Category Archives: International Politics

Peace in Afghanistan will come at a price

By Zubeida Mustafa

THE U.S. is now trying desperately to pull its forces from Afghanistan. Seventeen years of war is long enough. The human toll has been heavy, with more than 2,200 American lives lost and 20,000 soldiers wounded. This figure doesn’t include the Afghan and Pakistani men, women and children who have suffered. Imperial powers still have to learn that it is easy to jump into another country that is weak and unstable—but to get out is a tougher job. And waging war in Afghanistan has never been a cakewalk for any outsider.

Moves are afoot there to work out a compromise, but the U.S. government has no understanding of how the present moves will change the diplomatic contours of Southwest Asia, the hub of America’s longest war in history. An American negotiator of Afghan origin, Zalmay Khalilzad, has been talking to the Taliban since August 2018.

Although the United States has been a major actor in this arc of instability and conflict, it is now turning to regional powers for help in pulling its chestnuts out of the fire. Donald Trump has done his utmost to revive the stalled peace process first launched in 2011 by the Obama administration. But the current president’s ham-handed approach has burdened him with problems of his own making.

Not realizing the sensitivities of the situation, Trump went on the warpath against Pakistan soon after he entered the White House in 2017. Having decided that Pakistan was the real culprit—“the wrong enemy” (to quote Richard Holbrooke, former U.S. special representative to Afghanistan and Pakistan) working against American interests in Afghanistan—Trump proceeded to adopt a mixed policy toward the Afghan conflict that has left him blowing hot and cold.

U.S. envoy Zalmay Khalilzad, left, discusses the war in Afghanistan with Pakistani Army Chief Gen. Qamar Javed Bajwa in Rawalpindi, Pakistan, in December. (Inter Services Public Relations via AP)

The U.S. is now trying desperately to pull its forces from Afghanistan. Seventeen years of war is long enough. The human toll has been heavy, with more than 2,200 American lives lost and 20,000 soldiers wounded. This figure doesn’t include the Afghan and Pakistani men, women and children who have suffered. Imperial powers still have to learn that it is easy to jump into another country that is weak and unstable—but to get out is a tougher job. And waging war in Afghanistan has never been a cakewalk for any outsider.

Moves are afoot there to work out a compromise, but the U.S. government has no understanding of how the present moves will change the diplomatic contours of Southwest Asia, the hub of America’s longest war in history. An American negotiator of Afghan origin, Zalmay Khalilzad, has been talking to the Taliban since August 2018.

Although the United States has been a major actor in this arc of instability and conflict, it is now turning to regional powers for help in pulling its chestnuts out of the fire. Donald Trump has done his utmost to revive the stalled peace process first launched in 2011 by the Obama administration. But the current president’s ham-handed approach has burdened him with problems of his own making.

Not realizing the sensitivities of the situation, Trump went on the warpath against Pakistan soon after he entered the White House in 2017. Having decided that Pakistan was the real culprit—“the wrong enemy” (to quote Richard Holbrooke, former U.S. special representative to Afghanistan and Pakistan) working against American interests in Afghanistan—Trump proceeded to adopt a mixed policy toward the Afghan conflict that has left him blowing hot and cold.

Initially, Trump’s offensive consisted of a war of words and tweets designed to sideline Pakistan by accusing that nation’s leaders of engaging in “deceit and lies.” Finally, however, he called a halt to the $1.3 billion worth of military aid that the U.S. had been supplying each year to Pakistan, a key actor in the region and a purported ally on which the Pentagon has relied for access to the theater of war in landlocked Afghanistan. Islamabad has been Washington’s key partner in the “war on terror” since the Russians invaded Afghanistan in 1979. Historically Pakistan provided its northwestern neighbor with a vital overland transit route through the port city of Karachi.

Having sidelined a major ally, Trump went on to order his top diplomats to seek direct talks with the Taliban, aiming to jump-start negotiations to end the 17-year war in Afghanistan. It soon became evident that negotiating at the peace table is a different ballgame from fighting a war on the ground. It was then that the American president came to realize the potential role of Pakistan, the progenitor of the Taliban and the protector of the Haqqani network, in facilitating the peace process.

