New Age Islam Edit Bureau
01 May 2018
Protecting Labour In Pakistan
By Reema Shaukat
‘When Doves Cry’
By Afiya S. Zia
Making Room for a Young Pakistan
By Mosharraf Zaidi
Prosperity through Exploitation
By Abdul Sattar
Migration and Pakistan’s Development
By Shahid Javed Burki
Impeachment, A Serious Matter
By Kuldip Nayar
Hope for Peace in Korean Peninsula
By Mohammad Jamil
Koreas and South Asia
By Jawed Naqvi
Compiled By New Age Islam Edit Bureau
Protecting labour in Pakistan
May 1, 2018
WE often come across the images of young children and women working in brick-kilns or old men carrying heavy load on their backs. We do come across images and videos, particularly with advent of social media, how the owners or authoritatives mistreat labours without any discrimination of age, gender or profession. This makes one think about the plight of this class in Pakistan, which is truly the work force behind our all infrastructure and economy but they, themselves are most distressed in terms of finances. It is for us to think and take a stand for this neglected class who despite their constraints are working hard to access basic necessities of life instead of choosing the wrong path. To acknowledge the efforts of labours, May 01 of every year is marked as International Labour Day. International Workers’ Day began in Chicago as a protest campaign in support of the eight-hour workday. On May 01, 1886, workers took to the streets across the United States in a major struggle to reduce the worldwide 12-hour workday to today’s eight-hours. This is said to be the first May Day ever celebrated. However, International Workers’ Day came about after the Haymarket affair, organised to protest harassment and persecution against workers. Traditionally, Labour Day stems from the efforts of the labour union movements to celebrate the economic and social achievements of workers.
United Nations Organisation has one of its institution solely dedicated to recognise and suggest way forward for the labours around the world. Identified as International Labour Organisation or ILO, this UN agency is dealing with labour problems, particularly international labour standards, social protection, and work opportunities for all. In 1969, the organisation received the Nobel Peace Prize for improving peace among classes, pursuing decent work and justice for workers, and providing technical assistance to other developing nations for their workers. The ILO registers complaints against entities that are violating international rules, however, it does not impose sanctions on governments. Apart from many philanthropists and non-governmental organisations which are working in Pakistan in their respective area of expertise and domain, ILO started working in 1970 in Pakistan with promotion of ILO, prevention and elimination of child bonded labour, job creation through employable skills, mainstreaming gender equality, strengthening labour market governance, employment and livelihoods recovery in response to conflicts and crises, expansion of social security schemes and social safety nets, especially in informal economy and promotion of social dialogue.
Today if we look back and monitor the conditions of labour in Pakistan, it is quite evident that despite many reforms and efforts to upgrade their standard, many are still facing ordeals. In fact they are the most neglected segment of the society by many of the governments. In Pakistan’s constitution, Article 11 of the Constitution prohibits all forms of slavery, forced labour and child labour while Article 37(e) makes provision for securing just and humane conditions of work, ensuring that children and women are not employed in vacancies unsuited to their age. According to old statistics of the Pakistani populace, the ratio between men and women are equal with a youth majority, among which almost 90 million people are of working age according to mentioned age by law. The total labour class comprising of children, women and older age people makes about 70 per cent of Pakistan’s population. Unfortunately, these masses are exploited by being illiterate, unemployed, and poor. In Pakistan, we witness that often this class goes through the trauma of abuse of human rights, child labour, exploitation at work places and those who try to seek justice for them in terms of fair wages and other requirements they are punished by their masters for raising their voices. Many of them are unaware of their legal rights and labour laws which provide them security. It’s not the dilemma of Pakistan alone where workers are suffering. Worldwide, the divide between rich and poor and the economic gap has generated such issues. Not only in Pakistan do we see children at brick kilns or begging in the street, but around the globe such disparities are witnessed. But we are concerned for our country in which we can bring change by taking steps that can change into giant leaps. Begin this change from your home and spread its diameter. Every government boasts in their campaigns about rights of common people in general and labours in particular but very few are fulfilled.
Let’s not keep this Labour Day customary and dependent on governments and media advertisements but think about bringing a positive change in our attitude by acknowledging the work of our domestic workers who are a helping hand for us in our homes, as well as the ones who are working out of their homes for a better livelihood. We cannot change the destiny of any person in a day but can help them in making their dreams true. Nonetheless going through statistics and reports on the plight of labourers does not present a happy picture, but we can do a lot for raising their demands on different forums and ensuring impartiality. Chalking out the components which are fundamental for labour force rights and struggles will be a facilitating move in society. To bring improvement in the living conditions and progress of working class we need to adopt labour laws, and obviously implementation is the key factor through which we can bring about a friendly environment, respect and acknowledgment of their work. As in the words of Martin Luther King Jr; “All labour that uplifts humanity has dignity and importance and should be undertaken with painstaking excellence.”
