Dawn Editorial 5 November 2019

India’s new ‘map’

INDIA’s expansionist intention has manifested itself in another dangerous move three months into New Delhi’s attempt to formally annex India-held Kashmir. The Modi setup has come up with a fanciful new ‘map’, in violation of recognised geographical boundaries. This malevolent scheme deliberately identifies Azad Kashmir as well as certain areas of Gilgit-Baltistan as Indian territory.
Read: Pakistan rejects ‘incorrect, legally untenable’ political maps issued by India
Pakistan has dismissed the attempt as “incorrect and legally untenable”, and termed the political map as one that violates UN resolutions. Islamabad has also reiterated that “no step by India could change the disputed status of Jammu and Kashmir as recognised by the United Nations”, and has vowed that it will continue to support the just struggle of the Kashmiris.
Having gone through the ritual, however, the Imran Khan government should introspect to see whether it could have better pursued an international diplomatic campaign aimed at discouraging an increasingly aggressive India’s adventurism. This is no easy task, but the question is: has Pakistan, with all its pledges to back the Kashmiri fight for freedom, given the urgent assignment its best shot?
On Sunday, the head of the parliamentary committee on Kashmir, Fakhr Imam, repeated the slogan about Kashmir being Pakistan’s jugular vein. Examples of how some international players had expressed their concern over Indian cruelty in IHK were once again highlighted. We were assured that the French parliament had discussed Kashmir and that some US congressmen had gone so far as to ask their government some ‘hard questions’. We were also told that both government and opposition in Pakistan were in total agreement on Kashmir. We were then reminded about Prime Minister Imran Khan’s UN speech in which he “advocated the Kashmir issue in a way which was praised worldwide”.
Nobody can dispute that the Kashmir question has been brought to the world’s attention. But how is the government here going to move forward on that, especially as international rebukes, including hard-hitting statements from Pakistan, have had little impact on Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s fascist designs so far?
An effective follow-up to the promises that Mr Khan made would have found Pakistani diplomats proactively and continuously engaging with world capitals to convey a true picture of Indian excesses against a people with a genuine demand for freedom. The latest method at ‘persuasion’ by New Delhi has to be countered with a strategy that places premium on consistency and reason.
Let there be no illusions about it: as things stand, the international community is being ruled by its own interests, evident in its overall silence on IHK which has been under an inhuman and prolonged curfew. This is all the more reason why there has to be a persistent and patient effort at coming up with a powerful argument, backed by as much evidence as possible, of the atrocities in IHK, so that it is impossible for anyone to deny the reality.


Iraq protests

FOR the past several weeks, Iraq has been witnessing intense turmoil, with regular street protests featuring thousands of demonstrators facing off against security forces. The latest incident took place on Sunday night, when protesters tried to storm the Iranian consulate in the holy city of Karbala. A number of people have reportedly been shot dead in the incident. Various reasons have been attributed to the protests, including rampant government corruption, economic stagnation and Iranian ‘meddling’ in Iraqi affairs. The fact is that for several decades now, Iraq has been unable to stabilise itself, for reasons external and internal. In 1980, Saddam Hussein launched a ruinous eight-year war to counter the Islamic revolutionary government in Iran; hundreds of thousands died on both sides. Then in 1990, the Iraqi strongman invaded Kuwait, which resulted in another war and crippling sanctions that had a devastating effect on ordinary Iraqis. And while the US-led invasion toppled him in 2003, peace and stability eluded Iraq, with one wobbly government following another, until the militant Islamic State group devoured huge chunks of Iraqi territory in 2014. Were it not for support from Iran as well as the US to the Iraqis, IS may well have been knocking on the gates of Baghdad. It is this series of unfortunate events that, arguably, are largely responsible for the decay in Iraq today.
Perhaps the core reason for the lack of stability has been the Iraqi political elite’s failure to deliver. While Saddam Hussein was a brutal dictator who showed no mercy to opponents, the political system that followed him failed, perhaps because — as in Afghanistan’s case — it was implanted from the outside and was inorganic. Today, an informal confessional system holds sway in Iraq, with power divvied up between the Shia and Sunni Arabs, and Kurds. While indeed democratic rule is the only solution to Iraq’s problems, Baghdad’s rulers must move beyond the facade of democracy — political parties, elections, parliament sessions — and deliver on the basic principles of representative rule, such as good governance, social justice and respect for fundamental rights. Iraq’s oil revenues are calculated in tens of billions of dollars. However, very little of this is trickling down to the common Iraqi, thus fuelling protests. Blaming Iran or even the American invasion won’t do. It is time Iraq’s political forces focused on service delivery to ensure rights and prosperity for all the country’s citizens, regardless of religious, sectarian and ethnic background.


Migrant blues

ON Saturday, French officials were shocked to find 31 Pakistanis hidden inside a truck during a routine check of vehicles near the Italian border. While it has not yet been ascertained whether this incident was a case of human trafficking or smuggling — and the distinction is important — it has raised alarm bells in Europe. Just a few days earlier, 39 migrants — believed to be Vietnamese nationals — were found dead inside an abandoned refrigerated truck in the UK. They had all suffocated to death. One young woman sent a heartbreaking message to her loved ones back home: “I’m dying because I can’t breathe… Mom, I am so sorry, Mom.”
Such tragedies highlight the desperation of migrants who attempt to escape what they see as hopeless living conditions in their home countries. Risking their lives in the pursuit of greener pastures, modern-day migrants attempt to escape war, religious and ethnic persecution, poverty and harsh economic conditions. Migrants from Pakistan are typically categorised as economic migrants from the rural and small towns of the country, who undertake a dangerous journey to Europe. Often, they are sold dreams of wealth and adventure awaiting them in other lands by human traffickers. However, as witnessed in the most recent tragedy in the UK, many do not make their journey to their new homes successfully. Last year, 11 Pakistanis were counted among 90 migrants who drowned when their boat capsized off the coast of Libya. Indeed, this mass movement of people from one country to another is one of the most pressing topics of our century, which has so far been characterised by great inequality and strife. Illegal migration, human trafficking and smuggling are intercontinental issues, and so require cooperation among various countries and regions in order to tackle the problem successfully. However, until the root causes — income inequality, prejudice and war — are not addressed, we will continue to witness such tragedies in the coming years.


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