New Age Islam Edit Bureau
15 November 2017
Zionist Agenda To ‘Denuclearise’ Pakistan
By Sajjad Shaukat
By Muneeb Qadir
Bridging Pak-US Perceptional Gaps
By Iqbal Khan
Conflicts And Peace
By Abdul Sattar
The Muddle Of Modernity
By Asad Khan Gandapur
Health Crisis In Yemen, Myanmar
By Muhammad Hamid Zaman
By Nadeem Ul Haque
SCO Membership: Success With Liabilities
By Baber Ali Bhatti
The Detained PM Of Lebanon?
By David Ignatius
Compiled By New Age Islam Edit Bureau
November 15, 2017
DESPITE the repeated assurances of Pakistan’s military and civil leadership that Pakistan’s nuclear weapons are well-protected and are under tight security arrangements, having well-coordinated command and control system, a deliberate propaganda campaign against the safety of these weapons keeps on going by the US, India and some Western countries who are acting upon the Zionist agenda to ‘denuclearize’ Pakistan. Pakistan is the only nuclear country with zero incidents of mishap. All other nuclear states have such incidents on their credit, including US having maximum incidents of nuclear negligence. Terrorist’s organizations do not have any access to the Pakistan’s nuclear assets. Pakistan’s security measures to protect nuclear assets against internal and external threats are among the best in the world.
Despite extensive safeguards in place, Pakistan’s nuclear activities are still considered unsafe by the US-Indo-Israeli-Western lobbies which have been propagating that the possibility of nuclear assets could go into the hands of terrorists. It is a pre-planned idea just to target Pakistan’s national security. It is notable that in 2009 when the heavily-armed Taliban entered Pakistan’s towns of Swat, Dir and Buner, Zionist-led American high officials and their media had exaggerated the ‘Talibinisation’ of whole Pakistan, while showing concerns about country’s atomic arms. In that context, on April 23, 2009, the then US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton had said had warned that Pakistan’s nuclear weapons could fall into the hands of terrorists.
When Pakistan’s armed forces ejected the Taliban insurgents out of Swat, Dir and Buner, then, American high officials had admired the capabilities of Pak Army. Similarly, when militants had attacked on Pakistan’s Naval Airbase in Karachi on May 23, 2011, Zionist-led US and some Western countries, including India and Israel exploited the situation by spreading disinformation about the security of Pak nukes. In this regard, on June 9, 2011, the ex-US Defence Secretary and CIA Chief Leon Panetta told a US Senate committee, “There is a danger of nuclear weapons of Pakistan, falling into hands of terrorists.” Speaking in the tone of the US-led West, on May 25, 2011, the then Indian Defence Minister AK Antony misperceived that India was “concerned about the safety of Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal”.
Likewise, on August 20, 2012, terrorists’ assault on Kamra Airbase Base was successfully foiled by the personnel of Pakistan Air Force, but, a baseless report, published in the New York Times on the same day indicated that suspected militants attacked a major Pakistani Air Force base where some of the country’s nuclear weapons were considered to be stored in the early hours of the militants’ attack. It is mentionable that being the only nuclear country in the Islamic World, Pakistan was already on the hit-list of the US, India and Israel, including some Western countries. Based in Afghanistan, American CIA, Indian RAW, Israeli Mossad and British MI6 which have well-established their covert networks there and are well-penetrated in the terrorist outfits like the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) and their affiliated Taliban groups are using their terrorists to destabilize Pakistan by arranging the subversive activities such as target killings, suicide attacks, hostage-takings, sectarian and ethnic violence in various cities of the country. Now, these foreign entities have also started backing the Islamic State group (Also known as Daesh, ISIS, ISIL) in order to weaken Pakistan through terrorist acts.
While, Pakistan’s Armed Forces have successfully broken the backbone of the foreign-backed terrorists by the military operations Zarb-e-Azb and Radd-ul-Fasaad. Army and top intelligence agency ISI have broken the network of these terrorist groups by capturing several militants, while thwarting a number of terror attempts. Peace has been restored in various regions of Pakistan. But, these Zionist-controlled foreign elements have, again, started terror attacks in Pakistan to show that nuclear weapons of the country are insecure.
It is noteworthy that Indian nuclear weapons and their related-material are unprotected, as various cases of smuggling and theft have verified. And as part of the double standards, America set aside the Indian poor record regarding the safety of nuclear weapons and materials. Despite, Indian violations of various international agreements and its refusal to sign NPT, CTBT and Additional Protocol with the IAEA, Washington signed a pact of nuclear civil technology with New Delhi in 2008. During American President Barack Obama’s second visit to India, on January 25, 2016, the US and India announced a breakthrough on the pact which would allow American companies to supply New Delhi with civilian nuclear technology.
America also pressurized IAEA and NSG to grant a waiver to New Delhi for obtaining civil nuclear trade on larger scale. Notably, in an interview to a private TV channel on April 4, 2010, the former deputy chief of the US mission in Islamabad Gerald Feuerstein disclsed, “He was a witness to the meeting between former premier Zulfikar Ali Bhutto and former US secretary of state Henry Kissinger in Lahore in August 1976…Kissinger came with a carrot and stick…since US elections were near and the Democrats were set to win them and wanted a tougher non-proliferation approach and might make Pakistan an example…Bhutto rejected the warning to disband Pakistan’s nuclear programme.” Afterwards, Bhutto’s government was toppled in 1977 by a CIA-backed coup of COAS Gen Zia-ul-Haq who hanged him.
