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Lessons from History for a New Pakistan

M Waqas Jan

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As Prime Minister Imran Khan’s newly elected government pushes forward his vision of a ‘Naya (New) Pakistan’, it is important that the lessons learnt from the country’s troubled past also be kept mind. These include lessons learnt not only from the sub-continent’s colonial past, but also from the series of events that inevitably led to the East Pakistan debacle. While much has been written on the country’s struggle for independence from colonial rule, there exists a glaring lack of honest introspection into the events that led to the secession of East Pakistan. As 16th December, the date of Pakistan’s surrender of its Eastern Wing quietly passes by, it is worth revisiting why this ignominy has been more or less self-censored as part of the country’s national discourse.

As many scholars have noted over the last few decades, Pakistan’s history has itself become a site of contestation amongst various commentators. The very idea of an official narrative, with all its discursive underpinnings is one that has been argued against consistently by some of the country’s leading scholars. These arguments have themselves become enshrined in much lauded works such as K.K Aziz’s seminal ‘The Murder of History’ or for instance Ayesha Jalal’s‘ The Sole Spokesman’. With an emphasis on deconstructing the country’s dominant historical narrative, a common theme running throughout these works is the call for greater introspection from which to perceive and contextualize the present. By taking a step back and laying bare the many myths that have been propagated as part of Pakistan’s culture and identity, it is important that the lessons learnt from our troubled past are employed in the present, lest we remain doomed of repeating the same mistakes over and again.

Applying this approach to the history of East Pakistan, the consensual narrative that is widely presented revolves around how it was Indian interference that primarily led to the secession of a key territory comprising of 55% of the country’s overall population. It attributes India’s long-standing animosity towards Pakistan as the primary cause for the creation of Bangladesh. Hence, in the vast majority of history text-books being taught in schools throughout Pakistan, the emphasis has largely been on how India served as the architect of this traumatic and psychological setback to Pakistan, severing the close historical, cultural, and religious ties that had once bound East Pakistan together with its Western wing.

What this narrative completely ignores however is the decades of neglect, mismanagement and systemic marginalization of East Pakistan’s population at the hands of the dominant status quo in Pakistan’s Western wing. Politically under-represented, economically marginalized and even culturally ostracized, one wonders what recourse was left to these citizens who had merely traded colonial subjugation under the British, for second-class citizenship within a newly independent Pakistan. While India did play a dominant military role in the 1972 conflict which eventually led to the creation of Bangladesh; laying the blame entirely on Indian interference is ignoring the decades of policies and systemic marginalization for which the then governments of Pakistan are largely to blame. Not to mention the unprecedented violence which the Pakistani military resorted to in its last ditch efforts at maintaining its control over the Eastern Wing.

It is no surprise that based on the prevailing politics of the South Asian region, this narrative which emphasizes Indian interference has been further reinforced over the last seven decades’ animosity between India and Pakistan. In fact, drawing on the steady deterioration of Indo-Pak ties, it remains hostage to the prevailing accusations of cross-border terrorism and state-sponsored unrest currently being leveled by both countries against one another. Pakistan for instance has repeatedly pointed out that India has long been fomenting unrest in Balochistan and its adjoining tribal areas, in effect waging a proxy war along the same lines as it did in former East Pakistan. There exists credible evidence linking certain militant groups operating within these areas directly with the Indian state and military.

However, owing to the heavily securitized nature of Pakistan–India relations, such claims and activities have over the years sadly become accepted as the norm rather than the exception. This ‘normalization’ has in turn allowed previous Pakistani governments to easily attribute widespread underdevelopment and the lack of security within the country to the nefarious ‘external hand’ of foreign powers.

Hence, while there is a certain truth to the considerable extent to which India’s nefarious designs have impacted the country’s progress and development, this should not be used as an excuse for the Pakistani government’s own lack of policy and proper governance. This holds especially true for some of Pakistan’s most marginalized regions.

There is no denying that there has for instance existed a very real historic marginalization of the people of Balochistan as well as the tribal areas to the North. There exists even today a glaring lack of infrastructure development as well as a severe dearth of basic public goods such as education and healthcare. While these factors alone may not warrant a full-fledged secessionist movement, they do create certain conditions to be exploited by the state’s adversaries.

If the prevailing narrative regarding East Pakistan is taken as an example, there is still perhaps a long way to go before the Pakistani state fully accepts and takes ownership of its own shortcomings with regard to its development focus. If Pakistan is to better insulate these troubled areas from external influences, what’s required is an honest and deep introspection on how to truly re-prioritize the country’s economic development and governance agenda. If not, then history shows that there is unlikely to be anything Naya (New) in the newly elected government’s vision for Pakistan.

