Pakistan

Revival of Terrorism – View from Pakistan

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Some people might be misguided by the thought that the menace of terrorism in Pakistan was successfully crushed to the roots a few years back and after the withdrawal of US troops from Afghanistan things have become quite normal but actually the situation is not that way.  Terrorists and terrorism both are still alive; it seems they had hibernated themselves for a very short period of time. Once again, they are out of their short sleep and ready to ‘do more’. The recent bomb attack on a mosque in Peshawar on 30th January seemsthe beginning of a fresh wave of terrorist activities in Pakistan. The terrorists have chosen a time when Pakistan is passing through the toughest period of its history with a lot of political and economic instability. Different experts on security affairs were already apprehendingoccurrence of such incidents. It is also being feared thatmore episodes of the same type could take place in near future. Certainly the law-enforcement agencies will have to be more active and more vigilant against the peace-destroyers.

Even the last year had not been very peaceful regarding terrorist activities in Pakistan. According to a think-tank based in Islamabad The Pak Institute for Peace Studies, Pakistan had to face 254 militant attacks in the year 2022. More than 400 Pakistanis lost their lives in these attacks. The Arab News said referring to the report prepared by the Pak Institute for Peace Studies that ‘The toll is significantly higher than last year 2021, when 335 people were killed by militants in 207 incidents, and in 2020, when 146 attacks killed 220.’ The most affected area had been Baluchistan where foreign-patronized terrorists targeted security forces and particularly the Chinese nationals working on China-Pakistan Economic Corridor project which is a multibillion-dollar project having a lot of possibility of strengthening Pakistan’s economy. Attacks on the Chinese nationals certainly effected the work on CPEC project as hovering security threats make things very difficult for the foreigners working on different development projects. It seems that the sole target of all terrorist activities was nothing but to create hurdles in the way to completion of the CPEC.

Now the beginning of 2023 does not seem very pleasant and hopeful with reference to the terrorist’s activities in Pakistan specifically in Baluchistan and KPK province. On 18th of January, according to the Voice of America, a militant attack from across the Iranian side of the border had killed four Pakistani soldiers.The attack took place in the remote Panjgur district in southwestern Baluchistan province. Sources say that the terrorists used Iranian soil to target a convoy of security forces patrolling along the border. The government of Pakistan, just after the incident, asked the Iranian side to hunt down the terrorists on their side. Whatever happened there at the Pak-Iran border was certainly very much unexpected and disappointing even for the Iranian government and the Iranian embassy in Islamabad strongly condemned the terrorist attack on Pakistani troops but this act of condemnation is not the solution to the problem. Without looking into the matter in detail, such incidents might reoccur in near and far-future.Panjgur district of Pakistan’s southwestern Baluchistan province is an area which borders Iran and Afghanistan. The area surrounding Panjgur had always been terrorists’ hot favourite. In 2019, both PakistanandIran had expressed their desire toform a joint quick reaction force to counter and combat militant activitiesalong the border. Unfortunately that desire has yet not been materialized. Though no terrorist group has yet claimed the responsibility of blood-shed in Panjgur. On December 19th 2022, in another incident of the same type four members of Iran’s security forces were killed in a firefight near the Pakistan border. The killed ones were members of The Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps. These four were killedafter a fight with an unnamed terrorist group, said the Aljazeerareferring to a statement released by the Iranian state media.The incident reportedly took place in Saravan, in the southeastern province of Sistan and Baluchistan, near the Pakistani border. The attackers allegedly fled to Pakistan when IRGC ground forces repelled the assault.

The situation in Afghanistan is also deteriorating with reference to the terrorist activities. Last year on 23rd September several people were killed and dozens more wounded when a car bomb went off at a mosque in Afghanistan’s capital, Kabul. The worshippers streaming out of the mosque afterthe ‘afternoon’ prayers were targeted. According to the Aljazeera,‘gunshots rang out several minutes after the explosion in Wazir Akbar Khan area which is the location of many foreign embassies and NATO. More than 15 people were killed and 41 wounded in that incident. Earlier on 18thAugust 2022, a huge explosion ripped through the crowded mosque during evening prayers, injuring 33 people and killing another 21. Prior to that in April 2022, two boys’ schools were targeted in the western Kabul. The targeted schools were Abdul Rahim Shahid high school and the nearby Mumtaz Education Centre, both located in the Dasht-e-Barchi area. More than ten students were killed and around 30 seriously wounded.

In short, Pakistan, Iran and Afghanistan, all are facing the worst situation regarding terrorist activities. In present scenario, any type of blame-game would simply add to the gravity of situation. Be it Afghanistan or Iran or Pakistan; terrorism is in the benefit of no one. We all will have to join our efforts with all possible devotion and dedication to curb this menace. The government of Afghanistan will have to play the most active role in resolving the situation as a consistent peaceful atmosphere is the most-required and most-needed ‘element’ for the stability and firmness of that war-torn country.The point to rememberis that the flames of terrorism never remain limited to some particular area or some specific region; they are like a pandemic which goes on and moves on from one place to other. We must never forget the Twin-Towers tragedy which was the most horrible episode in the long series of terrorist activities. All self-proclaimed ‘Super Powers’ including the US, China and others must step forward and try to ‘Do More’ against the revival of terrorist’s era particularly in Pakistan, Afghanistan and Iran.

Future of People’s Resistance in Kashmir

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Introduction:

Kashmir is a region in northern India that has long been at the focus of a territorial dispute between India and Pakistan. Since 1947, when India achieved independence from Britain and was divided into two countries, India and Pakistan, the region has been under Indian authority. Since then, the Kashmiris have fought for their rights, especially the right to self-determination and independence from Indian rule.

The Kashmir conflict has its origins in the region’s historical and political environment. Kashmir was divided between India and Pakistan as a result of India’s split in 1947. This partition, however, was not peaceful, and the two countries have been at conflict for regional authority ever since. The conflict has resulted in three wars and skirmishes, the most recent being the ongoing conflict over the Indian government’s revocation of Article 35A and 370 in Indian-occupied Kashmir, which has been marked by human rights violations, state-sponsored violence, and the suppression of civil liberties.

Kashmir’s quest for self-determination and freedom has lasted decades. Kashmiris have been in the vanguard of this battle, advocating for their rights and opposing Indian authority via peaceful protests and acts of resistance. Despite the difficulties they have experienced, the Kashmiri people have stayed persistent in their quest of independence and justice.

The Kashmiri people’s resistance to Indian domination demonstrates their tenacity, power, and resolve. Despite the obstacles, they continue to struggle for their rights, demonstrating that they are unwilling to give up their liberties or their right to self-determination. They have demonstrated via their resistance that they are the guardians of their land and the protectors of their rights.

The Kashmiri People’s Resistance:

Kashmiris have been fighting Indian authority in a variety of ways, including peaceful marches, civil disobedience, and armed resistance. Peaceful protests have been a regular form of resistance, with Kashmiris going to the streets to oppose the Indian government’s policies and breaches of human rights in the area. Armed resistance was also part of the resistance movement, with certain organisations urging the use of force to fight Indian authority.

Civil society and human rights groups have played an important part in the Kashmir resistance movement. These groups have been critical in recording human rights violations, campaigning for Kashmiri people’s rights, and offering support and help to individuals impacted by the war.

In their battle against Indian domination, the Kashmiri people have faced several hurdles. To crush the resistance movement, the Indian government has utilised military force, limited civil freedoms, and enforced mobility restrictions. Furthermore, the Kashmiri people have endured economic and social difficulties, such as unemployment, poverty, and a lack of access to fundamental amenities including as healthcare and education. Despite these obstacles, the Kashmiri people have maintained their resistance to Indian rule, exhibiting their enduring spirit and desire to protect their land and rights.

