Globalization generally refers to the increased interdependence of the world’s economies signified by the circulation of information, money, people and goods across national boundaries. It has of late given rise to the domination of world’s market by a selected number of transnational corporations. However, since time immemorial, different countries were related to one another through geographical spread of ideas, social norms and trading commodities. This pre-modern phase of globalisation is known as archaic globalisation. Silk Road is an instance. It is a network of interlinking trade routes or silk routes across the Afro-Eurasian landmass which carried silk in the main to and fro. China was the first producer of silk in the world. Since second century B.C., China exported silk to different countries as far as the countries on the Mediterranean Coast along different routes. The purpose of the present paper is to analyse the pattern of globalization which took place in several regions of Eurasia from the seventh to the twelfth centuries, using silk as a thread of cultural and economic interaction in the context of the globalisation process today. The globalization process created by interactions and exchange of commodities, culture, technology and religion in the ancient world sought to enrich the world without destroying its cultural diversity. Although our ultimate goal here is analytical, much of the methodology of writing involves narrative. This is because the sequence in which the events happened provides a necessary context for explaining the process of the then globalization. The long passage of time since 2nd century BC to 1400 AD witnessed numerous events of the then global importance. At the outset there was the interaction between China and India, significant because of the role of Buddhism. Then the Christian world’s reception of the Chinese silk has to be taken into account. The advent of Islam shook the global balance of power and the silk trade thereby went through a change. The Islamic empire rose as another centre of silk culture and served as both a block and a link. The brisk trade along the Silk Road continued till the advent of mercantile capitalism in Europe in the fourteenth century. Keeping these in the mind, the paper proposes to study the Silk Road and the nature of trade through the changing times across the emergent events of history as well as the thread of economic and cultural interaction thereof. The study of silk and the Silk Road is thus a model of globalization and sustainable development. It symbolized global economic and cultural networking based on mutual interaction and cooperation. Moreover it is an instance of sustainable development where a commodity like silk has transformed itself from status symbol controlled by the government to a free commodity, through the interaction of different civilizations.
Keywords- Archaic globalization, silk and civilization, economic and cultural networking, sustainable development
It was in the 18th century that the utilitarian philosopher Bentham coined the word International. In other words, the very word international showed up in the 18th century in the west. In the 19th century, the British Empire expanded enormously and gave a glimpse of a world state. James Thomson cried, “Rule, Britannia, rule the waves; Britons never will be slaves.” And maybe the vision of Edmund Burke of the British Empire reminiscing the Roman Empire of the past where every country would be self-governing while Britain would look after its defence, touched the imagination of many. Tennyson, the poet laureate of the then England dreamt of the parliament of man and the federation of the world. In the 18th century only, industrialisation took off in Britain and then quickly caught the imagination of the rest of Western Europe and gradually the rest of the world. And it was in the fifties of the twentieth century that McLuhan and, ironically enough, technology helped bring the world into a close knit network goaded by the greed of capitalism. Capitalism should be understood in its matter of fact context. The countries do not belong to a pale outside of capitalism. In practice, communist states are but followers of state capitalism which competes with the so-called capitalist countries in grappling with the market. Capitalism is a monetary motion and force that impels all thinking and all objects of thought and rolls through all things. Whatsoever the one thinks is impelled by capitalist attitude; whatever one creates is impelled by capitalist attitude. In this context, the world is fast rushing to globalization. It has of late given rise to the domination of the world’s market by a selected number of transnational corporations.
Globalization generally refers to the increased interdependence of the world’s economies signified by the circulation of information, money, people and goods across national boundaries. The Coca Cola that we are drinking in Kolkata could welcome an Indian at Ankara to become fresh and cool. And surely, an Indian in Turkey or a Turk in India will not deem himself a stranger because Coca Cola is in Kolkata and Coca Cola is in Ankara, Coca Cola here and Coca Cola there. The triumph of the global soft drink suggests that globalization is an emergent phenomenon. But history tells us otherwise.
Globalization is not an emergent event concomitant with the rise of capitalism and industrialization. During the ancient times also, trades beyond national boundaries compassing Asia and Africa, the two continents, took place whereby circulation of money, goods and people resulted. As early as in the second century B.C. trade routes were explored which stretched from ancient China to Rome. In fact, trading is as old as civilization and the trade route from China to Rome since 2nd century B.C. is famed as the Silk Road. The Silk Road went past different countries and civilizations and joined China with Rome. And the Silk Road continued for more than a thousand years. It was brisk with trade to and fro since the pre-Christian era down to the fourteenth century. With the advent of mercantile capitalism and gunpowder in Europe, the road vanished.
