New Age Islam Edit Bureau
31 January 2018
Pakistan’s Next-Gen Politicians
By Syed Jawaid Iqbal
Immigrant Success Stories Prove We’re Still Learning from History
By Hussein Shobokshi
Aden’s Violence and Restoring Yemen’s National Consensus
By Abdel Aziz Aluwaisheg
Syria Will Continue To Bleed Even After Sochi
By Osama Al Sharif
Russia’s Loss in Sochi
By Abdulrahman Al-Rashed
Compiled By New Age Islam Edit Bureau
30 January 2018
Where are politics in Pakistan headed? Will the masses continue to listen to the rhetoric of the politicians well past their prime and believe in their promises? Do they have any choice?
Until a few years back, there was no one else to turn to but the same old faces who would contest elections time after time and would be returned to the parliament in their traditional constituencies because they were the only people on the horizon. It appears things are changing now and a new generation of politicians is entering the arena. The promises made by the older guard are becoming outdated and there is no public confidence left in them. The people are also wiser. They are more aware of their rights and wish to use their votes more judiciously because they strongly believe that they cast their votes rather imprudently in the past.
Openness in the media initiated by General Pervez Musharraf has played the role of a catalyst in this context. It is also a reality that more young people have joined the electorate in Pakistan and they will not exercise their vote unless they are not sure that they are voting for the right man or woman. They know that the old crop of politicians don’t come up to their standards because they have never delivered.
That brings in younger politicians who are now considered by their seniors to have acquired enough maturity to contest elections at the national, provincial and local levels. There are many prominent faces among the new lot. There is Bilawal Bhutto, the son of Benazir Bhutto and Asif Zardari. He may earlier have conveyed the impression that he was merely the son of an outstanding mother and represented a continuation of the Bhutto legacy. He was not considered to have much of a political acumen and people generally thought that he had been propped up by his father and made her chairman of the PPP while Zardari presented himself as co-chairman to run the affairs of the Party. To them, Bilawal was only a figurehead who did everything at this father’s bidding.
It has been noticed of late that Bilawal Bhutto is emerging as a person of concrete political views and it is said in some circles that he does not see eye to eye with his father on many issues. There may be a long distance for him to cover in becoming a true leader of the people but he has the advantage of the Bhutto legacy and he can use it to his advantage rather than letting his father further push Sindh into backwardness through his corrupt practices.
It is expected that if Bilawal is allowed to pursue his own political bent instead of continuing to perform in his father’s shadow, he may come up with new ideas that would benefit the people. If this happens, the fortunes of the Pakistan People’s Party are sure to revive and it could be put back on the rails as a genuinely national party instead of its current status as a party of only Sindh.
Bilawal’s two sisters, Bakhtawar and Asifa could have taken the political route too but they have not showed any inclination so far.
The Next Sharif?
In the Punjab, two young people are emerging in politics and could hold promise for the future. One is Maryam Nawaz, the daughter of Nawaz Sharif and the other is Hamza Sharif, the son of Shahbaz Sharif. Both are first cousins but they have a lot of room to be groomed individually and emerge as heirs to their respective fathers’ political legacies.
Maryam has already been groomed by her father in politics and has displayed a rare understanding of both provincial and national issues. She began her political career in 2012 when she was in charge of Nawaz Sharif’s 2013 election campaign. She also headed the BISP (Benazir Income Support Programme) for some time after her father became the Prime Minister.
Nawaz wants to see Maryam as the new ‘Benazir’ of Pakistan and has therefore provided her all opportunities as Bhutto did for Benazir. He took her to Simla, included her in meetings with Indira Gandhi and made her in charge of the India Desk at the foreign office. She also hosted a current Affairs TV programme called ‘Encounter’ in the early 70s.
After Nawaz Sharif came to power, Maryam was appointed chairperson of the Youth Programme. She also ran the prime minister’s media cell. She became more politically active in 2017 after her father was disqualified by the Supreme Court and successfully campaigned for her mother, Kulsoom Nawaz, for the NA-120 by-elections.
Maryam Nawaz holds promise if she crafts a separate political route and manages to steer clear from the politics of her father. What is expected from her is leadership that would appeal to the common Pakistani and not the feudals.
Hamza Shahbaz has so far played a political role in Punjab but so firm is his father’s grip on provincial politics that Hamza is not recognized as a political leader of consequence. He has shown a clearer understanding of issues and, if given more latitude he is likely to emerge as a leader not hemmed in by the narrow views of outdated politicians.
