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South Asia

Selling Girls for Food: A New Rising Market in Afghanistan

Hamidullah Bamik

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Women in Afghanistan are the most deprived member of the community.In a patriarchal society like Afghanistan, women are not given equal opportunities as given to men. As men have absolute sovereignty and decision-making power in families and communities in Afghanistan, it seems that Afghanistanis the land of men.In such a heavily male dominated society, if you are born as a girl, you may experience the harshest punishment – selling you for the survival of the rest of family – simply because you are a girl.

As the economic challenges mount in Afghanistan, the problems thatAfghan girls and women encounterare also the on the rise. These problems range from forced marriage, child marriage and selling child girls for food and money – a new rising market in Afghanistan. According to the reports, recently a family in Kabul has sold one of their children, a daughter at 25,000 AFN. The family says that poverty has pushed them to sell their child. However, the problem of selling children in Afghanistan is not limited to just selling them. The reports from Afghanistan project that at the Malalai Maternity Hospital in Kabul, everyday around 60 children are born. Of these newborn babies, one or two of them are being abandoned by their families due to not being able to feed them.

Moreover, there have been frequent reports that in some northern provinces of Afghanistan, 2 to 3 girls are being sold on a daily basis. One of the most severe cases was in Takhar province, which was reported to have been attended by dozens of people to buy a 9-year-old girl. Similarly, in Herat, another province located in the west of Afghanistan, there are many displaced families who are living in Shadiya area of Herat province. These displaced families are suffering severely from poverty. For their survival, they are selling their daughters. For example, Firooza a migratory girl who lived with her father, mother and two brothers in the Shadiya area of Herat provincewas sold because of her father’s treatment fees. For her sale auction, Firooza’sfamily had set a rate of 150,000 AFN.

The UN Children’s Fund says that the children who are sold in Afghanistan are from one month to 16 years old. According to the UN Children’s Fund, over the past four months of the current year, 161 displaced children have been put on auction for selling, have been wedded, or have been sold in Herat and Badghis.The families argue that they are selling their daughters because of being debtors and poverty.

Poverty and struggling for food among the poor families in Afghanistan is intensifying another important dilemma in the society – early childhood marriage. Although this problem is common to both boys and girls, it is more acute regarding girls’ child marriage. Traditional Afghan families believe that it is better for the girl to get married sooner rather than later. They think that the more girls marry in their early ages, the more they will be secure. It is believed that when girlsare getting married, they become safe. The reports from the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission demonstrate that such marriages have devastating consequences and often lead to divorces and varioustypes of family violence.

In 1994, Afghanistan joined the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child. It is a human rights treaty which sets out the civil, political, economic, social, health and cultural rights of children. Subsequently, the Afghan government in 2017 drafted a law to protect the rights of children in Afghanistan. In this law, the basic rights of the child, the rehabilitation of children with disabilities, social care, education, cultural development, child labor care, child support against economic exploitation, child abuse, child trafficking, prostitution, and sexual exploitation have been discussed. The Child Protection Law is organized in 16 chapters and 108 articles, in which the responsibilities of the parents and the government against the children are also identified.

In 2017, when the Ministry of Justice sent the Child Protection Law to parliament, it was rejected. For the second time, third time and even fourth time, it was rejected and has notbeen passed yet by the parliament. Most members of the House of Representatives don’t have a unanimous consensus on the age of the child. Some representatives consider the age of the child to be under the age of 18, while some other representatives say that if a child has signs of puberty but under the age of 18, she/he is not considered to be a child. Hence, this controversy over the age of child led to the disapproval of the Child Protection Law in Afghanistan.

Recommendations for Policy Implications

To fight against selling children in Afghanistan, first, the Afghan government should eliminate the rampant negative attitudes of families towards a girl child, since they are mainly being sold rather than a boy child. The government of Afghanistan and other national and international related organizations should launch public awareness campaigns in this regard. Media, audio and video presses and other social informant channels can help the governments and related organizations in this respect.

Second, as currently there is no any law to prohibit the sale of children in Afghanistan, the government just has relied on condemning this action and says that selling children is a crime but did not act practically against it yet. Thus, the government of Afghanistan should convince the parliament toapprove the Child Protection Law because the approval of this law can enable and authorize the responsible entities to act promptly against the child sale.

