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The Day Afghanistan Changed Forever

Hamidullah Bamik

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The ongoing war in Afghanistan began 18 years ago by the United States and NATO, and apparently, the September 11 was one of the main reasons for the US attack on Afghanistan. This war began with the aim of the fall of the Taliban regime and the elimination of al-Qaeda’s bases in Afghanistan. Although the US and NATO forces defeated the Taliban in the early days, the Taliban’s defeat in 2001 was temporary and the Taliban began its war operations in different parts of the country soon. Now, it has become stronger than the early of days of the twenty-first century over the past 17 years. Insecurity has spread from the south to the northern regions of the country, and now much of the territory of Afghanistan is outside the control of the government.

During the Jihad against the Soviet Union in Afghanistan, thousands of Arab fighters fought alongside the Afghans against the Soviet Union, and subsequently, they were sheltered by the Mujahidin under the leadership of Mr. Rabbani, the second president of the Islamic State of Afghanistan after the fall of Democratic Republic of Afghanistan regimes. Then, when the Taliban dominated more than 90 percent of Afghanistan’s territory, including al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden, a number of Arabs who had been living in Afghanistan since 1996, supported the Taliban groups in Afghanistan.

With the occurrence of September 11, 2001, that members of the al-Qaeda network were accused of taking part in the incident, the United States attacked Afghanistan and began a bloody war in the country after the fall of the Taliban regime. Osama bin Laden was in Afghanistan, and President George W. Bush announced on September 20, 2001, his stance against the Taliban government as following:

I.All al-Qaeda leaders should be handed over to the United States;

II.All foreign prisoners in the Taliban’s custody should be released and submitted to the United States;

III.All the terrorist training camps should be closed in Afghanistan;

IV.And the Taliban regime should allow the United States to have full access to Al-Qaeda camps for inspection.

The Taliban government stated through its embassy in Pakistan that the United States has not yet provided any evidence of Osama bin Laden’s involvement in the September 11 attacks. According to Taliban ambassador Mullah Abdul Salam Zaeif in Islamabad, the Taliban government made great efforts to verify the incident, but the United States did not retreat from the decision to invade Afghanistan. According to him, the September 11 attacks were not accidental, but the United States had already planned military presence in Afghanistan in order to secure its long-term interests in the region. The Taliban three times offered Osama bin Laden’s trial to the US government for the September 11 events, rejected by the United States every three times.

On October 07, 2001, the US air strikes began, and on October 31, the United Nation’s Forces joined Kabul with the help of US air strikes, and the Taliban regime was overthrown. On November 25, the Bonn Conference on Afghanistan was held, and within 10 days, it established a temporary administration headed by Hamid Karzai. These successive accidents occurred rapidly that surprised everyone in Afghanistan. People were dancing and singing on the streets and roads celebrating the defeat of the Taliban and welcoming the United Nation Forces led by the US. But unfortunately, the positive changes and bestowed joys were temporary. By elapsing year, the situation of Afghanistan was getting worse than the previous year. Afghans were encountering challenges and problems that were rare in their nature and severity. This paper aims to analyze the events after the overthrow of the Taliban regime that changed the feature and situation of Afghanistan forever.

The Challenges that Afghanistan Rarely Experienced Prior to 11/9 Attacks

Roaming of regional and international terrorist groups into Afghanistan: After the fall of the Taliban’s regime in Nov. 2001, the number of terrorist groups increased in Afghanistan. It is said that there are 21 terrorist groups fighting with the Afghan Armed Forces and international forces stationed in Afghanistan. These groups include Tehreek-e-Taliban Afghanistan and the Haqqani Network, Jamaat al-Dawa al-Quran, ISIL, al-Qaeda, al-Qaeda in southern Asia, al-Mujahideen party, Taliban militant, Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan, Islamic Movement Movement, Movement Al-Jihad Bangladesh, Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, Jash Mohammad, Lashkar-e-Taiba, Tariq Guider’s group, Jamaat-e-Alahar, Jondallah, Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, Islamic Movement of Turkmenistan, Islamic Jihad and Qods Force.