The object of the present paper is to hark back to the Silk Road. It gives us a glimpse of the archaic globalization or perhaps globalization in the embryonic stage during the ancient times. It is a study which seeks to analyse the globalization process created by interactions and exchange of commodities, culture, technology and religion in the ancient world that sought to enrich the world without destroying its cultural diversity. It recounts briefly the long story of the transition of silk from being a restricted item to a commodity through the interactions between ancient civilizations over far and wide regions. Although our ultimate goal here is analytical, much of the writing involves narrative. This is because the sequence in which the events happened provides a necessary context for explaining the process of the then globalization.
Accordingly, apart from this introductory section, the rest of the paper is divided into three sections:
- Silk Road, silk and the nature of trade
- Silk – the thread of economic and cultural interaction
- Concluding remarks
2. Silk Road, silk and the nature of trade
The early form of globalization known as archaic globalization could be traced in the trade links known as the Silk Route. The Silk Route or the Silk Road is not a single road. It is a network of roads in Eurasia connecting Eastern and Southern Asia with the Mediterranean world, stretching from Changan in China across the Taklamakan Desert, over the Pamir Mountains, through the grasslands of Central Asia, into Persia and then to the Mediterranean, with branches in the northern Eurasian steppes and India. Over 8000 km long, it crossed some of the most difficult terrain. It linked up some of the greatest civilizations of the ancient empires like India, China, Rome and Persia. For over a millennium, technology, art, culture, religion and philosophy were transmitted along these silk routes. Exchanges between China and the ‘West’, i.e. the Mediterranean area, prospered via the Parthian Empire. Glasses and grapes went east, and it was through this route that China’s greatest inventions like Chinese silk, paper-making, printing, gunpowder, the compass, windmills and porcelain were transported to the West. They went to the West either directly or via the Islamic countries ever since the eighth century. It was through this route that Buddhism came to China, which again had profoundly influenced the pattern of economic activities, especially the silk economy. During the early centuries, silk was one of the most precious commodities. The Romans were fond of Chinese silk, transported to them via the Parthians. But the Silk Route is more than silk trade. It has always been a model of assimilation of economic, strategic and cultural identities.
Silk was China’s gift to the world. The Silk Route was the channel through which silk textiles and yarn were exported from the ancient Chinese empires of the Han dynasty and later T’ang Dynasty to the West in Persia, India and the Mediterranean. China started exporting silk since the second century BC and remained the major silk producer for centuries. By the fourth and fifth centuries AD, the international silk market became more competitive and complex. India, Byzantium and Sasaanid Persia all had their own silk industries. This development created a new trade regime where both the old and the new silk producers exported and imported silk fabrics. Though silk was produced in their countries, high quality poly-chrome silk flowed between countries to satisfy the demand for foreign exotic goods. ‘Love for variety’ is thus no new concept in trade theory. There were trades between countries exporting and importing the same type of commodities since the Silk Route era. Silk did not have an intrinsic value; its value derived from the intensive labour and technology involved in its production. Thus, its demand and price varied in different time periods or in different historical contexts.
Simple tabby silks were produced in households and were often used for paying taxes to the
government in Han China. However, government controlled the production and distribution of high quality silk in the earlier period for their own use and for diplomatic purposes. At the other end of the silk trade, during the first century AD, the Romans were familiar with the silk fabric though they were not capable of silk production at that time. Silk was transported there via Central Asia. The westward flow of silk stimulated the flow of diverse commodities from the Mediterranean region to East Asia.
Indian traders under the rule of the Kusanas procured Chinese silk along with other imported goods and indigenous commodities. Urbanisation flourished in northwest India due to a rise in Eurasian trade. During the first few centuries, Mahayana Buddhism developed here. They stressed the importance of worship and donation for a better present life and the assurance of no rebirth. They openly advocated the offering of silk. It helped in the releasing of silk to a larger market.
3. Silk – the thread of economic and cultural interaction
This section tries to reveal the pattern of globalization which took place in several regions of Eurasia from the seventh to the twelfth centuries, using silk as a thread. Following the silk transaction, the study tries to analyze in brief the economic and cultural interactions between the regions like East Asia, South Asia, West and Central Asia, the Mediterranean and West Europe.
China reached its cultural zenith under the Tang dynasty (618-907). India experienced the prosperous short-lived empire of King Harsha (AD 606-47) who patronized the prestigious Chinese Buddhist pilgrim Hsuan-Tsang, thus strengthening the cultural exchanges between the two civilizations. Hsuan Tsang (or Xuanzang) travelled along the northern road of the Silk Route. His travel records narrated the ‘not at all silky’ journey. However, it also recorded the description of many bustling cities (over 200,000 people) and independent oasis city-states on the edge of the Taklamakan desert along the routes, all depending on the Silk Road for their survival. Many of them had foreign merchants and monks from India, Central Asia and the Western regions. Those cities were the evidences of the how the Silk Route trade promoted urbanization.
Around the Mediterranean, The Byzantine Empire where Christianity prevailed retained its supremacy over the western part of the former Roman Empire. Between East and West, the rise of Islam as well as an Islamic empire incorporated Mesopotamia, Egypt and Persia, into a new political, religious, economic and cultural domain by the mid-seventh century.