Trump has since had to eat his words and write to Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan to ask his government for help in advancing peace talks with the insurgents in Afghanistan. Trump even spoke of wanting to “have a great relationship with Pakistan.” While the latest statement from the White House says, “I look forward to meeting the folks from—and the new leadership in Pakis­tan, [and] we will be doing that in not-too-distant future,” Khan has been quick to seize credit for talks that have yet to make headway.

Three rounds of talks have already been held between the Taliban and Khalilzad with Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates also in attendance. A deadlock looms large before the negotiators. The fourth round, scheduled in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, later this month, seems threatened by foot-dragging. This is not surprising, as some preliminary issues have yet to be resolved. Who is to speak for the Afghans? At what stage should the real negotiations begin—before or after the withdrawal of foreign troops?

The Taliban are adamant that they are the legitimate representatives of the Afghan people, because it was their government that was toppled by the U.S. and its coalition allies in 2001. But would that scenario be acceptable to Washington? It would amount to the U.S. abandoning its own protege in Kabul and restoring the status quo after shedding so much blood.

The “talks before talks,” as the discussions are termed at this stage, are about looking for answers to difficult questions. Afghan President Ashraf Ghani—unlike his predecessor, Hamid Karzai—has acquiesced to the plan to let Khalilzad talk to the Taliban on his behalf. But would he agree to the U.S. negotiating substantial issues?

The Taliban want all foreign forces to be pulled out of Afghanistan before they talk to the present rulers in Kabul. For Ghani, the dilemma will be how to counter his rivals without American support. Moreover, Kabul’s relations with Islamabad have, historically, never been cordial. The baggage of disputes inherited from colonial times is too heavy to allow close ties to develop.

Besides, the situation on the ground in Afghanistan currently is not favorable for the Kabul administration. According to the Office of the Special Director General of Afghanistan Reconstruction, the Afghan government has control over 229 districts, while the Taliban control 59, and 119 are contested. This hardly represents a walkover for the Afghan government, especially without active American military backing.

Pakistan is viewed as a critical player, because it is believed to provide sanctuaries to insurgents in its territory. Moreover, its influence on the Taliban is immense, encouraging intransigence. Members of the Taliban believe that time is on their side and that if they hold on to this situation, victory will be theirs. Yet at times, the Taliban have been conciliatory within the same framework. They released an American soldier, Bowe Bergdahl, whom they had abducted and gave a political face to their dealings by opening a political office in Doha, Qatar, in 2014. In 2015, they entered briefly into direct talks with Kabul leaders. The insurgents even agreed to a cease-fire on the festival of Eid last year. On the other hand, the Taliban have unleashed terrible violence when they deem it necessary.

Trump will soon learn that negotiating peace with an enemy calls for more diplomacy and finesse than he has displayed.

When peace comes to Afghanistan it will come at a price—one that America and Pakistan will both pay. In the last two years, as Trump moved away from his predecessor’s South Asian policy, Pakistan moved rapidly toward forging new ties—including military relationships—with Russia and consolidating long-standing ties with China and other neighboring states (namely Iran, Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Turkey and Malaysia). The bailout packages obtained from some of them, along with China’s “One Belt, One Road” project, will help Pakistan tide over its economic crisis for the time being. But we do not know the secret commitments that have been made in return.

It must be remembered that Pakistan is a security state, and the fulcrum of power rests not in Islamabad but in Rawalpindi, where the military headquarters are located. The nation’s Afghan policy is controlled from there. It is thus not strange that Khalilzad had to call on General Qamar Bajwa, the chief of army staff, during his recent visit to Pakistan.

Because Islamabad has preferred not to reveal much, we will have to wait to learn what the future holds for Pakistan—and also the United States.

