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Pakistan Press ( 19 March 2021, NewAgeIslam.Com)

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Pakistan Press on Divorce in Pakistan, Women Empowerment and Afghanistan: New Age Islam's Selection, 19 March 2021



By New Age Islam Edit Desk

19 March 2021




• Getting Divorced Is a Simple and Elegant Process in Pakistan

By Asfand Yar Warraich

• Women Empowerment Is a Myth In Pakistan

By Nasir Khan

• Art of Recitation of Quran

Kashif Shahzada

• Narrative of Forgiveness

By Dr Ramesh Kumar Vankwani

• Afghanistan — May 1 and Moonshot

By Aneela Shahzad

• Finding Peace In and Around Afghanistan

By Shahzad Chaudhry

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Getting Divorced Is A Simple And Elegant Process In Pakistan

By Asfand Yar Warraich

March 19, 2021



IF you are a Muslim man in this country, getting divorced is a remarkably simple and elegant process. All you are required to do is to pronounce ‘talaq’ in front of two witnesses (verbally or in writing, the choice is entirely yours) and then notify this fact to both your wife and the relevant local body — typically a union council or a cantonment board or some synonymous set-up. All in all, it is a wholly unilateral procedure — final, effective and dependent on none.

Within 30 days of having been notified so, the local body in question shall form what the law calls an ‘arbitration council’, which shall be tasked with bringing about a reconciliation between you and your estranged spouse. If you fail to reconcile within a 90-day period, or simply neglect or even wilfully refuse to go when summoned by the council, the divorce will stand automatically finalised, the local body will issue a certificate of confirmation, and voila! You shall be free from the contractual and holy bonds of matrimony.

If on the other hand you happen to be a Muslim woman, this process gets far more complicated. If you are fortunate enough to have a delegated right of divorce (talaq-i-tafweez), you may enjoy all the privilege that is accorded to a man and follow the exact same procedure as summarised above, but, if you hold no such right (as is the case with the majority of marriages), you must take recourse to our family courts, and there, in dingy corridors where anxious families pace around in endless circles, frantically chasing the slippery spectre of justice, you must file and contest a suit seeking dissolution of your marriage by way of khula — either on account of a legally recognised fault (like cruelty, desertion, impotence and such) or no fault at all (like the fact that you believe that the two of you are simply incompatible).

For this, you will need to hire a lawyer, who will doubtless charge a fee — minimal or reasonable or extortionate, as the case may be. On the first date of hearing, the judge shall admit your suit and direct your counsel to serve notices on your spouse, the costs of which you must necessarily bear. Per law, your husband should have no more than 30 or so days to appear before the court and submit his reply, but in practice, a cunning lawyer can easily employ some of the procedural tricks of our trade and wheedle out a couple of months.

Once a reply has been tendered, you will both be called for a ‘pre-trial hearing’, where the judge will essentially ask if you are willing to discard your differences and enter into a compromise (albeit an overenthusiastic adjudicator may take this liberty to grill you with intrusive and at times insensitive questions). Thankfully, the personal inclinations of the judge are irrelevant, and at this point, if you record a clear and categorical statement that you do not wish to reconcile, the judge must decree your suit immediately — no ifs or buts (unless it is a fault-based claim, which may, if you insist, proceed further).

With a certified copy of this judgement in hand, you shall then be re-routed to the exact same procedure that a man has to comply with while exercising his right to declare talaq — notifying the relevant local body, waiting for the arbitration council to complete its 90-day existence, and finally, walking away with a divorce certificate.

As is evident, divorce laws in our country do not treat men and women with even the faintest trace of parity. While both are subject to going through arbitration councils, women must bear an additional burden — facing the physical, emotional and financial cost of having to go through an entire judicial obstacle course to achieve the same result. There is a reason for this differential treatment.

Dig into not-so-distant history and we find that initially, the law on khula was purely fault-based. Back in 1952, a full bench of the Lahore High Court concluded that mere “incompatibility of temperament” was not an acceptable reason for granting khula, for “if wives were allowed to dissolve their marriages, without the consent of their husbands, by merely giving up their dowers, paid or promised to be paid, the institution of marriage would be meaningless as there would be no stability attached to it”. It did not question why this ‘stability’ remained unthreatened when a man already held the right to divorce at any time and for any reason.

