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The Likely Outcome of Narendra Modi’s Unconstitutional Seizure of Kashmir

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An independent fact-finding mission into the now military-ruled constitutionally autonomous Indian state of Jammu-Kashmir (commonly referred to simply as “Kashmir”) reports that “The whole of Kashmir is, at the moment, a prison, under military control.” That’s not on account of any rebellion which had occurred there (none did); it is instead simply because of an unprovoked blitz unconstitutional invasion, on August 5th, of virtually only Hindu Indian troops, into the now Hindu-totalitarian-run nation of India’s, only majority-Muslim state, so as to conquer that state totally, and thus to now turn India itself into an apartheid-supremacist regime, much like Israel is over Palestine. Kashmir has suddenly been turned into India’s own Palestine. That land was suddenly grabbed and turned into a huge prison for Muslims.

The longer any Constitution is, the more unmanageable and less just the country or other state tends to be, and India unfortunately has one of the world’s two longest Constitutions. Wikipedia says that “The Indian constitution is the world’s longest for a sovereign nation.[b][3][4][5] At its enactment, it had 395 articles in 22 parts and 8 schedules.[16] At about 145,000 words, it is the second-longest active constitution – after the Constitution of Alabama [that’s the American state of Alabama] – in the world.[34]”

When Narendra Modi suddenly announced on August 5th that the Constitutionally guaranteed autonomy of India’s only majority-Muslim state, Kashmir-Jammu, or “J&K,” is now past history, no longer in effect, the brilliant “Moon of Alabama” blogger immediately headlined — and explained why — “India Will Come To Regret Today’s Annexation Of Jammu And Kashmir”. He provided this historical background:

In July 1949, Sheikh Abdullah and three colleagues joined the Indian Constituent Assembly and negotiated the special status of J&K, leading to the adoption of Article 370. This article limited the Union’s legislative power over Kashmir to the three subjects in the Instrument of Accession. If the Union government wanted to extend other provisions of the Indian Constitution, it would have to issue a Presidential Order under Article 370. The state government would have to give prior concurrence to this order. Moreover, the constituent assembly of J&K would have to accept these provisions and incorporate them in the state’s constitution. Once Kashmir’s constitution was framed, there could be no further extension of the Union’s legislative power to the state. This secured J&K’s autonomy.

Incidentally, this was the reason for listing the provisions of Article 370 as “temporary” in the Indian Constitution: the final contours of the state’s constitutional relationship with the Union were to be determined by the constituent assembly of J&K.

Today Amit Shah, the leader of India’s Upper House, announced the unilateral revocation of Article 370 (and the related Article 35a).

Shah did this by calling Article 370 “temporary” and ignoring that that appellation (“temporary”) had referred only to its being temporary until J&K would officially concur in it, which J&K quickly did. Ever since then, it has been, and remains, permanent (according to the Supreme Court of India ruling on 16 December 2016, reaffirming that same Court’s earlier ruling, on 10 October 1968). Therefore, it is clear that only by means of amending India’s Constitution can J&K’s autonomy be undone.

That anonymous blogger (whom I consider to be one of the world’s greatest investigative journalists) then continued:

It is inevitable that the actions today will lead [to] a new insurgency in J&K and beyond. Even if Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan does not want to support a new guerilla army in J&K, the military and other nationalist Pakistanis will push to supply it with everything that is needed [in order to support such an army].

So: at least unless and until India’s Constitution is amended, Modi’s grab for Kashmir not only is unConstitutional, but if this military occupation continues, then it is likely to spark a war in Kashmir, which could quickly become a war between Hindu-majority India and Muslim-majority Pakistan, next door to India.

How likely is India’s Constitution to be amended so as to allow this military occupation to continue indefinitely?

Wikipedia says:The procedure [to amend] is detailed in Article 368. An amendment bill must be passed by each house of Parliament by a two-thirds majority of its total membership when at least two-thirds are present and vote. Certain amendments pertaining to the constitution’s federal nature must also be ratified by a majority of state legislatures.

Whether all of that can be done is highly questionable. So: not only is Modi’s action unConstitutional, but it could remain so — and produce a huge war.

No matter how bad India’s Constitution might be, Modi is far worse, because he is violating it by means of this brutal and entirely unjustifiable military crackdown.

