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.”
India’s Constitutional Revocation and Prevalent Security Environment of Kashmir
During Prime Minister Imran Khan’s first ever visit to the US on July 23, 2019, President Trump had offered to mediate the outstanding Kashmir issue between India and Pakistan. This move was greatly appreciated by Pakistan with President Trump publicly stating that Prime Minster Modi had requested him to mediate between the two countries over Kashmir during the sidelines of 2019 G20 Summit held in Osaka in June this year. With President Trump’s offer to mediate at such a crucial time, the issue has once again achieved global significance. Moreover, President Trump’s mediation offers, and India’s recent move constitutionally revoke the special status offered to Kashmir would likely have serious implications within the prevalent security environment throughout the region.
India has often rejected such offers claiming Kashmir as its internal matter. Taking a step forward, on August 5, 2019 the government of India revoked the special status of the Kashmir region that has been previously granted under Articles 370 and 35(A) of the Indian constitution through a presidential order. Referred to as the Jammu and Kashmir Reorganization Bill that was later approved by parliament despite the opposition’s criticism. Under Article 370 of the Indian Constitution the Kashmir region had been awarded special constitutional rights and a ‘so-called’ autonomous status of decision making. Following the abrogation of Article 370, the Kashmir region would be divided into two ‘Union Territories’ i.e. Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh governed by the Indian central government.
The timing of this constitutional abrogation might have been influenced by President Trump’s offer of mediation between India and Pakistan that was reiterated by the US President despite India’s rejection. This abrogation was also part of the Bhartiya Janata Party’s (BJP) election manifesto as promised by Prime Minister Modi during the 2019 general election. By fulfilling this electoral promise, Mr. Modi is trying to assert that Kashmir is entirely an internal matter for India and that it would not allow any third country to interfere in the Kashmir issue irrespective of its relations with India.
Based on this notion India is inclined to project this political and constitutional change as its internal matter. By revoking the special status of this disputed region, India also intends to change the demography of Kashmir as much of the current population is Muslim. India has been involved in various tactics to change the demographic structure of Indian Occupied Kashmir (IOK) which includes a steady stream of Hindu migrants relocating and settling in masse from other parts of India in this predominantly Muslim region.
This trend is also evident in the region’s population numbers. In 1947 for instance, the Muslim population of IOK was about 79 per cent. As of 2018 this figure has been reduced to 68 per cent. In this regard the abrogation of Article 35(A) would likely intensify this trend as in the future, non-residents of Kashmir would be able to purchase property in Kashmir and would become permanent residents with a right to vote.
The security environment of Kashmir has been at stake in recent years due to India’s desire to oppress the freedom movement militarily. During Prime Minister Modi’s first term from 2014-2019 the Kashmiri freedom struggle has seen greater military suppression, especially since 2016 when a prominent freedom fighter Burhan Wani had been brutally assassinated. However, it seems that India has still not succeeded in achieving its desired objectives. After a landslide victory in the 2019 elections and with Mr. Modi once again in office as Prime Minster, the military suppression of the freedom movement in Kashmir has further intensified. Recently, India has deployed an additional 38,000 paramilitary troops in the region to join more than half a million troops and paramilitary forces already present. Along with this increased military presence in Kashmir, India has also been involved in continued aggression across the Line of Control (LoC) as evident by its use of prohibited ‘cluster bombs’ against the civilian population. These could have seriously provoked Pakistan to respond in an offensive way and might have resulted in another February 2019 episode.
At the present, Indian aggression along the LoC poses a major threat to peace in the region. India might believe that it could carry out a limited attack or ‘surgical strike’ against Pakistan which would stay below Pakistan’s nuclear threshold as evident from the February 2019 military engagement and the recent attacks along the LoC. India has repeatedly attempted to dominate the escalation ladder as was shown in the recent escalation instance the recent escalation following the Pulwama attack. Prime Minister Imran Khan has warned about the possibility of a ‘false-flag operation’ in Kashmir carried out by India for which Pakistan might be blamed. Based on such blame India could launch a limited attack or a low intensity conflict across the LoC. Consequently, Pakistan would be left with no choice but to respond in kind to any such aggression by India.
India’s abrogation of Kashmir’s special constitutional status and its military offensive in Kashmir could trigger another politico-military escalation between India and Pakistan within a year. India’s policy to forcefully make Kashmir an integral part of the Indian Union by annexing it through political and military means would serve a very dangerous precedent which would likely pose as a serious detriment towards the peaceful settlement of the Kashmir dispute. This change in the constitutional status of Kashmir would greatly limit the prospects for third-party mediation in the future especially for the United Nations, whose resolutions on Kashmir clearly provide a right of self-determination to decide Kashmir’s future. Unfortunately, the prevalent security environment in Kashmir is dominated by India’s aggressive behavior which ultimately would have long lasting implications for strategic stability throughout the South Asian region.
