Everyone has strategic interests in Syria … Syria was enjoying a lifestyle like nowhere else in the Arab world. We were almost free …
Syria was once the underlying bedrock of Arab nationalism; it used to be a source of pride for Arab secularists. At least in Arab eyes, it was a bastion of resistance against Israeli tyranny and American imperialism. But these days the country that exerted such significant political and military clout in the bloody Lebanese civil war (1975-1990) is mortally wounded by its own apocalyptic war, nothing short of a Jihād. On 27 November 2015, the Syrian ambassador in Pakistan, HE Radwan Loutfi gave a talk entitled The Future of Syria in the historic library of The Pakistan Institute of International Affairs (PIIA). The astute diplomat was unforgiving in his denouncement of foreign interests plaguing the survival of his country. But eager to build unity among his fellow Syrians, he explained: “I am Sunni, but I will be the first to protect the shrine of Sayeda Zainab.” Urging world leaders against further warmongering, he called for an immediate ceasefire followed by a strong willed political process “that would leave only Syrians to discuss” and decide the future of their annihilated homeland.
Yet the diplomat explained that a ceasefire in Syria remained “impossible” until the terrorists were rooted out. He also accused Turkey of having trade links with ISIS. His talk comes against the backdrop of the terrorist attacks in Paris, killing 130 and wounding hundreds of others, and the downing of the Russian Metrojet airliner in Egypt causing 224 fatalities. Insofar as military action is concerned, these days an “ISIS first” mentality prevails because its extremists in Raqqa are the “head of the snake” and must, of course, be “crushed”. Despite the rhetoric constantly pouring out of London, Paris and Washington Continue reading
Filed under Discussion, Drones, Iran, ISIS, Karachi, Pakistan Horizon, Politics, Russia, Sanctions, Syria, The Arab Spring, The Middle East, United States
Modi lost Bihar for the language he used. The excess of language used by Modi made it possible for Nitish, Lalu and Rahul to pick from it, which they did brilliantly. Modi’s language lost him the election …
The 2014 election revealed Narendra Modi’s mastery of political language. Sarcasm or mockery, emotion or lofty ambition, hope or fear, Modi’s language was succinct, and immediately understandable. There were early gaffes, the ‘kutte ke pille’ statement for example. But then he upped his game. ‘Shahzada’ simultaneously damned dynasty as undemocratic, and invoked power as shared in a small family and its coterie. References to ‘damaad shree’ hinted at the corruption of the Gandhi family and to its foreign-ness. Modi’s ‘A for B for’ speech listed scams alphabetically to highlight the UPA’s endless corruption, as did his unreservedly crass comment on ‘50 karor ki girlfriend’. More positively, ‘India First’ and ‘Sabka saath sabka vikas’ became the rallying cries for a new constituency that formed behind him.
Where needed, ‘gulabi kranti’ was used. Modi’s language confirmed and generated emotions, hopes, fears and prejudices. ‘Kya bolta hai’, I heard people from who were not BJP voters, as they lined up at the booth to stamp their vote on the kamal chhaap, swayed by language. So why did Modi’s language, and of the BJP campaign as a whole, not cut much ice in Bihar? Unki daal kyun nahin gali, so to speak? Much water has flown under the bridge since Modi’s 2014 victory. The language that once charmed Continue reading
The specialist library of The Pakistan Institute of International Affairs (PIIA) is committed to maintain a living, updated and balanced collection of original books, official documents, research journals and related files of independent national and foreign newspapers and to exploit its resources for an objective study of international affairs.
After the dissolution of The Indian Institute of International Affairs at New Delhi in 1947 and the subsequent painful division of India, the collection of books and other material belonging to The Indian Institute of International Affairs was shifted lock, stock and barrel to Karachi by Khwaja Sarwar Hasan and was accommodated in a building in Intelligence School, Queen’s Road, Karachi. This corpus of books, though damaged in transit, constituted the very bedrock of the initial stock of the PIIA which surely but steadily grew in depth and breadth. Memorably, when the ground floor of the pink landmark present-day building of the Institute at the junction of Havelock and Strachan Roads (now Aiwan-i-Sadar Road and Deen Muhammad Wafai Road) was ready for occupation, the library was set up in the hall on the ground floor opening on Strachan Road.
After some time, when the façade, first and second floors of the building were completed, the library was finally moved to its present location, which was then considered to be quite spacious. It was at this point of time, in the mid-1960s, that I joined the Institute as librarian after completing nine years’ service in the Royal Air Force/Pakistan Air Force as Teacher Librarian. I stayed at the Institute until mid-1970 when I went to the University of Sindh as deputy university librarian. Continue reading
As exemplified in the Great Famine, Ireland historically suffered at the hands of the British but now British forces are being investigated over the Bloody Sunday massacre in 1972. If anything, the spectre of the past still haunts ex-servicemen. ***PIIA condemns the attacks in Paris today.
We in the east look to Britain as a champion of human rights yet the Cameron government considers the UK’s Human Rights Act 1998 (HRA) as a “farce” and wants to “scrap” this fine legal instrument which empowers British courts to give effect to the rights enshrined in the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) but does not bind the domestic courts to the Strasbourg jurisprudence.
