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Afghanistan’s search for legitimacy: Ancient tips for recognition

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Since the return of the Taliban to power on August 15, the international community has kept close eyes on the new master of Kabul as they are in transition from the insurgents to the ruling elite of Afghanistan. Accordingly, the core questions involves on how the Taliban government which was formed a few days ago would effectively govern this war-torn country and, to that end, how they will approach the key issues of recognition by the international community.

Yet the scenario is not as promising as expected. Due to the previous record of harsh treatment of the human rights in Afghanistan, the United States and its allies have warned the Taliban which are now in control of the country to respect the fundamental human rights of the Afghan people and follow the established laws of international relations. On August 29, US Secretary of State Blinken said to his Chinese counterpart Wang Yi that the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) should speak in a clear and unified voice to show that the international community expects the Taliban to ensure the safe evacuation of all foreign citizens and the Afghan people’s access to humanitarian assistance, and guarantee that Afghan territory cannot be taken as a harbor of terrorist groups.

Echoing Blinken’s remarks, FM Wang put it that the situation in Afghanistan has undergone fundamental changes. Thus it is necessary for all parties to make contact with the Taliban for mutual understanding and confidence. Accordingly, the international community should provide Afghanistan with urgently-needed economic, livelihood and humanitarian assistance while assisting the interim government fairly and inclusively to run the new businesses, insure social security and stability, curb currency devaluation and inflation, and embark on the path of peaceful reconstruction at an early date. Considering the fact that the Afghanistan war never achieved the goal of eliminating terrorist forces in Afghanistan, the hasty withdrawal of all foreign troops is likely to open an opportunity to various terrorist groups to resurge in the country again. All major countries concerned and the neighboring countries particularly should work on the premise that they respect Afghanistan’s sovereignty and independence, and accordingly extend recognition to the new government of Kabul.

Yet in reality, recognition has been one of the toughest issues due to its confusing mixture of politics, law and mentality. According to the constitutive theory, any entity, both state and government, does not exist for the purposes of international law until it is recognized. Yet, this argument is opposed by the declaratory theory, according to which recognition has no legal effect, because the existence of a state or a government is simply a question of pure fact. This study comes to accept the doctrine formulated by Hersey Lauterpacht that any new state or government has an obligation to meet the criteria required to receive recognition from other member states of the international community. It is noted that once recognized, a new entity is eligible for being extended the legitimate rights and necessary assistances from the international community. In theory and practice as well, no state or government wants to be isolated from the world. The Taliban is no exception.

Now with the Taliban having announced the formation of an interim government, an urgent step was made towards restoring order and post-war reconstruction in Afghanistan. As one of the neighboring countries of Afghanistan, China has made it clear that Afghanistan is sure to make the right choice and find a development path that is suited to its national conditions. The international community should believe that the Taliban will learn lessons from history and unite all ethnic groups and political factions together to build a broad-based and inclusive political structure, pursue moderate and prudent domestic and foreign policies, protect the rights and interests of women and children, resolutely combat terrorist groups, and develop friendly and cooperative relations with other countries, not least its neighbours.

Since its recent takeover, the Taliban has demonstrated a rather practical ruling approach and seems to seek for a loose regional alignment with Pakistan, China, Iran and Russia through the multilateral platform of the SCO. Internally, the Taliban have declared the support for women to work and girls to be educated demonstrating an eagerness to reach peace agreements with other political actors, including the now deposed government of Ashraf Ghani. Externally, the Taliban have welcomed the UN Security Council to take responsibility for peace and reconstruction of Afghanistan by providing the people there with vital economic and humanitarian assistance. All indicate that it is the time for the people of Afghanistan to determine their own future, allowing in practice to realize “Afghan-led, Afghan-owned” process for national peace and reconciliation. Now that Afghanistan stands at a historic crossroads today, it is necessary to offer three tips for the Taliban in its search for recognition.

First, geopolitically Afghanistan needs to approach its neighbours to assure its security ring and economic assistance. Among them is China that is internationally-known for its infrastructure-building and the largest manufacturing country of the world. Iran and Pakistan are also well-established medium industrial countries. Along with other three central Asian countries, China-Pakistan-Iran are ready to keep ports open for Afghanistan and ensure the smooth cross-border flow of goods to facilitate Afghanistan’s access to external support, in particular the transport of humanitarian supplies, as well as to help Afghanistan strengthen economic and trade connectivity with the regional countries.

