Category Archives: Politics

Crisis in Sri Lanka: Lessons for Pakistan

Expert says political elite of Sri Lanka failed to reach consensus on how to run their country. Pakistan is not going to default on international loans, moot told

The Pakistan Institute of International Affairs (PIIA) organised a seminar on ‘Crisis in Sri Lanka: Lessons for Pakistan’ on Saturday. Introducing the subject, the PIIA chairperson Dr Masuma Hasan explained Sri Lanka is going through an economic crisis, which is said to be the worst crisis in the history of the country.

“There are food shortages, people are protesting. So there is both a humanitarian and political crisis. A couple of days ago, the Sri Lankan prime minister said that their economy has totally collapsed. They defaulted on their international loans,” she said, and added: “We decided to call this seminar because many here in Pakistan think that this country will follow the same pattern as Sri Lanka.” Dr S. Akbar Zaidi, the executive director of the Institute of Business Administration (IBA), Karachi, said he does not think that Pakistan was going to default on its loans. He said:

It’s highly improbable that we will … Right now the countries that have defaulted post-pandemic are Lebanon, Zambia and Sri Lanka. But here Pakistan is in an International Monetary Fund [IMF] programme, which Sri Lanka was not.

He further elaborated that Sri Lanka was a richer country than Pakistan, stating:

Poorer countries are given loans at a lower rate, but Sri Lanka was given loans on a higher rate … Still, default is not the end of the world, but it makes life very difficult as it gives way to unemployment and inflation and we are already there.

Dr Farhan Hanif Siddiqi, director and associate professor at the School of Politics and International Relations, Quaid-i-Azam University, Islamabad, said that the political system in Sri Lanka combined with ethnic and cultural issues caused a vicious cycle there. 

He also said that the political elite of Sri Lanka failed to reach consensus on how to do politics or how to run the country, which is also a big contributory factor in what is happening in Sri Lanka today.

“In 2015, their presidential system was changed into a parliamentary system. Then in 2020, they were back to the presidential system. Now, again they are calling for a parliamentary system. It does not go well with that nation,” he said.

“Even though the Tamil Tigers were defeated, the Tamil minority in Sri Lanka is an underlying problem. A younger generation might even mobilise themselves in the future. And when politics does not address the underlying conflicts, then they grow. We are facing a similar issue in our Balochistan,” he said.

Dr Jehan Perera, executive director of the National Peace Council of Sri Lanka, joined in through a video link to provide a better picture of what is going on in his country at the moment.

He said that just four years ago, Sri Lanka was called a middle-income country by the World Bank. Sri Lanka was also a great tourism destination. “But in the last three months, the value of Sri Lankan currency has fallen by 100 per cent. Now 70 per cent of our population eats less. Now, Sri Lanka is known as the seventh-most malnourished country in the world. It is being compared to Somalia.”

“In Colombo, we see enormous lines or queues for petrol and diesel at the pumps. People park their cars there for two days and more, and go home because there will be no fuel until there is supply. There is no gas to cook food. We do it on electric hot plates. The universities have been closed. Education has been shifted to online. There is a shortage of medicine even and we are thankful to Pakistan for sending us medicines. And the immediate blame for all that is happening in Sri Lanka has fallen on the current government. The people are angry. They feel terribly betrayed. They think that the country cannot import petrol, diesel, gas and medicine because it has run out of dollars. On May 9, there were riots where the people attacked the homes of ministers. It led to the resignation of the president, who was portraying himself as the king,” he said.

“The majority principal is entrenched in Sri Lanka, but we also have other groups such as the Sri Lankan Tamils and the Tamils who came here from India many years ago. They all speak Tamil, but the country’s language is Sinhala. When decisions are taken, the Sinhalese do not take the minorities into consideration. The Tamil language is spoken by three of the four communities in Sri Lanka, but the parliament made Sinhala our national language, which has also led to a sense of insecurity among the minorities. So many minorities in Sri Lanka also feel powerless as our army, too, is 95 per cent Sinhalese,” he explained.