Among these regions, transaction of silk persisted through the so-called Silk Road. However the form and nature of the transaction changed. Silk was strictly a restricted commodity in both Byzantium and China, the two major producers of silk during the seventh century. It was considered a luxury item. The government monopolized its production, distribution and consumption pattern. However, by the tenth century, expensive silks were available in many markets of Eurasia mainly for religious purposes and subsequently there was a total deregulation of this market in China and Europe.
The structure of the silk economy depended on the sub-structures of culture and religion of different civilizations. As silk was the most common form of wealth in China and Central Asian countries and a commodity very much common in India, religious investments were often made in silk textiles. So the close connection between the famous Silk Route and the spread of Buddhism helped in establishing a free market for silk.
Similarly, Christianity prevalent in Western Europe also helped in the expansion of the silk market. Churches stored silks in their treasuries as a form of wealth, and the devotees were encouraged to donate silk to churches. Christians decorated their Cathedrals and covered the tombs and relics of their saints with silk in their concern to get a better afterlife.
Again, in the Islamic Society merchants enjoyed a high status, and among them the most prestigious were the textile merchants. The Islamic empire rose as another centre of silk culture and served as both a block and a link between the earlier two domains.
4. Concluding Remarks
The study of silk and the Silk Road is thus a model of globalization. It symbolized global economic and cultural networking based on mutual interaction and cooperation. Moreover, it is an instance of sustainable development where a commodity like silk has transformed itself from status symbol controlled by the government to a free commodity, through the interaction of different civilizations.
The narrative of the Silk Road speaks of sustainable trade. Although nowadays such phrases as ‘sustainable development’ are widely used, one wonders whether the world could continue any sustainable development in any sphere, be it trade or politics, for such a long time. Be that as it may, the ancient world could boast of a sustained trade route that continued for more than fourteen thousand years, despite the fact that the countries it ran through witnessed great political upheavals in the meantime. Now, the question arises as to what made that Silk Road possible. It should be remembered that mere utility could not sustain it. An oil pipe from Iran to India might be forged, impelled by the exigencies of the countries through which it travels. But the craving for silk was different from today’s craving for uranium ores. The craving for silk speaks of an urge for the finer things produced by the civilization which was ancient China. But nowadays, such fine things are no longer asked for despite lip service to them. In this context, we might quote Cargoes (John Masefield, 1902) to illustrate our point:
Quinquireme of Nineveh from distant Ophir,
Rowing home to haven in sunny Palestine,
With a cargo of ivory,
And apes and peacocks,
Sandalwood, cedarwood, and sweet white wine.
Stately Spanish galleon coming from the Isthmus,
Dipping through the Tropics by the palm-green shores,
With a cargo of diamonds,
Topazes, and cinnamon, and gold moidores.
Dirty British coaster with a salt-caked smoke stack,
Butting through the Channel in the mad March days,
With a cargo of Tyne coal,
Firewood, iron-ware, and cheap tin trays.
The first stanza of cargoes gives a picture of ancient period trade, the second stanza portrays an era of mercantilism – the yearning for precious stones – and the last stanza describes the trade pattern of Britain’s industrialisation era. Mere utilization and profit, we are afraid, cannot sustain the globalization, the guiding principle of the world today. Here it should be noted that the story of a silk road is just the tip of an iceberg. The ancient world saw globalization on many planes. Archaeological evidence shows that Kenya had close contact with ancient China of the Tang dynasty. The fables of Panchatantra of India see eye to eye with the Aesop’s Fables of Europe. The story of Ramayana seems to have been retold in the story of Elliot. Such instances could be multiplied. In the ancient world, in spite of a kind of globalisation, every culture and every country lurked in its own elements. One wonders whether the globalization of today that seeks to manifest itself in the India-Iran pipeline, in the revival of the silk road from China to Turkey, could let every country and culture to let in its own elements and contribute to global brotherhood. Maybe an enquiry into the archaic globalisation of which the Silk Road is but an instance could help the world today to achieve a sustainable exchange of wealth, both material and supra-material among the countless peoples of today.
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By: Mousumi Ghosh
Russia Encircled and Subverted by Sino-Oligarchy
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The mystery of Gilgit manuscripts: The Gilgit manuscripts are the only corpus of Buddhist manuscripts discovered in the subcontinent
Buddhism, with roots in Hinduism, spread rapidly under Mauryas especially during the time of Asoka. Missionaries were sent to Kashmir under Madhyantika, who resided in Kashmir for 20 years and preached Buddhism. During the time of Asoka, those areas were selected where other religious beliefs had not yet secured a stronghold. Later Kashmir became a centre of Buddhist philosophical studies as Asoka built monasteries and temples there.
