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Some Die But Live, Some Live But Die

Hamidullah Bamik

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Source: Family Photo Collections - from right to left: Dr. Mohammad Yahya Noori, the three persons located in the middle of the photo are from an NGO working for promoting health care servicesin Afghanistan, and Dr. Fatima Noori (Dr. Yayha’s wife). This photo has been taken in front of the Frakhlum Clinic in 2003.

Shimon Peres, the founder and former prime minister of Israel, has a famous book, “No Room for Small Dreams”. To explain this rigorous topic in one sentence, he argues that great people have great dreams while ordinary people have ordinary dreams. The history is replete with extraordinary, genius, great, and super ambitious people who dreamed big for their generations and dedicated their entire lives for achieving those big dreams.

When you have big dreams for the improvement and transformation of humanity’ lives, no matter where you are living as long as you believe in serving the humanity regardless of their race, religion, ethnicity, and socioeconomic background. In Afghanistan, we also had and have persons who dream /dreamed big for their people, not only for their own community in which they live but for the whole country and their country fellows. Dr. Mohammad Yahya Noori is one of those few persons who dreamed big for his people and the future generation of Afghanistan. But unfortunately, we lost him in March 2019 as a result of a brain attack. 

Dr. Mohammad Yahya Noori was born1959 in a religious and farming family in Nawrak, an area located in the first part of Behsud, Wardak Province in Afghanistan. He received his first education from his father, Karbalai Mohammad Akbar Noori, and obtained his initial elementary education at a school in his birthplace. When he was six, he was deprived of maternal favors. Two years later, at the age of eight, he lost his father. After elapsing a few days being alone, he went to Kabul, the capital of Afghanistan, to his sister’s home. In Kabul, he resumed his education at the Habibiha High School. Graduated from Habibia High School as a high achieving student, he was accepted at Kabul Medical University – a prestigious public university located in Kabul, the capital of Afghanistan.

When he graduated from Kabul Medical University, instead of living in Kabul with comfort and fewer problems, he chose to go to Behsud, one of the far-reaching districts of Afghanistan located in Wardak province. Wardak is located in the central and eastern region of Afghanistan; bordering Parwan to the northeast, Kabul and Logar to the east, Ghazni to the south and Bamyan to the west. Even though, he could live in Kabul to enjoy the modern facilities of life and accumulate wealth like others, instead, he went to Behsud where its inhabitants were deprived of any kind of the basic facilities of life let alone medical care services. Over there, he set up the Frakhlum Clinic with his personal budget in 1994.

Thinking of such great devotions and impetus, one can simply argue that Dr. Yahya had figured out that his knowledge and medical skills were far more needed and helpful for his birthplace residents who were struggling with several kinds of diseases due to not having access to medical health centers and aids. As the famous saying echoes, “A person’s most useful asset is not a head full of knowledge, but a heart full of love, an ear ready to listen and a hand willing to help others”. Indeed, Dr. Yahya did not only apply his knowledge and prowess for helping his people, but he also used his heart to understand his people’s problems. He did not only apply his medical ability to cure his patients’ diseases, but he also offered his social and emotional intelligence for the service of his people from the day he started working as a medical doctor. 

In June 2017, I had gone to Behsud for visiting Dr. Yahya. Within the three days that I was over there, we had many fruitful and insightful conversations about the political, security, educational, and economic situation of Afghanistan but particularly the residents of Behsud. During our tough conversations, I asked him, “Dr. Saheb (Saheb is a Persian word that we use in Afghanistan to show our respect to someone) are you optimist or pessimist about the future of Afghanistan?” To be honest, his answer was out of my expectation – from a person who has been threatened several times by the militants. He told me, “Hamid, throughout my life, I have been opposed by many people of being too optimistic – of having a very promising view regarding Afghanistan. I tell them that both optimists and pessimists die in the end, but the optimist leads a hopeful and happy existence while the pessimist spends his days cynical and downtrodden. It is a high price to pay. Besides, optimism is a prerequisite of progress. It provides the inspiration we need, especially in hard times. And it provides the encouragement that wills us to chase our grandest ambitions out into the world, instead of locking them away in the safe quiet of our minds.” To put it simply, Dr. Yahya was a man who was replete with promising ideas for the progress of his community – full of hopes, determination, and motivation for moving forward despite all the prevailing challenges in Afghanistan.

