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
Filed under Discussion, Human Rights, Iran, ISIS, Islam, Islamophobia, Pakistan, Pakistan Horizon, Sanctions, The Middle East, United States
Pakistan, East and West, was a dream state which became a nightmare
“The loss of East Pakistan was a catastrophe beyond bearing,” said Dr Masuma Hasan, the Chairperson of The Pakistan Institute of International Affairs (PIIA), at her talk titled ‘The loss of East Pakistan: a national tragedy and international milestone’ at the PIIA library on Tuesday. “My ancestors lived in Panipat and Delhi for some 700 years. Even though they travelled far and wide they always maintained their links with the two cities. Then, when Pakistan was born, my parents gave up everything to come here by train on August 12. They sunk their roots in this new land and East Pakistan was part of this land. Losing it was a great tragedy for my parents’ generation,” she said. Continuing with her own experience, Dr Hasan said that despite the break-up they still had many friends in Bangladesh. But she saw the change happening there during her subsequent visits: “I wanted to get some postage stamps from the post office once but no one in the clerical staff there would speak in Urdu or English as a result of which I couldn’t get what I needed”.
Dr Hasan added that she was able to learn a lot from the Hamoodur Rahman Commission Report, being part of the key committee that recommended declassifying it 19 years ago. Dr Hasan also shared some relevant excerpts from the report. Earlier, writer, former senator and federal minister Javed Jabbar, in his talk, wondered that 48 years have passed which is equal to two generations now but should we forget what happened leading to the loss of East Pakistan? “If you start remembering, you will remember everything including the painful parts,” he said. “Still, we shall revisit the past to review or resolve and maybe even learn from history,” he added. “Pakistan, East and West, was a dream state, which became a nightmare,” he said. “Pakistan is a religion-based nation state and yet it is unlike any other religion-based country. There is no country separated by hostile territory so it was also a uniquely created territory,” he pointed out. Continue reading
The Kurdish Question warrants a more comprehensive examination
Seemingly intractable, positively complex – the question of the Kurds has been an area of contention in Middle-East politics, dating back to the Kurds’ frequent rebellions against the Ottoman Empire. Turkey’s decision to launch ‘Operation Peace-Spring’ (the third major Turkish military operation in to Syria since 2016) in Syria on October 9, 2019 has been subject to polarising reception. Amid the volatility and added layers of developments, it is imperative to be familiarized with the roots of the conflict in a bid to get to the heart of the dilemma. After the collapse of the Ottoman Empire, new states such as Turkey and Iraq, as well as Iran and Syria inherited the unresolved issues of Kurdish quests for autonomy. Notably, according to a TRT report, “almost 10 per cent of the Syrian population, 15-20 per cent of the Turkish, 20 per cent of the Iraqi, and 10 per cent of the Iranian populations are Kurdish.” With respect to Turkey, the modern roots of the conflict resurfaced after the 1919–1923 Turkish War of Independence but took a more violent turn after the establishment of the Kurdish militant and political organization, the PKK (Partiya Karkerên Kurdistanê).
Clashes between state forces and the PKK piqued in 1984 and the 1990s amid the organizations’ declared goals of establishing an independent state in south-eastern Turkey through armed-struggle. The Turkish state’s enactment of more unitary and assimilationist policies – with the endeavour to promote and cultivate a unifying, national identity – have often been at the centre of the debate pertaining to ‘reactionary’ and ‘radicalized’ Kurdish nationalism and militancy. What often goes amiss in discussions focusing on a clash of competing nationalisms in Turkey is the considerable integration of Kurdish communities in Turkish society. Those communities adamant on their rejection of social-integration and assimilation gave way to militancy, with the rise of the PKK. Continue reading
A member of the PM’s advisory council on foreign affairs says going to war over Kashmir will not go well with a broken economy … watch video
“Today is the 75th day of the brutal curfew in India-held Kashmir invoking a nuclear threat,” said Dr Rabia Akhtar, director of a policy research centre and a member of the prime minister’s advisory council on foreign affairs. She was speaking at a programme titled ‘Kashmir: a Nuclear Flashpoint’ at The Pakistan Institute of International Affairs on Friday. “Since February, when India attacked Pakistan in Balakot, people have been worried. But during the Balakot strikes, Prime Minister Imran Khan refrained from the ‘N’ word. Neither did the DG ISPR mention it,” she continued. She also added that “When the prime minister visited the US earlier in July and met President Trump there, he told him about the Kashmir crisis. Then he comes back and faces the August 5 development there with India revoking the special status granted to Jammu and Kashmir. Earlier, it was Syria, Iran, the Turks and the Kurds whom the world watched and spoke about but India has internationalised Kashmir.”
Dr Akhtar, who is the director of the Centre for Security, Strategy and Policy Research (CSSPR), said that in a January 2002 interview, former adviser to Pakistan’s National Command Authority and pioneer director general of the Strategic Plans Division retired Lt Gen Khalid Kidwai had mentioned four thresholds for Pakistan in case India attacked Islamabad such as the spatial threshold, the military, economic and socio-political threshold. “At the time, our forces were on a 10-month stand-off,” she explained. She said that literature written by Western scholars on the issue showed Pakistan as the weaker power that must maintain escalation dominance. “They say that Pakistan will be first to use nuclear weapons,” she said, adding: “But, there always used to be a third-party intervention in crisis termination until the Pulwama incident when Pakistan unconditionally released India’s pilot. It was unprecedented behaviour from Pakistan.” Continue reading
Karachi is an ecologically damaged city, explains Arif Hasan, watch here.
