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Pakistan Press (30 Mar 2017 NewAgeIslam.Com)

Fear, Culture and Violence: New Age Islam's Selection, 30 March 2017

New Age Islam Edit Bureau

30 March 2017

Fear, Culture and Violence

By Ammar Ali Jan

Israel’s Next War Is Always ‘Inevitable’

By Larry Derfner

Pak-UAE Relations

By Reema Shaukat

Counter-Terrorism Made Easy

By Asad Durrani

Reko Diq Ruckus

By Khurram Husain

Of Heritage & Development

By I.A. Rehman

Trumping Defence Into Oblivion — Top This!

By Harlan Ullman

Revisiting Socratic Teaching Through Tagore

By Jahanzeb Awan

Our Afghan Dilemma

By Hasan Khan

Moscow: Afghanistan Peace Initiative

By Dr Zafar N Jaspal

Compiled By New Age Islam Edit Bureau


Fear, Culture and Violence

By Ammar Ali Jan

March 29, 2017

The writer is a doctoral candidate at the University of Cambridge and a lecturer at the Government College University, Lahore.

Since the 1980s, the classical divide between the Left and the Right over questions such as resource distribution and class antagonism are no longer politically central. In a world in which the profit motive became the central principle for organising economic life, the category of ‘culture’ has been elevated as the principal site for ideological battles.

From the US to Europe to India, the political Right has turned questions of national purity into major electoral concerns by proposing a pristine identity perpetually threatened by foreign elements within the nation.

A couple of events last week in Pakistan highlight the importance of cultural tropes and identitarian markers in Pakistan’s political discourse. The first was a Pakhtun Culture Day event, organised by the Pashtun Student Council, at Punjab University. The event was disrupted by a brutal attack by members of the Islami Jamiat-e-Talaba, who claimed that Pashto music and the traditional ‘attan’ dance were against “our culture” and hence, could not be tolerated. A senior leader of the Jamaat-e-Islami, Liaqat Baloch, defended the IJT’s actions, suggesting that a violent response is natural if there is dancing on campuses. This is a chilling statement, considering the similar line of reasoning used by those justifying the attacks at Sehwan Sharif only a month ago.

In an unrelated but similar incident, a PTI MNA recently asserted that, since Pakistan was created on the basis of Islam, all “secularists” should migrate from the country to foreign lands. To emphasise that his statement represented his core beliefs and was not merely a slip of tongue, the honourable member of the house repeated his claims on social media by quoting Jinnah, winning praise from the self-proclaimed guardians of the ‘Pakistan ideology’.

Now, there is nothing inherently wrong with disliking musical events (except perhaps poor taste) or with viewing the history of the Pakistan Movement as having been intertwined with the popular desire for Islamic law. One can discuss the merits of cultural activities on campuses or the nuances of Colonial India’s history – but neither justify nor explain the kind of violent outbursts witnessed in each case.

Why would a dance by some 20-year-olds lead to clashes that end with the use of tear-gas by the police and heightened security on campuses? Similarly, why would a law-maker suggest that those who disagree with him on history should leave the country (perhaps not realising how the business of expelling individuals and communities from the national body led to some of the worst tragedies in modern history, including the rise of fascism in Europe)?

Such reactions are manifestations not of religious or national zeal, but stem from a deep sense of fear and insecurity. And it this fear, and the fragility from which it stems, that we must question if we are to understand such outbursts and think of ways of overcoming them.

Psychoanalysis informs us that human personality, and the consequent individual and collective identities, are neither inherent nor fixed, but are constructed through social interaction that allows us to identify with a particular set of identitarian markers. Such a process necessarily entails repressing certain features of the past and the present to give coherence and stability to our identity. Yet, we can never be fully identical to a given identity, since we always contain multiple histories and cultures within our unconscious, even if we never fully acknowledge their existence.

When we confront those repressed elements in the form of the presence or actions of others, they appear as attempts to disrupt, if not annihilate, the identity we have formed through the stories we tell ourselves about who we are. This leads to what is known as “narcissistic mortification”, an intense feeling of terror when faced with elements that threaten not because they are foreign, but because they are too intimate and internal to our psyche, producing a split within ourselves. This feeling of fragility and fear often leads to the desire of violently removing such images and practices in a desperate attempt to safeguard the identity that anchors our personality.

We then begin an endless process of purging and purification that is simultaneously aimed at others and oneself, since the horror induced by their presence stems from their ability to remind us of a truth within ourselves that we would like to repress. In other words, when we punish others in the name of a pristine culture, we are simply punishing ourselves, and the violence directed at these others is nothing but violence on the self.

Consider the rather pathetic demand recently made by a BJP leader to demolish Jinnah’s house in Mumbai since it “reminds” him of Partition. Whether he remembers or forgets Partition is inconsequential to the fact that it did take place, and no amount of violence and destruction of symbols will change the course of history. Since the inability to deal with the traumas of the past only results in an impossible desire to purge the present of that past, it does not take long to start equating all Indian Muslims as reminders/remainders of that past. This then leads to the rise of fascist forces and the concomitant communal tensions that have plagued India’s recent history.

Pakistan’s tense relationship with cultural diversity, and the insistence on a homogenous, monolithic cultural ‘essence’, has also resulted in this endless search for purity that is easily proclaimed but hard to find and impossible to inhabit. The end result is that cultural events invoke not mere criticism but brute violence, since they pose a challenge to a fragile identity based on a flight from history. Similarly, since the story of our independence, with all its messiness, is now frozen in a neat and simplistic history of good versus evil (with ‘secularists’ signifying the latter camp), one can expel evil since it undermines the purity of the raison d’être of our existence.

What this manifests is our failure to adequately deal with the primary wound of our collective identity – our own past. We have thus far failed to acknowledge that no matter what ideological goal we set out for ourselves (whether conservative, liberal, leftist, etc), there will always remain residues from the past within the social world we inhabit. An inability to deal with the presence of residual elements does not obliterate them, but turns it into an element that haunts our psyche by disrupting our process of self-identification.

