Connect with us

South Asia

An Open Letter to Duke and Duchess of Cambridge

Published

on

Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge, departs Islamabad, Pakistan, on October 18, 2019. Ian Vogler/Pool via REUTERS

Dear Uncle and Aunty,

Greetings,

This letter comes to you from your Pakistani nephew whom you do not know. I would like to thank you for visiting my motherland. For you it was, “Royal Tour”, but for Pakistan, your visit was “the most complex tour” due to security and logistical considerations. According to reports, over 1,000 security personals were used to ensure your safety and protection. I am optimistic, you must have enjoyed five-day trip that covered more than 1,000KM from Islamabad to Lahore, and countryside in the North, and border regions to the West.

Uncle, by God you both are matchless. You both were constantly in breaking-news in Pakistani media and gossips about the dressing sense of Aunty Kate were in prime-time headlines. Undoubtedly, aunty was looking gorgeous in green “Shalwar-Kameez”, a traditional style of dress for Pakistani women, which she dressed at “Emperor’s Mosque”. I am not sure either aunty was informed that her late mother-in-law also visited this Mosque during her trip?

Uncle, I would like to take an opportunity to tell you that one of my ancestors – Mughal Emperor, Aurangzeb built that Mosque in 1673 long-before “The British Raj” on the Indian subcontinent – “Golden Bird” from 1858 to 1947. You should know why my country, sliced away from India, came into being and gained independence. I do not want to talk about bitter history, dim present and shady future! But, I want to show you the other side of picture that you missed during your “Royal Tour”.        

Believe me, uncle, at its creation, Pakistan inherited the British legacy of a parliamentary system. But, the parliaments (National or Provincials) are only debating and fighting club of elite. Sometimes, elections only commit to reshuffling of the same faces. However, presently Pakistan has a democratic system without democrats and it is hijacked by a small group of feudal lords, political elites, business groups and bureaucrats.

In 2019, Pakistan is facing terrible economic crisis, the economy has slowed down, the Rupee has been devalued, and there has been increase in the rate of inflation. Pakistan is also dealing with a balance of payments crisis, and system is ill-equipped to make changes which would avoid future excessive debt. In the second quarter of 2019, Pakistan had a current account deficit of $3242 Million. Part of Pakistan’s financial crisis, global monetary tightening, reduced investor confidence, overvalued exchange rate, increased oil prices, and subdued interest rates have negatively impacted the country’s already precarious economic situation.

The world’s financial experts recently placed Pakistan on the list of countries that are supposed to face a serious food crisis. One of the basic reasons is soaring price due to gap in demand and supply of edibles. Pakistan is amongst the nations that likely to face food crises due to increasing prices of food commodities. According to a report, 80 million Pakistani are food insecure, while 95 districts face problems such as hunger and malnutrition-related disease. In the same way, 39 percent of Pakistanis live in multidimensional poverty. Pakistan’s poverty index revealed that 4 out of 10 citizens live below the poverty line. 

Pakistan could “Run Dry” by 2025 as its water shortage is reaching an alarming level. Pakistan is running out of drinkable water, and anticipated that it is likely to suffer a shortage of 31 million acre-feet (MAF). Massive water crisis have brought a new economic burden to citizens and have affected 14.91 million people in city of light – Karachi only. Electricity crisis in Pakistan is also one of the major reasons that hindering the economic growth. Unavailability of power (minimum 6 hours a day load-shedding) is affecting directly or indirectly on every sector of life. 

In Pakistan, the most important aspect of well-being is also the most neglected. Pakistan’s successive governments – civil and military – have not made health a priority. The overall public health scenario of Pakistan paints a miserable portrait. One child dies every minute due to vaccine-preventable diseases. The infant mortality rate is 66 per 1,000 births; the maternal mortality rate is 170 per 100,000. According to statistics, Pakistan had not been able to control the burden of communicable diseases. Pakistan is one of the three remaining countries where polio is still endemic and ranked fifth on the list of high-burden TB countries. However, we are number one in Men’s T20 format of Cricket.

