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CPEC: Conflict Management

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CPEC is a great opportunity to enhance Pakistan’s economy. The new commercial and economic businesses nevertheless encompass certain security issues pertaining to the development and implementation of the new projects under the Long-Term Projects (LTP – 2018 to 2030). These challenges and threats are internal as well as external. As far as the internal security issues are concerned, Pakistan is facing the brunt of the extremism and terrorism. Baluchistan is considered as the most sensitive province in this regard. It is the largest province of Pakistan according to its area and the smallest in terms of population. When measured against socioeconomic standings of other provinces, Balochistan is the least developed. Its society is still plagued with tribal structures. Although the province is rich in resources, but insufficiency of capital and absence of skilled population is hindrance in utilizing those resources to the maximum. CPEC is an opportunity for improving the economic and security situation of Balochistan province. It not only connects China’s north-western region of Xinjiang to Gwadar port but will bring trade through Europe, Africa, Oceania, and the Middle East.

Baluchistan’s political stability and security is pivotal to the success of Gwadar port and infrastructural projects of CPEC. The inhabitant Baloch tribes consider CPEC injustice to the people of Baluchistan and deprivation to the local Baloch. However, in order to overcome any kind of unpleasant activities Pakistan government has established a separate Security division of 2,000-strong force, devoted to protect national and Chinese interests in Pakistan. There are also news prevailing in the international media that “China is holding secret talks with the Baloch tribes for the security of CPEC related infrastructural projects”. The officials from Pakistan acknowledge such efforts on part of China. Being a large province of Pakistan, it is important to resolve the grievances of Baloch. The international media is portraying this news as if China is doing something wrong but settlement of interprovincial disputes is very much important for CPEC.

The prosperity of Baloch people lies in the peace of Balochistan and the economic corridor is very unlikely to be successful unless there is peace in Gwadar. But there are some anti-nationalistic elements that want the underdeveloped provinces of Pakistan to remain in darkness. In such circumstances it’s important to resolve the conflict, and mitigate it rather than escalating. There is a need for the proper mechanism of conflict management while minimizing the negative outcomes and maximizing the positive ones. According to Thomas killman the five steps of conflict management includes accommodating, avoiding, collaborating, compromising and competing. These strategies are applicable depending upon the nature of the conflict. Considering the CPEC and the provincial grievances, all these strategies are not applicable. However accommodating the conflict is possible with collaboration. The CPEC-LTP envisages broad parameters for the development of Provinces in order to accommodate the conflict. The LTP emphasizes that the province’s priorities would be honored at first. Special economic zones have been prioritized in all the provinces of Pakistan with industrial Parks, energy security, and infrastructural developments.

The CPEC conflict accommodation essentially entails offering the Bloch what they want. The use of accommodation often occurs when one of the parties wishes to keep the peace. Therefore, negotiations between Baloch tribes and the Chinese official will be good for the implementation of the CPEC Projects. After accommodation of the conflict, next step is collaboration. Collaboration with Baloch tribes and Chinese investors will bring ideas of mutual interests to find a creative solution acceptable to everyone. In an interview with the BBC Urdu on 2nd February, 2018, Chinese ambassador to Pakistan Mr. Yao Jing said that “militants in Balochistan were no longer a threat to the economic corridor”. While the tribes’ statement reveals that they will not oppose the CPEC projects as long as their financial benefits will be taken into account.  A provincial tribal leader stated ““Today, young men are not getting attracted to join the insurgents and many people see prosperity as a result of the CPEC”. This shows if there are discussions between the two parties then they are beneficial for the CPEC security. And if the above strategies of conflict management will be adapted then the challenges to the CPEC will be overcome sufficiently.

Qura tul ain Hafeez has done M Phil in international relations from Quaid-I Azam University Islamabad. She is currently working as a Research Associate at Strategic Vision Institute Islamabad. She can be reached at Quraathashmi[at]gmail.com

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South Asia

The Taliban and the current Afghanistan

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Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons

After the Taliban seized power in Afghanistan, the Afghan state and the public rapidly declined. The country’s territories have become the source of international terrorism and many global problems.