Research Associate and Program Coordinator for the China Study & Information Centre (CS & IC) at the Strategic Vision Institute, a non-partisan think tank based out of Islamabad. He can be reached at waqas[at]thesvi.org

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South Asia

Kashmir: The Unconquerable Will of Kashmiris is still Alive

Syeda Dhanak Hashmi

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Every dictatorship flourishes more on the continuing incapacity of the public to examine and evaluate reality in the way that a scientist does in a practical manner; and that’s the reason why these skills, are not being taught in public education in order to keep them ignorant of the truth. In India, the children are reinforced with hatred for minorities especially Muslims, which develops into uncontrollable animosity, instilled in the minds of the masses by the dictators, without logical grounds. This is what has been happening in India since decades and now transformed into the genocidal agenda of RSS. The actual issue is actually with the Muslim identity that the people of Kashmiri have.

Kashmir, at the moment, is a prison under military control, not because of any rebellion which had happened there (none did); rather it is simply because of a senseless unconstitutional invasion, on August 5th, to conquer the valley (Muslim majority state) totally by Hindu Indian troops, to practice the nefarious designs of Hindu-totalitarian BJP government. Thus, turning India itself into an apartheid-supremacist regime, much like Israel is over Palestine. India has made this abrupt move to turn Kashmir into India’s own Palestine, grabbing the lands of Kashmiris by revoking Article 35A and turning it into a huge prison for Muslims.

Decades have passed, however, and the plebiscite promised was never held. Kashmir is the most militarized region in the world, with armed Indian troops deployed in the Indian-administered Kashmir for more than three decades. They have occupied Kashmir through the use of colonial war measures acts, including the Armed Forces Special Powers Act and the Public Safety Act that have given Indian troops complete impunity. The Genocide Watch, which keeps an eye on disputes across the world, gave a brief history of Kashmir in its alert while detailing the reasons which led it to issue the warning. The report was issued for Occupied Kashmir in the wake of India’s ongoing suppression in the Muslim majority region following revocation of its special status.

While explaining the reasons behind issuing the alert, the organization also recalled the Indian atrocities in Kashmir where occupation forces have carried out genocide and massacres, killing people mercilessly. The people of Kashmir have been suffering the human rights violations which include gang rapes and mass disappearances of thousands of people. As many as 100,000 Kashmiris have been killed and several thousand wounded, blinded with pellet guns and maimed, including through torture tactics in custody.

Though the imperialistic forces have tried their best to silence and suppress the Kashmiris, yet they have been fighting for self-determination for hundreds of years. Today, the Hindutva ideology disguised in the mask of nationalism to control the valley continue crushing the Muslims without any ignominy. Hence, India’s decision to revoke Jammu and Kashmir’s special status, is nothing other than yet another act of shameless imperialist aggression.

There can be no legal justification of Modi’s traitorism to the Indian Constitution which he has been doing to J&K ever since August 5th. The only real question is instead whether Indian media will start to publicize this important fact or will it follow the path of yellow journalism as ever. Meanwhile, the Indian government races forward with its rape of India’s Constitution, in the hope that the Muslims of J&K will evacuate that land so as to enable Hindus ‘democratically’ to enforce some sort of apartheid anti-Muslim regime there, which is a clear violation of Indian law merely to implement the RSS wicked strategies to achieve the Hindu control there.

There is no denying the fact that fascists everywhere are traitors to their country, and this is now being made manifestly clear in India where Modi seems to be like Hitler. Hence, the status of India as a democracy has been badly derailed because a country where the constitution is illegally exploited does not deserve to be called a democratic country. There is a procedure to be followed (to amend) any constitution i.e., an amendment bill must be passed by each house of Parliament by a two-thirds majority of its total membership when at least two-thirds are present and vote.

Therefore, Modi’s hold of Kashmir is unconstitutional, at least unless and until India’s Constitution is amended. Moreover, if Indian military continues its occupation there, then it is likely to spark a war in Kashmir, which could quickly become a war between Hindu-majority India and Muslim-majority Pakistan, next door to India.

Pakistan is the loudest to voice its opinion against change. Pakistan has always responded promptly when it comes to Kashmir and stated, ‘’Pakistan will exercise all possible options to counter the illegal steps. Kashmir is the jugular vein of Pakistan, and anyone laying a hand on our jugular vein will meet a frightful end.”

