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Which system suits Pakistan: Democracy or technocracy?

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General Zia was enamored of the presidential system. He claimed that the Quaid-i-Azam had opted for this system in a note in his diary. What was the Quaid’s note?  The handwritten note dated July 10, 1947 states: “Dangers of Parliamentary Form of Government: 1) Parliamentary form of government – it has worked satisfactorily so far in England nowhere else; 2) Presidential form of government (more suited to Pakistan)”. In reality, the Quaid did not expect elected governments could be dismissed under a presidential system. While speaking in the Indian Central Assembly on the colonial government’s decision to punish the officers of the Indian National Army, the Quaid said: “…when the time comes, my army in Pakistan shall, without doubt, maintain all loyalty, whatever the liability, and if anyone did not do so, be he a soldier or be he an officer or civilian, he will go the same way as William Joyce and John Amery.” (The two members of the English elite, the latter a son of the secretary of state for India, were executed for supporting Hitler during the Second World War).

The Quaid may have the subconscious worry that feudal landlords in a parliamentary system would not allow democracy to function. The landlords in Punjab and Sindh always supported the Unionist party. They switched over to Muslim League as Congress had vowed to follow socialist secular policies.

In India, feudal fiefs were abolished in 1948. But, they have a heyday in Pakistan even today because of a decision of Shariat Appellate Bench of the Supreme Court of Pakistan in the Qazalbash Waqf versus Chief Land Commissioner, Punjab case on August 10, 1989 (made effective from March 23, 1990). The Court, by a 3-2 vote declared land reforms un-Islamic and repugnant to injunctions of Islam.

Constitutional hypocrisy

Jamsheed Marker, in his book Cover Point, observes ` Liaquat … moved the Objectives Resolution, which declared Pakistan to be an ‘Islamic State’ (Cover Point, p. 33)”. Liaquat Ali Khan could not foresee, Objectives Resolution (Allah’s sovereignty) would be warped to justify perpetuation of feudal aristocracy and persecution of minorities. 

Under Article 38 (f) and Senate’s resolution No. 393 (July 9, 2018),  Security and Exchange Commission of Pakistan enforced Shariah Governance Regulations 2018 for abolition of riba. 

Gnawing reality of complex interest-based economic forced the government to continue paying interest on loans and international transactions notwithstanding..

No social justice

Article 38 is titled `Promotion of social and economic well-being of the people’. And abolition of riba is just a sub-paragraph. While we re-christened riba as PLS, partnership as modarba / mosharika, so on, we did nothing to provide social justice to the people. We tax people without taxpayers’ welfare. Locke and others say government can’t tax without taxpayer’s consent.

Quest for stability

Neither the presidential nor the parliamentary form of government is a bulwark against instability. We have witnessed budgetary shutdowns and lock-horns even in US presidential system.

Pakistan’s demokratia practitioners are subconsciously contemptuous of separation of powers. The stakeholders appear to suffer from ‘I’m the constitution’ narcissism. They `glistened’ our constitution with `golden’ interpolation of a president in uniform, and another a life-long president. We had a civilian martial-law administrator also.  Former secretary finance, Saeed Ahmed Qureshi in his book Governance Deficit: A Case Study of Pakistani (p.56) recounts `Eight blows to the Constitutional System’ including dissolution  of the Constituent Assembly, dismissal of elected prime ministers, induction of General Ayub Khan as defence minister on October24, 1954, and imposition of martial or quasi-martial law `for 33 out of Pakistan’s 68 years of history’.

I’m-the-Constitution syndrome?

Our constitutional history is caricatured by egoistic clash between power claimants. Even judicial judgments swung in direction of wind vanes of the time.  Shortly before pronouncing his verdict on Dosso case, Justice Muneer declared that ‘when politics enters the portals of the palace of Justice, democracy, its cherished inmate, walks out by the backdoor’ (Roedad Khan, Pakistan: A Dream gone Sour, p. 175).