Aunty, Kensington Palace said in a statement, “Access to quality of education, particularly to girls and young women, is one of the UK’s top priorities in Pakistan”. Undoubtedly, education not only plays important role in building nation’s character and makes people responsible citizens, but also considered most powerful instrument, to eradicate poverty and make better socio-economic progress. I am very thankful to Kensington Palace for this concern. Unfortunately, Pakistan is suffering from an extensive education crisis. Millions of Pakistani children do not attend school, and those that do deal with absent teachers and poor learning environment. 63% of government schools are in a dangerous or dilapidated condition and lack basic facilities.  

Our great Urdu poet Mirza Ghalib wrote more than a hundred year ago:

“If disgrace after death was to be my fate,

I should have met my end through drowning,

It would have spared me a funeral and no headstone would have marked my last resting place”.

Unfortunately, United Nations Development Program (UNDP) recently released report on Human Development Index (HDI); Pakistan was at the 150th place, out of 189 countries. Similarly, Pakistan ranking was 105th on the indicator that measure how much credit a country gets for doing business. Disappointingly, in terms of Human Capital Index (HCI) launched by World Bank, Pakistan falls in the bottom rank due to the low GDP per Capita.

These are more bitter things, but there is a shortage of sugar as-well, or else I would have coated my words appropriately. Uncle, you may be thinking why I am telling you all this? Please grant me permission to answer your concern! We are poor because our country is poor. In our country, how we can spend on people or national development schemes when our money is robbed by the ruling elite? Pakistan is being plundered by corrupt elites and corruption and money laundering have become endemic in the country and its institutions. Here, I would like to draw your attention on Prime Minister of Pakistan Imran Khan’s UNGA speech that focused on corruption and money laundering. “Every year billions of dollars leave poor countries and go to rich countries. Billions of dollars siphoned by corrupt politicians to tax havens, expensive properties bought in western capitals. The rich countries must show political will; they cannot allow this flight of capital from poor countries through corruption”. The PM also called on developed counties to fight back against tax havens.

Uncle and Aunty, my country is poor, yours is rich and developed. I love my country and I also like your country. But, one thing that I do not like about your country, “UK has become a safe haven for corrupt capital stolen from around the world”, according to Transparency International (UK). The corrupt ruling elite must not be allowed to park dirty-money in your country. Uncle, I request you to help my country to retrieve the robbed money from people of Pakistan that is parked in the safe havens of Great Britain, so that we utilize it on development plans of our country and our citizens. I said this all because you are not only wiser, you are also my uncle.

Convey my good wishes to Prince George, Princess Charlotte and Prince Louis. If I have caused you offense, I beg your forgiveness. With the utmost respect! May you both have an amazing life together filled with endless laughter, far more joy than sorrow and a peaceful love.

Your nephew,

Mirza A.A. Baig

(On behalf of citizens of Islamic Republic of Pakistan)

Mirza A.A. Baig is CAS-TWAS President’s Fellow at University of Science and Technology of China (USTC). Biomedical Health Informatics Professional and Freelance Science Writer.

Continue Reading
Comments

South Asia

Cease-Fire Review: A ray of hope

Published

on

Pre-Negotiations are very much crucial to achieve the state of “Negociation Continuelle” (continuous negotiations) the only way due to which conflicting parties go for sustained mode of talks.  On 25th February Director Generals of military operations (DGMO’s) of India and Pakistan contacted with each other to review cease fire agreement, on line of control (LOC), which was held back in 2003.  Both States reaffirmed cease fire agreement and to restart weekly hotline contact at DGMO’s level. The agreement was largely violated by both states for several times and they were accusing each other for violations. But one thing is common that on both sides Kashmiris are suffering, they are raising their children in an environment of fear and severe violence. India and Pakistan are both nuclear capable states of South Asian region and are considered as the custodian of regional peace and stability. And without shadow of a doubt regional peace and security is a collective responsibility of the responsible states. Pakistan and India are the main conflicting parties of South Asian region and Kashmir is the bone of contention between them. Kashmir has been a question of integrity for both States. The Line of control also known as working boundary, divides Indian Kashmir from Pakistani Kashmir. There are several resolutions have been passed by the UN General Assembly to address the Kashmir issue but never implemented. UN wants to solve this issue according to the hopes of Kashmiris. The initiation of bilateral talks in the present outrageous environment is not less than a blessing in disguise and it will be fruitful for all the stakeholders; India, Pakistan and Kashmiris as well. This peaceful move from Pakistan and India is highly appreciated globally because Kashmiri diaspora is present worldwide and they are very much concerned with future of their homeland.

