Connect with us

South Asia

Government Policy Choices: COVID-19

Published

on

The world has shaken unpredictable global health crises, namely the COVID-19 pandemic of the twenty-first century. Originating from the China city of Wuhan, spill overall   the continents except Antarctica. The pandemic threats human security and existing global health governance system .To cope the crisis every state of the world primarily taken the some precautionary measures, imposing a curfew, shutting factories, educational institutions, public gatherings and practicing social distancing. The intensity of pandemic increased suddenly even developed countries vulnerable in front of COVID-19. Meanwhile, Pakistan also affected COVID-19 badly with thousands of active cases in a country. Due to a fragile health system, the government of Pakistan took some extraordinary steps to mitigate the intensity of pandemic by establishing national command and operation center for effective co-ordination between federal and provincial governments. 

Prior to this government also establish a national coordination committee an apex body of decision making in which military leadership also included to formulate a comprehensive strategy to deal with the crisis.  Moreover, the government facing many obstacles to tackle the crisis, two front challenges return of Pakistani stranded in different countries, largely from Middle East and gulf regions. The government initiated special flights to bring back Pakistani nationals. On the domestic front   primarily economic, and societal factor is significant. The government draws policy choices, firstly review the health strategy, which is a provincial subject after the 18th Amendment, a constraint to implementation of national health policy in a health crisis situation due to different parties’ government in provinces. The provincial government’s response according to their circumstances and health facilities available to them. Meanwhile, a federal authority the  national disaster management authority superintend to  provide protective medical surgical  equipment’s to doctors and medical staff a front line warrior of the pandemic. 

The human security at the stake in pandemic specifically less develop countries or weak economic states. Pakistan where ratio of unemployment and poverty high crisis may be more worsen because of structural and financial imbalance of economy. However in order to ensure there is no chaos in society and take some initiative to help poverty  stricken people, starting Ehsaas emergency cash disturbed, 12 thousand rupees among 12 million people allocating a budget of  144 billion rupees according to official data.  Furthermore, advisor of economic affairs Hafeez Sheikh on daily briefings said government decided to allocate the 200 billion rupee for those people who lost jobs in pandemic situation which consider sought of relief for public.

Subsequently, the aforementioned scenario government formulates a multidimensional strategy to reduce the financial possible risk after COVID-19. A multi-layer policy options of different ministries, a strong one-line agenda policy between trade, commerce, economic, and food security departments.  The interrelated ministries deal with economic policies of the country to stabilize the economic affairs and how to protect the state interest in globalized world where international financial markets shuddering. Protection of local investors and businessman are also salient factor.  In this regard, Prime Minister Imran Khan announced a relief package of the construction industry for the revival of the industry. As compared to other countries a policy difference among stakeholders of the complete lockdown of the country, the federal government believes the smart lockdown, to the revival of economic activities because it is impossible to bear the long-term burden. Hence the policy of complete or forced lockdown was quite arduous because of deep division within society, political or religious especially ahead of Ramzan where mostly cleric demand opening of mosques for congregational Namaz and Tarawahi.

In addition to that, a strong need for effective diplomacy with the United Nations, International financial institutions, and friendly countries to draw a future mechanism of post-COVID-19. Unfortunately, the United Nations’ role was noiseless in an emergency situation, two poles of power America and China aggressively attack each other polices. In that framework, Pakistan assesses its position and to act intelligently. Along with, Pakistan gets relief from the G20 group and included a group of 76 states for the debt relief program of the World Bank that’s considered major relief of repaying payments. 

The government takes necessary steps under the advisory of the World Health Organization (WHO), doctors, and medical professionals when easing the restrictions on daily affairs activities in near future, a smart lockdown approach because it is hard for government to stop people in their houses for months but if the ratio of cases high public health system cannot afford the burden eventually health system collapse and people lives in dangers. 

Student of M.Phil International Relations at Bahria University, Islamabad, and a freelance writer with a keen interest in Current Affairs, Politics of Pakistan and Foreign policy of Pakistan.

Continue Reading
Comments

South Asia

Arthashastra- book review

Published

on

Arthashastra is a historical Indian book which covers aspects of state functioning. It is about how economy, politics, military strategy and diplomacy of a state should work. It was written by Kautilya in 300 BCE but was lost at that time and was discovered by Rudrapatna Shamasastry in 1905 CE. He was a Sanskrit scholar. He published it in 1909 and was translated into English in 1915. Arthashastra was written for the King of that reign, Chandragupta Maurya. Kautilya was the Prime Minister of the Maurya Empire. It was a sort of a handbook for Chandragupta to run his kingdom. There are different views regarding the authorship of Arthashastra. Some authors say that it was written by three persons, Kautilya, Chanakya and Vishnugupta while others say that all three were one person. Vishnugupta was his real name and Kautilya/ Chanakya was his surname. So, all have a concord on this and call him Kautilya, the author of Arthashastra. Arthashastra is also compared to ‘The Prince’ by Machiavelli because of its realist approach to the statecraft and politics.