The political legacy of the Gandhi family having been passed on to the new generation is also visible in India but only future developments will reveal the true potential.
I attended one of the episodes of the Dr. Oz Show on his personal invitation. It was a successful program conducted by the doctor who is of Turkish origin and has succeeded in a legendary way in the land of Uncle Sam. I studied the success of this “immigrant” amid racial discourse in the United States of America today and (other countries of the world) calling for an end to accepting more migrants and laying out policies to control and prevent their access.
The interesting thing now is that the greatest companies in the US today are headed by “immigrants” such as Google, Amazon, Microsoft and Pepsi Cola but the fever of racism against the direction of nature has reached the Arab world, which is speaking with the same intensity of ignorance.
The Arab countries have emerged and enjoyed their economic, social and cultural glory because of the presence of immigrants there.
Egypt was the result of the contribution of Al-Shawam, the people of the Fertile Crescent, who contributed greatly in the most important literary, media, artistic and cultural achievements as well as immigrants from Europe and Central Asia. Azbekiya in downtown Cairo was named after the merchants who came to Egypt from Uzbekistan. The Armenians were the important presence in Iraq and Iran, which knew many of those who migrated, especially in the cases Sham and Iraq migrated to the models of great and dignified of the people of the Arabian Peninsula known Aqil and the people of Zubayr were striking for parables in success.
Gulf states have seen an important presence of people who migrated from different countries such as Turkey, Egypt, Iran, Iraq, Syria and Yemen were the best citizens and producers and beneficiaries of the country they were in. Here are the people of Lebanon, Syria, Palestine, Hadramawt and Yemen in all parts of the world best ambassadors of their culture and ethics were the best example their involvement and harmony in the new national fabric. This renewed discourse in America has to do with the person of the ruling president and not with the American approach, which teaches that it is based on the thought and culture of immigration. This period is a period of re-impetus for American values.
The Corrupt and the Good
The truth is that the American Constitution states that “all people are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights that among these are Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness.” A significant number of Americans today have full conviction that there is a great imbalance in what is happening, an issue against the foundations on which the Constitution of America itself. Justice and rights and equality, an issue that cannot be “guaranteed” today in the polluted and toxic atmosphere that no longer affect America only, but exported abroad and traded by the oppressed and obsessed everywhere and they are only waiting for the opportunity to release their toxins and diseases and complex deficiencies.
The movement of people between states is a natural state and all attempts to prevent them have failed because it produces the corrupt and replaces it with the productive good, which existed since the beginning of creation and it is certain that it will continue. Those who stood before it under the name and emblem of religion, patriotism and economy fell into an abyss. History does not lie. This is what is being heard in the American media and universities, and in their presentation they rely on statistics, opinions and documented examples.
During the past week, clashes have erupted in Aden between supporters of the “Southern Transitional Council” and security forces of the Yemeni government. The clashes have so far resulted in hundreds of casualties, according to unconfirmed press reports, including over 30 fatalities.
The impasse followed demands by the council, a relatively new entity with no legal status within Yemen and no formal recognition by other countries, for President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi to dismiss Prime Minister Dr. Ahmed bin Dagher, accusing his government of corruption and nepotism. However, other than the council’s military capabilities, it is difficult to assess how much popular support it might have compared to older southern groups.
The Saudi-led coalition supporting the government of Yemen issued statements on Jan. 27 and 29 calling for “de-escalation, restraint and peaceful dialogue,” imploring “all parties” to “quickly cease fire and end all military activities.” The coalition warned that it would otherwise take “all necessary measures to restore peace and stability in Aden.” It further called on the parties to resolve their differences via political means, in accordance with the three previously agreed frameworks: The outcomes of Yemen’s National Dialogue Conference, the GCC initiative and its implementation mechanisms, and UN Security Council Resolution 2216. Yemeni factions, it stressed, should focus their efforts on their shared essential goals of restoring peace, security and government authority over all of Yemen’s territory, safeguarding state institutions, and defeating the Iranian-allied Houthi militias.
On Tuesday, Saudi Arabia’s Council of Ministers endorsed the coalition’s statements. The UAE, a key member of the coalition, had also previously endorsed them.
The reference to the national dialogue outcomes is important to the Aden clashes because those outcomes are a key framework that represents consensus among Yemenis, including on how to deal with southern issues. During the National Dialogue Conference, which took place over 10 months in 2013 and 2014, Yemenis from all regions and of all affiliations, including Houthis and southerners, as well as women and youth groups, agreed to a set of arrangements that represent a political contract on all key issues. Those outcomes were formally signed by participants in the presence of Yemeni, GCC and UN officials.
