Talking Points for Pakistan on Indian Occupied Kashmir

Yasmeen Aftab Ali

Pakistan needs to change gears so far the talking points on Indian Occupied Kashmir are concerned. Pakistan was unable to push the issue in UN Security Council. India’s policy on the abrogation of Article 370 has been aggressive and pro-active to take member governments in UNSC on board before Pakistan even approached the UNSC-to share reasons behind scrapping of Article 370. India’s permanent mission in New York did a remarkable job in achieving the target. Pakistan was unable to garner 9 votes out of 15 to put up the resolution.

Coupled with India’s aggressive posture is the fact that politics around the world are driven by economics. Regional, international alliances take the front seat. The allies of today are those allying on causes and stances we oppose tomorrow. There are no permanent ‘friends’ and no permanent ‘enemies.’

Pakistan should focus on Human Rights Violations, an issue that has been picked up worldwide- and momentum has gained on criticism of the Indian Government atrocities unleashed on unarmed civilians. A detailed, fact based, researched paper should be the springboard of talking point-also at the forthcoming United Nations General Assembly Meeting PM Khan is scheduled to attend. A speech based on emotions alone is a bad strategy. If Pakistan wants to be pro-active in bringing to limelight the Kashmir issue internationally and keeping it there, it must understand that international approach to issues is very different than playing to the domestic gallery.

The focus must be humanity. Appeal to the emotional side but factually. Taking a leaf from the Indian strategy, the Human Rights Minister of Pakistan needs to travel to member nations of the august forum to put across facts, figures and data on plight of Kashmiris.

This should be the main thrust of Pakistan’s stance. Think internationally not with domestic playground in mind.

Then comes the sub-text. The abrogation of Article 370 and focus on Article 35-A. A constitutional violation taking away the semi-autonomous status of Kashmir thus allowing non-citizens to buy property-aimed at tipping the population balance before 2020-21 elections. Sharp constitutional legal mind needs to be deployed to draft this part. Leading constitutional lawyer Faisal Siddiqi from Karachi can be a good pick for the job. Legal part should be the job of a legal mind.

If 80% of thrust is on human rights violations, a 20% thrust must come up as a postscript on constitutional violation and its impact with complete dossier copies given to key people by Human Rights Minister of Pakistan as she makes her rounds.

A lot of homework is needed to develop a hard-hitting, cogent policy on Kashmir. PM Khan needs a professional speech writer following the theme and strategy from the dossier. Pakistan must not whittle away this opportunity in platitudes, emotional expletives and taking an international forum as a domestic gallery. The ground work for PM Khan’s speech must be laid down before the meeting. His speech must be factual and hit the nerve without any attacks otherwise on the Indian government. We also need to remember India has many, many good people who are as aghast at what their government is doing in OIK as anyone else. So the term our people to be used and we will do well to remember is “Indian government’ NOT India. A number of times the government may not be truly representative of the wishes of people in certain issues.

Diplomacy is the finest art of war.  Uri Dubinin, Professor of the Department of Diplomacy of MGIMO-University of the RF MFA, Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Russian Federation defines the role of diplomacy beautifully, “What is the art of diplomacy? While the art of war lies in the ability to claim victory through the force of arms, the art of diplomacy aims to achieve the goals set through peaceful means. It is, therefore, the antithesis of using force to solve international problems. In the art of diplomacy, it is the international community’s accumulated experience that serves as a weapon, as does – and herein lies the essence of it – an innovative, creative approach to problems arising. It is on the basis of this that one acts to provide a solution.”

Threatening with an impending nuclear war is poor approach that reflects upon the emotional immaturity of our leaders that takes the focus away from core issue. Giving space to India to further exploit the issue in their favor.

Pakistan’s government should have cultivated a coterie of intelligent people including diplomats and writers. Each group talking in favor of different countries. An extended arm of the government foreign office aimed at developing relationship with and winning confidence of key people there to gain information and assess that information for Pakistan’s diplomatic efforts to further her national interests. It is late but no too late for this.

The writer is a lawyer, academic and political analyst. She has authored a book titled ‘A Comparative Analysis of Media & Media Laws in Pakistan.’ She can be contacted at: yasmeenali62@gmail.com and tweets at @yasmeen_9

Human Rights violations in Indian-Administered Kashmir

Yasmeen Aftab Ali

Hell has unleashed in Jammu & Kashmir since the abrogation of Article 370 by Modi government. Large armed contingents had moved in before this was done in anticipation of protests.

Governments around the world have turned a blind eye and a deaf ear to the havoc being created upon the Kashmiris. Iran is the one country that has supported the Kashmiris’ struggle in occupied Indian Kashmir. Ali Mathari, presented the resolution said that all the Muslim countries including Iran had an important responsibility regarding the oppressed Kashmiri Muslims and the Kashmir dispute. Pakistan has raised her voice on many forums but has largely been ignored.

Responsible people from around the world have and are speaking up for the plight of the fate met out to Kashmiris in OIK.

                                             Ilhan Omar, tweeting on August 26th:

“We should be calling for an immediate restoration of communication; respect for human rights, democratic norms, and religious freedom; and de-escalation in Kashmir. International organizations should be allowed to fully document what is happening on the ground.”

 

It is a fact that politics around the world are driven by economics. Regional, international alliances take the front seat with humanity relegated to sub-text.

India’s lockdown of Jammu & Kashmir denying the people freedom to expression, peaceful protest and refusing international agencies, even India’s opposition politicians from entering the Occupied Jammu & Kashmir has created concerns around the globe. Cable TV, internet, landlines-all are shut down. The two week deadline for this lock down has already passed with no easing in view.

The Modi government has taken away the semi-autonomous status of Kashmir thus allowing non-citizens to buy property-aimed at tipping the population balance before 2020-21 elections.

According to Washington Post, “A point of contention arose over whether there was a large-scale protest on Aug. 9 after Friday prayers. First, the Indian government denied the protest took place at all. Verified video from that day shows protests did occur. Fact-checkers in India geo-located the protests to the Jenab Saeb mosque in Srinagar, Kashmir. And signs referring to Article 370 verify that these protests were in response to the recent decision, not old video that had resurfaced. The Indian government ultimately walked back its claim.” (August 23, 2019)

The OHCHR report recently released states, “ The Sri-Nagar  Jammu and Kashmir Coalition of Civil Society reported that conflict-related casualties were the highest in 2018 since 2008, with 586 people killed, including 267 members of armed groups, 159 security forces personnel, and 160 civilians. The Indian government asserted that 238 militants, 86 security forces personnel, and 37 civilians were killed.”

In July 2018, the Indian state government of Jammu and Kashmir amended section 10 of the Public Safety Act, removing the prohibition on detaining permanent residents of Jammu and Kashmir outside the state. At least 40 people, mainly separatist political leaders, were transferred to prisons outside the state in 2018, the OHCHR said. It said that transferring detainees outside the state makes it harder for family members to visit and for legal counsel to meet with them. It also noted that prisons outside the state were considered hostile for Kashmiri Muslim detainees, especially separatist leaders.

Another report by an organization states, “Arbitrary detention and so-called “cordon and search operations” leading to a range of human rights violations, continue to be deeply problematic, as do the special legal regimes applying to Indian-Administered Kashmir. The Armed Forces (Jammu and Kashmir) Special Powers Act 1990 (AFSPA) remains a key obstacle to accountability,” the report says. “Section 7 of the AFSPA prohibits the prosecution of security forces personnel unless the Government of India grants a prior permission or ‘sanction’ to prosecute. In nearly three decades that the law has been in force in Jammu and Kashmir, there has not been a single prosecution of armed forces personnel granted by the central government. The Indian Army has also been resisting efforts to release details of trials conducted by military courts where soldiers were initially found guilty but later acquitted and released by a higher military tribunal.”

