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70 years of Kashmir under Indian occupation

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When India celebrated its 70th anniversary of independence, unfortunately, it also indirectly celebrated the occupation of Jammu Kashmir. One of the achievements of recent history of India in the negative sense is the genocides of Kashmiris- India murdered over 1000,000 Muslims Kashmir while using and protecting Hindus there.

Real protests

Kashmir today, even on Eid day, remains a nation in protest against Indian occupational crimes. Protests erupted on Saturday in Kupwara district of north Kashmir when a youth went missing while another was severely beaten and has been hospitalised in a critical condition with the locals alleging that were taken into custody by Indian Army. Police has registered two separate FIRs against army, one for attempt to murder and another for kidnapping and abducting in order to murder. Villagers of Kakarpati village of Devar Lolab told news agency GNS that Army picked up two local shepherds from forest area of Trimukh upper reaches of Lolab which is connected to Bandipora district.

The Indian/JK government, controlled by New Delhi, considers their prerogative to kill and deal with Kashmiris for seeking sovereignty back from a powerful military power called India. Two ailing Kashmiri women leaders rearrested despite release orders by Court

As Kashmiris are on agitational mold to regain sovereignty from Indian military yoke, India feels highly embarrassed before world powers while PM Modi feels the pinch in front of world leaders.

Interestingly, one of the Indian islets in Lakshadweep on Arabia Sea disappeared owing to climatic change nearly 20 years ago but Indian government has not yet recognized that it lost a small islet without any population. Indian official gazettes have made any change and as India still reasserts that every islet of India is intact. That is problem of India which refuses to accept the fact it has lost a small part of its territory in the natural process as it simply cannot accept or even imagine that Kashmir that decorates India as its multi-jewel crown on its head

India worried

Presumably, Indian strategists in New Delhi and abroad are with latest India maps looking at Kashmir and they cannot visualize India without that crown known as Kashmir on Indian head.

In fact, more than the land, India is concerned about the image of India on Indian map without Kashmir. Indian map without Kashmir looks like a wild animal – not exactly a cow – whose head has been severed. This of course Indian strategists and military experts cannot digest.

Indian strategy for China is one of appeasing that neighbor maybe because Beijing has withdrawn it stop badminton players (women) from the courts, thereby making Indian fight for tittles easier. India may have begun a dialogue with China over parts of Kashmir it occupies. Although China has not invaded Kashmir but got a part of Kashmir as a (paid) gift from Pakistan is not helping Beijing to convince New Delhi which seeks to take back that part of Kashmir from China as well.

That Kashmiris who fight for sovereignty, do not ask both Pakistan and China also surrender their lands makes Indian case difficult but makes India come closer to China easily. India would ask China not to worry about Kashmir as once occupied Jammu Kashmir is now lost for Kashmiris forever. However, the secret talks among India, Pakistan and China – the joint occupiers of Jammu Kashmir- are not revealed to public.

India continues to deal with the besieged Kashmiris the way the military feels best, or rather worst.

Brutality is the key expression that could be used to describe what the Indian solders do in occupied Kashmir day in and day out and at night. India has provided a perpetual blanket approval of every murder and all acts of genocides through fake encounters and all atrocities of making Kashmiris disappear from Kashmir valley once for all.

Obviously, India must have learnt all these murder techniques from its former masters in UK who continue to guide New Delhi in secret state terror operations. Now Israel seems to have accepted Indian appeal to offer terror tips on payment basis to deal with Kashmiris and others who seek sovereignty.

While their occupation masters in New Delhi celebrate 70 years of independence from Great Britain, Kashmiris who lost their sovereignty to then freed India have no choices but to cry loud over their loss of sovereignty under joint UK-India conspiracy with blessings from super power USA and other imperialist capitalist powers.

In fact, no power invades and occupies a weak alien nation to leave the occupation on its own. Invaders quit “subject” nations only under pressure or by force. Great Britain invaded many countries, including USA but had to leave most of them, if not all of them. Interestingly, not only Americans got independence from UK but also have become closest ally of USA today.

India’s easy invasion and quick occupation of Jammu Kashmir was possible because all big powers led by USA and UK supported the illegality behind the “deal” without the endorsement of the people of Jammu Kashmir and none, including China, opposed Indian military action. Neither USA nor UK can approve of invasion without popular consent as that goes against genuine democracy.