The right to self-determination is a fundamental principle in international law. The UN General Assembly in 1970 declared that the duty of all states was to refrain from committing acts that defeat people’s right to self-determination.
Self-determination relates to the relationship between the identity of people and their territory. For some, this is uncontroversial as the territory they inhabit is defined by their nationality. However, others who belong to a particular territory might give more importance to factors such as their ethnicity, language, religion, culture and history.
This might lead to a conflict between the territorial sovereignty of the state in question and a fraction of its population’s wish to exercise their rights to self-determination. Whether exercising self-determination through secession is lawful or not is a matter of immense debate. Various people across the modern world struggle to gain independence from the states they belong to. What does international law provide for such secessionist attempts?
A distinction is drawn between internal self-determination and external self-determination. The former suggests that if minorities are represented in the government of their country, they do not have the right to separate from that country. However, this leaves open the question of whether there is a right to separate from their country if the rights of these minority groups are not protected by their federal government.
A recent example of this involves the Kosovo situation, where Serbian forces committed atrocities against the people of Albanian Muslim loyalty who were living in Kosovo and their regional autonomy was taken back by force.
This brings us to the current secessionist crises that took place this year. It started with the declaration of independence by the Kurdish people in Iraq in September 2017 who, despite having their own autonomous Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG), felt neglected and underrepresented within the federal government of Iraq. So, the KRG held a referendum and an overwhelming majority of 93 percent voted in favour of gaining independence.
International law doesn’t, in the strictest sense, permit independence and secession from a country that respects the rights of its minorities. So, the relevant question is whether Iraq has provided sufficient rights and freedoms to its Kurdish population? We could answer in the affirmative if we account for the fact that the Kurdish regions in Iraq have been given autonomy by the federal government. However, that does not appear to be sufficient since the Kurdish people had suffered abuse at the hands of Saddam Hussein’s regime along with the fact that they do not feel any sense of belonging to the country.
If we consider how the Kurdish Army Peshmerga has supported the US and its allies in the fight against Isis, it shows that the Kurdish people are democratic enough in their outlook to fulfil the criteria of statehood provided by the Montevideo Convention. However, given that none of its neighbours, including Iraq, are free from such allegations, this does not take away its potential to form a democratic government in its own right.
The second major referendum this year is the Catalan independence referendum within Spain. The referendum was held in defiance of the Spanish government’s orders. Violence took place on the day of the referendum when the Spanish Guardia Civil thrashed voters. The Spanish government eventually relied on Article 155 of the constitution to take back the autonomy granted to Catalonia.
The Spanish government issued arrest warrants against the Catalan president and his allies and many human rights activists protested against its reaction. Since the Spanish government reacted so violently towards the Catalans indicates that the claims made for Catalonia’s independence from Spain are valid on the grounds that the federal government neither represents the Catalan people nor accords respect to their rights.
However, much like the response towards Kurdistan’s referendum of independence from Iraq, the international response on the Catalonian referendum has been divided. Perhaps, the most peaceful solution would be the one advocated by the French President Emmanuel Macron: that if these countries were to ensure representation and human rights protection to these communities, they wouldn’t feel the need to secede. This makes sense since a right to secede cannot be granted merely because there are minorities who cannot identify themselves with that state. Every state consists of minorities and the essential question to consider is the representation they are provided within a state.
DURING the fourth round of Pakistan-US bilateral dialogue in Islamabad on November 06, the United States has held out an assurance to Pakistan that Indian role in Afghanistan would be limited to provision of economic assistance to the war-torn country. This is important, as Pakistan has repeatedly expressed concern over India’s hyped role in the new US strategy, saying its security concerns in the region should be recognized. However, mere assurance is not sufficient because the US is known for turning its eyes away with regard to Indian excesses towards Pakistan via Afghanistan.
India is known for positioning its trained soldiers in Afghanistan under the garb of developmental projects. For example, its “Border Roads Organization” which does lot of road construction in Afghanistan is staffed by serving and retired military personnel; same is the staffing pattern in case of health care and education projects. This means that Indian soldiers are already present. Another, core issue is increasing footprint of Indian intelligence in Afghanistan, which plans and conducts terrorist operations in Pakistan; India also facilitates and finances separatist elements. Pakistan is of the view that giving undue role to India in Afghanistan amounts to insulting country’s long-standing and sincere contribution, sacrifices and achievements in the war against terrorism. India troop deployment in Afghanistan is not a bed of roses. Indian troops would suffer heavy attrition in the hands of Taliban, also, as a reaction, Taliban may extend their militancy deep into India. These factors weigh heavy in Indian calculus. There is thin Indian constituency in support of Indian troop deployment in Afghanistan, and that too wants it under UN mandate.