Source: Truthdig

Initially, Trump’s offensive consisted of a war of words and tweets designed to sideline Pakistan by accusing that nation’s leaders of engaging in “deceit and lies.” Finally, however, he called a halt to the $1.3 billion worth of military aid that the U.S. had been supplying each year to Pakistan, a key actor in the region and a purported ally on which the Pentagon has relied for access to the theater of war in landlocked Afghanistan. Islamabad has been Washington’s key partner in the “war on terror” since the Russians invaded Afghanistan in 1979, after which Pakistan provided its northwestern neighbor with a vital overland transit route through the port city of Karachi.

Having sidelined a major ally, Trump went on to order his top diplomats to seek direct talks with the Taliban, aiming to jump-start negotiations to end the 17-year war in Afghanistan. It soon became evident that negotiating at the peace table is a different ballgame from fighting a war on the ground. It was then that the American president came to realize the potential role of Pakistan, the progenitor of the Taliban and the protector of the Haqqani network, in facilitating the peace process.

Trump has since had to eat his words and write to Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan to ask his government for help in advancing peace talks with the insurgents in Afghanistan. Trump even spoke of wanting to “have a great relationship with Pakistan.” While the latest statement from the White House says, “I look forward to meeting the folks from—and the new leadership in Pakis­tan, [and] we will be doing that in not-too-distant future,” Khan has been quick to seize credit for talks that have yet to make headway.

Three rounds of talks have already been held between the Taliban and Khalilzad with Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates also in attendance. A deadlock looms large before the negotiators. The fourth round, scheduled in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, later this month, seems threatened by foot-dragging. This is not surprising, as some preliminary issues have yet to be resolved. Who is to speak for the Afghans? At what stage should the real negotiations begin—before or after the withdrawal of foreign troops?

The Taliban are adamant that they are the legitimate representatives of the Afghan people, because it was their government that was toppled by the U.S. and its coalition allies in 2001. But would that scenario be acceptable to Washington? It would amount to the U.S. abandoning its own protege in Kabul and restoring the status quo after shedding so much blood.

The “talks before talks,” as the discussions are termed at this stage, are about looking for answers to difficult questions. Afghan President Ashraf Ghani—unlike his predecessor, Hamid Karzai—has acquiesced to the plan to let Khalilzad talk to the Taliban on his behalf. But would he agree to the U.S. negotiating substantial issues?

The Taliban want all foreign forces to be pulled out of Afghanistan before they talk to the present rulers in Kabul. For Ghani, the dilemma will be how to counter his rivals without American support. Moreover, Kabul’s relations with Islamabad have, historically, never been cordial. The baggage of disputes inherited from colonial times is too heavy to allow close ties to develop.

Besides, the situation on the ground in Afghanistan currently is not favorable for the Kabul administration. According to the Office of the Special Director General of Afghanistan Reconstruction, the Afghan government has control over 229 districts, while the Taliban control 59, and 119 are contested. This hardly represents a walkover for the Afghan government, especially without active American military backing.

Pakistan is viewed as a critical player, because it is believed to provide sanctuaries to insurgents in its territory. Moreover, its influence on the Taliban is immense, encouraging intransigence. Members of the Taliban believe that time is on their side and that if they hold on to this situation, victory will be theirs. Yet at times, the Taliban have been conciliatory within the same framework. They released an American soldier, Bowe Bergdahl, whom they had abducted and gave a political face to their dealings by opening a political office in Doha, Qatar, in 2014. In 2015, they entered briefly into direct talks with Kabul leaders. The insurgents even agreed to a cease-fire on the festival of Eid last year. On the other hand, the Taliban have unleashed terrible violence when they deem it necessary.

Trump will soon learn that negotiating peace with an enemy calls for more diplomacy and finesse than he has displayed.

When peace comes to Afghanistan it will come at a price—one that America and Pakistan will both pay. In the last two years, as Trump moved away from his predecessor’s South Asian policy, Pakistan moved rapidly toward forging new ties—including military relationships—with Russia and consolidating long-standing ties with China and other neighboring states (namely Iran, Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Turkey and Malaysia). The bailout packages obtained from some of them, along with China’s “One Belt, One Road” project, will help Pakistan tide over its economic crisis for the time being. But we do not know the secret commitments that have been made in return.