India bought problems

While its ruthless occupational crimes in Kashmir as it key policy, India may have good things to claim credit like its music which has made its mark on the world stage. Indian food is cultural given. Indian fashion now competes at the level of haute couture even as Indian fabrics are in demand in both the East and the West as much as the ever increasing Indian demands for western cloths and electronics and fashions. Indian professionalism in media to highlight Indian needs above others, engineering and information technology has formed a swathe and Indian business’ know-how is cutting edge. Bollywood is interested in making big films to match the Hollywood productions.  Last November, demonetization was welcomed by NRIs but there is still a lingering suspicion that the truly rich got away.

There are many issues Indians face. Among them, the killings over beef eating make us look savage and primitive. The refusal by the Parliament to revoke Article 377, a vicious law imposed on India by the same foreign yoke which ironically has no such law in its own country. Indian men still decide what women can do with their bodies. But fanatics Hindus only talk about Islam and Muslim religious rights. The Big Brother manifested itself by way of linking Aadhaar cards with PAN cards and no one quite knows why. For NRIs, it’s another hill to climb. Just as there was confusion about demonetisation — rumours of another one are on the way — the public is unclear how GST will play out even as retailers pull back on several items till there is clarity.

With 29 states and seven union territories what are a few more if a sense of identity is assuaged. The seven sisters in the North East were hit by floods and we took far too long to react, an acid commentary on our levels of awareness of an integral part of India.

A dangerous ignorance that China will exploit as it has spent the past two months trying to hector India on the borders of Bhutan and Sikkim. There are fears that a strong conflict is possible.

However, there’s little to celebrate. Since India was ruled for 200 years by a foreign power, Britain, it takes revenge on Kashmiris by occupying their nation since Indian independence.

The tension in Jammu Kashmir does not seem to be lessening as Indian occupation forces keep targeting Kashmir youth.

Indian terror strategists argue that India should never budge and surrender Kashmir to Kashmiris. And, therefore, unless a “hardcore” decision to void Article 370 is made to bring that nation on par with Indians states of the country, the issue will never be resolved. All we will do is confront civilians with guns and widen the chasm. The incessant appeasement as a policy only breeds contempt. The call for Gorkhaland in the east needs to be resolved swiftly.

India believes military action can solve all problems of Kashmiris once for all. In 2016, India imposed terror at IOC by to surgical terror attacks in Uri. Yes, keeping Indian troops’ morale high should be of utmost importance.

Abrogation of Article 35A: Widespread agitation against BJP’s ‘Israel model?

Abrogation of Article 35A: Kashmiris prepare for widespread agitation against BJP’s ‘Israel model’.

From hawkers to grocers, manufacturers and dealers, everyone stands united in their view that abolishment of Article 35A will bring turmoil in the Valley

Article 35A of the Constitution empowers the Jammu and Kashmir legislature to define its “permanent residents” and their special rights and privileges. It was added to the Constitution in 1954 through a presidential order.

In Srinagar’s trade heartland, Lal Chowk, the local cab drivers sound like doomsayers. They are talking about the possible political fallouts in Kashmir, in case the Supreme Court of India, under pressure from the Modi government, abolishes Article 35A of the Constitution of India that restricts any outsider other than state subjects of Jammu Kashmir from acquiring immovable properties or having voting rights.

The others could only offer sighs than to comment or intervene over his ‘no fun’ remark. Such ‘distressed’ talks have overtaken the Valley since long. It is reminding people of those ‘talks of revolt’ that took place in the Kashmir Valley before Burhan Wani’s killing last summer in an encounter with forces.

These discussions are taking place inside offices, shops, streets, buses and inside homes. The idea of losing their permanent residency, employment, property, and scholarship, to outsiders, in case the Article 35A is removed or altered, is keeping Kashmiris on the edge. Kashmiris have lost their sovereignty to India due to a deep rooted conspiracy.

Kashmiris are quite aware of the ‘onslaught on Kashmir’s special status’. “Kashmiris won’t allow tinkering with our state subject law. We still repent the day when our leader Sheikh Abdullah committed a blunder by trusting the Delhi (government),” says an old employee. But now, he says, as a train of tourists comes out of the TRC after registration, “The government of India must know that it isn’t the same Kashmir as before. Any attempts to alter our constitutional status will be opposed tooth and nail.” This defiant mood has to do with the petition filed by an NGO ‘We the Citizens’ in the Supreme Court in 2014, seeking to scrap Article 35A. After serving notices to both, the state as well as Centre, the apex court only received counter-petition filed by the state government.