There is a concept in Hinduism called the concept of Purusarthas i.e., four goals in human life. They are Dharma (moral values), Artha (economic values), Kama (psychological values) and Moksha (spiritual values). Artha is one of them and probably the most important one. Arthashastra is the combination of Artha and shastra (treatise). Its main concept is how a state, or an empire can work greatly. For this Kautilya combined 15 old books in Arthashastra and explained different concepts in it like economic prosperity, military strategy, political affairs, external affairs, internal matters of Harem of the King, King’s own characteristics, qualities of a Prince, ministers, spies, civil officers and how to manage the public etc. Following is the summary of the book covering important points related to the government, politics and statecraft of an empire.

It starts with greetings to Sukra and Brihaspati. It is a compilation of all the Arthashastra written by ancient teachers for the perseverance of the earth. It also mentions Kautilya as the author. Kautilya gives the most importance to the four sciences i.e., Anvikshaki, the triple Vedas, Varta and Danda-Niti. Then he determines the position of each science by mentioning different school of thought views. School of Manu believes in only three sciences, excluding Anvikshaki as considering it a special branch of Vedas. School of Brihaspati holds that Varta and Danda-Niti are the only sciences and triple Vedas are only an abridgement for a man experienced in Lokayatravidah i.e., three worlds heaven, earth and atmosphere. School of Usanas say that only science of governments is the only science having origin and end of all. But Kautilya believes in all four sciences from which righteousness and wealth is learnt.

For “Anvikshaki”, Kautilya says, it constitutes the philosophy of Samkhya, Yoga and Lokayata. Samkhya is associated with Yoga school and Lokayata is the philosophical school of materialists. Among the four, Anvikshaki is the most beneficial for dealing with worldly affairs and to get all kinds of knowledge and virtues. For “Triple Vedas”: Sama, Rik and Yajus combine to form triple or three Vedas. These with Atharvaveda and Itihasaveda called as the Vedas. Triple Vedas determine the duties of four castes in Hinduism i.e., Brahman, Kshatriya, Vaisya and Shudra. Brahmans are responsible for teaching, studying and taking charge of sacrificial performances. Kshatriyas’ duty is performance of sacrifice, study, giving gifts and military services. Vaisyas do agriculture, cattle-breeding and trade. Shudras have to serve the twice born (dwijati) or Brahman and perform as craftsmen, singers, dancers and poets. Kautilya further explains the duties of other people as well. The duty of a house owner is to earn money, marriage among equals, giving gifts to gods and guests. A student or Brahmacharin should learn Vedas, prayers and respect for his teacher. Vanaprastha or the forest-recluse have to worship gods, self-denial, sleep on grounds and wear deerskin. The duty of an ascetic ‘Parivrajaka’ is self-control, abandoning material gains, living in forests and chastity. The observance of these duties lead man to heaven ‘Swarga’ and disobedience cause disturbance on Earth.

Kautilya now determines the “position of Varta and Danda-Niti”. Varta has descriptions about agriculture, cattle-breeding, trade and labor. It says it is army and treasury obtained through Varta that a King rules over his and rival’s nation. Danda-Niti is law of punishment or science of government on which the well-being of other three sciences depend. It allows man to acquire things or resources, improve them and then honestly distribute them among the people. If it is done nicely, then King can bring people under his control. Kautilya says if punishment is rightly given, then people will respect King and his words but if given under ignorance or anger, then it will only make people furious and rebellious. The absence of law of punishment will only bring imbalance in the society where strong will crush the weak. In the end Kautilya says that people can lead a happy and successful life if governed by the King.

Kautilya says that a student should “learn all sciences” from expert teachers. As for the Prince is concerned, he should be married after 16 and he also should learn all sciences from efficient and aged professors. In the morning, he should learn military art and weapons, and in the afternoon hearing Itihasa i.e., Purana, history, illustrative stories, Dharma Shastra and Arthashastra. When a Prince keenly hears his teachers, he gets knowledge, it leads him to application and self-control. All this makes him efficient in leaning. So, a well-educated and disciplined King would enjoy no opposition on Earth. If a King refrains from his six enemies i.e., lust, anger, greed, vanity, pride and overjoy then he would succeed. But if he fell prey to these then he shall be destroyed along with his kingdom.