Published in Dawn, 26 June 2022

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Filed under Economy, Pakistan, Politics, Sri Lanka

‘Muslims are now considered internal enemies in India’

‘Hidutva is xenophobic’: Javed Jabbar argues Hindutva was fascism before Hitler and Mussolini

The Pakistan Institute of International Affairs (PIIA) recently held a seminar on ‘The Status of Minorities in India’ . Former Senator Javed Jabbar and academic Prof Dr Mohammad Waseem were two speakers who shed light on the subject. Speaking on the occasion, Javed Jabbar articulated his thoughts brilliantly by stating at the beginning that in India there’s ‘unclear majority that imperils clear minority’. He said the three concepts of Hindu, Hinduism and Hindutva are three distinctive, separate concepts. The word Hindu does not occur in any of the three sacred texts of Hinduism. For hundreds of years there was no concept of who is a Hindu because the people living in South Asia were driven by caste. 

At the same time, another odyssey began, which was the quest for Hindu identity because Hindus now had to decide ‘we have always been a majority, how do we now acquire power and become the ruling majority over the minority that has ruled us for 800 years.’ So out of the two odysseys, the Hindu one took a regressive turn.

He argued 1857 is normally considered the tragic end of Muslim rule. “Tragic yes, but it was the end of monarchical Muslim Mughal rule due to the callous murder of the two sons of Bahadur Shah Zafar by a British officer. When that happened, 800 to 900 years of certain conditioning of the Muslim psyche had to begin a new odyssey. ‘How do we now become a minority?’ He said:

Mr Jabbar said Hindutva is not a belief in Hinduism. It is very specific. You can only be a Hindu if your parents are Hindu or if you’re born in what they consider is Hindustan. “This was fascism before Hitler and Mussolini… Hindutva is not a product of the BJP-RSS extremism alone, it incorporates the latent covert trends running through a certain segment of India’s polity for several decades.

‘Hidutva is xenophobic’

Dr Mohammad Waseem, Professor of Political Science, Department of Social Sciences, Lahore University of Management Sciences, said elections mean that you count every citizen belonging to multiple cultures. Earlier majoritarianism in India was secular, but now it’s faith-based. The ghettoisation of Muslims has taken place in India because of the BJP. Muslims now tend to live and stick together. 

He pointed out that in India, Muslims are now considered internal enemy. As a result the minority is otherised.

Dr Waseem said that all of this has given birth to vigilante culture which is part of the neo-normal politics in India. Gao raksha incidents are an example. All nationalisms invent their sacred points. In India, the force of law has been converted into the law of force. A law enforcement agency like the police takes Hindus’ side, using the law of force against Muslims. “Muslims are labelled Pakistanis and Pakistan is enemy country.”

He said Hindutva is xenophobic in nature. Patterns of resistance have emerged, though, such as new generations of Muslims are now documenting what’s happening. He added Muslim future in India is far from right.

Earlier, Dr Masuma Hasan welcomed the guests to the seminar and introduced the speakers to them.

Published in Dawn 29 May 2022

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Pakistan and Bangladesh have much to learn from each other 50 years later

Prime minister Benazir Bhutto visited Bangladesh in 1989. She had asked for that visit, which the then Bangladesh President Irshad accepted …

“The independence day of Bangladesh March 26, 1971 and Dec 16 is seen by that country as the day of liberation. In Pakistan around this time the mood is generally sombre with reflection of the past,” said former foreign secretary Riaz Khokhar on Thursday.

He was delivering his keynote address at a conference on ‘50 Years Later: The Future of Pakistan-Bangladesh Relations’ at The Pakistan Institute of International Affairs (PIIA).

“We have to acknowledge that the Bengali leaders made enormous contributions to the making of Pakistan, which was also acknowledged by Quaid-i-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah. The resolution of Pakistan was also moved by A.K. Fazlul Haq. If Jinnah were alive and if he had been asked the worst decisions of Pakistan, he would have said that it was to refuse and deny the results of the 1970 elections along with deploring the action that was taken on March 24, 1971 by West Pakistan,” he said.

