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Education is the most important key for the development of a nation

Laila Shahnawaz

All of us understand and realize the fact that education plays an important role to make a nation, a state successful. Pakistan has also signed international instruments including Convention on Child Rights (CRC) and being a developing country has done some legislation on free and compulsory education for children in. The article 25 A of the constitution deals with right to education and says the state shall provide free and compulsory education to all children between the ages of 5 to 16.

The federal government had passed the article in 2012.

The provinces have also passed it from their respective assemblies while Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa was the last, among provinces, to enact the law in 2017 six years after the insertion of Article 25-A and rules of business are not yet notified even the government tenure has come to an end and the new tenure has been started after elections 2018 and without rules of business it is not possible to implement free and compulsory education law.

There is lack of implementation of this law. Under this Act, the government is responsible for providing free education to the students and parents will have to send their children to school.

While parents would be punishable with imprisonment up to one month or fine which may extend up to Rs100 per day or with both for not sending their children to schools, but we see this law has not been implemented yet.

As children of the same ages can be seen not going to schools, while there is not a single report of taking action against parents in this connection.

According to a 2015 report of AlifAilaan (non-profit organization) the proportion of out of school children increases as the level of education rises as much as that by the higher secondary level almost 85% are not in school.

In recent years, Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (K-P) has experienced unprecedented growth in the public sector’s budgetary allocations for education. And according to data from the Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (K-P) Elementary and Secondary Education Department, in 2012-13 the budget allocated for education in the province was Rs 63.69 billion. This budget was increased to Rs84.63 billion in 2013-14 by the incumbent Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) government.

In 2014-15, this was raised by another 20 per cent to Rs93.611 billion. Similarly, in 2015-16 the education budget raised to Rs104.252 billion, and then to Rs118.7 billion in 2016-17. Having consistently allocated large portions of its budget for education over the past five years, the overall allocation for education by the government has more than doubled during this time.

However, it is very unfortunate that the latest official data sources reveal a static picture of primary and secondary education in the province.

Preliminary results of a recent extensive household survey conducted in all 25 districts of KP discloses that approximately 1.8 million children of 5-16 years of age are currently out of school, and according to the Economic Survey of 2016-17, the literacy rate is 53 per cent since 2012, meaning that 47 per cent of adults in the province remain illiterate. 31 percent children do not attend school due to lack of interest, 17 percent due to unavailability of schools and 28 percent because of poverty.

The reason behind the lack of interest is that people in the province do not see long term benefits of education or do not hold confidence in the ability of schools to provide quality education.

There are persistent crises of out-of-school children and high levels of student attrition beyond primary schools due to lack of schools and facilities.

The province also faces wide intra-provincial disparities, especially in primary school infrastructure, whereas some of the districts need special attention.

Low literacy rate is not the only issue; another biggest challenge of the KP is child labor. Child labor, in various forms, is found in every nook and corner of the country.

The Global Index Survey 2013 listed Pakistan as the third country, after Mauritania and Haiti, where child labor prevails whereas some 1.5 million children are currently involved in child labor in KP.

This is just the estimated figures, because the last survey conducted on child labor in the country was in 1996 by the Federal Bureau of Statistics.

There is need to conduct another child labor survey in Pakistan to know the actual situation. After the survey no concrete steps were taken. According to KP Social welfare department that various laws have been enacted in this regard but it is hard enough to see any such law which has been fully implemented.

The government under KP Child Protection and Welfare Commission (KPCPWC) established child protection units with the support of UNICEF but last year these units were closed due to non availability of funds.

After the 18th Amendment, all matters relating to child labor have been devolved to the provinces.

The KP has enacted legislation on child labor by passing the KP Prohibition of Employment of Children Act 2016, but unfortunately it has yet to make rules for it and that is the main hurdle in the implementation of this law.

Lack of education, poverty, displacement, unemployment, terrorism, militancy, disasters, lack of legislation and implementation, Gender based violence, increase in psychological problems, use of alcohol, early child marriages and abuses, rigid cultural norms, religious extremism,  notion of masculinity, human & women rights violation, security situation are some of the issues in KP that needs special attention of the government and law makers.

Education can play a vital role in preventing and eliminating GBV. Including gender into our curriculum, developing educational contents, developing policies and practices that promote gender equality, respect and tolerance is necessary so that students learn how to refrain or protect themselves and others from GBV.

Students need to acquire relevant knowledge, skill and behavior to prevent and address GBV so that gender equality is promoted.

We need awareness programs, decrease in gap between the communities and leadership, gender budget allocation, capacity building programs, monitoring and accountability systems, creation and implementation of laws, improved coordination among stakeholders, safe environment, research work, authentic data, true leadership & political will  to secure the future of our children.

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Ali Sher Yousafzai

The Holly village Biroch is situated at a distance of 14 kilometers towards North from Sudhum Rustam at the foot of historical and Holly Mountain Sukkra where Buddhists stayed for a long. It is surrounded by high peaked mountains.

It has only one out let. Biroch has very rich history, it was considered a holly village from the era of Aryan to Hindu Ramal. Hindu Ramal had many sacred places where they offered water, fruits, flowers and incense to their Gods and Goddess. A historic battle was fought here between Mehmood Ghaznavi. Hindu Ramal’s worship places and sacred sites were destroyed by Mehmood Ghaznavi, the bodies of their Gods and Goddess were rocked. In 18th century Bobu Khel tribe came to the village from Spinkay for hunting and occupied the village afterward. They tyrannically ruled the village till 1992.

In the mid of 1992 a battle erupted between Ahoon Khel and Babu Khel over communal property and lasted for a decade. Both tribes suffered with a human and material lose. Finally the battle won by Ahoon Khel tribe, they snatched their ancestral property and occupied communal land. Alkhaj Hazrat Nabi Aasim (late) the poet and orator brought the two tribes on one page and thus the battle ended. Presently Ahoon Khel tribe is living in the village and Babu Khel in the backers.