Second, financially the Taliban ruling elite should also approach the countries in the Middle East, such as Qatar, Turkey, Saudi Arabic and some others, because they have been linked with each other by shared culture, religion and ethnics. Compared to the neighbours of Afghanistan which are strong in energy, transport, communications, infrastructure and other projects, the countries in the Middle East are generally wealthier in finance and energies which are vital to the war-torn Afghanistan. Accordingly, it has to act legally to tackle the earnest monetary difficulties in Afghanistan primarily due to the freezing of Afghan’s overseas assets. As a matter of fact, the United States froze nearly $9.5 billion Afghan reserves belonging to the Afghan central bank in mid-August after the Taliban took control of Kabul. China insists that these assets belong to Afghanistan and should be used for Afghanistan, not as leverage for threat or restraints.

Third, diplomatically and morally the Afghan Taliban needs to appeal to the Muslim countries around the world which are supposed to have 57 countries. The Muslim World, also stated as the Islamic World, can be meant three different aspects related to those who practice Islam: religious, cultural, and geographical. Culturally, the term refers to Islamic civilization. In the geographic sense, which is perhaps the most commonly used, it refers to the countries and other political regions where Muslims make up the majority of the population. Today with a population of over 1.7 billion people, Muslims represent over 24% of the world population. The two major sects of Islam are Shia and Sunni, acting the dominant religion throughout the Middle East, North Africa, the Horn of Africa and Central Asia. Yet, advances in communications and transportations have shortened the geographic distance between the east and west or the north and south. Accordingly, the Islamic world can help Afghanistan integrated into the world economy, serve the well-being of the Afghan people, and call on international organizations and financial institutions to provide the necessary support for its nation-rebuilding.

Conclusion: strategically the Taliban would learn to expand its network of supporters by expanding its diplomatic outreach. Their office in Doha (Qatar) has played a key role and various geopolitical realignments brought them closer to the regional powers. Scholars have argued about the implications of the Taliban’s external relations on peace and stability in Afghanistan while pushing the US out of Afghanistan temporarily. It is self-evident that the Taliban has exhibited a readiness to align itself with erstwhile adversaries, such as Iran and Russia, and has built on mutually needed partnerships with Pakistan and China. The Taliban’s willingness to undertake these overtures is truly designed to enhance its credibility internationally and expand opportunities beyond its traditional links with Pakistan. Now China, Russia, Pakistan and Iran (Quad) are maintaining their diplomatic presence in Kabul and continue engaging with the Taliban in the post-America era. In so doing, Afghanistan under the Taliban leadership can’t be excluded from the international community in a short run and a long run as well.

Wang Li is Professor of International Relations and Diplomacy at the School of International and Public Affairs, Jilin University China.

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A long way of solidarity: a voice for the voiceless Kashmiris

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

Every year on February 5 Pakistan observes Kashmir Solidarity Day. It aims to demonstrate Pakistan’s support and solidarity with the people of Indian-occupied Kashmir, and their continuing liberation struggle, and to honor Kashmiri martyrs who sacrificed their lives fighting for Kashmir’s independence.

Every year, on Kashmir Solidarity Day, Pakistan expresses its political, moral, and diplomatic support for the righteous fight of our Kashmiri brothers and becomes its voice in the international forums.

Kashmir’s discord carries historical as well as contemporary events that hinder its political future.

Historical account of the humiliation of Kashmir’s people

The history of conflict dates back to 1947. In the June 3 plan, the princely state offered a choice between India and Pakistan. Maharaja Hari Singh deceived Pakistan and ceded Kashmir to India through a standstill agreement, which sparked an uprising of Pashtun tribesmen and the Hindu nationalists and RSS to organize a program against Muslims, killing between 20,000 and 100,000 Muslims. On October 27, 1947, Indian troops landed in Kashmir to fight against the Pashtuns and the local armies; this led to the first India-Pakistan war. During the war, India’s prime minister, Jawaharlal Nehru, promised a referendum: “The fate of Jammu and Kashmir is ultimately decided by the people; the pledge we have given is not only to the people of Kashmir but also to the world.” “We will not and cannot back out of it.”

