DAWN - Opinion; 17 January, 2005

January 17, 2005


Kashmir policy revisited

By Javid Husain

The radical changes in the global security environment at the start of the 21st century call for a re-examination of Pakistan's half a century old Kashmir policy. There has been a gradual deterioration in Pakistan's position on the issue vis-a-vis India.

There is a real danger that if this policy is not subjected to a thorough overhaul, it may cause irreparable damage to Pakistan's security and well-being.

For the realization of its objectives in Kashmir, Pakistan has primarily relied on UN Security Council resolutions and the military, while neglecting, or assigning low priority to, the political and economic dimensions of the policy.

Successive governments have also put a premium on short-term considerations at the expense of long-term ones. Lack of realism and wishful thinking have been the other hallmarks of our Kashmir policy.

In the process, Pakistan's polity has been destabilized, its economy has failed to take off (recent claims to the contrary notwithstanding) and the country was dismembered during the 1971 crisis.

The overemphasis on immediate and transient considerations has robbed our Kashmir policy of the qualities of continuity and stability. As for the future, there is little prospect of success if we continue to tread the well-trodden course.

There is no denying the fact that the genesis of the Kashmir dispute lies in the denial of the right of self-determination of the Kashmiri people as recognized by the relevant UN Security Council resolutions.

It goes without saying that the Maharaja of Jammu and Kashmir at the time of Partition should not have acceded to India against the known wishes of the Kashmiri people even if one assumes that the Indian version of the events of the time is true. The legal, political and moral arguments in support of Pakistan's case on Kashmir arise from these assertions.

From a real politik point of view, however, Pakistan has been engaged in changing in its favour the status quo, which has existed in Kashmir for more than five decades.

In the prevalent power-based international system, this objective can be achieved only if Pakistan mobilizes sufficient power in support of its cause at national, regional and global levels to persuade India to modify its stand that Kashmir is its integral part and come to a mutually satisfactory settlement of the dispute taking into account the wishes of the Kashmiri people.

International law and morality, can, at best, play a marginal role in overcoming Indian intransigence. Let us see how Pakistan compares with India in terms of national power.

India is not only eight times bigger than Pakistan in population terms, it has consistently outperformed Pakistan in the economic field during the past decade. The situation on the military side is no different despite the high proportion of the national resources that Pakistan has allocated to defence.

India also enjoys the advantage of a stable democratic setup which has taken deep roots in its bodypolitik, as against Pakistan which has suffered from political instability marked by controversies about the Constitution, stunted growth of political institutions, repeated experiments with military and authoritarian governments and a low level of political maturity.

The situation at the regional and global levels is also not reassuring from Pakistan's point of view. At the regional level, Pakistan managed to isolate itself primarily because of its flawed Afghanistan policy, particularly during the period from 1997 to September 2001.

Without going into details, it is sufficient to say that we are still living both internally and externally with the adverse consequences of that short sighted policy.

At the global level again, Pakistan is faced with heavy odds as far as the Kashmir dispute is concerned. Even if we ignore the lingering misgivings of the international community because of our pre-9/11 support to the Taliban, a quick survey of the international scene should have a sobering effect on Pakistan's policymakers.

As a result of the radical transformation of the international environment in the aftermath of 9/11, issues of terrorism and proliferation of weapons of mass destruction have been raised to the top of the international agenda.

Promotion of democracy, safeguarding of human rights and development of a market economy constitute other important objectives of the international community. The focus on the issue of terrorism has undermined the freedom movements in the Islamic world as the armed struggle here is increasingly portrayed by the West as terrorism.

The reduced relevance of the United Nations to global and regional issues of strategic importance, as in the case of the US invasion of Iraq, has correspondingly reduced the significance of UN Security Council resolutions for the peaceful settlement of international disputes.

Increasingly now, decisions on important strategic issues are taken elsewhere by the major powers and then taken to the Security Council to give them a cloak of legitimacy. This trend has had a negative impact on the UN Security Council resolutions relevant to Kashmir. Pakistan, then, lacks the power to compel or persuade India to agree to a change in the status quo in Kashmir.