In 1959, this judgement was revisited and this time, the court reasoned that to ignore incompatibility or any similar no-fault plea would force people into hateful unions, leaving them incapable of observing “the limits of God”. By 1967, the Supreme Court too had endorsed this view, and thus, the consent of the husband became irrelevant altogether and incompatibility became a valid ground for khula — though women continued to be subjected to the trials and tribulations of recording testimony and getting cross-examined, for naturally, the judge had to be ‘satisfied’ that any acrimony had indeed developed.

The real sea change came in 2002, when Musharraf’s government enacted an amendment mandating courts to summarily decree claims for Khula as soon as reconciliation failed. For no-fault claims for Khula, this bypassed the evidence stage completely, stripping the court of any judicial function per se and turning them into nothing more than a formality (an eminently sensible position, since incompatibility is not a subject fit for judicial determination).

As welcome as these piecemeal developments are, they do lead to a follow-up question — if family courts are no longer exercising any adjudicatory role in such cases, on what basis are women still being made to go to courts to assert this right in the first place? Would it not be fairer and more equitable for them to simply notify the concerned local body of their intention to seek khula, just as men already do?

Parity is paramount. And all people deserve to exit the unions of their choice — gracefully, peacefully and above all, equally.

https://www.dawn.com/news/1613356/divorce-and-disparity

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Women Empowerment Is a Myth in Pakistan

By Nasir Khan

March 19, 2021



Human beings are on a level playing field. They should have lived in peace with each other. To some extent, along the way, women have begun to be considered inferior and have not received the attention they deserve. They are not allowed to make their own decisions and must abide by the restrictions placed on them. The empowerment of women is a global initiative aimed at bringing women to the same level as men and aimed at enhancing all rights to the social, economic and educational needs of women. It is about creating an environment without gender inequality. It ensures that they have equal opportunities in the family, culture, community, and workplace. Women account for roughly half of the world’s population, implying that there will be no growth or progress in the country without them. Women’s empowerment would foster society’s overall growth due to their active involvement in all fields. The empowerment of women means that women have the ability to grant them equal rights in life, work and decisions in various fields, such as personal, social, economic, political and legal. Women are increasingly capable of determining their own lives and occupations, and of realizing their full potential.

Gender equality is a strategy for women’s liberation. It is a human right, but men and women in our society also have unequal access to opportunities and decision-making authority. Women have less opportunity to engage in economic and fiscal activities than men in the world, women have less reach to education, and are more susceptible to health, security and safety threats. Such marches are not only for achievement of gender equality, but also for the achievement of development goals, ensuring women’s rights and also provide them the opportunities to achieve their full potential and talent is critical. Women and girls who are empowered have the potential to contribute to the health, education, betterment of their families, community, society and countries, and they have also a positive ripple impact that benefits the world.

If we look in the history to grasp the women status, it can be found that in Greek mythology, the woman is considered the root of all evil. The Greeks portrayed women in the name of art to promote unfettered sex. In the second civilization, the Romans and their philosopher Seneca condemned the depraved family system of the Romans. A movement called “Floralia” promoted the atmosphere of debauchery.

“Women are the unavoidable bad, sad disasters, and seductive problems,” Chrysostom said of Christianity. “The feminine condition is a deformity,” Aristotle claimed. “Women are immoral men,” says Roman Catholic Aquino (Aquino). “Women are the root of stupidity and irrationality,” Nietzsche, a German philosopher, argues. In modern Europe, women do not have the same rights. This has led to the feminist movement; they have been fighting for equal rights for women.

Before the advent of Arab Islam, the status of fairness was daunting. Sometimes girls are killed as soon as they are born. Men can marry or divorce as many times as they want. The number of wives is unlimited. Islam liberated women in all aspects. The rule that empowers women in the Islamic way of life is freedom.

Empowerment is multidimensional, because it encompasses personal financial independence, social awareness, and political awareness. These elements can be divided into economic authorization, social authorization and political authorization.

