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First 50 Days of New Government in Pakistan

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Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) has completed its first 50 days in the government. Opinion of their governance is judged widely by public and a mixed reaction was found. Some are very optimistic and few seems totally dissatisfied. The basis of the judgment was as: “Back in May 2018, well beforehand general election held on 25 July 2018, PTI announced its first-100-days plan, promising to transform governance standards, strengthen the federation, revitalize the economy, revolutionize social services, ensure national security and overhaul the agricultural sector, among other goals, if it won the election”.

Political opponents are criticizing his 100-days plan, terming it nothing more than a political slogan. Based on the first 50 day’s performance, they believe that he will be not able to achieve his goals in 100 days, blaming the plan as just a campaign gimmick only.

No doubt, Pakistan is passing through very serious crisis. The last few governments, because of incompetence and disloyalty to the country and mis-management have pushed Pakistan into its darkest era. Foreign debt has increased to about US$95 billion. The debt-service burden alone is too difficult for Pakistan to cover. It might need to borrow more money to just pay the interest on what it has already borrowed. The state institutions were damaged, nepotism has further made institutions dysfunctional. Politicization of bureaucracy and wide-spread corruption has deteriorated the society. The situation is rather complex and the challenges are really very severe.

Opposition is criticizing the increase in price of Gas, Electricity and Petroleum, which makes over-all everything more expensive and cost of living has increased. It has affected the common man badly. PTI government is not different than any previous government and launched Mini-budget, which is old trick used by many governments in past. They failed to give relief to common man in any way.

Although the people of Pakistan likes the Prime minister and believe in his honesty, loyalty and vision. But many more are criticizing his team for all wrong doings. Many controversial person were inducted in his cabinet and key-post in senior bureaucracy are given to disputed personalities. He is the third most popular leader in the history of Pakistan after Jinnah, the father of nation and Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto, former Prime Minister of Pakistan in 1970s. He was supported by middle and lower class of Pakistan. It was the first time in the recent history of Pakistan that the elite of Pakistan was defeated in the general elections and Imran Khan was elected by the majority of people. Even he still rules over hearts and minds of majority of people.

Although few are blaming him for not choosing the right cabinet. But I believe, it is too early to judge him, we must give him sufficient time before reaching any conclusion. He is in the government for the first time. It will take him some time to have better understanding of government affairs. Trust, 100 days will be his orientation time and he will judge his team and make decision either to continue or bring changes in his cabinet. He is constantly monitoring his team and taking keen interest in each and every matter personally. Changes in bureaucracy are also expected once he gain full understanding of state of affairs.

Over-all the environments are favorable, Chinese are flexible on CPEC, and willing to extend full support what so-ever Pakistan needs. It is up to us that we do our homework properly, consult with the experts and stake-holders. We need to chalk-out our priorities and then sit with Chinese brothers to improve mutual benefits. Many friendly countries, like Saudi Arabia, Qatar, UAE, Turkey, Kuwait etc., are also willing to bring investment into Pakistan. US relations are moving toward positive directions. But still it is responsibility of PTI government to make right decisions at right time. Only right team can sustain his government.

There still exists immense good-will and trust in Imran Khan. He is a ray of hope for masses of this nation. People who voted for him are willing to work hard for his success and contribute to the best of their capabilities for nation building. He should not disappoint his people, and take all possible necessary measures to satisfy his voters.

Opposition is also getting closer to each other and moving in the direction of alliances. It can harm PTI government, if united. The only thing can rescue his government is right policies, corrective measures, welfare of common citizen. He needs to strengthen his team with professionals, honest and devotees. Electable, elite and foreign imposed people may damage his reputation and may raise questions on his credibility.

Trust, Imran Khan with his vision, honesty and hard-work, can regain his place in the hearts and minds of people of Pakistan. Wish dream of “Naya” (New) Pakistan will be realized soon.

Prof. Engr. Zamir Ahmed Awan, Sinologist (ex-Diplomat), Non-Resident Fellow of CCG (Center for China and Globalization), National University of Sciences and Technology (NUST), Islamabad, Pakistan.

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South Asia

Will the President Trump’s India-Visit be fruitful?

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Will President Trump’s visit to India on 24-25 February be fruitful? Will the US achieve its goals? Will it be beneficial for India?  Will it be merely a personal visit to please Modi or a pleasure trip? There are so many similar questions in many minds.

I think there might be two objectives of this visit: One may be, President Trump has his own agenda on this trip to India, as he is just at a launching stage of his presidential campaign for presidential elections to be held in November this year. He needed political support from his friend Modi, as the Indian-American has a certain vote-bank in the US. He might be seeking his support in Presidential-Elections. The second may be a long term US policy since President George W. Bush administrations and continuing under Barack Obama’s tenure, that the US needs India as a strategic partner to help “Counter Russia and Contain China”.