It is not surprising that Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh declared unequivocally at Srinagar on November 17, 2004: "Let me say that I have made it quite clear to President Musharraf that any redrawing of international borders is something which is not going to be acceptable to us. Any proposal which smacks of further division of our country on the basis of religion is not going to be acceptable to us."

The point was reiterated by him in Lok Sabha on December 21. Later in Rajya Sabha, Dr Singh added that he had emphasized to President Musharraf the criticality of his fulfilling the reassurance of January 6, 2004, that any territory under Pakistan's control would not be used to support terrorism in any manner. He went on to declare that "If this does not happen, all other confidence-building measures would have no meaning."

The Indian foreign secretary was equally blunt while talking to a group of Pakistani journalists in New Delhi last month. If there was any doubt left in the minds of our policymakers, the Indian foreign secretary removed it by stressing in Islamabad at a press conference on December 27 that "legally entire Jammu and Kashmir is part of India." Little wonder that the latest round of Pakistan-India foreign secretary-level talks ended without any progress on the Kashmir issue.

Our recent pronouncements reflecting our willingness, or rather eagerness, to show flexibility if India would do the same is an example of our mistaken belief that such a gesture would be reciprocated by India.

In the process, while we have declared our willingness to set aside the UN Security Council resolutions on which Pakistan's legal case for Kashmir primarily rests, India has stuck to its guns by reiterating that Kashmir is its integral part and any redrawing of the LoC is out of the question.

The net result, despite some later backtracking on our part, is that while we have revealed our cards even before the process of substantive negotiations on Kashmir has begun, the Indian hand remains unknown to us.

The essence of strategy is to bring one's opponent to the point of decision at the time and place of one's choice. Unfortunately, our establishment believes in doing exactly the opposite as reflected in the current rush to reach a settlement of the Kashmir dispute which has merely produced a series of unilateral concessions on our part without anything worthwhile to show from the Indian side.

Our historical experience and the present situation call for a radical revision of our Kashmir policy which should be based on a long-term strategy. We need to recognize that a peaceful settlement of the Kashmir dispute, which is satisfactory from Pakistan's point of view, is not attainable in the short-term as Pakistan is in a much weaker position compared with India nationally, regionally and internationally.

Further, such a settlement would require painful compromises by both India and Pakistan. The fact of the matter is that there is no national consensus on the necessary concessions either in India or in Pakistan.

The statements by the Indian prime minister and foreign secretary reflect this reality as far as India is concerned. The situation is not much different in Pakistan. Both sides, therefore, need more time to prepare their respective public opinions for the necessary flexibility in dealing with the Kashmir issue. It would be a long-term process whose outcome cannot be predicted with certainty at this time.

Meanwhile, Pakistan should, while maintaining its declared position on Kashmir and continuing to engage India in dialogue, concentrate on strengthening political stability and accelerating the process of economic development to be at a more advantageous position vis-a-vis India when the time for a settlement of the Kashmir dispute arrives.

The dialogue with India should aim in the short-term at the amelioration of the human rights situation of the Kashmiris in Indian-held Kashmir, demilitarization of the territory, autonomy for the Kashmiris in Indian-held Kashmir and an improved climate of relations between India and Pakistan while safeguarding our essential political, security and economic interests.

Political stability in Pakistan would come about through evolving a national consensus on the Constitution and the building up democratic institutions along sound lines.

Faster economic growth and increased focus on human resource development, particularly education, would require a much higher allocation of national resources to economic development than is the case at present. This, in turn, would require tight control on our military expenditure.

Historically, nations that have prospered in the world have accorded higher priority to economic growth than to military strength at the initial stages of development. This is because sustainable military power can be built up only on the foundation of political stability and economic strength.

Unfortunately, we have put the cart before the horse by building up military power at the expense of political stability and economic development. We need to reorder our priorities if we are to have any chance of success in competing with India in the economic field, which while being desirable in itself, is a sine qua non for a successful long-term Kashmir strategy.

Finally, we need to remind ourselves that the Kashmiris are at the centre of the dispute. Any settlement of the Kashmir dispute which runs contrary to the wishes of the Kashmiri people cannot be viable or sustainable.

