Connect with us

South Asia

Situation of Women in Afghanistan: From Queen Soraya Tarzi to Rula Ghani

Published

on

Rula Ghani, First Lady of Afghanistan

Today’s Afghan women bear the huge and heavy burden of four decades war and conflicts. Early at the beginning of the twentieth century, Afghan women, as a result of the first constitutional movement under the leadership of King Amanullah, Khan succeeded in gaining some of their human rights and freedoms. King Amanullah Khan’s democratic plans included the elimination of hijab of women, access to education and active participation of women in the social, economic, political and cultural processes in the society. But unfortunately, after the fall of Soviet-backed governments of Kabul and their subsequent regimes – Mujahidin and Taliban, all those values were buried soon.

The First Steps for Afghan Women Liberation

In late 1927, King Amanullah Khan and his wife, Queen Soraya Tarzi, visited Europe. On this trip, they were honored and feted. This was an era when other Muslim nations, like Turkey and Egypt, were also on the path to modernization. Upon returning from his tour to Europe, King Amanullah Khan let his wife appear without a veil in public. He also prepared a progressive and democratic plan for modernizing his country. One of the key elements of this plan was the elimination of hijab of women, access to education and active participation of women in the social, economic, political and cultural processes in the society. However, the time was not right, and his plan was more progressive than the context of Afghanistan of 1928. Soon after the declaration of his reformist move, religious and traditional local elders revolted against his modernization program. This demonstration effectuated into a tribal rebellion and forced King Amanullah Khan to abdicate. As a result, his reformist programs were defeated.

After the era of King Amanullah Khan, the kingdoms of Afghanistan slowly continued his reforms. But the era of socialist and communist governments in Afghanistan, which is especially important for women, seems to be the root of many political events in recent years. Because, although during this period, especially with regard to women, important advances have been made. But what happened during the Taliban era against women, can be an exact response to the previous governments’ policies regarding women issues. But it is argued that after the first bold step of King Amanullah Khan toward women liberation and giving them the basic human rights, various reforms have taken placed regarding the women issues in Afghanistan – such as the abolition of forced marriage practices, raising the maturity of girls up to 16 years of age, access to education, and women’s right to vote.

During the reformist period of Soviet-backed governments of Kabul, Afghanistan witnessed the massive immigration of those who did not want a forced revolution from top to down. Many families immigrated to Pakistan, Iran and other Islamic countries to escape from girls’ forced education because they considered it as a shame for themselves. Applying contingency and command policies, the Soviet-affiliated states faced with such resilience that in some cases obliged them to stop enforcing their reformist policies. For example, though co-education was compulsory to some extent, girls and boys were educated in separate schools.

We can argue that the Soviet-dependent regimes in Afghanistan wanted to impose their modernization projects through a group of government elites. It is estimated that out of a population of 17 million Afghans in this period, 85 percent were rural. The reformist programs were focused on large cities, while the villages were mostly governed by tribal practices. The central government was not able to compete with local sovereignty.

The reformist projects of the Leftist government in Afghanistan during the Democratic Republic of Afghanistan were largely limited to reforms that were enacted in three legislative enactments. These legislative enactments abolished girls’ sale by the peasants. Women’s freedom of marriage was also selected on the basis of these decrees. But these laws were met with severe traditionalist reactions.

To deal with the women issues, the Democratic Republic of Afghanistan launched an organization called “Afghan Women’s Democratic Organization (AWDO)”. Its main activity was to fight with the illiteracy of women in cities and villages and women’s expulsion from home. As the literacy cadres of AWDO forced villagers, even with the use of physical violence, to satisfy the presence of girls in classes, the literacy program for community girls faced the most resistance by local villagers. Many of these literacy cadres were expelled from villages or killed by villagers. Since these projects were designed to bring a profound transformation in people’s lives in a short time, which was hard and challenging, they were faced with completely opposing reactions of the local communities.

Soviet Invasion; the beginning of Dark Era for Afghan Women

The Soviet military invasion of Afghanistan for a period of 10 years from 1979 to 1989 was followed by a massive civil war, which ultimately led to the Soviet withdrawal from Afghanistan at the beginning of 1989 due to the failure of the Russians to contain it. The most reactive to the reforms of the Leftist government of Kabul, especially in relation to women, was projected by the Islamist organization, gradually known as the “Mujahideen”. These groups were supported by a set of regional states and Western powers, each of whom did not tolerate leftist rule in an Islamic country for a variety of political reasons, including fear of Soviet influence.

The period of Soviet military presence in Afghanistan brought about a period of freedom for women in the context of Soviet patriarchal policies, and a period of relative liberties in which a small percentage of Afghan women benefited from it. But this period led not only to the widespread conflict between women in the country but also to the rise and mobilization of traditionalist responses. The consequences of this invasion were painful and bitter for all Afghans and particularly for women.

From left:Rula Ghani, the current First Lady of Afghanistan (BBC) and Soraya Tarzi, Queen of Afghanistan from 1919-1929 (Wikipedia)

With the fall of Najibullah’s government, the second phase of the internal wars began from 1992 to 1998. This time the war was between a set of Afghanistan’s political factions that ended only after the victory of the Taliban and the overthrow of most of Afghanistan’s soil. The Taliban came to power, many of whom were former members of the Mojahedin (Iacopino, 1998).

While many in the West and Islamic countries favored the Mojahedin, the situation of Afghan women was forgotten during this period. In the first stages of the war during the confrontation between the mujahideen and the Soviet forces, many women were denied access to education, classrooms were closed, and women’s organizations were shut down and some of their activists were killed, including Mina, who founded the Women’s Revolutionary Association of Afghanistan in 1977.

The emergence of extremist Islamic movements in the post-communist era, as well as the rise of the Taliban government, can be attributed largely to the policies applied during the occupation of the Soviet Union in Afghanistan. Indeed, much of the violence against women was in response to intimidation and threats that were introduced during the period of leftist rule. Somehow, Afghanistan experienced a very difficult period in the late 20th century. However, the experience of the Mujahideen and Taliban era in comparison with the experience of the communist regime for women was a far worse experience.