In 1913, Aurel Stein, a renowned archaeologist of the region in his third and largest expedition to Central Asia, passed through Darel and Tangirand reported some “boys watching flocks above Naupur village, about two miles west of Gilgit cantonment, who are said to have cleared a piece of timber out on the top of a small stone-covered mound. Further digging laid bare a circular chamber within the ruins of a Buddhist stupa filled with hundreds of small votive stupas and relief plaques common in Central Asia and Tibet”. After further excavations, a great mass of ancient manuscripts was found packed in a wooden box. The site appears to be an ancient ruin which may have been the residence of Buddhist monks. There were five wooden boxes, the fifth containing the other four, which kept all the manuscripts discovered in Gilgit, hence Gilgit manuscripts.
According to UNESCO, the Gilgit manuscripts are the oldest surviving manuscripts which throw light on the evolution of Sanskrit, Chinese, Korean, Japanese, Mongolian, Manchu and Tibetan
These manuscripts are the only corpus of Buddhist manuscripts discovered in the subcontinent. Reportedly, a substantial portion of manuscripts had passed into the hands of unauthorised persons while the Gilgit administration took over the manuscripts and sent them to Srinagar. In 1938, the Maharaja of Kashmir deputed pandit Madhusudan Kaul to carry out further excavation at the site, who was able to discover three to four more manuscripts .Pandit Kaul published a short report on these manuscripts in the quarterly journal of the Mythic Society, Bangalore. In 1956, Professor Giuseppe Tucci, a well-known Italian scholar, secured another small group of manuscripts from a street vendor in Rawalpindi. These were later presented to the Karachi Museum.
These manuscripts were written on the birch bark and similar to those discovered by Aurel Stein (Khotan) in Central Asia.The pages of the manuscript were approximately 23”long and 5” wide, with almost ten lines per page. The birch bark does not decay or decompose,and the cold climate of Gilgit helped the manuscript survive till the day of their discovery in 1931.
The language of these texts is Sanskrit while the vocabulary is derived from ancient Buddhist texts in Prakrit. Birch bark, bhojpatra, is found in the Himalayas at an elevation of 14,800 feet. The white paper of the tree was used for writing Sanskrit, scripts and texts. According to Jens Uwe Hartmann, the text is written on palm leaf, a material mostly used in India and Nepal.It is believed that the Gilgit manuscripts probably travelled west from one of the Buddhist kingdoms along the Silk Route. At that time, Gilgit was a major trade centre of the silk route.
The majority of the Gilgit manuscripts are now held at the Indian national archives in New Delhi, India followed by the Shri Partap Singh Museum in Srinagar, while a small collection is held at the British Library, London and Karachi Museum. Opinions vary about the date of these manuscripts as one group of scholars says that the Gilgit manuscripts were written in the second century, while the other group places them between the sixth and seventh century.
There are several stories in the texts revolving around Bimbisara, Jivaka, Visakha and Upananda, who brought about direct and indirect rules relating to the dressing of monks and nuns. There are stories and the biography of renowned physician Jivaka and also two important Buddist theories of medical sciences. The Gilgit manuscripts also contain the text on Vinayvastu, several treatise on monastic discipline, Ayurvedic medicine, iconometry, folk tales, philosophy and culinary skills. They also have the chronological list of various Buddhist Shahi Kings of Gilgit. According to professor Lokesh Chandra, the Gilgit manuscripts have references to the three Buddhist synods (conferences between religious heads).
The ancient manuscripts have proven to given world renowned historians a run for their money, as no one has been able to fully decipher them yet. The manuscripts published in Devanagari script were brought out in four volumes from 1939 to 1959. The National Archives of India has digitalised the manuscripts. In October 2011, the National Archives of India and the International Institute for Advanced Buddhology, Soka University, Tokyo signed an agreement with regards to the colour publication of facsimile editions of Gilgit manuscripts preserved in the National Archives of India. Shayne Clarke edited this edition. The National Archives of India laminated 3,386 pages and many fragments. Over the years,a number of facsimile editions of the Gilgit manuscripts have been published. According to United Nations Scientific Cultural Organisation (UNESCO), the Gilgit manuscripts are the oldest surviving manuscripts which throw light on the evolution of Sanskrit, Chinese, Korean, Japanese, Mongolian, Manchu and Tibetan. They cover a wide range of subjects including religion, ritual, philosophy, iconometry, folktales, medicine and many other areas of human life.
Gilgit Baltistan is famous for its culture, tradition, history and civilisation. There is a requirement to include this rich cultural heritage into the curriculum of students in Gilgit Baltistan. Foreign study groups from across the world visit Gilgit Baltistan to study its heritage, civilisation, Buddhist shrines, rock-carving, and antiques. They analyse and interpret the heritage in GilgitBaltistan. The Karakoram International University needs to study it through its Department of Archaeology by establishing a research institute. Moreover, the Gilgit manuscripts are the property of Gilgit Baltistan (Pakistan). The Government of Pakistan needs to approach UNESCO to get the manuscripts back to its place of discovery.