Indian Prime minister Narendra Modi, with his hostile ideology of “Akhand Bharat” assumed office in 2014. His political adventurism based on jingoistic-cum-hawkish policies dragged India State to the verge of staunch illiberalism where identity crisis burst up, which is more lethal than previously existing class crisis. Every community including lower class Hindus, Muslims, Christians, Sikhs etc. all are vulnerable to the identity crisis.  On 30th May 2019, he sworn for his second tenure as prime minister of the world’s so called largest democracy. He came with another adventurous mandate and the first demonstration took place when he suspended special status of Kashmir and abrogated articles 370 and 35A. His ideology is regarded as Nazi-inspired ideology because in contemporary scenario only RSS community and other proponents of Hindutva are only considered as “Real Hindustani”. All minorities are suffering in India because their basic living rights are kept aside. The ongoing farmer’s protests shook the foundations of the state, hundreds of thousands of farmers rushed to the Delhi against the anti-famer laws passed by Indian Parliament.

In India Separatist movements are getting pace; minorities are unsatisfied with governing approach of Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP). Prime Minister Narendra Modi, reuined the secular and democratic face of India. On the other hand, Foreign policy of India is facing severe challenges because PM Narendra Modi’s approach is hostile based on hatred and prejudice. These attributes are fatal for State’s reputation at foreign lands; the recent India-China standoff was just a teaser of BJP’s whole story related to foreign relations. In addition to this, Economic goal of 2025 of India is again became a distant dream just because of belligerent policies of ruling regime.

In contemporary scenario if we look towards India, only Modi-Media nexus will be seen. But in reality the situation is getting worse day by day. The review of cease fire agreement, offered by India, is a positive step towards the regional peace. It is appreciated by both civil and military administrations of both states. When PM Imran Khan assumed office he offered dialogue to his Indian counter-part but Indian Premier refused to go for any sort of talks. India always took a position that to initiate talks first of all, Pakistan has to stop the cross-border terrorism. Both terrorism and talks can never go side by side, this Indian claim is not based on empirical evidences because Pakistan has been facing menace of terrorism  since 2001 and leaving no stone unturned to root out terrorism and safe havens for terrorists.

Currently, India is facing deep internal and external challenges. It is in the interest of India to have peace talks with Pakistan. On the other hand, it is a ripe moment for Pakistan to act decisively because it is the only time when India can review its decision of 5th August 2019.Moreover, it is a ray of hope to establish peace in entire region. This is the time when bi-lateral diplomacy can turn the traditional regional political dynamics. Both states are facing same problems when it comes to poverty, climate change, social security and the list goes on. The realm of these talks should expand and concern parties have to include economic and political regimes in front of each other otherwise momentum of talks will be lost. Regional connectivity is important to have eternal peace, Pakistan and India should review SAARC (South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation) that would provide basis for economic, cultural as well as political connectivity. Major Powers should also play their important role because world cannot afford rivalry between two nuclear states. Now, America is under a democrat President, and they should check every internal and external move of their Strategic and defense ally in Asia-Pacific region. Negotiations between India and Pakistan are in the interest of all other regional and extra-regional actors. Both states should adopt flexible approach while discussing the core issues and should avoid blame game. It will enhance the chances of continuous negotiation which is a pre-requisite for peace and progress.

Continue Reading

South Asia

What does the Kashmiri want?