The NDC outcomes dealt with issues such as devolution of power and authority from the central government to the provinces, including in the southern parts of Yemen. The agreement includes detailed provisions on sharing natural resources fairly, including oil and gas, as well as developing and exploiting those resources jointly between the provinces and the central government. The agreement specifies the division of control over economic issues and the establishment of a national representative body to administer these relationships regarding natural resources “fairly and transparently.”
One of those outcomes dealt with the “Southern Question” i.e., grievances by the southern part of Yemen about unequal representation in government institutions. The document also dealt with governance and ensuring an equal share for the South of government services, development projects, and the exploitation of natural resources.
Specifically, the document states that, during the first election cycle, “the South shall have 50 percent of all leadership positions in executive, legislative, and judicial branches of government, including the House of Representatives and the armed forces and internal security.”
The document stipulated that laws should be enacted, and directives issued, by the President of the Republic and Prime Minister to “end the present inequality in civil service, armed forces, and internal security forces, to ensure the elimination of discrimination and equality of opportunity for all Yemenis.”
The agreement established an affirmative action policy for southerners, stating that in order to remedy past unequal treatment, “southerners shall be given priority in occupying vacant positions in civil, military and internal security services, as well as places in training and qualification programs, according to the civil service criteria regarding needed qualifications and skills. No one shall be arbitrarily dismissed.”
Ever since, the transitional government of President Hadi has tried to implement these provisions to increase the participation and representation of southerners in the government, wherever possible, to the chagrin of some northerners.
Restoring full southern confidence in the national government is important after decades of neglect and unfair practises by the previous regime. It requires honest, peaceful dialogue between all parties. Not just the STC, but all credible groups in the South should take part, including those groups and individuals who signed the “Southern Question” accord as part of the NDC outcomes. The purpose of this dialogue should not be to renegotiate that document, which would be extremely difficult because of the war in the North. Instead, the objective should be on the practicalities of its speedy implementation and addressing the specific grievances expressed prior to the recent violence.
The Syrian regime has never had it so good. It has seen a total reversal of fortunes since it faced almost certain defeat in the late summer of 2015, with a Russian military intervention in September of that year providing a new lease of life. That was a game-changer then, in a military sense. Now the regime stands to reap the fruits of that intervention at Sochi, the Russian Black Sea resort, where about 1,500 Syrians, mostly loyalists to Damascus, started on Monday what Moscow has called the “Syrian National Dialogue Congress.”
Regardless of what Russia, Turkey and Iran, under whose auspices the meeting is taking place, hope to achieve from the conference, one issue will certainly not be on the agenda: The fate of President Bashar Assad. Otherwise, there will be speeches, debates, behind-the-scene consultations and a final communique. There will be a committee to write a new constitution for the country, and a bashful reference to UN resolutions, including 2254 on Syria. There might even be a commitment to the Geneva process, which after many rounds has achieved absolutely nothing.
The rehabilitation of the regime is Russian President Vladimir Putin’s immediate goal. Sochi will come to represent a victory lap for Putin, who, in less than three years, has been able to turn things around in the war-torn country and build an alliance with former foes. In the process, Moscow has bolstered its military presence on the shores of the Eastern Mediterranean — a geopolitical feat for Russia, which has become a major regional player. Putin was also able to emphasize one basic principle: That only the Syrian people can decide their future. Russia has always pointed a warning finger towards Libya, where foreign powers helped topple Muammar Gaddafi, resulting in a raging civil war, anarchy, the rise of radicalism, and the collapse of the country’s institutions. Russia was not going to allow that to happen in Syria.
Ironically, that is precisely what has been happening in Syria. The Syrian uprising has been ruthlessly quashed by the regime, resulting in hundreds of thousands of mostly civilian deaths, the displacement of millions and the destruction of most of the country’s main cities and its infrastructure. To be fair, foreign powers did step in to finance and arm rebel groups, including those associated with Al-Qaeda. Syria became one large battlefield involving foreign extremists.
But, even as the delegates were arriving in Sochi, Syrian and Russian jets were pounding targets in Eastern Ghouta and Idlib province. Turkish forces and Free Syrian Army (FSA) fighters were also pushing towards Kurdish-held Afrin in an operation that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has vowed to extend to the Syrian-Iraqi border. Meanwhile, US troops were holding their positions in northeastern Syria and vowing to stand by their Syrian Kurdish allies. The US presence in Syria, condemned by Damascus and Moscow, has raised fears of a de facto partition.
