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OPINION

Is US really going to withdraw from Afghanistan?

The US withdrawal is not a straightforward question rather one needs to comprehend regional politics as well as the US interest in the region.

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The US’ foreign policy towards any region of the world attracts attention of many states across the world. The US, being a superpower economically, militarily and technologically, compels other states to be extra cognizant of its foreign policy. Its military inroad in any part of the world brings worries to international politics.

Trump administration’s recent announcement of the US troops withdrawal from Afghanistan has kept many commentators in a quandary. A query to be answered, is the US’ decision to withdraw from Afghanistan real? By analysing the US interest in Afghanistan and across the region, it is difficult to say that the US will withdraw from Afghanistan in near future. Afghanistan for any global power is having a great importance, by virtue of its geography, natural resources, a strategic hub to the Central Asia, having crossroads of pipeline and oil routes bordering with China, Iran and Pakistan.

There are multifaceted factors that bring commentators into introspection and ponder over the US withdrawal from Afghanistan. First and foremost, the US never desires to generate a vacuum in Afghanistan to be filled by rising China and assertive Russia. The US withdrawal from Afghanistan certainly enfeebles its foothold and will pave the way for the consolidation of the Chinese and Russian influence.

Russian President Vladimir Putin says the Russian presence in Afghanistan is based on self-defense and desires to thwart the Islamic State IS expansion in the region. Russia has been supporting Afghan Taliban furtively for the purpose of defeating IS. Like the US, China also has huge stakes in Afghanistan, desiring to eliminate terrorism and extremism reaching to its Xinjiang province.

Chinese presence in Afghanistan is catalyst for its multi-billion dollar Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). The US, therefore, is wary of Chinese and Russian growing influence in Afghanistan. The US also considering Iran as an archrival and cannot underestimate its pervasive influence. The collapse of pro-American government in Kabul will cause irreparable damage to the US interest and will strengthen influence of other regional countries. It is naïve to believe that the US will leave the space for other regional players in Afghanistan.

The US has spent $1.07 trillion in Afghanistan since 2001 and spending nearly $45bn annually. Brown University’s Cost of War Project report says that total cost of the war is likely reach to $2 trillion when the long-term costs are included. Spending a massive amount in Afghanistan indeed is having geostrategic and geo-economics significance for the US. The Pentagon is in perplexity considering the US complete withdrawal will evoke the humiliation of the Vietnam War. Withdrawing from Afghanistan will make it clear to the world that the US hard power is declining. The US in era of the survival of the fittest is unlikely to compromise on its military strength.

The US presence in Afghanistan cannot be confined merely to the defeat of Taliban; natural resources and geography of Afghanistan has had history of foreign invasion in its soil. Afghanistan is blessed with natural resources having estimated $3 trillion minerals; the US so far has discovered approximately $1 trillion untapped minerals deposit in Afghanistan. And Afghanistan is regarded as “Saudi Arabia of lithium”; lithium is a crucial mineral in manufacturing of laptops, blackberries and batteries. In era of globalization and technological advancement, usage of lithium would be bigger than that of oil. The copper of Aynak Province of Helmand is estimated to be the largest in the whole Eurasian continent. Iron deposit of Afghanistan is said to be 500m tones. The US will leave no stone untenured to exploit worthwhile minerals of Afghanistan.

The US presence in Afghanistan is also attributed to protecting multibillion narcotics trade, currently world’s 90 percent opium is produced in Afghanistan. Surprisingly, opium cultivation in presence of the US from “2016 to 2017 increased by 63 percent, to 328,000 hectares (ha); the estimated total production of opium shot up by 87 percent to 9,000 metric tons (mt)”. Cultivation of poppy during 2016 to 2017 is highest in history of Afghanistan. According to United Nations Office on Drug and Crime (UNODC) report, Pakistan is vital a route for drug smuggling, an annual trade of drug via Pakistan is $30 billion. Black money in shape of poppy in Afghanistan has been escalating under tutelage of America.

In presence of the US a dramatic emergence of IS in Afghanistan raises a serious question that how did IS emerge in Afghanistan in a short span of time? To be fair, no-state actor is always state actor; without state support no-state actor’s existence is simply out of the question. In this regard, a former president of Afghanistan Hamid Karzai articulated that the IS existence in Afghanistan was the next episode of 9/11, in the pretext of IS the US would perpetuate the war in soil of Afghanistan.

In short, the US withdrawal is not a straightforward question rather one needs to comprehend regional politics as well as the US interest in the region.

The writer works at the Institute of Strategic Studies, a think-tank based in Islamabad.