Usually, when a woman is empowered, the family will move, the village will move, and the country will move. Perhaps the best form of empowerment is to make women the mainstream of development. Only by empowering women with income and property, enabling them to stand up and establish their social status, and empower women can it be real and effective. The empowerment of women has become one of the most important concerns of the 21st century not only at the national level but also at the international level. Government initiatives alone are not enough to achieve this goal. The society must take the initiative to create an atmosphere free of gender discrimination, and women have ample opportunities to make decisions and participate in the country’s social, political and economic life with an equal consciousness. The world is undergoing tremendous changes in this contemporary society. Another need is to empower women to change the situation of women. In this male-dominated society, changing society’s attitudes towards women can promote social development, contribute to the professional, social, political and economic growth of the country and the world, and beautify the world.

Pakistani women face a variety of social ills as a result of the society’s and country’s deeply rooted patriarchal social, religious, and political structures. Sexual inequality is caused by systemic discrimination, which includes, but is not limited to, forced marriage and early childhood marriage. Lack of formal public education opportunities, lack of mobility and access to two-wheelers, lack of free and safe use of public spaces, domestic abuse, sexual assault and family violence, public transit and workplaces, wage disparity, and the right to sexual freedom Under religious garb, there is freedom of movement, choice, and equality. Women are the victims of a variety of serious crimes, such as rights violations and retaliation, including but not limited to acid attacks and unexplained honour killings, about which culture is often quiet and the state often ignores. With the aid of social media, a new generation of women started collectively questioning the status quo under the leadership of the feminist movement.

Aurat March 2021 focused on the women’s health issue, economic disparity and domestic violence to bring attention and adverse impact of Pandemic on women in Pakistan. During Covid 19 Pandemic time, 2,297 cases of domestic violence have been increased. There were 57 % cases in Punjab, 27% cases from Sindh. In Aurat March, it is tried to express that patriarchy is the major factor behind this domestic violence against the women during this pandemic.

Most of Pakistanis have criticized the Aurat March just because of the inappropriate slogans. The slogans and play-cards were not made to attract people of all walks of life. These were considered vulgar and inapt in their nature. Pakistanis’ are not against the Aurat March but they have reservations on the way they conducted the protest. The protest should be so attractive and eye catching that must respected be respected by people of all walks of life. Anyhow, overall, the Aurat March has given a new dimension to Pakistani women to think about their rights for the betterment of their lives. In nutshell, women must continue their fight for their rights and equal empowerment.

https://dailytimes.com.pk/735964/women-empowerment-is-a-myth-in-pakistan/

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Art of Recitation Of Quran

By Kashif Shahzada

March 19, 2021



MANY approach the study of the Quran as a written text. They will engage with its vocabulary, its translation and commentary but what is often overlooked is the fact that the Quran is originally a spoken word.

It was spoken and delivered verbally as it was revealed and it was its phonetics and recitation that captured the attention of its audience. Thus the recitation of the Quran is a well-developed art form throughout the Islamic world, with the Egyptian tradition being widely acclaimed in the field.

The Book is not only recited as part of the five daily prayers and liturgical worship, it is also heard day and night in homes, shops, and taxis, and on the street, on television and on computers. It is heard as a meditation as well as for its healing effects.

A number of qaris or reciters have become household names in the Islamic world. The likes of Saud Ash-Shuraim, Abdul Rahman as-Sudais, Abdul Basit, Abdul Samad, and Siddiq Minshawi have breathtaking recitals to their credit and are common voices in Muslim homes. Among women, American convert Jennifer Grout is becoming very popular with her mesmerising vocals.

Pakistan too is catching up and earlier I had the opportunity to speak to a young qari, Hassan Ali Kasi, who has been winning accolades for his gifted Quranic recitation.

I inquired about the process of becoming a qari and was given a detailed insight. Hassan memorised the Quran at a very early age. His father and uncle, both of whom are leading reciters, were his principal motivators. Along with memorisation he learned the rules of tajweed (elocution).

