Time to Stand Firm
This letter is with reference to the article ‘A Unilateral Flexibility’ by Amir Zia. The writer correctly points out that making peace overtures to the fascist Modi regime after its recent actions in Kashmir and against Muslims within India would be both unjust and unwise. In addition, the writer has astutely noted that India’s attempts to reengage Pakistan are a clunky attempt at managing the fallout from its illegal August 5, 2019 annexation and occupation of Kashmir, which generated considerable international condemnation. The Modi regime is now scrambling to repair the damage done and there is need for an urgent course correction in the Pakistani policy. There should be no ambiguity about our stance supporting Kashmir’s right to self-determination and the reversal of the Indian annexation. Until India makes meaningful concessions towards this end there should be no talks.
Lack of Support
Ali Mahmood’s article ‘A Second Green Revolution’ draws much needed attention to Pakistan’s oft neglected agricultural sector. While acknowledging the positive strides made by Pakistani agriculture in the 1990s and 2000s, Mahmood argues that given our population growth we need to increase our productivity post haste. In order to do so we must implement the latest technologies. Mahmood gave the example of Israel, a small country that manages to punch far above its weight in agriculture by using efficient technologies such as drip irrigation. However, the author has perhaps missed out a crucial point, which is that Pakistan is competing in global markets with an arm tied around its back. While other countries such as India heavily subsidise agriculture, including research and technological development, that is not the case in Pakistan, at least not to the same extent. Hence, other countries are often able to outcompete Pakistan on this score in large part because their governments offer them more support. It is unfair to compare Pakistan unfavourably with other countries like Malaysia, whose palm oil plantations are heavily subsidised.
A Tried and Tested Friendship
The May issue of Narratives marked the 70th anniversary of Pakistan-China relations. Authors such as Shakeel Ahmad Ramay and Dr. Ikramul Haq remarked on the duration of our friendship with China and how it has successfully overcome adverse geo-political circumstances and attempts at sabotage, emerging stronger each time. However, we cannot afford to rest on our laurels. Plans to undermine our relationship with China are gathering momentum as the US looks to strengthen its alliance with India and make Pakistan subservient to India’s interests. US allies in the Middle-East have been employed for this purpose, pressurising Pakistan to soften its stance on the annexation of Kashmir and other Indian depredations.
Given this climate, it is imperative that Pakistan rapidly strengthen its economic and military ties with China to avoid becoming isolated in the region and to buffer itself against US-instigated pressure. On this note, Imtiaz Gul’s analysis in his article ‘A Tale of Mismatch’ is quite worrying. It seems all is not as well as we have been led to believe on the CPEC front, as the Pakistani leadership struggles to live up to Chinese ambitions for the region. There is an urgent need to put all projects under the CPEC banner back on track and clear any doubts the Chinese may harbour about our ability to live up to our promises.
A Tricky Proposition
This letter is with reference to the article ‘The Unyielding Land’ by Ibrahim Sajid Malick. The article provides a very detailed account of the misconceptions leading up to and during the US invasion of Afghanistan. Unfortunately, as the author notes, the departure of US forces is unlikely to lead to the stabilisation of Afghanistan. Fighting between the Taliban and government forces seems imminent, while the coalition government of Ashraf Ghani and Abdullah Abdullah looks more precarious with each passing day. As the US role recedes, it is possible that Pakistan will begin to play a greater role as a mediator between the Taliban and the Afghan government. But we will have to tread carefully and avoid being further sucked into a war not of our making and repeating the mistakes of the countless other would-be conquerors who have attempted to tame Afghanistan in the past.
Time to Mobilise
While reading Khalid Hameed Faruqi’s interview of Marjan Lucas I thought about how rare it was to hear about a global human rights issue from the perspective of an actual international human rights lawyer. I was struck by how amateurish most analysis on Kashmir on TV and print, usually conducted by pundits and others with a political motive, seems in comparison. That being said, I was disheartened to hear how little international rights bodies like the UNHCR or the European Parliament would actually do for the Kashmiris on their own. In these circumstances it is absolutely essential to mobilise the Kashmiri, Pakistani and Muslim diasporas to put pressure on these institutions to act. Without it the Kashmir cause will, sadly, be forgotten.
Homes for the Poor
This letter is with reference to the article by Zahra Chugtai on Yasmin Lari, titled ‘From Starchitect to Barefoot Architect.’ It is heartening to discover that one of the country’s most renowned and accomplished architects has decided to dedicate herself to the cause of building homes for the poor. In Pakistan, regrettably, real estate is all too often an investment vehicle for the rich, with many of the rural and urban poor being forced to live in dilapidated conditions. In addition, the rush for new real estate risks erasing Pakistan’s rich architectural heritage. Yasmin Lari’s efforts dispel the myth that poverty is a barrier to producing decent accommodation for the poor. Innovative projects like the low-cost Angoori Bagh housing scheme use inventive methods to provide decent housing at prices the masses can afford. Furthermore, such methods can also help build homes that are less vulnerable to natural disasters such as flooding.
Recently, much has been said and written about the Naya Pakistan housing project. The project is definitely doing good work, as increasing the number of homes to accommodate our growing population and providing cheap home financing methods are a must. It would be wise for those leading this project to take on board Lari’s work as they are trying to achieve similar objectives.
Running out of Time
This letter refers to the article by Altaf Hussain Wani, ‘Colonising Kashmir,’ in the May issue of Narratives magazine. The author highlighted how India was colonising Kashmir by issuing domicile certificates to thousands of non-Muslims, allowing them to purchase property and obtain employment in the valley, to permanently alter its culture and politics. This is political persecution with demographics being used as a weapon to erase the Kashmiri identity. If the trends that the author points towards are allowed to continue, it means that the time to save Kashmir is running out. If Pakistan does nothing now, the curtain may close on the Kashmiri freedom movement. We cannot allow this to happen. Now is the time to do all we can to support Kashmiri leaders in India and in exile and consistently fight their case in all international fora. We must keep the memory of the Kashmiri movement alive and remain a thorn in the side of the Indian occupation.
An Unvarnished View
After reading Huma Baqai’s review of Zahid Hussain’s Forever War, titled ‘Frenemies Forever?’ in the May issue of Narratives magazine I decided to read the book myself. It is a must read if one wishes to understand Pakistan’s recent history, particularly our relations with Afghanistan and the US. In many ways it is quite a sad read, considering the losses Pakistan has suffered on account of the US “War on Terror.” The author examines in great detail the strategic confusion that prevailed in the White House regarding Afghanistan, the result of which has been a blunder that has caused untold suffering and misery across the region for 20 long years. The most interesting part of the book was how the Taliban evolved after their defeat in the initial stages of the American invasion into a more globally attuned political entity, managing to return from their nadir stronger than ever. However, the author does not misguide his readers with false promises of peace, clearly noting that despite recent peace talks, stability and prosperity will, unfortunately, continue to elude Afghanistan in the years to come.
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