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The Rising of Pashtun Tahafuz Movement: Timings and Reasons Behind

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The politicians, in general, welcomed the decision of apex committee to hold talks with Manzoor Pashteen, the face of Pashtoon Tahafuz Movement, despite all his unparliamentarily language as this is how democracy and life works. The jirga was founded under the supervision of KP Governor Zafar Iqbal Jhagra and had the support of the military leadership which presumes that some of the demands of the Pakhtun Tahaffuz Movement are genuine and they need to be addressed within the framework of the constitution of Pakistan.

In contrast, one of the PTM leader Mohsin Dawar tweeted that the time is not right for the negotiations. The tweet further said that “PTM participated in a Jirga called by Pukhtoon elders for negotiations. The PTM has asked for some time before it responds to the Jirga. During this time, PTM will consult with its ‘supporters’ and also deliberate upon the fact that who exactly PTM should negotiate with However, PTM believes that the current atmosphere is not ideal for negotiations…”

This statement from PTM raises many suspicions on the adherence and veracity of the whole movement. Jirga was called by the Pashtun elders, meaning by their own people. The foregoing raises an automatic question as to who are these supporters with whom the PTM leadership has to seek advice from. Making it all murkier was a social media video from PTM’s Lahore jalsa which showed the jalsa mediators not allowing the Pakistan national flag inside the jalsa premises and raising anti state &anti institutions slogans instead. This show of anti-nationalism has taken away many liberal supporters from this movement while Manzoor was held accountable publically on this act of betrayal on his count. Negotiations are a must in any political struggle. And their avoiding of this opportunity actually brings to light their hidden intentions.

Initially, Manzoor Pashteen and PTM demanded the immediate arrest of former SSP Rao in the murder case of a Pashtun youth, Naqeebullah Mehsud, in Karachi. But with the passage of time, PTM gained momentum and their demands increased. Removal of landmines, information about missing individuals and reconciliation was demanded in their Lahore rally. What raised the alarm bells in minds was PTM’s demand to seek an international guarantee if the state of Pakistan decides to negotiate with them, and signs an agreement.

There is an enormous war of words going on in the social media between Pashteen’s friends and those who are skeptical to his real intentions and his ever increasing demands. Some pictures of Pashteen have been shared from the year 2016 where he is seen holding Pashtunistan flag. These pictures were published in “Pashtun Times” which is a news site hosted in the United States.

Eagle-eyeing the supporters of PTM, there are doubts that movement has embarked upon an agenda which is more than Pashtun rights and welfare. Peshawar Corps Commander Lt Gen Nazir Butt expressed deep reservations that the anti-state slogans being chanted by PTM are being exploited by those foreign powers which were unhappy with the return of peace and stability in the region. Pakistan’s high echelons though realize that there are some genuine grievances of local Pashtun population and it is important to engage their leadership however, strategic community also continue to see the NDS and RAW attempting to use these grievances for larger regional agenda. And these suspicions are supported by solid reasons.

The diplomat reported Qari Saifullah- an afghan militant, in an exclusive interview, affirming that some local Afghan government officials turn a blind eye to the militants by, for example, not hindering their crossing into Pakistan. At least one other source however claimed that local Afghan officials do more and support such TTP groups with money and weapons also. The fact that Ustad Fateh of TTP was residing in the remote Chawgam area of Afghanistan’s Kunar district, who was later killed in a drone strike had staged cross-border incursions at least every month or so, in particular into the Pakistani tribal agency of Bajaur, adds weight to Saifullah’s claim. Linkage of Qari Fateh has also been established to the suicide bomber, who on February 3 blew himself up in the Swat valley of Pakistan, claiming the lives of at least 11 Pakistani Army soldiers, as reported by Reuters.

Franz Marty says that though Pakistani belief about RAW (Indian intelligence agency),and the Afghan intelligence agency, NDS nurturing the TTP group and others, could not gain much traction or international attention, still allegations of involvement of intelligence services should be treated with suspicion, especially in this part of the world which is rife with conspiracy theories.

The twitter trend shows that a huge chunk of foreign support Pashtun Movement is enjoying comes mainly from the Afghan and Indian diaspora or sponsored interest groups sitting abroad. Most of whom are engaged in a psychological war, fueling the info net with cropped information and videos from old times, deliberating them to Pashtuns. Recent was the Afghan Cultural Attaché in Washington’s embassy. Mr. Majeed Qarar was seen exhibiting selective outrage against violations of human rights. He is neither concerned about the horrendous crimes against humanity being committed in Afghanistan by the Afghan National Army and allies nor is he bothered with Indian brutality in Indian Occupied Kashmir. Although his words are not taken seriously in the journalists’ world where he is regarded as a racist psychopath who has little respect for the dignity of his title. However, this episode has compelled the Afghan Ministry of Foreign Affairs to draft a composite social media usage policy for its staff.