Climbing of poverty and unemployment: Afghanistan is one of the poorest countries in the world and is widely supported by the foreign countries, even though the country’s economic growth is said to be about 2.6 percent by the end of the year. According to a new survey issued in Afghanistan in comparison to a decade ago, poverty increased by 21%.According to the source, the poverty line has risen from 38% in 1391 to 54% in 1395. The level of poverty is growing in Afghanistan simultaneously with an infusion of billions of dollars by foreign countries into Afghanistan. The United States Agency for the Reconstruction of Afghanistan (SIGAR) articulates that the United States contributed to Afghanistan from 2002 to January 30, 2013, was about $ 1.4 billion more than the Marshall Plan budget for the reconstruction of 16 Western European countries after World War II.

Heavy human loss: studies and issued reports echo that the number of foreign military victims in Afghanistan since the start of the war in 2001 to 2018, in total, 3,546 foreign troops have been killed from 30 countries in Afghanistan, with 2408 from the United States, 455 from the UK, and 158 from Canada, had the highest casualties in war against the Taliban in Afghanistan. After the attack on al-Qaeda on September 11, 2001, the US-led coalition invaded Afghanistan on October 7th and overthrew the Taliban regime, but the war has continued so far, during which time Afghan security forces and civilians also suffered heavy casualties. As per the reports by the foreign independent researchers, since the fall of Taliban’s regime up to now, around 13,000 Afghan armed forces, including local police have been killed in the war against the insurgents.

According to a Brown University research report from the United States, the Afghan conflict since 2001, when the Taliban regime collapsed by US-led forces, has left nearly 100,000 dead and injured. The study, titled “War Expenditures,” conducted by the Watson Institute for International Studies at Brown University in the United States, addresses the casualties associated with war and displacement in Afghanistan and Pakistan from 2001 to 2014. The findings show that 26,270 Afghan civilians lost their lives as a direct consequence of the war and wounded 29,900 ones. The total death toll reported in this report includes civilian casualties, Taliban and other insurgent groups, US and coalition forces, as well as welfare workers and journalists.

Unprecedented natural resource losses: Afghanistan’s mineral resources, estimated at between $ 1 trillion and $ 3 trillion, have been an attractive potential for a long time. But the same mineral resources also fueled war and armed conflicts in Afghanistan. In a country like Afghanistan where formerly widespread corruption, an active insurgency, and scarcity of infrastructure and institutions have crippled it, mineral resources represent another potential source of instability. Millions of dollars go through pockets of armed groups, insurgents and armed forces through the extraction of illegal mines, while Afghan people benefit from only a small portion of the wealth generated from these projects. The Afghan government benefits little from its natural mines. It is estimated that there are currently about 1,400 illegal mine extractions in Afghanistan. According to the Global Witness report, 2016, “Military earnings of warlords and Taliban from a small Badakhshan region are equal to the total income of the Afghan Government’s natural resources sector.”In 2014, armed groups from two districts of the Diodara mine in Karan and the Manjan in Badakhshan province earned about $ 20 million. Illegal extraction of mines only undermines the impact of the Afghan security forces and the legitimacy of the state, but also it is a major obstacle to the development of the economy, including the mining industry.

Increasing violence against women: Afghanistan’s Independent Human Rights Commission’s statistics echo that violence against women has increased in recent years. For example, Afghanistan’s Independent Human Rights Commission’s 2017 annual report shows that violence against women in Afghanistan has increased by 8.6%.The report states that 5575 cases of violence have been registered in 2017. This figure was 5132 in 2016.It projects a huge increase in violence against women over the past years. Of the total recorded violence, more than 1,500 cases of physical violence, more than 360 cases of sexual violence, more than 1,800 verbal and psychological violence, more than 1,100 cases of economic violence and remaining violence have been reported in response to behaviors that are traditionally (social traditions) are disgraceful. In the reported physical violence section, more than 1,200 cases of beatings, 10 incidents, 57 injuries, 45 forced labor and 234 deaths were included. The Independent Human Rights Commission says that the statistics do not show the full reality due to the extent of this problem, and many cases of violence against women are likely to remain hidden for reasons of custom and lack of security.

