Articles Regarding Pakistan

India in flames over Gilgit-Baltistan: 26 October, 2020 "The Nation"

The people of Gilgit-Baltistan opposed the accession of Kashmir to India and the appointment of Brigadier Ghansara Singh as the Governor of Gilgit. On October 31, 1947, the residence of the governor was surrendered by Gilgit Scouts and by November 1, he had surrendered himself to them. On the same day, the Dogra flag was pulled down and the Pakistani flag was raised. A special courier was sent to the government of Pakistan to inform them about the liberation of Gilgit.

On August 14, 1948, Lt Col Thapa, along with 250 Dogra soldiers, surrendered to liberation forces at Skardu. The people of Gilgit-Baltistan liberated the region without any external help and joined Pakistan voluntarily and unconditionally—a singular honor of the people of Gilgit-Baltistan. States of Hunza and Nager acceded to Pakistan followed by Darel and Tangir. Through the UN resolution of number 80 of March 1950, both ‘Azad Kashmir’ and ‘Northern Areas’ were included with the term of the state of Jammu and Kashmir.

Successive governments introduced different reforms in the region. In 2009, it was named Gilgit-Baltistan and a province-like status was given. In 2015, the Sartaj Aziz committee was formed to recommend reforms for the region. The committee submitted its recommendation in 2018 and recommended a provisional provincial status by amending the constitution of Pakistan. It also recommended four national assembly seats, including a women and three senate seats. The Gilgit-Baltistan Legislative Assembly also adopted a unanimous resolution demanding the federal government to declare it a constitutional province of Pakistan. The Supreme Court of Pakistan also ruled in 2019 that the power of the court should be extended to Gilgit-Baltistan and directed the government to grant fundamental rights to the people of the region.

In May 2020, the Supreme Court also allowed the government to amend the Gilgit-Baltistan Order of 2018 to conduct general elections, which are now scheduled on November 15, 2020. Recently the government of Imran Khan decided to make Gilgit-Baltistan a full-fledged province with constitutional rights and representation in both the houses of the parliament. The decision was taken after consultation with all stakeholders, even COAS met and briefed the parliamentary leaders on the sensitivity of the issue from a security point of view.

The opposition parties agreed, in principle, to support the move to make Gilgit-Baltistan the fifth province of the country. India has consistently been opposed to changes made in Gilgit-Baltistan right from 1947. Much of the hype being raised by the Indian media is mainly due to CPEC and overall economic development in the region. India is obsessed with Gilgit-Baltistan which is evident from the statements made frequently by its political and military leaders. In 1994, the Indian parliament passed a resolution that the region is an integral part of India by virtue of Jammu and Kashmir’s accession to it in 1947. The Indian national security advisor went on the record to say that, “We also have 106 kilometers long non-contagious border with Afghanistan (Wakhan Corridor).”

In 2016, Modi made a reference to Gilgit during his speech from the Red Fort according to which the people of Gilgit thanked him for voicing their rights. The Gilgit-Baltistan Legislative Assembly condemned the speech and passed a unanimous resolution against it. In the past, a number of individuals, with the backing of RAW, were arrested from the region. Recently Abdul Hameed Khan, a nationalist leader of a banned organisation, returned to Pakistan and apologised to the people of Gilgit-Baltistan. He confirmed that he played in the hands of the enemy.

India has started broadcasting the weather reports of Azad Kashmir and Gilgit-Baltistan showing these areas as its own territory. The Indian army has plans to take over Gilgit-Baltistan and according to the former army chief, General V.K Singh, “Gilgit-Baltistan belongs to India and will come to us at the right time”.

In 1987, an operation (Ex-Trident) was planned by India to attack Skardu on February 8, 1987, and then Gilgit, with a view to occupy Gilgit-Baltistan. Through the help of the intelligence, Pakistan took measures to respond and India cancelled the operation. The people of Gilgit-Baltistan will not fall prey to Indian conspiracies and they are well aware of the fake news and strategy behind such attempts. They have been wanting a merger with Pakistan since its independence and have been demanding to adopt the identity as a Pakistani since November 1, 1947.