However, a “blueprint” of the British Bill of Rights, which seeks to replace the HRA, leaked to the press articulates plans to override “slavishly” following the Strasbourg Court and instead champions the common law and Commonwealth jurisprudence. In relation to Northern Ireland and the UK’s long war against republican terrorism, the Good Friday Agreement marked “a truly historic opportunity for a new beginning”. It heralded “a fresh start” and the ECHR is woven into its fabric; the historic accord that brought peace to Northern Ireland ultimately rests on the wider idea of human rights, which is under serious threat from the present Conservative government. Continue reading
The Qaimkhanis ruled over the Shekhawati area for 280 years and their decline can be linked to the decline of the Mughal Empire.
I am writing about the Qaimkhanis not only because of Fatehyab but also because, as an intruder, I married into their conservative community. Fatehyab’s family were Muslim Rajputs from Rajasthan who traced their ancestry to Prithviraj Chauhan ─ dharti ka veer ─ who ruled over Ajmer and Delhi and was ultimately defeated and killed in battle by Muhammad Ghori in 1247. Notably, one of Chauhan’s descendants, Karamchand also known as Karam Karan Singh (1335-1419), son of Raja Motay Rai Chauhan of Dorayra and his two brothers converted to Islam during the reign of Feroz Shah Tughlaq (1309-1388). There are many stories about how this happened but all we know with certainty is that when he became a Muslim, Karamchand took the name of Qaim Khan and the descendants of all three brothers collectively came to be known as Qaimkhanis. They were a warrior clan, much acclaimed and respected for their valour and chivalry.
Qaim Khan was educated by a nobleman in Feroz Shah’s court, joined his army and was appointed governor of Hisar Ferozah. Feroz Shah gave him the title of Khan-e-Jahan. He continued as governor, ruling almost independently over a vast area, under Sultan Muhammad Shah Tughlaq (reigned 1389-1394). He lived through Taimur’s invasion of India but fell out with Khizr Khan (reigned 1414-1421) who established the Sayyid dynasty. It is said, but not with certainty, that Khizr Khan murdered him in 1419 and threw his body Continue reading
‘Today will be remembered in history … Now before our eyes there are fruits of conciliation instead of confrontation,’ says Chinese president Xi Jinping in a historic meeting with Taiwan’s president Ma Ying-jeou.
China’s unprecedented rise to the status of a global powerhouse and its close links to western capitalism mark the centrality of increasing, arguably even irreversible, economic interdependence in an era of rapid globalisation. History is now being rewritten and the misunderstandings between the Communist Party of China (CCP) and its old nemesis the Koumintang (Chinese Nationalist Party or KMT) seem like a thing of the past. It is as if western imperialism had lost and Sun Yat-sen’s historic Three Principles of the People, as propounded by the KMT, had finally come home to become fused with Chairman Mao’s variant of Marxism – quite strongly blended with his powerful and attractive Chinese anti-imperialist narrative of history. Of course, sometimes Sun and Mao agreed. So Beijing and Taipei are finally gravitating towards each other and, as shown by yesterday’s minute-long handshake between Chinese president Xi Jinping and his Taiwanese counterpart Ma Ying-jeou, great gestures of future friendship are being made after almost seven decades of frosty relations. Both sides acknowledge that trade between them as produced “unprecedented prosperity”.
At the historic summit in neutral Singapore yesterday, which symbolises a great thaw in relations, Xi publicly stood together with his Taiwanese counterpart after the landmark minute-long handshake and said: “Nothing can separate us … We are one family … We are brothers who are still connected by our flesh even if our bones are broken.” Continue reading
‘Turkey would require help on refugee crisis,’ said Turkish consul general Murat Mustafa Onart at our roundtable on 3 November 2015. ‘Refugees have to adapt to their new surroundings,’ added Carsten Müller, deputy head of the German consulate in Karachi.
With 300,000 killed and more than 12 million others displaced because of unrelenting war and slaughter, Syria is an open graveyard and the predicament of refugees is deteriorating by the minute. Because of Russia’s recent entry into the arena, the problems surrounding the conflict are now so profound that the British government is being cautious about its campaign to obtain parliamentary approval to conduct airstrikes against ISIS in Syria. Meanwhile, winter is setting in and tens of thousands of refugees are arriving every day on the Greek Island of Lesbos from Turkey where regaining substantial political leverage president Erdogan’s Justice and Development Party (AKP) recently triumphed (49.4 per cent and 316 seats in the 550 seat parliament, albeit short of a supermajority of 330) in an early election which boasted an 86 per cent turn out and reversed the weak results of this June’s election. Erdogan is firmly back in the saddle, the bet to have early elections has paid off handsomely and an elated prime minister Ahmet Davutoglu expressed his delight by telling a crowd in Konya: “This victory is not ours, it is our nation’s.”
In reality, the brunt of Syria’s four million refugees is borne by developing countries with limited resources. Turkey is hosting 2.1 million refugees. Jordan hosts 1.4 million and Lebanon 1.1 million. Shamefully, the plan devised by the European Union (EU) to relocate the 160,000 refugees already in Italy and Greece is a complete shambles and has apparently only benefitted 116 people thus far and the EU, which trumpets itself as a champion of democracy and savior of human rights and the rule of law, Continue reading