Category Archives: Human Rights

PIIA Seminar on Emerging Geostrategic Contestation in the Asia-Pacific region and Pakistan: Press Coverage

Ambassador Salman Bashir said Modi has tarnished India’s reputation as a secular democracy

The Pakistan Institute of International Affairs recently hosted a Seminar and Webinar titled, “Emerging Geostrategic Contestation in Asia-Pacific: Challenges and Opportunities for Pakistan” which was personally attended by former ambassadors, members of the armed forces of Pakistan, members of the judiciary, academicians, eminent scholars, and members of the PIIA. The event was live-streamed on Zoom, YouTube, and Facebook. We provide a roundup of the news reports on the seminar. 

Retired Lt Gen Tariq Waseem Ghazi, who inaugurated the event, said in his address that Pakistan had always punched above its weight. “We have always been involved in somebody else’s game, somebody else’s war, considering ourselves as the key player in those events. In pre-colonial times we were fighting the Russian Empire, fighting for the British or fighting for somebody or the other. After independence there were times when we were looking at CENTO and sometimes at SEATO, and then we saw ourselves in the middle of the Gulf War, in the global war on terrorism, etc … while Kashmir burns. “So what is the way? One way is that we become an island and look after ourselves or [the other way is] become part of the global discourse and be relevant. There are some things that we cannot ignore and Asia-Pacific is one such thing,” he said. Continue reading

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Filed under China, Discussion, Human Rights, India, Pakistan, Pakistan Horizon, PIIA, Politics, United States

How will a Biden administration handle the Israel-Palestine conflict?

After four years of evangelical solidarity with the settler movement, How will a Biden administration handle the Israel-Palestine conflict?

As of January 20th, 2021, Joe Biden is officially the 46th President of the United States of America. So far, his first few days in office have been promising; the US has re-joined the Paris Climate Agreement, the World Health Organization, and halted construction on Trump’s border wall with Mexico. Those of us who have, over the past four years, warily watched the Trump administration throw its full weight behind the right wing government in Tel Aviv have a pressing question of our own to ask: what role will a Biden administration play in the longstanding conflict? 2020 was, by all accounts, an eventful year for Israel. Benny Gantz and Benjamin Netanyahu formed a coalition government in May 2020, after three successive elections over eighteen months repeatedly resulted in a stalemate between the former IDF general and the leader of the Likud party. But the uneasy power-sharing agreement between the former-political-adversaries-turned-coalition-partners turned out to be even more short-lived than many had expected.

As of December 22nd 2020, the Knesset (the Israeli parliament) stands dissolved, after lawmakers failed to pass the bi-annual state budget proposed in the coalition agreement signed between Netanyahu’s Likud and Gantz’ Blue and White. This year on March 23rd, Israeli citizens will be heading to the polls to vote in their fourth election in two years. That’s the word on Israel’s domestic front. In one of the more rabble-rousing developments of 2020, four Arab states – the UAE, Sudan, Bahrain and Morocco – took the plunge to formally recognize Israel. The peace deals, termed the “Abraham Accords” by the Trump White House, were mediated by the Trump administration during their final months in office. The name also serves as a nod to the former administration’s ties with the Evangelical community, who accounted for a sizeable portion of Trump’s vote base in 2016 and donate generously to the GOP. Continue reading

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Filed under Discussion, Human Rights, Iran, Israel, Pakistan Horizon, Palestine, Politics, The Middle East, Trump, United States

Experts discuss post-Covid world order

Advocate Hina Jilani terms coronavirus pandemic a human rights crisis

The Pakistan Institute of International Affairs (PIIA) on Saturday held a webinar on ‘Post Covid-19 World Order: Challenges and Strategies’. Human rights activist and lawyer Hina Jilani said with regard to the Covid-19 crisis there’s so much to lament but also so much to reflect upon. It isn’t just a health crisis; it’s a human rights crisis. It’s also an opportunity to correct what we have neglected in the past. The foremost aspect of the situation is that how weak the world is, developed or underdeveloped — employment opportunities have been affected, the right to work has been affected, there have been increased prices (of commodities) etc in the early days of lockdown, it was a matter of survival for many. The issue that arose was how to survive physically. But social isolation affected us badly because the support systems we usually turn to were not available.

