New Age Islam Edit Bureau
01 April 2017
A Lesson to Learn From London
By Hafsah Sarfraz
Time for Turkey to Move On
By Aijaz Zaka Syed
Thank You Raheel Sharif
By Abbas Nasir
Turkey Reviews Its Foreign Policy
By Mohammad Jamil
Silence Is Also a Virtue
By Muhammad Usman
Partnering With United States
By Dr Rizwan Naseer
Dutch Polls: A Litmus Test of
By Sajjad Ahmad
Tackling Two-Front Conflict Situation
By M Ziauddin
Get over Jinnah’s Pakistan
By Hussain Nadim
Ban the Ban
By Gulmina Bilal Ahmad
Will Panama Wreck Pakistan’s
By Dr Aamir Khan
Compiled By New Age Islam Edit Bureau
March 30, 2017
writer is a freelance journalist and a graduate of the University of London.
She is passionate about women empowerment and gender equality
The writer is a freelance journalist and a
graduate of the University of London. She is passionate about women empowerment
and gender equality
Three years ago I packed my bags, got on a
cab to reach Heathrow airport and got on a seven-hour flight to come back home.
Walking out of my dorm room, I hugged my Chinese flat mate, said goodbye to the
African American warden, handed over my luggage to the Indian taxi driver,
grabbed a burger from the Bangladeshi at the chicken shop next door and reached
the airport to hand over my check-in baggage to the European guy smiling at the
counter. The last person I encountered at the security check before boarding
the plane was British who wished me a great journey and told me to come back
soon as I left the city.
It was this diversity of London that stole
my heart when I first came to the city. In my eyes, nothing made London more
beautiful than the fact that it was a huge metropolis where people of all kinds
exist alongside in a cacophony of ethnicities, religions, cultures, languages,
races and orientations. Nowhere is this more obvious than on the London
Underground, London’s convenient yet sprawling subway system where a subtle tap
of the Oyster can make you run into people from a range of ethnicities.
I once noticed a middle aged Muslim woman
in a veil and reading the Quran on my left and a teenage girl in a crop top
with high waist pants reading her copy of 50 shades of grey sitting on my right
on the underground. While this sight might have amused me, it sure did not
surprise me for I would see girls in gowns and headscarves walking next to
those in mini skirts at university everyday and loved how beautifully London
had taught everyone to coexist and respect each other.
In my eyes, London was not remarkable
because of its architectural wonders and larger than life image but because of
its diversity and nowhere is that diversity more apparent than on Brick lane.
Brick lane on a Sunday defines what London is — incredibly diverse and soulful.
If a fairy God mother had granted me one wish, I would ask her to make the
entire world one big Brick Lane; where everyone was welcome despite their
origin, their ethnicity and the colour of their skin, where there was no hatred
or animosity towards anyone because of their background and one could belong
anywhere they wished to. Where people could come from different parts of the
world, experience the beauty and leave a part of themselves while departing to
make the place even richer than it is, where cultures and history blended and
people would continue to come back for more.
Living in London made me realise the
greatest benefit of diversity — tolerance, which one can witness everywhere in
the British capital. It is this tolerance that makes London a safe haven,
precisely the reason why last week’s attack in Westminster was rather shocking.
ISIS may have claimed responsibility for the attack but since it often claims
responsibility for terror attacks that it has not directly orchestrated or
facilitated, the real culprit is yet to be found. However, this was the first
time in a very long time that an attack took place in the world where Islam was
not immediately blamed and for that the British capital deserves credit.
The reporting after the attack was
responsible and equitable, which is a lesson journalists and reporters in
London gave out to the world. The country of origin of the attacker was not
blamed instead he was called a terrorist and the word “British-born” was used.
Theresa May admitted that the attacker had been the subject of a historical
investigation over violent extremism by MI5.
The mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, said that
London stands together in the face of those who seek to harm it and destroy the
way of life, giving out a message of solidarity and togetherness. Despite
Donald Trump junior sending out a negative tweet to Sadiq Khan, he remained
calm and focused on how to help London stand together in the face of adversity.
By ignoring a negative tweet, London’s mayor has shown grace and maturity,
something the many local and international politicians could learn from.
Bloggers, social media activists and
photographers united to send out the message to spread love, hope and kindness
because anger achieves nothing. The attack in London revealed how every time
Londoners face adversity, its people pull together and stand up for their
values. It reminded people that diversity is not a weakness but a great
strength. London does all of this brilliantly, leaving one wondering what if
the rest of the world did what London does?
March 31, 2017
President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is an angry
man these days. Not long ago he enjoyed – and perhaps still does – the
popularity of a rock star across the Muslim world. Upright, fearless and
consistently delivering on the promise of good governance, he was seen as
someone who combined the best of traditional values and qualities of a modern
Erdogan’s biggest contribution has been the
successful demolition of the myth that modern democracy cannot coexist with
faith. If winning populist elections is the biggest test of a popular leader,
he has won each one of them with resounding mandate. Secondly, he has managed
to defang in the powerful military which has always seen itself as Turkey’s
natural ruler and protector of Ataturk’s legacy.
It was largely thanks to the popular
support that Erdogan has enjoyed since his ascent to power as well as his
steely resolve that he was able to foil the massive military coup last year,
using nothing but the Facetime feature on his iPhone. The groundswell of
support that he unleashed after the military coup speaks volumes about the
dizzying heights of popularity that Erdogan touched.
By speaking out repeatedly for vulnerable,
voiceless communities around the world – from the besieged Palestinians and
Syrians to the persecuted Rohingya Muslims in distant Burma – Erdogan has
earned himself a global following. And this hasn’t been merely lip service; he
has stepped forward to extend a helping hand to the helpless, without worrying
about the political and economic price of his actions.