Published

on

Friday prayers in Srinagar, Jammu and Kashmir. © John Isaac

A group of envoys visited the illegally-occupied Jammu and Kashmir State ostensibly `to take first-hand account of the situation in Jammu and Kashmir and government’s efforts to restore normalcy’ (Hindustan Times February 17, 2021). Srinagar welcomed the envoys with a spontaneous shutdown. Prior to the visit, political leaders and human-rights activists were detained. The envoys did not visit Farooq Abdullah, Mehbooba Mufti or any of the other opposition Kashmiri leaders.

The Hindu dated February 17, 2021 reported ‘The J&K government showcased “deepening democracy” to visiting 24 foreign diplomats, who arrived on a two-day tour of the Union Territory (UT) on Wednesday amid a spontaneous shutdown in Srinagar and alleged detention of recently elected National Conference (NC) district council members in Budgam’.

Post-special-status abolition situation

After abrogation of the special status, India took a number of steps to silence public dissent_diurnal and nocturnal search operations to hound, kidnap or kill the Kashmiri, Internet ex-communication, blatant use of draconian laws against ordinary Kashmiris and their leaders alike. A law was passed to jail parents of stone-pelters., if any. Meanwhile local body elections were held in which the ruling BJP was cut to size. But, India, as reported b y the Hindu also, showcased the elections in international media as a proof of popular participation and contentment of the people with the status quo.

Have the Kashmiri resigned to their fate

The mysterious silence in the Valley during the envoys’ visit speaks volumes on how much the Kashmiri hate India. However, it appears the Kashmiri could have shown their ennui through some mode of peaceful protest.  They could draw lessons from the Occupy the Wall Street or Precariat Movement in the USA.

Occupy has six letters. A group of six persons mostly celebrities in their fields, stand up at some busy street holding letters O,C, C, U, P, and Y. The Kashmiris also could have displayed the letters in word `AZADI’ through a group of five persons.

Apathy

Arnold Toynbee, in his Challenge and Response Theory postulates that if a challenge is too onerous a nation may become apathetic. In similar vein, Ibn-e-Khaldoon suggests that survival of a tribe (nation) depends on cohesion (asabiya, nationalism) of a tribe faced with life-and-death threat around its frontiers.

Amy Chua (Political Tribes: Group Instinct and the Fate of Nations) talks about static or dynamic response of a society as shaped by group instincts of various components of a society.

Applying Amy Chua’s framework to Kashmir situation

Amy Chua challenges the view that the conventional mechanism of demokratia (government by the people) is a panacea for all the problems of a society. Thus the recently-held local level elections or even `state assembly’ elections in occupied Kashmir are no panacea for the Kashmiris’ simmering discontentment, their revulsion to yoke of Indian rule. Chua, in her afore-quoted book analysed situation in Vietnam, Afghanistan, Iraq and Venezuela, besides so-called terror tribes including the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria.

Kashmir in Chua’s framework would suggest it is naïve to believe that Kashmiris are resigned to their fate. By analogy, even a thousand years of exploitation by a microscopic Chinese population did not subdue the Vietnamese hatred of the Chinese. As soon as the Americans left Vietnam, the native Vietnamese prowled upon the rich community of Chinese like a pack of wolves. The Americans plunged into decade long futile war with Vietnam without realizing that the Vietnamese were not Chinese stooges.

The indomitable fighting spirit

Indian forces had been using pellet guns to blind the Kashmir. Now, former chief minister Mehbooba Mufti, they have begun to use even chemical weapons against the Kashmiri.

Let us have a glimpse of the dogra’s reign of terror in Kashmir. To stifle the Kashmiri’s fighting spirit, the dogra punished even Kashmiri children who played with fork-slings (ghulail) and stones (Muhammad Yousaf Saraf, Kashmiris Fight for Freedom, vol. 1, p. 50). Under the dogra rule, the Kashmiri were treated no better than beasts of burden. Instead of donkeys and horses, Kashmiri Muslims were used to transport goods across Gilgit, Leh and Skardu. They carried luggage on their backs across glaciers as high as 17,000 feet. Thousands of them perished along the way each year owing to frost bites, fall from a precipice, and hunger or sickness. The dogra caravans were not humane enough to stop for a while in the snowy passes to look after the injured porters (or ‘human beasts of burden’). Besides performing the forced labour, the Kashmiri had to pay heavy taxes. Whole of their produce was confiscated by the dogra. Little was left for tillers and their children to eat. On every item, the oppressed Kashmiri had to pay multiple taxes. Take shawls. Not only the shawl-makers were taxed, but also the other intermediaries like importers of pashmina (wool) from Ladakh, and storekeepers, whether wholesalers or retailers (ibid. p. 280-81).

