News India Times – that’s all you need to know Opinion News India Times April 9, 2021 4 Movie Rerun: Pakistan’s Latest Overtures A t the onset of the pandemic, analysts feared it would mark a disaster for women. The strain of coronavirus lockdowns would exact a disproportionate toll on the sexes - forcing more women out of the workforce, deepening their load of un- compensated labor, leaving themmore vulnerable to domestic violence. All those concerns proved to be true. But the social damage wrought by what’s been dubbed the “shadow pandemic” may be felt for decades to come. That’s the grim conclusion of an annual report on the global gender gap released this week by theWorld Economic Forum, which keeps an index on “gender parity” in 156 countries. Based on its graded evaluations in each country on four broad benchmarks - ranging from women’s participation in politics and the economy to access to health and education - the organiza- tion had previously forecast that gender parity was a century away. But the effect of the pandemic has now added roughly 36 years to its calculation, effectively the span of another generation. “The COVID-19 pandemic has raised new barriers to building inclusive and prosperous economies and societies,” wrote Saadia Zahidi, WEF managing director, in the report’s preface. “Pre- existing gender gaps have amplified the crisis asymmetrically between men and women, even as women have been at the frontlines of managing the crisis as essential workers.” Zahidi added that she hoped “that this report will serve as a call to action to leaders to embed gender parity as a central goal of our policies and practices to manage the post-pandemic recovery, to the benefit of our economies and our societies.” Some of the solutions in de- veloped countries are familiar, including significant government and private-sec- tor investment in care, as well as efforts to equalize access to care leave for both men and women in the workforce. The pain is all too real. Data suggests that some of the sectors hardest hit by pandemic lockdowns were fields where women are more likely to be employed - including tourism and retail, as well as jobs in the informal sectors of developing countries. “Combined with the additional pressures of providing care in the home,” wrote Zahidi, “the crisis has halted progress toward gender parity in several economies and industries.” Just in the United States, more than 2 million women left the workforce over the past year. And, according to research by professional networking social media site LinkedIn, rates of hiring women, es- pecially in leadership roles, have dipped after gains in recent years. Broader ineq- uities persevere: TheWEF report predicts that men and women in the United States would, per current trends, receive equal pay only six decades from now. Women also remain significantly un- derrepresented in sectors that comprise leading industries of the future in the developed world: According to theWEF, in data and artificial intelligence, women make up 32 percent of the workforce; in engineering, 20 percent; in cloud com- puting, 14 percent. Elsewhere, the picture is all the more concerning. South Asia is, per the report, some two centuries away from reaching gender parity, and East Asian countries are more than 165 years away. Accord- ing to separate surveys conducted by the World Bank, women in Latin America were 44 percent more likely to lose their jobs at the onset of the crisis. Moreover, 21 percent of women who were em- ployed before the pandemic are appar- ently out of work now. The persistent gender gap in the workforce, concluded theWorld Bank, could cost countries in Latin America and the Caribbean some 14 percent of the region’s collective GDP per capita over the next three decades. The pandemic’s impact extends well beyond economic concerns. New research by the Lancet, a British health journal, found that maternal health out- comes slumped around the world over the course of the pandemic, including “an increase in maternal deaths, still- birth, ruptured ectopic pregnancies, and maternal depression.” “Data from a dozen studies showed that the chances of a stillbirth increased by 28 percent. And the risk of women dy- ing while pregnant or during childbirth increased by more than a third in two countries: Mexico and India,” noted the NewYork Times. While health concerns mount, the largest gender gap, as measured by the World Economic Forum, is in the realm of “political empowerment.”Women represent only about 26 percent of some 35,500 parliament seats and just 22.6 percent of more than 3,400 ministers rec- ognized in the organization’s data. More the shame, argue prominent female leaders. “Countries led by women are dealing with the pandemic more effectively than many others. Peace pro- cesses and peace agreements mediated with the active participation of women are more durable and comprehensive,” noted a recent op-ed signed by dozens of female ambassadors posted to the United Nations. “When women have equal opportunities in the labor force, economies can unlock trillions of dollars.” Ishaan Tharoor is a columnist on the foreign desk of The Washington Post, where he authors the To- day’s WorldView newsletter and column. -TheWashington Post I ’ve seen this movie too many times before and I fear the ending doesn’t change. The closest parallel to this could be former President General Pervez Musharraf’s alleged peace overtures in 2004 when folks again became excited about the prospects for peace. Let’s presume for a moment that General Qamar Javed Bajwa, Pakistan’s Chief of Army Staff, is having similar delusions of grandeur and he will be the one to shepherd peace to the subcontinent. Let’s pretend for a moment that he, like Musharraf, fancies a Nobel Prize for solving the world’s most dangerous security competition. Now let’s deconstruct the fantasy. First--even if we take Bajwa at his word--and I do not, he is not the only one who matters. He needs to have all his corps commanders and other relevant generals on board. With each year he stays beyond his designated re- tirement date, he becomes two generations more distant from the “youngest” Corps Commander. What does this mean? Each year, the PMA (Pakistan Military Academy) churns out two batches of officers. So, every year that Bajwa stays beyond his intended retire- ment date, he becomes two “cohorts” out of date. Lt. General Sarfaraz Ali is the XII Corps Commander. He is supposed to retire on 25 November 2024. He has the latest retirement date. I can’t find the exact year that he graduated from Kakul but it must be sometime around 1987. Bajwa was commissioned 1980. So, this means that there are fourteen batches separating them. His affinities with increasingly “younger” generals dissipates. This was Musharraf’s problem. Second, for this peace overture to be true, Pakistan has to do the following: 1. Accept the territorial status quo on Kashmir. It needs to stop haranguing India over a piece of territory to which it was never entitled despite the various fictions Pakistan spins to the contrary; 2. It must give up its use of terrorists as tools of foreign policy in India, Afghanistan and elsewhere; and 3. It needs a DDR (Disarmament, Demobilization and Reintegration) for the countless tens of thousands of jihadi assets it currently nurtures. Third, what would this mean for the army itself? For one thing, peace with India would arguably be a fairly serious set of nails in the coffin of the army’s claim to be the most important institution in Pakistan capable of defending its ideological and territorial frontiers. If there was peace with India, how could the army claim/hog the country’s resources and turn general elections into the Generals’ Selections? It could not. Peace with India would mean the demise of the army’s primacy. So why is he doing this? It’s a new administration inWashington. He hopes he can con Biden into a new start. There is always the issue of FATF (Financial Action Task Force) and ensuring that Pakistan remains on the grey list instead of the black list it deserves. He also wants Biden to force Afghan President Ashraf Ghani into acquiescing to the Taliban. He wants to look like a responsible arbiter of international security in South Asia. So you won’t see me falling for this latest bakvas da tama- sha (nonsensical drama). Christine Fair is Professor Secu- rity Studies at Georgetown Univer- sity’s Edmunc A. Walsh School of Foreign Service. The PandemicMay SetWomen Back By AWhole Generation By C. Christine Fair By Ishaan Tharoor The strain of coronavirus lockdowns over the past year resulted in more than 2 million women leaving the workforce in the U.S. REUTERS TheWashington Post