The good news, however, is that one need not always have such a pathological relationship with one’s own past. We can accept that certain events that had a momentous impact on the course of history did occur, and there is no ‘going back’ to a pristine ‘Indian’, ‘Pakistani’, ‘Pakhtun’ or ‘Punjabi’ culture. Instead, one must recognise oneself and the social world we inhabit as a product of a long history of encounters that happened, missed encounters that could have happened but didn’t, and encounters that are yet to happen in the future.

Thus, rather than a wound that paralyses us, the presence of these multiple histories within ourselves can become a source of regeneration. Instead of viewing the lack of correspondence between society and our sense of self as a source of embarrassment, it will allow us to recognise that we are always more than what we think we are, overcoming the limits imposed by rigid cultural boundaries through our personal and collective will.

In a world plagued by monstrous inequalities, wars, and a looming environmental catastrophe that threatens to send human beings into oblivion, engaging in an endless and meaningless fight over our ‘true identity’ is not only naive, it is criminal. What we need today is a certain modesty towards the existence of a past, but an uncompromising boldness towards the future. Only then will we overcome the fear of our own history and finally come together, in all our personal and collective diversity, to face the challenges that threaten the very survival of the human species.

Source: thenews.com.pk/print/195095-Fear-culture-and-violence


Israel’s Next War Is Always ‘Inevitable’

By Larry Derfner

March 30, 2017

IN this country, people have learned to accept that one war follows another, every two or three years. “An Inevitable Conflict in Gaza,” ran a headline in the daily newspaper Yediot Ahronot earlier this month. “With Lebanon no longer hiding Hezbollah’s role, next war must hit civilians where it hurts, Israeli minister says,” Haaretz reported a few days later.

What hardly any Israelis will consider, though, and virtually no influential voices in the West will publicly suggest, is that Israel — not Hezbollah in Lebanon, nor Hamas in Gaza, nor the government of President Bashar al-Assad in Syria — is provoking the next war. Counterintuitive though it may be to Israeli and most Western minds, Israel, not its militant Islamist or brutal Syrian enemies, is the aggressor in these border wars.

On March 17, Israeli military jets did what they’ve been doing every few months since the Syrian civil war started in 2011 — they bombed Syrian weaponry believed destined for Hezbollah, Syria’s ally and Israel’s enemy in southern Lebanon. But this time, instead of letting the attack pass without a response as it usually does, the Syrian Army fired anti-aircraft missiles at the Israeli jets.

By the time the exchange was over, air raid sirens had woken people in Israel. Afterward, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu admitted publicly what Israel was doing. “Our policy is very consistent,” he said. “When we identify attempts to transfer advanced weapons to Hezbollah, and we have the intelligence and the operational capability, we act to prevent that. That is what was and that is what will be.” According to Syrian reports, he was as good as his word. In the following days an Israeli drone killed a pro-government militiaman in Syria and Israeli jets struck targets on the Syrian-Lebanese border, then hit Syrian Army posts near Damascus.

Around here it is considered perfectly legitimate, indeed necessary, to send bomber jets and drones to stop Hezbollah from getting advanced weapons. According to mainstream Israeli thinking, Hezbollah, being pledged to Israel’s destruction, will act on its desire as soon as it gets strong enough, so the only thing to do is prevent it from getting strong enough. And if one of these times Syria or Hezbollah hits back and kills some Israelis and another war breaks out — well, the next war’s inevitable anyway. Nothing to do in the meantime but keep bombing.

With Hamas in Gaza, the situation is somewhat different. There, no deterrence will work for long because unlike with Lebanon — where Israel ended its occupation in 2000 — Israel to this day controls Gaza militarily from without, rules its sister territory, the West Bank, from within, and keeps several thousand Palestinians from Gaza and the West Bank in Israeli prisons.

Until all that ends, there is no deterring Hamas or the more radical Islamic groups in Gaza over the long term — and probably not in the West Bank either. As long as the Palestinians live under hostile Israeli rule, they will always have a reason to attack, and sooner or later they will. While the Palestinian government in the West Bank has become Israel’s grudging collaborator, Hamas and the more radical groups in Gaza are pledged to fight.

Lately, militant groups in Gaza other than Hamas have been firing their rockets in Israel’s direction, typically hitting nothing but open space. In return, Israel has been blasting away at Hamas military targets. Hamas has been holding its fire, but as the military affairs commentator Alex Fishman wrote in Yediot Aharonot, that calm “may be broken as soon as Israel attacks and Hamas feels that it can no longer take the humiliation, or if an Israeli strike leaves too many casualties.”

Since its 2006 war with Hezbollah in Lebanon, Israel has fought three wars against Hamas that devastated Gaza. Avigdor Lieberman, now the defence minister, has said that the next one is “inevitable.” And now the attacks on Syria and Hezbollah have gone from one every few months to four in less than a week. How long before Israel wages its next “war of self-defence”? The writer is a journalist.

Source: pakobserver.net/israels-next-war-is-always-inevitable/


Pak-UAE Relations

By Reema Shaukat

March 30, 2017

The bilateral relations between the United Arab Emirates and Pakistan have acquired new dimensions at all political, economic and social levels emerging into trust-worthy strategic partnership and are still continuing. Right from the beginning, the UAE has extended generous humanitarian assistance, support for better health and education to Pakistan whenever required. UAE which has become hub of investments, exports, technologies, tourism and renewable energies and large number of Pakistanis are contributing in the UAE’s economic boom. In Pakistan, UAE surely has encouraged investment and helps in greater trade and commerce activities. UAE is one of largest investors in Pakistan but bilateral trade has been steadily growing over years and people-to-people contacts are constantly on increase.

