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Kashmir: From legal rigmarole to a solution

Amjed Jaaved

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Kashmir conflict is a maleficent inheritance from the British raj. India and Pakistan went to fisticuffs to settle this dispute. Following their first war on Kashmir, both India and Pakistan accepted ceasefire from January 1, 1949 under supervision of UN observers. No UN resolution incorporates India’s view that maharajha had acceded to India. It is said that the accession instrument stands `stolen’. There is a United Nations’ resolution that forbids India- occupied Kashmir `assembly’ from acceding to India (authenticating royal accession). The main resolutions on Kashmir are: (a) United Nations’ Commission for India Pakistan Resolution dated August 13, 1948. Para 75 (Serial110) in Part III of this resolution states ` The Government of India and the Government of Pakistan reaffirm their wish that the future status of the State of Jammu and Kashmir shall be determined in accordance with the will of the people and to that end, upon acceptance of the truce agreement, both Governments agree to enter into consultations with the Commission to determine fair and equitable conditions whereby such free expression will be assured. (b) UNCIP Resolution dated January 5, 1949 Para 51 (Serial 1196) states ‘The question of accession of the State of Jammu and Kashmir to India or Pakistan will be decided through the democratic method of a free and impartial plebiscite’.

Since both parties agreed to a plebiscite, the question of sanctions never arose. Besides, India approached the United Nations under Chapter VI (Pacific Settlement of Disputes), not Chapter VII (Acts of Aggression).On Nov 2, 1947, Nehru declared in a radio broadcast that the government of India was “prepared, when peace and order have been established in Kashmir, to have a referendum held under international auspices like the United Nations.” I am quoting from Chaudhri Mohammad Ali’s The Emergence of Pakistan. Till 1953, India was, at least verbally, committed to the plebiscite. But, in subsequent period, she had been making frantic efforts to warp the UNO and woo the USA in her favour. For instance, during temporary absence of Pakistan’s rep, India tried to get the `India-Pakistan Question’ deleted from the UN agenda.  India based her plea on Security Council’s informal decision, dated July 30, 1996, about deleting dormant questions. The Question was deleted during the Pak rep’s absence, but was restored to agenda upon his arrival.

Again, at India’s behest, US Congressman Stephen Solarz elicited the statement from Bush-administration high-level diplomat, John H. Kelly, that plebiscite was no longer possible in Kashmir.

Here is an extract of Solarz’s grilling questions and the gullible answers thereto.

Mr. Solarz: What is the position of the United States with respect to whether there should be a plebiscite?

Mr. Kelly: First of all we believe that Kashmir is disputed territory…

Mr. Solarz: Well, how did we vote upon that resolution at the U.N. back in 1949?

Mr. Kelly: In favor, Mr. Chairman.

Mr. Solarz:  Right. So at that time we favored a plebiscite. Do we still favor a plebiscite, or not? Or is it our position now that whether or not there should be a plebiscite is a matter, which should be determined bilaterally between India and Pakistan?

Mr. Kelly:  Basically, that’s right, Mr. Chairman.

Mr. Solarz:  So we are no longer urging a plebiscite be held?

Mr. Kelly:  That’s right.

To India’s chagrin, John R. Mallot, the US State Department’s point man for South Asia in 1993, corrected Kelly’s faux pas. He told the House Foreign Affairs Sub-Committee on Asia and the Pacific on April 28, 1993 that John Kelly ‘misspoke’ in 1990 when he said that the United States no longer believed a plebiscite was necessary in South Asia. Mallot clarified that Kelly made his comment after ‘continued grilling’ by the panel’s (pro-India) chairman, Stephen J. Solarz of New York.

Avid readers may refer to Solarz-Kelly conversation and corrective policy action taken by the US State Department in Robert G. Wirsing’s book India, Pakistan, and the Kashmir Dispute, published by Macmillan Press Limited, London in 1994. They may also see Mushtaqur Rehman’s Divided Kashmir: Old Problems, New Opportunities for India, Pakistan and the Kashmiri People (London, Lynne Reinner Publishers, London, 1996, pp. 162-163).