This all is coming at a time when Pakistan army has buried Taliban in the mountains away from Pakistan and is working fervently with their proposed border management system. With the fencing all over the Pak-Afghan border the Taliban’s threat of coming back into Pakistan from Afghanistan will be dealt with once and for all. The process will be difficult and hard but once done, a mechanism will be evolved to facilitate trade between Pak-Afghan border, believes the corps commander Lt Gen Nazir Ahmad Butt. He added that the government is determined to address the genuine problems of tribesmen and ensure that they get livelihood sources at their doorsteps. And majority of Pashtuns believe in what he said.

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South Asia

The Dysfunctional Pakistan’s Legislature

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The legislature of Pakistan has several problems and because of this very reason governments are unable to make any landmark laws for the state that can prove to be effective in resulting some socio-political or economic changes in the society. The noncooperation among the parties in the house is the major problem that leads no healthy debate. People have never seen the political parties having a healthy debate among the political parties on some key matters that need to address. Political parties prefer crosstalk on each other that mostly ends up on the dismal of legislature. Mostly in the house the opposition and the party in power never each on consensus on anything that shows their no seriousness towards the legislation.

 In my opinion the opposition of Pakistan perceives its role to be negative always. The opposition perceives as their duty to walk out from the house, make fun of their fellow colleagues, bringing our historical facts to propagate negativity about the agenda. This attitude results in no fruitful law-making.

The scenario of national assembly of Pakistan is that if the ruling party does not has two-third majority in the house they will be paralyzed as the opposition has imagines role of not supporting the government to pass laws and bills that can benefit their reputation among the public. In this game of interest the parties forget the importance of legislation and national interest rather they are more focused on protecting their own interests and interests of their political parties.

The tussle between the government and the opposition is endless that is negatively impacting the legislative system of Pakistan.

Another factor that weakens the legislative process of Pakistan is the issues within the upper house. This plays a vital role in enacting the laws without senate’s cooperation legislation cannot improve and strength.

 The sustained bitterness and confrontation with the government and opposition leads to no progress in the making of legislation and strengthening the rule of law. For example the PTI coalition passed the bills and introduced 8 ordinances in its first year of government.

The ten bills passed by national assembly faced a new challenge which was the Senate of Pakistan where PTI also does not hold the majority. Ten out of 4 bills sailed through Senate whereas 3 remained pending in Senate. Only 7 bills turned into acts in the first year of PTI government.

The lack of coordination and seriousness in the parliament is affecting the progress of Pakistan. Without rules and making of new legislation how can the country progress? In a democratic system the rule of law is one of the pillars for true democratic practices but unfortunately in Pakistan we only see leg-pulling and blame game between the institutions.  The lack of political consensus among the parties is another problem. On the other hand the formation of Standing Committees of national assembly is important for the functioning of the system. According to the Rules of Procedure of national assembly the members of Standing Committees has to be elected within 30 days after the elections of the leader of house but according to the data of PILDAT previous assembly managed to form these in 3 months instead of 30 days. This indicated lack of seriousness of the members.

The current government has only got the executive authority and not the legislative competence that makes them dysfunctional as they are dependent on the opposition and then Senate for passing of the legislation and making it a law.

Another factor that weakens the legislative system of Pakistan is the overactive judiciary and the intervention of the military in law making. Through this intervention the legacy of the military rule is still being kept alive. Most of the time the Supreme Court and the judiciary intervene in the legislation to serve their interest and weaken their opponents sitting in the government. The overactive judiciary encroaches the governance agenda, legislative advice etc. the legislative procedure in Pakistan is still developing its institutional identity.

The duty of the legislature is to respond to its public needs and also exercise oversight of the executive, but there is not engagement in the civil society and no research is being conducted on the public policy for better and effective policy making.

In the end it can be concluded that the system is also faulty but the attitude of the parliamentarians is more disappointing and discouraging. The whole system is unsuitable for a less educated population of Pakistan as most of the parliamentarians are unaware of policy-making and its importance for the state. The process is also complex and complicated as it has to go through several steps for making a bill a law.

Through this process, law-making on controversial issues is nearly impossible because in Pakistan people protect their interest instead of their state. Even if the government is serious for law-making the judiciary, military and bureaucracy will not allow the government to do its job. This is high time to adopt a new system in this country and draw lines for every institutions particularly judiciary that is the most rigid institutions and creates hurdles for every government by interrupting them.