As Woodrow Wilson says “We grow great by dreams. All big men are dreamers. They see things in the soft haze of a spring day or in the red fire of a long winter’s evening. Some of us let these great dreams die, but others nourish and protect them; nurse them through bad days till they bring them to the sunshine and light which comes always to those who sincerely hope that their dreams will come true.” Likewise, Dr. Yahya was a big dreamer. He had big dreams for his community and country. But unfortunately, the death did not grant him the chance to make his all of his dreams come true. Though he did not live long, he offered many things to his people – medical care, educational services, promoting the gender equality in his community, and most importantly, he left a legacy that anyone who has got to know him will always cherish and praise it.

In Afghanistan, girl’s education is a controversial issue, particularly in far-reaching areas. Despite all the cultural and social challenges toward the girl’s education, Dr. Yahya was a serious proponent and advocate of girl’s education. Though he was living in a traditional community abounding with rigid cultural norms that impede girls from gaining an education, he was advocating for gender equality and equal social, economic, and educational opportunities for girls and boys. He was in this believe that preventing girls from going to school on the basis of cultural norms prevailing in communities, has been a major cause of child marriage, violence against women, discrimination against women and girls in Afghanistan. Therefore, he would argue that Afghan families instead of halting their girls from going to school and keeping them at home, should fight with the predominant cultural norms that underlie their interpretation of girl’s education. They should help their daughters obtain an education so that they can help the other girls who may encounter the same fate in the future. Escaping from the problems is not a rational solution, instead, facing and fighting with them can help the entire communities to secure their well-being and development in the societies. Therefore, families should help their daughters gain education and provide them with equal opportunities as their sons. 

Additionally, he was inclined to hold that the lack of female education can be the root of gender inequality in Afghanistan, and women are the main victims of this gender inequality in society. Afghanistan, as the country with the most patriotic power in the political, economic and social spheres, some families wrongly either by cultural means or on the basis of the patriarchal principles deprive girls from their basic human right – gaining an education. So, via paving the way for girl’s education, communities will transform, and gender equality will be rooted in society.

Mr. Yahya was not only a medical doctor, but he was also a teacher for his people, he was a political, social, and cultural leader for his people. As we, in order to be a good leader, we must possess the quality of honesty. Our followers must know that their leader has a sense of morality and values and integrity. The subordinates must have a sense of confidence in themselves and as well as in their leader – only then a leader can be successful. Indeed, Dr. Yahya possessed all the above-mentioned qualities. When he was in charge of Frakhlum Clinic in Behsud, he treated all his staff both male and female from any cultural, racial, socioeconomic status and background equally. To say the fact, it is pretty hard to find a person to have full authority over everything and treats his friends and strangers equally. He was always saying that he was glad that he has had the opportunity to work for some of the most neglected people in Afghanistan in a remote area where its residents did not have access to basic medical care facilities. Dr. Yahya, besides serving as a medical doctor, he was encouraging the local residents to send their progenies to school. He himself advocated for building schools, obtaining the attention of foreign donors to help the local residents in providing stationery, and other facilities required for providing education.

To sum up, though Dr. Yahya is not among his people physically today, his deeds, achievements, benevolence, and services will live in people’s hearts and minds for generations. As Norman Cousins articulates, “Death is not the greatest loss in life. The greatest loss is what dies inside us while we live.”

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

Current Political Scenario in Pakistan

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Imran Khan, born in 1952, educated in the UK, brought-up in Western Word, very well aware of Western Culture, yet equipped with strong traditional values, is 22nd Prime Minister of Pakistan. He is known for his honesty, love for humanity, and great leadership qualities. He asserted himself in the international community as a visionary global leader, especially after his speech in the UN General Assembly in 2019, which has made him attract international attention.

He struggled for 22 years to become Prime Minister of Pakistan. He is also Chairman of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) – a political party that he formed in 1996. As a result of General election 2018, PTI won 116 seats in the National assembly out of 270 and declared the largest political party.

After taking charge of his office, PTI announced a 100-day agenda for a possible future government. The agenda included sweeping reforms in almost all areas of Government, including the creation of a new province in Southern Punjab, fast-tracking of the merger of Federally Administered Tribal Areas into Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, the betterment of law and order situation in Karachi, and betterment of relations with Baloch political leaders. In his first spec h, he announced that as he is impressed by China, how they eradicated poverty and corruption, he would like to learn from the Chinese experience.