May 01, 2018
I WAS introduced to the concept of dissent in the 1980s when I overheard a conversation among my father’s friends. They said a group of women had scared Gen Ziaul Haq so much that in a televised address he warned the people not to be misled by these few 200 bourgeois westernised women who were opposing his Islamisation regime. Their half-admiration, and half-amusement at Zia’s fear of women, may well have underestimated the Women’s Action Forum, but the shrewd general and conservatives were right to fear any dissent, however fledgling.
WAF, of which I am a member, went on to spearhead the main opposition to Ziaul Haq’s regime and its discriminatory laws and subsequent military adventures. The point is that dissent is never innocuous, and it should worry the self-serving guardians of the status quo but not those who stand for progress and justice.
Postcolonial scholars and right-wing conservatives oppose enlightenment rights, human rights laws, or modernity for Pakistan and offer religious laws and culture as substitutes. The liberals too, cling on desperately to the compromised heirs of the opportunistic PPP. The defeatist argument is that dissent to achieve equality is too utopian, parochial and ineffective against the powerful establishment, and so, we should just work realistically within the system.
All three groups miss the point of a new wave of dissent and, therefore, the associated opportunities. Current uprisings in Pakistan confirm that it is not the source, scale or span of dissent that matters but its potential to capture the imagination. It is the depth of subversive promise that makes an idea threatening. It is the unpredictability of causes and the unlikelihood of new subversive actors that creates anxiety and throws the balance of powers off the scale. Usually, these ideas have to do with politics, sex, nation and religion. When dissent speaks in a female voice or with an ethnic minority accent, the anxiety is doubled.
Elected governments are completing their terms. Pulling out the corruption card against them may curb the confidence of the parties but they are resisting and fighting back. This spirit for political autonomy is new and scary, and can no longer be subtle.
Liberals and conservatives are more agreeable on this electoral independence business. Journalists are risking their lives and careers — not to cover ethnic battlefields but to question civil-military relations.
Judicial activism is likely to be a limited form of heroism. It is not in the Federal Shariat Court but the ordinary courts where judges are weeping over a random post perceived as blasphemous or are offended by the appearance of a heart-shaped Valentine’s Day balloon. Will we even need an FSC if the ordinary courts compete to protect us from moral and political corruption and save Islam? The tension between constitutional rights/freedoms and moral abstractions are untenable and increasing dissent is challenging such contradictions.
A handful of dissenting bloggers — on the issue of nationalism or religion — trigger anxiety of such overwhelming proportions that one would think they had made constitutional amendments. On the other hand, a law department makes an administrative lapse that would only have meant missing one of the many opportunities to repeat our determined belief in declaring Ahmedis non-Muslims once in five years. Yet, this results in sleepless nights, blood lust, blocked highways and a prescribed witch-hunt.
It was not a glossy Oscar-winning documentary but the defiant Qandeel Baloch who exposed the sham of male honour. She subverted the notion that all victims deserve sympathy because they are always innocent. Instead, Qandeel flaunted her sexual autonomy and represented a post-Zina law moment. Sex is part of national conversations, and sexual harassment is being subverted — from being used as a tool to shame the victim into one that can hold the perpetrator to account.
Dissent is not betrayal — it is the highest form of patriotism because it wants change within. Dissent is an opportunity for an inclusive conversation rather than fearful rejection.
Teaching facts rather than fiction about Pakistan’s history, revisiting the ‘war on terror’ agreement and CPEC’s terms and conditions, respecting sexual equality, criticising national leaders, exposing false heroes and seedy celebrities, calling out failed policies … these are all potentially subversive actions. But suppressing information, silencing inquiry and disappearing political activists will only leave wounds untreated.
Dissent should be considered a form of catharsis towards a more harmonious, consensual future. This can’t be achieved by embracing appeasement or scoring points via blame and slogans. There’s a bitter sweetness in dissent because it’s a painful but peaceful cry of dissatisfaction and demand for change. The sound of dissent is perhaps what was meant in the lyrics of the song by Prince, ‘This is what it sounds like when doves cry’.
On Wednesday this week, the UNDP will publish the Pakistan National Human Development Report (NHDR). This edition of the document focuses on young people, aged fifteen to twenty nine. The lead authors of the report are Dr Faisal Bari and Dr Adil Najam. Dr Bari teaches at the Lahore University of Management Sciences, and is the director and senior fellow at the Institute of Development and Economic Alternatives in Lahore. Dr Najam is currently Dean of the Pardee School of Global Studies at Boston University in the US.
