The Asian Age – Here’s why the Chinese model is unsuitable for Pakistan’s government

The second feature is the absence of rule of law, rather than its unequivocal application.

Umair Javed

Op/Ed, 04 December 2019. Every few months or so, the demand for a ‘presidential system’ of government in Pakistan makes an appearance on various social media sites. This happens most prominently on Twitter, where a number of users share similarly worded tweets, all using the same hashtag.

On its own, there’s nothing wrong with the demand for a constitutional redesign. Political systems are, theoretically, not set in stone, and neither are constitutions.

Parties in a number of countries have contested for power on platforms that seek to change electoral systems, voting formulae, power-sharing arrangements between different social groups, and relations between the executive, legislature, and the judiciary.

If anything, initiating a public conversation on institutional redesign is certainly more practical and preferable than cheerleading for ad hoc interventions by a particular organ of the state.

The most recent chorus of presidential fetishism is also slightly different from previous iterations on at least two counts. One is its frequency, which seems to be picking up pace since this government took office in July 2018.

It appears an ever-increasing number of people from one side of the partisan divide believe that the lack of executive authority with the Prime Minister’s Office, the reliance on largely incompetent ministers, and the cumbersome legislative procedures required to push through ‘change’, are holding the country back.

The second change is the citation of two countries as case studies worthy of emulation, China and Turkey. While the infatuation with Erdogan has been around for a while, the systemic embrace of Turkey is relatively new.

What’s also interesting is that believers in the ‘China model’ seem to be increasing in proportion to the country’s enhanced footprint on Pakistan’s economic and strategic decision-making. The drawing room logic is some variant of ‘if their system allows them to build a motorway at lightning speed, it’s surely worth importing’.

Less facetiously, high growth rates, ‘strict rule of law’, zero-tolerance for corruption, and the overall welfare success of this developmental model are usually cited as reasons for systemic emulation.

This is curious because China’s actually existing political system (what drives its well-publicised growth story) is considerably under-discussed in mainstream political conversations across Pakistan.

The print and electronic media doesn’t report on China’s domestic politics, and it rarely reveals any insight into what drives economic growth. There’s a recurring caricature of strong leadership, mythical levels of anti-corruption, and decisiveness, in drawing rooms, WhatsApp groups, and TV studios alike, but that’s where the depth of it ends.

Leaving aside the moral and functional desirability of parliamentary democracy in ethnically fractured societies, and China’s own authoritarian behaviour with minority groups, it is worth clarifying some important features of China’s political economy before embracing it as an ideal.

In an excellent new book on the past, present, and future of economic systems, titled Capitalism, Alone, Branko Milanovic draws a sharp contrast between two ideal types of capitalism that have shown relative durability. Liberal meritocratic capitalism, exemplified by the US, and increasingly characterised by plutocratic levels of inequality and disparity.

And political capitalism, exemplified by China, which stands as the only present-day alternative to organising politics and economics in a particular configuration, since the implosion of communism (or state socialism).

China’s political capitalism, according to Milanovic, rests ironically on certain pillars some of which seem to be at odds with its popular caricature in the Pakistani imagination.

Tracing the current system back to Deng’s reform period, Milanovic argues that political capitalism exhibits two main features: The first is a highly skilled, technocratically efficient, and meritocratically recruited bureaucracy.

This bureaucracy (which is clearly the primary beneficiary of the system) has as its main duty to realise high economic growth and implement policies that allow this goal to be achieved. Growth is ultimately needed for the legitimisation of continued bureaucratic and party rule.

The second feature is the absence of rule of law, rather than its unequivocal application. This, Milanovic argues, is necessary to ensure that the interests of businessmen (and the private sector in general) are never in a position to become primary drivers of government behaviour.

Instead, the state retains authority and autonomy precisely because it can choose to apply the law to whomever and wherever it wishes.

By arrangement with Dawn – Can the Kartarpur corridor really help Pakistan in smuggling drugs and ammunition to India?

Sikh24 Editors

Chandigarh – Panjab – India, Op/Ed, 05 November 2019. Ahead of the opening of much awaited Kartarpur corridor, the Indian intelligence agencies have again started its malicious propaganda against the Pakistan government.

Interestingly, the Punjab CM Captain Amarinder Singh is being used as a mouthpiece by the Indian agencies for raising suspicion over the Pakistan’s pro-Sikhism intention to open the Kartarpur corridor.

This time, the Indian agencies have claimed of the presence of some training camps related to Jaish-e-Mohammad in Narowal. The reports of Indian intelligence also claim of the presence of huge numbers of “terrorists” including women in these camps.

Crossing all limits, the reports by Indian agencies claim that the Kartarpur corridor could be used for smuggling Drugs and promoting anti-India activities. Actually, all these claims are being planted deliberately in media to create a panic among Sikhs and other communities about the Kartarpur corridor.

Can the Kartarpur corridor really be used for smuggling Drugs and Ammunition?

The Kartarpur corridor terminal on the Indian side is being built by the Land Port Authority of India (LPAI). In this terminal, all the facilities for managing the entrance and exit of Sikh pilgrims will be given like usual air and sea ports of India.

In other words, we can say that the Sikh pilgrims will have to go through security check while leaving for Gurdwara Kartarpur Sahib as well as while arriving back in India after paying obeisance there.

These days, the luggage and passengers at all ports of India is scanned with radiation detectors to bar entrance of any prohibited item like weapon, explosives and drugs. These scanners can scan the passenger and his / her belongings in a quick and reproducible way, without harming the person or items being examined.

Further, the facilitation of X-ray and CT scanners at all ports has enabled the security staff to fully watch in a clear way that what is inside the luggage.

