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What is bad: Pakistan’s economy or its management?

The outgoing caretaker of country’s Finance had only been viewing the matters from a banker’s “balance sheet perspective”—and, hence, portraying dooms day scenario. And the new Finance Minister has started showing signs of anxiety even before taking charge. New government has sufficient political capital to attract substantial Foreign Direct Investment (FDI). And some loans and grants have already started pouring in. Need of the hour is not to panic. Economy does face challenges needing immediate adjustments, but its permanent recovery lies in meaningful restructuring. Hopefully, Finance Minister would soon be able to distance himself from day to day fire-fighting, and focus on long awaited reforms in financial sector. With or without the IMF, new government should quickly assemble a core group of competent professionals and start implementing the reforms. Minster for Finance has already dropped hints as to what the new government intends to do. He thought “quick fix solutions were needed to tackle the situation” as country would “need $10 to 12 billion loans within six weeks”. Indeed it was a naïve approach and unnecessary alarm. Pakistan has a robust and progressive economy, incorporating essential features of a typical modern formal economy; but at the same time, it has deep rooted fault lines, at times making its behaviour unpredictable. Pakistan has often faced tumultuous financial conditions, yet it maintained an average growth rate of 6 percent. Economic affairs are generally run on day to day basis; hence an element of fragility has become perpetually embedded into country’s economic affairs. Real challenge is not arranging “$10 to 12 billion loans within six weeks”, but have a long term Vision so that such patterns don’t come back to haunt our economy every now and then. Solutions are available. What we need is political will to carry them through. Proposal of floating “Overseas Pakistanis’ Bond” is a viable option and should be fast tracked. Alongside one could think of “Debt Retiring Bond” open to inland and overseas Pakistanis. There is need to create a “Saving Culture” through an environment of austerity and meaningful return on savings. Government restructuring could reduce the governance cost by one third; and fixing “Public Procurement Policy” procedures could add hefty saving of around 40 percent. There is need to untangle our taxation maze of multiple direct and indirect taxes strangulating those who pay their taxes and letting those go scot free who do not wish to pay taxes. Our taxation system is cruelly pegged. For those who want to pay taxes everything other than breathing air is taxed. And those who do not wish to pay they are offered shamelessly low 2.5 percent tax for their ill-gotten wealth staked outside Pakistan. Most of them did not avail the offer as tax was “too high”. Country’s existing tax regimes do not provide even playing field for all sectors. Pakistan’s economy comprises of: Industrial Sector (20.91 percent of GDP); Agriculture Sector (18.86 percent of GDP); and a sparkling Services Sector (60.23 percent of GDP.; Agriculture Sector’s tax contribution is little over one percent of gross national tax; Industrial Sector accounts for around 17 percent of tax. Services are inordinately overtaxed. Recently Supreme Court had to intervene to reduce taxation on mobile telephone users and gasoline to provide much needed relief to hapless consumers. Due to inefficient Regulators, the quality of services is far below the acceptable standards. Pakistan’s economy faces some arduous challenges, which are almost perpetual, like: sustained high population growth rate (over 2 percent); mainly thermal fuel based high cost electricity; shortage of water and electricity; narrow tax base leading to low tax to GDP ratio (12.4 percent); inefficient revenue collection system; inadequacy of infrastructure; high inflation and interest rates etc. Regional and global market dynamic and inter play of American sanctions here and there often make unpredictable negative impact on country’s economy. Single commodity export (textiles) exposes it to vulnerability of price variations in international market; likewise, fluctuation in oil prices is another single factor making unpredictable impact on import bill without any prior warning. Pakistan’s society is inclined towards consumerism, as a result imports always exceed exports by huge margin (gap is US$37.7b in FY18; causing unsustainable Current Account Deficit (over 18 billion in FY17-18). Over borrowing is a national habit, and now external and domestic borrowing stands at over 72 percent of GDP. Public debt of Rs24.5 trillion includes domestic debt of Rs16.5 trillion and external debt of Rs8 trillion. The financing of the current account deficit by taking more loans is one of the reasons for high debt accumulation. Average maturity time of public debt had come down from 4.5 years in 2013 to 3.7 years in 2017. The indicator of debt maturing in one year also deteriorated in recent years and now 44.4 percent of the total debt is maturing within one year. Biggest challenge for the new government is enormous expectations of the people who are waiting for some sort of relief from the new government. And going back to the IMF would be a big disappointment. There is a strong public perception, though largely misplaced, that country’s most of economic difficulties are due to the preconditions that IMF has been attaching with its previous packages. Reality is that had we implemented IMF recommendations, we would have long been out of economic difficulties. Despite a razor thin parliamentary majority of his party, crafty coalition partners and a strong net of dynastic politician around Imran Khan, there is strong aroma of hope that he will be able to gather requisite critical mass to break the stranglehold of vicious factors bringing our economy to such a pass.

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Countering Hate and Violence: What Should Indian Minorities Do?

Post from India: by Ram Puniyani The violence against religious minorities has been on the rise during last few years. Many a reports tell us not only about the overall rise in the violence but also about the portents of violence orchestrated in the name of Mother Cow and nationalism in recent times. It has increased the insecurity among the religious minorities to no end; leading to ghettotization, which has started affecting the social fabric in very adverse way. It is in this background that the efforts of Jamiat-e-Ulama Hind to start youth clubs for self defense have to be seen and assessed whether this is the right step? Maulana Mahmood Madani, the chief of the organization while telling about the efforts of his organizations gave an outline of the things to come. As per him the motto of the initiative is “to make youths capable of dealing with tough situations and help the country whenever there is a situation of crisis. He said that the outfit will provide training to the youths just like the Scouts and Guides.” Reacting to this the likes of Vinay Katiyar and spokesmen of RSS related organizations said that this may promote violence and that this is an attempt to copy RSS model, but it will not work. While Madani focused on the training like that of Boys Scouts and Guides, the self defense logic may lead it to an unwanted direction. Many a spokesmen from Muslim organizations have opposed this step of Jamiat by saying that Muslims have full faith in justice system and that giving safety and security to the citizens is the duty of the state. It’s undeniable that the feeling of insecurity among the Muslim and Christian community has seen an unprecedented rise; with the coming of Modi Sarkar to power. As such it has been RSS and its progeny which introduced the training in wielding lathi (baton), guns in a systematic way. RSS shakhas began with lathis in their shakhas. The question is that time the major problem of Indian society was with the British rule. Could they have used lathis against British? No way! It was primarily for the use within the society itself. From last few decades the Bajrang Dal and Durga Vahini have been given training in guns as well. All this has been done in the name of self defense! What comes to one’s mind is that in post independence period we have the rule of law with Indian Constitution as the fulcrum of our values. Here we have police, judiciary for protection and justice. So what justifies the program of RSS combine in so called arms training? RSS is very fascinated with arms and every Dusshera day they worship armaments. They have an exhibition of armaments. There are reports doubting whether the police have information about these armaments with RSS, while they do hold license for that. While talking of non violence; RSS has glorified the arms and indulged in training the young boys and girls in these weapons. On the top of this RSS affiliates have undertaken Trishul (trident) distributions. These trishuls, which have been distributed times and over again; have contributed to rise in hate sentiments. Trishul has religiosity associated with Lord Shiva and is blunt; while the trishuls distributed by these groups have sharp edges like knife. Legal positions apart; such ‘self defense’ organized by communities is a negative phenomenon. Dilemmas of Muslim community and organizations like Jamiat are well taken. What should be the role of minority organizations in such troubled times? There are Muslim organizations which are opposing Jamiat’s move. Community’s plight cannot be saved by training some youths in techniques of scouts and guide, neither in copying the methods of RSS combine. What is needed is to call for proper implementation of justice and policing mechanism. Most of the communal violence reports tell us about the partisan attitude of the police and the lax attitude of political parties is the main reason for violence going up and up. Justice has not been delivered in 1984 anti-Sikh massacre; it might have given the major boost to the culture of impunity. In Mumbai Sri Kirshna Commission report was not implemented, boosting the trend of where criminal can get away, innocents suffer and justice is denied. In Gujarat violence, post Godhra, which took place right under the nose of the most efficient chief minster; nearly two thousand Hindus and Muslims were done to death, while state was accomplice in the violence. The Jamiat leadership should think whether they are going in the right direction. Good intentions alone are not enough. Let’s identify the core cause of violence. It’s the Hate manufactured in society. Hate in turn has peaked to mountainous heights due to the misconceptions about the minority community enhanced lately due to abuse of social media in a systematic and planned way. Islam has been demonized as violent religion and Christians are looked down as converters. In Gujarat the travails of the likes of Teesta Setalvad, foremost human rights activist, tell us that getting justice is a humongous task. The need to counter the divisive propaganda done by our TV channels, done through section of media and spruced up by social media needs to be countered. The perceptions about our medieval period, freedom movement and all inclusive nature of Indian nationalism need to be taken far and wide. What is needed is a broad alliance of those concerned about the security and protection of human rights of all. Right to life has lately been compromised heavily. All those working for preservation and promotion of rights of citizens need to come to uphold the basic Indian ethos of pluralism and the core values of Indian Constitution. Jamiat like organizations will do better by focusing on training the youth in the abilities to counter Hate by spreading the message of peace and love, by training them in countering the prevalent misconceptions against religious minorities and against weaker sections of society.

