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Pakistan: Possible Challenges to Newly Elected Government and Way Forward

Fateh Najeeb Bhatti

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“The best example of democracy I can recall is five wolves sitting down to dinner with one sheep”

Charles De Montesquieu once whispered this about the concept of good governance within the democratic governments which sets the first-rate rule for any government in any part of the world even in modern days. After going through the process of elections, majority of Pakistanis have given their consensus in the favor of PTI led by Imran Khan to make efforts for the future of Pakistan. Although, there have been allegations of pre-poll and post- poll rigging but despite these factors PTI has emerged as a powerful political party with its schema of corruption free and  educated Pakistan. Since many years, PTI was struggling hard to enter into power corridors with majority of youth, overseas Diaspora and people backing it fed up with old-style political forces of country such as PML (N), PPP, ANP and few religious parties, though some might disagree. This time PTI was able to attain the mandatory number of seats to form a government at federal level. PTI entered into electoral process with the manifesto of fetching change in almost every sphere of Pakistani society and government functioning. Along with fortifying mandate it has inherited certain challenges at domestic and international front. People are expectant of drastic changes and hopes are very high from newly elected government. But, the real mettle of PTI will be determined through how and whether it will be able to combat all these challenges.

First and top most contest is dealing with the issue of accusations of rigging. A transparent body without the involvement of ECP and other alleged institutions should be setup to remove the grievances and resentment of disparate parties. Once the misgivings are cleared out, it will boost the morale of PTI rule in general public as well as opposition parties which lost in voting. PTI Chairperson Imran khan while delivering his speech after election victory has shown commitment to resolve all issues inside country and foreign relations with comprehensive approach which ostensibly is a very good beginning. PM elect Imran Khan has clearly identified areas which require leadership’s special consideration as they have been lingering on since years with no concrete improvement in the due course of history.

On the domestic front, the government has to tackle the issue of failing economy. National exchequer is out of balance currently. Rupee is suffering from degradation in comparison to the US dollar. Foreign reserves are extremely less and national debts are increasing at a rapid pace. Imbalance of exports and imports is further deteriorating the state of affairs. GDP proportion is also not very decent which is highlighting low productivity. Different sectors like agriculture, services and industrial segments are showing alarming situation. Pakistan frequently relies on foreign aid and contributions even in making its annual budget to run state affairs. Karachi being the commercial hub of Pakistan’s economy needs special concentration because the situation there affects the entire country. This practice has to be stopped else national prestige will be lost with no control over autonomously policy making.

Good governance is among other issues to be dealt with by the expert, knowledgeable and honest crew. Former government faced heavy criticism of corruption, malpractices, nepotism and lack of transparency in ingesting and provision of development funds. Domestic law and order situation is not very good. Crimes, terrorist attacks and functioning of police and other law enforcement agencies has been dubious. Human rights desecrations are being unheeded e.g., child abuse, abduction, rape and restraining freedom of expression have become routine perils of the society with no feeling of shame. Constitutional loopholes and patronage of miscreants by powerful elites add fuel to fire in such cases. Moral standards of society need to be up stretched to curtail such malevolent activities. Rulers themselves set the examples for the masses to follow. These can only be rooted out via terminating discernment and safeguarding supremacy of law.

The pursuit of national cohesion can only be attained by giving due consideration to the real problems including mainstreaming of neglected areas and attending to dispiriting ethnic conflicts. The terrains falling into the government jurisdiction must have national deliberation so that nobody should feel isolated and neglected in national growth. FATA and Baluchistan need special attention in contemporary scenario as they have been habitually ignored by the preceding governments. Until the root causes of their glitches are not understood, no effort would succeed. Conditions in interior Sindh and Baluch belt of Baluchistan and South Punjab are not pleasing.