Together they have produced a magnificent starting point for a serious exploration of the lives, aspirations and future of nearly half of all Pakistanis. Who are these young people? The easy and conventional answer is that they are our future, and they are very important, blah, blah, blah. But the youth is not a ‘future’ constituency, it is very much now. Putting off dealing with the opportunities and challenges posed by Pakistan’s youthfulness is no longer possible. The future has arrived. What does it look like?
People will interpret the survey data and projections in the Pakistan NHDR in different ways, because it offers both a large window of brilliant hope, and a deep pool of worrying reality. Perhaps the debate about what the data tells us is exciting and helps us argue, but to me the most valuable aspect of the report is the ‘what next’ moment that it prompts among those that will peruse the report upon its release on Wednesday.
Dr Najam, who has been part of the Pakistani discourse since his earliest days as a cricket reporter for The Muslim in the late 1980s, has suggested a three-pronged framework to examine responses to Pakistan’s youth opportunity: quality education, quality employment and quality engagement.
As of today, the vast majority of Pakistani youth have access to none of the above. A hollowed out public education system has rendered a government school education as a mediocre substitute for preparation to be an economically viable adult. An economy that is completely dominated by the elite, and that exists to serve that elite’s interests is not interested in generating employment – choosing instead to hollow out state capacity by awarding government jobs as political handouts. Perhaps most worryingly, in an era in which there is no shutting up the young and restless, the Pakistani elder seems to have developed a predilection for a controlled, muzzled, and neutered national discourse. He will not get it – but his efforts to extinguish quality engagement may be the most dangerous of the three big failures.
Young Pakistanis know they are being cheated of the future they could have. They can see videos of happy people frolicking on beaches. They can hear the joy of crowds that chant sports anthems at stadia across the world. They know what business class looks like, and what the happiness that comes with it feels like because the multinationals have no way of delivering their most attractive advertisements through intravenous injection to only those that can afford their products and experiences.
The expensive lawn billboards are meant to be seen only by the uncles and aunties with platinum cards, but they are consumed as much by the drivers and maids that accompany those uncles and aunties to the boutiques. The small car driving banker is the main target for the lifestyle product placements in our popular culture, but the pedestrian labourer sees those products with the same 20/20 vision as our banker friend. Unlike a generation ago, when Pakistanis could comfortably separate themselves from the economic class below them through exclusive consumption, there is no separation anymore. The consumption remains skewed, but the access to framing aspirations for that consumption is as egalitarian as it has ever been. We share our consumption day-dreams today with everyone, not just those that can afford them.
Faraway, so close. Pakistanis are divided by gender, ethnicity, sect, language, and religion. Most of all, we are divided by money. But we occupy the same ether of our stock of expectations of life. Our kids deserve the best Chen One future imaginable. Our wives deserve HSY Couture. When we are all together and happy, we deserve sumptuous tikkas to go with our Cokes and Pepsis. These brands are supposed to make us feel good – fulfilled, happy.
Some readers will find all this rather tedious. Others will find it within reach, but not quite there. And many cannot read this. Our divisions aren’t so hard to understand. In our cities, it might translate into PTI voter, MQM hanger-on, Sunni Tehreek activist and, on the fringe, an orphaned splattering of rights activists with no political umbrella.
But what does it look like in Mastung or Khuzdar in Balochistan. How does a young person in Balochistan process her aspirations with her realities? Her YouTube videos work just fine, but the tap and the stove don’t work at all. No water and no Sui gas. With Sui being closer there than it is to Lahore, or Islamabad, or Karachi. Oopsy daisy. What do dreams interrupted and futures disrupted look like in Waziristan or Bannu or even Charsadda? We aren’t allowed to say.
The youth isn’t just important from a perspective of those whom we know are being denied agency. Our bureaucracy’s latest entrants are from among the youth that the NHDR deals with. This is the first generation in which almost all high-quality talent is coming to government service after a lifetime of attending private schools. The newest and freshest BPS-17 officers have no stake in government schools for the first time ever. What will their decisions look like when they are in BPS-20? What will it all mean for government school teachers? And students?
Our brave soldiers and officers, especially the ones at the front lines and at the greatest risk, are almost exclusively from amongst this youth. Many were infants during the Musharraf era. Many have parents who have no active memory of the Zia era. How do they interpret and process the debate about federalism? Will a bunch of shrill pro-democracy chants be effective in convincing them that democracy is the best way forward?
Our youngest judicial officers and lawyers are also from among the youth. What kind of examples have they had as they have entered the prime of their lives? Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry and Justice Saqib Nisar? Or Justice Tasadduq Jilani and Justice Rana Bhagwandas? What will this mean for the interpretative powers of high courts and the Supreme Court a decade from now? Two decades from now?
