Rebuilding Azad Kashmir

By Shahid Javed Burki


ISLAMABAD’S current approach towards the devastation caused by the recent earthquake is to provide expeditiously and efficiently relief to the affected population. This is understandable given the weather in the region and the vulnerability of the survivors. As winter tightens its grip, families living without shelter will have to be provided cover or else their suffering will increase enormously.

Some aid agencies have begun to predict that the cold weather will take a heavy toll on the population that is still reeling from the blows they received on October 8.

That notwithstanding, the government will need to turn its attention to rebuilding the economy of Azad Kashmir. According to a recent news item, Dr Salman Shah has requested the large aid agencies — the World Bank, the Asian Development Bank, USAID, and Britain’s Department for International Development — to send experts to Pakistan to help the country plan the future of the areas affected by the earthquake. This is a good step but before the experts arrive, it would be useful if the government spells out the approach it would like to follow. Islamabad should think out of the box and be bold in developing a strategy that the experts should be asked to flesh out.

My suggestion is that the central element in this strategy should be to build an urban economy in the region while encouraging the development of the area’s natural resources. In the article last week I provided some rough measures about the impact of the earthquake on the economy. As a result of the earthquake, there will be a quantum jump in the number of absolute poor in Azad Kashmir, from about a third of the population to as much as three-fourths in 2005-06.

With so many schools destroyed, the proportion of enrolled students will decline precipitously. With the destruction of so many clinics and hospitals, the incidence of disease and the rate of mortality — in particular maternal and infant mortality — will increase and life expectancy will decline. These are not conjectures; all of this will happen during the course of this year. Over the short-term, no matter how much assistance is provided, the area’s economy will go through a wrenching restructuring.

It will also be seriously impoverished. The share of agriculture in the economy will be reduced by one-half, to only 20 per cent, that of industry will decline by a third to less than seven per cent. The economy, in other words, will not have the capacity to absorb the four million people that remain in the area after the earthquake. It is my estimate that the size of the economy will be reduced by one-half; that traditional agriculture will take a long time to recover; that the young will suffer a great deal in the future if urgent steps are not taken to educate and train them.

In sum, there is a danger that an economy that resembles some of the dysfunctional areas of Africa could emerge in Azad Kashmir. Steps must, therefore, be taken to revive the economy in a way that promises a better future for the people who have suffered such devastation.

That is where thinking out of the box becomes the right approach to take. The need of the hour is to develop an ambitious programme for the economic and social development of Azad Kashmir, a kind of Marshall Plan implemented by the United States to help Europe recover from the ravages of the Second World War. What should be the focus of this programme? It should have three elements. It should bring new economic and social activities to the region; it should develop activities that would use the region’s natural resources; and it should integrate the region into the global economy. I will develop below each of these three ideas.

The plan should take cognizance of the fact that the only way to accommodate the large number people displaced by the economy is to urbanize the economy. The plan should focus on building the area’s human resource; it should, in particular, provide higher education to the region’s young. Upgrading the skill levels of the affected population will keep the young from being recruited by the Islamic groups that have become active providers of relief in the area. Failing to accommodate the young in the productive parts of the economy could have very serious political consequences not only for Azad Kashmir but for all of Pakistan.

In this context the highest priority should be given to rebuilding old and building new cities. Muzaffarabad, the largest city in the area and also the capital of Azad Kashmir, should be the focus of attention in this context. It could become a symbol of the effort Pakistan will make to improve living conditions in the part of Kashmir it administers. It is here that the government should think big and imaginatively.

One way of doing this would be to turn the city into the centre of higher education and research. The city has the right climate to attract students and researchers from other parts of Pakistan and also from outside the country if new universities and research institutions are built in and around it. The government should seek the participation of the private sector in developing these facilities. This is where the Pakistani diaspora could be mobilized to provide help. Muzaffarabad should also be developed into a health centre that would provide care to those who need to be attended to immediately. Improved health services — in particular those directed at women and the very young — are urgently required. The earthquake has left many orphaned children who must be cared for or else they will fall into the hands of those who will exploit them. This has happened in other parts of the world where orphaned children were not provided adequate protection. In addition to the provision of immediate care, Muzaffarabad should be developed into a centre of health education, research and advanced care. The place has the climate and a pleasant physical environment which students, researchers and those seeking assistance would find attractive.