Village’s lush valley, brims with meadows, lush-green vegetation, stunning sights, forests, lakes, and the ever gurgling and shimmering water, singing waterfalls and caves, grab local tourists and travelers’ attention. The scenic waterfall of “Rawdand” means (runaway water) has a charm that is un-paralleled. It is gushing in full flow almost all through the year. At the base of waterfall there is also a plunge pool in which the villagers are bathing, swimming and enjoying the singing and dancing of waterfalls especially in summer.

At the starting point of the waterfall there is a natural well from where the water bursts is known as “Navidand” in the local and native language. Navi mean bride and dand mean pond. Local elders are of the view that a newly married couple was drowned in that well while they were on their way to home from borderly attached village Sir Banda.

Close to the waterfall there is big cave in which the villagers especially the elders taking nap in summer and the Holy month of Ramadan. Beside this there are other caves in the hilly terrain of “Khanako” and “Zaga Dheri”. Archeologist believe that humans have been living in these caves from forty five thousand years.

In the mid of the village there is a pond of Turkish era considered the pond of Rani. In the pond there is ancient time fish present which is imagined forbidden to catch. The village is comprised of roughly 200 households with a few hamlets situated in the nearby areas.

Socio-economic aspects of the village are very low. Some of the inhabitants are farmers, some depend on local remittances, and few of them are living in abroad and earn their bread and butter. The village lack basic services like basic health unit, police post, mass education, proper cell phone coverage, and internet access. People living over there need development in the mentioned areas in order to make it more pleasant and comfortable to live.

Health services in the village is poor, The village has a few spiritual and faith healers, traditional healers (quacks) like Pirs, Hakeem, bonesetters, village birth attendants and nothing else. These healers are classified as quacks and having no formal medical qualifications but portray themselves as formal health care providers. Government has tried to provide the health services to the community through various programs, but, inequalities and disparities in service provision still remains and health is not accessible to many villagers from lower socioeconomic strata.

Thus, poor people are more prone to develop many illnesses including infectious diseases. The overall situation in the village is quite stressful and it can make local inhabitants more vulnerable to depression and chronic diseases. These issues pose threats to the survival of helpless people. However, through proper will and determination, the District administration along with the newly established Provincial government can address these issues.


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From Texas to Cairo: What does it even mean to be ‘safe’?

alia Azim

Is anywhere safe anymore? Dalia Azim dismantles the paradoxes of fear and xenophobia towards the Arab world as an American introducing Egypt to her children for the first time. I like to think I’m a good mother. Not that anyone has suggested otherwise, at least not directly, but I’ve felt my maternal judgment called into question numerous times by well-meaning friends who wondered whether it was safe for me to take my children to Egypt last winter.

While I appreciated their concerns and understood why they were justified, I also heard striking xenophobia in their tones. You see, I’d developed a hypersensitivity to this particular brand of fear while growing up in the predominantly white enclaves of suburban Denver. It became most acute in the years after 9/11 when I lived in New York City. The reason many Americans are afraid of Arabs is not altogether mysterious. As an Egyptian, I can’t help but take it all a little personally.

It’s been 10 years since my last visit to Egypt, an unusually long absence for me. My parents took me back for the first time when I was just a few months old; but the land was already rooted in my consciousness by the time I first started forming memories. All of my grandparents and most of my parents’ siblings and their families lived in Cairo. In sharp contrast, I could count on one hand the number of relatives I had in the States; all of them living in different, distant cities. Our big family gatherings back in Cairo were warm, boisterous miracles to me, something I would miss in the gaps between visits. My parents made it a priority to travel back there as often as we could afford, and eventually we settled into a steady pattern of visiting every 18 months or so, alternating between summer and winter.

The night I arrived with my children in Cairo in December, we were met by a modern reprise of the reunions I remember so fondly. Two of my mother’s three sisters were there, along with their children, spouses and grandchildren. At one memorable point that evening, one of my aunts asked in an aggressive, humorous way why I’d stayed away for so long. I nervously rattled off a list of excuses—work, money, kids, etc.—finally landing on the concern some of my friends had voiced ahead of our trip: “I wasn’t sure it was safe.” “Safe?” she shot back immediately, her astute eyes sparkling with incredulity. She wore her hair covered when out in public, but around family she abandoned the scarf. Her hair was thick and wiry, coppery brown with an inch of regal white around the crown.

“Is America safe?”, she retorted. “Look at Las Vegas!”. Las Vegas had been the victim of a recent American massacre, and a timely example of the United States’ mushrooming epidemic of senseless gun-fueled violence. I reflected that if I’d visited a year earlier, she might have brought up Orlando, or perhaps a few months later the high school shooting in Parkland, Florida.

There are too many examples to choose from, an ever-growing list of places where hideous tragedy strikes. In truth though, tourism to the United States has been on the decline in recent years, with blame typically assigned to the strength of the US dollar and President Donald Trump’s unwelcoming anti-immigration policies.

But what if fear was also keeping visitors to the US away? Ironically enough, have we become one of those unpredictably violent places people are afraid to visit? My aunt’s words got in my head, so I started looking up statistics related to violence in Egypt compared to the US.

I found that in fact, Egypt is measurably safer than the United States. You’re three times more likely to get murdered in the US than you are in Egypt, and the intentional homicide rate—the rate per capita of willfully inflicted homicide—is four times greater in the US than it is in Egypt. The disparity probably has its roots in access to guns.

The United States leads the world when it comes to gun ownership, where for every 100 residents, we purportedly possess an average of 88.8 firearms. In sharp contrast, the figure for Egypt is 3.5 guns for every 100 citizens, given that it is extremely difficult for a civilian to obtain a firearm in Egypt. Of course, those intent on violence will find other means, and the fact that terrorism has plagued Egypt for decades is likely what led people to question our safety when we traveled there this winter.

But I didn’t feel reassured by the conversations I had with Egyptians about this problem. Like my aunt who brought up Las Vegas when I cited attacks on tourists as a reason for why I’d kept my family at a distance for a decade, instead of acknowledging the issue, they countered with evidence of violence in America. This knee-jerk projection was the norm, it would seem. On our second day in Cairo, we took a tour of the Coptic Christian quarter. I asked our guide about attacks targeting Copts in Egypt (Bassam, the tour guide, was a self-described Christian).