Now, for Pakistan, there is need to monitor these verbal assurances with on ground actions. As of now there is well-knit military and intelligence cooperation between Kabul and New Delhi, with a major anti-Pakistan focus. TTP leadership living under the nose of America installed Afghan regime draws heavily on Indian support for their operational viability and physical survival. There is ample evidence of RAW-NDS collusion to harm core interests of Pakistan in different ways. In the same context, unusual number of Indian consulates in Afghanistan, alongside its military personnel, generate adequate wherewithal to launch and control anti-Pakistan agenda. Hence, Pakistan should have a closer watch on activities of Indian assets in Afghanistan to evaluate the quantum of threat that could emanate from these, and finally keep in place proportionate response.
As for the US and Afghanistan, Joint Operations are off the table and Pakistan has sound reasons for taking that stance. For success of counter terrorism operations in Afghanistan, the US should timely share intelligence data with Pakistan, especially that pertaining to the movement of terrorists and leave the job of taking ground action to Pakistan. Whenever such coordinated operations were conducted the success rate has been pretty high. So far, America has not adopted this facet of military cooperation as a matter of policy, and it has been cooperating on cherry pick style. One takeaway from the successful rescue of Caitlin Coleman and her family is the need for deepening cooperation on intelligence sharing. Pakistan is committed to respond effectively to any actionable intelligence provided by the US. This is the only way forward to test each other’s resolve and commitment to combat terrorism.
While addressing the bilateral forum, Pakistan’s foreign minister said, “Unfortunately, the manner in which the new US policy on Afghanistan and South Asia was enunciated has created needless divergence. Instead of all the discord, what should have been loud and clear is that the ultimate objective for both Pakistan and the US is exactly the same— a stable and secure Afghanistan, at peace with itself and with an ability to deny safe havens to terrorists. Also lost was the fact that Pakistan has consistently argued against a hasty US withdrawal from Afghanistan as had happened in the 90’s. This clearly implies that Pakistan wants US to succeed in its efforts for a stable and secure Afghanistan”.
Afghanistan ravaged by conflict for the last four decades deserves an all-out commitment to peace and reconciliation. Current environment in our region and beyond is challenging and complex; also, the global order is in a flux. During such uncertain times, all countries striving for peace in Afghanistan should capitalize on traditional partnerships that have delivered effectively during key moments in our history. And in this context, interests of Pakistan and America converge completely in Afghanistan, though both differ on the strategy for achieving it. America’s condition based approach is primarily a strategy of denial and strategic stalemate, making it that much more difficult to evolve peace mechanisms. Moreover, with guaranteed American support, such a methodology does not motivate the Afghan government to strive for effective peace and reconciliation effort.
Afghanistan has enormous challenges to grapple with. Some of these are: corruption, restructuring existing state institutions alongside raising of a couple of new ones, transforming its war economy into a progressive corporate enterprise, checking and reversing record poppy growth, smoothening ethno-tribal divisions, and expanding its writ over ungoverned swaths of land. Each one of these is a daunting challenge in its own right. Pathway to cooperation is quite clear. The US and Afghanistan should understand that it is unfair to name Pakistan for all that afflicts Afghanistan; and that Indian role can only complicate the matters.
Apart from these points, there is broad agreement on major Afghanistan related issues: border management; return of refugees; safe havens in Afghanistan; and how to deal with so called safe havens in Pakistan. Pakistan, after great sacrifices of men, material and image, has been able to dismantle terrorist networks and establish the writ of the government across the length and breadth of the country. It could now claim with a degree of certainty that there is no organized presence of terrorists within Pakistan. However, considering the porous border and millions of refugees, there may still be remnants of these element, and the only way to deal with them is more intelligence cooperation and effective movement regulation across Pak-Afghan border.
Pakistan’s fight against extremism and terrorism is purely in its own self-interest. However, there is a need to empathize that though Pakistan has made significant gains, extremism and terrorism is a global phenomenon and would require international cooperation for times to come. There is broad agreement on an Afghan-led and Afghan-owned peace and reconciliation process. There is need to strengthen various ongoing processes be they Heart of Asia; Quadrilateral Cooperation Group; or any other international forum. However, major work has to be done within Afghanistan. Pakistan along with other countries can only facilitate such a process. Pakistan has generated mammoth counter terrorism effort. Even now it is fielding World’s largest military resource to fight the menace of terror. And in the process, it has lost tens of thousands of lives. The gains are fairly good that Pakistan has made at the cost of tremendous sacrifices. Pakistan’s law and order situation is fast returning to normal; and as a side benefit economy has turned around.
Sanity seems to be prevailing in the Syrian conflict. The two most powerful leaders of the world – US President Donald Trump and his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin – agree that the Syrian conflict cannot be resolved through military means.
After meeting briefly on the sidelines of a regional summit in Vietnam last week, the two leaders said there was “no military solution” to the war in Syria. The statement, issued by officials from both sides, said the two presidents had made progress on Syria, a country that has been battered by six years of civil war.