The founder of UAE Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan was keen to give an impetus to the bilateral relations between the two countries from the very beginning. It was further strengthened and patronized by H.H. Sheikh Khalifa Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, the President of the UAE and H.H. Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al Maktoum, Vice-President, Prime Minister and Ruler of Dubai. Both countries reaffirm their strong commitment to further reinforce the bonds of friendship. They urge the need to expand the horizon of their bilateral cooperation in diverse fields reflecting deep-rooted and historic ties. Pakistan offers vast opportunities for foreign direct investments and joint ventures in infrastructure development, electricity generation, water desalination, agricultural based industries, insurance and real estate.

Apart from trade and economic relations, Pakistan UAE military ties are time tested. The Pakistani military has a historic role in helping to train and equip the UAE military, such as training fighter pilots of the UAE air force and other defence related equipment and technology acquisitions. Apart from exchange of delegates at official and unofficial level, military conducts joint exercises to strengthen their capabilities. High level military delegates from both sides visit time to time to boost their military associations. Recently Pak Army Chief Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa visited UAE to discuss military ties between both the countries.

Chief of the Army Staff Qamar Javed Bajwa met United Arab Emirates’ Vice-President and Prime Minister and Ruler of Dubai Shaikh Mohammad bin Rashid Al Maktoum at the Zabeel Palace in Dubai and discussed relations between Pakistan and UAE and a number of issues pertaining to the military and the current situation in the region. The army chief praised the development witnessed by the UAE in different fields. The Pakistan army chief’s visit to the UAE was very critical for the relations between Pakistan and the UAE and many defence analysts said that the Pakistan army chief’s visit is to counter the Indian influence on Middle East. Pakistanis had been witnessing some critical issues relating to the visa of Arab countries not only ordinary visitors but also diplomatic officials think that General Bajwa’s visit would help reduce stress and anxiety among Pakistan and Arab countries.

It is observed that many critics and adversaries are adamant to prove that Pak UAE ties are no more fostering. Earlier when in Afghanistan, attack on UAE consulate was carried out in January, 2017 Afghanistan blamed Pakistan for this suicide attack and viewed that UAE should rethink about its relations with Pakistan. It was quite noticeable that Afghan Taliban took responsibility for this attack but Kandahar Police Chief Abdul Raziq claimed in front of media categorically that Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence and the Haqqani Network were behind the incident. Such accusations proved wrong and no links of Pakistan’s involvement was found. Now after General Bajwa’s visit to UAE some negative trends on social media are also gaining attention just to malign relations between both the states.

On twitter account of Mr. Dhahi Khalfan who is Ex-Dubai Police Chief and is presently serving as Advisor to Sheikh Mohammad, Ruler of Dubai on security related issues had tweeted in support of independent Balochistan again. Earlier in Nov 2015 he conducted a survey on social media to seek people opinion about independent Balochistan or do they favour or support this cause or not. Again after visit of Pak Army Chief to UAE these tweets are republished and were shared by different people from different accounts to undermine Pakistan and UAE relations. The trend started on social media after visit of Pakistan Chief of Army Staff to UAE who was well received by UAE’s rulers and was highly appreciated by Emirates population and Pakistani community. Soon after visit, the campaign on social media started to destabilise Pak-UAE relations but those who are involved in negative campaigns and propaganda must remember that both countries are clear about their associations with each other.

The UAE has always been among the first countries to deliver humanitarian relief and assistance to Pakistan in times of need. In 2011, it launched the Pakistan Assistance Programme for building schools, colleges and hospitals in Pakistan. Simultaneously, entrepreneurs from Pakistan are warmly welcomed in the UAE, with many of them flourishing in the country’s favourable business environment. Lately on this March 23, the tallest skyscraper in the world, Burj Khalifa was brightened up with the colours of the Pakistani flag to celebrate the Pakistan Day which depicts relations between both states.

Recently, Abu Dhabi Fund for Development funded the UAE-Pakistan Friendship Road, linking North and South Waziristan. The assistance from UAE is in return nurtured with Pakistan’s commitment to relationship which particularly has enhanced in last few years. So those who are trying their energies for spoiling both countries connexions must keep in mind that they will not to able to successful as mature leadership understand their duties and dynamics of alliance between them.

Source: pakobserver.net/pak-uae-relations/


Counter-Terrorism Made Easy

By Asad Durrani

March 30, 2017

TERRORISTS operate in small groups, at times individually, and can blend in with the masses. Unconstrained by time and space, they can pick and choose between a wide range of soft targets. They can network with others of their ilk and are often supported by forces, domestic and foreign, inimical to the state or its system. With all these assets, and easy access to modern technology and means of communication, the terrorist of today can be very flexible and evasive.

Over time, intelligence agencies like the ISI and the IB may get a reasonably accurate big picture, but real-time information to track down the perpetrators is hard to get. (The special branch of police with its countrywide presence could have helped but has long been ignored.)

In rare cases when we do get ‘actionable intelligence’, clandestine means are best suited to nab the culprits. Such operations, however, require immaculate planning, deliberate execution, and plenty of patience. Even when successful, they eliminate only some individuals but not the malaise that motivates them to commit acts of terrorism. To tackle the root causes, besides political and administrative tools, sustained civic action is needed. Assuming that we know how to go about it, it would still be a long drawn process.

The problem is that when a major terrorist attack occurs, or a series of them as it happens here every now and then, people want a rapid response. The state then has to do something, or at least be seen to be doing something. The principles of counterterrorism (CT) are then short-circuited — in every country. Let’s take our own example.

Principles of counterterrorism are being short-circuited.

North Waziristan had to be depopulated because the militants were too deeply embedded in the people (too bad that Karachi and Lahore cannot be evacuated). Indeed there was no way to ensure that the culprits would not slip out and live to fight another day. When they did, again something had to be done. So we cracked down on the Afghan refugees. For four decades we had hosted millions of them. Besides serving a humanitarian cause, it was an investment in a neighbourly relationship. But now that we were running out of easy options, throwing them out happened to be doable. And although the terrorists — if any — amongst them would have relocated in good time, the powers that be could still claim ‘firm action’.

