The Russian Institute of Oriental Studies marks not only 200 years of its founding but makes a statement about a changed world
Some institutions are resilient and survive the ups and downs of fate. Others cannot sustain themselves and fall by the wayside. A great survivor is the Institute of Oriental Studies (IOS) of the Russian Academy of Sciences, which commemorates the 200th anniversary of its founding this year. The bicentennial was recently celebrated in October in Moscow with a congress. The congress itself, where I was invited to speak, was a gala event — essentially a Russian affair with marginal input from Western scholars, which is what made it remarkable. In Pakistan, we are used to only hearing about and from Western academics about the region. It coincided with Russian’s tilt to the East in world affairs, a celebration of the Asian part of its Eurasian identity. President Vladmir Putin did not attend the congress but a message from him was read out at the inauguration. As much as anything, the gathering signalled the increasingly multi-polar nature of our world.
The IOS was founded in 1818, in Russia during the reign of Emperor Alexander I. It has gone through many vicissitudes through empire, wars, invasions, revolution and the dissolution of the Soviet Union. It was originally established in St. Petersburg as the Asian Museum under the Imperial Academy of Sciences, as a depository of oriental manuscripts and a library facilitating scientific research. In 1950, the institute was shifted to Moscow, becoming a major centre of oriental studies. Today its depositories house more than one million volumes of ancient books and manuscripts. In 2008, the St. Petersburg (later Leningrad) branch was reorganised into a separate Institute of Oriental Manuscripts. The institute in Moscow is a unique venue for the study of the problems in history and cultures of the Orient, especially the countries of Asia and North Africa. Hundreds of experts work there. Continue reading
We have to give up our India-centric policies and our slave mentality.
Pakistan is on a knife-edge with the upcoming general election on 25 July 2018. With Nawaz Sharif firmly behind bars, civil society organisations are predicting rigging in the election by the armed forces and there is a consensus in the country that the army is mass manipulating electoral politics in favour of its cronies. The economic problem arising out of the present political situation is that Pakistan is seriously in the doldrums owing to its debt to its international creditors. The country is facing a sovereign debt crisis and reliance on Chinese money is very high indeed. As reported recently in the Financial Times, Islamabad is headed for a foreign currency crisis but is keen to avoid yet another IMF bailout. So it is appealing to Beijing for more lending. In the year ending June 2018 Pakistan borrowed $4 billion from China and is facing problems with the devaluation of the rupee, the strategy used by the State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) to keep the economy afloat. At the start of June 2018, the SBP only had $10 billion in foreign currency reserves in comparison to $16.1 billion just a year earlier.
The problem does not stop there because $12.7 billion in external payments are due in comparison to £7.7 billion last year. The country will need to raise $28 billion this financial year to repay its debt obligations. Therefore, in such an environment, it is hardly surprising that Kaiser Bengali thinks that “we have to play our cards right in case of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC). The opening up of China has enhanced travel but not trade.” He recently made these remarks while addressing members of the prestigious Pakistan Institute of International Affairs (PIIA) and the media. Speaking on the subject, ‘Changing geo-politics and challenges for Pakistan’, he said: “My fear is that we will not be playing our cards right because of the slave mentality that our bureaucrats and planners have.” Elucidating further he said: “We are always looking to a bigger power to protect us against military adventurism.” In this context, he recalled that back in the 1950, we joined the US-sponsored defence pacts, the Cento and Seato, as a guarantee to be protected during times of aggression. Continue reading
Filed under Afghanistan, Balochistan, China, Corruption, CPEC, Discussion, Events, Human Rights, India, Pakistan Horizon, PIIA, Politics, Trade, United States
‘Trump-Kim summit unlikely to have great impact on world’
Donald Trump is a huge showman and his despotic tendencies became all the more apparent when he extended his hand in friendship to Kim Jong-un, the autocratic and reclusive leader of North Korea. Trump had mocked Kim as “little rocket man”. In return, the US president was given the moniker “deranged dotard”. Yet despite such insults from Pyongyang, Trump still went out of his way to please Kim and both the ego-manics got on like a house on fire. The Singapore Summit on 13 June 2018 was little more than an exercise in gimmickry and it has achieved nothing in concrete terms. If anything, it has strengthened Kim’s hand and he is more powerful than ever at home and abroad. China has played a vital role in these developments. Military exercises between the US and South Korea have been suspended to please the petty dictator and of course the summit is already a forgotten affair because of huge immigration problems for Trump at home in America. Now Trump is on an offensive with his own allies and he even resorted to calling Canadian prime minister Justin Trudeau “dishonest”.