The current military presence of the United States in Afghanistan, like the Soviet policy, allows the women to experience a period of relative calm and security. Though the current government of Afghanistan, as a weak state, is virtually incapable of supporting women, there are not any legal restrictions for women’s political, social and economic activities as they experienced prior to King Amanullah Khan’s regime, Mujahedin and Taliban’s era.

Afghan Women and 2004 Constitutional Law of Afghanistan

The new constitution of Afghanistan, formulated in the last half and a decade, has recognized women’s rights in a fundamental and indelible way. As per the current Constitutional Law of Afghanistan, men and women have equal human rights and human dignity. Compared to the past constitutional laws, the current constitution law addresses the grounds for the provision of women’s citizenship rights at the level of men. It is said that the current constitutional law of Afghanistan is the best laws in the region. Article 33 states that “All the citizens of Afghanistan have the right to choose and be elected …” (The Constitutional Law of Afghanistan, 2004, p. 10). And Article four holds that national sovereignty in Afghanistan belongs to the nation directly or through its agents, and the people of Afghanistan are all those who have the nationality of Afghanistan (The Constitutional Law of Afghanistan, 2004).

In Article 22 of Afghanistan’s Constitution Law, the right to equality and gender and humanity are reflected in clearly and emphatically that any discrimination and privilege is prohibited between the citizens of Afghanistan. The citizens of Afghanistan, including men and women, are equated with the law with equal rights and obligations. Women as the fabric of families are protected by the Constitutional Law of Afghanistan amended in 2004.

Article 58 of Afghanistan’s Constitutional Law articulates that the government takes the necessary measures to ensure the physical and psychological well-being of the family, especially the child and the mother. The government should eliminate any kinds of customs that are against women’s dignity and also contrary to the holy religion of Islam (The Constitutional Law of Afghanistan, 2004).

Afghanistan’s 2004 Constitutional Law has a special focus on women’s education. As per article 44, the government is required to plan and implement effective programs to provide education for women. Moreover, as per Afghanistan’s 2004 Constitutional Law, women can be nominated and elected at the highest political-managerial level of the country, presidential. It clearly echoes that there is no legal ceiling against the promotion of women to high positions.

Despite taking substantial strides regarding women’s promotion, liberation, and rights by the kingdoms and governments of Afghanistan from King  Amanullah Khan to the current president of Afghanistan, Ashraf Ghani, still, Afghan women face myriad challenges. For example, confronting with traditional patriarchal structures. And most importantly, struggling with the challenges on the path to tradition and modernity. So, to pave the way for Afghan women so that they can participate in the political, social, cultural, educational, and economic spheres equally with their male counterparts, this paper suggests that the government of Afghanistan and other related national and international organizations should take the following measures.

Recommendations for Policy Implications

First, a significant issue in political and social participation is political socialization. Political socialization is a continuous learning process in which individuals through acquainting themselves with the political system, learn from their rights and roles in society through information and experiences. This process helps women adapt to the accepted forms of organized social life, and teaches them the talents, essential social desires, and in particular the social roles that they must play in society. Ultimately, it helps women attend various social fields. So, the government of Afghanistan as the responsible political entity should pave the way for Afghan women to experience political socialization in the society.

Second, social education is the most important element of political and social participation and, ultimately, the development of a community. And, the most important element in the development of a community is the people of that society – men and women, who must have cultural and political awareness and knowledge. Emile Durkheim, the French sociologist argues that Education is a process in which a woman learns through practices that are functional in a community. So, the government of Afghanistan and other responsible institutions must carry out the necessary social education through K-12 education and higher education. Doing so, Afghan women learn the pre-requisites for social and political activities in their childhood and adolescence.

Third, the communities, government, and other social organizations should have a rational and reasonable approach toward the character of girls and women, and let them taste the importance of ownership, thought and creativity. If women are provided with opportunities to explore their talents, enhance their self-confidence, think about their own fate, the entire society will benefit from this process. Adapting a non-biased and non- patriarchal approach toward women by the society and men will provide better opportunities for women’s political and social participation in the society.

Last but not the least, creating suitable opportunities for female participation in various scientific and practical scenes, such as universities, research centers, factories and other social activities can provide the motivation for increasing women’s political and social participation. Hence, we can conclude that increasing the political and social participation of Afghan women means increasing their contribution to the development of society.

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.

Continue Reading
Comments

South Asia

The impact of ideology on a country: How Pakistan’s ideology influences it?

Published

on

The writer is of the view that ideology of a country does exert a multi-faceted impact on a country. The cataclysmic rise of Tehrik Labbaik Pakistan bears out this fact. The deprived people, with wistful eyes, look toward the TLP as a ray of hope. Pakistan’s predicament is that a handful of chiefs and chieftains created by the British raj still dominate its parliament. They have no penchant for undertaking land/capital reforms or undertake pro-poor legislation. To change the status quo a revolution is needed, that is nowhere in the offing.

Every country has an ideology, explicit or implicit. A country’s institutions get adapted to its ideology whether it accelerates or retards economic growth. Though Pakistan has to conform to interest-based international economic system, it did take measures like redesign ting “interest”, as “profit loss sharing”, and introducing Modarba, Mosharika, etc.

Karl Marx abhorred “ideology” as a tool to perpetuate domination of the proletariat by the classes. The US ideology legalized “slavery” until anti-slavery laws were enacted. George C . Lodge and Ezra F. Vogel (eds.) discuss impact of ideology on nine countries (UK, USA, Japan, Germany, France, Taiwan, Korea, Brazil, and Mexico).

We are concerned with Pakistan. The way a politico-religious party, Tehrik  Labbaik Pakistan,   shook formal law-and-order apparatus of the country has stark lessons for  impact t of ideology in Pakistan.  A sit-in could paralyse a formal structure of government. It may have to give in to some demands willy- hilly. The legislature that makes laws for the country may become a pawn to the party that commands infinitesimal influence within the parliament but tremendous influence without.