Beside it, the trade is already going between India and Pakistan through various ports like Attari-Wagah, then how come this corridor is going to become a pathway for drugs and ammunition even when it is a non-commercial corridor.

Op/Ed: Can the Kartarpur corridor really help Pakistan in smuggling Drugs and Ammunition to India?

The Telegraph – Worried whispers: Is J P Nadda a bad omen for BJP?

He is slated to take over the BJP’s reins from Amit Shah early next year

Op/Ed, 27 October 2019. The larger picture changes many times when it comes to the internal machinations of a political party. The main story of the recently-concluded assembly elections in Maharashtra and Haryana was the failure of the prime minister, Narendra Modi, and the Union home minister, also the president of the Bharatiya Janata Party, Amit Shah, to turn the polls into a referendum on Article 370.

Whispers in the BJP’s corridors, however, had a different take on the matter. Some party leaders were heard pointing out that this was the first round of polls after the appointment of J P Nadda as the working president of the BJP. Nadda is slated to take over the reins of the BJP from Shah as full-time party president sometime early next year.

The whispers in the BJP circles clearly appeared to be holding Nadda responsible for the party’s performance in the polls, which were below expectations. Party leaders were heard saying that Nadda may not be a good omen for the party. Unlike Modi and Shah, Nadda prefers to maintain a low profile.

He was the Union health and family welfare minister in the first Modi cabinet. His closeness to the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh is believed to have earned him the party’s responsibility.

Two more state polls are coming up in the near future, the Jharkhand assembly elections at the end of this year and then the Delhi polls in early 2020. If the BJP’s performance continues to slide, then Nadda could well be labelled inauspicious for the party.


The election result in Haryana has apparently brought the aam Congressman back to life. Even the most ardent supporter of the Grand Old Party would not have imagined such a performance given the drubbing it received at the hands of Narendra Modi and the BJP in the general elections.

Surprisingly, Rahul Gandhi has not gone overboard with the showing in Haryana. Is that because the veteran, Bhupinder Singh Hooda, Rahul wanted Ashok Tanwar to replace him as the state chief, put up a commendable performance? – Gandhi vs Mahatma – Gandhi’s racism: It’s time for the Mahatma to become a properly historical figure with all his flaws

I prefer a flawed Gandhi to his saintly effigy, just as I prefer the problematic figures of his political descendants Martin Luther King and Nelson Mandela.

Faisal Devji

Op/Ed, 28 October 2019. If the memory of Mahatma Gandhi lives on today, then it is mainly thanks to his enemies, who seem unable to forget him. The Mahatma’s followers, on the other hand, have turned him into a saint whose teachings can safely be ignored as the words of a superior being to be admired from afar.

Given the ritualistic respect offered to Gandhi in India, which is received with public indifference, it is puzzling why he remains so alive for his critics. Perhaps they are the only ones who continue to feel betrayed by Gandhi’s loss of sainthood.

For Indians, this betrayal is renewed with each new generation, as scholars and activists discover yet another of the Mahatma’s failings. During the 1980s in the wake of second-wave feminism in India, it was his treatment of women that came under the spotlight.

And in the 1990s, with the rise of caste politics in India, it was Gandhi’s views about untouchability that were questioned. In our own time, the worldwide focus on racism has unsurprisingly led him to be accused of this sin as well.

What is unprecedented about the condemnations of Gandhi’s racism, however, is that they are not limited to India but have become global, with statues of the Mahatma being attacked in South Africa and removed in Ghana.

I had a taste of this myself earlier this year, when I suggested on the Oxford and Colonialism Working Group email list that we might begin our efforts to make imperial history visible in the University by marking Gandhi’s visit there in 1931.

This would be followed by commemorations of other anti-colonial figures who had visited Oxford with conferences, rooms named in their honour, and plaques, for example.

Political naivete

I was opposed by a former student and fellow academic who had been active in the Rhodes Must Fall movement in Oxford, which sought to follow South Africa’s precedent by removing a statue of Cecil Rhodes from Oriel College. The movement was attacked in the press and finally failed once alumni and donors threatened to pull their donations from the college.

His was not the only critique, however. He was followed by another academic activist interested in caste issues who had been a student at Oxford, and then by a student from Birmingham who accused both Gandhi and Nehru of being anti-Sikh.

As this debate was going on, I received private messages of support from many others, who were perhaps uncomfortable with making their views about race known in public because they were white.

The only Oxford student who intervened in the debate, and the only Indian citizen to do so, pointed out how politically naïve it was for these critics in effect to make common cause with the most violent elements of India’s far right, who also accuse Gandhi of racism while celebrating his assassination. Gandhi, he pointed out, is no longer the enemy for progressives there.

Like other critics of Gandhi’s racism, those who commented on my proposal offered personal rather than properly historical analyses of it, thus falling into the very moralism they despise in Gandhi and revealing their frustrated desire for the saint he has failed to be.

I prefer a flawed Gandhi to his saintly effigy, just as I prefer the problematic figures of his political descendants Martin Luther King and Nelson Mandela, whose sexual and other lapses have not resulted in their statues being vandalised or names banned from commemoration.

Personality over politics

The Rhodes Must Fall activists who had complained about Oxford bowing to outside pressure were now the outsiders trying to prevent us from making colonial history visible in the University.

The academic who led the campaign to remove Gandhi’s statue from the University of Ghana had likewise focused on his personality rather than his politics, making moral virtue the benchmark for commemoration and thus establishing a competition in purity.

Should statues of the dictator Kwame Nkrumah be removed from Accra as well? And how might anti-colonialism be understood if such figures are all written out of its history?

