Pak-Iran religious tourism witnesses unprecedented surge
Mian Abrar

ISLAMABAD: An unprecedented surge in religious tourism between Pakistan and Iran was witnessed during the months of Muharram and Safar this Islamic year and over 75,000 pilgrims visited religious places in the neighbouring country owing to the upgraded facilities and security arrangements undertaken at Pakistan House on Taftan Border.

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India’s Rampant HR violations in Kashmir add to the Determination of Intifada
Col (R) Muhammad Hanif

To intensify their ongoing efforts to get their United Nations Security Council (UNSC) granted the right of self determination, in 1989, the people of Jammu and Kashmir started their freedom struggle, which continues till today. On the other hand, since 1989, India is trying to crush the freedom struggle by use of force by deploying more than 700,000 security forces personnel. While the people of Jammu and Kashmir carry out peaceful protests to highlight their right of self determination to seek world support to pressurize India to allow the UNSC to hold a plebiscite, India uses force to crush their voice. In the process, so far, the Indian security forces, acting under the black/draconian laws with total immunity from prosecution against criminal acts, have caused immense atrocities and human rights (HR) violations in the occupied part of Jammu and Kashmir. These HR violations include indiscriminate/extrajudicial killings, arrests, torture, abductions, gang-rapes, and demolition of properties.

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Update on CPEC
S M Hali

Moving forward As the year 2018 ended, the China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), the flagship of the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), showed progress, which merits a review. CPEC is a major platform for comprehensive and substantive cooperation between China and Pakistan and is an important consensus reached by the two countries. In May 2013, Chinese Premier Li Keqiang proposed the initiative of CPEC during his visit to Pakistan, while President Xi Jinping, in his April 2015 visit, signed the agreement for a “1+4” pattern of economic cooperation, featuring a central role of the CPEC and four key areas including the Gwadar port, energy, transportation infrastructure and industrial cooperation, so as to achieve win-win results and common development. Both sides agreed on the principles of scientific planning, step-by-step implementation, consensus through consultation, mutual benefit and win-win results, as well as ensuring quality, safety, and environmental protection. During Prime Minister Imran Khan’s maiden visit to China, the two sides reaffirmed their complete consensus on the future trajectory of the CPEC, timely completion of its on-going projects and joint efforts for realisation of its full potential with a focus on social-economic development, job creation and livelihoods and accelerating cooperation in industrial development, industrial parks and agriculture.

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Perils to Indian investments in Afghanistan
S M Hali

India entered the Afghanistan fray more out of spite for Pakistan and less for love of the Afghans. Eighteen years since 9/11, Indian cooperation with the Afghan Unity Government faces impending dangers, which may imperil Indian investments in the war-ravaged country. Most of the threat comes from Indian miscalculation of the risks. India has a poor track record of meddling in the affairs of other countries. In 1987 it sent its armed forces to Sri Lanka, which resulted in a major disaster and even caused a Tamil suicide bomber to assassinate the Indian Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi. After the US-led NATO forces invaded Afghanistan following 9/11, India saw a grand opportunity to invest in Afghanistan to gain brownie points with the US but more to gain a foothold so that its secret agency RAW could establish bases to destabilize Pakistan.

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Poor state of woman in India
Reema Shaukat

IN a recent report released by the “Thomson Reuters Foundation”, India has been put on the top for being the most dangerous countries for the women. The list was released by the World Index on its twitter handle. While on the index, India is followed by Afghanistan and Somalia. India was also placed on top list by this watchdog prior to 2018. The Reuters Foundation used different parameters to determine women’s safety including the overall risks women, specifically in the fields of healthcare, economic resources and discrimination, cultural, tribal, religious or customary practices, sexual violence and harassment and human trafficking. According to the assessment of the report that why India is ranked worst because violence against women in India has caused national and international outrage and protests since the 2012 gang rape and murder of a student on a bus in New Delhi. The report further highlights that “as India’s rape epidemic gets worst by the year, critics have pointed fingers at Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government for not doing enough to protect women.”

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US strategic objectives and perceived Pakistani role
Dr Muhammad Khan

Pakistan has been a key state in the Asian Continent which helped the United Sates in its contemporary super-power status. During the cold war, it was the most significant country which supported US containment policy against Communism. In this regard, the decade of 1980 was the most decisive era, where Pakistani geopolitics and its strategic manoeuvring forced Soviet withdrawal from Afghanistan after a crushing defeat. The demise of Communist Soviet Union as a challenge to Capitalism in 1991 brought an end to bi-polar world order, embarking United States to lead the world with absolute power. Instead of rewarding Pakistan, US put sanctions on it and left the region in haste. After the incident of Twin Towers (9/11) in US, Pakistan again played a decisive role, assisting United States in its so-called war against terrorism as a front line state. In the process Pakistan suffered 80,000 human losses, $123 billion economic losses with evident social fault-lines.

