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Daily Times Editorials

Daily Times Editorials – 1st May 2016

Pakistan, Afghanistan, and the elusive peace

Earlier this week, a serving agent of Afghanistan’s premier intelligence agency, National Directorate of Security (NDS), was caught by Pakistan military near the Chaman border, in Balochistan. The agent was caught entering Pakistan without any travel documents, and was allegedly on a scouting mission on behalf of the NDS. Military officials claimed that the agent was already under close surveillance, and was a regular ‘visitor’ ostensibly to help his Baloch ‘rebel friends’. Multiple sources, reportedly, have indicated that the NDS is allegedly backed by the Indian intelligence agency, Research and Analysis Wing (RAW).

The significance of the agent’s arrest is huge, as intelligence agencies have beefed up their counter-intelligence and counter-terrorism operations across Pakistan. The nabbing of an alleged RAW official, Kulbushan Jhadav, and further containment of armed NDS and RAW agents a couple of weeks ago, demonstrate that Pakistan is committed to resolve its internal security issues. In October 2013, the New York Times published a story in which it was alleged that some NDS officials were in cahoots with the Pakistani Taliban, and that they held secret meetings in Kabul. It was further alleged that these officials were caught red-handed by US forces due to which the NDS-Pakistani Taliban nexus got compromised.

This is quite important given what has happened during the last three years. Pakistan apparently managed to gather enough evidence of this nexus that pointed back to New Delhi’s indirect role in spreading terrorism across Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (KPK), Balochistan and Karachi. The logistics of spreading terrorism were controlled from Kabul and Indian intelligence officials were allegedly handling both NDS field officers and Pakistani Taliban leadership through the premises of the Indian Embassy in Kabul.

Kabul-Islamabad and Islamabad-New Delhi relations are already tense over multiple factors with Kabul’s blame-game against Pakistan, and Pakistan’s role apparently being futile for the Afghan peace process. The Heart of Asia Summit being held in different Asian capitals, since its inception at Istanbul, showed some hope of establishing peace in Afghanistan. Furthermore, the formation of the Quadrilateral Coordination Group (QCG) was an important step in this regard that aimed in bringing the Afghan Taliban to peace talks. Pakistan’s Adviser on Foreign Affairs Sartaj Aziz has publicly stated that Pakistan cannot dictate the Afghan Taliban on its own terms but can try persuading them to work for peace in the region.

The recent visit of a Taliban delegation to Karachi for talks with Afghan government officials points out that the QCG is trying hard for establishing peace. However, the constant blame-game politics being played out and the alleged dubious nexus between NDS, RAW and some militant groups in Pakistan are holding back a smooth plan for long-term peace and prosperity in the region.

Peace should be given a chance in the region and blame-game politics must come to an end as the people of Afghanistan and Pakistan have suffered a great deal from the war on terror. President Ashraf Ghani of Afghanistan must bring the saboteurs of peace to justice, and let the environment of mistrust be replaced by open-mindedness and willingness to work with government of Pakistan to bring peace to a war-ravaged Afghanistan. Both the governments owe this to the long-suffering Afghans, and the short and long term peace and stability of their countries and the region.

Unending struggle of labourers

May Day commemorates the working class’ struggle for its rights and the fight against exploitation at the hands of capitalist employers. Every year the day is celebrated in memory of those who sacrificed their lives for labourers’ rights such as the eight-hour working day. International Workers’ Day was created to commemorate the 1886 Haymarket riot in Chicago, when a peaceful workers’ rally turned into a violent clash with officers when police opened fire at the protestors. Since then, the day is marked with rallies, seminars and demonstrations across the world. The struggle of the working class for its rights is far from over despite the passage of 130 years since the Chicago events. New kinds of oppressive measures and tactics are being applied to accumulate more and more wealth through squeezing the workers. This year, the International Labour Day will be observed under the theme “Celebrating the International Labour Movement.” Pakistan’s first labour policy was devised in 1972, in which May 1 was declared an official public holiday, which also formulated the creation of the Social Security Network, Old Age Benefit Schemes and Workers Welfare Fund. Like many parts of the world, in Pakistan the rights of the working class are violated at the hands of employers who make money at the cost of workers, but are reluctant to give them their due rights even as per the existing labour laws. Trade unions in Pakistan have weakened and shrunk and been made ineffective through various government policies and rules. Our industrial landscape overwhelmingly comprises small and medium sized units where workers are usually limited in numbers. Government has issued strict policies regarding the formation of trade unions at such workplaces. Another factor that has badly affected the working class is the introduction of outsourcing employment to labour contractors. Organisations no longer directly hire employees. A third party, a labour contractor, inserts himself between employers and employees, and is solely responsible for their hiring and maintaining ‘discipline’. These contract-based workers remain deprived of social security rights and can be terminated at any time.

Besides that, Pakistan witnesses one of the worst form of exploitation of its working citizens in the form of bonded labour, child labour and home-based work. Such categories suffer tough working conditions and earn very little. Brick kiln workers especially are subjected to inhuman treatment but government has failed to protect them. The practice is driven by economic necessity and the disincentive provided by our wholly inadequate schooling system, a situation that remains unchanged. Moreover, the privatisation of state-owned entities over decades has put thousands of workers and their families’ future at stake because of mass dismissals by new owners.

The struggle must continue for the implementation of labour laws. Trade unions need to unify to regain their lost strength. Government needs to raise minimum wages to a living wage and put in place mechanisms to ensure safety at workplaces, provide social security to all workers, stop unnecessary privatisation, apply labour laws to brick kiln and home-based workers and provide proper housing facilities to labourers. Continuous struggle and resistance are the only way to eliminate all forms of injustice and exploitation.

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