It is disappointing to see that powerful world leaders only spring into action after a lot of blood has already been spilled. This has also happened in the case of Syria where, according to the Syrian Centre for Policy Research (SCPR), 470,000 people were killed until March last year with up to 1.9 million Syrians injured. This means that more than a tenth of the population has either been killed or wounded. Even the conservative estimate puts the death toll as 250,000. In addition to this, the conflict has displaced than six million people within the country while another four million have been forced to seek shelter as refugees in other countries. Life expectancy in the hapless country also dropped from 70.5 years in 2010 to an estimated 55.4 years in 2015. The war has cost a whopping $226 billion to the Syrian economy.
When the civil war erupted, thousands of militants, many of them from Western countries, started flooding into conflict zones controlled by Isis. Blinded by their hatred for Bashar al-Assad, these countries did not come up with an effective policy to at least prevent the flux of the jihadis pouring into Syrian territories. The international community turned a blind eye towards these militants until the extremely violent extremists started slitting the throats of foreign hostages, burning people alive and raping hapless Yazidi women. No question was raised over the overt and covert support to Al-Qaeda elements by Western powers.
In the name of fighting Isis, the US and its allies were alleged to have targeted the Syrian troops that were trying to eliminate the very elements that the Americans were claiming to fight. Washington was blamed for bombing Syrian government posts, thereby allowing Isis remnants to escape. If the Russians and Americans were opposed to the extremist group, then why was no joint front formed to stamp out the menace? Why did anti-Isis forces not unite for this purpose? Why was action not taken in time – action that could have saved several millions people from the life of death and misery that they are condemned to lead now?
While the statement of these two world leaders over the situation in Syria is encouraging, one wonders why such approach is not applied to other conflicts as well. Why are the two leaders silent over the devastating invasion of Yemen by Saudi Arabia? More than 10,000 people have perished in that war-torn country since the Saudi-led coalition launched an attack in March 2015. According to the UN, nearly 19 million people – 80 percent of Yemen’s population – are in need of humanitarian aid; more than three million have been displaced.
A catastrophic humanitarian crisis is already unfolding in the hapless country where Saudi bombardment has decimated water and sanitation system, triggering an outbreak of various diseases including cholera. According to the World Health Organization’s count of October 1, there were 777,227 suspected cases of cholera in the war-torn country, taking only about six months to reach those alarming high numbers. More than half of the cholera patients are under the age of 18 and 26 percent are under the age of five. It took Haiti seven years to report over 800,000 cholera cases but in Yemen it happened within six months, thanks to the ruthless bombardment that has destroyed the infrastructure of the country.
The international community has adopted a criminal silence over this devastating war. Instead of extinguishing the flames of war, the so-called civilised countries further stoked it by lavishing arms deals on the conservative kingdom. Ignoring the starving faces of the Yemeni masses, US President Donald Trump visited the kingdom with killing machine deals worth over $300 billion. And the UK’s arms sale to the Saudi government have increased 50 times since the launch of the invasion in March 2015.
Washington threw its blanket support behind the Saudi ruling elite that now appears to be planning to trigger another conflict in Lebanon, while Moscow is reluctant to dissuade Iran from reining in Tehran’s proxy in Yemen. Even China, which is pumping over $900 billion into the ambitious ‘One Belt One Road’ project, is trying to keep itself aloof from these raging wars, ignoring the fact that the flames of war sometimes tend to be very unpredictable.
As if these conflicts were not enough, the US is raising the spectre of war and destruction in the Korean Peninsula. The fear-mongering that Trump spread during his recent visit to South East Asia was aimed at selling more American arms to its rich allies like Japan. The Oval Office incumbent did not hide his intentions. During his recent visit to Japan, Trump while pointing at Japan’s PM Shinzo Abe, said: “He will shoot (North Korea’s) missiles out of the sky when he completes the purchase of lots of equipment from the United States. One very important thing is that Prime Minister Abe is going to be purchasing massive amounts of (US-made) military equipment, as he should. We make the best by far….it’s a lot of jobs for us and a lot of safety for Japan.”
This statement by Trump clearly indicates that even if the Syrian crisis is over and the much-awaited-peace has been brought back to the war-torn country, the pernicious tentacles of death and destruction will find another battlefront because the gargantuan appetite of the military-industrial complex is not likely to wither away any time soon. The merchants of death and destruction, who control the world through their businesses, might force the international community to turn a blind eye to the simmering tension between Iran and Saudi Arabia, the spectre of a devastating war in Korean peninsula and a possible conflict in Lebanon. Once the flames of war have engulfed these countries, they will again come up with their arms deals to bless the world with misery, death and destruction.
Trump and Putin must agree that it is not only the Syrian conflict that needs no military solution but that no armed solution is workable anywhere. Both countries are the biggest manufacturers of arms and possess the most lethal agents of destruction. They should not only get rid of those arms but should also muster up support for peaceful resolutions of conflicts. They need to play their due role along with China, the European Union, Brics and other regional bodies and international bodies in seeking a peaceful solution of armed conflicts across the world. One way to achieve this is to make a commitment to seek the gradual dismantling of the military-industrial complex, not only that of US only but of all the states of the world.
It has become so much easier to talk people out of something than getting them interested in a subject for long enough to draw a thoughtful reflection. Distractions abound and a relentless flurry of news – with the good, bad and ugly all lumped together – forms a bewildering panorama of twisted emotions where all tragedy and celebration, hope and despair are dumped in the same place.
