Category Archives: Islam

Iran crisis: ‘General Soleimani was on a peace mission’

After 1979, Iran created its own democratic brand of Islam … The major conflict is between Iran and Israel.

We at The Pakistan Inst­itute of International Affairs (PIIA) held a session on Saturday evening on the current developments in West Asia participated by three prominent individuals. Former foreign secretary of Pakistan Najmuddin Shaikh was the first speaker. Mr Shaikh began his presentation by mentioning the Ukrainian passenger plane that was mistakenly shot down by an Iranian-launched missile. Iran has acknowledged that this happened because of a mistake on the part of those who are involved in safeguarding Iran, and those who have fired the missile will be held accountable. There will be a demand for compensation. Perhaps a precedent will be followed when in 1988 an Iranian passenger plane was shot down by the US. President Reagan had expressed his regret and eventually the Americans decided that compensation would be given. Mr Shaikh said three countries are associated with the current developments: the US, Iran and Iraq. There is much confusion in the United States.

There is polarisation in the country, and within its administration. The Congress says that the authority of waging war lies with it and Trump will ignore it. Trump is unpredictable but one thing is not: anything that Obama did is [deemed] bad and has to be reversed. However, there is a deeper concern. The American secret state is still traumatised by the hostage crisis. It is driving the attitude towards Iran. Many think-tanks have written about how counterproductive it is. This is not the prevailing sentiment, though. The prevailing sentiment is that what happened to Qassem Soleimani is right but now we need to de-escalate. With reference to Iran, he said it did a wise thing of announcing that we have carried out our attack and that’s all we’re going to do. But they sent a message to the US that it should examine the precision of their missiles. Continue reading

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Filed under Discussion, Human Rights, Iran, ISIS, Islam, Islamophobia, Pakistan, Pakistan Horizon, Sanctions, The Middle East, United States

The #MeToo Narrative in Pakistan

As the global feminist movement reaches Pakistan, it challenges the status quo and looks to encapsulate more than sexual harassment.

Pakistan is definitely not the most women-friendly country on earth. UN Women ranked it one of the lowest in the world in terms of gender equality. Violence against women has been widespread and an ever-growing issue. Rape, acid attacks, domestic abuse, forced marriages and, honor killings are rampant in the country even today. Disturbing realities are still reported. The 2015 Oslo Summit on Education and Development categorized Pakistan among the worst performing countries in terms of female education. Pakistani NGO, Movement for Solidarity Peace stated that there were thousands of women abductions for forced marriages, especially targeting minority women. Human Rights Watch estimated 1000 honor killings per year as latest as 2019. But one thing for women in Pakistan has certainly changed, the narrative for women’s empowerment has escaped from global conventions and election speeches to streets and internet. In today’s age Pakistan’s commitment to women rights is shown by its evolving narrative around #MeToo, women rights and, a growing anti-patriarchal attitude.

The role of women in Pakistan, since its inception, has been largely limited to households with much of the reason submerged in religion and culture. Pakistan’s main religion, Islam, has largely been interpreted as patriarchal; giving men an overarching edge over women in terms of rights and freedom. The small breathing space left for women liberation is swallowed by cultural values and societal norms that place further restrictions on women. Legislation has been equally, if not more disappointing. While the draconian Hudood Ordinance was repealed after years of blinkered discrimination against women in 2006, it was far from enough to rid the constitution of bias. In fact, only recently a province distributed burqas to female students to observe purdah (religious attire) within school. With such depressing status-quo, the recent advancements are notable and a sonorous display of modernization. Continue reading

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Filed under Accountability, Discussion, Human Rights, Islam, Pakistan, Politics, Women

‘Endgame in the Middle East’: A Talk by Ambassador Karamatullah Khan Ghori

Israel does not want to see Assad go because he never posed a threat to Israel. So the Americans are happy; and the crisis is not ending anytime soon says former Pakistan diplomat

The Syrian crisis is not going to end anytime soon. When it does end, it will not be to the liking of the West. This was said by former ambassador Karamatullah Khan Ghori in his lecture on ‘Endgame in the Middle East’ organised at The Pakistan Institute of International Affairs (PIIA) on Tuesday. Mr Ghori said to understand the subject, one needed to look at the genesis of the game. It was in 1908 when oil was discovered in the Middle East for the first time at a place called Masjid-i-Suleiman in Iran. Five years later, it was discovered in Iraq, a year later in Bahrain and Saudi Arabia was the last country tapped by the oil explorers. Notably, the discovery of oil preceded the First World War. It also coincided with Western infatuation with Israel. Although the so-called Balfour Declaration was announced in 1917, the spadework for a Jewish homeland had started in the last decade of the 19th century when the Zionist International was founded in Switzerland. The two developments almost happened simultaneously.

