Russia, on Saturday, hosted an international conference on Afghanistan. The conference is deemed as significant towards restoration of peace in the war-torn country. What, in the ultimate end, gives one a hope is the participation of Taliban leadership in the conference. It was for the first time that Taliban attended such an event. Countries also present in Moscow conference included China, Pakistan, Iran, India and Central Asian states. The US had the observer status. Even as Afghanistan government was not invited to the conference, Members of Afghanistan’s High Peace Council, which oversees peace efforts, were also present. Taliban had said that they would hold talks with the US, not with the government in Kabul. The conference is aimed at kick-starting peace talks after decades of bloody war in the mountainous country. One may not expect quick results from the Moscow conference but the fact that the Taliban and Afghan delegates are in the same room in Russia with Washington also around is seen as significant. Earlier, Taliban representatives had held talks with the Trump administration’s special adviser on Afghan peace, last month, in Qatar. Zalmay Khalilzad, a hawkish diplomat appointed as the US special representative for Afghanistan reconciliation had also met with six Afghan Taliban leaders.
Zalmay had earlier held consultations in Islamabad, Riyadh and Doha also. This also reflects the America’s fresh thinking to acknowledge the political and military reality in Afghanistan. America invaded Afghanistan in October, 2001 in the aftermath of terror attacks on the US on September 11, 2001 resulting in dislodging of Taliban government, which the America thought, was sheltering the master-minds of American attack. After initial defeats, Taliban, however, gathered their strength again pushed the American and its allied forces to the wall by capturing almost 45 percent territory of the country. The Afghan strategy by Trump last summer, which aimed at boosting Afghan security forces and the presence of the US troops, did not prove to be effective enough to defeat the Taliban. The US seems to have got frustrated by the Taliban attacks in the capital Kabul and other strategic cities. What is most worrisome for the US is that it is losing on all counts and finds itself in a nutcracker situation. It can neither afford to exit as a defeated super power, nor can it stay for long. It has lost the war but is not acknowledging it and badly wants a face saving formula. It can exit only through negotiations and not via northern network which is no more available to ship out heavy baggage.
The US is faring poorly on all other fronts including the domestic front where Trump has become highly unpopular. What added American woes further is the Russia and China’s growing interest in Afghanistan. As the things stand now, Afghanistan problem has crossed over of US interests. The emergence of Sino-Russian camp and the possibility of Pakistan slipping into it with Iran and Turkey, is also giving the Trump administration sleepless nights. The US fears the possibility of Russia giving surface-to-air missiles to the Taliban to counter air threat. The superiority of America in air attacks is the only factor that stops Taliban from walking through Kabul. India’s walking into America’s lap and its involvement in Kabul is the last thing Pakistan and Taliban would ever accept. The Trump administration seems to have finally understood the dangers of continuing its military engagement in Afghanistan. Today Afghanistan portrays a dangerous spectacle with Pakistan, America, Russia, China and India—all nuclear powers—involved in game-play. One cannot ignore Iran and Turkey as well. They too have developed their interests in the region. In this backdrop, the Moscow conference is a major initiative towards peace in Afghanistan.
Kashmir is reeling under yet another deadly disease—Swine flu also known as H1N1. The valley recorded the year’s first casualty last week when two persons died of the disease in the premier SMHS hospital. One more patient is battling for life in the hospital with H2N3 virus. The H1N1 or swine flu is now considered a seasonal flu which mostly survives in cold humid conditions. At least 30 people died due to swine flu in Kashmir Valley where a total of 147 cases were reported last winter season. In the past three months, 12 people have fallen victim to the fatal run of the swine flu till date. The first death of this season occurred in September, last. Official record shows that 50 people have been admitted in SKIMS under the influence of the disease out of which 42 have been discharged after the treatment while eight are still being treated. Doctors in the hospital have warned that H1N1 is a contagious disease and can transmit from one person to another. They have asked for taking precautionary measures to escape the disease. This is matter of serious concern. The even more alarming is the shortage of medicines. Report says that the valley hospitals are without proper medicine.
Barring SKIMS and SMHS hospital, there is no flu vaccine available in any hospital in the valley. This leaves SKIMS and SMHS as the only testing and treatment centre. Experts say that the swine flu outbreak can be contained but only if medicines reach the affected on time.
When the hospitals are not equipped with the testing and treatment drugs, how the disease could be contained. There is every reason for the people to feel panicky and authorities need to take the problem seriously and equip hospital with adequate medicine before the panic take over the valley. The panic has gripped even the medical fraternity as well as the lack of relevant vaccines has put the lives of doctors at risk. Doctors at SKIMS, who are dealing with patients at the Emergency and the OPD of the hospital, too are vulnerable to the disease and could catch infection in the absence of immunization and protective gear. Doctors and other hospital staff are not provided with personal protectionequipments while dealing with H1N1 patients thus putting them also at risk of contracting the virus.
There are no H1N1 vaccines which are to be given to high-risk persons with diabetes, elderly, children below 5 years, pregnant women, chronic diseases, immuno compromised and healthcare workers as the virus can be fatal in them. The designated laboratory for testing at SKIMS does not have the desired Biosafety-3 level for handling and processing H1N1 samples which is dangerous to staff and community. No sensitization and awareness programmes are conducted in hospitals with the result majority of H1N1 patients are overlooked. What is even more criminal is the silence by the concerned authorities. They have maintained complete silence over the deadly contours of the disease and the non-availability of the medicines. It is no less than criminal that despite these disturbing realities, some sections in the government would give false hope to people and come out with advisories of ‘no-panic’. The state administration should, in first place, take note of health hazards in the wake of fast spreading swine flu and activate the administration to take necessary measures, provide relevant vaccines and other medicine and expertise for the disease.
