Monthly Archives: October 2015

Chinese President Xi Jinping’s British State Visit: Red Flag Over London

As ever, the world of international relations is abuzz with sizzling news. American presidential hopeful Hillary Clinton is being grilled over her failings during the Libyan crisis, Bashar al-Assad has visited Moscow to pay homage to his master Russian president Vladimir Putin, the Taliban have withdrawn from Kunduz, British prime minister David Cameron has amended the ministerial code to try to preclude legal liability (for the Cabinet and his government) arising out of “international law”, Tony Blair has accepted that the 2003 invasion of Iraq fostered the creation of ISIS, and Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu has offloaded the Holocaust on the Mufti of Jerusalem but German chancellor Angela Merkel has criticised him and has claimed liability for the genocide as Germany’s and not attributable to the Palestinians.

But these gloomy events are less glamorous than Chinese president Xi Jinping and his elegant wife first lady Peng Liyuan’s recent state visit to Britain to enhance Sino-UK relations. Eager to assist the British prime minister, the Queen, the longest reigning British monarch who recently surpassed the milestone established by Queen Victoria’s reign, adopted a culturally relative tone and praised China for its achievement of one country two systems. Having witnessed the destruction of the Second World War and rationing the British dealt with in its aftermath, Her Majesty was eager for future British and Chinese generations to be economically self-sufficient Continue reading


Filed under Afghanistan, China, CPEC, Discussion, Energy, Pakistan, Trade, UK

Pakistan-India Dialogue: Aziz Ahmad Khan Addresses PIIA Members

India urged to begin dialogue, adopt comprehensive approach

GetFileAttachmentKARACHI, coverage by Peerzada Salman, Dawn 10 October: There’s a need for India to resume the dialogue process with Pakistan adopting a comprehensive approach. Militancy in Indian held Kashmir cannot be resolved if the Kashmir issue is not resolved. It won’t be surprising if organisations such as self-styled IS find their way into certain sections of Kashmir. These were some of the points made by Aziz Ahmad Khan, former high commissioner of Pakistan to India, while speaking at the acclaimed Pakistan Institute of International Affairs (PIIA) on the current state of relations between India and Pakistan at the PIIA office on Saturday. Mr Khan conceded at the beginning of his talk that he was attempting it with a bit of trepidation because it was a subject that everybody knew quite extensively about. So, he said, he would begin by speaking on what India was today compared to a few years back. He said the current prime minister of the country, Narendra Modi, won a clear majority in the general elections, before which there was a hung parliament and people were fed up with it.

Moreover, he said Modi had the image of a go-getter and his economic development agenda caught the electorate’s imagination. When he was the chief minister of Gujarat, there was economic growth in the province.The corporate sector was with him as was the media, which was controlled by the corporations. All these factors helped him win the elections beyond expectation, he said. Since governing a state was different from governing a country, now the sheen was coming off as his economic agenda had not delivered. Continue reading

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Filed under BJP, Disarmament, Discussion, Events, India, ISIS, Pakistan Horizon, PIIA

Afghanistan: A Second Iraq?

As the Obama administration decides whether or not to withdraw its remaining 9,800 troops in Afghanistan, ominous signs are hovering over the country because of the Taliban’s recent offensive in Kunduz and the reckless American airstrikes on 3 October – killing 12 innocent medical workers and 20 patients and injuring 37 others – for which the White House has finally apologised and which the charity Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) has quite rightly called a “war crime”. The capital of an Afghan province bearing the same name, the ethnically diverse city of Kunduz is a strategic transport hub for northern Afghanistan. In an extraordinary show of strength after 14 years of insurgency and insurrection, in late September a resurgent Taliban unexpectedly overran Afghanistan’s fifth largest city. By the hundreds, battle-hardended Taliban fighters stormed the city in the early hours of the morning of 28 September 2015 and quickly seized key buildings and advanced on the airport.

They took control of most areas and freed hundreds of prisoners from the local jail. Ensuing attempts to retake the city resulted in humanitarian disaster. Notably, in 2009 a US airstrike in the area killed over 90 civilians but it appears no lessons were learned from that tragedy. President Obama ultimately called MSF’s international president Joanne Liu to tender his apology for the deadly attack on the field hospital in Kunduz but it was too little too late and involved at least four shifts, in as many days, in the US narrative. From initially blaming their Afghan colleagues on the ground for calling in the airstrike and denying knowledge Continue reading


Filed under Afghanistan, Al Qaeda, Discussion, IHFFC, ISIS, Pakistan Horizon, Politics, Russia, Taliban