What counts is not political power measure in terms of numerical strength in the parliament  but the number of hooligans on the street. Our prevailing climate is well epitomized in  Jean Bodin’s dictum majesta est summa in civas ac subditoes legibusque salute potestas, that is ‘highest power over citizens and subjects unrestrained by law’. Bodin explained power resides with whosoever has ‘power to coerce’. It does not reside with electorate, parliament, judiciary or even constitution. In the past, our bureaucrats, judges, politicos, and even praetorian rulers fought tooth and nail to prove that le pouvoir belonged to them.

Significance of `Street Power’

Decades ago, ZA Bhutto was hanged. His supporters still remember call his hanging a judicial murder. He was hanged though his party enjoyed  grassroot support. But it  lacked nerve to bring millions on the streets. Similarly, three-time prime minister Mian Mohammad Nawaz Sharif could not attract . In stark contrast, It was not the law, but street power that got the doomed leader , Mujeebur Rehman acquitted.   Roedad Khan, in his Pakistan: A Dream gone Sour writes `Agartala Conspiracy Case was withdrawn, not because the prosecution case against Mujeeb was weak, but because over a million people were out on the streets of Dhaka’. Roedad says, ‘Bhutto was a doomed man, once it became clear that that he continued to remain popular with masses even after loss of office and that nothing could stop him from staging a comeback in the free fair and impartial elections which Zia had promised to the people of Pakistan’.

When leaders like Bhuttos and Sharifs become irreverent to masses, non-political or non-elected entities ascend in the asymmetry to make them irrelevant. According to Asghar Khan’s We’ve Learnt Nothing from History: ‘Bhutto …told me that he was sure that if I joined hands with him…We can then rule together’. The people are stupid and I know how to fool them. I will have the danda (stick) in my hand and no one will be able to remove us for twenty years”. Bhuttos are hanged and Sharifs ousted or exiled  Bhutto was a pseudo-democrat contemptuous of the vote. So, a million pseudo-supporters sat at home instead of coming on to the streets.

As such, it should not be surprising that a handful of TLP people  could immobilize the government so easily.

No` leader’, just sand dunes

Aware of the selfishness of the Indian people, the British created a class of chiefs (chieftains) to suit their need for loyalists, war fund raisers and recruiters in the post-Mutiny period and during the Second World War. Peek into the pre-partition gazetteers and you would know the lineage of today’s’ Tiwanas, Nawabs, Pirs, Syed Faqirs, Qizilbash, Kharrals, Gakhars, and their ilk. A gubernatorial gazetteer states, ‘I have for many years felt convinced that the time had arrived for the Government to try to introduce some distinction for those who can show hereditary services before the Hon’ble Company’s rule in India ceased. I have often said that I should be proud to wear a Copper Order, bearing merely the words ‘Teesri pusht Sirkar Company ka Naukar’.

Some pirs (shrine holders) and mashaikh (religious scholars) even quoted verses from Holy Quran to justify allegiance to Englishman (amir, ruler), after loyalty to Allah and the Messenger (Peace be upon him)). They pointed out that Quran ordained that ihsan (favour) be returned with favour. The ihsan were British favours like titles (khan bahadur, sir, etc), office of honorary magistrate, assistant commissioner, etc. Gandhi astutely perceived that Indians themselves allowed themselves to be colonised for their own material interests. He lamented that Indians had become ‘sly sycophants and willing servants of the Empire thereby proving to the world that they were morally unfit to serve the country.

Winnable candidates without street power

About 460 scions of the pre-partition chiefs along with industrial barons created in Ayub era are returned again and again to assemblies. Like sand dunes they keep changing their parties depending on direction of the wind, However,  it is questionable whether they could amass people like the TLP can,  on the streets. The TLP draws its support from urban centres and   the martial belt Jhelum onward.

Lack of political participation alienates people

Demokratia (power of the people) could never equalise citizens. However, all democracies envisioned ‘opportunities for political participation to larger proportions of the population’, and across-the-board accountability. Democracy is a progressive effort to equalise citizens before law, rather than legalising mafias.

During Aristotelian age, the city states participated well in decision making. But, as population, grew they left participation job to their representative. American political dissident Noam Chomsky calls even American people ‘a bewildered herd’. Michels’ Iron Law of Oligarchies mentions an inherent flaw of present-day democracy. The Law states that all complex organisations, including `democracies’,  regardless of how democratic they are in the beginning, eventually develop into oligarchies.

Michels observed that since no sufficiently large and complex organisation can function purely as a direct democracy, power within an organisation will always get delegated to individuals within that group; elected or otherwise.

The American founding father James Maddison presented idea of a senate as a bulwark against vulgarities of Aristotelian unicameral legislature, a house of the common men (akin to House of Commons, a Lok Sabha or a National Assembly).

What a pity that demokratia (power of the people) never succeeded in equalising citizens in Pakistan. Most nominees, even those of the Naya Pakistan party, are filthy rich. Even our lower house has no place for paupers. Then who would do pro-poor legislation? Evolve a national healthcare and education system? Ensure basic facilities and justice at doorstep?

Media as the tertiary wing of the parliament is docile. Since creation of Pakistan, there has been little pro-poor representation. A political order and culture, dominated by feudal, industrial robber barons, tribal dynasties or their extended clans, and mullahs, fostered clienteles’ politics. Taxes become regressive, throttling the poor, and sparing the rich (owners of plazas, car fleets, ‘farm’ houses, posh idyllic mansions including those at politicians, Clifton, Sea View, and elsewhere at home and abroad).

There is abhorrence to taxing the network of supporters. A tendency to rely on or blame Uncle Sam for the country’s problems, leverage Pakistan’s geographic location to attract foreign funds instead of tapping own resources, including its rich tax base. Creating divisions in society by popularising extremist versions of role of Islam, justifying persecution of minorities.

Privileges

According to the Uited nations’ Development Programme 2020, the feudal aristocracy and industrial robber barons together enjoy privileges of whopping Rs. 1094 billion. The feudal enjoyed Rs. 370 billion while the business tycoons  Rs. 724 billion. Being perched in the parliament, they remain the holy `untouchable’.

