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Articles Regarding Pakistan

Pakistan’s Armed Forces’ Contribution to UN peacekeeping

by: Sajjad Shaukat| May 29, 2024

On this day in 1945, the United Nations (UN) came into force when the five permanent members of the Security Council ratified its charter. This followed a declaration by the UN General Assembly in 1947 which designated May 29 as United Nations Day, by proclaiming that the day would be instrumental in making people aware of the aims and achievements of the UN and to gain their support for its work.

Since its creation, Pakistan has played a significant role as a UN member in bringing peace through active diplomatic, moral and material support in various regions of the world. Therefore, this day reminds one of Pakistan’s armed forces’ contribution in UN peacekeeping measures, during war and peacetime.

Pakistan’s armed forces are considered the best organized institutions, and are highly respected in the country, as since the founding of Pakistan, its military has played a key role in holding the state together, promoting a feeling of nationhood and providing a bastion of selfless service.

Today, Pakistan’s position as one of the largest troop-contributing countries in the world with one of the highest peacekeepers’ casualty figures is testimony to its commitment and endeavours towards promoting the noble cause of global peace. It is not easy to achieve peace in the world’s conflict-ridden areas. However, the Pakistan Army’s history is replete with sacrifices, services to humanity and promoting collective security for human prosperity.

In this regard, Pakistan is a big player in UN peacekeeping forces. Pakistan joined the United Nations on 30 September 1947. Since 1960, it has been actively involved in most of the UN peacekeeping missions. The ajor contributions of the Pakistan Army have been in Congo, Liberia, Somalia, Ivory Coast, Western Sahara, Sierra Leone, Bosnia, Kosovo, Georgia, East Timor Haiti among others. Even at present, more than 8200 troops of the Pakistan Army are engaged in different peacekeeping missions across various volatile countries.

The performance of Pakistani peacekeepers has been recognized worldwide by several world leaders including those of the UN. An undeniable professional standing of Pakistani forces has made them the passion of every special representative of Secretary General and Force Commander in each of UN peacekeeping operations. In this respect, Pakistan’s dedication towards the UN has been acknowledged by UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon who himself visited Pakistan and inaugurated the Centre for International Peace and Stability (CIPS) on 13 August 2013 and praised Pakistan’s efforts in UN peacekeeping missions.

However, Pakistan has participated in 41 UN missions in 23 states where a total 142,542 Pakistani personnel were engaged, starting from the UN Congo Operation in 1960. The Pakistan Army delivered its services there, and contributed in ordnance, transport and staff. It remained in Congo, and provided a battalion group comprising one infantry battalion and supporting elements.

Pakistan’s Armed Forces’ positive contribution in the UN peacekeeping measures reflects Islamabad’s desire to see the principles of human dignity, freedom and self-determination.

For maintaining and monitoring the ceasefire during the transition of West Irian from Dutch rule to Indonesia, Pakistan contributed 1500 infantry troops from 3 October 1962 to 30 April 1963. In a rare acknowledgement of their excellent role, Chinese Premier Chou-En-Lai had said, “The only example in United Nation’s history, when United Nations force had gone …performed its role honestly and came out, was Pakistan’s military contingent to Indonesia.”

Besides, Pakistan’s contribution was in the United Nations Yemen Observer Mission (UNYOM) as a military observer from January to September 1964. Yemen entered a state of civil war in 1962. To ensure that this conflict did not escalate into a global incident, the UN set up its Yemen Observation Mission. And, United Nations Transition Assistance Group in Namibia (UNTAG) was established to assist the special representative of the UN Secretary General to ensure the early independence of Namibia through free and fair elections, and to carry out a number of other duties. For this purpose, 20 military observers from the Pakistan Army performed their duties from 1 April 1989 to 21 March 1990 in Namibia.

Notably, the Pakistan Army played a positive role in the Middle East, and was on the forefront for peace restoration. The United Nations Iraq-Kuwait Observer Mission (UNIKOM) was set up in April 1991, following the forced withdrawal of Iraqi forces from Kuwait. Its task was to monitor the demilitarised zone along the Iraq-Kuwait border and deter border violations. Pakistani forces which helped continued their services there from April 1991 to 2003 were assigned the most difficult area in the north of Kuwait city— reclamation of Bubiyan Island was also entrusted to them. The operation was carried out by a task force of Pakistan Army Engineers. The professionalism and dedication displayed by this force was praised at international level.

While part of the the United Nations Transitional Authority on Cambodia (UNTAC), Pakistan’s military forces carried out peacekeeping operations in the most thorny and remote areas from  May 1992 to August 1993. They overcame enormous logistical and operational problems, and proved their courage and determination by defending themselves and those for whom they were sent. Coping with the odds, they handled crisis after crisis and persuaded the warring factions to lay down their arms.

And on the request of the UN in Latin America under the United Nations Mission in Haiti (UNMIH), Pakistan provided one infantry battalion, which arrived in Haiti in March 1995 and was deployed in Cape Haitien— the area faced an extremely volatile security situation and was also the hotbed of political agitation. It discharged its duties with an extensive patrolling programme, covering various regions there.

Nevertheless, Pakistan’s army has worked in difficult terrains and situations for global peace. Now, inside the country, although Pakistan’s armed forces are facing a tough situation in the wake of the war on terror, they are contributing to global peace and prosperity; having still a large presence in various parts of the world.

Now, the major powers must abandon their false propaganda against Pakistan and its Armed Forces, as the latter did more in response to international demands for world peace.

While, in pursuance of Pakistan Army’s unwavering commitment towards international peace, six Pakistani soldiers have sacrificed their lives. In this connection, Five of the six— Tahir Ikram, Tahir Mehmood, Mohammed Naeem, Adil Jan and Mohammed Shafiq were from Pakistan’s armed forces, while the sixth, Ibrar Syed, was a civilian. In this regard, at the UN Headquarters, Secretary-General António Guterres presided over a ceremony at which the Dag Hammarskjöld Medals of Courage were awarded posthumously to 117 military, police and civilian peacekeepers, including six Pakistanis.

In this respect, Pakistan’s UN Ambassador Munir Akram stated: “We are committed to helping the vulnerable communities affected by conflict and will continue to adapt to the changing environment and needs of the peacekeeping operations”.

Nonetheless, Pakistan’s Armed Forces’ positive contribution in the UN peacekeeping measures reflects Islamabad’s desire to see the principles of human dignity, freedom and self-determination.

 

 

Navigating the energy crisis amid global warming

by: Tanzeel Khanzada| May 29, 2024

In the global discourse on climate change, Pakistan often finds itself at the crossroads. Situated in a region already grappling with environmental challenges, the nation’s role in carbon emissions cannot be overlooked. With a burgeoning population and an energy sector in crisis, Pakistan stands at a critical juncture where its decisions will significantly impact not only its own future but also the global fight against climate change.

Pakistan’s carbon emissions may be minimal, but its environmental struggles loom large. The country’s connection to the Himalayan glaciers underscores this dilemma as they steadily dwindle from warming temperatures. Climate change is not a distant threat; it’s here, reshaping our world.

The energy sector in Pakistan is beset with challenges, ranging from outdated infrastructure to inefficient governance. Power shortages are a common occurrence, leading to widespread discontent among citizens and hindering economic growth. The crisis is further compounded by the burden of circular debt, which has plagued the sector for years, impeding investment in renewable energy alternatives. As a result, Pakistan finds itself caught in a vicious cycle where the pursuit of short-term energy solutions perpetuates long-term environmental harm.

The connection between Pakistan’s energy sector crisis and global warming is unmistakable. By perpetuating reliance on fossil fuels, Pakistan not only exacerbates its own environmental challenges but also contributes to the broader issue of climate change. The impacts of global warming are already being felt across the country, from more frequent and severe heat waves to erratic monsoon patterns, posing existential threats to vulnerable communities.

However, amidst these challenges lies an opportunity for Pakistan to chart a more sustainable path forward. The country possesses immense potential for renewable energy development, particularly in solar and wind power. With abundant sunlight and wind resources, investing in renewable energy infrastructure could not only reduce Pakistan’s carbon emissions but also create new avenues for economic growth and job creation.

Furthermore, international cooperation and support are crucial in this endeavour. Pakistan alone cannot address the complex challenges of climate change and energy transition. Collaboration with global partners, including technology transfer and financial assistance, can accelerate the adoption of clean energy solutions and help Pakistan meet its climate commitments under the Paris Agreement.

Pakistan faces a critical juncture where its decisions on carbon emissions, energy crisis, and climate change will shape its future profoundly. Urgent action is needed to address these challenges, with a focus on investing in renewable energy, improving governance in the energy sector, and enhancing resilience to climate impacts. The stakes are high, but by seizing opportunities for sustainable development and international collaboration, Pakistan can pave the way for a brighter, greener future for its people and the planet.

Moreover, addressing the energy sector crisis requires a comprehensive approach that tackles systemic issues such as governance, transparency, and accountability. Reforms aimed at improving efficiency, reducing wastage, and promoting renewable energy investments are imperative to break the cycle of circular debt and ensure a sustainable energy future for Pakistan.

The consequences of carbon emissions, rapid melting of Himalayan glaciers, and global warming pose severe threats to Pakistan, with far-reaching implications for its environment, economy, and society.

First and foremost, the rapid melting of Himalayan glaciers poses a direct existential threat to Pakistan. These glaciers serve as a crucial source of freshwater for millions of people, providing irrigation for agriculture, drinking water, and hydroelectric power generation. However, as temperatures rise and glaciers retreat at an alarming rate, Pakistan faces the spectre of water scarcity and heightened risk of floods and glacial lake outburst floods (GLOFs). The loss of glacier-fed rivers could disrupt agricultural productivity, exacerbate food insecurity, and fuel social unrest in already vulnerable regions.