August 15 is the first anniversary since the power in Afghanistan was seized by the Kabul Taliban, and the ex-president of the Afghan state, Ashraf Ghani fled. After a year of the Taliban’s power, their power has not yet been recognized by any state in the world.

According to the UN International Labor Organization, the Taliban’s ascension to power in Afghanistan has led to rapid growth in the unemployment rate among the population. Based on the data of the UN, such a situation in the Afghan labor market was caused by the economic crisis and the prohibition on work for the female population. Over five hundred thousand people in Afghanistan lost their jobs during the first month of the Taliban rule. “The crisis has affected women the most. Thus, their employment level, already extremely low by world standards, decreased by 16% in the third quarter of last year. By mid—2022, it is projected to fall to 28%,” the UN investigation states.

In addition to the economic decline, there has been a rise in drug production in Afghanistan. Drugs are one of the Taliban’s main income zones, and their power has re-activated the production and export of opium and heroin. However, the drug business was also active under the former Afghan authorities. According to the UN, in 2021, Afghanistan’s income from drug exports amounted from 1.8 billion to 2.7 billion US dollars. This profit is from 6 to 11% of the GDP of the Afghan state. As before, the main drug export channels pass through Pakistan. The leader of the Taliban, Haibatullah Akhundzada, issued a fatwa in 2022 to ban the production and distribution of opium and other drug substances in Afghanistan. However, there have been no significant changes in this situation. Nevertheless, the Taliban repeatedly make statements about the cessation of drug production, but they also confirm that the prohibition on opium production will lead to the loss of the only way of earning for peasants, leading to an uprising.

Pakistan acts as the main partner country for Afghanistan. Bypassing sanctions, weapons are coming from Pakistan to Afghanistan. And the majority of Afghan drugs are exported through Pakistan’s western provinces – the southern route. The main patron and sponsor of the Taliban is also the Pakistani military leadership. With the help of Pakistani support, the radicals seized power in Afghanistan and persecuted other alternatives to power.

The Taliban’s first financial income was provided by transportation fees that the militants took from truck drivers on the border of Afghanistan and the state’s territory. The Taliban’s seizure of power in Afghanistan concentrated its forces on extracting natural resources. In February 2022, the Afghan media reported on the negotiations of the new Afghan government with China on the development of copper and lithium by Chinese companies. But even though China, along with Pakistan, is a vital partner of the Taliban regime, mineral development has not yet begun. Without the support and diplomatic assistance of China and Pakistan, the Taliban would not have been able to establish their authority over Afghanistan. However, Beijing still has not officially recognized their power.

Also, summing up the results of the year of Taliban rule in Afghanistan, we can definitely say that the new regime fails to solve the economic and social problems of the state. According to UN research, Afghanistan is on the verge of famine and humanitarian collapse. It is worth noting that during the presence of the United States and NATO in the country, there was no such catastrophic situation. Also, during the period of the Taliban regime in Afghanistan, the position of terrorist organizations such as al Qaeda and the Islamic State has strengthened. The Taliban does not intend to start the fight with the presence of these organizations.

Also, in June 2022, an earthquake with colossal consequences occurred on the border of Afghanistan and Pakistan. The death toll during the disaster was more than 1.5 people, and more than two thousand were injured. The UN has recorded that Afghanistan’s government cannot cope with the threats that the Afghan society is forced to cope with alone.

UNICEF and the World Food Program note the catastrophic situation of Afghan children, and organizations make statements about the high level of undernutrition and that over 3.5 million children urgently need treatment. The UN website says, “Hospital wards are full of malnourished children: many one-year-olds weigh as much as a six-month-old baby would weigh in a developed country, and some are so weak that they cannot move.”