Kashmir is a simmering nuclear tinderbox. There is no UNO resolution incorporating India’s volte face that India-occupied Kashmir has acceded to India through the so-called state assembly’s resolution.  Till recently, the USA viewed Kashmir as a disputed state. It clarified there is not an iota of change in US policy on Kashmir what’s its current position?

Despite lapse of over 70 years, India has not fulfilled its promise of a plebiscite in Kashmir.

India’s attitude negates the cardinal principles in inter-state relations, that is, pacta sunt servanda `treaties are to be observed’ and are binding upon signatories.  If disinterested, India should wriggle out of bilateral and multilateral agreements by pleading that the UNO resolutions stand antiquated under another principle clasula rebus sic stantibus _In the case of a `fundamental change of circumstances’, that existed when a treaty was concluded, a party to that treaty may invoke this fact as a ground for termination or suspending operation of a treaty.

The principle stands codified in Article 62 of the Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties.   Para 3 of the Convention, codifying the principle of rebus sic stantibus, states `If, under the foregoing paragraphs, a party may invoke a fundamental change of circumstances as a ground for terminating or withdrawing from a treaty, it may also invoke the change as a ground for suspending the operation of the treaty’.

India should tell the International Court of Justice that the Simla Agreement of 1972 has superseded the UNO Resolution of 1948 (envisioning exercise of the right of self-determination) on the basis of the principle `lex posterior derogat priori, later treaty abrogates the earlier one’.  The principle is enshrined in Article 59 of the Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties, which provides as follows: ‘TERMINATION OR SUSPENSION OF THE OPERATION OF A TREATY IMPLIED BY CONCLUSION OF A LATER TREATY.  1. A treaty shall be considered as terminated if all the parties to it conclude a later treaty relating to the same subject-matter and: It appears from the later treaty or is otherwise established that the parties intended that the matter should be governed by that treaty: or a) The provisions of the later treaty are so far incompatible with those of the earlier one that the two treaties are not capable of being applied at the same time…’.

But, to India’s chagrin, even Simla Accord accepts the UN resolutions. The UN observers are still on duty on the line of actual control.  They submit annual report to the UN’s secretary general.  This report identifies Kashmir as an international problem. India could not get the dormant `India-Pakistan Question’ deleted from the UN agenda (as informally decided by the Security Council on July 30, 1996).

Paragraph 1(i) of the Simla Agreement provides, `the principles and purposes of the Charter of the United Nations shall govern the relations between the two countries’.  Right of self-determination is a recognised right under the UNO charter and conventions. It is now not only a political but also a legal right.

The United Nations’ Military Observers’ Group on India Pakistan came into existence between 1949 and 1951 to maintain sanctity of the ceasefire line drawn between India and Pakistan after the war of 1947-48. The first group of United Nations military observers arrived on 24 January of 1949 to supervise the ceasefire.  The UN spends US$ 40 million each year to keep them up.

India is wary of their presence. It asked them to vacate their residence at 1/AB, Purana Qila Road, Connaught Place, Delhi – 11000; from where it has been functioning since 1949 (India asks UN team on Kashmir to leave Delhi, Reuters July 9, 2014). It even harassed `Three members of the United Nations Military Observers Mission for India and Pakistan (UNMOGIP) had a close call along the restive Line of Control (LoC) in Azad Jammu and Kashmir after Indian troops shot at and injured two locals who were briefing them on the situation prevailing in the wake of ceasefire violations’ (Indian troops fire across LoC in presence of UN observers, 2 injured, March 14, 2018).

India-Pakistan dialogues never progressed towards solution of the Kashmir tangle. Both countries stick to their iron-clad legal closets. India’s former foreign secretary, J.N.Dixit was of view that both countries should think beyond legal rigmarole.  He says, `It is no use splitting legal hair. Everybody who has a sense of history knows that legality only has relevance up to the threshold of transcending political realities. And especially in inter-state relations…so to quibble about points about points of law and hope that by proving a legal point you can reverse the process of history is living in a somewhat contrived utopia. It won’t work’ (V Schofield, Kashmir in the Crossfire).

