Thursday, 19 April 2018

Pakistan is a true friend of Kashmiris – Read below:

Pakistan is a true friend of Kashmiris – Read below:
Dr Shabir Choudhry  19 April 2018

A citizen of Jammu and Kashmir contacted me, and asked me to help him/her with his/her PhD research on Kashmir.

I asked this student to get the proposal approved and then contact me.

The student replied by giving details of the research and said:
‘You are great asset for Kashmiries and it is my pleasure to seek your guidance’.
‘Best regards’ 

I said to the student that in my experience and dealing with Azad Kashmiri students and Pakistani institutions, I don’t think they will allow you to research on this topic, as this will help and promote Kashmiri consciousness and nationalism.

Today I had the following reply:

Aslam o Alaikum.
‘Sir 'they' didn't allow me to carry on my work on that topic which I had mentioned previously’.
Best Regards

I have not given even gender of the student or any other information which can identify him/her.

This shows how friendly is Pakistan to people of JK. Message is clear,
a country which occupies us, bans books on Jammu and Kashmir, and bans newspapers WILL NOT allow people of Azad Kashmir to know about their case, our resources and nationalist trends.

Wednesday, 18 April 2018

China’s shrewd bet on intercontinental rail, Jonathan Hillman

China’s shrewd bet on intercontinental rail
Trains will lose money but Beijing plans to profit politically
Jonathan Hillman  March 28, 2018

It is tempting to believe the old Silk Road is being revived by locomotives. The first rail service from Amsterdam to China began this month, expanding a network that China has made a signature feature of its Belt and Road Initiative. Such services, spanning continents and regions, have grown significantly in recent years, but recent research suggests that like other aspects of the BRI, their economic importance is less game-changing than advertised.

In his speech at the Belt and Road Forum last May, Chinese President Xi Jinping touted China-Europe rail services as an example of practical cooperation along the BRI routes. Chinese state-media heavily promote the announcement of a new service and rattle off impressive growth statistics.

Even countries that have been reluctant to endorse the BRI have embraced China-Europe railways. When a train from Yiwu, China, arrived in London in January 2017, The Telegraph newspaper called it "a new chapter in the history of the centuries-old trading route," and The Guardian said it "heralds the dawn of a new commercial era."

To be sure, China-Europe railways have improved significantly in recent years. Virtually non-existent a decade ago, regular services now connect roughly 35 cities in China with roughly 34 cities in Europe. In 2006, it took 36 days to ship a 40-foot container by rail from Shanghai to Hamburg in Germany. The same journey by rail now takes just 16 days.

Those gains have captured imaginations, but the China-Europe railways will not capture enough trade in the coming years to fundamentally change the broader economic picture. That suggests that China's primary motivation, particularly in the short term, may be political. Chinese officials have grasped that rail makes great headlines, with each new service strengthening the BRI's narrative about bringing China and the rest of the world closer together.

But the reality is that maritime trade is, and will remain, overwhelmingly dominant. During 2016, maritime shipping carried 94% of China-Europe trade by weight, and nearly two-thirds of trade by value. Air freight carried more than 13 times the value of goods than rail.

Standing in the way of greater success is the China-Europe trade imbalance. Roughly 60%-70% of railway shipments are westbound, leaving only 30%-40% of shipments eastbound. On eastbound trips, it is not uncommon for containers to be empty. Other containers are sent back by sea.

The future of rail subsidies is a critical factor. Chinese subsidies can range from $1,000 to $5,000 for each 40-foot container, accounting for up to half the total cost. Some logistics experts believe these subsidies could be phased out in 2018 or 2019, while others see President Xi's term in office as the primary determinant.

China may continue paying for quite some time. Our rough estimates suggest that if rail volumes double between 2017 and 2027, and China reduces its subsidies to $2,500 per 40-foot container, its annual subsidies tab could approach $927 million. Given the political importance China has attached to these routes, this spending could be justified as advertising for the BRI.

Further infrastructure investments will be required as well. There have been some improvements in recent years, including a relatively new dry port at Khorgos, on the China-Kazakh border, that processes trains 20 hours faster than an older terminal on the same frontier.

But as traffic increases, each terminal where rail gauges change is a potential bottleneck. Improvements are also needed in Europe, where rail systems are older than China's and projects often take longer to complete. In the meantime, delays remain a major risk for China-Europe trains, the main selling point for which is speed.

The biggest winners are likely those most closely involved with these new services. Railway manufacturers, owners, operators, logistics firms and freight forwarders all stand to gain. A set of businesses will benefit from lower inventory costs. Among cities, those located on the routes and inland, further away from the coastlines, are likely to see the most gains. China itself stands to benefit politically as well as commercially if these routes become sustainable.

But the overall impact of these changes will be modest. The vast majority of the geographic space the railways pass through will experience no difference. Despite the Silk Road's popular appeal, the emergence of China-Europe railways does not signal the return of a world in which overland trade dominates. The railways have found speed, but their scale remains limited.