Our event ‘Fatehyab’s City: Causes and Repercussions of Turmoil in Karachi’ was the topic of the fourth lecture in memory of the late president of the independent Mazdoor Kissan Party Fatehyab Ali Khan, on the occasion of his ninth death anniversary, delivered by architect and town planner Arif Hasan at The Pakistan Institute of International Affairs (PIIA) here on Thursday. Beginning his lecture by paying tribute to Fatehyab Ali Khan, Arif Hasan said that they met as often as twice a week to discuss the issues faced by Pakistan. “Fatehyab was passionate in his arguments. He had leanings towards the Left but was not a Communist. And he was a product of Karachi’s city life,” he said. Arif Hasan said that Fatehyab’s political activism started from student days. In university, he and his colleagues were often sent to prison where they also received beatings. They were a popular group of students who had been barred from entering the city, but they carried on with their activism and opposing Ayub Khan’s government.
“In the 1990s, Fatehyab took a stand on talks of separation of Karachi from Sindh as he strongly believed that Karachi was very much a part of Sindh,” he said. He said that Fatehyab came to Karachi in 1949 as a 13 or 14-year-old from Bombay. “Political opportunism was changing the demography of Karachi,” he said. At first, there was a huge population of Sindhi, Baloch and Brahvi people in Karachi with a few Urdu-speaking people, and even fewer Punjabi-speaking folks with hardly any Pashto-speakers around as Hindus outnumbered Muslims. “But by 1951 the population of the Sindhi, Balochi and Brahvi people dropped as Urdu-speaking people increased in numbers. The Hindus decreased from making up 51 per cent of the population to two per cent and Muslims who were 42pc made up 90pc of the city. “Those who came to settle here are powerful. Their politics are subtle. They control a lot of resources,” he said, adding that Karachi is different from the other populated cities of the country. Continue reading
On August 19, 2019, the Provincial Disaster Management Authority (PDMA) of Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa issued flood alerts following the alarming increase of water levels in River Sutlej as India released over 150,000 to 200,000 cusecs of water into the river. In addition to this move, the PDMA warned that India had opened three out of five spillways of the Ladekh Dam. Amid increasingly strained relations between the neighbouring countries following the 14 February Pulwama Incident, the 26 February Balakot Airstrike by the Indian armed forces and, more recently, India’s Revocation of Jammu and Kashmir’s special status (article 370) on 5 August, this aggressive move which knowingly compromises on the rights and obligations of the Indus Waters Treaty 1960 points toward a familiar, albeit perilous approach that is quickly becoming a favourite of the incumbent Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government: the weaponization of water. A profound political, ecological and geopolitical dilemma, the weaponization of natural resources has been at the crux of world history and global politics – its impacts vast and far-reaching.
With regard to water as the emerging commodity to weaponize, one of the most frequently cited statements concerning this burgeoning political phenomenon came from a former vice president of the World Bank, Dr. Ismail Serageldin: ‘Many of the wars of the 20th century were about oil but wars of the 21st century will be about water unless we change the way in which we manage it.’ The treaties and peace agreements that have maintained a degree of cooperation and offered a mechanism for information exchange (with a prominent example being the Indus Waters Treaty) have been a resounding point to ward off the threat of an all-out ‘water war.’ However, India’s consistent provocations categorically go against the very framework and mechanism for cooperation that defined the Indus Waters Treaty. Brokered by the World Bank, the Indus Waters Treaty was signed in Karachi by then president of Pakistan Ayub Khan and prime minister of India Jawaharlal Nehru on September 19, 1960. Continue reading
We may look back at Deng Xiaoping’s words and ponder over how these protests will play out and what they herald for the future of the ‘one country, two systems’ policy …
‘One country, two systems’ – this core principle has been the cornerstone of state policy on the reunification of China. And generating fascination, scepticism, consternation and more, this constitutional policy sought to answer lingering questions pertaining to sovereignty, administration and autonomy with regard to the mainland region of China and the Taiwan region. This principle was coined by People’s Republic of China’s (PRC) paramount leader [from 1978 until 1992] Deng Xiaoping – popularly referred to as the General Architect of Reforms – who went on to highlight its most conspicuous implication: ‘within the People’s Republic of China, the mainland with its one billion people will maintain the socialist system, while Hong Kong and Taiwan continue under the capitalist system.’ He further added that ‘When we adopt the policy of “one country, two systems” to resolve the Hong Kong question, we are not acting on impulse or playing tricks but are proceeding from reality and taking into full account the past and present circumstances of Hong Kong.’
The latter point is particularly interesting – its context leaves one contemplating what this political and administrative ideology entails for future circumstances in Hong Kong; circumstances quite like the 2019 protests that have been ongoing since the end of March and have seen especially violent escalations this week. Following the 30th anniversary of the Tiananmen Square Massacre, in February 2019 the government of Hong Kong proposed the controversial Fugitive Offenders and Mutual Legal Assistance in Criminal Matters Legislation (Amendment) Bill which would permit extradition of fugitives to China and facilitate mutual legal assistance. Fears pertaining to arbitrary legal processes and detainment were among the most concerning, as stated by organisers of the protests and pro-independence political figures. Continue reading