PTI was envisaged as a Movement to fight for a just and equitable society based on the system that Prophet Mohammad(PBUH) laid down in the Medina Charter, which was the foundation of the model Islamic state, an egalitarian society based on the rule of law and economic justice – the first welfare state in the history of humankind. It is these principles of justice and egalitarianism that Quaid-i-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah envisaged Pakistan, and it is these principles that are the foundation of PTI.

During his election campaign, he made several promises with people of Pakistan, and masses trusted him and voted him. It was a very unusual election in Pakistan, against the traditional politics, the majority voted him, especially the middle class, educated people, and youth& women. He emerged as the third most popular leader in the history of Pakistan, just after Muhammad Ali Jinnah, the founder of Pakistan and former Prime Minister Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto.

People of Pakistan had high expectations from him in return for voting him and trusting him. Unfortunately, most of the expectations turned unfulfilled. The cost of living has gone up, shortage of Atta, Sugar, Petrol, high inflation, devaluation of currency, joblessness, shortage of electricity, etc., are common issues hitting the common man. Yet, he enjoys popularity. Most people believe that PM Imran Khan is sincere and wanted to full-fill his promises, but his team is not with him on the same page. Masses still do not blame him but blame his team instead.

In fact, it is believed that although Imran Khan is the Prime Minister of Pakistan because of some of his good deeds which All-mighty Allah (God) liked and elevated him to the long-desired position as Prime Minister of Pakistan. But it is not the PTI-led Government.

His team includes non-elected members, foreign imported members, dual national members, electable elite, who joined him only recently for getting better positions in his Government. The hard-core, PTI workers are out-side his Government or a very little percentage at some unimportant positions. For example, the most important is Finance, a non-PTI led, Governor State Bank, led by non-=PTI, Strategic Planning, led by non-PTI, Interior Ministry, again a non-PTI-led, Commerce, again a non-PTI led, and so on….

Some of PTI friends argue that previous Governments also hired Imported, non-elected, and dual nationals in their tenures. It is true, the previous Government also did similar things, but what happens to them? Are people of Pakistan liked their acts? Voted them again? If PM Imran Khan also follow their path and he should be ready to face the same outcome.

We voted PTI for a change, reforms, meritocracy, justice, equality, change of status quo, and transformation completely. People of Pakistan can sacrifice a lot but have voted PTI for a cause. It is afraid if the cause is not served, the people of Pakistan may think differently. Pakistan can not afford any more crisis. The rapidly Emerging Geopolitical scenario may not allow us to have any disturbance internally.

However, neutral, intellectuals in Pakistan think that;  is he so helpless? Is making his team was not his own choice? What were pressures to form a team of not-his-choice? And so many similar questions. At least, people may blame him for not making his team based on merit, honesty, sincerity, loyalty with Pakistan. It is suggested, PM Imran Khan should think about how to satisfy the public before it is too late.

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South Asia

Pandemic is the weapon to remain the ‘throne’ sustainable

Mohammad Kepayet

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Do you think, now rulers are using the pandemic for its favor? How pandemic is appearing in front of the people? In what ways is pandemic being sold? The government using this Covid-19 for its sustainable advertisement. When Coronavirus is deadly to the average people, at the same time it is an important tool to persistence to the government. This unknown enemy is the main topic of discussion in the national parliament. But the budgetary allocation in the health sector is poor. Pandemic is the common trading point from the MP and to the government bureaucrats. It is the weapon to remain the ‘throne’ sustainable.

The European country Hungary has set an excellent example. That defective democratic country has become completely autocratic country. Prime Minister Viktor Urban has been given the power to rule the country until the end of the Coronavirus crisis. As a result, parliamentary elections were effectively canceled. Urban says, he needs to have such capabilities to prevent coronavirus infections. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has postponed Hearing a corruption case against him for three months. Interesting thing, corrupted rulers are using this crisis to their favor.

In the post-independence Indian subcontinent, famine and natural disasters have occurred at different times. The Colonial rulers have tried to suppress the citizens through those disasters. Colonially, the Indian subcontinent has also learned how to sell a national crisis and how to suppress and absorb its citizens. Now the government of this subcontinent is still following that same method.  