Pakistan’s future is not as bleak as our enemies would like to convince us of. But it is absolutely not guaranteed to be bright either. The country’s largest wager in the future is not on Pakistanis, but on President Xi Jinping’s global and regional vision. A close and deep relationship with China is fantastic for Pakistan and the region – but the youth challenge is not one Pakistan is facing alone. China has an aging population and will need injections of youthful innovation and energy within the next half century. Pakistani leaders in both political spheres and in the military have been great at convincing us of all the things that Pakistan can get from China. But how much have young Pakistanis been allowed to dream about what we could give to China?
Our questions about the future don’t need to be accompanied with dread and gloom. But a serious exploration of the kind of country we want to be has to include the breadth of vision that we will allow our young people to have. The inane political rhetoric we see this week between Imran Khan, Maryam Nawaz Sharif, Bilawal Bhutto Zardari and the various representative of other centres of power reflects the absence of serious thinking about our youth. Dr Najam and Dr Bari offer a great antidote in the National Human Development Report. One hopes all parties and institutions will read it with great interest.
We are often told that working hard is the key to success, and that you must work hard if you want to become rich. If that is the case, then why do peasants, who wake up at sunrise and work in the fields until the sunset, continue to starve while landowners who don’t work as hard as they do are blessed with an abundance of food?
The same can be said about the workers who build beautiful houses while living in slums; make beautiful shoes while their children walk barefoot in the sizzling heat of June; manufacture expensive cars but cannot afford a bicycle; and design attractive dresses but struggle to buy dresses on Eid, Christmas and Diwali.
A glimpse into the life of a capitalist offers you a completely different picture. He never moves heavy machines under extreme heat. He doesn’t have to catch a bus to arrive at the factory on time. He doesn’t realise how much sweat and blood goes into creating wealth that is needed to keep the wheels of manufacturing and production running. But even then, he is swimming in dollars and pounds while the toiling masses struggle to make ends meet.
So, if working hard is the key to wealth, then why aren’t peasants and workers rich? This means that our notion of hard work needs to be questioned.
We may pour scorn on those who do not subscribe to the ideas of the free market economy. We may lambast them for deviating from the principle of laissez faire. But should we not allow them to present their case to the people in a fair manner? Don’t they have a right to access major business schools across the world and assail the dogmas of market divinity? Wouldn’t it be better to allow them to explain the endless economic crises that have repeatedly plagued the world since the beginning of the 19th century?
Is it dangerous to probe the factors that prompted Obama to shower over $800 billion in bailout packages for corporate goons whose financial rapaciousness has impoverished millions of Americans? Is it not wise for laypersons in Europe and other advanced countries to understand why their leaders have pumped billions of dollars into the pockets of arms merchants, greedy capitalists and unscrupulous financial moguls and failed to spend even a meagre amount on healthcare, education, housing, and the social sector?
Let’s begin with the industrialised and fairly advanced countries whose opulence is a source of fascination. Right-wing, racist Western intellectuals will argue that democracy; free speech; competition in economic spheres; and scientific thinking have triggered startling progress in the West. Any attempt to argue that these factors haven’t contributed to Western prosperity will be incorrect. But to claim that only these factors have resulted in the rise of the West will involve a grave distortion of history and facts.
Almost all advanced countries have been colonial powers and have looted the resources of developing countries to enrich themselves. If Shashi Tharoor’s research is anything to go by, then it could be claimed that the wealth of London rests on the plundering of its colonies by the champions of democracy and human rights. According to Tharoor, when the British came to India, the Subcontinent contributed towards over 24 percent of the world’s GDP. When they left, it contributed to less than six percent of the world’s GDP. Tharoor believes that the famines in India during the British Raj, which decimated around 35 million people, were an outcome of colonial policy.
Other Indian authors have explored how London systematically destroyed local textile industries, paving the way for the development of Manchester, Liverpool and other cities in Britain. Anti-colonial authors have asserted that it is not only India that was plundered by the white race but several other countries in Asia and Africa have also borne the brunt of Britain’s colonial policy.
The plundering of North Africa, the Middle East, and various parts of the Indo-China region by France is still fresh in the minds of millions. The colonisation of Africa brought miseries to a large number of people in the continent whose hearts were brimming with love for their Europeans guests. They naively believed that the guests were a source of blessing. But the policies of colonialists affected millions of people and contributed to the present-day misery in the continent.
It is believed that the US has never been a colonial power, and its wealth is not attributed to colonial plundering. The belief may reflect a partial truth depending on what definition of colonialism and exploitation is considered. While it is true that the US only occupied the Philippines, its sphere of influence in Latin America in the 19th century was developed through colonisation. When the US emerged as a world power, the nature of imperialism had changed – from political to economic – and America led the Western capitalist world in this form of hegemony.