The second element of the strategy is to exploit the natural resources of the area. Three of these — energy, forestry and tourism potential — should have a high priority. In the sector of energy the plan should focus on the exploitation of the sites on the many rivers in the area that can be used for generating power. Surplus power could be sold to Pakistan and if possible to India. For that to happen, a transmission system will need to be built to carry surplus electricity to the grids in Pakistan and India.

Forestry is another resource of Azad Kashmir that has potential if properly developed and exploited. But it was greatly affected by the earthquake. What is required is a massive reforestation project. In this context, it might be useful to borrow from the programme implemented by China in the Heilongjiang province in which the forest cover was destroyed by a massive fire. The Chinese established tree nurseries that provided saplings of the varieties that were suited for the environment and also had commercial uses for the population of the area. As a result of this effort, Heilongjiang province is now a major furniture exporter.

Once the forestry resource has been reestablished in Azad Kashmir, the government should encourage the development of industries based on forestry and animal products.

In spite of the damage caused by the earthquake, Azad Kashmir and the Northern Areas have many attractive sites that could draw a large number of tourists if proper facilities are provided. The plan should aim to bring in high-income tourists who will be attracted to the region by its mountains and rivers. Skiing and water sports could be developed to attract high-end tourism. To bring tourists to the area, the government will need to invest heavily in developing physical infrastructure such as roads and airports that can bring in a large number of people not only from Pakistan but also from Japan, East Asia, Europe and the United States. Muzaffarabad should be provided with a new international airport and also linked with Islamabad/Rawalpindi with an all weather highway.

For the type of programme outlined above to succeed, Azad Kashmir will need to be linked with the outside world with the help of modern communication facilities. Once these are in place and once India and Pakistan have made progress in creating an open border between the two parts of Kashmir, the state of Kashmir will necessarily reorient itself towards Pakistan. President Pervez Musharraf has spoken about the need to soften the current hard border. This will be one way of achieving that goal.

The economic rehabilitation programme spelled out above will achieve three objectives: it will help the economy to grow from the low point it would reach in 2005-06 by 12-14 per cent a year for the first five years, and by eight per cent a year in the next five years; it will have 75 per cent of the population relocated in urban areas and employed in the urban sector of the economy; and it will thoroughly modernize the economy. At these rates of growth, the economy will go back to its 2004-05 size in six years and then increase further thereafter.

The plan should come with a scheme for financing it not just from the flow of aid on which Islamabad has hitherto depended. It should seek financing through the use of new financial instruments for mobilizing required resources. The plan discussed above will cost from $10 to $12 billion over a ten year period, beyond the rescue and relief effort that is currently underway. How can it be financed? This question should also be the focus of attention of Islamabad’s policy-makers.

Here the Pakistani diaspora in the United States can play a role. It is important for Islamabad to develop new financial instruments — they could be called “earthquake bonds” or “Muzaffarabad bonds” — for raising funds from the rich Pakistani communities in the Middle East, Britain and North America. Two types of bonds could be structured, one that would be attractive for those who wish to follow Islamic principles of finance. A market has already developed for “sakuk bonds” that could be tapped. It would target not only well-to-do Pakistanis living abroad but also Muslims all over the world. The other type of bond would target other potential investors who are also interested in not only aiding the victims of a natural disaster but would also want good returns for their investments.

The earthquake that struck on October 8, 2005 inflicted a heavy loss both in terms of the number of people killed, the number that were injured, and the number that were displaced. It is the last category of the people affected that could have very serious and potentially disastrous consequences for Pakistan if steps are not taken immediately to help them deal with the situation they face. The best way of doing this is to launch an earthquake rehabilitation programme aimed at fundamentally restructuring the economy of the area.

