By Dr Masuma Hasan. Chairperson of The Pakistan Institute of International Affairs. I. A. Rehman Sahib was for decades the leading public intellectual of Pakistan. No obituary can do justice to his eminence and greatness, his command of history, his discernment of injustice, his understanding of the immoral aspects of governance, of deprivation and poverty, his style of writing, so very forceful but restrained, and above all, his sublime compassion. He was larger than life, determined and fearless, a campaigner for peace. I first met Rehman Sahib during the Movement for Restoration of Democracy against General Ziaul Haq’s cruel rule, probably in 1983. The police were looking out for journalists who supported the Movement and some of them, including Rehman Sahib, Nisar Usmani and Ahfazur Rehman sought shelter in our house, in the upper storey where Arif Hasan lived.
Some of you might recall that General Ziaul Haq had taken over our Institute in 1980 through a presidential ordinance and turned it into a government department. After Ziaul Haq passed away and there was a let up, I met Rehman Sahib in Lahore and asked for his help. He was then chief editor of Pakistan Times and he wrote an editorial, urging that the Institute should be returned to its original independent status. In 1993, the Supreme Court of Pakistan declared Ziaul Haq’s 1980 ordinance as ultra vires of the Constitution of Pakistan and the independent status of the Institute was restored. Subsequently, Rehman Sahib attended many of our events, our seventieth anniversary conference in 2017 – we honoured him then, and other conferences. He gave a talk in memory of Fatehyab Ali Khan on the Politics of Dissent – he believed there could be no democracy without dissent.
He was a good listener, and never spoke ill of anyone
The Pakistan Institute of International Affairs (PIIA) on Saturday evening held an online reference to pay homage to journalist and human rights defender I.A. Rehman, who passed away in Lahore on April 12. The first speaker was architect Arif Hasan. He divided his talk into three parts: his relationship with Rehman sahib, his personality and legacy. He said he met the late journalist and activist in Lahore in 1967 for the first time where he (Hasan) had gone to work. Although Rehman sahib was 12 or 13 years older than him, they would meet every evening where they’d be joined by the likes of Dr Mehdi Hasan and Nisar Osmani. Rehman sahib used to call the architect ‘kitab’. Even after he returned to Karachi from Lahore, both kept meeting on a regular basis. Significantly, their relationship deepened when Bangladesh was trying to gain independence. Their ties further strengthened during Z.A. Bhutto and Gen Ziaul Haq’s tenures.
On the second point, Mr Hasan said Rehman sahib was a good listener. He knew how to lend an ear to people. He would never interrupt anyone while they were talking, even when they would be presenting a point of view opposite to his. He never spoke ill of anyone. At meetings and seminars, he would give an opinion that differed from others’ with a sense of humour. He never spoke about himself. Once, he visited his birthplace in Gurgaon, India. When he came back, nobody could detect an air of nostalgia in his narration about his place of birth. He talked about it like a tourist would. He was an extremely well-informed man who turned his wealth of information into knowledge (ilm). Mr Hasan, speaking about his legacy, said Rehman sahib has left behind the institutions that he was associated with and founded; his efforts to bring peace between India and Pakistan; his resolve that we should not be afraid of speaking the truth; and the youngsters who in their small but significant ways have established human rights and social welfare groups.
Ambassador Salman Bashir said Modi has tarnished India’s reputation as a secular democracy
The Pakistan Institute of International Affairs recently hosted a Seminar and Webinar titled, “Emerging Geostrategic Contestation in Asia-Pacific: Challenges and Opportunities for Pakistan” which was personally attended by former ambassadors, members of the armed forces of Pakistan, members of the judiciary, academicians, eminent scholars, and members of the PIIA. The event was live-streamed on Zoom, YouTube, and Facebook. We provide a roundup of the news reports on the seminar.
Retired Lt Gen Tariq Waseem Ghazi, who inaugurated the event, said in his address that Pakistan had always punched above its weight. “We have always been involved in somebody else’s game, somebody else’s war, considering ourselves as the key player in those events. In pre-colonial times we were fighting the Russian Empire, fighting for the British or fighting for somebody or the other. After independence there were times when we were looking at CENTO and sometimes at SEATO, and then we saw ourselves in the middle of the Gulf War, in the global war on terrorism, etc … while Kashmir burns. “So what is the way? One way is that we become an island and look after ourselves or [the other way is] become part of the global discourse and be relevant. There are some things that we cannot ignore and Asia-Pacific is one such thing,” he said. Continue reading →
The Pakistan Institute of International Affairs (PIIA) recently hosted a Seminar and Webinar titled, “Emerging Geostrategic Contestation in Asia-Pacific: Challenges and Opportunities for Pakistan” on 3 February 2021. The event was inaugurated by Lt. General (R) Tariq Waseem Ghazi. The speakers at the Seminar included Ambassador Salman Bashir, former Foreign Secretary of Pakistan and High Commissioner of Pakistan to India; Rear Admiral (R) Pervaiz Asghar, Adviser and Honorary Fellow, National Centre for Maritime Policy Research, Bahria University; Ambassador Aizaz Ahmad Chaudhry, Director General, Institute of Strategic Studies and former Foreign Secretary; and Dr Zafar Nawaz Jaspal, Professor, School of Politics and International Relations, Quaid-i-Azam University, Islamabad.
The two sessions of the Seminar were chaired by Dr Masuma Hasan, Chairman, The Pakistan Institute of International Affairs and Ambassador Syed Hasan Habib, Senior Fellow, Centre for Area and Policy Studies, Institute of Business Management, Karachi. In her welcome address, Dr Hasan mentioned that the focus of the Seminar would be upon how Pakistan can promote its interests, the challenges it faces, and the opportunities available for Pakistan in the emerging dynamics of the Asia-Pacific region. Continue reading →
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 →
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 →
China strongly supports the position of Pakistan in Kashmir.
A delegation of scholars from Sichuan University led by Prof. Yan Shijing, Vice President of Sichuan University addressed in a roundtable session held in the library of The Pakistan Institute of International Affairs (PIIA) on 18 December 2019. The other Chinese delegates included Prof. Sun Shihai, Director General, China Center for South Asian Studies, Sichuan University; Prof. Du Youkang, Director, Pakistan Study Center, University of Fudan ; Prof. Zhang Li, Member, Academic Committee, China Center for South Asian Studies, Sichuan University; Prof. Yang Guang, Deputy Director, International Office, Sichuan University; Prof. Song Zhihui, Director, Pakistan Study Center, Sichuan University; Prof. Huang Yunsong, Associate Dean, School of International Studies, Sichuan University and Dr. Xiao Jianmei, Research Associate, China Center for South Asian Studies, Sichuan University. Prof. Yan Shijing said that Sichuan University is one of the oldest University of China established in 1896. More than 65,000 students including 4,000 international students, 100 Pakistani students are studying in the University.
It is national university ranks sixth best out of all the universities in China, a total of 3,000 Chinese universities. The University focuses on International Affairs. In response to the question of gender equality in Chinese Universities, the delegate responds that 51 percent male and 49 percent female students ratio is in the Universities of China. The delegate said India is playing a dominant role in the sub-continent region. UN has recognized India’s supremacy in this region. Pakistan-China relationship is conducive with regional peace and stability and it is not beneficial for only these two countries but for the whole region. We strongly support the stability, peace and prosperity of Pakistan and we do everything we can to support Pakistan economically, politically and military. We do not want to see this region to be on the command of New Delhi. On a question of Pakistan labour force in the projects of CPEC, the Chinese delegate said the labour forces in this region are not fully prepared for industrialization. Continue reading →
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 →
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 →
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 →
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