The people of Gilgit-Baltistan are serving as the armed forces of Pakistan and shed their blood in defence of the motherland, which is evident from the wars they fought in 1948, 1965, 1971, regarding Siachen, Kargil and the war on terror. Lalik Jan, recipient of Nishan-e-Haider, is the son of Gilgit-Baltistan. There are a couple of individuals who, on behest of RAW, appear on Indian media to propagate the theme given to them.

The government and opposition are reportedly near consensus on elevating Gilgit-Baltistan as a full-fledged province of Pakistan. This step of the federal government will address the continued denial of rights of the people of Gilgit-Baltistan. This will bring the region into the mainstream and put it under the jurisdiction of the constitution of Pakistan. The decision will have no bearing on IIOJK as it will be a provisional province and linked to the Kashmir solution. This step may force India to reconcile its earlier decision to revoke articles 370 and 35A. This will also ensure economic development, protection of CPEC and secure the identity of the people of Gilgit-Baltistan.

There are some schools of thought that express certain reservations regarding the future of Gilgit-Baltistan. Some believe that integration with Pakistan will damage Pakistan’s Kashmir cause. The government needs to get them on board so that all concerns and doubts regarding this decision are eliminated since it has been well received across Gilgit-Baltistan and the people of the region say, we are Pakistani first, last and always.

The decolonization debacle: 26 October, 2020 "The News"

One of the latest buzzwords in the global academic and political fraternity, is “decolonization”. There has been heated debate for the last many years that several sectors across the world, must be ‘decolonized’ and find new ways of working. From foreign aid, to foreign policy, from academia to gender, from history to language, from Africa to Asia – the list is endless.

Decolonization isn’t a new concept. It has its origins both in the post-colonial world by those seeking to distance themselves from their former colonizers as well as in Northern academia, as a way to undo the effects of colonialism in their work with former colonies.

But decolonization has led to a dichotomy because both sides use the concept for different ends. The formerly colonized use it to regain control over their independence and autonomy from the more powerful nations. And the former colonizers use it to continue to retain their dominance and control with their now ‘allies’, by changing their modus operandi.

We in Pakistan, as a former British colony, are one of the countries caught between this dichotomy. I personally do not agree with the debates surrounding decolonization, because we fought a bloody battle against our colonizers to achieve independence and sovereignty. But the reality is that we are also heavily dependent on the legacy they left behind. Our language, laws, even our infrastructure, is still dictated by our colonial past. We also remain heavily compromised and aligned with our former colonizers and their quest for continued control over our resources through ‘diplomacy’ (but certainly not tact).

So while we do not need to decolonize in the traditional sense of the word – Pakistan is independent and sovereign – there are continued threats that impact this sovereignty. The most prominent being that colonizers have taken on new forms in post-colonial society. The US, Saudi Arabia and China are a new breed of colonizers who use religion and money to exert seemingly autonomous control over our borders and national decision-making. Multilateral finance and development institutions, likewise, constantly keep us financially burdened and indebted – to the point of collapse. And the Commonwealth, despite its own redundancy, keeps us tied to British colonial history.

And this is the same all across post-colonial territories.

So how can we extricate ourselves from these legacies? We are a sovereign nation. Why can’t we institute sovereign policies? And for the sake of argument, how can Pakistan ‘decolonize’?

Some may argue that we already do. And that is true to some extent. But we also refuse to make some hard choices on the policies and practices that we endorse.

For instance, decolonizing our educational curriculum will mean not just institutionalizing Urdu and other regional languages alongside English as part of instruction, but also making children aware of our multi-ethnic and religious diversity. Decolonizing isn’t about picking and choosing how you want to present yourself.

Likewise, decolonizing our financial security will mean refusing the IMF and other multilateral loans and finding our own ways of generating revenue (other than taxation, so good business and investment practices). The same will apply to taking grants and loans from development aid organizations. This will mean coming up with our own unique ways to support social services and protections afforded to our populations, rather than depending on donor-led ideas.

Similarly, we will need to invest in intellectual debate and rigour that takes subcontinental history into account, warts and all, rather than depend on Western theoretical models and business practices to guide our innovations (globalization notwithstanding).

Can we do it? We could, of course. But there are many reasons why we may not be able to.