If the Western capitalist world is rich today, it is not because of the hard work put in by greedy business entrepreneurs but the ruthless exploitation of the European working classes and the people in the colonies. The process began in 1492 when the West ventured out of its continental limits. The Spanish ruthlessly looted the Incas, Aztecs and Mayas, and transported gold and other precious metals that eventually led to the prosperity of the ruling class. This wealth helped them excel in shipping and other sectors. Even before Western industrialisation, 35 percent of the world was under the control of European powers.
The prosperity and opulence of America, New Zealand, Canada and Australia – perhaps the first settler states in the world – cannot be understood without the massacre of millions of indigenous people. According to some historians, the population of indigenous people in the Americas was around 25 million when Christopher Columbus arrived on it shores and shrank to just five million in a few centuries. Black authors claim that four million slaves perished in the Middle Passage alone. Millions more were condemned to a life of misery and abject poverty for decades.
Sociologists believe that no industries could have existed in Europe if there were no plantations and no plantations would have been successful without slavery. So, it was the inhuman slavery of African and indentured white workers; the ruthless exploitation of the European working classes; and the plundering of the colonies that led to the opulence of the present-day capitalist world. France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Canada, Belgium, Netherland, Portugal, Spain, the UK and the US have never been colonised in the same way that developing countries were. In fact, colonisation is one of the factors that led to the rise in wealth in Western capitals.
The genealogy of Western capitalists clearly indicates that most of their ancestors were directly or indirectly involved in slave trade. The history of modern Western corporations, trusts and companies is no different. So, the point is: ruthless exploitation, and not hard work, leads to opulence.
Which feudal in our own country tills his own land to amass wealth? Which industrialist and business tycoon hasn’t been accused of having his debts written off, committing power theft, exploiting workers, and evading taxes? Some years ago, a Pakistani construction tycoon told a TV anchor during an interview that a person can’t even run a small shop with honesty these days, let alone a large business empire. This speaks volumes about the relationship between the accumulation of wealth and the use of fair means – of which hard working is a key component.
April 30, 2018
In Pakistan studies, the role of migration in development has been largely ignored. That is surprising since in many respects the country’s experience in this area is unique in the world. In my forthcoming edited volume, Pakistan at 70, I have used the counterfactual approach to highlight the importance of migration in the country’s history. In that work I have asked and attempted to answer a number of ‘What If?’ questions. Before getting to the role of migration in the country’s development, I will set the stage by asking another ‘What If?’ question. For instance, Pakistan would not have gone through so much political uncertainty and turmoil had Liaquat Ali Khan, the country’s first prime minister, not been assassinated after he had been in office for only a bit more than four years. On the other hand, Jawaharlal Nehru, Liaquat Ali Khan’s Indian counterpart, was to govern for 17 uninterrupted years. During this period, he was able to give his country a Constitution and place India on an economic path that left a deep impression on his country.
The counterfactual I am concerned with today is the consequence of the unexpected arrival of eight million Muslim refugees from India in the months immediately after the partition of British India and emergence of India and Pakistan as independent states. Five millions of these were from the part of the province of Punjab that was now with India. They were easily absorbed in west Punjab. About three million of them headed towards Karachi and cities in southern Sindh for the simple reason that the former city was selected to be Pakistan’s first capital. Religion was the only thing these people shared with those amongst whom they settled. In all other respects they were different.
The migrants spoke Urdu while the language of the native population of Karachi and southern part of the province of Sindh was Sindhi. Those who came to Karachi were from the urban parts of India and were thus engaged in urban economic activities. Their politics was also urban. On the other hand, Karachi’s native population had strong ties with the countryside. In that part of the province, large landlords (waderas), each owning tens of thousands of acres, were the total rulers. The peasantry over which they governed was more like slaves. This fact was noticed by the former US president Barack Obama when, as a young man, he visited Sindh in the company of a couple of Pakistani friends he had met during his student days.
Had the capital been located in some other part of Pakistan — say in Punjab’s northern area which is where it eventually went — Karachi would not have developed the way it did. Urdu-speaking refugees from India then would have gone to northern Punjab. The province of Sindh would not have become two parts; Karachi and Hyderabad dominated by the refugees and the culture they brought with them and the wadera-dominated rural areas. Not finding a political home in Sindh, the refugees decided to establish their own political group. This was initially called the Muhajir Qaumi Movement and got to be known by its acronym, the MQM. This party continues to dominate the politics and economics of Karachi while the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) holds sway over rural Sindh. In spite of the many efforts made to bring together these two political movements, they have remained separate with very distinct interests.
