Sarwar Hasan: Bandung Memories

Held six decades ago in Bandung, Indonesia, the 1955 Afro-Asian Conference (also known as the Bandung Conference) was a landmark event in the history of decolonized countries and those aspiring for independence from colonial rule. The Conference was organized by Indonesia, Pakistan, Burma, India and Ceylon (Sri Lanka) and was unique in that there was no official western presence. It was attended by the great leaders of that time: Zhou Enlai and Ho Chi Minh, Nehru, U Nu, Tito, Nasser, Ben Bella among others and seasoned diplomats like Prince Waithayakow of Thailand, Fatin Zorlu of Turkey and Carlos Romulo of the Philippines. For The Pakistan Institute of International Affairs, the Bandung Conference has a very special significance because our founding Secretary, K. Sarwar Hasan, went to Bandung to organize the Conference on behalf of the Government of Pakistan. He recorded his impressions of the Conference in this unpublished paper, Bandung Memories.

The Asian-African Conference, held in Bandung from 18 to 24 April 1955, was undoubtedly the largest gathering of the kind held on the soil of Asia or Africa. Twenty-nine governments participated, many of them represented by their prime ministers or other leading statesmen. Arrangements for the Conference were made by a Joint Secretariat of the five sponsoring powers, the so-called Colombo Powers, namely, Burma, Ceylon, India, Indonesia and Pakistan. Continue reading

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Filed under Africa, Discussion, Pakistan, Pakistan Horizon, Peace building, Sarwar Hasan

Iran Nuclear Deal: Challenges and Opportunities

It is not like the Treaty of Versailles 1919 which favoured the victors and victimized the defeated powers. As rightly highlighted by the Foreign Minister of Iran Mohammad Javad Zarif, it is the treaty which provides a win-win solution to end the perennial conflict between the west and Iran. Amid the bloodshed and scourge of war in the Middle East, the major powers and Iran have given a reason to the world to be hopeful for the prospects of peace, progress and prosperity. There is no escaping the fact that the Iran Nuclear Deal is very significant indeed: as the aptly named Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) suggests, the constructive engagement really aims to resolve issues peacefully irrespective of the complexities presented by the circumstances. After the heady days of the Islamic Revolution of 1979, which toppled the pro-American government in Tehran and disarticulated American hegemony in the region, the United States of America and Islamic Republic of Iran came to be at loggerheads.

Equally, the hostage crisis of 1979, the American sponsored invasion of Iran by former Iraqi strongman Saddam Hussein, the deplorable Vincennes incident (which caused the death of 290 Iranians) and sweeping sanctions aggravated the situation by adding fuel to the fire. In such volatile circumstances, it was difficult to foresee that the Islamic Republic would extend a hand of co-operation to a country which it calls Great Satan. Nevertheless, the change in the reins of power in Iran’s June 2013 elections, which catapulted the moderate and pragmatic Hassan Rouhani into office, transformed the discourse. Continue reading

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Filed under Congress, Disarmament, Discussion, Energy, Israel, Pakistan Horizon, Politics, Sanctions, The Middle East, United States

Dr Reeza Hameed: Mahinda Rajapaksa cannot become Prime Minister

The question whether ex-President Mahinda Rajapaksa is eligible to be appointed to the Prime Minister’s post if he has the support of a majority of members in Parliament following the August 17 poll is the subject of current debate. President Sirisena has made public his intention not to appoint Rajapaksa as the Prime Minister and has hinted that ‘there are enough seniors in the party to be the Prime Minister’. There are some within the UPFA who want Rajapaksa as their Prime Minister in the event of a UPFA majority in Parliament. A.H.M. Fowzie, for instance, has acknowledged that the appointment of the Prime Minister is the prerogative right of the President but that, after the elections are over, the UPFA ‘will prevail upon President Sirisena to accommodate Rajapaksa as the Prime Minister’.

Another UPFA candidate has threatened to do a Dahanayake and run around with the mace if Mahinda Rajapaksa is ignored for the post. G.L. Peiris has weighed in to say that nowhere in the constitution is it stated that a former President cannot become Prime Minister. The President, he said, must appoint as Prime Minister the member who commands the support of a majority of parliamentarians, and he must appoint Mahinda Rajapaksa if he happened to be that person. Former Chief Justice Sarath Silva has declared as untenable the argument that Rajapaksa is disqualified from acting as President simply because he has already been elected twice as President. Continue reading

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Filed under Courts, Discussion, Dr Reeza Hameed, Pakistan Horizon, Sri Lanka

War on Terror and Post-Operation Measures in FATA

Rampaging terrorism and bubbling militancy have menacingly plagued Pakistan since 2001. Parliamentary Secretary of Interior, Mariyam Aurangzeb, explained on 5 December 2014 that more than 50,000 people including army, police, and civilians had lost their lives in the war on terror, and the country had also lost 80 billion US dollars in this war. Before the ongoing military operation Zarb-e-Azb, the government was sincerely immersed in perusing peace talks with the Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan’s (TTP) leadership but then out of the blue seven gunmen affiliated with the TTP conducted a terrorist attack on the Army Public School in Peshawar on 16 December 2014 killing 145 people, including 132 school children aged between eight and eighteen years.