The main reason we can perhaps not successfully decolonize is because we have created an internal form of colonization within Pakistan, where the rich control the poor. Where the majority stalks the minority. A situation not very different from our pre-partition history, just perhaps, worse.

How can we decolonize ourselves from the global power fraternity, when we have no way of doing it internally? How can we fight for autonomy and sovereignty, when our own citizens aren’t free and independent?

The irony is that this is exactly the excuse the international community uses within its own decolonization agenda, which seeks to continue exerting power over us, just in more subtle ways. That countries like ours are still not ‘independent’ enough. But there is a difference between being independent and being politically demotivated to remain so. Pakistan falls in the latter category. We would happily give away all our assets to the highest bidders to feed the souls of a few at the top.

True decolonization is an act that comes from the formerly oppressed towards their oppressors. Not the other way around. They have already divested of their colonial interests. But in Pakistan and other countries like it, we are still grappling with the demons of our past.

Here is to yet another form of oppression. The fight to decolonize ourselves from ourselves.

India trying to hoodwink world community through malicious anti-Pakistan propaganda: 26 October, 2020 "Daily Times"

India is trying to hoodwink international community through malicious propaganda against Pakistan, aimed at lending legitimacy to Narendra Modi’s unilateral approach of dealing with the Kashmir dispute.

At a time, when India has received extremely hostile press in the global media due to its litany of human rights violations in different parts against minorities and the Indian Illegally Occupied Jammu and Kashmir (IIOJK), it was trying to malign Pakistan as an aggressor party. Every passing day in IIOJK tells tales of tyranny, subjugation and heart rending tortures and international organizations are witness to it. But, India was shamefully trying to portray these subjugated masses as its own people through cosmetic overtures like inauguration of a museum.

The Indian authorities are mistaken to think that such initiatives would erase the imprints of sufferings from the minds of Kashmiri people. India cannot distort history through frivolous tactics as Kashmiri have not forgotten the hundreds and thousands killing occurred in IIOJK since 1947. This fresh move is yet another creation of ‘Hindutva’ mindset that always tried to influence global opinion on human rights violations in IIOJK.

A two-day event was organized last week in Srinagar to ‘document, reconstruct and bring alive the historic narrative of Pakistani ‘aggression’ in IIOJK in 1947 is meant for falsely portraying Pakistan as an aggressor.

But history reveals otherwise, back in 1947, the ruling Dogra establishment connived in overseeing the massacre of Muslims in Jammu as part of the elimination of the indigenous population and settling of a predominantly Hindu population. The death figures range from over 300,000 killed and two million displaced. The freedom fighters struggled for their just right due to Dogra rule’s human rights violation against fellow Muslims and to liberate the land as per the will of the people. Maharaja of Kashmir ignored geographical contiguity and religious demographics. The Instrument of accession was illegal and done against the political aspirations of the Kashmiri people in IIOJK.

Over the decades, successive Indian government pursued the agenda of subjugating Kashmiris and denying them their just right to self-determination.

The most lethal blow to the identity of Kashmiri people as well as their right to self-determination was the amendment in Indian constitution wherein the Modi’s fascist regime changed the articles 370 and 35A that guaranteed a special status for Kashmiris.

The current changes in domicile laws were an attempt to complete the agenda of demographic changes started back in 1947.

In the post de-operationalisation of Article 370, where Urdu used to be the official language, has now raised serious concerns that it might not remain so.

This belief was strengthened when the Indian functionaries said, “All special provisions have been thrown into the dustbin of history where they always belonged.”

Radio Kashmir was changed to All India Radio and the Sher-e-Kashmir International Convention Centre dropped the reference to Sheikh Abdullah from the name. Kashmir’s water supply department was officially renamed Jal Shakti Department. It was also announced that history textbooks (which would otherwise take years to update particular events) would be updated to incorporate chapters on the reorganisation of the former state into union territories of Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh.

This renaming of places and departments and further promotion of state-sponsored narratives in the long run has the potential to legitimize the claims of the Indian state of its historical “ownership” over Kashmir. The erasure of Kashmiri narratives and promoting statist discourse is also a part of this exercise. A 2017 report of India’s interior ministry had also noted that the control of mosques, seminaries, and the media was necessary for “perception management.”