Where one’s own life is in crisis, there is less opportunity to think about what is happening to others. Ordinary people only want to know more about the pandemic. They try to know how many dead and how many are infected in COVID-19. And they want to know which area is being under lockdown. Because they need to buy some necessary things, so they are seeking which shopping malls are open for all. 

In Bangladesh, the mass media also broadcasting news, according to the needs of ordinary people. The media industry is not able to understand some times it is being used by governmental publicity. And it is the main medium for selling this pandemic. Traditional mass media are not doing any follow-up news about how many people were detained under the Digital Security Act amid the pandemic situation! Even the media did not do any investigative news about how many people lost their lives by extrajudicial killings! How many people have become unemployed? How many farmers are not able to sell their commodities due to the transport crisis? The rich getting richer and the poor getting poorer in the result of the Covid-19 catastrophe. 

The consequence of pandemic is everywhere. This virus not only taking away people’s lives but also taking away the minimum assurance of human survival. It is doing deep damage to human life. That damage cannot be seen with the open eyes. We can only see the statistics. We only see the number of dead and infected people.  

When the state goes through a national crisis, other problems become minor. The same thing has happened in the case of Bangladesh. The ruling government has been ruled since 2008 has now matured. There is no battle in the political ground because of the Covid-19 crisis. So-called opposition party BNP has almost been suppressed. The government has increased surveillance everywhere in the name of Coronavirus confrontation. From airports to people’s personal lives is now under surveillance. At this time the only voice that can be heard is the voice of the government and the voice of the bureaucrats. Where no presence of the common people. In this pandemic, the government seems to have become stronger and more powerful. 

There are no rebellious music-songs, poem-novel amid Covid-19. No criticism in the mass media. Political ground is calm, with no meetings and rallies. Universities and readymade garments are closed. No movement to control road accidents. No movement against rape. No demand for an increase in salaries and allowances of school teachers. People only seeking to save their lives. Is the government able to fulfill the demands of the people? Or the rulers are strengthening themselves by using this Pandemic.     

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South Asia

An Argument on Sino-India Conflict

Ghanwah Ijaz

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Lately, tension has built along the China – India disputed borders. Since the Dokhlam crisis, both sides have gradually increased their number of troops in the areas near Pangong lake and Galwan valley region. The expansion of the battalions in these particular regions, for the obvious reasons, fuelled the fear of an extensive confrontation between the two nuclear-armed neighbors. Consequently, on May 5, 2020, scuffles broke out between the Chinese and Indian troops. This has been one of the most enduring disputes, grinding on the men on foot. Moreover, the violent hand-to-hand clashes between the troops of the two sides are risking an open conflict.

Will the crisis heighten or the officials will be successful in defusing it through dialogue? What are the official claims of the two states? What are the reasons for increasing the number of troops in the disputed region? Is Galwan valley strategically significant? Does border infrastructure development play its part in stepping-up the conflict? Why both states cannot afford an all-out war, at present? All these questions need a well-articulated and calculated answer. This article tries to explain the strategic and economic aspects of the recent standoff. Furthermore, it endeavours to answer most of the abovementioned questions and present four reasonable scenarios, forecasting the possible outcome of the standoff.

The argument begins with the demarcated Line of Actual Control (LAC). China and India nourish different opinions on LAC, as it is not a determined frontier as both the states never agreed on where the actual official border lies (or should lie). The unresolved issue of ‘who owns which part of the land’ has been the exclusive cause of the 1962 war and the 73-day stand-off in the past. This time the 130 km long and 5 km wide Pangong lake became the new battlefield. LAC at Pangong lake is vaguely defined through pointers termed as ‘fingers.’ India claims that the LAC lies with finger 8 (F8) while China claims that it lies at finger 2 (F2) with the grey area laying in between. An unofficial Indian claim is that the Chinese troops have crossed F5. Some experts including Lt Gen (Retd) H S Pang and Colonel (Retd) Ajay Shukla believe that a part of the grey area (F4 – F8) has been captured by the Chinese troops. They have also termed this disturbance in the status quo as ‘intrusion.’ On the contrary, the Indian government is hesitant in admitting the claim. Experts also opine that besides Pangong lake area, situation is also worrisome for the Indian administration in the valley of Galwan.