We must, therefore, develop a deep understanding of their aspirations by maintaining close political links with their political leadership and avoid taking steps which would alienate them.

Above all, we should make Pakistan so attractive from the points of view of political stability, economic development and cultural growth that it should act as a magnate for the Kashmiri people.

In the long run, our ability to reach a satisfactory settlement of the Kashmir issue with India would be directly proportionate to our success in strengthening our internal political stability and outperforming India in the field of economic development while maintaining a credible military deterrent at the lowest possible cost.

Our inability to perform well in these areas would make the prospects of a satisfactory settlement of the Kashmir dispute extremely bleak if not non-existent.

The writer is a former ambassador of Pakistan.

Higher education: another view

By Dr Dushka H. Saiyid

Pakistan has been left behind in the field of education, not just as compared to the developed countries but also in our own region. How has this situation come about?

Since the country came into being, our policymakers have given education a low priority. Consequently, Pakistan has been spending just over two per cent of its GNP on education, when Unesco recommends that the figure should be at least four per cent.

The problem of poor higher education has been compounded over the years by the advice given by international agencies recommending a lower priority for higher education.

The International Task Force on Higher Education set up in 2000, and funded, amongst others, by the World Bank, admits that the developing countries were wrongly advised.

While efforts must be made to maintain quality, the numbers are important. Pakistan has 20 million youth between the ages of 17-23, but only 2.6 per cent of them are enrolled in higher education institutions.

Our neighbours including India and Iran have an enrolment figure in this age group that is four to five times higher than ours. In some developed countries, this figure is 70 per cent.

Since it costs ten times more to fund PhDs abroad, the HEC has developed an indigenous PhD scheme. Since the country was producing as few as 50 PhDs annually, there was a need for a major policy initiative, and the indigenous PhD programme caters to precisely that.

Financial incentives to both students and faculty have kick-started the programme which is relatively new with room for improvement. A good starting point could be to improve the qualifying exam being set for applicants for the PhD programme by the HEC.

For the first time in Pakistan's history, education is being given its rightful place in terms of the funds allocated to it by the government. Since the last three years, with the financial squeeze on higher education over, public sector universities are undergoing a sea change.

New equipment in our research laboratories, well-equipped computer laboratories and better access to journals and books are helping to facilitate serious research. With the number of private and public universities growing over the last ten years, there is an increasing demand for the limited, highly trained faculty that is available in the Pakistani market.

This has led to a rise in their market value, and they are being offered high salaries by the private sector. The public sector universities are finding it increasingly difficult to retain them, especially the social scientists among them.

Financial incentives for publishing research articles and supervising research of M.Phil and PhD students is encouraging our faculty to be more productive. It also helps the public sector retain them when the private sectors, including the NGOs, have a much bigger salary package to offer.

To hark back to the 60s and 70s when there were student unions and to suggest that discourse amongst the students then was of a high intellectual and ideological level is misplaced nostalgia.

Since the demise of the Soviet Union, ideological debates are moribund on the campuses of the leading universities of the world. Regarding the ethnic and sectarian strife on Pakistani campuses, it is only the Quaid-i-Azam University, which had warring ethnic councils, but they were banned two years ago and have ceased to exist.

A revival of the student unions will turn our campuses into a battleground for the student wings of different political parties. Surely what happened at the Punjab University should be a lesson for all of us.

A majority of the Indian universities are mediocre at best. It is only the half a dozen Indian Institutes of Technology and the Indian Institutes of Management and the Jawaharlal University, which have any kind of international standing.

Would any serious opinion leader in either China or India advocate imports of a large number of academics from say the US or Germany to man their public sector universities? It is an idea borrowed from the American scholar Stephen Cohen's book The Idea of Pakistan, but then Cohen has a problem with the whole concept of the creation of Pakistan.

Education is not only about abstract research, but also about history, culture, values and national identity. I have taught at the Quaid-i-Azam University for over 25 years.

Nothing could be further from the truth than to allege that teaching there is by rote and that the students are not allowed to ask questions or have discussions in the classroom.

There might be a few exceptions, but lectures and classes are held in an atmosphere of academic and intellectual freedom, and students are encouraged to have critical and open discussions.