Furthermore, the impacts of global warming are exacerbating existing environmental challenges in Pakistan. Erratic weather patterns, including more frequent and intense heat waves, droughts, and floods, are becoming increasingly common, disrupting ecosystems, threatening biodiversity, and compromising food and water security. Coastal areas are particularly vulnerable to rising sea levels, posing risks to infrastructure, settlements, and livelihoods.

Economically, the consequences of climate change are profound. Agriculture, a cornerstone of Pakistan’s economy, is highly susceptible to climate variability and extreme weather events. Reduced crop yields, livestock losses, and water scarcity could undermine rural livelihoods, exacerbate poverty, and deepen inequality. Moreover, the energy sector, already under strain from the crisis of circular debt and inefficiency, faces heightened vulnerability to climate-related disruptions, further hampering economic growth and development.

In addition to environmental and economic impacts, climate change poses significant challenges to Pakistan’s social fabric and human security. Displacement due to extreme weather events, water scarcity, and resource conflicts could exacerbate social tensions, internal displacement, and migration. Vulnerable populations, including women, children, and marginalized communities, are disproportionately affected, facing heightened risks of food insecurity, malnutrition, and health problems.

Moreover, the interplay between climate change and security dynamics adds another layer of complexity to Pakistan’s challenges. Competition over dwindling water resources, environmental degradation, and climate-induced migration could exacerbate regional tensions, fuel conflicts, and undermine stability. Addressing climate change, therefore, is not only a matter of environmental stewardship but also a crucial component of national and regional security.

Pakistan faces a critical juncture where its decisions on carbon emissions, energy crisis, and climate change will shape its future profoundly. Urgent action is needed to address these challenges, with a focus on investing in renewable energy, improving governance in the energy sector, and enhancing resilience to climate impacts. The stakes are high, but by seizing opportunities for sustainable development and international collaboration, Pakistan can pave the way for a brighter, greener future for its people and the planet.

 

 

 

India’s Cowardly Tactics Against Yasin Malik

by: Sarah Ameer| May 29, 2024

For decades, India has been using cowardly tactics to silence the voices of Kashmiri freedom fighters. Under the leadership of Modi, this practice got further impetus. One among such voices is of 56 year old, Muhammad Yasin Malik. He was arrested back in 2019 and in 2022, he was given life imprisonment under trumped-up terrorism charges without a fair trial, physical presence and legal access. Recently, his wife, Mushaal Hussein Mullick, in a video message urged India to allow her and her 12 year old daughter, Raziyah Sultana, a safe entry to meet Yasin Malik in Tihar Jail as per rules under Geneva Conventions on the rights of prisoners. The family has not seen each other and been forcefully divided for almost 10 years.

Article 116 of the Fourth Geneva Convention clearly states, “every internee shall be allowed to receive visitors, especially near relatives, at regular intervals and as frequently as possible”. However, despite being a signatory to the Geneva Convention, denying Yasin Malik the right to meet his family depicts India’s sheer disregard for International laws. Several research studies have shown that family visits play an important role in mitigating the effects of anxiety, depression and a sense of hopelessness for the prisoners. This tactic is not uncommon in political imprisonments where the main motive is to break the resolve of the prisoner. Hence, it would not be wrong to say that India, by preventing the Hurriyat leader from seeing his wife and daughter, seeks to weaken his morale and his psychological resilience.

Article 116 of the Fourth Geneva Convention clearly states, “every internee shall be allowed to receive visitors, especially near relatives, at regular intervals and as frequently as possible.”

Additionally, the humane treatment of prisoners is a litmus test for any democratic society. While India takes pride in calling itself the world’s largest democracy, the form of treatment Yasin Malik and tens of thousands of other prisoners are subjected to clearly shows the erosion of democratic norms in Indian society. Moreover, the charges against Yasin Malik, which have been deemed fraudulent, reflect a broader trend of using the judiciary as a tool of political repression. The denial of fair trial, legal counsel, and even the basic right to be physically present during his hearings exemplifies Malik’s case as a gross violation of justice. One can clearly see that the Hindutva regime is seeking vengeance on the Hurriyat leader for raising his voice against the Indian oppression and for rightfully demanding the Kashmiris right to self-determination.

There are also reports that the government of India is seeking the death penalty for the Hurriyat leader on fictitious cases to silence the most powerful voice of Kashmiris freedom movement. The situation in Kashmir is already volatile, and such an action will only fuel further discontent and unrest in the valley. The international community has a role to play in this scenario. Silence or inaction from the world community effectively condones these violations and diminishes the credibility of international human rights frameworks. It is imperative that international bodies and human rights organizations advocate for Malik’s fair treatment and call for an end to punitive measures against political prisoners in Kashmir.

 

 

 

Pakistan: A Pillar In Peacekeeping

by: Omay Aimen | May 29, 2024

The International Day of United Nations (UN) Peacekeepers, celebrated annually on May 29, serves to honor and pay tribute to the uniformed and civilian personnel who have rendered invaluable services in conflict zones worldwide. Peacekeeping has become increasingly difficult in the modern day due to the increased global tensions, complex conflicts, and the widespread dissemination of false and misleading information. In spite of these obstacles, they never give up on their never-ending quest for peace, cooperating with communities and partners to reduce violence and promote stability.

A startling 4,280 peacekeepers have given their life while serving under the UN Flag since the organization’s founding in 1948 until January 31, 2023. 171 men and women from Pakistan are among these brave people, demonstrating Pakistan’s important role in international peacekeeping operations. On June 5, Pakistan has its own Peacekeeping Day, a sombre day of remembering for the 24 soldiers who lost their lives in Mogadishu in June 1993. These gallant soldiers from the Pakistan Army are among the fallen heroes who best represent the dangers and high risks involved in peacekeeping operations.

Additionally, a large number of peacekeepers have suffered from catastrophic injuries brought on by landmines, artillery fire, rocket-propelled grenades, ambushes, convoy attacks, suicide bombers, vehicle and aircraft wrecks, and targeted killings. UN peacekeepers are devoted to their honourable task of maintaining peace in some of the most unstable areas of the globe despite these risks.

Over 200,000 Pakistani troops have participated in UN operations since 1960.

In July 1948, a Norwegian soldier was tragically shot and killed in Palestine, marking the first peacekeeper death. The UN Mediator in Palestine, Swedish nobleman Count Folke Bernadotte, was killed by the Lehi gang, a Zionist terrorist group also known as the Stern Gang, on Friday, September 17, 1948, just two months later. The second high-profile death in the history of peacekeeping involved a Swedish official as well: on September 18, 1961, UN Secretary-General Dag Hammarskjöld died in an aircraft accident while travelling to negotiate a cease-fire between the UN Operations in the Congo and Moise Tshombe’s Katangese soldiers.

Pakistan has been a steadfast contributor to international peacekeeping operations since 1960, integrating into the peacekeeping landscape in 1949 with the arrival of the UN Military Observer Group in India and Pakistan (UNMOGIP), tasked with monitoring the ceasefire along what is now known as the Line of Control (LoC) in the disputed territory of Jammu and Kashmir. Personnel from the Army Service Corps (ASC) and the Corps of Ordnance were part of the first Pakistani peacekeeping contingent deployed to the Congo on a logistic support assignment. Pakbatts, often called as Pakistani battalions, are infantry units that have been deployed as part of Pakistan’s commitment since that time. By serving with distinction and garnering respect for their expertise and selflessness, these committed men and women have elevated their country’s standing internationally.

Pakistan is a major contributor to UN peacekeeping operations; at present, over 3,000 troops are stationed in missions in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, South Sudan, Abyei, Central African Republic, Cyprus, Western Sahara, and Somalia. Pakistan may exhibit its commitment as a conscientious member of the UN, prepared to put its men and women in danger in order to serve mankind above and beyond its own interests, thanks to this commitment. It also emphasises Pakistani peacekeepers’ courage and professionalism, as they frequently go above and beyond the call of duty in carrying out their tasks. In 72 UN peacekeeping missions since 1948, more than two million people have participated, saving countless lives and improving the lives of millions of people. More than 87,000 military, police, and civilian troops are now deployed by the UN for peacekeeping missions in 12 different countries. Pakistan is one of the top nations that contribute troops, with more than 4,000 soldiers serving in peacekeeping operations at the moment. Over 200,000 Pakistani troops have participated in UN operations since 1960, demonstrating their enduring dedication to maintaining international peace and security.

Pakistan is dedicated to advancing the efficacy, capability, and security of UN peacekeeping efforts through the implementation of the Action for Peacekeeping (A4P) programme and the Uniformed Gender Parity Strategy. Pakistan is in favour of enhancing peacekeepers’ security and safety in hazardous situations. The UN Human Rights Council recently passed a resolution denouncing Israel’s use of hunger as a tactic of warfare in Gaza, where about 34,000 people have perished, most of them women and children. Pakistan had proposed the resolution on behalf of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation. With 28 votes in favour, the resolution asks for an end to military sales to Israel in order to stop violations of humanitarian law.

 

Indian designs for AJK

by: Dr Raashid Wali Janjua | May 29, 2024

India is out to destabilise Azad Jammu and Kashmir after illegally annexing the illegally occupied part of the State of Jammu and Kashmir. India is splurging on the destabilisation project in Azad Jammu and Kashmir quite munificently, in perfect accord with the Modi-Doval doctrine of politico-economic subversion of the recalcitrant foes. A revisionist Hindutva ideology that drinks deep from the well of a mythical past where the high caste Hindus held low caste inhabitants of the sub-continent in permanent bondage nourishes the BJP politics. The apotheosis of such politics is the Modi cult that like a Frankensteins monster has outgrown its own creator i.e. Mohan Bhagwat, the RSS supremo.