The Impact of Indian Occupation on Kashmir:

Indian soldiers have perpetrated several human rights abuses and crimes in Kashmir throughout their rule. Extrajudicial deaths, forced disappearances, arbitrary arrests and incarceration, and widespread use of torture have all occurred. Furthermore, the Indian government has enforced curfews and mobility restrictions, restricting the Kashmiri people’s capacity to freely express themselves and engage in political activities.

The Indian occupation of Kashmir has had a significant influence on Kashmiri socioeconomic and cultural life. The battle has resulted in massive devastation and displacement, as well as pervasive poverty and unemployment. The actions of the Indian government have also led in a reduction in the region’s level of living, with restricted access to essential amenities like as healthcare and education. In addition, the Indian government has enforced cultural restrictions, restricting the Kashmiri people’s capacity to retain and express their cultural history and identity.

The international community must play a critical role in resolving the situation in Kashmir. The international community must hold the Indian government accountable for its actions and campaign for the Kashmiri people’s rights and freedoms. Furthermore, the international community can have a role in resolving the issue and supporting attempts to find a peaceful conclusion. Nonetheless, despite demands from the Kashmiri people and human rights organisations, the international community has mostly failed to take effective action to improve the situation in Kashmir.

Conclusion:

The Kashmiri people’s unwavering passion and desire to protect their land and rights is exemplified by their resistance against Indian domination. Despite multiple difficulties and breaches of their human rights, they have maintained a peaceful and nonviolent resistance to claim their right to self-determination. This resistance is vital not only for the people of Kashmir, but also for the broader context of the fight for freedom and justice.

The international community must demonstrate sympathy and support for the Kashmiri people in their struggle against Indian occupation. This may take numerous forms, from increasing awareness about the situation in Kashmir to lobbying for Kashmiri people’s rights on a worldwide scale. The Kashmiri people can only expect to accomplish their aim of independence and self-determination via collective action.

Khyber Pakhtunkhwa: Shroud of Terror

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On January 19, 2023, three Police constables were killed in a suicide attack at the Takhta Beg Police checkpost in Jamrud tehsil (revenue unit) of Khyber District in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP). Police said terrorists armed with hand grenades, entered the premises and opened fire using a sub-machine gun. After the firing, a suicide bomber blew himself up. The Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) claimed responsibility for the attack.

On January 18, 2023, a teenager, Raheedullah, was found beheaded in a remote area of Bargai village in Lakki Marwat District. The Ittehadul Mujahideen-i-Khurasan left a dagger and a hand written chit in Pashto near the body, with the message that Raheedullah was found guilty of spying for the Army and the Counter Terrorism Department (CTD).

On January 14, 2023, three Policemen, including Deputy Superintendent of Police (DSP), Badaber Sardar Hussain and his two Police guards, Irshad and Jehanzeb, were killed in a terrorist attack on the Sarband Police Station in Peshawar, the provincial capital of KP. KP Inspector General of Police (IGP) Moazzam Jah Ansari said that sniper rifles were used by the terrorists in the incident, for the first time in Peshawar. TTP claimed responsibility for the attack. The CTD killed the two terrorists who were involved in the attack, Gul Hayyee and Hazrat Umar, residents of the Bara area of Khyber District and Mohmand Hal Yeka Tut in Peshawar, while two to three other terrorists managed to escape.

According to partial data compiled by the South Asia Terrorism Portal (SATP), KP has recorded 33 terrorism-related fatalities, including 23 terrorists, eight Security Force (SF) personnel and two civilians, so far, in the current year (data till January 22, 2023). During the corresponding period of 2022, the province had recorded 19 such fatalities including 11 terrorists, five SF personnel and three civilians.

KP recorded a total of 527 fatalities (119 civilians, 173 SF personnel and 235 terrorists) in 184 incidents of killing in 2022, as against 300 such fatalities (71 civilians, 108 SF personnel, and 121 terrorists) in 129 such incidents in 2021, registering an increase of 75.66 per cent in overall fatalities. Overall fatalities, on year-on-year basis, have been on a continuous rise since 2020, when fatalities stood at 216 (61 civilians, 57 SF personnel, and 98 terrorists) in comparison to 130 (30 civilians, 69 SF personnel, and 31 terrorists) in 2019.

Significantly, overall fatalities in 2022 are the highest in a year since 2014, when there were 697 fatalities. In terms of SF fatalities, the 2022 tally is the highest since 2013, when there were 181 fatalities. Terrorist fatalities in 2022 were the highest since 2011, when there were 372 such fatalities. The number of civilians killed in a year touched three digits after a gap of five years, with 122 civilians killed in 2016.

Other parameters of violence also indicated a worsening security situation in the province. Total terrorism-linked incidents jumped sharply from 168 in 2021 to 225 in 2022, the highest since 2015, when there were 278 incidents. The number of major incidents (each involving three or more killings) increased from 41 in 2021 to 56 in 2022, the highest since 2013, when there were 72 such incidents. The resultant fatalities in such attacks also increased from 186 in 2021 to 337 in 2022. Similarly, KP accounted for an increased number of explosions, from 32 in 2021 to 45 in 2022 (the highest since 2015, when there were 50 such incidents), and the resulting fatalities spiked from 52 to 129. The province recorded eight suicide attacks in 2022 (the highest since 2017, when there were also eight such attacks) as against two in 2021. In the worst attack, on March 4, at least 63 worshippers lost their lives and 194 others were injured when a suicide attacker detonated himself inside a Shia Mosque in the Koocha Risaldar area of Peshawar.

Of 38 Districts in KP, 16 recorded terrorism-related violence, according to the SATP database. The most violent District in 2022 was, again, North Waziristan District, which accounted for 177 deaths, followed by Peshawar (87 fatalities), Bannu (60 fatalities) and Dera Ismail Khan (43 fatalities). In 2021 as well, North Waziristan recorded the maximum of 106 killings, followed by South Waziristan (51 fatalities), Peshawar (25 fatalities) and Bajaur (22 fatalities). Of 38 Districts, 21 Districts registered terrorism-related incidents in 2021. 2020 saw terrorism-related incidents in 19 Districts, of which North Waziristan had the highest number of fatalities (110), followed by Peshawar (27) and South Waziristan (21).

In 2019, violence in KP had fallen to its second lowest level, in terms of fatalities, as terrorists had started to escape to Afghanistan due to continuous SF operations in the tribal areas of Pakistan. With the Taliban starting to strengthen their position in Afghanistan in 2020, the TTP terrorists who had escaped to Afghanistan started receiving increasing support inside Afghanistan, which helped them in their efforts to revive their campaigns in Pakistan. The process gained momentum with the Taliban’s return to power in Afghanistan on August 15, 2021.

Though an attempt to start a direct dialogue between the TTP and the Pakistan Government was initiated soon after the Taliban seized Kabul, it finally succeeded in May 2022. After a fractious six months, it came to an end in November 2022. During this entire period, there was not a single phase of peace on the ground.

On the contrary, an October 12, 2022, report suggested that the TTP had re-emerged violently in the restive areas of Swat, as militants detained Police personnel and an Army officer after enforcement officials launched an operation to capture TTP militants. Earlier, an August 12, 2022, report noted that TTP militants had established a check-post at Balasoor Top, besides roaming about freely in other areas of the Matta tehsil of Swat. The areas included Bar Shor, Koz Shor, Namal, Gat Peuchar and among others. Significantly, the Geo News correspondent in Swat, Mehboob Ali, claimed that at least 200-250 TTP terrorists were present and operating in the area.

