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South Asia

Pakistan’s financial crisis puts Belt and Road on the spot

Dr. James M. Dorsey

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Increased Pakistani dependence on China to help it avert resorting to the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to avoid a financial and economic crisis spotlights fears that the terms of Chinese investment in massive Belt and Road-related projects would not pass international muster.

Concerns that China’s US$ 50 billion plus investment in Pakistani infrastructure and energy, the Belt and Road’s crown jewel dubbed the China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), potentially amounts to a debt trap, compound suggestions that Pakistan increasingly will have no choice but to toe Beijing’s line.

The concerns are reinforced by the vision spelled out in a draft plan for CPEC. The plan envisioned a dominant Chinese role In Pakistan’s economy as well as the creation of a Chinese style surveillance state and significant Chinese influence in Pakistani influence.

Pakistani officials, concerned that Chinese loans offer a band-aid rather than a structural solution, have cautioned China, in a bid to keep the People’s Republic committed to bailing them out, that CPEC projects would be at risk if their country was forced to seek help from the IMF.

The officials said that they would have to disclose the terms of CPEC projects if they are forced to revert to the IMF and that this could lead to projects being cancelled.

“Once the IMF looks at CPEC, they are certain to ask if Pakistan can afford such a large expenditure given our present economic outlook,” the Financial Times quoted a Pakistani official as saying.

China has so far been willing to bail Pakistan out with Chinese state-owned bank giving the South Asian country some $5 billion in loans in the last 12 months in addition to a US$1.5 billion trade facility.

Pakistan’s foreign currency reserves plunged to US$9.66 billion last month from US$16.4 billion in May 2017.

Pakistani efforts to avert a crisis could not come at a more sensitive moment with elections scheduled for July 25. Political tension in the country were heightened this week by the sentencing to prison on corruption charges of ousted prime minister Nawaz Sharif and his daughter, Maryam, as well as the likely participation of a large number of Islamic militants in the polls.

To make things worse, China last month did not try to shield Pakistan from being grey-listed by the Financial Action Task Force (FATF), an international anti-money laundering and terrorism watchdog. that threatens to impair the country’s access to international financial markets.

Pakistan is struggling to avoid being blacklisted by the group.

Pakistani concern about disclosing terms of CPEC projects, even if it may involve a degree of opportunistic hyperbole, reinforces widespread worries in the country itself as well as in the international community that Chinese-funded Belt and Road projects put recipients at risk of walking into a debt trap and losing control of some of their key assets.

Malaysia this week suspended China-backed projects worth more than US$20 billion on the grounds that many made no financial sense. The projects included a railway and two pipelines.

China has written off an undisclosed amount of Tajik debt in exchange for ceding control of some 1,158 square kilometres of disputed territory close to the Central Asian nation’s border with the troubled north-western Chinese province of Xinjiang. Sri Lanka, despite public protests, was forced to give China a major stake in its port of Hambantota.

Pakistan and Nepal withdrew last November from two dam-building deals. The withdrawal coincided with mounting questions in Pakistan about what some saw as a neo-colonial effort to extract the country’s resources.

A report published in March by the Washington-based Center for Global Development warned that 23 of the 68 countries benefitting from Belt and Road investments were “significantly or highly vulnerable to debt distress.”

The centre said eight of the 23 countries – Pakistan, Tajikistan, Djibouti, Kyrgyzstan, Laos. the Maldives, Mongolia, and Montenegro, Pakistan, and Tajikistan – were particularly at risk.

Djibouti already owes 82 percent of its foreign debt to China while China is expected to account for 71% of Kyrgyz debt as Belt and Road-related projects are implemented.

“There is…concern that debt problems will create an unfavourable degree of dependency on China as a creditor. Increasing debt, and China’s role in managing bilateral debt problems, has already exacerbated internal and bilateral tensions in some BRI (Belt and Road initiative) countries,” the report said.

With analysts predicting that China will ultimately be unable to stabilize Pakistan financially, Pakistan is ultimately likely to have to revert to the IMF in a move that could seriously impact the Belt and Road initiative, widely perceived as an infrastructure driven effort to cement Chinese economic and geopolitical influence across a swath of land that stretches from South-eastern Europe and the Atlantic coast of Africa to the People’s Republic.

Analysts estimate that Pakistan this year needs US$ 25-28 billion to service its debt and ensure investor confidence in its ability to put its financial house in order. An IMF technical assistance team this week concluded a week-long visit to Pakistan.