Becoming a qari is not easy by any means, and Hassan had to do arduous yoga exercises and climbing of stairs as part of breath control. A typical day for him begins before dawn and he has to practise his vocals for a considerable period of time. As the voice is the main medium of delivery, it has to be taken care of through vocal exercises and an appropriate diet. A reciter who starts out young needs to be wary of changes that take place as youngsters undergo hormonal changes.

While being passionate about his art, Hassan also laments the fact that there is little governmental patronage extended to reciters and the country has an absence of training institutes working on international standards.

He also notes that Pakistani religious seminaries are not playing their due role in producing reciters of international standard.

Competing in an international competition is an altogether different and challenging experience. A competitor has to pay attention to the rules of elocution as well as the maqamat or stations of recitation. Hassan says that tajweed should be taught in schools by capable teachers with special attention paid to the Egyptian style. His favourite reciters all hail from Egypt, the primary ones being the late Qari Basit and Qari Mustafa Ismail.

The common trend for Pakistani children is to learn to read what is termed as Nazira Quran. In this method, children are made to read the Quran mostly with their native accent and articulation of words as they occur in Urdu. However, this method does not do justice because the pronunciation and vocalisation of Arabic letters is different from Urdu letters.

Thus children are made to read the Quran as if it were an Urdu text. This has profound ramifications, because if Arabic letters are wrongly pronounced, then the meaning behind them changes. The need therefore is to introduce tajweed, or the rules of elocution of the Arabic text of the Quran by which letters and words are pronounced in the Arabic standard.

This is important to maintain originality and prevent distortions. For example, wrongly pronouncing the word ‘thameena’ as ‘sameena’ with the letter ‘seen’ instead of the letter ‘thaa’, completely changes the meaning. Beginning with ‘thaa’, the word means ‘a precious female’, while pronouncing it with the letter ‘seen’ the meaning is very different.

Thus we can note why proper rules of tajweed are important and why we should not recite the Quran with a native accent and phonetics. Hassan feels that tajweed should be made a compulsory subject in schools and we need to produce competent teachers for the purpose. Even adults, who may not have had an opportunity to learn how to read the Quran at a young age, can learn tajweed within a year’s time.

Most importantly, we need to bear in mind that listening to the sound of the Quran is not a ceremonial affair only but is enjoined as a commandment within the Islamic scripture itself: “When the Quran is read listen to it with attention and hold your peace: that ye may receive Mercy” (7:204).

https://www.dawn.com/news/1613355/art-of-recitation

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Narrative of Forgiveness

By Dr Ramesh Kumar Vankwani

March 19, 2021

Forgiveness has been given special significance in the teachings of every religion. According to the Holy Quran, Allah is the One who accepts the repentance of people and forgives their sins.

Forgiveness is the most important spiritual virtue in Hindu Dharma too. According to Hindu Dharma, a person who does not know how to forgive carries a heavy baggage of bitter memories of the past in his/her mind and destroys his/her own life and the lives of others due to negative feelings of anger, revenge and depression. Similarly, the Bible emphasizes forgiving the sins of other people.

Today’s South Africa is one of the most developed countries in the world, but three decades ago racial discrimination was rampant there. In such critical circumstances, the great Nelson Mandela succeeded his tireless peaceful struggle against racism. Mandela used to say that great people are never afraid to forgive for a noble purpose. The 16th president of the US, Abraham Lincoln, also advised to end enmity by making an enemy a friend.

I used to express my stance at every forum that the teachings of all religions and the lives of legendary leaders should be followed in letter and spirit for achieving peace in our society. When the Samadhi of Shri Param Hans Ji Maharaj, located in the Karak district of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, was demolished by some extremist elements, I raised my voice against this oppression. My stance in this noble struggle was widely endorsed by the Supreme Court, media, civil society and government circles. Eventually, I received an invitation from the chief minister of KP, Mahmood Khan, to attend the jirga to resolve the conflict amicably.

On the occasion, all religious scholars condemned the tragic incident while assuring the restoration of the holy place. The participants also reiterated their commitment to cooperate in preventing such incidents in the future. The elements responsible for the illegal occupation of the Samadhi in 1997 and later carrying out the attack on the shrine last year, apologized for their deeds in front of everyone. The honourable scholars also assured that rights to the non-Muslim community under Islamic teachings and the constitution of Pakistan would be ensured.