On December 23, 2022, after analysing the overall law and order situation in KP, the Police department declared South and North Waziristan, Lakki Marwat and Bannu Districts, terrorist ‘trouble spots’. Additional Inspector General of Police (ADGP), Operations, Mohammad Ali Babakhel declared, “Southern districts, including North and South Waziristan [from among the newly-merged tribal districts] as well as Lakki Marwat and Bannu districts [from settled areas], are trouble spots.”

Indeed, on December 27, 2022, Federal Interior Minister Rana Sanaullah disclosed that there were around 7,000 to 10,000 TTP fighters in the region, and they were accompanied by 25,000 members of their families. He added that some of the terrorists, who had previously laid down arms, had secretly resumed activities, and alleged, “The biggest reason for this is the failure of [the] Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government and Counter Terrorism Department… It is their job to stop it.”

Meanwhile, a report presented to Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif during the national security review meeting in December 2022, warned that, because of an acute shortage of staff and resources, the KP CTD would not be able to prevent or stop terrorist attacks in the province, and lacked the capacity to fight terrorism.

Significantly, in a daring incident on December 18, 2022, a detained terrorist overpowered a constable at the CTD Complex in Bannu Cantonment (Bannu District) and, after snatching the constable’s weapon, freed 34 other detained terrorists. As soon as they came out of the lockup, the terrorists took possession of more weapons and started firing. One CTD constable was killed, while another was injured, and died later. Meanwhile, SFs cordoned off the area and launched an operation. Immediately after the seizure of the complex by the terrorists on December 18, two terrorists were killed, three were arrested, and two security forces personnel were injured in the exchange of fire. Efforts to induce the terrorists to surrender unconditionally continued for the next two days. On December 20, the SFs took initiated an operation against the terrorists who refused to surrender. During the resulting and fierce exchange of fire between terrorists and security forces, 25 terrorists were killed. Three terrorists were arrested and the remaining seven surrendered. Three SF personnel were killed in the operation, while another 10, including two officers, were injured. The TTP claimed responsibility for the incident.

As ‘official’ talks between the TTP and the Government collapsed with the TTPs declaration of an end to the ceasefire on November 28, 2022, an escalation of violence within KP, and the possibilities of its fanning out into other areas of Pakistan, have increased dramatically. The risk of Pakistan’s tribal areas once again becoming the “most dangerous place on earth” is real.

Bannu Division in Pakistan: Terrorist Ferment

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In a daring incident on December 18, 2022, a detained terrorist overpowered a constable at the Counter Terrorism Department (CTD) Complex in Bannu Cantonment (Bannu District) and, after snatching the constable’s weapon, freed 34 other detained terrorists.

Major General Ahmed Sharif Chaudhry, Director-General (DG) Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR), stated, “As soon as they came out of lockup, the terrorists got more weapons from the mall and started firing.” One CTD constable was killed and another was injured. The injured constable died later. Meanwhile, Security Forces (SFs) cordoned off the area and launched an operation. “Immediately after the seizure of the complex on December 18, two terrorists were killed, three were arrested, and two security forces personnel were injured in the exchange of fire,” the DG added. “Efforts to induce the terrorists to surrender unconditionally continued for the next two days,” he disclosed, adding that the terrorists demanded a safe passage to Afghanistan. On December 20, the SFs took action against the terrorists for not surrendering. “During the operation – fierce exchange of fire between terrorists and security forces – 25 terrorists were killed. Three terrorists were arrested while seven surrendered. Three sons of the soil were martyred fighting bravely in the operation,” the DG added. 10 soldiers, including two officers, were injured in the operation.

Meanwhile, a Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) spokesperson on December 18, 2022, claimed responsibility for the hostage incident. He ‘clarified’ that though the militants in the previous video statement while demanding safe passage “mistakenly mentioned Afghanistan”, the group in fact had spoken to government officials overnight and asked them to “shift the prisoners” to either South or North Waziristan.

On December 19, two civilians and one soldier were killed while one civilian was injured in a suicide attack in Miranshah area of North Waziristan District.

On December 18, four Policemen were killed and four were wounded, as terrorists attacked the Bargai Police Station in Lakki Marwat District. The terrorists used rockets and grenades to break into the Police Station. Militants managed to flee after killing the enforcement personnel.

On December 14, one soldier and a civilian were killed while 14 others, including nine security personnel, were injured, when a suicide attacker on a motorcycle targeted a Security Forces’ (SFs) convoy on Data Khel Road at Miranshah in North Waziristan District.

On December 7, 2022, a Policeman was killed when terrorists attacked a Police post with heavy weapons in the Kangar Pul area of Bannu District.

In a brutal incident, on December 5, 2022, a Frontier Constabulary (FC) soldier and his son were killed by unidentified assailants in the Jani Khel town of Bannu District. Around 20 armed men entered the house of the FC soldier and shot the two dead. They then beheaded the FC soldier and hung his head from a tree in the Bachki Market area. The head was spotted by tribesmen in the morning, who then informed the Police.

The Bannu Division in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) comprises three Districts: Bannu, Lakki Marwat and North Waziristan.

According to partial data compiled by the South Asia Terrorism Portal (SATP), the Bannu Division has recorded at least 343 terrorism-related fatalities (16 civilians, 76 SF personnel and 164 terrorists) in 2022, thus far (data till December 25, 2022). In 2021, there were 175 terrorism-related fatalities, including 17 civilians, 46 SF personnel and 57 terrorists.

The 2022 tally, with over a week still to go, is the highest in a year since 2009, when fatalities peaked at 399. Fatalities in the Division have been on a rise since 2018. 

SF fatalities in 2022 were the highest in a year since 2007, when 106 troopers were killed. The 2022 terrorist fatalities were the highest since 2009, when 245 terrorists were killed. Meanwhile, civilians continue to face a threat from the terrorists, though this has remained moderate over time.  

The Bannu Division accounted for a total of 2,877 fatalities (348 civilians, 594 SF personnel, 1190 terrorists, 162 Not Specified) since March 6, 2000, when SATP commenced compiling data on conflicts in Pakistan. These fatalities were recorded in 348 incidents of killing.

The District-wise distribution saw 1,416 fatalities in the North Waziristan District (48 civilians, 374 SF personnel, 842 terrorists, 152 Not Specified); 634 in the Bannu District (299 terrorists, 164 civilians, 162 SF personnel and nine Not Specified); and 244 in the Lakki Marwat District (136 civilians, 58 SF personnel, 49 terrorists and one Not Specified).  [North Waziristan was an Agency of the erstwhile Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) till May 28, 2018, when FATA was merged with KP.]

Indeed, unsettled by the security situation, Bannu Commissioner Arshad Khan, in a meeting on July 18, 2022, asked the relevant officials to prepare a comprehensive report on Police infrastructure and working mechanisms in North Waziristan.

On December 19, 2022, a report presented to Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif during the national security review meeting warned that, because of an acute shortage of staff and resources, the CTD of KP would not be able to prevent or stop terrorist attacks in the province and lacked the capacity to fight terrorism. The report noted,

Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa environment remained highly volatile when compared with other provinces; in the last one year, Punjab faced 5 terrorist incidents (3 Shaheed and 30 injured) compared with 704 in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (305 Shaheed and 689 injured); with 93 terrorists killed mostly by security forces. Despite facing major wrath of terrorism, focus of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government on counter terrorism capacity building is absent.