The writer is a retired brigadier presently performing the duties of Commissioner Afghan Refugees Organisation, Balochistan
Published in Daily Times, July 29th 2018.
Team Gilgit-Baltistan Social Welfare Organization congratulates all successful candidates of Central Superior Service (CSS) from Gilgit-Baltistan.
1.Talat Fida from gilgit group (IRS)
2.Shehzad Ali from Nagar (IRS)
3. Mohsin hassan from skardu group (PCS)
4. Asad Ali from Astore Group (PSP)
5. Asmat Abbas from Astore group (OMG)
Well done! We are proud of you.
Report on the Situation of Human Rights in Kashmir: Developments in the Indian State of Jammu and Kashmir from June 2016 to April 2018, and General Human Rights Concerns in Azad Jammu and Kashmir and Gilgit-Baltistan
First-ever UN human rights report on Kashmir calls for international inquiry into multiple violations
GENEVA (14 June 2018) – There is an urgent need to address past and ongoing human rights violations and abuses and deliver justice for all people in Kashmir, who for seven decades have suffered a conflict that has claimed or ruined numerous lives, a report by the UN Human Rights Office published on Thursday says.
The 49-page report – the first ever issued by the UN on the human rights situation in Indian-Administered and Pakistan-Administered Kashmir – details human rights violations and abuses on both sides of the Line of Control, and highlights a situation of chronic impunity for violations committed by security forces.
“The political dimensions of the dispute between India and Pakistan have long been centre-stage, but this is not a conflict frozen in time. It is a conflict that has robbed millions of their basic human rights, and continues to this day to inflict untold suffering,” said UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein.
“This is why any resolution of the political situation in Kashmir must entail a commitment to end the cycles of violence and ensure accountability for past and current violations and abuses by all parties, and provide redress for victims,” he said.
“It is also why I will be urging the UN Human Rights Council to consider establishing a commission of inquiry to conduct a comprehensive independent international investigation into allegations of human rights violations in Kashmir,” said Zeid.
Noting the continuing serious tensions in recent weeks, including those stemming from a series of incidents in Srinagar, he called on Indian security forces to exercise maximum restraint, and strictly abide by international standards governing the use of force when dealing with future protests, including ones that could well occur this coming weekend.
“It is essential the Indian authorities take immediate and effective steps to avoid a repetition of the numerous examples of excessive use of force by security forces in Kashmir,” Zeid said.
The UN Human Rights Office – which, despite repeated requests to both India and Pakistan over the past two years, has not been given unconditional access to either side of the Line of Control – undertook remote monitoring to produce the report, which covers both Indian-Administered Kashmir and Pakistan-Administered Kashmir.
The main focus of the report is the human rights situation in the Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir from July 2016 – when large and unprecedented demonstrations erupted after Indian security forces killed the leader of an armed group – to April 2018.
Indian security forces used excessive force that led to unlawful killings and a very high number of injuries, the report says, citing civil society estimates that up to 145 civilians were killed by the security forces between mid-July 2016 and the end of March 2018, with up to 20 other civilians killed by armed groups in the same period.
One of the most dangerous weapons used against protesters in 2016 – and which is still being employed by security forces – was the pellet-firing shotgun. According to official figures, 17 people were killed by shotgun pellets between July 2016 and August 2017, and 6,221 people were injured by the metal pellets between 2016 and March 2017. Civil society organizations believe that many of them have been partially or completely blinded.
“Impunity for human rights violations and lack of access to justice are key human rights challenges in the state of Jammu and Kashmir,” the report says, noting that the Armed Forces (Jammu and Kashmir) Special Powers Act 1990 (AFSPA) and the Jammu and Kashmir Public Safety Act 1978 (PSA) have “created structures that obstruct the normal course of law, impede accountability and jeopardize the right to remedy for victims of human rights violations.”
The AFSPA prohibits prosecution of security forces personnel unless the Indian Government grants prior permission to prosecute. “This gives security forces virtual immunity against prosecution for any human rights violation. In the nearly 28 years that the law has been in force in Jammu and Kashmir there has not been a single prosecution of armed forces personnel granted by the central government,” the report says.
There is also almost total impunity for enforced or involuntary disappearances, with little movement towards credibly investigating complaints, including into alleged sites of mass graves in the Kashmir Valley and Jammu region.
Chronic impunity for sexual violence also remains a key concern in Kashmir. An emblematic case is the Kunan-Poshpora mass rape 27 years ago when, according to survivors, soldiers gang-raped 23 women. “Attempts to seek justice have been denied and blocked over the years at different levels,” the report says.
The report also points to evidence that the armed groups that have operated in Jammu and Kashmir since the late 1980s have committed a wide range of human rights abuses, including kidnappings and killings of civilians and sexual violence. Despite the Government of Pakistan’s denial of any support for these groups, the report notes that a number of experts have concluded that Pakistan’s military continues to support their operations across the Line of Control.