There are a plethora of alternative solutions 🙁 a)Freezing the Territorial Status Quo. This solution offers the Kashmiris south of the LoC both Kashmiri ID cards and Indian passports. Likewise, it offers those on the north of the LoC, Kashmiri ID cards and Pakistani passports (Marc Weller. and Staffan Wolff (eds.), Autonomy, Self-Governance and Conflict Resolution, New York, Routledge Taylor and Francis Group, 2005, pp. 41-42). (b) Andorra Model. Andorra was a unique co-principality- (without any arbitrator), ruled by the French chief of state and the Spanish bishop of Urgel for 715 years. Through a constitution, enacted in 1993, the government was transformed into a parliamentary democracy with both French and  Spanish heads of states jointly wielding executive powers (as well as defence) as co-principis. When this solution was first proposed by Hurriyat Conference (in 1974), President Musharraf supported it. However, all sections of the Indian media termed this solution ‘Pandora’s box’. (c) Sweden-Finland Aland-Island Model.

Swedish nationals in Finland controlled the Island. They wanted to unite it with Sweden. But, Finland did not allow them to do so. With League of Nations appointed as an arbitrator in 1921, the island was given the status of an autonomous territory. Finland retains nominal sovereignty over the island with obligation to ensure linguistic rights (Swedish language) as well as culture and heritage of Aland residents. The island enjoys a neutral and demilitarised status with its own flag, postage stamps and police force. On December 31, 1994, Aland joined the European Union voluntarily. Aland is a self-governing entity, created without use of force, catering for conflicting interests of rival communities. (d) Italy-Austria South Tyrol Model. South Tyrol was part of Austria. It was inhabited by three linguistic groups (70% Germans, 26% Italians, and 4% Ladin). It was annexed by Italy in 1919. German majority rebelled against Italianisation.

An agreement between Austria and Italy provided autonomy framework, vouchsafed by Paris Peace Agreement, 1946 (also known as Gruber Degasperi Agreement). Under the South Tyrol Package of 1969, Austria exercised mandatory protective function vis-à-vis Italy for the Austrian and Ladin minorities in South Tyrol. The package was meant to pave way for peaceful co-existence of German- and Ladin-speaking communities of South Tyrol, particularly in the multi-ethnic province of Bolzano. The package collapsed and gave way to a settlement in 1992 with the United Nations as the arbitrator. The revised package still recognizes Italian sovereignty but allows greater autonomy of legislation and administration, recognition of cultural diversity, minority vote on issues of fundamental importance, and proportional ethnic representation. (e) National Conference Autonomy Formula (2001). The formula envisages return to 1953 position, abrogation of all central laws imposed on the state, and an informal co-federal relationship between the parts of Kashmir. (f) Chenab Formula. According to this formula the River Chenab will form the separation line between free (Azad) and occupied parts of Kashmir. Some writers have discussed Indus-basin-based formula, akin to it. (g) Kashmir-Study-Group Formula: It envisages division of the state into two self-governing entities, enjoying free access to one another. The entities would have their own democratic constitutions, citizenship, flag, and legislature (sans defence matters jurisdiction). Defence would be the joint responsibility of India and Pakistan. (h)    Northern Island model.  In a video talk to an audience in New Delhi bill Clinton favoured it (India Today, March 17,2003, p. 24).(i) Misc. Sami parliamentary model, Italy-Yugoslavia Trieste model, Basque leader Jose Ibarretxe ideas, Caledonia island (discovered in 1774) sovereignty sharing Noumea agreement (1999).

The question is will any of the above solutions fit in with warped crucible of India’s subconscious framework?  Indian army chief says India should talk to Pakistani generals on Kashmir. For, any agreement with generals will be sincerely implemented. India regards all civilian rulers as army puppets and cobras in India’s backyard.

Pakistan’s prime minister himself says he and army are on one page. Given Imran is an army or Establishment’s poster boy, as India claims, why she is chary of talking to him.

Besides being a geographical dispute, Kashmir dispute has a human rights dimension.

Pending a final settlement, softening the borders a la Mehta appears to be need of the hour to mitigate suffering of the Kashmiri. For some time, the divided Kashmiri families used to exchange gifts across a bit softened border.