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Hindutva is BJP’s core agenda
Mohammad Jamil

OUTFITS subscribing to Hindutva have been disrupting Friday prayers in India on the plea that holding religious activities without permission was a ploy to encroach upon the government land, and the government should not allow such activities on open land. Last year, amid the controversy over the instances of disruption of namaz at public places in Gurgaon, Haryana Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar had suggested that prayers should be offered at mosques. He did not realize that when RSS and other Hindutva outfits carry out their religious activities in the open without permission, there is no justification to place such a ban on Muslims and other minorities. BJP MP Subramanian Swamy had more than once said that mere development of the society or nation was not enough to win the election, and BJP can never win an election until it pushes forward Hindutva as its core agenda.

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India’s investment in Afghanistan at risk
Mohammad Jamil

INDIA had excellent relations with Afghanistan since the time King Zahir Shah was at the helm, and later had close relations with Afghan governments installed after Saur revolution supported by the Soviet Union. However, India lost its clout during Afghan jihad as well as during Taliban era. After 9/11 events, India entered into strategic partnership with the United States that created a unique opportunity for India to reassert its historical and traditional influence in Afghanistan. Since then, Indian RAW has been using Afghan soil and proxies for terror attacks in Pakistan. India convinced the Kabul regime that ‘good terrorists’ (TTP elements) would prove an asset. But they turned their back on RAW and NDS and many of them joined ISIS. However, recent developments in Afghanistan and in the region as well as Trump’s decision to withdraw from Afghanistan indicate that India runs risk of losing all of its investment in country.

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Pakistan’s changing security doctrine
umair Jamal

Pakistan’s changing security doctrine Last week, the chief of Pakistan’s Army, General Qamar Javed Bajwa, delivered a speech at the passing out parade at Pakistan’s Naval Academy in Karachi. The speech was very important, for it helps in contextualizing the recent changes in and around Pakistan, shedding light on various doctrinal changes in the Army’s thinking.

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Trump pulls the plug on Afghanistan
Umair Jamal

US weakens its negotiating position U.S. President, Donald Trump, in an abrupt announcement last week announced that half of his country’s forces will withdraw from Afghanistan in the coming weeks and months. The announcement has come as a surprise, for Washington that is currently in talks with the Afghan Taliban to discuss the terms of the latter’s surrender and the former’s eventual departure from the country.

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India’s growing extremism and ‘Hidutva’ dilemma
Durdana Najam

Taking exception to his statement about rising religious extremism in India, the Yuva Morcha – youth wing of the ruling Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP) – prevented actor Naseeruddin Shah from attending the fifth Ajmer Literature Festival. The mob vandalised the festival venue besides burning posters carrying Shah’s picture. He was called a “traitor”, with demands being made of expelling him to Pakistan. The organisers had initially arranged for his security, however, seeing “wild” opposition, Shah was asked to cancel the visit.

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Double standard
Durdana Najam

Pakistan was recently designated as a “Country of particular concern,” under the International Religious Freedom Act (IRFA). This designation was made in the 2018 annual report of the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF). The report has labelled Pakistan as “a country that does not tolerate religious diversity, and gives a narrow space to minorities to practice and live a life of their own liking”. The blasphemy law is blamed for being used to either extract personal benefits or mint political millage. From foreign policy and education curriculum to media’s approach, each of these has been condemned for promoting religious bigotry, prejudice and bias.

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PTM and international media
Durdana Najam

The warning by Major Gen. Asif Ghafoor, the Director-General of the Inter Services Public Relations (ISPR), to the Pashtun Tahafuz (protection) Movement (PTM) of severe consequences on crossing the so-called “red line” was viewed as another blow to the democratic rights of representing one’s position through protest and agitation. There were similar attempts of disengaging the PTM leaders from their audience in the past. A total media blackout, and at times refusal to allow public gatherings, was seen as an excessive measure by the state to deprive the general public their right to know. The people of FATA, as the region was known prior to its merger with the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, have no doubt suffered the most from the war against terrorism and also from denial of constitutional cover that otherwise has protected the life, property and dignity of the rest of Pakistan’s population.

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Afghan peace process
Adeela Naureen

As Afghanistan Peace process enters a new phase, it may be pertinent to analyse where things stand today and what likely scenarios can help us in projecting the trajectory of this process. Pakistan, US, Taliban leadership, Afghan Government, KSA, UAE and some other stake holder held marathon discussions in UAE to negotiate the way out of this untangled web of conflict, called Afghanistan.

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State terrorism continues in IoK
Reema Shaukat

KASHMIR which is our jugular vein is in continuous state of haemorrhage. Unfortunately, BJP government in India in assistance with RSS has fostered its agenda of IoK’s complete integration into India. Though legal experts of India and IoK High Court have clarified the permanent status of Article 370 of Indian Constitution, BJP’s agenda of division is still on the table. In this regard, BJP is in hot pursuit of Mission 44+ in IOK and its Army in occupied Kashmir has made the life of Kashmiris more terrible and awful.

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