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The Aaland Islands Model and Kashmir

Post from the US: Dr. Ghulam Nabi Fai, July 29, 2018 There are some disputes in modern history that one might take lessons from in understanding the wisest course to take in resolving the Kashmiri dispute. The Aaland Islands is a case in point, as are South Tyrol, Trieste, Andorra, and Northern Ireland, each of which was contested by neighboring countries. Finland and Sweden both coveted The Aaland Islands; South Tyrol was in dispute between Austria and Italy; Trieste was divided between Italy and Yugoslavia; Andorra is a small principality. Virtually all of these cases, the country in question was seized or split in two in the course of war between neighboring countries. Understanding the Aaland Islands means seeing its problems in the larger context of Finland, Sweden and their political and social milieu. Finland had been an integral part of the Kingdom of Sweden for six centuries. They had shared a common culture together, Finns spoke Swedish and Swedes spoke Finnish. But the Finns and the Swedes were different. The Swedes were of Germanic origin, of Viking stock, as were the Norwegians and Danes, imposing as they did one of the earliest empires in history on Northern Europe, and dominating other cultures in the region. They were agrarian, settled and lived from what they grew, not from what they found or captured. But despite having a common monarch, Sweden was Sweden and Finland was Finland. Finnish people are often called the white Eskimos. They have a nomadic oriental heritage (by some historians regarded as "the lost tribe of the Mongols). They shared common heritage with other people who had settled around the Baltic Sea, including Estonia and Hungary, known as the Finn-Urgics, whose origins were rooted in the Ural Mountains of Russia in a marriage, literally, by Ghengis Khan, leader of the Mongols, to a young teenage Hun bride. The Ural Mountains had been settled by the Mongols during the rein of Ghengis Khan, occupied then by the Huns, a people who had migrated north from the Middle East, a people said to have originated in one of the Abrahamic tribes. The languages of Sweden, Norway and Denmark are of Indo-European origin. However, they have virtually nothing in common etiologically with the language of the Finns. The Finns were mystical, pantheistic, with shamanistic practices. The Swedes followed the Pope. In 1808, things changed. After six centuries of Swedish rule, Finland was invaded by Russia in a war against Sweden, seeking greater access to the Baltic for greater military and economic strength. Finland's eastern border is shared by Russia. Its western border was primarily the Gulf of Bothnia, gateway by way of the Aaland Islands to the Baltic Sea. A little more than a year later, Russia forced Sweden to secede Finland on September 2, 1809 in the Treaty of Fredrikshamn. Under the Russians, Finland became the autonomous Grand Duchy of Finland, allowing them a certain amount of political power in return for the advantages of access to the sea. The Aaland Islands, occupied by Swedish people, was severed from its ties to family and relatives, and made a part of the duchy. However, such a deal could not have anticipated the overthrow of the Russian monarchy and the Bolshevik revolution in 1917, when Finland declared independence. Under the Swedes, Finland had also enjoyed some autonomy, so her independence with the downfall of the Tsar and major upheaval going on in Russia was a default instinct. That declaration created then a new power struggle and civil war in Finland to fill the vacuum between conservative pro-Finnish "Whites" and a communist faction in the labor movement that was pro-Bolshevik and pro-Russian who were known as "Reds." Aside from such political differences, independence had also been spurred by Russian Tsar Nicolas II's plan for the "Russification" of Finland, which imposed serious cultural, language and religious restrictions on Finnish traditions from 1905 on. Russia's attitude toward the Finns was identical to current Indian attitudes toward Kashmir. The tsar intended to abrogate their autonomous status and incorporated them fully into the Russian state. Finland's resistance led finally to full independence from Russia. But it was not through war. With the Tsar overthrown, the new government already had its hands full, and the Bolsheviks had already announced that any ethnic groups that were not Russian were free to choose their own course through self-determination. Finland chose to do just that. The Aaland Islands had already petitioned the Russians to secede from Finland and join Sweden. The cry for independence in Finland set in motion Swedish aspirations to be among their own, to secede from Finland and join Sweden as they had been little more than a century earlier. By means of a petition and supported by more than 96% of the population, they then petitioned the new government of Finland and proposed seceding from Finland, joining Sweden, to come under Swedish government control. The Swedish government, however, was not uniformly excited by the prospect or concerned about the Aaland Islanders or their interests for reasons having to do with internal politics more than anything else. The ideological struggles taking place in Russia and Finland were causing disarray in execution of policy in Sweden as well. As such their support for the petition was weak, and as a result it was less of a dispute between Sweden and Finland than a dispute between the Aaland Islands and Finland. Britain had submitted the Aaland Islands issue to the League of Nations rather than either Sweden or Finland. Britain believed that international peace was at stake in a matter that was seen by Finland as an internal dispute. (Sounds familiar: “Let me state unequivocally that Jammu and Kashmir is an integral part of India and will always remain so.” Sushma Swaraj, Minister of External Affairs of India. September 26, 2016). The Aaland Islands had been the subject of numerous international disputes over the issue of keeping it demilitarized due to its strategic location in the mouth of the Gulf of Bothnia, the large body of water separating Sweden and Finland. When the League agreed to consider the dispute, Finland immediately declared that the matter was outside the scope of the authority of the League of Nations since it was a matter to be resolved internally by the country itself. Procedurally, the League would then have submitted the matter to the Permanent Court of International Justice for review to determine the legality of Finland's claim over the Aaland Islands, but since the Court was just then in the process of formation, a panel of three jurists, the Aaland Commission of Jurists, having international repute was selected to adjudicate. The Commission consisted of Ferdinand Larnaude, Dean of the Law Faculty of Paris and president of the Commission, Max Huber, a University of Zurich professor of international law, and A. Struycken, a Dutch politician and councilor of the Netherlands’ government. The panel determined that, given the nature of Finland's recent independence from Russia and questions remaining regarding its legal statehood, and the separate struggle of the Aaland Islands in respect to both Russia and Finland, Finland's sovereignty over the Islands was not set in stone and therefore subject to consideration by the League. "The Aaland question is one that extends beyond the sphere of domestic policy," they said. Following the report of the Commission of Jurists on the question of jurisdiction, the Council appointed a second commission, known as the Commission of Rapporteurs, to advise the Council further on the merits of the dispute. Their decision is quite significant in understanding the issue of how and when, in the international community, self-determination is regarded as a legitimate demand. One would think that the autonomy the Aaland Islands had enjoyed under the Grand Duchy of Finland would have been substantial reason alone to have granted them their wish to join Sweden. They needed autonomy under Finland because they wanted to be ruled by Swedes and Swedish laws in a culture of a Swedish making. The overwhelming opinion by a 95 percent majority expressing such a will was another factor that should have been given more weight. The notion that Finland had been a state for a century, to be treated as any other sovereign state, was a useful distortion of fact and legal trickery, clearly challenged by the Commission of Jurists, particularly since sovereign control of both Finland and the Aaland Islands had not been held by Finland but by Russia. The Commission of Rapporteurs obviously ignored the facts and chose to parade the views of tyrants whose positions in power were used to advance a narrow agenda not of the people but of state largesse. State, to them, was land, not people. The people were victims of whatever ambitions and greed provoked the state. Upon receiving the news of the report, Karl Hjalmar Branting, the prime minister of Sweden from 1920 through 1925, read the following declaration: "On behalf of the Swedish Government I have the honour to make the following statement: –" "It is with a feeling of profound disappointment that the Swedish nation will learn of the Resolution of the Council of the League of Nations". "In supporting the cause of the people of the Aaland Islands before Europe and the League of nations, Sweden was not influenced by the desire to increase her territory. She only wished to support noble and just aspirations and to defend the right of an absolutely homogenous island population to reunite itself to its mother-country, from which it had been detached by force, but to which it is still united by the ties of a common origin, a common history, and a common national spirit. This population has declared to the whole world its unanimous wish not to be bound to a country to which it had been joined by force of arms alone. ”The Swedish Government had hoped that an institution, which was established to assist in the realisation of right in international relationships, would have favoured a solution of the Aaland question in conformity with the principle of self-determination, which, although not recognised as a part of international law, has received so wide an application in the formation of the New Europe. It had hoped that the Aalanders would not be refused the rights, which have been recognised in respect of their Slesvig brothers, who belong, as do the Aalanders, to the Scandinavian race. It had hoped that, in the very special case under consideration, in which right appears so evident, and in which the wishes of the population have been expressed with such unusual unanimity, the League of Nations would have filled, at least on this occasion the role of the champion and defender of right, and thus, by its first decision, would have proclaimed the dawn of a new international order. ”To-day, when the decision of the Council has frustrated that hope, the Swedish Government is obliged to express the fear that the Council has grievously shaken the confidence that the peoples, particularly those who, like Sweden, have long been striving to accomplish international law, have had in the League of nations – an institution great task entrusted to it by the Covenant, it is absolute necessary that it should possess that confidence. ”The Swedish Government is not of opinion that the settlement of the Aaland question which is suggested by the Council is likely to confer upon the Baltic area the peace that is desired. Nor yet is it of opinion that a population as homogenous as that of the Aaland Islands, of whose wishes so little account has been taken, can add to the strength of a country to which it is attached against its unanimous desire. ”Sweden is ready loyally to recognise that the decision of the Council has the force given to it by the Covenant. But Sweden will not abandon the hope that the day will come when the idea of justice shall have so permeated the conscience of the peoples, that the claims inspired by such noble motives and a national feeling as deep as that of the population of the Aaland Isles will be triumphally vindicated. Thus it will make its voice heard, and will at last have justice done to it.” The view that power originates, proceeds from, and is vested in government over and above the wishes of the people, whether minority or majority, is deeply flawed. There would be no government without individuals who form compacts with others around them for common defense, for a means of establishing mechanisms and networks for producing and exchanging goods to better livelihood, and for maintaining peace and order. We are not bound to such social contracts by the will of the government we have created. The government serves at the pleasure of those who have created it. Only individuals make contracts, not groups. There is no legal entity called "we" or some collective consciousness that usurps my individual will to be taken over by the state or some private society. My Facebook friends have not committed me to any agenda simply by virtue of being in an association with them, nor has society. Government has no mind of its own, no will of its own, no power of its own. It exists for me solely because I acknowledge it in my affairs and consent to its decrees. It has no intrinsic need for self-preservation over the wishes of the people it serves. It is we who preserve it. Does it make sense to build a computer that takes over our lives, or should the computer serve simply as a tool to be used for a narrow set of needs? As James Madison wrote, "the people are the only legitimate fountain of power, and it is from them that the constitutional charter, under which the several branches of government hold their power, is derived. Federalist No. 49 (February 2, 1788). Sweden's handling of the matter and its decision to abide by the League Covenant left a sour taste in the mouths of the islanders, but to their good credit, Finland has cultivated excellent relations with them since. It exemplifies greatly the point that communal differences need not be barriers to good governance, and that different cultures can live in peace side by side when they are treated equally by the political and administrative processes, as Finland has shown to have done. In South Asia, the conflict here too is primarily between Kashmir and its occupying power. There are three parties to the dispute - India and Pakistan and the people of Kashmir. But Kashmiris are the principal party to the dispute. While Pakistan has supported UN resolutions which call for a plebiscite to be held to determine the wishes of the people. India, of course, will have nothing to do with it. India takes the view that the state is something tangible to be defended for its own sake, which includes land as well as people. State boundaries are merely fictitious and imaginary lines drawn on a map. The real state boundaries include only a coalition of the willing. The Aaland Islands and Kashmir share a common challenge drawn along similar lines, where a culture whose language and traditions differ from those of a particular group of people insists upon maintaining possession of their land and their politics and will not observe the wishes of the people or accede to the territory having a greater affinity for its traditions and which might propose to have a claim as well. There are similarities as well as significant differences between the Aaland Islands and Kashmir dispute. Both issues were taken to the world body, Aaland Islands before the League of Nations and Kashmir dispute before the United Nations. When the League of Nations agreed to consider the Aaland Islands dispute, Finland immediately declared that the matter was outside the scope of the authority of the League since it was a matter to be resolved internally by the country itself. But when Kashmir dispute was brought before the United Nations, both India and Pakistan agreed to give the right of self-determination to the people of Kashmir. Second, the situation in Kashmir prevails in what is recognized - under international law and by the United States - as a disputed territory. According to the international agreements between India and Pakistan, negotiated by the United Nations and endorsed by the Security Council, Kashmir’s status is to be determined by the free vote of its people under U.N. supervision. Third, Kashmir situation represents a Government's repression not of a secessionist or separatist movement but of an uprising against foreign occupation, an occupation that was expected to end under determinations made by the United Nations. The Kashmiris are not and cannot be called separatists because they cannot secede from a country to which they have never acceded to in the first place. Lastly, the most ideal government is that which was envisioned by Abraham Lincoln when he spoke of a "government of the people, by the people, for the people", in his address at the Gettysburg battlefield. Anything else is tyranny.