Yet we can’t seem to get enough of it. Everything tickles our fancy. Like a rodent who has to eat three times its own weight every day to survive, we have to get our instant gratification every time some fresh news item pops up before our eyes. For those of us who are maniacally glued to our tablets, laptops and smartphones, life seems to offer little else in the way of solace. What fades from the screen, fades from the mind.
Our contact with reality has never been so transient, so hopelessly shallow and effectively detached. Indeed, the subjectivity and illusory nature of postmodern truth has made the lie ever so indiscernible. Trapped in a crystal maze of multiple realities and mindless rhetoric, we can no longer differentiate between issues and non-issues, causes and effects.
This mental disintegration of the ‘modern’ man/woman seldom gets the attention that it deserves even though its social implications are immense. In the course of its evolution, besides reinforcing the historical social divisions of race, gender and religion, one of the most profound consequences of the ‘modernisation’ project has been the compartmentalisation of society into a competitive network of carefully guarded fiefdoms of experts and celebrities that typify the modern rat race in a gigantic corporate arena. Much of it is attributed to what Marxists call the “commodification” of social life – a process that objectifies and reduces all human interaction and expression to that of a disposable commodity.
To get some sense of the idea, one need not look beyond all the hysterical game shows and their unforgiving Morlocks (the monsters in H G Wells’ Time Machine) who callously berate and dehumanise obliging participants on national television.
An unrelenting commercial agenda – whether declared or concealed by philanthropic vernacular – permeates all domains of human existence, which probably explains the emergence of explicitly for-profit NGOs and welfare organisations. Corporate clichés like ‘capacity-building’ and ‘poverty alleviation’ have been thrown around unreflectively for decades to justify vain “development interventions” designed by an imported army of policy consultants – some of whom, by their own confessions, are picturing their next holiday destination in their minds well before they have landed in their country of assignment. Many of our daily undertakings are characterised by such impassive, fleeting commitments to greater social good, with little concern for anything but our own warm piece of the side walk.
John Locke’s benevolent state of nature has been eclipsed by a predatory Hobessian instinct that is induced by modernity in the way it is preached and practised. Modern social sciences – economics in particular – led the charge in shaping the popular fictional image of an all-knowing, unerringly “rational” superhuman who shuns all value judgments and makes the world a paradise for all of mankind as he figures out how to spend his last dollar in a way that best satisfies all the demons of desire lumbering in his head. The zealously prophesied reconciliation between his self-interest and public interest never quite arrived though. Much effort has since been dedicated to making him appear a bit more doubtful and considerate in his latest theoretical “reincarnations”.
But the damage has already been done. A hedonistic civilisation comprising self-indulged and self-promoting objectified citizens, who are strictly guided by the blinkers of reason, cropped up as the necessary fuel and fodder that would set the wheels of modernity in motion. Religion and theology became one of its prime targets and all human ability and wisdom had to carry a price tag in order to be recognised and valued. America championed the modernist cause and vociferously exported its content worldwide, often and where required, with the help of the much-envied B-52s.
Indeed modernity’s materialistic orientation has long been lamented and its disastrous repercussions for the natural world that we inhabit have begun to unfold at an unprecedented pace. While frequent flashfloods, rapid soil erosion and prolonged droughts are causing rural displacements, contaminated water and smog are terrorising our metropolis. In spite of such spasmodic alarms of caution, our embrace of modernity, with all its Schumpeterian gale of creative destruction, has only tightened.
At the end of the day, some would argue that modernity, with all its discontents, was inevitable. Given the globalised nature of our world and the political and economic balance of power tilted heavily in favour of the postwar ‘modern’ West, its subscription was rather compulsory than a matter of choice.
Strong and impenetrable status quos are often erected and fortified by the recurrent transactional approbation of rigid power structures by the vulnerable stratums of society (both at the global and local levels) in return for some real or nominal patronage from the powers that be. The age-old dictum of ‘might is right’ has proved to be a historical compass that has always successfully determined the direction and flow of such power relations and the spread of modernity in the last couple of centuries.
But criticising the abusive privilege and manipulative power of the elite, corporations, academia and the mass media alone won’t lead us anywhere. Many have tried and perished, not bearing any mention even in the footnotes of history. Perhaps the greatest irony and tragedy of our times is that all the means of agitation and revolt available to an aspiring revolutionary are exclusively designed and controlled by the evil that he seeks to eliminate. To overcome evil, we have got to match its genius. Without any awareness of our own position on a chessboard, every move we make may prove fatal.
If my crude and clumsy attempt at ‘elucidating’ an issue of such immense complexity and existential significance leaves any room for offering a conclusion, I would like to reproduce a few lines from the conversation I had with someone who probably understands modernity better than many who have only just begun to pay some attention to its impact on our lives.
“Human[s] cannot be respectfully imagined without a living relationship of our disposition to some authentic tradition of truth. [The] truth here stands for a comprehensive cosmology that sets us or helps us to set ourselves in an intelligible relationship with the world around us. Modern times do not believe in essence, pure essential meanings or [the] nature of things. As a result, the world becomes a meaningless nightmare. ”
That is one succinct diagnosis of the problem of modern life. While he recognises that confronting modern times can be an uphill task, reclaiming our habits of the body and mind from the clutches of modernity requires a constant practice of conscious restraint. For a start, perhaps we need to reflect a little more before we react.