The provincial government team, headed by the chief minister of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, deserves congratulations for realizing our religious sentiments, ensuring the best arrangements for the jirga and opening the door of dialogue for mutual understanding. Being the head of the Pakistan Hindu Council, I decided to demonstrate the holy virtue of forgiveness. In my view, arrogance is a negative attribute whereas good people always show high morals at every stage of life. We must understand that God forgives the greatest mistake of His followers. Therefore, those who admit wrongdoing should also be forgiven.

I believe that the actual purpose of pardoning someone is to provide them another opportunity to be a good person, but those who spread mischief again must be dealt strictly. I am quite hopeful that such gestures of forgiveness and goodwill will promote religious harmony and tolerance in our beloved country. Similarly, Hindu teacher Notanlal from Ghotki who has been arrested on false charges of blasphemy must also be freed.

Unfortunately, our political situation promotes intolerance and negativity. The opposition parties are active on all fronts, including the Senate, to give the government a tough time. On the other hand, the government is of the view that the opposition alliance PDM is in turmoil due to internal differences. I consider this my national duty to appeal to all political parties to spread a culture of forgiveness and tolerance in the wider national interest of Pakistan. A joint parliamentary committee consisting of senior representatives of all political parties should be formed to formulate national policies for the betterment of Pakistan.

https://www.thenews.com.pk/print/806366-narrative-of-forgiveness

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Afghanistan — May 1 and Moonshot

By Aneela Shahzad

March 19, 2021

After 20 years of constant occupation and taking all Afghan affairs in their own hands, the chief of the United States administration, Joe Biden, has come up with the ‘moonshot’ strategy for Afghanistan — basically an idea of finding extremely radical solutions to huge, seemingly impossible problems.

But how did giving back their freedom to a people and letting them live their own lives with their own self-determination and with sovereign control on their own land and resources become such a pie in the sky for the US that requires moonshots to resolve?

Two decades ago, the US came parading over the country and arrogantly assured that they, the beholders of civilisation, were to deliver the bliss of ‘democracy’ and ‘progress’ to the uncivilised Afghans. But instead, they trampled the lives and dreams of millions beneath their boots, have delivered nothing but the promise of chaos and ‘spiraling violence’ for the Afghan future as they, for themselves, look for a ‘dignified departure’.

But there is another reason why Biden equated the new US strategy for Afghanistan as a moonshot strategy — an unprecedented solution for an impossible problem. The reason was that because the Doha peace process was not yielding anything the US liked, they thought of moving the whole process to a different platform, the UN, so that things could be restarted with a different angle.

The schema of the Doha process had become dominated with the Taliban narrative based on a complete withdrawal of US and NATO forces from the Afghan soil. The US was simply finding itself in a compliant position, eventually agreeing to a complete withdrawal by May 1, 2021. The downside of the Doha process was that along with being able to corner the US in the talks, the Taliban categorically refused to negotiate with the Kabul regime or even let them have a presence in Doha, nor did they allow Indian presence in the process.

Russia, on the other hand, has been involved in the Afghan peace process since 2014, when the withdrawals began. The Russian process has also been dominated by the Taliban, and here, there have been face-to-face talks with several Afghan factions, excluding the regime itself. The mood in Russia has been that Russia, China, Iran and Pakistan should act as guarantors of fulfilling the agreements, and here again, India’s relevance as a part of the process in any manner was denied.

So now, in moonshot, Blinken has sent a letter to Ashraf Ghani and Abdullah Abdullah, saying “a regional conference under the UN auspices with foreign ministers of the US, India, Russia, China, Pakistan and Iran to discuss a ‘unified approach’ on Afghanistan” will be scheduled. The conference will first redraw a “roadmap to a new, inclusive government”, share it with the Taliban; then ask Turkey to host a meeting with the Afghan government in Kabul and the Taliban; and as a result, impose a “90-day reduction in violence” plan on the Taliban, basically to avoid the Taliban Spring Offensive.