The king-pins in various institutions tend to forget French jurist 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’ (p. 179 ibid.). 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 `I’m the locus in quo of ultimate power. Take gen Zia.  He had nothing but contempt for the Constitution and democratic norms (p.87. ibid.). While addressing a press conference in Teheran, he said, “What is the Constitution?” “It is a booklet with ten or twelve pages.  I can tear them up and say that from tomorrow we shall live under a different system.  Is there anybody to stop me? Today the people will follow wherever I lead them.  All the politicians including the once mighty Mr. Bhutto will follow me with their tail wagging (ibid. pp. 87-88). Dicey said, “No Constitution can be absolutely safe from a Revolution or a coup detat”.

Julius Caesar and Napoleon also harboured extra-constitutional hallucinations.  Napoleon told Moreau de Lyonne, “The constitution, what is it but a heap of ruins. Has it not been successively the sport of every party?” “Has not every kind of tyranny been committed in its name since the day of its establishment?” During his self-crowning in 1804, Napoleon said, “What is the throne, a bit of wood gilded and covered with velvet. I am the state. I alone am here, the representative of the people”. Alas! All emblems (now albums) of le pouvoir, in uniform or civvies, were mortal.

India’s fundamental-lawmaker Ambedkar prophetically remarked, `However good a Constitution may be, if those who are implementing it are not good, it will prove to be bad. However bad a Constitution may be, if those implementing it are good, it will prove to be good’. Ambedkar’s atman (spirit) must be swirling in pain to see conduct of practitioners of democracy _ saffronisation, bigotry, war cries, exploitation, and what not. But a plus point for Indian democrats.  The Indian Constitution allows the President to dissolve the elected parliament. But, he never did so. 

In Pakistan, it is the vested interests, not demo (people) of demo-kratia, who rule. There is no social democracy. To quote BR Ambedkar, `Political democracy cannot last unless there lies at the base of it social democracy. What does social democracy mean? It means a way of life which recognizes liberty, equality and fraternity as the principles of life’. The fault lies with democrats, not the democracy, whether presidential or parliamentary.

Surreptitious technocracy

With change of Pakistan’s State Bank’s governor and transfer of Federal-Bureau-of-Revenue chief a surreptitious technocratic coup d’état appears to be underway. Democracy is synonymous with `participation’ of the common man in governing process. But, it has never been so. Noam Chomsky points out that even the American masses are like a “bewildered herd” that has stopped thinking (Noam Chomsky, Media Control: The Spectacular Achievements of Propaganda, p.16). He asserts that, in a “properly functioning democracy”, there are a “small percentage of the people”, a “specialised class of citizens” who … analyse, execute, make decisions and run things in the political, economic, and ideological systems”.

Inherent flaws of democracy leads to rise of technocratic elites. Technocrats did successfully help Ayub in the country’s rapid industrialization. But, they uncannily accentuated concentration of wealth and economic power. Disparities in incomes and assets between poor and rich households led to rise of 22 industrial robber barons. Ayub’s economic wizard, Dr. Mahbubul Haq later published `Seven sins of economic planners in Pakistan’ to identify his planning mistakes. Thank god! Paikstan now has no plan, at all. It is on auto pilot.

In a sharp contrast to Ayub, Gen Ziaul Haq annulled the second phase of “feudal” Bhutto’s land reforms to gain political support of big landowners against the country’s elected and deposed populist prime minister.

Iron law of technocratic oligarchy

A German sociologist Robert Michels in his 1911 book, Political Parties postulated Iron Law of Oligarchy. Michels stated that the raison detre of representative democracy is eliminating elite rule. It is an impossible goal. The representative democracy is a façade legitimizing the rule of particular elite, and that elite rule, which he refers to as oligarchy, is inevitable.

According to the “iron law,” democracy and large-scale organization are incompatible. The `rule by an elite, or oligarchy, is inevitable upshot of “tactical and technical necessities” of democratic organisations. All organisations eventually come to be run by a “leadership class”, who often function as paid administrators, executives, spokespersons or political strategists for the organization. Far from being “servants of the masses”, the “leadership class,” rather than the organization’s membership, will inevitably dominate the organization’s power structures. They control access to information, with little accountability. They manage to centralise their power , as masses (rank-and-file members) are apathetic, and  indifferent to their organization’s decision-making processes.