It must be remembered that Pakistan is a security state, and the fulcrum of power rests not in Islamabad but in Rawalpindi, where the military headquarters are located. The nation’s Afghan policy is controlled from there. It is thus not strange that Khalilzad had to call on General Qamar Bajwa, the chief of army staff, during his recent visit to Pakistan.

Because Islamabad has preferred not to reveal much, we will have to wait to learn what the future holds for Pakistan—and also the United States.

Source: Truthdig

Continue reading Peace in Afghanistan will come at a price

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US-Pakistan relations at a razor’s edge

The Torkham border crossing between Pakistan and Afghanistan. (Wikimedia Commons)

Truthdig is proud to present this article as part of its Global Voices: Truthdig Women Reporting, a series from a network of female correspondents around the world who are dedicated to pursuing truth within their countries and elsewhere.

By Zubeida Mustafa

A sober anniversary last month reminded us of the U.S. attack on Afghanistan that took place on Oct. 7, 2001, in the wake of 9/11. The consequences of that American invasion were severe for Afghanistan, but the impact also crossed the long border shared with Pakistan.

Both Afghanistan and Pakistan continue to stagger under the effects of an international conflict that extends back almost four decades. It is generally believed across the world that the Soviet Union triggered that conflict when it invaded Afghanistan in 1979. But we now know better, thanks to an admission in 1998 by Zbigniew Brzezinski, Jimmy Carter’s national security adviser. Brzezinski said Afghanistan became a flashpoint when he and the then-president sent “freedom fighters” from Pakistan into Afghanistan to force the Soviets to defend the Afghan government. Gen. Zia ul-Haq, the military dictator who ruled Pakistan at the time, went along with this scheme to break out of the isolation he found himself in after he ordered the hanging of former Prime Minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto.

Today, Pakistan and the U.S. face a stalemate in Afghanistan. Since President Donald Trump announced his South Asian strategy in August 2017, relations between the two countries have cooled visibly. Trump’s strategic plan put new pressure on Pakistan to stop protecting terrorists on the Pakistani-Afghan border.

Islamabad denies that terrorists enjoy sanctuary in Pakistan. It claims militants causing devastation in Afghanistan and destabilizing that country have done so on the Afghan side of the border after they were driven out of Pakistan. But deadly incidents contradict that claim—just last month, a prominent Afghan police chief was assassinated by a young man who had trained with the Taliban in Pakistan.

In 2017, Pakistan began to build a fence on its 1,600-mile border with Afghanistan. The $532 million fence is expected to be completed next year. The Pakistan army claims this elaborate barrier will prevent terrorists from infiltrating the Durand Line, which has always been a porous border. But will it check infiltration? Skeptical observers doubt it because the border is dotted with tunnels that terrorists have used when border crossings became difficult.

A quick visit to the region by then-Secretary of State Rex Tillerson in October 2017, as a follow-up to Trump’s August announcement, confirmed that all was not well between Washington and Islamabad. The two sides were courteous, but each maintained its stance. Tillerson presented Pakistan with a list of names of supposed terrorists, who were to be handed over to the American army. If Islamabad didn’t comply, it was to suffer undisclosed consequences. Pakistan, as usual, denied the existence of terrorist havens on its soil.

A key change in the geopolitical situation in this region occurred in mid-August of this year when a new government was installed in Islamabad (led by Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf, or PTI), but that has not turned the tide of international politics in Southwest Asia.

A hectic round of diplomacy between Pakistan and the U.S. since the election has been counterproductive. In early September, Secretary of State Michael Pompeo made a five-hour stopover in Islamabad, which appears to have been a scouting mission to assess the PTI’s approach to strategic issues in the region. It does not appear that any progress resulted.