Why India covets disputed territory and what drives its quest for territorial and geopolitical domination in the region is a result of a belief system that brooks no diversity of thought and faith. Hate is being used as a rallying cry to corral the believing herd of Hindu extremists into a stockade of acrimony, where the low caste Dalit community and non-Hindu Indian minorities are made the target of majoritys tyranny. Modi has now risen above Mohan Bhagwat as a Vishwa Guru, becoming a brand name for Indian resurgence. Modi has cleverly played on the Hindu communitys subconscious persecution complex, embedded in the collective Hindu psyche since centuries.

The derogatory allusions to Muslim community as Babur Ki Aulad touch a raw nerve with the Hindu masses who take a vicarious pleasure out of the discomfiture of Muslim and Christian minorities, the co-religionists of their past oppressors and colonists. It is for above reason that Crenshaws famous Theory of Radicalization applies to Indian context. According to the theory, the apogee of radicalisation is reached when the government does not do anything itself, but a radicalised society takes up the job. India has reached that stage where the society has become so radicalised that the state finds it very convenient to outsource the violence against minorities by the radicalised citizens.

Cow vigilantes go around freely smelling beef in shanty towns to pick up and administer the rough and ready mob justice in the shape of public lynchings. In twelve Indian states, the anti-conversion laws apply whereas in all states barring eight the cow slaughter is prohibited. The Indian Illegally Occupied Jammu and Kashmir (IIOJK) which is a disputed region has been annexed in August 2019 in flagrant disregard of the international law. The reign of terror unleashed ever since then, including the world record of 213 weeks of internet blackout, and incarceration of the political leadership, including those leaders that were once sympathetic to India, has converted IIOJK into one of the largest open-air jails in the world.

The property rights law has been changed to allow non-subject Kashmiris to purchase property, leaving Kashmiris to suffer the fate of Red Indians in their own land. The domicile law has been altered illegally to allow over 1 million Indians including 7,346 bureaucrats to settle in IIOJK, according to Dr Mubin Shah, a Kashmiri entrepreneur, now in exile. The gerrymandering of electoral constituencies in Jammu and Srinagar Divisions has added 6 seats in Hindu-dominated Jammu and only 1 seat in Muslim-dominated Srinagar Division, despite a preponderant Muslim majority in Srinagar. The aim is to disenfranchise Muslims and to elect a BJP Chief Minister who could give further fillip to illegal Indian occupation.

Now after letting loose a reign of terror and subjugation in IIOJK, the Doval doctrine targets Azad Jammu and Kashmir. A very clever propaganda campaign has been launched by India and its proxies in AJK, exploiting public discontent over removal of subsidies on wheat and electricity rates. The present electricity consumption rates in Pakistan for certain consumers are as high as Rs65/kwh whereas the same are Rs6/kwh in AJK. Similarly, a 40kg flour bag costs Rs3,900 in Pakistan whereas the government subsidy ensures that it sells for Rs2,000 per bag in AJK. The present government has announced a subsidy package worth Rs23 billion for AJK, accommodating all demands of Joint Awami Action Committee.

Despite accommodation certain elements operating on a foreign agenda are trying to stoke the fires of unrest in AJK. While genuine economic grievances need to be assuaged, the mischief makers operating, in the garb of protesters, also need to be identified. Indian RAW under Doval doctrine has launched a full-fledged covert operation to destabilise AJK in order to divert the worlds attention from the tragedy unfolding in IIOJK. Indians are changing the demography and sociology of IIOJK through the force of 0.95 million bayonets, as quoted in an Indian publication, Asian Age. Keeping an alarmingly high troops-to-people ratio in IIOJK, the Indian government has now started operations inside AJK and Pakistan. Two Kashmiri activists have been assassinated in Sialkot and Rawalakot exactly on the same template used against Hardeep Singh Nijjar in Canada.

The Pakistans Foreign Secretary during a press briefing has exposed two Indian agents, Akash and Yogesh, linked to RAW and involved in the murder of two Kashmiri activists on Pakistans soil. Credible evidence was also provided linking these assassinations to RAW. Along with above, the incendiary statements of Indian Interior Minister Amit Shah and Defence Minister Rajnath Singh, coveting AJK, clearly indicate a method in Indian madness. Shahs statement of 11th May was on cue after the AJK protest marchers clashed with LEAs and was followed up by Singhs offensive statement claiming AJK territory.

While someone should launch a crash course for the two Indian luminaries to learn the basics of international law and Indian obligations to abide by the UNSC resolutions calling for a plebiscite in the State of Jammu and Kashmir, Pakistan needs to take all possible protective measures to ward off the fresh onslaught of subversion by RAW. The patriotic people of AJK who had thrown out the yoke of Dogra slavery through their grit and resolve should not fall prey to Indian machinations.

The Indian assault is coming for sure, and contrary to Pakistan, it would be a Hybrid Plus in case of AJK. Let us not allow the Indians to creep through the crevasses of our internal differences to breach the dyke. The most effective way to counter Indian aggression is to forge unity through good governance in AJK. Our very best political and administrative talent should serve AJK and that service should be seen on ground.

 

 




Assessing Pakistan’s challenges

by: Talat Masood | May 29, 2024

This of course was a sober commentary on a hilarious posture, of someone deliberately let loose at a traffic juncture to humour the public. It is a good gesture on the part of local administration to cheer up the people transiting in this punishing heat, but the government has to pause and reflect why it is looked at with suspicious motives and frequently questioned. In short, the trust level between the state and the public needs to be fully restored. Equally important is to improve our sagging image internationally. This would not be an easy task and would require a fundamental change as to how the government, as well as the society at large, conducts itself.

When the economy is in a free fall, politics in deep disarray, strategy lacking a coherent direction and the country on a steep slope, cheering the people and presenting an image of confidence and relaxed culture can at best only serve as an interesting momentary diversion.

On a more serious matter, it is doubtful that the present government with PML-N as a minority party in a loose alliance with PPP, riding on the shoulders of the army, is in a position to run the country efficiently. While PTI that still maintains a solid majority in the guise of independent candidates was manipulated and sidelined to obscurity. It is doubtful if this move served the larger interests of the country for it further weakened democracy and gave an impression to the outside world that Pakistan is essentially a security state with weak democratic traditions. But this is how our country’s power structure is built with politicians, military and bureaucracy having scant regard for democratic ethos.

Perhaps all these observations would have been irrelevant if the political engineering and other constitutional deviations had worked to the advantage of the state and wellbeing of its people. But this is not so and there are no indications of any corrective measures in the offing. The central question then is: how will the federal and provincial leadership address these grave challenges while conforming to democratic norms. Placing the country on a firm democratic path would require that people become more aware of their rights and the value of democratic principles and elect representatives to the parliament that truly serve their fundamental interests. The role of the media and more so of social media would be crucial in raising awareness on these critical issues. Moreover, there has to be a realisation that meritocracy will get a boost with adoption of democratic values and, as past experience bears out, give rise of middle-class leaders.

The security situation too continues to pose a serious challenge as the TTP and other hostile groups remain very active and their attacks in Khuner-Pakhtunkhwa and Balochistan on the Pak-Afghan border are on the rise. The Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) leadership based in Afghanistan with the support of Indian and other hostile elements have stepped up terrorist attacks in Pakistan. The TTP has virtually declared a war on the Pakistan state and having coalesced smaller terrorist groups under its umbrella continues to brutalise people and the state. As stated by Interior Minister Mohsin Naqvi at a recent press conference that the March 26 suicide attack in which five Chinese engineers and their Pakistani driver were killed in Bisham “was planned in Afghanistan and with the help of local Pakistanis executed in Pakistan”. It is highly disappointing that the Taliban Afghan leadership allows the TTP to plan and execute hostile operations against Pakistan. Are the Taliban unable to restrain the TTP or are obliged to them to an extent that they have given them a free reign to operate freely in Afghanistan violating even the basic tenets of international and local laws? Whereas in sharp contrast, Pakistan and China are the only two countries that are engaging with the Taliban regime and giving them unflinching support to ensure that their people do not suffer.

The security situation on the eastern border, with India, is relatively calm, but relations with the neighbour are practically frozen with PM Modi refusing to engage at any level. As a matter of policy, India — in a bid to isolate Pakistan at the regional level and strangulate its fragile economy — refuses to engage with Pakistan. Whether there would be any change in India’s hostile posture toward Pakistan in Modi’s expected third term in office is difficult to predict. Although inimical policy towards a close neighbour in the long term will also hurt India’s interests and standing in the global community.

In sharp contrast, Pakistan’s relations with China are on a strong footing but Pakistan needs to fully benefit from what China is willing to offer and the onus lies primarily on Pakistan. The Gwadar port facility’s huge potential is only partially utilised. Lately, PM Shehbaz Sharif has shown interest in pursuing the transport infrastructure projects with Chinese leadership. According to Mr Ahsan Iqbal, the planning minister, the two countries have agreed to start the mega ML-1 railway project focusing on the dualisation of the existing railway network, and the overall upgrading of tracks connecting Karachi to Peshawar. Hopefully, these undertakings will be completed as scheduled.

The country’s leadership needs to focus on maximising Pakistan’s inherent strengths. Its location offers the quickest and relatively cheapest conduit for trade between Afghanistan and the world, between Middle East and China and between Africa and China. These potential advantages need to be maximised by improving the road and railway infrastructure, streamlining systems and procedures to facilitate trade and transportation. The government has to take a long-term view and prioritise these undertakings in collaboration with the opposition to boost economic growth and for the wellbeing of its people.

