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How does ‘1997 CHT peace accord’ pave the pay of ‘Peace and prosperity’ in Bangladesh’s CHT?

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To put an end to the brutal confrontations between the government troops and the tribes and hillsmen of the Chittagong Hill Tracts, the Chittagong Hill Tracts Peace Accord was signed 25 years ago. Following the agreement, it was thought that if it were put into practice, the economy would pick up. This hope has come true over the past 25 years. The locals’ way of life has changed. The government’s numerous development initiatives have improved the economic situation for millions of people in the region.

Before the deal, visitors were hesitant to visit the hilly areas. As the security situation has improved, tourists are now hesitantly visiting the mountains. Trade and commerce used to move slowly because of the inadequate communication infrastructure, but now it moves much more quickly. The wheel of everyday existence had been closed for two decades prior to then. In the modern regional and international arena, the successful political resolution of the CHT conflict is considered a remarkable achievement for our country. With the signing of the peace treaty, the hill country resumed its regular rhythm. Because of this, Sheikh Hasina’s UNESCO Prize recognized Bangladesh’s distinctive commitment to peace.

The 1997 Bangladesh government made an effort to create enduring peace in the hill areas. After that, in 1997, there was an armistice that ultimately came to be known as the Chittagong Hill Tracts Agreement or the Peace Accord. The majority of the agreement’s provisions, according to the administration, have allegedly been carried out. Additionally, the unrealized clauses will be promptly implemented, therefore a favorable climate is required.

On the other side, a number of schools and colleges, including Rangamati University of Science and Technology and Rangamati Medical College, have been established in the 20 years after the peace deal. The field of communication has seen advancement. With two-star hotels and a three-star tourism complex, Sajeke in Baghaichari was created with tourists in mind.

The majority of the jhum crops would have been lost along the route in the past, but since there isn’t as much traffic now, hill farmers can simply sell their jhum crops at the market.

The lumber industry has seen the largest improvement since the accord. Since the deal, the region’s timber trade has expanded. Despite not previously purchasing hillside tree gardens, traders are now doing so. The gardeners reap financial rewards.

All of the Chittagong Hill Tracts districts, including Rangamati, have experienced general economic development as a result of improvements in every area, including education, communication, and security. A native of Rangamati named Laxmidhan Chakma remarked, “Government jobs used to seem like golden deer to us.” The educated and deserving children of the Hill Tracts are now, however, easily obtaining government jobs as a result of the Hill Tracts Peace Accord. Without the agreement, it was never feasible.

The wheel of the mountain economy continued to turn after the peace deal notwithstanding a few episodes focusing on rivalry and hegemony among the regional parties.

Due to many actions the government took after the peace deal, economic prosperity has been attained in a similar manner to how people’s living standards have increased. Analyzing the periods prior to and following the peace accord can help us comprehend this.

The Hill People were allowed to trade easily following the Hill Tracts Peace Accord. The blockage of some regional groups frightened the general population. However, the residents of the hills are now exhaling in relief as a result of the ceasefire deal. With the administration’s unparalleled collaboration, the locals operate independently.

Before the Hill Accords, trade and business in the hill country were at a standstill. The typical person was unable to move freely. But that time is passed. People can conduct business freely today. Trade and commerce have benefited from the expansion in communication. The police administration is set up so that everyone in this place can carry out their responsibilities on their own.

Ten additional development projects have been started in the meantime to further develop the Chittagong Hill Tracts. The Planning Commission has received a proposal from the Ministry of Chittagong Hill Tracts for inclusion in the Green Leaf in the upcoming 2021–22 Fiscal Year’s Annual Development Program (ADP). The allocation has been requested concurrently for 19 active projects.

The Chittagong Hill Tracts Development Board’s Rural Road Development Project in Rangamati Hill District will last till 2021–2024. In the Rangamati Hill District, the construction period for rural infrastructure has been set at 2024.