Obstacle to land/capital reforms

Pakistan’s  Constitution gives paramountcy to Islam. Islam is itelf the most progressive religion. But, the problem is that , unlike Iran, Pakistan has no supra-constitutional authority to overturn such Islamic legislation which proves to be practically against broader public interest (maslaha mursala). A case in point is Qazalbash Waqf v. Chief Land Commissioner, Punjab. Judgment in the  case was pronounced on August 10, 1989 (made effective from March 23, 1990).

A 3-2 vote judgment of the Shariat Appellate Bench of the Supreme Court of Pakistan blocked land reforms in Pakistan. It uncannily strengthened feudal aristocracy. Pakistan can’t do away with all jagirs as did India way back in 1948 because of the afore-quoted judgment.  Mufti Muhammad Taqi Usmani writes in his lead judgment: “ 1. … Everything in the world actually belongs to Allah and he has granted humans the right to utilize them within the limits of divine laws. … There are certain obligations on the person who uses the land. The right to property in Islam is absolute, and not even the state can interfere with this right. 2. Islam has imposed no quantitative limit (ceiling) on land or any other commodity that can be owned by a person. 3. If the state imposes a permanent limit on the amount of land which can be owned by its citizen, and legally prohibits them from acquiring any property beyond that prescribed limit, then such an imposition of limit is completely prohibited by the Shariah.”

The two dissenting judges, Nasim Hassan Shah and Shafiur Rahman argued that a limit on land holdings was necessary to reform society and alleviate poverty.

Conclusion: Need for a “social movement”

In an interview with Al-Jazeera, the UNDP assistant secretary general, lamented that Pakistan’s power structure  is so deep rooted that only a “social movement”, euphemism for  revolution, could change the status quo.

The bulwark against reforms is the aforementioned judgment in Qizilbash Trust case. Could our parliament reopen the case to align it with its dream of a Medina welfare state? Medina state, like Singapore, owned all land. Are jagirs a divine or a British gift? How did the filthy rich, the feudal lords and the industrial robber barons come into being? If accumulated wealth in a few hands is rooted in wrongdoing, a considerable chunk of it should be mopped up. Peek into the pre-partition gazetteers and you would know the patri-lineage of many of today’s Tiwanas, Nawabs, Pirs, Syed, Faqirs, Qizilbashs, Kharrals, Gakkhars, and their ilk. Taqi Usmani perhaps overlooked that a feudal aristocracy was created whose generations ruled post-independence governments. Read Zahid Hussain’s article, `House of feudals’, in the April 1985 issue of the defunct Herald. Is it anathema to look into the origin of land grants or wealth. It is eerie that the government could not stop Grand Mufti Taqi Usmani from supporting  the TLP.

Continue Reading

South Asia

Arthashastra- book review

Published

on

Arthashastra is a historical Indian book which covers aspects of state functioning. It is about how economy, politics, military strategy and diplomacy of a state should work. It was written by Kautilya in 300 BCE but was lost at that time and was discovered by Rudrapatna Shamasastry in 1905 CE. He was a Sanskrit scholar. He published it in 1909 and was translated into English in 1915. Arthashastra was written for the King of that reign, Chandragupta Maurya. Kautilya was the Prime Minister of the Maurya Empire. It was a sort of a handbook for Chandragupta to run his kingdom. There are different views regarding the authorship of Arthashastra. Some authors say that it was written by three persons, Kautilya, Chanakya and Vishnugupta while others say that all three were one person. Vishnugupta was his real name and Kautilya/ Chanakya was his surname. So, all have a concord on this and call him Kautilya, the author of Arthashastra. Arthashastra is also compared to ‘The Prince’ by Machiavelli because of its realist approach to the statecraft and politics.

There is a concept in Hinduism called the concept of Purusarthas i.e., four goals in human life. They are Dharma (moral values), Artha (economic values), Kama (psychological values) and Moksha (spiritual values). Artha is one of them and probably the most important one. Arthashastra is the combination of Artha and shastra (treatise). Its main concept is how a state, or an empire can work greatly. For this Kautilya combined 15 old books in Arthashastra and explained different concepts in it like economic prosperity, military strategy, political affairs, external affairs, internal matters of Harem of the King, King’s own characteristics, qualities of a Prince, ministers, spies, civil officers and how to manage the public etc. Following is the summary of the book covering important points related to the government, politics and statecraft of an empire.

It starts with greetings to Sukra and Brihaspati. It is a compilation of all the Arthashastra written by ancient teachers for the perseverance of the earth. It also mentions Kautilya as the author. Kautilya gives the most importance to the four sciences i.e., Anvikshaki, the triple Vedas, Varta and Danda-Niti. Then he determines the position of each science by mentioning different school of thought views. School of Manu believes in only three sciences, excluding Anvikshaki as considering it a special branch of Vedas. School of Brihaspati holds that Varta and Danda-Niti are the only sciences and triple Vedas are only an abridgement for a man experienced in Lokayatravidah i.e., three worlds heaven, earth and atmosphere. School of Usanas say that only science of governments is the only science having origin and end of all. But Kautilya believes in all four sciences from which righteousness and wealth is learnt.

For “Anvikshaki”, Kautilya says, it constitutes the philosophy of Samkhya, Yoga and Lokayata. Samkhya is associated with Yoga school and Lokayata is the philosophical school of materialists. Among the four, Anvikshaki is the most beneficial for dealing with worldly affairs and to get all kinds of knowledge and virtues. For “Triple Vedas”: Sama, Rik and Yajus combine to form triple or three Vedas. These with Atharvaveda and Itihasaveda called as the Vedas. Triple Vedas determine the duties of four castes in Hinduism i.e., Brahman, Kshatriya, Vaisya and Shudra. Brahmans are responsible for teaching, studying and taking charge of sacrificial performances. Kshatriyas’ duty is performance of sacrifice, study, giving gifts and military services. Vaisyas do agriculture, cattle-breeding and trade. Shudras have to serve the twice born (dwijati) or Brahman and perform as craftsmen, singers, dancers and poets. Kautilya further explains the duties of other people as well. The duty of a house owner is to earn money, marriage among equals, giving gifts to gods and guests. A student or Brahmacharin should learn Vedas, prayers and respect for his teacher. Vanaprastha or the forest-recluse have to worship gods, self-denial, sleep on grounds and wear deerskin. The duty of an ascetic ‘Parivrajaka’ is self-control, abandoning material gains, living in forests and chastity. The observance of these duties lead man to heaven ‘Swarga’ and disobedience cause disturbance on Earth.

