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October 9, 2019

Challenges ahead


October 9, 2019

The US Senate has decided to also urge the BJP government to ease its draconian restrictions on the people of Indian-held Kashmir.

India is not yet the global power it aspires to be, but the arrogance of its present rulers is touching levels attained by past and present imperial powers. In the process, India may have lost the high moral ground it had earned as a great democracy.

India has joined its new best friend Israel as a country subjugating Muslim people in their own lands. Both India and Israel have become international outlaw states who dare the world to do what it can to stop their extreme cruelty. While the Zionist state dispossesses Palestinians of their property under a systematic plan, Modi’s India claims that it has deprived the Kashmiris of autonomy for their own benefit. But it lacks the courage to face their protest and prefers instead to lock them up in most inhumane conditions.

Two months after it launched the crackdown in Jammu & Kashmir, the Hindutva brigade is unsure of how and when, if ever, it can lift the restrictions on the movement of the Kashmiri people, even to meet their basic needs of human survival. They do not have an iota of sympathy for Kashmiris of a different religion. The RSS/BJP want to reduce them to second-class citizens and make conditions unliveable for them in their own land, probably worse than what the Israelis have inflicted on the Palestinian people.

The insistence of the Modi government to keep millions of Kashmiris in a state of captivity is understandably generating reactions in the international community, leading to heightening concern over the unfolding humanitarian tragedy. In response, Indian spokespersons sermonize to leaders of countries raising their voice against the inhumane conditions in Jammu and Kashmir, by advising them to improve their understanding of the situation.

The New York Times published a propagandistic piece by Modi only to follow with its own editorial rebuking the Indian government’s stance, and calling on Modi to lift restrictions in the occupied territory. A superhuman performance by Indian Foreign Minister Jaishankar to propagate fancy claims before a record number of leaders at the UN and think tanks in the US is unlikely to change the perception about Kashmir.

Prime Minister Imran Khan’s comprehensive expose of the tragedy unfolding in Kashmir, with a risk of war between two nuclear-armed neighbours, has contributed to the international community’s awareness of the issues at hand. But that is only half the battle won as the official international stance remains divided over this matter. Most leaders hesitate to publicly criticize India’s actions as they do not want to take sides in what they consider a bilateral dispute dating back 72 years. But the world media and humanitarian organizations are openly critical of the Kashmir lockdown.

Back from New York after a gruelling visit, the prime minister faces challenges linked to an economy on the decline as well as provincial governance in a pitiable state. He continues to focus on sorting out the old political hegemons with the new problem emanating from India’s attempts to colonize Indian-held Kashmir. The unending war in Afghanistan remains a perennial source of trouble.

The government’s tendency to pass the blame for turning Pakistan into a basket economy on to the previous rulers is beginning to lose its appeal. The business community’s frustration rose to a level where they took the road to Rawalpindi to see the army chief. The list of these captains of business and industry reads like a 21st century version of Dr Mahbubul Haq’s famous list of 22 families who owned Pakistan when industrialization had taken off with state patronage.

Our industrial base was far too dependent on state subsidies, rebates and bonuses. No surprise then that weaning them off those bounties is rather problematic. The industrialists may be justified in beseeching that they are big taxpayers and it is the turn of the trader community to pay their share of taxes. Nonetheless, this government has received a great deal of criticism for discouraging market sentiment through efforts to over-regulate the economy. Business can flourish only in a conducive atmosphere and the lack of that is only helping the undocumented parallel economy.

The meeting in Pindi reportedly acknowledged the link between the economy and national security in so far as one cannot progress without the other. The Supreme Court too has called upon the government for facilitation of business activities. It is true that administration and business are hampered by an overemphasis on accountability. Governance cannot succeed without decision-making and the existing environment is seen as non-conducive to taking timely decisions.

The decision to offer the Pakistan Steel Mills to Chinese management is a reminder of our inability to run state enterprises with profit. It remains to be seen whether privatization of public-owned utilities and other enterprises will materialize soon.

Indecision has become the hallmark of those in power, resulting in a perpetual status quo with a stagnant economy and poor performance in the entire public sector be it revenue collection or social services like health and education.

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