Ms Jilani said the crisis has a global dimension because the multilateral system did not respond the way it ought to have, indicating that the system is weak. Agreeing with an earlier speaker, she remarked it was the fragmentation of the multilateral world that impacted the response to the situation. She hoped that it (time to come) will not be the new normal and we will emerge with a better understanding of how to readjust our priorities. “We need to make sure that we give attention to the marginalised and vulnerable segments of society. There has to be a global response to the crisis and there’s a need to recognise that there are more stakeholders who need attention not just the victims [of illness] and government. One of the least recognised sectors that have stepped up in the situation is civil society.” Continue reading

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Filed under China, COVID-19, Discussion, Economy, Europe, Events, Human Rights, Pakistan, United States

‘There can be Arab Spring 2.0’

The issue of Palestine cannot be ignored by having deals

The Pakistan Institute of International Affairs (PIIA) organised a webinar on Saturday on ‘US-brokered agreement between UAE, Bahrain and Israel’. Dr Seyed Mohammed Kazem Sajjadpour, president of the Institute for Political and International Studies, Iranian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, said the accord or deal could be analysed as ABC — A (American problematic); B (betrayal); and C (composition of forces). It’s an American project mostly oriented towards American election, a psychological ploy. There has been no achievement for Trump in the last four years in foreign policy. The accord is addressed for a special American constituency based on religious reading.

“Why are they calling it Abraham [Accords]?” They look at Israel with a Biblical sense. There’s a link between, Pompeo, Jared Kushner and that constituency. American policy in the Middle East was in limbo and the agreement is reflective of a very deep crisis of America in the region, he added. On the second point, he said there were contacts between smaller states and Zionist entity in the past, it’s nothing new. But now Palestinians have been betrayed. “Who can ignore the Palestinian plight?” He asked and highlighted that in the last 70 years, there have been 60 American and European plans to fix the Palestinian issue but they haven’t been successful because there is a real problem called Palestine. You can’t ignore it by having deals. Whoever is ignoring their plight is not seeing the reality. “Now there’s a third generation of refugees. Can they ignore their origin? The Palestinians have been betrayed.” Continue reading

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Filed under Discussion, Human Rights, Iran, Israel, Pakistan, Palestine, The Arab Spring, The Middle East, United States

Cyclical patterns of domination in South Asia: India’s movement towards setter-colonialism in Kashmir

India’s perception of Kashmir and its citizens is akin to that of a coloniser towards its colony argues Layla Hameedi. 

The repetition of history offers us unique insight into behavioural patterns built up over time. It is fascinating that because of some inherent constants of human nature, people and states act upon similar impulses — honour, greed, glory — in similar ways. The dynamic of the oppressor and the oppressed is one such cyclical pattern. As power asymmetries evolve over time, actors in the international system tend to oscillate between these roles. This pattern has been prevalent throughout history; for instance, in the American pursuit of a blatantly imperialistic foreign policy in the aftermath of the Spanish-American War; and in Israel’s illegal occupation of Gaza, the West Bank and the Golan Heights. In both cases, we see a people once subjugated and victimised, taking up the mantle of oppression in the name of power. Today, we see the same unapologetic pursuit for dominance in Narendra Modi’s India, as it imposes a starkly settler colonial framework of subjugation upon the disputed territory of Kashmir.

In the Himalayan territory of Kashmir we see a once-colony, India, on a path of repression precariously similar to that exercised upon the subcontinent by the British for almost two centuries. In 1947, widespread bloodshed, mass suffering and inconceivable sacrifice ultimately resulted in the creation of an Independent Indian State. It was a direct consequence of a passionate struggle against colonial oppression and exploitation. It follows therefore, that India is a state born from an anti-imperial cause, and that this narrative holds an integral place in the make-up of its national identity — or so it should. Today however, more than seven decades since its independence, we see the world’s largest democracy imposing a structure of domination which is for all intents and purposes, colonial. India’s ‘administration’ of Jammu and Kashmir has been characterised by the mass securitisation of the state, enforced disappearances, media and communications blackouts and routine violence for decades. Continue reading

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Filed under BJP, Discussion, Human Rights, India, Islam, Kashmir, Pakistan, Pakistan Horizon

Hong Kong: The Final Blow

While many countries are struggling to form a strategy to revive their weak economies by systematically easing restrictions imposed due to Covid-19, Hong Kong has been successful in containing the virus without enforcing a strict lockdown which could have devastated its economy. Its experience with previous infectious disease outbreaks such as the SARS epidemic in 2003 had allowed it to develop a system that could mitigate the damage caused by acute respiratory diseases. As a result, it was quick to follow WHO guidelines and implemented track, test, and quarantine regime to contain the pandemic. Its efforts to curb the pandemic will, however, dissipate due to demonstrations against the draconian security law introduced by China. Although China’s endeavor to weaponize legislation to gain control over the semi-autonomous region has failed time and time again, it persists intending to bring the region under its iron fist before the “one country, two systems” agreement expires in 2047.

