Kabul continues to bleed. A coordinated double suicide bombing by the militant group Islamic State hit central Kabul on Monday morning, killing at least 25 people, including nine Afghan journalists. This is for the first time that journalists in such a number were killed in a single incident. An AFP photographer, a cameraman for the local Tolo TV station and several reporters for the Afghan branch of Radio Free Europe were among the journalists killed in the brutal attack. Around 50 other people were also wounded in the attack. The attack was the latest in a relentless string of deadly large-scale bombings and assaults that have struck Kabul and elsewhere in Afghanistan this year. As Kabul was reeling under a pall of gloom due to the bloody attack, a suicide car bombing a few hours later in the southern province of Kandahar killed 11 children. At least eight NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organizaton) soldiers were wounded in that bombing. The Islamic State—commonly known as IS or ISIS or Daesh—claimed the responsibility for Monday attacks. In a statement posted on an Islamic State-affiliated website, the militant group said two of its martyrdom seekers carried out the Kabul bombings, targeting the headquarters of the “renegade” Afghan intelligence services. The Islamic State and the more firmly established Taliban carry out regular attacks, with the Taliban usually targeting the Afghan government and security forces and Islamic State targeting members of the country’s Shiite Muslim minority, whom the affiliate perceives as apostates. Both militant groups want to establish strict Islamic rule in Afghanistan. Last week, an Islamic State suicide bomber attacked a voter registration center in Kabul, killing 60 people and wounding at least 130 others. The fatalities included 22 women and eight children. In March, an Islamic State suicide bomber targeted a Shiite shrine in Kabul where people had gathered celebrating the Persian New Year. That attack killed 31 people and wounded 65 others.
As the picture emerges, the situation in Afghanistan is unlikely to change for better. Afghanistan is caught once again in the middle of competitions between major regional powers: Pakistan versus India and Saudi Arabia versus Iran. The presence of a large number of Afghan Shiite fighters, such as the Fatemiyoun Division, in support of Iran’s effort in Syria, and Saudi Arabia’s insistence on enrolling Afghanistan in its coalition army against Iran have made peace a challenging thing in Afghanistan. The rivalry between India and Pakistan—with India supporting the Afghanistan’s Ashraf Gani government and Pakistan supporting rebel Taliban—too is unlikely to allow things settle in Afghanistan. Taliban has announced the start of their new spring offensive dubbed “Al-Khandaq” on April 25, which is considered a categorical rebuff to any peace initiative. Of late, India has been using its growing friendly relations with American to corner Pakistan in Afghanistan. The US President Donald Trump has turned heat on Pakistan to withdraw its support to Taliban which is the most unlikely thing Pakistan shall ever agree to in presence of India’s growing footprints in Kabul. Of late, China and Russia too have been showing interest in Afghanistan. The Istanbul process, also known as the “Heart of Asia,” has been perhaps the best approach for reaching an unequivocal consensus on regional cooperation for a secure and stable Afghanistan. Since the inception of this dialogue among Afghanistan’s neighbors and supporting countries in 2011, seven annual meetings have been organized but no significant progress has occurred because the process has been undermined by growing regional tensions. The Quadrilateral Coordination Group framework consisting of Afghanistan, Pakistan, United States and China also failed to make any positive peace move. That makes the Afghanistan situation quite a murky thing. Peace in Afghanistan cannot be possible in presence of foreign powers on Afghan soil. Peace in Kabul is rather hostage to the conflicting interests of regional and international powers. For making peace a reality in Afghanistan all the regional and international powers should withdraw from Kabul and people of Afghanistan given a chance to settle things by themselves.
A familiar but unhappy trend is again affecting the relations between India and Pakistan, and the leadership of both the countries appears to be more interested in domestic posturing than genuinely seeking to engage with each other. The International Court of Justice (ICJ) ruling on Indian prisoner in Pakistan, Kulbhushan Jadhav, is being used as a ruse to show each other down by Islamabad and New Delhi.