Videos and pictures of Occupied Indian Occupied Kashmir contradict Indian claim that “all is under control in Jammu & Kashmir.”

Brigadier Imran Malik® in his recent Op-Ed asks, “Is PM Modi replicating what Hitler did to the Jews in the last century? Is he aping PM Netanyahu and his policies in Palestine in this one? Has the world not learned its bit­ter lessons from the appeasement of bul­lying fascists? Post- World War Two, the US led West has been inconsistent in deal­ing with fascist and genocidal regimes. It has been very lenient in Palestine/ME and very tardy and hesitant in Srebrenica and Rwanda. The world now stands askance wondering where the US-led West’s and the oil rich Arab monarchies’ values will stand – for their crass economic and com­mercial interests in a belligerent, genocid­al and expansionist India or with human­ity, humanitarian values, a Rules-based International Order and above all with the Right of Self Determination for peoples under brutal military occupations!”

The world governments need to wake up to this human disaster, the illegal takeover of OIK- lest history judges them in harshest terms.

 

The writer is a lawyer, academic and political analyst. She has authored a book titled ‘A Comparative Analysis of Media & Media Laws in Pakistan.’ She can be contacted at: yasmeenali62@gmail.comand tweets at @yasmeen_9

 

 

FATF decisions based on primary or secondary data?

Yasmeen Aftab Ali

Pakistan narrowly escaped being black listed by FATF in June 2019. The message to Pakistan by the organization was, “not only did Pakistan fail to complete its action plan items with January deadlines, it also failed to complete its action plan items due May 2019”. Indian lobbying and accompanying new geopolitical alliances have a lot to do with the pressure on Pakistan.

Geo-politics aside, the limelight cannot be drawn away from Pakistan’s abject failure at devising policies to any area of domestic or international policies. 

Though creation of laws in Pakistan may be strong, the implementation continue to lag behind. This is mainly due to lack of real institutional reforms at the core level and failure to invest in human resources. The present strict measures being taken in taxation laws though may yield some increased funds to the government not only create an atmosphere of fear for investors, but has led to increased cost of production, making products noncompetitive in international markets but has also led to loss of jobs and low buying power of the common man. The last two outcomes are dangerous from a purely security point of view. Not only, in due course it will lead to greater mayhem and lawlessness, it will also contribute to many joining banned outfits if only to provide them with enough to put food on their table.

Though Turkey, China and Malaysia bailed out Pakistan this time round (3 out of 37 needed to stop the motion of placing a nation on black list) this cannot continue indefinitely. At best, diplomacy for some time can maintain a status quo but cannot get us off the gray list.

Pakistan has taken strict measures against the banned outfits, like freezing their assets, taking over their operating facilities and even arresting certain members of these proscribed outfits- however, no legal cases have been so far been instituted against them. The progress of investigation and persecution remains extremely slow.

An interesting question here is: can FATF ascertain via primary measures, the degree to which Pakistan has been successful in curtailing terrorism and money laundering? What are the exact parameters and methodology through which it can make a determination? An interesting contradiction is that Global Terrorism Index report in 2017 placed Pakistan on number 5th in terms of the most affected countries from terrorism. Contradicting this is the report by Basel AML Index 2017 by the Basel Institute of Governance in which Pakistan is ranked on 46th position among 146 countries in the world in terms of assessing the risk of money laundering and terrorist financing (2018). It is safe to assume that FATF relies on secondary measure in its assessment.

It will bealso interesting to know if Pakistan has been in these plenary sessions been given data and source of the data on basis of which the decision to continue Pakistan on gray list was taken and the pressure to “do more” is placed.

It may also be a worthy endeavor to award the task of addressing this issue to the National Development Council with the Army Chief and Provincial Ministers on board.

The writer is a lawyer, academic and political analyst. She has authored a book titled ‘A Comparative Analysis of Media & Media Laws in Pakistan.’ She can be contacted at: yasmeenali62@gmail.com and tweets at @yasmeen_9

 

 

 

 

US Secretary of State Pompeo’s 4-nation visit

Yasmeen Aftab Ali

On June 24th, Pompeo embarks on a four nation tour. On his menu are visits to Sri Lanka, South Korea, India and North Korea.

Addressing the 44th annual meeting of the US-India Business Council, Pompeo spoke of a “free and open” Asia Pacific. Under running this strategy is the thought to counter China in the region. His comment was particularly telling in this regard; he spoke of Trump regime throwing its weight behind India to “deal with” Islamabad and Beijing.

Ahead of the visit US removed India from the GSP, with a complaint that India was not providing US goods with reasonable access in their market. With this one step US$5.6 billion worth of Indian exports that were earlier duty-free in the US become taxable. This will hit Indian industry hard. In particular some farm products, chemicals, leather products and pharmaceuticals.

As a tit for tat, India increased tariff on 28 American products. This includes a wide range of products. Tensions between both nations have been on the rise. With Trump administration wanting to use India to curtail Beijing, an objective shared by India, it needs to be analyzed how effectively both can work together in times to come.

At the same time as the trade tit for tat between the two, in a recently published US Department of Defense Indo-Pacific Strategy Report focuses in the importance of developing new links and strengthening the existing ones with nations sharing similar values. Also, based on talks between Trump and Modi in 2017, the US had reportedly agreed to sell to India, surveillance version of the Sea Guardian drones. This is a juicy carrot for India.

There will be three points of conflicts between the two nations upon the visit; taking away of the GSP status from India, S-400 purchase from Russia and US policy towards Iran and subsequent oil imports from Iran by India.

India was the biggest beneficiary of the GSP status since 2017. It paid zero duty on the $5.7 billion worth of Indian goods making its way to the American market. US. The step is aimed to force India to view again its trade negotiations. US desire for a more equitable access to Indian markets have fallen on deaf ears and for two years any negotiation on this issue is at a standstill.

US sanctions on oil imports from Iran also causes issues for India. India is the third largest oil consumer, with Iran being its third largest oil supplier. Iran has extended to India in this sale a “60 day period credit, free insurance, and cheaper freight.”

The Trump administration desires Tehran to accept terms set out by the US for renegotiating the nuclear deal and the other powers. The cancellation of sanction wavers by the US to the eight countries buying oil from Iran will not lead nonetheless to the desired goal. Also, US assumptions that can curtail/stop sale on Iran oil may not work out as US may want it to work out.

US assumes UAE and Saudi Arab will increase the production so the quantum loss of Iranian oil in the market can be made up. There is an assumption that this will stop cost of oil from spiraling up. US assumes that India, China and Turkey, the main buyers of Iranian oil will stop all oil purchases from Iran.

However ground realities are different. “Saudi Arabia and the UAE are unlikely to sustain higher production levels for very long, out of concern for stability in oil markets. Iran’s “heavy oil,” which many countries need for refined oil products, cannot be replaced by Saudi light crude. Turkey, China, India and possibly some European allies will find ways to work around U.S. sanctions for both economic and geopolitical reasons. And Iran can reduce oil supplies leaving the Persian Gulf. It has threatened to close the Strait of Hormuz, and could conduct cyber operations against oil infrastructure on the other side of the Gulf.” (AARON DAVID MILLER & RICHARD SOKOLSKY: April 24, 2019)

Trump administration is however so focused on its doubling down policy on Iran that it is not taking into consideration the policies of the nations affected and implications on their economies-including India.