Regarding the first objective, Modi is losing his popularity inside India as well as globally. His extremist policies have bounced back already. Kashmir is burning, a civil war in ongoing almost in 20 states against discriminatory Citizenship Act-2019. Law and order situation has drastically deteriorated. Investors are leaving, foreign tourists are advised not to travel to India. The industry is being closed. The routine business has been affected adversely. The economy is almost collapsing, and the country is bleeding. Social unrest and political instability have damaged Modi’s popularity in India. Not only the Minorities but moderate Hindus, Intellectuals and neutrals are opposing Modi’s policies. His policies are also not welcome by the International Community either. Anti-India protests, agitations, rallies around the world have been witnessed. Human Rights Organizations, International Institutions, and all Peace-Loving nations and individuals are criticizing his policies. India is passing through the worst crisis of its 7 decades-history, under Modi’s leadership.

Under this scenario, President Trump’s any association with Modi may become counter-productive and Presidential Elections may bring results contrary to his expectations.

Regarding the second objective, the US was seeking strategic cooperation with India to “Counter Russia and Contain China”. As the US is losing its influence in this region and facing failure one after another. The US is left with no option except withdrawing its troops from Syria and Afghanistan. The US could not face Iran in the Middle-East and may leave Iraq too. Philippine is out of American Influence. Practically, the US cannot face Russia in the Baltic Ocean, Cannot face China in the Pacific Ocean, and cannot face Iran in Middle-East.

With this background, the US-supported India, projected India, up-lifted India, “to Counter Russia and Contain China”. The US has signed with India the “Major Defense Partner” agreement and Indo-Pacific Alliance agreement. The US supplied India with the latest lethal weapons and hi-tech advanced technologies. Extended financial assistance, trade concessions, market access on priority. Extended political and diplomatic support at International platforms like UN, WTO, UNSC, IMF, FATF, EU, World Bank, NSG, etc. 

The US has been helping India out of the way, sometimes directly, and sometimes through Israel or through its allies indirectly. As a result, India has become the biggest beneficiary of US assistance after Israel.

Will India meet the expectation of the US? In case of need, do India have a will or capacity to deliver according to American’s expectations? While India is collapsing and Modi-Initiated civil war leading India toward disintegration, keeping any expectation from India, maybe just a dream only.

It is worth mentioning that for the last 7 decades, Pakistan was a close ally with the US during the cold war era and front line state during the war on terror. Pakistan’s role was vital in achieving the strategic goals for the US in this region and globally. Pakistan’s role was appreciated and acknowledged on several occasions. The US leadership knows the capabilities and potential of Pakistan very well, especially the Military leadership is much more aware. Pakistan is a Peace-Loving Nations and well matured. We are a responsible state and understand the consequences of war, especially when the two countries are nuclear states. Pakistan is always willing to be a partner of any peace process anywhere in the world. We are against any armed-conflict or use of force. We wish, all differences around the world, maybe resolved under UN Charter diplomatically, including long pending Kashmir issues.

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South Asia

Minority Abuse: A Slice Of Life In Modi’s India

Dr. Arshad M. Khan

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It is not uncommon for colonial governments to enact sedition laws with the purpose of stifling dissent; it is, following independence, for democratic governments to be enforcing them to quell critics.  It is also exactly what the Modi government and party encourages in India. 

And it is what landed a 26-year old mother and her daughter’s teacher in jail in Karnataka (a state now notorious for conservative politicians viewing porn at work).  All for a play critical of the new Citizenship Amendment Act and the government’s plans for a National Register of Citizens, the NRC on which Mr. Modi has been caught modifying the truth.  These have stoked fear among India’s Muslims in that they may be required to produce documents to prove citizenship — an impossible task in a poor country where few register births, or have any other documents like passports or drivers licenses.

What did the play do?  Not much.  An elderly woman is told that Narendra Modi wants Muslims to produce documents to prove citizenship.  The woman responds that her family has been in India for generations, and she would have to dig up the graves of her ancestors to produce those documents, adding that a boy who used to sell tea (reference to Modi) is now demanding them.  “I will ask him for his documents,” she continues, “and if he can’t show them to me, I’ll beat him with my sandal.”

The play was streamed on Facebook by a parent and quickly went viral.  One of Mr. Modi’s ardent supporters, a certain Neelesh Rakshal, chanced upon it and promptly registered a complaint with the police “for abusing the prime minister and also for spreading hatred,”  To most citizens of western democracies, the charge would appear ludicrous.  For example, President Trump is lampooned much more severely and fairly regularly on ofthisandthat.org in the Porcupine’s Quill satire column.  

But then it was just before Valentine’s Day and Mr. Rakshal, the greatly offended self-proclaimed social activist, expected garlands of marigolds for his idol.

Nazbunnisa, the 26-year old mother is not sure how she came to be jailed.  She said, she simply heard her daughter rehearse her part at home.  She also says she never even went to the play.  A domestic worker, she has few resources at her disposal.