Rana Sanaullah, Federal Minister of the Interior, blamed the province’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI)-led government, asserting that the province was paying the price of PTI Chairman Imran Khan’s “incompetence and corruption”, adding “Imran Khan is busy dissolving assemblies and terrorists are busy killing innocent people of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.” Significantly, Imran Khan has threatened to dissolve KP and Punjab Assemblies, where his party is ruling.

Further, on December 23, 2022, Additional Inspector General of Police (AIDGP)-Operations, Mohammad Ali Babakhel, declared that the “southern districts, including North and South Waziristan [from among the newly-merged tribal districts] as well as Lakki Marwat and Bannu districts [from settled areas], are trouble spots.”

On November 28, 2022, the TTP declared an end to the seven month-long ceasefire and is most likely to escalate violence in the Bannu Division and elsewhere in KP, as well as in the country at large. The present political slugfest between the ruling Pakistan Muslim League – Nawaz, and Imran Khan’s PTI can only provide the terrorists greater opportunities for violence and further destabilization.

Pakistan Demands Debt Cancellation and Climate Justice

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Even as the floodwaters have receded, the people of Pakistan are still trying to grapple with the death and devastation the floods have left in their wake. The floods that swept across the country between June and September have killed more than 1,700 people, injured more than 12,800, and displaced millions as of November 18.

The scale of the destruction in Pakistan was still making itself apparent as the world headed to the United Nations climate conference COP27 in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt, in November. Pakistan was one of two countries invited to co-chair the summit. It also served as chair of the Group of 77 (G77) and China for 2022, playing a critical role in ensuring that the establishment of a loss and damage fund was finally on the summit’s agenda, after decades of resistance by the Global North.

“The dystopia has already come to our doorstep,” Pakistan’s Minister for Climate Change Sherry Rehman told Reuters.

By the first week of September, pleas for help were giving way to protests as survivors, living under open skies and on the sides of highways, were dying of hungerillness, and lack of shelter.

Parts of the Sindh province, which was hit the hardest, including the districts of Dadu and Khairpur remained inundated until the middle of November. Meanwhile, certain areas of impoverished and predominantly rural Balochistan, where communities have been calling for help since July, waited months for assistance.

“Initially the floods hit Lasbela, closer to Karachi [in Sindh], so people were able to provide help, but as the flooding spread to other parts of Balochistan the situation became dire,” Khurram Ali, general secretary of the Awami Workers Party (AWP), told Peoples Dispatch. “The infrastructure of Balochistan has been neglected, the roads are damaged, and dams and bridges have not been repaired.”

The floods precipitated a massive infrastructural collapse that continues to impede rescue and relief efforts—more than 13,000 kilometers of roads and 439 bridges have been destroyed, according to a November 18 report by the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA), Pakistan.

Speaking to Peoples Dispatch in September, Taimur Rahman, secretary-general of the Mazdoor Kissan Party (PMKP), said that the government had been “unable to effectively provide aid on any large scale, or to ensure that it reached where it was supposed to go.” This has also led to the emergence of profiteering, as gangs seize aid from trucks and sell it, Rahman added.

In these circumstances, left and progressive organizations such as the AWP and PKMP have attempted to fill the gaps by trying to provide people with basic amenities to survive the aftermath of this disaster.

Cascading Crises

On September 17, the WHO warned of a “second disaster” in Pakistan—“a wave of disease and death following this catastrophe, linked to climate change.”

The WHO has estimated that “more than 2,000 health facilities have been fully or partially damaged” or destroyed across the country, at a time when diseases such as COVID-19, malaria, dengue, cholera, dysentery, and respiratory illnesses are affecting a growing share of the population. More than 130,000 pregnant women are in need of urgent health care services in Pakistan, which already had a high maternal mortality rate even prior to the floods.

Damage to the agricultural sector, with 4.4 million acres of crops having been destroyed, has stoked fears of impending mass hunger. In a July report by the World Food Program, 5.9 million people in Balochistan, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, and Sindh provinces were already estimated to be in the “crisis” and “emergency” phases of food insecurity between July and November 2022.

At present, an estimated 14.6 million people will be in need of emergency food assistance from December 2022 to March 2023, according to the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. Malnutrition has already exceeded emergency threshold levels in some districts, especially in Sindh and Balochistan.

Not only was the summer harvest destroyed but the rabi or winter crops like wheat are also at risk, as standing water might take months to recede in some areas, like Sindh. Approximately 1.1 million livestock have perished so far due to the floods.

This loss of life and livelihood has taken place against the backdrop of an economic crisis, characterized by a current account deficit and dwindling foreign exchange reserves.

Then came the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

As part of its attempt to resume a stalled $6 billion bailout program with the fund, Pakistan’s government imposed a hike in fuel prices and a rollback on subsidies in mid-June.

“The conditions that the IMF placed on us exacerbated the inflation and cost of living crisis,” explained Rahman. “They imposed on Pakistan tax policies that would try to balance the government’s budget on the one hand, but on the other really undermine the welfare of the people and cause such a catastrophic rise in the cost of living that it would condemn millions of people to poverty and starvation.”

By the end of August, the IMF had approved a bailout of more than $1.1 billion. By then, Pakistan’s consumer price index had soared to 27.3 percent, the highest in nearly 50 years, and food inflation increased to 29.5 percent year-on-year. By September, prices of vegetables were up by 500 percent.

“We went to the IMF for $1.1 billion, meanwhile, the damage to Pakistan’s economy is at least $11 billion,” said Rahman. The figure for the damages caused due to the floods now stands at $40 billion, according to the World Bank. “The IMF keeps telling us to lower tariff barriers, to take away subsidies, to liberalize trade, make the state bank autonomous, to deregulate private capital and banking, and to balance the budget,” he added.

“The ax always falls on the most vulnerable,” Rahman said. “Over half of the budget, which in itself is a small portion of the GDP, goes toward debt repayment, another quarter goes to the military and then there’s nothing left. The government is basically bankrupt.”

“The advice of the IMF is always the same—take the state out, let the private market do what it does. Well, look at what it has done: it has destroyed Pakistan’s economy. … Imposing austerity at a time when Pakistan is coping with such massive floods and the economy is in freefall is the equivalent of what the British colonial state did during the Bengal famine—it took food away.”

Pakistan will be forced to borrow more money to pay back its mounting debt, all while IMF conditions hinder any meaningful recovery for the poor and marginalized. The fund has now imposed even tougher conditions on Pakistan to free up $3.5 billion in response to the floods, not nearly large enough to address $30 billion worth of economic damage. The conditions include a hike in gas and electricity prices as well as cuts in development spending.

It is in this context that activists are demanding a total cancellation of debt, and climate reparations for Pakistan.

The Global North Must Pay

Between 2010 and 2019, 15.5 million Pakistanis were displaced by natural disasters. Pakistan has contributed less than 1 percent to global greenhouse gas emissions, but remains at the forefront of the climate crisis.

Delivering the G77 and China’s opening statement at COP27, Pakistan’s Ambassador Munir Akram emphasized, “We are living in an era where many developing countries are already witnessing unprecedented devastating impacts of climate change, though they have contributed very little to it…”

“Enhanced solidarity and cooperation to address loss and damage is not charity—it is climate justice.”

In its February report, the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change acknowledged that “historical and ongoing patterns of inequity such as colonialism” have exacerbated vulnerability to climate change. Yet, even as the Global South faces an existential threat, the Global North actively impedes efforts toward redressal.