For the last one hundred years, this has been the prime goal and two-edged weapon of the West against the Arab world: one, oil continues to be supplied to Western economies; two, Israel is not threatened. Mr Ghori said in 1973 the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries (Opec) imposed its first oil embargo against the West, and its architect was Saudi Arabia’s King Faisal. That embargo gave birth to what is now known as the Kissinger doctrine. Henry Kissinger was the secretary of state in 1973. He said, “We cannot allow this blackmail of our economies to go unchallenged. If it is allowed to go unchallenged, it will choke our economies. Therefore, we should be prepared to land our troops on the oil producing fields of Arabia.” Mr Ghori said colonialism relied upon creating local surrogates, and in the global context, regional surrogates. The US, after WWII, created regional surrogates in the Arab world and the Persian side of the Gulf. Continue reading

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Filed under Discussion, Iran, Islam, Israel, Karachi, Pakistan, Palestine, Politics, The Middle East, United States

A Silent Witness to Rohingya ‘Genocide’

There has been clear and ample evidence of the grave atrocities committed against the Muslim Rohingya by Myanmar military forces.

On 2 October 2018, Aung San Suu Kyi, Myanmar’s civilian leader, became the first person to have her honorary Canadian citizenship revoked. Although Aung San Suu Kyi was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1991 for her fight for democracy in Myanmar, she has failed to be a champion of change and human rights after the horrors of Rohingya genocide surfaced. According to a United Nations fact-finding mission, Myanmar’s military has systematically killed thousands of Rohingya civilians, burned hundreds of their villages, and engaged in ethnic cleansing and mass gang rape while the Myanmar’s leader has allegedly denied the atrocities, restricted access to international investigators and journalists, defended the military and denied humanitarian aid for the Rohingya. While Canada sends a powerful message against the violators of human rights, would anyone come to the rescue of one million Rohingya Muslims of Myanmar, described as the ‘world’s most persecuted minority’?

Myanmar, formerly known as Burma, has a population of around 51 million people which consists of more than 135 ethnic groups. One group, the Muslim Rohingya with a population of 1.1 million living mainly in Rakhine State in the north of the country, are not recognised as an ethnic nationality of Myanmar and suffer from arguably the worst discrimination and human rights abuses of all. As noted before, the Rohingya are stateless and they have been denied citizenship in Myanmar since 1982, which has effectively rendered them stateless and while most of them still live in extremely poor conditions in Rakhine, hundreds of thousands of Rohingya have fled to neighbouring Bangladesh as well as Malaysia, Thailand and other Southeast Asian countries, over the course of many decades. Myanmar’s government does not consider the Rohingya its nationals and claim that they are Bengali labourers who immigrated to Myanmar during the more than 100 years of British rule (1824-1948), from today’s India and Bangladesh. Continue reading

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Filed under Criminal Justice, Criminal law, Discussion, Ethnic cleansing, Genocide, Human Rights, Islam, Islamophobia, Myanmar, Pakistan Horizon, Rohingya, Statelessness

‘The Arab World in Turmoil’: A Talk by Ambassador Karamatullah Ghori

We have no problem with Iran. Besides, we share a long border and are culturally more akin to Iran than to Saudi Arabia.

The standoff in Yemen between the Saudis and Iranians shows that a high death toll and human suffering alone will stop neither side from trying to build up its influence in the region. In Syria, after a relentless war which has left countless innocent people dead, Iran’s influence is in the ascendency along with its old ally Russia. The fall of Ghouta confirms this point. It demonstrates the impotence of the West as a player in the Middle East. After Saddam’s fall in 2003, Iran quickly developed its importance in Iraq. Iran was also quick to protect its neighbour when ISIS took over large parts of Iraq in 2014. Interestingly, John Bolton, who has been made Trump’s national security advisor after general McMaster was cashiered, wants to destroy the Iranian regime and advocates its replacement by Maryam Rajavi’s Mojahedin-e Khalq organisation, whose members had been proscribed as terrorists in many western countries. Mohammed bin Salman, who has recently been on a charm offensive and has been rubbing shoulders with Theresa May and schmoozing with president Trump making billion dollar deals, is now on a mission to win over support in Iraq.

