By Dr Masuma Hasan. Chairperson of The Pakistan Institute of International Affairs. I. A. Rehman Sahib was for decades the leading public intellectual of Pakistan. No obituary can do justice to his eminence and greatness, his command of history, his discernment of injustice, his understanding of the immoral aspects of governance, of deprivation and poverty, his style of writing, so very forceful but restrained, and above all, his sublime compassion. He was larger than life, determined and fearless, a campaigner for peace. I first met Rehman Sahib during the Movement for Restoration of Democracy against General Ziaul Haq’s cruel rule, probably in 1983. The police were looking out for journalists who supported the Movement and some of them, including Rehman Sahib, Nisar Usmani and Ahfazur Rehman sought shelter in our house, in the upper storey where Arif Hasan lived.
Some of you might recall that General Ziaul Haq had taken over our Institute in 1980 through a presidential ordinance and turned it into a government department. After Ziaul Haq passed away and there was a let up, I met Rehman Sahib in Lahore and asked for his help. He was then chief editor of Pakistan Times and he wrote an editorial, urging that the Institute should be returned to its original independent status. In 1993, the Supreme Court of Pakistan declared Ziaul Haq’s 1980 ordinance as ultra vires of the Constitution of Pakistan and the independent status of the Institute was restored. Subsequently, Rehman Sahib attended many of our events, our seventieth anniversary conference in 2017 – we honoured him then, and other conferences. He gave a talk in memory of Fatehyab Ali Khan on the Politics of Dissent – he believed there could be no democracy without dissent.
He was a good listener, and never spoke ill of anyone
The Pakistan Institute of International Affairs (PIIA) on Saturday evening held an online reference to pay homage to journalist and human rights defender I.A. Rehman, who passed away in Lahore on April 12. The first speaker was architect Arif Hasan. He divided his talk into three parts: his relationship with Rehman sahib, his personality and legacy. He said he met the late journalist and activist in Lahore in 1967 for the first time where he (Hasan) had gone to work. Although Rehman sahib was 12 or 13 years older than him, they would meet every evening where they’d be joined by the likes of Dr Mehdi Hasan and Nisar Osmani. Rehman sahib used to call the architect ‘kitab’. Even after he returned to Karachi from Lahore, both kept meeting on a regular basis. Significantly, their relationship deepened when Bangladesh was trying to gain independence. Their ties further strengthened during Z.A. Bhutto and Gen Ziaul Haq’s tenures.
On the second point, Mr Hasan said Rehman sahib was a good listener. He knew how to lend an ear to people. He would never interrupt anyone while they were talking, even when they would be presenting a point of view opposite to his. He never spoke ill of anyone. At meetings and seminars, he would give an opinion that differed from others’ with a sense of humour. He never spoke about himself. Once, he visited his birthplace in Gurgaon, India. When he came back, nobody could detect an air of nostalgia in his narration about his place of birth. He talked about it like a tourist would. He was an extremely well-informed man who turned his wealth of information into knowledge (ilm). Mr Hasan, speaking about his legacy, said Rehman sahib has left behind the institutions that he was associated with and founded; his efforts to bring peace between India and Pakistan; his resolve that we should not be afraid of speaking the truth; and the youngsters who in their small but significant ways have established human rights and social welfare groups.
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 →
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 →
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 →
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 →
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 →
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 →
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.
The 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 →
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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