Category Archives: Pakistan

The Iran-Saudi standoff and the future of the Middle East peace process

Russia is fast emerging as a major power broker in the Middle East.

The world reeled from shock after two successive missile attacks targeted the Abqaiq oil facility and the Khurais oilfield in the Saudi desert last month. The real drama unfolded the morning after – thick smoke billowed from the wreckage, blotting out the early morning sun, and with it perhaps any hopes of restoring some amount of normality to Iranian-Saudi relations, at least for the foreseeable future. Over half of all the crude oil excavated in the Saudi kingdom is processed at Abqaiq. It comes as no surprise, therefore, that crude oil prices surged by 20 percent as global markets grappled with the biggest oil supply shock in decades. The Kingdom’s oil production is already running a historic low as its natural reserves face depletion, and the attacks at Abqaiq and Khurais managed to cut down global oil supply by a further 6 percent. Saudi Arabia called the September 14 attacks an act of war, and Iran stands accused of masterminding the offensive, a charge it vehemently denies. 

Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif condemned what he called Saudi attempts to provoke Iran into a full-blown military confrontation. The country remains economically besieged; heavily sanctioned by the US, with inflation in the country hitting new highs every week under the Trump administration’s “maximum pressure” strategy. Zarif holds the Houthi rebels responsible for the attack, based on a statement released by the rebel faction in Yemen. Nonetheless, Tehran has not been able to produce any concrete evidence apropos of the claim. The Saudis, meanwhile, have alleged Iranian involvement after examining misfired missiles that they claim were sourced from Iran. Less than a month after the attacks on the Aramco facilities, an Iranian oil tanker, the Sabiti, was attacked while cruising the Red Sea, just off the coast of Jeddah, causing oil prices in London to surge to 60 US dollars a barrel. Continue reading

Leave a comment

Filed under Discussion, Iran, Pakistan, Politics, Russia, Saudi Arabia, The Middle East, United States, Yemen

‘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

2 Comments

Filed under Discussion, Events, Human Rights, India, Kashmir, Pakistan, Pakistan Horizon

The Yemen Question?

The turning point was when the Houthis took control of Sanaa, the capital in 2014 and from there they started to expand to the west and east of Yemen.

In order to fully understand the current state of Yemen, it is important that we zoom into history and try analyzing what went wrong and where. For much of the past century, the country has been divided into The Yemen Arab Republic in the north and People’s Democratic Republic of Yemen in the south. Ottoman and British rule managed to keep the two separated but in 1990 these were unified under one flag and this was the beginning of crisis. If we look at the cultural and political divisions, these two parts are way different in two aspects. For almost a thousand years, the north  had been under the theocratic rule of the Zaidi Shiites (the Zaidi sect of Islam is almost wholly present in Yemen and they believe that Muslims should only be ruled by the Imams – those who are the descendants to the Prophet), as opposed to this, the south was transformed from a scratch by the British during their rule. These differences took a conflicting turn after the two were united in 1990.

Looking at the religious division more closely the Zaidi Shiites predominate the north, with a minority Ismaili sect, whereas, the Sunni sect of Islam dominates elsewhere. Sectarianism was not really a problem until recently. Previously, a more tolerant society prevailed. Indeed, various exchanges between the two communities had been observed and inter-community marriages were normal and considered a routine in Yemen. However, the rise of political Islam led to an upsurge of tensions and with the emergence of radicalism, groups like Muslim Brotherhood and Zaidi Houthis emerged and expanded. With the spread of Salafi ideology in the predominant Zaidi areas, the expansion of Houthis was needed. Initially Houthis emerged as a theological revivalist movement in 2004 fearing the spread of Salafi ideology in the dominant Shiite areas.

Continue reading

Leave a comment

Filed under Discussion, Human Rights, Iran, Pakistan, Politics, Saudi Arabia, The Arab Spring, The Middle East, United States, Yemen

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

Leave a comment

Filed under Discussion, Events, Fatehyab, Human Rights, Legislation, Pakistan, Pakistan Horizon, PIIA, Politics

Strategic stability in South Asia tenuous because of Indo-Pak differences 

Gen Ehsan Ul Haq calls for vigilance against the ‘rise of genocidal fascism of Hindutva’. He said ‘the good news is that ours has been a success story’.

“We must be vigilant to the existential challenges of the rise of genocidal fascism of Hindutva in India.” This was stated by retired General Ehsan Ul Haq, the former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee, while concluding his lecture on Pakistan: National Security Challenges, the Way Forward at The Pakistan Institute of International Affairs (PIIA) on Tuesday evening. Gen Haq said Pakistan has been striving to create conducive environment for its citizens to live with dignity in accordance with the wishes of its founding fathers. “Unfortunately, ever since our creation, we have been confronted with challenges in the realisation of our objectives. These challenges have external and domestic dimensions.” He said Pakistan’s strategic environment has been moulded by its location. Mentioning some of the [external] problems, he said that there is the extended strife and consequent destabilisation in Afghanistan, the stunning developments to ‘‘our immediate west, unrelenting hegemonic aspirations of India aggravated by the rise of Hindutva and the unresolved status of occupied Jammu and Kashmir’’.