At that critical juncture, both the civilian and military leadership agreed to vigorously conduct a counter-terrorism and counter-militancy operation against terrorists aimed at permanently flushing out terrorists of all strides particularly the outlawed TTP. The first year of the operation was completed on June 15, in which Pakistani security forces cleared the North Waziristan tribal areas. According to Inter Services Public Relations Director General, Major General Asim Saleem Bajwa, since the launch of the operation 2,763 terrorists had been killed and 837 of their hideouts had been destroyed (with 253 tonnes of explosives recovered). On the other hand, 347 army officers and soldiers were martyred in the operation. Continue reading

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Filed under Afghanistan, Constitution 1973, Courts, CPEC, Discussion, Legislation, Peace building, Women

Jinnah and his young admirers

Jinnah could be kind to children. His reserved nature probably prevented him from making physical gestures of warmth and his affection may have been imbued with sternness. That he was devoted to his daughter, Dina, is borne out in all accounts of his life. She grew up in his homes in London and Bombay where she spent time also with her mother’s family, particularly with her indulgent grandmother. Jinnah denied Dina nothing, just as he had denied nothing to his wife, Ruttie. In London, she would coax him away from his briefs and persuade him to take her to pantomimes. She would lovingly address him as ‘Grey Wolf’ after the biography of Kemal Ataturk which he had urged her to read.

Despite his unhappiness with her marriage to a Christian, the bond between them remained strong. In her letters to Jinnah, written on the eve of Partition, Dina addresses her father as ‘Darling Papa’. The contents of the letters, apart from her concern about the sale of South Court as his house on Malabar Hill was known, are full of mundane matters which she apparently felt confident enough to write about. There is no record of how frequently she and her children met him as he fought for time, grappling with his frequent ‘breakdowns’ and ‘self-imposed’ burden of work. Jahanara Shahnawaz recalled, however, how Jinnah was the heart and soul of one of her parties, regaling the guests with stories about his grandsons. The Raja of Mahmudabad first met Jinnah as a child when he and Ruttie stopped at Qaiser Bagh during their honeymoon. Continue reading

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FCO: General Election 2015 does not impact historic UK-Pakistan ties

On 11 June 2015, His Excellency Mr. Philip Barton, the British High Commissioner to Pakistan, addressed PIIA members on “UK-Pakistan Relations after the UK Elections

There will not be significant changes in the overall relationship between the United Kingdom and Pakistan after the recent General Election in Britain, said H.E. Philip Barton, the British High Commissioner. The high-ranking western diplomat articulated his thoughts at a talk he gave at The Pakistan Institute of International Affairs on Thursday evening. He said even though now there was a different government in power in the UK the prime minister and top four senior ministers remain unchanged. “The two governments know each other well. They have a mature relationship allowing genuine partnership and where there are issues in which they differ with each other, they can discuss it without being rankled.”

He spelled out the six areas which he and his team would be focusing on during his tenure in Pakistan: furthering of business relationship between UK and Pakistan, access to EU markets, increasing the tax revenue base, regional relationships, development and security. Continued efforts will be made in making both the countries prosperous, said Mr Barton while speaking on commercial relations between Britain and Pakistan. “We are promoting Pakistani companies to the British ones, finding ways of doing business with ease. Retail sector will see a potential increase as more British brands coming into Pakistan. Information technology is another area will there be a potential increase both ways.” Continue reading

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Filed under Afghanistan, Europe, FCO, Immigration, Pakistan, Pakistan Horizon, Politics

Cheers for the Election Commission of Pakistan and the Women’s Movement

It was a landmark decision which brought both joy and tears of emotion to the eyes of those who have long struggled for women’s rights in Pakistan. In a short order, on 2 June 2015, a full bench of the Election Commission of Pakistan declared null and void the by-election held in PK 95, Lower Dir II, on grounds of the disenfranchisement of women in that constituency. A re-polling will take place. It seems forever now that women have been barred from casting their votes in some parts of Pakistan. Over the years, women have not only participated defiantly and vibrantly in elections at all levels, they have also reached the highest level of representation in the houses of parliament both on reserved seats and general seats. But some areas have kept their women indoors on every election day.

It has been customary for political parties operating in these areas to arrive at prior agreements among themselves that women would not be allowed to cast their votes. This includes conservative and religious parties as well as the so-called ‘secular’ parties. It seems that custom and patriarchical tyranny has always prevailed over the agendas of ‘progressive’ parties. The agreements are verbal but have often been reduced to writing as they were in this case. Aurat Foundation has worked for the participation of women in politics at all levels. It has facilitated the participation of women in local, provincial and national elections by getting their national identity cards made Continue reading

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Filed under Aurat Foundation, Constitution 1973, Courts, Discussion, Pakistan, Women