Sectarian violence is another major issue which needs to be synchronized on priority basis. Dissimilar religious sects get involved in hate speeches thus invoking illiterate masses to use violent means to pursue their objectives. A board comprising of Ullamas of all sects can define an acceptable strategy to curb this hazard. Likewise rights of minorities especially Christians, Hindus and Ahmadis should not be allowed to be violated. They are all Pakistanis and they should be given full right to practice their religion according to the constitution. Instability and ferocity only occurs when the rights of certain communities or individuals are not rewarded accordingly. Political stability is the dire need of Pakistan along with eliminating institutional tug of war to undermine each other. This government has to knob this sensitive issue carefully to dislodge the institutional distrust and to be able to move on to the road of progress and prosperity with collective national wisdom.

In terms of external relations Pakistan should not compromise at any price on its national stature and sovereignty. Kashmir and Afghanistan issues have occupied majority of our policies emphasis .The solution of these issues is very important for Pakistan’s own stability and solidarity. In this context, ties with neighboring countries like India and Afghanistan should be swatted. In this nuclear age no country can afford war. This is an age of peaceful co-existence. Though international communal has not done needful to resolve these matters, South Asian nations themselves have to reconcile to accommodate each other. As a whole, this region is suffering from poverty, illiteracy and low standard of life. Reducing arms expenditure can benefit the poor majority of both India and Pakistan. Key powers like the US, China and Russia cannot ignore this part of the world because of its geostrategic significance. Pakistan has to gain maximum results for its own national interest while engaging with these powerful nations. Pakistan’s friendly states like Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Iran and China are vital countries in Pakistani perspective. Especially the relationship with China should not be bargained for at any cost as only the efficacious completion of CPEC project will upsurge our national income. Foreign investment prone milieu is only possible if long glooms of terrorism are rooted out. International image should be improved to shelter diplomatic accomplishments.  Role of the US is crucial in this region and Pakistan has to deal with the US in its shifting regional alignments especially with regards to its growing intimacy with India.

In a nutshell, it can be avowed that the new-fangled government has to come up with high standards of concert at domestic and international obverse because people are expecting much more than they were from the earlier governments. Economy, Law and order situation, education, health, individual rights and foreign policy are the core areas under spectrum. No development in regional perspective should be permitted to undermine Pakistan’s stature of equality with India at least to secure its endurance. Hopes are high and if unmet will disappoint the public despondently. However, let’s stay optimistic and give this government a chance to demonstrate its value. The stalwarts of PTI must be mindful of it and expectedly work for certifying true essence of democracy.

Research Associate At Strategic Vision Institute (SVI) Islamabad M.Phil IR From SPIR Quaid e Azam Universiy Islamabad

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South Asia

India’s Continuing Arrogance in Kashmir

Haris Bilal Malik

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On October 31, 2019, India formally split up the Muslim-majority region of Jammu and Kashmir into two federal (union) territories. By doing so India violated the UNSC resolutions on the matter and officially issued a new political map indicating Ladakh and Jammu as Indian Union Territories. According to this formal split,both the Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh union territories will be administered by two lieutenant governors, Girish Chandra Murmu and Radha Krishna Mathur respectively. They are supposed to report to the Indian home secretary based in New Delhi. This clearly defines the motives of the Hindu nationalist government of BJP led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi which revoked Article 370 on August 5.Unfortunately, the prevalent security environment in Kashmir is dominated by the BJP, which has led India’s arrogance to determine the fate of the disputed region.

In the same vein, right before the formal enforcement of the constitutional split, a local body electoral exercise was carried out in the region. The maiden Block Development Council (BDC) Election was held on October 24 under much hype due to the evolved dynamics of the region. However, the region’s main parties such as the National Conference, Peoples Democratic Party, and Peoples Conference and other small parties had boycotted the local elections terming them as an ‘undemocratic’ exercise. These parties which have remained the major stakeholders in the politics of the region had turned out against the abrogation of Article 370 that granted the region special rights. It was also observed that the political parties had perceived this election as instead a “forced election” primarily because the region was still then under severe restrictions. Contrary to this general perception, the Indian government still carried out the post-revocation electoral exercise. This arrogant policy adopted by the Indian government seems to forcefully instill this notion of ‘our plan our vision’ by the BJP to decide the fate of the Kashmir region.