South Africa plays an interesting role in terms of virtue signalling on university campuses and in liberal society in the West more generally. The fact that the Rhodes Must Fall movement in South Africa attacked African and Indian professors, eventually descending into violence, does not seem to worry the movement’s followers in Oxford.

South Africa’s belated independence represents an opportunity for the West to be on the right side of imperial history for the first time, by re-running the script of de-colonisation to condemn apartheid and celebrate the emergence of a “rainbow nation”. This means that finally white liberals can claim the virtue of anti-colonialism.

Yet such invocations of diversity also emerged out of the African colonies, whose administrators used the term “multi-racialism” to describe societies in which whites needed to hold the balance between Africans and Indians (and sometimes Arabs as well).

Seen as a source of both moral and political corruption, Indians – but not Europeans – were often (and sometimes still are) forbidden from owning agricultural land so as to protect Africans from their rapacity. Indians in Africa thus came to occupy the role of alien middlemen familiar in anti-Semitic discourse.

Anti-Indian rioters

But there is more to the story of Gandhi’s racism than such campus controversies. The global interest in the Mahatma’s moral failings has just as much to do with the dissolution of anti-colonial solidarity worldwide. The growth of India and China as economic and military powers has lifted them out of the old world order of Afro-Asian unity to compete for their own status vis-à-vis the West.

Gandhi would have been against this development of course, but he must nonetheless pay for it through loss of reputation, being the most famous representative of India and Indians globally.

Attacks on statues of Gandhi, therefore, are also attacks on Indian communities in places like South Africa, where his house and settlement at Phoenix were destroyed by anti-Indian rioters in 1986.

Such attacks on minorities also include the murderous violence against African migrants from neighbouring countries (which South Africa dominates economically in fulfilment of the aims of apartheid).

The arguments deployed against Indians by men such as the South African militant Julius Malema, leader of the Economic Freedom Fighters, continue to follow a classically anti-Semitic script in their depiction of an insular and exploitative community.
Credit: AFP

It is no coincidence that Julius Malema and his violent followers have selected Gandhi as a favourite target, even using a book written by two of the Mahatma’s critics in South Africa to support them. This volume, which has become the standard account of Gandhi’s racism, was published by Stanford University Press in a series for which I am an editor.

While disagreeing with its views on this issue, I had reviewed, approved and even endorsed it for describing the independent political activism of the Mahatma’s compatriots in South Africa.

Having been reduced to useful stooges for Malema’s movement, while at the same time being attacked by him for defending the very Indians they wanted to bring out from under Gandhi’s shadow, these authors will now have to rethink their politics.

Because Gandhi’s racism stands in for Indian racism in general across sub-Saharan Africa, with long-standing anti-Indian narratives there drawing on tropes that were once invoked by Idi Amin to expel tens of thousands of Indians from Uganda.

Caste and race

Brutal forms of racism undoubtedly exist in India, as any African student or businessperson there will attest. However, prejudiced as they may be, the Indian minorities in African countries cannot be accused of holding any real race power there, although, like the Jews, they are often charged with using financial inducements to exercise power surreptitiously.

In fact, Indian communities have been socially and legally discriminated against in a number of African countries, and occasionally they have even been forced to leave their homes.

Gandhi’s critics never link their accusations about his racism in South Africa with the present-day African context of racialised attacks on Indians.

Instead, the racial character of such attacks is often concealed under the fig-leaf of solidarity between Africans and low-caste or Dalit Indians, who serve as exceptions to the racist norm represented by the Mahatma and Indian minorities generally.

Comparisons between Dalits and African-Americans in particular go back to the “untouchable” leader Ambedkar himself, who was both the Mahatma’s contemporary and his enemy.

Apart from the questionable merits of using caste to think about race and vice versa, this revival of a black political rather than ethnic identity is as deeply nostalgic as the celebration of South Africa as a rainbow nation re-writing the script of decolonisation that other African nations can be seen to have betrayed.

In Britain, meanwhile, where it had been pioneered in the 1970s, the rise of Islamism and other religious forms of identity broke black politics by the end of the 1980s, ushering in new kinds of religious solidarity as well as new forms of discrimination such as Islamophobia.

Two charges have been levelled against Gandhi. The first is that he never spoke for the liberty of Africans or involved them in his movement, and the second is that he considered Africans to be inferior and sought to keep Indians separate from them. However, unless he was invited to do so, the Mahatma never spoke for any community of which he was not a member.

He conceived of non-violence as an exemplary rather than prescriptive practice, which would attract emulation to maintain an anarchistic social plurality. And of course, had he presumed to speak for Africans, it is certain that today he would be accused of patronising and appropriating their struggles, as indeed he often is by Dalit activists.

Legal compulsions

South Africa was a society whose racialised populations were treated differently by law. As a lawyer hired to defend Indian privileges, Gandhi was unable to challenge the legal system itself.

And the law ensured he could only defend these privileges by making sure Indians were not identified with Africans, as was the case with all non-white minorities throughout eastern and central Africa.

Although he likely approved of this separation personally, in line with his caste-defined ideas of plurality, Gandhi also insisted on treating wounded Zulus in the ambulance corps he led during the Bambatha Rebellion, with whom his political sympathies also lay.

When he was no longer serving as a lawyer, Gandhi’s derogatory comments about Africans ceased, and in his book Satyagraha in South Africa he contrasted Zulus favourably with Indians on every count.

Eventually, he would see African-Americans as the most hopeful agents of non-violence worldwide and would prove to be a significant influence on their struggle. Nonetheless, given their legal status as British subjects of the Raj, the Mahatma had to fight for his compatriots as Indians, since no such juridical or political subject as “South African” existed.

His demand was therefore an international rather than a South African one, and consisted in compelling India to uphold the status of her citizens across the British Empire.