In 2018, in spite of threat of sanctions, under CAATSA, India had linked the deal with purchase of five S-400 batteries worth to the value of roughly $5.30 billion. Though no waiver was provided to India,this was viewed as a special privilege granted to India. US is however offering India alternate systems made in US. Rather than India purchasing it from other nations.

Will Modi administration compromise and give in to US demands? Or will, Trump blink and negotiate with better understanding of Indian national interests?

The writer is a lawyer, academic and political analyst. She has authored a book titled ‘A Comparative Analysis of Media & Media Laws in Pakistan.’ She can be contacted at: yasmeenali62@gmail.com and tweets at @yasmeen_9

 

The Intolerant Pie

Yasmeen Aftab Ali

Living in times of intolerance that has transcended global barriers, race, religion and cultures; the result is hatred. This has led to more hatred as it becomes a vicious cycle. The basis of this intolerant behavior stems from prejudice that is inherent in our words, actions even body language. Intolerance can have many roots; from racial prejudice, to hatred towards a certain religious group and minority to even those having a certain sexual orientation or supporting a different political thought.

Mass killings of Jews for example is a glaring example of prejudice.  Killing roughly six million European Jews-the Holocaust or the Shoah, is a sad reflection of intolerance in the history of mankind. Fleeing of people from Middle Eastern countries with reportedly ISIS killing Muslims of different sects, Christians and other minorities, even gays is yet another example.

Very recently, the world was shaken by the worst mass shooting, in New Zealand, a place known to be inhabited by peace loving people.  Two mosques in Christchurch were hit. The latest mass shooting in New Zealand before this terrible one took place in 1997, in the North Island town of Raurimu, injuring four and killing six.

Prejudice based intolerance takes extreme shapes as reflected in some cases shared above, but even in daily lives of normal people, intolerance can reach new levels. Intolerance is there all around us. More so, on social media, where the computer acts as a shield between two or more people, allowing and ‘legitimizing words’ that one would never say face to face.

Intolerance can be inherited. Culture has a decisive role to play in this intolerance. ‘Culture may be set of values and beliefs, such as the value of loyalty to one’s group, combined with a belief that people who belong to a particular group have particular characteristics, are unlikeable for some reason, or merit mistreatment and the application of a different set of standards than we apply to ourselves (Opotow, 1990).

The Principles of Tolerance Proclaimed and signed by the Member States of UNESCO on 16 November 1995 define Tolerance as:

Article 1 – Meaning of tolerance

1.1 Tolerance is respect, acceptance and appreciation of the rich diversity of our world’s cultures, our forms of expression and ways of being human. It is fostered by knowledge, openness, communication, and freedom of thought, conscience and belief. Tolerance is harmony in difference. It is not only a moral duty, it is also a political and legal requirement. Tolerance, the virtue that makes peace possible, contributes to the replacement of the culture of war by a culture of peace.

1.2 Tolerance is not concession, condescension or indulgence. Tolerance is, above all, an active attitude prompted by recognition of the universal human rights and fundamental freedoms of others. In no circumstance can it be used to justify infringements of these fundamental values. Tolerance is to be exercised by individuals, groups and States.

1.3 Tolerance is the responsibility that upholds human rights, pluralism (including cultural pluralism), democracy and the rule of law. It involves the rejection of dogmatism and absolutism and affirms the standards set out in international human rights instruments.

1.4 Consistent with respect for human rights, the practice of tolerance does not mean toleration of social injustice or the abandonment or weakening of one’s convictions. It means that one is free to adhere to one’s own convictions and accepts that others adhere to theirs. It means accepting the fact that human beings, naturally diverse in their appearance, situation, speech, behavior and values, have the right to live in peace and to be as they are. It also means that one’s views are not to be imposed on others.

 

We may not agree with another’s point on view, or way of life, or culture but we must give space to their right to all of that as we expect to exercise that right. Ethnic tolerance in multiethnic societies is the base to cross-cultural-national tolerance. If we cannot respect our minorities and different ethnic races, how can we respect and develop a working relationship with cross border cultures?

No culture is “superior” to another just as no race is superior to the other. We are just different. In diversity lies beauty. There is so much to learn from others. So much new to love and enjoy.

The intolerance practiced on media and on net creating stereotypes, and breeding intolerance for different groups leads to hate crimes and such opinions may well be deemed as incitement to violence.

Intolerance based on prejudices lead to discrimination that in turn leads to violence, hate, distrust…. the list is long.

There is dire need for mainstream media and social media practitioners to practice ‘responsible communication.’

We teach our children a lot of subjects in school; languages, sciences, arts. But we do not teach enough. We do not teach tolerance. It starts after all from the base!

The writer is a lawyer, academic and political analyst. She has authored a book titled ‘A Comparative Analysis of Media & Media Laws in Pakistan.’ She can be contacted at: yasmeenali62@gmail.com and tweets at @yasmeen_9

Escalating tensions between Pakistan and India

Yasmeen Aftab Ali

With Indian elections looming large, many organizations have conducted polls to evaluate which way the wind blows. The opinion polls were conducted between Jan 2018 to April 2019.  46% voted for Narendra Modi as Prime Minister whereas the closest running is Rahul Gandhi (Jan 2019) with best alternative to Modi (Jan 2019) with 52% of opinions swinging in his favor as opposed to other candidates.

Modi’s popularity graph has fallen since then with key issues being farmers suffering from low productions, having demanded a   minimum support price from the government. However, the prices have continued to fall. Lack of job opportunities is another. Creation of more jobs was a stated goal of BJP when it contested and came in power in 2014. Modi promised to create 10 million new jobs. A goal it missed by a very wide margin which is poised to have a severe backlash in the forthcoming elections.

Corruption in Rafale deal is yet another. In 2018, Indian opposition leaders demanded Modi’s resignation over allegations of corruption in a multi-billion dollar French fighter jet deal. “Mr Hollande sparked political controversy in India by telling French news website Mediapart that Mr Modi’s government had pressured Dassault to partner with India’s Reliance Defence to meet its “offset policy”. The “offset” clause in Delhi’s defence procurement rules says that foreign firms need to invest at least 30% of a deal’s worth back in India. It was introduced in India’s Defence Procurement Procedure in 2008 to boost domestic manufacturing.” (BBC News 26 September 2018) Congress accused Modi of helping Anil Ambani’s company in the said deal. Mr Hollande and his government did not have a decision making power in the appointment of the interlocutor.

India’s political landscape since Modi’s coming to office has changed. The Hindutva baggage ruling out all-inclusiveness of Indian citizens has left an acid taste in the mouth. India has shifted from her secular stance to a Hindu-based ideological base.

Modi needs a strong ground to boost his ratings for winning a second term as Prime Minister. Then came Pulwama.

Although, India bases the involvement of Jaish on a ‘text’ received, it has not shared any concrete evidence to the effect. The claim may or may not be true. This can only be ascertained after exhaustive investigations and not knee jerk reactions. If Jaish is involved, to state that it means the State of Pakistan is supporting the attack is unsustainable and needs a reality check.

Modi’s adventurism took a new turn when IAF fighter jets crossed into Pakistani territory. As PAF was scrambling for response- Indian fighter jets were forced to “release [their] payload in haste while escaping”. (Major General Asif Ghafoor, DG ISPR). India claimed hitting a target killing around 300 members of JeM. However, there is no destructed site or bodies to support the claim.

