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Selling Girls for Food: A New Rising Market in Afghanistan

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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 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.

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South Asia

Pakistan and Germany are keen to Sustain Multifaceted and Mutually beneficial Cooperation

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Pakistan has varied history of relationship and cooperation with other countries in international arena. Despite of proactive foreign policy Pakistan has been struggling to acquire global or regional status as a major power. Now in the age of globalization, the foreign relations between states have become more significant than before. Global and regional organizations, societies, economic zones and countries have network to attract and develop relationship among them. A major goal of Pakistan’s foreign policy is to develop good relations with international community and to handle global and regional issues. Activism of Pakistan‘s foreign policy reflects on the domestic socio-economic development. The national interest of Pakistan also support to regulate inputs from the external atmosphere into internal situation and to strive security and territorial integrity in the region and glob which always remained top concern of Pakistan. As bearing geo-strategic position, Pakistan seeks good relations with regional and global powers like America, China and European Union. Within European Union Germany has emergence as the developed economy in Europe. It is not only playing vital role within European Union but at the global level. Pakistan is also enjoying cordial relations with Germany on the base of common interest and perception on all international issues. Germany is also very keen to see sustainable development in Pakistan and acknowledges that the Pakistan is playing constructive role for regional peace. Germany greatly values Pakistan intense to strengthen multifaceted and mutual beneficial cooperation. Both the countries have been engaged on political, economic and socio-cultural partnership.

In past, East and West Germany had tilted towards forming alliance with India in 1950s but in 1960s, President Ayob Khan‘s visit to West Germany established economic relation between both the countries. Post Pak-India war 1971, East Germany was the first country of the Europe who recognized Bangladesh. During 1990s, Pakistan and Germany established Pakistan German Business Forum and Germany had become the fourth largest trade partner of Pakistan in 2000.  Germany also was ally of Pakistan in the war against terrorism in the north-west part of the country. Since the last few years, both the countries developed trade relations as well as Germany invested in the field of science and technology in Pakistan. On August 24, 2014, Germany built Pakistan Gate in Berlin to provide business and trade facilities to the businessmen of both the countries.

In November 2018, Pakistan offered Germany to join CPEC and to invest in the Special Economic Zone (SEZs). The mutual trade between both the countries enhanced to 3.0 billion euro in 2019.In 2021, Both Pakistan and Germany are celebrating 70th anniversary of establishment of bilateral relationship. Both the countries are planning to undertake several activities in this regard. Last month German Ambassador visited Karachi Chamber of Commerce and industries to call German companies, entrepreneurs and investors to earn from the potential and opportunities which are available in Pakistan and to bring business communities of both the countries more closer as well. Foreign minister of Pakistan has visited to Germany and meeting with business and members of Pakistani community. The foreign Minister held meetings with the leadership of Germany and repeated the desire of expansion of bilateral economic activities and exchange of technology. Both sides also discussed rapidly changing situation of Afghanistan and South Asian region. During the discussion, Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi and Foreign Minister of Germany Heiko Mass, Pakistan and Germany agreed to review the entire gamut of Pakistan-Germany relationship and tools of further deep bilateral cooperation in the field of trade, investment security and defense, health, education, tourism. The mass of both the countries want to utilize the potential of good relationship but it is observed that both sides have lack of political hierarchy, dedication and sincerity in past. The development and expansion of bilateral relationship lies on the path of peaceful coexistence and serious changes in the socio-economic structure is needed. Peace process with the neighboring countries like Afghanistan and India may attract Germany to invest in CPEC projects and other local project of education, vocational training, dam construction, tourism and economic activities in Pakistan. There is a need to organize a forum for the students and scholars of both the countries could interact and exchange their expertise for academic, economic and technology growth. There is potential of people to people interaction and development of cooperation between Pakistan and Germany. Pakistan may be more benefit from the relationship with Germany if the serious efforts be made on government level.

