Category Archives: Politics

‘The Legacy of Barack Obama’: A Talk by Ambassador Karamatullah Ghori

Obama was a man of consensus … Trump is Obama’s antithesis and is like a bull in a China shop – watch video

His blackness and Muhammad Ali antics and punchy talk endeared him to poor non-white folks everywhere. Many whites loved him equally. But the black president who set out to do so much achieved alarmingly little. His administration conducted more drone attacks than his predecessor George Bush and he deported more immigrants than any other president. He was spineless on Syria and failed to close down Guantánamo Bay. A very ugly aspect of Obama’s legacy is that his failing administration ultimately came to be replaced by Trump’s extremists who are determined to erase all signs of his blackness from the White House. But at least he did not make personal attacks on journalists. For historian Simon Schama, Trump’s America points to Kennedy’s nation of migrants being afflicted by a “split personality”. Yet Schama also stresses “the moral stench of xenophobia is nothing new in US history.” Novelist Viet Thanh Nguyen, author of The Refugees and the Pulitzer Prize winning book The Sympathizer, says “the refugee embodies fear, failure and flight”. Despite opposing Trump, he argues with some vehemence “it is un-American to be a refugee”.

Margaret Thatcher’s biographer Charles Moore, a leading proponent of Brexit and an influential right-wing pundit, called Trump a “cruel jester” not long ago. More recently he wrote: “Trump’s style makes other politicians feel that he is almost as dangerous a friend as an enemy”. Moore said May was “embarrassed in Ankara” while meeting Erdoğan as she knew nothing of the Muslim ban affecting dual British nationals but weirdly claimed a “special relationship” with America. But now John Bercow, the speaker of the House of Commons, has embarrassed her by stating that Trump is “unfit” to address MPs. Continue reading

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Filed under Brexit, Discussion, Drones, Europe, Human Rights, Iran, Islamophobia, PIIA, Politics, Russia, Syria, The Middle East, UK, United States

‘A German Perspective on Pakistan and its Big Neighbours’: A Talk by Professor Conrad Schetter

‘Power depends on economics and not on military forces’ – Watch Video

Professor Conrad Schetter, Associated Member of the Center for Development Research (ZEF), Directorate of the University of Bonn, Federal Republic of Germany recently addressed the members of The Pakistan Institute of International Affairs (PIIA) on A German Perspective on Pakistan and Its Big Neighbours. He is a notable scholar and some of his coauthored publications include Local Security-Making in Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan (2016), Security: What Is It? What Does It Do? (2016) and Protected Rather Than Protracted: Strengthening Displaced Persons in Peace Processes (2015). His key expertise concerns the civil-military nexus, the politics of interventions and local politics. Professor Schetter is also involved in numerous ongoing projects including On the phenomenon of so-called Islamic State (IS) in Afghanistan and Protected rather than protracted – Strengthening refugees and peace.

In his talk on 13 December 2016 chaired by Dr Masuma Hasan, he emphasised Germany’s strong relationship with Pakistan pointing out in that regard that the name of Allama Muhammad Iqbal, Pakistan’s national poet, is very significant because he studied in Germany and was awarded his PhD from Munich University. He also highlighted that it is high time for Pakistan to realign its tactics in its own neighbourhood because in today’s global politics, economic power is more important than military or strategic power. Continue reading

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Filed under Afghanistan, Al Qaeda, China, CPEC, Discussion, Events, India, Iran, Pakistan, Peace building, Politics, United States

‘The Future of Afghanistan’: A Talk by Professor Marvin Weinbaum

Unfortunately Afghanistan’s future is rather bleak – Watch Video

Events in Afghanistan influence politics on the international stage. Pakistan has an uneasy relationship with the Afghans and India, in the form of premier Narendra Modi, has sought to gain political mileage by exploiting the historic misunderstandings across the so-called Durand Line. In rather interesting times, Marvin Weinbaum, Professor Emeritus of Political Science at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and currently a scholar-in-residence at the Middle East Institute in Washington DC, delivered a lecture on The Future of Afghanistan at The Pakistan Institute of International Affairs  (PIIA) on 18 November 2016. He has worked for US Department of State Bureau of Intelligence Research for four years (1999-2003). PIIA Chairperson Dr Masuma Hasan moderated the lecture. Professor Weinbaum was clear that Afghanistan’s future is unfortunately not very bright because one-third of its territory – mainly the rural areas – is effectively controlled by the Taliban and other extremist groups.