Kautilya also sheds light on how “the life of a good King” shall be. If a King refuses to follow those six enemies and restrains his organs of senses, then he would gain knowledge, ensure safety and security of his people, keep himself in discipline and do good for the nation. With his senses under his control, he would refrain from unjust acts and without violating any rules, can enjoy his life, charity, wealth and desires. But, if any of these are overdone, can hurt others and itself too. Kautilya says wealth is the most important among all. Ministers who help the King in keeping away from such enemies, are respectable and hence they assist the sovereign.

Regarding the “selection of ministers”, there are various views from different school of thought. Bharadvaja says that the King should appoint his classmates as ministers because he knows them personally and can trust them well. Visalaksha says if ministers are King’s classmates, then they could dislike him as well. So, ministers should be those whom secrets are known by the King himself so they cannot betray him. Parasara says that King has his own secrets as well. So, he should appoint those who helped him in his difficult times and are trustworthy too. According to Pisuna, ministers should be men tried and tested of their abilities in respective fields. Kaunapadanta says that the King should appoint those whose fathers or grandfathers have been ministers before so that they have an established relationship with the King based on trust. Vátavyádhi says the King should appoint new persons specialized in polity as ministers because they would not offend him and obey him as the King. Son of Bahudanti says that ministerial position needs experience not just theory. Therefore, rather than new officials, the King should select ministers from high families who are noble, brave and have loyal feelings towards King. Kautilya says that indeed man’s efficiency in work shows his ability and such men, after considering their place and time of work, should be appointed as ministers.

For the “Creation of Council”, Kautilya describes the qualities which a minister should have. A ministerial officer should be a high family member, trained in arts, strong memory, health, skills, strong conduct and free from procrastination and hatred. Those who have half or quarter of these qualities, are posted on lower ranks. The King has much work to do simultaneously, so he assigns those works to ministers. As for the appointment of Priest, he should be from noble family, well educated in all sciences and has the ability to prevent calamities from the skies and human doings by performing rituals explained in Atharvaveda. A King should follow the teachings of him.

Kautilya explains another issue which is “Ascertaining by Temptations Purity or Impurity in the Characters of Ministers”. A King, with the help of his Prime Minister and High Priest, shall offer temptations to his ministers to test their character. The King along with a priest set up a situation where the priest disobeys King and is dismissed. Then he, disguised as a classmate, tries to provoke other ministers against King. If ministers do not fluctuate, then they are tested as pure. This is termed as religious allurement. In the same way, a commander of army and a woman spy, as disguised, make ministers go against the King, but if they remain firm then it means that they are loyal to the King and are pure in character. These practices are known as monetary allurement and love allurement, respectively. Kautilya says that the King or Queen shall not themselves take part in that, instead appoint agency of spies to test ministers.

Arthashastra discusses about “Institution of Spies” too. The King with his ministers makes spies. Those spies are disguised as fraudulent believers, hermit, a householder, merchants, colleagues, firebrand, murderers and beggar women. They swear that they would tell King everything they find suspicious. This way they would check the purity of character in King’s people or servants. It further explains who will become what type of spy. Orphans who are solely dependent on state for their food and living, will fight tigers and elephants in battlefield and will become firebrand. Those who are cruel, become poisoner. A Brahman poor widow, who wants to earn money, will become woman ascetic and live in King’s Harem. Women of Shudra caste will be wandering spies. Those spies who are well trained and educated will be assigned to spy on King’s ministers and officials. Dwarfs, eunuchs, dumb will be spies in their own houses and the local spies also have to trace the foreign spies in their lands.

Another concern is about “Protection of Parties For or Against One’s Own Cause in One’s Own State”. Along with set up spies on prime ministers, King shall also espy his people. Classmate spies shall start debates regarding King with opposing arguments in crowded area and see for traitors. They also have to confirm the rumors going on in the public. Spies disguised as astrologers shall look for greedy, angry and suspicious people, then their relationship with each other and foreign Kings. Contented people will be awarded and discontented shall be convinced by giving gifts or by punishments. Hence, a wise King shall guard his people with varying factions of enemy and foreign Kings among them. Another point is about “Winning over Factions For or Against an Enemy’s Cause in Enemy’s State”. There are some people who are against the King due to many reasons. Some are provoked whose rights are not delivered, some are alarmed who are furious and aggressive for King, others are ambitious and haughty. All these people have something against the King. These people are offered to work together with spies under formal terms to get their goals. The friends of foreign Kings can also be persuaded through gifts, threats or by pointing the defects of their Kings.

“Business of Council Meeting” is another point here. After taking care of local and foreign parties, the King then looks at the administrative affairs. The decisions related to administration are taken through deliberations at the council meeting. The subject of the meetings shall be kept confidential from all people even from birds because they used to be the couriers of information too. Therefore, without any back-up guarding force, a King shall never enter into a deliberation of council meeting. Whoever discloses information about council meeting, shall be punished heavily. So, the most important information shall only be known by the King because ministers could leak information through carelessness. So, the members of the council shall learn sciences and Vedas.