A generous Turkey has not only hosted more
than three million Syrian refugees over the past six years, it has gone out of
its way to support them in every possible manner, including by offering
Turkey has paid a huge price for standing
by the Syrians, in the form of a series of savage attacks by the so-called
Islamic State and assorted groups loyal to the regime in Damascus.
For a country that happens to be a major
international tourist destination and depends on tourism as a major source of
revenue, these attacks have proved disastrous, driving away tens of thousands
of tourists, especially those from neighbouring Europe and the Middle
Turkey has been at the receiving end for a
host of other reasons as well. There is no dearth of those who would hate to
see Erdogan succeed in his attempts to present Turkey as a modern country at
peace with its Islamic identity as well as liberal democracy.
This is why it is hard for one to censure
the popular leader of Turkey, perhaps the most popular since Mustafa Kemal
Ataturk, the architect of modern Turkey, himself. However, some of Erdogan’s
recent actions and pronouncements make all well-wishers of Turkey extremely
The escalation of Turkey’s tensions with
European countries like Germany and the Netherlands is most disturbing. Given
the history of Islamophobia in the Netherlands, especially in the run up to the
recent elections with notorious characters like Geert Wilders, known for his
anti-Muslim rants and antics, seeking power, Turkey’s outrage is perhaps
understandable. Especially after the Dutch in an unprecedented move refused to
let the Turkish foreign minister land and address a rally of Turkish citizens
Challenged by Wilders’ Party for Freedom
(PVV) and finding it hard to hold on to power, the centrist government of Prime
Minister Mark Rutte of the Liberal Party (VVD) has taken a sharp turn to the
right, hardening its rhetoric against immigrants. In January, in full page
newspaper advertisements and interviews on radio and TV, Rutte issued an
unprecedented warning to the immigrants and Muslims “to behave or be gone from
Wittingly or unwittingly, Erdogan flew into
this raging storm of tensions by sending his ministers to speak in the
Netherlands, ahead of the constitutional referendum he is seeking on the
question of adopting a US-style presidential system. When the hosts made it
clear that they were not welcome, Erdogan flew into a fit of rage, sparking an
unpleasant war of words. In one particularly memorable line, the Turkish
president accused the tiny European country that hosts the International Court
of Justice at The Hague of “acting like a banana republic”.
This even as the Turkish supporters of
Erdogan clashed with police, protesting against the denial of permission for
their rallies. Of course, the Dutch move was unprecedented and unreasonable.
However, some would say the Dutch have every right to decide who is welcome and
who is not in their own country.
The escalation of Turkey’s tensions with
Germany is even more unfortunate considering the two countries have been close
Nato allies and friends and have closely cooperated with each other on a host
of issues including in helping the Syrian refugees and in efforts to resolve
the conflict in Syria. Turkey happens to be Germany’s most important trading
partner in the European Union, which Ankara has been aspiring to join for many
Germany, the leader and driving force
behind the EU, has also inked a strategic accord with Ankara that is aimed at
curbing the influx of refugees into Europe by helping them rehabilitate in
Turkey. Germany also happens to be home to a large and vibrant Muslim
population, majority of them descendants of Turkish and North African
These are strong and historic bonds that go
way back. Besides, led by Chancellor Angela Merkel, Germany has been most
welcoming and generous in accommodating refugees from the Middle East and
Africa–the majority of them Muslims. This support cannot be emphasised enough
considering the general hostility and paranoia Muslims have been facing in the
rest of Europe and the West.
President Erdogan is not helping anyone,
let alone the Turkish citizens and immigrants in Germany and elsewhere in
Europe, by accusing Merkel and Germany of “Nazi-era actions”.
In the past, he has also hinted at the
alleged Western involvement in the failed coup against him, repeatedly pushing
the US to extradite his former friend and preacher Fethullah Gulen for
allegedly instigating the coup.
The Muslims around the world – those in the
West in particular – are facing unprecedented challenges. Relations between
Islam and the West have hit a new low. At a time like this, leaders like
Erdogan should be helping heal the rift by fostering reconciliation and
understanding, not deepen it further with this needless confrontation.
While on the issue of confrontation, what
makes one deeply uneasy is also this continuing crackdown on the media and
thousands of dismissals and arrests of bureaucrats, teachers and judges for
their ostensible support for the military coup.
Some journalists, loyal to the old secular,
military establishment, may be guilty of opposing Erdogan and even supporting
the military coup against a democratically elected government. However, this
wholesale, all-consuming targeting of the media is not only far from fair, it
is totally counterproductive. A free press is vital to a healthy democracy.
Besides, there is no revenge so complete as forgiveness.
It is time for Turkey to move on,
demonstrating a generosity of spirit and maturity of vision befitting its
stature and history. President Erdogan should be paying attention to making it
a strong, independent and forward-looking nation and a source of strength and
inspiration for the whole of the Muslim world. It is time to lead.
AFTER the government said it had given its
consent to retired Gen Raheel Sharif accepting the offer to head the Saudi-led
Islamic Military Alliance to Fight Terrorism, there were two scenarios emerging
about what may happen over the coming months.
The lack of clarity and detail is
triggering speculation about what this decision actually means and the Foreign
Office spokesperson’s assertion that the country is already part of the Riyadh-based
alliance is also surprising as this was the first official admission to that
While saying that Islamabad was part of the
Saudi-led alliance, the foreign office spokesperson also conceded that the
‘terms of reference’ of the grouping have yet to be decided. So, what exactly
has Pakistan signed on for?
Consider the first scenario: Pakistan has
finally admitted what many believed to be the case anyway as, given how close
(some would say beholden) to the Saudi regime the PML-N government and the
armed forces have always been, it wasn’t likely that a parliamentary resolution
calling for neutrality in the Middle East would have real long-term viability.
Also, Pakistan’s task may have been made
easier by the Saudi regime’s realisation that calling for Muslim nations to
join the war it is waging in Yemen, and its efforts to militarily checkmate
Iran in other parts of the Gulf may not draw the desired response.