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Election 2018 & Beyond

Winners and losers of Elections 2018 have kept up the national tradition, whereby, winners praise the elections while losers reject it. Participation in the elections was enormous, and nationwide. According to Election Commission of Pakistan, voter turnout was over 55.8 percent while over 47 percent women also caste their ballot. For the 272 general seats in the National Assembly, 3,459 candidates were in the run including 1,623 from Punjab, 824 from Sindh, 725 from Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa and 287 from Balochistan. In case of general seat of provincial assemblies, 4,036 candidates contested for 297 seats in the Punjab, 2,252 for 130 seats in the Sindh; 1,165 for 99 seats in the Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa and 943 candidates for 51 seats in the Balochistan. Over the years, conducting the elections is becoming more and more a security enterprise; over 371,000 soldiers were deployed for security duties during the election, including their presence inside each polling station. Keeping in view diametrically opposite stance on the credibility of elections by the two sides—Winners and Losers— it may be too early to pass an accurate judgement about its level of fairness; more so when Pakistan has a history of controversial elections. And in most of controversy related cases, credible evidence to support the rigging claims surfaced too late to benefit the aggrieved party; conscience of the whistle blowers, more often than not, pricked too late to be of any practical use. The only exception to this pattern was Election 1977. When, after the national assembly voting, the losing side walked away enbloc, from the remaining process, boycotted the provincial elections scheduled on third day of rigged national assembly polls. Political conglomerate, Pakistan National Alliance (PNA) took a two track approach, negotiating for settlement backed by a peaceful, yet paralysing, protest movement. Their effort dragged on for a long time; and in the meanwhile, military walked in. Rigging allegations in most of such controversial elections, have generally, proved to be right. However now, environment does not support 1977 like scenario, PMLN and PPPP are looking forward to coexist with PTI’s federal setup provided latter lets them have their safe heaven, Punjab and Sindh respectively, with a reasonable free hand. If this combination gets a sustainable traction, then agitations will be confined to few small parties which will not be able to mobilise worthwhile public support. However, if PTI chooses to hitch up only one of the two main rivals, most likely the PPPP, then the other would join the smaller parties and carry forward the agitation to a reasonable degree. Hence, in either of three combinations, no countrywide agitation is foreseen, at least in immediate timeframe. Scenario could change dramatically if a credible whistle blower, like a senior insider of ECP props up and puts forward sufficient evidence in support of rigging. Situation in Sindh is quite clear i.e. PPPP would form the provincial government; in Punjab, much will depend whether PTI takes a statesmanlike approach to let PMLN form and run the government in Punjab or take a short sighted approach of installing its own government by wooing smaller groups who are dying to come forward and do poodles. International assessments in the run-up to Election 2018 were hardly kind towards Pakistan’s democratic system and associated processes. Most of the predictions pointed towards a military engineered hung parliament leading to a weak government, which would remain bogged down with its day to day survival, leaving the political arena free for the military’s interventions as an accepted norm. Every Tom Dick and Harry liked to play the theme of pre-poll military intervention in favour of Imran khan. In all likelihood, the theme was over played. And there were different voices as well. For example in an interesting July 23 piece for Aljazeera, “Is Imran Khan the Pakistani military's 'favourite son'?” Michael Kuglelman commented: “Given Khan's personality and policy positions, there's reason to doubt that he is the army's blue-eyed boy. A big storyline in the lead up to Pakistan's July 25 election has been the nature of the relationship between Imran Khan, the cricket star-turned-politician and leader of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party, and the country's powerful military. According to the insinuations of some top leaders with the incumbent Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) party, the military is working behind the scenes to engineer an electoral outcome that results in a government helmed by Khan. It's a theory - one could certainly call it a conspiracy theory - embraced by many commentators inside and outside Pakistan. Indeed, Pakistan's army - which has held direct power for nearly half of Pakistan's 70-year existence, and has enjoyed an outsize role in politics when not in direct control - does have a strong incentive to undercut the PML-N, with which it sparred frequently in recent years, and to help propel the PML-N's main challenger, the PTI, to victory… However, the notion that the military would actually be comfortable with Khan as its man in Islamabad is questionable. Indeed, given considerations of personality and policy positions, there's reason to doubt that Khan is the military's blue-eyed boy. The army prefers a predictable and pliable civilian leader. Khan, however, is known for being mercurial and stubborn. Even some of Khan's positive traits - like his charisma and supreme self-confidence - could be liabilities for the military, because these qualities suggest he would be unwilling to defer to higher authority. Cult of personality types aren't known for being submissive. Ironically, a potentially more palatable prime minister choice for the military hails from the very party that the armed forces may be trying to undercut. Shehbaz Sharif, the brother of Nawaz, would be the PML-N's candidate for premier if it wins the election. While lacking his brother's charisma, he has a solid reputation as a capable and steady politician, and he gets along well with the military. Strikingly, in a recent interview with the Financial Times, Shehbaz Sharif called for the PML-N and the military to improve their ties. If the military truly has a favourite son, Shehbaz Sharif may have a better claim to the title than does Imran Khan. Meanwhile, Khan expresses some views that are at odds with the military's. Khan regularly expresses strong support for Pakistan's armed forces, and he has signalled his willingness to work with the army. "It is the Pakistan Army and not an enemy army," he said in a New York Times interview in May. "I will carry the army with me." In a country where the military's tentacles extend deep into politics, such comments from civilian leaders who aspire to ascend to the top echelons of power should come as no surprise. And yet, dig a bit deeper, and the differences begin to emerge. Khan has taken strikingly positive positions towards Iran; he has lambasted US President Donald Trump for his anti-Iran speeches, and he has even said Pakistan should "become like" Iran… Additionally, Khan's shrill and strident anti-American messaging - he once vowed to shoot down American drones if he were to be in power - likely unnerves the military, which hopes to salvage Pakistan's sputtering relationship with the US… The military is firmly behind these counterterrorism efforts - and welcomes the "American money" that helps finance them. Earlier this year, however, Washington suspended $1.1bn in aid amid worsening US-Pakistan ties. In early 2018, Khan repeated his criticism that Pakistan shouldn't be fighting its own people… However, given his personality, it's hard to imagine him happily ceding ground and giving in to the military; he's more likely to defy than to defer. Accordingly, there's a strong possibility that a Prime Minister Khan would spar with the military, exacerbating tensions in a civil-military relationship that already experienced ample strain during the last few years of the PML-N-led government. Such a dynamic could usher in a fresh period of political volatility in Pakistan. Ultimately, for Pakistan's military, the type of government is more important than the person that leads it. A weak and divided coalition is easier to influence and exploit than is a strong and united administration”. Notwithstanding, the strong perception about Imran Khan’s under the table relations with military are likely to persist. Ironically, he will be faced with an uphill task to recover back the authority on foreign policy and security related domains that military was able to wrench from the PMLN government due to leverage provided by Imran Khan’s long sit-in, during 2014, in Islamabad. People will wait and see how his fresh equation with military evolves. Apart, prospective Prime Minister’s Victory speech was reassuring and refreshing. Hopefully, he won’t get bogged down in cosmetics and would go ahead with substantive reforms. Likewise, the tone of All Parties Conference indicated that the loser elements are more likely to settle down with fate accompli after making face saving noises. With elections 2018, Pakistan has transitioned from a two to three party political system as for as Federal government making is concerned. Pattern of split mandate—federal government not forming its own party governments in all provinces—has sustained itself. Religious Right as well as remnants of the Left politics stand routed. Karachi is liberated from a four decades long pervasive and perpetual ethnic tainted fear. And the “Jeep” mystery stands buried, deep down, under the weight of people’s mandate. Alongside, myth of military supported parties and individuals also stood exposed. A distinctive feature of voting this time was unpredictability. The surveys and impressions were generally subjective, rather than reflective of likely voter behaviour. Three-way party contest has its own complexities and, besides, there were so many spoilers. Most analysts played safe by suggesting a razor sharp contest by placing the three main contenders at around 70 National Assembly seats, and drawing a scary confrontational scenario with competing smaller parties in King Maker role; lucky that it did not happen so. Bloodiest elections of Pakistan’s History ended with usual political undertones. On the Election Day also, 31 people were killed in a suicide bombing in Quetta. It was a stark reminder of the security challenges facing the new government. With Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf poised to form the new governments at the Centre and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, all other major parties across the country have cried foul over attempts to rig the elections and blamed the ECP for failing to conduct transparent polls. As usual, the Election Commission was quick, to reject the allegations; it blamed National Database & Registration Authority (NADRA) for delay in result announcement saying that the NADRA communication device did not function well. NADRA rejected the EC claim—a familiar post election blame shifting environment in Pakistan. Polling was conducted peacefully in most parts of the country, with no major incident of rigging reported during the day. However, while the vote count was still under way, the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz — the main contender to the PTI — rejected the election results and said: “Rigging has been committed in the elections. The puppet mandate [to PTI] is not acceptable. We will only accept the people’s mandate. It is unfortunate that the people came out of their homes to cast the votes in such a harsh weather but their mandate was stolen,” he said. He announced that his party would adopt all available political and