BJP and PDP rule the JK state, promoting the Hindu, Hindutva and Indian interests in return for money from New Delhi. The BJP-ruled Centre refused to file an affidavit, but instead sought a “larger debate”. The Centre’s posturing has unsettled the mood in the Valley with political commentators asserting that the Narendra Modi-led government is actually clearing all decks to scrap the article to settle outsiders in the Valley.

In fact, a larger sense prevails in the Valley that the BJP government wants to resolve the Kashmir issue through demographic changes.

While the Opposition and separatist camps in Kashmir have threatened an uprising over the judicial tinkering of the Article 35A, Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti has warned the central government that any such attempts won’t leave any “tricolour upholder” in the Valley.

The commoners in the Valley are getting mentally prepared for putting up a “bigger battle” to safeguard their constitutional positioning. Commenting on the controversy, he says, “On the one hand, the government of India calls for peace in Kashmir, while on the other hand, it threatens the very idea of it by resorting to the courts to achieve its political motives… Now, tell me, who is playing the role of a ‘terrorist’ in Kashmir?”

In restive Maisuma, the stronghold of pro-freedom leader Yasin Malik, the buzz is getting shrill. Many residents who often take the security forces head-on through street protests here see a ‘Hindutva pattern’ in the latest controversy.

Ever since the PDP formed a coalition government with the BJP, every person in Kashmir knew that there would be tension. This is essentially an RSS government led by the PDP madam. “But we will make sure we do not accede to their wishes and demands.”

In uptown Srinagar, many pose a question as to why the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) is still in alliance with the BJP. In this ‘new’ Srinagar neighborhood known to house the government officialdom, the mood might not be militant, but the locals are flaying the Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti-led PDP-BJP government. “Every Kashmiri is politically sound as we are living in a political disturbed and conflict zone. How come RSS thinks that they can fool people of Kashmir by resorting to such tactics?” says a trader in Hyderpora.

In Srinagar’s MA Road, which is lately witnessing a string of protests by students of a women’s college, against the security crackdown on Kashmiris, a college-goer blames PM Modi and his government for triggering fresh tensions in the Valley for political changes. “They wish for Kashmir to get disturbed, like in 2016, and that our people should again get killed or injured with pellets, slapped with cases under the Public Safety Act and be taken to the jails and police stations.

In Kashmir’s restriction zone aka Downtown Srinagar, the discussions revolve around Delhi’s (central government’s) “decadal deceit” with the people of Kashmir. “India simply wants Kashmir, not Kashmiris,” says a retired engineer, of Rajouri Kadal, the bastion of Hurriyat leader Mirwaiz Umar Farooq. “Otherwise, they would have never said that Indians will come and settle here to help change the azadis course. But they are mistaken. Such attempts hardly undo the legitimate demands.”

In the narrow lanes of Habba Kadal, a non-migrant Kashmiri Pandit, who only gives his first name to protect his identity, calls the ‘article 35A controversy’ as New Delhi’s foolishness. “So far, the government of India has not been successful in getting the Kashmiri Pandits back to Kashmir, and now this blatant attempt to create a mini-India out of Kashmir is simply nonsensical,” says Suresh. “They only know how to trigger tensions in Kashmir. They should come and live here for a week as a commoner, and then give these nonsensical statements.”

Now no migrant Pandit wants to return to the Valley, which is affected because of the everyday killings, strikes, and lack of jobs. From hawker to grocers, and from manufacturers to dealers, everyone stands united in their view. “Every Kashmiri wants to fight. I know my business will also suffer, but I can manage with sookhi dal roti (dry rotis) than allowing any federal sinister designs to alter the demography of my Valley,” says an hotelier in Srinagar.

When people are faced with atrocities, it is a natural tendency to fight against it. India should take note that it is a politically disturbed state and if they (the Centre) falter with our law, not only in Kashmir, but more than 80 percent of the state will be affected and there will be violence all around.

Al-Qaeda or USA?

Apparently, Al Qaeda has arrived in Kashmir and the ramification of the development is yet to be ascertained.

Musa is the youngest but first militant from Kashmir who has been linked with a global outfit. He has not pledged his support to the Al-Qaeda yet. But if such a thing happens then it will be bad for both Kashmir as well India.