Published in The Express Tribune, May 29th, 2024.

 

Talks with the IMF

by: Dr Qaisar Rashid | May 18, 2024

 

To Pakistan’s relief, led by Nathan Porter, the Mission Chief, the resident staff of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) has finally started dis­cussing with Pakistan’s representatives the possibilities for issuing any next Extended Fund Facility to safeguard the country’s economy of $350 billion from collapsing. Pakistan intends to revel in the IMF patronage – pro­longed and hefty – to escape sovereign default on external payments.

This time, however, the IMF aired a caveat: “Downside risks remain exceptionally high. While the new government has indicated its in­tention to continue the SBAs [Stand-by Agreements], political un­certainty remains significant.” The statement was mentioned in the IMF’s staff report appeared on May 10, ahead of the talks. Through the statement, the IMF is trying to say that the financial donors may be ready to bail Pakistan out of the existing economic turmoil, but the underly­ing political uncertainty is prohibitory. The IMF expects that, after taking harsh measures to restructure the economy, the government would be left with little space to defuse a public reaction simmering around. Apparently, the caution has offset Pakistan’s expectations to engage the IMF. This is how a panic button is supposed to have been pressed: how to appease the IMF and how to reconcile political differences with political dissidents influencing Pakistan’s economic fu­ture. Talks with the IMF are underway before Pakistan finalizes the annual bud­get scheduled for June 6-7 for the next financial year. The budget is expected to introduce taxes which would raise the cost of living, besides the strife to survive financially. The government sector is bound to recede its position of being the biggest job donor. To the IMF, the government sector has to express the intent of shrinkage, both in the size and the range of spending. In its reduction would re­side the rise of the private sector. That is, privatization is not possible if the gov­ernment sector does not diminish its influence. Not only would the power be deregulated but also the law be derestricted. This is a thorny area. Countries ha­bitual of running on the model of centralization are found indisposed to relin­quishing their sway effortlessly. In such countries, the private sector loses the initiative to contribute to the economy. Expectedly, after June, Pakistan would enter a rough patch. There are ample chances that the rupee would be devalued further, thereby making the import of luxury goods more costly, as opposed to the policy of discouraging imports by increasing taxes on selected items. That is, this is a consistent policy of the IMF that the import bill be slashed through cur­rency devaluation instead of introducing selective import prohibition.

Reportedly, compared to April 2023 when inflation was around 40 percent, in April this year inflation was around 20 percent, proving the stance of the IMF correct that hyperinflation is not bound to last long. Instead, when left on its own, hyperinflation has to come down to strike a balance between de­mand and supply. Nevertheless, the Pakistanis generally abhor this proposi­tion because they are inured to spending high even when it is unnecessary. Extravagance is part of their way of life rooted in the Asian culture of show and splendor. Expenditure more than earnings is still considered a necessary evil – both at society and the government level. In society, seeking loan from a bank to buy a costly luxury vehicle is a norm, which was duly exploited by the banks to run their businesses after the year 1999. In fact, the then Finance Minister Shaukat Aziz played on the Asian weakness and pushed the economy to the direction of banks in an effort to circulate wealth in society. The govern­ment’s policies of wilfully promoting the culture of high spending to extract money through indirect taxes has brought the country to this pass.

In 2024, Pakistan stands at the fag end of this practice. Hyperinflation is the order of the day. The only tool available is to apply restraint in spending, and this is where the rub lies. One arm of the executive asks the government to slash funds of the other arm first. All arms of the executive – be it civil or the army – are vying to secure more funds and reduce less. Nevertheless, under the oversight of the IMF, Pakistan has to reduce its expenditure under the ru­bric of expenditure rationalization. As per an estimate, fiscal adjustment of at least 1.5 percent of GDP (amounting to about Rs 1.5 trillion) be would made in the coming budget through the double-edged sword of reducing expendi­ture and enhancing income. Discussing with the IMF’s mission, the only com­fort Pakistan has been enjoying is that the country completed a short-term $3 billion program for nine months to stave off sovereign default. The program is the major stepping stone to reach a longer and bigger loan-seeking program. It would be difficult for the IMF to rebuff Pakistan’s request of doling out at least $6 billion for three years under the 24th program. Nevertheless, the IMF may be apprehensive of Pakistan’s past which is fraught with violating the agreed path. Hence, the forthcoming budget would test the waters.

Precisely, the IMF wants to oversee the process of budget for the financial year 2024-25. Moreover, the IMF intends to ensure the implementation of pol­icies that meet the IMF’s primary demands such as reforming the taxation system, broadening the tax net, abolishing subsidies, doing away with exemp­tions, and loosening the government’s control over the economy. Taken to­gether, if the forthcoming budget expresses these aspects, Pakistan would be on a path different from the one set in 1999.

Nevertheless, one thing is certain, Pakistan’s incumbent government has to take measures to cool down the political temperature and ease down politi­cal complexities to pacify the IMF to dole out funds after June.

Dr Qaisar Rashid


 

 

Not a replay of 2019?

by: Farrukh Khan Pitafi | May 18, 2024

The widespread suspicion that everything is controlled in the country poses a serious challenge to the integrity of India’s opinion polls. Do not shoot the messenger. This distrust is the main reason why, despite predictions of a sweeping victory by incumbents, the opposition alliance keeps gaining momentum. The mainstream media, of course, is badly compromised. We saw Adani stamping out the last vestiges of independent journalism through a hostile takeover of NDTV.

Recently, NDTV’s former promoter, journalist and psephologist of renown, Dr Prannoy Roy, has resurfaced with his online coverage of the 2024 election. Apart from his travels and interactions with a wide range of ordinary voters, he produces online snippets in which he talks to his friend and colleague Dorab Sopariwala and seeks to answer some critical questions with the help of data. How accurate are the opinion and exit polls? Answer: usually quite accurate. Likewise, who does a low turnout historically help? Answer: Advantage BJP. It has a very organised team of Panna Pramukhs (literally page in charge or minders) and booth workers to get out voters that are simpatico. I would be remiss if I did not point out the professionalism on display by Dr Roy. If I were cheated out of my life’s work or my career sabotaged in such a manner, I would have made the total annihilation of everyone involved the purpose of my life. He is a better man than I am, I guess.

The answer to low turnout poses some fresh questions. Remember, one of the reasons why the opposition looks more muscular than it otherwise should is because of low voter turnout. The moment low turnout was reported, experts on the social (read alternative) media felt vindicated. I have told you before that in the absence of free and independent electronic media, the only pocket of resistance is online, most notably on YouTube. And that universe comes with its own limitations. While many displaced senior journalists have found refuge there, albeit momentarily, the place has traditionally worked as a bubble reality, and there is no dearth of confirmation bias, which can be infectious at times. Add to it that too many agendas often work at cross purposes. Even so, some remarkable tag-teaming is happening among the well-established YouTube channels.

That’s not all. The dip in the first phase turnout numbers witnessed shoddy attempts to assign a pro-incumbent spin by pollsters and equally clumsy attempts by the Election Commission to pad the numbers. But more telling was a dramatic shift in Modi’s own demeanour and campaign. While earlier he would talk about vixit Bharat (developed India) by 2047 and mostly ignored the Congress party, he suddenly returned to the communal pitch and engaged it directly. What can we make of this? That he had access to some crucial polling data and was shocked by the trends? You will forgive this scribe if he tells you that that is where the mind immediately goes when such flip-flopping occurs. But that is not the end of the story. Modi seemed to be changing tack at the speed of a shapeshifter. Mangal sutras, buffaloes, Pakistan, Adanis and Ambanis and eventually, the alleged birth rate rise in the Muslim community. If his own constant change of tone was an indicator, nothing seemed to stick. Since then, he has turned a full circle by claiming that he does not do Hindu-Muslim communal politics. You be the judge of that.

Some other indicators should worry his supporters. For example, the stock market keeps sinking. Again, views are divided on what is causing this. Some claim that the fear of a weak coalition government (read a government by the INDIA coalition) is affecting investor confidence. Others see Modi’s recent attack on Adani and Ambani as the reason. But all agree that the market volatility is not good for Modi.
By now, there is little doubt that a war of succession has begun within the BJP. Supporters of the insurgents believe that it was Modi and his lieutenant Amit Shah who started it by denying tickets to many key players. Likewise, the Panna Pramukhs we mentioned look less enthusiastic than before. And there is also a discernible enthusiasm gap among the RSS cadres.

But remember 2019? Many thought that demonetisation alone could dent the BJP’s popularity. Or UP elections in 2022? When many thought the sight of dead bodies floating in the Ganges during the COVID crisis could stall its electoral progress. That did not happen. Could this time be different?

When this election cycle began, I had written in this space that I was more likely to root for a Modi win despite my clear bias in favour of the Congress (I grew up reading Gandhi and Nehru’s writings, after all). There are two reasons. One, many on our side claim to know Modi’s plan of action after victory. He plans to mend fences with Pakistan and China, take India to the UNSC, win a Nobel Prize for Peace and retire at 75. Two, ten years are enough for any strongman to perpetuate power beyond borders. Resultantly, like everywhere else, there’s no shortage of Modi’s fanboys and fangirls in Pakistan. Some go out of their way to hurt you if you speak against him. And I am many things but not a fool. I have not changed my position yet. But these fangirls and fanboys should remember whether he wins or loses; they have to live here and face the consequences of their actions. The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.

