Category Archives: Accountability

Conference on Climate Change: Speech by Dr Masuma Hasan

Dr. Tariq Banuri, distinguished members of the audience. It is my great pleasure to welcome you, especially Dr. Tariq Banuri, to this opening session of the conference on the existential challenge faced by Pakistan from climate change. I am thankful to Dr. Tariq Banuri for taking the trouble to travel to Karachi to join us this afternoon. As some of you would know, The Pakistan Institute of International Affairs is the oldest think tank in our country. It was established in 1947 and was formally inaugurated by Prime Minister Liaquat Ali Khan. In his augural speech, Mr. Liaquat Ali Khan recognised the need for an institution which should act as a bridge between policy makers and public opinion. For 72 years, our institution has fulfilled this purpose. We have given space to statesmen, scholars, diplomats, jurists and specialists in their fields from all over the world and have, on the other hand, provided a platform for informed debate on international politics and foreign policy challenges.

Our research output is disseminated through our publications and our quarterly journal, Pakistan Horizon, which has appeared without a break since 1948. It is the oldest scholarly journal in Pakistan. It is significant, perhaps, that we are holding this Conference in the sizzling heat outside ― and the electricity can go off at any minute. We have convened this Conference because climate change is considered to be the greatest threat to our planet in the 21st century. While some governments may have dragged their feet, the people have mobilised against it in many countries. Young people have gone on school strikes and taken to the streets to draw attention to the disastrous affects of climate change on the environment. We have all heard about the Swedish teenager, Greta Thunberg, whose activism has led her to address the highest forums on this issue ― the World Economic Forum, the European Parliament and the United Nations. Continue reading

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Filed under Accountability, Climate Change, Discussion, Events, Pakistan, Pakistan Horizon

The Fall of Boeing 737

Airplanes are considered to be the safest mode of transportation yet they cause more casualties than all other conveying means. Recently, Ethiopian Airlines met a fatal crash on 10th March 2019, minutes after takeoff from Addis Ababa, killing all 157 people on board. About 5 months back, a similar incident happened with Lion Air which crashed near Jakarta, Indonesia claiming 189 lives. Strangely, or perhaps rather interestingly, both the aircrafts happened to be Boeing 737 Max 8 jet. Boeing made its name by manufacturing twin engine 737 nicknamed Baby Boeing having the capacity to accommodate 190 people. It is considered to be the backbone of short haul fleets worldwide. It is being continuously updated since and the latest is 737 Max, with new engines and aerodynamic changes, better fuel efficiency and lower operating costs. Yet it ended up crashing and taking lives of all the passengers. Boeing is one of the largest global manufacturers of aircraft and has a huge market all over the world.

The recent crash caused the aircraft to lose more than 10 per cent within a week, shaving $24.6 billion off its market capitalization. Moreover as soon as the news of the crash broke, countries from all over the world grounded the plane and refused to fly aircraft 737 Max until details behind the Ethiopian airlines tragedy revealed. China and Europe were the first to pull the jets from the skies followed by many others. However, United States resisted. Investigations are under process but what is known so far is that both the crashes shared stark similarities which cannot be disregarded. For instance both were Boeing 737 Max 8; both planes used the same software called Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System (MCAS) which automatically lowers down the nose if the aircraft is flying too slowly or steeply and at risk of stalling. Both planes went down shortly after takeoff. Both planes had well experienced crews. Continue reading

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Is Venezuela No More?

One should not be wonderstruck if many Venezuelans crave to live elsewhere because the economic, political, and overall human rights situation in Venezuela is nothing short of a disaster. What used to be a robust economy not more than a decade ago, has slipped into grave peril inasmuch food has become a source of conflict among the poor families, and women are selling their ‘hairs’ in order to satisfy their families’ appetite. Indeed, the basic provisions, such as toothpaste, milk, or bread, which we all take for granted are what Venezuelans yearn for and beg for. Many people are spending hours just to try to find something to eat from the ‘food waste’. In its heyday, given the colossal oil reserves, Venezuela had reaped a lot of benefits and was able to export 100,000 barrels of oil, per day to Cuba only. Due to relying specifically and excessively on oil, the latter accounted for 95 per cent of the Venezuela’s export.