This discussion should go beyond the ‘counter-factual’ related to the arrival of Urdu-speaking refugees from India to Karachi. To this migration added the arrival of millions of people from Punjab and Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa provinces who went to work on hundreds of construction sites. After Karachi being chosen as the capital, the government had to build offices and housing for the thousands of workers it was recruiting. Most of the recruits to the government were from the Urdu-speaking muhajir community. But those who came in to build Karachi belonged to different cultures. As is the case with any large-scale migration, the new arrivals formed their own communities in their own geographic space. This led to the establishment of such Pashtun colonies as Sohrab Goth on the city’s outskirts. The Soviet Unions’ attempted conquest of Afghanistan and the Pashtun resistance to that occupation in the 1980s generated another wave of migration. Some four to five million Afghan refugees crossed the porous border between Afghanistan and Pakistan. The efforts to contain them in the refugee colonies built along the border were only partially successful. Millions escaped and took up residence in Pakistan’s large cities. Karachi’s Pashtun colonies proved to be very welcoming with the result that Karachi is now the world’s largest Pashtun city. But this community has not been fully absorbed in Karachi’s economic and political life. There is much tension between the Pashtun and the non-Pashtun. The murder by the police of a young Pashtun who was aspiring to become a male-model has inspired a youth-led movement that is demanding more political rights and economic rights for their community.
The presence of large Pashtun populations in many major cities has raised many issues that will need to be resolved. Among them is the repatriation of the refugees to Afghanistan, a feat that will be hard to accomplish, especially when tens of thousands of these people are well-integrated into the urban economy. A visit to Lahore’s old city is interesting in this context. The Pashtun now control the wholesale dry-fruit market of this area. Pakistan’s security establishment believes that these refugee communities have made it difficult to bring under control urban violence related to extremism. Forcing the Pashtuns to go back home will hurt the country’s already delicate relations with Afghanistan. My conclusion: Pakistan needs to carefully study the role of migration in order to devise public policies that will affect the country’s future, including its relations with the outside world.
Impeachment, a Serious Matter
Chief Justice Dipak Misra denying permission to Allahabad High Court judge Narayan Shukla to prosecute the Lucknow-based Prasad Education Trust is not a violation of law inviting impeachment of the Chief Justice of India. The Congress party was divided but its president, Rahul Gandhi, decided to move against the Chief Justice anyway. Even though people like former PM Manmohan Singh, P Chidambaram and Abhishek Manu Singhvi, did not sign the motion.
Ghulam Nabi Azad, a senior Congress leader, read the impeachment motion at Rahul’s behest and collected signatures of its members. The ruling BJP did not have a majority in the Rajya Sabha, this came in handy to the Congress and six other opposition parties.
Despite the required number of signatures, Chairman of the Rajya Sabha, M Venkaiah Naidu, originally from the BJP, rejected the motion outright, ascribing it to the seriousness of the charges and unnecessary speculation.
“All facts as stated in the motion don’t make out a case which can lead any reasonable mind to conclude that Chief Justice on these facts can be ever held guilty of misbehaviour,” said Naidu.
Union Minister Arun Jaitley called the impeachment notice a “revenge petition,” accusing the Congress of using a “political tool”. The Constitution says the Chief Justice can be impeached only on grounds of proved misbehaviour or incapacity.
The opposition backed its demand listing five grounds, which, the Congress said, equal misbehaviour. These included the assigning of sensitive cases to handpicked judges, raised publicly in January by four top judges who accused the Chief Justice of abusing his position as “master of the roster.”
The impeachment proceedings have never been taken up against a Chief Justice of India. The chairman forwards such a notice to the Rajya Sabha secretariat to verify two factors — the signatures of the members who signed the petition and whether rules and procedures have been followed. Obviously, Naidu was not convinced.
The debates of the Constituent Assembly indicate that the framers of the constitution comprising all political parties were very cautious in laying down the impeachment clause. I am sorry to say that the Congress party has thrown these cautions to the wind.
But one thing is clear. The Chief Justice has compromised his position and the stature of his office. As pointed out by the topmost five judges, he has “abused his exercise of power” in choosing to send sensitive matters to particular benches by “misusing his authority as Master of the Roster with the likely intent to influence he outcome.”
In addition, he had acquired land when he was an advocate by giving a false affidavit. Of course, he did surrender the land in 2012 but only after he was elevated to the Supreme Court.
Of course, there are a few cases of high court judges against whom impeachment moves were made. But before the moves could be made, they themselves resigned. For instance, Justice Soumitra Sen of the Calcutta High Court avoided the ignominy of becoming the first judge to be impeached by parliament by tendering his resignation. He did so after the Rajya Sabha had passed the motion of his impeachment.
Similarly, Chief Justice of the Sikkim High Court P D Dinakaran resigned in 2011, before impeachment proceedings could be initiated against him. Corruption, land grab and abuse of judicial office were among the 16 charges framed against him.