India referred the dispute to the United Nations a little more than two months later. A resolution passed on August 13, 1948, asking both nations to withdraw their forces; once that happened, a referendum was to be held, allowing the people of Kashmir to decide their political future. But the Indian troops were never withdrawn, and the referendum never happened. On January 1, 1949, the ceasefire was agreed upon, and Kashmir became a disputed territory. Over the next 70 years, India and Pakistan fought three wars over Kashmir.

In Indian-administrated Kashmir, India maintains around 600,000 troops in Kashmir, who have committed human rights violations like rape, torture, and enforced disappearances that continue today. The number of people killed in Kashmir is estimated to be between 50,000 and 100,000, which shows the ruthlessness of the so-called largest democracy in the world.

Situation after the abolishment of articles 370 and 35A

On August 5, 2019, the Indian government abrogated Article 370 and Article 35A of the Indian Constitution, which granted Jammu and Kashmir a special status and autonomy. The Indian government enforced a curfew, disrupted communication connections, arrested political leaders, and deployed extra soldiers in the area, generating widespread resentment and demonstrations.

Since the abolition of Articles 370 and 35A, human rights abuses and violations in Kashmir have increased significantly, with claims of widespread mass arrests, torture, and extrajudicial executions by Indian security personnel. The Indian government has also restricted freedom of speech, assembly, and the press, making it impossible for citizens to openly express their thoughts and report on the state of the area.

In addition, the Indian government has been accused of fostering demographic changes in the area through the settlement of Hindu migrants, which has resulted in a fall in the percentage of the Muslim population and degradation of the Kashmiri people’s distinctive cultural and religious identity.

International human rights groups have shown concern about the situation in Kashmir and demanded an independent investigation into the reported human rights breaches and abuses. About 87 civilians have been killed by the Indian forces since the abrogation of Article 370. The international community has also advocated for a peaceful settlement to the issue that takes the Kashmiri people’s rights and interests into consideration.

The situation in Kashmir remains severe, and the continuous violence and human rights violations continue to provide the international community with a formidable task. The region’s political future is still unknown, and a sustainable resolution to the war has not yet been found.

Pakistan’s Advocacy for Kashmir

Pakistan has made several attempts to resolve the ongoing conflict in Kashmir and has sought international backing for its stance on the matter. Pakistan has repeatedly discussed the Kashmir issue at the United Nations and other international forums, stressing the need for a peaceful settlement of the conflict based on the self-determination principle and the right of the Kashmiri people to choose their destiny. Pakistan has also made diplomatic attempts to garner international support for its viewpoint, notably via the Organization of Islamic Cooperation and the Non-Aligned Movement.

Pakistan has also endeavored to provide political, diplomatic, and moral assistance for the Kashmiri resistance movement. India has accused Pakistan of financing terrorism in the area based on information that Pakistan supports separatist organizations in the region. Pakistan has denied these allegations and advocated for a peaceful settlement according to UN Resolution 47 (1948), which calls for a ceasefire, and UN Resolution 51 (1948), which calls for a plebiscite to be held in the region to determine the will of the Kashmiri people.

Despite these attempts, the situation in Kashmir remains unresolved, and a permanent resolution to the conflict has not yet been reached. The issue remains a significant source of conflict between India and Pakistan and a problem for the international community.

Conclusion:

Kashmir’s political future remains uncertain and is the subject of ongoing discussion and negotiation between India and Pakistan, as well as international engagement.

Currently, the territory is split between India and Pakistan, with India administering the greater part and Pakistan the smaller. The Line of Control (LoC), which divides the two managed territories, has often been the scene of tension and bloodshed.

There have been appeals for a peaceful conclusion that takes the rights and interests of the Kashmiri people into consideration. Some have suggested the concept of “self-determination,” in which the people of Kashmir would have the right to choose their destiny through a referendum or a negotiated solution between India and Pakistan.

Kashmir’s political future is unpredictable and vulnerable to the continuous dynamics of the war as well as the shifting political and strategic objectives of the major regional countries. The international community still has a big part to play in finding a solution, and India, Pakistan, and the other countries in the area are likely to have to be involved and support any lasting solution.

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Sri Lankans deserve a clean break from the past

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The decision of former president Maithripala Sirisena to run for president pits two unpopular, establishment candidates against one another. With both Sirisena and Ranil Wickremesinghe involved in past political turmoil and the current economic crisis, Sri Lankans deserve a clean break.