Calling the Mahatma’s first satyagraha (passive resistance) a South African action, as he himself did, is, therefore, something of a misnomer, as it depended on the involvement of India, and therefore London, for traction. And expecting Gandhi to fight for the freedom of all South Africans is anachronistic.

South Africa was only one site of this struggle, with Gandhi interested in the status of Indians all over the British Empire, from Kenya to Mauritius to Guyana, Fiji and Trinidad. His movement became a global one when Gandhi sought to, and in fact succeeded in, abolishing indenture, which was the Indian successor to African slavery and supplied labour for much of the Empire.

Perhaps Gandhi was a racist, but we get no sense of this from his enemies, whose personalised arguments deprive his thought of integrity and ignore the many contexts in which he operated.

After all, even accusing Hitler of racism is a meaningless generality, since we can only understand Hitler’s violence by taking its intellectual justification and historical context into consideration as well. Instead of merely turning the saint into a sinner, then, it is time for the Mahatma to become a properly historical figure with all its flaws, for his friends as much as for his enemies.

Faisal Devji is Professor of Indian History and Director of the Asian Study Centre at St Antony’s College, University of Oxford.

The Indian Express – It is hard to feel sympathy for Chidambaram because as Home Minister he never tried curbing powers of agencies

It is hard to feel sympathy for political leaders when they become victims of the system they have created.

Tavleen Singh

It was with deep interest but little sympathy that I watched the arrest of P Chidambaram last week.

As I watched that small army of officials from the Enforcement Directorate and the Central Bureau of Investigation enforce their authority on a man who was once their boss, memories flooded back of what happened to me when Mr Chidambaram was Finance Minister.

I have told the story in full, gory detail in my book India’s Broken Tryst, but a precis is necessary.

I was staying in the seaside home of a friend. It was a lazy Saturday afternoon. I was half asleep in front of the TV when the study in which I rested filled up with a group of men (and one dwarf-like woman).

They screamed in unison that I had to ‘come down at once’. The Government of India, they yelled, we are from the Government of India, and this is a raid.

On the way down I accidentally touched the dwarf woman and she screeched ‘don’t touch me’ as if I had molested her. When I got downstairs, I saw that there were around 30 people in the raiding party. Their first purpose seemed to be to intimidate me.

This is not easy. I yelled back when they yelled at me and this calmed them down. But, my protestations that the house they were raiding did not belong to me made no difference.

They went through my private things and evaluated every little piece of jewellery I had. When they did not find whatever it was they came in search of, their aggression waned slightly but only slightly.

There continued to be menace in their manner as if they were dealing with a criminal who was guilty till proven innocent. These men were from the Enforcement Directorate.

What happened to me happens to thousands of ordinary Indians routinely. Anyone trying to run a business, no matter how small, is constantly at the mercy of officials who handle economic offences.

Criminals and terrorists are treated as innocent till proven guilty, but with supposed economic offenders, this basic principle of justice is usually reversed.

Anyone who thinks that the platoon of TV reporters who covered Chidambaram’s arrest were there by accident needs to think again. Live television has emboldened officials to make the most of their 15 minutes of fame, so media trials of ‘celebrity offenders’ are now the norm.

Dawn – Post-370 options?

Riaz Mohammad Khan

Op/Ed, 11 August 2019. The Modi government’s move to scuttle Article 370 and 35A was anticipated. Yet when it happened, it came as a shock.

Reaction by Pakistan has been sharp while response internationally is so far predictably muted. This reaction and response will evolve with time especially as the Kashmiri voices currently stifled are heard and the youth uprising griping the Kashmir Valley revives with the weakening of the unsustainable Draconian military clampdown in India-held Kashmir.

So what are the implications of the move and what are the challenges and options for Pakistan?

The immediate and far-reaching consequence of the Indian move is the rapture of diplomatic and political interaction between Pakistan and India.

With formal Indian annexation of held Kashmir, from Pakistan’s point of view, the heart of any dialogue process for normalisation has been removed. The faint hope for a reasonable settlement based on optimum self-governance for Kashmiris and protection of vital interests of the two countries is extinguished.

And so is gone the possibility of any workable joint arrangement for Siachen and Sir Creek to underpin a new cooperative paradigm for bilateral relations. Prime Minister Imran Khan’s offer “you move one step, we will move two” is rendered meaningless. Ahead lies a path fraught with tension, risks and dangers.

The Bharatiya Janata Party move is likely to be challenged in the Indian Supreme Court, but chances of a reversal or a remedy are next to nothing. What can force the Indian government to eventually take a step back will be the determination of the Kashmiri people to thwart Indian designs, especially demographic change.

They will need to be steadfast in the face of every possible BJP tactic, massive use of brute force, massacres, political manipulation and economic incentives. Today Kashmiri leaders in the Valley, including the veteran pro-India personalities, display a rare unity in rejecting the Indian move.

They need to convert this unity into a strong coalition for non-cooperation and resistance. The Kashmiri diaspora in the UK and the US has a critical role to play, and herein lies one of the challenges for Pakistani politics and diplomacy.

Pakistan has vowed to go to any extent in support of the Kashmiris. War is no option, but if imposed it may become unavoidable. Barring that apocalyptic scenario, arguably, Pakistani options appear to be limited but they must be put into play in a sustained manner.

We must continue to agitate about the situation as it develops at all international forums including the UN Security Council regardless of whether or not the UNSC is able to give it consideration.

Such support, even if lacking in the desired results, will be necessary for the Kashmiri morale. We must take the Kashmir case to every human rights forum. Our initiatives should be well considered but undeterred by possible setbacks; we are in for a long haul. If the situation worsens, the international community will have to take notice.