Kautilya in Arthashastra also talks about the “envoys”. The successful councilors are made as envoys. Those who have ministerial capabilities are made ambassador. Those who are one-quarter less capable shall be given missions. Whoever has half of the above abilities, convey summon. An envoy shall befriend the enemy’s officers who work on boundaries of cities. He also shall know about the size of enemy’s area and about precious things there. When he enters the fort of enemy King, he shall clearly explain the mission assigned to him. Other than these duties, an envoy maintains treaties, gains secret information and makes enemy’s officers and envoys his friends. Therefore, such envoys shall be appointed by the King and he shall guard himself from foreign spies.

Another most important topic covered in Arthashastra is “Protection of Princes”. King shall take extra care of his princes. There are various arguments about this as well from different scholars.  Bharadvaja says that ill-tempered and jealous princes can end up taking the throne of their fathers. So, they shall be punished secretly when they show love for the King. Visalaksha says princes shall be guarded in a safe place because punishing them would be cruel and it would exterminate Kshatriya race. School of Parasara say that fearing from princes seems like fearing from a lurking snake. He may think that his father (King) is locking him up and ends up making his father responsible for his sufferings. So, the prince shall be guarded inside the fort. Pisuna argues that after getting to know the reason of his rustication, he may turn against the King. So, he shall send to the fort of the foreign King. It is like a wolf hidden in a flock of sheep. Kaunapadanta says it is better for a prince to live in his own state in case the foreign king instigates him against his father. Kautilya says a Prince shall learn sciences and refrain from allurements like hunting, liquor or women. If he has good qualities, then he may be appointed as commander-in-chief or the heir. If the King has only son, then attempts shall be made to procreate him a son but never a wicked prince shall be installed on the royal throne.

“The Duties of a King” are also explained in detail. Firstly, a King should be strong and energetic as the whole nation is looking up to him and would follow him. Secondly, if he is weak then enemies can easily hurt him. A King shall divide his time for different activities. He shall check accounts and expenditures, look into public matters, eat and study, collect revenue, attend superintendents, attend assembly of ministers, receive secret information through spies, his me-time, supervise infantry and military operations’ strategy with commander-in-chief. A King shall never make his officials and public wait. If he is inaccessible to them then confusions and conflicts shall happen, or he may end up falling prey to the enemies. So, he shall attend businesses himself and never postpone them. Kautilya says the King shall ever be active, he shall find his happiness in his people’s happiness. Being active is the only way to get wealth and successes or otherwise he shall perish along with his kingdom.

The King shall “make villages” on new land or ruins. Each village shall not be less than a hundred families and not more than five hundred families of Shudra caste. Boundaries shall be demarcated by rivers, mountains, caves or forests. Priests and other people who perform rites shall be given lands with the exemption of taxes and fines. Accountants, administrative people, physicians, horse-trainers and messengers shall be given land which they cannot sell. Lands which are ready for cultivations shall be given to taxpayers and those lands which are in process, shall not be taken away from people. Kautilya says that the King shall not only look after old timber forests, buildings and mines but also make new ones.

According to Kautilya, “finance is the most important thing” as many tasks depend on this. Things which constitute in financial prosperity of an empire are public prosperity, capturing thieves, wealth coming from crops, prosperity of commerce, less calamities, less taxes and income in gold. But things which cause harm to treasury include obstruction, fabrication of accounts, loss in revenue, self-enjoyments, trade-offs, misusage of funds etc. Kautilya also describes their punishments. For obstruction, a fine of 10 times of amount is imposed, lending money of treasury and trading by government’s money is punishable for the fine of twice the amount of profit earned, for fabrication the fine is 10 times, an intentional loss of revenue by someone’s doing is 4 times the loss, miscalculation of revenue collected is punished for 12 times of the total amount. There are forty ways of embezzlement and in case of embezzlement, a public announcement is made if there are any people affected by the offender. If someone comes forward then he is paid equally to the amount he lost, by the King.