Hugo Chavez, the former president, with a desire to make the most out of the country’s oil production, sweepingly nationalized the private companies which as an attempt went into a tailspin after the oil prices started to tumble. Hence, the corruption and mismanagement became rampant and the hyperinflation inevitably followed. Worst, all the money was spent, and no money for further production was left. Now the situation at its best is chaotic, and some say, at its worst, worse than the great depression of the United Sates. However, the experience of this economic downfall in practice is more frightening. A cup of tea costs 7000,000 bolivars in Venezuela and people prefer to exchange goods instead of paying or receiving cash. Since this crippling economy and the grave humanitarian crisis are the upshot of political dysfunction and mismanagement of the institutions, many experts believe it is ‘socialism’ at its end in Venezuela. Continue reading

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Filed under Accountability, Corruption, Discussion, Economy, Human Rights, Politics, Refugees, United States, Venezuela

The Futuristic Arms Race

In order to understand the apprehension of the West, one has to understand who Huawei’s leadership is and its relationship with the Chinese state. 

“Whua eiy”? “Huwai”? As it rolls off our tongue the Chinese tech giant Huawei – actually pronounced “wah-way” – is at the forefront of the ongoing battle between the United States and China in their race to control 5G – the fifth generation of mobile broadband. With the advent of Technological Revolution actors, international organizations and Multinational Corporates (MNCs) are able to operate globally without the limitation of borders, distance or location. Consequently, it is easier for governments to gather information, organize it and store it which is empowering them more than ever. In the past, a wanted criminal, drug lord or terrorist could easily cross borders and take refuge in a foreign country as seen in the instance of 9/11 attacks. The systems then became sophisticated enough to trigger a breach in fact powerful states have increased their power through the information technology by keeping tabs on mobile phones, electronic mails, data and radio transmissions in foreign countries. And now it has now gone a step further.

On January 11, Polish authorities detained Stanislaw Wang, Huawei’s sales director in Poland and Piotr D., a former Polish security official, on suspicion of spying for the Chinese government. The arrest took place a month after Meng Wanzhou’s, Huwaei Chief Financial Officer, detention during a layover at Vancouver airport by the Canadian authorities. The request to arrest Meng came from the United States charging her of violating sanctions on Iran. Prima facie the events may appear as arrests of Huawei officials in different countries for different reasons however, for analysts watching closely it’s more than just that: These are aggressive measure taken by the United States in the larger political campaign to prevent China from dominating the 5G space. In effect, this is the new face of an arms race in the global arena whereby the Trump’s administration view of Huawei’s expansion in western countries can be understood via zero-sum game theory. Continue reading

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Filed under Accountability, China, Cyber Warfare, Politics, United States

‘Afghan refugees’ born in Pakistan are excluded from Pakistani citizenship

Properly understood, the important right to citizenship is the right to have other rights such as the right to reside in one’s country of residence and to consular protection. Having been prime minister for just six months, Imran Khan has inexplicably made some rather grandiose plans regarding how his shambolic government plans to illegally hand out Pakistani citizenship to millions of so-called “Afghan refugees” in Pakistan who simply have no right to remain in the country, let alone be granted the right to citizenship. In other words, Imran Khan’s so-called “new Pakistan” has already abdicated its own citizens’ rights by irresponsibly putting our country’s enemies before the rights of its own citizens. His recent statement that “Afghans whose children have been raised and born in Pakistan will be granted citizenship inshallah (God willing) because this is the established practice in countries around the world” is highly misleading and inaccurate. All this is entirely unacceptable and blatantly breaches Imran Khan’s campaign promise that Pakistan is for Pakistanis and that he will put Pakistan’s interests first above all else.

First of all, Pakistan does not participate in the Refugee Convention 1951 and so our country has no obligation whatsoever to give asylum to those arguing that they are fleeing persecution and cannot avail the protection of their home state. Yet the figures show that Pakistan has been hosting the world’s largest refugee population. Most of these persons are Afghan and some 2.7 million of them are present on Pakistani soil and 60 per cent of them were born in Pakistan and 1.5 million Afghans will benefit from the government’s new policy. Others include 400,000 Rohingya refugees from Myanmar and also several hundred thousand Bengalis from Bangladesh. Pakistan is said to be the only country in all of Asia to grant “unconditional” jus soli citizenship to those born within its borders under the Citizenship Act 1951. However, a close reading of the 1951 Act and Afghan law itself shows that in reality Afghans born in Pakistan have no legal right to Pakistani citizenship and are excluded from possessing it.  Continue reading

