Tag Archives: Development

Hong Kong: The Final Blow

While many countries are struggling to form a strategy to revive their weak economies by systematically easing restrictions imposed due to Covid-19, Hong Kong has been successful in containing the virus without enforcing a strict lockdown which could have devastated its economy. Its experience with previous infectious disease outbreaks such as the SARS epidemic in 2003 had allowed it to develop a system that could mitigate the damage caused by acute respiratory diseases. As a result, it was quick to follow WHO guidelines and implemented track, test, and quarantine regime to contain the pandemic. Its efforts to curb the pandemic will, however, dissipate due to demonstrations against the draconian security law introduced by China. Although China’s endeavor to weaponize legislation to gain control over the semi-autonomous region has failed time and time again, it persists intending to bring the region under its iron fist before the “one country, two systems” agreement expires in 2047.

By introducing different laws within Hong Kong to gain control over its political system, China is trumping on the spirit, if not the letter, of the agreement signed with the British in 1997. The citizens of Hong Kong resisted these efforts by mobilizing and protesting until some of their demands were accepted. The demonstrations, however, continue. Hong Kong has been upended by protests which erupted last year due to the introduction of the (withdrawn) extradition bill. The bill would have allowed authorities to extradite fugitives to mainland China to face trial there. The citizens, however, suspicious of China’s intentions, believed the law would be misused and would deprive them of the freedoms bestowed by their mini-constitution. Once the bill was withdrawn, the protestors continued to demand an investigation into police brutality against them and called for electoral reforms. Continue reading

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‘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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Filed under Discussion, Economy, Pakistan, Pakistan Horizon, Politics, Russia, Saudi Arabia, United States

‘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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The Rohingya and the Responsibility to Protect: Failing an Oppressed Minority

Claiming the lives of hundreds of thousands and leaving many more stateless, the Rohingya crisis has harrowed the world since 2015.

The Rohingya community has been denied the right to citizenship since 1982 by Myanmar authorities and has been subjected to several government-led oppression schemes (Bhatia, 2018). The end of military rule and the arrival of a softer government in Myanmar was expected to be a turning point for the decades-long structural hostility. However, the latest wave of massive ethnocide against the Muslim minority in the Rakhine state has set a benchmark of unprecedented human rights violations in modern history. The onset of this recent state-perpetrated violence has by far resulted in the mass exodus of over 740,000 Rohingya refugees into neighbouring Bangladesh. Mostly settled in the Cox’s Bazar, 33% of the refugees live below the poverty line, vulnerable to climatic factors such as monsoon downpour and floods. The United Nations has repeatedly condemned the systemic discrimination and violence against the religious and ethnic minority. However, Myanmar has termed the operation as a legitimate counterinsurgency, imperative for the prevalence of peace in the country.

Although the international community concedes the presence of ‘genocidal intent’ in the military crackdown launched by Myanmar’s armed forces, no substantial action has been taken that might prevent the consequences of the ‘clearance operation’. The UN doctrine, Responsibility to Protect, was adopted by all member states in 2005, according to which the primary responsibility for the protection of the masses rests with the state in which they reside. Nevertheless, a ‘residual responsibility’ lies on the community states, in case the primary state cannot safeguard the rights of its people or is itself involved in systemic atrocities. The community states after the authorization of the UN Security Council have the right to intervene to prevent the organized genocide or war crimes . The most recent implementation of the doctrine was seen in 2011 in Libya when the world powers collectively brought down an authoritarian ruler. Continue reading

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Delegation from Sichuan University China visits PIIA

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

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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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Filed under Bangladesh, Discussion, India, Karachi, Pakistan, Pakistan Horizon, PIIA, Politics

Dr Bengali: Pakistan needs to take back its economic sovereignty

“Pakistan is facing a major economic crisis for which we need to take urgent steps. But first we need to take our economic sovereignty back,” said economist Dr Kaiser Bengali, while proposing to ban all non-essential consumer imports in order to promote local industry. He was speaking at an interactive session on ‘Contemporary Economic and Security Issues in Pakistan’ at the library of The Pakistan Institute of Inter­national Affairs on 5 December 2019. “Pakistan has a lot of internal pressures that are resisting adopting the demands that FATF [Financial Action Task Force] is making. Over the past 40 years, we have created vested interests in this country that think that they are above the law. This is across the board. Today’s news is very interesting. Malik Riaz’s assets of 190 million pounds have been seized. Before that the Supreme Court of Pakistan had said that he would be paying Rs460 billion to the state (watch video and view photographs). 

Whether he would have paid this or not is another matter. What’s significant is that his assets were seized by the UK’s National Crime Agency. “And here we have to ask, why is it that Pakistani criminals are always convicted abroad? Why aren’t they ever convicted here? Many decades ago, there was this Pakistani actor who spent five years in a London jail for drugs smuggling. We never caught him here. Similarly, there were some two or three Pakistani cricketers who also did time in UK jails for spot fixing. We didn’t catch them. In 2005’s earthquake there was this building which collapsed in Islamabad, and its owner is comfortably sitting abroad, not convicted. The owners of the Baldia factory, in which 289 workers burnt to death, are also sitting in Dubai. We have created a criminalised state. We don’t catch our criminals,” said Dr Bengali. Continue reading

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