The Kashmir Question


Politics solves every problem. The only thing required is will and a way to do it. But when the path chosen is other than that, one must be prepared for problems and reaction which can be a plenty. Kashmir is one such case study which has suffered a great deal because of the reluctance shown towards a political solution. If history is to be believed, at one point neither Pakistan nor India wanted Kashmir.

Nawabzada Liaquat Ali Khan told Hayat Khan, ‘Sirdar Saheb, have I gone mad to give up Hyderabad which is much larger than Punjab for the sake of the rocks of Kashmir?’ sights Hayat Khan in his book ‘The Nation that Lost its Soul’. Interestingly Hyderabad Deccan at that time had a Hindu majority unlike Kashmir which had Muslim majority. Hayat Khan writes further, ‘I was stunned by the Prime Minister’s reaction and ignorance of our geography and his lack of wisdom. I thought he was living in a fool’s paradise and did not understand the importance of Kashmir to Pakistan while hoping to get Hyderabad, which at best, was only quixotic wishful thinking. It was not connected to Pakistan anywhere. As a protest, I resigned from the position I was holding in Kashmir operation.’

This showed the lack of vision and short-sightedness of Liaquat Ali Khan and preference of vested interest over the broader national one. Pakistan had the chance and opportunity but he let it go easily only for it to become a major dispute between two newly independent countries Pakistan and India. As if it was not enough, Quaid-e-Azam ordered the then Chief of Army General Gracey to attack Kashmir which he plainly refused. But this did not deter Quaid and with the help of the tribesmen Pakistan staged a war on Kashmir on October 22nd 1947. It did not take long for United Nations to take notice of the matter which happened only a few weeks after India and Pakistan got independence. It was unnecessary when the political solution was available and India had already shown willingness for that. On January 5, 1949 United Nations ceasefire line was established. Pakistan lost more than it bargained and might have lost more if not for the gritty fight by tribesmen and the part of Kashmir (Azad Kashmir) we have now it is to their credit.

Kuldip Nayar, in his book ‘Beyond the Line – An Autobiography’ writes on Sardar Patel’s consistent view that Kashmir should be a part of Pakistan. ‘My impression is that had Pakistan been patient it would have got Kashmir automatically. India could not have conquered it, nor could a Hindu Maharaja have ignored the composition of the population which was predominantly Muslim. Instead, an impatient Pakistan sent tribesmen along with regular troops to Kashmir within days of Independence.’

The first of many rounds of talk to seek the solution of Jammu and Kashmir issue were held in London and Paris in October 1948. The Prime Minister of both India and Pakistan took part in the session along with their respective contingent. United States of America and United Kingdom both were keen to settle the dispute arising from the ownership of the Princely states of Jammu and Kashmir.

“We have in this period essentially two parallel sets of discussions:

 First: there was an Anglo-American attempt to work out what options there really were and to produce a compromise which both India and Pakistan might be persuaded to accept in these exceptionally propitious surroundings.

Second: there were a series of discussions between Jawaharlal Nehru and Liaquat Ali Khan in London and Paris during the course of October, followed up by officials on both sides, notably Chaudri Muhammad Ali for Pakistan and G.S Bajpai and Mrs Vijaya Lakshmi Pandit for India.”

In the final leg of discussions Jawaharlal Nehru tabled two propositions before Liaquat Ali Khan. First, Pakistan should accept the condition of self determination of Kashmiris, and make a sincere effort for it. Second, the current front line, soon to be a cease fire line, should be accepted as the new de jure border.

On 14th November, Prime Minister Liaquat Ali Khan passed on the message to Indian representative Sri Prakasa with the decision of referendum in Jammu and Kashmir. Jawaharlal Nehru after hearing this concluded that it was pointless to try to decide the Kashmir question by further bilateral negotiations.

On 13th August 1948, United Nations passed a resolution in the light of which the referendum in Kashmir was supposed to happen. Liaquat Ali Khan made the announcement. The six conditions were:

1.       Pakistan will withdraw all the troops from Jammu and Kashmir because Pakistan started the attack and accepted it.

2.       Pakistan should use its best endeavour to remove Jammu and Kashmir the tribesmen and Pakistani Nationals not resident of the Princely states and entered for the purpose of fighting. The main reason for this was that in the war’s wake, Pakistan had the tribesmen settled by occupying the houses of Indians and Sikhs as plunder.

3.       The surveillance of the territory evacuated by Pakistan will be done by the local administration and United Nations commission. The definition of local administration however remained inconclusive.

