M.A. Shiwani: Democratic Witch Hunts

Pakistan’s political system is finally beginning to show that it has the capacity to uphold democratic ideals.

The robustness of the credentials underpinning democratic political systems has been the subject of great examination for decades. Democracy has, since its introduction, been labelled a mechanism of the bourgeoisie — one that retains all political and economic control in the hands of the owners of capital but creates the perception that power lies with the masses. Indeed, many democratic systems have provided proof of the inherently flawed concept of democracy but in that sense, no political system in the contemporary world has been exemplary of the principles that it champions. It is, however, important to acknowledge that in the last two years, political events across the globe have shown that democracy may not be that bad after all. In August 2016, Dilma Rousseff— the then president of Brazil was impeached because she allegedly manipulated the federal budget, increasing the political backlash the government was receiving because of its various corruption scandals.

Such probes and allegations have now become a regular occurrence in Brazil with Michel Temer — the current president of Brazil, recently becoming the country’s first president to be formally charged with a crime while in office. In similar fashion, South Korea’s apex court recently upheld the impeachment of Park Geun-hye who became the country’s first democratically elected leader to be forced from office by its parliament over a wide range of corruption scandals. These events are visibly proving that separation of powers between the government and the judiciary and ensuring that the judiciary is genuinely autonomous will bear fruit in the form of accountability; even in states that have grueling histories of rampant corruption. Continue reading

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Filed under Brazil, Discussion, Iran, Pakistan, Politics, South Korea

M.A. Shiwani: A New Weapon to Fight the War on Terror

The Council of American-Islamic Relations has reported that Islamophobic abuse in the US, or hate crimes against Muslims, have risen by 91 percent in the first quarter of 2017 as compared to the same time last year.

It is a dark truth that since the War on Terror made its debut in Operation Enduring Freedom, terrorism in the world has only increased. Localized, reactionary militias have now evolved into transnational entities that wish to subjugate the world under their repressive regimes and the fact that no country in the world is now immune to terrorism is testament to the rapid, global diffusion of radical ideologies. A simple factual analysis will show you that interventions on the basis of the War on Terror — military combating an ideology, has only added fuel to the fire of radical Islam. Fighting terrorism with guns is no longer a viable option. Observably the recent, ‘liberation’ of Mosul, Iraq is not cause for celebration. The new weapon that needs to be used for fighting terrorism is social reform. Academics across the world have stressed that military intervention has only strengthened terrorist organizations and that curtailing the effects of terrorism, without addressing its causes, will result in failure. Perhaps nothing I write will be different from what has already been written.

I do, however, hope to provide a broader picture to show that the future trajectory of terrorism and radicalization can only be curtailed by curtailing the recruitment mechanisms of terrorist entities. The New York Times recently published an article entitled Migrant Maids and Nannies for Jihad that reports on how social media is being used to radicalize maids working in Indonesia and Hong Kong. Interviews with several maids that ended up joining networks of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) revealed a consistent cycle that resulted in radicalization: dislocation from home and the resultant isolation of Muslims that are not welcome in the societies that they work in causes a “spiritual dryness” within them. Continue reading

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Filed under Al Qaeda, Discussion, Islam, Islamophobia, Pakistan Horizon, Politics, Syria, United States

‘The Dynamics of Iran, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and US Relations’: A Talk by Javed Jabbar

No crisis today remains regional. There is no such thing as isolated or insulated regions … watch video

The fragmentation of the Middle East into a collection of interest groups has become a defining feature of the region’s political economy. “Palestine is essentially an Arab country, and must remain so,” was the uncompromising response given by Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru in 1947 to requests made by Albert Einstein, at the behest of Zionist leaders, to support the creation of the state of Israel. Seven decades later the atmosphere is rather different and Modi has comprehensively cemented ties with Israel by becoming the first Indian prime minister to make an official visit to Israel, a premier supplier of arms and military technology to New Delhi. The passage of seventy years has resulted in the rise of new power brokers such as the Saudis who are accused of being the primary supporters of state sponsored terrorism in an official report, the publication of which is deliberately being withheld by the British government as it does not want to damage booming arms sales to Riyadh: bombs used to kill innocent civilians in Yemen. All this squares up poorly with Trump’s claim that Iran is the foremost pariah state.

