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Kashmir’s journey from ceasefire to current political crisis

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Kashmir is a vexed issue of the Asian sub-continent that assumes dynamic dimensions and increases its momentum with the currents of time with a sort of deep permeated growing alienation of the masses and simultaneous floating wave of armed rebellion against the system. It is the problem of multitude and a vendetta which refuses to cow down with the periodic motions of time.

The problem has manifested into a state of multitude, viz,killings, arrests, hartals, mass media stirrings, political manuovers, internet blockades, etc. and unfortunately,the current political crisis is the major concern of the times in the state of Jammu and Kashmir that has delved deeply onto the political scene.

The government of India halted all the anti-militancy operations starting from 17th of May in the state of Jammu and Kashmir during the holy month of Ramadan of the Muslim calendar at the request of Chief Minister of the state Mehbooba Mufti. This was positively responded by the government of India after thorough consultations with all the stakeholders including the Home Affairs department.

Thereafter, Indian army chief ,General Bipan Rawat  reiterated that peace and talks must be given a chance.The positive aspect of unilateral ceasefire ensued a state of peace in the state for some period of time briefly until June 15,2018,with a fresh killing at the hands of the security personnel at Pulwama.

Subsequently, on the eve of Eid,the u-turn of events subsumed the peace horizon with a volley of anti-establishment protests and clashes between common masses and security forces  at various place of the valley, like Srinagar,Anantnag, Pulwama, Sopore,etc.which resulted in the bloody state in Anantnag district of J&K with the killing and bloodbath  of a youth and injury to various protesting people. All the national channels subsequently called into question the ceasefire move of the government and called it the day for the truce in the valley. Not only this, the killing of an army man Aurangzeb of Poonch area in Pulwama district of J&K deteriorated the situation thereof with the collective vent of anger at the situational flux and reluctance to offer the Eid prayers at Poonch area of the state.

In a crucial meeting conveyed by the Union government on 14th of June at New Delhi, it was reiterated to have the say whether to continue the truce or not after Eid ul fitr. However, on 17th of June, the Ministry of Home Affairs, government of India post-Eid ul fitr announced the end of temporary ceasefire after fresh tweets poured in over the twitter handle of Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh calling it the day for the truce and refuted the extension further after surge in a series of attacks on the security forces.

The government of India cited the continuance of operation all out to combat the militancy.Also, there was a major say on the recent killings of veteran journalist, Shujaat Bukhari and army soldier, Aurangzeb, besides the annual Hindu pilgrimage of Amarnath yatra so far as security is concerned. Although, The short term temporary measure of truce yielded some positive results of peace keeping on the ground and improved the situation to a large extent but the larger question was the concretization of peace, which a common Kashmiri envisions day-in-day-out.

Ceasefire in Kashmir was a major experiment of the government on the ground level to acid test the real situation on ground.There should have been a prior consensus of all the parties prior to the announcement of its withdrawal from Kashmir.The government of India has already experimented the truce process in the state previously in 2003 with Pakistan part to it.Will the government carry on the truce or cessation of anti-militancy operations in future is a situational question of vital importance. Kashmir is driving towards abnormality and to prescribe the antidote for the ailment lies with the the government of India.According to a recent security report ,the truce in Ramadhan proved to be a great success in J&K.

On the eve of Eid Ul Fitr, Hurriyat leader and executive Mukhtar Ahmad Waza in the grand mosque of Seer Hamdan, Anantnag was vocal that the government of India must initiate an unconditional dialogue with Pakistan, in order to resolve the crisis and walk the talk for the sake of meaningful solution of the Kashmir problem and not merely for the sake of photo-ops and show-offs to the external world, devaiting from the main and core reality.

He  brought to light the former eighteen resolutions passed in the United Nations General assembly(UNGA) regarding the problem of Jammu and Kashmir and also expressed the plight of the prisoners in various jails of India, like Kathua, Hiranagar,Tihar jail(New Delhi),Rajasthan,etc. and pleaded for their unconditional release so that peace process can take off from the smooth and foundational ground and crisis will annhilate as soon as possible.He also brought to light the killing and martyrdom of  versatile veteran  journalist and Editor-in-Chief of the daily local newspaper Rising Kashmir Shujaat Bukhari at press colony, Srinagar who was killed along with his two security guards by unknown gunmen on 14th of June,2018 in the very heart of the  Srinagar city.