The former diplomat said he is often asked about his best assignments during his career to which he has to say from 1986 to 1989 when he served as ambassador of Pakistan to Bangladesh. “It was the best time. I got to meet all leaders, intellectuals, people in the media and civil society. We did discuss serious matters, but objectively and without anger though the differences of 1971 are still there,” he said.

“As a former diplomat, I’m not blaming any political party but every time the Awami League is in power, we have issues. The government under the Awami League has raised serious allegations and questions. They also demand an apology from Pakistan for the atrocities of 1971. But an apology is not that simple. The 1974 documents clearly address deep regret of events and atrocities. Bangladesh demands war reparation, distribution of assets, etc.

Experts discuss future of Islamabad-Dhaka relations at PIIA conference

“While I was the ambassador in Bangladesh, former late prime minister Benazir Bhutto visited Bangladesh in 1989. She had asked for that visit, which the then Bangladesh president Irshad accepted. The issues did come up but such things cannot be decided just like that. Such issues are an impediment to the progress and relations of both countries.

“It is sad that despite sharing the history of 1947, there’s so little interaction with Bangladesh here. The culture of Bangladesh is extremely rich in art, music, dance, etc. Why not have cultural exchanges? Pakistan would be happy to have an exchange programme for students. We can also offer hundreds of scholarships in various fields and Bangladesh, too, can reciprocate,” he said.

‘Let’s resume communication’

“Yes, the impediments are serious but there is no reason why we can’t be talking. There is an absence of debate not at the public and private level or the diplomatic level. But Pakistan and Bangladesh relations do have a future. I appeal, let’s resume communications. We have much to share and much to learn from each other,” he concluded.

Earlier, while reminding the significance of Dec 16, 1971, PIIA’s chairperson Dr Masuma Hasan said that it was when Pakistan was dismembered and Bangladesh formally became an independent and sovereign state. “The date is etched in the minds of millions of people in Pakistan and Bangladesh. History has few parallels to the events of 1971, which led to the second partition of the subcontinent and changed the political landscape of South Asia,” she said.

“In the last 50 years, much water has flown under the bridges of the Indus and Brahmaputra. The global and regional landscape has changed, with a multi-polar world, the phenomenal rise and outreach of China, an assertive India, and the continuing role of the United States. In the regional context, rising from the ashes, Bangladesh has made remarkable economic progress. Whatever the irritants of the past, the people of the two countries share a common historical identity, strive for the same values of democracy, the rule of law, human rights, and freedom of expression. Both countries are members of Saarc and other international organisations and they vote on the same side on many international issues. For the future of Pakistan-Bangladesh relations, there are many positive trends,” she said.

‘We didn’t leave like thieves’

Syed Sikander Mehdi, former Karachi University professor and chairperson of the Department of International Relations, said that the personal memories of West Pakistanis who went to East Pakistan for business and educational purposes are soft. These people still miss Bangladesh. But their memories are not recorded here. “The people from East Pakistan who settled down here before the break-up or after 1971 also have oral memories that have not been published. I did my schooling, college and university education in Dhaka. I was an activist in my student life. I remember us students protesting the Vietnam war, the dictatorship of Ayub Khan. Our family lived in the Bengali area till our migration from Dhaka in late 1972. I had very close relations with my Bengali teachers before and after the military operation. I had a job, my father had a job, too and we had no economic compulsion. When I told my teachers that we were leaving, they hosted a dinner for my family. So we didn’t leave like thieves. But after coming here we saw a headline in the newspaper, which read Bihari na khappay. We cannot wish away the past but we need to write more and talk more about all this,” he said.

Former Professor at the Department of International Relations, University of Dhaka, M Shahiduzzaman said that he was a former student of Sikander Mehdi. “We were sad when he left. Many years later when my students and myself visited the University of Karachi we found him like he has always been, a human being whose soul lies with us,” he said.

Meritorious Professor of International Relations and former Dean, Faculty of Social Sciences at the University of Karachi, Dr Moonis Ahmar, observed that Pakistan and Bangladesh relations were seeing a paradigm shift in 1974 with the signing of the agreement in Delhi but then this paradigm shift stopped. 