November 14, 2017
Two crises of astronomical proportions are unfolding not too far from home. Both crises, in the not- too-distant east and the west of the country, are creating unimaginable suffering for the most vulnerable. In both, we have to look deep down, ask where do we stand, and how do we convey the most important of moral values to those who we call our best of friends.
The crisis in Yemen, driven by the Saudis, has already created public health problems unprecedented in recent history. The cholera outbreak, created in large part by bombing of the poorest country of the region by the richest, is now considered to be the worst in history. It has already affected nearly a million people, with 600,000 children among them. Let that sink in for a second.
There is a public health crisis, affecting largely children, who have no drugs, no clean water and no hope, unfolding in our neighbourhood, created by one of our dearest friends. Cholera unfortunately is not the only challenge the Yemenis and their children are facing. The war has decimated the infrastructure, roads, houses, schools and hospitals, and have ruined the lives of millions more in every way imaginable. A famine is becoming increasingly likely due to the complete blockade by Saudi-led forces. Our individual and collective silence speaks volumes about our values. So does the fact that the so- called joint army driving this crisis is run by one of our countrymen.
Looking eastward, the crisis in Myanmar has gotten more public attention, but little has been said about China’s strong position that continues to defend the brutal regime that is responsible for the atrocities. Our gentle and warm thoughts about the Rohingya Muslims talk about India’s problematic stance, but conveniently ignore the strong support of the Chinese for the perpetrators. This is not the only dimension of our hypocrisy. The hypocrisy of standing in support of Rohingya Muslims but not the Yemenis is both obvious and ugly.
While we should hope that the government would do the right thing, the reality is that it is unlikely to happen. The performance of the government on international political fronts has been largely disappointing. So expecting that there would be any active and serious effort to diffuse the crisis in Yemen, or diplomatic efforts to open up avenues for humanitarian relief, is naïve to expect. But what is more disappointing is the almost non-existent discussion among civil society, academia and the media.
France calls for ‘non-interference’ in Lebanon crisis
The discussion in academic and analytical quarters has been limited, and few, if any, have taken the government to task on its silence. Newspapers that have historically made other crises in Palestine and Chechnya major themes seem blind to the crisis in Yemen. With the exception of an occasional story on the back pages, and an afterthought in the news bulletins, there has been nothing but deliberate silence. But just as the government’s silence is inexcusable, our own lack of sincerity is equally disappointing.
The issues of international politics are neither simple, nor most convenient. Yet, there is nothing controversial about the right to life and health for all people. There ought not to be any political calculation when it comes to standing up for little children whose odds for survival continue to diminish by the day. We will be judged by history on what we did, and what we didn’t do, and when did we stand up for justice and when we decided to stay put while children were starving.
Perhaps it is also a test for the official rhetoric. We say that both China and Saudi Arabia are among our best friends. I thought friends don’t let their dearest friends starve children.
Typically, ‘elected’ dynastic governments start to unravel by their third year thanks to a combination of incompetence and greed. It is then that the rumour of a technocratic setup starts and politicians start to fan it.
Recently, government officials came out with statements to the effect that the constitution does not allow for a technocratic setup and that there is no room for technocrats in Pakistan. The issue of technocrats really needs careful analysis here.
Why is there a demand for technocracy? People repeatedly see that elected governments are not delivering governance and good public service. Instead they slip into whimsical, ‘kitchen cabinet’ government style-where an inner circle of the unelected starts to take arbitrary decisions. The prime minister wants to run the country in imperial fashion and ministers close to him act like imperial lords by passing all laws. Rumours of corruption grow large. Dynastic ambitions reveal themselves in children being thrown into decision-making more readily than any heir apparent in medieval days.
Democratic leaders are not known for their great appointments. Cronyism prevails as they seek to bring all institutions – even universities, hospitals and projects –under the control of the executive and his favourites. Losses and failures in public service don’t mean anything to the prime minister; what matters is power and control of the purse. Of course, this breeds rumours of misuse of funds.
Cabinets and parliaments, key institutions from which democratic leaders derive power, are weakened deliberately to strengthen the prime minister. Decisions are non-transparently made by prime minister and his people. All procedure is bypassed and most information on key issues is not revealed. Even lesser ministers and allies of the prime minister are isolated and ineffective, with no power or access.
Officials, heads of agencies and regulatory bodies are treated as court employees and shuffled at will. The power to transfer a colonial legacy is used liberally to ensure central control of the prime minister. The government becomes merely official pronouncements of every whim of the imperial prime minister.
By the third year of democratic rule the costs of this misrule start to show up. People are restless. Public services are not showing improvement despite claims by the government. The economy, patched up by aid, sputters along but the gains are not palpable. The opposition, seeing the increasing power of the executive, seeks to dislodge him through street agitation. With parliament incapacitated prime minister, they seek to mobilise mobs.
Some look for a non-democratic takeover. Furthermore, they look to technical solutions to the mess that has been made. Indeed, the army does promise this in every coup. And yes some part of the solution has to be technical.