Pakistan will come under pressure to extend material help beyond diplomatic support if the Kashmiris face genocide. The Kashmiri struggle for self-determination has echoes of the past anti-colonial struggles which for success often depended on outside help.

However, we have the experience of the 1990s when infiltration of Jihadi elements was used by India to effectively malign and distort the indigenous Kashmiri uprising.

Since then, India keeps justifying its repressive measures in Kashmir as counter-terrorism. This poses inevitable dilemma, but Pakistan must not allow India this pretext to misrepresent the Kashmiri struggle internationally. This is irrespective of our own counter-terrorism commitments including those in the context of Financial Action Task Force.

No amount of Delhi’s contrived explanations for the abrogation of the special status of the occupied Valley can conceal the fact that it is a step towards the implementation of BJP’s aggressive and sinister Hindutva ideology with neo-fascist undertones. BJP stalwarts make no bones about their intentions.

This poses an almost existential challenge to not just the Kashmiri Muslims but also to the Muslims and other religious minorities in India. Pakistan also faces a grave threat. Kashmiris have a protracted struggle before them for preserving their identity and achieving self-determination.

Indian Muslims have to address the challenge within the context of their own political circumstances and in step with segments of the Indian population whose future depends on the espousal of values of secularism and a pluralistic society.

Besides the responsibilities that the Kashmiri struggle will place on it, Pakistan faces two distinct dangers: direct intervention in Azad Jammu and Kashmir or Gilgit and Baltistan or subversion in these territories and inside Pakistan. Direct intervention would mean war with incalculable consequences.

Subversion is a real possibility that may warrant preemptive political and administrative measures besides vigilance.

We are not handicapped to take any advisable measures in consultation with the people, government and administration in these territories, if necessary with the proviso similar to that adopted in the case of Pakistan-China boundary agreement that any agreed arrangement would be subject to a review in the remote eventuality of a Kashmir settlement.

Hindutva raises larger questions for South Asia and the Indian Ocean region. India is seen as a major power, but, under Modi, it is actively seeking the status of a regional hegemon. However, no nuclear power has accepted another power’s hegemony, and Pakistan is not and cannot be an exception to this reality.

On the other hand, the aspiring hegemon will be encouraged by the dismal predicament evident in our frail economy, political dysfunction, narrow technological and knowledge base. This state of affairs will also be dispiriting for the Kashmiris and for South Asian Muslims with whom we have shared history of the freedom struggle.

Our strength will help equanimity in South Asia. Therein lies the greatest challenge we face as a society, as a nation and as a country.

The writer is an author and former foreign secretary

The Asian Age – India needs to rework its tactics on Pakistan, Jammu & Kashmir

Pakistan had earlier linked its airspace reopening to India removing its Air Force fighters from forward deployment.

K C Singh

Op/Ed, 23 July 2019. Before heading to Washington to meet US President Donald Trump on July 22, Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan opened up his country’s airspace to international flights, after months of closure, and rearrested Hafiz Saeed, the mastermind behind terror group Lashkar-e-Tayyaba.

President Trump promptly tweeted his happiness over the latter as that group has American blood on its hands, having undertaken the 26/11 attacks in Mumbai over a decade ago. Pakistan had earlier linked its airspace reopening to India removing its Air Force fighters from forward deployment.

New Delhi had rejected that demand. Pakistan’s volte face may have been prompted by a desire to show the US its reasonableness in dealing with India. The same may be behind Pakistan’s accommodative approach to the Kartarpur Sahib Corridor as it dropped from its delegation controversial pro-Khalistan leader Gopal Singh Chawla.

Indian sensitivity on this issue was manifest when an expatriate organisation, Sikhs For Justice (SFJ), pushing the Referendum 2020 over Khalistan, was banned.

If all this heralded a thawing of India-Pakistan relations, an old issue resurfaced to negate it.

On July 18, Pakistan had its knuckles rapped by the International Court of Justice at The Hague in the Indian case filed over denial of consular access to Kulbhushan Jadhav, a former Indian naval officer, who was detained, tried and sentenced to death by a Pakistani military court for alleged espionage and terrorist activities.

Rejecting the Pakistani arguments about lack of jurisdiction, the court held Pakistan in breach of its commitments under the Vienna Consular Convention of 1963. While Pakistan claimed victory as the court did not ask for the release and repatriation of Jadhav, the court sought a review of the judgment, immediate consular access for India and Jadhav being informed of his rights accordingly.

Pakistan agreed to grant the access, but many other issues linger. First, will Indian high commission officials be in physical proximity of the detainee and relatively free to converse without close monitoring?

It is unlikely that the Pakistan Army will allow this, and may in fact repeat the theatre enacted when Jadhav’s mother and wife sat across a glass partition and conversed over the intercom and under intrusive oversight of security officials.

Second, Pakistan has agreed to review the judgment as per their own prescribed procedures, which may entail its submission to the Chief of Army Staff or the President.

Pakistan is unlikely to concede that due to the serious procedural flaw of denying the accused access to his country’s diplomatic mission and thus provision of proper legal assistance, the entire trial was vitiated. The military court had apparently relied on a “confession” obtained by coercive means and dubious circumstantial evidence.

Pakistan’s next steps in the Jadhav affair would thus condition the course of India-Pakistan relations. On the other hand, Pakistan will also expect that India should respond to positive steps taken by it, instead of sticking to the standard Indian line that Pakistani action against jihadi groups is tactical and reversible.

Imran Khan’s US visit assumes importance in this regard as Pakistan would attempt to re-balance relations with Washington, which have during the Trump presidency slipped into open distrust. India has counted on this dissonance to pillory and pressure Pakistan.

