Daily Briefs

Photo : Dawn

09 August 2020, Sunday, Vol 1, No.101

Pakistan This Week

Pakistan's Kashmir frenzy, questioning OIC's role- failing to intervene adequately on the Kashmir issue, and a series of bills relating to the FATF in the Parliament

PR Daily Brief | D. Suba Chandran

Pakistan's Kashmir Frenzy

Some of the actions inside Pakistan were rhetoric, addressed at the domestic audience to prove a point that the PTI did better than the other political parties. However, Some are part of Pakistan's long terms plans to fix India.

The week started with Pakistan getting ready for "Youm-e-Istehsal" (Day of Exploitation). On 4 August, Pakistan released a new map approved by the federal cabinet, which included the whole of J&K. Imran Khan stated, "We are bringing a political map of Pakistan before the world which reflects the aspirations of the people of Pakistan… From now on, this map of Pakistan will be used in schools, colleges and globally." According to Qureshi, the new map is also Pakistan's "destiny".

If the map reflects "aspirations of the people of Pakistan", and their "destiny", it also presents Pakistan's position with "such clarity" according to Qureshi. However, the explanation of one of the SAPM's is anything but clarity. According to SAPM Moeed Yusuf, the map asserts Pakistan's claim on the territory, but in no way suggests that the region was part of Pakistan. (Dawn, 5 August 2020). "We have just said that the dispute has to be resolved in accordance with UN resolutions."

So what does the new map claim? And how is it different from the earlier ones? First- is the nomenclature for J&K. Earlier, Pakistan used to refer to it as ' Indian occupied J&K' but now it is being referred to as - 'Indian Illegally occupied Jammu and Kashmir (IIOJK)'. The international border that starts from the Arabian sea runs between India and Pakistan, and then claims the entire J&K. However, the eastern side, where Ladakh is, there is no closing of the border. On the north, it claims the entire Siachen, Gilgit and Baltistan, but draws the border up to the Karakoram pass from the northern point from the GB along the Wakhan Corridor in Afghanistan. Though the map has the LoC in dotted line, it calls the region as "Disputed Territory – Final Status to be decided in line with relevant UNSC Resolutions."

What else is new or different in the new map? The map also includes Sir Creek and Junagadh. According to Foreign Minister Shah Qureshi, "We have refuted India's claim in Sir Creek in this map, and we have said that this is Pakistan's position. Our border is to the east while India's position is that it goes to the west. It was seemingly trivial, but if you look at the effects, India has cleverly tried to devour Pakistan's hundreds of kilometres."

The map is undoubtedly a 'Political rhetoric'. Pakistan's own newspapers have questioned the rationale behind the new map, and the future course of action. Dawn, in its editorial, asked: "Firstly, why was the map issued at this juncture? Secondly, how far will this move go in forwarding the Kashmir cause? Rhetoric apart, it needs to be examined what moves are being made on the ground to end India's brutal siege of IHK, and resolve the Kashmir question as per the aspirations of the region's people. Pakistan has always argued that only Kashmiris can decide their destiny, and no changes can be imposed on them. Therefore, while the new map may be designed to express solidarity with Kashmiris, it needs to be reiterated that a final solution to the dispute can only be achieved after Kashmiris express their will in a democratic manner." ("New Map," Dawn, 6 August 2020)

Besides the map, there were two more "concrete" measures adopted by Pakistan to show their solidarity with the Kashmiris and to attain Pakistan's "destiny." One- Pakistan issues a new stamp, and two it has also renamed a highway as "Srinagar Highway" with signs showing the distance to Srinagar and Leh. 

Foreign Minister Qureshi's controversial statement on the OIC and Saudi Arabia: Signs of confidence or desperation?

On 6 August 2020, Dawn in a news report titled, ''Qureshi asks OIC to stop dragging feet on Kashmir meeting," mentioned Pakistan's foreign minister making the following statement: "I am once again respectfully telling OIC that a meeting of the Council of Foreign Ministers is our expectation. If you cannot convene it, then I'll be compelled to ask Prime Minister Imran Khan to call a meeting of the Islamic countries that are ready to stand with us on the issue of Kashmir and support the oppressed Kashmiris."

The above statement was made by him while he was on a talk show on ARY News. Either, it was a statement out of desperation, without any prior planning, or a carefully drafted message. If it is desperation, one can understand. Pakistan has been trying to get the OIC to intervene on J&K and make a case against India at the bilateral level. Islamabad has also been wanting that the OIC takes up the case of Kashmir as its own and argues for Pakistan in the international forums, including at United Nations. Unfortunately for Pakistan, neither of these have happened so far. Neither has the OIC come down heavily on India with a statement or has it threatened to take actions against Delhi Nor has it taken up the case of Kashmir in international forums. 

Pakistan is not only frustrated but also desperate to get some international support for its position. Except for a few statements from Beijing, there has been no concrete support for Pakistan on Kashmir. So one could understand if the foreign minister has made that statement out of desperation or frustration.

If it is a message, who is it targeted at? Is it rhetoric targeting the domestic audience that Pakistan is willing to stand up and give an ultimatum to the OIC? Or, is it actually targeting the OIC, and Saudi Arabia?

If it is, can Pakistan afford to? There is no support for Qureshi's bravado against the OIC event within Pakistan. Shahbaz Sharif, leader of the PML-N and the leader of the opposition, called Qureshi's statement as "highly unfortunate and irresponsible." 

The Express Tribune, in its editorial, was even more specific and categorical. It said: "While we have all the right to give precedence to our own national and diplomatic interests, nothing should annoy a friend like Saudi Arabia with which our bilateral ties spans our entire existence as a nation. We are sure the incumbent government realises the importance of Pakistan's strategic relations with Saudi Arabia and knows how to proceed ahead."