True, dictators did make an effort to find professionals in the past. But was it mere rhetoric? It seems to me that they merely drew upon those that had cultivated them. No active search was conducted. This is obvious if you look at those selected – a few well-known writers of columns, oily bankers, businessman and retired bureaucrats. Hard to make a case of active professional team-building.
Even this romance with a seemingly technocratic governance lasts two to three years. Later, dictators become political and succumb to the charms of the ‘fair-weather’ politicians.
In reality, the invisible bureaucrat – the powerful mafia in control – has run all systems through both martial law and democracy even when occasionally a few technocrats are allowed into the periphery.
No one wants any professional management in government. Contrary to the rest of the world, it is widely believed in Pakistan that no specialised training is required to manage and make policy in education, health energy, railways, and all other technical positions in government and even outside.
People elect representatives to frame laws and influence policy in line with mandates obtained in elections. Representatives have no right to rule whimsically, signing foreign deals at will, initiating projects as they like, spending public money without check, and gifting state land and contracts to favourites.
Consider how a corporation is run. Shareholders elect a board of directors to oversee the running of the company. The board hires the best professional managers to execute approved policies. Policies seldom come from the boards; only directions and suggestions. Mostly, management and staff present well-researched proposals for board consideration and approval.
Elected parliamentarians and cabinets are governing bodies like board members. Their role is oversight and decision-making, not running the government. Cabinets and parliaments review reports and policy proposals arising from agencies. Ministries merely monitor and develop reports on public service provision and occasionally propose required policy changes. Service provision and regulatory agencies lie beyond both politics and ministries in their daily working. Policies guide them. Agencies should not be controlled through arbitrary personnel changes and transfers.
Such checks and balances and specialised roles lie at the heart of good governance. And our imperial democracies run into trouble because of this refusal to accept these principles of good governance.
Continuous attacks on professionals must be understood as a means to preserve the status quo of arbitrary rule. The spectre of martial law assisted by technocrats is raised merely to preserve an imperial executive and democracy.
As I have argued in my book, ‘Looking Back: How Pakistan Became an Asian tiger in 2050’, fine tuning democracy to accept these checks and balances, and assign technical governance and policymaking a proper role will truly allow Pakistan to achieve the development we covet.
A few months ago, Pakistan successfully managed to secure the membership of Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) which is, undoubtedly, a significant accomplishment for Pakistan. Credit must be given to the drivers of Pakistan’s foreign policy and owes to the multitude of reasons. However, Pakistan has much more to achieve via SCO platform because this membership has not only strengthened the regional position of Pakistan but at the same time has opened up various avenues of liabilities. Therefore, this achievement needs to be capitalized further as is frequently quoted “With great power comes great responsibility”. SCO membership is significant triumph for Pakistan for a number of reasons. Pakistan and China are already enjoying amicable relations in almost all spheres especially in the economic domain. China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) is the landmark project which is being materialized and is effectively taking this mutual relationship to further heights. China is leading the Shanghai Club and Pakistan’s inclusion in this club is the remarkable addition to Pak-China relations.
There hasn’t been any substantial economic activity or joint venture between Pakistan and Eurasian countries. This membership may provide an opportunity for Pakistan to enhance the trade volume and to launch the economic projects with Eurasian countries. This success is also being considered as economic success because through this membership, Pakistan is getting back on the right economic track. Along with that, Pakistan may boost the cooperation in the fields of transportation and tourism as these fields are still untapped in Pakistan. Eurasian countries are also considered rich for tourism. Therefore, there is a wider space for joint ventures in tourism. The SCO-membership also sends out a tacit message to the countries who have been attempting to diplomatically isolate Pakistan. The message is clear that their efforts are not going to bear any fruit in this regard. Pakistan’s inclusion in SCO was the “warm welcome” by member-states which explicitly illustrates the diplomatic strength of Pakistan. Moreover, India has also been included in the Shanghai Club which might give the chance to the two countries to sort out their bilateral issues by utilizing the SCO forum. This could also be viewed in terms of diplomatic achievement for Pakistan as it was able to secure the membership in parallel with India.
However, this achievement doesn’t come without major liabilities. Speaking at a briefing in Beijing on June 1, 2017, the spokesperson of Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs Hua Chunying said that China hoped Pakistan and India would improve bilateral relations after becoming the full members of SCO. “We hope that Pakistan and India will inject new impetus to the development of SCO.” Pakistan must share its counter-terrorism experience with SCO member-states, especially Russia and the Central Asian states, for whom ‘terrorism, extremism and separatism’ have become an imminent threat. Such sharing on part of Pakistan may boost its position in SCO. Undoubtedly, sharing of this experience might be the most refined impetus to the development of SCO. Member-states, with the help of Pakistan, may propel to build a regional structure to counter the rising terrorism in which Pakistan may assume the leading role owing to its vast counter-terrorism exposure.
