Pakistan and the Panama Papers

The Panama Papers are “a blessing in disguise” … Watch Video

The paper trail from Panama to Pakistan is a long and mysterious one and it reveals much about Pakistan’s first family’s vast wealth and international property empire. The leaked documents, which are linked to dozens of venal “super rich” politicians, had even forced Iceland’s prime minister Sigmundur Davíð Gunnlaugsson to resign. Yet Ramón Fonseca argues his firm is the subject of a “witch hunt” and it has done nothing wrong; there is “more dirty money in New York and London,” he says. His claim is backed up by Bill Browder, who made his fortune in Russia but has since converted into an ardent Putin critic; owing to the former KGB head turning Russia into a kleptocracy, he says. Browder argues London is a “brothel” for dirty Russian money. He is equally adamant that Cameron’s anti-corruption drive is just “hot air”. This post captures and recalls our recent Panama Papers discussion.

Financial regulators and tax authorities worldwide have expressed huge interest in the disclosures in the papers because the International Consortium for Investigative Journalism (ICIJ) has created “a searchable database that strips away the secrecy of nearly 214,000 offshore entities created in 21 jurisdictions, from Nevada to Hong Kong and the British Virgin Islands.” Indeed, the gigantic leak of more than 11.5 million financial and legal records is clearly groundbreaking. The documents show the details of the manner in which the world’s political and economic elites have used “crime, corruption and wrongdoing, hidden by secretive offshore companies” to hoodwink tax authorities. Continue reading

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Dr Bärbel Kofler: Transferring the UN Guidelines on Business and Human Rights into Practice in Germany

Human rights must not be ignored when doing business overseas …

Speaking at The Pakistan Institute of International Affairs (PIIA, Watch Video), Dr Bärbel Kofler – member of the German Bundestag – said that because of high levels of exploitation of labour in the developing world, consumers in the west are willing to pay more for products which are produced using labour inputs under a system where people are fairly treated and paid for work. In interesting times when both internally and externally Angela Merkel is on the back foot for letting in a flood of refugees – who are usually dubbed “economic migrants” by right-wingers – Dr Kofler argued human rights in business are heavily debated in Europe and Germany, especially after unfortunate incidents in recent past, which include the Rana Plaza tragedy in Bangladesh and in Karachi’s Baldia Town fire factory incident. Germany’s National Action Plan (NAP) for economic cooperation is based on UN guidelines on Business in Human Rights.

In an era of globalization, the UN guidelines oblige states to protect the human rights of every citizen and they equally oblige business entities to respect those human rights. This post gathers the details of the event from the Internet and Farhan Khan’s excellent coverage is reproduced from the LiveRostrum news agency. Dr Kofler said that the UN guidelines have three pillars. First, states are obliged to protect citizens from human rights violations. Second, it is also the obligation of the business Continue reading

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Dr Gunter Mulack: Crisis in the Middle East: A German Perspective

‘The Arab elite responsible is for Middle East crises’ – Watch Video.

As seen on this blog, the German chancellor Angela Merkel has become rather controversial because of her “open door” or Willkommenskultur policy in relation to refugees from the Middle East and elsewhere in Asia. Last year, Merkel was involved in a tug of war involved in a tug of war with her uneasy ally Horst Seehofer (premier of Bavaria) and even members of her trusted cabinet openly challenged her over her refugee policy. The chancellery ultimately bowed down to pressure from finance minister Wolfgang Schäuble and interior minister Thomas de Maizière – Schäuble accused her of being a “careless” skier who has caused an “avalanche” which needs to be contained. Equally, Mrs Merkel has been under pressure from the extremist right-wing populist eurosceptic Alternative für Deutschland (Alternative for Germany) party and its charismatic co-leader Frauke Petry; a 40-year old chemist/businesswoman with four children turned politician who very radically argues that the German authorities must “use firearms if necessary” to “prevent illegal border crossings”.

Given that a million people have penetrated Europe’s border in just a year, Petry argues that the “police must stop refugees entering German soil.” Against that background, German diplomat and scholar Dr Gunter Mulack spoke at The Pakistan Institute of International Affairs (PIIA) and shared his views on the crisis in the Middle East from a German Perspective. Continue reading

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Ahmed Rashid: Continuing Search for Stability: Pakistan and Afghanistan

The West has endorsed two rigged elections in Afghanistan and the military situation has never been worse than it is now. Using proxies encourages neighbours to follow suit. Watch Introduction, Main Lecture and Q&A.