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Filed under Accountability, Afghanistan, Discussion, Immigration, Migration, Pakistan, Partition, Politics, Refugees, Rohingya

On Brazil’s Choice of Extreme Right

The success of Brazilian populist leader Bolsonaro is termed as a classic case of ‘protest vote’ by the disillusioned middle classes with the leader ‘playing grievance politics’ … 

Brazil’s evangelical Christians have emerged as an increasingly powerful political force, as confirmed in the highly polarised presidential and congressional elections held on 28 October. Jair Bolsonaro, a far-right member of the Social Liberal Party (PSL) and former army captain, is Brazil’s next president, with 55.7 percent of votes. Fernando Haddad, Bolsonaro’s closest opponent and the large leftist Workers’ Party’s (PT) replacement for Luiz Inacio ‘Lula’ da Silva, failed to secure majority. Although Haddad promised to restore the economy to its former state of health under Lula’s presidency from 2003 to 2010, most of the Brazilians have little faith left in the country’s political class after numerous high-level corruption scandals surfaced since 2014 as part of the Lava Jato, or Car Wash, anti-graft probe and other interlocking investigations, which also involved Lula who is now serving 12 years in jail and was barred from running in this election.

While Bolsonaro’s victory has been referred to as a political earthquake, a disaster for the Amazon and global climate change and a blow to antifascist activists, the Brazilians have clearly made their choice for the extreme right. Significantly, about 147 million Brazilians headed to polls against a backdrop of widespread dissatisfaction prompted by a stuttering economy, worsening violent crime rates and several recent high-profile corruption scandals. While it is South America’s largest economy, a regional powerhouse and is part of the so-called five-member ‘BRICS’ group of major emerging economies alongside Russia, India, China and South Africa, Brazil is nevertheless battling several threatening challenges amidst increased unrest and widening polarisation among the country’s citizens. Beginning in mid-2014, a more than two-year deep recession rocked the country and stagnated growth. Continue reading

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Filed under Accountability, Brazil, Corruption, Discussion, Economy, Human Rights, Immigration, Pakistan Horizon, Police, United States

Mahinda Rajapaksa and the Term Limit

The Nineteenth Amendment has once again become the subject of controversy, and its current focus concerns the provision in the Nineteenth Amendment that disqualifies the same person from being elected as President for more than two terms. The two-term limit is not an innovation of the Nineteenth Amendment. A provision imposing a term limit was in the Constitution as it was originally enacted in 1978 but it was repealed by the Eighteenth Amendment enacted during Mahinda Rajapaksa’s tenure as President. It was re-introduced by section 3 of the Nineteenth Amendment which inserted the following new paragraph as Article 31(2) of the Constitution: “No person who has been twice elected to the office of President by the People, shall be qualified thereafter to be elected to such office by the People.” (emphasis added). This prohibition was reinforced by section 21 of the Nineteenth Amendment which added Article 92(c) of the Constitution which disqualified a person who “has been twice elected to the office of President by the People” from being elected to the office of President thereafter.  This is identical to the paragraph that existed as Article 92 (c) of the 1978 Constitution before it was repealed by the Eighteenth Amendment. 

It has been argued, nevertheless, by some, including Professor G.L. Peiris and ex-Chief Justice Sarath Silva, that these provisions do not disqualify Mahinda Rajapaksa from seeking a third term. Mahinda Rajapaksa has already served two terms as President but if this argument holds, then he would be eligible not only to run for a third term but also a fourth. It has been contended that according to the Constitution as amended by the Eighteenth Amendment there was no provision imposing a term limit, and as the Nineteenth Amendment does not expressly state that Article 31(2) is to apply retrospectively, it should not apply to Mahinda Rajapaksa, who, in ex CJ Sarath Silva’s rather infelicitous oxymoronic phrase, is ‘a previously elected incumbent in office’.  (Sunday Observer 19 August 2018, Mahinda ineligible to contest 2019 prez poll – Jayampathy). Mahinda Rajapaksa is not currently holding office to be called an incumbent. Continue reading

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Filed under Accountability, Discussion, Dr Reeza Hameed, Human Rights, Pakistan Horizon, Sri Lanka