The statement from Al-Qaeda naming Zakir Musa, the former militant commander of Hizb-ul-Mujahideen, as the head of its wing in Kashmir has generated mixed reactions within and outside the state of Jammu and Kashmir. The Al-Qaeda announcement has divided the militant ranks in the Valley with Hizb-ul-Mujahideen and Lashkar-e-Taiba rejecting any role for the international terror organisation in the Valley. Many in the Valley are taken aback, worrying about its impact on the ongoing

Many believe that, India will intensify its policy towards Kashmiris after the Al-Qaeda announcement. “Musa’s exit from Hizb-ul-Mujahideen and subsequent developments in the Valley’s political scenario have created ambiguity here. Musa is being hailed both as an Indian agent and an Islamist, but I think the Kashmir issue is now becoming more complex, moving beyond the Hurriyat paradigm,” a political scientist said.

Freedom fighting militant groups too are reflecting on the new development, assessing its repercussions on Kashmir’s struggle. “There is no space for any international organisation like Daesh (Islamic State) and Al-Qaeda in the state,” said Salahuddin who also cautioned the people to remain vigilant of the conspiracies of India and keep their relations intact with (the) organisation fighting against the Indian Army. They should not become a part of any global agenda,” he said. However, many in the Valley believe that the situation is going to change if Musa, indeed, happens to be affiliated with Al-Qaeda.

Over the years Al-Qaeda has changed a lot. Many of its affiliates have detached themselves from the main wing and become completely indigenous. Kashmir will be no exception. The newly nominated group is likely to work indigenously. It will increase the popularity of Musa and more youths will likely join his group than the others in the near future.”

Al-Qaeda’s announcement also indicates that after years of talking about the travails of Palestine, Kashmir and Myanmar, it has finally mustered courage to come forward for Kashmir’s struggle. But, the separatist leaders in the Valley have already denied any involvement of international groups like Al-Qaeda and the Islamic State in Kashmir. However, there are others who also disagree on Musa’s involvement.

Some police officers emphasized that if the Al-Qaeda gets involved, it will strengthen the hands of the militants. This kind of development would definitely lead to confusion as well as ideological clashes

The reactions from Kashmir are mixed, but what everyone agrees upon is that Al-Qaeda’s announcement is an interesting development and opens a new chapter in Kashmir’s post-1989 armed local insurgency.

NIA targets Kashmiri

The latest unrest and perpetual demonstrations have dominated the Kashmir streets and affected Kashmiri life. But the new development has upset all calculations of New Delhi the worst way possible.

As a natural response to the emerging sovereignty demand, India has used its National Investigation Agency (NIA) to create problems for the freedom Hurriyet leaders. And NIA is working over night to cripple the freedom movement. India has learned all these tactics from its former Masters in London. It targets mosques and Islamic educational institutions.

The National Investigation Agency on Jul, 18 2017 has sent notice to Srinagar’s Jamia Masjid and an education trust run by separatist leader Mirwaiz Umar Farooq to find out whether or not funds collected at the mosque are used to fuel the unrest in Jammu and Kashmir. The state witnessed over seven-month-long unrest after the killing of Hizbul Mujahideen militant commander Burhan Muzafar Wani, in July last year.

The NIA has also issued notice seeking appearance of Mohammad Ibrahim Shah, secretary, Anjuman-e-Nusrat-ul-Islam, an education trust, which is headed by Hurriyat Conference (M) chairman Mirwaiz Umar Farooq. The trust runs Islamic educational institutes in the areas of Rajouri Kadal, Safa Kadal and Bota Kadal in Kashmir. Both the Anjumani Auqaf and Nusrat ul Islam have been asked to furnish their accounts of the last five years.

Besides looking into the role of Hurriyat Conference leaders, the NIA has also written letters to some newspapers asking them to furnish details about stone-pelters whom they had mentioned in their stories. “It is learnt that your newspaper has published some articles/news items mentioning the names and addresses of those involved in cases of stone pelting, burning of schools and damage to government property in the past one year starting from 1 July, 2016. It is requested to direct the concerned to provide the above mentioned documents/photographs/articles for investigation in the instant case,” read the letter issued by the NIA. The NIA is also investigating the role of former militants as well as the political leaders associated with Syed Ali Shah Geelani, chairman, Hurriyat Conference (Geelani), in funding the unrest in Jammu and Kashmir.