legal options, as “we cannot leave that matter like this”. He hinted at a joint strategy by taking on-board other complainant parties. The Pakistan People’s Party (PPP), Muttahida Majlis-i-Amal (MMA), Muttahida Qaumi Movement-Pakistan (MQM-P), Tehreek-i-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP), Pak Sarzameen Party (PSP), Pakhtunkhwa Milli Awami Party (PkMAP) and Balochistan National Party-Mengal (BNP-M) also raised almost similar complaints of foul play. Most parties have claimed that their polling agents were forced out from polling stations without being provided with Form 45 (the statement of vote count) by presiding officers. Speaking on the occasion, PPP Chairman Bilawal Bhutto tweeted: “It’s now past midnight & I haven’t received official results from any constituency I am contesting myself. My candidates [are] complaining polling agents have been thrown out of polling stations across the country. Inexcusable & outrageous.” The silver lining was that, in a historic first, women in some conservative parts of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Punjab came out to cast their votes as candidates sought to fulfil the legal requirement of minimum 10 per cent women’s turnout to validate their result. Women in tribal areas and other conservative areas had traditionally been barred from voting in the past general elections, as the practice of keeping women from voting had been a well-entrenched norm under verbal and written agreements between candidates and family elders in such areas. For the first time in the country’s electoral history, the ECP had annulled the result of Dir Lower (PK-95) by-polls in 2015 after finding that none of the registered women voters had cast votes. This deterrence has worked. In Balochistan, too, women voted in numbers. The real Hero of 2018 Election was the electorate—the commoners in the street. In a bitterly polarised environment and biased predictions, the Voter could not be restrained even by harsh weather. Voter was, by and large, disciplined and composed, indicating that electorate duly value their right to vote. This sort of commitment of the people will add resilience to our democratic process. Perception has it that democracy in Pakistan is continuation of interplay between the filthy rich, moderated by institutions, with people’s wellbeing a low priority item on their agenda. It is indeed a dangerous assertion that has undermined Pakistan’s democracy, within and its image projection outside the country. Reality is that a typical Pakistani commoner has consistently and courageously demonstrated a commitment to the electoral process. There is a strong and visible change in the behaviour of Pakistani people where they have started questioning the time tested political leaders for their non-delivery over their promises. This has led to defeat of previously tested political leaders and erosion of major political parties. Few factors made these elections unpredictable: behavior of the voter falling in age bracket of 18 and 29, pre elections surveys on this count were, by and large, non-professional and judgmental; although there was a strong perception that youth may vote for the PTI, there was equally strong likelihood that, like earlier elections, they could be tamed by their elders; number of contestants was un-precedently high, especially with religious affiliations and those disgruntled party ticket hopefuls whose wish was not granted by their respective parties; most of them contested as independents. They were expected to erode the voters of their ex- parties; there was a perception that those using the “Jeep” symbols were miltablishment supported, and that Jeep group could emerge as a political force to reckon with. Likewise there were different scenarios being postulated with regard to Karachi, all hoping retention of overall Muhajir texture in one form or the other. Electorate shattered all these myths, and threw up clear mandate for parties rather than individuals. The PML-N is known for having an efficient and well tested electoral machine and for mastering the art of election-day activism. It had announced to undertake discrete measures to counter rigging, but it did not work and PML is one of the most articulate claimants of rigging. Three party contest was expected to throw up surprises, and it did. Now the gene is out and it can’t be forced back into the bottle. So everyone has to eventuality adjust to the reality. So called pre-poll rigging failed to achieve the objective of fractured mandate leading to a shaky coalition of the unwilling. Federal government is poised to be fairly stable, at least initially; and so is the situation in KP and Sindh. Split mandate in Punjab may continue to make interesting turns on day to day basis. Balochistan has its own dynamics where stability would rest of a proportionately huge conglomerate style cabinet. The post tooling and retooling has begun to put in place viable governments. Challenges facing the federal government are phenomenal. Inter-institutional wrangling, inefficient bureaucracy, politicised police, corrupt revenue system lethargic lower judiciary, well entrenched corruption in Public Procurement System, unsustainable Defence spending, Current Account Deficit of US$ 18 billion, dysfunctional power transmission and distribution system, circular debt approaching Rs 700 billion, external and internal borrowing crossing 40 percent of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP), bleeding State Enterprises , resurgent terrorism and looming water shortage are some of the domestic challenged. External challenges are equally wholesome: President Trump and Prime Minster Narendra Modi are unlikely to ease their squeeze; IMF conditions for bail-out are likely to be tougher than ever; exiting out of vicious cycle of Financial Action Task Force (FATF) listing is another daunting task; externally sponsored cross borders terrorism is unlikely to end any time soon, return of Afghan refugees is not in sight, so on and so forth. With an anti-status quo mind-set and promises of tall reforms agenda, the platter of the new federal government is any way over loaded. Like all contemporary modern democracies, Pakistani version of democracy has its peculiarities whose roots are firmly grounded in historic, socio-economic, cultural and sectarian dynamics. Its best feature is that people are spring-loaded towards democratic process. They have made a couple of very powerful rulers quit through peaceful urgings. They abhor inefficient and corruption tainted governments and are also not kind towards electoral rigging and governance failures. They are short on patience with regard to nonperforming governments for which a typical tolerance time is of 2-3 years. Generally, people want unacceptable regimes to change through electoral process; but when in terrible mood, there are some isolated voices for military takeover as well. Governments are made by rural vote, which is captive to ethno-sectarian and local power dynamics; and governments are toppled through urban agitations which have dubious promotors, financiers and string pullers. Typical span of a military takeover has been around a decade. Despite some of the very good development works and efficient governance, all ex-military rulers are publically condemned to derogatory term “dictator”. Military rulers may have ensured a semblance of efficient governance, better revenue collection and financial discipline; they all lacked political acumen and made mistakes, some of which were indeed political blunders. Towards their fag end, they were all found hobnobbing with same “dirty politicians” for prolongation of their rule. As a general practice, judiciary’s role has been opportunistic (with rare exceptions), it routinely sanctifies all successful regime changes, under one pretext or the other; and condemns them only when “usurper” has either departed or his power has declined beyond redemption. Media is still struggling to achieve a balance between “truth” and “accepting compensation” for not telling the truth. And Social Media is a typical representation of a dangerous trend of misplaced power without responsibility and accountability; while truth is still busy putting on its boots, falsehood reaches half of the World. Relationship between formal and informal State institutions is more often bumpy, and harmony is a rarity. These entities are often seen making alliances amongst themselves to paralyse functioning of remaining institutions. None of the duly elected Prime Ministers and most of the Parliaments could not complete their terms. And, most of the times, transition has been problematic. Need was felt to amend the 1973 Constitution 31 times; of these, the processes reached logical end 25 times. Majority of these amendments hovered around rewriting inter-institutional (im) balance; most of such efforts were subsequently undone and, at times, redone. Lax criteria and poor scrutiny allows shady persons to become a lawmaker. Making it to parliament by such people is seen as strengthening their positions in the local fiefdoms and covering own criminal trails; when in parliament, they do not support governance and transparency friendly law making. Tendency of amassing political power within family has touched dangerous proportions, politics of “electables” have made the political parties captive to, say, a dozen of families, whose members are found at leading tiers of all mainstream political parties; no matter which party come to power, the strategic interests of these families are perpetually protected at the cost of well-being of a common man. Smaller political parties play the role of King Makers when there is no clear winner; and their political broker like leaders extract much more power than their legitimate share. Most people blame certain apolitical institutions for making the polls controversial, but one cannot altogether absolve the politicians of the mess in which we have ended up. A significant section of our political leadership has a track record of entering into marriage of convenience with the entities notorious for interfering in the elections; and especially so when they find that they have no chance of winning the electoral race through fair and transparent process. National political leadership has repeatedly failed to lead the nation and bridge differences to ensure stabilization of political processes and strengthen democratic institutions. This is a well-known fact that all candidates use all means at their disposal to win the elections, be they fair or unfair; and at the end of the election the winner individual or party is crowned for rigging. Crying hoax is a common feature in such elections the World over, some real some fictions. Accusations of Russian inference in the US elections and Pakistan’s interference in recent elections of Indian state of Gujarat are some contemporary bizarre examples. New government may not be able to resolve most of these daunting problems, but it cannot afford to leave any one of mentioned issues unattended. While appearing in a struggle to overcome all the challenges, government must prioritise a few vital areas to mitigate the hardship of under privileged segments of masses. While there are credible domestic and international concerns that polls were rigged in favour of PTI, overall, Election 2018 has enhanced the national stature at home and abroad and improved Pakistan’s image amongst the comity of nations. Need of the hour is that the victorious parties and individuals must approach politics with a more democratic and conciliatory spirit. And for losers: for the sake national stability, politics must not be allowed to return to an era of open warfare akin to 1990s. Hopefully, all political parties and political individuals will soon put behind post electoral bickering and reconcile to the realities that be. We wish good luck to the new governments and expect them to do well.