This is not 2019, and everyone knows it. If you want to see what has changed, you need to pay more attention to the politics and strategies of the opposition INDIA coalition. Compared to the last election, they have all matured and come closer. Besides, no rule lasts forever. And there is no Balakot or Muzaffarnagar to suspend public distrust and disbelief. There are reports of voter apathy among Modi’s core constituents. If you need a data point to prove it, please refer to the election commission’s recently released numbers regarding gender turnout patterns. You will notice a significant dip in the women’s votes in the constituencies where they have traditionally been in his vanguard.

Please do not blame me for the observer effect. I am not saying that he has lost. Like you, I will only believe in his loss when I see it. I am just honestly reporting what I see and hear. But clearly, all is not well. How is it my fault that too many Indians, including some from Modi’s party, cannot wait to volunteer information?

Published in The Express Tribune, May 18th, 2024.


 

 

Factors influencing school libraries in Pakistan

by: Abid Hussain | May 18, 2024

The Collins English Dictionary defines a school library as “a library within a school where teachers and students can access books and other resources.” A school is an educational institution where students acquire knowledge, values and skills through structured instructions and learning experiences from their teacher. The mission of a school library is to support and enhance the learning level of students, teachers and the community through resources and services that promote literacy, facilitate learning and foster intellectual growth in the community living in the schools.

School libraries are important in providing students with access to a wide range of informational resources like books, periodicals, multimedia material, and digital databases in order to explore diverse topics and deepen their understanding of the subject beyond what is covered in the classroom.

The school library’s motto is to promote students’ literacy skills to make them critical thinkers and lifelong learners in the future. The school library plays a commendable role in their students’ cultural and intellectual enrichment. It not only supports the school curriculum but also encourages students for inquiry-based learning. School libraries allow students to explore their topic of interest and engage them in independent inquiry to grow professionally.

Some scholars believe that school libraries are great sources of inspiration in promoting their students’ digital literacy and intellectual curiosity. School libraries are said to be vital in promoting a sense of belonging, community, and shared intellectual pursuits. In other words, school libraries are essential to the educational ecosystem, fostering a culture of inquiry and promoting literacy and lifelong learning services.

In advanced countries like the USA, China, Germany and France, the role of school libraries is crucial. They are considered a pillar of personal growth, intellectual capability, and the lifelong journey of students, according to the American Library Association report on overall libraries. As of the 2022 report, there were 131,848 libraries in American states; of them, public school libraries were 82,300, and private school libraries recorded as 22,991.

Private schools are preferred over public schools in developing countries like Pakistan. The education systems at both public and private sector schools are in a harrowing state of affairs. According to education statistics of the Pakistan Institute of Education, a subsidiary part of the Education Ministry, there are a total of 313,418, which includes both public and private schools. Most of these schools lack educational quality and need toilet facilities, drinking water, playgrounds, among other things. Among these alarming issues, only a few schools have small libraries to show the stakeholders how civilized we are. These libraries are available in urban areas only. The schools in rural areas do not even have their own buildings, and the majority of the students study under the trees. The situation in Sindh and Balochistan schools is that they live under God’s mercy.

What is to be done? There is a dire need for concerted efforts to highlight these issues in various forums like the National Assembly and on social media sites like Facebook and Twitter. Above all, complaints should be filed against the school mafias who fool poor people. Investing in school libraries will help improve literacy rates, enhance educational outcomes and foster a love of learning. Let’s raise a voice on different forums and equip the school with rich libraries.

Even though the position of elite schools like Beaconhouse, city schools, convent schools, OPF and other schools serving the defence forces is that they are equipped with rich libraries, playgrounds, drinking water and rich laboratories, they are still using these services to attract customers and show them that how literate they are.

The position of public schools in Pakistan is worse than that of private schools. Public schools in Pakistan face numerous problems like budget constraints, large student populations, government oversight, and emphasis on accessible education. Most of the buildings in urban areas are filled with huge populations, and there is no single room to maintain and sustain a library to meet the intellectual growth of the children. Though official documents state that each school should have a small library with up to 3000 books, teachers diminish the library building to a classroom or reserve it as a common room.

Various factors influence the library structure in Pakistani schools: Limited resources for school libraries, lack of qualified staff like trained librarians, infrastructure challenges, language barriers, and low reading culture among teachers and students. A question, however, arises in mind: who is responsible for the poor culture of the libraries? Undoubtedly, government authorities, stakeholders of the schools, educational institutions, and above all, the unqualified staff with BA degrees and Inter certificates.

What is to be done? There is a dire need for concerted efforts to highlight these issues in various forums like the National Assembly and on social media sites like Facebook and Twitter. Above all, complaints should be filed against the school mafias who fool poor people. Investing in school libraries will help improve literacy rates, enhance educational outcomes and foster a love of learning. Let’s raise a voice on different forums and equip the school with rich libraries.


Failed Indian attempts for peaceful elections in Indian-Occupied Kashmir

by: Abdul Basit Alvi | May 17, 2024

India has failed to conduct fair and open elections in its Occupied Kashmir. The stark realities and alleged atrocities committed by India and its army in Indian Occupied Kashmir are visible to the international community.

Under the leadership of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the BJP, India appears to be rigorously adhering to Hindutva ideology, characterized by its politics steeped in hypocrisy and falsehoods. In India’s political landscape, the emergence of Hindutva ideology has significantly influenced electoral dynamics, reshaping the contours of political discourse and identity.

Hindutva, rooted in the concept of Hindu nationalism, advocates the supremacy of Hindu culture and values, advocating the establishment of a Hindu Rashtra, or Hindu state. Over time, the proliferation of Hindutva ideology has been accompanied by a variety of election strategies employed by different political entities, sparking vehement opposition across the nation.

Indian-Occupied Kashmir, plagued by decades of conflict and political instability, faces allegations of human rights abuses that loom large over its populace. The region’s disputed status, coupled with a heavy Indian military presence and strict security measures, has led to reports of widespread violence, extrajudicial killings, and systemic oppression, drawing condemnation on the international stage. Notably, there are accusations of excessive force by Indian security forces against civilians, particularly during protests, resulting in numerous casualties. Reports of severe injuries from pellet guns and allegations of extrajudicial killings and enforced disappearances further darken the region’s landscape.

The use of draconian laws like the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) and the Public Safety Act (PSA) compounds the challenges faced by civilians in Indian occupied Kashmir, granting broad powers to security forces with minimal accountability. Moreover, reports of arbitrary detentions, torture, and ill-treatment of detainees, including children, underscore the need for independent investigations and accountability mechanisms. These alleged atrocities not only affect individual victims but also corrode the socio-economic fabric of the entire region.

The prolonged conflict and security challenges have severely disrupted the daily lives of millions, hindering access to essential services such as education, healthcare, and economic opportunities. Additionally, the enduring psychological and collective trauma resulting from years of violence and instability has deeply impacted the Kashmiri populace, fostering ongoing cycles of fear, resentment, and distrust.

The people of Indian-Occupied Kashmir express a strong desire to disassociate from India, driven by a lengthy history of alleged atrocities committed by the Indian government and its armed forces. The situation in Indian-Occupied Kashmir remains far from normal, with inhabitants facing significant constraints on their freedom to live and work. Despite this reality, India maintains a facade of normalcy, asserting plans for forthcoming elections as evidence of stability while obscuring the true nature of conditions in the region.

In light of recent failed attempts to misrepresent reality, both the Indian Civilian Administration and Indian Army, operating under stringent security measures, orchestrated a Voting Awareness Campaign (VAC) in the villages of Tithwaal and Seemari near the Nauseri sector, culminating in a rally in Seemari. Dignitaries such as Commander 104 Brigade Brigadier M. K Dass, General Observer Election Bupinder Singh, Deputy Commissioner Kupwara Ayushi Sudan, SSP Kupwara Shobit Saxena, ADC Kupwara Mohammad Rouf Rehman, among others, were present at the event.

Elections in Tehsil Karna are scheduled for May 20. Alongside the VAC, various departmental stalls, including Agriculture, Horticulture, Health, and Animal Husbandry, were set up to showcase their initiatives, and officials collected feedback on their progress. Under the direction of the Deputy Commissioner Kupwara, school children were compelled to participate in an Indian-flagged rally at the First Polling Station in Seemari LoC.

The people of Indian–Occupied Kashmir appear disinterested in these endeavours, expressing a desire for genuine resolution rather than participating in what they view as theatrical elections. The ultimate solution to the Kashmir issue lies in granting the right to self-determination to the people of Indian occupied Kashmir, rather than perpetuating ineffective electoral processes.

Kabul Bukhari, a well-known singer, performed a diverse range of songs, including Pakistani ones in Punjabi, Hindi, Pahari, and Kashmiri. This event was evidently orchestrated to distort reality and suppress the truth, with villagers from Tehsil Karnah coerced into attending. The march from Teetwaal to Seemari was forcefully organized under both civilian and military supervision, predominantly involving children who have no stake in the elections. The musical show was intended to attract attendees, even incorporating Pakistani songs, indicating both frustration and an attempt to appeal to locals’ sentiments toward Pakistan. Speeches by Civil Administration Officials urging locals to participate in the elections further underscored their apprehension and frustration regarding potential low voter turnout.

It’s evident that organizing such an event under the direct auspices of the Indian Army aimed to send a coercive message to compel participation in the electoral process. Reports suggest that attendees were brought in from outside the state to create the appearance of a large gathering and to ensure the event’s perceived success. Videos from the event depict a situation akin to a curfew, with most shops closed and restricted movement for the residents.

However, the reality in the area contradicts this portrayal, as local sentiment toward India and its policies is unfavorable due to perceived Indian atrocities. The local populace is disinterested in Indian-managed elections. This raises the question: if India truly believes that the people of Indian-Occupied Kashmir support them, why resort to such events under the heavy security presence of its Army rather than conducting them openly and publicly?