Mass migration and brain drain: the number of Afghan citizens who left the country in 2014 is more than those who left the country in 2001. According to United Nations statistics, since 2002, about 5 million immigrants have returned to Afghanistan, but the trend has fallen sharply over the past two years, and in 2014, only about 10,000 people have returned to Afghanistan. While in the first eight months of 2015, more than 122,000 Afghan citizens have requested asylum from European countries. Compared to the first six months of 2014, this figure that represents around 24,000 Afghan citizens who fled Afghanistan indicate a shocking increase in migration. Now the citizens of Afghanistan are the second largest refugee group in Europe. Among those who leave Afghanistan for other countries are mostly educated persons and professionals. The withdrawal of highly educated and highly trained people from Afghanistan is one of the bitter consequences of the war in that country. For sure, the withdrawal of human resources from Afghanistan will undermine its human resources. Many Afghan experts consider the deterioration of the security situation, the recession and the loss of labor opportunities and corruption in various organizations of the country as the main source of people’s frustration for the future.

Escalation of addicted persons and narcotics trade: in Afghanistan, drug addiction has become one of the most important health and social crises in recent years, and it can be said that due to the large volume of poppy production, on the one hand, the consequences of three decades of conflict, unemployment, and the weakness of strategic health programs, on the other hand, has heightened this dilemma its shadow every day. A recent study by the International Department of Counter Narcotics and the Law Enforcement of the US Department of State in cooperation with Afghan Ministries of Public Health and Counter Narcotics project that 11 percent of the Afghan population uses drugs. More surprisingly, according to some surveys, 12 to 41 percent of police forces are addicted to cannabis (New York Times, 2011). Similarly, in recent years, there has been an increase in drug use, and in particular, the use of drug injection throughout Afghanistan (Ted et al., 2009).This is due to the increase in the availability of and increased opium production in Afghanistan (UNODC, 2012), due to poor social and economic opportunities (Ted et al., 2009), the return of addicted migrants to Afghanistan (Hankins et al., 2002). The number of drug addicts in Afghanistan reached 920,000 in Afghanistan in 2005, according to Afghan Minister of Health 2005 report. The figure reached more than a million in 2009 and reached three million in 2014 that demonstrate a shocking increase.

Weak sovereignty despite granted billions of dollars by foreign countries: the US Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction 2016 report demonstrates that the United States since 2001 up to now had contributed $ 59.8 billion to equip, reinforce and train the armed forces of Afghanistan (40.2 billion to the army and 19.6 billion to the police) excluding 2017 and 2018 and other international donors’ contributions. The report adds that the Afghan government is controlling just over 61 percent of the country’s land, which has 68.5 percent of the country’s population (22 million out of 32.1 million). However, according to the report, 28.4 percent of the country’s land, which is home to 22.7 percent of the population (7.3 million), is in conflict and more than 10 percent of the rest of the country’s land is home to two million and eight thousand people (8.7% of the population) are under the control of insurgents.

Conclusion

Some analysts believe that the reappearance of al-Qaeda, Taliban control over parts of Afghanistan and the emergence of ISIL in the country indicate that Afghanistan is on the downside in its security. Moreover, the national and international critics’ voice regarding Afghanistan’s reconstruction process after 2001 is rampant and gets more widespread every day. They are criticizing the mismanagement of reconstruction works, spending international aids, prevailing financial and administrative corruption, lack of fairness and transparency in political process such as election and so on. What is disputed is the magnitude and quality of the changes that have taken place in Afghanistan over the past years. Some analysts believe the changes that Afghanistan underwent could be more fundamental and constructive if the Afghan government’s leaders have had serious determination in rebuilding the infrastructures of Afghanistan after the fall of Taliban regime in Nov. 2001. However, still, there is time until the end of the presence of foreign troops by 2024 to change the situation in Afghanistan.