“Reparations are about taking back [what] is owed to you,” environmental lawyer Ahmad Rafay Alam told Peoples Dispatch. “As the climate crisis grows… this discourse [of reparations] is going to get stronger. It’s not just going to come from Pakistan, we will hear it from places like Afghanistan where people don’t have the infrastructure and are freezing in the winter… We’ll hear it as the Maldives and the Seychelles start sinking.”

While this struggle plays out globally, there is also justifiable anger within Pakistan over the government’s failure to prepare for the crisis, especially in the aftermath of the deadly floods of 2010.

“Everyone anticipated that this monsoon would be disastrous, and the National Disaster Management Authority had enough time to prepare,” Ali said. “However, there is nothing you can find that [shows what] the NDMA did to prepare for these monsoons. In fact, they do not even have a division to take precautionary measures.”

Holding the government accountable for its lack of preparedness, which might have contained the damage, is crucial, Alam said. However, given the sheer scale of the impact of the climate crisis on the Global South, talking about adaptation has its limitations. As Alam stressed—“There is just no way you can adapt to a 100-kilometer lake that forms in the middle of a province.”

Activists are drawing attention to infrastructure projects the state is pursuing, and how they put the environment and communities at risk. “As reconstruction takes place it is important not to repeat the mistakes of the past,” Alam said.

“The projects that are affecting riverbeds and other sensitive areas are the development projects themselves,” Ali said. He pointed out that development often takes place on agricultural or ecologically sensitive land such as forests, adding to the severity of future crises.

“It is a very dangerous situation now because imperialist profit-making is devastating the climate, affecting regions that are already maldeveloped. We are living under semi-feudal, semi-colonial conditions in Pakistan, with a strong nexus between the imperialist powers and the capitalists, all making money off our misery,” Ali stressed.

“We have no other option but to fight these forces; there is no other option but a people’s revolution.”

Source: Globetrotter

Exclusive: China and Pakistan are India’s two major competitors – D Jaishankar

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6 mins read

“China and Pakistan are India’s two major competitors with which it has major disputes over territory and other issues,” Dhruva Jaishankar, Executive Director of the Observer Research Foundation America (ORF America) told in an exclusive interview with Sri Lanka Guardian. Mr. Jaishankar is a Non-Resident Fellow with the Lowy Institute in Australia and is a regular contributor to the media.

Jaishankar holds a bachelor’s degree in history and classics from Macalester College, and a master’s degree in security studies from Georgetown University. He has been an IISS-SAIS Merrill Center Young Strategist (2013), a participant in the ORF-Zeit Stiftung Asian Forum on Global Governance (2016), and a David Rockefeller Fellow with the Trilateral Commission (2017-2020).

Excerpts of the interview;

Sri Lanka Guardian:  You are heading ORF America; what is your mission and what are the challenges you are facing in achieving your objectives?

Dhruva Jaishankar: I joined the Observer Research Foundation in 2019 and moved to Washington DC with the intention of building up a think tank focused on policy for the United States, India, and their partner countries. I had worked previously in the U.S. at the Brookings Institution and German Marshall Fund, and in India at Brookings India (now the Centre for Social and Economic Progress), and had had affiliations with think tanks in Singapore and Australia, and hoped to build upon these experiences. I’m proud to say that in two plus years my colleagues and I have set up a small but dynamic U.S.-based institution, working on research and convening in four areas: international security, technology policy, energy and climate, and economic development. Our work is global in scope, including development in Africa, cyber security in Latin America, entrepreneurship in the Middle East, U.S.-India climate cooperation, and strategic cooperation involving the Quad and Europe, and we have a small but growing team of 10 staff. In some ways, ORF America occupies a useful niche, not just on U.S.-India relations but as the only developing world-affiliated public policy think tank in Washington.

SLG:  Who is India’s main enemy in the context of foreign policy?

DJ: I don’t think we’re in a world defined by easy ‘enemies’ and India is not in a state of war with any country at the moment. However, India does have two major competitors with which it has major disputes over territory and other issues: China and Pakistan. In the past, the rivalry with Pakistan was predominant, involving Pakistani revisionism and its support for terrorism against India. However, in recent years, differences with China have become more acute, not just over the disputed border, but on trade and technology, regional politics, and a wide range of multilateral issues. Given that China’s economy and capabilities are significantly greater than India’s, it is fair to say that India’s biggest strategic challenge today is China, not Pakistan. Pakistan remains politically sensitive, but is more an irritant than an existential challenge to New Delhi.

SLG: India, not only, is supporting Quad but an active member. Simultaneously, India is keeping a strong relationship with Russia. However, many small countries in the same region argue that India continues to maintain its hegemony and does not allow those countries to take their own decisions; for example, Chinese investments. May I have your take, please?

DJ: Every country is sovereign and can make its own decisions, but the reality is that decisions made by neighbours do have political, economic, and security implications for each other. India has lots of natural alignments with the Quad on security and non-security issues, including over 20 active working groups. At the same time, India has important relations, particularly on defense trade and technology, with Russia. So it is natural for India to try to improve relations with the Quad partners, while preserving aspects of its relations with Moscow that are vital for national security and for its economy, such as energy costs and food security. Regarding the region, India has interests in a peaceful, stable, and prosperous South Asia, and has been taking steps to improve those relationships. These include greater diplomatic attention, improved connectivity, economic and technical assistance, and regionalism. At the same time, just as India has been sensitive to its neighbors concerns, it expects an understanding of issues that might implicate Indian politics, its economy, and its natural security. As a friend, it is important and healthy for India to voice concerns when decisions made by its neighbors might have negative spillover effects. Overall, India can always do more to treat its neighbors with respect and sensitivity, but that respect and sensitivity must be mutual.

SLG: Compare to other regions in Asia, South Asian countries in particular is having lower socio-economic unity. Many argue that it is because of the rivalry between India and Pakistan. Because of that, organizations like SAARC have become paralyzed. Why can’t these two nations come together for a serious development plan?

DJ: I think there were some integral design flaws in SAARC. In the 1980s because both India and Pakistan had concerns about the body being used to isolate them, it was agreed that it should operate by consensus. Yet on many issues – think for example about the proposed SAARC satellite – Pakistan blocked consensus. Pakistan also blocked connectivity between India and Afghanistan, including during the recent food crisis, before relenting. As a consequence, in recent years, there have been steps by India to operate regionally without relying on consensus. One example involves greater road connectivity between Nepal, India, and Bangladesh. Maritime coordination between India, Sri Lanka, and the Maldives has also improved. Barring Pakistan, there have been many positive developments on regional integration and connectivity: India and Nepal enjoy an open border and special relationship, India is among the largest investors and trade partners of Bangladesh, and India has led emergency lending to Sri Lanka. The questions of Pakistan must really be answered by Pakistanis: why has there been so much resistance to normal relations with India? The expectation that normal relations can coexist with state support for terrorists against Indian targets is unrealistic.

SLG: Most Indian media houses have absolute anti-China stances. Isn’t it toxic to the bilateral relationship between the two countries?

DJ: I’m not sure that’s the case. The India-China relationship is mixed. Until quite recently there was cooperation on economic and trade issues, students, and on multilateral issues such as global governance reform and climate change. But under Xi Jinping, China has adopted a very different attitude to international affairs – and not just with India. As Chinese power has grown, its decision-making structures have become more opaque, it has engaged in non-market economic practices such as predatory lending, corporate espionage, and distortive subsidies, it has attempted territorial revisionism in the South China Sea and the disputed boundary with India, and it has made efforts to undermine many global norms and institutions, including on non-proliferation, outer space, and the law of the sea. These concerns are shared by many countries. With respect to India, we have seen China violate almost three decades of written agreements on border management, its dumping of exports while denying Indian companies market access, its undermining of India’s regional security environment, and its blocking India at multilateral forums. Obviously, China deserves greater study and understanding, but some of the frustration reflected in Indian and international commentary reflects the recent actions and behavior of the Chinese government.