We may criticise America, Israel and India for using massive force against population centres that produce ever more militants, but when bombing our tribal areas, even the mention of ‘collateral damage’ was taboo. Does it really matter that unlike the above-mentioned villains, we were shelling our own people; and does anyone have any idea how many of them lost their kith and kin, and indeed whatever property they had? Just because we did not have the time and patience to follow the first principle of counter-insurgency: employ force only to facilitate use of non-military means. The outcry over ‘Pakhtun profiling’ was admittedly a bit over the top, but in some crude form and at some local level it did take place, probably to satisfy someone’s itch for some action. If it netted any terrorists, I do not know, but it did provide all the right fuel to all the wrong quarters.

I may not have any idea how many potential bombers were deterred or pre-empted at the check posts — now more or less a permanent fixture of our landscape — but I am grateful that none of them blew themselves up when hundreds of vehicles crawl through the barriers. At least one cannot charge the security establishment of doing nothing.

Before the Afghan refugees became our favourite punching bag, it was the madrasas that took most of the flak for being ‘nurseries of terrorism’. According to statistics compiled by researchers like the political scientist Robert Pape, less than one-fifth of those involved in terrorist attacks had been to madrasas, and over two-thirds had studied up to college and beyond. But as we cannot ban any universities, the seminaries will remain our expedient explanation of the Jihadi mindset.

Of course nothing comes close to a non-remedy to fight the menace of terrorism than our latest gimmick — ‘the terrorists have been brainwashed, so let’s read to them another narrative’. Anyone who believes that those committed to a cause deeply enough to blow themselves up could be reprogrammed by a mantra, obviously has no idea what ‘de-radicalisation’ entails: plenty of sustained and thoughtful action. But where even a National Action Plan has not brought about any movement where it actually matters — in the civil society — a narrative is all that we have.

And if that too did not work, we could always hold a cricket match to show that our CT was working.

Source: .dawn.com/news/1323674/ct-made-easy


Reko Diq Ruckus

By Khurram Husain

March 30th, 2017

“HAVE you heard of Reko Diq?” the man asked me in a hushed voice.

“No, what’s Reko Diq?” I replied.

“Very few have heard of it,” he said, “But soon, the whole country will know this name.”

This was back in 2007, and I had just made the acquaintance of a little known shady character whose name I cannot take because our conversations were not for attribution. Suffice it to say that in a few years time everybody knew his name.

We met on a couple of occasions, and talked on the phone a few times. I was working for Dawn News in those days, when it was an English channel. Meanwhile, the Musharraf regime was engulfed in multiple uncertainties including the lawyers movement, Lal Masjid, the May 12 violence in Karachi, Fazlullah’s militia in Swat, a financial crisis growing in the United States, and persistent talk of a ‘deal’ in the offing between Musharraf and Benazir Bhutto.

Those were epic days and, as an economic reporter, I was pulled in all directions to figure out the narrative arc of the big picture that was buffeting the economy. It was then that I was introduced to this fellow by a friend, and found him to be remarkably, in fact suspiciously, well informed about what was happening in Lal Masjid. That episode is what we had met to discuss when he suddenly popped this question on me.

“But this is a scandal of historic proportions.” Then he elaborated, in a rambling diatribe, about the looting of “the richest gold mine in the world”.

There was no link between the two, he assured me. “But this is a scandal of historic proportions.” Then he elaborated, in a rambling diatribe, about a mining lease granted for a pittance (“a mere 25 per cent!”), about the looting of “the richest gold mine in the world”, about corruption so huge it would make the head spin. So overwrought was his telling that I lost all interest, telling myself that this guy was off his rocker.

“What do you have to substantiate any of this?” I asked him. “We can get you all the documents you need for your story,” came the reply. Fine, I told him. Send me the documents and I’ll take a look.

A few days later an email arrived from him, with a few attachments. When I opened them, they were nothing more than a few, anonymously written, blog entry type pieces, written in what we used to call stream-of-consciousness style. The key fact they hinged on was that the deal struck between the Pakistan government and a company called the Tethyan Copper Company (TCC) involved the latter keeping 75pc of the output, while the government itself got only 25pc.

So I did some quick checking to see how these proportions compare with international standards in mining leases, and it appeared to be a somewhat standard formula. After all, the company would be putting up all the upfront investment, $3.3 billion in this case.

A few days later the fellow called. “Have you had a chance to look at the documents” he asked. “Yes,” I replied, “There’s nothing there. They’re anonymous pieces of writing, nothing official and the deal they describe is, in fact, a rather standard one in the mining industry.”

“We have lots more to share,” he said, “including official documents.”

“Let’s see them,” I replied. And then he said something that caused me to do a double take.

“No. First you do something with this, and we’ll see what you are able to do. Then we’ll share more.” I told him there was nothing I could do with the documents and our conversation ended.

A few years later, the story did indeed blow up when the Supreme Court began hearing a case that had been defeated in the Balochistan High Court in 2007. In 2011, with the hearings as a backdrop, TCC submitted its feasibility for the mining project, and in 2013 the Supreme Court comprehensively killed the deal, saying that the entire joint venture agreement between the Balochistan government and TCC was illegal.

Shortly thereafter, TCC pulled out of the deal saying, “We will pursue our claims for monetary damages, including lost profits for the mining operations, in the international arbitration.” Last week, that pursuit passed its first milestone, as a tribunal of the International Centre for the Settlement of Investment Disputes, a World Bank arm, gave its first order saying that the Pakistan government does indeed have liability in the failure of the project.

Since then, Barrick Gold, the company that was part of the Joint Venture that formed TCC and which carried out the feasibility study of Reko Diq, appears to have spent $21 million in litigation charges stemming from Reko Diq. From the amount being spent on litigation, it appears they are out to recover far more than the $120m loss they acknowledge in their annual report from the deal’s failure.