But, India forgets that Kashmir is a disputed territory and it is India who was an aggressor and not Pakistan. India is continuously making the mockery of UN Security Council resolutions and since India holds no moral legitimacy in IIOJK, it relies on unilateralism and unbridled brute force to suppress Kashmiri voices.

Therefore, it is prime responsibility of international community to keep vigil on Indian illegal actions in IIOJK and stop it from inhuman acts against innocent Kashmiris.

Kashmir issue is flashpoint of South Asia that may lead to heightened confrontation between two nuclear powers endangering regional peace and lives of over two billion population in the region.

Of the not-so-elusive dream of democracy: 26 October, 2020 "The Business"

For Sartaj Aziz, a development economist and a politician, writing his memoir is a legacy-driven compulsion. But to me the second edition of this book, Between Dreams and Realities: Some milestones in Pakistan’s history, encompassing parts of his personal and political life, is an evolution from his grandfather’s Rediscovery of One’s Soul and, in the same vein, his father’s What is Man and What he Ought to Do to the soul-searching of a nation whose dream, to quote Aziz, “has received many serious blows in the past seven decades”. In the book, Aziz reflects on the nation’s life through his personal journey, providing readers with an honest account of his time, the key events and people who shaped it, the highs and lows, the mistakes, his take on the political, economic and cultural forces he had to confront then — which as a nation Pakistanis are still grappling with. He is as flummoxed as the rest of us about what has happened to his country. His meander through the nation’s life often finds bitter spots and fault lines following the death of Quaid-i-Azam, the founder of the nation, and the assassination of the nation’s first prime minister, Liaqat Ali Khan. “As my personal progress proceeded parallel with Pakistan’s progress as a nation, I witnessed, often from close quarters many… milestones and turning points – both positive and negative, adding to my dreams and their realisation and also tragedies and upheavals which shattered some dreams and left a legacy of difficulties and obstacles,” he writes. Overall, it is a solid work featuring photographs, quotes and annexed documents, so candid and honest it could serve as a reference book.

For a man with a ringside seat, it is not light on revelation, but he does not close his argument without suggesting a solution and that too exuding hope. For example, he ends the chapter on his party Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz’s archrival Imran Khan as prime minister by saying: “Pakistan’s economy has huge potential for economic and social progress but that requires a stable political environment and economic stability”. Aziz doesn’t gloss over his party leader Nawaz Sharif’s flaws either. “The counterpoint to Nawaz Sharif’s brilliant political career, in which he was elected Prime Minister three times, is the stark reality that he was unable to complete his full 5-year tenure in any one of them. The reasons for each ouster were different and bring out his weaknesses and errors.” An authentic record of the milestones and turning points in Pakistan’s political history, this book advocates that only a genuine democratic dispensation can ensure a viable federation. Unlike Faiz Ahmad Faiz, Aziz’s yearning for the dawn does not become a lament for ‘This light, smeared and spotted, this night-bitten dawn”. In not losing hope, he is in consonance with Faiz saying: “Let’s go on, we haven’t reached the destination yet.” Aziz says all his life he has held on to the dream of “the advent of a vibrant and self-sustaining democracy”. And he is not despondent now. He hopes, rather is confident, to see future generations of Pakistan “bringing forth outstanding political leaders who will convert this dream into a permanent reality”.

For them, he has “explored some of the causes of failure of democracy in Pakistan”. “The vitality of a nation does not come only from its economic progress or the size of its military but also from its shared values, cultural heritage and social energy. The classical definition of a ‘nation’ with a common language and a common culture has been replaced with the modern concept of the nation-state with a diverse range of cultures, languages and ethnic groups. This diversity, if properly harnessed, and harmonized, through democratic principles and forces can increase the inherent vitality of a nation,” says Aziz as one of the most important lessons of history in the Epilogue I. He proposes a new charter of democracy after a Grand National Dialogue involving all stakeholders. To him, national cohesion, internal and external security, health of the economy, a credible and just judicial system, depth and quality of education system, a rational and coherent foreign policy and singularity of the locus of state authority are the ingredients of the national interest. These ingredients can only be harnessed through a broader and more inclusive democratic system. That is the only way to ensure that “the dream of Pakistan is never allowed to die”.