If no solution is hammered out, then, still, there are two solutions- a nuclear holocaust or, perhaps,  divine intervention.

Mr. Amjed Jaaved has been contributing free-lance for over five decades. His contributions stand published in the leading dailies at home and abroad (Nepal. Bangladesh, et. al.). He is author of seven e-books including Terrorism, Jihad, Nukes and other Issues in Focus (ISBN: 9781301505944). He holds degrees in economics, business administration, and law.

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South Asia

Is Pakistan the next Yemen?

Nageen Ashraf

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The long going Shia-Sunni conflict became more turbulent after the Iranian revolution of 1979. Shia-Sunni divide had never been more severe. And then the Arab spring of 2011 had its own repercussions on this divide. This sectarian divide is a major bone of contention between Iran and Saudi Arabia and has affected other states in the Middle-Eastern region too. Syria and Yemen are the states where Arab Spring became an “Arab disaster” and the uprisings failed to remove the authorities. Instead, the mutiny turned into a civil war which is still going on in both the states. What made these civil wars worst was the involvement of various foreign actors in the conflict. In Syria, the two major oppositions are supported by a set of different actors. The Bashar Al Assad regime, which is Shia, is backed by Iran and Russia. And the Sunni rebels are backed by Saudi Arabia and USA. The involvement of Saudi Arabia and Iran is to gain sectarian dominance. Iran wants the Shia regime to stay in power; however KSA wants the Sunni rebels to gain control in Syria. Similarly, in case of Yemen, the regime is Sunni and is again backed by Saudi Arabia and USA; and the Houthi rebels who belong to the Shia branch are strongly backed by Iran. Here again, the aim is to get the dominance of the region as well as respective branches of Islam. Saudi Arabia considers itself the leader of Sunni branch and Iran considers itself the leader of Shia branch and both want to increase their influence in other Islamic states.

With increasing tensions between both the Islamic branches in Pakistan, the situation seems much familiar to the states of Middle-East. The current rioting against the Shia community which overlapped with the Holy month of Muharram, where “#ShiaGenocide” trended on Twitter and rallies have been carried out on streets enchanting anti-Shia slogans, made Shia community more fierce and boisterous. A data shows that from 2001 to 2008, more than 4000 Shias have been killed on the basis of their sect. Shias have been continuously harassed, bullied, and even killed just because they belong to a different sect. This is an alarming situation because these actions are only radicalizing the Shia community and doing no good to the state. There have been dozens of cases of discrimination, public hate speeches, and biased killings of Shias which can lead to a proper divide and even uprising of Shias against the government, making it another Yemen. And Iran, being a very neighbour of Pakistan would definitely not hesitate to support the Shia community, which can make the situation worse. Even if Pakistan gets the support from Saudi Arabia (which is also very likely to intervene in the conflict to counter Iran), the risk of getting involved in a conflict with its neighbour seems a really bad idea. Pakistan’s rival, India is already looking for opportunities to make this divide deeper. Indian politician Subramanian Swamy also mentioned in his tweet a few days ago, that India must get ready to protect Shias in India, and mentioned that Pakistani Sunnis have made an agenda to massacre them. No wonders India’s ready to not miss this opportunity. We need to rethink our policies and our attitudes towards this minority; a minority which can make Pakistan the next Yemen if things are not looked upon on time.

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South Asia

How China Continues To Undermine India’s interests In The Brahmaputra

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Geopolitics in India China relations is not only limited to land disputes or competition in the oceans but also river disputes such as the one associated with the Brahmaputra basin. The water dispute between the two countries traces its origin to many decades, with China intending to start projects in the Tibetan Plateau surrounding the river since 1958 when Chairman Mao giving ideas regarding the Three Gorges Dam project on Yangtse river which after many years of difficulty, was finally constructed in2006.Following the construction of this dam, the Chinese government turned its focus to the Yarlung Tsangpo river projects, likely driven by challenges of water shortage it faced.