SLG: Do you believe the Asian Century is an achievable reality?

DJ: It depends on what is meant by the Asian Century. It is quite clear that the future of global economic growth and international security will be decided in large part in Asia, simply because it is home to more than half the world’s population and because of regional economic dynamism. But questions of whether Asia will be more cooperative or divisive will depend in large part on China’s ability to respect other countries in its periphery. Unfortunately, that has been found wanting, and with slowing Chinese growth, other countries in the Indo-Pacific are naturally attempting to promote alternative values – freedom, openness, inclusivity – that should define an Asian Century.

SLG:  Do you think there will soon be a time when China, India and Russia will work together? If so, how do you formulate India’s strategy?

DJ: China, India, and Russia do have some areas of commonality, and these have been explored in forums such as the RIC, BRICS, and Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO). Initially, this involved issues such as greater representation on forums of global governance and managing security in Central Asia. But the past few years have also shown limitations to such cooperation. Differences between China and India have been more acute, with China emerging as India’s most significant strategic challenge. Russia’s actions in Ukraine have presented some dilemmas to China and India. Barring security and some areas of strategic cooperation, the India-Russia agenda remains thin, largely on account of the limitations to the Russian economy. While we are likely to continue to see India engage with these forums, decisions made in Moscow and Beijing will ultimately determine how useful they will be.

Kashmir: A Hungry Tiger Fights Fierce

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3 mins read

It is a centuries old truth that ‘an apple a day keeps the doctor away’ but in the Indian Occupied Kashmir, the administrative authorities are trying their utmost to keep the apples away from the people.  For the last many months, the people of the Indian Occupied Kashmir are protesting that the Indian authorities are stopping their apple-laden trucks on the highways to India. In the name of security checking, the highway-police halts those trucks for days and days on the way and as a result of it, the apples get rotten.

Apple-growers of the Indian Occupied Kashmir say that it all is being done just to push them into an inferno of financial loss. They say that they don’t have any industry based financial activity or manufacturing units in their area and the only source of income for the local people is nothing but producing and selling the fruit specifically the apples. The BJP government thinks that by keeping the people of Kashmir engaged in ‘bread and butter’ related problems and by depriving them of all sources of earning, it can crush the desire as well as the struggle for independence in Occupied Kashmir.

Though China is the most prominent rather leading producer of Apples all over the world but Kashmiri Apples have a unique taste and a particular colour of their own and are considered the backbone of Kashmir’s Income. Experts say that the Kashmir Valley produces over 22 lakh metric tons of apple which is more than 70 per cent of the total apple production in the country. Besides halting the transit passage of apples from Occupied Kashmir, the government of India has managed to promote the import, legal as well as illegal, of apples from Iran. The growers of apples in Occupied Kashmir say that their produced fruit is already facing threat due to the Iranian apple invasion into the Indian market and the artificially created hurdles by the Indian government in transportation of their fruit is posing a serious challenge to them. Now they are so helpless that they could do nothing but protest.

The Aljazeera published a report on this situation in the last week of September which refers to the statement of a major union leader who said that thousands of trucks carrying apples of millions of dollars’ worth have been stopped on the highway. “The government says it all is because of routine construction work on the highway but the facts are otherwise. The government has ill-willingly planned this road-work in the days when this route is used for transportation of apples”, said another desperate grower. He further said talking to the media, “Highway repairs are causing extensive delays along the Srinagar-Jammu highway, which connects the disputed region to the rest of India, meaning huge losses.”

According to the Kashmir Media Service the government of India is not only creating hurdles for the trucks carrying Kashmiri apples via high-ways but on the bypass routes also. These routes include Mirbazar-Ashajipora road, Dooru-Verinag Road and Dalwach-Mehmoodabad road via Qazigund. The Indian authorities have imposed ban on the movement of heavy goods vehicles on all these three inner routes. The only purpose behind is to give the Kashmiri apple growers a real tough time and bar them from sending their fruit to the Indian central market.

The plan of snatching a better source of income from the people of the Indian Illegally Occupied Jammu and Kashmir is not limited to halting the fruit laden trucks on the highways and bypasses; there are some other cruelly inhuman measures also adopted by the Indian authorities; felling of grown up apple trees is also one of such measures. According to media details, farmers in Jammu and Kashmir are crying out in despair as the National Highways Authority of India has uprooted and felled trees from their orchards in order to build new roads. After abrogation of Article 370, land has been acquired rather grabbed from the farmers on the basis of laws that have been repealed.

Farmers are protesting that they have not been compensated according to current market rates. Mohammad Afzal, an apple-grower said talking to Raja Muzaffar of DownToEarth , “My 20 to 25-year-old fruit trees uprooted by the government would have given me livelihood for the next 20 to 30 years. But they were murdered mercilessly. Around mid-day on March 30, 2022, the earth movers of NKC Projects Pvt. Ltd, assisted by the site engineer of NHAI and the officials of land-record trespassed into our farm and started uprooting fruit trees which included plum, pear, apple and quince. The local police were also accompanying them.”  He added that all the uprooted trees were in full bloom, with huge flowers and were supposed to yield a bumper crop this season.

Reports say that some 600 acres of agricultural land has been acquired for a 62-kilometre highway connecting Pulwama with Ganderbal via Budgam as part of the Srinagar Ring Road project. This is the area which has apple-trees in abundance and designing the ring-road this way means there would remain not even a single apple tree in the area. The government of India is misguided by the thought that after being deprived of their basic source of income, the people of the valley would get engaged in searching for some other financial resources to earn their bread and in this way their attention from the independence movement would be diverted. But things are altogether different rather opposite to the ‘dream’ of the Indian government. This cruel decision of felling the apple-trees has made the people more aggressive and determined against the Indian atrocities in the valley. The point ignored by the Indian authorities is that ‘A hungry tiger fights fierce’.

Views expressed are personal

Atrocities against the Sikh Community

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3 mins read

Sikhs For Justice (SFJ) is a US-based organization which has been striving and struggling for an independent Sikh land for the last many years. The basic demand of this organization is the secession of Punjab from India and the formulation of a separate homeland for the Sikh community. It was founded in October 2007 and primarily was headed by lawyer Gurpatwant Singh Pannun. With its head-quarter in New York, the organization was banned in India in 2019. Now this movement for a separate Sikh land run by the SFJ has become a worldwide movement and millions of Sikhs are providing all possible support to it. Recently on 19 September, a referendum for the independent Sikh land Khalistan was organized by the SFJ in Brampton, Canada. According to the media reports, more than 100,000 Canadian Sikhs took part in that voting. Canada is home to over one million Sikhs. It is something very interesting that there are more than 30 million Sikhs all over the world and out of these 30 million about 28 million live in India. It means that India is home to 90% of the total Sikh population but the handful of extremist Hindu elements has made their life hell there in India. Circumstances have compelled them to migrate to the countries like Canada where everyone enjoys equal rights, particularly regarding religious liberty. 

With reference to the Sikh referendum in Canada, the BJP government had many times urged the government of Canada to put a strict check on the leaders of the Khalistan movement in Canada but the Canadian government always plainly refused to do so. The Canadian government spokesman said that their country would never stop Canadian Sikhs from expressing their views by holding the Khalistan Referendum as the legal parameters of the country’s laws consider it a democratic process. He furthermore said that it all was a peaceful process. According to the media reports, even after that flat refusal, the Indian government did not stop urging but rather pressurizing the Canadian government to act against the rising pro-Khalistani sentiment in Canada.