The White House statement on the eve of visit reads that the bilateral meeting is to “discuss a range of issues, including counter-terrorism, defence, energy, trade, with the goal of creating the conditions for a peaceful South Asia and an enduring partnership”.

Clearly, the Afghan endgame, in which Pakistan has now been co-opted by China, Russia and the US to help, has altered US perceptions on Pakistan considerably.

India on the other hand has been left on the sidelines of the Afghan game as President Trump wants to withdraw US troops after a face-saving peace pact with the American presidential election approaching in 2020.

Meanwhile, India and the US are wrestling with trade issues that have episodically riled President Trump enough to fire angry tweets.

Thus, a bull-headed Pakistani policy may be losing its value as the world has other distractions and likely diminishing empathy for Indian complaints over Pakistani duplicity and sponsorship of terror. The seizure by Iran of a British oil tanker, in retaliation for an Iranian oil tanker carrying oil to Syria being seized by the British near Gibraltar, ups the ante in the Gulf.

Britain has already warned its tankers from transiting the Straits of Hormuz. Operation Sentinel to create a multi-national escort force is still not off and running. Iran has dropped hints it may renegotiate the nuclear deal, but it would not discuss any rollback of its influence or even presence in West Asia.

On July 24, British prime minister Theresa May will resign, and the process begin to install her successor, most likely to be Boris Johnson. On the same day Robert Mueller, the former FBI head who investigated the Russian collusion charges against the Trump electoral machine, will depose before the US Congress.

Mr Mueller has said he would stick to explaining his report and not launch a witch-hunt against the incumbent US President, but it would distract an already election-oriented Mr Trump. Thus, a visible bonhomie between Mr Trump and Mr Khan can result in a more confident Pakistan willing to test the post-Balakot retaliatory doctrine of India.

Therefore, India would have to tailor its Pakistan policy accordingly. During Track II interactions with Pakistanis, some uncertainty is visible over the new Indian doctrine of pre-emptive or retaliatory military action if India is attacked by Pakistan-based terror groups known to be sponsored by the Pakistani military.

But Pakistan is emerging from its isolation and economic mess. If the US opens the military assistance tap and restarts financial aid under the garb of compensation for counter-terrorism operations, then Pakistan may draw the wrong conclusion.

It will continue to seek strategic depth in Afghanistan by helping instal a Taliban dispensation in Kabul and await Pakistan getting off the “grey list” of the Financial Action Task Force, which its ally China now chairs.

After that, it will stoke as 2020 approaches both the “Khalistan” issue and the ire in the Kashmir Valley. A purely security-oriented approach to the Jammu and Kashmir problem will backfire eventually, much as normality may appear possible today as Pakistan has shut off the infiltration. The lesson for India is that the geo-strategic environment is not static. Nor can be one’s tactics to deal with it.

The writer is a former secretary in the external affairs ministry

Dawn – Derailed again

Dr Noman Ahmed

Op/Ed, 23 July 2019. Many tragic train accidents have occurred in the country. This month, reportedly over 20 people were killed and several injured when Akbar Express collided with a stationary freight train in Sadiqabad. Last month, a passenger train rammed into a freight train near Makli Shah station, killing three people.

Human error and related factors are cited as common reasons. The follow-ups to such tragedies include the usual inquiries and investigations, and a few administrative adjustments.

News reports have described the severe financial constraints of Pakistan Railways (PR). With diminishing ability to procure even operating fuel loads, the situation is serious. Loss of commuter trust due to operational negligence and accidents is just one example.

Accidents are not new. In 2005, three trains collided near Sarhad Railway Station, with fatalities in the hundreds. In January 2006, six rail coaches of the Rawalpindi-bound Lahore Express fell into a ravine killing four people and injuring dozens.

Clearly, PR, once an efficient and economical mode of transportation, is collapsing. The current railway minister took charge by criticising the previous incumbent. The only changes he introduced are a few new passenger trains. How will the country be able to fulfil its CPEC commitments through railroad links ?

The department has seen better days. North Western Railways, which became Pakistan Western Railways after Independence, was a profitable enterprise. Spread over 7,600 kilometres, the network effectively connected major cities, towns and regions of the then West Pakistan.

The management, organisation and control of the department were along professional lines. Most of the senior officers and engineers had obtained their training and experience under the British. Civil engineering, signals, traffic and commercial cadres, mechanical and electrical engineers, accounts and finance were key units.

Passenger and goods/ freight movement are the two essential ingredients of railway services. Passenger service is subsidised by the surplus revenue earned through goods/ freight transportation.

PR had to operate a sizable number of goods trains to maintain a financial balance. Over 40 goods trains used to operate in Karachi from the 1960s till the 1980s. Towards the end of the 1960s, the government shifted the emphasis to road transportation.

This approach received greater focus during the Zia regime. The budget deficit began to rise. According to an ex-railways officer, the number of goods/ freight trains was reduced by half. For medium and long distances, goods transportation by railways is found to be at least 10 times cheaper than via roads/ highways.

Consequently, it consumes less diesel, leading to fewer fuel import requirements. Transportation insurance, safety records and handling were a few factors that made the railways a logical choice.

However this logic was brushed aside as the government continued to employ other options for land transportation of goods. Going by estimates, governments have spent $1 billion in excess by choosing the road option over PR.

This is not surprising when we consider that ministers launched new trains without proper feasibility studies. PR is currently burdened with a budget deficit of over Rs 24bn.

Modern service standards demand basic facilities including stations. Most of the stations are in a dilapidated state. Some essential facilities are nonexistent, including amenities for comfort and safety.