The Saudi crown prince, who is on a quest to remake the Middle East, also says that Riyadh also has strategic interests with Tel Aviv despite the ongoing slaughter of the Palestinians by the Israeli military machine. Anyhow, the Wahabi Saudi regime is extending a hand of friendship to disillusioned Shias in Iraq who do not wish to align their interests with Tehran. For example, Muqtada al-Sadr, the stern leader of the Saraya al-Salam met Mohammed bin Salman in Najaf last year. Najaf is a natural place for the Saudi-Iranian rivalry to pan out further, of course Tehran has much more experience than Riyadh on the ground in Najaf and Southern Iraq. In these interesting times Pakistan’s former ambassador Karamatullah Ghori delivered lecture on The Arab World on Turmoil on 31 March, 2018 at The Pakistan Institute of International Affairs (PIIA). Continue reading

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Filed under Discussion, Iran, Iraq, ISIS, Islam, Israel, Karachi, Pakistan, Pakistan Horizon, Palestine, Politics, The Arab Spring, The Middle East, Trump, United States

The Rohingya Tragedy

We fully agree with Amal de Chickera’s analysis that Suu Kyi ‘is a failed leader who has taken a calculated and cynical decision to stand with the oppressors’ in persecuting the Rohingya.

The minority Muslim population of Myanmar, i.e. the Rohingya who were made stateless by the dreaded Burma Citizenship Law 1982, can trace their history to the eighth century but are not recognised as one of the national races of Myanmar unless they can show “conclusive evidence” of their lineage or history of residence. Consequently, shunned by mainstream society, they are ineligible for any class of citizenship. Eric Fripp explains: “To be stateless in general terms is to be without attachment to a State as a national.” Since they are “resident foreigners”, or “illegal Bengali immigrants”, the Rohingya cannot hold public office, study or travel freely. Over the past three weeks, more than 400,000 Rohingya refugees have poured into Bangladesh to escape Rakhine State’s killing fields where the Buddhist majority has been indiscriminately attacking helpless civilians whose terrified faces tell us everything. The UN high commissioner for human rights, Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein, has called these shocking events a “textbook example of ethnic cleansing”. Reports suggest that with Suu Kyi’s help, the Myanmar military uses schools to brainwash Buddhists to “hate Muslims”.

Satellite imagery obtained by Amnesty International shows widespread torching of hundreds of Rohingya villages and the application of scorched-earth tactics by the Myanmar military. The UN secretary general António Guterres has described the situation as a “humanitarian catastrophe” and is demanding “an effective action plan” to ease the suffering of Rohingya refugees. Guterres is calling for an immediate end to the “tragedy”. But the Myanmar authorities are mining the border to prevent the Rohingya from returning home or even escaping to Bangladesh in the first place. Notably, Guterres used his opening speech during the recent UN general assembly session to highlight the plight of the Rohingya. Continue reading

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Filed under Accountability, Brexit, Discussion, Ethnic cleansing, Human Rights, India, Islam, Islamophobia, Karachi, Myanmar, NLD, Pakistan, Pakistan Horizon, PIIA, Politics, Refugees, Rohingya, Statelessness, Syria

Who Am I: Understanding Pakistan’s Political Dynamics?

Politics in Pakistan is marked not simply by its religion, but rather its fragmented identity and a strong military, which has grown out of Pakistan’s need to secure itself.

Seventy years later we are still struggling to answer the question, who is Pakistan? In a sense, Pakistan is a paradox, cut between its religious identity and its need to formulate a state. Unlike India, it did not declare itself as a secular democracy but at the same time, it also failed to define its religious identity. Nationalism and Islam have often found themselves in opposition in the Pakistani state, creating a grave identity crisis. Even Jinnah was ambivalent about the role Islam should play in defining Pakistan’s identity; sometimes he claimed Pakistan should be based on the ‘principles of Islam,’ while on another occasion he portrayed Pakistan to be a secular state, ‘you are free; you are free to go to your temples, you are free to go to your mosques or to any other place of worship in this state of Pakistan.’ This meant that from its very existence Pakistan faced an ‘ontological insecurity’ being unable to create a stable identity for itself. This conflicted identity and highlighted insecurity then impregnated Pakistani politics to define its domestic and foreign policies.

While Islam has not been the driver of shaping politics in Pakistan, those in power have alluded to religion in order to wield their political interests. In part, it was believed religion would override all cultural differences in Pakistan. However, it became very apparent that the limited notion of Islam would come into conflict with the other forms of identity people attached themselves with. If Pakistan was to distinguish itself as a democratic state, it would diminish the role Islam would play as an organising factor to mobilise political action. While there was no definitive made as to what Islam’s role would be, the political representation of cultural identities was suppressed. Therein lay the roots of Pakistan’s problems; its failure to accommodate ethnic diversity and provisional autonomy, which has led to a mobilisation of ethnic nationalism. Continue reading

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Filed under Constitution 1973, Discussion, Human Rights, India, Islam, Pakistan, Pakistan Horizon