In a nutshell, the BJP government is openly violating the international humanitarian law by means of this brutal and entirely unjustifiable military crackdown. The attempt to change demography of Kashmir through ethnic cleansing by India is being watched by the world and the international organisations are helpless in playing their role on Kashmir issue. Furthermore, it is unfortunate that the important Muslim countries including Saudi Arabia and UAE have not condemned Indian atrocities in IHK. It is only Pakistan which has always played a positive role and made constructive efforts to resolve Kashmir issue, where India has always responded back with aggression. But India should keep in mind that Pakistani forces are fully prepared to respond any Indian aggression in a befitting manner.

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‘Six weeks of Indian Disinformation in Kashmir Lockdown’

Ramla Khan

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The Indian curfew in Srinagar, capital to Jammu and Kashmir territory climbs to six weeks. Not only are the roads concealed with military troops but the reality and misery of eight million people remains unexposed plus disinformed to the world. Despite of all international media spelling in unison the perturbed lifestyle of Kashmir, alas New Delhi’s state media still presents a rare tranquil plot of the region. Only state centric news is transmitted with favorable changes and molds. Kashmir crisis is not an Indian debut with disinformation operations instead the Modi dominion is today termed a pro in this regard. The ‘Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) landslide’ in 2019 electoral is largely credited to his ‘bundle of lies’ which induced the Indian general public to vote on the ideological lines of Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS).As supported by the popular American magazine ‘The Atlantic’- many of India’s misinformation campaigns are developed and run by political parties. Another Washington based institute labels ‘What’s more alarming is that political parties, including Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s BJP, are behind most of these disinformation campaigns’.  The critique and accounts of Pakistani leadership are pronounced as a tool of forged propagandaby Indian press -Zee TV and ‘The Economic Times’.

Repression of truth with oppression

Discrete vistas have appeared between the on aired news from international broadcasting and New Delhi. The normalcy and ease of restrictions has been claimed in Srinagar since August as mentioned by ‘The Economic Times’ – Restrictions eased in J-K; life returning to normal. whereas AI Jazeera – the leading Qatar pay television channel repetitively discusses the torment of stranded people in lockdown. Al Jazeera, identifies back to back ‘ average 20 protests each day’ which explicitly notifies that the curbing termed curfew is alive.

According to DW, a German news network the ‘truth cannot be verified’ as the security forces turn the camera away, ‘the right to speak freely will not simply be restored when the phones start ringing again’ as the newspaper editors in Srinagar complain being dictated what to write and what not to. Under the fascist policies of Narender Modi people are detained from speaking actual situation on media and are facing harassment from Indian troops resting all over the roads since August 5,2019.  The few days back episode of Dr. Omer Salim  is an exemplar who on spot during his interview to a BBC reporter was captured by Indian police. The video clip is a vivid demonstration that how the truth is delayed from reaching world. The doctor had merely requested the government to reopen the communication infrastructure and treatment facilities for chemotherapies and patients who needed urgent dialysis sessions. Another broadcasted report by DW television identifies untreated patients due to closed operation theaters.

The fingers are raised on Indian ideals of democracy by the foreign media. New Delhi can dub the Islamabad news sources as self-fabricated so lets take in the statement of Urmila Matondkar, an Indian actress converted politician: “The question is not only about abrogating Article 370. It was done in inhuman manner,”. IAS Officer Kannan Gopinathan, resigned from his reputed post last month with his utterance on India Today, “I joined civil service with the hope that I can be the voice of those who have been silenced. But here, I lost my own voice.”

Concealed tragedy of Kashmir

The Times of India’ mentions “not a single bullet has been fired” in the state since August 5″. Al Jazeera in its September apprise jots ‘Electric shocks, beatings’: Kashmiris allege abuse by India army. New York Times registers ‘Asrar was known as a smart young boy who stayed away from protests, hedied after security officers hit him in the face with buckshot. As stated by ‘The Guardian’,the 16-year-old, Asrar Ahmed Khanwas fired with a pellet gun on 6 August and due to severe injury deceased in the following month. The news remained uncovered by any prominent channels in New Delhi. According to TRT World, Turkish press network, Lieutenant of Indian army Jeet Singh Dhillon has denied to use any weapon despite of medical verification his conference professed  that a stone was hit to the young teen.

The criterion of justice

Under the present adopted stratagem of New Delhi against the Muslim community in Kashmir, Modi government is highly defamed at various platforms except in India which still nominates it as a hero of nation. The world needs to define its justice criterion with exception of caste creed and color. Unfortunately the ethical code remains absent throughout the globe.