The ongoing ostracism of Qatar shows that the Saudis want to call the shots on everything on their terms. In a session chaired by Dr Masuma Hasan, Javed Jabbar gave an insightful talk on the mechanics underpinning Iran, Qatar, Saudi Arabia’s relations with the US. The event was widely reported in the media and extracts of the reportage are available below. Jabbar bemoaned Saudi hegemony and recalled that the 13 sweeping demands that Saudi Arabia had made of Qatar sounded frightfully similar to a power point presentation conjured up by global management consulting firm McKinsey & Company – a favourite of King Salman bin Abdulaziz. According to Jabbar, one cannot ignore the fact that only six years ago, Saudi Arabia and Qatar jointly invested in an Israeli company called IDA Holdings. Continue reading

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Filed under Discussion, Events, Human Rights, India, Iran, Israel, Pakistan, Palestine, The Middle East, Trump, UK, United States

M.A. Shiwani: Of Wars and Contractors

Deploying mercenaries in Afghanistan will not only roll back the progress that has been made over the past decade, but it will also severely threaten future prospects for peace …

As the Trump Administration moves closer to releasing its policy review on Afghanistan, it has recruited Eric Prince, founder of Blackwater (now Academi) and Stephen Feinberg, owner of DynCorp International to assist the Pentagon in strategy formulation. DynCorp and Blackwater are both Private Military Companies (PMCs). In other words they are mercenaries. In accordance with its manifesto, the administration wishes to curtail the deployment of additional US troops in Afghanistan. In response, Prince and Feinberg have, rather unsurprisingly, presented a proposal that substitutes US troops with personnel provided by PMCs. Even though the Pentagon was recently given permission to deploy more troops into Afghanistan, Trump aides are adamant not to use the same policies that failed under the last two presidents and are thus seriously considering the proposal put forward by Prince and Feinberg.

Let us briefly go through the shadowy history of the United States’ use of private armies and military contractors. After the US invaded Afghanistan in 2001, it was tasked with rebuilding the Afghan National Police (ANP) to fight the Taliban. Since Iraq and the threat posed by Saddam Hussein was slowly moving up the national security agenda, the US wanted to exit Afghanistan as quickly as possible while also using the bare minimum amount of resources required. It thus decided to employ DynCorp International to train the ANP, with the State Department giving DynCorp $24 million to set up training camps across Afghanistan. Continue reading

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Filed under Afghanistan, Discussion, Mercenaries, Pakistan Horizon, Taliban, Trump, United States

M.A. Shiwani: The Islamic State, 2.0? 

It is very clear that state-building and strategic development is no more a priority for the Trump Administration.

After a nine-month-long military campaign and a resultant refugee crisis that has affected more than half a million people, Mosul, according to Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi, has finally been “liberated” from the hold of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS). What is left behind, however, seems indifferentiable from the ancient, obliterated walls of Troy. This, the prime minister claims, is still a “great victory for all of Iraq and Iraqis”. For anyone remotely familiar with the invasion of Iraq in 2003, such claims are traumatizingly similar to those made by the United States of America following its, ‘success’ in the war. It seems as if the result of Iraq’s previous, ‘liberation’, whereby Saddam Hussein was hanged and then Iraq was left for dead — much like a beast disposes of a carcass after it is done clawing on its flesh— have been forgotten.