4.       The United Nations commission for India and Pakistan will notify the government of India once the first two conditions are fulfilled by Pakistan. Only after that India will withdraw its troops from the territory. And it was decided and accepted as well that Pakistan will be the first one to start the withdrawal of troops.

5.       To support the local administration in the observance of law and order minimum military strength will remain in Jammu and Kashmir. This right was given to India with the United Nations keeping a close watch to ensure only the minimum strength is maintained.

6.       The government of India will undertake to ensure that the government of the States of Jammu and Kashmir will take all measures to make it publicly known that peace, law and order will be safeguarded and that all human and political rights will be guaranteed.

The referendum was to happen once these conditions were met but unfortunately our institutions avoided fulfilling them and misled the people of Pakistan. The civilian governments always wanted to abide by the United Nations resolution but the dictatorial regime unfortunately always escaped. Ayub Khan advised Sheikh Abdullah Haroon to agree the terms with India as per his wish and don’t worry about Pakistan. But Sheikh Abdullah Haroon knew of the circumstances so he refused. After that Zia ul Haq attempted the same and also Pervez Musharraf in the recent past. The concerning institution always looked for the other solution instead of abiding by the UN resolution. From Ayub to Musharraf everyone was in favour of area wise division of Kashmir.

In his article, ‘A tale of two States’ A. G. Noorani tell us, ‘A quarter century later, on 27th November 1972, the President of Paksitan Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, told a tribal Jirga at Landikotal that India’s first Home Minister and Minister for the State, Sardar Patel had at one stage, offered Kashmir to Pakistan in exchange of Junagarh and Hyderabad. But, he added, Pakistan unfortunately didn’t accept this offer with the result that it not only lost all three native states but East Pakistan as well.’

It did not end here. To compensate for the lack of vision and leadership, anti India narrative was built up slowly gradually through mosques, newsprint and textbooks. The Kashmir we could have got easily and politically was made hard to get perhaps just for this purpose to win the battle lost to the short sightedness. And then Pakistan saw unprecedented support and promotion of Jihad for Kashmir. With every passing year it became a popular slogan and found many people joining the Jihad for Kashmir and the proxy religious parties tasked to promote the anti India and Pro Pakistan narrative in the Indian Occupied Kashmir. And for that the real spirit of the Jihad was twisted to suit the purpose. The reputation of word Jihad was tarnished for vested interests. The people were enticed in the name of religion and that they will be martyred and will get seventy two beautiful nymphs (hoors) in heaven, misleading them once again. Perhaps they themselves were unaware or purposely hid it from the masses. People started following it blindly without realising that let heaven be heaven and the fact that human body is formed of seventy two parts.

The slogans ‘Kashmir will be a part of Pakistan’, ‘Kashmir is Pakistan’s jugular vein’ and ‘Kashmir will become independent’ became so much popular that even shopkeeper’s had it displayed as ‘No credit until Kashmir become independent.’ It didn’t take long for the genius to understand how vital Kashmir was for our rivers especially after martial law administrator Ayub Khan sold control of three rivers to India under Indus Water Treaty. It is a fact that the water coming from the rocks refused by Liaquat Ali Khan has been a major source for the remaining rivers of Pakistan – an agriculture based economy. Pakistan must be ruing that why Liaquat Ali Khan refused Kashmir when offered? Zulfikar Ali Bhutto went public about it. But instead of politically correcting the mistake we preferred to go the way which brought a bad name to the country. Even though some efforts were made by the civilian governments but like Jawaharlal Nehru said when Pakistan chose the way of a referendum that the bilateral discussion are not the solution of Kashmir dispute. India strangely has shown more reluctance than Pakistan, perhaps they followed Nehru’s words to the letter.

Pakistan spent billions of rupees, lost many lives in the process but failed miserably to make the world understand its narrative. India successfully propagated Pakistan as the sponsors of terrorism in Indian Occupied Kashmir and continued the accuse Pakistan of infiltrating in the disputed territory. We only got mere words from the world after years of fighting our case and reminding them of their responsibility and the role they must play to have a referendum in Kashmir. One reason could be our diplomatic failure. India despite the brutalities, atrocities, pelting stones on innocent Kashmiris and killings in the Indian Occupied Kashmir escaped any charge. In fact India was able to get the world behind while accusing Pakistan of meddling in IOK. The world has only ever softly condemned Indian brutality but never dared to reprimand India of dire consequences. Pakistan however has always been on the receiving end.

