Express Tribune Editorial 30 June 2020

Migrants’ nightmare

Pakistanis are often caught in the pincer of international and national situations. As a result of lack of job opportunities, they leave their own country in search of a good future in foreign lands. Often they are so desperate that they make unplanned journey and fall into the trap laid out by human smugglers. Recently, an NGO ship rescued 31 Pakistanis travelling in a wooden boat off the Italian island of Lampedusa. Others rescued from the boat are said to be Sudanese.
The Pakistanis were held as captives during their passage in Libya where they were beaten and tortured. They were given minimum food just to keep themselves alive. For some, the ordeal began from the airport. Around 40 persons are usually locked up in one room in the Libyan heat, and they are not allowed to go out. Like cattle, one contractor sold them on to another. All contractors kept them locked up and gave them food hardly sufficient to keep body and soul together. If a captive escaped from his captors and made the mistake of contacting the police, he faced blackmail and torture.
It was an endless cycle of torture, blackmail and extortion. Crooks kidnap migrant workers from worksites, markets and the streets. They are asked to inform their relatives back home to send money to pay ransom to the crooks. If there is a delay in payment of ransom or ransom is not paid, captives are subjected to various kinds of torture, ranging from beatings to food deprivation and electric shock. Migrants say they want to leave Libya even at the risk of life, and try to escape in boats via the sea route. People prefer to die at sea than to face death on a daily basis in Libya.
Pakistanis and Bangladeshis are the worst sufferers under these conditions in Libya. The government of Pakistan needs to further tighten the noose around people’s smugglers.


Afghanistan: Russian role


America’s longest military nightmare continues to haunt President Donald Trump’s Administration. No one can blame the American president for starting the war, but he certainly has not been able to fulfil his promise of ending it. The president, who appears to be losing the November election, would like to end the war as soon as he can — primarily to showcase the end of America’s longest war as a trophy during his re-election rallies. After all, it is all about pleasing his base.
But Trump continues to ignore the fact that the exit from Afghanistan will not be as easy as the entry was about two decades ago. The dynamics have changed and continue to change. Russian President Vladimir Putin appears much stronger and more in control than he was back when the Afghan conflict started. Afghanistan also happens to be the spot where the Soviet Union was defeated and forced to exit by the Americans four decades ago.
History now appears to be repeating in the same vicious manner, but this time the United States is at the receiving end. And Moscow, which is now run by a man who saw the collapse of the Soviet Union as a misstep, is looking for revenge. Hence reports about the Russian intelligence secretly offering bounties to Taliban-linked militants for killing coalition forces in Afghanistan come as no surprise. In fact, there is a lot more that Moscow could be doing behind the scenes to extend America’s suffering in Afghanistan.
An exit from Afghanistan will need a lot more time and effort than and will definitely require Russia’s support. Moscow will always remain an important part of the Afghan equation — primarily because Russia is entwined in a complicated relationship with the Afghan parties, states around Afghanistan, and the west.


IOK: domicile giveaways


Pakistan, and indeed most Kashmiris, have rejected the decision by the Narendra Modi government in India to grant domicile certificates to thousands of Indian citizens living in occupied Kashmir. The move is Modi’s latest attempt to change the demographics of the disputed region by allowing people who have no ancestral ties to the area to claim local residency. In many cases, these will be government officials, including security forces, giving the ruling BJP the ability to also change the political structure of the region. The insidious move also allows the children of government officials who had served in IOK to claim domicile, even if those children have never set foot in the territory. This would allow them to steal jobs, educational opportunities, and land from actual Kashmiris.
The effort has been moving along steadily since May, despite the Covid-19 pandemic. More than 33,000 people have applied for domicile certificates since mid-May, and a whopping 25,000 have already been approved. Unsurprisingly, a large number of certificates have been issued in areas where the demographic balance skews Muslim. This would be key to influencing any eventual plebiscite in the region, which is required under the UN Security Council Resolutions regarding the disputed territory.
The “bogus domicile certificates”, according to the Foreign Office of Pakistan, are “illegal, void and in complete violation of the relevant United Nations Security Council Resolutions, and International law including the Fourth Geneva Convention.” Pakistan also reiterates that “the recipients of the domicile certificates must know that India has no legal authority to bring in and settle people from outside” the disputed region. Unfortunately, as much as Pakistan tries to call the world’s attention to this issue, it has become abundantly clear that the world leaders don’t care about disrupting economic ties with the Modi government over the rights of Kashmiris. They are more than happy to let millions of Kashmiris know that billions of dollars in trade with India are worth much more than their lives.
The fact of the matter is that, even excluding India’s closest allies in Russia and US President Trump, Europe alone could set India straight. But then who would buy Rafale aircraft?

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