However, Justice V Ramaswami is the only example of being the first judge against whom impeachment proceedings were initiated in a controversy for spending extravagantly on his official residence during his tenure as Chief Justice of Punjab and Haryana during 1990.
Impeachment should never get politicised. Rahul Gandhi has done so. And, to that extent, he has weakened the judiciary. Since he heads an influential all-India party, he should be extra careful about his action.
MANY a time in the past, efforts were made by North and South Korean leaders to end the war, as technically the war never ended, and it is armistice that took place in 1953. Of course, those efforts were sabotaged by the US to advance its designs in East Asia and Korean Peninsula. On Friday, once again the leaders of North and South Korea met for denuclearization talks at the peninsula’s demilitarized zone (DMZ) when North Korean leader Kim Jong Un made history by being the first regime leader entering territory controlled by the South. A joint statement issued after the read: “There will be no more war on the Korean peninsula and thus a new era of peace has begun.” North Korean President Moon Jae-in was chief of staff to then South Korean President Roh Moo-hyun eleven years ago at the time of last summit.
Now Moon Jae-in has the chance to play his role and realize his dream and ambition and change the course of history. Of course, it is Herculean task, as he has to persuade Kim to give up his nuclear weapons and US administration to be pragmatic and realistic and ink a deal acceptable to all parties. White House in a statement expressed the hope “that talks will achieve progress toward a future of peace and prosperity for the entire Korean Peninsula,” adding that Trump was looking forward to meeting Kim himself in coming weeks. Before the summit, Kim had already promised to end missile launches and dismantle his Punggye-ri nuclear testing site and then achieve the denuclearization goal and reunion of the North and South Korea. In March, South Korean delegation led by National Security Advisor Chung had extended invitation to US President Donald Trump on behalf of North Korean leader.
Of course, measures have to be taken to showcase change in the US policy known as ‘pivot to Asia’, which was unfolded in 2013 according stating that 60 percent of the navy’s fleet would be deployed to the Pacific by 2020; Singapore would house four new US Littoral Combat Ships designed to fight close to shorelines, while Indonesia wanted to buy a range of American hardware and take part in joint manoeuvres. The Philippines wanted to host more US troops and Australia had agreed to allow up to 2,500 Marine Corps soldiers to deploy to the northern city of Darwin. That had caused hard-liners within the Chinese establishment to view such an action as a strategy of regional containment or encirclement. After withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan, the US and its allies started focusing on Asia-Pacific to counter China’s rising influence.
Anyhow, South and North Korean leaders have realized, though belatedly, that both stand to gain from peace in the Peninsula. North Korea had earlier given overtures that it would like to have cordial relations with the South Korea. In 2007, in a highly symbolic gesture, South Korean President Roh Moo-hyun had walked some 30 meters across the heavily fortified border before returning to his motorcade to proceed to Pyongyang. But the US always throws spanner in the works. Eleven years ago, the south’s Roh Moo-hyun and the north’s Kim Jong Il, Kim Jong Un’s father, had signed an eight-point peace agreement. Those opposed to the peace between North and South Korea had raised doubts about the sincerity of Pyongyang’s outreach, and that North Korea’s goal could be to drive a wedge between the US and South Korea; but that was too far-fetched.
In the past, efforts were made to lessen the tension between the North Korea and the US. As early as 1994, the Clinton administration and North Korea had signed an Agreed Framework that froze Pyongyang’s nuclear program and aimed to normalise US-North Korean relations. Under the terms of the 1994 framework, North Korea agreed to freeze and ultimately dismantle its nuclear program in exchange for “the full normalisation of political and economic relations with the United States”. It was agreed that by 2003, a US-led consortium would build two light-water nuclear reactors in North Korea to compensate for the loss of nuclear power; and until then, the US would supply the north with 500,000 tons per year of heavy fuel; the US would lift sanctions, remove North Korea from its list of state sponsors of terrorism, and normalise the political relationship, which was subject to the terms of the 1953 Korean War armistice.
However, no action was taken to formally end the Korean War by replacing the 1953 ceasefire with a peace treaty. In June 2000, North Korea’s leader, Kim Jong Il had surprised the world with a rare foray into the international spotlight by going to the airport to personally greet South Korean President Kim Dae-jung, in emotional scenes broadcast live in the South. Hundreds of thousands of people, women wearing colorful traditional robes known as “hanbok” in the South and “joseon-ot” in the North, men in suits and ties, all waving red and pink paper flowers, lined the streets to give Kim Dae-jung a carefully stage-managed hero’s welcome. The desire for peace on the part of South Korea, especially when North Korea had given overtures of peace, was natural; and it had created conditions conducive to peace in the region. However, all initiatives in the past were sabotaged by the US.