He has also imposed tariffs on his country’s European allies who have countered his move in a tit-for-tat offensive. Despite all the brinkmanship, lies and false promises, it is clear that the world is a much more dangerous place that it used to be prior to Trump beginning his presidency. Trump, a racist and sexist American loudmouth, is simply incapable of performing anything positive for world peace and this is especially clear from his retrogressive policies on Palestine and human rights. Pyongyang’s war of words with Washington may have ended but Kim is still purging his opponents with extreme ruthlessness. The caging of children taken away from their parents for illegally crossing the US-Mexican border caused such outrage that even the first lady Melania Trump decided to oppose her own husband. Of course, as a past illegal immigrant herself, Melania probably thought of how horrible it would be if she were separated from her son Barron Trump? Continue reading
Filed under China, Corruption, Disarmament, Discussion, Europe, Events, Human Rights, Immigration, North Korea, Pakistan, PIIA, Politics, Singapore Summit, Trump
“The current policies of the United States of America for South Asia can disrupt peace in the region” – President Mamnoon Hussain at the 70th Anniversary Conference of the PIIA.
Donald J Trump’s election to the White House demonstrates the extremely vulgar nature of American society. And it is difficult to disagree with the assessment that the American president really is a “deranged dotard”. Heaven knows, despite the tyrannical nature of his own country, North Korea’s insane “little rocket man” might even be making a valid point when he calls Trump’s sanity into question. Trump’s totally crazy brinkmanship with Pyongyang shows that he is willing to put the safety of billions of people at risk by his recklessness. But perhaps it is all just a charade to deliberately divert attention far away from emerging domestic problems connected to Robert Mueller’s investigation, the Sword of Damocles hanging over Trump and his cronies’ heads, about the Trump campaign’s collusion with the Kremlin to rig the election. Overall Trump is a sexist and a racist. He never tells the truth and serially dismisses all accusations of sexual misconduct/offending against him. Against American and British interests, he retweets from Britain First – a racist and neo-Nazi organisation.
His hatred of Muslims is so severe that he has even declared Jerusalem to be Israel’s capital. Clearly, he is deliberately destabilising the Middle East. Trump is a danger to the world and it is hard to disagree with the soft speaking figure of president Mamnoon Hussain that the present American administration is a threat to peace in South Asia (and indeed the rest of the world). The reckless and inflammatory rhetoric manifested by Trump can only bolster Hindus’ hatred for Muslims in India where killing Muslims for “love jihad” (or having a Hindu girlfriend or boyfriend) is seen as a force for good. In such testing times, The Pakistan Institute of International Affairs (PIIA) organised a regional conference which was held last month in Karachi. Esteemed speakers from all walks of life addressed the lively audience. Continue reading
Filed under Accountability, Climate Change, Cyber Warfare, Disarmament, Discussion, Human Rights, India, Islamophobia, Pakistan, Pakistan Horizon, Palestine, PIIA, Politics, Racism, UK, United States, Women
This year, The Pakistan Institute of International Affairs, which is the oldest think tank in Pakistan, is celebrating 70 years of its founding. It was established as an independent, non-political, not for profit association in 1947, devoted to study and research in international relations, economics and jurisprudence. To mark its seventieth anniversary, PIIA is holding a regional conference on Peace in South Asia: Opportunities and Challenges on 15 and 16 November 2017. Scholars from leading think tanks, academia and diplomats in the region are being invited to participate in this conference. South Asia, comprising Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Afghanistan is the most densely populated region of the world. Its population of 1.8 billion comprises one-fourth of the global population and almost 40 per cent of the population of Asia. The President of Pakistan, Mr Mamnoon Hussain will inaugurate the Conference. The programme is available here. The proceedings can be live streamed here.
This year, The Pakistan Institute of International Affairs, which is the oldest think tank in Pakistan, is celebrating 70 years of its founding. It was established as an independent, non-political, not for profit association in 1947, devoted to study and research in international relations, economics and jurisprudence. To mark its 70th anniversary, the Institute is holding a regional conference on Peace in South Asia: Opportunities and Challenges on 15 and 16 November 2017. Scholars from leading think tanks, academia and diplomats in the region are being invited to participate in this conference. South Asia, comprising Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Afghanistan is the most densely populated region of the world. Its population of 1.8 billion comprises one-fourth of the global population and almost 40 per cent of the population of Asia.
Two of the world’s nuclear powers, Pakistan and India, are located in South Asia and military expenditure in the region has been rising. It is threatened with insecurity because of long-standing inter-state disputes, terrorism, the presence of non-state actors, problems of water sharing, climate change, environmental degradation, the movement of refugees and illegal arms, people and drug trafficking. It has low social indicators and a large percentage of its population lives below the poverty line. On the other hand, South Asia is rich in explored and unexplored natural resources. Also rich in diversity, it is home to numerous religions and a multitude of languages and cultures. It hosts four of the world’s megacities: Delhi, Dhaka, Karachi and Mumbai. The youth bulge in its population can prove to be one of its largest assets for development. Continue reading
According to the professor, the Reformation formed the basis of education today; caused the unification of the German language; and cultivated a conception of tolerance which was incorporated into the law.