Arthashastra also explains “remedies against natural calamities”. Eight kinds of natural calamities are there from which a King has to protect his nation. These are fire, floods, pestilential diseases, famine, rats, tigers, serpents, and demons. To prevent fire, cooking shall be made outside in summers, precautionary measures shall be taken, and offerings and prayers shall be made to the fire. To ward off floods, villagers living near rivers shall migrate to up countries in rainy days, boats and bamboos shall be prepared in case of persons affecting from floods, people who are intentionally neglecting rescue shall be fined 12 panas, rivers shall be worshiped, experts in Vedas and mystics shall perform incantations against rain and in case of drought, Indra and Ganges mountains shall be worshiped. To overcome pestilences or plagues, remedial measures shall be taken. Doctors with their medicines and ascetics with their purificatory ceremonies shall try to avoid floods. Moreover, offerings to God, milking cows on ceremonial grounds and spending nights in devotion to God shall also be observed. During famine, the King shall show mercy on people and provide them seeds from his own collection or seeking help from other friend Kings. Other policies include extracting wealth from rich people or the King emigrating to other green lands with his people. The King shall also move with his people towards seas or rivers where water is abundant, and his people can grow crops there or the King shall buy them food by hunting or fishing on a large scale. To ward off danger from the rats, cats and mongooses shall be let out. Those who kill caught rats shall be fined 12 panas. Same punishment is for those who do not control their dogs except for wild tribes. Rituals shall be conducted by ascetics and rats shall be worshiped on new and full moon. To overcome the danger of snakes, remedies shall be taken, and incantations may be done by experts, experts in Atharvaveda shall perform rites, and snakes may also be worshiped on new and full moon. To get rid of tigers, corps of animals filled with the juice of madana plant may be put in different places. They may be caught using nets and weapons. One who neglects a person in the clutches of a tiger shall be punished 12 panas and who kills a tiger, he will be awarded the same amount too. Experts in Atharvaveda and mysticism shall perform rituals to ward off demons. The King shall protect his people from demons as a father to his sons. Such magic experts shall be honored by the King.

According to Kautilya, “the elements of sovereignty” are the King, ministers, country, fort, treasury, army and friends. Then he describes best qualities of them. The best qualities of a King are member of a high family, brave, divine, righteous, truthful, grateful, has set great goals, enthusiastic, powerful, resolute mind, has assembly of high ministers and highly disciplined. The qualities of a good country or state include having capital cities in center and extremities of Kingdom, can maintain its own citizens along with the outsiders in case of calamities, dominates neighboring kingdoms, free from uneven tracks and wild beasts, has fertile lands, abundant waters, bears vast army and taxation, a population of agriculturalists, intellectuals and loyal servants to the King. A good treasury is justly obtained, rich in gold, silver and gems, and can withstand long time calamities. Kautilya says that a wise King is expert in politics and even though he owns a small territory, will conquer the whole earth with the help of his best elements of sovereignty and cannot be defeated.

Arthashastra also discusses a situation where “a weak King is attacked by a powerful King”. In this situation, Bharadvaja says that the weak King shall surrender, and it is the same as bowing before Indra, the God of Rain. Visalaksha says that the weak King should fight with all of his might because it is the duty of a Kshatriya despite of the fact that he wins or not. Kautilya says that he who completely surrenders, lives his life in despair. When a weak King fights a strong King, it’s like crossing a sea without boat. So, the weak King either seek help from a powerful King or seek refuge in an impenetrable fort. There are three types of invaders defined: just, greedy and demon-like conqueror. A just conqueror is satisfied with only respect, the greedy one needs lads and wealth but the demon-like not only needs wealth and family of the weak king but also his life. So, the weak King shall seek help of the first, satisfy second one with wealth and for the third one, he should keep a distance between them by offering him land and wealth.

In my opinion, Kautilya’s Arthashastra is much relevant in the 21st century. It has discussed so many points which are still present in states too. For example, issue of the purity or loyalty of ministers, institution of spies or now-a-days intelligent agencies, danger of attack of a strong state on weak state etc. States still interact on the basis on their interests, treasury or the finance department is the most important one in state functioning, embezzlements happen, the phenomenon of war is there, new towns have to be made, where monarchy is present those states still have issues related to princes or heirs and throne, public has grievances related to leaders and many more. In short, Arthashastra has everything which could occur in a state and it is a complete book to run a country under proper rules and regulations as it was written for the same very purpose by Kautilya for the King Chandragupta Maurya.

As far as the strengths and weaknesses of Arthashastra are concerned, I think its strengths are unmeasurable as discussed earlier as well. It is a comprehensive treatise beneficial for a country. But the weakness which I came across is that some points are really hard to digest. E.g., the part where the protection of princes is discussed, how can a King enlock his own kid just under the suspicion of future treason or send him to another King’s fort? It is something strange. Moreover, Arthashastra was written on Hindu Ideologies for an Indian Empire. There are various points where Hindu ideology clashes with other religions and ideologies. So, it would be difficult for non-Hindu states to follow those rules in the same sense. It is biased towards Hinduism.

In a nutshell, Arthashastra is a very good example and a guide to achieve a state’s interests inside and outside its boundaries. This clearly defines how a leader, its ministers, cabinet, officials, and people should be to acquire the best in their favor. Kautilya devised a state structure for public welfare which is needed in the 21st century world too where states still vague wars, directly and indirectly. States are struggling hard to survive because their state structure is messed up. If Arthashastra is followed in its true sense, then, I think, states would clearly see a difference in the aftermath of their decisions. The consequences would be good for all whether it is state, officials or the common people. But the states should imply those rules and policies keeping in view their political structure as well, as empires no more exist. But still, its policies are much relevant to gain successes for the state’s betterment.