Seminars and talks, in the social sciences at least, are frequently held. However, this is not to argue that there are no problems with the system. There must be more accountability of the faculty, especially through course evaluation by the students. There is always room for improvement, but it does not mean we condemn the system.

The writer is an Allama Iqbal Fellow, Wolfson College, Cambridge.

A crying shame

By M.P. Bhandara

There is a blot of shame on the fair name of Pakistan. And each one of us, who has the means and the power to do something about it but chooses to be silent, bears the burden of this guilt.

The story is familiar enough. On December 16, 1971, the Pakistan created by the Quaid-i-Azam, was lost. A sizable population who had migrated from Bihar to East Pakistan at the time of partition were declared non-citizens by the new Bangladesh government. Being culturally and linguistically different, they had not fully integrated with the people of East Pakistan.

During the civil war in East Pakistan between March and December 1971, they readily opted to defend a united Pakistan. The army used (and abused) them as human shields for the more dangerous operations.

For this crime, they have never been forgiven by the people of Bangladesh. After the war, they were herded into unsanitary ghettos on a virtually prison diet. They were branded as "traitors", and this mark of infamy remains on their children and even their children's children to this day.

These "traitors" are now considered as "pariahs" by Pakistan that has stopped owning them for the reason that, on migration here, they are likely to settle in Sindh and join the ethnic political ranks of New Sindhis. The estimate of those now eligible for repatriation is said to be between 100,000 and 150,000.

How cynical can we get as a nation? We can tolerate the presence of a million plus illegals from Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Burma and Afghanistan in Karachi but we shut the door tight on our "own" citizens.

We don't recognize them as ours on the specious plea that they had migrated to East Pakistan. The logical tailpiece of this reasoning is that our eastern province was never considered part of the nation.

We accepted four million Afghan refugees in the 1980s and beat our breast in the name of Islamic solidarity. The truth is there was little solidarity but a case of push come to shove on a porous border.

Pakistan's selective Islamic solidarity extends to Palestinians and Kashmiris, but not to Kurds in Iraq (when they were gassed) or the Sudanese in Darfur (currently in the throes of a genocide) and above all, to our own stranded "citizens" who made the mistake of their lives by siding with the Pakistan army and not the Mukti Bahini during the 1971 civil war, which is now commonly referred to as war of the Bangladesh liberation.

We choose to look the other way. This ugly blip is longer on our political radar screen. Islamic solidarity has suddenly vanished. Our rejection of these people exposes a visible crack in the mirror of Pakistan.

It calls into question the two-nation theory. Let us be honest and say that this theory was a means to an end and not an end in itself. The theory apparently died long ago when Pakistan was transformed "from a homeland for the Indian Muslims" to a theocratic Islamic state.

In any case, mass migration in the subcontinent is no longer possible and in the context of over 125 million Muslims in India, the two-nation theory does not seem to be operative for the time being.

This dichotomy on what Pakistan is or is not is the root cause of our carefully developed hypocrisy, double standards and sectarian violence. We have moved from one concept to another but find ourselves in limbo.

No wonder, the better part of our educated youth is alienated. The Quaid's concept of Pakistan was a liberal, humanizing, outward-reaching modern state, which was a homeland for those Muslims of the subcontinent who chose to migrate at the time of partition.

The Quaid gave us the right direction, but instead, we have entered a black hole of pseudo-religiosity and are struggling to get out of it. Our amnesia on the stranded Pakistani issue calls into question our singular devotion to the Kashmir cause.

How is a suffering Kashmiri any different from a ghettoed Pakistani in Bangladesh? Both are Muslim. Does this not smack of hypocrisy and double standards? The former is regarded as a mazloom, the latter a "pariah".

It must be heartrending to hear these "pariahs" sing the Pakistani national anthem and see them hoist our flag in the ghettos of Bangladesh on our national days.

The Rabita Trust Fund founded in 1988 succeeded in repatriating a few hundred families. It was frozen in 2001 and the process has since stopped. It is a shame that we must invite outside money to bring home our own citizens.