On the same day as the crackdown, Indian Hindus in other parts of the country announced online that they now planned to relocate to Kashmir. The expectation is that the Muslims in Kashmir will be driven out and replaced by Hindus. This is widely believed to be the Indian Government’s plan, and the reason for this crackdown: an ethnic-cleansing of J&K for the benefit of India’s Hindus.

On August 10th, the New York Times detailed how horrific the crackdown is. Headlining “Inside Kashmir, Cut Off From the World: ‘A Living Hell’ of Anger and Fear”, they reported, from the city of Srinagar in Kashmir, that:

A sense of coiled menace hung over the locked-down city and the wider region on Saturday, a day after a huge protest erupted into clashes between Kashmiris and Indian security forces.

Shops were shut. A.T.M.s had run dry. Just about all lines to the outside world — internet, mobile phones, even landlines — remained severed, rendering millions of people incommunicado.

The New York Times gained one of the first inside views by a news organization of life under lockdown in Kashmir and found a population that felt besieged, confused, frightened and furious by the seismic events of this week. …

Tens of thousands of troops from the Indian Army, the Central Reserve Police Force (a paramilitary unit) and the Kashmiri State police have been deployed in just about every corner of the valley. In some villages, even remote ones, a soldier was posted outside the gate of each family’s home. …

Mr. Modi has said the new status will make Kashmir more peaceful and prosperous. In a televised speech on Thursday, which most Kashmiris could not watch because their television service had also been cut, he insisted that turning Kashmir into a federal territory would eliminate corruption, attract investment and move it “forward with new hopes.’’

Narendra Modi had risen to power in India by imposing a 3-day anti-Muslim “pogrom” or “ethnic cleansing” in the state of Gujarat, from 27 February through 1 March of 2002, during which, approximately 150,000 people were driven to refugee camps. So, there is clear reason for India’s 15% Muslim minority to fear the country’s 80% Hindu majority, who, in 2014, elected this bigot, Modi, to lead India. And, now since August 5th, that bigot has an iron grip on India’s only Muslim-majority state, J&K.

The pressure upon Pakistan’s leader, Imran Khan, to respond militarily, against the Modi-led bigots, can only rise, as long as Modi’s unConstitutional aggression, perhaps amounting to an even bigger ethnic cleansing, now against the residents in J&K, continues. A mass-exodus of Muslims from J&K is likely and expected, especially into adjoining Pakistan. As those refugees accumulate there, the pressure on Khan can only rise even further. Already on August 11th, Khan tweeted that “Attempt is to change demography of Kashmir through ethnic cleansing. Question is: Will the world watch & appease as they did Hitler at Munich?” 

As of yet, there is no actual discussion in the now totalitarian Indian media, regarding a Constitutional Amendment, in order to legalize Modi’s August 5th action. His Government’s official position is:

Whatever its legal or historical status, the time has come to amend, if not end Article 370. We must not forget that the continuance of Article 370 is the biggest hurdle to a lasting solution to the Kashmir conundrum. As such, it is the other side of the Pulwama massacre. Strikes across the border are only one way to avenge or redress the latter. But the internal rectification required is the full and complete integration of Jammu and Kashmir with the rest of India. In order to accomplish this, Article 370 must go.

So, they aren’t actually saying that Article 370 “is gone,” but that it “must go.” They are, right at the start, setting up the possibility for an Amendment-resolution, by asserting that “the time has come to amend, if not end Article 370.” They are not actually saying Article 370 has ended. This lacuna is their existing policy’s escape-valve. The regime’s goal is to act as if  Article 370 is already simply gone, until the public overwhelmingly assumes that it has somehow been Constitutionally removed — even though it hasn’t. The regime’s control over its press is sufficient to exclude, for now, any public debate about that central issue — it is a non-issue, currently. It is an issue that’s thus being held in abeyance. 

But, also, the official position asserts that, come what may, Article 370, and 35A both must no longer continue in force; and specific condemnations of the Muslim faith and of Muslim traditions are prominent in this part of the Government’s official position, such as:

abrogation of laws like Article 370 and 35A will be opposed by vested interests. It has taken decades to rid the Muslim daughters of India of the evil and ignominy of tripletalaaq — a pernicious custom whereby a Muslim male could divorce his wife by a simple rendering of the word talaaq, three times, by any means. Here too, the Muslim clergy, all male dominated, termed such a judgement by the apex court as an assault on their faith, conveniently forgetting that Muslim countries such as Pakistan have already enacted such laws decades ago. It is, thus, time for India to move on and not be held hostage to blackmail and threats from religious power brokers.

