Category Archives: Pakistan Horizon

‘Fundamental uncertainty’: Keynesian economics and COVID-19

With the colossal scale of the crises looming over the global economy, perhaps now is as crucial a time as ever to revisit the Keynesian notion of ‘fundamental uncertainty’

‘By uncertain knowledge,’ wrote John Maynard Keynes in 1921, ‘I do not mean merely to distinguish what is known for certain from what is only probable…There is no scientific basis to form any calculable probability whatsoever. We simply do not know.’ Upon reading these words (written in the middle of the worst influenza pandemic in history, the Spanish Influenza!) in our contemporary setting, there is a pertinent case to be made that the global crisis that is taking the world by a storm necessitates a re-examination of Keynes’ foundational concept of ‘fundamental uncertainty.’ Following the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic and its mammoth economic consequences for the global economy, a string of crises erupted that have not only rattled the foundational basis of the incumbent liberal world order but is, according to professor of economics Timofey V. Bordachev, ‘living its last days.’ Alain de Benoist describes the pandemic as a ‘catalyst’ with regard to the decline and disintegration of this liberal world order, arguing that this new economic and social crisis could give rise to a new financial crisis, one that ‘has been expected for years.’ 

Of all the unprecedented financial blows of 2020, the news concerning the extraordinary decline in global economic activity leading to the United States’ oil prices falling below a jaw-dropping $0 for the first time in history is set to be one of the most unprecedented by-products of this pandemic. Termed one of the most debilitating quarters for oil prices in the history of the ‘oil revolution,’ this recent development comes in the midst of the oil-price ‘war’ initiated by Saudi Arabia against Russia in early March. A sharp decline in factory output and transportation demands following the early stages of the 2019-2020 COVID-19 pandemic precipitated a decrease in oil demands, leading oil prices to plummet. Continue reading

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‘Jinnah of Pakistan’ discussed at PIIA

Gandhi forced Indian government to transfer financial assets to Pakistan. 

An extremely interesting discussion led by historian Dr Muhammad Reza Kazimi on Stanley Wolpert’s book Jinnah of Pakistan was held at The Pakistan Institute of International Affairs (PIIA) on Wednesday evening. Introducing the programme chairperson of the institute Dr Masuma Hasan said it was being held in honour of Mr Wolpert’s memory, who died on Feb 19 last year. Apart from the book under discussion, she took the names of some of his other books such as Nehru: A Tryst with Destiny; Zulfi Bhutto of Pakistan: His Life and Times; Gandhi’s Passion: The Life and Legacy of Mahatma Gandhi; and India and Pakistan: Continued Conflict or Cooperation. She told the audience that he wasn’t just a historian but was also a fiction writer. He came to the PIIA in 1989 where he first met Dr Kazimi. Dr Kazimi then came to the podium and gave his truncated view of Jinnah of Pakistan, because he skipped quite a few passages of his presentation.

He started with points raised by a former US ambassador to India John Kenneth Galbraith’s review of Mr Wolpert’s book in the Washington Post in 1984 and then examined the author’s point about Jinnah’s ‘pride’. But it was the question and answer session that followed the talk which proved more interesting. Responding to a question about certain omissions from his talk Dr Kazimi said Gandhi did ask Jinnah to become the prime minster of India to avoid partition, but Jinnah turned it down as it was mentioned in V.P. Menon’s book. On another point he said Motilal Nehru was not a revivalist Hindu. If there’s a psychological factor to the partition of India, then it’s Jawaharlal Nehru’s aversion to his father.

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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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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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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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PIIA Event: The loss of East Pakistan was a catastrophe beyond bearing

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

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Ana Husain: Beyond Nationalism: The Kurdish Dilemma Re-examined

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

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‘The fear of escalation between India and Pakistan is very real’

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

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Fatehyab’s City: A Talk by Arif Hasan

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

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