When it comes to cultural realm, Pakistan has more to do than India despite the fact that it enjoys peculiar socio-cultural diversity. Pakistan needs to put in vigorous efforts where it may offer cultural exchange ventures to deepen the ties with member-states, particularly with Eurasian belt. As far as global scenario is concerned, SCO is a forum of eight member-states with two having the permanent membership of United Nation Security Council and four members are the nuclear power countries. Hence the SCO possesses the potential to influence the global order with these member states. SCO can ensure long-lasting peace and stability in the region by making joint efforts. Pakistan must endeavour to lead such efforts. Pakistan should establish an institute devoted to formulate the policies attributed to member-states. Furthermore, the institute can propose different initiatives for Pakistan that will help it play critical regional and global role. Pakistan can advance itself in club by utilizing those initiatives that may serve the region in terms of peace and prosperity. Expanding the role of SCO, Pakistan and member states may also work for peace in Afghanistan. In short, by securing the membership, Pakistan ascribed itself with greater responsibilities and it must be looking forward to fulfil these responsibilities with dedication, commitment and diplomatic vigour.
FORMER Lebanese prime minister Saad Hariri is being held by Saudi authorities under what Lebanese sources say amounts to house arrest in Riyadh, apparently as part of the Saudi campaign to squeeze Iran and its Lebanese ally, Hezbollah. A startling account of Hariri’s forced detention was provided Friday by knowledgeable sources in Beirut. It offers important new evidence of the tactics used by Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman to bolster his rule by mobilising anti-Iran sentiment at home and abroad.
Rumours of the virtual kidnapping of Hariri, who resigned as prime minister last Saturday while in Saudi Arabia, have rocked the Arab world; Lebanese officials worry that MBS, as the 32-year-old crown prince is known, wants to force Lebanon into his confrontation with Iran. Some Lebanese analysts complain that the Saudis treat the Hariri family, who have been bankrolled by Riyadh for decades, almost as a wholly owned subsidiary.
According to the well-informed Lebanese sources, the tale began on Monday, Oct. 30, when Hariri travelled to Saudi Arabia for a personal meeting with MBS. With the crown prince was Thamer al-Sabhan, his key adviser on relations with other Arab states. The meeting seemed to go well, the Lebanese sources said, with talk of continued Saudi support for Lebanon, even though Hezbollah dominated the Hariri-led government.
Hariri returned to Lebanon on Nov. 1 and met with the Lebanese council of ministers to brief them on his conversations in Riyadh. Sources said he told the group that the Saudis would back plans for an international conference in Paris on the Lebanese economy, a Rome meeting to support the Lebanese army and a joint Saudi-Lebanese council to encourage investment. Hariri told his cabinet, including Hezbollah representatives, that Lebanon wouldn’t be a Saudi target, even though it was widely expected that MBS would be taking a tougher stance on Iran. Those reassurances proved wrong.
Hariri planned to return to Riyadh to meet with King Salman on Monday, Nov. 6. But the timetable was accelerated after Hariri received an urgent call from MBS’s protocol team asking him to see the crown prince on Friday, Nov. 3, and spend the weekend with him. The Friday meeting didn’t happen, and Hariri stayed that night at his lavish home on Al Takhassossi Boulevard in Riyadh. What allegedly happened next is the scary part of the story. At about 8 a.m. Saturday, unusually early for the kingdom, Hariri was summoned to meet MBS. The trappings of protocol were gone; Hariri travelled in two cars with only his personal security. He was out of sight for several hours.
Hariri next appeared publicly on television, at about 2 p.m., reading a statement saying that he was resigning as prime minister because of Iranian threats on his life and Tehran’s export of “devastation and chaos.” Such belligerent language about Iran was uncharacteristic for Hariri, and none of his regular speechwriters were consulted about the speech. Just before the broadcast, the Saudi state-owned al-Arabiya news network is said to have announced that Hariri would be resigning. As his apparently pre-recorded speech was shown on television, Hariri called Lebanese President Michel Aoun and said he couldn’t continue in the job and would be returning to Beirut in a few days.
Hariri didn’t return to his Riyadh home until Monday, and reportedly stayed Saturday and Sunday nights in a villa on the compound of the Ritz-Carlton, where the prominent Saudis detained in Saturday night’s anti-corruption sweep are being held. Hariri met with King Salman on Monday, and then travelled to Abu Dhabi to meet with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed, who has been a mentor for MBS. Back Tuesday at his residence, now carefully screened by Saudi military security, Hariri met over the next several days with diplomatic representatives of the United States, Russia and major European powers.
What do the Saudis want next? The Lebanese sources believe Hariri’s harder-line older brother Bahaa may be Riyadh’s candidate for prime minister. Other Hariri relatives were summoned to Riyadh last week but refused to go; it’s said that Bahaa was already there. The sources also say that Bahaa sent Safi Kalo, a close adviser, to meet secretly 10 days ago with Druze leader Walid Jumblatt to discuss future strategy for Lebanon, but Jumblatt is said to have left the meeting, refusing to discuss the subject.
The Lebanese sources told me they are worried about maintaining internal stability. In recent years, Lebanon’s once-warring sects have been united in trying to sustain the country despite the conflict raging next door in Syria. This internal security, especially precious for Lebanese after nearly two decades of civil war, seems at risk now. The Lebanese feel, once again, like a Middle East ping-pong ball. They want their prime minister back home.