On a journey to friendship and freedom

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By Iftikhar Ahmed

It is of vital significance to leave hatred behind on a journey to friendship and freedom. Pakistan and India need to put the past in the past, and pave the way for peace, promoting friendly neighbourhoods and creating opportunities for their people in avenues that guarantee a bright future for the next generations. Pakistan’s initiative in the Kartarpur Sahib is a good example of illustrative persuasion that has been appreciated highly by the world community, particularly Sikh pilgrims from India, United States, Canada, and many other countries.

Nothing is more valuable for individuals, groups and nations than friendship. Let us all say: Happy Friends’ Day for world peace. Let us resolve for a world free of tensions and conflicts. Pray for cordiality and tasteful behaviours. Crimes against humanity must be investigated by justice systems and the International Court of Justice. Ratifying the Rome Statute will help in restraining India from pushing its agenda of establishing a Hindu supremacist state by driving out religious minorities under the threat of persecution. Sanity must prevail. Countries and communities need to work together for the sake of humanity, peace and welfare, and fight against ignorance and poverty.

Transparency is needed for a level playing field and for justice and equity. Corruption is no doubt a problem on international as well as on regional and local levels. Any study of corruption should be objective and unbiased, but often it is an instrument to malign the opponents. Over a period of time, the very political tool of accountability has given rise to a new terminology, to a more sophisticated phenomenon that has been given the label of ‘political engineering’. It may require model building and hypotheses to be tested, and all that needs scientific methods. The question is do you base your inquiry on ‘facts’ or ‘assumptions’.

The important questions for a researcher would be related to validity and reliability. You, as a researching administrator or inquiry officer, can’t be simply dealing with imagined things. For you as a researcher the task is both in the realm of policy issues and the existing reality of the developing world, dealing with facts that are verified or verifiable.

Our political and bureaucratic decision makers need to be on the same page to provide effective services and facilities to the people. An orientation strategy is essential, and an empathetic approach can convince the people that government machinery is in action to resolve all important issues. The state is responsible for creation of awareness and positivity.

Other than policy makers and service providers, the state is also expected to educate the people on what constitutes their rights and obligations, and the right to a healthy, meaningful and safe life. Education and training are sources of enlightenment and good behaviour, and essential for character building. Education helps develop and improve credibility and mutual trust. These are traits or characteristics of truth that are much needed for a way forward.

For economic and social development, we need to study the ASEAN region where the level and standard of living is progressively improving. This region has remained stable despite recession. The ASEAN countries have experienced an overall economic rise. India has trade worth more than $12 billion with the ASEAN countries. Considering that Pakistan’s trade is far behind and not so advantageous presently, it is high time that Pakistan established a strong presence in all ten member countries of ASEAN. I hope that this issue came up for discussion in a broader perspective during Prime Minister Imran Khan’s recent visit to Malaysia. Let us look at the entire ASEAN region. However, we in Pakistan consider Malaysia an important ally and a most valued friend.

In the context of peace and the need to resolve conflicts in Afghanistan, Pakistan has finally been recognised by the United States for sacrifices our country made in the war on terror. The Afghan peace process is at a critical stage. What happens in the next few weeks in the talks between the Taliban and the Americans will determine the future of Afghanistan. Sufficient trust has to be visible. If doubts about the Taliban remain on American negotiators’ minds, there may not be a way forward even at this stage. Moreover, the Afghan government has to be fully involved to resolve the issue. President Donald Trump also does not seem to be in a mood to end the never-ending war. Still, one would hope that the US, Taliban, the Afghan government, and other political groups in Afghanistan see the light at the end of the tunnel.

Experience is a great teacher, but it depends on the major playerto see if they have learnt a lesson to go the right way. The Taliban government was defeated by Americans after 9/11. This is an important fact on record. Moreover, the Taliban are presently in control of the larger territory of Afghanistan. People live on hope. Let us hope that the longest war ends peacefully.

President Trump has been too busy to do a thing about the promises he made to Prime Minister Khan to solve the Kashmir issue. Kashmiris continue to suffer for a long time and their distress should come to an end. The people of Pakistan marked February 5, 2020 as the Kashmir Solidarity Day for renewing the pledge to continue all-out support to Kashmiris who are engaged in a peaceful struggle to secure their inalienable right to self-determination under the UNSC resolutions.

Imran Khan says that Narendra Modi has cut off his own hands by annexing the Indian-occupied Kashmir on August 5. Prime Minister Khan addressed the AJK assembly, and he also held a meeting with the Hurriyat leaders. The Kashmir issue can only be settled under the United Nations resolutions.

(The writer is the former director of National Institute of Administration (NIPA), Government of Pakistan.)