China- Pakistan: Centaur of Friendship
China has been always quotes as an all-weather ally to Pakistan. This mark is not been achieved in a day. Pakistan and China have always been close companions to each other whether its diplomatic or economic fronts. The “deeper than oceans” bond was initiated in 1951 when Pakistan was on the list of first countries who had recognized People’s Republic of China after it officially ended its ties with Taiwan, officially known as Republic of China. Ever since the two countries have actually proven themselves to be iron brothers. Whether it is socio-economic sphere or any issue of national, regional or global importance, the two have stood by each other through thick and thin.
This bond was further strengthened after Beijing launched its Belt and Road Initiative with China Pakistan Economic Corridor as its flagship project. CPEC had been no less than a soothing drug to the maltreated economy of Pakistan. China provided Pakistan with the much needed co-operation specifically in the areas of power generation and infrastructural development. Whereas Pakistan provided China with an alternative route for its trade across the globe that was shorter and beneficial from all aspects.
However, this resolve to cooperate is not limited to bilateral level. China has always supported Pakistan on issues of regional and global importance. This was even acknowledged by the Prime Minister of Pakistan on BRF this year too. He said, “I want to thank China and its leadership for their unwavering support for Pakistan.”
During the recent scenario where India unilaterally scraped article 370 and had illegitimately taken Kashmir under Delhi’s control directly, it was China who rendered its full support to Pakistan’s stance. According to a report of China Daily, China strongly opposes the Indian act of inclusion of Kashmir. China has also urged India to act in accordance with the bilateral ties with Pakistan and with China on the issues of administrative jurisdiction.
Nevertheless China had also assisted Pakistan in internationalizing the issue of Kashmir, rebuking India that it is not an “internal matter”. China had backed Pakistan’s request for holding a UN Security Council’s meeting to resolve the matter. The South China Morning Post, called Kashmir “a flashpoint in ties between the two nuclear-armed neighbors”.
Considering the volatile situation, UN Security Council met behind closed doors on Friday, August 16, 2019 with Kashmir Issue as the only agenda point. The meeting was called specifically for Kashmir for the first time after 1965. Chinese Ambassador, Zhang Jun later spoke to media and once again urged the two-parties to refrain from taking any unilateral action that can aggravate the situation and take measures to solve the issue in lines with the UN resolutions.
In 2018, Donald Trump had tweeted threateningly where he accused Pakistan of “nothing but lies and deceit” and fooling US leaders. Trump also announced that he would not provide any further aid to Pakistan. China once again came out to stand for its strategic partner. China urged the global community that the world should acknowledge Pakistan’s “outstanding contribution” as it has made huge efforts and sacrifices to fight terrorism.
Previously, China had defended Pakistan despite the rage, which the decision had received. In March this year, India had requested UNSC to brand Masood Azhar, the leader of an organization already banned by Pakistan, as a global terrorist. The move was vetoed by China, China’s Foreign Minister said that they need more time and decided to put a technical hold.
China had also stood by Pakistan when back in 2015 it supported Pakistan’s engagement with Nuclear Suppliers Group and expressed hopes for Pakistan’s attainment of membership. China’s Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Hua Chunying had replied to a reporter regarding Pakistan’s aspirations for NSG saying China wished to strengthen cooperation with Pakistan.
Despite the fact that in international relations there are not permanent friends but the bond which Beijing and Islamabad shares has turned the caps. This bond without any doubt is based primarily on mutual benefit and respect but there is more to it too. China supports Pakistan and had supported Pakistan even in times of despair. It took decades long cultural, diplomatic and economic understanding to carve this centaur of friendship between both nations. Islamabad needs to enhance its diplomatic understanding with Beijing as recent diplomatic bustle over Kashmir clearly showed the allies.
Kashmir Once Again Playing out as Diplomatic Theatre at the United Nations
Friday’s closed-door meeting of the UN Security Council on Jammu and Kashmir marked the first time in over 50 years since the issue was discussed at the world’s foremost diplomatic forum. This issue which has long remained at the center of India Pakistan tensions recently received fresh impetus following India’s unilateral decision to withdraw the special status awarded to the region. This was followed by a widespread clampdown in the form of an indefinite curfew as well as a media and communications blackout that is currently in its second week.