Here, it is important to note that the situation in Iraq after the war of 2003 was worse than the pre-war situation, with 70,000 people cumulatively losing their lives under Saddam Hussein but more than 100,000 Iraqis being killed only in 2013. Is it, then, not alarming that the, ‘successes’ of 2017 are strikingly similar to the, ‘successes’ of 2003? Indian Ambassador Hardeep Singh Puri — a former chairman of the United Nations Security Council Counter-Terrorism Committee, in his book, Perilous Interventions: The Security Council and the Politics of Chaos presents a, ‘viscous cycle of perilous interventions’, where he proves that one military intervention for ‘liberation’ is usually cause for a subsequent military intervention, also for, ‘liberation’. Continue reading

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Filed under Afghanistan, Discussion, Europe, Human Rights, India, Iraq

A Talk by Dr Olena Bordilovska on ‘The Foreign Policy of Independent Ukraine’

Security is the number one issue for every country. Many now say it was a mistake on our part to give up nuclear weapons. People do miss the socialist era in Ukraine. We see our ties growing with Pakistan. Watch Video

Pakistan is considered to be a reliable and practical friend of Ukraine and Islamabad and Kiev are finding new ways to strengthen economic ties between the two countries. On 8 May 2017, Dr Olena Bordilovska spoke at The Pakistan Institute of International Affairs (PIIA) on the problems presently confronting Ukraine, which, of course, is still plagued by Russian imperialism long years after the failure of communism and the dismantling of the USSR. Ukrainian ambitions of European Union membership raised eyebrows in Moscow. Ukrainian president, Petro Poroshenko says that his country intends to apply for EU membership by 2020 and dubbed the signing of the economic part of the Ukraine–European Union Association Agreement in 2014 as Ukraine’s “first but most decisive step” towards that goal. In 2014, Ukraine became a major flashpoint in international relations because of Russian meddling in Ukrainian affairs. As the world watched many innocents lost their lives.

The Obama administration waged a war of words against the Kremlin but since Obama’s bark was clearly worse than his bite, Putin decided to put Ukraine on the back burner and an emboldened Russia decided to expand its military activities by entering the much bloodier arena of the Syrian war. Among other things, the 12-point Minsk Agreement ensured: an immediate bilateral ceasefire in Ukraine; the monitoring and verification of the ceasefire by the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE); decentralisation of power; the permanent monitoring of the Ukrainian-Russian border Continue reading

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Filed under Disarmament, Discussion, Energy, Europe, Human Rights, Pakistan Horizon, Russia, Ukraine

A Talk on National Security in Pakistan by NSA General Nasser Khan Janjua

Pakistan is misunderstood and underestimated. Pakistan and India cannot remain enemies forever. Ruling hearts and minds is the key to unlocking Balochistan’s problems. The world must take India to task over Kashmir. 

National security is more important than ever in an overheated global political environment and NSA Janjua addressed the members of The Pakistan Institute of International Affairs (PIIA) on 14 April 2017. Trump’s strikes on Syria, his use of the dreaded MOAB against ISIS/ISIL in Afghanistan, his deteriorating ties with the Kremlin and his standoff with North Korea are examples of global events that demonstrate spiralling volatility in international relations. Closer to home, the destruction of traditional secular power structures in the Arab world has resulted in extreme turmoil, innumerable civilian deaths and untold human misery. Stratospheric levels of terrorism have resulted in new military partnerships. The Saudi conceived Islamic Military Alliance – the “Muslim NATO” – is headed by Pakistan’s former army chief General Raheel Sharif. To see Saudi Arabia’s special forces marching alongside Pakistan’s military during last month’s Independence Day parade was one thing.

But to have also witnessed the attendance of China’s presidential guard of honour in Islamabad as a symbolic show of solidarity must have irked India where the present treatment of minorities must be making its secular founders turn in their graves. Regarding the ongoing bloodshed in Kashmir, it is hard to surpass Arundhati Roy’s sublime conclusion that “India has no option but to colonise itself”. China is keen to show India that Pakistan has friends and that the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor is an important project for Beijing. Mian Nawaz Sharif seems quite secure against his rivals because of the Supreme Court of Pakistan’s decision that, despite clearly unflattering parallels to The Godfather, he is not obliged to resign because of revelations about his wealth in the Panama Papers. Continue reading

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Filed under Afghanistan, BJP, China, Courts, CPEC, Discussion, Events, India, ISIS, Pakistan Horizon, PIIA, Russia, Syria, Trump, United States