Reko Diq is not the only large deal to fall apart in this manner. Its problems began in 2006, when the first case was filed against it in the Balochistan High Court. That was a year after the Steel Mills case shut down the country’s privatisation programme. Since then, the mill has accumulated debt of $3.5bn and losses of Rs177bn. The year after the Supreme Court hearings began on Reko Diq, the same court struck down the LNG deal with GDF Suez. For five years subsequently, our industry and power plants gasped for the precious fuel as gas shortages doubled from one to two billion cubic metres daily.

We can talk about the details of the Reko Diq case. There is a lot to be said either way, but one thing that is certain to me from my brief interaction with the shady character about a decade ago is that neither side in this affair is all that innocent, and this pattern of stirring controversies around every deal has not served the country well.

Source: dawn.com/news/1323673/reko-diq-ruckus


Of Heritage & Development

By I.A. Rehman

March 30th, 2017

A NEWS item recently informed us of the Indian authorities’ decision to shift Tipu Sultan’s armoury near Mysore to a new site, about 100 metres away, so as to clear the path for a rail track. Did this report have any lesson for the Pakistani administrators responsible for heritage affairs?

India is now ruled by a party that has little respect for Muslim contribution to its cultural heritage. The saffron brigade is not suspected of any love for Tipu Sultan. The urgency of expanding the railway network cannot be denied. Besides, the armoury is a simple work of masonry. It is unlikely to be considered a significant construction, particularly in south India, which boasts a large number of archaeological monuments.

Yet, instead of demolishing the building where Tipu Sultan stored his weapons and gunpowder, it was decided to preserve it, thus confirming fidelity to the principle that while undertaking development civilised countries cannot ignore their obligation to conserve their heritage.

Older people might be able to recall the international effort made in the 1960s to lift the massive twin temples comprising the Nubian Monuments in Egypt and relocate them elsewhere. This was done in order to save them from getting submerged in Lake Nasser, the artificial reservoir that was created as a result of the Aswan Dam’s construction. In England a project that appeared to threaten Stonehenge was kept pending until it was proved that the monument was not at risk. Numerous other examples show that it is wrong to ask any people to choose between development and heritage, because the only sane option is to ensure that development does not harm heritage.

Neglect of historical monuments speaks of the authorities’ distaste for culture.

Compare this worldwide concern for conservation of people’s heritage with the situation in Pakistan. International experts’ concern over the threat to the Shalimar Gardens, a World Heritage Site, has had no effect on the promoters of Lahore’s Orange Line Train project. Unesco has been asking the Punjab government to allow its mission to make an on-site survey, but the government is reported to be keen on delaying the crucial inspection until the case pending before the Supreme Court is decided. If these reports are true, the provincial authority could invite censure for blinking at a serious threat to the world’s heritage.

This lapse into philistinism is not a new disorder. The administration has a long record of neglecting heritage. Before independence, the Pakistan territories had been put on the world heritage map by Marshall, Wheeler and Bannerjee, and the people took pride in their inheritance of the Indus Valley Civilisation of Mohenjo Daro and Harappa. Later on, the Italians came to explore our past in Swat and the French dug up Mehergarh and added another 5,000 years to the Pakistani people’s history.

For some time, indigenous experts kept interest in heritage alive. Dr Ahmed Hasan Dani discovered the Kharosthi writings on stones in the Northern Areas. Dr F.A. Khan explored Kot Diji and Bhambore, and Dr Rafique Mughal started excavations in Punjab. But for many years now, interest in heritage conservation has steadily declined.

Our record in maintaining and conserving historical and cultural monuments is extremely poor. No worthwhile research has been done on Harappa and Mohenjo Daro for years. The interest shown in conserving Gandhara art noticed in the early 1970s has all but died down. No Pakistani is known to have followed Alexander Burnes’ journey of discovery along the Indus. The monuments at Rawat that should have marked the beginning of a journey along Alexander’s march to Multan are fast disappearing. One does not know of any plans to ascertain what lies buried under the scores of mounds in Punjab that were earmarked for exploration decades ago. 

Except for the preservation of the Tollinton Building (though what to do with it is still not clear) and the Aga Khan Foundation’s efforts to conserve Shahi Hammam (on a second attempt) and remove some of the encroachments in front of the Wazir Khan Mosque, the neglect of monuments in Lahore itself speaks of the authorities’ distaste for culture. The way Noor Jahan’s tomb has been rebuilt over and over again is a scandal. Equally deplorable is the ruination of the Lahore Fort’s painted wall and the damage to the Sheesh Mahal. The neglect of the marvellous Rohtas Fort is a long, painful story.

Quite unforgivable is the neglect of Hindu temples in Punjab and the magnificent monuments in Tharparkar, especially in the Nagarparkar sector. The conservation of these heritage sites and their inclusion in the national narrative is a duty the state can ignore only at the risk of being branded uncivilised. The fact that some of the monuments belong to the pre-Islamic era makes no difference. Heritage cannot be divided by belief. The Muslims have not disowned the pre-Islamic monuments in Saudi Arabia, Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, Iran, Turkey and North Africa.

If by some twisted logic the Muslims of Pakistan wish to write off certain parts of their heritage, despite their being more important than Tipu Sultan’s armoury, they have no right to force their views on the members of the non-Muslim communities. The state’s duty to conserve what these citizens consider sacred or significant in cultural terms is unexceptionable.

Perhaps there is a need to disabuse the mind of the state’s authority regarding its concept of development, for it still seems wedded to the theory of increasing the country’s economic potential without enriching its human capital. Otherwise, the rhetoric about agricultural progress could not have excluded the right of tenants and landless cultivators to own land. Low priority to the poverty-stricken people’s right to education, medical cover and a decent standard of life, lack of respect for their national languages, their folk arts and their heritage is ingrained in the ruling elite’s mindset, and it blatantly disregards the people’s identity, culture and heritage.

The worst part of the story is not that Pakistan’s heritage might be lost — more worrisome is the possibility of the people being cut off from their soil, their culture, their history, and from one another.

Source: com/news/1323672/of-heritage-development


Trumping Defence Into Oblivion — Top This!