No large and complex organization can function purely as a direct democracy. Power within an organization will always get delegated to individuals within that group, elected or otherwise.

Democratic attempts to hold leadership positions accountable are bound to fail. The oligarchy has power to reward loyalty, gag dissent and influence members (masses).

Mafias

William A. Welsh says, `The rise of democracy has signaled the decline of elites (Leaders and Elites, p.1). Not true of Pakistan? Here talent rusts and mafias prevail. We see mafias all around, in media, politics, justice, education and health-care.

The Iron Law of Oligarchy smacks of ideas in The Theory and Practice of Oligarchical Collectivism, a fictional book in the dystopian novel Nineteen Eighty-Four (1949) by George Orwell. Throughout recorded time, and probably since the end of the Neolithic Age, there have been three kinds of people in the world, the High, the Middle, and the Low.  The examples of Lee Kwan Yew in Singapore, Mahathir Mohammed in Malaysia, Deng Xiaoping and Xi Jinping in China,  Park Chung-hee in Korea illustrate  how `high’ visionary leaders backed by a strong central government can rapidly transform nations.

Why are technocrats necessary?

Because politicians lack `foresight’ of scientific advances in agriculture, engineering, artificial intelligence, automated industrial manufacturing, medical biotechnology. Only technocrats could correct socio-economic injustice through accelerated economic development.

Aristotelian democracy and Pakistan

In his study of political systems (oligarchy, monarchy, etc), Aristotle concluded demokratia was probably the best system. The problem that bothered him was that the majority of free people (excluding women and slaves) would use their brute voting power to introduce pro-poor legislation like taking away property from the rich.

Aristotle suggested that we reduce income inequalities so that have-not representatives of the poor people were not tempted to prowl upon haves’ property. James Maddison (USA) harboured similar concerns. He feared `if freemen had democracy, then the poor farmers would insist on taking property from the rich’ via land reforms (Noam Chomsky, Power Systems, p 84). The fear was addressed by creating a senate (US) or a house of lords (Britain) to forestall legislative vulgarities of house of representative or a house of commons.

Aristotle would rejoice in the grave to see both, Pakistan’s National Assembly and the Senate, being populated by the rich. One member, three-time prime minister, defiantly wears Louis Moinet `Meteoris’ wrist-watch, worth about Rs460million. Another, a vocal proponent of Medina State, lives in a 300-kanal-and-10- marla house. The gentleman prime ministers never took any legislative steps to equalise citizens in access to education, medi-care, housing and jobs; in short, in all realms of life. No government looked into the origin of landed aristocracy, chiefs and chieftains in the subcontinent during the Mughal and British periods. Doubtless, our democracy is Aristotle’s dream as it is stable, rich and pro-rich.

Aristotelian remedy: Golden Mean

In his foundational work on human ethics `Nicomachean ethics’, Aristotle postulates: (a) justice exists only between men whose relations are regulated by law, and (b) law exists for men whose relation is defined by injustice.  So, law was bludgeon to correct injustice. Aristotle admitted that societies are flawed as the relation between individuals is based on caprice, avarice, and injustice. He was optimistic that societies would balance personal desires (gain-loss, cost-benefit) by evolving a `Golden Mean’, a set of rules treating all individuals equally before law. The maxim was `treat others as you would like to treat yourself’. If we perceive the `Golden Mean ‘ as a weighted average, then masses in Pakistan carry the least weight vis-à-vis classes (elites, mafias). 

Inference

In Pakistan, democracy has failed to deliver goods. Technocracy has become synonymous with subjugation to accommodation of IMF and World-Bank’s throwaways. The society remains unruffled when a Moeen, Shaukat Aziz et. al. drop from heavens to become a prime minister. Why not lease out the country to IMF? Or, still better, to the highest bidder. To correct multifaceted social injustice, all stakeholders, in khaki and mufti, should try to evolve Aristotelian `Golden Mean’. Or else, continue on auto-pilot until divine retribution strikes.