He told me, “That all happened a long time ago,” when, in fact, there had been at least five separate, targeted attacks on Copts in Egypt to date that year. Nine days later, 11 people were killed when a gunman went on a rampage in a church near Cairo. I understand why Bassam would want to underplay the violence — tourism accounts for around 13 percent of the Egyptian economy and for almost an equal proportion of the country’s workforce. Tourism has suffered a steady decline in Egypt since the Arab Spring in 2011, and the subsequent rise of the Muslim Brotherhood (whose representative, Mohamed Morsi, was forcibly removed from the presidency in 2013.

Bassam spoke bitterly about having to sell his wife’s jewelry to make ends meet when Egypt’s tourist industry bottomed out in 2013 and he found himself severely underemployed. Along with Bassam and our driver, we also had an armed guard accompany us on the days we toured Cairo. The tourist agency told us this was a requirement when there were six or more foreigners traveling in a group together.

I wondered at the time whether they might consider less drastic, perhaps more effective tactics—like not operating bright pink tourist buses calling attention to themselves. It was in line with what I’d read about Egypt bolstering its security forces and measures around the country in a recent effort to lure back tourists. The armed guard assigned to us was affable enough and shared my father’s name, which we shared a good laugh about.

His conspicuous presence in the van’s passenger seat with the ever-present outline of his holster visible against the edge of his chair made me feel more anxious than safe. Another day, we even had a police car escort us from Cairo’s famous marketplace, Khan-el-Khalili, back to the restaurant where we were scheduled to have dinner, and eventually back to our hotel. Bassam shrugged noncommittally, and explained it as part of Egypt’s “new rules.” Was this the best use of the country’s resources, I wondered?

With Egypt’s poverty rate holding at a staggering rate of 30 percent, I couldn’t help but think of better uses for the money. Not to mention that so many of the amped-up security measures felt like token, ineffectual gestures. There were metal detectors lining the entrances of every tourist site in Egypt. Meanwhile, guards habitually waved parades of people through the detector as it buzzed, continuously unheeded and ignored.

I was told time and time again that there was no need for me to pass my bag through X-ray machines. Apparently, I looked innocuous enough, just another smiling, unveiled, brown-skinned Egyptian-American tourist. Or maybe it was because they weren’t suspicious of tourists in general. Rather, they feared their own.

Once we got out of Cairo, security lightened up considerably. We flew to Aswan and then took a boat up the Nile to Luxor, stopping at numerous ancient monuments along the way. Metal detectors and X-ray machines were still a clamorous feature at all major tourist sites, but we no longer had armed guards or police escorts accompanying our tours.

In all the times I’d been to Egypt, I had never traveled to the southern part of the country before. This was a first for me, as I experienced the awe-inspiring temples of Philae, Kom Ombo, Edfu and Karnak; the Valley of the Kings and the Valley of the Queens along with my children and husband.

It was a remarkable, transformative trip for us all, igniting in my half-Egyptian children a deep interest in that side of their heritage. I recognised that same spark in their eyes. I had it once too. Of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, only one still stands: the Great Pyramid of Giza. Every time I’ve been to Cairo, at least to my memory, I’ve insisted on a visit to the Pyramids, and who can blame me? They may look magnificent in photographs, but nothing compares to the experience of standing on that ancient, sandy plateau and gazing up at the time-worn monoliths.

I’m incredibly happy I was able to take my children there, and that it is now inscribed in their memories.

There is still so much of Egypt we have left to see—so much of the world—and I hope we can spend the coming years exploring together, without fear, while accepting at the same time that nowhere is completely safe: especially our own country.


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Narcotics, a serious threat to KP and Tribal Areas

Sabir Shah Orakzai

Since 1979, due to war in Afghanistan, the weapon-tradition expanded in Khyber Pakhtoonkhwa and tribal areas of Pakistan. This not only increased the trade of drugs and narcotics but also used tribal areas as a centre for smuggling to the other foreign countries and remained perdured till the day.

After 9/11, terrorism increased in tribal areas and the active consortia also boosted up their activities which consisted of mostly young generation due to which distortion was seen in the tribal society.

The military of Pakistan conducted many operations, from Waziristan to Bajaur and from FR Dera Ismail Khan to FR Peshawar, which still persist in some areas. Along the troubles resulted from war, the  most-dangerous threat to the tribal areas is drug abuse and narcotics mostly affecting the young generation.

A large number of youngsters are affected and have become addictive to various drugs. Seventeen years old class eighth student, Zeeshan, who belongs to a far-flung area of District Orakzai has been using hashish since few years. His father, according to him, used hashish as a trade for earning purpose. He used to steal it from his house for a friend and, in this way, became addictive.

The UN Organization for Anti-Norcotics & Crime, in its annual report, has mentioned that 10% people of total population of Pakistan are addictive to different kinds of intoxicants. The report also said that 4.7% population of Khyber Pakhtoonkhwa and ex-FATA make use of weeds while 5.8% take different addictive drugs as pain-killer and 2.8% use different types of tablet as medication for rest and sleep purpose. The report has mentioned that the number of addicted population is substantial at KP and ex-FATA telling the border between Pakistan and Afghanistan as its main reason where these can easily be obtained because tribal areas are used as a pavement for smuggling them. A social organization, in order to cure drug-addicts, has been serving in Peshawar since 1992 which has thrivingly treated 40K addicts mostly belonging to KP, ex-FATA and Afghanistan. This organization, in the last three years, has treated more than 3K addicts with the collaboration of provincial government. There are more than 24 lacs addicts to different drugs  in KP but there are only 150 beds in different hospitals due to which the capacity to cure them is inconvenient. However, the organization has a capacity of 800 beds. Talking of the whole country, there are more than 70 lacs addicts with a capacity of 2000 beds only.

According to the Standing Committee of Senate for Anti-Narcotics, the number of addicts has been increasing 4% annually and an amount of 26400 US-dollars has been disbursed on their treatment.  According to Anti-Narcotics, 75% of opium in the world is cultivated in Afghanistan resulting in the production of various drugs like heroine and 140 ton is smuggled through tribal areas and Baluchistan annually. In this amount, 20% is gotten hold by government institutions and, in the rest, some is used here while other is transferred to Europe, Gulf and America.