Hamidullah Bamik is a Fulbright Scholar, education policy analyst, and a social development researcher. His research focus is on girl’s education and women empowerment, gender equality, good governance, and socio-economic development in South Asia but particularly Afghanistan. He has worked with World Bank Capacity Building Projectsat Supreme Audit Office of Afghanistan from 2013 to 2018 as a capacity building consultant. Currently, he is working as a social development researcher at Asia Culture House, a non-profit cultural and art organization based in Kabul, Afghanistan. Additionally, he is a frequent contributor on sociopolitical, socioeconomic, and social developmentissuesto Outlook and Etilaatroz, the two leading Newspapers in Afghanistan, and Modern Diplomacy, a leading European opinion-maker with far-reaching influence across the Middle East, Africa, and Asia.

South Asia

PTI Government in Pakistan: To full-fill its promise on curbing Corruption

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Big achievements of PTI (Pakistan Tehreek-E-Insaf) Government in Pakistan. Corruption is an international phenomenon, especially among developing and underdeveloped countries. Corruption is a major hurdle in the fight against poverty and development. However, the beneficiary of corruption is still the developed world. The rulers from developing and underdeveloped world, transfer all their black money to developed countries and in the end, developed world enjoy out of their black money.

Pakistan, being a developing country, no exception to this curse. During the last few governments, it was very much visible. Either it was financial corruption of moral corruption, all are equally harmful to the country. Previous few governments, appointed corrupt and unqualified persons on key posts and used them as their front men in corruption.

Some of their front men were an evil genius and committed heinous crimes in such a technical manner that it is very difficult to find out evidence. Either it is fake accounts or various forms of money laundering or in the form of subsidies or government grants, commissions or kickbacks in projects or procurement, bribes or gift, all are the same but with different forms to harm the socio-economic of this country.

It was in the manifesto of PTI, and part of its slogan during the election campaign, to fight against corruption. Prime Minister Imran Khan in his speech on several occasions has promised with the nation that, he will fix all corrupt, irrespective of their status in the society. It is logical to start from the big fish and later on to common corrupt officials at junior levels.

Pakistan’s judiciary and the military are also on the same page and extending full support to the PTI government’s mission to eliminate corruption from this society once for all. The recent arrests are just the beginning of accountability and have to go on a long journey. May it take one term or even next term, but the accountability process must keep on going till the eradication of corruption completely.

Pakistan is under the heavy foreign-debt, worth US Dollars 100 billion approximately. Who took this huge loan? Have they worked out, how to pay back? Have they spent all the loans on the development of Pakistan? Why this loan has not been trickled down impact? Why this heavy loan could not improve Pakistan’s economy? How useful was this loan to common man of Pakistan? Why IMF could not improve the governance of Pakistan? Why IMF failed to improve performance of Pakistan? Why IMF could not give positive advice to Government of Pakistan? The lenders also need to be blamed for lending without any feasibility and failure of IMF packages offered to Pakistan during last one decade or so long. Why few families (rulers) become more rich and country become poorer?

If the sitting governments of that times have been borrowing without any planning or homework or without considering how to pay back, all of them must be held responsible for this heinous crime against the nation. Whether they are inside Pakistan or left the country, they must be arrested and brought back to face justice.

If only a few corrupt families are arrested and asked for the return of looted money, Pakistan can get rid of its major part of foreign-debt. We may not need any bailout package from the IMF or any help from any friendly country. All the looted money must be returned, all the illegal assets must be confiscated and suctioned out. All the recovered money must be used to pay back our foreign-debt.

There is no need to impose additional taxes and duties on the common man. Electricity, Fuel, Gas and consumer products may be kept on the original position. It is illogical that the common man, who is not responsible for the debt and still suffers due to the corruption of rulers.  It is desired, the previous rulers, who have pushed the country into economic chaos, should be held responsible and all damages need to be compensated by them only. There is no need to punish the whole nation for few criminals. Recovery from previous corrupt rulers is very much do-able and very much possible, above all very much desired. There are examples available in the world, how they recovered looted money from their big shots.  Saudi Arabia has done it well. China is a role model to be followed in this regard.  The Chinese government is willing to share its experience and expertise in fighting against corruption.