WE’LL destroy you. We’ll rain fire and fury on you. We will talk to you. We look forward to talking to you. We have forced you to talk to us. Let the opponents go on with their hundred emotional somersaults. The important thing is to remain sensible, preferably with a smile, while doing your own pirouette, if for no other reason than to keep the rival guessing.
That’s what Kim Jong-un just did with Donald Trump. The North Korean leader Trump reviled as a nuclear-trigger happy buffoon is being lauded as a potential harbinger of peace in a fraught region of the world. Trump who believes he can discipline anyone with his forbidding military arsenal looks set to lose the mid-term polls for his party.
Both sides of the Korean Peninsula have heaved a big sigh of relief as has the neighbourhood and beyond. All it took was for the young North Korean leader to cross the demarcation line with a knowing smile. The line he crossed is a Cold War relic that has lingered on like the grin of the Cheshire cat, which was the last to vanish.
The most photographed embrace between the estranged Korean leaders, their globally watched stroll, the watering of a shared tree of blessing and the spontaneous banter, the promise to end nuclear brinkmanship, the resolve to go to the Olympics as a joint team are all stories that have been dreamt and even pondered in South Asia by people in India and Pakistan, together and separately.
There are some obvious similarities and there are very crucial differences between the Korean Peninsula and South Asia. One was divided by the Cold War, the other created by colonialism. A cursory glance at the map would reveal a curious feature. Most countries divided by the Cold War have been reunited. Germany, Vietnam, Yemen come to mind. The Koreas look primed as the next. The fact remains that those divided by colonialism remain estranged, in Africa most notably. Palestine and Ireland are prime examples.
One doesn’t have to look too hard to see the obvious similarities and how the Korean situation replicates itself in broad contours in South Asia. For that we need to ignore the historical detail. Consider the main similarities that really matter today. Pakistan’s worldview is aligned with China as is North Korea’s, while India looks betrothed to the US-led West not unlike South Korea. The Cold War equation was drastically different in South Asia, when the proverbial boot was on the other foot, when the American and British embassies in Delhi lionised Kashmiri resistance. Today, the main global anchors in South Asia and the Korean Peninsula are almost identical.
We don’t know the essential details of the meeting that took place last week between Chinese President Xi Jinping and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi. The public face offered a reminder of the 1993 event in Beijing when Narasimha Rao and Li Peng signed the landmark agreement on peace and tranquillity on their borders. Reference to that agreement, handiwork of a typically Chinese draftsmanship, was heard again at the Xi-Modi summit. There was also mention of some kind of cooperation in Afghanistan.
There is an important event ahead when the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) meets in China in June. Indian and Pakistani leaders would be there. But already a far-reaching agreement seems to be in place whereby Indian and Pakistani troops would be for the first time involved in a joint multinational military exercise in Russia to combat terrorism.
The agreement announced by the Indian defence minister masks a philosophy deeper than the fact of sending their troops to a multinational exercise under the aegis of SCO. It is an inescapable fact that both sides would be participating together in an anti-terrorist drill. In other words, they have to first accept that they have a common target, a shared understanding of the foe. That is a formula that seems to go back to the Manmohan Singh and Pervez Musharraf agreement when they decided that their talks would not be derailed by acts of terrorism. Ironies!
On a larger canvas, the ascendant rulers in Pakistan and India are precisely those that did not want a partition in the first place. But they were vehemently opposed to it not because they believed in inclusive secularism or democracy but because they wanted the entire landmass of India to themselves, one eyeing it as a Muslim empire the other drooling at the prospects of a Hindu hegemony. The RSS and the Jamaat were both opposed to a divided Indian subcontinent and they are both controlling if not directly wielding power in their respective domains today. This is different from the Koreas where both sides that met for a handshake and a landmark photo-op represent the ideas that divided them. To work around those differences is civilised. That is what democracies were meant to do.
Where there is hope from the Korean Peninsula, there’s not much positive energy trickling through for a South Asian encore. That, however, doesn’t mean there is no need to work for a rapprochement nor that it isn’t doable. Today Jinnah would be scratching his head with disbelief at the narrow ideas they have imposed on his country to stifle women and random communities.
Nehru and Gandhi are openly accused of betrayal. It would be news if they weren’t. A few months before his death in 1964, Nehru had said that India wanted a confederation with Pakistan. “But every time we mention it, they get frightened.”
Consider this: what was so frightening about crossing a demarcation line that nobody on the peninsula saw as terribly helpful? Jinnah saw the need for Pakistan as a last resort. Gandhi accepted it grudgingly. And their admirers don’t see the point even when their dreams are exploding.