The former army chief had, it was said, set
certain conditions before he accepted the reportedly $1million a year job.
Ergo, Saudi Arabia is now saying that the
alliance is not being formed to fight in Yemen or to counter Iran in the region
but actually to fight the menace of the militant Islamic State group, also
known as Daesh, which is seen as a growing threat, despite the recent setbacks
suffered by the terrorist group in Iraq and Syria.
That then will remain the official Saudi
position till May when, some media reports have suggested, there might be
greater clarity as the alliance’s terms of reference and other details will be
hammered out at a meeting of key member states.
The second scenario owes itself to the
categorical statement of a former three-star general, who is seen as close to
the former army chief and has also spoken for him and the security
establishment in recent media appearances.
When the news of the appointment first
broke, the retired lieutenant general spelt out the specific conditions under
which Raheel Sharif would accept the reportedly $1million a year job. Otherwise,
he said, the former chief was likely to say no.
The first was that no matter what the
circumstances, he would not be willing to serve under an officer belonging to
the Saudi defence forces or anyone else from the alliance’s member states as he
had had the privilege of ‘serving as the head of one of the best armies in the
The other two conditions were even tougher
and, when they were laid out, many commentators thought the matter would go no
further as the Saudis were not likely to agree to them. Till May at least it
will be impossible to say what has happened on that score.
One of these two conditions, according to
the retired lieutenant general, was that Iran be offered a role in the alliance
too, even if it was a token one, so that Tehran would be reassured the grouping
was not meant to be arrayed against it and remove any other misgivings it may
And the final condition sought freedom for
Raheel Sharif to take the initiative and mediate in disputes between different
Muslim countries as, he believed, these frictions were often the trigger for
Assuming that the former army chief’s view
has found acceptance in Riyadh, it would be safe to say that upon taking office
one of his first tasks would be to offer a place in the alliance to Tehran,
even though there is no way of knowing the latter’s reaction at this stage.
He’d initiate an effort to help end the
conflict in Yemen where, human rights groups say, the result of the Saudi-led
blockade and bombing is creating a catastrophic humanitarian crisis. One can
also assume he would try and mediate some sort of a way out of the ongoing
human tragedy in Syria.
This one may prove much, much tougher: the
civil war in Syria has not just been fuelled by Syrians of different
persuasions but also because several Muslim countries, motivated by sectarian
considerations, are also neck deep in their involvement.
Even though Russia became an active player
and helped turn the tide in favour of the Syrian regime, there seems no end in
sight to the conflict. The slightest movement in any of these areas will go a
long way in establishing Raheel Sharif’s credibility as a visionary military
On the flip side, it would seem unlikely
that his conditions would have been accepted. After all, the burgeoning Saudi
defence budget (at more than $50 billion) places the kingdom among the top five
global military spenders. A list that suggests only the US, China, UK and India
are ahead of it.
This magnitude of spending appears more a
statement of intent by Saudi Arabia to assert influence in the region where it
feels threatened by Iran, rather than merely to fight terrorism and the
terrorists towards whom it is sometimes accused of being ambivalent.
In the best-case scenario, Pakistanis will
be joined by the rest of the Muslim world, the Ummah, in saying a vociferous
and lasting ‘Thank You Raheel Sharif’. If this is not the case, his detractors
will liken him to Alice in Wonderland.
Which will it be? Who knows for sure? I am
happy to place my bet in private though.
April 1, 2017
HENRY Kissinger had once stated: “Worsening
state-to-state relations can be like a car crash — the result is easy to
recognize but it’s notoriously hard to pin down what could have been done to
avoid it.” Despite the fact that ties between the United States and Turkey date
back to the beginning of Cold War in the 1950s, relations between NATO’s two
largest armies have deteriorated so rapidly that Russia now provides the
majority of air support for the Turkish Army’s ongoing battle against the
Islamic State near Al-Bab, Northern Syria. There are two underlying causes for
the breakdown in relations between Turkey and the United States. One is
America’s support for the forces fighting for the Kurdish enclaves in Northern
Syria, and the other is Washington’s unwillingness to extradite the cleric
Fethullah Gülen back to Turkey, who is accused of involvement in the last
year’s aborted coup.
Turkey is also wary of the European Union
for one its attitude to the talks on its membership of the European Union and
also on the issue of refugees. Vladimir Putin has hailed the close relationship
between Russia and Turkey’s militaries, as he hosted Turkish leader Recep
Tayyip Erdogan for talks on Syria. Ties between them had become strained in
2015 after Turkey’s military shot down a Russian warplane near the country’s
border with Syria. However, after Turkey’s apology, the relations are on
positive trajectory, and both countries joined hands for brokering a ceasefire
in Syria in December 2016, which helped diminish fighting in Syria. Two weeks
ago, they had organized two rounds of talks between Syrian President Bashar
al-Assad and his opponents to remove mistrust between Turkish-backed Syrian
opposition forces, US-backed Kurdish forces and Russian-allied Syrian
Turkey had ruled the Arab world for about
400 years under Ottoman Empire, therefore Arabs’ antipathy towards Turkey was
understandable. However, it was Ataturk who had set the principles of ‘dual’
East-West approach; but over the years, there were periods of cool, lukewarm
and warm relations under different governments in Turkey. In mid-1950s, when
Turkey had joined Baghdad Pact later renamed as Central Treaty Organization
(CENTO), its relations with Egypt, Syria and other Arab countries had become
strained. However, the Justice and Development Party (AKP) government under
then Prime Minister Erdogan’s leadership made sensible moves to strengthen
relations with Muslim brotherly countries. The party has pursued much broader
political, economic and strategic objectives in international affairs than its
predecessors, and had even put together a strategic plan that aims to make
Turkey a world power by 2023.