The report also examines a range of human rights violations in Pakistan-Administered Kashmir which, according to the report, are of a different calibre or magnitude and of a more structural nature. In addition, the report says, restrictions on freedoms of expression, peaceful assembly and association in Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK) and in Gilgit-Baltistan have limited the ability to obtain information about the situation.
Among the issues highlighted in the report is the constitutional relationship of these two “distinct territories” with Pakistan. AJK has effectively been controlled by Pakistan throughout its entire history. Pakistan’s federal authorities also have full control over all government operations in Gilgit-Baltistan, and federal intelligence agencies are reportedly deployed across both regions.
The impact of Pakistani counter-terrorism operations on human rights is detailed in the report, which notes the concerns of the UN Human Rights Committee at the “very broad definition of terrorism laid down in the Anti-Terrorism Act.” The report quotes a respected national NGO that found hundreds of people had been imprisoned under the Act in Gilgit-Baltistan, and that it was being used to target locals who were raising issues related to people’s human rights.
Among its recommendations, the report calls on India and Pakistan to fully respect their international human rights law obligations in Indian-Administered and Pakistan-Administered Kashmir respectively.
India should urgently repeal the AFSPA; establish independent, impartial and credible investigations to probe all civilian killings since July 2016 and all abuses committed by armed groups; and provide reparations and rehabilitation to all injured individuals and to the families of those killed in the context of security operations. Similarly, the PSA should be amended to ensure its compliance with international human rights law, and all those held under administrative detention should either be charged or immediately released.
The report urges Pakistan to end the misuse of anti-terror legislation to persecute those engaging in peaceful political and civil activities and those who express dissent. The sections of the AJK interim constitution that limit the rights to freedoms of expression and opinion, and peaceful assembly and association should be amended. Any political activists, journalists and others convicted for peacefully expressing their opinions should be immediately released. The constitutions of AJK and Gilgit-Baltistan should also be amended to end the criminalization of Ahmadiyya Muslims.
B-roll video of the High Commissioner speaking about the report here.
Audio of the High Commissioner here.
2018 is the 70th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, adopted by the UN on 10 December 1948. The Universal Declaration – translated into a world record 500 languages – is rooted in the principle that “all human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights.” It remains relevant to everyone, every day. In honour of the 70thanniversary of this extraordinarily influential document, and to prevent its vital principles from being eroded, we are urging people everywhere to Stand Up for Human Rights: www.standup4humanrights.org.
Retrieved from: https://www.ohchr.org/EN/NewsEvents/Pages/DisplayNews.aspx?NewsID=23198&LangID=E
The reason why human societies cannot be explained through fixed laws is that humans are capable of creating complex social structures and ideas. It is this difference between human society and animal kingdom that makes a human being more an animal of ideas than of instincts.
Ideas are crucial for society’s psychological health because they enable them to protect themselves from the malaise that stems from a stagnant system. The basic question is: how are ideas born? Ideas are highly intangible expressions of tangible experiences of worldly life. To understand them properly, it is important to take into consideration the circumstances that give birth to particular ideas in certain social and political settings.
This article tries to situate Gilgit-Baltistan within the power dispensation structure of Pakistan, and attempts to take stock of the kind of ideas and political sentiments such a system creates. It will also help us dig deep into the political consciousness and diagnose the source of the real malaise that infects society and politics. So far, Gilgit-Baltistan has been viewed from political, economic and social perspectives, but no attempts have been made to explore the nature of the interface between political hegemony and social psychology.
Since its accession to Pakistan in 1947, the region has been kept in a perpetual limbo by the governments in Pakistan. Its liminal status has given birth to consciousness and ideas that determine its political, social and cultural landscape, and the psychological mindscape.
In the modern period, Gilgit-Baltistan followed a path that entangled it in a process that has compelled the region to experience the eternal recurrence of the same. The modern period in Gilgit-Baltistan began in the 1830s when Sikhs and Dogras from Kashmir started to intrude and gradually subjugated some principalities with the tacit support of the British Empire. The locals became subjects of exogenous rules and alien systems. Since the colonial and post-colonial periods, political alienation has taken myriad shapes. Gradually, that alienation permeated into every sphere of life, including politics.
The political alienation of the region has not manifested in mass movements because the local compradors are co-opted in the hegemonic structure. Despite changes to the names of the systems that governed Gilgit-Baltistan, the essential character of the hegemonic systems has remained immutable. The hegemonic apparatus has succeeded in maintaining a semblance of political contentment and containment by imbuing political consciousness in the hues of power.
This process of altering consciousness to serve the post-colonial hegemonic system has close affinity with the colonial strategies which changed the very structure of the sense and sensibilities of the colonised. Frantz Fanon in ‘Black Skin White Masks’ provides a psychological and philosophical analysis of the inner effects of colonialism on the colonised. The deep inferiority complexes develop a yearning in the colonised to become a copy of his master. In other words, the subjugated want to become a part of the structure that has deprived them of their agency.