By Harlan Ullman


President Donald Trump appears to have forgotten all about his robust plans to ‘rebuild’ America’s defences.

Or at least that is the impression that Senator John McCain gave at a Brussels conference recently when he dropped the following bombshell: the apprentice-president had had not requested a single meeting with him to discuss plans to boost military forces.

Whilst on the campaign trail, Trump had derided McCain — who is Chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee — for having been shot down and held captive for five-and-a-half years during the Vietnam War. That the President has not even sought consultation with one of the country’s top defence experts is another slap in the face not just for the Senator but also for America’s armed forces. Furthermore, it also smacks of the hubris that has thus far characterised this White House.

Yet here’s the thing. Even if this year’s defence spending is increased to $640 billion — as recommended by both the House and Senate Armed Services Committees — this is in no way fills the massivegaps in terms of both preparedness and procurement that have accrued over the last decade. That the military is in such bad shape seems ludicrous given the trillions of dollars spent during the last 16 years of uninterrupted warfare.

Several factors account for these vast shortfalls.

First, is the budget process itself which is intrinsically linked to resolution procedures. In practical terms, this mandates planning on a yearly basis — regardless of whether certain projects demand long-term attention. This, in effect, freezes new starts.The waste is enormous.

Second, is the impact of the Budget Control Act (BCA). This places caps on both defence and non-defence discretionary spending. And cuts are incurred equally across both whenever excesses are incurred.

Third and most insidious, is the uncontrollable internal cost growth for everything from precision weapons to people to pencils. In real terms, this translates to about 5-7 percent a year, placing it above the rate of inflation. This increase amounts to $30-45 billion per annum in additional spending. This barely covers the cost of keeping up. It extends neither to meeting existing shortfalls nor adding capacity. Even at $640 billion, this will not cover a return to previous levels of readiness and procurement. If this continues, a return to the so-called post-Vietnam “hollow force” — when the military was unprepared, unready and ill-equipped to do its job — will not be far around the corner.The Pentagon’s Defence Business Board has warned of the impact of this but sadly, no one is listening.

As technology advances it brings with its both greater capability and higher costs. Aircraft carriers, without air wings, cost just under $15 billion each. The cost of the F-35 A is about $100 million. And its flying costs per hour for maintenance are about $80,000. These will go down. But over the life span of the aircraft, the costs are still enormous.

The Trump plan is to increase both Army and Marine ground forces. It also envisages upping Naval and Air Force capacity. In addition, the country must upgrade its nuclear arsenal. To achieve all this as well as having a prepared defence force — the price tag comes in at more than $8 billion per annum. Unless uncontrollable internal costs and budget procedures are brought to heel these could skyrocket to around one trillion dollars a year. This would see the US effectively spend itself into oblivion.

The Trump plan comes at a price tag of more than $8 billion per annum. Unless uncontrollable internal costs and budget procedures are brought to heel these could skyrocket to around one trillion dollars a year. This would see the US effectively spend itself into oblivion

What, then, is to be done?

Firstly, the US must recognise that 20th century concepts of defence are largely no longer relevant today. Neither China nor Russia is on any kind of war footing. Their objectives are purely to secure respectivegeo-political gains. Hence, the US response must be to come up with a counter strategy that is not reliant on military force alone.

Secondly, Washington must be cognisant of the power of asymmetric threats such has cyber warfare (including hacking), propaganda (including the dissemination of disinformation) as well as the intrusion into internal politics by stealth. Increasing the size of the military has no bearing on filling these strategic black holes.

Thirdly, uncontrollable internal cost growths at the Pentagon must be checked.

To sum up, the choice remains between a smaller, prepared and well-trained and well-equipped military force or a larger but ‘hollow’ defence. The answer is not rocket science. But, sadly, no one at the White House appears to have got that memo. And nor will they unless and until the input of key Congress members for defence is actively sought.

Source: dailytimes.com.pk/opinion/30-Mar-17/trumping-defence-into-oblivion-top-this


Revisiting Socratic Teaching through Tagore

By Jahanzeb Awan


South Africa’s apartheid era was notable for the country’s ranking high on all economic indicators while the majority of the citizenry faced a life of systematic subjugation and discrimination. This reminds us that while focus on economic development remains important — the opportunity cost of this cannot be democracy, social justice, social cohesion and individual liberty.

Unfortunately, any social development model rests on consensus from the elite. If this class opts for real development then it will likely result in a comprehensive and far-reaching education policy aimed at producing minds well versed in independence of thought, critical thinking and empathy and respect for others. Yet if economic growth remains the sole objective of policy makers — what we will have is a citizenry whose collective priority exclusively hinges upon employment in terms of market demands.

We have seen this happen in Pakistan. Over the last few decades, education policies have been focused promoting the STEM discipline, meaning science, technology, engineering and mathematics education. This has been at the expense of humanities and liberal arts. This doesn’t bode well for the future since the latter produce creative and innovative thinkers who are prone to challenge injustice and the wavering from established democratic values. We simply cannot afford a ‘trade off’ between the two.

Instead, we should recall the educational philosophy of Rabindranath Tagore, who in 1901 established an experimental school at Santiniketan in West Bengal. Its aim was to develop creative and independent minds capable of developing innovative ideas in every discipline, free from the rigidity of established academic traditions.

It ought to come as no surprise that economists are now confronting such issues as: the moral limits of the market or how to juxtapose distributive justice and individual liberty when it comes to suggesting welfare policies

The school’s core values were founded in the Socratic tradition of questioning, intellectual self-reliance and freedom. In short, as Tagore himself put it: the human mind gains true freedom not when it possesses the ideas of others. But when it establishes its own standards of judgement and thought process. He even went on to immortalise his strong dislike of learning by rote in is famous allegory, ‘The parrot’s training’.

Contemporary American philosopher Martha C Nussbaum believes that Tagore strongly influenced the educational philosophy of John Dewey — the man responsible for laying down the philosophical foundations of the US education system, which is firmly grounded in the liberal arts tradition. The result has been an intellectual emancipation reflected in the extraordinary US contribution to the world. Of the 911 Nobel Prizes thus far awarded — 259 have gone to American citizens.