Hours later, speaking at an election rally in the western state of Rajasthan, Modi said “the country is in safe hands”, but he did not make any direct reference to the air raids.

“I pledge on this soil … I will not let the country bend.” (Al Jazeera 25 Feb 2019).

The claim did not stand even for 48 hours.  Major General Asif Ghafoor tweeted, “In response to PAF strikes this morning as released by MoFA, IAF crossed LOC. PAF shot down two Indian aircrafts inside Pakistani airspace. One of the aircraft fell inside AJ&K while other fell inside IOK. One Indian pilot arrested by troops on ground while two in the area.”

Wing Commander Faheem 102, was leading the mission. Hassan reportedly shot MIG 21 while Nauman Ali Khan shot SU 30.

PM Khan in a televised address stated he was obligated to respond to India’s action. “Our action is just to let them know that just like they intruded into our territory, we are also capable of going into their territory,” Khan said. His speech was addressed partially to his countrymen and partially to India. To India he said Pakistan did not make a hasty response to India’s violation of Pakistan’s air space but assessed the situation. He was clear that war was not the way forward. He added Pakistan had offered to help with India’s investigation into the Pulwama attack. Pakistan wants to sit and talk out their differences. The only purpose of retaliation was to send across the message that Pakistan has the capability to respond against such violations.

LINK TO PM KHAN’S ADDRESS TO NATION:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H59eAhRE9hc

 

Modi, beaten at his own game, his bluff being called by Khan, has not made any comment after this public disgrace. However, Indian Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj said her country would act “with responsibility and restraint”.

One shameful aspect of India’s adventurism is a deafening silence by the international community to condemn India. Some went as far as supporting her stance and egging her on the dangerous path to a point of no return. This from countries that call themselves democratic and claim to believe in institutions that support dialogue to resolve differences.

The ball has been thrown in Modi’s court by Khan. Modi must decide the course of action India must take from this point on. Pakistan will have to decide upon her strategy based on what Modi decides.

At the end of the day, dialogue and diplomacy is the way forward.

Yes, Pakistan’s retaliation has at many levels given the people the respect that the constant hate of international community over time had seemingly dented. Modi now knows “the country is in safe hands”, and those hands are PM Khan’s.

The writer is a lawyer, academic and political analyst. She has authored a book titled ‘A Comparative Analysis of Media & Media Laws in Pakistan.’ She can be contacted at: yasmeenali62@gmail.com and tweets at @yasmeen_9

Full transcript of the Taliban’s speech at the Moscow conference:

Transcript of speech delivered by delegation of Islamic Emirate at Moscow Conference
Image result for Picture of Taliban Moscow Conference
In the name of Allah, most Gracious, most Merciful
Praise be to Allah, and may peace and blessings of Allah be upon his messenger, his family and all his companions. And thereafter:
First of all, I thank all participants, the ladies and gentlemen, who have gathered here for discussing and sharing their views regarding the solution of the problems of our beloved country, Afghanistan, and oppressed Afghan nation. I especially thank the Russian Federation for facilitating this important meeting in the country.
Now I would like to share information and position of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan, with the participants, regarding the current situation of my beloved country.
The causes of the ongoing miseries and conflicts in Afghanistan in the past four decades:
Our beloved country, Muslim and Mujahid nation have been burning in the flames of fire for the past four decades. Their spiritual and material assets have been robbed and looted; they have been prevented from progress and hundreds of thousands of people have been displaced. Poverty and destitution are another main misfortune that the Afghan people are faced with due to war. The fundamental cause of all these disasters is interferences and invasions of foreigners.
It is worth mentioning that throughout the history Afghan Mujahid Nation has resorted to its legitimate right of defense against each invasion, which is still going on under the leadership of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan against the current invasion for the last 17 years.
Unfortunately, when the United States of America invaded the Afghan oppressed nation by lame excuses to topple an Islamic system, this turned the peaceful life and security of the Afghans into disorder; occupied the country; martyred hundreds of thousands of Afghans; displaced similar number and destroyed their villages and houses. They fomented geographical, ethnical, racial, religious and linguistic prejudices among the nation.
By eliminating Islamic and National values, they paved the way for corruption of morality and other administrative, social and intellectual corruption. By using prohibited chemical weapons, they not only threatened the life of humans, but by polluting the environment they threatened the life of animals as well. They polluted the country’s clean air and made its fertile land barren. They, once again, turned the country into the drug center, which unfortunately left more than 10 % of the population addicted to it, while the number of addicts during the reign of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan was only few thousands country wide.
Not only this, rather they changed the country into the nest of international intelligence agencies. They created mistrust and unreliability among the people. These are just a few examples, otherwise the problems and miseries that have resulted from the invasion which the Afghan nation is facing are many more.
Now we would come to see how to take out the oppressed people of Afghanistan from this disaster.
Peace:
• Need for Peace:
Peace is the first need of every society; especially it is the most important demand of all oppressed Afghans. Without peace, restful life, economical, educational, cultural, social and political progress is impossible. Only in peace, countries and nations have developed. However, peace comes not only by words and slogans, as in the past 15 years it has been used as a project; rather it needs strong will and clear action. Wherever the right to freedom is taken from nations, it is obvious that peace will be eliminated there and replaced by conflicts and wars.
War has been imposed on the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan and the Afghan nation, because their country has been occupied and the occupiers have removed an independent Islamic System. Thus, before everything, all those factors should be removed that have caused elimination of peace and continuation of war.
• Preliminary steps for Peace:
Before the beginning of the peace talks, some preliminary steps must be taken that are essential for peace and are parts of confidence building measures. Such as:
1 – Removal of Sanctions List:
Peace negotiations and sanctions list are two contradictory concepts and can’t go side by side. It is therefore required that these baseless sanctions and reward lists, that are used as a pressure tool for their interests, should be finished; so that representatives of the Islamic Emirate are able to participate in peace talks in different places without any hurdle.
It is also necessary that both sides should, as is their natural right, and without any pressure and in free atmosphere take forward the peace process. Not that one side is in the sanctions list and other side has freedom. This imbalanced process can neither go forward nor can give desired outcome.
2 – Release of Detainees:
Arrest and detention of Mujahidin and innocent Afghans are actions that are against peace. America and its protectorate regime have detained tens of thousands of Afghans and Mujahidin in their secret and open prisons and are ill treating them against all the laws. How is it possible that from one side one raises slogans of peace and from other side commits these malicious and illegal actions? This in itself is an obstacle to peace. For bringing real peace and reducing distance, other side must release all Mujahidin and ordinary innocent Afghans who are in prisons on mere accusations of having links with Mujahidin.
3 – Formally opening of the Office:
Venue for negotiations and a communication site in the shape of an office is necessary for peace. At present, the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan has no open and formal address as a venue for negotiations which is a preliminary requirement. It may be said that regular peace meetings could only be held in a state of availability of an office. The office is also required to issue peace related press releases, respond to questions of people as a responsible entity and remove national and international concerns. Likewise, anti peace elements could not use this pretext that the official address of the Islamic Emirate is not known.
4 – Stopping poisonous propaganda against the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan:
It is clear to all that with the support of the occupiers, wide poisonous propaganda is carried out against the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan. Utterly unfounded accusations are leveled against Islamic Emirate which in itself becomes hurdle towards progress for peace. Some intelligence circles resort to some terrible incidents, such as: blowing bridges, spraying acid on school students, making explosions on road side civilian vehicles, abducting people and committing other crimes and then blindly use these incidents against the Islamic Emirate as raw material for propaganda, and then when investigated, the results of those investigations are also not disclosed. This proves that these abuses are not work of the Mujahidin of the Islamic Emirate but rather of intelligence circles. It is because they think that by doing this, they would isolate the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan from its nation and the world. Thus, for the sake of peace, this poisonous and baseless propaganda should be stopped, because truth and peace both are sacrificed at the altar of this negative propaganda.
Obstacles to Peace:
• Occupation:
For real peace, the will of the people should be adhered to; occupation should be ended, because history has proved that Afghan nation has never surrendered to occupation. Occupation is mother of all the miseries. Peace in Afghanistan and withdrawal of foreign troops are tied with each other, because withdrawal of foreign troops practically paves the way for peace. But unfortunately, until now, peace has been used as a tactic in Afghanistan, and this is tantamount to throwing dust in the eyes of the people.
We see that the United States and some of its friends, instead of real peace, try to compel the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan to surrender. They think that at first they would weaken the Islamic Emirate in the battle field and then will compel them to peace by having upper hand. But this is self-deception which is not in conformity with ground realities. Afghan Mujahid nation firmly stand behind the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan. The invaders and their friends should know that no aggressive power of the world can eliminate national power. Likewise, the problem could not be solved by irresponsible actions and unrealistic strategies. The main thing is that strong intention and strategy based on realities are needed for peace in which end of occupation is a crucial part.
• Lack of an independent Islamic System:
For peace and stability in Afghanistan, there should be agreement on the establishment of an Afghan inclusive independent Islamic System that is acceptable to Afghans and reflects Islamic and Afghan values, as Islam is the religion of the Afghan people and guarantor of the country’s economic prosperity, social justice and national unity.
• Lack of guarantee for peace agreements:
Peace process needs guarantees, as without this, the provisions of the peace agreements could not be properly implemented. Therefore, the United Nations, major powers, members of the Islamic Conference and facilitating countries must guarantee implementations of the agreements.
• The Current Constitution:
Constitution is a dire need for every state; since development of the country and the nation without it faces many problems and disorders. Through the constitution, personnel, civil, and political rights of every citizen of Afghanistan is organized. It explains the relationship between the government and the people; puts light on checks and balances among the three branches of the government; structures and determines the power and generally determines the strategy regarding Afghanistan’s domestic and foreign politics.
The current constitution of Kabul Administration is not reliable, because it has been copied from the West and has been imposed on Afghanistan’s Muslim society under the shadow of occupation. It can neither respond to the desires of the Afghans nor can be implemented, as its provisions are vague and contradictory with each other. It is constantly being violated by the high ranking officials of the Kabul Administration; rather the current administration itself is contrary to the constitution. So, the current constitution in its present version is a major obstacle to peace.
Therefore, for the development of the beloved country and honor-loving people, their prosperous life and welfare, Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan considers it necessary that constitution must be based on principles of Islamic religion, national interests, historical achievements and social justice. It should be committed to human dignity, national values and human rights, and could guarantee territorial integrity of the country and all rights of all the citizens. The draft of such constitution should be prepared by Afghan scholars and intellectuals in an atmosphere of freedom.
• Continuation of War policy instead of Peace from the American side:
Peace talks and peace are those words that are repeated often by the occupiers. But practically, and constantly instead of peace negotiations hundreds of aerial and ground attacks are carried out. And for this, the latest policy of Americans is good and clear evidence. Instead of taking practical steps for peace, submitting to the will of the Afghan nation and ending the occupation, contrarily, they deployed more soldiers and gave them unrestricted abusive power of all kind of harassments and killings of the Afghan people. They resumed night raids on the houses of the people and increased airstrikes which resulted in the augmentation of civilian casualties. By creating and implementing other new projects, they further made the situation of Afghanistan and the region deteriorating and heightened the worries and concerns of regional and world countries. It all shows that they do not have intention for peace; rather they seek their interests in killing the Afghan people and destroying the country. Unfortunately, they do all these with the support of the Kabul Administration.
It is in a time that the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan has quite explicitly stated from time to time that the problem of Afghanistan could not be solved with wars, conflicts, force and money; the only way that could overcome the problems is ending the occupation and letting the Afghan people to determine their fate.
It is worth mentioning that the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan has said it before and now once again explicitly announces to the entire world that in order to end the occupation, we are ready for face to face negotiations with the Americans and to discuss relevant issues with them. We want them that instead of conflicts and use of force they should turn to wisdom and logic and refrain from further destroying our country, killing our citizens, and likewise from meaninglessly killing their own sons. They should respect the will of the Afghan people and allow them to determine their fate.
The Islamic Emirate has left the doors of understanding and negotiations open. the Political Office of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan is the only venue of the Emirate to reach peaceful settlement of the issue of Afghanistan.
Status of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan regarding some key issues:
• Three days Ceasefire on the occasion of Eid ul Fitr of this year:
The three days ceasefire by the Islamic Emirate on the occasion of Eid ul Fitr revealed that there is a unified power in the shape of the Islamic Emirate against the invasion across Afghanistan, and there is complete discipline in its military and civil ranks. They are all under one command and strongly obey orders of their leaders. Existence of 20 groups in Afghanistan was a mere propaganda.