The falsehoods perpetuated by India, Modi, and its leadership are laid bare for the world to see. In the intricate web of human interactions, lies often act as a veil concealing reality, obscuring the truth behind a facade of deceit. Whether crafted to safeguard oneself, manipulate others, or mask inconvenient truths, lies have remained a pervasive aspect of human behaviour. Yet, beneath the surface of deception lies a fundamental paradox: the more one endeavours to hide the truth, the more glaringly it clamours to be unveiled. Lies manifest in myriad forms, from whispered falsehoods within personal relationships to the grand deceit of politics and propaganda.

In its essence, lying involves a calculated distortion or suppression of reality, typically driven by self-interest, fear, or the quest for control. Nonetheless, the repercussions of falsehoods extend beyond the immediate moment of deceit, shaping perceptions, corroding trust, and sowing seeds of discord and disenchantment. One of the most harmful forms of deceit is the manipulation of information through the dissemination of misinformation and disinformation.

In an era marked by rapid technological progress and widespread connectivity, the spread of false narratives and fake news poses a significant threat to public discourse and democratic governance. Intentional distortion of facts, the promotion of partisan agendas, and the weaponization of information have precipitated a crisis of trust and a decline in confidence in traditional sources of authority and expertise.

Furthermore, lies often serve as a tool for exerting power and control, utilized by those in positions of authority to uphold dominance and stifle dissent. Particularly, authoritarian regimes rely heavily on a fabric of falsehoods and propaganda to sway public opinion, quash opposition, and perpetuate their hold on power. By distorting reality and crafting alternative narratives, such regimes endeavour to construct a false veneer of legitimacy and invulnerability, shielding themselves from accountability and oversight.

Nonetheless, the truth possesses an innate resilience, capable of piercing even the most fortified layers of falsehoods and deception. Throughout history, there have been numerous instances of courageous individuals and whistleblowers who, at considerable personal risk, have exposed corruption, injustice, and atrocities concealed beneath a facade of lies.

From journalists uncovering government wrongdoing to activists spotlighting human rights violations, the pursuit of truth remains a powerful catalyst for change and accountability. Despite the complexities of human nature, the innate desire for authenticity and integrity persists, driving moments of reckoning and collective awakening when lies are exposed and truths revealed. This challenges established narratives and fuels movements for justice and reform.

In India and Indian occupied Kashmir, there’s a clear understanding of the duplicity within the Indian Government resonating internationally. Trust and reliability are pivotal in international relations, shaping alliances, partnerships, and geopolitical dynamics. Recent shifts in India’s policies have cast doubt on its reliability as a strategic partner and global actor, particularly due to its diminishing commitment to democratic values and human rights.

The government’s crackdown on dissent, press freedom, and civil liberties has drawn international concern, as seen in the handling of Article 370 in Jammu and Kashmir, controversial citizenship laws, and the response to farmer protests. These actions have tarnished the remaining India’s democratic image and strained relations with allies.

India’s assertive foreign policy and unilateral actions, exemplified by the border standoff with China in the Galwan Valley, highlight its willingness to challenge norms but also raise risks of instability. Withdrawal from trade agreements like the RCEP and strained relations with neighbouring countries signal potential setbacks in regional integration and cooperation.

Economically, protectionist trade policies and regulatory unpredictability have deterred foreign investment, despite initiatives like “Make in India.” This, coupled with strained relations with key partners like the USA, adds to India’s challenges on the global stage. While India and the USA have fostered a strategic partnership rooted in shared interests and values, tensions have emerged due to disparities in trade, intellectual property rights, and India’s deepening relations with Russia. This has strained bilateral relations.

Furthermore, India’s engagement with major powers like Russia and China has sparked concerns among its traditional Western allies, prompting questions about India’s strategic alignment and reliability in the Indo-Pacific region. There is a growing perception that India lacks reliability and trustworthiness on the global stage, with many viewing it as a failed state attempting to project a false image of success and civility through manipulated portrayals.

The situation in India and the Indian Occupied Jammu and Kashmir region is under global scrutiny. Events like the VAC (Voters’ Awareness Campaign) cannot conceal the reality, which is that India’s electoral efforts in Indian-Occupied Kashmir are perceived as ineffective attempts to mask deeper issues.

The people of Indian–Ooccupied Kashmir appear disinterested in these endeavours, expressing a desire for genuine resolution rather than participating in what they view as theatrical elections. The ultimate solution to the Kashmir issue lies in granting the right to self-determination to the people of Indian occupied Kashmir, rather than perpetuating ineffective electoral processes.

How Has 'The Muslim Appeasement' Debate Affected West Bengal Politics?

 

When it comes to West Bengal, the narrative runs into the tricky waters as the country walks into the business end of the Lok Sabha polls. Considered to be one of the primary roadblocks to NDA’s vision of 400 seats, West Bengal’s political contours have been heavily shaped by debates on caste and religion. The contest is being predicted to go down to the wire, as Mamata Banerjee looks to better her 2019 performance which saw Trinamool Congress ceding 18 seats to the BJP, who had only managed 2 in 2014. While BJP looks to establish a dominant ground with lofty predictions of their performance in Bengal, Mamata Banerjee believes the people of Bengal will recognise her effort in vouching for a state painted with secular values and her support for all communities of the state. Although, Mamata’s Banerjee’s strategies to woo voters of different communities, especially the Muslims, have been targeted by a spate of BJP leaders over the course of the 2024 Lok Sabha elections, experts opine that the Muslim voters, making up for almost 30%, will play a crucial role in turning the tide in Didi’s favour.

JP Nadda, national president of BJP, in a recent rally in West Bengal’s Behrampore constituency of Murshidabad district, which has Bengal’s highest Muslim population of 66.28%, talked about Mamata Banerjee opposing the CAA to appease Muslims. “Prime Minister Narendra Modi has given citizenship to Hindu and Dalit refugees from Bangladesh but Mamata Banerjee opposes it. She is appeasing Muslims,” Nadda said. In a still-complicating episode around sexual abuse and land grabbing accusations against TMC leader Sheikh Shah Jahan in Sandeshkhali, the BJP has found another opportunity to rain down heavily on TMC for “sheltering Muslim terrorists”.

“Mamata Banerjee’s government believes in appeasement, dividing people and patronising terrorists. But when Pakistan attacks India, Modi Ji’s government gives a befitting reply by crossing the border,” Nadda further added.

Recently at another rally in West Bengal’s Srirampur, Home Minister Amit Shah targeted Mamata for her recent measures, accusing her for her one-dimensional appeasement policy towards Muslims. “Mamata Banerjee came into power with the slogan of 'Ma, Maati, Manush' but this slogan has lost now and 'Mulla, Madrasa and Mafia' is there at the ground. Tell me should mullas be paid from Bengal's state treasury?" Shah said. This comes in context of Banerjee’s announcement of a hike of Rs 500 in the monthly allowance of Muslim Imams and Hindu priests in August last year, addressing a conference of imams and muezzins in Kolkata. The imams receive a monthly allowance of Rs 2,500 and muezzins, a stipend of Rs 1,000 since 2012. A year after coming to power, the TMC government had announced monthly honorariums to imams and muezzins in the state.

Addressing the barbs aimed at her policies that she has been consistently subject to, Mamata had said, “People have maligned me for my beliefs. When I attend Iftar during Ramzan, my photographs are ridiculed. BJP had even attempted to change my name. However, I don’t care about it because it is my duty to see that people of different religions don’t fight with one another. We don’t do any discrimination; BJP does. They let go of convicts in the Bilkis Bano case. Everyone is witnessing the atrocities on minorities and tribals…We have given recognition to 307 unaided madrasahs; 700 more will be recognized this year.”

Attacking Banerjee’s refusal to attend the Ram Mandir inauguration in January, Shah further added, “She doesn't prevent Rohingya (Muslims) from entering India and opposes Ram Mandir inauguration. She also denies the permission of 'Durga Visarjan' but gives leave to Muslim employees in Ramzan." In a significant move, Mamata Banerjee took out an all-faith rally on that very day which saw a sea of people from various religions and sects flooding the streets of Kolkata, in a TMC-orchestrated show of religious harmony. Talking about the wave of divisive politics and how BJP was celebrating the day as their "Independence Day", Mamata had added, “I don't believe in politicising religion ahead of elections. I am against such practice. I have no objection against those worshipping Lord Ram, but object to interference with the food habits of people." Mamata had also visited a gurudwara in Garcha and a local mosque and church in Park Circus to offer her prayers on that very day.

According to the Lokniti-CSDS post-poll survey, TMC had secured 75% of the Muslim vote in the 2021 assembly elections, which had been instrumental in Banerjee resuming her seat. Critics and analysts believe that the Muslim vote in Bengal is to play a crucial role in the elections once again, with Banerjee poised to win most of it. However, with a percentage of Muslim voters shifting towards the Left Front and Congress, and the Indian Secular Front (ISF) in the Left-Congress mix, the vote consolidation takes a more interesting turn. While BJP continues to ride on their attacks on Banerjee and her doctored attempts at Muslim appeasement in the state, the TMC targets BJP’s anti-Islam stance in the context of a barrage of recent polarising speeches and videos posted by the BJP (which talked about the opposition snatching reservations from deserving SC and ST candidates and handing them over to Muslims in the country). As most of South Bengal, including Kolkata, prepares to go to polls in the coming phases, TMC looks to wrestle the wave of polarisation, by reinforcing the secular vision of Banerjee and the party, going beyond mere one-dimensional appeasement.