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Modi’s Illiberal Majoritarian Democracy: a Question Mark on the Future of Indian Minorities

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The word majoritarian is an adjective which relates to or constitutes a majority, majoritarian politics, or majoritarian democracy. It can be defined as a traditional political idea, philosophy or a practice according to which any decision whether political, social, or economic of an organized society should be made by a numerical majority of that society or it can be defined as a traditional political philosophy that stresses that a majority usually branded by religious, language, social class that also includes other recognizing factors of individuals in a society are subject to a level of superiority in a society because of which they have a say in every affair of a society. The concept of majoritarian dispensation in India under Narendra Modi has deep links with four other political philosophies i.e. Populism, Nationalism, Authoritarianism, and Sultanism. Before exploring Narendra Modi’s majoritarian policy of governance in India and its effects on the future of Indian minorities, I will first uncover the link of majoritarianism to political philosophies as mentioned.

A majoritarian leader is actually a populist leader who works hard for the concerns of people that who thinks are being ignored by the established elite groups in a society, and who always present himself as a new man mostly of a modest and plebeian background against old political establishment, in spite of the fact that who is a seasoned political figure, but usually not centre stage. This is exactly what Narendra Modi is, because in his 2014 election campaign, he presented himself as a new man against the Ghandi’s family’s old political system despite the fact he was CM Gujrat at that time. He also presented himself as someone who belongs to a very plebeian background that he had to work in his father’s tea shop when he was a child. Whereas, nationalism is a political idea or a philosophy that promotes and protects the interests of a particular nation, nationalism is the bedrock of most of the populists and NarendraModi is no exception. NarendraModi is a majoritarian national-populist leader who since his childhood has been the member of RSS, and now is a full time pracharak of RSS ideology that stresses that Hindu are the true and only sons of this Indian soil.

Majoritarian national- populist leaders like Narendra Modi are basically authoritarian leaders who reject political pluralism, and this is exactly what Modi is doing in India.Modi  and the BJP has made it clear that no other party should compete with it, or is even needed, as indicative from its slogan of a ‘Congress Mukt Bharat’ (a Congress-free India).Whereas, Sultanism is a form of authoritarian government and according to Max Weber NarendraModi is a new sultan of India who is pushing India towards illiberal democracy by rejecting all kind of civil liberties particularly of Indian Muslim minority.

Modi’s majoritarian policy of governance in India is basically the promotion of majoritarian democracy that asserts Hindus a special and superior status in India because they constitute 80.5% of total Indian population and that this majoritarian policy protests Hindutva ideology  that stresses that Hindus are the only sons of this soil and that strengthen the Hindu community. This majoritarian democracy is a big question mark on India as the world biggest liberal democracy because continuous violence, rejection of civil liberties, and crimes against the minorities that are Muslims, Sikhs, and Christians have been on the increase. About 1.8 million people who are minority communities are tortured in police custody every year. The word murder of minorities has been replaced by the term encounter killings. Torture have increased to such a huge extent that it questions the credibility of the rule of law and criminal justice. Hindu nationalists are revolting all around India especially against Muslims because they are the largest minority in India constituting 13.4% of total population and because Hindus have resentment toward their religion, Christians and Sikhs are no exception to their violence because they too constitute 2.3% and 1.9% of total Indian population.

Unfortunately, India under Narendra Modi is crawling from the world’s biggest liberal democracy to illiberal majoritarian democracy which is promoting and safeguarding only Hindu’s civil rights and liberties and that which is negating minority’s civil liberties and civil rights especially rights and liberties of Muslims of India. One such example of this is the Citizenship Amendment Bill (CAB).Under the act, for the first time in India, religion is a basis for granting citizenship. According to some this citizenship amendment bill by BJP is an intentional act in order to marginalize Muslims from mainstream politics. In addition to this, Muslims are not only being tortured at their religious places for their religious affiliations, but they are also being tortured at their educational institutions which is evident from a video of 15 December 2020, where Delhi police brutally tortured Muslims students of Jamia Millia Islamia university.

Keeping in mind Narendra Modi’s illiberal majoritarian democracy, the future of liberal democracy or pluralistic India appears to be gloomy, where the future of Indian minorities especially Muslims is a big question mark. 

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South Asia

CoVID-19 Control: Can Pakistan Learn From China?