Likewise, it was also proved, against the claim of the enemies of peace, that the ongoing war is not a war between Afghans but is military resistance of Afghan nation against the invasion. Afghans do not have problem among themselves. Foreign occupation is the main problem. This war will continue until and unless foreign soldiers exist in Afghanistan. Hence, withdrawal of foreign soldiers is necessary for peace in Afghanistan.
• No interference in the internal affairs of other countries:
Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan makes legitimate efforts for independence of its country which is natural and human right of Afghan Muslim nation. Seeking independence of one’s country and establishing an Islamic system in conformity with the faith of its people cannot be considered terrorism. We would like to say that we don’t have agenda of destructive actions in other countries. In the past 17 years we have practically proved that we have not interfered in any way in other countries. Similarly, we do not allow anyone to use the soil of Afghanistan against other countries including neighboring countries. Our priority is to resolve the issue of Afghanistan through peaceful means. The United States must end the occupation and submit to the legitimate rights of the Afghans, including forming their government in conformity with their faith. After independence, we want to have positive and constructive relations with other countries including neighbors, and we welcome their assistance in reconstruction and development of the country. Similarly, we want to have positive role in peace and stability of the region and the world.
• Prevention of drug trafficking and cultivation:
During the overt reign of the Islamic Emirate, poppy cultivation had been reduced to zero and the number of heroin addicts among the Afghans was absolutely equal to none. However, after the US invasion in Afghanistan, poppy cultivated land area has reached 328 thousand hectares, and now under the shadow of 17 years of the occupation, the number of addicts has increased to three million people.
According to the UN Counter-Narcotics Organization report, the production of narcotics has increased by 87% and its cultivation by 63% in 2017, by which the scale of produced narcotics has reached 9000 metric tons. The policy of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan is to prevent poppy cultivation and drug trafficking. If the war ends in Afghanistan, then the Islamic Emirate is determined to reduce poppy cultivation and drug trafficking to zero throughout the country, and in this regard it is ready to provide support and to coordinate with the neighboring countries and international organizations.
• Prevention of Civilian Casualties:
We see that the scale of civilian casualties is increasing lately due to the ongoing imposed war. This state of our people not only hurts us but every Afghan with free conscious feels the pain. Afghan nation is our own soul and body and by its damage our own self is harmed.
Even our Esteemed leader, Amir-ul-Momineen Sheikh Hibatullah Akhondzada (May Allah protect him) has made strong instructions in his Eid messages to the Mujahidin to refrain from operations in places where there is risk of civilian casualties. Moreover, the Islamic Emirate has embedded an independent Commission in its structure by the name of prevention of civilian casualties that works for the prevention of civilian casualties and has representatives in every province who closely and precisely investigates incidents. It publishes credible reports about civilian casualties several times throughout the year.
Often, the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan has postponed its military operations due to the risk of civilian causalities, but the Americans and their friends carry out night raids on civilian houses, make blind bombardments and use heavy weapons in civilian places, even they arrest people from cities on the basis of suspicion and then kill them under punishment and torture. Now, with the new American policy, bombardment and night raids have further increased which in turn has increased the graph of civilian casualties as well; albeit most of the media do not publish these reports and these incidents remain nonregistered. Some media outlets and some directions attempt to hide the original perpetrators of civilian casualties which further embolden the perpetrators to continue their crimes.
The US Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction or SIGAR says that their investigations have found that in 2018, American forces’ bombardments in Afghanistan have exceptionally increased, and they have dropped 1200 bombs only in the first three months of this year. On the second day of April 2018, as a result of a brutal aerial attack on a Madrasa in Dasht-e-Archi district of Kunduz province, they martyred 100 young memorizers of the Holy Quran and injured another 100. It is an iceberg of gruesome incidents. During the past 17 years, hundreds of similar incidents have taken place in which houses and educational institutions have been targeted.
Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan has taken the following practical measures for the prevention of civilian casualties:
1. In order to prevent civilian casualties, Mujahidin are provided with guidelines by scholars on regular basis and independent seminars are held in this regard.
2. Delegations pay visit to Mujahidin circles from time to time in order to investigate incidents of civilian casualties and prosecute the perpetrators.
It must also be said that for the sake of the country and prosperous life of our people, the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan considers building and maintaining of places of public utility as a dire need. It considers bridges, tunnels, dams, electric power stations, electric supply centers, mineral extraction and oil refining centers and its equipments, educational institutions, Madrasas, mosques, schools, universities, health centers, clinics, hospitals, and other public utility places as national asset and public property of the Afghan nation and considers their safety its responsibility. We consider religious and modern education necessary for the success of all Afghans and Afghan society.
Humanitarian Assistance:
On one hand, the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan is engaged in fighting for the independence of the country; on the other hand has taken drastic steps for the security, safety and prosperity of the citizens in the areas under its control.
With a view to the current situation, Afghan nation is in need of humanitarian assistance more than ever. For completing this need, the Islamic Emirate not only considers itself committed to the security of entities from humanitarian assistance providing countries, the United Nations, International Organizations, national businessmen and other humanitarian NGOs to deliver humanitarian assistance, meanwhile calls on them to provide, on the basis of humanitarian sympathy, humanitarian assistance to those needy people living in areas under the control of the Islamic Emirate.
The Islamic Emirate has provided ground for their humanitarian activities in the areas under its control. The best proof in this regard is that the esteemed leader of the Islamic Emirate urged the NGO’s in its last year’s Eid message to come to areas under the control of the Emirate, and we guarantee your security.
Women Rights:
The Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan considers woman as the builders of a Muslim society and is committed to all rights of women that have been given to them by the sacred religion of Islam.
Islam has given women all fundamental rights, such as business and ownership, inheritance, education, work, choosing one’s husband, security, health, and right to good life. Likewise, the Holy prophet (peace be upon him) advised good attitude with women in the last moment of his life. These are all those instances that took the woman out of the horrific pits of traditions of ignorance to the highest levels of knowledge, morality and dignity.
There is no doubt that in Afghanistan, due to occupation, there are many challenges against women rights. Women are faced with a lot of disasters. The so called women rights activists stayed in Afghanistan for 17 years, in this period billions of dollars came to Afghanistan, but still Afghanistan is at the top of the countries where many women die during delivery due to lack of health facilities. Still deformed and disabled children are begotten in our country more than any other place (in the world) due to the use of chemical weapons. Afghanistan is still among the top countries of the world where the average life expectancy rate of women is only 45. It is among the top countries of the world where there are more than one million widows. Due to corruption, the expenses brought and spent under the title of women rights have gone to the pockets of those who raise slogans of women rights.
Under the name of women rights, there has been work for immorality, indecency and circulation of non-Islamic cultures. Dissemination of western and non-Afghan and non-Islamic drama serials, paving way for immoral crimes, and encouraging women for violating Afghan customs are other instances that have been imposed on Afghan society under the name of women rights.
From the beginning, the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan has a very comprehensive and clear approach towards the rights of women. As Islam and then Afghan tradition is two major values of the Afghan Mujahid nation, so Islamic Emirate is also committed to all rights of women within this framework. The policy of the Islamic Emirate is to protect the rights of women in a way that neither their legitimate rights are violated nor their human dignity and Afghan values are threatened. Similarly, the Islamic Emirate is committed to eliminate all those evil customs and traditions that violate women rights and do not comply with Islamic principles, and provide them safe environment.
• Health:
The Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan has a distinctive health commission functioning all over the country. This commission has its representatives in every province and every district, who from one side conduct internal health affairs of the Emirate and on the other side cooperate with and provide security to healthcare-providing associations and organizations.
The Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan has conveyed this message to the world during face to face meetings and through media outlets that it considers health personnel as being neutral. Injured persons of the parties to the conflict as well as injured civilians should be brought to hospitals and treated without any discrimination. In this regard the Islamic Emirate has agreements with international health organizations, such as ICRC, Emergency and Doctors without Borders. The Islamic Emirate Afghanistan has always urged the humanitarian assistance organizations and human rights organizations to make Kabul Administration and foreign forces to treat the wounded and detainees in the same way as the Islamic Emirate does.
The Islamic Emirate has made vast efforts to build clinics and hospitals in its areas and prepare and train health personnel for it, but unfortunately the occupiers consider it a legitimate target for themselves and always resort to bombing it. Due to this, several times our hospitals have been raided and bombed, even the clinics and hospitals that were running by the support of other NGOs in our areas have also been bombed. The bombing carried out against the hospital of Doctors without Borders (MSF) in Kunduz and the raid on a hospital in Wardak province are clear examples.
The Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan has published statements regarding security of health and education personnel of all sides and has advised Mujahidin not to target these people, but ensure their security so that they could do their work in the best way they can.
Unfortunately, the occupiers target our hospitals and ambulances; take out our wounded persons being transported in ambulances of other health organizations, arrest those wounded persons who are under treatment in hospitals and despite applying different methods of torture on our members, they do not even treat their common diseases.
The Islamic Emirate, once again, announce from this forum that in health sector the Emirate always considers itself committed to all the rights of the citizens and tries its best to deliver them all health services in the best way it can. It calls on human rights organizations to urge Kabul Administration and occupiers to respect human rights and not target hospitals that are in areas under the control of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan. We expect foreign organizations to consider all Afghans as equal and as such deliver their services, particularly we expect them to pay attention to the areas that are under the control of the Islamic Emirate, because compared to urban areas, needs of people in rural areas are dire and greater.
The Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan has full cooperation with the United Nations, World Health Organization and other health organizations and this cooperation has provided ground for them to carry on their works in the best way in all parts of Afghanistan. In this regard, Polio and other vaccinations programs in many parts of the country that are carried out by relevant organizations by direct support of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan are worth mentioning.
The Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan, once again, fully assures health related organizations about its cooperation.
Thanks to all participants for listening attentively to our position and views regarding the current miseries of Afghanistan. Thank you.
Please do take time out to at least glance through this speech. I am impressed with the concept and approach of Taliban usually not given due credit for their political astuteness.