Said one analyst: “Ultimately, the IMF is Pakistan’s only option. If an IMF-imposed regime has consequences for BRI (Belt and Road Initiative) projects, it could impact perceptions of the terms China imposes.”

Dr. James M. Dorsey is a senior fellow at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies, co-director of the University of Würzburg’s Institute for Fan Culture, and the author of The Turbulent World of Middle East Soccer blog, a book with the same title, Comparative Political Transitions between Southeast Asia and the Middle East and North Africa, co-authored with Dr. Teresita Cruz-Del Rosario and three forthcoming books, Shifting Sands, Essays on Sports and Politics in the Middle East and North Africaas well as Creating Frankenstein: The Saudi Export of Ultra-conservatism and China and the Middle East: Venturing into the Maelstrom.

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South Asia

The haunting Karo-Kari culture in Pakistan’s Sindh province

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Rural women of a nearby village passing through a graveyard where hundreds of Karis are burried

In the desolated land of district Ghotki in Pakistan’s Sindh province, which is comprising of sand dunes, barren fields and mounds of many destroyed settlements of yesteryears/past, hundreds of unfortunate women are buried who have been killed by any male member of their families in the name of honor. Tattered clothes and footwear of women, scattered human bones everywhere and a deep silence state that there are so many tragic untold stories of women who are killed for being Karis (dishonored) have been associated with this no man’s land. It is locally known as ‘The valley of witches’ so that people can be restricted from coming here and knowing the truth.

A local namely Rasool Bux tells an incident which happened to him a long ago here, ‘During my childhood, I once was passing through this place and saw that a flock of wild dogs was eating something mercilessly. I first thought that it could be a dead animal but when I saw the clothes on the dead body came to know that it’s a woman who might be buried by someone here and dogs had dig out the dead body. The blood curdling scene had made me seriously ill and for many days I was not in position to eat, talk or even walk. My parents thought that I had seen a witch but that was a woman’s dead body.’  

Besides this valley of witches, in Deh Pooh’s Mehar Shah graveyard, a large number of Karis (women killed in the name honor) are buried in a separate corner and an aged woman has been performing here the duty of Mujawari (care taker) for years. She daily comes early in the morning, fills water in water pitchers, cleans graves/graveyard with broom and goes back to her home before sunset. She says ‘My only loving daughter was declared as Kari and killed by her husband and father in law. She is buried here in that corner (she pointed her finger toward south-west corner) since that day I have been coming here to meet and take care of my unfortunate daughter. This is the last hope behind my existence.’

Next to it is Fatu Shaheed graveyard which is situated 7 kilometers away in south from Reti Railway Station. In Deh Derawaro, Gharho Pir and Pir Mehboob graveyards are also notorious as they all have separate corners for Karis. From the walking distance of the Kun Waro Qabarustan in Deh Pooh, hundreds of Karis are buried on a desolated sand dune. Once, a Hindu priest (Bhopa) was also caught red handed from here who was trying to carry a bagfilled with human bones. He also affirmed that this was his second effort of the same type and he had dig out hundreds of graves of women for using their bones in black magic.

At some distance from this point, in Deh Chacharki’s Lundi Wara Luk area many Karis are buried which also include those educated mother and daughter, who revolted against the unfairness of their male family members on a property matter and were cruelly tortured and finally killed by their own male blood relatives after declaring them as Karis. According to a local who was the eyewitness of the incident ‘They first shackled the hands of both women in a jeep, dragged them from home to here at this spot and then buried them without any funeral services.’

Hundreds of women are killed in the name of honor in Sindh province every year and shockingly there happens no registration of FIR (First Information Report) by the Police against the killers because the police couldn’t find any clue and witness about murderers or even the whereabouts of dead bodies. Most of the cases remain unreported so the majority of the culprits remain safe. There is also involvement and pressure of local feudal lords (locally called Wadheras/Sardars in Sindhi language) in continuation of this negative social custom which have destroyed thousands of households in the province. 

In a Karo-Kari case, mostly women suffer and men remain safe from being murdered. This happens because often the intensions behind declaring a couple, Karo happen to be financial and property related matters. Nobody takes any further efforts to prove those allegations ‘false’ because there happens no hearing or following of case after the murder of a Kari woman.