The ICJ, on Wednesday, granted some relief to Jadhav by suspending his death sentence and asking Pakistan to review the case and grant government of India consular access to the accused. Jadhav is facing death penalty in Pakistan. A former officer of Indian Navy, he was arrested by Pakistan in troubled Balochistan in 2016 on accusations of “spying and terrorism”. A fake passport under an assumed Muslim name was recovered from him. Jadhav was sentenced to death by Pakistan’s military court in 2017. India rejected Pakistan’s accusations against Jadhav and moved to ICJ for his release. India said that Jadhav’s sentencing followed a “farcical trial”. New Delhi acknowledged that Jadhav was an Indian national, but said he had been kidnapped by Pakistani agents from Iran, where he had gone on a business trip after retiring from the Indian Navy. Pakistan, which has constantly accused India of supporting Baloch separatists, saw Jadhav’s capture as proof of India’s involvement in the unrest. Government of India also took exception to Islamabad’s not informing the Indian High Commission within stipulated time of Jadhav’s arrest.
Pakistan took three weeks to inform India of taking Jadhav into custody. India’s high commission in Islamabad had made requests to meet Jadhav but was eventually denied by Pakistan. In May 2017, India approached the ICJ, which restrained Pakistan from executing Jadhav till the adjudication of the case. While the ICJ put brakes on the death sentence of Jadhav and asked Pakistan to give him consular access, it, however, did not entertain Indian requests as well. India had requested to annul the military court verdict, retrial in a civilian court and release and safe passage of Jadhav.
The verdict has been claimed as victory by both the countries. No less than the Prime Ministers of the two countries gave public statements on the verdict. Prime Minister Narendra Modi described it as “huge win” for India and said “truth and justice has prevailed”. Pakistan PM Imran Khan, for his part, tweeted: “Appreciate ICJ’s decision not to acquit, release & return Commander Kulbhushan Jadhav to India. He is guilty of crimes against the people of Pakistan. Pakistan shall proceed further as per law.”
The media and other state officials of both the countries also made much of how the two claimed victory. The United Nations’ principal judicial organ has given a ruling that favours neither side. It is the worst kind of immaturity that is being displayed on both the sides. Wisdom has it that, both, Islamabad and New Delhi should understand the gravity of the situation and instead of indulging in showdown against each other, they must engage diplomatically to resolve the problems affecting the bilateral relations. It is quite a sad commentary on the wisdom of Indian and Pakistani governments that they are following the street sentiment while formulating their relations. They must rise above the street mentality and move forward with maturity. Apart from Jadhav’s, the two neighbours have a host of other issues that have been marring their relations. They cannot live permanently with those problems. Those have to be addressed sooner or later. It would be in the best interests of the two countries to resort to a comprehensive dialogue process to resolve all the issues affecting their relations.
The Universal Declaration of Independence
About fourteen hundred years ago, Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) gave to humanity a document, containing universal truths including those mentioned in The Declaration of Independence.This also was a declaration of independence, based on permanent values, but it was for the entire human race. It was a declaration of universal human rights and freedoms, of universal peace and security, of universal trust, of a universal code of ethics, of universal human dignity, of universal freedom of thought and expression. In short, it was a declaration of the universal brotherhood of humankind. This document is called the Qur’an. Can it serve as the constitution for entire humanity? Can it save humanity from the destruction that seems to be its destiny? It boldly proclaims that it can.Under our Prophet’s leadership the world was transformed, as people were given freedom to develop their human potential. Even today, historians and philosophers marvel at how the most backward and barbarous people became the most advanced, most civilized in such a short time. Yet, sadly enough, today, instead of being astonished, we are perplexed at how the succeeding Muslim generations came to lose that glory. They lost independent thought by self-concentrated individuals.
Over and over again, AllamaIqbal emphasizes the importance of independent thought. For example, he says:The only course open to us is to approach modern knowledge with a respectful but independent attitude and to appreciate the teachings of Islam in the light of that knowledge, even though we may be led to differ from those who have gone before us( page 78). …The teaching of the Quran that life is a process of progressive creation necessitates that each generation, guided but unhampered by the work of its predecessors, should be permitted to solve its own problems (Page 134). …False reverence to past history and its artificial resurrection constitute no remedies for a people’s decay. ‘The verdict of history’, as a modern writer has happily put it, ‘is that worn-out ideas have never risen to power among a people who have worn them out.’ The only effective power, therefore, that counteracts the forces of decay in a people is the rearing of self-concentrated individuals. (The Reconstruction of Religious Thought in Islam, Page 120).
AllamaIqbal goes on to explain the meaning of “self-concentrated individuals.” Individuals must have freedom of thought to be able to develop the self. In a well-known couplet, he compares the “self” or “khudi” to unique pearl, urging individuals to focus on the development of “self” through freedom of thought, and not to destroy it by blind following:
“Taqlid se naakaaraanakarapnikhudiko
[Do not destroy your self by blind following. Protect it because it is a unique pearl.]