The Justice and Development Party (AKP) has
Islamist roots yet its members show remarkable tolerance to other religions. It
had taken far-reaching reforms that stabilized the economy that helped
continuation of Turkey’s membership talks with the European Union. However,
some European countries do not wish to see Turkey in EU’s fold despite the fact
they claim that Europe is a continent of diverse people, races and religions
united by ideas and ideals. Nevertheless, the European Union members always
found some excuse to stall the talks for Turkey’s membership of the EU. In
December 2006, some EU members had expressed indignation over Turkey’s refusal
to use its ports and harbors for Greek Cypriot traffic. On the other hand
Turkey had demanded that EU must lift its trade embargo on Turkey’s northern
Cyprus, which appeared to be a genuine demand.
The formal talks were initiated in October
2005 about Turkey’s membership of the European Union that foundered when
Austria insisted that Turkey should be offered a lesser partnership and not a
full membership of the EU because it failed to meet entry criteria. In 2008, 25
foreign ministers had unanimously decided to suspend eight of the 35 chapters
or policy areas into which negotiations were divided, and review Turkey’s
compliance annually. But now it looks like as if chapter of Turkey’s entry in
the European Union is closed. Turkey’s decades-long bid to join the European
Union had a setback as criticism grew over an ongoing crackdown following July’s
failed coup. The EU parliament had voted on 24th November 2016 to suspend talks
with Turkey on European Union membership. In November 2016, Turkish President
Recep Tayyip Erdogan warned Brussels that Ankara was now ready to go its own
There is also a perception that EU members
do not wish to have a Muslim country in EU’s fold. Though they claim to be
broadminded, enlightened and tolerant of other religions, in fact they are not.
Anyhow, one of the reasons for Turkey’s opposition is the nasty wrangle between
Turkey and Greece over Cyprus. It all had started in 1974 when supporters of
the union with Greece made a coup in Cyprus. Turkey had attacked Cyprus to stop
that move, and the Cyprus was divided between Greek Cypriot south and Turkish
Cypriot north – a state recognized by Ankara only. Turkish leadership, however,
was of the view that for the progress of the country and welfare of its people
it was imperative to be a part of European Union. But opponents of Turkey
appear to have mala fide intentions and display double standards.
Before the 2008 general elections in
Turkey, the print and electronic media in Europe had carried reports and
statements of critics that Justice and Development Party was being pushed
against the wall, and if the government did not allow this party to participate
in elections, it would be negation of democracy and Turkey would not qualify to
be a member of the EU. But when Justice Party had come out victorious in the
elections and formed government, propaganda was unleashed that Turkey was being
ruled by Islamic elements, once again to prove their point that Turkey was not
a fit case for becoming member of the EU. Cultural differences were also blown
out of proportions, as after Justice Party came into power all cases against girls
wearing Hijab were withdrawn. This was also used as an excuse to block the
Turkey’s entry in the EU, which could be termed as extreme narrow-mindedness.
SPEAKING at the right time at right volume
and length is an admirable virtue. When time is dangerous or one is short of
appealing and sound arguments, keeping silence is also an appreciable and
rewarding experience. Like other walks of life, importance of both in politics
cannot also be over emphasized. In mushroom of social media’s blitz, silence at
given situation may also assume greater importance. On the record as well as
off the record, indecorous, inappropriate and offensive utterances and
texts/tweets even inadvertently, can instantly land one in a minefield of
different clusters/ layers with no easy and cost free redemption.
Mitt Romney; Republican party’ nominee,
learned this lesson at high cost in 2012 US Presidential Elections when a
journalist secretly recorded his less than tactful remarks about 47% Americans
who do not pay taxes. He lost to Obama with a margin of 51-47% in popular vote
account. Nowadays every word spoken, every conversation made and every pose
taken is uploaded and gets viral in no time globally for the world to grill
even rudely and brutally, leaving one reeling at the tail to explain albeit
largely unsuccessfully. The prudence suggests in realm of real politick; say
what is relevant, not which is relevant. Imran Khan has fast acquired knack and
reputation of speaking even right thing at wrong time in full volume at greater
length. Sometimes informally and closed door and sometimes publically in full
glare of the media. Recent example is of continued exposition of his opposition
to hoisting of Pakistan Super League’ Final at Lahore with no regard to popular
wave to the contrary.
To a politician, often popular opinion is
the key to pause or customize his line and length temporally or otherwise. He
started his onslaught though with plausible reasons; holding of final match in
a state of shut garrison will send opposite signal to world of cricket and God
forbids, untoward incident if any despite heavy all around security ring, will
foreclose the possibility of return of international cricket to Pakistan till
another decade. Unmindfully he did not relent even in spite of split opinion
within his own party until his indefensible informal chat, calling
participating foreign players Phatecher and Relu Katta, hit the spot light and
put him in an eye of political storm. It was absolutely disgusting from a
politician of his political stature.
Similarly often he continues to harp upon
his stance of dialogue with Taliban as a panacea to the menace of terrorism
inside Pakistan particularly, at a time when nation gears up to go after them
to get the train moving and crack sense in their head. Generally he looked to
be oblivious of a Clausewitzian tenet that war is politics by other means and
militarised pressure a bargaining tool. It certainly dilutes the national
consensus. Admittedly, Imran Khan has no cut for a political leader at the
yardstick of guile and brilliance. He also lacks the temperament and experience
nevertheless, merger of circumstances and his unimpeachable credibility and
perseverance has positioned him at political vertex. Possibly he is a Prime
Minister in waiting. With no fear of contradiction and doubt, a large number of
people consider him a lone hope for the country, fallen in a sinkhole with
non-stop digging in sight. Irrespective of this, as head of a leading political
party, he needs to adhere to imperatives of politics because at the least, he/
his political party is an asset for betterment of collective good. At times,
keeping silence may be the right choice and remedy to get rid of an awkward
situation or serve the national cause befittingly.
