately 67% of the total population, but today their population hardly makes up around 9% of Afghan population. The reason for their massacred lies in their off target political action when they backed the wrong candidate in the accession struggle in the late 19th century, that had changed the life of Hazaras and their role in Afghan politics and ultimately in Afghan government.
Reports from the 20th century depict that arm forces of Afghanistan made pyramids out of Hazaras heads after some of the massacres, as a form of warning to the remaining Hazaras, yet this could not be regarded as the last savage and barbaric government repression of the Hazaras. Towards the end of 20th century during the rule of Taliban in Afghanistan, government specifically targeted the Hazaras for persecution and even genocide. This brutal history of persecution of Hazaras in Afghanistan resulted in killing more than half of their population with some migrating to neighboring countries like Pakistan and Iran.
Whereas, according to historical evidence migration of Hazaras from Afghanistan to Baluchistan province, Pakistan took place about 150 years ago, initially due to economic purposes. But mass migration of Hazara population took place in the late 19th century, mainly due to their persecution and targeted killing at the hands of different afghan rulers and Taliban government that forced them to migrate to Pakistan, and so they settled here.
In Pakistan, the estimated number of people of Hazara community is between 0.6-0.9 million, living and residing in different parts of the country including Karachi, Parachinar, Sanghar, Nawabshah, Hyderabad, also in different parts of GilgitBaltistan and Punjab. In Baluchistan province, the bulk of Hazara population are residing in Quetta and other parts of Baluchistan such as Sanjawi, Much, Zhob, Harnai, Loralai, and Dukki, where their population makes up around 0.4-0.5 million.Unfortunately, along with their migration, the Hazara community brought with them the history of their persecutions based on their ethnicity, religious orientation of sect and also their ethnically unique facial curvatures, and so, their tenure of oppression at the hands Taliban and other terrorist organization like Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, Sipah Sahabah, al-Qaeda and other Sunni radical militants organization that also includes ISIS in its list is on-going in Pakistan.
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