The all-Syria congress in Sochi is also missing some important bodies that claim to represent most, if not all, Syrians. The main opposition bloc, the Syrian Negotiations Commission, voted to boycott the conference, although some members will be present on an individual basis. France and the US have opted not to attend, but UN peace envoy Staffan de Mistura will be there, as well as representatives from Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Iraq. The Kurds, who are facing the Turkish onslaught, will not be in Sochi.
The rest of those attending are basically regime loyalists and, in that sense, the so-called dialogue will be mostly one-sided. Any agreements that come out of the meeting will be denounced as illegitimate by the opposition.
So, while the Sochi meeting will be seen as a breakthrough by the Russians, who will be asserting their leadership role in Syria, it will hardly push toward national reconciliation or chart a path toward a political settlement. For the regime, Sochi will become the only acceptable forum to negotiate the future of the country; thus rendering the Geneva process obsolete.
Regardless of what the Russians hope to achieve in Sochi, they must realize — at some stage in the future — that, without US and European involvement and especially a UN role, no political settlement will ever be able to address a number of fundamental and intricate issues. These include a long-term foreign presence in Syria, rebuilding the country, the return of refugees and the displaced, and accountability for war crimes and crimes against humanity. No genuine national reconciliation can be achieved without dealing with these issues. To paper over the cracks will not achieve healing or any eventual restoration of normalcy in Syria.
Putin will soon discover that a military intervention, such as the one he undertook in Syria, differs dramatically from forcing a superficial political formula. Syria will continue to bleed even after Sochi.
Russia’s Loss In Sochi
By Abdulrahman al-Rashed
While Moscow is trying to race against time to achieve an “appropriate” peace deal in Syria, Assad’s forces launched 93 raids on Idlib’s countryside, including on civilian neighborhoods. Meanwhile, the Lebanese party Hezbollah shelled the Damascus suburb of Ghouta where 400,000 are besieged.
How is this happening when negotiators are discussing a draft peace? Why do the Iranians, Russians and others think negotiators on behalf of the Syrian opposition dare accept any solution when the message conveyed to the Syrian people is murder, destruction and displacement?
Negotiators at Sochi may think that military escalation is part of the tools to pressure the opposition to force it to accept the deal. They may think that this is what usually happens in wars! However, this is not true in the Syrian case. First of all, fighting will not finalize zones of influence now. Second of all, negotiators cannot sign any deal without local approvals and without the support of regional countries and other major countries. Shelling Syrian cities and towns ruins the Sochi negotiations and does not help them at all.
A Surrender Agreement
What’s worse than intensifying military operations is the leaked information on the negotiations’ draft. What has been leaked so far is disappointing as it did not include anything that convinces the Syrian people and the world of the seriousness of peace in Sochi. What’s being proposed on the opposition merely imposes a fait accompli that maintains the political regime and the government’s entity. Therefore, it’s merely a surrender agreement. Some may in fact say it is a draft that imposes the fait accompli. We’d respond to that by stating that forcing the Syrians to accept it will prolong the fighting for years and the Syrian regime will lose everything which the Russians and Iranians fought for and gained on its behalf during the past three years.
Despite our disagreements with the Russians regarding details on Syria, we cannot ignore the significance of the Sochi negotiations and the significance of peace which can be achieved if proposed in a reasonable formula. It’s in the interest of all the Syrian people to end the war and meet their fair and reasonable demands which meet the opposition’s expectations to participate in higher sovereign institutions, secure the region by expelling all Iranian militias and other militias and secure Syria’s independence and sovereignty.
Sochi’s failure means the Russians’ failure. The conflict will further expand because of it. This conflict has actually become more complicated after Turkey got involved in the war – a move that sparked different stances. This is in addition to the dispute with the US which, like Russia and Iran, has become militarily active in Syria’s war.
We know that the Russians have important cards to play, such as their ability to pressure the Syrian regime and Iran, to impose a reasonable solution that’s better than the one currently put on the negotiations’ table.
We’re afraid all signs indicate failure as Damascus’ allies insist on imposing a surrender rather than a peace deal. Delegations will pack their bags and go to Vienna and endeavor on a new peace journey which luck may not be any better than the Sochi conference and previous Geneva meetings.