The NIA is also looking at the role of close associates of Geelani in fanning the unrest, and has recently summoned National Front chairman, Nayeem Ahmad Khan, in the case. Khan, who was recently in Delhi in connection with the investigation that is being carried out, has termed the investigations “witch-hunt”.

The investigation agency also questioned two retired bureaucrats and relatives of Farooq — Moulvi Shafat and Moulvi Manzoor — in the case. Both Shafat and Manzoor were in New Delhi for over a week and were questioned by the NIA in the case.

Earlier, the state police arrested some local youth for burning schools during the unrest while many others were slapped with the Public Safety Act (PSA) to keep them in judicial custody.

Observation

While earlier, India did not take the agitation of Kashmiris seriously, now it has taken unrest by Kashmiris and especially the youth leadership very very seriously. India is for the first time in occupation history is scared. Hence New Delhi is scheming to fix the Kashmiris Muslims in as many ways as time permits.

Kashmiris want total independence first from India, whether Pakistan supports or not. Kashmiris seek to regain all territories lost since 1947, whether China like that or not.

India should read the messages written on the wall and make sincere efforts to surrender sovereignty to Kashmirs and help h them make a home for peaceful existence with property.

It is high time the UNSC wakes up to the occupational reality and realizes the truth about Indian brutal intentions in Occupied Jammu Kashmir and ask India to behave. Kashmiris do not posses weapons, except few pieces of stones being gathered from time to time to defend themselves from Indian military brutality.

Can ordinary stones end Indian military attacks on innocent Kashmiris?

Already India has consumed over 1000,000 Kashmiris and many more have disappeared. Enough of Indian state crimes in Kashmir. India should not be allowed to kill more Kashmiris.

Let the UNSC convene a special UN assembly meeting to grant sovereignty to Kashmiris.

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South Asia

The sizzling “Political Matrix”; What will happen now?

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Politics in Pakistan is unfortunately leaving scars that will fade away not that easily. Islamabad today is wrapped in thick political clouds since past few weeks. These last few weeks have altered all assumptions and calculations in the national political matrix.  While the political landscape today is sizzling with intensity, aggression and strain the economy is shattering every day.  Who is to blame for? What will happen now? And will sanity prevail?

The entire edifice of the “conspiracy mantra” which even made PTI commit violation of the constitution stands demolished today. It was one of the worst advices Imran khan could ever get from his party among the list of many others. Sadly he made his entire politics captive to this conspiracy myth.  But today no one questions them on the impact it had on our foreign policy. US today feels betrayed, Saudis not ready to give aid, Chinese worried about their stakes and it continues.  So diplomatically this conspiracy mantra has damaged Pakistan like anything.

Imran Khan’s followers see nothing wrong in what he says and what he does. They absolutely reject all the facts, all the logics and embrace the rhetoric which is fuelling more today with a greater intensity. Imran khan is leading this campaign more aggressively. Khan very well knows that bringing large crowds to Islamabad will have an impact only if there is some kind of aggression.  The leaders on different occasions already hinted towards an aggressive March. He very well realizes that the figure of 2.5 Million is unrealistic but keeping in view the size of Islamabad, 0.1 Million crowd will even be perceived as a bigger crowd. So can he force the early elections at this stage? How will the government react to it? For instance let’s accept this narrative that the pressure of crowd aids PTI in getting an early election call and PTI wins it. So now what next? How will you deal with the mighty US? The economy is already sinking. You need aid to feed it but no one is providing you that. Then how will you stop dollar from going above 200? How will you provide relief from the soaring fuel prices when you won’t have money for a subsidy even? Forget about one lakh jobs and 50 lakh houses.

From the past few weeks we haven’t heard any PTI leader telling any economic plan or any diplomatic plan to revive relations. How will you deal with the IFI’s, World Bank & IMF when they’re all US controlled and as per your narrative you won’t accept “Amreeka ki Ghulami” or USA’s dictatorship.

So now what options the present regime has? The government would of course like to stop this building dangerous momentum of “Azadi March”. They would not like any big clash in Islamabad which results in bigger mess and chaos. The PDM government also has a much bigger fish to deal with, the same sinking economy. They came into power with this narrative to fix economy as former Premiere was unable to do it.  The key cabinet members made more than two different official visits.  The instructions are coming from London today as a decisive power so who will run the government? Who will run the system? Will the IMF aid? What will be the upcoming budget about? This upcoming budget is a bigger risk for this government along with an already announced to Long march call. Khan has already played a dangerous narrative especially with the blame of another conspiracy being made about his Life.   