By introducing different laws within Hong Kong to gain control over its political system, China is trumping on the spirit, if not the letter, of the agreement signed with the British in 1997. The citizens of Hong Kong resisted these efforts by mobilizing and protesting until some of their demands were accepted. The demonstrations, however, continue. Hong Kong has been upended by protests which erupted last year due to the introduction of the (withdrawn) extradition bill. The bill would have allowed authorities to extradite fugitives to mainland China to face trial there. The citizens, however, suspicious of China’s intentions, believed the law would be misused and would deprive them of the freedoms bestowed by their mini-constitution. Once the bill was withdrawn, the protestors continued to demand an investigation into police brutality against them and called for electoral reforms. Continue reading

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Filed under China, Citizenship, Cyber Security, Discussion, Hong Kong, Human Rights, Politics

Hegemonic Masculinity and Its Effects: A Social Stigma

In Pakistan, trans men are highly segregated and provided no incentives to attain education and earn a healthy living, which coerces them to be street beggars, so heterosexual men get all the power.

PAKISTAN-SOCIETY-TRANSGENDERThe concept of hegemonic masculinity enables us to acknowledge the existence of plural masculinities and how it encourages domination between men and women, as well as between men themselves. Hegemonic masculinity, even though globally prevalent, seems to be invisible; it breeds in the society and causes violence against women and trans men, strengthens the patriarchal norms, and leads to gender disparities in the private and public sectors. Hegemonic masculinity is a global phenomenon, which breeds at different levels in various societies. The concept of hegemonic masculinity was first proposed by R.W Connell to divert the attention to the overt practices that had promoted favorable conditions of men over women and the emergence of a dominant kind of social masculinity (Connell and Messerschmidt, 2005, p.831). According to the Italian philosopher Antonio Gramsci, hegemony is about winning and attaining supremacy to exercise power, ability to coerce, if need be (Donaldson, 1993, p.645).

Hegemonic masculinity is a concept which explains the culturally dominant behavior of men in society. It is not hegemonic to other masculinities only, but it is a representation of privilege and leverage men collectively have over women. Such a social structure generates gender discrimination and defines a pattern of conduct of being ‘masculine’ or ‘feminine.’ A feminist and socialist theorist, Simone de Beauvoir, explains that the binary understanding of sex implies man being superior to others and demarcates between the idea of ‘sex’ and ‘gender.’ “One is not born woman, but rather becomes a woman” (Beauvoir, 1949, p. 17) represents gender as a social role. Continue reading

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Filed under Discussion, Gender, Human Rights, Pakistan, Politics, Women

The Killing of Qasem Soleimani and the Insatiable Bloodlust of the US Military

Soleimani was known to have been one of the most powerful people in Iran, second only to the Ayatollah himself.

The airstrike that killed Iranian general Qasem Soleimani, leader of the country’s elite al-Quds force, and also Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, commander of Iraq’s Hashd-al Shaabi, or Popular Mobilisation Forces, seems to have finally given a significant chunk of Trump’s support base a rude awakening: contrary to his claims, the current POTUS is no anti-interventionist. For all his dovish posturing and promises on the 2016 campaign trail to bring American troops home and withdraw from the “endless wars” in the Middle East (a position that arguably played a huge part in winning him the presidency of the United States), he may have just lit a fuse on a situation that even he will find impossible to contain. By killing Soleimani, Trump has chosen to take a drastic course of action that even Barack Obama, who engaged in continuous drone warfare throughout his presidency, and George W. Bush, who invaded Iraq, were loath to undertake out of fear that it would have catastrophic consequences for the United States and American presence in the Middle East.