In addition to this notion, the Hindu-supremacist government of India, headed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi has been shamelessly flaunting the narrative that Kashmir has been ‘put in its place’. This means that contrary to the previous position of the Kashmir region as an autonomous entity under the Indian Union, it has been demoted to now being a ‘union territory’ like other union territories under the federal (Union) government of India. By doing so it seems that India is following a dangerous trajectory of dealing with Kashmir vis-à-vis Pakistan and the international community. In pursuit of its fascist vision inspired by its RSS ideology, the BJP led Indian state has blatantly ignored the global implications which its moves could have regarding the disputed region. Moreover, the ongoing crisis also provides an insight into Kashmir being a victim of the so-called rules based international order that has repeatedly failed to shield the Kashmiri people from the human rights violations of the Indian forces and protect their sovereign will.

It is worth mentioning here that Kashmir is one of the oldest issues pending at the UNSC table. The international community acknowledges Pakistan’s significance as the most important stakeholder vis-à-vis any development on the Kashmir issue. Contrary to Indian moves and suppression of Kashmiris, Pakistan has always insisted on the peaceful settlement of the Kashmir dispute under the UN mandate. Moreover, Pakistan has always encouraged international mediation offers from influential countries especially by the U.S. This was evident during Prime Minister Imran Khan’s first-ever visit to the US on July 23, 2019, when President Trump had offered to mediate  between India and Pakistan. The offer was greatly appreciated by Pakistan as it was aimed at some prospect of seeking a settlement given the evolved security dynamics of the South Asian region for the last few months. Whereas, India has often rejected such offers claiming Kashmir as its internal matter.

As evident from the above-mentioned developments, it seems that India aspires to increasingly project itself as a regional hegemon and as a potential superpower that can do whatever it pleases with a complete disregard for basic human rights. Under this notion, the BJP government led by Prime Minister Modi and inspired by Hindutva ideology is taking offensive measures to forcefully make Kashmir an integral part of India via its brutal political and military actions. The most considerable aspect of such belligerence is that India wrongfully perceives that Pakistan is unlikely to or perhaps unwilling respond to any Indian move based on certain political, economic and strategic restraints vis-à-vis India. This however is once again a grave underestimation of Pakistan’s resolve and the sensitivity with which such moves are being taken by the Pakistani leadership.

Hence at the present, the rash and irresponsible actions of the BJP led Indian government has once again put at stake the peace and stability of the entire South Asian region, bringing it once again to the brink of conflict. Despite all the criticism worldwide, with its politico-military offensive in Kashmir, it seems that India has already decided to determine the fate of the disputed region through sheer arrogance and brutality. India is mistakenly perceiving that such moves would likely tighten its grip over the restive region that is at the heart of more than 70 years of hostility with Pakistan. India’s policy to forcefully make Kashmir a part of the Indian Union by annexing it through political and military means would serve as a dangerous precedent. This poses a serious detriment towards the long-desired peaceful settlement of the Kashmir dispute and even with more disastrous consequences for the whole region.

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South Asia

Remapping Indian Occupied Kashmir: A Multipronged Travesty

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The second Presidential Order on the Reorganization of Jammu & Kashmir by India in 2019 is yet another outlandish decision to challenge the objectives of a peaceful coexistence. It is a call for altering an International Order more conversant to breach the democratic political norms, history and fundamental rights. Kashmiris are once again rebuffed of their demand for self-determination while being locked in an unprecedented brutal curfew entering into more than one hundred days. The desecration is obviously offensive.

Including the areas of Gilgit, Gilgit Wazarat, Chilhas and Tribal Territory of 1947, a part from the remaining areas of Leh and Ladakh districts of 1947 into the Indian Union is a violation of several United Nations Security Council resolutions passed decades ago. The Kargil District was already carved out.

Historically, there were 14 Districts of Jammu & Kashmir at the time of partition, which included Kathua. Jammu. Udhanpur, Reasi,  Anantnag, Baramullah, Poonch, Mirpur, Muzaffarabad, Leh and Ladakh, Gigit, GilgitWazarat, Chilas and Tribal Territory. The new districts included were Kupwara, Bandipur, Ganderbal, Srinagar, Budgam, Pulwama, Shupian, Kulgam, Rajori, Ramban, Doda, Kishtiwar, Samba and Kargil. The illustrative declaration of Muzaffarabad and MirpurKhas areas of Azad Kashmir which are under the administrative rule of Pakistan is an untenable denial of the history of the region.