OPINION

Some progress in Pakistan this week

From many perspectives, this was an eventful week for Pakistan

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As the monsoon rains lashed across the country, amid pounding inflation and protesting traders, Pakistan witnessed important developments this week. Though most incidents will have long term impacts which are expected to unfold with time, their significance at present can also be not denied.

ICJ orders consular access to Yadav, rejects Indian plea: (more…)

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CULTURE & ARTS

The Mystery Colour Pink Beholds

Colour stereotype is creation of our own societal values

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Pink has long been associated with girls, so where does this association come from?

Everything for a girl is pink, or will have at least a hint of pink. Starting from her nursery, toys, dresses to lunch box, school bag, pink is bombarded on girls.

There are a number of ways through which colours are imposed upon children. It begins when the baby is not even born. The phenomenal advancement in technology and prenatal testing, now makes it possible for parents to find out the sex of their still-not-born babies. This allows parents to decorate the nurseries in colours that they think are best suited with their newborn’s gender. It is the first step towards colour imposition.

It won’t be wrong to say that a baby girl is born in a pink world. It is this colour that she would find all around her after she opens her eyes for the first time. The room shading, dresses that she wears, toys she plays with and even birthday cakes she gets, are all pink. It’s not the parents only, this colour specification has become so real that new born gifts also comply with it. Visit a store for newborn accessories and the first question that is asked is about the gender of the baby. Even story books and children’s cartoons do their best to teach individuals gender specific behaviour . Barbie, Hello Kitty, My Little Pony n Friend are all girls’ favourite cartoons, painted in pink. Even the adventurous Dora wears a pink tee. Watching them, young girls associate themselves with the colour.

Marketing strategies that brands use further establish the colour identification for gender. It’s a psychological factor that brands exploit to leap their sales. They strictly follow with ‘pink for girls and blue for boys’ rule and make sure their customers comply.

Studies show that after the age of two, children begin to understand gender specific roles and girls choose pink over other colours to identify theirs. Professor of Gender and Culture at the UK’s Leeds University, Ruth Holliday, states that “Even very young girls understand that pink things are for them. In experiments where guns were painted pink and My Little Ponies were painted black and made to look spiky, three-year-old children assumed the gun was a girls’ toy and the pony a boys’ one. The colour rather than the function determined gender appeal.”

Colour preference isn’t biological, it’s more of a human made marvel. Girls and boys are both born with the similar arrangement of biological composition, the only difference being X & Y chromosomes. It’s not that girls have a pink chromosome or a pink strand of DNA that compels them to like pink more. And if we look at historical perspective, the findings are interesting.

History suggests that before the 1900s, babies were usually dressed in white regardless of gender. There were no differentiation amongst them on the basis of their colour preferences. If there was any, it was quite opposite from what it is today. An article in the 1918 issue of Ladies Home Journal reads that “the generally accepted rule is pink for boys and blue for girls; the reason is that pink being a decided and stronger colour is more suitable for boys, while blue which is more delicate and dainty, is prettier for the girls”. Then what brought the switch over?

Anya Helbert, a researcher at University of Newcastle, proposed that women prefer hues of red more because traditionally they have been more exposed to the colour by gathering fruits. Other studies regarding this topic cite some events that gave rise to the present colour enforcement. One such event is World War II, where due to the blue coloured uniform worn by soldiers, blue colour became associated with masculinity.

Similarly, in the 1940s, Think Movement tried to convince girls to embrace their feminism. This movement urged women to embrace their womanhood, with the name tag with pink, the colour naturally corresponding to women.

This colour coding creates a stereotype that stays entrenched in the minds of children even after they grow. They identify themselves with specific colour that not only limits their freedom but also bounds them to act in the ways society tells them to. This kills their imagination and creativity and limits their choices. One of the disastrous implications of this colour stereotyping is that it affects self-esteem. The very basic attributes of pink colour are that it’s pretty, polite, catchy and sensitive. When a girl is told throughout her lifetime that she has to be the manifestation of this colour to look more ‘girl like’, she tries to incorporate these attributes into her personality. The same is for boys, the tormenting and bullying that accompanies wearing pink is staggering to the point that boys, mostly avoid the colour even if they like it.

Angela Weyers, Style and Colour consultant comments that, pink is assumed as a sign of “weakness and a lack of intellectual rigour” and advises women to actually not wear it to work in the corporate world, as they are less likely to be taken seriously. This, along with other stigmas surrounding the color, make it a cliché.

Now when we have understood that colour stereotype is creation of our own societal values, we have to understand this as a societal issue. There is no such thing as real-man or real-woman. And pink has literally nothing to do with a woman. Both men and women are humans with no supernatural specifications and they should be treated that way. Parents, educational institutes and media can play their role in this regard. Rather than fabricating pink and blue norms they need to be responsible in raising individuals. Let pink and blue be treated as colours only.