The dividing lines in German politics have become very clearly exposed by the recent election where Angela Merkel struggled to live up to her historic triumphs in the past. Her policy of absorbing one million refugees into Germany has come at the cost of the rise of neo Nazism in Germany and her opponents detest her for her open Willkommenskultur approach and her positive attitude towards foreigners and migrants. Notably, Merkel, who is a scientist and the daughter of a Lutheran clergyman, is now having to cope with the rising popularity of the racist Alternative für Deutschland party which is anti-Europe, anti-immigration and vehemently anti-Islam. Although Merkel’s CDU won 32.9 per cent of the vote and 34.7 per cent of seats, the AfD made significant gains in the polls and won 2.6 per cent of the vote and 13.3 per cent of seats making it the third largest party in the Bundestag (with 94 seats) with swelling support in eastern and southern Germany.
Like Theresa May, who just urged the German chancellor to press Brussels to accelerate the problem ridden and lethargic Brexit negotiations, Merkel is a much diminished political figure in both German and European politics which have both been leaning towards a more insulated and increasingly racist political ideology. Indeed, both women, who looked quite powerful just a year ago, are looking more and more like dead ducks. Politics is a funny thing at times and of course Theresa May is much more enfeebled than her German counterpart. In such an interesting political climate, on 11 October 2017, Professor Gury Schneider-Ludorff spoke at The Pakistan Institute of International Affairs (PIIA) and presented her deeply interesting thoughts on the instrumental changes that occurred in Europe as a consequence of the Reformation. Continue reading
Politics in Pakistan is marked not simply by its religion, but rather its fragmented identity and a strong military, which has grown out of Pakistan’s need to secure itself.
Seventy years later we are still struggling to answer the question, who is Pakistan? In a sense, Pakistan is a paradox, cut between its religious identity and its need to formulate a state. Unlike India, it did not declare itself as a secular democracy but at the same time, it also failed to define its religious identity. Nationalism and Islam have often found themselves in opposition in the Pakistani state, creating a grave identity crisis. Even Jinnah was ambivalent about the role Islam should play in defining Pakistan’s identity; sometimes he claimed Pakistan should be based on the ‘principles of Islam,’ while on another occasion he portrayed Pakistan to be a secular state, ‘you are free; you are free to go to your temples, you are free to go to your mosques or to any other place of worship in this state of Pakistan.’ This meant that from its very existence Pakistan faced an ‘ontological insecurity’ being unable to create a stable identity for itself. This conflicted identity and highlighted insecurity then impregnated Pakistani politics to define its domestic and foreign policies.
While Islam has not been the driver of shaping politics in Pakistan, those in power have alluded to religion in order to wield their political interests. In part, it was believed religion would override all cultural differences in Pakistan. However, it became very apparent that the limited notion of Islam would come into conflict with the other forms of identity people attached themselves with. If Pakistan was to distinguish itself as a democratic state, it would diminish the role Islam would play as an organising factor to mobilise political action. While there was no definitive made as to what Islam’s role would be, the political representation of cultural identities was suppressed. Therein lay the roots of Pakistan’s problems; its failure to accommodate ethnic diversity and provisional autonomy, which has led to a mobilisation of ethnic nationalism. Continue reading
‘There is nothing in the Quran which says that a man should marry a young girl … It is not in the best interests of a girl to be married off early. Early marriage robs a girl of her childhood,’ argues Dr Reeza Hameed.
The All Ceylon Jamiyyathul Ulama (ACJU) is opposed to making any changes to the existing Muslim family law. Mufti Rizwi, who is a member of the Saleem Marsoof Committee appointed to look into reforms to the Muslims Marriages and Divorces Act (MMDA) of 1951, has made the oracular pronouncement that the law is ‘perfect in its present state’ and required no reform. Mufti Rizwi also presides over the ACJU. Regrettably, the views expressed by the Mufti and his outfit are anachronistic and obscurantist. Matters relating to Islam and Muslim law ought not to be the sole concern of the ulema. In this comment I have touched upon some issues in the hope that it will contribute to the debate on the need for reform. In Muslim law marriage is not a sacrament but a civil contract. Neither religious ritual nor having it done in a mosque is essential to confer validity to a marriage. A Muslim marriage is contract like any other in Islamic law. Parties to a marriage should have legal capacity to enter into the contract.
There has to be an offer and an acceptance of that offer with the intention of establishing a marital relationship. There must be consideration given to the wife known as mehr. All the schools of law recognise that a person has freedom of choice to enter into a marriage and that he or she cannot be forced into one. The age at which a young Muslim acquires legal capacity to marry has been a contentious issue. The traditionalist view adumbrated by classical jurists is that a person acquires the legal capacity to marry on attaining puberty. In the Hedaya, the manual on Hanafi law, the earliest age at which puberty is attained by a girl is 9 and by a boy at 12. A similar view is adopted by the Shafi School, which is followed by a majority of Sri Lankan Muslims. The presumption of Muslim law as applied in India and Sri Lanka is that a person attained puberty at 15. Continue reading
‘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
Filed under Afghanistan, Al Qaeda, China, CPEC, Discussion, Events, India, Iran, Pakistan, Peace building, Politics, United States