Kautilya now determines the “position of Varta and Danda-Niti”. Varta has descriptions about agriculture, cattle-breeding, trade and labor. It says it is army and treasury obtained through Varta that a King rules over his and rival’s nation. Danda-Niti is law of punishment or science of government on which the well-being of other three sciences depend. It allows man to acquire things or resources, improve them and then honestly distribute them among the people. If it is done nicely, then King can bring people under his control. Kautilya says if punishment is rightly given, then people will respect King and his words but if given under ignorance or anger, then it will only make people furious and rebellious. The absence of law of punishment will only bring imbalance in the society where strong will crush the weak. In the end Kautilya says that people can lead a happy and successful life if governed by the King.

Kautilya says that a student should “learn all sciences” from expert teachers. As for the Prince is concerned, he should be married after 16 and he also should learn all sciences from efficient and aged professors. In the morning, he should learn military art and weapons, and in the afternoon hearing Itihasa i.e., Purana, history, illustrative stories, Dharma Shastra and Arthashastra. When a Prince keenly hears his teachers, he gets knowledge, it leads him to application and self-control. All this makes him efficient in leaning. So, a well-educated and disciplined King would enjoy no opposition on Earth. If a King refrains from his six enemies i.e., lust, anger, greed, vanity, pride and overjoy then he would succeed. But if he fell prey to these then he shall be destroyed along with his kingdom.

Kautilya also sheds light on how “the life of a good King” shall be. If a King refuses to follow those six enemies and restrains his organs of senses, then he would gain knowledge, ensure safety and security of his people, keep himself in discipline and do good for the nation. With his senses under his control, he would refrain from unjust acts and without violating any rules, can enjoy his life, charity, wealth and desires. But, if any of these are overdone, can hurt others and itself too. Kautilya says wealth is the most important among all. Ministers who help the King in keeping away from such enemies, are respectable and hence they assist the sovereign.

Regarding the “selection of ministers”, there are various views from different school of thought. Bharadvaja says that the King should appoint his classmates as ministers because he knows them personally and can trust them well. Visalaksha says if ministers are King’s classmates, then they could dislike him as well. So, ministers should be those whom secrets are known by the King himself so they cannot betray him. Parasara says that King has his own secrets as well. So, he should appoint those who helped him in his difficult times and are trustworthy too. According to Pisuna, ministers should be men tried and tested of their abilities in respective fields. Kaunapadanta says that the King should appoint those whose fathers or grandfathers have been ministers before so that they have an established relationship with the King based on trust. Vátavyádhi says the King should appoint new persons specialized in polity as ministers because they would not offend him and obey him as the King. Son of Bahudanti says that ministerial position needs experience not just theory. Therefore, rather than new officials, the King should select ministers from high families who are noble, brave and have loyal feelings towards King. Kautilya says that indeed man’s efficiency in work shows his ability and such men, after considering their place and time of work, should be appointed as ministers.

For the “Creation of Council”, Kautilya describes the qualities which a minister should have. A ministerial officer should be a high family member, trained in arts, strong memory, health, skills, strong conduct and free from procrastination and hatred. Those who have half or quarter of these qualities, are posted on lower ranks. The King has much work to do simultaneously, so he assigns those works to ministers. As for the appointment of Priest, he should be from noble family, well educated in all sciences and has the ability to prevent calamities from the skies and human doings by performing rituals explained in Atharvaveda. A King should follow the teachings of him.

Kautilya explains another issue which is “Ascertaining by Temptations Purity or Impurity in the Characters of Ministers”. A King, with the help of his Prime Minister and High Priest, shall offer temptations to his ministers to test their character. The King along with a priest set up a situation where the priest disobeys King and is dismissed. Then he, disguised as a classmate, tries to provoke other ministers against King. If ministers do not fluctuate, then they are tested as pure. This is termed as religious allurement. In the same way, a commander of army and a woman spy, as disguised, make ministers go against the King, but if they remain firm then it means that they are loyal to the King and are pure in character. These practices are known as monetary allurement and love allurement, respectively. Kautilya says that the King or Queen shall not themselves take part in that, instead appoint agency of spies to test ministers.

Arthashastra discusses about “Institution of Spies” too. The King with his ministers makes spies. Those spies are disguised as fraudulent believers, hermit, a householder, merchants, colleagues, firebrand, murderers and beggar women. They swear that they would tell King everything they find suspicious. This way they would check the purity of character in King’s people or servants. It further explains who will become what type of spy. Orphans who are solely dependent on state for their food and living, will fight tigers and elephants in battlefield and will become firebrand. Those who are cruel, become poisoner. A Brahman poor widow, who wants to earn money, will become woman ascetic and live in King’s Harem. Women of Shudra caste will be wandering spies. Those spies who are well trained and educated will be assigned to spy on King’s ministers and officials. Dwarfs, eunuchs, dumb will be spies in their own houses and the local spies also have to trace the foreign spies in their lands.

Another concern is about “Protection of Parties For or Against One’s Own Cause in One’s Own State”. Along with set up spies on prime ministers, King shall also espy his people. Classmate spies shall start debates regarding King with opposing arguments in crowded area and see for traitors. They also have to confirm the rumors going on in the public. Spies disguised as astrologers shall look for greedy, angry and suspicious people, then their relationship with each other and foreign Kings. Contented people will be awarded and discontented shall be convinced by giving gifts or by punishments. Hence, a wise King shall guard his people with varying factions of enemy and foreign Kings among them. Another point is about “Winning over Factions For or Against an Enemy’s Cause in Enemy’s State”. There are some people who are against the King due to many reasons. Some are provoked whose rights are not delivered, some are alarmed who are furious and aggressive for King, others are ambitious and haughty. All these people have something against the King. These people are offered to work together with spies under formal terms to get their goals. The friends of foreign Kings can also be persuaded through gifts, threats or by pointing the defects of their Kings.

