Why Think Tanks Matter to Policy Makers and the Public

The Pakistan Institute of International Affairs (PIIA), a learned society and the oldest think tank in Pakistan, with 68 years’ experience in research, publication and public diplomacy, hosted a session on Why Think Tanks Matter to Policy Makers and the Public, on Thursday, 28 January 2016 as a launch partner in Pakistan of The Lauder Institute’s (The University of Pennsylvania) 2015 Global Go To Think Tank Index in January 2016. This event aimed at bringing together policy makers, think tank leaders, academics, public interest activists and concerned citizens. The session provided an opportunity to all stakeholders in public policy to discuss in depth the importance and contribution of think tanks in policy making and the challenges faced by them, to examine the outreach and culture of think tanks in Pakistan and search for a way forward for a more effective collaboration between think tanks, policy makers and members of the public.

The session began with a video message from Dr James G McGann, Director, Think Tanks and Civil Societies Program, University of Pennsylvania USA. The discussion was led by Dr Masuma Hasan, Chairperson, PIIA; Mr Javed Jabbar, former Senator and Federal Minister, Chairman and Chief Executive, JJ Media (Pvt) Limited; Ambassador Sohail Amin, President, Islamabad Policy Research Institute; Mr Tasneem Siddiqui, former Chief Secretary, Government of Sindh and Chairman, Saiban; Mr Arif Hasan, architect Continue reading

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Mani Shankar Aiyar: Continuity and Change in India’s Foreign Policy

‘If we don’t talk to Pakistan we will never be able to find a solution…It would be foolish to have cordial relations with Paraguay and just ignore Pakistan’ said the Rajya Sabha member and former diplomat – watch video.

“There is going to be no peace in India or elsewhere except on the basis of freedom,” remained Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru’s final denouement in The Discovery of India – his third book; written in captivity in Ahmadnagar Fort prison in 1944. Indira Gandhi explained that along with Discovery, Joe’s other books Glimpses of World History and An Autobiography were her close “companions in life”. Indeed, Nehru’s works and political strategy not only influenced his daughter but also inspired political activists in neighbouring Pakistan and elsewhere in the world. Just the other day, India’s government began to declassify secret files to finally settle questions over Subhas Chandra Bose’s death. Bose, a widely admired Congress party frontrunner, aligned his tactics with the Japanese in the 1940s to create a “national army” to fight colonial rule and expel the British from India.

In Discovery, Panditji noted the “astonishing enthusiasm” evoked by the court martial of members of the Indian National Army (INA). In admiration, he remarked that the trial “aroused the country as nothing else had done, and they became the symbols of India fighting for her freedom.” In Nehru’s eyes, INA activists and members, who were in fact his rivals, had “solved the communal problem amongst themselves” because “Hindu, Moslem, Sikh and Christian were all represented”. They had achieved utopia. Or perhaps even Nirvana. Continue reading

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Dr Subir Sinha: ‘London and Us’

If it is ok for Cameron to repeat Modi’s electoral slogan of ‘Achche din zaroor ayenge’ from the Wembley stage, then it is equally legitimate to challenge that narrative on the streets of London …

Shashi Tharoor’s recent op-ed for The Guardian, where he charged PM Modi with damaging India’s reputation worldwide by waging a ‘war on Muslims’ and on tolerance, was slammed by Modi’s fans, accusing him of tarnishing India’s image, and of a PM who works tirelessly to lift India to a position of prosperity and world leadership. To them it amounted to washing the national dirty laundry in the land of the ex-colonizers, raising the question of appropriateness of criticising and protesting against Modi in the UK. Modi’s London trip indicated how the India media, and Modi’s fans, frame that question. Indian journalists, interested primarily in the pageantry arranged for his official and community functions, and the ‘excitement level’ generated by the visit, not in any critique.

One reporter, to whom I suggested that he should also cover the planned anti-Modi protests, said, “sir, I have come to see my PM speak in Parliament, and to attend the rock star event at Wembley, not to waste my time with critics and protests.” However, Modi travels both as the democratically elected PM of India, and as a hero of the Hindu right. These two personae compete with each other, mobilizing bitterly-opposed coalitions. Modi’s admirers want no light shone on the dark patches of his past, invoking ‘clean chits’. They project him as a wise, unifying figure, representing India as a whole Continue reading

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The Middle East in Turmoil: A Talk by Ambassador Karamatullah Ghori

The region is an ‘enigma wrapped in a riddle’ … the Saudi Arabia-Iran spat is ‘a hot potato’ … Pakistan should not lean to one side and should play the role of a conciliator, peacemaker.

When asked whether he agreed with Donald Trump that president Putin ate “Obama’s lunch” over Syria, former Pakistani ambassador Karamatullah Ghori replied “yes”. Ghori, who is retired and presently lives in Canada, served as Pakistan’s envoy in numerous Middle Eastern countries, including Iraq and Algeria. His talk was chaired by the chairman of The Pakistan Institute of International Affairs (PIIA), Dr Masuma Hasan, who served as Pakistan’s ambassador in Vienna and also as cabinet secretary. Ghori began his hour-long lecture, which packed the PIIA’s historic library, by emphasising that the Middle East is the most sensitive part of the world. The recent mass beheadings in Saudi Arabia, which demonstrate the sheer brutality of the regime in that country, remained his alternative point of departure. Alive to the “new” Middle East crafted by the western powers – which is based on a dictatorial model of capitalism – he noted that our relationship with the oil rich kingdom is important because of the remittances sent by 1.5 million Pakistanis employed there.