To refresh their memories India needs to remember that at the time when Maharaja Hari Singh signed the controversial Instrument of Accession with India in October 1947, Gilgit was already inflamed with the passions of rebellion against Hindus and Sikhs living in Gilgit. While representing the will of his people, Muzzaffar, the raja orderly in Chilas said:

“The whole of Gilgit Agency is pro-Pakistan … we could never swear allegiance to Hindustan. Apart from religion, the Gilgit Agency is really a part of the NWFP and is therefore a part of Pakistan. If Kashmir remains independent, well and good … .But if the Maharaja through pig headedness and bad advice, political pressure or attractive remunerations accedes to Hindustan, then there will be trouble here!”

This was sensed by the British Administrator William Brown as well and decided to overthrow the then Governor Ghansara Singh in a bloodless coup d’etat in November 1947 and a provisional government was established by the locals of Gilgit. Raja Shah Rais was appointed as the president and Mirza Hassan Khan as the Commander-in-Chief. Pakistani political agent took over the region, once Khan Abdul Qayyum received a telegraph from Brown on November 16, 1947.

By May1948, the Gilgit Scouts had already taken over Baltistan, Ladakh and Skardu as well. Indian reinforcements were blocked at Dras and Kargil which helped them cut off Indian communications to Leh in Ladakh. However, Kargil was recaptured by them in autumn 1948 but Baltistan remained in control of Pakistan, after which India itself took the issue to the UN.

The current remapping of the region of Jammu & Kashmir is nonetheless not only a snubof facts but also adding into already destabilising factors in the region.The Pakistani parts of Kashmir to the north and west of the cease-fire line established at the end of the Indo-Pakistani War of 1947, or the Line of Control as it later came to be called, were divided into the Northern Areas in the north and the Pakistani state of Azad Kashmir in the south. The name “Northern Areas” was first used by the United Nations to refer to the northern areas of Kashmir. Pakistan has declared that “no step by India could change the disputed status of Jammu and Kashmir as recognised by the United Nations”, and has pledged time and again that it will continue to support the just struggle of the Kashmiris.

In an attempt to rewind the India of antiquity or revitalize the Indian Civilization lost in the international order of nation-states in the post WWI era, Narendra Modi’s arrogant Hindutva regime is non-realistic. The current attempt is a follow up of the Geospatial Information Regulation Bill (GIRB) passed by the Indian ministry of Home Affairs on May4, 2016, during his earlier tenure of rule on India. The Bill was meant to regulate the acquisition, dissemination, publication and distribution of geospatial information of India. It restricted the addition or creation of any information related to geospatial imagery, data acquisition through space or aerial platforms such as satellites, aircrafts, airships, balloons or unmanned aerial vehicles without the permission of the government of India. The Bill also made its violation indictable in contravention of the section 4 with a fine ranging from Rs. 1 crore to 100 crores or imprisonment for a period of up to seven years. The draft resolution had also decided to set up an Apex Committee, A Security Vetting Authority and an Enforcement and Appellant authority to only allow the distribution of maps considered right by the Indian government. It was deceptively declared to ensure the security, sovereignty and integrity of the state of India with impact on all who may or may not agree with the Bill defining the geographical boundaries of India. The spokesman of the Indian External Affairs Ministry Vikas Swarup once reiterated that the state of Jammu & Kashmir was an “integral part of India” and the GIRB was an “entirely internal legislative matter of India.”

Assaulting the international political system, human dignity, basic liberties and perpetual boundary disputes by the Indian offensive posture have added to the stressed political environment of the region. In case of the failure of the domestic proceedings to address human concerns, it becomes mandatory for the world community to ensure the respect of the world peace. History records that after the WWII, there had been 14 out of 21 major inter-state wars on territorial conflicts. Global history of cartography has always been closely linked. Situating the “geobody,” along with altering the archival documents by the nationalist regime of Modi largely emboldened by the Western powers for their own strategic and economic preferences, is a teasing question on the UN partiality. The history of border violations or failed negotiations over an issue increases the likelihood of armed conflict and nonbinding management.