Third, when it comes to the challenge of selling children by parents for food and money, legislation alone cannot solve this social tragedy. Therefore,the Afghan government should look intoother ways for creating employment for the citizenry so that families can have access to their basic rights – the availability of food on their table that they should not be obliged to sell their children. As a recent survey by the Central Statistical Bureau of Afghanistan, conducted in 2016 and 2017 indicates that more than 54 percent of Afghans are under the poverty line. In thissurvey,the living conditions in Afghanistan, the level of poverty, the food security of citizens, employment rates and migrations from villages to cities have been analyzed.

Studies project that to address the poverty reduction, successful countries have swiftly achieved economic and social advancements by setting the principles and good practices for implementing their corporate policies within the framework of a comprehensive development strategy as following: First, these countries simultaneously consider social and economic rights, not merely the economic growth, but rather the social development or the improvement of the quality of life of the people. Second, these countries have paid more attention to the poorest citizens in order to ensure fairness. They have tried to provide the basic social services,particularly to the poorest and impoverished communities so that they could have tackled the economic inequality in the society.

Last but not least, creating suitable opportunities for female participation in the job market so that they can work shoulder by shoulder with men to uplift the financial burdens of the families. Currently, in Afghanistan, men are the main breadwinners of families, and women are mostly housewives. Either they are not allowed by their husbands to work outside or there is not any opportunity for them in the job market.Moreover, women’s participation in the job market does not only help families financially but also it will help the males of the families not to treat girls as a native and incapable person, and inferior in the society. When they are given the opportunities, they can play role in social, political, economic and other spheres of the society as successfully as men. All the above factors will ultimately institutionalize this notion among the people that selling girls for food and money cannot solve the problems, on the contrary, it can destroy of the fabric of the families, and paralyze the human capital of the society in the long run.

Hamidullah Bamik, a Fulbright Scholar and Researcher in Educational Leadership and Policy Analysis at the University of Missouri-Columbia, USA, E-mail: hamidullahbamik[at]mail.missouri.edu

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South Asia

2018 was the deadliest year in the history of Kashmir

Irfan Khan

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Kashmir is natural paradise and gorgeous valley located between Pakistan, India, Afghanistan, China and with a small strip of 27 miles with Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan. But it is still a disputed region since partition of United India into India and Pakistan (also Bangladesh in 1971) in 1947.

The history of the freedom of Kashmir dates to 1931 when the people, both Hindus and Muslims, initiated a freedom movement against the then Maharaja (ruler) to have their own indigenous rule. The resentment of the people led to the ‘Quit Kashmir’ campaign against the Maharaja in 1946. Faced with the insurgency of his people, the Maharaja fled the capital, Srinagar, on October 25, 1947 and arranged that India send its army to help him crush the rebellion. India, coveting the territory, set the condition that Maharaja must sign an ‘Instrument of Accession’ to India. At the same time, India had to attach another condition that accession was made subject to ‘reference to the people.’ On India’s showing, therefore, the accession has a provisional character.

Then India brought the dispute to the United Nations where the Security Council discussed the question exhaustively from January to April 1948. Then both India and Pakistan and approved by the international community that the dispute over the status of Jammu and Kashmir can be settled only in accordance with the will of the people which can be ascertained through the democratic method of a free and impartial Kashmiri citizens vote.

The people of Kashmir, despite of being injured since long could not lost their hope. They believe in United Nation(UN), assuming it will advocate choice of freedom for them. During the July-August 2018, people from entire Srinagar and other towns, were protesting government of India’s violation of Article 35-A of Indian’s constitution. 35-A, assure special rights to the state of Jammu and Kashmir.

Whenever, there is peaceful demonstration from them, then they must suffer basic human rights violation, fear and state of starvation as response of Indian government. In 2018, 111 civilians are killed which is double to the previous year recorded 40 killing by the Indian forces. India has some 500,000 troops deployed in Kashmir. Popular unrest has been rising since 2016 when a charismatic young Kashmiri leader, Burhan Wani, was shot dead by Indian forces.

Pakistan always has been bolstering the way of peaceful talk with India over the issue. Last year, in October, Prime Minister Imran Khan, repeated Pakistan’s stance that the solution to the region’s dispute laid in dialogue. He said,”It is time India realised that it must move to resolve the Kashmir dispute through dialogue in accordance with the UN SC resolutions and the wishes of the Kashmiri people”.