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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The Persecution of Individuals from Hazara Community in Balochistan

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The drastic situation was being faced by the individuals of Hazarajat in Balochistan province of Pakistan once again because the eleven persons from the affected Hazara community were being slaughtered by the terrorists of Islamic State of Iraq & Levant’s Khurasan chapter that continued the legacy of sectarian and ethnic violence that used to be conducted by the extremists and terrorists of Lashkar e Jhangvi (LeJ) in the region. The community of Hazara is quite vulnerable and the violence against them has no doubt the capability of potential fault line for the state of Pakistan being exploited by foreign players the war anti-state elements give fuel to the violent sectarian and ethnonationalists of Balochistan province of Pakistan. In this mean study, the very focus will be made towards the possibilities of foreign intervention in case of Hazara persecution in the region which provenly had involvements of Indian agencies via the territory of war-affected Afghanistan.

The persecution of Hazara peoples had been a major violation of International Humanitarian Law because it is not only common in the region of Pakistan but also inside the state of Afghanistan. The historic factors of their settlement in the regions of Pakistani Balochistan and Afghanistan as well as their strong connection with the Shia Muslim community of Iran are major catalysts which makes them as the easy target of being killed, tortured or slaughtered by the extremist Wahabi tendencies or racist tendencies among Pashtuns and Balochis. In the current era specially after the events of 9/11 and further strengthening of Wahabi extremist doctrine in the region had paved ways for the spreading of sectarian violence against the Shia Hazara Muslims inside Balochistan province of Pakistan. The major persecution events that keeps a lot importance in the unfortunate violence being committed against the people of Hazaras were the massacre on the day of Ashura at Quetta in 2004, the killings of Hazara people in Mastung Massacre, the playground massacre in Quetta, slaughter of Hazara pilgrims coming back from Islamic Republic of Iran, the two major bombings against Shia Hazaras in the year of 2013, the massacre in Akhtarabad, the 2003 bombing on Hazara Imam Bargah and most importantly the recent slaughter of Hazara peoples in Mach District of Balochistan province of Pakistan. Even in the target killings, some major political figures, social workers and sportsmen also remained aim of target killings inside the extremist and sectarian violence.

No doubt, such massacres and large scale killings of the people specifically of the community of Hazara Shias who also remained the target of socio-economic discrimination and structural violence due to the factors that were paved by the administrative bodies in Pakistan but the confirmation of Indian agency’s Research and Analysis Wing (R&AW)’s major agent Kulbushan Jadhav confessed in the very statement after he was arrested by Pakistani authorities in espionage operation that India had been involved in the fueling of ethnonationalist and sectarian violence in the region. The government of Pakistan had also shown quite many concerns regarding the matter that the hands of Indian state agencies and government can possibly be involved in the backing of outfits like ISIL (Khurasan) which operates from Afghanistan while conducting of violence in the province of Pakistani Balochistan. The dots are being matched by different Pakistani officials and think tanks that the involvement of Indian government with confirmed sources towards the secessionist tendencies in the province in shape of Baloch Liberation Army (BLA) and Baloch Republican Army (BRA) that the possibility can be there in also of backing the extremist militants and terrorists of ISIL (Khurasan) while fueling the violence in the region on sectarian basis. Prime Minister Imran Khan Niazi said in his statement that the hands of India are there in the recent activities of sectarian violence that was happened in the region of district of Mach of Balochistan. The possibilities of Indian government and state agencies backing the militant factions against the state of Pakistan had been also proved by the state intelligence agencies of Pakistani state including Directorate of Inter Services Intelligence (ISI), Directorate General of Military Intelligence (MI) and Intelligence Bureau (IB). Even it is confirmed through the sources in form of statements of leading Indian think tanks, journalists and retired military officials that the fault lines inside Pakistan are to target the Shia communities for paving ways for the violence and to make platform for the conduct of violence on sectarian basis by creating a lot of chaos among the different Muslim sects inside the state of Pakistan. These are the major possible factors which had proven the point that the sectarian violence specially the one which was conducted against the coal miners belonging from the Shia community of Hazara has proven the very point that the factors of possibility is quite much there of the involvement of Indian government as actor of fueling violence.