The Chinese claim that its border defence troops have bolstered border control measures and made necessary moves in response to India’s illegal construction of defensive facilities across the border into Chinese territory in the Galwan valley region. This region holds extensive strategic significance. It is believed that whosoever occupies this area first, enjoys the High Ground Advantage. Some experts reckon that the construction of 255 km long Darbuk- Shyok- Daulat Beg Oldie (DSDBO) road near the border in Uttarkhand’s Lipulekh area, was the crucial factor in sparking clash between the troops of the two states. China had expressed its objection to the road at different occasions.

On a cursory look, the patterns through which India is altering the status of the entire region are threatening its immediate neighbours. China has evinced its discomfort in India’s decision of making Laddakh a union territory, unilaterally. Probably it would not be wrong to deduce that the Chinese border activity was a response to BJP’s unbridled horse.

 While the Indian government is mum on the issue, the Indian Defence Minister Rajnath Singh had initially conceded that a sizeable number of Chinese troops had come into the eastern Ladakh, though later it was claimed as erroneous information. So why the Indian government does not accept this aspect in the first place or why did the government rule-out any presence of Chinese troops on the Indian side of the Galwan valley? The answer is simple. If the government agrees to the claim of the Chinese intrusion, the Indian public would build-up pressure on BJP to take aggressive measures (most favored course of action) i.e. surgical strike against China. Realistically, India cannot demonstrate a jingoistic and aggressive approach towards China. So,if the surgical strike option is dropped, which option is left then? #BoycottChina?

Heading towards the economic aspect of the conflict, to teach China a lesson, Indian people have taken the issue in their hands. To do that, some opportunists have lamely directed the public to boycott the Chinese economy without evaluating how hard it would hit China. Education reformist Sonam Wangchuk, for instance, has asked the Indian public to boycott Chinese software in a week and hardware in a year. It is argued that even with complete boycott, India cannot affect the Chinese economy much because China is not dependent on the Indian market. However, China is the 3rd largest export destination for India. In FY19, for instance, India exported goods worth $16.7 billion to China. In the present state of the Indian economy, what if China boycotts’ in response? It is also argued that if China retaliates and boycotts Indian goods, 67% of drug export and 60% of electronic exports will get affected and Indian businesses will suffer gravely.

Without a doubt, the chances for the crisis to escalate are minimal. If the aggressor would have been Pakistan instead of China, PM Modi and his cabal would have set the stage for a ferocious and macho-styled response by now. So far, kudos to the Chinese and Indian governments in maintaining a stable and controlled environment in the handling of this crisis. As of now, both states are indulged in several rounds of talks to de-escalate the crisis.

Considering all the factors, this crisis could perhaps result in any of the four scenarios:

Scenario 1: Initiating War (Chinese Perspective)

At present, China cannot afford to indulge in an all-out war as it is experiencing acceptance in the western world, by holding its multilateralism agenda. As expressed in the Leipzig summit 2020, the Chinese government believes and extends the notion that the world economy could gain steam through solidarity, cooperation, openness, inclusiveness, multilateralism, and strong global governance. Indulging in a severe military expedition would critically dent the Chinese efforts.

Scenario 2: Initiating War (Indian Perspective)

In the midst of an economic crisis and military modernization program, India’s desire to fight a full-fledged war against China may not result in victory. The internal issues faced by the BJP government also do not qualify India to risk a war against China.

Scenario 3: India as a US Pawn

In the international arena, China being the sole hegemon challenger and a threat to the US interest in the Asia Pacific, if not shaken has at least weakened the standing of the US. Considering India’s socio-economic and political problems, the US can covertly encourage India by extending a lucrative offer for the revival of its looming economy. India could be played as a tool and it would help the US to dent the Chinese rise, especially in the post-pandemic world.

Scenario 4: Peace Process Through Military Establishment

Beijing and New Delhi seem determined to proceed with the settlement through their military establishments. It would be a hard task for both the sides to re-establish the status quo they have rearranged. Considering the larger picture, both military forces would preferably secure their interests and de-escalate. However, it may take some time for the military to absorb the recent unilateral changes on both sides.

It would suffice to conclude, as war benefits none, there is a high possibility that the militaries of the two ends would intelligently manage the crisis. But what the outcome would be in reality and how much it would satisfy the interest of either side, will take time to ascertain.

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