Instead of keeping the lack of medicines a secret, the administration should approach central government for immediate help by providing medicines. An awareness campaign through advertisements in the media should also be launched to keep people abreast of the dangers of the disease and measures to be taken at individual level for self protection.
Graveyard of reputations
For the past few days Shah Faesal, the former IAS officer, has been at the receiving end of a barrage of social media mélange of praise and ire for his decision to give up bureaucracy. The 2009 IAS topper hit media headlines on Wednesday last week when he announced his resignation from the Indian Administrative Services “in protest against the unabated killings” in Kashmir. Some political and peoples’ sections welcomed it as “voice of conscience”. Mirwaiz Umar Farooq and Omar Abdullah too were among those who were impressed by Shah Faesal’s decision. Mirwaiz sounded cautious saying “hope his outrage over killings and his sentiment that #KashmiriLivesMatter guide his choice of politics”. But the way Omar Abdullah reacted to Shah’s decisions, it looked that he was already in know of it and he knew about Shah’s future plans as well. He called it “bureaucracy’s loss is gain of politics” and welcomed Shah to the “fold”.
Omar’s reaction was a clear indication that Shah was eyeing to enter mainstream politics after giving up a thriving bureaucratic career. Some later statements of Shah also corroborated the fact that he is contesting upcoming parliamentary election. Profession is a personal choice. Politics is not a forbidden profession. Like any other person, Shah Faesal is free to try his luck in politics. How he is going to pursue this is a matter of time, which he has asked from the people. On Sunday, Faesal asked Kashmir to give him six months and then “judge” him. His post on Facebook read: “People who have seen nothing but betrayals for last seventy years can’t be expected to trust someone easily. In fact I am totally against blind-faith in individuals and uncritical follower-ship. Kashmiris know what agencies can do and again, the agency angle is also totally understood. Kashmiris are not paranoid, Kashmiris are angry and heartbroken. So I won’t ask you to trust me at once. I have given up a lot to be here and at this moment I am not even claiming that I did it for you. Let the time decide who did what and for whom. I want you to give me six months and then judge me. Just six months. Will you?”
Kashmir, being a graveyard of reputations that it is, can, however, afford to give Faesal these six months. Only time will tell that whether the state lost a cut-above-the-rest bureaucrat or gained a politician whose words and deeds are in sync with each other. Only time will tell whether this young blood will bring any positive changes or he, like scores of others, too will be sucked into the political marshland of Kashmir: a space that, for now, involves only mudslinging, desertion and broken promises. Will Shah Faesal be able to inspire the young minds of Kashmir the way he was when he made it to the top rank in exhaustive IAS examination? Or will those youth find themselves on the wrong side of the spectrum once he takes a formal plunge into politics? Only time will tell…
Sorry state of affairs
It is matter of grave concern that crimes against women in Jammu and Kashmir are increasing at a dangerous pace. An official report has revealed a grim picture.The year that passed (2018) was the most trying. The year recorded nearly 1000 cases of crimes (mainly rape) against women. Reports suggest that the actual number is more than the double as many victims have not reported to the police due to social stigma attached to such incidents. The figures show that after every 24 hours a woman was raped in the state. It is a serious reflection on the moral and social conduct of the people of the state. It is not going overboard to say that Jammu and Kashmir is at the brink of moral annihilation. What is even more concerning is that some of these heinous crimes were communally motivated. The rape and murder of 8-year old Muslim girl at Kathua in Jammu is a point in case.Though the case is under judicial scrutiny but some of the shades of the case exposed by the investigators are horrific and heart-wrenching. The communal slant of the case became public when thousands of Hindus led by BJP and Congress leaders held street demonstrations in support of the criminals involved in the rape and murder of the hapless girl. Even the lawyers sided with the alleged perpetrators of the crimes.
They tried to stop police from filing chargesheet in the court. A latest case wherein a minor Muslim girl was repeatedly raped has surfaced in Ramban district of Jammu. A 13-year-old Muslim girl from Ramban district of Jammu region was, allegedly, repeatedly raped for several months by a man from the same area. The incident came to the fore after the girl became unwell a few days ago. Victim’s family, who live in Varnal Sarbagni area of the district, rushed her to the hospital where doctors told them she has been raped multiple times. The victim narrated the incident before the magistrate that she was raped for the last three months. Following which the police arrested the accused Sanju Singh of Varnal area of Ramban. Property dispute, personal enmity, drug addiction, sexual lust and several other reasons also contribute to the alarming trend. In September last year, a nine-year old girl was raped and murdered in Baramullah shocked the entire valley. She was raped and murdered by her step-brother and his friends at the behest of her stepmother who was jealous of her husband’s second wife. Moral waywardness is regarded as the main reason for such social crimes.
Drug-addiction is deemed as the most motivating factor for one to indulge in immoral acts. The menace of drugs is catching up the young Kashmir dangerously.Be it a way to fight personal crisis, means to wipe the mental scars or just a sign of being cool, a section of youth in Kashmir have fallen into the net of drugs. Charas, brown sugar, cocaine, cannabis, psychotropic drugs et al are the new weapons of mass destruction for the youth. Around forty per cent of our youth, a majority of them students, have become habitual drug addicts. What is more disturbing is that drug peddlers have found their way in the most sensitive areas of our society.
They have by now entrenched themselves into spaces of educational institutions as well. Some lower rung employees of educational institutions are reported to be in involved in trafficking of drugs in colleges and schools. It is sad to note that the state administration is acting as mute spectator to the deteriorating moral and social standards of the society. Police, which has the primary responsibility to curb such crimes, is found, in many ways, partner to the crimes. It is the responsibility of the state’s religious and political leadership as well to aware people of the harmful effects of such social evils.