Kashmiri leader Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, in response to PM Khan said we welcomed “Pakistan’s concern” but called for Pakistan to “do much more” to “put an end to the appalling grind of repression and human rights abuse that Kashmiris are suffering at the hands of Indian state.

Happily, UN has issued human right report on Kashmir in June 2018. The report of 49 pages strongly emphasis on human right violation and abuses and delivering justice for all Kashmiris. UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein remarked “The political dimensions of the dispute between India and Pakistan have long been centre-stage, but this is not a conflict frozen in time. It is a conflict that has robbed millions of their basic human rights and continues to this day to inflict untold suffering. Therefore, any resolution of the political situation in Kashmir must entail a commitment to end the cycles of violence and ensure accountability for past and current violations and abuses by all parties and provide redress for victims”.

2018 was the deadliest year in the history of Kashmir. Hope so, Pakistan and India sandwiched by UN would resolve the issue based on Kashmir people’s choice of freedom so that human violation could be ceased.

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South Asia

CPSEC: The Saudi addition to CPEC

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CPEC has been a cornerstone of Pakistan’s long-term macroeconomic policy, and no matter who has been in power, the resolve to continue it further has been steadfast. Pakistan has realized its geopolitical advantage and has focused on constructing trade, energy and transportation corridors throughout its length. China and Pakistan in 2015, had agreed on partnering for the development of an economic corridor which would connect China’s western front with that of the Indus Belt and eventually with the Arabian Sea. The plan saw $ 62 Billion being committed to the execution of the project, building roads, rails, and power projects all along the length of Pakistan.   Contrary to popular belief, the economic corridor actually benefits both countries. China needs alternate routes for uninterrupted trade and energy supply, while Pakistan direly needed infrastructure and power sector development.

Saudi Involvement

At the recent Investment Conference titled “Davos in the Desert”, Pakistan’s newly elected Prime Minister had pitched the investment opportunities in Pakistan. Saudi Arabia now wants to be a partner in the CPEC project. The investment revolves around the establishment of an “Oil City” in Gawadar. Adviser to the Pakistani Prime Minister had said Saudi that the investment in the huge Oil City project in Gwadar would be $22 billion.

Recently after the twitter spat between the US and Saudi Arabia, the relations have been strained between the two long-term allies. Saudi Arabia, a longstanding US ally in the region is looking to diversify its relations with other nations to reduce its American dependence. This is why Saudi Arabia wants to partner into the CPEC project.

What benefits does Saudi Arabia have with the joining in the project? Saudi Arabia is still the largest supplier of crude oil. It has been looking to secure its oil exports and look for stable markets for its oil export. China is the largest importer of crude oil in the world, accounting for 18.6% of the total global import. The US, on the other hand, is the second largest importer of crude oil, though it also has a huge domestic production which accounts for 40% of its total domestic use. China clearly has the demand and the will to import Saudi oil and for this reason, Saudi Arabia wants to establish refineries, storages, and oil processing units at Gawadar to allow for uninterrupted oil flow into western China. The flow of this oil would be through Pakistan which has longstanding friendly bilateral relations with both Saudi Arabia and China. These relations are also independent of each other, hence the relations would not be affected by overlapping national interests. China also wants to have an uninterrupted energy supply to its mainland via alternate routes, which could not be affected by the geopolitics of the seas.

Saudi Arabia also looks at Pakistan as its long-term partner and a potential market for its exports.  Pakistan has a 202 million population, 70% of which is under 35 years of age. In case, peace returns to the region, Pakistan could show exponential growth and bulge of a new vibrant and energy-hungry middle class. In addition to that, Saudi Arabia wants to have stakes in Pakistan’s economy and what better way of doing all this than to invest in an Oil City, which also happens to be geographically nearby Saudi territory. Pakistan has also been very eager for investment diversification in its economy to avoid being labeled a China-only economy. Showing to the world that’s its doors are open for any country willing to invest into Pakistan.