The improvement of the water system in Bandarban Municipality and Lama Municipality of Bandarban Hill District is planned to include the construction of a master drain by 2023. Additionally, a deadline of 2023 has been set for the development of the different rural roads built by the Board in the Bandarban Hill District.

It has been determined that construction of a bridge and connecting road from Upazila Sadar to isolated regions of the Khagrachhari district will begin in 2025 with the goal of assisting the socioeconomic development of the Chittagong Hill Tracts’ underprivileged residents. The completion date for the road project connecting Khagrachhari district’s Laxichhari Upazila Sadar and Barmachhari Bazar is 2025. Building rural road infrastructure in the Khagrachhari Hill District is being done in an effort to connect isolated villages in various Upazilas to the Upazila Sadar communication network.

Construction is underway on a rural road that would connect Ruma Upazila in the Bandarban Hill District to Roangchhari Upazila Sadar. In the isolated Chittagong Hill Tracts, a high-value spice farming initiative is being conducted.

A master drain for the development of the drainage system of the Khagrachhari district headquarters and the elimination of water blockage are also being built, along with two bridges over the Sangu river and one over the Sonakhali canal in Bandarban Hill District.

Additionally, there is an increase in cotton farming in the Chittagong Hill Tracts region and a reduction in farmer poverty, as well as development in all Upazilas, including Rangamati municipality, and power supply via the installation of solar panels in remote Chittagong Hill Tracts areas (Phase II). Construction of irrigation drains in various Upazilas of the Bandarban Hill District, irrigation drains in various Upazilas of the Khagrachhari district of the Chittagong Hill Tracts, and the provision of potable drinking water via GFS and deep Tube Well in all areas in rocky areas in various Upazilas of the Bandarban district are all included in this project.

Other programs to reduce poverty include growing cashew and coffee in the CHT region, as well as managing water supply and sanitation in the Khagrachari district’s marketplaces and surrounding neighborhoods. establishing and executing the network, which at the moment serves as the main access point for the residents of the three hill districts of Rangamati, Bandarban, and Khagrachari to get essential social services.

The Chittagong Hill Tracts Peace Accord recognized the hill people’s unique status and dignity. A regional council made up of the local government councils of the three hill districts has been established in accordance with the peace deal.

The Regional Council is organized as follows: Chairman 1, Native American Member 12, Native American Woman 2, Native (Non-Indigenous) Male 6, Non-Indigenous Member, Female 1. The accord asks for the creation of a Ministry of Tribal Affairs, headed by one tribe, to regulate operations concerning the Chittagong Hill Tracts. Their land will be returned if the tribes’ land ownership rights are established. In order to ascertain who owns the property, a land survey system will be implemented in the Chittagong Hill Tracts.

Every home of the tribal people is now filled with educated young people. The literacy rate of Chakmas is 96 percent on average, with at least one employee per household.

The development of tribal people in the Chittagong Hill Tracts is significantly better than that of any outlying area of Bangladesh due to the implementation of quota systems in all jobs, including BCS, priority systems, and quotas for tribal students in all medical schools and universities as well as scholarships in Europe, America, and Australia.

The current prime minister, Sheikh Hasina, is always working to meet the expectations of the residents of the Chittagong Hill Tracts. In the highland areas, the current administration has not implemented any anti-people, anti-democracy measures. The Chittagong Hill Tracts Development Board’s chairperson was chosen when the Awami League administration took office.

The Minority Cultural Institutions Bill 2010 and the creation of the Land Commission have been approved by the National Assembly. In the interim, everyone has come to terms with the idea that tribes, minorities, ethnic groups, and communities can safeguard the nation’s integrity. We believe that in order for there to be development, Sheikh Hasina’s efforts to bring about peace must be supported.

The successful execution of numerous ongoing socio-economic development initiatives provides compelling evidence of the need for the Hill Tracts Peace Agreement to be put into effect. The conviction to uphold the rights of all citizens as stated in the peace agreement must be put into action, but the hill-Bengalis must work together to do so.

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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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