So: the Hindu regime is now officially damning Islam, and calling Muslim clergy “religious power brokers.” This is blatantly in violation of India’s 471-page Constitution. Here is from the Constitution’s Table of Contents:

PART III 

FUNDAMENTAL RIGHTS 

General 

12. Definition …………………………………………………………………. 6 

13. Laws inconsistent with or in derogation of the fundamental rights. …

Right to Equality 

14. Equality before law ………………………………………………………………….. 6 

15. Prohibition of discrimination on grounds of religion, race, caste, sex or place of birth … 7

Among the reasons for the Constitution’s extraordinary length are its many exceptions, such as, for example, Article 371A, which says that nothing in the Constitution “shall apply to the State of Nagaland unless the Legislative Assembly of Nagaland by a resolution so decides.” 

However, what will happen if the Government’s promise that its August 5th action will bring ‘peace’ to Kashmir turns out to become too blatantly false in order for that lie to be able to be successfully continued? Perhaps the ‘news’-media will then receive changed instructions, so as to allow a public debate about whether, maybe, there ought  to be a Parliamentary initiative to put forth such an Amendment to the Constitution, for consideration. And, if the Government by then has decided to cancel the August 5th action, that failed initiative would be the best possible excuse for doing this: the failure of the initiative to revise Article 370 would become the excuse for cancelling the August 5th action. And, then, the peace-negotiations, could begin, between the J&K state, and the Indian Government. Modi has not locked that exit-door from his policy; and, if he walks through it, he’ll be able to blame the legislature, for failing to remove Article 370.

Every dictatorship thrives on the continuing inability of the public to examine and analyze reality in the way that a scientist does in the practice of his/her particular profession; and that’s the reason why these intellectual skills, the most basic ones of all — thinking in the way that a scientist does — are not being taught in all of public education, but instead the popular myths are taught to children, and are being reinforced in India and other dictatorships. That makes the public controllable, by the dictators. And so it is, in India today.

As regards the Constitutionality of the measure that the Modi regime is applying so as to impose this theft of control over J&K from J&K’s majority-Muslim residents, that measure is Presidential Order C.O. 272, which was issued on August 5th. The chief blog of India’s Constitutional lawyers, “Indian Constitutional Law and Philosophy”, headlined on August 13th “Guest Post: Article 370: The Constitutional challenge”, and the author, “Nivedhitha K.”, opened that “The Presidential Order C.O. 272 … is the genesis of the subsequent events,” and closed that “the Presidential Order C.O. 272 and all the subsequent activities that have … genesis in the presidential order are unconstitutional.” The logical process between the opening and ending was flawless; and, so, there can be no honest legal question about the unConstitutionality of what Modi has been doing to J&K ever since August 5th — Modi’s traitorism to India’s Constitution, and thus to all Indians. The only real question is instead whether India’s ‘news’-media will start to publicize this important fact. Meanwhile, the Government races forward with its rape of India’s Constitution, in the hope that enough J&K Muslims will evacuate that land so as to enable Hindus ‘democratically’ to impose some sort of apartheid anti-Muslim regime there. It’s simply a race against time, all in clear violation of Indian law, to achieve Hindu control there. Modi seems to be as bold as Hitler was. Fascists everywhere are traitors to their country, and this is now being made manifestly clear in India. No nation where the Constitution is unenforced can be a democracy — not even if the Constitution itself might be thought, by some people, to be, itself, democratic.

Investigative historian Eric Zuesse is the author, most recently, of They’re Not Even Close: The Democratic vs. Republican Economic Records, 1910-2010

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South Asia

India’s open invitation to a nuclear Armageddon

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Army chief General Manoj Mukund Naravane said that “India was not averse to the possible demilitarisation of the Siachen glacier ,  the world’s highest battleground and an old sore in India-Pakistan ties , provided the neighbour accepted the 110-km Actual Ground Position Line (AGPL) that separates Indian and Pakistani positions. Acceptance of AGPL is the first step towards demilitarisation but the Pakistan side loathes doing that”. He said, ‘The Siachen situation occurred because of unilateral attempts by Pakistan to change status quo and countermeasures taken by the Indian Army’ (Not averse to demilitarisation of Siachen if Pak meets pre-condition: Army chief, Hindustan Times January 13, 2022).