 

 

Is India taking a risk with Iran Chabahar port deal?

May 17, 2024

 

When it comes to West Bengal, the narrative runs into the tricky waters as the country walks into the business end of the Lok Sabha polls. Considered to be one of the primary roadblocks to NDA’s vision of 400 seats, West Bengal’s political contours have been heavily shaped by debates on caste and religion. The contest is being predicted to go down to the wire, as Mamata Banerjee looks to better her 2019 performance which saw Trinamool Congress ceding 18 seats to the BJP, who had only managed 2 in 2014. While BJP looks to establish a dominant ground with lofty predictions of their performance in Bengal, Mamata Banerjee believes the people of Bengal will recognise her effort in vouching for a state painted with secular values and her support for all communities of the state. Although, Mamata’s Banerjee’s strategies to woo voters of different communities, especially the Muslims, have been targeted by a spate of BJP leaders over the course of the 2024 Lok Sabha elections, experts opine that the Muslim voters, making up for almost 30%, will play a crucial role in turning the tide in Didi’s favour.

JP Nadda, national president of BJP, in a recent rally in West Bengal’s Behrampore constituency of Murshidabad district, which has Bengal’s highest Muslim population of 66.28%, talked about Mamata Banerjee opposing the CAA to appease Muslims. “Prime Minister Narendra Modi has given citizenship to Hindu and Dalit refugees from Bangladesh but Mamata Banerjee opposes it. She is appeasing Muslims,” Nadda said. In a still-complicating episode around sexual abuse and land grabbing accusations against TMC leader Sheikh Shah Jahan in Sandeshkhali, the BJP has found another opportunity to rain down heavily on TMC for “sheltering Muslim terrorists”.

“Mamata Banerjee’s government believes in appeasement, dividing people and patronising terrorists. But when Pakistan attacks India, Modi Ji’s government gives a befitting reply by crossing the border,” Nadda further added.

Recently at another rally in West Bengal’s Srirampur, Home Minister Amit Shah targeted Mamata for her recent measures, accusing her for her one-dimensional appeasement policy towards Muslims. “Mamata Banerjee came into power with the slogan of 'Ma, Maati, Manush' but this slogan has lost now and 'Mulla, Madrasa and Mafia' is there at the ground. Tell me should mullas be paid from Bengal's state treasury?" Shah said. This comes in context of Banerjee’s announcement of a hike of Rs 500 in the monthly allowance of Muslim Imams and Hindu priests in August last year, addressing a conference of imams and muezzins in Kolkata. The imams receive a monthly allowance of Rs 2,500 and muezzins, a stipend of Rs 1,000 since 2012. A year after coming to power, the TMC government had announced monthly honorariums to imams and muezzins in the state.

Addressing the barbs aimed at her policies that she has been consistently subject to, Mamata had said, “People have maligned me for my beliefs. When I attend Iftar during Ramzan, my photographs are ridiculed. BJP had even attempted to change my name. However, I don’t care about it because it is my duty to see that people of different religions don’t fight with one another. We don’t do any discrimination; BJP does. They let go of convicts in the Bilkis Bano case. Everyone is witnessing the atrocities on minorities and tribals…We have given recognition to 307 unaided madrasahs; 700 more will be recognized this year.”

Attacking Banerjee’s refusal to attend the Ram Mandir inauguration in January, Shah further added, “She doesn't prevent Rohingya (Muslims) from entering India and opposes Ram Mandir inauguration. She also denies the permission of 'Durga Visarjan' but gives leave to Muslim employees in Ramzan." In a significant move, Mamata Banerjee took out an all-faith rally on that very day which saw a sea of people from various religions and sects flooding the streets of Kolkata, in a TMC-orchestrated show of religious harmony. Talking about the wave of divisive politics and how BJP was celebrating the day as their "Independence Day", Mamata had added, “I don't believe in politicising religion ahead of elections. I am against such practice. I have no objection against those worshipping Lord Ram, but object to interference with the food habits of people." Mamata had also visited a gurudwara in Garcha and a local mosque and church in Park Circus to offer her prayers on that very day.

According to the Lokniti-CSDS post-poll survey, TMC had secured 75% of the Muslim vote in the 2021 assembly elections, which had been instrumental in Banerjee resuming her seat. Critics and analysts believe that the Muslim vote in Bengal is to play a crucial role in the elections once again, with Banerjee poised to win most of it. However, with a percentage of Muslim voters shifting towards the Left Front and Congress, and the Indian Secular Front (ISF) in the Left-Congress mix, the vote consolidation takes a more interesting turn. While BJP continues to ride on their attacks on Banerjee and her doctored attempts at Muslim appeasement in the state, the TMC targets BJP’s anti-Islam stance in the context of a barrage of recent polarising speeches and videos posted by the BJP (which talked about the opposition snatching reservations from deserving SC and ST candidates and handing them over to Muslims in the country). As most of South Bengal, including Kolkata, prepares to go to polls in the coming phases, TMC looks to wrestle the wave of polarisation, by reinforcing the secular vision of Banerjee and the party, going beyond mere one-dimensional appeasement.

 

 

Lurking fears

Shahzad Chaudhry | May 17, 2024

When Narendra Modi was up for another election in 2019 for his second term, he preceded that with an aerial strike against a target across the line of control. He framed that as a response to what had happened earlier in Pulwama, in occupied Kashmir, which he conveniently blamed on Pakistan — many in India including the then BJP appointed Governor in Kashmir have called it a staged false-flag operation for Modi to give reason to use the blatant aggression against Pakistan and establish his machoistic ‘bravado’. That seemingly played well with his voters even when the Pakistani Air Force responded in kind the very next day and shot an Indian Air Force plane capturing its pilot. When the pilot was returned as a goodwill gesture after a couple of days of questioning, he manipulated that as a victory for India under Modi which had coerced Pakistan to give the prisoner up. He won his election and was anointed the Prime Minister for a second term.

During his second tenure, Modi annexed Kashmir by revoking Article 370 of the Constitution which recognised Kashmir’s special status till the issue was resolved to the satisfaction of the two claimants, Pakistan and India, and broke it up in three to turn it into a Union territory directly controlled by the Centre in Delhi. Kashmiris have now been denied their right to choose their representatives like the rest of India for the last ten years with little possibility that elections to the state Assembly may be held any time soon. This is an outright denial of fundamental freedom and a violation of basic democratic principles. Modi also went on to fulfil his promise to turn the Babri mosque into a Hindu temple in Ayodhia and abrogated the citizenship of millions of Indian Muslims through legislative innovation of the Citizens Amendment Act, reviled by most liberals in India.

Before the BJP won the 2014 elections the ceasefire on the LoC, unilaterally held by both sides as a mutually goodwill gesture, was deliberately broken by India in 2013 in the lead-up to the elections. It was popularly believed that right-wing leaning officers in the Indian army launched a cross-LoC offensive to reinforce BJP’s credentials as a party which would stand up to Pakistan. Modi used Pakistan as a bogey, kept up his rhetoric in unison with booming gunfire on the LoC and won his elections. Modi calls these and the significant economic progress domestically as appetisers of his first two terms as he enthuses Indians to wait for the main course after his likely win in the ongoing elections. Clearly, he has done a lot more in continuation of Manmohan Singh’s achievements in paving the way for a modern India and a more prosperous economy. Modi has continued to build on it and introduced India to the rest of the world with a pitch which claims to have freed itself off its pedestrian mold. In so doing he promises more to come. The region and especially the neighbours remain on tenterhooks. Pakistan may be well advised to keep an eye on Modi’s menu options.

For it though things must first settle down domestically in Pakistan. The political instability has manifested itself in different ways. The infusion that economy desperately needs in investment and from bilateral and multilateral donors and IFIs continues to await settling of ruffles in the political arena. Without the economy showing any signs of improvement social unrest looms heightening political strife. In a way Pakistan is caught in this insidious catch-22 loop of frenzy feeding from one sector to the other and vice versa. This spiral down of the sociopolitical and socioeconomic mess must first halt to find space for reversing the trends. How may this be achieved is anyone’s guess.

With all sides standing off against each other there is hardly any slack to cut. What has been happening in Azad Kashmir is a manifestation of these trends and though currently geographically restricted has the making of a dangerous precedent on a wider scale in the country were it to be mimicked in major population centres. State’s response is knee-jerk, ill-thought and band-aid, not addressing the root cause of such eruption in the sentiment. Merely calling it foreign inspired will not do the trick. It needs deeper remedy of the underlying causes which are falsely characterised as party or party-leadership specific from a certain standpoint. The failure is more broad-based and multi-sectoral.

Governance in most of Pakistan has been abysmal. For too long the country and its governments have been consumed by political uncertainty. This is when governance of any kind has remained neglected and unattended. Cartels have benefited the most while the common man at the bottom of the spectrum has been crushed under mounting poverty. Only if law, rules and fidelity in government functions can be found can this waste and perpetual leak be stemmed. Then alone the meager resources can be used to their most optimal and then alone a sustainable relief or succor for the common man can be realised.

Till we begin to function as a normal country without a heightened sense of fear and uncertainty will the common man be assured of his safer tomorrow. But if the state continues to remain as apprehensive and speculative as it is, it can inspire little confidence in its people. This will need to change in a good way — not by inducing fear and highhandedness but by being sympathetic to its people at large and giving politics its due space to function. For the moment the State seems to impose its overwhelming presence and is seen as a party to the fracas. This is counterintuitive to its larger cause and purpose which is to keep tabs on what the likes of Modi may be envisaging as their future course.