History, democracy and Iraq

By Niall Ferguson


I SAW two of my former students last week; one I taught at Cambridge, the other at Oxford. One of them has spent the better part of the last three years on her majesty’s service in southern Iraq.

The other is based in Jerusalem, working to broker an enduring peace between Israelis and Palestinians. Basra and Gaza are certainly not the places I expected them to end up.

It is not, however, the fact that they are Oxbridge products — or, indeed, the fact that they are both women — that gives me hope for the future of the Middle East. It is the fact that they are historians. After all, the forces bedevilling the Middle East today are fundamentally the same ones that tore Europe apart in the last century.

Europe a century ago was the continent through which the world’s biggest geopolitical fault lines ran. Like the Middle East today, it had the allure of natural resources (coal and iron, not oil). Like the Middle East today, it had a rapidly growing population that was deeply divided along ethnic lines (though the majority were Christians, not Muslims). And like the Middle East today, it was where the tectonic plates of empire met.

Many glib commentators like to blame all the problems of the Middle East today on British and French imperial manoeuvres to fashion dependencies out of the lost provinces of the Ottoman Empire — as if malicious European diplomats somehow invented the ancient fissures between Shias and Sunnis, or wilfully encouraged Jewish settlers to colonize Palestine.

In truth, the post-1918 order was remarkably successful in preventing Arab nationalism from becoming a source of support for the Axis powers during World War II.

The subsequent American dominance of the region (from the mid-1940s on) was based on an unlikely combination of special relationships with Wahhabism (Saudi Arabia) and Zionism (Israel). Although it managed to check Soviet ambitions in the region, the US struggled to keep the peace.

After the Iranian revolution, the US played the balance-of-power game, treating Saddam Hussein as a useful counterweight. But dissatisfaction with this murky strategy prompted the so-called neoconservatives to devise a radical new strategy. The region could be stabilized (and the security of Israel enhanced) by a forcible democratic revolution, beginning in Iraq. It was from the outset a strategy based more on political science than on history. The “democratic peace” theory states that two democracies are always and everywhere less likely to go to war with one another than two dictatorships, or a democracy and a dictatorship. The neocons inferred from this that a more democratic Middle East would be a more peaceful Middle East.

Thursday’s election in Iraq is being interpreted in Washington as evidence that the neocon approach may yet work. Certainly, the high turnouts recorded — especially in Sunni areas — are the nicest Christmas present a beleaguered President Bush could have wished for.

And recent polls are reassuring as well: 80 per cent of people in the mainly Kurdish provinces and 58 per cent in the mainly Shia provinces think the US was “right to invade Iraq”; 70 per cent of all Iraqis approve of the new constitution. Yes, two-thirds of Iraqis want the American troops to go home. But most Americans feel the same way.

Yet history offers a salutary warning. Even a complete success in Iraq would leave an awful lot of non-democracies right next door, notably Syria, Saudi Arabia and Iran, which is now the principal menace to stability in the region. In any case, what the democratic peace theory doesn’t tell you is the number of countries that have plunged into civil war after democratization.

Call this scenario the “win-lose” outcome. The US wins in the sense that Iraq has successfully held two elections and a referendum. But the US loses because democracy lays bare the deep differences between Shias, Kurds and Sunnis.

You end up not with a democratic peace but with a democratic war as the Kurds take up arms to fight for independence and the Sunnis do likewise to reassert their traditional dominance.

Just look again at the numbers. In the Sunni areas, just 16 per cent think the US was right to invade. The Sunnis account for about 20 per cent of Iraq’s population. And a recent nationwide poll suggests that their fellow Iraqis expect them to receive only 5 per cent or 10 per cent of the country’s oil revenues. It is not hard to see what issue will be No. 1 when the new parliament meets.

Iraq could easily go the way of Lebanon in the late 1970s, only bigger and bloodier. And such a war could easily escalate into a regional conflict.