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South Asia

Kartarpur Corridor: A message of Peace and Prosperity

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Kartarpur corridor was opened on 9 November 2019 (Saturday). It paved the way for the Sikh community to visit one of the most important religious shrines without a visa. There are approximately 150 million Sikhs around the world, out of which around 120 million are living in India. The other countries having the Sikh community are Afghanistan, Pakistan, UK, Canada, and USA.  However, the origin of the Sikh religion in Punjab, which was divided into Indian Punjab and Pakistani Punjab in 1947 at the time of independence of the sub-continent from British rule. The partition of Punjab has divided many Sikh families between Pakistan and India.  Due to political rivalry, among Pakistan and India, has adversely affected the Sikh Community. Some of the family members have never met in the last 72 years and few of them have already expired already.

While Sikh, Muslims and other religions lived together for centuries, especially in Punjab, and enjoyed complete harmony as the language and cultures are identical. But after partition, in 1947, the rivalry between Pakistan and India kept them separated for 72 years. With the opening of this Corridor, the Sikhs community in India becomes the most beneficiary and they are grateful for the gesture of goodwill by Pakistan.

The Kartarpur Corridor connects between Pakistan and India, the Sikh shrines of Dera Baba Nanak Sahib (located in Punjab, India) and GurdwaraDarbar Sahib (in Punjab, Pakistan). The corridor is intended to allow religious devotees from India to visit the Gurdwara in Kartarpur, 4.7 kilometers from the Pakistan-India border, without a visa.

The Corridor was first proposed in early 1999 by the prime ministers of India and Pakistan, Atal Bihari Vajpayee and Nawaz Sharif, respectively, as part of the Delhi–Lahore Bus diplomacy. On 26 November 2018, the foundation stone was laid down on the Indian side and after two days, on 28 November 2018, the foundation stone on the Pakistani side was laid down by Prime Minister of Pakistan, Imran Khan. The corridor along with all its allied services and amenities was completed in a record time frame. The corridor was completed for the 550th birth anniversary of Guru Nanak Dev on 12 November 2019. As a special to mark the 550th birth anniversary, the Government of Pakistan has waved the fee amounting to US Dollars 20 for three days. It has created a huge good-will.

The corridor has not only connected the Sikh community on both sides of the border but also opened a new chapter of religious tourism in Pakistan. There are many other religious sites in Pakistan, which belongs to Hindus or Sikhs religion and may attract devotees and visitors in thousands of thousands in number. Kartarpur corridor is just a beginning, if it goes smoothly, many new sites will be open to Hindus and Sikhs as well.

This will also generate an opportunity for economic activities and enhance people to people contact. Promote harmony and understanding between the two hostile nations. In fact, Kartarpur Corridor is a message of Peace and Prosperity.

Pakistan is a peace-loving nation and a very responsible state. Prime Minister of Pakistan Imran Khan is well matured, visionary leader. He said on this occasion “Pakistan believes that the road to the prosperity of the region and bright future of our coming generation lies in peace”, adding that “Pakistan is not only opening the border but also their hearts for the Sikh community”. The Prime Minister of India, Narendra Modi, compared the decision to go ahead with the corridor by the two countries to the fall of the Berlin Wall, saying that the project may help in easing tensions between the two countries.

Previously, pilgrims from India had to take a bus to Lahore to get to Kartarpur, which is 125 km journey although people on the Indian side of the border could physically see GurdwaraDarbar Sahib Kartarpur on the Pakistani side. An elevated observation platform had also been constructed on the Indian side, where people use binoculars to get a good view.

Indian Prime Minister Modi has thanked PM Imran Khan for his good-will gesture. It is hoped that India will reciprocate in the same manner and provide an opportunity to the People of Pakistan and Prime Minister of Pakistan Imran Khan to thanks Indian Prime Minister Modi.

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