The PDP-BJP(People’s Democratic Party-Bhartiya Janta Party) coalition government in J&K was formed few years back based on an agenda of alliance and common minimum programme ,brushing aside the political differences. Later,joining the baton,it was a Hobson’s choice for the coalition partners to come together.

The demise of the unholy alliance surfaced on 19th of June by the revelations of Ram Madhav ,BJP’s J&K incharge ,subsequently leading to demise of the coalition government and fallout in the form of Governor’s rule.BJP has time and again called for the abrogation of article 370 which gives special status to J&K state, whereas,PDP has always been its defender down the passing phases of time. Bhartiya Janta Party, national president Amit Shah accused PDP of misgovernance and developmental inequity in J&K, which latter out rightly refuted.

Meanwhile,ex-Chief Minister has recently warned New Delhi of serious repercussions, if it tries to create divisions and cracks in the People’s Democratic Party(PDP),since , according to media reports,few rebel MLA’s were in connivance with BJP to form the government again..The pull-out off the coalition government of PDP-BJP by the alliance partner BJP is seen as a political stunt by the analysts of the politics to woo the voters in the Lok Sabha elections,2019 in mainland of India as a polarising measure. Governor, N.N. Vohra called an all-party meeting on 22nd of june,2018,the same day when four militants, one civilian and one cop were killed in an encounter at Nowshehra, Khiram, Anantnag,J&K.

Moreover, The burning issue of Kashmir has time and again soured relations of India and Pakistan and given new lows to their bilateral relationship over the period of time. Even ceasefire violation at the border claimed life of a security person on the eve of Eid ul fitr.Not only this, for the first time, no pleasantries and sweets were exchanged by the armies of the two neighbours at the borders(LOC). In a recent interview to a local daily newspaper, the former Chief Minister and ex-minister in the Indian Union cabinet for New and Renewable energy Farooq Abdullah said that Kashmir will one day spell disaster and said that ceasefire will not work unless Pakistan is part of it.

Militancy is a major challenge for the government of India in the state of J&K, with rebels joining the same cadres on the day-to-day basis with very well-off family backgrounds and higher qualifications. However, according to security agencies, there were no intelligence inputs about any new recruitment into militancy during the truce operation.

Militancy has undergone a radical shift in J&K since the killing of Hizb Commander Burhan Wani in 2016.His departure was a major factor for the alienation of the people,with growing tendency among few youth to join the forces of rebellion.Down these two years,a huge number of youth joined the militancy and the process is on till date.Even, Ex-Chief Minister Omar Abdullah recently said that Burhan’s ability to recruit into militancy from the grave will far outstrip anything he could have done on social media.

The recent arrest of two girl students from Anantnag district of J&K who are lodged in central jail Srinagar, J&K has created ire among the separatist chambers regarding the disregard for the opposite gender. Recently, after the termination and rejection of their bail, the father of these girls was making an affidavit in court complex Anantnag, when i enquired from him about their whereabouts. His face was sunken with paleness and disparity all over.

The next day these girls were transferred from sadder court, Anantnag to Srinagar central Jail. One of the girls is pursuing Masters in Economics and another is also well qualified in religious studies.Even,on the auspicious occasion of Eid ul fitr, the father-mother duo without any son spent their time amid sobs and wails, with the daughters confined behind the barracks of jail. Being the only daughters and spine of their father, the Government of j&K should review the gravity of the matter and release them subsequently who are still lodged in Srinagar central jail as soon as possible to prevent alienation, ruining and shattering of a next family and act in sync with the dictum of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s slogan Beti Bachao (Save the girl).

The recent remarks of the United Nations General Assembly regarding the Kashmir problem and situation as of now reflects the interest of the world nations to solve the problem in Kashmir which has subsequently created ripples in the intellectual circles in India regarding the discourse over Kashmir imbroglio.

The former water resources minister and congress leader, Saifuddin Soz has recently hit the political plank and remarked that Parvez Musharaf’s formula is still relevant regarding Azadi,but that feat is not possible. Another congress leader Ghulam Nabi Azad in a recent interview to a national channel has said that more civilians are killed in anti-militancy operations by the security agencies than militants.

