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Daily Times Editorial 6 August 2020

New map and ground realities


So, this is a political map, not the official one, where the government has asserted its longstanding position on Kashmir and Sir Creek disputes. In fact, the new map, approved by the cabinet on August 5 (the first anniversary of annexation of India-held Kashmir in the wake of revocation of articles 370 and 35A of the Indian constitution by the Modi government), shows people’s aspiration and reflects Pakistan’s principled stance on the Kashmir dispute and conflicts involving India. Moreover, India has unveiled months ago (Oct 31 last year exactly) claiming the entire disputed area, including Azad Kashmir and Gilgit-Baltistan, as its integral territory, which has been rejected by Pakistan, China and Nepal. The political map, however, is just a symbolic move, so it is quite early to state that the map is the ‘first step’ towards resolution of the seven decades old dispute of Kashmir. The political map, however, strengthens Pakistan’s position that Pakistan wants a political solution to the dispute and it believes the dispute can be settled in accordance with the UN resolutions and aspirations of the people of held Kashmir. On the other hand, India has propagated that the map amounts to the annexation of Azad Kashmir, whereas the fact is that the map reflects Pakistan’s claim on the territory and not that the region is part of Pakistan.
The map shows Gilgit-Baltistan and Kashmir a one territory, even though the region is run under an autonomous administration. Moreover, now the government calls India-held Jammu and Kashmir as Indian Illegally Occupied Jammu and Kashmir whose “final status is to be decided in line with relevant UNSC resolutions”. Also, the international boundary on the eastern side has been extended up to the undefined frontier to demarcate Indian territory of Himchal Pardesh from the disputed part of Jammu and Kashmir, which can be defined after the Kashmir dispute is settled. The map highlights the disputes, which our past governments had shelved, such as Junagadh and Manavadar, the two states which were illegally occupied by India right after Partition. The map includes Siachen and Sir Creek, which India is trying to occupy. On the domestic front, the new map shows erstwhile Fata as part of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province. The release of the map is a good move, but Pakistan needs to interntionalise the Kashmir and other disputes with diplomatic vigor. Prime Minister Imran Khan has already raised the Kashmir dispute at every possible international forum, and this must continue.


Food for thought


The government’s policy on food security needs to be examined closely. After its failure to meet the targeted number in the just concluded procurement season, the federal government is pressing the Sindh government to release wheat from the official stock so that, what the federal officials say, to stabilise wheat flour price in the market to benefit the common man in the province. Minister for National Food Security and Research Syed Fakhar Imam, however, says the wheat production during the last Rabi season surpassed the official target. His assessment might be true but the fact is the official stocks do not corroborate the ground situation and that extra tonnes have been hoarded despite the government’s best effort to recover them. The minister blames the Sindh government’s refusal to release the staple food to flour mills for the wheat crisis in the country. In normal conditions, provincial governments release wheat to millers from September before mills’ own stocks deplete. On the other hand, the Punjab government has been releasing an interim wheat quota of 17,000 tonnes every day to keep the flour prices under control. Has it helped the Punjab government to sell flour at official price? No. Flour mills demand the release of 26,000 tonnes wheat every day will address the price issue. The government had barred flour mills from buying wheat on their own this summer only to meet its official targets, and now the open market sells wheat at inflated rates. In such a situation, the federal minister insists that if the Sindh government releases wheat stock as soon as possible, the price of wheat flour in the market will decline. The federal minister admits the fact that Sindh government has procured 1.25 million tonnes of wheat this year, which if it starts releasing from August may not last till the arrival of the next crop, expected in April 2021.
Even if Sindh starts releasing the wheat right now, it will not resolve the crisis given the fact that the private sector knows very well that there is a shortage of the commodity in the country, and soon the released tonnes will be either smuggled or hoarded. The solution lies in keeping a good stock, which can be addressed through importing the required tonnes from the international market. The government needs to meet the demand of the market, otherwise wheat flour prices may not come down even if the Sindh government releases its share of wheat.
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