An astute politician does not get
overwhelmed by the axiom “out of sight, out of mind”. He exactly know when to
talk and what to talk because people tend to get tired of him if he talks too
much and nothing new. He does not fear silence. People become curious about him
if they do not see him talking. When he returns to talk, he may find more
impressive audiences. Precisely this is the underlying theme of politics that
message gets across to more number of audiences with greater impact. In return
he may be able to influence event in question better to milk maximum advantage.
In his book “In the Arena” former President of US, Richard Nixon writes that
“surprise is always a sure fire political tactics. There can be no surprise
without silence”. Sometime one’s rival political party raises the issue
deliberately and kicks off too much dust to steal the limelight, gain a
political mileage or divert public attention from an embarrassing situation. If
he also jumps into fray, he would well serves their interests instead of his
own. Some times, an adversary is seriously in need of talks because of his own
compulsions but also resorts to dilatory tactics or posturing to add some chips
to his bargaining position. A firm application of tool of silence with an
impression of unyielding, may crack good sense in his head.
Imran Khan is still a novice in prickly
game of politics. It may be better for him if he spends his time proportionately
more on listening and learning the ropes of politics. For a politician like
him, speaking spontaneously/unprepared is a poor option than keeping silence
first if requirement is not immediate and pressing. It could keep his opponents
guessing about his intention and the move while affording him time to craft his
response more carefully. Owing to silence, opponents generally tend to
underestimate their rivals which could turn out to be a damaging blunder. It
also contains within itself an element of unpredictability. In the words of A.
A Attanasio, The Eagle and the Sword “Silence is a text easy to misread”
Partnering with United States
REVIEW of surveys reveals that majority of
the people in Pakistan do not like the United States and these people mostly
have meagre or null contribution towards national cause. When it comes to
asking questions, they hold US responsible for every actus reus in Pakistan.
Whereas the history of Pakistan-US relations unfolds that both the countries
enjoyed amicable relationship in the early phase of cold war and Pakistan
became signatory of security pacts i.e. Southeast Asian Treat Organization
(1954) and Central Treaty Organizations (formerly known Baghdad Pact,1955).
In the formation of SEATO US, Great
Britain, France, Australia, New Zealand, Thailand, Philippines and Pakistan
participated whereas in CENTO Great Britain, Turkey, Iran and Pakistan were the
central actors. In cotemporary times, almost all of the previously mentioned
countries are in strategic partnership with US except Pakistan and Iran. But
pre-revolution (1979) Iran under Muhammad Reza Pahlavi was a close ally of US.
Communist China was a hostile state with the US, but made rapprochement (1972)
with the help of Pakistan which resulted in Shanghai Communiqué, paving the
further way for improved China-US ties.
As the cold war was leaning towards end,
nations had realized United States’ victory and made extensive efforts for
establishing close ties with US. Another example of benefitting from United
States’ prowess in the realm of military, technology and economy was the entry
of former Soviet satellite states into North Atlantic Treaty Organization
(NATO). Albania, Romania, Bulgaria, Poland, Czechoslovakia, and Hungary
eventually became the members of NATO. Pakistan, despite signing security pacts
in the early phase of cold war, offering Peshawar airbase for reconnaissance to
US army(1956), later receiving tremendous economic and military aid and
combating Soviet troops in Afghanistan(till 1989) could not become even a
After imposition of US sanctions under
Pressler Amendment (1990) bilateral relations between Islamabad and Washington
drastically plummeted. Pakistan’s response to Indian nuclear tests in 1998
resulted in the suspension of aid under Glenn Amendment to both India and
Pakistan. Tragic incident of 9/11 was an eye opener that such an attack could
happen to any developed and nuclear states which could be more annihilating in
its magnitude. Pakistan joined US in war against terrorism and that
inconclusive war is still ongoing. Pakistan’s sacrifices are tremendously high
in war against terrorism but that ominous war is still causing losses.
Another opportunity of strategic
partnership with United States was proper availing of Non-NATO ally status.
George W Bush included Pakistan into limited non-NATO list ally but debates
among political pundits and at media started that Pakistan may lose sovereignty
in its domestic and foreign policy. Right wing political parties in Pakistan
instigate anti-American sentiments among masses that US provides unrelenting
support to Israel but they don’t talk about the similar status (non-NATO ally)
was awarded to Pakistan too and it lapsed as a lost opportunity for a country
that badly needed economic and military aid for combating terrorism at home.
Social scientist in Pakistan trace roots of governance failure in civil
institutions and also proffer recommendations that if civil institutions are
strengthened in Pakistan, its governance may deliver to commoner. Kerry-Lugar
Bill also known as ‘Enhanced Partnership with Pakistan Act of 2009’ authorized
$1.5 billion per year as non-military aid from 2010-2014 could prove a major leap
in improving capacity of civil institutions in Pakistan. Such measures could
certainly impact civil-military ties to strengthen democracy in Pakistan. But
Pakistani media and parliamentarian alike started debates and termed this bill
a conspiracy to undermine Pakistan’s sovereignty.
For driving Pakistan out of contemporary
internal and external crisis, partnership with United States Pakistan-US
strategic partnership has the potential to make Pakistan a prosperous democracy
where people live a better life without perils of terrorism. It also provides
opportunity to work with regional states like Afghanistan, India and Iran.
Dutch Polls: A Litmus Test of Europe’s
The Dutch election of March 2017 was seen
as a ‘litmus test’ in mainstream media for far-right populism. The main contest
was between Prime Minister Mark Rutte’s centre-right People’s Party for Freedom
and Democracy VVD and Geert Wilders’ Freedom Party, PVV. Though PVV was
defeated, the voting results and the widely expressed sentiments in the wake of
the election outcome merit scrutiny.