The stakes, the narrative and the politics of every party is at risk today.  But above that, Pakistan is at risk. The dread is in the air. The end of May will be heated ferociously in Islamabad, whether politically or meteorologically.

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Sri Lankan economic crisis and the China factor

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After the resignation of Mahinda Rajapaksa, Ranil Wickremesinghe, who is the sole member of the United National Party (UNP), was sworn in as Sri Lankan Prime Minister on Thursday, May 12, 2022. Wickremesinghe will be holding the position of Sri Lankan PM for the sixth time. While the new Sri Lankan PM is a seasoned administrator, the task of restoring even a modicum of normalcy to the island nation’s economy, which is currently facing its worst economic crisis since its independence in 1948 seems to be a Herculean task (Wickremesinghe has clearly indicated, that his first task will be ensuring the supply of electricity, diesel and petrol to the people).

 The grave economic crisis, which has resulted in acute shortage of food and essential commodities have brought ordinary people on the roads and demonstrations have resulted in violence and loss of lives (the Sri Lankan President had to declare a state of emergency twice first last month and then earlier this month). There had been a growing clamor for the resignation by President Gottabaya Rajapaksa but Wickremesinghe was sworn in after the exit of Mahinda Rajapaksa (protests have been carrying on even after the swearing in of Wickremesinghe)

During his previous tenure, Wickremesinghe had tried to reduce Sri Lanka’s dependence upon China, and in his current tenure he will be compelled to do the same. He had also been critical of the previous government for not approaching the IMF for assistance (Wickremesinghe has been repeatedly accused of being pro-west and having neoliberal leanings by many of his political opponents).

It would be pertinent to point out, that the PM had also batted for a coordinated regional response, by SAARC vis-à-vis the covid19 pandemic. The new Sri Lankan PM has also been an ardent advocate of improving ties with India.

While it is true, that Sri Lanka finds itself in the current situation due to economic mismanagement and excessive dependence upon the tourism sector (which faced a severe setback as a result of covid 19), it is tough to overlook the level of debts piled vis-à-vis China, and the fact that the Island nation was following China’s model of economic growth with a focus on big ticket infrastructure projects.

Another South Asian nation — Pakistan which witnessed a change last month where Shehbaz Sharif took over as Prime Minister, replacing Imran Khan, also faces daunting economic challenges.  Pakistan’s foreign exchange reserves were estimated to be a little over $ 10 billion on May 6, 2022 and the Pakistani Rupee fell to its all time low versus the US Dollar on Thursday, May 12, 2022. Shehbaz Sharif ever since taking over as PM has repeatedly reiterated the importance of Pakistan’s ties with China and the Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto in a conversation with his Chinese counterpart alluded to the same, with Pakistan’s Foreign office in a statement released after the conversation between Bhutto and Wang Yi said:

 “underscored his determination to inject fresh momentum in the bilateral strategic cooperative partnership and add new avenues to practical cooperation”.

 Yet, China has categorically said that it will not provide any financial assistance until Pakistan resumes the IMF aid program. Pakistan has been compelled to look at other alternatives such as Saudi Arabia and UAE, which have also said that without the revival of the IMF program aid will not be possible. Only recently, Chinese power companies functioning under the umbrella of the China Pakistan Economic corridor (CPEC) have threatened to shut down their operations if their dues (to the tune of 1.59 billion USD) are not cleared. China had also reacted very strongly to the terror attack on Karachi University in which three Chinese teachers lost their lives, this is the second such attack after 2021. China in recent years had also indicated to Pakistan, that it was not happy with the progress of the China Pakistan Economic (CPEC) project. The current government in Pakistan has repeatedly pointed to this fact.

One point which is abundantly clear from the economic crisis in Sri Lanka as well as the challenges which Pakistan is facing is that excessive dependence upon China has disastrous consequences in the long run. If one were to look at the case of South Asia, Bangladesh has been astute by not being excessively dependent upon China – it has maintained robust economic relations with India and Japan. Given the changing economic situation it is becoming increasingly important for developing countries, especially in South Asia, to join hands to confront the mounting challenges posed by excessive dependency upon China. US, Japan and western multilateral bodies and financial institutions need to find common ground and provide developing countries with an alternative economic narrative. It is also time for India along with other countries in the South Asian region to find common ground and focus on robust economic cooperation.