The question is: what will be in this new roadmap that has not come up in the peace talks of the last several years? What seems to be new are all the things that the Taliban wanted to be kept out, and it is truly a moonshot to think that the Taliban would happily accept this new approach, however sugar-coated it may be.

‘Reduction in violence’ is especially a thorny demand on the Taliban, who have resisted the world’s biggest military alliance with their small arms for two decades. In 2001, when the Taliban were in power in Kabul, the US-NATO alliance did not give the Taliban a cushion for negotiations before they launched their ‘violent’ offensive on the already war-trodden nation. On October 7, 2001, Bush, after ordering an attack on Afghanistan, said to the American people, “Two weeks ago, I gave Taliban leaders a series of clear and specific demands. Close terrorist training camps, hand over leaders of the Al Qaeda network… none of these demands were met. And now the Taliban will pay a price.” How then are the Taliban expected to forsake their deterrence that they have built with their blood in the long 20 years of being brutely occupied by foreigners and to give their oppressors a full three-month cushion?

In fact, Blinken made another vilification of the Taliban and the Afghan self-esteem in general when he added to his letter a sharp comment, “As you and your countrymen know all too well, disunity on the part of Afghan leaders proved disastrous in the early 1990s and must not be allowed to sabotage the opportunity before us.” Now this clearly points to failure of the Mujahideen factions to form a united government in Kabul at that time, and the coming to power of the Taliban. The question now is: is Blinken reminding the factions that they were not civilised enough at that time to be able to form a government, or is he labeling the Taliban government as the ‘disaster’? Either way, Blinken has made a bad precedence.

Anyways, there is also talk of a transitional government and the idea is quite dreadful if we consider the very recent example of the 10-year-long transitional period in Libya. The frail UN presence in Tripoli for a decade showed the world how incapable the UN is in resolving matters around the world. With the UN-backed Al Sarraj handing over power to a new Tobruk-backed transitional government this week, one bethinks if the UN had any role there but to prolong the state of chaos.

And this also shows how Turkey and Russia took over the Libyan stage, played on both sides and created a peace process of their own leading. The same may be repeating in Afghanistan, but the question is, will Russia and Turkey be able to return power to the real ‘people’ in either Libya or Afghanistan, or will they be pursuing their own newly-found interests in these two arenas, now that they see their increasing influence in these countries.

It is the Afghan people and the Taliban who will have to ensure their own sovereignty, and that foreign elements, both friends and foes, do not infringe upon them unduly.

https://tribune.com.pk/story/2290169/afghanistan-may-1-and-moonshot

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Finding Peace In and Around Afghanistan

By Shahzad Chaudhry

March 19, 2021

Numerous geopolitical developments and initiatives of the last few weeks beckon attention. Most are driven by the United States’ latest national security estimate which places China at the head of American concerns. China is expected to overtake the US as the largest economy of the world in the next decade or so even as it rapidly transforms its military in both capacity and capability with muscle to defend its interests and secure its gains around the globe. Combined, China’s footprint will expand even further as it enhances her perimeter of security and its regions of influence and her interest expand. Its Belt and Road (BRI) and Silk-Route initiatives are a case in point. Even as US increases its focus on China and extricates itself from trouble-spots where it found itself stuck over decades, it hopes to elicit China’s support on facing three major challenges to humanity — climate change, pandemics and technology disruptions — to ease humanity through what shall define the new human age.

‘Pivot to the East’ meant focusing on China and its rapid development to a point where it challenged America’s exclusivity. To that end two major disengagements were in order. The Middle East was quite much left to its fate under Trump who clearly suggested that the US had little to do with a civilisation where enmities ran into a thousand years. Trump then followed up with the biggest geopolitical coup of the century by influencing some conservative Arab states into recognising Israel and initiating diplomatic relations between them. Israel will in due course find its anchor in the region for a more persistent presence on the edge of the Persian Gulf just across Iran and project its power with consequent effects. Also, Israel’s politico-military orientation has been changed from Europe to the Middle East by including it in the CENTCOM area of operation as a key US ally. Over time, in coordination with its new cohorts, it shall replace the US as a minder of its own and key US interest. The US will then be free to move east.