As far as the Khalistan movement is concerned, it is getting day by day stronger all over the world; since in Canada, there are more than one million Sikhs, the strength of this movement could be felt more there. The leaders of the Khalistan movement say that they are not against the Hindu community; they have no hatred against any religion but they hate the BJP extremists who don’t let them live in India. These extremists very bluntly and openly claim that India is only for the Hindus and no one from any other religious school of thought must strive and desire to stay in India; particularly the Sikhs and the Muslims. For the purpose of defaming these two communities, the Indian intelligence agencies are doing their utmost. Recently on 13th September, the walls of a prominent Hindu temple in Toronto Canada, known as BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir were defaced by scrawling pro-Khalistan and anti-Indian slogans. The BJP government without wasting any time and without any proof and investigation started condemning the Sikh community living in Canada for defacing the temple walls. 

Some social media users started sharing a video of the defaced shrine where Khalistani sentiments can be seen written on the walls but according to Livemint, the legitimacy of the video could not be confirmed. On the other hand, the Canadian government simply rejected the Indian point of view by saying that Canadian nationals have every freedom to express their views under the country’s laws relating to the right to freedom of expression and the right to free speech and assembly. Here an important point to be noted is that this so-called ‘hate-incident’ took place just five days ahead of the Khalistan Referendum voting.

There is another side of the incident too. The Canadian police claimed that it had arrested an Indo-Canadian man for tearing a picture banner of the martyred Sikh leader Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale in the city of Caledon, Ontario. This incident occurred a few days before the defacing incident of the Shri Swaminarayan Mandir. It means these two incidents were ‘designed’ in a very calculated manner. The perpetrators tried to target the peace and harmony of Canadian society where everyone is allowed to do anything living within the boundaries provided by the law of the country. Certainly, the BJP government is not happy with the Canadian government as it has granted legal freedom to the Sikh community of raising its voice for Sikh rights. It is a sheer misconception of the Indian government that by pressurizing the Canadian government, it would succeed in crushing the Sikh demand for a separate and independent Sikh homeland. The same cruel behaviour of the Indian government could be noticed in the Illegally Occupied valley of Kashmir where the local people are being treated as if they are slaves.

Linking Climate Devastation and Fossil Fuel Profits

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4 mins read

What do Pakistan, Puerto Rico, and Jackson, Mississippi, have in common? They’ve all recently experienced climate-related catastrophic rains and flooding, resulting in the loss of homes, electricity, and running water. But, even more importantly, they are all low-income regions inhabited by people of color—the prime victims of climate injustice. They face inaction from negligent governments and struggle to survive as fossil fuel companies reap massive profits—a status quo that United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres has called a “moral and economic madness.”

Pakistan, which relies on yearly monsoons to enrich its agricultural industry, has had unprecedented floods since June, impacting 30 million people and killing more than 1,500—a third of them children.

Zulfiqar Kunbhar, a Karachi-based journalist with expertise in climate coverage, explains that “things are very critical” in the rain-affected areas of his nation. Kunbhar has been visiting impacted regions and has seen firsthand the massive “agricultural loss and livelihood loss” among Pakistan’s farming communities.

Sindh, a low-lying province of Pakistan, is not only one of the most populous in the nation (Sindh is home to about 47 million people), but it also produces about a third of the agricultural produce, according to Kunbhar. Twenty years ago, Sindh was stricken with extreme drought. In the summer of 2022, it was drowning in chest-deep water.

The UN is warning that the water could take months to recede and that this poses serious health risks, as deadly diseases like cerebral malaria are emerging. Kunbhar summarizes that provinces like Sindh are facing both “the curse of nature” and government “mismanagement.”

Climate change plus government inaction on mitigation and resilience equals deadly consequences for the poor. This same equation plagues Puerto Rico, long relegated to the status of a United States territory. In September 2022, on the fifth anniversary of Hurricane Maria, which devastated Puerto Rico in 2017 and killed nearly 3,000 people, another storm named Fiona knocked out powerfor the entire region.

Julio López Varona, chief of campaigns at Center for Popular Democracy Action, spoke to me from Puerto Rico, saying, “the storm was extremely slow, going at like 8 or 9 miles an hour,” and as a result, “it pounded the island for more than three days” with relentless rain. “Communities were completely flooded; people have been displaced,” he says. Eventually, the electrical grid completely failed.

Days after the storm passed, millions of people remained without power—some even lost running water—leading the White House to declare a major disaster in Puerto Rico.

Even on the U.S. mainland, it is poor communities of color who have been hit the hardest by the impacts of climate change. Mississippi’s capital of Jackson, with an 82 percent Black population and growing numbers of Latin American immigrants, struggles with adequate resources and has had problems with its water infrastructure for years.

Lorena Quiroz, founder of the Immigrant Alliance for Justice and Equity, a Jackson-based group doing multiracial grassroots organizing, told me how the city’s residents have been struggling without clean running water since major rains and resulting floods overwhelmed a water treatment plant this summer.

“It’s a matter of decades of disinvestment in this mostly Black, and now Brown, community,” says Quiroz. In a state run by white conservatives, Jackson is overseen by a Black progressive mayor, Chokwe Antar Lumumba, who is now suing the state government over inaction on the city’s water infrastructure.

Quiroz says it’s “painful to see how government is not doing what they should, how the state government is neglecting its most vulnerable populations.”

Over and over, the same pattern has emerged on a planet experiencing catastrophic climate change. Setting aside the fact that we are still spewing greenhouse gasesinto the atmosphere as the world burns and floods, the impacts of a warming climate are disproportionately borne by poor communities of color as evidenced in Pakistan, Puerto Rico, Jackson, and elsewhere.

The UN head, Guterres is doing what he can in using his position to lay blame precisely on the culprits, saying in his opening remarks to the UN General Assembly in New York recently, “It is high time to put fossil fuel producers, investors, and enablers on notice. Polluters must pay.” Guterres specifically touted the importance of taxing fossil fuel companies to cover the damage they are causing in places like Pakistan. According to the Associated Press, “Oil companies in July reported unprecedented profits of billions of dollars per month. ExxonMobil posted three months profits of $17.85 billion, Chevron of $11.62 billion, and Shell of $11.5 billion.”

Contrast this windfall with the countless numbers of people who lost their homes in Pakistan and are now living in shanties on roads where they have found some higher ground from the floods. “If you lose a crop, that’s seasonal damage, but if you lose a house, you have to pay for years to come,” says Kunbhar.

Kunbhar’s view of what is happening in Pakistan applies equally to Puerto Rico and Jackson: Society is “divided between the haves and have-nots,” he says. “The poorest of the poor who are already facing an economic crisis from generation to generation, they are the most vulnerable and the [worst] victims of this crisis.”

In Puerto Rico, Varona sees displaced communities losing their lands to wealthier communities. He says that the local government in Puerto Rico is “allowing millionaires and billionaires to come and pay no taxes and to actually take over many of the places that are safer for communities to be on.” This is an “almost intentional displacement of communities… that have historically lived here,” he says.

And in Jackson, Quiroz says she is aghast at the “mean-spiritedness” of Mississippi’s wealthier enclaves and state government. “It is so difficult to comprehend the way that our people are being treated.”

Although disparate and seemingly disconnected from one another, with many complicating factors, there are stark lines connecting climate victims to fossil fuel profits.