He said emergence of China as a global power has unfolded a new paradigm, shifting the geopolitical centre of gravity to the Asia Pacific or Indo-Pacific, triggering strategic realignments. The most important of these strategic understandings is between a rising China and a rejuvenating Russia which has projected a new vision of cooperation for development and stability in Eurasia and beyond. Gen Haq said Pakistan shares religious, cultural and social bonds with Afghanistan. No country has suffered more on account of the continuing strife in Afghanistan than Pakistan. Peace and stability in Afghanistan are vital for Pakistan’s long-term prosperity and progress. Continue reading

1 Comment

Filed under Discussion, Events, Human Rights, India, Kashmir, Pakistan, Peace building, PIIA, Politics

Modi has divided India

In order to resolve the current crisis in Kashmir, Pakistan should engage in active diplomacy. This was one of the points raised by university students who took part in a youth conclave to discuss the recent developments in India-held Kashmir at a great event organised by The Pakistan Institute of International Affairs (PIIA), Karachi, on Thursday evening. The programme began with PIIA’s chairperson Dr Masuma Hasan giving the background of the situation who showed maps of the region and then informed the audience about articles 370 and 35A of the Indian constitution. She said Article 370 gives autonomous status to Kashmir under which Kashmir had its own flag, assembly, local laws, and complete control over its area except in three fields: defence, foreign affairs and communications. That has now been scrapped. Article 35-A, she said, protected land rights of the Kashmiri people. It has also been scrapped. She then showed video clips of two Indian women who recently spoke against the Indian government’s decision.

After that, students were invited to the podium to speak on the topic. The first was Turfa Irfan of the Federal Urdu University of Arts, Science and Technology (FUUAST). She said, “We cannot trust India. If we withdraw our army, will India hold a referendum there?” No one should think about occupying that piece of land [Kashmir]. We should be thinking about providing their people with basic facilities and amenities. Momina Jamil of FUUAST said what India is doing in Kashmir shouldn’t surprise anyone. We knew that the Modi government with its second term would make life difficult for Muslims of India by making anti-Muslim laws. But there is a bright side to it: India is being divided by Modi, and there’s a civil war-like scenario there. Our government, on the other hand, was caught napping. Political governments in Pakistan have seldom tried to resolve the Kashmir issue. Continue reading

Leave a comment

Filed under Accountability, Discussion, Events, India, Kashmir, Pakistan, Politics

Kashmir Conflict: No End In Sight

The historic Kashmir dispute is an extremely complex problem; policy recommendations and their subsequent implementation might take a considerable period of time to reap constructive results and there is no end in sight to the ongoing human rights violations of the Kashmiri people. 

UN Security Council Resolution 47 (1948) recommended three steps to resolve the Kashmir problem, i.e. (i) Pakistan had to withdraw its nationals that entered Kashmir to fight, (ii) India had to progressively reduce its military forces to the minimum level required for law and order, and (iii) India had to appoint a plebiscite administrator nominated by the United Nations who would conduct a free and impartial plebiscite. Pakistan adhered to its part of the bargain but India has consistently refused to live up to the obligations it agreed to and it has instead created a grave human rights tragedy by its violent and merciless actions against Kashmiri civilians. Article 1(1) of the UN Charter is very clear that the purpose of the UN is “to develop friendly relations among nations based on respect for the principle of equal rights and self-determination of peoples, and to take other appropriate measures to strengthen universal peace.” Significantly, by virtue of resolution 47 (1948), as the mightiest nation in the world, the USA was given a key role to play by the president of the Security Council, Mahmoud Fawzi Bey of Egypt.

Prime Minister Imran Khan arrived at the White House for his long-awaited meeting with President Donald Trump on Monday, 22 July 2019. The meeting was of immense importance, precisely because it was Imran Khan’s “first one-on-one meeting with US President Donald Trump.” Hence, it was an incredible opportunity to renew diplomatic ties. Even though, the meeting was quite an important development in international politics, nevertheless, it might be worthwhile to look into the contemporary relevance of the meeting, especially with regard to the recent events in Kashmir. Perhaps one of the integral issues discussed during the meeting was that of Kashmir. During the meeting, President Trump offered “to mediate the Kashmir issue between India and Pakistan.” He also said that Prime Minister Narendra Modi had asked him if he (President Trump) could be an arbitrator in the Kashmir issue. Continue reading

Leave a comment

Filed under Afghanistan, Discussion, Human Rights, India, Kashmir, Pakistan, PIIA, Politics, Trump, United States