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South Asia

Abrogation of Article 370 and Pakistan’s Pathetic Response

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Pakistan, which is a party to Kashmir dispute could not make significant move after the Indian decision to scrap Article 370. The fragile economy, conventional military asymmetry and limited influence in international community restrict the options for Pakistan to take any strong stance against Indian illegal decision.

A month ago the government of BJP illegally dissolved the special status of Jammu and Kashmir through demolishing the Article 370. The article provides immunity to Jammu and Kashmir from Indian laws except foreign affairs, finance and communications. The decision is profoundly rejected by masses of Jammu and Kashmir and Pakistan. In the mean time the opposition parties in India also expressed strong dissatisfaction against decision and predicted severe repercussions for Indian state. The decision has also been challenged in the Indian Supreme Court and hearing has already been started. Yet, since the 5th August Kashmir is under siege, curfew has been imposed, communication network, medical and health facilities have been blocked. The international human rights organizations and defenders issued a genocide warning and warned India not to commit genocide.

In this critical situation which is developed by India, Pakistan took stance to stand by Kashmir. Pakistan highlighted the violent action which engulfed the rights and lives of Kashmiri people’s. Although Pakistan expressed strong resistance and proclaimed to use all the means to give Kashmiri’s their right, but there is a huge difference in words and deeds. On behest of Pakistan, China called UN Security Council meeting to discuss the issue and Chinese ambassador strongly condemned the Indian action and urged both parties to resolve the dispute through peaceful means. Yet it is important to point out that permanent members of UNSC refused to issue a post meeting joint   statement.

Here it is wise to highlight that the international politics is dominated by the self-interests of dominant powers and weak states have no say in the system. Pakistan could not compete with Indian power in international relations. After scrapping the article, India immediately sought foreign support and Prime Minister Narendra Modi went to different states. Modi visited France, Bahrain and UAE, while Prime Minister of Pakistan Imran Khan only made phone calls to seek support against Indian action. This clearly disclosed the inefficiency of Pakistan to counter the Indian narrative.

Indian economic and investment potential is another factor behind cool response of international powers. India is trading partner of many countries and most prominent among them are USA, UK, UAE, China, European Union and Australia. The US has invested 9 million in India during the 2016 and UK has signed the commercial deals of 9.3 million recently. Australia is benefitted from Indian students and its education export is 2 billion dollars. EU a group of 27 independent states is another major investor and trade partner of India with 2.5 % international shares.

In contemporary international politics, diaspora is a backbone of any nation and same is true for India. It is observed that Indians are residing almost every influential state. More than 3.5 million Indians are working in UAE. During the 2015, Indian share was 16% in expats residing in the US, and Saudi Arabia host 1.9 million Indians. Kuwait having 1 million Indian workers and Oman 777,632 Indians. Europe also host the 1.2 million Indians.

The bilateral trade of India with US, China, EU, Japan, and Australia is impressive. In 2019, bilateral trade of India-China crossed the 100 billion, which expects to grow further. The US is second largest trading partner of India in goods, and the single largest export destination of Indian exporters. The bilateral trade has been grew at 7.59% annually from 68.4 billion in 2008 to 142.1 billion in 2018.

The 8.8 million Pakistanis are residing in western states, 4.7 million are living in EU and 1.2 in U.K. But Pakistan failed to activate its diaspora to promote national interests of the state. The Pakistani leadership never paid serious attention to engage diaspora, which resulted in poor representation of Pakistan in international community. On the other hand, Indian diaspora is much influential and have strong say in policies of US and EU. Their skills and education help them to climb the ladder of success and influence. So, it is high time for Pakistan to devise an effective strategy to lobby the national interests and engage diaspora. The diaspora is considered the defense line as they bridge the gap between their parent and host state. 

Pakistan’s economic structure is fragile with rising debt and prices of commodities. The country is dependent on international monitory institutions to repay its debt which crossed over 100 billion dollars. It is on 150thposition in poverty index among 189 countries according to UN Human Development Indicators. The value of rupee is decreased to lowest level and government is losing its credibility. Pakistan is spending its 20% budget on Army which is higher than education, health and social development allocation. The fragile economy, poor coordination in policy making and influence of military in foreign policy making has reduced the role of other state institutions. Although, current civilian government claims that civilian and military leadership is on same page, but the poor and ill-coordinated response exposed the fault lines. The top hierarchy of civilian and political leadership did not bother itself to convey Pakistani position on Kashmir, except making statements.

If Pakistan really want to influence the international community, then it needs to fix its poor economy, to improve its human and social system, engage diaspora, make effective and inclusive foreign and security policy. The economic, political and military power can guarantee the national interests of the country. So Pakistan work tirelessly on all the fronts to achieve the status of major power.

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