In contemporary times, the divergence between India and China over Brahmaputra is primarily driven by construction of hydropower power projects by China as well as the lack of transparency over hydrological data by the country. As a lower riparian state, India is at a disadvantaged position vis-à-vis China, which possesses the capability constructs dams as well as change the course of the river. These possibilities have direct implications for India’s North East region, where economic opportunities are already scarce. An alteration in the course of the river that feeds large swathes of land in the region could severely impact the residents of these states. Moreover, opaque data practices by China pose additional threats to India’s North East region that is home to many flood prone areas along the Brahmaputra basin.

China at many instances, has undermined India’s interests by not sharing the hydrological data regarding its hydropower projects, where the latter has requested for it numerous times since 2002 with water sharing agreements being signed between the Water resources ministries from both sides in 2013[i] and 2018[ii] for the riparian countries to further strengthen mutual understanding regarding natural resources in the rivers, which have not yet been implemented because of geopolitical differences from both sides. The sharing of hydrological data is necessary for India for keeping a close watch on the levels of floods in vulnerable areas.

It has been observed in an IDSA report[iii] that, China basically undermines India’s reservations on various dam projects being initiated by the former in the western route of the Grand Western Water Diversion Plan. Without consulting India, it has planned to construct dams near the river. It has done so with the construction of the Zangmu dam in 2014.China has also remained non-transparent regarding construction of three dam projects- Dagu, Jiaga and Jiexu, also situated on Yarlung Tsangpo basin.

China’s Leverage In The Brahmaputra

In 2017, when the Doklam crisis took place, China didn’t share any hydrological data at that time for its own political leveraging citing reasons such as floods wiping out one of the hydrological sharing areas.

A water sharing agreement[iv] was signed between India and China in Qingdao in 2018 for the latter to share hydrological data during flood season for the Brahmaputra basin between the months of May and October. Dam construction has led to change in colours of the Siang riverwhich turned blackish grey the same year, where this portion of the river became contaminated and unsafe for consumption, therefore impacting water supplies in the region.

Always it seemed that there has been a slight positive developments in sharing hydrological data with the Indian government from the Chinese side which the latter agreed but these agreements never came into full force. A noted Indian newspaper, New Indian Express highlighted that, the three areas have agreed to share hydrological data on May 15th this year from hydrological stations- Nugesha, Yangchun and Nuxia which are located in Tibet.[v]There have been instances when China has agreed to share details about its hydrological details but for its own security and strategic interests, it has chosen to not declare any crucial details of the same.

China’s Geopolitical Strategy With The Water Flow

China through river diplomacy could put pressure on India to focus more on its national security by deterring its role in territorial claims.  It could also be seen as a passive assessing tool of checking India’s strategy which means that China will play its cards when a weaker country is unprepared and the latter losing all any territory or water body. China’s selfish geopolitical ambition to claim South Tibet where the tributary –Siang flows, is another reason behind which it is highly prioritising hydrological river projects.

This policy is being given strategic importance by the Chinese government authorities under the New Foreign Policy initiated by Xi Jinping which lays emphasis on prosperity and security being important for economic development[vi] where the Grand Western Water Diversion Plan[vii] is being used as a way by China to address its water problems giving it a good reason to divert the courses of Yarlung Tsangpo, impacting India, making it difficult to address its concerns. 

Concluding Points

The water resource strategy is a good example of explaining the silent strategy which China could use for coercing India regarding sharing of waters and territories instead of using armed conflicts. China seems to benefit through this river initiative in terms of economic development and also defence. The MoU signing is process where China is trying to buy time to increase its presence and henceforth, being the main beneficiary while putting India under a period of uncertainty.