Last month, acting U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Henry Ensher told The Wilson Center in Washington his government would continue to pressure Pakistan to “change its policy toward regional peace and stability.”

Another exercise in diplomacy proved futile last month when Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi was in the U.S. to attend a United Nations General Assembly session. His second meeting with Pompeo—this time at the White House—did not even produce a joint statement, so far apart were the two sides in their views on the region.

The deadlock is rooted in the two countries’ differing perceptions of Afghanistan and India. Washington wants to make India the key regional player in the Great Afghanistan Game. The U.S. has forged close economic relations with New Delhi in recent years, and Trump has called on India to reciprocate by supporting the pro-American Ashraf Ghani administration in Kabul. (The U.S. helped facilitate Ghani’s election.) Washington wants Pakistan to help sustain the status quo and to stop competing for influence in Afghanistan.

The U.S. also wants to revive trust between Islamabad and Washington by implementing all military agreements between the two countries signed in the post-9/11 years. Those agreements have centered on eliminating terrorists in Afghanistan.

The demands Washington is making run counter to the strategic aims of the Pakistan army, which has the final word in policy matters. The ruling PTI—which has benefited from support of the military—hardly has any leverage in the situation.

For its part, Pakistan wants the U.S. to focus on New Delhi-Islamabad relations and to promote détente between India and Pakistan, both of which are armed with nuclear weapons. India has been considered Pakistan’s Enemy Number One since the two South Asian neighbors emerged as independent states in 1947, but many Pakistanis have not agreed with this policy, deeming it unwise and dangerous for their country’s survival. Until recently, there have been periods of stability and near-détente, and the U.S. has helped by adopting a policy of mediation and conciliation on India-Pakistan issues.

Peaceful relations with India would enable Pakistan to focus fully on its western front, which is the main theater of war against the terrorists in Afghanistan.

With no understanding reached on several regional issues, the stalemate continues. To quote Pompeo, the objective of “resetting” the direction of U.S.-Pakistan relations has not been achieved.

Looming Economic Crisis

Islamabad has to find a way out of this crisis by strengthening its hand with regard to security and the economy.

For decades, Islamabad has found strength through strategic links with Washington, including the arms aid it has received for its military operations. Since the 1950s, it has also received massive economic assistance from the U.S., although critics say injudicious use of those funds has made Pakistan overwhelmingly dependent on foreign aid. Much of the money went for projects that never became functional because they were inappropriate for Pakistan’s conditions, while a lot of money in “tied” aid went back to the donor country. (Under the conditions of tied aid, the country that receives funds must spend that money on goods from the donor country.) Newsweek reports that some funding may even have been embezzled.

Getting out of the debt trap isn’t easy, with an economic crisis staring the country in the face. As on 21 previous occasions, the government in Islamabad is approaching the International Monetary Fund (IMF) for a bailout. An IMF mission is visiting Islamabad this week.

The PTI government also has been seeking economic aid from allies, notably Saudi Arabia and China. Prime Minister Imran Khan managed to get a bailout of $6 billion from Riyadh at the Future Investment Initiative last month. He has also visited Beijing. and China has assured him it will help Pakistan in its present crisis but shrewdly has not announced any details, leaving those for future negotiations. The Chinese likely are waiting to see the outcome of the IMF talks.

Since 2013, China has emerged as Pakistan’s biggest economic partner. The China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) is an integral part of Beijing’s One Belt, One Road initiative, which will open shorter overland and sea routes to enhance China’s connections with the Middle East, Africa and Europe.

To ward off criticism from several quarters, the Chinese declared recently that CPEC was not the cause of Pakistan’s current economic malaise. That is true. Every Pakistani government since the 1950s has contributed to the country’s debt burden by borrowing millions of dollars from the West and the IMF. But what’s also true is that when the repayment of the $50 billion in CPEC-related loans begins in 2023, the crisis will escalate. Topline Securities, a brokerage house that analyzes CPEC-related finances, estimates Pakistan’s debt to China will balloon to $90 billion in the 30-year repayment period.

