The Russian Institute of Oriental Studies marks not only 200 years of its founding but makes a statement about a changed world
Some institutions are resilient and survive the ups and downs of fate. Others cannot sustain themselves and fall by the wayside. A great survivor is the Institute of Oriental Studies (IOS) of the Russian Academy of Sciences, which commemorates the 200th anniversary of its founding this year. The bicentennial was recently celebrated in October in Moscow with a congress. The congress itself, where I was invited to speak, was a gala event — essentially a Russian affair with marginal input from Western scholars, which is what made it remarkable. In Pakistan, we are used to only hearing about and from Western academics about the region. It coincided with Russian’s tilt to the East in world affairs, a celebration of the Asian part of its Eurasian identity. President Vladmir Putin did not attend the congress but a message from him was read out at the inauguration. As much as anything, the gathering signalled the increasingly multi-polar nature of our world.
The IOS was founded in 1818, in Russia during the reign of Emperor Alexander I. It has gone through many vicissitudes through empire, wars, invasions, revolution and the dissolution of the Soviet Union. It was originally established in St. Petersburg as the Asian Museum under the Imperial Academy of Sciences, as a depository of oriental manuscripts and a library facilitating scientific research. In 1950, the institute was shifted to Moscow, becoming a major centre of oriental studies. Today its depositories house more than one million volumes of ancient books and manuscripts. In 2008, the St. Petersburg (later Leningrad) branch was reorganised into a separate Institute of Oriental Manuscripts. The institute in Moscow is a unique venue for the study of the problems in history and cultures of the Orient, especially the countries of Asia and North Africa. Hundreds of experts work there. Continue reading
Empress Market was not meant to be a museum.
Those of us who have seen Empress Market develop over the years into the vibrant heart of Saddar in Karachi wonder about its fate after the anti-encroachment drive of recent days. At the risk of repetition, it may be relevant to recall its glorious past. It is believed the British used this space to execute freedom fighters after the uprising of 1857, and that the ground on which it stands is hallowed by the blood of martyrs. Those who were not hanged or sent via Karachi port to Kala Pani, as the prison in the Andaman Islands was called, were tied to the mouths of cannons and blown to smithereens as a message to anybody who dared risk mutiny. However, legend has it that every morning the British found the massacre ground strewn with rose petals — the red of the petals signifying the blood of the freedom fighters. Fearing the space would become a permanent memorial to the martyrs, they decided to build a monument on the site dedicated to Queen Victoria, Empress of India. Empress Market was built as a market, a bazaar. It was not meant to be a museum or gala dining room. And it developed as a thriving bazaar in which items of daily use, including some exotic ones, were available under one roof.
It was a shoppers’ paradise visited by people from even distant neighbourhoods. Around it sprang up vegetable, fruit and tea markets, and the fabulous bird market where one could buy pigeons, parakeets, parrots and many rare birds. The shopkeepers were a multi-ethnic community, something to cherish and celebrate. Poor-friendly hawking also developed in the lanes and by-lanes around the market. Empress Market has great political significance for our country. It has been a meeting ground for countless political rallies and demonstrations. It was also the focal point from where the leaders and activists of the Movement for Restoration of Democracy against Ziaul Haq courted arrest in 1983. The eateries and cafés within and around it were frequented since Partition by young progressives, some of whom rose to political eminence. Continue reading
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
Filed under Discussion, Iran, Iraq, ISIS, Islam, Israel, Karachi, Pakistan, Pakistan Horizon, Palestine, Politics, The Arab Spring, The Middle East, Trump, United States
This year, The Pakistan Institute of International Affairs, which is the oldest think tank in Pakistan, is celebrating 70 years of its founding. It was established as an independent, non-political, not for profit association in 1947, devoted to study and research in international relations, economics and jurisprudence. To mark its seventieth anniversary, PIIA is holding a regional conference on Peace in South Asia: Opportunities and Challenges on 15 and 16 November 2017. Scholars from leading think tanks, academia and diplomats in the region are being invited to participate in this conference. South Asia, comprising Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Afghanistan is the most densely populated region of the world. Its population of 1.8 billion comprises one-fourth of the global population and almost 40 per cent of the population of Asia. The President of Pakistan, Mr Mamnoon Hussain will inaugurate the Conference. The programme is available here. The proceedings can be live streamed here.
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
Filed under Accountability, Brexit, Discussion, Ethnic cleansing, Human Rights, India, Islam, Islamophobia, Karachi, Myanmar, NLD, Pakistan, Pakistan Horizon, PIIA, Politics, Refugees, Rohingya, Statelessness, Syria
Pakistan must not pay the price for the adventurism of other countries
Immigration crackdowns are a commonly used political ploy in western countries but president Trump has infamously institutionalised Islamophobia by banning Muslims from Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen from entering the US. Sir Mo Farah, the Somali born British super-athlete denounced the American president by saying that the “Queen made me a knight, Donald Trump made me an alien”. Kim Kardashian highlighted that more Americans die falling out of bed annually (737) rather than those killed by jihadists (2). Theresa May “does not agree” with the Muslim ban. The vicar’s daughter also claims that the UK will not sleepwalk into America’s dirty wars. But the tough talking prime minister, decked out in her trendy clothes and bright red nail polish, could not resist his charms and held hands with him as they walked down a tricky slope in the White House to show off their “special relationship”. But since he wants to make a fantastic success of Brexit – which he calls a “wonderful thing” – how could she resist?
The recent UK Supreme Court decision that she cannot unilaterally trigger Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty and bypass Parliament has not gotten her off to a flying start. Her new best friend’s Muslim ban has also suffered a blow at the hands of a federal judge in New York. British foreign secretary Boris Johnson branded the ban “divisive and wrong” and there is public pressure to cancel Trump’s state visit to the UK later this year. According to the New York Times, “it would take massive effort to create a trade deal if even minimal effect” and of course no deal is legal until the UK remains in the EU. Continue reading
Filed under Brexit, Courts, Discussion, Europe, Human Rights, Immigration, Iran, Islamophobia, Karachi, Pakistan Horizon, PIIA, Russia, Trump, United States
‘The Arab elite responsible is for Middle East crises’ – Watch Video.
As seen on this blog, the German chancellor Angela Merkel has become rather controversial because of her “open door” or Willkommenskultur policy in relation to refugees from the Middle East and elsewhere in Asia. Last year, Merkel was involved in a tug of war involved in a tug of war with her uneasy ally Horst Seehofer (premier of Bavaria) and even members of her trusted cabinet openly challenged her over her refugee policy. The chancellery ultimately bowed down to pressure from finance minister Wolfgang Schäuble and interior minister Thomas de Maizière – Schäuble accused her of being a “careless” skier who has caused an “avalanche” which needs to be contained. Equally, Mrs Merkel has been under pressure from the extremist right-wing populist eurosceptic Alternative für Deutschland (Alternative for Germany) party and its charismatic co-leader Frauke Petry; a 40-year old chemist/businesswoman with four children turned politician who very radically argues that the German authorities must “use firearms if necessary” to “prevent illegal border crossings”.
Given that a million people have penetrated Europe’s border in just a year, Petry argues that the “police must stop refugees entering German soil.” Against that background, German diplomat and scholar Dr Gunter Mulack spoke at The Pakistan Institute of International Affairs (PIIA) and shared his views on the crisis in the Middle East from a German Perspective. Continue reading
Filed under Al Qaeda, China, CPEC, Discussion, Europe, Germany, Human Rights, Immigration, ISIS, Islam, Karachi, Pakistan, Pakistan Horizon, Politics, Russia, Syria, The Arab Spring, The Middle East