These gains are not attributable to the Taliban’s reorganisation or rise in popularity. Rather they are bound up with the failure of the Kabul government to meet the expectation of the Afghan people. Our most learned and distinguished guest was clear that Pakistan influence on Taliban has receded significantly and he was of the view that Pakistan never was able to dictate to the Taliban even when they were in Kabul. He attacked Washington’s policy Continue reading

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Filed under Afghanistan, Discussion, Events, Pakistan, PIIA, Politics, United States

A Talk by Raza Rabbani in Memory of Fatehyab Ali Khan

Fatehyab is an icon for the young generation

The legendary Pakistani politician Fatehyab Ali Khan (1936-2010) was born in Hyderabad, India. He was of Rajput descent and led movements for democracy during successive martial law eras that have stained the history of Pakistan. After Bhutto’s judicial murder he advised and represented Nusrat Bhutto. He was a friend of their murdered daughter former two-time prime minister Benazir Bhutto. Handwritten notes sent by her about secret meetings during the agitation they mounted against Zia-ul-Haq in the 1980s are nestled somewhere in a treasure trove of resistance related documents that Fatehyab has left behind. His odium for successive despotic governments and the corrupt judiciary – which repeatedly destroyed Pakistan’s democracy – meant that he chose a life of asceticism and renounced material wealth. Coupled with his gravitation towards simplicity, his passion for advocating the human rights causes of the common people of Pakistan meant that in his politics he ironically resembled more closely the great pre-partition leaders whose connections to the poor were rather profound.

Fatehyab was a grassroots politician. His politics represented an ideology linked to empowering the voiceless masses. Even so, his weighty writings and reflections on the Constitution are largely unpublished but we hope to publish them in due course. Speaking to the members of The Pakistan Institute of International Affairs (PIIA) in a session chaired by Dr Masuma Hasan on 1 October 2016, Senate chairman Raza Rabbani said: “Today we find that we are where Fatehyab left us and have not progressed after that. Article 6 of the Constitution failed to bring a culprit, a former head of state, to book, and allowed him to leave the country.” Last year while addressing the members of PIIA, Mr IA Rehman, Secretary-General, Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, remarked: “Fatehyab Ali Khan was the brightest star in the galaxy of progressive politicians.”

Coverage and reportage from our event can be found below. Continue reading

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Filed under Bhutto, Constitution 1973, Courts, Discussion, Fatehyab, India, PIIA, Politics

Pakistan’s Place in Iran’s Strategic Thinking: A Talk by Iran’s Deputy Foreign Minister

‘The concept of the nation state is in turmoil’ … ‘Iran and Pakistan can reshape the region’ – Watch Video

The invasion of Iraq in 2003 and the events that unfolded in its aftermath transformed Iran from a “rogue” state once part of the so-called “Axis of Evil” to one which is now vastly influential in the volatile affairs of the region. The ongoing conflicts in Syria and Iraq and last summer’s JCPOA have meant that the once menacing image of frowning mullahs burning American, British and Israeli flags has now been replaced by Mohammad Javad Zarif’s famous “smile diplomacy”. The upshot is that the Iranians are no longer considered to be the pariahs of the international community that they once used to be. These days everyone is looking for economic opportunities in Iran and western businesses and banks are keen to interact with its vast markets which were disconnected from the mainstream world economy because of sanctions subsequent to the 1979 Revolution.