In the very crux of the study, it is added with the point that the persecution of Hazara peoples had been a major violation of International Humanitarian Law because it is not only common in the region of Pakistan but also inside the state of Afghanistan. The historic factors of their settlement in the regions of Pakistani Balochistan and Afghanistan as well as their strong connection with the Shia Muslim community of Iran are major catalysts. The radical condition was being faced by the individuals of Hazarajat in Balochistan province of Pakistan once again because the eleven persons from the affected Hazara community were being massacred by extremist tendencies. The possibility of the terrorist wings being supported by Indian government in this regard because of the past confirmed terror activities in which the position of India was quite much cleared. such massacres and large-scale killings of the people specifically of the community of Hazara Shias who also remained the target of socio-economic discrimination and structural violence due to the factors that were paved by the administrative bodies in Pakistan but the confirmation of Indian agency of R&AW.

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Is India fearful of internationalisation of the Kashmir dispute?

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At the time of Partition, India knew that its policies with regard to the Princely states were inconsistent. So, it feared internationalisation of the Kashmir dispute. Vallabhai Patel, presented Kashmir to Liaquat Ali Khan in a platter, so to say, in exchange for Junagadh and Hyderabad. Liaquat Ali Khan did not accept the offer. Saifuddin Soz, former Congress minister and a prominent Kashmiri politician, told The Print Editor-in-Chief Shekhar Gupta on NDTV’s Walk The Talk show  that Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel was happy to let Kashmir go to Pakistan in exchange for Hyderabad.

Lord Mountbatten, the last viceroy of India, took Patel’s offer to Pakistan on the exact day the Indian Army landed in Srinagar to push back intruders from Pakistan in October 1947. “From the very first day Sardar Patel was adamant that Kashmir should go to Pakistan. In the partition council, he tried his level best to convince Liaquat Ali to take Kashmir and leave Hyderabad-Deccan,” Soz said.

“But as Sardar Shaukat Hayat Khan writes in his book,” Soz said, “Liaquat Ali neither understood history, nor geography. So, he did not accept the offer..”(Sardar Patel was adamant, give Kashmir to Pakistan, take Hyderabad. Nehru saved it: Soz,  The Print June 25, 2018).

Till the 1990s, internationalisation remained India’s nightmare. Former Indian foreign-secretary Jagat S. Mehta’s formula. Mehta presented a formula which offered many concessions to Pakistan in exchange for a promise not to agitate the  Kashmir dispute on international forums and keep it on backburner for ten years. He presented his ideas in an article, ‘Resolving Kashmir in the International Context of the 1990s’ (Hindustan Times editor Verghese also gave similar proposals). Mehta had also proposed (a) Conversion of the LoC into “a soft border permitting free movement and facilitating free exchanges…”

(b) Immediate demilitarisation of the LoC to a depth of five to 10 miles with agreed methods of verifying compliance. (c) Pending final settlement, there must be no continuing insistence by Pakistan “on internationalization, and for the implementation of a parallel or statewide plebiscite to be imposed under the peacekeeping auspices of the United Nations”. (d) Final settlement of the dispute between India and Pakistan can be suspended (kept in a ‘cold freeze’) for an agreed period. (e) Conducting parallel democratic elections in both Pakistani and Indian sectors of Kashmir. (f) Restoration of an autonomous Kashmiriyat. (g) Pacification of the valley until a political solution is reached.

Mehta’s quasi-solution, re-coined as  Musharraf/Qasuri solution, was advocated by the United States’ Institute of Peace also. . Voracious readers may refer for detail to Robert G. Wirsing, India, Pakistan and the Kashmir Dispute (1994, St Martin’s Press).