[i]“Memorandum of Understanding between the Ministry of Water Resources, the Republic of India and the Ministry of Water Resources, the People’s Republic of China on Strengthening Cooperation on Trans-border Rivers””, Ministry Of External Affairs, October 23,2013, https://mea.gov.in/bilateral-documents.htm?dtl/22368

[ii]“India China sign Bilateral Agreements In Qingdao”, Ministry Of External Affairs , June 09,2018, https://www.mea.gov.in/bilateral-documents.htm?dtl/29966/IndiaChina_Bilateral_Agreements_signed_in_Qingdao_China

[iii]Shreya Bhattacharya,” China’s Hydropower Ambitions And The Brahmaputra”, IDSA Backgrounder,, July 23,2018, pp 2-8

[iv] MEA ,2018

[v]PTI,” Amid Border Tensions With India ,China starts sharing Hydrological Data For Brahmaputra River”,New Indian Express, May 16, 2020,https://www.newindianexpress.com/nation/2020/may/16/amid-border-tensions-with-india-china-starts-sharing-hydrological-data-for-brahmaputra-river-2143909.html

[vi] Nilanjan Ghosh ,Jayanta Bandopadhyay and Sayangshu Modak , “China India Data Sharing For Early Flood Warning In The Brahmaputra: A Critique”, ORF Issue Brief,Issue 328, December 2019,p. 2

[vii]Ibid

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South Asia

Pakistan’s War with COVID-19: A Victory for Now

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From rethinking health care systems to the redefining of global movement and migration, the coronavirus has undoubtedly changed the world – Pakistan being no exception. However, Pakistan, one of the highest populated countries in the world and a developing nation, somehow weathered the storm far better than most countries in the world – leaving many international experts and doctors questioning how.

A state of panic and chaos gripped Pakistan when the first two cases of the novel coronavirus were registered near the Iranian border, back in February of 2020. With flimsy healthcare infrastructure, insufficient public awareness and overcrowded urban spaces succumbing to grisly sanitation system, Pakistan was globally perceived to be a misfit for this kind of war, and also thought to be amongst the brutally hit ones. The notable trust deficit between the government and public, and the ignorance of both could make matters even worse.

The concept of social distancing, not new to the modern world, was alien to a mighty chunk of the masses. Pakistan, one of the only two countries still battling polio, was forecasted by prominent experts to fall deep into a quagmire, if timely actions were not taken. During May the cases began rising and in June, they peaked – hospitals were put on high alert and fear enveloped the populace. Pakistan’s already frail economy also struggled due to the coronavirus – specifically due to the nationwide lockdown that began in March 2020.However, soon after the country hit its peak, the plans finally started to kick off well; active cases began dropping by the end of June. Miraculously, Pakistan has accelerated its recovery rate to 96% in a matter of 6 months, which is surprising, given the current economic and demographic situation of the country.

Out of the 307,000+ active cases registered, more than 6,400 infected have fell victim to this disease so far, according to the Government of Pakistan. Pakistan’s surprising comeback from the pandemic has prompted World Health Organization (WHO) to declare Pakistan as an influential player in the fight against Covid-19.But how was Pakistan able to avert this public health crisis with a handful of resources and poor health infrastructure?

Source: Wikipedia

Graphical Analysis: The trend shows that the country witnessed the peak of the epidemic by mid-June as a result of direct or indirect violations of SOPs by the general public, especially during the Islamic month of Ramadan and Eid ul Fitr. However, the country observed a decline in daily cases by the end of June.

CLOSED CASES*(Recovered/Discharged +Deaths)298,719
Recovered/Discharged292,303 (98%)
Deaths6,416 (2%)

*As of 21st September                         Source: Worldometer

Lockdown Policy

Amidst the national outcry for straining financial capacity, Pakistan’s healthcare infrastructure stood tall like a “Jenga” tower, with the government’s sensitive decision-making on one hand against the public’s negligence. The opposition politically capitalized on the public’s doubt about the government’s capability in dealing with a catastrophe of this scale initially, given the past experiences in dealing with natural disasters, like floods and earthquakes. Under such pressure and insecurity, PM Khan came up with a different solution.

After imposing a complete lockdown in March, a popular containment strategy, Pakistan pursued partial lockdown by closing down vicinities. The ruling party in consensus with other major elements also decided to keep crucial sectors of the economy, the livelihood of millions of wagers, open for economic activity. The government’s take on the countrywide lockdown seemed like a catalyst for an economic, social and political collapse, especially for a developing country like Pakistan.

Despite so many fingers raised at the government’s approach, PM Khan staunchly defended his position by explaining how it could give birth to greater problems like unemployment and eventually push the country into mass starvation. Reports about recession and market crashes from the neighboring India further emboldened the government on its anticipated approach – the smart lockdown.