During inspections, the concerned station masters and other staff point out the shortcomings but remedies are slow if any. Barring a few major stations, the building facilities are also rundown.

Budgetary constraints do not allow PR to undertake any mass-scale facilities/ hardware revitalisation programme. Unfortunately, only after accidents are the deficiencies debated, and then forgotten.

PR as a land transportation option is climate friendly and cost-effective for commuters and operators. But massive reforms are needed to restore its performance and image.

The foremost issue pertains to the lack of political will for extending reforms. Cosmetic renderings hardly yield results. Meanwhile, the current regime appears to be inclined to auction railway lands. According to records, the department owns more than 166,000 acres of land in the entire country.

By any standards, this is one of the most precious assets which must be properly managed. These lands had been reserved for operational needs of the system at various locations. This matter needs a public debate and a lobbying response by civil society to revive lost government interest in this vital department.

A strategic approach to invite the corporate sector in management tasks must be initiated. The experiment of running trains with private investment has proven successful so far.

The writer is chairman, Department of Architecture & Planning, NED University, Karachi.

Daily Times – Giving ‘Jinnah’s Pakistan’ back to the religious minorities

Maria Malik

Op/Ed, 12 July 2019. Pakistan has an overwhelmingly Muslim community, which accounts for 90 per cent of its 142 million inhabitants. The Muslim population however belongs to several doctrinal groups. Sunnis are in the majority amongst Muslims, with Shia Muslims and Zikris facing discrimination.

In 1974, the National Assembly of Pakistan has declared Ahmadis (also called Qadianis) a non-Muslim minority. There are several Christian denominations, Bahais, Buddhists, Hindus, Jains, Kalasha, Parsis and Sikhs who are identified as non-Muslim Pakistanis.

The policy of Islamization in the 1970s and 1980’s, the subsequent rise of Taliban insurgency and the patronage of extremists groups by different political and religious groups in Pakistan have contributed to the intolerance and acts of violence against the religious and sectarian minorities of Pakistan.

The vague terminology of the current legislation has in fact allowed for the misuse of Sections 295-298 PPC, and has resulted in the persecution of minorities and the poor by providing the dishonest complainant with a mechanism for settling personal vendettas through the flawed system of justice.

The law that is designed to protect people has actually become a tool for promoting intolerance. Although a majority of those charged under this law are Muslims, yet the law has made the non-Muslims even more vulnerable.

In addition to this, the manner in which the religious groups in Pakistan propagate the flawed laws has resulted in vigilantism and mob violence. The state has consistently failed to intervene and protect its people against violence by maliciously motivated elements and the certainty of impunity has encouraged them to commit lawlessness.

Insertion of section 298A into the PPC during the process of Islamization is considered as a threat for the religious and sectarian minorities in Pakistan. Although the Blasphemy Laws apply to all Pakistanis alike, whether Muslims or Non-Muslims, however the religious minorities are more prone when it comes to the ‘misuse’ of this law.

According to various national and international human rights organizations article 298B and 298C of PPC, coupled with the Blasphemy laws, has further institutionalized the marginalization of the Ahmedia Community in Pakistan.

The abstruse legislation and the lack of procedural safeguards has made these laws open for widespread abuse and have reportedly been used to harass and target religious minorities, as well as to settle personal scores or carry out personal vendettas.

By taking certain measures the misuse of this law can be curtailed to a certain extent. For example, the minorities have very limited representation in the Parliament so there is a dire need to increase the reserved seats for the religious minorities.

Moreover, the Parliament must have representation of all the religious minorities including Ahmedis, Christians, Hindus, Sikhs, Parsis etcetera and each shall be allotted seats according to their population ratio.

The quota for religious minorities in civil and military services of Pakistan shall be fixed and/or increased. The system of separate electorate should also be re-instated in order to secure fair representation for the minorities.

Secondly, at the social front, the state should take measures to revise the curriculum and to make sure that is free of hate speech and intolerance towards religious minorities and reflects pluralism, and co-existence which is the true spirit of Islam.

Thirdly, the state should take all necessary measures to make sure that it abides by the international treaties that Pakistan has ratified (ICCPR ratified in 2010) and also make serious efforts to implement the fundamental rights in letter and spirit to safeguard the status of minorities.

The composition of our criminal justice system includes Police, Prosecution and Courts among others. A criminal case is first registered as an FIR with the Police; the Prosecution carries out investigation upon it, the Courts then check whether the investigation carried-out was impartial and concerns of both the aggrieved parties are addressed adequately.

Legal and executive/administrative lapse happens, usually, at the first two stages i.e. the Investigation of Police and the duty of the Prosecution to determine the impartiality of that investigation.

There’s no check whatsoever on either the former or the later which makes it difficult for the Courts to determine whether or not there were some executive shortcomings in the investigation. To improve the system, a judicial officer shall supervise the investigation carried out by police.

Section 298B and 298C of the Pakistan Penal Code shall be amended and made objective in nature along with ensuring an independent and accessible judicial system that can dispense justice timely.

Lastly and most importantly, Parliament of Pakistan must make an amendment to make article 36 ‘Protection of Minorities’ a part of Fundamental Rights. Article 36 is presently part of the ‘Principles of Policy’, which states that the principles under this chapter shall be regarded as being subject to the ‘availability of resources’.

The Constitution of Pakistan does not include as to what pertains to the availability of resources and do not provide any kind of timeline as by when these principles will be implemented effectively by the state. So article 36, which is meant to secure the status of religious minorities, is a part of non-operational part of the constitution.

In fact it renders all other fundamental rights of the minorities useless by linking the implementation of article 36 with availability of resources. Until and unless the religious minorities are given proper constitutional safeguards, we cannot expect Pakistan to be a pluralist society.