UK MPs concern on Kashmir

To India’s chagrin, a day after debating  persecution of minorities in India,  the members of the British House of Commons turned to human-rights violations in the occupied Kashmir and “called for  the European Union and the United nations to be given access to the disputed state and for Boris Johnson to raise the issue with Prime minister Narendra Modi and for the UK  government to `use its influence with India and Pakistan’ and send its own delegation to assess the human rights situation (UK MPs call for Britain to `use its influence  for human rights in Kashmir’, Times of India January 15, 2021). MP Naz Shah asked, `Without the UN rapporteurs allowed into the region and with every report in the region censored how can anyone assure this house that genocide in Kashmir is not taking place. The MPs expressed concern  about the continuing lockdown and Internet restrictions in J&K as well as allegations of rapes, detentions without trial, unexplained and uninvestigated deaths disappearance, curfews, communication blackouts and mass arrests’.

The Indian High Commission in London shrugged off the allegation of “genocide, rampant violence and torture” as “unsubstantiated”.

Ten MPs, drawn equally from Labour and the Conservatives, took part in the debate on “Political situation in Kashmir” . India labeled them as “backbenchers”.

Conservative MP James Daly  called  for the UK government , “working with our European  partners with President – elect Biden in America” to came up with an international programme through the UN that will give hope  to those poor people in Kashmir”. Mp Sarah Own  highlighted plight of  Kashmiri under constant lockdown, “enforced by half a million soldiers” for ten months. She said, ‘I have heard[that there are] women in Kashmir that are terrified of being assaulted by the thousands of soldiers on their doorstep. Women fear for their lives and do not feel safe”. She urged the UK government to take position against Kashmir’s illegal annexation”.

Kashmir: An international issue

Earlier  in June 2020, also, British MP Andrew Gwynne, Chairman of Labour Friends of Kashmiris, along with several other UK MPs had, in online conference, termed  Kashmir “an international issue, requiring “ international intervention to resolve the dispute taking into consideration aspiration Kashmiris’ (UK MPS: Kashmir is an international issue’: `Reorganization of Indian-administered Kashmir  in contravention of Geneva convention, UN resolutions, says lawmaker, Andalou Agency June 4, 2020).

With no cogent answer India indulges in malicious allegations

Instead of answering questions raised about human rights violations India alleged that “ImranKhan government in Pakistan reportedly spent Rs. 30 lakh on member of British parliamentary group visit to the country [Pakistan] and Pakistan occupied Kashmir [Azad Kashmir] (Pakistan paid Rs. 30 lac to British MPs to visit Pakistan, spread false narrative on Indian forces in Jammu and Kashmir, Zee News, July 19, 2020).

Questions India parried

India is still to answer why it disallowed opposition leaders including Rahul Gandhi to visit occupied Kashmir while according VVIP reception to anti-Muslim group of EU MPS? Why it disallowed UK MP Debbie Abrahams to visit occupied Kashmir?

Debbie alleged she was denied as she had been critical of India’s decision to abolish special status of the disputed state. She tweeted, `Why did the Indian Government revoke my visa after it was granted? Why didn’t they let me get a visa on arrival? Is it because I have been critical of the Indian government on #Kashmir human rights issues?”

Madi Sharma, a self-styled `international business broker’ arranged anti-Muslim EU MPs all-expense-prepaid visit to occupied Kashmir. Why India did not publicise the expenditure incurred.

Madi Sharma: A Raw surrogate

EU DisinfoLab and India’s own NDTV exposed fake identity of NGOs run by Madi Sharma. The NDTV reached out to Ms Sharma. Having received no response, it asked, `Will the Prime Minister tell as to who is Madi Sharma? Why and in what capacity is Madi Sharma fixing an appointment of Prime Minister with a delegation of EU MPs on a personal visit and why is Government of India facilitating it? Where is the money to finance the entire trip coming from? Why has Ministry of External Affairs been totally sidelined?