Wilders’ PVV party is considered fiercely
anti-EU (Eurosceptic) and anti-Islam. The opinion polls before the election
predicted that most of the seats would go to the PVV. Wilders’ anti-EU and
anti-Islam rhetoric — pledging for ‘de-Islamisation of the Netherlands”,
ceasing immigration from Muslim countries, banning the Holy Quran and ordering
a shut-down of all mosques — had a wide appeal in the Netherlands. He had also
manifested his inclination for a ‘Nexit’ — a Netherlands version of Brexit —
that appears to have led to his eventual election loss. The high turnout of
80.2% is believed to be one of the reasons behind the victories of pro-EU and
European leaders were swift to express
their relief over the election results. German Chancellor Angela Merkel
expressed that “I was very glad, and I think many people are, that a high
turnout led to a very pro-European result.” French President Francois Hollande,
whose country bore most of the brunt for a recent wave of violence, termed the
result a “clear victory against extremism”. Hailing the Dutch people, European
Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker said that they voted for “free and
tolerant societies in a prosperous Europe”.
While the VVD won most of the seats — 33 in
a 150-member parliament — it is eight seats below its record in the 2012
elections. PVV was restricted to 20 seats but gained five more seats than the
previous polls. Wilders expressed that he had higher hopes, and pledged that
“this patriotic spring will happen”. The anger and insecurity of the
electorate, as is the case in many countries, helped Wilders to bag votes. On
the other hand, the diplomatic row between Amsterdam and Ankara, just before
the polls, might have worked in favour of Rutte. According to Andre Krouwel, a
political scientist at the Amsterdam Free University, Rutte’s stance against
Ankara gave off a message to the electorate that he would defend the interests
of the Netherlands against foreign pressure.
Far-right populism is clearly on the rise
in Europe. Among the reasons behind this phenomenon are considered to be the
ongoing refugee crisis and the recent wave of violence and terrorism in a few
western European states such as Germany, Belgium and France — although the
Netherlands has not experienced such violent incidents so far. On the other
hand, the refugee crisis has brought many challenges to the EU member states and
rose to become a widely divisive issue in terms of policymaking. Furthermore,
as a result, right-wing parties found new political space and their
anti-immigrant propaganda proved to be a popular alternative within European
Meanwhile, the Dutch people seem to have
defeated this wave of far-right populism, at least in the recent election.
However, the threat still looms in other EU member states. The impact of the
far-right populism is yet to be tested during the upcoming elections in two
major EU states, France and Germany. In a crucial contest, France is going to
polls in April 2017. The National Front, a far-right and anti-immigration
party, is believed to be a tough contestant. Its leader, Marine Le Pen, has
gained popularity by expressing anti-Islamic sentiments, especially in the wake
of the Nice attack of July 2016, which she promptly blamed on ‘Islamist
fundamentalists’. Similarly, the German right-wing Alternative for Germany
(AfD) party is expected to make inroads in the German Parliament for the first
time. The AfD has censured Chancellor Merkel for her open-door policy towards
refugees and has increased its following over the years. The general elections
of Germany are scheduled in September 2017.
The voting trend in the upcoming elections
of these two EU founding member states would be critical in determining the
future course of European right-wing parties. As the defeated Dutch Labour
leader, Lodewijk Asscher, said, “populism is not over” and the victorious Dutch
Prime Minister, Mark Rutte, perhaps rightly termed the Dutch poll, ahead of the
German and French election, as a “quarter-final” against populism.
Both New Delhi and Kabul have seemingly
become willing promoters and protectors of US interests in the region
presumably in return for Washington’s willingness to provide the two with the
required defensive military/diplomatic cover against their respective
self-perceived enemies — Pakistan in the case of Afghanistan and China as well
as Pakistan in the case of India.
That is perhaps why Pakistan feels it is
currently facing a two-front conflict situation attention to which was drawn the
other day by Pakistan’s National Security Adviser Lt General Nasser Janjua.
The question is, whether closing of the
Afghan border in anger is the right way to go about protecting and promoting
our own national interests in the region or as the NSA has suggested by mending
ties with Afghanistan because as he said our future is connected with that
The answer is clearly by mending ties with
Afghanistan which would enable us not only to end the two-front conflict
situation but also help us translate into reality our vision of becoming as the
NSA said ‘a massive trade corridor.’
But the idea that we could become a massive
trading corridor with three trade corridors running through the length of
Pakistan from its northern end bordering China to its southern end in Gwadar
seaport in Balochistan (China-Pakistan Economic Corridor) while no trading
activity is taking place across the country’s breadth running from our
north-western end bordering Afghanistan as well as the western end bordering
Iran to its eastern end bordering India sounds more like a non-starter. At
best, CPEC in its present design would end up becoming a conduit for the
passage of Chinese exports from its land-locked western part to the world
markets and imports from these markets to China with Pakistan perhaps earning
nothing more than a hefty toll tax along with perhaps the Chinese-funded
physical infrastructure and power stations established to keep the three
corridors and the link roads, rail-roads and the pipelines well-oiled and in ship-shape.
But for decades Pakistan has been aspiring
to become a busy global trading hub not just a trade corridor for China alone.
For realising this aspiration Islamabad will have to create on its own
conditions conducive to trading to take place not only from Casablanca in
Morocco (Maghreb), Africa, to Urumqi in western China via Pakistan but also
from Central Asia, via Afghanistan, Pakistan and India to Myanmar and beyond in
Both India and Afghanistan, in part
justifiably, but largely because of the instigation from the US which it is
doing in its own global and regional interests, especially to contain China,
blame Pakistan for their respective terror woes and therefore seem bent upon
squeezing Pakistan from two sides, creating for it a two-front conflict
situation. The two military campaigns against terrorism mounted by the Pakistan
Army, the Zarb-e-Azb in 2014 and the Radd-ul-Fasaad early this year have almost
broken the back of terrorism. This issue is not likely to remain a matter of conflict
in the region for long.
Meanwhile, Islamabad on its part could take
a couple of initiatives like offering Afghanistan and India a trade corridor
through Pakistan for New Delhi to reach Central Asia and for Central Asia,
Afghanistan and Pakistan to reach India and beyond.