Have we lost all honour? We seem to have plenty of funds for all types of grandiose projects under the sun but cannot allocate a couple of hundred million rupees each year to recommence the process.

The government should meet the costs of improving the living condition in camps in Bangladesh, open schools and vocational centres and take immediate steps to repatriate 200 to 300 families annually and settle them in the Punjab. Where integration is possible in Bangladesh this should be encouraged by fiscal and other means.

Our parliament has a Kashmir committee on which millions are spent on members romping the globe to highlight the Kashmir cause with marginal results; the National Assembly can spend time to discuss the shortage of Sui gas in some remote town, it can spend hours to discuss the infringement of minor privileges of members, but it has never found the time to discuss the issue of stranded Pakistanis in Bangladesh. Not being true to ourselves shames all of us.

The writer is a member of the National Assembly

Email: murbr@isb.paknet.com.pk.

Reversal of rights

By Javed Jabbar

On December 28, 2004, in Islamabad, President Pervez Musharraf presided over a meeting attended by the prime minister, the federal minister for local government, the chief ministers of all four provinces, the chairman of the National Reconstruction Bureau and some senior officials to discuss aspects of the local government system introduced in 2000-2001.

Of several decisions announced, the most regressive one was to reduce the membership of a union council from 21 as implemented in 2000-2001 to 13 as has been decided in 2004.

With 33 per cent of seats in each union council being reserved for women for the first time in our history through the new system, the largest prospective casualty of this terrible decision are the women of Pakistan.

There are 6,022 union councils, about 350 towns and tehsils and 102 districts. With an average of six women elected on reserved seats - and some on general and other quota seats - along with others elected to tehsil and district councils, about 40,000 women had gained electoral offices at the most fundamental level of democracy and governance.

From reaching this unprecedented number out of a total of about 125,000 councillors elected in 2001, the representation of women will now be reduced almost overnight by two-thirds or by at least one half - from about six to seven members per union council at present, to only about two or three.

It is unlikely that women will be able to win many more seats on the remaining 10 general seats. Reserved seats for women are not the ideal method to ensure participation and representation of this gender in the institutions of policy and governance.

But we live in conditions in which women suffer from extraordinary deprivation and disadvantages that will take several years to reduce. Even in countries more advanced than our own, women remain without a fair share of opportunities.

In our specific situation, the allotment of one-third of seats becomes a catalyst to at least partially correct deeply-rooted disparities. We are in a region that already has the shameful status of an adverse gender ratio.

There are approximately about 94 women for every 100 men (as per the census published in 2001) compared to almost all other regions of the world where there are 106 women for every 100 men.

The intended reduction will be a huge setback. As it is, in Pakistan, the participation of women in the electoral process and in elective institutions is still deficient. The new local government system introduced in 2000-2001 redressed historic under-representation.

Even though some of the several thousands of women elected for the first time are merely mute and obedient versions of domineering local males, the sheer physical presence of women in local bodies in large numbers for the first time had begun to make a palpable difference in the ambience and process of governance at the grassroots level.

Several other thousands of women councillors seized the opportunity to become articulate and courageous representatives of their gender. They have also became diligent and enthusiastic representatives of their community's rights, regardless of gender, or other divisions.

Perhaps this is precisely why the male-dominated four provincial governments are reported to have vigorously advocated the reduction in the reserved seats for women even though just a few days earlier, the chief minister of Punjab stated that the union council is the pivotal unit of governance and that it should be strengthened.

The opposition of the provincial governments through their respective chief ministers to the growing empowerment of women reflects conventional male dominance of the administrative hierarchies.

At the same time, the move to slash women's seats at the grassroots level mirrors the vast gaps that exist between perceptions at the union council level and at the provincial government level.

Just as the provincial governments and the federal government view each other with unease, discord and mistrust in respect of the sharing of financial resources, water resources and constitutionally mandated subjects, so too there prevails alienation and incomprehension between a union council and the headquarters of each provincial government.

In a system in which primary school teachers at the village level are often arbitrarily appointed on a partisan basis from provincial headquarters, the attempt made to strengthen union councils was viewed with reflexive hostility by the provincial governments.