Opposition leaders like Rahul Gandhi – whose delegation was turned back from the Srinagar airport – have questioned why European lawmakers were allowed amid such restrictions but opposition politicians in India were not. AFP has reported that the European parliament and European Union hierarchy were not involved in this visit. Several European embassies in Delhi were unaware of the visit. It also quoted an unnamed EU official in India as saying the visit was not official and the lawmakers had come at the invitation of an NGO, the International Institute of Non-Aligned Studies (IINS). It is a fake entity  owned by the Srivastava Group of Companies, which was found to have been behind EP Today, a news and opinion website that largely drew its content from state-funded Russian media RT. EP Today’s address, the group’s Brussels office, and the International Council for Inter-Religious are all listed under the same address: 37 Square de Meeûs in Brussels. Since POLITICO’s reporting, incorporating research done by NGO EU vs Disinfo, both Facebook and Twitter had shut down the website’s presence on their platforms.

The visit, described as private, was sponsored by the International Institute for Non-Aligned Studies, a think tank, according to Madi Sharma’s emails. Its office in Delhi was locked.

Chris Davies, a British Renew Europe MEP, said Madi Sharma invited him to the India trip, promising a “prestigious VIP meeting” with Modi, according to the email he received from her. Davies said his invitation was rescinded after he told Sharma he wanted to meet local Kashmiris unsupervised.

Sharma had reached out to Davies in her official capacity as the director of WESTT, but it is unclear how a think tank with an operating budget of less than €25,000 and one full-time staff member had direct access to the Indian prime minister’s office, its top military officials and its foreign minister — who featured on the trip’s itinerary. Davies tweeted `the visit a “PR stunt.”

Sharma’s work is also heavily featured on the website EP Today, including her trips to the Maldives and Bangladesh. Sharma herself has written op-eds for the website. In one article she called India’s decision to revoke Kashmir’s special status — widely condemned by human rights groups — a “victory” for Kashmiri women. But, she did not respond to NDTV’s repeated requests for an interview.

Madi Sharma was present when the European MPs met with Prime Minister Narendra Modi and National Security Adviser Ajit Doval.

Inference

India is reminded of the proverb `Pot calling kettle black’. It should do some soul searching instead of blaming Pakistan for portraying Kashmir’s real situation.

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More about how democracy should be elected -Interview with Tannisha Avarrsekar

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Tannisha Avarrsekar. Image source: startocure.com

Tannisha Avarrsekar, a political activist who wants to increase equality in the representation of political candidates in India. In this interview, Tannisha discusses more about her journey, political beliefs and her platform Lokatantra.

Why did you start Lokatantra?

I started it because I wanted to make politics more accessible for the youth.

I moved to London for my undergrad when I was 18, so 2019 was the first election that I was able to vote in. But after I came back, I found that gathering information about the registration process, as well as probable candidates took more time and effort than it should.

I began realizing that for citizens like me, who wanted to be more politically aware or socially conscious, there was the dearth of a platform where they could educate themselves and engage with those they were considering electing. And that’s how Lokatantra came along.

Tell us more about Lokatantra.

Lokatantra.in is an online political platform that aims to make the youth more politically aware and socially conscious. It attempts to bridge the gap between voters and politicians by empowering voters with comprehensive information about their candidates and the voting process, after verifying its authenticity and organizing it in a manner that makes it quick and easy to understand. It also does telephone voter registrations for those having trouble with it.

On the flip side, the social enterprise also collects data on citizens’ opinions on key issues through polls and surveys, and then analyses and publishes the results, to aid in the decision-making of leaders. In this way, the platform sheds light on the accomplishments of politicians- especially independents who can’t afford expensive campaigns, as well as the troubles of the common man.

The Lokatantra.in website and mobile application prides itself on its treasury of information about each and every candidate from the Mumbai City district. This extensive material includes details about these candidates’ educational qualifications, past political affiliations, career highlights, controversies, criminal records, and standpoints on critical debates. The platform also allows users to ask candidates questions, as well as rate them so as to help other voters from their constituency make their choice.

What do you think can make journalism more neutral?