“We have been moving two steps forward and four steps backward,” he said, while adding that Sheikh Hasina Wajid, the daughter of the man denied premiership here, should be invited over and asked to address a joint session of the Pakistan parliaments. And Pakistani PM Imran Khan can do the same when he visits Bangladesh. 

Ambassador Rafiuzzaman Siddiqui and Dr Raunaq Jahan also spoke.

Published in Dawn, 17 December 2021, written by Shazia Hasan

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Filed under Bangladesh, Discussion, Events, Pakistan, Politics

Revisiting the Non-Aligned Movement: A Blueprint for a Multi-Polar World?

Only a few weeks short of the twentieth anniversary of the September 11 attacks on the World Trade Centre, the United States under President Biden withdrew all US troops from Afghanistan. Weeks after the US announced the impending withdrawal, the Taliban swiftly began capturing large swathes of Afghan territory. Now, the Taliban are back in control in Afghanistan, as undeterred as they were prior to the US invasion of the country. For Pakistan, the present moment calls upon us to reflect on our previous policy of alignment with US foreign policy goals and the price we have paid for aiding and abetting America’s War on Terror in our backyard. At this critical juncture, it may be helpful to revisit the ideals that gave rise to the NAM, Non-Aligned Movement. Given the failure of American intervention in the Middle East, in Ira , Syria, Libya, Yemen, and in Afghanistan, is a strategy of Non-Alignment then the best way forward for states in the Global South? 

The premise of a Non-Aligned Movement was first proposed during the Bandung conference of April 1955, six years before the Non-Aligned Movement was formally initiated in Belgrade in 1961. The premise for the Non-Aligned Movement was based on the conviction of many of the leaders present at Bandung that it would be in their common interest to form an independent third bloc that would remain impartial to the Cold War – the economic and ideological war being waged between the capitalist United States and the communist Soviet Union. Attended by leaders of 29 newly decolonized countries across Asia and Africa, most notably Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru of India, Ahmed Sukarno of Indonesia, and Gamal Abdal Nasser of Egypt, Bandung is remembered as “…the seminal moment in the political formation of postcoloniality.” (Young, 2006) Together, the leaders present at Bandung represented some 1.5 billion people, which was at the time equal to 54% of the world’s population.

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Filed under Afghanistan, Discussion, Iraq, Politics, The Middle East, United States

The Future of Pakistan-US Relations: Webinar on 23 October 2021

Greetings from The Pakistan Institute of International Affairs

You are cordially invited to participate in our webinar on The Future of Pakistan-US Relations on Saturday, 23 October 2021 at 4:00 pm (Pakistan Standard Time).

Moderator

Dr Masuma Hasan, Chairperson, The Pakistan Institute of International Affairs

Speakers

1.    Ambassador Dr Maleeha Lodhi, former Ambassador of Pakistan to the US and UK, and Permanent Representative of Pakistan to the UN, New York

2.    Dr Adil Najam, Dean, Pardee School of Global Studies, Boston University, US

3.    Ambassador Zamir Akram, former Ambassador and Permanent Representative of Pakistan to the UN, Geneva 

Zoom Link:

https://us02web.zoom.us/j/84631667633?pwd=SFlFNXZhekNJOVE2VjRldnB5cFRVZz09

Webinar ID                          :           846 3166 7633

Webinar Passcode               :           066967

Dr Tanweer Khalid (She/Her)
Honorary Secretary

The Pakistan Institute of International Affairs

Aiwan–e–Sadar Road

Karachi, Pakistan.

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Experts think Taliban government will give peace to Afghans despite challenges

At a webinar on ‘Afghan Refugees in Pakistan: Past, Present and Future’, organised by the Pakistan Institute of International Affairs (PIIA) on Tuesday, experts said Pakistan will not be receiving as many Afghan refugees as it did in the past and so we should be patient and accommodating in the interest of maintaining good relations with the Afghan people in current times. Pakistan has hosted one of the world’s largest refugee populations for over four decades. In successive waves, refugees from Afghanistan have sought shelter inside Pakistan which, over the years, has hosted millions of Afghan refugees. It is estimated that three million Afghan refugees still reside in Pakistan but according to the United Nations Refugee Agency, the UNHCR, only 1.4m are registered. 