Viewpoints: UNGA’s Seventieth Session

As noted in earlier posts, big hopes were riding on the 70th session of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA). And as expected, the session was dominated by events in the ruined country known as Syria – once the beating heart of Arab nationalism – which we have discussed in recent posts here, here and here. Despite the veneer of cordiality, world leaders could not conceal the tensions between them. They are divided over the future of Bashar al-Assad’s regime. President Putin had thrown himself in the limelight in advance of the session by flexing Russia’s military might in the historic – without notice – style of the former Soviet Union. Predictably, on 28 September, he opportunistically presented himself as the missing link in the Syrian puzzle. The clever Russian president did not conceal his intentions in an impassioned speech which provided him the ideal opportunity to announce his future plans. Putin’s fans, like his blunt instrument in Chechnya Ramzan Kadyrov, rejoiced when military action ultimately became a reality and requested to be sent in as a ground force to fight (preferably hand-to-hand) the jihadis of ISIS.

After Putin had set the stage, just a couple of days later, on 30 September 2015, when Russia initiated airstrikes in Syria the west responded negatively and US defence secretary Ashton Carter accused the Kremlin of “pouring gasoline on fire”. However, unlike some others (e.g. Great Britain) Russia took military action with the consent of its parliament and at the invitation of a sovereign government – albeit the collapsing, murderous and much hated regime in Damascus. But Russia is nonetheless being condemned for attacking the Free Syrian Army Continue reading


Filed under Discussion, Iran, Israel, NATO, Pakistan, Palestine, Peace building, Politics, Russia, Taliban, The Middle East, UK, United States

‘Innovate or Die’: Dr James McGann on Think Tanks and Writing Research

For think tanks, it’s either innovate or die

Washington Post, 6 October: Beginning in the 1970s, public policy research institutions experienced explosive growth — today there are over 6,500 think tanks worldwide, with representation in virtually every country. The boom was driven and defined by globalization, the growth of civil society, an increasing complexity of policy issues and new demands for timely and concise analysis. In recent years, however, the surge has died down and the pace of think tank establishment has slowed. Now, think tanks face extinction unless they learn to innovate and adapt to a rapidly changing political economy. While many factors have contributed to their decline, a shortage of money and the growth of an information-rich environment are arguably the most influential. Limited private and public funding for think tanks has resulted in more short-term, project-specific funding, rather than long term institutional support.

Think tanks also face competition from advocacy organizations, for-profit consulting groups, law firms and electronic media for the attention of busy policymakers and an increasingly distracted public. In today’s environment anyone can be a think tank, at least virtually. Traditional measures of impact and policy research are less relevant than ever, and the best mediums for reaching policymakers and the public are in a constant state of flux. This poses an existential challenge for think tanks — but also an incredible opportunity to increase the quality of their output and their ability to reach a larger audience. Policymakers still require reliable, accessible and useful information on the mechanics of current policies and on the costs and consequences of possible alternatives. Continue reading

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Filed under Discussion, Think Tanks

Dr Masuma Hasan: In Memory of the Legendary Fatehyab Ali Khan

Dr Masuma’s speech at Federal Urdu University, 30 September 2015, as delivered: Mr Raza Rabbani, Dr Pirzada Qasim, Dr Suleiman Muhammed, members of the audience. Some friends had suggested that this meeting and debate to honour the memory of Fatehyab Ali Khan should be held, as it was held last year, in the University of Karachi. But Fatehyab was not only the first elected president of the Karachi University Students’ Union, he was also president of the Inter-Collegiate Body, so he represented the entire student community. Therefore, it was in the fitness of things that the Vice Chancellor decided to hold this event in the Federal Urdu University. Here, I want to praise Asif Rafique and the members of his team who have arranged this event with so much devotion and care. My association with Fatehyab lasted for 50 years ─ first as students in Karachi University and later during our marriage. In politics, there were very few who matched his integrity and honesty of purpose. Since his youth, he was in the forefront of every democratic movement in our country.

During his political career, he made numerous sacrifices, was persecuted and subjected to many deprivations. He faced trials and convictions by military courts, long prison terms and externments but never compromised on his political principles. He was fearless and never yielded to political threats or pressure of any kind and he had that remarkable courage to refuse which is found in few people. He never changed his political party. He joined the Pakistan Workers Party and when it merged with the Pakistan Mazdoor Kissan Party, he remained its president until he passed away in 2010. Fatehyab was a people’s hero, a brilliant orator, and he wrote extensively on constitutional, political and contemporary issues. During the Movement for Restoration of Democracy Continue reading


Filed under Constitution 1973, Courts, Discussion, Events, Fatehyab, Karachi, MRD, Pakistan, Pakistan Horizon