Meanwhile few media houses at the national level have tagged few intellectual Indians,like Booker prize winner Arundhati Roy,etc. who support the Kashmir cause as urban naxals and linked them with separatists, calling them as tukde tukde(Parts-parts) lobby to disintegrate India into parts in order to earn the TRP’s and appease the political bosses of the mainland India.

Being part to the problem, India and Pakistan must shun their rigidity, egoistic clashes and face-offs for the greater good of the people of the respective countries, particularly for the suffering people of J&K.The Kashmir issue has already consumed thousands of precious lives of the common men over the years of political turmoil. LOC trade has suffered to a remarkable and vast extent.

The growing state of animosity between India and Pakistan is not good gesture at all. India and Pakistan need to annihilate the looming crisis through the medium of a viable-cum-meaningful dialogue and reconciliatory approach with each other, keeping in view the state of chaos and disorder in j&K.There will be no descendancy of something divine to mediate thereupon so far as Kashmir issue is concerned , rather, it is the parties to the problem that have to negotiate for the redressal of the issue looming large over the Asian sub-continent. Meanwhile China  has said recently that Shanghai Cooperation Organisation(SCO) could serve as a great vehicle to build better bilateral relations and ties between India and Pakistan.

On 4th of June,Asif Ghafoor, Director General of ISPR,Pakistan accused India of 1,077 ceasefire violations since  the start of 2018 till date and said that there is no space for war with India.This is a vital indicator that only peace is the guarantee of a peaceful relationship between India and Pakistan,which will be subsequent platform for the discussion on Kashmir.

Today,the state is caught in the quagmire of a political crisis,where killings have become the order of the day.The major challenge for the governor’s office is to bring back the state towards the state of normalcy and pedestal of peace.

Today,when nobody is ready to take the baton of heading the political scene,the vital task is to dissolve the assembly for the fresh elections,till normalcy returns in the state of j&K,rather than keeping it in a state of suspended animation. The forego of BJP in the coalition government seems to be a divious plan of political motivations to create a ripple effect between one and the other to woo the nationalists. Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh are three limbs of the same body,tied up altoghether,which cannot be separated by the political divisions of polarising policies of a single party which augurs ill to the interests of the state itself.

The valley of Kashmir is today submerged in a sort of political waywardness. The question is not about the troika of roads,electricity and water or a law and order problem,rather,it is a political problem and requires a political solution.This is the time to move beyond the rhetoric of dialogue and show action for a permanent solution from the political bosses ,lest anarchy would spin thready network of uncertainty in future .

It is the common Kashmiri man who is being killed in the enmeshed imbroglio process and victimized due to the lingering issue at stake, be it militant, army man (Lt. Colonel Fayaz, Aurangzeb, etc), or a common man.The lingering imbroglio has consumed thousands of lives since the eruption of insurgency in nineties in the state of J&K.Still, Peace eludes the state of Jammu and Kashmir.Thus,along the pedestal of wheel from ceasefire to the current state of political crisis, all is not well in the state of Jammu and Kashmir.If the same situation persists,Kashmir will move towards a state of complete anarchy.

The security agencies must be given directives by the higher-ups to have an ultimate human regard for the common masses and particularly their precious lives during the state of protests. This will repose faith in the dictum of law among the masses, who have already suffered at the cost of the issue at stake.

Today, the situational turn of events have washed away the stay of peace among the masses. No one is aloof of the unwithering pain.It is rather a collective pain for which political prescriptions have failed to contain it.The political engineering of politicians seems to be a farce exercise.The ultimate question is for how long the problem of multitude will persist without any solution. People are in no hurry for the quick fix solutions, rather yearn for a permanent solution,once for all.

The recent triumph of PTI chief as elect Prime Minister of Pakistan has brought hope to the scene to talk with India and resolve the looming imbroglio, once for all.

The author has done M.Sc.(Biochemistry),B.Ed from Jamia Millia Islamia New Delhi,M.A.(History) and also qualified CTET from CBSE. Previously,he was also working as a project trainee at JNU,New Delhi.He writes for a number of platforms on socio-politico-economic issues and currently works in J&K, government education department. He can be reached at abidjmi121[at]gmail.com

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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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