Our internal resources may be utilized fully to control corruption and recover all black money. Even if there is a need to introduce new legislation, the Government should not hesitate. Masses in Pakistan stands with Government on this issue. The government should move smartly in this direction with full strength and confidence. Public support is already there.  However, if the Government fails to accomplish this task, it may lose popularity.

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South Asia

Gentlemen’s game or Propaganda? Cricket and the India-Pakistan Voices

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Can a sport be utilized as an effective propaganda tool? And if so, does it ideally mean that government intrusion is a necessity for its success? The answer to this question lies in the reflection of the cricket scenario in Asia. Although recognized as a gentlemen’s game, much can be said about its dichotomy as a weapon in the ever-growing war between India and Pakistan. Cricket propaganda has become a major trend over the past decade between the two countries as competition remains scarce with the political tensions and matches are seen as a great opportunity to reflect those political tensions. 

Recently, the tension between the two countries escalated with a suicide bombing attack sponsored by the terror group, Jaish-e-Mohammed in the Pulwama district of Jammu & Kashmir. This grave attack resulted in the death of 40 Central Reserve Police Force personnel, which in the opinion of the Indian government was an act of war leading them to raise the issue on the global platform. Surprising, one of the biggest acts of public response, with the usual backlash of the country’s rights over the Kashmir valley, was a call to abandon the upcoming match between the two countries following the start of the ICC cricket world cup. Although, the Modi government did conduct airstrikes against Pakistan, leading to a major confrontation between the two countries along the ‘line of control’ (the de facto border between the two countries), a large scale debate about whether India should abandon the game was a hotly debated topic in the country.

It is worth noticing that later the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI), did hand over the matter to the Modi government, after which the decision was inclined towards the sportsmanship of the country, however, both the Indian cricket team and the BCCI were not ready to desert the will of the public that easily. Involved in an ODI series with Australia, the Indian team walked out wearing military caps as a sign of apparent solidarity with the troopers killed in the terrorist attack. Never before had Team India taken it upon themselves to spread such jingoistic propaganda on a global scale and make such overt statement. The rise of the protestors in Pakistan were met with official statements from the International body of Cricket (ICC), stating their approval as a means of “support” to the Indian team for a fund-raising effort for their fallen soldiers.  

Similarly, in an act of nationalistic fervor, the BCCI decided to get Pakistan banned from the upcoming world-cup prior to its commencement but was severely backlashed by the International Cricket Council (ICC), to keep politics away from the sanctity of the game. Although BCCI was unsuccessful in passing an unrealistic degree of order, given their large scale influence on the International body, it was clear that cricket had become an additional weapon of mass destruction and means of propaganda between the two countries.

So has the situation become better now? Recently, an Ad-war following the start of the world cup has emerged between the two countries, given their highly anticipated upcoming clash on the 16th of June. Ahead of the Sunday clash-guaranteed to put both the nations at a standstill- Star Sport’s Mauka ad ( loosely translated to a chance of winning) has captured the attention of the Indian fans, as the video has garnered over 2.5 million views after it was published on 10th June 2019. This video currently stands as a reprise an extension of the “Patakhe kab podhenge” campaign (clumsily translated to “When will be get to burn crackers”), wherein a Pakistani fan never gets a chance to burn his crackers as Pakistan is always defeated by India on a world cup stage, as indicated by the records as well. However, the new Mauka ad seems to recognize the importance of June 16th as Father’s day and does not fail to interject the role of India as a father in comparison Pakistan, as a means of cheeky humor which received large scale reaction from the Pakistani fans.