Thus, the attitude of the provincial governments towards union councils goes beyond gender biases and is, per se, an attempt to retain entrenched and centralized interests over local, community interests.

However, the retrogressive decision of December 28 retains an anti-women dimension for two main reasons. Firstly, with an average population of between 25,000 to 40,000 in each union council, 21 councillors were meant to provide representation to at least 1,000 to 2,000 people per councillor.

In a country with high levels of poverty, this ratio was already a difficult mandate to fulfil for candidates and councillors. With our population growth continuing at about 2.5 per cent and with millions of children set to become adults over the next 10 years, the size of the adult population in each union council eligible to become voters is going to grow.

Thus, at the very time when consideration should have been given to increasing the size of the union council, and to the representation of women, the very opposite has been done.

Along with other fellow citizens who work in the voluntary development process at the grassroots level, this writer has had the opportunity over the past five years to witness first hand how the reservation of one-third of the seats in each union council has began to make a critical difference to the status of women.

Suppressive barriers between genders that deprived women of participation are being broken. Males, long resistant to any kind of female presence in public processes and events, are being obliged to change their mindsets and behaviour. Women are using their own voices and their own words to directly express their views on vital issues.

In about 1,600 villages and poor urban communities in all four provinces in which two of the organizations are working with which this writer is directly associated, hundreds of women who had previously been part of our training and empowerment programmes, were elected councillors.

They have assumed a new self-confidence and asserted a promising new leadership capacity. Continued advancement in this direction is now going to be slowed and stalled.

Though women councillors at the local level enjoyed almost double the percentage (33 per cent) of seats reserved for women in the federal and provincial legislatures (17 per cent), they remained relatively "invisible" in the mainstream media over the past four years.

Perhaps this is why there has been very little comment, if any, in the media on this issue. Women members of the Senate, the National Assembly and the provincial assemblies received far more coverage and opportunities to project their viewpoints in the mainstream electronic and print media.

These "major" media themselves have a strong urban and centrist orientation whereas women councillors need access to local community-based media which are either negligible or non-existent.

It is revealing that on the issue of diminishing, rather than enlarging, the scale of local participation in local forums, all four chief ministers and provincial governments see eye to eye, regardless of party affiliation or ideological orientation.

Whereas the chief minister of the NWFP had previously declined to attend a meeting of the National Security Council under the president ship of a head of state who is also chief of army staff, the very same chief minister did not hesitate to attend this particular meeting on December 28, 2004, presided over by the same head of state-cum-chief of army staff where this damaging step was taken.

The camouflage used to conceal this anti-women and anti-local community decision was both innocuous and laughable. An official spokesman said: "The chief ministers were of the opinion that these changes were necessary to promote the working of the system and bring about harmony between the district and provincial governments".

Some of the other decisions taken at the same meeting are also of dubious value. For example, while the decision to hold the next local bodies polls in March-April 2005 on a non-party basis ostensibly prevents polarization and schisms at the community level, various political parties have already announced plans to support candidates.

This makes a mockery of the official label of "non-party based polls" It opens up prospects for overt manipulation and covert coercion before and after the voting.

The decision to replace the joint candidature of nazim and naib nazim with separate candidatures also deprives the local units of the virtues of electoral solidarity and cooperation between candidates: it encourages factionalism and personal rivalries in place of cohesion.

Raising women's representation to the level of 33 per cent in local government was truly a revolutionary step. Few other countries have done so. We proudly projected this measure across the world. It was a positive achievement in social and political progress.

The cruel irony is that two of those individuals associated with the original decision - the present president (and then-chief executive) and the present prime minister (and then-finance minister) have now become parties to a step that virtually reverses and promises to cancel out that landmark change introduced by a cabinet of which this writer was also a member (1999-2000).

A great leap forward has become a giant plunge downwards. It is a telling sign that the leadership of major political parties has not so far focused attention or the public's attention on a measure that will soon deprive the women of Pakistan of their right to representation in appropriate numbers.

This is a reversal which will be a grave setback to the process of national development. Some organizations of civil society have already declared their intention to oppose the move. All citizens, particularly males, have a duty to join the effort.

The writer is a former federal minister and senator.