Is the US finally leaving Afghanistan?

By Yasmeen Aftab Ali

The recent continuation of the Afghan peace talks between the US and Taliban, aimed at US/coalition forces’ withdrawal from the war-torn country, came as welcome news. For many, the peace talks have brought hope that decades of chaos in Afghanistan might finally end, however, for a select few, this development is also rife with skepticism.

The US and its allied forces have finally realised that they cannot continue in Afghanistan ad-infinitum. However, the fear that a civil war will erupt between different groups in Afghanistan ,upon the exit of the coalition forces, will probably happen irrespective of when the US withdrawal takes place. The reason is simple.

There has been little, if any, institution-building in the last 17 years of US “boots on ground” in Afghanistan. Weak institutions create governance vacuum, which ultimately gives space to different miscreant elements to fill that vacuum.

Added to this is another fact. The fact of the “weak legs” Ashraf Ghani’s government is currently standing on. Taliban view the current Afghan political setup as a “US puppet”. Upon departure of the US forces, it will not be long that the entire structure will come crashing down.

Therefore, current situation needs a closer examination for a number of reasons:

One, the Taliban are dealing from a “position of strength”, and both the US and the Taliban know that. Moreover, President Ghani and the world also know that.

Hence, not many expect that the US can broker a power-sharing deal between the Taliban and Ghani post US exit. Even if the Taliban agree, there is nothing to bind them to deliver on their word.

Two, there are roughly 14000 American troops in Afghanistan, out of which President Trump wants half of them back home, with  the other half leaving in case of a negotiated settled. Interestingly, so far, the presence of American bases in Afghanistan and their working [or not] post-exit has not been touched upon. These bases include the Shindand Airbase, FOB Delaram, Bagram Air Base, Camp Dwyer, Camp Leatherneck and the Kandahar International Airport. These bases have played a major role in the US War on Terror in Afghanistan, and therefore very little is known of their future when the US and coalition troops leave the country.

Three, the US wants a firm commitment from the Taliban that in return for the exit, the militant group will not allow terrorist groups like Al Qaeda to use the Afghan soil to attack the West, including the USA. The Taliban have been quick to give their word on this. However, there is no clue as to how exactly will the Taliban achieve this. Interestingly, a story in Politico stated, “While most senior al-Qaeda personnel “are trying to hide,” General John Nicholson, the outgoing top commander in Kabul, said last year, the subgroup members are “more active” but are focused on training Taliban members who are fighting the Afghan government.”  The official assessment of the intelligence committee thinks the core objective of Al-Qaeda and their affiliates has not changed- though most [as per a UN report] have migrated to Syria.

Four, the withdrawal, hurried and unceremonious without putting in place a workable settlement, will close doors to a joint expedition with the allies in future if faced with a similar threat.

Five, the impression created is to simply get the American troops out and let “Rome burn”. Without effectively negotiating a lasting peace settlement and focusing on an exit alone, will the US not be doing exactly what it has done in the past; moving in and out of the region, without taking any further responsibility, as once famously admitted by Hillary Clinton in her congressional address?

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Six, at this point in time, the Taliban are not in a political driving seat; which they want to be in by any means. Allied forces’ exit means an inevitable struggle for power; wrenching it away from Ghani. This will lead to bloodshed, civil war and an Afghanistan more vulnerable to be used by extremist elements.

Seven, how exactly will Pakistan handle the negative cascading effect owing to the porous border situation? Pakistan is already fencing the 2,430-kilometre international border with Afghanistan, which seems to be a top priority for both the civil military leadership. However, little progress has been made on clearing the landmines or increasing the patrolling of the border. Pakistan must not be passive on this score. It needs to stop behaving like an ostrich and deal with the Afghan Refugee situation. With the US exit next door, the Afghan debris in Pakistan would likely lead to misuse of home soil by extremists. This must be avoided at all costs. Therefore, Pakistan must develop strategies that are in place to deal with multifaceted situations when the time comes. Knee-jerk reactions do not deliver.

Trump is currently on the right track in terms of planning an exit of his troops from Afghanistan. That is laudable. However, only time will tell “how” he succeeds in implementing this plan effectively. This implementation will determine how history remembers him.

The writer is a lawyer, academic and political analyst. She has authored a book titled ‘A Comparative Analysis of Media & Media Laws in Pakistan.’ She can be contacted at yasmeenali62@gmail.com and tweets at @yasmeen_9

CROSS POST: https://crssblog.com/is-the-us-finally-leaving-afghanistan/

Who is responsible for Pakistan’s current economic mess?

By Yasmeen Aftab Ali

Pakistan is currently faced with multidimensional economic issues. These issues have also started affecting the public perception of the ruling PTI government. However, what PTI promised in its election campaign and what it can deliver in long term and short term in power are two different things.

Pakistan’s current economic woes stretch over a long period of time. The country did not get into this dismal position overnight. Here is a brief overview:

When former President Zardari’s PPP government took over the reigns from General Musharraf in 2008, it gave the nation a growth rate of 4% compared to 6 to 8% under Musharraf. Economic growth was tepid. High rate of unemployment was also the hallmark of the Zardari government. The cost of consumer goods spiraled up to 80%. With low incomes and high living costs, the salaried class and those forming lower and middle class income groups continued to live under miserable conditions.

According to a report, foreign debt rose from $45 billion in 2008 to over $65 billion by year 2012. Moreover, the situation regarding poverty and hunger was also bad. A story published by Dawn News on May 9, 2012, reported, “Pakistan National Nutrition Survey for 2011, which was sponsored by UNICEF and conducted by the Agha Khan University, reveals that Pakistan’s state and society has failed miserably to even feed the children. The survey revealed that because of prevalent malnutrition, 44 per cent children under five years old in Pakistan are stunted. These children in the future are unlikely to attain the same height as of the non-stunted children. Thus, fifteen years down the road, almost half of Pakistan’s youth will not even be as tall as youth in other countries.” (Dawn, May 09, 2012)

The report further brought out the unevenness of hunger base in different provinces of the country. With Sindh facing the worst situation, where three out of four houses faced food insecurity, Balochistan was second in line with a 64% ratio. The average GDP growth between 2008 and 2012 was 2.9%, which was the lowest in the country’s history.

Leaving all else aside, in a country where the government cannot feed its population, what development – economic or otherwise – can one talk about?

The Eighteenth Amendment abolished the Concurrent List. Instead of focusing on making Pakistan into an effective federal state with a balanced approach towards its provinces, the 18th Amendment worked towards devolution of powers without too much of an effort going into analyzing the impact the Amendment. Moreover, there was also a lack of setting up of infrastructures for good governance to trickle down to grassroots levels – and thereby the common man – prior to the introduction of the law.

The 18th Amendment has created a governance gap. It has removed the Federal umbrella funneling finances to provinces without checks and accountability.

Earlier this month, it was announced that the “fake accounts” case will be sent to a review committee working under the Interior Ministry once the JIT on fake accounts submits its report.

The JIT report reveals that those involved were making around Rs. 40mn per month. These amounts were transferred out of the country through 120 front-men – give or take – using illegal methods such as hundi and hawala system. The report names the KAM Crown International Company responsible for collecting these ill-gotten funds. The JIT report also reveals roughly 25 properties were owned/acquired by the then President Zardari and his sister Faryal Talpur in New York, Dubai, Paris and London (Further details can be foundhere).