The basic fact is that Pakistan’s failure to live within its means has brought its economy to the brink. Its biggest expenditure has been on defense, which has limited its capacity to improve human resources. Conditions imposed by Pakistan’s creditors has restricted its options in every walk of life because much of the aid has been earmarked for military equipment and unfeasible civic projects.

Military Security at Stake

To bolster the country in terms of military security, Pakistani policymakers have turned to states that compete with the U.S. in the global race for strategic supremacy. Pakistan has been closely involved in military exercises with China on a regular basis since 2004, claiming they promote peace and reinforce the preparedness of Pakistan’s defense forces. That is nothing new—the two countries have had close defense ties since the 1960s.

Russia has not been a stranger, either. True, a long period of Pakistan-U.S. military alignment alienated Russia from Pakistan. But didn’t someone say that there are no permanent friends or foes in international affairs? Russia and Pakistan have seen periods of amity as well.

In 2014 Islamabad signed a defense cooperation pact with Moscow, when global politics appeared to be reverting to an erstwhile confrontational pattern. Since then, Russia and Pakistan have held three military drills to strengthen cooperation and exchange expertise on counterterrorism. The third drill, dubbed Druzhba-III, ended last month. If nothing else, these exercises amount to a show of strength and a warning that the U.S. should not expect an easy victory if it confronts Pakistan.

Pakistan has also held war games with Saudi Arabia, Iran and Turkey. Apart from military benefits, these exercises show that Pakistan is not isolated. However, this regional involvement has dragged the government into disputes that it has long sought to avoid. For example, Gen. Raheel Sharif, Pakistan’s retiring chief of army staff, was appointed commander in chief of the Islamic Military Counter Terrorism Coalition (formerly the Islamic Military Alliance). The appointment was made by the Saudi government with the approval of the Pakistan defense minister, although Pakistan’s National Assembly voted against it. Public opinion in Pakistan strongly disapproves of the government’s involvement in Saudi conflicts in the region.

Pakistan’s economic and security challenges are daunting. With China’s support, short-term solutions are being found, although in the long run Islamabad’s woes will become direr than ever. Trump’s inability to take a multidimensional view of the region, especially of the India-Pakistan conflict, will destabilize the region further. This area is home to two states with nuclear arms, and even a skirmish could trigger a devastating war.

Source: Truthdig

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Pompeo’s Five Hours in Islamabad

By Zubeida Mustafa

He came, he talked briefly and he left. All in one afternoon. That sums up U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s fleeting visit to Islamabad on Sept 5. Since expectations were not high, both sides opted to be discreet about disclosing what they had discussed. No doubt they were courteous and conciliatory. That would have helped to create the atmosphere needed to “reset” relations between the U.S. and Pakistan, the main purpose of this exercise in diplomacy.

Continue reading Pompeo’s Five Hours in Islamabad

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Integrity above all

ZM with renowne playwright Haseena Moin

By Beena Sarwar

When a pioneering journalist pens her memoirs, you pay attention. Especially when she is Zubeida Mustafa of Pakistan, a long-time feminist and champion of social causes who, from her editorial perch at the daily Dawn, witnessed momentous transitions in the country’s media and political landscapes for over three decades. Beyond being a witness to change, she has also, as she realises with a thrill, “been a part of it, at times driving it and at times being driven by it.”

The narrative in this slim hardcover, My Dawn Years: Exploring Social Issues, is quintessential Zubeida Mustafa: direct, understated, deep, nuanced, thorough — and meticulously indexed. Black and white photos, though somewhat grainy, are well captioned, providing a pictorial reference to many of the events and people mentioned in the book. Continue reading Integrity above all

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Misuse of faith

By Zubeida Mustafa

A RECENTLY launched collection of Hamza Alavi’s papers and speeches should be a timely reminder to us about the role that faith has come to play in Pakistan’s politics. Translated into Urdu by Dr Riaz Ahmad Shaikh (dean of Social Sciences, Szabist), Tashkeel-i-Pakistan: Mazhab aur Secularism leaves no one in doubt about the misuse of religion by our leaders to gain advantages in public life at the expense of the people’s well-being and the national interest.