While a presidential election cannot be held until 2024, the Sri Lankan Electoral Commission recently announced local elections for February. With no popular mandate and as the only member of his party, President Wickremesinghe is expected to face an embarrassing defeat in the poll, but it is unlikely to bring down the government.

The announcement that Sirisena would run as president comes at a pivotal time for Sri Lankans.

Wickremesinghe warned this week that the Sri Lankan economy could contract by up to 4% this year, after shrinking 11% last year.

Last year, the island nation descended into turmoil, with an economic collapse leading to its worst crisis in years. Foreign currency shortages, runaway inflation and a recession left the government unable to make debt repayments and left Sri Lankans desperately short of food and fuel.

This led to unprecedented unrest, particularly in the capital Colombo, resulting in the deaths of protesters and police, with hundreds more injured or detained. The protests culminated in the storming and occupation of the presidential palace, forcing Gotabaya Rajapaksa to flee the country, with Wickremesinghe replacing him as president.

Sirisena has a chequered history in Sri Lankan politics.

Sirisena was part of former President Mahinda Rajapaksa’s cabinet before defecting to the opposition and winning a surprise election victory against Rajapaksa in 2015.

As President, Sirisena formed a close partnership with Wickremsinghe, appointing him Prime Minister, before the two spectacularly fell out. This culminated in the sacking of Wickremesinghe in 2018, replacing him with Mahinda Rajapaksa. At the time, Wickremesinghe claimed that the move was “unconstitutional”.

This led to a constitutional crisis and power struggle between Wickremesinghe, Rajapaksa and Sirisena, with the former President dissolving parliament and calling snap elections. Sirisena then decided to not seek re-election, leaving office in early 2019. He was replaced as president by Mahinda’s brother, Gotabaya Rajapaksa.

Recently, the Sri Lankan supreme court ordered Sirisena and several other top government, police and intelligence officials to pay millions of rupees in compensation to the victims of the 2019 Easter bombings in Colombo. The court found that Sirisena, as former president, ignored multiple warnings about an imminent terrorist attack weeks before the deadly event took place.

But Wickremesinghe is also no saint.

Wickremesinghe, a six-time prime minister, won a parliamentary vote with the backing of the Rajapaksa’s Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna party to replace Gotabaya Rajapaksa in July 2022. For this reason, he is accused of owing his position to the family.

Upon gaining the presidency, Wickremesinghe immediately cracked down on protesters, condemning the protests as “against the law” and calling protesters “fascists”. Under his watch, more than 140 protesters have been arrested and its leaders driven into hiding.

In August 2022, the United Nations condemned his government’s crackdown on protesters. The UN also criticised the repeated use of emergency measures, such as curfews, calling them a “misuse of emergency measures”.

The president has also been accused of delaying this poll, claiming the economically crippled country cannot afford to spend 10 billion rupees on a local election. However, the election commission decided to proceed despite the president’s request. Nonetheless, this raises doubts about Wickremesinghe’s respect for the democratic process.

What Sri Lankans desperately need is political stability and good economic management so the country can dig its way out of its worst crisis since independence.

Sirisena and Wickremesinghe offer neither. The former is struggling to finalise a bailout deal with the International Monetary Fund and both are notorious for poor political decision making and unpopular with a public desperate for change.

Therefore, Sri Lankans are faced with two establishment candidates who only offer more of the same.

The solution, at least for the time being, is for Wickremesinghe to call a presidential election so the next president has a clear mandate by the people. This will assist in forming a stable government and in bailout negotiations with the IMF.

Power also needs to be decentralised through ambitious political reforms that allow for wider participation and decision making in parliament. While, admittedly, this would be difficult under both Sirisena and Wickremesinghe, it is the first step in dealing with corruption and nepotism in Sri Lankan politics.

Presidential candidates serious about solving the countries problems also need to focus on key issues, such as rebuilding the economy, accountability for human rights and rebuilding political integrity and public trust.

Only once this is achieved, and Sri Lanka has shed itself of its dysfunctional political past, will it be able to recover.

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A Hybrid Political System for Pakistan: A Proposal

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The political system of Pakistan is an amalgamation of Islamic, British, and Indian influences, shaped by a multifaceted array of religious, ethnic, and regional factors, making it a culturally rich and ever-changing landscape. Pakistan is renowned for its powerful military establishment, which has traditionally wielded significant influence in determining its political direction. The nation’s political history is characterized by cycles of military rule, punctuated by several coups, followed by phases of democratic rule, though the military has continued to exert a significant degree of influence in the country’s politics. Furthermore, Pakistan has had to contend with the pernicious threat of extremism, with various militant groups operating within its borders and perpetrating terrorist attacks, which have destabilized the nation’s political, social, and economic stability.