More crowdfunded platforms. Limits on investments by big corporations, and complete transparency in the finances of media houses. Also, stricter penalties on misinformation.

Why is equal representation in politics important?

Equal representation in politics is important because it encourages newer political faces and fresh ideas into our country’s governance, which has been largely polarized and dominated by big political parties, with old loyalists and deep pockets. It allows us to choose our leaders based on more than just their party symbol and spending power, and instead take into account their character, ideology and objectives.

How is Lokatantra a unique platform? What do you do differently?

Before an election, Lokatantra interviews all the candidates standing, with a uniform questionnaire to gather their opinions on issues that play a key role in deciding who to vote for and are yet often not a part of mainstream discourse. The answers from these interviews are then fed into an algorithm, which allows voters to answer the very same questions, and then ranks the candidates in their constituency based on how much their political opinions match. What makes this quiz truly extraordinary is the fact that it takes into account the nuances of one’s answers, by letting you weigh how much each issue affects your vote.

We also spend a lot of time answering personal questions and engaging in individual conversations about politics, with members of our community that message us.

Tell us more about your personal political affiliations.

As the face of a politically neutral platform, I’m not permitted to have political affiliations. But I would describe my personal ideology as socially liberal and fiscally conservative.

What do you think are the biggest electoral problems India is facing at the moment and what do you think are the solutions?

I think it is the shocking mass disappearances of voter names from electoral lists, which has caused erosion of public faith in the democratic process.

A colleague of mine- Siddhant Kesnur and I, recently wrote a policy memo about the solutions to this, and if I had to pick one that I think would be most effective it would be stopping the misuse of the ECI’s Form 7, which is an application for voter deletion that ridiculously enough can be sent on behalf of any citizen by any citizen. Simply communicating the receipt of this form to those on whose behalf it has come in, would significantly curb its abuse.

What do you think will pose the greatest challenge to India’s growth in the future?

The move from patriotism to nationalism. In May 2018, Kaushik Basu the economist had cautioned Bangladesh saying that “vibrant economies have been derailed by zealotry many times throughout history”. He had given three examples to support his point: (1) the golden era of economic growth in Arab cities like Damascus and Baghdad which passed when religious fundamentalism began to spread about a thousand years ago (2) Portugal’s position as a global power in the 15th-16th century, which ended when Christian fanaticism became it’s driving political force, and (3) Pakistan’s economy, which after performing fairly decently started slipping from 2005 onwards because of military rule and Islamic fundamentalism.

It makes me sorry to say that the extremist rhetoric we witness in India these days is an alarming harbinger of this kind of zealotry, which has the potential of not just derailing us economically but also causing lasting damage to the social and cultural fabric of our nation.

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The two prominent Muslim countries: Saudi Arabia and Turkey have had an undulating relationship over the course of decades and...

Human Rights3 hours ago

Child labour ‘robs children of their future’, scourge must end

Although child labour has decreased significantly over the last decade, one-in-ten children are still caught up in harmful work, the...

Energy News5 hours ago

IRENA’s World Energy Transition Day Kick-Starts Crucial Assembly Meeting

The International Renewable Energy Agency’s (IRENA) Eleventh Assembly started today (Monday) and takes place virtually setting the course for a...

Development6 hours ago

World Leaders to Meet During Davos Agenda in a Crucial Year to Rebuild Trust

The World Economic Forum Davos Agenda, taking place virtually on 25-29 January, will bring together the foremost leaders of the...

Americas7 hours ago

Gallup: Trump Globally the Least Respected U.S. President This Century

On January 15th, the Gallup World Poll issued its preliminary report for their upcoming “Rating World Leaders: 2021” report. It...

Tech News8 hours ago

Does Buying a Chinese Smartphone Pose a Privacy Risk?

Chinese smartphones have garnered a pretty bad privacy reputation in the last few years, which stems from several issues, such...

Economy9 hours ago

‘Make That Trade!’ Biden Plans Unprecedented Stimulus for US Economy

The revolving doors to the White House, the Senate, and the House are set to welcome president Joe Biden and...

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