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5 Reasons Pakistan Wanted A Rapid De-Escalation After The Balakot Air Strikes

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After the Pulwama terrorist attack in which more than 40 Indian soldiers were martyred, Indians were justifiably angry with Pakistan. India’s unsuccessful air strike on a terrorist training camp in Balakot and the subsequent aerial dogfight between the two air forces brought the two countries to the brink of war.

But many people felt surprised by the statements made by the Prime Minister of Pakistan, Imran Khan at the height of tensions. He appeared to be very enthusiastic to deescalate the situation and continuously made conciliatory statements in addition to releasing the Indian pilot. When did Pakistan, whose official policy is to “bleed India with a thousand cuts” through its proxy war, become a peacenik?

The fact is, Pakistan is not in a position to wage a war against India. What are the reasons that pulled Pakistan back from the brink of war?

1. Its Economy Is In The Doldrums:

Pakistan’s economy is almost in an ICU- slow growth rate, rapidly dwindling foreign exchange reserves, mounting sovereign debt, very little exports and widening current account deficit are some of the problems that are ailing its economy. It has already borrowed billions of dollars from some of its allies including China and Saudi Arabia, but it found the assistance inadequate and decided to approach the International Monetary Fund (IMF) for a bailout. The IMF, however, is putting strong preconditions including a switch over to a floating exchange rate regime. Pakistan has so far been rescued by the IMF 21 times and this is the 22nd time it approached for a bailout. A strong economy is the most important prerequisite to go for war as modern warfare is extremely costly and a nation that is already in a debt trap can barely afford it.

Imran Khan at the height of tensions, appeared to be very enthusiastic to deescalate the situation and continuously made conciliatory statements.

2. It Is Facing Increasing Isolation In The International Arena: 

Pakistan, over some decades, has acquired notoriety for being a breeding ground for terrorism. Its numerous madrasas regularly churn out hardened fanatics who carry out terrorist activities. According to some sources, there are around 40,000 registered and unregistered madrasas in Pakistan, which teach only religious subjects such as Koran and Hadith that fail to empower the students with any gainful employment. In the absence of any opportunities, terrorism becomes the only option for them. Even the government extends funding to some of these seminaries. For example, the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government allots millions of rupees to Darul Uloom Haqqania, the seminary that acquired notoriety as the ‘University of Jihad’. The international community sees a direct correlation between the rapid proliferation of these seminaries and the growing radicalization of youth. Although many nations, on numerous occasions asked Pakistan to take effective measures to liberate the Pakistani society of radicalism and combat terror, their words fell on deaf ears. Though it has some all-weather friends such as China, their support is not adequate for it to sail through a potential confrontation with India.

3. The Blacklisting From FATF Is Hanging Over Pakistan Like A Sword Of Damocles:

The Financial Action Task Force (FATF), the global terror financing watchdog, has already placed Pakistan on the grey list for not taking satisfactory measures to curb terror financing and it is even facing the prospect of getting blacklisted in future. Getting blacklisted implies that Pakistan is “non-cooperative” in the global fight against terrorist financing. If Pakistan gets blacklisted, the multilateral lenders such as IMF and World Bank will downgrade it and Pakistan will not be able to get the much-needed financial assistance from these lenders. Even the credit rating agencies like Moody’s and S&P will reduce its risk rating. So, entering FATF’s blacklist will prove to be a financial death knell as it will become almost impossible for Pakistan to borrow money to save its crumbling economy.

4. The CPEC Burden: 

Pakistan’s increasing isolation is being exploited by China to serve its narrow self-interests. China, through its China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), undertook massive infrastructure projects in Pakistan. These projects have resulted in a rapid increase in Pakistan’s sovereign debt burden. Moreover, the recent happenings in Sri Lanka, which borrowed heavily from China to build a port and was later compelled to give it to China on a 99-year lease after it failed to repay the loan, triggered worries in Pakistan. There are many observers who foresee the likelihood of Pakistan failing to repay the CPEC loans and ending up coughing out land to China, losing its sovereignty in the process.

5. Mired In Internal Conflicts:

Pakistan, though a theocracy that enforces the draconian Sharia laws, is facing ever-increasing internal conflicts. The latest bomb blasts in Quetta, which were targeted against the Hazara community, claimed more than twenty lives. These blasts are the manifestation of the twin problem of terrorism and sectarian violence that is ailing the Pakistani society.

These problems will only intensify once the IMF’s notorious and painful structural adjustment program kicks in and the people start feeling its pinch. All these reasons make Pakistan very uncomfortable and it develops cold feet at the prospect of a war with India. Moreover, the ever-deteriorating internal situation made Imran Khan take steps to rapidly deescalate the situation.

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An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

Read more about his campaign.

Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Read more about her campaign. 

A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

Read more about the campaign here.

A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

Read more about the campaign here.

A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform Change.org, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on Change.org has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in Change.org’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

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