Reacting to the Indian army chief’s statement, Pakistan’s former foreign secretary Riaz Mohammad Khan reminisced that the Siachen could not fructify into a written agreement because India wanted Siachen and Kashmir to be settled together. India’s approach ‘nothing is agreed until everything is agreed’ scuttled the agreement. As for Kashmir, “a simultaneous effort was made through the backchannel …in what is commonly known as the Four-Point Formula” (Siachen recollections, Dawn January 16, 2022). Riaz laments Indi’s distrust that hindered a solution.

Shyam Saran, a voice in the wilderness

Shyam Saran, in his book How India Sees the World (pp. 88-93) makes startling revelations about how this issue eluded solution at last minute. India itself created the Siachen problem.  Saran reminisces, in the 1970s, US maps began to show 23000 kilometers of Siachen area under Pakistan’s control. Thereupon, Indian forces were sent to occupy the glacier in a pre-emptive strike, named Operation Meghdoot. Pakistani attempts to dislodge them did not succeed. But they did manage to occupy and fortify the lower reaches’.

He recalls how Siachen Glacier and Sir Creek agreements could not fructify for lack of political will or foot dragging. He says ‘NN Vohra, who was the defence secretary at the time, confirmed in a newspaper interview that an agreement on Siachen had been reached. At the last moment, however, a political decision was taken by the Narasimha Rao government to defer its signing to the next round of talks scheduled for January the following year. But, this did not happen…My defence of the deal became a voice in the wilderness’.

Saran says, `Kautliyan template would say the options for India are sandhi, conciliation; asana, neutrality; and yana, victory through war. One could add dana, buying allegiance through gifts; and bheda, sowing discord. The option of yana, of course would be the last in today’s world’ (p. 64, ibid.).

India’s current first option

It appears that Kautliya’s last-advised option,yana, as visualised by Shyam Saran, is India’s first option nowadays. Kautlya also talks about koota yuddha (no holds barred warfare), and maya yuddha (war by tricks) that India is engaged in.

Cartographic annexation

By unilaterally declaring the disputed Jammu and Kashmir its territory does not solve the Kashmir problem. This step reflects that India has embarked upon the policy “might is right”. In Kotliyan parlance it would be “matsy nyaya, or mach nyaya”, that is big fish eats the small one. What if China also annexes disputed borders with India?  India annexed Kashmir presuming that Pakistan is not currently in a position to respond militarily, nor could it agitate the matter at international forums for fear of US ennui.  

India’s annexation smacks of acceptance of quasi-Dixon Plan, barring mention of plebiscite and division of Jammu. . Dixon proposed: Ladakh should be awarded to India. Pakistan Occupied Kashmir (including Gilgit and Baltistan) should remain with Pakistan. Whole Kashmir valley should have a plebiscite with no option to independence. Jammu should be divided on religious basis. The river Chmab should be the dividing line. Northern Jammu (Muslims dominated) should go to Pakistan and Hindu majority parts of Jammu to remain with India.

In short Muslim areas should have gone with Pakistan and Hindu-Buddhist majority areas should have remained with India.

India’s annexation has no legal sanctity. But, it could have bbeen sanctified in a mutually agreed Kashmir solution.

India’s propaganda

India portrays the freedom movement in Kashmir as `terrorism’. What about India’s terrorism in neighbouring countries?

The world is listless to accounts of former diplomats and RAW officers about executing insurgencies in neighbouring countries. B. Raman, in his book The Kaoboys of R&AW: Down Memory Lane makes no bones about India’s involvement up to the level of prime minister in Bangladesh’s insurgency.

 Will the world take notice of confessions by Indi’s former intelligence officers and diplomats?B. Raman reminds `Indian parliament passed resolution on March 31, 1971 to support insurgency. Indira Gandhi had then confided with Kao that in case Mujib was prevented from ruling Pakistan, she would liberate East Pakistan from the clutches of the military junta. Kao, through one RAW agent, hijacked a Fokker Friendship, the Ganga, of Indian Airlines hijacked from Srinagar to Lahore.