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Reinforcing the Role of the International Community in Resolving the Rohingya Crisis

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A young Rohingya girl holds her brother outside a youth club in Cox's Bazar, Bangladesh. © UNHCR/Vincent Tremeau

Bangladesh is hosting more than 1.1 million Rohingya refugees since August 2017. The United Nations defined Myanmar’s August 2017 atrocities to the Rohingyas as “Textbook case of ethnic cleansing”. On July 02, 2018, during his visit to Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh, António Guterres, the UN Secretary-General noted that “I have no doubt that the Rohingya people have always been one of, if not the, most discriminated people in the world, without any recognition of the most basic rights starting by the recognition of the right of citizenship by their own country – Myanmar”. Thus, the severity of the Rohingya crisis is well-recognized by the international community. This article focuses on the necessity of the international community’s role in facilitating a safe and sustainable Rohingya crisis solution.

The ironic story is that though it is already three years passed, no concrete action is manifested to facilitate the Rohingya refugee repatriation. In the United Nations Security Council, Russia and China applied veto power in the case of Rohingya refugee resolution, which made strong impediments to the repatriation process. Russia and China did this calculating their narrowly defined interest rather than humanity which is in fact, ironic for the world. Thus, the United Nations could not play a crucial role in facilitating the Rohingya refugee repatriation.

Bangladesh is one of the densely populated countries in the world. Though Bangladesh is a rising economic power, feeding more than 170 million people is not an easy task. Also, more than 1.1 million Rohingya refugees have added extra socio-economic pressures in the country. For Bangladesh’s continued growth, prosperity, and stability, there is no alternative to repatriate the Rohingya refugees in Myanmar as early as possible. Since Myanmar committed ethnic cleansing to the Rohingyas, and the country is not interested in taking back the Rohingyas, only the international community including the United Nations, the European Union, the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) can pressurize Myanmar to ensure a safe and sustainable repatriation.

Bangladesh strongly believes that the international community can play an essential role in resolving the Rohingya refugee crisis permanently. For instance, at the 72nd United Nations General Assembly, Sheikh Hasina, the Prime Minister of Bangladesh, offered five points proposal including the full implementation of recommendations of the Kofi Annan Commission, and the establishment of civilian monitored safe zone in the Rakhine State to the international community to resolve the issue. Similarly, at the 74th Session of the United Nations General Assembly, Sheikh Hasina offered a four points-proposal to resolve the Rohingya crisis highlighting the role of the international community. Sheikh Hasina emphasized that the international community must ensure that the root causes of the Rohingya problem area addressed and the violation of human rights and other atrocity crimes committed against the Rohingyas are accounted for.

The good news is that the on November 19, 2020, the United Nations has adopted a resolution on “The Situation of Human Rights of the Rohingya Muslims and other minorities in Myanmar” while Bangladesh seeks a peaceful solution to the Rohingya crisis. The Resolution called for taking concrete actions by Myanmar to address the root causes of the Rohingya crisis, i.e. granting them citizenship, ensuring the safe and sustainable return of the Rohingyas to their homes by creating a conducive environment. Bangladesh Permanent Representative to the UN Ambassador Rabab Fatima notes that “As a country that hosts over 1.1 million forcibly displaced Rohingyas, Bangladesh continues to seek a peaceful solution to this crisis, which lies in their safe and dignified return to Myanmar”.

Notably, Germany on behalf of the European Union and Saudi Arabia on behalf of the OIC co-tabled the Resolution which was sponsored by the 104 member states including the USA, Canada, and Australia. It is also a positive development that a total of 132 countries voted in favour of the Resolution while nine countries voted against and 31 countries abstained. It demonstrates that most of the countries in the world want a permanent, sustainable and peaceful solution to the Rohingya crisis. It also signifies that these countries care for the humanity while the nine countries who voted against the Resolution only care for their narrowly defined interest. The future generations will undoubtedly read and know the actions of those nine countries who do not care for humanity. Those nine countries need to know that despite several domestic challenges, Sheikh Hasina has shown kindness, humanitarian gesture and thus protected and sheltered those Rohingyas from killing by the Myanmar armies.

Notably, Bangladesh is one of the top ten countries in the world in terms of hosting refugees. This will remain as a humanitarian example in the world. One also needs to keep in mind that the socio-economic realities of Turkey (who is the top in hosting refugees), and Bangladesh is not the same. While the GDP (per capita) of Turkey is US$ 9043, Bangladesh’s GDP (per capita) is US$ 1856, the population density of Turkey is 108 per square kilometres, and Bangladesh’s population density is 1116 per square kilometres. Thus, considering the contexts, and socio-economic realities of Bangladesh, the international community needs to reinforce the Rohingya refugee repatriation process. Most importantly, the international community needs to execute the adopted Resolution as early as possible for the sake of humanity, for the sake of a just cause. The future world will certainly note the noble actions taken by the international community for such a just, and reasonable cause.