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It has been over a year since the first case of CoVID-19 was confirmed in Pakistan. The tally has reached 721,018 confirmed cases, 15,443 have died and 4,143 critical cases by 11thApril2021. Across many countries, since January 2020, a massive surge of research into CoVID-19 had enabled the scientific and medical community to better understand how to manage and eliminate the virus through public health interventions. Today, we have learned, CoVID-19 causes acute symptoms and death. We have learned, immunity lasts at least eight months and we also have five licensed vaccines. We have learned, the long-term effects of CoVID-19 and the morbidity attached to having this virus. We have learned, virus transmission occurs through droplets and aerosols spread through coughing, sneezing, breathing and speaking. We also have learned, stopping the spread of CoVID-19 requires people to avoid mixing though restrictions on social life. We have learned, the virus can mutate into various strains that can be more transmissible – and we also have understand cat-and-mouse game between vaccine and variants.

To alleviate the destructive effects of CoVID-19 on the economy, Pakistan has sought debt relief of slightly around $2 billion from its G20 creditors. In addition to the G20 countries, China was the largest bilateral creditor with $9 billion, followed by Japan with $5 billion. By early April 2020, when there were just about 2,000 CoVID-19 positive cases in Pakistan, the World Bank approved $200 million package to help Pakistan. Likewise, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) had approved the payout of $1.386 billion as financial support to Pakistan to meet its urgent balance of payment needs halting from the CoVID-19 outbreak. Further, to support Pakistan’s public health response to the CoVID-19 and allow to meet the basic needs of the vulnerable and poor segment of society, the Asian Development Bank (ADB) approved $500 million emergency assistance loan to Pakistan. Similarly, The Islamic Development Bank (IDB) also provided a $650 million financial package to support Pakistan in its efforts against the CoVID-19. All these grants were provided to Government of Pakistan to assist in effective and timely action in response to the spread of the CoVID-19. The objective was to strengthen Pakistan’s public health infrastructure and to alleviate socioeconomic disruptions due to the pandemic. Despite huge grants and substantial endowments, Pakistan’s response to the CoVID-19 has been unsatisfactory. Lack of basic healthcare infrastructure, disease surveillance and management system,  and inconsistent implementation of policies and SOPs resulted in the rapid and incessant spread of third-wave of CoVID-19 throughout the county.

China’s extraordinary organized and preventive risk management approach, established on coalition between government officials, virologists, epidemiologists and public health experts, has demonstrated to be successful in containing and controlling CoVID-19.The experience in China emphasized the significance of listening to science and public health experts during pandemic event. Firstly, China’s response demonstrates the value of national research and public health capability. Huge investment in research and development rendered China much better prepared for CoVID-19. China’s experience indicates the value of investing in national health and research scheme to boost laboratory capacity along with workforce. They are essential to a rapid and effective national response to health emergencies and to national health security. Secondly, a strong foundation of research and development cannot ensure effective control without powerful top-level political dedication to use science to confront the outbreak. Government and leaders must respect science, understand its significance, and act on science-based advice in a way that is best for society. Thirdly, attaining speedy and successful implementation of control measures for CoVID-19 requires extensive community engagement. Public solidarity during the CoVID-19 outbreak in China had been unprecedented. Control measures that could sacrifice personal freedom were accepted readily by the nation.

To be brief, cricket is to South Asia and football is to Europe. In fighting CoVID-19, everyone is equal. Everyone has the identical liability and shares the equal threat. The effective implementation of prevention and control measures in China is a model for Pakistan other parts of world to follow. From the beginning, a science-based, risk-informed and phased approach was taken, with a clear appreciation and enthusiasm. Today, China has restarted its economy, reopened and almost returned to normality. The key of success story is to make everybody responsible, get every single division involved and held executives accountable. These are the most prominent lessons Pakistan could learn from China at national and local levels. After the failure of “Smart-Lockdown” strategy, Pakistan needs to choose a strict strategy, should follow the example of China and continue the lockdown until the number of CoVID-19 infections is brought close to zero; the strategy should then be to maintain infection rates at very low level until vaccination is done. China’s epidemic management provides an important experience from which countries such as Pakistan can learn. This applies in particular to Pakistan, which would risk to lose many of its achievements in case of a severe third wave of the epidemic. Government of Pakistan should involve not only public health experts, virologists and epidemiologists, but also scientist and respect science advice when making any decision that is required to keep the epidemic under control. The rest of the world can also learn from China’s success in bringing outbreak under control.

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