India’s ambassador Bharath Raj Muthu Kumar, with the consent of then foreign minister Jaswant Singh, `coordinated military and medical assistance that India was secretly giving to Massoud and his forces’… `helicopters, uniforms, ordnance, mortars, small armaments, refurbished Kalashnikovs seized in Kashmir, combat and winter clothes, packaged food, medicines, and funds through his brother in London, Wali Massoud’, delivered circuitously with the help of other countries who helped this outreach’. When New Delhi queried about the benefit of costly support to Northern Alliance chief Massoud, Kumar explained, “He is battling someone we should be battling. When Massoud fights the Taliban, he fights Pakistan.”

Death of back-channel

In his memoirs In the line of fire (pp.302-303), president Musharraf had proposed a personal solution of the Kashmir issue.  This solution, in essence, envisioned self-rule in demilitarised regions of Kashmir under a joint-management mechanism.   The solution pre-supposed* reciprocal flexibility.

Death of dialogue and diplomacy

Riaz warns of “incalculable” risks as the result of abrogation of Kashmir statehood (Aug 5, 2019). Both India and Pakistan are nuclear powers. In the absence of a dialogue on outstanding issues, war, perhaps a nuclear one,  comes up as the only option.

Concluding remark

Sans sincerity, the only Kashmir solution is a nuclear Armageddon. Or, perhaps divine intervention.

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Major Challenges for Pakistan in 2022

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Pakistan has been facing sever challenges since 1980s, after the former USSR’s invasion of Afghanistan. The history is full of challenges, but, being a most resilient nation, Pakistan has faced some of them bravely and overcome successfully. Yet, few are rather too big for Pakistan and still struggling to overcome in the near future.

Some of the challenges are domestic or internal, which can be addressed conveniently. But, some of them are part of geopolitics and rather beyond control of Pakistan itself. Such challenges need to pay more attention and need to be smarter and address them wisely.

Few key areas will be the main focus of Pakistan in the year ahead. Relations with China and the US while navigating the Sino-US confrontation, dealing with Afghanistan’s uncertainties, managing the adversarial relationship with India and balancing ties between strategic ally Saudi Arabia and neighbor Iran.

Pakistan has to pursue its diplomatic goals in an unsettled global and regional environment marked by several key features. They include rising East-West tensions, increasing preoccupation of big powers with domestic challenges, ongoing trade and technology wars overlying the strategic competition between China and the US, a fraying rules-based international order and attempts by regional and other powers to reshape the rules of the game in their neighborhood.

Understanding the dynamics of an unpredictable world is important especially as unilateral actions by big powers and populist leaders, which mark their foreign policy, have implications for Pakistan’s diplomacy. In evolving its foreign policy strategy Pakistan has to match its goals to its diplomatic resources and capital. No strategy is effective unless ends and means are aligned.

Pakistan’s relations with China will remain its overriding priority. While a solid economic dimension has been added to long-standing strategic ties, it needs sustained high-level engagement and consultation to keep relations on a positive trajectory. CPEC is on track, timely and smoothly progress is crucial to reinforce Beijing’s interest in strengthening Pakistan, economically and strategically. Close coordination with Beijing on key issues remains important.

Pakistan wants to improve ties with the US. But relations will inevitably be affected by Washington’s ongoing confrontation with Beijing, which American officials declare has an adversarial dimension while China attributes a cold war mindset to the US. Islamabad seeks to avoid being sucked into this big power rivalry. But this is easier said than done. So long as US-China relations remain unsteady it will have a direct bearing on Pakistan’s effort to reset ties with the US especially as containing China is a top American priority. Pakistan desires to keep good relations with the US, but, not at the cost of China. In past, Pakistan was keeping excellent relations with US, while simultaneously very close with China. When the US imposed economic blockade against China and launched anti-communism drive during the cold war, Pakistan was close ally with the US and yet, keeping excellent relations with China. Pakistan played vital role in bring China and the US to establish diplomatic relations in 1970s. Yet, Pakistan possesses the capability to narrow down the hostility between China and the US.