On 5th August 2019 Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi fulfilled the promise he made during his election campaign and repealed Article 370 and section 35A via Presidential order to make IOK India’s Union Territory. He surprised Pakistan and the rest of the world with the urgency shown. This happened within days of US President Trump’s offer to mediate between India and Pakistan over the Kashmir question during the meeting with Pakistan’s premier Imran Khan in Washington. As if the rebuttal from India was not enough that PM Narendra Modi never asked President Trump to mediate to solve the Kashmir dispute, Modi quietly made IOK a Union Territory. Modi’s action caught Pakistan unaware as we were busy celebrating the proclaimed successful tour of United States of America. It created uproar within Pakistan and the IOK. And so begin the curfew, media blackout, atrocities and brutal killings in IOK by the India army increased in numbers days before the Article 370 was repealed. No words are enough to express the plight of Kashmiri people who has been through the worst inhumane and uncalled torture. History however dictates that the occupier had always resorted to such actions just to prove their power and subjugate people by force.

Three days later, reacting to Indian action Pakistan cut all its diplomatic and trade ties. Pakistan vowed to raise the issue in the United Nations Security Council and elsewhere. But since 5th August every other country is suggesting that it’s India’s internal matter and that Pakistan and India should solve this matter bilaterally. This has left Pakistan alone in battling the surprise of Modi and its impact in the region. Even the countries we back as our friend has not come out in our support, leaving us stranded. At this critical juncture our diplomatic and foreign policy failed again. And whoever is making it should reconsider the policy or maybe give up on it and let those qualified to do the job. So, where all of this leaves us as a nation whose years old narrative stands rejected by the world? Something ex-Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif pointed out the infamous ‘Dawn leaks’ of October 2016 that we must put our house in order otherwise the world will not trust us. But instead of paying heed to what the three times Prime Minister was saying, we chose the easy way and called him a traitor.

As of now Pakistan is attempting to get the world behind it to force India to upend the annulment of Article 370 and section 35A. Which is highly unlikely at the moment and such actions indicate crying over spilt milk. What Pakistan must do at the moment is to ensure peace in IOK (now India’s Union Territory) so the life there can come to a normal course. We must engage with India diplomatically through the world and persuade to bring a halt to the atrocities and killings in the newly made Union Territory. This should be the first and foremost priority. Once this is achieved then the state should look to save the Azad Kashmir which after the status of IOK as Union Territory through Presidential order has become a working boundary. We must invest all our energies towards this and must refrain from hate speeches and actions as it will only create problems for already battering Kashmiri people.

Source:

https://www.nationalheraldindia.com/book-extract/when-neither-indian-nor-pakistan-wanted-kashmir

United Nations Resolution 1948

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Of Tax and Amnesty Schemes


Tax collection has forever been a concern for Pakistan. I don’t remember the last I heard that the tax collection was as per the potential. But since it never happened, our budget deficit continued to increase every year and we had to resort to borrowing to fill the gap. Over the years so much effort put in to increase the tax net but it never reaped the desired results. According to the 2018 report an astonishing 1% of Pakistan’s population is tax payer. This is beyond belief. How can a country survive, run and give for its people in such a scenario?

Growing up, whenever I asked my dad, a seasoned journalist and hardcore patriot, about tax collection in Pakistan he always said that people are not sincere with country. Further he used to say that one must stop all those persons driving luxury cars and should ask them how much tax they have paid but no one has ever done that. Then he used to give example of tax collected from Liberty market, Lahore which was PKR 80,000 to 90,000 in the mid-1990s not even peanuts compared to the business of the market at that time. This was something late Benazir Bhutto also mentioned in one of her talk and listening to her words gives you the horrific picture of how the authorities are least bothered leaving a sitting Prime Minister helpless and in duress.

One of the arguments of not paying tax is that they will not spent on the country’s development and instead will go into the pockets of the politicians. I will not lie; I used to think on the same line until the reality of things got in my head and I realised my assumptions were wrong. The countries across the globe survive primarily on the money received from tax along with other sources and this leave no reason to not pay the taxes. The question and concerns can wait. It is our duty as nationals not a choice.

Amnesty schemes one after the other launched to somehow bring the tax evaders into the tax net but have predominantly failed to bring in the required numbers. And instead of doing analysis of why the scheme failed we prefer to launch a new lucrative one. If people are not paying taxes then the institution (Federal Board of Revenue) is also not working as it should because of the inefficiency. Such schemes can only work if the reforms in the institutions are also made and the non performing elements should be shown the door. It needs overhauling more than anything else. There is nothing in terms of resources that the institution lacks apart from commitment to the cause, perhaps. It is otherwise well equipped to cater the needs of the modern times, if used properly can give the desired result. We don’t need a new system. We need change in the mindset, definition and assertions.