Hamza Alavi, who was a Marxist scholar recognised in world academia, firmly believed that the founder of this country never sought to set up a theocratic state. Yet that is the direction in which Pakistan appears to be heading. Continue reading Misuse of faith

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New American Strategy in South Asia Targets Pakistan

By Zubeida Mustafa

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson’s return to Washington after a hectic week in South Asia and the Middle East leaves us speculating on the purpose and result of his mission.

World attention was focused on his exercise in diplomacy for no other reason than that his trip was a follow-up on President Donald Trump’s announcement in August of a new South Asia strategy. Continue reading New American Strategy in South Asia Targets Pakistan

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No trashy issue

TWO seemingly insignificant events could amount to the writing on the wall for our municipal administrators all over the country. It is plain, the public will no longer turn a blind eye to poor sanitation. People are now beginning to understand the implications of environmental pollution.

Recently, the inhabitants of a village in Fatehjang tehsil (Punjab) protested against the garbage dump which the district municipality had created near their homes. Some of them actually travelled to Islamabad to meet the director of the National Commission of Human Rights to lodge their complaint. They were not happy with the odour that pervaded their homes. Even more encouraging was the fact that the inhabitants of neighbouring villages refused to allow the DMO to pile garbage near their homes when he tried to shift the dumping site. Continue reading No trashy issue

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A Global Conglomerate of Oppression

Noor Zaheer

By

The pronounced lack of interest in the public health system in Pakistan is not difficult to explain. Public opinion in a country as stratified and uninformed as ours, is created and moulded by the so-called privileged classes, comprising those members of society who have the means to pay for private health care. Hence they are not affected by the abysmal state of health care in the public sector on which the poor depend.

The general attitude is: what is the role of the poor in our society? They are useful only for domestic labour in the homes of the rich or for menial work in public places and factories. And, of course, to vote at election time. A higher birth rate among the impoverished ensures there is never any shortage in the labour force. If they fall sick, they are easily replaced. With limited skills and training, none are really indispensable. Continue reading A Global Conglomerate of Oppression

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An erratic coalition

By Rifaat Hamid Ghani

geust-contPakistan has done many stupid things within the rubrics of foreign and domestic policy. And joining a coalition of predominantly Arab states against ‘terrorism’ where the terrorist and the nature of the activity are defined ad lib could prove one of the most regrettable. There is such a thing as rational neutrality, but it seems to be something with which we are non-aligned.

Of course we are financially indebted to Saudi Arabia (the coalition’s convener) more recently and currently than we are indebted to Iran: But that could also be because Iran has been sanctioned out of prosperity; rather the way Saddam’s Iraq was. And the coalition’s focus is on Iran and Shi’ite ‘insurrectionary’ segments or regimes Iran may be sympathising with in the very troubled Middle East and Gulf states. Iran has never taken a side that is overtly or covertly hostile to Pakistan or vice versa. Are we coalescing to create adversaries for ourselves and foster sectarian differentiations? Continue reading An erratic coalition

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Peace women

By Zubeida Mustafa

THE Tehreek-i-Niswan and Sheema Kermani have always been at the forefront when matters of peace are at stake. Many performances by the Tehreek have been directed at protesting the brutality of violence against and oppression of women. Hence it was quite in keeping with its character that the group convened a ‘peace table’ on Oct 15, at the Karachi Arts Council. Here hundreds of women and also men assembled to reinforce the widely held, but unimplemented, belief that female involvement in peacemaking improves the chances of lasting security.

A landmark resolution (1325) was adopted by the UN Security Council 15 years ago calling for women to be included in decision-making positions at every level of peacemaking. It has so far made a nominal impact. The head of UN Women, Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, admits that globally “women’s participation at peace tables is still symbolic or low”. Continue reading Peace women

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