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Human Rights in Indian Occupied Kashmir: A Lost Cause?

It speaks volumes on the part of Pakistan’s successful foreign policy and vibrant diplomacy that UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) has published a report on the Human Rights violations by India in IoK. Report has been endorsed by the UN Secretary General. Indian government made strenuous efforts to prevent it from going public. Indian allegations regarding the report have also been firmly rejected by the OHCHR in a detailed response. This is a milestone, which has been achieved as a result of relentless efforts of our diplomats around the world. Pakistan has welcomed report’s recommendations for establishing Commission of Inquiry in both Azad Jammu and Kashmir and Indian occupied Kashmir, to ascertain the facts on ground. Since the report was published, international community has been deeply disappointed by the reaction of the Indian authorities, who dismissed the report without examining it. India has out rightly dismissed the report terming it “fallacious, tendentious, and motivated,” commenting that the findings are “overtly prejudiced” and seek to “build a false narrative.” Addressing grievances is what responsible governments are supposed to do. They don’t deny and shoot the messenger. India is rehearsing to be a super power and in this regard, as a matter of policy, it comically imitates all irrational acts of the United States; UN bashing is just one such example. While rejecting Indian allegations about the report, the OHCHR commented. “Since the report was published, we have been deeply disappointed by the reaction of the Indian authorities, who dismissed the report as fallacious, tendentious and motivated without examining it and responding to the very serious concerns about the human rights situation.” Report has extensively quoted Indian sources including their Parliament, Supreme Court and Ministry of External Affairs. After the report was published, the Indian government and media shamelessly termed the report as “Pakistan authored” and a “nefarious conspiracy” against India. Meenakshi Ganguly, South Asia Director of Human Rights Watch has stated that “India can – and should – do better in confronting its own human rights failures. These human rights concerns have been well documented”. The Kashmir report has brought to light “impunity for human rights violations and lack of access to justice” with regard to human rights challenges in the IoK. “Special laws in force in the state, such as the Armed Forces Special Powers Act, 1990 (AFSPA) and the Jammu and Kashmir Public Safety Act, 1978 (PSA) have created structures that obstruct normal course of law, impede accountability and jeopardize the right to remedy for victims of human rights violations.” According to the report, over 1,000 people were detained under PSA between March 2016 and August 2017 including minors. “During the 2016 unrest, there were numerous reports of attacks on and obstruction of basic medical services that had a severe impact on the injured and general civilian population in IoK. Days-long curfews and communication blockades had a cumulative impact on students and their right to education”. And, “In 2016, the authorities imposed restrictions on freedom of expression by targeting the media and journalists”, Report added. The report also found that Indian military courts and tribunals were a hindrance to justice and highlighted administrative detention used by the Indian authorities in IoK to “circumvent the protections of ordinary criminal procedure. Introduced in 1978 to primarily deal with timber smugglers, the Jammu and Kashmir Public Safety Act, 1978 (PSA) is the most commonly used law for the purpose of administrative detention”. The Indian government has also been criticised for the use of pellet guns. “One of the most dangerous weapons used against protesters during the unrest in 2016 was the pellet firing shotgun, which is a 12-gauge pump action shotgun that fires metal pellets. It was deployed by the Central Reserve Police Force and the Jammu and Kashmir Police against protesters, some of whom were throwing stones.” The shotgun cartridges contain 500 to 600 pellets that resemble ball bearings. The ammunition is made of a lead alloy that is fired at a high velocity thereby dispersing the metal pellets over a large area. There is no way of adequately controlling the trajectory of these shotguns beyond a limited range, which makes them inaccurate and indiscriminate. Despite the public outrage over the deaths and mass blinding caused by the use of pellet firing shotguns, the state government has only set up one special investigation into a death caused by pellet gun injuries. Authorities have failed to independently investigate and prosecute allegations of sexual violence by security forces personnel. There is no record of allegations of sexual violence by security forces being prosecuted in a civilian court. The killing of civilians between 2016 and 2018 raises the question of whether security forces resorted to excessive use of force to respond to peaceful protesters. “International human rights groups have accused Indian security forces of using excessive force and failing to adhere to applicable national and international standards on the use of force,” Report went on to point out. The right to liberty and security includes the right not to be subjected to arbitrary arrest or detention; the right to know the reasons for one’s detention and charges, if any; the right to be brought before a judge within a reasonable time following arrest or detention; and the right to appeal to a court of law to review the arrest or detention.” As a State party to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, India is obligated to ensure the principles of legality and the right to liberty and security. Prime Minter Narendra Modi! Listening the voice of international community? Probably Not.