Pakistan’s poor communities are paying the price for ExxonMobil’s billions.

Puerto Rico remains in the dark so that Chevron may enjoy massive profits.

Jackson, Mississippi, has no clean drinking water so that Shell can enrich its shareholders.

When put in such terms, Guterres’s idea for taxing the perpetrators of climate devastation is a no-brainer. It’s “high time,” he said, “to put fossil fuel producers, investors and enablers on notice,” so that we can end our “suicidal war against nature.”

This article was produced by Economy for All, a project of the Independent Media Institute.

Are these floods in Pakistan an ‘act of God’?

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5 mins read

Calamities are familiar to the people of Pakistan who have struggled through several catastrophic earthquakes, including those in 2005, 2013, and 2015 (to name the most damaging), as well as the horrendous floods of 2010. However, nothing could prepare the fifth most populated country in the world for this summer’s devastating events, which began with high temperatures and political chaos followed by unimaginable flooding.

Cascading frustration with the Pakistani state defines the public mood. Taimur Rahman, the general secretary of the Mazdoor Kisan Party (‘Workers and Peasants Party’), told Peoples Dispatch that after the 2010 floods, there was ‘enormous outrage about the fact that the government had not done anything to ensure that… when there is an overflow of water, it can be controlled’. Evidence of relief funds being siphoned off by corrupt politicians and the wealthy elite began to define the post-2010 period; those memories remain intact. People understand that when the disaster industrial complex is in motion, cycles of corruption accelerate.

A third of Pakistan’s vast landmass was inundated by floods in the last week of August. Satellite imagery showed the rapid spread of the waters which broke the banks of the Indus River, covering large sections of two major provinces, Balochistan, and Sindh. On 30 August 2022, the United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres called it a ‘monsoon on steroids’, as the rainwaters swept away more than 1,000 people to their deaths and displaced about 33 million more. The situation is dire, with those who fled their homes in immediate and long-term danger. The people camped out on higher land, such as major roadways, are currently at risk of starvation and in danger of contracting water-borne diseases such as diarrhoea, dysentery, and hepatitis. In the long-term, people who have lost their standing crops (cotton and sugarcane) and livestock face guaranteed impoverishment. Pakistan’s Planning Minister Ahsan Iqbal estimates that the damages will total more than $10 billion.

At first glance, the primary reason for the floods appears to be additional heavy rain at the tail end of an already record-breaking monsoon or rainy season. A very hot summer with temperatures of over 40°C for long periods in April and May made Pakistan ‘the hottest place on earth’, according to Malik Amin Aslam, a former minister for climate change. These scorching months resulted in abnormal melting of the country’s northern glaciers, whose waters met the torrential rain spurred by a ‘triple dip’ – three consecutive years of La Niña cooling in the equatorial Pacific Ocean. In addition, catastrophic climate change – driven by global carbon-fuelled capitalism – has also caused the glacial melt and downpour.

But the nature of the floods themselves are not wholly due to turbulent weather patterns. Significantly, the impact of the rising waters on Pakistan’s population is due to unchecked deforestation and deteriorated infrastructure such as dams, canals, and other channels to contain water. In 2019, the World Bank said that Pakistan faces a ‘green emergency’ because each year about 27,000 hectares of natural forest is cut down, making rainwater absorption in the soil much more difficult.

Furthermore, lack of state investment in dams and canals (now heavily silted) has made it much harder to control large quantities of water. The most important of these dams, canals, and reservoirs are the Sukkur Barrage, the world’s largest irrigation system of its kind, which draws the Indus into the southern Sindh River, and the Mangla and Tarbela reservoirs, which divert the waters from Pakistan’s capital, Islamabad. Illegal real estate construction on floodplains further exacerbates the potential for human tragedy.

God has little to do with these floods. Nature has only compounded the underlying crises of capitalist-driven climate catastrophe and neglect of water, land, and forest management in Pakistan.

What are the urgent multiple crises afflicting Pakistan?

The floodwaters have revealed a set of enduring problems that paralyse Pakistan. Surveys in May, before the floods, showed that 54% of the population considered inflation to be their main problem. By August, the Pakistan Bureau of Statistics reported that the wholesale price index, which measures fluctuation in the average prices of goods, increased by 41.2% while the annual inflation rate was 27%. Despite inflation rising globally and the acknowledgment that the cost of the floods would be over $10 billion, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) has promised a mere $1.1 billion with austerity-like conditions attached to it such as ‘prudent monetary policy’. It is criminal that the IMF would impose strict austerity when the country’s agricultural infrastructure is utterly destroyed (this inadequate action is reminiscent of the British colonial policy to continue the export of wheat from India during the 1943 Bengal famine). The 2021 Global Hunger Index already placed Pakistan at 92 out of 116 countries with its hunger crisis – prior to the floods – at a serious level. Yet, as none of the country’s bourgeois political parties have taken these findings to heart, undoubtedly, its economic crisis will intensify with little recovery.

This brings us to the acute political crisis. Since its independence from the British in 1947, 75 years ago, Pakistan has had 31 prime ministers. In April 2022, the thirtieth, Imran Khan, was removed to install the current Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif. Khan, who faces charges of terrorism and contempt of court, alleged that his government was removed at the behest of Washington owing to his close ties to Russia. Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI or ‘Justice Party’) did not win a majority in the 2018 elections, which left his coalition vulnerable to the departures of a handful of legislators. That is precisely what was done by the opposition, which stormed into power through legislative manoeuvres, without a new mandate from the public. Since his removal, the standing of Imran Khan and the PTI has risen in Pakistan, having won 15 out of 20 of July’s by-elections in Karachi and Punjab, before the floods. Now, as anger rises against Sharif’s government due to the slow pace of relief for flood victims, the political crisis will only deepen.

What are the tasks at hand?

Pakistan is suffering from ‘climate apartheid’. This country of over 230 million people contributes only 1% of global greenhouse gas emissions, yet it is threatened by the eighth highest climate risk in the world. The failure of Western capitalist countries to acknowledge their destruction of the planet’s climate means that countries like Pakistan, which have low levels of emissions, are already disproportionately bearing the brunt of rapid climate change. Western capitalist countries must at least provide their full support to the Global Climate Action Agenda.

Left and progressive forces – such as the Mazdoor Kisan Party – and other civilian groups have organised a flood relief campaign in Pakistan’s four provinces. They are reaching out mainly with food relief to tackle starvation in hard to reach, largely rural areas. The Pakistani Left is demanding that the government stem the tide of austerity and inflation that is sure to exacerbate the humanitarian crisis.

In the summer of 1970, flash floods in the mountainous region of Balochistan caused great damage. A few months later in the general elections, the poet Gul Khan Nasir of the National Awami Party won a seat in the Balochistan provincial assembly and became the minister of education, health, information, social welfare, and tourism. Gul Khan Nasir put his Marxist convictions to work building the social capacity of the Baloch people (including setting up the province’s only medical school in Quetta, the provincial capital). Thrown out of office by undemocratic means, Nasir was sent back to prison, a place he had become all too familiar with in previous years. There, he wrote his anthem, ‘Demaa Qadam’ (‘Forward March’). One of its stanzas, 50 years later, seems to describe the zeitgeist in his native land:

If the sky above your heads
becomes full of anger, full of wrath,
thunder and rain and lightning and wind.
The night becomes dark as pitch.
The ground becomes like fire.
The times become savage.
But your goal remains the same:
March, March, Forward March.

Excerpts from the newsletter of the Tricontinental: Institute for Social Research