Of course, rail is not the entirety of the BRI. The political-economic logic driving China's trains will not necessarily apply to its many other projects, including air, maritime, energy and telecommunications links. Some will be profitable, even in narrow financial terms. Others may be commercial white elephants. Only time will tell. But new China-Europe rail services suggest that for the BRI, financial considerations are far from decisive.

Jonathan Hillman is director of the Reconnecting Asia Project at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, D.C.

Tuesday, 17 April 2018

How the establishment is pushing Pakistan towards another civil war, Imaan Mazari-Hazir

How the establishment is pushing Pakistan towards another civil war
By ignoring the genuine grievances of the Pakhtun, Baloch and Muhajirs in Pakistan, the establishment is repeating the same mistakes it made that led to the dismemberment of Pakistan in 1971
APRIL 17, 2018
There has been a complete blackout of the Pakhtun Tahaffuz Movement (PTM) in the Pakistani media. The PTM, one of the largest movements in the country’s history, is a culmination of the efforts of ordinary people as opposed to a mass demonstration organized by any political party. Young activist, Manzoor Pashteen, is the latest victim of engineered social media campaigns, accusing him of being a ‘traitor’ and ‘blasphemer’. In fact, social media accounts, of Internet bots and those masquerading as journalists, have consistently strived to discredit and slander the PTM by trying to link it to Indian intelligence agencies (an age-old tactic of quelling dissent in the land of the pure).
By ignoring the genuine grievances of the Pakhtun, Baloch and Muhajirs in Pakistan, the security establishment is repeating the same mistakes it made that led to the dismemberment of Pakistan in 1971. The rhetoric that was proudly used as a propaganda tool back then is similarly being adopted now. Instead of this rhetoric and anti-state labelling, the solution to this conflict is rather straightforward, considering the basic nature of the demands of the PTM, namely ending enforced disappearances (which are already illegal under the Constitution) and safeguarding the rights of the Pakhtun as equal citizens of Pakistan.
There have been extrajudicial killings of the Pakhtun and Baloch for decades now and there has been no real change on ground vis-à-vis the security establishment’s policy towards these marginalised and oppressed groups. Now that these people have finally had enough and are demanding that they be treated with dignity, the State has decided to ignore their voices by deflecting from its own excesses.
Let us not forget that the only transition from one democratic government to another took place as recently as the year 2013. The establishment is not going to let go of its power and influence without a fight — even if their methods of warfare push the country into a civil war
As if this situation wasn’t alarming enough, another pot is bubbling just waiting to explode. The Tehreek-i-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP) sit-in in Lahore ended after over a week with complete capitulation of the state apparatus to the organisation’s fascist designs. Their leader, Khadim Hussain Rizvi, is a proclaimed offender with whom the Pakistani military concluded a ‘peace agreement’ just a few months ago, after his party’s 21-day-sit-in in the federal capital. That a handful of the TLP activists, here and there, are able to bring the whole country to a standstill give the impression that Rizvi is being used to destabilise the civil government on the alleged pretext of blasphemy.
While all this has been going on, a media channel allegedly sympathetic to recently disqualified Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif got taken off air, while both the government and the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (PEMRA) denied having ordered that censorship.
One wonders if this is all part of the ‘Bajwa doctrine’ — the ‘off-the-record’ briefing by the Chief of Army Staff to a select group of media personnel on the supposed threats faced by Pakistan, and how the military intended to protect the judiciary against any threats.
It is no secret that the security establishment in Pakistan has been a sacred cow, above any and all criticism, immune from accountability by elected institutions, and the self-styled custodian of Pakistan’s ‘national’ interests. As per this narrative, journalists, academics, intellectuals or anyone even remotely critical of the establishment’s disastrous policies (in supporting extremists, destabilising democracy, etc.) has been abducted at random, tortured, murdered, or has simply ‘disappeared’.
As the civil government desperately holds on to the very little power in its hands, the establishment is preparing for full-blown chaos that allows them to sweep in as the chosen messiahs for the umpteenth time in Pakistan’s history. Unfortunately for the establishment, this is perhaps the first time in our history that ordinary people have spoken up in support of civilian supremacy, clearly pointing the finger at the former for the damage it has done to the State’s institutions.
Of course, such awareness needs to be systematically crippled through new and improved propaganda tactics, including but not limited to extending support to the judiciary. The military-judiciary nexus is, however, not a novel partnership in Pakistan. After all, previously judges in Pakistan have even taken oath under military dictators.
But someone on the outside (or even those who continue to buy the security-centric narrative) may wonder: what is all this chaos being fuelled for? The answer lies in a bird’s eye view of two things: budget allocations and corporate interests. The army in Pakistan has numerous business interests, including in fertilizer, cement, property development, banking, dairy, poultry and the list goes on. On top of their private commercial activity, they are also allocated massive shares of Pakistan’s budget without any debate.
Let us not forget that the only transition from one democratic government to another took place as recently as the year 2013. The establishment is not going to let go of its power and influence without a fight — even if their methods of warfare push the country into a civil war. But the question Pakistanis should be asking right now is not whether they fear a civil war but whether they are willing yet again to choose chaos in the long-term for a false sense of order in the short-term?
The writer is a lawyer. She Tweets: @ImaanZHazir
Published in Daily Times, April 17th 2018.