Also, Pakistan could offer to set up a free
trade zone for Afghanistan in place of the current free terror zone which
straddles the Durand Line, thus rendering this line irrelevant for all
practical purposes fulfilling one of the ardent wishes of the Afghans who don’t
recognise the internationally recognised border.
Also, India and Afghanistan know that today
they are not living in a unipolar world but a multipolar one. And no matter how
close they are to the US, they would be extra careful not to be perceived as
its servile camp followers. Moreover, the two know that it is geo-economics
rather than geo-politics that is currently guiding the policies of most of the
countries. With Pakistan adopting the right policies at the right time and in
keeping with its own national socio-economic interests perhaps the right kind
of environment would be created for New Delhi and Afghanistan to see the
futility of pursuing Pakistan-hostile policies notwithstanding the deceitful
promptings from a waning superpower.
In recent years, ever since Pakistan has
taken a downward spiral, the idea that we somehow have detracted from Jinnah’s
Pakistan has started making waves in the public and academic discourse. Every
few months, a new op-ed pops up with ‘groundbreaking’ evidence unfolding what
type of Pakistan Jinnah actually envisioned. Such articles typically unleash a
furious debate between those that see Jinnah’s Pakistan to be secular and those
that see it as an Islamic Republic.
Without taking any sides whether Jinnah was
an Islamist or a secular person or wanted an Islamic or secular state, I
believe both sides of the aisle can present reasonably authentic evidence to
support their claims on what Jinnah viewed Pakistan as. The secular minded and
liberals in Pakistan quote the constituent assembly speech where Jinnah clearly
talked about the separation of religion from state affairs. The Islamists, on
the other hand, like to quote Jinnah’s pre-partition speeches where his entire
vision was to create a homeland for the Muslims of India because they were
different in blood, culture, ethics, etc., from the Hindus. They argue that if
Pakistan is for Muslims then why it should not be an Islamic state where the
laws of Islam should prevail.
Like almost every other issue in Pakistan,
we are fighting over the abstractness of Jinnah’s vision of Pakistan, something
that probably even he was not too sure about. Truth be told, Jinnah was no
Thomas Jefferson and unlike the American Founding Fathers who wrote and
documented extensively their vision on how they would like to see the United
States, Jinnah never probably had a vision beyond getting a Muslim homeland.
The fact that in an age of writing and publishing, Jinnah left behind nothing
but a few contradictory speeches is startling.
Should we not then spare the debate on
Jinnah’s Pakistan that is polarising society, and instead just agree on
something more general such as: Jinnah only wanted a prosperous Pakistan, and
take it forward from there to make our own road map towards creating a Pakistan
that the majority of us can agree upon?
The debate on Jinnah’s Pakistan is not only
redundant but has gotten into a dense framework of complexities, largely
because both sides fail to understand the ‘political and contextual angle’ of
Jinnah’s speeches, that we have actually lost the purpose of what exactly we
need to take out from the debate on Jinnah’s vision. Having any further
dialogue and debate on such a topic is unlikely to get us anywhere. And if we
are not getting anywhere on this topic, better would be to abandon it
completely and not carve disunity of ideas and integrity issues.
How Pakistan should be today has nothing
and should be nothing to do with what Jinnah wanted and why he wanted. First,
it was not ‘only’ Jinnah who made Pakistan; it was the effort of each and every
one who suffered during that period to make this country. Hence, the people who
are equally responsible for making Pakistan, it is up to them and their
generations to decide what and how exactly they want to see this country.
Second, the world and technology around us has changed, and it’s important to
live by realities of today, instead of the fantasies of yesterday.
Hence, there should be a little less stress
on ‘Jinnah’s Pakistan’, because honestly, there is none; and scratching out
Jinnah’s vision forcefully has only served the political interests of a few,
confused the people and obfuscated the roadway to progress.
It is really about time we stopped arguing
over what Jinnah wanted, or what perhaps Iqbal wanted, or whether they were
secular or not. What is more important is what we want today, and how we want
to achieve that. There is a desperate need to change the debate in our
curriculum, media and households. We need to start asking the right questions
to reach the right answers. To begin with, let us ask what we want today
instead of what Jinnah wanted in 1947.
I have spent most of my working life
conducting capacity building sessions as the jargon goes. What am I building, whose capacity is all in
haze? I just know that I get to travel across Pakistan, exchange numbers with
random people who then send me 'Juma Mubarak'messages.
This cycle of living happily ever after was
broken last weekend. It started off as a
mundane activity. Leadership course for
new leaders read the banner. Yawn! I
tried to muster up energy, thought of fun activities to get the young people to
do while keeping my eye on the clock. For God forbid, if I were to go a single
second more than the client was paying me for.
I was in for a surprise. The audience
consisted of 30 young men and women belonging to different political parties of
Karachi. I gulped as they, in their
introductions, cited various political parties. This won't go well, I thought
with the MQM and Pak Sarzameen Party in one room discussing new techniques of
I was wrong. What a roller coaster fun ride
it was. The discussion among the people taught me more about political
leadership, pragmatism and co-existence than I could ever imagine. The beauty was that all of them disagreed
with each other and cracked jokes but we managed to learn more from each other
than I could ever imagine.
I understand now why youth politics is
regarded as a nursery of future leaders.Probably because of the highly charged
political climate of the city and the fact these parties have invested a lot in
training their youth wings. Given the
spirit of competition, other parties in the province had also invested much in
their youth when compared to other parts of the country.
The demon of the Zia regime still haunts us
in many ways through extremism and regressive legislations. The rotten cherry
of this bad cake is the ban on student unions. The previous federal regime did
try to overturn but remained unsuccessful.