This approach is gaining currency elsewhere. Recently, China and Singapore have made moves to follow the same path despite existing political systems not being entirely conducive to such reforms. Sadly, no such inroads are being made in Pakistan. Here, the emphasis remains on rote learning, with intellectual exchange between students and teachers actively discouraged. Meaning that we have an education model that promotes control and obedience of thought. As such, it is better suited to an authoritarian set-up. In addition, it is the capitalist free-market that determines the accessibility of courses. Presently, only five higher education institutes in the country offer philosophy degrees. Predictably, the outcome of all this is Pakistan’s abysmal ranking on global indexes. We are the world’s six most populous nation. We come in at number 147 in the human development index; 109 in terms of quality of democracy; and 80 in the World Happiness Report.

It ought to come as no surprise that economists are now confronting such issues as: the moral limits of the market or how to juxtapose distributive justice and individual liberty when it comes to suggesting welfare policies. Thus public policy makers often feel unanchored when pure economic analysis of development policies comes into direct conflict with moral and ethical questions. Should the state provide elitist schooling to children of the poor or not, for example?

Nevertheless, we should not confuse the matter at hand. This is not about producing increased humanities graduates. It is simply a gentle reminder to our policy makers to include the broader objectives of human development within the education paradigm. It is only way forward in terms of achieving development goals as a whole.

We must not waste the lessons of Tagore’s philosophy. Indeed, his work should be mandatory reading for all, not least of all our policy makers.

Source: dailytimes.com.pk/opinion/30-Mar-17/revisiting-socratic-teaching-through-tagore


Our Afghan Dilemma

By Hasan Khan

March 29, 2017

Amid a long deadlock in relations with Kabul, Pakistan’s decision to attend the Moscow moot on Afghan peace in mid-April demonstrates the country’s desire to miss no opportunity to mend its strained relationship with its troubling neighbour.

The continued tensions and hostilities with Kabul have, for decades now, abundantly proved that Pakistan is finding it difficult to restore normal relations with Afghanistan. However, the Moscow conference – which aims to develop a regional consensus for peace in Afghanistan – offers a good opportunity to sincerely hammer out a strategy and ensure peace in both Afghanistan and Pakistan. In addition, important regional players – such as India and Iran (who are probably the key stakeholders to the conflict), the Afghan Taliban and the Kabul regime – will also be participating for the first time in the meeting.

Relations between Pakistan and Afghanistan began to turn sour much before Pakistan decided to close the border for all types of traffic (after it was confirmed that the perpetrators of deadly terrorist attacks came from Afghanistan).

In December 2016, Afghan President Dr Ashraf Ghani snubbed Pakistan at the Heart of Asia Conference in Amritsar and rejected $500 million that Islamabad offered for the reconstruction of his country. Earlier, Kabul upset Pakistan when it refused to attend the Saarc summit that was scheduled to be held in Islamabad in September 2016.

Pakistan currently finds itself in a real dilemma. One the one hand, Islamabad is finding it difficult to mend its relations with Kabul while on the other, peace and stability in Afghanistan is absolutely vital for its own peace and stability. Any attempt to leave Afghanistan completely will also prove to be a hard bargain. Such steps could potentially push the Afghans towards India and the latter may use its soil against us to destabilise our western regions.

Pakistan wanted to quickly achieve two objectives when it resorted to the short-term measure of closing all border crossings with Afghanistan. First, it wanted to tighten the border crossing mechanism and avoid further such untoward incidents. Second, it wanted to pressurise the otherwise ‘least responsive’ Kabul administration to take action against militants and their sanctuaries inside Afghanistan. But the objectives have not materialised. All there has been is a mere reiteration of the pledge during the NSAs meetings in London that steps will be taken for effective border management and dealing with the enemies.

As a quick-fix, Pakistan prefers short-term measures instead of long-term strategies of engaging Kabul politically and diplomatically to control the hydra-headed monster of cross-border militancy.

Pakistan a long porous, mountainous border with Afghanistan – dotted with almost 270 frequented and unfrequented crossing points. As a result, any attempts to stop militants from entering Pakistan by simply closing the formal points and leaving 260 irregular crossings unattended are bound to fail.

Without a proper quid pro quo, Islamabad’s policy of intimidating Kabul through military action or stopping transit trade to compel Afghanistan to stop TTP militants from using Afghan soil against Pakistan was also a fruitless exercise.

The Afghans, including their leaders, are gradually becoming immune to these pressure tactics by Pakistan. In August 2016, Pakistan also closed its borders at Chaman for almost three weeks. Instead of listening to Pakistan’s concerns, Kabul started ignoring Pakistan and even raised the controversy of the Durand Line.

Pakistan’s other dilemma is that the more it is distancing itself from the Afghans by taking punitive measures, India is stepping in to fill the vacuum by easing travel requirements for the Afghans to India and offering them cheaper business, educational and medical facilities.

Pakistan failed to realise that the National Unity Government in Kabul – which Afghans sarcastically claim has everything except ‘unity’ – is facing internal problems, such as endemic corruption, ethnic divisions and dwindling internal security. The worst victims of the border closure were the people of the two countries as hundreds and thousands of families were stranded for weeks on both sides. Many of them lost millions in trade and businesses and faced unemployment. In this situation, the Afghan leadership, instead of taking any responsibility, started accusing Islamabad of blackmailing and creating problems for the Afghans.

Pakistan policymakers need to seriously rethink their stance over Afghanistan. Instead of reinforcing failures by pursuing the current policy of ‘strategic distance’, they should readopt a policy of ‘strategic engagement’ with the Afghans. If not checked, the developing situation in the Afghan backyard will signal to another bloody wave of proxy wars and insurgency. We must rise to the occasion and take bold decisions – perhaps even unpopular ones – regarding Afghanistan. Let’s drop our historical baggage and prove to be not just a big country but people with big hearts.