The new government of Afghanistan carries out mass executions, severe human rights violations, and forced disappearances of citizens and previous security forces employees. This is recorded by the United Nations Assistance Organization in Afghanistan. To a large extent, the repression is carried out by two Talib departments – the Ministry of Propaganda of Virtue and Prevention of Vice and the General Directorate of Intelligence. Both organizations are under the auspices of Pakistani security agencies.

UNAMA experts report “arbitrary arrests and detentions of journalists, human rights defenders and protesters.” There were 160 extrajudicial executions, 178 unjustified arrests and 56 cases of torture of former Afghan military and Government employees. In addition, 2106 victims were registered among ethnic and religious minorities (700 killed, 1406 wounded).

After a year, the Taliban authorities, according to international organizations, destroyed the essential state structures in Afghanistan responsible for solving social issues such as jobs and the state’s humanitarian condition. The Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission premises were also seized, and the Ministry of Women’s Affairs was closed. Afghan women are deprived of the right to work. Except for some professions, they are not allowed to travel more than 72 km unaccompanied by men and cannot appear on the street with an open face. Responsibility for all violations of the rules of a woman is borne by her father or another close male relative. The punishment is dismissal from work or imprisonment.

Freedom of speech was also seriously impaired. The international human rights organization Reporters Without Borders (RSF) reports that there are half as many media in Afghanistan as a result of the year-long run of the Taliban. During the year, 219 organizations out of 547 media were closed. Before the Taliban came to power, there were 11,857 journalists in the country. Today only 4,759 of them remain. Female journalists took the first impact. Almost all of them were left without their job.

The Taliban sees the UN’s message about human rights in Afghanistan as propaganda. On July 21, Taliban official Zabiullah Mujahid posted on social media: “There are no arbitrary killings or arrests in the country. If someone kills or arbitrarily arrests, that person is considered a criminal and will be brought before Sharia law.”

In sum, a few conclusions about the power of the Taliban must be noted. The Taliban is characterized by a lack of qualification in the country’s rule, and the leadership cannot organize public service. Also, the Taliban does not fulfil its duties to combat terrorist organizations, which has ensured the strengthening of the position of existing banned groups. The female population of Afghanistan and various social minorities suffered. The Taliban are building strong relationships with authoritarian countries such as Pakistan, China and Russia. Islamabad carries out the actual control of the Taliban and also uses the Taliban in the South Asian region for its geopolitical purposes.

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South Asia

Khalistan Referendum

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Every charter of Human Rights provides a framework for the basic individual rights. Under these civil liberties, all humans are entitled to revel in those privileges. Sikh community residing around the globe is facing heinous behavior from the India’s Modi regime as it is a home for many Sikhs. The episode of unlawful arrest of the UK-based Sikh activist named Jagtar Singh Johal in 2017 with the help of UK government ignited a huge number of protests across the world. According to his lawyers from Scotland, he has been tortured and falsely accused to whom British PM Boris John acknowledged while showing his concern. Most recently, the murder of Sidhu Moosewala who was an active supporter of Sikh rights is an example of India’s unjust activities. Provision of security was denied by BJP government before his murder. In support of Sidhu and separate homeland for Sikhs, more than 17,000 Sikhs voted for Khalistan Referendum in Rome, Italy. Similarly, UK having one of the highest ratio of Sikh diaspora, organized a campaign under the active advocates of Sikh rights “Sikhs for Justice (SFJ)” in which 30,000 British Sikhs voted for referendum on 31st October 2021. Series of Sikh referendums are lined up and SFJ declared that after completing this voting series, it will be a decision of 120,000 Sikhs showing the desire for separate land under the rule and law provided them by International Justice System.  A huge referendum is planned for the Sikhs of Punjab on 26th January 2023.