There are different kinds of intoxicants in the current day. Aged-people are addicted to use Heroine, Hashish and Opium while, on the flip side, youngsters are addicted to Ice which is also known as Crystal Meth, Shesha and Hashish affecting the boys and girls in educational institutions. According to a survey, held previous year by International Organization for Anti-Narcotics, 50% of students, including male and female in various universities, are involved in different types of addiction including hashish and Ice.

According to Ministry of Health, 700 people, on the daily basis, die due to drug-abuse and narcotics in Pakistan. Addiction not only affects the memory but also weakens physical body. Government should initiate awareness programs in order to inform the harms of drug addiction. Those addicted should immediately quit otherwise it will be late later on.



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End of Syrian revolution as we know it?

Muhammad Ghazi

Victory by the Assad regime over the last bastion of the Syrian resistance is far from a foregone conclusion. Worse still for the Assad regime, it could unite the opposition into making a last stand. Over the last two years the Syrian revolution has taken a dramatic turn from what it was in the early days of the revolution.

It’s fair to say that the revolution started with civil unrest followed by mass arrests, widespread torture and killings by the Syrian regime against those who dared to speak up and protest. Then came the early stages of armed resistance that took shape from the announcements of the Free Syrian Army (FSA), followed by many other armed groups and factionalisation. The early days of the conflict may be described as those of resilience in the face of a vicious onslaught by the regime, perseverance, and a refusal to “prostrate” to Bashar al Assad.

It was characterised by continuous battles and countless “martyrs”. The people had enough of Assad. Then came the liberation of the city of Idlib which was a landmark event in the history of the revolution as the opposition controlled much of the countryside and a single city: Raqqa. Other parts of the country were then liberated. The regime had by then already been besieging and starving places like Homs, Zabadani and Madaya to name a few.

The tactic of ‘siege and starvation’ began to work. Many recall the pictures of fighters and their families being transported in green buses from their homelands to the northern Syrian province of Idlib, the heartland of the revolution. The regime has used this tactic over the last couple of years.

Taking out one opposition or rebel-held area at a time until it becomes nearly certain that the final destination of all besieged fighters is the province of Idlib. Politics played a larger role than fighting during several stages of the revolution and revolutionaries realised there were forces bigger than their pump action shotguns and chants of war. The political battle was so dominant at certain times that many armed groups wouldn’t fight a single battle during that time.

Then came the Astana talks and “de-escalation zones”; a new concept to those on the ground in Syria. Many believed that this was some kind of conspiracy and not the end of the war, others begged to differ and were almost certain that the war was over and that “new borders had been drawn”. The Syrian people describe what happened next as “expected treachery”.

VOA reported last week, paraphrasing the United Nations special envoy Staffan de Mistura, as “Syria as a sovereign country has every right to reclaim its territory.” Those that believed everything was a conspiracy are now convinced that international peace talks and conferences were a conspiracy to cover up a larger plan. Some even said that Staffan de Mistura has now proven that he is not a neutral peacemaker but rather a complicit partner to the regime’s slaughter and torture of innocents.

For many here in northern Syria it does seem that the war is on the verge of restarting if the regime and its Russian backers start an offensive on the densely populated province. Idlib is currently home to just under 3 million people, over 1 million of them are refugees. Carpet bombing, that has become the modus operandi of the regime will spell disaster for a province that is more densely populated than at any time in its history.

Peace talks between opposition and rebel factions have now restarted after the announcement of a “renewed war on Idlib”. To the average Syrian, the battle for Idlib is not simply about ‘getting rid of terrorists’ as has been announced by the Russians, the Syrian regime, and even the UN. For many Syrians, this is not the case, rather it’s an offensive that aims to silence the revolution and its hope for freedom, once and for all.

The past month in northern Syria has been full of preparations by armed groups and civilians alike. Many civilians have voluntarily taken part in digging trenches with nothing but shovels and pickaxes, some have even been killed in the process due to the intense regime bombardment in areas in Hama, Sahl Al Ghab and Aleppo. In preparation for an offensive many people have been caught working for the Syrian regime, the locals call these people “frogs” or “dafadi” who are willing to work with Russia and the Assad regime.

Rebel sources I have spoken with tell me “we have certain information that those that have been arrested were to be relied heavily on by the regime when the offensive does start”. However not all hope is lost. The free people of Idlib will not allow international powers to decide their fate for them. Nor will they simply and idly wait as a brutal regime seeks to exert its long lost legitimacy with their blood.

A video statement was released by the National Front for Liberation or ‘Jabhat al Wataniya lil Tahrir’ dated 1 September stating that “those young men who at one stage gave up on the revolution are now back in the trenches.” It seems that the spirit of the early days of the revolution is now back, and in case the regime and Russia’s offensive does actually start, we will likely see a new stage in the Syrian revolution similar to the one we knew in the early days.


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How China has made a mark in Africa

Essam Abdel-Aziz Sharaf

Beijing has adopted an approach of mutual interest, respect and equality without interfering in the affairs of others

In his 1996 speech entitled “Toward a New Historical Step for Sino-African Friend-ship” at the headquarters of the Organization of African Unity, then Chinese president Jiang put forward a five-point proposal on developing a long-term and stable relationship between China and Africa for the 21st century. The key components of the proposal were sincere friendship, treating each other on an equal footing, solidarity and cooperation, common development and a future-oriented relationship.China has faithfully implemented this proposal in Africa. China’s aid is not tied to political conditions, nor does it force Africans to do something they do not want, and it does not make empty promises. As we learned from John-Paul Sartre: “We are not what we say, but what we do.” So, the reason for Sino-African convergence is what China does. What matters most to us is, how has China reached Africa? How has China, with all geographic factors separating it from Africa, managed to achieve all this success and made its presence in the continent a remarkable phenomenon? To answer this fundamental question, we need to understand the foundations of the relationship between China and Africa. I say this is due to soft diplomacy, because it is not based on armed force but on culture, political values and economic and diplomatic relations, according to Harvard professor Joseph Samuel Nye, in his book The Rise of China’s Soft Power. The idea of “soft change” adopted by China in Africa after the founding of the China in 1949, is a very effective way of creating benefits for Africa and China; and on the fact that China was never an occupying power in Africa. China also does not interfere in the internal affairs of African countries, which increases the respect of African leaders and elites toward China. There is no doubt that this rational human development policy has led to China’s economic, political, military and cultural influence on our continent and around the world.