While many believe that the policy was successful in slowing the spread of the disease in the country, notable health experts believe that the lockdown policy has only saved the country from an economic crisis, and not the disease itself yet. They believe other factors, like demography, have a bigger role to play in the country’s defense so far.

Youthful Demography

The major factor to consider is the demographic structure of Pakistan. Pakistan stands in the list of the countries with the highest number of independent population (youth, adults) against its dependent population (children, old-aged). In other words, Pakistan is home to a large number of youth or working age population; the number of old-aged individuals is significantly less.

Although COVID-19 can fatally affect people of all ages, analysis of the global death figures from the virus in the developed countries in light of the data of median age from the developed countries taken from Global health observatory data (WHO), specifically Italy, UK, France, suggests that the virus has caused more deaths in countries with the average age above 40. According to the above mentioned source, average age in Pakistan is 22; which means that the number of people with stronger physiological immunity is high, and the virus eventually dies down when the transmission occurs between large communities of young people. Thus, it can be said that the youth aspect of Pakistan’s demography might have a key role to play in the apparent success so far.

The Reporting Conspiracy

Pakistan’s testing capacity has also been subject to criticism, with claims that the health system is not sufficiently testing its population on a daily basis. Despite the Prime Minister’s sole credit to the government’s micro-lockdown policy, the data reveals an evident relationship between the decline in testing and reduction in new cases. The statistics released by Our World in Data indicate that Pakistan’s daily tests per thousand people, by July 16, was 0.1. The above source also shows that figure was estimated to be 0.13 back in June, the peak-month; the figures reveal a notable decline in overall testing from June to July.

Misreporting at the district level might have understated the official figures, but the notable thing is that even if we consider the fact that the country’s general testing has declined, it has still managed to show a positive rate less than 5%, according to Al Jazeera. According to the World Health Organization, any country with a positive rate less than 5% is in control of the disease outbreak.

Vulnerability to the Virus

By June, the disease spiraled out of control and started spreading at a very rapid pace. Due to religious gatherings in the month of Ramadan despite the lockdown restrictions, and the lifting of lockdown few weeks after Eid Ul Fitr, the country witnessed a boom in new cases. If we analyze the trend in the aforementioned graph, we can see that the number of cases almost tripled in a month. However, you can also see that after hitting a peak (6,825) in new cases, the rate of new infection steadily begin to decline over the next few days.

In an interview to Al-Jazeera, a health professional in Pakistan suggests that despite the highly contagious nature, the vulnerability to getting infected by the virus varies from individual to individual; a concept known as “population heterogeneity” in epidemiology.

Polio Response Force to the Rescue

With a big question mark on the healthcare’s capacity to accommodate sufficient ventilators for patients nearing respiratory breakdown, Pakistan defied all odds by deploying its polio eradication infrastructure to grapple the virus from spreading. The infrastructure, solely built to combat polio in rural and remote areas, has borne a great deal of innovation and research over the years due to immense pressure from the global health authorities to extirpate it.

Without the presence of a digital integrated health information system on a national level, Pakistan marched forward by integrating its polio eradication system with the COVID-19 monitoring system, an effort highlighted by the World Health Organization in a press conference. Highly trained health workers who were tasked to visit every door around the country for polio vaccination, were now directed to strategize exceptional practices that could effectively monitor, trace and contain the virus.

Even though the healthcare system does not have many epidemiologists in its infantry, Pakistan’s unique strategy has been able to considerably counter the virus than the countries widely accredited for their breakthroughs in the domain of disease control. Pakistan has received much deserved worldwide recognition in its unanticipated yet effective battle against the contagion.

The War Continues…

Pakistan might have pulled a narrow victory in what is considered as the first round of the pandemic, but the threat of the second wave still lurks around the corner. Health officials are continuously ringing bells for a potential disaster and advising the government to brace for it early on. They have also requested the government to pursue a total lockdown, if the country goes through a second wave, in the coming months as historical data suggests that second waves have usually taken a higher toll on the population as compared to the predecessor waves, like that of the Spanish influenza.

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