In Gilgit-Baltistan, the infrastructure of domination tries to obliterate the experience of alienation from society by depriving people of a collective perspective and infusing in them a false sense of power. However, the feeling of political alienation silently keeps festering. Fanon thinks that in every society exists, “an outlet through which the forces accumulated in the form of aggression can be released.” The politically suppressed individual of Gilgit-Baltistan sublimates himself by exercising power within his family, tribe, region, religion and society.
Power and authority in Gilgit-Baltistan is distributed not only in governmental organs but is also more powerfully exercised on roads, in markets, schools, rituals, religious spaces, family structure, literature and behaviour. Because of this palpable presence of power in the objective and subjective worlds, people of Gilgit-Baltistan have modified their psychology and have surrendered themselves to power to secure themselves. It can be deduced that pervasive power infects private spheres as well – apparent in the emerging trend of ‘marriages of power’ in Gilgit-Baltistan.
Referring to Joachim Marcus’ study related to the structure of families and societies and their abnormal behaviour, Fanon agrees with Marcus, who claimed that “like all other human conduct, behaviour towards authority is something learned.” It is because of the role that power plays in families, tribes, religions and society that the political class of Gilgit-Baltistan in particular, and society in general, prefers to relinquish collective will for individual benefit. This also explains why seasoned politicians and elected representatives prefer lucrative jobs that come with administrative power over becoming peoples’ voice.
According to Antonio Gramsci, ruling class maintains hegemony through political and ideological means. It is a combination of coercion and consent. In this political schema, the state is seen as the coercive force, whereas the civil society helps achieve consent. In the post-colonial period, the Gilgit-Baltistan region started on a new trajectory of complete consent after its leaders decided to merge the region with Pakistan, in November 1947. With the passage of time, the region has witnessed an increase in the state’s coercion, and decrease in consent as the federal government wants to become the master of the region by dominating the political space.
Since the dissolution of the last princely state of Hunza in 1974, the people of Gilgit-Baltistan witnessed gradual disempowerment through different systems, packages and orders. The recently announced Gilgit-Baltistan Governance Order, 2018 is worse than the former ones because it divests the region of whatever power it had previously. Instead of consulting the local people in drafting the new order, it has been imposed in a manner typical of the imperial viceroy who governed the Indian Subcontinent. All orders claim to give more power to the region than the previous dispensations, but Gilgit-Baltistan gets neither de jure nor de facto powers for governing its affairs. This policy to manage the region through coercive instruments at the expense of political means has further aggravated the situation. It is fallacious to think that political malaise can be cured through administrative measures. In the long run, political void only breeds monsters. The emergence of sectarian forces is an outcome of keeping the region in an uncertain political state. If the next government too kept the region in a perpetual limbo, then these dark forces will extinguish whatever little exists of the civil society and its politics.
The War of Independence was fought to end all wars of the colonial era. But the post-colonial period has only allowed a semblance of politics to exist by inducting a cadre of local politicians in the hollow governance structure. Owing to the region’s dependency on the centre, the political leaders in the peripheries have become mouthpieces of their masters.
By making Gilgit-Baltistan politically and existentially mute, the state apparatus has snuffed the life out of the region’s society and politics. A politically poor and psychologically subjugated society like Gilgit-Baltistan lacks the capacity to give birth to new ideas. Such a society provides a fertile soil for dehumanising orders and sanguinary ideas to nourish.
The writer is a freelance columnist based in Gilgit.
Retrieved from: https://www.thenews.com.pk/print/329012-hegemony-and-its-malaise
A provincial status for Gilgit-Baltistan, conditional on the final resolution of the Kashmir conflict on the basis of a plebiscite, shall not take away from Pakistan’s principled stand in the UN
As the Prime Minister made his way to the Gilgit-Baltistan Legislative Assembly, as it was known then, he was greeted along the way by locals waving shoes in the air. The Prime Minister was making his way to the Assembly to unveil the Government of Gilgit-Baltistan Order, 2018. Unsurprisingly, he was taken aback by the protests, and could not understand as to why the locals were so unhappy with a law which was supposedly bringing them at par with the rest of the country.
But in actuality, it was not. The 2018 Order, for what it’s worth, does in fact make efforts to establish a system similar to that present in the four provinces of Pakistan, albeit, without affording provincial status to the region. And that is where the problem lies.
As is known to many, the people of Gilgit-Baltistan have been demanding integration into Pakistan as its fifth province for over 70 years. However, on each occasion that such a demand has arisen, it has been shot down on the basis of a single rationale. This rationale dictates that the people of Gilgit-Baltistan can’t be granted provincial status until the final resolution of the Kashmir dispute, and that any attempt to do so would undermine and weaken Pakistan’s ‘principled’ stance vis-à-vis the UN Resolutions. This argument has gained traction as the UN Resolutions appear to lump both areas together, and treat them as one and the same.