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South Asia

India shocked by Pentagon’s new map on Kashmir: It does not show the disputed state as India’s integral part

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Despite being a nuclear power, Pakistan did not retaliate to India’s “surgical strikes” and “annexation” of the disputed Jammu and Kashmir State in its official maps. A general impression was that India’s acts of aggression enjoyed the US backing. . What lent credence to this “impression” was that Trump administration was brazenly supporting India as a proxy against China. Bonhomie on Kashmir was a quid pro quo to India for her strategic alliance with the USA against China.

As a US proxy, India endorsed US positions on Belt-Road Initiative, South China and East China Sea, Indo-Pacific Ocean, as well as, on trade and aid.

India propagated unfounded canards about China’s expansionism. One such canard, denounced by US secretary of state Pompeo, was that China used microwave oven weapons to push back Indians from hilltops at Pagang Tso. Another fake news was that China had created a village, close to Doklam, within Bhutan. This self-defeating news overlooks the fact that Indians are already are there in Bhutan ostensibly to train Bhutanese officials in space research and launching a space satellite next year.

US still considers Kashmir a disputed state

In September 2020, the Pentagon (US Department of Defense) shocked India by releasing a report titled “2020 China Military Power Report” to the US Congress. This report `showed the Indian map with Pakistan controlled Kashmir as being part of Pakistan while Aksai Chin was shown as a separate entity (Shocker for India, Pentagon cedes Kashmir to Pakistan. gifts Aksai Chin to China in New Map, Eurasian Times, November 2020).

Saudi Arabia also rebuffs India

On October 24, 2020, Saudi Arabia released a 20-riyal bank note to celebrate hosting of G-20 Summit. The note displayed a world map showing Kashmir as an independent country. Neither Saudi Arabia nor the USA altered their maps despite protests by India.

USA’s official position on Kashmir: Kashmir disputed, Plebiscite necessary

Obviously, the USA regards Kashmir as a disputed territory.  In the past also, India tried unsuccessfully to convince the USA that Kashmir was an integral part of India, but, in vain. At India’s behest, US Congressman Stephen Solarz elicited the statement from Bush-administration high-level diplomat, John H. Kelly, that plebiscite was no longer possible in Kashmir. But, the US Pointman on South Asia had to retract the forced confession. Here is an extract of Solarz’s grilling questions and the gullible answers thereto.

Mr. Solarz: What is the position of the United States with respect to whether there should be a plebiscite?

Mr. Kelly: First of all we believe that Kashmir is disputed territory…

Mr. Solarz: Well, how did we vote upon that resolution at the U.N. back in 1949?

Mr. Kelly: In favor, Mr. Chairman.

Mr. Solarz:  Right. So at that time we favored a plebiscite. Do we still favor a plebiscite, or not? Or is it our position now that whether or not there should be a plebiscite is a matter, which should be determined bilaterally between India and Pakistan?

Mr. Kelly:  Basically, that’s right, Mr. Chairman.

Mr. Solarz:  So we are no longer urging a plebiscite be held?

Mr. Kelly:  That’s right.

US retracts statement `Kelly misspoke’

To India’s chagrin, John R. Mallot, the US State Department’s point man for South Asia in 1993, corrected Kelly’s faux pas. He told the House Foreign Affairs Sub-Committee on Asia and the Pacific on April 28, 1993 that John Kelly ‘misspoke’ in 1990 when he said that the United States no longer believed a plebiscite was necessary in South Asia. Mallot clarified that Kelly made his comment after ‘continued grilling’ by the panel’s (pro-India) chairman, Stephen J. Solarz of New York.

Avid readers may refer to Solarz-Kelly conversation and corrective policy action taken by the US State Department in Robert G. Wiring’s book India, Pakistan, and the Kashmir Dispute, published by Macmillan Press Limited, London in 1994. They may also see Mushtaqur  Rehman’s Divided Kashmir: Old Problems, New Opportunities for India, Pakistan and the Kashmiri People (London, Lynne Reinner Publishers, London, 1996, pp. 162-163).

Conclusion

Kashmir is a simmering nuclear tinderbox. There is no UNO resolution incorporating India’s volte face that India-occupied Kashmir has acceded to India through the so-called state assembly’s resolution.  Till recently, the USA viewed Kashmir as a disputed state and offered mediation. Aside from Trump’s mumbo-jumbo, there does not appear to be an iota of change in US official policy on Kashmir.

Despite lapse of over 70 years, India has not fulfilled its promise of a plebiscite in Kashmir.  India’s attitude negates the cardinal principles in inter-state relations, that is, pacta sunt servanda `treaties are to be observed’ and are binding upon signatories.  The UN observers are still on duty on the line of actual control.  They submit annual report to the UN’s secretary general.  This report identifies Kashmir as an international problem.  Kashmir question is an unresolved question on UN agenda.

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