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OPINION

Dismays and Delights: How Pakistan fared this week?

Such is the course of time, that humans, after mourning a loss, prepare for the next outcome.

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This week in Pakistan was disappointing, to say the least. From the fiasco in the World cup match to the murder of a blogger in Islamabad, the list of dismays is long. India’s positive response to hold talks with Pakistan seemed the only silver lining in the dark clouds of dooms, yet it was quickly rebuffed by India as “fake news”.

It pains as well as amuses me that fans of cricket in Pakistan still remain die hard to their team. Its a different thing to be a cricket buff and another to be supportive of your team, for its been a while that Pakistan’s cricket team pulled a feat worth praise.

Pakistani Cricket Team captain Sarfaraz Ahmed (L), Indian Cricket Team captain Virat Kohli

One did not even need to switch on the TV or check updates on phone on the mess which Pakistan was in its World Cup match against India. The memes did the job pretty well, an area in which Pakistanis’ talent and sense of humour is worth appreciating.

Starting from the mind boggling decision of choosing to field after winning the toss, to poor bowling and miserable fielding (as usual), I can only say that the fans of Pakistani cricket team were very courageous to stick with their support through out the match. In comparison, was the highly professional and progressive Indian team, which showed true characteristics of first class cricket. It was no surprise that Pakistani cricket icon Wasim Akram showed his confidence in India as a player even before the match started.

A Pak-India interaction on a different level received an uplift, when the re-elected Prime Minister Modi of India, finally responded in positive to a series of letters written by his Pakistani counterpart, Imran Khan.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi (L), Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan

Since early this year, both countries have experienced most severe ties, even reaching the brink of war. The Pulwama attack in Indian held Kashmir triggered a spate of exchanges of words as well as arms. After an informal meeting between the foreign ministers of the two countries at the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO), Pakistan’s allowance for India to use its airspace for Prime Minister Modi for the SCO meeting of heads of states, Modi’s preference to still fly using another, alternate route while refusing to rub shoulders with Khan at the conference, the ice seemed to thaw.

However, Pakistani media’s interpretation of Modi’s written response to Khan that India had agreed to resume dialogue, was refuted by Indian foreign ministry.

External Affairs Ministry spokesperson Raveesh Kumar

“The letters only reiterated India’s old position that it wants normal and cooperative relations with all countries in South Asia (including Pakistan) and that it was important to create an environment free of terror and violence for it. There was no mention of any sort of dialogue with Pakistan,” responded the ministry’s spokesperson to The Times of India.

A similar exchange of letters between Pakistan’s foreign minister Qureshi and his newly appointed Indian counterpart, Jaishankar, was also explained as a mere reply. The hope of resuming of dialogues between the two countries was quashed.

So was the life of Muhammad Bilal Khan, a famous 22-year-old Pakistani blogger, who was stabbed to death in Islamabad, sparking outrage among Pakistanis.

Blogger Muhammad Bilal Khan was murdered in Islamabad

Khan was known for his critical comments on religious issues. He also spoke about the disappearance of activists and journalists. Khan’s shocking death is pertinent in the context that he had a following of thousands on Twitter, YouTube as well as Facebook. Human Rights Minister Shireen Mazari has assured of investigation by the government.

Perhaps, a not so highlighted and the lone positive news one could find was the approval of the initial draft of the Zainab Alert, Response and Recovery Bill 2019 by a Parliamentary body. The bill has recommendations for rigorous imprisonment until death for the sexual assault and murder of children.

Photo Credit: AFP

The recommendations are now to be discussed by the National Assembly Standing Committee on Human Rights. Once passed by parliament, the bill will pave way for the setting up of Zainab Alert, Response and Recovery Agency (ZARRA), where missing child cases will be reported to generate an automatic alert. It will also introduce a response and recovery mechanism for missing children.

A draft of the ICT Rights of Persons with Disability Bill has also been approved with recommendations concerning the registration of people with disabilities, reforms to address their grievances and procedures to address their complaints.

While unexplained deaths and disappearances of activists remains a worrying issue, some decision making for missing and abused children as well as disabled persons is a progress in the human rights of country.

Other sectors are eagerly looked upon for some positive news. The nation’s favourite sports of cricket comes back at the turn of the week with anticipation.

The week, which started miserably with Pakistan’s loss against India in the World Cup match, has ended with hopes and fears for the next contest between Pakistan and South Africa. Such is the course of time, that humans, after mourning a loss, prepare for the next outcome. A comeback by Pakistan in the World Cup could raise hopes for optimism in the week that is to begin.

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