The last amnesty scheme launched by PMLN on 30th June 2018 saw more than 55,000 people availing it and paying PKR 97bn. The numbers are not quite appreciative but still it started the process by giving them discounts and no questions asked like benefits. However, it faced strong opposition and criticism from PTI all across. They did every imaginable thing to discourage people but despite of all that people volunteered which also included Imran Khan’s sister Aleema Khan.

Then we saw PTI coming into power after the process of selection and after much deliberation they also joined the amnesty bandwagon only after a year of voicing against it. But now it seems fine. Before launching their own version of the scheme they made amendments in the ordinance promulgated by the President of Pakistan which prohibited non filers from the buying of land and car through mini budget. We will now have to see how it panes out amidst high hopes from the government on this ‘Halal’ amnesty scheme. Despite of the assumed benefits what was the point of doing it all over again?

This is where we have been wrong for all these years – lack of consistent policy. We never gave those who availed schemes in the past to develop the habit of paying the taxes. Every incumbent government launches its own plan instead of carrying on the already implemented one. They don’t realise that it creates a negative impact. How impatient are we for point scoring that we forget everything else. We first dent confidence of the tax payers and then expect them pay the tax. It cannot happen like that. In a society like ours where tax evasion has become a moral responsibility presents a strong case for educating the people and gaining their trust. But the institution has continuously been doing the opposite. The frequent amnesty schemes and others have not yielded the desired result that’s why we still have just 1% of total population paying taxes, majority of them salaried class. Initially they look productive but in the long run they have failed and that is only because of the ever-changing regulations. Any scheme should at least last 5 – 7 years at the same rate and once they have become use to pay taxes the percentage can increased gradually. The institution must not forget that every little helps and its better than nothing.

The institution itself pushes people towards tax evasion and then cries foul. They keep sending people notices and chase them after they have availed the benefits of the reprieve. They want to suck every rupee out of them in one instance. Ideally the institution should leave them alone and wait for the right time. There is a potential of increasing tax collection but it needs patience, persistence, conviction and application. And the people in Federal Board of Revenue lack them dearly but expect the tax payers to have them. The institution also lacks enough data and the system to get to the neck of tax evaders. It is time we take giant strides in digital economy.

Once the rich and wealthy are in the tax net and have become consistent then the attention should shift to the undocumented part of the economy – street vendors, taxi drivers, mobile and computer sellers and other such businesses. This would need further planning, laying the slabs per their affordability and take it further step by step. The main hurdle will be educating the people and the local bodies can be utilised effectively for this task. Let’s just hope we as a nation can step up and become implementer(s) in addition to the planners, something we have always faltered in.

Let it be, please.


Source: Corruption Watch

We are in the 10th month of the PTI government and in that short while we have seen it all: incapability to address issues, mini-budgets, cabinet shuffle, resignation and incessant clamouring. PTI probably would be the only party in the world who still has not come to term with the fact that they’re in the government now, not on the container anymore and they have to start acting like one before steam runs out. In the five years when PTI was in the opposition, they bashed the sitting government of PMLN for every other thing. They seemed to have an answer for everything until they formed the government. They stalled the progress of the country in every which way: 126 days dharna (they seemed so proud of it that they offer fully sponsored opportunity to opposition) in which the current Prime Minister mentioned umpire’s finger is about to rise every day without fail and the frustrated PTI went on to support the questionable Faizabad sit in. But despite all the obstacles PMLN went on to complete the five years term, only the second time since 1947. In all that time, PTI was aware of challenges ahead for them and the state of the economy because of their actions still they didn’t have any plan when they eventually formed the government. PTI delayed going to the IMF to seek financial assistance for some strange reasons and the rest is history.

So far, we have only heard the blame game from the government. They have not missed a forum to malign the PMLN and PPP for the crisis faced by the country: in the press, National Assembly, Senate and talk shows. If they had shown the same diligence with which they have continued to level charges against the previous government things would have been different. But their concentration and focus remained on one thing – corruption. Beyond that, they have no argument to counter PMLN now sitting on opposition benches. The baseless numbers they have claimed and failed to justify with evidence could have easily been avoided. But they chose not to. PTI government should have known or somebody should have told them that mere allegations are not enough and that they must give evidence of the same. Yet the mudslinging saw no end and perhaps never will till PTI is in power because they don’t have anything else in the goodies bag they promised to the people of Pakistan.