However, he did not think that it was enough to make Pakistan lean in Saudi Arabia’s favour. In a two-day visit, Saudi foreign minister, Adel al-Jubeir arrived in Islamabad arrived on 7 January to discuss Pak-Saudi relations with Pakistan’s leadership. The visit, the second by the Saudi minister in the past 12 months, also explored Pakistan’s potential role in Saudi led alliance against ISIS and terrorism. It is an oddity that Continue reading

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Filed under Al Qaeda, Discussion, Events, Human Rights, Iran, ISIS, Islam, Israel, Karachi, Pakistan Horizon, Palestine, Politics, Russia, The Arab Spring, The Middle East, United States

Cyber Security Talk by Mr Ammar Jaffri and Barrister Zahid Jamil

With its present policies, Pakistan is on its way to becoming a “cyber leper”. The speakers also agreed that cyber security is a matter of national security.

Despite being plagued by dictatorship and corruption, Pakistan does possess the ability to make advances, even leaps, in transparent and effective lawmaking. But as the recent conundrum disclosed by the contentious Prevention of Electronic Crimes Act 2015 (“the Act”) so ably demonstrates, even under the guise of democracy, Pakistan seems to be sleepwalking into rather dangerous territory. Described as quite draconian, controversial and retrograde when juxtaposed with the panoply of rights guaranteed by fundamental rights under Articles 9 to 28 of the Constitution of Pakistan 1973, the Act has been almost universally denounced. In a joint talk yesterday by Ammar Jaffri (formerly of the FIA) and Barrister Zahid Jamil, we learned that our country is doing poorly in writing robust legislation that targets root problems but does not compromise on individual rights. The basic flaw in the present approach to cyber crime in Pakistan appears to be that the wrong ministry is dealing with this important area of the law.

Rather than the ministry of interior, the task of prevention of electronic crime is erroneously allocated to the Ministry of Information Technology and Telecommunication. For example, in the UK, the country from which we inherited such a rich legal and institutional framework, the Draft Investigatory Powers Bill is moved on the Home Secretary Theresa May’s initiative. The Act introduces a series of new provisions that pose a grave risk to freedom of expression and privacy in Pakistan. It has been condemned in international circles for expanding surveillance Continue reading

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Filed under Constitution 1973, Criminal law, Cyber Security, Discussion, Human Rights, Internet, Legislation, Pakistan Horizon, PIIA, Politics

Dr Subir Sinha: Why Development Defines India’s Elections Today

‘India is being ruled by a Hindu Taliban’ and ‘Narendra Modi is clamping down on tolerance and freedom of expression’ wrote Anish Kapoor last month as the Indian premier visited London.

Narendra Modi is certainly an enemy of the ideals of the true socialist democracy envisioned by great Indian politicians such as Ambedkar, Gandhi, Nehru and Rajagopalachari. Irrespective of whatever else may have divided these leaders, India’s founding fathers would agree that Modi is an extremist – someone whose crusade to cleanse India of its minorities is at least as dangerous as the jihadi campaign to murder innocents in the name of Islam. The difference, of course, is that Modi, whose politics represents the antithesis of secularism, is the premier of the world’s largest democracy. In this post, after our short preface, our comrade Dr Subir Sinha argues that Modi’s grandiose promises of bullet trains and world leadership are proving less attractive to Indians than the alternative politics of redistribution via subsidies, social programmes, transparency and participation in governance and zero tolerance on corruption.

If anything, in terms of Indian constitutionalism, Modi and his fellow fanatics represent the worst possible ideological outcome that the architects of Indian secularism could possibly have imagined. After all, within the meaning of the constitution, India is a “sovereign socialist secular democratic republic” which guarantees for all its citizens justice (social, economic and political), liberty (thought, expression, belief, faith and worship) and equality Continue reading

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Prophet Muhammad and His Message

The Prophet could have easily got himself crowned as the King of Medina but he chose not to. He preferred to govern with the consent of the people.

The quest to correctly understand and interpret the teachings of Prophet Muhammad has consumed historians for centuries. Undoubtedly, he would be disappointed with all that is being done in his name and the monotheism he, and his persecuted followers, preached in the Hejaz to the idolatrous/litholatrous tribes of Arabia. All sorts of people now subscribe to all sorts of views and connect them to the Prophet. In Iran, millions of people gathered today in Mashhad to mark the Prophet’s death and the martyrdom of his grandson Imam Hassan. The 28th day of the month of Safar (the second month in the lunar calendar) marks both these events. People from all across Iran and foreign pilgrims in large numbers held religious ceremonies at the holy shrine of Imam Reza, the eighth Shia Imam, in Mashhad today to honour the Prophet and his grandson.

Here is a thought provoking analysis of the Prophet’s teachings and lifestyle. Dr Reeza Hameed argues that Prophet Muhammad was different because he was not a miracle performer like Jesus Christ; he could not walk on water and he did not magically part the sea like Moses. As Prophet Muhammad  himself said, he was merely a man.  Not to be worshiped, he was just the messenger wanting to bring a better life to wretched Arabia Continue reading

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