The regressive revenue system resulted in a famine during winter of 1877. People began to die of starvation. Instead of releasing grain stocks from the royal go-downs, the maharajah’s constabulary drowned the starved, crying people in the Wullar Lake. Saraf writes: “Whole boat-loads of starving people have been conveyed by the Maharajah’s officials to the Woolar Lake, and there drowned” (ibid. p. 294).

The reign of terror by Indian forces (now estimated at about nine lac regulars and security personnel) who replaced the maharajah’s constabulary on October 27, 1947 is no less gruesome. International human-rights organisations, as well as India’s National Human Rights Commission, have brought into limelight the Kashmiri’s mysterious disappearances, their custodial deaths, and countless rapes of hapless Kashmiri women.

Like the dogra, Indian rulers are mercilessly exploiting Kashmiris’ economic resources. Bulk of locally-generated electricity is being diverted to Indian states. The tourism industry is in shambles. Highly – educated people have no jobs. With no inflow of tourists, the shopkeepers have no business. Unlike the occupied Kashmir, all the socio-economic sectors in Azad Kashmir are progressing by leaps and bounds.

Toynbee’s Challenge and Response Theory suggests that if the challenge is too strong, a nation becomes apathetic. Ibn-e-Khaldoon’s asabiya (spirit of national cohesion) also suggests that a nation’s spirit is likely to be smothered by a challenge which is too heavy. Historical lessons do not apply to the Kashmiri’s struggle. Neither Indians, nor the dogra could gag them. The struggle for freedom has continued unabated.

The lesson from Kashmiris’ struggle for freedom is that repression or palliatives like elections in occupied Kashmir are no good. The Kashmiri wants “freedom”. Their group instinct is `resistance’. But they need to learn from peaceful resistance movements like the Occupy and the Precariat.

Continue Reading

South Asia

Pakistan Day Celebrations: Civilian Participation

Published

on

Pakistan got independence on 14 August 1947 by hectic political struggle from the platform of All India Muslim League (AIML) under the dynamic leadership of Quaid e Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah. The presidential address at Allahabad on 29 December 1930 of Dr. Muhammad Iqbal, accelerated and gave more clarity to the movement. He presented the idea and concept that Muslims are a separate nation by emphasizing that a nation is distinguished from the other based on religion, customs, and traditions. At the same time, he strongly disagreed with the Western concept of religion as a private affair. Iqbal explained that Islam is a way of life and thus Muslims are a separate nationand accentuated that unless their rights areprotected, it is impossible to establish peace and tranquility in the sub-continent. The determined political struggle of AIML led to March 23, 1940, Lahore Resolution, at its 27th annual session. The Quaid addressed the session on the first day andstressedthat Hindus and Muslims follow two different religions, philosophies, social customs literature and this made them two distinct nations.

The contents of the resolution, according to Story of Pakistan are“No constitutional plan would be workable or acceptable to the Muslims unless geographical contiguous units are demarcated into regions which should be so constituted with such territorial readjustments as may benecessary. That the areas in which the Muslims are numerically in majority as in the North-Western and Eastern zones of India should be grouped to constitute independent states in which the constituent units shall be autonomous and sovereign”. It strongly rejected the concept of United India. The word states wassubstituted to one state by a resolution passed at the 1941 Madras session of the AIML which stated, “everyone should clearly understand that we are striving for one independent and sovereign Muslim State.” Moreover, in all speeches, the Quaid used the word “an independent homeland” or “an independent Muslim state”.Pakistan and India became dominions on 14 and 15 August 1947 respectivelyby the Indian Independence Act, 1947, based on the Mountbatten Plan of 3 Junepassed by the parliament of the UK on 18 July. Keeping in view the atrocities being committed by RSS, a militant wing of BJP in Indian Illegally occupied Kashmir (IIoK), and minorities especially Muslims in all over Indianot being allowed to practice religion freely, havevery sturdily substantiated the decision of AIML to fight for a separate state for Muslims. It elucidates their political acumen and far-sightedness. 