Apart from all of this, PTI has failed to run the Parliament in the proper way. No real legislation has been done so far – the sole purpose ministers and senators are there. If they’re so concerned about corruption then why PTI has not tabled a bill against it yet? This is the only productive and result oriented way of action. Whatever has happened in the past is now buried; we have present and future in front of us so why not ensure it won’t happen anymore? But all elected ministers do during the session is hurled allegations and leave wasting the precious resources of the national exchequer. If there is a way of putting things right and somehow end corruption it is via Parliament. It is another matter that corruption cannot be eradicated but can be controlled. This can only happen when the Parliament and system are considered supreme and not the containers. The system itself needs time and effort to evolve and mature which sadly it never got and allowed. So far, we have seen exactly the opposite from the government: incessant clamouring without any real considerable effort.

The bitter truth is that the system was never allowed a chance to grow and mature since Independence. It was always hijacked and derailed in the name of the fight against corruption, something PTI also keep crying foul about but like its predecessors has done nothing to combat the menace. What actually happened instead of eradication of the corruption is common knowledge – a many-fold increase in the business empire. What actually was achieved from the derailing of the system and abrogation of the constitution every so often? The misadventures have only created problems for the country and only served the vested interests of the parties involved. One fails to understand why as a nation we take it upon us to solve a matter instead of going for the legal course of action? How can the people who are only trained to protect the borders run a country? The results are evident and the country is still suffering from it. The politicians are not innocent but they’re not the main culprit until the system is allowed to function freely. While deliberating on the progress of the country we often forget the 34 years of military dictatorship and how judiciary always approved the abrogation of the constitution. These stints have resulted in the fall of Dhaka, terrorism, crippled economy and three imposed wars. They failed to bring discipline in the institutions and steer the country and have always ended up looking for politicians to help them out.

As if it was not enough, they try to steer government from the backseat and do political engineering for the years’ power was not directly with them. It is rather unfortunate that since independence Pakistan has not seen free and fair elections. Only in the 2018 elections, the spend was Rs.21 billion and an astonishing three hundred and fifty thousand army personnel were deployed across the country on the Election day. If they have to select the government then instead of the charade might as well select and save national exchequer the cost. As a nation, we have not learned from the past and continue to make the same mistake religiously. Why these forces cannot let the democratic system run and flourish? What harm it does to them? What else will make them realise that?

There are problems and loopholes but the system can fix them over the period of continuous running but not when it has to make a fresh start after every 10 years or so. Can we blame a child for anything? No. Similarly, a system which has remained in infancy since Independence cannot be questioned. It took 200 years for the democratic system to mature in the United Kingdom and they worked for it patiently. It has reached a stage where people cast vote to the manifesto and what the party has managed to deliver in its earlier tenure. There has not been a single martial law in India since Independence which we got together from the British Empire. As a result, the system has grown and fast reaching the desired maturity levels. There has never been a hue and cry over the rigged elections. There are many other examples of the countries where a system is running in its full form and the pillars of the state do not meddle in each other’s business and work independently towards one goal – progress. This certainly doesn’t mean there aren’t any problems and issues but they have the system to deal with them not the container and backseat drivers.

According to Transparency International, corruption means, “Generally speaking as “the abuse of entrusted power for private gain”. Corruption can be classified as grand, petty and political, depending on the amounts of money lost and the sector where it occurs.

Grand corruption consists of acts committed at a high level of the government that distort policies or the central functioning of the state, enabling leaders to benefit at the expense of the public good. Petty corruption refers to everyday abuse of entrusted power by low- and mid-level public officials in their interactions with ordinary citizens, who often are trying to access basic goods or services in places like hospitals, schools, police departments and other agencies.

Political corruption is a manipulation of policies, institutions and rules of procedure in the allocation of resources and financing by political decision-makers, who abuse their position to sustain their power, status and wealth.”

Going by the above classification bringing corruption to an end is insurmountable ask so instead of wasting time clamouring about it some active measures must be taken. Why not work on the system and ways to deal with corruption? Why not introduce legislation and constitutional reforms? Why not let the system sustain itself for good 20-25 years? Why not show some restraint in abrogating the constitution and derailing the democratic system? When the system will reach maturity it will have the ability to become a hurdle in the way of corruption. Transparency and accountability are the by-products of the democratic system. We don’t necessarily need to put in extra effort or set up a separate office for this purpose.

My sixteen years old niece schooled me a few months ago that politics and corruption go hand in hand and you can control it but cannot minus one from the other. I learnt a lesson and started talking about the system more than corruption. The sooner we will understand and make a collective effort for the progress of the system and country at large the better. Pakistan Zindabad.