This is not where the country’s misery ends.

After the PPP government left in 2013, the Nawaz Sharif and PML N government acquired $35 billion in new loans and artificially controlled the currency to convey a false impression of security to the investors and to repay the debt that was maturing. Half of the aggregate loan was used to pay existing debts (From July 2013 to June 2017). According to the IMF, for this time period, Pakistan’s total external debt jumped from 30% and ballooned to $79.2 billion.

As Nero fiddled while Rome burned, the Red Metro project was launched as was the Orange Train project. Though one can appreciate the convenience to the common man, the business model of the Red Metro bus service left much to be desired. According to official numbers, the average operating cost for a bus trip comes out to be around Rs 9,100. The average revenue for the same trip earned by the Authority is Rs. 2,600, recording a loss of Rs. 6,500 on every trip (as reported by The Express Tribune on June 29, 2015)

The costs of the Orange Line in terms of mechanical and electrical works, track and rolling stock are double the costs of any civil structure. The government reportedly acquired 135 coaches along with mechanical, electrical, and tracks’ works from China for around $1,000 million, which was equal to 60% of total project cost. A senior official working on the project highlighted that the average price of a similar specification train coach is around $1.6-1.7 million in the international market and the total invoice for 135 coaches should not exceed $220-230 million.” (The Express Tribune, August 26, 2018). All this, at the cost of ignoring other necessities, such as water reservoirs, indicates wrong priorities for our ruling elite.

As Nawaz Sharif and his coterie continued to lead the country into greater economic abyss…the Panama case blew into their cumulative faces. The case, its background, findings and ultimately the judgment gives some insight into how our ruling elite has “toyed” with the country’s resources that were supposed to be spent on the citizens.

The Panama case judgment starts with a reference to The Godfather, a renowned novel by Mario Puzo:

(The secret of a great success for which you are at a loss to account is a crime that has never been found out because it was properly executed)

It is ironical and a sheer coincidence that the present case revolves around that very sentence attributed to Balzac…”

Justice Khosa later added:

“I may, therefore, be justified in raising an adverse inference in the matter. The fortune amassed by respondent No. 1 is indeed huge and no plausible or satisfactory explanation has been advanced in that regard. Honoré de Balzac may, after all, be right when he had said that behind every great fortune for which one is at a loss to account, there is a crime.”

“In the above mentioned sorry and unfortunate state of affairs, a conclusion has appeared to me to be unavoidable and inescapable that in the matter of explaining the wealth and assets respondent No. 1 has not been honest to the nation, to the nation’s representatives in the National Assembly and even to this Court.”

The creators of the economic mess, Pakistan finds itself in, may not be at the helm of affairs, but they continue standing on the sidelines, screaming hoarse and pelting stones at those who may want to fix this mess. If they still have not learnt a lesson from their misdeeds- one can only be sorry. Sorry, not for them but the nation that chose them many times over to lead them out of their miseries!

The writer is a lawyer, academic and political analyst. She has authored a book titled ‘A Comparative Analysis of Media & Media Laws in Pakistan.’ She can be contacted at yasmeenali62@gmail.com and tweets at @yasmeen_9

Cross Post https://crssblog.com/who-is-responsible-for-pakistans-current-economic-mess/

Is Pakistan being circled by India?

Yasmeen Aftab Ali

India has officially taken over the operations of Chabahar port in Iran’s Sistan-Balochistan province. The official handing over of terminal areas, building and cargo handling took place on December 29th 2018. During 2014 MOU between both nations was signed for development of the port. In 2016 when Modi visited Iran the MOU was converted into a 10 year contract to Equip and Operate the Chabahar Port.

According to a report, Afghanistan shifted give or take 80% of its cargo traffic from Pakistan to Chabahar ports and Iran’s Bandar Abbas soon after the former was inaugurated. The move over was partially due to the new tariff imposed by Islamabad.

With the official opening of Chahbahar more business is expected to shift. Expectations and analysis is of a mammoth US$5 billion worth of Afghan trade to go through Chahbahar.

Interestingly on January 7th 2019, news broke of India to deliver Mi-25 gunship helicopters to the Afghan Air Force procured from Belarus. Two will be delivered in March, with others following in latter consignments.

Both India and Iran are driven by economic interests. Iran is interested in a free trade zone near Gwadar – to accelerate its economic development that had been held back by many years of sanctions it was blanketed under. Further, Saudi Arabia and Iran are rivals in the market of energy products. Interestingly, the Gulf Cooperation Council states and Saudi Arabia supply a good percentage of Oil India imports while Qatar is their biggest importer of natural gas.

India on the other hand is rearing its head vying to be a regional leader and without doubt, the development of Chabahar will lead to a boost in her regional status. Lindsay Hughes, Research Analyst, Indian Ocean Research Programme writes, “India, however, does not appear to seek to only import Iranian oil; it wishes to invest in Iranian oil and gas fields, thus further securing its energy from that country.”(April 26, 2016) Chabahar, once it takes off, will offer better ingress to India into Afghanistan and Afghani markets, this will in turn lead to a stronger say with the Afghan government. This will also improve India’s chances to angle for Turkmenistan gas.

One needs to step back and look at the bigger picture.

Focusing on Tajikistan; a gas-rich country, India already has its Ayni Air Base also known as the ‘Gissar Air Base’, located 10km west of the capital of Tajikistan-Dushanbe. “Between years 2002-2010, India invested approximately $70 million in renovations, installing state-of-the-art air defense navigational facilities. The runway was further extended. This access offers immediate strategic depth in the region to India. The second place of Indian foothold is the Farkhor Air Base; a military air base located near the town of Farkhor in Tajikistan, 130 kilometers southeast of the capital Dushanbe. In 1996-97, the Research and Analysis Wing (RAW) started negotiations with Tajikistan to use the Farkhor Airbase to transport high-altitude military supplies to the Afghan Northern Alliance, service their helicopters and gather intelligence.” (My Op-Ed Pakistan Today: September 24, 2013)

Are targeted attacks on Baluchistan expected to increase to sabotage Gwadar? Probably yes. In 2016, Kulbhushan Yadav, a RAW agent caught in Baluchistan, and later interrogated, “revealed he had been imparting Naval fighting training to Baloch separatists in an attempt to target Pakistani ports.”(Dawn March 27, 2016) Not to forget that according to The News, “An initial budget of $300 million has been earmarked by RAW for subverting the economic corridor.” (May 11, 2015)  

The net result of the developments is a scenario with only Pakistan having a weaker influence with Afghanistan. Theoretically, though one would support a ‘hands off policy’ by Pakistan so far as Afghanistan is concerned, practically to have it replaced by Indian increased influence in light of the porous border shared by Pakistan and Afghanistan, Zarb-e-Azab afoot and Indian involvement in Baluchistan poses a dangerous situation for Pakistan. It puts Pakistan’s policy to severe test.

Without becoming India-centric, Pakistan needs to devise its policies in light of the new ground realities. This means ensuring security and curbing a lawlessness situation, fencing the Gwadar area, providing all facilities to investors in Gwadar project at any cost. Sweeping tax concessions for Gwadar is a wonderful step. It needs however to be implemented in letter and spirit.

The writer is a lawyer, academic and political analyst. She has authored a book titled ‘A Comparative Analysis of Media & Media Laws in Pakistan.’ She can be contacted at: yasmeenali62@gmail.comand tweets at @yasmeen_9

This article appeared as cross post in International Herald Tribune Australia

http://tribune-intl.com/is-pakistan-being-circled-by-india/