Narendra Modi may not yet be a direct player in internal matters of Pakistan, but it makes it rife for him to begin considering it in his main course menu. That should be enough of a wake-up call. India probably has a role in how matters are worsening on the western borders with Afghanistan which imposes its own dynamics in the security calculus but to augment it with something on the eastern border will only multiply our difficulties in an already precarious and unstable domestic environment. It is time to think anew of options to settle down the uncertainty that has beleaguered the nation now for almost three years. Our political class has mostly been inept; to complicate it further with inherent uncertainty will only make it impossible to resolve our dilemma. If we fail at it, it shall unfortunately be of our own making. We may soon be out of time to make amends.

 

 

Why not Pakistan?

By Dr Ramesh Kumar Vankwani | May 17, 2024


Recently I was asked to give a briefing on the Gandhara Corridor in a high level meeting of the Special Investment Facilitation Council (SIFC), attended by federal ministers and the military leadership as well as the representatives from all provinces, at the Prime Minister’s Secretariat.

While highlighting the significance of establishing a Gandhara Corridor for connecting Pakistan with the Buddhist world, I categorically mentioned that our neighbouring country has identified faith tourism as a key sector for socio-economic uplift, cultural preservation, spiritual enrichment and promoting the soft image. In this regard, a strategic step to attract pilgrims from Buddhist majority countries has already been taken in the form of developing the Buddhist Circuit.

The Indian government with the collaboration of World Bank, Asian Development Bank and foreign investors is developing a holy network of sacred sites and destinations associated with the spiritual journey of Gautama Buddha, spanning across several states in India, including Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Madhya Pradesh, and Odisha.

The World Bank, under the India Buddhist Circuit Development Project (IBCDP), has been a key partner in this endeavour, providing financial and technical assistance to support the development of infrastructure, tourism facilities, and community engagement programs in our neighbouring country.

The key focus areas of the IBCDP include: (i) infrastructure development for upgrading and construction of roads, airports, and tourist facilities to improve access and amenities for pilgrims; (ii) site development for conservation and restoration of Buddhist monuments, museums, and cultural heritage sites; (iii) community engagement, capacity building and training programmes for local communities to promote their participation in tourism development and cultural preservation; and (iv) most importantly, marketing and promotion to raise awareness about the Buddhist Circuit and attract international tourists.

Due to its potential to generate employment opportunities, stimulate local economies, promote interfaith harmony, and preserve cultural heritage, several countries and international organizations are also showing interest in supporting the initiative. Reportedly, the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) has provided financial support for the development of tourism infrastructure and improvement of heritage sites under the Buddhist Circuit Development Plan, whereas the Korean International Cooperation Agency (KOICA) is also collaborating with the Indian government with a focus on strengthening people-to-people exchanges and cultural understanding.

The Asian Development Bank (ADB) has also shown keen interest to invest in the Buddhist Circuit and willingness to work on infrastructure development. Interestingly, many private companies are also cooperating for the conservation and restoration of Buddhist monuments and cultural heritage sites under the public-private partnership, supported by the World Bank.

However, during the SIFC meeting, an objection was raised by a provincial representative that tourism in Pakistan is a provincial subject. I once again elaborated that the purpose of establishing the Gandhara Corridor is not at all to control or take over any heritage site located in any province but to establish a tourism corridor connecting Islamabad, the federal capital of Pakistan, with capital cities of Buddhist majority countries, including China, Korea, Japan, Thailand, Nepal, Vietnam and Sri Lanka, etc through air link.

Unfortunately, we are seeking financial support and foreign investment from the international community to revive our national economy, but are not ready to take advantage of the priceless treasure that God Almighty has gifted to Pakistan in the form of heritage. It is a pity that others are welcoming faith tourists at a large scale to boost their national economies, but we are still not getting out of such a hostile stereotype mindset.

I concluded my briefing with an emphasis that: “Today, if the government of Pakistan just shows its determination to provide a roadmap and vision for establishing the Gandhara Corridor, it will not take long for the foreign investors, international donors and private sector to step forward for transforming the initiative game-changer for Pakistan.”

In my view, this is a real challenge that needs to be addressed by our national leadership on a priority basis to ensure that the Gandhara Corridor must be announced today, not tomorrow, to promote interfaith harmony, tolerance, international connectivity, soft image, eliminate terrorism and boost our national economy.

The writer is a member of the National Assembly and patron-in-chief of the Pakistan Hindu Council. He tweets/posts @RVankwani.


 

 

Innovation for agriculture

By Zafar Masud | May 17, 2024

 

PAKISTAN’S agricultural sector is not just a segment of the economy; it is the lifeblood that sustains the country’s populace and fuels its economic engine. With over 37 per cent of the labour force employed in it and its contribution of approximately 46pc to GDP — both directly and indirectly estimated by employing backward and forward linkages between agriculture and other sectors of the economy — agriculture’s significance cannot be overstated. It is a pivotal source of foreign exchange earnings, with a substantial delta as high as $15 billion in our current account, underscoring its role as a cornerstone of Pakistan’s financial stability.

Innovation, and out-of-the-box solutions provide hope amidst myriad challenges faced by this sector. These are key to ending the prevailing inertia and catalysts that can transform traditional practices into a modern, efficient, and sustainable agricultural framework. The recent Agri-Connections conference in Lahore served as a testament to this belief, bringing together various stakeholders to sow the seeds of progress and innovation.

The ZarZaraat agri start-up competition, sponsored by The Bank of Punjab and unveiled at the conference, is meant to provide a platform for innovative technologies to showcase their offerings to potential funders to bridge the gap between agricultural start-ups and the capital they require. It is also seen as a commitment to nurturing the growth of agricultural entrepreneurs.

The conference also shone a spotlight on international models of agricultural innovation that can illuminate Pakistan’s path forward. The vision of Pakistani farmers connecting directly with consumers, akin to their Indian counterparts using platforms like BigBasket, is not a distant dream but an achievable reality. Similarly, the success of Hello Tractor in Africa serves as an inspiration for Pakistani agricultural machinery service providers to serve smallholder farmers and help them adopt much-needed mechanised farming using mobile technology, enabling them to book tractors on-demand thus significantly enhancing their productivity.

Out-of-the-box solutions provide hope amidst the myriad challenges faced by the farm sector.

Yet, the scope of innovation extends far beyond the realm of technology. It is important to delve into strategic approaches that have borne fruit in other nations. China’s emphasis on food security, bolstered by government grants and specialised science parks, provides a blueprint for Pakistan to emulate. Ethiopia’s resolution of credit access issues for farmers through a land-titling programme demonstrates the power of governmental intervention in catalysing economic empowerment. Vietnam’s focus on public-private partnerships, my favourite, highlights the importance of collaborative efforts in overcoming financial literacy barriers and collateral constraints faced by rural entrepreneurs. Colombia’s strides in empowering women-owned agricultural businesses via microfinance partnerships offer valuable insights into inclusive economic development.

A call to action for collaboration resonates throughout these success stories. A united front comprising the government, private sector, financial institutions, and agriculturist communities, is imperative for realising the transformative potential of Pakistan’s agricultural sector. Streamlining regulations, investing in rural infrastructure, and championing sustainable practices are the pillars upon which this transformation must be built.

As we study deeper into the agricultural conundrum that Pakistan faces, it becomes increasingly clear that innovation is not merely a luxury but a necessity. The challenges that Pakistani farmers grapple with are unique, but not insurmountable. Agriculture-related platforms emerge as a beacon of hope, offering tangible solutions through the lens of innovation. It is not a little-known fact that agricultural modernisation for an agrarian economy is a sure-fire way of enhancing export orientation. A study by the World Bank suggests that Pakistan can increase its agricultural exports by up to 50pc by 2025 through diversification and improved output quality, brought about by modernisation.

Irrigation and water management are pivotal in a country where poor resource management looms large. The potential to introduce smart irrigation systems could herald a new era of efficiency in water use. A study by the International Water Management Institute estimates that Pakistan can save up to 12.5 million acre feet of water annually by adopting precision agriculture techniques such as smart irrigation systems. Keeping the criticality of it in view, RemoteWell was selected as one of the technologies that could address this challenge, in the ZarZaraat competition.

The issue of post-harvest handling is another hurdle that can be elegantly cleared by short-listing Godaam Technologies as one of the best solutions showcased in the competition. Mobile cold storage solutions and supply chain management platforms are present as low-hanging fruit, boasting the potential to revolutionise the way farmers store and sell their produce — minimising losses and maximising profits. According to recent estimates by the World Bank, Pakistan loses between 30pc to 40pc of its agricultural produce due to poor post-harvest processing and handling. Strategic investments in logistics and storage can cut down on these losses significantly.

Capital access remains the Achilles’ heel for many farmers. Connecting farmers with microfinance institutions and crowdfunding platforms is crucial. It is a step towards democratising access to capital and enabling farmers to invest in the future. While market access is the final piece of the puzzle, digital marketplaces could open up new avenues for farmers, connecting them directly with consumers and ensure a fair price for their hard work. The International Food Policy Research Institute estimates that the widespread adoption of new technologies in developing agrarian economies can potentially increase farm incomes by up to 200pc — effectively translating into poverty reduction from the ground-up as well as improved livelihoods for millions of Pakistani farmers and households.

The roadmap for Pakistan’s agricultural renaissance is etched in the lessons learned from global leaders and the commitment to fostering an environment conducive to innovation. By joining hands and harnessing the collective strength of all stakeholders, Pakistan can unlock the latent potential of its agricultural sector and cultivate a future of prosperity and growth.

The writer, a development and social impact-focused banker and public sector specialist, is president and CEO of The Bank of Punjab.

Published in Dawn, May 17th, 2024


 

 

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