“Business of Council Meeting” is another point here. After taking care of local and foreign parties, the King then looks at the administrative affairs. The decisions related to administration are taken through deliberations at the council meeting. The subject of the meetings shall be kept confidential from all people even from birds because they used to be the couriers of information too. Therefore, without any back-up guarding force, a King shall never enter into a deliberation of council meeting. Whoever discloses information about council meeting, shall be punished heavily. So, the most important information shall only be known by the King because ministers could leak information through carelessness. So, the members of the council shall learn sciences and Vedas.

Kautilya in Arthashastra also talks about the “envoys”. The successful councilors are made as envoys. Those who have ministerial capabilities are made ambassador. Those who are one-quarter less capable shall be given missions. Whoever has half of the above abilities, convey summon. An envoy shall befriend the enemy’s officers who work on boundaries of cities. He also shall know about the size of enemy’s area and about precious things there. When he enters the fort of enemy King, he shall clearly explain the mission assigned to him. Other than these duties, an envoy maintains treaties, gains secret information and makes enemy’s officers and envoys his friends. Therefore, such envoys shall be appointed by the King and he shall guard himself from foreign spies.

Another most important topic covered in Arthashastra is “Protection of Princes”. King shall take extra care of his princes. There are various arguments about this as well from different scholars.  Bharadvaja says that ill-tempered and jealous princes can end up taking the throne of their fathers. So, they shall be punished secretly when they show love for the King. Visalaksha says princes shall be guarded in a safe place because punishing them would be cruel and it would exterminate Kshatriya race. School of Parasara say that fearing from princes seems like fearing from a lurking snake. He may think that his father (King) is locking him up and ends up making his father responsible for his sufferings. So, the prince shall be guarded inside the fort. Pisuna argues that after getting to know the reason of his rustication, he may turn against the King. So, he shall send to the fort of the foreign King. It is like a wolf hidden in a flock of sheep. Kaunapadanta says it is better for a prince to live in his own state in case the foreign king instigates him against his father. Kautilya says a Prince shall learn sciences and refrain from allurements like hunting, liquor or women. If he has good qualities, then he may be appointed as commander-in-chief or the heir. If the King has only son, then attempts shall be made to procreate him a son but never a wicked prince shall be installed on the royal throne.

“The Duties of a King” are also explained in detail. Firstly, a King should be strong and energetic as the whole nation is looking up to him and would follow him. Secondly, if he is weak then enemies can easily hurt him. A King shall divide his time for different activities. He shall check accounts and expenditures, look into public matters, eat and study, collect revenue, attend superintendents, attend assembly of ministers, receive secret information through spies, his me-time, supervise infantry and military operations’ strategy with commander-in-chief. A King shall never make his officials and public wait. If he is inaccessible to them then confusions and conflicts shall happen, or he may end up falling prey to the enemies. So, he shall attend businesses himself and never postpone them. Kautilya says the King shall ever be active, he shall find his happiness in his people’s happiness. Being active is the only way to get wealth and successes or otherwise he shall perish along with his kingdom.

The King shall “make villages” on new land or ruins. Each village shall not be less than a hundred families and not more than five hundred families of Shudra caste. Boundaries shall be demarcated by rivers, mountains, caves or forests. Priests and other people who perform rites shall be given lands with the exemption of taxes and fines. Accountants, administrative people, physicians, horse-trainers and messengers shall be given land which they cannot sell. Lands which are ready for cultivations shall be given to taxpayers and those lands which are in process, shall not be taken away from people. Kautilya says that the King shall not only look after old timber forests, buildings and mines but also make new ones.

According to Kautilya, “finance is the most important thing” as many tasks depend on this. Things which constitute in financial prosperity of an empire are public prosperity, capturing thieves, wealth coming from crops, prosperity of commerce, less calamities, less taxes and income in gold. But things which cause harm to treasury include obstruction, fabrication of accounts, loss in revenue, self-enjoyments, trade-offs, misusage of funds etc. Kautilya also describes their punishments. For obstruction, a fine of 10 times of amount is imposed, lending money of treasury and trading by government’s money is punishable for the fine of twice the amount of profit earned, for fabrication the fine is 10 times, an intentional loss of revenue by someone’s doing is 4 times the loss, miscalculation of revenue collected is punished for 12 times of the total amount. There are forty ways of embezzlement and in case of embezzlement, a public announcement is made if there are any people affected by the offender. If someone comes forward then he is paid equally to the amount he lost, by the King.

Arthashastra also explains “remedies against natural calamities”. Eight kinds of natural calamities are there from which a King has to protect his nation. These are fire, floods, pestilential diseases, famine, rats, tigers, serpents, and demons. To prevent fire, cooking shall be made outside in summers, precautionary measures shall be taken, and offerings and prayers shall be made to the fire. To ward off floods, villagers living near rivers shall migrate to up countries in rainy days, boats and bamboos shall be prepared in case of persons affecting from floods, people who are intentionally neglecting rescue shall be fined 12 panas, rivers shall be worshiped, experts in Vedas and mystics shall perform incantations against rain and in case of drought, Indra and Ganges mountains shall be worshiped. To overcome pestilences or plagues, remedial measures shall be taken. Doctors with their medicines and ascetics with their purificatory ceremonies shall try to avoid floods. Moreover, offerings to God, milking cows on ceremonial grounds and spending nights in devotion to God shall also be observed. During famine, the King shall show mercy on people and provide them seeds from his own collection or seeking help from other friend Kings. Other policies include extracting wealth from rich people or the King emigrating to other green lands with his people. The King shall also move with his people towards seas or rivers where water is abundant, and his people can grow crops there or the King shall buy them food by hunting or fishing on a large scale. To ward off danger from the rats, cats and mongooses shall be let out. Those who kill caught rats shall be fined 12 panas. Same punishment is for those who do not control their dogs except for wild tribes. Rituals shall be conducted by ascetics and rats shall be worshiped on new and full moon. To overcome the danger of snakes, remedies shall be taken, and incantations may be done by experts, experts in Atharvaveda shall perform rites, and snakes may also be worshiped on new and full moon. To get rid of tigers, corps of animals filled with the juice of madana plant may be put in different places. They may be caught using nets and weapons. One who neglects a person in the clutches of a tiger shall be punished 12 panas and who kills a tiger, he will be awarded the same amount too. Experts in Atharvaveda and mysticism shall perform rituals to ward off demons. The King shall protect his people from demons as a father to his sons. Such magic experts shall be honored by the King.