The UN Resolution dated 21.04.1948, as well as the others, were passed under Chapter VI of the UN Charter, which in effect, deals with non-binding resolutions. In this resolution, the UN Security Council had ‘recommended’ for the demilitarization of the Kashmir territory, after which arrangements for a plebiscite would take place. Pakistan was to ensure that all those tribal people and other Pakistani nationals who had infiltrated Kashmir for purposes of fighting would leave the area. During the course of such evacuation, India and the U.N. Commission would then discuss and finalize a demilitarization plan for India, which interestingly, did not require total withdrawal. As per the UN recommended plan, India would be allowed to retain a minimal level of forces in the area.
Nehru stated that the “fate of the State of Jammu & Kashmir is ultimately to be decided by the people. The pledge we have given not only to people of Kashmir but also to the world. We will not, and cannot, back out of it”
After this, another UN Resolution dated 13.08.1948 was passed, which contained the terms of the ceasefire between India and Pakistan. This resolution acknowledged the penetration of Pakistani regular troops into Gilgit-Baltistan and Azad Kashmir, and termed such an event as constituting a ‘material change’ in the situation on the ground. As such, the UN had sought for Pakistan to withdraw all its troops from the area, as well as all remaining Pakistani nationals. After this was done, the said area was to be governed by local authorities. On the other side of the defacto border, India would be required to draw up a plan with the Commission for demilitarization on its side.
As history would have it, Pakistan and India, from 1948 onwards, have been quarrelling over the interpretation of such aspects of the resolutions, and in particular, the mode of demilitarization. India contends that the withdrawal of Pakistani forces was a sine qua non to any plebiscite, whereas the Pakistani side claims that Pakistani forces were required to complete the withdrawal only upon India finalizing a plan for demilitarization on its side of the defacto border.
Interestingly, whereas both sides had disputed the manner by which demilitarization was to take place, neither had denied the validity of the plebiscite itself. It has always been Pakistan’s stated position that a plebiscite must be held in Kashmir. It is also a fact that India was not only the party to bring the dispute to the Security Council, it had also acknowledged the validity of the plebiscite on several occasions after the passage of the resolutions. This was acknowledged in UN Resolutions dated 05.01.1949 and 14.03.1950, which unequivocally noted the acceptance of the plebiscite demand by both India and Pakistan. Furthermore, Nehru is reported to have stated on November 2, 1947, whilst speaking on All India Radio, that the “fate of the State of Jammu & Kashmir is ultimately to be decided by the people. The pledge we have given not only to people of Kashmir but also to the world. We will not and cannot back out of it”. Thereafter, on November 25, 1947, Nehru informed the Indian parliament that “we have suggested that when people of Kashmir are given a chance to decide their future, this should be done under the supervision of an impartial tribunal such as United Nations Organization”.
Hence, certain points become palpably clear in regard to the resolutions and Pakistan’s position in relation to them. The resolutions appear to be non-binding in nature, thereby meaning that the Security Council cannot enforce them. However, upon acceptance by both sides, aspects of the resolutions would certainly become binding in regards to the parties themselves. As such, the holding of the plebiscite, as espoused by the UN Security Council, was binding inter se the parties as a result of their acceptance, however aspects pertaining to the manner of demilitarization, by virtue of being disputed and under disagreement, were not. The lack of agreement on this aspect was also noted in UN Resolution dated 10.11.1951 and other resolutions, which call upon the two countries to come to an agreement on the mode of demilitarization.
As such, until the mode of demilitarization is agreed upon between the parties, as stated in the UN Resolutions itself, the said aspects of the resolutions cannot be effective or enforceable. Hence, in the meantime, Pakistan would be well within its rights to afford the people of Gilgit-Baltistan a governance system which best protects and furthers their rights. Doing so would not be in violation of any UN mandate, nor would it infringe upon Pakistan’s principled stand. If anything, such an action would instead help further their cause.
In fact, it may be noted that even if Gilgit-Baltistan was to be considered a non-self-governing territory for purposes of the UN Charter, such as Puerto Rico, even then, Pakistan would be obligated to keep the interests of its inhabitants paramount, with utmost attention to be paid to providing them with self-governance, as is their desire.
Keeping all this in mind, a provincial status for the region, conditional on the final resolution of the conflict on the basis of a plebiscite, shall not take away from Pakistan’s principled stand. The people of Gilgit-Baltistan are entitled to representation in the institutions which are to make decisions for them, and a stake in the affairs of the entity which governs them. Affording them such a status would go a long way in addressing the growing concerns of the local populace. And it would also go a long way in dispelling the unfortunate perception that is developing, which is that the state seems confused, straddling those who seek to leave the Federation, and distancing and alienating those who earnestly desire to be Pakistanis in the truest sense of the word.
By Basil Nabi Malik
The writer is a Karachi based lawyer. He can be reached at email@example.com. Twitter: @basilnabi
Published in Daily Times, June 8th 2018.