Continue Reading

South Asia

Ensuring ‘Vaccine for All’ in the World: Bangladesh Perspective

Published

on

image credit: UNICEF/Vinay Panjwani

Health experts and analysts argue that the massive scale of vaccination is the most effective way to save people and the economy around the globe. Meanwhile, one can see a timid response of the global institutions in this regard. The neglect of multilateralism since the very inception of this crisis exacerbated the efforts of different countries, particularly in the developing and underdeveloped regions. The US withdrawal from World Health Organization (WHO) under the Trump Administration greatly hampered the global process in the early days of COVID-19. However, the US has rejoined WHO under the Biden Administration, but it has already been delayed and slowed down the global engagement. As a result, we have witnessed hectic vaccine diplomacy over the past year, where bilateral frameworks have played a pivotal role. It may be mentioned that COVAX was launched by WHO, EU and France in 2020 to deal with the global accessibility of COVID-19 vaccines. Coordinated by Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI) and the WHO, COVAX aims to ensure vaccines are shared fairly among all nations, rich and poor. However, the worrying issue is that the current level of access to vaccines for the developing and least developed nations is extremely low compared to the developed and rich countries. Against this backdrop, the vaccine for all becomes a critical global need to overcome the biggest humanitarian crisis in a century. Bangladesh has a unique contribution to advance the goal of vaccine for all, for that matter, facilitating the availability and accessibility of COVID-19 vaccines to every corner of the world.

With a motto of ‘vaccine for all’, the Bangladesh Prime Minister, Sheikh Hasina, warned the world during her speech for the 31st Special Session of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA)in September 2020. Bangladesh placed a three-point proposal in the special UNGA session to deal with the challenge of COVID-19: ensuring universal and equitable access to quality Covid-19 vaccine, transferring technology to developing countries to manufacture it locally, and providing them with financial assistance to face challenges in wake of the pandemic. She vehemently asserted that the COVID vaccine is for the global public good. In her words, “It is imperative to treat the vaccine as a ‘global public good’.” In this context, the World Health Organization (WHO) initiative of Access to Covid-19 Tools (ACT) and Covax facility can play a vital role in this regard. Highlighting the global responsibility of achieving the 2030 Development agenda of the fundamental role of Universal Health Coverage for achieving the SDGs guided by the principle of equity, Bangladesh underscored the need for universal access to vaccines. She argued, “In the same spirit, when it comes to access to vaccines, no one should be left behind … This would help us to defeat the pandemic, save lives and accelerate our economic recovery.”

Bangladesh Prime Minister called upon the developed countries to commit to technology transfer for the local manufacturing of vaccines in developing countries, using IP rights waiver under TRIPS Agreement. Sheikh Hasina reminded the international community that the fates of people across the globe were intertwined amid the COVID-19 pandemic, as she called on world leaders to ensure that any proven vaccine is made accessible to all at the same time. She also highlighted the need for multilateralism and reiterated Bangladesh’s ‘unflinching commitment’ to multilateralism as embodied in the UN Charter. She clearly spelled out, “The pandemic has indeed aggravated existing global challenges. It has also reinforced the indispensability of multilateralism.”She emphasized, “The UN, International Financial Institutions (IFIs), civil society alongside the national governments must do their share and actively cooperate with each other to combat Covid-19.” The crux of multilateralism on the COVID-19 global pandemic is pumping necessary financial assistance to the developing countries.

Bangladesh also pointed out that the world should recognize the vaccine manufacturing capacities of developing countries like Bangladesh. She floated the idea that Bangladesh’s pharmaceutical industry has the capacity to mass-produce a vaccine if given the “technical know-how and patents.”Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina asserted that Bangladesh is ready to produce Covid-19 vaccines. It is critical to remember that Bangladesh did forecast the current scenarios of vaccine crisis and politics long ago. The situation gets further worse when the US, the UK, and the European Union have all blocked the move of nearly 100 developing countries who petitioned the World Trade Organization (WTO) to temporarily waive intellectual property protections on vaccines during the pandemic so that they could manufacture generic vaccines domestically. Besides, developing countries, including Bangladesh, approached vaccine producing companies such as Oxford-AstraZeneca to share technical know-how and patents, which has not seen any positive responses. Serum Institute of India, a co-manufacturer of Oxford-AstraZeneca also appealed to the US President Joe Biden to consider exporting raw materials for producing COVID-19 vaccines. Besides, a local company in Bangladesh, Globe Biotech Ltd, also joined the global COVID-19 vaccine race with the announcement of its vaccine named Bongavax that started clinical trials.