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It seems safer in many places to be a cow than a Muslim

Post from India: by Shashi Tharoor, 22 July, 2018 [Courtesy: The Print] Home minister Rajnath Singh’s robust denial (during the no-confidence debate in the Lok Sabha) that mob lynching has got any worse under BJP rule comes hard on the heels of union minister for minority affairs, Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi, declaring earlier this month that there have been “no big communal riots” in India over the past four years. Both are wrong, of course, but it is instructive to analyze how wrong they are. Since the ascent of the BJP to power, the forces unleashed by the dominance of Hindutva have resulted in many incidents of violence. In one grim reckoning, more than 389 individuals have been killed in anti-minority acts of violence since mid-2014, and hundreds of others injured, stripped, beaten and humiliated. Particularly haunting is the story of 15-year-old Junaid Khan, returning home on a crowded train after buying new clothes for Eid, who was stabbed repeatedly because he was Muslim and thrown off the train to bleed to death on the tracks. Headlines have spoken continually of riots and killing, Hindu against Muslim, of men being slaughtered because of the mark on a forehead or the absence of a foreskin. Following the BJP’s victory in the 2014 elections, a wave of Hindu triumphalism has swept the land. In its wake have come new laws to protect cows and vociferous demands for their strict enforcement. Gau-rakshak or cow protection societies have been revived, and many have taken it upon themselves to compel compliance. In the process, not only have they taken the law into their own hands, but they have perpetrated grave crimes, including murder, in the name of protecting the cow. Seventy cases of cow-related violence have been reported in the last eight years, of which 97 per cent (68 out of 70) have occurred during the four years of BJP rule and a majority of these have occurred in BJP-ruled states. A hundred and thirty six people have been injured in these attacks and 28 killed: 86 per cent of the victims were, of course, Muslim. Many of the incidents are well known: the case of a dairy farmer, Pehlu Khan, transporting cattle legally with a license, being beaten to death on 1 April 2017 while his tormentors filmed his pleas for mercy on their mobile phones is particularly egregious. A cattle-herder in Haryana, Mustain Abbas, was murdered and mutilated a year earlier for doing his job, herding cattle. Truckers, cattle traders and alleged cow smugglers have also been killed by ‘gau rakshak’ groups. A 16-year-old Kashmiri Muslim boy was murdered for having hitched a ride on a truck that was transporting cattle. It seems safer in many places these days to be a cow than a Muslim. In 2015, when a Muslim, Mohammad Akhlaq, father of a serving Indian Air Force havildar, was lynched by a mob in Uttar Pradesh on suspicions of having killed a cow, the authorities launched a forensic investigation into whether the meat in his refrigerator was beef (it was not). The fact that the man had been killed and his son nearly beaten to death was equated with an unfounded allegation of beef consumption, as if the latter ‘crime’ could extenuate the former. Worse, when a man who was part of the lynch mob died of natural causes a few weeks later, his coffin was draped with the Indian flag and a serving union minister who attended his funeral hailed him – an unspeakable act, and coming from a high office-holder of the secular Indian state, an unacceptable one. Muslims have not been the only targets of the cow vigilantes, of course. There are also Dalits. But the communal colour that marked each of these incidents speaks to the inaccuracy of the ministers’ statements. Perhaps they would take refuge behind the assertion that these were isolated incidents rather than mass communal violence. Yet they speak of a pervasive pattern that has deeply affected society across the country. And when another minister is accused of condoning such incidents by garlanding members of a lynch-mob, society shivers. (He says these individuals were framed and are out on bail, but regrets having garlanded them: the damage, though, is done.) There is a tragic vocabulary to the analysis of communal violence in our country. A “major” communal incident is one that results in more than five deaths or leaves over 10 people injured. An incident that results in one death or 10 injured is termed as “important or significant”. Naqvi spoke of “big” communal riots, but “big” is not a term of art in our national lexicology, and it cannot be defined. “Major”, however, is surely “big”, and three “major communal incidents” have been reported during the BJP rule – Saharanpur, Uttar Pradesh in 2014, Hazinagar, West Bengal in 2016 and Baduria-Basirhat, also in West Bengal in 2017. When we move from “major”, however, to merely “important”, the number of “communal incidents” in the last four years rises to 2,920, in which 389 people were killed and 8,890 injured. My source is Rajnathji’s own government: these figures come from a reply by the home ministry to questions in the Lok Sabha. According to the government, Uttar Pradesh (UP), somewhat predictably, reported the most incidents over the last four years, a staggering 645. UP also reported the most deaths in these communal incidents (121) between 2014 and 2017, followed by Rajasthan (36) and Karnataka (35). The venues for communal rioting on the BJP’s watch have ranged from Ballabgarh, Haryana, in 2015 to Bhima-Koregaon, Maharashtra, this year. The home ministry’s National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) collects and maintains nationwide crime records, which naturally includes riots. NCRB data confirm that over 2,885 communal riots were reported between 2014 and 2016. Many others may not have been recorded as communal; as many as 61,974 riots were reported in 2016 under Sections 147 to 151 and 153A of the IPC (the latter records cases relating to “promoting enmity on ground of religion, race and place of birth”). In 2016, 869 communal riots were reported, the largest number in Haryana (250). The figures for 2017 haven’t been released yet. More than halfway into 2018, I dread what they are likely to reveal. We have a government that seems to believe it can issue statements with utter disregard for the truth and people will believe them. This is the only explanation for the two ministers’ breathtaking assertions. It matches the Prime Minister’s claims on the economy and the government’s blandly disingenuous PR pronouncements on everything from electrification to women’s empowerment. But facts and figures matter. And the numbers simply do not add up to the picture the government seeks to portray.

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India Should Not Reject UN Report on Kashmir

[Special Pick, Courtesy Human Rights Watch: by Meeankshi Ganguly, HRW South Asia Director] India’s government dismissed the first-ever United Nations report on human rights in Kashmir as “fallacious, tendentious, and motivated,” saying the findings are “overtly prejudiced” and seek to “build a false narrative.” India can – and should – do better in confronting its own human rights failures. While the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) acknowledged the “political dimensions” of the dispute between India and Pakistan over Kashmir, its report sought to highlight the decades of suffering by millions of Kashmiris. These human rights concerns have been well documented. Cross-border shelling by Indian and Pakistani troops have killed and injured hundreds. Tens of thousands of indigenous Kashmiri Hindus remain displaced after being forced to flee the valley. Thousands have been forcibly disappeared, their wives described as “half widows.” More than 50,000 people have died since the insurgency broke out in 1989. Kashmiris have been tortured or summarily executed by state security forces and threatened or killed by militants. There are serious allegations of sexual violence by all forces. Now, hardly a day goes by without violent protests, even as scores of young Kashmiris are signing up for militancy. India’s kneejerk, bombastic statement is hardly the response of a government intent on a seat at the UN Security Council and other global decision-making bodies. Indian authorities, in official statements, have acknowledged the increasing violence in Jammu and Kashmir. In fact, the government called a ceasefire during Ramadan in the hope of calming the fury stemming from ongoing abuses and failure of accountability, and is now considering an extension. India should welcome the UN report, and commit to act on its findings, including providing access to the UN human rights office. As a first step it should seek a repeal of the draconian Armed Forces Special Powers Act, as has been recommended by several international and Indian experts. It should order an investigation into alleged violations by the security forces and prosecute those found responsible, instead of rewarding abusive soldiers. Addressing grievances is what responsible governments are supposed to do. They don’t deny and blame the messenger. And they certainly don’t accuse the UN high commissioner for human rights of prejudice.