The second disengagement that the US seeks is in Afghanistan. The US has been stuck there for the last 40 years with little to show for. The Afghan war reduced to an unnecessary war as the US looks to opt out without affixing another Vietnam-like ignominy to its name. That is possible if warring factions find some political accommodation. The Doha dialogue is meant to enable exactly that with which Pakistan has handily assisted. A letter by the US Secretary of State to the Afghan President lays it out for him to work out an understanding with the Afghan Taliban to give political stability a fighting chance. Apprehensions exist if Ashraf Ghani is unreservedly committed to the idea of peace through power-sharing between the stakeholders. That alone will enable the social and political equilibrium in Afghan society leading to stability. It is widely understood that perpetuating strife helps Ghani hold onto power.

Both India and Pakistan make the region in which Afghanistan exists and both have had roles to play in this 40-year war in Afghanistan. Pakistan from the word ‘go’ was an active if indirect participant because of its contiguity especially when the USSR invaded Afghanistan. She became Afghanistan’s strategic depth as millions arrived as refugees. Pakistan also helped Afghans throw the Soviets out after the latter’s 10-year occupation of Afghanistan. Following 9/11, the US needed an express entry into Afghanistan which Pakistan enabled. This phase of the Afghan war found Pakistan not only enabling a war against terror but fighting one kinetically as malignance of the war in the neighbourhood overflowed into Pakistan. India, the distant neighbour and a proximate state which has had its own set of problems with Pakistan was mostly the spoiler, either complicating Pakistan’s efforts at successfully finishing terror off or in inciting anger and reaction within Afghanistan against Pakistan by framing it for supporting the Taliban. She has also found it opportune to meddle in Pakistan using Afghan soil for as long as the strife has persisted. This has only encouraged India to play its demonic role in scuttling every effort towards finding peace. It was thus important that the two, India and Pakistan, first found accommodation between them before they could fully contribute to a search for peace in Afghanistan.

We, thus, see signs of a rapprochement ‘on order’ between India and Pakistan. In one of my earlier pieces on the subject I had outlined factors which would intrinsically encourage both India and Pakistan to ease things between them from the near-war hype driving their relations. More so India which had kept a very hawkish approach towards Pakistan or on any thought of a possible dialogue between the two. Not now. The two DGMOs spoke, not out of the blue for sure; and the two sides are meant to reconnect on the Indus Waters soon after a prolonged absence from what is meant to be a biannual meet up. Following the thaw Tony Blinken called Moscow to convene a meeting of the five regional nations including Russia, Iran, China, India and Pakistan to assume responsibility as a group to oversee the process of peace and its implementation in Afghanistan. The US has invited itself to the meeting as the key mediator to forging this combined responsibility. India has thus found a backdoor entry to the table from which it had been distanced earlier. Whether this was suitably premised on a seeming rapprochement between the two, only time will tell.

If the group can play even a cursory role in seeming to oversee some sort of peace may be enough cover for the US to exit. Others can then grapple with what is left behind; malign or propitious. If the recent eminence to Quad by Biden and Co will alleviate some Indian concerns about their imagined import it may help ameliorate some of India’s inherent angst in regional interactions and may just tone the rhetoric and animosity down a few decibels against Pakistan. It remains a composite approach by the US to appease tensions in and around Afghanistan while it transfers focus to China and the East. That is America’s new approach to Asia and the Middle East. If it also subsumes what has been a lingering conflict-in-waiting between India and Pakistan so much the better. Perhaps the two peoples can breathe easy while hoping that the imposed behavioural change will lead to fulfilling South Asia’s promise. Pakistan too has begun to rhyme in the essence of economic security as the more critical component of national security. Perhaps next one would see easing off trade restrictions between the two neighbours.

When may India plug into CPEC though is not only ambitious but will clash with the objectives of the Quad and the newer responsibilities the US will assign India with. For the moment, US will bolster India’s confidence with some military offerings to ease away some of her apprehensions. A more secure India will make a less belligerent India in an environment where coexistence is the order. Afghanistan may too then find peace giving US the opportunity to pivot. Nothing is unrelated.

https://tribune.com.pk/story/2290167/finding-peace-in-and-around-afghanistan

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