During his talk entitled Pakistan’s Place in Iran’s Strategic Thinking at The Pakistan Institute of International Affairs (PIIA) on 12 August 2016, Iran’s deputy foreign minister Dr Seyed Mohammad Kazem Sajjadpour said that Iran has more than a dozen neighbours but he remained unequivocal in his stance that Pakistan was a special country in the eyes of the Iranians. Dr Sajjadpour argued that Pakistan and Iran’s destinies are inextricably linked and that the two large neighbouring countries need to work together to combat security problems in order to neutralise the threat posed by terrorism. Detailed media coverage of our event with the Iranian dignitary can found below (see our earlier posts on Iran here and here and see further coverage here. Continue reading

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Filed under CPEC, Cyber Security, Discussion, Europe, Iran, ISIS, Islam, Pakistan, Pakistan Horizon, Palestine, PIIA, Politics, Sanctions, Syria, The Middle East

Pakistan and the Panama Papers

The Panama Papers are “a blessing in disguise” … Watch Video

The paper trail from Panama to Pakistan is a long and mysterious one and it reveals much about Pakistan’s first family’s vast wealth and international property empire. The leaked documents, which are linked to dozens of venal “super rich” politicians, had even forced Iceland’s prime minister Sigmundur Davíð Gunnlaugsson to resign. Yet Ramón Fonseca argues his firm is the subject of a “witch hunt” and it has done nothing wrong; there is “more dirty money in New York and London,” he says. His claim is backed up by Bill Browder, who made his fortune in Russia but has since converted into an ardent Putin critic; owing to the former KGB head turning Russia into a kleptocracy, he says. Browder argues London is a “brothel” for dirty Russian money. He is equally adamant that Cameron’s anti-corruption drive is just “hot air”. This post captures and recalls our recent Panama Papers discussion.

Financial regulators and tax authorities worldwide have expressed huge interest in the disclosures in the papers because the International Consortium for Investigative Journalism (ICIJ) has created “a searchable database that strips away the secrecy of nearly 214,000 offshore entities created in 21 jurisdictions, from Nevada to Hong Kong and the British Virgin Islands.” Indeed, the gigantic leak of more than 11.5 million financial and legal records is clearly groundbreaking. The documents show the details of the manner in which the world’s political and economic elites have used “crime, corruption and wrongdoing, hidden by secretive offshore companies” to hoodwink tax authorities. Continue reading

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Filed under Constitution 1973, Courts, Criminal Justice, Criminal law, Discussion, Events, Mossack Fonseca, Pakistan Horizon, PIIA, Politics

Dr Bärbel Kofler: Transferring the UN Guidelines on Business and Human Rights into Practice in Germany

Human rights must not be ignored when doing business overseas …

Speaking at The Pakistan Institute of International Affairs (PIIA, Watch Video), Dr Bärbel Kofler – member of the German Bundestag – said that because of high levels of exploitation of labour in the developing world, consumers in the west are willing to pay more for products which are produced using labour inputs under a system where people are fairly treated and paid for work. In interesting times when both internally and externally Angela Merkel is on the back foot for letting in a flood of refugees – who are usually dubbed “economic migrants” by right-wingers – Dr Kofler argued human rights in business are heavily debated in Europe and Germany, especially after unfortunate incidents in recent past, which include the Rana Plaza tragedy in Bangladesh and in Karachi’s Baldia Town fire factory incident. Germany’s National Action Plan (NAP) for economic cooperation is based on UN guidelines on Business in Human Rights.

In an era of globalization, the UN guidelines oblige states to protect the human rights of every citizen and they equally oblige business entities to respect those human rights. This post gathers the details of the event from the Internet and Farhan Khan’s excellent coverage is reproduced from the LiveRostrum news agency. Dr Kofler said that the UN guidelines have three pillars. First, states are obliged to protect citizens from human rights violations. Second, it is also the obligation of the business Continue reading

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Filed under Discussion, Europe, Human Rights, Immigration, PIIA, Politics, Women