The Bangladesh Prime Minister reiterated her vision for the vaccine for all at the Boao Forum for Asia Annual Conference virtually held on 20 April 2021. She clearly uttered that COVID-19 vaccines should be declared as global public goods. She asserted, “Countries producing the vaccines should help others produce the vaccines with a view to attaining universal vaccine coverage.”All nations and international organizations must work together to meet the medical requirements of this pandemic. WHO, GAVI and other relevant organizations must uphold the rights of member states and ensure equity and justice. The prime minister called the COVID-19 pandemic possibly the “greatest global challenge” and emphasized it had brought the world to a crossroad of human history. As cautioned by the Bangladesh Prime Minister in September 2020, the world witnesses a horrific race for vaccines leaving behind billions of marginalized people in the world.

The neglect of the causes of the survival of a great number of humanity by relying on politics, parochial national interests, and diplomatic considerations, the developed world will jeopardize the existence of global society. The so-called diplomacy of ‘zero-sum’ gains has brought about a devastating impact in the age of new normal. One can see alarming statistics of current scenarios in the world regarding vaccine procurement. Out of total worldwide confirmed purchases of Covid-19 vaccines, high-income country confirmed dose total 4.6 billion, upper-middle-income country totals 1.3 billion, lower-middle-income country total 608 million, low-income country total 670 million and COVAX total 1.12 billion. Besides, vaccine diplomacy has turned into a race for intensifying bilateral frameworks that contributes to more competition and rivalry in the world. Countries from Africa to Latin America have been witnessing this trend. Rivalries between the vaccine manufacturing countries such as the US vs China, Russia vs the US, India vs China, EU vs Russia and China are on display in the global arena.  

In conclusion, Bangladesh’s 3-point proposal in fighting against the COVID-19 pandemic through equitable access to vaccines must be the basis of any global or regional initiatives. It is the formula for saving humanity from the greatest disaster on earth. It is an inescapable option for the world to immediately declare COVID-19 vaccine as a public good that the Bangladesh Prime Minister urged to the world in the UNGA in 2020. Intellectual property rights mechanisms be immediately relaxed for sharing technology with Pharmaceutical companies in countries like Bangladesh, Brazil, India and Indonesia to produce vaccines for the world. Fair and equitable access to the COVID-19 vaccines must be based on the slogan of ‘vaccine for all’ and no time lost or delayed to save the humanity and economy.

Continue Reading

South Asia

The man who saved the world from Pakistan

Published

on

image source: voices.transparency.org

But for a few brave souls like Frits Veerman, Pakistan would have become the world’s most frightening nightmare. Not that it is not today but it could have been worse: we could have been facing a nuclear Armageddon now.

Veerman, a professional photographer in Amsterdam, was one of the first to ring warning bells about Pakistan’s skullduggery in stealing nuclear documents, materials and technology to build its own nuclear bomb. His warnings were brushed aside, he was forced to keep quiet, sacked and harassed to no end for speaking the truth. In a just world, he should have been hailed as an icon of courage. He died in relative obscurity recently.

His story will, however, continue to live, a story of courage to speak out in a world where truth often falls to realpolitik. When Pakistan was running a big nuclear smuggling ring from its diplomatic missions and other agencies, governments and security officials in different parts of the world chose to look the other way. In fact, many connived in the colossal thievery.  They  knew  what  Khan  and his  associates  were  doing  but business and political interests trumped over reason.

Veermen was the only one to say that `the emperor was naked`. He could have easily succumbed to pressure or greed but he did not, and even at a great cost to his life, he chose to speak out, rather than keep quiet.

Veerman discovered the Pakistani game when he was a   young professional photographer in Amsterdam. He used to work at a consultancy firm, FDO (Fysisch-Dynamisch Onderzoek), as a technical photographer. An important client of FDO was   Ultra Centrifuge Netherlands which was part of a top secret project run by a consortium of Dutch, British and German scientists at a nuclear plant in Almelo. In May 1972, a young and charming Pakistani scientist, Abdul Qadeer Khan joined the team as a translator of technical documents. He soon became friends with Frits Veerman. He took pictures of centrifuges for him. The two shared an office and met at dinners in the evening. Veermen was introduced to Khan’s wife and two daughters and often went to their house for dinner.

Khan quickly expanded his circle of friends and he would freely access areas at the nuclear plant which were hitherto prohibited. It was sometime in 1973,  a year  after the Pakistani joined the consultancy firm,  that Veermen had his first doubts. He thought there was something fishy about the manner in which the Pakistani was charming his way through the rank and file of the establishment.

It was two years later that Veermen’s suspicions became stronger. He realised that the young Pakistani was in fact a thug–he was stealing classified papers from the plant. This happened one day when he went to Khan’s house near Schiphol airport for dinner.