The writer is the author of Baluchistan Conundrum – The Real Perspective. She is a PhD scholar at Quaid-e-Azam University.

Giving ‘Jinnah’s Pakistan’ back to the Religious Minorities

The News – Reforms and the poverty trap

Kamila Hyat

Op/Ed, 13 June 2019. Pakistan struggles with many problems. The new budget may result in more as inflation hits households. In our media-generated frenzy over current events, we sometimes forget how the lives people live are central to their individual struggles.

Poverty is the biggest struggle for many. It holds back access to quality education, to housing, to healthcare, to opportunity and to so much else.

The essential structures that can best enable people to escape poverty, by equalising the field and providing them an environment in which the rule of law prevails, where access to justice is even and education alongside a social welfare net is available to all simply does not exist.

Whereas Pakistanis are, according to international monitoring groups, one of the highest givers of charity among all nations, with Rs 240 billion given out in 2018 and a larger sum expected this year, the reality is that these donations by those who possess good will and generosity really achieve very little.

They may for a very short period benefit an individual family, but this does not last long.

These dynamics of charity are all the more true given that we have been unable to regularise it and ensure donations to organisations, which can in at least some cases make a real long term difference in lives. We believe in charity, both because of tradition and religious convictions.

Perhaps because of our rooting in this, we fail to look at figures which show that charity, whether in the form of donations from within the country or external aid poured into a nation from outside in the end makes very little difference.

Today, one in every four Pakistanis lives in poverty, surviving on less than $1.90 per day. There are others who hover only marginally above this line.

The Economic Survey 2018 shows some improvement over the decades, but it is not enough. Forty-four percent of children in the country are stunted and levels of wasting with an impact on mental development are almost as extreme. We do not need figures to understand poverty and suffering.

Reports in the media say that people this year, confronted with rising food price inflation which currently at 8.51 percent, one of the highest in years, were forced to break their fasts in Ramazan with nothing more than roti and water. Others live in circumstances of constant malnutrition month after month and year after year. Women and children suffer most.

As a nation, we have not been able to provide our people enough food, leave alone other needs. Safe water is even more difficult for them to obtain. The improvements noted by the Economic Survey have come essentially as a result of frequently discredited poverty alleviation programmes, notably the Benazir Income Support Programme.

This is a suggestion that state assistance can play an essential role in enabling people to escape poverty, even though the BISP scheme is far from ideal and has many flaws.

As the government launches a new scheme under its Ehsaas Programme to offer people food rations and aid in other forms, it is important to understand how poverty can best be tackled. In the first place, reports by prestigious international organisations that World Bank and IMF programmes, which are presently dictating policies in Pakistan, often hurt the interests of the poor rather than protecting them.

The requirements laid down frequently by the IMF which harm the interests of working people and undermine labour rights and labour power effectively have a negative impact on the most deprived sections of society. Corporate interests instead advance further.

Such policies, in place in African countries since the 1970s, have according to findings by economists hurt each of the countries they work in by further eroding the living conditions of people. None of these countries has improved in terms of their ability to lift people out of their poverty.

Pakistan presents a similar case study, with IMF loans first accepted by it in the 1960s. Almost five decades later, we continue to require loans in even bigger amounts in order to run government. This cannot be a good outcome and raises questions about any benefits the IMF and World Bank claim accrue from their programmes.

Bangladesh has benefitted from World Bank supported programmes, reducing poverty from over 44 percent in 1991 to 13.8 percent in 2016-17. This achievement has however been backed by government policies which have supported investment in human development and indigenous poverty alleviation programmes designed to meet the specific needs of that country.

Bangladesh’s commitment and its ability to maintain stable economic growth is something we need to study.

Given that Pakistan already ranks as a developing economy according to the UN and is placed above Bangladesh in terms of economic attainment, it should be even better placed to offer its people much more. That this has not happened is saddening, with Pakistan’s development statistics for population control, health, maternal mortality and education all below those of Bangladesh.

We can move into more stormy terrain. While there is widespread global promotion of the idea that socialism as an economic system results in chaos, there are notable examples of countries which have benefited enormously and quickly from adopting socialist models.

In 2006, a militant socialist government took over in Bolivia. It has remained in power through a process of regular election since then. In these years under President Evo Morales, the country experienced spectacular economic growth and poverty reduction, with no hint of chaos.

Inflation stands at below four percent a year, less than 20 percent of people experience poverty, down from 38 percent before the socialists took over, and inequality has shrunk dramatically.

Bolivia hopes to attain what Cuba had already achieved less than a decade after its 1959 revolution: the highest literacy rates in the world at 99.75 percent. Women are even more literate than men. People in that country live longer than those in the US because of the universal healthcare available to every Cuban and education for every child is free.

There is also a system in place to provide social safety.

While there are still desperately poor people in the country, the achievements of the Cuban state have come despite crippling US sanctions and survived the collapse of the USSR, Cuba’s main ally, in 1991. There has of course been a price paid by people, with repression of some rights a part of Cuba’s history.

There are obvious lessons. The quickest way to rescue people from poverty is through state-ordained reforms designed to benefit a majority of people. When this is not possible, commitment and well-designed programmes can work at least partially.

Pakistan has struggled consistently with its efforts to rescue people from poverty. Charity, whether doled out internally or obtained from external sources, cannot play a long-term role in altering the structures which keep poverty intact.

Yes, it can make each of us feel good. Yes, it can demonstrate the generosity of a country, but in the final analysis more thought at the government level is required to make any significant difference and to pull away the shroud of poverty which traps millions of people and prevents them from reaching their potential or helping their country attain what it is capable of.

The writer is a freelance columnist and former newspaper editor.