What China has achieved is represented by dynamic and active mechanisms. Trade between China and Africa increased more than 200-fold from US$765 million in 1978 to US$170 billion in 2017. In the first five months of 2018, China-Africa trade increased 17.7 percent year-on-year to about US$82bn. About 3,100 Chinese companies have invested in Africa on projects in transportation, energy, telecommunications, industrial zones, agricultural technology centers, water supply, schools and hospitals.

The establishment of infrastructure has become one of the priorities of China-Africa cooperation within the framework of the Belt and Road Initiative, covering areas such as railways, highways, ports and power generation.

In 2015, China announced 10 cooperation plans between China and Africa to help the continent accelerate industrialization and agricultural modernization. A US$10 billion China-Africa capacity cooperation fund has also been set up to support projects such as economic zones and industrial zones. Let us also see what Africa can offer China to demonstrate the need for each other. The African continent is made up of 54 countries, which represent the world’s largest promising market with a population of more than 1.1 billion people, an area of 30 million square kilometers (20 percent of the world’s land mass). The continent needs to build everything, so major global economic powers, including China, see it as a land of great potential. Markets on other continents are no longer able to stimulate the world economy because their investment and consumption are near saturation. The African continent, which is growing at an annual rate of 5.8 percent, has about 124 billion barrels of oil reserves, which account for about 12 percent of the world’s reserves. Its natural gas reserves account for about 10 percent of the world’s total reserves, with about 500 trillion cubic meters of natural gas reserves. Africa also has other natural and primary resources, producing about 90 percent of the world’s platinum, 40 percent of its diamonds, 30 percent of uranium, 27 percent of cobalt, 9 percent of the iron ore; and 50 percent of the gold reserves.

Agriculture is one of the most important economic activities in Africa, thanks to the diversity of the climate and its abundance of rivers. Two-thirds of its people are engaged in agriculture. It is one of the largest sources of agricultural products such as coffee, cotton and cocoa. In addition to the massive fish stocks, Africa also has many forests, which produce large quantities of timber. China has adopted an approach of mutual interest, respect and equality without interfering in the affairs of others. China has built 3,300 kilometers of roads, 30 hospitals, 50 schools and 100 power plants in more than 40 African countries, sending business people and doctors. It has sent about 1,600 doctors to rural areas.

In October 2000, China initiated the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC) to promote trade and investment relations in the public and private sectors, which put China-Africa economic relations on the fast track. In 2012, the Fifth Ministerial Conference of the FOCAC in Beijing endorsed a plan of action for 2013-15, whereby African countries received concessional loans from China for US$20 billion to develop agricultural and industrial infrastructure for self-development and sustainable development. The number of Chinese companies or their branches is estimated at more than 2,000 (700 in 2005), and they are active in agriculture, mining, construction and reconstruction, trade and investment, processing of resource products, manufacturing and commercial logistics. China has trained 30,000 Africans and provides 18,000 scholarships for African students; China bases its vision on the grounds that “cultural communication” is a guaranteed alternative to see the true face of China’s ancient civilization, not as an economic power that comes to drain the resources of the continent.

The conclusion is that the 21st century has seen the rise of new powers on the world stage and the decline of traditional powers; and signs of “alternative globalization” that challenges Western influence and limits its power. In this context, China is emerging as a non-Western country that is rapidly advancing on the world stage, introducing alternative policies and practices, especially in development models. In the broader context, “alternative globalization” can be described as a set of values that establishes an alternative to existing practices, institutions, policies and resources. In this regard, we can note that since the founding of New China, Beijing’s role at the global level has become increasingly important, driven by economic growth, industrial and technological development, and the mobilization of political, economic and cultural instruments for international recognition as a major force to serve the concept of “alternative globalization”.

China’s relationship with Africa has evolved over the course of more than 60 years to become more profound and powerful, turning into a distinct partnership that reflects China’s growing influence in Africa, and provides a possible alternative to the influence of Western power structures and culture in Africa. China’s flexible use of multilateral foreign policy tools – as I always repeat – from the use of political tools to the economy and culture has helped to cement the Chinese footprint in Africa.


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Who is the terrorist? IMF, Buhari regime or faceless groups

Abdul Mumin Giwa

I was shocked when my attention was drawn to a false claim by a faceless NGO ‘Coalition of Arewa CSO for Progress and Change’. The group claimed that the Islamic Movement in Nigeria (IMN) paid N250 million to a person named Dr. Idris Ahmad, who is yet to be identified. The story was reported and given special coverage in the media in utter disregard of the journalistic ethics.

While this was going on, a few days later, another faceless group demanded that the IMN be declared a terror group by Muhammad Buhari regime. I was quick to notice that it was all being done as part of a sinister conspiracy against the IMN and Sheikh Ibraheem Zakzaky by same shadowy forces.

I was about to respond to the first bogus claim when the other salvo was fired. So I decided to respond to both claims through this article, to set the records straight.

Following the clampdown on the IMN, the extra-judicial killings and mass murder of its members from 12th to 14th of December 2015 by the Nigerian Army led by its chief, over thousand members of the IMN, who were unarmed worshippers made up of mostly women and children, were butchered by the Army in the most brutal manner. Their crime was attending the ceremony to celebrate the birth anniversary of Prophet Muhammad (pbuh).

Initially, the story of mass killing was coming only from the IMN as the Army had taken over all the propaganda machinery. They claimed that the group blocked the way of the Chief of Army Staff (COAS) and he made his way through by killing six people. They also shamelessly claimed that the IMN was after the life of the COAS but he managed to escape. In fact the COAS even went to report to the Nigerian Human Rights Commission (NHRC) that his life was threatened by the IMN.

Somehow, some questions arose that raised doubt on the army in the eyes of the public.

The Army chief claimed he was blocked at a particular location and he killed six to make his way, but why did the killings persist for two days in three other different locations that were several kilometers away from the scene?