As a means of response, a Pakistani news channel Jazz Tv published a video with a character impersonating Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman, the Indian air force pilot who was captured, briefly held and then released under the pretense of the Geneva Convention. The character is seen sporting the pilot’s handlebar mustache with a fake South Indian accent and is dressed in the Indian team jersey, following which an interrogator asks him to give back the teacup he has been holding, as a means to denote how the cup belongs to Pakistan. This video was met with the usual support from the Pakistani fans and deemed ‘racist’ by the Indian fans, accounting to the portrayal of the esteemed pilot with a fake southern accent. Although, tension has been running high between the countries for some time now, both the nations have resorted to extending their tensions to the cricket pitch as well, ensuring large scale traction for their upcoming matches.

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South Asia

Modi’s Operandi

Syed Nasir Hassan

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Same old Modi puts himself in throne again but with different mandate this time. This time he came with much force and appeared more vigilant. Sweeping an electoral win with more than 300 seats out of 543 and restricting Indian National Congress to mere 52 seats. This clearly shows that India gave priority to nationalism over any other set of idea. Prior to previous electoral year i.e. 2014,Modi lured with promises of social and economic reforms and upheaval. Which sunk badly as some of the predicaments are still in the society. From being miserable in improving the job sector that gave rise to unemployment rate to the inducing grieves to the farmers, Modi bagged some failures as well in his previous tenure.

Whereas this time bait was the Hindu nationalistic sentiments, which Mr. Modi and his members of the den enjoyed the feast by winning the election. By using hate mandate, Modi successfully maneuvered himself and his party in to the realms of Delhi. Before elections, his unfortunate adventurous voyage with its neighbor and rival Pakistan made a lucid chance to portray himself as heroic figure. Modi flaunted anger and hate towards its immediate neighbor. It profited him in shape of getting a majority in the lower house of the Indian political saga. Hate sentiments were provoked and inducted in common minds. Question herby rises that how Hindu nationalism can or will transform India?

During previous reign of Mr. Modi, clear social and religious divisions were drawn onto the Indian society. This was mechanized in recent elections as well by promoting nationalism or more likely Hinduism. One of the tactics that was opted by BJP and Modi is persuasion of fears of Indian society and Hindu ideology and presenting himself as the only savior. Modi portrayed himself as the only option for Hindu caste to save Hindu ideology from external threats.

Modi has always been fond of shifting Indian secular discourse towards a Hindu nationalist sermon. His previous tenure and the plight minorities faced during that time testifies his aims. Now he has been elected for another five years. This time he has secured almost 56% of the lower house that clearly means that Mr. Modi will have to face no hurdle in his way towards passing a legislation.

Media and Modi has always been close aides to each other. This nexus was also prominent in the recent elections as Social and Electronic media, both were eminent in glaring Modi-ism. It ultimately cultivated his ideology in the minds of a common viewer hence reflecting it in the election results. His election campaign was given more coverage than any other thing on TV. The election soap series continued feeding the people of the India. Without any doubt, there have been immense flow of monetary funds in the veins on Indian media during the election time.

Modi’s Bharatya Jantya Party or BJP’s Modi have already drawn a plan to be executed in the society. Selection of candidates that were given tickets and won were some of the most extremist in nature. Shakshi Mahraj, a newly elected member of parliament on BJP’s seat already has more than 30 criminal cases against him. Another newly elected BJP’s Member of Parliament, Pragya Singh Thakur remarked Mahatma Gandhi’s assassin as “a patriot”. Not only this, selections for new cabinet members clearly indicated where Mr. Modi would be leading Indian society. Amit Shah who is also a president of BJP has ironically been selected as India’s Home Minister. There is a clear chance thatnew reforms might be religion centric rather than being focused on governance. BJP will clearly exhibit the Hindu ideology in governance that would further raise concerns for the minorities in India.

The Indian future and the question of Indian minorities seems bleak. Modi created a narrative on abhorrence and nationalism, he won elections on this mandate but now he has to defend it and every word of hatred that came out of his mouth may be realized through his actions. It puts Indian society in a dismal situation.

It is arduous to analyze that how large populous has voted in favor of hate mandate prompted by Modi. But there is a chance that Indian society might be falling prey to reverse psychology. It indulged itself so deep and intense in criticizing and accusing its neighbor, Pakistan, for being extremist and conservative society that it itself is becoming one.

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