Pakistan was close ally with the US during cold war, anti-communism threat, war against USSR’s invasion of Afghanistan in 1980s, and war on terror, etc. Pakistan might be a small country, but, possesses strategic importance. As long as, the US was cooperating with Pakistan, Pakistan looked after the US interest in the whole region. In fact, Pakistan ensured that the US has achieved its all strategic goals in the region. Since, the US kept distance from Pakistan, is facing failure after another failure consecutively. The importance of Pakistan is well recognized by the deep state in the US.

US thinks that withdrawal from Afghanistan has diminished Pakistan’s importance for now. For almost two decades Afghanistan was the principal basis for engagement in their frequently turbulent ties, marked by both cooperation and mistrust. As Pakistan tries to turn a new page with the US the challenge is to find a new basis for a relationship largely shorn of substantive bilateral content. Islamabad’s desire to expand trade ties is in any case contingent on building a stronger export base.

Complicating this is Washington’s growing strategic and economic relations with India, its partner of choice in the region in its strategy to project India as a counterweight to China. The implications for Pakistan of US-India entente are more than evident from Washington turning a blind eye to the grim situation in occupied Kashmir and its strengthening of India’s military and strategic capabilities. Closer US-India ties will intensify the strategic imbalance in the region magnifying Pakistan’s security challenge.

Multiple dimensions of Pakistan’s relations with Afghanistan will preoccupy Islamabad, which spent much of 2021 engaged with tumultuous developments there. While Pakistan will continue to help Afghanistan avert a humanitarian and economic collapse it should not underestimate the problems that may arise with an erstwhile ally. For one, the TTP continues to be based in Afghanistan and conduct attacks from there. The border fencing issue is another source of unsettled discord. Careful calibration of ties will be needed — assisting Afghanistan but avoiding overstretch, and acknowledging that the interests of the Taliban and Pakistan are far from identical. Moreover, in efforts to mobilize international help for Afghanistan, Islamabad must not exhaust its diplomatic capital, which is finite and Pakistan has other foreign policy goals to pursue.

Managing relations with India will be a difficult challenge especially as the Modi government is continuing its repressive policy in occupied Kashmir and pressing ahead with demographic changes there, rejecting Pakistan’s protests. The hope in establishment circles that last year’s backchannel between the two countries would yield a thaw or even rapprochement, turned to disappointment when no headway was made on any front beyond the re-commitment by both neighbors to observe a ceasefire on the Line of Control.

Working level diplomatic engagement will continue on practical issues such as release of civilian prisoners. But prospects of formal dialogue resuming are slim in view of Delhi’s refusal to discuss Kashmir. This is unlikely to change unless Islamabad raises the diplomatic costs for Delhi of its intransigent policy. Islamabad’s focus on Afghanistan last year meant its diplomatic campaign on Kashmir sagged and was limited to issuing tough statements. Unless Islamabad renews and sustains its international efforts with commitment and imagination, India will feel no pressure on an issue that remains among Pakistan’s core foreign policy goals.

With normalization of ties a remote possibility, quiet diplomacy by the two countries is expected to focus on managing tensions to prevent them from spinning out of control. Given the impasse on Kashmir, an uneasy state of no war, no peace is likely to continue warranting Pakistan’s sustained attention.

In balancing ties with Saudi Arabia and Iran, Pakistan should consider how to leverage possible easing of tensions between the long-standing rivals — of which there are some tentative signs. With Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman keen to use economic power to expand his country’s diplomatic clout by making strategic overseas investments, Pakistan should use its political ties with Riyadh to attract Saudi investment through a coherent strategy. Relations with Iran too should be strengthened with close consultation on regional issues especially Afghanistan. The recent barter agreement is a step in the right direction.

In an increasingly multipolar world, Pakistan also needs to raise its diplomatic efforts by vigorous outreach to other key countries and actors beyond governments to secure its national interests and goals.

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Afghanistan: UN launches largest single country aid appeal ever

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Displaced families collect water during a harsh winter in Kabul, Afghanistan. © UNHCR/Andrew McConnell

The UN and partners launched a more than $5 billion funding appeal for Afghanistan on Tuesday, in the hope of shoring up collapsing basic services there, which have left 22 million in need of assistance inside the country, and 5.7 million people requiring help beyond its borders.