According to Kautilya, “the elements of sovereignty” are the King, ministers, country, fort, treasury, army and friends. Then he describes best qualities of them. The best qualities of a King are member of a high family, brave, divine, righteous, truthful, grateful, has set great goals, enthusiastic, powerful, resolute mind, has assembly of high ministers and highly disciplined. The qualities of a good country or state include having capital cities in center and extremities of Kingdom, can maintain its own citizens along with the outsiders in case of calamities, dominates neighboring kingdoms, free from uneven tracks and wild beasts, has fertile lands, abundant waters, bears vast army and taxation, a population of agriculturalists, intellectuals and loyal servants to the King. A good treasury is justly obtained, rich in gold, silver and gems, and can withstand long time calamities. Kautilya says that a wise King is expert in politics and even though he owns a small territory, will conquer the whole earth with the help of his best elements of sovereignty and cannot be defeated.

Arthashastra also discusses a situation where “a weak King is attacked by a powerful King”. In this situation, Bharadvaja says that the weak King shall surrender, and it is the same as bowing before Indra, the God of Rain. Visalaksha says that the weak King should fight with all of his might because it is the duty of a Kshatriya despite of the fact that he wins or not. Kautilya says that he who completely surrenders, lives his life in despair. When a weak King fights a strong King, it’s like crossing a sea without boat. So, the weak King either seek help from a powerful King or seek refuge in an impenetrable fort. There are three types of invaders defined: just, greedy and demon-like conqueror. A just conqueror is satisfied with only respect, the greedy one needs lads and wealth but the demon-like not only needs wealth and family of the weak king but also his life. So, the weak King shall seek help of the first, satisfy second one with wealth and for the third one, he should keep a distance between them by offering him land and wealth.

In my opinion, Kautilya’s Arthashastra is much relevant in the 21st century. It has discussed so many points which are still present in states too. For example, issue of the purity or loyalty of ministers, institution of spies or now-a-days intelligent agencies, danger of attack of a strong state on weak state etc. States still interact on the basis on their interests, treasury or the finance department is the most important one in state functioning, embezzlements happen, the phenomenon of war is there, new towns have to be made, where monarchy is present those states still have issues related to princes or heirs and throne, public has grievances related to leaders and many more. In short, Arthashastra has everything which could occur in a state and it is a complete book to run a country under proper rules and regulations as it was written for the same very purpose by Kautilya for the King Chandragupta Maurya.

As far as the strengths and weaknesses of Arthashastra are concerned, I think its strengths are unmeasurable as discussed earlier as well. It is a comprehensive treatise beneficial for a country. But the weakness which I came across is that some points are really hard to digest. E.g., the part where the protection of princes is discussed, how can a King enlock his own kid just under the suspicion of future treason or send him to another King’s fort? It is something strange. Moreover, Arthashastra was written on Hindu Ideologies for an Indian Empire. There are various points where Hindu ideology clashes with other religions and ideologies. So, it would be difficult for non-Hindu states to follow those rules in the same sense. It is biased towards Hinduism.

In a nutshell, Arthashastra is a very good example and a guide to achieve a state’s interests inside and outside its boundaries. This clearly defines how a leader, its ministers, cabinet, officials, and people should be to acquire the best in their favor. Kautilya devised a state structure for public welfare which is needed in the 21st century world too where states still vague wars, directly and indirectly. States are struggling hard to survive because their state structure is messed up. If Arthashastra is followed in its true sense, then, I think, states would clearly see a difference in the aftermath of their decisions. The consequences would be good for all whether it is state, officials or the common people. But the states should imply those rules and policies keeping in view their political structure as well, as empires no more exist. But still, its policies are much relevant to gain successes for the state’s betterment.

Continue Reading

South Asia

Ensuring ‘Vaccine for All’ in the World: Bangladesh Perspective

Published

on

image credit: UNICEF/Vinay Panjwani

Health experts and analysts argue that the massive scale of vaccination is the most effective way to save people and the economy around the globe. Meanwhile, one can see a timid response of the global institutions in this regard. The neglect of multilateralism since the very inception of this crisis exacerbated the efforts of different countries, particularly in the developing and underdeveloped regions. The US withdrawal from World Health Organization (WHO) under the Trump Administration greatly hampered the global process in the early days of COVID-19. However, the US has rejoined WHO under the Biden Administration, but it has already been delayed and slowed down the global engagement. As a result, we have witnessed hectic vaccine diplomacy over the past year, where bilateral frameworks have played a pivotal role. It may be mentioned that COVAX was launched by WHO, EU and France in 2020 to deal with the global accessibility of COVID-19 vaccines. Coordinated by Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI) and the WHO, COVAX aims to ensure vaccines are shared fairly among all nations, rich and poor. However, the worrying issue is that the current level of access to vaccines for the developing and least developed nations is extremely low compared to the developed and rich countries. Against this backdrop, the vaccine for all becomes a critical global need to overcome the biggest humanitarian crisis in a century. Bangladesh has a unique contribution to advance the goal of vaccine for all, for that matter, facilitating the availability and accessibility of COVID-19 vaccines to every corner of the world.

With a motto of ‘vaccine for all’, the Bangladesh Prime Minister, Sheikh Hasina, warned the world during her speech for the 31st Special Session of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA)in September 2020. Bangladesh placed a three-point proposal in the special UNGA session to deal with the challenge of COVID-19: ensuring universal and equitable access to quality Covid-19 vaccine, transferring technology to developing countries to manufacture it locally, and providing them with financial assistance to face challenges in wake of the pandemic. She vehemently asserted that the COVID vaccine is for the global public good. In her words, “It is imperative to treat the vaccine as a ‘global public good’.” In this context, the World Health Organization (WHO) initiative of Access to Covid-19 Tools (ACT) and Covax facility can play a vital role in this regard. Highlighting the global responsibility of achieving the 2030 Development agenda of the fundamental role of Universal Health Coverage for achieving the SDGs guided by the principle of equity, Bangladesh underscored the need for universal access to vaccines. She argued, “In the same spirit, when it comes to access to vaccines, no one should be left behind … This would help us to defeat the pandemic, save lives and accelerate our economic recovery.”