What he saw took his breath away. He saw top secret centrifuge drawings lying around in Pakistani scientist’s house. They were supposed to be at the plant and locked up in vaults. As Veerman later recalled in an interview with BBC, “That was my biggest worry, what was he doing with those drawings? All the little pieces of the jig-saw put together made me come to the conclusion that Abdul was spying.“ Khan asked him to photograph the documents for him but Veermen refused. He also happened to overhear a telephonic conversation between the Pakistani and his old professor in Leuven about sensitive centrifuge matters. Veerman lost no time in reporting the matter to his superiors. His seniors heard him out and told him to keep quiet. He was asked not to speak about what he saw and found to anyone.

In late 1975, when AQ Khan realised that he was coming under greater scrutiny from a multitude of agencies, he took leave from the office, and along with his family flew back to Pakistan. He never returned. What many did not realise for some time was that Khan had smuggled out precious drawings and a no less useful rolodex of key suppliers of nuclear material and technology in Europe and elsewhere.

But Veerman had not heard the last of Khan. From Pakistan, his former friend wrote to him frequently seeking answers to technical questions about nuclear technology. When he showed one such letter to his superiors, he was asked to burn it. Less than a year after Khan fled Amsterday, FDO held a meeting on the issue where Veerman repeated his assertion that Khan was a spy. Veerman later gave a statement about Khan to Dutch police. But, as Veerman were to find out later, his blunt accusations did not endear him his superiors or others in the government. In fact, the nuclear consortium and consultancy firm, FDO, were delighted when Khan sent his emissaries with a long list of items and work he wanted to contract to European firms. Soon after, Khan’s technicians began arriving at FDO to take a “ “a course in ‘how to build an ultracentrifuge’’, Veerman commented.

In 1978, Veerman lost his job. No reasons were given but he knew he was being sacrificed for speaking out against Khan’s smuggling ring and the complicity of the nuclear plant officials as well as government authorities. The powerful nuclear industry lobby did not want any investigation because it would have exposed its laxity and complicity. The government too was not keen on any probe because it would have been embarrassing and would have impacted diplomatic relations with some countries. So they all kept quiet. The one man who spoke was asked to shut up.

In 1983, during a meeting with FDO officials, when he realised that his only crime was his outspokenness, Veerman was furious and decided to tell the story  to a Dutch newspaper. But nothing came out of his expose and he quietly retreated to a lowly paid job and into obscurity. The state, however, chose to punish him further–he was put on an international watch list and for many years questioned by police whenever he travelled abroad. He was stalked by the police. In one such instance, his family in a car was stopped by armed police.

It was only in 2016 that his role in breaking the world’s most dangerous nuclear smuggling network  was acknowledged by the authorities. The Whistleblowers Authority, a Dutch institution created in 2016, came to the conclusion that Veerman was unfairly treated at the time, as it considered it likely that whistleblowing was the reason for firing him in 1978. A recent report of the Huis voor Klokkenluiders, the Dutch Whistleblowers Authority, showed that the agency had finally absolved Veerman of any charges and in fact pointed out hy he, and not Khan, was punished.

In many ways, Veerman’s honesty and tenacity saved the world from even a more dangerous Pakistan. His act of courage deserves international recognition.

Continue Reading

Publications

Latest

South Asia42 mins ago

Arthashastra- book review

Arthashastra is a historical Indian book which covers aspects of state functioning. It is about how economy, politics, military strategy...

Middle East3 hours ago

The US-Iran deal and its implications for the South Caucasus and Eastern Europe

The ongoing meetings between the US and Iran since the beginning of April in Vienna show new signs of progress....

Health & Wellness4 hours ago

How to Ensure that your Teen Driver Learns the Principles of Safe Driving

If your teenager is now eligible to apply for a provisional licence, it’s natural that you would have mixed emotions...

South Asia5 hours ago

Ensuring ‘Vaccine for All’ in the World: Bangladesh Perspective

Health experts and analysts argue that the massive scale of vaccination is the most effective way to save people and...

Americas7 hours ago

Is the Washington-initiated Climate Summit a Biden Politrick?

Earlier on, climate skeptics had wondered if President Biden’s January 27 Executive Order on “climate crisis” was “climate politrick?” Now,...

Russia9 hours ago

Russia Increases Its Defense, While U.S. Backs Down From Provoking WW III

Ever since Joe Biden became America’s President in January, America’s hostile and threatening actions and rhetoric against (as Biden refers...

Russia11 hours ago

Goodbye, the ISS: Russia plans to withdraw from the International Space Station

On April, 18, 2021, Russia announced its plans on withdrawing from the International Space Station in 2025. According to Rossiya...

Trending