Speaking in Geneva, UN Emergency Relief Coordinator Martin Griffiths said that $4.4 billion was needed for the Afghanistan Humanitarian Response Plan alone, “to pay direct” to health workers and others, not the de facto authorities.

UN High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi called for $623 million, to support refugees and host communities in five neighbouring countries, for the Afghanistan Situation Regional Refugee Response Plan.

“Today we are launching an appeal for $4.4 billion for Afghanistan itself for 2022,” said Mr. Griffiths. “This is the largest ever appeal for a single country for humanitarian assistance and it is three times the amount needed, and actually fundraised in 2021.”

Needs could double

The scale of need is already enormous, both UN officials stressed, warning that if insufficient action is taken now to support the Afghanistan and regional response plans, “next year we’ll be asking for $10 billion”.

Mr. Griffiths added: “This is a stop-gap, an absolutely essential stop-gap measure that we are putting in front of the international community today. Without this being funded, there won’t be a future, we need this to be done, otherwise there will be outflow, there will be suffering.”

Rejecting questions that the funding would be used to support the Taliban’s grip on de facto government, Mr. Griffiths insisted that it would go directly into the pockets of “nurses and health officials in the field” so that these services can continue, not as support for State structures.

UN aid agencies describe Afghanistan’s plight as one of the world’s most rapidly growing humanitarian crises.

According to UN humanitarian coordination office OCHA, half the population now faces acute hunger, over nine million people have been displaced and millions of children are out of school.

Youngsters’ plight

Asked to describe what might happen if sufficient support was not forthcoming, the UN emergency relief chief replied that he was particularly concerned for one million children now facing severe acute malnutrition. “A million children – figures are so hard so grasp when they’re this kind of size – but a million children at risk of that kind of malnutrition if these things don’t happen, is a shocking one.”

But humanitarian agencies and their partners who will receive the requested funding directly can only do so much, Mr. Griffiths explained, before reiterating his support for the 22 December UN Security Council resolution that cleared the way for aid to reach Afghans, while preventing funds from falling into the hands of the Taliban.

“Humanitarian agencies inside Afghanistan can only operate if there’s cash in the economy which can be used to pay officials, salaries, costs, fuel and so-forth,” he said. “So, liquidity in its first phase is a humanitarian issue, it’s not just a bigger economic issue.”

Stave off disease, hunger

He added: “My message is urgent: don’t shut the door on the people of Afghanistan. Humanitarian partners are on the ground, and they are delivering, despite the challenges. Help us scale up and stave off wide-spread hunger, disease, malnutrition and ultimately death by supporting the humanitarian plans we are launching today.”

Highlighting the need to avoid a wider regional crisis emanating from Afghanistan, UNHCR chief Grandi, insisted that what was needed most, was “to stabilize the situation inside Afghanistan, including that of displaced people who are displaced inside their country. Also, to prevent a larger refugee crisis, a larger crisis of external displacement.”

Nonetheless, Afghanistan’s immediate neighbours had sheltered vulnerable Afghans for decades, Mr. Grandi explained, as he appealed for $623 million in funding for 40 organizations working in protection, health and nutrition, food security, shelter and non-food items, water and sanitation, livelihoods and resilience, education, and logistics and telecoms.

Decades of shelter

No-one should forget “that there is a regional dimension to this crisis, represented by the Afghan refugees but also Afghans with many other ‘stay’ arrangements in neighbouring countries in particular,” Mr. Grandi said, “especially in Pakistan and Iran that have hosted Afghans for more than 40 years, but also Central Asian States.”

Since the Taliban takeover last August, women’s and girls’ rights have continued to come under attack, OCHA noted in a statement, “while farmers and herders are struggling amid the worst drought in decades and the economy is in freefall”.

Rights reminder

On the issue of protecting fundamental rights, Mr. Griffiths underlined the fact that UN humanitarians were continuing to hold “conversations” with Afghanistan’s de facto authorities at a national and sub-national level, on issues such as aid and education access for all.

Echoing that message, UN refugee chief Mr. Grandi noted that humanitarians on the ground were well aware of the importance of stressing the need to protect the rights of minorities and other vulnerable Afghans.

“Our colleagues are there every day, and that’s what they talk about every day; they certainly talk about access, and delivery and needs, but they also talk about women at work, women in school – girls in school – rights of minorities, but it’s that space that we need to preserve.”

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