The height of our social backwardness can be measured from this Sindhi language phrase ‘Wadhi ya Kadhi’ means ‘slaughter or kick out’ which is considered as a powerful reply of a man when he finds that his woman has done anything wrong or betrayed him in a relationship. Kicking a woman out means giving her divorce which does not occur in most of the cases of Karo-Kari. Arranging a Jirga is the second and last part of this deplorable practice in which alleged man is pressurized to pay for the unproven guilt.

The women who get divorce from their men are handed over to relative Sardar’s palace for serving but in most of the cases they are sold by the local Sardars and powerful landlords and those who don’t get any buyer keep bearing the brunt for rest of their lives. According to a retired servant of a Sardar in upper Sindh(who requests to remain anonymous) his master/Sardar had sold around 2 dozen such women for approximately 5,000,000during his tenure of performing duties at his palace.

This is also a fact that for killing alleged Kari women, services of masters in this business are obtained. There are many such expert killers involved in honor killings in Sindh’s Ghotki, Jacobabad and Kashmore districts who have killed more than 10 women in Karo-Kari. A local tells ‘My uncle was famous in the area as an expert of honor killings as he alone killed more than 25 women throughout his nearly 100 years’ life. People came to him for such matters and he used to do that very easily for a little amount of money.’

Now since the state has been taking some action against such unlawful killings of deprived women and pressure of non-governmental agencies working to defend women’s rights starting to build up, the murderers have become adroit/clever and changed the modus-operandi of such killings. They now, first trace the desolated place and then kill the Kari women by expunging all the identities of the deceased. There is also another technique being used nowadays that is tying a stone to the neck of dead body and throw it in river/water body.

There is still a need that the awakened minds of the society must kick off an effective and decisive campaign against such social culprits in order to save the daughters of the Eve from the wildest humans of the social order because it’s the only way out to change the muted mindset of this society.

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South Asia

One year Siege of Kashmir

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Women walking past Indian security forces in Srinagar, summer capital of the Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir. Nimisha Jaiswal/IRIN

It has been one year, that 900,000 troops deployed in Jammu and Kashmir to impose a strict curfew. Indian trained troops used excessive powers and draconian laws to suppress the legitimate movement for self-determination, United Nation Security Council (UNSC) has provided them in 1948. India is denying their legal right and defaulter of the UNSC for 72 years.

The situation became worst, when India unilaterally annexed Jammu, Kashmir, and Ladakh, on the 5th of August 2019, revoking the Indian Constitution, the UN Charter, and bilateral Shimla Agreement. Changed the special autonomous status of the J&K and Ladakh and merged as a union territory.

There was widespread criticism inside India as well as globally. The intellectuals, Scholars, moderate politicians, and opposition political; parties criticized this decision as warned the severe consequences.

UN, International community, EU, US, and global NGOs also criticized and condemned the serious violations of Human Rights and Violations of freedom of religion. Kashmiris, around the world, are protesting and agitating against the Indian Government’s action in Kashmir.

It is one of the longest and largest curfews in the known human history. Indian troops are killing, torturing, kidnapping, detain, and raping the unarmed civilians. Damaging their properties, destroying their business, burning their agriculture, forcing them to give up their legitimate demand for self-determination. UNSC resolutions are legally binding on India to implement, but till date, India is denying.

The 87% of the population in J&K is Muslims, if plebiscite happens, the Muslims will vote for a merger with Pakistan. India due to this fear is delaying the plebiscite. On the other hand, India is issuing domicile to Hindus from other parts of India to settle in Kashmir. Special incentives are offered to Hindus from other parts of India to shift to Kashmir and settle down. Lucrative jobs are offered to non-Kashmiris, business incentives are extended to non-Kashmiris, Property &Agri-land, are offered to non-Kashmiris on priority. India is using all dirty tricks to change the demography of J&K. India wanted to change the Muslim majority status of J&K.

Recently, under a conspiracy, the Indian government sent 60,000 well trained, well equipped RSS youths into J&K, intending to kill the Muslims. Indian troops are shifting the Kashmiri youths to detention camps, which is an advanced stage of genocide. The well trained and well equipped RSS-youth are tasked to conduct a genocide of Muslims in Kashmir.

The people of Kashmir are under siege for one year, and strict curfew has created a shortage of food, fuel, electricity, and medicines. People’s lives are at stake, many are starving with hunger. Young kids are the worst-hit victims. Women are raped as a tool and weapon to humiliate and degrade them.