Pakistan remained a dominion for about nine years till thefirst constitution as the Islamic Republic of Pakistan was adopted on 23 March 1956.Thereafter 23 March was celebrated as “Republic Day” (Yome Jamhooria)every year to commemorate the Lahore resolution and adoption of the constitution.   After the imposition of martial law by Ayub Khan in Oct 1958,it is being celebrated as“Pakistan Day”. Probably the plotter of the coup could not celebrate constitutionalism and democracy on March 23 so ‘Republic Day’ was replaced with ‘Pakistan Day.  The main feature is a three-servicesparade in Islamabad followed bythe display of military weapons and equipment. Floats of the provinces also march past. The flypast by Army and Navy combat aircraft displaying their weapons and equipment.The flypast by PAF fighters and aerobatic.

The celebrations are spread over about two and half hours.Pakistan Day has taken the shape of a Defense Day which was not originally intended. Moreover, Army, Navy, and Air Force organize their respective Defense Days on 6,8, and 7 Septemberevery year. The events of the Pakistan Day parade give an impression especially to civilians that military strength is the only most important component of national power. The remaining such as economic capacity, natural resources, industrial capacity, national cohesion, political structure, and leadership, etc. which are also very vital needs to be given projection. Therefore, parade proceedings may be modified to include more participation of civilian-related events. The latest inventory and indigenously developed weapons and equipment may be displayed to reduce timings. The PAF fighters may only carry out professional flypast andaerobatic performance similar to the aerobatic display team, like “Red Arrow “may be excluded. It is pertinent to mention that most of the countries have prohibited aerobatic display in public places to avoid any untoward incident. It is suggested that floats carrying students who have topped in the boards and universitiesand have done distinct research work in the past year may be added. Similarly,floats carrying civilians who have been awarded Pride of Performance and other awards, businessmen who have been bestowed awards, sportsmen who have brought honors for Pakistan may also be included.  Few industrial floats may also be added with indigenously manufactured machinery and other items.Floats carrying agricultural products and livestock may also be considered.Citations are read as the float passes the dais. Moreover, in Islamabad and the provincial capitals industrial exhibitions may be organized which may include indigenously developed machinery and other items.The civilian participation in Pakistan Day celebrations will certainly add colors and act as a source of pride for them as well as for the nation.

Continue Reading

Publications

Latest

Americas29 mins ago

Joe Biden and his first contradictory foreign policy moves

Those who thought that the elderly American President, formerly Barack Obama’s vice-President, would step into the international limelight as the...

Economy2 hours ago

Iran has an integral role to play in Russian-South Asian connectivity

Iran is geostrategically positioned to play an integral role in Russian-South Asian connectivity. President Putin told the Valdai Club during...

International Law6 hours ago

Why states undermined their sovereignty by signing NPT?

Nuclear weapons are known as brawny and cataclysmic weapons. The source of the energy of such weapons is fission and...

Environment9 hours ago

Duck conservation takes flight in Jamaica

On January 20, 2021, the day of the inauguration of American president Joe Biden, two ducks named “Joe” and “Kamala”...

Finance10 hours ago

Estonia provides good support to jobseekers, but does not reach everybody

The Estonian labour market has outperformed most EU countries after the global financial crisis. The employment rate of people in...

Energy News12 hours ago

New EU energy labels applicable from 1 March 2021

To help EU consumers cut their energy bills and carbon footprint, a brand new version of the widely-recognised EU energy...

Energy News14 hours ago

E-Boda-Bodas: a promising day for electric transportation in East Africa

Forty-nine motorcycles made little noise but raised much interest in Nairobi’s Karura Forest this morning, as the UN Environment Programme...

Trending