Convergence of interests

This incredible convergence of interests paves the way for the China Pakistan Saudi Economic Corridor to be a very constructive regional partnership.  This partnership would see three regional powers engaging in positive regional trade and connectivity projects which would eventually increase trade, trust, and dependence on each other. Pakistan and China, both have repeatedly stated that CPEC is open for all to join in and collectively reap the benefits of trade and regional connectivity.

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South Asia

2018: A good year for China-India relations

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Authors: Arun Upadhyaya and Carter Chapwanya*

The year 2018 ended on a high note for China’s peripheral diplomacy as Sino-India relations are in good shape owing to several positive steps taken by the two governments.

Relations between the two countries had turned sour in the fall of 2017 due to border disputes in the South-Western part of mainland China. Several pundits had predicted that the standoff would escalate into a major military confrontation but the events that ensued proved them wrong.

Diplomatic efforts from both sides mitigated the conflict and culminated into an informal summit between President Xi and Prime Minister Modi which was held in Wuhan in April 2018. This summit had serendipitous effects that would reverberate to this day as they have come to be known as the ectoplasm essence of the ‘Wuhan Spirit’.

The two leaders agreed to focus on areas of cooperation and respective national development which would consequently enable them to set aside their differences.

They agreed to consolidate their resources in efforts of hastening regional development. The ‘China-India Plus’ cooperation model for regional development was devised and this would serve as a trust-building mechanism between two great economies that would then work together on several projects in and around the South-Asian region.

By October, the fruits of this arrangement could already be seen as the first phase of the India-China joint training for Afghan diplomats commenced in Delhi from October 15 to 26. The second phase was then held a month later in Beijing from November 18 to December 2.

India’s External affairs minister, Sushma Swaraj remarked that the joint training sessions were building blocks for a long-term trilateral partnership for the befit of Afghanistan. This came as a surprise to many as India had shown great reluctance towards trilateral interactions involving China in Nepal.

A similar sentiment had just two days earlier been expressed on the official account of the Indian Embassy in Afghanistan, which also described the training as ‘Trilateral Cooperation between India China and Afghanistan’. This was a major indication of the shift in India’s traditional position and created optimism for greater cooperation between the two countries.

The Doklam military standoff, in the border dispute, may just have laid the seeds for greater friendship between China and India as the efforts to resolve it resulted in many positive outcomes for the future of Sino-Indian bilateral ties.

In the meetings in Wuhan, Xi and Modi also saw the need to pursue more people-to-people mechanisms of high-level cooperation. At the end of December 2018, Chinese foreign minister; Wang Yi visited India to attend the first meeting of the China-India high-level people-to-people and cultural exchanges mechanism building on the agreement reached by the two countries in Wuhan.

At the meetings in Delhi, delegates from both countries reviewed the progress of the people-to-people initiative and agreed that the cultural exchange has been conducive for consolidating the social base of China-India friendships. They identified areas for further cooperation while strengthening existing programs such as the China India think tanks; youth exchange programs, education cooperation among others.

On the regional and the multilateral level, a consensus was reached to use organisations like East Asia Cooperation, BRICS, Ancient Civilisations forum and the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation in consolidated efforts of peace-building and development.

In addition, Sino-India economic ties improved significantly in 2018. China has now begun importing Agricultural and Pharmaceutical products from India and this has been quite a welcome development for India.

Another milestone achieved in 2018 as the two countries deepened their defence and security cooperation. Beijing and Delhi held the first high-level meeting on bilateral security cooperation with an objective of strengthening cooperation on counter-terrorism, drug control among others. Their two militaries also resumed military drills that had stalled in the aftermath of Doklam standoff. India also agreed to the renaming of Taipei and this was a very significant step in strengthening the bilateral relations.

Increased cooperation between China and India could be instrumental in fostering sustainable peace, stability and development in the region. Pundits now believe, increased strategic cooperation between the two Asian giants could also have interesting implications to the global balance of power.

The future looks bright for Sino-India relations as just in 2018; the two sides maintained strategic communication. The two leaders met several times for high-level meetings in an effort to build bridges on areas of dispute as well as to strengthen the mutual desire for commensurate growth and development. 2019 may even bring greater areas of convergence for Sino-India relations especially if the US protectionist agenda persists, and with the ‘spirit of Wuhan’ working well for the two countries it is doubtful whether there would be any major trepidation.

*Carter Chapwanya is a published author and currently a Political Science PhD candidate at Shandong University

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