When it comes to political training, Punjab
University Lahore is one of the worst. Students representing Pashtuns and the Islami
Jamhuri Taleba (IJT), the Jamaat e Islami's student wing, clashed with each
other that resulted in several people being injured.IJT has been active in the
various public universities across the country since Pakistan's inception.
Although student politics is formally banned, yet the IJT holds much clout. If
I am not wrong, it receives support from the campus administration for carrying
out its agenda.
A similar clash was also reported from
Gomal University in Dera Ismail Khan. However, this time the opposite happened,
as it was the Pashtun group which attacked an IJT event.
My intention behind describing these two
events is to prove that student politics hasn't returned.
Back in the days when student politics was
widespread, youth were considered as a force to be reckoned with. More
importantly, student unions provided a balancing act in politics. There were
several leftist student unions such as the National Students Federation (NSF),
Democratic Students Federation (DSF), and Muslims Students Federation (MSF).
They not only groomed the future political class of the country but also
balanced the impact created by the right-wing student unions like the IJT.
Student unions provide a once in a life
time opportunity to new entrants in universities to learn about the basics of
politics, which is quite important for grooming. It promotes a healthy
competition among students and allows them to compete each other without
resorting to violence. Banning these unions resulted in more violence at
The lack of good governance today is not
just the result of corrupt politicians but a lack of political education as
well. Student unions train students in the process of good governance and
administration at micro levels, which they can later practice once they enter
professional lives. The overall modern political landscape clearly indicates
that there is a dearth of political training.
It is good to witness democracy flourish in
the country again. However, the real impact would only be visible if student
unions get restored.
What I witnessed in Karachi was the result
of political grooming and training. Just imagine if these students had a chance
to be formally part of recognised student unions.
Will Panama Wreck Pakistan’s Democracy?
The answer to the above question obviously
depends on what the Panama verdict will be. However, if the verdict is seen as
highly critical of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, and if the PTI milks it fully,
the chances are that Pakistan's economic growth, political stability and
fragile democracy will be tested, arrested and wrecked. And the sad thing is
that Pakistan's eminent opinion makers, riding the populist bandwagon, are
egging the Supreme Court to "just do it".
But first refer to the comment
"Panama, the Supreme Court and the Future of Pakistan", recently
published by the Daily Times. As is wont in Pakistan, readers locked into
positions based on their pre-existing notions of what they want from the
Supreme Court. Some liked it. Others took umbrage at it, querying me if I was
arguing for a) the military to rule for 100 years b) PML-N to rule for 100
years c) the courts to allow culprits to go scot-free. A relative asked me if I
wanted Nawaz Sharif to live for another 100 years. I had to clarify that I was
a writer, not a magician.
Just to be clear, the article pointed out
that Pakistan needs to put an end to the continual alternation between very
divergent governance mechanisms. It gave examples of the USA, Saudi Arabia and
China, three very different governing mechanisms but all embedding long-term
stakes of governing elites in their countries. It contended that Pakistan needs
a long-term owner of the political process - this meant all existing or future
political parties as a whole.
The article concluded that punishing Nawaz
Sharif will not put an end to corruption. This comment drew the ire of some
readers. To illustrate this point, consider Afghanistan. Thousands of articles
have been published on Afghanistan since Karzai was catapulted to the
presidential pedestal by the Americans. Many analysts have argued that the
Karzai regime has been one of the most corrupt in Afghan history.
Unfortunately, none has argued that if you chase out the incumbent regime and
replace it with a carpet-bagger, the only way the latter can run a country like
Afghanistan is by buying off venal competitors, trouble-makers and
black-mailers. Karzai was duly provided with unlimited funds to accomplish
this. The corruption that ensued was structural.
Consider the last six decades of Pakistan.
If the "rule of the game" is that every ten years there must be a
major intervention by the Establishment, the governing political elites will
take this into account, change their behaviour accordingly and pre-plan for
this event. Punishing them, without changing the alternation of governance
structures, will not dampen corruption. It will actually enhance it. The only
way you can abate corruption is if you create long-term stakes through a governing
mechanism that can self-improve over time by honing its processes, skills and
reflexes. There is no shortcut.
Panama's verdict will be announced soon.
And almost every well-known columnist is egging the Supreme Court to punish
Nawaz Sharif, as if the esteemed columnist were the prosecutor, witness and
judge. For instance the problem with
Ayaz Amir, whose flexible erudition is as scintillating as it is inspiring,
with Rauf Klasra, and with so many other opinion-influencers is that they a)
assume Nawaz Sharif is guilty - an assumption which makes a mockery of the
Supreme Court, b) fail to learn from Pakistan's history, polity and current
international scenario and c) in particular, do not understand fully the
full-blown power of structure.
To understand structure, I propose we
revisit Nawaz Sharif's coming to power: General Zia needed civilians to
legitimize his rule. How else? How did Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto come to power?
General Ayub needed civilians to legitimize his rule. How else? In fact, if you
look at all three Martial Law's, you will find all initially claimed to lessen
corruption but eventually were forced to co-opt and even nurture civilian
sub-contractors. Of course General Ayub lost us East Pakistan and General Zia
cost us our religious tolerance. But that is the price you pay for not
appreciating the power of governance structures.
I suggest that the only way we can lessen
corruption, gain political stability, provide economic growth to lift hundreds
of millions of Pakistanis out of poverty, plan against the twin ticking bombs
of population explosion and environmental damage, and prevent future food and
water shortage, is by deciding once and for all that one governance mechanism
is better than the other. And sticking to that. We need a long-term owner of
the house. Renting a place implies no stakes.
The twin chimeras of Panama solving our
problems overnight and of the third umpire settling post-Panama chaos - and
then pharisaically rallying against the same umpire once the latter becomes captain
of the team - must win a gold medal for our intellectuals for being steadfast
Dr. Aamir Khan was educated at Oxford, INSEAD, CEIBS and Cranfield. He
has worked as a Pakistani diplomat. He writes for the Daily Times.