If the history of 20th century Europe is anything to go by, all the ingredients are now in place for the biggest conflagration in Middle Eastern history. The only good news is that the first thing to go up in smoke will be the theory of a democratic peace.

—Los Angeles Times

Where does Saarc go from here?

By F.S. Aijazuddin


IS there a heaven for dead prime ministers in which rivers of milk and honey flow as mellifluously as their rhetoric did while they were on earth? If so, one can imagine at least two of them — Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru and Zhou Enlai comparing notes as they pass time waiting for the end of eternity.

Fifty years ago, they had sat together in 1955 at the now historic conference at Bandung (Indonesia), during which the non-aligned movement was launched as an unarmed antidote to superpower supremacy. It was also the scene of a rare collaboration by two neighbouring countries — India and Pakistan — which had joined hands to co-sponsor the conference. Ironically, the final communique that they endorsed “emphasized the particular significance of the development of nuclear energy for peaceful purposes”. Today, both aim their arsenal of nuclear warheads at each other.

In 1955, the 29 participating countries expressed their intention through prior consultations to further their “mutual economic interest”. They reassured the West that the NAM was not “intended to form a regional bloc.” Today, on the 50th anniversary of Bandung, Saarc members have formally agreed to grant both Japan and China ‘observer’ status, widening the definition of South Asia to include South East Asia as well. While the modalities of their observership are yet to be determined and will not be known until early next year, the intention is quite clear. After years of opposition to keep China out, Saarc or more specifically India has conceded that China can be kept outside no longer.

It is a victory of sorts for Pakistan, which has been a persistent advocate of China’s cause. Because of that, perhaps, India had resisted consideration of China’s application until this year’s conference in Dhaka, where it conceded. In defeat, India has shown magnanimity. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has declared that India, having opposed China’s case and in fact also opposed the very concept of Saarc when it was first proposed by President Ziaur Rehman of Bangladesh, now has ‘no reservations’ about either Saarc or about China and Japan being conferred the status of Saarc observers.

The present Indian prime minister’s justifications are not dissimilar to those that had moved Pandit Nehru 50 years earlier. A former Indian foreign secretary-turned-historian J. N. Dixit has written: “Records of discussions between Panditji and the Chinese leaders (Mao Zedong and Zhou Enlai) clearly indicate that Nehru had by then no romantic or idealistic views about Sino-Indian relations.

“He was conscious of China’s influence, and also about its great power orientations towards Asia, and the Sino-centric assertive mindset of the Chinese leadership. He was, however, convinced that a friendly working relationship with China was essential for Asian peace and stability.”

In that spirit of oriental largesse, he pushed Zhou Enlai closer to centre-stage at Bandung. Zhou Enlai repaid his erstwhile friend by hijacking the conference from beneath his patrician nose.

Dixit has maintained that the “Afro-Asian Conference in Bandung in 1955 was a defining event in Sino-Indian relations diverting them to a mutually adversarial groove.” He makes the startling revelation that the US and British intelligence planned to blow up the Air India aircraft that Zhou Enlai had intended to use for his travel from Hong Kong to Bandung. Its very name might have alerted him: The Kashmir Princess. Sensibly, Zhou Enlai chose to travel secretly on another plane via Burma.

The United States, having failed to sabotage Zhou Enlai’s plane, then tried to entice Nehru closer to their camp with an offer they thought he could not refuse. They offered India a permanent seat in the UN Security Council, to replace Taiwan for which the Americans had no further use. Pandit Nehru (according to Dixit) refused to accept the US offer for the altruistic reasons of “India’s commitment to Asian solidarity and its support for the Chinese government.”

Towards the evening of his life, Nehru watched his policy of condescending fraternity towards China disintegrate after what he regarded as an unprovoked military onslaught across the Himalayas by China in 1962. Many believed that the disappointment killed him. Dixit identifies another casualty of the conflict: “Chinese hostility was not just focused on the differences of opinion about the Sino-Indian boundary but it also had larger negative political and ideological dimensions; it sought to prevent India from becoming an influential Asian power.”