Former ambassador of Pakistan to Afghanistan and former chief commissioner for Afghan refugees in Islamabad Rustam Shah Mohmand provided an analytical overview of Afghan refugees in Pakistan.

“The upheaval in Afghanistan resulted in the pouring in of thousands of refugees in Pakistan and Iran in the 1980s. At the time, there was much support for them. And the military regime in Pakistan also used it as an opportunity to legalise its rule,” Ambassador Mohmand said. 

‘We shouldn’t expect more than a few thousand refugees from Afghanistan unless there is civil war there’ 

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Filed under Afghanistan, Discussion, Events, Pakistan, Pakistan Horizon, Politics, Refugees, UK, United States

Afghanistan will need to ensure Afghan land is not used against Pakistan

Afghan women want guarantees from international community that peace will mean democracy, protection of their rights

Pakistan’s troubled relationship with Afghanistan is a source of great concern the world over. Global and regional dimensions of the Afghan conflict were discussed by the esteemed panel of speakers and experts on regional studies and Afghanistan during a webinar organised by the Pakistan Institute of International Affairs here on Saturday. Giving his perspective about the Doha peace talks, political and security analyst Rahimullah Yousafzai said that the reduction in violence by the Taliban was a good thing. Giving credit to Russia for its efforts in bringing peace to Afghanistan even though it was the country that initially triggered the conflict by invading Afghanistan more than four decades ago, he said that the US role in bringing peace to Afghanistan is also required.

“But US President Joe Biden would like to delay recall of all their forces from Afghanistan. He still intends to keep an antiterrorism force there because the Taliban and USA still don’t see eye to eye,” he said. Al Qaeda, he pointed out, is struggling now. “They have not launched any attack on the US from Afghan soil after 9/11,” he said.

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Filed under Afghanistan, Discussion, India, Pakistan, Politics, Taliban, United States

Imperial Violence and the Trauma of France’s Mission civilisatrice

Re-Constructing the Murder of Ali Boumendjel in French Historiography

On 2 March 2021, French President Emmanuel Macron officially confessed that Algerian nationalist, lawyer and freedom fighter Ali Boumendjel was ‘tortured and murdered’ on 23 March 1957 by French colonial forces. This revelation from the Élysée Palace put to rest decades of contentious imperial historiography which alleged Ali that Boumendjel had committed suicide while he was detained by French troops during the 1956 – 1957 Battle of Algiers. But ‘Ali Boumendjel did not commit suicide. He was tortured and then killed,’ Macron told Boumendjel’s four grandchildren who were invited to the Élysée Palace, according to the statement. The French President sought to emphasise that the new generation must ‘be able to build its own destiny, far from the two ruts that are amnesia and resentment.’ He went on to state that ‘[it] is for them, French and Algerian youth, that we must advance down the path of truth, the only one that can lead to the reconciliation of memories.’ 

Macron’s address engendered a polarising response within Algeria itself. While Algerian state media quoted a government statement that ‘Algeria notes with satisfaction the announcement by French President Emmanuel Macron of his decision to honour the fighter and martyr Ali Boumendjel,’ Macron has come under criticism for refusing to issue an apology for the regime of torture and scale of atrocities committed during the Battle of Algiers, in addition to the wider French colonial rule over Algeria from 1830 until 1962. In order to discern why discussions concerning France’s colonial history remain trivialised in the French Fifth Republic, tracing the systematic regime of torture, sanctioned violence and exclusion  which lay at the cornerstone of France’s mission civilisatrice may offer a means to understand this dilemma. Continue reading

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Filed under Africa, Europe, France, Politics

PIIA Seminar on Emerging Geostrategic Contestation in the Asia-Pacific region and Pakistan: Press Coverage

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

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Filed under China, Discussion, Human Rights, India, Pakistan, Pakistan Horizon, PIIA, Politics, United States

Emerging Geostrategic Contestation in Asia-Pacific and Pakistan

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

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Filed under Discussion, Events, Pakistan, Pakistan Horizon, PIIA, Policymaking, Politics