Also during the week...

Pakistan's new "Srinagar Highway" with the signboard showing distance to Leh and Srinagar (Image Source: Dawn)

In Brief
prepared by
Lakshmi V Menon, Abigail Miriam Fernandez and Sukanya Bali

Govt appoints retired Brig Shujah Hassan as new PSM chief
On 7 August, the government-appointed retired Brig Shujah Hassan as the new chief executive officer of the Pakistan Steel Mills (PSM). As per the notification issued by the Establishment Division the appointment of the new chief will be for one year with immediate effect until further orders, however, the appointment is subject to termination on one month's notice by either side. Brig Hassan was shortlisted by the PSM board of directors on account of his strong commitment to supporting the government and its vision to review the largest industrial unit in the country. This appointment is the first since 2016 that a full-time PSM chief executive officer has been appointed by the federal government. ("Ex-serviceman appointed PSM chief," Dawn, 8 August 2020)

International flights operations to resume from all airports 
Aviation Division spokesman announced that the government has authorized all types of international and domestic flight operations to and from all airports across Pakistan to resume as per authorization granted to all foreign and domestic operators pre-COVID-I9 summer schedule 2020, including cargo and special flight operations, with effect from 9 August. Further, the spokesman stated that these operations will be conducted as per the established guidelines and standard operating procedures (SOPs). This decision comes after all international and domestic flight operations were suspended in March amid the outbreak of the pandemic. (Mohammad Asghar, "Govt to resume international flights from all airports on 9th," Dawn, 8 August 2020)

WB says that it cannot mediate the water dispute between Pakistan-India 
The World Bank WB has stated its inability to take an independent decision on the appointment of a neutral expert or court of arbitration for settlement of a long outstanding water dispute between Pakistan and India, stating that the two countries would have to bilaterally choose one option. Pakistan requested for the appointment of a Court of Arbitration (COA) while India sought a neutral expert to resolve their dispute on two hydroelectric projects, due to these conflicting positions under the 1960 Indus Waters Treaty, the World Bank was facilitating the two governments to find ways in resolving differences. Former WB Country Director of Pakistan stated, "Both India and Pakistan should come together as to which option to take forward" adding "There is no provision in the treaty for the World Bank to take an independent decision." (Khaleeq Kiani, "WB says cannot mediate in Pakistan-India water dispute," Dawn, 8 August 2020)

Govt decides to lift restrictions as COVID cases decline
On 6 August, the National Coordination Committee (NCC) on COVID-19 decided to lift restrictions on the tourism sector from 8 August and on restaurants and transport sector from 10 August. However, restrictions on the number of people allowed to travel by trains, planes and buses and the mandatory gap between the passengers will remain in place till September. These are to be lifted by October if the situation permits. Further, the committee laid out a timetable for opening up of other sectors, including educational institutions and marriage halls. The NCC meeting was presided over by PM Imran Khan and was attended by representatives from all the provinces. Further, Minister for Planning and Development reiterated, “people should not take it as complete victory as the situation can reverse in case of a change in the attitude of people. I appeal to the people to take more precautionary measures than before.” (Ikram Junaidi, “Amid decline in virus cases, govt opens up country,” Dawn, 7 August 2020)

Parliament to sit for a joint session to discuss FATF bills
The parliament will be sitting for a joint session today intending to pass other crucial bills. This joint session comes a week after two FATF-related bills passed separately from the two houses of parliament successfully. On 5 August, the National Assembly Secretariat issued a one-point agenda for the joint sitting which contains only the Mutual Legal Assistance (Criminal Matter) Bill 2020. The government had managed to get the Mutual Legal Assistance (Criminal Matter) Bill passed from the National Assembly on 6 January after overcoming resistance by the opposition parties. However, the bill could not sail through the Senate, within the 90-day constitutional time frame, forcing the government to get it passed through the joint sitting. (Amir Wasim, “Parliament’s joint sitting today” Dawn, 6 August 2020)

PPP urges government to start the Islamabad temple construction
On 4 August, the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) in a statement urged the federal government to take steps to remove all hurdles in the way of the construction of the temple in Islamabad and inaugurate its work “to give a befitting reply” to PM Narendra Modi, who is scheduled to lay the foundation for the Ram Temple in Ayodhya. The demand was made by PPP Senator Mustafa Nawaz Khokhar as official spokesman for party chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari in a statement issued by the party’s Media Office. The senator added that this move by Modi would “blacken the face of secular India”. Further, he stated that Pakistan should send a message to the world community that the people who belong to all religions enjoyed equal rights in the country as well. (“PPP asks govt to start Islamabad temple construction,” Dawn, 5 August 2020)

PkMAP leader on the role of undemocratic forces in the affairs and politics of the country
On 3 August, Mehmood Khan Achakzai chairman of Pakhtunkhwa Milli Awami Party (PkMAP) said, “The real issue of the country is not Imran Khan, but the unconstitutional role and interference of undemocratic forces in the affairs and politics of the country.” He also said, that “the existing system could not run anymore, and it was about to collapse, as the basic concept of justice was being ignored and civil authority did not exist in the country.” The leader also demanded resolution on the Baloch-Pashtoon issue, saying “We need a separate Pashtoon unit. As long as the Pashtoon-Baloch issue is not resolved, the country will not progress. The Baloch are sitting in the assembly by force. We demand a united Pashtoon assembly”. (“No progress achievable without supremacy of Constitution: Achakzai,” Dawn, 4 August 2020)  

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