By admitting China albeit with only an observer status, the two-some of India and Pakistan sparring within the ring of Saarc could become a three-some, with China and Pakistan playing diplomatic tag against India.

What could have been the reason behind the Indian volte face regarding China’s admission in Saarc? Was it the hope that (to paraphrase President Lyndon B. Johnson’s rustic words) it preferred China to aim outwards rather than inwards at those within the tent? Or has India decided that alignment offers the staid comfort, as the actress Sarah Bernhardt explained once to a disappointed admirer, of the martial bed to the hurly burly of the non-aligned chaise longue? Or is it that India has accepted that as it cannot catch up with the winning tortoise of Asia, it might as well limp along behind it as an also-ran hare?

Only future historians will know for sure. Meanwhile, at least two former prime ministers, wherever they are, must be watching these developments in South/South-East Asia with an almost causative interest, and one of them certainly calculating the cost of his Himalayan miscalculations.

A blow against torture

THANKS TO a belated White House retreat, Congress is on the verge of taking an important step toward curtailing the systematic human rights violations committed by the Bush administration in its handling of foreign prisoners.

President Bush said on Thursday that he would agree to an amendment by Sen. John McCain prohibiting “cruel, inhuman, or degrading” treatment of all prisoners held by the United States. The president’s grudging acceptance came after the House and Senate voted overwhelmingly to reestablish a standard that he wrongly chose to set aside some three years ago.

Mr Bush had threatened to veto any bill containing the amendment; Vice-President Cheney campaigned for an explicit authorization for the CIA to abuse its detainees. In response, Congress sent a powerful message — by votes of 90 to 9 in the Senate and 308 to 122 in the House — that such policies are unacceptable, even in a global war against terrorism. That it did so was due in large part to Mr McCain’s tenaciousness, which Sen. John W. Warner rightly described as “a profile in courage.”

Whether Mr Bush will heed the message, or the new legal standard, unfortunately remains an open question. A close Pentagon ally, Rep. Duncan Hunter was still fighting to dilute the McCain amendment. Concessions already obtained by the administration from Mr McCain and a separate amendment authored by Sen. Lindsey O. Graham could prevent any foreign detainee from seeking relief in a US court in the event that he was tortured, or any CIA personnel from being held accountable for abuse.

Mr Graham and Sen. Carl M. Levin recently agreed to yet another administration provision that would — incredibly — allow evidence obtained by torture to be considered by military review panels that decide whether to hold prisoners at the Guantanamo Bay naval base as “enemy combatants.”

Worse, Mr Bush’s political appointees at the Justice Department and the Pentagon have redefined both “torture” and “cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment” as not covering in all circumstances such CIA techniques as “waterboarding,” or simulated drowning; “cold cell,” the deliberate induction of hypothermia; mock execution; and prolonged and painful “short-shackling.”

It has taken these positions even though “cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment” as defined by the Senate covers everything that would be prohibited by the Constitution. In protecting its ability to use these odious techniques, in other words, the administration has adopted logic that accepts, in principle, the idea that the FBI could constitutionally use them on US citizens in certain circumstances.

So passage of Mr McCain’s amendment will not end waterboarding or curtail the administration’s policy of abuse unless there is aggressive follow-up by Congress. There must be an independent check on the administration’s legal interpretations. One way would be a statutory requirement that all CIA interrogation methods be submitted to congressional intelligence committees for review.

A Senate proposal to require regular reports by the administration on the CIA’s secret prisons and the status of each prisoner being held could be expanded to cover interrogation plans. A court ruling may be necessary on the administration’s theory that the Constitution allows for techniques such as waterboarding; this won’t be possible if Congress prohibits foreign prisoners from bringing cases of mistreatment before federal judges.

In short, restoring the rule of law over an administration that deliberately chose lawlessness in its treatment of detainees may be an arduous process. And yet the McCain amendment is a vital, and hard-won, opening move.

—The Washington Post



© DAWN Group of Newspapers, 2005

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