Consequently, the above mentioned UNSC meeting on Kashmir forms a key component of Pakistan’s diplomatic offensive following India’s actions. As such, it represents a highly interesting case of diplomatic theatre where the anticipation of possibly resolving or bringing about at least some semblance of positivity to a long-festering conflict has generated considerable interest the world over. This includes interest from both the international media as well as several observers and diplomats as a possible precedent for a consensus driven approach to conflict resolution in general.
However, the lack of any meaningful outcome or even a joint statement directly arising out of this meeting has led to an almost perverse battle of sorts over optics and narrative between key stakeholders, which aims to leverage the UN’s significance as a platform for international consensus. Especially with a view towards placating an international audience’s expectations of what is just or right, the absence of a joint statement following this meeting has led to a vacuum that has resulted in even greater discord regarding this issue. Thus, instead of a collective decision or stance taken on the issue by the UNSCC, what was instead witnessed was China and Pakistan presenting their cases for international mediation at one end, and India insisting on the issue remaining an internal matter at the other. This for instance was clear in the press statements given by each of these countries’ representatives following the end of the UNSC meeting.
Against a backdrop of the UN Security Council and speaking in a microphone carrying the white on blue letters of the ‘UN’, Chinese ambassador Zhang Jun was the first to state that all the UNSC members were gravely concerned at the human rights situation in Kashmir and that there was general agreement that all parties concerned should refrain from taking any unilateral action that might aggravate the situation further. He went on to state that as per China’s stance on the Jammu and Kashmir dispute, the status of Kashmir was still undecided and that it should be resolved via peaceful means in accordance with the UN charter, the relevant UN Security Council Resolutions as well as the bilateral resolutions pertaining to it.
Pakistan’s representative to the UN, Maleeha Lodhi whose remarks closely followed the Chinese Ambassador thanked China for lending assistance in her country’s request for calling the UNSC meeting. She pointed out that the fact that the meeting was held was itself a major diplomatic victory and that the voice of the Kashmiri people, despite all attempts to silence it was heard at the world’s highest diplomatic forum. She stated that this meeting was the first step taken as part of a protracted and drawn out struggle for justice for the Kashmiri people which Pakistan remained fully and vociferously committed to.
Considering how both the Chinese and Pakistani ambassadors while speaking in quick succession nearly echoed each other’s policy stances on this issue, it was as if they might as well have written each other’s statements themselves. Many observers in the media had later pointed out that the statement given by the Chinese ambassador was in fact a version of a potential joint statement that was to be ideally given by the president of the UNSC. However, since other P5 members had raised reservations regarding its wording and assumptions of the UN’s role in mediating the conflict, it was presented instead by Ambassador Jung as China’s position on the matter, to which Ambassador Lodhi had voiced her approval.
Both their stances however stood poles apart from the statement given by India’s permanent representative to the UN, Mr. Syed Akbaruddin. Given after a brief interlude to the previous two statements, Mr. Akbaruddin explained how following China and Pakistan’s statements he was self-admittedly compelled to present his own country’s stance on the matter. The gist of it was that India’s move to revoke Jammu and Kashmir’s Special Status was wholly an internal matter. That it remained committed to resolving its issues with other countries bilaterally and that it was saddened by Pakistan’s approach of using violent jihad and terrorism as a precursor to any potential negotiations. In a characteristic show of one-upmanship that has remained a hallmark of India and Pakistan’s interactions at the UN, Mr. Akbaruddin also made a flamboyant point of taking questions from Pakistani journalists with whom he at one point even came forward and shook hands with as a gesture of his country’s willingness to engage with Pakistan. All while repeating India’s decade old stance that Pakistan stop terror in order to initiate talks.
Yet, considering the stage, setting and timing of the situation at hand, what the audience of journalists was in the end left with was a shrewd and knowing diplomat presenting a clear denial of the spirit of the UN. While employing his best smoke and mirrors it was evident that the press conference was being used by Mr. Akbaruddin as an opportunity to distract, disguise and deflect international opinion from the issue at hand. In essence, it presented another example of one of the many slick PR driven spectacles that are passed on for diplomacy at the UN these days. Yet, considering the lack of unity from the UNSC, and China and Pakistan having already attempted to leverage the stage and setting, can one really blame him?
For an organization that once embodied upholding the ideals of peace, justice and equality as its very raison d’être, it is extremely disappointing to see the UN’s own inaction and passivity reducing it to being nothing more than mere spectacle. Especially during a time where the world is increasingly plagued by strife and discord, seeing Kashmir being reduced to just another metaphor for such issues speaks volumes of the lack of direction and principles guiding global leadership in our world today.
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