Farida Begum the 52-year old teacher suffers from high blood pressure, and fears what the future holds for her family.  Her husband, Mirza Baig, is also greatly concerned about how his wife’s time in jail will affect the marriage prospects of their daughter.  He says what has been been done “is not right.”

The complaint also named the school management and the president of the school, who the police have not been able to find.  So they told the court at the preliminary hearing.

Dr. Thouseef Madikeri, the school’s CEO, says, “We do not know for what reason sedition charges have been invoked against the school.  It is beyond the imagination of any reasonable person.  We will fight it in court.”

India is full of travesty these days, but should the courts dismiss the complaint, Mr. Neelesh Rakshal could face a lawsuit for defamation, at the very least.  He would most certainly in the US, where he could also be liable for damages and legal fees running into six figures.

Karnataka is not the only state where Muslims are being abused.  The city of Kanpur in India’s most populous state, Uttar Pradesh, has a large community of Muslims that is under constant abuse by police, but this year has seen the brutality having fatal consequences.  Earlier Human Rights Watch reported (Feb 2019) killings of Muslims across twelve states

Such is life for poor minorities in Modi’s India. 

Author’s Note:  An earlier version of this article appeared earlier on Counterpunch.org

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South Asia

Pakistan puts press freedom at the core of struggle for new world order

Dr. James M. Dorsey

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Sweeping new regulations restricting social media in Pakistan put freedom of expression and the media at the heart of the struggle to counter both civilizationalist and authoritarian aspects of an emerging new world order.

The regulations, adopted without public debate, position US social media companies like Facebook and Twitter at the forefront of the struggle and raise the spectre of China’s walled off Internet with its own state-controlled social media platforms becoming the model for a host of illiberals, authoritarians and autocrats.

The regulations, that take effect immediately, embrace aspects of a civilizational state that defines its legal reach, if not its borders, in terms of a civilization rather than a nation state with clearly outlined, internationally recognized borders that determine the reach of its law and that is defined by its population and language.

The regulations could force social media companies to globally suppress criticism of the more onerous aspects of Pakistani law, including constitutionally enshrined discrimination of some minorities like Ahmadis, a sect widely viewed as heretic by mainstream Islam, and imposition of a mandatory death sentence for blasphemy.

The new rules force social media companies to “remove, suspend or disable access” to content posted in Pakistan or by Pakistani nationals abroad that the government deems as failing to “take due cognizance of the religious, cultural, ethnic and national security sensitivities of Pakistan.” The government can also demand removal of encryption.

Social media companies are required to establish offices in Pakistan in the next three months and install data servers by February 2021.

The government justified the rules with the need to combat hate speech, blasphemy, alleged fake news and online harassment of women.

The Asia Internet Coalition, a technology and internet industry association that includes  Facebook and Twitter, warned that the regulations “jeopardize the personal safety and privacy of citizens and undermine free expression” and would be “detrimental to Pakistan’s ambitions for a digital economy.”

The introduction of the regulations reflects frustration in government as well as Pakistan’s powerful military with social media companies’ frequent refusal to honour requests to take down content. Pakistan ranked among the top countries requesting  Facebook and Twitter to remove postings.

On the assumption that Facebook, Twitter and others, which are already banned in China, will risk being debarred in Pakistan by refusing to comply with the new regulations, Pakistan could become a prime country that adopts not only aspects of China’s 21st century, Orwellian surveillance state but also its tightly controlled media.

The basis for potential Pakistani adoption of the Chinese system was created in 2017 in plans for the China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), a US$60 billion plus crown jewel of the Belt and Road, an infrastructure, telecommunications and energy-driven initiative to tie Eurasia to China.

The 2017 plan identifies as risks to CPEC “Pakistani politics, such as competing parties, religion, tribes, terrorists, and Western intervention” as well as security. The plan appears to question the vibrancy of a system in which competition between parties and interest groups is the name of the game.

It envisions a full system of monitoring and surveillance to ensure law and order in Pakistani cities. The system would involve deployment of explosive detectors and scanners to “cover major roads, case-prone areas and crowded places…in urban areas to conduct real-time monitoring and 24-hour video recording.”

A national fibre optic backbone would be built for internet traffic as well as the terrestrial distribution of broadcast media that would cooperate with their Chinese counterparts in the “dissemination of Chinese culture.” The plan described the backbone as a “cultural transmission carrier” that would serve to “further enhance mutual understanding between the two peoples and the traditional friendship between the two countries.”

Critics in China and elsewhere assert that repression of freedom of expression contributed to China’s delayed response to the Coronavirus. China rejects the criticism with President Xi Jingping calling for even greater control.

Pakistan’s newly promulgated regulations echo Mr. Xi’s assertion during the Communist party’s January 7 Politburo Standing Committee meeting  that “we must strengthen public opinion tracking and judgment, take the initiative to voice, provide positive guidance, strengthen integration, communication and interaction, so that positive energy will always fill the Internet space… We must control the overall public opinion and strive to create a good public opinion environment. It is necessary to strengthen the management and control of online media.”

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