Acclaimed author and journalist Mr Ahmed Rashid spoke at The Pakistan Institute of International Affairs (PIIA) on Friday, 11 March 2016. His lecture aimed to make sense of the spiralling trend towards violence and militancy in the region. He argued that Pakistan’s interference in Afghan matters using proxies has created widespread problems and cataclysmic failure. For him, claims that the Taliban are being beaten are wholly incorrect and amount to a “fallacy”. Rashid is the author of numerous books including the widely read publication Taliban. His other books include Jihad: The Rise of Militant Islam in Central Asia and Descent into Chaos: The United States and the Disaster in Afghanistan, Pakistan and Central Asia and Pakistan on the Brink: The Future of America, Pakistan and Afghanistan.

His talk looked at the emerging trends in jihad and insurrection in the region and interlinked the Afghan situation to the wider issues of jihad as seen by the governments of countries such as Iran, Russia and the Central Asian Republics all of which were involved in backing different Taliban factions in Afghanistan. He also questioned the efficacy of Pakistan’s Zarb-e-Azb operation. Continue reading

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Regional Challenges and Opportunities for South Asia in the Decades Ahead

‘I look at the region not as Pakistan alone. I look at wider connectivity over the next two decades’ … ‘There’s no military solution to security issues’ …

Crossed Swords: Pakistan, its Army and the Wars Within is thought to be an important book. William Dalrymple called it the most “authoritative analysis” of Pakistan’s military and intelligence services. General Jehangir Karamat, the former Chief of Army Staff (1996-98), called it an “insightful study” and “the centre of gravity in Pakistan”. It has been called the “key” to understanding the complex framework underpinning power structures in Pakistan. “The most well researched and lucidly written book of its kind,” is how Ahmed Rashid described it. In a talk entitled Regional Challenges and Opportunities for South Asia in the Decades Ahead at The Pakistan Institute of International Affairs (PIIA), its author Shuja Nawaz stressed that terrorism would only be reduced if education levels remain high. He is a Distinguished Fellow at the Atlantic Council’s South Asia Centre.

The Atlantic Council promotes constructive leadership and engagement in international affairs based on the Atlantic Community’s central role in meeting global challenges. The Council provides an essential forum for navigating the dramatic economic and political changes defining the twenty-first century by informing and galvanizing its uniquely influential network of global leaders. Because of historic rivalry, the degree of misunderstanding and mistrust between Pakistan and India is constantly skyrocketing. Continue reading

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Holy Cow! Is It Cricket?

I have never attended cricket matches and only once took a bat and a cricket ball in my hands and that was under compulsion from the head master

Markandey Katju, quondam Justice of the Supreme Court of India, is a man who does not mince his words. A maverick, he has a penchant for courting controversies. Not long ago, he dubbed Mahatma Gandhi “a British agent” (he also called Subhash Chandra Bose “a Japanese agent”). Katju accused Gandhi of serving the imperial agenda and declared as a myth the widely held claim that Gandhi won India her freedom. For about twenty years Gandhi practised law in South Africa and in 1915 went back to India, where he became involved in the country’s independence movement. In India, he set out to build a mass political movement by injecting religion into politics, thereby exploiting the deeply held religious sentiments of the people. In almost every meeting he participated, he propagated Hindu religious ideas.

The Congress was converted to a party of the Hindu masses, leading to the Muslims and the Congress becoming polarised. Citing the eminent jurist Seervai in support, Katju has argued that Gandhi’s method of appealing to Hindu ideas inevitably led to partition. Had Katju been in Solon’s Athens, where speaking ill of the dead was prohibited by Solon’s law, his remarks would have got him into hot waters. In twenty first century India, Katju’s remarks touched a raw nerve of the law makers because he had spoken ill of the Father Continue reading

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A Talk by Ambassador Brigitta Blaha on Austria’s Foreign Policy

‘We have no problem with Islam but we don’t want any disruption or anything that goes against our cultural values’ – Watch Video

A longstanding diplomat who joined the Austrian Foreign Service in 1978, Dr Brigitta Blaha gave a talk on Austria’s Foreign Policy at The Pakistan Institute of International Affairs (PIIA) on 9 February 2016. Prior to her present posting in Pakistan as Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Republic of Austria, Dr Blaha had served her country in Washington, Bangkok, Rome, Tokyo, Hong Kong and New York. An astute diplomat, she speaks German, English, French, Italian and Spanish and has extensive experience in dealing with integration and foreign affairs, Austrians abroad, citizenship matters, elections, social and health and Labour issues. The event was chaired by Dr Masuma Hasan, Chairman, PIIA, former Cabinet Secretary to the Government of Pakistan and former Ambassador of Pakistan to Austria, the UN and International Atomic Energy Agency in Vienna.

Certainly, in the existing political milieu, the interest in EU matters is amplified because of the continuing exchange between David Cameron and EU leaders. As we know so well, these days nothing in European politics is as important as the UK’s exit, or “Brexit”, from the EU. With a record one million people arriving irregularly in the EU last year, swelling numbers of refugees are giving rise to extreme Xenophobia in Europe and Austria is no exception. Continue reading

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