Why was the residence of the IMN leader Sheikh Zakzaky attacked? Is the punishment for blocking the COAS and his convoy by unarmed civilians mass murder and extra-judicial killing?

Being an accomplice in the crime against humanity, the Kaduna state governor Nasiru el-Rufai set up a Judicial Commission of Inquiry (JCI) to investigate the issue comprising some ‘insiders’ whose duty is basically to demonize the IMN using their sectarian vendetta.

The JCI issued a report indicting the Nigerian Army and revealing to the world that the Army chief killed 347, not six as he earlier claimed. It didn’t stop there, in total violation of international and local laws, especially the Geneva Convention, the 347 IMN members were extra-judicially killed by the COAS and his men and were buried in a mass grave at Mando village close to Kaduna, something the Army had denied until the JCI revelation.

The leader of the IMN Sheikh Ibraheem Zakzaky, whose residence was attacked by the heavily armed soldiers, was shot at close range, with an intention to murder him in cold blood. He lost an eye in that incident and the mechanical function of a limb. His wife was also shot in the belly and both of them have been refused treatment by the Nigerian government, which is keeping them in illegal detention, in contempt of the federal high court order.

The Nigerian army had killed three of his sons before and in this incident they killed three more. The marauding soldiers blew off the head of the youngest and splashed his brains on the body of Sheikh. Not to mention the manner in which many of his followers were burned alive or thrown to the ground from story buildings or how helpless and injured persons were shot dead at close range by the soldiers and their bodies mutilated. Can it get any more brutal and savage?

One other brutal incident was when they locked the elder sister of Sheikh Zakzaky in a room along with her son and set the room ablaze. The old woman was shouting “are you going to burn us alive” until she died. If these acts cannot be classified as ‘state terrorism’, then what else could be?

A lot of people escaped with critical injuries while others were lucky to escape unhurt, including my wife and children. There are thousands of witnesses out there living with the trauma and harrowing memories.

Despite all these brutalities, the IMN with its membership of about 20 million did not take the law into its hands, but sought redress through peaceful and legal means. It took the case to the federal high court where the fundamental rights of the IMN leader were enforced and an order for his release, compensation, provision of a new residence and personal police protection was issued by the court.

The Buhari government refused to obey the court order, resulting which the IMN leader is still in illegal detention. It’s been more than a year and the IMN members continue to protest peacefully.

Coming to the bogus claims of paying N250 million to some shadowy figure to indict the army, if the IMN really has that much money to pay for discrediting the army, it would have used it in catering for the thousands of widows and orphans created by the COAS and his men. It would have used it in treating those who emerged from the killings with complicacies. It would have used it in giving a better life to those children whose parents were murdered by the army and have to live on donations from other IMN members.

And for the wishful suggestion of declaring IMN a terror organization, I have sited acts of state terrorism perpetrated by the Buhari regime, a situation that has led the International Criminal Court in The Hague to step up its investigation on the matter, I would like the SERG or Buhari regime or the Nigerian army to site acts of terrorism perpetrated by the IMN, if any, in its over 40 years of existence.

I was shocked but certainly not surprised when these faceless groups emerged.

The Army frowned at the Human Rights Watch (HRW) for calling on it to come clean on the Zaria massacre.

The army has discredited the Amnesty International (AI) for speaking against its excesses.

A faceless group called Gyallesu Youths was also used to justify the government’s state terrorism in Zaria. A faceless group was also used to protest in Kaduna against the IMN where the hoodlums ended up fighting at the Kaduna NUJ while sharing the proceeds after the protest. These are just a few of several state sponsored NGOs castigating the IMN.

The Buhari regime has committed horrendous crimes against humanity. It has committed genocide against a minority group simply because the president and some of his people don’t share the same faith and ideology.

What has the Islamic Movement in Nigeria (IMN) done to be termed a terror group? Is it seeking redress in courts or the peaceful street protests that are rampantly attacked by armed policemen who have killed several IMN members on the streets or is it the belief of the IMN that we are either brothers in faith or brothers in humanity, therefore we are all brothers that they call terrorism? Who then is the terrorist?



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The real challenge Imran Khan faces

Nabeel Hussain

Hum dekhenge….

Lazim hai k hum bhi dekhenge….

These famous lines are excerpted from Faiz Ahmed Faiz’s famous revolutionary poem. The poem elucidates the basic desire of common people that “We will see a time when Mountains of Injustice are blown away like a cotton.” Reincarnating this poem right now is to remind Imran Khan the real challenge he has to face in future is the desire of common people of Pakistan. Imran Khan a revolutionary, cricketer turned politician and his party Pakistan Tehrik-e-Insaf (PTI) won at least 115 seats for the National Assembly and formulated coalition government post July 25 General Elections. Imran Khan is the new Prime Minister of Pakistan. His party made clean sweep in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and also came as runner up in the Punjab Assembly with 66 and 119 seats respectively.

There was propaganda and many allegations before the elections that Imran Khan was being supported by Pakistan Army and the international media referred him as ‘ladla’ or the blue-eyed boy of Pakistan Army. There were also allegations made on Pakistan Army that the election was politically engineered and the army had put a bar on media. These allegations went wrong as the GE-18 were recognized by international observers from Europe and India as transparent, fair and free. Indian Observer S. Y. Qureshi expr-essed his views on NDTV calling Pakistan’s recent elections as “free, fair and transparent”. Post-elections Imran Khan delivered his victory speech, where he talked about both domestic and foreign policy issues of Pakistan. He outlined the solution of Afghanistan quagmire through “negotiations”. The major bone of contention between India & Pakistan is the Kashmir issue for which he referred that both parties should negotiate to resolve this issue. He also considered CPEC as life line of Pakistan economy and appreciated the efforts of Pakistan all-weather friend China in making CPEC a success for Pakistan economy. On domestic front he promised some reforms in the existing infrastructures and refrained himself to keep protocols and luxuries, while being in office.