We must end this madness, by extending a hand of friendship to Kabul and engage with Kabul with an open mind instead of only focusing on India’s influence in Afghanistan. We must also acknowledge that Pakistan has recognised the Ghani-led unity government as a legitimate regime and had agreed in the Quadrilateral Coordination Group to take action against elements in the Taliban who are irreconcilable.

Reports suggest that a delegation from the Afghan Taliban visited Islamabad and might have discussed their participation or otherwise in the scheduled meeting in Moscow. Pakistan must exercise whatever – if any – influence it has over the Taliban. Simultaneously, the Kabul regime should be persuaded not to arrest those Taliban leaders who agree to a peaceful settlement; and the international community can also be asked to revise the blacklist.

While engaging with Afghanistan, Pakistan must keep the historical distrust of the Afghans in mind and act as a mere facilitator. Once an environment of sufficient confidence is provided, Kabul and the Taliban should sit together and find a solution to the ‘Afghan problem’ themselves. Pakistan’s prime objective is to ensure a peaceful and stable Afghanistan, not who rules Kabul. If Afghanistan is stable it will, no doubt, be friendly.

Source: thenews.com.pk/print/195097-Our-Afghan-dilemma


Moscow: Afghanistan Peace Initiative

By Dr Zafar N Jaspal

March 30, 2017

THE increasing violence and the continuity of trans-national terrorist syndicate’s sanctuaries in Afghanistan’s peripheral regions have scared the neighbours of the country. They are worried about the regional terrorist groups increasing association with the IS (Daesh). The IS fighters’ foothold and the continuity of protracted warfare in Afghanistan would be having deleterious spill over effect on the neighbouring states national security. Accordingly, the neighbours of Afghanistan are endeavouring to prevent it from further descending into dreadful chaos.

The Russians have convened a 12 nations meeting for the restoration of peace in Afghanistan on April 14, 2017, in Moscow. China, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iran, India and Central Asian nations are among the invitees to the Moscow conference. Many analysts believe that the Russians practical involvement in the Afghanistan affairs is a continuation of its assertiveness in the Eurasian region. Secondly, it’s efforts to prevent IS from spreading its tentacles in the war-torn Afghanistan. Besides Russians, the Chinese are also actively participating in the Afghan peace efforts. Beijing is equally scared from the spread of IS influence in Afghanistan. The forthcoming meeting accentuates Russians and Chinese convergence of opinion over the peace process in Afghanistan and thwarting IS making inroads close to o the borders of Central Asian countries.

Since the rise of IS in Iraq and Syria in 2014, the Russians have been alarmed about its expansionist agenda. The Russians took seriously IS announcement about the establishment of ‘Caliphate’ and its provinces in different parts of the world. The extension of the Caliphate to the ‘Khorasan province ‘encompassing Afghanistan and parts of Pakistan and Iran validated Moscow’s fear. Moreover, IS associates conducted terrorist acts in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Moscow realizes the vulnerability of its soft belly especially Chechnya. According to press reports, the Chechens form one of the largest foreign contingents in IS war in Iraq and Syria. Therefore, Moscow considers IS gradual penetration in Afghanistan horrendous happening. To impede the IS intrusion in Afghanistan, Moscow established direct contacts with the Afghan Taliban. The Afghan Unity Government expressed its announce and compelled the Russians to terminate their contacts with the Afghan Taliban. Conversely, the Russians seem convinced that without the cooperation of Afghan Taliban the rise of IS could not be obstructed in Afghanistan.

Although, Trump Administration has not publicised its policy on Afghanistan, yet it is an open secret that Washington would not abandon Afghanistan. The continuity of Obama Administration policy is expected. Moreover, United States has strategic interest in Central and West Asia and thereby it cannot ignore South Asia in its foreign and strategic calculation. In this context, Washington has been cementing its strategic partnership with India. It is also facilitating New Delhi role in Afghanistan.

The recent Moscow’s contacts with Afghan Taliban and its neighbouring states irritate Trump Administration. The latter considers the former contacts with Taliban as a direct interference in the Afghanistan affairs. American analysts professed the Moscow Afghanistan peace initiative; President Putin smart tactic to increase Russians influence in the region. Hence, the Trump Administration declined the invitation of the Moscow to participate in the multinational meeting scheduled on April 14, 2016. The absence of the United States in the meeting obviously reflects the divergence of opinion of the Great Powers over the peace process in Afghanistan.

Islamabad’s earnest desire is to abolish terrorist sanctuaries located in Afghanistan. Without erasing these sanctuaries Pakistani law enforcement agencies could not completely annihilate Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan. Therefore, it sincerely participated in quadrilateral dialogue process. Unfortunately, President Ghani’s flippant attitude resulted in increasing mistrust between Kabul and Islamabad. Instead of realising and mending his own government’s shortcomings, he blamed Pakistan. Consequently, quadrilateral dialogue process was shelved without any tangible outcome.

Presently, Islamabad is supporting Russians’ Afghanistan peace initiative. It participated in the three trilateral meetings that were held for deliberation during the recent months. Indeed, the forthcoming Moscow multilateral meeting is the outcome of Russians, Chinese and Pakistani officials efforts. Moreover, Afghan Taliban leadership was approached to participate unconditionally in the peace talks with the Afghan government. Afghan Taliban, however, expressed their disinclination to participate in a meeting in which Afghan Unity Government representatives would be partaking in peace negotiations. The absence of Afghan Taliban in the multinational peace conference certainly cast a shadow over the Moscow Afghanistan peace initiative.

To conclude the forthcoming Moscow multinational meeting is a timely regional peace initiative to end the 16-year devastating war in Afghanistan. Nonetheless, without a direct dialogue between the Afghan Unity Government and Afghan Taliban the peace in Afghanistan would remain a mere optimistic fantasy.

Source: pakobserver.net/moscow-afghanistan-peace-initiative/


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