The roots of these referendum are enrooted into the event of Operation Blue Star happened in 1984. Under this operation, Indian army attached on the holiest place of Sikhs, “Golden Temple” to capture Sikhs whom Indian Army declared as terrorists and claimed that they are hiding weapons inside the temple as well. Many innocent Sikhs lost their lives. The level of brutality not only stopped at killing innocents but also disrespected the sentiments of the followers of this particular religion. A homeland that ought to be safe place for its residents became a threatening region. That’s why a huge number of Indian Sikhs migrated to other states like UK, Canada, Italy and US to seek a safe residence. The fight for the cause of Sikh’s rights is still going on, as there is a referendum on 18th September 2022, Toronto, Canada, in which high ratio of Sikh voters are expected to participate.

Massive genocide and extra-Judicial killings are the major tools of Modi regime against the Sikh community. To deal with all these unlawful activities, Sikh diaspora has organized itself into groups like “Sikhs for Justice (SFJ)” who are arranging referendum, holding protests and advocating Sikhs right at all possible platforms. Specifically for the Khalistan Referendum, Punjab Referendum Commission (PRC) has been designed to have free and fair voting for the basic demand. Through such representation, Sikhs are asking for a legal demand from India’s Modi regime. These organizational setup shows that Sikh community is well aware of its rights, and using the peaceful means to convey their message to the world. 

If India is real democracy and wants to be seen as democratic country, it should accept Sikh referendum results.  The result of referendum can always be leveraged in “Law fare domain” to ask India to hold an official referendum for the purpose.  Democracies are torch holder of freedom, human rights and their liberties. This behavior of India is not acceptable to be an example for the rest of aspiring democratic states where the Modi Regime is having genocidal designs against the specific communities. Khalistan Movement with the aspirations of a separate homeland is the legitimate demand of Sikh community. By overturning these movements and referendums, India is suppressing its minorities and violating their right to self-determination through peaceful means.

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South Asia

Why Pakistan is Swamped with Floods

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Starting mid-June 2022, flooding and landslides caused by heavy monsoon rainfall have brought widespread destruction across Pakistan. © WFP/Saiyna Bashir

Aside from the monsoon coming in waves leaving hapless Pakistan looking like an inland sea, Pakistan also has the mighty Indus serving as a spine and its huge tributaries fanning out through its most productive province of Punjab — the name itself meaning five waters.

The monsoon season is short so the fertile soil is irrigated by means of a network of canals feeding the province. The water is vital and thus the prospect of India building a dam at the head of any of these rivers without an equitable solution for sharing could lead to war.  As it is, the river Ravi runs almost dry as it reaches Lahore close to the Indian border. 

To return to the floods this year caused by an unusual phenomenon:  The normal course of the monsoon takes the moisture laden winds north from the Bay of Bengal, then unable to traverse the high Himalayas, they are pushed west along the foothills, shedding water as they rise all the way across India into Pakistan.  By the time they reach the latter, they have lost most of their moisture leaving Pakistan a very short rainy season … over the latter parts of August and early September.

Global warming has changed things.  This year the moisture laden air from the Bay of Bengal was hot enough to prevent precipitation, jamming it up against the Himalayas.  As more monsoon winds collected in the rear, these were forced on to an alternative route directly westwards, racing across the middle of India without impediment until the Hindu Kush mountains in Pakistan.  So it was that all the collected moisture got dumped on to Pakistan.  If this is a harbinger of the future under global warming, the rich croplands of Uttar Pradesh are in danger.  Do they also have irrigation canals in their future like the Punjab? 

Pakistan’s other source of moisture is the Arabian Sea, and this year a depression i.e. an intense low-pressure system settled in it bringing heavy rain to coastal provinces as early as June; all of which was exacerbated by extreme heat.  Temperatures in May soared as high as 51C in Jacobabad as an example.  Hotter air carries more moisture and this heatwave continued through April and May.  Moreover swollen rivers from greater glacial melt up high in the Himalayas have not helped. 

Pakistan thus must plan for the future.  Flood control measures are not unknown in the country, and perhaps an appropriately irrigated Balochistan could become another granary for the country — if only the politicians can stop quarreling long enough to listen to the cries of the flood victims.

Nettlesome politicians on both sides of the border, and the subcontinent sheds its tears in floods.  A tragedy if ever there was one.

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