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People of Kashmir: A tough nut to crack

Month of July has special significance with regard to struggle of Kashmiri people. Two events “Martyrs day” and “Kashmir’s Accession to Pakistan day” are commemorated of 13 and 19 July respectively. Martyrs' Day is observed in Kashmir and the World over in remembrance of 22 Kashmiris killed on 13 July 1931 due to reckless firing by the state forces of Dogra ruler. On that day Kashmiris were peacefully agitating outside the Central Jail Srinagar, where an innocent Muslim Abdul Qadeer was being tried on the charge of terrorism and inciting public against the Maharaja of Kashmir. They were buried in the compound of Kanqah-i-Maula. The place is since known as Mazar-i-Shuhada (Tomb of Martyrs). So, Indian strategy of mixing up terrorism with legitimate struggle of Kashmiri people predates India’s independence from the British Raj. A historic resolution was passed unanimously by the people of the Muslim-dominated state in a meeting of the All Jammu Kashmir Muslim Conference held at the residence of Sardar Muhammad Ibrahim Khan, the founder President of AJK on July 19, 1947 at Aabi Guzer in Srinagar demanding the then Dogra rulers to materialise the accession of the Jammu Kashmir state to Pakistan honouring the decision and the categorical viewpoint of the majority population of the Muslim-majority Jammu & Kashmir state. This day is marked as “Kashmir’s Accession to Pakistan day". Awareness about plight of Kashmiris is picking up momentum. And powerful voices are now worried about HR violations in Kashmir. The latest in joining the ranks of those expressing serious concern over quandary of religious minorities, in India, is the US State Department, which showed its disappointment over refusal of the Indian Government in allowing a delegation of the US Commission on International Freedom to visit the country to have first-hand knowledge of trampling of human and fundamental rights in India. This is for the third time that the delegation has been denied visas and the motives are quite understandable. And only recently, the UN Human Rights Council has documented details of what is happening with Kashmiris, urging the UN General Assembly and Security Council to take up the issue seriously. Though India claims to be the biggest democracy and champion of secularism, its denial of access to the outside world clearly means it has something to hide. National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) of South Africa has confirmed that it will be investigating Indian Prime Minster Narendra Modi for his involvement in war crimes and HR violations in Kashmir. Fast Forward 2018: Kashmir continues to be occupied by India against the will of Kashmiri people. Indian Occupied Kashmir is burning. Hundreds of Kashmiri men, women and children have been killed over the past two months; more than 150 civilians have been blinded by the use of lethal pellet guns; and more than 10,000 men, women and children have been seriously injured because of the indiscriminate firing by occupying Indian forces. While Indian claims that pellet guns are non-lethal, the Doctors Association in Kashmir has clearly said that the embedded pellets in the bodies of the victims were causing fatal lead poisoning and put pregnant women at serious risk. Further, the toxic lead deposits in children’ bodies would stunt their growth. Kashmiris in IoK are under siege in their own land. The use of sexual molestation and rape, as an instrument of state terror, is a norm. Peaceful demonstrations are a crime, political meetings are banned and true representatives of Kashmiri people had been incarcerated. There are prolonged curfews and mobile telephone and internet blackouts in IoK. Indian occupation forces in the occupied territory are hunting down innocent citizens involving draconian black laws. Today, hundreds of thousands of Kashmiris are campaigning against the Indian repression to attain freedom and realization of their right to self-determination. Now two years after the martyrdom of Burhan Wani, his legacy for struggle for self-determination lives on. Martyrdom of Burhan Wani has infused new vigour in the indigenous freedom struggle of innocent Kashmiris who have been fighting for their right of self-determination for almost seven decades. Burhan Wani’s martyrdom has handed down the baton of freedom struggle to the youth of Kashmir, a fact recognized by a recently released report by the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR). In a recent Conference, President Azad Jammu and Kashmir, has appealed to the Canadian lawmakers to develop a bipartisan approach for the promotion and protection of human rights of Kashmiris in IoK. He made this appeal to the Canadian Senate and the House of Commons while addressing a Kashmir Conference at Hamilton, Canada, organized here by the Pakistan Business Association of Hamilton. He especially urged the Human Rights Committees of the Canadian Senate and the House of Commons to take note of the report on the human rights situation in IoK recently released by OHCHR, discuss it and support its recommendations. He highlighted two of the reports’ recommendations, namely, the establishment of a Commission of Inquiry by the Human Rights Council to ascertain facts on the ground and repeal of two draconian laws – Armed Forces Special Powers Act and the Public Safety Act. The Conference was also addressed by Scott Duvall, Member of Canadian Parliament, Ken Stone of the Hamilton Coalition to Stop the War, Mr. Chris Macleod of Cross Border Litigation Group, and Dr. Zafar Bangash, Chairman of the Friends of Kashmir Committee. Scott Duvall, MP, said that he would take back suggestion for focus on Human Rights Council’s Kashmir report in the Human Rights Committee of the House of Commons. Chris Macleod endorsed the idea that more attention must be given to the human right’s situation in IoK and in this regard the Human Rights Committees of the Canadian Senate and the House of Commons should play a role. Ken Stone said that the Kashmir Conference has been convened to hear the cries of the Kashmiris struggling against denial of self-determination in IoK. He said that in early 2017 he had visited Azad Kashmir and had found it to be truly free. In Azad Kashmir, unlike IoK, there was no presence of the Army in cities and towns, no gun-toting soldiers, no barricades and no sign of the people of AJK being repressed. Despite India’s state terrorism and savage oppression, the people of Kashmir and Pakistan believe in peaceful means and would continue to urge India to resort to dialogue and diplomacy. It is the responsibility of the UN and international community to avert a major war over Kashmir, which is a grave and potent risk. India should renounce the path of terrorism and violence and come back to diplomacy to resolve this issue within the political parameters defined by the UN Security Council Resolutions. Back in 1949, Canada’s General AGL McNaughton, in his capacity as President of the Security Council, had played an active role in the resolution of the dispute and on 22 December 1949 had proposed an impartial plebiscite in the territory to determine the future of Jammu and Kashmir and settle the dispute in accordance with the freely expressed will of its inhabitants. Stone said “occupation is a crime from Kashmir to Palestine”. And that solution given by the UN Security Council mandating a plebiscite to allow Kashmiris to determine their political future was the most viable, prudent and practicable dispensation. India is continuing occupation of IoK and brutalization of the Kashmir people in its attempts to illegally integrate the Occupied Kashmir to the Indian State. The Kashmir Conference also passed a resolution which unanimously calls on the UN to assume its responsibility to organize the Kashmir plebiscite under its supervision; and urges the UN to investigate all massacres, gang rapes, fake encounters, forced disappearances and wilful blinding of the Kashmiris. The resolution also called upon India to cease forthwith all human rights violations in IOK; and called on its government to allow UN/ independent investigations into the human rights situation in IoK; and to withdraw all its troops including armed constabulary from Jammu and Kashmir, particularly from cities, towns and villages. The world must break the cycle of appeasement of India. While the world, especially the western countries know fully well that Indian occupation forces are on a murderous rampage in the IoK and are committing crimes against humanity there, even then, the majority of the western nations have chosen to be silent on the issue or look the other way. This encourages and rewards Indian impunity in IoK and is tantamount to complicity in the Indian crimes. Moreover, plebiscite is not a dated instrument; Canada has recently held a plebiscite in Quebec.

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How do we Promote Peace in India, Today?