This article aims to shed light on the challenges faced by the political system in Pakistan, specifically concerning the current political turmoil the country is experiencing. It also suggests a potential solution to stabilize the system and bring about a revolution in the way politics is conducted in Pakistan

The challenges faced by Pakistan’s democracy are compounded by the elite classes’ actions. The country is currently facing significant upheaval, which can be attributed to several factors. The lack of solid democratic institutions, frequent military takeovers, and the involvement of powerful military and civilian elites are among the underlying causes of the country’s political instability. Additionally, ethnic and regional conflicts, poverty, and economic growth issues further exacerbated political instability. The ongoing conflict in Afghanistan, as well as political unrest in neighboring countries, have also had an impact on the country. Furthermore, Pakistan’s history of military control, political corruption, and a lack of a deeply ingrained democratic culture have all contributed to the volatility in its political system.

The current political quagmire that plagues Pakistan is multifaceted, primarily stemming from a dearth of political acumen and a paucity of commitment on the part of leaders to prioritize the exigencies of the populace over their own personal and factional interests. This has led to a diminution of public confidence in the political system and government officials. Furthermore, the military’s prolonged political intervention and sway history has exacerbated a lack of democratic stability and accountability. Another critical conundrum that has impeded the country’s political evolution is the preponderance of corruption and nepotism in every government agency, rendering it difficult for citizens to repose trust in government officials. As a result, there is a burgeoning loss of faith in institutions of all varieties, with people losing trust in the government, corporations, and political leaders.

Furthermore, the failure of successive governments to address the issue of corruption has further undermined public trust in the political system. The permeation of corrupt practices in every government institution has made it difficult for citizens to have faith in government officials, leading to a general disillusionment with the political system. Additionally, the lack of transparency and accountability in government operations has enabled corrupt officials to operate with impunity, further eroding the public’s trust in the political system. The aforementioned issues have resulted in a political climate marked by a lack of stability and continuity, hindering the country’s economic and social development. It is imperative that the political class and other stakeholders work towards addressing these issues to ensure that the political system can effectively serve the people’s needs and promote the country’s long-term stability and prosperity.

Proposing A New Way to get stability in Political System?

A hybrid political system combines characteristics of many political systems, such as democracy and autocracy. Two examples are a semi-presidential system, which combines a prime minister and a president, and a federal system, which combines a central government with regional administrations. Hybrid systems can also include components of other kinds of democracy, such as a parliamentary system combined with a robust presidential system. These systems are frequently viewed as a compromise between competing political ideologies or as a means of balancing the strengths and shortcomings of various systems

If the official replaces the current political system with a hybrid one, it could be very beneficial. One of the main advantages of a hybrid system is that it allows for a balance of power between the legislative and executive branches of government. In a presidential system, the executive branch is separate from the legislative branch, with the president having a lot of power. In a parliamentary system, however, the executive branch is accountable to the legislative branch. In a hybrid system, the executive branch has some independence from the legislative branch but is still responsible for it. This helps to prevent too much power from being concentrated in one person or group and also helps to protect citizens’ rights and to avoid abuse of power.

An additional benefit of implementing a hybrid system is that it may facilitate more efficient decision-making by leveraging the strengths of both presidential and parliamentary systems. In a presidential system, the separation of powers can result in stalemates and prolonged indecision, while in a parliamentary system, the government can swiftly collapse if it loses the legislature’s support. A hybrid system, on the other hand, can offer a balance of stability and agility, allowing for more prompt decision-making while maintaining the accountability of the executive branch. Furthermore, considering Pakistan’s history of military involvement in politics, a hybrid system can provide a mechanism to hold the military accountable to the civilian administration and reduce the likelihood of military intervention.

It is imperative to acknowledge that a hybrid system may not be the ultimate remedy for all of Pakistan’s issues, and its successful operation would require meticulous planning and execution. Nevertheless, this system could potentially provide a glimpse of sustained stability in Pakistan’s political landscape, and it is incumbent upon the authorities to consider this system as a viable option to circumvent further obstacles.

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