Bangladesh Prime Minister called upon the developed countries to commit to technology transfer for the local manufacturing of vaccines in developing countries, using IP rights waiver under TRIPS Agreement. Sheikh Hasina reminded the international community that the fates of people across the globe were intertwined amid the COVID-19 pandemic, as she called on world leaders to ensure that any proven vaccine is made accessible to all at the same time. She also highlighted the need for multilateralism and reiterated Bangladesh’s ‘unflinching commitment’ to multilateralism as embodied in the UN Charter. She clearly spelled out, “The pandemic has indeed aggravated existing global challenges. It has also reinforced the indispensability of multilateralism.”She emphasized, “The UN, International Financial Institutions (IFIs), civil society alongside the national governments must do their share and actively cooperate with each other to combat Covid-19.” The crux of multilateralism on the COVID-19 global pandemic is pumping necessary financial assistance to the developing countries.

Bangladesh also pointed out that the world should recognize the vaccine manufacturing capacities of developing countries like Bangladesh. She floated the idea that Bangladesh’s pharmaceutical industry has the capacity to mass-produce a vaccine if given the “technical know-how and patents.”Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina asserted that Bangladesh is ready to produce Covid-19 vaccines. It is critical to remember that Bangladesh did forecast the current scenarios of vaccine crisis and politics long ago. The situation gets further worse when the US, the UK, and the European Union have all blocked the move of nearly 100 developing countries who petitioned the World Trade Organization (WTO) to temporarily waive intellectual property protections on vaccines during the pandemic so that they could manufacture generic vaccines domestically. Besides, developing countries, including Bangladesh, approached vaccine producing companies such as Oxford-AstraZeneca to share technical know-how and patents, which has not seen any positive responses. Serum Institute of India, a co-manufacturer of Oxford-AstraZeneca also appealed to the US President Joe Biden to consider exporting raw materials for producing COVID-19 vaccines. Besides, a local company in Bangladesh, Globe Biotech Ltd, also joined the global COVID-19 vaccine race with the announcement of its vaccine named Bongavax that started clinical trials.

The Bangladesh Prime Minister reiterated her vision for the vaccine for all at the Boao Forum for Asia Annual Conference virtually held on 20 April 2021. She clearly uttered that COVID-19 vaccines should be declared as global public goods. She asserted, “Countries producing the vaccines should help others produce the vaccines with a view to attaining universal vaccine coverage.”All nations and international organizations must work together to meet the medical requirements of this pandemic. WHO, GAVI and other relevant organizations must uphold the rights of member states and ensure equity and justice. The prime minister called the COVID-19 pandemic possibly the “greatest global challenge” and emphasized it had brought the world to a crossroad of human history. As cautioned by the Bangladesh Prime Minister in September 2020, the world witnesses a horrific race for vaccines leaving behind billions of marginalized people in the world.

The neglect of the causes of the survival of a great number of humanity by relying on politics, parochial national interests, and diplomatic considerations, the developed world will jeopardize the existence of global society. The so-called diplomacy of ‘zero-sum’ gains has brought about a devastating impact in the age of new normal. One can see alarming statistics of current scenarios in the world regarding vaccine procurement. Out of total worldwide confirmed purchases of Covid-19 vaccines, high-income country confirmed dose total 4.6 billion, upper-middle-income country totals 1.3 billion, lower-middle-income country total 608 million, low-income country total 670 million and COVAX total 1.12 billion. Besides, vaccine diplomacy has turned into a race for intensifying bilateral frameworks that contributes to more competition and rivalry in the world. Countries from Africa to Latin America have been witnessing this trend. Rivalries between the vaccine manufacturing countries such as the US vs China, Russia vs the US, India vs China, EU vs Russia and China are on display in the global arena.  

In conclusion, Bangladesh’s 3-point proposal in fighting against the COVID-19 pandemic through equitable access to vaccines must be the basis of any global or regional initiatives. It is the formula for saving humanity from the greatest disaster on earth. It is an inescapable option for the world to immediately declare COVID-19 vaccine as a public good that the Bangladesh Prime Minister urged to the world in the UNGA in 2020. Intellectual property rights mechanisms be immediately relaxed for sharing technology with Pharmaceutical companies in countries like Bangladesh, Brazil, India and Indonesia to produce vaccines for the world. Fair and equitable access to the COVID-19 vaccines must be based on the slogan of ‘vaccine for all’ and no time lost or delayed to save the humanity and economy.

Continue Reading

Publications

Latest

South Asia55 mins ago

The impact of ideology on a country: How Pakistan’s ideology influences it?

The writer is of the view that ideology of a country does exert a multi-faceted impact on a country. The...

Reports5 hours ago

Decade of Disruption: Global Real Estate CEOs Plan for Industry Transformation

The real estate industry needs to transform to serve the needs of people and cities in the next decade, according...

South Asia7 hours ago

Arthashastra- book review

Arthashastra is a historical Indian book which covers aspects of state functioning. It is about how economy, politics, military strategy...

Middle East9 hours ago

The US-Iran deal and its implications for the South Caucasus and Eastern Europe

The ongoing meetings between the US and Iran since the beginning of April in Vienna show new signs of progress....

Health & Wellness10 hours ago

How to Ensure that your Teen Driver Learns the Principles of Safe Driving

If your teenager is now eligible to apply for a provisional licence, it’s natural that you would have mixed emotions...

South Asia11 hours ago

Ensuring ‘Vaccine for All’ in the World: Bangladesh Perspective

Health experts and analysts argue that the massive scale of vaccination is the most effective way to save people and...

Americas13 hours ago

Is the Washington-initiated Climate Summit a Biden Politrick?

Earlier on, climate skeptics had wondered if President Biden’s January 27 Executive Order on “climate crisis” was “climate politrick?” Now,...

Trending