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Afghanistan’s humanitarian crisis and Taliban’s obsession with women’s rights

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A mother and her child in the Haji camp for internally displaced people in Kandahar, Afghanistan. © UNICEF Afghanistan

The Taliban’s latest move to restrict the rights of women points to an obsession with women’s rights. This is in stark contrast to the neglect the regime is showing in addressing an ever worsening economic and humanitarian crisis. With Afghan’s facing poverty and starvation, the Taliban needs to focus on rebuilding the country, and this can only be achieved by respecting the rights of women.

This comes after the Taliban ordered all women to cover their faces in public, making it the latest restriction on the rights of women by the oppressive regime. The Taliban has previously forbidden women from travelling long distances unsupervised or working outside of the healthcare sector. The Taliban also faced international outcry earlier this year when they backflipped on a decision to allow women and girls to attend secondary school and university, making it impossible for women to receive an education.

The Taliban’s treatment of women is not a new development. During the regimes previous reign, between 1996 and 2001, it was described as the least feminist movement in the world. The Taliban forbade education, employment and access to healthcare delivered by men, while also making the veil mandatory and forbidding women to leave the home unless accompanied by a male family member. This was seen as the strictest interpretation of Sharia Law.

Contrary to claims made by the Taliban, the latest iteration of the movement is now attempting to do the same by systematically removing women from public life.

The difference this time is that, since the US withdrawal, the country has experienced an economic and humanitarian crisis. This is largely due to poor governance, the freezing of central bank assets by the US and the withdrawal of foreign aid in response to the Taliban takeover.

The situation is dire. Half the population, approximately 20 million people, are facing acute food insecurity, malnutrition, and hunger. Healthcare is notoriously difficult to access, and poverty is widespread, with women, persecuted minority groups and former government employees refused work and unable to provide for their families. The crisis is so critical that families are resorting to selling their children to delay starvation.

This raises the question of why the Taliban is so obsessed with restricting the rights of women when Afghanistan is falling apart around them. Strict adherence to Sharia Law aside, this attack of women’s rights is clearly to the Taliban’s detriment and the detriment of the people of Afghanistan. This position must change for the country to rebuild.

First and foremost, the actions of the Taliban and the humanitarian crisis is making the situation of women much worse, as women are one of Afghanistan’s the most vulnerable groups. The restriction of their rights has resulted in a lack of income and education, making women reliant on their families for food, water and sanitation products. This is meant that women are not only facing poverty and starvation, but they are also increasingly at risk of exploitation by family members and their communities.

Second, the removal of women from the workplace also affects Afghanistan as a whole. While the Taliban has allowed women to work in the health sector, many have not returned to work, dramatically reducing the number of doctors and nurses able to treat other women, particularly in rural areas. On top of this, women that have returned have not been paid, and are reliant on aid agencies to feed their families.

Outside of healthcare, women have been completely removed from the workplace, including in government, the judicial system, charities and aid agencies. Under the Karzai and Ghani governments the wages of women played an important role in providing for families through their increased workplace representation. With their right to employment suddenly removed, this has played a fundamental role in the causing poverty levels to rise throughout the country.

Third, the Taliban is desperate for international recognition, and that recognition and the aid that comes with it is tied to respecting human rights. The Taliban’s abhorrent treatment of women means that the frozen assets held by the US, and aid from the international community, will continue to be out of arms reach. This will leave the country short of much needed funds to avert the current crisis, leaving those most vulnerable, particularly women, at risk of starvation.

While the international community shares some blame for the humanitarian crisis by withholding assets and restricting the flow of aid, it is also the Taliban’s responsibility, under international law, to treat its citizens as per their human rights.

For this reason, if the Taliban is interested in allowing Afghanistan to rebuild, then it must realise that economic relief is directly tied to the human rights of women.

Allowing women to participate in society, through attending school and participating in the workforce, will have a net benefit for Afghan society by increasing education levels, workforce participation and, in the short term, reduce poverty levels.

Respecting the rights of women will also allow aid to flow into the country, helping alleviate the worst effects of the humanitarian crisis that has engulfed the country and will allow aid agencies to monitor human rights throughout Afghanistan.

This creates an opportunity for the international community to pressure the regime into respecting the rights of women. This will help to alleviate the humanitarian crisis and will go a long way to improving the lives of women and girls by giving them an opportunity to get an education, enter the workforce and participate in society.

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