Indian has surpassed all records of Human Rights violations in the history of humankind. The Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, and other NGOs have reported all such violations. Although, there is a complete cut-off of J&K from the rest of the world, as mobile phones and internet services are suspended. There is a travel ban on Media and foreigners to enter J&K. Yet, a fraction of information is leaked to World Media.

Pakistan is obliged to extend its moral, diplomatic and political support to suppressed people of Kashmir. Pakistan is raising the J&K issue at all platforms including the UN. International media is reporting the situation in Kashmir. Yet the International community is silent, is beyond our understanding. May be the International community is waiting till the genocide happened to them they rush for photo-session, making videos, and making reports.

It is strongly appealed to the International community and civilized world and individuals with human consciousness, to act now to rescue human lives in Kashmir. Prompt action is required urgently to save human lives in Kashmir. Any delay might make us repent later on.

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South Asia

Banning Books

Hidayat Ullah

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From abducting civilians and journalist’s to banning books, there lies a bewildered dystopia. A Punjab Assembly board has chosen to boycott appropriation of three books by various writers, other than a day by day paper, and start lawful activity against in excess of hundred online networking IDs for supposedly containing irreverent substance. The Special Committee-6, which met at the get together secretariat here on Thursday under the seat of Law Minister Muhammad Basharat Raja, chose to boycott distribution as well as dissemination of The First Muslim and After the Prophet, the two works by outside creator Lesley Hazleton, and History of Islam by Mazharul Haq. The melancholic history of burning and banning Books has its roots back to when the Chinese emperor Shih Haung Ti buried alive 460 Confucian scholars to control the writings of History in his time. In 212 B.C, he burned all the books in his kingdom retaining only a single copy of each for the royal library. In the case of Pakistan, ideas of intellectuals that are allowed into the mainstream are sublimated through the meniscus of state ideology.

This truly depicts the Fascistphysiognomy and preconceptions of this totalitarian and authoritarian government lead by Imran khan. The so called intelligent morons of this land of pures and the harbingers of single curriculum had vanished the critical voices from the discourse of History. The decision of banning books reminds me of the Nazi’s in Germany when in 1930, they organized book-banning ceremonies. Books considered to be against the intrigues of the “Father land” were set on fire by the followers of supra Nationalist Adolf Hitler. Now, officials claiming that thousands of books are being banned in Punjab. This is the result of the critical nexus between the Military and religious establishment whose pre-eminence is to breed the politics of hate, repression, racism and misogyny.

The prosperous and democratic nation’s of the world disbanded the matters of extremism, Fanaticism and racism and we in the 21st century are banning books to get rid of un Islamic and anti Pakistani content. Instead of banning Books, we should have banned the dystopian elements and instead of following Hitler we should have followed the ideologies of Voltaire, Rene Descartes and Thomas Hobbes. Since 25 July 2018, this selected government has ruined the country in every way possible. The Punjab government in order to let people forget about their callous and incompetent policies decided to ban more than hundred books for having the picture of pig. As predicted by Pakistan’s renowned physicist and columnist DR. Pervez Hood boy earlier this week. He said and I quoted “ be prepared, Pakistan! Imran Khan’s government is poised to inflict damage upon this country’s Education system in a manner never seen before”.

The stage is all set for propelling the country into instability, turmoil and chaos. The maximalist behavior of this regime has hurt the social life of masses. Instead of erasing the male practices from society, the government looks more concerned about removing critical voices from the curriculum. The victims of Pakistan studies wants everyone to fall in their category. Banning books wouldn’t help in propagating the state’s Fascist ideology. It will further reveal the filthy and acrimonious attitude of the tyrants. Here in Pakistan Islam is not in danger because of tiktok andbooks accused of containing blasphemous and anti Pakistani content but what is more menacing is sectarianism, extremism and terrorism. Therefore instead of adding fuel to the fire, the authorities responsible should halt all these social and ethical evils that are plaguing the society. So in order to make this country a democratic one this system of repression and suppressing freedom of speech and freedom of expression must be ended.  Believing in miracles is the biggest miracle as an enlightenment philosopher lament’s, so looking for a miracle in case of this land of pures. In essence and to cut this debate short, the decision needs to be looked upon and allowing full freedom to the citizens will yield better results.

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