Now comes the real challenge for Imran Khan “Hum dekhnege”. It is the voice of a common Pakistani who stood in the long queues on election day, just to change the future of his/her (she males included) country and cast their vote to change and for a prosperous future of Pakistan. The overall voter turnout as identified by Elections Commission of Pakistan was 51 % which is a huge turn out if compared with previous elections, this can be considered as first victory of Imran Khan and his party PTI for giving a sense to the people of Pakistan and educating them about the power of vote.  The Faiz poem Hum dekhnege” was chanted during 2013 General Elections of PTI and during Azadi March, but it was not chanted in 2018 election rallies of PTI, the poem might be misplaced by PTI’s DJ, but Imran Khan should remember that people still remember this poem. Negating all the propaganda’s such as Army’s meddling, media censorship and political engineering, can we just stick to the real sensation of a general election where common masses make choice for their future leader. I think theoretically and practically election is the only process where a common person can make his desire for the future of his country, where a layman an illiterate a clergy or feudal stands equal and can make their choice. So for this we have to keep this propaganda tools a bit apart while appreciating and understanding the essence of democracy.

People of Pakistan have done their job and now it’s the time for Imran Khan to fulfill his due promises. Pakistan’s economy is facing huge challenges and is struggling to avert a currency crisis that has presented new government with its biggest challenge. Many analysts and business leaders expect that another IMF bailout, the second in five years, will be needed to plug an external financial gap. Imran Khan’s party has promised the common masses to produce 10 billion job opportunities and end corruption, ensure transparency.

Ostensibly, Khan and his party has also promised to provide a standard education and to curb the water scarcity and provide standard health facilities. This is what was the attractive and catchy soup for the common masses to vote for Imran Khan. The desires and hopes of the people are quite high even from a kid, youngster or a house wife everyone has kept the hopes too high that Mr. Khan would bring the slogan of “Change” into actual practice. The rise of populism is quite clear from the turn out that Pakistan received in General elections. People stood against the obsolete and conventional form of democracy. The rise of populism is not only confined to Pakistan. In order to highlight explain and understand the concept of populism. In Europe, Brexit in the United Kingdom and the rise of the Front National in France are other examples of populism. In southern Europe, two parties on the left, Syriza in Greece and Podemos in Spain, have highlighted this distinction between the people and the elites. In UK, France and Pakistan people now understand the power of vote and what is right or wrong for them. Political engineering is a propaganda tool to divert the people attention from their actual right.

Let’s get back to the basic theme of this article which lies on Faiz’s “Hum Dekhenge” that rise of populist support for Imran Khan can be understood under these three scenarios.

Scenario 1. What if Mr Khan fails to fulfill his undue promises? Mr. Khan would face the same fate of revolt and suit in against his government by common masses and opposition would give him a tough time that would end his tenure before five years.

Scenario 2. Dealing Naya Pakistan with Old Tactics If Imran Khan deals with Naya Pakistan with old tactics, then it would be same old wine in new bottle. Referring to old tactics means, if he sticks himself to the same road building and Metro Bus projects then the chances for success in 2023 elections are less. He has to work on IT sector, CPEC, advancement in space technology and capacity building.

Scenario 3. If Imran Khan fulfill his Promise?  Mr Khan would emerge as most powerful and potential leader and would be placed in the list of charismatic leaders list such as Erdagon of Turkey, Mahatir Mohamed of Malaysia and Franklin D Rossevelt of US who brought their countries economy from currency crisis, Jewish debts and soup kitchens to world’s leading economies of the world. People of Pakistan are quite mature and understand their values and right. The path for Mr Khan is quite perilous, because he has to act what he said to the general public. Otherwise Coke Studio has reincarnated Faiz poem “Hum Dekhenge” in a multi-cultural video alarming the new leader that “Hum Dekhenge” and this time it’s not a quasi-promise.





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Netherlands’ parliament endorses religious extremism

Iqbal Khan

In a recent development, Netherlands’ parliament has permitted an ultra-Right Dutch politician, Geert Wilders, to hold a profane caricature competition in the protected office of his political party inside the premises of Netherlands’ parliament. While earlier such incidents were an act of non-state actors, parliamentary permission has made the government of Netherlands a party to this nefarious act of religious terrorism.

Time and again, European Christian countries purposefully hurt the religious sentiments of Muslims through public display of profane audio-visual and print material about Holy Prophet Muhammad (Peace be upon him), under the pretext of their so called doctrine of freedom of expression. In a stark contradiction, same very European States immediately imprison anyone questioning the veracity of ‘Holocaust’, while Muslims and their religion don’t get the similar preferential treatment.

Opposition leader Greet Wilders has a track history of airing anti-Muslim sentiment. In his electoral campaign in December 2017, he proposed that European countries should adopt Donald Trump-style travel bans to counter a wave of Islamisation, supposedly sweeping the continent. Wilders urged Europe to adopt Australia’s tactics in turning back migrant boats and to build new border walls, as Trump had vowed to do along the US frontier with Mexico. Wilders is the parliamentary leader of his party in the House of Representatives. During his election campaign, Wilders had published a one-page election manifesto calling for a ban on all asylum seekers and migrants from Islamic nations, and for his country to leave the European Union. Wilders also calls for banning the Quran and closing all mosques and Islamic schools.

Political environment in Netherlands is quite murky, where both the government and the opposition are more often than not competing to appear more racist and exclusionist. Wilders was beaten in March 2017 elections by Mark Rutte. According to Guardian “cost of latter’s victory against Geert Wilders’ anti-EU, anti-immigration, anti-Islam Freedom PVV party was a pyrrhic victory”. Mark Rutte’s VVD party had adopted the very rhetoric of Wilders to beat him. Rutte had said: “something wrong with our country” and clai-med “the silent majority” would no longer tolerate immigrants who come and “abuse our freedom”. Situati-on is akin to India where both BJP and Congress compete to be more pro Hindu rhetoric to encash Hindu vote bank.

Pakistan has approached Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) to lodge a protest against this planned cartoon competition in Netherlands. Former caretaker Foreign Minister Abdullah Haroon had set the dice rolling by writing a letter to the OIC Secretary General seeking his leadership for a collective action to register a protest of OIC countries with the Dutch authorities, who in turn has written to the Dutch foreign minister, on behalf of 57 Muslim countries, protesting against this abominable event. It is not the first time that the Netherlands is holding such competition. In the past also such acts have frequently been committed by this country with a malicious intent to target the noblest personality of the Holy Prophet (Pbuh). Pakistan has called upon the Dutch ambassador and EU envoy to register the protest. “We have conveyed our condemnation of this deliberate attempt to vilify Islam. Such incidents should not go unpunished,” Foreign office spokesperson said.