This can be elucidated by an example. While every tree is subjected to restrictions by nature, these restrictions are imposed to optimize the growth and development of a tree’s latent potential. The same principle can be applied to human society. And the application of this principle is what our Prophet (PBUH) accomplished in Medina. He implemented, in Medina, a socio-economic and political infrastructure within the boundaries of the Qur’anic principles. The Quran constitutionally protected the human rights and freedom of all people. Everyone was equal, including the Prophet (PBUH), before the law. Within these Qur’anic limits, human beings enjoyed full freedom of thought, which, in turn, gave human beings the opportunity to realize and nourish their God-given latent potential. Hence, the glory of Islam in its early years!
The system that can guarantee equal rights and freedoms for all human beings irrespective of race, color, language, ethnicity, etc. must be based on permanent values. Since human thinkers and philosophers, searching for permanent values, are limited by time and space, it becomes obvious they cannot find these except through trial and error. On the other hand, if we are able to structure our society based on the permanent values contained in the Quran, then humanity will not only be assured dignity and equality, but it will also be set free to realize its God-given potential, as it did 1400 years ago in the glorious days of early Islam. The challenge for us is to show the world that the Quran is the only book that contains the complete set of Permanent Values.
Handle with care
Jammu and Kashmir Governor Satya Pal Malik has said the migrant Kashmiri Pandits would be settled in separate townships of their choice and setting up such habitations is a “not a matter of choice but out of necessity”. In an interview with an English national daily, he said that the government has identified the places. “We are working on those places. There are several that are there, In Pulwama and in other places. We won’t just settle them anywhere but in nice places of their choice.We will give it to them for free.” He said, “I am just trying to provide them (Pandits) an alternate accommodation so that they have a home, a school and security.
Separate township is not a matter of choice but out of necessity. We have to give them a nice place to stay, of their choice.” Bringing migrant Kashmiri Pandits back to the valley is a welcome step. It would not only help restore Kashmir’s heterogeneous culture but would also help mitigate the problems of Pandits. The migrant Pandits not only suffered at economic front through their migration but their social fabric also got weakened. Successive government’s at the centre and state, since, 1996, devised and discussed various plans to bring migrant Pandits back to the valley. Huge financial packages, in terms of relief and repairing and reconstruction of their houses, were announced to lure Pandits back to the valley. However, it did little work, though, the situation on ground and security environment has substantially improved.
A keen study reveals that growing employment opportunities and financial security in outside states comes in the way of many migrant Pandits, more particularly younger ones, in returning to the valley. Many members of the older generation, who had the yearning for returning to their homes, have either passed away or have compromised with the growing new situations. That has made the issue (return of Pandits) merely a political slogan. The demands for separate homeland by a miniscule section of Kashmiri Pandits represented by Panun Kashmir has added all the more political colour to the issue. Bringing Pandits back to the valley is a dream project of BJP-led government at the centre. But the way the issue is being played up and debated raises more questions than answering the one. For the politics being associated with the issue by vested interests, the return of Pandits is likely to assume serious proportions, which needs to be handled with extra care.
Setting up of separate cities and townships for Pandits is not something that could bring the required results. It would rather defeat the very purpose of bringing Pandits back. It would deepen the societal wedge between them and majority community than bringing them together. The government appears to be ignoring this fallout. According to official data, 24202 families migrated out of the valley after the armed conflict broke out. Presently a total number of 38,119 families comprising 1, 42,042 Kashmiri migrants stand registered with the Revenue and Relief Ministry. But the media reports suggest figures quite exaggerated. This makes the whole issue doubtful. The state and central government are already working on a project for granting state subject status to non-state residents, more particularly West Pakistan refugees settled in Jammu. That is most unlikely proposition to be acceptable to the people of the state. Many sections view the move as changing the demographic character of the state.
Last time the government made similar attempts that ultimately culminated in six-moth long public unrest. The state government is again treading the same path.
Government, both, at the centre and state, need to understand the intricacies and sensitivity involved in the issue. Instead of dividing people on communal lines, the effort should be made to unite them culturally and socially. That could be done only if majority community in the valley would be taken into confidence, and Pandits settled among and alongside their Muslim neighbours. Rehabilitating them in separate colonies would only destroy further the social fabric and peace in the valley.