This development signals a clear failure of the Trump administration’s so-called ‘maximum pressure’ strategy – which aimed to economically besiege Iran through sanctions to the point of bringing the country to its knees. And the irony is that it might actually have worked, too, given the wave of protests that took place across the country – had Donald Trump not jolted the country’s population into uniting in their grief after he decided to ruthlessly assassinate one of their most popular national figures. For the time being, national solidarity over what is being seen as an illegal assassination has quashed the popular protests that were taking place across the country. So Trump’s directive has backfired spectacularly, and if unfolding events are anything to go by, it looks like from here on out, the United States is set to face a tremendous amount of blowback for carrying out such an ill-advised operation so hastily. Continue reading

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Filed under Al Qaeda, Discussion, Human Rights, Iran, Iraq, ISIS, Islam, Islamophobia, Israel, Pakistan, Pakistan Horizon, PIIA, The Middle East, United States

‘It is the will of the Kashmiri people that we have to defend’

Let some intellectual contribution on Kashmir be generated from Karachi

The pre-lunch session on the second and final day (Thursday) of the conference on Kashmir organised by The Pakistan Institute of International Affairs (PIIA) proved to be an extremely engaging one. Eminent journalist and human rights activist I.A. Rehman, who presided over the session, said if issues were left [like that], they became permanent. In his view, Kashmir is primarily a humanitarian issue. Kashmir today was one of the most magnificent and marvellous struggles for self-determination. We should salute the spirit of freedom that had inspired people [in Kashmir]. It’s the issue of Kashmiris, not of India or Pakistan. Pakistan at best was their counsel. Mr Rehman said the abrogation of Article 370 of the Indian constitution was not a sudden thing. Modi and his party had announced that they’re going to do that much earlier. Did we listen to them? We reacted only when it had been done. “We must remember that it is the will of the Kashmiri people that we have to defend.”

Mr Rehman said we were repeating our arguments to ourselves. “Have we examined India’s arguments? More importantly, have we examined what the other countries are saying?” In order to understand the situation we must realise that today in Kashmir there’s a national struggle for self-determination. It’s a national struggle and we shouldn’t communalise it. “How many delegations have we sent to countries which are opposing us? It’s a long haul. It’s not going to be solved tomorrow or the day after tomorrow. We should be patient.” Mr Rehman asked, with reference to the talk about President Donald Trump’s offer to mediate between Indian and Pakistan, whether Trump had commented on Article 370. “Has Mr Trump taken a position on what India has been doing? He would only tell you baba jo ho gaya woh theek ho gaya.” It’s not a matter which would be resolved emotionally. Let’s not give juvenile responses, he argued. Continue reading

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Filed under Citizenship, Discussion, Human Rights, Immigration, India, Islamophobia, Kashmir, Pakistan, Pakistan Horizon, PIIA, Politics, United States

Kashmir: India never seriously engaged with Pakistan on conflict resolution

There has been no fundamental change in India’s attitude towards Pakistan. It has never seriously engaged with Pakistan on conflict resolution.

This was one of the points made by Riaz Khokhar, former Ambassador and Foreign Secretary of Pakistan, on 29 January 2020 in his keynote address in the inaugural session of a two-day conference on ‘Kashmir, the Way Forward’, organised by The Pakistan Institute of International Affairs (PIIA). Mr Khokhar started his speech by saying that the subject could not be looked at in isolation because it involved a number of factors: the situation in South Asia in the geopolitical and economic context, the world order was in flux, the rise of China, Russia reasserting itself, the US still believing in its superiority as an exceptional power, the US-India strategic partnership and flashpoints such as Afghanistan and the Middle East. He rejected the notion that the Pakistan government was caught napping when Modi made his move [in Kashmir]. “We were following his election very carefully, and there was a genuine understanding that if he was to return with a massive majority then we should expect him to do things. The Pakistani government did handle the first phase of the problem coolly.” Watch Video

Mr Khokhar said in order to analyse the situation we needed to see what Modi did: he basically abolished articles 370 and 35(A). And why at this time? There were several reasons, he argued. First, as the leader of the BJP and a deeply committed RSS man, he was committed to the concept of Hindutva. Secondly, he was convinced that if he did that, it would be a popular move [among Hindus]. Thirdly, he was convinced that the international community was not with Pakistan. Fourth, after the February 2019 skirmish he was convinced that Pakistan was not entirely strong –– he saw it politically fractured, economically weak, but militarily strong. He also realised that Pakistan was financially in a difficult situation; if there was a war we would have difficulty in financing it. Continue reading

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