Pakistan’s new government has taken forth the process. During its first meeting, Pakistan’s new cabinet decided to take up the matter at bilateral level as well. Pakistan has lodged a strong protest with the Netherlands. “The charge d’affaires of the Kingdom of the Netherlands was summoned to the Foreign Office on August13 and a strong protest was lodged”, Foreign Office stated. Deep concern was conveyed at this deliberate and malicious attempt to defame Islam.

“Pakistan’s ambassador in The Hague has been instructed to forcefully raise the issue with the Dutch government along with ambassadors of OIC member states,” the Foreign Office went on to add.

Pakistan’s permanent representatives to the United Nations in New York and Geneva have also been directed to take up the matter with the UN Secretary General, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights and other UN bodies and procedures. The issue would also be discussed in the forthcoming meeting of the OIC’s Council of Foreign Ministers, scheduled to be held on the side-lines of forthcoming 73rd ministerial session of the UNGA. During this meeting the Muslim countries should send a loud and clear message that the despoliation of Muslim holy personalities is not acceptable to them. They should firm up an action plan if Netherlands goes ahead with the blasphemous competitions. The first step should be to boycott all Netherlands products and cut off diplomatic and trade ties with it until the country takes necessary action that prevent holding of such events in future.

The silver lining is that there have been saner voices from within Dutch civil society. Demonstrations were held by Dutch nationals to show solidarity with Muslims. During March 2017, Dutch citizens gathered at a mosque in Amsterdam, to show solidarity with the country’s Muslim population. People representing a broad coalition against racism gathered at the central Al-Kabir mosque to show opposition to anti-Muslim sentiments in the country. “We as a Muslim community pose no danger whatsoever to society,” said Najem Ouladali while addressing the gathering. “We believe that what Wilders is doing is very dangerous to our society,” Ouladali added. Najem was one of the organizers of the gathering

Pakistan should continue to work closely with all the OIC member states to take up the issue with the Netherlands’ government. And raise the matter at the relevant international fora from preventing this and similar abhorrent acts taking place. However, in addition to diplomatic channels, option of taking the matter to Netherlands’ civil society should also be duly explored.


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Converting trash into cash

Zarish Fatima

One day all the worlds energy will be generated by renewable energy sources (like the sun, wind, water, and biofuels) rather than the fossil fuels (oil, coal, and gas). Fossil fuels are considered as the conventional energy sources for over a hundred years, but these resources are finite while the global energy requirements are infinite.

Thus, we need an alternate source for a sustainable provision of energy in the future. Renewable energy can be used in many areas like; production of electricity, air/water heating/cooling, transportation and urban/rural energy production.

In Pakistan, the majority of the functional power generation projects and the new projects under the umbrella of China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) are fossil fuel driven posing a major threat to the environment and causing climatic changes leading to detrimental floods and excessive heat waves across the country.

The government has allocated almost $33 Billion in investments through the year 2022, solely for electricity generation via CPEC. But 60% of the produced energy is coming from fossil fuel-based generations. Subsidizing money to such projects is another strain to the economy as it involves the import of coal from other countries. Pakistan is an agricultural country. Agriculture serves as the largest contributor to the economy and generates 43 million tons of agricultural waste every year. It can be collected and utilized to produce Biofuel and Biogas.

Biofuels are renewable liquid fuels produced from solid biomass. Biomass is any organic matter derived from animal, plant or waste including agricultural crops, wood, fodder, municipal organic waste, and manure. While biogas is a gas produced from agricultural waste.

Currently, there is no proper Biogas/Biofuel model which is functional. There is an urgent need to allocate a budget for it and encourage farmers and rural population to set up mini biofuel plants. The types of waste produced in the rural areas are field wastes, animal wastes, and agro-industrial waste. If properly managed, it can result in the generation of precious sustainable energy. But instead, it all ends up polluting the air, ground, and water by giving out methane. Methane gas has a warming potential that is significantly 30 times higher than carbon dioxide.

Moreover, Pakistan is the world’s 6th largest populated country which produces almost 30 million tons of solid waste every year which is not recycled nor used for any purposes. Even this waste can be incinerated directly or treated to produce energy and biogas. As the country’s biggest challenge lies with combating the excessive garbage, any initiative will help to resolve this issue too.

I would like to request the newly formed government to adopt a new biofuel/biogas model, make a new policy and start allocating money for it instead of funding fossil fuel projects.

The model will have the potential to utilize almost all the agricultural and domestic waste which contributes to increase in climate by producing Green House Gases like methane (which can be collected to be used as a biogas). Appropriate initiation of training of the rural population can result in the successful production of biofuels. The pumps can be installed next to the farms.

Countries in Europe are now using biofuels in their cars, trains, jets and public transport, and the percentage of usage of green energy is increasing every year. According to a policy. Finland aims to have 20% renewables in transport by 2020, using mainly advanced biofuels feedstocks.

As plenty of agricultural waste is not utilized in Pakistan and goes to waste, there won’t be any need to cultivate new crops to produce green energy. In fact, Pakistan should use their agricultural strength to explore new opportunities and innovations in this sector.

The production and use of biofuels will not only reduce the oil and coal imports and usage but also contribute to the green environment and rural employment opportunities. It will transform their lives, generating hefty incomes and benefit the overall economy of the country making it self-sufficient one day.

Using both agricultural and domestic waste for energy and fuel production will be beneficial to the government but will solve many problems of the masses related to it like the spread of diseases, pollution and climate change.

But one should always remember that Energy shortfalls do not arise from a lack of energy, but from our high levels of energy consumption. Everyone can help solve the problem by trying to consume less and support the transition to an all-natural lifestyle which is more modest and minimalist.

The best way to get precious renewables to meet the energy needs is to simply consume less. The government should implement policies to encourage companies and masses to cut energy usage and switch to sustainable sources.