Post from India: by Ram Puniyani We are passing through times when Hate against weaker sections of society and religious minorities is increasing by leaps and bounds. The increase in the mob lynching all over the country on the pretext of child lifting is coming on the back of mob lynching on the pretext cow-beef, public flogging-humiliation of dalits on the issue of beef and other issues related their caste humiliation. Mobs seem to be emboldened by the fact that there has been an approval of these acts from the top. Ministers like Mahesh Sharma came to the funeral of Dadri accused, now Mr. Jayant Sinha welcomed the accused of Alimuddin lynching accused when they got bail. The matters are frighteningly increasing as now the horrid incidents of rape are being given a communal twist, fake news is being employed with impunity on one side and rape accused are getting social support on the other. It’s a matter of shame that in case of Kathua the then Ministers from BJP Chaudhary Lal Singh and Chander Prakash Ganga, attended the event organized by Hindu Ekta Manch, which was protesting against the arrests in the case. Now in case of Mandsaur rape, the incident is being given false twist to demonize a community. The accused belonged to Muslim community. Muslim groups took out a procession demanding severe punishment to the accused. Jyotiradiya Scindiya of Congress joined a candle light procession to demand death penalty to the accused. Social media was used to spread the hateful message as if he was demanding the release of the accused. The pictures of procession were photo shopped to present Muslims in bad light. A message was circulated, which said that members of the Muslim community rallied in Mandsaur demanding that the perpetrator of the crime be released because the Quran sanctions rape of non-Muslim women. The text of the placards in the Mandsaur procession was “We won’t tolerate attacks on daughters, stop this brutality”. A tweet was circulated “NCRB report: India is most dangerous for women reason: In India, 95% of the rape cases have a Muslim perpetrator. Of the total 84734 rape cases, 81000 rapes had a Muslim rapist and 96% of the victims are non-Muslims and with an increase in theirpopulation, number of rapes will also increase.” Nothing can be farther from truth. NCRB (National Crime Records Bureau) does not record the religion in cases of rape. This tweet and the one about Jyotiraditya Scindia was exposed by AltNews, the portal going to the roots of such fake news and is doing a great service to society by giving the truth and exposing the news which is deliberately trying to demonize the religious minority. One recalls that in case of Muzzafarnagar; the violence was incited by circulating a photo of two young men being beaten by a Muslim looking crowd. It was presented that Hindu youth are being beaten. As such that picture was from Pakistan, the crowd beating two thieves. Recently in Kairana the Mahagathbandhan candidate Tabassum Hasan won the election against the BJP candidate. After winning she stated “This is the victory of truth and ‘Mahagatbandhan’ (coalition) and defeat of the BJP in the state and Centre. Everyone has come out and supported us. I thank them.” On social media and on TV debates what was presented was that she said “This is the victory of Allah and defeat of Ram”. This quote was posted on a number of pro-BJP pages on Facebook among which Yogi Adityanath-True Indian posted it on 1 June, and was shared massively. One recalls that in recent times BJP has deliberately muddied the waters of social media by employing thousands of trolls, as Swati Chaturvedi’s “I am a Troll”, tells us. As such the hate propaganda began with demonization of Muslim kings for breaking Hindu temples in medieval period, for spreading Islam, for having large families, indulging in polygamy, being terrorists etc. Now it has taken a dangerous turn with people trained in communal ideology and in the use of social media twisting the facts blatantly. There are reports that in the forthcoming elections BJP is planning to train lakhs of volunteers in the use of social media for electoral gains. The rising hatred is becoming like a monster, propelling itself beyond control. Can we just accuse the social media for intensifying this hate? Some control and restraint is needed, some fact check is necessary for this highly impactful media. What is also needed is that mechanisms like AltNews are made more popular to counter these falsehoods. It is heartening to note that Twitter has decided to suspend seven Crore fake accounts. We also need to ensure that the misconceptions and Hate which is ruling our society, streets need to be countered by message of love. What we need is that truth is propagated and message of peace is made more effective. We have activists like Faisal Khan, who through his Khudai Khidmatagar takes out peace marches. Harsh Mander’s Paigam-E-Mohabbat (Message of peace) has been doing yeomen service by meeting the families of victims of lynching and creating an atmosphere of amity. Mahant from Ayodhya Yugal Kishore Sharan Shastri, through his less advertised peace marches is trying to reach sections of society with a message of tolerance and peace. Such efforts need to be upheld and broadened. These are just few examples of the initiatives in this direction, there are many more which need to be projected to promote and preserve amity in India. Countering Hate and promoting amity became the central message of father of the Nation, Mahatma Gandhi, who struggled to promote peace, in the highest traditions of his Hinduism. As the fake news is assuming frightening proportions and is doing serious harm to the concept of fraternity inherent in Indian nationalism, we need to retune ourselves to the core value of amity, which was the foundation of freedom movement and is very much the part of our Constitution.

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Is the new push for Afghan peace genuine?

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said during an unannounced visit to Kabul on July 09 that there was “now hope” for peace talks between the Afghan government and the Taliban. “An element of the progress is the capacity that we now have to believe that there is now hope,” Pompeo told a press conference. “Many of the Taliban now see that they can’t win on the ground militarily. That’s very deeply connected to President Trump’s strategy… Make no mistake, there’s still a great deal of work to do”, he added. However, recent BBC study reveals that Taliban are openly active in 70 per cent of Afghanistan; Afghan government controls 122 districts, or about 30 per cent of the country. Yet, it does not mean that government controlled territories are free from Taliban attacks. “Kabul and other major cities, for example, suffered major attacks – launched from adjacent areas, or by sleeper cells,” the report said. When asked about the BBC’s study, the Pentagon did not comment directly, but pointed to the latest figures by the NATO-led coalition, asserting that about 56 per cent of Afghanistan’s territory was under Afghan government control or influence. The study quoted a spokesperson for Afghan President Ashraf Ghani playing down the findings. The BBC study also said Islamic State had a presence in 30 districts, but noted it did not fully control any of them. Earlier Taliban had refused the government’s request to extend their three-day Eid ceasefire, launching fresh attacks that have seen scores killed or injured. Resurgence of insider attacks after almost a year’s gap also belies Pompeo’s claims. President Ashraf Ghani thanked Pompeo for US support, hailing Trump’s strategy as a “game changer” in the conflict. Pompeo said while the United States would have an “important” role in peace talks, the process must be Afghan-led. Taliban’s key demands for engaging in talks has been the complete withdrawal of foreign troops from Afghanistan, but observers say they now appear amenable to a timetable for their pull-out. However, Taliban have rejected the latest peace talks offer. Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said Taliban “are not interested in talks while foreign troops are still on Afghan soil.” Mujahid also repeated long-standing Taliban claims that Afghan government officials are “puppets. Renewed violence and the Taliban’s recent vow to continue their fight has dampened hopes that the truce would provide a clear path to peace talks. Ambassador Alice G Wells, US Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary, visits Islamabad [and Kabul] so frequently that Pakistan’s foreign office might be thinking of offering her complimentary accommodation for setting up Islamabad camp office! Beyond routines Wells has a special assignment: to hold Taliban by their throat and present them to President Ashraf Ghani, as soon as possible. Ghani already has an America dictated power sharing draft agreement in his pocket. And American support for granting him blanket clearance for rigging his second term election is contingent upon making reasonable performance on this track. Both Afghanistan and the US want to reach some kind of deal with the Taliban before the parliamentary elections due later this year. Hence Wells’ urgency! Arduous challenge for Alice is that Taliban insist on talking directly to the US, as they think that present status of Afghanistan is of a country under American occupation. So they want to engage with the power that be—ostensibly, logical thinking. With focus on Taliban, Wells is putting in strenuous effort to steer the Pak-US relationship clear of mines laid by President Donal Trump. During her latest visit, she reiterated that Pak-US relationship is important and the US would like to carry it forward. Despite Trump sown hiccups, these bilateral relations are still presenting a functional façade. Pakistan is confident that Taliban could be brought to the negotiating table after the success of recent short ceasefire on Eid. However, it feels that bringing Taliban to negotiating point is not the sole responsibility of Pakistan, but is a shared errand. In a parallel development, during several rounds of discussions between Pakistani and Afghan officials, both sides have worked out a roadmap on how to invite Taliban to join the political process. Afghan President has confirmed that Pakistan and Afghanistan have made considerable progress on how to achieve peace in Afghanistan. This however does not match ground realities. Against this backdrop, Wells’ recent visit to Kabul and Islamabad was significant. While in Kabul, she stated that American leadership desires decisive moves in the peace talks. Wells said there was widespread support for peace, underlined by scenes of unarmed fighters mingling with government troops and civilians on the streets of Afghan cities during Eid festival. Wells said that Taliban’s failure to engage in talks to end Afghanistan’s nearly 17-year old conflict was ‘unacceptable’: “I think it creates this impulse for everyone to renew their efforts to find a negotiated political solution. “Increasingly I think it’s becoming simply unacceptable for the Taliban not to negotiate”— a wishful assumption. Taliban soon responded by multiple attacks killing scores of people in Jalalabad and elsewhere. Wells also called on Army chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa. Views were exchanged on issues of mutual interest, regional security and cooperation between both the countries, the Inter-Services Public Relations said in a statement. She “commended the sacrifices and resilience of the people and armed forces of Pakistan and appreciated the role Pakistan Army has played in battling the scourge of terrorism”. Both agreed on continued engagement at multiple levels. Trump has suspended military and civil sector aid to Pakistan since the beginning of this year alongside holding back the already paid for military hardware. America is also defaulting on arears of Coalition Support Fund, amount that America owes to Pakistan that latter has already spent on account of logistical services provided to the US. Finance Minister, Dr Shamshad Akhtar also held a meeting with Wells. They discussed the current state of Pak-US relations with particular focus on economic cooperation. Finance Minister said that such bilateral visits enhance understanding of each other’s point of view on important issues. The Minister also briefed Alice Wells about Pakistan’s participation in the recently concluded FATF meeting. America had gone out of the way to have Pakistan placed on FATF grey list to the extent of circumventing the FTAF operating procedures. Wells said that since the Afghan government and United States were willing to start talking without preconditions, the onus was now on the Taliban to respond— once again logic stands on its head. “Right now it’s the Taliban leaders… who aren’t residing in Afghanistan, who are the obstacle to a negotiated political settlement,” Wells said. She forgot to account for those Taliban controlling over 70 percent of Afghan territories. Previous meaningful peace initiatives were deliberately scuttled by the US, one has to see how the current one proceeds! Only the forward movement of peace process will reflect on America’s sincerity of purpose, which is hard to discern—at least for now.

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